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!
San Diego Padres
2015 Projected Record: 84-78 (2nd in NL West, 8th in MLB)
Manager: Bud Black (617-680 in eight seasons with San Diego)
Entering his age-30 season, Kemp gets a fresh start away from Los Angeles, ready to prove that he is close to the elite producer that he was in 2011 and 2012 than the injury-plagued financial burden that he was in 2013. You can’t really argue that he was valueless in 2014, having watched his .309/.365/.606 second half eruption, which included 17 doubles and 17 home runs. If Kemp is the player that we saw down the stretch, the acquisition was a steal, even with the monies owed to the slugger.
Another addition, Middlebrooks, 26, looks to rebuild his value as he heads into the arbitration process next winter. After a powerful debut in 2012, Middlebrooks appeared to lose something, or, at least, gain a giant hole in his swing. The strikeout rate jumped to 29.9 percent in 2014, leading the Red Sox to move Xander Bogaerts to third and remove the once-promising prospect from an everyday role, which likely would have happened even if he didn’t miss nearly three months after having a finger broken by a pitch. A fresh start, a new organization, and an opportunity – those things will go a long way in allowing Middlebrooks to figure things out. Even with a tough offensive environment, Middlebrooks should have solid value, even if it comes with a .240 average, due to the power potential.
Offseason Overview: The Padres hired A.J. Preller to become their GM last August, and in his first offseason at the helm, ownership opened up the wallet like never before, allowing the 37-year-old Cornell graduate to piece together an immediate competitor. Preller traded for an entire outfield, acquiring Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers to patrol spacious Petco Park. He added Middlebrooks at third through a deal with Boston, got a slugging catcher in Derek Norris for a solid young pitcher in Jesse Hahn in a deal with Oakland, and then signed their rotation horse when he added James Shields. Preller’s only competition for most active general manager was likely Oakland’s Billy Beane, and both of them improved their teams by taking huge risks.
The Verdict: The Padres immediately became competitors, but we will have to wait and see whether the addition of all of the right-handed power will increase the club’s ability to score runs. They have plenty of talent on the roster, and that is before we even get to the starting rotation. Shields will be the ace, but the remaining group of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy is a gifted compilation of powerful arms that are capable of missing a lot of bats. While so many wondered what the defense would be like with Myers in center field, with the extreme strikeout potential from the rotation, it dulls that worry a bit. The Padres are very likely to compete for a wild card spot, as, even with the huge additions, they still fall slightly short of the Dodgers in the NL West. PECOTA saw the team improving substantially from their 77 wins last season to 84 in 2015, and I can see them getting to 88 wins, as well.
Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed right-handed starter Chris Archer to an extension. The deal will, potentially, buyout, when including the options, three free agency seasons from Archer. The 25-year-old wasn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season.
After going 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 23 starts and 128.2 innings in his rookie season, the Rays were wise to lockup the 6’3″ righty, giving the Rays a solid 1-2 foundation in Archer and Matt Moore in coming seasons, especially with the likely departure of David Price through free agency or a trade prior to the end of his team-controlled time in Tampa, which would be the end of the 2015 season.
The Rays seem to be having a more difficult time developing their own since they’ve been drafting at the back-end of the MLB Draft due to their recent run of success. Last season’s trade with the Kansas City Royals that send James Shields to K.C. brought the Rays major league-ready talent in Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers, but the system isn’t nearly as deep as it was several seasons ago, and a lot of the top-end, top of the draft talent that came to the Rays in their worst seasons are now becoming too expensive to realistically keep due to the club’s continued revenue struggles in a weak baseball market.
The Rays ownership and management may not have a lot of money to spend, but they can’t stop here. There are still a few players on the club’s roster that would be worth locking up to similar contracts, including the aforementioned Myers, whose ability to hit for power will be absolutely damning to the Rays within the arbitration process.
Alex Cobb should get a similar deal to what Archer received, though, he could be receive quite a bit more guaranteed money due to reaching arbitration after the 2014 season. Cobb’s success could also lead to more guaranteed money, as the 26-year-old right-hander had a breakout 2013 season, interrupted by a horrific injury on a comebacker, in which Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, establishing himself as a possible pseudo-ace if the Rays were to field offers for Price during or after the 2014 season. Already one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, Cobb’s devastating changeup and above average control would provide the Rays with the top of the rotation arm that they can continue to add to that rotation with youngsters like Odorizzi, Nate Karns (who already 26), Enny Romero, and Alex Colome (when he returns from his suspension).
