Tag: Madison Bumgarner

2015 Season Previews: San Francisco Giants

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!

San Francisco Giants

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 84-78 (3rd in NL West, 9th in MLB)

Manager: Bruce Bochy (667-629 in eight seasons with San Francisco, 1,618-1,604 in 20 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: C Buster Posey (6.1), LHP Madison Bumgarner (3.5), 1B Brandon Belt (3.3)

Bounce-back Player: RHP Matt Cain

Since the start of the 2013 season, Cain has gone 10-17 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 274.2 innings and 45 starts. Over the previous four seasons, Cain had gone 55-35 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 882 innings and 131 starts. The last two seasons, Cain has been on the disabled list four times and he has had two surgeries (bone chips removed from his right elbow and right ankle surgery to remove bone spurs). He was never on the disabled list prior to the 2013 season. Some people may think that the 30-year-old right-hander will be a bust after signing his mega-extension, but Cain has had some bad luck the last two seasons with his health, and he has still shown an ability to keep the opposition off the bases, despite the inflated ERA. Look for Cain to be a solid 1B to Bumgarner’s 1A as he returns to form in 2015.

Susac has the tools to be a big producer...if he gets a shot Courtesy: USA Today
Susac has the tools to be a big producer…if he gets a shot
Courtesy: USA Today

Fantasy Player to Watch: C Andrew Susac

Even with Brandon Belt at first base, it doesn’t seem like a smart investment to have your best player at such a vulnerable position in the midst of a nine-year, $164 million contract. For that reason, and that fact that Belt would be an offensive upgrade in a corner over Gregor Blanco, you should keep an eye on Susac, a second round pick in 2011 out of Oregon State. Susac is a slugger with solid on-base skills, while providing a strong arm and solid, but not elite, defense behind the dish. While he is unlikely to log 400 at-bats in San Francisco, possibly even 200 in 2015, there will come a time when Susac is catching and Posey will be manning first base or another position, and this 25-year-old will be worth rostering.

Offseason Overview: The defending world champions lost their star third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, to the Boston Red Sox via free agency, but they did sign OF Nori Aoki and 3B Casey McGehee…Is that enough? The Giants held tight across the board, and they hope to survive with their very good rotation until Hunter Pence returns from his broken forearm to help the offense score some runs. Why fix what has been working? Sandoval was good but not great, and they’ll benefit from the on-base skills from Aoki at the top of the order. That was a sneak-good signing, and the pitching is still there to be competitive.

The Verdict: Well, it isn’t an even year, so the Giants can be written off as champions, since they’ve won in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Maybe next year, they can continue on with their pattern. The 2015 season will be quite interesting. They’ll hope to get some value out of the two-year, $35 million deal they gave Tim Lincecum after his horrific 2012 and 2013 seasons, and they’ll look for continued dominance by Bumgarner, who had one of the most historical performances in baseball history down the stretch and in the playoffs last season. The Giants continue to coast with what they have, adding aging pieces in areas of need, continuing to watch Posey and Pence carry a very average (or worse) group of hitters. If they were able to add something more than what they did this winter, perhaps they could have been capable of repeating, but they’ll settle into the middle of the NL West with another above .500 record, preparing to pounce on some free agents after the 2015 season.

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Splitting Up Major League Baseball

Sample sizes are still small, but the season is now two months old and we have a pretty good idea of who is having All-Star caliber seasons and who is flopping like a fish out of the water. Here is a look at some players who are showing some serious splits, whether home or away, during the first two months of the 2014 MLB season, who may require you to alter your fantasy lineups in coming weeks:

Strong Splits Among 2014 MLB Hitters

UptonJustin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 30 123 104 19 40 9 0 10 26 3 15 34 .385 .467 .760 1.227 79 .492
Away 24 103 93 10 18 3 1 3 7 3 9 34 .194 .262 .344 .606 32 .263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Upton’s numbers at home are downright sexy, but his numbers away from Turner Field, like a lot of what Atlanta has received from the Upton brothers, has left the Braves wanting more. If Justin and B.J. ever gain a bit of consistency this season, the Braves could run away with the NL East. There is still potential in Justin Upton, but he needs to work more at making it a reality at this point.

Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 30 123 104 19 40 9 0 10 26 3 15 34 .385 .467 .760 1.227 79 .492
Away 24 103 93 10 18 3 1 3 7 3 9 34 .194 .262 .344 .606 32 .263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Not as drastic as Upton’s split, but Ramirez has a pretty obvious love of U.S. Cellular Field, which has long been a hitter’s paradise. As the summer months heat things up in Chicago, be aware of a possible trade involving the aging middle infielder on a rebuilding team, as a move to Detroit would likely diminish his offensive value.

Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 28 95 88 10 31 5 2 1 5 5 7 23 .352 .400 .489 .889 43 .469
Away 25 97 91 8 18 6 1 3 6 1 4 17 .198 .232 .385 .616 35 .211
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Arizona’s young shortstop is mashing…at home. Away from the desert, his production deserts him (pun intended). Owings has a tremendous blend of power and speed for a fantasy shortstop, but his ability to make consistent contact could continue to be an issue. That BABIP is unlikely to remain as high as it is right now (at home – .469!?!?), so he would be a good piece to deal away in re-draft leagues.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 29 113 101 9 27 2 0 2 13 2 12 11 .267 .345 .347 .692 35 .284
Away 25 114 103 13 39 19 1 1 11 0 11 13 .379 .439 .612 1.050 63 .427
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Lucroy isn’t that bad when he is playing at Miller Park, especially when you consider the type of overall production some teams are getting out of catchers (Mets, Dodgers, and Rays, I’m pointing at you); however, Lucroy more than makes up for it on the road, becoming an absolute monster for the NL Central-leading Brewers.

 

"Brewers'

Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 30 130 106 21 27 7 0 5 16 9 16 32 .255 .380 .462 .842 49 .314
Away 23 108 104 16 38 9 2 6 16 2 3 28 .365 .389 .663 1.052 69 .457
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Like Lucroy, Gomez is a monster away from Miller Park. Unlike Lucroy, he does enough other things to remain an elite-level talent. Saying an .842 OPS is weak is dumb, but a .200 point difference (even in a small sample) is worth taking note of, here. Gomez should continue to be a force, as he is one of three, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen the others, who have 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases since the start of the 2012 season.

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Home 28 126 111 15 28 3 2 0 11 5 12 21 .252 .336 .315 .651 35 .311
Away 28 124 114 17 37 7 1 3 13 4 9 17 .325 .379 .482 .861 55 .362
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

If only Kendrick didn’t play half of his games in Anaheim, he may have become the future batting title winner that so many expected when he was coming up through the Angels’ minor league system. Even with a rejuvenated lineup that may be much more successful around Trout this season, it is fair to wonder if Kendrick will ever really put it all together. If he maintains these numbers to push his overall numbers up much further, though, he would be another good player to move.

Pitching Splits Worth Watching…

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 3 1 1.47 6 0 3 3 43.0 35 10 7 2 6 24 0.953 4.00
Away 0 2 4.13 6 0 0 0 32.2 46 18 15 2 10 21 1.714 2.10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Two different pitchers – that is what Alvarez truly is. In Miami, the three shutouts in 2014 are proof of his electric stuff. He’s still young and inconsistent, but he is a must start – only at home.

