Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Practically everyone who ranks prospects in baseball had these guys #1 and #2 in either order, while some tried to put others like Matt Moore in between, or worse yet, didn’t include Trout because of the 150 at bat maximum limitation on rookie status (which Trout reached in 2011 and led to confusion prior to posting of my own list…I’m not sure why he is still a rookie still, but what Bud says goes). Regardless, Trout was totally outperforming Harper in Triple-A. Here is what you need to know about these two:
Trout: 6’1″, 220 lbs., turns 21 in August. He was hitting .403/.467/.623 in 77 AB with 4 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 6 SB, and a 16/11 K/BB. He is very polished with great speed and defensive skills and he will be stealing a lot of at bats from both Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos immediately. If Scioscia doesn’t play him every day, Mike Napoli may punch him in the face for Angels fans. Trout has only hit .342/.425/.516 in 1,117 minor league at bats, so he clearly is ready to mash. Don’t expect huge power numbers, as he isn’t a 30 or even 25 HR hitter, but he could easily steal 50-70 bases while hitting 15-20 HR, becoming a younger, right-handed hitting version of the player we once knew as Carl Crawford (the guy who has been absolutely useless since leaving Tampa, have you seen him?). If you’re a fantasy baseball nerd, Trout’s mixture of power, speed, and plate discipline will make him valuable immediately, and even more so in the future.
Harper: Harper doesn’t turn 20 until the season is over, so he’ll become another 19-year-old superstar in the making. He’s 6’3″, 225 lbs., and he’ll be playing every day, as well, primarily in left. Harper has tremendous raw power, as evidenced by a guy ripping 17 HR in professional ball when he should have been a high school senior worrying about prom. He has a .290/.383/.481 line in 459 minor league at bats, while struggling to a .250/.333/.375 start this season, but he is capable of handling this advance to the Majors. Harper was the 2nd “Once in a Generation” draft pick of the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg was the 1st), and he could become a superstar in the next couple of seasons. He will have some struggles and he may have some maturity issues (which we’ve seen in the past), but Harper will have seasons with over 30 HR, even 40 HR in the future. If you’re a fantasy baseball nerd, Harper is the long-term prize between he and Trout. He can hit for power, average, and mix in some speed, as well. However, Harper is more of a work in progress than Trout right now. He will make a drastic difference to the Nationals lineup, but he may struggle to produce while he is hitting 7th, as he is in his debut Saturday against the Dodgers.
If you’re lucky enough to have either of these players in a dynasty fantasy baseball league, congratulations, other owners hate you. Enjoy the debuts of MLB’s future this afternoon and evening. These two are already household names for baseball geeks, but even those of you who just came back from the 1994 strike, or other absurd reasons for not enjoying the sport, will know them soon and know them well.
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
.481/.525/.1000, 185 R, 301 H, 46 2B, 0 3B, 93 HR, 231 RBI, 12 SB
Simply amazing. Kemp is hitting like no one I’ve ever seen right now. He’s not going to do this all year, but he was worthy of the NL MVP last year, and he’ll certainly win it in 2012. Needless to say, Kemp would break several records. He said that he was aiming for a 50/50 season in 2012, but he can’t steal bases when he hits the ball and has to touch home plate right afterwards with all of his homers.
Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
.321/.429/.321, 116 R, 197 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 104 SB
Bonifacio is on pace for 197 singles and ZERO extra-base hits. He is also on pace to steal 100 bases, something that hasn’t been done since Vince Coleman stole 109 in 1987.
Derek Jeter, Yankees
.359/.373/.609, 116 R, 266 H, 46 2B, 0 3B, 46 HR, 127 RBI, 0 SB
So, he’s done, right? After hitting an “awful” .270 and .297 the last two season, Jeter is back to his old self and more. He isn’t going to post numbers like A-Rod did at shortstop when all is said and done, but a Jeter-like season is definitely within reach.
No one will ever win 59 games like good ol’ Old Hoss Radbourn did in 1884 for the Providence Grays, but Ivan Nova, Lance Lynn, and Roy Halladay are on pace to go 35-0 in 2012.
Ross Detwiler beat out John Lannon for the Washington Nationals #5 starter job and has only gone 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA through three starts, good for a 22-0 record in 32 projected starts.
