I’ll be on a 10-day hiatus with little to no internet access, so I figured I would link to the articles that I am most proud of over my three years of running the site. Additionally, feel free to check out Wahoo’s on First, a Cleveland Indians’ blog, where I am co-editor, and you’ll be able to hear podcasts, read about the trade deadline, and other Tribe news. Thanks for finding me and enjoy the second half!
2014 Top 50 Mid-Season Prospects: Self explanatory title.
The Sudden Emergence of J.D. Martinez: A look at the breakout Tigers’ outfielder.
The Flaw of Sabermetrics: How WAR Can Ruin Payrolls: Can the statistic of Wins Above Replacement take a larger role in free agency, and, if it can, how could that ruin the game or increase spending to new heights?
Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you watched the All-Star Game, you may have heard. Why is it really such a big deal?
Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness: I interview Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe and discussed Guerrero’s Hall of Fame resume, along with how his JAWS system compares him to other greats.
Pitchers Who Won’t Come Up Short: Short pitchers that throw hard – it’s a thing, but so is the label of not being able to hold up due to their height.
Jack Morris: Why He Isn’t a Hall of Famer: Self explanatory.
MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for “Small-Markets”: Don’t tell the fans you don’t have the money when this is out there.
2014 Top 100 MLB Prospects: The preseason list.
On the eve of the second half of the 2014 season, after looking over my horrid preseason predictions, it is time for take two. Here are 10 bold predictions for the second half of the 2014 season, likely to be horribly, horribly wrong…once again:
1. The Baltimore Orioles run away with the AL East: Chris Davis‘ numbers scream a return to his 2013 first half numbers (.315/.392/.717)…ok, so maybe not THAT drastic, but he is much better than the .199/.309/.391 line that he has posted to this point. Add in a healthy, productive Manny Machado to Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, and the offense could be scary. Buck Showalter can finally break the chains off of Kevin Gausman, arguably the club’s best starter this season, plugging him into the rotation for the rest of the year instead of shuttling him back-and-forth between Baltimore and Norfolk. With Dylan Bundy returning from Tommy John surgery and, likely, taking over an important relief role late in the season to help put the team over the hump. With injuries to the Yankees’ rotation and the Blue Jays needing an arm to maintain contention due to possible innings limits on Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman late this season, the O’s have what it takes to get back on top.
2. The Pirates will come back to win the NL Central. Sure, they’re in 4th place right now, but they are the only healthy team in the division. The Reds are missing Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips for the next several weeks, the Cardinals could be without Michael Wacha for some time, and the Brewers have lost 11 of their last 13 games. With Andrew McCutchen heating up and Gregory Polanco continuing to adjust, the Bucs will prove that last year was just the beginning of a long, competitive run.
3. Bryce Harper will stay healthy and hit 20 home runs over the next 69 games.
5. Todd Frazier will continue his productive season, ending the season with over 30 home runs and 100-RBI. While the Reds lose the division behind the Pirates and injuries to Votto and Phillips, they still win a Wild Card.
6. Alex Guerrero will take over the third base job in Los Angeles and put up numbers that rival those of Yasiel Puig in his first month last season (.436/.467/.713 in 107 plate appearances). While that seems unreasonable, Guerrero has a .380/.423/.729 line in 37 minor league games, including some time off after getting part of his ear bitten off by a teammate.
7. Mike Trout continues running away with the AL MVP, finally winning the award that he should have won at least once over the last two seasons. He will finish the season with a WAR over 10.0, and McCutchen will win the MVP in the NL with a tremendous second half.
8. The Rays will keep David Price, riding a hot streak on their way to barely missing the final Wild Card spot. They will try to move him in the offseason, while getting all that they can out of their star left-hander, as he was worth more to them than a package that didn’t meet the demands of Andrew Friedman and Company.
9. The Colorado Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez, opening up a full-time job for both Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon on the outfield corners, with Drew Stubbs in center. The injuries are too much for ownership, while CarGo’s contract is friendly enough (three-years, $53 million between 2015 and 2017) to warrant a team taking on the deal and his skill-set. Seattle, seeking a return to glory, can offer Taijuan Walker, Gabby Guerrero, and Erasmo Ramirez for the slugging outfielder, instantly upgrading their offense.
10. The San Diego Padres will trade Huston Street to the Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez, solidifying the back-end of the bullpen that was patched together and healed by breakout closer Zach Britton.
Baseball came together for the All-Star celebration at Target Field, bowing in awe at the accomplishments of Yankees’ great Derek Jeter, while basking in the glory of the greatest superstar of the current generation taking control of yet another game, with Mike Trout running away with the MVP and a sweet new Chevrolet Corvette. All-Star Weekend brought the future of the game into the festivities for the 16th year, as top prospects from around the league took to the stage in the Futures Game, while Giancarlo Stanton‘s monster shots weren’t enough to keep Yoenis Cespedes from becoming the first back-to-back home run derby champion since Ken Griffey, Jr. accomplished the feat in 1998 and 1999. Still, when baseball comes together to celebrate its stars, there is always one thing that comes up:
Pete Rose, who gambled on baseball.
Pete Rose, who bet on the team that he was managing.
Pete Rose, who ruined the credibility of the game.
Pete Rose, the greatest hit collector in the history of baseball.
Pete Rose, the man who won’t stop fighting for an opportunity to return to the game that made him who he is, while leaving a legacy of hustle, production, and passion that hasn’t been matched since his ban from the game in August of 1989.
For many people, the integrity of the game is all that matters. Former commissioner Fay Vincent seems to have made it his lifelong goal to uphold the ban, placed by the late A. Bartlett Giamatti; however, with Bud Selig stepping down from the commissioner role, is there an opportunity to leave a legacy beyond inter-league play, the Wild Card, twenty years of labor peace, and record revenues?
— ctrent (@ctrent) July 15, 2014
In 2015, there will be a new commissioner, and, awkwardly, the All-Star Game will be held at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Selig has now gone on the record in saying that Rose will be allowed to participate in the festivities surrounding the event, but how much should he be involved? Is there truly a reason for Rose to still be banned?
Selig had this to say regarding Rose’s inclusion in next year’s All-Star events in the “Queen City”:
Selig would not answer a question about specific guidelines the Reds would have to follow.
“It’s sort of subjective, they’ve done some things with Pete, but they’ve been very, very thoughtful and limited,” Selig said. “That’s a subject that I’m sure they’ll discuss in the next year. They’re all here, but that’s not a subject that’s come up.”
