Results tagged ‘ Todd Frazier ’

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:

Giants’ 2B Joe Panik – career year or start of something special?

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:

Braves’ RHP Williams Perez – will the league catch up to him?

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 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: Cincinnati Reds

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! 

Cincinnati Reds



2015 Projected Record: 79-83 (5th in NL Central, 21st in MLB)

Manager: Bryan Price (76-86 in one season with Cincinnati)

Top Three Players: 1B Joey Votto (4.1), C Devin Mesoraco (2.9), RHP Johnny Cueto (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Joey Votto

Votto hasn’t been the same player since his 2010 NL MVP, or so it seems. As a native of Cincinnati, all that I hear on talk radio is how Votto isn’t worth the money and he doesn’t swing enough. It is an argument that continues to play out, as Votto continues to walk and get on base, but he also continues to see his home run totals dip. For all of those who thought that last season was so awful, due to his .255 average, they forget that he got on-base at a .390 clip. As long as Votto is patient, fans and fantasy players should be, too. He is the most intelligent hitter to play in MLB since Tony Gwynn, and it is a matter of time before he stays on the field and finds his MVP-caliber stroke again. Those who take a chance on him will, likely, be rewarded. He isn’t going to miss 100 games again. He’s in shape, the Reds were cautious last season because they weren’t competitive, and he instantly reclaims the title as the Reds best player when he suits up on Opening Day.

Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?  Courtesy:

Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Raisel Iglesias

Iglesias is a 24-year-old right-hander from Cuba whom the Reds signed to a seven-year, $27 million deal last June. Despite being just 5’11”, the Reds seem likely to try the youngster as a starting pitcher, though his long-term role may be in the bullpen. Iglesias was a reliever in Cuba and had some pretty miserable statistics based on his control, but he has very good stuff, a four-pitch mix with a sweeping breaking ball that could be a strikeout pitch if he is able to gain some command. The Reds have a couple of things going for them in how they develop Iglesias – they’ve had success with short starters (see Johnny Cueto) and they’ve groomed relief pitchers into successful starters in recent years (see Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen). Iglesias is more likely to open the season in the bullpen than the rotation, but he is certainly someone to watch based on his stuff and the Reds need for a strong set-up man after watching so many crash and burn in the role in 2014.

Offseason Overview: Cincinnati had a busy, yet, somewhat confusing offseason. They needed to trim some payroll after a miserable season that saw attendance drop, so they needed to move some talent to accommodate that need. They dealt RHP Mat Latos and RHP Alfredo Simon, acquiring affordable, young pitching in RHP Anthony DeSclafani and RHP Brandon Crawford, while adding solid depth in the infield by acquiring INF Eugenio Suarez. However, despite the sudden youth movement, the Reds then traded prospect RHP Ben Lively for OF Marlon Byrd. They finished off the winter by signing RHP Burke Badenhop, who had a fantastic season in Boston in 2014, to shore up the spotty bullpen. So…they got a little younger and cheaper, then got a little older by getting Byrd, who is under contract through 2016 and will turn 38 in August. They kept their core together and must assume that they will get more out of Bruce, 2B Brandon Phillips, and Votto in 2015, but they didn’t truly address their rotation, which became quite slim after dealing away 40 percent of the 2014 rotation, only signing LHP Paul Maholm to address the losses.

The Verdict: Walt Jocketty continues to make deals as the GM in Cincinnati, but he isn’t making the additions necessary to get the team over the hump. After the 2013 season, Dusty Baker was fired, Shin-Soo Choo left via free agency, and the Reds gave Billy Hamilton the center field job – that about sums up their offseason last year. Sure, Jocketty moved payroll and acquired depth, but DeSclafani isn’t going to replace the ability of Latos, and both he and Crawford are better suited for relief roles. Ownership and management is hoping for more of the same out of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, with improved offensive output from Bruce, Votto, Phillips, and Hamilton. If everything clicks offensively, they may be able to score enough to beat the opposition, but they can only count on Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey on three of every five days. Someone will need to come out of nowhere to give the club 60 good starts in the No.4 and No.5 spots in the rotation, and that talent isn’t on hand. It will be a long season in Cincinnati, and their projection by PECOTA, specifically last place in the NL Central, seems perfect.

Fantasy Baseball’s Fabulous First Half Figures

With the All-Star break starting after Sunday’s action, there are some baseball fans who are feeling like a train ran over them, weeping at the thought of discussing their fantasy baseball teams due to horrific production, numerous injuries, and running their squads with their hearts instead of their heads – sitting in last place. The cellar isn’t so bad until all of the wine is gone, but some of us have players to thank for tremendous starts to the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Not all of us can have Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, and Troy Tulowitzki, so these are the players who are helping to separate the contenders from the pretenders in the first half of the season:

Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

2014 ★ 24 HOU 91 410 380 47 128 27 2 2 27 41 23 28 .337 .376 .434 .810 165
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Altuve is having a career year, on pace for over 220 hits and 70 stolen bases. In an era of huge swing and miss on the offensive side of the game, Altuve lacks patience but makes consistent contact, putting the ball in play to utilize his speed. He leads MLB with his 128 hits, with 20 of those coming on infield hits. With Jon Singleton and George Springer joining him in Houston this season, a glimpse into the Astros’ future is upon us.


Indians OF Michael Brantley

Indians OF Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley, LF, Cleveland Indians

2014 ★ 27 CLE 88 382 343 62 112 22 1 14 62 10 30 31 .327 .387 .519 .906 178
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Generated 7/12/2014.

