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)
To say that Matt Harvey has been impressive in his first 17 starts to his career would be an understatement:
|162 Game Avg.||14||10||2.07||34||217||128||52||50||14||76||256||0.939||5.3||10.6||3.37|
After 17 starts, he has roughly a half of a season under his belt and he can now officially be compared to Stephen Strasburg, whose first 17 starts looked like this:
Matt Harvey deserves the hype and he deserves more hype than he has received. Tossing another in which he allowed four or fewer hits, which has happened in six of his seven starts, shows just how dominant Harvey is. It’s arguable that he has had the best start to a pitching career in baseball history.
Who would supplant him in the argument?
Fernando Valenzuela was an All-Star from 1981 through 1986 and won the Cy Young award in his 1981 rookie season. Fernando-mania was in full effect early in his career and his numbers supported his skills; however, the strikeouts don’t measure up to the pure dominance that others, mentioned earlier and later, will have presented to this argument.
Dwight Gooden had, quite possibly, the greatest start to any career in history. He dominated at the age of 19 and kept things rolling for several years. It is debatable as to whether it was a substance-abuse issue or the innings that he accumulated early in his career that caused his demise, but from 1984 through 1991, he was a four-time All-Star, one-time Cy Young winner, and he received several MVP votes.
Hideo Nomo was the first true Asian sensation, coming to the United States from Japan and paving the way for Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Yu Darvish. Nomo was the Rookie of the Year in 1995 and continued to impress in 1996. His career was derailed by shoulder issues but Nomo did produce a couple of solid seasons later in his career upon his return to Los Angeles.
Certainly, others, such as Mark Fidrych, have had excellent starts over the last 30 years, but when comparing dominance, it is undeniably absurd to say that Dwight Gooden wasn’t the pitcher with the best start to his career over the last several decades; however, based on what Matt Harvey has done over his first 17 starts, he has not only put better numbers up than Stephen Strasburg, but his statistics rival Gooden’s 1985 season, which was one of the best ever, particularly Harvey’s seven starts in 2013.
Matt Harvey has been absolutely dominant, which is surprising given his minor league numbers:
|2011||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||13||5||3.32||26||135.2||125||56||50||9||47||156||1.268||8.3||3.1||10.3||3.32|
The walks were high, the hits per nine were high, and the ERA was high. It just goes to show that harnessing a dynamic repertoire can go a long way in the elevation of a player’s abilities. Matt Harvey’s abilities, to this point in his brief career, appear to be better than nearly everyone else’s.
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)
In 2012, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Mike Leake combined to start 161 of the Cincinnati Reds 162 games, with Todd Redmond starting the second game of a double-header against the Chicago Cubs on August 18. In 2013, the Reds haven’t been quite so lucky with pitching health, as Johnny Cueto lasted just three starts before a strained lat shelved him on April 13.
While losing a pitcher who has managed to go 29-14 with a 2.58 ERA over his last 390 innings would probably leave most teams in a panic, the Cincinnati Reds had the luxury of calling up Tony Cingrani.
Cingrani was dominant in the minor leagues in 2012 and the beginning of the 2013 season, posting an overall 11-4 record, 1.57 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 198:54 K:BB in 160.1 innings. While he managed to get by with his fastball, which he varies the speed on from 88 to 96 miles per hour, it appears to be enough.
After just three starts in Cincinnati, Cingrani is going to make life very, very difficult on Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker. After posting a 28:4 K:BB over his first 18 innings (three starts) with a 1.50 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, who will have to leave the Reds’ rotation to allow the flame-throwing left-hander to continue to occupy a spot in the rotation?
Cueto will be welcomed back with open arms, Homer Bailey has finally become the dominant arm that the Reds hoped he would become when they drafted him, and Mat Latos is basically the 1(b) to Cueto’s 1(a) status as duel aces. That would leave Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake.
Arroyo hasn’t been awful this season. While his 4.24 ERA is a little high, the 1.09 WHIP shows that he is limiting damage by not allowing many base runners. He is averaging just under seven innings per start, as well, and he seems to have a rubber arm, having made 32 or more starts each season dating back to 2005, the poster-boy for reliability.
Leake had a rough 2012, posting a 4.58 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he hasn’t really rebounded to this point; his ERA is 4.34 and his WHIP is up to 1.52. At just 25, Leake still has a very bright future, but he needs to figure out a way to keep the opposition off of the base paths. His BB/9 is at a career high this season (3.4) and his hits per nine innings is 10.2, the highest since his rookie season.
