2017 Top 100 MLB Prospects

Below is a list of the top 100 prospects in MLB, as compiled by a non-scout. With spring training starting up, what better time to begin prospecting for your fantasy teams than right now. Click on the links below to view each player’s Baseball Reference page. Brief writeups for top 25 only. Enjoy, comment, and share…share a lot!

He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017 Courtesy: Boston Herald
He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017
Courtesy: Boston Herald

1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS: Added muscle to an already incredibly talented skill-set could lead to immediate stardom in 2017.

2. Alex Reyes, RHP, STL: Suspensions are behind him. It won’t be long until he’s 1b behind Carlos Martinez.
3. Lucas Giolito, RHP, CHW: Remember the elbow issues and the babying. He’ll get a grasp on location and he’ll take off.
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak Courtesy: Zimbio
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak
Courtesy: Zimbio

4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, CHW: Freak athlete. The numbers from a 2B will make fantasy players drool.

5. J.P. Crawford, SS, PHI: Don’t expect Jimmy Rollins in his game. He’ll begin to impress as soon as he gets his first shot due to a solid approach and all-around game.
6. Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL: Atlanta will be better in their new stadium. Swanson will be one of the reasons why. Getting him for Shelby Miller will be the Braves’ version of the Jeff Bagwell deal.
7. Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS: Power potential for days. He’s going to be special.
8. Gleyber Torres, SS, NYY: The power is coming. At 19 in A+, he had 11 HR and 29 doubles. It’s a race to SS between Torres and Mateo in NY.
9. Brendan Rodgers, SS, COL: There is a lot more swing and miss in his game than Troy Tulowitzki’s, but he’ll be compared to him his entire career – and for good reason.
10. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, PIT: The control can still be an issue, but Glasnow has the right pitching coach to make him an elite arm.
Robles is still in the Nats' organization for a reason Courtesy: MiLB.com
Robles is still in the Nats’ organization for a reason
Courtesy: MiLB.com

11. Victor Robles, OF, WAS: A gifted athlete with a crazy contact rate (especially for a 19-year-old in A+), he’ll utilize the entire field and be a threat on the bases.

12. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, LAD: He has nowhere to play until Adrian Gonzalez leaves after the 2018 season, but he’s nearly ready. Maybe they’ll make room for him in the OF.
13. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT: All of the McCutcheon rumors will lead to a lot of focus on Meadows. He won’t be a star but can do a lot of things well.
14. Bradley Zimmer, OF, CLE: The strikeouts are a huge concern but Zimmer is a unique talent and brings a skill-set that will improve an already impressive roster in Cleveland.
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He's the guy Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He’s the guy
Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com

15. Nick Senzel, 3B, CIN: Think of Ryan Zimmerman when you think of how quickly a player can reach the majors here. He could also produce at the same level…hopefully without the injuries.

16. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, SD: There are still a lot of things that can go wrong (he doesn’t turn 19 until March), but there are so many things that are already intriguing here.
17. Lewis Brinson, OF, MIL: Making contact consistently is a concern, but, when he does, Brinson is capable of superstardom in Milwaukee.
18. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CHC: 40 doubles at 19 in the midwest league. He’s going to turn those into HR in 2017 and he’ll be a top 5 prospect in 2018.
19. Manuel Margot, OF, SD: His numbers won’t pop and he may never lead the league in any statistic, but Margot is a smooth baseball player. He can do it all.
20. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, PIT: He never showed the power potential he was supposed to have in the minors, but he’s still a work in progress – one with an approach beyond his years.
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller Courtesy: Stack.com
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller
Courtesy: Stack.com

21. Clint Frazier, OF, NYY: The hair may be what many know him for right now. The ability will make others wish that they had curly red hair.

22. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU: As this guy grows into his 6’4″ frame, he’s going to be a monster. He had 41 XBH and 32 SB while reading A+ at 19 in 2016.
23. Michael Kopech, RHP, CHW: He throws really hard and he’s on a team that is going to give him an opportunity sooner than later. If for no other reason than these, he’s an intriguing prospect. He’s also very good.
24. Willy Adames, SS, TB: He’ll make the David Price trade look silly at some point when he debuts in 2017. He is extremely talented and will quickly become one of the Rays’ top players.
25. Francis Martes, RHP, HOU: Strikeouts jumped a bit (as did the walks) in AA last year, a wonderful sign for a 20-year-old. He throws extremely hard and is capable of becoming a frontline starter.
26. Amed Rosario, SS, NYM
27. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, CHC
28. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, ATL
30. Kyle Lewis, OF, SEA
31. Mickey Moniak, OF, PHI
32. Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS, OAK
33. Francisco Mejia, C, CLE
34. Jose De Leon, RHP, TB
35. Corey Ray, OF, MIL
36. Hunter Renfroe, OF, SD
37. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB
38. Josh Hader, LHP, MIL
39. Jason Groome, LHP, BOS
40. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, COL
41. Tyler O’Neill, OF, SEA
42. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, CHW
43. Kolby Allard, LHP, ATL
44. Raimel Tapia, OF, COL
45. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT
46. Blake Rutherford, OF, NYY
47. Braxton Garrett, LHP, MIA
48. Jorge Alfaro, C, PHI
49. Yohander Mendez, LHP, TEX
50. Anthony Alford, OF, TOR
51. Carson Kelly, C, STL
52. Luis Castillo, RHP, CIN
53. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, LAD
54. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B/OF, TOR
55. Jorge Mateo, SS, NYY
56. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX
57. Riley Pint, RHP, COL
58. Dominic Smith, 1B, NYM
59. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, TOR
60. Nick Gordon, SS, MIN
61. David Paulino, RHP, HOU
62. Amir Garrett, LHP, CIN
63. Aaron Judge, OF, NYY
64. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE
65. Kevin Newman, SS, PIT
66. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
67. Nick Williams, OF, PHI
68. Zack Collins, C, CHW
69. Delvin Perez, SS, STL
70. A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK
71. Grant Holmes, RHP, OAK
72. Brady Aiken, LHP, CLE
73. Robert Stephenson, RHP, CIN
74. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN
75. Erick Fedde, RHP, WAS
76. Willie Calhoun, 2B, LAD
77. Dylan Cease, RHP, CHC
78. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, TB
79. Luke Weaver, RHP, STL
80. Justus Sheffield, LHP, NYY
81. Sean Newcombe, LHP, ATL
82. Matt Manning, RHP, DET
83. Brock Stewart, RHP, LAD
84. Max Fried, LHP, ATL
85. Derek Fisher, OF, HOU
86. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL
87. Chance Sisco, C, BAL
88. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU
89. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, MIN
90. Kevin Maitan, SS, ATL
91. Matt Chapman, 3B, OAK
92. Tyler Jay, LHP, MIN
93. Cal Quantrill, RHP, SD
94. Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE
95. Christian Arroyo, INF, SF
96. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL
97. Isan Diaz, SS, MIL
98. Ramon Laureano, OF, HOU
99. Tyler Beede, RHP, SF
100. German Marquez, RHP, COL

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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.

 

 

 

 

2015 Season Previews: Atlanta Braves

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! 

Atlanta Braves

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 73-89 (4th in NL East, 26th in MLB)

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (358-290 in four seasons with Atlanta, 634-569 overall in eight seasons)

Top Three Players: SS Andrelton Simmons (4.1), 1B Freddie Freeman (4.1), Alex Wood (2.3)

Bounce-back Player: LHP Mike Minor

Minor missed some time in the 2014 season due to left shoulder inflammation. The shoulder is a tricky injury to struggle with for pitchers, and Minor struggled, going 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 25 starts and 145.1 innings. He was much more hittable in 2014, which likely has something to do with leaning on his fastball more than ever before. He threw the fastball 61.2 percent of the time (a career-high), while using his change just 8.3 percent of the time (the lowest of his career). Minor has a four pitch mix, using a curve and slider along with the fastball and changeup, so the shoulder issues may have led to some discomfort in mixing his pitches and keeping hitters off-balance. If he is healthy, he could be the same pitcher who posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 47 starts (298.1 IP) from July 5, 2012 through the end of the 2013 season, and if that is the case, the Braves have one of the strongest rotations in the National League.

