Atlanta Should Brave Another Trade

Atlanta is so hot this time of year, and nothing is much hotter than “The Freeze”, a man in an uncomfortably tight leotard who uses his blazing speed to embarrass challengers in between innings. However, “The Freeze” isn’t the hottest thing within the Braves’ new SunTrust Park. That label belongs to its short-term first baseman, Matt Adams.


Adams was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on May 20th, just two days after their All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman had his left wrist broken after being hit by a pitch. Since landing in the “A-T-L”, Adams has a .948 OPS with eight homers and 21 RBI in 24 games and 106 plate appearances.

“Big City” slimmed down and has lit up opposing pitchers
Courtesy: atlallday.com

“Big City” had become pretty useless in St. Louis, as the club decided to move Matt Carpenter to first base, with Jedd Gyorko, Aledmys Diaz, and Kolten Wong bringing “stability” to the rest of the infield. With Diaz in the midst of a sophomore slump and Wong dealing with injuries after his own bouts of ineffectiveness over the last two seasons, the Cardinals aren’t the same, competitive club as they seem to annually be. Still, they felt that Adams wouldn’t cut it in the outfield, even after his whopping 34 inning test-run in five starts there this season, taking a 19-year-old first base prospect in return to rid themselves of the 6’3″ slugger, even as the club rosters the likes of Tommy Pham, Chad Huffman, and Jose Martinez as options in left field today.

St. Louis’ focus on defense in left field has been the Braves’ offensive gain, and the Braves would be wise to continue to reap the benefits of Matt Adams when Freeman returns in July.

The Braves are in an interesting situation. Yes, they have the new stadium. Yes, they have an interesting blend of talent on their roster; however, they are in the midst of a rebuild, despite the presence of Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon on their roster. Dealing Matt Adams at the deadline, or whenever Freeman returns, would benefit the club tremendously, as several teams could be interested in the slugger for their own playoff push.

Adams’ outburst should help the Braves more than his bat has
Courtesy: ESPN

Atlanta sits 10 games out of first place entering play today. Adams may be of value to a team like, say, the Yankees, whose first basemen have hit just .195/.298/.345 with eight home runs and 23 RBI all season (see Adams’ stats again since joining Atlanta!). Another team that could make some noise, if everyone gets healthy, would be Seattle, who could use an upgrade over Danny Valencia, who is the main culprit in the Mariners’ first basemen hitting just .244/.300/.368 with just six homers all season.

With an already crowded outfield and the likes of Ronald Acuna and Dustin Peterson racing their way to Atlanta and through the minors, the Braves should only consider Adams as a tradeable asset and not a piece of their future. If he continues to produce, his price tag only increases, but the club shouldn’t alter their current roster by trying to hold on to another solid first baseman…unless Major League Baseball suddenly adds the DH to the National League.

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Season Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

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!

St. Louis Cardinals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 88-74 (1st in NL Central, 4th in MLB)

Manager: Mike Matheny (275-211 in three seasons with St. Louis)

Top Three Players: OF Jason Heyward (4.9), C Yadier Molina (3.8), 3B Matt Carpenter (3.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Matt Carpenter

After a breakout 2013, Carpenter slipped a little in 2014, watching his OPS fall from .873 to .750, aided by the drop in his BABIP from .359 to .318. Carpenter was still quite valuable, leading the NL in walks, which helped his on-base percentage get to .375, and he was able to score 99 runs. With a lot of improving talent around him, the 29-year-old Carpenter is ready to get back to the production levels of 2013, scoring 110 or more runs and 40 or more doubles.

Can Heyward get back on track using the "Cardinal Way"? Courtesy: stltoday.com
Can Heyward get back on track using the “Cardinal Way”?
Courtesy: stltoday.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Jason Heyward

Heyward is entering his age-25 season and he already has five full seasons under his belt. He’s set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and a huge season would lead to a huge contract. He hasn’t had a very consistent career, as his most productive overall season was his rookie year, 2010. He can provide well above-average defense, but at 6’5″, 245 pounds, you’d expect more than 11 home runs, last season’s career-low total. Maybe the Cardinals can rework his swing and get some of the power back, allowing Heyward to get back to his natural, beautiful swing that made him such a force earlier in his career. There’s a lot of money riding on Heyward’s ability to do more with his bat; however, in the current market, he’ll still get nine figures.