“Dr. Smooth” has already eclipsed his previous career-high in home runs (10 in 2013) this season, and will easily surpass his career bests in several other categories, and if that wasn’t enough, he is tied for the MLB lead in outfield assists (10, though he has negative defensive value). You likely don’t earn anything for those throws, but Branley’s bat has kept an up-and-down Indians club in the AL Central race all season. His career contact rates suggest that this breakout is legit – not bad for the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia deal, huh?

Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

2014 ★ 26 LAD 89 384 351 51 104 14 9 2 25 42 27 56 .296 .348 .405 .753 142
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

To think that Gordon was “in the mix” for the second base job this spring after the Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero seems absurd when looking at his offensive impact this season. The speedster has obviously assisted fantasy players with the league-leading 42 stolen bases, but getting on base (formerly a problem) has allowed him to be driven in by Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and the other Dodger hitters. Sometime you just need a long-term look to show what you have. The Dodgers committed to him, and Gordon is rewarding many people so far this season.

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

2014 23 CIN 88 348 323 45 92 18 6 5 38 37 16 63 .285 .318 .424 .742 137
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

I wasn’t much of a believer in Hamilton given his struggles in Triple-A last season, but he has certainly proven me wrong. While he isn’t leading the league in steals, he has certainly given the Reds an dynamic defender in center and a threat to score at will. The power is just icing on the cake for fantasy owners. His recent tear (.344/.375/.574 over the last 15 games) has not only increased his numbers, they have helped put the Reds back in contention in the NL Central.

Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

2014 ★ 27 COL 91 373 341 52 101 17 1 14 50 16 21 46 .296 .343 .475 .818 162
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Blackmon is an All-Star. He barely had a grasp on the starting left field job when spring training started, so that is about all that you need to know; however, I will share his home and road splits because I’m not so sure his value is legitimate unless you play him during long home stands –

Home 46 42 199 180 37 61 10 1 11 34 10 13 22 .339 .394 .589 .983 106
Away 45 37 174 161 15 40 7 0 3 16 6 8 24 .248 .285 .348 .633 56
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.


Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

2014 ★ 28 CIN 92 390 353 55 102 17 1 17 48 13 31 79 .289 .351 .487 .839 172
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Todd Frazier is the second most valuable third baseman in baseball in 2014 (based on WAR, 3.5), ahead of the likes of Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Adrian Beltre. He’s hitting for power, he’s running, and, the best part, nothing in his numbers truly suggest a regression. With the hot months ahead of us and Great American Ballpark being a notoriously friendly environment, we could easily see 30 home runs and 100 RBI next to his name at the end of the season.

Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

2014 26 LAA AL 11 2 2.55 19 0 0 123.1 88 35 35 4 43 127 2.68 1.062 6.4
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming after Richards had one of the top fastball velocities in baseball in 2013. After all, if you consider that his average fastball was 94.8 mph in 2013, he would have ranked in the top four in baseball behind Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Jose Fernandez. Good company. Better results.

Alfredo Simon, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

2014 33 CIN 12 3 2.70 18 0 0 116.2 94 36 35 14 28 75 4.32 1.046 7.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Simon is leading MLB in the all important WIN. Ugh…the win…well, it still matters in fantasy. The FIP suggests he could see regression, but the bigger question is the number of innings he will log, as his career-high for innings was in 2011 when he reached 115.2 for Baltimore. He will likely spend some time in the Reds’ bullpen to limit those down the stretch, or a burnout is likely.


A's LHP Scott Kazmir

A’s LHP Scott Kazmir

Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics

2014 ★ 30 OAK 11 3 2.38 19 1 0 117.1 88 33 31 10 27 108 3.18 0.980 6.8
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Generated 7/12/2014.

His career was nearly over in 2011 due to shoulder issues, he missed all of 2012 and then the solid return in Cleveland was special…but this is incredible. Kazmir deserves this success after overcoming so many obstacles, and the A’s look intelligent, as always, in their wise investment – as do fantasy owners.

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins

2014 24 MIA 6 4 2.63 19 3 3 120.0 129 43 35 7 22 73 3.34 1.258 9.7
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2014.

Alvarez has a heavy fastball that he can’t blow by many, but it manages to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. That has helped him take a big step forward in his production on the mound this season. At 24, he is a strong dynasty option. He really knows how to pitch and his command will keep him relevant if and when he loses his velocity.

Time For Cincinnati to Extend the Toddfather?

Has Todd Frazier Shown Enough to Warrant an Extension in Cincinnati?

The Cincinnati Reds have locked-up Homer Bailey and Joey Votto to nine-figure contracts, Brandon Phillips is signed through 2017 (he’s owed $39 million from 2015-2017), and Jay Bruce is signed through 2017 (when including his 2017 team option worth $13 million). Beyond those four players, and pre-arbitration youngsters, like Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton, the Reds are set to lose several players to free agency after the 2015 and 2016 season. Chief among those heading towards free agency are Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake after the 2015 season, and Aroldis Chapman after the 2016 season.

Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier

Cincinnati have several young arms on the way up, including current bullpen arm Tony Cingrani, three starters in Double-A – Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, and Ben Lively, and recent college draftees Nick Howard (out of Virginia) and Wyatt Strahan (out of Southern California) to add to the mix. The presence of these young arms could ease the pain of losing three above-average starting pitchers and an elite closer in the next couple of seasons; however, outside of Jesse Winker and Seth Mejias-Brean, who were just promoted to Double-A, there isn’t much offensive depth in the minor league system, and certainly not enough to produce enough runs offensively to win games when and if Cueto, Latos, and Leake leave via free agency. The team will need to score more, and they need to lock-up young producers like Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier to long-term, team-friendly deals now to avoid an offensive collapse in future seasons, especially considering that the Reds are ranked 27th in MLB in runs scored with some talented players in the lineup currently.

