Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’

2016 Predictions and Useless Guesses

It is that time of year again – when I make a fool out of myself by guessing who will end up as the 2016 MVPs, Cy Young Winners, Manager and Rookie of the Year winners, and name some sleepers. Last season, I boldly guessed that Mike Redmond would win the NL Manager of the Year award…but he was fired on May 19 after starting 16-22. So much for that. I did have some decent predictions, like Nolan Arenado breaking out and…well, that’s about it. It wasn’t a great year for inferences for me.

However, 2016 is going to be very different! Without further ado…

Bautista may not be worth $150 million, but he can still carry the Jays

Bautista may not be worth $150 million, but he can still carry the Jays

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays

2. Baltimore Orioles

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

Who will be better? Kluber or Carrasco?

Who will be better? Kluber or Carrasco?

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians

2. Kansas City Royals

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Detroit Tigers

5. Minnesota Twins

He's great. Now.

He’s great. Now.

               AL West

1. Houston Astros

2. Texas Rangers

3. Los Angeles Angels

4. Seattle Mariners

5. Oakland Athletics

AL Wild Cards

Kansas City Royals

Baltimore Orioles

NL East

1. Washington Nationals

2. New York Mets

3. Miami Marlins

4. Atlanta Braves

5. Philadelphia Phillies

 NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. Milwaukee Brewers

5. Cincinnati Reds

                                                                          NL West

It's an even year...bet on the Giants!

It’s an even year…bet on the Giants!

1. San Francisco Giants

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Colorado Rockies

5. San Diego Padres

NL Wild Cards

Pittsburgh Pirates

                                                                 New York Mets

World Series Prediction

Washington Nationals over Toronto Blue Jays in six games

Courtesy: Bleacher Report

Courtesy: Bleacher Report

AL Manager of the Year: John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays

This HAS to be the year for Toronto. Why? Because both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are free agents after the 2016 season, and early negotiations didn’t appear to go well, with rumors of “Joey Bats” wanting $30 million per year in his age 35 to age 40 seasons. Ask Nelson Cruz about being an aging slugger in the open market- how’d that go for him when he *settled* for a one-year deal for $8 million following the 2013 season? Still, Gibbons has a lot of talent to work with right now. With reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, a full season (maybe – pending health) from Troy Tulowitzki, and the two mashing free-agents-to-be, the Jays will have the power and offense to outscore anyone, which is just what they’ll have to do with their patchwork pitching staff. Gibbons will work some magic there, however, and lead Toronto back to the ALCS and an eventual World Series appearance.

Courtesy: azcentral.com

Courtesy: azcentral.com

NL Manager of the Year: Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks

Dave Stewart and Company have done some really wacky things since taking control of the Arizona front office; however, they have a really interesting team, quietly building around superstar Paul Goldschmidt with pieces and parts that could be All-Star caliber producers. After signing Zack Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller, having Goldschmidt with A.J. Pollock and David Peralta provide punch in the lineup, along with a returning Patrick Corbin in the rotation, could lead to a sneaky breakout by the Snakes in a wide-open NL West. Hale, who has had success managing throughout the minors and led the Diamondbacks to a 16-game improvement from 2014 to 2015 in his first season. Arizona may miss the playoffs, but they’ll certainly be a thorn in the side of the league in 2016 thanks to talent and Hale’s management of the club.

Machado - getting even better.

Machado – getting even better.

AL MVP: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

Machado doesn’t turn 24 until July, but it seems like he has been around for a while already. Most of that time, he has been compared to the great Alex Rodriguez, and he proved that comparison was legitimate last season. Machado improved his strikeout and walk rates dramatically last season, while his hard contact rate also jumped – which was behind his 35 home runs – a whopping 21 more than his previous career-high (2013) – while he also stole 20 bases! More of the same should be expected, as Machado continues to fill out his body and fill up box scores. He’ll lead Baltimore to the postseason in 2016, with a bat that is as valuable as his glove, making him one of the most dominant players in the game.

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Harper won the NL MVP in 2015 after posting a 9.5 WAR in his age-22 season. He put it all together, blasting 42 home runs and leading MLB with a 1.109 OPS and 197 wRC+. He’s going to be better in 2016. The only thing that would prevent that from happening would be an intensity that makes injury-risk a possibility for Harper on every play…or getting walked like Barry Bonds. The sky is still the limit for this young man, and he continue his ascension to greatness in 2016.

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AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox

After leading the AL in strikeouts and FIP on his way to setting career-bests in strikeout and walk rates, Sale could improve his overall numbers in 2016. The four-time All-Star will finally get the award that he has earned by posting a 2.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 10.3 K:9 over the last four seasons for Chicago. He’ll continue to look like he could be blown away due to his frame, while dominating the opposition on his way to his finest season yet. Perhaps he will even win this one for Drake LaRoche.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw disappointed in 2015, seeing his ERA balloon to 2.13 on his way to a 3rd place finish for the NL Cy Young. That is, of course, sarcasm, as Kershaw led the league in complete games, shutouts, innings, strikeouts, and FIP. He will lead a depleted Dodgers rotation, taking on the innings that they won’t get from the other rotation members, as he continue being the Sandy Koufax of our generation. Enjoy it while it lasts!

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins

For purposes likely tied to free agency control, the Twins didn’t give Berrios a look at all in 2015, even though he could have been the club’s best starting pitcher the moment that he joined the rotation. He has tremendous command of his stuff, and he continues to improve as he rises up through the system, which is an excellent sign for the pitching-starved Twins. The knock on Berrios is his height, but after watching Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Marcus Stroman, and Tim Lincecum (not as much recently) over the last several years, no one will be looking down on this young man when he can pitch the way that he can.

The Dodgers are loaded with talent and Seager is a monster

The Dodgers are loaded with talent and Seager is a monster

NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Seager was the No.1 prospect on my prospect list this winter, after the 21-year-old followed up a roasting of the minors with 98 at-bat barrage on Major League pitching, posting a .337/.425/.561 triple-slash in his cup of coffee. He looks like the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop (pending injury news) and he could thrive in a lineup with so many other talented players around him. He could easily become one of the top two players offensively for this club immediately, especially with the questions surrounding Yasiel Puig after his down 2015 season. While he may not fit at shortstop for his entire career, Seager is capable of a 20/20 season at short in his first full season.

10 BOLD Predictions

  1. Jeff Samardzija rebounds in AT&T Park and the spacious parks out west to become a top 20 starting pitcher. He strikes out over 200 and logs 200 innings, becoming a tremendous compliment to Madison Bumgarner in the San Francisco rotation.
  2. Buxton could be special...as early as this season!

    Buxton could be special…as early as this season!

    Byron Buxton steals 40 bases and shows glimpses of power, topping out at 15 home runs, while showcasing elite-level defense. The Twins finish in last place in the AL Central, but Buxton and Miguel Sano are All-Stars.

  3. Joey Votto walks 130 times. There is no reason to pitch to him with the rest of the Reds lineup as incapable of producing as an army of ants.
  4. Starlin Castro becomes an All-Star at second base for the New York Yankees, leading the American League in hits. The change of scenery was necessary and helped him find his groove.
  5. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco become as dominant together as Kershaw and Greinke were in Los Angeles in 2015…with slightly higher ERAs. They win 35 or more games, log 450 or more innings, and strike out 470 or more batters combined.
  6. A Rule 5 pick worth high fiving about! Blash can BASH! Courtesy: mighty1090.com

    A Rule 5 pick worth high fiving about! Blash can BASH!
    Courtesy: mighty1090.com

    Jabari Blash is the best Rule 5 pick since Johan Santana, as he becomes the Padres best position player in 2016. The Mariners weep as Nori Aoki starts 155 games in left with less than Blash-y production.

