Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’
After acquiring R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Melky Cabrera through trades and free agency prior to the 2013 season, it would have been easy to assume that the Toronto Blue Jays would become contenders in the American League East – immediately. With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion already on board offensively, the Jays possessed a dynamic offense, and the added pieces to the rotation and the top of the order seemed like enough to help Toronto find their way back to the early-1990′s glory days.
Instead, the Jays went 74-88, 23 games back of the Boston Red Sox, battling Justin Bieber for the title of Biggest Canadian Train-wreck of 2013.
Johnson is now in San Diego and the Jays look to be struggling to develop a solid rotation around Dickey and Buehrle, as Brandon Morrow, who has battled numerous injuries and ailments over the last couple of seasons, Esmil Rogers, J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, and Todd Redmond will battle to fill out the remainder of the Jays rotation in 2014. For that reason, the Jays will likely need to win games by outscoring the opposition.
How can the Jays fix their already present issues?
First, the club needs to move Brett Lawrie back to second base. Ryan Goins, Brent Morel, and Maicer Izturis are currently listed on the club’s depth chart for second, and Lawrie would obviously be a huge offensive upgrade. Lawrie played 249 games at second in the minors and did a nice job fielding the position. If he were to stay healthy and live up to his lofty expectations, he would produce at an All-Star level offensively, likely becoming a fantasy darling and very valuable within the sabermetric community due to his ability to run – and his athletic ability should allow him to thrive as an up-the-middle player, once again.
Obviously, third base would then be open if the Jays moved Lawrie back to second. Edwin Encarnacion played the position horrendously in Cincinnati, but Toronto could move Jose Bautista back to third. Bautista has played all of 21.1 innings at third since 2011 and he posted negative value at the position in his career, but with such low expectations from the current options at second base, Bautista’s negative influence at third could still be smaller than what the Jays will likely receive from Goins, Morel, and/or Izturis.
To be honest, one of the major reasons that this move makes sense is because of the outfield options that the Blue Jays have. Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra could provide value to the club if either player was given a full-time opportunity, and both warrant a longer look than what they will likely be given due to the current lineup alignment.
Gose is just 23 and has two years of experience at the major league level, as he has 342 plate appearances in Toronto. Gose has over 900 plate appearances at Triple-A, though, and while he has a lot of swing and miss in his game, he seems to have a lot of similarities to Michael Bourn with a lesser hit tool. Tremendous speed and defensive skills will be his calling card, but he does have some power, as well. Giving him a bigger role in 2014 will allow the Jays to have a better idea of options on-hand for the 2015 offseason, as center field will be very weak and the club could lose Colby Rasmus on the open-market.
Sierra, 25, has shown some power at the major league level, posting an .827 OPS (126 OPS+) in 35 games in 2013, including 14 walks in 122 plate appearances after walking all of 17 times in 422 minor league plate appearances last season. The power seems legit, though, as Sierra ripped 46 home runs in 1,395 minor league plate appearances since the start of 2011. He profiles nicely as a corner outfielder, and, while he doesn’t have elite speed, he seems to understand how to utilize the skills that he does possess (77 stolen bases in his minor league career). Maybe he was just bored in the minors and it led to his horrific approach?
Of course, maybe the offense wouldn’t have to be manipulated in any way to improve the team’s chances if the Blue Jays signed another starting pitcher or two. Considering that the Jays’ 9th overall and 11th overall picks in the 2014 MLB Draft are both protected, why weren’t they more aggressive in the top-flight pitcher market? They would, essentially, be giving up a second round pick for a player who is tied to compensation, and their win-now approach, evident from their trades last offseason, warrants that type of investment.
It wouldn’t be too surprising for the Jays to settle on a one-year deal with Ervin Santana, just to show some kind of effort this offseason. A better option, however, would likely be Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, whose unfamiliarity with the league would at least allow for early success – if he were dropped immediately into the rotation. Other options at this point are not good – Joe Saunders, Barry Zito, Clayton Richard, Jeff Niemann, Jason Marquis, Jeff Karstens, Jair Jurrjens, Johan Santana, and Jon Garland are all that remain of major league free agent starters, while Brett Myers “could” be tried in that role once again after failing horrifically due to injuries with the Cleveland Indians in 2013.
