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.

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2015 Season Previews: New York Mets

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 Mets

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (2nd in NL East, 13th in MLB)

Manager: Terry Collins (304-344 in four seasons with New York, 748-778 in ten seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B David Wright (3.6), C Travis d’Arnaud (2.9), RHP Matt Harvey (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: RHP Matt Harvey

This is the easiest guess possible for this spot. After missing all of the 2014 season, Harvey’s return will be the highlight of a long season in New York. After losing Wheeler to the same injury, the outlook just won’t be the same. With an innings limit after coming back from his surgery, even if the Mets were to have a strong season, there wouldn’t be any way that Harvey could carry them through any playoff appearance. Still, if Harvey is the same pitcher that he was prior to his absence, he’s quite capable of battling Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award.

Flores had the tools at one point - he still does! Courtesy: metsminors.net
Flores had the tools at one point – he still does!
Courtesy: metsminors.net

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Zack Wheeler (out for season after Tommy John surgery)…SO: SS Wilmer Flores

With Wheeler out, there weren’t many options here for New York. Between d’Arnaud and Flores, I’m leaning Flores on the Mets’ fantasy player to watch. A 6’3″, 205 pound shortstop who has a knack for contact could play well in Citi Field, even if he is providing less than stellar range up-the-middle defensively. At one time, Flores was projected to be an offensive monster, likely moving to right field and becoming a huge producer. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had consistent opportunities. At just 23, this could become a do or die year for Flores, and you should take a flier on him due to his size, minor league production, and untapped potential as a player capable of a big season.

Offseason Overview: What do you do when you finish 79-83? You sign a 36-year-old outfielder and hope that your ace returning from Tommy John doesn’t have any setbacks, of course! Welcome to the life of the New York Mets! Unfortunately, even with Matt Harvey coming back, the club lost potential breakout performer Zack Wheeler to the same injury. Now, the Mets will hope that Dillon Gee can fill the void at the back-end of the rotation, while ageless wonder Bartolo Colon and budding star Jacob deGrom fill out the top of the rotation with Harvey. While Cuddyer will be an upgrade in right, allowing Curtis Granderson to slide to left while ridding the Mets of last year’s Eric Young, Jr. and Chris Young platoon, his age and the fact that he isn’t hitting in Coor’s will likely bring his numbers back down to earth.

The Verdict: The Mets are hoping for the best. Even if they win 82 games, they’re going to be looking so high up at Washington that half of the team would end up on the disabled list with neck injuries. Between David Wright’s back and Colon and Cuddyer’s age, the Mets will keep Aflac in business. We will continue to see amazing defense out of Juan Lagares in center, but there comes a time when the bat needs to be as useful as the glove. If New York gets some production out of Flores and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the whole “age factor” may not be as bastardizing. With Harvey back, things will look a little brighter, especially if he maintains the stuff that he had prior to his injury. If the Mets were to win 80 games with this group, they should extend the entire front office. There are just too many injury issues to count on this team to reach the 80-win plateau.

2014 MLB Free Agency: Pitching: What’s Out There For Your Team

Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!

TanakaTop Tier Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza, RHP, 30; Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 30; Josh Johnson, RHP, 30; Scott Kazmir, LHP, 30; Tim Lincecum, RHP, 30; Ricky Nolasco, RHP, 31; Ervin Santana, RHP, 31; Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, 25;

Needless to say, it is a weak, weak market this offseason. The Wild Card is Tanaka, who could be posted by his Japanese club. The youngest of the group, Tanaka has a 1.44 ERA over the last three seasons in 580.1 innings. At 6’2″, 205 pounds, Tanaka is more Yu Darvish (6’5″, 225) than Daisuke Matsuzaka (6′, 180), but he should fall somewhere in between. Garza wasn’t really all that productive after moving to Texas in a mid-season trade, and after battling elbow issues prior to the deal, his market may be very weary in its development. Johnson had an absolute nightmare of a season in Toronto, posting a 6.30 ERA over 16 starts (81.1 IP) before being shut down in late August with a forearm strain. Lincecum has shown some positive signs of his former self, but his fastball velocity continues to decrease and his previous contract (two-year, $40.5 million) seems highly unattainable. The remaining four, Jimenez, Kazmir (who sat in the mid-90’s all season, stayed healthy, and is young enough to produce through an extended contract), Nolasco, and Santana, had the best seasons of those reaching free agency in the coming months, but none of them are elite. On a good team, none of them should be more than a No.3 starter.

