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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 400

post #11971 of 73438
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

link? laugh.gif

post #11972 of 73438
Angel Pagan just hit a walk-off inside the park homer smokin.gifsmokin.gif that was so hype!
post #11973 of 73438
Carlos Gomez is mashing the ball, been waiting to see this from him since he was on the Twins. Glad he's finally put it all together, such an exciting player offensively and defensively.
post #11974 of 73438
Jeff Samardzija gets James Shields-like run support.
post #11975 of 73438
Well, they went out and got 7 for him tonight
post #11976 of 73438
Reverse jinx.

He's been dealing all season.
post #11977 of 73438
Halos taking it to the Dodgers smokin.gifsmokin.gifsmokin.gif
Edited by jcmojica24 - 5/27/13 at 6:29pm
*Seattle Seahawks*
*Los Angeles Lakers*
*LA Angels of Anaheim*
*USC Trojans*
*Arkansas Razorbacks*
*Chelsea FC*
*Anaheim Ducks*
*Syracuse Orange*
XBL: JohnnyDrama1234
*Seattle Seahawks*
*Los Angeles Lakers*
*LA Angels of Anaheim*
*USC Trojans*
*Arkansas Razorbacks*
*Chelsea FC*
*Anaheim Ducks*
*Syracuse Orange*
XBL: JohnnyDrama1234
post #11978 of 73438
Matt Kemp ****** sucks right now
post #11979 of 73438
Originally Posted by mr jordan04 View Post

Matt Kemp ****** sucks right now

this. thought he was turning it around too ohwell.gif

post #11980 of 73438
Man, Ron Washington is gonna drain Darvish before the end of the season. SMH, have some faith in the bullpen.
post #11981 of 73438
Originally Posted by jcmojica24 View Post

Halos taking it to the Dodgers smokin.gifsmokin.gifsmokin.gif

Dodgers won nthat.gifnthat.gifnthat.gif
Originally Posted by diewitsjames View Post

Originally Posted by mr jordan04 View Post

Matt Kemp ****** sucks right now

this. thought he was turning it around too ohwell.gif

He looks lost up, guessing at every pitch
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 #11982 of 73438
Damn you dodgers! gg though...

But yeah, what happened to Kemp? And I thought Hamilton was bad
post #11983 of 73438
Dodgers pimp.gif

A's pimp.gif
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 #11984 of 73438
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

Man, Ron Washington is gonna drain Darvish before the end of the season. SMH, have some faith in the bullpen.

mean.gif 116 yea Ron need to cut back at some point
post #11985 of 73438
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

mean.gif 116 yea Ron need to cut back at some point

He's 26, with a strong frame, easy arm action, and is averaging less than a hundred pitches per start - less than Matt Moore for example. I don't think much of Ron Washington, but that's a non-issue. People get too caught up in pitch counts.
post #11986 of 73438
People get too caught up in pitch counts.
Like, way too caught up. Conditioned to accept that 100 is veering towards some kind of danger zone. Pitch counts aren't even a thing. What matters more is HOW you throw, and he does it the right way.

And in this particular case, Darvish was throwing 120+ on the reg in Japan.

His last 10:


He'll be fine.
post #11987 of 73438
Nolan Ryan had those counts in Spring Training and did alright.
post #11988 of 73438
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #11989 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Top 25 prospects update.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Although it's the height of Rule 4 draft season, I typically reorder my top 25 pro prospects as we approach the end of May each year. This year there isn't as much chaos as there usually is near the top of the rankings, as just one top-10 prospect from this winter is currently in the majors.

We had two late but significant promotions that removed players from consideration for this list -- Jurickson Profar (Texas) and Kevin Gausman (Baltimore). Profar was the top prospect on my offseason list and would have remained so if he were still in the minors right now. Gausman would have moved up significantly from the offseason into the back of the top 10, as he was one of the top pitching prospects in the minors alongside Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley.

1. Oscar Taveras, OF | St. Louis Cardinals (age 20)
Current level: Triple-A (Memphis)
Preseason ranking: 2

Taveras hasn't had a huge start in Triple-A this year, hitting for average but not power with a poor walk rate, although he won't turn 21 until mid-June, and the raw hit and power tools are beyond any doubt. Whenever the Cardinals have an opening in their outfield, he's ready.

2. Byron Buxton, CF | Minnesota Twins (age 19)
Current level: Low Class A (Cedar Rapids)
Preseason ranking: 22

Buxton was the top prospect on my board in last year's amateur draft, and his huge April (.392 BA/.510 OBP/.584 SLG) seemed to justify that ranking in striking fashion. His May hasn't been as torrid, but the raw ability that made him such a commodity out of high school -- 80-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, a very quick bat, a plus arm, the potential for plus-plus defense in center -- is accompanied by more present baseball skill than I realized last spring. He's already 19, so a late-season promotion to high-A wouldn't be too aggressive if he continues to rake.

3. Xander Bogaerts, SS | Boston Red Sox (age 20)
Current level: Double-A (Portland)
Preseason ranking: 5

Still just 20 years old, Bogaerts has been playing solid shortstop for Portland with a solid walk rate but isn't yet generating the power expected from his explosive swing. I have little doubt that will come in time and still believe he has a better-than-even chance to stay at short.

4. Christian Yelich, OF | Miami Marlins (age 21)
Current level: Double-A (Jacksonville)
Preseason ranking: 6

A foot injury started his season late, but after a slow couple of weeks, Yelich has returned to mashing, hitting .284/.356/.636 since the start of May with patience and a high contact rate, as well as solid defense in center. He has one of the best swings in the minors and could see the big leagues this summer given what's (not) ahead of him in Miami.

5. Francisco Lindor, SS | Cleveland Indians (age 19)
Current level: High Class A (Carolina)
Preseason ranking: 7

Lindor doesn't quite have the star potential of the guys above him, but he's going to be a very good big leaguer for a very long time. He will play this entire season at age 19 and ranks in the top 10 in the high-A Carolina League in OBP, while providing plus defense at short and value on the bases. He probably won't have the power to end up a superstar, but he could be an Elvis Andrus-type player who's extremely valuable without ever becoming an MVP contender.

6. Miguel Sano, 3B | Minnesota Twins (age 20)
Current level: High Class A (Fort Myers)
Preseason ranking: 11

There are so few guys in the minors who project to hit 30 to 35 homers a year -- without some huge caveat such as, "He might strike out 200 times a year" -- that Sano ends up in the top 10 here despite questions about his position (he's still hanging in there at third base) and ultimate size. I don't think he'll be in the majors before late 2014, at the earliest, but the probability of his becoming an above-average big league regular is very high now.

7. Wil Myers, RF | Tampa Bay Rays (age 22)
Current level: Triple-A (Durham)
Preseason ranking: 4

Myers has had one of the worst starts of any player on this list, striking out nearly a third of the time while hitting for very little power, something I discussed in April when I saw Durham play. He's actually been worse since that series, maintaining that low contact rate with declining results when he does put the ball in play.

8. Taijuan Walker, RHP | Seattle Mariners (age 20)
Current level: Double-A (Jackson)
Preseason ranking: 9

Walker is repeating Double-A after last year's two-level jump to avoid the hitter-friendly Cal League, and the results have been just adequate so far, although everything that has made Walker a top prospect for two-plus years is intact -- the big fastball, the incredible athleticism, the easy delivery.

He's added a spike curveball this year, a move that makes no sense to me given that he already had a good curveball and that Mike Mussina is the only major league starter I know of who could command a spike. I'd like to see Walker go back to fastball-curveball-change and focus on commanding what he's got.

9. Archie Bradley, RHP | Arizona Diamondbacks (age 20)
Current level: Double-A (Mobile)
Preseason ranking: 29

Bradley always had ace-quality stuff, with a fastball up to 98 mph and a curveball from hell, but his control troubles last year appear to be behind him. He has walked just more than 10 percent of hitters this year after walking more than 14 percent of them last year. Diamondbacks fans should be gritty -- I mean, giddy -- over the prospect of a rotation with Bradley, Pat Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Wade Miley and Daniel Hudson by Opening Day of 2015.

10. Addison Russell, SS | Oakland Athletics (age 19)
Current level: High Class A (Stockton)
Preseason ranking: 10

A minor back injury led to a slow start for Russell, whom the A's promoted aggressively to high-A at age 19 this spring, but he's starting to return to form now, showing solid plate discipline and the ability to square up better quality pitching. He projects as an impact bat at shortstop, where impact bats are hard to come by.

11. Dylan Bundy, RHP | Baltimore Orioles (age 20)
Current level: Has not played (injury)
Preseason ranking: 3

Bundy was in the top three in all of baseball coming into this spring, but the uncertainty around his elbow injury decreases his value, at least for the time being. I've heard that Buck Showalter wanted Bundy to improve his time to the plate, which could have caused Bundy to alter his mechanics and hurt himself, but the injury could just as easily be the result of overuse in high school.

The latest on Bundy is that he is set to resume throwing in a couple of weeks after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection to deal with soreness in his right forearm.

12. Gerrit Cole, RHP | Pittsburgh Pirates (age 22)
Current level: Triple-A (Indianapolis)
Preseason ranking: 8

You know, Gerrit, it's time we talk about what it means to have "plus stuff." It doesn't mean you light up the radar gun. It doesn't mean you buckle scouts' knees with your slider. It means every now and then you need to miss a bat. So maybe do that a little more and walk guys a little less, and we'll see you in the big leagues.

13. Aaron Sanchez, RHP | Toronto Blue Jays (age 20)
Current level: High Class A (Dunedin)
Preseason ranking: 19

He's on the shelf right now with a minor muscle pull, but Sanchez's plus stuff, including a fastball up to 99 mph with minimal effort, is producing better results already than it did last year, a step forward similar to Archie Bradley's, where the performance is catching up to the scouting reports.

14. Jameson Taillon, RHP | Pittsburgh Pirates (age 21)
Current level: Double-A (Altoona)
Preseason ranking: 20

If you want to argue that Taillon is better than Cole, I won't strongly dispute it. Cole has more weapons and does it a little easier, but Taillon is very physical and will show two plus pitches of his own, with just a year's difference between the two.

15. Zack Wheeler, RHP | New York Mets (age 22)
Current level: Triple-A (Las Vegas)
Preseason ranking: 15

Wheeler missed one start in May with a sore clavicle but returned last week to throw five innings at Iowa and isn't expected to have further problems. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff, and after a few wild outings early in the year, including one in which he walked six guys, he has walked just five in his past four outings.

16. Gary Sanchez, C | New York Yankees (age 20)
Current level: High Class A (Tampa)
Preseason ranking: 18

Although there's still some question of whether he will remain a catcher long term, I think he's going to stay there, as he's enough of an athlete to become an adequate backstop in time -- and his bat will be MVP-caliber for that position.

17. Anthony Rendon, 3B | Washington Nationals (age 22)
Current level: Double-A (Harrisburg)
Preseason ranking: 17

Rendon didn't embarrass himself in 25 at-bats in Washington last month and continues to hit well with an outstanding approach in Double-A. I still don't get why the Nationals are taking a guy who's had three traumatic ankle injuries and experimenting with him at second base, and if they leave him at third, he can take over when Ryan Zimmerman has to move off the position.

18. Mike Zunino, C | Seattle Mariners (age 22)
Current level: Triple-A (Tacoma)
Preseason ranking: N/A

The third overall pick in last June's draft, Zunino, like Myers, has struggled to start the season, although in his defense he's the only position player from his draft class who's in Triple-A right now. I thought he might be up by late June, but Labor Day seems like a more realistic target now.

19. Carlos Correa, SS | Houston Astros (age 18)
Current level: Low Class A (Quad Cities)
Preseason ranking: 24

Correa was the No. 1 pick last June, one spot ahead of Buxton. If you're an Astros fan dismayed to see Buxton's crazy start in low-A, bear in mind that Correa is nine months younger than Buxton and performing extremely well (.274/.402/.400) for someone so young and who has yet to grow into his frame and tap into his power potential.

20. Kyle Zimmer, RHP | Kansas City Royals (age 21)
Current level: High Class A (Wilmington)
Preseason ranking: 27

Zimmer looked dominant earlier in the season but has slowed a little to where he's looking just very good. It's a tiny sample, but seeing that he's allowed six homers already in nine starts isn't great, since he pitches in a big ballpark and his stuff is good enough that A-ball hitters shouldn't square him up like that.

21. Jorge Soler, OF | Chicago Cubs (age 21)
Current level: High Class A (Daytona)
Preseason ranking: 42

The power is already showing up thanks to Soler's tremendous bat speed, and he's drawn more walks (18 in 173 PAs) than I would have guessed given how long he had gone without facing live pitching before last summer. He's been only fair in right field and his arm has looked average, both disappointments relative to what I saw from him last year.

22. Gregory Polanco, OF | Pittsburgh Pirates (age 21)
Current level: High Class A (Bradenton)
Preseason ranking: 55

Scouts seem mixed on whether he'll stay in center or not, but even if he doesn't, he brings a lot of skills to the table offensively and would be very good in a corner. If he does stay in center, he has some star potential because of his bat.

23. Garin Cecchini, 3B | Boston Red Sox (age 22)
Current level: High Class A (Salem)
Preseason ranking: Unranked

Cecchini is a high-IQ player with a good feel for hitting but no plus tools who just missed my preseason top 100 and now looks like he clearly should have made it, hitting .365/.475/.615 and translating that ability to hit into above-average power production. There's absolutely some randomness/sample-size stuff at work here, but the early reports from scouts are glowing -- it's hard not to write up a player positively when he goes 8-for-10 in a three-game series.

24. Michael Wacha, RHP | St. Louis Cardinals (age 21)
Current level: Triple-A (Memphis)
Preseason ranking: Unranked

Multiple scouts have told me they've seen an above-average breaking ball from Wacha this year, which was the main concern about him coming out of Texas A&M last June. (That said, I still don't get why he fell to the 19th pick.) There are rumors he will be called up to start for St. Louis on Thursday, but even if he has to wait, he could step into the Cardinals' rotation this summer and be a league-average starter as soon as next year.

25. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP | Tampa Bay Rays (Age 20)
Current level: Low Class A (Bowling Green)
Preseason ranking: 47

The Rays have handled him very gently, but Guerrieri is flashing ace stuff -- fastball up to 97 mph, a hammer breaking ball -- while showing very good control for a 20-year-old in his first full season of pro ball. He has been facing 18-to-21 hitters in most starts but has yet to walk more than two guys in any outing. He's also killing worms like it's a mission, with a groundout/air out rate above 3.5.

Also considered: Robert Stephenson, RHP (Cincinnati Reds); Yasiel Puig, OF (Los Angeles Dodgers); Billy Hamilton, CF (Cincinnati Reds); Tyler Skaggs, LHP (Arizona Diamondbacks); Corey Seager, IF (Los Angeles Dodgers).

Gausman profile; top 10 prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's no surprise that the Orioles turned to a former No. 4 overall draft pick to fortify their rotation. But instead of Dylan Bundy getting the call, it was Kevin Gausman.

Baltimore signed Gausman for $4.32 million last July, a year after landing Bundy with a $6.225 million contract. Bundy reached the majors as a 19-year-old last September, capping a spectacular pro debut, but he has yet to pitch this year after coming down with stiffness in his elbow.

Gausman, a product of Louisiana State, pitched just 15 innings after signing last summer but made the jump to Double-A for his first full pro season. He had no trouble there, going 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA and an outstanding 49 strikeouts and 5 walks in 46 1/3 innings over eight starts.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette
Kevin Gausman, 22, has overpowering stuff.

After growing tired of Jake Arrieta's inconsistency, the Orioles replaced him in their rotation with Gausman, who made his big league debut Thursday against the Blue Jays. He showed off his two best pitches in his first inning of work, striking out Edwin Encarnacion with a 97 mph fastball and Adam Lind on an 85 mph changeup.

Gausman, who usually works in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball, reached 99 mph with his heater last night. The knock on him as an amateur was that he lacks a quality breaking ball, but he has made significant strides with his slider, and it should be at least an average pitch for him. His command and control are two more assets, although he was a little too pumped up against Toronto and took the loss after giving up seven hits, two walks and four runs in five innings.

While he has been overshadowed by Bundy, Gausman has the same ace potential. No one in Baltimore's rotation can match his stuff, and while he might have ups and downs, like all rookie pitchers, he has plenty of fantasy upside. Assuming he stays with the Orioles for the rest of the season, he could win roughly 7-10 games with a 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 100 strikeouts.