Can Peraza boost the Braves and your fantasy teams? Courtesy: foxsports.com
Can Peraza boost the Braves and your fantasy teams?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: 2B Jose Peraza

Peraza is an interesting fantasy prospect thanks to his speed. He made it to AA last season at the age of 20 and promptly hit .335/.363/.422 over 44 games, while stealing 25 of the 60 that he stole during the entire 2014 season. Atlanta did sign Alberto Callaspo this winter, who could battle Chris Johnson for time at third or Jace Peterson for the Opening Day second base job, but Peraza is the man to watch for the keystone position in Atlanta. He is certainly worth grabbing in dynasty and NL-only leagues due to the potential that he offers with his legs, and he appears to have a similar skill-set to what Luis Castillo brought in his earlier seasons with the Marlins, which likely helped win several fantasy titles. He’s very unlikely to be on the roster when camp breaks, but if he continues to impress in the way that he has since his 2011 debut and the Braves are struggling to find production, this young man could spark the offense.

Offseason Overview: The Braves has a very busy offseason, dealing away more expensive, proven talent for younger, more affordable potential after a disastrous 2014, which saw the team finish 17 games back of Washington in the NL East. Sure, it was good for second place in the weak division, but Atlanta was hoping for more. After re-tooling (and decreasing payroll by approximately $12 million) by dealing Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for RHP Shelby Miller and RHP prospect Tyrell Jenkins,  shipping Justin Upton to the Padres (along with RHP Aaron Northcraft) for a package of prospects (LHP Max Fried, 3B Dustin Peterson, OF Mallex Smith, and 2B/3B Jace Peterson), and moving C/OF Evan Gattis to Houston (with RHP James Hoyt) for 3B Rio Ruiz, RHP Michael Foltynewicz, and RHP Andrew Thurman, the Braves have stockpiled their system with depth while decreasing payroll. The club did add OF Nick Markakis and OF Jonny Gomes to make up for the loss in offensive output, albeit not nearly as intimidating on paper. However, it wasn’t as if Upton and Heyward had been individually producing at Mike Trout levels, even if it will be hard to replace the 9.6 WAR that they combined to post in 2014 with their new additions. They lost Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, and Ervin Santana to free agency from the rotation, but they were able to replace them through the moves or with other candidates, such as the smart minor league contract invites LHP Wandy Rodriguez and LHP Eric Stults. The addition of RHP Jason Grilli to the bullpen in front of RHP Craig Kimbrel shores up the bullpen, especially if he pitches as well as he did for the Angels last season, and especially if he returns to the dominance that he showed in 2013 for the Pirates.

The Verdict: While this may look like a totally different team from the 2014 season, the Braves could be very solid. They will thrive with their pitching and defense, possessing elite-level defenders in Simmons, C Christian Bethancourt, Freeman, and, if he returns to form, B.J Upton (a.k.a. Melvin). The big issue will be their offensive production. By dealing Upton and Heyward, they rid themselves of two players who were set to become free agents after the 2015 season, but Markakis and Gomes really won’t cut it in replacing them. Atlanta must be assuming that there will be further gains for Freddie Freeman, while counting on resurgent seasons from Simmons, 3B Chris Johnson, and Upton. Atlanta may be familiar with having a solid young group of arms, and now with RHP Julio Teheran, RHP Shelby Miller, and LHP Alex Wood at the top of the rotation, there could be reminders of the Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery led youthful rotations that once turned into a dynasty. This is exactly how a team that knows what they’re doing spends an offseason. John Hart will look like a genius for the moves that he has made to rebuild the Braves in a couple of seasons, but it would take some pretty impressive breaks for the team to be a .500 team in 2015.

First Week Failures: Fun Overreactions to Small Sample Sizes

strikeoutThe beginning of the season is full of hope and joy…and when reality sets in, that hope and joy can become fear and anger. It makes fans begin to second guess their team’s season after just four games in a 162-game season. Although the first week isn’t officially over, there are already players who have developed a following of Twitter rage, a second guessing that doesn’t allow for patience, and the fear that could result in a player being added to a sell-low trade in their fantasy league after just 12 to 25 at-bats. These players have become the talk of their respective towns for the wrong reasons.