Outside of changing the team’s offensive alignment or signing a free agent starter, the Blue Jays appear to be heading towards another last place finish in the AL East. The Yankees and Orioles made some interesting additions, the Rays re-upped with James Loney and have their core intact, and the Red Sox are only the defending champions. After mortgaging the clubs future (Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jake Marisnick) to make a run in 2013, the quiet offseason should be disappointing to fans. After altering the competitive window, the club is now just out there in the land of mediocrity – not strong enough to truly contend and not bad enough to win the Carlos Rodon sweepstakes in 2014, and whoever the top player in 2015 will be sweepstakes, as well.
Marcus Stroman is nearly ready for the rotation, but the Aaron Sanchez‘s and Roberto Osuna‘s are too far away for the Jays to count on in 2014. After dealing so many of their near-ready prospects last year, the only way to salvage the season is to give Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose a larger role, while increasing the team’s ability to outscore their opposition.
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.
- Yankees’ 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?
- There 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.
- Speaking 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.
- Yu 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.
I haven’t done one of these in quite some time. When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames out of pitchers, solid plate discipline and gap power and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone. It worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.
At just 17, Leyba has shown a fantastic approach with solid speed and gap power in one of the lowest levels of minor league baseball. While he is quite a long ways away from making an impact in Detroit. Leyba is tied for 2nd in the DSL in total bases and if he can maintain this type of production as he rises up through the minors, he could become quite a fantasy baseball asset.
Miguel Castro, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays – Dominican Summer League
An 18-year-old that is 6’5″, 190 pounds putting up a 12.1 K/9 is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Castro isn’t that much older than his counterparts in the DSL but he is certainly making a mockery of them. When he signed, he reportedly had a low-90′s fastball, a solid slider, and a changeup, so with a frame that could fill out with existing decent stuff, Castro could be another solid arm in the Blue Jays system.
Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit Tigers – High-A: Florida State League
Say what you want about 5’9″ players not cutting it physically, but Jose Altuve has proven the stereotype wrong. Travis has hit very well in the lower levels, as he should have being a collegiate player out of Florida State. However, his impressive gap power, solid speed, and plate discipline could lead to continued success as he climbs the organizational ladder. The Tigers don’t seem to hang onto the players that they continue to churn out, instead trading them for major league talent, but Travis looks like he could become valuable wherever he ends up.
Winker, who doesn’t turn 20 for another week or so, has done a great job at the dish since he was drafted in the 1st round (49th overall) in the 2012 MLB draft. He has a very good approach with solid power to all fields and good plate discipline. One knock on him is his inability to drive the ball against left-handed pitching, as he has just four extra-base hits in 83 at-bats against them in 2013, but he hasn’t been overmatched, posting a .277/.381/.398 line against them. Winker could very well take Jay Bruce‘s spot in Cincinnati in 2016 if the team was to decline his 2017 option, if he doesn’t force an earlier callup to play left field prior to that.
Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies – Double-A: Texas League
When Tony Cingrani and Tyler Skaggs went through the California League, they posted results similar to what Winkler has this season. Does that mean that Winkler will be a similar prospect or produce similar results? Probably not, but the Rockies need some consistent arms and their system is full of unfriendly ballparks. For that reason, Winkler’s statistics are pretty impressive. He appears to work inside (look at all of those HBP!) and his improved stinginess in allowing base runners shows that he may have turned a corner.
Blach hasn’t received the kind of hype that fellow California League teammates Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn have received in San Jose, but he probably should. A 5th round pick last year out of Creighton, this is Blach’s professional debut, and he has done a tremendous job in a tough pitching environment, while showing amazing control and command. While his ceiling may not be as high as his teammates’, Blach appears to be the same type of prospect that Danny Hultzen was prior to his shoulder woes: he is what he is…so he’ll move quickly.