  7. Mike Trout finishes outside of the top 3 in AL MVP voting because his WAR declines due to Jared Weaver giving up 85 home runs in 115 innings, not allowing Trout to flash his glove, range, and UZR skills.
  8. Billy Hamilton loses the center field job to Phillip Ervin in June. Ervin starts hitting how he did at Samford and soars through Double-A and Triple-A. Hamilton is recalled in September to be a pinch-runner, stealing 25 bases in one month and winning fantasy leagues for those who stashed him.
  9. Pablo Sandoval goes on a hunger strike until he is given the third base job over Travis Shaw. He is never seen again. The Red Sox eat his contract and release him, which is funny because he ate his own contract and couldn’t let go of food. Irony.
  10. Lorenzo Cain is a top 5 WAR position player due to his great defense and his continued breakout. Cain finishes with 20 HR/30 SB and 100 runs scored.

10 BOLD Sleepers

  1. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: This guy is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and he is throwing harder than he ever did before. Keep in mind, he won 14 games, struck out 178, and had a 3.41 ERA over 208.1 innings in 2013, his last full season, before looking very good over 16 starts last season.
  2. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox: Rodon will either look as dominant as Sale or look like he hasn’t been on a mound before in his life. The stuff is there to be elite, but it is so strong that he has to figure out how to harness it still. This is the year that he does.
  3. "Pirates'Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Polanco had a slight bump in ISO last year, but that slight bump should be a significant bump in his 2016 season. At the age of 24, Polanco will change some of those 35 doubles into home runs in 2016, as that long, lanky body begins to fill out. Look for 15 to 20 bombs in 2016 with a slight drop in his 27 steals – since he’ll be busier rounding the bases in a trot.
  4. Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers: A six-time All-Star and one-time Cy Young winner isn’t typically a sleeper, but Verlander sort of returned to form in the second half of last season, posting a 2.80 ERA over 103 innings and 15 starts. While the 8.30 K:9 over those starts isn’t his elite level, it also was much higher than his down 2014. Over 20 starts, Verlander had a 3.38 ERA and 3.49 FIP, while he is still below the league average in HR/FB%. If you can get him late, Verlander is worth a look in fantasy. If you don’t play fantasy, his girlfriend is worth a look in your own fantasy.
  5. Ian Kennedy, RHP, Kansas City Royals: After finishing 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA while pitching half of his games in San Diego, it seemed rather shocking that the Royals would give up a draft pick and pay $70 million over five years for Kennedy; however, Dave Eiland has worked miracles before, and Kennedy looked a bit more like himself in the second half, when he posted a 10.5 K:9. He can’t do any worse than Cueto did after K.C. acquired him from the Reds in the middle of the 2015 season. Count on Eiland, Kennedy, and an impressive defense to get his numbers back to respectability.
  6. Eduardo Escobar, SS, Minnesota Twins: Danny Santana had the Twins shortstop job going into 2015 after a breakout 2014. Then, he lost the job and Escobar ran away with it, ripping 31 doubles and 12 home runs over 127 games and 446 at-bats. While he isn’t going to do a whole lot more than that (he doesn’t run), he could, in his age-27 season, see those numbers improve over a full season where he isn’t sharing the job.
  7. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: I’ve been a Schoop fan for about four and a half years now. He has power and he has absolutely no plate discipline, as evidenced by his career 203:23 K:BB over 817 plate appearances. But we are in an offense-starved era, and the Orioles have other players with similar profiles who have developed into solid producers (see Jones, Adam). Schoop had 32 extra-base hits (including 15 homers) in just 86 games and 321 plate appearances. He’s capable of 25 home runs and 30 doubles…possibly even 15 walks…over 550 plate appearances. He turned 24 in October and is primed for further opportunities and a potential breakout.
  8. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies: Imagine a place with a high altitude where balls travel far. Now…imagine a shortstop who had 70 extra-base hits (20 HR) and 22 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A. That would be this 23-year-old, who, with Jose Reyes‘…ahem…issues, should be in line for plenty of playing time for the Rockies to start the season. He and Nolan Arenado could provide some pretty impressive numbers on the left side of the infield.
  9. Courtesy: federalbaseball.com

    Courtesy: federalbaseball.com

    Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals: The younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe Ross is in a great situation in Washington. At 22, he seems unlikely to be bumped from the rotation when Lucas Giolito is ready – that is likely going to be Tanner Roark, who pitched out of the bullpen most of the 2015 season. Ross did a really nice job in his 76.2 innings last year, posting an 8.1 K:9 and walking just 2.5 per nine. It is quite possible that he outperforms Gio Gonzalez in the Nationals’ rotation in 2016.

  10. Colin Rea, RHP, San Diego Padres: Rea had eye-popping numbers in Double-A last year (1.08 ERA, .185 BAA in 75 innings), which promptly elevated once promoted to El Paso (a hitter’s paradise). He held his own in his taste of the majors last season, posting a 4.26 ERA and holding opponents to a .246 average. Now, he’ll have an improved defense behind him, Rea, 25, is ready to take his fastball that can touch 95 to a pitcher’s paradise. Let’s hope he can do better than Ian Kennedy did last year. He is capable of Kennedy’s production – minus the strikeouts.

Top 300: 2016 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

It’s that time of year! Teams are reporting for Spring Training, and baseball is alive and well, taking its rightful place from February through October, developing excitement for those with the creative, poetic minds necessary to appreciate it. With that being said, there are also many who like to lay down their cash and try to win their fantasy leagues. While fantasy baseball will never be as popular as the once-per-week lineup construction for fantasy football, it still has its place. For those who love it, here is this season’s Top 300:

NOTE: Don’t forget to check out the Top 100 Prospects for 2016 while you’re here!

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

He's still number one Courtesy: Sports on Earth

He’s still number one
Courtesy: Sports on Earth

2. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

4. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

5. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

7. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

8. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

9. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

10. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

11. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

12. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

13. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

14. A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

15. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers

16. Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami Marlins

17. Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals

18. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox

19. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

20. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

21. Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox

22. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Chicago Cubs

23. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox

24. Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles

25. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

26. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

27. David Price, LHP, Boston Red Sox

28. Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox

29. J.D. Martinez, OF, Detroit Tigers

30. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

31. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

32. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins

33. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets

34. Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros

35. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals

36. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

37. Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Cleveland ace Corey Kluber

Cleveland ace Corey Kluber

38. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners

39. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

40. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets

41. Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants

42. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

43. Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets

44. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners

45. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

46. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies

47. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

48. Nelson Cruz, DH, Seattle Mariners

49. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox

50. Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers

51. Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros

52. Jason Heyward, OF, Chicago Cubs

53. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

54. Justin Upton, OF, Detroit Tigers

55. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians

56. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

57. Wade Davis, RHP, Kansas City Royals

58. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs

59. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts may be on his way to a top 20 finish - this spot is a steal if you get him here.

Bogaerts may be on his way to a top 20 finish – this spot is a steal if you get him here.

60. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Boston Red Sox

61. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles

62. Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

63. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

64. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers

65. Zack Greinke, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

66. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals

67. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

68. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers

69. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

70. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, New York Yankees

71. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics

72. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

73. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

74. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

75. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

76. Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians

77. Jon Lester, LHP, Chicago Cubs

78. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

79. Matt Kemp, OF, San Diego Padres

80. Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants

81. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

82. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

83. Ken Giles, RHP, Houston Astros

84. Johnny Cueto, RHP, San Francisco Giants

85. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox

86. Jose Reyes, SS, Colorado Rockies

87. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians

88. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees

89. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers

90. David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

91. Ben Revere, OF, Washington Nationals

92. Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants

93. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

94. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians

95. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

96. Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians

97. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

98. Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels

99. Corey Dickerson, OF/DH, Tampa Bay Rays

100. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles DodgersYasielPuigBatFlipSide

101. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

102. Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees

103. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

104 Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

105. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

106. DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Colorado Rockies

107. Mark Melancon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

108. Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

109. Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres

110. Evan Gattis, DH, Houston Astros

111. Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

112. David Robertson, RHP, Chicago White Sox

113. Drew Smyly, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

114. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

115. Hanley Ramirez, 1B, Boston Red Sox

116. Jeurys Familia, RHP, New York Mets

117. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers

118. Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

119. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, San Francisco Giants

120. Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies

121. Hector Rondon, RHP, Chicago Cubs

122. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Reds OF and speedster, Billy Hamilton

Reds OF and speedster, Billy Hamilton

123. Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics

124. Neil Walker, 2B, New York Mets

125. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Detroit Tigers

126. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers

127. Daniel Murphy, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals

128. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Detroit Tigers

129. Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves

130. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

131. Byung Ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins

132. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs

133. Kendrys Morales, DH, Kansas City Royals

134. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds

135. Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees

136. Russell Martin, C, Toronto Blue Jays

137. Jose Quintana, LHP, Chicago White Sox

138. Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

139. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals

140. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

141. Shawn Tolleson, RHP, Texas Rangers

142. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

143. Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

144. Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees

145. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Washington Nationals

146. Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees

147. Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

148. Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

149. Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox

150. Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics

151. Carter Capps, RHP, Miami Marlins

152. Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angels Dodgers

153. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees

154. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners

155. Jake McGee, LHP, Colorado Rockies

156. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets

157. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

158. Ian Desmond, SS, FREE AGENT

159. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Miami Marlins

160. Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants

161. Huston Street, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

162. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves

163. Steven Souza, Jr., OF, Tampa Bay Rays

164. Delino DeShields, Jr., OF, Texas Rangers

165. Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets

166. Jaime Garcia, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

167. John Lackey, RHP, Chicago Cubs

168. Mike Fiers, RHP, Houston Astros

169. Jung-Ho Kang, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

170. Brad Ziegler, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

171. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

172. Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco Giants

173. Mark Teixeria, 1B, New York Yankees

174. Logan Forsythe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays

175. Josh Harrison, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

176. Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets

177. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets

178. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs

Russell is a star in the making, who won't be overshadowed by Bryant and Schwarber for too long.  Courtesy: My Cubs Today

Russell is a star in the making, who won’t be overshadowed by Bryant and Schwarber for too long.
Courtesy: My Cubs Today

179. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

180. Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

181.Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington Nationals

182. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Los Angels Dodgers

183. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds

184. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs

185. A.J. Ramos, RHP, Miami Marlins

186. Shelby Miller, RHP, Atlanta Braves

187. Alex Wood, LHP, Los Angels Dodgers

188. Carlos Santana, 1B, Cleveland Indians

189. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers

190. Mike Leake, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

191. Darren O’Day, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

192. Stephen Vogt, C/1B, Oakland Athletics

193. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles

194. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

195. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles

196. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

197. Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees

198. Andrew Miller, LHP, New York Yankees

199. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals

200. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox

201. Tony Watson, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

202. Erick Aybar, SS, Atlanta Braves

203. Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers

204. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers

205. Wil Myers, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres

206. Billy Butler, DH, Oakland Athletics

207. Derek Norris, C/1B, San Diego Padres

208. Justin Bour, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins

209. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals

210. Starlin Castro, 2B/SS, New York Yankees

211. Brad Boxberger, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

212. Brad Miller, 2B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays

213. Denard Span, OF, San Francisco Giants

214. Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals

215. Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics

216. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

217. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros

218. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pederson collapsed after the HR derby in Cincinnati. He'll get back on track in 2016. Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Pederson collapsed after the HR derby in Cincinnati. He’ll get back on track in 2016.
Courtesy: lockerdome.com

219. Ketel Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners

220. Sean Doolittle, LHP, Oakland Athletics

221. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

222. Steve Cishek, RHP, Seattle Mariners

223. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

224. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

225. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

226. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees

227. Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros

228. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

229. Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals

230. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics

231. Phil Hughes, RHP, Minnesota Twins

232. Carson Smith, RHP, Boston Red Sox

233. Brett Anderson, LHP, Los Angeles Dogers

234. Doug Fister, RHP, Houston Astros

235. Drew Storen, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

236. Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

237. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

238. Pedro Alvarez, 1B/DH, FREE AGENT

239. Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals

240. Danny Valencia, 3B, Oakland Athletics

241. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

242. Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers

243. R.A. Dickey, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

244. Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

245. Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

246. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox

247. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

248. Tyler Lyons, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

249. Will Smith, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

250. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

251. Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers

252. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

253. Adam Conley, LHP, Miami Marlins

254. Tommy Milone, LHP, Minnesota Twins

255. Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets

256. Kevin Jepsen, RHP, Minnesota Twins

257. J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins

258. James Shields, RHP, San Diego Padres

259. Glen Perkins, LHP, Minnesota Twins

260. Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

261. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals

262. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

263. Santiago Casilla, RHP, San Francisco Giants

264. Dexter Fowler, OF, FREE AGENT

265. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

266. Rick Porcello, RHP, Boston Red Sox

267, Avisail Garcia, OF, Chicago White Sox

268. Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

269. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

270. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals

271. Keone Kela, RHP, Texas Rangers

272. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox

273. Joakim Soria, RHP, Kansas City Royals

274. Joe Mauer, 1B/DH, Minnesota Twins

275. Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs

276. Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers

277. Jean Segura, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

278. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Twins OF Byron Buxton is ranked low right now, but won't be next season

Twins OF Byron Buxton is ranked low right now, but won’t be next season

279. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

280. Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

281. Josh Tomlin, RHP, Cleveland Indians

282. Ryan Madson, RHP, Oakland Athletics

283. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians

284. Mitch Moreland, 1B/DH, Texas Rangers

285. Marco Estrada, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

286. Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Oakland Athletics

287. Ian Kennedy, RHP, Kansas City Royals

288. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves

289. Koji Uehara, RHP, Boston Red Sox

290. Robbie Ray, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

291. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

292. Rich Hill, LHP, Oakland Athletics

293. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

294. Marcus Semien, 3B, Oakland Athletics

295. Kevin Siegrist, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

296. Welington Castillo, C, Arizona Diamondbacks

297. Seung-Hwan Oh, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

298. J.J. Hoover, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

299. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets

300. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

My IBWAA Season Awards Ballot

It has been far, far too long since I last wrote on this blog. That’s just the way that it is when life gets in the way of entertainment. With the postseason and offseason on the way, I hope to provide my typical prospect list, while finding creative ways to update transactions and preview the 2016. However, we aren’t there yet.