B.J. Upton, CF, Atlanta Braves

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2014 29 ATL 4 16 16 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 9 .063 .063 .063 .125 -65 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

Upton HeywardEven after spending the offseason tinkering with his swing, Upton’s ability to make contact has seemed to completely vanish. Upton has gone from a 4.5 (2007) and 4.8 (2008) WAR player to having a -0.6 WAR in 2013 when he hit .184 and had a 56 wRC+. In just the second year of a five-year, $75.2 million deal with Atlanta, the outfielder, who will turn 30 in August, certainly hasn’t provided anything close to what he has been paid by Braves brass. Although it is early in the season, this type of production, or lack there of, will only force the Braves into difficult choices – like moving Evan Gattis to left while playing Jason Heyward in center and Justin Upton in right, while giving Christian Bethancourt some at-bats behind the plate – allowing Upton an opportunity to continue to alter his swing or pray to the baseball gods for some sort of guidance in what appears to be a hopeless adventure.

Can He Rebound?: Upton has had success in the past, but after his failures in 2013, it’s fair to wonder if the tools that made him a half-way decent player have eroded to the point that he can’t be considered a toolsy player anymore. If he doesn’t have tools, he can’t produce. He has talent around him to hide his issues, potentially seeing more fastballs due to the presence of Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman protecting him in the Atlanta order. I can see him rebounding, but he never was a .300 hitter. Even reaching .250 is going to be a chore, but the power and speed combination is always worth waiting on. The Braves paid a lot for him, so he’ll get a long look.

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2014 23 CIN 4 13 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 6 .000 .077 .000 .077 -76 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

Did anyone think that Hamilton was going to hit .368 like he did in his September call-up last season after he managed to hit just .256 in Triple-A prior to the promotion? You gotta love the golden quote from “classy” St. Louis beat writer Derrick Goold on Hamilton, but his sarcasm and mocking ways aren’t all that different from Reds fans, who are already pretty upset with the breeze that Hamilton is creating near the Ohio River. During Wednesday night’s game, Hamilton’s bunting skills were quite questionable, as well, going directly to Michael Wacha and Matt Carpenter with consecutive attempts – DIRECTLY. I was talking to my wife and said the same thing that Goold said, in a different way: “Speed doesn’t matter when it’s walking back to the dugout.” Maybe Hamilton is trying to hit the ball to the gaps, maybe he is feeling the pressure of replacing an All-Star after the departure of Shin-Soo Choo…Regardless, what he is doing isn’t working, and after injuring his finger on his stolen base attempt on Friday night in New York, hitting may be even more difficult until he is 100 percent.

Can He Rebound?: Hamilton didn’t prove anything in Triple-A last season to overcome the questions in his bat. His speed helps his defense play up, but it doesn’t do anything until he starts getting on base. No one has ever had 200 hits while getting 200 bunt singles in a season, and that won’t happen this year either. Don’t be shocked to see his struggles continue, leading to Chris Heisey and Roger Bernadina manning center while Hamilton refines his craft in Louisville. He will need to get it going quickly there, as well, as Phillip Ervin could easily replace him as the center fielder of the future in Cincinnati.

Colby Rasmus, CF, Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2014 27 TOR 5 21 18 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 .056 .190 .111 .302 -14 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

When considering that this is a contract year for Rasmus, this certainly isn’t the start that he was hoping for. After posting the highest WAR of his career in 2013 (4.8), things were looking up. With Rasmus, though, the swing and miss in his game can overshadow the large, end-of-year counting stats. At one time, Rasmus had a .361 on-base percentage and walked in nearly 12 percent of his at-bats…but that was in 2010, and Rasmus’ patience has seemed to drop while his power numbers ballooned and his defensive skills increased. Which Colby Rasmus is going to show up in 2014? That really can’t be answered, but if he is going to cash-in on his free agency after the season, he needs to get those numbers back to last year’s really quick-like.

