Results tagged ‘ Boston Red Sox ’
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!
Boston Red Sox
2015 Projected Record: 87-75 (1st in AL East, 5th in MLB)
Manager: John Farrell (168-156 in two seasons with Boston, 322-326 in four seasons overall)
Bounce-back Player: SS Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts will be the epitome of a post-hype sleeper after having watched him crash and burn during his age-21 season in 2014. It seems unreal that we hold players to such high expectations today – even Mike Trout hit just .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances at the tender age of 19. Still, the Boston shortstop is someone to lookout for as we turn the page to the 2015 season. The positives: he still had 28 doubles, 12 home runs, walked in 6.6 percent of his plate appearances, and wasn’t benched to make room for Hanley Ramirez. The negatives: He hit just .153/.198/.221 over 254 plate appearances from June 1 through August 31. After finishing the season with a .313/.317/.490 in September, so, perhaps, that is a sign of things to come? Get back on board with Bogaerts.
Fantasy Player to Watch: INF/OF Mookie Betts
Andrew McCutchen, Hanley Ramirez, and Derek Jeter…those are the recent comparisons that Betts received in a recent article, which is enough to stop most fans in their tracks and mock whoever said it, but those comparisons came from the mouths of veterans David Ortiz, Shane Victorino, and Hanley Ramirez, himself. Betts is an extremely athletic, versatile player, who will break camp and find a way to get 500 plate appearances while playing all over the field, but mostly center field. He may be listed at just 5’9″, 155 pounds, but he could eclipse 10 bombs and 30 stolen bases for the next several seasons, while showing impressive plate discipline. After playing in 52 games in his age-21 season and posting an .812 OPS over 213 plate appearances, he’ll establish himself as a “must-own” in fantasy leagues in his first full season in 2015.
Offseason Overview: The Red Sox were busy filling up their rotation in trades, acquiring Wade Miley from Arizona (for Rubby De La Rosa and Allan Webster) and Rick Porcello from Detroit (for Yoenis Cespedes). Beyond the offseason trades, Ben Cherington and company opened the checkbook, signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval through free agency, while continuing in the pursuit of international free agents by dropping $31.5 million (plus an additional $31.5 million in fines) on 19-year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada. While Moncada will head to the minors, it will only be a matter of time before he makes an impact, as he’ll head to High-A to start his career. He joins fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal, within the Boston organization.
MLB (@MLB) March 31, 2015
The Verdict: After dealing Jon Lester to Oakland and being unable to come up with a deal with Philadelphia for Cole Hamels, the Red Sox head into the 2015 season with a group of mid-rotation arms in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Clay Buchholz isn’t what you’d call an “ace”, even if you’re dumb enough to think that he can duplicate the 16 starts he had in 2013. If he stays healthy, a big “if” since Boston should be ecstatic to get 30 starts and 190 innings out of him, he’ll just be serviceable. Miley can give Boston innings, but the 3.94 ERA and 1.36 WHIP show that he may have issues missing bats and keeping base runners at bay when you consider those numbers came while pitching in the NL West, where Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego’s stadiums kill baseballs – he likely won’t be so lucky facing New York, Toronto, and Baltimore’s sluggers. Porcello could be very good with a strong defense behind him, but, with this pitching staff, the Red Sox are going to need to outscore their opponents…something they should be able to do thanks to their collection of talented bats. This team is extremely deep offensively, but the pitching is the key here. Boston should win 90 to 93 game, but they’ll need a lot of luck out of that rotation. For that reason, I see Johnny Cueto in the Boston rotation, leading them to the title down the stretch.
- 2015 Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Atlanta Braves (2/28/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Baltimore Orioles (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago Cubs (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago White Sox (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Cincinnati Reds (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Colorado Rockies (2/24/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Houston Astros (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals (2/25/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Milwaukee Brewers (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Minnesota Twins (2/21/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: New York Mets (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Philadelphia Phillies (2/20/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates (3/22/2015)
- Season Previews: Miami Marlins (3/25/2015)
For my 500th post, I decided I’d go away from the previews for a moment and look forward to the season in a different way, with my annual predictions and useless guesses. While there are other, more important analysts who gather data and use systems to generate these types of lists, I just use the ol’ noggin. You can find my 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions to see how I did in the past, but this is a new season and a new idea on how the league will look at the end of the 2015 season.
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. New York Yankees
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
5. Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards
Los Angeles Angels
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Cincinnati Reds
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies
NL Wild Cards
San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox in six games
AL Manager of the Year
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
The Detroit Tigers lost RHP Max Scherzer to free agency and RHP Rick Porcello in a trade. Sure, they still have LHP David Price and they added OF Yoenis Cespedes to their offense, but this will be a new AL Central, one that will be very competitive, and will have a division winner who isn’t Detroit for the first time since 2010. The Indians have a very intriguing team, full of youth and talent, with much of that talent still not totally tapped. The rotation has reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, with RHPs Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco behind him, while healthy seasons out of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher will add to the production of Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis (who should rebound from a lousy 2015), and Michael Brantley. All Francona needs to do is utilize the talent, which is something that he is an expert at doing. Cleveland will win more than 90 games and have their first division title since 2007.
