2015 Season Previews: Detroit Tigers

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! 

Detroit Tigers

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (1st in AL Central, 12th in MLB)

Manager: Brad Ausmus (90-72 in one season with Detroit)

Top Three Players: 1B Miguel Cabrera (5.3), LHP David Price (4.0), 2B Ian Kinsler (3.8)

Bounce-back Player: SS Jose Iglesias

Iglesias was having a breakout campaign in Boston in 2013 before being traded to the Tigers and crashing down to a .259/.306/.348 triple-slash. Fortunately, he was still able to provide elite-level defense, something that the Tigers didn’t have with Jhonny Peralta manning short. After missing all of 2014 with a stress fracture in his lower leg, the Tigers are hoping for a return to form, but you have to wonder if they’ll be satisfied with the offensive production they received from him in late-2013, or if they’re expecting him to be closer to the .330/.376/.409 that he had with Boston, and if he is capable of defensive wizardry after the leg injury. Still, he doesn’t have the pressure on him to be an elite offensive producer with the lineup around him, so expect some value out of him.

What is the ceiling of Castellanos?
What is the ceiling of Castellanos?

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Nick Castellanos

It may just seem like Castellanos has been around forever, but he only has 597 career plate appearances and enters the 2015 season at the age of just 23. At a lanky 6’4″, 210 pounds, the young third baseman will continue to demonstrate a long swing, which will continue to lead to strikeouts, but he has the protection in the order, just like Iglesias, to not be expected to carry the burden of production. Castellanos will never have a .300/.400/.500 season due to his inability to take a pitch, but, if that changes a little and he begins seeing more fastballs, you’ll quickly see an increase in the number of home runs that he can produce. Expect some of those 31 doubles from 2014 to start flying out, as he increases his long-ball total closer to 24 in 2015. He’ll be a top 10 third baseman by the end of the season.

Offseason Overview: Detroit lost their ace, Max Scherzer, to the Washington Nationals via free agency, and complicated their rotation further by dealing Rick Porcello in a deal for OF Yoenis Cespedes. While Cespedes provides ample power for an already potent lineup, the starting rotation took quite a hit, as the club is now without both Scherzer and Porcello, while Doug Fister and Drew Smyly were dealt within the last 15 months. Sure, they added LHP David Price at the deadline last year, but RHP Alfredo Simon (acquired from Cincinnati) and RHP Shane Greene (acquired from the Yankees) have joined Price, RHP Anibal Sanchez, and former superstar-turned-Instagram-hero Justin Verlander in the rotation. In addition to the suddenly impotent (in comparison to one year ago) rotation, the bullpen continues to be an issue. The defense could be a little better, especially with a healthy Iglesias and OF Anthony Gose, a speedy outfielder acquired from Toronto, in the mix, but this isn’t the same group who has won the AL Central the last four seasons.

The Verdict: Detroit continues to reshape their roster into an offensive juggernaut, but rather than having a rotation to match, the Tigers have set themselves up to be quite vulnerable in a very competitive AL Central. The projected 82-80 PECOTA record seems quite conservative for Detroit, and, while they’ll likely finish with at least 85 wins, it likely won’t be enough to win the division. The Tigers don’t have the depth in their minor league system to endure injuries, and they have another year on the arm of Verlander and the body of Cabrera. Even with the tremendous offense, this could be the season that Detroit can’t overcome their consistent lack of depth.

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The Sudden Emergence of J.D. Martinez

On March 22, 2014, the Houston Astros released J.D. Martinez. Yes, the cheap, slowly rebuilding from nothing Houston Astros had seen enough out of a 26-year-old outfielder after three seasons and 975 plate appearances in Houston. Although the Astros have promoted George Springer, who has been very productive in his short time in the majors, Houston should weep due to the old hindsight massacre that Martinez is creating for them, as they run out Robbie Grossman and Alex Presley in left field these days.

J.D. Martinez has developed into a monster. An offseason of swing adjustments that led to dropping his hands in his approach to keep the bat in the zone longer has led to an offensive outburst that no one was expecting. After those three seasons in Houston, Martinez had a .251/.300/.387 triple-slash, with 44 doubles, three triples, 24 home runs, and a whopping 226:63 K:BB. Sure, he may not be Jose Bautista, but Bautista was tossed aside after posting a .239/.324/.398 triple-slash over his first 1,634 plate appearances, ending up with trade to Toronto prior to his age-28 season in 2009, which led to a change in his production after a similar swing adjustment.


