Second Half Scorchers

Nearly a month removed from the All-Star Game, there are several players who have seen drastic changes to their approaches and results over the last 30 days. While some players are in contention for a division title or wild card spot, others are helping their team to avoid the worst record in baseball. Take a look at these impressive results, as you get into the forgotten part of the baseball season – thanks in no small part to ESPN jamming NFL games that don’t even count down our throats.

Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast...again.
Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast…again.

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .442/.550/.663, 221 wRC+, 1.7 WAR, 20.7% walk rate

Votto limped through the first two months of the season, hitting an ugly .213/.330/.404 through the end of May; however, there were signs that this would turn around, including his 13.2% walk rate and incredibly low .252 BABIP (.357 career). He has certainly had better luck since the beginning of June, hitting .366/.500/.574 with a 21.4% walk rate and a .430 BABIP. As the Reds continue to sit at the bottom of the wins column in the NL Central, Votto is doing his part to keep them somewhat entertaining in the midst of their horrifically run rebuild.

Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Last 30 days: .313/.349/.696, .393 ISO, 1.5 WAR, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R

Dozier has been a useful second baseman for a number of years, though, due to the Twins struggles, he may not be as well-known as he should be. After all, he has averaged 23 home runs, 35 doubles, 71 RBI, and 16 steals between 2013 and 2015. This season, however, Dozier seems certain to eclipse those averages and eclipse career-bests in several categories, including batting average, which currently sits at .264, which is probably why he isn’t as beloved by stat and fantasy nerds as he should be. Over the last month, Dozier has been on fire, and after another first half of solid production but a queasy .246/.335/.450 line, he has jumped all the way up to the total above (see last 30 days) and his robust 1.045 OPS. The Twins have a lot of talented middle infielders and Dozier is signed through 2018 for just $15MM, so it will be interesting to see what his potentially awesome second half – if he continues like this – could land them in an extremely weak free agent market this winter.

Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016 Courtesy: Cleveland.com
Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016
Courtesy: Cleveland.com

Jose Ramirez, INF/OF, Cleveland Indians

Last 30 days: .365/.415/.573, 19 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB,  4 HR

Ramirez has been a blessing to the Tribe, taking control of third base after watching veteran-signee Juan Uribe struggle, up to his release, at the hot corner, while he was taking the pain away from the seemingly year-long injury to Michael Brantley prior to taking on third base full-time. Ramirez, just 24 in September, has been an intriguing prospect for a number of years to anyone who closely follows the Indians, as his speed, versatility, and contact skills looked like a reason that he would end up playing elsewhere with Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor around up the middle. Ramirez, though, has proven that he can be productive and valuable anywhere on the diamond. While he may fill a super-utility role and be viewed as a Ben Zobrist-y kind of talent, he may create a future for others to be very Jose Ramirez-y, instead.

Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Last 30 days: 5-0, 6 games (6 starts), 42.2 IP, 44:8 K:BB, .195 BAA, 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 1.3 WAR

Duffy has been Cy Young-contender good since the start of the 2nd half. Since moving into a full-time starter role on May 27th, Duffy is 9-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 109:18 K:BB over 99 IP and 15 starts. The Royals have dealt with some regression, inconsistencies, and ineffectiveness from their rotation throughout the year, and the defending world champions will have a rough time earning a wild card spot (they’re 6.5 games out as I write this), but Duffy, who is under team-control through next season, could be earning a lucrative extension with his recent efforts.

Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season Courtesy: CBS Sports
Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Last 30 days: 4-0, 6 games (6 starts), 43 IP, 50:10 K:BB, .174 BAA, 1.67 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 1.5 WAR

When Justin Verlander led the league in earned runs allowed in 2014, many thought that he had lost it and wouldn’t ever be the same. It happens with pitchers, and we haven’t seen many power pitchers this side of Roger Clemens have long-term success. After battling through some injuries in 2015 and regaining some semblance of himself in the ERA column, the 2016-version of Verlander looks an awful lot like the annual Cy Young-contender that we were all used to seeing, as he is back to striking out more than a batter per inning this season. Maybe it is his engagement to Kate Upton, maybe it is an adaptation to pitching with what he has, but the Tigers, who are back in the hunt in the AL Central (they’re 1-11 against Cleveland but have 7 games remaining against them), are surely happy to have their ace back.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 3-0, 5 games (5 starts), 32 IP, 27:6 K:BB, .231 BAA, 1.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.0 WAR

Odorizzi was one of the many Rays’ starters who were mentioned to be on the move at the trade deadline, however, only Matt Moore headed out of town and Tampa Bay has Odorizzi under control through 2019. If he continues his impressive run, Odorizzi could bring quite an impressive package of talent this winter, but the Rays could continue to build their offense around a rotation centered around Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Blake Snell, and the soon-to-return Alex Cobb. Just 6-5 in 24 starts, the 26-year-old right-hander is frustrating to own in fantasy, but his nice run over the last month may have flown under the radar due to the Rays last place standing in the AL East.

