Second Half Scorchers

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

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

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

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

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

Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

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

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

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

Jose Ramirez, INF/OF, Cleveland Indians

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

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

Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

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

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

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

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

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

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

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

Free Agent Fits: Where Remaining Free Agents Should End Up

With so many big names finding homes, teams with holes are trying to find the appropriate signing to fill them. There are still plenty of names who make sense for so many teams, but let’s take a look at some great potential landing spots for some of the remaining unsigned players.

Weeks could be a nice, cheap addition for the Tribe Courtesy: USA Today
Weeks could be a nice, cheap addition for the Tribe
Courtesy: USA Today

Rickie Weeks, 2B/OF

Good Fit: Cleveland Indians

Weeks was released last June by the Seattle Mariners after hitting just .167/.263/.250 over 84 plate appearances with the club. He failed to latch-on elsewhere after his release, which shows a lot about his career demise. While Weeks never became the same type of hitter that he was expected to become as the #2 overall pick out of college, he was an All-Star and had several productive seasons. Even after fading over the last several seasons, Weeks has a 162-game average of 28 doubles, 21 home runs, and 17 stolen bases. Now, at 33, Weeks could use his versatility to become a tremendous low-risk gamble for a club like the Indians, who will need to replace the versatility that they lost with Mike Aviles departure. Cleveland has stashed several versatile players over the last few years (Nick Swisher, David Murphy, Carlos Santana), utilizing their roster space in a very effective way. With Jose Ramirez filling the super-utility role, Weeks would be capable of manning the Ryan Raburn role from the last couple of seasons for Terry Francona and Company. Nothing more than a minor league deal, here, but certainly one worth trying out.

Fowler would be an upgrade...if the Brewers want to field a good team
Fowler would be an upgrade…if the Brewers want to field a good team

Dexter Fowler, OF

Good fit: Milwaukee Brewers

Fowler was a tremendous addition for the Chicago Cubs last season, showcasing his ability to get on base (84 walks) and score runs (102) with unique blend of skills. While he isn’t going to be mistaken for Mike Trout with the bat or Kevin Kiermaier with the glove, he can drive the ball, evidenced by 54 extra-base hits, and run (20 stolen bases). He turned down a qualifying offer, which is leading to some lack of interest in the open market, as teams continue to be weary of giving up a draft pick as compensation. With that being said, the Brewers have a protected pick and a possible need for a center fielder. With Domingo Santana currently listed as the club’s starter, it would make sense for Milwaukee to sign Fowler to a deal and look to deal him if they are as miserable as they were last season near the deadline. While Santana is just 23, if the Brewers were to attempt to improve their roster, they would get someone who hasn’t looked overmatched at the position, as the young outfielder has struck out 77 times in 177 at bats (43%  of his at bats). Fowler would become a nice leadoff option, setting the tone for Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy; however, the Brewers would need a lot more help than Fowler to become legitimate contenders.

Matt Joyce, OF

Good Fit: Tampa Bay Rays

Joyce had some solid seasons in Tampa and would be a great bench option for the club, as long as he didn’t need to get everyday at bats. Joyce has no chance against left-handed pitchers, having posted a career .180/.252/.302 triple-slash in 382 career plate appearances; however, his .253/.348/.447 line against right-handed pitching would make his a very nice use of a roster spot for the Rays. Having come off the worst season of his career (.564 OPS), the possibility of getting him for a next-to-nothing gamble price is right up the Rays’ alley, as well. With Desmond Jennings‘ inability to stay healthy and a possible opening at DH, this could be a reasonable reunion.