Additionally, Desmond Jennings appears to be a fantastic candidate for the club to lockup. Like Cobb, Jennings will be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season. Already 27, Jennings hasn’t really shown star-level talent, but he has the tools to be productive, although he did show negative value defensively in his first full season in centerfield. Perhaps Jennings is more of a left fielder than a centerfielder, but the Rays had quite a bit of success out of a toolsy outfielder who played left for several years, Carl Crawford. Jennings blend of power, speed, and solid but not elite on-base skills, would be a nice addition to the long-term building of a club that continues to come up short offensively.
Evan Longoria will be a Ray for life due to his MLB Player’s Association loathing contract, but the Archer contract could and should be a sign of things to come from Tampa. The Rays need more contracts like those of Longoria, Archer, and Moore to survive in the current market that is only being enhanced by the success of Major League Baseball Advanced Media and local television contract revenue. As those who focus on the numbers and dollars of baseball seem to be developing the cost of a win as a foundation for free agency money, it appears less likely that the Rays and other cash-strapped teams will find it more difficult to fill holes on their rosters with free agents, which will make these so-called team-friendly deals all the more necessary for those teams. It will be interesting if the player’s association and agents find a way to combat the risk for the player in taking such financial security deals, while potentially leaving millions of dollars on the bargaining table. In the meantime, teams, especially the Rays, should continue to do all that they can to make these Archer-like deals happen.
It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.
It has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.
Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.
The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.
Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.
This seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.
Why It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.
Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.
Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically
Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)
Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.
The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer
Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)
Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.
Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another
Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.
On March 27, 2013, I posted my 2013 Predictions and Useless Guesses, which set forth my expectations for the 2013 season. Needless to say, the latter part of the title was pretty right on, as a high majority of my preseason predictions crashed and burned like nothing the world has ever seen before. For that, I am human; however, I will gloat about the things that I was right about when that time comes.
Division Winners and Wild Cards:
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays – Actual Winner: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers – Actual Winner: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Los Angeles Angels – Actual Winner: Oakland A’s
AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays – Actual Winners: Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays
NL East: Washington Nationals – Actual Winner: Atlanta Braves
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds – Actual Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers – Actual Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves – Actual Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds
Now That We Know
I said “Bryce Harper will be better than he was in 2012 and Stephen Strasburg won’t have an innings limit. Really, this is all that you need to know, but with the addition of a leadoff hitter inDenard Span and another fantastic arm in Rafael Soriano to add to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Nationals are about as good as it gets in MLB for a lock to go to the playoffs.” Not only did the Nationals finish 10 games out in the NL East, they were four back of Cincinnati for the second Wild Card spot and they didn’t get near the production out of Harper that I was expecting due to injuries. The Angels proved that you can’t win with injured veterans who are underperforming (Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) while putting together a terrible rotation. And…about those Blue Jays…I bought into the players that they had acquired and thought that having Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be enough to be contenders, yet, the club finished 23 games out in the AL East, good for last place. The Dodgers, Braves, Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, and Rays did make the playoffs, while the Rangers weren’t too far behind. The Pirates and Indians contending this season and reaching the playoffs were both surprises, so maybe I get some credit despite my ugly World Series prediction…Nationals over the Angels in six…ugh!!!
Jose Bautista, you failed me. Maybe the wrist still wasn’t 100 percent in 2013 following surgery in 2012, but the .259/.358/.498 line wasn’t what I was expecting with a star-studded lineup around him in 2013. “Joey Bats” didn’t play a game after August 20 due to a bone bruise on his hip, which hurt his final statistics, which weren’t anywhere near the likely AL MVP candidates: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Chris Davis. While the award hasn’t been given out yet, I went with Cabrera with my own version of the 2013 Awards, and I’ll gladly take on your mockery for thinking Bautista was going to be a force in 2013.
Justin Verlander wasn’t the same. Maybe a part of him died when Kate Upton left him, but who can really blame him. Making an All-Star team, striking out over 200 batters, reaching 200-plus innings for the 7th straight season, and posting a 3.46 ERA is considered a down season apparently…that’s sad. Certainly, Verlander’s 2013 season wasn’t very Verlander-y, as that title seemed to go to his teammate, Max Scherzer, who went 21-3 with 240 K’s and an AL-leading 0.97 WHIP.