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Inspecting the Prospects – The Cueto Deal

 

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been keeping an eye on Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds deadline for quite some time, but you can’t blame a Cincinnati native and long-time Reds fan for being a homer. The deal that finally happened on Sunday, which resulted in the Cincinnati ace landing in Kansas City to anchor the Royals’ rotation in their push towards the playoffs, was something that was anticipated for months. Unfortunately, my prediction from this offseason, which had him landing in Boston, flopped about as much as the Red Sox have this season. Still, Cincinnati is left with a lot of question marks, especially since management isn’t done making moves. If you’re like me, you understand that this deal needed to happen so that the Reds could regroup and be competitive in a couple of years. If you’re pissed off because the Reds just traded their ace and have no one readily available to take on that role – you may want to take a step back from the ledge.

The Reds are headed towards a new era, and likely one with several years of trying to figure things out, resulting in 90 or more losses per season; however, Sunday’s deal was a tremendous start in showing that they are capable of righting the ship quickly. Here is some reaction from the experts:

The "major" piece in the deal, LHP Brandon  Finnegan Courtesy: kansascity.com
The “major” piece in the deal, LHP Brandon Finnegan
Courtesy: kansascity.com

About Finnegan:

“…Coming to the Reds, there is no reason he shouldn’t be given another chance to lengthen out into a starting role. Finnegan has the arsenal of a starting pitcher and while he is short, he has some present strength. If Finnegan moves back into a starting role, he needs to work on regaining the feel for his changeup. As a reliever, he’s largely junked the pitch but it was above-average at times when he was pitching as a starter in college. This year Finnegan has largely focused on using his 92-95 mph fastball and his slider which flashes above-average.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Finnegan’s changeup is obviously going to be the separator there, as far as any hope of starting goes. It’s a genuinely strong pitch, able to generate whiffs and ground balls against right-handers in its limited exposure to date. He has an excellent sinker/slider combination, although neither have yet passed the MLB test in more than a single trip through the order. If he can wield that change as a weapon against righties in larger samples, he’s a starter, and probably a good one.” – Baseball Prospectus

The "Wild Card" in the deal, LHP John  Lamb Courtesy: royalrevival.blogspot.com
The “Wild Card” in the deal, LHP John Lamb
Courtesy: royalrevival.blogspot.com

About Lamb:

“…He now sits 88-93 mph, but he’ll touch 95 occasionally. More importantly he’s added a cutter that has quickly become a pitch that compensates for his still fringy curveball. His changeup isn’t as good as it was pre-injury but it’s an average offering as well.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Though Lamb still can hit 96 mph on occasion, he has lost a couple of ticks off his fastball and usually works from 89-93. His changeup isn’t the weapon it once was, so he has come up with a low-80s cutter to keep right-handers at bay. He also has a soft curveball that wasn’t much of a factor before he got hurt.After battling his control and command in his first two Triple-A stints, Lamb has thrown more strikes and was doing a better job of keeping the ball down in the zone in 2015. He won’t be the frontline starter he once projected to be, but he could help the Reds in the near future.” – Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

“…He works with a 90-92 mph fastball, and he still possesses a plus change that has excellent deception from arm speed with some downward movement to it as well. The curve will never be much more than a 45 offering—and he’ll likely need to add some velocity to it. The key is the development of his cutter, which many scouts attribute his 2015 step forward to. If it can continue to be another weapon for him, he stands a good chance to be a competent back-end starter.” – Baseball Prospectus

The piece with the helium, LHP Cody  Reed Courtesy: milb.com
The piece with the helium, LHP Cody Reed
Courtesy: milb.com

About Reed:

“…With a better finish to his delivery, he developed the ability to locate more consistently down in the zone, allowing his 92-95 mph fastball (which touches 97 mph at its best) to play better down in the zone. It has late life when he elevates it as well. Reed flashes an above-average slider that he can now throw for strikes as well as using as a chase pitch. And his once fringy changeup has improved to become an average offering.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Reed works with a 90-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96 and has some sinking and cutting action. He has greatly improved his changeup this season, and at times it’s his second-best offering. Reed always had the athleticism to repeat his delivery but struggled to do so before 2015. Now he’s more aggressive and filling the strike zone with ease, showing the potential to become a mid-rotation starter with three solid-or-better pitches.” – Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

“…The improved control gives him a chance to start, but of the three arms acquired, this is the one who is the most likely to end up in the bullpen.” – Baseball Prospectus

In Cueto, Kansas City is getting a dynamic starter who has managed to go 60-31 with a 2.51 ERA (3.33 FIP), 1.05 WHIP, and 7.7 K:9 since the start of the 2011 season, covering 808 innings over 121 starts (6.7 IP/start). He’ll likely take Yordano Ventura‘s rotation spot, as he was just shipped to Triple-A prior to the injury to Jason Vargas, and he’ll be exactly what the team needs, an ace, while the Royals’ defense will only make him look better than he did in Cincinnati.

