Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball

Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com

Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com

Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season would be his last on Wednesday, giving fans a full season of farewells, just as the league provided (along with some wonderful parting gifts) to the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, during the 2013 season. After 20 seasons of Hall of Fame worthy production, it may be fair to wonder if a part of the New York Yankees will disappear with him.

Posada, Rivera, Jeter, and Pettitte - The "Core Four"

Posada, Rivera, Jeter, and Pettitte – The “Core Four”

The “Core Four” of the Yankee dynasty will officially be gone after the 2014 season. Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, led the Yankees to five World Series titles and seven American League pennants over 17 playoff appearances since the start of the 1995 season. While Pettitte and Posada slowly faded away from the club, the departure of Rivera and Jeter seem to sting a bit more.

It was easy to connect Rivera to this generation of Yankee dominance – as he was responsible for finishing 952 games and collecting a save in 652 of them, not counting his 42 postseason saves and 0.70 ERA over 141 postseason innings. Rivera and “Enter Sandman” were connected to that dominance and the lack of hope that so many opposing teams felt from this era of Yankee success.

YankeesHowever, it was and always has been Derek Jeter as the heart and soul of this group. With the names of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio hanging behind him and around him, Jeter overcame the shadows of greatness to become a lingering figure for those who will come next, creating an unreasonable expectation for the man who steps foot at shortstop from Opening Day 2015 and beyond – just as David Robertson will face as the new closer in 2014.

The accolades were numerous for Jeter:

  • Five-time Gold Glove winner
  • Five-time Silver Slugger winner
  • 13 All-Star games
  • 3,316 hits (10th all-time) NOTE: Jeter is 198 hits from Tris Speaker (5th), 119 hits from Cap Anson (6th), and 104 hits from Honus Wagner (7th)
  • 1996 American League Rookie of the Year
  • 2000 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
  • 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player
  • Two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner (2006, 2009)
  • 2009 American League Roberto Clemente Award winner
  • 2010 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award winner

Jeter1While all of those awards and honors detail his effort and character, the immeasurable value of his leadership will remain one of his most impressive skills and traits. He overcame the distractions of Alex Rodriguez, Pettitte, and Jason Giambi, when their names were linked to the Mitchell Report and other steroid rumor. Additionally, he undertook a leadership role in leading baseball back to provide healing for America after the 9/11 attacks, and, while the Yankees dropped Game Seven to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, he has still found a way to cope with the insanity of the New York media circus and the audacity of those around him, or in the game, who have attempted anything to get an edge.

Based on what we know, Derek Jeter is clean – outside of the laundry list of women that he has cycled through over the years; however, Jeter is New York – he is the Joe Namath face of the game, he is the water cooler and hot dog stand conversation between fans, he is the neon lights and the hustle and bustle of Times Square, and he is pinstripes and the lore that comes with the Yankee franchise.

Sure, the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann, but none of those men will be Jeter. No one will ever be Derek Jeter. While some baseball players leave a legacy of numbers and amazing stories, Derek Jeter has touched the game in a different way. Even after being tied to the “Core Four” for such a large part of his career, Jeter separated himself to become a larger part of baseball in New York.

Jeter is the Yankees. Jeter is the pinstripes. Jeter is New York. Jeter is Major League Baseball.

When he leaves the game after the 2014 season, the heart of the game will need to beat a little harder for the rest of baseball to work. While the Yankees may wonder how to replace Jeter for quite some time, Major League Baseball as a whole has to do the same thing.

With all teams reaching Spring Training by the end of this week, the 2014 season just became a bit more special. While the tributes, gifts, and focus on Derek Jeter may become obnoxious by the All-Star break, he has earned it. Love or hate the Yankees, you still have to respect Jeter.

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The Explosion of Javier Baez

Baez2After an incredible season in 2013 that saw him reach Double-A at the age of 20, Chicago Cubs’ shortstop (or third baseman…or outfielder) prospect Javier Baez seems to have enough helium in the world of prospects to reach the moon. Certainly, ripping 34 doubles and 37 home runs while driving in 111 runs and stealing 20 bases can lead to a lot of hype, and it appears to be warranted.

Prior to the 2013 season, Baez was already a top 20 prospect, earning the No. 16 ranking at both Baseball America and MLB.com, and No. 20 at Baseball Prospectus. So far this winter, that number has climbed significantly, mainly due to his extreme ceiling, while having very little to do with major league graduations. Just a quick look at the rankings that Baez has earned from prospect sites this off-season:

The Baseball Haven: No. 8

Baseball Prospectus: No. 4

MLB.com: No. 7

MinorLeagueBall.com: No. 8 (end of 2013, 9/27/13)

FantasyAssembly.com: No. 5

Prospect361.com: No. 5

TopProspectAlert.com: No. 11

RotoAnalysis.com: No. 2

FantasySquads.com: No. 10

Scout.com: No. 13

DeepLeagues.com: No. 13

There are, obviously, some differences in opinion on his true value, but Baez has quite a few nice things being said about him, as well:

“Baez could end a 40 HR shortstop. That’s his ceiling. That’s actually a possibility. Likely? Not sure. But its possible. How many prospects in baseball can make such a claim? That’s a truly elite ceiling. That’s a generational talent. That’s why he has a case for #1.” – Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus

“The young infielder has all the ingredients necessary to be an all-star for the Cubs, regardless of where he ends up — shortstop, third base or even the outfield.” – Marc Hulet, FanGraphs

“Otherworldy bat speed and an aggressive approach plus the tools to (maybe) stay at shortstop if he can get the errors down. If not, he’d slot great at third base. There’s some risk here due to contact but I think he can be a Giancarlo Stanton-type hitter. The commonly-used Gary Sheffield comp works in terms of bat speed, but Sheffield had a much more refined approach and I don’t think Baez will hit for a Sheffield-like average. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a star.” – John Sickels, Minor League Ball

“There is no mistaking the bat as a game changing thumper. But what places Baez at #1 (in the Cubs’ system) is the fact that he is going to remain in the infield. A move to 3B is in the cards most likely where the Cubs have a dire need to finally fill the spot. Still on target with a 30 HR type with double digit SB and sticking in the INF. With an IsoP of .200+ the strikeout rate will be digestible and his approach should mature over time. Again, 37 HR over two levels with a total of 75 XBHs with 20 SB. His numbers were outstanding and through it all he actually improved the dismal walk rate from 2012 to 6.2% in High-A and then 8.1% in Double-A. A total IsoP number of nearly .300 on the season is other worldly. But that K rate is still a major issue although not one that will limit his ability to be a Major League regular. He handled SS really well and it looks like the Cubs are giving him every shot and being that Future SS. With the draft selection of Kris Bryant, the Cubs have a lot of flexibility with their future. I see Baez as the 3B answer.” - Thomas Belmont, Baseball Instinct

“The upside that Baez holds from a fantasy perspective is likely second to only Byron Buxton—and the likely gets added in there because Baez may actually have more, given his potential eligibility. The tools are crazy and even though he doesn’t have the strongest run tool, he’s still 46-for-55 in stolen bases during his 215 minor-league games. Even if you can’t put him at shortstop (which is far from a definitive outcome), you’d take 30 homers, 15-plus steals and a .280 average from just about anywhere on the diamond. He’s a no-doubt top-five fantasy prospect in baseball.” – Brett Sayre, Baseball Prospectus

Baez1The consensus seems to be an All-Star caliber talent with some flaws, as far as contact, who can become a game changer, in real-life or fantasy baseball, due to his quick hands and raw power. With Baez, Addison Russell, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Xander Bogaerts coming up through various systems, it appears that the game will be taken over by offensive-minded shortstops, as the Alex Rodriguez-Derek Jeter-Nomar Garciaparra-Miguel Tejada Era of Major League Baseball was impacted.

