Results tagged ‘ Texas Rangers ’

Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness

Guerrero3Vladimir Guerrero arrived in Major League Baseball for good on May 3, 1997, after having a cup of coffee in September of 1996, becoming an instant success for the Montreal Expos at the age of 22, posting an .833 OPS over his first 354 plate appearances, finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting (Scott Rolen won the award that season). In 1998, Guerrero became a superstar, posting a .960 OPS and a 150 OPS+, the first of ten straight years with an OPS above .900 and eleven straight years with an OPS+ of 130 or higher.

From 1998 through 2008, Guerrero was one of the top players in baseball, ranking 8th in baseball in WAR over those eleven seasons (53.5, courtesy of FanGraphs), ranking behind Hall of Fame worthy producers: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, and Derek Jeter. Guerrero made eight All-Star appearances, won seven Silver Slugger awards, and won the 2004 American League MVP, posting a .325/.392/.581 triple-slash (.972 OPS, 149 OPS+) while averaging 35 doubles, 35 home runs, and 112 RBI per season over those eleven seasons.

Guerrero2 ZimbioThe 2009 season seemed to bring the mid-30′s decline that is typical of many non-steroid using baseball players, as Guerrero’s final season with the Los Angeles Angels ended with a .794 OPS and a 107 OPS+ (both the lowest of his career to that point, outside of the 1996 September trial), although much of his sudden decline (Guerrero was 34 for the entire 2009 season) could be attributed to surgery on his right knee in late 2008, followed by two different stints on the disabled list (35 games due to a pectoral muscle strain and 21 games for a calf strain), which resulted in the weaker, end-of-season counting stats.

Suddenly, Guerrero, who was a superstar for a decade prior to the 2009, injury-plagued season, was a free agent at the age of 35, and he was offered a one-year contract for the 2010 season with the Texas Rangers (with an option for the 2011 season) to be the club’s primary designated hitter. Guerrero, a star for such a long period of time, had to wait until January for his one-year deal from Texas, and the Rangers were rewarded for their $5.5 million deal, as Guerrero posted a .300/.345/.496 triple-slash (.841 OPS) with 27 doubles, 29 home runs, and 115 RBI, earning his ninth and final All-Star appearance and his eighth and final Silver Slugger, helping to lead the Rangers to the World Series, where they would lose to the San Francisco Giants in five games.

You would think that the Rangers would pick up Guerrero’s 2011 option, but that was not the case. His $9 million option was declined, Guerrero received a $1 million buyout and he headed to free agency, as the Rangers rolled with Michael Young and Mike Napoli as options at designated hitter in 2011.

Guerrero would wait until February for a contract offer for 2011, inking a one-year, $8 million deal ($3 million of which was deferred) with the Baltimore Orioles. The 2011 season was quite a disappointment for Guerrero, as he posted a .733 OPS and a 98 OPS+ despite posting the highest contact rate since 2006 (82.1 percent). The ball just didn’t seem to drop right, or over the fence, as Guerrero finished with just 13 home runs and 63 RBI, and a career-low .126 ISO and 2.9 percent walk rate.

While Guerrero’s production had slipped, was it worthy of resulting in his career ending?

After not signing with a team over the winter, Guerrero eventually took a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on May 11, 2012, earning a prorated $1.3 million deal (based on time spent in the majors). Guerrero spent all of one month and 12 games in the minors for Toronto, posting a .358/.364/.679 triple-slash with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI, and a 2:0 K:BB in 55 plate appearances, before his ultimatum to be promoted resulted in his release. Guerrero’s production wasn’t enough to force Edwin Encarnacion (who was enjoying a breakout season that ended with a career-high .941 OPS and 42 home runs) to first base and Adam Lind (who had a nice 2013 but had a .729 OPS in 2012) to the bench.

Since that point, Guerrero was rumored to be seeking employment, potentially with the independent Long Island Ducks, prior to announcing his retirement from baseball on September 13, 2013.

Guerrero4Guerrero’s career was basically over at the age of 36, which is shocking when you consider that Jason Giambi was still rostered by both the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians in 2012 and 2013, actually receiving over 300 plate appearances, combined, at the age of 41 and 42. There aren’t many who were or are expecting Guerrero to have a Raul Ibanez-like aging renaissance period, but even with negative defensive value, he would seem to be a more appropriate designated hitter than the likes of Travis Hafner, Luke Scott, and Carlos Pena, all of whom failed to produce while receiving over 150 plate appearances in 2013. Looking at Guerrero’s resume, you’d think that he would warrant a look more than those players. Perhaps it is the fact that he is a right-handed hitter and the others are left-handed bats? With so few players around Major League Baseball who are capable of reaching 25 to 30 home runs, someone with Guerrero’s ability to make contact and provide some right-handed power, even with the ugliest of swings, is worth something in the current swing and miss era of offensive production.

Jay Jaffe, a Hall of Fame guru who writes for Sports Illustrated’s MLB blog The Strike Zone, had this to say in a recent article after Guerrero’s retirement:

Given a ballot logjam that among outfielders could include Raines (who would be in his 10th year of eligibility), Walker (seventh year), Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa (both in their fifth year), Ken Griffey Jr. (if he doesn’t make it in on the first ballot in 2016), Luis Gonzalez (fourth year), Jim Edmonds (second year), Sheffield and Manny Ramirez (both also debuting) and more, Guerrero’s candidacy will have to battle for attention and space. Unlike many of the aforementioned, he has no known connection to performance-enhancing drugs, but like them, he put up his big numbers in an offense-happy era. As Raines and Walker have shown, the Expos’ disappearance is no boon to a candidate. On the other hand, like previously elected Montreal predecessors Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, Guerrero played the second half of his career in a larger media market, which could make up for some of that.

Ultimately, Guererro’s electrifying style went beyond sheer numbers, and I suspect he’ll build enough support among voters to attain his bronze plaque. As a player who made the hair on the back of peoples’ necks stand up, he won’t soon be forgotten.

Guerrero5Based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores, Guerrero was most similar to Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, and Todd Helton, as well as Hall of Fame players Jim Rice, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, and Duke Snider. His career was full of seasons that were most similar to those of Willie Mays, Manny Ramirez, Snider, Gary Sheffield, and Rafael Palmeiro as he aged, which should make you wonder how there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not he should be enshrined in Cooperstown. As Jaffe mentioned, Guerrero was not linked to performance-enhancing drug use, but with the PED-era being shutout of the Hall of Fame by many within the Baseball Writers Association of America, it could take several ballots for Guerrero to be seriously considered.

Jaffe is widely known for his JAWS system of ranking players. JAWS is described at Baseball-Reference.com, where the data is held and easily accessible, as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. I asked Jaffe a few questions in regards to his JAWS system and his thoughts on Guerrero when compared to similar players from his era, and how his body of work holds up comparatively.

