Tag Archives: Justin Smoak

Season Preview: AL West


Time to move to my own team’s division, as I take a look at the AL West. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East and AL Central.

Last Year’s Records
Texas – 90-72
Oakland – 81-81
Los Angeles – 80-82
Seattle – 61-101

Notable Additions

Los Angeles – Vernon Wells, Hisanori Takahashi

Oakland – Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Josh Willingham, Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy

Seattle – Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust

Texas – Adrian Beltre, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Napoli, Brandon Webb

Notable Losses

Los Angeles – Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, Hideki Matsui, Scot Shields

Oakland – Rajai Davis, Vin Mazzaro

Seattle – Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez

Texas – Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Frank Francisco

Continue reading

What Value Would the Trading of Draft Picks Add?


Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels interviewed Athletics GM Billy Beane, and this little nugget really caught my eye:

SICKELS: With the basic agreement up for negotiation as we approach 2012, what do you think of the idea of trading draft picks?

BEANE: I think it would be a great idea. I have always been in favor of that, it would create more interest in the draft for the fans, and as a GM anything that improves my flexibility is a good thing.
SICKELS: Will it happen? It always gets talked about but it never gets implemented.

BEANE: Well, I can’t say for sure obviously, we’ll have to see what gets negotiated. I would say that it is a better than 50/50 chance, but it is not guaranteed. We’ll just have to see.

This really caught my attention, as it is something that happens in both the NFL and NBA right now, and is another asset that allows for the movement of players. When you think about it, amateur draft picks are the only commodity in baseball that cannot be traded for something else.

The example I heard mentioned on the Baseball Prospectus Podcast was this: What if the Nationals had decided that they did not want to meet the demands of Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in either of the last two years? Undoubtedly, there would have been a team that would have been willing to meet those demands if the Nationals had not, and as such this pick has trade value. Would the Nationals have been better if they had, say, traded the rights to the #1 overall pick (Bryce Harper) to the Yankees for a package of Jesus Montero and another top-10 prospect? I’m inclined to believe that both teams would have benefitted from this.

I could see using future draft picks as another commodity in the same way that the minor leagues are used now. Would the Mariners have wanted instead of some of the secondary players in the Cliff Lee trade, instead they received Justin Smoak and the Rangers’ 1st round pick in 2011?

The biggest concern to me would be that there probably would need to be a limitation on how far into the draft (rounds deep) and how many years in advance a team could trade, but I think that this bears consideration. Even if the owners are able to get a hard slotting system for the draft, there could still be a lot of value in the ability to trade picks, as teams may not want to take players at certain picks and “move down” like seems to happen in the NFL a lot.

Fantasy Rankings in Review – First Basemen


Back in February, I took my first shot at attempting to rank players for fantasy purposes. After a full season, I thought it wise to take a look back at how they went, and compare them to how it actually turned out and see if there is anything to be gained from it. Next up is the review of my 1B rankings.

My Preseason Rankings
1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Prince Fielder
4. Mark Teixeira
5. Ryan Howard
6. Joey Votto
7. Mark Reynolds
8. Kevin Youkilis
9. Kendry Morales
10. Adrian Gonzalez
11. Derrek Lee
12. Justin Morneau
13. Adam Dunn
14. Pablo Sandoval
15. Carlos Pena

Yahoo’s Final Rankings (Top 15)
1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Joey Votto
4. Paul Konerko
5. Adrian Gonzalez
6. Mark Teixeira
7. Aubrey Huff
8. Ryan Howard
9. Nick Swisher
10. Adam Dunn
11. David Ortiz
12. Martin Prado
13. Prince Fielder
14. Billy Butler
15. Adam LaRoche

I also mentioned Adam LaRoche, Paul Konerko, Billy Butler, Garrett Jones, Lance Berkman, Chris Davis, Michael Cuddyer, Todd Helton, James Loney, Justin Smoak, and Chris Carter as players potentially having value this year.
From my preseason rankings, Kevin Youkilis (19), Derrek Lee (21), James Loney (24), and Justin Morneau (25) all finished in the top 25. Mark Reynolds, Kendry Morales, Pablo Sandoval, and Carlos Pena did not make the top 25 at the end of the season.
Free Agents: Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, Troy Glaus, Aubrey Huff, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, Carlos Pena
What We Saw

Buster Posey’s season was better than anyone even thought. He finished at #23 in the 1B rankings for Yahoo, which is clearly an elite offensive position. Wow.

I thought Joey Votto would do extremely well this season, but clearly this was above and beyond what I thought either. I think he’s going to start next season as a top 10 player overall.

Talk about a walk year improvement. Paul Konerko went nuts this year, and finished with 39 homers and 112 rbi. He’s a free agent, and while they want him back in Chicago, it remains to be seen where he will end up. But he’s clearly not as done as we all thought he was.

Aubrey Huff is another free agent who should get paid this offseason after an excellent performance in San Francisco. Part of his value was having 7 stolen bases this season, which seems unlikely to continue. I just can’t convince myself that he’s particularly likely to repeat the overall performance in 2011.

Injuries really had an effect on the 1B depth, with Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales, Justin Morneau, and Troy Glaus all missed time during the season. It didn’t help that players like Mark Reynolds, Lance Berkman and Carlos Pena all struggled during the season.