While sending Leake to Triple-A Louisville would allow the Reds to keep their starting pitching depth fresh, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that whoever gets bumped from the rotation will end up in the bullpen. Sean Marshall just returned from an early season disabled list visit, which will greatly assist a pretty brutal group in the bullpen, which was so dominant last year. Outside of Aroldis Chapman (0.73 ERA, 0.65 WHIP) and Sam LeCure (1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), the Reds’ bullpen has combined to go 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA in 55 innings this season.
Would the Reds even consider sending Cingrani to the bullpen at this point? Because of his reliance on his fastball, it would limit his innings while shoring up the back-end of the bullpen, where Jonathan Broxton has been very unimpressive in setting up Chapman. The Reds could then handle Cingrani much like the Atlanta Braves handled Kris Medlen in 2012, allowing him to start from mid-June or early-July until the end of the season, getting valuable innings during a potential playoff run.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers looked to be loaded with starting pitching as spring training broke, only Clayton Kershaw has been worth the price of admission. With Zack Greinke out with a broken collarbone, Chad Billingsley tearing his already torn elbow ligament further, and Aaron Harang traded away, the Cincinnati Reds look to have the most starting pitching depth right now. While the St. Louis Cardinals have plenty of young arms (Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, to name a few), the Reds have it all ready to go and ready to contribute.
Now…what do they do when Cueto returns?
Once upon a time, Greg Maddux was winning four straight Cy Young awards (1992-1995) and Tom Glavine was painting the corners and winning 20-games three straight seasons (1991-1993) for the Atlanta Braves. While PITCHf/x wasn’t around back then, it is safe to say that Maddux and Glavine got by more on movement and location than blowing hitters away, as Maddux’s best average fastball over his last seven seasons was in 2002, when it was 85.8.
As strikeouts continue to pileup in abundance around Major League Baseball, are there reasons for the sudden rise? Are pitchers attacking more, throwing more strikes, or throwing harder…or is it the approach of the hitters, looking to hit home runs instead of making solid contact, to blame for the free breezes for fans in stadiums around the league?
So far in 2013, there are 27 pitchers with an average fastball of 92.0 or higher. In 2012, that number was 37. Of course, that was an entire season and some pitchers could be working out some stamina issues early in the season before truly unleashing their heat. There were some interesting trends that I saw when looking at velocity, though:
In 2012, two of the top pitchers in baseball, Price and Verlander, ranked within the top three in velocity. Neither pitcher is ranked in the top five in fastball velocity in 2013, and Verlander’s ERA is lower than it was last season, while his K/9 is slightly up (9.19). Moore’s fastball is down to 92.2 in 2013, 24th in MLB, but his ERA is down to 1.13 and his K/9 is up to 10.69.
Another interesting trend would have to be the average ERA and WHIP of the top five fastballs in MLB over the last two seasons:A big difference between the two seasons above: Richards and Zimmerman have very low K/9 rates, and Strasburg’s strikeouts are surprisingly low, considering that he had an 11.13 K/9 in 2012.In 2013, wins don’t count for much due to how early we are in the season; however, when looking at some of the top names in baseball, Strasburg and Harvey rank near the top in the hype machine right now. Are they dominant because of their repertoire or because of the swings and misses across baseball?
Again, it’s early, but when you consider the results from last season, are the top pitchers in baseball those who throw the hardest? If you consider that Harvey’s early season dominance appears to be the outlier of the statistics, they could be meaningless…BUT, looking at 2012, in particular, you could argue that flamethrowers are going to be successful.
Remember, also, that Matt Moore was one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch last season, when he posted a 9-3 record and a 2.90 ERA from June 1 through September 1. So, is his slight drop in velocity what was necessary to dominate or was his velocity a part of his mid-season dominance last season?
At the beginning of the season, there were concerns over the velocity of long-time aces Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia. Halladay’s two-seamer has averaged 89.8 mph this season, but two-seam fastballs tend to be a little slower than a pitcher’s four-seam fastball. Halladay has used a cut fastball and a splitter along with his two-seamer since the start of the 2012 season, so, while he did struggle in his first two starts, Halladay is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, and a 16:5 K:BB over his last three starts (21 innings). Sabathia’s fastball is down to 89.7 mph in 2013 from 92.3 in 2012, and he has had a couple of rough outings, including his Opening Day start against Boston and earlier this week against Boston. However, his three starts between those outings included 23 innings with a 1.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 19:4 K:BB. He also got the win Saturday with eight innings and three earned runs against Toronto.
