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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2017 Top 100 MLB Prospects

Below is a list of the top 100 prospects in MLB, as compiled by a non-scout. With spring training starting up, what better time to begin prospecting for your fantasy teams than right now. Click on the links below to view each player’s Baseball Reference page. Brief writeups for top 25 only. Enjoy, comment, and share…share a lot!

He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017 Courtesy: Boston Herald
He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017
Courtesy: Boston Herald

1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS: Added muscle to an already incredibly talented skill-set could lead to immediate stardom in 2017.

2. Alex Reyes, RHP, STL: Suspensions are behind him. It won’t be long until he’s 1b behind Carlos Martinez.
3. Lucas Giolito, RHP, CHW: Remember the elbow issues and the babying. He’ll get a grasp on location and he’ll take off.
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak Courtesy: Zimbio
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak
Courtesy: Zimbio

4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, CHW: Freak athlete. The numbers from a 2B will make fantasy players drool.

5. J.P. Crawford, SS, PHI: Don’t expect Jimmy Rollins in his game. He’ll begin to impress as soon as he gets his first shot due to a solid approach and all-around game.
6. Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL: Atlanta will be better in their new stadium. Swanson will be one of the reasons why. Getting him for Shelby Miller will be the Braves’ version of the Jeff Bagwell deal.
7. Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS: Power potential for days. He’s going to be special.
8. Gleyber Torres, SS, NYY: The power is coming. At 19 in A+, he had 11 HR and 29 doubles. It’s a race to SS between Torres and Mateo in NY.
9. Brendan Rodgers, SS, COL: There is a lot more swing and miss in his game than Troy Tulowitzki’s, but he’ll be compared to him his entire career – and for good reason.
10. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, PIT: The control can still be an issue, but Glasnow has the right pitching coach to make him an elite arm.
Robles is still in the Nats' organization for a reason Courtesy: MiLB.com
Robles is still in the Nats’ organization for a reason
Courtesy: MiLB.com

11. Victor Robles, OF, WAS: A gifted athlete with a crazy contact rate (especially for a 19-year-old in A+), he’ll utilize the entire field and be a threat on the bases.

12. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, LAD: He has nowhere to play until Adrian Gonzalez leaves after the 2018 season, but he’s nearly ready. Maybe they’ll make room for him in the OF.
13. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT: All of the McCutcheon rumors will lead to a lot of focus on Meadows. He won’t be a star but can do a lot of things well.
14. Bradley Zimmer, OF, CLE: The strikeouts are a huge concern but Zimmer is a unique talent and brings a skill-set that will improve an already impressive roster in Cleveland.
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He's the guy Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He’s the guy
Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com

15. Nick Senzel, 3B, CIN: Think of Ryan Zimmerman when you think of how quickly a player can reach the majors here. He could also produce at the same level…hopefully without the injuries.

16. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, SD: There are still a lot of things that can go wrong (he doesn’t turn 19 until March), but there are so many things that are already intriguing here.
17. Lewis Brinson, OF, MIL: Making contact consistently is a concern, but, when he does, Brinson is capable of superstardom in Milwaukee.
18. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CHC: 40 doubles at 19 in the midwest league. He’s going to turn those into HR in 2017 and he’ll be a top 5 prospect in 2018.
19. Manuel Margot, OF, SD: His numbers won’t pop and he may never lead the league in any statistic, but Margot is a smooth baseball player. He can do it all.
20. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, PIT: He never showed the power potential he was supposed to have in the minors, but he’s still a work in progress – one with an approach beyond his years.
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller Courtesy: Stack.com
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller
Courtesy: Stack.com

21. Clint Frazier, OF, NYY: The hair may be what many know him for right now. The ability will make others wish that they had curly red hair.

22. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU: As this guy grows into his 6’4″ frame, he’s going to be a monster. He had 41 XBH and 32 SB while reading A+ at 19 in 2016.
23. Michael Kopech, RHP, CHW: He throws really hard and he’s on a team that is going to give him an opportunity sooner than later. If for no other reason than these, he’s an intriguing prospect. He’s also very good.
24. Willy Adames, SS, TB: He’ll make the David Price trade look silly at some point when he debuts in 2017. He is extremely talented and will quickly become one of the Rays’ top players.
25. Francis Martes, RHP, HOU: Strikeouts jumped a bit (as did the walks) in AA last year, a wonderful sign for a 20-year-old. He throws extremely hard and is capable of becoming a frontline starter.
26. Amed Rosario, SS, NYM
27. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, CHC
28. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, ATL
29.  Kyle Lewis, OF, SEA
30. Mickey Moniak, OF, PHI
31. Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS, OAK
32. Francisco Mejia, C, CLE
33. Jose De Leon, RHP, TB
34. Corey Ray, OF, MIL
35. Hunter Renfroe, OF, SD
36. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB
37. Josh Hader, LHP, MIL
38. Jason Groome, LHP, BOS
39. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, COL
40. Tyler O’Neill, OF, SEA
41. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, CHW
42. Kolby Allard, LHP, ATL
43. Raimel Tapia, OF, COL
44. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT
45. Blake Rutherford, OF, NYY
46. Braxton Garrett, LHP, MIA
47. Jorge Alfaro, C, PHI
48. Yohander Mendez, LHP, TEX
49. Anthony Alford, OF, TOR
50. Carson Kelly, C, STL
51. Luis Castillo, RHP, CIN
52. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, LAD
53. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B/OF, TOR
54. Jorge Mateo, SS, NYY
55. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX
56. Riley Pint, RHP, COL
57. Dominic Smith, 1B, NYM
58. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, TOR
59. Nick Gordon, SS, MIN
60. David Paulino, RHP, HOU
61. Amir Garrett, LHP, CIN
62. Aaron Judge, OF, NYY
63. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE
64. Kevin Newman, SS, PIT
65. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
66. Nick Williams, OF, PHI
67. Zack Collins, C, CHW
68. Delvin Perez, SS, STL
69. A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK
70. Grant Holmes, RHP, OAK
71. Brady Aiken, LHP, CLE
72. Robert Stephenson, RHP, CIN
73. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN
74. Erick Fedde, RHP, WAS
75. Willie Calhoun, 2B, LAD
76. Dylan Cease, RHP, CHC
77. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, TB
78. Luke Weaver, RHP, STL
79. Justus Sheffield, LHP, NYY
80. Sean Newcombe, LHP, ATL
81. Matt Manning, RHP, DET
82. Brock Stewart, RHP, LAD
83. Max Fried, LHP, ATL
84. Derek Fisher, OF, HOU
85. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL
86. Chance Sisco, C, BAL
87. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU
88. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, MIN
89. Kevin Maitan, SS, ATL
90. Matt Chapman, 3B, OAK
91. Tyler Jay, LHP, MIN
92. Cal Quantrill, RHP, SD
93. Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE
94. Christian Arroyo, INF, SF
95. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL
96. Isan Diaz, SS, MIL
97. Ramon Laureano, OF, HOU
98. Tyler Beede, RHP, SF
99. German Marquez, RHP, COL
 100. James Kaprielian, RHP, NYY

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.

 

Cole Hamels to Texas: Can the Rangers Contend in 2016…or NOW

Courtesy: sportsworldreport.com
Rangers new LHP Hamels could be the ace the club needed to contend this year…or is it for next year? Courtesy: sportsworldreport.com

A year after losing 95 games, the Rangers have been solid in 2015. At 48-52, they sit just four games out of the second Wild Card in the American League. Needless to say, if they weren’t 14-26 against the AL West, they’d probably be in a better spot, but, even after dealing with major injuries and several changes within the organization, Jeff Banister has led the club to respectability.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels has done a solid job of acquiring talent without crippling the franchise with a Joey Votto-like contract, landing Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, and Josh Hamilton in deals; however, he saved his best work in the deal that he made yesterday for LHP Cole Hamels.

The Rangers were able to acquire Hamels without giving up their top two prospects, 3B Joey Gallo and OF Nomar Mazara, while dumping the $28 million that LHP Matt Harrison was owed over the next two seasons (including his option buyout for 2018). Hamels, who is guaranteed $76.5 million between 2016 and 2019, will anchor a staff that will include the returning from Tommy John surgery RHP Yu Darvish, another several months removed from the same surgery LHP Martin Perez, and a healthy LHP Derek Holland.

Clearly, the pitching staff is loaded, if healthy, but Hamels could be enough to get the Rangers into the playoffs this season. The Rangers are getting some solid pitching – you just have to dig deeper to see it:

  • Courtesy: nolanwritin.com
    Texas RHP Gallardo has had an excellent season – just don’t ask his FIP Courtesy: nolanwritin.com

    If you take away the two starts that RHP Colby Lewis was obliterated in (9 ER on 5/27 vs. CLE, 10 ER on 7/5 vs. LAA), he would have a 3.29 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 125.2 IP – NOT the inflated 4.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP that he has in 132.1 IP. After leading the AL in losses in 2014 (14), Lewis is 11-4 in his 21 starts – not bad for a $4 million investment.

  • Gallardo, who was acquired for INF Luis Sardinas, RHP Corey Knebel, and distant RHP prospect Marcos Diplan, has revived his career in the unlikeliest of places. His 3.19 ERA, the best of his MLB career, is surprising, especially since he has posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career (6.2) and is walking 3.4 batters per nine this season. His 24.8% hard hit ball rate ranks 14th in MLB, but the 6.8% HR/FB is much lower than his career rate (10.9%) and would seem unsustainable as he heads towards free agency after the season. While he is providing a lot of value for the time being, he, much like free-agent-to-be Lewis, may not be a factor next season.

Adding Hamels to those performances could be enough to get the Rangers over the hump; however, it isn’t certain that those performances will continue to be enough, as youngsters Perez and RHP Nick Martinez have struggled of late.