 

 

"Padres

Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 3 2 1.54 6 0 0 0 41.0 29 10 7 2 12 44 1.000 3.67
Away 3 2 4.41 6 0 0 0 34.2 39 24 17 4 17 26 1.615 1.53
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Like many Padres’ starting pitchers before him, Ross is thriving in the pitching paradise that is Petco Park. After a breakthrough in the second half of the 2013 season, Ross was a hot sleeper pick in 2014. Using him in his home starts will make you look much more intelligent until he shows a bit more away from San Diego.

Tanner Roark, RHP, Washington Nationals

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 2 3 1.55 6 0 1 1 40.2 32 8 7 2 11 27 1.057 2.45
Away 1 1 5.65 5 0 0 0 28.2 28 18 18 5 7 23 1.221 3.29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Roark is doing a nice job pitching in the shadows of the nation’s capital, but it is another story away from Nationals’ Park. He doesn’t allow many base runners, but he is giving up far too many home runs away from D.C. Roark has been a solid addition to the Nationals’ rotation this season, but if he continues showing this dramatic split, it is fair to wonder whether he could be bumped from the rotation late this season.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 3 1 3.43 7 0 0 0 44.2 46 19 17 3 17 35 1.410 2.06
Away 3 0 1.25 5 0 1 1 36.0 20 5 5 2 10 30 0.833 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

Sonny Gray has a reverse split, or so it seems. Most Oakland pitchers thrive at home, where the spacious confines of O.co Coliseum allow for additional outs due to amount of foul territory in the two-sport stadium, but Gray has better numbers on the road to this point. He has been very good, but the old “short” label and hysteria may lead to a lack of value for the young right-hander.

Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 2 2 3.91 4 0 0 0 23.0 15 11 10 1 10 22 1.087 2.20
Away 2 1 1.33 4 0 0 0 27.0 19 4 4 2 4 32 0.852 8.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

After posting a 8.94 ERA and 1.80 WHIP over his first 47.1 innings, McHugh has evidently found something special in Houston…or, more specifically, when pitching in a Houston uniform when he’s in an opposing ballpark. Along with Dallas Keuchel, McHugh has brought life to the Astros rotation, the same rotation which was supposed to be on life support until Mark Appel and Carlos Rodon were in Houston. Now, Rodon may not be their pick on Thursday and Appel doesn’t look like a front-line starter, but the Astros can survive with what they have, as long as Jonathan Singleton and George Springer are doing their things.

 

"Giants

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/W
Home 3 2 4.94 5 0 0 0 27.1 32 16 15 2 10 33 1.537 3.30
Away 4 1 1.59 7 0 1 0 45.1 41 13 8 4 8 52 1.081 6.50
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2014.

AT&T Park isn’t thought of as a place where offense thrives, but when Bumgarner has taken the mound there for the Giants, it hasn’t gone quite as well as it has for him away from the bay. The young lefty has been electric and dominant away from San Francisco in 2014, and quite pedestrian at home. His overall numbers are still solid thanks, in large part, to just how dominant he has been on the road. He has the stuff to rule the opposition anywhere, so he could have Cy Young-like numbers by the end of the season if it all comes together.

2014 MLB Predictions and Useless Guesses

I do this dance when I'm right - which is often
I do this dance when I’m right – which is often

This is the third year that I’ve created this article (2012 and 2013) and it’s always a lot of fun. After I looked back at the 2013 version and saw that I did mediocre, I figured that it was worth trying out once again, just to see if I’m as brilliant as I like to, humbly, think that I am.

American League East

1st:  Tampa Bay Rays

2nd: New York Yankees

3rd: Boston Red Sox

4th: Baltimore Orioles

5th: Toronto Blue Jays

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com
Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Last year, I went with Toronto, which was an absolute nightmare. They still have a lot of offensive talent, but they don’t have the rotation depth (even with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez knocking on the door) to compete in this division. I really like the Orioles and I even think that Ubaldo Jimenez can make it work in Baltimore, but I’m hesitant to expect a repeat from Chris Davis in 2014 and we still don’t know the second base situation will work out or when Manny Machado will be full strength. The top three in the East are nearly replaceable parts, as you could put them in any order and look like a genius. For me, Boston doesn’t have the goods this year, having not replaced Jacoby Ellsbury with a legitimate part (Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley, Jr.) and a veteran team another year older screams regression. The Yankees are a mess at second after losing Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, but they added enough parts to look like a team on the rise. The Rays nearly stood pat, but I think that will work for them. A full season from Wil Myers and the tremendous arms in David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb make them a force. While re-signing James Loney was the highlight of their offseason, the Rays are still strong enough defensively and in the rotation to win this division. The only worry is injuries, as their minor league system hasn’t produced many stars as they’ve moved to the back-end of drafts due to their major league success.

American League Central

1st: Detroit Tigers

2nd: Cleveland Indians

3rd: Kansas City Royals

4th: Chicago White Sox

5th: Minnesota Twins

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com
Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

The Central was quite competitive in 2013, as the Tribe and Royals finally pushed the Tigers and made the division look respectable once again, though Chicago and Minnesota were two of the worst teams in all of baseball. Things still look bleak for the latter two teams, as they are both slowly rebuilding by developing their own talent or acquiring talent in trades. The Twins will be a force to be reckoned with within the next couple of seasons when Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano (who will miss all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery), Alex Meyer, and others begin reaching Target Field, and the White Sox will be better with solid, young, major league-ready talent in Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Jose Abreu being acquired or signed within the last year. Regardless, this division will be a three-way battle in 2014. The Royals will come up a bit short after losing Ervin Santana‘s production to free agency. While Santana struggled to find consistency throughout his career, Yordano Ventura, no matter how good he may be in his rookie season, likely won’t be able to repeat Santana’s 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 211 innings in his age-23 season in the No.5 starter role. I’m expecting huge things from Eric Hosmer and tremendous improvements out of Mike Moustakas and his new swing, but the rotation isn’t strong enough to contend with the other offenses in this division. The Indians may not win 92 games again this year, but the have the offensive firepower to be a contender. Even with lackluster seasons from Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher in 2013, Cleveland rocked. They’ll struggle due to rotation losses, much like the Royals, needing to replace both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir‘s innings, but Danny Salazar should continue to establish himself as an electric arm, albeit with around a 170 to 180 innings limit. The Tigers will remain the class of the AL Central due to their rotation. Even after trading Doug Fister, the Tigers were able to replace him with the young lefty Drew Smyly, and the Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez trio should be good for over 600 innings and 600 strikeouts in 2014. Rick Porcello‘s drastic improvements last year leave him heading towards his free agency after the 2015 season, so if he is determined to strike it rich, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the 2nd best pitcher on the staff this season. Miguel Cabrera may be all that they need, but rookie Nick Castellanos can swing it, Austin Jackson is looking at a breakout season, and Ian Kinsler, even if he is just mediocre away from Arlington, is more than capable of devastating opposing pitchers. The Tigers may be a 100-win team in 2014.

