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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 376

post #11251 of 73003
Originally Posted by Lightweight Champion View Post

I don't sit, ponder, and calculate how much you spend. My point is I would not go to a game not including my team if my team is playing elsewhere at that time.

Secondly, wearing another team's apparel that isn't playing makes you look like you don't know anything. Even if you don't know, don't show everyone that you don't know anything.

How do you know he knows nothing?

Ever thought that the person may be a baseball fan in general?

Unless it's offensive, who cares what you wear.
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #11252 of 73003
I think we all know about the Marlins fan that wears a Marlins jersey regardless of what team is playing. Not a big deal imo. Not really the type to judge with no context.
post #11253 of 73003
Going to the Met's game Wednesday vs the Dodgers...

Will try to snatch a Kemp autograph, a Yankee's fan but can't wait to see that dude Harvey.
post #11254 of 73003
Originally Posted by Lightweight Champion View Post

I don't sit, ponder, and calculate how much you spend. My point is I would not go to a game not including my team if my team is playing elsewhere at that time.

Secondly, wearing another team's apparel that isn't playing makes you look like you don't know anything. Even if you don't know, don't show everyone that you don't know anything.

So when I travel to cities I shouldn't go to the ballpark unless my team is playing? Hm, guess the 12 or so ballparks I've been to has been a waste of time; I mean I've loved it but if the Pirates were playing elsewhere I should've stayed home. laugh.gif. You are missing out with that type of thinking, travel, enjoy, explore new parks

As far as gear, baseball is the one pro sport you see it because people do travel just to see different stadiums. Few other sports are like that, so let them rep their home team. If they are being an a-clown, that's a different story but otherwise no big deal at all

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 #11255 of 73003
Ill wear my Giants fitted to an A's game. It pisses off my friend laugh.gif
post #11256 of 73003
The hell is going on in here? Lol
post #11257 of 73003
Ya you wear a giants fitted to a dodger game you'll hear about it laugh.gif no matter who's playing
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 #11258 of 73003
Originally Posted by 4one5 View Post

I'll rock a Giants sweater to a Warriors game. IDGAF.



nothing wrong with that. but you wouldnt go to a warriors game with a laker hat on and its Warriors vs heat right?

post #11259 of 73003
Originally Posted by Bigmike23 View Post

Originally Posted by 4one5 View Post

I'll rock a Giants sweater to a Warriors game. IDGAF.

nothing wrong with that. but you wouldnt go to a warriors game with a laker hat on and its Warriors vs heat right?

See, I think when you're talking about people showing up to games with paraphernalia of the most popular team's in the league it almost becomes a different question, because nobody wants to see those fans show up to their games, which is a different reason than what most people here are responding with. If you replace the Lakers hat with a Bucks hat, it's a huge difference isn't it?
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 #11260 of 73003
Originally Posted by Lpheat22 View Post

Ya you wear a giants fitted to a dodger game you'll hear about it laugh.gif no matter who's playing

Same thing in SF laugh.gif
post #11261 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Tracking Tampa's top prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Durham hosted an 11 a.m. "Education Day" game on Thursday against Charlotte, giving me an opportunity to see a few of Tampa's top prospects, including the two major names they acquired in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade.

• Durham starter Jake Odorizzi showed four pitches, but nothing was plus or even truly above average. His fastball was straight at 89-92, touching 93 in the fourth, and he struggled badly with command throughout his outing. Early in the game, he worked mostly with an 83-85 mph slider, trying to backdoor it to lefties, and an 80-82 mph straight change. Later in the outing, he flipped a few slow curveballs, with good depth but perhaps too slow to be more than a show-me pitch.

Unfortunately, none of the other three offerings is a swing-and-miss pitch -- he took advantage of a bad Charlotte lineup more than anything else. He had some success when elevating the fastball, but that's a bad formula against big league hitters who hit mistakes out of the park.

Odorizzi's delivery is very clean and simple, with a little deception from how long he hides the ball and very good extension out front when he releases the ball. He stays online to the plate with a consistent landing spot. There seemed to be a plan in place to work hitters side to side and up and down, but his trouble locating the fastball meant he couldn't fully execute it.

Rays' Top 10

Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Wil Myers, RF (4)
2. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP (47)
3. Chris Archer, RHP (53)
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP (68)
5. Hak-Ju Lee, SS (78)
6. Alex Colome, RHP (81)
7. Richie Shaffer, 3B
8. Drew Vettleson, RF
9. Enny Romero, LHP
10. Mikey Mahtook, CF

• Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee wasn't given much of a chance to impress Thursday, bunting in two of his first three at-bats (both were clearly attempts to bunt for a hit and advance a runner), with a first-pitch swinging bunt of sorts in the other at-bat. His fourth at-bat saw him finally allowed to swing away, and he responded with a line-drive single that broke a seventh-inning 2-2 tie.

Lee's swing looks better than it did in the Arizona Fall League last year, when he was a mess -- he's keeping his weight back much better now, which should produce more solid contact and less cutting through fastballs like he did in October. I've always believed in his defense, and he's a plus-plus runner, but he'll need to maintain this swing to be an everyday shortstop in the majors.

• Right fielder Wil Myers should have been the headliner but had a slow day, finishing with a bloop single that should have been caught, after which he was replaced by a pinch runner.

The main difference I see is with his front leg -- at the time of contact, his front foot is now pointing almost directly at the pitcher, and sometimes it's not even flat on the ground, which pulls his whole body out counterclockwise and means he's getting less force from his lower half. That makes it sound like a bigger deal than it is -- it took me a few looks at the video to pick it up -- but it's not right. Myers' swing was never picture-perfect, but it worked because he has strong, quick wrists and a very good idea of the strike zone. Rolling that front foot may be a problem for him, especially in producing power, however.

• Tim Beckham ... I remember when he had bat speed.

• Charlotte's roster was very light on prospects -- I'm not saying its players are old, but a few of them brought their grandkids to the game -- with outfielder Jared Mitchell the one name who might be of interest to Chicago White Sox fans. Unfortunately, it wasn't pretty, as Mitchell swung through 90-91 mph fastballs while striking out in his first two at-bats. I spoke to a scout earlier today who had Mitchell last year. He told me he put Mitchell in as a release candidate; I wish I could offer something to dispute that.

Lawrie, Profar and the second base search.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Second base is a funny position in baseball; you rarely see high draft picks spent on true second basemen, or big dollars committed to amateur second basemen in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela.

Second basemen are often converted there from shortstop, and move because they couldn't handle the more difficult position, due to lack of arm strength or trouble ranging far enough in both directions. Among last year's WAR leaders at second base (per Baseball Reference), the top six were all signed or drafted at other positions; among the top 20, only Howie Kendrick, a 10th-round pick, and Jose Altuve, signed for five figures out of Venezuela, were already second basemen when they turned pro.

Now we have several teams looking at potential conversion candidates to second base, either to fill an existing hole on their depth charts or to try to get certain bats into their lineups.

The injury to Jose Reyes has left the Toronto Blue Jays shuffling infield parts around, including the somewhat surprising decision to try Brett Lawrie out at one of his old positions: second base.

Lawrie was drafted at that position by the Milwaukee Brewers after an abortive attempt to make him a catcher while he was in high school, but despite his athleticism, he struggled badly at second and seemed destined for the outfield before the Jays converted him to third base, with very positive results.

Brett Lawrie
#13 3B
Toronto Blue Jays
2012 STATS


Trying Lawrie out at second while he's on a rehab assignment makes sense, as it's a rare opportunity to see if the defensive improvements he's made at third transfer to his old position. This would give the team substantially greater flexibility down the road. The team could upgrade at second or third or in right field, with Lawrie at second or third and Jose Bautista at third or in right. You don't want to try a player out at a new spot in the middle of a major league season when you're trying to win, so giving Lawrie a few reps there this week to see how it looks is a smart move.

The Jays' real problem is that they don't have a good replacement at shortstop for Reyes; every internal candidate will be a defensive downgrade there, whether it's Maicer Izturis or Emilio Bonifacio. Lawrie's ability to play second as well as third, assuming it works out, is great in the long run but doesn't help them in the short term, as the hypothetical upgrade I cited above doesn't currently sit in the organization. The Jays might be able to make a trade in June or July to help the club, but that's independent of the Reyes injury.

As for Lawrie's potential at second, he's improved his footwork since his days there with the Brewers, especially in his first move after contact. He's athletic and explosively quick, a skill that's more valuable at third, where reaction times are shorter, than at second, where range and turning the double play are more important. Former coach Brian Butterfield, now with the Red Sox, helped Lawrie improve his footwork overall and at worst should be average at second, good enough for part-time duty as long as he can avoid injury turning the double play. Given the quality of his bat, though, significant time at second base might be too much risk for the Jays to stomach.

The Washington Nationals are facing a similar dilemma with top prospect Anthony Rendon, a natural third baseman (and a very, very good one) who is currently blocked at the major league level by Ryan Zimmerman, formerly a great defensive third baseman whose arm is so weak right now he couldn't throw you under the bus.

Zimmerman has had shoulder problems on and off for years, and offseason surgery to try to correct the problem hasn't helped, as we saw in Friday night's game against Atlanta, where Zimmerman's awkward motion was on display in an errant throw to second that helped cost the Nationals the game. He drops down on throws, which is often a sign that throwing conventionally is uncomfortable, and also puts more action on the ball after it's released, the way a sidearm pitcher gets sink on his fastball that isn't there when he's throwing from a three-quarters or higher slot.

Ryan Zimmerman
#11 3B
Washington Nationals
2013 STATS

.239If Zimmerman, who is signed through 2019 and is guaranteed $100 million (including a "personal services" contract for after his playing career), were a lock to stay at third, the Nationals would have to consider finding another position for Rendon. They've played him two games at second base this season in Triple-A and one at shortstop, but he's not cut out for middle infield work. He doesn't have the quickness or lateral agility you want in either of those positions, but more importantly, he's had injury issues of his own, including three traumatic ankle injuries in the past five years.

Second base is a dangerous position to begin with, because of the beating players there take when turning double plays, and requires more quick movements to left or right than third base does -- all bad news for a guy with a propensity for ankle injuries. If Rendon can't get out of the way of a runner quickly enough while acting as the pivot on a potential twin killing, he could blow out either of his ankles, again. That's not a risk I'd want to take with a potential impact bat like his.

The easiest solution would be to move Zimmerman, who still has great hands and range, to first base, where arm strength is less important. The decision to re-sign Adam LaRoche for two years, while a reasonable value in the abstract, means that first base is occupied for now, and unless the National League adopts the DH rule in the next few weeks -- we should be so lucky -- there is no place for Zimmerman to go.

Rendon is hitting .333/.473/.571 for Double-A Harrisburg, so it seems like he won't be there for long. A few months in Triple-A won't hurt Rendon, who missed most of last season after suffering one of those ankle injuries in the season's second game, but Washington will have to decide one way or the other on his future position after this season.

The St. Louis Cardinals' dilemma at second base is more of a short-term one, as they see Kolten Wong, the No. 96 prospect in baseball coming into this season, as their long-term solution there, possibly as soon as the middle of this year.

In the interim, they have started Matt Carpenter there in a few games, even though he'd never played the position professionally outside of five games (two starts) last year. The Cardinals drafted Carpenter in the 13th round in 2009 as a redshirt (fifth-year) senior out of TCU, where he played third base most of his last three years on the Frogs' roster.

[+] Enlarge

Scott Rovak/US Presswire
Matt Carpenter's defensive versatility has earned him a spot on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he'd be the biggest full-time second baseman in history if he qualified for the batting title there, listed at five pounds above that of Ben Zobrist (a great defensive second baseman) and Neil Walker (something south of that), more similar athletically to Walker than the quicker Zobrist.

He's turned himself into an adequate third baseman, thanks mostly to improved reads off the bat, but doesn't have the agility to be more than that, and I think second will be tougher for him than it would be for a more athletic player such as Lawrie. If he's not the full-time third baseman, he'll make an incredible super-utility guy, however, because he can handle second on an occasional basis, as well as filling in at third or first or in an outfield corner. In the era of the four-man bench (12 pitchers, eight starting hitters and a backup catcher), that's incredibly valuable.

The easiest conversion call here involves the best prospect in baseball, Texas shortstop Jurickson Profar, who is blocked in Arlington by Elvis Andrus, with both players plus defenders at the position.

Profar could start for a lot of clubs right now, just not the one that currently employs him, and sliding him over to second base would solve a lot of Texas' problems, if it could get Ian Kinsler to agree to do the right thing for the team and shift to first base. The Rangers aren't getting enough offense from Mitch Moreland, a platoon player in the best of circumstances, at first, and would improve offensively and defensively from benching or demoting him and putting Profar at second.

They have another option to get Profar in the lineup when they decide he's ready, however: center field, where neither Leonys Martin nor Craig Gentry, both excellent defenders, have contributed much offense. Profar has at least played a little second base (26 games in pro ball) but has never played the outfield in a regular-season game at any level. It's a position he could learn in time, given his foot speed and the tremendous instincts he's shown since he signed at age 16, but a transition to second base would help the major league team more quickly.

Scouting Yankees and Giants propsects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I caught the low Class A game between the Charleston RiverDogs and Augusta GreenJackets on Saturday night in Charleston, one of my favorite towns to visit for work. Charleston starter Jose Campos was the "other" guy the Yankees acquired in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal, and like Pineda, Campos went down with an arm injury; his was an elbow injury that didn't require surgery, but forced him to miss most of the 2012 season. He's back, working on limited pitch counts, showing reduced stuff and an arm action that seems destined for further injuries or a role in the bullpen.

