Results tagged ‘ Cleveland Indians ’
The Cleveland Indians may be 22-26 and in last place in the American League Central going into Saturday night’s game in Seattle, but the club has 114 games remaining to make up their 7.5 game deficit to reach the top of the division, which is something that many, including myself, thought was possible going into the season. The club was nine games under .500 on May 18th prior to starting a six game winning streak, and things finally look to be heading in the right direction after the Tribe went 7-14 in April. The Indians can thank reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and second baseman Jason Kipnis for their sudden return to relevancy.
In his first seven starts of the 2015 season, the Indians went 0-7 in Kluber’s starts, while Kluber, himself, was 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 44.2 innings. It was easy for people to think that Kluber had a career year, as he appeared to be tumbling towards the irrelevancy that some may have thought he came from leading into his incredible 2014 season; however, Kluber was still showing positive signs throughout his struggles, including his 9.27 K:9 and 3.15 FIP. Things took off for Kluber on May 13, and, over his last four starts, he has been as dominant as he has ever been in his career:
Those totals leave Kluber with a 1.41 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, a 1.17 FIP, and an incredible 50:2 K:BB over his last 32 innings. Kluber’s 18 strikeout game on May 13 is the highest game score of season to this point by a whopping seven points. Kluber appears to be on track to get the all-important win-loss column back in order, for the weakest of baseball minds, but it appears that things are breaking the way that they should have been all season for the dominant right-hander.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 30, 2015
While Kluber has been dominating on the mound, Kipnis has taken over the lead-off role for the Indians’ offense and become an offensive force. Since moving there on April 26, Kipnis is hitting .400/.494/.669 over 156 plate appearances, ripping 14 doubles, three triples, and five home runs, while driving in 20 runs and posting an 18:18 K:BB. His .434 BABIP over that time screams regression, but his production screams a return to his healthy, capable levels that he showcased in 2013, prior to his injury-riddled 2014 catastrophe. Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma detailed the trends that have allowed Kipnis to return to All-Star level production in a recent piece, stating how his health, mechanical adjustments, hitting lead-off, facing fewer lefties, and seeing more fastballs, have all played a roll in his recent outburst.
While Kluber and Kipnis have done their part to get the Indians back on track, the club still needs to overcome some weaknesses and struggles. The Tribe have gone just 10-17 against AL Central foes, including 1-5 against the Detroit Tigers. Additionally, Cleveland could use more consistent production out of everyday players Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Moss, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, who have gone a combined 66-for-323 (.204) in May. While Santana continues to get on base (19 walks and a .356 OBP), the team must find ways to get production out of more players than Kipnis to rise up from the division cellar.
The Indians certainly have the talent to be relevant, and, with time on their side, they’ll continue to ride Kipnis and Kluber to compete and be contenders in 2015.
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)
Bounce-back Player: 2B Jason Kipnis
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.
Fantasy Player to Watch: SS Jose Ramirez
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.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) March 25, 2015
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.
- 2015 Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Atlanta Braves (2/28/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Baltimore Orioles (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago Cubs (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago White Sox (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Cincinnati Reds (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Colorado Rockies (2/24/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Houston Astros (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals (2/25/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Milwaukee Brewers (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Minnesota Twins (2/21/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: New York Mets (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Philadelphia Phillies (2/20/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates (3/22/2015)
- Season Previews: Miami Marlins (3/25/2015)
I’ll be on a 10-day hiatus with little to no internet access, so I figured I would link to the articles that I am most proud of over my three years of running the site. Additionally, feel free to check out Wahoo’s on First, a Cleveland Indians’ blog, where I am co-editor, and you’ll be able to hear podcasts, read about the trade deadline, and other Tribe news. Thanks for finding me and enjoy the second half!
2014 Top 50 Mid-Season Prospects: Self explanatory title.
The Sudden Emergence of J.D. Martinez: A look at the breakout Tigers’ outfielder.
The Flaw of Sabermetrics: How WAR Can Ruin Payrolls: Can the statistic of Wins Above Replacement take a larger role in free agency, and, if it can, how could that ruin the game or increase spending to new heights?
Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you watched the All-Star Game, you may have heard. Why is it really such a big deal?
Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness: I interview Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe and discussed Guerrero’s Hall of Fame resume, along with how his JAWS system compares him to other greats.
Pitchers Who Won’t Come Up Short: Short pitchers that throw hard – it’s a thing, but so is the label of not being able to hold up due to their height.
Jack Morris: Why He Isn’t a Hall of Famer: Self explanatory.
MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for “Small-Markets”: Don’t tell the fans you don’t have the money when this is out there.
2014 Top 100 MLB Prospects: The preseason list.
When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames at pitcher, solid plate discipline, gap power, and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone, and while you can’t judge projection much while just using numbers, players have to produce to move up. Working with numbers alone worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.
Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Not since Tony Cingrani dominated the California League to the tune of a 1.11 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 10 starts in 2012 have the Reds had a pitcher doing what Lively is doing this season. Since being drafted out of Central Florida last season, the 6’4″ right-hander has done nothing but dominate at each stop. The control is legit and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him jump to Double-A Pensacola in the next couple of weeks, moving him on the fast tracks to the majors, while joining Robert Stephenson as a member of the Blue Wahoo rotation.
Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York Mets
Bowman is a Princeton product and, if nothing else, his intelligence could lead to long-term success; however, he seems to have some talen, as well. He is creently dominating Double-A for the Mets and continuing in his ability to keep runners off the base paths at every stop. With his continued ability to throw strikes, the Mets could team Bowman with Rafael Montero in New York to have young, strike-throwing machines within the rotation.