As for Rose’s overall status with Selig, who is scheduled to step aside at the end of the year, the commissioner said there has been no change in Rose’s status.
“It’s a matter under advisement. That’s my standard line,” Selig said. “I’m the judge and that’s where it’ll stay. There’s nothing new.”
The game certainly has its own idea of how great a sin is. You can’t gamble on baseball, but you can take drugs illegally and influence your production and earning potential. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can cheat by using foreign substances to alter how a pitch assaults a batter. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can be a racist, bigot, and a social embarrassment to the sport. For all of the character flaws of Pete Rose, the character clause of the Hall of Fame has overlooked so much worse, and while there hasn’t truly been a “steroid user” inducted to-date, the moment that one of those players finally earns that honor is the last day that Pete Rose and the Black Sox can spend on the outside of enshrinement, or so you would think.
Pete Rose is a Hall of Fame baseball player. He may be a Hall of Fame moron for what he did as a manager, but you can’t put an asterisk next to 4,256 hits, 17-time All-Star, 1973 NL MVP, 1975 World Series MVP, and the effort and fire that has been unmatched.
Has it been long enough? Next month, Rose will have been gone from the game for 25 years. He has missed out on an opportunity to assist young players through coaching, he has missed out on the opportunity to lead a team as a manager, and he has missed an opportunity to discuss the game as a great should be able to do, with respect from his peers. He didn’t help his cause over the years with his failure to admit to his faults immediately, but baseball has a lot to gain from the years left in Rose’s life, having shoved him aside long enough, just as they did the truth about steroids for so many years in the great sport.
You can see the players who have surprised in the first half, here, but what about players who could provide surprising power going forward? Below, you’ll see players who could be heading towards huge second half production.
Stephen Vogt, C, Oakland A’s
Vogt is 30-for-80 over the last month (.375/.414/.563), with seven extra-base hits and 12 RBI. While he’s 29 and he doesn’t have a track record, having played in just 98 games in his entire career and accumulating 287 plate appearances, Vogt has been receiving time in the outfield and first base, as well as catcher. Beyond his versatility, raise your hand if you knew that Vogt had a 12-game hitting streak entering play on Sunday…He’s hot, he’s playing, and he’s eligible at an offensively starved position, and he has an incredible offense around him. Buy low.
Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Zobrist has managed to hit .271/.360/.440 over the second half since 2011, covering 2,403 plate appearances, while having the 5th highest second half WAR over that time behind only Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano. Add in the fact that Zobrist is hitting .368/.450/.559 over his last 17 games, just in time for a potential trade at the deadline to a club with more offensive talent. Like Vogt, his versatility is just an added bonus to his potential production.
Omar Infante, 2B, Kansas City Royals
The first half wasn’t all that friendly to the Royals second baseman, who hit a mediocre .277/.318/.383, but the last seven days have really helped out the overall line. During that span, Infante has hit .464/.483/.500 with 13 hits in 28 at-bats. The Royals have been starved for offense all season, and you’d have to expect Infante will continue to rebound, while guiding Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer along with him, especially if they are going to compete in the AL Central. The last week is a sign of production, a production that had been lacking for most of the season for Infante.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Unlike Zobrist, Kiermaier won’t be going anywhere at the trade deadline. He is under team-control through the 2019 season and he plays incredible defense due to his tremendous speed, which hasn’t quite been evident in his game just yet. Since June 1, Kiermaier has played in 40 games and has a .911 OPS over 151 plate appearances, including a .476/.522/.714 line over the last week, as he continues making adjustments at the major league level. I hit the wrong button and cut him by mistake in a dynasty league, but you shouldn’t make the same mistake, or overlook him much longer. His speed will allow him to create hits, even when he struggles, and he will continue to play moving forward as the Rays go towards a rebuild.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Odorizzi was a top prospect several years ago, but he hit a bump as he reached the majors, appearing to lack an out pitch with his 6.7 K:9 in a brief trial the last two seasons. Well, the 2014 season has been quite different. Sure, the ERA is at 4.01, but Odorizzi’s FIP is 3.20 and he has a whopping 10.3 K:9 over 19 starts and 101 innings. He’s just 24 and has always had a tremendous arsenal and plenty of potential, and he could be sneaking under the radar during a breakout 2014 season, including a 2.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his last eight starts.
Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS, Cincinnati Reds
Santiago has been very good at the right time. Over the last week, Santiago has hit .476/.577/.619, going 10-for-21 just as the Reds have lost Brandon Phillips. The long-time utility player has an opportunity to shine, barring a trade, while sharing time with Kristopher Negron in Cincinnati. While he is quite unlikely to hit close to .500, he is hitting in front of Todd Frazier in the Reds order, with Billy Hamilton ahead of him, distracting the pitcher when he is on base. Santiago could be surprisingly productive.
Jesse Hahn, RHP, San Diego Padres
Hahn is getting better each start and the numbers could continue due to his home ballpark. Hahn has a 1.46 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while going 5-1 over his last six starts. Over those six starts, he has 42:14 K:BB with a .163 average allowed over 37 innings. His 10.4 K:9 over his seven career starts is impressive, and the 24-year-old should be added in every league, while he could be expensive due to his early success. His minor league numbers were nearly identical to what he is doing in San Diego.
Wade Miley, LHP, Arizona Diamondback
Miley was very, very frustrating to own early this season, but he has really taken off recently, posting a 2.98 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP over his last seven starts, with a 46:12 K:BB over 45.1 innings. Beyond his recent strong performance, Miley has been slightly better in his career over the second half during his career.
Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Since June 1, Duffy has a 2.19 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, posting a 43:12 K:BB over 49.1 innings. The hard-throwing, 25-year-old has impressed this season, finally throwing enough strikes to live up to the lofty expectations that were once put on him. Now healthy and getting starts, the focus on James Shields and Yordano Ventura could lead to continued underestimated value by Duffy owners. There could be an innings limit here, but he should continue to surprise over the second half.
Chris Coghlan, OF, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are unlikely to promote Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, or Jorge Soler this season, so Coghlan should maintain a share of an outfield job at the least. He once won a Rookie of the Year and had a bright future, and after hitting .386/.446/.632 over his last 16 games, with 10 extra-base hits and 10 RBI. He may not carry your team, but Coghlan shouldn’t be tossed aside as just another hot streak. After all, we always have J.D. Martinez to remind us how a hot streak can become a breakout or extended, valuable outburst.