Zach Borenstein, OF, Los Angeles Angels- High-A: California League
Brandon Wood was once a superstar, power prospect in the California League, so one could wonder if what Borenstein has done in the 2013 season is a product of the league or improved skills. His plate discipline is solid considering his apparent power stroke and he isn’t running as much (since he is jogging around the bases), so it’s hard to decide whether he should be brushed aside. With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton around, Borenstein could make a push for left field if Peter Bourjos doesn’t lock down a roster spot in the next two years. At 22, Borenstein could be on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate prospect or solid organizational depth, it just depends on who you ask. I say he’ll work his way into the Angels’ plans.
Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston Astros – High-A: California League
|A+ (2 seasons)||135||631||541||110||150||33||7||11||105||24||9||78||69||.277||.365||.425||.790||230|
|A- (1 season)||44||196||164||38||57||9||5||4||25||20||7||24||22||.348||.441||.537||.978||88|
Meet the future leadoff hitter for the Houston Astros…maybe. Aplin is not really repeating High-A, having spent all of 24 games in Lancaster last season, but being a 5th round pick out of Arizona State last season, he appears ready to take his place as a decent prospect in the Houston organization. Certainly Aplin’s power is inflated in Lancaster, but the plate discipline is a thing of beauty for stat geeks like Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow. While Aplin may never be an All-Star caliber player, he appears to have enough skills across the board to be useful, especially for a team that may be very good in about three years.
At 22 in Triple-A and having hit the way that he has since making his professional debut late in the 2011 season, it is shocking that Semien hasn’t gained more attention, especially since he appears capable of handling shortstop (though he will likely end up at second base). Semien has very good plate discipline and surprising pop for a middle infielder. For a White Sox team that could be headed towards a quick rebuild, he could become a very useful bat by the middle of next season, as he could play second while the resurgent Gordon Beckham plays third. Regardless of where Semien plays, his stats prove that he shouldn’t be as overlooked as he appears to be.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs – Double-A: Southern League
Hendricks was acquired in the Cubs deal with the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster last season and he has established himself as a useful part in the future plans of the Chicago Cubs. While he doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling, Hendricks hardly walks anyone and gets his fair share of strikeouts, though he isn’t dominant. If Hendricks is able to continue to pass on the free passes and maintain his impressive WHIP totals in the majors, he could become a very good mid-rotation starter for the constantly rebuilding Cubs.
Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey hasn’t been all that bad this season, despite his current 4.72 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While those numbers are drastically different from his 2.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP from his 2012 NL Cy Young season, one needs to look a bit deeper into the statistics to see that Dickey is getting better.
In six of Dickey’s 17 starts, he has allowed five or more runs (he only did this five times in 33 starts in 2012). In three of his 17 starts, he has failed to go six innings (he only did this twice in 2012). If you take away his “not good” six starts, Dickey has a 2.18 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP over 74.1 innings, but how will he find consistency in the pitcher-unfriendly AL East?
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any relationships between how frequently or with what velocity Dickey is throwing his fastball and knuckleball and his success. When considering the teams that have gotten to him (Boston, Seattle, Baltimore twice, Atlanta, and the Chicago White Sox), four of the six games seem excusable, but Seattle and Chicago are pretty brutal. Considering that PitchF/X only shows that Dickey has thrown a changeup in eight starts and in three of those starts, Dickey has been shelled.
Perhaps Dickey is only going to thrive by being a two-pitch guy. Perhaps it is the nature of the beast when it comes to the inconsistency of the knuckleball itself. After all, how many knuckleballers have one Cy Young awards besides Dickey? That would be zero. In fact, Joe Niekro is the only other knuckleballer, besides Dickey, to win a Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award and Phil Niekro is the only knuckleballer to win 300 games in baseball history.