Can you give a little bit of background on JAWS and how you came up with it or why? How long did you work on it before it was perfected?

Though it didn’t bear the name at the time, the system that became JAWS debuted at Baseball Prospectus in January 2004. The currency was BP’s Wins Above Replacement Player, and along with career WARP, I defined the peak as a player’s best five consecutive seasons, with allowances made for injuries and military service on a case-by-case basis. The JAWS name arrived in December 2004, as I looked at the 2005 ballot. By the time of the 2006 ballot, I had switched to defining peak as a player’s best seven seasons overall, which allowed for a more automated process (believe it or not, I hand-cranked the scores for all Hall of Famers in my first two years). 

For the 2013 ballot, I switched from BP’s WARP to Baseball-Reference.com’s version of Wins Above Replacement, in part because BP’s pre-1950 advanced stats remained unpublished, and in part because B-Ref’s Sean Forman agreed to feature it on his site, creating cool leaderboards and featuring the scores on every player page. Who could pass that up?

I was thinking about Vladimir Guerrero recently and I went to see where he ranks all-time in JAWS and I was surprised to see that he was the 22nd ranked RF in baseball history. His career ended pretty abruptly, although there haven’t been many rumors of PED use in his case, he could be getting lumped in with the whole Steroid Era, just as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell seem to be. A big surprise, to me at least, was that Larry Walker ranked 10th among RF all-time. Obviously, with a very crowded ballot, Walker saw his Hall of Fame vote drop from 21.6% in 2013 to 10.2% in 2014. With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and the other holdovers, it looks like it could be some time before Walker gets the nod, and Guerrero is likely to join him on the ballot during that time…In my observations, Guerrero seemed like the better player, and I wasn’t sure if Walker’s production was aided by the thin air of the pre-humidor Coor’s Field. What is it, in JAWS or your opinion that separates these two players?

Baserunning and defense, mostly. You can actually see it itemized on each player’s B-Ref page, in the Player Value section. All numbers refer to runs above or below average (they’re converted relative to replacement level later on in the process):  

Rbat (batting): Walker 418, Vlad 433

Rbaser (baserunning): Walker 40, Vlad −3 

Rdp (avoiding double plays): Walker 10, Vlad −17

Rfield (fielding): Walker 94, Vlad 7 

Rpos (positional adjustments): Walker −75, Vlad −114 

Larry  Walker

Larry Walker

Purely as a hitter, Vlad was slightly more productive, albeit over 1,029 more career plate appearances — that’s even after adjusting for park and league scoring environments. Having said that, Walker’s 21-point edge in on-base percentage made him a slightly more productive hitter on a rate basis even after the air is taken out of his stats. 

Meanwhile, Walker has a 43-run edge on the bases, a 27-run edge when it came to avoiding GIDPs (thanks to his speed and situational hitting ability) and an 87-run edge as a fielder. What’s more, while both generally played right field, which requires a −7.5 run per year positional adjustment, Vlad’s time as a DH requires a requires a −15 run per year adjustment.  

In all, the two were of comparable offensive value in their careers (62.2 oWAR for Walker, 59.0 oWAR for Vlad), but the former’s defensive value (dWAR) was +1.5 wins, the latter’s was −10.7, in other words about a 12-win difference. 

Guerrero is also behind Ichiro Suzuki and Bobby Abreu in JAWS. How much of a player’s value comes from defensive skills and base-running here?

Well, it can differ greatly from player to player. Obviously, Vlad didn’t accumulate much positive value in those categories, while Abreu had some, and Ichiro had outstanding value there (+62 Rbase, +106 Rfield) but much less as a hitter (+119 Rbat).

Is Vlad Guerrero a HOFer? Larry Walker? Bobby Abreu? Ichiro?

I believe both Ichiro and Walker are worthy of the Hall of Fame. I’m less sold on Vlad than I think the general electorate may be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually gets in, nor would I be disappointed – at least unless Walker doesn’t get in, which appears to be the way things are heading. I’m just not going to be the guy who waves the flag for Vlad. 

Why do you think that Guerrero isn’t receiving much interest over the last several years when Jason Giambi was rostered for a full season and produced in Cleveland after admitting his prior PED use? The same goes for Abreu…

Guerrero’s physical decline turned him into a part-time DH in his early 30s (208 games there from age 31-34, compared to 335 in the field) and a full-time DH by his mid-30s. Increasingly, we’ve seen fewer and fewer teams willing to roster such players because they tend to be high-salaried without contributing a whole lot. When you look at Vlad’s career, you can see that he was worth just 3.2 WAR over those final three years, that while making around $28 million. That’s not an acceptable return on investment for most teams, and in the drive towards rational spending, he became a victim. I’m not sure how much of his complete disappearance from the majors after his age 36 season owes to an unwillingness to accept a lower salary or a part-time role, but I’ll bet it was a big factor. Giambi, by comparison, has really embraced that role and become a managerial candidate.

From the standpoint of being a Hall of Fame candidate, guys whose careers end in their mid-30′s face an uphill climb because their career totals are generally low. Vlad’s less so – 2,590 hits and 449 homers are Hall of Fame numbers if they come from an earlier era — but had he stuck around a couple more years in better health, 3,000 and 500 might have been attainable.

As for Abreu, his defensive woes and declining power probably trimmed a couple of years off his career, too. Sadly, I don’t think he has an ice cube’s chance in hell of making the Hall because his plate discipline and speed were so under appreciated. Despite a very similar oWAR/dWAR breakdown to Vlad (60.4/-10.6), he only made two All-Star teams to Guerrero’s nine! 

Jaffe’s explanation was very valuable in showing the differences between the players, and the fact that he took time out of his schedule to answer those questions for me was really cool for a lowly blogger like myself and it is much appreciated. Regardless, something that wasn’t factored into the questions or responses that is another useful statistic in detailing the differences between Walker and Guerrero, specifically, was the player’s OPS+ and wRC+, which factors in park effects. Walker finished with a career OPS+ of 141 and wRC+ of 140 and Guerrero finished with a career OPS+ of 140 and wRC+ of 136, another example of their offensive resemblances. Guerrero and Walker will remain similar in production comparisons due to their numbers not reaching the Hall of Fame lock-in plateaus of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, and despite the defensive and base running differences, the two may be lumped together for several years on the ballot while the writers pick apart their resumes.

Guerrero1Vladimir Guerrero was a tremendous player who passed the eye-test of this blogger. While he didn’t have the counting stats of the juicers, he was certainly no less gifted and talented. So many superstars will be bypassed for Cooperstown enshrinement over the next decade due to the actions of others during their playing careers, and, just as Jaffe predicted, there will likely be a day when Larry Walker, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vladimir Guerrero are rewarded with their plaques by the required vote. When the baseball writers begin picking apart the numbers, I hope that they don’t continue to overlook just how special Guerrero was during his career peak, as we look back on a career that was magnificent for so long and faded off to retirement largely unnoticed by many. No team. No press conferences. A sad goodbye to a great player.