Offseason Overview: The Cardinals got Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden from the Braves for a couple of young arms, RHP Tyrell Jenkins and RHP Shelby Miller. While the deal hurt the Cardinals rotation depth, they needed to replace the potential production in right field after the tragic loss of Oscar Taveras. Although they’ll have Heyward for just one season, he has the potential to be the best player the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols‘ heyday. Still, with Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, John Lackey, and Adam Wainwright having injury issues in the past, it’s fair to wonder if dealing pitching was worth the potential lack of rotation depth. The Cardinals will continue to trust their “way”, though, so the next man up will be expected to produce. There wasn’t much action this winter in St. Louis, unless someone really wants to hear about the Mark Reynolds, Carlos Villanueva, and Matt Belisle signings.

The Verdict: Well, it’s another season and the Cardinals are still the favorites – at least based on PECOTA. You’ll likely see big seasons from Heyward, Carpenter, first baseman Matt Adams, and second baseman Kolten Wong, who is going to breakout worse than a 13-year-old boy who sips Mountain Dew all day. The Cardinals success will lie in the health of the pitching staff. They have Marco Gonzales lined up as their No. 6 starter and Garcia, if his shoulder stays connected, but Wainwright and Lackey have a lot of innings on their reconstructed elbows, and they need to see consistency out of Carlos Martinez to stay competitive. The Cubs are improved and the Pirates should be the favorites for the division. The Cardinals will win more than 85 games, but this could be the first seasons they miss the playoffs since 2010 – unless things go right, which they usually do.

Super Two Avoidance…Get to Know Oscar Taveras

Cardinals' Future Star Oscar Taveras
Cardinals’ Future Star Oscar Taveras

If you don’t know who Oscar Taveras is at this point, you should ask your internet service provider to explain how you’ve had Wi-Fi go through the boulder that you’ve been living under. Taveras has been a top prospect for three seasons ranking 23rd in 2012, 2nd in 2013, and 3rd in 2014 prior to each season (Baseball Prospectus), gaining all kinds of impressive comps along the way, including Vladimir Guerrero. The left-handed hitting outfielder was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in November of 2008 at the tender age of 16. Much like Gregory Polanco, who I wrote about on Wednesday, he appears stuck in the minors due to the financial constraints of the Super Two process, although…the Cardinals do have better talent blocking Taveras than what the Pirates have blocking Polanco, as Matt Adams and Allen Craig seem much more capable than Jose Tabata and Travis Snider.

Regardless of why Taveras is in the minors, he won’t be there for long. A recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Derrick Goold quoted Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak saying that the 21-year-old Taveras could come up June 4 when the Cards begin a seven-game road trip in American League parks (Royals, Blue Jays, and Rays), where they’ll need a DH. Bringing up Taveras would allow the club to rotate Adams and Craig in the DH role, while plugging the youngster into the lineup. The only problem will be – what do they do after that series?

Matt Adams turns 26 in August and posted an .839 OPS in 2013. He’s still slashing at .316/.331/.483 this season, but the “Cardinal Way” isn’t showing up in his five walks in 181 plate appearances, including a 25-game and 98 plate appearance stretch from April 12 to May 9 when he didn’t take a single free pass. He still has plenty of offensive potential, but his defensive limitations (being strictly a first baseman due to his 6’3″, 260 pound frame) could lead to an eventual trade, especially with Allen Craig around.

Speaking of Craig, he, too, could see a change of position if Taveras comes up for good. Craig possessing the five-year, $31 million extension will be the player out of the two current Cardinals to stick. His above-average production over the last two-and-a-half years is great, but his injury issues continue to prevent him from being truly elite. The versatility that Craig has shown in the past would be limited, but plugging him in at first base if and when Taveras comes up for good could play a role in his health over the rest of his contract.

Sweet Swing...
Sweet Swing…

More interesting than moving Craig and/or Adams around would be a move or takeover of center field by Taveras. St. Louis center fielders have combined for a .247/.324/.380 triple slash (.704 OPS), with Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay lacking in overall production as the primary culprits. It is debatable as to whether Taveras is a long-term solution in center, but he could certainly handle the position this season, while boosting the St. Louis offense with his potential production along the way.

