Statistically Scouting the Minors: 6/11

There are a lot of things that make prospects special – their incredibly smooth deliveries, their sweet swings, and their game-changing gloves; however, I don’t have time to travel around the country. Therefore, scouting becomes what baseball is all about – the numbers. Based on the numbers, here are some prospects to watch in the coming months:

(NOTE: CLICK ON THE BLUE HYPERLINK TO VIEW PLAYER STATS!)

Another solid Venezuelan shortstop?
Courtesy: Twinsdaily.com

Jermaine Palacios, SS, Low-A, Minnesota Twins

The Midwest League is a difficult league for hitters, but you wouldn’t know that by taking a look at this 6′, 145 pound shortstop’s numbers. His .936 OPS ranks third in the league, enhanced by his recent surge at the beginning of June, as Palacios has hit .448/.467/.931 with three homers in six games. The Twins have a solid young core that has them leading the AL Central. He is a couple of years away, but could be another in a long line of successful Venezuelan shortstops, especially if he keeps up this pace.

Bo Bichette, SS, Low-A, Toronto Blue Jays

Bichette, like Palacios, is tearing up the Midwest League. Although he was ranked as the Jays’ No.5 prospect by MLB.com, his production will lead to a lot of helium in his already solid stock. Having just turned 19 in March, Bichette has raked all season, posting a .381/.457/.614 line, pacing the league in OPS by 116 points. Playing alongside Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., the Lansing Lugnuts have the most productive left-side of the infield in the lower minors, with exquisite bloodlines to thank for a beautiful future in Toronto.

Can Duplantier overcome the abuse at Rice to continue his dominance?
Courtesy: mwltraveler.com

Jon Duplantier, RHP, Low-A, Arizona Diamondbacks

It is downright absurd that this 22-year-old is still in the Midwest League. His numbers are outrageous and warranted a promotion weeks ago. Overall, Duplantier has a 0.95 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over 66.2 innings with a 71:14 K:BB. He has some issues, mostly the abuse that goes along with all of the pitchers who once attended Rice University, which shelved him in his debut last season when he had elbow soreness. Still, taken in the 3rd round last season, Duplantier ranked No. 8 in the D-backs system prior to this onslaught and he’ll only continue to rise with dominance like this. k

Jordan Humphreys, RHP, Low-A, New York Mets

Hey, look…another Mets’ pitching prospect. Maybe they won’t somehow ruin this arm. While he’s still 21 and successful in the minors, Humphreys is dominating the South Atlantic League to the tune of a 1.41 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, .164 BAA, and a 77:8 K:BB in 63.2 innings. An 18th round pick in 2015, Humphreys ranked 29th in the Mets’ system by MLB.com prior to the start of the season, and was said to be a “back of the rotation piece”; however, there could be more there.

Ryan Mountcastle, SS, High-A, Baltimore Orioles

At the age of 20, this former first round pick has managed to hit, probably more than expected. At 6’3″, he probably won’t be staying at shortstop, and with Manny Machado (pending free agency) around, Mountcastle will likely find himself in an outfield corner. Mountcastle’s 22 doubles and 12 home runs show a massive amount of potential for his bat to continue to mature as he continues to fill out his frame.

Long isn’t long for the minors if he keeps hitting like this.
Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com

Shed Long, 2B, High-A, Cincinnati Reds

After a breakout campaign over two levels last season, Long returned to the Florida State League to dominate once again. He shouldn’t be there much longer. The 5’8″ left-handed hitting second baseman has 26 XBH to go along with a .911 OPS. With the Reds possessing many solid middle infield prospects, Long continues to show that he could be a huge part of the future by 2019.

Andrew Pullin, OF, Double-A, Philadelphia Phillies

I don’t know much about Reading. It is either a hitter’s paradise or a place where Phillies outfield prospects prosper – at least over the last couple of years. Last year it was Dylan Cozens and this year it is Pullin, who has seemed to find himself since arriving in Reading last season. This season, Pullin has been solid again (.307/.373/.564), but over 104 games in Double-A, Pullin is hitting .324/.382/.562 with 30 doubles and 22 home runs. The 23-year-old is a left-handed hitter and wasn’t ranked in the club’s top 30 prospects by MLB.com, but maybe he works himself into a very crowded outfield of respectable prospects…maybe even becoming trade bait.

Jon Singleton, 1B, Double-A, Houston Astros

Yes, that one. What a sad way to go. After signing a $10 million deal before seeing his first pitch as a top prospect, Singleton is now in Double-A, wasting away as the Astros invest their playing time in other players, like A.J. Reed and Yuli Gurriel. After being removed from the 40-man roster, he has received his guaranteed money and may get a buyout before he becomes a free agent after next season. His .233 average this season is hidden by his home runs and walks, which have inflated his OPS to .920, so he still has some value. Perhaps he’ll get a chance to produce for another organization after this season, but it would require a release. He will only be 26.