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Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

With the big signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the market for free agency and trades could explode over the next several days. With that in mind, I was thinking about some deals that would make tremendous sense for several teams…although, they could just make sense to me. Regardless, here are some deals that I’d like to see made over the next few weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner

PhillipsWhy This Trade Makes Sense: The Yankees clearly want to get back to the top, as their $155 million investment in Tanaka showed. With Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore as the current options at second base, New York could use a more reliable name to replace Robinson Cano. While the Reds don’t have an immediate replacement ready for Phillips (outside of Henry Rodriguez or another position change for Billy Hamilton), they need to clear some payroll in order to lock up Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, as well as Homer Bailey, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Phillips, who is due $50 million over the next four years, could be a bargain based on the current market, while his ability to play defensively at an elite level will provide quite a bit of value, as well. Gardner is unlikely to provide the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided last season in Cincinnati, but he would provide elite-level defensive skills, speed, and solid on-base skills (career OBP of .352). Gardner, earning $5.6 million in 2014 prior to reaching free agency after the season, would be an upgrade over a 2014 version of Hamilton, while providing quite a bit of financial flexibility to shore up the rotation for the coming seasons in Cincinnati. Even if Cincinnati had to chip in $10 million in salary relief, it would be an interesting deal for both clubs.

Baltimore Orioles Sign A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $14 million deal

burnettWhy This Signing Makes Sense: In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles surprised the world by contending and finishing 2nd in the AL East with 93 wins. In 2013, there was a slight regression, as the team dipped to 85 wins after doing very little over the offseason. The Orioles have been very active in the minor league free agent market this winter, but they could use a splash, and Burnett would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman make a good, young rotation, but Burnett would be the anchor for the staff, and his presence would allow the club to move Norris to a (more appropriate) bullpen role. Burnett is from Maryland and he has been rumored to be retiring if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh, but Baltimore is close to home and he can keep his wife happy, and the spare change for one year would be worth it for both sides. Burnett rebuilt his value with two tremendous seasons with the Pirates, and he is worth a one-year deal for Baltimore for another shot at the AL East for the tattooed right-hander. Sure, it seems like it is going to be Pittsburgh or bust, but the Orioles are contenders with a healthy Manny Machado and consistent production from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters – the O’s need to do their due diligence here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign Matt Garza to a five-year, $60 million deal (I know he was rumored to have signed with Milwaukee for four-years, $52 million pending a physical, but it isn’t official…yet)

GarzaWhy This Signing Makes Sense: The Jays need another solid option in their rotation to compliment R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, so that their offense isn’t wasted on sloppy rotation options like Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey, and Rickey Romero, who combined to make 27 starts last season. While Garza has some injury concerns, the Blue Jays have already given him a dynamic weapon – Dioner Navarro. With Navarro as his catcher, Garza has logged 338.1 innings and managed a 3.25 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while Garza has posted a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with anyone else behind the dish. While there is risk involved due to Garza spending 170 team games on the disabled list the last three seasons with right shoulder and elbow injuries, the Jays need a pitcher who is capable of pitching in the AL East (Garza has done it before), can toss 180 or more innings (Garza has done it four times), and would be a significant upgrade over Rogers, Todd Redmond, and J.A. Happ, while the club waits for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Alberto Tirado, Daniel Norris, and Sean Nolin to reach the majors. Garza may not be a number one starter, but he is a strong number two or three option on a club that should compete with an absolutely loaded offensive group.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a five-year, $85 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Phillies first round pick, seventh overall, is protected, so while Jimenez would require draft-pick compensation, it would only be a second round pick going to Cleveland for Jimenez. After a tremendous second half in 2013 (1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 84 innings), Jimenez rebuilt his value, and, at the age of 30, would be a solid right-handed option for the Phillies to place between Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Jimenez has had some success during his career in the NL East:

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Atlanta Braves 3 5 3.79 9 0 1 1 54.2 47 25 23 6 28 66 1.372 10.9 2.36
Miami Marlins 1 2 4.07 5 0 0 0 24.1 23 19 11 1 16 31 1.603 11.5 1.94
New York Mets 2 3 3.40 6 0 0 0 39.2 27 15 15 4 21 29 1.210 6.6 1.38
Washington Nationals 5 1 2.61 7 0 0 0 48.1 39 14 14 1 16 36 1.138 6.7 2.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

For those who don’t want to do the math, Jimenez is 11-11 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 162:81 K:BB over 167 innings and 27 starts, and while that isn’t perfect, especially in a ballpark that is more favorable to hitters, Jimenez should, at least, be worth the money as an innings eater if he isn’t elite like he was in the second half of 2013. The Phillies may not be contenders, but they’ll always be spenders. They don’t have any arms ready in their system and Jimenez would be a huge upgrade over Roberto Hernandez and Ethan Martin, who appear to be options for the rotation currently.

Oakland Athletics Sign Nelson Cruz to a three-year, $27 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Cruz market appears nearly dead after there was draft-pick compensation added to a PED suspension, but Cruz is still just 33 and he is coming off of an All-Star season with solid production (27 home runs and 76 RBI in just 109 games). With very little interest and risk involved, it’s the perfect opportunity for Oakland to swoop in and make an interesting signing. While the club has some solid right-handed pop in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the remainder of the lineup is filled with left-handed hitters, including Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, as well as switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie. Another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat would be a tremendous addition, as Reddick or Moss could sandwich between Cruz and Cespedes, providing quite a bit of value and production for a team that struggles to find offense in a cavernous home ballpark. However, Cruz has struggled in Oakland, posting a .192/.248/.352 triple-slash in 202 career plate appearances there. The late first round pick and discounted contract, though, could be enough to overlook his struggles, while providing a little more punch to the Oakland lineup.

Texas Rangers Sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $24 million deal

ArroyoWhy This Signing Makes Sense: Arroyo has been homer prone in the past and doesn’t have the stuff to avoid bats, but he has averaged 211 innings pitched over the last nine seasons and is someone whom the Rangers could count on with Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison coming back from injuries and Derek Holland on the shelf until mid-2014. Arroyo survived in a bandbox in Cincinnati over the last eight seasons, so he would be just as likely to post 200-plus innings and an ERA around 4.00 in Texas, especially with spacious ballparks like those in Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim within the division. There isn’t draft-pick compensation tied to Arroyo, and with Masahiro Tanaka gone and no real hope of acquiring David Price in a trade, the Rangers just need five starting pitchers, and Arroyo is a nice, reliable addition for the middle or back-end of the Texas rotation.