Justin Morneau really concerns me for next season, due to the fact that he still has not been able to do any baseball activities since suffering that concussion in Toronto. He could potentially provide a very nice value for fantasy owners next year, but he won’t end up on any of my teams most likely.

Adrian Gonzalez will continue to be the topic of trade rumors throughout the offseason, and I think that if he gets traded to anywhere else practically, he’s going to provide even more offense than he did this season, which seems like it should be impossible.

Overall, some of these rankings were pretty easy (I’m pretty sure it takes no brains to rank Pujols at #1), but some of these players clearly underperformed (Fielder, Reynolds, Pena). I think that Youkilis would have finished above the #8 spot I had believed at the beginning of the season had he not gotten injured. Not a terrible job on these, but definitely some work to be done next season.

Preliminary 2011 Rankings (Very Raw)
1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Joey Votto
4. Adrian Gonzalez
5. Mark Teixeira
6. Ryan Howard
7. Prince Fielder
8. Kevin Youkilis
9. Paul Konerko
10. Adam Dunn

The Season’s Top Stories: The Rookie Class of 2010


Throughout the month of October, I’ll be reviewing some of the top stories that were in the newly completed regular season. One of the biggest stories of the 2010 regular season has to be the rookie class that emerged throughout the season. This group of rookies could very well be a once in a generation group of players.

Starting Pitchers

The most hyped player to come into the Majors in a long time clearly was Stephen Strasburg, the top pick from the 2009 draft. The hype continued to build as the season progressed and it became clear that he would make his debut during the season. June 8th was the night, against the Pirates: 14 strikeouts, 0 earned runs. Strasburg nearly lived up to the hype, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in just 68 innings pitched. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely due to an elbow injury, and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Strasburg will miss the 2011 season as well.

Other Top Performers:

  • Jaime Garcia will most likely finish near the top of the Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 13-8 record with a 2.70 ERA in 28 starts for the Cardinals.
  • Mike Leake of the Reds came up and made an instant impact despite never pitching in the minor leagues. He started off hot, but trailed off a bit at the end and finished with an 8-4 record with a 4.23 ERA in 24 appearances (22 starts).
  • His teammate Travis Wood came up on July 1st, and pitched well down the stretch for the Reds. He finished with a 5-4 record with a 3.51 ERA in just over 100 innings on the season.
  • Madison Bumgarner was called upon about halfway through the season to take the #5 spot in the Giants’ rotation, and ran with it from there. He went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts for the NL West champs.
  • Wade Davis of the Rays threw 168 innings of effective ball, posting a 12-10 record with a 4.07 ERA and 113 strikeouts.
  • Brian Matusz of the Orioles had been my preseason choice for the AL Rookie of the Year award, but unfortunately didn’t really pitch well enough to earn that award. Part of that was his team, as he went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 175 plus innings. His numbers should improve next season as the team matures under its new manager.

Relief Pitchers

Neftali Feliz didn’t make the starting rotation out of spring training for the Rangers, and it really looks like that could have been the best thing for both him and the team. Feliz was given the closer’s job on April 12th after Frank Francisco struggled in the first week, and never gave the job back. He finished the season with a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves along with a strikeout per inning of work.

Other Top Performers:

  • Jonny Venters helped to bring some stability to the back end of the Braves’ bullpen, appearing in 79 games and striking out 93 in just 83 innings. He looks like he could be a future closer in waiting for the Braves.
  • John Axford was called upon to fill in for a struggling future Hall of Famer in Trevor Hoffman, and never really gave the job back. He went 8-2 with 24 saves and a 2.48 ERA and 76 strikeouts in just 58 innings pitched for the Brewers.

Catchers

There was concern whether or not it might cost the Giants a chance at the playoffs by their decision to not call up Buster Posey until late May.  The top prospect played well enough to really make that decision look questionable, hitting .305/.357/.505 with 18 homeruns and 67 runs batted in. The team made the playoffs, and even traded their Opening Day catcher to make sure he played every day.

Other Top Performers:

  • Carlos Santana came up on June 11th, and proceeded to show why he was considered a top prospect overall. In just 46 games this season, he hit .260/.401/.467 with 6 homeruns and 22 runs batted in. His season ended on August 2nd when he broke his leg blocking the plate, but should return next season and become one of the top catchers in the league.
  • John Jaso remains one of the more unusual catchers in the league, as the Rays consistently hit him leadoff. His .372 OBP probably helped that a lot, and he split time with Kelly Shoppach during the season.

Corner Infielders

It was originally thought at the beginning of the season that 1B Justin Smoak of the Rangers would establish himself as the next great hitter to start in Arlington. He struggled mightily during the season, earning himself a demotion back to AAA and eventually his inclusion in the trade to the Mariners for Cliff Lee. Smoak ended up finishing the season with just a .218 batting average but 13 home runs. He should do better next season as well, and will likely be the given the starting 1B job by the Mariners.

Other Top Performers:

  • Ike Davis was surprisingly called up in mid April, and continued to hold the 1B job throughout the season for the Mets. He finished the year with a .264/.351/.440 line with 19 homeruns and 71 runs batted in.
  • Chris Johnson of the Astros was given the starting 3B job after Pedro Feliz struggled, and finished the year with a .308 batting average and 11 homeruns. He should go into 2011 as the prohibitive starter at the position.
  • Danny Valencia was called up at the start of June to play 3B, and never gave the job back. He hit .311 with 7 homeruns, and has provided solid defense for the Twins as well.
  • Pedro Alvarez was called up in mid June to replace the struggling Andy LaRoche, and gave glimpses into what his future holds. He hit .256, but did hit 16 home runs and drove in 64 in just 95 games.