R.A. Dickey hasn’t lost anything. He still throws the hard knuckleball and he still shows glimpses of his dominance, more often than not. There will always be outings when the opposition sits on the knuckleball and it isn’t floating right. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dickey’s ERA is closer to 3.40 than 4.00 at the end of the season. He has shown the last few seasons that he can be consistent. Besides, he’s the king:
The Baltimore Orioles had an exciting debut Thursday night when 22-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman took the mound at Rogers Centre in Toronto against the Blue Jays. While I’m not a scout or genius, this is what I saw:
- Very good fastball, touching 98 mph several times
- Pretty straight fastball, which could lead to some issues as the opposition adjusts to him
- A very good offspeed pitch that was sitting in the mid-80′s with hard downward break
- Very good deception: Gausman hid the ball in his glove and went directly behind his right side, allowing the ball seemingly explode towards home, which makes that 98 mph fastball that much more impressive
- The solid minor league command didn’t seem to transition tonight
- Nerves combined with overthrowing resulted in the command issues
- The command issues weren’t overwhelming (just two walks), but Gausman was high or outside several times due to the overthrowing
His overall line (5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) wasn’t awful; however, the Orioles will certainly hope for more out of him going forward considering his impressive numbers, to date, in the minors:
The 62:6 K:BB in 61.1 innings was absolutely tremendous and the 58 strikes in 89 pitches (65.2 percent) shows that he can pound the strike zone.
Going Forward: Gausman has some impressive stuff. He seemed like he was trying to strike a lot of guys out tonight and will probably have a discussion about trusting his defense, which is wise considering the incredible defense behind him in Baltimore (the O’s are first in MLB in team fielding percentage, .992). With the injury to Wei-Yin Chen and the presence of Freddy Garcia in the Orioles rotation, Gausman is likely to maintain a rotation spot over the rest of the season, or at least until he reaches around 130 innings, which would give the youngster approximately 175 innings in 2013. He is a legitimate top prospect worthy of rostering in all fantasy baseball leagues, and worthy of admiration by all baseball fans. The numbers didn’t show his potential tonight. If Dylan Bundy‘s elbow doesn’t need surgically re-attached, the Orioles have a dynamic combination forming out of their top two prospects.
With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
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
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 Sox
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.
D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Minnesota Twins
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
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.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
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
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.
I did this last year and it was interesting, as they were mostly useless guesses as opposed to valuable predictions. However, with days until real games begin, I figured that I would join in the fun of putting this out there so that we can all look back and see just how wrong I was when October rolls around. Let the incorrectness begin!
AL East Champion
I’m buying the upgrades to the Jays roster. A great improvement to the pitching staff, and just in time to pounce on an AL East division where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don’t look like major factors. While the Rays and Orioles look to maintain success without a huge payroll increase, the Jays will utilize their awesome blend of speed, power, and rotation depth to take the crown in the East.
AL Central Champion
Like the Jays, the Tigers will impress with their strong rotation, and while the club plays scetchy, at best, defense, the presence of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera is enough to make them strong contenders in a weak, yet improving, AL Central. The signing of Torii Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez will only improve the offense, while the club will hope that Austin Jackson continues his tremendous improvement and that Andy Dirks can hold down left until Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia prove themselves ready. The bullpen issues are something to be concerned about, but someone out of Bruce Rondon, Phil Coke, and Joaquin Benoit will step up.
AL West Champion
How do you improve a lineup that had Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in it a season ago? Well, by signing Josh Hamilton, of course! The Angels could be the best offensive team in baseball, but they’ll need to be, after seemingly taking the “we-will-outscore-your-team-because-we-don’t-have-pitching” way of building a roster. After losing out of Zack Greinke, the club traded for Tommy “my shoulder is gonna rip off of my body at any moment” Hanson, signing Joe Blanton, and trading for Jason Vargas, who could benefit from continuing his career in another pitcher-friendly ballpark. The Halos have enough offense to overcome their pitching shortcomings, though, and could easily manage to score about 6-8 runs per game.
AL Wild Cards
Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays
The Rangers may have lost Josh Hamilton, but they still have a dynamic offense, led by Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre. While it is highly unlikely that Lance Berkman can truly fill the shoes of Hamilton, he is just a season removed from revitalizing his career in St. Louis. Can he do it again? Well, if he can’t, the club will need more from their rotation, which is solid, but not nearly a lock to be great as others in the AL. Yu Darvish is the anchor, but with Matt Harrison‘s low strikeout rates, one has to wonder if he can maintain the 32 wins and 3.34 ERA that he has put up the last two seasons. Derek Holland needs to bounce back, as well, if Texas is to be taken seriously. If they don’t get the right breaks, this could easily be the Oakland Athletics, once again.