NL Manager of the Year
Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
The NL East is going to be down…way down. The Nationals will likely win the division by ten or more games, but the Marlins will be competitive, and Redmond will look very intelligent by being in the position as the field general. He has Giancarlo Stanton and his massive power to lead an offense that has quite a bit of talent. Christian Yelich will solidify himself as one of the top outfielders in the NL this season, and Marcell Ozuna will round out the outfield with his impressive power in center; however, it doesn’t stop there. With Mike Morse providing more power at first, Martin Prado being acquired to handle the hot corner, Adeiny Hechavarria‘s slick glove at short, and Dee Gordon‘s blazing speed at second, the Marlins will shock a lot of people. The possible mid-season addition of Jose Fernandez to the rotation could push them over the top, as Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, and Jarred Cosart hold down the fort until then. The Marlins are a solid team, and after the Mets lost Zack Wheeler, the Braves went into rebuild-mode, and the Phillies continue to be awful, they’ll be the only team capable of hanging around Washington in the NL East in 2015.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
This young man doesn’t turn 24 until August and he already has been an All-Star three times, been an All-Star MVP, and an AL MVP – he has 2.67 career MVP shares thanks to finishing 2nd in each of his first two full seasons. People may become nitpicking about things with Trout, such as his 184 strikeouts in 2014, just to try to disprove the fact that he is the best player in baseball. That won’t change in 2015. Even the computers think that Trout is going to continue his tear:
Depth Charts: .299/.396/.557, 103 R, 31 HR, 20 SB, 96 RBI
ZiPS: .301/.401/.577, 113 R, 35 HR, 23 SB, 114 RBI
Steamer: .297/.391/.537, 105 R, 30 HR, 21 SB, 90 RBI
If you had the No.1 overall pick in your fantasy draft, the only other acceptable player to take would have been…
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen continues to be an incredible producer, hitting the elite .300/.400/.500 level the last three seasons, while having a unique blend of power and speed. He is the leader of the Pirates outfield, which could become one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco reaching their peak years of production in coming seasons, but McCutchen will continue to be the anchor of that group, and of the Pittsburgh franchise. The 2015 season won’t be any different for this superstar, who will win his 2nd MVP award in his age-28 season, leading the Pirates to the top of the NL Central.
AL Cy Young
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
“King Felix” had his best season to date in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to earn his second Cy Young award, as Corey Kluber’s majestic season was able to catch the eyes of the voters, and with good reason. Still, it’s unbelievable to see Hernandez reaching new levels of excellence considering he has been such a dominant starter for nine full seasons. Even in his age-29 season, it’s likely to see continued gains in the production, as Hernandez demonstrates a mastery on the mound that rivals that of…
NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
The last several seasons, I didn’t want to believe. I questioned Kershaw in the past due to his higher walk rates, so I kept thinking that the NL West would belong to Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner had an incredible run last season, he can’t carry Kershaw’s jockstrap, and it’s likely that we’re watching the closest thing to Sandy Koufax that our generation will ever see. It is just coincidental that Kershaw has the Dodgers uniform and left-handed delivery in common, and, hopefully, those are the only similarities that we will see between the two. Kershaw is gifted, and he is a gift to baseball fans. He will continue his dominance in 2015, likely winning 20 games again due to his incredible individual talent, as well as the talent behind him on the field.
AL Rookie of the Year
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Getting Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick may go down as a coup for the Angels. Not only did they free the payroll of $9.5 million, they got a major league ready arm with a half-a-dozen years of team-control to put into their rotation. While Heaney doesn’t have No.1 starter stuff, he is quite capable of having a long, successful career. He’ll begin that run of success in 2015 on Day One, and while Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giovatella aren’t as good at baseball as Kendrick, it was a deal that the Angels had to make, as they don’t have the talent in the minor league system to improve their rotation, and they needed that youth with C.J.Wilson aging quickly and Jered Weaver not getting any younger.
NL Rookie of the Year
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Many will be swinging on the coattails of Kris Bryant, I’m all aboard the Soler bandwagon in 2015. He has incredible power and he managed to bulk up his already impressive physique over the winter. In his age-22 season, he reached the majors and combined to hit 20 home runs and drive in 77 runs in 86 games and 333 plate appearances over four levels. If Soler stays healthy, he will have better numbers than Bryant, and he won’t be spending the first month in the minors. The end results will be impressive, even for a 23-year-old who will need to adjust to the league having tape on him.
10 BOLD Predictions
Johnny Cueto will be on the Boston Red Sox by the trade deadline, as the prospects would be more valuable to the Reds than a draft pick.
- Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will combine for over 340 strikeouts, 27 wins, and 59 starts covering 390 innings for the Cleveland Indians, but Corey Kluber is still their best pitcher.
- Masahiro Tanaka will not make 15 starts before he finishes the tear of his UCL and has Tommy John surgery.
- Gerrit Cole will finish in the top three in the NL Cy Young – behind Kershaw and Bumgarner.
- Xander Bogaerts will hit 20 home runs and drive in at least 75 runs at the bottom of the Red Sox order.
- Drew Hutchison is the top pitcher on the Blue Jays, and a top 30 starting pitcher, while Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez flop in their roles at the back of the rotation.
- Addison Russell finishes the season as the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop when Starlin Castro is traded for young pitching at the trade deadline.
- Jose Ramirez is so valuable to the Cleveland Indians that they don’t call-up Francisco Lindor until September.
- Joc Pederson hits 25 home runs and steals 30 bases while striking out over 160 times and posting a batting average under .250 – George Springer-lite.
- Justin Verlander rebounds and posts an ERA under 3.85, a WHIP under 1.30, and more than 190 strikeouts in 215 or more innings.