So…what is the lesson here? Young pitchers with impressive fastballs can become tomorrow’s future stars and the same guys that used to top the charts with velocity can become crafty veterans, adapting to their changing skills to maintain brilliant careers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pitchers that fall somewhere in between those two extremes, so while there was some interesting data here, the only conclusions that I would recommend are to try to stock up on guys that throw hard so that when they learn how to pitch on top of having stuff, you’ll have a pocket full of aces.
Should you take Justin Verlander, David Price, or Felix Hernandez as the first pitcher in your fantasy league? Well, the Mariners haven’t helped King Felix win many games due to their inability to score runs, Tampa Bay has a pretty pathetic offense, and Verlander has Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to back him up. While Verlander, Price, and Hernandez will post similar ERA, WHIP, and strikeout totals, Verlander will tend to get the nod due to the added wins.
In 2012, Cliff Lee was 6-9 over 30 starts and 211 innings. He didn’t win his first game until July 4, his 14th start, after winning 17 games in 2011. Lee has already won two games in 2013, something that he couldn’t say he did last season until July 31 last year.
This year, the name is Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has lost four games already in 2013. In 2012, he didn’t lose his fourth game until July 6. While wins are quite overrated in the statistical world, when a pitcher isn’t getting them, those who follow the sport feel like they may be doing something wrong.
Is Strasburg doing anything wrong?
Over his career, Strasburg has won 67.7 percent of his decisions while posting a no-decision percentage of 31.2 percent. Nearly one-third of his starts have led to no-decisions, so in a given year, based on his first 45 starts of his career and 33 stars in a 162-game season, Strasburg would average a 15-7 record, a 2.93 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and a 4.67 K:BB. This season, Strasburg’s 3.16 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 3.5 K:BB.
While Strasburg’s walks seem to be up a bit, his peripheral statistics show that there isn’t much that he can be held accountable for. His xFIP is up to 3.86 (his career xFIP is 2.68), so there may be something there, but most of the blame can be attributed to the bats when he starts. Only Kevin Slowey (0.75) and Joe Saunders (1.20) have lower run support than Strasburg (1.40) this season. At 1-4, Strasburg is a fantastic buy-low option in fantasy leagues for anyone unintelligent enough to trade him right now for this reason.
Jeff Samardzija (3.03 ERA vs. 2.00 RS)
Trevor Cahill (3.60 ERA vs. 2.00 RS)
Madison Bumgarner (1.87 ERA vs. 2.60 RS)
Clayton Kershaw (2.14 ERA vs. 2.80 RS)
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.
The California League used to be where pitching prospects went to die, but elite arms have been challenged there, while others (like Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners) continue to skip the High-A level to keep their confidence. In 2010, Tyler Skaggs posted a 3.22 ERA with a 125:34 K:BB in 100.2 innings in the Cal League, and in 2012, Tony Cingrani posted a 1.11 ERA with a 71:13 K:BB in 56.2 innings. This season, Blackburn appears to be the class of the league. A solid strikeout rate, excellent control, and he seems very hard to hit. The same things could be said for him after his impressive season in the Sally League in 2012, and at 20 years of age, Blackburn looks like he will maintain this type of production throughout his development. At 6’3″, 220 pounds, he has a very good frame to become a valuable piece to the San Francisco Giants in the next few years. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to see Blackburn in Double-A after the All-Star break, possibly sooner, if he continues to dominate the opposition.
While Miguel Sano attracks a lot of attention, and deservedly so, the Twins have another power hitting player in Fort Myers this season. Eddie Rosario is officially a second baseman now, which should make dynasty league fantasy players salivate. Solid speed, gap power, and still growing frame create an intriguing blend of skills that the Twins should be ecstatic about. While he managed 21 home runs in the Appalachian League at the age of 19, he looks like more of a 30+ doubles and 15-20 home run type of player, which would make him an All-Star at second. Others will clamor for Sano, but Rosario is overlooked at times and could be a special player in his own right.
Victor Payano, LHP, Texas Rangers
If you read the Baseball America Hot Sheet, you’d know that Payano was ranked in the Helium Watch on the 4/19 version of the site’s weekly list. I’m buying. While Payano struggled in his start last night (1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 5 ER, 0 K), the 6’5″, 185 pound 20-year-old has a fastball that has been clocked in the mid-90′s. While the Rangers minor league system is top heavy with Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt in Triple-A Round Rock, they need an arm to hit after waiting several years while Martin Perez plateaued. Payano is a guy with improving overall statistics who could be on his way to an outstanding season. The Carolina League is known to be tough on hitters, so this is the perfect spot for Payano to increase his standing within the prospect world.
