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: New York Yankees

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! 

New York Yankees

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 80-82 (4th in AL East, 19th in MLB)

Manager: Joe Girardi (648-486 in seven seasons with New York, 726-570 in eight seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B Chase Headley (3.8), OF Jacoby Ellsbury (3.7), RHP Masahiro Tanaka (3.5)

Bounce-back Player: 3B/DH Alex Rodriguez

ARod is a miserable human being. He is a cheat, a liar, a disgrace to the game, and a $64 million financial burden over the next three seasons for a team that doesn’t appear to want anything to do with him. That appears to be fine for Rodriguez, who took to ESPN for a profile that painted him as a man who struggles with reality; however, the reality for baseball fans is that he is back on the field, healthy and rejuvenated, and ready to play and make an impact. His success depends on how much time the Yankees are willing to give him on the field. Since the club has Chase Headley, Garret Jones, and Mark Teixeira ahead of him on the depth charts at first, third, and DH, it remains to be seen how he will be used. Rodriguez, though, still has something left in the tank, working out with Barry Bonds (laugh and talk about PEDs all you want) to change his swing and strengthen his production as he ages. Rodriguez could be washed up or he could be a surprising producer. It may be unreasonable to ever expect good things from Rodriguez, on the field and off, but I see a man who, with 500 plate appearances, is capable of 20 to 25 home runs, making him quite useful -still- in an offense-starved league.

Courtesy: NY Daily News
Nathan Eovaldi’s fastball will finally miss some bats in 2015 Courtesy: NY Daily News

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi’s impressive fastball (4th fastest in MLB in 2014) has put him on the radar for a number of years, but he hasn’t taken a step toward dominance that many with similar electricity have. For example, even with the strong, dominant fastball, Eovaldi allowed 10.1 hits per nine, while striking out just 6.4 per nine. The positive in the low strikeout rate, however, is that Eovaldi walked just 1.9 per nine (3.3 K:BB), which may allow him to be a force if he was to miss a few more bats with his very straight fastball. While people may look to the fact that he is now pitching in the AL East and must deal with the incredible offenses there, you can look at a 25-year-old right-hander who is about to hit his peak. If Eovaldi is able to take a step forward, he’s going to take off and become quite dominant. If you can get him now, before that happens, you can thank me later.

Offseason Overview: The Yankees found their replacement for Derek Jeter when they acquired Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way deal that included Shane Greene going to Detroit. Gregorius is now in his third organization, which shows that people still think he is valuable, but he had negative defensive value in 2014 and his .653 OPS doesn’t help his outlook if his defense is falling off. At just 25, he still has enough potential to outproduce Jeter. Eovaldi, as mentioned above, should be a nice addition to the staff, and with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda at the top of the rotation, they need Eovaldi to produce and be healthy, something they can’t quite count on out of the other two. Dellin Betances should step right into the closer’s role and be an Aroldis ChapmanCraig Kimbrel type of dominator, which is necessary after David Robertson left for Chicago. Re-signing Headley at third base was necessary due to the unknown of Alex Rodriguez, and Stephen Drew was brought back after a horrific 46 game audition last season, but both are more capable with their gloves than they are with their bats. The Yankees could have one of the best defensive clubs in baseball in 2015 for that reason.

The Verdict: The Yankees aren’t going to be worse in 2014. A full season of Headley should outproduce what Yangervis Solarte was able to do in 2014, and there is more to Brian McCann (.692 OPS), Teixeira (.711 OPS), and Jacoby Ellsbury (.747 OPS) than what they showed last season. The biggest question mark is their pitching. Michael Pineda threw 76.1 innings in 2014, his first in the majors since 2011, after having dealt with major shoulder issues, Masahiro Tanaka is pitching through a partially torn UCL, and CC Sabathia missed all but eight starts due to a right knee injury. Are they going to get enough out of these three to remain competitive? They have Scott Baker, Chris Capuano, and Ivan Nova as pitching depth, but if those three make significant contributions, the Yankees are going to be in really bad shape. It is fair to highly doubt that Tanaka makes it through the 2015 season, and, for that reason, the club will, at some point, be without a number one starter. It also seems fair to think that a winning season is highly unlikely without things breaking completely right. Those things include:

1) 180 or more innings from Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia

2) More productive seasons from Headley, Drew, Ellsbury, Teixeira, and McCann

3) A miracle

The Yankees PECOTA seems right in 2015, but without the above things happening, it is doubtful that they reach 80 wins.

