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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 340

post #10171 of 73438
I was going to go but the chance of rain. No thanks
post #10172 of 73438
Originally Posted by ERACISM View Post

The announcers want the American viewing public to hate the "celebrations". laugh.gif

"They've been celebrating since the 1st inning."
"It's so nice to see them have so much fun."

^ That's code for something else.

Thought I was the only one catching this
post #10173 of 73438
Originally Posted by imvictor View Post

Republica Dominicana

We are the best, I don't care. pimp.gif

ya tu sabe nthat.gif

Team Platano

 Da Wash Heightz B




Team Platano

 Da Wash Heightz B



post #10174 of 73438


Love the experience and exposure that 'Los got.
post #10175 of 73438
Originally Posted by ERACISM View Post

The announcers want the American viewing public to hate the "celebrations". laugh.gif

"They've been celebrating since the 1st inning."
"It's so nice to see them have so much fun."

^ That's code for something else.

Didn't appreciate that when I heard it last night.

Mad that we lost but at least we lost to a great team. Just happy it was a latin team and not japan or some **** again. Wish our starting pitcher would have never saw the light of day. Our 2B with whatever stupid play he made mean.gif
post #10176 of 73438
11 days pimp.gif
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #10177 of 73438
Hanley out 2-10 week for Thumb injury
post #10178 of 73438
^ not yet they are waiting on the MRI
post #10179 of 73438
I saw it on twitter. 2 weeks if not serious. We will see
post #10180 of 73438
Originally Posted by imvictor View Post

Republica Dominicana

We are the best, I don't care. pimp.gif

Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #10181 of 73438
Those Votto articles eek.gif to maintain that focus day in and day out
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #10182 of 73438
Votto is a G D beast. Canadian Sensation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #10183 of 73438
“@TBrownYahoo: Dodgers announce Hanley Ramirez will need surgery. Out about eight weeks...”
post #10184 of 73438
post #10185 of 73438
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

“@TBrownYahoo: Dodgers announce Hanley Ramirez will need surgery. Out about eight weeks...”

so it seems, we wont be "seeing you" hanley...hope the dodgers can manage til he gets back. high hopes for the season too

oh **** and greinke is going through elbow discomfort...g d you tom cruise.

post #10186 of 73438
Greinke threw the other day w/o discomfort and won't have his starts pushed back but the Hanley thing hurts, he was tearing the cover off the ball in the WBC
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #10187 of 73438
Terrible loss for the Dodgers. Gonna need every win possible to take the division against the WS champs.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #10188 of 73438
can't wait for the season man!!!
post #10189 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Rays can't make the Trout mistake.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Tampa Bay Rays optioned stud prospect Wil Myers to minor league camp last week, it was understandably a disappointment to many fans who had hoped to see immediate returns from the offseason trade of longtime starter James Shields. The company line from the team was that Myers still needed to become a more well-rounded player. (Despite that, he still ranks at 291 on the BBTN 500.)

There's likely some truth to that, but as there is with nearly every Tampa Bay decision, there was a fiscal component as well. If the Rays delay his arrival for a few weeks, they can also push back his eventual free agency by a year; if they leave him on the farm until closer to the end of June, they can also ensure he won't qualify as a "Super Two" player and avoid the additional expensive year of arbitration that comes with that status.

Simply put, the Rays can call Myers up later in the year and extend their team control from six full years (2013 through 2018) to part of seven (mid-2013 through 2019). If Myers works out the way most expect he will, that means that his age-28 season in 2019 -- when he would likely be at the peak of his skills -- would be a year the Rays control, rather than being his first year of free agency. It stands to reason that a full year of age-28 peak Myers would provide more value than a year of age-22 rookie Myers, so it's not hard to see why the club would choose to go that route.

That said, the Rays must resist that urge, and we saw as recently as last year why it would be a mistake to keep Myers down.

Win-now mode

It's well-documented that the AL East is wide open, and many are already speculating that the Rays could be forced to trade reigning Cy Young winner David Price next winter before he gets too expensive. By planning for the distant future, the Rays are hurting their chances to win while they have an opportunity right now.

Weak stuff
The projected wOBA (per ZiPS) of the players who Myers should be taking at-bats from.

Luke Scott .320
Shelley Duncan .302
Sean Rodriguez .296
Yunel Escobar .294
James Loney .289
Ryan Roberts .286
While that may seem hyperbolic, we've seen similar decisions with top prospects play huge roles in pennant races over just the last few seasons. The Los Angeles Angels famously kept Mike Trout on the farm for most of April last season to sort out what they were going to do with veteran outfielders Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells. After recalling Trout on April 28, they were then among baseball's best teams for most of the season, but the 6-14 hole they'd dug themselves with inferior players proved too much to overcome, and they missed out on the playoffs. In 2010, the Atlanta Braves ignored service time issues because 20-year-old Jason Heyward was clearly their best option; he provided 5.0 WAR as the Braves snuck into the playoffs by one game.

Myers doesn't have past-their-prime roadblocks like Abreu and Wells in front of him in right field, but rather Ben Zobrist, long one of the game's more underappreciated players. The more time Zobrist spends in right, the less available he becomes for manager Joe Maddon to take advantage of Zobrist's celebrated defensive versatility. That's important, because the post-B.J. Upton Rays offense has more than a few holes in it.

Weak lineup

While Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and -- to a lesser extent -- Matt Joyce are all reliable offensive pieces, the Rays are counting on a sizable contingent of castoffs and spare parts to fill in the gaps. As it currently stands, Tampa Bay is expecting to staff four positions -- first base, second base, shortstop and designated hitter -- with a group comprising primarily Shelley Duncan, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Luke Scott, Ryan Roberts and Sean Rodriguez. Of the entire collection, only Johnson (at .313) managed an on-base percentage above .300 last season, and he paired it with a .225 batting average and questionable defense.

While Maddon will work his magic and pick and choose to take advantage of the platoon strengths of each player, it's still a deeply flawed group, and one that the Rays would be far better off not having to rely upon so much. While Myers would be replacing Zobrist in right field, he'd really be indirectly taking hundreds of plate appearances away from the Johnsons and Roberts of the world, as Zobrist would take time at second base (and likely other positions) and set off a domino effect that would affect the entire lineup.

Myers, No. 4 on Keith Law's 2013 top 100 Prospects list, hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers across two levels last season. As Law wrote last month, "a mildly optimistic forecast would have him as the Rays' right fielder and their third-best hitter by the end of the year." Dan Szymborski's respected ZiPS system basically agrees with that, pegging Myers for a .253/.319/.444 line with 26 homers if he were given a full season of play, along with a .327 wOBA that would put him behind only Longoria, Zobrist, and Joyce. While that's only one projection, most similar systems agree that he could be a 3-WAR player in his first full season.

Every win counts in what should be an extremely competitive division, and going without Myers could easily cost the Rays a win or two over the course of the season. Tampa Bay management is undoubtedly doing what it feels is the right thing for the long-term health of the franchise. Still, team execs may find themselves wishing they had chosen otherwise if they hold Myers down for much of the season and then miss out on a playoff berth this fall by a whisker.

Deciding on divisive fantasy players.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ryan Howard: Do we throw out 2012? Does he have anything left?

I understand that Howard has had a good spring, but he's kind of had a bad few years before that, mostly against left-handed pitchers, to the point where the Phillies might be better off platooning him with Darin Ruf at first.

But two years ago, before the foot injury, he hit .266/.370/.550 (AVG/OBP/SLG) against right-handers with 30 homers. I think he can come close to that against righties again this year, maybe more in the 25-homer range. I'd be most concerned about his batting average if I owned him in fantasy.

Elvis Andrus: His drop in steals bothers many; others say he's just 24 and still improving. Your thoughts?

I understand seeing the age and assuming future improvement, but part of scouting is identifying specific areas for improvement -- like how a player will come into more power. I'm not sure where Andrus would be expected to improve; he's already a great defender, he's not going to start hitting 15 homers a year, and players don't get faster as they get older (even in their 20s).

You might argue he'll boost his batting average, but that would mean striking out less -- he doesn't strike out much as it is -- or, more likely, raising his batting average on balls in play, which reached a career high of .332 last year. Maybe he ends up a .350 BABIP guy and hits .300 for several years with 20-25 steals, trending down into the teens as he reaches his late 30s. But that, to me, is the only way he elevates his game substantially going forward.

Tim Lincecum: What can we expect?

I saw him last week, and the issues that plagued him last year are still present -- he's pitching with an average fastball that has no movement, and he doesn't have the kind of command to get away with throwing it in the upper half of the zone. Either he relies more heavily than ever on the slider, a pitch he's commented in the past bothers his elbow, or he needs a change in role.

I do think he could help this club in a high-usage relief role, kind of the way he was deployed in October, but it has been ages since any MLB team used a reliever in that fashion.

Kris Medlen: Is he the real deal?

I like Medlen a lot, more than I did before his elbow surgery, but a little cold water is merited here -- he had a .249 BABIP as a starter last year, and even with a very good defense behind him in 2013, that's not at all likely to happen again.

That aside, he has the repertoire, especially the out-pitch changeup, to be a front-line starter, a 180-200 inning guy with an ERA in the high 2s or low 3s. And that defense behind him this year, including a full year of Andrelton Simmons at short and three great gloves in the outfield, will help too.

John Axford: Can he find his control and be solid again?

I think when Axford's career is over, we will look back at 2011 as the outlier, not 2012.

Paul Goldschmidt: Can he hit breaking stuff from righties?