Being left-handed and breathing is an excellent way to score an opportunity in baseball. The fact that the Reds were able to get three left-handed pitchers who can touch the mid-90’s with their fastballs for three months of Cueto is a coup. This deal was very even, and even though Cincinnati will need to wait and see what happens with these young arms, the Reds did just as well to get the pieces that they needed as what the Royals did in getting the ace that they needed.

Cincinnati fans need to understand that this is just the beginning of several changes. If Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Phillips, and Marlon Byrd are still with the team on August 1st, Walt Jocketty is doing it wrong. This team hasn’t won a World Series since 1990, and those players aren’t going to bring another to Cincinnati. Scrap it and start over. While it is painful to go through a process, just remember that things could be worse, even if we may not be able to say it much longer – Thanks, Cubs!

What Kind of Prospects Can Cueto Bring Cincinnati?

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

Johnny Cueto will not be a Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher come August 1st. The question is no longer if but when the right-handed ace gets traded by Cincinnati, and, just what is he going to be worth?

Cueto, a free agent after the season, will be owed less than $5 million over the rest of the season. He will not net the team that receives him a draft pick if he leaves in free agency, so does that mean the Reds won’t receive a generous package for him?

For comparisons sake, there have been a few free agency bound starters who were traded over the last several years:

Jon Lester was dealt by the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland Athletics, along with Jonny Gomes, last season for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance (Round B) pick. Cespedes, an All-Star last season, was under team-control for 2015 ($10.5 million), but he was dealt to Detroit over the winter for RHP Rick Porcello, who was under control for 2015 before signing a four-year extension. Lester, 30 at the time of the trade, was a year older than Cueto, yet, he had six seasons with 190 or more innings pitched in his career, while Cueto only has two. Lester would leave Oakland for a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs after the 2014 season.

Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com
Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com

Zack Greinke was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena. Segura headlined the deal, ranking No.55 overall (by both MLB.com and Baseball America) prior to the 2012 season. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2013 and was a fixture at shortstop for the Brewers by August after the deal. Greinke was 29 at the time of the deal, the same age as Cueto, and had reached 200 innings in three seasons during his career at the time of the deal. Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million deal with the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2012 season.

CC Sabathia was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player to be named, who became Michael Brantley. LaPorta was the supposed prize of the package, as he ranked the No.23 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season. Sabathia would go on to sign his eight-year, $182 million deal with the New York Yankees after having shown himself as a dynamic workhorse with seven seasons with at least 180 innings pitched and a Cy Young award by the age of 27, when he was traded. The Indians have benefited most from Brantley, who was an All-Star for the first time in 2014, but LaPorta hasn’t been in the majors since 2012 and is now out of organized baseball after compiling a .238/.301/.393 line over 1,068 career plate appearances in MLB.

It is anyone’s guess as to what Cueto is actually worth; however, these deals provide a sort of blueprint for what the Reds could be seeking. Below are the names of some teams who are rumored to be interested in trading for the Reds’ ace, and some prospects who may interest Cincinnati.

Kansas City Royals

Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals? Courtesy: Fox Sports
Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals?
Courtesy: Fox Sports

Raul Mondesi – ranked 27th by Baseball Prospectus, he has moved quickly through the minors and has more glove and speed than offensive production to this point; however, he has projectability in his ability to hit the ball. He would be a tremendous get for the Reds, though, they may have him spend some time in the minors to let his game even out a bit.

Miguel Almonte – Almonte doesn’t have eye-popping numbers like some prospects have in the minors, but he would be a solid addition to the Reds rotation by mid-2016. He has three solid offerings, including a change that he can use as a punch-out pitch. He was ranked as the No.56 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2015 season.

Scott Blewett – A 6’6″, 19-year-old right-hander, Blewett possesses electric stuff. He is only in the short season South Atlantic League, so he is a project, but he has the kind of fastball that would make him a nice additional piece in a possible deal including either of the two players above.

Jorge Bonifacio – This 22-year-old outfielder hasn’t lived up to his potential to this point, but he has a dynamic arm for right field and plenty of power potential. He was rated as the No.90 prospect in baseball prior to the 2014 season, but saw his stock fall a bit due to some struggles in Double-A. Now repeating the level, Bonifacio has 18 doubles and 15 homers. Again, he isn’t a centerpiece in a Cueto deal, but he would be a solid piece.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Chris Anderson – The big (6’3″, 235 pounds) right-hander has the makings of an innings-eating, mid-rotation starter. He was a first round pick in 2013 out of Jacksonville University, and he would be someone who could help the Reds by the middle of the 2016 season, having already made 17 starts at Double-A. He has three potential above average pitches in his fastball, slider, and change.