JimenezVeteran Starting Pitchers

Bronson Arroyo, RHP, 37; A.J. Burnett, RHP, 37; Bartolo Colon, RHP, 41; Freddy Garcia, RHP, 37; Roy Halladay, RHP, 37; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, 39; Ted Lilly, LHP, 38; Roy Oswalt, RHP, 35; Jake Westbrook, RHP, 36; Barry Zito, LHP, 36;

This group is full of guys who have performed very well at times over the last few years. Burnett has been lights out for Pittsburgh this season (209 K, 3.30 ERA in 191 IP), Dan Haren had a 3.29 ERA over his final 16 games (87.2 IP), Kuroda has a 3.40 ERA over his first six seasons in America, and Arroyo hasn’t missed a start in his career. The rest of the group is kind of all over the place, some battling through various injuries and others battling through inconsistencies that come with aging and the loss of stuff. This group could be pretty affordable due to their age and limitations, but they could be very valuable for whoever signs them, tossing useful innings or providing leadership within a rotation and clubhouse.

Reclamation Projects

Scott Baker, RHP, 32; Gavin Floyd, RHP, 31; Phil Hughes, RHP, 28; Colby Lewis, RHP, 34; Shaun Marcum, RHP, 32; Mike Pelfrey, RHP, 30; Edinson Volquez, RHP, 30; Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, 34;

Several guys here coming off of injuries, while some have just long been ineffective, like Hughes and Pelfrey (who seemed to find a tick on his fastball late in the year). While none of these guys are locks to fill a rotation spot, they could become the 2014 version of what Kazmir provided to the Cleveland Indians. An incentive-laden contract for any of these pitchers is a worthy gamble by an intelligent club.

MujicaClosers

Grant Balfour, RHP, 36; Joaquin Benoit, RHP, 36; Joel Hanrahan, RHP, 32; Edward Mujica, RHP, 30; Fernando Rodney, RHP, 37;

Considering the young, affordable, internal options that have stepped up and become useful in the closer’s role over the last several years like Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen, as well as the highly-paid closers that have bombed (Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jose Valverde, for example), maybe the expensive, long-term deals that used to be handed out to closers in free agency could be a thing of the past. Not one of these free agents have maintained a closer’s job for the last three straight years without interruption, and, for that reason, should sign at a relative discount when compared to deals in years past.

ChamberlainUseful Relief Pitchers

Matt Albers, RHP, 31; Joba Chamberlain, RHP, 28; Jesse Crain, RHP, 32; Jason Frasor, RHP, 36; Rich Hill, LHP, 34; J.P. Howell, LHP, 31; Matt Guerrier, RHP, 35; Boone Logan, LHP, 29; Javier Lopez, LHP, 36; Oliver Perez, LHP, 32; Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, 31; Joe Smith, RHP, 30;

More pitchers who are all over the place in production and health, the relief pitcher is probably the most confusing position in all of baseball. Some dominate every year, like Mike Adams, and others, like Rodriguez, have been about as consistent as a politician. A tremendous bullpen typically happens due to gambling and winning on a risk, and being very, very cautious with how much money is given to free agents. None of these guys should receive more than $5 million per season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if some unintelligent front office makes the bold move and sets the market way too high.

In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

It’s late in the baseball season and there are a lot of things that could be distracting you, such as following up on Johnny Manziel’s battle with the NCAA, completing your 21 fantasy football drafts, and wondering who will be Ace or Gary when you attend a Halloween party as the Incredibly Gay Duo. While all of those things are important, I present to you the world of baseball that you may have missed due to your fascination of Miley twerking.