And with that, here is this week's top 10 fantasy prospects for 2013:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals (Last week's rank: 4)

Season totals: .330 AVG/.473 OBP/.625 SLG, 6 HR, 24 RBIs, 1 SB in 32 games at Double-A Harrisburg.
Update: Even after hitless performances in his past two starts, Rendon is leading the Eastern League in on-base percentage and slugging. He's getting about one game per week at second base, an ominous sign for big leaguer Danny Espinosa, who is batting just .163/.196/.291 while dealing with a torn rotator cuff.
Prognosis: An outstanding defender at third base, Rendon has played only five games at second base as a pro. But the Nationals are slogging around with a 24-23 record, 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot as of today, and they can't afford to wait much longer for Espinosa to pull out of his slump.

2. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians (Last week's rank: 1)

Season totals: 2-0, 3.23 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 33 K's in 30 2/3 IP (five starts) at Triple-A Columbus.
Update: In what has become a recurring theme for Bauer this season, he battled the strike zone again in his most recent start (Sunday). Though he got the win, he gave up five walks in six innings and threw just 55 of 101 pitches for strikes.
Prognosis: The Indians surprisingly lead the American League Central, and plugging Bauer into the middle of their rotation would help their postseason cause. If he can start attacking the strike zone, at worst he would be Cleveland's No. 3 starter behind Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister.

3. Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners (Last week's rank: 5)

Season totals: .318/.442/.477, 4 HR, 20 RBIs, 7 SB in 31 games at Triple-A Tacoma.
Update: The Mariners began the shakeup of the American League's worst offense when they demoted Jesus Montero to Triple-A on Thursday. The next former uber-prospect to make the trip to Tacoma could be Dustin Ackley, who sports a ghastly .542 OPS, a full 377 points worse than Franklin's OPS at Triple-A.
Prognosis: A first-round pick in the same 2009 draft in which Ackley went No. 2 overall, Franklin has on-base ability and good pop for a middle infielder. He could take over for Seattle's offensively challenged shortstops (Brendan Ryan, Robert Andino), but he's a better fit defensively at second base and could pave the way for moving Ackley to the outfield.

[+] Enlarge
Mike Janes/AP Images
We could see Zack Wheeler in the big leagues by the middle of June.

4. Zack Wheeler, rhp, New York Mets (Last week's rank: glasses.gif

Season totals: 3-1, 3.91 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 49 K's in 48 1/3 IP (nine starts) at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Update: Wheeler got plenty of good news over the past week. After missing a start because of mild shoulder inflammation, he returned to the mound Wednesday and worked five innings (67 pitches) to collect his third consecutive victory. A Mets official told the New York Post that the club plans to call up Wheeler after two or three more Triple-A starts, and that he might already be in New York if not for his brief shoulder issue.
Prognosis: The Mets don't have much to be excited about on days when Matt Harvey doesn't pitch. Wheeler can change that, though he probably won't provide a lot of wins because the Mets' offense won't offer much run support.

5. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (Last week's rank: 3)

Season totals: .242/.337/.385, 5 HR, 28 RBIs in 42 games at Triple-A Durham.
Update: Myers hit his fifth homer of the year last night. That was a rare highlight for him in May, as he has batted just .183/.277/.296 this month.
Prognosis: The Rays' outfield situation is stabilizing, and Myers' bat is not. He hasn't found his power after hitting 37 homers last year, and what once seemed like an imminent call-up has been placed on hold.

6. Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins (Last week's rank: 9)

Season totals: 3-5 record, 3.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 46 K's in 52 2/3 IP (nine starts) at Triple-A Rochester.
Update: Gibson has thrown nine-inning shutouts in two of his past three outings and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Sunday. He struck out eight and needed just 93 pitches to go the distance.
Prognosis: The Twins removed Pedro Hernandez from their rotation and replaced him with Samuel Deduno. Gibson is the better long-term solution, and he'll likely get the call once he passes the projected super-two arbitration cutoff in early June.

7. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Last week's rank: 2)

Season totals: 3-2 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 35 K's in 48 IP (nine starts) at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Cole has struggled in his two most recent starts, surrendering a season-worst three homers in the first outing and a season-worst eight runs in the second. He hit 98 mph last Sunday in a prospect pitching matchup against Allen Webster (Boston Red Sox prospect), but he lacked command in an 11-3 loss.
Prognosis: The Pirates would be a wild-card team if the season ended today, and they're getting effective work from all five members of their rotation. Cole has more upside than any of them -- really, more upside than any pitcher in the minors -- though his call-up will have to wait until he can start placing his pitches where he wants to.

8. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds (Last week's rank: 10)

Season totals: .246/.304/.341, 2 HR, 13 RBIs, 24 SB in 43 games at Triple-A Louisville.
Update: Hamilton's overall numbers aren't impressive, but his steals definitely are, and he has batted .286/.330/.374 in May. The Reds are in a three-team dogfight in the National League Central while getting little production from their left fielders.
Prognosis: If he continues to hit, Cincinnati could upgrade its offense and defense by putting Hamilton in center field and shifting Shin-Soo Choo to left. Hamilton is easily capable of stealing 10 or more bases per month in the big leagues.

9. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (Last week's rank: 7)

Season totals: .317/.351/.480, 4 HR, 20 RBIs, 5 SB in 31 games at Triple-A Memphis.
Update: Taveras hasn't played since May 12, when he hurt his right ankle on a steal attempt, though he has taken batting practice and shagged fly balls. The Rangers have promoted Jurickson Profar, so even while not playing, Taveras has inherited the title of the best prospect in the minors.
Prognosis: When he returns to full health, there's little doubt that Taveras could step into the Cardinals lineup and produce immediately. But he's going to have to wait for an injury to Matt Holliday, Jon Jay or Carlos Beltran to get the opportunity to show what he can do.

10. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last week's rank: unranked)

Season totals: 3-0 record, 0.90 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 25 K's in 20 IP (four starts) at Double-A Mobile; 2-0 record, 1.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 43 K's in 28 2/3 IP at high Class A Visalia (five starts).
Update: The Diamondbacks planned for Bradley to spend most of the year in high Class A because he's just 20 and his command still needed a lot of work. But the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 draft blazed through the hitter-friendly California League in just five starts, and he has been even better since his promotion to Double-A. A University of Oklahoma quarterback recruit who signed for $5 million, he's one of the few minor leaguers with the stuff to compare to Cole's. Bradley has a 93-98 mph fastball, a knee-buckling curveball and a sinking changeup, and he has cut his walk rate from 5.6 per nine innings in 2012 to 3.3 this year.
Prognosis: Arizona doesn't have an obvious opening in its rotation, and Daniel Hudson is just about back from Tommy John surgery. But none of the Diamondbacks' starters have an arm as electric as Bradley's, and he'll force his way to the majors if he keeps pitching like this.

Called up (with last week's rank): Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers (6).

Demise of the NL East.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Flash back to the start of 2012. The Philadelphia Phillies were coming off the best regular season in team history, the Atlanta Braves had finished one game away from a wild-card spot, the Washington Nationals were on the verge and the Miami Marlins had a roster infused with big-ticket free agents. In short, the National League East was a division with which to be reckoned.

Fast forward to today, and the NL East has more of a claim to the worst division in baseball than the best. Only the Braves find themselves in the top 15 of the ESPN Power Rankings this week, a sharp contrast to the beginning of 2012.

When the 2012 season opened, the NL East joined the American League East as the only divisions in baseball to place four teams in the top 15 of the rankings. Only the Mets, at 27th, were lead weights. By the end of the season, the Phillies' reign had ended, and they had only intermittently appeared competitive on the way to an 81-81 finish. The Mets built some momentum early, but were unable to sustain it, and the Marlins never built any real momentum at all before selling off Hanley Ramirez in-season and just about everyone else shortly after it ended. The Braves and Nationals battled bitterly for bragging rights, though, and their race masked many of the division's shortcomings.

Not much has changed for the better this season. The Braves have remained good, but thanks to their middling starting rotation -- which entered Sunday night's action with a 101 FIP- that ranked 13th in baseball -- they aren't quite elite. Still, thanks to a recent eight-game win streak that was snapped on Sunday night, they have a 4½-game division lead, which is tied with Texas for the largest in MLB, and they moved up to fourth in this week's rankings. FanGraphs, however, doesn't project them to finish the season with fewer than 90 wins.

While the Braves are off to a good start, the Nationals have not been able to keep pace. Washington isn't exactly down for the count, but the Nats are teetering close to the ropes to be certain. Thirty-four-year-old Jayson Werth came out of the gate slowly and then was felled by a hamstring injury that still has him on the disabled list. Danny Espinosa may join him there soon. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman needs GPS to hit the first baseman with an accurate throw. By his own admission, Bryce Harper will deal with pain in his left knee until the offseason. And the team has such a top-heavy rotation that when they had to place Ross Detwiler on the disabled list on Sunday, manager Davey Johnson didn't know who would take his place. They place a season-worst 16th in the Power Rankings this week.

Things aren't any better just north in Philadelphia, where the Phillies rank one spot behind Washington, at 17th. Chase Utley has been the team's most valuable position player, but on Thursday he made his yearly pilgrimage to the DL. In Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Mike Adams, Utley has some high-profile company there. The team acquired Ben Revere in the offseason to bat leadoff, but after 15 games he had posted just a .242 on-base percentage and was usurped by Jimmy Rollins. Revere hasn't made a case to be reinstated, either, as a two-hit day on Sunday only improved his season OBP to .290 -- a far cry from the still modest .333 mark he posted with the Twins in 2012.

Cole Hamels has been better in May than he was in April, but his 4.10 FIP for the season is still below league average, and certainly is less of a contribution to the bottom line than what the team expects or needs from him. The team isn't dead and buried quite yet, but it has scored 37 runs fewer than it has allowed, and the trend lines aren't exactly pointing north.

Division rankings
Based on team averages in ESPN's Power Rankings, the NL East has been in the bottom half in 2013 and was by far the worst division in May.

Division Season May
AL East 12.3 12.1
AL Central 16.6 15.0
AL West 16.7 17.8
NL East 16.5 18.7
NL Central 15.8 14.2
NL West 15.2 15.4

By the end of the season, the Mets may still have more promise than they do now. The Zack Wheeler countdown is on in full force, and perhaps by the end of the season prospects Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Rafael Montero will be ready for their closeups as well. Combine them with David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Daniel Murphy and you will have, if not a competitive team, then at least a much more entertaining one. But right now, they're a little hard to watch on any day that Harvey isn't pitching. The Marlins, however, have little chance of becoming either in the near future, and they are especially sleep-inducing as long as Giancarlo Stanton remains sidelined.

The division's fortunes are so dire that it actually places much closer to the bottom of the league than the top. Its average Power Ranking of 16.5 for the season is close to the worst in the game, and its May average of 18.7 as a division is quite clearly the game's worst (see chart at right). And barring some miraculous turnaround, the situation doesn't look to improve much.

According to wRC+, the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins have three of the four worst offenses in the game, and the Mets -- who rank 24th -- aren't much better. The Nationals should be better, but even with Harper playing well and Adam LaRoche heating up, they still rank second-worst in the game.

A year ago, the NL East looked fairly formidable. This season, the script has reversed, and at this rate the Braves are practically propping up the division all by themselves. The division's demise has been swift, and it may not get much better for the remainder of the season.

AL East: Team targets for '13 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013 draft is almost upon us, and we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and look at what each organization needs.

While you've surely heard that MLB teams typically don't draft for need in the first round, they will adjust their strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of the system, as well as what is available.

With that in mind, we've highlighted the strength and weakness of each organization, including Keith Law's top 10 prospects for each. We've also provided a breakdown of the type of player each club tends to favor in the draft. For example, the Phillies have long been known to prefer athletic high school prospects, while the Mariners have favored college players in recent years. For the purposes of this exercise we are focusing on the first round, supplemental first round and Competitive Balance Round A.

Really, this is the only MLB draft primer you will need.

Division-by-division draft outlook
AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Baltimore Orioles
Pick: 22, 37
Bonus pool: $$6.3879

System strength

The Orioles' depth lies in their upper-tier pitching with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, though Bundy's arm trouble has kept him off the mound this spring. Eduardo Rodriguez provides some long-term rotation hope, and there are bullpen arms on the way, too, as well as infielders in Jonathan Schoop, Nick Delmonico and Adrian Marin.

BAL top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Dylan Bundy RHP
2. Kevin Gausman RHP
3. J. Schoop 3B/2B
4. E. Rodriguez LHP
5. Adrian Marin SS
6. Nick Delmonico 3B
7. Brendan Kline RHP
8. L.J. **** OF
9. Josh Hader LHP
10. Brady Wager RHP

Recent top picks
2012 Kevin Gausman, RHP 4
2011 Dylan Bundy, RHP 4
2010 Manny Machado, SS 3

System weaknesses

Outside of what they already have in the majors, the Orioles lack outfield depth in the minors, with future fourth outfielder L.J. ****, the lone OF member of Keith Law's top 10 for the organization. The org chart also shows a lack of talent behind the plate -- not unlike most clubs -- but a safety valve for the future is also a good idea.

Draft strategy

The Orioles have had lots of high picks in recent years and have never shied away from high-profile, high-priced players, such as Bundy and Manny Machado. Last year was the first draft under GM Dan Duquette, and they went with college players with three of their first four picks in 2012, and with eight of their first 10. However, they are picking much later this year and most of the top college players will be gone by then.

Notable No. 22 Picks
1997: Jayson Werth, OF (22.2 WAR)
1987: Craig Biggio, 2B(64.9 WAR)
1972: Chet Lemon, OF (55.3 WAR)

Possible fits

Phil Bickford | RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Ventura, Calif.): Like Bundy, Bickford fits the profile of the high-upside prep arm, as does Hazelwood (Mo.) HS right-hander Devin Williams.

Matt Krook | LHP, St. Ignatius Prep (Hillsborough, Calif.): Krook and New Jersey prep lefty Rob Kaminsky could fit here, giving the club more balance in what is a righty-heavy organization.

Boston Red Sox
Pick: 7
Bonus pool: $6.8302M

System strength

The Red Sox boast a well-rounded farm system that includes top talents nearing the big leagues and high upside players on the long-term plan. The club has gotten to this point by wisely using resources in the draft, international scouting and trades. If there's a particular strength here it's in the balance between arms and bats, and in terms of timetable. This balance may give the club the ability to simply select the best player available without regard for development time.

System weaknesses

Considering the shape of the current starting rotation and the attrition rate of pitchers in general, the Sox lack depth in this area. Allen Webster and Matt Barnes are close to contributing in the majors, but Anthony Ranaudo has struggled some in pro ball and left-hander Henry Owens is at least two years away. After that, there's a rather large gap in terms of ceiling as well as added risk for the rest of the system's starting pitching prospects.

BOS top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Xander Bogaerts SS
2. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
3. Allen Webster RHP
4. Matt Barnes RHP
5. Henry Owens LHP
6. Deven Marrero SS
7. Blake Swihart C
8. Garrin Cecchini 3B
9. Drake Britton LHP
10. Brian Johnson LHP

Recent top picks
2012 Deven Marrero, SS 24
2011 Matt Barnes, RHP 19
2010 Kolbrin Vitek, 2B 20

Draft strategy

The Red Sox often ignored slot recommendations in the past, but with the new bonus regulations and a reloading effort in progress the club's strategy in the draft was a bit different a year ago when they went for safer college talents in shortstop Deven Marrero at No. 24 overall and left-hander Brian Johnson seven picks later. Selecting much higher in 2013, however, could push them toward the best player, without regard to how quickly they'll get a return on said investment.

Notable No. 7 Picks
2006: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (27.0 WAR)
2005: Troy Tulowitzki, SS (28.8 WAR)
2002: Prince Fielder, 1B (22.8 WAR)
1989: Frank Thomas, 1B (73.6 WAR)

Possible fits

Sean Manaea | LHP, Indiana State: With right-hander Clay Buchholz and injury-riddled John Lackey the lone starting pitchers signed beyond 2014, the Red Sox could use pick No. 7 on the best college pitcher on the board. That could be Manaea, assuming Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray don't fall.

Braden Shipley | RHP, Nevada: Manaea's so-so spring could lead them to Shipley, whose been rising up draft boards with a strong season in Reno.

Ryne Stanek | RHP, Arkansas: A year ago, some thought Stanek could be battling for the No. 1 spot. He's had an uneven season for the Razorbacks, but the talent is there.

New York Yankees
Picks: 26, 32, 33
Bonus pool: $7.9574M

System strength

The Yankees boast the most impressive collection of young catchers in baseball, with Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy pushing for the majors and Austin Romine a rookie. There is also outfield depth in Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott, as well as some long-term pitching.

System weaknesses

The Yankees lack young players in the system who can reasonably be expected to contribute before 2015. Their pitching is at least two years away, perhaps longer, and they have seen many pitching prospects spend time on the DL. The other hole is at shortstop, where the club has yet to acquire options that could eventually replace Derek Jeter.