Brown has punch and could come cheap for the rebuilding Reds
Brown has punch and could come cheap for the rebuilding Reds

Domonic Brown, OF

Good Fit: Cincinnati Reds

With the recent trade of Todd Frazier and the continued rumors surrounding Aroldis Chapman and Brandon Phillips, the Reds are in sell-mode. Due to all of the deals, they have a gluttony of inexperienced outfielders, including Adam Duvall (acquired from San Francisco in the Mike Leake deal), Scott Schebler (acquired in the three-way deal with Los Angeles and Chicago for Frazier), and Rule 5 draftee Jake Cave (selected from the Yankees). While Jesse Winker, one of the club’s top prospects, readies himself in Louisville this season, it wouldn’t be a terrible choice to give the left field job to former Phillies’ top prospect Brown, who, in 2013, was an All-Star, and now, at the tender age of 28, is jobless and in need of a revival. If you look back at the archives for this site, you’ll see quite a bit of love for this young man, and, as a Reds’ homer, he’d be a welcomed addition to this writer’s hometown team. Brown was granted free agency back in October and still hasn’t found a home. I’d be willing to open-up my extra bedroom if the Reds would give him a long look in 2016, struggles from 2015 and all.

Casey Janssen

Good Fit: New York Yankees

The Yankees have been shopping Andrew Miller this offseason and they have a great replacement in the closer role in Dellin Betances; however, the rest of their bullpen is an interesting blend of young nobodies, as the only remaining bullpen arm outside of Betances, if the club was to deal Miller, with viable innings from 2015 would be 25-year-old Chasen Shreve. Enter Janssen, who is two years removed from closing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a less than stellar season in Washington last season, but he has only walked 2.2 per nine over his career and, at 34, should have enough left to add much-needed depth to the Yankees’ bullpen. He was bought out by the Nationals after earning $3.5 million in 2015, so he could be a nice, cheap option in a down reliever market.

"The Freak" has lost his freakiness, but could be a nice gamble by LA
“The Freak” has lost his freakiness, but could be a nice gamble by LA

Tim Lincecum, RHP

Good Fit: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers were willing to give Brett Anderson $10 million for one-year last winter and Brandon Beachy a few million dollars to rehab with the club, so gambling on Lincecum, despite “The Freak” having a few down seasons, is something that the free-spending Dodgers may be willing to do. This is especially true due to the unknown future of Brandon McCarthy‘s elbow and Hyun Jin Ryu’s shoulder. In addition, the lefty-heavy state of the Dodgers rotation (Clayton Kershaw, Ryu, Alex Wood, and Anderson) could use the right arm of Lincecum, even as a back-end option. At 32, the two-time Cy Young winner’s career isn’t ever going to rebound, but Chavez Ravine could do enough for him to make his numbers look respectable again, and the offense has enough firepower to help him out if he can’t do it himself anymore.

Cespedes with Trout and Pujols would be a very pricey murderers row.
Cespedes with Trout and Pujols would be a very pricey murderers row.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF

Good Fit: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Cespedes is going to cost a lot of money and the Angels could use a couple of arms to stay competitive more than another bat. Still, the Angels could use an upgrade in left over Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava, and adding Cespedes to Albert Pujols and Mike Trout has to look pretty sexy on paper for Arte Moreno, who could use something positive after the Josh Hamilton fiasco. It will cost a pretty penny to sign the Cuban outfielder, but it would certainly be a solid addition to an already powerful lineup.

 

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.

 

 

 

30 Shades of Hot: Take Notice of These Scorching Players

Over the last month, some players have inflated their production to incredible levels. With all of the excitement from the NBA and NHL Playoffs, the Supreme Court, and…the Women’s World Cup…perhaps you’ve missed it. Below are some players who are getting back on track or having career seasons.

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?  Courtesy: USA Today
Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?
Courtesy: USA Today

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Last 30 days: .394/.525/.713, 6 2B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 15:27 K:BB, 5 SB

You could argue that Goldschmidt has been the best player in MLB this season, even though he ranks 3rd in WAR (4.3) behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (5.1) and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis (4.6). Goldy has compiled a .354/.473/.654 line to go along with 15 doubles, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a league-leading 59 walks (17 intentional). While the Diamondbacks sit at 35-37, they are just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card hunt. Goldschmidt will continue to be pitched around as the primary source of fear within the Arizona lineup.

