Rob Neyer’s blog had an interesting story on Angels’ right-hander Robert Coello and his forkball-knuckler with a GIF of the pitch. It appears to have no spin and a lot of wiggle. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but the 7 strikeouts in 4 innings is a nice touch. At 28, he could take the R.A. Dickey rout through the bullpen, dominating the opposition due to the ability to harness a pitch that others just can’t figure out.
See the GIF and read the article HERE.
Starling Marte can’t be this good.
Entering Thursday night, Marte has posted some impressive numbers:
After a solid introduction in 2012 with the Pirates (.257/.300/.437, 14 extra-base hits, 12 SB in 182 plate appearances), the future would appear to be bright for the 24-year-old Dominican outfielder; however, there appears to be quite a bit of inflation in his overall numbers. Take a look at Marte’s production in the minors:
While nothing stands out as drastically underachieving, it is noteworthy to know that during his six seasons within the Pirates minor league system, Marte was only ranked as a top 100 prospect in one season, 2012 (No. 73 by Baseball America and No. 40 by MLB.com). While many players can fly under the radar before proving to be very successful, it is possible that scouts saw flaws which led to his inability to create an incredible amount of hype for himself.
The 2011 season seemed to be his minor league breakout season. His .332/.370/.500 line with 58 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases were impressive, which led to the pre-2012 rankings by Baseball America and MLB.com, but in 2012, his strikeout rate jumped back over 20 percent (21.1 percent) after being at a career low 17.5 percent in 2011. The silver lining in his 2012 season is that his walk rate increased to 6.5 percent in 2012 from the 3.8 percent that Marte had in Double-A in 2011.
Since reaching the professional ranks, Marte has maintained his poor plate discipline, despite his solid overall numbers. In 326 career plate appearances, Marte has a 24.8 percent strikeout rate and a 4.6 percent walk rate. On top of that, Marte has swung at 36.7 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone and, while he makes contact on 75.4 percent of all pitches that he swings at. Not everyone is Joey Votto, but will Marte be able to maintain his solid production as advance scouts provide details in how to approach him in the future?
Marte has something which could allow him to maintain success. Speed. His .404 BABIP is another of his inflated statistics, but he already has seven infield hits, which is tied for fourth in MLB, and he’ll be able to get on base and create runs, even if he doesn’t maintain his current, astronomical BABIP.
But the major issue is: what is Starling Marte likely to become?
While Vladimir Guerrero got by without tremendous gifts in plate discipline, is that a reasonable comparison?
Guerrero never struck out more than 95 times in a season (in 1998, his age-23 season) while holding a career 10.9 percent strikeout rate and an 8.1 percent walk rate. His early, immediate production (he had a .960 OPS with 38 home runs and 109 RBI in his second full season) shows the talent level differential between he and Marte, as well. While Marte swings and makes contact on 75.4 percent of all pitches, Guerrero did so on 80.7 percent (from 2002 through 2011) while swinging at 43.7 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, including hitting several pitches off of the ground.
Guerrero was a generational talent, and at the age of 38, he doesn’t seem to have an opportunity to continue his career. He was, quite possibly, the best, worst swinger in the history of the game. At times, it seemed like he would turn around and swing at a pitch thrown behind him, and make excellent contact! For that reason, even top prospects, like Oscar Taveras, should not be compared to him, and certainly not a player with such drastic differences as Starling Marte would have when compared to Guerrero.
As a non-gambling man, I would still put my money on a nice, smooth, settling back to Earth period for Starling Marte in the 2013 season. Unless he just figured everything out, like, say, Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers, that is one thing, but he isn’t a superstar and he wasn’t ever expected to be. If you own him in fantasy leagues, I would consider selling while the helium still seems to be getting pumped into the Marte balloon, and if you don’t own him, stay very, very far away.
Andrew McCutchen is still the Pirate outfielder of choice, and, despite lesser numbers to this point, there is no reason to think that the face of the Pirate organization is going to change anytime soon.