I think this is what he is -- a platoon guy who destroys left-handed pitching (and Tim Lincecum) while playing above-average defense at first. It probably helps his cause that Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers really seem to like his makeup, which counts for everything in Arizona these days.

Paul Konerko: Has the decline begun?

I'm surprised it took this long to start. He's 36, and his rate stats have dropped two years running. I also don't like the way he's expanding the zone more easily, especially as pitchers work him with more off-speed stuff that he can't quite adjust to as quickly as he once did.

I won't predict the cliff because I don't think we can ever reliably foresee when an aging player is about to go from "solid if overpaid" to "please make it stop," but I don't think Konerko has more than a year or two left as an everyday guy.

Bryce Harper: What can we expect from him this season?

I think he becomes a top-10 player in the NL -- 30 homers, 70-plus walks, 20-plus steals, probably with a batting average in the same range as 2012 but higher OBP and slugging figures.

The history of 19-year-olds who do what Harper did doesn't actually exist, since he just had the best season by a teenaged hitter in MLB history. And guys who do exceptional things at extremely young ages very often go on to Hall of Fame-caliber careers.

Manny Machado: Same question.

Also a big fan, but I wouldn't be shocked if he was a year away from the huge breakout. I could see 20 bombs this year, but the average and OBP might be disappointing. I've said this in many forums, but I do think he and the Orioles would both be better served if he played shortstop full-time this year.

Chris Sale: Seems to be drafted highly, but we have our doubts. You?

My doubts on Sale's durability remain. I don't see him holding up for a full, 34-start, 200-inning season. Even in 2012, the White Sox had to manage him more carefully than their other starters -- something they did very well -- but I think that arm action and body are a time bomb.

Josh Beckett: Still have something?

No. He has to completely remake himself as a command/control guy. I don't see that happening, at least not overnight, but probably not ever.

Jim Johnson: Can he be as successful without the K's?

He's outperformed his peripherals, primarily the strikeout rate, two years running. I would imagine that gives everyone from the Orioles to Johnson's fantasy owners a slightly false sense of security about his performance going forward.

Either he strikes more guys out -- I don't know how, although I suppose it's within the realm of possibility -- or eventually he regresses to low-3s ERAs.

Players who will fall off in 2013.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Every year, certain players surprise in a good way, and we have already seen picks to click from Jonah Keri and breakout picks from Keith Law. But not everyone can be a pleasant surprise. Young players who we expect to show progress will plateau or take steps back, and veterans who we expect to maintain a certain level of performance will backslide. Let's take a look at a few players that I am not optimistic on this year.

Jered Weaver | RHP, Los Angeles Angels

Weaver has established himself as a No. 1 starter, but there is an alarming trend that threatens to undermine his progress -- his strikeout rate.

In 2010, Weaver struck out a career-best 25.8 percent of batters, but his swinging-strike rate that season (11.2 percent) has proven to be an outlier. And over the past couple of years his velocity -- as well as his strikeout and swinging-strike rates -- has declined. Toward the end of last season, his average velocity was barely above 85 mph, and he finished with a strikeout rate of 19.2 percent and a swinging-strike rate of 8.5. With his 20s behind him, Weaver is unlikely to see these trends suddenly reverse themselves, and he will become even more reliant on his control and defense.

Luckily, both of those are still excellent, so Weaver's decline may be soft, but his days of being an ace may be behind him. Last season he registered only a 94 FIP-, just 6 percent better than league average. That's not the profile of a pitcher who should be the seventh-fastest pitcher taken in fantasy leagues, as he is in ESPN leagues.

Hunter Pence | RF, San Francisco Giants
Pence is another player who will say goodbye to his 20s this season. The Texas native, who turns 30 on April 13, saw a sharp decline in his performance following his trade to the Giants last season. It might not get any easier this season. Pence has never been a player who relies on his patience, and has instead made his hay as a power-speed player. The speed vanished in 2011, and the power might go the way of the dodo soon, as well.

Last season, only one National League park depressed home runs from right-handed hitters more than AT&T Park did. It was also the fourth hardest NL park for right-handed hitters to produce doubles and triples. This puts Pence's streak of 20-plus homers in five straight seasons squarely in jeopardy, but it's more than just that. After starting his career with five consecutive seasons with at least 3.0 WAR, last season Pence fell to just 1.8 (per FanGraphs), and if he doesn't improve, his days as a full-time starter might be numbered.

Jason Kipnis | 2B, Cleveland Indians

KipnisWhen Kipnis homered in four straight games in his introduction to the majors, it seemed like a new star had been foisted upon us. More than a year later, things appear less certain. Yes, Kipnis did sock 14 homers and swipe 31 bases last season, something that no other second baseman could boast.

On the other hand, his 3.1 WAR was just the 11th-best mark at the position, and tied for a middling 69th out of 143 qualified players. His offense was league average, but after his '11 debut, more was expected. His projections don't look any more rosy heading into 2013, as neither the ZiPS nor Steamer projection systems see his wOBA to be a top-10 figure at second base. Steamer ranks him 12th, and ZiPS ranks him 13th. He's not close to breaking away from the pack in either projection system, and both rate him as essentially akin to the Mets' Daniel Murphy.

This runs contrary to his public perception -- according to ESPN's average draft position, only Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips are being drafted ahead of Kipnis at the keystone. Part of the problem might be his home ballpark, Progressive Field. In his brief time in the majors, Kipnis has struggled against left-handed pitching, and that is doubly true at home. In his 128 plate appearances at home against lefties, he has hit just .184, and only 3.8 percent of the fly balls he has hit have landed in the cheap seats, a number that is well below league average. And while 128 plate appearances is a small sample, it has been shown that HR/FB stabilizes around 100 plate appearances, so that number might not take a turn for the better.

This season, Kipnis will be 26, so he isn't that young. He should be entering his prime, but his recent performance and projections offer little hope for growth. As a point of comparison, Pedroia had seasons with wOBAs of .364, .377 and .359 by the time he reached his age-26 season. Last year in his first full season, Kipnis hit for a not-at-all comparable .315 wOBA. Kipnis simply might not become the star many expect him to be.

Michael Morse | OF, Seattle Mariners

MorseIn his one full season in the majors (2011), Morse hit .303/.360/.550 in 575 plate appearances. In his other 1,115 major league plate appearances, he has hit .291/.341/.462 -- not bad in and of itself, but certainly the star quality is lacking. Add in some absolutely horrid defense, and you are left with a player who is only superficially a "beast."

Over the past two seasons, 107 players have played at least 1,000 innings in the outfield. Of them, only Lucas Duda has a worse UZR/150 than Morse does. Now, he will move to a bigger outfield in Seattle than he had been playing in in Washington. That's not a recipe for success. Not only will his fantasy value take a hit -- Safeco Field still kills right-handed hitters -- but his WAR may be in danger of delving into negative territory.

Carlos Beltran | OF, St. Louis Cardinals

BeltranIn the past two seasons, Beltran has not missed significant time due to injury. Unfortunately, he wasn't the automatic number-generating robot for the entirety of the two seasons. His 2011 campaign was a revelation, as was his first-half performance last season. But then his walk rate dropped, his K-rate spiked and his production dropped.

Beltran isn't going to be as bad as his .236/.302/.440 line that he tallied in the second half last season, but the superstar lines of 2011 and early 2012 will probably be out of reach, as well. No longer an asset defensively, Beltran is almost completely reliant on his bat to provide value, and his bat isn't going to justify superstar status. Neither ZiPS nor Steamer projects Beltran to have a top-20 wOBA among outfielders. Both grade him as above-average offensively, similar to players like Jason Kubel and Nick Markakis. What's more, if Beltran does get hurt, he may find himself Wally Pipp'd by top prospect Oscar Taveras.

To be sure, these five are not the only players about whom I am pessimistic. Like Morse, Jacoby Ellsbury has only one recent banner season, albeit a borderline-MVP banner season. He probably isn't going to get near that level again, though. Dan Haren, Tommy Hanson and Brian McCann are all broken until proven healthy -- all three are too risky for my tastes in fantasy baseball this season. And from a fantasy perspective, Mike Moustakas is the embodiment of a player whose real-life value far outstrips his fantasy value.

Paul Swydan covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He has been writing about baseball for various publications since 2005, and can most frequently be found writing for FanGraphs. You can find his ESPN archives here, and follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

The Jackie Bradley Jr. decision.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA, Fla. -- We've got the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on ESPN today in a 1 p.m. ET game. Jackie Bradley Jr. is expected to play for Boston, in the midst of a spring in which he's 18-for-41 and, just as impressively, he has drawn eight walks and has only five strikeouts.

In spring training, a lot of young hitters would tend to swing the bat anxiously and aggressively, because that's what hitters do, but Bradley has shown patience, in keeping with his hitting approach from the minors. He's had 615 plate appearances in pro ball so far, and in those, he has almost a 1-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio -- 91 walks and 97 strikeouts.

He has been so good, at a time when David Ortiz is hurting, that there is pitched conversation about what the Red Sox should do with the outfielder -- whether they should keep him in the big leagues to open the season, or to send him to the minor leagues.

If Bradley played for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are the most disciplined organization in baseball in the way they try to maximize the value of their player development products, it would be a no-brainer: He would go back to the minor leagues until they were certain he had been given the best chance to hit the ground running at the major league level -- and to not start his service-time clock until the most advantageous time for them.

But these are the Boston Red Sox, with a budget more than twice the size of the Rays', with a lot more margin for error financially and a fan base with a much higher level of expectation. And there is this, which cannot be emphasized enough: They haven't made the playoffs the past three seasons, and they are coming off the disastrous Bobby V season in which they went 69-93 and were widely regarded as unlikable and unwatchable in New England.