Atlanta Braves Trade Alex Wood to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez

Why This Trade Makes Sense: C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hiroki Kuroda make a great top three and Ivan Nova showed drastic improvements last season, but the Yankees are relying on David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Manny Banuelos at the back of the rotation in 2014. While Alex Wood has one of the more violent deliveries you’ll ever see, he has solid stuff and is ready to be productive immediately in a major league rotation. With Brandon Beachy healthy and David Hale and Gavin Floyd capable of filling the back of the Braves rotation, Wood could be expendable for Atlanta to seek a long-term option at catcher with the departure of Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency. Evan Gattis has a lot of power and Christian Bethancourt has tremendous defensive skills, but neither seem like strong options as an everyday catcher for Atlanta. While Sanchez still needs some seasoning and he could use a change of scenery due to his makeup and maturity concerns, the Braves have several upcoming arms, as usual, and they have a long-term need at catcher. Sanchez could be the answer and the eventual elbow surgery that Wood will need is worth this type of deal for Atlanta, and the production that the Yankees get out of Wood could be useful, as well.

The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90′s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

Who “Deserves” a Foul Ball?

I’ve been a baseball fan all of my life and I have attended several dozen games over my 32 years, but I’ve never gone to a game and assumed that I was going to catch a foul ball, a home run ball, or have a ball tossed to me from the ball boy or a player. I don’t leave a game disappointed by not taking home a souvenir, and, even when I was younger, I wasn’t ever upset by not acquiring an autograph after waiting near the field prior to the game. I don’t really understand why anyone would feel so entitled to count on getting a single baseball, let alone several baseballs, when going to a baseball game.

Perhaps that idea was ruined by Zack Hample, who has his own blog with MLBlogs and has written several books, a man who has collected over 7,000 baseballs since 1990, and, while he does collect them for charity and gives them to children, the fact that he got 16 balls and gave away four of them at the 9/25 Yankees game shows the selfishness of our culture…charity or not. With all due respect to Hample (which according to Ricky Bobby allows me to say anything here), if I saw someone leaving a game with 12 baseballs, I’d: a) consider him a total tool, b) want to throat punch him, and c) assume that he is douchier than a Costco box of Summer’s Eve.

But I digress. Americans and baseball fans have long left baseball games empty-handed, so why should this happen:


If you’d rather not watch the video, an adult fan caught a baseball and a toddler cried because he didn’t get it. The parents went on ABC’s Good Morning America because of the uproar, encouraged by the audacity of “ball stealers” by the YES Network‘s Michael Kay (if you listen closely to the video), and the kid was rewarded with a jersey AND a baseball signed by the entire Texas Rangers club for his tearful self-loathing over the situation. Do you know what would have happened to my daughter there…we would have left the game because she was crying (because she was obviously acting tired or spoiled rotten, which we may cope with differently than other parents) and she would have understood, through a nice chat, that we were one of 30,000 or more people in the crowd and that not everyone gets a ball. Why should she be any more special than anyone else?

It gets better, though. If you look for reactions from losing foul balls online, you’ll find several fantastic examples. This is another good one:


The child immediately pouts and eventually gets a ball tossed to her mother as she looks on in Milwaukee. Again, the adult was bastardized for “taking” a ball while being in the same location.
But now, this week, we have a fine example of adults going a bit too far:

The evil, evil woman from Houston who stole the ball right out of the little girls hands…and I do mean out of her hands. This one is a legitimate claim to being entitled, as the ball was in her hands and snatched by the adult woman.

Courtesy: Zack Hample, zackhample.mlblogs.com

Courtesy: Zack Hample, zackhample.mlblogs.com

Sure, I may have an issue with how “The Baseball Collector” goes about his business, as he says that he doesn’t run into anyone to get a ball but his own website depicts otherwise, but maybe that man that “took the ball” from that girl in Milwaukee didn’t see her or had been to as many games as I have without ever leaving with a ball. That kid has more time left on this planet to get it done than her elder! Deal with it and try again next time…maybe it won’t take her another 20 years like it did that poor man that apparently has character flaws for intercepting a baseball that he didn’t know was meant for someone else.

All I know is that my child wouldn’t be crying over not getting a baseball. If she did, I would have been embarrassed to go on national television to describe the situation because I would have thought that my kid was acting like a spoiled brat. I want tremendous things for my daughter, but sometimes it is best to let your child actually earn those things. In a society that seems to demand so much for the future of our children, teaching kids that they are entitled to have things such as trophies for participating in a sport and not actually winning or guaranteeing a foul ball when they show up to any baseball game seems to be the wrong approach. They’ll assume they can just ask for everything that they need for the rest of their lives.

Then again…I wouldn’t want my kid to be Zack Hample when they grow up, either.

No one deserves a ball at a baseball game and while the lady in Houston is taking a lot of heat for snatching that ball out of the hands of that little girl, more power to her. Maybe that kid learned a great lesson during that moment…work on your grip strength and know that others could work harder to get what they want.

In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

It’s late in the baseball season and there are a lot of things that could be distracting you, such as following up on Johnny Manziel’s battle with the NCAA, completing your 21 fantasy football drafts, and wondering who will be Ace or Gary when you attend a Halloween party as the Incredibly Gay Duo. While all of those things are important, I present to you the world of baseball that you may have missed due to your fascination of Miley twerking.

  • SorianoYankees’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano leads MLB with 42 RBI and is tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the lead in home runs (13) since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 21-16 since Soriano returned to New York and the Yanks are 2.5 games behind Tampa for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining, including seven games against Boston (a four-game series begins today in New York) and three against the Rays.
  • New Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd is leading the majors in total bases since the All-Star break with 101 (he is tied with teammate Andrew McCutchen and San Diego outfielder Will Venable), and he is tied with Minnesota Twins shortstop Brian Dozier for extra-base hits since the break with 26. Byrd will look to continue his torrid pace in helping lead the Pirates to the NL Central title after the Buccos have already guaranteed their fans with the club’s first winning season since 1992.
  • Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth looked like a total waste of a seven-year, $126 million deal after his horrendous first season, 2011, in the nation’s capital, but he has hit .311/.392/.487 over the last two seasons while battling various injuries. If Werth continues his production next season and the Nats get a full, healthy season out of Bryce Harper and their very good pitching staff, the letdown from 2013 will be all forgiven in 2014 with an improved season. Werth, by the way, is 8th in MLB in OPS (.920).
  • Toronto outfielder Rajai Davis doesn’t receive a lot of praise or playing time, but he has 40 stolen bases in just 93 games. With his .313 OBP, Davis has made an appearance on the bases just 93 times in 301 plate appearances. When you take away the two triples and four home runs (since he hasn’t stolen home and he can’t steal a base after a home run), it means that Davis has successfully stolen a base in 46 percent of his appearances on base. With his speed, who needed to wait for Billy Hamilton for an impact base runner?
  • Davis2There are only six players with 30 or more home runs (Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Pedro Alvarez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adam Dunn) after 22 players reached the tier in 2012 and 24 players reached in 2011. With 17 players within six homers or reaching 30, and several within that group unlikely to do so (I’m looking at you J.J. Hardy and the injured Domonic Brown), the top-tier of sluggers appears to be a very rare breed with pitching being so dominant.