Javier Baez seems like an athletic freak, producing power from his 6’0″, 195 pound frame. Below is a video of highlights from Baseball Instinct (via YouTube), where you can observe all of the otherwordly power and bat speed that was suggested by prospect insiders:

The term “generational talent” doesn’t get thrown around very often, although the label has been given to the likes of Mark Prior, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout over the last decade. Injuries can always be a deterrent for players to reach their full, long-term potential, but the types of seasons that those four players have provided, even if it is just two to four seasons of that production, would be welcomed by any club. Risks aside, Baez is worthy of the high praise, the high rankings, and the sudden discussion of his eventual rise to dominance and stardom in Chicago. With all due respect to Starlin Castro, Baez shouldn’t have to move off of shortstop once he reaches Chicago – his potential dwarfs that of Castro, who has quickly become an afterthought to the hype of the Puerto Rican slugger.

Alex Rodriguez: Proving Steroids Don’t Work

ARod1By now you’re aware of the suspension, the 60 Minutes interviews, and the appeals and cries that Alex Rodriguez has developed to help protect an image that seems as lost and desperate as a shepherd-less sheep. The one-time superstar and three-time MVP appears to have sunken to a new low in suing Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union for their attacks on his character and their lack of guidance in the processes, and while Rodriguez continues to blame everyone but himself, he likely feels betrayed by the drugs that were supposed to help him maintain his Hall of Fame career, but, instead, crippled his abilities and his legacy.

For all of the growing skulls, biceps, and home run numbers, there hasn’t been a true study to show how steroids impact player performance. It is quite unlikely that Major League Baseball will allow players to openly cheat, just to gain a better understanding of how a player could or does perform while doping, and while there are the typical expectations of energy and recovery time, steroids don’t provide the skills necessary to swing a bat and slug a 95 mile per hour fastball into oblivion.

Alex Rodriguez is the perfect example of the failures of baseball’s menace.

Certainly, there were times that steroids may have helped Alex Rodriguez. After being outed by Sports Illustrated in February of 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using in 2001, 2002, and 2003 while with the Texas Rangers, a trifecta of seasons that brought Rodriguez a .305/.395/.615 triple-slash, 156 home runs, 395 RBI, and his first MVP (2003). If Rodriguez wasn’t using outside of those seasons, he would go on to win MVPs in 2005 and 2007, well before his time with Biogenesis and Tony Bosch began; although, Rodriguez was linked to Anthony Galea, a Canadian who was busted for shuttling PED goodies to the United States, in 2010.

But if Alex Rodriguez was indeed using throughout his career, then what would cause his numbers to decline?

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB Awards
1994 18 SEA 17 59 54 4 11 0 0 0 2 3 3 20 .204 .241 .204 .445 11
1995 19 SEA 48 149 142 15 33 6 2 5 19 4 6 42 .232 .264 .408 .672 58
1996 20 SEA 146 677 601 141 215 54 1 36 123 15 59 104 .358 .414 .631 1.045 379 AS,MVP-2,SS
1997 21 SEA 141 638 587 100 176 40 3 23 84 29 41 99 .300 .350 .496 .846 291 AS
1998 22 SEA 161 748 686 123 213 35 5 42 124 46 45 121 .310 .360 .560 .919 384 AS,MVP-9,SS
1999 23 SEA 129 572 502 110 143 25 0 42 111 21 56 109 .285 .357 .586 .943 294 MVP-15,SS
2000 24 SEA 148 672 554 134 175 34 2 41 132 15 100 121 .316 .420 .606 1.026 336 AS,MVP-3,SS
2001 25 TEX 162 732 632 133 201 34 1 52 135 18 75 131 .318 .399 .622 1.021 393 AS,MVP-6,SS
2002 26 TEX 162 725 624 125 187 27 2 57 142 9 87 122 .300 .392 .623 1.015 389 AS,MVP-2,GG,SS
2003 27 TEX 161 715 607 124 181 30 6 47 118 17 87 126 .298 .396 .600 .995 364 AS,MVP-1,GG,SS
2004 28 NYY 155 698 601 112 172 24 2 36 106 28 80 131 .286 .375 .512 .888 308 AS,MVP-14
2005 29 NYY 162 715 605 124 194 29 1 48 130 21 91 139 .321 .421 .610 1.031 369 AS,MVP-1,SS
2006 30 NYY 154 674 572 113 166 26 1 35 121 15 90 139 .290 .392 .523 .914 299 AS,MVP-13
2007 31 NYY 158 708 583 143 183 31 0 54 156 24 95 120 .314 .422 .645 1.067 376 AS,MVP-1,SS
2008 32 NYY 138 594 510 104 154 33 0 35 103 18 65 117 .302 .392 .573 .965 292 AS,MVP-8,SS
2009 33 NYY 124 535 444 78 127 17 1 30 100 14 80 97 .286 .402 .532 .933 236 MVP-10
2010 34 NYY 137 595 522 74 141 29 2 30 125 4 59 98 .270 .341 .506 .847 264 AS,MVP-15
2011 35 NYY 99 428 373 67 103 21 0 16 62 4 47 80 .276 .362 .461 .823 172 AS
2012 36 NYY 122 529 463 74 126 17 1 18 57 13 51 116 .272 .353 .430 .783 199
2013 37 NYY 44 181 156 21 38 7 0 7 19 4 23 43 .244 .348 .423 .771 66
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2014.

ARod4The decline may not have always been drastic, and there were still successful seasons into his early 30′s, but the sharp decline up to last season is quite significant, as Rodriguez has seen his OPS go from 1.067 in 2007 (his final MVP season) to .771 in his 44 games in 2013. Additionally, since the end of the 2007 season, Rodriguez has missed 308 games, an average of 51 per season. The hip issues could certainly be attributed to excessive steroid use, as joints can be unable to handle the additional muscle mass or strength, but if the purpose of using steroids is increase stamina and recovery time, Rodriguez hasn’t been gaining an advantage sitting at home injured, nor has he proven to be all that effective when healthy, as his skills continue to diminish, along with his numbers.

As Barry Bonds aged and maintained production, specifically walking and hitting for power (although not at the levels that he was from 2000 through 2004), Rodriguez has done the exact opposite. For all of the glory that Rodriguez was hoping for by reaching 3,000 hits and, potentially, the 800 home run plateau, the storybook ending didn’t have the flow necessary to reach the climax, and the heart of the story has died with the needles to the veins of Rodriguez, whose selfishness and stupidity far outweighed the gifts that foreign substances were supposed to bring his way.