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How the Dickey Deal is Killing Toronto

Courtesy: Blue Jays Buzz

When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired RHP R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets following his 2012 Cy Young Award, they took a huge gamble. After all, this was a man who had just completed his age-37 season,  but Dickey was very good over his three full seasons with the Mets and knuckleballers are able to pitch “forever”, right? Well, after investing $41 million into the knuckler, the Blue Jays are still without a title and Dickey is now floating pitches for Atlanta.

Unfortunately, the Blue Jays didn’t just invest millions of dollars. They gave up prospects to receive Dickey from the Mets, including C Travis d’Arnaud and the majestical, golden locks of RHP Noah Syndergaard.

Dickey’s 49-52 record and 4.05 ERA over his four seasons to the north would ultimately cost the Blue Jays a legitimate ace. While Toronto made the playoffs in Dickey’s final two seasons with the club, he wasn’t the ace – by any means – as RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Marcus Stroman, and LHP J.A. Happ had gradually taken on larger roles in the rotation. The problem, however, was that none of the other pitchers could give the Blue Jays the innings necessary to go deep into the playoffs. With a lack of pitching depth around the incredible bats of 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Jose Bautista, and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays faltered in the ALCS the last two seasons.

Courtesy: Fan Rag Sports

While D’Arnaud has battled injuries…constantly…Syndergaard has become one of the best young arms in baseball, even leading the Mets to a World Series in 2015, winning his only start against the eventual champion Royals. Since the World Series loss, Syndergaard has thrown 202.2 innings, striking out 238 (10.6 K:9), and posting a 2.44 ERA (2.15 FIP). Still just 24 (25 in August), “Thor” has a microscopic 0.95 ERA and 0.84 WHIP thanks to his 20:0 K:BB over his first three starts and 19 innings of 2017. The Mets have control of their young ace through the 2021 season, which, clearly, leaves the Mets as the winners of this trade.

However, hindsight allows us to look back at this as miserable; it wasn’t always the case:

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Courtesy: New York Daily News

Getting Dickey with LHP Mark Buehrle and RHP Josh Johnson was, on paper, a huge, smart investment. Injuries to Johnson and age affecting the results of Dickey and Buehrle didn’t allow this wonderful offseason to culminate into anything but a last place finish in the AL East in 2013. Bleacher Report had a nice collection, including Stark’s, that you can check out if you’d like.

There are prospects dealt every year. Hell, OF Michael Brantley became the “player to be named later” in the Indians’ deal that sent LHP CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 – and nine years later, “Dr. Smooth” is still rocking a Tribe uniform. You would think that teams would have learned about the value of those cost and team-controlled years, but we still see these types of deals. Risks are the norm when a team is chasing a title. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ gamble will likely go down with the acquisitions of Frank Robinson, John Smoltz, and Jeff Bagwell as one of the worst trades in baseball history, and Toronto fans will long for “Thor” as he continues to lead the Mets’ rotation for several years.

The series of trades that Toronto thought would bring them a title left their system bare. Sure, Sanchez and Stroman came up through their system, but when Syndergaard, LHP Justin Nicolino, RHP Henderson Alvarez, and RHP Anthony DeSclafani were dealt, the club’s depth took a hit. Now, sitting at 2-10 to start the 2017 season, the club needs a starter with Sanchez heading to the DL. What are their options? LHP T.J. House, RHP Mat Latos, and RHP Brett Oberholtzer. Another season without a title and another season with very little pitching depth at the Major League level, as many of their top pitching prospects are getting their first tastes of Double-A. They can always continue to just outscore the opposition, but it hasn’t worked this year. While we can look at this as the “Dickey deal”, it was so much more than that. The philosophy of buying a title by mortgaging the future is what continues to be problematic for the Jays.

2017 Free Agency: Optional Options

As a Cincinnati Reds homer, I’m looking ahead to next season…actually, I’m looking forward to 2020, when the team will have time to truly rebuild their roster. Unfortunately, for a non-contending, rebuilder within a “small-market”, Cincinnati will not be a big player in free agency. Like many other clubs that are looking to build from within or on-the-cheap, free agency isn’t very kind, leaving the remnants of the market to pick through like a racoon at a garbage can. Oh, those beady eyes in your headlights in January will just be Walt Jocketty or Billy Beane looking for a backup infielder.

