Archive for the ‘ Baseball Rants ’ Category

Best Of The Baseball Haven

I’ll be on a 10-day hiatus with little to no internet access, so I figured I would link to the articles that I am most proud of over my three years of running the site. Additionally, feel free to check out Wahoo’s on First, a Cleveland Indians’ blog, where I am co-editor, and you’ll be able to hear podcasts, read about the trade deadline, and other Tribe news. Thanks for finding me and enjoy the second half!

 

"Twins

2014 Top 50 Mid-Season Prospects: Self explanatory title.

The Sudden Emergence of J.D. Martinez: A look at the breakout Tigers’ outfielder.

Why Matt Kemp to the Reds Makes Sense: Mat Latos for Matt Kemp and some cash? Read why that makes sense.

Time for Cincinnati to Extend the Toddfather?: Todd Frazier is breaking out and soon he could break the bank. The Reds need to extend him.

Is 755 Still Meaningful?: A look at the number and if it will last longer than Barry Bonds‘ number.

Beyond Color: The Value of Jackie Robinson: Jackie Robinson is much more than the No.42 and the man who tore down the color barrier.

When Arguing By History Goes Horribly Wrong: Albert Pujols thinks he’s as big or a bigger deal than Mike Trout…or he did…should he?

The Flaw of Sabermetrics: How WAR Can Ruin Payrolls:  Can the statistic of Wins Above Replacement take a larger role in free agency, and, if it can, how could that ruin the game or increase spending to new heights?

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Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you watched the All-Star Game, you may have heard. Why is it really such a big deal?

Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness: I interview Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe and discussed Guerrero’s Hall of Fame resume, along with how his JAWS system compares him to other greats.

Pitchers Who Won’t Come Up Short: Short pitchers that throw hard – it’s a thing, but so is the label of not being able to hold up due to their height.

Jack Morris: Why He Isn’t a Hall of Famer: Self explanatory.

MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for “Small-Markets”:  Don’t tell the fans you don’t have the money when this is out there.

2014 Top 100 MLB Prospects: The preseason list.

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10 Bold Second Half Predictions

On the eve of the second half of the 2014 season, after looking over my horrid preseason predictions, it is time for take two. Here are 10 bold predictions for the second half of the 2014 season, likely to be horribly, horribly wrong…once again:

Orioles 3B Manny Machado

Orioles 3B Manny Machado

1. The Baltimore Orioles run away with the AL East: Chris Davis‘ numbers scream a return to his 2013 first half numbers (.315/.392/.717)…ok, so maybe not THAT drastic, but he is much better than the .199/.309/.391 line that he has posted to this point. Add in a healthy, productive Manny Machado to Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, and the offense could be scary. Buck Showalter can finally break the chains off of Kevin Gausman, arguably the club’s best starter this season, plugging him into the rotation for the rest of the year instead of shuttling him back-and-forth between Baltimore and Norfolk. With Dylan Bundy returning from Tommy John surgery and, likely, taking over an important relief role late in the season to help put the team over the hump. With injuries to the Yankees’ rotation and the Blue Jays needing an arm to maintain contention due to possible innings limits on Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman late this season, the O’s have what it takes to get back on top.

2. The Pirates will come back to win the NL Central. Sure, they’re in 4th place right now, but they are the only healthy team in the division. The Reds are missing Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips for the next several weeks, the Cardinals could be without Michael Wacha for some time, and the Brewers have lost 11 of their last 13 games. With Andrew McCutchen heating up and Gregory Polanco continuing to adjust, the Bucs will prove that last year was just the beginning of a long, competitive run.

3. Bryce Harper will stay healthy and hit 20 home runs over the next 69 games.

4. Javier Baez will take over the second base job vacated by a Darwin Barney trade. He quickly erupts, proving his boredom in the minors led to his struggles.

5. Todd Frazier will continue his productive season, ending the season with over 30 home runs and 100-RBI. While the Reds lose the division behind the Pirates and injuries to Votto and Phillips, they still win a Wild Card.

6. Alex Guerrero will take over the third base job in Los Angeles and put up numbers that rival those of Yasiel Puig in his first month last season (.436/.467/.713 in 107 plate appearances). While that seems unreasonable, Guerrero has a .380/.423/.729 line in 37 minor league games, including some time off after getting part of his ear bitten off by a teammate.

Angels OF Mike Trout

Angels OF Mike Trout

7. Mike Trout continues running away with the AL MVP, finally winning the award that he should have won at least once over the last two seasons. He will finish the season with a WAR over 10.0, and McCutchen will win the MVP in the NL with a tremendous second half.

8. The Rays will keep David Price, riding a hot streak on their way to barely missing the final Wild Card spot. They will try to move him in the offseason, while getting all that they can out of their star left-hander, as he was worth more to them than a package that didn’t meet the demands of Andrew Friedman and Company.

9. The Colorado Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez, opening up a full-time job for both Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon on the outfield corners, with Drew Stubbs in center. The injuries are too much for ownership, while CarGo’s contract is friendly enough (three-years, $53 million between 2015 and 2017) to warrant a team taking on the deal and his skill-set. Seattle, seeking a return to glory, can offer Taijuan Walker, Gabby Guerrero, and Erasmo Ramirez for the slugging outfielder, instantly upgrading their offense.

10. The San Diego Padres will trade Huston Street to the Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez, solidifying the back-end of the bullpen that was patched together and healed by breakout closer Zach Britton.

The Reasons for Pete Rose…

"Charlie Hustle"...Has it been long enough?

“Charlie Hustle”…Has it been long enough?

Baseball came together for the All-Star celebration at Target Field, bowing in awe at the accomplishments of Yankees’ great Derek Jeter, while basking in the glory of the greatest superstar of the current generation taking control of yet another game, with Mike Trout running away with the MVP and a sweet new Chevrolet Corvette. All-Star Weekend brought the future of the game into the festivities for the 16th year, as top prospects from around the league took to the stage in the Futures Game, while Giancarlo Stanton‘s monster shots weren’t enough to keep Yoenis Cespedes from becoming the first back-to-back home run derby champion since Ken Griffey, Jr. accomplished the feat in 1998 and 1999. Still, when baseball comes together to celebrate its stars, there is always one thing that comes up:

Pete Rose.

Pete Rose, who gambled on baseball.

Pete Rose, who bet on the team that he was managing.

Pete Rose, who ruined the credibility of the game.

Pete Rose, the greatest hit collector in the history of baseball.

Pete Rose, the man who won’t stop fighting for an opportunity to return to the game that made him who he is, while leaving a legacy of hustle, production, and passion that hasn’t been matched since his ban from the game in August of 1989.

For many people, the integrity of the game is all that matters. Former commissioner Fay Vincent seems to have made it his lifelong goal to uphold the ban, placed by the late A. Bartlett Giamatti; however, with Bud Selig stepping down from the commissioner role, is there an opportunity to leave a legacy beyond inter-league play, the Wild Card, twenty years of labor peace, and record revenues?