Manny Machado was the 3rd pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, a product of Brito Miami Private School, which led to numerous comparisons to another big shortstop from Miami, the one and only Alex Rodriguez. It seemed like an unfair comparison for someone to live up to, and despite several “the next fill-in-the-blank” prospects to come and go without any success, Machado is already reaching fantastic levels of production just three years removed from his senior prom.
Machado moved to Baltimore quickly, earning just 170 plate appearances in Low-A, 260 plate appearances in High-A, and 459 plate appearances in Double-A before earning a promotion with the Orioles. His overall minor league numbers suggested a pretty drastic learning curve was to be expected:
Surprisingly, his small sample size in Baltimore in 2012 was relatively close to his overall minor league numbers:
The OPS and batting average were very similar, but the OBP was pretty low. The 2013 season, however, has been a dramatic difference in ability:
Machado is hitting, hitting for power, and showing pretty good plate discipline. His walk rate is up to 5.9 percent in 2013 from the 4.5 percent that he had in 2012, and his strikeout rate has fallen to 15.8 percent from 18.8 percent in 2012. These are all fantastic signs for a player who won’t turn 21 until July 6th.
Certainly, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout deserve a lot of attention for their skills and production at such a young age, but it seems as though so many other excellent young players get lost in the hype. Obviously, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Brett Lawrie get some well-deserved attention, but Manny Machado deserves to be known as how special he already is, rather than another top talent to file with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, Jr. in the legacy of Baltimore Orioles’ infielders.
While his fielding is probably further along than his bat, Machado’s bat is damn good, as well.
Manny Machado is good enough right now to become the 2013 version of Mike Trout. In fact, due to the potential that he has in potentially moving back to shortstop when J.J. Hardy reaches free agency after the 2014 season, one could argue that Machado could become a more valuable player over the long haul.
ESPN got on board with his skills after a recent feature article by Jerry Crasnick, so it will only be a matter of time before he is getting too much focus. Everyone will see what he is made of at that point, good or bad, but he looks to have the skills worthy of “the next Alex Rodriguez” label, regardless.
- Defensive player of month: Manny Machado (espn.go.com)
- Manny Machado, A Rising Star (godeepsports.wordpress.com)
- Orioles’ Manny Machado Shows Maturity On And Off Field (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- Machado’s defense has been high caliber (espn.go.com)
With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
Salazar had Tommy John surgery and missed nearly two full seasons of development, but since returning for good in 2012, he has a 2.48 ERA over 116.1 innings, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 119:36 K:BB (3.31 K:BB). The Indians, who seemed to have a lot of depth at starting pitcher during the spring, are in need of some talent at the major league roster. Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister have pitched well, but injuries and inconsistency, especially from Ubaldo Jimenez, brings a need of some sort of stability. The Indians could use a little youth and homegrown talent in their rotation, and if Salazar continues pitching this well, he’ll be on his way to Cleveland sooner than later. A 43:9 K:BB in 28.2 innings is downright dominant.
Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Gibson was an elite talent when he was drafted 22nd overall in the 2009 MLB draft out of the University of Missouri. His stock had fallen a bit due to a stress fracture in his elbow. He proved that he was healthy in 2010 before needing Tommy John surgery in 2011. After rehab, he returned in 2012 with some mediocre numbers, and while his statistics don’t look fantastic this year in Rochester, he has had a couple of short, rough outing out of the six that he has made, allowing five earned runs twice in a little over four innings in two different starts. If you ignore those two starts, Gibson has a 1.99 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and 20:8 K:BB over 22.2 innings. The Twins will look for a little more consistency from Gibson before giving him a call, but he would immediately become one of the top two pitchers in their rotation, if not the best.
Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pimentel doesn’t have a tremendous track record, but when you have a 0.30 ERA after five starts, you’re going to start getting noticed. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade, Pimentel isn’t going to get the hype that Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon garnish, but he appears to have enough stuff to be a decent back-end of the rotation arm. He certainly needed to thrive after not really doing much good since the 2010 season. Since this is his third season in Double-A, maybe expectations should be tempered, even after a tremendous start, but if it continues, he’ll continue to peak interest.
Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are notoriously slow in their development of players. While they have Joe Mauer locked up for the next century with a seemingly unmovable contract (don’t tell Boston that after last season’s mega-deal), he could move to first base if or when Justin Morneau leaves via free agency for Pinto. At 24, he’s a little on the old side for Double-A, and his numbers overall haven’t been spectular throughout his development, things took a nice turn last year. His plate discipline and gap power seemed to increase, and he has carried that over nicely this season, with 11 extra-base hits and a .938 OPS for New Britain. Ryan Doumit is the “other catcher” on the Twins roster, so if Pinto continues to hit, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a useful piece to the Twins roster.
Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Johnson may not post dominant strikeout numbers, but his ability to keep runners from scoring is impressive. As he has moved up, his tits per nine has dropped at each level and he is not a little over a strikeout per inning, as well. Now in Double-A, the White Sox No.3 prospect, according to MLB.com, appears to be taking another step towards Chicago. While the club mourns the loss of Gavin Floyd to Tommy John surgery, Johnson could become an option later in the 2013 season, especially if he continues to dominate the opposition. The 2011 2nd round pick out of the University of California is certainly worth tracking.
Derek Dietrich, 2B, Miami Marlins
A smart acquisition by the Marlins this offseason in the Yunel Escobar deal, Dietrich is an under-the-radar prospect who seems to do nothing but hit, while playing a premium middle infield position. He was the Marlins No.8 prospect coming into the season (MLB.com), and he is currently 5th in the Southern League in total bases. He appears to have taken a drastically improved approach at the plate, as well, having taken 15 walks already after walking 32 times all season in 2012. With Donovan Solano ahead of him in Miami and a very weak group of talent there, especially with Giancarlo Stanton hurt, Dietrich could make an impact later this season, especially if he continues to rake the way that he has to this point in 2013.
Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego Padres
How can you be the 20th ranked prospect (MLB.com) in a pretty weak system, when you’re fastball sits 93-95 while touching 97 and you post numbers as absurd as Smith has? The guy has a 174:33 K:BB over his last 160 innings, and while his 3.85 ERA looks inflated from 2012, he was pitching in the hitter’s paradise California League. Sure, his secondary stuff may be lagging, but Tony Cingrani has looked pretty solid in the majors and throughout his minor league career using a fastball at alarmingly high rates. The fact that dynasty league fantasy baseball players may not be familiar with him is also surprising, considering he will be pitching half of his games in San Diego. Smith has dominated this season, and for a 14th round selection out of Oklahoma, the 6’4″ right-hander has been a smart investment by the Padres.
- Eric Mack: Fantasy baseball Prospect Watch — Marcell Ozuna’s surprise major league debut (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- 2013 Predictions and Useless Guesses (thebaseballhaven.mlblogs.com)
- Sizzling Future Stars: Minor League Report, 4/24 (thebaseballhaven.mlblogs.com)
The Houston Astros are going to be bad in 2013. People in Houston and around the world should have known that before the season even started. The first game, an 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers, may have been the high point of the season. It was Opening Day, the Astros’ first as an American League club, while Houston won their 4,000th game in franchise history.
Since then, the Astros haven’t scored a run over two games, including coming just one out from having a perfect game tossed against them by Rangers’ right-hander Yu Darvish on Tuesday night. In fact, in Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, the Astros managed just seven hits, and things don’t look bright for the Astros going forward.
Certainly, a 162-game season could result in a total turn-around and a drastic change in the club’s roster, but after three games, the Astros lineup has a miserable .172/.206/.258 line over 93 at-bats. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the team has an incredible 43 strikeouts in 93 at-bats, with just four walks.
The Major League Baseball record for team strikeouts is 1,529 by the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks. Mark Reynolds (211), Adam LaRoche (172), Justin Upton (152), Kelly Johnson (148), and Chris Young (145) seemed to allow Chase Field to go air condition free with the free swinging they provided that summer, but if the Astros keep up their current pace, they’ll strikeout 2,322 times.