Matt Harrison of the Rangers is also 2-0 in his two starts, with a dazzling 0.64 ERA in two starts, good for a 25-0 record in 25 projected starts.
Brandon Beachy has been absolutely filthy, compiling a 2-1 record with a 0.47 ERA and .162 average allowed in his three starts. He’s on pace for a 23-12 record over 35 projected starts.
Javy Guerra beat out Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers closer job this spring. He’s already closed out 7 games, so he is on pace for 81 saves, which would break Francisco Rodriguez’s 2008 record of 62 by a few. The Dodgers have to keep winning, which Matt Kemp seems to be capable of doing on his own, ala Bugs Bunny.
Jeff Kent made a living hitting in front of Barry Bonds, averaging a .297/.368/.535, 29 HR, and 114 RBI line over six seasons. Joey Votto is having the same effect this season for Cincinnati, as the player hitting directly in front of him have gone .356/.406/.576 line, as teams continue to pitch around Votto, who is tied for the Major League lead in walks with 13.
Zack Cozart is now leading off for the Reds after raking .350/.409/.575 in 40 at bats in front of Votto. He isn’t doing well at leadoff yet, walking once but going hitless in his first 8 at bats. Drew Stubbs moved up in the order to 2nd when Dusty Baker moved Cozart to leadoff. He is only hitting .538/.571/.846, going 7 for his first 13 there.
Take a look at production by batting order for the Red thus far:
Obviously, having performed well since the recent moves, the lineup may stick for a while. If Brandon Phillips is hitting 4th between Votto and Jay Bruce, this lineup would remain one that fans can’t complain much about. However, if Baker continues putting Ryan Ludwick or Scott Rolen in the 4-spot, when they’ve gone a combined 4 for 42 with 1 RBI (.095), this doesn’t make sense. The Reds need Phillips healthy and he has been hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season. He has a .333/.333/.667 line in just 9 at bats at #4.
If Phillips isn’t playing and the Reds want production, they need to bat Votto in front of Jay Bruce at 3 and 4. Bruce has struggled to a .229/.250/.458 line in the 5-spot without protection behind him, striking out 13 times in 48 at bats. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were both left handed hitters and seemed to hit well batting back to back in the Yankees order in the late 1920’s. I wonder if Miller Huggins and his three championships and six pennants had a book on how to put lineups together like managers today?
The Cincinnati Reds have made big news for the last few months between their big trade for Mat Latos and the huge contracts to both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. One thing they are not in the news for, to this point, is their incredible hitting. The Reds are currently 28th in the Majors in hitting, with a team average of .191 through 9 games. Take a look at their hit totals for the year:
10, 6, 8, 3, 4, 14, 5, 5, 2.
Keep in mind that the 14 hits they had against the Cardinals on Wednesday, they left 13 on base, and the 10 hits from Opening Day had 9 left on base. The Reds just aren’t scoring enough runs because they can’t get any hits. They haven’t had the easiest schedule in the world with the new-look Miami Marlins, the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, and the improving Washington Nationals, but a 3-6 record wasn’t what fans and ownership was looking for as the team heads into win now mode.
You can’t blame Zack Cozart (.313), Joey Votto (.290), or Brandon Phillips (just 16 at bats due to injury to hamstring, .250), but just about everyone else could be labeled an issue. Jay Bruce has 3 HR and 6 RBI with an .802 OPS, but he has 8 K’s in 34 at bats and a .235 average. Drew Stubbs is at .147 with 12 K’s in 34 at bats, certainly not improving on his atrocious contact rate that worried the club last year. Ryan Ludwick (.150), Ryan Hanigan (.118), and Scott Rolen (.111) round out the apparent regulars, while Devin Mesoraco (.167 in 12 at bats) and Chris Heisey (.188 in 16 at bats) continue to be youngsters losing out to the veteran loving, toothpick toting Dusty Baker.
Regardless of who is playing, it doesn’t seem to be working. As the Reds looked to capitalize on the departure of NL Central foes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the long-term commitments and trades developed expectations that, to this point, they have fallen well short of. With such dynamic talent in Votto, Phillips, and Bruce, the lineup is capable of more. The issue could be Phillips’ absence, the fact that Dusty HAS TO split up Votto and Bruce (and has done so with Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick in the clean-up spot), or it could be a challenging schedule. Expectations are high and if they keep flopping like they are, fans aren’t going to show up in Cincinnati, and if fans don’t show up, they already need to start wondering about how they are going to be paying Phillips and Votto in the coming seasons.