In 2015, there will be a new commissioner, and, awkwardly, the All-Star Game will be held at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Selig has now gone on the record in saying that Rose will be allowed to participate in the festivities surrounding the event, but how much should he be involved? Is there truly a reason for Rose to still be banned?

Selig had this to say regarding Rose’s inclusion in next year’s All-Star events in the “Queen City”:

Selig would not answer a question about specific guidelines the Reds would have to follow.

“It’s sort of subjective, they’ve done some things with Pete, but they’ve been very, very thoughtful and limited,” Selig said. “That’s a subject that I’m sure they’ll discuss in the next year. They’re all here, but that’s not a subject that’s come up.”

As for Rose’s overall status with Selig, who is scheduled to step aside at the end of the year, the commissioner said there has been no change in Rose’s status.

“It’s a matter under advisement. That’s my standard line,” Selig said. “I’m the judge and that’s where it’ll stay. There’s nothing new.”

The game certainly has its own idea of how great a sin is. You can’t gamble on baseball, but you can take drugs illegally and influence your production and earning potential. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can cheat by using foreign substances to alter how a pitch assaults a batter. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can be a racist, bigot, and a social embarrassment to the sport. For all of the character flaws of Pete Rose, the character clause of the Hall of Fame has overlooked so much worse, and while there hasn’t truly been a “steroid user” inducted to-date, the moment that one of those players finally earns that honor is the last day that Pete Rose and the Black Sox can spend on the outside of enshrinement, or so you would think.

Pete Rose is a Hall of Fame baseball player. He may be a Hall of Fame moron for what he did as a manager, but you can’t put an asterisk next to 4,256 hits, 17-time All-Star, 1973 NL MVP, 1975 World Series MVP, and the effort and fire that has been unmatched.

Has it been long enough? Next month, Rose will have been gone from the game for 25 years. He has missed out on an opportunity to assist young players through coaching, he has missed out on the opportunity to lead a team as a manager, and he has missed an opportunity to discuss the game as a great should be able to do, with respect from his peers. He didn’t help his cause over the years with his failure to admit to his faults immediately, but baseball has a lot to gain from the years left in Rose’s life, having shoved him aside long enough, just as they did the truth about steroids for so many years in the great sport.

Sneaky Second Half Fantasy Surgers

You can see the players who have surprised in the first half, here, but what about players who could provide surprising power going forward? Below, you’ll see players who could be heading towards huge second half production.

Stephen Vogt, C, Oakland A’s

Vogt is 30-for-80 over the last month (.375/.414/.563), with seven extra-base hits and 12 RBI. While he’s 29 and he doesn’t have a track record, having played in just 98 games in his entire career and accumulating 287 plate appearances, Vogt has been receiving time in the outfield and first base, as well as catcher. Beyond his versatility, raise your hand if you knew that Vogt had a 12-game hitting streak entering play on Sunday…He’s hot, he’s playing, and he’s eligible at an offensively starved position, and he has an incredible offense around him. Buy low.

 

Rays 2B/OF Ben Zobrist

Rays 2B/OF Ben Zobrist

Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Zobrist has managed to hit .271/.360/.440 over the second half since 2011, covering 2,403 plate appearances, while having the 5th highest second half WAR over that time behind only Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano. Add in the fact that Zobrist is hitting .368/.450/.559 over his last 17 games, just in time for a potential trade at the deadline to a club with more offensive talent. Like Vogt, his versatility is just an added bonus to his potential production.

Omar Infante, 2B, Kansas City Royals

The first half wasn’t all that friendly to the Royals second baseman, who hit a mediocre .277/.318/.383, but the last seven days have really helped out the overall line. During that span, Infante has hit .464/.483/.500 with 13 hits in 28 at-bats. The Royals have been starved for offense all season, and you’d have to expect Infante will continue to rebound, while guiding Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer along with him, especially if they are going to compete in the AL Central. The last week is a sign of production, a production that had been lacking for most of the season for Infante.

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Unlike Zobrist, Kiermaier won’t be going anywhere at the trade deadline. He is under team-control through the 2019 season and he plays incredible defense due to his tremendous speed, which hasn’t quite been evident in his game just yet. Since June 1, Kiermaier has played in 40 games and has a .911 OPS over 151 plate appearances, including a .476/.522/.714 line over the last week, as he continues making adjustments at the major league level. I hit the wrong button and cut him by mistake in a dynasty league, but you shouldn’t make the same mistake, or overlook him much longer. His speed will allow him to create hits, even when he struggles, and he will continue to play moving forward as the Rays go towards a rebuild.

 

Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi

Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Odorizzi was a top prospect several years ago, but he hit a bump as he reached the majors, appearing to lack an out pitch with his 6.7 K:9 in a brief trial the last two seasons. Well, the 2014 season has been quite different. Sure, the ERA is at 4.01, but Odorizzi’s FIP is 3.20 and he has a whopping 10.3 K:9 over 19 starts and 101 innings. He’s just 24 and has always had a tremendous arsenal and plenty of potential, and he could be sneaking under the radar during a breakout 2014 season, including a 2.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his last eight starts.

Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS, Cincinnati Reds

Santiago has been very good at the right time. Over the last week, Santiago has hit .476/.577/.619, going 10-for-21 just as the Reds have lost Brandon Phillips. The long-time utility player has an opportunity to shine, barring a trade, while sharing time with Kristopher Negron in Cincinnati. While he is quite unlikely to hit close to .500, he is hitting in front of Todd Frazier in the Reds order, with Billy Hamilton ahead of him, distracting the pitcher when he is on base. Santiago could be surprisingly productive.

Jesse Hahn, RHP, San Diego Padres

Hahn is getting better each start and the numbers could continue due to his home ballpark. Hahn has a 1.46 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while going 5-1 over his last six starts. Over those six starts, he has 42:14 K:BB with a .163 average allowed over 37 innings. His 10.4 K:9 over his seven career starts is impressive, and the 24-year-old should be added in every league, while he could be expensive due to his early success. His minor league numbers were nearly identical to what he is doing in San Diego.

Wade Miley, LHP, Arizona Diamondback

Miley was very, very frustrating to own early this season, but he has really taken off recently, posting a 2.98 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP over his last seven starts, with a 46:12 K:BB over 45.1 innings. Beyond his recent strong performance, Miley has been slightly better in his career over the second half during his career.

 

Royals LHP Danny Duffy

Royals LHP Danny Duffy

Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Since June 1, Duffy has a 2.19 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, posting a 43:12 K:BB over 49.1 innings. The hard-throwing, 25-year-old has impressed this season, finally throwing enough strikes to live up to the lofty expectations that were once put on him. Now healthy and getting starts, the focus on James Shields and Yordano Ventura could lead to continued underestimated value by Duffy owners. There could be an innings limit here, but he should continue to surprise over the second half.