Campos started the game at 87-89 and then settled in at 89-92 for the rest of his three-inning outing, getting a little arm-side run on the pitch but showing below-average command. He showed a slurvy breaking ball at 76-80 with variable shape, also a below-average pitch primarily because it was so easy to pick up out of his hand. He flashed a hard changeup at 84-85 that was more like a fastball with something taken off it.

Behind The Dish with Keith Law
Keith Law talks to John C. McGinley about the movie 42, in which he plays Red Barber. Plus, Keith breaks down the recent outings from three of the top young pitchers in the NL.

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His arm is very quick, but he doesn't use his lower half to generate that arm speed and has no deceleration at all after release, so the visual effect is that of a pitcher who's just flinging the ball in the general direction of the plate. His slot is a little below three-quarters, but it's inconsistent as you'd expect given the arm action. I'm not shocked that he's had arm trouble, and I can't imagine him throwing like that 100 times a game without breaking down at some point, or just having too little command to make it as a starter.

This was far from an ideal look, just Campos' second outing back since he was shut down last spring and one in which he clearly didn't have his old velocity, but what I saw didn't give me a ton of hope.

•The rest of the Charleston club was pretty thin on prospects, as Rafael De Paula (who's been sitting 92-94, without command) and Gabe Encinas (94-95 in relief) didn't pitch on Saturday. Dante Bichette Jr. remains a mess on offense and defense. Cito Culver has finally stopped switch-hitting, but even putting a good swing on a ball down tonight didn't get the ball out of the infield, and he's running worse than I've ever seen from him.

Evan Rutckyj replaced Campos, and was 89-91 with a fringy changeup and a slider at 80-82 that might give him a chance in middle relief. Right fielder Yeicok Calderon looks kind of interesting, with bat speed and a strong arm, but his hands are all over the place at the plate and the Augusta pitchers blew him up with velocity. First baseman Greg Bird, who caught Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman in high school, had a good first week for Charleston but struck out three times and didn't seem to be able to pick up anything.

• Augusta, the Giants' Sally League affiliate, at least rolled out some interesting arms, led by right-hander Stephen Johnson, their sixth-round pick from last year, who was 92-95 with a sharp 80-81 mph curveball that appears to have a mind of its own, as Johnson doesn't seem to be telling it where to go. He's a max-effort guy with a very long arm action, but the fastball is very live and if he can ever command the curveball, he'll at least be a solid middle reliever.

Ian Gardeck, their 16th-rounder from last year, was 91-95 but didn't show a quality second pitch, using an uninspiring changeup at 83-84. Starter Kendry Flores was 88-90 with a fringe-average breaking ball at 75-77 with near 12-to-6 break; he looks like he's concentrating too much on his arm action, like it's very deliberate instead of natural and fluid, and might just need to air it out a little more. There seems to be something wrong with fourth-rounder Steven Okert; he was in the low to mid-90s when I saw him at the Big 12 tournament last May, but was 84-87 on Saturday night.

• Their lineup is old for the level; Jesus Galindo, the leadoff hitter and shortstop, is 22 and spent half of last season here, hitting just .252/.333/.308. He has bat speed, is a 65-70 grade runner, and could turn into a very good shortstop, but he has no hand or wrist strength to drive the ball to the outfield. Charles Jones is the best athlete on the team, and the second-youngest hitter on the club, but he looks like he's just trying not to strike out, with poor pitch recognition that overwhelms the other tools.

• I should also mention one of the most unusual concession items I've come across, now available at Charleston's Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park: beer shakes. The staff was kind enough to offer me a sample of their Guinness shake -- Guinness stout, ice cream and caramel syrup -- and it's a treat, sweet but not too much, so the flavor of the Guinness (my favorite mass-produced beer) comes through. They've also partnered with the "urban farm" at the Medical University of South Carolina to provide a vegetable taco made with ingredients grown at that facility. In a town known for one of the best food scenes in the country, the RiverDogs deserve credit for keeping up with the trend.

Re-evaluating Fernandez, Harvey, Teheran.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Author's note: Please keep in mind that evaluating off TV footage isn't the same as scouting a player live or off video angles that are geared to allow for evaluation.

Jose Fernandez's major league debut Sunday against the Mets couldn't have gone much better, not just in terms of results -- five innings, eight punchouts, one walk, one run allowed -- but in the stuff that doesn't necessarily show up in the stat line. Fernandez's stuff was as good as ever, his command was fine, he was poised even when things didn't quite go right, and he seemed to pitch with a plan in mind without deviating much from it.

Jose Fernandez
#16 SP
Miami Marlins
2013 STATS


Fernandez's raw stuff was ridiculous: mostly 93-97 mph with his fastball, with some late life up on the pitch, similar to Matt Cain's, a plus curveball and a flash of a plus change, a pitch I hadn't seen from him before.

He established the fastball early, starting the game with five straight and throwing first-pitch fastballs to the first 10 batters he faced, with eight of those hitters seeing at least two fastballs to start their at-bats. Once he turned the lineup over once, he started changing his pitching pattern more, made somewhat more necessary by the Mets' hitters adjusting enough to extend their at-bats. They never did catch up to the fastball -- even David Wright was late on the pitch -- with two of the three hits Fernandez allowed coming on breaking balls, including a hanger at 82 that resulted in the Mets' one extra-base hit off him.

Fernandez worked mostly with the curveball at 79-83, showing hard downward break, but got caught between the curve and slider a few times in his final inning of work.

Behind The Dish with Keith Law
Keith Law talks to John C. McGinley about the movie 42, in which he plays Red Barber. Plus, Keith breaks down the recent outings from three of the top young pitchers in the NL.

More Podcasts »
The changeup was the real revelation, a difference-maker that cements his status as a potential ace given its heavy action and his clear confidence in the pitch when he threw it, which wasn't often enough, at least the second time around. He threw one his first time through the order, to left-handed hitter Ike Davis, and threw four in total. While Mets hitters weren't turning around his fastball and swung through quite a few in the zone, mixing in a few more changeups might help him shorten those at-bats the second time around.

Other than the pitch mix, the only negative, a very slight one, was Fernandez's fastball command the second time through. He started missing up, especially up and away, more often and made a couple of mistakes in the zone, getting away with all but one. It's not a huge concern, as the delivery is fine, repeatable with good use of his lower half to generate velocity, and I don't see why it wouldn't improve with experience. A pitcher with three pitches that grade out at 60 or better who has even average command will pitch at the top of a lot of rotations. While the Marlins may have goofed by promoting him so early, he could be their best pitcher this season.

Matt Harvey
#33 SP
New York Mets
2013 STATS


Harvey has room to improve

Matt Harvey faced off against a desiccated facsimile of Roy Halladay -- the less said about him, the better -- on Monday night and put up an outstanding stat line, showing great stuff but struggling a lot with location, control and even consistency on his curve and slider.

The good stuff first: That's ace stuff, a fastball mostly 93-97, a filthy slider at 87-91, a hard curveball at 78-83 and a riding change at 85-88. He punched out Ryan Howard by going up and in with heat three times in four pitches; Howard eventually caved and chased a pitch he couldn't sniff. Laynce Nix, not really a major league hitter anyway, couldn't touch Harvey's fastball and swung through three of them in his last at-bat, the final one perfectly placed up out of his reach but close enough to induce him to flail at it.

Harvey threw some sliders that were unhittable, right off the outside corner to right-handed hitters, victimizing Michael Young more than once that way. The slider he threw to strike out Young in the fourth, 90 mph on the TV gun, broke down over the outside corner of the plate and made Young look feeble. He could have used the changeup more, preferring to go in with the curveball to left-handed hitters, even though his changeup is an above-average (or better) pitch.

Philly's lineup just isn't very good anymore, which helped Harvey get away with a lot of pitches where he either didn't locate or didn't finish a breaking ball (mostly the curve). The sac fly Howard hit in the fourth came off a bad changeup that a decent left-handed hitter would have destroyed. Harvey hung several sliders and curveballs, including ones that Humberto Quintero and Young failed to capitalize on, with the curve the bigger problem on Monday.

Harvey also missed up in or above the zone way too often for my tastes. He did blow it by a number of hitters, which is great when the location is planned, but when you miss, it's much better to miss down in the zone than it is to miss up. Quintero also got a fastball up in the first pitch of his second at-bat that might as well have been on a tee, a mistake Harvey will pay for if he does it against better hitters.

He didn't get a ton of help from his defense. Ike Davis was an adventure at first base all night, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis struggled picking up some balls in center. It also seemed like John Buck struggled to catch Harvey's better velocity, jerking some borderline pitches away from the zone.

Overall, I'm still as bullish on Harvey as I was when I scouted his major league debut in July, but there is a gap between that ace potential and what he showed Monday night in both command and in consistency on the two breaking balls.

Julio Teheran
#49 SP
Atlanta Braves
2013 STATS


Teheran still scuffling

Julio Teheran pitched Saturday against the Cubs and, in spite of spring training numbers that were practically shoved down our throats, struggled as he has in previous major league outings.

His main issue is that he lacks an average breaking ball, which was still the case Saturday. He worked the pitch from 70-76 mph, but it had no depth, he left several hanging, and he caught too much of the plate with the better ones.

He also struggled to get sink on his fastball, adding a two-seamer this spring and throwing a number of them in the game against Chicago but not getting enough action on the pitch to make a difference. It didn't help that, in the fifth inning, he didn't get a called third strike on the 0-2 fastball he threw to Starlin Castro, a pitch that nailed the corner low and away, after which Teheran threw him five more pitches, the final one a curveball in the dirt that Castro tapped for an infield single.

But Teheran hung a curveball to the next batter, Anthony Rizzo, who gently placed it over the right-field fence, and later gave up a run-scoring single on a flat fastball up in the zone. Teheran is a little maddening because the velocity is so easy and he can turn over a changeup, but until he develops at least an average breaking ball capable of changing hitters' eye levels, he won't reach his ceiling.

Yadier Molina's defensive importance.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
PHILADELPHIA -- The other St. Louis Cardinals players on the field keep their eyes on Yadier Molina constantly, pitch to pitch, in the way that interstate truck drivers might lock in on the leader of a convoy. Everything they do -- every decision, every movement -- follows what he does, and Molina's subtle instructions could come at any moment.

With a slight nod of his head, a subtle gesture of his hand, Molina will tell the fielders what's going to happen next, and where to go. "It really is amazing that he's able to do that with everything else that he has to think about," said center fielder Jon Jay.

But this is what Molina does every day; he'll be doing it again on "Sunday Night Baseball," when the Cardinals play here against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals have pitched 154 1/3 innings this season and backup catcher Tony Cruz has caught just seven of those because Molina prepares to catch every game, works to catch every game, prepares to catch every game. The other day, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny prepared for a conversation with Molina about taking a day off by donning the horn-rimmed glasses that Molina wears away from the field. "You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses," Matheny said, as he started to explain to Molina that he was going to give him a day off.

Bengie Molina, the Cardinals' assistant coach and Yadier's older brother, said Saturday that he had no idea how much work Yadier put into his physical conditioning in the offseason and before games until after he joined St. Louis this year, and Matheny noted how Yadier has trimmed down to prepare for the long grind of the season. Some catchers, such as Buster Posey, will make a point of resting before some games, reducing the work they do on the field, but day after day, Yadier Molina goes through the same routine as all of his teammates -- and every day, he takes the time to field ground balls at shortstop or third base. "He takes as many or more ground balls as the rest of us," said David Freese.

But Molina is best known among his teammates for the preparation he does in developing and executing a game plan for his pitchers, in understanding opposing hitters and how to pitch to them.

As part of this, Molina will direct the positioning of his teammates from pitch to pitch. For example: If Molina knows he is about to ask left-hander Jaime Garcia to throw a back-foot slider to a right-handed hitter, he will subtly indicate this to the third baseman -- with a tilt of his head or a motion with his hand -- to give Freese a heads-up that the hitter might be slapping a grounder his way. The third baseman might back up a step, and move a step closer to the line.

Three or four times a game -- "and sometimes more," Jay said -- Molina will indicate to his center fielder what to look for. Jay says he yells a quick heads-up to the other outfielders, and then they will all shift as one. It all happens so rapidly and subtly that Jay doesn't worry about tipping off the opposing hitters.

Typically, it's the shortstops and second basemen who can see what pitch the catcher is calling, but as first baseman Matt Adams explained, Molina is really good at letting the corner infielders know what pitch is coming next.

So they keep their eyes on him, all the time. "He always knows where the ball is going to be hit," said Jay.

News and notes

Lance Lynn shut down the Phillies on Saturday. Mitchell Boggs is trying to get some momentum back.

• David Ortiz summed up the emotions of Boston on Saturday, writes Brian MacPherson. Ortiz's word struck a chord, writes Michael Silverman. His words were defiant, writes Julian Benbow.

Clay Buchholz helped to set up the Red Sox for an emotional win.

Some Marlins officials have had preliminary talks about running in next year's Boston Marathon.

• I asked Freese on Saturday if he had seen interesting stuff early in the season, and he replied without hesitation, "Harvey." As in Matt Harvey.

Because the Mets and Cardinals see each other regularly in spring training, Freese noted, St. Louis had gotten early previews of Harvey and what he can do. Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information dug out these great numbers on how Harvey is capable of ramping up his velocity in big spots, as Justin Verlander does:

Harvey's average fastball velocity on pitches leading up to two-strike counts, in the starts he's made in the big leagues: 94.5 mph.

Harvey's fastball velocity on two-strike counts: 95.3 mph.

His average fastball velocity when there are no runners in scoring position: 94.6 mph.

His average fastball velocity with runners in scoring position: 95.1 mph.