The Tigers have reaped the benefits of gambling on J.D. Martinez and his new approach, as the right-handed hitting “slugger” has settled in nicely in the fifth spot in the order behind Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. After another solid game on Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers, Martinez has a 14-game hitting streak. After going 2-for-3 with a double, home run, and a walk, Martinez is hitting .418/.431/.891 over his hitting streak with eight doubles, six home runs, and 17 RBI, bringing his season line to .322/.359/.653 to go with a .370 BABIP, .430 wOBA, and 175 wRC+ in 131 plate appearances.

While Martinez did struggle with Houston, there was always some potential in the bat. His minor league numbers are full of extra-base hits, solid improvements to his approach at the plate, and solid performance while being younger than league average:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 21 0.0 2 Teams A–Rk 72 291 264 42 92 24 3 12 56 1 20 44 .348 .399 .598 .997 158
2009 21 0.4 Greeneville Rk 19 83 77 17 31 9 1 5 23 0 5 14 .403 .446 .740 1.186 57
2009 21 -0.1 Tri-City A- 53 208 187 25 61 15 2 7 33 1 15 30 .326 .380 .540 .920 101
2010 22 -0.5 2 Teams A-AA 138 600 537 107 183 40 4 18 89 5 48 97 .341 .407 .531 .937 285
2010 22 0.4 Lexington A 88 393 348 83 126 31 3 15 64 3 33 55 .362 .433 .598 1.030 208
2010 22 -2.2 Corpus Christi AA 50 207 189 24 57 9 1 3 25 2 15 42 .302 .357 .407 .765 77
2011 23 -1.0 Corpus Christi AA 88 370 317 50 107 25 1 13 72 1 42 55 .338 .414 .546 .959 173
2012 24 -2.8 Oklahoma City AAA 23 95 90 6 21 6 0 0 4 0 4 17 .233 .263 .300 .563 27
2013 25 1.0 Corpus Christi AA 5 20 20 1 6 2 0 1 5 0 0 1 .300 .300 .550 .850 11
2014 26 -1.1 Toledo AAA 17 71 65 16 20 3 1 10 22 2 3 17 .308 .366 .846 1.212 55
6 Seasons 343 1447 1293 222 429 100 9 54 248 9 117 231 .332 .394 .548 .942 709
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2014.
Tigers' OF J.D.  Martinez
Tigers’ OF J.D. Martinez

The production at Double-A in 2011 led to the promotion to the majors for J.D. Martinez, and it was warranted. He wasn’t totally overmatched at the major league level, either, posting a .742 OPS and 104 OPS+ over his first 53 games and 226 plate appearances in Houston, but he seemed to press in 2012 and 2013 at the major league level, posting a .245/.295/.376  triple-slash with 18 home runs, 31 doubles, and 91 RBI over 749 plate appearances to go along with a 178:50 K:BB. At 25, the Astros had seen enough, which is odd considering that he was pre-arbitration (not eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season, which is good timing on his part for his breakout), and could have had his contract renewed for close to the league minimum.

Regardless, it is 2014, Martinez is finally getting a chance, taking over the full-time left field job from Rajai Davis and Don Kelly, while giving the Tigers another offensive force in the middle of the lineup. While Ian Kinsler looked lost at times in Texas and Prince Fielder‘s absence was worrisome for the future of the Detroit lineup, the Tigers seemed to have replaced the production with a rejuvenated Kinsler and J.D. Martinez looking like an All-Star as potent replacements to that “lost” production, as Fielder is shelved for the Rangers after having neck surgery in May.

Sure, the offensive outburst that J.D. Martinez has shown in the month of June and over the 2014 season seems unlikely to maintain at its current rate, but, as Dan Farnsworth of FanGraphs wrote in December of 2013, when he broke down the adjustments to his swing that Martinez discussed in the previous video, “he’s a legitimate Major League power hitter.”

Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/18

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 MyersDylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.

AltherrAaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 18 Phillies Rk 28 92 84 10 18 3 0 1 11 6 8 15 .214 .283 .286 .568 24
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-A- 55 225 209 23 62 13 4 1 25 12 11 35 .297 .339 .411 .751 86
2010 19 Phillies Rk 27 121 115 12 35 6 1 1 15 10 3 22 .304 .331 .400 .731 46
2010 19 Williamsport A- 28 104 94 11 27 7 3 0 10 2 8 13 .287 .350 .426 .775 40
2011 20 2 Teams A–A 112 458 416 61 101 18 2 6 46 37 24 99 .243 .291 .339 .630 141
2011 20 Williamsport A- 71 295 269 41 70 12 2 5 31 25 13 52 .260 .302 .375 .678 101
2011 20 Lakewood A 41 163 147 20 31 6 0 1 15 12 11 47 .211 .272 .272 .544 40
2012 21 Lakewood A 110 471 420 65 106 27 6 8 50 25 38 102 .252 .319 .402 .722 169
2013 22 Clearwater A+ 35 152 134 22 45 15 2 4 27 8 13 39 .336 .391 .567 .958 76
5 Seasons 340 1398 1263 181 332 76 14 20 159 88 94 290 .263 .319 .393 .711 496
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

DePaulaRafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 Yankees 1 FRk 8 2 1.46 14 61.2 35 18 10 2 18 85 0.859 5.1 12.4 4.72
2013 22 Charleston A 4 2 2.75 8 39.1 24 12 12 2 17 69 1.042 5.5 15.8 4.06
2 Seasons 12 4 1.96 22 101.0 59 30 22 4 35 154 0.931 5.3 13.7 4.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.”

He’s good.

BradleyArchie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 18 Missoula Rk 0 0 0.00 1 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 18.0
2012 19 South Bend A 12 6 3.84 27 136.0 87 64 58 6 84 152 1.257 5.8 10.1 1.81
2013 20 2 Teams A+-AA 4 0 1.05 8 42.2 29 6 5 1 16 63 1.055 6.1 13.3 3.94
2013 20 Visalia A+ 2 0 1.26 5 28.2 22 5 4 1 10 43 1.116 6.9 13.5 4.30
2013 20 Mobile AA 2 0 0.64 3 14.0 7 1 1 0 6 20 0.929 4.5 12.9 3.33
3 Seasons 16 6 3.14 36 180.2 117 70 63 7 100 219 1.201 5.8 10.9 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 Spokane A- 58 258 233 33 61 9 3 2 29 10 13 37 .262 .323 .352 .675 82
2012 18 Hickory A 109 471 432 60 112 23 4 10 47 19 25 65 .259 .313 .400 .714 173
2013 19 Myrtle Beach A+ 38 163 143 30 44 14 1 4 25 11 9 28 .308 .377 .503 .880 72
3 Seasons 205 892 808 123 217 46 8 16 101 40 47 130 .269 .328 .405 .732 327
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

FrancoMaikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Phillies Rk 51 217 194 23 43 11 2 2 29 0 16 46 .222 .292 .330 .622 64
2011 18 2 Teams A–A 71 296 267 25 66 19 1 3 44 0 26 45 .247 .318 .360 .677 96
2011 18 Williamsport A- 54 229 202 19 58 17 1 2 38 0 25 30 .287 .367 .411 .778 83
2011 18 Lakewood A 17 67 65 6 8 2 0 1 6 0 1 15 .123 .149 .200 .349 13
2012 19 Lakewood A 132 554 503 70 141 32 3 14 84 3 38 80 .280 .336 .439 .775 221
2013 20 Clearwater A+ 39 179 163 25 47 16 1 8 32 0 12 26 .288 .341 .546 .887 89
4 Seasons 293 1246 1127 143 297 78 7 27 189 3 92 197 .264 .324 .417 .742 470
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

Contreras

Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 17 Reds FRk 0 1 8.64 17 0 7 0 16.2 14 21 16 0 30 17 2.640 7.6 9.2 0.57
2009 18 Reds FRk 4 4 5.60 14 12 0 0 72.1 65 49 45 6 30 58 1.313 8.1 7.2 1.93
2010 19 Reds Rk 2 4 6.45 10 6 3 2 37.2 44 29 27 8 16 30 1.593 10.5 7.2 1.88
2011 20 Billings Rk 2 1 5.00 18 0 2 0 36.0 35 20 20 5 23 38 1.611 8.8 9.5 1.65
2012 21 2 Teams A-A+ 1 1 3.12 49 0 33 20 60.2 38 27 21 7 24 63 1.022 5.6 9.3 2.63
2012 21 Dayton A 0 1 3.20 40 0 26 16 50.2 29 22 18 6 19 51 0.947 5.2 9.1 2.68
2012 21 Bakersfield A+ 1 0 2.70 9 0 7 4 10.0 9 5 3 1 5 12 1.400 8.1 10.8 2.40
2013 22 Bakersfield A+ 1 4 3.40 8 8 0 0 42.1 27 18 16 5 13 52 0.945 5.7 11.1 4.00
6 Seasons 10 15 4.91 116 26 45 22 265.2 223 164 145 31 136 258 1.351 7.6 8.7 1.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