If he’s up, he needs to play. Taveras isn’t really a player that you keep on the bench and utilize in a 4th outfielder role. He has a nice list of accomplishments:

  • Two-time Futures Game selection
  • 2010 Appalachian League Post-Season All-Star
  • 2011 Baseball America Low-A All-Star
  • 2012 Texas League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star
  • 2012 Texas League Player of the Year
  • 2012 Baseball America Minor League All-Star
  • 2012 Topps Double-A All-Star
  • 2013 Dominican Winter League Rookie of the Year

All of that…and he’s 21. All of that…and he played in only 47 games in 2013 due to an ankle injury.

Beyond his accomplishments lie his tools, which haven’t even peaked yet. Here is what the scouts say about Taveras:

Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus: “Elite hit tool potential; natural feel for barreling the baseball; elite hands; elite bat speed; controlled chaos in the swing; batting title future; power will flow from the hit tool; raw power is near elite; game power likely to play above plus; arm is strong; good athlete with instincts for the game; average run; average (or better) glove; special offensive profile.”

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: “He is a gifted hitter and has proven that at every level of the Minor Leagues. He utilizes an aggressive approach and consistently barrels up balls, driving them to all fields. He generates impressive bat speed, producing above-average power that plays well in games.Taveras has a strong arm and average speed. He covers ground well in the outfield and the Cardinals have used him in center field in the Minor Leagues. He probably fits best in right field and will get a chance to prove he belongs in St. Louis before long.”

John Sickels, MinorLeagueBall.com: “He’s going to be a monster as long as health issues don’t get in the way. Left-handed-hitting Vlad Guerrero is the ceiling here.”

Taveras has been spectacular throughout his career:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 -1.4 Cardinals FRk 65 272 237 35 61 13 8 1 42 9 28 36 .257 .338 .392 .731 93
2010 18 -2.7 2 Teams Rk 60 260 241 40 73 14 3 8 45 9 13 46 .303 .342 .485 .828 117
2010 18 -2.8 Johnson City Rk 53 229 211 39 68 13 3 8 43 8 12 41 .322 .362 .526 .889 111
2010 18 -1.7 Cardinals Rk 7 31 30 1 5 1 0 0 2 1 1 5 .167 .194 .200 .394 6
2011 19 -2.6 Quad Cities A 78 347 308 52 119 27 5 8 62 1 32 52 .386 .444 .584 1.028 180
2012 20 -4.1 Springfield AA 124 531 477 83 153 37 7 23 94 10 42 56 .321 .380 .572 .953 273
2013 21 -5.9 2 Teams AAA-Rk 47 188 174 25 54 13 0 5 32 5 10 22 .310 .348 .471 .819 82
2013 21 1.4 Cardinals Rk 1 2 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 2
2013 21 -5.9 Memphis AAA 46 186 173 25 53 12 0 5 32 5 9 22 .306 .341 .462 .803 80
2014 22 -4.7 Memphis AAA 42 180 166 27 52 13 1 6 34 1 12 22 .313 .361 .512 .873 85
6 Seasons 416 1778 1603 262 512 117 24 51 309 35 137 234 .319 .375 .518 .893 830
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2014.

The .893 OPS is just scratching the surface when you consider that nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances came when most American players were high school juniors or high school seniors.

Oscar Taveras has had some high expectations for quite some time, but he has lived up to them at each stop. The comparisons seem unreasonable, but he deserves the opportunity to prove them wrong at the major-league level. The time is coming in St. Louis where Taveras is on the field every day. For a team that has appeared in four World Series in the last ten years, this is just a slap in the face to the rest of the league. Prepare yourselves for greatness, but don’t expect miracles right away. Taveras will be a very special player.