Brett Wallace, Chris Carter, Carlos Pena, and Rick Ankiel have combined for 26 strikeouts in just 39 at-bats, so with their pace and their history of high strikeout rates, all four would be capable of over 170 strikeouts over 500 at-bats. Wallace will likely be gone from the picture when Jonathan Singleton proves himself ready after his 50-game suspension for marijuana abuse has been completed, but the wind in Houston could reach extreme levels throughout the summer.
With a club likely to lose upwards of 110 games in 2013, fans of the Astros have to root for excellent trades from GM Jeff Luhnow later this season. With a philosophy of acquiring talent through trades and drafts, the rebuilding process in Houston will take time. Luhnow was the head of the St. Louis Cardinals player development staff for several years prior to moving to Houston in December of 2011, and as you look at their minor league system, you can imagine what the Houston Astros could become in five years.
- Yu (Almost) So Perfect (40yearrangerfan.mlblogs.com)
- Confident Darvish breeds excitement for Rangers (mlb.mlb.com)
- Houston has problems but unorthodox approach is still the right one (mlb.si.com)
- Astros kick off the 2013 season with a victory (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- New-Look Astros Shine In Opener (click2houston.com)
Today, I come to you with exciting news for your internet usage and decor!
MLB has teamed with http://brandthunder.com to create interactive themes for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome for the 2013 season. All thirty MLB clubs are available, and with the theme, you’ll be eligible for promotions, including on your favorite team’s gear through the MLB Shop. Just click here to learn more about how to download the themes and check out the easy to use scoreboard, ticket, and team website links.
And, just in case you don’t understand hyperlinks, that web address is: http://mlb.mlb.com/fan_forum/browsertheme_mlb.jsp.
Money, and lots of it, has been thrown around in the Los Angeles area since Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to the Guggenheim group last season. The trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford out west was just the beginning, as the team spent $159 million on Zack Greinke, bid against themselves by giving Brandon League $27.5 million to (possibly) steal the closer’s job from Kenley Jansen, and $61.7 million (including the $25.7 million posting fee) on Hyun-Jin Ryu, a 25-year-old, seven-year veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization.
With the addition of Greinke and Ryu, the Dodgers have a loaded starting rotation; however, is it too loaded?
Clayton Kershaw will lead the group as the ace and even before signing and acquiring Greinke, Ryu, and Beckett, the team still had Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Ted Lilly signed for the 2013 season.
But, you have to wonder whether the Dodgers spent money in the right places this winter. Surely, there wasn’t a large market of free agent third baseman, but is Luis Cruz the real answer there in 2013? The club had Hanley Ramirez playing there last season, but they’ve moved him back to shortstop, even with Dee Gordon, who struggled in 2012 as a rookie but can change a game with 56 stolen bases in just 143 games, still with the organization and probably going to Triple-A.
The club had pursued Scott Rolen before he decided to take some time to think about his options after the Cincinnati Reds moved on from the veteran. He could still become an option if the club doesn’t move Ramirez back to third or actually go with Cruz all season. Based on MLBTradeRumors.com Free Agent Tracker, the only remaining free agents at the hot corner are Rolen, Orlando Hudson, Adam Kennedy, and Miguel Cairo…not really the cream of the crop.
The issue becomes, is any team willing to part with a third baseman that could actually improve the Dodgers lineup?
Jordan Pacheco, Ryan Wheeler, or Chris Nelson could be a decent fit, and the Colorado Rockies seem to be a team constantly in need of starting pitching help, but as the team is finding its identity, why would they take on a veteran when they could give a rotation spot to Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, or Tyler Chatwood?
With the Arizona Diamondbacks acquiring Martin Prado, could Matt Davidson, a slugging third base prospect, become expendable? While it would be a nice addition, the Diamondbacks are loaded at pitching right now, with Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Randall Delgado, not to mention Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and a soon-to-return Dan Hudson, so why would they need another arm?
While the Dodgers may want Ramirez at short, he’s probably better off at third so that the club can play Dee Gordon and see what they have in the 25-year-old, but the abundance of pitching will still be an issue. Can they keep Harang, Capuano, and Lilly in a relief role? Should they deal the veteran starters for any kind of minor league depth, considering the current state of the farm system for the Dodgers?