Middle Infielders

Starlin Castro may well have been one of the biggest surprises of the season. He started the season with the Cubs’ AA affiliate, hitting very well and was called up by the Major League team on May 7th to try and inject some more energy and offense into the lineup. Despite being just 20 years old, he hit .300 with 10 stolen bases on the season, and should continue to improve next season.

Other Top Performers:

  • Neil Walker was widely viewed as a bit of a lost prospect, stuck behind current starter Andy LaRoche and future starter Pedro Alvarez at 3B. The team instead asked him to try playing 2B, and his bat took off. He hit .296/.349/.462 with 12 homeruns and 66 runs batted in for the Pirates in just 110 games.
  • Ian Desmond was given the starting shortstop job for the Nationals out of Spring Training, and while he had his struggles with the glove (34 errors), his bat was solid with a .269 batting average, 10 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases.

Outfielders

The top prospect in the game coming into the season was widely viewed as Braves’ OF Jason Heyward, and he did not disappoint. He made the team out of Spring Training, which was unexpected, and proceeded to hit well across the season. He finished the year with a .277/.393/.456 line with 18 home runs, 72 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases. The Braves are going to be extremely happy with Heyward’s production for years to come.

Other Top Performers:

  • Austin Jackson is likely going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award after hitting .293 with 27 stolen bases and playing good defense in centerfield for the Tigers all season long. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next year, as his full season numbers were propped up a bit by a huge start of the season this year.
  • Jose Tabata was a prospect that the Pirates received as a part of the Xavier Nady trade, and showed why he was so highly thought of. He played in 102 games, hitting .299 with 19 stolen bases and 61 runs scored.

In many seasons, nearly all of these rookies would have been Rookie of the Year awards recipients, but with so many top players this year some may not even get votes in the awards proceedings. I’ll be posting my votes for the AL and NL Willie Mays awards (Rookie’s of the Year) in the next few days as well.

Original Draft Series: Team #9 – Texas Rangers


For those that missed the guidelines I am using for this series of posts, you can find them here.

Team #9: Texas Rangers

General Managers(since 1994)

Tom Grieve (1994): 52-62
Doug Melvin (1995-2001): 568-548
John Hart (2002-2005): 311-337
Jon Daniels (2006-Current): 401-409

Team Performance

Playoffs Division Finish
WC League Playoff App 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Last
0 0 4 4 2 6 5 0

All information is drawn from Baseball Reference.

Position Name Acquired Years with Org.
Stats with Organization
Left?
C Ivan Rodriguez Int’l FA – 1988 14+1 10 Gold Gloves, 10 All Star Appearances, 6 Silver Sluggers, 1999 AL MVP
1507 gm, .304/.341/.488, 217 HR, 842 SB
Left via Free Agency – 10/28/02
1B Mark Teixeira 2001 – 1st Rd (5) 6 1 All-Star Appearances, 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers
693 gm, .283/.368/.533, 153 HR, 499 RBI, 11 SB
Traded to ATL – 7/31/07
2B Ian Kinsler
2003 – 17th Rd 7 2 All Star Appearances
591 gm, .282/.355/.469, 89 HR, 311 RBI, 101 SB
Currently with Org.
3B Edwin Encarnacion 2000 – 9th Rd 1 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to CIN – 6/15/01
SS Fernando Tatis Int’l FA – 1992 6 155 gm, .264/.301/.378, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 9 SB Traded to STL – 7/31/98
LF Laynce Nix 2000 – 4th Rd 6 240 gm, .241/.278/.414, 28 HR, 112 RBI, 6 SB Traded to MIL – 7/28/06
CF Scott Podsednik 1994 – 3rd Rd 1 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to FLA – 10/8/95
RF Julio Borbon
2007 – 1st Rd (35) 3 145 gm, .281/.326/.368, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 29 SB Currently with Org.
DH Carlos Pena 1998 – 1st Rd (10) 3 22 gm, .258/.361/.500, 3 HR, 12 RBI Traded to OAK – 1/14/02
SP C.J. Wilson 2001 – 5th Rd 9 24-25, 3.84 ERA, 52 SV, 438.2 IP, 389 K, 199 BB Currently with Org.
SP Colby Lewis
1999 – 1st Rd (38) 5+1 21-23, 5.21 ERA, 331.2 IP, 281 K, 159 BB Currently with Org.
SP Edinson Volquez Int’l FA – 2001 6 3-11, 7.20 ERA, 80 IP, 55 K, 42 BB Traded to CIN – 12/21/07
SP Ryan Dempster
1995 – 3rd Rd 1 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to FLA – 8/8/96
SP John Danks 2003 – 1st Rd (9) 3 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to CHW – 12/23/06
RP Derek Holland 2006 – 25th Rd 4 10-15, 6.00 ERA, 162 IP, 131 K, 57 BB Currently with Org.
RP Ramon Ramirez Int’l FA – 1996 2 No Major League Appearances with Org. Released – 6/4/98
RP Nick Masset 2000 – 8th Rd 4 0-0, 4.15 ERA, 8.2 IP, 4 K, 2 BB Traded to CHW – 11/23/06
RP Tommy Hunter 2007 – 1st Rd (54) 3 18-10, 4.62 ERA, 200.2 IP, 115 K, 57 BB Currently with Org.
RP Danny Herrera 2006 – 45th Rd 1 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to CIN – 12/21/07
CL Darren Oliver 1988 – 3rd Rd 10+2+1 54-48, 5.12 ERA, 892.1 IP, 576 K, 389 BB Currently with Org.
BN Travis Hafner
1996 – 31st Rd 6 23 gm, .242/.329/.387, HR, 6 RBI Traded to CLE – 12/6/02
BN Aaron Harang 1999 – 6th Rd 1 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to OAK – 11/17/00
BN Justin Smoak 2008 – 1st Rd (11) 2 70 gm, .209/.316/.353 8 HR, 34 RBI Traded to SEA – 7/9/10
BN Chris Davis 2006 – 5th Rd 4 224 gm, .249/.299/.460, 38 HR, 117 RBI, 3 SB Currently with Org.
BN Hank Blalock
1999 – 3rd Rd 10 2 All Star Appearances
910 gm, .269/.329/.465, 152 HR, 535 RBI, 13 SB
Left via Free Agency – 11/5/09