  • SorianoYankees’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano leads MLB with 42 RBI and is tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the lead in home runs (13) since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 21-16 since Soriano returned to New York and the Yanks are 2.5 games behind Tampa for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining, including seven games against Boston (a four-game series begins today in New York) and three against the Rays.
  • New Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd is leading the majors in total bases since the All-Star break with 101 (he is tied with teammate Andrew McCutchen and San Diego outfielder Will Venable), and he is tied with Minnesota Twins shortstop Brian Dozier for extra-base hits since the break with 26. Byrd will look to continue his torrid pace in helping lead the Pirates to the NL Central title after the Buccos have already guaranteed their fans with the club’s first winning season since 1992.
  • Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth looked like a total waste of a seven-year, $126 million deal after his horrendous first season, 2011, in the nation’s capital, but he has hit .311/.392/.487 over the last two seasons while battling various injuries. If Werth continues his production next season and the Nats get a full, healthy season out of Bryce Harper and their very good pitching staff, the letdown from 2013 will be all forgiven in 2014 with an improved season. Werth, by the way, is 8th in MLB in OPS (.920).
  • Toronto outfielder Rajai Davis doesn’t receive a lot of praise or playing time, but he has 40 stolen bases in just 93 games. With his .313 OBP, Davis has made an appearance on the bases just 93 times in 301 plate appearances. When you take away the two triples and four home runs (since he hasn’t stolen home and he can’t steal a base after a home run), it means that Davis has successfully stolen a base in 46 percent of his appearances on base. With his speed, who needed to wait for Billy Hamilton for an impact base runner?
  • Davis2There are only six players with 30 or more home runs (Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Pedro Alvarez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adam Dunn) after 22 players reached the tier in 2012 and 24 players reached in 2011. With 17 players within six homers or reaching 30, and several within that group unlikely to do so (I’m looking at you J.J. Hardy and the injured Domonic Brown), the top-tier of sluggers appears to be a very rare breed with pitching being so dominant.

Speaking of pitching…

  • Max Scherzer is sitting at 19-2, but the names of other starting pitchers ranked near the top in wins is quite surprising: Jorge De La Rosa (16), Francisco Liriano (15), Chris Tillman (15), and Bartolo Colon (14) rank in the top eight in the strange statistic. While some writers will look at the win as valuable in determining who should win the Cy Young, it clearly has little use in determining who has been the best pitcher.
  • It’s somewhat disappointing to see numbers fall with the drop in velocity, but that is exactly what has happened to former Cy Young favorites like Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and C.C. Sabathia (13-11, 4.86 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). With the fall from grace, though, has come exciting young arms like Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, and Matt Harvey (R.I.P.). Unfortunately for the aging arms, it doesn’t appear to be getting better, as Sabathia has a 6.88 ERA in the second half, while Verlander has a more respectable 3.77 ERA since the break.
  • FernandezSpeaking of those young arms and specifically Jose Fernandez, the young, Cuban-born right-hander has been filthy in the second half. His 0.83 WHIP is tops among all starting pitchers and the 70:13 K:BB in 54 innings is downright nasty. With the Marlins possibly looking to deal their only source of offense, Giancarlo Stanton, this winter, Fernandez will likely continue to post ridiculous numbers without wins going forward, although he has won five games since the break.
  • For all of those still sitting back and waiting for Chris Sale‘s arm to explode, it hasn’t happened. The White Sox ace has been even better in 2013 than he was last season, posting a 2.97 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate AND his walk rate on a per nine inning basis. After being locked up for five-years, $32.5 million (with team options totalling $26 million over 2018 and 2019), the Pale Hose look very wise in their string-bean investment.
  • R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball didn’t carry over to the AL East. The veteran right-hander has a 4.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP after posting a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 through 2012 with the New York Mets. The small parks, the strong teams, and the patient hitters are all a factor in the decline, but when you don’t really know which way the ball is going when using a trick pitch, that kind of makes things difficult, too.
  • DarvishYu Darvish is having an absolutely stupid season. He leads MLB with his 12.0 K/9 and he has struck out 240 of the 722 batters that he has faced (33.2 percent). While some Cy Young voters will look at Scherzer’s 19 wins and look stupid years from now, it is the unhittable Darvish, who has allowed 124 hits in 179.2 innings and a .192 BAA, who deserves the award.

Steroids, Moonshots, Cheaters, and Moving On

BraunIn December of 2011, I wrote about Ryan Braun getting suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Today, Braun was suspended for the remainder of the season for his association with Biogenesis and the use of another illegal substance to gain an advantage in Major League Baseball. Certainly, Braun won’t be the only player suspended,  and the media circus will really take off when Alex Rodriguez gets his suspension in the coming days or weeks, but many others have been linked to the Miami-based lab, including:

Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Oakland starting fat-so Bartolo Colon, and several others.