NYY top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Gary Sanchez C
2. Mason Williams CF
3. Tyler Austin RF
4. Slade Heathcott CF
5. Jose Ramirez RHP
6. Ty Hensley RHP
7. Manny Banuelos LHP
8. Jose Campos RHP
9. Mark Montgomery RHP
10. Angelo Gumbs 2B

Recent top picks
2012 Ty Hensley, RHP 30
2011 Dante Bichette Jr., 3B 51
2010 Cito Culver, SS 32

Draft strategy

The Yankees have gone with prep talent early and often in the past several drafts, but with extra picks this year they could mix it up some, especially considering their lack of starting pitching options moving forward.

It's been six years since they selected a college pitcher in the first round (Andrew Brackman), but this is likely the year one or two fall in their lap. Expecting them to load up on college arms, however, probably isn't wise as it hasn't been their preference at any time over the current regime's tenure. If a college bat falls to them, however -- such as Hunter Renfroe, Aaron Judge or Austin Wilson -- the club may pounce.

Notable No. 26 Picks
1977: Dave Henderson, OF (27.5 WAR)
1990: Alan Trammell, SS (70.3 WAR)

Possible fits

Alex Gonzalez | RHP, Oral Roberts: The club could use an infusion of quick-to-the-majors pitching, especially considering the pending free agency of Phil Hughes and the injuries to top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos and right-hander Michael Pineda. Marshall's Aaron Blair could also be a fit here.

Austin Wilson | OF, Stanford: Among college bats, Wilson, Aaron Judge and DJ Peterson are the most likely to get to the Yankees at No. 26. Wilson could be the club's first long-term right fielder since Paul O'Neill.

Ryan Boldt | OF, Red Wing (Minn.) HS: Boldt's knee injury could push his stock down a bit -- and possibly to college ball at Nebraska -- but he has some of the best tools in the draft. With three picks in the top 32, the Yankees can take some chances.

Tampa Bay Rays
Pick: 21, 29
Bonus pool: $6.6949M

System strength

The Rays rely on player development as much as any club in baseball, and it should come as no surprise that they once again have one of the strongest systems in baseball. Tampa Bay placed more pitchers in Keith Law's top 100 than any club in baseball, with Taylor Guerrieri (No.47) Chris Archer (No. 53), Jake Odorizzi (No. 68) and Alex Colome (No. 83) all projecting as above-average starters or better. They also may have the best offensive prospect in Wil Myers (No. 4) and a potential top-of-the-order hitter in shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (No. 78)

System weaknesses

TB top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Wil Myers RF
2. Taylor Guerrieri RHP
3. Chris Archer RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi RHP
5. Hak-Ju Lee SS
6. Alex Colome RHP
7. Richie Shaffer 3B
8. Drew Vettleson RF
9. Enny Romero LHP
10. Mikey Mahtook CF

Recent top picks
2012 Richie Shaffer, 3B 25
2011 Taylor Guerrieri, RHP 24
2010 Joshua Sale, RF 17

It's one of the more complete systems in baseball, though they are slightly limited in terms of corner infield prospects. The Rays also don't have a catcher of the future right now.

Draft strategy

The Rays may be a small-market club, but they have shown a willingness to spend when it comes to the draft under GM Andrew Friedman and scouting director R.J. Harrison. The Rays have a slight prep lean when it comes to early picks, but they have shown a willingness to draft college players early when they are near the top of their board, a la Richie Schaffer with the 25th pick last season. They've also tapped the Pacific Northwest more than any club, taking six players from Washington State since 2010 in the first 10 rounds.

Notable No. 21 Picks
1974: Rick Sutcliffe, RHP (34.3 WAR)

Possible fits

Nick Ciuffo | C, Lexington (S.C.) HS: Tampa Bay has struggled to get much production from behind the plate for most of its history, and Ciuffo offers plus power and might be the best receiver in the class.

Marco Gonzales | LHP, Gonzaga: He'll never miss a lot of bats, but he has one of the best changeups in the class and could be a fast-track guy with his feel for pitching. (He's also from the Northwest.)

Rob Kaminsky | LHP, St. Joseph's High School (N.J.): Kaminsky doesn't offer the projection that some of the other left-handed arms in this class do, but left-handers who throw in the low 90's with above-average secondary stuff generally don't have to wait too long.

Toronto Blue Jays
Pick: 10
Bonus pool: $6.3982M

System strength

The Blue Jays still boast elite pitching talent after last winter's trades with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, including right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna as well as southpaws Sean Nolin and Matt Smoral. The club also is grooming toolsy outfielders Anthony Alford and the speedy D.J. Davis, both acquired via the 2012 draft.

TOR top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law. For complete version, click here.

1. Aaron Sanchez RHP
2. Robert Osuna RHP
3. Marcus Stroman RHP
4. Matt Smoral LHP
5. Sean Nolin LHP
6. Anthony Alford OF
7. D.J. Davis OF
8. Adonys Cardona RHP
9. Chase DeJong RHP
10. Santiago Nessy C

Recent top picks
2012 D.J. Davis, OF 17
2011 Tyler Beede, RHP 21
2010 Deck McGuire, RHP 11

System weaknesses

The Blue Jays lack up-the-middle talent with Davis and 20-year-old catchers Santiago Nessy and A.J. Jimenez the only exceptions among their best prospects. Their top shortstop prospect is 20-year-old Christian Lopes, who may not be long for the position

Draft strategy

The Jays have gone for the upside of prep arms on several occasions in the first round over the past three drafts and it's already paid off, as they were able to use Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard in the Marlins and Mets deals. That strategy could be gone now that the club is armed to contend, despite the slow start to the 2013 campaign. In the end, the Blue Jays are likely to go for the best value at No. 10.

Notable No. 10 Picks
2006: Tim Lincecum (23.3 WAR)
1988: Robin Ventura (55.9 WAR)
1984: Mark McGwire, 1B (62.0 WAR)

Possible fits

Austin Meadows | OF, Grayson (Ga.) HS: With Meadows, the Jays could address two needs: a long-term center fielder and position player with upside.

Reese McGuire | C, Kentwood (Wash.) HS: They've had a crosschecker at most of McGuire's games this spring -- and their area scout has probably seen McGuire more than any other scout in the game.

Clint Frazier | OF, Loganville High School (Ga.): Frazier, despite profiling as a corner outfielder, might be too talented to pass up at No. 10.

AL West: Team targets for '13 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013 draft is almost upon us, and we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and look at what each organization needs.

While you've surely heard that MLB teams typically don't draft for need in the first round, they will adjust their strategies based on the strengths and weaknesses of the system, as well as what is available.

With that in mind, we've highlighted the strength and weakness of each organization, including Keith Law's top 10 prospects for each. We've also provided a breakdown of the type of player each club tends to favor in the draft. For example, the Phillies have long been known to prefer athletic high school prospects, while the Mariners have favored college players in recent years. For the purposes of this exercise, we are focusing on the first round, supplemental first round and competitive balance Round A.

Really, this is the only MLB draft primer you will need.

Division-by-division draft outlook
AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Houston Astros
Pick: 1
Bonus pool: $11.6988M

System strength

A system that was decimated by bad trades and poor drafts has made a dramatic turnaround, thanks in large part to the terrific work of GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Mike Elias.

The Astros placed five prospects in Keith Law's top 100 to begin the year, ranking the Astros fourth in all of baseball. Houston is particularly strong in the infield, led by 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa (No. 24 on Law's top 100) , first baseman Jonathan Singleton (No. 32) and second baseman Delino Deshields Jr. (No. 83). The outfield has some solid prospects as well, including George Springer (No. 43) and Domingo Santana.

System weaknesses

The Astros have some quality arms, but the overall quantity couldn't be described as elite. No left-handed pitcher made Law's top 10 (see table), and Houston's best pitching prospect -- right-hander Jarred Cosart -- could end up as a reliever. Houston also doesn't have a future catcher in the system, with Max Stassi being the only backstop in the system who has a chance to be an everyday player.

HOU top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Carlos Correa SS
2. Johnathan Singleton 1B
3. George Springer OF
4. Delino DeShields Jr. CF
5. Jarred Cosart RHP
6. Mike Foltyniewicz RHP
7. Robbie Grossman LF
8. Lance McCullers Jr. RHP
9. Jonathan Villar SS
10. Domingo Santana OF

Recent top picks
2012 Carlos Correa, SS 1
2011 George Springer, OF 11
2010 Delino DeShields Jr., 2B 8

Draft strategy

No team used the new draft bonus rules to its advantage better than the Astros last year, signing Correa for well less than MLB's bonus recommendation and using the extra money to go well over slot on picks such as Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. While there were some questionable value picks in the latter half of the first 10 rounds, Houston clearly took a best-player-available approach with most of its selections, with no clear bias toward the prep or college ranks.

Notable No. 1 Picks
2001: Joe Mauer, C (40.8 WAR)
1993: Alex Rodriguez, 1993 (115.5 WAR)
1990: Chipper Jones, 3B (85.1 WAR)

Possible fits

Mark Appel | RHP, Stanford: Appel might be the best player on the board, but he's not a lock to be the first pick in the draft. If the Astros do take him, though, they have a potential ace who could compete for a rotation spot as soon as next year.

Jonathan Gray | RHP, Oklahoma: This is the other "realistic" option for Houston, with Gray offering more upside but less track record than Appel, and possibly a lower cost.

Kris Bryant | 3B, San Diego: If Houston does decide to go with a bat, this would be the most likely pick, with apologies to Colin Moran and Clint Frazier.

Los Angeles Angels
Pick: 59
Bonus pool: $2.9982M

System strength

If there's a strength in the Angels' system, it's the depth in the infield. Third baseman Kaleb Cowart (No. 23 on Keith Law's top 100) looks to be an above-average regular who will provide plus defense and good power at the hot corner. The Angels also have some interesting prospects up the middle, including second basemen Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough and shortstop Jose Rondon.

System weaknesses

LAA top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Kaleb Cowart 3B
2. Taylor Lindsey SS
3. C.J. Cron 1B
4. Nick Maronde LHP
5. Alex Yarbough 2B
6. Randal Grichuk OF
7. Kole Calhoun OF
8. Michael Clevinger RHP
9. Cam Bedrosian RHP
10. Jose Rondon SS

Recent top picks
2012 R.J. Alvarez, RHP 114
2011 C.J. Cron, 1B 17
2010 Kaleb Coward, 3B 18

The Angels' system has been ravaged by trades, a lack of high draft choices and very little success in the international market. There's a severe lack of starting pitching at any level, and their best pitching prospect-- left-hander Nick Maronde -- is likely a reliever at the next level. There's nothing in the system in terms of an impact bat, and their best outfield prospects (Kole Calhoun, Randal Grichuk) are likely reserves on a big league club. It is easy to see why Law ranked the Angels' system dead last in all of Major League Baseball this winter.

Draft strategy

As a result of picks sacrificed for free-agent signings, general manager Jerry Dipoto and scouting director Ric Wilson have had only one top-100 pick in their time with the Angels (2011, C.J. Cron), but in their time together, we've seen Los Angeles go the college route early and often. Of the Angels' eight picks in the first 10 rounds last year, only one was spent on a prep player. With the Halos having the lowest bonus pool of any team in the American League, you can likely expect that trend to continue.

Notable No. 59 Picks
1986: Dean Palmer, 3B (13.3 WAR)

Possible fits

Andrew Knapp | C, California: There's no catching depth in the Angels' system, and Knapp has some offensive upside as a switch-hitting backstop with a strong arm behind the plate.

Tom Windle | LHP, Minnesota: Windle doesn't have the stuff of a front line starter, but his feel for pitching and command should allow him to be a midrotation starter, and he would be solid value in the second round.

Mike O'Neill | OF, Michigan: O'Neill probably can't stick in center field, but the hit tool might be good enough to keep him in the corner outfield, and he's one of the more instinctive players in this year's class.

Oakland Athletics
Pick: 24
Bonus pool: $6.0368M

System strength

The one strength appears to be the club's depth around the infield with top prospect Addison Russell, corner bat Miles Head, third baseman Daniel Robertson and converted second baseman Grant Green all ranking among the A's top 10. They also have long-term prospects in first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Renato Nunez.

System weaknesses

OAK top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Addison Russell SS
2. Sonny Gray RHP
3. Michael Choice OF
4. Dan Straily RHP
5. Daniel Robertson SS/3B
6. Miles Head 3B/1B
7. Nolan Sanburn RHP
8. Grant Green 2B
9. Matt Olson 1B
10. Renato Nunez 3B

Recent top picks
2012 Addison Russell, SS 11
2011 Sonny Gray, RHP 18
2010 Michael Choice, OF 10

With most of the organization's pitching having graduated to the bigs or now on the brink of doing so, pitching is the weakness, along with catching depth and a long-term option in center field.

Draft strategy

Oakland has gone for a high school player three times in the first round over the past two drafts after the A's went college with their previous 24 -- yes, 24 -- first- rounders, dating back to Jeremy Bonderman in 2001, their last prep draft selection in the first round. The A's have two extra picks at 71 and 106.

Notable No. 24 Picks
2003: Chad Billingsley (17.2 WAR)
1990: Rondell White, OF (28.1 WAR)

Possible fits

Alex Gonzalez | RHP, Oral Roberts: The A's could tab any of a number of college pitchers here, including Gonzalez, whose four-pitch arsenal and command suggest he could move quickly, which is perhaps the Athletics' most coveted attribute in a pitching prospect. LSU's Ryan Eades and Jacksonville's Chris Anderson could also fit.

Hunter Harvey | RHP, Bandys HS (Catawba, N.C.): Harvey might represent the best prep arm on the board at No. 24, and the A's could go the upside route rather than the quick-study college pitcher.


Rob Kaminsky | LHP, St. Joseph's High School (Montvale, N.J.): Kaminsky or Bay Area lefty Matt Krook would give the A's their best left-handed pitching prospect since Brett Anderson broke through.

Seattle Mariners
Pick: 12
Bonus pool: $6.1327M

System strength

The Mariners boast a strong collection of young pitching in the upper minors, the big leagues and Class A ball. After the big names -- Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton -- lefty Tyler Pike, a 2012 draft pick, and international signing Victor Sanchez provide long-term depth. Seattle also possesses solid middle infield depth in Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. With Mike Zunino (No. 3 overall, 2012) John Hicks and Tyler Marlette, the catcher position is more of a strength than a weakness.

System weaknesses

SEA top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Taijuan Walker RHP
2. Mike Zunino, C RHP
3. Danny Hultzen LHP
4. Nick Franklin SS/2B
5. Brandon Maurer RHP
6. James Paxton LHP
7. Victor Sanchez RHP
8. Brad Miller SS
9. Tyler Pike, LHP 1B
10. Carter Capps RHP

Recent top picks
2012 Mike Zunino, C 3
2011 Danny Hultzen, LHP 2
2010 Taijuan Walker, RHP 43

The club lacks offensive firepower at each level of the farm system, particularly at the corners in both the infield and outfield. If Miller and Franklin each end up moving off shortstop, there's a huge hole there, too, with glove-only prospect Chris Taylor the next-best option.

Draft strategy

The Mariners need offense in their system, but they also needed it in 2011 and still selected Hultzen at No. 2 overall, a sign they'll take the top player left on their board when it's their turn to choose. It's unlikely, however, that a high-risk player, almost no matter the ceiling, will be that player at No. 12. The M's typically aren't shy about loading up on more pitching if that's where the value happens to be.

Notable No. 12 Picks
2004: Jered Weaver, RHP (30.1 WAR)
1994: Nomar Garciaparra, SS (44.2 WAR)
1978: Kirk Gibson, OF (38.2 WAR)

Possible fits

Austin Wilson | RF, Stanford: Wilson and New Mexico's DJ Peterson outrank Fresno State's Aaron Judge as the top college bat likely to be on the board at No. 12, although not even they are guaranteed. The M's need offense but aren't likely to reach past Wilson or Peterson for a college bat.

J.P. Crawford | SS, Lakewood (Calif.) HS: Crawford would give the club a third shortstop prospect, and perhaps the one most likely to stick at the position long term.

Texas Rangers
Pick: 23, 30
Bonus pool: $6.5538M

System strength

Any talk of the Rangers' farm system has to start with shortstop Jurickson Profar, Keith Law's No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. With Profar and Mike Olt (No. 73), Texas has arguably the best potential left side in all of baseball, or right side if the Rangers chose to go that route. The Rangers have some depth on the mound, with Cody Buckel (90) and Martin Perez (93) representing the best of an above-average group.