This winter, as with any other, baseball fans will see plenty of players on the move, including Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Aroldis Chapman, and Ian Desmond, who appear to be the few “big names” on the market. In addition to those select few, there are plenty of players with options, but are they going to get picked up? Let’s take a look at those optional options for 2017, shall we…

Opting Out

Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs: $9MM mutual option, $5MM buyout

Fowler is having a stellar season, even having spent some time on the DL. He is earning $13MM this season on a one-year deal and has responded after facing a weak market this past winter with a career-best .877 OPS. The 2016 All-Star isn’t really needed as a leadoff hitter in Chicago with Jason Heyward getting paid mega-millions to be that type of player, but Fowler should be able to cash in. The Cubs will likely accept their portion of the option very quickly.

Phillies' 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade
Phillies’ 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: $23MM club option, $10MM buyout

Howard has had one of the worst contracts in baseball since the start of the 2012 season. Coincidentally, that is when his five-year, $125MM extension kicked in. Finally, the Phillies will be able to walk away from him and his horrific deal, and they’ll be more than happy to drop $10MM in order to do that. We’ll see if they release him and roll with Tommy Joseph, which they basically have done since the beginning of June.

Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: $17MM club/vesting option, $1MM buyout

Holliday has collapsed in his age-36 season. His .237/.310/.449 line is the worst of his career. His 18 home runs have saved his line a bit, but he is still well short of his career .303/.382/.515 line. He certainly won’t rank in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting, which is all that it would take for his option in 2017 to vest. The Cardinals aren’t churning out prospects like they were a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see which direction they go to stay within the Cardinal Way.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets: can opt-out of remaining two-years, $47.5MM

Cespedes could cash in significantly in a weak market this winter. With so few power bats available, the 30-year-old corner outfielder, if healthy, would likely increase his AAV to $25-$28MM per season. He will beat his career-high for OPS this year. He just needs to stay on the field to keep the Mets in contention.

The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia's deal
The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia’s deal

CC Sabathia, LHP New York Yankees: $25MM vesting option (if he doesn’t end the season on the DL with a shoulder injury, spend 45 days or more on the DL with a shoulder injury, or make six or more relief appearances because of a shoulder injury), $5MM buyout

If you asked in mid-June, Sabathia may have been worth a $20MM gamble for New York. On June 16th, he had a 2.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over his first 11 starts; however, he has a 6.85 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over his last eight starts. With Mark Teixeira retiring after the 2016 season, the Yankees will have quite a bit of money to spend – unless they are serious about their rebuild and continue to add young talent to the roster. The Yankees may need to check-in on Sabathia’s shoulder, given his recent woes, and make sure everything is clean; although, the MLBPA may find a way to keep his option guaranteed with such a move.

Also: Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland A’s; Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox; Jon Niese, LHP, New York Mets;

 

Opting In

Jay Bruce, OF, New York Mets: $13MM club option, $1MM buyout

Bruce, who was recently acquired by the Mets from Cincinnati for a pair of prospects, will provide a lot of value to New York, especially if Cespedes remains on the shelf with his quad injury, but even more so if Cespedes opts out and signs elsewhere this winter. Bruce is a fine outfielder who is capable of strong production, as evidenced by his rebound 2016 season, but his lengthy slumps and declining defense don’t make him worth a huge deal. The $13MM option is still a fine value for the Mets, who may end up in quite a limbo with their other outfielder about a week after the World Series.

Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli
Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli

Carlos Santana, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians: $12MM club option, $1.2MM buyout

Santana is an interesting player due to his ugly batting averages, average power, and incredible on-base skills. Everyone is waiting for him to finally put it all together, which would lead to a very Adam Dunn-like 30 HR, 100 R, 100 BB season for Cleveland; however, he just can’t beat the shift and his deflated BABIP keep him from meeting some of those numbers. With Mike Napoli also reaching free agency, the Indians will likely opt-in on Santana, as they couldn’t afford to lose them both. They may not be able to re-sign Napoli after his huge season, but they could offer him a qualifying offer and keep him around for one more season. Since Napoli’s decision will come after the option decision on Santana, expect the former catcher to stick for one more year with the Tribe.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Texas Rangers: $5.25MM, $25K buyout

Duh. The Rangers just gave up a nice prospect package for the best catcher this side of Buster Posey, so you can expect them to take on this very affordable option. Lucroy is public enemy No.1 in Cleveland right now, but he had the right in his contract and used it to his advantage. Playing in Arlington for half of his games, his numbers could inflate and help him inflate his earnings when he reaches free agency after the 2017 season.

Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs: $10MM club option, $2MM buyout

Hammel has been excellent in 2016, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 21 starts. In his career, Hammel has a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 399.2 innings while wearing a Cubs’ uniform and a 4.77 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in any other uniform. He needs to be in Chicago and Chicago needs him in their rotation, as the incredible talent within their system that continues rising to the majors aren’t talented on the mound. Hammel is a bargain with his production in a Cubs’ uniform.