If Bradley -- a dynamic prospect with a strong, poised presence -- has the ability to make an immediate impact, in a year in which the AL East appears to something of a mud bog of parity, he could help to change a lot for a Red Sox Nation that still tells tales of the Gold Dust Twins of Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in '75. Jackie Bradley Jr. could serve to alter the likability, and the losing.

ESPN Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney
Buster Olney talks to Jayson Stark about what the Red Sox should do with Jackie Bradley Jr. and who is favored in the NL West. Plus, Amanda Comak on the Nationals.

More Podcasts »
Generally speaking, if the Red Sox want to delay free agency for Bradley, they need to wait 20 days before calling him up during the season, or until about April 20. (There are variations of how they could accomplish this, in which they'd send him back to the minors early in the season, but having him open the year in Triple-A is the most simple.)

This may seem like a small amount of time for an extra year of club control, but as one executive noted, consider the Braves in 2010: Atlanta decided to open the season with Jason Heyward as their right fielder, he played well right from the start, and the Braves made the playoffs by one game.

Another example cited by another official: The Angels of 2012, who waited until the end of April to summon Mike Trout to the big leagues, as they gave Vernon Wells a chance to play daily. Trout played like an MVP and the Angels went 83-59 after he arrived, but because the Angels were 6-14 at the time he arrived they wound up missing the playoffs.

For the Red Sox, there is a clear advantage to waiting before they promote Bradley -- but they also must keep an open mind to the possibilities that some players can be an exception to the rule. If there is an every-day opportunity, and if there is a player who is a clear best alternative, there is some value in going with that player who can mitigate the downside to starting earlier.

The other factor the Sox must consider is Bradley's timeline for becoming arbitration eligible. If the Red Sox want to prevent Bradley from becoming a "Super Two" and getting an extra year of arbitration, one executive wrote in an email, "the best time [to call him up] is somewhere in the range of June 15-July 1. Since [Super Two] players are in the top 22.2 percent of the two-plus [years] service class, it is something of a moving continuum. Put another way, if clubs all wait and don't call up top prospects like Bradley the date gets pushed back. However, based upon past dates and the current projections for this class, a promotion somewhere in the June 15-July 1 timeframe should work."

How much could the Red Sox save by doing this? Well, consider the case of Buster Posey, who is at one extremely high end of the spectrum. Buster Posey has two years and 161 days of service time, meaning that he qualified for arbitration this year, and he and the Giants settled on a salary of $8 million. If he had been summoned to the big leagues in July 2010, rather than in May, his salary would have been a fraction of that.

But the Giants probably wouldn't have made the playoffs or won the World Series in 2010 if they had kept Posey in the minors another four to six weeks, in an effort to freeze his arbitration clock.

If I were running the Red Sox (and they are fortunate that is not the case): I'd start him in the minor leagues to open the year and call him up April 20, after ensuring that he wouldn't become eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season, rather than 2018. Jonny Gomes could play left field until then, and move into a fourth outfielder/DH role once Bradley arrives.

For the readers: What would you do with Bradley?

Issues for Yankees, Giants

• Hal Steinbrenner runs the Yankees, and he's really good at forecasting, too, writes David Waldstein.

Derek Jeter was scratched from Tuesday's lineup.

Normally, this wouldn't be a concern. But the Yankees have almost no safety nets in place with a lineup that appears much weaker than last year, given the departures of players such as Nick Swisher and the injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees need the 38-year-old Jeter to be a productive member of their lineup, and we are less than two weeks away from the start of the regular season and he has not yet come close to playing nine innings at shortstop in any exhibition.

• As the start of the season nears, the Giants also have a lot of pieces out of place, writes Henry Schulman. From his story:

Their No. 3 hitter, Pablo Sandoval, will not throw a baseball before this weekend because of an inflamed ulnar nerve in his right elbow. Head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner revealed Tuesday that an MRI taken Monday also shows a bone spur in the back of Sandoval's elbow, which Groeschner downplayed as a "chronic" condition that should not prevent the third baseman from playing.

Two of the three left-handed relievers, Jose Mijares and Javier Lopez, are behind after getting hurt, with Lopez ahead of Mijares on the comeback trail.

Angel Pagan, the Giants' center fielder and leadoff hitter, and reliever Santiago Casilla probably will not rejoin the team until Thursday after playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Most troublesome, backup catcher Hector Sanchez is struggling through his second spring bout of shoulder inflammation and will attempt to play light catch Wednesday.

The battle for jobs

1. Marlon Byrd will be the right fielder for the Mets, it appears.

2. David O'Brien explains why the Braves might keep Jordan Schafer.

3. Shelby Miller was really good; Joe Kelly, not so much.

4. Brent Morel was sent to the minors.

5. Billy Hamilton was reassigned.

6. The Tigers sent Nick Castellanos to the minors, as expected.

7. The Brewers are looking at a young outfielder for a bench role.

Dings and dents

1. Roy Halladay is still recovering from his stomach virus.

2. With Scott Baker shut down, gambles are not paying off for the Cubs.

3. This is not good: Albert Pujols is battling plantar fasciitis, writes Mike DiGiovanna, one of those injuries that can just linger.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. A top Cardinals prospect is still waiting for his visa.

2. We will learn soon whether Aroldis Chapman is being moved to closer. As John Fay writes in his story today:

Mike Leake is scheduled to start Friday's game. Chapman is on the list to follow him. No inning total is listed with either, but Jose Arredondo, J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall and Clay Hensley are each listed and scheduled one inning.

If Leake throws four innings and Chapman one, we may know what the team has decided, even if it's not announced.

NL East

• Jordan Zimmermann is giddy about his new changeup, writes Thomas Boswell.

• Carlos Ruiz has accepted his ban with humility, writes David Murphy.

• The Marlins have many decisions to make, writes Steph Rogers.

NL Central

• The Pirates need Pedro Alvarez to flourish in their cleanup spot, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• Doug Glanville, Jerry Crasnick and I talked about the projections for Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras on Tuesday's podcast.

NL West

• Yorvit Torrealba's impact on another player makes him an important part of the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

• Chase Headley is relieved.

AL East

• Henry Blanco is likely to be the catcher for R.A. Dickey.

• Jeremy Hellickson had a good start.

With Stephen Drew out, the door is open for shortstop Jose Iglesias, writes Scott Lauber.

AL Central

• John Danks was hit hard, and he knows he's running out of time.

• Doug Fister struggled, as John Lowe writes.

• Little went right for the Royals.

• Some Cleveland pitchers have found some encouragement this spring, writes Paul Hoynes.

• The Twins' pitching outlook is ugly, as Jim Souhan writes.

AL West

• The Angels signed a catcher because of concerns about one of their other catchers.

• Yoenis Cespedes has some must-see batting practice.

• Derek Holland is ready to go.

MLB's latest tactic on PEDs.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Michael Schmidt writes that Major League Baseball is planning to sue some involved in the Miami PED case for damages.

From his story about the suit to be filed today:

The suit will seek to recoup money from its targets -- including the clinic's owner and a person who worked for two prominent baseball agents -- and baseball officials also hope it will produce cooperation with their investigation into the clinic's activities.

The suit is an attempt to solve the longstanding problem that Major League Baseball has faced in trying to discipline players who have been linked to doping but have not tested positive for a banned substance. After a 2007 report by former Senator George J. Mitchell detailed widespread use of performance enhancers by major league players, Commissioner Bud Selig created a department of investigations -- composed of former law enforcement officials -- to better police the sport.

But to make a doping case against players who have not tested positive, the investigators need documentary evidence or witness testimony. And because the investigators do not have law enforcement privileges, like subpoena power, they have had little leverage in trying to build cases against players that would lead to suspensions.

So now baseball is trying a new tactic. A lawsuit, if allowed to proceed, would give the sport the ability to subpoena records from the clinic, which is now closed, and compel depositions. Some of the information uncovered could then conceivably be used by baseball to justify disciplinary actions against players.

Forget the possible recompense. This is all about discovery, and if it works -- if it works -- it's an absolutely brilliant approach by Major League Baseball to get some subpoena power and access to information about drug use in Miami. It's their Trojan Horse, a possible game-changer and something that should scare the heck out of players who have been hiding their PED use behind the legal system.


• Gio Gonzalez is still being investigated, reports the Washington Post.

• Nelson Cruz is among those waiting to see if he'll be suspended.

The issue with Chapman

The theory of wanting to put your best pitchers in the best possible position to get as many outs as possible makes sense. But in Aroldis Chapman's case, there's a significant mitigating factor: He's not a Strat-O-Matic card. He's made out of flesh and blood. And he says he wants to stay in the bullpen.

Chapman is not expected to be in the starting five, reports Paul Daugherty. The Reds said later in the day that no final decision has been made, but clearly, there is a lot of fire behind this smoke.

This is not like asking/telling an outfielder to move from center to left, or from third base to first base. This is a significant change that requires major adjustments -- the development of his breaking ball and changeup. Chapman knows he is one of the best closers in the world, and if he starts, he'll have to know there are games when he's going to get knocked around. Then he'll have to wait at least four more days to get another chance. If the Reds were to force him to do that when he doesn't want to and he struggled, they could lose him emotionally. Chapman doesn't have a plow horse's show-me-the-direction approach; he's known to be a complicated guy, and if he were to fight this internally all year, it would be a mess.