ARod2While so many focus on the ways that steroids have impacted the game of baseball, they certainly haven’t helped Alex Rodriguez, at least not in the last five seasons, and that is a large enough sample size for me to wonder if steroids can even alter performance, especially in those who are aging and need the stamina, energy, and strength that they are supposed to bring to users.

What If: ARod Ruined MLB’s 2013 Season?

This.

Alex  RodriguezSure, it’s a home run in a game that may appear meaningless, but every game that Alex Rodriguez plays in 2013 that helps the New York Yankees in any way could destroy the integrity of the entire 2013 Major League Baseball season.

After Rodriguez broke Gehrig’s grand slam record, the Yankees went on to beat the San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum 5-1 on Friday night in New York. The Bronx Bombers are now 22-18 (.550) with Alex Rodriguez after going 59-55 (.518) without him, and depending on the results of the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers games tonight, the Yankees could be just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card after tonight.

Of course, the Yankees have had a little help late this season, getting solid production from Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano in the second half, but Rodriguez and his seven home runs, 18 RBI, and 126 wRC+ shouldn’t be ignored, it is certainly more productivity than they were getting from their other third basemen, who combined to post a gross .208/.251/.283 line over 453 at-bats while compiling just 128 total bases in 114 games. Rodriguez has 56 total bases in 40 games and 142 at-bats.

The Yankees have a lot of teams to catch and with two games against the Giants, three against the Rays, and three against the Houston Astros, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could make a last minute push to playoff pay dirt.

But should Alex Rodriguez have been responsible for any of those wins, which he clearly has been, then how can Major League Baseball and Bud Selig sleep at night?

The information that the league apparently has against Rodriguez and the BioGenesis investigation was enough to suspend him through the 2014 season, but after allowing an appeal, which was necessary with the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the league was forced to allow him to play until the appeal could be heard. Considering the resources that are available to the league, contacting and solidifying an arbitrator for a hearing was within reason well before today…hell, the league should have been on the phone and had a hearing set roughly ten minutes after the suspension was handed out on August 5.

After watching Matt Kemp lose out on the NL MVP in 2011 due to another BioGenesis product, Ryan Braun, and all of the hoopla surrounding Braun’s bastardizing of the entire process and system that goes along with testing and collection, MLB can’t afford another player impacting the validity of a 162-game marathon due to their impression on the outcome of 40 to 50 games that they shouldn’t have been a part of to begin with…not when it is a single player, who could have easily just been suspended.

SeligAlex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have tarnished the record books with their use of performance-enhancing drugs, but the players who don’t have enough personal worth to be successful with their own god-given gifts don’t have to be capable of making it all about them forever. Selig should have manned up weeks ago for the integrity of the game. Alex Rodriguez shouldn’t play another game in 2013 and his suspension should be upheld immediately because you can’t go back in time to fix something that has already happened. Winning 22 games with Alex Rodriguez in the lineup or acknowledging any of the 21 runs that he has scored this season are already examples of opposing teams being wronged by a policy, a policy maker,  and a player that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do what is right for the game that they are there to serve, protect, and love.

Either be consistent by upholding a policy that was put in place to protect the integrity of the game or allow the league to be pushed over by the strongest players union in professional sports. You can’t really have it both ways. If Selig wants to change things, he needs to get Rodriguez off the field immediately.

Should MLB Teams Refuse the Mega-Contract?

Another free agency period is ahead with another Major League Baseball offseason. With so many superstars being signed to lucrative contracts with their existing clubs, players who reach free agency can make exorbitant amounts of money due to fewer players being available and television contracts that teams are using as revenue generating machines. With that being said, is a big-time contract a smart investment for a needy team this winter?

The Yankees as a Model

With Robinson Cano heading towards free agency after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees will be faced with a decision that could alter their original plan of getting under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold. With $92.4 million due to six players (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano (the Cubs are covering $13 of the $18 million owed to him), Mark Teixiera, Vernon Wells (the Angels are covering $18.6 of the $21 million owed to him), Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter (who has an $8 million player option), the Yankees, on the surface, appear to have some wiggle room in an offer to their superstar second baseman; however, the players mentioned above are the only players with guaranteed contracts next season.

Yankees vs. MarinersAdam Warren, David Phelps, and Eduardo Nunez are all pre-arbitration, so they can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum, but the club will have to deal with David Huff, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jayson Nix, Shawn Kelley, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson within arbitration, and determine whether Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mark Reynolds, Boone Logan, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and/or Lyle Overbay are worthy of being tendered a qualifying offer prior to reaching free agency. With up to 19 spots available for next season, the remaining $96.6 million doesn’t appear to be going very far.

While relief could be on the way with a possible 2014 suspension for Alex Rodriguez, from which his $25 million contract would be forfeited, the long-term contracts that the Yankees have handed out like candy are now causing financial issues as the club’s attendance continues to decline (43,733 in 2012 vs. 40,002 in 2013) along with the talent of the aging players.

Consider this:

Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old and is owed $86 million over the next four years.

C.C. Sabathia is 32 years old and is owed $76 million over the next three seasons (including his 2017 buyout).

Mark Teixiera is 33 years old and is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons.

The three have been worth a combined WAR (Fangraphs) of 2.6 in 2013 while costing the Yankees $73.5 million in salaries. For comparisons sake, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson, San Diego outfielder Chris Denorfia, Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford have each posted a 2.6 WAR in 2013…individually. If the Yankees had all five players this season, they would have spent just under $16 million, about $6.5 million less than they spent on Teixiera alone in 2013!

Why These Contracts Don’t Make Sense

By investing large sums of money into veterans when they reach free agency in the post-steroid era, teams are taking immeasurable risks.

1) They are assuming that a high-performing player will be capable of producing into their mid-30′s, and…

2) They are assuming that the high-performing player will stay healthy enough to be worth the investment.

When a player reaches free agency, they have at least six years of major league experience. The player likely had three seasons of pre-arbitration followed by three years of arbitration prior to reaching free agency. Considering that most players make their debuts between the ages of 21 and 24, a free agent is typically between the ages of 27 and 30. The magic prime age in baseball is apparently going to happen in a player’s age-27 season, lasting roughly three to five seasons. A player has reached their physical peak at this point, which allows the player to utilize their various tools to take advantage of the opposition through the use of their experience and mental approaches gained through those experiences. When a multi-year contract is given to a player at the age of 30, say a five-year contract, and that player is then declining for nearly three-fifths of the contract, what is the value to the club? Without performance-enhancers, normal aging processes, such as shoulder fatigue for aging pitchers and chronic knee soreness for a veteran position player, become normal once again. Can teams count on a 39-year-old shortstop to play in 162 games? Ask Derek Jeter how his season went.

Unfortunate Recent Examples

Albert Pujols signed his ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following his age-31 season in St. Louis. To make the deal more affordable and to allow the Angels some financial flexibility, Pujols’ contract was heavily back-loaded, meaning he will be making the most money at the end of his contract when he is approaching or passing the age of 40. In fact, in Pujols’ tenth season with the Angels, he is scheduled to make $30 million, the highest annual salary within his contract. After making a combined $28 million in 2012 and 2013, Pujols’ contract will jump to $23 million in 2014 and climb $1 million each season before reaching $30 million in 2021.