It is early and top prospects are adjusting, like Bryce Harper and his current .222/.276/.333 slash in Triple-A, while guys you’ve possibly never heard of are posting some eye-popping numbers. Here is a look at some of those guys performing well early on.
Brad Miller, SS, Mariners, High-A
.371/.463/.914, 13 for 35, 12 R, 3 2B, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 9/6 K/BB
Miller is a lefty swinging college bat out of Clemson. He is playing the whole season at the age of 22, and he should be advanced and hitting well, but the California League may result in Miller becoming a legend. Miller is now hitting .398 in 88 professional at bats, so he is someone to monitor this year, even if he has Nick Franklin ahead of him in the Mariners system at short.
Alen Hanson, 2B, Pirates, Low-A
.412/.474/.824, 14 for 34, 11 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 6/4 K/BB
Henson is a long way off, but he has a solid eye and solid speed, while seemingly spraying the ball all over the field. He is a switch hitter and he looks like he could be a potential leadoff hitter for the Bucs down the road. Neil Walker is under team control until 2017, but if he becomes too expensive through arbitration, Pittsburgh could toss the job Henson’s way in 2015.
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins, Low-A
1-0, 1.64 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11 IP, 5 H, 18/4 K/BB
Fernandez is a known name as the Marlins first round pick from 2011. The youngster from Cuba is a high upside arm that turns 20 in July. He could be a fast mover in the Marlins system, especially if he keeps pitching like he has in his first two starts.
Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers, High-A
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 10 IP, 4 H, 16/3 K/BB
Buckel has only thrown 111 2/3 innings but he now has a 145/31 K/BB. He is another chip in an absolutely loaded Rangers system. He’ll be 20 in June, but he seems to be picking up where he left off from last season when he posted a 2.61 ERA and 120/27 K/BB 23 games (17 starts).
Andrew Chafin, RHP, Diamondbacks, High-A
2-0, 0.82 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 11 IP, 5 H, 18/2 K/BB
The California League eats pitchers for breakfast, so when a guy dominates there, like Tyler Skaggs did last year, you need to take notice. Chafin is a college arm, so he’ll be 22 this year, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and missed the entire season. The Kent State product was the 43rd pick in the 2011 draft and he does seem to have the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter, with a plus fastball and slider. If he develops his change, he could become much more.
A.J. Griffin, RHP, Athletics, Double-A
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.36 WHIP, 11 IP, 2 H, 16/2 K/BB
Griffin is 24, a 2010 13th round pick out of San Diego by the A’s. In 2011, Griffin pitched at four levels, finishing with an 11-7 record, 3.47 ERA, 160 2/3 innings pitched, and a 156/32 K/BB. Not overly impressive until you look at his splits. He was impressive early on, posting a 9-3 record, 2.71 ERA, 122 2/3 innings pitched, and 128/19 K/BB between 20 Low-A and High-A starts. He didn’t fare as well at the higher levels (2-4, 5.92 ERA), which is why he’s back in Double-A this year. He has solid breaking stuff and very good control, so he could be a back-end starter, possibly a Joe Blanton-like innings eater.
If you drafted Tim Lincecum or you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants, you may be a little worried. Lincecum is currently 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA over 2 starts and 7 2/3 innings. He has a 10/3 K/BB but he has allowed 17 baserunners in his small sample size, inflating his WHIP to 2.22. There are a few things to keep in mind, whether you’re hoping for a rebound or you think that this is the end of the man with the crazy mechanics.
Negativity is our starting point. Lincecum’s average fastball has dropped to just 90.3 so far this season, down from 92.3 last year. He is also throwing his fastball a career low 48.3% of the time, while he is spinning his curve 13.5% of the time this season, up from 6.4% in 2011. His offspeed pitches are accounting for 51.7% of his pitches, while it has been around 42.2% for his career. You have to wonder if he is having some sort of shoulder ailment that isn’t allowing him to rear back and fire, or if he just has a dead arm issue since it is early in the season. Either way, the drop in velocity is a concern.