Chapman stands to lose millions of dollars by committing himself to a relief role. The greatest closer in major league history happens to play for the richest East Coast team in baseball, and Mariano Rivera makes $10 million a year less than CC Sabathia, so Chapman has a lot at stake in this choice. And he still wants to close.

If they were the Astros, well, then you'd tell Chapman to hang with the starting role. But they're not. The Reds appear to have a great team with the capability of winning the World Series, and Chapman and the Reds know for sure that he can be an important part of that equation. He doesn't know, however, how he would fare as a starter, and is apparently not ready to embrace that uncertainty.

Hal McCoy has more on Chapman's personality, and the Reds' decision to keep him as their closer.


We've officially entered that time in spring training when teams have a strong sense of whom they're going to cut and whom they're going to keep, and general managers report that there is a lot of trade chum being thrown out in the market. With that in mind, some notes from camps all over:

• The Tigers don't have a lot of starting pitching depth at the highest levels of their minor league system, which is making them even more reluctant to consider a deal of Rick Porcello -- and Porcello has been having a tremendous spring, showing a better fastball and curve than at any point in his career. The Tigers have told other teams that they'll listen to offers, but for big leaguers, not prospects, and they have not made a single specific proposal to another team, asking for a particular player.

• The Pirates have a lot of candidates for the corner outfield and first base, among Jose Tabata, Starling Marte, Alex Presley and Travis Snider and Garrett Jones. As it looks right now, Marte has done a lot to follow up on his success of last year and clinch his hold on left field. Snider and Tabata are fighting for spots, and Gaby Sanchez has made a major push for playing time at first base.

• Brian McCann will open the season on the disabled list, and although he's targeting April 16 for his return, scouts who've watched him throw say he's got a lot of work to do before he comes back given all the throws that catchers have to make in the course of a game, from warming up pitchers to throwing to bases.

• Ricky Romero has struggled terribly in spring training, including five walks in 2 1/3 innings Thursday. Toronto does have the option of sending him to the minors, because he's got less than five years of service time. He's owed $22.5 million for the next three seasons, and Mike Rutsey writes that GM Alex Anthopoulos is hedging on what he said about Romero earlier in the spring.

• One longtime National Leaguer told me that it will be important for Roy Halladay to get back some of the velocity he's lost, because Halladay has always attacked hitters IN the strike zone; he's never pitched like Jamie Moyer, in trying to trick hitters OUT of the strike zone. Halladay's fastball has been clocked in the 87 mph range this spring, or about 4½ mph slower than last year.

• The Dodgers are internally comfortable with the idea of shifting Luis Cruz to shortstop and finding third base production out of the group that includes Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto and Juan Uribe. If they wanted to explore the trade market now, there are no great solutions available -- maybe someone like a Ronny Cedeno -- but later this summer, however, rival executives believe the Indians will market Asdrubal Cabrera if Cleveland starts slowly. The Indians listened to trade offers on him last fall. For now, Don Mattingly says, the Dodgers will deal with it.

• Scouts are curious to see if a full season with the Dodgers might help Adrian Gonzalez, whose bat speed seemed diminished last year. Rival evaluators say that for the first time, pitchers were able to beat Gonzalez with inside fastballs.

• Weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants talked with catcher Buster Posey about a long-term deal, but nothing is close. The best comparable might be the 12-year deal that Joey Votto got, because no player has accomplished what Posey has in his first three seasons, and because Posey -- a former college shortstop -- has shown he can move to third or first later in his career.

• This is worth thinking about, as the Yankees run out a lineup decimated by injuries: The last time the Yankees finished out of the top 10 in runs, their second baseman was Steve Sax, their catcher was Matt Nokes, and their manager was Stump Merrill. It was 1991, when Derek Jeter was a junior in high school.

By the way: Jeter won't play in any more Grapefruit League games.

• It appears that the pitcher formerly known as Fausto -- Roberto Hernandez -- is going to make the Rays' rotation, as the latest Tampa Bay reclamation project. Joe Smith has more.

• Scott Kazmir lost weight and improved his slider ... and continues to have a great showing in spring training. It appears he will be part of the Indians' rotation at the start of the season, although no formal decision has been made, as Paul Hoynes writes. Trevor Bauer was demoted.

• Teammates said Paul Konerko was greatly hampered by a wrist problem last year, and after offseason surgery, he's been having a great spring, hitting for power again.

• Oakland has a number of options at shortstop and second base, and with the likes of Jemile Weeks and Hiro Nakajima. But the front-runners could be Jed Lowrie and Scott Sizemore.

• The Angels acknowledged this week that Albert Pujols is dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis, the sort of injury that could nag. If the Angels come to believe Pujols needs some relief, they could always use Mark Trumbo at first and Pujols at DH -- although Pujols's preference has always been to play in the field.

The battle for jobs

1. Jake Arrieta appears to have moved into the lead for the No. 5 spot in the Baltimore rotation.

2. Chris Young faces a decision about his future.

3. Charlie Manuel all but said that Domonic Brown has won a job.

4. Casey Coleman is building a case for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen.

5. Jon Garland has had good results in his effort to be a Mariners starter.

6. Freddy Garcia's hopes are fading.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Ned Yost is close to announcing the Royals' rotation order.

2. The Red Sox must ponder three criteria before promoting Jackie Bradley Jr., writes Scott Lauber.

3. Matt Harrison will start Opening Day for the Rangers.

4. The Giants cut three guys.

Dings and dents

1. Stephen Drew's mind is clear.

2. Nick Markakis was cleared for baseball activities.

3. Jesse Crain is hurting, and that means opportunity for others.

Thursday's games

1. John Lackey had a good day, as Peter Abraham writes.

2. A Twins' prospect got a look, and looked good.

3. A rough outing concerns Mike Fiers.

4. Josh Hamilton had a reunion with his old team.

AL East

• The Rays intend to give Fernando Rodney a lot of rest in the next week, after he pitched in eight games in 13 days in the WBC. From Marc Topkin's story:

[Rodney] sounded equally confident that there won't be a residual effect later in the season.

"I don't think about September," Rodney said. "I think about staying healthy. If I stay healthy, I know I can do my job."

The Rays aren't as sure, manager Joe Maddon saying he's "curious" to see what the impact might be given how much they need Rodney, who last season saved 48 games in a career-high 76 appearances.

"The beginning of the season, I really feel he's going to be fine with that," Maddon said. "I think this actually could help him get off to a good start.

"I'm concerned more about the backside (of the season), and that's what I'm saying we need to watch. ... Is there going to be a time that we're going to have to back off his innings or appearances based on that? I'm not planning on that, I'm just going to try and wait and read that."

• Alex Rodriguez is expected to be with the Yankees on Opening Day.

• Casey Janssen doesn't have to pitch on back-to-back days to open the season with the team, writes Richard Griffin.

• Alex Anthopoulos takes a mature approach.

AL Central

• Octavio Dotel returned to the Tigers as a champion.

AL West

• Catchers are swinging the bat well for the Astros.

• Josh Hamilton says now that fans in Texas were great, as Gerry Fraley writes.

• Daric Barton is at a crossroads, writes John Shea.

• Jason Bay started in center field.

NL East

• Tim Hudson is getting the ball on Opening Day.

• Greg Stoda writes that the Marlins are wise to be patient with Christian Yelich.

• The Mets named David Wright captain.

• The Nationals' middle infielders come to play every day.

NL West

• Kirk Gibson has confidence in Jason Kubel.

• The Rockies are emphasizing defense.
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Thread Starter 
Season of truth for Hal Steinbrenner.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman did what good teammates should always do when speaking with reporters about Derek Jeter's status for the start of the season, noting the best-case scenario and Jeter's past healing power, saying he'd never doubt Jeter.

But Cashman also acknowledged the possibility that Jeter will open the year on the disabled list, because the fact is that he's running out of time. CC Sabathia will throw the first pitch of the Yankees' season in 11 days, and the fact is that Jeter -- coming back from a major ankle injury at age 38 -- hasn't played more than five innings in any exhibition, and the stress of even that reduced workload created soreness that he found untenable. Jeter got a cortisone injection and won't be on the field for a few days, in all likelihood, so the idea that he'll be able to build up his physical strength and comfort in a week's time to play nine innings day after day, once baseball's relentless schedule begins, is a stretch.

The Yankees have to hope that Jeter comes back as soon as possible, and as John Kruk said on our broadcast Tuesday, it has been a long time since we've seen this team go into a season relying so much on hope -- at short, at first base, in a couple of outfield spots, at catcher. Our researcher Katie Sharp dug this out: The last time the Yankees failed to rank in the top 10 in runs scored was in 1991, when they finished 16th, with 674 runs.

This may well be the summer that we learn a lot about Hal Steinbrenner. We've already known for years that's he's not his father, because the Yankees haven't been firing coaches and demoting young pitchers and because Hal hasn't once issued proclamations invoking Patton. Yankees' employees aren't required to work on national holidays anymore.

But now could be the time when we learn how much Hal Steinbrenner likes to be in the fight, how much he likes to engage. Club employees found George Steinbrenner's Patton pronouncements ironic, because The Boss tended to be the first one to be the first one to say, "This team is a disaster, and we're going to be a national embarrassment." He said it after the Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series in 1996; he said that sort of thing a lot.

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However, George Steinbrenner stayed in the ring. Whether it was because of ego or his almost childlike insistence on winning or because he had learned this relentlessness from his father, The Boss generally hung in, as the face of the tabloid back pages. (Although some baseball officials believe he accepted his ban from baseball in 1990 because the Yankees had become such a terrible team, and he wanted something else to do.)