VottoHowever, Pujols hasn’t really lived up to the contract based on his production over the first 11 seasons in the majors, as he has posted the lowest WAR of his career in consecutive seasons (3.7 in 2012 and 0.7 in 2013). He was shutdown on August 19 due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia and he  should be ready to go next season; however, since he isn’t undergoing surgery, how well will this injury heal? Although the tear supposedly did what the surgery would have, one has to wonder if it can be aggravated, torn further (since it is still a partial tear), and debilitating enough to plague Pujols throughout the remainder of his massive contract.

And what about the contract that the “small-market” Cincinnati Reds gave to Joey Votto? The Reds handed Votto a ten-year, $225 million extension in April of 2012. The contract hasn’t even started yet, as the first year of the extension will be the 2014 season, Votto’s age-30 season. For ten years, the Reds will hope that Votto will produce numbers similar to his 2010 MVP season, something that he hasn’t seemed capable of reproducing over the last three seasons, despite leading the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons, four including 2010. When you consider that the Reds are winning in 2013 and they still average just 31,479 in attendance (16th in MLB), how will the team be able to contend when Votto is making $25 million per season beginning in 2018, when he is 34 years old?

Even worse, the contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard received his extension in April of 2010 and it didn’t go into effect until the 2012 season, a five-year, $125 million deal that would begin in Howard’s age-32 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has played in 151 games while posting a .244/.307/.445 line with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, and a whopping 194 strikeouts in 609 plate appearances. The previous seven seasons, Howard had a .275/.368/.560 line with an average of 26 doubles, 41 home runs, and 123 RBI per season, and that was including his declining 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which Howard posted the lowest OPS of his career (.859 in 2010 and .835 in 2011)…that was, of course, until his dreadful 2012 season (.718 OPS).

The Problem With TV Deals

I was able to get a response from Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh when I asked him via Twitter, “Do you think MLB teams are going to shy away from mega contract due to the Pujols/Howard/Hamilton deals in post steroid era?” His response:

The TV money, which was mentioned previously, is an interesting enhancement to the revenue stream for major league teams. With the Los Angeles Dodgers getting over $6 billion over 25 years from Time Warner in  their TV deal, which will give the club nearly $240 million per year in revenue, the already crazy expenditures of the boys in blue could become even more egregious this winter. The club seems capable of locking up left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a contract worth $30 million per season or more this winter, AND signing Robinson Cano to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who has a $5.75 million option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. By taking on those types of contracts on top of the Carl Crawford ($20.25 million in 2014), Matt Kemp ($21 million in 2014), Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million in 2014), Zack Greinke ($26 million in 2014), and Andre Ethier ($15.5 million in 2014) deals, the Dodgers will be willingly entering the luxury tax threshold in an effort to win the World Series.

KempBut what happens when money can’t buy titles? The New York Yankees seemed to always have the highest payroll in baseball and they haven’t won the title every season. Spending doesn’t quantify wins, it is, as Lindbergh referenced, the winner’s curse. This concept is outlined in Colin Wyers 2009 Baseball Prospectus piece titled The Real Cursewhich Wyers states:

The market for baseball players seems to more closely resemble a sealed-bid auction than it does a market. Since the person who wins that sort of auction is typically the person with the largest bid, it stands to reason that the person who “wins” is in fact the person who overbids…

The curse is then being the winning bid on a contract that was probably more than what another team was willing to bid. By evaluating players and making smart investments, teams that break the curse are able to get production out of what they spend, while teams that suffer from the curse are those that fail to get production out of their investment, as in the suffering that the Cubs went through with Alfonso Soriano, the joint suffering of the Blue Jays and Angels over the Vernon Wells contract, and the Giants’ suffering through the Barry Zito contract.

When spending goes wrong, it can financially cripple a franchise, who is then responsible for allocating funds to an under-performing player while still trying to field a competitive team around that player. Teams seem more likely to take those types of risks, though. Due to the incoming revenue from the TV deals, teams like the Cleveland Indians, who celebrated the sale of the franchise owned SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports this winter by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, are more capable of making these potentially fatal bids.

Will the money continue to be there for clubs to take on these large, risky contracts?

Pete Kotz had an amazing story about the leagues finances, and while discussing television deals, he says:

With no one saying no, the networks see sports as a no-lose racket, with ESPN as its piper. The sports channel charges cable companies $5 a month per customer, by far the highest monthly fee in national television. While that may seem a pittance, it’s big money when spread over the 100 million U.S. households with pay TV. And it’s made the other big boys envious.

NBC and CBS have launched their own sports channels. Another from Fox is on the way. Even regional sports channels are starting to broach that $5 mark. Their bet is that viewers will always be willing to pay more. And more. And more.

…Today, the average TV bill rests at $86 per month, about half of which pays for sports programming. That’s more than double a decade ago. So it’s no coincidence that the cable and satellite industries have been jettisoning customers for nine years straight.

 “I can’t tell you what will be the trigger,” says Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association. “But I am certain that at some point in the very near future, that balloon will burst.”

As cable and satellite customers are forced to pay more and they continue to leave those companies in an effort to save money, the money will eventually not be coming in. The cable and satellite companies will likely battle with the club’s networks to get lower rates, and there could be something drastic, like CBS being taken away from major markets. Eventually, the boom in finances and long-term contracts will go away and the inevitable crash will make it harder for clubs to make large financial commitments to star players. Imagine if the housing market was responsible for financing people’s salaries and when the market for home sales crashed how disastrous that could have been…but it did and it was miserable for the entire economy.

Major League Baseball is exempt from some things due to anti-trust laws, but nothing is too big to fail.

Who Is Worth a Mega-Contract?

harper troutIt may seem easy to say that locking up players within their pre-arbitration or arbitration years to lucrative, long-term contracts seems more intelligent than waiting until free agency, as the annual salaries can slowly increase rather than starting and sitting at $25 million per year for eight straight seasons. A few examples of players who could be worth a long-term investment in this scenario:

  • Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is earning $510,000 in 2013 and he is pre-arbitration in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If Trout continues his torrid pace for the next four seasons and reaches free agency in 2018 at the age of 26, what types of maniacal offers will he be receiving at that point?
  • Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper signed a major league contract and will be arbitration eligible in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before reaching free agency at the age of 25 in 2019. Like Trout, he has posted absurd numbers, given his age, and, with Scott Boras as his current agent, could own half of a franchise based on what he will be offered in free agency.
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez, Marlins’ right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey (upon his return in 2015 from elbow surgery…if he is just as productive and dominant) are additional players who fit this mold.

Why are these types of players worth a long-term investment? Because they are young, producing prior to their prime years, and are more likely to continue producing towards the end of a 10 to 15 year extension than a player who turns 40 or 41 in year ten of their long-term contracts, like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.