Jake Buchanan, RHP, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 20 Tri-City A- 4 5 4.28 14 14 61.0 69 32 29 3 11 42 1.311 10.2 6.2 3.82
2011 21 2 Teams A+-AA 5 10 3.80 26 26 165.2 163 93 70 10 36 104 1.201 8.9 5.6 2.89
2011 21 Lancaster A+ 5 10 3.91 25 25 158.2 157 92 69 10 35 102 1.210 8.9 5.8 2.91
2011 21 Corpus Christi AA 0 0 1.29 1 1 7.0 6 1 1 0 1 2 1.000 7.7 2.6 2.00
2012 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 5 10 5.25 30 20 142.1 188 95 83 12 38 88 1.588 11.9 5.6 2.32
2012 22 Corpus Christi AA 5 9 4.96 27 19 134.1 171 85 74 11 33 83 1.519 11.5 5.6 2.52
2012 22 Oklahoma City AAA 0 1 10.12 3 1 8.0 17 10 9 1 5 5 2.750 19.1 5.6 1.00
2013 23 Corpus Christi AA 4 0 0.93 11 7 48.1 28 5 5 2 3 28 0.641 5.2 5.2 9.33
4 Seasons 18 25 4.03 81 67 417.1 448 225 187 27 88 262 1.284 9.7 5.7 2.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

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.

Is This Real Life? The Rangers and Their Bad Contract

Andrus1Since this was announced on Monday, which was April 1st (aka April Fool’s Day), it feels like this isn’t happening; however, after it was made official, giving a career .275/.342/.353 line an eight-year, $120 million seems like a nightmare, especially after the club was unwilling to give Josh Hamilton an extension or make the first offer when he hit free agency this winter. After allowing a player who has averaged a .305/.363/.549 line to leave for their biggest rival, they gave Andrus $15 million per season on an extension, all while Jurickson Profar waits for a position to open up in Texas.

Andrus is a fine player. Since arriving in 2009, he has posted a 13.0 WAR, which is sixth among shortstops during that time. He leads shortstops in stolen bases (123), he is second to Derek Jeter in runs scores (341), and he is 21st among shortstops in OPS (.695). TWENTY-FIRST.

Andrus provides a solid batting eye (8.4 percent walk rate vs. 13.2 percent strikeout rate) to go along with his solid speed, which allows him to utilize his skills on the base paths to score runs in a very potent offense. While he can get on base and score runs, his defense is where his true value develops.

Andrus’ UZR/150 rating is 7.8, fourth among shortstops since 2009 behind Brendan Ryan, J.J. Hardy, and Alexei Ramirez. His .971 fielding percentage is 15th among shortstops since 2009. Of the three players above Andrus in zone fielding who have higher fielding percentages than Andrus, only Alexei Ramirez has a higher OPS. If Ramirez can field better and post better numbers at short, is he worth $15 million or more per season?Andrus2

Ramirez is 31 and doesn’t have the favorable upside that Andrus possesses, but we’ve seen speed become useless several times before. In 2004, Cesar Izturis had his best season at the age of 24:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2004 24 LAD NL 159 728 670 90 193 32 9 4 62 25 43 70 .288 .330 .381 .710 255
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2013.

While he didn’t post numbers close to what Andrus did prior to his age-24 season, he displayed solid gap power, speed, and, of course, impressive defensive skills. He won his first and only Gold Glove in 2004, posting a .985 fielding percentage and a 3.8 WAR.

Compare that production to Andrus’ career stats:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 20 TEX 145 541 480 72 128 17 8 6 40 33 40 77 .267 .329 .373 .702 179
2010 21 TEX 148 674 588 88 156 15 3 0 35 32 64 96 .265 .342 .301 .643 177
2011 22 TEX 150 665 587 96 164 27 3 5 60 37 56 74 .279 .347 .361 .708 212
2012 23 TEX 158 711 629 85 180 31 9 3 62 21 57 96 .286 .349 .378 .727 238
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2013.