American League West

1st: Los Angeles Angels

2nd: Oakland Athletics

3rd: Texas Rangers

4th: Seattle Mariners

5th: Houston Astros

Angels OF Mike Trout
Angels OF Mike Trout

Houston is brutal, but you have to trust in the processes that GM Jeff Luhnow brought with him from the St. Louis Cardinals. He has quickly turned the minor league system around for the Astros and there is tremendous talent on the way up, but Houston looks like a 95 to 100 loss team once again in 2014, though there are some pieces who will show themselves useful to the organization in Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler (likely trade bait), Brad Peacock, and Jonathan Villar (a poor man’s Everth Cabrera). Seattle improved tremendously and will field a winning team, but they don’t have the talent to overcome the class of the division. The Mariners have plenty of young talent in Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Brad Miller, and Dustin Ackley who will be valuable, but they also have glaring weaknesses in Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders locked into starting roles. If Seattle continues to add pieces over the next couple of seasons to their strong, young core, they’ll get there. The Rangers have been very good for quite some time, and they made the Kinsler trade with Detroit to bring back the big bopper that they lost when Josh Hamilton left for Los Angeles. Prince Fielder should be tremendous in Texas, likely rebounding to the 35 to 40 home run power that we used to see in Milwaukee, while the trade opened up a spot for Jurickson Profar at second. With Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios still around and the additon of Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers should be very tough to keep off of the scoreboard, but with injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison (whose back still isn’t right), the Rangers will heavily lean on Yu Darvish and youngster Martin Perez. They’ll need a lot of help from Colby Lewis (who missed all of 2013) and Tommy Hanson (a shoulder injury away from being out of the league) to be competitive. The A’s have lost A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker to injuries (Parker is out for the season) already this spring, but they still have solid depth in their rotation with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone, and Jesse Chavez to be solid in the rotation, especially with their spacious home field. Yoenis Cespedes should provide a full season with 30/30 potential, Josh Donaldson can really hit a baseball and pick it in the field nearly as beautifully, and Josh Reddick has a healthy wrist and will want to prove that he is more the 2012 version (32 HR/85 RBI) than last year’s version (12 HR/56 RBI). The A’s are dangerous, and while they don’t look like much offensively in parts of the order, Billy Beane continues to do quite a bit with the talent that he and his operations staff are able to find and get the most out of. The Angels have had a rough go of things in the Albert Pujols era. Mike Trout is now the centerpiece of the team, but the club has continued to put pieces around him, adding David Freese at third, and a couple of solid young arms to a depleted rotation in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. The minor league system is still a hot mess, but the Halos have quite a bit of talent that, if healthy, will allow them to be a dominant team once again. I’m betting on Pujols, Trout, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson in carrying this team back to the top of the West in 2014.

American League Wild Cards

New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics

National League East

1st: Washington Nationals

2nd: Atlanta Braves

3rd: Miami Marlins

4th: Philadelphia Phillies

5th: New York Mets

Braves OF Jason Heyward
Braves OF Jason Heyward

I may be a bit of an optimist when it comes to the NL East, but I’m seeing things a bit differently than most. The Mets offense is horrendous and they haven’t had a full season of David Wright in two of the last three seasons – plus, Wright’s now on the wrong side of 30. The outfield is a cluster of mediocrity, featuring an aging Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, while the club seems to think that Eric Young, Jr. is an everyday corner outfielder. The rotation is also ugly after losing Matt Harvey late last year. Zack Wheeler is still a work in progress, but a team in need of a rebuild signed Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka to fill their rotation voids. I don’t see it working. The Phillies also feature aging players, and it’s hard to see full seasons out of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley again in 2014. The rotation is hurting a bit with Cole Hamels having shoulder issues and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez looking like garbage after signing out of Cuba, but Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett should continue to be productive. I’d like to see Domonic Brown have another season like 2013 to make Ruben Amaro, Jr. look worse than he already makes himself look with his horrific contracts and clueless way of running the team, after letting Brown waste away for so long in the Phillies’ minor league system. I like the Marlins this year. The rotation is very good: Jose Fernandez is an ace; Henderson Alvarez may not strikeout a ton of guys, but he keeps the ball down and pounds the strike zone; Nathan Eovaldi has an upper-90’s fastball and looks promising; Jacob Turner is up and down like most young starters, but he was once a future No.1 or No.2; A.J. Ramos and Steve Cishek are good at the back-end of the bullpen, and you can’t not like Giancarlo Stanton mashing in the middle of the order. The club will get some offensive help with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Garrett Jones (only against RHP) in the lineup. They won’t be above .500, but they should be better than the Mets and Phillies in 2014. The Braves are hurting in the rotation after losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgeries in the last few weeks; however, they still have Julio Teheran, Mike Minor (when he’s over his injury around the second week of April), and Alex Wood, with Gavin Floyd coming back from Tommy John surgery by mid-May. They just need to make it through the first month, and they have enough offense to do that. Jason Heyward is a monster who has struggled, but I’m expecting huge things out of him this season after injuries limited him to 104 games last season. Justin Upton and B.J. Upton will likely rebound, as well, and Freddie Freeman looks to be an MVP candidate after having a breakout season at the age of 23 in 2013. Andrelton Simmons could only build on his breakout 2013, and Atlanta is either going to get a rebound from Dan Uggla or production out of his eventual replacement, Tommy La Stella, at second. The Braves will be great, but not was good as the Nationals. This team is setup to win games and win lots of them. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister present a top four of a rotation that can’t be matched by another club in Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper is jacked and looks primed to reach 30-plus home runs at the age of 21 and Jayson Werth will team with him in the middle of the order to cripple opposing pitchers. Ian Desmond is one of the top offensive shortstops in baseball and Anthony Rendon should establish himself as an All-Star level producer at second this season. Ryan Zimmerman is still a defensive wizard, and, if he can stay on the field, he can come close to 30 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. The Nationals, like the Tigers, are capable or exceeding 100 wins.