It’s great to have a lot of money, but that doesn’t change the fact that each team keeps 25 players active and has a 40-man roster…nothing more. While the additions of Greinke and Ryu could lead the Dodgers to the World Series, they were a part of a series of questionable moves considering the pieces that were already in place and the money that was spent.
If you had written last offseason that Mike Trout was going to score 129 runs, hit 30 home runs, and steal 49 bases in 139 games, you’d have to have impressive skills, like breasts that can tell you when it is going to rain, like Amanda Seyfried’s character in the movie Mean Girls.
Not everyone can be perfect with their inferences, but at least making predictions can be entertaining…especially when you look back and see how wrong you were months later. How wrong will I be this year? Here are my top breakout candidates for the 2013 MLB season:
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2012: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175:81 K:BB, 177.1 IP
2013 prediction: 17-8, 2.92 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 191:77 K:BB, 208 IP
Why Moore Will Breakout: Over his final 14 starts in 2012, Moore was 6-5 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, posting a 79:31 K:BB in 77.2 innings, a tremendous improvement over his first half statistics (5-6, 4.42 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 96:50 K:BB in 99.2 IP). He has devastating stuff and an oddly familiar development, nearly mirroring David Price. If he continues that path, Moore will be an elite-level talent in 2013.
Kyle Kendrick, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
2012: 11-12, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 116:49 K:BB in 159.1 IP (37 games, 25 starts)
2013 prediction: 15-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 167:60 K:BB in 201 IP
Why Kendrick Will Breakout: Kendrick turns 29 late in the 2013 season, but you have to wonder if finally having a role will allow him to thrive. Since the Phillies traded Vance Worley and let Joe Blanton walk in free agency, he should settle into the No.4 spot behind Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee in the Philadelphia rotation. not to mention, in 12 second half starts in 2012, Kendrick was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a 51:14 K:BB in 70.1 innings. Kendrick may be overlooked due to the talent ahead of him in the rotation, but he could be a nice addition, especially if the Phillies veteran offensive talent rebounds and stays healthy.
Chris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2012: 9-3, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 66:24 K:BB in 86 IP
2013 prediction: 16-9, 3.29 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 157:60 K:BB in 205 IP
Why Tillman Will Breakout: Tillman, a former top 25 prospect, saw his fastball jump from 89.5 mph in 2011 to 92.4 mph in 2012, which had a lot to do with his success. Tillman didn’t make his first start for Baltimore until July 4 last season, so a full season could lead to similar results. He had a bright star early in his career and with a solid roster forming around him in Baltimore, there is no reason to think that the soon-to-be 25-year-old can’t continue to establish himself as a viable major league starter.
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
2012: .301/.328/.471, 16 2B, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 305 PA
2013 prediction: .298/.339/.483, 26 2B, 17 HR, 71 RBI in 497 PA
Why Perez Will Breakout: Perez is a monster at 6’3″, 245 pounds, and he is healthy after missing time due to knee surgery last season. He won’t even turn 23 until May, but Perez has shown that he can hit in the big leagues over 463 plate appearances over the last two seasons. With Billy Butler settling in as an All-Star quality bat and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, likely, taking positive steps in their development, Perez’s numbers will likely shoot up in 2013.