The Yankees' shift to an austerity plan makes a lot of financial sense, because there is a lot of incentive for the Steinbrenners to get the team's payroll below $189 million for 2014.

But it's one thing to come up with a plan in the offseason in a quiet office in December, and a whole other challenge to live it hour by hour by hour through a long summer -- and this will especially be the case if the Yankees' lineup turns out to be as bad as it looks here in Florida. If the Yankees lose this year and flirt with their first sub-.500 season in more than two decades, Hal Steinbrenner is going to get blasted for the austerity plan day after day by columnists and talk show hosts. There could be rows and rows of empty seats at Yankee Stadium, and Hal would get blamed. Some of the criticism would be fair, some of it unfair, but that really wouldn't matter.

The fact is that if the Yankees struggle, the criticism would go on for weeks and months, into the winter, and this is how we'll learn something about Hal Steinbrenner, as he responds to the adversity.

Will he start firing a bunch of people? (I seriously doubt it.) Will he make changes? Will he blame? Will he retreat, out of sight? Will he step forward and take the brunt of the criticism and lead? Will he prefer to step away, uninterested in the give-and-take? Will he change course and blow up the austerity plan?

His father is the best-known owner in U.S. professional sports history, but Hal Steinbrenner is largely a mystery to the fan base of the team he owns.

But he won't be after this season, which will go a long way toward shaping our understanding of how Hal Steinbrenner, baseball owner, does his business.

• At this point, it would be a shock if Derek Jeter is ready for Opening Day. Eduardo Nunez will be the shortstop if Jeter cannot be.

Lohse update

Agent Scott Boras has a reputation among executives for being relentless, and I heard a great story about that this spring. Boras hoped to woo an established player as a client, and so one morning in the offseason, he called him three times by 9 a.m.

Of course, it was Christmas morning, the player recalled with a laugh.

Boras has never dealt with circumstances quite like he has now with Kyle Lohse, the veteran pitcher who remains unsigned. Some teams have been reluctant to sign Lohse because they'd have to part with a draft pick as compensation, and with the draft about two months away, clubs tend to be more clingy with their draft picks than they might have been last fall.

Lohse can always wait until after the draft to sign, but remember, he turned 34 last October, after the best season of his career. It will help him to be free of the draft-pick anchor, and by June, pitching holes will develop and this could make some teams aggressive in pursuing Lohse. But there's also a downside: If Lohse waits until June to sign, he will have been shut down for almost nine months, and some club figure to be somewhat wary of that kind of layoff for an older pitcher. Free agents who sign in the fall don't have to audition for scouts, but if Lohse waits to sign until June, some teams presumably will want to see him throw before jumping in.

To repeat: Lohse is going through something we've never really seen in baseball.

For the Rangers, the Kyle Lohse rumors won't go away, writes Gil LeBreton.

Porcello shines

Rick Porcello threw well again. From Tom Gage's story:

Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello doesn't boast about his performances.

So his catcher Brayan Pena did it for him.

"I heard a lot of cursing in Spanish from the hitters," Pena said after Porcello held one of the Houston Astros' Class A teams to one hit and no earned runs Wednesday.

Porcello's full line was 6 2/3 innings, one hit, one run (unearned), two walks, four strikeouts.

Porcello already has built a foundation of experience in the big leagues, and yet he just turned 24 last December. Unless some team stepped up with a significant trade offer, I'd be really reluctant to deal him if I sat in the Tigers' shoes. An element that distinguishes Detroit as a World Series contender is the depth of its rotation, and as we see every year with almost every team, six or seven or more starting pitchers are needed. The Tigers got in trouble last year when Doug Fister got hurt, which precipitated the trade for Anibal Sanchez.

Now the Tigers have six starters, including Porcello and Drew Smyly. Short of a big offer for Porcello: Keep 'em all. Because inevitably somebody will get hurt, and if all six are still functioning well in midseason, Porcello could always be used then as trade bait to fill a need.

There really would be only one reason to deal Porcello now: If the Tigers perceive that his value will never be higher, relative to his salary, and they don't necessarily think he'll be anything more than a back-end of the rotation starter. But that's a difficult presumption to make when he's still so young.

There is a really good pitcher in the big leagues who wasn't really established by the time he was 26, when he had a 4.11 ERA with only 93 strikeouts in 171 innings.

That was Doug Fister, with the Mariners, in 2010. And then he got better.

Porcello seems to be getting better, too. Almost all spring training numbers don't mean anything, but this does: He hasn't issued a walk in 18 innings, and has 18 strikeouts.

Dings and dents

1. John Danks is headed to the disabled list, writes Mark Gonzales.

2. Brett Lawrie's rib injury is on the mend, writes Brendan Kennedy.

3. The Blue Jays think Casey Janssen will be ready for Opening Day.

4. David Ortiz took another step in his rehab.

5. Zack Greinke pitched and said he feels great.

6. David Wright still has his sights set on Opening Day.

7. And for the Mets, the hits just keep on coming: Shaun Marcum has a shoulder thing.

8. The Dodgers think Hanley Ramirez could be out two months. On Wednesday, the projected starting third baseman, Luis Cruz, was shifted to shortstop, as Ken Gurnick writes.

The fight for jobs

1. Zach Britton's push to make the Orioles' rotation took a hit.

2. Some roster spots are up for grabs in Boston, writes Tim Britton.

3. The Marlins are still auditioning center fielders.

4. An infielder appears to have won a job with the Padres.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates traded for John McDonald.

2. The answer to the Aroldis Chapman thing could come today. He has spoken loud and clear, writes Hal McCoy.

This is the part that's hard for the Reds' management: If the player says flatly he wants to do something else -- in a role that's less lucrative for him down the road -- it'll be hard to say no. If they kept him in the rotation and he struggled, he might begin harboring resentment and frustration, which wouldn't help his pitching.

3. Ben Cherington won't panic, writes Scott Lauber.

4. The biggest question for the Rangers is what to do with Jurickson Profar, writes Gerry Fraley.

5. The Marlins cut Chone Figgins. If Figgins never plays in the big leagues again, these will be his final numbers: 11 seasons, 700 runs, a career on-base percentage of .349, 337 stolen bases, and a World Series championship.

6. Looks like the Mariners will go with leadoff man by committee, writes Geoff Baker.

7. The Yankees likely will sign Chien-Ming Wang, writes Dan Martin.

Wednesday's games

1. Mike Minor got knocked around. Freddie Freeman had a big day.

2. Jeff Francis had really good command.

3. Tommy Hanson had some biceps tightness.

NL East

• Bryce Harper is just wrecking the ball.

• Mike Stutes is happy to be healthy.

NL Central

• Major League Baseball says it's not targeting Ryan Braun, per se. USA Today reports that MLB is targeting Braun.

• The Cardinals got their Molina back, as Derrick Goold writes.

NL West

• Gregor Blanco is learning to be himself.

• Trevor Cahill is working on his control.

• Troy Tulowitzki is regarded as an MVP candidate.

• The Padres need a breakout year from Yonder Alonso.

AL Central

• Jeff Francoeur feels like he's finding his swing, writes Bob Dutton.

• Trevor Plouffe got his work in.

• Samuel Deduno is intriguing, writes Mike Berardino.

• Trevor Bauer became the first major leaguer ever to utter the word neuromuscular.

AL West

Jason Castro is getting into the swing of things.

AL East

• Brian Roberts feels OK.

• Alex Cobb has health and confidence, writes Marc Topkin.

• The Rays are concerned about the workload that Fernando Rodney had in the WBC.

• Brandon Gomes has had a great spring for the Rays.

For Phillies, it hinges on Roy Halladay.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
CLEARWATER , Fla. -- Just before Roy Halladay threw his first pitch here Sunday, he stepped behind the mound and bent over at the waist, as you might see on a weekend morning outside of a fraternity on St. Patrick's Day.

I tried to remember if the future Hall of Famer had some sort of Turk Wendell routine, kicking the rosin bag or drawing something in the dirt for good luck. But that's not really Halladay's style, so when the Phillies announced after he lasted only one subpar inning that he departed with a stomach virus, the explanation seemed plausible to me.

And anyway, the conspiracy theories about whether he was removed because of his fastball velocity are irrelevant. Eventually, it's the hitters who will tell us whether Halladay's spring problems are temporary or permanent. Eventually, he's going to have to get back on the mound, after he's feeling better, and he's going to have to try to get hitters out, no matter what he's throwing. Then we'll know.

The red flags still hover over Halladay, who had an ugly outing six days ago in which he could neither command his fastball nor throw it very hard, and Sunday's small sample -- for whatever it's worth -- wasn't very good, either. Scouts sitting behind home plate with radar guns reported he was throwing in the 85-87 mph range, and as the inning progressed, he had difficulty commanding his fastball.

If Halladay bounces back, then the Phillies' world will look oh-so-different, because there is a lot of good stuff happening for them this spring. Ryan Howard has been hammering the ball this spring, driving the ball the other way; being out with an injury, he said, allowed him to refocus and review videotape from 2008 and realize that he had stopped concentrating on taking the ball to left-center and left field. After working with Wally Joyner just before the start of spring training, Domonic Brown loosened his grip of the bat and has been swinging better.

Michael Young was on the half-field again at 8:50 a.m. Sunday, as he has been most every morning since the Phillies' camp opened, taking ground balls hit by Ryne Sandberg. Young had thought about his struggles at third base for the Rangers and decided it didn't make sense, because he's not a big, lumbering guy and he's got good hands; something didn't add up. He thought about how he moved just before the pitch when he played shortstop -- upright, mostly, because when a ball was hit he had the time to react. But that approach hadn't worked so well at third base, and when he arrived at camp, he talked to Sandberg about staying low, so that he would be in position to react more quickly. As Sandberg slapped the grounders at him, Young looked like a lobster, crouched just above the infield dirt. He has fared well at the position this spring, the Phillies feel.