Chris Coghlan, OF, Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are unlikely to promote Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, or Jorge Soler this season, so Coghlan should maintain a share of an outfield job at the least. He once won a Rookie of the Year and had a bright future, and after hitting .386/.446/.632 over his last 16 games, with 10 extra-base hits and 10 RBI. He may not carry your team, but Coghlan shouldn’t be tossed aside as just another hot streak. After all, we always have J.D. Martinez to remind us how a hot streak can become a breakout or extended, valuable outburst.

Fantasy Baseball’s Fabulous First Half Figures

With the All-Star break starting after Sunday’s action, there are some baseball fans who are feeling like a train ran over them, weeping at the thought of discussing their fantasy baseball teams due to horrific production, numerous injuries, and running their squads with their hearts instead of their heads – sitting in last place. The cellar isn’t so bad until all of the wine is gone, but some of us have players to thank for tremendous starts to the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Not all of us can have Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, and Troy Tulowitzki, so these are the players who are helping to separate the contenders from the pretenders in the first half of the season:

Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 ★ 24 HOU 91 410 380 47 128 27 2 2 27 41 23 28 .337 .376 .434 .810 165
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Altuve is having a career year, on pace for over 220 hits and 70 stolen bases. In an era of huge swing and miss on the offensive side of the game, Altuve lacks patience but makes consistent contact, putting the ball in play to utilize his speed. He leads MLB with his 128 hits, with 20 of those coming on infield hits. With Jon Singleton and George Springer joining him in Houston this season, a glimpse into the Astros’ future is upon us.

 

Indians OF Michael Brantley

Indians OF Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley, LF, Cleveland Indians

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 ★ 27 CLE 88 382 343 62 112 22 1 14 62 10 30 31 .327 .387 .519 .906 178
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

“Dr. Smooth” has already eclipsed his previous career-high in home runs (10 in 2013) this season, and will easily surpass his career bests in several other categories, and if that wasn’t enough, he is tied for the MLB lead in outfield assists (10, though he has negative defensive value). You likely don’t earn anything for those throws, but Branley’s bat has kept an up-and-down Indians club in the AL Central race all season. His career contact rates suggest that this breakout is legit – not bad for the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia deal, huh?

Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 ★ 26 LAD 89 384 351 51 104 14 9 2 25 42 27 56 .296 .348 .405 .753 142
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

To think that Gordon was “in the mix” for the second base job this spring after the Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero seems absurd when looking at his offensive impact this season. The speedster has obviously assisted fantasy players with the league-leading 42 stolen bases, but getting on base (formerly a problem) has allowed him to be driven in by Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and the other Dodger hitters. Sometime you just need a long-term look to show what you have. The Dodgers committed to him, and Gordon is rewarding many people so far this season.

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 23 CIN 88 348 323 45 92 18 6 5 38 37 16 63 .285 .318 .424 .742 137
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

I wasn’t much of a believer in Hamilton given his struggles in Triple-A last season, but he has certainly proven me wrong. While he isn’t leading the league in steals, he has certainly given the Reds an dynamic defender in center and a threat to score at will. The power is just icing on the cake for fantasy owners. His recent tear (.344/.375/.574 over the last 15 games) has not only increased his numbers, they have helped put the Reds back in contention in the NL Central.

Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 ★ 27 COL 91 373 341 52 101 17 1 14 50 16 21 46 .296 .343 .475 .818 162
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Blackmon is an All-Star. He barely had a grasp on the starting left field job when spring training started, so that is about all that you need to know; however, I will share his home and road splits because I’m not so sure his value is legitimate unless you play him during long home stands -

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Home 46 42 199 180 37 61 10 1 11 34 10 13 22 .339 .394 .589 .983 106
Away 45 37 174 161 15 40 7 0 3 16 6 8 24 .248 .285 .348 .633 56
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

 

Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 ★ 28 CIN 92 390 353 55 102 17 1 17 48 13 31 79 .289 .351 .487 .839 172
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Todd Frazier is the second most valuable third baseman in baseball in 2014 (based on WAR, 3.5), ahead of the likes of Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Adrian Beltre. He’s hitting for power, he’s running, and, the best part, nothing in his numbers truly suggest a regression. With the hot months ahead of us and Great American Ballpark being a notoriously friendly environment, we could easily see 30 home runs and 100 RBI next to his name at the end of the season.

Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9
2014 26 LAA AL 11 2 2.55 19 0 0 123.1 88 35 35 4 43 127 2.68 1.062 6.4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming after Richards had one of the top fastball velocities in baseball in 2013. After all, if you consider that his average fastball was 94.8 mph in 2013, he would have ranked in the top four in baseball behind Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Jose Fernandez. Good company. Better results.

Alfredo Simon, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9
2014 33 CIN 12 3 2.70 18 0 0 116.2 94 36 35 14 28 75 4.32 1.046 7.3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Simon is leading MLB in the all important WIN. Ugh…the win…well, it still matters in fantasy. The FIP suggests he could see regression, but the bigger question is the number of innings he will log, as his career-high for innings was in 2011 when he reached 115.2 for Baltimore. He will likely spend some time in the Reds’ bullpen to limit those down the stretch, or a burnout is likely.

 

A's LHP Scott Kazmir

A’s LHP Scott Kazmir

Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9
2014 ★ 30 OAK 11 3 2.38 19 1 0 117.1 88 33 31 10 27 108 3.18 0.980 6.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

His career was nearly over in 2011 due to shoulder issues, he missed all of 2012 and then the solid return in Cleveland was special…but this is incredible. Kazmir deserves this success after overcoming so many obstacles, and the A’s look intelligent, as always, in their wise investment – as do fantasy owners.

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9
2014 24 MIA 6 4 2.63 19 3 3 120.0 129 43 35 7 22 73 3.34 1.258 9.7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Alvarez has a heavy fastball that he can’t blow by many, but it manages to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. That has helped him take a big step forward in his production on the mound this season. At 24, he is a strong dynasty option. He really knows how to pitch and his command will keep him relevant if and when he loses his velocity.

Chicago Cubs: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Depth?

A's new RHP Jeff Samardzija

A’s new RHP Jeff Samardzija

When the Chicago Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics last week, they gained a nice return, adding shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily, and a player to be named later. With the Cubs sitting at 39-52 entering play Friday, there was little reason for the club to hang onto Hammel, an impending free agent who wouldn’t be worth a qualifying offer, and Samardzija, who had another year of team-control but likely would have been very pricey in his final year of arbitration.