System weaknesses

TEX top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Jurickson Profar SS
2. Mike Olt 3B
3. Cody Buckel RHP
4. Martin Perez LHP
5. Lewis Brinson OF
6. Nomar Mazara OF
7. Joey Gallo 3B
8. Jorge Alfaro, C C
9. Luis Sardinas SS
10. Luke Jackson RHP

Recent top picks
2012 Lewis Brinson, OF 29
2011 Kevin Matthews, LHP 33
2010 Jake Skole, OF 15

Outside of Olt and Profar, there's very little that could contribute for Texas offensively, particularly in the outfield. The Rangers drafted a plethora of interesting offensive prospects last year such as Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams, but expecting any of them to be in Arlington before 2015 is a real stretch.

Draft strategy

The Rangers value upside in the early rounds as much as any club in baseball, taking high school players with their first five picks in last year's draft. In fact, the last time Texas took a college player with its first pick was Justin Smoak with the 12th pick in 2005. The Rangers also have shown a willingness to take risks with prep pitchers, taking a high school hurler on Day 1 in each of the past three drafts.

Notable No. 23 Picks
1989: Mo Vaughn, 1B (27.1 WAR)

Possible fits

Billy McKinney | OF, Plano (Texas) West HS: McKinney doesn't offer the upside the Rangers usually covet, but a homegrown talent with his ability could be appealing at pick 23 or 30.

Jacob Brentz | LHP, South HS (Ballwin, Mo.): Texas has taken a prep southpaw in the first round in three of the past four years, and Brentz is one of the best in this year's class, with a heater that has been clocked in the high 90s this spring.

Travis Demeritte | SS, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) HS: Demeritte would definitely keep with the Rangers' trend of toolsy but extremely raw high school bats that they selected time and time again last year.
post #11990 of 73438
I'm ready for the Cole and Bundy era.
post #11991 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Solving the Braves' bullpen issue.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are a lot of ways to evaluate talent, and maybe the worst is the good old-fashioned "pulse of the room" check. But you walk into the clubhouse and the Atlanta Braves are loaded.

Freddie Freeman, 23, sits at his locker and chats with the Justin Upton, 25, and Jason Heyward, 23 -- and you realize these three players already have a combined 6,500 career plate appearances. They are just getting started.

Craig Kimbrel walks by. In 2012, he recorded one of the greatest seasons of relief pitching in history, becoming the first pitcher ever to strike out more than half the batters he faced. Kimbrel is 24 years old. Mike Minor has been one of baseball’s best pitchers over the past 10 months; he’s 25 years old. Kris Medlen is 27 years old, Julio Teheran is 22.

A veteran player in the room acknowledges the potential of the group with a nod and a laugh. “Dude, we are goooooood," he said quietly, emphasizing the potential with that long, understated syllable.

The first time shortstop Andrelton Simmons realized that he had an unusually strong arm, in his life experience, was when he was an 8-year-old pitcher and he felt the gawks of opposing hitters and coaches as he racked up strikeouts. The No. 2 pitcher on his childhood team: Didi Gregorius, the shortstop for the Diamondbacks. Simmons is now 23 years old, and in the eyes of some Braves, he already is the sport’s best defender. Former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones wrote in a direct message Sunday that Simmons reminds him of Andruw Jones in how smooth he is, how effortless everything seems to look, including throwing. Rafael Furcal had a powerful arm and seemed to use his whole body to launch the ball, but with Simmons, the act of throwing looks as natural as the roll of waves on a beach.

At age 26, Evan Gattis has less than two months in the big leagues, but he already might be the most dangerous pinch-hitter in the game; in 2014, he is likely to be Atlanta’s frontline catcher. This has all been a whirlwind for him, all the attention about his past and his unusual bare-knuckles style of hitting. I mentioned to him that on a particularly cold day recently, the game announcers said it had to be really cold because Gattis was wearing long sleeves. Gattis chuckled at the whole legend thing; he’s having a great time but is looking forward to the day, he said, when “it gets back to being about baseball.”

The Braves’ older guys are talented, too, from 29-year-old Brian McCann to 28-year-old Chris Johnson to 37-year-old Tim Hudson. Atlanta has a deep bench, deep rotation, power up and down the lineup. “They may be the best team in baseball,” said a rival GM last week. “They’ve got growing to do, and they’re already really good.”

But on "Sunday Night Baseball," the Braves’ one glaring issue was exposed: They need more bullpen help. Manager Fredi Gonzalez will need more options. Gonzalez doesn’t necessarily need them today, or even in June or July or August, but they will be needed eventually, inevitably.
Teheran didn’t have his best stuff against the Mets on Sunday, going through a couple of blasts of wildness before sorting it all out, and after Dan Uggla crushed a monster home run into the second deck in left field in the seventh inning, the Braves had a 2-1 lead. With two outs and runners on base, Gonzalez called on the only lefty in his bullpen, Luis Avilan.

Jonny Venters was one of the best lefty relievers in 2011 and 2012, making the All-Star team, but he never threw a pitch this season before having Tommy John surgery; some of his teammates sensed last year that he was breaking down. Eric O’Flaherty was also one of the best lefties, but he broke down, after years of a heavy workload.

So Avilan has to move up to seventh- and eighth-inning duty, and he jammed Daniel Murphy so bad that all Murphy could do was lift a little looper to the mound, an inning-ended popout. When the eighth inning started, right-handed hitting Justin Turner was inserted as a pinch-hitter, with right-handed hitting David Wright scheduled to bat behind him, so Gonzalez called on right-hander Cory Gearrin, who is now the primary setup man.

Turner singled, and Gearrin struck out Wright. Left-handed hitting Lucas Duda was coming to bat, having had some good swings on the night, including a line-drive home run. In the past, Gonzalez had the luxury of reflexively going to the mound to call on another lefty.

But there is no other lefty. There is no Venters, no O’Flaherty. There is only Avilan. Gearrin remained in the game.

Duda lifted a double inside the left-field line, and after John Buck singled home the tying run, Mets manager Terry Collins inserted left-handed pinch-hitter Mike Baxter for Marlon Byrd -- without fear, of course, because Gonzalez didn’t have a countermove available.

Gearrin hit Baxter with a pitch, bringing left-handed hitting Ike Davis to the plate, with just three hits in his previous 47 at-bats, and no RBIs since May 9. Davis has been terrible against all pitchers, but especially against lefties.

However, Gonzalez had no lefties, of course. He stuck with Gearrin.

Davis hit a hard single through the right side, scoring two runs, setting off something of a happy explosion in the Mets’ dugout -- which is where, before the game, Davis had met with owner Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins to talk about Davis’ slump. It was a discussion, Davis said later, about getting back to having fun again. A game-winning, two-run single in the eighth -- that was fun, although somewhat weird for Davis. He accepted the hugs of teammates but added through a smile, “That was awkward. I have gotten a hit before.”

The Braves have a nice lead in the National League East this morning, and all that talent is going to grow through the long summer. But they also have that nagging issue of bullpen depth that will manifest itself in the seventh and eighth innings until it is patched. Maybe Medlen will be the fix, shifting into that role after Brandon Beachy comes back. Maybe the Braves will make a trade, for someone like the Marlins’ Mike Dunn. Maybe the fix will be Alex Wood, a 6-foot-4 left-hander who was the Braves’ No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft out of the University of Georgia; he has a little unusual motion in his delivery, a little funkiness, and so far in Double-A this season, he has a 1.26 ERA and just 15 walks and 1 homer allowed in 57 innings. Maybe he can be a missing piece for the Braves -- and maybe sooner rather than later.

They are goooood, and could be great. But the manager will need more options in order to dent October.

Around the league

Most Games With 9 K and 0 BB
* Before Turning 25 years old

Pitcher Games Year
Dwight Gooden 10 1989
Stephen Strasburg 7 2013
Walter Johnson 7 1912
Frank Tanana 7 1978
• From ESPN Stats & Information, on Stephen Strasburg, who was dominant Sunday:

Stephen Strasburg recorded his seventh career game with nine strikeouts and zero walks, tied for second in MLB history among pitchers younger than 25 years old.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Strasburg won:
A. He dominated righties: they went 1-for-10 with 5 K's. His K% of 45.5 against righties was his second-highest this season.

B. He got hitters to swing at bad pitches: zone% (43.glasses.gif was his second-lowest of the season while his swing% on pitches out of the zone (36.5) was his most this season.

C. A good curveball: 27 curveballs tied his most this season. He recorded 4 of 9 K's with the pitch (also tying his season high). Entering the day, the Phillies were hitting .168 against curveballs, 27th in MLB.

Patrick Corbin's Slider
*Among Sliders & Curveballs thrown by ERA title qualifiers

Rate Percentage MLB Rank
In-zone rate 31% Lowest
Misses/swing 53% Highest
Chase rate 43% 2nd-highest
Down in or below zone 77% Highest
K per pitch 20% Highest
• On Sunday, Patrick Corbin recorded his eighth consecutive win to begin the season, tied for the second-longest streak by a Diamondbacks starter in franchise history. The Diamondbacks are 10-0 in Corbin's starts this season.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Corbin’s slider has been incredibly effective for him this season – he’s racked up 41 of his 56 strikeouts with the pitch, and he’s used it to get both righties and lefties. The interesting thing is that Corbin has been getting a ton of strikes and strikeouts with the pitch despite rarely throwing it in the strike zone. No pitcher has thrown breaking pitches outside the zone at a higher rate, and no pitcher has gotten more whiffs per swing on breaking balls than Corbin.

• Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers: Second Tigers pitcher to start 7-0 or better in last 25 years (Jeremy Bonderman - 2007).

• Shaun Marcum, New York Mets: Career-high 12 K's; fourth different pitcher in Mets history to get a no-decision or loss in a 12-K, 0-BB game (Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Matt Harvey).

• Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals: Allowed 3 ERs or fewer in all 11 career starts.

• Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics: 7 IP, season-high 9 K's (most K's since July 19, 2011 at Rays).

From ELIAS: This marks the first time since 2005 that four starting pitchers have started a season 7-and-0 or better (Max Scherzer, Matt Moore, Clay Buchholz and Patrick Corbin).

• From ESPN Stats & Info about CC Sabathia: He allowed seven-plus ERs for the first time since Aug. 6, 2011 versus the Red Sox. The Yankees fall to 1-9 in Sabathia's last 10 road starts at Tampa Bay.

"I'm hurting the team,” Sabathia said. “It's just everything. Not being able to make pitches with two strikes, fastball command, location. I just need to work and make certain I can get better and try to help the team."

Sabathia actually had his best fastball velocity of the season -- 90.6 mph. But the stat that did him in: He allowed as many HRs with his fastball (2) as he got swings-and-misses with it.

Memorial Day Note

Mets GM Sandy Alderson served in the Marine Corps, and when he was with the Oakland Athletics, there was a recruiting poster among the items in his office -- one of those Uncle Sam Wants You posters -- and as Billy Beane recalled the other day, the person used for the picture in the poster was none other than Sandy Alderson, who had excelled in all parts of his training. "I think Sandy's service means more to him than any other [affiliation] he's had in his life," Beane said the other day. "Dartmouth, Harvard Law, baseball ... none of that has meant as much to him."

I talked to Sandy on Sunday about his service, and about Memorial Day and what it means to him.

What to do with Andre Ethier?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If the Los Angeles Dodgers want alternatives to outfielder Andre Ethier from their minor league system, they’ve got them. Yasiel Puig has made an enormous impression with his energy and with how hard he plays. However, he also has demonstrated an inability to paint within the lines with simple stuff -- baseball decisions, yes, but also issues like showing up on time.

If the Dodgers are looking for a more finished player, a more predictable personality -- and less dynamic -- Joc Pedersen is an option. He’s hitting .320 for Double-A Chattanooga, with 20 extra-base hits and a .931 OPS. Pedersen is a left-handed hitter, Puig is a right-handed hitter.

But the Dodgers probably need to commit to some sort of solution with the left-handed-hitting Ethier before they call up one of those young players, and rival officials think it’ll be incredibly difficult for them to trade Ethier unless they are willing to swallow a whole lot of money. To review, Ethier’s annual salary going forward:

2013: $13.5 million
2014: $15.5 million
2015: $18 million
2016: $18 million
2017: $17.5 million
2018: A $2.5 million buyout on a $17.5 million vesting option.

So as of today, Ethier is owed about $80 million on the five-year deal he signed less than a year ago -- mid-June of last year.

Ethier is 31 years old, and last season he finished with a .284 average, 20 homers and an OPS of .812. After going 0-for-4 against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, he’s hitting .258, with a .744 OPS. But what concerns some rival officials the most about Ethier is that they think he’s gradually become a candidate for a platoon. “He just can’t hit lefties anymore,” said one talent evaluator.

Ethier against lefties:
2007: .716 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 22 strikeouts in 111 at-bats
2008: .692 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 24 strikeouts in 136 at-bats
2009: .629 OPS, 13 extra-base hits and 39 strikeouts in 165 at-bats
2010: .625 OPS, 10 extra base hits and 36 strikeouts in 159 at-bats
2011: .563 OPS, 10 extra-base hits and 41 strikeouts in 141 at-bats
2012: .606 OPS, 15 extra-base hits and 63 strikeouts in 221 at-bats
2013: .729 OPS, 6 extra-base hits and 14 strikeouts in 50 at-bats

His early-season numbers against lefties in 2013 are actually some of the best of his career. But he is a different player against righties than he is against lefties, and while you could have a discussion about whether the Dodgers should have invested a long-term deal in a player with a distinct weakness, there’s no point now: It’s money spent.

The question is not whether the Dodgers would have to eat money to trade Ethier, the question is how much money they would have to absorb -- and given the length of Ethier’s remaining contract and his problem against lefties, some rival evaluators believe L.A. would have to turn him into a $7 million to $9 million per year player for another team. In other words, eat perhaps 50 to 60 percent of his deal. “In my mind, he’s a really good platoon player,” said one rival executive.

It would be a huge chunk, and the Dodgers could look for opportunities to swap Ethier’s deal in a trade of overpriced contracts. For example (and this is only speculation): For someone like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle, who has a heavily back-loaded deal and will make $37 million overall in 2014 and '15, and who could benefit from a shift to the National League and Dodger Stadium.

If the Dodgers decide to simply bite down and eat a whole bunch of Ethier’s deal, well, then the list of potential suitors will grow: The New York Mets, who should be in the market for major league outfielders; the New York Yankees; the Pittsburgh Pirates, although any deal would have to be completely on Pittsburgh’s terms, because they have alternatives; the Texas Rangers, with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz headed for free agency; the Oakland A's, who are always shopping for bargains; the Baltimore Orioles, if the money is right and Buck Showalter lobbies for Ethier; the Chicago White Sox, who have to start preparing for some lineup turnover and could use a left-handed hitter.

Of all the teams listed here, the Mets make the most sense, because they have the greatest need and should have financial flexibility. But two things have to happen before Ethier is traded:

1. The Dodgers must decide Ethier is not going to be an effective player for them going forward, perhaps because of the expected unhappiness with a reduced role.

2. The Dodgers have to be willing to flush a whole lot of invested millions away. Sure, they have a lot of television money headed their way, the sort of cash that’ll make Ethier’s deal look like pennies. But admitting a mistake, and paying for it, is never an easy thing to do for successful people.

Walk-off Inside-the-Park HRs
Since 1993

Date Player Team
Today Angel Pagan San Francisco Giants
6/11/04 Rey Sanchez Tampa Bay Devil Rays
8/20/01 Ken Griffey Jr Cincinnati Reds
8/27/00 Bobby Abreu Philadelphia Phillies
8/01/94 Marquis Grissom Montreal Expos
• The Giants had the coolest finish to a baseball game we’ve seen in a long time: Angel Pagan hit a walk-off inside-the-park homer for the Giants. It was his third career inside-the-park homer and second career walk-off home run. This is also the latest date for the first inside-the-park homer of the season since 1996 (Barry Larkin -- May 28 at Florida Marlins).

Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said before the game that he was ready to send someone on an inside-the-park homer, writes Alex Pavlovic.

• We’ve got the Atlanta Braves and Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball" (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) at a time when Atlanta is on a serious roll: They’ve won eight straight games, including a doubleheader (of sorts) on Saturday.

Fredi Gonzalez continues to try to find ways to get Evan Gattis in the lineup. The slugger started in left field Saturday -- and after Atlanta took a lead, Gonzalez pulled him for defense in the fifth inning. David O’Brien writes about Gattis’ unbelievable numbers as a pinch-hitter.

Along the way, there was this for the Mets: Ike Davis got a hit.

• The Los Angeles Angels have turned it around in the past week. From ESPN Stats & Information's By The Numbers:

7 -- Season-high seven straight wins; longest win streak since winning eight (May 22-29, 2012).

36 -- Angels have outscored their opponents by 36 runs, 54 to 18, during the win streak.

.312 -- Angels' batting average including 12 home runs (team was hitting .253 in previous 42 games)

During the win streak, Mike Trout has either scored or driven in 33 percent of the Angels' runs. His turnaround began before the team’s win streak as he’s hit .367 with eight home runs over his past 24 games.