National League Central

1st: St. Louis Cardinals

2nd: Cincinnati Reds

3rd: Pittsburgh Pirates

4th: Milwaukee Brewers

5th:  Chicago Cubs

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

The Cubs will be difficult to deal with in 2015, when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, and Arismendy Alcantara are officially within their everyday lineup; however, in 2014, Chicago will, once again, be the red-headed stepchild of the NL Central, taken out back and beaten in the wood house, or any other form of describing a team that will be laughably bad. If Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo bounce back, they could win 65 to 70 games, but if they’re both as bad as they were in 2013, this is a 100 loss team. The Brewers will be better in 2014. Management has spent money and, while the minor league system rivals the atrociousness of the Angels’ system, Milwaukee has Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, and Khris Davis in the lineup to be productive offensively. Wily Peralta should build on his late season success from 2013, and the veteran leadership in the rotation from Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza should lead to an above .500 season. The Brewers just don’t have the depth to overcome injuries to the rotation or the everyday lineup, so they’ll likely run into some trouble in 2014, especially if they’re counting on 200 innings from Garza. The Pirates surprised everyone by winning 94 games in 2013, but they aren’t going to stop there. Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Gerrit Cole look like the core of a franchise that will be capable of winning several divisions in a row in coming seasons. With Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Gregory Polanco on the way, this club should only get better. Unfortunately, the loss of A.J. Burnett could take its toll on the rotation. Cole and Charlie Morton are effective, Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez, however, haven’t shown much consistency for health or production over their careers. If things break right, the Pirates could be right where they left off, but that’s a big “if”. The Reds lost a lot of production when Shin-Soo Choo signed with Texas. Billy Hamilton will utilize his thoroughbred-like speed to steal bases and score runs, but he doesn’t have the power or on-base skills that Choo brought to the club. With Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the middle of the order, the Reds have plenty of pop, and if Brandon Phillips rebounds a bit (hard to say with 100-plus RBI, but the average and on-base numbers were rough), the offense should still be in good shape, especially with production from Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier. The rotation is still solid. A healthy Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Tony Cingrani will battle the Washington Nationals for a starting staff ERA title. The scary injury to Aroldis Chapman hurts the bullpen for the next six to eight weeks (his real-life health is more important considering what happened), but J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall, and Jonathan Broxton have each closed games before. The window is closing in Cincinnati quickly, though, so they could make some moves to make a late season push. St. Louis and the “Cardinal way” is frustrating to watch as a lifelong Cincinnati native and Reds fan, but you have to appreciate their success. The team is setup to be dominant once again. Strong offensive output from Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams will carry the team, while Jhonny Peralta, Peter Bourjos, and Kolten Wong make adjustments to new leagues or life in the majors. The club has a .300 hitting, 30 home run talent waiting in the wings in Oscar Taveras if an injury strikes in the outfield or an infield corner, but the rotation depth is what makes them unbelievably good. Joe Kelly, who had a 2.28 ERA over 15 starts in 2013, may not even be in the rotation. Adam Wainwright could be joined by Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez. Any other team would likely be starting Trevor Rosenthal, but the Cards can let him close thanks to their rotation depth, which hasn’t even included Jaime Garcia, who is, once again, battling shoulder woes…but he could be ready to pitch again soon. The Cardinals are a tremendous example of a team that can compete while consistently drafting in the last half of each round, while not having an unreasonable payroll number. They should be envied by fans and replicated by other organizations.

National League West

1st: Los Angeles Dodgers

2nd: San Francisco Giants

3rd: Arizona Diamondbacks

4th: Colorado Rockies

5th: San Diego Padres

YasielPuigBatFlipSideThe Padres are a solid team with a lot of good talent, but the NL West is quite competitive, and the Padres home park may continue to be their own worst enemy. They’ll have an advantage for their pitchers, but they just don’t have enough offensive talent to overcome Petco’s offensive squashing ways. Chase Headley quickly returned to form in 2013 after a breakout 2012 and Carlos Quentin, once again, showed that he is productive and very, very fragile. The Friars will have full seasons out of Yonder Alonso and Everth Cabrera, with some power production from young second baseman Jedd Gyorko, but Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross will struggle to win games due to the rest of the talent, or lack thereof, around them. The Rockies may finally have an appropriate way to attack their own offensive environment in Coor’s field, finding and developing pitchers who can pound the bottom half of the strike zone, drafting and developing pitchers like Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler in the minor league system, but they’re still a year or two away from overcoming the pitching talent that they currently are rostering at the major league level. Still, they’ll win games thanks to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Wilin Rosario, and Nolan Arenado powering home runs. The Diamondbacks continue to deal away tremendous young talent to compete at the major league level, acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Angels this winter. Trumbo will add great power to a lineup already featuring NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and with Martin Prado and Miguel Montero in the lineup, the D’backs should score plenty of runs. The rotation lost Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, but they had Randall Delgado out of options to step into the rotation, with Archie Bradley near-ready in Triple-A. Wade Miley, Bronson Arroyo, and Trevor Cahill should provide solid innings, while Brandon McCarthy could be the wild card in the teams success due to his dominance when healthy, though he can’t always be counted on. The bullpen in Arizona is dynamite, featuring Addison Reed at closer, with J.J. Putz, Oliver Perez, and David Hernandez as setup men. The Giants have pitching for days, but still have trouble finding offense. Pablo Sandoval will be a free agent after this season and utilized that motivation to finally show up to spring training in shape. Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence should continue to produce, while they are hoping that Mike Morse can return to his powerful 2012 form rather than whatever it was that showed up last season. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain could be Cy Young candidates, while the Giants will hope that Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum can return to their former Cy Young candidacy days. The Dodgers…do they ever have a loaded roster! All-Stars all over the field: Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp will lead the club offensively, while manager Don Mattingly finds a creative way to rotate four very good outfielders between three spots, with a fifth, Joc Pederson, nearly ready to produce when called up from the minors. The rotation is very deep and the bullpen is the deepest in baseball. Clayton Kershaw needs no explanation, and Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Paul Maholm should be very productive in a forgiving home ballpark with an electric offense supporting them. Five pitchers with closing experience in the bullpen make it nearly a guarantee for success. A payroll with no end makes the Dodgers capable of adding pieces if a need were to arise, as well.

National League Wild Cards

Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds

World Series Prediction

Washington Nationals over the Detroit Tigers in six games

American League MVP

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

He’ll finally do enough to get the votes that went to Miguel Cabrera the last two years. He has easily been the best all-around player in the game since the start of the 2012 season. At just 22, it’s scary to think of what he will become in his prime if he, fingers crossed, stays healthy.

National League MVP

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves

There’s just something about a guy coming off of any injury plagued season who didn’t live up to expectations that makes me want to go with him here. He’s not Joey Votto, Bryce Harper, or Andrew McCutchen, but Heyward will be doing a lot of the things that made Shin-Soo Choo so valuable for the Reds in 2013: getting on base as the leadoff hitter, hitting for power, and stealing bases. I could see Heyward posting a 30/30 season out of the leadoff spot in Atlanta while driving in close to 90 runs and scoring over 100. The numbers will add up to make him one of the top players in baseball, leading Atlanta to an NL playoff matchup with the Nationals.

American League Cy Young

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Yu Darvish will be your trendy pick because of all of those strikeouts, but Verlander has shown that he still has something left, striking out nearly 11 per nine over his final six starts before striking out over 12 per nine over his three playoff starts. With negotiations with Max Scherzer being completely thrown out, Verlander is the man in Detroit, and he is going to show why once again.

National League Cy Young

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

Kershaw, like Darvish, would be the easy pick. I picked Bumgarner last year, and one of these years, I’m going to look smart for sticking with him. Bumgarner’s hits per nine (6.5) was the lowest of his career last year, and that number continues to fall each season, while his strikeout rate continues to increase, while he reached 8.9 in 2013. He’s just 24 and he has the home ballpark and the stuff to continue to improve his already impressive numbers.

American League Rookie of the Year

Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts showed that he is advanced beyond his years in the playoffs last season, helping Boston win another World Series with his impressive play. He hasn’t shown the power yet, but Bogaerts could be a 25 to 30 home run hitter in coming seasons, and his youth is a welcome addition to the aging Red Sox roster.