10 BOLD SLEEPERS
- Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox: crazy speed and he looks like he’s the Opening Day starter
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: the chains should be off and he is on his way to stardom
- Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: if Yasmany Tomas has hands of stone and can’t handle third, Lamb will, and he has managed to hit .321/.406/.553 in 1,079 minor league at-bats.
- Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Arenado makes contact, plays in a hitter’s paradise, and will see many of his doubles turn into home runs as he matures. He’s well on his way to becoming elite.
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz is bound to be hurt, Joe Kelly is questionable (at best), and Justin Masterson may never rebound to his 2013 form – enter this guy.
- Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, New York Yankees: Huge fastball, tremendous gains in his walk-rate, and he will begin to miss more bats. He’ll end up being the Yankees’ top starter due to Tanaka’s injury.
- Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros: Even after finishing 4th in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014, McHugh may sneak under the radar. His 9.1 K:9 and 6.8 H:9 are for real. He could, sneakily, become the next Corey Kluber.
- Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: He struggled with command in Cuba, but he has electric stuff, a strong repertoire, and a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. As bad as they look on paper, he has plenty of opportunities for run support with a healthy Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier.
Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics: Hahn posted solid numbers in 12 starts for the Padres in his age-24, rookie season in 2014, but he’s going to a similar offensive-drowning park in Oakland, with a very talented roster behind him. He could be a top 30 starting pitcher by the end of the season with his strikeout potential.
- Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers: Better known as “Chi Chi”, Gonzalez, a former 1st round pick out of Oral Roberts in 2013, has been a quick-moving prospect for the Rangers, reaching Double-A Frisco last season, with good reason. He has a mid-rotation ceiling, but with the Rangers desperate for healthy pitching with their sudden curse on their roster and talent, Gonzalez could get a long look, showing enough talent to be roster-worthy in fantasy leagues.
The Boston Red Sox are finalizing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, which would give him the richest contract ever given to a Cuban player, surpassing the six-year, $68 million deal that the Chicago White Sox gave to Jose Abreu this past offseason. The deal starts immediately, making the deal run from 2014 through the 2020 season. The 5’9″, 27-year-old is represented by Roc Nation Sports and Jay-Z, who also represent Seattle Mariners’ second baseman Robinson Cano.
Castillo will join a somewhat crowded outfield for Boston, teaming up with fellow countryman Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired from the Oakland A’s for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes at the trade deadline. With Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, and Brock Holt under team-control heading into 2015, Castillo’s signing could allow the Red Sox to make an additional deal this winter, possibly dealing from their outfield wealth and depth to acquire pitching in what could be a very weak free agent class outside of a reunion with Lester or a huge contract to Max Scherzer, James Shields, or Ervin Santana.
Castillo, however, provides a bit of position versatility, as he could possibly handle second base, though he’ll likely never play shortstop in MLB, even after having taken grounders there during his July 28th showcase. The presence of Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts make the keystone position one of little value for Castillo, and he is a natural center fielder. For what it’s worth, Ben Badler, of Baseball America, said that prior to gaining quite a bit of muscle prior to his showcase, Castillo was a similar player to Detroit outfielder Rajai Davis, a short, speedy outfielder; however, he could be capable of 15 home runs and plenty of speed at the major league level due to his newly developed physique.
Castillo will have quite a bit of pressure on him in Boston to succeed quickly, and receiving the type of money that he did prior to playing a game is certainly not going to alleviate any of those expectations. Worth mentioning is the fact that Castillo didn’t produce anywhere near the levels of Cespedes and Abreu in Cuba:
- Cespedes hit .334/.420/.629 from 2009 to 2011.
- Abreu hit .393/.537/.802 from 2011 to 2013.
- Castillo hit .315/.383/.512 from 2011 to 2013.
Although Cepedes and Abreu never played a game in the minor leagues, it would be somewhat surprising to see Castillo join the Red Sox in 2014, despite their post-World Series title rebuild that they are in the middle of. He hasn’t played in a game in nearly two years, and with the minor league season nearly complete, we may not see him in Fenway until 2015, rich contract or not.
Castillo may not have the skills of Yasiel Puig, Cespedes, or Abreu, when comparing him to recent defected Cuban outfielders, but he has some tools that will make him a very intriguing player for the Boston Red Sox and fantasy baseball fans alike.
The Red Sox have traded left-handed pitcher Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Oakland A’s for Yoenis Cespedes. They now have received an intriguing, powerful outfielder to pair with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and the stars who have yet to arrive in Boston in preparation for the future, while Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz hang around. Now…what happens next?
Final full trade: Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and $ to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes and the second pick in the competitive balance Comp B round.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
After the 2011 collapse and the 2012 fire-sale, what is really going to happen in Boston? Prior to the 2013 season, the money saved by moving Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett was used to sign veteran free agents Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, and while the 2013 season resulted in a culmination of immeasurable good-guy-ness in the clubhouse and another World Series title, the investments in aging stars didn’t play out so well when injuries ravaged the 2014 season and young players proved incapable of stepping up.
So, in a market that went so long without a title and now demands competitive rosters going forward, how will Boston management construct the Red Sox in 2015 and beyond?
The leadership and dedication to the city of Boston by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz is one thing, but with Lester saying he would return to Boston as a free agent, helping the Red Sox two times over by being traded for assets and returning next season, the first place to start is: Why? Why would Lester return?
Shouldn’t he and his agent remember “Lowball Gate“?