I went with Wil Myers early in the year and I stuck with Myers on my own postseason awards. Again, the official award hasn’t been given out, but in 88 games, Myers had and OPS+ of 132 and an .831 OPS, providing punch to the Rays lineup and helping guide Tampa Bay to another postseason appearance. Myers will continue to improve and become an All-Star level talent in future seasons, and despite losing James Shields in the deal with Kansas City, the team control and cost savings will be worth much more to the Rays, even before adding in Myers potential production.
AL Manager of the Year
I went with Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona prior to the season, while switching my own choice to Joe Girardi after the Yankees had a solid season with more injuries than any manager should ever have to deal with in a single season. However, the Francona choice shouldn’t be viewed negatively, and I had a tough time selecting Girardi over Francona when I was writing up my own awards. Francona shed the “chicken and beer” issues that ended his tenure in Boston, leading a mixed group of talent in Cleveland to a surprising Wild Card position. With the Tribe young enough to take steps forward in 2014, Francona could be a worthy candidate when the Indians likely take over the AL Central from the quickly aging Tigers.
I took the homer way out and selected Joey Votto prior to the 2013 season. While Votto was a tremendous asset for the Reds, he seems to be more valuable to the analytics gurus than some people in the front office and within fantasy leagues, as his patience creates a lot of on-base opportunities but a complete lack of numbers in the RBI column. I gave my postseason award to another NL Central star, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who had another tremendous all-around season while leading the Bucs to their first winning season and postseason appearance since 1992. Votto had another excellent season, but we’ll see what happens to his perceived value when he is driving in 75 runs with a strong on-base percentage while making $20 million or more from 2016 onward in Cincinnati.
NL Cy Young
It’s easy to pick Clayton Kershaw, so maybe I just wanted to be different when I chose Madison Bumgarner. A 2.77 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 201.1 innings is pretty solid, but it isn’t a 1.83 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 236 innings like Kershaw posted. Bumgarner is worthy of some praise, though. He improved his WHIP for the fourth straight season, increased his hits per nine for the fourth straight season, and he reached a new career high in strikeouts (199) in 2013. If the Giants are contending in 2014 and Bumgarner continues his trends, he could battle Kershaw for the title of best left-handed starter in the league.
NL Rookie of the Year
Oscar Taveras battled injuries again in 2013 and never received an at-bat at the major league level. I was counting on a Carlos Beltran injury or an underperforming Jon Jay being benched in favor of Taveras in center field, but it never happened. Instead, the National League was overtaken by a plethora of superstar rookies, highlighted by Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Matt Adams. While I chose Fernandez for my NL ROY winner, several of these players are worth of consideration, and if the NL keeps getting talent like this every year, they’ll be seeing a lot of home-field advantage opportunities in upcoming World Series’.
NL Manager of the Year
I went with a laughable Bud Black, thinking that mediocrity and solid contributions from a lot of guys with average skills would be good enough to help the Padres be competitive, at least above .500, which would make Black a viable candidate for the award. After all, the NL West had the Dodgers and not a whole lot else this season. The Friars were 76-86, 16 games back of Los Angeles, and third in the NL West. I ultimately gave my postseason award to Clint Hurdle for helping the Pirates have a winning record, but Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly were also reasonable candidates.
Beyond the Awards: Several Laughs Due to My “Bold Predictions”
Original in italics – reaction in bold
Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940. —-NO. Not even close.
Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases. —- 27 HR and 33 SB. NOPE!
Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases. —93 games, 15 SB…FAIL! NEVER COUNT ON REYES!
Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227.—- just 9 HR while hitting .207. Ouch.
Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013. —-Latos was 14-7 and Cueto only made 11 starts due to injuries. I think this is a win.
Mike Minor proves that his second half from 2012 (6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP over 87.1 IP) wasn’ a fluke, as he becomes the Braves best starting pitcher in 2013.—Win! 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 204.2 IP and he was the most reliable Braves’ starter over the whole season.
Jordan Zimmerman has a more impressive 2013 season than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and he will no longer be overlooked in a fantastic Washington rotation. —-Zimmerman’s 19 wins were eight more than Gonzalez’s, his ERA and WHIP were second to Strasburg’s in the Nats’ rotation, and he led the club with 213.1 innings. Solid.
Brandon Belt continues hitting like he has all spring, ripping 25 home runs after having a power outage in the earlier stages of his career (16 in 598 at-bats). —-Belt had just 17 HR but he still seems to be in the doghouse in San Francisco. If anyone ever needed a change of scenery, it’s this guy. He may never hit 30 home runs, but he is a very good player.
Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy and benefits from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler having All Star seasons to hit 40 home runs, making all of those fantasy baseball players that took him in the first round feel like the smartest men alive. —-All three players battled injuries, but if All-Star seasons were based on April stats alone, Fowler would have been an All-Star, as well, along with Tulo and CarGo. As it stands, the Rockies are only as good as these three players being on the field at the same time with some solid pitching…something that may never happen.
Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. —-Craig was an All-Star and he finished the year injured on September 4 with 97 RBI. The home runs weren’t there, he had only 13, but he was a very productive player for the NL Champions.
Carlos Santana hits 30+ home runs and will have the kind of hype that Buster Posey has right now during the 2013-2014 offseason.—-Nope. Santana had his best full season in 2013, but hit just 20 HR while posting an .832 OPS. I still think he’ll continue to improve, but this wasn’t the breakout year.
Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta.—-Nope. Heyward struggled mightily with various injuries and failure to produce, but he’ll still be just 24 in 2014 and isn’t close to being finished.
Domonic Brown keeps the Phillies left field job all season and posts a .270/.380/.450 line with solid production across the board. Philly fans hit Ruben Amaro, Jr. with batteries for not trusting in him sooner.—-.272/.324/.494 isn’t bad, and neither is Brown, who finally played and hit 27 HR and drove in 83 in just 139 games. The on-base skills weren’t there, but they were in the minors. Amaro is a moron.
Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder.—- Greinke was fine and he went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He’d be worth some NL Cy Young votes if Kershaw didn’t deserve a unanimous vote.
Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong. —- Sale was AWESOME in 2013, going 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 226:46 K:BB in 214.1 innings. Stop doubting him.
Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career.—-Nope. He’ll never make enough contact to do that and he may be a fourth outfielder going forward after a disappointing .233/.305/.360 season with 10 HR and 17 RBI in 481 plate appearances, striking out 141 times.
Rick Porcello wins 17 games with a 3.20 ERA while striking out 180 batters…all because he began using his four-seam fastball for the first time in his career. —-Well, Porcello did reach 142 strikeouts with his career high 7.2 K:9 in 2013, but fell well short of a 3.20 ERA while posting a 4.32 ERA and career best 1.28 WHIP. He’ll be 25 next year and the small improvements could be a positive sign for his career, but he’ll never be the ace many expected him to be when he was drafted.
Guys who I thought would “go bonkers in 2013”
Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, he had a breakout season.
Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals: 47 saves and a 13.8 K:9 made him one of the elite closers in baseball.
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals: He can hit and he posted career highs in games played, total bases, home runs, and RBI. If the other pieces produce around him, he’ll be an elite-level offensive catcher.
Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins: He’s a 4A guy who just can’t translate his minor league numbers into major league production.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: 40 doubles, 23 HR, and 80 RBI at the age of 23. I’ll take it. He’ll improve his slash in coming seasons, likely when the Cubs put someone worth a damn on the field with him.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox: Still a lot of power with no pitch recognition skills. He’ll always mash fastballs, but he needs to find some other sort of identity to be a long-term piece for the White Sox.
Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Bartolo Colon won’t last forever): Solid season. Not sure if his absurd minor league strikeout totals will ever be realistic in the majors, but he’s a solid mid-to-back-end starter. And…maybe Colon will last forever.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners: After an excellent World Baseball Classic, Saunders disappointed again. He improved his on-base skills, but saw a dip in his power and speed, which were the tools that made him a trendy sleeper pick.
Prospects to Watch
Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles: Disappointed due to a stress fracture in his back.
Dorssys Paulino, INF, Cleveland Indians: Big disappointment after a huge professional debut in 2012.
J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Just ok before shoulder issues ended his season in May.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals: Breakout. 155 K’s in 134.2 minor league innings earned him three major league starts to finish the season.
Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: 23 starts for the Rays – 3.22 ERA over 128.2 innings with a 1.13 WHIP. He’ll be a tremendous arm in Tampa for a number of years.
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals: He needed a good season to get his prospect status back on track, but it didn’t happen. He has the tools with a great power and speed combination. He could take off in High-A in 2014 like Wil Myers did a couple of years ago, but that could be wishful thinking. I just want a Bubba to thrive.
Yasel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Nothing needed here. I am brilliant.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Huge steps this season and he could have earned a long look this coming spring. 1.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 152 innings while not turning 21 until August. He could be a legitimate No.1 starter.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros: Very disappointing season, from a 50-game suspension for a drug abuse to lackluster effort and poor numbers. The Astros need him to click and the skills are there. Does he have the drive to make it happen?