The Cubs added a 25-year-old starting pitcher in Straily who won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. While Straily struggled a bit this season, he has proven that he can get major league talent out, logging 157.1 innings for the A’s in 2013 while finishing 4th in AL Rookie of the Year voting. McKinney has been moved aggressively, jumping to High-A as a 19-year-old this season, and he has shown some nice power (though the California League could be responsible for some of that) and on-base skills considering that he is 3.7 years younger than others in his league. Both could be very interesting pieces for the Cubs down the line, with Straily likely to pitch at some point after the All-Star break in Chicago.

However, neither of those players possess the talent and potential of Addison Russell. Russell, who was recently ranked 4th among my mid-season top 50 prospect list, was drafted 11th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, has moved quickly through the minors, jumping to Double-A in 2014 at the age of 20 (4.6 years younger than others in his league). Jason Parks, of Baseball Prospectus, said this about the Cubs’ new shortstop:

Addison Russell has the most well-rounded profile at the shortstop position in the minors, with above-average chops in the field (including double-plus hands), and impact potential with both the hit and power tools. Russell has lost half a season to injury, but could challenge for the top spot in the minors with a strong second half.

Cubs SS prospect Addison Russell

Cubs SS prospect Addison Russell

Parks isn’t alone in the Russell love, though:

MLB.com says:

Russell has established himself as one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball and erased any concerns about his long-term future at the position. He has the hands, range and arm strength needed to make stunning plays in the field. Russell uses the whole field to hit, and his quick hands enable him to make consistent hard contact. He has surprising pop and could develop above-average power in the future. He isn’t a speedster, but he gets the most out of his solid speed, and he’s aggressive on the base paths.

Rich Wilson of Prospect361.com says:

Every time I’ve seen him play, he screams “Star”. He’s athletic with a great hit tool and bat speed that should produce 20 home runs. There’s also speed in his game and a 20/20 player at shortstop should be in the cards.

Mike Rosenbaum of Bleacher Report says:

Russell’s trade to the Cubs has actually improved his prospect stock, as he’s more likely to stay at shortstop than future teammate Javier Baez and therefore ranked higher.

Beyond the Boxscore’s Daniel Schoenfeld recently focused on how the Cubs have utilized one-year deals the last two offseasons in acquiring middle-tier starting pitchers and moving them prior to the trade deadline:

They are incurring minimal risk to acquire high upside potential by focusing their efforts on finding players they consider undervalued by the market and signing them to fleeting deals at mid-range money. The Cubs thus take a relatively small gamble on assets that carry the upside of the prospect of being flipped in the three months before the deadline for far more value than they paid.

Indeed the Scott Feldman signing, which led to the deal with Baltimore last year for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, and Hammel signing have worked out nicely if the Cubs are going to look at players as stocks, but when are they going to stop acquiring the wrong kind of talent for their never-ending push to bring a title to the “Windy City”?

For how great Russell could be, the Cubs have a few things stopping him from being great for them:

Cubs SS Starlin Castro

Cubs SS Starlin Castro

1. Starlin Castro, just 24 years old, who is signed through 2019 (with a $15 million team option for 2020 that has a $1 million buyout). From 2015 through 2019, Castro is guaranteed $43 million and he is a shortstop. While he struggled in 2013, Castro is now an All-Star for a third season, all before the age of 25.

2. Darwin Barney has struggled offensively since his rookie season (2011), which still wasn’t all that great (.666 OPS). However, the 28-year-old is an elite defensive second baseman, and he is under team-control through the 2016 season. The Gold Glover is making $2.3 million this season and he could be a non-tender candidate, but considering his slick fielding capabilities, he isn’t completely without value in today’s offensively starved game.

3. Javier Baez was the Cubs “other” shortstop of the future. Also blocked by Castro, Baez didn’t really profile as a shortstop due to his anti-Barney efforts on defense. Baez had 44 errors in 2013, but he has just 11 in 80 games to-date in 2014. Still, Baez has power and bat speed that could make him an elite, All-Star level talent at another position. He was rumored to be going to third base, but…

4. Kris Bryant could be the long-term option for the Cubs at the hot corner. While his defense could be very Miguel Cabrera-like, he does have some athleticism and he deserves an opportunity to stick at third. Like Baez, he could fit in another position, such as an outfield corner, but if both Baez and Bryant are unable to handle playing third defensively…

5. Jorge Soler could be left without a spot to play long-term, as he isn’t really an option in center, where Albert Almora is the long-term answer, and he can’t play the infield. Soler, like Baez, has immeasurable raw power, capable of monstrous offensive production. He profiles as a future All-Star in right field, but he just needs to stay on the field in order to reach that potential.

6. Somewhere along the way, Arismendy Alcantara, a second baseman who recently moved to the outfield in Triple-A, will also need to find a spot to play for Chicago. He could replace Barney as early as this year, considering his recent promotion, which would make a position change for one of the other shortstops that much more difficult or confusing.

While the Cubs have so many options offensively for their potential future dominance, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo (signed through 2019 with team options for 2020 and 2021), they really do not have very many options to put on the mound. After trading two arms without gaining an elite pitching prospect back, Chicago is left with a group of incredibly gifted offensive prospects in an era where pitching and strikeouts are dominating.

Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo

Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo

Certainly, things could swing the other way for the Cubs and they could dominate opposing pitchers and outscore their competition, but they will still need a five-man rotation to give them some innings – the game won’t change that dramatically.

The cost saving methods of avoiding large contracts, drafting wisely, and spending internationally over the last several seasons could lead to the Cubs adding to their payroll by signing David Price, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, or other options who currently have deals set to expire after the 2015 season. However, there comes a time when the Cubs will need to develop their own pitching prospects or make deals that includes some of their gluttony of offensive talent to make it happen.

As nice as it was to add Addison Russell to the list of Bryant, Baez, Alcantara, Almora, and Soler, the Cubs needed pitching depth to try stockpile their system for a run in the future. There are only so many players who are like stocks. With more pieces for their future than the diamond can hold, they could be losing leverage in future deals, as clubs will know that they need to deal a “shortstop of the future”. If ownership and management are using the stock market logic, they have to understand risk, and adding Russell to the mix may not have been the smartest of moves for the pitching barren Chicago system.

Reds Should Be Looking For Help With Phillips Injury

Brandon Phillips took a spill in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, and what was originally thought to be a left wrist injury has turned into a torn thumb ligament, likely costing the slick-fielding second baseman six weeks for Cincinnati. After Wednesday night’s win against the Cubs, the Reds were just 2.5 games out in the NL Central. Now, with Homer Bailey leaving his start on Thursday with right patella tendon pain, Billy Hamilton nursing a hamstring strain, and Joey Votto battling, once again, a quad injury, the Reds could easily head in the wrong direction.