 

2013 MLB Awards

awardThe Third Annual Baseball Haven “I’m Always Right Before the Media Figures It Out” Awards are officially ready. These guys may not win the awards below, but they certainly SHOULD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabrera1AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 30 DET AL 148 652 555 103 193 26 1 44 137 3 90 94 .348 .442 .636 1.078 187 353
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

I appreciate sabermetrics and I know that Mike Trout has a lot of value to the Angels, but Cabrera was the best player in baseball, again, in 2013. While he didn’t win the Triple Crown like he did in 2012, he still put up ridiculous numbers and helped to carry the Tigers to the AL Central title while Prince Fielder put up the worst OPS of his career. Even weakened by injuries late in the season, Cabrera put up strong enough counting stats to be considered here, and it isn’t just the home runs and RBI, as shown by his MLB-leading OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Cabrera may not have the all-around tools to assist Detroit with his defense and speed, but he does everything else better than everyone else in baseball. Enjoy it while you can, as Cabrera will be on the wrong side of 30 in 2014, and with the lack of performance-enhancing drugs to aid his career totals as he ages, as they did for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, these types of special seasons could be coming to an end for the legendary career that Cabrera has had to this point.

Honorable Mention: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles;

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 26 PIT NL 157 674 583 97 185 38 5 21 84 27 78 101 .317 .404 .508 .911 158 296
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

Take a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1992 that finally had a winning season and look for their best player? Not even close. McCutchen has been a top fantasy baseball talent for several years and this is the year that his abilities actually propelled the Pirates into contention, where they actually remained until running into the Cardinals in the NLDS. McCutchen looks like the National League’s older version of Mike Trout, posting impressive power, on-base, speed, and defensive metric numbers, creating solid, across-the-board numbers that make him one of the most well-rounded players in the entire league. As the Pirates continue to develop and plug-in talented players around him, his numbers will likely continue to take off. He is a tremendous player with a ceiling that he hasn’t even reached yet.

Honorable Mention: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks; Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves; Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals;

Scherzer2AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 28 DET AL 21 3 2.90 32 0 0 214.1 152 73 69 18 56 240 145 0.970 6.4 10.1 4.29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

It isn’t about the wins, although, Scherzer did have the league-lead by two games. It’s all about how effective Scherzer was all season. He posted the lowest WHIP in the American League and only Yu Darvish (.194) had a lower batting average allowed in the AL than Scherzer’s .195. Scherzer posted impressive strikeout totals, reached a career-high in innings pitched (214.1), and showcased his ability to lead a rotation while the Tigers watched Justin Verlander have a non-Verlander-like season in 2013. Even though the Tigers rotation was, quite possibly, the deepest of any team in baseball, Detroit wouldn’t have been quite as successful without the dynamic season that Scherzer put together in 2013.

Honorable Mention: Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers; Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox;

Kershaw1NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 LAD NL 16 9 1.83 33 3 2 236.0 164 55 48 11 52 232 194 0.915 6.3 8.8 4.46
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

How could it be anyone else? Someone may want to just rename the award for the Dodgers’ left-hander with the way the last few seasons have gone, although, he didn’t win the award in 2012 thanks to R.A. Dickey and his magic and rainbow season for the New York Mets. Kershaw led the majors in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and ERA+ (194), while his 232 strikeouts led the NL. Kershaw had four starts (out of 33) in which he failed to go six or more innings and only had six non-quality starts on the season. He is the definition of an ace, a shutdown starter, capable of tossing a complete game shutout every fifth day in an era that seems to make such a statistic impossible due to innings limits and pitch counts. Kershaw has gone from a starter to avoid in fantasy leagues due to his once high walk totals to the must-have starting pitching option. At 25, the sky is the limit, and with Gary Nolan and Tom Seaver at the top of his Baseball Reference similarity scores, you have to hope that Kershaw has the long, successful career of “Tom Terrific” instead of the injury-destroyed career of Nolan.

Honorable Mention: Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets; Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies;

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees, 85-77 AL East (4th place)

Why would you give an award to a manager who led his team to a fourth place finish? Because that manager had his starting shortstop (Derek Jeter), starting first baseman (Mark Teixeira), starting center fielder (Curtis Granderson), and starting third baseman (Alex Rodriguez) for a combined 137 games this season, meaning those four missed a combined 511 games in 2013. While plugging in Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, and Jayson Nix, while maintaining credibility and competing within the toughest division in MLB. Girardi also had to juggle a disappointing pitching staff, as he got next to nothing out of C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, at times, in the rotation. He certainly deserved his recent extension and proved that he is much more than a guy that fills out an All-Star lineup card every night with the Yankees star-studded roster and large payrolls over the years.