His average fastball velocity with no outs: 94.3; with one out: 94.7; with two outs: 95.1.

On Friday night, when Harvey pitched against Stephen Strasburg, his average fastball velocity was 97.2 mph.

When Harvey pitches, the Mets are one of the best teams in baseball; when others pitch, not so much. They lost Saturday. Harvey has shown he's up for the challenge, writes Joel Sherman.

• The Rockies are a perfect 8-0 at home.

• Anthony Rendon was summoned to the big leagues to fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman. And it's pretty clear: He's going to play. From Amanda Comak's story:

He'll get thrown right into the fire, starting at third base on Sunday in the Nationals' finale with the New York Mets against right-hander Dillon Gee.

"I don't like to bring a youngster up and have him sit," [manager Davey] Johnson said. "That's going to do him no good and he's swinging the bat pretty good down there. He had a good spring for us. It's no slight against some of the guys I've got here who've filled in in the past, but this will give him some experience up here."

While he's doing that, from the dugout, Zimmerman will watch and get healthy.

"I'll be his biggest fan," Zimmerman said. "Lucky for us we have guys like that who can step up and do things like this. Obviously Anthony's young and sooner rather than later he's going to be making an impact at this level on a daily basis. It'll be nice to see him and give him a little taste of it."

• Another great young prospect will make his debut today, when Allen Webster pitches.

• There is terrible news for a top Rays prospect.

• Brandon Phillips made good on his bobblehead day.

• Matt Garza could be the next victim of major league baseball's free-agent compensation rules, writes Gordon Wittenmyer. If the Cubs keep Garza all season and give him a one-year tender offer, then he'll be attached to draft-pick compensation, as Kyle Lohse was. There are a lot of baseball executives who believe Lohse would've done better than the deal he signed with Milwaukee in March if he had signed early in the winter, before the available dollars dried up. He may not have gotten an Anibal Sanchez-type deal ($80 million), some officials believe, but they think he would've gotten a solid contract. "Once you start getting closer to spring training, I think a lot of teams have spent what they want to spend and start getting more comfortable with what they have," said a GM.

So if Garza becomes a free agent, the advice they would have for him would probably be: Push your negotiations early in the offseason. Unless you're a Zack Greinke type of talent, you don't want to be left standing when the game of musical chairs stops.

• Tim Lincecum: Go figure. I spoke with scouts this week who expressed a lot of concern about the diminishing difference between his fastball and his changeup and whether he had the weapons to be consistently good again. On Saturday, he was sharp in shutting down San Diego, as Steve Kroner writes.

The Giants have won all four of Lincecum's starts this season.

Dings and dents

1. Ryan Hanigan has a sore thumb. From Mark Sheldon's story:

"It's getting worse, not better," Hanigan said. "It's some sort of sprain in the ligament or capsule or something. It's lingering constantly, so I'm trying to calm it down."

Hanigan has been Bronson Arroyo's regular catcher the past four seasons. The last time Arroyo did not have Hanigan catching for him was Sept. 27, 2011, versus the Mets. Hanigan was injured and Mesoraco caught the game as Arroyo allowed four runs and nine hits over eight innings.

On Saturday, Arroyo held the Marlins to just a pair of runs in eight innings.

Although nagged by the thumb since it was struck by a foul ball at St. Louis on April 9, Hanigan has struggled offensively. He entered the day batting .079 (3-for-38). A MRI exam taken on the thumb recently showed no serious damage.

Hanigan avoided speculation about whether he might need to go on the disabled list. Besides Hanigan and [Devin] Mesoraco, the Reds do not have any other catchers on the 40-man roster. Veteran Corky Miller would be a logical choice to come up from Triple-A Louisville if there is a need.

"I don't know. We'll have to see what they want to do," Hanigan said. "I don't want to comment on that until I talk to them."

Hanigan is highly regarded by rival scouts for the way he handles a pitching staff, but if he does go down, the Reds are probably better suited to deal with his absence than they would have been a year ago, because Devin Mesoraco is playing better.

2. Kevin Youkilis will sit today because of back tightness.

3. Asdrubal Cabrera fell going down the dugout steps in Houston.

4. Jhoulys Chacin had an MRI.

5. Yoenis Cespedes says he's ready to come back, writes Susan Slusser.

6. Dan Uggla is coping with a sore calf, Carroll Rogers writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Derrick Goold addresses the question of whether the Cardinals would trade their star prospect for another star prospect.

2. Russell Martin got a start at third base.
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Carlos Beltran looking out for his legacy.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
PHILADELPHIA -- Carlos Beltran waited for his turn in batting practice Sunday evening, and talked about his future. Beltran turns 36 on Wednesday, and as he acknowledged, you do start to think about legacy as you get older.

Beltran has 2,081 career hits, 1,255 RBIs and 338 homers, and he has reached that time when he is beginning to climb past all-time greats on the all-time lists. With four more home runs, for example, he will match Ron Santo, and with 10 more, he'll match Yogi Berra.

What became clear from the talk with Beltran is that he doesn't know exactly where he stands all-time among switch-hitters, among players from his homeland of Puerto Rico -- but his legacy will be part of his decision when it comes time to decide where to play next. Down the road, Beltran will be open to the idea of going to the American League and serving as a designated hitter, something that Chipper Jones could have done but chose not to do.

Beltran served as a DH in the World Baseball Classic and wasn't completely comfortable in the role. Players who are accustomed to being in the field talk about how difficult it is to make the adjustment to waiting in the dugout or clubhouse in the 30 to 45 minutes between plate appearances.

"If that happens," Beltran said, "I know exactly who I will call first -- Edgar Martinez."

Beltran is a friend to Martinez, the longtime DH of the Mariners, and to Eddie Murray, who served as a DH at the end of his long career.

Beltran is in the last year of a two-year, $26 million deal he signed with the Cardinals. He hasn't put a lot of thought into whether he'll stay in St. Louis, but the Cardinals have a surplus of outfielders and first base types -- with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Adams and rising star prospect Oscar Taveras, so it probably wouldn't be a surprise if St. Louis spent its dollars on some other part of the team.

Like Lance Berkman, Beltran could be attractive to potential AL suitors in the offseason because of his power and on-base percentage, no matter how much he can play in the outfield. Maybe the Yankees would be a fit. Or the Orioles, Rays, or any number of teams. Beltran had a .920 OPS in 2011, and .845 last season.

Beltran mentioned that he would like to get to 400 homers, a number that would be meaningful to him. He would like to rank among the best of the switch-hitters, a list that probably starts with Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose and Eddie Murray and includes Jones and Berkman. He is aware that the all-time leader in RBIs for a player from Puerto Rico is Carlos Delgado, at 1,512; Beltran is 287 away from that number.

There will be time later to think about all that. But as Beltran said, these are the types of things that come into focus for longtime All-Stars at the end of their careers.

• The Cardinals lost Sunday night, when Ben Revere and Erik Kratz came up with some big hits. Mitchell Boggs just could not get the ball down in his brutal stretch of work Sunday night, adding more puzzle pieces to the Cardinals' closer quandary. Sometimes, going with a single closer is not always a good thing, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Carlos Ruiz is expected to return to the Phillies' lineup next Sunday against the Mets, and Delmon Young played in his first rehab game over the weekend; if all goes well, Young could join the Phillies in a couple of weeks.

Around the league

• With Freddie Freeman set to rejoin the Atlanta lineup, Chris Johnson is moving to third base -- as a full-time player, writes Carroll Rogers. Jason Heyward is working on his patience.

• Wrote here Saturday about the improved offensive skills of Didi Gregorius, and the Diamondbacks benefited from those Sunday. The Diamondbacks are being careful with how they're using him.

• John Buck continues to be the Mets' MVP, as John DeMarzo writes.

From Elias: John Buck opened the scoring with a second-inning solo homer that would be all the Mets needed in their 2-0 victory against the Nationals. Buck has seven home runs and 22 RBIs in the 15 games that he's started behind the plate for the Mets. Since the major leagues began tracking RBIs in 1920, no other player has accumulated as many as seven homers and 22 RBIs for a season in his first 15 games started as a catcher.

• The Angels frolicked at the end of a much-needed sweep.

• The Brewers have simply stopped losing. Which is to say, they played the Cubs, whose manager is losing patience. Dale Sveum talked about the consequences for those who don't play better. From Carrie Muskat's story:

The errors are both physical and mental, and are a surprise after how well the Cubs played in spring training, Sveum said.

"Some of these errors, they look physical but they're maybe a lack of awareness at the time or the situation at hand or they're trying to be too quick, or sometimes we don't have enough aggressiveness on balls or whatever it is," said Sveum, whose voice was hoarse after his argument with an umpire Friday that resulted in him being ejected. "Sometimes defense is a rhythm and we're obviously not in any kind of defensive rhythm. Just like offense can be contagious, defense can, too.

"From top to bottom, we did outstanding in spring training, so to start out like this is obviously disappointing," Sveum said. "The bad thing is we're not picking each other up after these things happen.

"We're not overcoming our mistakes," Sveum said. "Good teams overcome those mistakes. A guy gets a ground ball double play and nobody thinks about what just happened."

• The Pirates had a really nice weekend against the Braves, taking three out of four, as Bill Brink writes.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Justin Upton earned top honors in Web Gems on Sunday. Teammate Andrelton Simmons was second. The Braves entered Sunday with 12 defensive runs saved this season, second most in the majors. The only team better was the team that beat them Sunday, the Pirates, with 14. Simmons had 24 career DRS in 553 innings entering the day, second most among shortstops since the start of the 2012 season.

• Watched some of Jake Arrieta's start against the Dodgers Sunday, which was a microcosm of his big league career. In the first innings, he was completely and utterly dominant, throwing a fastball in the mid-90s past the L.A. hitters, mixing in a slider/slurve thing which was almost unhittable as a finishing pitch. Then, almost without warning, Arrieta lost the strike zone, breathing life into the struggling Dodgers, and an early lead was squandered. This must be frustrating for Arrieta, and for the Orioles' staff, because the tools are all there for something really good.

Dan Connolly addresses the question: What should the Orioles do with Arrieta?

Dings and dents

1. Albert Pujols's foot problem could limit him to the DH role for awhile.

2. Dylan Bundy will throw today.

3. Chad Billingsley has an elbow issue. So much for the overabundance of starting pitching for the Dodgers, which is the way it seems to go for teams with a surplus. Even when the Dodgers win, they seem to lose.

4. It looks like Brett Anderson will be able to make his next scheduled start for the Athletics, after an aggressive side session.

5. Kyle Blanks hit the outfield wall hard, writes Corey Brock.

6. Ryan Hanigan landed on the disabled list.

7. Octavio Dotel's elbow is a problem right now.

8. John Danks is anxious for a rehab assignment.

Didi Gregorius could surprise for Arizona.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Didi Gregorius' early history of offensive production will never be confused with that of, say, Jurickson Profar, because he hasn't hit more than seven homers for any team, and his on-base percentage has been modest. This is part of the reason why the Diamondbacks' swap with the Reds in December for Gregorius drew some industry-wide shrugs. He has been seen as a very good defender, and also as someone who might be challenged offensively in his career.

But part of the reason why sports are fascinating is that you never really know what will happen next, and there are signs that Gregorius is going to be better than expected at the plate. Sure, he had a nice debut for the Diamondbacks on Thursday, clubbing a home run on the first pitch he saw, and added two more hits in Colorado Friday night. But even before that, Gregorius had seemed to become more of a threat at the plate, with his good showing in the Arizona Fall League, spring training and Triple-A this year.

"I think he's going to hit," a rival evaluator, who saw Gregorius in person earlier in the spring, said Friday. "His swing looks to me like he's in and out of the zone real quick, but he's got lots of strength and lots of bat speed."

In other words: The left-handed hitting Gregorius has some tools to work and improve with, and his defensive skills demonstrate he learns and adapts. "I was really impressed with how he set himself defensively," the evaluator said. "He made his throws according to the speed of the runner, even though he's got a great arm, he does this thing where he seems to stutter-step when he [attacks] a ground ball. He almost goes through the baseball. He's an impact defender."

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers recalled Friday that when he saw Gregorius play last fall, the young infielder swung the bat effectively. "There were some holes in the swing, but there definitely was bat speed and there was pitch recognition," he said. "We never really had a question about whether he was going to hit."

Towers felt good, too, about what he had heard when he checked Gregorius' background. Mike Bell, the Arizona farm director, had talked with David Bell, his brother, who had managed in the Reds' farm system and knew Gregorius -- and he talked about the shortstop's tremendous mental makeup. And the defense.

"He can really, really play short," said Towers. "A 70 arm (on the scouts' scale of 20 to 80), and he can make body-control plays. He's got really soft hands, and he got a lot of range . . . A tremendous kid, and he's got no fear."

Gregorius was called up to the big leagues after Willie Bloomquist and then Aaron Hill went down with injuries. The Diamondbacks had hoped to get Gregorius a few more weeks in the minors, but now he is here, perhaps prepared to pitch in more at the plate than expected.

By the way: Towers said center fielder Adam Eaton could be back in the first or second week of May -- Eaton, coming back from an elbow injury, just started throwing -- and that Jason Kubel will be back soon.


• Arizona lost Game 1 of its series in Colorado.

• What should have been a great day for the Rockies was marred by an injury to Jhoulys Chacin. Drew Pomeranz could be called up in his place, writes Patrick Saunders.

• On Friday's podcast, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore talked about the decision to trade top prospect Wil Myers, and Justin Havens of ESPN Research runs through the peripherals for the early-season starts of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and David Price.