National League Rookie of the Year

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

Vince Coleman once stole 100 bases with a .581 OPS. If Billy Hamilton is on base enough to steal 100 bases, he’s going to score enough runs to create value for himself and the Cincinnati Reds. I’ve seen him run in person and it doesn’t seem real. He’ll have more infield hits than some teams will combine for. Even if he isn’t successful, Hamilton doesn’t have any true competition for at-bats beyond Chris Heisey (who likely can’t handle center field) and Roger Bernadina (who hasn’t been able to handle a job). He’ll maintain the job and be quite productive due to his speed, but if he ever gets a leg injury and loses that tool, he has no role and no business in baseball.

Random Bold Predictions

1. Bryce Harper will hit more home runs than Miguel Cabrera.

2. Rick Porcello will be a better pitcher than Anibal Sanchez in 2014.

3. Yordano Ventura and Danny Salazar will both strikeout over 170 batters, even if they only reach 150 innings pitched.

4. Grant Balfour will have more saves than whoever closes for Baltimore, and the Orioles will look even more ridiculous for backing out of the contract that they signed with him than they already do.

5. Drew Smyly will win more games in Detroit than Doug Fister wins in Washington.

6. B.J. Upton will hit over .260 and will hit at least 15 home runs while stealing 25 or more bases.

7. Devin Mesoraco will provide more value offensively than Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina provide offensively AND defensively in Tampa…which will show just how bad Dusty Baker messed with the former top prospect in Cincinnati by not playing him daily.

8. Hector Santiago will win 14 or more games to solidify an iffy Angels rotation.

9. Yoenis Cespedes will post an OPS over .920 and will be a top 5 AL MVP candidate at seasons end.

10. Giancarlo Stanton will hit over 40 home runs while walking over 90 times.

11. Drew Hutchison will be the most valuable Toronto Blue Jays starter until they shut him down in September.

12. Starlin Castro won’t lose his job to Javier Baez…but Darwin Barney will.

13. Someone who wasn’t on the Mets’ Opening Day roster will lead the pitching staff in wins.

14. Dan Uggla posts his typically ugly batting average and strikeouts, but rebounds to 25 or more home runs and close to 90 RBI.

15. Prince Fielder will have a higher WAR than Ian Kinsler. Texas wins the blockbuster trade.

Breakout Stars

Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays – last year was really what he can do, now, we get a full season of it.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals – 25 or more home runs, close to 20 steals, top 10 AL MVP candidate.

Hector Santiago, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

Prospects to Watch

This has nothing to do with my Top 100 list, 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.

Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies

David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers

Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers

Alberto Tirado, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Franchy Cordero, SS, San Diego Padres

Alexander Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Spring Stars and Surprises

Spring statistics don’t really mean much to anyone, that is, of course, unless those numbers are being used to determine a position battle. I like to see young players who are getting long looks and veterans coming off of injuries prove their health and worth by admiring their feasting on lesser competition. While there are many out there that think that spring training is a waste of time and that the statistics don’t mean anything, they do mean a little something – especially to these players. (Statistics as of 3/20/2014)

Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos
Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers

.396/.412/.667, 19 H, 7 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 5:2 K:BB in 48 AB

Why Spring Matters for Castellanos: The rookie third baseman is going to need to pick up some of the offensive production that was lost when the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for a non-Arlington-version of Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has a career .242/.312/.399 line away from the spacious confines of the Ballpark at Arlington and a .304/.387/.511 line at home. Comerica Park is NOT  Globe Life Park in Arlington, and with the injury to Jose Iglesias (who may or may not be offensively capable), the Tigers need more players to step up to allow Miguel Cabrera to be an MVP candidate again in 2014. Castellanos doesn’t have the prospect shine of Byron Buxton or Xander Bogaerts, but he is going to hit. He always has. The fact that he is hitting while re-adjusting to playing third base, having been switched to the outfield just two years ago from the hot corner, is a positive sign. Additionally, he just turned 22 at the beginning of March. Castellanos may never hit 30 home runs and he may struggle to hit .300 due to contact and discipline questions, but if the Tigers are going to maintain solid offensive production, they’ll need this young man to hit the way that he has this spring. There may be some growing pains, but this production is very encouraging.

Mariners OF Dustin Ackley
Mariners OF Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley, OF, Seattle Mariners

.457/.490/.696, 21 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 6:3 K:BB in 46 AB

Why Spring Matters for Ackley: After hitting .304/.374/.435 in the second half of 2013 (208 plate appearances), Ackley deserved a long look this spring. When the Mariners signed Robinson Cano and Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison, it was worrisome that the M’s could have squeezed their former top pick the way that they have their current middle infielders with the Cano signing. An already crowded, though hideous, outfield could still be impacted if Morrison and Hart man the corners with Justin Smoak at first, but the hope for all baseball enthusiasts is that Ackley gets 500 at-bats while playing a single position, something that the former top prospect hasn’t had an opportunity to accomplish in his very shifty career. The month of March has been very kind to Ackley and he should be locked into an everyday role, especially with Franklin Gutierrez out for the year (not shocking) and Michael Saunders floundering last season so badly. His gap power and on-base skills will make him a surprisingly valuable asset in the Mariners push towards contention in 2014.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals

.450/.521/.875, 5 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, 6:6 K:BB in 40 AB

Why Spring Matters for Moustakas: Moustakas’ career appeared nearly dead when the Royals signed a perfect platoon partner, Danny Valencia, to pair up with the former top prospect. Then, Moustakas went and played winter ball and worked on his swing…and now this. Maybe it was the fire under the sphincter that Moose needed to get his career on track, maybe the alterations were enough,  or maybe he’s a late bloomer like the man that he replaced at the hot corner, Alex Gordon. Gordon was nearly out of the league until a breakout in 2011 at the age of 27, but Moustakas, 25, doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet, either. Perhaps Moustakas has found the swing that led to 36 home runs and a .999 OPS at the age of 21 in 2010. He may still have some issues against the toughest of left-handed pitchers, but this could be the year.

hamilton3
Reds CF Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

.325/.413/.450, 13 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 9 SB, 12 R, 6:6 K:BB in 40 AB

Why Spring Matters for Hamilton: He’ll never replace Shin-Soo Choo and his ability to get on base, but when Hamilton gets on base, he’s nearly a lock to score. I am not sure how he managed to hit a home run, as the Reds should be instituting push-ups like Willie Mayes Hayes from the great American classic Major League. Hamilton’s wheels will make him a game-changing talent until an injury is to arise. It is highly unlikely that he’ll hit at this rate in 2014, but even a .250/.310/.325 line would afford him enough opportunities on the base paths to score close to 100 runs while stealing 50 or more bases. It may not seem mathematically realistic, but you need to see Billy run in person to gain an understanding of his actual speed. The walks and contact rate is encouraging, and while Great American Ballpark doesn’t have the thin air of the desert, it is still a launching pad – Hamilton just needs to keep the ball on the ground to better utilize his legs and to avoid the push-ups.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 17 IP, 10 H, 16:2 K:BB

Why Spring Matters for Bumgarner: Spring doesn’t really matter much for Bumgarner, I just hope that people see this and realize that he is capable of winning the 2014 National League Cy Young award. The 2014 season is his age-24 season and he already has incredible numbers. His hits per nine fell to a career low in 2013 (6.5) and his strikeouts per nine were a career high (8.9). The dominance in his 17 spring innings will be what you’ll see in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stole the award from Clayton Kershaw. There weren’t eight pitchers in the NL better than him, regardless of the Cy Young voting.