Matt Boyd, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
He’s left-handed and breathing, so he will get a long look, but Boyd has posted some pretty impressive numbers in his brief professional career. The strikeout totals are impressive for a southpaw, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Jays move him considering his collegiate pedigree.
|A (1 season)||A||0||1||0.64||3||14.0||7||1||1||0||1||12||0.571||4.5||0.6||7.7||12.00|
|A+ (2 seasons)||A+||4||2||1.54||7||41.0||25||7||7||3||8||48||0.805||5.5||1.8||10.5||6.00|
Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler get a lot of hype for their abilities, results, and projection within the Rockies’ system, but Winkler continues to post solid strikeout totals and numbers in tough environments on his way up the organizational ladder. His early-season results have been quite impressive once again, as he gets a longer look at Double-A after making just five starts in Tulsa in 2013.
Seth Streich, RHP, Oakland A’s
A 6’3″ right-hander out of Ohio University, Streich has put up solid numbers in the challenging pitching environment of the California League in the early-going of 2014. Improved strikeout numbers are evident, but, most importantly, he is keeping the ball in the park. With the A’s having to deal with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them push some of their college arms who are posting solid numbers.
Ryan Merritt, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Merrit’s early-season success is very impressive, particularly the one earned run in 24.1 innings. He doesn’t miss enough bats to be considered an elite prospect within the Tribe system, but if he continues to keep runs off of the board, perhaps he could be a solid back-end of the rotation starter. You could view him as a Tommy Milone-like arm.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid pitching prospect for an absolutely loaded system, Gonzales is a southpaw out of Gonzaga on the fast track to St. Louis. With a lack of left-handed options within the Cardinals’ rotation due to the constant shoulder woes of Jaime Garcia, his selection was a wise choice for the perennial contenders. Gonzales will be a solid addition to the Cardinal rotation, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the youngster end up making a dozen starts in Double-A this season.
Stephen Landazuri, RHP, Seattle Mariners
At just 6′, 175 pounds, Landazuri is going to have to overcome the same “too short” labels that have landed upon Roy Oswalt, Johnny Cueto, Kris Medlen, and flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. When he isn’t pitching in a challenging environment (like the Northwest League and the California League), Landazuri has posted very impressive numbers. Now, a younger-than-average starter in Double-A, the righty is striking out more than a batter per inning and keeping the opposition from getting on with just 4.7 hits per nine innings and a 0.65 WHIP after four starts. He’s someone to watch within the Mariners rotation in 2014, as they try to work through injuries to Hashashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton.
Chad Pinder, 2B, Oakland A’s
Pinder, a shortstop at Virginia Tech, has moved to second base this season and he has produced solid numbers in the early-going in the hitter-friendly Cal League. His 17 extra-base hits in just 24 games is impressive for anyone, let alone a middle infielder. With Eric Sogard occupying second at the major league level, Pinder could be a viable long-term option for the A’s in the next couple of seasons. Another few weeks of this type of production, and Pinder could be moved to Double-A very quickly.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Everyone should already know his name thanks to his 40 home runs at the age of 19 in his first full season. The fact that he is showing some semblance of plate discipline this season while still showcasing his elite-level power makes Gallo one of the top prospects in the minor leagues right now. With so many slugging, elite prospects suffering through injuries this season (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Javier Baez are all currently disabled), Gallo will shoot up mid-season prospect lists with similar months. His long-term outlook will only beam brighter due to his ballpark and offensive projection for the Rangers.
Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees
Due to Gary Sanchez being in Double-A, O’Brien was forced to return to the Florida State League, but he hasn’t disappointed, posting solid power numbers in Tampa, though, he is a bit old for the league at this point. O’Brien’s ability to hit for power should make him a decent option for, at least, a backup catching spot. He’d likely have a better career than J.P. Arencibia, who could hit for power and couldn’t walk at the same clip that O’Brien has over his brief career. If he continues to hit like he has, the Yankees may move him off of catcher or use him as trade bait.
Jonathan Rodriguez, 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid hitter found by the St. Louis Cardinals scouting department out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Rodriguez has handled the corner infield positions throughout his minor league career, but he has only played first in 2014. With Matt Adams ahead of him, another season of solid production will likely make him trade bait for St. Louis. Solid gap power, a solid approach, and good contact skills will make this right-handed bat a decent platoon player in a worst case scenario.
Ryan Rua, 3B, Texas Rangers
The Rangers system may not be as loaded as it was in years past due to the failure of so many elite prospects in 2013 in Hickory with their huge strikeout numbers, but Rua can’t be grouped in with those players any longer. He is raking in Double-A now, skipping the High-A level with his assignment this season and his brief promotion last year. There seems to be his continued power with early improvements in his plate discipline, and with Adrian Beltre potentially becoming a free agent after 2015 (he has a $16 million vesting option for 2016), Rua could be Gallo to the hot corner in Texas.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Betts is already nothing more than trade bait in Boston, given that he profiles as a second baseman and Dustin Pedroia has that spot locked down through 2021. Betts has incredible bat-to-ball skills, tremendous plate discipline, and solid speed. With his early-season production in Double-A at the age of 21, the Red Sox may be able to utilize this chip for an elite addition if they are making another playoff run in 2014.
Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners
I love this guy’s name and he has some intriguing tools that could even play in Seattle. His plate discipline isn’t elite, but there is enough there to be , and he has enough power and speed in his 6’5″ frame to be a very good producer, and, after being selected three times in the draft, he must have something in his game to make him an intriguing name to follow.
Maybe this is an overreaction, but Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers appears to be crippling the future of the team by making some strange trades. Certainly, Towers has many years of experience, holding the San Diego Padres GM position from 1995 through the 2009 season before being fired in October, then taking over in the desert in late September of 2010. As with any operational move completed by a baseball franchise, some will work and some won’t, but the last three major moves by Towers appear to be crumbling the foundation of long-term success for the Diamondbacks.