• The Rangers lost All-Star Matt Harrison through the break. They will have to rely on rookies while they wait for help to arrive, writes Todd Wills. The Rangers have Colby Lewis and others on the mend, and general managers say this is a terrible time of year to try to make a trade because teams covet their depth and only offer overpriced pitchers who aren't really that good.

Case histories suggest that Harrison may not be back until mid-August, writes Gerry Fraley.

• By the middle of Friday's Matt Harvey-Stephen Strasburg matchup, Mets fans chanted, "Harvey's better." On Friday, he was, finishing hitters off repeatedly with power in the upper half of the strike zone, as Justin Verlander does. Dwight Gooden watched from the first row, as Zach Schonbrun writes.

From Elias: Harvey is the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to win each of his first four starts of a season while allowing no more than 10 combined hits in those four games.

Dating to last season, Harvey has had five straight games in which he's pitched at least seven innings, allowed one run or fewer and four hits or fewer. The only other pitcher to do that in the past 25 seasons was Randy Johnson for the 1997 Mariners.

First four starts
Stats Strasburg '12 Harvey '13
ERA 1.08 0.93
K per 9 9.0 9.9
W-L 4-0 4-0

If Harvey's stat line looks familiar, that's because it should. It resembles that of Strasburg's first four starts of 2012.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Harvey won:

A) He retired 14 of 17 left-handed hitters (two hits, one walk). Lefties are 6-for-60 with five walks against Harvey this season. Bryce Harper was 0-for-3 against Harvey, and 0-for-6 against him for his career.

B) Off-speed pitches netted 12 outs and yielded only two baserunners. Harvey got half of those outs with his slider, which he threw 26 times -- the most of any start in his career.

C) Harvey said before the game that he was psyched to face Strasburg, and it showed. He averaged a career-high 96.3 mph on his fastball.

Strasburg lost the duel of aces, but maybe the most troublesome inning of the night for the Nationals came when the Mets teed off on Drew Storen. Washington needs Storen to be good, and so far, he has not been, allowing 10 hits (four for extra bases) in 6 1/3 innings, after a challenging spring.

• Roy Halladay was really good for the second straight start, shutting down the Cardinals.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Halladay beat the Cardinals:

A) The rain-shortened game was Halladay's 67th career complete game, most among active pitchers (next-most: CC Sabathia, 35).

B) All about the sinker: Halladay threw 47 percent sinkers, his most in a start since the beginning of 2009 (Cardinals hitters went 1-for-11 against it).

C) Halladay threw 40 percent sinkers to lefties, his third-most in a start since the start of 2009 (Cardinals lefties went 1-for-9 against it).

D) He threw 59 percent sinkers when he was behind in the count, his most in a start since the beginning of 2009 (Cardinals hitters were 1-for-7 when they were ahead in the count).

• The most-asked question in baseball in the first few weeks might be: Is Mike Scioscia going to get fired?

Only Angels owner Arte Moreno can answer that. But the consensus in baseball seems to be that firing Scioscia would be one of the most pointless dismissals in recent memory, because the perception among rival evaluators is that it wouldn't change anything. The Angels need pitching -- they're starving for pitching -- and their farm system is regarded as one of the sparsest in the game. "It's a mess," one high-ranked executive with another team said. "I mean, it's terrible."

That's not Scioscia's department, and that doesn't really fall on GM Jerry Dipoto, either, because Dipoto only joined the Angels 18 months ago and hasn't had much of a chance to rebuild the team's player development. And ultimately, the decision to spend almost $400 million (and surrender draft picks) on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton when both players were already into their 30s belonged to Moreno, not his GM or his manager.

Last night, everything went right for the Angels.

• Joey Votto failed to reach base for the first time this season and struck out on three uncomfortable swings in the ninth inning. Right now, it just looks as if his timing is off.

Aroldis Chapman did something he won't do many times this year in the loss.

• When the Giants are at home, they always seem to find a way to win the close games, and they did it again on Friday, on a walk-off.

• One scout has been very impressed with the early-season speed of Carl Crawford. "I've gotten the fastest times I've seen from him since his first years with Tampa Bay," the scout said.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Cubs claimed Julio Borbon partly because of the cost -- almost zero risk, and perhaps some reward -- and because his OBP numbers from the minors intrigue them.

2. The Twins don't plan on sending Aaron Hicks down any time soon.

Dings and dents

1. Brett Anderson sprained his ankle, as Susan Slusser writes. If Anderson is down for any length of time, Oakland has Dan Straily prepped and ready to go in the minors.

2. Matt Garza threw a simulated game.

3. The Padres are keeping an eye on Tyson Ross, writes Corey Brock.

4. J.D. Martinez doesn't think his knee sprain is serious.

5. Ryan Howard is dealing with a sore groin.

6. Ryan Zimmerman rested a sore hamstring.

History stacked against Derek Jeter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Derek Jeter was in the eighth grade when he wrote an essay in Chris Oosterbaan's class about his dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees. When he was in the 11th grade, the personal coat of arms he created for his English literature course included an image of himself in a Yankees uniform.

The odds of a kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., becoming a shortstop in professional baseball are astronomical, of course -- and the odds of a high school baseball prospect being drafted specifically by the Yankees in 1992 were diminished by a factor of about 28.

But Jeter has never concerned himself with odds, which is part of the reason why the teenage dreamer not only realized his vision of becoming the Yankees' shortstop, but will go down as one of the greatest ever to play his position. He is not wired to be preoccupied with the seeming boundaries of history.

That is why his conversation Thursday with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was typical for him. He and Cashman talked about the setback Jeter had suffered, the crack near the spot where he fractured his ankle last fall, and about the lengthened recovery time, and Jeter closed by saying, in so many words: OK, I'll see you after the All-Star break. Jeter has never allowed any doubt to enter his tone in discussing his recovery, or what he'll be capable of when he returns. You cannot accumulate 3,304 career hits if your habit is to fret over what might go wrong.

The lessons drawn from historical precedent suggest players of his age -- Jeter will be 39 by the time he would return after the All-Star break -- almost never come back after a year of diminished playing time.

I posed this question to Kevin Hines of Elias: How many times has a player at Jeter's age missed more than half of his team's games, then come back to be a regular (defined by accumulating 400 plate appearances).

There are only seven players who have done this in the past 100 years -- and only one was a middle infielder, Luke Appling.

Season Player Team Age Plate App.
2007 Barry Bonds SF 42 477
2006 Barry Bonds SF 41 493
1999 Chili Davis NY 39 554
1999 Tony Phillips Oak 39 484
1997 Brett Butler LA 39 401
1991 Carlton Fisk Chi 43 501
1990 Carlton Fisk Chi 42 521
1989 Carlton Fisk Chi 41 419
1957 Hank Sauer NY 39 428
1949 Luke Appling Chi 42 619
1948 Luke Appling Chi 41 594
1947 Luke Appling Chi 40 573
1946 Luke Appling Chi 39 659

Most games missed by season, Derek Jeter, MLB career
2013 -- 96 (assuming Jeter returns after All-Star break)
2003 -- 43
2011 -- 31
2000 -- 13
1998 -- 13

Jeter is 324 hits away from reaching Stan Musial's 3,630 career mark, fourth-place all-time. He will need to beat the odds again for this to happen; he will have to beat the odds to be an effective player ever again.

This may signal the end for Jeter, writes Bob Klapisch. The Yankees lost to Arizona Thursday night, as Jorge Arangure writes. Eduardo Nunez is ready for more action at shortstop, writes Brian Lewis.


• R.A. Dickey was excellent, but now the Blue Jays have some injury concern.

• Tony Cingrani won his major league debut for the Reds.

• Brandon Crawford keeps getting better as a hitter -- he was moved to the No. 5 spot in the Giants' lineup Thursday -- and we had him on the podcast Thursday; also, agent Jamie Murphy talked about getting into the business, negotiations and client-stealing.

• I watched a lot of Matt Cain's outing against the Brewers and once again, his stuff just looked flat -- his breaking pitches looked flat, his fastball looked benign, and indeed, as shows, his velocity now is the lowest of his career.

Matt Cain breaking balls
Stat 2009-12 2013
Opp BA .205 .361
Zone Pct 48.3 57.0
Miss Pct 24.6 13.6
Opp OPS .552 1.018

From ESPN Stats & Info: Cain's struggles have been with his breaking ball this season. Opponents are hitting .361 in at-bats ending with Cain's breaking ball (league average is .204).

More from ESPN Stats & Info: Cain is struggling to put hitters away with his breaking pitches. This season, he has thrown 44 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed eight hits. Last season, he threw 423 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed 21 hits. He also has struggled when falling behind hitters. In at-bats when Cain throws a first-pitch ball, opposing hitters are 13-for-26 (.500 BA), including six extra-base hits.

The San Francisco starters are giving up loads of runs, writes Henry Schulman.

• Evan Gattis and Justin Upton are ridiculous right now, which is what Carroll Rogers writes, in so many words. Upton hit his ninth home run in his 15th game; it took Upton 98 games to hit nine home runs last season.

From Elias: He is the first Braves player with nine homers in his team's first 15 games.

At Coors Field this season
The Rockies are the only undefeated team at home this season.

Stat Rockies Opponents
Wins 6 0
Runs PG 8.0 3.5
BA .351 .248
HR 9 2
Slug pct .576 .352

• You can't stop the Rockies, you can only hope to contain them: They've got six straight wins at home, and they're now 11-4.

From Elias: Carlos Gonzalez is the third player in Rockies history with a streak of four straight multihit, multirun games, joining Ellis Burks (1996) and Larry Walker (2001) in that exclusive club. In the past two seasons, the only other major league player with a four-game streak of that kind is Mike Trout (June 8-11, 2012).

• The Pirates should have some different rotation options developing in the weeks ahead. Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton are in the early stages of their game rehabilitation and building their pitch counts, but they should be ready in early to mid-May. Jeff Karstens has been feeling good, but is in the early stages of a throwing program.

On Thursday, Jeff Locke was hit hard.

• The teams that have used the most defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:

1. Astros -- 52
2. Cubs -- 44
3. Rays -- 38
3. Orioles -- 38
5. Pirates -- 33
6. Reds -- 33
7. Indians -- 30
8. Royals -- 26
8. Red Sox -- 26
10. Yankees -- 23

The teams that have used the fewest defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:

29. Rockies -- 0
29. Twins -- 0
28. Cardinals -- 1
25. Dodgers -- 2
25. Phillies -- 2
25. Tigers -- 2
24. White Sox -- 3
23. Diamondbacks -- 4
22. Nationals -- 5
21. Padres -- 5

Dings and dents

1. David Ortiz will be back in the Red Sox lineup tonight.

2. Jason Kipnis could be back in the lineup today, writes Dennis Manoloff.

3. Dayan Viciedo strained an oblique.

4. Michael Cuddyer is dealing with a hamstring thing.

5. The Marlins placed another shortstop on the disabled list.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Mike Fiers was sent to the minors.

2. Joe Savery is being called up to replace John Lannan.

3. The Mariners called up Hector Noesi.

The man behind the A's potent offense.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Oakland Athletics tried to hire Chili Davis as hitting coach a few years ago, targeting him because of his track record as a hitter and because his approach mirrored what the organization valued, in prioritizing patience and power. But a deal didn't work out.

Then Bob Melvin took over as manager, and as he and general manager Billy Beane discussed possible hitting coaches before the 2012 season, he had a name in mind: Chili Davis.

The second time around, Oakland hired Davis away from the Red Sox, and over the past 10 1/2 months, Davis has helped hitters who make up the majors' best offense. Watching the Athletics hit can be like watching a slow-pitch softball team, with a bunch of guys taking big swings and looking to do major damage. Oakland took care of business against the talent-challenged Houston Astros this week, limiting the Houston starting pitchers to just 5 1/3 innings in three games, and after the Athletics finished off a sweep of Houston with a 7-5 win Wednesday, Oakland led the majors in runs scored and total bases.

ESPN Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney
Buster Olney talks to SF SS Brandon Crawford about growing up a Giants fan and agent Jamie Murphy about how negotiations go down and client stealing.

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Think about this: Since June 1 of last season, the Athletics have out-homered their opponents 171-114. Jed Lowrie and John Jaso have been excellent additions to an offense that was already really good, and Chili Davis has been an important part of the coaching staff.

"He was a very accomplished player himself, and he's one of those guys who didn't forget the mindset and how hard [the game] is," Lowrie said over the phone Wednesday, after he pushed his average to .373. "He's not walking around telling everybody how hard the game is, but he understands that you can do everything right and hit a line drive and you still might not have anything to show for it.

"He understands if you can continue to make good swings, things are going to work out, and that's an important mentality to have."

Oakland has won all of its games against Houston, so far. Bartolo Colon added some perspective after a rookie got his first hit in the big leagues.

Around the league

The snow on the field at Coors Field was deep Tuesday and head groundskeeper Mark Razum scrambled with his crew to remove the stuff, and mentioned to Kevin Kahn, the Rockies' director of ballpark operations, that what was needed more than anything was bodies. Not long after that, there were about 150 club employees on the field, including owner **** Monfort, some of them using shovels and machines borrowed from the Broncos to clear the snow.

It was a great day for the organization, said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president for baseball operations, with so many people helping to clear the field before Colorado swept a doubleheader from the Mets. Everybody had pitched in, and now the Rockies are 10-4, the second-best record in the National League.

It's early, and the sample size is small, but it's better than the alternative, which is what the Rockies experienced last year, with an avalanche of injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and others. "I think we were kind of forgotten about," Geivett said.

