As a Cincinnati Reds homer, I’m looking ahead to next season…actually, I’m looking forward to 2020, when the team will have time to truly rebuild their roster. Unfortunately, for a non-contending, rebuilder within a “small-market”, Cincinnati will not be a big player in free agency. Like many other clubs that are looking to build from within or on-the-cheap, free agency isn’t very kind, leaving the remnants of the market to pick through like a racoon at a garbage can. Oh, those beady eyes in your headlights in January will just be Walt Jocketty or Billy Beane looking for a backup infielder.
This winter, as with any other, baseball fans will see plenty of players on the move, including Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Aroldis Chapman, and Ian Desmond, who appear to be the few “big names” on the market. In addition to those select few, there are plenty of players with options, but are they going to get picked up? Let’s take a look at those optional options for 2017, shall we…
Fowler is having a stellar season, even having spent some time on the DL. He is earning $13MM this season on a one-year deal and has responded after facing a weak market this past winter with a career-best .877 OPS. The 2016 All-Star isn’t really needed as a leadoff hitter in Chicago with Jason Heyward getting paid mega-millions to be that type of player, but Fowler should be able to cash in. The Cubs will likely accept their portion of the option very quickly.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: $23MM club option, $10MM buyout
Howard has had one of the worst contracts in baseball since the start of the 2012 season. Coincidentally, that is when his five-year, $125MM extension kicked in. Finally, the Phillies will be able to walk away from him and his horrific deal, and they’ll be more than happy to drop $10MM in order to do that. We’ll see if they release him and roll with Tommy Joseph, which they basically have done since the beginning of June.
Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: $17MM club/vesting option, $1MM buyout
Holliday has collapsed in his age-36 season. His .237/.310/.449 line is the worst of his career. His 18 home runs have saved his line a bit, but he is still well short of his career .303/.382/.515 line. He certainly won’t rank in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting, which is all that it would take for his option in 2017 to vest. The Cardinals aren’t churning out prospects like they were a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see which direction they go to stay within the Cardinal Way.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets: can opt-out of remaining two-years, $47.5MM
Cespedes could cash in significantly in a weak market this winter. With so few power bats available, the 30-year-old corner outfielder, if healthy, would likely increase his AAV to $25-$28MM per season. He will beat his career-high for OPS this year. He just needs to stay on the field to keep the Mets in contention.
CC Sabathia, LHP New York Yankees: $25MM vesting option (if he doesn’t end the season on the DL with a shoulder injury, spend 45 days or more on the DL with a shoulder injury, or make six or more relief appearances because of a shoulder injury), $5MM buyout
If you asked in mid-June, Sabathia may have been worth a $20MM gamble for New York. On June 16th, he had a 2.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over his first 11 starts; however, he has a 6.85 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over his last eight starts. With Mark Teixeira retiring after the 2016 season, the Yankees will have quite a bit of money to spend – unless they are serious about their rebuild and continue to add young talent to the roster. The Yankees may need to check-in on Sabathia’s shoulder, given his recent woes, and make sure everything is clean; although, the MLBPA may find a way to keep his option guaranteed with such a move.
Jay Bruce, OF, New York Mets: $13MM club option, $1MM buyout
Bruce, who was recently acquired by the Mets from Cincinnati for a pair of prospects, will provide a lot of value to New York, especially if Cespedes remains on the shelf with his quad injury, but even more so if Cespedes opts out and signs elsewhere this winter. Bruce is a fine outfielder who is capable of strong production, as evidenced by his rebound 2016 season, but his lengthy slumps and declining defense don’t make him worth a huge deal. The $13MM option is still a fine value for the Mets, who may end up in quite a limbo with their other outfielder about a week after the World Series.