Can He Rebound?: Rasmus, like Upton, has a lot of talent around him in Toronto. He has always had crazy abilities, but the makeup has been questioned due to his run-ins with Tony LaRussa and his defensive numbers looking so week prior to 2013. The power is legit and the payoff for success will be huge due to the lack of center field depth in free agency after the 2014 season. It would be easier to see Rasmus rebounding if he wasn’t struggling so much with making contact, while also seeing drops in his plate discipline numbers. He’s at the right age for a huge breakout, and I can see him hitting 30 home runs in 2014, but it won’t always be pretty.

Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2014 35 PHI 1 0 1.000 14.40 1 1 0 0 5.0 11 8 8 1 1 0 1 2.400 19.8 1.8 1.8 1.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

LeeWith Roy Halladay retired and Cole Hamels on the disabled list due to shoulder woes, there was a lot expected of the Phillies’ No.1 starter this season. Even though he earned the win, in spite of allowing eight earned runs in five innings (KILL THE WIN!!!), the fans of Philadelphia can’t be pleased with how Lee looked on Opening Day. However, Lee rebounded tremendously this afternoon against the Cubs, tossing seven scoreless innings (10 hits, 6:0 K:BB) to make things a little more “normal” with a 6.00 ERA. Some may warn that the successful outing was due to the opponent, but Philly fans should anticipate more outings like Saturday’s going forward.

Can He Rebound?: He already did. Trust in him.

Jim Johnson, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2014 31 OAK 0 2 .000 45.00 2 0 0 1.0 5 5 5 0 3 1 0 12 13 8.000 45.0 27.0 0.0 0.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

Johnson has been, quite possibly, the worst development of the first week of the season. He had faced all of 12 batters and NINE of them had reached base – five of them scoring – heading into Saturday. He did get through an inning today while striking out two, allowing zero runs (hooray!), and allowing only one hit. After imploding in his first two appearances, it was fair to wonder if the A’s would give him the ball in the next save situation, especially with a solid bullpen in Oakland. Today was proof that they aren’t giving up on hit just yet, and with a $10 million salary for this season, it seems very unlikely that Johnson will lose his job too quickly.

Can He Rebound?: Johnson blew nine saves in 2013, lost eight games, and still managed an ERA under 3.00 while closing 50 games out for Baltimore. In fact, he has 101 saves since the start of the 2012 season. This was a lot of money for a team like Oakland to spend on a closer, which leads me to two conclusions: 1) The A’s will win a lot of games this season, and 2) Jim Johnson will remain the closer.

Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Towers: Where the Diamondbacks Are Going

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com
Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

Maybe this is an overreaction, but Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers appears to be crippling the future of the team by making some strange trades. Certainly, Towers has many years of experience, holding the San Diego Padres GM position from 1995 through the 2009 season before being fired in October, then taking over in the desert in late September of 2010. As with any operational move completed by a baseball franchise, some will work and some won’t, but the last three major moves by Towers appear to be crumbling the foundation of long-term success for the Diamondbacks.

Skaggs
Angels new LHP Tyler Skaggs

When the club acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels last week, they added a powerful bat, but they also added a first baseman and designated hitter who will be playing the outfield, as current first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, was already present and had an MVP-caliber season in 2013. The Diamondbacks first had to acquire an additional arm to trade to the Angels, and they did so by dealing Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox for left-handed starter Hector Santiago. Towers then packaged Santiago with 22-year-old prospect Tyler Skaggs, who was rated the No.10 prospect in baseball by MLB.com prior to the 2013 season, in the deal for Trumbo, while acquiring a couple of fringy players, outfielder Brandon Jacobs and right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel, as players who were named later in the deal. Eaton, who turned 25 in early December, was listed as the Diamondbacks’ starting centerfielder prior to the deal, and he has been supplanted by A.J. Pollock, who turned 26 in early December and appears to have a lot of Drew Stubbs to his game (solid defender, good power and speed, and a lot of swing and miss). Eaton was highly regarded by many saber-guys for his .450 career minor league on-base percentage and .951 OPS, and giving him up for Santiago, a back-end rotation starter (along with his five years of team-control), to acquire Trumbo was odd, but then Towers moved Skaggs. While Skaggs was pretty terrible in a very difficult league for pitchers in 2013 (4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), he managed to strikeout 9.3 batters per nine as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. After watching Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran go from a 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as a 21-year-old in Triple-A in 2012 to 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as a 22-year-old in the majors in 2013, could the Diamondbacks have just given up the arm that they appear to now covet in free agency, as they have been rumored to be interested in both Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka. Power may be in short supply around the league and you may never know how a prospect will turn out, but if Arizona had kept Skaggs and Eaton and signed Shin-Soo Choo, wouldn’t they be just as likely to contend?