Honorable Mention: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox; Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians; Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s;

NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates, 94-68 NL Central (2nd place, NL Wild Card)

I’m not a huge believer in Clint Hurdle and I really don’t think that he deserves the award due to some questionable moves that he has made over the years, as well as this season; However, he guided a group of miscreants and castoffs (along with Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, McCutchen, and Neil Walker) to the Pirates’ first winning season since 1992, let alone a playoff appearance. With several veteran additions (Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, and Marlon Byrd) and the arrival of the club’s future No.1 starter, Gerrit Cole, Hurdle was able to outlast Cincinnati and have a successful season. Maybe it was the bootcamp workouts in the offseason, who knows, but the man in charge, Hurdle, will likely benefit with the award, so I’ll give it to him.

Honorable Mention: Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals; Don Mattingley, Los Angeles Dodgers;

myersAL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 22 TBR AL 88 373 335 50 98 23 0 13 53 5 33 91 .293 .354 .478 .831 132 160
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

The only thing more impressive than Myers’ strikeouts and home run power are his bat flips. The kid came up and was an immediately upgrade for the Rays, hitting 4th in 25 of his 88 games, the most of any spot in the order, while providing a little punch and protection for Evan Longoria and the crew. Myers production is just the tip of the iceberg, as he is quite capable of hitting 30-35 home runs annually while striking out in bunches, just as he did in 2013. The major piece in the haul that the Rays acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields deal, Myers will be a nuisance to opposing clubs for years to come.

Honorable Mention: Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians; Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Dane De La Rosa, Los Angeles Angels;

Fernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 MIA NL 12 6 2.19 28 0 0 172.2 111 47 42 10 58 187 176 0.979 5.8 9.7 3.22
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

Fernandez had quite a few people fighting him for the award this season, but he was just a bit more dominant than the competition. While he didn’t lead the lowly Marlins to the playoffs, like some of the other rookie of the year worthy players, Fernandez oozed confidence and had a feel for pitching that hasn’t been seen from many 20 or 21 year-old players in baseball history. He was nearly as unhittable as Clayton Kershaw, actually besting him (and everyone else) with a 5.8 hits per nine innings, best in MLB. While his character came into question by the Braves and Brian McCann after his extreme home run watching episode in September, it proved very little about how fantastic he is on the mound. While it is fair to question the future of the Miami Marlins due to their horrific owner, Jeffrey Loria, Jose Fernandez is a gem, who should continue to post awe-worthy numbers as long as his 6’2″, 240 pound frame will allow him to do so.

Honorable Mention: Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves; Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals; Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers;

Rivera1MLB Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 43 NYY AL 6 2 2.11 64 60 44 64.0 58 16 15 6 9 54 192 1.047 8.2 7.6 6.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

After tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls and being limited to just nine appearances in 2012, Rivera came back and picked up right where he left off in his storied career, finishing the 2013 with over 40 saves for the ninth time in his career. The 2013 season was his final season and it was full of terrible gifts that he received during his farewell tour, but it didn’t stop Rivera from maintaining the status quo, pitching stoically and professionally while shutting the door on the opposition with his dynamic cutter. The game will miss Rivera not because of the No. 42 officially going away forever, but because he was one of the classiest people to ever put on a uniform. His willingness to come back from his injury to leave on his terms showed his character as he now goes off to a happy retirement.

Honorable Mention: Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cleveland Indians; James Loney, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays; Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies;

Wacha, Wacha, Wacha: There’s Nothing Funny About How Good St. Louis Is

fozzyIt is easy to look back on the 2012 MLB Draft and see that 18 players were picked before Michael Wacha and notice that only two of those players (Mike Zunino for Seattle and Kevin Gausman for Baltimore) have reached the majors; howver, none have had the success that the St. Louis Cardinals, 6’6″ right-hander has had to this point. After another dominating start on Saturday, a 1-0 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wacha has now dominated in his two postseason starts, posting a 0.64 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 14 innings after posting a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 64.2 innings in the regular season.