June Amateur Draft

The Rangers have had some pretty good success in the draft, with Mark Teixeira being the clear top performer from that group of players. Ian Kinsler was a very nice late round pick who has turned out really well. Some of the players haven’t quite turned out when they were moved (Dempster, Danks, Harang, Pena), but some of the better players that they have traded have really returned a lot of value. The Teixeira trade alone netted them 5 great prospects, many of whom have turned into solid major league players as well. Trading Smoak appears to have already had dividends as they acquired Cliff Lee as a part of it, and Nix was traded to acquire Carlos Lee for a stretch run a few seasons ago.

International Free Agency

The Rangers have done pretty well in international free agency as well, with Ivan Rodriguez being the clear cut top player acquired in that manner. Hard to argue when he’s going to be a sure fire Hall of Famer. There’s not a ton of other international free agents from the system, but Edinson Volquez was traded (along with Danny Herrera) to acquire AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton, who has become critical to the success of the team at this point.

Overall Grade

B+. There are a lot of excellent players who have come through this system, and some very solid players who were used to acquire other important players. While they didn’t get a ton in return for players like Ryan Dempster, John Danks, and Scott Podsednik, the return for some of the better players (Teixeira, Volquez) has more than made up for it. The fact that they also have a lot of the same players in their system, and a very highly rated system of prospects coming tells me that the success they have been having this season should continue for years to come.

Midseason Review


We are halfway through the season and as happens every year, it doesn’t quite go exactly as we all thought it would.

Right before the season started, I wrote up my preseason predictions of how I thought the playoffs and awards would go:

American League

Correct so far: New York Yankees
Incorrect so far: Boston Red Sox (Tampa Bay Rays), Minnesota Twins (Chicago White Sox), Seattle Mariners (Texas Rangers)

National League

Correct so far: None
Incorrect so far: Philadelphia Phillies (Atlanta Braves), Chicago Cubs (Cincinnati Reds), Los Angeles Dodgers (San Diego Padres), St. Louis Cardinals (Colorado Rockies)

League Leaders at the Half

Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (DET) and Josh Hamilton (TEX) – .346
Runs: Carl Crawford (TAM) – 70
Hits: Martin Prado (ATL) – 121
Home Runs: Jose Bautista (TOR) – 24
Runs Batted In: Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 77
Stolen Bases: Juan Pierre (CHW) – 32

Wins: Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) – 15
ERA: Josh Johnson (FLA) – 1.70
Strikeouts: Jered Weaver (LAA) – 137
Saves: Joakim Soria (KC) – 25

The Top Stories

The Year of the Pitcher Again?

The pitchers look like they may have gained back some of the advantage again versus the hitters, as we’re seeing a lot of amazing performances out of both elite and non-elite pitchers.

Starting Pitchers with an ERA under 3.00: 17
Starting Pitchers with 10+ wins: 12
Starting Pitchers with a FIP under 3.00: 6
Starting Pitchers with a WHIP under 1.10: 14

And of course, there’s the no-hitters:

Let’s not forget Armando Galarraga either, and his near-perfecto on June 2nd.

Ken Griffey Jr Abruptly Retires

Almost randomly,  Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement on June 2nd. I wrote up my thoughts on his career shortly after the announcement, but the long and short of it remains that Griffey always seemed to be having more fun than anyone else on the field, and was really a joy to watch play, no matter what he was doing.  I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going into the Hall of Fame at first opportunity.

Sadly, the story was lost among the Armando Galarraga near perfect game, as it happened about an hour after the announcement. Hopefully the Mariners will have him back at some point before the end of the season to really give him a great sendoff.

The Cliff Lee Sweepstakes

The Mariners were widely predicted to win the AL West on the strength of the arms of Felix Hernandez and offseason acquisition Cliff Lee. Unfortunately, the team has floundered quite a bit, to the point where it became only a matter of time for the Mariners to start selling off the pieces, including their newly acquired ace Lee. The trade discussions centered around the unlikely competitors of the Reds, Twins, and Rangers, along with the usual suspects (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays). Nearly every top prospect in their systems was mentioned as the potential trade pieces in return. It was even stranger when the Mariners had come to a deal with the Yankees, only to have that one fall apart and be replaced by a trade with the Rangers. I wrote up what I thought of the trade, and really liked it for both teams involved.