Is there a whole lot of difference in the abilities of these players, outside of the fact that Andrus’ had four seasons completed prior to his age-24 season, which will be the 2013 season? Certainly, Andrus is better than Izturis, but would anyone have paid Izturis $15 million per season if every one of his seasons had been as solid as his 2004 season?

Luis Castillo was an excellent second baseman early in his career for the, then, Florida Marlins. Sure, he wasn’t a shortstop, but he had the same type of skill-set, possibly better, with more speed and on-base skills, while Andrus seems to have more gap power. Once Castillo hurt his feet, though, his 50+ steals potential was also hurt, and he became a 20 stolen base, empty .300-hitting middle infielder. If Andrus gets hurt or loses speed, where is his value? He can’t cover as much ground defensively and his ability to create runs with his legs is gone, as well.

Shortstop is a very tough position, but the value of defensive metrics have taken over the player’s ability to help the club in other ways, specifically with their bat. Cal Ripken, Jr., Barry Larkin, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada did a dirty, dirty thing to the position, allowing solid contribution across the board to become a reasonable expectation. Today, only Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes seem like those types of dynamic, offensive-minded shortstops, and for that reason, they appear to be worth exorbitant contracts.

The Rangers aren’t the only team that feels that defense is very important, though. When the Cincinnati Reds turned Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs into Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald in their trade with the Cleveland Indians this offseason, that was one thing, as Choo is a free agent after the 2013 season, but when the Indians flipped Gregorius to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp for Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and, potential ace, Trevor Bauer, the new value of shortstops in baseball was apparent. Slap-hitting, defensively skilled middle infielders now have quite a bit of value.

So, if Gregorius, a career .265/.317/.370 hitter in the minor leagues, had that sort of value, then what is Xander Bogaerts worth? Bogaerts, a Boston Red Sox farm hand, hit .307/.373/.523 with a 4.13 range factor and .959 fielding percentage as a 19-year-old over High-A and Double-A in 2012. Gregorius had a range factor of 3.96 and a .964 fielding percentage as a 22-year-old over Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.

TuloFurthermore, if Elvis Andrus is worth an eight-year, $120 million contract, then shouldn’t Troy Tulowitzki fire his agent? His extension for the 2015 to 2020 seasons gives him roughly $19.67 million per season, which isn’t nearly enough considering Andrus can’t carry his compression shorts with cup, since jock straps aren’t used anymore.

The good news for Andrus is that he has an opt-out clause after the 2018 season, allowing him to reach free agency during his prime, potentially earning more money if he reaches higher levels of production; however, if he under-performs or gets hurt, the Rangers don’t have an opt-out clause. The question now is: Was this a good contract for the Texas Rangers?

Kinsler1With Ian Kinsler signed through 2017 (with a 2018 team option) and Andrus locked up, where does Jurickson Profar go? What if Kinsler has another poor season, as his .749 OPS in 2012 was the worst of his career? Can they trade him?  There have been leaks of Kinsler getting moved to left field or first base, but what happen to Mike Olt, another Rangers prospect, who is blocked through 2015 at third (possibly 2016, since Beltre has a vesting option)? Can Kinsler hit enough to play left? Do the Rangers trade Olt? Does Profar move to center even though Leonys Martin is hoping to prove himself there in 2013? Should they trade Profar?

The Rangers have committed to defense by signing Andrus and they have committed to spending a lot of money on mediocre offense. After letting Josh Hamilton walk, not addressing their No.5 starter situation this winter, and building excellent talent that they seem to be unwilling to commit to from their minor league system, the Rangers, who have made three straight playoff appearances, seem to have no clear direction to their roster makeup going forward.

Faults in the Berkman Signing

BerkmanWhen the Texas Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a one-year, $10 million deal (with a $12 million option for 2014, which vests at $14 million for 550 plate appearances in 2013), they really caused some chaos on their roster.

Berkman will be the primary designated hitter in 2013, at least for as long as his ailing knees will allow him to after he missed 117 games in 2012 due to injuries to both knees and his left calf. The Rangers are making a very questionable decision in this signing.

Texas has been linked to deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks all offseason, as Arizona GM Kevin Towers continues to shop Justin Upton. While Rangers GM Jon Daniels has refused to create a package around top prospect Jurickson Profar, the club may have just blocked their prized possession by signing Berkman.

Daniels announced on January 7 that with the signing of Berkman, the club was going into the 2013 season with Ian Kinsler at second base and Mitch Moreland at first base. Daniels confirmed on December 9 that Kinsler was an option at first base, which would have opened second base for Profar or allowed the club to keep Profar at short and move Elvis Andrus to second.