Hector Santiago, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 16.1 IP, 11 H, 19:6 K:BB

Why Spring Matters for Santiago: Thanks to Joe Blanton being terrible and the Angels minor league system being even worse, Santiago was a lock for the rotation when he was acquired from the White Sox in the Mark Trumbo deal. Santiago, though, is a very interesting pitcher in 2014. He has some friendly ballparks in the American League West and he has the stuff to post nearly a strikeout per inning. Add in an impressive offense and Santiago could be one of the more surprising No.4 starters in baseball. He has shown the strikeout stuff and how hard he is to hit this spring, and if he can cool the walks a bit, which have always been an issue for him, the 26-year-old will continue to be effective for the Halos.

Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez
Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 15.1 IP, 8 H, 9:3 K:BB

Why Spring Matters for Martinez: The Cardinals just aren’t fair. Joe Kelly, who only went 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA over 15 starts in 2013, is battling one of the club’s former top prospects for the No.5 spot in the Cards’ rotation. Nicknamed “Little Pedro” due to his stature and stuff being similar to future Hall of Fame right-hander Pedro Martinez, this 22-year-old Dominican future star has shown just how unhittable he is when he can manage to control his impressive arsenal. Many will wonder if his best long-term role will be the bullpen due to injury risks and how his stuff plays up in short bursts, but Martinez is much more valuable over 200 innings, and the Cardinals continue to have the depth to plug him into the rotation and reap the benefits of their minor league system. Martinez won’t look like Michael Wacha did down the stretch last season, but that is because he’ll be making a name for himself on his own in 2014.

Accountability In My 2013 Predictions: Looking Back and Laughing

Yes, I do...Thanks.
Yes, I do…Thanks.

On March 27, 2013, I posted my 2013 Predictions and Useless Guesses, which set forth my expectations for the 2013 season. Needless to say, the latter part of the title was pretty right on, as a high majority of my preseason predictions crashed and burned like nothing the world has ever seen before. For that, I am human; however, I will gloat about the things that I was right about when that time comes.

Division Winners and Wild Cards:

AL East: Toronto Blue Jays – Actual Winner: Boston Red Sox

AL Central: Detroit Tigers – Actual Winner: Detroit Tigers

AL West: Los Angeles Angels – Actual Winner: Oakland A’s

AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays – Actual Winners: Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays

NL East: Washington Nationals – Actual Winner: Atlanta Braves

NL Central: Cincinnati Reds – Actual Winner: St. Louis Cardinals

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers – Actual Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers

NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves – Actual Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds

Now That We Know

I said “Bryce Harper will be better than he was in 2012 and Stephen Strasburg won’t have an innings limit. Really, this is all that you need to know, but with the addition of a leadoff hitter in Denard Span and another fantastic arm in Rafael Soriano to add to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Nationals are about as good as it gets in MLB for a lock to go to the playoffs.” Not only did the Nationals finish 10 games out in the NL East, they were four back of Cincinnati for the second Wild Card spot and they didn’t get near the production out of Harper that I was expecting due to injuries. The Angels proved that you can’t win with injured veterans who are underperforming (Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) while putting together a terrible rotation. And…about those Blue Jays…I bought into the players that they had acquired and thought that having Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be enough to be contenders, yet, the club finished 23 games out in the AL East, good for last place. The Dodgers, Braves, Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, and Rays did make the playoffs, while the Rangers weren’t too far behind. The Pirates and Indians contending this season and reaching the playoffs were both surprises, so maybe I get some credit despite my ugly World Series prediction…Nationals over the Angels in six…ugh!!!

AL MVP

Not. Even. Close.
Not. Even. Close.

Jose Bautista, you failed me. Maybe the wrist still wasn’t 100 percent in 2013 following surgery in 2012, but the .259/.358/.498 line wasn’t what I was expecting with a star-studded lineup around him in 2013. “Joey Bats” didn’t play a game after August 20 due to a bone bruise on his hip, which hurt his final statistics, which weren’t anywhere near the likely AL MVP candidates: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Chris Davis. While the award hasn’t been given out yet, I went with Cabrera with my own version of the 2013 Awards, and I’ll gladly take on your mockery for thinking Bautista was going to be a force in 2013.

AL Cy Young

Justin Verlander wasn’t the same. Maybe a part of him died when Kate Upton left him, but who can really blame him. Making an All-Star team, striking out over 200 batters, reaching 200-plus innings for the 7th straight season, and posting a 3.46 ERA is considered a down season apparently…that’s sad. Certainly, Verlander’s 2013 season wasn’t very Verlander-y, as that title seemed to go to his teammate, Max Scherzer, who went 21-3 with 240 K’s and an AL-leading 0.97 WHIP.

AL Rookie of the Year

I went with Wil Myers early in the year and I stuck with Myers on my own postseason awards. Again, the official award hasn’t been given out, but in 88 games, Myers had and OPS+ of 132 and an .831 OPS, providing punch to the Rays lineup and helping guide Tampa Bay to another postseason appearance. Myers will continue to improve and become an All-Star level talent in future seasons, and despite losing James Shields in the deal with Kansas City, the team control and cost savings will be worth much more to the Rays, even before adding in Myers potential production.

AL Manager of the Year

I went with Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona prior to the season, while switching my own choice to Joe Girardi after the Yankees had a solid season with more injuries than any manager should ever have to deal with in a single season. However, the Francona choice shouldn’t be viewed negatively, and I had a tough time selecting Girardi over Francona when I was writing up my own awards. Francona shed the “chicken and beer” issues that ended his tenure in Boston, leading a mixed group of talent in Cleveland to a surprising Wild Card position. With the Tribe young enough to take steps forward in 2014, Francona could be a worthy candidate when the Indians likely take over the AL Central from the quickly aging Tigers.

NL MVP

Votto swings? Who knew!!
Votto swings? Who knew!!

I took the homer way out and selected Joey Votto prior to the 2013 season. While Votto was a tremendous asset for the Reds, he seems to be more valuable to the analytics gurus than some people in the front office and within fantasy leagues, as his patience creates a lot of on-base opportunities but a complete lack of numbers in the RBI column. I gave my postseason award to another NL Central star, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who had another tremendous all-around season while leading the Bucs to their first winning season and postseason appearance since 1992. Votto had another excellent season, but we’ll see what happens to his perceived value when he is driving in 75 runs with a strong on-base percentage while making $20 million or more from 2016 onward in Cincinnati.

NL Cy Young

It’s easy to pick Clayton Kershaw, so maybe I just wanted to be different when I chose Madison Bumgarner. A 2.77 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 201.1 innings is pretty solid, but it isn’t a 1.83 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 236 innings like Kershaw posted. Bumgarner is worthy of some praise, though. He improved his WHIP for the fourth straight season, increased his hits per nine for the fourth straight season, and he reached a new career high in strikeouts (199) in 2013. If the Giants are contending in 2014 and Bumgarner continues his trends, he could battle Kershaw for the title of best left-handed starter in the league.