It is unfair to mock or pick apart the teams that drafted ahead of St. Louis, though. Here’s why:

1. Houston Astros: Carlos Correa, SS

2. Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF

3. Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino, C

Wacha4. Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP

5. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP

6. Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF

7. San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP

8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mark Appel, RHP

9. Miami Marlins: Andrew Heaney, LHP

10. Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF

11. Oakland A’s: Addison Russell, SS

12. New York Mets: Gavin Cecchini, SS

13. Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF

14. Cincinnati Reds: Nick Travieso, RHP

15. Cleveland Indians: Tyler Naquin, OF

16. Washington Nationals: Lucas Giolito, RHP

17. Toronto Blue Jays: D.J. Davis, OF

18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager, SS

19. St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha, RHP

Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com
Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com

Before Wacha was selected, several of the current top prospects in baseball were selected before him. While Wacha was a collegiate arm who was always expected to move quickly, he was not even the Cardinals’ number one prospect prior to this season, ranking 6th in the organization by Baseball America and 5th in the organization by John Sickels at minorleagueball.com prior to the 2013 season. With Oscar Taveras in the organization, who was ranked in the top three on nearly every prospect list in the world prior to the season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wacha wasn’t number one; however, it seems as though others are forgetting that Shelby Miller was a rookie this season, as well, and he only went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2013.

Regardless of where Wacha was selected in the draft, his quick ascension to dominance is just another example of the St. Louis Cardinals being better than everyone else in baseball when it comes to player personnel decisions and development.

The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were playing their 2nd season without Albert Pujols, who they replaced with Allen Craig. Craig was an All-Star this season who battled through injuries. When he wasn’t on the field late in the season when St. Louis was battling for the NL Central title with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it was the big boy, Matt Adams at first, who managed 31 extra-base hits and 51 RBI in just 319 plate appearances while posting an identical 131 OPS+ with Craig.

The Cardinals went into the 2013 season with Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia within their rotation. When Westbrook and Garcia went down with injuries, who was there: Wacha and Joe Kelly, who did this in his 15 starts:

I Split W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
as Starter 9 3 2.28 15 0 0 87.0 82 27 22 5 34 2 46 1.333 4.8 1.35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

Oh…and Kelly is only 25.

Carlos Beltran is heading towards free agency and it is fair to wonder whether the Cardinals will even bother trying to re-sign him, as they could move Craig to right field (he has started 42 games there over the last two seasons) to make room for Adams at first, or they could just plug in the best pure hitter in the minors, Taveras, to reload on the fly.

Wacha1St. Louis was the team that decided to NOT pass on Albert Pujols with the 18th pick of the 13th round back in the 1999 MLB Draft. They received Adam Wainwright from the Atlanta Braves for J.D. Drew back in 2003. They may have gotten lucky and they may be in the process of continuing to get lucky with their success in decision-making and drafting, but while everyone is creating headlines with Wacha, Wacha, Wacha…other teams shouldn’t take this as a laughing matter. Instead, they need to challenge themselves to be as successful as the bar that the St. Louis organization has set.

It isn’t that your team chose the wrong player, it’s that the Cardinals chose the right player when it was their turn. Time will tell if Wacha is better than the 18 players picked ahead of him, but right now, it is hard to not envy what is happening in the “Gateway to the West”.

2012 MLB Prospects to Watch

These are guys who you should keep an eye on as they advance to higher levels in the Minors in 2012.  You may know some of the names, you may not…that’s why you’re reading this anyway.  There are reasons why I name these guys: achievement based on age at current level, advanced plate discipline, doubles power (which may or may not become homerun power as a player matures), and position value.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa: Lee is a speedy middle infielder.  He may not ever hit for power, though he has 37 XB hits this year, he will play well with what the Rays do with speed and their lineup.  Hell, they found value in Sam Fuld!  Lee made it to Double-A this season at the age of 20, and the South Korean can play.  He could get a taste by the end of next season if he plays well in Montgomery.