Devin Mesoraco is breaking out in 2014, posting a .304/.385/.587 triple-slash and 10 home runs in his first 151 plate appearances. While he and Frazier are both free agents after the 2017 season, this is Mesoraco’s first experience with extensive playing time, and the club should monitor how he continues handling pitchers and his own health prior to locking up the 26-year-old backstop, though, he would make an excellent player to extend, as well.

However, this post isn’t about Mesoraco, it’s about Todd Frazier, and Todd Frazier is not only breaking out in 2014, he is taking steps towards stardom. After another multi-hit game on Thursday, his 18th of the season, Frazier has a .279/.349/.517 triple-slash to go along with his 31 extra-base hits, 41 RBI, and seven stolen bases. At 28, Frazier is in his prime and would be in his early 30’s if the Reds were able to buyout his arbitration years and gain options for the 2018 through 2020 seasons, while keeping the costs of a potential right-handed power hitter down.

You see, Frazier is overlooked quite a bit due to his struggles in his sophomore season, 2013, when he managed a .234/.314/.407 triple-slash, but some of that can be attributed to his .269 BABIP. While there were struggles, Frazier did improve his walk-rate (which has taken another step forward in 2014), while also improving his strikeout rate. His 100 wRC+ was league average, despite the ugly batting average, but his .721 OPS was in the top 15 among third basemen in MLB, and he posted a career-high 73 RBI.

In 2012, Frazier’s rookie season, he had an .829 OPS, second among NL rookies, to go along with his 19 home runs and 67 RBI, while being forgotten among the National League Rookie of the Year  hype that led to Bryce Harper winning the award, while Mike Trout‘s historic run towards finishing second in the AL MVP voting to Miguel Cabrera left many other rookies that year (including Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Carpenter, and Yu Darvish) feeling like chopped liver.

Since his rookie season, Todd Frazier ranks 11th in wRC+ (115, higher than Kyle Seager, Pablo Sandoval, and Pedro Alvarez), 11th in wOBA (.344, higher than Seager, Sandoval, and Alvarez), 11th in WAR (8.6, higher than Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Sandoval, and Alvarez), and each of the players that Frazier ranks higher than make considerably more money, outside of Seager:

Aramis Ramirez: in the middle of a three-year, $40 million deal (2015 – $4 million buyout or $14 million option)

Ryan Zimmerman: in the middle of an 11-year, $135 million deal that runs through 2020 (including options)

Kyle Seager: earning $540,000 this year and arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2015

Pablo Sandoval: in the final year of a three-year, $17.15 million deal and likely to cash-in this winter

Pedro Alvarez: earning $4.25 million this year and arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2015


Should Cincinnati lock-up their breakout star? Can they?

Frazier is making $600,000 this season and is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. Just like Seager, Frazier has provided tremendous value when compared to other third basemen around baseball, and he has earned a financial reward for his contribution over the last two-and-a-half seasons, especially when you consider the bargain he has been to this point. With the numbers that he is putting up, he could get quite expensive in arbitration. In 2014, Frazier is truly pacing third basemen across MLB: 2nd in WAR (2.7), 1st in wRC+ (139), 1st in wOBA (.377), 1st in slugging percentage (.517, only player over .500), 1st in OPS (.866), 2nd in home runs (16, Josh Donaldson leads with 17), and 1st in stolen bases (7). While some may think it is a mirage, Frazier’s sophomore season seems to be the regression from the norm. His batting average (.273) is the same as it was in his rookie season, his slugging percentage is similar to what it was in his rookie season (.498 in 2012 and .517 entering play today), and his BABIP is just .304, closer to league average than being responsible for inflating his overall numbers. While the HR/FB is very high (21.1 percent), Frazier’s line-drive, ground-ball, and fly-ball rates are each in line with his career norms, the ball is just leaving the yard at a much higher rate.

While there could be some regression in home runs, which would lead to more fly-balls and lower overall production, it is atypical for balls to stay in the yard in the warmer months in Cincinnati, much less many other ballparks across MLB. At 28, Frazier is in his prime and the production seems legitimate.

With right-handed power being advantageous with both Joey Votto and Jay Bruce batting left-handed in the middle of the order, a productive Todd Frazier has tremendous value for Cincinnati. The cost of pitching on the open market makes it very unlikely that the Reds can afford to keep any one of the trio of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake after the 2015 season, which makes the ability to create runs offensively that much more valuable going forward for Cincinnati. The Reds need Todd Frazier and they need him beyond 2017. Now is the time to invest in the Frank Sinatra loving, Toms River, New Jersey star, as the club can’t afford to go to arbitration with him as he continues to develop offensively.

How the Cincinnati Reds Ruined Their Window

Over the last nine games of the season, the Cincinnati Reds were 2-7, including their National League Wild Card loss in Pittsburgh, which would be their fifth loss against the Pirates in the nine game span. Needless to say, after a disappointing collapse in the 2012 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, the collapse at the end of the 2013 season wasn’t pleasing to the fans, or the front office. Dusty Baker was canned shortly thereafter, replaced by pitching coach Bryan Price, who, in his first year as manager, has been dealt with the task of rebuilding a roster with a lot of question marks into a perennial power, all the while continuing to look up at the St. Louis Cardinals, who have built a system of winning from within.

Now, the Reds must replace their lead-off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, who only managed a .423 on-base percentage and 107 runs scored while reaching base 305 times by hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch, after watching Choo run to the Texas Rangers in free agency for seven-years, $130 million.