The 2015 season has had a lot of interesting tales. From the Chicago Cubs and their Joe Maddon-led youth movement to the New York Mets shutting down opponents and gloating in the Nationals complete collapse, the season has been full of drama. Arrogant relievers trying to choke superstars (Jonathan Papelbon vs. Bryce Harper) and the redemption of a fallen star (Alex Rodriguez) were also quite entertaining. With the season wrapping up, I have the awesome opportunity to vote in the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) Season Awards ballot.

Here is how I voted:

Courtesy: Toronto Sun

Courtesy: Toronto Sun

American League Most Valuable Player:

  1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays, 3B
  2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, OF
  3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles, 3B
  4. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays, OF
  5. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros, LHP
  6. David Price, Toronto Blue Jays, LHP
  7. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles, 1B/OF/DH
  8. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals, OF
  9. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians, 2B
  10. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays, OF
Courtesy: Sports World News

Courtesy: Sports World News

National League Most Valuable Player:

  1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals, OF
  2. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers, RHP
  3. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs, RHP
  4. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, LHP
  5. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, 1B
  6. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks, 1B
  7. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, OF
  8. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, C
  9. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, 1B
  10. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals, 3B
Courtesy: NY Daily News

Courtesy: NY Daily News

American League Cy Young:

  1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros, LHP
  2. David Price, Toronto Blue Jays, LHP
  3. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox, LHP
  4. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, RHP
  5. Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics, RHP

National League Cy Young:

  1. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers, RHP
  2. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs, RHP
  3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, LHP
  4. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, RHP
  5. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP
Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

American League Rookie of the Year:

  1. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, SS
  2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros, SS
  3. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins, DH

National League Rookie of the Year:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs, 3B
  2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, RHP
  3. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs, 2B

American League Manager of the Year:

  1. John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
  3. Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins
Courtesy: Mets Plus

Courtesy: Mets Plus

National League Manager of the Year:

  1. Terry Collins, New York Mets
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

American League Reliever of the Year:

  1. Andrew Miller, New York Yankees, LHP
  2. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles, LHP
  3. Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals, RHP
Courtesy: RumBunter.com

Courtesy: RumBunter.com

National League Reliever of the Year:

  1. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP
  2. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP
  3. Jeurys Familia, New York Mets, RHP

 

Let me know what you think in the comments or contact me via Facebook or Twitter!

2015 Mid-Season Awards

As we reach the All-Star break, the season has surpassed its halfway point, and we have a pretty good idea of how the league and teams stand. With so many teams contending, 26 of 30 teams are within eight games of a playoff spot, it should be an exciting finish to the 2015 season. However, individual talents continue to shine, with many surprising players atop statistical leaderboards. So, who are the halfway heroes of 2015?

Harper and Trout/Trout and Harper. They're young and fantastic. Courtesy: Washington Post

Harper and Trout/Trout and Harper. They’re young and fantastic.
Courtesy: Washington Post

American League MVP: Angels’ OF Mike Trout

He doesn’t have the .350 batting average or 1.034 OPS of Miguel Cabrera, but Trout is doing his thing once again in 2015, showcasing his ability to hit for power and produce for the Angels. Trout has combined with Albert Pujols to provide the Angels with 50 home runs and 106 RBI in the first half. While Trout isn’t running like he used to (just nine stolen bases), he continues to redefine what teams can expect out of their young talent. Trout, who doesn’t turn 24 until August 7, has already accumulated more WAR than long-time veterans like Victor Martinez, Ryan Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez, and Alex Gordon. The sky continues to be the limit for this superstar.

National League MVP: Nationals’ OF Bryce Harper

Trout and Harper. Harper and Trout. They’ve always been linked as gifted, young talent, but this is the year that they’re both healthy and producing side-by-side. At 22, Harper has mutated into a powerful, muscular, athletic freak, who leads MLB with his .471 on-base percentage, .709 slugging percentage, 1.181 OPS, and 5.7 WAR. The Nationals will continue to be led by their young superstar, while hoping to get and keep Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryan Zimmerman healthy and in their lineup. Even without them consistently around, Washington and Harper sit atop the NL East.

American League Cy Young: White Sox’ LHP Chris Sale

He doesn’t have the wins or ERA of Astros’ LHP Dallas Keuchel, but Sale has been the most dominant starter in the AL. Just a strong gust of wind from being blown halfway into Lake Michigan, the skinny southpaw has racked up an 11.78 K:9, 2.80 ERA (2.31 FIP), 0.94 WHIP, and .205 BAA. Chicago is in last place in the AL Central, but they are just five games out in the Wild Card and have enough pieces to figure things out, riding the left arm of their ace every fifth day.

Greinke or the lead singer of Hanson?  Courtesy: USA Today

Greinke or the lead singer of Hanson?
Courtesy: USA Today

National League Cy Young: Dodgers’ RHP Zack Greinke

With an ability to opt-out of his contract at the end of the season, Greinke chose an opportune time to become an unhittable wizard for the Dodgers. His 1.39 ERA is over a half-run better than the 2nd place A.J. Burnett (1.99 ERA), and he has 35.2 consecutive scoreless innings. His 0.84 WHIP, second to Washington RHP Max Scherzer (0.80), and .191 BAA, detail his dominance further. Can he catch Orel Hershiser‘s record for consecutive scoreless innings? We will see after the break!

American League Rookie of the Year: Astros’ RHP Lance McCullers

He’s going to have a difficult time winning the award with his teammate, SS Carlos Correa, lurking in the end-of-year selection process. However, to this point, McCullers has been the most impressive AL rookie. His 2.16 ERA (2.72 FIP), 9.41 K:9, 1.10 WHIP, and .203 BAA are what have made the 21-year-old right-hander such a dynamic addition to the first place Astros’ rotation. Along with Keuchel, McCullers will try to fend off opposing batters down the stretch, firing his electric fastball and knockout punch slider along the way.

Cubs superstar Kris Bryant

Cubs superstar Kris Bryant

National League Rookie of the Year: Cubs’ 3B Kris Bryant

Bryant earned an All-Star bid after hitting .272/.380/.473 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI, as he takes his spot as Savior for the Cubs franchise. Along with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Bryant will form a dynamic duo of mashing talent in the heart of the Chicago order, and, while the 96 strikeouts may say otherwise, he has proven that he isn’t overmatched by MLB pitching. Look for more of the same, as this 23-year-old continues to make adjustments and show his skills for the Wild Card-leading Cubbies.

American League Manager of the Year: Astros’ A.J. Hinch

This wasn’t the year that Sports Illustrated said that Houston was going to compete, but Hinch has led this group of young, talented players to the top of the American League West after winning just 70 games last season. The players play the game, so Hinch may not deserve all of the credit, but he seems to be pulling the right strings to this point in his brief managerial career. Can they continue at this pace? With Correa, McCullers, Jose Altuve, and Keuchel, they have a core of talent that many other teams are envious of, and they’ll eventually get George Springer back to make them that much more electric.

National League Manager of the Year: Mets’ Terry Collins

When you’ve been outscored by your opponents (297-305), even though your starting staff has a 3.45 ERA (7th in MLB), and your team is still above .500, you know that you’ve done a solid job. Terry Collins was given absolutely NOTHING for his everyday lineup this season, and with David Wright missing all but eight games of the season, you’d think that they’d struggle to stay afloat. However, the Mets are just three games back of Washington in the NL East. New York has an incredibly gifted group of young pitchers, as Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz (who will miss a month with a muscle tear after dominating in his first two starts), and Jacob deGrom share their rotation with fountain of youth eating Bartolo Colon, to give the club a chance to win each night. Collins gets what he can with the cards that he has been dealt, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

 

2015 Season Previews: Washington Nationals

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!