Chase Utley moved past all the offseason knee rehabilitation he has done and instead focused on baseball drills, and he is bouncing around in a way he hasn't in years, with some built-in caution. When the rest of the Phillies worked on infield drills before batting practice, Utley was not on the field -- because really, there's no point. There is some conservation being practiced, to save Utley for the regular season.

The most subtle alteration is an attempt to reinvigorate the team, to create more energy, and some players say they can feel the difference, from the way that new hitting coach Steve Henderson and Joyner like to talk about hitting, to the presence of catching instructor Mick Billmeyer in the dugout. Ben Revere, the new center fielder, brings a lot of energy, and Young is highly regarded for his consistent daily approach. The Phillies have mostly had the same group for the past six years, and there was a sense in the front office that change was needed.

In 2011, he had an average fastball velocity over 91.4 mph in 26 of his 32 starts. To repeat: in 26 of 32 starts, he had a better fastball than he did in all but one of his starts in 2012.
But in a division which includes arguably the most dynamic team, the Nationals, and a well-rounded power in the Braves, the Phillies' makeover may be meaningless if Halladay doesn't rebound. The Phillies need their big three of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Halladay in order to contend, and the fact is that it has been awhile since Halladay threw like a top-shelf pitcher.

Look at the game logs for Halladay in 2011, courtesy of

Now check out 2012.

The difference is enormous. Halladay had only one start in 2012 in which he had an average fastball velocity of over 91.4 mph -- on May 7, against the Mets -- and on that day, not surprisingly, he had a typical Halladay outing, allowing two runs in seven innings.

In 2011, he had an average fastball velocity over 91.4 mph in 26 of his 32 starts. To repeat: in 26 of 32 starts, he had a better fastball than he did in all but one of his starts in 2012.

He simply did not have anything close to the same weapons he had in previous seasons, and his performance suffered, a lot, with his ERA climbing by more than two runs.

The early signs this spring are not good. Which is why his next start will be the most watched outing of the spring, after his aborted attempt Sunday. Radar guns really aren't needed; the opposing hitters will tell us whether Halladay is in trouble, and if the Phillies, too, are in trouble.


• Eric Kratz is confident in Halladay, writes Ryan Lawrence. The Phillies shouldn't rush Halladay, writes David Murphy.

• The Dodgers' Carl Crawford returned to action.

• Mark Teixeira could be out into June, or longer.

• It's possible that the Red Sox will open the season with Jackie Bradley Jr. in their outfield. From Tim Britton's story:

With David Ortiz out for Opening Day and Stephen Drew increasingly a question mark, Jackie Bradley Jr. still has a chance of breaking camp with the Sox.

"We've got two weeks to determine that," manager John Farrell said. "The bottom line thing would be, when any young player comes to the big leagues, you want to be sure they get regular at-bats. If those are there, that becomes part of the equation. Most importantly, he's doing whatever he can to impact the decision."

Bradley has had a marvelous spring. He's hitting .444 (16-for-36) with an on-base percentage of .556. His defense has been eye-opening.

• Within this Lynn Henning piece, he writes that unless some team meets the high asking price for Rick Porcello, the Tigers will likely send Drew Smyly to Triple-A.

• David Wright says his pain is easing.

• Alex Rios delivered Puerto Rico into the WBC title game.

Dings and dents

1. Chase Headley is going to miss some time after jamming his thumb. From Bill Center's story:

In the top of the first, Headley jammed his thumb sliding into second as he attempted to break up a double play.

"He sorta got stuck and got twisted around," Black said. "His thumb ended up hitting the bag and his thumb was in a bad spot."

Asked about his level of concern regarding Headley's injury, Black said, "I'm always concerned about our players, even when they're healthy. But this is our important player for us, and we're hoping for the best."

2. The Jays' Casey Janssen took another step forward.

3. Pablo Sandoval doesn't think his elbow issue is serious, writes John Shea.

4. Zack Greinke had a pain-free bullpen session.

5. Albert Pujols could play first base for the first time on Tuesday, as Kevin Baxter writes.

6. Some guys nursing injuries with the White Sox are getting better.

7. Avisail Garcia is out indefinitely.

The fight for jobs

1. A left-hander is trying to win a job in the Pirates' bullpen.

2. Robbie Ross is feeling like a starting pitcher again.

3. Luis Mendoza just keeps throwing up zeros in his effort to win a job in the Kansas City rotation.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Matt Diaz was cut.

2. The Diamondbacks have roster decisions to make.

3. The Astros' roster maneuvering has only just begun.

Sunday's games

1. Jon Lester looks locked in, writes Tim Britton.

2. Steve Pearce hit his fourth home run of spring.

3. Tim Lincecum had a good day, as Carl Steward writes within this notebook.

4. Ricky Nolasco fixed his delivery, as Joe Capozzi writes.

5. Lance Lynn had a bad day, and the Cardinals were shut out again, writes Rick Hummel.

NL West

• Tyler Skaggs has struggled.

• Dexter Fowler likes this spring training better, writes Patrick Saunders.

NL Central

• Alex Presley is singing a different tune this spring, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• It's not a lock that Aroldis Chapman will get what he wants, writes Mark Sheldon. From his piece:

By Sunday afternoon, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty had heard all about pitcher Aroldis Chapman's public wishes to remain as the team's closer. Jocketty did not want to discuss the issue in depth.

It's not a lock that Chapman will get what he wants, however.

"It would certainly be considered, but we don't let every player tell us how they want to be used," Jocketty told

• Scott Baker is a work in progress.

• Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy returned to the Brewers.

NL East

• The Nationals have had a lot of championship chatter this spring, writes Thomas Boswell.

• Drew Storen talked about his struggles. From Adam Kilgore's story:

"I would be upset if I felt like I wasn't making progress," Storen said. And he believes that he is.

Storen's confidence has not fully pacified his manager. After Storen's latest outing, which brought his spring totals to 12 hits, five earned runs and two walks in seven innings, Davey Johnson diagnosed what he saw as Storen's problem.

"Storen, he's a little too deliberate," Johnson said. "He's thinking too much. When you try to be that precise, it's kind of paralysis by analysis. I want him to just trust his stuff and pitch. He's got great stuff. He knows how to pitch. Sometimes, he just starts going out there and trying to overthrow the ball. But that's power pitchers."

AL West

• Hiro Nakajima could get some time at second base, writes Scott Ostler.

• Vernon Wells feels young again this spring, writes Jeff Fletcher.

• The Mariners' Blake Beavan had a really good outing.

• Matt Harrison was really efficient.

AL Central

• Vinnie Pestano is bummed about his struggles in the WBC.

• Donnie Joseph has become a viable option for the Royals' bullpen, writes Bob Dutton.

• Drew Smyly was somewhat frustrated by his Sunday outing, as George Sipple writes.

• The Twins have some big pitchers, writes Phil Miller.

AL East

• Kevin Gausman, who has looked great this spring, will make his next appearance against the Red Sox.

• This is a pivotal season for Adam Lind, writes Mike Rutsey.

• A couple of second basemen allow the Blue Jays to diversify.

• Desmond Jennings is ready to bounce back, writes Marc Topkin.

Answering baseball's biggest questions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The season begins two weeks from today, and in the next 14 days there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. Here are six of them:

1. Is Aroldis Chapman a closer or starter?

Chapman started Saturday and had mixed results, with some command issues -- in keeping with some scouts' perception of him. "For me, he's got one major league quality pitch," said a longtime evaluator. "His fastball. His other pitches aren't major league caliber."

If the Cincinnati Reds share the same view internally, then it would make sense for them to return him to the back end of the bullpen. A short reliever can be successful with one pitch, but it's very rare that a starting pitcher can thrive with any fewer than two.

The good thing for the Reds is they've got a solid alternative. Recently, Mike Leake greatly impressed some scouts with his full repertoire, including a fastball that touched 93 mph. "He's got four pitches that are major league quality," said one scout. "I'd recommend him to our guys if he went on the [trade] market as a solid No. 3 in a rotation."

The fact that Chapman came out Saturday and said flatly that he wants to be the closer could make this decision even simpler for the Reds. From John Fay's story:

"Truthfully, I would like to be a closer, but that's not in my hands."

Chapman is getting ready as a starter. He went four innings and pitched well after a very shaky start Saturday. He allowed one run on two hits. He walked three and struck out two.

Chapman likes the thrill of the end of the game.

"In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn't know about," he said. "But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game -- when the game is more exciting -- I kind of liked it. The adrenaline goes up. I would like to be in that situation. But that's something I can't control."

Chapman would like a decision soon.

Chapman theoretically has as much to gain as the Reds by switching to the rotation, because down the road, working as a starting pitcher would be a much more lucrative business than serving in short relief.

2. Who will be the Tigers' closer?

My guess -- and that's all it is -- is that Detroit manager Jim Leyland won't name a full-time closer before Opening Day, and he'll open the year prepared to finish games with Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit -- and Bruce Rondon, who threw well again Saturday. I don't think the Tigers want to put any title on Rondon's shoulders until they are certain he's ready, and that may not be until well after the season starts, as the rookie gets more comfortable. They can open the season with him pitching the sixth or seventh inning one day, and then have him finish a game in his next appearance, then have the flexibility to have him go back to the seventh. He doesn't have to save games in every save chance early in the season to be a productive part of the bullpen.