With the All-Star break starting after Sunday’s action, there are some baseball fans who are feeling like a train ran over them, weeping at the thought of discussing their fantasy baseball teams due to horrific production, numerous injuries, and running their squads with their hearts instead of their heads – sitting in last place. The cellar isn’t so bad until all of the wine is gone, but some of us have players to thank for tremendous starts to the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Not all of us can have Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, and Troy Tulowitzki, so these are the players who are helping to separate the contenders from the pretenders in the first half of the season:
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
Altuve is having a career year, on pace for over 220 hits and 70 stolen bases. In an era of huge swing and miss on the offensive side of the game, Altuve lacks patience but makes consistent contact, putting the ball in play to utilize his speed. He leads MLB with his 128 hits, with 20 of those coming on infield hits. With Jon Singleton and George Springer joining him in Houston this season, a glimpse into the Astros’ future is upon us.
Michael Brantley, LF, Cleveland Indians
“Dr. Smooth” has already eclipsed his previous career-high in home runs (10 in 2013) this season, and will easily surpass his career bests in several other categories, and if that wasn’t enough, he is tied for the MLB lead in outfield assists (10, though he has negative defensive value). You likely don’t earn anything for those throws, but Branley’s bat has kept an up-and-down Indians club in the AL Central race all season. His career contact rates suggest that this breakout is legit – not bad for the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia deal, huh?
Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
To think that Gordon was “in the mix” for the second base job this spring after the Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero seems absurd when looking at his offensive impact this season. The speedster has obviously assisted fantasy players with the league-leading 42 stolen bases, but getting on base (formerly a problem) has allowed him to be driven in by Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and the other Dodger hitters. Sometime you just need a long-term look to show what you have. The Dodgers committed to him, and Gordon is rewarding many people so far this season.
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
I wasn’t much of a believer in Hamilton given his struggles in Triple-A last season, but he has certainly proven me wrong. While he isn’t leading the league in steals, he has certainly given the Reds an dynamic defender in center and a threat to score at will. The power is just icing on the cake for fantasy owners. His recent tear (.344/.375/.574 over the last 15 games) has not only increased his numbers, they have helped put the Reds back in contention in the NL Central.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
Blackmon is an All-Star. He barely had a grasp on the starting left field job when spring training started, so that is about all that you need to know; however, I will share his home and road splits because I’m not so sure his value is legitimate unless you play him during long home stands -
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Todd Frazier is the second most valuable third baseman in baseball in 2014 (based on WAR, 3.5), ahead of the likes of Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Adrian Beltre. He’s hitting for power, he’s running, and, the best part, nothing in his numbers truly suggest a regression. With the hot months ahead of us and Great American Ballpark being a notoriously friendly environment, we could easily see 30 home runs and 100 RBI next to his name at the end of the season.
Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Perhaps we should have seen this coming after Richards had one of the top fastball velocities in baseball in 2013. After all, if you consider that his average fastball was 94.8 mph in 2013, he would have ranked in the top four in baseball behind Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Jose Fernandez. Good company. Better results.
Alfredo Simon, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Simon is leading MLB in the all important WIN. Ugh…the win…well, it still matters in fantasy. The FIP suggests he could see regression, but the bigger question is the number of innings he will log, as his career-high for innings was in 2011 when he reached 115.2 for Baltimore. He will likely spend some time in the Reds’ bullpen to limit those down the stretch, or a burnout is likely.
Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics
His career was nearly over in 2011 due to shoulder issues, he missed all of 2012 and then the solid return in Cleveland was special…but this is incredible. Kazmir deserves this success after overcoming so many obstacles, and the A’s look intelligent, as always, in their wise investment – as do fantasy owners.
Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Alvarez has a heavy fastball that he can’t blow by many, but it manages to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. That has helped him take a big step forward in his production on the mound this season. At 24, he is a strong dynasty option. He really knows how to pitch and his command will keep him relevant if and when he loses his velocity.
When the Chicago Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics last week, they gained a nice return, adding shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily, and a player to be named later. With the Cubs sitting at 39-52 entering play Friday, there was little reason for the club to hang onto Hammel, an impending free agent who wouldn’t be worth a qualifying offer, and Samardzija, who had another year of team-control but likely would have been very pricey in his final year of arbitration.
The Cubs added a 25-year-old starting pitcher in Straily who won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. While Straily struggled a bit this season, he has proven that he can get major league talent out, logging 157.1 innings for the A’s in 2013 while finishing 4th in AL Rookie of the Year voting. McKinney has been moved aggressively, jumping to High-A as a 19-year-old this season, and he has shown some nice power (though the California League could be responsible for some of that) and on-base skills considering that he is 3.7 years younger than others in his league. Both could be very interesting pieces for the Cubs down the line, with Straily likely to pitch at some point after the All-Star break in Chicago.
However, neither of those players possess the talent and potential of Addison Russell. Russell, who was recently ranked 4th among my mid-season top 50 prospect list, was drafted 11th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, has moved quickly through the minors, jumping to Double-A in 2014 at the age of 20 (4.6 years younger than others in his league). Jason Parks, of Baseball Prospectus, said this about the Cubs’ new shortstop:
Addison Russell has the most well-rounded profile at the shortstop position in the minors, with above-average chops in the field (including double-plus hands), and impact potential with both the hit and power tools. Russell has lost half a season to injury, but could challenge for the top spot in the minors with a strong second half.
Parks isn’t alone in the Russell love, though:
Russell has established himself as one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball and erased any concerns about his long-term future at the position. He has the hands, range and arm strength needed to make stunning plays in the field. Russell uses the whole field to hit, and his quick hands enable him to make consistent hard contact. He has surprising pop and could develop above-average power in the future. He isn’t a speedster, but he gets the most out of his solid speed, and he’s aggressive on the base paths.
Rich Wilson of Prospect361.com says:
Every time I’ve seen him play, he screams “Star”. He’s athletic with a great hit tool and bat speed that should produce 20 home runs. There’s also speed in his game and a 20/20 player at shortstop should be in the cards.
Russell’s trade to the Cubs has actually improved his prospect stock, as he’s more likely to stay at shortstop than future teammate Javier Baez and therefore ranked higher.
Beyond the Boxscore’s Daniel Schoenfeld recently focused on how the Cubs have utilized one-year deals the last two offseasons in acquiring middle-tier starting pitchers and moving them prior to the trade deadline:
They are incurring minimal risk to acquire high upside potential by focusing their efforts on finding players they consider undervalued by the market and signing them to fleeting deals at mid-range money. The Cubs thus take a relatively small gamble on assets that carry the upside of the prospect of being flipped in the three months before the deadline for far more value than they paid.