Washington Nationals

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 92-70 (1st in NL East, 2nd in MLB)

Manager: Matt Williams (96-66 in one season with Washington)

Top Three Players: 2B/3B Anthony Rendon (5.1), OF Bryce Harper (4.2), RHP Max Scherzer (4.0)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

Shoulder woes have slowed Zimmerman in the same way that they did Scott Rolen, but the Nationals have moved Zimmerman to first, where he won’t have to make as many throws. The end result should be a healthier, productive season; although, a thigh and fractured finger were the primary injuries that allow Zimmerman to play in only 61 games last season. This will the the 11th season in a Nationals uniform for Zimmerman, and this is his age-30 season. Don’t consider him washed up. He is locked in at .280/.350/.480 with about 25 home runs and 85 RBI in a dynamic lineup.

Harper isn't going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season. Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Harper isn’t going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season.
Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Bryce Harper

Duh, right? At 22, Harper is ready to continue his assault on opposing pitchers, but THIS is the year that he reaches 30 home runs and stays healthy. What is he capable of when he stays on the field and has Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and Ian Desmond on the field with him? This is a dangerous lineup and Harper has the potential to be the most productive player in that lineup. This is the year that he starts heading towards that ceiling, closing in on a .300/.400/.500 line, while increasing his power output as he becomes more physically mature.

Offseason Overview: When you have five very good starting pitchers and you’ve won 96 games, what do you really need to do to improve? Well, sign the best free agent pitcher on the market to a seven-year, $210 million deal, which is what they did when signed RHP Max Scherzer. The move pushed Tanner Roark (15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 31 starts) to the bullpen, while making LHP Ross Detwiler expendable, as he was shipped to Texas for a couple of prospects. The Nationals didn’t need to do much to improve their team, but they still made a huge splash and got better.

The Verdict: A healthy Zimmerman and Werth will help the Nationals to 100 wins, but it will be Harper, Rendon, Desmond, and the pitching that will get them to 95 wins. This is the best team in baseball, regardless of PECOTA projections. The pitching is elite and they have Roark ready in a swing role and A.J. Cole ready in Triple-A. With Lucas Giolito and Joe Ross likely to start the year in Double-A, they are far off from making an impact, either. Michael Taylor, a powerful, speedster, will be taking over center for the first several weeks with Denard Span on the shelf. The Nationals are very good, and this is the year that they put it all together.

Nationals: Pitching to the Max

 

The Washington Nationals have signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract, shocking the world of baseball by locking-up the market’s top free agent arm, while creating a new philosophy in negotiating tactics that could influence free agent signings in the future. By extending the $210 million over 14 years by deferring $15 million per year, they also free up a bit of payroll for additional signings in years to come.

Perhaps that deferred money will allow them to lock-up Bryce Harper, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season; however, in the moment, this deal does much more for the Nationals than make them creative, financial gurus.

Max Scherzer will now lead the Washington rotation, a rotation that already featured Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark. Obviously, depth in a starting rotation is always nice to have, especially with two pitchers on club’s roster already having Tommy John surgery on their resume (Strasburg and Zimmerman), and Gonzalez having dealt with some shoulder issues last season. What is truly incredible about the Scherzer signing is that Roark appears to be the man who would be bumped from the rotation, even after the 15 wins and 2.85 ERA over 31 starts in his age-27, 2014 season.

The Nationals have the flexibility to deal an arm, with Jordan Zimmermann already rumored to be the one who could be moved.

The Red Sox certainly have the prospects to make a deal for Zimmermann or any other player in baseball, so this isn’t all that surprising. Mookie Betts would make an excellent long-term second baseman – if the Nationals are content with moving Anthony Rendon to third base long-term, and the club doesn’t, or any club this side of the Dodgers, doesn’t appear capable of locking up a Scherzer/Zimmermann/Strasburg trio to the nearly $90 million annually that it would require. Zimmermann, who is due $16.5 million prior to reaching free agency after the 2015 season, arguably, is worth the same type of deal that Scherzer received and possibly more.

"Nationals

After all, when comparing these two players, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of envy from other clubs:

Player A: 45-22, 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 608.2 IP, 496:112 K:BB

Player B: 55-15, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 622.1 IP, 723:179 K:BB

Zimmermann is Player A and Scherzer is Player B. Those strikeouts are certainly a big difference, but Zimmermann is just as dominant in overall numbers – outside of the swing-and-miss stuff.

Still, the Nationals sit here today with the most feared starting rotation in baseball. Just a week ago, ESPN’s Buster Olney had Washington atop his top 10 starting rotations in baseball, and that was BEFORE the club added Scherzer.

Bryce  HarperAs long as Washington is able to produce some runs in 2015, they appear to be capable of winning 100 games. The rotation, as is, features five pitchers capable of 15 or more wins and ERAs under 3.20, so if Jayson Werth, Harper, Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and company can do their part, this is a very, very dangerous team.

The rich continue to get richer, which appears to be a theme in Major League Baseball, and while the Tigers lose Scherzer from the rotation that they had in 2014, they still have one season with David Price at the top before they need to panic. The Nationals don’t look like they’ll be in that position for several years.

Super Two Avoidance…Get to Know Gregory Polanco

 

Pirates' prospect Gregory Polanco

Pirates’ prospect Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco was a late signing by the Pittsburgh Pirates in April of 2009, signing as an 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, atypical from the normal rush on 16-year-old international free agents every July 2nd. Now 22, Polanco is already older than Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper, and just four months younger than Angels’ superstar Mike Trout, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of becoming the next big thing in Major League Baseball.

Polanco is a 6’4″, 220 pound, left-handed hitting machine, who will soon displace the horrific combination of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider in the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield. It is fair to wonder if Polanco in right field from Day One of the 2014 season would have led the Pirates to a better record than their current 18-26 start…that and Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez, and Edinson Volquez showing some semblance of being major league pitchers in their 23 combined starts. Polanco likely would have been up by now had he not turned down the seven-year, $25 million deal that CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said was offered earlier this month.

Like many others, Polanco sits in the minors waiting for his opportunity to be promoted, not due to lack of performance, but due to the business side of baseball. His numbers this season (going into Wednesday)  and his career:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 22 -5.3 Indianapolis IL AAA 44 193 174 31 65 14 5 5 39 10 18 35 .374 .435 .598 1.033 104
6 Seasons 454 1888 1669 270 479 87 24 39 277 137 180 298 .287 .359 .438 .797 731
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2014.

The Astros’ seemed to say “to hell with it” when determining when it was time to promote George Springer earlier this month, allowing him to come to the majors and begin his service time, while, simultaneously risking another season of team control. While costs and control are issues, the Pirates, who had their first winning season since 1992 last year, could use a player of Polanco’s caliber to ignite an offense that currently ranks 26th in MLB in runs scored and 18th in OPS. After introducing a new generation of Pirates fans to “real” baseball, it is inexcusable and a slap in the face to run anyone other than Polanco out in right field the rest of the 2014 season.