To be clear: There really is no need for Leyland to anoint a closer now.

3. What will the Dodgers do with Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano?

Both are available for the right offer, but both are expensive enough and old enough that some rival officials figure that their best play is to wait until the roster deadline forces L.A. to make decisions and puts the Dodgers in a position in which they'll have to eat the maximum number of dollars to make deals.

4. What will happen with Kyle Lohse?

Here's the thing about most -- and maybe all -- baseball teams: Sometime in late January, after the heavy lifting of the winter is just about over, general managers and owners tend to go into wait-and-see mode. Their budgets and rosters are pretty much set, they have internal options to consider and they want to see what happens early in the season before considering major changes.

All of that is a long way of saying, again, that Lohse is in a terrible spot right now. The music has stopped playing, and the chairs have been filled. A lot of folks in baseball respect Lohse and what he accomplished last year, but with the draft drawing closer -- it's little more than two months away -- they're even less inclined to surrender a top pick to sign the right-hander, who is tied to compensation. The interest from teams such as the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers has been extremely lukewarm. Lohse has been jobless for so long now that even if he were to sign a deal today, he would almost have to miss the first turns of the regular season.

Some club officials say they might have had interest in Lohse early in the offseason if his price tag had been lower, but they moved on -- and now he's caught in this terrible place where his value is dramatically reduced by the calendar and by the rules (and those stresses will only continue to mount day by day). I can't remember a similar situation in baseball history.

The Brewers could still sign Lohse, writes Tom Haudricourt. In order to do that, the Brewers would have to surrender their first-round pick, No. 17 overall. Presumably, agent Scott Boras -- who is known for being incredibly persistent -- is making his case to Brewers owner Mark Attanasio directly, because folks in the baseball operations department will tend to be more protective of draft picks and draft dollars and the long-term ramifications of surrendering a chance at young talent.

5. What is Domonic Brown's status?

As of now, it appears he's going to be the Phillies' starting left fielder, after a strong spring showing.

6. Will the Indians keep Daisuke Matsuzaka?

Cleveland has to make a choice by March 26 on whether to keep him in the big leagues, and if the Indians don't want to keep him, then Matsuzaka will have to make his own decision.

Other news

" Wil Myers was sent to the minors by the Rays, as expected.

" The Nationals are going to use Dan Haren as their No. 4 starter, and Ross Detwiler as their No. 5, it appears.

On Stephen Strasburg's 86th pitch, he threw 97 mph; as Adam Kilgore writes, he appears ready to go.

" Roy Halladay is set to pitch today, and there's a lot riding on it.

" David Wright is likely to be named captain of the Mets.

" The Dominican Republic shut out Puerto Rico.

Dings and dents

1. Ryan Zimmerman played third base for the first time since shoulder surgery.

2. Daniel Murphy is dealing with a rib cage injury.

3. Marc Rzepczynski was back for the Cardinals.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees would not have signed Brennan Boesch if not for the fact that they still have the ability to send him to the minor leagues, if necessary, and if they hadn't been able to sign him to a split contract: $500,000 if he plays in the minors, $1.5 million if he plays in the majors. Given the apparent lack of interest in him, the Yankees also might have the ability, if Boesch struggles in the next few weeks, to get him through waivers, take him off the 40-man roster and outright him to the minor leagues. Boesch will have to win a spot in the big leagues.

He joined the Yankees on Saturday.

2. The Orioles optioned Dylan Bundy to the minors.

3. The Tigers figure to carry a right-handed hitter on their bench, says Leyland. Andy Dirks appears to be set to be the team's everyday left fielder.

4. Inventory is a key factor for the Royals as they make roster choices, writes Bob Dutton.

5. It's official: Chris Sale is the Opening Day starter for the White Sox.

6. The Rangers are still trying to decide who to pick for their No. 5 starter.

7. The Marlins assigned a top prospect to the minors.

8. Arizona returned a Rule 5 pick.

9. Tyson Ross continues to push for a rotation spot with the Padres.

Saturday's games

1. Jake Arrieta pitched well.

2. A Cubs youngster put on a show, Jesse Rogers writes.

3. Paul Maholm had another strong outing.

4. Clayton Kershaw had the sort of outing that will make him happy, Dylan Hernandez writes.

5. A Mariners pitcher settled down.

6. Jered Weaver dealt with a dead arm Saturday.

NL East

Now Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are the faces of the Braves, writes David O'Brien.

Wilson Ramos has been steeled by knee surgery, writes James Wagner.

Ryne Sandberg has helped Michael Young solve problems at third base, writes Bob Brookover.

Craig Kimbrel wants a strong finish to spring training.

Chris Coghlan is trying something new with the Marlins.

NL Central

St. Louis GM John Mozeliak has liked what he's seen in the Cardinals' camp.

Jose Tabata needs to show something with the Pirates, writes Bill Brink.

Some Pirates pitchers are experimenting, writes Karen Price.

John Gibbons sees some Jose Bautista in Travis Snider.

Devin Mesoraco is surging, writes Tim Schmitt. I've heard great things about his accountability for his performance -- to the point where you wonder if part of his improvement will be tied to finding a way to put less pressure on himself.

NL West

A.J. Ellis has had a long climb to success, writes Tyler Kepner.

Troy Renck thinks the Rockies' lineup needs to include Eric Young Jr.

Brandon Belt was the subject of some offseason brainwashing, writes Scott Ostler.

AL East

John Harper writes about the mechanical adjustments Kevin Youkilis has been making.

Alfredo Aceves almost got in another dust-up.

Derek Jeter has not played more than four innings in the field.

Will Middlebrooks got some words of solace from Evan Longoria.

There are big expectations for Longoria.

John Tomase has 10 predictions for the Red Sox.

A couple of Jays returned to their team, now that their WBC service is over.

Brandon Morrow wants to pick up where he left off, Brendan Kennedy reports.

Luke Scott is trying an unusual drill, writes Roger Mooney.

AL Central

With two weeks to go in the Indians' camp, Paul Hoynes gives this assessment.

Drew Stubbs thinks he can help the Indians steal 200 bases this year. So far this spring, Stubbs is 7-for-30, with 10 strikeouts.

Sam Deduno is trying to win a rotation job with the Twins.

AL West

Peter Bourjos is getting a big chance.

Carlos Correa had a nice debut for the Astros.

Stock up, stock down for '13 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It remains early in the schedule but there already are a handful of prospects who have helped themselves and even a few that may have hurt their stock. There's plenty of time for the latter to turn things around -- we're about 10 weeks from draft day -- but the reasons vary for both groups.

Stock up

Jonathan Gray | RHP, Oklahoma
Gray has blown past teammate, left-hander Dillon Overton, and into the top 10. He continues to hold his velocity from week to week and show an out-pitch slider, suggesting his ascent is far from complete. His size -- 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- suggests a workhorse who could warrant consideration in the top five, perhaps even No. 1 overall. He does lack the track record of other college arms in the class, which is something to consider. Gray will face TCU Saturday.

Trevor Williams | RHP, Arizona State
Williams began the season with scouts wanting to see better command within the strike zone and a more consistent breaking ball, and he's been better in both areas than he was a year ago. He's piling up more strikeouts (30 in 37 innings) as a result, which gives him a much better shot to stick as a starter, and therefore is a potential top-20 pick. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander will face Oregon State Friday night.

Braden Shipley | RHP, Nevada
Shipley may be the highest riser in the as his athleticism and improved velocity since last spring has led to a better profile. His best future pitch is a 55-grade slider that has a chance to climb another grade. Shipley repeats his delivery well and maintains arm speed. The right-hander will face potential first-round bat DJ Peterson and New Mexico Friday night in Albuquerque.

Tim Anderson | SS, East Central (Miss.) CC
Anderson, whom Keith Law ranked at No. 50 overall in the initial edition of the Future 50, looks the part of a high draft pick thanks to tremendous athletic ability that ultimately could keep him at shortstop, among the most difficult positions to fill in MLB. His bat will dictate where he lands in June, but scouts will have to put in the work on him since he won't face top competition at the junior college level. So far he's impressed at the plate, which has pushed him up draft boards early. Anderson's next game is Saturday afternoon versus Itawamaba CC.

Stock down

Jonathon Crawford | RHP, Florida
Crawford started the season as a potential top-10 pick after regularly touching the mid-90s a year ago. His velocity is down into the low-90s thus far in 2013, which has led to the right-hander throwing more sliders. He's also battled some general control and command problems. All of the above can be cleaned up unless there's an injury involved -- there are no indications this is the case, however -- but with Gray and Shipley improving their stock and several others maintaining theirs, Crawford has a lot of work to do jump back into the top-10 conversation. He'll get his first chance Friday versus Vanderbilt's Kevin Ziomek and a solid Commodores lineup.

Bobby Wahl | RHP, Ole Miss
Wahl remains a potential Day 1 pick but he hasn't done much to change the minds of scouts that see his future in the bullpen or at the back end of the starting rotation. He's struggled commanding his fastball and his secondary stuff has been mediocre. Wahl will face Texas A&M Friday night.

Oscar Mercado | SS, Gaither (Fla.) High School
Mercado can play shortstop but isn't a surefire first-round pick because scouts question the hit tool and the lack of power projection. He's likely to be limited to gap-power grades and will have to show some strength, approach and consistency in making hard contact -- something that has yet to occur a lot this spring -- to improve his stock between now and season's end. As with Anderson, however, shortstops are difficult to find and with Mercado there is time to develop the stick some. Mercado's next game is at Chamberlain (Fla.) HS under the Friday night lights.