The Rays gambled on cashing in two seasons of James Shields for more young talent, acquiring a great haul from the Royals. While the rotation will miss the strength and innings that Shields brought, David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb will be solid, while Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann fight over the No.5 spot. The Rays have to get some production from Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar up the middle, while hoping that Evan Longoria stays healthy until Wil Myers can get called up. They need power in the lineup and on Opening Day, Longoria and Ben Zobrist seem like their only hope. Pitching and defense has worked for the last several years, and it will again in 2013.
Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
While everyone will focus on the huge trades that brought the club Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, and others, Bautista will be the spark plug to the offense due to his tremendous power and ability to get on base. With his wrist fully recovered and a dynamic lineup around him, opposing clubs will be forced to pitch to the slugger, which will result is a season that should resemble his 2010 and 2011 seasons, with overwhelming power and run producing statistics.
AL Cy Young
Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers
To say that Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball would be an understatement. He turned 30 years old in February and since 2008, he has gone 89-48 with a 3.28 ERA over 1,154.2 innings, and while those numbers have been outmatched by only CC Sabathia in the American League (91-39 with a 3.11 ERA), Verlander seems to have a pretty tight grip on the best pitcher in MLB title for the moment. While Yu Darvish and David Price begin to catch up to him, Verlander will hold control it for another season, with another 20-win season and an ERA under 3.00 for the Tigers.
AL Manager of the Year
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
While he actually has very little to do with the drastic changes that the Indians have undergone this offseason (that honor belongs to GM Chris Antonetti), Terry Francona will get a lot of credit for the Indians posting their first winning season since their 2007 ALCS appearance. Manny Acta never seemed capable of keeping successful starts going over the 162-game season, but Francona’s resume proves that he is capable of that, regardless of the 2011 Boston Red Sox collapse. While the Tribe won’t make the playoffs, they will be very competitive and, possibly, be a nuisance to the Tigers in the AL Central for most of the season. For that, Francona will deserve the honor for making a Cleveland sports franchise matter again.
AL Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
He won’t start the season with the major league club, but Myers will be up in June, once the Rays can guarantee that he won’t gain Super Two arbitration eligibility, taking over the left field job from Matt Joyce, while manning right field when Ben Zobrist goes to second or short. Myers exploded in the minors last season, hitting an absurd .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs between the Royals’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. While he could work on his contact rate (he struck out 140 times in 522 at-bats), Myers is a much needed offensive force for the Rays, who need someone besides Evan Longoria and Zobrist to produce consistently. Expect a .260/.320/.460 line with nearly 20 home runs if Myers gets the call in June, which should be good enough to win the AL ROY with Jurickson Profar waiting for a shot in Triple-A for the Rangers and so few players getting an opportunity early in the 2013 season.
NL East Champion
Bryce Harper will be better than he was in 2012 and Stephen Strasburg won’t have an innings limit. Really, this is all that you need to know, but with the addition of a leadoff hitter in Denard Span and another fantastic arm in Rafael Soriano to add to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Nationals are about as good as it gets in MLB for a lock to go to the playoffs. Add in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche, and you have a team capable of winning 95-100 games. Yes…they’re that good.
NL Central Champion
What do you get when you take an outstanding team without a leadoff hitter and you add a guy with a lifetime .386 on-base percentage in that spot? You get a team with a very bad defensive outfield that plays in a hitters paradise and the 2013 version of the Cincinnati Reds. Shin-Soo Choo could be a liability in center, but his offensive skills fit perfectly into the Reds lineup. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto will need some help from Choo and Ryan Ludwick, but with a very good starting rotation and great depth in the bullpen with the move of Aroldis Chapman back to closer, the Reds will battle the Nationals for the best record in MLB in 2013.