Also: Matt Moore, LHP, San Francisco Giants; Cameron Maybin, OF, Detroit Tigers; Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals; Yunel Escobar, 3B, Los Angeles Angels;

There are several additional players with options that you can find at MLB Trade Rumors.  It looks like the 2016-2017 offseason will be very trade-heavy as teams try to structure their rosters with talent without unloading gobs of cash on talent that may not be quite as talented as your typical market. In addition to that, the 2017-2018 market could have an even slower market with Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jose Fernandez heading towards free agency after the 2018 season.

 

Can Conforto Save the Mets?

After battling through a left knee injury for most of the month, the New York Mets finally placed OF Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list. Cuddyer, 36, who was signed to a two-year, $21 million deal, cost the club a compensatory pick after leaving Colorado via free agency. He was another cost-effective, veteran addition to an aging group of offensive producers; however, his .250/.303/.380 line in 314 plate appearances is a far cry from the Coors’ inflated .307/.362/.525 line that he posted in parts of three seasons with the Rockies.

In Cuddyer’s place during his absence, and likely working on a long-term role, will be 2014 first round pick OF Michael Conforto. The 22-year-old potential slugger has posted very good numbers in the minor leagues, covering two levels – .297/.372/.482 with 24 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, and a 61:40 K:BB in 403 plate appearances. Prior the to 2015 season, the former No.10 overall pick was ranked as the No.80 prospect by Baseball America, No.82 by MLB.com, and No.83 on my own list. By the mid-season point, however, Conforto had jumped to No.16 on my list, and No.14 at Baseball America.

Conforto joins a lineup that has struggled to find consistent production this season. Lucas Duda (110 OPS+, 116 wRC+) and Curtis Granderson (113 OPS+, 119 wRC+) are the only qualifying players who have been better than league average in the everyday lineup. The injuries to C Travis d’Arnaud and 3B David Wright have crippled the offense, and the Mets are starving for production to support their incredibly gifted, young pitching staff.

The Mets are the only team above .500 with a negative run differential (-15), while scoring the 2nd fewest runs in baseball (only the White Sox have scored fewer). The team’s collective .654 OPS is the worst in MLB, while they are 2nd worst in total bases and 4th worst in extra-base hits. Still, the Mets are just three games back of Washington for first in the NL East and three games back of a Wild Card spot.

Conforto can immediately bolster the Mets' lineup Courtesy: Amazinavenue.com
Conforto can immediately bolster the Mets’ lineup
Courtesy: Amazinavenue.com

Relying so heavily on pitching has worked to this point, as the Mets have the No.4 team ERA in baseball (3.25), 3rd in team WHIP (1.18), and the starters have logged the most innings in MLB. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Niese, and Bartolo Colon have carried the Mets to a competitive level, but they certainly need more offensive production to be taken seriously. There likely isn’t a team in baseball that would feel comfortable going into a series against their strong rotation, but adding Conforto and another bat before the trade deadline would work wonders for the club’s World Series chances.

Michael Conforto, alone, should help the lineup. Conforto with d’Arnaud returning from injury, as early as this weekend, makes the Mets a better team, and a team more likely to reach the type of success that they had in April (15-8) than the struggles that they’ve had since (34-39). It is unlikely that New York will deal LHP Steven Matz or any of the young pitchers who are currently in the rotation to improve the lineup further, but the left-handed power and patience that Conforto should be able to provide will be a tremendous start to get the bats going.

Can he save the season? It’s certainly a start; however, as it goes with many young players, there could be some major ups and downs along the way. Conforto has a bright future, but the Mets need some bats to pair up with their arms if they are going to make a run anytime soon.

 

 

Trade Deadline Doom and Boom

mericaAs we celebrate Independence Day in the United States, we feel that pounding in our chests from the explosions high above, while many of us listen or watch our favorite baseball teams and eat apple pie. It is the epitome of America in a single day, but many of us are reminded that our teams just aren’t doing enough to win. Some of our favorite teams will be seeking help to improve their chances of winning, while others will begin dumping talent to build a winner next year. With less than four weeks remaining until the non-waiver trade deadline, where does your team stand? Does the additional Wild Card opportunity continue to lead to many clubs standing pat? Who needs what and who could be on the market?

The standings tell an interesting story. In the American League, there isn’t a single team more than six games out of the Wild Card hunt. The Oakland Athletics feature a 38-46 record after some huge deals this winter haven’t truly materialized as Billy Beane hoped; however, the A’s are 13-7 over their last 20 games, so they may not be as willing to deal a Ben Zobrist or Scott Kazmir (both free agents after the 2015 season) to continue the club’s unending rebuild and collection of controllable talent. With other woulda-coulda-shoulda-been contenders just ahead of Oakland in Seattle, Boston, and Chicago, the American League could see plenty of clubs reloading rather than rebuilding when the deadline approaches.

