With so many big names finding homes, teams with holes are trying to find the appropriate signing to fill them. There are still plenty of names who make sense for so many teams, but let’s take a look at some great potential landing spots for some of the remaining unsigned players.
Weeks was released last June by the Seattle Mariners after hitting just .167/.263/.250 over 84 plate appearances with the club. He failed to latch-on elsewhere after his release, which shows a lot about his career demise. While Weeks never became the same type of hitter that he was expected to become as the #2 overall pick out of college, he was an All-Star and had several productive seasons. Even after fading over the last several seasons, Weeks has a 162-game average of 28 doubles, 21 home runs, and 17 stolen bases. Now, at 33, Weeks could use his versatility to become a tremendous low-risk gamble for a club like the Indians, who will need to replace the versatility that they lost with Mike Aviles departure. Cleveland has stashed several versatile players over the last few years (Nick Swisher, David Murphy, Carlos Santana), utilizing their roster space in a very effective way. With Jose Ramirez filling the super-utility role, Weeks would be capable of manning the Ryan Raburn role from the last couple of seasons for Terry Francona and Company. Nothing more than a minor league deal, here, but certainly one worth trying out.
Fowler was a tremendous addition for the Chicago Cubs last season, showcasing his ability to get on base (84 walks) and score runs (102) with unique blend of skills. While he isn’t going to be mistaken for Mike Trout with the bat or Kevin Kiermaier with the glove, he can drive the ball, evidenced by 54 extra-base hits, and run (20 stolen bases). He turned down a qualifying offer, which is leading to some lack of interest in the open market, as teams continue to be weary of giving up a draft pick as compensation. With that being said, the Brewers have a protected pick and a possible need for a center fielder. With Domingo Santana currently listed as the club’s starter, it would make sense for Milwaukee to sign Fowler to a deal and look to deal him if they are as miserable as they were last season near the deadline. While Santana is just 23, if the Brewers were to attempt to improve their roster, they would get someone who hasn’t looked overmatched at the position, as the young outfielder has struck out 77 times in 177 at bats (43% of his at bats). Fowler would become a nice leadoff option, setting the tone for Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy; however, the Brewers would need a lot more help than Fowler to become legitimate contenders.
Joyce had some solid seasons in Tampa and would be a great bench option for the club, as long as he didn’t need to get everyday at bats. Joyce has no chance against left-handed pitchers, having posted a career .180/.252/.302 triple-slash in 382 career plate appearances; however, his .253/.348/.447 line against right-handed pitching would make his a very nice use of a roster spot for the Rays. Having come off the worst season of his career (.564 OPS), the possibility of getting him for a next-to-nothing gamble price is right up the Rays’ alley, as well. With Desmond Jennings‘ inability to stay healthy and a possible opening at DH, this could be a reasonable reunion.
With the recent trade of Todd Frazier and the continued rumors surrounding Aroldis Chapman and Brandon Phillips, the Reds are in sell-mode. Due to all of the deals, they have a gluttony of inexperienced outfielders, including Adam Duvall (acquired from San Francisco in the Mike Leake deal), Scott Schebler (acquired in the three-way deal with Los Angeles and Chicago for Frazier), and Rule 5 draftee Jake Cave (selected from the Yankees). While Jesse Winker, one of the club’s top prospects, readies himself in Louisville this season, it wouldn’t be a terrible choice to give the left field job to former Phillies’ top prospect Brown, who, in 2013, was an All-Star, and now, at the tender age of 28, is jobless and in need of a revival. If you look back at the archives for this site, you’ll see quite a bit of love for this young man, and, as a Reds’ homer, he’d be a welcomed addition to this writer’s hometown team. Brown was granted free agency back in October and still hasn’t found a home. I’d be willing to open-up my extra bedroom if the Reds would give him a long look in 2016, struggles from 2015 and all.