NL West Champion
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the Dodgers, I’m buying. The addition of Zack Greinke was huge, but the trade with the Boston Red Sox that brought Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, along with their massive contracts, to the Dodgers will begin paying dividends this season. While the Hanley Ramirez thumb injury is a slight issue to start the season, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are the right kind of awesome to overcome any issues like that. The Dodgers have great pitching depth, unless they make a trade in the next few days, to overcome any further arm issues for Chad Billingsley, and their bullpen is lights out, with flame-thrower Kenley Jansen sharing end-game duties with Brandon League…until Don Mattingley sees what everyone else does and puts Jansen there full-time. This team is dangerous if they stay healthy. The pitching is deep, but an injury to Crawford, Kemp, or Andre Ethier will cost them the division to the San Francisco Giants.
NL Wild Cards
Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals
The Atlanta Braves have an incredible roster. If Chipper Jones had hung around one more season, they may have had a chance at another World Series title for the old man. Unfortunately, Jones finally retired and third could be the clubs only weak spot, as Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson will share the job in 2013. The addition of B.J. Upton and Justin Upton will make the offense even more dangerous, as Jason Heyward continues to become one of the best players in baseball. Freddie Freeman got his eye issues worked out, so he will also improve in 2013, while the club will rely on a deep rotation, that will only get better when Brandon Beachy returns in June or July. By then, the Braves could have a very difficult choice, especially after seeing Julio Teheran thrive this spring, as someone will have to be removed from the rotation if the club is healthy. As far as the bullpen goes, one name is all you need: Craig Kimbrel.
The Cardinals continue to stick around and be contenders, even after losing Albert Pujols a season ago and, potentially, losing Chris Carpenter for the entire 2013 season. Adam Wainwright should re-establish himself as an ace this season, while Allen Craig will show that he is an MVP-caliber player if he would just stay healthy. Speaking of health, could fantasy baseball nerds be any more excited for the first of Carlos Beltran‘s injuries in 2013? If you don’t know why, you need to look up super-prospect Oscar Taveras. The Cards seem to have an endless supply of young arms, as well, as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez arrive and establish themselves in the majors.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Votto will do one of two things: 1) Post an on-base percentage approaching .500 (.474 in 2012) while never seeing a pitch worth hitting, or 2) Post numbers close to his 2010 MVP season (.324/.424/.600, 37 home runs) while earning his 2nd MVP. The Reds are going to have Votto hitting No.3 again, and with Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips hitting in front of him, Votto will easily exceed his career-high 113 RBI this season. With his knee healthy and a tremendous lineup and hitter’s paradise as a home ballpark, Joey Votto will win the NL MVP in 2013.
NL Cy Young
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
You can take Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, while I go off the board (or rocker) to choose Madison Bumgarner for NL Cy Young. After tiring at the end of the 2012 season, Bumgarner knows that he has a lot to prove. Add on the fact that his WHIP fell from 1.21 in 2011 to 1.11 in 2012, and you can see that the 23-year-old left-hander can not only miss bats (191 K’s in each of the last two seasons), but he isn’t allowing many hits or walks. With a pitcher-friendly ballpark and loads of expectations on him due to his fall-off late last season, Bumgarner will show that he shouldn’t be overlooked due to Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum being on the same roster.
NL Manager of the Year
Bud Black, San Diego Padres
There isn’t a whole lot to like about the Padres roster. They don’t have a superstar on the front of a video game, they don’t have a player that shows up to the MLB Fan Cave with an infamous twitter account, but they have an interesting team and a better manager. Bud Black can get a lot out of the club that he has. While the team will continue to struggle to score runs, at times, Chase Headley could provide enough power to get runs in bunches, and Yonder Alonso could thrive with the fences being moved in at Petco. Solid speed and gap power throughout the lineup will make the Padres a surprise team in 2013, and while the rotation is more patchwork than well thought out, the bullpen is tremendous, as it always seems to be. If the Friars can get anything out of Andrew Cashner, Clayton Richard, and Eric Stults, they’ll be a team capable of 82-85 wins, which isn’t playoff worthy, but worth giving Bud Black an award for.