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
2012: .227/.308/.462, 26 2B, 32 HR, 90 RBI in 584 plate appearances
2013 prediction: .267/.353/.508, 32 2B, 35 HR, 112 RBI in 623 PA
Why Davis Will Breakout: An OPS of .888 with 20 bombs in the second half is one reason to get excited about what Ike Davis could become in his age-26 season in 2013, but a full, healthy season is the most enticing thing to look for. In 2011, Davis shredded his ankle and upon his return in 2012 from that injury, he lost a lot of power after coming down with Valley Fever last spring. After having flu-like symptoms from that illness for several weeks, on top of recovering from his ankle, Davis seemed to find his stroke, but not until he had already posted an ugly .201/.271/.388 line in the first half of the 2012 season. A healthy Ike Davis could become one of the top power hitters in baseball, an elite first baseman, and a great offensive producer for a Mets team with David Wright and very little else offensively. After posting a .246 BABIP in 2012, Davis could have more luck and get back to his career levels (.321 in 2010 and .344 in 2011) for BABIP and come close to 40 home runs.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012: .286/.359/.490, 43 2B, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 587 PA
2013 prediction: .283/.374/.503, 38 2B, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 13 SB in 613 PA
Why Goldschmidt Will Breakout: Goldschmidt is about to become a superstar and he will be playing the 2013 season at the age of 25. After combining for 65 home runs in High-A and Double-A in 2010 and 2011, the slugging first baseman seems poised to present more of that power at the major league level, transferring some of those 43 doubles from 2012 into more home runs in 2013. Goldschmidt was much better in the first half (.920 OPS) than in the second half (.782 OPS) in 2013, but with adjustments and growth, those numbers could level out, which would make Goldy an All-Star caliber player.
Chris Johnson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
2012: .281/.326/.451, 28 2B, 15 HR, 76 RBI in 528 PA
2013 prediction: .271/.319/.463, 31 2B, 18 HR, 72 RBI in 543 PA
Why Johnson Will Breakout: With Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward in the lineup, the only non-threats in the Atlanta Braves’ lineup would appear to be Andrelton Simmons and Johnson. While Johnson will always be a liability due to his defense and inability to take a walk (4.8 percent career walk rate), he does have a bit of power and he should see a lot of fastballs, which will only help his power numbers and contact rates. It is unknown at this point if he is going to win the third base job, as Juan Francisco could take this spot as another free-swinging alternative, but Johnson was solid after being dealt to the Diamondbacks last season, posting an .824 OPS over 44 games with the Snakes.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2012: .260/.305/.463, 19 2B, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 37 SB in 452 PA
2013 prediction: .255/.305/.455, 24 2B, 24 HR, 67 RBI, 47 SB in 574 PA
Why Gomez Will Breakout: The statistics above aren’t really breakout level, but Gomez could surprise a lot of people if he were to repeat or come close to repeating the numbers that he put up last year. To say that Gomez is a free-swinger is an understatement: His 107 career walks in 2,130 plate appearances are just two more than the 105 that Adam Dunn drew in 649 plate appearances in 2012…if you listen closely in the winter, you can hear Gomez swinging a bat somewhere in the world. Gomez has been around for a long time because he was rushed to the bigs by the Mets, a shocking development considering that is what the Mets always do. Still, if Gomez can steal bases, hit home runs, and not have to share his job with the likes of Nyjer Morgan, as he did for part of 2012, he could continue to establish himself as a valuable fantasy and real-life commodity.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies
2012: .300/.389/.474, 18 2B, 11 3B, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB in 530 PA
2013 prediction: .280/.378/.469, 22 2B, 8 3B, 17 HR, 22 SB in 642 PA
Why Fowler Will Breakout: Fowler continues to show impressive on-base skills and he has the ability to spray the ball all over the field. He will probably show a significant decrease in the batting average category, as his .390 BABIP was absurd in 2012, but keep in mind that it was .354 in 2011, so he does have quite a bit of luck with where he can put the ball into play in his career. Fowler is an interesting player, as he is heading into his age-27 season (fully in his prime), he has a nice blend of power, speed, and on-base skills, and he plays in a friendly home ballpark in Denver. Look for him to take another step in the right direction in 2013.
Some writers for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have picked sides on whether certain players are worthy of the Hall of Fame based on their willingness, or lack thereof, to interview, how they were treated by the player, and whether or not the player did anything illegal during their playing days. While the Steroid Era players are eligible for the Hall of Fame in droves right now, how Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire perform once ballot results are released will be very interesting news.