It's Trout Season: 2013
Stat 1st 25 G Last 24 G
BA .252 .367<<
HR 2 8
RBI 12 24
SB 4 8

Trout is 11 for his last 21.
ELIAS: Trout has scored two runs in each of his past five games, tying Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson for the longest such streak since 2008. The last player with six straight multi-run games was Alex Rodriguez in 1999. From ESPN Stats & Info: Josh Hamilton has cut down on his overaggression, and it's showing in his results. In his first 32 games, he was swinging at almost 60 percent of the pitches he saw, and more than half the time on the first pitch of an at-bat. He's cut way down on both numbers and his OPS is up more than 400 points.

On Saturday, Angels starter Mike Minor did everything right in the victory over the Mets (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K -- plus he mashed a long home run). It was his second career game with 10 or more strikeouts. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Minor won:

A. He had great off-speed pitches: Batters went 0-for-12 with five strikeouts against everything other than his fastball (changeup, curveball and slider).

B. He got batters to miss: He had his highest miss percentage this season (34.0) and fourth-most since 2010. For context, his career swing-and-miss rate is 22 percent.

• For the White Sox, Jake Peavy was "the man." From ESPN Stats & Info, how Peavy won:

A. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 straight home starts (second-longest such streak of his career)

B. He pitched to contact: 48 percent of his pitches were put in play. That’s his most this season and well above his average of 34 percent since 2009. The White Sox didn’t make a single error Saturday.

C. He had success with his changeup: Peavy threw 24 changeups, second-most since 2009. Batters were 2-for-8 with two strikeouts in at-bats that ended against the pitch.

Dings and dents
1. The Cardinals lost another starting pitcher to injury. Jake Westbrook is going to see Dr. Andrews.

2. Brewers reliever Jim Henderson landed on the disabled list.

3. Josh Johnson is closer to returning.

4. Colby Lewis pitched four innings, but his velocity topped out at 87 mph, writes Evan Grant. There is some early concern in some corners of the Rangers’ organization about whether Lewis will need more time to come back.

5. David Price feels great, but hasn’t started throwing yet.

6. Andy Pettitte is set to test his injury.

7. Ross Detwiler will get the ball on Tuesday.

8. Pablo Sandoval is still sick.

9. Jed Lowrie could be back in the lineup today, writes Carl Steward.

Moves, deals and decisions
1. Salvador Perez left the Kansas City Royals.

2. Terry Pluto writes about how the Cleveland Indians landed Yan Gomes, within this piece. Great info.

3. The Minnesota Twins lost an outfielder on waivers.

4. Martin Perez will start for the Rangers on Monday.

5. Anaheim and the Angels have opened negotiations about a deal that would keep the team in the city, writes Bill Shaikin.

How to pitch to Cabrera and Trout.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It was a slow Friday night for Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, relatively speaking. Cabrera had a single and two RBIs, and Trout had two hits and a walk and scored twice. Cabrera’s batting average stands at .388, and Trout has an OPS of .963, and in pitchers’ meetings, in mound conferences, in conversations in the dugout, in the scouting section, the same question is being asked:
How do you get these guys out, especially when they’re rolling, when they’re swinging the bat well?

About Cabrera, one scout said, “You’ve got to be willing to pitch in off the plate. You’ve got to be willing to show him that you’ll hit him. You’re not throwing at him, but you’ve got to pitch far enough in that you can miss off the plate. It’s a lot like pitching to Manny Ramirez.

About Trout, another scout said: “If you get him to two strikes, he’ll expand the strike zone. He’ll chase pitches up.”

As the scouts talk, however, they sound as if they’re making plans to break into a Las Vegas vault because they qualify their words with warnings: If you make mistakes, you’ll pay for them.
I asked Mark Simon and John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Information to consider whether there are common denominators in those chunks of success pitchers are having against Cabrera and Trout because, as for all hitters, there are guys who get them out -- and with some regularity. Trevor Cahill, for example, has faced Cabrera in 15 plate appearances, and in those, Cabrera is 2-for-11 with no extra-base hits, four walks and two strikeouts. Trout is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against Cahill. So, although it could be chalked up to a pretty small sample size when you consider many individual pitchers, we can at least say this: Somebody is getting them out.

ESPN Stats & Information
Take a look at what Cabrera has done against all the different types of pitches he has seen since the start of 2012. Simon notes that a good slow curveball can give him trouble (Yu Darvish threw him a ridiculously soft one recently that Cabrera missed completely). Simon notes that Cabrera tends to hit them into the ground. The first number is OPS against that pitcher, the second is the number of pitches seen:

Cutter: 1.174 OPS, 310 pitches seen
Fastball: 1.102 (1,792)
Changeup: 1.073 (245)
Splitter: .952 (66)
Slider: .942 (583)
Sinker: .936 (160)
Curveball: .741 (135)

Four left-handers have had success against Cabrera. David Price, Chris Sale, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez have shut down Cabrera to the tune of 2-for-29 with 10 walks. Simon writes: "They have a very clear way of pitching Miggy -- away, away, away. They've thrown 119 out of 175 pitches to the outer-half of home plate, or off the outside corner."
Trout has destroyed the most cutting-edge pitch of this era, the cutter. Just look at what he has done to the pitch since the start of 2012. Like Cabrera above, the first number is OPS, the second number is the number of times he has seen that pitch.

Cutter: 1.309 OPS, 112 pitches seen
Sinker: 1.244 (180)
Changeup: 1.140 (228)
Curveball: .910 (284)
Fastball: .933 (2,031)
Slider: .844 (584)

Simon also pointed out that Trout has just a .531 OPS against splitters, but that's against just 34 of the them, which is far too few to draw any conclusions. That said, it'll be interesting to see how he fares against good splitters going forward in his career.

Of note this season, Simon writes: "Trout is least effective against pitches up in the zone and specifically on pitches down and away. But he does have two hits on pitches down and away in the past three games -- he had just two hits on those pitches in his first 44 games combined this season."

Interestingly, the four left-handers who have been good against Cabrera -- Anderson, Sale, Price and Gonzalez -- have fared well against Trout, too, holding him to two hits in 24 at-bats, with three walks. The difference is that they tend to work Cabrera away but have a different strategy with Trout: They’ll attack him right over the middle of the plate. It helps that each of those guys is also a good pitcher in general and each can produce pretty good fastball velocity.

Ultimately, these guys are hitting strikes really hard, and there are few areas where you can see a clear weakness. And even when you do, the sample size can be small enough to make you wonder whether it's simply a fluke, an error they might ultimately correct.


• Cabrera almost saw another no-hitter Friday, when Anibal Sanchez came within a couple of outs of throwing the second in his career. It was his eighth career complete game, and the 12 strikeouts are the third most of his career. This was also his third 10-strikeout game in 22 starts with the Tigers. He had just three of those in 132 starts with the Marlins. He also now owns one of four shutouts in team history that came with 12 strikeouts. Justin Verlander (2012, 2007) and Jim Bunning (1958) had the others.

Also, check this out. Per Elias, the most complete games with one hit or fewer allowed over the past 40 years:

Nolan Ryan: 14
Dave Stieb: 6
Randy Johnson: 6
Anibal Sanchez: 5

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Sanchez won:

1) The plate ump, Sam Holbrook, called strikes: his called-strike rate was a season-high 42 percent (32 strikes on 77 takes).
2) Sanchez put hitters away with two strikes. He got to two strikes on 20 hitters and retired all 20, striking out 12.
3) The Tigers’ defense came through. Detroit defenders have had trouble converting batted balls into outs all season. Sanchez entered the game with a .361 opponents' batting average on balls in play, the fifth highest in MLB among ERA-title qualifiers.
4) Sanchez threw 53 of 130 pitches (40.8 percent) down in the zone Friday, including a curveball that Joe Mauer hit to center field for a single. This is the third time Mauer has broken up a no-hitter in the ninth inning.

• Sanchez didn’t quite get there, as John Lowe writes.

• We had Pirates general manager Neal Huntington on the podcast Friday and discussed his team, the young pitching on the way and dairy farming skills.

• Curtis Granderson suffered a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch, which is pretty unbelievable.

• Mark Teixeira thinks he’ll be back in a week.

• Don Mattingly got a call from Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten.

• Ike Davis struck out four times Friday and is now 1-for-42. Manager Terry Collins spoke openly of other options. The time is now to send him down, writes Anthony McCarron.

• The Mariners are now in an absolute free fall, with seven straight losses and counting.

• The Rangers benefited from a blown call. Ron Washington knows his team caught a break, as Gerry Fraley writes.

• The Twins have dropped 10 straight, writes La Velle Neal.

• Carlos Santana and the other Indians are working the count.

In fact, they are among the team leaders in pitches per plate appearance, which you can see here:

Boston Red Sox: 4.08
Oakland Athletics: 3.98
New York Mets: 3.97
Cleveland Indians: 3.97
Minnesota Twins: 3.96
Toronto Blue Jays: 3.92
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3.91
Tampa Bay Rays: 3.89
Detroit Tigers: 3.88
Chicago Cubs: 3.88
Texas Rangers: 3.87
Seattle Mariners: 3.87
Pittsburgh Pirates: 3.86
Arizona Diamondbacks: 3.85
Washington Nationals: 3.84
San Diego Padres: 3.83
Houston Astros: 3.82
Chicago White Sox: 3.82
Colorado Rockies: 3.82
Milwaukee Brewers: 3.81
Philadelphia Phillies : 3.80
Cincinnati Reds: 3.80
Atlanta Braves: 3.80
Kansas City Royals: 3.80
Los Angeles Angels: 3.79
New York Yankees: 3.78
Baltimore Orioles: 3.76
St. Louis Cardinals: 3.75
Miami Marlins: 3.74
San Francisco Giants: 3.73

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Mariners cut Robert Andino.

2. Sending down Evan Gattis is no longer an option. Gattis got another pinch-hit single Friday in Atlanta’s suspended game.

Dings and dents

1. Josh Reddick took batting practice, writes John Shea.

2. Don Mattingly says Matt Kemp’s shoulder is hampering him.

3. Adam Eaton is going to get a second opinion on his elbow, from Dr. James Andrews, as Steve Gilbert writes.

4. Aaron Hill is frustrated with the lack of progress in his injury.

5. Jim Henderson is hurt.

6. Jake Westbrook is starting over.

7. Danny Duffy is making progress.

Gray impresses, remains likely top pick.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While conference tournaments often get criticized -- justifiably so -- for taking away some of the relevance of the regular season, they are a wonderful opportunity for scouts to see the best players in the conference compete in one venue in a crucial point in the year.

This week we saw an ace return to dominance, the stock of a former potential top-five pick continue to plummet, and a big weekend from a first baseman in the Mountain West Conference who probably will be off the board within the first dozen picks.

After dominating hitters for the first two and a half months of the season, Jonathan Gray has had his struggles in May. The Oklahoma ace had a start pushed back because of illness, and hasn’t gone deep into games for most of the month.

This was not the case Thursday against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. Gray was outstanding, going the distance and giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out 12 in a 2-0 victory. Gray also retired nine via ground ball against the Bears, and his fastball and slider looked like the plus-plus pitches that they have for most of the season.

“It was impressive,” an AL scout said. “When you throw as hard as he does and then come back with a slider like that, it really isn’t fair. The last couple of weeks he struggled to finish off hitters, but that obviously wasn’t the case today. If the changeup gets anywhere near the level the other two pitches get, then you have a special prospect. But he’s pretty darn good without it.”

Gray still appears to be a lock for the first two picks, and it’s looking more and more like Houston will be his landing spot.

• It may have been Mark Appel’s last start as a member of the Stanford Cardinal, and it was a solid -- if unspectacular -- way to end his collegiate career if that is the case.

Appel went eight innings against UCLA, giving up one run and three hits while walking two and striking out nine in a 2-1 win. Appel’s slider was better Friday than it has been over the past few weeks, but he wasn’t as efficient as he has been for most of the year, needing 123 pitches to get through eight innings against the Bruins.

“I’m glad his year is over, to be honest with you,” an NL Scout said. “There really isn’t anything more to learn about the guy. I’m sure as a competitor he’d love to be out there playing in the tournament but there’s nothing left for him to prove, he’s the most complete pitcher in this class and it isn’t particularly close.”

• It was also probably Braden Shipley’s last start as a member of the Nevada Wolfpack, facing the same Fresno State lineup he dominated one weekend ago. It wasn’t quite as impressive an effort, but Shipley was solid again, giving up three runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out eight in eight innings. Once again the Nevada ace was able to keep the ball below the knees and force hitters to put the ball on the ground, getting 10 ground ball outs in eight innings of work.

Shipley probably will go in the first dozen picks, with Boston, Kansas City and Seattle all showing interest in his services.

• Ryne Stanek will be making another start -- at least -- as a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks, and continued to solidify his draft stock in a solid pitching effort against LSU. Stanek gave up one unearned run in eight innings, giving up six hits while walking three and striking out four. While the Razorbacks right-hander didn’t miss many bats, he did take advantage of LSU’s aggressiveness and held his velocity very well once again.

Stanek will be drafted in the first 15, and could go as high as No. 7 to Boston come draft day.

• While Stanek’s stock continues to rise, Sean Manaea’s stock continues to plummet. The Indiana State left-hander didn’t throw a single pitch before leaving with what the school is calling “shoulder tightness,” and inconsistent velocity and secondary offerings had already diminished the top-five chances that Manaea had before the season began.

“He’s not a first-round prospect to me,” an NL scout said. “I don’t see how he can be. When your fastball is sitting mid 80s a couple of weeks ago with a 45 [on the 20-80 scouting scale] slider and 50 change, that’s a back-end starter. I’m not taking a back-end starter in the first thirty picks.”

“I almost never say this, but if I was Manaea I would go back to school and see if I can re-establish myself. It’s a risk because the 2014 class is so much better, but maybe if he’s back throwing 96 he can go in the first round.”


San Diego was a bubble team coming into the weekend, but Kris Bryant did everything in his power to keep his season alive. Bryant did a little bit of everything in the West Coast Conference tournament, walking three times in Game 1, getting five assists in Game 2, homering in Game 3 and going 2-for-4 with a double in a 2-0 win over San Francisco in the championship game.

“I’ve said all year that it’s not just about Bryant’s power,” an NL West scout told me. “Obviously that’s the standout tool, but he’s not a one note guy. Does he get pitched around? Of course, but a lot of hitters will get frustrated by that and get too aggressive. That hasn’t been the case for him. I think he’s got star potential in his bat.”

It was a decidedly more mixed weekend for North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran. Moran picked up five hits over the weekend, but went a combined 1-for-14 in the middle two games, including an 0-for-7 effort against NC State. The overall numbers are still outstanding -- a .357/.485/.579 line is nothing to sneeze at -- but he has struggled a bit in May, picking up just three extra-base hits in the month.

Even with the substandard May, Moran is still very likely to go in the top five of this year’s draft, and there’s no way he’ll drop out of the top 10, with Kansas City and Pittsburgh both hopeful he might fall into their laps.

• Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe also had an inconsistent week, going 6-for-22 with one extra base hit in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs outfielder did save his best for last, going 3-for-5 with a double against Vanderbilt in a 16-8 loss.

“I think he’s one of the more high-risk, high-reward prospects in this class,” an AL crosschecker said. “He’s got three 60 tools and obviously he’s been great this year, but what happened last year? My guess is it’s just a case of a kid figuring it out late, but we haven’t seen this kid on the national stage as much as we’ve seen some of the other bats. I think he’s a top-20 pick, but there’s a bit of boom or bust in his bat and that could scare teams away.”

While Moran and Renfroe weren’t at their best in tournament play, DJ Peterson certainly was. Peterson had four multihit games, hitting two home runs in the process and taking New Mexico to the Mountain West Conference championship game before losing to San Diego State.

“If I thought [Peterson] was a third baseman, I’d take him over any offensive prospect in this class sans Bryant,” an AL West scout told me. "He’s going to hit 20-25 homers a year, and I think he can be a .300 hitter at the next level. Unfortunately, he’s going to do that at first base, so the value wanes a little bit. Still, this is not a good class of college hitters and I think he deserves all of the top-10 talk that he’s received.”

Peterson probably will go in the top 12 picks, with Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Seattle his most likely landing spots.

NL Central: Targets for '13 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013 draft is almost upon us, and we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and look at what each organization needs.

While you've surely heard that MLB teams typically don't draft for need in the first round, they will adjust their strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of the system, as well as what is available.

With that in mind, we've highlighted the strength and weakness of each organization, including Keith Law's top 10 prospects for each one. We've also given you a breakdown of the type of player each club tends to favor in the draft. For example, the Phillies have long been known to favor athletic high school prospects, while the Mariners have favored college players in recent years.