Watching the weekend

*Gonzaga left-hander Marco Gonzales will face San Diego and one of the top hitters in the draft class in Kris Bryant, who brings a .386/.561/.986 triple-slash and 12 homers into the weekend series. Gonzales has weapons to test Bryant's patience and approach, however, including fastball command and a feel for two above-average-to-plus offspeed pitches in a curveball and changeup.

*Clint Frazier of Loganville (Ga.) HS looks to continue his onslaught at the plate versus Farragut (Ga.) HS on Friday. Frazier has been sensational from the get-go and is firmly in the top half of the first round at this stage.

*Austin Meadows will try to save off Frazier as the top prep player in the class as Grayson (Ga.) HS tales on Archer HS on Friday. Meadows, coincidentally, was the subject of my bleacher conversation with a national crosschecker in Phoenix earlier this week as we prepared to scout Yukon (Okla.) HScatcher Jon Denney. "[Meadows] is a top 10 pick in most recent drafts," the crosschecker said. "You have to really like the kid to take a high schooler that high, like (Byron) Buxton last year and Bubba Starling a few years ago. That's close to a premium talent, though."

*Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek will take another shot at righting the ship at highly-ranked South Carolina over the weekend. The stuff has been there for him in most starts, but the command and delivery are at least mild concerns at this point.

*Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea will face Southern Illinois as he attempts to regain some of the momentum he created over the summer on the Cape. The velocity is down a tick and the breaking ball has been inconsistent, at best. As Law wrote Wednesday, Manaea is still a top-10 talent, but he's seen others pass him this spring.

*Stanford right-hander Mark Appel returns to action after a weekend off and will face Utah Friday night. The senior has a tight grasp on the No. 1 spot in the Future 50, though whether he actually goes No. 1 overall come June is questionable.

*Ryan Eades, LSU's top 2013 draft prospect, will face Auburn Saturday. With continued consistent outings, the right-hander has a chance to crack the top 20, particularly if a club wants to snag him at a below-slot price and use the savings later in the draft.

*Serra HS first baseman Dominic Smith will head to Mater Dei (Calif.) HS Saturday before going on break. Scouts love Smith's hit tool and generally see him as a No. 5-hole hitter who may hit .300 with power.

*Scouts flocked to Peoria over the weekend and again this week to see Langley Blaze (B.C.) catcher Tyler O'Neill face the San Diego Padres' and Seattle Mariners' Class-A clubs. O'Neill flashed a plus throwing arm, strength, good defensive energy and promise at the plate, though one crosschecker opined that his catching skills are very raw and that he could end up in the outfield. Langley Blaze is a Canadian club team that regularly produces top talent, including Brett Lawrie.

Best MLB team prop bets.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baseball doesn't have the gambling market that football does, but that doesn't mean the sport's entirely devoid of some fun opportunities to either win some dough with your acumen and luck, or to look wi****lly at the missing digits in your bank account come October.

Vegas is darn hard to beat. If it wasn't, Vegas simply would be a rather boring desert town instead of the symbolic representation of glitz and glamour. If you win your bets 50 percent of the time, you're losing money, but if you're one of the lucky few to consistently win 54 to 55 percent of the time, you're probably pleased with the number of commas on your monthly statement.

So here's your opportunity to either win or lose money along with me, as I use the ZiPS projection system to help pick my favorite team bets going into the 2013 season. I won't provide any Super Diamond Extra Plus Premium Ultra Mega-Lock Picks while wearing a bad plaid jacket from the 1970s and gaudy pinkie rings, but I can promise that at least we'll suffer misfortune together.

We'll look at team prop bets today and then come back with a look at individual props once Vegas issues a full list.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The wager: Over 81½ wins

Fellow stat-nerds may secretly revoke my membership in a dark, 3 a.m. meeting, but I think that Kevin Towers has done a better job, at least with the 2013 team, than a lot of people think. I'm not quite sure that the overall talent in return for Justin Upton was maximized, but Martin Prado is a really good player right now and he's a gigantic upgrade on Chris Johnson, now Atlanta's worst defender since John Bell Hood.

Cliff Pennington and eventually, Didi Gregorius, are better than you think, and Arizona's organizational depth of upper-level starting pitching gives them flexibility to deal with the season's inevitable nasty surprises. ZiPS has Arizona pegged for 86 wins, which gives it a great shot at the division. The Dodgers are a good team, but don't confuse payroll with invincibility.

New York Mets
The wager: Under 74½ wins

I love the future of some of the young players on the Mets, most notably Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Travis d'Arnaud, but only Harvey will make the team at the start of the season and while I think he's got amazing upside, he's likely a No. 3-type at this moment.

Otherwise, the team's neither that good nor that deep. The team will benefit from a healthier Ike Davis and the expiration of last year's idea that playing Jason Bay will make teams want to acquire Jason Bay, but that's balanced with the likelihood that David Wright will regress somewhat from easily his best year since 2008 and the loss of last year's Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey.

If a lot goes right, the Mets could hit 75 wins, but the best bet is somewhere between the mid-60s and low-70s. (ZiPS currently has them pegged for 66 wins.) Jerry Orbach once said in an episode of "Law & Order:" "Love the Mets, but don't bet on them." Who am I to contradict one of TV's all-time great detectives?

Atlanta Braves
The wager: NL pennant, 7-to-1 odds

The Nats are a better team overall than the Braves, but Atlanta has a strong shot at being the No. 2 team in the NL and still retains a very good shot at the division (ZiPS has Atlanta at 37 percent to win the the NL East, compared to Washington's 49 percent).

If you're going to pick someone to punch about its weight class in the postseason, I'll put my cash on a team with a bullpen so unbelievably strong that you can't help but wonder if the team found some crazy loophole in the rules that baseball never noticed. Playoff teams are closely matched, after all, and closer games (on average) increases the value of a good bullpen.

Chicago Cubs
The wager: Over 73½ wins

The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals won't be sweating, but the Cubs do have enough talent on the roster and enough acceptable fill-ins that they could really surprise some people. Last season was likely Chicago's nadir as Edwin Jackson's rock-steady averageness was something the Cubs really needed in the rotation, and three-quarters of the infield (Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney) was solid.

Third base is still a hideous, ugly mess, but there's enough here to expect the Cubs to ascend from the bottom of the league to somewhere in that mediocre middle. ZiPS sees a 75-win team, and breakout candidates like Rizzo give the Cubs some upside.

Cleveland Indians
The wagers: AL pennant 30-to-1 odds; World Series 66-to-1

Everyone loves to take a flier on a long shot, so try to make yours the one with the easiest path to the playoffs. Anything can happen in October, after all. Every division other than the AL Central has two (or more) really solid teams, but Cleveland's home only has the Detroit Tigers. ZiPS has the Indians pegged as a .500 team, but the weak division means they have a 1-in-4 shot at eclipsing 85 wins. That would put them in the thick of the playoff hunt.

The Indians' offense is solid right now, without needing a bunch of happy surprises. The question is the pitching. When it comes down to it, if Detroit falters, it's worth gambling on pitchers who have shown dominant stuff, such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson. And there's still that X factor out there in Kyle Lohse -- the Indians have expressed that they're not interested, but he'd be an excellent fit and if his cost comes down as we approach Opening Day, it's something to keep in the back of your mind.
post #10191 of 73438
Thread Starter 
I'm kinda shocked you guys thought LA would finish above 3rd place TBH.
post #10192 of 73438
is there gonna be a fantasy baseball thread?
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #10193 of 73438
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I'm kinda shocked you guys thought LA would finish above 3rd place TBH.

dodgers or angels? doesnt matter, both teams will compete for the division.

post #10194 of 73438
Originally Posted by do work son View Post

is there gonna be a fantasy baseball thread?

i started a thread for a niketalk fantasy league but not much interest being generated

post #10195 of 73438
Originally Posted by LoveHateSelf View Post

Originally Posted by do work son View Post

is there gonna be a fantasy baseball thread?
i started a thread for a niketalk fantasy league but not much interest being generated

Thats because there is already a fantasy baseball thread which people have already hammered out new leagues in.
post #10196 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by LoveHateSelf View Post

dodgers or angels? doesnt matter, both teams will compete for the division.

Well both but the Dodgers since they were being talked about laugh.gif they may compete for a while but I don't see em keeping up with SF or Arizona. They have some major depth issues and too many players on the decline.
post #10197 of 73438
Chapman will be the Reds closer. Leake in the rotation.
post #10198 of 73438
^Damn, guess they felt the secondary pitches weren't there. Still, risk would probably have been worth the potential reward to see him begin the season as a starter.

Hoping for the best for my O's, but unless Buck can work his magic again, we're going to be fighting for 3rd or worse. Bundy needs to be up ASAP.

And it's going to weird seeing Halladay likely be a less than great pitcher. Reported topping out at 88 these days.
post #10199 of 73438
Thread Starter 
I remember reading he requested it. Since Dusty and Walt probably wanted that, they granted it.
post #10200 of 73438
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

^Damn, guess they felt the secondary pitches weren't there. Still, risk would probably have been worth the potential reward to see him begin the season as a starter.

Hoping for the best for my O's, but unless Buck can work his magic again, we're going to be fighting for 3rd or worse. Bundy needs to be up ASAP.

And it's going to weird seeing Halladay likely be a less than great pitcher. Reported topping out at 88 these days.

This is honestly the right move. The guy throws 98-102 consistently...he should get 40+ saves easily
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