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets
The Mets have sat on scrub pitchers like John Maine, Jeremy Hefner, and Mike Pelfrey over the years, losing on free agent gambles and trades (I’m looking at you, Johan Santana), while watching groups of pitching prospects (Isringhausen, Pulsipher, and Wilson) bomb. Now, Matt Harvey has become an instant ace and the club is waiting for Zack Wheeler to figure out how to throw strikes again. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this beauty. Montero was ranked as the No.8 prospect in the Mets system by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and No.5 by Baseball America. His career K:BB rate is absolutely staggering for a young arm, but it is the WHIP that should strike you, as he seems to dominate wherever he goes. Late last season, his K/9 finally went over 9.0 in his stint in High-A and he has maintained the strikeouts while moving up to Double-A. He could become useful to the Mets in 2013 if they continue to miss out on production from their current rotation and pitching in Citi Field will only help his ability to baffle his opponents.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Can you say “TRADE BAIT”? I knew you could. With Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier signed to long-term contracts, there won’t be anywhere for Pederson to play in Los Angeles. It’s a shame, too, because he has the potential to become a very useful player when he reaches the bigs. With a solid approach at the plate, speed, and power, he could be an excellent asset for the bottomless pit of payroll that the Dodgers could take on through a trade this season. Pederson and Yasiel Puig are two of the most exciting bats in the entire minor leagues right now and they and neither of them have a role in L.A. unless the Dodgers are able to deal Andre Ethier and his bad contract (opinion or fact?). I cut him in my dynasty league because he was blocked by so many other players, especially with Puig’s amazing spring, but I’ve come to regret it already.
Like Pederson, another player who seems to be blocked. Between Starlin Castro and super-prospect Javier Baez coming up behind him, Alcantara could find himself being moved to second or the outfield, but he should be able to stick with the Cubs organization. Like most Cubs prospects, Alcantara is a free-swinger, but he has already increased his walk rate this season from 5.3 percent in 2012 to 11.4 percent this season. While the season is still young and he could fall back to his career norms, it is also nice to see that Alcantara has four home runs in the early going. With a lot of top-notch talent coming up around him, Alcantara is someone to monitor to figure out just where he’ll end up.
“In Atlanta I Trust”. The Braves are still amazing arm producers, so when you see a big lefty with a mid-90′s fastball in the Atlanta system who has posted the kinds of numbers that Wood has in his first 74.2 professional innings, you have to take notice. Ranked as the No.6 prospect in the Braves system by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Wood team’s with the No.3 rated J.R. Graham for Double-A Mississippi right now to form a devastating duo for the Braves. Julio Teheran has been a roller coaster after an excellent spring and Brandon Beachy will be back from Tommy John surgery in June, so the Braves can have some patience with Wood and Graham, but if Wood continues to keep runners off of base, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get moved to the bullpen with the recent Jonny Venters injury.
- Dylan Bundy to have elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- CSN: Bundy to see Andrews about tight elbow (csnbaltimore.com)
- Is the time right for Oscar Taveras? (stltoday.com)
Joey Votto is one of the top players in all of baseball. The 2010 NL MVP was rewarded for his skills last spring when the Reds gave him a 10-year, $225 million extension, which could keep the Canadian-born first baseman in the Queen City through the 2024 season.
Since the start of the 2008 season, his first as a regular, Votto has posted a 27.7 WAR, 6th in MLB (Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun rank higher), and a .419 on-base percentage, 1st in MLB. He has been very productive, driving in 444 runs, but when you consider how often Votto is on base and his WAR value, you would think that he would produce more runs, as those 444 RBI rank 23rd since the start of the 2008 season.
Certainly part of the reason why Votto ranks lower in RBI is due to his extended absences, as he has missed 106 team games since the 2008 season due to general illnesses, depression, and surgery on his left knee, which cost him 51 games in 2012; however, what if he swung more?
So far in the 2013 season, Votto has a .500 OBP, inflated by his 30 percent walk rate, and his .264 batting average seems likely to rebound due to his .351 BABIP, which is in line with his career .359 BABIP. His hitting ability was outlined in a recent ESPN the Magazine feature, when Votto said:
I’ve stopped caring about runs and RBIs. I care more about how high a percentage of productive at-bats I can have, how consistently tough and competitive I can be for the opposing pitcher. That’s my goal every single time I go up there. If I drive in 90 runs, I don’t care. I know a lot of old-school people wouldn’t believe I’d say something like that.