Speaking of a powerful bat…

Upton
Braves OF Justin Upton

With power in such short supply, as Kevin Towers so boldly claimed after acquiring Trumbo, wouldn’t dealing Justin Upton and his team-friendly contract, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury have been considered a bad idea when using that philosophy? There were a lot of underlying issues that led to the Diamondbacks apparent “need” to deal Upton last off-season, but, considering the type of prospect that they just gave up to get a player with a career .768 OPS, shouldn’t Towers have aimed higher in dealing Upton, who has a career .830 OPS? Certainly, Martin Prado is a fine player and his versatility is very useful, but his bat doesn’t play all that well as a full-time third baseman, where he will be playing in 2014, and heading into his age-30 season, it is fair to wonder if he should have been the centerpiece in an Upton deal, especially as Upton enters his age-26 season in 2014, making him younger than even Trumbo! If power is so valuable, why would Upton not be worth a legitimate prospect and a player, considering his contract and disregarding whatever “issues” were making him so useless to Arizona?

Furthermore, the trade that sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians for Lars Anderson (designated for assignment on 1/24/2013), Tony Sipp (designated for assignment on 11/20/2013), and Didi Gregorius is just as questionable as the package that is highlighted by Skaggs. Bauer was rated as the No.14 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season and the Diamondbacks seemed to sour on him due to his desire to train and prepare in a way that is strange to nearly all people who have had the pleasure of viewing him, with long-tossing from foul pole to foul pole and a crow hop seed from the pitchers mound to the catcher as his first warm-up pitch being a part of his hour long pitching preparation. Still, at just 23 on Opening Day of 2014, his long-term outlook is very good and drafting Bauer 3rd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft and dealing him nearly 18 months later for a slap-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop seems very odd, even with defensive metrics and shortstop values being taken into consideration. When looking at the value that the Indians received in Shaw and Albers, along with the fact that the Diamondbacks no longer roster two players that they received in the deal, this was a steal by the Cleveland Indians…and that is all before looking at how Gregorius may lose the everyday shortstop job to a prospect who was in house when the Bauer deal happened, Chris Owings, since Aaron Hill won’t be giving up the second base job.

Diamondbacks' GM Kevin Towers - answering serious questions?
Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers – answering serious questions?

It is easy to question the style that a franchise is taking and it is even easier to say that you could make better deals than your favorite team’s general manager, but when you consider the recent track record of Kevin Towers in Arizona, most fantasy baseball managers agree – they could do a better job. Is Arizona now the New York Yankees of the west, trading all of their top minor league talent to fill their major league holes? Well, the Yankees never seemed to give away their top prospects without certain, immediate help. Can the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers? Matching power with Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be an option, as a full season of Matt Kemp (if he isn’t traded), Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and others will likely make the Dodgers that much more dangerous, and Arizona doesn’t have enough “grit” to overcome the L.A. payroll and talent – especially when they are trading the pieces that could get them over the top for veterans who have shown what they can do. Trumbo and Prado aren’t winning the Diamondbacks any championships, and, while they will make Arizona a bit more competitive, it is the front-line, affordable pitching that would have helped the Diamondbacks slither into contention.

Kevin Towers doesn’t seem to have a clear philosophy of where he is taking the Diamondbacks, and if the moves that he has made this season don’t work out, it is fair to wonder if he can make intelligent decisions going forward for any organization, experience be damned.