He believes that Colorado's early play in 2013 has been facilitated in a good way by the mess of 2012, because young players who may have otherwise had limited or no opportunities in the big leagues got a chance to play. With Tulowitzki out, Josh Rutledge accumulated 73 games and almost 300 plate appearances last year. Jordan Pacheco got almost 500 plate appearances, Chris Nelson played in 111 games, catcher Wilin Rosario had a summer of learning how to do his job in the big leagues and Dexter Fowler grew as a hitter. Adam Ottavino pitched in 53 games.

"We were not deep enough or experienced enough to handle what was thrown at us," Geivett said. "But there were a lot of players who got some experience."

Now Tulowitzki is back, and Michael Cuddyer and others who were hurt last year. "We look at last year as a bad year," Geivett said. "But in terms of growth, it was a good year."

Here's more on what the Colorado employees did.

Carlos Gonzalez has been on a tear for the Rockies, writes Patrick Saunders.

• Chase Headley was back in the Padres' lineup Wednesday and helped them finish off the Dodgers. From the story of old friend Bill Center:

"There are a handful of guys who impact their clubs more than others," Black said before the game. "Chase is our guy. That type of player rubs off on teammates. He makes right decisions. Chase has accepted that torch."

"It's a good day any time you get your best player back," said Padres catcher Nick Hundley.

Matt Calkins thinks San Diego should offer a deal to Headley, and that he should accept.

• The Tigers and Mariners combined for 40 strikeouts before Brayan Pena applied the game winner in the 14th inning. The call to send the runner was the right one, said Jim Leyland.

From Elias: Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer locked up in a pitchers' duel for the ages on Wednesday night. Hernandez allowed only one unearned run and had 12 strikeouts and Max Scherzer matched him with a one-run/12-strikeout performance of his own. It marked only the fifth time since 1900 that opposing starting pitchers each had 12 or more strikeouts while allowing one run or fewer in the same game. The previous such matchups featured Cincinnati's Jim Maloney against Pittsburgh's Bob Veale (Sept. 30, 1964), the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax against Philadelphia's Jim Bunning (July 27, 1966), Oakland's Vida Blue against California's Rudy May (July 9, 1971) and Seattle's Randy Johnson against California's Mark Langston (Sept. 16, 1992).

• Miguel Cabrera turns 30 today, and his stats are like those of Hank Aaron at the same age, writes John Lowe.

• Terry Francona says he's not giving up on Ubaldo Jimenez. From Paul Hoynes' story:

"It's only been a few starts," said manager Terry Francona on Wednesday afternoon. "If we lost our patience with everybody after a few starts, we wouldn't have a team. I get the mail. [They say] send him down.

"Our job is to make guys better. Not get rid of them every time they struggle. We wouldn't have a team, coaches or manager [if we did it that way]. We need to help him get better."

The Indians can't send Jimenez to the minors because he's out of options. They could designate him for assignment or try to trade him. Other than that, he's not going anywhere.

Francona doesn't want to hear about last year and how it pertains to Jimenez. Not many people do, but he led the American League in defeats (17), wild pitches (16) and finished second in walks (95).

"You can't pitch for last year," said Francona. "It doesn't work. It just makes it harder.

We've reached the point where you could understand why the Indians might want to try something different. Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info sent this along: Since July 8 of last season, Jimenez is 1-12 with a 7.27 ERA, and a .300/.386/.510 opponents' line, with an 11.5 percent walk rate. Not surprisingly, that ERA is the highest in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings pitched in that timeframe.

• Ryan Zimmerman made all of his throws in a Ross Detwiler victory.

It's a really good sign, I think, that Zimmerman came into the dugout after his error Tuesday asking teammates for observations on what they see in his motion. When Chuck Knoblauch went through his throwing yips -- which basically ended his career -- he was in so much denial and was so intense that the other Yankees didn't know how to approach him, or help him, until the problem had embedded itself into his psyche. Other players have worked through this enough to be functional (Jarrod Saltalamacchia is an example), but typically, coaches and players say that the issue never really goes away; it's either managed or becomes unmanageable.

The Nationals say the throwing thing is not a concern for them, writes Amanda Comak. From her story:

The recent string of errors has stirred up the debate over the third baseman's throwing mechanics, which have been reworked multiple times the past few years to compensate for different issues. After the October surgery, though, Zimmerman's plan was to return to a natural motion. The trainers don't think he'll be all the way there until June and the Nationals, seemingly to a man, are unconcerned by the recent errors.

"I don't think it's a mental problem right now," manager Davey Johnson said. "With the severity of that injury and the surgery in the offseason, and now throwing from a different angle, his arm is a lot stronger. It's just going to take him a little while to get comfortable and in a slot over there.

"It's always magnified if somebody makes a bad pitch after you make an error and they hit a home run. We're not picking each other up. Good teams do that. It puts more focus on a guy making an error, especially when he's coming back from some surgery. I don't have any concern."

They owe him $114 million, total, for this season and the next six.

• A.J. Burnett was The Man for the Pirates.

• Travis Hafner was The Man for the Yankees. He's hitting .342, Kevin Youkilis is hitting .327, Brennan Boesch is batting .316 and Vernon Wells is batting .295; the Yankees are surviving with The New Guys, as they should be called.

Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira continues to make progress.

• Zack Greinke seems to be downplaying the Carlos Quentin stuff.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Terry Collins wants Zack Wheeler, writes Andy Martino, but the GM is balking.

2. Tony Cingrani makes his debut today.

3. The Brewers re-signed K-Rod.

4. It's too early to think about an exit strategy for Alfonso Soriano, writes Paul Sullivan.

5. The Dodgers will turn to Ted Lilly next week.

Dings and dents

1. A Nationals prospect had Tommy John surgery.

2. Two Phillies will see the doctor today.

3. James McDonald insists he is healthy.

4. Dylan Bundy hasn't started throwing yet.

5. Jose Bautista is still dealing with a bad back. Bob Elliott thinks it may have been the preparation to play third base that hurt Bautista.

6. Ryan Ludwick is making progress.

7. Stephen Pryor figures to be on the disabled list for a long time.

8. Ryan Madson is feeling great.

Five alarming defensive trends.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's always dangerous to draw too many conclusions based on the first few weeks of the baseball season. However, with the added wild-card spot and parity across the sport pulling more teams into the mix for the postseason, contenders can't wait too long in addressing their apparent weaknesses for fear of costing themselves a few wins that could prove to be the difference over the course of the full season.

These five defensive situations were causes for concern at the start the season, and the first few weeks have done nothing to dissuade that concern.

1. The Los Angeles Angels' team defense

For a team that finished third in its division and failed to reach 90 wins in 2012, the Angels had a surprising number of team strengths, highlighted by their defense. Only the Blue Jays and Braves had more defensive runs saved (DRS) than the Angels' 55 a year ago, and their outfield was the catalyst: Mike Trout was an elite defender as a rookie and combined with Peter Bourjos to save 30 runs in center field alone. In addition, Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells were solid contributors in the corner outfield spots.

The Angels are under a lot of pressure to succeed in 2013, and they are off to a 6-10 start, primarily because of poor defense. So far, the Angels' defense has cost them 16 runs, the worst mark in baseball, and their outfield has inverted from their biggest strength to their biggest weakness. The poor starts for Trout and Bourjos -- they have combined to cost the Angels three runs so far this season -- will likely turn around. However, Josh Hamilton is another matter.

Hamilton's early struggles at the plate have drawn the headlines, but he, too, has been a wreck defensively -- his minus-3 runs saved is among the worst marks in baseball. It was always a bit of a stretch for Hamilton to man center field, but Hamilton saved the Rangers 13 runs in nearly 2,000 innings in left field over the past three seasons. He is struggling to adjust to right field in Los Angeles, where, entering this season, he had played only four innings since 2009.

The Angels' infield has not fared much better. Erick Aybar has been their infield anchor for half a decade, but an injured heel has put him on the disabled list and forced Brendan Harris into the lineup, where he has already cost the Angels three runs in four games. In addition, Chris Iannetta has failed to throw out even one of the nine attempted base stealers he's faced so far, and he'll be without Jered Weaver, the Angels starter with the fastest pickoff move, for more than a month.

2. The Oakland Athletics' middle infield defense

Like the Angels, the Athletics have seen a defense that was the team's strength last season -- they saved 16 runs collectively in 2012 -- become a weakness so far this season. Unlike the Angels, the A's have a more isolated problem in the middle infield.

Jed Lowrie is at or near the top of the shortstop leaderboards for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, but he's been less effective defensively. In fact, his minus-5 runs saved is tied for the worst mark in baseball. Double-play partner Scott Sizemore wasn't far behind him at minus-3 runs saved, but another left knee injury may have ended his season. It's another terrible break for Sizemore, but it may allow the Athletics to solve two defensive problems with one move.

Lowrie has not had a positive DRS season since 2008 at shortstop, his primary position. However, he has also played every other infield position in the majors and has a combined three runs saved at third base and second base in close to 500 innings since 2010. Without a clear solution at second base now that Sizemore is out, the A's may be able to convert Lowrie from a substandard defender at short to a solid one at second. The real question is whether shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima can make the successful transition from Japan. He did win three Japanese Gold Gloves, so there is some reason for optimism. The A's may not have the same urgency to make a move given their 12-4 start, but the Rangers appear to have leaped both them and the Angels defensively this season -- thanks in large part to the additions by subtraction of both Hamilton and Michael Young -- and are many people's favorite to win that division.

3. The Cincinnati Reds' center field defense

The Reds' decision to trade for Shin-Soo Choo made a lot of sense offensively. Choo has a career .383 on-base percentage and adequate speed -- he's stolen 20 bases in three of the past four seasons. For a lineup that lacked a leadoff hitter, Choo was the perfect fit. Defensively, that was less the case.

The Reds traded Drew Stubbs to acquire him, who, for all of his limitations, could play an adequate center field. When they decided to bring back Ryan Ludwick on a two-year deal, it was clear that the Reds would try to play one of their three corner outfielders in center. Choo has been that player so far this season, and the experiment is not going well so far. Even in right field, Choo had below-average range, as he cost the Indians 19 runs with his range over the past three seasons.

Choo was able to make up for a lot of those problems with his excellent arm, with which he threw out 30 baserunners unassisted since 2009. In center field, that arm will be less of a factor, and range is more important. Obviously, Choo is not the ideal choice, but Chris Heisey and Jay Bruce have shown limited range in the corner outfield spots, as well. Unless speedy prospect Billy Hamilton picks up the position quickly in the minors, the Reds may be stuck with this glaring issue all season.

4. The Toronto Blue Jays' middle infield defense

Over the offseason, the Blue Jays sacrificed a handful of pieces that made them the best defensive team in the American League in 2012 with 70 runs saved. Still, it was hard to criticize them for exchanging players such as Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar -- who combined for 19 runs saved last season -- for elite offensive players such as Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, even with the defensive downgrade.

The tradeoff would probably have worked fine if early injuries to Reyes and Brett Lawrie, himself an elite defender in 2012, had not exposed their lack of quality defensive depth. Without Reyes, Maicer Izturis has been forced to slide over to shortstop, where he cost the Angels an incredible nine runs in only 26 games a year ago. That move systematically weakens the Jays' defense, as either Emilio Bonifacio -- who already has minus-2 runs saved in seven games at second base -- or Lawrie will be forced to play second. The panic may set in quickly for the Jays this season because of their lofty preseason expectations.

5. The New York Yankees' left side of the infield defense

We have called attention to the poor defensive play of Derek Jeter many times before -- although it bears repeating that he has cost the Yankees 142 runs at shortstop over the past 10 seasons, more than 50 runs more than the closest player to him in that time frame. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they do not seem to have tremendous alternatives as he continues to recover from his ankle injury.

Eduardo Nunez has cost the Yankees 12 runs at shortstop in just more than 600 career innings, which is a pace of poor play that rivals that of Jeter. The Yankees seem to realize that fact by their attempted mix and match at the position so far this season. However, Jayson Nix, who they have used in six games this season at short, has cost them two runs there himself.

The Yankees built the left side of their infield to hit rather than field. That may work out fine if both Jeter and Kevin Youkilis can be productive offensively. Youkilis is certainly off to a hot start, and the Yankees have had some recent success in coaxing some excellent hitting seasons out of veterans such as Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. However, Youkilis has limited mobility at third base, and Jeter struggled before his ankle injury. He may be worse when he returns, which may not be before the All-Star break, in any case. Any offensive struggles will magnify the poor defense of their left side, and the Yankees simply do not have the depth to make an adjustment.
post #11263 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Future 50: Gray challenging Appel.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Welcome to the second installment of the Future 50 for 2013, my ranking of the top 50 prospects for this June's Rule 4 draft. (For version 1.0 of the Future 50, click here.)

Behind The Dish with Keith Law
Keith Law breaks down all of the names for this year's Rule 4 draft with Kiley McDaniel.

More Podcasts »
This is not a projection or "mock" draft -- I'll start doing those in May, once team preferences start to narrow around specific sets of players. This list is a ranking by talent and upside based on my own scouting of players (live and off video) and conversations with scouts from all over the country.

As with my ranking of the top 100 pro prospects, I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid overuse of the terms "average" and "above average" across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on.

Now, on to the rankings.

1Mark AppelPOS: RHPHT: 6-5WT: 215School: StanfordAnalysis: Still clearly the best player in this draft, boasting stuff, command, an out-pitch in his slider, a good delivery and athleticism. If I were the Astros (or the Cubs, picking second, which I think is Appel's floor), I'd try to work out a deal less than the recommended bonus number ($7.7 million for Houston) but more than the figure Appel turned down from the Pirates last year ($3.8 million), with the carrot of a big league callup in September if he throws well after signing. He could pitch in a major league rotation in 2014 regardless.


