The Cueto Quandary

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

After Wednesday afternoon’s eight-inning gem against the Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander Johnny Cueto is the proud owner of a dazzling 2.54 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP over 15 starts and 104.2 innings. Since the start of the 2014 season, he has a 2.43 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 348.1 innings, winning 25 games and making the Reds and their fans wonder if they invested in the wrong arm when the club signed Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal in February 2014, especially with Bailey on the shelf after Tommy John surgery.

Now, the question becomes – where does he end up?

For fans who want him to stick around, it remains very unlikely for the club to re-sign their ace. After watching Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw cash-in, Cueto will be the second best option in free agency (3rd if Zack Greinke opts-out) to Tigers’ left-hander David Price this winter. He should easily eclipse $25 million annually, as teams like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels will be looking to fill holes and become more unreasonably deep (on paper) than their counterparts. If (or when) Cueto leaves through free agency, the Reds would receive a compensatory draft pick, which is no sure thing to develop into a star.

Where will Cueto land?

Where will Cueto land?

Therefore, trading Cueto for prospects continues to be the club’s best option. The club would receive quality, close-to-ready prospects in return. While those players are no sure thing to develop, either, it would provide the club with talent that could be plugged in immediately, or sooner than later, to begin the organization’s rebuilding process. While it seems painful to trade away a talent and watch him lead another team to success, it is even harder to see him walk out the door and leave fans and the club with nothing but a view of his backside. Imagine being a Cleveland Cavalier fan when LeBron James left for Miami and knowing that he wasn’t coming back – as it isn’t likely that Cueto would ever opt-out and sign for less to return to Cincinnati. The agony!

The Cueto Quandary has hurt Reds fans deeply because he is a homegrown talent. Signed in 2004 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic, Cueto only spent 358.1 innings in the minors before making his debut, at the age of 22, in 2008. He gradually became more successful before injuries derailed his ability to rank right alongside the best pitchers in baseball. In 2011, he made the jump to ace-caliber production, only to have his season start and end with shoulder issues. He was healthy in 2012; however, he developed the same injury that he had to finish the 2011 season in 2013, which limited him to just 11 starts. Finally pitching a full season again in 2014, Cueto reached career-best numbers in innings (243.2), strikeouts (242), and hits per nine (6.2, which led MLB), while receiving his first All-Star game appearance and finishing 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. Since the start of the 2011 season, this is what Cueto has done:

58-30 (117 starts), 2.53 ERA (3.36 FIP, 153 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP, 782 IP, 667:199 K:BB, 7.1 H:9

"Former

Losing this kind of homegrown talent only reminds Cincinnati of how hard it has been for the club to develop their own arms. Outside of Mario Soto, the Reds haven’t found much success when it comes to signing international free agents and developing them – unless you count Aroldis Chapman here. You have to go back nearly 50 years to get to Gary Nolan (drafted in the 1st round in 1966) and Jim Maloney (amateur free agent signee in 1959), to find pitchers who were signed and developed by the Reds and found as much success as Cueto has in his eight seasons with the Reds.

Perhaps that pain is why it is so hard for Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty to pull the trigger on a deal. After the club shipped off right-handers Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos this winter, it shouldn’t have been long before Cueto was dealt, as well. With the Reds toiling in mediocrity, 36-41 (six games out in both the NL Central and Wild Card), is now the right time? For a team whose longest winning streak (four games) occurred in the first four games of the season, there may not be a better time. Cueto is pitching well, he is healthy, and he continues to pitch himself out of the Cincinnati budget.

There may be another Cueto down the line in Cincinnati, but the Reds went from June 16, 1988 until April 3, 2008, all of 7,231 days, before Soto become Cueto, so expect another lengthy wait for the next real ace in Cincinnati. For a team that seems to be unable to develop their own pitching talent, the Cueto Quandary is a difficult dose of reality. Say your goodbyes and hope for a great return. “Johnny Beisbol” will be pitching for another team at some point this month.

 

30 Shades of Hot: Take Notice of These Scorching Players

Over the last month, some players have inflated their production to incredible levels. With all of the excitement from the NBA and NHL Playoffs, the Supreme Court, and…the Women’s World Cup…perhaps you’ve missed it. Below are some players who are getting back on track or having career seasons.

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?  Courtesy: USA Today

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?
Courtesy: USA Today

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Last 30 days: .394/.525/.713, 6 2B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 15:27 K:BB, 5 SB

You could argue that Goldschmidt has been the best player in MLB this season, even though he ranks 3rd in WAR (4.3) behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (5.1) and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis (4.6). Goldy has compiled a .354/.473/.654 line to go along with 15 doubles, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a league-leading 59 walks (17 intentional). While the Diamondbacks sit at 35-37, they are just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card hunt. Goldschmidt will continue to be pitched around as the primary source of fear within the Arizona lineup.