Just Shut Up: Another Reaction to Alex Rodriguez

Whether it’s the handwritten apology that is being broken apart by forensic units and handwriting specialists, or the lengthy feature released by ESPN: The Magazine, the reintroduction of Alex Rodriguez to the world hasn’t changed the world’s perspective on the aging slugger. After spending the 2014 season suspended from the only job that he had had since the age of 18, the year that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and had 59 over-matched plate appearances, we have come to find out that Rodriguez spent the year toiling in the various activities that someone with $500 million from playing a game can afford to do to “find oneself”.

Courtesy: New York Daily News
Courtesy: New York Daily News

Are we expected to hate Alex Rodriguez due to his lies and cheating? Are we expected to feel sorry for him because his father ran out on him and he never went to college? Are we expected to forgive his indiscretions and transgressions due to his willingness to come back to a game that is trying to push him as far away from it as possible? Are we expected to think that he is coming back for the “love of the game” or for the $61 million that he is guaranteed over the next three seasons?

It would be an understatement to say that Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure. Despite that fact that Barry Bonds utilized the same methods in the use of illegal materials and the same willingness to dodge the truth, it is Alex Rodriguez who has become the most hated man in baseball. Despite the fact that Bonds is the one who holds the record for career home runs, it is Rodriguez who isn’t supposed to break the record going forward. As the ESPN: The Magazine article discussed, it is Rodriguez who is the villain, despite Ryan Braun‘s presence in Major League Baseball, even with Braun’s willingness to drag everyone and their brother under the bus after being outed as a cheater, twice. The Hall of Fame cases for Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Mike Piazza are tainted, whether wrongfully or not, by the cloud of steroids that has followed them and an entire era of players; however, it is Jason Giambi, an admitted user, who gets to retire with honor this week and slide right into an organizational position with the Cleveland Indians, who is praised for his career, which he has admitted to altering.

Does Rodriguez deserve better?
Does Rodriguez deserve better?

So, what is it that causes this polarization on these players? If being super-competitive led declining players to seek elongation of a career, yet we mock Willie Mays for his time as a New York Met, what is it that our society really wants out of our professional sports icons?

Our culture has changed significantly during my 34 years as a member of this planet, but one thing that has been going on for quite some time is the fact that people are willing to take some wild steps to get to where they want to be in life. Today, we like to think that baseball is in need of a change due to the length of the games and the “entertain me now” philosophy that goes along with the Social Media age. Why not add a clock to ensure that a pitcher throws the ball while two-thirds of the stadium is busy tagging their friend in a picture and posting #nofilter on the beautiful sunset peeking through the right field corner of the stadium? It seems ridiculous to change the ideas of what is acceptable and appropriate in our lives and our entertainment, demanding more right now than we ever did in the past. More news, more excitement, more reasons why you should enjoy what you have in front of you than actually taking the time to enjoy it. The sensationalism of “things” and “experiences” has led to something as minute as an individual’s actions being more important than the game.

That ideology is why Alex Rodriguez and others have become the poster children for the fall of the game. Rodriguez wasn’t alone, but we always want to blame someone. Before ARod it was Bonds, before Bonds it was Canseco, and before Canseco it was Pete Rose. We don’t need to change baseball and we don’t need to change Alex Rodriguez. We need to remember that he was playing a game, that he made a mistake (albeit for several years) to try to maintain his lifestyle. In the same way that others make mistakes and create debt by using credit cards for things that they can’t afford, they are forced to dig themselves out.

In the same way, Alex Rodriguez needs to dig himself out. He doesn’t need to accept blame, he didn’t need to apologize, he just needed to change and be happy while playing the game cleanly. No one needs answers in this catastrophe of a public relations nightmare. There are far worse things going on behind the scenes of athletes’ lives than a man using his body as a pin cushion for steroids – just look at the NFL arrests since the Super Bowl. For all of the ridiculous spins that stories featuring Alex Rodriguez have taken over the last several days, here is one that you won’t see all over the internet: Alex Rodriguez was great, he was troubled, and he will overcome those troubles to be respected by the end of his career.

People have been cheating in all aspects of business. Sure, kids look up to him, but, as Charles Barkley once said:

Alex Rodriguez doesn’t need to answer questions for anyone except his two daughters, his family, and his closest friends. He isn’t threatening to end the world, attacking innocent lives, or testing ballistic missiles. He’s just a baseball player who screwed up. He deserves another chance to come out and do it right, and until he does it wrong again, we should all just sit back and watch, keeping our mouths shut the way that Alex Rodriguez should have the whole time.