Indeed the Scott Feldman signing, which led to the deal with Baltimore last year for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, and Hammel signing have worked out nicely if the Cubs are going to look at players as stocks, but when are they going to stop acquiring the wrong kind of talent for their never-ending push to bring a title to the “Windy City”?
For how great Russell could be, the Cubs have a few things stopping him from being great for them:
1. Starlin Castro, just 24 years old, who is signed through 2019 (with a $15 million team option for 2020 that has a $1 million buyout). From 2015 through 2019, Castro is guaranteed $43 million and he is a shortstop. While he struggled in 2013, Castro is now an All-Star for a third season, all before the age of 25.
2. Darwin Barney has struggled offensively since his rookie season (2011), which still wasn’t all that great (.666 OPS). However, the 28-year-old is an elite defensive second baseman, and he is under team-control through the 2016 season. The Gold Glover is making $2.3 million this season and he could be a non-tender candidate, but considering his slick fielding capabilities, he isn’t completely without value in today’s offensively starved game.
3. Javier Baez was the Cubs “other” shortstop of the future. Also blocked by Castro, Baez didn’t really profile as a shortstop due to his anti-Barney efforts on defense. Baez had 44 errors in 2013, but he has just 11 in 80 games to-date in 2014. Still, Baez has power and bat speed that could make him an elite, All-Star level talent at another position. He was rumored to be going to third base, but…
4. Kris Bryant could be the long-term option for the Cubs at the hot corner. While his defense could be very Miguel Cabrera-like, he does have some athleticism and he deserves an opportunity to stick at third. Like Baez, he could fit in another position, such as an outfield corner, but if both Baez and Bryant are unable to handle playing third defensively…
5. Jorge Soler could be left without a spot to play long-term, as he isn’t really an option in center, where Albert Almora is the long-term answer, and he can’t play the infield. Soler, like Baez, has immeasurable raw power, capable of monstrous offensive production. He profiles as a future All-Star in right field, but he just needs to stay on the field in order to reach that potential.
6. Somewhere along the way, Arismendy Alcantara, a second baseman who recently moved to the outfield in Triple-A, will also need to find a spot to play for Chicago. He could replace Barney as early as this year, considering his recent promotion, which would make a position change for one of the other shortstops that much more difficult or confusing.
While the Cubs have so many options offensively for their potential future dominance, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo (signed through 2019 with team options for 2020 and 2021), they really do not have very many options to put on the mound. After trading two arms without gaining an elite pitching prospect back, Chicago is left with a group of incredibly gifted offensive prospects in an era where pitching and strikeouts are dominating.
Certainly, things could swing the other way for the Cubs and they could dominate opposing pitchers and outscore their competition, but they will still need a five-man rotation to give them some innings – the game won’t change that dramatically.
The cost saving methods of avoiding large contracts, drafting wisely, and spending internationally over the last several seasons could lead to the Cubs adding to their payroll by signing David Price, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, or other options who currently have deals set to expire after the 2015 season. However, there comes a time when the Cubs will need to develop their own pitching prospects or make deals that includes some of their gluttony of offensive talent to make it happen.
As nice as it was to add Addison Russell to the list of Bryant, Baez, Alcantara, Almora, and Soler, the Cubs needed pitching depth to try stockpile their system for a run in the future. There are only so many players who are like stocks. With more pieces for their future than the diamond can hold, they could be losing leverage in future deals, as clubs will know that they need to deal a “shortstop of the future”. If ownership and management are using the stock market logic, they have to understand risk, and adding Russell to the mix may not have been the smartest of moves for the pitching barren Chicago system.
Brandon Phillips took a spill in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, and what was originally thought to be a left wrist injury has turned into a torn thumb ligament, likely costing the slick-fielding second baseman six weeks for Cincinnati. After Wednesday night’s win against the Cubs, the Reds were just 2.5 games out in the NL Central. Now, with Homer Bailey leaving his start on Thursday with right patella tendon pain, Billy Hamilton nursing a hamstring strain, and Joey Votto battling, once again, a quad injury, the Reds could easily head in the wrong direction.
.@DatDudeBP to miss 6 weeks after left thumb surgery tomorrow. Bailey to make next start.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 10, 2014
The Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster and system is bereft of any true offensive assistance beyond their active, 25-man roster. Jack Hannahan (currently on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury) just began baseball activities after spending the entire season on the shelf, Neftali Soto was on the active roster for most of Votto’s previous DL stint and the Reds appreciated him so much that they put Brayan Pena (who had never started a game at first in his career) at first base over him, and Donald Lutz was hitting well in Double-A to earn a very brief trial during Votto’s last stint, but he has been quite over-matched at Double-A. Kristopher Negron and Ramon Santiago can handle the position, but they would provide very little offensive production over the next 40 to 60 days. The remainder of the 40-man consists of outfielders like Ryan LaMarre, Juan Duran, and Yorman Rodriguez, none of which provide any help.
The Reds could add Ruben Gotay, 31, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2008, from Louisville, while reaching to lower levels either wouldn’t be a solid option or would be downright stupid.
Could the Reds look for help via a trade?
There are certainly some options out there as the trade deadline approaches. Here are five players who could fit with the Cincinnati Reds during a time that their roster is littered with injuries:
1. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist is 34 and the Rays are 10 games under .500 in the AL East. While they’ve been playing better of late, it likely won’t be enough to keep the club from selling off pieces. With David Price the top commodity on their roster and the focus of so many clubs, Zobrist could be overlooked a bit, which isn’t new for one of the most underrated players in baseball over the last five years. Zobrist could play second base for Cincinnati until Phillips returns, while being an option in the outfield beyond that point. In fact, Zobrist has a $7.5 million team option ($500,000 buyout) for 2015, and with Ryan Ludwick reaching free agency and the Reds needing an upgrade in left, Zobrist would be a tremendous fit. He is a switch-hitter, he has a career .354 on-base percentage, and his versatility can not be understated. While he could be pricey considering the number of clubs who could be in on him and the team-friendly contract for next season, if the Reds are interested in remaining contenders over the next two to three months, he would be the perfect fit.