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .354/.381/.770, 14 2B, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB

Frazier is the Reds’ Ambassador for the upcoming All-Star Game in Cincinnati, utilizing his friendly personality and love of Frank Sinatra to become a beloved figure in Reds Country. He is becoming a beloved figure around baseball, especially fantasy circles, due to his incredible power outburst over the last month. Frazier has been the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR, 4.1), as he has become an asset not only for his bat, but his slick glove at the hot corner.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

Last 30 days: .333/.416/.818, 3 2B, 15 HR, 30 RBI, 5:13 K:BB

“Prince Albert” has found the stroke that made him such a force in his Hall of Fame worthy time in St. Louis. After averaging “just” 25 home runs, 91 RBI, and an .810 OPS in his first three seasons for the Angels, many thought the days of 40 home runs, 121 RBI, and 1.037 OPS, his average year in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, were long gone. Pujols currently leads the AL in bombs (23), and will continue to be a part of the two-man wrecking crew that the Angels have with him and Mike Trout in the order.

Giants' 2B Joe Panik - career year or start of something special?  Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Giants’ 2B Joe Panik – career year or start of something special?
Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

Last 30 days: .336/.405/.542, 10 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12:12 K:BB, 2 SB

Panik likely wasn’t on your list of players who could post a .300/.400/.500 season, but he has been that player over the last month, and very good over the entire season. Panik’s .310/.380/.463 line, 19 doubles, six home runs, and 141 wRC+ (2nd among second basemen in MLB) aren’t all that different from his .296/.365/.403 line over his minor league career, yet, he has nearly reached each of his season-long projections that were set forth by Steamer and ZiPS. His 2.8 WAR has allowed him to show more value than the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kolten Wong, Brian Dozier, and Jose Altuve. Panik was a first round pick out of St. John’s University in 2011. At just 24, he has shown himself to be quite productive, and, if all else fails, he has a slick glove at second.

Justin Turner, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Last 30 days: .361/.418/.639, 6 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 11:7 K:BB

Based on 190 plate appearances, Turner is the 15th most valuable position player in MLB (2.9 WAR). He is having an excellent month, while continuing to shine in the opportunities that he is provided, which are coming in bunches since the Dodgers traded Juan Uribe. While Corey Seager continues to mash in the minors, it is likely Jimmy Rollins at short who is more likely to be replaced than the do-it-all Turner. A career .260/.323/.361 hitter over his first five seasons (2009-2013, 926 plate appearances), the 30-year-old third baseman has hit .334/.400/.526 triple-slash over 512 plate appearances since the start of the 2014 season, with 33 doubles and 17 home runs.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Texas Rangers

Last 30 days: 2-0, five starts, 0.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 31 IP, 26:10 K:BB, .193 BAA

Gallardo looked like a lost cause early this season, posting a 4.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in his first five starts for the Rangers. With the way that the ball flies out of Arlington, it was only a matter of time before the Mexican hurler’s numbers would look even worse. However, that hasn’t been the case. Since May 1st, Gallardo has a 2.51 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 61 innings, including his impressive run of starts over the last 30 days. While the velocity and strikeout totals continue to dip, Gallardo is finding more success by cutting back on his curve and increasing the use of his slider and change. We’ll see if he can continue to stay hot as Texas heats up.

Braves' RHP Williams Perez - will the league catch up to him?  Courtesy: foxsports.com

Braves’ RHP Williams Perez – will the league catch up to him?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Williams Perez, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Last 30 days: 4-0, six games (five starts), 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1 save, 32 IP, 20:15 K:BB, .219 BAA

Who? Unranked by Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the season, the 24-year-old has moved quickly through the Atlanta system since reaching full season ball in 2013. He jumped to Triple-A to start the season and made five starts before joining the Braves bullpen. He made all of two appearances before he joined the rotation – minus a random save opportunity on June 13th. In his seven starts, Perez has a 2.14 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. While the walks would need to come down for him to become a more valuable option, Perez has youth and results on his side to this point.

Nate Karns, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 1-1, six games (six starts), 2.65 ERA 1.26 WHIP, 34 IP, 31:12 K:BB, .238 BAA

Karns has stepped up to take on a major role while the Rays battle health issues that have landed Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Drew Smyly on the disabled list for extended time this season and Matt Moore continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old late bloomer, drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, had shown some impressive strikeout skills in the minors (10.3 K:9 over 449.1 minor league innings), but, though he hasn’t reached those numbers to this point, he has certainly shown that he can get major league hitters out. Over 15 starts, Karns has a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP to go along with his 8.2 K:9. The Rays continue to have a process to maintain success, even after losing Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers from their front office. Karns, acquired by Friedman and Company in February of 2014, looks like a solid, long-term option for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Venditte Switches Up Everything

 

The Oakland Athletics are calling up switch-pitcher Pat Venditte from Triple-A. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has spent eight seasons in the minors since being drafted by the New York Yankees in the 45th round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Creighton University. He has logged 417.2 innings over 259 appearances (nine starts), compiling a 2.37 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

Venditte landed in Oakland on a minor league contract on November 19th. Perhaps it was just another Billy Beane trick, but Venditte’s ability to pitch from both sides effectively, at least in his extensive minor league career, would appear to be a valuable asset for any club.