With Adrian Beltre entrenched at third base for the Rangers, Mike Olt, another top prospect for Texas becomes expendable, even after the club traded Michael Young to Philadelphia. Olt could play some first base, but with Moreland, Kinsler, and Berkman (possibly) capable of handling the position, he’ll probably head to Triple-A Round Rock for the start of the 2013 season…if he isn’t traded.

KinslerWhile the club mentioned Kinsler as an option at first, he could still make sense in left field. With Josh Hamilton signing with the Los Angeles Angels, the Rangers outfield is suddenly very weak, at least on paper. The top four outfielders are David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, and Craig Gentry. If Kinsler played left, where his bat could play well still, it would open the door for Profar at second, at least, and the club could still hope that a package featuring Mike Olt could still land the club Upton. Kinsler could handle center, possibly, as an up-the-middle player with solid speed (157 steals in seven seasons), which would allow the club to move Cruz to left.

While Berkman has been a fantastic player over his career, a club with so many options offensively should not have locked up a player for, potentially, two season if “Big Puma” were to actually hit his vesting option. Even a rotation of players would have been a solid use of resources, possibly DHing Nelson Cruz to keep his legs, which have kept him out of 83 games since the start of 2010, fresh.

JustinUptonWhat would the best-case scenario be for Berkman and the Rangers? With Murphy in left full-time and Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt in Triple-A, all because of  Berkman’s inability to play the field at this point of his career, the Rangers are not better. They have de-valued one of the top prospects in baseball by tying Ron Washington‘s hands with a player in the decline of his career.

Jon Daniels has done nothing to help the Rangers this offseason. While we don’t know if it was his call to hope that Josh Hamilton called the Rangers to allow them to match an offer, only to lose out to their division-rival, the fact that the club continues to hold onto Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar instead of upgrading by getting Justin Upton continues to be the driving mistake of the offseason for the club. At least Upton is someone to build around, as he is 25 years old and signed through 2015.

Jon Daniels may have just blocked Jurickson Profar AND Mike Olt for the next two seasons. There is no excuse for that, even for a team that had the money to spend.

AL Wild Card Preview

At 8:37 on Friday night, the Baltimore Orioles look to return to glory when they head to Texas to take on the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers in a single-elimination Wild Card game. The winner will take on the New York Yankees. What can you expect?

THE ROSTERS:

Courtesy: MLB

Baltimore Orioles

(2) Catchers: Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden

(7): Infielders/Utility: Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino, Omar Quintanilla, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Eric Flaherty, Jim Thome

(5): Outfielders: Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nate McLouth, Endy Chavez, Lew Ford

(11) Pitchers: Joe Saunders (starter), Tommy Hunter, Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala, Steve Johnson, Darren O’Day, Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz

Courtesy: MLB

Texas Rangers(3) Catchers: Mike Napoli, Geovany Soto, Luis Martinez

(6) Infielders/Utility: Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Jurickson Profar

(5) Outfielders: Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin

(11) Pitchers: Yu Darvis (starter), Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Joe Nathan, Roy Oswalt, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Koji Uehara, Yoshinori Tateyama

THE PITCHING MATCHUP:

Courtesy: ESPN

Joe Saunders, LHP, Baltimore Orioles2012: 9-13, 28 starts, 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 174.2 IP, 112:39 K:BB

2012 vs. TEX: No appearances against Texas during the 2012 season

Career vs. TEX: 3-7, 11 starts, 6.48 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 58.1 IP, 48:20 K:BB

Career at The Ballpark at Arlington: 0-6, 6 starts, 9.38 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 31.2 IP, 24:16 K:BB

Career in the postseason: 0-1, 4 starts, 6.00 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 18 IP, 8:12 K:BB

Courtesy: ESPN

Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers2012: 16-9, 29 starts, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 191.1 IP, 221:89 K:BB

2012 vs. BAL: The first start against Baltimore of 2012 will be Friday.

Career vs. BAL: The first start in his career against Baltimore will be Friday.

Career at The Ballpark at Arlington: 10-2, 14 starts, 3.88 ERA, 1.28 ERA, 92.2 IP, 111:39 K:BB

Career in the postseason: Darvish is a rookie in MLB. Friday will be his first postseason start.

