Obligatory Harper and Trout Post

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.  Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  Practically everyone who ranks prospects in baseball had these guys #1 and #2 in either order, while some tried to put others like Matt Moore in between, or worse yet, didn’t include Trout because of the 150 at bat maximum limitation on rookie status (which Trout reached in 2011 and led to confusion prior to posting of my own list…I’m not sure why he is still a rookie still, but what Bud says goes).  Regardless, Trout was totally outperforming Harper in Triple-A.  Here is what you need to know about these two:

Trout: 6’1″, 220 lbs., turns 21 in August.  He was hitting .403/.467/.623 in 77 AB with 4 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 6 SB, and a 16/11 K/BB.  He is very polished with great speed and defensive skills and he will be stealing a lot of at bats from both Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos immediately.  If Scioscia doesn’t play him every day, Mike Napoli may punch him in the face for Angels fans.  Trout has only hit .342/.425/.516 in 1,117 minor league at bats, so he clearly is ready to mash.  Don’t expect huge power numbers, as he isn’t a 30 or even 25 HR hitter, but he could easily steal 50-70 bases while hitting 15-20 HR, becoming a younger, right-handed hitting version of the player we once knew as Carl Crawford (the guy who has been absolutely useless since leaving Tampa, have you seen him?).  If you’re a fantasy baseball nerd, Trout’s mixture of power, speed, and plate discipline will make him valuable immediately, and even more so in the future.

Harper: Harper doesn’t turn 20 until the season is over, so he’ll become another 19-year-old superstar in the making.  He’s 6’3″, 225 lbs., and he’ll be playing every day, as well, primarily in left.  Harper has tremendous raw power, as evidenced by a guy ripping 17 HR in professional ball when he should have been a high school senior worrying about prom.  He has a .290/.383/.481 line in 459 minor league at bats, while struggling to a .250/.333/.375 start this season, but he is capable of handling this advance to the Majors.  Harper was the 2nd “Once in a Generation” draft pick of the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg was the 1st), and he could become a superstar in the next couple of seasons.  He will have some struggles and he may have some maturity issues (which we’ve seen in the past), but Harper will have seasons with over 30 HR, even 40 HR in the future.  If you’re a fantasy baseball nerd, Harper is the long-term prize between he and Trout.  He can hit for power, average, and mix in some speed, as well.  However, Harper is more of a work in progress than Trout right now.  He will make a drastic difference to the Nationals lineup, but he may struggle to produce while he is hitting 7th, as he is in his debut Saturday against the Dodgers.

If you’re lucky enough to have either of these players in a dynasty fantasy baseball league, congratulations, other owners hate you.  Enjoy the debuts of MLB’s future this afternoon and evening.  These two are already household names for baseball geeks, but even those of you who just came back from the 1994 strike, or other absurd reasons for not enjoying the sport, will know them soon and know them well.


Fun With Projections

Looking over the current leaderboards, some players are really showing some crazy skills early in the year.  Below are some potential records.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers

.481/.525/.1000, 185 R, 301 H, 46 2B, 0 3B, 93 HR, 231 RBI, 12 SB

Simply amazing.  Kemp is hitting like no one I’ve ever seen right now.  He’s not going to do this all year, but he was worthy of the NL MVP last year, and he’ll certainly win it in 2012.  Needless to say, Kemp would break several records.  He said that he was aiming for a 50/50 season in 2012, but he can’t steal bases when he hits the ball and has to touch home plate right afterwards with all of his homers.

Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins

.321/.429/.321, 116 R, 197 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 104 SB

Bonifacio is on pace for 197 singles and ZERO extra-base hits.  He is also on pace to steal 100 bases, something that hasn’t been done since Vince Coleman stole 109 in 1987.

Derek Jeter, Yankees

.359/.373/.609, 116 R, 266 H, 46 2B, 0 3B, 46 HR, 127 RBI, 0 SB

So, he’s done, right?  After hitting an “awful” .270 and .297 the last two season, Jeter is back to his old self and more.  He isn’t going to post numbers like A-Rod did at shortstop when all is said and done, but a Jeter-like season is definitely within reach.

Pitching Projections

No one will ever win 59 games like good ol’ Old Hoss Radbourn did in 1884 for the Providence Grays, but Ivan Nova, Lance Lynn, and Roy Halladay are on pace to go 35-0 in 2012.

Ross Detwiler beat out John Lannon for the Washington Nationals #5 starter job and has only gone 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA through three starts, good for a 22-0 record in 32 projected starts.

Matt Harrison of the Rangers is also 2-0 in his two starts, with a dazzling 0.64 ERA in two starts, good for a 25-0 record in 25 projected starts.