When the Baltimore Orioles signed Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million deal in 2009, it was an impressive step into Japanese baseball for Baltimore, and it would lead to the signings of other prominent arms out of the Far East by the O’s in later seasons. Uehara had gone 102-54 from 1999 through 2006, posting a 3.01 ERA over 1,397.1 innings prior to moving to the bullpen in 2007 for the Yomiuri Giants, where he posted a 1.74 ERA over 55 appearances and 62 innings in 2007. He went back and forth between starting and relieving in 2008 before coming to America to pitch in the Baltimore system.
Uehara would make 12 starts in 2009, posting 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, solid numbers in a challenging home ball park and difficult AL East, but after the 2009 season, Uehara never started another game, and he likely won’t again due to his dominance out of the bullpen. In 86 outings out of the bullpen for the Orioles, Uehara posted a 2.27 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over 91 innings before being shipped to the Texas Rangers for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. The Orioles certainly deserve some praise in the Davis explosion in 2013, as he looked like a completely different player than he did in his time with the Rangers, but Uehara wasn’t chopped liver, posting a 2.50 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 59 appearances over part of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 season in Arlington.
In 2013, however, things got weird for Uehara. His stuff or abilities have seemed to go to a new level. This explanation from MLB Network does a tremendous job of showcasing Uehara’s devastating repertoire:
Since arriving in Boston, Uehara has posted a 143:13 K:BB in 106 innings, with a 0.93 ERA and 0.59 WHIP. After the Red Sox paid for Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, only to see them both succumb to injuries in 2013, Uehara stepped into the closer position and has posted number just as dominant as Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, while tossing a fastball with an average velocity of 89.2 mph in 2013 and 87.9 mph in 2014 (FanGraphs).
Opposing batters are hitting just .159/.189/.234 on the season and .164/.192/.293 against Uehara as a reliever in his career, and his K/BB in two seasons in Boston is an incredible 11.08, which is why it doesn’t show up on the graph (above). In a reliever-heavy era, where teams are carrying seven to eight relief pitchers on a 25-man roster, Uehara has maintained his dominance in his role while others have dealt with injuries or inconsistencies over the same time period. While Mariano Rivera dominated for so long with a cutter, Uehara has reinvented himself over the last several years with his splitter out of the bullpen. At 39, however, there isn’t much time left to see what Uehara can do at the major league level.
Despite the extensive use out of the bullpen, Uehara’s dominance is still, at times, overlooked. While the Red Sox struggle due to injuries and the lack of consistency from young players taking over major roles, Uehara continues to be the ferocious anchor of the bullpen, locking down wins with a pitch that falls off of the table like none other before it.
When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames at pitcher, solid plate discipline, gap power, and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone, and while you can’t judge projection much while just using numbers, players have to produce to move up. Working with numbers alone worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.
Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Not since Tony Cingrani dominated the California League to the tune of a 1.11 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 10 starts in 2012 have the Reds had a pitcher doing what Lively is doing this season. Since being drafted out of Central Florida last season, the 6’4″ right-hander has done nothing but dominate at each stop. The control is legit and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him jump to Double-A Pensacola in the next couple of weeks, moving him on the fast tracks to the majors, while joining Robert Stephenson as a member of the Blue Wahoo rotation.
Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York Mets
Bowman is a Princeton product and, if nothing else, his intelligence could lead to long-term success; however, he seems to have some talen, as well. He is creently dominating Double-A for the Mets and continuing in his ability to keep runners off the base paths at every stop. With his continued ability to throw strikes, the Mets could team Bowman with Rafael Montero in New York to have young, strike-throwing machines within the rotation.
Matt Boyd, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
He’s left-handed and breathing, so he will get a long look, but Boyd has posted some pretty impressive numbers in his brief professional career. The strikeout totals are impressive for a southpaw, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Jays move him considering his collegiate pedigree.
|A (1 season)||A||0||1||0.64||3||14.0||7||1||1||0||1||12||0.571||4.5||0.6||7.7||12.00|
|A+ (2 seasons)||A+||4||2||1.54||7||41.0||25||7||7||3||8||48||0.805||5.5||1.8||10.5||6.00|
Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler get a lot of hype for their abilities, results, and projection within the Rockies’ system, but Winkler continues to post solid strikeout totals and numbers in tough environments on his way up the organizational ladder. His early-season results have been quite impressive once again, as he gets a longer look at Double-A after making just five starts in Tulsa in 2013.
Seth Streich, RHP, Oakland A’s
A 6’3″ right-hander out of Ohio University, Streich has put up solid numbers in the challenging pitching environment of the California League in the early-going of 2014. Improved strikeout numbers are evident, but, most importantly, he is keeping the ball in the park. With the A’s having to deal with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them push some of their college arms who are posting solid numbers.
Ryan Merritt, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Merrit’s early-season success is very impressive, particularly the one earned run in 24.1 innings. He doesn’t miss enough bats to be considered an elite prospect within the Tribe system, but if he continues to keep runs off of the board, perhaps he could be a solid back-end of the rotation starter. You could view him as a Tommy Milone-like arm.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid pitching prospect for an absolutely loaded system, Gonzales is a southpaw out of Gonzaga on the fast track to St. Louis. With a lack of left-handed options within the Cardinals’ rotation due to the constant shoulder woes of Jaime Garcia, his selection was a wise choice for the perennial contenders. Gonzales will be a solid addition to the Cardinal rotation, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the youngster end up making a dozen starts in Double-A this season.