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .354/.381/.770, 14 2B, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB

Frazier is the Reds’ Ambassador for the upcoming All-Star Game in Cincinnati, utilizing his friendly personality and love of Frank Sinatra to become a beloved figure in Reds Country. He is becoming a beloved figure around baseball, especially fantasy circles, due to his incredible power outburst over the last month. Frazier has been the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR, 4.1), as he has become an asset not only for his bat, but his slick glove at the hot corner.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

Last 30 days: .333/.416/.818, 3 2B, 15 HR, 30 RBI, 5:13 K:BB

“Prince Albert” has found the stroke that made him such a force in his Hall of Fame worthy time in St. Louis. After averaging “just” 25 home runs, 91 RBI, and an .810 OPS in his first three seasons for the Angels, many thought the days of 40 home runs, 121 RBI, and 1.037 OPS, his average year in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, were long gone. Pujols currently leads the AL in bombs (23), and will continue to be a part of the two-man wrecking crew that the Angels have with him and Mike Trout in the order.

Giants' 2B Joe Panik - career year or start of something special?  Courtesy: goldengatesports.com
Giants’ 2B Joe Panik – career year or start of something special?
Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

Last 30 days: .336/.405/.542, 10 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12:12 K:BB, 2 SB

Panik likely wasn’t on your list of players who could post a .300/.400/.500 season, but he has been that player over the last month, and very good over the entire season. Panik’s .310/.380/.463 line, 19 doubles, six home runs, and 141 wRC+ (2nd among second basemen in MLB) aren’t all that different from his .296/.365/.403 line over his minor league career, yet, he has nearly reached each of his season-long projections that were set forth by Steamer and ZiPS. His 2.8 WAR has allowed him to show more value than the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kolten Wong, Brian Dozier, and Jose Altuve. Panik was a first round pick out of St. John’s University in 2011. At just 24, he has shown himself to be quite productive, and, if all else fails, he has a slick glove at second.

Justin Turner, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Last 30 days: .361/.418/.639, 6 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 11:7 K:BB

Based on 190 plate appearances, Turner is the 15th most valuable position player in MLB (2.9 WAR). He is having an excellent month, while continuing to shine in the opportunities that he is provided, which are coming in bunches since the Dodgers traded Juan Uribe. While Corey Seager continues to mash in the minors, it is likely Jimmy Rollins at short who is more likely to be replaced than the do-it-all Turner. A career .260/.323/.361 hitter over his first five seasons (2009-2013, 926 plate appearances), the 30-year-old third baseman has hit .334/.400/.526 triple-slash over 512 plate appearances since the start of the 2014 season, with 33 doubles and 17 home runs.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Texas Rangers

Last 30 days: 2-0, five starts, 0.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 31 IP, 26:10 K:BB, .193 BAA

Gallardo looked like a lost cause early this season, posting a 4.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in his first five starts for the Rangers. With the way that the ball flies out of Arlington, it was only a matter of time before the Mexican hurler’s numbers would look even worse. However, that hasn’t been the case. Since May 1st, Gallardo has a 2.51 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 61 innings, including his impressive run of starts over the last 30 days. While the velocity and strikeout totals continue to dip, Gallardo is finding more success by cutting back on his curve and increasing the use of his slider and change. We’ll see if he can continue to stay hot as Texas heats up.

Braves' RHP Williams Perez - will the league catch up to him?  Courtesy: foxsports.com
Braves’ RHP Williams Perez – will the league catch up to him?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Williams Perez, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Last 30 days: 4-0, six games (five starts), 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1 save, 32 IP, 20:15 K:BB, .219 BAA

Who? Unranked by Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the season, the 24-year-old has moved quickly through the Atlanta system since reaching full season ball in 2013. He jumped to Triple-A to start the season and made five starts before joining the Braves bullpen. He made all of two appearances before he joined the rotation – minus a random save opportunity on June 13th. In his seven starts, Perez has a 2.14 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. While the walks would need to come down for him to become a more valuable option, Perez has youth and results on his side to this point.