BruceCertainly, it wasn’t within the budget to re-up with Choo at $18.7 million per year, not with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips combining to make $33 million in 2014, $38 million in 2015, and $45.5 million in 2016, that is, of course, if one of them isn’t traded. The Reds have long had a payroll between $80 and $100 million under current owner Bob Castellini, but is it time to start questioning what the long-term goal of the franchise is, after sputtering around the free agent market while trying to replace their best lead-off hitter since Joe Morgan and Pete Rose were flapping and flopping around Riverfront Stadium. Whether television contracts and Major League Baseball Advanced Media revenue will allow the “small-market” Reds to increase their payroll further is a valid question, but with Matt Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake under team-control through 2015, and Homer Bailey headed towards free agency after the 2014 season, how else can the team remain contenders, especially with St. Louis constantly reloading and the Chicago Cubs reaching their contention window, just as the Reds is becoming questionable?

This offseason was difficult, clearly. The Reds couldn’t be in on Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, or any other big-name free agent, but with very little money to spend, GM Walt Jocketty could have been more active in the trade market, or at least the minor league free agent route. Dick Williams, the VP of Baseball Operations, told me during the Reds’ caravan that the club lost out on Grady Sizemore due to his relationship with one of Boston’s trainers, who had been with Cleveland during his time there. While Sizemore wasn’t a lock to produce, or stay healthy, he fit the bill as a low-cost centerfield option. He wasn’t a leadoff hitter, though, at least he hadn’t shown those skills since his last somewhat healthy season, 2009. Which left the club with little choice but to give their in-house candidate, Billy Hamilton, the job.

The issue with Hamilton, though, is that, though he has otherworldly speed, is he capable of thriving long-term in center, a position that he has been playing since the start of the 2012 season. His experience in Triple-A left a lot to be desired, as he posted a .256/.308/.343 triple-slash, stealing 75 bases and scoring 75 runs in 123 games for Louisville. We all know about his brief September audition, when Dusty Baker allowed him to receive all of 22 plate appearances, while Baker pinch-ran him often to allow the speedy Mississippian to accumulate 13 stolen bases in 14 tries.

In addition to plugging Hamilton into center, here is the laundry list of exciting moves that the Reds have made this winter:

October: Signed LHP Trevor Reckling and RHP Timothy Adleman to minor league contracts; signed OF Jason Bourgeois to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training;

November: Signed LHP Manny Parra, 2B Skip Schumaker, and C Brayan Pena to major league contracts; Signed OF Mike Wilson, LHP Nick Schmidt, and RHP Ross Ismail to minor league contracts; Signed C Max Ramirez, LHP Lee Hyde, and 3B Rey Navarro to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

December: Signed 3B Ruben Gotay and RHP Trevor Bell to minor league contracts; Invited non-roster RHP Jose Diaz and 2B Kristopher Negron to Spring Training; Signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang, C Corky Miller, and SS Argenis Diaz to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training; Acquired LHP David Holmberg from Arizona for Ryan Hanigan;

January: Sign RHP Bob Keppel, RHP Sean Black, OF Thomas Neal, LHP Jeff Francis, 2B John Tolisano, and 2B Hernan Iribarren to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

So, the club lost Shin-Soo Choo, Xavier Paul, and Derrick Robinson from last season’s 90-72 squad, so why should fans feel like this offseason is a failure?

Well, Choo’s production won’t be replaced by Hamilton, speed or no speed. Even if Hamilton increases his on-base percentage to .340 over 600 plate appearances, he doesn’t have the patient approach that Choo had, and, while he can move himself from base to base with his wheels, he just won’t be on as often. If Choo’s production is a clear downgrade, where are they upgrading?

Mesoraco1Is Devin Mesoraco set for a breakout season, replacing the putrid production that Ryan Hanigan provided in 2013? Is Todd Frazier going to post an .829 OPS, as he did in 2012, or something similar to his .721 OPS from 2013? Is Zack Cozart even worth starting anymore, given his career .680 OPS over 1,256 plate appearances? Ryan Ludwick had a nice 2012 and his 2013 was ruined due to his Opening Day shoulder injury, but was he ever worth a two-year, $15 million extension, especially when you consider it was back-loaded with an option for 2015, making him guaranteed $13 million, including his 2015 buyout? Brandon Phillips, 103 RBI or not, saw his OPS fall to .705 in 2013. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce seem like locks for success, but Bruce continues to be one of the streakiest players in all of baseball, while Votto’s patience seems to have overtaken his ability to actually produce at his 2010 MVP level ever again.

As far as the rotation, it remains pretty deep, but once you get past the top five, there are question marks. While that wouldn’t be a huge deal for most clubs, you have to remember that Johnny Cueto only had one full season and he immediately got hurt in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Bailey, Latos, and Leake are very good options, and Tony Cingrani was impressive, even with just one good pitch, but having Wang, Francis, and nothing else as fallback options is rough, which may lead to the club rushing top prospect Robert Stephenson if there was an injury in 2014, not to mention how the rotation is going to function if Bailey leaves via free agency or Cueto’s 2015 option isn’t picked up. Who will be starting games and why don’t the Reds have options waiting like the Cardinals?

The bullpen is still built to dominate, as Aroldis Chapman is as shutdown as it gets. A full season of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, a former closer in his own right, serving as a setup man, and J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, and Alfredo Simon rounding out the group helps the Reds bullpen look tremendous for another season…but a bullpen doesn’t have a lot of value if they aren’t protecting more leads than deficits.

The Reds haven’t been active enough. The Reds haven’t drafted enough high-ceiling talent. The Reds haven’t had enough success on the international market.