Xander Bogaerts, INF, Boston Red Sox: He helped the Sox win the World Series, but this was an easy pick after his incredible 2012 season. He’ll be an everyday player at short or third going forward, and a potential perennial All-Star within the next couple of seasons.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: The power wasn’t there this season, but he was only 20 until August and the catching position is difficult to judge prospects within. He could be a tremendous major league receiver right now, but if the Padres let him develop, he will be a well-rounded superstar.
Joey Gallo, INF, Texas Rangers: Power like a BOSS! Gallo hit 40 bombs this season while striking out 172 times. He is Adam Dunn without the walks. Huge raw power potential. Keep in mind, he turns 20 years old this month…40 HR at 19!!!
It wasn’t always pretty, but I’ll take what I got right here. I’m not in Vegas for a reason, but there were quite a few good calls. We’ll see what next season brings. I’ll be sure to provide some more laughs while looking back to see how things turned out after the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays had another excellent season in 2013, winning 90 games for the fifth time in six seasons, something that seemed nearly impossible during the club’s first ten years in existence, when the Rays lost 91 or more games each season, including more than 100 games three times. Obviously, winning is still somewhat new to the Rays organization, but it will continue to be something that they intend on doing, as the smart, creative thinkers in the front office manipulate their data and their finances to field a strong, perennial contender in the AL East.
With that being said, now is the time for the team to trade their best starting pitcher, David Price.
It isn’t a money thing. It isn’t something that improves the current roster. It has everything to do with the future of the franchise and the Rays’ success.
Prior to the 2013 season, the Rays traded James Shields, Wade Davis, and Elliot Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. While Davis had an affordable contract and showed some signs of potential in 2012 out of the bullpen, the two years remaining on Shields’ contract was the primary focus of the deal for the Royals. The Rays were seeking major league ready talent and received Myers as the centerpiece of their return, a right-handed hitting slugger who compiled a whopping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, leaving him as the No.4 ranked prospect in baseball entering the 2013 season. Odorizzi has always had solid stuff and was likely to become a mid-rotation starter, while Montgomery, who was the 19th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season (according to Baseball America), before injuries and control issues halted his progression. Myers was obviously the major part of the deal, and while they lost Shields, the team was in need of offensive help, which Myers bat certainly provided. The deal will make the Rays competitive for several seasons, but they need more help than just Myers and Odorizzi, and that is why Price must go.
In 2013, Chris Archer made 23 starts for the Rays, while Odorizzi made seven appearances (four starts), Alex Colome made three appearances (all starts). and Enny Romero made one appearance (a start), and all three of these starting pitching prospects will play a major role with the club going forward; however, the club’s number one prospect, Taylor Guerrieri, had Tommy John surgery and will likely miss all of 2014, on top of a second positive test for a drug of abuse, which leads to some character questions considering his already checkered past. Beyond Odorizzi, Colome, and Romero likely contributing in 2014 in some way, the rest of the Tampa Bay system is not where it has been in years past. Their top position prospect is shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who missed nearly all of 2013 due to an injury to his left knee, a tremendous defensive shortstop with excellent speed who may not have a strong enough hit tool to be any more than a No.8 or No.9 hitter in the majors. The rest of the system doesn’t appear anywhere near ready to help the club, which could be a huge issue within the next couple of seasons when you consider that the Rays ranked in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored (9th).
The Rays need bats, not necessarily major league ready bats but bats that will be ready to help the club within the next two to three years. However, landing position players with team-control is also a sufficient alternative. Within the top 20 players in the system (according to MLB.com), the Rays have 10 starting pitching prospects, all of whom have posted solid minor league numbers and have very good stuff, including: Blake Snell, Ryne Stanek, Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn, Felipe Rivero, and the previously mentioned Guerrieri, Odorizzi, Colome, Montgomery, and Romero. Only Lee, Mikie Mahtook, and Tim Beckham, the failed No.1 overall pick from the 2008 MLB Draft, have sniffed competition above Double-A among the 10 position prospects on the list. To maintain strong pitching and enough offense to win games in the AL East, the Rays must deal from their strength, and that is David Price.