These are the types of mega-contracts that seem more reasonable and realistic for franchises, while being less likely to provide a curse on the investing bidder. Because the player is within the grasp of the franchise already, the team has all kinds of data available to analyze, they have coaches and front office personnel who have strong relationships with the player, and the fan-base, media, and community surrounding the player are already familiar, so it could be assumed that there are fewer outside influences that could impact player performance.

SeligRegardless of the potential that these younger players possess, any long-term contract remains a risk for the franchise. If the clubs suddenly refuse to offer these types of contracts, however, the league and its owners would likely be accused of collusion. The mega-contract isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite future reluctance to meet the demands of players and agents to attain these large salaries, there will likely be enough money, or a few teams with large enough revenue streams, for at least one of these deals to be made each offseason. As fewer and fewer star players seem to reach free agency due to long-term commitments with their existing franchise (like Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez), the stars that do reach free agency will likely continue to get the lucrative deals.

Starting to Feel Bad for ARod

ARod3Alex Rodriguez is a monster! Alex Rodriguez needs to disappear! Alex Rodriguez is what is wrong with baseball! Alex Rodriguez had a painting commissioned of him as a centaur! Alex Rodriguez is a whiny baby! Alex Rodriguez is overpaid!

You know, Alex Rodriguez has really messed up, and he appears to have done so several times in his career. His entire career has been under a microscope as the heir-apparent in Seattle to the great Ken Griffey, Jr., and it has only taken off with his exorbitant contracts that he has been given by the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees during his career.

Sure, what he has done with performance-enhancing drugs is an absolute atrocity to baseball, and his persona and character should be questioned for his apparent tampering with evidence and bribes that he has been linked to within the Biogenesis case, but does he deserve as much scrutiny as he is receiving?

ARod2With Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds no longer on the field, Alex Rodriguez is the face of the steroid era and all of the nastiness that it has brought to Major League Baseball. Alex Rodriguez appears to have purchased and injected steroids into all of the aforementioned superstars behinds, while helping to create the disgusting lies that led to Ryan Braun‘s successful appeal of his first failed test and his subsequent Anti-Semite comments that were directed towards the urine collector. Alex Rodriguez cheated baseball so badly over the last 20 years that he is the asterisk that is going to be next to Barry Bonds in the record book and he will become the definition and the first image that appears when you Google cheaters in baseball.

I understand that Alex Rodriguez did something terribly wrong. I understand that Alex Rodriguez wasn’t a gentleman in a game that is painted as poetic by the brilliant mind of so many writers. I understand that Alex Rodriguez is a liar, he’s flawed, he’s horrible, he’s appalling, he’s demonic, and he’s human, and while others have tried to out so many others for their mistakes, especially the 2011 NL MVP, Braun, Rodriguez is attacking his issues in the court room, or at least face-to-face with Major League Baseball, instead of lying to his teammates, slandering those around him (including a urine specimen collector), and  taking to the media to ridicule the processes.

Certainly, he isn’t innocent, but neither were all of those who came before him and along with him in the unreleased positive tests that sit in the hands of Bud Selig in the New York offices of Major League Baseball. To be labeled as the poster-child of an entire failed era of a sport…he is totally unworthy of that.

Major League Baseball turned a blind eye for so long on this issue that they are and will continue to be the group or persons who need to take the blame. There is no committee in Congress, no bottle in a locker, no investigative report by the mainstream media, and no amount of paperwork that the commissioner’s office can make public that will change the fact that owners and the league didn’t think that steroids were a problem when the gates were flooding with fans after the 1994 strike and the massively muscled power-hitters made baseball interesting again.

ARod1Alex Rodriguez is no saint, he is no victim, but he definitely isn’t the only problem, and he should not be getting attacked in the manner that he has been for the failings of those who were in charge of the game before and during his soon-to-be asterisk-ridden career.

 

Who is the Greatest Right-Handed Hitter Ever?

Miguel CabreraMiguel Cabrera is amazing. His 1.139 OPS, 37 home runs, and 111 RBI entering play on Wednesday are incredible end-season totals, but the 30-year-old slugger has 44 games remaining this season. After winning the 2012 AL MVP and winning the first Triple Crown since 1967, Cabrera is ranked 1st or 2nd in all three Triple Crown categories again this season.

Does the last eleven years of dominance make Miguel Cabrera a Hall of Famer, or, bigger yet, the best right-handed hitter to ever play the game?

Taking a look at the record books and the history of the game, who would qualify as a competitor in this argument?

aaronHank Aaron: The non-asterisk version of the all-time home run king, “Hammerin’ Hank” also holds the all-time record for RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). His career .305 average and .928 OPS show his skills were not limited to mashing and there will never be a power hitter like him again, as his 1,383 strikeouts in 13,941 plate appearances (9.9 percent strikeout rate) exceeds the contact rate of any masher in today’s strikeout-heavy era.

Frank Robinson: Over a 16-year span, Robinson hit .302/.393/.550 while averaging 31 home runs and 97 RBI per season. He didn’t age all that well, earning one All-Star appearance and 21 points in MVP voting over his last seven seasons, but he was a two-time MVP, a Triple Crown winner in 1966, and a 12-time All-Star over his 21-year career.

Manny Ramirez: It may have been an ugly ending to his career with the female hormones and the steroid accusations, but Manny Ramirez was an incredible baseball player. For 14 years (1995-2008), Ramirez averaged 36 home runs, 119 RBI, and a .317/.414/.598 triple-slash, which led to 508 home runs and 1,660 RBI over that time. While his legacy is tarnished by the use of performance-enhancing drugs or illegal supplements, he hit the baseball better than nearly anyone in his generation during his prime.

PujolsAlbert Pujols: Recently outed by former Major-Leager Jack Clark for steroid use, Pujols is still considered clean due to no documented steroid use and no publicly acknowledged failed drug test. Some thought that he was sliding in 2012 when he posted an OPS of .859, but he still hit 30 homers and drove in over 100 runs. The true decline started with his plantar fasciitis injury in 2013. Over Pujols’ first 12 seasons, though, he was a monster, averaging 40 home runs, 120 RBI, and a triple-slash of .325/.414/.608. Three MVP awards and nine All-Star appearances later, the 33-year-old first baseman has another eight years remaining on his contract in Los Angeles, so he will continue to add to those numbers, decline or not.

Alex Rodriguez: ARod is taking the fall for the entire steroid era right now, as he hasn’t failed a drug test but is being demonized for his admission of mistakes, the same thing that Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire did, but, in his prime, he was, arguably, the greatest player ever. Over 15 seasons (1996-2010), Rodriguez hit 608 home runs, drove in 1,810 runs, stole 294 bases, and posted a .305/.390/.576 triple-slash while averaging 41 home runs and 121 RBI per season. He may not be clean, just like Ramirez, but he still had to hit the ball and he always did.

ClementeRoberto Clemente: His first five seasons weren’t fantastic but the next 13 were pretty incredible, as Clemente won an MVP, 12 straight Gold Gloves, and made 12 All-Star appearances while earning MVP votes in 12 seasons. Clemente averaged a .329/.375/.503 line and, while he didn’t have light tower power like others on this list, he averaged 25 doubles, 10 triples, 16 home runs, and 82 RBI over his 13 best seasons. With his death at the age of 38 while on a humanitarian mission, Clemente ended his career with exactly 3,000 hits, and one could wonder how many more he could have had after he posted a .312/.356/.479 line in his final season.