Stephen Landazuri, RHP, Seattle Mariners
At just 6′, 175 pounds, Landazuri is going to have to overcome the same “too short” labels that have landed upon Roy Oswalt, Johnny Cueto, Kris Medlen, and flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. When he isn’t pitching in a challenging environment (like the Northwest League and the California League), Landazuri has posted very impressive numbers. Now, a younger-than-average starter in Double-A, the righty is striking out more than a batter per inning and keeping the opposition from getting on with just 4.7 hits per nine innings and a 0.65 WHIP after four starts. He’s someone to watch within the Mariners rotation in 2014, as they try to work through injuries to Hashashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton.
Chad Pinder, 2B, Oakland A’s
Pinder, a shortstop at Virginia Tech, has moved to second base this season and he has produced solid numbers in the early-going in the hitter-friendly Cal League. His 17 extra-base hits in just 24 games is impressive for anyone, let alone a middle infielder. With Eric Sogard occupying second at the major league level, Pinder could be a viable long-term option for the A’s in the next couple of seasons. Another few weeks of this type of production, and Pinder could be moved to Double-A very quickly.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Everyone should already know his name thanks to his 40 home runs at the age of 19 in his first full season. The fact that he is showing some semblance of plate discipline this season while still showcasing his elite-level power makes Gallo one of the top prospects in the minor leagues right now. With so many slugging, elite prospects suffering through injuries this season (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Javier Baez are all currently disabled), Gallo will shoot up mid-season prospect lists with similar months. His long-term outlook will only beam brighter due to his ballpark and offensive projection for the Rangers.
Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees
Due to Gary Sanchez being in Double-A, O’Brien was forced to return to the Florida State League, but he hasn’t disappointed, posting solid power numbers in Tampa, though, he is a bit old for the league at this point. O’Brien’s ability to hit for power should make him a decent option for, at least, a backup catching spot. He’d likely have a better career than J.P. Arencibia, who could hit for power and couldn’t walk at the same clip that O’Brien has over his brief career. If he continues to hit like he has, the Yankees may move him off of catcher or use him as trade bait.
Jonathan Rodriguez, 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid hitter found by the St. Louis Cardinals scouting department out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Rodriguez has handled the corner infield positions throughout his minor league career, but he has only played first in 2014. With Matt Adams ahead of him, another season of solid production will likely make him trade bait for St. Louis. Solid gap power, a solid approach, and good contact skills will make this right-handed bat a decent platoon player in a worst case scenario.
Ryan Rua, 3B, Texas Rangers
The Rangers system may not be as loaded as it was in years past due to the failure of so many elite prospects in 2013 in Hickory with their huge strikeout numbers, but Rua can’t be grouped in with those players any longer. He is raking in Double-A now, skipping the High-A level with his assignment this season and his brief promotion last year. There seems to be his continued power with early improvements in his plate discipline, and with Adrian Beltre potentially becoming a free agent after 2015 (he has a $16 million vesting option for 2016), Rua could be Gallo to the hot corner in Texas.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Betts is already nothing more than trade bait in Boston, given that he profiles as a second baseman and Dustin Pedroia has that spot locked down through 2021. Betts has incredible bat-to-ball skills, tremendous plate discipline, and solid speed. With his early-season production in Double-A at the age of 21, the Red Sox may be able to utilize this chip for an elite addition if they are making another playoff run in 2014.
Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners
I love this guy’s name and he has some intriguing tools that could even play in Seattle. His plate discipline isn’t elite, but there is enough there to be , and he has enough power and speed in his 6’5″ frame to be a very good producer, and, after being selected three times in the draft, he must have something in his game to make him an intriguing name to follow.
On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that if the Boston Red Sox are unable to re-sign Mike Napoli, they could look to make a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, saying:
Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, has tremendous righthanded power (34 homers, 100 RBIs this season), and is considered an above-average first baseman. Yes, he strikes out a ton (184 times in 2013). The Angels could use a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks?) and a pitcher (Felix Doubront?). The Pirates and Rays could also be fits.
God bless columnists, who have to fill up a page in a dynamic market in a dying industry, but this is reaching. In fact, the major issue is that so many teams are rumored to have interest in Trumbo in the first place.
Trumbo has some serious power, mashing 95 home runs and driving in 282 runs over the last three seasons, but those numbers have come with a .251/.300/.473 triple-slash and a 457:115 K:BB in 1,837 plate appearances. Trumbo certainly has some power, but it is a power that will get very expensive within the arbitration process (see Ryan Howard‘s rapid salary increases) while producing very little elsewhere.
Add on the fact that Trumbo is a weak defender at first, third, and the outfield, and you’re paying premium dollar for a player who should truly be hidden at the designated hitter spot, which won’t really work with some guy named David Ortiz in Boston, while it certainly won’t help the Pirates in the National League.
More damning is why the Red Sox would give up Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront for Trumbo, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014 and is already 27, coming off of his worst season (based on OPS and WAR) of his career. Middlebrooks isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2016 and Doubront is 26, left-handed, breathing, and under team-control through 2018, while showing improved numbers in ERA and WHIP in 2013.
Certainly, dealing for a powerful bat is intelligent rather than going to the free agent market and giving nine-figures to a player like Shin-Soo Choo, but Trumbo isn’t really a “guy” when it comes to improving a roster. Considering that in 660 plate appearances, Will Middlebrooks has a .254/.294/.462 triple-slash with 32 home runs and 103 RBI, don’t the Red Sox already have Mark Trumbo?