The oddity of a switch pitcher led to MLB developing a rule specifically for Venditte:

(f) (8.01(f)) Ambidextrous Pitchers A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch, which may be done by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury. In the event a pitcher switches pitching hands during an at-bat because he has suffered an injury, the pitcher may not, for the remainder of the game, pitch with the hand from which he has switched. The pitcher shall not be given the opportunity to throw any preparatory pitches after switching pitching hands. Any change of pitching hands must be indicated clearly to the umpire-in-chief (MLB, 36).

In fact, only Tony Mullane, in 1882, has been a full-time ambidextrous pitcher in MLB. One pitcher, Greg Harris in 1995, faced two batters with his left hand, walking one of them, but he recorded the other 1,466.2 innings of his career from the right side.

To get a better idea of Venditte’s story, you can view the ESPN E:60 special on him (below), but he will be intriguing to keep an eye on this weekend as Oakland begins a three-game series in Boston against the Red Sox. In between the NBA Finals, the Belmont, and having a really nice Saturday at the Home Depot, watch history take place in MLB.

 

The Next Big Things in 2015

Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24

Bryant and Gallo at last year’s Futures Game Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24

We’ve seen the arrivals and contributions of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and, most recently, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo, but they won’t be the last of influential rookies to make splashes in Major League Baseball this year. With Maikel Franco, Addison Russell, Steven Souza, Jr., and Joc Pederson, youngsters will continue to create value in fantasy leagues this season. So…who is next?

C/OF Kyle Schwarber – Chicago Cubs

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 21 A+-A-A- 72 311 262 55 90 18 2 18 53 5 39 57 .344 .428 .634 1.061 166
2015 22 AA 48 201 161 32 52 7 1 12 35 0 37 42 .323 .445 .602 1.047 97
2 Seasons 120 512 423 87 142 25 3 30 88 5 76 99 .336 .434 .622 1.056 263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Schwarber would be best served as a DH or first baseman, but with Anthony Rizzo in town and the Cubs residing in the NL, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Schwarber has done nothing but rake since being taken 4th overall in the 2014 draft. He isn’t much of a catcher, however, allowing a whopping 45 stolen bases in 31 games behind the dish. He could certainly provide more punch in the order than Chris Coghlan in left, but he hasn’t played a game in the outfield yet this season. With Jorge Soler’s recent injury, maybe the time for a transition is coming sooner than expected.

3B Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Rk-FRk 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 Rk 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 A 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2012 19 FgW 20 59 49 11 13 3 0 4 14 1 8 17 .265 .373 .571 .944 28
2013 20 AA-A+ 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
2015 22 AA 46 197 166 33 42 10 1 10 33 4 26 48 .253 .355 .506 .861 84
5 Seasons 425 1803 1541 286 426 102 18 100 324 32 218 471 .276 .371 .561 .931 864
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Twins' 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano Courtesy: Baseball America

Twins’ 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano
Courtesy: Baseball America

Sano is back at the hot corner after missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and he’s back to being a powerful producer in Double-A. While Trevor Plouffe has been providing some production at the Major League level, the Twins are in need of some help at the designated hitter spot. Sano’s ability to stay at third has long been debated, so plugging him in at DH would likely provide an upgrade to the .238/.289/.308 line that the Twins’ have received out of that spot in 2015. Sano ripped 35 homers at the age of 20, so it’s easy to see why he is someone to get excited about.

RHP Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 SO9 SO/W
2012 18 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk MIN 3 0 1.17 4 4 0 0 30.2 15 4 4 4 49 0.620 4.4 14.4 12.25
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW A MIN 7 7 3.99 19 0 0 0 103.2 105 58 46 40 100 1.399 9.1 8.7 2.50
2014 20 3 Teams 3 Lgs A+-AA-AAA MIN 12 8 2.77 25 0 2 1 139.2 118 52 43 38 140 1.117 7.6 9.0 3.68
2015 21 Chattanooga SOUL AA MIN 6 3 3.25 11 0 1 1 69.1 63 26 25 20 77 1.197 8.2 10.0 3.85
4 Seasons 28 18 3.09 59 4 3 2 343.1 301 140 118 102 366 1.174 7.9 9.6 3.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

After some shoulder troubles in 2014, Berrios has been lights out this season. He continues to increase his strikeout rate, and, at just 21, looks like someone who can help a staff that is already 13th in starting pitcher ERA. Where the Twins lack talent is starters who can miss bats. The team has just 193 strikeouts (28th in MLB) and a .276 batting average allowed (second worst in MLB). The club has had an impressive season, but by adding Berrios down the stretch, they’d likely be adding a pitcher who is more capable of dominance than anyone on the club’s current staff.