In the senior circuit, the National League has its share of contending teams, but they also have four clubs sitting 11 or more games under .500 (Miami, Colorado, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia). Another team that is on the border of Wild Card contention could be Cincinnati, who sits six games out in the Wild Card; however, with the St. Louis Cardinals leading the Reds by 15 games, the team may need to begin looking into dealing Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and/or Jay Bruce to get back on the same page as their NL Central foes. Even if the Reds aren’t sellers, names like Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dan Haren, and Mat Latos will likely head elsewhere from the four bottom-feeding clubs.

So, where could these names end up? Who are the contenders likely to make deals or stand pat?

Buyers

BARF!!! Courtesy: Twitter.com
BARF!!!
Courtesy: Twitter.com

St. Louis Cardinals

It isn’t an even year, so the Giants won’t be taking the World Series championship. That leaves the Cardinals, who have the best record in baseball, locked-in and ready to seek another title, utilizing the “Cardinal Way”, aka computer hacking, to make it happen. Though they continue to win games, St. Louis is without Matt Adams and Adam Wainwright for the entire season. With Jaime Garcia continuing to struggle to stay healthy, St. Louis could be in the market for another bat or arm. Stephen Piscotty could get a look if Mark Reynolds isn’t the option at first, but the Cards would be wise to shore-up the rotation a bit – just in case another injury strikes. They’re again loaded and talented, and they could take advantage of their strong farm to improve their chances once again.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are just three games out in the AL East and 1.5 games out in the Wild Card. With their lineup featuring so many capable sluggers, they just need some pitching to get over the hump. Toronto continues to develop strong pitching prospects, so they could offer some of that talent to acquire an arm for a big push down the stretch. The Blue Jays’ 4.59 starter ERA ranks 26th in MLB, and you have to wonder if Hamels, Kazmir, or Cueto could help the pitching staff enough to allow Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion to do their thing with the bats.

New York Mets

The Mets’ pitching staff is too good for the club to run out a lineup of Triple-A and MLB bench quality players on a nightly basis. While the club isn’t going to deal their entire farm system and start from scratch, the Mets would be wise to deal some of their young pitching depth to acquire some semblance of an offensive weapon. The Troy Tulowitzki rumors were a big thing earlier this season, but that wouldn’t be enough to help this lineup on its own, especially when he’d be replacing one of the Mets major producers, Wilmer Flores (11 2B, 10 HR, leads team with 34 RBI), at short.

Standing Pat

Chris Sale is untouchable, right?
Chris Sale is untouchable, right?

Chicago White Sox

Chicago would probably burn again if the White Sox trade Chris Sale. At just five games out in the Wild Card, the team isn’t going to fold after spending big on Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and David Robertson in free agency this past winter, and they still have Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu to produce in the lineup, along with a deep, strong rotation with Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Rodon, Jose Quintana, and John Danks joining Sale in the group. If the White Sox do anything, they could afford to get a second baseman, as the team has received a .193/.239/.232 from the keystone position this season, easily the worst in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are somehow managing to compete in the AL East this season, even after dealing with many injuries to their rotation to start the season. When Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi are on the shelf at the same time, you, likely, wouldn’t expect the Rays to still be just three games out in the division and 1.5 games out of the Wild Card. While Tampa Bay could make a few upgrades, they aren’t really in a position to deal from their minor league system due to continued financial limitations, while they are likely to get production from a healthy Moore, Smyly, and Odorizzi in the second half, who will join Cy Young consideration worthy Chris Archer to squander the opposition and win plenty of games.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks already made some noise by dealing (giving away) a player whom they drafted last year, and signed for $2.7 million, Touki Toussaint, along with Bronson Arroyo‘s remaining contract, for 26-year-old utilityman Philip Gosselin. Even without Kevin Towers running things, no one knows what Arizona is thinking. Dave Stewart is now running things for Tony LaRussa out west, so Lord only knows what is going to happen here. However, this club has a superstar in Paul Goldschmidt, an underrated star in A.J. Pollock, and some very nice young pitching in Rubby De La Rosa, Chase Anderson, Robbie Ray, and Archie Bradley. They would be wise to see what this group would do and to not GIVE AWAY good young talent like the club has been doing for the last several years (see Trevor Bauer, Justin Upton, and Tyler Skaggs).

Sellers

Indeed... Courtesy: Philly.com
Indeed…
Courtesy: Philly.com

Philadelphia Philles

Whatever the club can manage to pry away to get rid of Ryan Howard and/or Chase Utley would be wise. This team is 27-55 entering play Saturday, well on their way to the first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. It has to be a miracle that Ruben Amaro, Jr. is still employed. He may be a great guy, but he has ruined this franchise for years to come. If the club can deal Hamels and get great prospects WHILE dumping Hamels salary and allowing the team to start fresh next winter, it would be wise to do so. Dealing Jonathan Papelbon to a contender would also be a great move, as a highly-paid closer on a team that doesn’t win games is an absolute waste of time and money.