NL Rookie of the Year

Oscar Taveras battled injuries again in 2013 and never received an at-bat at the major league level. I was counting on a Carlos Beltran injury or an underperforming Jon Jay being benched in favor of Taveras in center field, but it never happened. Instead, the National League was overtaken by a plethora of superstar rookies, highlighted by Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Matt Adams. While I chose Fernandez for my NL ROY winner, several of these players are worth of consideration, and if the NL keeps getting talent like this every year, they’ll be seeing a lot of home-field advantage opportunities in upcoming World Series’.

NL Manager of the Year

I went with a laughable Bud Black, thinking that mediocrity and solid contributions from a lot of guys with average skills would be good enough to help the Padres be competitive, at least above .500, which would make Black a viable candidate for the award. After all, the NL West had the Dodgers and not a whole lot else this season. The Friars were 76-86, 16 games back of Los Angeles, and third in the NL West. I ultimately gave my postseason award to Clint Hurdle for helping the Pirates have a winning record, but Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly were also reasonable candidates.

Beyond the Awards: Several Laughs Due to My “Bold Predictions”

Original in italics – reaction in bold

  1. Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940. —-NO. Not even close. 
  2. Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases. —- 27 HR and 33 SB. NOPE!
  3. Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases. —93 games, 15 SB…FAIL! NEVER COUNT ON REYES! 
  4. Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227. —- just 9 HR while hitting .207. Ouch. 
  5. Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013. —-Latos was 14-7 and Cueto only made 11 starts due to injuries. I think this is a win. 
  6. 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. —Win! 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 204.2 IP and he was the most reliable Braves’ starter over the whole season. 
  7. 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. —-Zimmerman’s 19 wins were eight more than Gonzalez’s, his ERA and WHIP were second to Strasburg’s in the Nats’ rotation, and he led the club with 213.1 innings. Solid.
  8. 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). —-Belt had just 17 HR but he still seems to be in the doghouse in San Francisco. If anyone ever needed a change of scenery, it’s this guy. He may never hit 30 home runs, but he is a very good player. 
  9. 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. —-All three players battled injuries, but if All-Star seasons were based on April stats alone, Fowler would have been an All-Star, as well, along with Tulo and CarGo. As it stands, the Rockies are only as good as these three players being on the field at the same time with some solid pitching…something that may never happen. 
  10. Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. —-Craig was an All-Star and he finished the year injured on September 4 with 97 RBI. The home runs weren’t there, he had only 13, but he was a very productive player for the NL Champions. 
  11. Carlos Santana hits 30+ home runs and will have the kind of hype that Buster Posey has right now during the 2013-2014 offseason. —-Nope. Santana had his best full season in 2013, but hit just 20 HR while posting an .832 OPS. I still think he’ll continue to improve, but this wasn’t the breakout year. 
  12. Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta. —-Nope. Heyward struggled mightily with various injuries and failure to produce, but he’ll still be just 24 in 2014 and isn’t close to being finished. 
  13. 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.—-.272/.324/.494 isn’t bad, and neither is Brown, who finally played and hit 27 HR and drove in 83 in just 139 games. The on-base skills weren’t there, but they were in the minors. Amaro is a moron. 
  14. Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder. —- Greinke was fine and he went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He’d be worth some NL Cy Young votes if Kershaw didn’t deserve a unanimous vote. 
  15. Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong. —- Sale was AWESOME in 2013, going 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 226:46 K:BB in 214.1 innings. Stop doubting him. 
  16. Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career. —-Nope. He’ll never make enough contact to do that and he may be a fourth outfielder going forward after a disappointing .233/.305/.360 season with 10 HR and 17 RBI in 481 plate appearances, striking out 141 times. 
  17. 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. —-Well, Porcello did reach 142 strikeouts with his career high 7.2 K:9 in 2013, but fell well short of a 3.20 ERA while posting a 4.32 ERA and career best 1.28 WHIP. He’ll be 25 next year and the small improvements could be a positive sign for his career, but he’ll never be the ace many expected him to be when he was drafted.

Breakout Stars

Guys who I thought would “go bonkers in 2013”

Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, he had a breakout season.  

Year Age W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 11 3 2.76 22 1 0 143.1 120 46 44 13 45 134 138 1.151 7.5 8.4 2.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.
Moore1
Breakout!

Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, I’d say so.

Year Age W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 24 17 4 3.29 27 1 1 150.1 119 58 55 14 76 143 116 1.297 7.1 8.6 1.88
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

Brett Anderson, LHP, Oakland Athletics: Not even close. Needs to stay on the field. 

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves: Sick glove and I had no idea the power was coming. 

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Awards
2013 23 157 658 606 76 150 27 6 17 59 6 40 55 .248 .296 .396 .692 GG
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics: Somewhat disappointing due to the injuries and dips in production, but he’s an absolute freak who should rebound in 2014. 

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 27 135 574 529 74 127 21 4 26 80 7 37 137 .240 .294 .442 .737
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals: 47 saves and a 13.8 K:9 made him one of the elite closers in baseball. 

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals: He can hit and he posted career highs in games played, total bases, home runs, and RBI. If the other pieces produce around him, he’ll be an elite-level offensive catcher. 

Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins: He’s a 4A guy who just can’t translate his minor league numbers into major league production. 

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: 40 doubles, 23 HR, and 80 RBI at the age of 23. I’ll take it. He’ll improve his slash in coming seasons, likely when the Cubs put someone worth a damn on the field with him. 

Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox: Still a lot of power with no pitch recognition skills. He’ll always mash fastballs, but he needs to find some other sort of identity to be a long-term piece for the White Sox. 

Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Bartolo Colon won’t last forever): Solid season. Not sure if his absurd minor league strikeout totals will ever be realistic in the majors, but he’s a solid mid-to-back-end starter. And…maybe Colon will last forever. 

Year Age W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 24 10 8 3.96 27 0 0 152.1 132 74 67 16 57 124 1.241 7.8 7.3 2.18
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

 

Finally!
Finally!

Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: This was finally the year. 

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Awards
2013 23 159 680 623 86 188 34 3 17 79 11 51 100 .302 .353 .448 .801 GG
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners: After an excellent World Baseball Classic, Saunders disappointed again. He improved his on-base skills, but saw a dip in his power and speed, which were the tools that made him a trendy sleeper pick. 

Prospects to Watch

Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles: Disappointed due to a stress fracture in his back.

Dorssys Paulino, INF, Cleveland Indians: Big disappointment after a huge professional debut in 2012.

J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Just ok before shoulder issues ended his season in May. 

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals: Breakout. 155 K’s in 134.2 minor league innings earned him three major league starts to finish the season.

Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: 23 starts for the Rays – 3.22 ERA over 128.2 innings with a 1.13 WHIP. He’ll be a tremendous arm in Tampa for a number of years. 

Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals: He needed a good season to get his prospect status back on track, but it didn’t happen. He has the tools with a great power and speed combination. He could take off in High-A in 2014 like Wil Myers did a couple of years ago, but that could be wishful thinking. I just want a Bubba to thrive.

Yasel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Nothing needed here. I am brilliant. 

Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Huge steps this season and he could have earned a long look this coming spring. 1.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 152 innings while not turning 21 until August. He could be a legitimate No.1 starter.

Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros: Very disappointing season, from a 50-game suspension for a drug abuse to lackluster effort and poor numbers. The Astros need him to click and the skills are there. Does he have the drive to make it happen?