2B/SS Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 Rk 47 210 179 37 48 8 2 6 28 13 26 41 .268 .364 .436 .799 78
2012 19 A 122 548 477 96 132 43 6 18 63 15 60 121 .277 .367 .505 .872 241
2013 20 A+ 130 554 497 71 116 34 5 12 65 23 45 183 .233 .305 .394 .700 196
2014 21 AA-A+-A- 108 463 396 69 104 26 8 14 48 23 60 144 .263 .367 .475 .841 188
2014 21 A- 2 8 7 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .286 .375 .429 .804 3
2014 21 A+ 50 218 184 38 61 17 7 5 28 20 31 59 .332 .436 .582 1.017 107
2014 21 AA 56 237 205 29 41 8 1 9 20 3 28 82 .200 .302 .380 .683 78
2014 21 Fal 22 97 86 8 22 9 1 1 14 3 11 26 .256 .340 .419 .759 36
2015 22 AA 48 212 180 34 55 13 4 7 30 9 26 58 .306 .396 .539 .935 97
5 Seasons 455 1987 1729 307 455 124 25 57 234 83 217 547 .263 .353 .463 .815 800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Troy Tulowitzki is still the shortstop, even with the rumors flying that he could be dealt, but Story is more likely to develop his own narrative as the Rockies’ second baseman. The Rockies may have more interest in dealing the large contract that Tulowitzki has in order to rebuild, but D.J. LeMahieu, the club’s reigning NL Gold Glove winner at second, may be a nice asset, as well. Since he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, he’ll likely be due a substantial raise thanks to his glove. However, his bat is playing up this season, as the 26-year-old is hitting .339/.394/.495 after posting a .276/.314/.361 line over his first 1,281 career plate appearances. Story could handle the keystone position, allowing the Rockies to clear LeMahieu and his increasing salary and surprising bat. After looking at what Story has done, he’ll be another fine offensive force for the thin-air aided Rockies.

LHP Matt Boyd – Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 22 A-A+ 0 3 2.62 8 5 1 0 0 24.0 14 7 7 4 23 0.750 5.2 1.5 8.6 5.75
2014 23 A+-AA 6 7 3.17 26 26 0 1 0 133.1 120 53 47 33 147 1.148 8.1 2.2 9.9 4.45
2015 24 AA 5 1 1.08 11 11 0 0 0 66.2 37 10 8 16 66 0.795 5.0 2.2 8.9 4.13
3 Seasons 11 11 2.49 45 42 1 1 0 224.0 171 70 62 53 236 1.000 6.9 2.1 9.5 4.45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

The Blue Jays continue to develop talented pitchers and Boyd could be the next to arrive. Since being drafted out of Oregon State, Boyd has dominated the minors. He is a crafty lefty who works 88-90 with a solid change and curve. He will look the part of Mark Buehrle and could replace the aging lefty in the Blue Jays rotation when Buerhle reaches free agency after the season. He may not be an ace, but Boyd certainly knows how to pitch, and with those bats behind him, he just needs to take the next step to Toronto to continue his mature pitching approach.

RHP Aaron Nola – Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 21 A+-AA 4 3 2.93 12 11 1 0 0 55.1 49 19 18 10 45 1.066 8.0 1.6 7.3 4.50
2015 22 AA 6 3 1.81 10 10 0 0 0 64.2 49 14 13 7 50 0.866 6.8 1.0 7.0 7.14
2 Seasons 10 6 2.33 22 21 1 0 0 120.0 98 33 31 17 95 0.958 7.4 1.3 7.1 5.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Phillies' RHP Aaron Nola Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com

Phillies’ RHP Aaron Nola
Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com

Of the many reasons that Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has been mocked, one of the larger reasons was the fact that Nola wasn’t invited to spring training. It seems like a strange thing to be ridiculed over, but Nola was certainly deserving of a long look considering the club’s lack of MLB-ready talent. The right-hander hasn’t disappointed in 2015, showcasing his talent at the minor league level. While he won’t get much help from the so-called talent on the Philadelphia roster, he does have enough to be a serviceable option for the Phillies right now.

C/OF Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 A–Rk 52 227 212 29 45 10 0 10 34 0 10 62 .212 .256 .401 .656 85
2013 22 A+-A 119 506 447 78 130 39 4 22 96 0 41 134 .291 .350 .544 .893 243
2014 23 A+-AA 106 427 399 67 108 23 2 34 74 0 21 111 .271 .316 .594 .910 237
2015 24 AAA 50 208 189 35 63 15 2 12 47 1 11 42 .333 .375 .624 .999 118
4 Seasons 327 1368 1247 209 346 87 8 78 251 1 83 349 .277 .327 .548 .875 683
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

While the club is only 5.5 games out, the recent deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Seattle is a tell-tale sign of things to come in Arizona. The Diamondbacks don’t have the talent to compete with the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres in the NL West. While O’Brien wouldn’t make the team contenders, he certainly provides more offensively than the likes of David Peralta and Ender Inciarte in an outfield corner. He got a case of the yips this spring, unable to return the ball to the pitcher from the catcher spot, so he is likely in the outfield to stay. He has power that will only play up in the desert, so continue to expect impressive power, though the batting average totals are likely to slip as he adjusts to MLB pitching.