Break Up the Reds and the Padres!

Completely unexpectedly, the Reds and the Padres are both leading their divisions as we approach the All-Star break. The Padres are doing it with the best pitching in the Majors, led by young phenom Mat Latos (10-4, 2.45) and top power hitter Adrian Gonzalez (.301, 18 HR, 56 RBI). The Reds are being led by MVP candidate Joey Votto (.315, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 1.014 OPS), and a resurgent Scott Rolen (.292, 17 HR, 57 RBI). I honestly think that barring some unexpected injuries or other unusual circumstances, both teams have the talent available to hold on to their leads throughout the rest of the season.

3 Teams, A Maxiumum of 2 Spots

The AL East continues to improve every single year, as the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees have been trading 1st through 3rd in the division back and forth all season. Through Friday’s games, all 3 teams have the 3 top records in the American League. Clearly, this presents a problem, as only 2 of them can make the playoffs. Someone is going to have to separate themselves at some point, but I’m not sure when that is going to happen. The Rays got off to a hot start, but have struggled of late. The Yankees got off to a slow start but have come on strong and now lead the division. Even the Red Sox are only 5 games back despite having suffered an unusually high amount of injuries. Someone is going to be sitting at home unhappy despite potentially winning 90+ games in that division.

Managers Available for Hire

We could be looking at potentially having nearly half the teams in the Majors change managers by the start of the 2011 season. 4 teams have already gotten the ball started, with Fredi Gonzalez (Marlins), Trey Hillman (Royals), Dave Trembley (Orioles) and A.J. Hinch of the Diamondbacks. In addition, major skippers like Joe Torre of the Dodgers and Lou Piniella of the Cubs are both in the final year of their contracts, and it appears that more and more that neither man is likely to return. And of course, there is the expected retirement of the Braves’ Bobby Cox and Blue Jays’ Cito Gaston after this season as well. Invariably, there will be some other managers that could lose their jobs before the start of next year, and my own speculation leads me to think that potentially teams like the Brewers, Pirates, Athletics and even the Mariners could all potentially see new managers as well.

The Rookie Class of 2010

It seems like this year’s rookie class is by far one of the best in many years. The season started out with Atlanta Braves’ OF Jason Heyward making the team out of Spring Training, and has not let up ever since. 13 of Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects have already made their debuts, and many of them are seeing a lot of success.

  • Carlos Santana of the Indians is hitting .284 with 5 HR and 16 RBI since being called up on June 11th.
  • Buster Posey of the Giants is hitting .333 with 6 HR and 20 RBI while playing both catcher and first base.
  • Tyler Colvin of the Cubs has hit 12 homeruns in part time playing time so far this season.
  • Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch of the Tigers have been going back and forth for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Jackson got off to a hot start, but Boesch has passed him at this point. Boesch is leading all rookies with 12 homeruns and 48 runs batted in, and also is hitting .345.
  • Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins is quietly hitting .299 with 9 homeruns and 38 runs batted in.
  • Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals has exceeded all expectations, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.17 ERA and 80 strikeouts so far.
  • Mike Leake of the Reds surprised everyone by coming up without playing a single game in the minors and has a 6-1 record with a 3.53 ERA.
  • Neftali Feliz of the Rangers has stabilized the back end of their bullpen, recording 23 saves and earning himself an All-Star appearance.

Other top prospects that have come up as well: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates, Mike Stanton of the Marlins, Alcides Escobar of the Brewers, Ike Davis of the Mets, and Justin Smoak of the Rangers… er Mariners.

Clearly though, the most anticipated debut didn’t come until June 8th…

Strasburg

June 8th was the Major League debut of the phenom, Nationals’ top prospect Stephen Strasburg. His starts in the minors were selling out every time through. He was sent down to the Minors after Spring Training to work on his performance with runners on base. As if he was actually allowing any of those down there. His minor league numbers (AA and AAA): 11 starts, 7-2, 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts to 13 walks in 55 1/3 innings pitched. At times, his stuff looked absolutely dominant, but the concern remained: Could he repeat this performance at the Major League level?

For the most part, the answer to that question is a resounding Yes. His debut against the lowly Pirates: 14 strikeouts, 0 walks, and a victory in 7 innings. So far, he has a 3-2 record with a 2.32 ERA and 61 strikeouts in just 42 2/3 innings pitched. He has had some games where his control has been less than stellar, including the 5 walk performance against the Indians. I have to admit, I thought that he would have some struggles when he got up to the Majors, but I didn’t anticipate the excellent performance overall that he has given to this point. The longer that Jason Heyward stays on the disabled list, the more likely it becomes that Strasburg will win the Rookie of the Year award for the National League. He simply looks dominant out there in nearly every start, and the stuff he throws is simply amazing. I hope he can stay healthy long term, as he is really going to be something special if he can.

Overall Reactions

After so many games being played, it has been a really good season to this point. As it seems to happen every season, there are some things that don’t go the way everyone expects, but it definitely makes it more interesting when there are new stories that emerge over the span of the season. It looks like it’s going to be a good race in many of the divisions, and could go down to the wire.