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera is a free agent after the 2014 season and the Indians may not be all that interested in offering him a one-year deal on the qualifying offer, fearing that he could accept it and block the shortstop position if and when Francisco Lindor is officially ready. There may not be such a thing as a “bad” one-year deal, but there is a lot that goes into Cabrera’s availability. First and foremost, are the Cleveland Indians sellers? They’re within striking distance in the AL Central and the AL Wild Card, and with Lindor in Double-A and Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez unlikely to be upgrades at short, would they be better off keeping him? Cabrera could likely handle second base, as Zack Cozart wouldn’t move off of short in Cincinnati due to his strong defense, but what is he worth for Cincinnati? Perhaps Ben Lively, who was dominant in the California League prior to a recent promotion to Double-A, would be interesting for pitching depth in the Indians’ system, but he isn’t going to help the team this year. Cabrera would interest several contenders, but the Indians need to determine if they consider themselves the same prior to Cabrera becoming available.
3. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox: If we were living in 2009, Beckham would be very, very expensive in a deal; however, Beckham has been through a free-fall over the last five seasons for the White Sox, seeing his numbers, value, and playing time take various dives along the way. Injuries have been a factor during his career, but Beckham’s ability to handle second and third could make him useful for Cincinnati, especially with Todd Frazier capable of playing multiple positions, likely including left field. Beckham is under team control through the 2015 season, but after earning $4.18 million in 2014, he could also be a non-tender candidate based on his failed production. The White Sox have Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien who could potentially slide into the second base job, and Chicago has little reason to not take additional minor league depth after having one of the worst systems in baseball over the last decade prior to Rick Hahn taking over the GM job.
4. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: The Mets likely aren’t as good as their 42-49 record, which has left them eight games out in the challenging NL East. With very little talent on the major league roster, the Mets are in a slow rebuild, whether the owners and management are aware of it is yet to be determined (signing a 40-year-old to a two-year deal isn’t the norm for a team in their situation – Bartolo Colon this past offseason). The Mets would need another miracle to contend this year, and Murphy could be the Reds’ miracle. Murphy has hit well over his career, earning his first All-Star berth this season, posting a .291/.335/.423 line over his six seasons. While his versatility is a bit more limited than it used to be, he (or Phillips) could be traded after the 2014 season, as they both wouldn’t fit being limited to second base. Murphy is arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 before reaching free agency, so his cost could be a bit high, and with very little ready (beside Wilmer Flores) to take over second base, the Mets could be better served giving their fans at least one reason to show up.
5. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: Barney is well-known for his glove, as he should be, but it could be argued that he wouldn’t help the Reds much offensively; however, the Cubs have no reason to keep him around with Arismendy Alcantara on the way up and a likely move to second base for either Addison Russell or Javier Baez in the near future in the minors, both top 10 prospects. Barney is under team-control through the 2016 season, and, like others, he wouldn’t have much value to the Reds once Phillips returns. He could be a useful utility player, especially if he hits like he has over his last eight games (.387/.387/.516).
At the halfway point of the 2014 season, it is time to take a look at some of the top prospects who are still hanging out on the farm developing their trade. Below, you will find the top 50 mid-season prospects for the 2014 season, with links to their statistics and a brief summary of their outlook. Enjoy. Share. Love.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins: Wrist injuries have hurt him this season, but the tools are still there to be a five-tool stud.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: The power is incredible, but not nearly as incredible as the overall numbers. Will he end up at third or the outfield? It doesn’t really matter where he ends up, he’s a star.
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros: Correa’s season has been destroyed by a broken leg after he destroyed opposing pitchers in the California League. He was just about ready for a promotion to Double-A, so the timing was quite unfortunate. He remains a future star in Houston.
4. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs: It doesn’t matter who he plays for, Russell can hit, hit for power, show patience at the dish, and field his position. While the landing spot of the recent trade leads to a lot of questions, Russell’s overall skills could make him the best option at short for Chicago.
5. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: The power and bat speed are tools that all others envy, but until Baez makes some adjustments with his all or nothing approach, he isn’t the top shortstop prospect in the minors – but where he ends up with a crowded Cubs’ system means little if he doesn’t start making more consistent contact and taking a few more pitches.
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: He may not possess the power that the other prospects offer ahead of him, but Lindor will have plenty of value for the Indians, showcasing an elite glove, solid speed, an excellent approach, and more pop than you’d expect based on his frame (5’11”, 175 pounds).
7. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals: The fastball and curveball, right now, could dominate at the major league level. If he can stay healthy, he could supplant Stephen Strasburg as the Nats ace, not because Strasburg is aging – he is capable of being better.
8. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies: Gray still has the fastball and slider that could dominate and he continues to refine the change. Just because he’s a Rockies’ pitcher, he shouldn’t be discounted. He has the stuff to throw the Coors effect out the window.
9. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: The injury is damning but the results and stuff seem to be back already. Bundy’s velocity isn’t there, but the command is there, which is typically the last thing to return after TJ surgery. Four plus pitches and pitching intelligence make Bundy a frontline starter for the O’s.
10. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins: Sano is going to miss the entire 2014 season due to TJ surgery. His power is elite and he should get a long look next spring for a Twins club that is desperate for some offense.
11. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers: The power was considered an 80 and it’s there. The plate discipline, however, has shown up and made Gallo an absolutely scary talent, especially when you consider the hitter-friendly nature of his home ballpark if he stays in Texas. Can he stay at third? Another guy who it shouldn’t matter for due to the bat playing anywhere.
12. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: With three pitchers set to reach free agency after the 2015 season, Stephenson appears to be a solution, especially with strong results as he continues to climb through the Cincinnati system.
13. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: The injury led to some stumble here, but Bradley, if healthy, just needs to get a firm grasp on his command to be a No.1 starter. It wasn’t always elite results for Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole, so don’t sell him short due to the numbers this season.
14. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He’s 17 and in the California League dominating hitters. Urias has stuff and command to be a front-of-the-rotation arm, but with projection involved, the sky is the limit. Everything could get better for him as he matures.
15. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets: Yet another injury-ravaged arm in 2014, “Thor” should be on the mound for the Mets at some point by the end of the season to gain some experience. He should be a very good No.2 starter for years to come, featuring electric stuff and top notch command.
16. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: A slugging shortstop, who may not stay at the position, in a system that continues to develop and acquire elite talent, Seager would be talked about a lot by teams who didn’t have Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw around. Now, with Urias dominating at such a young age, Seager continues to not get the praise he deserves for the skills. California League or not, 1.037 OPS at the age of 20 is nothing to sneeze at.
18. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins: He’s a large man with No.2-No.3 stuff that could be No.1 stuff if he continues to show the type of command that he has in 2014. With the improvements that he has shown this season, he should be higher, but the shoulder issues that he had scare me off a bit.
19. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Pederson would likely be starting for half of MLB this season. Instead, he is depth due to the presence of Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. The strikeouts are up a bit this season, but he is showing more power, speed, and patience (which is confusing but the walks are up).
20. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: Harvey will likely move very quickly for a high school arm, as he has shown electric stuff in his first full season for the O’s Low-A affiliate. Along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Harvey gives Baltimore one of the most, if not the most, prolific arms in the minors.
21. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox: A switch-hitting catcher with some pop and solid plate discipline skills who is getting better after a jump to Double-A, Swihart has established himself as one of the top catching prospects in the game, redefining his previous outlook with an excellent season.
22. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox: While Owens isn’t going to replace Jon Lester at the top of the Boston rotation anytime soon, he should settle in as a very useful arm, capable of owning opposing batters with a strong fastball and very, very good change from the left side.
23. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: Hedges’ offensive game still needs a lot of work, but he could step behind the plate and be an effective game manager tomorrow. Could he hit enough to be an everyday catcher? Well, Ryan Hanigan has…and Yadier Molina wasn’t always the offensive monster that he is today. Things can change. He’s young enough to get the complete package together, but even if he doesn’t hit, he’s a Gold Glove catcher.
24. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Norris has jumped to Double-A after dominating the Florida State League in his first 13 starts of the season. He has the stuff to be an ace, and this ranking appears to be much lower than what he deserves considering the stuff and results, but there are a lot of solid arms ahead of him.
25. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have a lot of very good, young arms in their system, and Glasnow could be the best if he finds a way to limit the walks. He’s big with big stuff, and just harnessing it would make him a top 10 prospect.
26. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs: It’s unfortunate that it has to be repeated, but Alcantara’s future position in Chicago will be decided at some point between the Starlin Castro/Addison Russell/Javier Baez/Kris Bryant shuffle between second, third, and short, while Alcantara’s recent move to the outfield (he has played 10 games in center) could be a sign of the demise of Junior Lake, and the solution for the crowd – as far as how it impacts this very talented, 22-year-old speedster.
27. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Likely to move slow due to the organizational philosophy, the Twins haven’t had a power arm like this that they drafted and developed as far back as I can remember. He is working on his secondary stuff in the Midwest League this season, so the numbers don’t show dominance like the stuff suggests. He’s still just 19 and he will be a huge part of the Twins system, settling in nicely behind Alex Meyer as a No.2 starter.
28. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Sanchez would likely be pitching in Toronto right now if he had the ability to harness the stuff. Instead, he has walked 55 in 92.1 innings as of July 8. If he can grasp some concept of command, he could be the top pitcher on this entire list. As is, he’s a work in progress and a huge chip if the Blue Jays were to go all-in despite their recent tumble in the AL East.
29. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The results haven’t always matched the hype, but we’ll have to wait another year to see how Taillon’s stock fluctuates given his TJ surgery that has forced him to miss the entire 2014 season.
30. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: Crawford has jumped to the Florida State League after a solid run in the Sally League, showing a tremendous approach for a 19-year-old at either level. He has surprising gap power and tremendous speed and he could be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia with a slightly better approach and a little less pop.
31. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies: Tapia’s ceiling is anyone’s guess, but he’s a 20-year-old in his first attempt at full-season ball, posting an .830 OPS with 19 stolen bases and 27 extra-base hits (as of July 8). He can barrel up practically anything and he could develop power with his 6’2″, 160 pound frame. He could be better than Dahl if everything clicks, but the worst case scenario could be a Dexter Fowler at his peak as his norm.
32. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers: A catcher who can run, hit for extreme power, and throw absolute seeds from behind the dish aren’t the norm in baseball, which makes Alfaro a future stud. He has some holes in his swing, but he is just 21 and he has a huge ceiling due to the power and defensive prowess.
33. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs: Almora hasn’t lived up to the offensive expectations this season, but he still brings a lot to the table with his elite defensive skills in center. After playing in only 61 games in Low-A last season due to injuries, the Cubs were aggressive in assigning the 20-year-old to the High-A Florida State League. He hasn’t been totally over-matched, but an improvement in his production would keep him as an option in the cluttered Cubs’ future.
34. Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals: Mondesi is an interesting prospect due to the bloodlines and the fact that he is just 18 (until July 27) and he is playing in the High-A Carolina League in the Royals system. It’s the defensive skills and the speed that make him capable of being elite. While he likely won’t develop the power that Russell, Baez, and Correa bring to the prospect list, he can utilize that speed in the same way that Billy Hamilton has for the Cincinnati Reds to become a factor in all facets of the game.
35. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Winker will be a left fielder due to his arm, but he has the hit tool, the power, and the patience to be a very useful player in Cincinnati. He may have several seasons of All-Star production, while settling in as a productive, sweet-swinging lefty in the middle of the Reds’ order.
36. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Shipley has a solid fastball and change already, but he has hit a bump with the numbers in the hitter-friendly California League. He has very little experience as a pitcher (he was a former shortstop), but still projects as a mid-rotation starter for the D-backs…if Kevin Towers doesn’t trade him because he hates young players (huge generalizations are always fun).
37. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals: What seemed like a reach in the 2013 MLB Draft looks to be another wise decision by Dayton Moore and Company in K.C. Dozier looks to be the long-term solution at third with Mike Moustakas failing like a man with no arms trying to remove corn from his teeth. You’d like to see more power from a future corner man, but Dozier could transfer some of those doubles into bombs as he continues adjusting to the wooden bat throughout his maturation.
38. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians: Frazier has Baez-like bat speed, which could result in huge amounts of power as he matures. The red-headed stepchild of the Tribe system, Frazier has shown glimpses of his potential while striking out in large quantities as a 19-year-old in full season ball. The Indians would be wise to continue being aggressive with him, allowing him to make adjustments and becoming the potential All-Star, a title that his bat could very well carry him to.
39. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Berrios could be the best of the group between himself, Meyer, and Stewart, but he doesn’t get as much love, likely, due to his size. Just touching six feet, Berrios falls into the “short pitcher” label that has haunted the likes of Yordano Ventura, Carlos Martinez, Johnny Cueto, and Pedro Martinez, but stuff will outweigh the oppression, and Berrios has plenty of it.
40. Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Pompey has made huge strides this season in his production, showing his typical speed and solid plate discipline, while driving the ball more consistently. It has led to a promotion to Double-A (where he has struggled) for the 21-year-old center fielder. He looks like a nice piece for Toronto to build around, especially if they lose Colby Rasmus to free agency after the season (though, Pompey won’t be called upon just yet for that role in 2015).
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros: Appel has had difficulty adjusting to the pitching methods that Houston employs in the minors, but maybe it’s an attitude thing more than a stuff thing…or an injury. Who knows at this point, but the Astros should be concerned if the stuff is there and the results are this horrific. He’s here because of that stuff, but he needs to get things going before he becomes a bust…yes…already.
42. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees: The Yankees have a prospect! Severino isn’t just a hype-machine type of guy, he has a fastball that can touch 97 with a slider and a change that could be above-average. The 6’0″, right-hander will battle the “small” label, but the stuff could be special.
43. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: A future mid-rotation, innings-eater with solid stuff who is close to making an impact, Kingham may get lost in the Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow hype, but he should be a very useful arm for the Pirates in his own right.
44. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Piscotty looks to be a potential clone of Allen Craig, possessing impressive contact skills without taking many walks, while not striking out absurd amounts, and not showcasing power numbers that would make them an ideal corner bat. Still, Piscotty can double his way into credibility, and he will be a nice option to play alongside Oscar Taveras for several seasons in St. Louis.
45. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals: Cole has rebounded with his return to Washington’s system. He didn’t take too kindly to his time in the California League for the Oakland A’s, but he still has the stuff of a potential No.2 or No.3 starter. He isn’t Giolito by any means, but he has legit stuff and may not get the love that he deserves due to the flip-flopping in trades the last couple of seasons.
46. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets: Nimmo’s on-base skills make him the Joey Votto of the minor leagues. He has control over his at-bats, which isn’t the norm for most 21-year-old position players in Double-A. Still, the Mets have to hope that he develops power along with the patience, as they are in desperate need of impact talent at the major league level.
47. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers: This kid can hit. He may not have a clue about how he can barrel up the ball, as the strikeouts show, but Williams has the talent to become an All-Star level outfielder due to his tools, athletic ability, and successful aggressiveness. There is power in his game, as well as speed, but he will settle in as a corner outfielder in Texas, though, there could be some severe learning curves.
48. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Bell is a switch-hitting corner outfielder who can hit for power from both sides, he has a strong grasp of the strike zone, and he has rewarded the Pirates, who made a $5 million investment in him after choosing the Texas-native in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Draft, with impressive production after an injury-filled start to his career. He should see some time in Double-A this season, while turning 22 in August.
49. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres: Wisler’s numbers in the Pacific Coast League are pretty horrific, but he’ll be reaping the benefits of pitching in San Diego in due time. Mostly working on his change this season, Wisler continues to work his way to the majors, and the results don’t matter as much as continued health and innings. He should be a solid No.2 or No.3 for the Padres in coming seasons.
50. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners: Peterson’s overall numbers were likely aided by playing at Inland Empire in the California League, but he was a top selection in the 2013 MLB Draft and is continuing his offensive outburst after a recent to Double-A. The Mariners could use a productive right-handed hitter, but his future is likely not at third with Kyle Seager becoming an All-Star caliber player for Seattle. He could be a first baseman or the Mariners could give him a look in left, but they may need to cover him up with an elite-level defensive center fielder.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs; Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres; Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox; Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants; Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers;
With a little over four weeks remaining until the trade deadline, rumors of names heading to contending teams are starting to heat up. One name rumored to be on the move, for what seems like years, is Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. After earning $5.35 million in his second year of arbitration, Samardzija will be eligible for arbitration one more time in 2015 prior to reaching free agency. At 29, Samardzija is eight months older than Rays trade-bound ace David Price, but he has logged 438 fewer innings than Price due to his time in the bullpen over his first four seasons (128 appearances, just five starts).
While Samardzija doesn’t have the wear and tear on his arm that Price has, he also doesn’t have the resume. That doesn’t mean that Samardzija is chopped liver, though. The former Notre Dame football standout is the 23rd most valuable pitcher in baseball since moving to the starting rotation in 2012 (FanGraphs WAR). Since moving to the rotation full-time9.01 K/9 ranks 9th among qualifiers, his 3.54 FIP ranks 27th in MLB despite his ERA (3.83) ranking 55th, and his 496.1 innings rank 24th in MLB.
The teams that Samardzjia has pitched for shouldn’t be discounted, as well. The Cubs are 163-243 (.401) since the start of the 2012 season, while Samardzija is just 19-33 (.365) during that stretch. The 2014 season, however, has been Samardzija’s best, despite his 2-7 record. His 2.83 ERA (3.06 FIP) and his 1.20 WHIP are the best of his career as a starter (WHIP is career-best). While his strikeouts are down slightly (8.6/9 IP in 2014 compared to 9.0/9 IP in 2013), his walks are down to a career-best 2.6/9 IP, and his ERA+ is at 135, best in his career.
The Cubs are likely looking to significantly cash in if and when they deal Jeff Samardzija. While the club has prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Albert Almoraand Kyle Schwarber to build around as positional prospects, only C.J. Edwards (who is battling a shoulder issue after being acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last season) appears to be an above-average arm in the system currently, though Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn could be decent back-end options. The club drafted heavy on pitching, as 20 of their 40 picks in June’s MLB Draft were pitchers, but Chicago could use some near-ready talent with so many of their top position players at the upper levels of the minors.
So, who appears to be a good fit for a deal? As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported a couple of weeks ago:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 15, 2014
Toronto: The Blue Jays are the top team in baseball who appear to need pitching depth, as they sit one game up on Baltimore in the AL East with veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey leading the way as Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman take on larger roles. With Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Alberto Tirado ranking near the top of the Jays system and all three being mid-to-top-of-the-rotation arms, Toronto seems to be a logical fit.
San Francisco: The Giants quickly tumbled out of first place in the NL West, but the problem with their rotation is Matt Cain, who is 1-6 with a 4.38 ERA and 4.51 FIP, both the worst of the current starting five; however, Cain likely isn’t going anywhere with his $20 million salary and the guaranteed three-years and $67.5 million remaining on his deal from 2015 to 2017. Ryan Vogelsong is a free agent after the season, and, while he has pitched well at times, he would likely get the boot from the rotation if the Giants were to acquire Samardzija. The Giants have several solid pitching prospects, with Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar, Adalberto Mejia, and Clayton Blackburn as potential pitching targets for the Cubs.