LHP Steven Matz – New York Mets

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 Rk 2 1 1.55 6 6 0 0 0 29.0 16 10 5 17 34 1.138 5.0 5.3 10.6 2.00
2013 22 A 5 6 2.62 21 21 0 1 1 106.1 86 36 31 38 121 1.166 7.3 3.2 10.2 3.18
2014 23 AA-A+ 10 9 2.25 24 24 0 1 0 140.0 132 44 35 35 131 1.193 8.5 2.2 8.4 3.74
2015 24 AAA 6 3 1.98 11 10 0 0 0 68.1 48 17 15 23 70 1.039 6.3 3.0 9.2 3.04
4 Seasons 23 19 2.25 62 61 0 2 1 343.2 282 107 86 113 356 1.149 7.4 3.0 9.3 3.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Mets' LHP Steven Matz Courtesy: NY Post

Mets’ LHP Steven Matz
Courtesy: NY Post

Matz somehow gets lost in the shuffle when the Mets’ young pitching is discussed. With Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Zack Wheeler already reaching the majors, it’s fair to wonder when Matz will get his shot. After dominating since he has returned from Tommy John surgery, Matz is likely the next arm to be called upon – should the Mets have a need. He is a hard-throwing lefty whose stuff seems to continue to gain traction. After missing all of 2010, 2011, and most of 2012, he has been creating a track that leads directly to the Mets rotation. It won’t be long before he gets that shot, which will make the Mets a viable threat in the playoffs with Harvey, Colon, deGrom, and Matz to deal with in a series.

 

Kipnis and Kluber Creating Commotion in Cleveland

Courtesy: Tribevibe.mlblogs.com

Courtesy: Tribevibe.mlblogs.com

The Cleveland Indians may be 22-26 and in last place in the American League Central going into Saturday night’s game in Seattle, but the club has 114 games remaining to make up their 7.5 game deficit to reach the top of the division, which is something that many, including myself, thought was possible going into the season. The club was nine games under .500 on May 18th prior to starting a six game winning streak, and things finally look to be heading in the right direction after the Tribe went 7-14 in April. The Indians can thank reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and second baseman Jason Kipnis for their sudden return to relevancy.

In his first seven starts of the 2015 season, the Indians went 0-7 in Kluber’s starts, while Kluber, himself, was 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 44.2 innings. It was easy for people to think that Kluber had a career year, as he appeared to be tumbling towards the irrelevancy that some may have thought he came from leading into his incredible 2014 season; however, Kluber was still showing positive signs throughout his struggles, including his 9.27 K:9 and 3.15 FIP. Things took off for Kluber on May 13, and, over his last four starts, he has been as dominant as he has ever been in his career:

Rk Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit GSc
May Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit GSc
8 May 13 STL W,2-0 8.0 1 0 0 0 18 0 113 98
9 May 18 CHW L,1-2 9.0 5 1 1 1 12 0 108 84
10 May 23 CIN W,2-1 8.0 9 1 1 0 7 0 102 67
11 May 28 SEA W,5-3 7.0 7 3 3 1 13 2 112 63
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/30/2015.

Those totals leave Kluber with a 1.41 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, a 1.17 FIP, and an incredible 50:2 K:BB over his last 32 innings. Kluber’s 18 strikeout game on May 13 is the highest game score of season to this point by a whopping seven points. Kluber appears to be on track to get the all-important win-loss column back in order, for the weakest of baseball minds, but it appears that things are breaking the way that they should have been all season for the dominant right-hander.

While Kluber has been dominating on the mound, Kipnis has taken over the lead-off role for the Indians’ offense and become an offensive force. Since moving there on April 26, Kipnis is hitting .400/.494/.669 over 156 plate appearances, ripping 14 doubles, three triples, and five home runs, while driving in 20 runs and posting an 18:18 K:BB. His .434 BABIP over that time screams regression, but his production screams a return to his healthy, capable levels that he showcased in 2013, prior to his injury-riddled 2014 catastrophe. Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma detailed the trends that have allowed Kipnis to return to All-Star level production in a recent piece, stating how his health, mechanical adjustments, hitting lead-off, facing fewer lefties, and seeing more fastballs, have all played a roll in his recent outburst.

Indians' 2B Jason Kipnis Courtesy: zimbio.com

Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis
Courtesy: zimbio.com

While Kluber and Kipnis have done their part to get the Indians back on track, the club still needs to overcome some weaknesses and struggles. The Tribe have gone just 10-17 against AL Central foes, including 1-5 against the Detroit Tigers. Additionally, Cleveland could use more consistent production out of everyday players Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Moss, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, who have gone a combined 66-for-323 (.204) in May. While Santana continues to get on base (19 walks and a .356 OBP), the team must find ways to get production out of more players than Kipnis to rise up from the division cellar.

The Indians certainly have the talent to be relevant, and, with time on their side, they’ll continue to ride Kipnis and Kluber to compete and be contenders in 2015.

Is There a Proper Resolution for Josh Hamilton?