Speaking of pitching…

  • Max Scherzer is sitting at 19-2, but the names of other starting pitchers ranked near the top in wins is quite surprising: Jorge De La Rosa (16), Francisco Liriano (15), Chris Tillman (15), and Bartolo Colon (14) rank in the top eight in the strange statistic. While some writers will look at the win as valuable in determining who should win the Cy Young, it clearly has little use in determining who has been the best pitcher.
  • It’s somewhat disappointing to see numbers fall with the drop in velocity, but that is exactly what has happened to former Cy Young favorites like Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and C.C. Sabathia (13-11, 4.86 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). With the fall from grace, though, has come exciting young arms like Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, and Matt Harvey (R.I.P.). Unfortunately for the aging arms, it doesn’t appear to be getting better, as Sabathia has a 6.88 ERA in the second half, while Verlander has a more respectable 3.77 ERA since the break.
  • FernandezSpeaking of those young arms and specifically Jose Fernandez, the young, Cuban-born right-hander has been filthy in the second half. His 0.83 WHIP is tops among all starting pitchers and the 70:13 K:BB in 54 innings is downright nasty. With the Marlins possibly looking to deal their only source of offense, Giancarlo Stanton, this winter, Fernandez will likely continue to post ridiculous numbers without wins going forward, although he has won five games since the break.
  • For all of those still sitting back and waiting for Chris Sale‘s arm to explode, it hasn’t happened. The White Sox ace has been even better in 2013 than he was last season, posting a 2.97 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate AND his walk rate on a per nine inning basis. After being locked up for five-years, $32.5 million (with team options totalling $26 million over 2018 and 2019), the Pale Hose look very wise in their string-bean investment.
  • R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball didn’t carry over to the AL East. The veteran right-hander has a 4.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP after posting a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 through 2012 with the New York Mets. The small parks, the strong teams, and the patient hitters are all a factor in the decline, but when you don’t really know which way the ball is going when using a trick pitch, that kind of makes things difficult, too.
  • DarvishYu Darvish is having an absolutely stupid season. He leads MLB with his 12.0 K/9 and he has struck out 240 of the 722 batters that he has faced (33.2 percent). While some Cy Young voters will look at Scherzer’s 19 wins and look stupid years from now, it is the unhittable Darvish, who has allowed 124 hits in 179.2 innings and a .192 BAA, who deserves the award.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

MAGDanny Knobler of CBS Sports reported that 45 scouts were on hand for the start by Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in the Mexican League for the Tijuana Toros. Knobler added that Gonzalez could get anywhere from $40 million to $60 million once he is cleared by the US Treasury Department, which will allow him to negotiate; although, he is already a free agent.

After watching the offensive explosions of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, several MLB teams will likely be leaping at the chance to find the next Cuban sensation, and the fact that Gonzalez won’t count against team’s International signing pool will lead to a bidding war. This is due to the fact that Gonzalez is older than 23  and he has played in Cuba‘s top league for three seasons.

Gonzalez is a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher. At 6’3″, he has a solid build to go with his mid-90′s fastball, hard curve, forkball, and changeup. He had been suspended the last two seasons for trying to defect once before from Cuba, so his level of competition and total readiness may become a factor in his final offer.

MAG1

Gonzalez seems like a legitimate prospect that has the tools to thrive in MLB. While the investment required would seem to be overwhelming for many in the baseball community, having seen the recent success of Aroldis Chapman, Puig, Cespedes, Cubs minor leaguer Jorge Soler, and Orioles minor leaguer Henry Urrutia, the teams capable of making the financial commitment (Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox) will find this as a risk worth taking.

dollarsigneyesGonzalez struck out six of the nine batters he faced over three innings in his first start for Tijuana. With continued success in his throwing showcases, it will be easy to see the dollar signs in the eyes of teams and the agent.

 
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Promotion Worthy Prospects

After Miguel Sano was promoted to Double-A on Sunday by the Minnesota Twins, it brought to mind several other prospects who deserve a promotion due to their dominance at their current level. Below, you’ll find ten prospects who need or deserve a bigger challenge:

StephensonRobert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 5 3 2.97 12 66.2 52 25 22 4 17 85 1.035 7.0 2.3 11.5 5.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

When you see that 2.97 ERA, some would say that isn’t as dominant as what guys like Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley have posted over the last two seasons; however, Stephenson has been absolutely dominant over his last six starts, posting a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP, and a 50:5 K:BB over 36.2 innings. That is redefining dominance. Stephenson has now made 20 starts for Low-A Dayton and the only thing holding him back from a promotion seems to be the fact that he would be heading to the California League if he was promoted to the next level. The Reds could challenge him and see how he does, they did put Tony Cingrani there in 2012 (where he dominated), or move him straight to Double-A next year, similar to what they did with Daniel Corcino in 2012. Regardless, Stephenson looks like the Reds new top prospect, posting numbers that would make Cy Young winners blush.

BaezJavier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Daytona FLOR CHC 57 254 230 45 67 17 4 13 44 6 11 60 .291 .339 .570 .908 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Blame it on the four home runs that Baez hit on June 10th or blame it on the fact that his numbers are absolutely insane for a middle infielder…truly, you can blame it on the fact that Starlin Castro looks like a lost puppy, but the Chicago Cubs need to move Javier Baez up to Double-A. Certainly, Baez isn’t perfect. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired and he has made 26 errors in 56 games for Daytona, but what he lacks in harnessing moving balls, he makes up for with his tremendous bat speed, power, and overall skills when he actually connects. In eight June games, Baez is hitting .500/.559/1.167 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s on fire and he has the talent to be moved quickly. Baez needs to be challenged in Double-A and the Cubs need to see how he handles advanced pitching to help determine whether he could stay at short or move to an outfield corner.

DePaula1Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 Charleston SALL NYY 6 2 2.43 12 59.1 36 16 16 3 22 91 0.978 5.5 3.3 13.8 4.14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The only thing dumber than the Yankees still having De Paula in Low-A at this point, is the fact that society didn’t find a way to stop Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from procreating. De Paula has dominated all season for Charleston, and at the age of 22, he is a man among boys in the Sally League. His 13.8 K:9 is absurd and his mid-90′s fastball is nearly unfair to the over-matched teenagers and organizational depth cesspools of the lower minors. With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda nearing the end of the road, it is time for the Yankees to be aggressive with another prospect. De Paula needs to be moved to Tampa (High-A) as soon as possible, and, due to his stuff, early dominance, and age, an attempt at Double-A shouldn’t be out of the question.