While creating potential trade scenarios is always fun, it is also very unpredictable, as you never know what teams are actually thinking when it comes to their long-term outlook on a given player. With that being said, here are a few deals that would make sense for the Rays:
Price to the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor, and Lewis Brinson. Profar could take over second base in 2014, pushing Ben Zobrist to left field, keeping Myers in right and Desmond Jennings in center. Yunel Escobar is under contract for the 2014 season at $5 million and Profar can move to short in 2015, giving Odor another season to fine tune his skills at second. Brinson is an absolute wild card. He has tremendous tools but no true bat to ball skills at this point, which led to his 191 strikeouts in 447 at-bats in 2013 for Hickory.
Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Scott Schebler. Pederson is near ready to step in and play left, with Jennings manning center field, and has the ability to drive the ball and utilize his speed to the tune of several 20 HR/20 SB seasons. Seager could be a future star on the left side of the infield, but he may not be able to handle short long-term and Evan Longoria is at third, so…first base or an outfield corner could still allow Seager to be useful – he will be capable of those types of numbers. Schebler had 69 extra-base hits in the California League in 2013 at the age of 22, while striking out 140 times. He could be useful since he hit .301 against left-handers and .294 against right-handers, but after a pretty sad season in 2012, he is a gamble as a prospect when you consider that his lone productive season was in a hitter’s paradise.
Price to the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, Tyler Naquin, and C.C. Lee. Lindor, like Profar, would be a tremendous addition at shortstop for the long haul. He may not hit 15-20 home runs, but he has great on-base skills and contact ability as a hitter, setting the table for the middle of the order from the top of the lineup. Salazar is a beast and while the Rays may not have a need for another arm, Salazar could be a solid No.2 starter for years to come (and the Indians don’t really have a better prospect to team with Lindor to make this a good deal). Naquin is an above-average defender with a strong arm who may never hit enough to be more than a No.4 outfielder. He does have solid on-base skills but if he turns into a Sam Fuld type of player, the Rays should be thrilled – and the Rays manage to get a lot out of players like Fuld. Lee had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and is a very good relief prospect as the final piece.
While none of these trades will net the Rays 15-20 wins like David Price could in 2014, the club has to look beyond 2014, as they did in 2013 when they traded another top of the rotation starter in James Shields for several solid pieces and spare parts. The baseball operations and player development staff of the Rays is very intelligent and they likely have several ideas laid out involving a potential deal for David Price this winter. As rumors fly in the coming weeks of the hot stove season, Rays fans can only hope that the haul that the club could net is as strong as some of these mentioned above.
With a system that isn’t as strong as it once was, now is the time for the Tampa Bay Rays to make this move.
I appreciate sabermetrics and I know that Mike Trout has a lot of value to the Angels, but Cabrera was the best player in baseball, again, in 2013. While he didn’t win the Triple Crown like he did in 2012, he still put up ridiculous numbers and helped to carry the Tigers to the AL Central title while Prince Fielder put up the worst OPS of his career. Even weakened by injuries late in the season, Cabrera put up strong enough counting stats to be considered here, and it isn’t just the home runs and RBI, as shown by his MLB-leading OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Cabrera may not have the all-around tools to assist Detroit with his defense and speed, but he does everything else better than everyone else in baseball. Enjoy it while you can, as Cabrera will be on the wrong side of 30 in 2014, and with the lack of performance-enhancing drugs to aid his career totals as he ages, as they did for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, these types of special seasons could be coming to an end for the legendary career that Cabrera has had to this point.
Honorable Mention:Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles;
Take a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1992 that finally had a winning season and look for their best player? Not even close. McCutchen has been a top fantasy baseball talent for several years and this is the year that his abilities actually propelled the Pirates into contention, where they actually remained until running into the Cardinals in the NLDS. McCutchen looks like the National League’s older version of Mike Trout, posting impressive power, on-base, speed, and defensive metric numbers, creating solid, across-the-board numbers that make him one of the most well-rounded players in the entire league. As the Pirates continue to develop and plug-in talented players around him, his numbers will likely continue to take off. He is a tremendous player with a ceiling that he hasn’t even reached yet.
It isn’t about the wins, although, Scherzer did have the league-lead by two games. It’s all about how effective Scherzer was all season. He posted the lowest WHIP in the American League and only Yu Darvish (.194) had a lower batting average allowed in the AL than Scherzer’s .195. Scherzer posted impressive strikeout totals, reached a career-high in innings pitched (214.1), and showcased his ability to lead a rotation while the Tigers watched Justin Verlander have a non-Verlander-like season in 2013. Even though the Tigers rotation was, quite possibly, the deepest of any team in baseball, Detroit wouldn’t have been quite as successful without the dynamic season that Scherzer put together in 2013.