Courtesy: chatsports.com

Courtesy: chatsports.com

By now, we all know Josh Hamilton‘s background and his story. We know how he overcame his demons to become a superstar, only to fall from grace when reports came out in February that he was involved in drugs and alcohol again. Today, there were reports that he filed for divorce from his wife around the same time. Things clearly aren’t going in the right direction for Hamilton, which is quite sad considering how long he was clean and how we, as fans, have seen him grow as a person – in the game and in his faith.

The Josh Hamilton story is difficult for many reasons. First and foremost, he needs to get the help that he needs to get his life back on track, whether that’s with counseling for his marriage, for the alcohol, or the drugs, something needs to be done. However, that doesn’t seem to be the biggest concern for the Los Angeles Angels.

Angels’ owner Arte Moreno hasn’t been shy about his distaste for Hamilton’s actions, and he seems to be on a warpath to protect his money, with little regard for the player:

It’s a tough situation to look at, but, is it fair for this to be a business decision for the Angels? Moreno, though coming off as selfish, is doing what is right for his business – no matter how awful he looks as a human being. With contracts being guaranteed in MLB, there is a need to look for loopholes in cases such as Hamilton’s, as the Yankees attempted to void Alex Rodriguez‘s contract due to his rampant PED use. Still, Moreno has run from Hamilton, providing no support, and the organization took to the microphones after an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton’s relapse wouldn’t require a suspension, as General Manager Jerry Dipoto told the L.A. Times:

“Do I agree with the decision made by the treatment board? Absolutely not. This is a disappointing moment, make no mistake. … We have a responsibility to the human being. We also have a responsibility to the product on the field, the organization, the fan base, the industry. It’s a complicated web.”

Now, the two sides are negotiating a way out of this mess, but a trade seems unlikely due to the remaining $90.2 million on Hamilton’s contract between 2015 and 2017. The same reasons that the Angels don’t want him would be the same reasons that others don’t as well, as the 33-year-old outfielder’s skill-set hasn’t been trending upward since he hit free agency after the 2012 season.

Courtesy: LA Times

Courtesy: LA Times

So, the sad case of the former No.1 overall pick continues. He has been put on public trial with information regarding his relapse that was supposed to be protected by the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, he could be losing his wife and four daughters, and he could be losing his career. Support him or not, he is a human being who is going through a devastating run. More than protecting the investment, it’s time that the Angels support the man. Let the other battles play out behind the scenes and get Josh Hamilton the help that he needs. Perhaps the Angels will be rewarded with production once they help Hamilton get his life back in order.

Sometimes business and the dollar aren’t as valuable as a soul. This is one of those cases.

Early Season Surprises and Small Sample Overreactions

As teams reach double-digits in games played, we are able to have all of forty at-bats to judge the talents of everyday players and roughly two starts for starting pitchers on your favorite teams. Can you tell how the season is going to go on that? Of course not! However, it’s still an interesting way that we can glimpse into the future, utilizing projections and our own dreams to see things the way that we’d like to. After nearly two weeks of the season, these are the top stories to overreact to:

Rodriguez is a monster!!!

Rodriguez is a monster!!!

Alex Rodriguez is BACK! 

ARod is dropping some A-Bombs, carrying the New York Yankees offense. He leads the team in average (.344), on-base percentage (.432), slugging (.781), OPS (1.214), home runs (four), RBI (11), and hits (11). He is also tied for 6th in MLB is strikeouts (12), leaving the box empty-handed in 32.4 percent of his 32 early-season at-bats. He’s on pace for 65 home runs and 178 RBI in 2015. It would be an interesting story, especially if he rebounds and returns to his prior elite-levels without cheating, but he’ll turn 40 in July and the Yankees can’t run him out there daily with the laundry list of health issues that he has dealt with over the last couple of seasons. Where does he end up, though? The strikeouts will likely continue due to the slower bat, but there appears to be plenty of pop left…when he makes contact.

Votto-matic...again?

Votto-matic…again?

Joey Votto is Healthy and Raking

Talk about a fantasy stud, Votto is on-pace for a .350/.480/.750 season with 59 home runs, 147 RBI, and 29 stolen bases. There has been quite a bit of hatred for Votto over the last couple of seasons in Cincinnati, ranging from people questioning his time away (due to injuries) and his unwillingness to swing the bat. Still projected to walk 147 times this season, based on his 20 percent current walk-rate, Votto looks healthy and primed to prove his 2010 MVP season wasn’t his only magnificent effort. His salary will inflate in 2016, as Votto is due $199 million in guaranteed money from 2016 through 2024.

Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP of Life

.550/.609/1.125 with 118 doubles, 191 runs scored, 74 home runs, and 162 RBI – who says Dodger Stadium is a tough place to hit. These would all be personal bests for Gonzalez and put the soon-to-be 33-year-old on the radar for best player in baseball. We’ll see if he can hold off Mike Trout for that title.