The point here, though, is that longtime shortstop Omar Vizquel shouldn’t ever be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Vizquel was a great defensive shortstop, posting an incredible .985 career fielding percentage over 24 seasons and 22,960.2 innings at short. Some, like NESN’s Tim Culverhouse, think that Vizquel is a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. I disagree, and this is why:
- Vizquel played in 24 seasons and finished his career with 2,877 hits. He failed to reach the 3,000 milestone. Not that nearly 2,900 hits is a bad career, but the only players to participate in more seasons than Vizquel with 24 or more seasons were Rickey Henderson, Eddie Collins, Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose, all of whom accumulated more than 3,000 hits. Vizquel only reached 2,877 due to his longevity and he only had that longevity on one tool – his glove – which wasn’t enough to make him an asset for at least the final seven years of his career.
- Vizquel only posted a WAR above two in 10 of his 24 seasons. Why is the number two important for WAR? Anything less than a two is considered a reserve and anything less than zero is a replacement level player. Vizquel posted 10 seasons below a two WAR and four seasons with a NEGATIVE WAR. He literally cost his team games, even with his stellar defense.
- Vizquel’s career WAR was only 40.5 over his 24 seasons. Barry Larkin, a 2012 Cooperstown inductee, had a 67.1 WAR and Alan Trammell, who also had a 67.1 WAR and won a World Series MVP, is still waiting and on his 12th ballot this year. His WAR7, which are his best seven seasons, was just 24.8, 61st among shortstops, below such stars as Tony Fernandez, Scott Fletcher, and the great Dave Concepcion (who should probably get in for accomplishing as much or more than Luis Aparicio and Vizquel).
- Vizquel’s career slash of .272/.336/.352 would leave him 16th out of 22 shortstops, if he were to be enshrined, in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, and 20th in slugging percentage.
- Using Total Zone Runs (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made), Vizquel was the 5th best shortstop in baseball since 1951, when the stat started being used. He was behind Ozzie Smith (239), Mark Belanger (238), Cal Ripken (176), and Luis Aparicio (149), with his 134 mark. If defense is the deciding factor on the value that Vizquel provided, why isn’t Mark Belanger in the Hall of Fame? Because he hit .228/.300/.280 and posted a 37.6 WAR, not too far behind Vizquel’s 40.5, right?
- The only players with more hits than Vizquel who are not currently in the Hall of Fame are: Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez. A couple of those guys are still active, obviously, and Biggio looks like the only inactive who is going to be a lock due to the asterisk-ridden nature of the Steroid Era and its players (Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while others will rely on the whims of the voters from year to year).
- The only shortstop with a higher career fielding percentage is Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, whose .9851 fielding percentage is just a tick higher than Vizquel’s .9847. Vizquel’s 11 Gold Gloves are a bit more impressive than Tulowitzki’s two, but Tulo is just 27 and has several years left. Whether he maintains his fielding abilities is yet to be seen, but Vizquel was, clearly, one of the best, if not the best, defensive shortstops in the history of the game.
Omar Vizquel was a fine player and a great asset defensively; however, his longevity (24 seasons) was the only reason why he was able to accumulate so many hits.
Take, for example, Juan Pierre. The slap-hitting outfielder has a career .297/.346/.363 line with 2,141 career hits. If he plays 10 more seasons and retires after his age-44 season, receiving 300 at-bats per year and posting a .297 average, he’ll finish his career with 3,032 career hits. Is Juan Pierre a Hall of Famer due to longevity?
For all of the Gold Gloves and 2,877 hits, Omar Vizquel wasn’t special enough to be a Hall of Famer. If players who accumulated more statistics, championships, and glory aren’t in, why should Vizquel be?
Zack Greinke is an excellent pitcher, having won the 2009 American League Cy Young with Kansas City and accumulating 91 wins in nine seasons. After being traded from Kansas City to Milwaukee prior to the 2011 season, then from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, Greinke is a free agent, and a highly coveted one, at that.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports seems to think that Greinke is going to join either the Texas Rangers or the Los Angeles Dodgers by the end of the week, as the two clubs could make the 29-year-old right-hander the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, exceeding the $161 million that the Yankees gave CC Sabathia.
The problem is, Zack Greinke isn’t worth that kind of investment.
Greinke is good but he has some disturbing career trends.