Carlos Santana, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians: $12MM club option, $1.2MM buyout
Santana is an interesting player due to his ugly batting averages, average power, and incredible on-base skills. Everyone is waiting for him to finally put it all together, which would lead to a very Adam Dunn-like 30 HR, 100 R, 100 BB season for Cleveland; however, he just can’t beat the shift and his deflated BABIP keep him from meeting some of those numbers. With Mike Napoli also reaching free agency, the Indians will likely opt-in on Santana, as they couldn’t afford to lose them both. They may not be able to re-sign Napoli after his huge season, but they could offer him a qualifying offer and keep him around for one more season. Since Napoli’s decision will come after the option decision on Santana, expect the former catcher to stick for one more year with the Tribe.
Duh. The Rangers just gave up a nice prospect package for the best catcher this side of Buster Posey, so you can expect them to take on this very affordable option. Lucroy is public enemy No.1 in Cleveland right now, but he had the right in his contract and used it to his advantage. Playing in Arlington for half of his games, his numbers could inflate and help him inflate his earnings when he reaches free agency after the 2017 season.
Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs: $10MM club option, $2MM buyout
Hammel has been excellent in 2016, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 21 starts. In his career, Hammel has a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 399.2 innings while wearing a Cubs’ uniform and a 4.77 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in any other uniform. He needs to be in Chicago and Chicago needs him in their rotation, as the incredible talent within their system that continues rising to the majors aren’t talented on the mound. Hammel is a bargain with his production in a Cubs’ uniform.
There are several additional players with options that you can find at MLB Trade Rumors. It looks like the 2016-2017 offseason will be very trade-heavy as teams try to structure their rosters with talent without unloading gobs of cash on talent that may not be quite as talented as your typical market. In addition to that, the 2017-2018 market could have an even slower market with Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jose Fernandez heading towards free agency after the 2018 season.
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!
2015 Projected Record: 81-81 (2nd in the AL Central, 16th in MLB)
Manager: Terry Francona (177-147 in two seasons with Cleveland, 1,206-1,062 in 14 seasons overall)
After having a breakout campaign in 2013, Kipnis crashed back to earth in 2014. Much of that can be attributed to an attrition in BABIP, which fell from .345 in 2013 to .288 in 2014, as well as his production against left-handed pitching, which fell from .308/.370/.480 in 2013 to .208/.256/.244 in 2014; though, he dealt with tendon damage to a finger in his left hand (which he had surgery on over the offseason), which can also take some blame. Kipnis, however, has a career .246/.313/.343 triple-slash in 688 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, so it is fair to wonder if his 2013 production was an outlier. Still, a healthy Kipnis was one of the top second basemen in MLB, and at just 28 in April, the Indians should have several more productive, 2013-like seasons left out of one of their stars.
While Indians fans will beg and moan for super-prospect SS Francisco Lindor to get called up to Cleveland quickly, they may be surprised, with patience, at the type of production that the Tribe can get from this 5’9″ speedster. He was an upgrade over Asdrubal Cabrera at short over the second half of the season, and, perhaps, the second half explosion of the club’s pitching staff could be tied to his elevation to full-timer at the position. Still, the Indians and their fans shouldn’t be so quick to write Ramirez off as a space-holder for Lindor, as the 22-year-old (yes, he’s quite young) has a little pop and plenty of speed, providing defensive value and enough offensive production to be capable of an everyday role, for this year and down the road. His .262/.300/.346 line in 2014 may not look all that special, but he has shown a knack for making quality contact and a patient approach that wasn’t evident in his 266 plate appearances last season. Ramirez is a sneaky-good pick in fantasy leagues, as his speed and skills will play up in a very talented Indians lineup.