Boston should try to get Napoli to re-sign, they should even try to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia to re-sign, but they need to be smarter than this type of trade to make sure that they don’t fall back to the 2012 Boston Red Sox instead of the 2013 champion-version.
Mark Trumbo is highly overrated due to his power production, but teams like the Red Sox could find players who are just as productive when looking over the last three season’s OPS leaders, where you’ll find Jason Kipnis, Seth Smith, Lucas Duda, and Jason Heyward, with the same .773 OPS since 2011 that Trumbo sports, while players such as David Freese (.785), Adam Lind (.776), and Brandon Belt (.798), could be more affordable options in a trade or non-tender situation in 2014, while outproducing Trumbo in the OPS statistic over the last several seasons.
Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) had a post at Fangraphs discussing the National TV contracts for Major League Baseball and the value that they will provide for each team. Within the article, Thurm had several valuable bits of information:
“ESPN will pay MLB $700 million per year for the right to broadcast games exclusively on Sunday nights, other games (non-exclusively) on Monday and Wednesday nights, extended highlights for Baseball Tonight, the Home Run Derby and other All-Star activities (but not the game) and one Wild Card Game. The deal also includes national and international radio and digital rights.
MLB announced a new national TV contract with Fox and TBS, which also covered the 2014 through 2021 seasons. Under that deal, MLB will receive $800 million per year in combined revenue from the two networks, in exchange for broadcasts rights for the Saturday game of the week on Fox, the Sunday game on TBS and all of the postseason games — save for the one that will be broadcast on ESPN. Fox also retains the rights to the All-Star Game.
That’s $1.5 billion in national TV revenue per season that will go into MLB’s Central Fund, or $750 million more than under the contracts that just expired. MLB can spend money from the Central Fund in a variety of ways, but it’s been assumed in the reporting that the league will distribute the TV money to the teams. If so, each team will receive $25 million more in national TV revenue in 2014 through 2021 than they did in 2013.
Teams aren’t obligated, of course, to use all or even part of that additional $25 million on player salaries. That money can also be helpful to expanding a team’s national and international scouting operation, or its data analysis department, or marketing, or all three.”
Beyond the television money being received directly from Major League Baseball, each team has their very own local television contract, as well. The dollars being tossed towards clubs has reached absurd levels, as the Los Angeles Dodgers will bring in $340 million per season through 2032 in local television money alone, meaning roughly $390 million including the money coming from MLB. When the Dodgers have that kind of money coming in before averaging 46,216 fans per home game, ranking No.1 in 2013 MLB attendance, you can see the revenue and profitability that comes from these mega deals.
The money is huge, and when you factor in how many teams are being extra cautious with the contracts that they hand out, it makes it seem unreasonable for clubs to cry “small market” any longer. There is no “small market” when a team is streaming revenue of $43 million from television contracts like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins were in 2013, and that number will go up to $68 million with the additional $25 million in 2014. And, while so many were upset with the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria, for the club’s consistent losing, fire-sales, and sticking Miami with an expensive stadium with a Triple-A worthy roster playing each night, it can’t be as hard as it is for Houston’s fans to watch the Astros pocket $105 million in television deals in 2013, while fielding a team with a payroll of $26 million.
With international signing limits and caps on spending within drafts, it doesn’t seem fair that owners and teams are able to sit on millions of dollars of revenue while doing very little year in and year out to field a competitive team. Certainly, the Astros are utilizing the wizardry of Jeff Luhnow to develop a dynamic farm system, which is ranked in the upper-half of the league after being one of the most vacant systems in all of baseball for nearly a decade. However, if other teams decided to gut their major league rosters to build in the same manner, how could MLB and its commissioner tell fans that they were fielding a solid product?
When the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox publicly entrenched their baseball operations within data analysis and the sabermetric way, they also committed to spending wisely and finding value, possibly bargains, by linking players and their abilities to areas that the club needed to improve. By signing their young players to lucrative contracts early in their careers, the Rays were able to manage the long-term salary of their stars by avoiding the arbitration process, while, simultaneously, taking on a huge risk by investing in a player who may battle an injury or be unable to make adjustments when the league caught up with their skills. Evan Longoria, for example, was signed to a six-year, $17.6 million deal (with team options for 2014 through 2016), after just seven days in the majors. The A’s have been very careful with their payroll over the years as Billy Beane has utilized the Moneyball way to build success out of a spacious ballpark and on-base driven offensive players, though that has changed with players like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick being key members of more recent teams. Boston, on the other hand, seems to have learned their lesson from the failures of mega-contracts that were given out to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, shipping the huge deals to the Dodgers and finding payroll relief and success through finding strong character players, which landed them a championship this season behind the leadership of new additions like Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino.
When looking at teams that have created unique ways to be competitive, though, does it show a pattern or a method to success, or can spending money guide a team to a title? The Dodgers, for example, have over $190 million committed to their payroll in 2014 before free agency has even started. Add on the rumors of the club is interested in acquiring David Price via trade with the Rays and being a major player in the posting process and negotiations with Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and the Dodgers could have a starting rotation (that’s right, five guys) earning over $100 million in 2014. The New York Yankees tried for several years to build a contender through free agency, but the club was most successful when they were building from within with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Andy Pettitte in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s…though, they did win a title in 2009.