Braun1The Reds are a lot like the Milwaukee Brewers, locking up talent for just a little while, and then watching that talent and the contention window fly way in the breeze. You see, the Brewers were a competitive team until Prince Fielder left. They traded a lot of good, young talent to acquire Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia to help them contend. They bought in to that window and went for it. It is hard for a small-market to commit a lot of money to talent like Greinke and Sabathia, only to watch them leave for big-markets once they hit free agency, but the revenue that comes with a playoff run or a World Series title would alleviate a lot of those dollars. The Brewers, then, went into quite a funk the last several seasons, and they have yet to recover, but the worst part is that their farm system is terrible. If Ryan Braun doesn’t rebound, the club still has Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, but the rest of the organization is quite barren.

The Reds are a lot like the Brewers because they haven’t had many successful recent drafts. While a lot of the key names on the major league roster are homegrown, there isn’t a whole lot of depth currently in the minor league system. The Reds did trade a couple of solid young players (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger) to acquire Mat Latos and Choo (Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs), but outside of Stephenson and Hamilton, much of the high-level talent was in Low-A or the Rookie levels last season, specifically Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, and Nick Travieso.

So, what will happen when 2015 rolls around without an Oscar Taveras waiting to take over left field for Ludwick? Who fills the rotation without a Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon ready to step in for A.J. Burnett? Who will push Todd Frazier at third base without a Kris Bryant or Javier Baez?

While the Reds and Brewers have weaker farm systems and question marks at several spots, the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates have done it right. They have managed to stay active and have taken risks with draft picks to make sure that they are getting the talent necessary to maintain solid depth within their organization. Sure, the Pirates and Cubs have had higher picks due to their lack of success over the years, but the Cardinals have a lot of talent and they haven’t had a season below .500 since 2007, while making the playoffs in 11 of the last 18 seasons, including four World Series and two titles.

PujolsThe conservative nature of the current regime in Cincinnati may not look awful as the Reds compete in 2014, but when Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have their high-level minor league talent stepping in within the next two to three seasons, Reds fans will forget about the nightmares that Albert Pujols used to bring, and will instead be kept awake by Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Gregory Polanco, Oscar Taveras, and others who will make their names in the depths of the thriving systems in the rest of the National League Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers and Reds will continue to cry small-market when they have, instead, chosen to be smarter at the right times.

There are still names on the free agent market that can help the Reds contend, but none of them will make them as good as they were last season, in 2012, or in 2010, when Cincinnati has reached the playoffs. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point to scrap what has been built. Instead, run out there with what you have and hope for the best, which, apparently, was Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini’s plan all offseason.

Designated Runners: Why They Make Sense

Washington's only baseball card, and the only one with PR as a position

Washington’s only baseball card, and the only one with Pinch Run as a position

Billy Hamilton had his first official at-bats on Tuesday night in the Chicago Cubs’ victory over the Cincinnati Reds. He went 0-for-2, lining out and grounding out to short in his two plate appearances. So ends the saga of the relationship between the Reds’ speedy, future centerfielder and former Oakland Athletics pinch-runner Herb Washington.

Designated Runner

Herb Washington played for Oakland in 1974 and 1975. He appeared in 105 games over his two seasons with Oakland and never, I repeat NEVER received an at-bat OR played the field in a Major League game. Washington was nothing more than a pinch-runner. He stole 31 bases, he was caught stealing 17 times, and he scored 33 runs. In five postseason games, Washington was caught stealing twice and didn’t steal a single base or score a run. So much for running being the only part of his game. Washington was done with baseball at the age of 23, playing his last game on May 4, 1975.

Washington didn’t have any baseball experience before winning a World Series as a member of the 1974 A’s club. He was a world class sprinter, having won seven Big Ten track titles and breaking the 50 and 60-yard dash records several times, according to the ever useful Wikipedia. His last major highlight was really a low point, getting picked off in Game Two of the 1974 World Series by Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers:

While Washington’s career didn’t really go far, what would happen if teams decided to use a roster spot on a speedy reserve for a playoff push, the month of September, or an entire season?

The 25-man Roster

Hamilton4From Opening Day through August 31, Major League Baseball clubs can only have 25 men on their roster, unless they’re playing a double-header when the club is allowed to have a 26th man. With a five-man starting rotation and eight position players, clubs tend to fill the remaining roster spots with a second catcher, versatile position players who can handle multiple infield and/or outfield positions, as well as six to eight pitchers in the bullpen. During these seven long months, it would seem nearly impossible for a team in 2013 to carry a player that would be a designated runner. Given the state of the modern-day bullpen, the need for left-handed specialists (LOOGY), long relievers, setup men, and a closer make roster management a very challenging science.

However, once the postseason rolls around and teams are desperate for runs, it seems more likely that a runner could be kept on a playoff roster. A lot of that has to do with the fact that three or four-man rotations are used without the short series that are played, allowing the teams to have a little more roster flexibility.

Billy Hamilton will be a lock on the playoff roster for the Cincinnati Reds (if they make the playoffs, which appears likely). His speed is absolutely game-changing.

The 40-man Roster

From September 1 through the end of the season, clubs are able to carry up to 40 players on their active roster. The players who are called up must be on the club’s 40-man roster, which occasionally requires tinkering to accommodate. During this time, teams are able to rest veterans and get extended looks at young players, while managers have extremely deep bullpens and benches. The ability to pinch-hit, pinch-run, or have a left-handed pitcher come in to face a single left-handed batter, are all increased during these times. Reds manager Dusty Baker has twice benefited from pinch-running with Hamilton, as the Reds were able to win two games just last week when Hamilton stole second base immediately after entering the game and scoring on a single by third baseman Todd Frazier in both cases.