Unfortunately, some of these players have been here before, particularly Braun, Rodriguez, and Melky Cabrera, but what is it about performance-enhancing drugs that is causing this type of reaction from fans, media, and baseball?

Cheaters have always been able to get by without extreme testing, suspensions, and legacy-tarnishing damnation. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame (1991) and he doctored baseballs with spit and vasoline. Joe Niekro had a 22 year career filled with knuckleballs and sandpaper on his fingers. Whitey Ford is a Hall of Famer (1974) and he cut the baseball with his wedding ring. Players in the 1950’s through the 1970’s popped greenies and players in the 1970’s and 1980’s were snorting cocaine.

So…while taking steroids is altering the body, is it hurting the game?

Bonds1One could argue and point to Barry Bonds‘ massive head and asterisk-laden home run record for some reference, but Bonds still had to hit the ball. He may have been able to recover quicker, but doesn’t baseball want their stars on the field?

What if Ken Griffey, Jr. was on steroids instead of aging so poorly, would he have broken Hank Aaron‘s record and kept playing? He played 140 games or more just three times from 2000 until his retirement in 2010, but would people have remembered a Herculean physique as he got older instead of the backwards cap and smile that people remember so fondly of “The Kid”?

What if pitchers took MORE performance-enhancing drugs so that they didn’t miss starts? No need for platelet-rich plasma injections, just inject some mega-bull semen into your body, or whatever it really is that is making an athlete that much more impressive than his counterparts.

Bonds1The end result from Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire looking like chiseled body builders swinging toothpicks was excitement. More people were in seats because people wanted to see a special player hit the baseball off of the face of the moon and not seven no-hitters in one season.

There is value in a pitcher’s duel, but Philip Humber? Kevin Millwood? Should these guys be listed under no-hitters for the 2012 season? Give me more players hitting almost 40 home runs before the All-Star Break like Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and give it to me yesterday.

Baseball is a game that hasn’t progressed much over history. There are still nine players on a diamond, throwing a small round ball and hitting it with a long, round, wooden bat. Players are bigger, stronger, and faster in all sports today than they were twenty years ago, just compare Michael Jordan to LeBron James.

Players take care of their bodies differently, using vitamins, shakes, and many other dietary supplements to increase their strength and stamina. They are playing a game for 10 to 15 years and then moving on to autograph shows, families, and hitting or pitching coach jobs and can only earn at the highest level after their arbitration years are over and they reach free agency. This gives players about four to seven years to earn their top dollars, while producing enough to make them an asset for their team still. If that requires help, they should be entitled to it because, after all, it is their body, their future, and their side effects that they have to live with.

The chances of a player dying from steroids, as people seem to blame on former All-Star Ken Caminiti, is that people are just as likely to do something asinine after having several concussions in football, like the late Junior Seau. Why should MLB protect players from themselves when the NFL seems to not care one bit about their players, particularly those who have already retired?

GriffeyLet the players play, produce, and be exciting to watch. Protect them from pitches to the head, fans running onto the field, and from being taken advantage of by agents and scouts in Latin America, but don’t tell them how to take care of their bodies. Bud Selig needs his stars on the field and the stars need to be doing what they do best, and if they need a little help, they should have it. Every other era in the history of the game has had access to something, so why not these guys?

 
//

My 2013 MLB All-Star Team

Because so many people are clamoring over what I think, I figured it was time to make my All-Star ballot public, while filling up the rosters so that each team is represented. Feel free to ridicule and taunt my choices if you wish, but you’ll have to defend yourself.

 NLNational League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL: Continuing his awesome breakout.

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Huge production behind Votto in Cincy lineup.

3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: His numbers would look much better if he was pitched to.

4. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Hometown hero and best 3B in the NL.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, LF, COL: Hitting everywhere this year, even away from Coor’s.

6. Carlos Beltran, RF, STL: Defying age with a healthy, productive season.

7. Michael Cuddyer, DH, COL: Helping to make the Rockies a contender in 2013.

8. Buster Posey, C, SF: Tough choice over Molina, but his bat is still bigger.

9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL: Huge breakout by one of the key pieces in the Greinke deal with the Angels.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey, RHP, NYM: Probably the biggest story in the biggest city in all of baseball, he gets the start at Citi Field.