 

Future star.
Future star.

Xander Bogaerts, INF, Boston Red Sox: He helped the Sox win the World Series, but this was an easy pick after his incredible 2012 season. He’ll be an everyday player at short or third going forward, and a potential perennial All-Star within the next couple of seasons. 

Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: The power wasn’t there this season, but he was only 20 until August and the catching position is difficult to judge prospects within. He could be a tremendous major league receiver right now, but if the Padres let him develop, he will be a well-rounded superstar. 

Joey Gallo, INF, Texas Rangers: Power like a BOSS! Gallo hit 40 bombs this season while striking out 172 times. He is Adam Dunn without the walks. Huge raw power potential. Keep in mind, he turns 20 years old this month…40 HR at 19!!! 

It wasn’t always pretty, but I’ll take what I got right here. I’m not in Vegas for a reason, but there were quite a few good calls. We’ll see what next season brings. I’ll be sure to provide some more laughs while looking back to see how things turned out after the season.

My 2013 MLB All-Star Team

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.

 NLNational League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL: Continuing his awesome breakout.

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Huge production behind Votto in Cincy lineup.

3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: His numbers would look much better if he was pitched to.

4. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Hometown hero and best 3B in the NL.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, LF, COL: Hitting everywhere this year, even away from Coor’s.

6. Carlos Beltran, RF, STL: Defying age with a healthy, productive season.

7. Michael Cuddyer, DH, COL: Helping to make the Rockies a contender in 2013.

8. Buster Posey, C, SF: Tough choice over Molina, but his bat is still bigger.

9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL: Huge breakout by one of the key pieces in the Greinke deal with the Angels.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey, RHP, NYM: Probably the biggest story in the biggest city in all of baseball, he gets the start at Citi Field.

Pitchers:

Jeff Locke, LHP, PIT

Jason Grilli, RHP, PIT

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, WAS

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD

Patrick Corbin, LHP, ARZ

Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI

Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL

Shelby Miller, RHP, STL

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL

Edward Mujica, RHP, STL

Rafael Soriano, RHP, WAS

Travis Wood, LHP, CHI-C

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, CHI-C

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, PHI

Bench:

Yadier Molina, C, STL

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARZ

Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

Marco Scutaro, 2B, SF

Everth Cabrera, SS, SD

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD

Domonic Brown, OF, PHI

Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL

Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT

Biggest Snubs: Sergio Romo, RHP, SF; Kevin Gregg, RHP, CHI-C; Lance Lynn, RHP, STL; Allen Craig, 1B, STL; Mat Latos, RHP, CIN; Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF; Rex Brothers, LHP, COL; A.J. Burnett, RHP, PIT; Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHI-C; Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CIN; Ryan Braun, LF, MIL; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD; Wilin Rosario, C, COL; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL;

ALAmerican League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Mike Trout, LF, LAA: Having a “down” year when compared to his 2012 rookie season, which was one of the greatest in baseball history.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: Tough choice but his bat is still huge and he gets the start in NYC.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: His numbers are even better than his 2012 Triple Crown winning season.

4. Chris Davis, 1B, BAL: An absolute monster season from the toss-in in the Koji Uehara deal with Texas.

5. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: Production is slightly down, but Joey Bats is still a huge fan favorite.

6. David Ortiz, DH, BOS: Still producing as a member of AARP.

7. Adam Jones, CF, BAL: Continuing where he left off in 2012 and becoming one of the top players in baseball.

8. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: The power won’t ever be there again from his 2009 MVP season (28 HR), but he can find the gaps and be productive in ways that no other AL catcher can match.

9. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Quietly having an incredible season as one of the worst defensive SS in baseball – loving his production, though.

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP, TEX: He just struck you out and you didn’t even know he threw three pitches. Having a dominant season.

Pitchers:

Jesse Crain, RHP, CHI-W

Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA

Justin Masterson, RHP, CLE

Max Scherzer, RHP, DET

Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY

Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX

Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, SEA

Ervin Santana, RHP, KC

Greg Holland, RHP, KC

Bartolo Colon, RHP, OAK

Matt Moore, LHP, TB

Bud Norris, RHP, HOU

Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN

Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL

Bench:

Jason Castro, C, HOU

Adam Lind, 1B, TOR

Prince Fielder, 1B, DET

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS

Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE

Evan Longoria, 3B, TB

Manny Machado, 3B, BAL

Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK

Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX

Coco Crisp, OF, OAK

Biggest Snubs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK; J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL; Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX; Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B/DH, TOR; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, NYY; Chris Sale, LHP, CHI-W; Addison Reed, RHP, CHI-W; Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK; Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR;

 

No Runs For You!

FelixShould you take Justin Verlander, David Price, or Felix Hernandez as the first pitcher in your fantasy league? Well, the Mariners haven’t helped King Felix win many games due to their inability to score runs, Tampa Bay has a pretty pathetic offense, and Verlander has Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to back him up. While Verlander, Price, and Hernandez will post similar ERA, WHIP, and strikeout totals, Verlander will tend to get the nod due to the added wins.

In 2012, Cliff Lee was 6-9 over 30 starts and 211 innings. He didn’t win his first game until July 4, his 14th start, after winning 17 games in 2011. Lee has already won two games in 2013, something that he couldn’t say he did last season until July 31 last year.

This year, the name is Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has lost four games already in 2013. In 2012, he didn’t lose his fourth game until July 6. While wins are quite overrated in the statistical world, when a pitcher isn’t getting them, those who follow the sport feel like they may be doing something wrong.

Is Strasburg doing anything wrong?

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/BB
2010 21 WSN 5 3 .625 2.91 12 68.0 56 25 22 5 17 92 1.074 5.41
2011 22 WSN 1 1 .500 1.50 5 24.0 15 5 4 0 2 24 0.708 12.00
2012 23 WSN 15 6 .714 3.16 28 159.1 136 62 56 15 48 197 1.155 4.10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.

Over his career, Strasburg has won 67.7 percent of his decisions while posting a no-decision percentage of 31.2 percent. Nearly one-third of his starts have led to no-decisions, so in a given year, based on his first 45 starts of his career and 33 stars in a 162-game season, Strasburg would average a 15-7 record, a 2.93 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and a 4.67 K:BB. This season, Strasburg’s 3.16 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 3.5 K:BB.

While Strasburg’s walks seem to be up a bit, his peripheral statistics show that there isn’t much that he can be held accountable for. His xFIP is up to 3.86 (his career xFIP is 2.68), so there may be something there, but most of the blame can be attributed to the bats when he starts. Only Kevin Slowey (0.75) and Joe Saunders (1.20) have lower run support  than Strasburg (1.40) this season. At 1-4, Strasburg is a fantastic buy-low option in fantasy leagues for anyone unintelligent enough to trade him right now for this reason.

bumgarnerOther pitchers suffering from run support (RS) issues this season include:

Jeff Samardzija (3.03 ERA vs. 2.00 RS)

Trevor Cahill (3.60 ERA vs. 2.00 RS)

Madison Bumgarner (1.87 ERA vs. 2.60 RS)

Kris Medlen and Shelby Miller (2.16 ERA vs. 2.75 RS)

Clayton Kershaw (2.14 ERA vs. 2.80 RS)