Jose De Leon – The 22-year-old right-hander has catapulted himself into prospect watcher’s eyes by striking out 251 batters in just 171 innings since the start of the 2015 season. Ranked as the No.7 prospect in the Dodger system by Baseball Prospectus prior to the season, he will give Julio Urias a run for the money in a race to Los Angeles, and may have performed his way out of becoming a piece in a trade.

Toronto Blue Jays

Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto? Courtesy: Jays Journal
Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto?
Courtesy: Jays Journal

Daniel Norris – The 22-year-old left-hander jumped four level, all the way to Toronto, by dominating at every stop last season. His reward was five starts to begin April with the Blue Jays before being sent down to work on his craft. He hasn’t dominated in Triple-A this season, but he has the stuff to be an asset in Cincinnati. He would be a tremendous addition, though his No.17 prospect ranking by MLB.com prior to the season could make him a long-shot.

Jairo Labourt – The 21-year-old lefty looked solid in the Futures Game. He has a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s and can miss bats (9.8 K:9 last season), but he needs to work on his command (5.2 BB:9 this season). He would make for an interesting project.

Anthony Alford – After giving up football, Alford has taken off this season. In 20 games since being promoted to High-A Dunedin, he has a .349/.406/.523 triple-slash with 10 extra-base hits and six stolen bases. As a center fielder with tremendous athleticism, he could take over the gig if Billy Hamilton continues to lack the on-base skills necessary to utilize his speed in the near future.

 

2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals

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! 

Kansas City Royals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 72-90 (4th in AL Central, 27th in MLB)

Manager: Ned Yost (373-402 in five seasons with the Royals, 830-904 overall in 11 seasons)

Top Three Players: OF Alex Gordon (4.4), C Salvador Perez (3.6), 3B Mike Moustakas (2.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Mike Moustakas

It is hard to say that a player will rebound, especially when they haven’t had a single season of league-average wRC+ in their entire MLB career, but Moustakas is certainly capable of better than he has shown in his career. After dropping to a career-worst .212/.271/.361 triple-slash and 76 wRC+ in 2014, there isn’t really much further down Moustakas can go offensively before he’ll be out of a job. He will get to respectable levels because he won’t have a .220 BABIP, which is heavily weighed down by defensive shifts. Add in the career-low strikeout rate (14.8 percent) and a career-high walk-rate (7.0 percent), and Moustakas, while regressing, is, at the same time, showing progress offensively. Who is Mike Moustakas? Is he the kid who hit 36 home runs in 2010 in the minors at the age of 22, or is he the guy with the .669 OPS over his 1,993 MLB plate appearances. He hasn’t ever really been in the middle, but there is still potential for that, even as he enters only his age-26 season (he seems like he should be older, right?).

"Royals

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Yordano Ventura

If you look at the numbers for the Royals pitching staff in 2014, you may wonder why Ventura is a player to watch. He tied for the team lead in wins (14) with James Shields, and was second to Danny Duffy in starter ERA (3.20). The petite right-hander logged 183 innings while averaging 97 mph on his dominating fastball. He will turn 24 in June, and he should improve his command to bring his walk-rate down a bit from the 3.39 that he had in 2014. With the stuff and a bit of control, the sky is the limit for this kid, even if he must continue to overcome the diminutive label. Look for more from the already impressive power-arm.

Offseason Overview: The Royals had an interesting offseason, losing their ace (James Shields), an outfielder (Nori Aoki), and their long-time DH (Billy Butler); however, they filled those holes by signing RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Kris Medlen, OF Alex Rios, and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. The big question is: is that going to be enough? With Shields gone, the ace of the rotation (at least in label) will likely be RHP Jeremy Guthrie. Volquez isn’t going to replace the production that Shields had, at least (based on his track record) there isn’t enough consistency to warrant his elevation to being considered at top-tier pitcher, and Medlen, after two Tommy John surgeries, has been good, yet, he can’t be counted on. They will, instead, hope to get more production out of Ventura and LHP Danny Duffy to off-set the loss of Shields. A healthy Rios should be an upgrade over Aoki, even with the difference in on-base skills that Rios brings, and Morales was once capable of better production than the .702 OPS and 95 OPS+ that Butler provided from the DH slot in 2014, so they’ll hope for a return to that level with a full offseason to prepare.

The Verdict: PECOTA wasn’t kind to the Royals, just an offseason removed from appearing in the World Series. The AL Central seems quite competitive, especially with the White Sox buying in this winter. The Royals need to see improvements by Moustakas, OF Lorenzo Cain, and their young starting pitching. The additional unknown in year-to-year reliever success can go a long way in the Royals’ future, as well, as the dominance from RHP Greg Holland, RHP Wade Davis, and RHP Kelvin Herrera may not be the same in 2015. While PECOTA, once again, wasn’t very kind, the Royals seem more like, as they were last season, to exceed expectations. They have a lot of good, young talent still, and if things break right, even a little, they are capable of outperforming expectations, just as they did in 2014.