Hank Greenberg: What could Greenberg have done without losing nearly a full season to a broken wrist and four seasons due to serving in World War II? If you take out Greenberg’s 1936 season (wrist injury), from 1934 through 1940, he hit .329/.435/.645 with 273 doubles (45 per season), 234 home runs (39 per season), and 900 RBI (150 per season). When he returned for his first full season after the war, 1946, Greenberg hit 44 home runs and 127 RBI while posting a .977 OPS. He was one of the greatest players in history, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956, despite missing so much time during his prime.

Nap Lajoie: Say what you want about the dead ball era because LaJoie was still producing. A career OPS+ of 150 to go with his .338/.380/.466 triple-slash shows that it wasn’t all infield singles and slap-hitting during his time. LaJoie averaged 35 doubles, eight triples, four home runs, 82 RBI, and 20 stolen bases with his .351/.395/.488 triple-slash from 1897 to 1913 (17 seasons), including his 1901 Triple Crown season when he led the AL in home runs (14), hits (232), runs (145), doubles (48), RBI (125), total bases (350), batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.463), slugging percentage (.643), and OPS (1.106).

Joe DiMaggio: Like Greenberg, DiMaggio missed time while serving in the military including all of the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons. In DiMaggio’s first 10 seasons, he averaged 32 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 128 RBI, and a triple-slash of .330/.398/.589. Considering DiMaggio missed his age-28 through age-30 seasons while being a hero and was done playing by the age of 36, the fact that he had 3 MVP awards, 13 All-Star appearances (every season he played), and over 2,200 hits speaks volumes to his overall ability.

MaysWillie Mays: Over a 13-year span (1954-1966), Mays hit .315/.390/.615 with 380 doubles (29 per season), 113 triples (9 per season), 518 home runs (40 per season), 1414 RBI (109 RBI per season), and 270 stolen bases (21 per season). Possibly the greatest all-around player to ever step foot on a diamond, Mays’ abilities are evident by his overall numbers, two MVP awards, 20 All-Star appearances, and 12 Gold Gloves. It’s possible that his 1972 and 1973 seasons take a little off of what people remember him to be, as his time in a New York Mets’ uniform were nothing short of ghastly.

Honus Wagner: Like LaJoie, Wagner was a “victim” of the dead ball era. The man with the most valuable baseball card ever managed a .340/.404/.489 line over 16 seasons while averaging 35 doubles, 13 triples, six home runs, 94 RBI, and 40 stolen bases per season from 1898 through 1913. He won eight batting titles, led the league in OPS eight times, and had a career OPS+ of 151.

Jimmie Foxx: For 13 seasons (1929-1941) Foxx abused opposing pitchers to the tune of 30 doubles, eight triples, 39 home runs, 139 RBI, and a triple-slash of .332/.438/.634, while reaching 500 home runs by the age of 32. By the age of 34, Foxx was basically finished, as he hit .237/.320/.366 with just 15 home runs and 73 RBI over his final 618 plate appearances, but he was one of the most dangerous hitters of all-time prior to that point.

Rogers Hornsby: From 1919 through 1929, Hornsby had a triple-slash of .377/.453/.619 while hitting over .400 three times, winning two MVP awards, and winning seven batting titles. Hornsby could do it all from the right side of the plate in an era that was dominated by Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig.

So, with the aforementioned players above, where would Cabrera rank?

Considering that Cabrera is likely headed towards a slight decline as he gets into his 30′s, his physique leaves much to be desired, and he is currently stuck playing third base, when he should probably be playing first base or designated hitter, due to the presence of Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder in Detroit, what will the next ten seasons for Cabrera look like?

While no one will likely age like Barry Bonds, who hit 470 home runs after turning 31 years old, or Babe Ruth, who hit 405 home runs after turning 31, there are others that Cabrera could equal from age 31-on to post pretty dramatic numbers. For example, Raul Ibanez has managed to post a .278/.340/.473 triple-slash with 244 home runs and 959 RBI since turning 31. Even Carlton Fisk hit .261/.329/.441 with 242 home runs and 866 RBI in his post-30′s. You would think that make the probability of Cabrera reaching 600 home runs at over 90 percent.

Cabrera1However, after looking at the declines and disappearances of some of the greatest players of all-time, nothing can be certain. Miguel Cabrera has several years remaining in his career but he certainly ranks among the top 10 right-handed hitters of all time based on his production to this point. Due to his connection to Mike Trout in the 2012 AL MVP voting, you could wonder if the remainder of Cabrera’s career could be overshadowed by the statistics that are produced by Trout, Bryce Harper, or other yet-to-be-named superstars.

When all is said and done, though, who will be the greatest right-handed hitter of all time? Cabrera, one of the players mentioned above, or the field?

Steroids, Moonshots, Cheaters, and Moving On

BraunIn December of 2011, I wrote about Ryan Braun getting suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Today, Braun was suspended for the remainder of the season for his association with Biogenesis and the use of another illegal substance to gain an advantage in Major League Baseball. Certainly, Braun won’t be the only player suspended,  and the media circus will really take off when Alex Rodriguez gets his suspension in the coming days or weeks, but many others have been linked to the Miami-based lab, including:

Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Oakland starting fat-so Bartolo Colon, and several others.

Unfortunately, some of these players have been here before, particularly Braun, Rodriguez, and Melky Cabrera, but what is it about performance-enhancing drugs that is causing this type of reaction from fans, media, and baseball?

Cheaters have always been able to get by without extreme testing, suspensions, and legacy-tarnishing damnation. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame (1991) and he doctored baseballs with spit and vasoline. Joe Niekro had a 22 year career filled with knuckleballs and sandpaper on his fingers. Whitey Ford is a Hall of Famer (1974) and he cut the baseball with his wedding ring. Players in the 1950′s through the 1970′s popped greenies and players in the 1970′s and 1980′s were snorting cocaine.

So…while taking steroids is altering the body, is it hurting the game?

Bonds1One could argue and point to Barry Bonds‘ massive head and asterisk-laden home run record for some reference, but Bonds still had to hit the ball. He may have been able to recover quicker, but doesn’t baseball want their stars on the field?

What if Ken Griffey, Jr. was on steroids instead of aging so poorly, would he have broken Hank Aaron‘s record and kept playing? He played 140 games or more just three times from 2000 until his retirement in 2010, but would people have remembered a Herculean physique as he got older instead of the backwards cap and smile that people remember so fondly of “The Kid”?

What if pitchers took MORE performance-enhancing drugs so that they didn’t miss starts? No need for platelet-rich plasma injections, just inject some mega-bull semen into your body, or whatever it really is that is making an athlete that much more impressive than his counterparts.

Bonds1The end result from Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire looking like chiseled body builders swinging toothpicks was excitement. More people were in seats because people wanted to see a special player hit the baseball off of the face of the moon and not seven no-hitters in one season.

There is value in a pitcher’s duel, but Philip Humber? Kevin Millwood? Should these guys be listed under no-hitters for the 2012 season? Give me more players hitting almost 40 home runs before the All-Star Break like Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and give it to me yesterday.