The Yankees have been shopping Andrew Miller this offseason and they have a great replacement in the closer role in Dellin Betances; however, the rest of their bullpen is an interesting blend of young nobodies, as the only remaining bullpen arm outside of Betances, if the club was to deal Miller, with viable innings from 2015 would be 25-year-old Chasen Shreve. Enter Janssen, who is two years removed from closing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a less than stellar season in Washington last season, but he has only walked 2.2 per nine over his career and, at 34, should have enough left to add much-needed depth to the Yankees’ bullpen. He was bought out by the Nationals after earning $3.5 million in 2015, so he could be a nice, cheap option in a down reliever market.
The Dodgers were willing to give Brett Anderson $10 million for one-year last winter and Brandon Beachy a few million dollars to rehab with the club, so gambling on Lincecum, despite “The Freak” having a few down seasons, is something that the free-spending Dodgers may be willing to do. This is especially true due to the unknown future of Brandon McCarthy‘s elbow and Hyun Jin Ryu’s shoulder. In addition, the lefty-heavy state of the Dodgers rotation (Clayton Kershaw, Ryu, Alex Wood, and Anderson) could use the right arm of Lincecum, even as a back-end option. At 32, the two-time Cy Young winner’s career isn’t ever going to rebound, but Chavez Ravine could do enough for him to make his numbers look respectable again, and the offense has enough firepower to help him out if he can’t do it himself anymore.
Cespedes is going to cost a lot of money and the Angels could use a couple of arms to stay competitive more than another bat. Still, the Angels could use an upgrade in left over Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava, and adding Cespedes to Albert Pujols and Mike Trout has to look pretty sexy on paper for Arte Moreno, who could use something positive after the Josh Hamilton fiasco. It will cost a pretty penny to sign the Cuban outfielder, but it would certainly be a solid addition to an already powerful lineup.
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.
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?
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.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
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.
Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
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.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
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.
Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
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.
Jeff Locke, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
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.
Travis Wood, LHP, Chicago Cubs
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.
I know he’s looking all nimbly bimbly right now, going 5-for-8 with two home runs and five RBI after two games, but all of the Bo Jackson and greatest player ever stuff about Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig should probably stop. Many players have had great games, great starts, and nice stretches, only to fade into their typical, normal-guy kind of existence – like Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes after Opening Day of 1994.
Certainly, Puig is a physical specimen. Comparing him to Jackson seems normal due to photos:
Puig is listed at 6’3″, 245 pounds.
Jackson was listed at 6’1″, 220 pounds.
They both appear to be finer looking versions of what a man should look like than I am, but Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval have proven that physique doesn’t guarantee success at the major league level.
Puig was a monster for the Cuban National Team, as Fangraphs.com compared his statistics against Yoenis Cespedes during the 2010-2011 seasons:
When compared to other former Cuban stars, Puig and Cespedes appear to have plate discipline skills that make other Cuban bats like Juan Miranda, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Kendry Morales look like Domonic Brown in the month of May (zero walks in 109 plate appearances for those of you who missed the joke, there). It tends to be unheard of for the plate discipline of Cuban imports to be so…present.
For now, Puig is full of potential. He’s 22 years old, strong, athletic, and a special talent – which led to his seven-year, $42 million deal prior to swinging a bat in the states; however, give him some time to adjust. The man only had 262 plate appearances in the minor leagues, and while he did put up an impressive .328/.405/.611 line with 14 doubles, six triples, 13 home runs, and 21 stolen bases, he was just the No.76 prospect in baseball (according to MLB.com) prior to the 2013 season.
All of the absurd physical comparisons after two games are nuts. As a Cincinnati native, I remember Glenn Braggs playing for the Reds when I was growing up. He was so strong he broke bats in half when he swung and missed.
He was a career .257/.322/.405 hitter in 2,609 plate appearances. Muscles and athleticism don’t equal success. Bo Jackson was an amazing athlete that couldn’t make consistent contact. While he was hurt while he was making a significant improvement in his baseball abilities, it doesn’t change the fact that being ripped doesn’t necessarily mean that you can rip the cover off of a baseball.