What If…

Usain Bolt was signed by a Major League club…today.

The team wouldn’t be able to use him on the playoff roster since he was added to the roster after September 1, but how much could he help a team? He would need to be successful at a greater rate than Herb Washington was, but the Reds have won two games in September because of Billy Hamilton’s speed, but when every game counts, especially with five teams within three games of the second Wild Card in the American League, why not take a risk?

I have made the argument before about the need for relievers to be capable of pitching additional innings, like Mike Marshall did during his career, and with wins being important all season long, would it be worth a team carrying a speedy-only talent over an entire 162-game schedule? If the win is worth something in September, isn’t that same win worth equal amounts in April, May, or June?

Considering how dominant pitching has become, a designated runner seems like a useful, late-inning tool for managers. When extremely young starting pitchers like Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez dominate the opposition in the manner that they did in 2013, it seems logical to counter that dominance with speed. By utilizing players like Billy Hamilton, Jonathan Villar, or minor-leaguer Micah Johnson (who stole 84 bases over three levels this season) to steal bases and victories throughout the season, it could allow for fewer desperate situations in September as teams fight for single spots in the playoffs.

BoltWhy not Usain Bolt? He may be all that is needed for one win, and that one win could be all that is needed to play for a World Series title.



Mesoraco: Finally Taking Off?

Since the All-Star game, Devin Mesoraco, the 25-year-old catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, has been electric. In eight games (six starts), this is what the product out of Punxsutawney has done:

2nd Half 8 6 29 28 4 12 3 0 2 8 0 1 4 .429 .448 .750 1.198 21 .455
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Mesoraco2He has taken advantage of the injury to Ryan Hanigan by producing solid numbers as the everyday backstop; however, this hasn’t been the first time that Mesoraco has been given regular at-bats. Earlier this season, when Hanigan missed time due to an oblique strain, Mesoraco started 12 games. While he only hit .222/.294/.311 over 51 plate appearances, he only struck out 8 times and he was hitting more than Hanigan was at the start of the season (.079/.182/.079 in 44 plate appearances).

With Hanigan set to reach free agency after the 2013 season, it is likely time for Cincinnati to see what they have in Mesoraco.  After committing to him as the 15th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft and allowing him to develop, albeit slowly at times, to become the club’s minor league player of the year in 2010, the Reds have handled him pretty erratically since his promotion to Cincinnati. In 2011, Mesoraco played 120 games at Triple-A Louisville, while playing just 18 in Cincinnati late in the season. Mesoraco played in just 54 games in 2012, starting only 48 of those, while Hanigan and, eventually, Dioner Navarro, earned additional playing time, seemingly as discipline for Mesoraco bumping an umpire, which earned him a demotion to Triple-A on August 23.

Certainly, a six game hitting streak isn’t going to guarantee that Mesoraco is the next Mike Piazza. His .455 BABIP will likely fall back to a realistic level (around .300) and his overall line will fall back in line, as well; however, with the Reds committing so much money to Joey Votto and the need to eventually extend Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce, why shouldn’t they save some cash by letting Mesoraco, who isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2015, prove his worth? Hanigan, who is in the final year of a three-year, $4 million deal, will be 33 next season and could be a useful backup, considering the Reds don’t have any other prospects ready after including Yasmani Grandal in the deal for Latos.

Overall, the Reds are 31-21 (.596) in games started by Mesoraco and 25-18 (.581) in games started by Hanigan, but Hanigan does have more experience, because Dusty Baker actually plays him, with the pitching staff. In 2013, this is how the pitching staff has performed:

Mat Latos:

Ryan Hanigan 6 40.2 14 3.10 162 149 15 36 7 1 5 0 3 9 44 4.89 .242 .288 .403 .690 60
Devin Mesoraco 15 92.0 36 3.52 404 364 41 93 20 5 6 9 1 32 92 2.88 .255 .318 .387 .706 141
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Homer Bailey:

Ryan Hanigan 11 76.2 22 2.58 291 272 22 51 13 1 2 6 1 13 78 6.00 .188 .231 .265 .496 72
Devin Mesoraco 4 22.2 17 6.75 108 93 16 32 7 0 5 1 1 11 20 1.82 .344 .419 .581 1.000 54
Corky Miller 5 29.2 16 4.85 130 121 16 36 7 1 3 1 0 7 35 5.00 .298 .336 .446 .782 54
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Mike Leake (Mesoraco is his “personal catcher”):

Devin Mesoraco 20 128.2 38 2.66 529 482 42 123 18 3 14 6 2 30 78 2.60 .255 .303 .392 .695 189
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Bronson Arroyo:

Ryan Hanigan 14 90.2 33 3.28 370 344 34 85 21 1 12 0 2 17 51 3.00 .247 .285 .419 .704 144
Devin Mesoraco 6 42.0 14 3.00 167 160 15 39 6 1 5 2 0 6 24 4.00 .244 .271 .388 .659 62
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Overall, the Reds’ catchers have done an excellent job:

Pitching Stats
Devin Mesoraco 25 2014 3.17
Ryan Hanigan 32 1568 3.49
Corky Miller 37 293 3.88
League Average 3.77
Team Total 3875 3.35
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

However, it is the running game and Hanigan’s skills there that have really set him apart:

Devin Mesoraco 25 3 18 749 29 7 19% 26 6 3 1 71 7 1.10
Ryan Hanigan 32 2 17 512 10 11 52% 8 8 2 3 46 13 1.06
Corky Miller 37 1 2 90 6 1 14% 4 1 2 0 10 2 0.92
League Average 29% 1.29
Team Total 6 37 1351 45 19 30% 38 15 7 4 127 22 1.07
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

Mesoraco1To get a little more offensively, however, is it worth the risk of having a defensively lacking catcher? I say yes, and with experience comes the defensive gains that Mesoraco will need to make to become an elite catcher in MLB. While the success that he has had over the last week has shown that he has the skills to produce, it is a small sample size, and he needs more consistent at-bats over the second half to showcase the type of player that he could be for the Cincinnati Reds.