Offseason Overview: The Tribe added RHP Gavin Floyd on a one-year, $4 million deal. He promptly injured his elbow, needing season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his elbow. The Indians also took a chance on RHP Shaun Marcum, who signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite, which seemed to be the route the Indians took to add depth to the roster, as they continued with minor league deals with LHP Scott Downs, OF Jerry Sands, C Adam Moore, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and LHP Bruce Chen. The biggest move of the offseason was the acquisition of 1B/OF Brandon Moss, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for minor league second baseman Joe Wendle. Moss brings a powerful, left-handed bat to a lineup that was quite productive in 2014, ranking 11th in MLB in runs scored (669). With 1B/DH/veteran leadership provider Jason Giambi, who missed most of the season due to being old, retiring, the core of the Indians’ 85-win team is still around, while the 25th spot on the roster seems much more capable of producing “actual value” to the club.
The Verdict: PECOTA was way, way off on the Indians projection, in my opinion. This is an 88-90-win team, at the minimum, and should be considered the favorite to take the American League Central, even with the Tigers still playing baseball and the White Sox vastly improved. You can doubt whether RHP Corey Kluber can possibly repeat his Cy Young 2014 season, but you’d also have to expect regression from Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House, and Danny Santana, who combined to go 17-13 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 282:76 K:BB over 285.1 second half innings. The bullpen is very good, as LHP Nick Hagadone seems to have finally found himself, while RHP Cody Allen looked as dominant as Craig Kimbrel last season as the closer, but, as always with bullpens, you never know what to expect from year-to-year. With Zach McAllister, Marcum, and Josh Tomlin possibly landing outside of the rotation, a move to the bullpen adds further depth for the Tribe. The offense is solid and the Indians will likely get continued production from OF Michael Brantley, though it is unlikely to be at the MVP-levels that he showed last season, while 1B Carlos Santana finally has a position and his bat will continue to take off. They have an excellent catcher in Yan Gomes, whose arm and bat have insane power in them. If 3B Lonnie Chisenhall is as good as he was last season, and the Indians get healthy seasons out of Moss, OF Michael Bourn, and Kipnis, Cleveland is as good as any team in baseball.
Because so many people are clamoring over what I think, I figured it was time to make my All-Star ballot public, while filling up the rosters so that each team is represented. Feel free to ridicule and taunt my choices if you wish, but you’ll have to defend yourself.
I did this last year and it was interesting, as they were mostly useless guesses as opposed to valuable predictions. However, with days until real games begin, I figured that I would join in the fun of putting this out there so that we can all look back and see just how wrong I was when October rolls around. Let the incorrectness begin!
I’m buying the upgrades to the Jays roster. A great improvement to the pitching staff, and just in time to pounce on an AL East division where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don’t look like major factors. While the Rays and Orioles look to maintain success without a huge payroll increase, the Jays will utilize their awesome blend of speed, power, and rotation depth to take the crown in the East.
How do you improve a lineup that had Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in it a season ago? Well, by signing Josh Hamilton, of course! The Angels could be the best offensive team in baseball, but they’ll need to be, after seemingly taking the “we-will-outscore-your-team-because-we-don’t-have-pitching” way of building a roster. After losing out of Zack Greinke, the club traded for Tommy “my shoulder is gonna rip off of my body at any moment” Hanson, signing Joe Blanton, and trading for Jason Vargas, who could benefit from continuing his career in another pitcher-friendly ballpark. The Halos have enough offense to overcome their pitching shortcomings, though, and could easily manage to score about 6-8 runs per game.
AL Wild Cards
Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays
The Rangers may have lost Josh Hamilton, but they still have a dynamic offense, led by Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre. While it is highly unlikely that Lance Berkman can truly fill the shoes of Hamilton, he is just a season removed from revitalizing his career in St. Louis. Can he do it again? Well, if he can’t, the club will need more from their rotation, which is solid, but not nearly a lock to be great as others in the AL. Yu Darvish is the anchor, but with Matt Harrison‘s low strikeout rates, one has to wonder if he can maintain the 32 wins and 3.34 ERA that he has put up the last two seasons. Derek Holland needs to bounce back, as well, if Texas is to be taken seriously. If they don’t get the right breaks, this could easily be the Oakland Athletics, once again.