Nate Karns, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 1-1, six games (six starts), 2.65 ERA 1.26 WHIP, 34 IP, 31:12 K:BB, .238 BAA

Karns has stepped up to take on a major role while the Rays battle health issues that have landed Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Drew Smyly on the disabled list for extended time this season and Matt Moore continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old late bloomer, drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, had shown some impressive strikeout skills in the minors (10.3 K:9 over 449.1 minor league innings), but, though he hasn’t reached those numbers to this point, he has certainly shown that he can get major league hitters out. Over 15 starts, Karns has a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP to go along with his 8.2 K:9. The Rays continue to have a process to maintain success, even after losing Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers from their front office. Karns, acquired by Friedman and Company in February of 2014, looks like a solid, long-term option for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

2015 Season Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

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! 

Tampa Bay Rays

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 86-76 (2nd in AL East, 7th in MLB)

Manager: Kevin Cash (1st season with Tampa Bay, no prior experience)

Top Three Players: 3B Evan Longoria (5.3), RHP Alex Cobb (3.0), OF Desmond Jennings (2.8)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Evan Longoria

Longoria is a star. For some reason, he continues to be overlooked when people talk about the best third basemen in baseball. Perhaps it is because he has played for the Rays for seven seasons. He’s entering his age-29 season and he’s coming off of his worst career season, a career-worst .724 OPS. He slipped a little defensively, as well, seeing his range factor fall below league average for the first time in his career. Perhaps he was playing hurt, perhaps he is just aging, but Longoria will be asked to fill a major role in 2015, a role that he is familiar with. He will be the biggest bat in the Rays lineup, and, even with a lot of talented players around him, he must improve upon his 2014 season. We will look back at last season as an outlier to his incredible career, as he rebounds to post a .270/.350/.500 season.

Smyly will have Rays fans smiling...once he's healthy Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com
Smyly will have Rays fans smiling…once he’s healthy
Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: LHP Drew Smyly

Smyly, acquired in the David Price trade last season, has battled some shoulder soreness this spring, which is always a scary, wearisome injury. He is coming along and will likely have his first start in mid-to-late April, likely missing the first two weeks of the season – if everything breaks right. In seven starts with the Rays last season, Smyly posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, numbers that he will not duplicate over an entire season, but numbers that show why Smyly and his health are worth monitoring. Over his career, Smyly has a 3.55 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 43 starts and 241 innings. At 26, he is quite capable of becoming one of the top starters in the American League, joining Alex Cobb, when he is healthy, as well above-average starters.

Offseason Overview: The Rays appeared to give up on Wil Myers, but they got some value out of him, even with his huge struggles, acquiring OF Steven Souza, a late-blooming prospect from the Nationals, and a bit of depth (Travis Ott, Burch Smith, Rene Rivera, and Jake Bauers) to their roster and to a system, which, suddenly, isn’t drafting and producing prospects at the rate that it used to. The Rays did the same type of deal when they sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland for John Jaso and prospects (Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson). Even with new leadership, after Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, the Rays continue on with their cost-saving, intelligent ways. The Rays wrapped up their offseason by signing Asdrubal Cabrera, who appears to be the starting shortstop, even after proving to be below-average at the position the last several seasons in Cleveland, prior to being traded to Washington last season; however, at just 29 and on a one-year deal, it was a smart investment. The best move of the offseason by the Rays may have been the recent buy-low deal that brought their injury-ravaged rotation Erasmo Ramirez, a pitcher with great stuff and inconsistent results and opportunities in Seattle, for LHP Mike Montgomery, a flamed out piece of the James Shields trade with Kansas City.

The Verdict: Even with Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers gone, the Rays have a very solid roster. Nick Franklin, acquired in the David Price deal, or Tim Beckham could fill the Zobrist role, as both can handle shortstop and second base, though they won’t have the same type of offensive production. Jaso will fill the DH role, providing solid power and on-base skills, while Kevin Kiermaier provides elite defensive ability as the center fielder. If they don’t deal David DeJesus prior to Opening Day, he looks like the fourth outfielder, which is a nice option for the club to have. The biggest issue will be their rotation. Cobb and Smyly will miss the first couple of weeks due to injuries they suffered in camp, while Matt Moore may come back from Tommy John surgery by July. Jake Odorizzi made huge strides last season and Chris Archer is underrated, despite his 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over the last two seasons. If they can survive the first couple of weeks with their pitching staff decimated, the Rays will make the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons, and, for some reason, they will continue to be overlooked by those who cover the sport. 88-90 wins for a very undervalued, under-appreciated team.