On a positive note…Lincecum’s current Batting Average for Balls in Play (BABIP) is .444, which means four guys from every trip around the lineup are getting on when they put the ball in play. His career BABIP is .294 and the normal “good luck/bad luck” split is .300. He is going to have luck on his side as that evens out over the rest of the season. Due to his current struggles, he is also not leaving men on base. His Left On Base % is currently 42.3, while his career LOB% is 75.6%.
Another positive for Lincecum is his current strikeout rate. He is still overwhelming SOME hitters, as his 11.74 K/9 shows. He is still missing bats, when the opposition isn’t putting the ball in play, of course. That 11.74 K/9 would rank the highest of his career by 1.23 K/9 if he is able to maintain it. “The Freak” is also impressing with his current groundball rate. Lincecum has a 53.6 GB% at this point, up from his career rate of 47.1%.
So, while it is early and Lincecum, who signed a two-year $40.5 million deal (which runs through the end of 2013) this offseason, has proven to be mortal, his stats show that there could be some bad luck associated with his struggles. Many fans and fantasy owners may be on a ledge about his struggles, but the 5’11”, 163 pounder has proven critics wrong since being selected 10th overall in 2006 out of the University of Washington. Buy low and settle down. If he keeps his stats current and brings down the BABIP, ERA, and WHIP, Lincecum is on pace for a career year.
One week has gone by since baseball returned to bring joy to the world. After about six games for each team, there are some interesting stats to get excited about or become worried about, which ever reaction you deem necessary for your team.
* Zack Cozart is 2nd in MLB in Total Bases.
Cozart’s current .455/.520/.864 is very impressive and he was already a Rookie of the Year candidate before opening eyes this week. He should continue to hit with a solid lineup and a nice home park…the fact that he is hitting 2nd in the Reds lineup already is an excellent sign for his production, with some guy named Votto behind him.
2012 is going to be another interesting season, as every MLB season tends to be. We’ll see guys breakout and we’ll see guys fall apart. Fantasy players will look at their rosters and think they are untouchable, only to realize that Ubaldo Jimenez may have just made you lose your first week when he hit Troy Tulowitzki’s elbow, and Corey Hart, you last resort for outfield help, is starting the season with the Brewers instead of the DL while getting time off instead of rehabbing in the minors. Thanks guys. Below you’ll see some of those bold predictions that probably won’t come to fruition, some guys to monitor during the season, and guys to watch as they come up through the minors this year.
AL East Champion:
New York Yankees
AL Central Champion:
AL West Champion:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA, North America, Earth, Milky Way
AL Wild Cards:
Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays
NL East Champion:
NL Central Champion:
NL West Champion:
NL Wild Cards:
Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers
Tigers over Reds in 6 games
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 3B
AL Cy Young:
Justin Verlander, Tigers, RHP
AL Rookie of the Year:
Matt Moore, Rays, LHP
AL Manager of the Year:
John Farrell, Blue Jays
Jay Bruce, Reds, RF
NL Cy Young:
Cole Hamels, Phillies, LHP
NL Rookie of the Year:
Bryce Harper, Nationals, RF
NL Manager of the Year:
Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
1. Alex Rodriguez rebounds and is an elite 3B again.
2. Kendry Morales posts better overall numbers than Albert Pujols.
3. Drew Stubbs doesn’t strike out 150 times and he goes 30/30 for the Reds.
4. Jason Heyward FINALLY hits the way that everyone expected him to, carrying the Braves while Larry Jones battles injuries in his final season.
5. Allen Craig becomes more valuable to the Cardinals than offseason signing Carlos Beltran.
6. Eric Thames never gives up the LF job in Toronto and the Jays deal Travis Snider for relief help in July.
7. Hanley Ramirez moves back to short and Matt Dominguez takes over third when Jose Reyes suffers a season-ending hamstring tear in June.
8. Matt Cain establishes himself as the Giants best pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner, meaning…Bumgarner is their best pitcher in 2012.
9. Rick Porcello starts throwing his four-seam fastball again and finally develops into the pitcher the Tigers drafted, not the guy they screwed up with for the last four years.
10. Justin Upton hits 40 HR in 2012.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals, CF: Power, speed, improving lineup = solid investment.
Chris Parmelee, Twins, 1B: On-base skills, slightly above average power, sudden opportunity due to Morneau’s move to DH = definition of a sleeper.
Nolan Reimond, Orioles, LF: Power like crazy coming out of college, he just hasn’t stayed healthy. He should get a majority of the starts in a hitter’s park, so he is worth a look.
Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays, RHP: He turns 22 in mid-April and he posted 110/26 K/BB over 160 innings between Double-A and the Majors in 2011. He has a mid-90’s sinker that he, clearly, has dominant control over. He could control the AL East hitters with it, too.
Ike Davis, Mets, 1B: Many will forget him due to his injury in 2011, but Davis was on pace to be an All-Star for the Mets. He had some health issues this spring, which may further drop his fantasy draft position, but he is a legitimate power threat in a lineup that may look dreadful at times. He isn’t far from being a 30 HR-100 RBI type of player.
Todd Frazier, Reds, 3B/OF: One name…Scott Rolen. Rolen is 37 and hasn’t been healthy and productive in years. The Reds just traded the alternative to Rolen, Juan Francisco, so WHEN Rolen gets hurt in 2012, Frazier will get a look…once Dusty Baker gives Miguel Cairo one too many starts (did you know he likes veterans?). Frazier may not hit for much average, but he certainly has some power, and he plays in a bandbox.
Juan Nicasio, Rockies, RHP: Nicasio hit 97 mph with his fastball late in the spring and looks like he is developing into a Ubaldo Jimenez-lite type of pitcher for the Rockies. He has beat odds before, coming back quickly from a frightening injury in 2011, an injury that many thought could have ended his career.
Prospects on the Rise in 2012:
Dylan Bundy, Orioles, RHP
Manny Machado, Orioles, SS
Anthony Rendon, Nationals, 2B/3B
Bubba Starling, Royals, OF
Christian Yelich, Marlins, OF
Rymer Liriano, Padres, OF
Josh Bell, Pirates, OF
Jake Marisnick, Blue Jays, OF
Cheslor Cuthbert, Royals, 3B
Jonathan Schoop, Orioles, INF
Taijuan Walker, Mariners, RHP
Matt Davidson, Diamondbacks, 3B
Wil Myers, Royals, RF
Mikie Mahtook, Rays, OF
I grew up in Cincinnati. I love Eric Davis and Barry Larkin because of it. I choose Camp Washington Chili over any other offerings, and I refuse to tell you that I graduated from Colerain High School when you ask me where I went to school because I now have a college degree. However, there are some things that you just can’t do in Cincinnati, and signing a player for market value in a small market is one of those things.
Cincinnati isn’t Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. It isn’t Chicago or Detroit. It is miniscule in comparison, an afterthought to a list of cities that house a professional baseball and football team, mainly due to the fact that both have had such miserable bouts of inadequacy over the last 20 years. The city pulls away from failures quickly, leaving the stadiums to fill up with the few morons who are willing to shell out a lot of money in a time where there just isn’t much. Attendance has been all over the place in recent years, especially for the Bengals, but when you have 81 home dates and a payroll which now contains the 4th richest contract in Major League Baseball history.
The issue with the Reds signing Votto is this: When Ken Griffey, Jr. was making $12.5 million per season and deferring money towards his retirement, the Reds were crippled. There is a new owner, of course, but the man sells fruit. He has made money selling…fruit. How much more produce needs to be consumed to make this contract reasonable? Can the Reds really have a guy making $20-22.5 million per year and maintain a roster with Bruce, Phillips, Latos, Cueto, and Chapman?
The problem also becomes the fact that the Reds have gutted the upper levels of the minors by acquiring talent this offseason. While the Reds wait for Billy Hamilton and his crazy speed to reach the Majors, they’ll probably have to watch Brandon Phillips walk this winter via free agency. Do they turn to Todd Frazier, Chris Valaika, a journeyman veteran who, if he is still there, Dusty Baker would love to play way too often? How do they replace starting pitching as it becomes too expensive? Are the Reds going to start giving long-term deals, like the Rays did with Matt Moore or the Indians did with Grady Sizemore years ago, to save eventual costs?
This contract is a great thing for Cincinnati fans, especially the 18,000 that show up between any weekday night from May until school is out in mid-June and families return; however, Votto’s contract needs to have questions raised: What will happen when Cueto, Chapman, and Leake reach arbitration or free agency? How will you replace guys you can’t afford when you’re paying one guy 25% of your budgeted payroll? How is this contract going to look if Votto ages like Scott Rolen or becomes a shell of himself in his age 37-39 seasons?