While everyone will focus on the huge trades that brought the club Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, and others, Bautista will be the spark plug to the offense due to his tremendous power and ability to get on base. With his wrist fully recovered and a dynamic lineup around him, opposing clubs will be forced to pitch to the slugger, which will result is a season that should resemble his 2010 and 2011 seasons, with overwhelming power and run producing statistics.
To say that Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball would be an understatement. He turned 30 years old in February and since 2008, he has gone 89-48 with a 3.28 ERA over 1,154.2 innings, and while those numbers have been outmatched by only CC Sabathia in the American League (91-39 with a 3.11 ERA), Verlander seems to have a pretty tight grip on the best pitcher in MLB title for the moment. While Yu Darvish and David Price begin to catch up to him, Verlander will hold control it for another season, with another 20-win season and an ERA under 3.00 for the Tigers.
While he actually has very little to do with the drastic changes that the Indians have undergone this offseason (that honor belongs to GM Chris Antonetti), Terry Francona will get a lot of credit for the Indians posting their first winning season since their 2007 ALCS appearance. Manny Acta never seemed capable of keeping successful starts going over the 162-game season, but Francona’s resume proves that he is capable of that, regardless of the 2011 Boston Red Sox collapse. While the Tribe won’t make the playoffs, they will be very competitive and, possibly, be a nuisance to the Tigers in the AL Central for most of the season. For that, Francona will deserve the honor for making a Cleveland sports franchise matter again.
AL Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
He won’t start the season with the major league club, but Myers will be up in June, once the Rays can guarantee that he won’t gain Super Two arbitration eligibility, taking over the left field job from Matt Joyce, while manning right field when Ben Zobrist goes to second or short. Myers exploded in the minors last season, hitting an absurd .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs between the Royals’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. While he could work on his contact rate (he struck out 140 times in 522 at-bats), Myers is a much needed offensive force for the Rays, who need someone besides Evan Longoria and Zobrist to produce consistently. Expect a .260/.320/.460 line with nearly 20 home runs if Myers gets the call in June, which should be good enough to win the AL ROY with Jurickson Profar waiting for a shot in Triple-A for the Rangers and so few players getting an opportunity early in the 2013 season.
What do you get when you take an outstanding team without a leadoff hitter and you add a guy with a lifetime .386 on-base percentage in that spot? You get a team with a very bad defensive outfield that plays in a hitters paradise and the 2013 version of the Cincinnati Reds. Shin-Soo Choo could be a liability in center, but his offensive skills fit perfectly into the Reds lineup. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto will need some help from Choo and Ryan Ludwick, but with a very good starting rotation and great depth in the bullpen with the move of Aroldis Chapman back to closer, the Reds will battle the Nationals for the best record in MLB in 2013.
NL West Champion
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the Dodgers, I’m buying. The addition of Zack Greinke was huge, but the trade with the Boston Red Sox that brought Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, along with their massive contracts, to the Dodgers will begin paying dividends this season. While the Hanley Ramirez thumb injury is a slight issue to start the season, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are the right kind of awesome to overcome any issues like that. The Dodgers have great pitching depth, unless they make a trade in the next few days, to overcome any further arm issues for Chad Billingsley, and their bullpen is lights out, with flame-thrower Kenley Jansen sharing end-game duties with Brandon League…until Don Mattingley sees what everyone else does and puts Jansen there full-time. This team is dangerous if they stay healthy. The pitching is deep, but an injury to Crawford, Kemp, or Andre Ethier will cost them the division to the San Francisco Giants.