Joseph Terdoslavich, 1B, Atlanta: The Braves should probably move him off of first with Freddie Freeman firmly entrenched there in Atlanta, but you have to take note of what Terdoslavich has done this season.  He is a little old for his level (High-A, turns 23 on 9/9) but he was a college bat.  Terdoslavich is a switch hitter who smashed 52 doubles, 2 triples, and 20 homers in the Carolina League, which has been a pitcher-friendly league for years.  His plate discipline isn’t spectacular, especially for a more advanced hitter, but it’ll work if he hits like that.  As he continues adjusting to wood bats, he could become an offensive force.  He just has to hurry it up a bit based on his age.

Daniel Carroll, OF, Seattle: You certainly need to take the California League as a grain of salt when you rank players coming out of there.  It’s like a wiffle-ball league in your backyard as a kid, the ball just goes out, you just want to see how many homers you can actually hit.  Carroll isn’t a homerun hitter, though he did hit 18.  He is interesting even though he struck out 157 times.  He interests me because he is just 22, he had 20 doubles, but he took 88 walks and stole 62 bases.  His gap power and speed combo could play amazingly well in Seattle.  They won’t get Ichiro-in-his-prime type of numbers from Carroll, but he could be an asset if he gets moving through Seattle’s system.

Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego: When you look for potential power guys, this is one that could make you drool.  At the age of 20, Liriano had 30 doubles, 8 triples, and 12 homers while stealing 65 bases and posting a .383 OBP.  He could become useless in Petco but you have to wonder if that speed and gap power could make him an asset there, much like Carroll for Seattle.  Liriano did his damage in Low-A this year, though he did get a taste of the California League.  He could put up ridiculous numbers in a full season there next year and improve his prospect status.  He is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis: Adams skipped High-A and went on to dominate Double-A in 2011, posting a .300/.357/.566 slash with 23 doubles, 32 homers and 101 RBI in the Texas League.  A left-handed hitter, Adams is probably a bit too large (6’3″, 230 lbs) to move to the outfield, so he is one to monitor if the Cardinals do lose both Berkman and Pujols to Free Agency.  He just turned 23 and he was a college bat, so he is what he is right now.  He’s an intriguing prospect for a team that may need a long-term solution at first.

Grant Green, SS, Oakland: If you’ve been living in a cave in Afghanistan, you may not know who Green is.  He isn’t the “Moneyball”-type of player that Oakland used to stash, but he is productive, ripping 33 doubles and 9 homers in the Texas League.  He’ll be 24 for all of next season and he’ll be in Triple-A to start the year.  It will be interesting to see how Oakland handles him with Cliff Pennington doing a solid but not spectacular job at short this season, and Jemile Weeks looks like a solid addition at second.

Scott Van Slyke, 1B, L.A. Dodgers: Why should you watch a 25-year-old, Double-A first baseman?  Because James Loney made $4.8 million this year to be a waste of space and Frank McCourt may actually do something smart and not give him a raise in arbitration.  If the Dodgers do that, Van Slyke could get a shot.  He posted a .345/.427/.595 slash at Double-A where he was repeating after spending just 65 games there last year.  His 45 doubles, 20 homers, and a 100/65 K/BB in 130 games was very impressive.  I know my dad would love to root for another Van Slyke, so we’ll see if or when he gets a shot.

Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati: A 5’11” right-handed Dominican pitcher…not named Johnny Cueto…Sure.  He turned 21 in August and posted a 156/34 K/BB in 139 1/3 innings this season for Low-A Dayton.  He could go to Bakersfield in the California League next season, which could destroy his confidence and abilities, but if he does well, we’ll know that he is a legit prospect.  They could just send him to Double-A, too, though.

Trevor May, RHP, Philadelphia: May is 6’5″, 215, built to be an innings-eating machine for a team that doesn’t really need more studly pitchers.  He pitched the whole season at the age of 21 in High-A, posting a 208/67 K/BB in 151 1/3 innings pitched.  His overall 10-8 record and 3.63 ERA shows that he can improve, but he has stuff that could make him useful to someone if the Phillies don’t need him.

Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado: Bettis pitched great this season in the California League and his career 2.70 ERA over 236 2/3 innings and 240/58 K/BB shows that it wasn’t a fluke.  He was a 2nd round pick out of Texas Tech in 2010 and he should continue moving up the Rockies system to become a solid #3 starter.  He could become more if he does what he did this year in the upper levels.