Cincinnati Reds

I mentioned before that the Reds could stand pat, but they need to deal Cueto and get value out of him, as I wrote recently.  Jay Bruce’s production could make him hard to deal, but the club has Marlon Byrd under contract next year (vesting or team option at $8 million) with Jesse Winker showing he isn’t over-matched in Double-A to fill in the spaces around Billy Hamilton. Perhaps there is a match with the White Sox with Brandon Phillips, though his contract is as steep as his age. The Reds are more likely to play on the moon than get a team to take on Joey Votto‘s contract, so they’ll need some cheap, controllable pieces to collect and pray for production from. With a payroll that continues to be labeled “small-market”, the Reds are in serious danger of being awful in the next couple of seasons without acquiring near-ready talent.

 

 

 

The Next Big Things in 2015

Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24
Bryant and Gallo at last year’s Futures Game Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24

We’ve seen the arrivals and contributions of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and, most recently, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo, but they won’t be the last of influential rookies to make splashes in Major League Baseball this year. With Maikel Franco, Addison Russell, Steven Souza, Jr., and Joc Pederson, youngsters will continue to create value in fantasy leagues this season. So…who is next?

C/OF Kyle Schwarber – Chicago Cubs

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 21 A+-A-A- 72 311 262 55 90 18 2 18 53 5 39 57 .344 .428 .634 1.061 166
2015 22 AA 48 201 161 32 52 7 1 12 35 0 37 42 .323 .445 .602 1.047 97
2 Seasons 120 512 423 87 142 25 3 30 88 5 76 99 .336 .434 .622 1.056 263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Schwarber would be best served as a DH or first baseman, but with Anthony Rizzo in town and the Cubs residing in the NL, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Schwarber has done nothing but rake since being taken 4th overall in the 2014 draft. He isn’t much of a catcher, however, allowing a whopping 45 stolen bases in 31 games behind the dish. He could certainly provide more punch in the order than Chris Coghlan in left, but he hasn’t played a game in the outfield yet this season. With Jorge Soler’s recent injury, maybe the time for a transition is coming sooner than expected.

3B Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Rk-FRk 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 Rk 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 A 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2012 19 FgW 20 59 49 11 13 3 0 4 14 1 8 17 .265 .373 .571 .944 28
2013 20 AA-A+ 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
2015 22 AA 46 197 166 33 42 10 1 10 33 4 26 48 .253 .355 .506 .861 84
5 Seasons 425 1803 1541 286 426 102 18 100 324 32 218 471 .276 .371 .561 .931 864
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Twins' 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano Courtesy: Baseball America
Twins’ 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano
Courtesy: Baseball America

Sano is back at the hot corner after missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and he’s back to being a powerful producer in Double-A. While Trevor Plouffe has been providing some production at the Major League level, the Twins are in need of some help at the designated hitter spot. Sano’s ability to stay at third has long been debated, so plugging him in at DH would likely provide an upgrade to the .238/.289/.308 line that the Twins’ have received out of that spot in 2015. Sano ripped 35 homers at the age of 20, so it’s easy to see why he is someone to get excited about.

RHP Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 SO9 SO/W
2012 18 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk MIN 3 0 1.17 4 4 0 0 30.2 15 4 4 4 49 0.620 4.4 14.4 12.25
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW A MIN 7 7 3.99 19 0 0 0 103.2 105 58 46 40 100 1.399 9.1 8.7 2.50
2014 20 3 Teams 3 Lgs A+-AA-AAA MIN 12 8 2.77 25 0 2 1 139.2 118 52 43 38 140 1.117 7.6 9.0 3.68
2015 21 Chattanooga SOUL AA MIN 6 3 3.25 11 0 1 1 69.1 63 26 25 20 77 1.197 8.2 10.0 3.85
4 Seasons 28 18 3.09 59 4 3 2 343.1 301 140 118 102 366 1.174 7.9 9.6 3.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

After some shoulder troubles in 2014, Berrios has been lights out this season. He continues to increase his strikeout rate, and, at just 21, looks like someone who can help a staff that is already 13th in starting pitcher ERA. Where the Twins lack talent is starters who can miss bats. The team has just 193 strikeouts (28th in MLB) and a .276 batting average allowed (second worst in MLB). The club has had an impressive season, but by adding Berrios down the stretch, they’d likely be adding a pitcher who is more capable of dominance than anyone on the club’s current staff.