When the club acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels last week, they added a powerful bat, but they also added a first baseman and designated hitter who will be playing the outfield, as current first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, was already present and had an MVP-caliber season in 2013. The Diamondbacks first had to acquire an additional arm to trade to the Angels, and they did so by dealing Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox for left-handed starter Hector Santiago. Towers then packaged Santiago with 22-year-old prospect Tyler Skaggs, who was rated the No.10 prospect in baseball by MLB.com prior to the 2013 season, in the deal for Trumbo, while acquiring a couple of fringy players, outfielder Brandon Jacobs and right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel, as players who were named later in the deal. Eaton, who turned 25 in early December, was listed as the Diamondbacks’ starting centerfielder prior to the deal, and he has been supplanted by A.J. Pollock, who turned 26 in early December and appears to have a lot of Drew Stubbs to his game (solid defender, good power and speed, and a lot of swing and miss). Eaton was highly regarded by many saber-guys for his .450 career minor league on-base percentage and .951 OPS, and giving him up for Santiago, a back-end rotation starter (along with his five years of team-control), to acquire Trumbo was odd, but then Towers moved Skaggs. While Skaggs was pretty terrible in a very difficult league for pitchers in 2013 (4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), he managed to strikeout 9.3 batters per nine as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. After watching Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran go from a 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as a 21-year-old in Triple-A in 2012 to 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as a 22-year-old in the majors in 2013, could the Diamondbacks have just given up the arm that they appear to now covet in free agency, as they have been rumored to be interested in both Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka. Power may be in short supply around the league and you may never know how a prospect will turn out, but if Arizona had kept Skaggs and Eaton and signed Shin-Soo Choo, wouldn’t they be just as likely to contend?
Speaking of a powerful bat…
With power in such short supply, as Kevin Towers so boldly claimed after acquiring Trumbo, wouldn’t dealing Justin Upton and his team-friendly contract, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury have been considered a bad idea when using that philosophy? There were a lot of underlying issues that led to the Diamondbacks apparent “need” to deal Upton last off-season, but, considering the type of prospect that they just gave up to get a player with a career .768 OPS, shouldn’t Towers have aimed higher in dealing Upton, who has a career .830 OPS? Certainly, Martin Prado is a fine player and his versatility is very useful, but his bat doesn’t play all that well as a full-time third baseman, where he will be playing in 2014, and heading into his age-30 season, it is fair to wonder if he should have been the centerpiece in an Upton deal, especially as Upton enters his age-26 season in 2014, making him younger than even Trumbo! If power is so valuable, why would Upton not be worth a legitimate prospect and a player, considering his contract and disregarding whatever “issues” were making him so useless to Arizona?
Furthermore, the trade that sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians for Lars Anderson (designated for assignment on 1/24/2013), Tony Sipp (designated for assignment on 11/20/2013), and Didi Gregorius is just as questionable as the package that is highlighted by Skaggs. Bauer was rated as the No.14 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season and the Diamondbacks seemed to sour on him due to his desire to train and prepare in a way that is strange to nearly all people who have had the pleasure of viewing him, with long-tossing from foul pole to foul pole and a crow hop seed from the pitchers mound to the catcher as his first warm-up pitch being a part of his hour long pitching preparation. Still, at just 23 on Opening Day of 2014, his long-term outlook is very good and drafting Bauer 3rd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft and dealing him nearly 18 months later for a slap-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop seems very odd, even with defensive metrics and shortstop values being taken into consideration. When looking at the value that the Indians received in Shaw and Albers, along with the fact that the Diamondbacks no longer roster two players that they received in the deal, this was a steal by the Cleveland Indians…and that is all before looking at how Gregorius may lose the everyday shortstop job to a prospect who was in house when the Bauer deal happened, Chris Owings, since Aaron Hill won’t be giving up the second base job.
It is easy to question the style that a franchise is taking and it is even easier to say that you could make better deals than your favorite team’s general manager, but when you consider the recent track record of Kevin Towers in Arizona, most fantasy baseball managers agree – they could do a better job. Is Arizona now the New York Yankees of the west, trading all of their top minor league talent to fill their major league holes? Well, the Yankees never seemed to give away their top prospects without certain, immediate help. Can the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers? Matching power with Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be an option, as a full season of Matt Kemp (if he isn’t traded), Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and others will likely make the Dodgers that much more dangerous, and Arizona doesn’t have enough “grit” to overcome the L.A. payroll and talent – especially when they are trading the pieces that could get them over the top for veterans who have shown what they can do. Trumbo and Prado aren’t winning the Diamondbacks any championships, and, while they will make Arizona a bit more competitive, it is the front-line, affordable pitching that would have helped the Diamondbacks slither into contention.
Kevin Towers doesn’t seem to have a clear philosophy of where he is taking the Diamondbacks, and if the moves that he has made this season don’t work out, it is fair to wonder if he can make intelligent decisions going forward for any organization, experience be damned.
Another free agency period is ahead with another Major League Baseball offseason. With so many superstars being signed to lucrative contracts with their existing clubs, players who reach free agency can make exorbitant amounts of money due to fewer players being available and television contracts that teams are using as revenue generating machines. With that being said, is a big-time contract a smart investment for a needy team this winter?
The Yankees as a Model
With Robinson Cano heading towards free agency after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees will be faced with a decision that could alter their original plan of getting under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold. With $92.4 million due to six players (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano (the Cubs are covering $13 of the $18 million owed to him), Mark Teixiera, Vernon Wells (the Angels are covering $18.6 of the $21 million owed to him), Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter (who has an $8 million player option), the Yankees, on the surface, appear to have some wiggle room in an offer to their superstar second baseman; however, the players mentioned above are the only players with guaranteed contracts next season.
Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Eduardo Nunez are all pre-arbitration, so they can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum, but the club will have to deal with David Huff, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jayson Nix, Shawn Kelley, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson within arbitration, and determine whether Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mark Reynolds, Boone Logan, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and/or Lyle Overbay are worthy of being tendered a qualifying offer prior to reaching free agency. With up to 19 spots available for next season, the remaining $96.6 million doesn’t appear to be going very far.
While relief could be on the way with a possible 2014 suspension for Alex Rodriguez, from which his $25 million contract would be forfeited, the long-term contracts that the Yankees have handed out like candy are now causing financial issues as the club’s attendance continues to decline (43,733 in 2012 vs. 40,002 in 2013) along with the talent of the aging players.
Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old and is owed $86 million over the next four years.
C.C. Sabathia is 32 years old and is owed $76 million over the next three seasons (including his 2017 buyout).
Mark Teixiera is 33 years old and is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons.
The three have been worth a combined WAR (Fangraphs) of 2.6 in 2013 while costing the Yankees $73.5 million in salaries. For comparisons sake, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson, San Diego outfielder Chris Denorfia, Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford have each posted a 2.6 WAR in 2013…individually. If the Yankees had all five players this season, they would have spent just under $16 million, about $6.5 million less than they spent on Teixiera alone in 2013!
Why These Contracts Don’t Make Sense
By investing large sums of money into veterans when they reach free agency in the post-steroid era, teams are taking immeasurable risks.
1) They are assuming that a high-performing player will be capable of producing into their mid-30’s, and…
2) They are assuming that the high-performing player will stay healthy enough to be worth the investment.
When a player reaches free agency, they have at least six years of major league experience. The player likely had three seasons of pre-arbitration followed by three years of arbitration prior to reaching free agency. Considering that most players make their debuts between the ages of 21 and 24, a free agent is typically between the ages of 27 and 30. The magic prime age in baseball is apparently going to happen in a player’s age-27 season, lasting roughly three to five seasons. A player has reached their physical peak at this point, which allows the player to utilize their various tools to take advantage of the opposition through the use of their experience and mental approaches gained through those experiences. When a multi-year contract is given to a player at the age of 30, say a five-year contract, and that player is then declining for nearly three-fifths of the contract, what is the value to the club? Without performance-enhancers, normal aging processes, such as shoulder fatigue for aging pitchers and chronic knee soreness for a veteran position player, become normal once again. Can teams count on a 39-year-old shortstop to play in 162 games? Ask Derek Jeter how his season went.
Unfortunate Recent Examples
Albert Pujols signed his ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following his age-31 season in St. Louis. To make the deal more affordable and to allow the Angels some financial flexibility, Pujols’ contract was heavily back-loaded, meaning he will be making the most money at the end of his contract when he is approaching or passing the age of 40. In fact, in Pujols’ tenth season with the Angels, he is scheduled to make $30 million, the highest annual salary within his contract. After making a combined $28 million in 2012 and 2013, Pujols’ contract will jump to $23 million in 2014 and climb $1 million each season before reaching $30 million in 2021.
However, Pujols hasn’t really lived up to the contract based on his production over the first 11 seasons in the majors, as he has posted the lowest WAR of his career in consecutive seasons (3.7 in 2012 and 0.7 in 2013). He was shutdown on August 19 due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia and he should be ready to go next season; however, since he isn’t undergoing surgery, how well will this injury heal? Although the tear supposedly did what the surgery would have, one has to wonder if it can be aggravated, torn further (since it is still a partial tear), and debilitating enough to plague Pujols throughout the remainder of his massive contract.
And what about the contract that the “small-market” Cincinnati Reds gave to Joey Votto? The Reds handed Votto a ten-year, $225 million extension in April of 2012. The contract hasn’t even started yet, as the first year of the extension will be the 2014 season, Votto’s age-30 season. For ten years, the Reds will hope that Votto will produce numbers similar to his 2010 MVP season, something that he hasn’t seemed capable of reproducing over the last three seasons, despite leading the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons, four including 2010. When you consider that the Reds are winning in 2013 and they still average just 31,479 in attendance (16th in MLB), how will the team be able to contend when Votto is making $25 million per season beginning in 2018, when he is 34 years old?
Even worse, the contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard received his extension in April of 2010 and it didn’t go into effect until the 2012 season, a five-year, $125 million deal that would begin in Howard’s age-32 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has played in 151 games while posting a .244/.307/.445 line with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, and a whopping 194 strikeouts in 609 plate appearances. The previous seven seasons, Howard had a .275/.368/.560 line with an average of 26 doubles, 41 home runs, and 123 RBI per season, and that was including his declining 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which Howard posted the lowest OPS of his career (.859 in 2010 and .835 in 2011)…that was, of course, until his dreadful 2012 season (.718 OPS).
The Problem With TV Deals
I was able to get a response from Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh when I asked him via Twitter, “Do you think MLB teams are going to shy away from mega contract due to the Pujols/Howard/Hamilton deals in post steroid era?” His response:
— Ben Lindbergh (@ben_lindbergh) September 6, 2013
The TV money, which was mentioned previously, is an interesting enhancement to the revenue stream for major league teams. With the Los Angeles Dodgers getting over $6 billion over 25 years from Time Warner in their TV deal, which will give the club nearly $240 million per year in revenue, the already crazy expenditures of the boys in blue could become even more egregious this winter. The club seems capable of locking up left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a contract worth $30 million per season or more this winter, AND signing Robinson Cano to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who has a $5.75 million option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. By taking on those types of contracts on top of the Carl Crawford ($20.25 million in 2014), Matt Kemp ($21 million in 2014), Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million in 2014), Zack Greinke ($26 million in 2014), and Andre Ethier ($15.5 million in 2014) deals, the Dodgers will be willingly entering the luxury tax threshold in an effort to win the World Series.