BuxtonByron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW MIN 59 274 228 60 78 14 8 7 47 26 39 46 .342 .435 .566 1.001 129
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

It isn’t very often that a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional ball would get moved up a level by July, but the No.2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft is creating quite a stir in the prospect world. His power, speed, and plate discipline are beyond his years and Buxton appears to be ready for and worthy of a different challenge. The Twins are typically very patient and slow with their prospects, but they’ve already promoted Sano and their major league team (28-33) continues to tread water.

Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Lancaster CALL A+ HOU 64 284 253 52 79 17 1 11 58 3 25 37 .312 .373 .518 .891 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The Astros are in a pretty miserable place when it comes to their ability to contend, but they seem to have a tremendous rebuilding plan in place and their recent drafts and trades are perfect examples of what Jeff Luhnow has taken to Houston. They appear to have a nice player in their 2012 7th round pick, a senior signing out of Florida that is showing an excellent approach at the plate in High-A. While Lancaster is a notorious hitter’s paradise, as is most of the California League, the plate discipline, gap power, and consistency (.328 vs. LHP, .307 RHP) are impressive, and he would be a nice addition to Double-A, where he could join…

George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Corpus Christi TL HOU 61 271 228 51 69 18 0 18 50 18 35 77 .303 .405 .618 1.024 141
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Springer is also worthy of a promotion within the Houston organization and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is wearing an Astros’ jersey by the end of the 2013 season; however, with Justin Maxwell coming back from his injury, a promotion to Triple-A is likely Springer’s first stop. The 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases show the tools that he possesses, but his long swing could continue to cause outrageous strikeout totals, especially once he reaches the show. The No.11 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn will be an asset to the Astros at some point.

PuelloCesar Puello, OF, New York Mets

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Binghamton EL NYM 53 221 197 40 65 11 2 13 46 17 14 46 .330 .403 .604 1.007 119
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

There are four simple words why Puello needs promoted: The Mets Offense Sucks. The slugging right fielder has been on fire over the last ten games, hitting .463/.500/.976 with three doubles, six home runs, 17 RBI, and five stolen bases. There is one issue that may become huge within his development: he was listed on the Biogenesis documents; however, the time it will take between appeals and court cases will make that an unlikely scenario in harming his prospect status, which is getting more impressive with each swing.

myersWil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Durham IL TBR 60 274 237 41 67 12 2 13 54 7 29 67 .283 .358 .515 .872 122
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Call me Captain Obvious but the Rays would be a better team by plugging Myers into a lineup that has won 11 of their last 16 and are slowly creeping up the AL East standings, even while their ace, David Price, is recovering from an extended absence due to tricep soreness. After struggling with his plate discipline in the early part of the season, Myers has improved his numbers in June (albeit in just 10 games), while increasing his power, having hit four home runs in just 41 at-bats this month. With seven players with 25 or more RBI already this season, who would go to make room for Myers? Myers will make an impact at some point this season, regardless of the current roster’s success.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Tennessee SOUL CHC 63 265 228 30 66 14 1 9 30 16 26 54 .289 .364 .478 .842 109
5 Seasons 371 1542 1405 195 399 57 27 24 174 76 101 291 .284 .332 .414 .747 582
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Alcantara is another good middle infield prospect within the Cubs organization. He is playing second and short in Double-A right now, but regardless of where he ends up, Alcantara will provide a little punch and speed for the rebuilding lovable losers. After having success at every stop during his minor league career, Alcantara should move up to see how he can handle Triple-A pitching, getting him that much closer to helping a starved Cubs lineup.

PimentelCarlos Pimentel, RHP, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 Frisco TL TEX 7 2 2.96 12 70.0 49 25 23 8 21 80 1.000 6.3 2.7 10.3 3.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

This is Pimentel’s third season in Double-A and he appears to finally mastered it, this time as a starter, after pitching well in a relief role in 2012 for Frisco. Still just 23 years old, Pimentel looks like another solid prospect again for a Rangers team that seems to always be in need of pitching help, whether due to ineffectiveness or injuries on the major league roster. Pimentel is posting excellent strikeout numbers and appears to be very difficult to hit. At 6’3″, 180 pounds, he has the frame to be a useful body in Texas, and he deserves a look in Triple-A before he gets a spot start of a longer look in Arlington.

How Roy Oswalt Could Save Your Fantasy Season

Oswalt3If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for a sneaky good move with your fantasy baseball teams. Using statistics to look into trends allowed for smart trades for Matt Moore, Manny Machado, and Dexter Fowler in one league. Now, I’m looking at Roy Oswalt.

Yes, that Roy Oswalt. I know that he is 37 and his experience with the Texas Rangers in 2012 was an absolute disaster, but this is what you need to know:

I Split W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
COL-Coors Fld 4 0 2.25 5 5 1 1 36.0 30 9 9 4 8 31 1.056 7.8 3.88
LAD-Dodger Stad 4 3 3.46 7 6 1 0 41.2 32 17 16 0 19 33 1.224 7.1 1.74
ARI-Chase Field 2 2 5.28 5 5 0 0 29.0 38 18 17 3 9 18 1.621 5.6 2.00
SDP-PetCo Pk 4 1 1.69 8 8 1 0 53.1 38 10 10 1 14 49 0.975 8.3 3.50
SFG-AT&T Pk 3 7 4.21 11 11 0 0 66.1 83 34 31 5 17 44 1.508 6.0 2.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2013.

Oswalt2These are Oswalt’s career numbers pitching in the NL West. Granted, a lot of those totals came in his “younger years” with the Houston Astros, but outside of his struggles at Chase Field, a notorious hitter’s park, Oswalt has been very solid. A career 14-13 record with a 3.30 ERA over 226.1 innings with a 1.27 WHIP and a 175:67 K:BB over 36 games (35 starts) is the overall line.

Heading to Coors Field could be a little troubling, but as you can see from the table above, Oswalt has handled the unfriendly confines pretty well over a small five game sample; however, even doubling his ERA to 4.50 (a quality start if he goes six innings), would allow Oswalt to win several games for the Rockies this season. The Rockies offense is very impressive, as Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario are all thriving this season, and the club hopes that Nolen Arenado can take his place as the next Vinny Castilla for the club.

In Oswalt’s recent extended spring training start (Saturday, May 18), he struck out nine and allowed just a bunt single in five innings. Needless to say, the competition was probably pretty weak, but Rotoworld.com reported that Oswalt’s fastball is already sitting in the low 90′s.

Oswalt1With a club looking to surprise in the NL West and a lively offense, don’t be shocked if Roy Oswalt shocks the world and creates value for himself in the 2013 season while pitching for the Colorado Rockies.


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Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/18

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.

AltherrAaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 18 Phillies Rk 28 92 84 10 18 3 0 1 11 6 8 15 .214 .283 .286 .568 24
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-A- 55 225 209 23 62 13 4 1 25 12 11 35 .297 .339 .411 .751 86
2010 19 Phillies Rk 27 121 115 12 35 6 1 1 15 10 3 22 .304 .331 .400 .731 46
2010 19 Williamsport A- 28 104 94 11 27 7 3 0 10 2 8 13 .287 .350 .426 .775 40
2011 20 2 Teams A–A 112 458 416 61 101 18 2 6 46 37 24 99 .243 .291 .339 .630 141
2011 20 Williamsport A- 71 295 269 41 70 12 2 5 31 25 13 52 .260 .302 .375 .678 101
2011 20 Lakewood A 41 163 147 20 31 6 0 1 15 12 11 47 .211 .272 .272 .544 40
2012 21 Lakewood A 110 471 420 65 106 27 6 8 50 25 38 102 .252 .319 .402 .722 169
2013 22 Clearwater A+ 35 152 134 22 45 15 2 4 27 8 13 39 .336 .391 .567 .958 76
5 Seasons 340 1398 1263 181 332 76 14 20 159 88 94 290 .263 .319 .393 .711 496
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Altherr is a big, raw prospect who seems to be putting everything together this year in the Florida State League. He was nowhere to be found on MLB.com’s top 20 list for the Phillies prior to this season, while John Sickels, of minorleagueball.com, had Altherr in the “others” section as a player to watch. Considering what he was before this season, it is pretty shocking that the 6’5″, 190 pound outfielder has jumped to the numbers that he is putting up in 2013, but he was clearly a toolsy guy prior to this year. His lanky frame still had impressive speed and gap power, so as he continues to mature physically, Altherr could become an even more intriguing prospect. Given the nature of how the Phillies handled Domonic Brown, however, you have to wonder if they’ll handle a player similar is size with varying talent in the same manner.

DePaulaRafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 Yankees 1 FRk 8 2 1.46 14 61.2 35 18 10 2 18 85 0.859 5.1 12.4 4.72
2013 22 Charleston A 4 2 2.75 8 39.1 24 12 12 2 17 69 1.042 5.5 15.8 4.06
2 Seasons 12 4 1.96 22 101.0 59 30 22 4 35 154 0.931 5.3 13.7 4.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

The strikeout totals are stupid, and so is the fact that the Yankees have De Paula in Low-A ball at the age of 22. Domination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what De Paula has done this season, and another guy that MLB.com left unranked, but came in as the Yankees No.13 prospect at minorleagueball.com, has flown up the prospect rankings in the early going of the 2013 season. De Paula was signed in November of 2010 out of the Dominican Republic and he has been handled with baby gloves ever since. In a recent Baseball Prospectus chat, Jason Parks had this to say about the Yankee right-hander:

” Powerful build; arm speed is near elite; fastball can work 91-95l touch even higher; huge life; misses barrels; shows plus potential with both hard, power curve and changeup; command profile could push him to the ‘pen down the line, as could secondary development. He’s a big time arm.”

He’s good.

BradleyArchie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 18 Missoula Rk 0 0 0.00 1 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 18.0
2012 19 South Bend A 12 6 3.84 27 136.0 87 64 58 6 84 152 1.257 5.8 10.1 1.81
2013 20 2 Teams A+-AA 4 0 1.05 8 42.2 29 6 5 1 16 63 1.055 6.1 13.3 3.94
2013 20 Visalia A+ 2 0 1.26 5 28.2 22 5 4 1 10 43 1.116 6.9 13.5 4.30
2013 20 Mobile AA 2 0 0.64 3 14.0 7 1 1 0 6 20 0.929 4.5 12.9 3.33
3 Seasons 16 6 3.14 36 180.2 117 70 63 7 100 219 1.201 5.8 10.9 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

I had a hard time buying into Archie Bradley, even with high rankings from MLB.com (No.24) and Baseball America (No.25) prior to the season. It had a lot to do with the 84 walks that he posted last season, as I like to see that a pitcher can harness his stuff before I consider him elite. However, this time I was way off, as the hits per nine (5.8), K per nine (10.1), and home runs allowed (just six in 136 innings) goes to show the type of stuff and dominance that Bradley possesses. A 95 mph fastball with sink and a strikeout pitch in his curveball have allowed Bradley to post a 63:16 K:BB in 42.2 innings in 2013, and he has already been bumped up to Double-A at the tender age of 20. He was highly touted for a reason and he seems to have found the command necessary to become one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.

Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 Spokane A- 58 258 233 33 61 9 3 2 29 10 13 37 .262 .323 .352 .675 82
2012 18 Hickory A 109 471 432 60 112 23 4 10 47 19 25 65 .259 .313 .400 .714 173
2013 19 Myrtle Beach A+ 38 163 143 30 44 14 1 4 25 11 9 28 .308 .377 .503 .880 72
3 Seasons 205 892 808 123 217 46 8 16 101 40 47 130 .269 .328 .405 .732 327
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

It’s tough being a middle infielder in the Rangers system these days. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler signed to long-term deals and Jurickson Profar waiting in Triple-A, the Rangers have created a logjam of talent in their system that will either waste away or get traded away. It also isn’t very fair for the guys who aren’t Profar to have to try to put up numbers comparable to his to be taken seriously. Which leads us to a very impressive young player. Odor was just 18 last season when he put up a .714 OPS with 37 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in full season ball, and he has improved his stats in the early going this season. Not only that, his running game is much more solid, having stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts after being gunned down 10 times in 29 attempts last season. His ceiling isn’t nearly that of Profar’s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid major leaguer.

FrancoMaikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Phillies Rk 51 217 194 23 43 11 2 2 29 0 16 46 .222 .292 .330 .622 64
2011 18 2 Teams A–A 71 296 267 25 66 19 1 3 44 0 26 45 .247 .318 .360 .677 96
2011 18 Williamsport A- 54 229 202 19 58 17 1 2 38 0 25 30 .287 .367 .411 .778 83
2011 18 Lakewood A 17 67 65 6 8 2 0 1 6 0 1 15 .123 .149 .200 .349 13
2012 19 Lakewood A 132 554 503 70 141 32 3 14 84 3 38 80 .280 .336 .439 .775 221
2013 20 Clearwater A+ 39 179 163 25 47 16 1 8 32 0 12 26 .288 .341 .546 .887 89
4 Seasons 293 1246 1127 143 297 78 7 27 189 3 92 197 .264 .324 .417 .742 470
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Franco has a lot of potential that is not obvious to his game yet, which is shocking when you consider he currently sports an .887 OPS as a 20-year-old in High-A. A third baseman with an excellent arm and solid glove, if Franco continues hitting the way that he has while showing improved plate discipline, the Phillies could have a superstar in the making. Franco doesn’t strikeout in bunches and he appears ready to turn some of those 32 doubles from last season into home runs this year. As he continues to mature, he will be a player to keep an eye on.

