Top 30 MLB Free Agents for 2015

Free agency has officially started, with two of the top names on the market, Michael Cuddyer and Victor Martinez, already reaching new agreements (Cuddyer, two-years, $21 million with the Mets) or re-signing with their club (Martinez, four-years, $68 million). There’s still plenty of time remaining for teams to make improvements or trades, and these are the names that you’ll want to know, while hoping that your team makes the highest bid.

  1. Hanley Ramirez, SS

    RHP Max Scherzer

    RHP Max Scherzer

  2. Yoan Moncada, SS – Cuba
  3. Max Scherzer, RHP
  4. Yasmany Tomas, OF – Cuba
  5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
  6. Jon Lester, LHP
  7. James Shields, RHP
  8. Nelson Cruz, OF/DH
  9. Russell Martin, C
  10. Melky Cabrera, OF
  11. Ervin Santana, RHP
  12. Francisco Liriano, LHP
  13. Kenta Maeda, RHP – Japan
  14. Brandon McCarthy, RHP
  15. Andrew Miller, LHP
  16. David Robertson, RHP
  17. Nick Markakis, OF
  18. Chase Headley, 3B
  19. Jason Hammel, RHP
  20. Hyeon-jong Yang, LHP – Korea
  21. Sergio Romo, RHP
  22. Alex Rios, OF

    OF Alex Rios

    OF Alex Rios

  23. Nori Aoki, OF
  24. Michael Morse, 1B/OF
  25. Colby Rasmus, OF
  26. Jed Lowrie, SS
  27. Hector Olivera, 2B – Cuba
  28. Billy Butler, 1B/DH
  29. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  30. Jung-ho Kang, SS – Korea


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Super Two Avoidance…Get to Know Oscar Taveras

evanvogel:

RIP – This is so sad for many, many reasons. As a fan of baseball, it is certainly horrific, but my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family, the family of his girlfriend, and the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Originally posted on The Baseball Haven:

Cardinals' Future Star Oscar Taveras

Cardinals’ Future Star Oscar Taveras

If you don’t know who Oscar Taveras is at this point, you should ask your internet service provider to explain how you’ve had Wi-Fi go through the boulder that you’ve been living under. Taveras has been a top prospect for three seasons ranking 23rd in 2012, 2nd in 2013, and 3rd in 2014 prior to each season (Baseball Prospectus), gaining all kinds of impressive comps along the way, including Vladimir Guerrero. The left-handed hitting outfielder was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in November of 2008 at the tender age of 16. Much like Gregory Polanco, who I wrote about on Wednesday, he appears stuck in the minors due to the financial constraints of the Super Two process, although…the Cardinals do have better talent blocking Taveras than what the Pirates have blocking Polanco, as Matt Adams and Allen Craig seem much more…

View original 1,097 more words

2015 MLB Top 100 Prospects

Cubs super-prospect 3B/OF Kris Bryant

Cubs super-prospect 3B/OF Kris Bryant

1. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 -0.8 A–A+-Rk CHC 36 146 128 22 43 14 2 9 32 1 11 35 .336 .390 .688 1.078 88
2014 22 -3.5 AA-AAA CHC 138 594 492 118 160 34 1 43 110 15 86 162 .325 .438 .661 1.098 325
2 Seasons 174 740 620 140 203 48 3 52 142 16 97 197 .327 .428 .666 1.095 413
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Bryant is a mashing star in the making for the Cubs. He is an athletic player, and while there are questions about whether he can handle third defensively, there aren’t any questions about his ability to hit. He’ll be a monster producer for Theo and Co. for years to come. He doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors, but he’ll likely spend some time in Triple-A to maintain his service time in Chicago. 

2. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 -1.9 Rk MIN 48 189 165 33 41 10 4 5 20 11 19 41 .248 .344 .448 .792 74
2013 19 -3.0 A-A+ MIN 125 574 488 109 163 19 18 12 77 55 76 105 .334 .424 .520 .944 254
2014 20 -2.7 A+-AA MIN 31 137 124 19 29 4 2 4 16 6 10 36 .234 .307 .395 .702 49
3 Seasons 204 900 777 161 233 33 24 21 113 72 105 182 .300 .389 .485 .874 377
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.

Say what you’d like to about Buxton’s inability to stay on the field – it still doesn’t tell me that he’s lost any tools. However, if he has another lost season, it may be time to re-evaluate that view. Power, speed, and elite centerfield defense make him valuable in fantasy and real-life baseball. He has more tools than Lowe’s.

3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 17 -2.8 Rk HOU 50 204 190 28 49 14 2 3 12 6 12 44 .258 .305 .400 .705 76
2013 18 -3.3 A HOU 117 519 450 73 144 33 3 9 86 10 58 83 .320 .405 .467 .872 210
2014 19 -3.8 A+ HOU 62 293 249 50 81 16 6 6 57 20 36 45 .325 .416 .510 .926 127
3 Seasons 229 1016 889 151 274 63 11 18 155 36 106 172 .308 .389 .465 .853 413
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Correa, like Buxton, missed most of 2014 due to injury. He was having a monster season, and it doesn’t really matter that it was happening at Lancaster in the California League because he is capable of that type of production. It will be interesting to see if his injury leads to any loss of speed, but the large, powerful shortstop deserves the benefit of the doubt, much like Buxton, because of his gifts. 

4. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 -2.4 Rk-A-A- OAK 55 244 217 46 80 10 9 7 45 16 23 48 .369 .432 .594 1.027 129
2013 19 -4.0 A+-AAA OAK 110 517 442 86 119 29 10 17 60 21 61 125 .269 .369 .495 .865 219
2014 20 -4.3 AA-A+ CHC,OAK 68 280 258 39 76 14 1 13 45 6 19 49 .295 .350 .508 .858 131
3 Seasons 233 1041 917 171 275 53 20 37 150 43 103 222 .300 .379 .522 .901 479
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
With Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez already in the system, it was pretty shocking to see the Cubs acquire another elite middle infielder when they finally traded Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics. You can never have too much elite talent, and talent is talent, so it can play anywhere. Russell could be the long-term shortstop due to his ability to handle the position defensively, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in Chicago around the same time that Bryant makes his debut for the Cubs. 
Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

5. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 -1.9 Rk-A- TEX 59 260 206 53 56 12 1 22 52 6 48 78 .272 .412 .660 1.072 136
2013 19 -2.5 A-Rk TEX 111 467 411 86 103 23 5 40 88 15 50 172 .251 .338 .623 .961 256
2014 20 -3.6 AA-A+ TEX 126 537 439 97 119 19 3 42 106 7 87 179 .271 .394 .615 1.009 270
3 Seasons 296 1264 1056 236 278 54 9 104 246 28 185 429 .263 .377 .627 1.004 662
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Elite power makes Gallo a future star and the strikeouts make him a future star who strikes out a lot. There isn’t much to be concerned about here. In the hapless offensive era that MLB is currently enduring, power is power and teams are craving it. While a strikeout, as Moneyball showed, is a wasted at-bat, the potential production that Gallo offers is titillating. He’ll continue to rise through the ranks, and, like Bryant, questions about his long-term position don’t matter much due to the bat. He’ll have a spot somewhere. 