Beyond the typical production, here are some additional sweet treats:

  • vs. LHP in 2014: .345/.429/.436, 19 for 55, 13:8 K:BB, three extra-base hits, 15 RBI
  • Before breaking out in 2012, Polanco managed a triple-slash of .235/.303/.332 over his first 674 plate appearances
  • Since 2012, Polanco has a triple-slash of .315/.384/.496 over 1,214 plate appearances
  • Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus: “Well above-average athlete; long legs; more room to add strength; easy plus run; big, graceful strides; excellent range in the field; arm is plus; glove could play above average; good bat-to-ball skills; makes a lot of contact; hit tool likely to play plus; power potential is easy plus; makes quick adjustments; plus makeup.” 
  • Jonathon Mayo of MLB.com: “Polanco has five-tool potential. He is an aggressive hitter, but doesn’t strike out a ton and has become more willing to take a walk. His swing does have a tendency to get long, a problem compounded by his lanky frame. Still, with his hands and bat speed, he has the potential to be a special hitter with above-average power. Polanco has plus speed and covers ground well in the outfield. He is a center fielder now, but he has a strong arm and could slide over to right field if necessary. That could be his spot in PNC Park before too long.”
  • John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com: “Five Tool/Seven Skill player with glowing scouting reports, dominated High-A but was merely good in Double-A, granted at age 21 that’s just fine. Spring reports continue to sparkle.” 
mmmmm...tools

mmmmm…tools

Polanco looks like he’ll be waiting in Indianapolis for his call until June, but he, and Pirate fans, certainly deserve an earlier promotion. Look for tremendous things from Polanco in the near future. He isn’t capable of monster power numbers, at least not yet, but he can do plenty of things to accumulate value due to his tremendous tool-set, much more than Tabata and Snider.

 

 

2014 MLB Predictions and Useless Guesses

I do this dance when I'm right - which is often

I do this dance when I’m right – which is often

This is the third year that I’ve created this article (2012 and 2013) and it’s always a lot of fun. After I looked back at the 2013 version and saw that I did mediocre, I figured that it was worth trying out once again, just to see if I’m as brilliant as I like to, humbly, think that I am.

American League East

1st:  Tampa Bay Rays

2nd: New York Yankees

3rd: Boston Red Sox

4th: Baltimore Orioles

5th: Toronto Blue Jays

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Last year, I went with Toronto, which was an absolute nightmare. They still have a lot of offensive talent, but they don’t have the rotation depth (even with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez knocking on the door) to compete in this division. I really like the Orioles and I even think that Ubaldo Jimenez can make it work in Baltimore, but I’m hesitant to expect a repeat from Chris Davis in 2014 and we still don’t know the second base situation will work out or when Manny Machado will be full strength. The top three in the East are nearly replaceable parts, as you could put them in any order and look like a genius. For me, Boston doesn’t have the goods this year, having not replaced Jacoby Ellsbury with a legitimate part (Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley, Jr.) and a veteran team another year older screams regression. The Yankees are a mess at second after losing Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, but they added enough parts to look like a team on the rise. The Rays nearly stood pat, but I think that will work for them. A full season from Wil Myers and the tremendous arms in David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb make them a force. While re-signing James Loney was the highlight of their offseason, the Rays are still strong enough defensively and in the rotation to win this division. The only worry is injuries, as their minor league system hasn’t produced many stars as they’ve moved to the back-end of drafts due to their major league success.

American League Central

1st: Detroit Tigers

2nd: Cleveland Indians

3rd: Kansas City Royals

4th: Chicago White Sox

5th: Minnesota Twins

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

The Central was quite competitive in 2013, as the Tribe and Royals finally pushed the Tigers and made the division look respectable once again, though Chicago and Minnesota were two of the worst teams in all of baseball. Things still look bleak for the latter two teams, as they are both slowly rebuilding by developing their own talent or acquiring talent in trades. The Twins will be a force to be reckoned with within the next couple of seasons when Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano (who will miss all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery), Alex Meyer, and others begin reaching Target Field, and the White Sox will be better with solid, young, major league-ready talent in Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Jose Abreu being acquired or signed within the last year. Regardless, this division will be a three-way battle in 2014. The Royals will come up a bit short after losing Ervin Santana‘s production to free agency. While Santana struggled to find consistency throughout his career, Yordano Ventura, no matter how good he may be in his rookie season, likely won’t be able to repeat Santana’s 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 211 innings in his age-23 season in the No.5 starter role. I’m expecting huge things from Eric Hosmer and tremendous improvements out of Mike Moustakas and his new swing, but the rotation isn’t strong enough to contend with the other offenses in this division. The Indians may not win 92 games again this year, but the have the offensive firepower to be a contender. Even with lackluster seasons from Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher in 2013, Cleveland rocked. They’ll struggle due to rotation losses, much like the Royals, needing to replace both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir‘s innings, but Danny Salazar should continue to establish himself as an electric arm, albeit with around a 170 to 180 innings limit. The Tigers will remain the class of the AL Central due to their rotation. Even after trading Doug Fister, the Tigers were able to replace him with the young lefty Drew Smyly, and the Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez trio should be good for over 600 innings and 600 strikeouts in 2014. Rick Porcello‘s drastic improvements last year leave him heading towards his free agency after the 2015 season, so if he is determined to strike it rich, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the 2nd best pitcher on the staff this season. Miguel Cabrera may be all that they need, but rookie Nick Castellanos can swing it, Austin Jackson is looking at a breakout season, and Ian Kinsler, even if he is just mediocre away from Arlington, is more than capable of devastating opposing pitchers. The Tigers may be a 100-win team in 2014.

American League West

1st: Los Angeles Angels

2nd: Oakland Athletics

3rd: Texas Rangers

4th: Seattle Mariners

5th: Houston Astros

Angels OF Mike Trout

Angels OF Mike Trout

Houston is brutal, but you have to trust in the processes that GM Jeff Luhnow brought with him from the St. Louis Cardinals. He has quickly turned the minor league system around for the Astros and there is tremendous talent on the way up, but Houston looks like a 95 to 100 loss team once again in 2014, though there are some pieces who will show themselves useful to the organization in Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler (likely trade bait), Brad Peacock, and Jonathan Villar (a poor man’s Everth Cabrera). Seattle improved tremendously and will field a winning team, but they don’t have the talent to overcome the class of the division. The Mariners have plenty of young talent in Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Brad Miller, and Dustin Ackley who will be valuable, but they also have glaring weaknesses in Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders locked into starting roles. If Seattle continues to add pieces over the next couple of seasons to their strong, young core, they’ll get there. The Rangers have been very good for quite some time, and they made the Kinsler trade with Detroit to bring back the big bopper that they lost when Josh Hamilton left for Los Angeles. Prince Fielder should be tremendous in Texas, likely rebounding to the 35 to 40 home run power that we used to see in Milwaukee, while the trade opened up a spot for Jurickson Profar at second. With Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios still around and the additon of Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers should be very tough to keep off of the scoreboard, but with injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison (whose back still isn’t right), the Rangers will heavily lean on Yu Darvish and youngster Martin Perez. They’ll need a lot of help from Colby Lewis (who missed all of 2013) and Tommy Hanson (a shoulder injury away from being out of the league) to be competitive. The A’s have lost A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker to injuries (Parker is out for the season) already this spring, but they still have solid depth in their rotation with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone, and Jesse Chavez to be solid in the rotation, especially with their spacious home field. Yoenis Cespedes should provide a full season with 30/30 potential, Josh Donaldson can really hit a baseball and pick it in the field nearly as beautifully, and Josh Reddick has a healthy wrist and will want to prove that he is more the 2012 version (32 HR/85 RBI) than last year’s version (12 HR/56 RBI). The A’s are dangerous, and while they don’t look like much offensively in parts of the order, Billy Beane continues to do quite a bit with the talent that he and his operations staff are able to find and get the most out of. The Angels have had a rough go of things in the Albert Pujols era. Mike Trout is now the centerpiece of the team, but the club has continued to put pieces around him, adding David Freese at third, and a couple of solid young arms to a depleted rotation in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. The minor league system is still a hot mess, but the Halos have quite a bit of talent that, if healthy, will allow them to be a dominant team once again. I’m betting on Pujols, Trout, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson in carrying this team back to the top of the West in 2014.