But what happens when money can’t buy titles? The New York Yankees seemed to always have the highest payroll in baseball and they haven’t won the title every season. Spending doesn’t quantify wins, it is, as Lindbergh referenced, the winner’s curse. This concept is outlined in Colin Wyers 2009 Baseball Prospectus piece titled The Real Curse, which Wyers states:
The market for baseball players seems to more closely resemble a sealed-bid auction than it does a market. Since the person who wins that sort of auction is typically the person with the largest bid, it stands to reason that the person who “wins” is in fact the person who overbids…
The curse is then being the winning bid on a contract that was probably more than what another team was willing to bid. By evaluating players and making smart investments, teams that break the curse are able to get production out of what they spend, while teams that suffer from the curse are those that fail to get production out of their investment, as in the suffering that the Cubs went through with Alfonso Soriano, the joint suffering of the Blue Jays and Angels over the Vernon Wells contract, and the Giants’ suffering through the Barry Zito contract.
When spending goes wrong, it can financially cripple a franchise, who is then responsible for allocating funds to an under-performing player while still trying to field a competitive team around that player. Teams seem more likely to take those types of risks, though. Due to the incoming revenue from the TV deals, teams like the Cleveland Indians, who celebrated the sale of the franchise owned SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports this winter by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, are more capable of making these potentially fatal bids.
Will the money continue to be there for clubs to take on these large, risky contracts?
Pete Kotz had an amazing story about the leagues finances, and while discussing television deals, he says:
With no one saying no, the networks see sports as a no-lose racket, with ESPN as its piper. The sports channel charges cable companies $5 a month per customer, by far the highest monthly fee in national television. While that may seem a pittance, it’s big money when spread over the 100 million U.S. households with pay TV. And it’s made the other big boys envious.
NBC and CBS have launched their own sports channels. Another from Fox is on the way. Even regional sports channels are starting to broach that $5 mark. Their bet is that viewers will always be willing to pay more. And more. And more.
…Today, the average TV bill rests at $86 per month, about half of which pays for sports programming. That’s more than double a decade ago. So it’s no coincidence that the cable and satellite industries have been jettisoning customers for nine years straight.
“I can’t tell you what will be the trigger,” says Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association. “But I am certain that at some point in the very near future, that balloon will burst.”
As cable and satellite customers are forced to pay more and they continue to leave those companies in an effort to save money, the money will eventually not be coming in. The cable and satellite companies will likely battle with the club’s networks to get lower rates, and there could be something drastic, like CBS being taken away from major markets. Eventually, the boom in finances and long-term contracts will go away and the inevitable crash will make it harder for clubs to make large financial commitments to star players. Imagine if the housing market was responsible for financing people’s salaries and when the market for home sales crashed how disastrous that could have been…but it did and it was miserable for the entire economy.
Major League Baseball is exempt from some things due to anti-trust laws, but nothing is too big to fail.
Who Is Worth a Mega-Contract?
It may seem easy to say that locking up players within their pre-arbitration or arbitration years to lucrative, long-term contracts seems more intelligent than waiting until free agency, as the annual salaries can slowly increase rather than starting and sitting at $25 million per year for eight straight seasons. A few examples of players who could be worth a long-term investment in this scenario:
- Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is earning $510,000 in 2013 and he is pre-arbitration in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If Trout continues his torrid pace for the next four seasons and reaches free agency in 2018 at the age of 26, what types of maniacal offers will he be receiving at that point?
- Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper signed a major league contract and will be arbitration eligible in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before reaching free agency at the age of 25 in 2019. Like Trout, he has posted absurd numbers, given his age, and, with Scott Boras as his current agent, could own half of a franchise based on what he will be offered in free agency.
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez, Marlins’ right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey (upon his return in 2015 from elbow surgery…if he is just as productive and dominant) are additional players who fit this mold.
Why are these types of players worth a long-term investment? Because they are young, producing prior to their prime years, and are more likely to continue producing towards the end of a 10 to 15 year extension than a player who turns 40 or 41 in year ten of their long-term contracts, like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.
These are the types of mega-contracts that seem more reasonable and realistic for franchises, while being less likely to provide a curse on the investing bidder. Because the player is within the grasp of the franchise already, the team has all kinds of data available to analyze, they have coaches and front office personnel who have strong relationships with the player, and the fan-base, media, and community surrounding the player are already familiar, so it could be assumed that there are fewer outside influences that could impact player performance.
Regardless of the potential that these younger players possess, any long-term contract remains a risk for the franchise. If the clubs suddenly refuse to offer these types of contracts, however, the league and its owners would likely be accused of collusion. The mega-contract isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite future reluctance to meet the demands of players and agents to attain these large salaries, there will likely be enough money, or a few teams with large enough revenue streams, for at least one of these deals to be made each offseason. As fewer and fewer star players seem to reach free agency due to long-term commitments with their existing franchise (like Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez), the stars that do reach free agency will likely continue to get the lucrative deals.