2B/SS Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 Rk 47 210 179 37 48 8 2 6 28 13 26 41 .268 .364 .436 .799 78
2012 19 A 122 548 477 96 132 43 6 18 63 15 60 121 .277 .367 .505 .872 241
2013 20 A+ 130 554 497 71 116 34 5 12 65 23 45 183 .233 .305 .394 .700 196
2014 21 AA-A+-A- 108 463 396 69 104 26 8 14 48 23 60 144 .263 .367 .475 .841 188
2014 21 A- 2 8 7 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .286 .375 .429 .804 3
2014 21 A+ 50 218 184 38 61 17 7 5 28 20 31 59 .332 .436 .582 1.017 107
2014 21 AA 56 237 205 29 41 8 1 9 20 3 28 82 .200 .302 .380 .683 78
2014 21 Fal 22 97 86 8 22 9 1 1 14 3 11 26 .256 .340 .419 .759 36
2015 22 AA 48 212 180 34 55 13 4 7 30 9 26 58 .306 .396 .539 .935 97
5 Seasons 455 1987 1729 307 455 124 25 57 234 83 217 547 .263 .353 .463 .815 800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Troy Tulowitzki is still the shortstop, even with the rumors flying that he could be dealt, but Story is more likely to develop his own narrative as the Rockies’ second baseman. The Rockies may have more interest in dealing the large contract that Tulowitzki has in order to rebuild, but D.J. LeMahieu, the club’s reigning NL Gold Glove winner at second, may be a nice asset, as well. Since he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, he’ll likely be due a substantial raise thanks to his glove. However, his bat is playing up this season, as the 26-year-old is hitting .339/.394/.495 after posting a .276/.314/.361 line over his first 1,281 career plate appearances. Story could handle the keystone position, allowing the Rockies to clear LeMahieu and his increasing salary and surprising bat. After looking at what Story has done, he’ll be another fine offensive force for the thin-air aided Rockies.

LHP Matt Boyd – Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 22 A-A+ 0 3 2.62 8 5 1 0 0 24.0 14 7 7 4 23 0.750 5.2 1.5 8.6 5.75
2014 23 A+-AA 6 7 3.17 26 26 0 1 0 133.1 120 53 47 33 147 1.148 8.1 2.2 9.9 4.45
2015 24 AA 5 1 1.08 11 11 0 0 0 66.2 37 10 8 16 66 0.795 5.0 2.2 8.9 4.13
3 Seasons 11 11 2.49 45 42 1 1 0 224.0 171 70 62 53 236 1.000 6.9 2.1 9.5 4.45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

The Blue Jays continue to develop talented pitchers and Boyd could be the next to arrive. Since being drafted out of Oregon State, Boyd has dominated the minors. He is a crafty lefty who works 88-90 with a solid change and curve. He will look the part of Mark Buehrle and could replace the aging lefty in the Blue Jays rotation when Buerhle reaches free agency after the season. He may not be an ace, but Boyd certainly knows how to pitch, and with those bats behind him, he just needs to take the next step to Toronto to continue his mature pitching approach.

RHP Aaron Nola – Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 21 A+-AA 4 3 2.93 12 11 1 0 0 55.1 49 19 18 10 45 1.066 8.0 1.6 7.3 4.50
2015 22 AA 6 3 1.81 10 10 0 0 0 64.2 49 14 13 7 50 0.866 6.8 1.0 7.0 7.14
2 Seasons 10 6 2.33 22 21 1 0 0 120.0 98 33 31 17 95 0.958 7.4 1.3 7.1 5.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Phillies' RHP Aaron Nola Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com
Phillies’ RHP Aaron Nola
Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com

Of the many reasons that Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has been mocked, one of the larger reasons was the fact that Nola wasn’t invited to spring training. It seems like a strange thing to be ridiculed over, but Nola was certainly deserving of a long look considering the club’s lack of MLB-ready talent. The right-hander hasn’t disappointed in 2015, showcasing his talent at the minor league level. While he won’t get much help from the so-called talent on the Philadelphia roster, he does have enough to be a serviceable option for the Phillies right now.

C/OF Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 A–Rk 52 227 212 29 45 10 0 10 34 0 10 62 .212 .256 .401 .656 85
2013 22 A+-A 119 506 447 78 130 39 4 22 96 0 41 134 .291 .350 .544 .893 243
2014 23 A+-AA 106 427 399 67 108 23 2 34 74 0 21 111 .271 .316 .594 .910 237
2015 24 AAA 50 208 189 35 63 15 2 12 47 1 11 42 .333 .375 .624 .999 118
4 Seasons 327 1368 1247 209 346 87 8 78 251 1 83 349 .277 .327 .548 .875 683
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

While the club is only 5.5 games out, the recent deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Seattle is a tell-tale sign of things to come in Arizona. The Diamondbacks don’t have the talent to compete with the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres in the NL West. While O’Brien wouldn’t make the team contenders, he certainly provides more offensively than the likes of David Peralta and Ender Inciarte in an outfield corner. He got a case of the yips this spring, unable to return the ball to the pitcher from the catcher spot, so he is likely in the outfield to stay. He has power that will only play up in the desert, so continue to expect impressive power, though the batting average totals are likely to slip as he adjusts to MLB pitching.