6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 -4.1 A- CLE 5 20 19 4 6 0 0 0 2 1 1 5 .316 .350 .316 .666 6
2012 18 -3.6 A CLE 122 567 490 83 126 24 3 6 42 27 61 78 .257 .352 .355 .707 174
2013 19 -4.1 A+-AA CLE 104 464 403 65 122 22 7 2 34 25 49 46 .303 .380 .407 .787 164
2014 20 -5.4 AA-AAA CLE 126 567 507 75 140 16 4 11 62 28 49 97 .276 .338 .389 .727 197
4 Seasons 357 1618 1419 227 394 62 14 19 140 81 160 226 .278 .355 .381 .736 541
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Lindor doesn’t have the size and power that Correa offers, but his glove is what will make him most valuable to the Indians. That isn’t to say that he is clueless at the dish, though, as Lindor has solid gap power, a very advanced approach at the plate, and usable speed on the bases. He’s a perfect top-of-the-order option, and if he isn’t in Cleveland by June 15th, Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona are doing it wrong. 

7. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 -2.9 Rk LAD 46 202 175 34 54 9 2 8 33 8 21 33 .309 .383 .520 .903 91
2013 19 -2.7 A-A+ LAD 101 426 372 55 100 20 4 16 72 10 46 89 .269 .351 .473 .824 176
2014 20 -3.3 A+-AA LAD 118 526 475 89 166 50 5 20 97 6 40 115 .349 .402 .602 1.004 286
3 Seasons 265 1154 1022 178 320 79 11 44 202 24 107 237 .313 .380 .541 .921 553
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014
Kyle’s younger brother has all the makings of a studly offensive shortstop. He may grow out of the position, if he hasn’t already, but his impressive numbers would certainly make the Dodgers lineup that much more feared. It will be interesting to see how far the Dodgers go in negotiations with Hanley Ramirez with Seager waiting in the wings. 

8. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 -2.3 Rk-FRk MIN 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 -2.5 Rk MIN 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 -2.6 A MIN 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2013 20 -3.6 AA-A+ MIN 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
4 Seasons 379 1606 1375 253 384 92 17 90 291 28 192 423 .279 .373 .567 .940 780
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Another Twins’ prospect with a lost season, Sano missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. Sano will be 22 in 2015, and while he’ll need to work on timing and get the rust off, he should arrive sometime during the upcoming season. He is a powerful, right-handed bat, and with the Twins looking to head in a new direction after firing Ron Gardenhire, a quick promotion of their future would be pretty intriguing to their fans – but he needs to prove that he’s ready first. 

9. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 22 CHC NL 24 97 89 11 26 8 1 5 20 1 6 24 .292 .330 .573 .903 51
1 Yr 24 97 89 11 26 8 1 5 20 1 6 24 .292 .330 .573 .903 51
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 20 -0.7 A-Rk CHC 34 149 134 28 40 7 0 5 25 12 12 19 .299 .369 .463 .832 62
2013 21 -1.8 A+ CHC 55 236 210 38 59 13 1 8 35 5 21 38 .281 .343 .467 .810 98
2014 22 -3.0 AAA-AA-Rk CHC 62 236 200 42 68 23 2 15 57 0 33 48 .340 .432 .700 1.132 140
5 Seasons 151 621 544 108 167 43 3 28 117 17 66 105 .307 .383 .551 .935 300
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Soler is an absolute monster. He has insane power and showcased it during his brief time in Chicago last season. He, like Buxton, just needs to stay on the field to reach his full potential. He should open the 2015 season as the Cubs starting right fielder, likely a favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. 

10. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 17 -3.4 Rk WSN 0 0 4.50 1 0 0 2.0 2 1 1 0 1 1.000 9.0 0.0 4.5
2013 18 -2.9 Rk-A- WSN 2 1 1.96 11 0 0 36.2 28 9 8 14 39 1.145 6.9 3.4 9.6 2.79
2013 18 -2.6 Rk WSN 1 1 2.78 8 0 0 22.2 19 8 7 10 25 1.279 7.5 4.0 9.9 2.50
2013 18 -3.3 A- WSN 1 0 0.64 3 0 0 14.0 9 1 1 4 14 0.929 5.8 2.6 9.0 3.50
2014 19 -2.8 A WSN 10 2 2.20 20 0 0 98.0 70 28 24 28 110 1.000 6.4 2.6 10.1 3.93
3 Seasons 12 3 2.17 32 0 0 136.2 100 38 33 42 150 1.039 6.6 2.8 9.9 3.57
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
The training wheels were still on Giolito in 2014, but it’s likely a good thing that the Nationals are being so cautious because this kid is likely better than Stephen Strasburg ever was. Sure, he hasn’t reached the majors and he, like Strasburg, has already had elbow surgery, but he’s a huge kid with huge stuff, and he’s capable of dominating nightly. My guess is he starts the season in Double-A and will be up with Washington by July 1st. He’s breaking free of the chains and will show just how impressive he is.

11. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2011 18 -3.5 Rk ARI 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 2.0 1 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 0.0 18.0
2012 19 -2.8 A ARI 12 6 3.84 27 0 0 136.0 87 64 58 84 152 1.257 5.8 5.6 10.1 1.81
2013 20 -4.1 AA-A+ ARI 14 5 1.84 26 2 0 152.0 115 40 31 69 162 1.211 6.8 4.1 9.6 2.35
2014 21 -3.9 AA-AAA-Rk ARI 3 7 4.45 18 1 0 83.0 76 43 41 49 75 1.506 8.2 5.3 8.1 1.53
4 Seasons 29 18 3.14 73 3 0 373.0 279 147 130 202 393 1.290 6.7 4.9 9.5 1.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Injuries and inconsistencies plagued Bradley in 2014. His walks were up significantly and they continue to be what holds him back from being an elite arm; however, I’ve said that before about people, namely Matt Harvey. He has the stuff…he just needs to harness it to reach his potential. 
Dodgers LHP phenom Julio Urias

Dodgers LHP phenom Julio Urias

12. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 16 -5.8 A LAD 2 0 2.48 18 0 0 54.1 44 15 15 16 67 1.104 7.3 2.7 11.1 4.19
2014 17 -6.2 A+ LAD 2 2 2.36 25 0 0 87.2 60 25 23 37 109 1.106 6.2 3.8 11.2 2.95
2 Seasons 4 2 2.41 43 0 0 142.0 104 40 38 53 176 1.106 6.6 3.4 11.2 3.32
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Urias should be a senior in high school in 2015…only he isn’t, as he will be in Double-A working on becoming a future elite arm for the Dodgers. His numbers are impressive, but then you see that he’s just 17 and has struck out 11.2 per nine over his first 142 innings and it becomes that much more eye-opening. He is mature beyond his years, mentally and with his stuff, and he’s a player to monitor due to his age, stuff, and insane ceiling. 

13. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 21 -3.5 AAA-A+-Rk CHW 0 0 2.92 9 0 0 24.2 20 9 8 13 38 1.338 7.3 4.7 13.9 2.92
1 Season 0 0 2.92 9 0 0 24.2 20 9 8 13 38 1.338 7.3 4.7 13.9 2.92
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
I’m not buying his fall from grace in college. He could have been abused and he could have a poor attitude, but none of those things are going to change the fact that Rodon’s stuff is wicked. His slider is a 100 on a 70 point scale, so if he isn’t able to make it as a starter, he’ll be a dominant relief pitcher. People have questioned the future of other White Sox left-handers and their long-term roles in the past, and Chris Sale says that those people are dumb. 

14. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 22 LAD NL 18 38 28 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 9 11 .143 .351 .143 .494 4
1 Yr 18 38 28 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 9 11 .143 .351 .143 .494 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 18 -2.1 Rk LAD 3 12 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 .000 .417 .000 .417 0
2011 19 -2.2 Rk-A LAD 84 370 316 58 102 20 2 11 65 26 43 63 .323 .407 .503 .910 159
2012 20 -2.6 A+ LAD 110 499 434 96 136 26 4 18 70 26 51 81 .313 .396 .516 .913 224
2013 21 -3.2 AA LAD 123 519 439 81 122 24 3 22 58 31 70 114 .278 .381 .497 .878 218
2014 22 -4.6 AAA LAD 121 553 445 106 135 17 4 33 78 30 100 149 .303 .435 .582 1.017 259
5 Seasons 441 1953 1641 342 495 87 13 84 271 113 268 412 .302 .405 .524 .929 860
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Do you think that this guy prays nightly for the Dodgers to trade him or another outfielder on their roster? If you didn’t think that he broke out as a star at some point in 2012 or 2013 in the minors, he showed up to Triple-A last year and showed more power (I know the league is notorious for it) and a better approach at the plate. He has power, speed, and he can play all three outfield positions. He would be a tremendous target for anyone trying to match-up with Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers in an offseason deal. He just needs a job to get things going. 

15. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 19 -3.8 A+-A-AA BAL 9 3 2.08 23 0 0 103.2 67 29 24 28 119 0.916 5.8 2.4 10.3 4.25
2014 21 -1.3 A+-A- BAL 1 3 3.27 9 0 0 41.1 38 15 15 16 37 1.306 8.3 3.5 8.1 2.31
2 Seasons 10 6 2.42 32 0 0 145.0 105 44 39 44 156 1.028 6.5 2.7 9.7 3.55
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Bundy lost all of the 2013 season to Tommy John surgery and he pitched well in his return last season, though he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was in 2012. It’s all part of the process and he dealt with a lat muscle injury during the 2014 season, so he needs some time. He was handled much like Giolito was during his first full season (2012), but you can’t really save an arm that way – he needs to rebuild stamina and prove that he still has the stuff to be a future ace, which I’m banking on. 

16. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 21 -1.4 A+-Rk COL 4 0 1.93 9 0 0 37.1 25 11 8 8 51 0.884 6.0 1.9 12.3 6.38
2013 21 0.0 Rk COL 0 0 4.05 4 0 0 13.1 15 8 6 2 15 1.275 10.1 1.4 10.1 7.50
2013 21 -2.2 A+ COL 4 0 0.75 5 0 0 24.0 10 3 2 6 36 0.667 3.8 2.2 13.5 6.00
2014 22 -2.4 AA COL 10 5 3.91 24 0 0 124.1 107 58 54 41 113 1.190 7.7 3.0 8.2 2.76
2 Seasons 14 5 3.45 33 0 0 161.2 132 69 62 49 164 1.120 7.3 2.7 9.1 3.35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Gray has the task of becoming a star pitcher within the Rockies’ system, while maintaining a level of dominance once he reaches Coor’s Field. It won’t be easy, but he has the stuff to make it happen. His overall numbers weren’t eye-popping in 2014, but he stayed healthy and maintained the electricity on his fastball and slider, which are the keys to his ability to reach his ceiling. It will be interesting to see if the Rockies keep him away from Colorado Springs and return him to Double-A to start the 2015 season, as the PCL can be hellacious on the mental state of young pitchers. 

17. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2010 17 -3.4 Rk TOR 0 1 2.70 5 0 0 13.1 11 7 4 4 6 1.125 7.4 2.7 4.0 1.50
2011 18 -2.9 Rk-A–A TOR 5 2 1.83 13 0 0 59.0 46 14 12 18 68 1.085 7.0 2.7 10.4 3.78
2012 19 -2.8 A TOR 8 5 2.60 27 0 0 103.2 81 41 30 31 122 1.080 7.0 2.7 10.6 3.94
2013 20 -3.8 A+-AA NYM 9 4 3.06 23 0 0 117.2 107 48 40 28 133 1.147 8.2 2.1 10.2 4.75
2014 21 -5.8 AAA NYM 9 7 4.60 26 0 0 133.0 154 77 68 43 145 1.481 10.4 2.9 9.8 3.37
5 Seasons 31 19 3.25 94 0 0 426.2 399 187 154 124 474 1.226 8.4 2.6 10.0 3.82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
“Thor” wasn’t alone in having injuries and being ineffective in the world of prospects in 2014, but it was still an underwhelming season. His strikeouts per nine fell and his walks rose a bit, but the most alarming item was how hittable he was. With his stuff, you’d expect more, but he was pitching in Triple-A at the age of 21, so he deserves a bit of a break. He’ll start back there in 2015 and show that he’s better than that, very quickly, and reach New York before the All-Star break. 

18. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 18 -2.5 Rk-A- PIT 0 3 1.88 12 0 0 38.1 23 17 8 17 44 1.043 5.4 4.0 10.3 2.59
2013 19 -2.7 A PIT 9 3 2.18 24 0 0 111.1 54 35 27 61 164 1.033 4.4 4.9 13.3 2.69
2014 20 -3.2 A+ PIT 12 5 1.74 23 0 0 124.1 74 29 24 57 157 1.054 5.4 4.1 11.4 2.75
3 Seasons 21 11 1.94 59 0 0 274.0 151 81 59 135 365 1.044 5.0 4.4 12.0 2.70
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Glasnow is his own worst enemy. He has only allowed FIVE hits per nine innings in his career, but it’s the 4.4 walks per nine that are worrisome. It stems from an electric fastball that he needs to control to become even better than the 1.94 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 274 career innings have shown. He could be better than Gerrit Cole when all is said and done. 
Reds RHP Robert Stephenson

Reds RHP Robert Stephenson

19. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 19 -2.7 A-Rk CIN 3 4 3.18 15 0 0 65.0 54 34 23 23 72 1.185 7.5 3.2 10.0 3.13
2013 20 -2.4 A-A+-AA CIN 7 7 2.99 22 0 0 114.1 92 49 38 35 136 1.111 7.2 2.8 10.7 3.89
2014 21 -3.4 AA CIN 7 10 4.74 27 0 0 136.2 114 81 72 74 140 1.376 7.5 4.9 9.2 1.89
3 Seasons 17 21 3.79 64 0 0 316.0 260 164 133 132 348 1.241 7.4 3.8 9.9 2.64
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Stephenson took a step back in 2014 by allowing more walks and home runs than at any point in his career. He spent the whole season in Double-A and he’s still young enough to rebound, but the questions about the “straightness” of his fastball could be the reason that he was greeted so unforgivingly by his opponents. The Reds need to see an improvement due to the possible departures of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Aroldis Chapman to free agency after the 2015 season – someone needs to be in their rotation! 

20. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 18 -2.6 Rk MIN 0 0 1.35 7 0 0 20.0 13 7 3 4 24 0.850 5.8 1.8 10.8 6.00
2014 19 -3.0 A MIN 3 5 2.59 19 0 0 87.0 75 36 25 24 62 1.138 7.8 2.5 6.4 2.58
2 Seasons 3 5 2.36 26 0 0 107.0 88 43 28 28 86 1.084 7.4 2.4 7.2 3.07
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Stewart has incredible stuff, but, like many other Twins’ prospect, dealt with an injury in 2014. Stewart struggled with the dreaded “shoulder soreness” that cost him several starts, and the Twins will hope that he gets back on track in 2015 and can remain injury-free. An upper-90’s fastball was his calling card coming out of high school, and he’ll need to regain the strength in that shoulder to keep his stock this high (or higher). 

21. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 23 MIA NL 0 3 5.83 7 0 0 29.1 32 19 19 7 20 1.330 9.8 2.1 6.1 2.86
1 Yr 0 3 5.83 7 0 0 29.1 32 19 19 7 20 1.330 9.8 2.1 6.1 2.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 -0.3 A-Rk MIA 1 2 4.33 6 0 0 27.0 32 17 13 6 30 1.407 10.7 2.0 10.0 5.00
2013 22 -1.5 A+-AA MIA 9 3 1.60 19 1 0 95.1 76 22 17 26 89 1.070 7.2 2.5 8.4 3.42
2014 23 -2.9 AAA-AA MIA 9 6 3.28 24 1 1 137.1 120 61 50 36 143 1.136 7.9 2.4 9.4 3.97
3 Seasons 19 11 2.77 49 2 1 259.2 228 100 80 68 262 1.140 7.9 2.4 9.1 3.85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
A quick-rising arm out of Oklahoma State, Heaney was able to get to the Marlins within 24 months of being drafted. He has a fastball that can touch the mid-90’s and a very good slider. He likely won’t ever replace Jose Fernandez as the Marlins’ ace, but he can become a very useful arm right behind him in the rotation. A developing changeup is likely his key to success. 

22. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 18 -2.9 Rk-A- BAL 0 1 1.78 8 0 0 25.1 21 6 5 6 33 1.066 7.5 2.1 11.7 5.50
2014 19 -2.8 A BAL 7 5 3.18 17 0 0 87.2 66 39 31 33 106 1.129 6.8 3.4 10.9 3.21
2 Seasons 7 6 2.87 25 0 0 113.0 87 45 36 39 139 1.115 6.9 3.1 11.1 3.56
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Harvey and Giolito were able to battle a couple of times during their time in the SAL in 2014, and Harvey was capable of matching him. If that doesn’t tell you what Harvey is capable of, I don’t know what will. He could easily be where Dylan Bundy is on this list, quite capable of becoming a better long-term option, but he, like so many others, was shut down due to an injury, as Harvey dealt with an elbow strain. If he can rebound from the arm injury, he’ll head to High-A and stay on the fast track to the majors. 

23. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 -1.5 FRk TEX 48 187 172 18 38 5 2 1 23 1 5 48 .221 .278 .291 .569 50
2011 18 -3.3 A- TEX 45 171 160 18 48 9 1 6 23 1 4 54 .300 .345 .481 .826 77
2012 19 -2.7 A TEX 74 300 272 40 71 21 5 5 34 7 16 84 .261 .320 .430 .750 117
2013 20 -1.5 A-Rk-A+ TEX 113 459 404 72 107 24 1 18 61 18 32 122 .265 .346 .463 .809 187
2014 21 -2.1 A+-AA TEX 121 536 486 75 127 26 5 17 87 6 29 123 .261 .323 .440 .763 214
5 Seasons 401 1653 1494 223 391 85 14 47 228 33 86 431 .262 .326 .432 .758 645
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Alfaro is a free-swinging, athletic catcher with very good power, and an even more powerful throwing arm. It wouldn’t be surprising for this young man to get comps to Ivan Rodriguez due to climbing the ranks in the Rangers system and being so capable on both sides of the dish, but he likely won’t be the hitter that “Pudge” was. That doesn’t make him any less worth some hype, though. He’ll likely spend some more time in Double-A before a quick promotion to Triple-A, but he won’t be up for good until 2016. 

24. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 21 TOR AL 0 0 5.40 5 0 0 6.2 5 4 4 5 4 1.500 6.8 6.8 5.4 0.80
1 Yr 0 0 5.40 5 0 0 6.2 5 4 4 5 4 1.500 6.8 6.8 5.4 0.80
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 19 -1.6 Rk-A- TOR 2 4 8.44 13 0 0 42.2 58 44 40 18 43 1.781 12.2 3.8 9.1 2.39
2013 20 -1.9 A-A+ TOR 2 7 3.97 24 0 0 90.2 85 46 40 46 100 1.445 8.4 4.6 9.9 2.17
2014 21 -3.3 A+-AA-AAA TOR 12 2 2.53 26 0 0 124.2 96 37 35 43 163 1.115 6.9 3.1 11.8 3.79
3 Seasons 16 13 4.01 63 0 0 258.0 239 127 115 107 306 1.341 8.3 3.7 10.7 2.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
Norris finally reached his potential in 2014, and it led to the young left-hander pitching at four levels, including the majors. His strikeout rate was a career-best, and the walks were down, as were the hits. He really seemed to figure it out, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Norris get a long, long look in spring training. 

25. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

Year Age AgeDif Lev Aff W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 19 -2.6 A BOS 12 5 4.87 23 0 0 101.2 100 58 55 47 130 1.446 8.9 4.2 11.5 2.77
2013 20 -3.2 A+-AA BOS 11 6 2.67 26 0 0 135.0 84 47 40 68 169 1.126 5.6 4.5 11.3 2.49
2014 21 -4.1 AA-AAA BOS 17 5 2.94 26 3 2 159.0 121 53 52 59 170 1.132 6.8 3.3 9.6 2.88
3 Seasons 40 16 3.34 75 3 2 395.2 305 158 147 174 469 1.211 6.9 4.0 10.7 2.70
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2014.
He doesn’t hit the upper-90’s, but Owens knows how to pitch. He can locate his pitches and keep hitters off-balance. While many would link him to Tom Glavine due to that, but it’s the awkward angle that seems to get the best of his opposition. As he continues to climb the ranks, you’ll need to watch to see if his stuff or his motion is what is the cause for the impressive totals to this point. 

26. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox

27. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

28. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

29. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Twins' RHP Jose Berrios

Twins’ RHP Jose Berrios

30. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins

31. Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

32. Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins

33. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

34. Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins

35. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians

36. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds

37. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

38, D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B, Seattle Mariners

39. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

40. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants

41. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies

42. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals

43. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves

44. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros

45. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals

46. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox

47. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

48. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

49. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs

50. Michael Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros

51. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees

52. Kevin Plawecki, C, New York Mets

53. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres

54. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Nationals OF Michael Taylor

Nationals OF Michael Taylor

55. Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals

56. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

57. Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros

58. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres

59. Rusney Castillo, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox

60. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs

61. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

62. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs

63. Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals

64. Maikel Franco, 1B/3B, Philadelphia Phillies

65. Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves

66. Jose Peraza, 2B/SS, Atlanta Braves

67. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

68. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets

69. Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

70. Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers

71. Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

72. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

Rockies OF Raimel Tapia

Rockies OF Raimel Tapia

73. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies

74. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers

75. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

76. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals

77. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies

78. Steven Moya, 1B/OF, Detroit Tigers

79. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox

80. Alexander Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

81. Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins

82. Trea Turner, SS, San Diego Padres

83. Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets

84. Rosell Herrera, SS, Colorado Rockies

85. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

86. Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs

87. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Miami Marlins

88. Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals

89. Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics

90. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox

91. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

92. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres

93. Alex Jackson, C/OF, Seattle Mariners

94. Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Rangers OF Lewis Brinson

Rangers OF Lewis Brinson

95. Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers

96. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

97. Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

98. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians

99. Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

100. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

Will Trading Johnny Be Bad?

The Reds aren’t good, finishing with a losing record while facing a fall from contention in 2014, nursing a prolonged absence from their superstar, Joey Votto. So, with this season lost and little room on the payroll, what will the team do to improve? Likely…nothing. Ownership clearly didn’t have any intentions of improving the roster, at least not at the cost of…a cost. Last winter left a lot to be desired, as the loss of Shin-Soo Choo led to the promotion of Billy Hamilton, yet, there was little to nothing done to off-set the loss of offensive production between those two players, as the Reds can only take solace in the fact that Choo wasn’t nearly as productive in 2014 with the Texas Rangers as he was in 2013 with Cincinnati. The addition of Skip Schumaker wasn’t enough, and the loss of Choo on top of two trade deadline (2013 and 2014) with no movement whatsoever leaves the Reds in a situation that isn’t favorable for the club’s future.

Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

Now, with Homer Bailey paid handsomely with his extension, the Reds are unlikely to see a large enough increase in payroll to allow the team to add an offensive weapon, and with Jay Bruce‘s horrific season and the questions surrounding Votto’s health hovering over the future of the franchise, it appears time to sell off the pieces that the club can move and hope for the best with some young talent.

Enter Johnny Cueto.

Heading into Friday night, Cueto has made 100 starts since the start of the 2011 season. They have been very good:

51-25, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 661.1 IP, 553:178 K:BB

While Cueto doesn’t have the innings over the last four seasons that Mike Leake or Homer Bailey have, he has shown the consistency that neither have presented, and, while Mat Latos has top-of-the-rotation stuff, his injury history and ability to handle his emotions have played a role in his inability to become an elite pitcher in MLB. Cueto, however, continues to improve, and with another season with 200 innings (his second, 2012 being his other), the 28-year-old right-hander has done enough to emphasize his value to the rest of the league.

The Cincinnati Reds have a team option on Cueto for 2015, as they can pay him $10 million to keep him or $800,000 to buy him out. That option is an easy decision, but Cueto is the lone player on the Reds who has positive value in trades, as Votto and Bruce certainly aren’t worth dealing considering the loss of market value and the remaining money on their contracts.

Cueto is a bargain. While $10 million seems like a lot of money, consider that Tim Lincecum will earn $18 million in 2015, Ubaldo Jimenez will earn $12.25 million in 2015, and Edwin Jackson will earn $11 million in 2015. Even a single year of control would have tremendous value for the Cincinnati Reds in a potential trade, and with so many question marks for the club offensively (as they rank 28th in MLB in runs scored), dealing from their strength, starting pitching, is necessary, and getting the most value out of their strength would force a trade of the club’s ace, Cueto.

So, who would be interested?