Why the Reds Should Bring Up Billy Hamilton…Now.

Hamilton2Yeah, I know it’s early. Yeah, I know the Reds are in first place in the NL Central. Yeah, I know that after getting beaten down by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon that Cincinnati fans are concerned about their team. There are reasons to be concerned, but it starts with the club’s philosophies.

After the club traded for Shin-Soo Choo, people in Cincinnati knew that they had an upgrade to their leadoff spot. Choo is now a career .312/.397/.502 hitter when he bats first over his career, and his five hit-by-pitches and five walks have allowed Choo to post a .511 on-base percentage early in the 2013 season. His three home runs are tied with Todd Frazier for the team lead, as well, allowing Reds’ fans to say: “Drew Stubbs, who?”

Well, Drew Stubbs the fine defensive center fielder. Drew Stubbs,  who ranked as the 6th best defensive center fielder in baseball since arriving to the Queen City in 2009, posting a UZR/150 of 3.7, just behind Austin Jackson and in front of B.J. Upton in the rankings. Drew Stubbs, who was 14th in MLB from 2009 through 2012 with 110 stolen bases. Drew Stubbs, who scored 285 runs in 486 games for Cincinnati, despite a .312 on-base percentage, and a .244/.321/.372 line in 873 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter.Choo1

Drew Stubbs was everything wrong about Cincinnati Reds baseball, at least, that is what it seemed like. His free-swinging ways resulted in 588 strikeouts in 1,791 at-bats or 32.8 percent of his at-bats. However, he did provide two things that Choo still can’t, speed and defense.

Shin-Soo Choo has a tremendous arm, which he needs when compared to Stubbs defensively due to his -42.8 UZR/150 rating, meaning: Choo would be nearly 43 runs below average defensively than the league’s average outfielder. It isn’t like Choo’s lack of defensive skills were the reason that the Reds lost 10-0 on Wednesday, but with Ryan Ludwick out for the next several months after surgery to repair his labrum and Chris Heisey hitting just .161/.188/.323 in 34 plate appearances, should the Reds go to super-prospect Billy Hamilton now?

Calling up Billy Hamilton would do three things:

1) It would start Hamilton’s arbitration clock early, making him Super Two-eligible due to service time, which means that he would be expensive quicker than most Post-June callups, and potentially reach free agency sooner.

2) It would allow the Reds to put Shin-Soo Choo in left field where teams have hidden other awful defensive outfielders over the years, such as Adam Dunn in Cincinnati and Manny Ramirez in Boston. He may not be a liability in left, which would allow him to continue to be solid offensively while playing every day.

3) It would make the Reds have Hamilton, Choo, Votto, and Bruce as left-handed hitters in the every day lineup.

That third thing is probably more reasonable as to why the Reds wouldn’t want to call up Hamilton right now, though the arbitration figures could also factor in, as it seems unnecessary to rush Hamilton with such a small sample size out of Chris Heisey. It is, after all, just 34 plate appearances, but it is hard to ignore Hamilton’s .364/.417/.545 start in Triple-A, while stealing six bases in six games for the Louisville Bats.

Hamilton1Billy Hamilton isn’t ready to leadoff at the major league level. Billy Hamilton isn’t ready to become a game-changing talent from the very moment that he steps onto the field at Great American Ballpark. Billy Hamilton isn’t going to post a .962 OPS over the course of a major league or minor league season. However, Billy Hamilton could ignite the bottom of the Reds order by hitting seventh, bunting over Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier for Ryan Hanigan to get RBI opportunities with his fantastic contact skills (Hanigan has a career 137:163 K:BB in 1,347 plate appearances and a 10.2 percent strikeout rate).

Billy Hamilton provides speed that would benefit the Reds defensively. Michael Bourn, the Cleveland Indians’ new center fielder, has a UZR/150 of 11.1 since becoming a regular in 2007. B.J. Upton is second with a 4.1 UZR/150. Hamilton is still making the transition from shortstop to center field, but his speed alone makes him a Bourn-like defensive talent in center, and his 264 stolen bases since the start of the 2011 minor league season makes him worth bringing up now to impact the lineup.

While questions about team-control, arbitration, and the presence of another left-hander in the lineup are worth considering, the Reds have very little to lose and plenty to gain by calling up Billy Hamilton right now and putting him in center. As the club heads to Pittsburgh and PNC Park, a notorious pitcher’s park, will defense become more important than potential offensive production? While Devin Mesoraco rots on the bench due to Ryan Hanigan’s ability to handle the pitching staff, the Reds have already shown their philosophy. Now is the time for Billy Hamilton.


Matt Moore – Remember Him?

How quickly you can be forgotten. With the Rookie of the Year announcements on November 12, the world was, once again, focused on Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. While Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, and Wade Miley got lost in the shuffle, some names seemed to be totally thrown out during the 2012 season.

While Trout had, quite possibly, the greatest season EVER by a rookie, it is understandable that others, specifically in the American League, were overlooked. Darvish and Cespedes were the highlights of voter ballots, but Wei-Lin Chen and Jarrod Parker were the only other players who were put on the ballot by voters.