Honorable Mention:Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers; Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox;
How could it be anyone else? Someone may want to just rename the award for the Dodgers’ left-hander with the way the last few seasons have gone, although, he didn’t win the award in 2012 thanks to R.A. Dickey and his magic and rainbow season for the New York Mets. Kershaw led the majors in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and ERA+ (194), while his 232 strikeouts led the NL. Kershaw had four starts (out of 33) in which he failed to go six or more innings and only had six non-quality starts on the season. He is the definition of an ace, a shutdown starter, capable of tossing a complete game shutout every fifth day in an era that seems to make such a statistic impossible due to innings limits and pitch counts. Kershaw has gone from a starter to avoid in fantasy leagues due to his once high walk totals to the must-have starting pitching option. At 25, the sky is the limit, and with Gary Nolan and Tom Seaver at the top of his Baseball Reference similarity scores, you have to hope that Kershaw has the long, successful career of “Tom Terrific” instead of the injury-destroyed career of Nolan.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees, 85-77 AL East (4th place)
Why would you give an award to a manager who led his team to a fourth place finish? Because that manager had his starting shortstop (Derek Jeter), starting first baseman (Mark Teixeira), starting center fielder (Curtis Granderson), and starting third baseman (Alex Rodriguez) for a combined 137 games this season, meaning those four missed a combined 511 games in 2013. While plugging in Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, and Jayson Nix, while maintaining credibility and competing within the toughest division in MLB. Girardi also had to juggle a disappointing pitching staff, as he got next to nothing out of C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, at times, in the rotation. He certainly deserved his recent extension and proved that he is much more than a guy that fills out an All-Star lineup card every night with the Yankees star-studded roster and large payrolls over the years.
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates, 94-68 NL Central (2nd place, NL Wild Card)
I’m not a huge believer in Clint Hurdle and I really don’t think that he deserves the award due to some questionable moves that he has made over the years, as well as this season; However, he guided a group of miscreants and castoffs (along with Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, McCutchen, and Neil Walker) to the Pirates’ first winning season since 1992, let alone a playoff appearance. With several veteran additions (Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, and Marlon Byrd) and the arrival of the club’s future No.1 starter, Gerrit Cole, Hurdle was able to outlast Cincinnati and have a successful season. Maybe it was the bootcamp workouts in the offseason, who knows, but the man in charge, Hurdle, will likely benefit with the award, so I’ll give it to him.
Honorable Mention:Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals; Don Mattingley, Los Angeles Dodgers;
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
The only thing more impressive than Myers’ strikeouts and home run power are his bat flips. The kid came up and was an immediately upgrade for the Rays, hitting 4th in 25 of his 88 games, the most of any spot in the order, while providing a little punch and protection for Evan Longoria and the crew. Myers production is just the tip of the iceberg, as he is quite capable of hitting 30-35 home runs annually while striking out in bunches, just as he did in 2013. The major piece in the haul that the Rays acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields deal, Myers will be a nuisance to opposing clubs for years to come.
Fernandez had quite a few people fighting him for the award this season, but he was just a bit more dominant than the competition. While he didn’t lead the lowly Marlins to the playoffs, like some of the other rookie of the year worthy players, Fernandez oozed confidence and had a feel for pitching that hasn’t been seen from many 20 or 21 year-old players in baseball history. He was nearly as unhittable as Clayton Kershaw, actually besting him (and everyone else) with a 5.8 hits per nine innings, best in MLB. While his character came into question by the Braves and Brian McCann after his extreme home run watching episode in September, it proved very little about how fantastic he is on the mound. While it is fair to question the future of the Miami Marlins due to their horrific owner, Jeffrey Loria, Jose Fernandez is a gem, who should continue to post awe-worthy numbers as long as his 6’2″, 240 pound frame will allow him to do so.
After tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls and being limited to just nine appearances in 2012, Rivera came back and picked up right where he left off in his storied career, finishing the 2013 with over 40 saves for the ninth time in his career. The 2013 season was his final season and it was full of terrible gifts that he received during his farewell tour, but it didn’t stop Rivera from maintaining the status quo, pitching stoically and professionally while shutting the door on the opposition with his dynamic cutter. The game will miss Rivera not because of the No. 42 officially going away forever, but because he was one of the classiest people to ever put on a uniform. His willingness to come back from his injury to leave on his terms showed his character as he now goes off to a happy retirement.