Hosmer Owes Brett His Next Contract

HosmerOn May 29, the Kansas City Royals had just lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and Eric Hosmer was hitting .262/.323/.331 with just one home run and 10 RBI over the season’s first 50 games. On May 30, George Brett was hired as the Royals‘ hitting coach. Today, July 25, Brett resigned from the position to return to his role as Vice President of Baseball Operations for Kansas City, after serving roughly eight weeks as a coach.

However, Brett’s impact may live on for some time, specifically for Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Hosmer hit .309/.349/.531 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI over his last 48 games. His approach at the plate has changed, as has his ability to drive the ball.

After a tremendous debut in 2011, Hosmer seemed to fall off of the face of the earth in 2012. His .232/.304/.359 line was supported by a miserable .255 BABIP and a 53.6 percent ground ball rate; Surprisingly, the 2013 ground ball rate is worse, 55.9 percent, but his line drive rate is up to 21.9 percent in 2013 from 18.5 percent in 2012. He is making more solid contact this season, which has put his BABIP in 2013 back up to .309.

At the age of 23, Hosmer appeared to be headed in the same direction as Mike Moustakas and the early career of Alex Gordon, but, like Gordon, he made some adjustments to make stronger, more consistent contact to solidify himself in the Royals future plans.


After 3,154 hits, one MVP, 13 All-Star appearances, and one tremendous tirade over pine tar on a bat, George Brett proved his worth as a hitting coach. After watching such great, quick improvements with Hosmer, it is incredible that more teams don’t reach out to former players who could actually hit. Instead, Major League Baseball hitting coaches include names like Brook Jacoby (Cincinnati, .270 career average with 1,220 hits), Lloyd McClendon (Detroit, .244 with 294 hits), Tom Brunansky (Minnesota, .244 with 1,543 hits), and Dave Hudgens (New York Mets, .143 with ONE career hit in 7 at-bats).

Hosmer2As Brett steps away from the field once again, it is proof that you can’t teach greatness, but you can be touched by it. Hosmer should be very grateful for getting his career back on track with help from one of the best ever.

Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/10

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.

Yordano1

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 18 Royals FRk 0 1 2.78 10 5 22.2 28 11 7 0 5 11 1.456 11.1 4.4 2.20
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-FRk 4 3 3.08 17 9 64.1 58 33 22 3 18 71 1.181 8.1 9.9 3.94
2010 19 Royals FRk 0 1 2.31 3 3 11.2 9 5 3 0 1 13 0.857 6.9 10.0 13.00
2010 19 Royals Rk 4 2 3.25 14 6 52.2 49 28 19 3 17 58 1.253 8.4 9.9 3.41
2011 20 Kane County A 4 6 4.27 19 19 84.1 82 43 40 8 24 88 1.257 8.8 9.4 3.67
2012 21 3 Teams A+-AA-Rk 4 7 3.62 23 23 109.1 92 49 44 8 42 130 1.226 7.6 10.7 3.10
2012 21 Royals Rk 0 0 2.45 1 1 3.2 3 1 1 0 1 7 1.091 7.4 17.2 7.00
2012 21 Wilmington A+ 3 5 3.30 16 16 76.1 66 32 28 7 28 98 1.231 7.8 11.6 3.50
2012 21 Northwest Arkansas AA 1 2 4.60 6 6 29.1 23 16 15 1 13 25 1.227 7.1 7.7 1.92
2013 22 Northwest Arkansas AA 3 0 1.84 6 6 29.1 19 7 6 1 11 43 1.023 5.8 13.2 3.91
5 Seasons 15 17 3.45 75 62 310.0 279 143 119 20 100 343 1.223 8.1 10.0 3.43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Ventura tends to be overlooked due to his height. Despite being just 5’11” and  180 pounds, the soon-to-be 22-year-old with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball is doing all that he can to create some hype and become one of the top prospects in baseball. Prior to the 2013 season, Ventura was ranked by Baseball America as the No.85 prospect and by MLB.com as the No.60 prospect in baseball. While he could end up in the bullpen due to his reliance on his dominant fastball and excellent curve, he could still improve his changeup enough to become a rotation fixture in Kansas City. His last two starts have been absolutely dominant in Double-A, as he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and a 20:5 K:BB in 11 innings. Tim Lincecum, Whitey Ford, and Pedro Martinez had some success as pitchers under six feet tall, so don’t squash the idea that Ventura could dominate as a starter.

Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 Greenville A 12 5 4.87 23 22 101.2 100 58 55 10 47 130 1.446 8.9 11.5 2.77
2013 20 Salem A+ 3 1 2.25 6 6 32.0 17 9 8 2 11 40 0.875 4.8 11.2 3.64
2 Seasons 15 6 4.24 29 28 133.2 117 67 63 12 58 170 1.309 7.9 11.4 2.93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

The anti-Ventura, Owens is a 6’6″ left-hander with three solid pitches in the Red Sox organization. While other young pitchers, like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman, are thriving in the system’s higher levels, Owens is dominating in High-A and demonstrating statistics that match his skills, something that wasn’t true last season. Owens is missing more bats and, while he won’t turn 21 years old until July, could see a few starts in Double-A this season. The Red Sox have to be excited about the progress that he has shown this season.

Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red SoxCecchini

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 Lowell A- 32 133 114 21 34 12 1 3 23 12 17 19 .298 .398 .500 .898 57
2012 21 Greenville A 118 526 455 84 139 38 4 4 62 51 61 90 .305 .394 .433 .827 197
2013 22 Salem A+ 29 126 108 22 41 11 4 4 19 10 18 16 .380 .468 .667 1.135 72
3 Seasons 179 785 677 127 214 61 9 11 104 73 96 125 .316 .406 .482 .888 326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Cecchini is Owens’ teammate with High-A Salem, and while he doesn’t possess the normal hitting skills of a dynamic corner infielder, he is seems to be a robotic producer. Cecchini currently leads the Carolina League in total bases, and while he has just four home runs, his 19 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases, and .468 on-base percentage show the type of talent that he has. At 22, it may be time to wonder if he’ll be able to produce enough pop to be valuable at third, especially with the Red Sox potentially moving Xander Bogaerts off of short in the future; however, hits 38 doubles last season could turn into home runs as he continues to fill his 6’2″ frame. He’s a pure hitter and possesses sabermetric skills that the Red Sox front office is known to drool over.

Baxendale

D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 2 Teams A-Rk 0 0 0.96 17 0 12 18.2 13 3 2 0 2 31 0.804 6.3 14.9 15.50
2013 22 Fort Myers A+ 5 0 1.49 6 6 0 36.1 24 7 6 2 6 35 0.826 5.9 8.7 5.83
2 Seasons 5 0 1.31 23 6 12 55.0 37 10 8 2 8 66 0.818 6.1 10.8 8.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

This is really digging deep, but after striking out 10 while not allowing a run over seven innings in his last start, Baxendale could finally get noticed. A 10th round pick out of Arkansas in the 2012 MLB Draft, Baxendale was moved to starting pitcher this season by the Twins. Due to the club’s horrific starting pitching, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move quickly if he continues to have this type of success. His strikeout rate isn’t going to overwhelm you, but the fact that he doesn’t allow many free passes is very encouraging. The only scouting reports that I’ve seen on him mention a 3/4 arm slot, an 88 to 91 mph fastball, and an average to solid  slider and curve, but his ability to thrive while pitching in the tough SEC while at Arkansas as a reason to not count him out. Mound presence and confidence can go a long way in success, and Baxendale’s early results show that he could become useful for the Twins.

Rob Refsnyder, 2B, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 Charleston A 46 182 162 22 39 8 0 4 22 11 16 25 .241 .319 .364 .683 59
2013 22 2 Teams A+-A 33 157 130 23 50 12 1 1 20 13 22 22 .385 .490 .515 1.006 67
2013 22 Charleston A 13 62 54 9 20 4 1 0 6 7 6 12 .370 .452 .481 .933 26
2013 22 Tampa A+ 20 95 76 14 30 8 0 1 14 6 16 10 .395 .516 .539 1.055 41
2 Seasons 79 339 292 45 89 20 1 5 42 24 38 47 .305 .398 .432 .830 126
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

You have to assume that Robinson Cano isn’t going to be leaving New York anytime soon, and it is questionable as to whether he will ever move off of second base if or when he does sign a long-term extension with the Yankees; however, what are the Yankees going to do if Cano doesn’t re-sign with the club? Nearly all of their top prospects are outfielders and with the club sitting on the declining skills and lofty contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, will the club look for an expensive free agent option to replace him if he does leave? Robert Refsnyder doesn’t have a name that should be familiar to anyone, but if he continues to hit the way that he has this season, he could quickly become a part of the Yankees’ plans. A 5th round pick out of the University of Arizona in the 2012 MLB Draft, Refsnyder won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2012 College World Series by leading the Wildcats to the title. While his introduction to professional ball in 2012 wasn’t fantastic, he did show solid on-base skills and a little bit of speed. He has already been promoted to Tampa this season and he has responded with a 1.055 OPS in his first 20 games after posting a .933 OPS in 13 games in Low-A. He is short on home run power but he does have solid gap power, speed, and excellent plate discipline. If he maintains this production, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him as a second baseman and leadoff hitter for a Cano-less Yankees team in a couple of years.