Boston Red Sox: Piecing together a rotation, especially if they are unable to make a deal with Jon Lester in free agency. They also have plenty of outfield depth after signing Rusney Castillo and trading for Yoenis Cespedes. Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley would be excellent pieces to start a deal, and acquiring a young arm, like Henry Owens or Anthony Ranaudo, or infield prospect from their loaded farm system could be very lucrative and beneficial to the future of the organization.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are loaded with offensive talent, but they don’t have much pitching depth in their system, especially in the upper minors and the majors. Cueto would be an excellent piece to anchor the rotation, but it is fair to question if the Reds would trade Cueto in-division, as well as whether the Cubs can trust all of their existing young pieces enough to be competitive by adding Cueto.

Reds RHP Homer  Bailey

Reds RHP Homer Bailey

Baltimore Orioles: The O’s may be looking to get Cueto for one final push before the makeup of their current, AL East winning club begins to fall apart. After the 2015 season, both Chris Davis and Matt Wieters will be free agents, and it is fair to wonder if either would be non-tendered after the 2014 season, joining Nick Markakis in the land of confusion, as their right fielder is owed $17.5 million or a $2 million buyout (which appears to make his days in Baltimore numbered). If the Reds want pitching depth, the Orioles have it, but they could have some interest in Jonathan Schoop as a starting piece, as well.

It would be unfortunate to see Cueto leave Cincinnati. He has been fantastic during his career when he is healthy, which has been the leading factor in his ability to fly under the national radar. Cueto would certainly be missed in the Reds’ rotation, but the club is in desperate need of offense, and after signing Bailey, they won’t be able to extend their ace. Did they extend the wrong pitcher? In my opinion…absolutely. I’d much rather pay Cueto $20 to $22 million per season than to pay Bailey the $10 million that he will earn in 2015, let alone the $18 to $25 million he earns annually between 2016 and 2020. Cueto has proven to be capable of greatness, and his time in Cincinnati needs to come to an end so that the team can return to greatness at some point in the near future.

My Ballot for the IBWAA 2014 MLB Awards

I was lucky enough to earn a chance to join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America this year, joining a group of internet bloggers and several other overqualified folks who aren’t members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Those of us who love baseball enough to write about it, most of the time for free, have found the IBWAA to be a blessing, as we have an opportunity to vote for the Hall of Fame and yearly awards without having the all encompassing vendetta that so many of the national writers take with them to their ballots, whether its a poor relationship or experience with a team or player, or the constant hatred of those who have used performance-enhancing drugs.

This is my first ballot, so I figured that I would publish it. Take a look and let me know what you think. NOTE: There is some sort of formatting issue with the last cell on the American League, as that should be for the AL Reliever of the Year.

American League ballot:

AL MVP

AL Cy Young

AL ROY

AL Manager

1

Mike Trout

Corey Kluber

Jose Abreu

Buck Showalter

Greg Holland

2

Nelson Cruz

Felix Hernandez

Matt Shoemaker

Mike Scioscia

Fernando Rodney

3

Michael Brantley

Chris Sale

Yordano Ventura

Bob Melvin

Zach Britton

4

Josh Donaldson

Max Scherzer

5

Kyle Seager

David Price

6

Adam Jones

7

Robinson Cano

8

Alex Gordon

9

Corey Kluber

10

Jose Abreu

the National League ballot:

The Astros Fire Manager for Failing?

Why fire someone who was bound to fail?

Why fire someone who was bound to fail?

The Houston Astros have been historically bad since the start of the 2011 season, losing 100 games in each of the last three seasons. This season, the squad is 59-79, needing just four wins over the next 24 games to avoid a fourth such disastrous season, but it wasn’t enough to save the job of the Astros’ manager, Bo Porter. Porter was, ironically, relieved of his managerial duties on the day that we all celebrate the hard work and efforts of those in the labor force.

Porter’s squads have not been good, going 110-190 over the last season-plus (.367 winning percentage), but it didn’t have a lot to do with what Porter was doing on the bench. Ken Rosenthal recently reported tension between Porter and General Manager Jeff Luhnow stemming from Mark Appel making an appearance in Houston for a bullpen session for Astros’ pitching coach Brent Strom that Porter had to explain to players on his roster, who were upset over the struggling prospect’s possible special treatment from the organization. Beyond that issue, there appeared to be some separation from the analytical team at the top of the organization and what was being done from the bench by Porter, which was creating relationship woes within the organization.

The Rosenthal piece details those woes at greater lengths, but the firing of Porter clearly wasn’t for what he was doing on the field, as he can’t be held accountable for the recent failures of the franchise.

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

Luhnow, hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals in December of 2011, developed an awkward approach to rebuilding the Astros’, essentially gutting the entire roster and eliminating as much payroll as possible to field a horrific team that would be capable of landing high-upside talent through the draft, while building the farm system and promoting talent from that pool to compete for championships within a window. Upon taking the position and immediately producing horrific seasons, the team was able to “earn” the No.1 overall pick in back-to-back seasons (after having the No.1 overall pick in 2011, which Luhnow used on Carlos Correa), Luhnow’s plan was becoming somewhat relevant, as the Astros will, likely, finish ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West in 2014, barring some kind of sudden change from the injury woes to the Rangers’ 2014 season.

Porter, though, had done well with what he had. He and his coaching staff had guided a very young, inexperienced squad to some very high peaks among the very low valleys, watching Jose Altuve become a star, while handling the franchise’s quick rising future stars, as Jon Singleton, George Springer, and Jake Marisnick had arrived to showcase their talents at the Major League level. He had very little control over the day-to-day roster, watching Jarred Cosart, one of his top pitchers, get dealt at the deadline (which brought Marisnick but didn’t help the pitching staff), while having limited options in the rotation and a horrific group to run out of the bullpen.

Of course, Porter was bound to be limited in his roster, as the club wasn’t going to call-up a player sooner than necessary and risk service-time becoming an issue, especially as the team continued to try to limit their expenditures.

Perhaps the complete breakdown of the roster was too bold, and perhaps the club had a manager with too much emotional attachment and fire to sit back and wait for the Astros to build a team that he could truly manage successfully. Regardless, what looked like an intelligent move in guiding the Astros to become what Sports Illustrated called the 2017 World Series Champions, suddenly became much more complicated, and whether Bo Porter was actually part of the long-term plan or not, his firing has created a lot of questions about the long-term goal of the Astros’ organization, as well as the ability for Jeff Luhnow, who was so quickly admired for his plans, to work well enough with those around him for his ideas and visions to become a reality.

Bo Porter didn’t fail as a manager of a horrible team, he failed at working with an ego that had grown beyond repair. Jeff Luhnow must now build this winner from the front office and the field, as he has no one else to blame for the team’s future struggles but his own actions and decisions.