Winning isn't everything  Courtesy: districtondeck.com

Winning isn’t everything
Courtesy: districtondeck.com

Max Scherzer Shows the Win Isn’t Important

The Washington Nationals’ huge investment from the winter may be on pace to go just 15-15, but he’s also on pace to finish with a workhorses load: 309.2 innings over 44 starts with a 0.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .171 BAA, and a 368:59 K:BB. Move over Clayton Kershaw, there’s a new Cy Young winner in the National League…unless…

Bartolo Colon To Go Undefeated

That’s right! Fatolo is on his way to a 44-0 season for the Mets over 44 starts, walking just 15 batters over 295 incredible innings. He also has one more RBI this season than Houston’s Chris Carter so far this season, which is horrific because of this:


If it had to be the shoes for Michael Jordan, it has to be the fat in the elbow for Colon.

More boots than a concert in Nashville Courtesy: washingtonpost.com

More boots than a concert in Nashville
Courtesy: washingtonpost.com

 

Ian Desmond Can’t Catch a Cold

The Nationals shortstop has a whopping seven errors in his first 11 games, which puts him on pace for 103 errors in the 2015 season. Unfortunately, that won’t break the MLB record of 122 in a season, but it WOULD be the most by any player since the start of the 20th century. Here’s to hoping he gets back on track…or at least begins to understand that his hands aren’t made of stones.

Are there any other projections that have impressed you early this season? Send them my way in the comments.

2015 Season Previews: Los Angeles Dodgers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Los Angeles Dodgers

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

2015 Projected Record: 97-65 (1st in NL West, 1st in MLB)

Manager: Don Mattingly (354-293 in four seasons with the Dodgers)

Top Three Players: LHP Clayton Kershaw (4.9), OF Yasiel Puig (4.9), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (3.3)

Bounce-back Player: LHP Brett Anderson

Despite making all of 62 appearances (51 starts) since the start of the 2010 season, Anderson was able to secure a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers. It speaks volumes to how much talent Los Angeles still feels the 27-year-old left-hander possesses. Anderson did have Tommy John surgery back in 2011, but all of his injuries since then have been back, ankle, or finger related (broken right ankle and a finger broken by a pitch). The injuries and recovery times have been enormous, but he showed in Colorado last season (2.91 ERA in his 43.1), though it was just eight starts, that he still has something, and Dodger Stadium could be friendly to him. He just needs to stay on the mound, which has been the same response on Anderson for years.

Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season
Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Joc Pederson

Pederson was an offensive monster in the minors, but he struggled in his brief trial in 2014, posting a .143/.351/.143 line in 38 plate appearances. He has shown this spring, however, the same type of ability he showed in the minors, posting a .367/.397/.750 line over 63 plate appearances, including six bombs. After dealing Matt Kemp, Pederson appears to have very little competition in center, as Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey are the players who could push him back to the minors if he struggles. Pederson, however, doesn’t look like he is going to. Even in his brief trial last season, Pederson wasn’t overmatched, as his plate discipline will allow him to be a difficult out. With the offensive force around him in the order, Pederson can ease into the production that he is going to be capable of in the future, but he’ll still be quite productive in 2015. Expect a .270/.340/.475 line from the Rookie of the Year favorite.

Offseason Overview: The Dodgers may have lost SS Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but they quickly found a replacement by acquiring Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies for a couple of pitching prospects. Dee Gordon was moved to Miami for Andrew Heaney, who didn’t have time to put on a Dodger cap before he was flipped to the Angels for Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick. They also added Joel Peralta from Tampa Bay to strengthen the bullpen. The Dodgers didn’t just make trades, as they opened up their endless bank account to sign RHP Brandon McCarthy (four-years, $48 million), Anderson (one-year, $10 million), and Tommy John rehabbing RHP Brandon Beachy (one-year, $2.75 million, $3 million 2016 team option with incentives). The Dodgers continue to reload and spend money, putting out the best team that money can buy, stealing that title from the New York Yankees, who used to take so much more heat for the same type of activity.

The Verdict: The Dodgers are a fantastic group. They have the best pitcher of our generation, Clayton Kershaw, with the best number two pitcher in baseball, Zack Greinke. They have a top ten talent, Yasiel Puig, who has become a superstar and one of the faces of the sport that so desperately needed one. Adrian Gonzalez continues to quietly produce Hall of Fame numbers, while the team has a budding young star in Pederson. If they get production out of OF Carl Crawford and SS Jimmy Rollins as they continue to get older, this team would be the best team in baseball, and that’s with the issues that they have in their rotation. I love Brandon McCarthy, but – can he stay healthy? Hyun-jin Ryu is on the shelf with shoulder soreness already, so Juan Nicasio appears to be filling the No.5 spot in the rotation, which is horrifying considering that he was just as awful away from Colorado as he was in Coors Field. With McCarthy, Anderson, and Ryu’s reliability in question and Nicasio being Nicasio, the rotation is only guaranteed to be strong two out of every five days. With the offense behind them, can anyone be plugged in and allow the Dodgers to be successful? Maybe. I still think the Dodgers will win 90 games, but they aren’t the top overall team in baseball.