No post on Tuesday this week, and I’ll be back with a new post on Wednesday.

Trade Review: Cliff Lee to the Rangers


Well, it looks like the conversations about him being traded are finally over, as Cliff Lee was finally traded today. With the Twins, Reds, and half a dozen other teams in the conversation yesterday, and the Yankees looking like they were nearly a done deal this morning, it was a bit of a surprise to have this turn out the be the trade:

Texas Rangers acquires SP Cliff Lee,  SP Mark Lowe and $2.5 M
Seattle Mariners acquire 1B Justin Smoak, P Blake Beavan, P Josh Lueke, and 2B Matthew Lawson.

The Rangers

Clearly, the Rangers get the ace that their pitching staff needs. By slotting Lee into the top of the rotation, it can really help them push everyone else back a step to a better fit. Their rotation, with Lee, Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman, and potentially Rich Harden later on, seems to me like a real strength now. The team was already well ahead of the pack in the AL West, and I think that with Lee they now are in that group with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. The playoffs in the American League are going to be something else.

In terms of fantasy impact, clearly the Rangers aren’t quite the defensive team that the Mariners are, and the Ballpark in Arlington is much more of an offense driven stadium than Safeco Field was. However, Lee pitched excellently last season in Philadelphia, a similar stadium environment. I have no concerns about Lee for the rest of the season.

I did find it a bit interesting that the Rangers asked for Mark Lowe as well, who is out for the season. There had been some concerns as well that the Rangers were going to need to get the full salary paid by the Mariners as well, since the Rangers are in bankruptcy proceedings at the moment. However, it appears that this will not have any impact on the trade.

At worst, the Rangers will have the next 2+ months of Lee, and will most assuredly offer him arbitration and get two draft picks of compensation for losing him. I wonder if they may even be able to sign him long term potentially, as he is from Arkansas originally, and not terribly far away from home.

The Mariners

Clearly, the top piece they acquired here is Justin Smoak. Smoak will be penciled into the 1B spot for the Mariners, and while I think that he will see a drop in some of his power numbers compared to what he would have done with the Rangers, but he should still be a solid 1B. Long term, I can see him hitting .300+ with about 20 homers for the Mariners in a season. I think that his slugging percentage, while it should be slightly lower, should still be solid with the large alleys in the outfield of Safeco Field.

What about the other prospects that the M’s got back?

Blake Beavan is a 21 year old right hander who had been at AA for the Rangers. He has a 10-5 record with a 2.78 ERA and a very respectable 68/12 strikeout-to-walk rate while there. The numbers appear legitimate, as he has a 3.23 FIP this season, and a 5.1% HR/FB rate for the season. As strange as it sounds, he’s was almost an extra pitcher for the Rangers, as he was not even in their top 10 prospects according to Baseball America before the season. I imagine he’s going to still be in AA for the Mariners, and spend next season at AAA. A career 48% groundball rate leads me to believe he’s going to do well in Seattle once he gets there, even without the dominating strikeouts.

Josh Lueke is a bit of an older prospect, only at AA this season in his age 25 season. A closer, he has recorded 12 saves between High-A and AA this season. The strikeouts are a bit ridiculous though, with 62 so far over 38 1/3 innings pitched between both levels. Even at AA he has managed to maintain an excellent rate, striking out 12.5 per 9 innings. I would guess that his ETA is probably next season sometime, as he could be fast tracked up to AAA by the Mariners potentially before the end of the season.

Matthew Lawson seems like a bit of a throw in, as he looks like a solid prospect but nothing amazing. A 14th round pick originally, he looks like he might fit the mold of a good fielding, reasonable hitting 2B. At AA, he has hit .277/.371/.438 this season with 7 homeruns and 3 stolen bases. To me, he’s a bit of a project, as he’s not dominating in the way you would hope he would to be a top prospect, but he is only 24 still and this is his first go around in AA. I think he does have a reasonable chance to be useful at the Majors, potentially as a utility type player.

Overall, I think this looks like a trade that both teams can win over time. The Rangers get the big arm that they need to help propel them through the playoffs, and the Mariners got not only an elite prospect in Smoak, but also top tier talents in Beavan, Lueke and Lawson. Amazingly, the Rangers didn’t really empty the system particularly either, and will still receive 2 draft picks if they can’t resign him after the season. Job well done from both general managers.

WINNER: BOTH

The 2010 Rookie Class


Every year we see some solid rookie players come to the Majors and have a major impact, and this year is no exception. Already we’ve seen at least half a dozen players who could legitimately win their Rookie of the Year award, along with a lot of impact players as well. Each of these players is still eligible to win the Rookie of the Year award, according to ESPN.com’s stats page. All these stats are through Sunday’s games, and the players are in order of what I believe their likelihood to win their respective Rookie of the Year awards.

American League

1. Austin Jackson (DET) – .328/.379/.444, 33 runs, 1 home run, 13 runs batted in, 7 stolen bases

Jackson was the centerpiece of the Curtis Granderson trade for the Tigers, and he’s been pretty much everything it was hoped he would, and more. I wrote in December that I thought the Tigers would end up winning this trade, and Jackson is going to be the lynchpin to whether or not that happens. The batting average has been extremely lucky to this point, as he is currently sporting a .458 BABIP. That said, he still should hit around .270-.280 and could end up scoring around 90 runs for the Tigers.