Really, this is the only MLB draft primer you will need.

Division-by-division draft outlook
AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Chicago Cubs
Pick: 2
Bonus pool: $10.557M

System strength

The Cubs have quickly added promising talents to their system under the new regime, boasting a number of future bats with upside, including Jorge Soler, Alberto Almora and Javier Baez, who was acquired via the draft under the previous administration. Jeimer Candelario also offers upside, despite greater risk, as do sluggers Rock Shoulders and Dan Vogelbach, who should be able to team with Anthony Rizzo to man first base for the next decade. Between Baez, Candalario and Arismendy Alcantara -- and Starlin Castro in the big leagues -- the club is likely taken care of long term at shortstop, too.

CHC top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Javier Baez SS
2. Albert Almora CF
3. Jorge Soler RF
4. Arodys Vizcaino RHP
5. Jeimer Candelario 3B
6. Duane Underwood RHP
7. Juan Carolos Paniagua RHP
8. Pierce Johnson RHP
9. Paul Blackburn SS
10. Arismendy Alcantara SS

Recent top picks
2012 Albert Almora, OF 6
2011 Javier Baez, SS 9
2010 Hayden Simpson, RHP 16

System weaknesses

The Cubs lack organizational depth or a future answer at catcher, but their greatest weakness appears to be starting pitching, despite the presence of right-handers Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Juan Carlos Paniagua and Pierce Johnson. They'll get the chance to add college pitching in this draft, and if they play their cards right may have a chance to add upside in a high school arm early on Day 2.

Draft strategy

Last June was the Cubs' first draft under president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod, but the group's history -- in Boston and San Diego -- suggests they mix it up in terms of upside, polish and quick returns. They've rarely drafted this high, however, so there will be opportunities they haven't had much of in the past, which may make them somewhat unpredictable.

Notable No. 2 picks
2005: Alex Gordon, 3B (19.2 WAR)
1967: Reggie Jackson, OF (74.0 WAR)
2004: Justin Verlander, RHP (37.5 WAR)

Possible fits

Jonathan Gray, RHP | Oklahoma: Gray or Mark Appel would immediately become the organization's top pitching prospect.

Mark Appel, RHP | Stanford: Not only would Appel be the club's top overall prospect upon signing, he might become their No. 2 or 3 starter as early as April, replacing Matt Garza, who is slated for free agency.

Kris Bryant, 3B | San Diego: Bryant is likely the club's first alternative to one of the two pitchers.

Cincinnati Reds
Picks: 27, 39
Bonus pool: $6.0467M

System strength

The Reds have some elite young arms at the big league level, and there's help on the way on the farm, too. Cincinnati had three hurlers placed in Keith Law's top 100 prospects of 2013, including Robert Stephenson (No. 48), Daniel Corcino (No. 72) and recent call-up Tony Cingrani (98), with arms like Nick Travieso and Ismael Guillon in the wings, as well. They also have some talented outfielders in the system, led by center fielder Billy Hamilton (No. 30), the fastest player in all of baseball.

System weaknesses

CIN top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Billy Hamilton CF
2. Robert Stephenson RHP
3. Daniel Corcino RHP
4. Tony Cingrani LHP
5. Jesse Winker RF
6. Nick Travieso RHP
7. Jonathan Reynoso CF
8. Ismael Guillon LHP
9. Tanner Rahier 3B
10. Daniel Langfield RHP

Recent top picks
2012 Nicholas Travieso, RHP 14
2011 Robert Stephenson, RHP 27
2010 Yasmani Grandal, C 12

With Hamilton's conversion from shortstop to center, the Reds' system is essentially barren in terms of infield prospects. No middle-infield prospects made Law's top 10 for Cincinnati, and third baseman Tanner Rahier was the only infielder to make the cut at all. There's also not much pop in the system; most of the better bats project as average to below-average power hitters at the next level.

Draft strategy

In GM Walt Jocketty's time with scouting director Chris Buckley, we've seen Cincinnati be aggressive early and often with prep players. The Reds have taken high school pitchers with their past two first-round selections (Stephenson with pick No. 27 in 2011, Travieso with pick No. 14 in 2012) and last year Cincinnati took high school players with three of its first four picks.

Notable No. 27 picks
1967: Vida Blue, LHP (45.5 WAR)

Possible fits

Devin Williams | RHP, Hazelwood (Mo.) West HS: The Reds love hard-throwing right-handed pitchers, and Williams fits that mold, with more coming as he fills out. He's raw, but the Reds' pitching depth would allow his right arm to develop over the next few years.

Blake Taylor | LHP, Dana Hills HS (Dana Point, Tenn.): Taylor is one of the youngest prospects in the draft -- he won't be 18 until August 17 -- and, like Williams, offers projection, though he'll have to develop a third pitch.

Tim Anderson | SS, East Central Community College: Cincinnati has very little up the middle in the system, and Anderson has the athleticism and instincts to keep him at shortstop with above-average offensive capabilities.

Milwaukee Brewers
Pick: 54
Bonus pool: $3.9446M

System strength

If the Brewers have a strength, it's pitching depth, with each of their top five prospects making their way on the mound. None of them bring No. 1 starter upside, however, and a few are believed to fit better in the bullpen for the long haul.

System weaknesses

MIL top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Wily Peralta RHP
2. John Hellweg RHP
3. Jimmy Nelson RHP
4. Taylor Jungmann RHP
5. Tyler Thornburg RHP
6. Tyrone Taylor OF
7. Clint Coulter C
8. Mitch Haniger OF
9. Orlando Arcia SS
10. Hunter Morris 1B

Recent top picks
2012 Clint Coulter, C 27
2011 Taylor Jungmann, RHP 12
2010 Dylan Covey, RHP 14

The club lacks upside talents all over the field and at all levels of their system, with the few exceptions including 2012 first-round pick Clint Coulter and outfielder Mitch Haniger. The Brewers do not have outfielders with big league futures, nor is there any marked depth up the middle.

Draft strategy

The Brewers are all over the map in the first round, going prep player just twice since tabbing Brett Lawrie in 2008, most of those pitchers. The trend did flip a bit last year when three hitters were taken at picks No. 27, 28 and 38 overall, but considering the club's needs and the strength of the 2013 class, they may get back to pitching, especially since their first selection is not until No. 54 overall.

Notable No. 54 picks
1997: Randy Wolf, LHP (24.1 WAR)

Possible fits

Garrett Williams, LHP | Calvary Baptist Academy (Shreveport, La.): Williams brings some upside to the table, as well as adding a long-term, left-handed pitching option, something the club does not presently boast. Ian Clarkin could also fit.

Jonathon Crawford, RHP | Florida: Crawford may end up in the bullpen, but could have closer stuff if his fastball gets back to the mid-90s. At No. 54, he could fit, even if he can't start. The same could be said for Ole Miss right-hander Bobby Wahl. Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen, who has drawn dozens of scouts to some of his April and May scouts as he's sitting 94-98 into the late innings, also may fit the bill.

Hunter Dozier, 3B | Stephen F. Austin: Dozier, along with prep shortstops Oscar Mercado of Gaither HS (Tampa), Jan Hernandez of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (P.R.) and Riley Unroe from Desert Ridge High School in Arizona could also fit in the second round.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Picks: 9, 14
Bonus pool: $8.8846M

System strength

Few teams can match the Pirates' power pitching prospects, with Gerrit Cole (No. 8 on Law's top 100) and Jameson Taillon (No. 20) and Luis Heredia (No. 84) leading the charge. Pittsburgh also has some intriguing outfielders in the system, including Gregory Polanco (No. 55), Josh Bell and Barrett Barnes. It's a front-loaded system, but their top five prospects compete with any team in baseball.

System weaknesses

PIT top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Gerrit Cole RHP
2. Jameson Taillon RHP
3. Alen Hanson SS
4. Gregory Polanco CF
5. Luis Heredia RHP
6. Josh Bell RF
7. Barrett Barnes OF
8. Nick Kingham RHP
9. Wyatt Mathisen C
10. Clayton Holmes RHP

Recent top picks
2012 Mark Appel, RHP 8
2011 Gerrit Cole RHP 1
2010 Jameson Taillon, RHP 2

The system isn't particularly strong in the infield, with only shortstop Alen Hanson placing in Law's top 10. And while the system has some potential impact bats like Bell, there's very little in terms of players who could contribute in the next year or two.

Draft strategy

This will be Joe DelliCarri's second draft as scouting director, but under GM Neil Huntington the Bucs have definitely shown they are willing to take risks in the draft, with a preference toward pitching. Pittsburgh has taken a pitcher with its past three first-round picks, all hard-throwing right-handers. The Pirates have also drafted some perceived difficult signings over the past several years, including Mark Appel last year and Bell in 2012, the latter reportedly sending letters to clubs asking not to be drafted. Ironically, it was Appel who they failed to sign.

Notable No. 9 picks
1999: Barry Zito, LHP (35.5 WAR)

Notable No. 14 picks
1993: Derrek Lee, 1B (34.1 WAR)
1988: Tino Martinez, 1B (29.0 WAR)

Possible fits

Kohl Stewart | RHP, St. Pius X HS (Houston): If he is still on the board, he would fit the Pirates' love of high-upside pitchers with pick No 9.

Trey Ball | LHP, New Castle (Ind.) HS: He's more likely than Stewart to be on the board when the Pirates pick and offers comparable upside.

DJ Peterson | 1B/3B, New Mexico: If the Bucs decide to go the "safe" route, Peterson could be the guy, as he is relatively close to the majors, and the club could use bats that fit that profile.

St. Louis Cardinals
Pick: 19, 28
Bonus pool: $6.9079M

System strength

No team matches the quantity or quality of the Cardinals' farm system, and they were justifiably graded the top system in baseball by Law. St. Louis has the best outfield prospect in baseball in Oscar Taveras (No. 2 on Law's top 100) and as much pitching depth as anyone in baseball with arms like Carlos Martinez (No. 39), Michael Wacha and Tyrell Jenkins along with the recently promoted Shelby Miller (No. 21) and Trevor Rosenthal (No. 57).

STL top 10 prospects
As ranked by Keith Law this preseason. For complete version, click here.

1. Oscar Taveras OF
2. Shelby Miller RHP
3. Carlos Martinez RHP
4. Trevor Rosenthal RHP
5. Kolten Wong 2B
6. Tyrell Jenkins RHP
7. Michael Wacha RHP
8. Matt Adams 1B
9. Carson Kelly 3B
10. Anthony Garcia OF

Recent top picks
2012 Michael Wacha, RHP 19
2011 Kolten Wong, 2B 22
2010 Zack Cox, 3B 25

System weaknesses

I'm not sure if you'd call any part of the Cardinals' system weak, but there's not much left-handed pitching, and St. Louis doesn't have anyone you'd consider a shortstop of the future in the system.

Draft strategy

The Cardinals have generally chosen to play things safe in the first round, drafting college players with four of their five Day 1 picks last year and haven't taken a prep player with their first selection since Miller in 2009. St. Louis has been much more aggressive in the later rounds under GM John Mozeliak, drafting presumed difficult signings like Carson Kelly, Charlie Tilson and Tyrell Jenkins over the past three drafts.

Notable No. 19 picks
1999: Alex Rios, OF (26.8 WAR)
1983: Roger Clemens, RHP (140.3 WAR)

Possible fits

Alex Gonzalez | RHP, Oral Roberts: Gonzalez would be similar to the Wacha selection last year, but would be solid value at 19 with his feel for pitching and plus slider.

Devin Williams | RHP, Hazelwood (Mo.) West High School: Some believe that there is local pressure for the Cardinals to take the local kid, but it's more about his arm strength and athleticism that make him a good fit in the organization.

Tim Anderson | SS, East Central Community College: The Cardinals aren't as strong up the middle as they are everywhere else, and Anderson's speed and hit tool could be intriguing at 19 or 28.

Ryan Boldt | OF, Red Wing (Minn.) HS: Because the Cardinals have two early picks, St. Louis could be one of a few teams that take a chance on Boldt -- who has battled injuries but offers plus tools -- if they chose to play it safe with one of their other first-round selections.
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Scouting Southland and Conference USA.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SUGAR LAND, TX -- Some notes from the Southland and Conference USA tournaments on Wednesday:

• Oral Roberts right-hander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez has been one of the biggest risers in this year's draft, moving up from 44th on my mid-March rankings into the teens right now, with a very good chance he goes somewhere in the top 15 overall picks. Gonzalez threw on short rest on Wednesday morning in the Southland Conference tournament and was good, but not as good as he's been in recent weeks. His four-seamer was 90-93 mph, straight but mostly low in the zone, with his 87-88 cutter/slider his out pitch, with hard tilting action on the pitch. Gonzalez showed he could throw it for a strike or make right-handers chase it into the other batter's box. His third pitch on Wednesday was a low-80s changeup with split-like action, a pitch he hasn't used a ton this season, instead usually using a slider in that same velocity range, but it could be an average pitch if his feel for it improves. Gonzalez has a modest frame, not projectable, with a loose arm and some torque from hip rotation, although he could get his pitching hand turned over a little sooner. He's a very strong ground-ball guy, which will increase his appeal to clubs that utilize statistical analysis in their draft process. One senior evaluator told me that in his view, Gonzalez "isn't that far behind [Jonathan] Gray." I think Chi Chi's market starts with the Red Sox at No. 7 and ends with a floor of Arizona at 15 and the White Sox at 17.

• Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier was the one Lumberjacks hitter who had no trouble with Gonzalez, scorching the ball in every at-bat before those of us there to evaluate left to head over to Reckling Park for the Conference USA tournament. He's not a long-term shortstop, but he'll be a very good third baseman on both sides of the ball. Dozier's swing is very rotational, with extremely strong hands to allow him to control the bat head and make solid contact on pitches on the inner half. His above-average raw power should translate to 20-25 homers down the road. He's an average runner who doesn't seem to have the hands or lateral agility for short, but should be fine at second or third base. I've heard of Dozier going anywhere from the end of the first round to the early second round, but with the paucity of quality college bats in this draft, especially infielders, I think he goes in the earlier end of that range.

• Tulane's Tony Rizzotti had a little hype earlier in the spring when he was 92-96 as a starter, but concerns about his delivery pushing him to the bullpen muted that hype, and then back spasms took him out for three weeks in May. His return to the mound on Wednesday wasn't a great look for him, as he was 89-92, albeit with very good life on the pitch, and showed a ton of effort just to achieve that velocity. His slider was 79-82 and backed up on him several times, while he had a little better luck with his 80-81 changeup, which he used to lefties when he got ahead in the count. Rizzotti doesn't push off the rubber well and most of his velocity comes from his upper body, with a long arm swing and a lot of effort from his shoulder as he brings the ball up and over his body toward release. Even if he were throwing in the mid-90s yesterday I'd still peg him as a reliever due to the delivery, probably a third- to fifth-rounder this year.

• Memphis lefty Sam “Gangster” Moll has earned comparisons this spring to Tim Collins as another diminutive lefty with an aggressive approach and surprising velocity. Moll works as a starter and has been successful this year, but starters his size are very rare and he doesn't have a plus pitch to miss bats as a starter in pro ball. Moll was mostly 89-93 on Wednesday, picking up some velocity as he went on, with a short, hard slider that he struggled to command and was using too often to right-handed batters, preferring it to his hard changeup, which was a below-average pitch itself. There's also some effort in Moll's delivery that might push him to the bullpen even if he were a little taller, although I think the arm strength and competitiveness would make him a top-50 pick if he were 6-1 or so.

Biggest flops from 2003 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After my redraft of the 2003 draft was published, I got a lot of questions on Twitter about some of the high-profile flops. Here's a quick breakdown of what went wrong for the 15 flops from the first round of the 2003 draft (all WAR stats come from

Delmon Young, OF | No. 1 overall pick, Tampa Bay Rays (1.8 career WAR)
Young's makeup issues aside, the man never has figured out how to tell a ball from a strike, or what happens when you get four of the former before you get three of the latter. He also lost most of his athleticism as his body filled out.

Kyle Sleeth, RHP | No. 3, Detroit Tigers (never made majors)
Sleeth had a knockout slider but it wasn't the cleanest arm action you'll ever see, and he blew out after one season in the minors.

Chris Lubanski, OF | No. 5, Kansas City Royals (never made majors)
Lubanski had some above-average tools, nothing plus, and performed well until he reached Triple-A, when he could no longer make enough contact to get any further.

Ryan Harvey, OF | No. 6, Chicago Cubs (never made majors):
When I was with the Blue Jays, we used to hear Harvey take BP at Dunedin High School as our home spring training games were letting out. But despite big raw power, Harvey was a hacker who couldn't get the power to play in major league games.