NL Rookie of the Year
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
You don’t get called a left-handed version of Vladimir Guerrero and get overlooked, and Taveras is that special of a talent. Like I mentioned above, once Carlos Beltran gets hurt (as in it IS going to happen), Taveras would, more than likely, get the call. Not only a Beltran injury, but an under performing Jon Jay could even be replaced by the super-prospect, as Taveras played 93 games in center for the Cards Double-A affiliate in 2012. Taveras will get enough at-bats to be valuable and he could do that as a fourth outfielder once June rolls around, but once he is in St. Louis, he won’t be leaving town for several years. A pure hitter in every sense of the label.
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals defeat Los Angeles Angels, 4-2
Random, Bold Predictions
There is no rhyme or reason here, just as the title says:
- Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940.
- Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases.
- Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases.
- Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227.
- Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013.
- Mike Minor proves that his second half from 2012 (6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP over 87.1 IP) wasn’ a fluke, as he becomes the Braves best starting pitcher in 2013.
- Jordan Zimmerman has a more impressive 2013 season than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and he will no longer be overlooked in a fantastic Washington rotation.
- Brandon Belt continues hitting like he has all spring, ripping 25 home runs after having a power outage in the earlier stages of his career (16 in 598 at-bats).
- Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy and benefits from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler having All Star seasons to hit 40 home runs, making all of those fantasy baseball players that took him in the first round feel like the smartest men alive.
- Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI.
- Carlos Santana hits 30+ home runs and will have the kind of hype that Buster Posey has right now during the 2013-2014 offseason.
- Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta.
- Domonic Brown keeps the Phillies left field job all season and posts a .270/.380/.450 line with solid production across the board. Philly fans hit Ruben Amaro, Jr. with batteries for not trusting in him sooner.
- Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder.
- Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong.
- Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career.
- Rick Porcello wins 17 games with a 3.20 ERA while striking out 180 batters…all because he began using his four-seam fastball for the first time in his career.
These guys are about to go bonkers in 2013. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…(obvious names not listed, i.e. Harper, Brown, Braun, Ike Davis)
Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Brett Anderson, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners
Prospects to Watch
This has nothing to do with the Top 100 Prospects that I put out in December, but you will find some familiar names and others that will be players to keep an eye on, especially if they’re on your favorite team or if you’re in a keeper fantasy baseball league.
Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles
Dorssys Paulino, INF, Cleveland Indians
J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
Yasel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Xander Bogaerts, INF, Boston Red Sox
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Joey Gallo, INF, Texas Rangers
Spring training is an exciting time for baseball nerds. We get to hear stories about how so many players are in the greatest shape of their lives, while we count down the days until meaningful games begin. The position battles are the most interesting things to watch over the next several weeks, and while it seems like there aren’t a lot of battles to grasp onto, here are a handful that I know that I am going to monitor.
The Cleveland Indians Rotation:
With the additions of Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka on minor league deals, the healing elbow of Carlos Carrasco, and the acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the club has gone from having very little pitching depth to a possible abundance. It would be safe to assume that new manager Terry Francona has Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers penciled into the first three spots, while youngster Zach McAllister has a leg up on the No.4 spot, though it isn’t guaranteed. The possible battle for one spot between four solid arms is definitely an intriguing battle.
The Detroit Tiger Left Field Job:
When the Tigers signed Torii Hunter to a two-year deal, they created a logjam of corner outfielders. Andy Dirks seems to have the best shot at the every day job, but he still has Brennan Boesch, Quentin Berry, and youngster Avisail Garcia who could steal some at-bats over the course of the season, while prospect outfielder Nick Castellanos could also push for at-bats later in the season. With Victor Martinez returning from an ACL injury, the DH spot is on lockdown. The Tigers could look to make a deal for a veteran relief pitcher, as Bruce Rondon looks like the potential Opening Day closer after 52 appearances over three minor league levels in 2012. We’ll see if a club decides they could use some offensive help, especially if any PED suspensions come down from MLB from the Biogenesis case out of Florida.