 

The Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster and system is bereft of any true offensive assistance beyond their active, 25-man roster. Jack Hannahan (currently on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury) just began baseball activities after spending the entire season on the shelf, Neftali Soto was on the active roster for most of Votto’s previous DL stint and the Reds appreciated him so much that they put Brayan Pena (who had never started a game at first in his career) at first base over him, and Donald Lutz was hitting well in Double-A to earn a very brief trial during Votto’s last stint, but he has been quite over-matched at Double-A. Kristopher Negron and Ramon Santiago can handle the position, but they would provide very little offensive production over the next 40 to 60 days. The remainder of the 40-man consists of outfielders like Ryan LaMarre, Juan Duran, and Yorman Rodriguez, none of which provide any help.

The Reds could add Ruben Gotay, 31, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2008, from Louisville, while reaching to lower levels either wouldn’t be a solid option or would be downright stupid.

Could the Reds look for help via a trade?

There are certainly some options out there as the trade deadline approaches. Here are five players who could fit with the Cincinnati Reds during a time that their roster is littered with injuries:

"Rays

1. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist is 34 and the Rays are 10 games under .500 in the AL East. While they’ve been playing better of late, it likely won’t be enough to keep the club from selling off pieces. With David Price the top commodity on their roster and the focus of so many clubs, Zobrist could be overlooked a bit, which isn’t new for one of the most underrated players in baseball over the last five years. Zobrist could play second base for Cincinnati until Phillips returns, while being an option in the outfield beyond that point. In fact, Zobrist has a $7.5 million team option ($500,000 buyout) for 2015, and with Ryan Ludwick reaching free agency and the Reds needing an upgrade in left, Zobrist would be a tremendous fit. He is a switch-hitter, he has a career .354 on-base percentage, and his versatility can not be understated. While he could be pricey considering the number of clubs who could be in on him and the team-friendly contract for next season, if the Reds are interested in remaining contenders over the next two to three months, he would be the perfect fit.

2. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera is a free agent after the 2014 season and the Indians may not be all that interested in offering him a one-year deal on the qualifying offer, fearing that he could accept it and block the shortstop position if and when Francisco Lindor is officially ready. There may not be such a thing as a “bad” one-year deal, but there is a lot that goes into Cabrera’s availability. First and foremost, are the Cleveland Indians sellers? They’re within striking distance in the AL Central and the AL Wild Card, and with Lindor in Double-A and Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez unlikely to be upgrades at short, would they be better off keeping him? Cabrera could likely handle second base, as Zack Cozart wouldn’t move off of short in Cincinnati due to his strong defense, but what is he worth for Cincinnati? Perhaps Ben Lively, who was dominant in the California League prior to a recent promotion to Double-A, would be interesting for pitching depth in the Indians’ system, but he isn’t going to help the team this year. Cabrera would interest several contenders, but the Indians need to determine if they consider themselves the same prior to Cabrera becoming available.

3. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox: If we were living in 2009, Beckham would be very, very expensive in a deal; however, Beckham has been through a free-fall over the last five seasons for the White Sox, seeing his numbers, value, and playing time take various dives along the way. Injuries have been a factor during his career, but Beckham’s ability to handle second and third could make him useful for Cincinnati, especially with Todd Frazier capable of playing multiple positions, likely including left field. Beckham is under team control through the 2015 season, but after earning $4.18 million in 2014, he could also be a non-tender candidate based on his failed production. The White Sox have Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien who could potentially slide into the second base job, and Chicago has little reason to not take additional minor league depth after having one of the worst systems in baseball over the last decade prior to Rick Hahn taking over the GM job.

"Mets

4. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: The Mets likely aren’t as good as their 42-49 record, which has left them eight games out in the challenging NL East. With very little talent on the major league roster, the Mets are in a slow rebuild, whether the owners and management are aware of it is yet to be determined (signing a 40-year-old to a two-year deal isn’t the norm for a team in their situation – Bartolo Colon this past offseason). The Mets would need another miracle to contend this year, and Murphy could be the Reds’ miracle. Murphy has hit well over his career, earning his first All-Star berth this season, posting a .291/.335/.423 line over his six seasons. While his versatility is a bit more limited than it used to be, he (or Phillips) could be traded after the 2014 season, as they both wouldn’t fit being limited to second base. Murphy is arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 before reaching free agency, so his cost could be a bit high, and with very little ready (beside Wilmer Flores) to take over second base, the Mets could be better served giving their fans at least one reason to show up.

5. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: Barney is well-known for his glove, as he should be, but it could be argued that he wouldn’t help the Reds much offensively; however, the Cubs have no reason to keep him around with Arismendy Alcantara on the way up and a likely move to second base for either Addison Russell or Javier Baez in the near future in the minors, both top 10 prospects. Barney is under team-control through the 2016 season, and, like others, he wouldn’t have much value to the Reds once Phillips returns. He could be a useful utility player, especially if he hits like he has over his last eight games (.387/.387/.516).

2014 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects

At the halfway point of the 2014 season, it is time to take a look at some of the top prospects who are still hanging out on the farm developing their trade. Below, you will find the top 50 mid-season prospects for the 2014 season, with links to their statistics and a brief summary of their outlook. Enjoy. Share. Love.

 

Twins OF Byron Buxton

Twins OF Byron Buxton

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins: Wrist injuries have hurt him this season, but the tools are still there to be a five-tool stud.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: The power is incredible, but not nearly as incredible as the overall numbers. Will he end up at third or the outfield? It doesn’t really matter where he ends up, he’s a star.

3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros: Correa’s season has been destroyed by a broken leg after he destroyed opposing pitchers in the California League. He was just about ready for a promotion to Double-A, so the timing was quite unfortunate. He remains a future star in Houston.

4. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs: It doesn’t matter who he plays for, Russell can hit, hit for power, show patience at the dish, and field his position. While the landing spot of the recent trade leads to a lot of questions, Russell’s overall skills could make him the best option at short for Chicago.

5. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: The power and bat speed are tools that all others envy, but until Baez makes some adjustments with his all or nothing approach, he isn’t the top shortstop prospect in the minors – but where he ends up with a crowded Cubs’ system means little if he doesn’t start making more consistent contact and taking a few more pitches.

6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: He may not possess the power that the other prospects offer ahead of him, but Lindor will have plenty of value for the Indians, showcasing an elite glove, solid speed, an excellent approach, and more pop than you’d expect based on his frame (5’11″, 175 pounds).

7. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals: The fastball and curveball, right now, could dominate at the major league level. If he can stay healthy, he could supplant Stephen Strasburg as the Nats ace, not because Strasburg is aging – he is capable of being better.

8. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies: Gray still has the fastball and slider that could dominate and he continues to refine the change. Just because he’s a Rockies’ pitcher, he shouldn’t be discounted. He has the stuff to throw the Coors effect out the window.

9. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: The injury is damning but the results and stuff seem to be back already. Bundy’s velocity isn’t there, but the command is there, which is typically the last thing to return after TJ surgery. Four plus pitches and pitching intelligence make Bundy a frontline starter for the O’s.

10. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins: Sano is going to miss the entire 2014 season due to TJ surgery. His power is elite and he should get a long look next spring for a Twins club that is desperate for some offense.

 

Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

11. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers: The power was considered an 80 and it’s there. The plate discipline, however, has shown up and made Gallo an absolutely scary talent, especially when you consider the hitter-friendly nature of his home ballpark if he stays in Texas. Can he stay at third? Another guy who it shouldn’t matter for due to the bat playing anywhere.

12. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: With three pitchers set to reach free agency after the 2015 season, Stephenson appears to be a solution, especially with strong results as he continues to climb through the Cincinnati system.

13. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: The injury led to some stumble here, but Bradley, if healthy, just needs to get a firm grasp on his command to be a No.1 starter. It wasn’t always elite results for Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole, so don’t sell him short due to the numbers this season.

14. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He’s 17 and in the California League dominating hitters. Urias has stuff and command to be a front-of-the-rotation arm, but with projection involved, the sky is the limit. Everything could get better for him as he matures.

15. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets: Yet another injury-ravaged arm in 2014, “Thor” should be on the mound for the Mets at some point by the end of the season to gain some experience. He should be a very good No.2 starter for years to come, featuring electric stuff and top notch command.

16. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: A slugging shortstop, who may not stay at the position, in a system that continues to develop and acquire elite talent, Seager would be talked about a lot by teams who didn’t have Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw around. Now, with Urias dominating at such a young age, Seager continues to not get the praise he deserves for the skills. California League or not, 1.037 OPS at the age of 20 is nothing to sneeze at.

17. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies: A five-tool talent in Colorado…we’ve seen that before with Carlos Gonzalez and it’s nice. Dahl has the same type of potential.

18. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins: He’s a large man with No.2-No.3 stuff that could be No.1 stuff if he continues to show the type of command that he has in 2014. With the improvements that he has shown this season, he should be higher, but the shoulder issues that he had scare me off a bit.

19. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Pederson would likely be starting for half of MLB this season. Instead, he is depth due to the presence of Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. The strikeouts are up a bit this season, but he is showing more power, speed, and patience (which is confusing but the walks are up).

20. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: Harvey will likely move very quickly for a high school arm, as he has shown electric stuff in his first full season for the O’s Low-A affiliate. Along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Harvey gives Baltimore one of the most, if not the most, prolific arms in the minors.

21. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox: A switch-hitting catcher with some pop and solid plate discipline skills who is getting better after a jump to Double-A, Swihart has established himself as one of the top catching prospects in the game, redefining his previous outlook with an excellent season.

22. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox: While Owens isn’t going to replace Jon Lester at the top of the Boston rotation anytime soon, he should settle in as a very useful arm, capable of owning opposing batters with a strong fastball and very, very good change from the left side.

23. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: Hedges’ offensive game still needs a lot of work, but he could step behind the plate and be an effective game manager tomorrow. Could he hit enough to be an everyday catcher? Well, Ryan Hanigan has…and Yadier Molina wasn’t always the offensive monster that he is today. Things can change. He’s young enough to get the complete package together, but even if he doesn’t hit, he’s a Gold Glove catcher.

24. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Norris has jumped to Double-A after dominating the Florida State League in his first 13 starts of the season. He has the stuff to be an ace, and this ranking appears to be much lower than what he deserves considering the stuff and results, but there are a lot of solid arms ahead of him.

25. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have a lot of very good, young arms in their system, and Glasnow could be the best if he finds a way to limit the walks. He’s big with big stuff, and just harnessing it would make him a top 10 prospect.

Cubs INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara

Cubs INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara

26. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs: It’s unfortunate that it has to be repeated, but Alcantara’s future position in Chicago will be decided at some point between the Starlin Castro/Addison Russell/Javier Baez/Kris Bryant shuffle between second, third, and short, while Alcantara’s recent move to the outfield (he has played 10 games in center) could be a sign of the demise of Junior Lake, and the solution for the crowd – as far as how it impacts this very talented, 22-year-old speedster.

27. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Likely to move slow due to the organizational philosophy, the Twins haven’t had a power arm like this that they drafted and developed as far back as I can remember. He is working on his secondary stuff in the Midwest League this season, so the numbers don’t show dominance like the stuff suggests. He’s still just 19 and he will be a huge part of the Twins system, settling in nicely behind Alex Meyer as a No.2 starter.

28. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Sanchez would likely be pitching in Toronto right now if he had the ability to harness the stuff. Instead, he has walked 55 in 92.1 innings as of July 8. If he can grasp some concept of command, he could be the top pitcher on this entire list. As is, he’s a work in progress and a huge chip if the Blue Jays were to go all-in despite their recent tumble in the AL East.

29. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The results haven’t always matched the hype, but we’ll have to wait another year to see how Taillon’s stock fluctuates given his TJ surgery that has forced him to miss the entire 2014 season.

30. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: Crawford has jumped to the Florida State League after a solid run in the Sally League, showing a tremendous approach for a 19-year-old at either level. He has surprising gap power and tremendous speed and he could be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia with a slightly better approach and a little less pop.

31. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies: Tapia’s ceiling is anyone’s guess, but he’s a 20-year-old in his first attempt at full-season ball, posting an .830 OPS with 19 stolen bases and 27 extra-base hits (as of July 8). He can barrel up practically anything and he could develop power with his 6’2″, 160 pound frame. He could be better than Dahl if everything clicks, but the worst case scenario could be a Dexter Fowler at his peak as his norm.

32. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers: A catcher who can run, hit for extreme power, and throw absolute seeds from behind the dish aren’t the norm in baseball, which makes Alfaro a future stud. He has some holes in his swing, but he is just 21 and he has a huge ceiling due to the power and defensive prowess.

33. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs: Almora hasn’t lived up to the offensive expectations this season, but he still brings a lot to the table with his elite defensive skills in center. After playing in only 61 games in Low-A last season due to injuries, the Cubs were aggressive in assigning the 20-year-old to the High-A Florida State League. He hasn’t been totally over-matched, but an improvement in his production would keep him as an option in the cluttered Cubs’ future.

34. Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals: Mondesi is an interesting prospect due to the bloodlines and the fact that he is just 18 (until July 27) and he is playing in the High-A Carolina League in the Royals system. It’s the defensive skills and the speed that make him capable of being elite. While he likely won’t develop the power that Russell, Baez, and Correa bring to the prospect list, he can utilize that speed in the same way that Billy Hamilton has for the Cincinnati Reds to become a factor in all facets of the game.

 

Reds OF Jesse Winker

Reds OF Jesse Winker

35. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Winker will be a left fielder due to his arm, but he has the hit tool, the power, and the patience to be a very useful player in Cincinnati. He may have several seasons of All-Star production, while settling in as a productive, sweet-swinging lefty in the middle of the Reds’ order.

36. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Shipley has a solid fastball and change already, but he has hit a bump with the numbers in the hitter-friendly California League. He has very little experience as a pitcher (he was a former shortstop), but still projects as a mid-rotation starter for the D-backs…if Kevin Towers doesn’t trade him because he hates young players (huge generalizations are always fun).

37. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals: What seemed like a reach in the 2013 MLB Draft looks to be another wise decision by Dayton Moore and Company in K.C. Dozier looks to be the long-term solution at third with Mike Moustakas failing like a man with no arms trying to remove corn from his teeth. You’d like to see more power from a future corner man, but Dozier could transfer some of those doubles into bombs as he continues adjusting to the wooden bat throughout his maturation.

38. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians: Frazier has Baez-like bat speed, which could result in huge amounts of power as he matures. The red-headed stepchild of the Tribe system, Frazier has shown glimpses of his potential while striking out in large quantities as a 19-year-old in full season ball. The Indians would be wise to continue being aggressive with him, allowing him to make adjustments and becoming the potential All-Star, a title that his bat could very well carry him to.

39. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Berrios could be the best of the group between himself, Meyer, and Stewart, but he doesn’t get as much love, likely, due to his size. Just touching six feet, Berrios falls into the “short pitcher” label that has haunted the likes of Yordano Ventura, Carlos Martinez, Johnny Cueto, and Pedro Martinez, but stuff will outweigh the oppression, and Berrios has plenty of it.

40. Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Pompey has made huge strides this season in his production, showing his typical speed and solid plate discipline, while driving the ball more consistently. It has led to a promotion to Double-A (where he has struggled) for the 21-year-old center fielder. He looks like a nice piece for Toronto to build around, especially if they lose Colby Rasmus to free agency after the season (though, Pompey won’t be called upon just yet for that role in 2015).

41. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros: Appel has had difficulty adjusting to the pitching methods that Houston employs in the minors, but maybe it’s an attitude thing more than a stuff thing…or an injury. Who knows at this point, but the Astros should be concerned if the stuff is there and the results are this horrific. He’s here because of that stuff, but he needs to get things going before he becomes a bust…yes…already.

42. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees: The Yankees have a prospect! Severino isn’t just a hype-machine type of guy, he has a fastball that can touch 97 with a slider and a change that could be above-average. The 6’0″, right-hander will battle the “small” label, but the stuff could be special.

43. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: A future mid-rotation, innings-eater with solid stuff who is close to making an impact, Kingham may get lost in the Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow hype, but he should be a very useful arm for the Pirates in his own right.

44. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Piscotty looks to be a potential clone of Allen Craig, possessing impressive contact skills without taking many walks, while not striking out absurd amounts, and not showcasing power numbers that would make them an ideal corner bat. Still, Piscotty can double his way into credibility, and he will be a nice option to play alongside Oscar Taveras for several seasons in St. Louis.

45. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals: Cole has rebounded with his return to Washington’s system. He didn’t take too kindly to his time in the California League for the Oakland A’s, but he still has the stuff of a potential No.2 or No.3 starter. He isn’t Giolito by any means, but he has legit stuff and may not get the love that he deserves due to the flip-flopping in trades the last couple of seasons.

46. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets: Nimmo’s on-base skills make him the Joey Votto of the minor leagues. He has control over his at-bats, which isn’t the norm for most 21-year-old position players in Double-A. Still, the Mets have to hope that he develops power along with the patience, as they are in desperate need of impact talent at the major league level.

Rangers' OF Nick Williams

Rangers’ OF Nick Williams

47. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers: This kid can hit. He may not have a clue about how he can barrel up the ball, as the strikeouts show, but Williams has the talent to become an All-Star level outfielder due to his tools, athletic ability, and successful aggressiveness. There is power in his game, as well as speed, but he will settle in as a corner outfielder in Texas, though, there could be some severe learning curves.

48. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Bell is a switch-hitting corner outfielder who can hit for power from both sides, he has a strong grasp of the strike zone, and he has rewarded the Pirates, who made a $5 million investment in him after choosing the Texas-native in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Draft, with impressive production after an injury-filled start to his career. He should see some time in Double-A this season, while turning 22 in August.

49. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres: Wisler’s numbers in the Pacific Coast League are pretty horrific, but he’ll be reaping the benefits of pitching in San Diego in due time. Mostly working on his change this season, Wisler continues to work his way to the majors, and the results don’t matter as much as continued health and innings. He should be a solid No.2 or No.3 for the Padres in coming seasons.

50. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners: Peterson’s overall numbers were likely aided by playing at Inland Empire in the California League, but he was a top selection in the 2013 MLB Draft and is continuing his offensive outburst after a recent to Double-A. The Mariners could use a productive right-handed hitter, but his future is likely not at third with Kyle Seager becoming an All-Star caliber player for Seattle. He could be a first baseman or the Mariners could give him a look in left, but they may need to cover him up with an elite-level defensive center fielder.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs; Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres; Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox; Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants; Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers;

 

 

 

 

Trade Deadline Most Wanted: Jeff Samardzija

Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija

Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija

With a little over four weeks remaining until the trade deadline, rumors of names heading to contending teams are starting to heat up. One name rumored to be on the move, for what seems like years, is Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. After earning $5.35 million in his second year of arbitration, Samardzija will be eligible for arbitration one more time in 2015 prior to reaching free agency. At 29, Samardzija is eight months older than Rays trade-bound ace David Price, but he has logged 438 fewer innings than Price due to his time in the bullpen over his first four seasons (128 appearances, just five starts).

While Samardzija doesn’t have the wear and tear on his arm that Price has, he also doesn’t have the resume. That doesn’t mean that Samardzija is chopped liver, though. The former Notre Dame football standout is the 23rd most valuable pitcher in baseball since moving to the starting rotation in 2012 (FanGraphs WAR). Since moving to the rotation full-time9.01 K/9 ranks 9th among qualifiers, his 3.54 FIP ranks 27th in MLB despite his ERA (3.83) ranking 55th, and his 496.1 innings rank 24th in MLB.

Samardzija1The teams that Samardzjia has pitched for shouldn’t be discounted, as well. The Cubs are 163-243 (.401) since the start of the 2012 season, while Samardzija is just 19-33 (.365) during that stretch. The 2014 season, however, has been Samardzija’s best, despite his 2-7 record. His 2.83 ERA (3.06 FIP) and his 1.20 WHIP are the best of his career as a starter (WHIP is career-best). While his strikeouts are down slightly (8.6/9 IP in 2014 compared to 9.0/9 IP in 2013), his walks are down to a career-best 2.6/9 IP, and his ERA+ is at 135, best in his career.