The apparent way to be more productive is to not swing. Votto currently has a 32.1 percent swing rate (career 44.9 percent), while posting a 14.4 percent swing rate on pitches outside of the strike-zone (career 25.2 percent), and a 57.9 percent swing rate on pitches inside of the strike-zone (career 70.2 percent). Only Lucas Duda has a lower swing rate in 2013, at 29.9 percent, but Duda’s career swing rate has always been low, as he sports a career 40.9 percent swing rate.
How can you produce if you don’t swing the bat? Sure, Votto is getting on base, but he has scored just 11 runs in his 40 appearances on the base paths (14 hits, 24 walks, 2 hit-by-pitch), largely due to the ineffectiveness of Jay Bruce (who has struck out 10 times in 31 at-bats with runners on base this season), while driving in FOUR runs in 80 plate appearances. Luckily, Brandon Phillips, who took over the cleanup spot after Ryan Ludwick‘s shoulder injury, has done a fantastic job, posting a .405/.452/.649 line with 17 RBI in 37 at-bats with runners on base. With Shin-Soo Choo and Votto in front of him, it is likely that Phillips will continue to produce some impressive counting statistics in 2013, but why shouldn’t Votto?
A productive at-bat is when a ball is put in play and moves other runners. Sure, you’re Little League coach and Moneyball says that a walk is as good as a hit, but what if Phillips falters in the No.4 spot? What if Jay Bruce continues to strikeout with runners on? What if Todd Frazier, who is currently the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR) goes through a drought?
The Cincinnati Reds need Joey Votto to swing the bat because he is such a special player. Getting on base has value, but when you are as capable with the bat as Votto is, there is more value in the contact that he does, or can, produce. After all, Votto has struck out 16 times, tied for 8th most in MLB, while he is waiting for his pitch.
Is Joey Votto the best pure hitter in baseball right now? Possibly, but striking out in 20 percent of your at-bats doesn’t seem like a reasonable statistic for a hitter, possibly a slugger. It is time for Votto to become a slugger again not only for fantasy baseball players, but because the Reds would be much more impressive and capable of winning more often if he was the 37-home-run-of- 2010-version of Votto than the one-home-run-in-80-plate-appearances-2013-version of Votto.
- Joey Votto is not struggling (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Joey Votto appears as cartoon (wcpo.com)
- Reds’ Joey Votto named ‘Face of MLB’ (wcpo.com)
- Votto is still productive despite slow start (mlb.mlb.com)
Nolan Arenado was drafted out of a California high school in the 2nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. Arenado played some catcher in high school, but he was drafted as an infielder, which seems to be a good choice by the Rockies, considering their top prospect’s quick ascension through the minors.
To see how productive Arenado has been, you need to look no further than his career minor league statistics:
Statistical Areas of Focus:
Arenado showed very good plate discipline as an 18-year-old in short-season ball, which didn’t hold in his first full season; however, while he didn’t take as many pitches in Asheville in 2010, he didn’t strikeout at an alarming rate and his gap power (41 doubles) was a nice preview for his 2011 breakout season. In 2011, Arenado’s statistics were aided by the bandbox stadiums of the California League, but he maintained a tremendous contact rate, while showing similar gap power (32 doubles) with a slight increase in home runs. His 122 RBI in 2011 are impressive on paper, but they don’t represent a number that can translate to the majors as a “normal” counting statistic. In 2012, Arenado was, in a way, a disappointment. He maintained his contact rates but his power dropped off. He seemed to miss the thin air of California in the Texas League in 2012, but his 36 doubles still showed a solid approach, and at the age of 21, Arenado still possessed some projection.
Arenado has 11 doubles and three home runs in just 44 total at-bats, which leads to an impressive .909 slugging percentage in the early going. Arenado’s statistics will likely take another leap forward in 2013 due to the thin air of the Pacific Coast League, particularly in Colorado Springs, the Rockies Triple-A affiliate. Arenado’s 18 RBI lead the minors right now, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that he could become a huge producer in a very impressive lineup in Denver, as Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario create a tremendously dangerous lineup.