osuna

Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 16 Mexico AAA 0 1 5.49 13 2 19.2 25 15 12 3 11 12 1.831 11.4 5.5 1.09
2012 17 2 Teams Rk-A- 2 0 2.27 12 9 43.2 32 14 11 2 15 49 1.076 6.6 10.1 3.27
2012 17 Bluefield Rk 1 0 1.50 7 4 24.0 18 5 4 1 6 24 1.000 6.8 9.0 4.00
2012 17 Vancouver A- 1 0 3.20 5 5 19.2 14 9 7 1 9 25 1.169 6.4 11.4 2.78
2013 18 Lansing A 1 2 3.63 5 5 22.1 15 10 9 4 4 31 0.851 6.0 12.5 7.75
3 Seasons 3 3 3.36 30 16 85.2 72 39 32 9 30 92 1.191 7.6 9.7 3.07
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Osuna just turned 18 years old in February and, while most boys his age are gearing up for high school graduation and prom night, Osuna is pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts and overmatching his competition in Low-A. At 6’2″, 230 pounds, Osuna has a solid frame that seems capable of handling a lot of innings, which could still grow. Hopefully, it wouldn’t grow like Bartolo Colon…Regardless, Osuna has very good stuff, he appears to have very good control, and if he keeps the ball in the park, he could be a tremendous asset for the Blue Jays. After several trades this winter to upgrade their club (which hasn’t worked out so well), the club could use an excellent season from Osuna to rebuild their minor league system.

Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 State College A- 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 21 2 Teams Rk-A 44 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 Pirates Rk 42 173 150 23 32 6 2 3 19 2 21 50 .213 .314 .340 .654 51
2012 21 West Virginia A 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 22 West Virginia A 32 143 121 20 41 8 0 8 26 4 18 39 .339 .427 .603 1.030 73
3 Seasons 91 316 271 43 73 14 2 11 45 6 39 89 .269 .365 .458 .823 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

Taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft after posting a 1.29 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 60 innings as a senior in high school, the Pirates had hoped that they had another first round talent in Allie, after taking Jameson Taillon earlier in the draft. Allie didn’t pan out, as he posted some horrific numbers while on the mound (7.76 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 29:37 K:BB in 26.2 IP) before he was moved to first base. While it didn’t go so well last season, the 2013 season has been a bit kinder to him. It is still the Sally League (Low-A) and Allie is 22 years old, but he is showing very good power and is second in the league in total bases. He is a long way off and he has a lot to prove, and his age could become a factor in the Pirates philosophy in moving him through the organization, as well. He does live, though, and you have to root for a guy who had such tremendous stuff and lost it so abruptly.


//

2013 Nerdy Baseball Stat Projections: Hitters

Baseball nerds are looking at all kinds of statistics that weren’t listed on the back of a baseball card when we were growing up. With the newer FIP, BABIP, and WAR statistics that have become a part of analysis of player abilities, it seems to be easier to project rebound candidates, potential breakouts, or potential flops based on these newer, sabermetric-based statistics. After looking at pitchers, lets take at look at some hitters:

BABIP Winners and Losers for 2013

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is an interesting statistic. FanGraphs.com has some really useful information on BABIP in their glossary and Tristan H. Cockcroft (awesome name, bro) had an interesting piece on how to use BABIP when putting your fantasy team together. Both discuss variables in how the statistic can be flawed, as Fangraphs focused on defense, luck, and talent level, while Cockcroft focused on “raw hitting skills, raw pitching skills, type of contact, and quality of contact.”

Regardless of those variables, the fact remains that, as Cockcroft says, the league average in 2012 was .297, while Fangraphs goes further, stating:

The average BABIP for hitters is around .290 to .310.  If you see any player that deviates from this average to an extreme, they’re likely due for regression.

However, hitters can influence their BABIPs to some extent. For example, speedy hitters typically have high career BABIP rates (like Ichiro and his .357 career BABIP), so don’t expect all players to regress to league average.

For the purpose of this piece, however, the extreme deviations from normal are taken into consideration.

Hitters to Target

 

Courtesy: NJ.com
Courtesy: NJ.com

Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets:  If you search this site, you’ll see that I have a bit of a man crush on Davis. In 2012, Davis managed to hit .227/3.08/.462 with 32 home runs and 90 RBI, all while posting a BABIP of just .246. The .271/.369/.460 line, 26 home runs, and 41 doubles over his first 750 plate appearances shows that Davis is quite capable of becoming an offensive force. The regression in batting average can be related to the Valley Fever that sapped his energy in spring training of last season, but with an increase in BABIP, Davis could become a .270 hitter with 35-40 home runs, even while playing half of his games at Citi Field for the Mets. Davis will turn 26 in late March and is well on his way to a huge rebound or breakout in 2013.