American League Wild Cards

New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics

National League East

1st: Washington Nationals

2nd: Atlanta Braves

3rd: Miami Marlins

4th: Philadelphia Phillies

5th: New York Mets

Braves OF Jason Heyward

Braves OF Jason Heyward

I may be a bit of an optimist when it comes to the NL East, but I’m seeing things a bit differently than most. The Mets offense is horrendous and they haven’t had a full season of David Wright in two of the last three seasons – plus, Wright’s now on the wrong side of 30. The outfield is a cluster of mediocrity, featuring an aging Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, while the club seems to think that Eric Young, Jr. is an everyday corner outfielder. The rotation is also ugly after losing Matt Harvey late last year. Zack Wheeler is still a work in progress, but a team in need of a rebuild signed Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka to fill their rotation voids. I don’t see it working. The Phillies also feature aging players, and it’s hard to see full seasons out of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley again in 2014. The rotation is hurting a bit with Cole Hamels having shoulder issues and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez looking like garbage after signing out of Cuba, but Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett should continue to be productive. I’d like to see Domonic Brown have another season like 2013 to make Ruben Amaro, Jr. look worse than he already makes himself look with his horrific contracts and clueless way of running the team, after letting Brown waste away for so long in the Phillies’ minor league system. I like the Marlins this year. The rotation is very good: Jose Fernandez is an ace; Henderson Alvarez may not strikeout a ton of guys, but he keeps the ball down and pounds the strike zone; Nathan Eovaldi has an upper-90’s fastball and looks promising; Jacob Turner is up and down like most young starters, but he was once a future No.1 or No.2; A.J. Ramos and Steve Cishek are good at the back-end of the bullpen, and you can’t not like Giancarlo Stanton mashing in the middle of the order. The club will get some offensive help with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Garrett Jones (only against RHP) in the lineup. They won’t be above .500, but they should be better than the Mets and Phillies in 2014. The Braves are hurting in the rotation after losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgeries in the last few weeks; however, they still have Julio Teheran, Mike Minor (when he’s over his injury around the second week of April), and Alex Wood, with Gavin Floyd coming back from Tommy John surgery by mid-May. They just need to make it through the first month, and they have enough offense to do that. Jason Heyward is a monster who has struggled, but I’m expecting huge things out of him this season after injuries limited him to 104 games last season. Justin Upton and B.J. Upton will likely rebound, as well, and Freddie Freeman looks to be an MVP candidate after having a breakout season at the age of 23 in 2013. Andrelton Simmons could only build on his breakout 2013, and Atlanta is either going to get a rebound from Dan Uggla or production out of his eventual replacement, Tommy La Stella, at second. The Braves will be great, but not was good as the Nationals. This team is setup to win games and win lots of them. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister present a top four of a rotation that can’t be matched by another club in Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper is jacked and looks primed to reach 30-plus home runs at the age of 21 and Jayson Werth will team with him in the middle of the order to cripple opposing pitchers. Ian Desmond is one of the top offensive shortstops in baseball and Anthony Rendon should establish himself as an All-Star level producer at second this season. Ryan Zimmerman is still a defensive wizard, and, if he can stay on the field, he can come close to 30 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. The Nationals, like the Tigers, are capable or exceeding 100 wins.

National League Central

1st: St. Louis Cardinals

2nd: Cincinnati Reds

3rd: Pittsburgh Pirates

4th: Milwaukee Brewers

5th:  Chicago Cubs

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

The Cubs will be difficult to deal with in 2015, when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, and Arismendy Alcantara are officially within their everyday lineup; however, in 2014, Chicago will, once again, be the red-headed stepchild of the NL Central, taken out back and beaten in the wood house, or any other form of describing a team that will be laughably bad. If Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo bounce back, they could win 65 to 70 games, but if they’re both as bad as they were in 2013, this is a 100 loss team. The Brewers will be better in 2014. Management has spent money and, while the minor league system rivals the atrociousness of the Angels’ system, Milwaukee has Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, and Khris Davis in the lineup to be productive offensively. Wily Peralta should build on his late season success from 2013, and the veteran leadership in the rotation from Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza should lead to an above .500 season. The Brewers just don’t have the depth to overcome injuries to the rotation or the everyday lineup, so they’ll likely run into some trouble in 2014, especially if they’re counting on 200 innings from Garza. The Pirates surprised everyone by winning 94 games in 2013, but they aren’t going to stop there. Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Gerrit Cole look like the core of a franchise that will be capable of winning several divisions in a row in coming seasons. With Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Gregory Polanco on the way, this club should only get better. Unfortunately, the loss of A.J. Burnett could take its toll on the rotation. Cole and Charlie Morton are effective, Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez, however, haven’t shown much consistency for health or production over their careers. If things break right, the Pirates could be right where they left off, but that’s a big “if”. The Reds lost a lot of production when Shin-Soo Choo signed with Texas. Billy Hamilton will utilize his thoroughbred-like speed to steal bases and score runs, but he doesn’t have the power or on-base skills that Choo brought to the club. With Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the middle of the order, the Reds have plenty of pop, and if Brandon Phillips rebounds a bit (hard to say with 100-plus RBI, but the average and on-base numbers were rough), the offense should still be in good shape, especially with production from Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier. The rotation is still solid. A healthy Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Tony Cingrani will battle the Washington Nationals for a starting staff ERA title. The scary injury to Aroldis Chapman hurts the bullpen for the next six to eight weeks (his real-life health is more important considering what happened), but J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall, and Jonathan Broxton have each closed games before. The window is closing in Cincinnati quickly, though, so they could make some moves to make a late season push. St. Louis and the “Cardinal way” is frustrating to watch as a lifelong Cincinnati native and Reds fan, but you have to appreciate their success. The team is setup to be dominant once again. Strong offensive output from Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams will carry the team, while Jhonny Peralta, Peter Bourjos, and Kolten Wong make adjustments to new leagues or life in the majors. The club has a .300 hitting, 30 home run talent waiting in the wings in Oscar Taveras if an injury strikes in the outfield or an infield corner, but the rotation depth is what makes them unbelievably good. Joe Kelly, who had a 2.28 ERA over 15 starts in 2013, may not even be in the rotation. Adam Wainwright could be joined by Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez. Any other team would likely be starting Trevor Rosenthal, but the Cards can let him close thanks to their rotation depth, which hasn’t even included Jaime Garcia, who is, once again, battling shoulder woes…but he could be ready to pitch again soon. The Cardinals are a tremendous example of a team that can compete while consistently drafting in the last half of each round, while not having an unreasonable payroll number. They should be envied by fans and replicated by other organizations.

National League West

1st: Los Angeles Dodgers

2nd: San Francisco Giants

3rd: Arizona Diamondbacks

4th: Colorado Rockies

5th: San Diego Padres

YasielPuigBatFlipSideThe Padres are a solid team with a lot of good talent, but the NL West is quite competitive, and the Padres home park may continue to be their own worst enemy. They’ll have an advantage for their pitchers, but they just don’t have enough offensive talent to overcome Petco’s offensive squashing ways. Chase Headley quickly returned to form in 2013 after a breakout 2012 and Carlos Quentin, once again, showed that he is productive and very, very fragile. The Friars will have full seasons out of Yonder Alonso and Everth Cabrera, with some power production from young second baseman Jedd Gyorko, but Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross will struggle to win games due to the rest of the talent, or lack thereof, around them. The Rockies may finally have an appropriate way to attack their own offensive environment in Coor’s field, finding and developing pitchers who can pound the bottom half of the strike zone, drafting and developing pitchers like Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler in the minor league system, but they’re still a year or two away from overcoming the pitching talent that they currently are rostering at the major league level. Still, they’ll win games thanks to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Wilin Rosario, and Nolan Arenado powering home runs. The Diamondbacks continue to deal away tremendous young talent to compete at the major league level, acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Angels this winter. Trumbo will add great power to a lineup already featuring NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and with Martin Prado and Miguel Montero in the lineup, the D’backs should score plenty of runs. The rotation lost Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, but they had Randall Delgado out of options to step into the rotation, with Archie Bradley near-ready in Triple-A. Wade Miley, Bronson Arroyo, and Trevor Cahill should provide solid innings, while Brandon McCarthy could be the wild card in the teams success due to his dominance when healthy, though he can’t always be counted on. The bullpen in Arizona is dynamite, featuring Addison Reed at closer, with J.J. Putz, Oliver Perez, and David Hernandez as setup men. The Giants have pitching for days, but still have trouble finding offense. Pablo Sandoval will be a free agent after this season and utilized that motivation to finally show up to spring training in shape. Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence should continue to produce, while they are hoping that Mike Morse can return to his powerful 2012 form rather than whatever it was that showed up last season. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain could be Cy Young candidates, while the Giants will hope that Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum can return to their former Cy Young candidacy days. The Dodgers…do they ever have a loaded roster! All-Stars all over the field: Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp will lead the club offensively, while manager Don Mattingly finds a creative way to rotate four very good outfielders between three spots, with a fifth, Joc Pederson, nearly ready to produce when called up from the minors. The rotation is very deep and the bullpen is the deepest in baseball. Clayton Kershaw needs no explanation, and Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Paul Maholm should be very productive in a forgiving home ballpark with an electric offense supporting them. Five pitchers with closing experience in the bullpen make it nearly a guarantee for success. A payroll with no end makes the Dodgers capable of adding pieces if a need were to arise, as well.

National League Wild Cards

Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds

World Series Prediction

Washington Nationals over the Detroit Tigers in six games

American League MVP

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

He’ll finally do enough to get the votes that went to Miguel Cabrera the last two years. He has easily been the best all-around player in the game since the start of the 2012 season. At just 22, it’s scary to think of what he will become in his prime if he, fingers crossed, stays healthy.

National League MVP

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves

There’s just something about a guy coming off of any injury plagued season who didn’t live up to expectations that makes me want to go with him here. He’s not Joey Votto, Bryce Harper, or Andrew McCutchen, but Heyward will be doing a lot of the things that made Shin-Soo Choo so valuable for the Reds in 2013: getting on base as the leadoff hitter, hitting for power, and stealing bases. I could see Heyward posting a 30/30 season out of the leadoff spot in Atlanta while driving in close to 90 runs and scoring over 100. The numbers will add up to make him one of the top players in baseball, leading Atlanta to an NL playoff matchup with the Nationals.

American League Cy Young

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Yu Darvish will be your trendy pick because of all of those strikeouts, but Verlander has shown that he still has something left, striking out nearly 11 per nine over his final six starts before striking out over 12 per nine over his three playoff starts. With negotiations with Max Scherzer being completely thrown out, Verlander is the man in Detroit, and he is going to show why once again.

National League Cy Young

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

Kershaw, like Darvish, would be the easy pick. I picked Bumgarner last year, and one of these years, I’m going to look smart for sticking with him. Bumgarner’s hits per nine (6.5) was the lowest of his career last year, and that number continues to fall each season, while his strikeout rate continues to increase, while he reached 8.9 in 2013. He’s just 24 and he has the home ballpark and the stuff to continue to improve his already impressive numbers.

American League Rookie of the Year

Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts showed that he is advanced beyond his years in the playoffs last season, helping Boston win another World Series with his impressive play. He hasn’t shown the power yet, but Bogaerts could be a 25 to 30 home run hitter in coming seasons, and his youth is a welcome addition to the aging Red Sox roster.

National League Rookie of the Year

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

Vince Coleman once stole 100 bases with a .581 OPS. If Billy Hamilton is on base enough to steal 100 bases, he’s going to score enough runs to create value for himself and the Cincinnati Reds. I’ve seen him run in person and it doesn’t seem real. He’ll have more infield hits than some teams will combine for. Even if he isn’t successful, Hamilton doesn’t have any true competition for at-bats beyond Chris Heisey (who likely can’t handle center field) and Roger Bernadina (who hasn’t been able to handle a job). He’ll maintain the job and be quite productive due to his speed, but if he ever gets a leg injury and loses that tool, he has no role and no business in baseball.

Random Bold Predictions

1. Bryce Harper will hit more home runs than Miguel Cabrera.

2. Rick Porcello will be a better pitcher than Anibal Sanchez in 2014.

3. Yordano Ventura and Danny Salazar will both strikeout over 170 batters, even if they only reach 150 innings pitched.

4. Grant Balfour will have more saves than whoever closes for Baltimore, and the Orioles will look even more ridiculous for backing out of the contract that they signed with him than they already do.

5. Drew Smyly will win more games in Detroit than Doug Fister wins in Washington.

6. B.J. Upton will hit over .260 and will hit at least 15 home runs while stealing 25 or more bases.

7. Devin Mesoraco will provide more value offensively than Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina provide offensively AND defensively in Tampa…which will show just how bad Dusty Baker messed with the former top prospect in Cincinnati by not playing him daily.

8. Hector Santiago will win 14 or more games to solidify an iffy Angels rotation.

9. Yoenis Cespedes will post an OPS over .920 and will be a top 5 AL MVP candidate at seasons end.

10. Giancarlo Stanton will hit over 40 home runs while walking over 90 times.

11. Drew Hutchison will be the most valuable Toronto Blue Jays starter until they shut him down in September.

12. Starlin Castro won’t lose his job to Javier Baez…but Darwin Barney will.

13. Someone who wasn’t on the Mets’ Opening Day roster will lead the pitching staff in wins.

14. Dan Uggla posts his typically ugly batting average and strikeouts, but rebounds to 25 or more home runs and close to 90 RBI.

15. Prince Fielder will have a higher WAR than Ian Kinsler. Texas wins the blockbuster trade.

Breakout Stars

Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays – last year was really what he can do, now, we get a full season of it.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals – 25 or more home runs, close to 20 steals, top 10 AL MVP candidate.

Hector Santiago, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

Prospects to Watch

This has nothing to do with my Top 100 list, but you will find some familiar names and others that will be players to keep an eye on, especially if they’re on your favorite team or if you’re in a keeper fantasy baseball league.

Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies

David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers

Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers

Alberto Tirado, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Franchy Cordero, SS, San Diego Padres

Alexander Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

The Explosion of Javier Baez

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

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

The Baseball Haven: No. 8

Baseball Prospectus: No. 4

MLB.com: No. 7

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

FantasyAssembly.com: No. 5

Prospect361.com: No. 5

TopProspectAlert.com: No. 11

RotoAnalysis.com: No. 2

FantasySquads.com: No. 10

Scout.com: No. 13

DeepLeagues.com: No. 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for the “Small Markets”

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.”

AL TV Deals

Local AL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

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.

Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

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.

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

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.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

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:

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