Why the Rockies Need Arenado:
I’d be lying if I said that the Rockies GOTTA HAVE Arenado right now. Colorado’s third basemen (Chris Nelson and Reid Brignac) are hitting a combined .309/.361/.345 with two doubles, five RBI, and six runs scored, while posting an 11:5 K:BB over 55 at-bats. The only issue is that Nelson and Brignac have just the two extra-base hits, which is why the slugging percentage is so low. While that is one reason to clamor for Arenado’s immediate call-up, especially with his current production in Colorado Springs, the Rockies can allow their current third basemen to get on base at a solid clip, allowing their mashers to clear the bases later. Arenado would be a huge offensive upgrade to the Rockies lineup, though, so there is no shame in utilizing Nelson and/or Brignac in utility roles, as both players could get at bats at second base, spelling Josh Rutledge on occasion, as he is hitting just .226/.288/.358 in 53 at-bats for Colorado.
While it would be great to allow Arenado to get more experience in Triple-A, where veteran starters could possess better breaking balls than his lower-level opposition, Arenado could force the Rockies’ hand in the coming weeks. Chris Nelson, who has handled the majority of starts at third, was tremendous in the second half last season, posting a .344/.381/.500 line over 180 at-bats, but he doesn’t possess the power and skill-set that Arenado does. Nelson would still have a major role as a super-utility player, but Arenado could get the call to Coor’s Field by mid-June, and have an immediate impact on a suddenly strong Rockies team. They just need some health, especially with Tulowitzki, to be taken seriously.
If you’re like me, you may as well give up right about now. Sure, we’re only in the third week of the Major League Baseball 2013 season, but injuries are destroying my fake hopes and dreams for my fake teams right now. I play in a dynasty league at Ultimate Fantasy Sports (ultimatefs.com, still teams available if you want a challenge), where you have a 25-man roster and 7 minor league spots. You can also have up to 10 players on your disabled list, which is nice for stashing players coming off of surgeries. Regardless, this is where I am right now for my two teams that matter the most to me:
Relief pitcher (start one, make it a closer): Aroldis Chapman;
Utility (start one as a DH and one backup DH), where I have Dunn at DH and Johnson as my backup DH right now.
With this club, Weaver could be out for two months, Cueto just left his start Saturday with tricep soreness, Ramos pulled his hamstring and will miss a couple of weeks, Beckham broke his hamate bone and is out for two months, Kubel is out with a strained left quadricep, and Saunders is out with a sprained right shoulder. Add in Halladay’s ineffectiveness, Bautista and Crawford coming back from serious injuries, and Jimenez and Hernandez being terrible options, and you have a looming disaster.
Relief pitcher (start one, make it a closer): Jim Johnson;
Harrison is out with a back issue and the Ludwick injury was about as big for my team as it was to the Reds, as my LF options were so weak. I knew Ortiz and his heels would be an issue this season, while I hoped that Garcia would win a spot on the Tigers opening day roster after a solid showing late in 2012 before he had heel issues, as well. This is my first year with this team and I was focused on getting some solid young players. During the spring, Belt looked like a steal, and I feel like Machado could become a superstar. I gambled on Fowler in both leagues and it has paid off to this point, and I traded for Votto in this league because of the homer in me (Go Reds!).
Needless to say, injuries have been absolutely awful for a lot of fantasy baseball teams this season. While you can draft depth, it is nearly impossible to overcome significant injuries in any fantasy sport format. Dynasty leagues make those injuries hurt a bit longer because someone out there is the proud owner of Alex Rodriguez, rather than just waiting to draft him late in a one-year league draft; however, the list of injuries seems to be getting out of control right now. Look at the players on each team’s disabled list (as of Saturday, 4/13):
Colorado Rockies: Edwar Cabrera;
Detroit Tigers: Avisail Garcia;
Philadelphia Phillies: Delmon Young;
Seattle Mariners: Michael Saunders, Josh Kinney;
Washington Nationals: Christian Garcia;
That would be 122 players currently on the disabled list, which is nearly five teams worth of shelved talent. Outside of all of the injured players, you have to add in the struggling players to the frustrations of current fantasy baseball owners. Matt Kemp, Allen Craig, Victor Martinez, Nick Swisher, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Kipnis, Ichiro Suzuki, Giancarlo Stanton, and how about all of those proud Mike Trout owners, not the start you were seeking, out of him or any of the others named, right?
It has truly been a strange start to the 2013 MLB season. Injuries and struggles have a lot to do with thatin the early going, and while it’s easy to wave the white flag, remember that there are only 151 games remaining this year. Suck it up and deal with it…like a Cubs fan does every year.