The Rays broadcast was saying his fastball fluctuates 7 mph throughout the game, but it was sitting 94-95 mph in the first inning, touching 97, which would make him a pretty dynamic starter, even if it is as a No.3 or No.4 starter, as it appears that he would be in Seattle behind Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker down the road.
Paxton’s breaking ball was bouncing a lot in the first, but his release point looked consistent from the couch.
14-pitch first, which isn’t bad in a debut. Two ground-ball outs.
Mid-90’s in the second still, hitting 96 on Wil Myers.
He got behind Myers 3-1 with several very close fastballs (nothing but fastballs in the six-pitch at-bat), but came back and got the ground out to third.
Relying heavily on the fastball in the second after bouncing nearly every off-speed pitch that he threw in the first.
Hit 98 on a fastball against James Loney, who then lined the next pitch to left on a 3-1 count.
Finally threw a big, looping curve for a strike in the second to Sean Rodriguez, following that with a high and tight 97 mph fastball.
Really off with the off-speed stuff, which is why he’s relying so much on the fastball.
Walked Rodriguez. Inconsistent with release, almost aiming.
Three ground-ball outs in the second. Even with the inconsistency in his secondary stuff to this point, Paxton has good downward plane on the fastball, which is making the Rays hitters pound the ball into the ground.
24-pitch second inning for Paxton but even with the hit and the walk, it was good to see him overcome that and continue attacking the zone.
Two-pitch at-bat for Yunel Escobar, who, shockingly, grounded out.
Very nice breaking ball (85 mph) to Desmond Jennings in the dirt, who will go down as Paxton’s first career strikeout…on three pitches.
All of seven pitches to get through the third inning as Paxton continues to show solid velocity and seems to be getting more comfortable with the breaking ball release; although, he is still using it very sparingly.
Six of nine outs via the ground-ball variety.
James Paxton is thru 3IP, 1H, 0R, K, BB, 45-26 in major league debut. #Mariners
Paxton started the fifth by working around Sean Rodriguez again, nibbling the outside corner with several fastballs before striking him out with a 97 mph heater.
Curveball is looking much more impressive – Jose Lobaton‘s swing at the offering was not very impressive. A couple of pitches after flailing at the curve, Lobaton grounded out to Franklin at second.
I saw three breaking balls in the inning and they were all strikes. He got Escobar to ground out to third.
15-pitch inning. 2 K’s, 1 BB, 2 H, 10 ground-ball outs through five solid innings.
Still sitting 94-97 with the fastball at 72 pitches (46 strikes).
Paxton seems more confident in his stuff without trying to overpower hitters, as he is sitting on the outside corner at 94 pretty consistently…then comes inside and gets Jennings to groundout to short.
Zobrist pounds it into the ground to Seager at third, but a throwing error allows him to reach first.
After falling behind 2-0 to Longoria, Paxton gets a visit from Mike Zunino, goes fastball inside (94), and 95 in Longoria’s wheelhouse for a long home run.
Paxton regains his composure and strikes out Delmon Young on a good breaking ball in the dirt.
Pitch number 89 was 96 mph to Wil Myers. Still bringing good velocity.
Myers blooped it to right and it hits off of Justin Smoak‘s glove while Smoak’s right knee clipped Nick Franklin’s head…scary injury.
Loney follows Myers hit with a long fly-ball to Saunders for the final out.
After six innings and 95 pitches, it is safe to say that Paxton’s debut was very solid. His final line:
Solid fastball and occasionally solid curveball out of Paxton during his debut. It seems as though he’ll get a much longer look in the rotation over the rest of the 2013 than Taijuan Walker, who will likely be shutdown after his start next week.
Paxton has the stuff to be a solid, innings-eater in the middle of a rotation, but if he were to find more consistency with his stuff, he could be a No.2 starter. A 94 to 97 mph fastball is very good for any pitcher, but that type of velocity out of a left-handed pitcher is downright sexy. He had 11 ground-ball outs tonight, pounding his fastball down in the zone. His curveball wasn’t consistent enough to warrant a lot of praise, but if he finds more consistency out of both the curve and the changeup (which wasn’t very useful or present tonight at 88 to 90 mph), he could be very useful to the rebuilding Mariners.
After tossing 145.2 innings in Triple-A, Paxton should be a fixture in the Seattle rotation in 2014. While he is still a work in progress, The stuff is there to be effective in the majors. Tonight was a very good debut for the 24-year-old left-hander, but there is still some work needed for the powerful southpaw.