- It doesn’t matter that the Lerners are the wealthiest owners in baseball (halfstreetheartattack.com)
- Pujols’ contract rising, production declining (espn.go.com)
- Votto’s value extends way beyond plating runs (mlb.mlb.com)
- About that 12 year contract for Harper (halfstreetheartattack.com)
With September come the expansion of rosters in Major League Baseball. Over the next several weeks, in between completing fantasy football drafts and mocking Notre Dame fans after their loss to Michigan, fans will be able to get a sneak peak at some of the top young players in baseball. While many of them won’t play a huge role in their team’s playoff hopes, several players will excite fans and their favorite organization for the 2014 season. Here are some players to monitor over the next month.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, OF/Pinch-runner extraordinaire
When Billy Hamilton steps onto the baseball field, people have to take notice. On Tuesday night, he pinch-ran for Ryan Ludwick and stole his first base – with five-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate for St. Louis. Considering the value of a run and a win right now in a very close NL Central and NL Wild Card chase, the ability to utilize Hamilton’s speed will be a tremendous asset for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. However, after posting a pretty down season in 2013 in Triple-A, there, likely, aren’t enough bases that Hamilton can steal to make the Reds not look for help in center this offseason, as Shin-Soo Choo reaches free agency and the Reds were looking for more.
Erk Johnson, Chicago White Sox, RHP
After an impressive season over two levels, Johnson could have forced the White Sox hand in their apparent rebuilding mode in providing the youngster with a rotation spot in 2013. His ability to keep the ball in the yard will be useful in the bandbox that is US Cellular Field, and while the club has Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and John Danks in the rotation right now, they are one of the only teams in baseball that could actually use some solid right-handed pitching. The Pale Hose appear to have a couple of solid options from the right side in Johnson and Andre Rienzo.
Nick Castellanos was once a lanky, beanpole-like prospect with a long swing and a lot of holes in his swing. While he could still eat a few steaks, Castellanos has done a lot to make himself useful to the Tigers, moving off of third base to become a solid outfielder, and improving his strike zone management tremendously. He has very good, still raw, power that could make him a fantastic addition to the already formidable Detroit lineup. He may not get a huge opportunity this month but the Tigers gave a lot of at-bats to Avisail Garcia late last season and Castellanos could prove to be more valuable in the lineup than Pat Kelly and Andy Dirks in left field. With the talent around him in Motown, Castellanos could become an above-average regular with clubs being more cautious with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, INF
A strong middle infield prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization that isn’t named Francisco Lindor, Ramirez has established himself as a unique talent, with an excellent hit tool and solid speed. It’s possible that Ramirez steals quite a few at-bats from the struggling Lonnie Chisenhall in September, and, if he shows himself capable, he could steal his job next spring. Ramirez was moved quickly to accommodate the quick rise of Lindor, and, while he doesn’t have a lot of power, he will make enough contact to be a very good utility infielder in any worst case scenario.
JR Murphy, New York Yankees, C
Murphy, like Ramirez, has been pushed along by another top prospect, as the Yankees have moved the young catcher quickly due to the potential monster who is Gary Sanchez; however, Murphy isn’t a terrible player and probably shouldn’t be overlooked as an option at a weak Yankees catching position in 2014. With only Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli ahead of him, Murphy could prove to be more than a holdover before Sanchez gets his already questionable makeup together in New York.
Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics, OF
Choice was once an all-or-nothing type of hitter who hit home runs in bunches while attending the University of Texas-Arlington. After hitting 30 home runs in 2011, with a little help from the fences of the California League, Choice has a total of 24 home runs over the last two seasons. While he may never reach the power expectations that he once had, Choice has enough plate discipline and gap power to be an asset for the always cost-conscious Oakland A’s. He could take the at-bats that Chris Young was getting in 2014, which would make him a fantasy baseball asset.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles, INF
Schoop missed significant time in 2013 due to a stress fracture in his back, but upon his return, he quickly showed the Orioles the tools that have made him a solid, under-the-radar prospect. Schoop may not have a very keen eye at the dish, but he is very effective hitter, especially for a 21-year-old in the upper ranks of the minors. Schoop will, likely, have an opportunity to win the second base or third base job down the line, but not until the Orioles give Manny Machado a look at shortstop once J.J. Hardy leaves via free agency (or is moved off of short).
Dubbed “Little Pedro” due to his size and stuff, Carlos Martinez has been up and down for the Cardinals this season, mostly pitching in relief, a role that many seem he is destined to take over due to his small (6′, 185) frame. Martinez has enough stuff to be a front-end starter, but the Cardinals pitching depth allows the club to take things slow with their young arms. By utilizing Martinez and his electric stuff out of the bullpen, much like they did with Trevor Rosenthal in 2012, the Cardinals may be able to have even more shutdown options out of the bullpen.
Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP
Michael Wacha, like Martinez, has been up and down this season. A first-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2012, Wacha flew through the minors with precise control and powerful stuff, which has carried over to the big leagues in his 39.1 innings. With injuries to Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook, the club has relied heavily on young arms, including Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Joe Kelly, and as those arms reach innings limits, it could be Wacha and Martinez who come to the rescue as the Cards head to another playoff round.
Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners, RHP
Walker is an extremely big and athletic body who is still relatively raw as far as his command and stuff goes, which speaks volumes as to why you should be excited to see him. He could be the top arm in the majors, taking on a phenomenon in Seattle that could equal that of Felix Hernandez. At 6’4″, 220 pounds and having just turned 21 in August, Walker has an immeasurable ceiling and will likely become a number one starter within the next few years. His first start (five innings, two hits, zero earned runs) was a nice introduction. He may not make more than one or two more starts before being shut down due to innings, but those are starts that are must-see TV.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, LHP
Paxton is an interesting prospect. He is left-handed and has very good stuff, striking out 9.6 per 9/IP over his minor league career; however, Paxton also walks a lot of batters and can’t seem to miss enough bats when he isn’t completely missing them, posting a 1.45 WHIP over his last two seasons and 252 innings. At 6’4″, 220, Paxton has a strong frame, just like Walker, but he appears headed to a mid-rotation future, and he could become a very good innings-eating pitcher once he gets a grasp of his stuff and the strike zone.
Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox, INF
Marcus Semien has moved quickly through the White Sox system after being taken in the 6th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He has an intriguing skill-set for a middle infielder, possessing very good gap power, solid speed, and the ability to handle both short and second defensively. His plate discipline will be valuable to the rebuilding White Sox and if the club is ready to move on from the Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and Conor Gillaspie trio in the infield, Semien could fill any of those positions in 2014.
Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 3B
Davidson is a powerful third base prospect who has been passed over for Eric Chavez this season. He has the ability to hit around 30 home runs playing half of his games at Chase Field, but he will need to make more consistent contact to reach those levels. Having watched Paul Goldschmidt similar strikeout numbers in the minors before reaching MVP levels in performance this season, Davidson’s stock shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that being said, the fact that they didn’t seem to want to commit to him when Chavez was hurt, instead relying on Martin Prado moving in from the outfield, the club may have questions about his long-term role. Considering how quickly they gave up on Trevor Bauer, you have to wonder what is going on in their front office at times.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks, SS
Owings looks to be blocked by Didi Gregorius at short but he looks like a player that could fetch a nice return if the Diamondbacks were to deal him this offseason. Solid pop, solid speed, and an atrocious approach at the plate, Owings could become a valuable Ben Zobrist-like player, capable of handling several positions to get his playing time, as he is just 22 years old Arizona could have him blocked at short (Gregorius), third (Davidson), and second (Aaron Hill is signed through 2016).
“The Book” says that pitchers need to protect their team, but what about when this happens.
When Ian Kennedy nearly took Zack Greinke‘s head off on Tuesday night in the Diamondbacks and Dodgers game in Los Angeles, it made me wonder the value in throwing and intentionally hitting another human being with a baseball at 90-plus miles per hour.
It isn’t because Zack Greinke makes a lot of money. It isn’t because someone shouldn’t have felt a buzzing baseball due to the aggravation and violence in the game to that point. It all boils down to the safety of an individual player.
After watching Brandon McCarthy have his skull fractured last season and Justin Morneau and other batters struggling with concussion-like symptoms from being beaned in the head, there needs to be some type of action taken to protect the individual player, and Major League Baseball should make an example out of Arizona right-hander Ian Kennedy.
There is a time and a place for intimidation, but not when a livelihood of another person is at stake.
The funny thing about the melee in Chavez Ravine on Tuesday was not the aggressive nature of Yasiel Puig and the fear that I had for the Diamondbacks when I saw his muscles and rage explode into punches, along with Ronald Belisario, but the fact that old, retired players, like Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Charles Nagy, Matt Williams, and Mark McGwire seemed to be the instigators to the continued rumble. Maybe it was the “gritty” nature of Gibson’s Diamondback squad or the “gritty” philosophy that the Dodgers and Mattingly are trying to develop that led to this brawl, but should the coaches be the issue in moments like this? Is that embarrassing for baseball when they are?
I played baseball and I know that I hit people on purpose, mostly because I didn’t like them, but I was 13 and 14 years old, throwing about 70-75 miles per hour tops.
What Kennedy did crossed the line. Throwing at someone’s head is totally uncalled for, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is suspended for 12 to 15 games for his actions on Tuesday night. Anything less isn’t enough. It is time for pitchers who purposely throw at opposing hitters to actually feel the wrath of a suspension, not have their turn pushed back a day or two, but to really hurt the club by sitting, unused, on a 25-man roster, hurting their team by having to play a man short. When Carlos Quentin tackled Zack Greinke after being hit, breaking Greinke’s collarbone, I heard rumblings of how Quentin should have been suspended until Greinke was able to play again, something that Mattingly actually stated. What if Greinke was never able to pitch again? What if someone got hit in the face and a career was ruined, like Tony Conigliaro?
There are too many questions about what could happen to the batter when they are thrown at on purpose. It may be a part of “The Book”, but maybe it’s time for an updated volume.
While the season isn’t quite so young anymore with roughly 100 games remaining, the early season surprises and the small sample sizes that went along with them aren’t nearly so odd. Who is legit? Who will fall off? Who is still surprising?
Surprise, surprise. When you look at Iglesias’ career .257/.307/.314 line in four minor league seasons, and then you look at this:
Iglesias’ success would still qualify as a small sample, given his 83 plate appearances, but considering his struggles in the minors, especially his .202/.262/.319 line at Triple-A in 2013, his production is absolutely incredible. His likelihood to maintain this success is slim to none, unless, of course, Iglesias was just bored playing in the minor leagues. The 23-year-old appeared to be nothing more than organizational depth or a glove-based defensive replacement as recently as a month ago. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Not many guys have their best seasons in their mid-30’s without “the cream” or “the clear”, but that is exactly what Cuddyer is doing this season:
Cuddyer is on pace to shatter his career highs in OPS, AVG, and OBP, while posting productive numbers across the board. The Colorado lineup has been tremendous this season, leading to their current 2nd place ranking in the NL West standings. With Cuddyer’s ability to fill in for the oft-injured Todd Helton at first base and solidifying one of the most productive outfields in baseball, along with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez, he continues to be a valuable, under-appreciated asset to fantasy teams and “real-life teams” alike.
What appeared to be a super-productive May has continued into June:
Brown is a superstar and his early-career parallels to Braves outfielder Jason Heyward have finally reached fruition. If you take at look at his overall numbers, below, you can see how unproductive he was during the first month of the season:
Can pitchers make adjustments to make him an afterthought again in Philadelphia? It appears highly unlikely, as Brown looks like an All-Star, who is capable of reaching 30-35 home runs this season, while pacing an aging Phillies’ lineup.