LHP Steven Matz – New York Mets

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 Rk 2 1 1.55 6 6 0 0 0 29.0 16 10 5 17 34 1.138 5.0 5.3 10.6 2.00
2013 22 A 5 6 2.62 21 21 0 1 1 106.1 86 36 31 38 121 1.166 7.3 3.2 10.2 3.18
2014 23 AA-A+ 10 9 2.25 24 24 0 1 0 140.0 132 44 35 35 131 1.193 8.5 2.2 8.4 3.74
2015 24 AAA 6 3 1.98 11 10 0 0 0 68.1 48 17 15 23 70 1.039 6.3 3.0 9.2 3.04
4 Seasons 23 19 2.25 62 61 0 2 1 343.2 282 107 86 113 356 1.149 7.4 3.0 9.3 3.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Mets' LHP Steven Matz Courtesy: NY Post
Mets’ LHP Steven Matz
Courtesy: NY Post

Matz somehow gets lost in the shuffle when the Mets’ young pitching is discussed. With Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Zack Wheeler already reaching the majors, it’s fair to wonder when Matz will get his shot. After dominating since he has returned from Tommy John surgery, Matz is likely the next arm to be called upon – should the Mets have a need. He is a hard-throwing lefty whose stuff seems to continue to gain traction. After missing all of 2010, 2011, and most of 2012, he has been creating a track that leads directly to the Mets rotation. It won’t be long before he gets that shot, which will make the Mets a viable threat in the playoffs with Harvey, Colon, deGrom, and Matz to deal with in a series.

 

2015 Season Previews: New York Mets

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!

New York Mets

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (2nd in NL East, 13th in MLB)

Manager: Terry Collins (304-344 in four seasons with New York, 748-778 in ten seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B David Wright (3.6), C Travis d’Arnaud (2.9), RHP Matt Harvey (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: RHP Matt Harvey

This is the easiest guess possible for this spot. After missing all of the 2014 season, Harvey’s return will be the highlight of a long season in New York. After losing Wheeler to the same injury, the outlook just won’t be the same. With an innings limit after coming back from his surgery, even if the Mets were to have a strong season, there wouldn’t be any way that Harvey could carry them through any playoff appearance. Still, if Harvey is the same pitcher that he was prior to his absence, he’s quite capable of battling Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award.

Flores had the tools at one point - he still does! Courtesy: metsminors.net
Flores had the tools at one point – he still does!
Courtesy: metsminors.net

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Zack Wheeler (out for season after Tommy John surgery)…SO: SS Wilmer Flores

With Wheeler out, there weren’t many options here for New York. Between d’Arnaud and Flores, I’m leaning Flores on the Mets’ fantasy player to watch. A 6’3″, 205 pound shortstop who has a knack for contact could play well in Citi Field, even if he is providing less than stellar range up-the-middle defensively. At one time, Flores was projected to be an offensive monster, likely moving to right field and becoming a huge producer. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had consistent opportunities. At just 23, this could become a do or die year for Flores, and you should take a flier on him due to his size, minor league production, and untapped potential as a player capable of a big season.

Offseason Overview: What do you do when you finish 79-83? You sign a 36-year-old outfielder and hope that your ace returning from Tommy John doesn’t have any setbacks, of course! Welcome to the life of the New York Mets! Unfortunately, even with Matt Harvey coming back, the club lost potential breakout performer Zack Wheeler to the same injury. Now, the Mets will hope that Dillon Gee can fill the void at the back-end of the rotation, while ageless wonder Bartolo Colon and budding star Jacob deGrom fill out the top of the rotation with Harvey. While Cuddyer will be an upgrade in right, allowing Curtis Granderson to slide to left while ridding the Mets of last year’s Eric Young, Jr. and Chris Young platoon, his age and the fact that he isn’t hitting in Coor’s will likely bring his numbers back down to earth.

The Verdict: The Mets are hoping for the best. Even if they win 82 games, they’re going to be looking so high up at Washington that half of the team would end up on the disabled list with neck injuries. Between David Wright’s back and Colon and Cuddyer’s age, the Mets will keep Aflac in business. We will continue to see amazing defense out of Juan Lagares in center, but there comes a time when the bat needs to be as useful as the glove. If New York gets some production out of Flores and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the whole “age factor” may not be as bastardizing. With Harvey back, things will look a little brighter, especially if he maintains the stuff that he had prior to his injury. If the Mets were to win 80 games with this group, they should extend the entire front office. There are just too many injury issues to count on this team to reach the 80-win plateau.