The Cubs are likely looking to significantly cash in if and when they deal Jeff Samardzija. While the club has prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Albert Almoraand Kyle Schwarber to build around as positional prospects, only C.J. Edwards (who is battling a shoulder issue after being acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last season) appears to be an above-average arm in the system currently, though Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn could be decent back-end options. The club drafted heavy on pitching, as 20 of their 40 picks in June’s MLB Draft were pitchers, but Chicago could use some near-ready talent with so many of their top position players at the upper levels of the minors.

So, who appears to be a good fit for a deal? As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported a couple of weeks ago:

Toronto: The Blue Jays are the top team in baseball who appear to need pitching depth, as they sit one game up on Baltimore in the AL East with veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey leading the way as Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman take on larger roles. With Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Alberto Tirado ranking near the top of the Jays system and all three being mid-to-top-of-the-rotation arms, Toronto seems to be a logical fit.

San Francisco: The Giants quickly tumbled out of first place in the NL West, but the problem with their rotation is Matt Cain, who is 1-6 with a 4.38 ERA and 4.51 FIP, both the worst of the current starting five; however, Cain likely isn’t going anywhere with his $20 million salary and the guaranteed three-years and $67.5 million remaining on his deal from 2015 to 2017. Ryan Vogelsong is a free agent after the season, and, while he has pitched well at times, he would likely get the boot from the rotation if the Giants were to acquire Samardzija. The Giants have several solid pitching prospects, with Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar, Adalberto Mejia, and Clayton Blackburn as potential pitching targets for the Cubs.

Los Angeles Angels: Unless the Angels were willing to part with Garrett Richards, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2015 and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, the Angels don’t have the prospects to make a deal. It is interesting that they keep showing up in rumors considering the state of their farm system.

Baltimore: The Orioles have pitching out the wazoo, with Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Hunter Harvey having “future ace” labels on them. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright have had less than stellar seasons in the Orioles’ system, but could be nice secondary pieces.

New York Yankees: Luis Severino and prospects with injury issues: Jose Campos, Manny Banuelos, and Jose Ramirez, top the Yankees farm on the pitching side, but the Cubs could be interested in a catching prospect like Gary Sanchez as a piece to build around, as they don’t have an elite future option behind the dish with Schwarber likely to move from behind the plate.

Boston: The Red Sox have a lot of pitching options in their system in Henry Owens, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Trey Ball. It’s quite possible any of those five could do a better job than Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz are doing this season. Regardless, if Boston is serious about contending, they’ll likely part with some of their young talent for a more proven commodity like Samardzija, even if they could get similar production over the next two seasons from one of the prospects if they stood pat.

Get to Know: Mookie Betts

Red Sox INF/OF prospect Mookie Betts

Red Sox INF/OF prospect Mookie Betts

The Boston Red Sox promoted INF/OF Mookie Betts from Triple-A Pawtucket today, which is interesting for several reasons. But first, here is what you should know about Betts:

Betts was a 5th round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft out of a Tennessee high school. Since being drafted, he has played 229 of his 275 career minor league games at second base, while, most recently, seeing a lot of time in center field for the Paw Sox. While his full-season debut in 2012 wasn’t spectacular, Betts has been nothing short of that since the beginning of the 2013 season, flying up four levels in the minors prior to his fifth jump to MLB today, all by the tender age of 21.

Year Age AgeDif Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 -2.0 Rk 1 4 4 0 2 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 2
2012 19 -2.1 A- 71 292 251 34 67 8 1 0 31 20 32 30 .267 .352 .307 .658 77
2013 20 -2.1 A-A+ 127 551 462 93 145 36 4 15 65 38 81 57 .314 .417 .506 .923 234
2013 20 -1.6 A 76 340 277 63 82 24 1 8 26 18 58 40 .296 .418 .477 .895 132
2013 20 -2.8 A+ 51 211 185 30 63 12 3 7 39 20 23 17 .341 .414 .551 .966 102
2014 21 -4.4 AA-AAA 77 359 304 70 105 21 4 8 48 29 51 33 .345 .437 .520 .957 158
2014 21 -3.7 AA 54 253 214 56 76 18 3 6 34 22 35 20 .355 .443 .551 .994 118
2014 21 -6.1 AAA 23 106 90 14 29 3 1 2 14 7 16 13 .322 .425 .444 .869 40
4 Seasons 276 1206 1021 197 319 65 9 23 146 88 164 120 .312 .408 .461 .869 471
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2014.

Betts is not in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees, but he will be in uniform, with Rubby De La Rosa heading back to Triple-A to clear a roster spot.

Betts has a very impressive approach at the plate, he has a tremendous hit tool, and even above average speed. At 5’9″, 165 pounds, he could easily draw comparisons to current Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, but to be on the same field as the “Laser Show”, Betts would have to move, which explains the move to center. Further explanations of his move to center can be tied to the struggles of Jackie Bradley. Bradley has an atrocious .209/.289/.298 in 264 plate appearances, striking out 76 times, which is a far cry from his approach at South Carolina and in the minors prior to his time in Triple-A. From there, his numbers have fallen far from expectations, and with Shane Victorino injured, the Red Sox needed another legitimate option in center field (no matter how many nice plays Brock Holt makes in the spot, he had not even played the outfield at any level until this season).

Betts2Enter Betts, who may platoon with Bradley (though, Bradley has a higher OPS (.643 v. .549) against left-handers this season), or who may just be in town to showcase for a potential trade to bolster the current Red Sox roster. He is already an attractive piece, and this is what others had to say about the prospect prior to this 2014 season:

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com:

Betts’ improvement was fueled by an improved approach at the plate and the introduction of power into his game. He has become a patient hitter and is now strong enough to drive balls into the gaps. He is an above-average runner and was one of a handful of Minor Leaguers with at least 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2013.

Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus:

Plus athlete; plus instincts; excellent hand/eye coordination; well above-average pitch recognition skills; shows bat control and ability to use all fields; plus potential hit; easy plus runner; plus-plus range at 2B; glove projects to plus; arm is strong enough to make all the throws.

John Sickels, Minor League Ball:

I think you can make a B+ case for him although I guess I hold back for wanting a longer track record. Sudden burst of power is intriguing, also love combination of on-base ability and useful speed. Not sure where he will fit defensively.

It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox handle the crowd in the outfield, if you can call it that. The Red Sox website lists Betts as an infielder on the current roster, but the same could be said for Holt, who has played the outfield in 16 of his last 19 games. Wherever Betts ends up, in the field or with another team, he should be a useful player. His ability to make hard contact with a solid approach at the plate fits in any lineup. If Boston keeps him and he finds a consistent role, Betts, who is just six days older than Xander Bogaerts, will add another exciting young piece to a team that will look very, very different within the next three seasons due to the number of impressive prospects reaching the upper levels of the system.

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