How the Reds Are Setting Up Votto to Fail

Joey Votto hasn’t played a game for the Cincinnati Reds since July 5. Battling a quad injury in his left leg, the four-time All-Star has watched his team fall out of contention, as the Reds have gone 12-25 since the All-Star break and 19-28 since he last suited up. His teammates picked him up early on, winning seven of nine games heading into the break, immediately following Votto being placed on the disabled list, as the club was just 1.5 games out in the NL Central before the break.

Then…it all fell apart. The offense has the lowest OPS in baseball in the second half (.596, 13 points lower than the next worst team), while the starting pitching, formerly the club’s greatest strength, has fallen off, including having to battle the depth chart due to an injury to Homer Bailey.

At ten games back going into Wednesday night’s battle with the Chicago Cubs and just 30 games remaining, there isn’t much left to play for this season, and there isn’t much left for Joey Votto to prove.

The recent news of Votto returning to the field and completing “baseball activities” is great. He has been out for so long and the offense is suffering. A healthy Joey Votto makes the Reds worth watching. A healthy Joey Votto makes the ten years and $213 million look much less unreasonable, and his ability to produce at his 2010 MVP levels would make it a bargain…
But…we don’t know if that Votto is ever coming back. We don’t know just how bad this quad injury is, and whether rest is or was the correct solution. The Reds allowed Votto to sit on the disabled list for nearly two months to rest his injury, while setting him up for a September return. Over those two months, fans weren’t updated on his injury, his treatment, or his future outlook, but was it really the fan’s rights to know that?

Votto swings? Who knew!!

Votto swings? Who knew!!

Here is the problem with how the Reds have handled the Joey Votto situation:

1) No one knows the true extent of the injury. Is it the quad, the knee, a ligament, a tendon? What is wrong with him and can it heal with rest or would a surgery have been more appropriate? What if rest didn’t work and another surgery knocks him out of action for a third or half of the 2015 season?

2) The Reds didn’t communicate the status of their superstar, which has left fans and media alike wondering what is going on. When Votto finally made an appearance, the media nearly ripped his head off and this was his response:

“Let’s make it clear here. This is a real gray area and I feel like I’ve been the one in the crosshairs. I’ve been injured and this is something I’ve had hanging over me in the general population, with the fans. The question is whether it is toughness or playing through pain or playing hurt sort of thing. I’m injured. And I’ve played injured. I went on the disabled list because I’ve been injured.  I’m trying to be un-injured right now. So the second I’m capable of playing, and no longer injured, I will be back on the field. In the meantime, you can assume I’m injured. I shouldn’t get any sort of different treatment (from the fans). I’ve noticed little comments here and there, just a general perception that this is something I elected to do, that I elected to be hurt. I didn’t elect to get injured. I’m injured. What can I do?”

The organization left those who follow the team out to dry, but not nearly as much as they left the face of the franchise out to dry. Why do that to your top asset, whether you agree with the contract or not?

3) Votto is now coming back in September. He is going to prepare to return to the team WITH the team, as there isn’t going to be a minor league rehab assignment with the minor league season nearly over. With a game and an approach built on timing, the Reds are, once again, setting Votto up to fail. He has a .390 on-base percentage this season in 62 games, but the focus remains on the six home runs and .255 batting average that many still, unfortunately, consider the only valuable measurables when it comes to determining player value. If the fans and club weren’t happy with his production before the injury, how are they going to be satisfied with Votto returning to the lineup in September after 60 or more days away from live, Major League pitching?

Votto1It doesn’t make sense for Votto to return in 2014. He has nothing to prove and he is only going to hurt himself more by coming back. The expectations that he has to live up to in a “small-market” like Cincinnati seem quite outrageous, and it’s very unfortunate that a very good player with a very useful skill-set continues to be ripped apart for accepting a life-changing contract that the team was responsible for offering.

Joey Votto is a fantastic player. He needs to get himself right to truly help the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, the rest of the team and management didn’t do their part in 2014. Replacing Shin-Soo Choo‘s production with a rookie speedster (Billy Hamilton) and veteran utility-man (Skip Schumaker) didn’t do the trick, especially when the club’s top player was unable to take the field. Joey Votto didn’t help the Reds in 2014, but neither did Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini. It’s time to put the blame elsewhere and let Votto get himself right for 2015 and beyond. There is much more riding on his knee in 2015 than this wasted 2014 season.

How Jake Arrieta Changed His Career

The 2014 season has been absolutely magnificent for Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Jake Arrieta. After four seasons in Baltimore, Arrieta was dealt to the Cubs (along with Pedro Strop) for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. Feldman became a free agent after the 2013 before signing with the Houston Astros. It didn’t seem like a big deal on paper, as the Cubs were dumping what was left of Feldman’s one-year, $6 million deal on Baltimore, and the Cubs were getting a reliever and a starting pitcher who never lived up to expectations for the Orioles. Arrieta’s numbers for Baltimore were pretty atrocious:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9
2010 24 BAL AL 6 6 4.66 18 0 0 100.1 106 57 52 48 52 4.76 1.535 9.5 4.3 4.7
2011 25 BAL AL 10 8 5.05 22 0 0 119.1 115 70 67 59 93 5.34 1.458 8.7 4.4 7.0
2012 26 BAL AL 3 9 6.20 24 0 0 114.2 122 82 79 35 109 4.05 1.369 9.6 2.7 8.6
2013 27 BAL AL 1 2 7.23 5 0 0 23.2 25 19 19 17 23 4.61 1.775 9.5 6.5 8.7
BAL (4 yrs) 20 25 5.46 69 0 0 358.0 368 228 217 159 277 4.72 1.472 9.3 4.0 7.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

However, things changed for him quickly in Chicago. Arrieta made nine starts after the July 2nd deal, posting some pretty solid numbers in the “friendly confines” of the National League and Wrigley Field:

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9
2013 27 CHC NL 4 2 .667 3.66 9 0 0 51.2 34 22 21 24 37 4.94 1.123 5.9 4.2 6.4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

Arrieta was suddenly a little less hittable, though his FIP showed that some very unfriendly regression towards the mean could be coming.

It hasn’t.

Arrieta, at the age of 28, has become one of the top pitchers in baseball, ranking 15th in MLB (just ahead of Johnny Cueto) with a 3.5 WAR (FanGraphs). His numbers entering play on Friday were certainly impressive:

Year Age Tm W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9
2014 28 CHC 6 4 2.61 19 0 0 117.1 89 35 34 31 122 2.31 1.023 6.8 2.4 9.4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

Then, on Friday afternoon, he lowered his ERA to 2.53 when he earned win number seven against his former team, allowing just a Nelson Cruz solo bomb over seven innings.