No team can duplicate the science that one team has perfected, but they can certainly try. As teams like the Twins and Marlins continue to try different techniques in finding success, one thing remains evident: they need to spend money to be successful. The Twins have struck gold with recent international signings and drafts, adding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to their system, but how will they help Joe Mauer at Target Field with the terrible pitching that they continue to produce? The Marlins tried to buy success when they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle prior to the 2012 season. That experiment lasted all of one season before Miami sold off several pieces to rebuild with prospects that they received from the Blue Jays.
Every team should be active when free agency begins. There is no excuse for the “small market” teams when each team is receiving nearly $50 million dollars from MLB each season from the league’s national TV deals. Add on a minimum of $18 million for local TV deals (which the Marlins and Pirates have, lowest of all teams), and you’re looking at $68 million in revenue before the team takes the field, provides marketing space in the stadium, sells a ticket, or sells a t-shirt this season. Of course, there are operating expenses for a team and their employees, but how much exactly? Why exist if the owner is more focused on the bottom line and profitability of the club than the club’s long-term success? After all, we’re talking about billionaire owners paying millionaire players, and every time an owner complains about how much money they aren’t making, you can look at the figures that were provided above and laugh…as you make five-figures and save for months to pay $200 or more to take your family of four to a game once or twice per season.
Another major question could be: is there too much money in baseball? If a team like the Dodgers is bringing in nearly $400 million in revenue on television deals alone, how can the Pirates and Marlins compete against them? The Dodgers could sign Tanaka, trade for Price, and add Robinson Cano to play second base, and the club would still have nearly $150 million in annual salaries before reaching $400 million, over five-and-a-half times the amount that the Pirates and Marlins have in revenue. If or when Clayton Kershaw reaches free agency, if or when Mike Trout reaches free agency, and if or when Bryce Harper reaches free agency, what are the smaller revenue clubs to do? My answer to that…see the Tampa Bay Rays, who compete in the AL East with much smaller revenue numbers than the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and even the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, by being smarter, more creative, and careful as to how they have built their roster each season.
And if there is still concern about your team and wanting to cry “small market”, remember this:
One game into the World Series and instead of the national media latching on to the total domination that came from an 8-1 final score, they are talking about this:
Now, the question is: what was that on Jon Lester‘s glove on Wednesday night in Boston? He seemed to be going to the substance during the game, but due to the conditions (very cold), it would seem unreasonable to think that it was Vaseline, as St. Louis Cardinals‘ minor league pitcher Tyler Melling tweeted during the game, because that would make the ball even harder to control; however, could it have been some other substance to assist with Lester’s grip?
How much does doctoring a ball really assist in a pitcher’s skills? Would the Cardinals have allowed the Red Sox to score eight runs over eight innings if Lester hadn’t been pitching so effectively?
The bottom line for the Red Sox win wasn’t about Lester at all.
What Adam Wainwright was doing last night wasn’t working. His ineffectiveness had very little to do with Jon Lester’s dominance, and Wainwright’s ineffectiveness had a lot to do with his inability to miss the Red Sox bats when they had runners on base. His way of doing things wasn’t working and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t take him out when he didn’t have “it”.
During the game, the apparent love for the Cardinals from the national media was highlighted by this tweet from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and the MLB Network:
this, clearly, is not the cardinal way. #WorldSeries
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 24, 2013
“The Cardinal way” likely refers to the club’s annual success, building from within, and solid performance on the field. However, while the Cardinals were sluggish defensively on Wednesday night, primarily shortstop Pete Kozma, this wasn’t a defensively gifted club in 2013. Sure, the fielding percentage was fifth in MLB, but the club lacked range, which was pointed out by MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, who used the team’s UZR Rating to say this:
Only phillies, mariners and white sox are worse defensively than St. Louis. — Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) October 24, 2013
It is easy to jump on the St. Louis Cardinals bandwagon and their internal baseball expertise, but the team was outplayed Wednesday night, regardless of what was on Lester’s glove and the apparent advantage that he may have gained from “cheating.”
If Lester had given up three runs in the second inning instead of having the umpires get together and make the correct call, would the bias towards Lester and what he did or didn’t have on or with his glove still be such a major topic today? Would the world have been okay with things going against the Boston Red Sox instead of the Cardinals fighting an uphill battle?
Smart people in baseball will use information like this:
No idea if Lester used Bullfrog, wore phiten necklace, or snorted pixie dust. All I know is: Trajectory of ball didn’t appreciably change.
— Dan Brooks (@brooksbaseball) October 24, 2013
Dan Brooks is a pitching genius over at Baseball Prospectus, and if you need further proof that doctoring a ball isn’t a big deal, notice that Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame and the Steroid Era players are left outside of Cooperstown on the curb waiting for a shot.
It’s hard for me to not dislike the Cardinals being a Cincinnati homer and a Reds fan at heart, and the whining from fans and the questioning of Lester that is being published from major outlets today (ESPN, NBC, and Yahoo to name a few) is just the norm that I typically observe; However, more shocking is the fact that the original tweet from Melling (which started the whole conversation) was “mysteriously” deleted.
Jon Lester was better than Adam Wainwright and there wasn’t anything that was going to help that, even if Pete Kozma was turned into Andrelton Simmons, Ozzie Smith, or Omar Vizquel defensively in Game One. While calling a player out for cheating can be a slippery slope (get it…because of the Vaseline), baseball observers should look at the bigger picture from last night – the Red Sox looked like the better team.