2. Neftali Feliz (TEX) – 1-1, 13 saves, 2 holds, 2.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, 5 walks, 24 1/3 IP

Since being installed as the closer for the Rangers, Feliz has pitched very well overall. His stuff really suits the closer’s role, as his fastball is dominant at right around 100 mph on a consistent basis. I think that Feliz could end up winning the Rookie of the Year if Jackson falls off precipitously or if the Rangers end up making the playoffs and Feliz stays as the closer all season long. Long term, it will be interesting to see if they ever convert him back to a starting pitcher, as his value is probably better there.

3. Mitch Talbot (CLE) – 6-4, 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 27 strikeouts, 24 walks, 66 2/3 IP

Talbot has been a very nice surprise for the Indians, as he was acquired in the Kelly Shoppach trade this past offseason. Plugged into the starting rotation, Talbot is finally getting a chance to show how good of a pitcher he can be. He may see some regression, as his FIP is over 5 and his BABIP is only at .251. Either way, the Indians did well here, and he could conceivably win 12-15 games in spite of how bad the Indians’ offense is. The walks are definitely a major concern though, as they are barely less than his strikeouts.

4. Wade Davis (TAM) – 5-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 36 strikeouts, 29 walks, 55 2/3 IP

Another vaunted rookie from the Rays’ farm system, Davis has come in and pitched effectively in a tough AL East division. However, his secondary numbers (FIP of 5+, 82% strand rate) indicate that he’s likely to see a fairly stiff regression in the coming months. I think he’s going to finish the season as an effective, if not amazing pitcher. But he definitely appears to have a very bright future ahead of him, and I think that for this year he could end up winning 15 games on the strength of the Rays’ lineup.

5. Brennan Boesch (DET) – .330/.357/.585, 9 runs, 4 homeruns, 22 runs batted in, 1 stolen base

At the beginning of the season, it was thought that there would be a rookie from the Tigers in this race. Brennan Boesch was not the one everyone thought though. Boesch has come up and just hit and hit and hit as the replacement for the oft-injured Carlos Guillen. He’s hit so well to this point that Guillen, who recently returned from the disabled list, is being moved to 2B (where they had hoped rookie Scott Sizemore would play well) to allow Boesch to stay in the lineup everyday. His BABIP is high (.373), so there could be some regression, but he looks like he’s going to be a solid everyday player with the potential for double-digit power.

Other AL Candidates: Brian Matusz (BAL), Carlos Santana (CLE), John Jaso (TAM), Justin Smoak (TEX), Scott Sizemore (DET)

Each of these candidates, to me, has some warts that will keep them from winning this award unless something drastically changes. For Sizemore and Santana, the fact that they are still in AAA leads me to believe that they would have to ridiculously outperform the others to catch up for lost time. Smoak and Matusz, at least for the moment, are simply not performing up to the standard of the other candidates, and are unlikely at this point to catch them.

National League

1. Jason Heyward (ATL) – .292/.410/.578, 29 runs, 10 home runs, 38 runs batted in, 3 stolen bases

What else is there to be said about Heyward that hasn’t been said? I wrote about him as a prospect back in January, and predicted that he would hit .280/.370/.470 with 6 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 80 games. Even doubling that prediction to get him to around 160 games, that’s 12 homeruns and 20 stolen bases. While he’s not running as much as I thought, the power appears to be legitimate and the Braves are going to be extremely happy with him for a very long time. I don’t really see too much out there that would cause him to not win this award.

2. Jaime Garcia (STL) – 4-2, 1.39 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 48 strikeouts, 26 walks, 58 1/3 IP

Garcia made the rotation out of spring training, and has never looked back. Clearly the ERA is going to go up at some point during the season, but the rest of the numbers really look legitimate to me. He’s pitching in St. Louis, and I’ve learned to never bet against the coaching staff there either.

3. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – Will make ML debut June 8th.

The hype is real. Strasburg will not make his debut until June 8th, giving the rest of the rookies in this class a full two months of time to get ahead. That said, and even with the 100 inning limit that he is likely to be on, he could very well come up and post a sub-3 ERA and a strikeout per inning he pitches. He has looked that good.

4. David Freese (STL) -.314/.383/.453, 21 runs, 4 home runs, 31 runs batted in, 1 stolen base

It’s hard to put another position player this far down the list, but realistically all 5 of the top rookies in the NL would probably win the award in the American League this season. Freese won the 3B job out of spring training, but it really appeared that no one was particularly confident that he would be able to make it stick. But he’s been a very bright spot in the Cardinals lineup, and has played at least reasonable defense to this point.

5. Mike Leake (CIN) – 4-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 45 strikeouts, 25 walks, 66 IP

I was extremely surprised when Leake made the rotation out of spring training, but it really looks like the Reds knew what they were doing here (shocking, I know). Leake isn’t necessarily going to be a fantasy darling, as he probably isn’t going to strike out enough hitters to make him very valuable for that. But he has shown to this point that he is definitely a good Major League pitcher.

Other NL Candidates: Starlin Castro (CHC), Buster Posey (SF), Ian Desmond (WAS), Ike Davis (NYM), Gaby Sanchez (FLA), Jhoulys Chacin (COL)

Only Desmond and Sanchez made their respective teams out of Spring Training, and while they are both having good rookie seasons, their seasons do not compare to the 5 players discussed previously. Castro, Posey, and Davis have all added much needed energy to their teams, in addition to some offense, but unfortunately they will run into the same problem as Desmond and Sanchez, in that it is a very good rookie class this year.