Brandon Beachy has been absolutely filthy, compiling a 2-1 record with a 0.47 ERA and .162 average allowed in his three starts.  He’s on pace for a 23-12 record over 35 projected starts.

Javy Guerra beat out Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers closer job this spring.  He’s already closed out 7 games, so he is on pace for 81 saves, which would break Francisco Rodriguez’s 2008 record of 62 by a few.  The Dodgers have to keep winning, which Matt Kemp seems to be capable of doing on his own, ala Bugs Bunny.

Reds Seem Comfortable in the Two Hole

Jeff Kent made a living hitting in front of Barry Bonds, averaging a .297/.368/.535, 29 HR, and 114 RBI line over six seasons.  Joey Votto is having the same effect this season for Cincinnati, as the player hitting directly in front of him have gone .356/.406/.576 line, as teams continue to pitch around Votto, who is tied for the Major League lead in walks with 13.

Zack Cozart is now leading off for the Reds after raking .350/.409/.575 in 40 at bats in front of Votto.  He isn’t doing well at leadoff yet, walking once but going hitless in his first 8 at bats.  Drew Stubbs moved up in the order to 2nd when Dusty Baker moved Cozart to leadoff.  He is only hitting .538/.571/.846, going 7 for his first 13 there.

Take a look at production by batting order for the Red thus far:

Batting #1 14 62 5 8 1 0 0 0 3 14 .129 .169 .145
Batting #2 14 59 10 21 3 2 2 7 3 12 .356 .406 .576
Batting #3 14 49 7 14 3 0 1 8 13 14 .286 .429 .408
Batting #4 14 57 6 9 2 0 1 3 4 9 .158 .226 .246
Batting #5 14 55 7 12 3 0 3 6 4 16 .218 .262 .436
Batting #6 14 56 3 13 4 0 2 13 3 10 .232 .283 .411
Batting #7 14 52 5 13 3 2 0 4 3 9 .250 .291 .385
Batting #8 14 49 4 13 1 0 0 2 6 6 .265 .345 .286
Batting #9 14 46 1 7 1 0 0 4 1 17 .152 .167 .174

Obviously, having performed well since the recent moves, the lineup may stick for a while.  If Brandon Phillips is hitting 4th between Votto and Jay Bruce, this lineup would remain one that fans can’t complain much about.  However, if Baker continues putting Ryan Ludwick or Scott Rolen in the 4-spot, when they’ve gone a combined 4 for 42 with 1 RBI (.095), this doesn’t make sense.  The Reds need Phillips healthy and he has been hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season.  He has a .333/.333/.667 line in just 9 at bats at #4.

If Phillips isn’t playing and the Reds want production, they need to bat Votto in front of Jay Bruce at 3 and 4.  Bruce has struggled to a .229/.250/.458 line in the 5-spot without protection behind him, striking out 13 times in 48 at bats.  Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were both left handed hitters and seemed to hit well batting back to back in the Yankees order in the late 1920’s.  I wonder if Miller Huggins and his three championships and six pennants had a book on how to put lineups together like managers today?

Not Red Hot

The Cincinnati Reds have made big news for the last few months between their big trade for Mat Latos and the huge contracts to both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.  One thing they are not in the news for, to this point, is their incredible hitting.  The Reds are currently 28th in the Majors in hitting, with a team average of .191 through 9 games.  Take a look at their hit totals for the year:

10, 6, 8, 3, 4, 14, 5, 5, 2.

Keep in mind that the 14 hits they had against the Cardinals on Wednesday, they left 13 on base, and the 10 hits from Opening Day had 9 left on base.  The Reds just aren’t scoring enough runs because they can’t get any hits.  They haven’t had the easiest schedule in the world with the new-look Miami Marlins, the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, and the improving Washington Nationals, but a 3-6 record wasn’t what fans and ownership was looking for as the team heads into win now mode.

You can’t blame Zack Cozart (.313), Joey Votto (.290), or Brandon Phillips (just 16 at bats due to injury to hamstring, .250), but just about everyone else could be labeled an issue.  Jay Bruce has 3 HR and 6 RBI with an .802 OPS, but he has 8 K’s in 34 at bats and a .235 average.  Drew Stubbs is at .147 with 12 K’s in 34 at bats, certainly not improving on his atrocious contact rate that worried the club last year.  Ryan Ludwick (.150), Ryan Hanigan (.118), and Scott Rolen (.111) round out the apparent regulars, while Devin Mesoraco (.167 in 12 at bats) and Chris Heisey (.188 in 16 at bats) continue to be youngsters losing out to the veteran loving, toothpick toting Dusty Baker.