As the World Series moves to Game Two on Thursday, we should all be hopeful that the focus turns to a new game and a fresh start for St. Louis, where the Cardinals will ride the coat tails of postseason domination specialist Michael Wacha. It isn’t good for the game for all of the rumors to be more important than the game, and Major League Baseball brushing aside the possibility of Lester cheating quickly was the right thing to do. See the ball, hit the ball, shut up and play baseball. If you’re the better team, you’ll win.
Between this Wednesday night and Halloween night, Major League Baseball will crown the 2013 World Series champion. After some stellar pitching from 22-year-old Michael Wacha for the Cardinals and a couple of heroic grand slams from Shane Victorino and David Ortiz for the Red Sox, St. Louis will play Boston for the fourth time in World Series history (1946, 1967, and 2004 were the previous battles).
Below is a little of what you will see and what you should expect.
Game One: Wednesday, October 23, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston
- What to Expect in Game One: Most of the Red Sox haven’t really seen Wainwright before, as Shane Victorino (23 plate appearances), Stephen Drew (21 plate appearances), David Ross (12 plate appearances), Jonny Gomes (11 plate appearances), and Mike Carp (three plate appearances) have combined to post a .169/.229/.369 against the Cardinals’ ace; however, Lester is even more unknown to St. Louis, as only Matt Holliday (six plate appearances), Carlos Beltran (three plate appearances), and Yadier Molina (one plate appearance) have ever faced the Red Sox lefty. With Beltran in a Cardinals uniform and Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform, both teams have playoff superstars who are not short on writing fairy tales. With Boston rocking from the exciting finishes against Detroit and the small advantage in experience against Wainwright for the Boston lineup, expect to see Boston take a 1-0 lead.
- What to Expect in Game Two: Wacha has been nothing short of incredible in his brief career, especially in the postseason. The young right-hander has a 3-0 record in three starts to go along with a 0.43 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and a 22:4 K:BB in 21 innings. Of course, Clay Buchholz isn’t short on the resume, having gone 12-1 in 16 regular season starts with a 1.74 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 108.1 innings, although his three postseason starts have left a bit to be desired in 2013 (5.40 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3 HR allowed in 16.2 IP). Even with a lack of experience, there is no betting against Wacha in Game Two, as I expect another solid outing and a 1-1 series heading to St. Louis.
Game Three: Saturday, October 26, 8:07 PM; Boston AT St. Louis
- What to Expect in Game Three: St. Louis may have some intelligent and excited fans in Busch Stadium on Saturday night, but they don’t have the experience to win the game. Lackey has started 14 games in his career in the postseason, and while he has faced Beltran and Holliday a combined 20 times in his career, they own a .000/.150/.000 with just three walks to account for successful experiences against the Red Sox righty. While Kelly was quite effective once he moved into the rotation in 2013, he was shaken pretty dramatically in his Game Five loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With another solid lineup and strong competition on the mound for the opposition, I expect Boston to take a 2-1 lead.
Game Four: Sunday, October 27, 8:15 PM; Boston AT St. Louis
- What to Expect in Game Four: With four days of rest, it wouldn’t be shocking to see both teams go back to their Game One starters here. If either or both teams go with a four-man rotation, Peavy and/or Lynn will be the starters going. Peavy only started 10 games in 2013, and while Lance Lynn wasn’t electric every time out, he is 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 194 career innings at home. Peavy has some experience pitching in St. Louis due to his time with the San Diego Padres, but it amounts to just four starts and 26 innings. If this game consists of the clubs’ fourth starters, it will likely result in whoever makes fewer mistakes. Due to Lynn’s success at home and being more of an unknown for the Red Sox hitters, I expect the Cardinals to tie the series 2-2 here.
- What to Expect in Game Five: I’m anticipating the return of the Game One starters here, but if each team goes with a three-man rotation, then move move each starter from games five through seven up a game. Don’t expect the same results, though, in the second time around. Wainwright OWNS pitching in St. Louis, where he is 53-32 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 702 career innings. While the opposing batters have now seen each of these starters, this one will have all of the makings of a 1-0 win, with the Cardinals taking a 3-2 advantage and shipping it up to Boston with a Wainwright complete-game shutout.
Game Six (if necessary): Wednesday, October 30, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston
Pitching Probables: STL – RHP Michael Wacha vs. BOS – RHP Clay Buchholz
- What to Expect in Game Six: Boston won’t be worrying about a thing heading into this elimination game at home. Buchholz will take the mound and the mystique and greatness of Michael Wacha will finally be broken, as the Boston Red Sox slug their way into another Game Seven.
Game Seven (if necessary): Thursday, October 31, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston
- What to Expect in Game Seven: It doesn’t really matter who is on the mound in a game seven, the game will always be one for the ages, and this game will be nothing different. Again, this could be the Game One starters (who would have started games one, four, and seven, if each team only goes three starters deep), which would make this game even more intriguing than the potential Kelly/Lackey matchup that you see here; however, I expect this game to go into extra innings, as each team relies on their stellar bullpens at the first sign of trouble. The deeper bullpen will win this game and that team, in my opinion, is Boston, who will win the World Series in seven games, 4-3, as Koji Uehara proves unhittable once again.
Of course, I personally loathe St. Louis and would find them losing in seven games as a fantastic way to end the season; however, this should be a fantastic series for casual fans and baseball enthusiasts alike, and I’m truly looking forward to it.