Pitchers:

Jeff Locke, LHP, PIT

Jason Grilli, RHP, PIT

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, WAS

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD

Patrick Corbin, LHP, ARZ

Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI

Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL

Shelby Miller, RHP, STL

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL

Edward Mujica, RHP, STL

Rafael Soriano, RHP, WAS

Travis Wood, LHP, CHI-C

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, CHI-C

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, PHI

Bench:

Yadier Molina, C, STL

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARZ

Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

Marco Scutaro, 2B, SF

Everth Cabrera, SS, SD

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD

Domonic Brown, OF, PHI

Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL

Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT

Biggest Snubs: Sergio Romo, RHP, SF; Kevin Gregg, RHP, CHI-C; Lance Lynn, RHP, STL; Allen Craig, 1B, STL; Mat Latos, RHP, CIN; Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF; Rex Brothers, LHP, COL; A.J. Burnett, RHP, PIT; Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHI-C; Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CIN; Ryan Braun, LF, MIL; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD; Wilin Rosario, C, COL; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL;

ALAmerican League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Mike Trout, LF, LAA: Having a “down” year when compared to his 2012 rookie season, which was one of the greatest in baseball history.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: Tough choice but his bat is still huge and he gets the start in NYC.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: His numbers are even better than his 2012 Triple Crown winning season.

4. Chris Davis, 1B, BAL: An absolute monster season from the toss-in in the Koji Uehara deal with Texas.

5. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: Production is slightly down, but Joey Bats is still a huge fan favorite.

6. David Ortiz, DH, BOS: Still producing as a member of AARP.

7. Adam Jones, CF, BAL: Continuing where he left off in 2012 and becoming one of the top players in baseball.

8. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: The power won’t ever be there again from his 2009 MVP season (28 HR), but he can find the gaps and be productive in ways that no other AL catcher can match.

9. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Quietly having an incredible season as one of the worst defensive SS in baseball – loving his production, though.

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP, TEX: He just struck you out and you didn’t even know he threw three pitches. Having a dominant season.

Pitchers:

Jesse Crain, RHP, CHI-W

Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA

Justin Masterson, RHP, CLE

Max Scherzer, RHP, DET

Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY

Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX

Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, SEA

Ervin Santana, RHP, KC

Greg Holland, RHP, KC

Bartolo Colon, RHP, OAK

Matt Moore, LHP, TB

Bud Norris, RHP, HOU

Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN

Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL

Bench:

Jason Castro, C, HOU

Adam Lind, 1B, TOR

Prince Fielder, 1B, DET

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS

Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE

Evan Longoria, 3B, TB

Manny Machado, 3B, BAL

Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK

Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX

Coco Crisp, OF, OAK

Biggest Snubs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK; J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL; Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX; Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B/DH, TOR; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, NYY; Chris Sale, LHP, CHI-W; Addison Reed, RHP, CHI-W; Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK; Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR;

 

Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/10

With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil MyersDylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.

Yordano1

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 18 Royals FRk 0 1 2.78 10 5 22.2 28 11 7 0 5 11 1.456 11.1 4.4 2.20
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-FRk 4 3 3.08 17 9 64.1 58 33 22 3 18 71 1.181 8.1 9.9 3.94
2010 19 Royals FRk 0 1 2.31 3 3 11.2 9 5 3 0 1 13 0.857 6.9 10.0 13.00
2010 19 Royals Rk 4 2 3.25 14 6 52.2 49 28 19 3 17 58 1.253 8.4 9.9 3.41
2011 20 Kane County A 4 6 4.27 19 19 84.1 82 43 40 8 24 88 1.257 8.8 9.4 3.67
2012 21 3 Teams A+-AA-Rk 4 7 3.62 23 23 109.1 92 49 44 8 42 130 1.226 7.6 10.7 3.10
2012 21 Royals Rk 0 0 2.45 1 1 3.2 3 1 1 0 1 7 1.091 7.4 17.2 7.00
2012 21 Wilmington A+ 3 5 3.30 16 16 76.1 66 32 28 7 28 98 1.231 7.8 11.6 3.50
2012 21 Northwest Arkansas AA 1 2 4.60 6 6 29.1 23 16 15 1 13 25 1.227 7.1 7.7 1.92
2013 22 Northwest Arkansas AA 3 0 1.84 6 6 29.1 19 7 6 1 11 43 1.023 5.8 13.2 3.91
5 Seasons 15 17 3.45 75 62 310.0 279 143 119 20 100 343 1.223 8.1 10.0 3.43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Ventura tends to be overlooked due to his height. Despite being just 5’11” and  180 pounds, the soon-to-be 22-year-old with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball is doing all that he can to create some hype and become one of the top prospects in baseball. Prior to the 2013 season, Ventura was ranked by Baseball America as the No.85 prospect and by MLB.com as the No.60 prospect in baseball. While he could end up in the bullpen due to his reliance on his dominant fastball and excellent curve, he could still improve his changeup enough to become a rotation fixture in Kansas City. His last two starts have been absolutely dominant in Double-A, as he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and a 20:5 K:BB in 11 innings. Tim Lincecum, Whitey Ford, and Pedro Martinez had some success as pitchers under six feet tall, so don’t squash the idea that Ventura could dominate as a starter.

Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 Greenville A 12 5 4.87 23 22 101.2 100 58 55 10 47 130 1.446 8.9 11.5 2.77
2013 20 Salem A+ 3 1 2.25 6 6 32.0 17 9 8 2 11 40 0.875 4.8 11.2 3.64
2 Seasons 15 6 4.24 29 28 133.2 117 67 63 12 58 170 1.309 7.9 11.4 2.93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

The anti-Ventura, Owens is a 6’6″ left-hander with three solid pitches in the Red Sox organization. While other young pitchers, like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman, are thriving in the system’s higher levels, Owens is dominating in High-A and demonstrating statistics that match his skills, something that wasn’t true last season. Owens is missing more bats and, while he won’t turn 21 years old until July, could see a few starts in Double-A this season. The Red Sox have to be excited about the progress that he has shown this season.

Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red SoxCecchini

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 Lowell A- 32 133 114 21 34 12 1 3 23 12 17 19 .298 .398 .500 .898 57
2012 21 Greenville A 118 526 455 84 139 38 4 4 62 51 61 90 .305 .394 .433 .827 197
2013 22 Salem A+ 29 126 108 22 41 11 4 4 19 10 18 16 .380 .468 .667 1.135 72
3 Seasons 179 785 677 127 214 61 9 11 104 73 96 125 .316 .406 .482 .888 326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Cecchini is Owens’ teammate with High-A Salem, and while he doesn’t possess the normal hitting skills of a dynamic corner infielder, he is seems to be a robotic producer. Cecchini currently leads the Carolina League in total bases, and while he has just four home runs, his 19 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases, and .468 on-base percentage show the type of talent that he has. At 22, it may be time to wonder if he’ll be able to produce enough pop to be valuable at third, especially with the Red Sox potentially moving Xander Bogaerts off of short in the future; however, hits 38 doubles last season could turn into home runs as he continues to fill his 6’2″ frame. He’s a pure hitter and possesses sabermetric skills that the Red Sox front office is known to drool over.

Baxendale

D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 2 Teams A-Rk 0 0 0.96 17 0 12 18.2 13 3 2 0 2 31 0.804 6.3 14.9 15.50
2013 22 Fort Myers A+ 5 0 1.49 6 6 0 36.1 24 7 6 2 6 35 0.826 5.9 8.7 5.83
2 Seasons 5 0 1.31 23 6 12 55.0 37 10 8 2 8 66 0.818 6.1 10.8 8.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

This is really digging deep, but after striking out 10 while not allowing a run over seven innings in his last start, Baxendale could finally get noticed. A 10th round pick out of Arkansas in the 2012 MLB Draft, Baxendale was moved to starting pitcher this season by the Twins. Due to the club’s horrific starting pitching, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move quickly if he continues to have this type of success. His strikeout rate isn’t going to overwhelm you, but the fact that he doesn’t allow many free passes is very encouraging. The only scouting reports that I’ve seen on him mention a 3/4 arm slot, an 88 to 91 mph fastball, and an average to solid  slider and curve, but his ability to thrive while pitching in the tough SEC while at Arkansas as a reason to not count him out. Mound presence and confidence can go a long way in success, and Baxendale’s early results show that he could become useful for the Twins.