Los Angeles Angels: Unless the Angels were willing to part with Garrett Richards, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2015 and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, the Angels don’t have the prospects to make a deal. It is interesting that they keep showing up in rumors considering the state of their farm system.
Baltimore: The Orioles have pitching out the wazoo, with Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Hunter Harvey having “future ace” labels on them. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright have had less than stellar seasons in the Orioles’ system, but could be nice secondary pieces.
New York Yankees: Luis Severino and prospects with injury issues: Jose Campos, Manny Banuelos, and Jose Ramirez, top the Yankees farm on the pitching side, but the Cubs could be interested in a catching prospect like Gary Sanchez as a piece to build around, as they don’t have an elite future option behind the dish with Schwarber likely to move from behind the plate.
Boston: The Red Sox have a lot of pitching options in their system in Henry Owens, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Trey Ball. It’s quite possible any of those five could do a better job than Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz are doing this season. Regardless, if Boston is serious about contending, they’ll likely part with some of their young talent for a more proven commodity like Samardzija, even if they could get similar production over the next two seasons from one of the prospects if they stood pat.
With nearly three months of the season finished, the prospect status for many has changed. This winter, I released a Top 100 prospect list, but players take leaps or go through hot streaks that make you take notice, and that is what this report was created for. You may see names you’re not familiar with, but you could see new names or lesser known names that the rest of the world needs to take note of.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Berrios has taken steps towards stardom in the 2014 season, and while he may always have the “short” label on his (due to just touching 6′), he has the stuff and mound presence to overcome that – like Yordano Ventura and Johnny Cueto. Over his last nine starts, Berrios has allowed eight earned runs over 58.1 innings (1.23 ERA), 36 hits, and 14 walks (0.86), all while striking out 78 (12.03 K/9). The Twins have Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano to help the club in the future offensively, and Berrios looks like he could become the first strong Minnesota-developed pitcher since Brad Radke.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kingham has put up strong numbers at every stop outside of the hitter-friendly Sally League, and after a promotion to Triple-A, his numbers have been electric. His numbers do not indicate that he is a front-line starter, but Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon weren’t necessarily showing high strikeout numbers during their ascension, either. He could see time in Pittsburgh this season due to his results to this point, which is a pretty spectacular feat for a 22-year-old who has always been an afterthought to Cole, Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow in the Pirates system to many prospect sites. The fastball can touch 97, he has a power curve, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the results mimic Cole’s early on for the Pirates.
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs
After being taken 4th overall in this month’s MLB Draft, Kyle Schwarber signed quickly and started playing. The Cubs took him due to his signability and the fact that he should move quickly as the most advanced collegiate bat in the draft. The result speak to those expectations, and it seems unreasonable to have him at any level other than High-A or Double-A at this point, as he is toying with the pitching in the lower levels. He has 14 extra-base hits in 14 games with 19 RBI and a 1.723 OPS. There are small sample sizes and then there are players who are that much better. Schwarber is that much better and needs a tougher test. He could be developing the same type of offensive skills that Kris Bryant has had in the minors this season, and if he reaches that level, the Cubs look very intelligent for a pick that many considered a reach.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are in an interesting situation, with so many aging veterans on the decline and so many young, talented prospects becoming ready at the same time, they need to decide if they’re going to reload through trades (using the young talent) or build for the future with their young players. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley are on the 25-man roster entering play today, but the club sent down Rubby De La Rosa, while keeping the struggling Jake Peavy in the rotation. Sneaking up the organizational ladder to push the vets in the rotation further is Henry Owens, who has been dominant since the beginning of the 2013 season. While he could still refine his command a bit, you have a power left-hander here, who could become a top-of-the-rotation arm. His last 10 Double-A starts have resulted in a 1.56 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP over 63.1 innings, allowing a .155 average to opposing batters. That 1.56 ERA, by the way, includes the four runs he allowed over five innings on June 26. His previous nine starts, that ERA was 1.10. He has 21 Double-A starts under his belt and is ready for Triple-A at the age of 21.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
It seems like Cole has been around for a long time. He was sent to the Oakland A’s by the Nationals in the 2011 Gio Gonzalez deal, but Washington re-acquired him in the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland prior to the 2013 season. Cole struggled mightily once reaching Stockton in the California League within Oakland’s system, and it may have rattled him a bit; however, upon returning to the Nationals, his strikeout numbers jumped back up, and, since being promoted to Double-A late in the 2013 season, he has looked like his earlier forms, striking out a lot of batters while limiting walks. He can command a mid-90’s fastball and he is just 22. He may get overlooked due to the fact that he has been traded, but if no one else wants him, you should hope your favorite team does. He isn’t Stephen Strasburg, and he doesn’t have the hype of Lucas Giolito, but A.J. Cole could be a very good pitcher in MLB very soon.
Darnell Sweeney, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have money to spend like no other team in baseball, but they still have to have a minor league system. They have a lot of solid prospects that everyone should know, like Julio Urias, Joc Pederson, and Corey Seager, but it doesn’t stop there. Sweeney is an interesting prospect who I have never read a single thing about. At 23, he is a collegiate draftee (13th round in 2012) out of Central Florida, who has put up solid but not spectacular numbers in the minors since being selected by Los Angeles. His numbers in the California League were a bit inflated, especially his strikeout numbers, but Sweeney does have some power and speed, and in 2014 he is showing quite a bit more patience at the dish than he has in previous seasons. With Alex Guerrero and Dee Gordon ahead of his at second and short at the Major League level and Seager quickly coming up to likely take over third, there isn’t much room for him in the future. He could quietly become a very interesting trade piece, especially if he consistently shows the plate discipline while maintaining the solid pop that he has displayed this season as a switch-hitting middle infielder.
Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
Williams missed a couple of weeks due to injury, but he has six hits (including two home runs) with two walks in four games since coming back. That is notable because he had only eight walks in 51 games for Myrtle Beach prior to missing time. Williams is a hitter, possibly a hacker. He goes up and he swings, and he manages to produce with no real plan at the plate. You don’t see many players hitting .300 in the majors with over 100 strikeouts and about 20 walks, but Williams could be that guy. He’s 6’3″ and pretty lanky, so as he matures and strengthens his frame, the ability to put the barrel on the ball will lead to balls flying out of the park. He could be very special, though the numbers, at times, could look very confusing.