Contreras

Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 17 Reds FRk 0 1 8.64 17 0 7 0 16.2 14 21 16 0 30 17 2.640 7.6 9.2 0.57
2009 18 Reds FRk 4 4 5.60 14 12 0 0 72.1 65 49 45 6 30 58 1.313 8.1 7.2 1.93
2010 19 Reds Rk 2 4 6.45 10 6 3 2 37.2 44 29 27 8 16 30 1.593 10.5 7.2 1.88
2011 20 Billings Rk 2 1 5.00 18 0 2 0 36.0 35 20 20 5 23 38 1.611 8.8 9.5 1.65
2012 21 2 Teams A-A+ 1 1 3.12 49 0 33 20 60.2 38 27 21 7 24 63 1.022 5.6 9.3 2.63
2012 21 Dayton A 0 1 3.20 40 0 26 16 50.2 29 22 18 6 19 51 0.947 5.2 9.1 2.68
2012 21 Bakersfield A+ 1 0 2.70 9 0 7 4 10.0 9 5 3 1 5 12 1.400 8.1 10.8 2.40
2013 22 Bakersfield A+ 1 4 3.40 8 8 0 0 42.1 27 18 16 5 13 52 0.945 5.7 11.1 4.00
6 Seasons 10 15 4.91 116 26 45 22 265.2 223 164 145 31 136 258 1.351 7.6 8.7 1.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

The Reds have been all over the place in their handling of Contreras since signing him prior to the 2008 season out of the Dominican Republic. While they finally seemed to have figured out that he should start, Contreras finally seems to know how to pitch now, as well. He is putting it all together for a very bad Bakersfield team in the California League, and while the league is a hitter’s paradise, Contreras has been pretty dominant. He has a .179 batting average allowed to go with his 52:13 K:BB in 42.1 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-96 and seems familiar with pressure after being a closer last season. We’ll see if he can maintain this production, but he looks like a live arm in the Reds system, which they need with Daniel Corcino pitching so poorly at Triple-A this season.

Jake Buchanan, RHP, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 20 Tri-City A- 4 5 4.28 14 14 61.0 69 32 29 3 11 42 1.311 10.2 6.2 3.82
2011 21 2 Teams A+-AA 5 10 3.80 26 26 165.2 163 93 70 10 36 104 1.201 8.9 5.6 2.89
2011 21 Lancaster A+ 5 10 3.91 25 25 158.2 157 92 69 10 35 102 1.210 8.9 5.8 2.91
2011 21 Corpus Christi AA 0 0 1.29 1 1 7.0 6 1 1 0 1 2 1.000 7.7 2.6 2.00
2012 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 5 10 5.25 30 20 142.1 188 95 83 12 38 88 1.588 11.9 5.6 2.32
2012 22 Corpus Christi AA 5 9 4.96 27 19 134.1 171 85 74 11 33 83 1.519 11.5 5.6 2.52
2012 22 Oklahoma City AAA 0 1 10.12 3 1 8.0 17 10 9 1 5 5 2.750 19.1 5.6 1.00
2013 23 Corpus Christi AA 4 0 0.93 11 7 48.1 28 5 5 2 3 28 0.641 5.2 5.2 9.33
4 Seasons 18 25 4.03 81 67 417.1 448 225 187 27 88 262 1.284 9.7 5.7 2.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Houston has an interesting method of developing their pitchers, using tandem starting pitching at all minor league levels this season. Jake Buchanan is not one of the club’s brightest stars, nor is he expected to become one, but he really seems to enjoy how the Astros are doing things this year. A 0.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 48.1 innings is pretty impressive, as is the .163 batting average allowed. With the major league roster looking like a mediocre Triple-A team, and a starting rotation with a 6.31 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and .309 batting average allowed, it doesn’t hurt to know that Buchanan is having success in the minors for a team so desperate for pitching help. The 23-year-old could get a jump to Triple-A in the coming weeks to see if he can produce similar statistics there before getting a shot in Houston.

May I Have Another: Guys on Fire

Move over Alicia Keys, these boys are on fire in the month of May:

MorelandMitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers

.347/.407/.796, 17-49, 11 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 8 RBI

Long overlooked as an asset in the Rangers order, Moreland appears to be establishing himself as a valuable piece to a Hamilton-less Rangers offense. His left-handed power is needed in the middle of an order that features Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz along with switch-hitting DH Lance Berkman. Moreland is 27 and in the midst of his prime. While he does feature a pretty ugly .662 career OPS against left-handed pitching, that number has bumped up to .789 in 2013, so he could still make an interesting career out of playing in Texas. He could certainly turn his recent hot streak into a total breakout.

Trout1Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

.340/.393/.720, 17-50, 10 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB

After taking the world by storm last season, Trout started the season slower than some fantasy nerds would have liked, posting a .261/.333/.432 triple slash in the first month of the season. He is picking things up, though, in May, displaying the power and speed that made baseball enthusiasts drool last season. Trout could be on his way to posting numbers like this over the rest of the season. Just imagine what he would be doing if Josh Hamilton was alive and breathing for the Angels…if only he could pitch, the Angels might not look like such an embarrassment.

TabataJose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

.522/.542/.783, 12-23, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB

Do you need a sleeper? The Pirates are pretty loaded in the outfield with Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left; however, right field is a little…Travis Snider-y. Snider is still just 25 but he is under-performing, again, as the Pirates primary right fielder in 2013. His .267/.347/.356 is very weak and Tabata is heating up with the weather. Tabata, himself just 24, is another floundering former top prospect, but his ability to use the gaps and his speed would make him an asset in real-life and fantasy baseball. Clint Hurdle is an interesting manager, to say the least, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks with a strict platoon or gives Tabata a chance.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

.447/.552/.660, 21-47, 13 R, 10 2B, 5 RBI

Mauer continues to prove that his 2009 power surge and MVP season was an anomaly. The Twins are floating around .500 due to Mauer’s production and a whole lot of crappy pitching. If the club was serious about contending, they probably would have done something about Vance Worley and Kevin Correia being their No.1 and No.2 starter prior to the season. With a lot of their talent in their 30′s, including Mauer, the club will be hard pressed for a quick recovery. Oswaldo Arcia has been a nice addition but to even float around being mediocre, Mauer may have to hit .447 over the rest of the 2013 season. He’s hot and he’s a hitting machine.

ZimmermanAces on Fire 

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners: 2-0, 3 GS, 0.82 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 22 IP, 20:3 K:BB

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-0, 3 GS, 0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:5 K:BB

Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.16 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 19:2 K:BB

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Washington Nationals: 3-0, 3 GS, 1.19 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:2 K:BB

CorbinShutdown Surprises

Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 3-0, 3 GS, 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 16:10 K:BB

Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: 2-0, 2 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 15 IP, 18:1 K:BB

Scott Feldman, RHP, Chicago Cubs: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 22 IP, 21:5 K:BB

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