Rob Refsnyder, 2B, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 Charleston A 46 182 162 22 39 8 0 4 22 11 16 25 .241 .319 .364 .683 59
2013 22 2 Teams A+-A 33 157 130 23 50 12 1 1 20 13 22 22 .385 .490 .515 1.006 67
2013 22 Charleston A 13 62 54 9 20 4 1 0 6 7 6 12 .370 .452 .481 .933 26
2013 22 Tampa A+ 20 95 76 14 30 8 0 1 14 6 16 10 .395 .516 .539 1.055 41
2 Seasons 79 339 292 45 89 20 1 5 42 24 38 47 .305 .398 .432 .830 126
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

You have to assume that Robinson Cano isn’t going to be leaving New York anytime soon, and it is questionable as to whether he will ever move off of second base if or when he does sign a long-term extension with the Yankees; however, what are the Yankees going to do if Cano doesn’t re-sign with the club? Nearly all of their top prospects are outfielders and with the club sitting on the declining skills and lofty contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, will the club look for an expensive free agent option to replace him if he does leave? Robert Refsnyder doesn’t have a name that should be familiar to anyone, but if he continues to hit the way that he has this season, he could quickly become a part of the Yankees’ plans. A 5th round pick out of the University of Arizona in the 2012 MLB Draft, Refsnyder won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2012 College World Series by leading the Wildcats to the title. While his introduction to professional ball in 2012 wasn’t fantastic, he did show solid on-base skills and a little bit of speed. He has already been promoted to Tampa this season and he has responded with a 1.055 OPS in his first 20 games after posting a .933 OPS in 13 games in Low-A. He is short on home run power but he does have solid gap power, speed, and excellent plate discipline. If he maintains this production, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him as a second baseman and leadoff hitter for a Cano-less Yankees team in a couple of years.

osuna

Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 16 Mexico AAA 0 1 5.49 13 2 19.2 25 15 12 3 11 12 1.831 11.4 5.5 1.09
2012 17 2 Teams Rk-A- 2 0 2.27 12 9 43.2 32 14 11 2 15 49 1.076 6.6 10.1 3.27
2012 17 Bluefield Rk 1 0 1.50 7 4 24.0 18 5 4 1 6 24 1.000 6.8 9.0 4.00
2012 17 Vancouver A- 1 0 3.20 5 5 19.2 14 9 7 1 9 25 1.169 6.4 11.4 2.78
2013 18 Lansing A 1 2 3.63 5 5 22.1 15 10 9 4 4 31 0.851 6.0 12.5 7.75
3 Seasons 3 3 3.36 30 16 85.2 72 39 32 9 30 92 1.191 7.6 9.7 3.07
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Osuna just turned 18 years old in February and, while most boys his age are gearing up for high school graduation and prom night, Osuna is pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts and overmatching his competition in Low-A. At 6’2″, 230 pounds, Osuna has a solid frame that seems capable of handling a lot of innings, which could still grow. Hopefully, it wouldn’t grow like Bartolo Colon…Regardless, Osuna has very good stuff, he appears to have very good control, and if he keeps the ball in the park, he could be a tremendous asset for the Blue Jays. After several trades this winter to upgrade their club (which hasn’t worked out so well), the club could use an excellent season from Osuna to rebuild their minor league system.

Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 State College A- 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 21 2 Teams Rk-A 44 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 Pirates Rk 42 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 West Virginia A 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 22 West Virginia A 32 143 121 20 41 8 0 8 26 4 18 39 .339 .427 .603 1.030 73
3 Seasons 91 316 271 43 73 14 2 11 45 6 39 89 .269 .365 .458 .823 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft after posting a 1.29 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 60 innings as a senior in high school, the Pirates had hoped that they had another first round talent in Allie, after taking Jameson Taillon earlier in the draft. Allie didn’t pan out, as he posted some horrific numbers while on the mound (7.76 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 29:37 K:BB in 26.2 IP) before he was moved to first base. While it didn’t go so well last season, the 2013 season has been a bit kinder to him. It is still the Sally League (Low-A) and Allie is 22 years old, but he is showing very good power and is second in the league in total bases. He is a long way off and he has a lot to prove, and his age could become a factor in the Pirates philosophy in moving him through the organization, as well. He does live, though, and you have to root for a guy who had such tremendous stuff and lost it so abruptly.


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