Greinke Can’t Pitch on the Road:
It isn’t that he “CAN’T PITCH,” it’s just that he isn’t nearly as dominant. If Greinke had a .647 winning percentage on the road in his career, just like his home winning percentage, we’d be talking about a guy with a 54-30 away record and 109 career wins…but we’re not.
Greinke has a K/BB at home of 4.18 but that number drops to 2.93 on the road. How can you commit that much money to someone who can only pitch extremely well when you’re at home?
Greinke’s Statistics Aren’t Elite:
When you compare Greinke to the active ERA leaders in MLB, he is solid, ranking 23rd with a 3.77 ERA. Solid, but if quality is based on statistical measurement, does anyone see Chad Billingsley (3.65), Jon Lester (3.76), or Matt Garza (3.83) cashing in anytime in the near future?
Sure, ERA isn’t the only measurement of success, but wins are overrated, right? No one would say that Ian Kennedy and his 21-4 record and 2.88 ERA in 2011 was more impressive than Roy Halladay‘s 19-6 record and 2.35 ERA or Cliff Lee‘s 17-8 record and 2.40 ERA in 2011, right? Luckily, when Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young with his 21-5 record and 2.28 ERA, no one had to find out how important the wins were, as Kennedy finished 4th in Cy Young voting while tying Kennedy in wins that season.
The thing is, Greinke doesn’t really have the wins, either. His 91 wins have him tied with Cole Hamels at 46th. Hamels completed his seventh season in 2012 compared to Greinke’s ninth, and at the same age (heading into their age-29 seasons), is Greinke worth more than Cole Hamels, whose career ERA is 3.34?
You can’t forget that Greinke missed 69 games in 2006 due to Clinical Depression, a combination deemed depression and social anxiety disorder. He pitched in just three games in the majors that season after starting 17 games for the Royals Double-A affilliate, before getting another shot at starting at the beginning of 2007.
Greinke went just 1-4 with a 5.71 ERA over seven starts before moving to the bullpen for his next 37 appearances. He went 4-1 with a 3.54 ERA out of the bullpen, but the Royals moved him back to the rotation at the end of the season for another seven starts, when Greinke went 2-2 with a 1.85 ERA.
Mental illness and depression is something that is treated, but it is likely to relapse in the future. With all of the stress and expectations that Greinke is going to have on him due to his contract and pitching for a contending team, is it going to be too much for him?
So much is made of Josh Hamilton and his past drug addiction as teams worry about the financial commitment to someone whose body “could” break down due to the years of abuse. Why is Zack Greinke any different? Do you want your team committing a huge contract to someone who could, just as easily as Hamilton, have a mental slip up?
Conclusion: Zack Greinke is an excellent starting pitcher. However, Dan Haren, Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, and Erik Bedard were or are great pitchers, as well, and all were or are free agents this offseason.
Dan Haren has more wins (119) and a better career ERA (3.65) than Greinke. He also has an achy back and a lot more innings on his arm at the age of 32.
With more teams cashing in on TV deals and the revenues that stream from them, there will be more contracts like what Greinke is going to get this offseason. There will also be just as many contracts that teams live to regret, like Alex Rodriguez and his deteriorating, steroid damaged hips in New York, or what is to come of Albert Pujols and his massive contract when he is in his early-40′s and earning $30 million in his final year of his deal.
Greinke is reliable, having missed a few starts in 2011 due to a broken rib from a pick-up basketball game in the offseason, and the time that he missed due to his depression in 2006, but that is all. He had some shoulder inflammation in 2010 (he was day-to-day), but he hasn’t missed time outside of those issues in his entire career.
Based on his results, Greinke is very good. He isn’t Matt Cain, Roy Halladay, or Tim Lincecum (pre-2012), so I would be very uncomfortable with my team giving him a huge, $100 million-plus deal. Is he an ace? Is he a game changer?
To me, his three postseason starts with a 1-1 record and 6.48 ERA shows the kind of pitcher Greinke is in crunch time. If he isn’t comfortable, he is just another guy on the mound, not your ace, and certainly not worth upwards of $20 million annually.