Is Billy Beane Still a Genius?

Rays 2B/OF Ben Zobrist
Rays 2B/OF Ben Zobrist

On Saturday, the Oakland A’s acquired UTIL Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays for C/DH John Jaso and two minor leaguers, CF Boog Powell and SS Daniel Robertson. This, of course, comes on the heels of the deal with Toronto, which sent the A’s star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, to the Jays for a strong package of minor leaguers (SS Franklin Barreto, LHP Sean Nolin, and RHP Kendall Graveman) and oft-injured 2B/3B Brett Lawrie, and the A’s deal with the White Sox, which sent Jeff Samardzija to Chicago (along with Michael Ynoa, the former bonus baby) for INF Marcus Semien, C Josh Phegley, RHP Chris Bassitt, and minor league INF Rangel Ravelo. The trades have changed the outlook on the future, especially after the club appeared to be heading in a new direction when they traded their gifted shortstop prospect Addison Russell to the Cubs to acquire Samardzija, while dealing Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester for a huge push at the deadline in 2014. However, after Saturday’s deal, the roster looks like it has had more face-lifts than Joan Rivers, but it still has the Billy Beane touch, as Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted:

With the additions of Zobrist and Escobar, the A’s have found a new shortstop for 2015, which was important considering the lack of range that Semien would have had at the position, while gaining the most versatile player in baseball this side of Craig Biggio in Zobrist. Still, there are some questions that could remain for A’s fans.

Why did they give up Russell for Samardzija, only to turn around and deal him months later?

If they felt comfortable with Robertson as the shortstop of the future enough to deal Russell, why did they deal Robertson as a centerpiece in a deal for Zobrist and Esobar?

If they ever felt that Robertson was the shortstop of the future, why did they get Barreto as a centerpiece of the deal with the Jays, while trading away their best offensive piece from a team that was starved for offense down the stretch in 2014?

A's GM Billy Beane
A’s GM Billy Beane

Many of these questions are logical, but no one really knows what Billy Beane is thinking. The end result, however, shows that Beane was able to acquire several pieces that are quite useful right now, while stockpiling his system with high-impact, controllable talent. Sure, Billy Butler isn’t going to replace the production that Josh Donaldson provided (he certainly won’t be coming close to earning an MVP vote without a drastic career bounceback), but the potential that they received in Lawrie, plus the addition of so many other useful parts allows the club to get back to the foundation of on-base skills and productivity through strong plate appearances that made the Moneyball movement such a dynamic influence on the organization and the world of baseball.

The versatility in the order and the presence of veterans like Zobrist, Crisp, Reddick, and Butler in the Oakland lineup may help the A’s get to the next level. They still have solid depth in the rotation with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn (acquired from San Diego for Derek Norris this winter), the returning-from-surgery A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, and their choice of youngsters Nolin, Bassitt, Graveman, and Drew Pomeranz, and the A’s will just need things to click right, which seems to always happen with Beane on board.

Certainly what Beane has done over the last eight months doesn’t seem perfect, but he looks to have another group of players who will be capable of reaching 87 or more wins again, something the A’s have done 11 times in the 17 seasons that he has been the GM in Oakland.

Tigers Pay the Price and Win

Tigers LHP David Price
Tigers LHP David Price

The Detroit Tigers confused the world of baseball this winter when they traded right-hander Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Robbie Ray. Fister had three years of team control remaining, and he was coming off of two very good seasons (3.29 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) in Detroit. Ray was rated as the 97th best prospect prior to the 2014 season by MLB.com, but after the Tampa Bay Rays were able to get the haul that they did (including Wil Myers) for two years of control of James Shields, it was assumed by many that Fister would bring much more than a single prospect, particularly one that had posted most of his solid 2013 numbers while repeating High-A.

  Continue reading Tigers Pay the Price and Win