Donaldson has always had a solid, gap-power approach at the plate, posting a career minor league line of .275/.365/.470 over 2,302 plate appearances. That game has finally transitioned to the big show, as his overall line shows:
With Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, Donaldson is giving the A’s a somewhat formidable lineup to team with its young pitching, and at 38-27 and in 2nd in the AL West, Oakland will once again be a threatening team down the stretch.
At no point during his time in the minor leagues did Corbin appear to be on the same track as Tyler Skaggs or Trevor Bauer for Arizona, a top-tier starting pitcher. Corbin seemed to have back-end stuff after posting a career 3.78 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 430.2 innings. Then, the 2013 season happened:
Corbin has dominated in several starts this season and remains unbeaten after 12 starts. While he doesn’t possess shutdown, strikeout stuff, Corbin keeps the opposition off-balance and looks like the 2013 version of Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks lefty who has struggled mightily this season, but posted a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA in his rookie season in 2012. He’ll eventually lose a game, but Corbin should continue to solidify himself as, at least, a mid-rotation starter, capable of becoming a Tom Glavine-like winner if he maintains his success, something that could be very challenging when he is pitching half of his games in the thin, desert air in Arizona.
Something clicked for Locke when he reached Triple-A Indianapolis within the Pirates organization. After posting a career 3.92 ERA over 629 innings prior to reaching Indianapolis, Locke posted a 2.44 ERA over 170 innings there before struggling in brief auditions in Pittsburgh in both 2011 and 2012. The 2013 season has been quite different, though:
Locke, like Corbin, doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, and, unlike Corbin, he flirts with disaster, at times, due to command. While Locke still does a solid job of keeping runners off of the base paths when he is throwing strikes, it isn’t wrong to wonder if he could succumb to another Pittsburgh flop, as the team remains without a winning record since 1992. It would be nice for the organization to have a veteran arm to rely on once Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are ready for Pittsburgh, and with A.J. Burnett dominating and potentially becoming trade fodder, Locke could be that guy. If he doesn’t improve either his walk rate or strikeout rates, though, he could be heading towards a drastic decline over the rest of the 2013 season.
A tremendous athlete, Wood is finally showing the skills that made him such a highly regarded young player when he came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and thrived. Things hadn’t gone so well the last couple of seasons, but things are back on track in 2013:
Not only has he been effective on the mound, but Wood could be one of the Cubs’ best hitters, having posted a .910 OPS with two home runs and seven RBI in just 26 at-bats – they should pinch-hit for the struggling Starlin Castro with him! With Wood and Jeff Samardzija around in the rotation, the Cubs have a couple of solid arms to build around…if they could just figure out a way to get rid of that now awful Edwin Jackson contract. Like Locke, Wood has spurts of control issues, but he is leading the NL in hits per nine and could well be on his way to establishing himself, along with Samardzija, as a dominant arm on the constantly rebuilding Cubs squad.
Didi Gregorius. A 23-year-old shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Didi Gregorius. A career .267/.319/.375 hitter in over 2,080 plate appearances in the minor leagues. Didi Gregorius. Currently hitting .324/.385/.541 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs.
Can he keep this pace up?
Gregorius’ highest OPS in an overall minor league season was in 2011, when he posted a .753 OPS between High-A and Double-A within the Cincinnati Reds system. Those numbers were a tad inflated due to his time in Bakersfield, a club within the California League, where he posted a .791 OPS over 203 plate appearances. He was always pushed by the Cincinnati organization, as you can see below, only spending one season with the same club, which was his first season in the Gulf Coast League, and even moving from the Pioneer League to High-A for 22 games at the age of 19.
|2009||19||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||72||299||275||36||82||14||1||1||18||8||13||36||.298||.341||.367||.708||101|
|2010||20||3 Teams||3 Lgs||CIN||163||717||653||84||167||21||13||6||50||20||45||81||.256||.311||.355||.666||232|
|2011||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||84||363||336||48||97||18||4||7||44||11||19||50||.289||.324||.429||.753||144|
|2012||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||129||561||501||70||133||21||11||7||54||3||41||80||.265||.324||.393||.717||197|
Gregorius has a .926 OPS, as I write this, and, after 124 plate appearances with Arizona, we should wonder now why he CAN’T keep this up. The young shortstop has several statistics playing in his favor:
- A .364 BABIP: While 45 stolen bases over six seasons leaves a lot to be desired in the speed category, Gregorius clearly has solid gap power and an ability to put the ball where fielders aren’t. The friendly-confines of Chase Field should be taken into consideration for his ability to continue to drive the ball, as well.
- A 9.5 percent HR/FB rate: Considering the top five HR/FB rate in MLB are Pedro Alvarez (29.4), Bryce Harper (29.3), Chris Davis (28.8), Justin Upton (28.0), and Adam Dunn (26.1), Gregorius and his 9.5 percent HR/FB are right in line with “league average”, so he could very well continue to put together numbers like he has to this point.
- A 31.3 O-Swing percentage: Gregorius is a smart hitter, working counts (3.94 pitches per at-bat) and swinging at strikes (O-Swing is percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone).
- A 22.0 line drive percentage: Gregorius would rank right around 67th (with Andrelton Simmons and Gerardo Parra) with his current line drive rate. While that isn’t the upper echelon of hard hitters, it is right around the 20 percent league average (according to FanGraphs)
Gregorius is still highly underrated in fantasy leagues, ranking 21st among shortstops in ESPN’s Player Rater. He is no Troy Tulowitzki but he does have a similar career line as Jean Segura (without the speed), whose .969 OPS through 210 plate appearances was legit enough for ESPN to rank him as the No.1 shortstop.
The time may be now to buy into Gregorius. While he has a small sample size showing what he has, there may not be much more time to get him cheap, and the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks sure seemed to find a lot of value in him this offseason when the three team deal with Cincinnati involving Trevor Bauer and Shin-Soo Choo was consummated.