TOP PERFORMERS IN 2012:

Baltimore Orioles

Runs: Adam Jones, 103

Hits: Adam Jones, 186

Doubles: Adam Jones, 39

Triples: Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Nick Markakis, 3

Home Runs: Chris Davis, 33

RBI: Chris Davis, 85

Stolen Bases: Adam Jones, 16

Average: Nick Markakis, .298

OPS: Adam Jones, .839

Texas Rangers

Runs: Ian Kinsler, 105

Hits: Adrian Beltre, 194

Doubles: Nelson Cruz, 45

Triples: Elvis Andrus, 9

Home Runs: Josh Hamilton, 43

RBI: Josh Hamilton, 128

Stolen Bases: Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, 21

Average: Adrian Beltre, .321

OPS: Josh Hamilton, .930

What to Expect:

Texas was fantastic at home in 2012, going 50-31 (.617) and scoring 5.52 runs per game while allowing 4.62 runs per game. The Rangers went 5-2 and outscored Baltimore 56-24 in their seven meeting in 2012.

Baltimore had a fantastic season and they were written off by many, including myself, but they have hung around. They were 29-9 in one-run games, which is either luck or fantastic managing by Buck Showalter. Now with one game, they put all of their eggs in the Joe Saunders basket.

With Saunders hideous statistics in six career starts in Texas and four career postseason starts, it was a shock to see his name appear as the starter for this one-gam elimination. While the club doesn’t have many better options considering rest and results in 2012, it is still a questionable decision.

Due to the Rangers success at home and the incredible talent that they have offensively, my prediction is that the Rangers win this game 7-2, pounding Saunders, while Darvish shows that he was worth the investment.

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Basemen

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for 2B, projections are italicized:

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees

.302/.349/.533, 46 2B, 7 3B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 8 SB in 623 AB

.315/.357/.549, 43 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 121 RBI, 6 SB in 616 AB

Cano is underrated.  Yeah, you read that right, I am saying that a Yankee is underrated.  Cano is the best player on the Yankees roster right now, and that is saying a lot with Granderson, ARod, Teixeira, and the rest.  He’ll turn 30 in November and he’s got a couple more years to reach his peak.  He’ll be at an MVP level in 2012.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

.307/.387/.474, 37 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, 91 RBI, 26 SB in 635 AB

.311/.389/.485, 38 2B, 4 3B, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 24 SB in 628 AB

Pedroia seemed like the only Red Sox player who didn’t collapse last September.  He continues to be a leader for the team and a nuisance to opposing teams.  He’ll turn only 29 in August, so he’ll continue to be a star with value across the board in fantasy leagues.

3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers

.255/.355/.477, 34 2B, 4 3B, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB in 620 AB

.271/.375/.481, 37 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 81 RBI, 27 SB in 607 AB

Kinsler’s AVG has been all over the place, but one thing is for certain: he continues to be a power hitting 2B with dynamic speed.  The lineup around him will keep the runs scored and RBI opportunities at high levels, and he is still in his prime, turning 30 in June.

4. Brandon Phillips, Reds

.300/.353/.457, 38 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 610 AB

.305/.355/.464, 34 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 16 SB in 623 AB

Some feel that Phillips is headed towards a major decline, but he turns just 31 and he has a lot to prove in 2012.  He is in the last year of his contract with the Reds and he’ll be looking for one more payday.  His ballpark and the lineup that he has around him will be a major help in reaching another great season.  He won’t touch 30/30 like he did in 2007, but his value is undeniable across the board still.

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays

.269/.353/.469, 46 2B, 6 3B, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 19 SB in 588 AB

.271/.357/.476, 43 2B, 5 3B, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 18 SB in 597 AB

Zobrist is a very unique player.  His average is all over the place, just like Kinsler, but he gets on base and provides a lot of power and enough speed to boost his value.  He’ll turn 31 in 2012, still in his prime, in a solid lineup and an ugly ballpark, which doesn’t matter.  Zobrist may have RF eligibility in some leagues, as well, so his versatility could add to his value.

6.  Dan Uggla, Braves

.233/.311/.453, 22 2B, 1 3B, 36 HR, 82 RBI, 1 SB in 600 AB

.255/.331/.489, 31 2B, 1 3B, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 1 SB in 591 AB

Uggla’s 1st half was gross to watch, especially if you owned him.  Uggla continues to be a monster with his power numbers, which you can deal with at the expense of his low batting averages.  Kinsler’s .255 average doesn’t compare due to his ability to fill all of the stats, as Uggla won’t steal many bases, if he steals any at all.