While Matt Moore didn’t have a tremendous season, could the domination that other rookies had in the 2012 season create a lack of buzz for Moore going into the 2013 season?

Matt Moore turns 24 in June of 2013 and he has a nice resume to this point in his career. Prior to the 2012 season, Moore was rated as the No.2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America – Harper was No.1 and Trout was No.3. In the minor leagues, Moore was a combined 28-21 with a 2.64 ERA and a 700:212 K:BB in 497.1 innings, including a 12-3 record with a 1.92 ERA and 210:46 K:BB in 155 innings in 2011.

Moore arrived in Tampa late in 2011, appearing in three games, when he posted a 15:3 K:BB in just 9.1 innings, including his 11-strikeout start on September 22 against the Yankees (his only start). When the Rays were in the playoffs, Moore started Game One of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, tossing seven shutout innings. Moore tossed three relief innings in Game Four, allowing one run, as the Rays lost the series in four games to the Rangers, who went on to the World Series and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 2012 season was not fantastic for Moore, but there is little reason to doubt his ability to become an ace for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, posting a 175:81 K:BB in 177.1 innings. Moore battled location issues, which increased his WHIP to 1.35 in 2012, something that never seemed to be an issue at any point in his minor league and brief major league career before the 2012 season.


Moore had a period when he seemed to put everything together, though, which was a pretty significant time of the season. From June 1 through the end of August, Moore was 9-3 with a 2.89 ERA over 99.2 innings (16 starts) while posting a 94:41 K:BB and 1.25 WHIP. He struggled mightily in September (1-3, 5.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), but he may have been tired, as he had reached 156 innings and 26 starts prior to the start of the month.

(While Moore ended up tossing a combined 174.1 innings between the minors and majors in 2011, the dramatic nature of tossing more innings per start and pitching every fifth day for a team fighting for a playoff spot for most of the season may have played a role in his fatigue.)

Regardless, Moore had an up and down season in 2012 with the Rays, but he shouldn’t be an afterthought when talking about the top young players in baseball, especially in the American League. Darvish, Chen, and Cespedes played professionally in their respective countries prior to drawing Rookie of the Year votes in 2012. Though their early success shouldn’t be discounted, the success of actual rookies, like Parker and Moore, shouldn’t be tossed aside, either.

For example…

Once upon a time, there was a pitcher named David Price, who came up in September of 2008 and made a similar impact on the team from Tampa Bay, making five appearances during the season and another five in the playoffs. In his first full season, 2009, Price was 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA and a 102:54 K:BB in 125.1 innings. Price had an ugly WHIP of 1.35 in his 23 starts in 2009.

David Price, a 2012 AL Cy Young finalist, has gone 51-24 with a 2.93 ERA over 644 innings, with a 1.14 WHIP and a 611:201 K:BB in 96 starts since his rookie season.

While his rookie season was underwhelming, David Price was not on the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year ballot, just like Moore. Could Matt Moore have a parallel career  to Price? It looks pretty similar at this point, and the sky is the limit with the young left-hander with dynamic stuff.

Winning the Rookie of the Year is not the be-all-end-all to a baseball career. Just look at the careers of Ben Grieve, Marty Cordova, Pat Listach, and other one year wonders. Matt Moore is on his way to stardom, Rookie of the Year or not.

Giants AT Reds, Game 5

Game 5 of the NLDS series between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds will take place on Thursday afternoon at 1:07 (if the Oakland A’s beat the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night) or 2:07 (if the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night). Kind of confusing for those who hold tickets, but this is what to expect…

Mat Latos is officially starting on Thursday for Cincinnati. Latos came in for Johnny Cueto in Game 1 due to Cueto’s oblique strain, which he suffered after tossing eight pitches. Latos tossed four innings on Saturday night, allowing one earned run (2.25 ERA), but he was not considered for the Game 4 start because: 1) Latos had never pitched on three-days rest, and 2) Latos has been battling the flu.

Matt Cain, the loser of Game 1, will take the ball for the Giants in Game 5. Cain allowed three earned runs over five innings (5.40 ERA) at AT&T Park on Saturday. The Giants were 22-10 in Cain’s 32 starts in 2012, and while Cain managed to go 16-5, he lost back-to-back decisions twice this season.

Dusty Baker will probably go back to Ryan Hanigan behind home plate and Scott Rolen at third, especially after Todd Frazier failed to impress the veteran-loving manager with his 0-for-3, one RBI performance on Wednesday.

Bruce Bochy would be wise to stick with Joaquin Arias at short and Hector Sanchez behind the plate, as their eight-run outburst in Game 4 was a far cry from the team’s performance in the first three games. Arias is 3-for-6 with two doubles and three runs, while Sanchez was 1-for-2 with two walks in Game 4, his first opportunity of the postseason.

After going 12-for-95 (.126) with four runs in the first three games, the Giants were 11-for-33 (.333) on Wednesday.

Cincinnati scored 14 runs in the first two games of the series, but have scored four runs in the last two games, while going 13-for-68 (.191) as a team.

With the potential 10:07 AM PT starting time, you have to consider how San Francisco will function. The Giants were just 32-32 in day games in 2012, while Cincinnati was 39-17.

Cincinnati fans are weary of the potential collapse after waiting nearly 17 years between postseason wins. Their dreams of watching the Reds clinch the series at home will come down to a single game, now.

San Francisco is riding high and has the momentum. Their big night could leave their fans wondering if they saved any offense for Thursday’s deciding game.

Game 5. Thursday afternoon from Great American Ballpark. The MLB postseason at its finest.


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