2Jonathan GrayPOS: RHPHT: 6-4WT: 239School: OklahomaAnalysis: Boasts more power than Appel, hitting 100 miles per hour and sitting at 94-98 with the fastball and possessing a plus-plus slider of his own. Gray doesn't have Appel's command track record but mighthave just as high of a ceiling. He's clearly the second-best player in the draft, but after these two guys, you could go in a lot of directions. There is no clear No. 3.


3Austin MeadowsPOS: OFB/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 200School: Grayson (Ga.) HSAnalysis: Meadows has the best combination of tools among prep players in this draft, but he has had only a so-so spring, and scouts have commented on his lack of energy on the field, questioning how badly he wants to play baseball professionally. While that's often a nonsense accusation, I do wish Meadows played with the kind of fire and intensity that Clint Frazier or Nick Ciuffo display on the field. His upside is still enormous, thanks to his size, raw power and ability to run and cover ground in the outfield.


4Sean ManaeaPOS: LHPHT: 6-5WT: 235School: Indiana StateAnalysis: It's been a good spring for Manaea but not as dominant as he was on the Cape last summer, which might speak to his high floor, with the potential for something more if last season's version returns. He has pitched at 90-94 mph most of the spring and misses a lot of bats with the fastball. It's not a great delivery, and the slider has been more average than plus, but this is the best college lefty in the draft, and he should go pretty high.


5Kohl StewartPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 190School: St. Pius X (Houston)Analysis: If he stays healthy, he might be Josh Beckett -- the old version, not the slightly pudgy average-fastball-with-no-life version you see today. Stewart, who is committed to Texas A&M to carry a clipboard for a year behind Johnny Football on the football field, shows four pitches, including a knockout slider despite a rudimentary delivery. With pro instruction, he has top-of-the-rotation potential.


6Kris BryantPOS: 3B/OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 215School: San DiegoAnalysis: This might be a little aggressive for a guy with maybe a 25-30 percent chance of staying at third, but he's one of the top two or three power bats among college guys (with Hunter Renfroe and perhaps Austin Wilson), is a good enough athlete for right field and has a solid track record of performance. He wouldn't fall out of the top five picks today.


7Braden ShipleyPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 190School: NevadaAnalysis: He's a tall, athletic right-hander capable of running his fastball to 97 mph, while sitting in the low 90s. He possesses an out-pitch changeup and has a chance for an above-average to plus curveball with more experience. I saw him at high altitude, but the breaking ball is still just average or so, even at sea level. The delivery works, and he fields his position as well as you'd expect a converted shortstop to do.


8Clint FrazierPOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190School: Loganville (Ga.) HSAnalysis: He has the best bat speed in the draft, bar none, and is in the middle of a ferocious spring at the plate. I don't care that he's red-headed -- you'd be surprised the extent to which you still hear that trope, as if we were scouting Kid Nichols and King Kelly out there -- but 6-foot-1 right-handed future corner outfielders have a high bar to clear at the plate. I prefer Meadows -- who plays right down the road -- but if you asked me to drop $100 on which one goes earlier in the draft, I'd put it on the Red Devil.


9Ryne StanekPOS: RHPHT: 6-4WT: 190School: ArkansasAnalysis: Stanek came into the season with an outside chance to go second overall but has underperformed a little and been jerked around by the Hogs' coaching staff a lot. He was moved to different days and forced to overuse the slider rather than pitch off his fastball, which has reached 97 mph and will sit between 92 and 94 mph. Even with the weird usage, he's performed well; he just hasn't dominated as expected.

10J.P. CrawfordPOS: SSB/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 175School: Lakewood (Calif.) HSAnalysis: The best shortstop in the draft -- maybe the only true shortstop in the draft -- Crawford would be more like a top 20-25 guy in a typical draft class, but the shortage up the middle and his potential to hit for average should push him into the top half of the round. I believe he'll hit, although his lack of running speed and power are drawbacks.


11Austin WilsonPOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 245School: StanfordAnalysis: Finally back from a stress reaction above his right elbow that kept him out of action for over a month, Wilson came out swinging, going 7-for-18 with a homer, five walks and two strikeouts since his return. He now has to stay healthy the rest of the season and display the power he's always promised to have as a top-20 pick. I'm higher on him than the industry as a whole, for what it's worth.


12Colin MoranPOS: 3BB/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 215School: North CarolinaAnalysis: Moran is the best performer among college bats, with great feel for hitting and strong plate discipline, and has the hands and arm for third base but might lack the range. If you think he stays at third, he's a top-10 pick, maybe top five. If you think he ends up at first, he's a back-of-the-first-round guy. After seeing him this week, I think it's more likely he can handle third in pro ball and be at least close to average than it is that he has to move to another position.


13Ryan BoldtPOS: OFB/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 190School: Red Wing (Minn.) HSAnalysis: He possesses no 70-grade tools -- but a lot of 60s -- reminding me in some ways of Rockies 2012 first-rounder David Dahl, at least on the field. Boldt's season has barely begun, thanks to a late scheduled start on April 4 and repeated cancellations due to bad weather, limiting scouts' looks at him and increasing the pressure to showcase his tools every time out.


14Trey BallPOS: LHP/OFHT: 6-6WT: 180School: New Castle (Ind.) HSAnalysis: Ball, a two-way prospect, hasn't swung the bat well this spring but is hitting 94 consistently, and 6-foot-6 left-handers with that kind of arm strength and Ball's athleticism don't slide far in any draft, let alone in one that's weak in high school pitching.


15Jon DenneyPOS: CB/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 205School: Yukon (Okla.) HSAnalysis: I think the industry consensus favors Reese McGuire as the best catcher in this draft, but I still prefer Denney for his swing and raw power, even if his catching needs more work, especially on balls low in the zone.


16Ryan EadesPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 198School: LSUAnalysis: Eades' combination of above-average velocity and a potential out pitch in the curveball and his history of success in the SEC have him solidly in the first round but can't get him the Friday-night slot at LSU, which has been usurped by sophomore Aaron Nola.


17Dominic SmithPOS: 1BB/T: L/LHT: 6-0WT: 195School: Serra HS (Gardena, Calif.)Analysis: Smith has an odd profile for a first-round high school bat: He is strictly a first baseman, despite a 70-grade arm, but has a great left-handed swing and actually plays a very good first base as well.


18Aaron JudgePOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-7WT: 255School: Fresno StateAnalysis: Judge would match Frank Howard as the biggest outfielder in MLB history, and there's a legitimate concern about a 6-foot-7 hitter's strike zone. He shows huge raw power in batting practice but is more geared to hard contact in games -- hard enough that you worry he's going to take some shortstop's head off. For a guy his size, he's also a good athlete -- not good enough to stay in center but potentially above-average on defense in right.


19Hunter RenfroePOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 216School: Mississippi StateAnalysis: Renfroe was something of a tools goof coming into the season but now has put everything together in games, starting with a power explosion at Kentucky a few weeks ago that hasn't abated. He's second in Division I in homers and leads in wOBA, according to, with the raw power and other tools to back it up. I'm scheduled to see him at Vanderbilt on April 26.


20Reese McGuirePOS: CB/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 190School: Kentwood HS (Kent, Wash.)Analysis: Some teams view McGuire as a top-10 talent, a no-doubt catcher with a good chance to hit; I see a potentially good catcher with a chance to hit with some risk on both sides of the ball, especially given the trouble he had catching higher-quality stuff during showcases last summer. He'll almost certainly go higher than I have him ranked here (which, I suppose, means I wouldn't get him if I were drafting).


21Andrew ThurmanPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 205School: UC IrvineAnalysis: Thurman doesn't have the pure power of the right-handed starters higher on this list but makes up for it with better command, as well as a four-pitch mix that includes a plus changeup. This gives some hope he'd move very quickly through a minor league system.


22Nick CiuffoPOS: CB/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 200School: Lexington (S.C.) HSAnalysis: The best receiver among catchers in this class, Ciuffo, a South Carolina commit, boosted his stock at the recent National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C., which took place at the USA Baseball complex. He showed off more power as well as an above-average arm.


23Marco GonzalesPOS: LHPHT: 6-1WT: 185School: GonzagaAnalysis: Gonzales is polished lefty with a plus-plus changeup, above-average curvebal and a fringy fastball that might be in the 86-88 mph range when he's going every fifth day in pro ball. He's an outstanding athlete who will likely destroy the low minors if the team that signs him decides to waste his time in that way.


24Chris AndersonPOS: RHPHT: 6-4WT: 225School: JacksonvilleAnalysis: Anderson started the season as a possible top-10 pick but has been worked very hard all spring and might be wearing down; when I saw him earlier this month, his stuff was inferior to the reports I'd heard in late February and March. Please don't tell me again how much college coaches care about their players, not when we see too many of them try to run their best starters into the ground.


25Kyle SerranoPOS: RHPHT: 6-0WT: 185School: Farragut (Tenn.) HSAnalysis: Tennessee coach Dave Serrano must be bemoaning his bad luck, as his Friday-night starter for 2014 has been so good this season that even familial ties won't be enough to get him on campus -- not with a mid-90s fastball and a 70-grade curveball.


26Billy McKinneyPOS: OFB/T: L/LHT: 6-1WT: 195School: Plano (Texas) West HSAnalysis: He has a very smooth, sound, left-handed swing to make up for the fact that he'll almost certainly be a left fielder in pro ball, although that makes him relatively high risk because of the offensive standard at the position.


27Devin WilliamsPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 172School: Hazelwood West HS (Hazelwood, Mo.)Analysis: An athletic right-hander with a somewhat narrow frame but very quick arm, Williams hits 95 mph and shows two solid secondary offerings.


28Trevor WilliamsPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 228School: Arizona StateAnalysis: A strike-throwing right-hander with big velocity, Williams has never missed many bats, which has been the case this season.


29Connor JonesPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 205School: Great Bridge HS (Chesapeake, Va.)Analysis: Jones is a very loose-armed, projectable right-hander who's been up to 94 mph and can really locate the ball well for a high school kid; he's committed to Virginia and might be a tough sign, though I think he's good enough for some team to pay him $1.5 million or more.


30Aaron BlairPOS: RHPHT: 6-5WT: 220School: MarshallAnalysis: He's got a great pitcher's frame, and his fastball is up to 95 mph. He has a much-improved changeup and is now pitching consistently on Saturdays after Marshall had jerked him all over the week earlier in the spring.


31Hunter HarveyPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 175School: Bandys HS (Catawba, N.C.)Analysis: Son of former big leaguer Bryan Harvey, Hunter is an extremely projectable right-hander who already has a good curveball and will sit in the 90-93 mph range. He has touched higher velocities on occasion this spring.


32Matt KrookPOS: LHPHT: 6-2WT: 190School: St. Ignatius Prep (Hillsborough, Calif.)Analysis: The package is the same -- big, broad-shouldered, up to 92-93 mph, future plus curveball -- but the performance hasn't held, including a disastrous outing last Friday in front of a lot of national scouts. It was the kind of outing that can (rightly or wrongly) severely damage a player's draft stock.


33Alex GonzalezPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 200School: Oral RobertsAnalysis: He continues to perform while flashing three above-average pitches, including a 92-94 mph fastball and a 60-grade slider; Gonzalez projects as a mid-rotation starter in the majors and could easily get into the last half of the first round.


34Andrew MitchellPOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 225School: TCUAnalysis: Mitchell is finally in the rotation where he belongs, showing potential mid-rotation stuff. The command, though, hasn't been there yet, either because he was used to working out of the bullpen for the first few weeks, or because the command just flat out isn't there yet.

35Eric JagieloPOS: 3BB/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 215School: Notre DameAnalysis:Jagielo is a power-hitting third baseman with a good chance to stay at the hot corner and a strong command of the strike zone; in a year devoid of college bats at skill positions, he's likely a late first-rounder.


36Phil BickfordPOS: RHPHT: 6-4WT: 185School: Oaks Christian HS (Westlake Village, Calif.)Analysis: Bickford is a projectable right-hander who has hit 97 mph and pitched between 92 and 94 mph for the past month or so. With a solid 6-foot-4 frame, he particularly stood out at the recent Boras Classic tournament in Southern California.


37Jacob BrentzPOS: LHPHT: 6-2WT: 195School: Parkway South HS (Manchester, Mo.)Analysis: Brentz has hit 97 mph several times and might have touched triple digits, depending on who you ask. He also possesses a soft curveball that has decent rotation.


38Dustin PetersonPOS: SSHT: 6-2WT: 180School: Gilbert (Ariz.) HSAnalysis: The younger brother of New Mexico third baseman DJ Peterson (who is a bit further down the list), Dustin has a better defensive profile and will probably ending up at second or third base. He owns a better pure hit tool as well. I'm scheduled to see him on Monday.


39Logan ShorePOS: RHPB/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 185School: **** Rapids (Minn.) HSAnalysis: Shore is a good-sized left-hander who runs the fastball to 93-94 mph with a good curveball -- but his school's season starts today, so he hasn't really been scouted this spring, even as other states' schedules are winding down.


40Rob KaminskyPOS: LHPHT: 6-0WT: 190School: St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.)Analysis: Weather has limited his starts so far, but he's been up to 92 mph already. He has a plus curveball and is among the most polished prep arms in the class.


41Cody ReedPOS: LHPHT: 6-4WT: 220School: Northwest Mississippi CCAnalysis: I first mentioned Reed on Twitter a few weeks ago -- he's a 6-foot-4 lefty with a plus curveball and a delivery that works whose fastball gets up to 94 mph. He's committed to Ole Miss but should never get to campus.


42Blake TaylorPOS: LHPHT: 6-4WT: 185School: Dana Hills HS (Mission, Viejo, Calif.) Analysis: Taylor has easy 90-92 mph velocity, which can reach up to 95. He already has an above-average curveball and a projectable frame but primarily needs to work on command and developing a third pitch.