Regardless of who is playing, it doesn’t seem to be working.  As the Reds looked to capitalize on the departure of NL Central foes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the long-term commitments and trades developed expectations that, to this point, they have fallen well short of.  With such dynamic talent in Votto, Phillips, and Bruce, the lineup is capable of more.  The issue could be Phillips’ absence, the fact that Dusty HAS TO split up Votto and Bruce (and has done so with Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick in the clean-up spot), or it could be a challenging schedule.  Expectations are high and if they keep flopping like they are, fans aren’t going to show up in Cincinnati, and if fans don’t show up, they already need to start wondering about how they are going to be paying Phillips and Votto in the coming seasons.

Prospect Notes 4/13

It is early and top prospects are adjusting, like Bryce Harper and his current .222/.276/.333 slash in Triple-A, while guys you’ve possibly never heard of are posting some eye-popping numbers.  Here is a look at some of those guys performing well early on.

Brad Miller, SS, Mariners, High-A

.371/.463/.914, 13 for 35, 12 R, 3 2B, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 9/6 K/BB

Miller is a lefty swinging college bat out of Clemson.  He is playing the whole season at the age of 22, and he should be advanced and hitting well, but the California League may result in Miller becoming a legend.  Miller is now hitting .398 in 88 professional at bats, so he is someone to monitor this year, even if he has Nick Franklin ahead of him in the Mariners system at short.

Alen Hanson, 2B, Pirates, Low-A

.412/.474/.824, 14 for 34, 11 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 6/4 K/BB

Henson is a long way off, but he has a solid eye and solid speed, while seemingly spraying the ball all over the field.  He is a switch hitter and he looks like he could be a potential leadoff hitter for the Bucs down the road.  Neil Walker is under team control until 2017, but if he becomes too expensive through arbitration, Pittsburgh could toss the job Henson’s way in 2015.

Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins, Low-A

1-0, 1.64 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11 IP, 5 H, 18/4 K/BB

Fernandez is a known name as the Marlins first round pick from 2011.  The youngster from Cuba is a high upside arm that turns 20 in July.  He could be a fast mover in the Marlins system, especially if he keeps pitching like he has in his first two starts.

Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers, High-A

0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 10 IP, 4 H, 16/3 K/BB

Buckel has only thrown 111 2/3 innings but he now has a 145/31 K/BB.  He is another chip in an absolutely loaded Rangers system.  He’ll be 20 in June, but he seems to be picking up where he left off from last season when he posted a 2.61 ERA and 120/27 K/BB 23 games (17 starts).

Andrew Chafin, RHP, Diamondbacks, High-A

2-0, 0.82 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 11 IP, 5 H, 18/2 K/BB

The California League eats pitchers for breakfast, so when a guy dominates there, like Tyler Skaggs did last year, you need to take notice.  Chafin is a college arm, so he’ll be 22 this year, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and missed the entire season.  The Kent State product was the 43rd pick in the 2011 draft and he does seem to have the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter, with a plus fastball and slider.  If he develops his change, he could become much more.

A.J. Griffin, RHP, Athletics, Double-A

0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.36 WHIP, 11 IP, 2 H, 16/2 K/BB

Griffin is 24, a 2010 13th round pick out of San Diego by the A’s.  In 2011, Griffin pitched at four levels, finishing with an 11-7 record, 3.47 ERA, 160 2/3 innings pitched, and a 156/32 K/BB.  Not overly impressive until you look at his splits.  He was impressive early on, posting a 9-3 record, 2.71 ERA, 122 2/3 innings pitched, and 128/19 K/BB between 20 Low-A and High-A starts.  He didn’t fare as well at the higher levels (2-4, 5.92 ERA), which is why he’s back in Double-A this year.  He has solid breaking stuff and very good control, so he could be a back-end starter, possibly a Joe Blanton-like innings eater.

Lince-COME ON!!!!!

If you drafted Tim Lincecum or you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants, you may be a little worried.  Lincecum is currently 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA over 2 starts and 7 2/3 innings.  He has a 10/3 K/BB but he has allowed 17 baserunners in his small sample size, inflating his WHIP to 2.22.  There are a few things to keep in mind, whether you’re hoping for a rebound or you think that this is the end of the man with the crazy mechanics.

Negativity is our starting point.  Lincecum’s average fastball has dropped to just 90.3 so far this season, down from 92.3 last year.  He is also throwing his fastball a career low 48.3% of the time, while he is spinning his curve 13.5% of the time this season, up from 6.4% in 2011.  His offspeed pitches are accounting for 51.7% of his pitches, while it has been around 42.2% for his career.  You have to wonder if he is having some sort of shoulder ailment that isn’t allowing him to rear back and fire, or if he just has a dead arm issue since it is early in the season.  Either way, the drop in velocity is a concern.