7. Howie Kendrick, Angels

.285/.338/.464, 30 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB in 537 AB

.281/.336/.465, 35 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 12 SB in 611 AB

Kendrick missed over 20 games last season and still posted solid numbers.  If he knew how to take a walk, the arrival of Pujols would have had a greater impact on his numbers, but he’ll continue to swing at nearly everything and put it in play.  Considering his swinging tendencies, his average is pretty impressive.  He’ll give value across the board, not to the levels of some of the above players, but he, too, could have OF eligibility due to his starts in LF last year.

8. Rickie Weeks

.269/.350/.468, 26 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 49 RBI, 9 SB in 453 AB

.271/.353/.476, 22 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 6 SB in 471 AB

Weeks can’t stay healthy.  He posted his numbers last season in just 118 games.  He’ll try to do more with Prince Fielder gone and, possibly, Ryan Braun suspended, so it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up.  His ankle injury could lead to a sharp decrease in stolen bases, depending on how it actually healed this offseason.  If 2012 ends up like 2010, his lone season with at least 130 games played (160), he will be capable of posting numbers close to a top 3 2B.  Don’t count on it, though.

9. Chase Utley, Phillies

.259/.344/.425, 21 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 14 SB in 398 AB

.271/.356/.441, 33 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 20 SB in 521 AB

Utley’s days as an elite 2B are over, but he is still a great player.  He and the lineup around him are shaky due to a cohesive aging process.  Between Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies should begin to wonder what their right side of the infield is capable of, and if they have enough depth to survive another major injury over there.

10. Jason Kipnis, Indians

.272/.333/.507, 9 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB in 136 AB

.274/.349/.494, 31 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 11 SB in 597 AB

Based on Kipnis’ small sample size, you’d think he was going to be an elite 2B tomorrow.  Hell, if you take his 136 AB and turn it into a full season, he would have posted his .272/.333/.507 slash with 41 2B, 3 3B, 32 HR, 86 RBI, and 23 SB.  Kipnis is an offensive-minded 2B, but he isn’t going to touch those numbers.  With that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit up to 25 HR in a season in the future.  A great keeper league player.

11. Dustin Ackley, Mariners

.273/.348/.417, 16 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB in 333 AB

.284/.356/.449, 41 2B, 11 3B, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 12 SB in 601 AB

Ackley won’t hit for power due to Safeco Field, but his gap power is impressive.  At some point, he’ll be ripping 50+ doubles annually.

12. Neil Walker, Pirates

.273/.334/.408, 36 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 83 RBI, 9 SB in 596 AB

.275/.341/.419, 38 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SB in 613 AB

13. Danny Espinosa, Nationals

.236/.323/.414, 29 2B, 5 3B, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB in 573 AB

.241/.331/.416, 31 2B, 6 3B, 22 HR, 69 RBI, 19 SB in 586 AB

14. Gordon Beckham, White Sox

.230/.296/.337, 23 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 5 SB in 499 AB

.249/.311/.401, 32 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 8 SB in 597 AB

15. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks

.246/.299/.356, 27 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 61 RBI, 21 SB in 520 AB

.258/.309/.398, 31 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 18 SB in 563 AB

16. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays

.222/.304/.413, 27 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 16 SB in 545 AB

.239/.314/.422, 29 2B, 5 3B, 24 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB in 571 AB

17. Omar Infante, Marlins

.276/.315/.382, 24 2B, 8 3B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 4 SB in 579 AB

.269/.311/.385, 28 2B, 9 3B, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 6 SB in 589 AB

18. Jemile Weeks, Athletics

.303/.340/.421, 26 2B, 8 3B, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 22 SB in 406 AB

.297/.342/.425, 37 3B, 12 3B, 3 HR, 51 RBI, 36 SB in 593 AB

19. Marco Scutaro, Rockies

.299/.358/.423, 26 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB in 395 AB

.286/.351/.410, 31 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB in 589 AB

20. Johnny Giavotella, Royals

.247/.273/.376, 9 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB in 178 AB

.269/.310/.401, 22 2B, 7 3B, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 11 SB in 574 AB

The Rest:

Ramon Santiago, Tigers; Darwin Barney, Cubs; Brian Roberts, Orioles; Orlando Hudson, Padres; Jose Altuve, Astros; Mark Ellis, Dodgers; Freddy Sanchez, Giants; Daniel Descalso, Cardinals; Daniel Murphy, Mets;