The Toronto Blue Jays Second Base Job:
Gone is Kelly Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, and added were Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis. The Jays are absolutely loaded this season and the club will take advantage of a Alex Rodriguez injury and a re-tooling Boston Red Sox club to make a run at the AL East title. Bonifacio is a speedster that can play several positions. He posted a .360 OBP in 2011 and stole 30 bases in just 64 games in 2012 for the Miami Marlins. Izturis can’t really play short or third well anymore and he doesn’t do any one thing incredibly well, but he is 32 years old in 2013 and the Jays could expect about 30 doubles, 6 to 8 home runs, and 10 to 15 stolen bases over 450 to 500 at-bats. The club is in a great position with this “problem”.
The Atlanta Braves Third Base Job:
Well, Chipper Jones is gone and the Braves don’t have a third baseman for the first time since 1995. Atlanta added Chris Johnson as an extra part in their mega-deal with Arizona for Justin Upton and the right-handed hitting, 28-year-old brings a little bit of power with his career .746 OPS. He could be battling Juan Francisco, a powerful, left-handed hitting, soon-to-be 26-year old who has struggled to make consistent contact in his career, posting a 121:22 K:BB in 361 career at-bats. He has a lot of potential, but he is on the weak side of a platoon and doesn’t have a track record to rely on to this point. It will be a sad day in Atlanta without Larry Jones running out there, but the club should be prepared after dealing with all of Jones’ injuries over the years.
The Washington Nationals Catching Job:
Kurt Suzuki was once a very consistent performer, averaging 14 home runs and 67 RBI per season from 2009 to 2011 before totally crashing and burning in 2012, seeing his OPS drop all the way to .605 over 405 at-bats between Oakland and Washington. With Wilson Ramos coming back from an ACL injury, Suzuki could get the every day job for the first month or two of the season, and with solid producers around him in the lineup in Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth. Ramos was outstanding in 2011, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .779 OPS at the age of 23. Can he regain his form and confidence after a leg injury? How long until Ramos is a real factor in the position battle?
The Cincinnati Reds No.5 Starter Job:
The sky is the limit for Aroldis Chapman if he is able to transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. After posting a ridiculous 122:23 K:BB in just 71.2 innings in 2012, Chapman could, potentially, reach 200 strikeouts by averaging 13 K:9, which is still lower than his 14.1 K:9 career average. He could, legitimately, be the clubs best starter, even with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos in front of him in the rotation. However, Mike Leake is still in the picture and the Reds could leave Chapman in the bullpen for part of the season to limit his innings before stretching him out. If that is the case, could Chapman then pull a Kris Medlen in 2013 and go on to post a 0.97 ERA while going 9-0 in 12 starts for the Braves after joining the rotation on July 31. Leake, who posted a 4.58 ERA over 30 starts in 2012 after posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2011, is very athletic and is a very good rotation filler, but with Chapman, Tony Cingrani, and Daniel Corcino coming up behind him, he could be a long-relief pitcher or trade bait as early as this spring.
The St. Louis Cardinals No.5 Starter Job:
With Chris Carpenter‘s continued neck issues, which could force him to miss the entire 2013 season, the Cardinals are suddenly lacking pitching depth, as they lost Kyle Lohse to free agency this winter, although he does remain unsigned. In their place, Lance Lynn, who was fantastic before hitting a wall last August, looks like the No.4 starter, but the Cardinals look to have an interesting battle between Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, and, postseason superstar, Trevor Rosenthal. Miller has top-of-the-rotation stuff and could be the team’s ace in the next couple of seasons, while Rosenthal’s triple-digit fastball could be dominating out of the starting rotation. If the club wants to continue to develop Miller and Rosenthal, though, Kelly was solid in 2012, posting a 3.74 ERA over 16 starts, and he doesn’t turn 25 years old until June, so it isn’t like he is a veteran option, either. With Carlos Martinez, another top-of-the-rotation type of prospect on the way, the Cardinals seem to have the depth to overcome their current “shortage” of pitching.
Certainly there are many other battles that will come about due to injuries, suspensions, or additional free agent signings, but these seven look like the biggest as spring training gets underway.
Are there any battles you’re interested in watching over the next couple of months?