2015 Season Previews: Washington Nationals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Washington Nationals

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 92-70 (1st in NL East, 2nd in MLB)

Manager: Matt Williams (96-66 in one season with Washington)

Top Three Players: 2B/3B Anthony Rendon (5.1), OF Bryce Harper (4.2), RHP Max Scherzer (4.0)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

Shoulder woes have slowed Zimmerman in the same way that they did Scott Rolen, but the Nationals have moved Zimmerman to first, where he won’t have to make as many throws. The end result should be a healthier, productive season; although, a thigh and fractured finger were the primary injuries that allow Zimmerman to play in only 61 games last season. This will the the 11th season in a Nationals uniform for Zimmerman, and this is his age-30 season. Don’t consider him washed up. He is locked in at .280/.350/.480 with about 25 home runs and 85 RBI in a dynamic lineup.

Harper isn't going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season. Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Harper isn’t going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season.
Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Bryce Harper

Duh, right? At 22, Harper is ready to continue his assault on opposing pitchers, but THIS is the year that he reaches 30 home runs and stays healthy. What is he capable of when he stays on the field and has Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and Ian Desmond on the field with him? This is a dangerous lineup and Harper has the potential to be the most productive player in that lineup. This is the year that he starts heading towards that ceiling, closing in on a .300/.400/.500 line, while increasing his power output as he becomes more physically mature.

Offseason Overview: When you have five very good starting pitchers and you’ve won 96 games, what do you really need to do to improve? Well, sign the best free agent pitcher on the market to a seven-year, $210 million deal, which is what they did when signed RHP Max Scherzer. The move pushed Tanner Roark (15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 31 starts) to the bullpen, while making LHP Ross Detwiler expendable, as he was shipped to Texas for a couple of prospects. The Nationals didn’t need to do much to improve their team, but they still made a huge splash and got better.

The Verdict: A healthy Zimmerman and Werth will help the Nationals to 100 wins, but it will be Harper, Rendon, Desmond, and the pitching that will get them to 95 wins. This is the best team in baseball, regardless of PECOTA projections. The pitching is elite and they have Roark ready in a swing role and A.J. Cole ready in Triple-A. With Lucas Giolito and Joe Ross likely to start the year in Double-A, they are far off from making an impact, either. Michael Taylor, a powerful, speedster, will be taking over center for the first several weeks with Denard Span on the shelf. The Nationals are very good, and this is the year that they put it all together.

2015 Season Previews: Los Angeles Angels

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Los Angeles Angels

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 90-72 (1st in AL West, 3rd in MLB)

Manager: Mike Scioscia (1,331-1099 in 15 seasons with the Angels)

Top Three Players: OF Mike Trout (8.6), OF Kole Calhoun, SS Erick Aybar (3.0)

Bounce-back Player: 3B David Freese

Freese is entering his age-32 season and has only had one “really good” season, which was 2012. It’s fair to wonder what he actually is, as he appears to be more of a 25 double, 10 home run, 60 RBI-guy than the 25 double, 20 home run, 80 RBI-guy that he was a few years back. Still, Freese has an excellent lineup around him, so he should see plenty of fastballs and be capable of a rebound, but what the ceiling of that rebound is…that’s the big question. A healthy Freese should get to 15 home runs and 75 RBI this season.

Is Calhoun capable of more than what he showed in 2014?  Courtesy: Zimbio.com

Is Calhoun capable of more than what he showed in 2014?
Courtesy: Zimbio.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Kole Calhoun

In just 127 games, Calhoun reached 31 doubles and 17 home runs. Given an entire season of at-bats and entering his age-27 season, Calhoun may be capable of more. With Josh Hamilton‘s status for the season still uncertain, he may even move into a larger, run-producing role. Everyone drools over the opportunity to have Mike Trout on their team, but Calhoun isn’t chopped liver as far as Angels in the outfield.

Offseason Overview: The Angels added a solid young starter by acquiring LHP Andrew Heaney from the Dodgers for 2B Howie Kendrick, who was set for free agency after the 2015 season. Heaney doesn’t have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he could be a nice mid-rotation option for a number of years, and the Angels aren’t known for developing talent, so it was a nice get. To fill the void at second, the Angels acquired Josh Rutledge from the Rockies and Johnny Giavotella from the Royals. Neither are offensive forces, but they’re solid defenders and with Trout and Pujols around, the pressure isn’t on them to produce. If Hamilton misses significant time due to his possible drug suspension, Grant Green, Colin Cowgill, or Matt Joyce, acquired from the Rays in December, could step into larger roles or a platoon situation.

The Verdict: Josh Hamilton’s suspension could be a huge issue for the Angels, and I’m betting against PECOTA on this one. The Mariners and the Athletics are in a better position to take the AL West. The Angels have plenty of talent, including the best player in baseball, but Mike Trout can’t carry an entire 25-man roster (this isn’t the NBA) and the Hamilton questions, the Pujols aging issue, and the lack of consistency from the remainder of the lineup leaves me thinking that this is an 83 to 85 win team. While that isn’t awful, it won’t be enough in 2015.

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