Michael Aubrey, 1B | No. 11, Cleveland Indians (0.2 WAR)
We (i.e., the Blue Jays) loved Aubrey but knew he wouldn't fall to us at No. 13, and I think he would have had at least a run as a solid regular if chronic back problems hadn't felled him -- but we'll never really know.

Lastings Milledge, OF | No. 12, New York Mets (0.4 WAR)
Sources have told me that Milledge's makeup questions were totally overblown before and after the draft, but his feel for the strike zone was never quite good enough for him to stick as a regular. He's currently in his second year in Japan after a very successful debut with Yakult in 2012, so we may not have seen the last(ings) of him.

Ryan Wagner, RHP | No. 14, Cincinnati Reds (minus-0.3 WAR)
Wagner struck out more than 15 men per nine innings in his junior year at Houston with a huge-breaking slider, but his arm action was just awful and the Reds rushed him straight to the majors that summer; he blew out shortly thereafter.

Brian Anderson, OF | No. 15, Chicago White Sox (minus-0.2 WAR)
We (the Blue Jays) had him pegged as a future fourth outfielder, since he didn't do any single thing particularly well, and that turned out to be generous. He didn't even beat up left-handed pitchers to give him some value off the bench.

Jeff Allison, RHP | No. 16, Miami Marlins (never made majors):
He was plagued by serious drug problems that kept him off the field in 2004, 2006 and 2007. By the time he got clean and tried to make a comeback, the electricity in his arm was gone.

Brad Snyder, OF | No. 18, Cleveland Indians (minus-0.1 WAR)
He struck out too much at Ball State in a weak conference, and, lo and behold, struck out too much in pro ball too, without the patience and/or power that might have made that palatable.

Matt Moses, SS | No. 32, Minnesota Twins (never made majors)
Prep shortstop who had to move to third base in pro ball, then struggled enough there to move to the outfield, while hitting a composite .238 AVG/.293 OBP/.364 SLG in parts of five years in Double-A.

Brandon Wood, SS | No. 23, Los Angeles Angels (minus-3.8 WAR)
Could murder a fastball, but could never hit anything else.

Brad Sullivan, RHP | No. 25, Oakland Athletics (never made majors)
Sullivan was worked very, very hard in college at Houston, and when I saw him (and Ryan Wagner) in the Conference USA tournament that May his velocity was already down several ticks. He blew out in 2005.

Brian Snyder, 3B/2B | No. 26, Oakland Athletics (never made majors)
Probably would have spent some time on a major league bench, given his patience and ability to fake a few positions, if his career hadn't gone south due to so many injuries. Getting on base was his only substantial offensive skill, though.

Eric Duncan, 3B | No. 27, New York Yankees (never made majors)
Poor defensive third baseman who actually had an idea at the plate and drew some walks, but couldn't convert that into production and never showed even average power with wood bats.

Grading position switchers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On April 8, with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Yadier Molina hit a deep fly ball to center field that Shin-Soo Choo got under. The ball hit off the webbing of his glove and popped up in the air. For a moment, it looked like Choo would recover to catch the ball, but it once again struck his glove before falling to the ground, allowing two runs to score.

Later in the same game, this time in the bottom of the sixth inning, Molina hit another fly ball to Choo. Again, there were two outs, and again the ball struck Choo's glove, this time at the heel, before falling to outfield grass and allowing another run to score with two outs. The Reds later rallied to win the game handily, but in the second week of the season, it seemed the Shin-Soo Choo-to-center-field experiment would fail and do so quickly.

Each season, many players move positions. Some make minor moves, like from one corner outfield spot to another. Others move from a more demanding to a less demanding position, often because of a loss of range with advancing age. However, some moves become controversial, such as when players go from an easier to a more difficult position, or when the opposite move may offset the value of their offensive contributions. Here are five of the most controversial moves this season and how they have worked out in the first two months:

Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds | RF to CF

Choo has avoided egregious errors since April 8, but his move to center field was controversial for two different reasons: one, his poor range, and two, his excellent arm.

Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved (DRS) metric is made up of several components with targeted defensive evaluations. Two of those measures, plus/minus runs saved -- which grades range -- and outfielder arm runs saved, highlight why Choo makes more sense in right field than center field. From 2010-12 in right field, Choo's plus/minus was minus-19, but he saved 11 runs with his arm. In that time, Choo threw out 22 runners without a cutoff man, the fourth-most in baseball. His arm is the reason Choo was close to neutral defender in right field over the past three seasons.

Center field demands more of a player's range and less of his throwing arm, and so it magnifies Choo's biggest weakness and hides his biggest strength. So far this season, Choo's plus/minus is -8 and he has saved zero runs with his arm. His minus-9 DRS is tied with Dan Uggla and the recently-demoted Josh Rutledge for the second-worst in baseball behind Michael Morse. Fortunately for them, there is some cause for optimism. Choo had minus-7 plus/minus in April and has had just minus-1 plus/minus since.

It is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions over such a small time frame, but those numbers could be an indication of improved defensive positioning or a more general adjustment to the position. The Reds do not need Choo to be an elite defender. If he can just be serviceable, his offense as a leadoff hitter can carry his value.

Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks | LF to 3B and 2B

Prado has become a super-utility player in the vein of Ben Zobrist. Since 2008, he has played at least one game at six different positions -- all four infield and both corner outfield spots. For the Diamondbacks, Prado has become primarily a second and third baseman. Given his recent defensive success at both positions, there was no reason to question his ability to play the positions.

The reason this move was controversial is because of how well Prado played left field for the Braves the past two seasons. From 2011-12, Prado saved an estimated 19 runs in 1,839 2/3 innings in left field for the Braves. Meanwhile, Prado has a combined minus-1 DRS at second and third base so far in 2013 and has also struggled offensively. Prado might be best defensively in left field, but it is hard to argue with how the Diamondbacks have organized their defensive lineup. As a team, the Diamondbacks have 40 DRS this season, twice as many as the second-place Rangers, so it's unlikely they are concerned with Prado.

Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox | CF to RF

The controversy surrounding Shane Victorino's move to right field is more about money than ability. A career center fielder, the Red Sox signed him to a three-year, $39 million contract over the winter, and Victorino would have a harder time playing up to his contract in a less demanding defensive position.

Since his 10 DRS season in 2008, Victorino had not exceeded 2 DRS in center in the four full seasons since. His minus-15 plus/minus from 2009-12 suggested that Victorino might have diminished range, but it hasn't been an issue in right. His 10 DRS this season is tied for third-most in baseball with Norichika Aoki. Victorino was put on the DL on Friday with a hamstring injury, so he won't be adding to that total for a few weeks.

Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox | C to 1B

The Red Sox made a few nontraditional moves to fill their holes in the offseason. In addition to signing Victorino to play right field, they also signed Napoli, a career catcher, to play first base. It is not that unusual for elite offensive catchers to transition to first base in their 30s, and Napoli is now 31. However, a catcher really must be elite offensively to make the transition. Last season, an average major-league catcher had a .717 OPS while an average first baseman had a .767 OPS.

First basemen are typically the strongest offensive players on a team while catchers are the third-worst, ahead of only middle infielders. Napoli hit for a .812 OPS in 2012, well above average for a catcher but just slightly above average for a first baseman.

So far, Napoli has been worth the modest one-year deal he signed, and there are several reasons the transition has been so successful. Napoli was a poor defensive catcher, averaging minus-5 DRS per season from 2007-12. However, Napoli's shortcomings were mostly catcher-specific, especially in the prevention of the running game. Napoli threw out just 25 percent of attempted baserunners since 2006, the seventh-worst mark of the 27 catchers with at least 4,000 innings in that time.

Unlike many transitioned catchers, Napoli looks like a solid defensive first baseman. He has already saved the Red Sox an estimated three runs there. Offensively, Napoli is also a tremendous fit for Fenway Park. He has pulled 90 percent of his last 120 grounders and short liners, the fifth-highest rate among right-handed hitters. The pull-friendly Green Monster has helped Napoli hit 18 doubles so far this season, second-most behind Manny Machado.

Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians RF to 1B

Similar to Napoli, Nick Swisher moved from a more demanding defensive position to first base this season, and like with Napoli, the move has worked out so far. Swisher never did have the range to cover right field effectively. From 2009-12, he had minus-12 DRS, even with the less-spacious Yankee Stadium outfield. When Mark Teixeira got hurt last season, the Yankees had Swisher play some first base, and he was effective there, saving an estimated five runs in 259 innings.

Now on the Indians, Swisher has saved another three runs in 175 innings. That combined total of eight DRS over 426 innings puts Swisher on pace for 26 DRS over a 1,400-inning full season, a total that would be the highest at the position since Albert Pujols had 31 DRS in 2007. With Swisher showing an elite glove at first base, three outfielders in Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, and Michael Brantley with the range to play center field, the Indians have emerged as one of the best defensive teams in baseball.

In-house upgrades for contenders.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baseball has now passed the quarter mark of the season, meaning that a player or team's slow start can no longer completely be written off as just another April slump. Most teams haven't thrown in the towel yet -- and teams such as the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins already have traded most of their players with value -- so pulling off a trade deadline-type rental is difficult in May.

As a result, most team upgrades at this point of the year will be made in-house, from players already in the organization. Contenders in particular have good reason to have limited patience with their biggest holes. So, which players likely to be called up will have the biggest potential impact on pennant races?

Note: We're focusing on contenders here, so a player such as Christian Yelich of the Marlins doesn't make this list. For each player listed, the ZiPS Rest-of-Season projection is included.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

The Nationals and the prospect-hounds never really had a great deal of concern about how good Rendon would be. The questions around him tended to circulate around his ability to stay on the field because of a history of ankle injuries. Healthy so far in 2013, Rendon has hit .346/.482/.654 for Harrisburg and already has received a taste of the majors when Ryan Zimmerman was injured.

Danny Espinosa has been a wreck in 2013 and there's only so much of his struggles that one can blame on a very low BABIP. Every season in the majors, Espinosa has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone, from 29.3 percent of the time while getting a cup of coffee in the majors in 2010 to 32.1 percent in 2011 to 40.5 percent last year to 42.2 percent this year. Even without the advanced stats, a 38-3 K/BB ratio is quite troubling.

Rendon has a lot more experience at third base, but with Zimmerman in the way, second base is the best shot for Rendon to make an impact this season, and he has played a handful of games there in the minors this year. The Nats, only 3½ games behind the Braves, can't afford to wait on Espinosa any longer.

ZiPS rest of season projection: .256/.345/.430, 7 HR, 36 RBI

Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles

The unexpected competence of the starting rotation was one of the most pleasant surprises for the O's in their 2012 Cinderella run, but the follow-up campaign has been considerably less promising. The ERA of the rotation stands at 4.85, a weak enough figure that Baltimore's fourth-ranked offense is just barely keeping the team above the .500 mark. With Jason Hammel struggling and Wei-Yin Chen on the shelf, the O's are seeing way too much of Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens and other fill-in pitchers.

Enter Gausman, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft. The O's have been resistant to calling him up, but it's hard to look past a sterling 49-5 K/BB ratio at Double-A, suggesting that the hype that he was one of the most major league-ready players in last year's draft wasn't just hype. J.D. Sussman of FanGraphs has been following Gausman and his scouting report makes it seems as though it's going to be hard for the team to resist a big upside play to keep from falling out of the race. You have to challenge your top prospects and it seemed to work out pretty well with that Manny Machado guy last year …

ZiPS rest of season projection: 9-6, 3.86 ERA, 120 IP, 31 BB, 104 K

Darin Ruf, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

If the current Phillies are going to slap together one last run at the playoffs, they're going to have to score more runs. That may seem like an obvious fix, but what they can actually do about it is the hard part given that the team doesn't have a lot of flexibility at the major league level.

At 26 years old, Ruf is not a young prospect, isn't likely to develop much further, and the Phils need to see what he can do now. Delmon Young is a disaster -- if you're using your team's best pitcher to pinch run for an outfielder, you need to seriously reevaluate the thought process that led to the latter's acquisition. Ruf generally never made prospect lists, but he hit .317/.408/.620 for Reading last year and when given a chance in the majors, hit .333/.351/.727 in a dozen games, doing everything the team asked of him. Ruf is still recovering from a slow start for Lehigh Valley, but unless Philadelphia is willing to shed its remaining minor league depth in a blockbuster, he's the most likely source of any kind of better offense in-house.

ZiPS rest of season projection: .255/.322/.415, 14 HR, 52 RBI

Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers

Ian Kinsler's injury gave Profar a shot at regular playing time in the majors and at this point, it's best for the Rangers if Profar plays well enough to cause some uncomfortable lineup questions when the incumbent Kinsler returns. David Murphy has been better in May after an abysmal .176/.227/.297 split in April, but he's still likely the weak spot in the lineup and left field is a practical short-term home for the odd man out in the infield. It's not a long-term fix, but figuring out a way to get Profar, Kinsler and Elvis Andrus all in the game at once would be beneficial.

ZiPS rest of season projection: .264/.335/.411, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 13 SB

Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

Not the typical midseason addition, Carpenter's path from likely retirement in March to a possible return to the rotation in his umpteenth comeback isn't just a good story, but now he is more urgently needed in St. Louis thanks to injuries. The recurrence of Jaime Garcia's shoulder pain points to surgery being likely (he already has attempted the non-surgical options), Jake Westbrook is on the DL with elbow inflammation and the Cards have shown little desire to move Trevor Rosenthal out of a bullpen that has been generally lousy.

St. Louis needs better 2013 options than Tyler Lyons or John Gast, neither of whom the Cards intended to be getting starts in the majors. Michael Wacha turned some heads in the spring and has a 1.89 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL, but his K/9 rate of 6.0 in Triple-A suggests that he could still use a little more time. Carpenter is hoping to start minor league rehab in a few weeks and he'd be the best option to fill out the rotation if he can manage it.

ZiPS rest of season projection: 4-3, 3.96 ERA, 75 IP, 17 BB, 60 K

Josh Phegley, C, Chicago White Sox

You may not be bowled over by Phegley's minor league career stats, but one thing the stats don't know is that Phegley's early minor league career was derailed by a blood disorder known as ITP or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. No, it's not a disease created in the secret biolab of former Astros GM Tim Purpura, but an autoimmune disorder that affects platelet count in bone marrow and can cause bleeding and physical weakness.

Phegley had his spleen removed in 2010 and given that catcher is the most difficult position for players to develop offensively, it has taken some time for Phegley's bat to come around. But this season it has, with Phegley hitting .333/.393/.659 for Charlotte with 10 homers in 126 at-bats, already more homers before the end of May than he had hit in any professional season.

The White Sox are dead last in the AL in offense, a dreadful result for a team playing in a hitter's park and in the same league as the Astros. The team can't give up on Paul Konerko this quickly and remains unlikely to give up on Adam Dunn. However, it's time to give up on Tyler Flowers and his career .202/.295/.373 as a starting catcher. It's a miracle the White Sox have stayed close enough to be a threat, but they won't last long if they don't find bats somewhere.

ZiPS rest of season projection: .269/.311/.417, 9 HR, 36 RBI

A first for John Lackey.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been the focus of the turnaround among Boston's starting pitchers, their success shouldn't be that surprising -- both are in the prime years of their careers and always had the stuff to be frontline starters. However, there is one Red Sox pitcher enjoying a career rejuvenation that wasn't so easy to see coming: The beleaguered John Lackey is pitching like it's 2005 all over again.

Lackey's first three years in Boston couldn't have gone much worse. Signed to an $82.5 million contract after the 2009 season, Lackey came to Boston in 2010 with the reputation of a reliable starter ... and started throwing batting practice. By the time he finally told everyone his elbow hurt (in mid-2011), he had accumulated a 5.25 ERA in 375 innings and then spent the next year and a half recovering from Tommy John surgery. The first three years of Lackey's Red Sox career were basically a total loss, and his personality didn't exactly endear him to the Red Sox Nation.

However, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and after being away from the team for 18 months, Lackey showed up in 2013 determined to get his career back on track. It's only six starts so far, but not only is he pitching like the John Lackey of old, but he's actually pitching better than he did in his heyday in Anaheim.

Through his first 33 innings of 2013, Lackey has a 22.9 percent strikeout rate which, if he sustained it all season, would be the highest of his career. The league average strikeout rate has been trending upwards for a while now, so relative to league average, his 22.3 percent K% of 2005 would be slightly better, but that was one of only two seasons where Lackey has ever struck out more than 20 percent of the batters he faced.

He was a good pitcher in Anaheim because he was durable -- he didn't walk anyone, and he kept the ball in the yard. Strikeouts weren't really a huge part of his game. Before this season, his Boston-era strikeout rate was just 16 percent. A 23 percent strikeout rate is a huge jump over what Lackey was doing to opposing hitters before the surgery. Naturally, you'd suspect that this healthy version of Lackey is throwing better pitches.