NL Wild Cards
Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals
The Atlanta Braves have an incredible roster. If Chipper Jones had hung around one more season, they may have had a chance at another World Series title for the old man. Unfortunately, Jones finally retired and third could be the clubs only weak spot, as Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson will share the job in 2013. The addition of B.J. Upton and Justin Upton will make the offense even more dangerous, as Jason Heyward continues to become one of the best players in baseball. Freddie Freeman got his eye issues worked out, so he will also improve in 2013, while the club will rely on a deep rotation, that will only get better when Brandon Beachy returns in June or July. By then, the Braves could have a very difficult choice, especially after seeing Julio Teheran thrive this spring, as someone will have to be removed from the rotation if the club is healthy. As far as the bullpen goes, one name is all you need: Craig Kimbrel.
The Cardinals continue to stick around and be contenders, even after losing Albert Pujols a season ago and, potentially, losing Chris Carpenter for the entire 2013 season. Adam Wainwright should re-establish himself as an ace this season, while Allen Craig will show that he is an MVP-caliber player if he would just stay healthy. Speaking of health, could fantasy baseball nerds be any more excited for the first of Carlos Beltran‘s injuries in 2013? If you don’t know why, you need to look up super-prospect Oscar Taveras. The Cards seem to have an endless supply of young arms, as well, as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez arrive and establish themselves in the majors.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Votto will do one of two things: 1) Post an on-base percentage approaching .500 (.474 in 2012) while never seeing a pitch worth hitting, or 2) Post numbers close to his 2010 MVP season (.324/.424/.600, 37 home runs) while earning his 2nd MVP. The Reds are going to have Votto hitting No.3 again, and with Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips hitting in front of him, Votto will easily exceed his career-high 113 RBI this season. With his knee healthy and a tremendous lineup and hitter’s paradise as a home ballpark, Joey Votto will win the NL MVP in 2013.
You can take Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, while I go off the board (or rocker) to choose Madison Bumgarner for NL Cy Young. After tiring at the end of the 2012 season, Bumgarner knows that he has a lot to prove. Add on the fact that his WHIP fell from 1.21 in 2011 to 1.11 in 2012, and you can see that the 23-year-old left-hander can not only miss bats (191 K’s in each of the last two seasons), but he isn’t allowing many hits or walks. With a pitcher-friendly ballpark and loads of expectations on him due to his fall-off late last season, Bumgarner will show that he shouldn’t be overlooked due to Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum being on the same roster.
There isn’t a whole lot to like about the Padres roster. They don’t have a superstar on the front of a video game, they don’t have a player that shows up to the MLB Fan Cave with an infamous twitter account, but they have an interesting team and a better manager. Bud Black can get a lot out of the club that he has. While the team will continue to struggle to score runs, at times, Chase Headley could provide enough power to get runs in bunches, and Yonder Alonso could thrive with the fences being moved in at Petco. Solid speed and gap power throughout the lineup will make the Padres a surprise team in 2013, and while the rotation is more patchwork than well thought out, the bullpen is tremendous, as it always seems to be. If the Friars can get anything out of Andrew Cashner, Clayton Richard, and Eric Stults, they’ll be a team capable of 82-85 wins, which isn’t playoff worthy, but worth giving Bud Black an award for.
NL Rookie of the Year
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
You don’t get called a left-handed version of Vladimir Guerrero and get overlooked, and Taveras is that special of a talent. Like I mentioned above, once Carlos Beltran gets hurt (as in it IS going to happen), Taveras would, more than likely, get the call. Not only a Beltran injury, but an under performing Jon Jay could even be replaced by the super-prospect, as Taveras played 93 games in center for the Cards Double-A affiliate in 2012. Taveras will get enough at-bats to be valuable and he could do that as a fourth outfielder once June rolls around, but once he is in St. Louis, he won’t be leaving town for several years. A pure hitter in every sense of the label.
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals defeat Los Angeles Angels, 4-2
Random, Bold Predictions
There is no rhyme or reason here, just as the title says:
Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940.
Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases.
Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases.
Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227.
Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013.
Mike Minor proves that his second half from 2012 (6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP over 87.1 IP) wasn’ a fluke, as he becomes the Braves best starting pitcher in 2013.