 

 

HosmerEric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals: Sophomore slump…yeah right. Hosmer hit .232/.304/.359 with 14 home runs in 2012, while posting a .255 BABIP. He increased his walk rate from 6 percent in his rookies season to 9.4 percent last year, while maintaining a line drive percent (18.7 percent in 2011, 18.5 percent in 2012). It just seems like the ground ball percentage, which jumped from 49.7 to 53.6 percent, played a role in his huge decrease in BABIP, which was at .314 in 2011. Hosmer will play the entire 2013 season at the age of 23. With great plate discipline and tremendous athleticism, he is a tremendous name to grab in hopes of a potential All-Star campaign. His early spring results (.391/.462/.696) could be an indication of such a breakout, as Hosmer heads off to take Mark Teixiera’s place on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Oakland Athletics: Weeks is an interesting player, having thrived in 2011, much like Hosmer, posting a .303/.340/.421 line, before crashing to a .221/.305/.304 line last season. Weeks has tremendous speed, but he has been thrown out stealing 16 times in 54 attempts, a 70 percent success rate, which has been about the norm throughout his career, as he was 41 for 55 (74 percent) in the minors. Weeks had nine infield hits in 2011 but just eight in 2012 in 74 more plate appearances, while his BABIP fell from .350 in 2011 to .256 last season. With a drastic increase in his walk rate (from 4.8 percent in 2011 to 9.8 percent in 2012) and the potential for a rebound in his BABIP to even .290, Weeks would see a solid increase in overall production. However, the Athletics have reloaded their roster, trading for Jed Lowrie, signing Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, while welcoming back Scott Sizemore from injury. With so many options, Weeks needs to start quickly. If he can find a way to use the speed that he has with the ability to utilize slap the ball all over the field, as he did in 2011, Weeks will be valuable to the A’s and fantasy baseball owners.

SmoakJustin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but…this is the year that Justin Smoak breaks out!!! Smoak may be one of the most unlucky hitters in baseball, as his career BABIP is just .256. A career line of .223/.306/.377 in 1,421 plate appearances could say that Smoak is what he is…bad. However, over the last month of the season, Smoak hit .341/.426/.580 with five home runs, 11 RBI, and a 13:13 K:BB in 101 plate appearances. This spring, Smoak is hitting .500/.556/1.000 with two home runs in his first 16 at-bats. After posting another low BABIP in 2012, .242, while seeing his walk and strikeout rates hold to around his career norms. Smoak needs to stay hot after the Mariners added Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, and Kendrys Morales to the club this winter, each of whom could slide into a DH/1B/LF role, which would limit Smoak’s playing time.

Hitters to Avoid

Fowler1Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies: Fowler turns 27 in late March, the magic number for a prime breakout. In 2012, Fowler posted an absurd .390 BABIP, while compiling a .300/.389/.474 line, 18 doubles, 11 triples, 13 home runs, and 12 stolen bases, the definition of a box score filler. He has always had solid plate discipline, as his 12.8 percent walk rate and .364 career on-base percentage show, so is he for real? Maybe this is just who he is, as he posted a .351 BABIP in 2009, .328 in 2010, and .354 in 2011 before the jump to .390 last season; however, .390 is so unrealistic and “lucky”, isn’t it? Even if Fowler manages to maintain his career .353 BABIP, he’ll see a slight decline in his overall numbers. I’m a big fan of Fowler’s, but expecting him to duplicate his BABIP is unreasonable, though he could add enough power with his on-base skills to be very useful for the Rockies and fantasy geeks alike.

Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers: Jackson is the poster boy for inflated BABIP and what they can do with inflation and deflation. Check out these statistics:

Year Tm AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 DET 618 103 181 34 10 4 41 27 47 170 .293 .345 .400 .745
2011 DET 591 90 147 22 11 10 45 22 56 181 .249 .317 .374 .690
2012 DET 543 103 163 29 10 16 66 12 67 134 .300 .377 .479 .856
3 Yrs 1752 296 491 85 31 30 152 61 170 485 .280 .346 .416 .761
162 Game Avg. 644 109 180 31 11 11 56 22 62 178 .280 .346 .416 .761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2013.

In 2010, Jackson’s BABIP was: .396

In 2011, Jackson’s BABIP was: .340

In 2012, Jackson’s BABIP was .371

While Jackson has a career BABIP of .370, if he reverts to his undisciplined, free swinging ways  of 2010 and 2011 (when he had strikeout rates of 25.2 and 27.1 percent), he could see a large decline in his overall numbers, similar to the drop-off in 2011. However, with his gains in power (career-high 16 home runs) and his walk rate (10.8 percent), he, too, will still have some value, especially hitting in front of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

PoseyBuster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: Posey was the NL MVP, and with good reason, posting a .336/.408/.549 line in 2012. The only issue could be that batting average, which could have seen a huge bump from Posey’s .368 BABIP. Previously, he had posted BABIPs of .315 in 2010 and .326 in 2011. While Posey does have some speed, will he be a catcher capable of 17 infield hits every season? While he is a very special talent, Posey may not repeat his incredible 2012 totals, especially if Brandon Belt solidifies himself as an everyday first baseman. Will they sit Belt if he is having a breakout season so that Posey can take a day off behind the plate? Posey is still the top catcher available in fantasy leagues and the top offensive catcher in baseball, with the ability to post numbers that only Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, or Carlos Santana seem capable of reaching, but can he continue to post an extremely high BABIP going forward? For that reason alone, be cautious in putting too much stock into the superstar catcher.