43D.J. PetersonPOS: 1BB/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 205School: New MexicoAnalysis: Peterson owns one of the better pure bats in this class, although I think he's a power-before-average guy and will most likely end up at first base because he lacks the range teams want in their third basemen.


44Jason HurshPOS: RHPHT: 6-1WT: 197School: Oklahoma StateAnalysis: He sits in the mid-90s, with good life on the fastball, in his first year back after Tommy John surgery; his breaking ball and change aren't as advanced, and it's not a great delivery because it's fairly heavy on the arm.


45Tim AndersonPOS: SSB/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 171School: East Central CCAnalysis: He's a very athletic junior college shortstop who can run and might stay at short, but he faces the expected questions about how advanced his hit tool is.


46Wil CrowePOS: RHPHT: 6-3WT: 225School: Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) HSAnalysis: Crowe is a big, very physical right-hander who is committed to South Carolina. He has an above-average curveball and has been up to 93 mph with his fastball. He might be a high-maintenance body as he matures.


47Jonathon CrawfordPOS: RHPHT: 6-1WT: 205School: FloridaAnalysis: Crawford's velocity has been better lately -- more consistently up to 95 -- but the delivery and poor command have more and more scouts (myself included) thinking he's destined to be a reliever in the long run.


48Michael LorenzenPOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195School: Cal State FullertonAnalysis: Lorenzen is a very toolsy position player with no track record of hitting, but his fastball has been up to 100 mph in relief and will sit in the mid-90s, making him a potential upside play by a team willing to work on converting him into a full-time pitcher.


49Travis DemerittePOS: 3BB/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 195School: Winder-Barrow HS (Statham, Ga.)Analysis: He's an athletic high school infielder who has been on fire at the plate, especially in his show of power; he has arguably the fastest bat, after Clint Frazier, in the class.


50Phil ErvinPOS: OFB/T: R/RHT: 5-11WT: 190School: SamfordAnalysis: An undersized centerfielder with a strong track record of performance between this spring and last summer on the Cape, Ervin profiles as a right fielder in pro ball given his thick lower half. He hasn't faced much quality pitching while in school.

Other names to know
Ryan McMahon 3B Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Josh Hart OF Parkview HS (Lilburn, Ga.)
Riley Unroe IF Desert Ridge HS (Mesa, Ariz.)
Jake Johansen RHP Dallas Baptist
Austin Nicely LHP Spotswood HS (Penn Laird, Va.)
Hunter Dozier SS Stephen F. Austin
D.J. Snelten LHP Minnesota
Mason Smith OF Rocky Mountain HS (Meridian, Id.)
Jordan Paroubeck OF Serra HS (San Mateo, Calif.)
Kyle Finnegan RHP Texas State

Kershaw's historic trajectory.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Opening Day was a festive occasion for Los Angeles Dodgers fans this year, and not just for the usual reasons. Spectators streamed into grand old Dodger Stadium, fresh off a winter renovation worth $100 million, content in the knowledge that for the first time since 2003 they would be watching a team that wasn't owned by the despised and departed Frank McCourt. New stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford dotted a lineup that just a year before had included low-budget placeholders like James Loney and Juan Rivera, as the Dodgers welcomed the defending champion San Francisco Giants to town.

By the end of the day, the Dodgers stood victorious with a 4-0 win, but the score hardly told the story. Homegrown ace Clayton Kershaw had not only thrown a complete game shutout, he'd taken matters into his own hands to break a scoreless tie by hitting his first career homer, a shot to center off George Kontos in the eighth. No pitcher had pulled off the same feat -- a shutout and a homer on Opening Day -- in six decades.

The young lefty had somehow found a new way to impress, and if Dodger fans take such feats for granted, they might be forgiven. Their ace has been so consistently excellent that even a rare poor outing, like Wednesday night's loss to San Diego, comes as something of a surprise. Before getting touched for five runs (three earned) by the Padres, Kershaw had gone 17 straight starts having allowed three runs or fewer; it's become almost expected to assume he'll dominate at this point.

Yet to merely place him among the ranks one of the greatest pitching talents in the game today is almost an injustice, because the same could be said about David Price, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander or a half-dozen other members of the true pitching elite. With every start, Kershaw is continuing to lay the groundwork for a career that is already on the path to baseball immortality.

When Kershaw struck out San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso with a letter-high fastball in the second inning Wednesday night, he became just the 16th pitcher in big league history to strike out 1,000 hitters before the end of his age-25 season. The list is a who's who of pitching royalty, including seven Hall of Famers -- Bert Blyleven, Don Drysdale, Bob Feller, Catfish Hunter, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Hal Newhouser -- one active pitcher well on his way (Felix Hernandez) and one derailed only by off-field issues (Dwight Gooden).

No hits
Kershaw gives up hits at a historically low rate.

Ed Reulbach 999.1 6.40
Sam McDowell 1305.0 6.79
Walter Johnson 2070.1 6.89
Clayton Kershaw 972.1 6.95
*Through age 25
If Kershaw maintains his current strikeout pace, he'll end the season with around 1,215 career punchouts. That would not only give him the ninth-most in history by age 25, it would make him the second-most prolific lefty pitcher by that age, behind only former Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela.

As impressive as that is, Kershaw ranks even higher on the list of pitchers who simply do not allow hits. In the history of the game, dating to the 19th century, exactly four pitchers have thrown as many innings as Kershaw has (972 1/3) through their age-25 season and allowed fewer than seven hits per nine innings (see table).

Ed Reulbach and Johnson made their debuts more than a century ago in a game that scarcely resembled what we see today. "Sudden Sam" McDowell's strikeout prowess was perhaps matched only by his complete inability to know where the ball was headed when it left his hand.

As one might expect, standing among legends in strikeouts and limiting hits puts Kershaw high on the most notable list of all: run prevention. ERA+ is a simple yet effective way to measure runs allowed for pitchers from different eras, because it's adjusted to include park factors and the league average. A score of 100 would be exactly league-average for a given year; each point above that is equal to 1 percent better than average.

List of greats
In terms of ERA+, Kershaw is in elite company.

Walter Johnson 2070.1 176
Ed Reulbach 999.1 154
Smokey Joe Wood 1416.0 150
Roger Clemens 1031.1 141
Tom Seaver 1039.0 141
Hal Newhouser 1609.0 141
Clayton Kershaw 972.2 140
*Through age 25
Kershaw is one of only three in the last 60 years to post a career ERA (with 970 innings pitched through age 25) at least 40 percent better than the league average. Standing with Roger Clemens and Tom Seaver as his only contemporaries in that time is more than a little impressive, given that both ended their careers in the conversation for "best pitcher ever."

If we shift our view to more advanced statistics using fielding independent pitching (FIP), the story remains the same except that more all-time greats enter the picture. Narrowing the scope to post-World War II play, just 10 pitchers top Kershaw's 3.01 FIP at this point in his career. Again, we see Blyleven, Clemens, Gooden and Seaver, but now we also find Steve Carlton and Don Sutton -- Hall of Famers both. With rare exceptions, if a pitcher has accomplished as much at this age as Kershaw has, it means that something very, very special is happening.

That truth was displayed when Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011, becoming not only the youngest winner since Gooden in 1985, but one of just 13 hurlers to win the unofficial Pitching Triple Crown -- leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts -- since the Cy Young came into existence in 1956. He followed that with an equally outstanding 2012, which arguably should have earned him back-to-back awards, losing to R.A. Dickey largely on the strength of the knuckleballer's fantastic narrative.

Five years ago, a 19-year-old Kershaw shocked legendary broadcaster Vin Scully -- who has seen a few things in his time, to put it lightly -- with a spring training curveball so vicious that Scully dubbed it "Public Enemy No. 1." Even at the time, that began comparisons to Dodger Hall of Fame lefty Sandy Koufax, an absolutely unfair burden to place on a player less than two years out of a Texas high school.

Since then, Kershaw has done nothing but meet and exceed those expectations, and at some point in the near future, the Dodgers are almost certainly going to sign their ace to a long-term deal that will likely make him the first $200 million pitcher in baseball history. That's great news for Dodger fans, but it's good news for baseball as well; with every start, Kershaw continues on a trajectory that might end with his living among the all-time greats. Unless he happens to be mowing down your favorite team on a given night, it's worth pausing to admire this kind of performance while it's right in front of us.

Five early surprises: Can they keep it up?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
During spring training, it's not easy to recognize which performances and numbers are legit and which are merely mirages. Spring numbers are never a truly accurate barometer of what to expect from a player during the season. Likewise, early-season numbers are almost as deceiving.

The following five players have enjoyed success early in 2013, but what are we to make of it? Could their terrific play in the first three weeks of the season foreshadow a breakout campaign? Whether resulting from more playing time or new skills acquired in the offseason, this group is performing at a high level right now. The only question is, can they keep it up?

1. Paul Maholm | LHP | Atlanta Braves
Last July, the Braves attempted to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, but Dempster exercised his no-trade clause. So the Braves instead traded prospects for another Cubs starter in Paul Maholm. It was fortuitous for the Braves as they later used the prospects offered in the Dempster trade to acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks. More important, Maholm has simply been more successful than Dempster since the trade.

Maholm is 3-0 this year with a 0.00 ERA, yielding just 11 hits in 20 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 20 and walking just five. As Senior VP and GM Frank Wren described him to me this week, Maholm “has become a top-flight command-and-control left-handed starter.”

Maholm now has command of all of his pitches and varies speeds from an extra-slow curveball (which was described to me by Evan Gattis as an eephus pitch) to a fastball that touches 90 and all speeds in between. He is really hard to square up and will produce a bunch of very uncomfortable 0-for-4’s. Maholm has been so consistent since last May that Wren believes Maholm has finally figured out that this is who “he is.” This is the type of left-hander that gives good hitters fits, and I agree with Wren, that Maholm is for real and heading toward a 15-win season.

2. Jean Segura | SS | Milwaukee Brewers
Last July, when the Milwaukee Brewers traded ace pitcher Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a package centered on middle infielder Jean Segura, most experts felt the Brewers didn’t get enough and that Segura might end up being a utility player rather than a middle infield solution. Segura’s slash line .264/.321/.331 last season for the Brewers was for the most part unimpressive, but he hit three triples and stole seven bases in eight attempts, which offered some rays of optimism.

However, once Segura reported to spring training this season, he quickly started showing that not only could he play shortstop, but he also had bat potential that was much better than most people thought. His quick start to the season including a .415 batting average has a lot of people talking and scouts scribbling into notepads.

Segura has a great attitude and tremendous feel for the game. He has extremely quick hands and feet. He has above-average arm strength, but what impresses general manager Doug Melvin the most is his accuracy when moving both to his left and coming in on slow rollers. Segura’s quick hands are also evident in his hitting. He does not try to do too much at the plate and sprays the ball to all fields. Segura doesn’t walk enough yet, but he does not chase balls out of the zone either.

Melvin credits pro scouting director Zack Minasian and his staff in particular to keeping Segura at shortstop when most of the industry thought he’d have to move to second base. Although I don’t think Segura will be a .300 hitter come season’s end, I do think he’ll be able to sustain success and be the long-term shortstop for the Brewers.

3. Matt Adams | 1B | St. Louis Cardinals
Both VP and GM John Mozeliak and Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny told me about Adams a couple of years ago, assuring me he would develop into an impact middle-of-the-order bat. Adams had a lot of success offensively in his minor league career, but when he was called up last season he struggled. It’s not easy to go from an everyday player to a part-time role player in the major leagues and have consistent at-bats. This year it’s been much easier for the Cards to envision more consistent playing time; Adams has made the most of the opportunities he has been given this season.

Adams is off to a ridiculous start, hitting .611 with three home runs. Matheny told me earlier this week he plans on getting Adams regular starts, which means the rest of the regulars will soon be complaining about getting too much rest. But that’s how much they think of Adams’ bat.

However, with Allen Craig at first base, Carlos Beltran in right field and Matt Holliday in left field, I can’t imagine that Adams will get the at-bats he needs. If his role is merely starting twice a week, I doubt he’ll be able to keep up the pace the entire year. It’s just too difficult for a young player to stay sharp without consistent at-bats. I agree with Mozeliak and Matheny that Adams is for real. Unfortunately for Adams, super prospect Oscar Taveras awaits in the minor leagues, Holliday is signed long term and Craig is entrenched in the cleanup spot. A trade to an American League club might even be more likely than playing every day and living up to his potential in St. Louis.

4. John Buck | C | New York Mets
Most of the offseason, the excitement for Mets fans centered on the acquisition of one of the game’s best catching prospects, Travis d’Arnaud from the Toronto Blue Jays. However, in the early going this season, the player producing the most for the Mets offensively and defensively has been Buck, the “other” catcher in the deal with Toronto. As one executive told me, Buck was the “hidden gem” of the deal. Buck, 32, has really improved him game-calling skills over the last few years and his early-season power should not be a surprise: He hit 20 home runs in 2010 and has 12 or more home runs in six of his 10 years in the majors.

That being said, hitting .300 to start the year is probably an aberration, and I would expect by season’s end his average will be closer to his lifetime average of .237. He’ll also probably be traded for the fourth time in three years -- perhaps to a contender -- when the Mets are ready to promote D’Arnaud to the big leagues, although that could change with word this week that d'Arnaud has a broken bone in his foot.