Domonic Brown is good. He may not be very good or ever become great, but he has shown in the month of May what he is capable of, having posted a .933 OPS with 10 home runs, 21 RBI, and three stolen bases in 27 games and 105 plate appearances. Sure, he hasn’t taken a walk all month, so his .295/.295/.638 leaves something to be desired, but with Chase Utley hurting and Ryan Howard looking like a “Big Piece” of trash, considering what he is earning ($25 million), for the Philadelphia Phillies, this is a big deal.
Brown’s emergence in the power department has to be a welcomed addition to the rapidly aging Philly squad. At the age of 25, Brown could be on his way to establishing himself as an All-Star caliber talent. While his walk rate is very low due to his apparent lack of patience in May (4.5 percent for the full season), he did manage nine walks in 97 plate appearances, a 9.7 percent walk rate, in the first month of the season, and his strikeout rate hasn’t increased dramatically (17.5 percent in the first month and 19 percent in May). The patience is there to allow Brown to be a more patient hitter, especially if you consider his career .373 on-base percentage over 2,274 minor league plate appearances.
However, what if Brown doesn’t walk and he just hits home runs and drives in runs? Is that so bad? While it would affect his triple slash and his ability to post incredibly overall numbers, what is wrong with Domonic Brown becoming Alfonso Soriano?
Soriano didn’t get his career started until 2001, at the age of 25, after spending his age-19 through age-21 seasons playing in Japan. He played in three levels in his first season stateside (1999), before spending all of 2000 in Triple-A. Upon getting started in New York for good, Soriano established himself as a powerful force in the Yankee lineup. He appeared in seven straight All-Star games and was a dominant force for several years before slipping drastically in Chicago in 2009, the third year of an eight-year, $136 million deal. Whether his decline resulted in a little bad luck (.279 BABIP in 2009, career average is still .303 today) or his aging frame being unable to swing his giant bat (35 inches, 36 ounces), Soriano made an adjustment last season (32.8 ounces) in his bat to revitalize his value, although he still isn’t worth $18 million in 2013 or 2014, given his inability to show consistency at the plate over the last several seasons…but at least it isn’t Ryan Howard’s contract on the Chicago Cubs!
Regardless, Brown compares favorably to Soriano if he were to continue to produce like he has in May due to Soriano’s lack of on-base skills over his career. He has walked in just six percent of his 7,727 career plate appearances, while still finding a way to slug nearly 400 home runs and drive in over 1,000 runs. In Soriano’s first five full seasons (2001-2005), he walked just 156 times in 3,429 plate appearances, a 4.5 percent walk rate. Where did we see that number before? Domonic Brown’s 2013 walk rate is 4.5 percent, even after not having taken a walk in 105 May plate appearances.
Boom. Small sample size statistical comparison made. Now, the questions become:
Can Brown maintain this success?
Will Brown increase his walk rate due to his past success in his ability to take a walk?
Can Brown become a better player than Soriano?
Will Brown maintain this walk rate and hit for power while never taking another walk the rest of his career?
I’ve written about Domonic Brown several times in the past on this site, including: the Phillies apparent hatred of Brown, their mismanagement of their prospect, and the Phillies ineffective use of talent. Finally, the Phillies are letting him play and he is producing. As someone who has watched his career progress due to having All-Star predictions about Brown while he was a minor leaguer, the fact that he is even playing is fantastic, but the power and production, even without the walks, is even more exciting.
With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
Altherr is a big, raw prospect who seems to be putting everything together this year in the Florida State League. He was nowhere to be found on MLB.com’s top 20 list for the Phillies prior to this season, while John Sickels, of minorleagueball.com, had Altherr in the “others” section as a player to watch. Considering what he was before this season, it is pretty shocking that the 6’5″, 190 pound outfielder has jumped to the numbers that he is putting up in 2013, but he was clearly a toolsy guy prior to this year. His lanky frame still had impressive speed and gap power, so as he continues to mature physically, Altherr could become an even more intriguing prospect. Given the nature of how the Phillies handled Domonic Brown, however, you have to wonder if they’ll handle a player similar is size with varying talent in the same manner.