Stopping the Braves Before They Stop You

The Atlanta Braves hate fun. At least, that statement appears to be case, as the club has been a part of some of the most intense bench-clearing altercations of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Those altercations began with a home run, a bat flip, standing too long in the batter’s box, or jawing with someone on the field. Here are exhibits A, B, and C:

Exhibit A – Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez from Wednesday night:

Exhibit B – Miami Marlins soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez from September 11:

and, finally, Exhibit C – Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper on August 6:

In all three cases, the Braves took exception with the antics of the opposition and to make them understand that their antics weren’t appreciated, someone took action. The club’s star catcher, Brian McCann, seems to have taken the Roger Goodell approach…you know, the commissioner of the NFL who has basically made it impossible for players to dance, celebrate, or enjoy any of their lives by turning the National Football League into the No Fun League. McCann didn’t even let Carlos Gomez cross home plate after his home run and colorful antagonizing on Wednesday night, while he was sure to stop Jose Fernandez prior to his leaving the dish to make sure he understood “how the game works.”

The Atlanta Braves are policing MLB but no one else seems to mind.

The ol’ book likely says that bat flipping and admiration of your hit is disrespectful to the opposition, but could the game use these types of colorful personalities?

Two of the game’s top young players are absolute bat flip professionals. I present to you Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig:

YasielPuigBatFlipSideWilMyersBatFlip

It wouldn’t be a terrible thing for baseball to have a face of the game that would have passion and enthusiasm for the game, one that would allow the youth of America and around the world to actually WANT to mock while actually playing baseball with friends instead of soccer and video games.

Considering a recent piece (and poll) by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, which detailed that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguezthe same guy who is suspended for 211 games for doping and was having his future livelihood threatened by MLB just over two months ago, is the current face of baseball, receiving 22-percent of the vote, followed by teammate Derek Jeter, who has played all of 17 games this season, who had 12-percent of the vote, the game needs to have SOMEONE OR SOME THING that can be considered marketable. While it is arguable as to whether cockiness and showmanship is that thing, those traits are certainly something that shouldn’t be so heavily governed…at least not by one team.

Which brings me back to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have had a remarkable run of success. While the Pittsburgh Pirates were finishing with losing records from 1993 through 2012, the Atlanta Braves had winning seasons in all but two years since 1990 (2006 and 2008). While the front office, the manager, and the players have changed, it appears that the club is still influenced by the knowledge which was passed down from the John Schuerholz-Bobby CoxChipper Jones Era.

Is living and modeling “by the book” good for the game, though?

For me, the Brian McCann plate block was more embarrassing than the jawing done by Carlos Gomez. Even if Gomez was acting foolishly, why is it the right of the catcher to stop him before he could touch home plate and tell him how wrong he was? To make it even worse, Gomez was tossed from the game and McCann, who actually started the melee by halting the home run trot (and was also responsible for the benches clearing against Miami), was not, just as he wasn’t in Miami!

While the NFL has taken firm control of the American 18 to barely breathing man in America, baseball has been passed by as America’s pastime, and, similarly, as the NFL has taken a firm stance on protecting its image and brand with large fines and suspensions, MLB has done very little to enforce the protection of its players on the field, instead, focusing on fighting off-the-field legal battles with former players over performance-enhancing drug use and trying to maintain the integrity of the game that seemed to disappear after the 1994 player’s strike.

At this point, the league needs to combat pitchers throwing baseballs 90-plus miles per hour at the knees of Bryce Harper because he hit the ball too far. They need to make sure that players aren’t being attacked in bench-clearing brawls because of their colorful personalities. MLB needs to realize that colorful personalities will be valuable assets in regaining a solid public image, developing strong marketing campaigns built around the dynamic gifts of Mike Trout, the flamboyant nature of Yasiel Puig, and the fire and passion that Harper brings to the field, and, while doing so, the league needs to begin to penalize those who are willing to stop the fun in their tracks, as McCann did to Gomez.

What McCann and the Atlanta Braves are doing with their educational situations is NOT what baseball needs.