Courtesy: hardballtalk.com
Rangers 3B Beltre has fallen on hard times, but can he rebound to avoid the worst OPS of his career? Courtesy: hardballtalk.com

As always, the Rangers have strong offensive parts. 1B Mitch Moreland is having a career-best season, Fielder has regained his stroke after missing most of the 2014 season after having neck surgery, and OF Delino DeShields, Jr. has provided solid speed and on-base skills, but the decline of 3B Adrian Beltre (career-worst .677 OPS) and the unpredictable nature of what to expect from Hamilton (.719 OPS), along with the collapse of CF Leonys Martin, has left the Rangers offense limping.

While Hamels is a tremendous addition, the Rangers need to get production out of the aforementioned players, as well as overpaid, glove-only SS Elvis Andrus, in order to become real competitors. If there was a roster spot for Gallo to step into, without him having to learn a new position, it would be ideal for the offense, who, despite their struggles, rank 8th in MLB in runs scored and 11th in MLB in OPS.

Perhaps the move for Hamels will light a fire under the team, but, even with Hamels as their ace in 2016, the Rangers have several question marks, namely aging players and health, to address prior to being labeled as favorites. On paper, however, giving up some talented-yet-flawed prospects in Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams, was certainly worth the club’s major acquisition.

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: Philadelphia Phillies

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! 

Philadelphia Phillies

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 69-93 (5th in NL East, 30th in MLB)

Manager: Ryne Sandberg (93-111 in two seasons with Philadelphia)

Top Three Players: 2B Chase Utley (2.8 WAR), Cole Hamels (2.7 WAR), and Cliff Lee (2.7 WAR)

Bounce-back Candidate: OF Domonic Brown

Brown was an All-Star in 2013, his age-25 season, after posting an .856 OPS to go along with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in the first half; however, it hasn’t been pretty since then, as Brown was quite unproductive in the second half of 2013 (.723 OPS, nine extra-base hits, and 16 RBI over 156 plate appearances) before falling flat on his face in 2014, when he posted a .235/.285/.349 triple-slash (.634 OPS, 77 OPS+). At 27, Brown still needs to prove that the potential (which led to his No.4 overall prospect ranking prior to the 2011 season) is still there for him to be type of player that was present during the first half of the 2013 season. Luckily for Brown, the Phillies possess very little in the way of competition and prospects to push him for his role in right field, as Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Danks, and Brian Bogusevic are the likely backups in the Philadelphia outfield. The talent is there, but, as usual with Brown, the question remains as to whether or not he is motivated enough to reach his potential.

Phillies RHP (and future closer?) Ken Giles
Phillies RHP (and future closer?) Ken Giles

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Ken Giles

With the Phillies in rebuilding mode, the club has been working most of the offseason to deal their closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon, who has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 48 games in 2015, isn’t very valuable to a club that is expected to be as bad as the Phillies are anticipated to be in 2015, and his contract will just hold the club back financially in 2016 if he was to reach his vesting option and stick around another season. If Philadelphia was able to move Papelbon, Giles would likely slide into the closer’s role. Giles, 24, posted a 1.18 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over 45.2 innings, striking out 12.6 per nine over his 44 appearances. He isn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2017 season, and he could provide cheap saves for the Phillies and fantasy players alike.

Offseason Overview: The Phillies were sellers over the winter, with very little success in dealing off the overpriced parts that they wanted to rid themselves of. They were able to deal Marlon Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds for a decent pitching prospect, RHP Ben Lively, and Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two pitching prospects (RHP Zach Eflin and LHP Tom Windle), but, as of publishing, they weren’t able to move 1B Ryan Howard, LHP Cliff Lee, or LHP Cole Hamels. There are plenty of suitors still trying to come up with the right package to acquire Hamels, who has made it known that he doesn’t want to be in Philadelphia any longer, but Ruben Amaro, Jr. hasn’t budged on his asking price…yet. Beyond the two deals for minor leaguers, the Phillies haven’t done much. RHP Aaron Harang and RHP Chad Billingsley were decent one-year gambles that the club should attempt to pawn-off at the trade deadline for any breathing, controllable player, but they have a long way to go to be competitive again.

The Verdict: Citizens Bank Park will be very loud this season, featuring plenty of booing, screaming, paper bag covered faces, and creative signs regarding the franchise. The core of the team is still an aging group, and counting on Grady Sizemore in left field is an example of the continued ineptitude of the leadership. If the Phillies can get anything for any of their players and start with a blank slate, in similar fashion to the Houston Astros under Jeff Luhnow, it would be a worthwhile move for the future of the franchise. The weight of the $60 million owed to Ryan Howard (including his 2017 buyout), is a burden that Amaro placed on himself, and it should have cost him his job, but he’ll be the one trying to fix the mess that he created this season, as the team is heading towards 100 losses and the right to the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.