The strikeout totals are stupid, and so is the fact that the Yankees have De Paula in Low-A ball at the age of 22. Domination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what De Paula has done this season, and another guy that MLB.com left unranked, but came in as the Yankees No.13 prospect at minorleagueball.com, has flown up the prospect rankings in the early going of the 2013 season. De Paula was signed in November of 2010 out of the Dominican Republic and he has been handled with baby gloves ever since. In a recent Baseball Prospectus chat, Jason Parks had this to say about the Yankee right-hander:
” Powerful build; arm speed is near elite; fastball can work 91-95l touch even higher; huge life; misses barrels; shows plus potential with both hard, power curve and changeup; command profile could push him to the ‘pen down the line, as could secondary development. He’s a big time arm.”
I had a hard time buying into Archie Bradley, even with high rankings from MLB.com (No.24) and Baseball America (No.25) prior to the season. It had a lot to do with the 84 walks that he posted last season, as I like to see that a pitcher can harness his stuff before I consider him elite. However, this time I was way off, as the hits per nine (5.8), K per nine (10.1), and home runs allowed (just six in 136 innings) goes to show the type of stuff and dominance that Bradley possesses. A 95 mph fastball with sink and a strikeout pitch in his curveball have allowed Bradley to post a 63:16 K:BB in 42.2 innings in 2013, and he has already been bumped up to Double-A at the tender age of 20. He was highly touted for a reason and he seems to have found the command necessary to become one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.
It’s tough being a middle infielder in the Rangers system these days. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler signed to long-term deals and Jurickson Profar waiting in Triple-A, the Rangers have created a logjam of talent in their system that will either waste away or get traded away. It also isn’t very fair for the guys who aren’t Profar to have to try to put up numbers comparable to his to be taken seriously. Which leads us to a very impressive young player. Odor was just 18 last season when he put up a .714 OPS with 37 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in full season ball, and he has improved his stats in the early going this season. Not only that, his running game is much more solid, having stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts after being gunned down 10 times in 29 attempts last season. His ceiling isn’t nearly that of Profar’s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid major leaguer.
Franco has a lot of potential that is not obvious to his game yet, which is shocking when you consider he currently sports an .887 OPS as a 20-year-old in High-A. A third baseman with an excellent arm and solid glove, if Franco continues hitting the way that he has while showing improved plate discipline, the Phillies could have a superstar in the making. Franco doesn’t strikeout in bunches and he appears ready to turn some of those 32 doubles from last season into home runs this year. As he continues to mature, he will be a player to keep an eye on.
The Reds have been all over the place in their handling of Contreras since signing him prior to the 2008 season out of the Dominican Republic. While they finally seemed to have figured out that he should start, Contreras finally seems to know how to pitch now, as well. He is putting it all together for a very bad Bakersfield team in the California League, and while the league is a hitter’s paradise, Contreras has been pretty dominant. He has a .179 batting average allowed to go with his 52:13 K:BB in 42.1 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-96 and seems familiar with pressure after being a closer last season. We’ll see if he can maintain this production, but he looks like a live arm in the Reds system, which they need with Daniel Corcino pitching so poorly at Triple-A this season.
Houston has an interesting method of developing their pitchers, using tandem starting pitching at all minor league levels this season. Jake Buchanan is not one of the club’s brightest stars, nor is he expected to become one, but he really seems to enjoy how the Astros are doing things this year. A 0.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 48.1 innings is pretty impressive, as is the .163 batting average allowed. With the major league roster looking like a mediocre Triple-A team, and a starting rotation with a 6.31 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and .309 batting average allowed, it doesn’t hurt to know that Buchanan is having success in the minors for a team so desperate for pitching help. The 23-year-old could get a jump to Triple-A in the coming weeks to see if he can produce similar statistics there before getting a shot in Houston.
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.