On a positive note…Lincecum’s current Batting Average for Balls in Play (BABIP) is .444, which means four guys from every trip around the lineup are getting on when they put the ball in play.  His career BABIP is .294 and the normal “good luck/bad luck” split is .300.  He is going to have luck on his side as that evens out over the rest of the season.  Due to his current struggles, he is also not leaving men on base.  His Left On Base % is currently 42.3, while his career LOB% is 75.6%.

Another positive for Lincecum is his current strikeout rate.  He is still overwhelming SOME hitters, as his 11.74 K/9 shows.  He is still missing bats, when the opposition isn’t putting the ball in play, of course.  That 11.74 K/9 would rank the highest of his career by 1.23 K/9 if he is able to maintain it.  “The Freak” is also impressing with his current groundball rate.  Lincecum has a 53.6 GB% at this point, up from his career rate of 47.1%.

So, while it is early and Lincecum, who signed a two-year $40.5 million deal (which runs through the end of 2013) this offseason, has proven to be mortal, his stats show that there could be some bad luck associated with his struggles.  Many fans and fantasy owners may be on a ledge about his struggles, but the 5’11”, 163 pounder has proven critics wrong since being selected 10th overall in 2006 out of the University of Washington.  Buy low and settle down.  If he keeps his stats current and brings down the BABIP, ERA, and WHIP, Lincecum is on pace for a career year.

Week One Statistics to Impress

One week has gone by since baseball returned to bring joy to the world.  After about six games for each team, there are some interesting stats to get excited about or become worried about, which ever reaction you deem necessary for your team.

* Zack Cozart is 2nd in MLB in Total Bases.

Cozart’s current .455/.520/.864 is very impressive and he was already a Rookie of the Year candidate before opening eyes this week.  He should continue to hit with a solid lineup and a nice home park…the fact that he is hitting 2nd in the Reds lineup already is an excellent sign for his production, with some guy named Votto behind him.

* Omar Infante is tied for the league lead in homeruns.
He is tied with Carlos Beltran, Jay Bruce, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, David Freese, and Corey Hart with 3.  Infante had 7 HR in 2011 in 640 plate appearances.  It is pretty shocking to see him at the top of the list, even if it is early.  Remember that Infante did hit 16 HR way back in 2004, when he was 22-years-old and playing second, short, third, and some center field for the Tigers.
* Starlin Castro is leading the league in steals.
Castro stole 22 bases last year for the Cubs, but he never really seemed like a burner coming up through the Cubs system.  He topped out at 28 stolen bases in 2009 between two levels in the minors.  He probably needs to keep stealing bases if the Cubs are going to score any runs with the “help” he has around him.
* Aroldis Chapman is 6th in the league in strikeouts.
Chapman has been lights out in 5 innings, posting a 10/0 K/BB.  It doesn’t look like he is trying to hit triple digits anymore and that he is pitching now.  Chapman could be moved to the rotation at some point this season, especially if he continues to be such a force in the pen; though, you could argue that he is more valuable protecting the lead in 70 games than making 25 starts over the rest of the season.
* Johan Santana’s shoulder hasn’t ripped off yet!
In fact, sitting around 88 mph with his fastball, he has posted an impressive 0.90 ERA over 10 innings with a 13/5 K/BB.  If he stays healthy, he probably won’t win many games, but you have to be satisfied with the early results.
* How’s that Jed Lowrie to Houston trade looking?
Well, Lowrie is hurt, but Mark Melancon…ugh.  A 36.00 ERA in 2 appearances, covering just 1 inning, with a .714 batting average allowed and a 5.00 WHIP.  Not.  Good.
* J.P. Arencibia and Yoenis Cespedes are striking out…a ton.
Arencibia has 11 K’s in 22 at bats.  Cespedes has 10 K’s in 18 at bats.  At this pace, Arencibia could strike out over 250 times in 500 at bats and Cespedes would reach 277 in 500 at bats.  Arencibia wouldn’t get the chance to reach 500 at bats, though, and if he keeps missing this frequently, Travis D’Arnaud could take his job sooner than we all thought.  We’ll see if the A’s put up with the strikeouts due to the monetary investment and power potential of Cespedes.
* Juan Francisco can’t field.
When the Braves traded for Juan Francisco and plugged him into the lineup while Chipper Jones was out, fans should have been excited to see their potential third baseman of the future, as Larry is retiring after the 2012 season.  However…the move may not prove to be very effective.  Francisco posted an impressive .400….FIELDING PERCENTAGE for the Braves.  That’s right.  13 innings.  5 chances.  3 errors.  Francisco is young and has always been a powerful, free swinging prospect; however, the Braves aren’t the National League team moving to the AL in 2013, and Francisco needs to figure it out if he is ever going to get a gig.