While it’s easy for those who hate everything west of Washington, D.C. to say that Arrieta is better because he isn’t pitching in the American League East any longer, that likely isn’t the reason why he has looked like a different pitcher. Certainly, the AL East is a challenging division, but the NL Central also has some strong teams, with St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati rotating atop the division in an “I don’t want it” type of division race. Still, there’s plenty of talent that Arrieta has had to battle with over his 20 starts and 124.1 innings this season. So…how has he won those battles?

Jake Arrieta is a different pitcher. Jake Arrieta has recreated himself thanks to a single pitch – the cutter.

Courtesy: BaseballProf.com

Courtesy: BaseballProf.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pitch is his new “baby”, as he goes to it with great confidence throughout the game:

Courtesy: FanGraphs.com

Courtesy: FanGraphs.com

Screenshot 2014-08-22 at 8.27.33 PM

Beyond the cutter usage and pitch values, however, there are additional changes to Arrieta’s game that have altered his future career outlook. The biggest change is that he’s keeping the ball in the yard this season. The Cruz home run on Friday afternoon was the fifth homer that Arrieta had allowed all season. That’s five home runs in 124.1 innings – or 0.36 home runs per start. Compare that to the rest of his career, when Arrieta allowed 55 home runs in 409.2 innings – or 1.21 home runs per start, and you can see part of the problem.

Cubs' RHP Jake  Arrieta

Cubs’ RHP Jake Arrieta

Additionally, Arrieta isn’t walking anyone this season. His 2.32 BB:9 is drastically lower than the 4.0 BB:9 that he had in 358 innings for Baltimore, and when you’re putting that many runners on base and allowing that many more home runs, you can see why Arrieta’s ERA was 5.46 for the Orioles. It doesn’t stop there, however. Arrieta has a career-best in ground ball rate (49.2 percent), a career-best in strand rate (75.6 percent), a career-low WHIP (1.01), and a career-best batting average allowed (.190).

Arrieta is simply harder to hit, harder to predict, and harder to score on because of a single pitch impacting the pace of the game and his ability to get the opposition to fail.

Arrieta is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, and he is under team-control through the 2018 season. After trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the Cubs could use a top-of-the-rotation arm, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Theo Epstein and Company lock up the late, blossoming arm of Arrieta prior to going before an arbitrator. With all of those amazing offensive prospects, Chicago could really use the stability that Arrieta can bring to the rotation.

Red Sox Finalizing Deal with Cuban OF Rusney Castillo

The Boston Red Sox are finalizing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, which would give him the richest contract ever given to a Cuban player, surpassing the six-year, $68 million deal that the Chicago White Sox gave to Jose Abreu this past offseason. The deal starts immediately, making the deal run from 2014 through the 2020 season. The 5’9″, 27-year-old is represented by Roc Nation Sports and Jay-Z, who also represent Seattle Mariners’ second baseman Robinson Cano.

Castillo will join a somewhat crowded outfield for Boston, teaming up with fellow countryman Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired from the Oakland A’s for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes at the trade deadline. With Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, and Brock Holt under team-control heading into 2015, Castillo’s signing could allow the Red Sox to make an additional deal this winter, possibly dealing from their outfield wealth and depth to acquire pitching in what could be a very weak free agent class outside of a reunion with Lester or a huge contract to Max Scherzer, James Shields, or Ervin Santana.

Castillo, however, provides a bit of position versatility, as he could possibly handle second base, though he’ll likely never play shortstop in MLB, even after having taken grounders there during his July 28th showcase. The presence of Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts make the keystone position one of little value for Castillo, and he is a natural center fielder. For what it’s worth, Ben Badler, of Baseball America, said that prior to gaining quite a bit of muscle prior to his showcase, Castillo was a similar player to Detroit outfielder Rajai Davis, a short, speedy outfielder; however, he could be capable of 15 home runs and plenty of speed at the major league level due to his newly developed physique.

Red Sox future OF Rusney Castillo

Red Sox future OF Rusney Castillo

Castillo will have quite a bit of pressure on him in Boston to succeed quickly, and receiving the type of money that he did prior to playing a game is certainly not going to alleviate any of those expectations. Worth mentioning is the fact that Castillo didn’t produce anywhere near the levels of Cespedes and Abreu in Cuba:

  • Cespedes hit .334/.420/.629 from 2009 to 2011.
  • Abreu hit .393/.537/.802  from 2011 to 2013.
  • Castillo hit .315/.383/.512 from 2011 to 2013.

Although Cepedes and Abreu never played a game in the minor leagues, it would be somewhat surprising to see Castillo join the Red Sox in 2014, despite their post-World Series title rebuild that they are in the middle of. He hasn’t played in a game in nearly two years, and with the minor league season nearly complete, we may not see him in Fenway until 2015, rich contract or not.

Castillo may not have the skills of Yasiel Puig, Cespedes, or Abreu, when comparing him to recent defected Cuban outfielders, but he has some tools that will make him a very intriguing player for the Boston Red Sox and fantasy baseball fans alike.

Orioles Could Be Without Machado?

Monday night in Baltimore, the Orioles season may have crumbled along with the right knee of third baseman Manny Machado. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the 3rd inning against the New York Yankees, Machado was up against left-hander Chris Capuano when this happened (VIDEO):

As of right now, it’s being called a right knee sprain, and the 22-year-old third baseman will be re-evaluated on Tuesday:

The Orioles entered play Monday night five games up on New York for first place in the AL East at 67-50. After losing Machado for the first 25 games of the 2014 season due to the medial patellofemoral ligament tear that cost him the final six games of the 2013 season, the team was once again thriving with their slick-fielding third baseman robbing would-be hits and producing offensively.

Baltimore is obviously a much different team with Machado at third base over Ryan Flaherty, having gone 46-35 since his return; however, it’s what Machado has done since his return from his little bat-tossing incident that is most impressive.

Over his last 27 games, the Orioles were 18-9, while Machado has led the club with a .348/.383/.536 triple-slash over 120 plate appearances including five home runs and 15 RBI.

A major piece of the Orioles future and one of the many fresh, young faces of the league, there are many hoping that knee issues aren’t going to continue to interfere in Machado reaching his lofty career expectations going forward. While his overall numbers don’t quite rival those of Mike Trout, Machado is certainly an exciting young player with the potential to be a perennial All-Star.

There will be plenty of news available on the web tomorrow when the results of Machado’s MRI are publicized.

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