Tulowitzki: Proving the Defensive Movement Wrong

When I looked at the current 2014 statistics today, it was easy to see that one player is standing out, dominating the league with an incredible .421 batting average and a 1.317 OPS through 32 games. After the last two seasons, you may have thought that those numbers belonged to Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, maybe even Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, but you’d be wrong. In a season where we bid farewell to one of the greatest players ever, the torch has been passed along to Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to continue a tradition of slugging shortstops in an era where so many teams are focusing on strong defensive metrics up the middle.

tulo2
Rockies’ SS Troy Tulowitzki

The thing is…Tulowitzki isn’t another Derek Jeter. Troy Tulowitzki, 29, has two Gold Gloves in his career, not that having Gold Gloves means anything when Jeter has five of them and has long been considered a defensive liability for the Yankees. The difference is that Tulowitzki is a very strong defender, posting a career range factor per nine of 5.01 (league average is 4.38) and a career fielding percentage of .986 (league average is .973), while he has a UZR of 38.7 over his career (3rd in MLB among shortstops since the start of the 2006 season). Tulo is an all-around star.

The biggest issue is his injury history. Tulowitzki has been on the disabled list five times in his career, missing a total of 267 team games since his arrival to the majors, nearly a season and a half of production, which is a big deal considering the investment that the Rockies made in their shortstop, 13-years and $167 million worth of extensions and commitments. Through the injuries, Tulowitzki continued to produce impressive overall numbers, as evidenced by his 162-game averages for his career:

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
162 Game Avg. 162 687 605 103 181 36 4 29 105 10 69 107 .299 .373 .518 .891 124 313
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2014.

That’s very Alex Rodriguez at shortstop-esque, which, with continued production, could make Tulowitzki the best overall shortstop this side of Honus Wagner.

Braves' SS Andrelton Simmons
Braves’ SS Andrelton Simmons

Which begs the question, why are so many teams still settling for players who are one-trick ponies when there are still players capable of playing short and producing strong offensive numbers? It wasn’t long ago that Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and other, non-steroid using shortstops, like Nomar Garciaparra and Jeter, were ruling the middle of the infield around the league. Now, teams seem confident running out players like Adeiny Hechavarria, Alcides Escobar, Brandon Crawford, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Zack Cozart, who have a long history of not producing OPS numbers close to .750 while putting up solid numbers defensively; however, is an out saved defensively any more valuable than an unproductive at-bat? Those unproductive at-bats appear to be the norm over the last couple of seasons from the players thought to be defensive wizards by their clubs at one time or another (yes, Cabrera was supposed to be an upgrade defensively when he replaced Jhonny Peralta at short for Cleveland in 2009).

Consider the top five defensive shortstops in baseball currently: Erick Aybar, Cozart, Tulowitzki, Pedro Florimon, and Andrelton Simmons. Only Aybar and Simmons have an OPS over .700, along with Tulo, with Aybar checking in at .710 and Simmons checking in at .731 – which would rank them slightly better than the great Emilio Bonifacio, even with his strong start, in 2014.

So, why would a team settle for that type of production when there is enough talent out there to offset whatever defensive struggles a player has with a mighty stick at the plate?

Troy Tulowitzki is not a typical shortstop, and, as Jonah Keri wrote today, he could be heading towards one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. The impressive numbers should be a reminder that there is talent out there that will overcome  and live beyond the current movement of defensive shifts, defensive metrics, and over-the-top focus on glove over offensive production. For every Didi Gregorius for Shin-Soo Choo trade, there will be a Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Francisco Lindor on the way who can produce solid offensive numbers while continuing to redefine a position.

Troy Tulowitzki is doing his part in keeping Ernie Banks, Barry Larkin, and Derek Jeter and their production respectable. While Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, and Ozzie Smith get love for their gloves, they couldn’t carry the other’s all-around jockstraps. Give me Troy Tulowitzki and overall production and you can keep your defensive metrics.

Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball

Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com
Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com

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

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

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

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

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

The accolades were numerous for Jeter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Explosion of Javier Baez

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

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

The Baseball Haven: No. 8

Baseball Prospectus: No. 4

MLB.com: No. 7

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

FantasyAssembly.com: No. 5

Prospect361.com: No. 5

TopProspectAlert.com: No. 11

RotoAnalysis.com: No. 2

FantasySquads.com: No. 10

Scout.com: No. 13

DeepLeagues.com: No. 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Rodriguez: Proving Steroids Don’t Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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