The Week in Review – April 19 to April 25


If the Playoffs Started Today

New York AL (WC) vs. Minnesota (C)
Oakland (W) vs. Tampa Bay (E)

San Francisco (WC) vs. Philadelphia (E)
San Diego (W) vs. St. Louis (C)

Last Week’s Top Performers

Kendry Morales (LAA) – .542/.593/.917, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
Marlon Byrd (CHC) – .500/.517/.615, 5 RBI, 6 R
Justin Morneau (MIN) – .576/.607/.952, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R
Ryan Theriot (CHC) – .500/.548/.643, 6 RBI, SB, 5 R
Paul Konerko (CHW) – .450/.542/1.150, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R
Kurt Suzuki (OAK) – .429/.500/1.071, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R
Mark Reynolds (ARI) – .421/.500/1.000, 3 HR, 11 RBI, SB, 5 R
Michael Bourn (HOU) – .316/.519/.368, 7 R, RBI, 7 SB
Chase Headley (SD) – .364/.417/455, 5 R, 5 RBI, 5 SB

John Danks (CHW) – 2 W, 16 IP, 1.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 14 K
David Price (TAM) – W, 14 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 12 K
Brad Penny (STL) – 2 W, 14 2/3 IP, 1.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7 K
Brandon Morrow (TOR) – W, 13 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 16 K
Kevin Slowey (MIN) – W, 13 1/3 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11 K
Matt Lindstrom (HOU) – 4 SV, 2.25 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2 K
Francisco Rodriguez (NYM) – 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 7 K

Roster Movement and Job Changes

Disabled List:

  • Returning This Week: Aaron Hill, Brian Fuentes, Ted Lilly, Lance Berkman
  • Going On the DL: Vicente Padilla, Manny Ramirez, Jeff Mathis, Carlos Guillen, J.A. Happ, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron

Promotions and Demotions:

  • Promoted: Justin Smoak, Ike Davis
  • Demoted: Mike Jacobs, Chris Davis

Top Stories and This Week’s Links

  • On Monday, the Mets finally ended their experiment with Mike Jacobs, sending him to the minors and calling up top prospect Ike Davis. Davis wasted no time, going 2-4 in his first game.
  • Bleacher Report writes about their plan for ML realignment. An interesting read, but not really a whole lot more workable than any other plan that has been announced to this point.
  • Around mid-day on Tuesday, Twitter started lighting up that a Major League player was going to be receiving a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy. As the day progressed, we were finally informed it was SP Edinson Volquez of the Reds. A little bit of an oddity, Volquez can serve the suspension while on the disabled list. Since he is recuperating from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to return prior to August, it hurts him more in the pocketbook than anything.
  • Also on Tuesday, the Rangers went nuts on the basepaths, stealing 9 bases in the first 5 innings of their game against the Red Sox. Sadly, even though they were stealing on C Victor Martinez and SP Tim Wakefield all over the place, they ended up losing that game.
  • On Wednesday, manager Lou Piniella announced that when SP Ted Lilly returned on Saturday from the disabled list, SP Carlos Zambrano (of the $18+ M annual contract) would be going to the bullpen. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to the baseball world. Big Z made his first relief appearance on Saturday, getting a hold in 1 1/3 IP.
  • Thursday marked another demotion for Rangers’ 1B Chris Davis. Struggling again, the Rangers decided to bring up top prospect Justin Smoak, who had been hitting extremely well at AAA.
  • Also on Thursday, the Pirates should have stayed home. Since they lost 20-0, it probably would have been a little less painful than being there.
  • Saturday had a bit of a scary moment, as Pirates’ starter Chris Jakubaskas was hit in the head with a line drive. He was placed on the disabled list on Sunday, and I have not heard anything about him other than that.

Scouting: What is a 5-tool Prospect?


Whenever top prospects are discussed, the term “5-Tool Prospect” seems to come up often with the best of them. But what exactly are they talking about when the term is used?

The 5 Tools

Hit for Average – Essentially whether or not a player can hit and reach base on a consistent basis.

Hit for Power – This is not necessarily limited to home run power, but can also include the ability to hit doubles and triples as well.

Run – Not always necessarily viewed as the speed of a player, although this seems most common. This can also include a players ability to be a good baserunner, including taking extra bases, and not getting caught in rundowns, etc.

Throw – This one is pretty self explanatory. This is the player’s ability to throw, both distance as well as velocity (quickness really), and accuracy.

Field – Another one that’s self-explanatory. This one helps to gauge the player’s ability to make the plays required for their position. This can also include their ability to position themselves, both before the play and during the play as well.

Generally, a lot of the top hitting prospects are considered to be 5 tool players. In an ideal world, you would want a player at every position that does all of these things well. Obviously, that would come with a price to be sure. Some recent examples of 5-tool prospects include new Braves RF Jason Heyward, Diamondbacks RF Justin Upton, and Rangers 1B Justin Smoak.

Now, the 5 tools also don’t tell the whole story, as players are being evaluated on some other topics as well, many of which help to tell the story of the 5 tools. These can include a player’s ability to draw a walk, their ability to hit to all fields, and their range out in the field.