Jordan Zimmerman has a more impressive 2013 season than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and he will no longer be overlooked in a fantastic Washington rotation.
Brandon Belt continues hitting like he has all spring, ripping 25 home runs after having a power outage in the earlier stages of his career (16 in 598 at-bats).
Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy and benefits from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler having All Star seasons to hit 40 home runs, making all of those fantasy baseball players that took him in the first round feel like the smartest men alive.
Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI.
Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta.
Domonic Brown keeps the Phillies left field job all season and posts a .270/.380/.450 line with solid production across the board. Philly fans hit Ruben Amaro, Jr. with batteries for not trusting in him sooner.
Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder.
Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong.
Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career.
Rick Porcello wins 17 games with a 3.20 ERA while striking out 180 batters…all because he began using his four-seam fastball for the first time in his career.
These guys are about to go bonkers in 2013. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…(obvious names not listed, i.e. Harper, Brown, Braun, Ike Davis)
This has nothing to do with the Top 100 Prospects that I put out in December, 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.
I write about the Indians over at www.wahoosonfirst.com and Bleacher Report when I’m not writing things here. You should check these out, just in case you need something to read while the sky is falling due to a lazy Mayan:
Whether they are rookies, players who may have had a surprising second half in 2012, or a feeling, here are players you will want to look out for in the 2013 MLB season.
Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas Rangers
Jurickson Profar posted an amazing season at the age of 19 in Double-A in 2012, compiling a .281/.368/.452 line with 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, and 16 stolen bases for Frisco. He had 17 at-bats with the Rangers at the end of the season. Profar is about as ready as any prospect could be, even though he will be just 20 in February. The question will be: where does he play? With Ian Kinsler at second, Elvis Andrus at short, and Adrian Beltre at third, will the Rangers move Profar or make a deal? Perhaps moving Kinsler to left if or when Josh Hamilton leaves via free agency is an option. Regardless, Profar is a hitting machine who can get on base, a rarity for someone so young.
Ruf was “old” for Double-A in 2012, but you still have to appreciate his .317/.408/.620 line and his 38 home runs. Fans should be aware of the fact that he hit three home runs and posted a 1.079 OPS in 33 at-bats for the Phillies at the end of the season. More importantly, he is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, learning to play the outfield, and he is still raking, having hit nine bombs with a .994 OPS in 76 at-bats. With Ryan Howard locked in at first base, the 6’3″, 220 pounder out of Creighton will need to play elsewhere. As the Phillies make changes with their roster after dealing Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in 2012, it will be interesting to see how much of an opportunity Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Company will provide the slugging right-handed hitter.
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins
Stanton is an absolute freak. Standing 6’5″, 245 pounds, the slugger just turned 23 at the beginning of November and he already has 93 career home runs. Stanton hit 37 home runs in 2012 in just 449 at-bats, including 18 in just 43 games and 164 at-bats in the second half of 2012. Stanton’s 1.057 OPS in the second half was only behind Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, both players worthy of their league MVP awards. I felt that 2012 was the year that Stanton could get to 50 home runs, and had he not missed 39 games, he very well could have reached that total. If he keeps his knees healthy, Stanton could be on his way to catching asterisks, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, or any other slugger in history.
San Diego is where pitchers go to revive their careers and where hitters go to die, but don’t tell Headley that. The 28-year-old switch-hitter erupted in the second half of 2012, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 289 at-bats, while posting a career best .875 OPS, 31 home runs, and an NL-leading 115 RBI. Headley’s name was mentioned all over the place at the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, but with the Padres moving the fences in at Petco and Headley under team control for two more years, it would take a significant haul to pry away the star third baseman. However, the Padres have dealt the likes of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, and Adrian Gonzalez in the past due to salaries, so Headley may only be more impressive if he ends up playing elsewhere in 2013.