Baseball is a game that hasn’t progressed much over history. There are still nine players on a diamond, throwing a small round ball and hitting it with a long, round, wooden bat. Players are bigger, stronger, and faster in all sports today than they were twenty years ago, just compare Michael Jordan to LeBron James.

Players take care of their bodies differently, using vitamins, shakes, and many other dietary supplements to increase their strength and stamina. They are playing a game for 10 to 15 years and then moving on to autograph shows, families, and hitting or pitching coach jobs and can only earn at the highest level after their arbitration years are over and they reach free agency. This gives players about four to seven years to earn their top dollars, while producing enough to make them an asset for their team still. If that requires help, they should be entitled to it because, after all, it is their body, their future, and their side effects that they have to live with.

The chances of a player dying from steroids, as people seem to blame on former All-Star Ken Caminiti, is that people are just as likely to do something asinine after having several concussions in football, like the late Junior Seau. Why should MLB protect players from themselves when the NFL seems to not care one bit about their players, particularly those who have already retired?

GriffeyLet the players play, produce, and be exciting to watch. Protect them from pitches to the head, fans running onto the field, and from being taken advantage of by agents and scouts in Latin America, but don’t tell them how to take care of their bodies. Bud Selig needs his stars on the field and the stars need to be doing what they do best, and if they need a little help, they should have it. Every other era in the history of the game has had access to something, so why not these guys?

 
//

O’s My Goodness: Manny Machado is Elite

Strange relationship for you here:

Player A:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2012 19 51 202 191 24 50 8 3 7 26 2 9 38 .262 .294 .445 .739 99 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Player B:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2003 20 87 346 314 39 84 21 3 12 62 0 25 84 .268 .325 .468 .793 106 147
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Both of these players were shortstops in their first full seasons in the minors, but upon arrival in MLB, they were playing other positions (third base and/or outfield). In 2012, Player A’s team went 33-18 (.647) in his 51 games and Player B’s team went 56-31 (.644) in his 87 games in 2003. Both players led their surprising teams to the playoffs and both players are now dominating in 2013.

If you looked at the years and guessed that Player A is Manny Machado and Player B is Miguel Cabrera, congratulations.

Machado1Machado was a year younger when he reached Baltimore but in 2013, he has erupted offensively in the same way that Cabrera did in 2004 for the Marlins. Machado’s 2013 line:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 20 BAL AL 66 303 284 42 90 28 2 5 34 5 14 42 .317 .351 .482 .834 124 137
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Miguel CabreraWhen compared to Cabrera’s first full season, Machado’s numbers won’t really measure up, but, again, he is a year younger. After all, a 20-year-old who is currently on pace for 68 doubles, 12 home runs, 85 RBI, and 12 stolen bases isn’t awful, but they don’t really touch Cabrera’s All-Star 2004 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2004 21 FLA NL 160 685 603 101 177 31 1 33 112 5 68 148 .294 .366 .512 .879 130 309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Machado3Manny Machado is finally gaining the attention that is so well deserved. Not only is he producing offensively, but he has become the top third baseman in baseball. He ranks third in fielding percentage (.985 behind Placido Polanco and Juan Uribe, who are brutal as far as their range is concerned), first in range factor (3.06), and first in UZR/150 (28.2, David Wright is second with a 20.2 among third basemen).

Certainly, it seems unrealistic to label Manny Machado as the next Miguel Cabrera, as the Detroit Tigers third baseman is currently just three home runs back from Machado’s teammate Chris Davis (18 to Davis’ 21), or he would be leading in all Triple Crown categories, after becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) when he won the award, along with AL MVP honors, in 2012; however, Machado has become one of the top players in baseball and worthy of the same hype that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had last season. While he isn’t putting up the absurd numbers that Trout did in 2012, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t just as special. After all, how soon we forget about Trout hitting .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances.

Machado4Manny Machado’s ceiling is that of an All-Star and if he ends up back at shortstop after J.J. Hardy‘s eventual departure, you’re looking at a player that is capable of matching Troy Tulowitzki‘s production in the middle infield. Not only that, but if Machado fills out his 6’2″ frame, he could even match-up with the man that he was compared to so frequently after being drafted at of a Miami high school – Alex Rodriguez…but…since ARod isn’t really a very “clean” name right now, lets just say that Machado becomes one of the top right-handed hitters of the generation, just like Cabrera.

Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/10

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 MyersDylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.

Yordano1

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 18 Royals FRk 0 1 2.78 10 5 22.2 28 11 7 0 5 11 1.456 11.1 4.4 2.20
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-FRk 4 3 3.08 17 9 64.1 58 33 22 3 18 71 1.181 8.1 9.9 3.94
2010 19 Royals FRk 0 1 2.31 3 3 11.2 9 5 3 0 1 13 0.857 6.9 10.0 13.00
2010 19 Royals Rk 4 2 3.25 14 6 52.2 49 28 19 3 17 58 1.253 8.4 9.9 3.41
2011 20 Kane County A 4 6 4.27 19 19 84.1 82 43 40 8 24 88 1.257 8.8 9.4 3.67
2012 21 3 Teams A+-AA-Rk 4 7 3.62 23 23 109.1 92 49 44 8 42 130 1.226 7.6 10.7 3.10
2012 21 Royals Rk 0 0 2.45 1 1 3.2 3 1 1 0 1 7 1.091 7.4 17.2 7.00
2012 21 Wilmington A+ 3 5 3.30 16 16 76.1 66 32 28 7 28 98 1.231 7.8 11.6 3.50
2012 21 Northwest Arkansas AA 1 2 4.60 6 6 29.1 23 16 15 1 13 25 1.227 7.1 7.7 1.92
2013 22 Northwest Arkansas AA 3 0 1.84 6 6 29.1 19 7 6 1 11 43 1.023 5.8 13.2 3.91
5 Seasons 15 17 3.45 75 62 310.0 279 143 119 20 100 343 1.223 8.1 10.0 3.43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Ventura tends to be overlooked due to his height. Despite being just 5’11″ and  180 pounds, the soon-to-be 22-year-old with a mid-to-upper 90′s fastball is doing all that he can to create some hype and become one of the top prospects in baseball. Prior to the 2013 season, Ventura was ranked by Baseball America as the No.85 prospect and by MLB.com as the No.60 prospect in baseball. While he could end up in the bullpen due to his reliance on his dominant fastball and excellent curve, he could still improve his changeup enough to become a rotation fixture in Kansas City. His last two starts have been absolutely dominant in Double-A, as he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and a 20:5 K:BB in 11 innings. Tim Lincecum, Whitey Ford, and Pedro Martinez had some success as pitchers under six feet tall, so don’t squash the idea that Ventura could dominate as a starter.

Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 Greenville A 12 5 4.87 23 22 101.2 100 58 55 10 47 130 1.446 8.9 11.5 2.77
2013 20 Salem A+ 3 1 2.25 6 6 32.0 17 9 8 2 11 40 0.875 4.8 11.2 3.64
2 Seasons 15 6 4.24 29 28 133.2 117 67 63 12 58 170 1.309 7.9 11.4 2.93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

The anti-Ventura, Owens is a 6’6″ left-hander with three solid pitches in the Red Sox organization. While other young pitchers, like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman, are thriving in the system’s higher levels, Owens is dominating in High-A and demonstrating statistics that match his skills, something that wasn’t true last season. Owens is missing more bats and, while he won’t turn 21 years old until July, could see a few starts in Double-A this season. The Red Sox have to be excited about the progress that he has shown this season.

Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red SoxCecchini

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 Lowell A- 32 133 114 21 34 12 1 3 23 12 17 19 .298 .398 .500 .898 57
2012 21 Greenville A 118 526 455 84 139 38 4 4 62 51 61 90 .305 .394 .433 .827 197
2013 22 Salem A+ 29 126 108 22 41 11 4 4 19 10 18 16 .380 .468 .667 1.135 72
3 Seasons 179 785 677 127 214 61 9 11 104 73 96 125 .316 .406 .482 .888 326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Cecchini is Owens’ teammate with High-A Salem, and while he doesn’t possess the normal hitting skills of a dynamic corner infielder, he is seems to be a robotic producer. Cecchini currently leads the Carolina League in total bases, and while he has just four home runs, his 19 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases, and .468 on-base percentage show the type of talent that he has. At 22, it may be time to wonder if he’ll be able to produce enough pop to be valuable at third, especially with the Red Sox potentially moving Xander Bogaerts off of short in the future; however, hits 38 doubles last season could turn into home runs as he continues to fill his 6’2″ frame. He’s a pure hitter and possesses sabermetric skills that the Red Sox front office is known to drool over.

Baxendale

D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 2 Teams A-Rk 0 0 0.96 17 0 12 18.2 13 3 2 0 2 31 0.804 6.3 14.9 15.50
2013 22 Fort Myers A+ 5 0 1.49 6 6 0 36.1 24 7 6 2 6 35 0.826 5.9 8.7 5.83
2 Seasons 5 0 1.31 23 6 12 55.0 37 10 8 2 8 66 0.818 6.1 10.8 8.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

This is really digging deep, but after striking out 10 while not allowing a run over seven innings in his last start, Baxendale could finally get noticed. A 10th round pick out of Arkansas in the 2012 MLB Draft, Baxendale was moved to starting pitcher this season by the Twins. Due to the club’s horrific starting pitching, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move quickly if he continues to have this type of success. His strikeout rate isn’t going to overwhelm you, but the fact that he doesn’t allow many free passes is very encouraging. The only scouting reports that I’ve seen on him mention a 3/4 arm slot, an 88 to 91 mph fastball, and an average to solid  slider and curve, but his ability to thrive while pitching in the tough SEC while at Arkansas as a reason to not count him out. Mound presence and confidence can go a long way in success, and Baxendale’s early results show that he could become useful for the Twins.

Rob Refsnyder, 2B, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 Charleston A 46 182 162 22 39 8 0 4 22 11 16 25 .241 .319 .364 .683 59
2013 22 2 Teams A+-A 33 157 130 23 50 12 1 1 20 13 22 22 .385 .490 .515 1.006 67
2013 22 Charleston A 13 62 54 9 20 4 1 0 6 7 6 12 .370 .452 .481 .933 26
2013 22 Tampa A+ 20 95 76 14 30 8 0 1 14 6 16 10 .395 .516 .539 1.055 41
2 Seasons 79 339 292 45 89 20 1 5 42 24 38 47 .305 .398 .432 .830 126
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

You have to assume that Robinson Cano isn’t going to be leaving New York anytime soon, and it is questionable as to whether he will ever move off of second base if or when he does sign a long-term extension with the Yankees; however, what are the Yankees going to do if Cano doesn’t re-sign with the club? Nearly all of their top prospects are outfielders and with the club sitting on the declining skills and lofty contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, will the club look for an expensive free agent option to replace him if he does leave? Robert Refsnyder doesn’t have a name that should be familiar to anyone, but if he continues to hit the way that he has this season, he could quickly become a part of the Yankees’ plans. A 5th round pick out of the University of Arizona in the 2012 MLB Draft, Refsnyder won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2012 College World Series by leading the Wildcats to the title. While his introduction to professional ball in 2012 wasn’t fantastic, he did show solid on-base skills and a little bit of speed. He has already been promoted to Tampa this season and he has responded with a 1.055 OPS in his first 20 games after posting a .933 OPS in 13 games in Low-A. He is short on home run power but he does have solid gap power, speed, and excellent plate discipline. If he maintains this production, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him as a second baseman and leadoff hitter for a Cano-less Yankees team in a couple of years.

osuna

Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 16 Mexico AAA 0 1 5.49 13 2 19.2 25 15 12 3 11 12 1.831 11.4 5.5 1.09
2012 17 2 Teams Rk-A- 2 0 2.27 12 9 43.2 32 14 11 2 15 49 1.076 6.6 10.1 3.27
2012 17 Bluefield Rk 1 0 1.50 7 4 24.0 18 5 4 1 6 24 1.000 6.8 9.0 4.00
2012 17 Vancouver A- 1 0 3.20 5 5 19.2 14 9 7 1 9 25 1.169 6.4 11.4 2.78
2013 18 Lansing A 1 2 3.63 5 5 22.1 15 10 9 4 4 31 0.851 6.0 12.5 7.75
3 Seasons 3 3 3.36 30 16 85.2 72 39 32 9 30 92 1.191 7.6 9.7 3.07
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Osuna just turned 18 years old in February and, while most boys his age are gearing up for high school graduation and prom night, Osuna is pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts and overmatching his competition in Low-A. At 6’2″, 230 pounds, Osuna has a solid frame that seems capable of handling a lot of innings, which could still grow. Hopefully, it wouldn’t grow like Bartolo Colon…Regardless, Osuna has very good stuff, he appears to have very good control, and if he keeps the ball in the park, he could be a tremendous asset for the Blue Jays. After several trades this winter to upgrade their club (which hasn’t worked out so well), the club could use an excellent season from Osuna to rebuild their minor league system.

Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 State College A- 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 21 2 Teams Rk-A 44 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 Pirates Rk 42 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 West Virginia A 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 22 West Virginia A 32 143 121 20 41 8 0 8 26 4 18 39 .339 .427 .603 1.030 73
3 Seasons 91 316 271 43 73 14 2 11 45 6 39 89 .269 .365 .458 .823 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft after posting a 1.29 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 60 innings as a senior in high school, the Pirates had hoped that they had another first round talent in Allie, after taking Jameson Taillon earlier in the draft. Allie didn’t pan out, as he posted some horrific numbers while on the mound (7.76 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 29:37 K:BB in 26.2 IP) before he was moved to first base. While it didn’t go so well last season, the 2013 season has been a bit kinder to him. It is still the Sally League (Low-A) and Allie is 22 years old, but he is showing very good power and is second in the league in total bases. He is a long way off and he has a lot to prove, and his age could become a factor in the Pirates philosophy in moving him through the organization, as well. He does live, though, and you have to root for a guy who had such tremendous stuff and lost it so abruptly.


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