5. Wilin Rosario | C | Colorado Rockies
When I walked into Rockies camp this spring, there was one hitter every Rockies player raved about: catcher Wilin Rosario. Todd Helton told me, “Forty home runs -- book it.” Carlos Gonzalez told me Rosario had the most power on the team -- more than Tulowitzki and more than Gonzalez himself. Tulowitzki told me that Rosario was going to hit, and it wasn’t just power.

Sure enough, when I got near the batting cage the sound off Rosario’s bat was deafening, and the power was right along the lines of what Helton, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki had told me. I then interviewed Rosario for my radio show. Talk about impressive. He’s intelligent, down to earth, humble with a sense of humor. Now if he can reduce the passed balls and improve the game-calling, the Rockies might just have one of the best right-handed power-hitting catchers in baseball. Can he keep this up? Considering the endorsements he has received from his general manager and teammates, Rosario is an impact power bat whom everyone should believe in.

The 'new' Stephen Strasburg.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Stephen Strasburg had his workload managed for him last season, and he wasn't particularly thrilled about it. This year, Strasburg is attempting to manage his own workload, adopting a pitch-to-contact approach to get batters out, keep his pitch counts down and help him stay fresh for September and October. The only problem is that it might not actually make things any better.

In the 251 innings Strasburg pitched from 2010 to 2012, opposing batters made contact just 74 percent of the time they swung the bat, the third-lowest rate in the majors for a starting pitcher. The lack of contact translated into a 31 percent strikeout rate, easily the highest of any starter. Clayton Kershaw, the pitcher with the next highest strikeout rate, checked in at 25.9 percent. The gap between Strasburg and Kershaw was as large as the gap between Kershaw and Anibal Sanchez.

New approach

Through his first three starts of 2013, Strasburg hasn't looked anything like the Strasburg of old, at least in terms of contact. Opposing hitters are making contact on 80 percent of their swings, and his strikeout rate has fallen to 19 percent, slightly below the league average. Meanwhile, his ground-ball rate has spiked from 44.5 percent to 56.9 percent. Strasburg has essentially traded strikeouts for ground balls. Crash Davis would be proud.

Despite the change, Strasburg hasn't actually become that much more efficient. During the past three years, he averaged 3.92 pitches per batter faced while racking up a ton of strikeouts. As a pitch-to-contact ground-ball guy, he has averaged 3.87 pitches per batter. If he stays on the mound for 220 innings this year, he would face approximately 900 batters. At his current rate, that would take him 3,486 pitches. Based on his 2010-2012 numbers, 900 batters would take 3,526 pitches. That's 40 fewer pitches during the entire season, or basically one fewer pitch per start.

Efficiency myth
In terms of pitches per batter (P/B), batters per inning (B/IP) and pitches per inning (P/IP), there isn't a huge difference between ground-ball and strikeout pitchers.

Type P/B B/IP P/IP
GB pitchers 3.69 4.25 15.68
K pitchers 3.89 4.14 16.10
Even if we think that there's some kind of learning curve and that Strasburg will become more efficient as he gets more comfortable trying to get ground balls, the data shows that there just isn't a big difference in the number of pitches thrown by ground-ball pitchers and strikeout pitchers.

The 25 starting pitchers with the highest ground-ball rates in the majors last season -- minimum 100 innings pitched -- averaged 3.69 pitches per batter faced. The 25 starting pitchers with the highest strikeout rates averaged 3.89 pitches per batter faced. So the ground-ball pitchers were more efficient on a per-batter basis. However, because ground-ball pitchers have to rely on their defense to help them make outs and there are more opportunities for batters to reach on a ground ball, the pitch-to-contact guys also faced more batters each inning (see table).

In 220 innings pitched, the total difference in pitches per inning amounts to 92 fewer pitches thrown by the ground-ball group. That's basically three fewer pitches per game, which might be enough to earn Strasburg one extra batter during each start.

But in exchange for that marginal gain in pitch efficiency, there's a trade-off in performance.

The strikeout pitchers combined to post an ERA- of 87 last year, which means that as a group, they prevented runs at a rate 13 percent better than the league average. Meanwhile, the ground-ball pitchers posted an ERA- of 102, so they gave up 2 percent more runs than the league average. Put simply, strikeout pitchers are more effective than ground-ball pitchers, because strikeouts are outs and ground balls are only sometimes outs.

More whiffs, please

None of this is to suggest that ground balls are evil and that Strasburg should go for a strikeout of every batter. There is a balance to be struck between complete domination and efficiency, and pitchers such as Roy Halladay -- at least the version we used to see -- have shown that you can use both ground balls and strikeouts to great success. Strasburg doesn't need to maintain a 30 percent strikeout rate to be a great pitcher.

But he should aim higher than the 19 percent he has struck out during his first three starts. If he keeps pitching to contact at this rate, he's going to give up more hits and more runs, and the cost to the team won't be worth having him save a few pitches per start.

Pitching to contact sounds like a good idea in practice, and there are times when it makes sense to just fire the ball down the middle and dare the opponent to do something with it. But more often than not, a pitcher's best option is to dispatch the opposing hitter himself. Leaving the defense out of the equation might be fascist, but it's also more effective, and it doesn't actually run up your pitch count in a meaningful way.

Colin Moran aims at top 10.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran has been one of the best performers in Division 1 this year, including a stunning 35/8 BB/K ratio, but faces some skepticism about his swing and his ability to stay at third base in the long term.

I saw him live for the first time on Wednesday night at UNC's impressive Boshamer Stadium, and felt a lot better about his defense after watching infield practice and the game, although I can understand concerns over the swing.

The 6'3", 215-pound junior from Rye, New York, has outstanding hands and an easy throwing motion, along with great arm strength, so anything he gets to at third, he handles well, getting rid of the ball quickly. He's a fringy runner and his feet are not quick -- he tends to run a little flat-footed and often has trouble getting his feet started in the field because he's set up on his heels, but once he gets moving, he's fine, and should end up with average range at the position, or maybe a touch below, making up for it with surehandedness and a plus arm. He might end up at first base -- I don't think he could handle the outfield -- but I no longer think that's the most likely outcome.

Behind The Dish with Keith Law
Keith Law breaks down all of the names for this year's Rule 4 draft with Kiley McDaniel.

More Podcasts »

At the plate, Moran has a great eye and generates good bat speed, with solid extension through the zone for average power or a tick above. He takes a long stride forward in the box but keeps his weight back, also keeping his hands very deep, with good hip rotation as well.

It's not a pretty swing, and it's not that consistent -- his hands come set in a different spot from swing to swing, and on some swings his front side goes soft (where he rolls over his front foot). He must have extremely strong wrists as well, because he's a little late getting the barrel of the bat into the zone but still manages to make a lot of hard contact, at least at this level, driving a ball to each gap in Wednesday night's game.

Moran will probably go in the top five picks -- if Kris Bryant goes 3 (Colorado) or 4 (Minnesota), I would guess Moran would go to Cleveland at 5 -- but I'm a little concerned about the unorthodox swing and have him ranked a little lower than that, 12th overall, in my most recent Future 50 ranking.

Keith Law's Future 50

For more on the the MLB Draft, check out Keith Law's second updated ranking of the top 50 prospects. Future 50 »

I see the appeal of a potential impact bat at third base who has a very strong track record of performance, though, and he wouldn't be a bad pick in the back half of the top 10.

• UNC reliever Mason McCullogh came in later in the game and showed a 93-97 mph fastball that gets in on guys quickly, but only flashed a slider that was below-average. The 6'4", 227-pound sophomore has the size and looked like he had the arm action to start, or at least go more than an inning at a time, if he has the secondary stuff to do so.

• The Tar Heels' freshman standout, Skye Bolt, didn't play after suffering a hairline fracture in his foot on Friday. He'd have to be on any early watchlist for the 2015 draft given what he's done so far this year and profile coming out of high school. I was also intruigued by freshman infielder Landon Lassiter (who DH'd on Wednesday), brother of former Yankee farmhand Garrison, but would need to see him play the field before putting him in Bolt's class.
post #11264 of 73003
Thanks pro, always appreciated
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post #11265 of 73003
I wish Santana had a tenth of the defensive/game-calling prowess that Yadi does.
post #11266 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by do work son View Post

Thanks pro, always appreciated

NP pimp.gif
post #11267 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Take it FWIW:
The spokeswoman for Robinson Cano's foundation is listed as having been a client of the Biogenesis clinic last summer, although she denies having received anything from the clinic and says Cano "definitely never did."

Major League Baseball, however, has possession of a Biogenesis client roster that lists the spokeswoman, Sonia Cruz, and is investigating whether Cano had any relationship to the clinic, sources familiar with MLB's investigation told "Outside the Lines."

Cano has denied knowing clinic founder Tony Bosch or having ever used performance-enhancing drugs. But as his best friend, Melky Cabrera, his mentor, Alex Rodriguez, and now his spokeswoman have all been connected to clinic documents, MLB wants to know whether any relationship between Cano and the clinic exists.

Cruz, 31, says she was never a client of the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, but records obtained by "Outside the Lines" list her as owing $300 in both July and August of last year. The records indicate that she paid the full balance in July, but the August records do not mention any payment.

Two former Bosch associates said the $300 monthly tab was consistent with a weight-loss regimen, not performance-enhancing drugs.

It was not clear whether the documents obtained by "Outside the Lines" were the same as the documents recently obtained by MLB.

When initially contacted by "Outside the Lines" last month, Cruz said she could not speak about the clinic and said, "I need to talk to Scott," referring to Cano's agent at the time, Scott Boras. Boras has since been replaced by agents at the Creative Artists Agency, but at the time said Cano had no connection to the clinic.

When reached again on her mobile phone Monday, Cruz denied having ever been a Biogenesis client.

"I met with a nurse who works for the clinic, but I met her outside the clinic just to talk to her about a diet program they have for women," she said. "I never went through with it once she explained what it was. I thought it was just a diet/nutritional thing, but it was diet, nutrition, pills and stuff."

Cruz said she was introduced to the nurse "by another person" and said she never followed up to find out what sort of pills the nurse was recommending. She said she could not remember the nurse's name.

A man described by several sources as Cruz's boyfriend, Orlando Dager, is also listed as a client in the July and August records. He is listed as having owed $300 each month, but having paid $100 and $150. Dager could not be reached for comment, and Cruz declined to describe their relationship or anything about him.

"I can't speak on his behalf," she said.

The clinic, which closed in September after Bosch had a financial dispute with some of his associates, offered weight-loss services, often involving the use of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and human growth hormone, both of which are illegal without a prescription and banned by Major League Baseball. Bosch, who is not a licensed physician, is the subject of a Florida Department of Health investigation into whether he illegally practiced medicine, sources have said.

So far almost 30 major and minor league baseball players have been connected to the clinic, including Rodriguez, Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Francisco Cervelli. Cabrera, who served a 50-game suspension after a positive PED test last season, has declined comment, while the others have denied receiving or using PEDs. MLB has not interviewed Cano or any of the players but has been in talks with the MLB Players Association to set up interviews with any players connected to the clinic.

Major League Baseball has had several members of its investigations department in Florida over the past several months, attempting to gather evidence that could be used to suspend any players who used or received banned substances. Sources told "Outside the Lines" that at least three former Bosch associates have cooperated with MLB investigators, although they were not aware if the associates had provided information that would justify a suspension in lieu of a positive drug test. As The New York Times first reported, MLB paid for some Biogenesis documents, but the documents themselves are unlikely to be enough for a suspension unless someone who had a direct connection to the documents is willing to swear out an affidavit to their legitimacy and accuracy.
post #11268 of 73003
Cano signed with Hov though. Illuminati gonna wrap this one up real quick.
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Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #11269 of 73003
post #11270 of 73003

roll.gifroll.gifcan you do that?



I mean if being a cig addict keeps him off coke then hey I aint even mad

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Ron Washington roll.gif
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roll.gifroll.gif @ Ron Washington ..

And what's up with all this damn snow in Colorado?????? Killing my fantasy baseball team the last two weeks!!!

pimp.gif#SubstanceOverSurface #AlwaysCountCashpimp.gif
NEW VIDEO ALERT: RS Aristo - "Mile Away"


pimp.gif#SubstanceOverSurface #AlwaysCountCashpimp.gif
NEW VIDEO ALERT: RS Aristo - "Mile Away"

post #11273 of 73003
Seriously. It doesn't help that the teams that are playing the Rockies have my players, too. mean.gif
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #11274 of 73003
Originally Posted by RaWEx5 View Post

Seriously. It doesn't help that the teams that are playing the Rockies have my players, too. mean.gif

Between Rockies and Twins (add in the Boston Marathon events) I can't catch a break. I lost my first game of the season last week by 18pts thanks to all the postponed games.

Hopefully the Braves vs Rockies doubleheader today goes as planned.

pimp.gif#SubstanceOverSurface #AlwaysCountCashpimp.gif
NEW VIDEO ALERT: RS Aristo - "Mile Away"


pimp.gif#SubstanceOverSurface #AlwaysCountCashpimp.gif
NEW VIDEO ALERT: RS Aristo - "Mile Away"

post #11275 of 73003
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

can you do that?

jim leyland wants to know
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Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #11276 of 73003
anywhere to find pitch breakdown? like how often a pitcher throws a certain pitch? jose fernandez threw 2 first pitch fastballs, both get stroked, next batter first pitch changeup and it's bombs away
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post #11277 of 73003

Coaches, and even some players, smoke cigarettes in between innings a lot more than you would think.  Aubrey Huff was know to take breaks inbetween innings to go down into the tunnel and smoke a heater.  Never seen someone do it in full view of the camera though.  laugh.gif at Ron Dub.

post #11278 of 73003
justin upton sick.gif
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #11279 of 73003
10 jacks but only 14 rbis?
post #11280 of 73003
10 jacks but only 14 rbis?
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