Wil Myers has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. In 2012, Myers hit .314/.387/.600 between Double-A and Triple-A, mashing 37 home runs and driving in 109 runs. Myers doesn’t even turn 22 until December, so the future is bright. The Royals, brilliantly, have Jeff Francoeur signed through 2013 in right, Alex Gordon signed through 2016 (counting the team option) in left, and Lorenzo Cain in center. Myers played 87 games in center in 2012 but he profiles better in a corner. With Billy Butler entrenched at DH and Eric Hosmer needing a bounce-back in 2013, where will the Royals find room for this future All-Star? Another trade is possible, but, more likely, Frenchy could be headed to the pine.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
The A’s won the AL West in 2012 and shocked the world. After trading away Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for a load of prospects, Billy Beane and Oakland ownership won the 2012 offseason by landing the Cuban-defector, Cespedes. While he was a free-swinger (102 strikeouts), Cespedes could also take a walk (43 BB, .356 OBP), becoming an immediate impact player for the A’s. Cespedes exploded in the second half of 2012, posting a .909 OPS, 14 doubles, 14 home runs, and even stealing 10 bases. The overall line, .292/.356/.505, was enhanced down the stretch, .311/.376/.533, so this could be the beginning of a fantastic career. The pure power and speed that Cespedes offers makes him a potentially elite outfielder, MVP candidate, and a superstar, which the A’s needed so badly.
When you go 14-0 with a 0.08 ERA in your senior year of high school, you must have some solid stuff. Odorizzi still has the stuff, a broad repertoire that had many linking his pitches and command to Greg Maddux when he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. A major part of the Zack Greinke deal, Odorizzi went 15-5 with a 3.08 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012 before making two starts for the Royals in September. Odorizzi has the stuff to become a solid No.2 starter for the Royals, and with Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy working their way back from elbow surgery, and only Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Ervin Santana, Will Smith, and Luke Hochevar in front of him, Odorizzi should begin making an impact early into the 2013 season. He may end up striking out about 170 batters over 200 innings in his prime, while keeping the ball in the park and runners off the bases due to his control.
After an anemic .221/.339/.336 line in the first half, Santana broke out in the second half of 2012, hitting .281/.389/.498 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 46 RBI, and a 41:45 K:BB in 263 at-bats. Santana will turn the magical age of 27 in April, and the catcher, signed through 2017 for the Indians, could continue to establish himself as a dynamic offensive catcher, wearing the No.41 of his mentor, Victor Martinez, with pride. Defensively, Santana allowed 10 passed balls (most in the AL) and threw out only 26 percent of would-be base stealers, so he may not be a catcher much longer if he doesn’t improve behind the dish.
Gregg Dobbs is all that is standing between Zack Cox and the Miami Marlins everyday third base job. While Cox posted a disappointing .254/.301/.409 line over 394 at-bats in 2012, he was rated by Baseball America as the best pure college hitter in the 2010 MLB Draft, prior to being taken 25th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. While he has been a bit of a disappointment to this point, especially with his plate discipline, Cox will only turn 24 years old next May. Considering his pedigree, the fact that the Marlins acquired the third baseman for Edward Mujica was surprising. While there may be growing pains, Cox is probably better right now than what Dobbs could provide over the entire 2013 season.
6-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 80:15 K:BB over 65 innings from August through the end of the season. Then, 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and an 18:3 K:BB in 11 innings against the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees…Scherzer was a beast down the stretch. He lost his only World Series start against the San Francisco Giants, but Scherzer became a reliable piece to complement Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, stabilizing an amazing group of pitchers collected by the Detroit Tigers. Scherzer was third in the majors (behind James Shields, Verlander, and tied with Clayton Kershaw) in strikeouts in the second half (110), while winning a career-best 16 games in 2012. Scherzer will turn 29 in July and he is arbitration-eligible for the second time. After earning $3.75 million in 2012, Tigers ownership may want to consider locking the mis-matched eyed starter into a long-term contract.