That's the odd thing.

Interestingly enough, though, Lackey's stuff appears to be almost exactly the same as it was before he went under the knife. This isn't a case where his velocity has jumped up following surgery. Here are Lackey's average fastball velocities for the past three years he's been on the mound:

2010: 91.1 mph
2011: 91.5 mph
2013: 90.9 mph

And, no, he hasn't really added a new pitch. Lackey still throws two fastballs (four-seam and two-seam), a slider, a curve, and a changeup, just like he always has. He's throwing his curveball a little less than in the past, but not dramatically so, and usually increasing your fastball rate at the expense of your breaking ball will reduce your strikeout rate, not increase it. So how is Lackey getting all these strikeouts with the same stuff he's always had?

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Boston pitching coach Juan Nieves (with Jon Lester) seems to have had a positive effect.

It starts with strike one. Lackey has thrown a first-pitch strike 67 percent of the time this season, ranking him third in the American League behind only Phil Hughes and Jake Peavy. Hughes' presence on top of the list should tell you that this isn't a foolproof magic plan to striking everyone out, but Lackey's ability to consistently get ahead of major league hitters has given him control of the at-bat in ways he he didn't have before.

Here are the splits for hitters against Lackey depending on the type of count that the at-bat ends in:

Batter ahead: 38 PA, .241/.395/.448
Even count: 52 PA, .333/.346/.529
Pitcher ahead: 50 PA, .160/.160/.160

So far, 36 percent of the batters who have faced Lackey this season have ended up in a pitcher-friendly count before either putting the ball in play or striking out, and Lackey has just dominated hitters who aren't able to look for one pitch in one location. Lackey has taken full advantage of the expanded strike zone that comes from hitters having to swing defensively.

Compare that with what he did in his first season in Boston, in those same situations.

Batter ahead: 311 PA, .277/.447/.430
Even count: 330 PA, .297/.300/.446
Pitcher ahead: 289 PA, .255/.267/.401

Only 31 percent of his 2010 opponents had to end their at-bats in a pitcher's count, and even when Lackey was able to get ahead of them, he didn't really take advantage. Opponents put up a .600 OPS against Lackey in two-strike counts back in 2010, the situation where the hitter should be at his most vulnerable. This year? Opponents have a .268 OPS against Lackey with two strikes.

While some still advocate pitching to contact in order to save your arm and reduce the amount of pitches thrown, Lackey has brought his career back to life by going the other way entirely. By getting ahead of hitters and then putting them away when he gets into strikeout situations, Lackey has given the Red Sox six starts that would fit in well at the peak of his career. If he keeps pounding the zone and getting hitters to chase when behind in the count, the second half of his career in Boston could be a resounding success.
post #11993 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Wacha could get the call
May, 28, 2013
May 2811:00AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintA host of injuries have the St. Louis Cardinals scrambling to find a starter for Thursday’s contest with the Royals.

The Cardinals continue to keep their options open, and one possibility is to call up highly touted righthander Michael Wacha, who was scratched from a scheduled Monday start for Triple-A Memphis, reports Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Manager Mike Matheny says the possible promotion of Wacha is still being discussed. The Cardinals also could go with a bullpen-by-committee approach on Thursday to replace rookie John Gast, who landed on the disabled list with left shoulder tightness.

The 21-year-old Wacha is 4-0 record and a 2.05 earned run average in nine starts at Memphis. The 2012 first-round pick has thrown 52 2/3 innings and the Cardinals want to avoid overworking him in his first full pro season, which could work against any promotion.

Wacha is 24th on Keith Law's updated list of Top 25 prospects:

Keith Law
Michael Wacha, No. 24
"Multiple scouts have told me they've seen an above-average breaking ball from Wacha this year, which was the main concern about him coming out of Texas A&M last June. (That said, I still don't get why he fell to the 19th pick.) There are rumors he will be called up to start for St. Louis on Thursday, but even if he has to wait, he could step into the Cardinals' rotation this summer and be a league-average starter as soon as next year."Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Michael Wacha
Pivotal outing for Blanton
May, 28, 2013
May 2810:42AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe Los Angeles Angels have little to show for a two-year, $15 million investment in free agent righthander Joe Blanton, who is a mere 1-7 with a 6.19 ERA in his first 10 starts. Blanton’s WHIP of 1.87 is the second worst in the majors behind Vance Worley, and the Twins righthander was recently demoted to the minors.

Given that reinforcements are coming soon, Blanton might be in danger of losing his rotation spot if Tuesday’s outing against the Dodgers goes badly. The Angels will get Jered Weaver back from the disabled list on Wednesday while Tommy Hanson, who has been on the bereavement and has not pitched since May 4, could be ready this weekend, reports Alden Gonzalez of

Blanton did have a solid outing last week against the Royals, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Jerome Williams was another starter who might be in jeopardy, but he has pitched well in winning his last two outings (two earned runs in 14 IP).Tags:Los Angeles Angels, Jered Weaver, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson
Another sign Hanley returns soon
May, 28, 2013
May 2810:05AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAnother sign that Hanley Ramirez is getting close to a return from the disabled list came Monday when the Los Angeles Dodgers optioned the struggling Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers needed to clear a roster spot to activate utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. off the 15-day DL. By optioning Gordon, the Dodgers will use Nick Punto and Luis Cruz at shortstop until Ramirez returns, according to Ken Gurnick and Austin Laymance of If Ramirez was not on track to return, it is less likely Gordon would be demoted, even if he is hitting just .175.

Ramirez has begun running the bases and is scheduled to go out on a rehab assignment to test his pulled hamstring, making a return over the weekend a realistic timetableTags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon
LeBlanc a starter again?
May, 28, 2013
May 289:40AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe Miami Marlins will need another starter, at least temporarily, after Alex Sanabia on Monday was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury.

With Nate Eovaldi still another week to 10 days away from returning from the DL, the Marlins are leaning toward having Wade LeBlanc rejoin the rotation, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. LeBlanc had a 6.11 ERA in seven starts before being moved to the bullpen earlier this month.Tags:Miami Marlins, Wade LeBlanc
When will the Cubs sell?
May, 28, 2013
May 289:20AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintTake a good luck at the Chicago Cubs' roster for their current four-game set with the White Sox. By the time the Windy City Series rolls around again in 2014, the Cubs will likely have an entirely different look.

With the Cubs 10 games below .500, all signs point to the club becoming sellers at the trade deadline. GM Jed Hoyer tells Jesse Rogers of that “50-60 games within the deadline” is the time teams start talking about their options.

Rogers lists the odds of current Cubs on the trading block, and starts with Matt Garza, who has an 85 percent chance of finding a new home. Garza appears healthy in his two starts since coming off the disabled list, and his value could spike upward with a series of solid starts. Rogers also gives fellow starter Scott Feldman a 75 percent chance of leaving because his sparkling 2.80 ERA has made him more marketable.

The Red Sox, Rangers and Cardinals are among the contenders that could be willing to land a top-shelf starter.

There also is outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who is 37 and has about $30 million left on his contract through 2014. That could make him a “lukewarm trade target” at best for the Yankees or any other contender, wrote Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times over the weekend.Tags:Chicago Cubs, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman
Fewer chances for Joba?
May, 28, 2013
May 288:41AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe New York Yankees plan to activate Joba Chamberlain, who has a 3.86 ERA in 10 appearances this season but made more headlines for a shushing incident involving Mariano Rivera.

Chamberlain, who has been sidelined with a strained oblique, may have less margin for error upon his return. Shawn Kelley has struck out 15 of his last 26 batters and it will be interesting to see if he eats into some of Chamberlain’s seventh-inning opportunities, writes Andrew Marchand of York Yankees, Joba Chamberlain
Howard's lingering knee problem
May, 28, 2013
May 288:25AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintRyan Howard was back in the Philadelphia Phillies' lineup Monday after sitting out Sunday with lingering knee pain. It is an injury that could linger for months, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Gelb says the Phillies have been vague in diagnosing Howard, who had inflammation in his left knee that was eased by a cortisone shot May 19. With Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley already on the disabled list, the Phillies desperately need Howard in the lineup.

Howard is hitting just .228 with nine RBI in May following a productive April, and manager Charlie Manuel may have no choice but to rest his first baseman if his production continues to decline. Kevin Frandsen has made four starts at first, but that is a temporary option at best..Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Howard
Papelbon's no-trade clause
May, 28, 2013
May 287:25AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThere are no indications that the Boston Red Sox have any interest in bringing back Jonathan Papelbon, who spent six seasons as the closer at Fenway Park before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

That did not prevent Papelbon from taking the bait when asked if he could ever see himself pitching in Boston again. “Yeah, I could see myself in Boston,” Papelbon tells Rob Bradford of “I could see myself pitching in New York. You know me. I’ve always been the kind of guy who … I don’t really just settle, or accept things.”

Bradford cautions Papelbon has the Red Sox as one of the eight clubs on his no-trade list. That wouldn’t automatically block a deal, but it would give Papelbon him extra leverage should any talks take place.

Papelbon routinely says what is on his mind, so there is no reason to look too deeply into his comments. But if the Phillies were to fall out of contention, it is not completely unreasonable that they would try to get out of a deal that pays Papelbon $13 million each of the next two seasons and includes a vesting option for 2016.

The Red Sox already have a viable closer in Andrew Bailey, although their bullpen depth did take a hit now that Joel Hanrahan is out for the season following elbow surgery.Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon
Innings limit for Wheeler?
May, 28, 2013
May 286:54AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintNew York Mets fans are waiting patiently for the arrival of highly touted pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who appears on course to be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas sometime in June.

Expect the Mets to be very careful with Wheeler’s workload once he gets here. Wheeler likely will be capped at 180 to 185 innings this year, meaning he could face the same mid-September shutdown that Matt Harvey experienced last season, reports Adam Rubin of

Wheeler has worked 52 1/3 innings over 10 starts at Las Vegas. He labored through four innings Monday against Salt Lake and allowed five runs, including a pair of homers. At this stage, the Mets know Wheeler is ready to pitch in the majors, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal.

Another issue is who gets bumped from the rotation once Wheeler is activated. Jeremy Heffner (0-5, 4.76) could be the leading candidate to be sent to the bullpen, but the decision may be more complicated since he has outperformed Dillon Gee recently, Rubin reports.Tags:New York Mets, Zack Wheeler, Jeremy Hefner
Ned Yost still safe in KC?
May, 28, 2013
May 286:40AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintA season that began with optimistic expectations has quickly turned sour for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have lost 17 losses in their last 21 games after a Memorial Day loss to the Cardinals and only the Minnesota Twins keep them out of the basement in the American League Central.

Does manager Ned Yost have reason to look over his shoulder? It is not Yost’s fault that Mike Moustakas is hitting .178 and Jeff Francouer is at .219, but we all know that the skipper shoulders the blame at some point.

Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star says there are no indications that Yost’s job is in jeopardy as long as the skipper keeps the clubhouse culture “positive.” Yost, however, has been part of an unexpected firing before. In 2008, Yost was dismissed by the Brewers in the middle of September even though the club was tied for the lead in the NL wild card race, so anything is possible.Tags:Kansas City Royals, Ned Yost
Closer options in Cleveland
May, 27, 2013
May 2710:43AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintSome of the euphoria over the Cleveland Indians' surprising start was tempered by three straight weekend losses to the Boston Red Sox, including Sunday’s painful defeat in which closer Chris Perez blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth.

Now comes word Monday morning that Perez has been placed on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and lefty Nick Hagadone has been recalled from Triple-A Columbus.

While there has been no word on who will replace Perez as closer, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer lists Joe Smith and Cody Allen as the possibilities. Smith relieved an injured Perez on Sunday and allowed a game-winning double.

Vinnie Pestano has five career saves, but may not be an immediate option since he has been dealing with velocity issues and was recently on the disabled list.Tags:Cleveland Indians, Chris Perez, Joe Smith
ETA for Austin Jackson
May, 27, 2013
May 279:47AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAustin Jackson is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, but manager Jim Leyland insists the club will not rush their star outfielder back from a pulled left hamstring.

So there is currently no concrete timetable for Jackson’s return, says Perry Farrell of the Detroit Free Press. Don Kelly, Andy Dirks and Avisail Garcia have filled in at centerfield since Jackson last played on May 12.

With the Tigers sitting in first place, there should be no added temptation to rush Jackson back. In the meantime, the Tigers have a chance to get some extra at-bats for the highly touted Garcia (.316 BA).Tags:Detroit Tigers, Austin Jackson
Kennedy's kitchen mishap
May, 27, 2013
May 279:30AM ETRecommend0Comments0EmailPrintAs far as bizarre injuries go, the setback to Ian Kennedy doesn’t rival that of the Rays' David Price, who had to exit a Grapefruit League game last season after suffering neck spasms from allegedly toweling the sweat off of his head too hard.

Kennedy, meanwhile, will miss his start for the Arizona Diamondbacks with a laceration of his right index finger suffered while washing dishes at his home. In his place, the D-backs will call up Tyler Skaggs from Triple-A Reno to start the first game of Monday's doubleheader with the Rangers.

All kidding aside, the D-backs are hoping that Kennedy can avoid a trip to the disabled list, reports’s Tyler Emerick.

It is another opportunity for Skaggs, who started six games for the D-backs last season and finished with a rocky 5.83 ERA. Emerick says that previous experience may be why the D-backs chose Skaggs for the spot start over fellow minor leaguers Zeke Spruill and Charles Brewer.Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs
Manuel on the hot seat?
May, 27, 2013
May 279:28AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe job status of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been a hot topic for weeks, but is a skipper for another disappointing NL club also on the hot seat?

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Glove wrote Sunday that Charlie Manuel is under increased pressure in Philadelphia, where attendance is down about 7,000 per game. It isn’t all Manuel’s fault, especially with Chase Utley and Roy Halladay on the disabled list, but “it appears there may be a price to pay soon.”

Under Manuel, the Phillies won five straight NL East titles, as well as a World Series, from 2007 to 2011, but they are a below .500 team since (105-107).
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Charlie Manuel
Alfonso Soriano as trade bait
May, 27, 2013
May 278:39AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe subject of Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano as trade bait resurfaced almost immediately after the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson was hit on his left pinkie with a pitch Friday night and landed back on the disabled list.

Soriano is 37 and has about $30 million left on his contract through 2014, so he could be a “lukewarm trade target” at best for the Yankees or any other contender, wrote Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times over the weekend. But the parameters, of course, could change if Soriano (.267) were to catch fire between now and July.

Soriano, who hit his first homer since May 13 in Sunday’s win over the Reds, has a no-trade clause, but appears more willing to waive it if he were to go to a contender.

It also remains to be seen if the Yankees would be interested in a high-priced veteran such as Soriano. New York passed on signing any older high-priced free agents over the winter but has remained a solid contender in the AL East. With injured veterans such as Mark Teixeira and Granderson due back at some point, the Yankees could be willing to stand pat and pass on adding too much salary.
post #11994 of 73438
Matt Kemp thought had a chance for 45/45

Barely gonna be 20/20
post #11995 of 73438

I am not upset at all by the struggles of Matt Kemp, trust me.  However, I do think it was bad taste for him to be benched last night....the night where Kemp flew in the kid from SF and his family to watch him play. 

post #11996 of 73438
Originally Posted by dland24 View Post

I am not upset at all by the struggles of Matt Kemp, trust me.  However, I do think it was bad taste for him to be benched last night....the night where Kemp flew in the kid from SF and his family to watch him play. 

Wow completely missed that, Matty would have tore it up too. He will do it again hopefully, cool treat for that fan.
post #11997 of 73438
Keep the faith. Matty will rake.

I'm officially Team Kemp and Team Upton.
post #11998 of 73438
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

He's 26, with a strong frame, easy arm action, and is averaging less than a hundred pitches per start - less than Matt Moore for example. I don't think much of Ron Washington, but that's a non-issue. People get too caught up in pitch counts.

I've posted in here before saying I hate pitch count too. However, there are some instances where you just need accept that a pitcher has had a great outing and give them a hook regardless of pitch count.

For example, last year, I can't count the number of times where Leyland would leave Verlander in an inning too long and he would get in a stressful jam deep in games. Obviously Verlander being Verlander and the Tigers weak bullpen plays into that, but eventually those extra innings and pitches are gonna add up and take their toll. It's a long season.

Sometimes it's better to pull a starter giving them additional rest, than pushing them to their limits every start. That's why I picked Kershaw over Verlander in fantasy drafts this year, and I just don't like the way Washington is handling Darvish, regardless of pitch counts.
post #11999 of 73438
Gattis tha gawd
post #12000 of 73438
Atlanta's catcher of the future.

That young core is disgusting.

Knew Justin Upton was going to cool off at this point.
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NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs