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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 655

post #19621 of 73003
Imagine Sizemore making that full $6M in 2014 eek.gif
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #19622 of 73003
Man Grady used to be the man. Would be awesome to see him come back.
post #19623 of 73003
Originally Posted by zube42 View Post

Man Grady used to be the man. Would be awesome to see him come back.
Grady's ladies at Jacobs.
post #19624 of 73003
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Originally Posted by zube42 View Post

Man Grady used to be the man. Would be awesome to see him come back.
Grady's ladies at Jacobs.

i told this story a few years ago but i'll tell it again laugh.gif

used to work with this smoking hot blond chick from our cleveland office. grady was smashing. she had pics with him in bed that she'd show us. she SWORE he was her BF...but then got all confused when he would never call when he was on road trips laugh.gif

dumb*** chicks, man laugh.gif
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #19625 of 73003
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

i told this story a few years ago but i'll tell it again laugh.gif

used to work with this smoking hot blond chick from our cleveland office. grady was smashing. she had pics with him in bed that she'd show us. she SWORE he was her BF...but then got all confused when he would never call when he was on road trips laugh.gif

dumb*** chicks, man laugh.gif
Sounds just like the chick I told you about that's tagging Reilly Smith.

"I think he really likes me."
post #19626 of 73003
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

i told this story a few years ago but i'll tell it again laugh.gif

used to work with this smoking hot blond chick from our cleveland office. grady was smashing. she had pics with him in bed that she'd show us. she SWORE he was her BF...but then got all confused when he would never call when he was on road trips laugh.gif

dumb*** chicks, man laugh.gif
Sounds just like the chick I told you about that's tagging Reilly Smith.

"I think he really likes me."


deep down they HAVE to know, right?
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #19627 of 73003
btw Champ...Reilly's been cold. ask her if she's giving it to him on the regular. he needs a spark laugh.gif
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #19628 of 73003
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post


deep down they HAVE to know, right?
ASU education, brotha. What can you do.
post #19629 of 73003
laugh.gif chicks be in serious denial
post #19630 of 73003
post #19631 of 73003
Terrible laugh.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 #19632 of 73003
post #19633 of 73003
post #19634 of 73003
post #19635 of 73003
I'm still laughing at the police footage of Puig talking to himself after pulled over for speeding again.

"Puig: Why do you have to drive so fast?"
post #19636 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Post-Tanaka moves that will happen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As you have probably heard by now, Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. As Buster Olney noted Wednesday morning, this won’t necessarily set off the free-agent dominoes, but the deal does have serious implications for the suitors that missed out on Tanaka -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels -- as well as the remaining free-agent pitchers.

Here’s how I see things playing out from here.

1. Angels and D-backs will battle for Garza

Among the big-name, free-agent pitchers out there, Matt Garza is the most appealing because, unlike with Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, the team that signs Garza will not have to forfeit a draft pick. As a result, I expect a little bit of a bidding war for Garza to emerge between the Angels and Diamondbacks.

Both teams are in need of a good starter, and Garza could be a solid No. 2 for either club. One key difference between the two teams is that Arizona views Santana as a possible alternative and would consider giving up a draft pick to sign him, while the Angels are not interested in a reunion with Santana.

2. Santana to Arizona or Toronto

As noted, the D-backs could pursue Santana if they lose out on Garza, but the other possible destination for him is Toronto. The Jays have two picks in the top 11 in next year’s draft, and that 11th pick is protected because it is a compensation pick for failing to sign Phil Bickford, the No. 10 pick in the 2013 draft. Normally, only the top 10 picks are protected, but this is an exception.

The Blue Jays would have to sacrifice their second-round pick to sign Santana while keeping two of the top 11 selections. In other words, they have a lot of incentive to make this move, and it’s likely they are waiting for Santana’s price to drop, a la Kyle Lohse last year.

3. Ubaldo will stay put

Like Santana, Jimenez has draft-pick compensation attached to him, but he seems to have far fewer suitors. I get the sense that Toronto and Arizona like Santana more than Jimenez, which means that Jimenez’s best offer will likely come from the Indians. He had a lot of success in Cleveland working with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, so this could be the best move for him from a performance standpoint, but the ultimate dollars will pale in comparison to what Tanaka got.

4. Dodgers will sign Arroyo

As Buster noted in his piece, the Dodgers don’t see Garza, Santana or Jimenez as a viable alternative to Tanaka. However, they would like to add some pitching depth due to the health woes facing Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley. While Bronson Arroyo would prefer to pitch on the East Coast, he also wants to win a World Series. The Dodgers will give him that opportunity.

Arroyo is extremely reliable, having averaged more than 200 innings per season since 2005. His biggest problem is giving up homers, but that weakness would be mitigated in spacious Dodger Stadium. A two-year deal with L.A. makes all kinds of sense for player and team.

5. Cubs will remain patient

Team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer know the Cubs are a year or two away from contending. The only reason they were in on Tanaka is because he is just 25 years old, and they knew he would still be an impact player when prospects such as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant arrive on the North Side.

The Cubs’ system lacks high-end pitching prospects, so losing out on Tanaka is a big blow. That said, management has been incredibly patient over the past couple of years, and I believe that will continue to be their M.O. That is not what Cubs fans want to hear, but that patience will pay off in a couple of years.

Tanaka deal won't set off FA dominoes.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Masahiro Tanaka has reportedly agreed to a record-setting deal with the New York Yankees, and the expectation will be, in some circles, that the winter freeze will finally end and the phones will start to ring for Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and others.

But what if this isn't the case? What if the bidding on Tanaka is almost completely isolated from the rest of the pitching market, as some team officials strongly suspect?

"I'm not in the camp that thinks [Tanaka] is related to the others," said one evaluator. Rather, he said, what will generally happen is that it will come out that "most of these guys were asking for too many years, and too much money."

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who wanted Tanaka, have a spot to fill in their rotation, but they might well pass on Garza, Santana and Jimenez. The Chicago Cubs were interested in Tanaka because of how he would have fit into their long-term plan, and this is not necessarily the case with Santana and Jimenez.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels demonstrated interest in Garza earlier this winter, and he is not linked to draft-pick compensation. But Jimenez and Santana are tied to draft-pick compensation, and it could be that the long, cold offseason will continue for them even now that Tanaka has agreed to a deal.

Santana and Jimenez have the option of returning to their former teams, the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians, respectively, which mitigates the draft-pick complication somewhat (although the Indians and Royals may want any deal with the pitchers to reflect the sacrifice of the draft pick they would otherwise receive if the players signed elsewhere).

Santana and Jimenez could sign a one-year deal and hope to hit the market next fall -- but that's not necessarily as promising as it might seem.

In the past, Scott Boras and other agents extracted assurance for their clients that the teams would not offer arbitration to free agents, and therefore not be tied to draft-pick compensation. But under the current collective bargaining agreement, teams and players are expressly forbidden from this sort of arrangement, under Article XX.B:
(c) A Club and Player (or their designated representatives) shall not enter into any agreement, understanding or contract, or make any representation, promise or commitment, whether implied or explicit, either orally or in writing, that the Club will not make a Qualifying Offer to a Player, or that a Player will not accept a Qualifying Offer if one is tendered to him. Any Club or Club employee that violates this provision will be subject to discipline by the Commissioner, including the potential forfeiture of draft selections.

If Jimenez or Santana re-signed with their former team for 2014, the pitcher could be right back in the same circumstances next fall. If Santana signs a one-year deal with the Royals, for example, and has a strong 2014, K.C. could extend another qualifying offer. (The same would be true, of course, for Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz, unsigned position players who also are tied to draft-pick compensation.)

The availability of Tanaka has bought some time for the agents of Santana and Jimenez. They have waited, presumably, to see if a better negotiating landscape evolves, as it did for Prince Fielder two winters ago after Victor Martinez was hurt. But now that Tanaka has a deal, the dearth of options available to the pitchers may be fully exposed.

Four "by the ways"

1. The Yankees' pursuit of Tanaka may not pay off the way it did with CC Sabathia, writes Joel Sherman.

2. A number of rival executives are convinced Jimenez will need to make his best possible deal with the Indians.

3. Some executives assume that the Blue Jays will land Jimenez or Santana -- but that is assuming that Toronto has the available money to sign either. There are a number of starters available on the next tier, including Bronson Arroyo and Paul Maholm. Candidates are lining up to talk to the Rangers about their rotation opening.

4. The Red Sox, waiting patiently to see if Drew comes back to be a super utility player who plays regularly while moving around the infield from day to day, are happy with their roster.

Around the league

• On the union conference call Jan. 13, initially reported Tuesday, the players were told specifically that Alex Rodriguez is not suing union head Tony Clark, per se; he's not suing union counsel David Prouty. Rather, the players were told, Alex Rodriguez "is suing you" -- the players. And this has fueled the players' anger.

There are a lot of reasons why I believe A-Rod won't appear again in another MLB game, and you can throw this situation on top of that pile.

Rodriguez is alone on an island linked to the sport by various bridges, and he has torched just about all of them. He is Public Enemy No. 1 to Major League Baseball, as we witnessed with its choice to participate in the "60 Minutes" piece. His relationship with the Yankees -- which was uneasy but workable until last summer -- is nothing but embers now.

If the Yankees work to sever their ties with Rodriguez either by suing him for violating the terms of his contract -- not necessarily for PEDs, but for various acts such as not appearing for a minor-league rehabilitation assignment -- or by cutting him and eating the last dollars owed on his deal, it's possible that some other team might consider signing him.

But now that the anger of other players is directed at Rodriguez as well, their collective voice may be a factor in whether he could find another job. Teams regularly canvass their veterans for feedback on potential signees, sometimes steering away based what they hear from their own trusted players, and the possibility of signing Rodriguez may well be met with heavy internal resistance.

If he could still be a transcendent player, a great player, the personal rancor might be overlooked for the sake of winning. But at best, Rodriguez might be a slightly above-average 39-year-old third baseman when he finishes serving his suspension, with the potential of his production outweighed by the specter of the clubhouse anger and distraction he would engender.

Rodriguez's career is generally understood to be over, writes Zach Buchanan.

Tommy Lasorda is not a fan of A-Rod these days.

• Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez are under contract for 2014, but don't have extensions yet. Ron Washington also is entering the last year of his deal.

The trend within the industry is in the direction of treating managers and front-office staff contracts like those for most players are treated -- just play it out. Increasingly, owners and high-ranking executives like to maintain as much flexibility as possible, because no matter how much favor a manager or GM might enjoy today, circumstances can change quickly. It's hard to imagine, for example, that the restless Arte Moreno wouldn't have made changes with his team if not constricted by the long-term deal he has with Mike Scioscia. (The Angels' manager is guaranteed $6 million per year from 2016 through 2018, though he can opt out of his deal after the 2015 season.)

Washington may have to make the playoffs in order to keep his job, writes Gerry Fraley.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Jim Crane is going to talk to Nolan Ryan about a job, as Jesus Ortiz writes. This is a nightmare scenario for the Rangers, writes Mac Engel.

2. It's very likely the Indians will end their arbitration streak. They haven't gone to arbitration with anyone since 1991.

3. The White Sox set their player development staff.

4. The Phillies signed Chad Gaudin as well as Bobby Abreu.

AL West

• The Rangers have a couple of candidates for their closer role.

AL Central

• Lynn Henning considers the structure of the Detroit lineup.

• The Royals have picked their announcers.

• Joe Mauer is feeling good.

AL East

• The Orioles should be spending more money, writes Peter Schmuck.

NL East

• The Nationals could sign Grant Balfour.

• Ike Davis' dad has an opinion about how the Mets have handled his son's trade situation.

NL Central

• The Pirates rank No. 1.

• Mike Matheny got high praise from Tony La Russa.

NL West

• Matt Kemp is being advised to not come back too quickly.

Tanaka will be elite from day one.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees needed a frontline starting pitcher, both to address the depth problems in their rotation and to cover the possibility that CC Sabathia's 2013 is a sign that he's no longer a true No. 1 starter. The market this offseason offered only one pitcher who might be able to fill that hole for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka, so while interest in him was broad across MLB, it's no surprise that he ended up with a team that had both the need and one of the majors' two largest revenue bases to tap into.

Darvish not a good comparison

Tanaka isn't Yu Darvish, an unfair comparison based more on their country of origin than their stuff or builds. Tanaka is still a very good pitcher when judged on his own merits, with a fastball in the low 90s that was trending up as 2013 went on, hitting 98 mph in a few outings late in the year. His best pitch is a splitter in the low to mid-80s with good bottom, a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his mid-80s slider will flash above-average to plus, as he's improved that pitch substantially since I saw him before the WBC in 2009.

He'll also show a curveball and cutter, either or both of which he'll likely end up junking when he pitches in New York because they're below-average and he has better weapons. Pitchers from Nippon Professional Baseball tend to have huge hip and torso rotation in their deliveries, but Tanaka has much less of one, still hiding the ball well but generating less torque with his lower half, with a big hook in the back of his delivery.

His control is plus and he commands his fastball well to both sides of the plate, although he likes to pitch up with his fastball -- an approach that works in NPB but won't work as well in MLB, where more hitters swing for the fences rather than just for contact. I think he'll be the Yankees' best starter in 2014 and one of the top 20-25 starters in the league.

The risk

Tanaka was worked hard in Japan, throwing 160 pitches in a playoff start a few months ago and then pitching again the next day, and did miss a month with a sore shoulder in the spring of 2012. That's one reason why the player option after the fourth year in Tanaka's deal (euphemistically called an "opt-out") may work to the Yankees' advantage -- they'll likely know the state of his health better than any club if Tanaka chooses to explore the market after Year 4, and could end up getting his three or four best years without the enormous downside risk of the final years of this contract.

The new posting system's limits seem to have helped Tanaka take more money home himself, and the Yankees were probably further emboldened by the success of Darvish since he came over to Texas two years ago.

None of the teams that were reportedly in the final bidding needed Tanaka to the degree that the Yankees did for 2014. The Cubs might be the most disappointed, as they have a huge crop of top-tier hitting prospects coming but don't have the arms yet to line up with them. Having already signed Edwin Jackson last winter to a deal that, right now, doesn't look so hot, I would imagine they're not excited about doing a similar deal with Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, the two best remaining starters on the free-agent market.

Elite pitchers set for big 2015 paydays.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers has set the ceiling for next offseason's free-agent starting pitching market. This is a significant event for a market that’s seen record-breaking deals for almost every top-tier pitching free agent over the past several years.

While the 2015 free-agent class is light on position players, it has plenty of elite pitchers, led by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson and Homer Bailey. None of them are expected to top Kershaw's deal; it probably will be the next generation of Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey to do that.

Nonetheless, Scherzer, Shields, Lester, Masterson and Bailey should all benefit from Kershaw and his agent, Casey Close, eclipsing the $30 million bar because that will only bring their deals closer to that threshold. Here is a quick look at the top of next year's free-agent starting pitching class with my early contract predictions and the chances of each pitcher leaving his current team:

1. Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Predicted contract: Seven years, $196 million ($28M average annual value)

As soon as Kershaw closed his deal with the Dodgers, Scherzer quickly became the No. 1 starting pitcher expected to hit the free-agent market next November. The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner and All-Star had a career year at the age of 29.

If Scherzer can repeat his 2013 campaign or do anything close to replicating it in 2014, he'll probably become the second-highest paid pitcher in baseball history, behind Kershaw. Detroit won't let him walk away without a fight, but the Yankees -- whether they win the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes or not -- will be interested.

Chance of leaving: 40 percent
Likely suitors: New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox

2. James Shields, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Early contract prediction: Five years, $125 million ($25M AAV)

Shields, who turned 32 in December, will be the oldest among these five 2015 starting pitching free agents, and that will have an effect on the amount of years he receives but shouldn't affect the average annual value. He has pitched more than 200 innings for seven straight years including an AL-leading 228 2/3 innings this past season. This type of consistency always gets rewarded.

Shields also brings tremendous leadership and can be a smart mentor for young pitchers. Teams will be lining up for his intangibles and durability as well as his abilities.

Chance of leaving: 65 percent
Likely suitors: Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Angels, Royals

3. Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Early contract prediction: Six years, $144 million ($24M AAV)

The Red Sox would like to sign Lester to a long-term contract, but their history of letting players walk away over long-term deals is long, including Jacoby Ellsbury this past season and other greats such as Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon. Lester assuredly will get six years from someone, which might be too many years for the Sox.

Lester, who turned 31 earlier this month, has won 15 games in five of the past six seasons, but it's his postseason success that will have every contender pursuing him, putting up a 2.11 ERA in eight postseason series. Most impressive is his 3-0 record and 0.43 ERA in the World Series.

Chance of leaving: 50 percent
Likely suitors: Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs

4. Justin Masterson, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Early contract prediction: Six years, $108 million ($18M AAV)

Masterson is trending upward, and last season was his best, as he led the league in shutouts (three) and helped the Indians to a postseason berth. He posted 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, leading him to his first All-Star Game.

In all likelihood, the 2014 season will determine his contract value, which could be anywhere between $16-22 million per year. He turns 29 in March and it appears his fastball command is ready to hit the next level and his ability to get left-handed hitters out has improved, as well.

Chance of leaving: 75 percent
Likely suitors: Indians, Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets

5. Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Early contract prediction: Six years, $102 million ($17M AAV)

Bailey has the potential to lead a staff, but projecting his free-agent contract this early is tricky. The 28-year-old is just entering the prime of his career and has the talent, repertoire and maturity to break out this year, which could lead to a monster contract -- if he doesn't sign a contract extension with the Reds before next offseason. For the Reds, the best time to sign him is now, otherwise he could become too expensive next fall.

Bailey has had back-to-back solid years, winning in double digits, posting ERAs in the mid-3s and logging more than 200 innings in each. If he does live up to his potential this season and posts another season at that level, watch out. He could end up with a much bigger contract than the one predicted here.

Chance of leaving: 50 percent
Likely suitors: Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs

Yankees still looking up in AL East.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Yankees invested a $20 million posting fee and $155 million in salary in Masahiro Tanaka, and that total of $175 million represents the highest amount of dollars spent on any free-agent pitcher ever -- more than $161 million spent on CC Sabathia, or the $147 million doled out for Zack Greinke. Without that commitment, the Yankees wouldn’t have landed Tanaka.

But Tanaka has a reputation for being exceedingly competitive, and beyond the Woodrow Wilsons -- the many $100,000 bills -- the notion of being desperately needed by a historic franchise must’ve appealed to a pitcher who wants responsibility, who wants to be "the man," who wants to win. Yankees officials sensed that in him when they met him two weeks ago.

If Tanaka had signed with the Cubs, he probably would've had to wait two or three years before seeing that franchise turn the corner. If he had signed with the Dodgers, he would’ve been slotted in behind Clayton Kershaw and Greinke; he never would have been "the man."

But now he has a chance to be the Yankees' superhero in New York, for a staff and a team that needs rescuing.

Sabathia had a 4.78 ERA last season and his best days might be behind him, and Hiroki Kuroda turns 39 next month and probably has limited ammunition. So while Tanaka will probably be lined up in the No. 3 spot in the rotation, deferring to Sabathia’s standing as the most winning pitcher in the rotation and to Kuroda’s resume, he is being paid to lead the staff, to draw the Yankees closer to their competition.

Tanaka told reporters in Japan that the Yankees gave him the highest evaluation. From Jim Armstrong’s Associated Press piece:
"They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team," Tanaka said at a press conference in Japan on Thursday after agreeing to a $155 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees.

Tanaka said he was "relieved" the deal was done and looked forward to standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

When asked what his goal will be, Tanaka's response was direct: "To become World Champions."

Last season, the Yankees finished 85-77, 12 games behind the Red Sox and 6 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

After spending $471 million on Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, while losing Robinson Cano, the question of how much ground they made up is debatable. They finished 16th in runs scored last season, their lowest standing in more than two decades. They should have more lineup depth; they should score more runs. If Tanaka is merely good, he’ll improve their rotation.
[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Kyodo News
On paper, Tanaka slots in as a No. 3 starter. In reality, he could lead the staff.

The Red Sox, the defending champions, resisted playing the game of Can We Top This -- an internal disease that can destroy franchises coming off championships -- and stuck with their big-picture plan. They declined to give Ellsbury the biggest contract in their organization's history, and instead are banking on the hope that Xander Bogaerts quickly develops into a reliable lineup force and that Jackie Bradley Jr. will evolve into an everyday player. (The Red Sox did hedge their bet on Bradley a little by signing Grady Sizemore Wednesday.) The Red Sox have no idea what they’ll get out of Clay Buchholz this season, and there's no telling if John Lackey, now 35, can repeat his strong season -- but there is a promising pipeline of high-end pitching formed in the Red Sox farm system, something the Yankees lack.

If the Rays trade David Price, they'll still be good, and if they keep him, they may have one of their best teams since 2007, with an extraordinary rotation that also includes Matt Moore (who had a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts last season), Alex Cobb (who had a 2.19 ERA last August, 2.57 in September), Chris Archer (3.22 ERA in ’13) and Jeremy Hellickson. Tampa Bay was able to retain James Loney and David DeJesus.

There is so much we don’t know about 2014, the injuries and the unexpected climbs and declines. A year ago, a reasonable assessment of the Red Sox, coming off the disaster of 2012, was as a third- or fourth-place team -- and we saw how that turned out.

But as of today, the AL East race looks like a battle of three teams, with the Orioles and Blue Jays, two teams that have done very little to improve this winter, facing fights to remain relevant. If the season started today, I’d pick:

1. Tampa Bay
2. Boston
3. Yankees

But the Yankees' work has brought them closer to the other teams.

Even after they surprised a lot of rival evaluators by staying in the AL East race into August, there was skepticism even within the Yankees’ organization that it could continue, given the lack of roster depth. This year, the Yankees should be a force all summer, and remember: The fact that the Yankees blew past their $189 million threshold promises that this summer, the team will be ready and willing to take on salary, if necessary, in augmenting the club before the July 31 trade deadline.

More on Tanaka

• There was no need for the Red Sox to bid on Tanaka, writes Scott Lauber.

• The Yankees already were incrementally over the $189 million threshold before signing Tanaka, but the deal affirms what the front office already knew: That failing to re-sign Russell Martin over budgetary concerns before 2013 was a mistake. Forget the whole budget thing with the Yankees, writes Tyler Kepner. Ken Davidoff thinks the Yankees are more captivating, but not clearly better. The Yankees aren’t penny-pinching, writes Bob Klapisch.

• A three-hour meeting with Tanaka greatly impressed the Yankees’ brass, as David Waldstein writes. The Yankees pulled out all the stops to make their pitch to Tanaka, writes Anthony McCarron.

• Roger Clemens was part of the Astros’ presentation to Tanaka. Houston offered Tanaka over $100 million.

• The Diamondbacks used Paul Goldschmidt as part of their pitch to Tanaka.

• By comparison, Yu Darvish looks like a bargain for the Rangers, writes Richard Durrett. Because of the change in the posting system, Tanaka got $99 million more than what Darvish did. Which is just incredible.

• As the Yankees' world erupted with news of the Tanaka signing, Alex Rodriguez stood in with a mariachi band.

• For the teams that missed out on Tanaka, the plans moving forward:

The Dodgers. They will continue to look for veteran depth, and are very reluctant to give up a draft pick to do it. So Bronson Arroyo is a better fit than, say, Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Cubs. Their need for front-line pitching lingers. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what the Cubs’ offer to Tanaka was. If they bid more than the Yankees then the reaction will be that Tanaka's choice reflected a lack of faith in the Cubs' future, and if they bid less then it will be said the Cubs were too cheap. It matters only that Tanaka chose some other team, and after hearing about him from folks who know him, I think the idea of being a part of a rebuilding organization would not appeal to him. Tanaka, others say, wants to win. As in: now.

The failure to sign Tanaka deals a blow to the Cubs' sale of hope, writes David Haugh. This hurts the rebuilding project, writes Gordon Wittenmyer. The Cubs offered $120 million over six years, writes Patrick Mooney.

The Diamondbacks. They still need another starting pitcher, and could always check back with Matt Garza to see if his asking price has dropped, or revisit the talks they had with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija.

The White Sox. They made the effort, says Rick Hahn.

The Mariners. There was a lot of speculation that the Mariners would get involved in the Tanaka bidding, but in the end, there is no evidence they made a hard run at the right-hander. So with just about all of the big names off the free-agent board, the Mariners' offseason work has been almost entirely about signing Robinson Cano. Which is a little startling. What's the point of adding Cano and, at the same time, failing to augment the team around him? Nelson Cruz could still be a good fit for Seattle, and he's still unsigned.

The Blue Jays. The Blue Jays did not go beyond five years in their bid, writes John Lott. The Blue Jays could really use a starter, but we really don’t have any firm information that they have the budget room for an Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Angels. GM Jerry Dipoto acknowledged what the Angels had told other teams -- that they were not ever seriously involved in the Tanaka conversations.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Dodgers agreed to terms with Chone Figgins.

2. The Brewers added some minor leaguers.

3. The Rays and Padres made a seven-player trade. Tampa Bay gave up a valued reliever but added depth.

The 24-year-old Matt Andriese looks like the most interesting guy in the deal for the Rays, given his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball in the park. In 134 2/3 innings last year, he walked 29 and allowed just five homers.

The Padres added some bullpen depth.

4. Oakland signed Eric O'Flaherty.

NL East

• Additions to the Phillies' staff are unlikely.

NL Central

• The Cardinals won't rush Oscar Taveras to the big leagues, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Bryan Price talked about Billy Hamilton's potential impact.

AL East

• Bob Elliott writes about a man who helped turn Steve Delabar into an All-Star.

• John Farrell is going to ratchet back the workload for some of his October pitching heroes.

• Dan Duquette says the Orioles' payroll will be around $100 million.

AL Central

• Terry Francona is ready for spring training. Francona brought some sunshine to a cold day.

• Tom Gage has a question about Ian Kinsler.

• Gene Lamont is going to be essential in 2014.

• Ned Yost loves baseball season and deer season. And he names all of the bucks that roam his property.

AL West

• Jurickson Profar is looking to build on his rookie season, writes Jeff Wilson.

Why Pirates should sign Morales.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Even with the extra wild-card team additions a couple of years ago, making a return trip to the postseason isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. Half the teams that made the playoffs in 2012 didn't get there in 2013, and a similar scenario is likely to occur this season. The Pittsburgh Pirates are a strong team with a bright future, but if they want to avoid being one of the teams on the outside looking in, they need to upgrade at two spots -- first base and starting pitcher.
There are myriad options for the latter, particularly A.J. Burnett, whom the team is still waiting on to decide whether he will come back to the Steel City or retire. But for the former, there is really one desirable option: Kendrys Morales.

Last season, the Pirates ranked just 19th in wRC+ as a team at first base. Gaby Sanchez is capable of crushing left-handed pitchers, but he is basically Rey Ordonez against right-handed pitching. The Pirates acquired Chris McGuiness earlier in the offseason ostensibly to help fill that void, but McGuiness will be entering his age-26 season in 2014, and he has just 34 major league plate appearances on his résumé. (The Pirates will be his third organization.) He didn't reach Triple-A until age 25, and when he did, he didn't exactly set it on fire -- he hit just .246/.369/.423 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Banking on him should definitely not be Plan A. Although Sanchez hits lefties extraordinarily well and plays decent defense, he can't be trusted to play every day. The Pirates need more.

They can get more in Morales.

Morales has his flaws, to be sure, particularly on defense. But hitting right-handed pitching is not one of them. Over the past two seasons, he has posted a 117 wRC+ against righties. That's not star-level, but it is a lot better than the Pirates hit against them in 2013, when they posted just a 97 wRC+. And even that is misleading, as the two Pirates hitters who fared best against them were Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones, and both were jettisoned in the offseason. Sanchez, the one remaining first baseman, posted just a 73 wRC+ against righties and has posted just an 80 wRC+ against them in his time in Pittsburgh.

It is especially important to have a first baseman who can hit righties when you look at the starting pitcher composition of the Pirates' foes in the National League Central. There are a bevy of great left-handed starters in the game today, but none of them resides in the NL Central. As it stands now, here is how they will break down:

Projected starting rotations for NL Central teams
Team No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 Rest
CHC Samardzija Jackson Wood Rusin Arrieta Villanueva/Coleman
MIL Lohse Gallardo Peralta Estrada Thornburg Hellweg/Fiers
STL Wainwright Wacha Lynn Garcia Miller Martinez/Kelly
CIN Cueto Latos Bailey Leake Cingrani Reynolds/Corcino
Just four of the 20 starting pitcher slots are projected to go to southpaws, and no teams are slated to have a lefty at the top of their rotation. Furthermore, much of the depth behind them will be right-handers as well. This makes having a first baseman who is competent against righties that much more important.

Defense may be an issue, of course. It has been four seasons since Morales logged 1,000 innings in the field. (He has started 28 and 31 games defensively the past two seasons.) He might have played more frequently, but the presence of Albert Pujols in 2012 when Morales was with the Angels, and the Mariners' strong desire to see whether Justin Smoak could be productive in 2013, made it unnecessary for Morales to log more time in the field. With Sanchez available for late-game duty, it should be less of a concern than it would be if the Pirates didn't have him there for depth.

Morales does come with draft-pick compensation attached, but not all first-round picks are created equal. Back in 2005, Rany Jazayerli found that while a top-five pick -- which the Pirates had for a number of years -- would reach the majors more than 85 percent of the time, a pick in the 20s reached the majors around 70 percent of the time. The calculus has likely changed a little bit over the past decade, but probably not by much. This year, the Pirates' first-round pick would be 25th overall. And while they would also lose some of their draft budget as well, it's still far from the end of the world. Seven of the 10 players ranked as the top Pirates prospects by Baseball America were either signed as international free agents or were drafted outside of the first round. That is a credit to the Pirates' scouting and player-development team and shows that they are capable of finding the gems that it takes to build a robust farm system.

Forfeiting a draft pick and having to dole out a large contract would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially for a non-star-level player, but Morales' market is likely much more modest at this point. At the offseason's outset, it was assumed that players like Morales and Nelson Cruz would find paydays in excess of $50 million, but that no longer appears likely. Morales' price is probably more like two years, $20 million, and that makes him a much more attractive option.

This isn't to say that Morales is the only option for Pittsburgh. Trading for players like Ike Davis of the Mets or Mike Carp of the Red Sox would be potentially great moves as well. But the Mets have demanded a high price for Davis, and the Red Sox aren't exactly shopping Carp. In other words, it takes two to tango, and any player or players the Pirates relinquish in a deal with either club may be just as valuable as the player they would draft this spring, especially when you consider where the Pirates are right now on the win curve.

A first-round draft pick will no doubt help keep the farm system stocked, but the Pirates' window for contention is likely the next four years, maybe five. The Pirates have to balance how much value that potential pick will provide in that time frame versus how much Morales could provide in the next two to three seasons. Perhaps Morales would bring in less value, but if it is even close, signing him should be a no-brainer. Sanchez can hit lefties just fine, but they are in short supply in the NL Central, and the only other option the team has is an untested, 26-year-old non-prospect. The Pirates need to do better if they want to experience another Buctober.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Cubs may lose more than Tanaka
January, 23, 2014
JAN 23
By AJ Mass |
The Chicago Cubs were hoping that they would be the team to announce the signing of Masahiro Tanaka, but now that they've lost that sweepstakes, it might not be long before they end up losing another pitcher as well. Odds are that probable Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija might be moved before the trade deadline as an indirect result of Tanaka signing with the New York Yankees.

David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune laments the Cubs losing out on the free agent as follows: "Of the three other teams whose bids reportedly fell short — the White Sox, Dodgers and Astros — none invested as much hope as the Cubs did this winter on the pitcher who went 24-0 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. Thoughts of Tanaka pitching at Wrigley Field had energized a Cubs fan base fed up with minor deals and major disappointments."

Haugh seems to think that the news of Tanaka signing elsewhere vastly increases the probability that Jeff Samardzija gets moved as part of the team's ongoing rebuilding process. That's a sentiment shared by Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. "(The Cubs) will carry much of the roughly $20 million set aside in their sub-$100 million payroll budget into next winter for the chance to have a better shot at the next big acquisition they pursue... The remaining money in the budget isn’t likely to help sign Samardzija."

As for getting ready for the start of 2014, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers says that the Cubs will not be pursuing any of the "remaining big name free agent pitchers" and will likely go into the season looking to fill the final spot in the rotation with either current Cubs Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks or Chris Rusin. They may also go after a low-cost free agent option like Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel.

Jim Bowden
Post-Tanaka moves that will happen
"The Cubs’ system lacks high-end pitching prospects, so losing out on Tanaka is a big blow. That said, management has been incredibly patient over the past couple of years, and I believe that will continue to be their M.O. That is not what Cubs fans want to hear, but that patience will pay off in a couple of years."
Tags:Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Justin Grimm, Chris Rusin, Paul Maholm, Kyle Hendricks
Astros have money to spend
January, 23, 2014
JAN 23
By AJ Mass |
There's only one Masahiro Tanaka and, now that he's chosen the New York Yankees, for the rest of the teams that had been in hot pursuit of the free agent, it's on to Plan B.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle says that the Houston Astros made a strong pitch to Masahiro Tanaka, even going as far as inviting Roger Clemens to join them in their meeting with the pitcher two weeks ago. "Houston would be the perfect place to make the transition to the United States, a place where he could lead a young pitching staff and be a star of a franchise's turnaround" was the narrative they spun for Tanaka.

Last season's payroll for the entire Astros roster was only around $26 million, yet the organization reportedly offered Tanaka a deal worth "north of $100 million." That offer seems to indicate that for the "right" free agent, the Astros might well be willing to spend. Previously, the Astros were believed to have made an offer to Jose Abreu that was not too far off from the $68 million contract he ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox.

Now that Tanaka is off the table, perhaps the Astros will be willing to spend their "Tanaka mad money" on one or more of the current crop of free agents that includes Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. That would go a long way towards convincing the team's fan base that the organization actually believes the story that they were selling Tanaka about the future of the Astros.
Tags:Houston Astros, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka
Where the Mariners turn post-Tanaka
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
Seattle is one of the many teams that missed on Masahiro Tanaka, and now the Mariners find themselves with a difficult decision to make regarding how they fill out the rest of their starting staff.

Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma return to provide one of the best top-of-the-rotation combinations in the game, but beyond that there are question marks. Even if Seattle finishes Spring Training with rookies James Paxton and Taijuan Walker being penciled in as the No. 3 and 4 pitchers, the M's will still need another starter.

The decision at this point comes down to whether the M's are willing to spend what it takes to beat out teams like Arizona, Toronto and Cleveland for one of the top free agent arms remaining -- Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana -- or whether to go with a cheaper option.

Considering that this is a make-or-break season for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, one has to believe that he'd prefer to have the team spend what it takes to land one of the best arms available. But with reports that the M's may be just about out of money to spend this winter, it's also a very real possibility that the team will have to settle on one of the second-tier options that's still on the market. Names like Bronson Arroyo, Jason Hammel and Bruce Chen could all become targets in the weeks ahead.
Tags:Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Jason Hammel Bruce Chen
How O'Flaherty fits in Oakland
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
Oakland's signing of Eric O'Flaherty to a two-year, $7 million deal on Wednesday could set the team up nicely for the second of the 2014 season.

O'Flaherty, a dominant reliever for four-plus seasons in Atlanta, underwent Tommy John surgery last May and, according to Ken Rosenthal of, isn't expected to be ready to pitch until right around the All-Star Break.

But if the 28-year-old southpaw is able to return to his pre-surgery self once he's back on the mound, the A's will have an excellent second lefty in the pen to pair with Sean Doolittle for what could be another summer run to the playoffs.

The signing of O'Flaherty follows the team's moves to acquire right-handers Jim Johnson from Baltimore and Luke Gregerson from San Diego, rounding out an offseason where Billy Beane actively addressed the bullpen.
Tags:Eric O'Flaherty
How Tanaka deal impacts Jimenez
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
Ubaldo Jimenez found quite a bit of success in Cleveland last season, and with Masahiro Tanaka now off the market it's looking increasingly likely that the veteran right-hander could re-sign with the Indians.

Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are considered the top remaining unsigned starting pitchers, and ESPN Insider Jim Bowden explains today why the interest from other teams in Santana strengthens Cleveland's chances of bringing back Jimenez.

Jim Bowden
Indications point to Jimenez returning to Cleveland
"Like Santana, Jimenez has draft-pick compensation attached to him, but he seems to have far fewer suitors. I get the sense that Toronto and Arizona like Santana more than Jimenez, which means that Jimenez’s best offer will likely come from the Indians. He had a lot of success in Cleveland working with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, so this could be the best move for him for a performance standpoint, but the ultimate dollars will pale in comparison to what Tanaka got."
Tags:Ubaldo Jimenez
Who replaces Mariano Rivera in New York?
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
Replacing a legend is never an easy job, but then again neither is closing big league ball games. On Wednesday, we learned who'll get the first chance at taking the ball in the ninth for the Yankees in the post-Mariano Rivera era.

The job, at least at the start of the season, will apparently be David Robertson's to lose.

“We are going to continue to look, but no doubt we have already spent a lot of money this offseason,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner tells the New York Post today. “I have a lot of confidence in Robertson and so does Joe [Girardi]. Robertson is going to be our closer, and I believe he will do a good job. We have done a lot to improve our team and we just have to understand that you cannot be perfect everywhere.”

The New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that moving Robertson out of the setup role creates another opening the Yankees will need to address. "The one glaring need that remains is finding a reliever who can either close if David Robertson cannot handle being Mariano Rivera’s successor or pitch the eighth inning to replace Robertson," he writes.

Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney are two of the top remaining free agent possibilities, and Sherman adds that others like Arizona's J.J. Putz and San Diego's Huston Street could become trade candidates if the Yankees choose to address the setup role that way.
Tags:New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson
Kemp to miss part of 2014, too?
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
As recently as 2011, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was considered one of baseball's best, sporting a 7.8 WAR in a season where he batted .324 with 39 HR and 126 RBI.

But as you know, injuries have limited the Dodgers star at a time in his career -- the late 20s -- where most stars are at their peak. After playing only 106 games in 2012 and 73 last season, questions are now surfacing about whether he'll be ready to play by the start of the 2014 season.

Kemp is coming off of ankle and shoulder operations over the winter, and his agent Dave Stewart indicated Tuesday that the outfielder may not be ready to play when the Dodgers face Arizona for a two-game series in Australia on March 22 and 23. It isn't that Kemp doesn't want to play, it's that Stewart is advising him to resist rushing a return to the field.

“His biggest issue with injuries has been trying to get back too soon,” Dave Stewart told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m urging him to make sure he’s totally healthy.”

When Kemp is "totally healthy" could be the hardest part of this equation. If Stewart has it his way and convinces his client to skip the two-game series with the Diamondbacks, the next game is a week later, March 30, against San Diego. But will one week really make the difference between not being ready and being totally healthy?

As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times points out, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford give the Dodgers more than enough depth and firepower to make do if Kemp misses the start of the season. But if Kemp continues to miss games as the calendar turns to April, that's when this situation could start to become a concern for a third-straight season.
Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp
Tanaka's fantasy value in New York
January, 22, 2014
JAN 22
By Joe Kaiser |
Finally, the long wait is over and Masahiro Tanaka is set to put on the pinstripes, reaching an agreement Wednesday on a seven-year, $155 million deal with the New York Yankees. Tanaka will join C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda in the Yankees' rotation, but where will he fit in and what type of production can we expect out of the 25-year-old in 2014?

That's the big question Yankees' fans now are now asking themselves, and it's one sure to be on the minds of plenty of fantasy baseball owners as well. So lets take a look.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese League last season, and Wallace Matthews of writes today that he and Kuroda have a chance to leapfrog Sabathia as New York's top two starters. If that happens, Sabathia and Nova would become the team's No. 3 and 4 starters.

ESPN's fantasy baseball expert Tristan H. Cockcroft believes that the righty's decision to sign with the Yankees improves his fantasy value. "He was a top-30 SP before the news, and this is a good landing spot for him," Cockcroft tweets. "It's a few-spots' bump."

While Tanaka will likely get more run support by signing with the Yankees than he would have elsewhere, it's worth considering some other factors as well. Like the fact that Yankee Stadium was one of the top 10 hitters parks in baseball last season. That could certainly have a negative impact on Tanaka's ERA in 2014 and the years to follow.

Here's ESPN Insider Keith Law with a closer look at what to expect from Tanaka, who we have ranked as the No. 21 fantasy SP this season.

Keith Law
I see Tanaka as a top 20-25 starter in the league in 2014
"Tanaka isn't Yu Darvish, an unfair comparison based more on their country of origin than their stuff or builds. Tanaka is still a very good pitcher when judged on his own merits, with a fastball in the low 90s that was trending up as 2013 went on, hitting 98 mph in a few outings late in the year. His best pitch is a splitter in the low to mid-80s with good bottom, a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his mid-80s slider will flash above-average to plus, as he's improved that pitch substantially since I saw him before the WBC in 2009. He'll also show a curveball and cutter, either or both of which he'll likely end up junking when he pitches in New York because they're below-average and he has better weapons. Pitchers from Nippon Professional Baseball tend to have huge hip and torso rotation in their deliveries, but Tanaka has much less of one, still hiding the ball well but generating less torque with his lower half, with a big hook in the back of his delivery. His control is plus and he commands his fastball well to both sides of the plate, although he likes to pitch up with his fastball -- an approach that works in NPB but won't work as well in MLB, where more hitters swing for the fences rather than just for contact. I think he'll be the Yankees' best starter in 2014 and one of the top 20-25 starters in the league."
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Thread Starter 
Aroni Nina and Where Bullpen Dominance Comes From.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Like many minor league/prospect columnists, I try to see as much live baseball and as many minor league players as I can. Typically, I catch four or five games a week during the minor league season. It can be a bit of a grind at times, but I keep at it for two reasons: First, I want to be able to have the best and most far-reaching coverage I can, and second, because I’m usually having an awesome time doing it.

Of course, some games are more fun to attend from a scouting perspective than others. It’s a lot more exciting to take in the raw power of Joey Gallo, the blinding speed of Terrance Gore, the sweet swing of Francisco Lindor, or the arm strength of Eddie Butler than it is to watch 23-year-old Appalachian League middle relievers throw 84-mph fastballs to 23-year-old Appalachian League utility players. As such, I try to optimize my time and attend games that have the best likelihood of featuring interesting prospects, especially the starting pitchers. Typically, this decision is informed by some combination of the statistics, draft/prospect status, and reported tools/stuff of the players in question–in a way, I’m using a crude version of the same ideas behind our own Carson Cistulli’s NERD scores.

It’s a tremendous feeling to see a prospect in person and have them live up to what their statistics and reputation suggest they should look like. I heard all year about Atlanta’s Mauricio Cabrera and his triple-digit heat, so it was great to see him in person and watch a radar gun read “100″ when I finally managed to catch one of his starts in August. Likewise, it’s disappointing to see a player underperform expectations. However, the most amazing experiences I have at games come when a player who’s way off the radar–uninteresting numbers and no scouting buzz–suddenly commands the most rapt attention. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and today I want to share one of my experiences with the phenomenon and tie it in with some of our beliefs about the way players–in particular, relief pitchers–ascend to MLB relevance.

I started frequently attending minor league games in July of 2012, and it was the following month that I first encountered an instance of this experience. It was August 19th, and I was watching the West Virginia Power take on the Kannapolis Intimidators. I was mostly there to see West Virginia starter Nick Kingham and shortstop Alen Hanson and Kannapolis outfielder Courtney Hawkins, with a bit of an eye toward Kannapolis starter Bryan Blough and his then-44/8 K/BB ratio. Hanson was great, Kingham was solid, Blough was okay, and I didn’t get to see Hawkins do much, but the player who made the biggest impression entered the game in the top of the sixth inning. When he was announced, I vaguely recognized the name because he was a trade throw-in the previous offseason. He was a relief pitcher who had turned 23 the previous day, making him quite old for the Low-A South Atlantic League, and he entered the late-season outing with a 6.37 ERA and mediocre peripherals (38/23 K/BB in 53 2/3 IP). Batters were hitting .306/.375/.434 off him.

Then that pitcher threw two innings, showing off a mid-90s fastball, a solid slider and changeup, and a fairly sound motion. I had no idea–and still have no idea–why Daniel Webb had such poor numbers to that point, but I knew the pitcher I was watching wasn’t far from being a very solid big leaguer. Lo and behold, Webb zoomed through the minor leagues basically from that point on and was getting big leaguers out effectively the following September.

You could call me a genius for predicting Webb’s rise from obscurity to being one of the top relief prospects in the game, but it doesn’t take genius to realize that a huge fastball, two solid offspeed pitches, and a reasonable idea of where the ball is going is a very solid package–one just has to be lucky enough to witness it.

Seeing as I had only started going to games in earnest the previous month, I wasn’t sure how frequently I should expect to witness anonymous prospects show off bigtime raw talent. As it turned out, I had a similar instance in 2013, but only one.

I first ran across Royals pitching prospect Aroni Nina on June 26. Like Webb, he was a 23-year-old in Low-A who had opened the season in the starting rotation, only to be yanked and pushed to the relief corps before the end of May. His career to that point was thoroughly unimpressive–he spent age 18-21 in the Dominican Summer League, put up a 5.85 ERA as a 22-year-old Rookie ball swingman in his US debut in 2013, and finally had made it to full-season in his sixth professional campaign. His 2013 ERA to that point was 4.65, and he had a 39/31 K/BB ratio in 50 1/3 innings. Batters were getting on base at a robust .371 clip off him.

Working as Lexington’s long reliever, Nina came in and worked three hitless innings, most of which I captured in this video:

You can see from that clip that Nina is a pretty interesting pitcher. He’s 6’4″, lanky, and projectable, he throws mostly 92-95 with some life from a fairly easy, low-effort motion, and he has a curveball and changeup with impressive life. There’s some wildness there, including one offering that would surely land a prime placement on Jeff Sullivan’s lists of wildest pitches if such things existed for minor leaguers, but the three-pitch mix and relative ease at which it’s delivered was intriguing.

That wasn’t the mindblowing moment, though–that came slightly over a month later, when I saw Nina face five batters in Kannapolis. In between the two outings, Nina had improved his statistics quite a bit–he had worked seventeen innings across five long relief outings, striking out seventeen, walking four, and allowing just five earned runs. I was interested to see him pitch again, but I never expected this:

That video might be the single most spectacular display of stuff I saw all year, and I saw plenty of pitchers with big stuff. A fastball at 92-97 mph with some life, a curveball with both power (79-81 mph) and absolutely massive tilt, and a solid changeup with good fade and speed separation. Forget intrigued; I was in awe, more than enough to forgive the fact that Nina doesn’t seem particularly interested in repeating his delivery in that video.

So, we’ve established that Aroni Nina has awesome raw stuff. But he still ended the year with pedestrian numbers, especially given that he was a 23-year-old reliever in Low-A. He pitched to a 4.19 ERA and a 77/45 K/BB in 86 innings,, with a strikeout rate of 20%–solid, but hardly reflective of the arsenal shown above. He did allow just two homers all year, good for a 3.70 FIP, but that’s still hardly outstanding.

But we also know that major league relief pitchers, even dominant ones, can come from all corners of the prospect map. Having big stuff of some kind is (usually) a prerequisite, but being effective at age 23 is optional. Or, at least, that’s the conventional wisdom, the sort of line we hear all the time when a John Axford or a Jonny Venters or, indeed, a Daniel Webb suddenly arrives on the scene. Relievers come from the strangest places, right?

So one might conclude that Nina’s raw stuff will trump the poor production and he’ll go on to be a lights-out reliever–the upside is there for that to happen. Or one might suggest that there are plenty of pitchers out there with big raw stuff who never make it, so he’s unlikely to as well.

There’s really just one way to resolve this debate: figuring out how often pitchers like this–guys with top-of-the-line raw stuff but persistent mediocre results–ultimately blossom into productive relief pitchers in the big leagues. Because we don’t have widespread pitch data for minor leaguers, it’s difficult to effectively quantify that, so instead, I’m going to look at it in the other direction: How many MLB relievers who a) have “big stuff” and b) are effective were still struggling at age 23?

In order to investigate this, we need to quantify both criteria. What is “big stuff” in an empirical sense, and what is effectiveness?

There are plenty of ways one can define these two terms, but I obviously had to settle on one. We have pitch data going back to 2002, so I exported a spreadsheet of all reliever seasons from 2002-2013 (min. 50 IP). To isolate “effective” pitchers, I found the mean and standard deviation of FIP for those seasons, and isolated the seasons that were more than one standard deviation above the average FIP, which turned out to be 2.93.

“Stuff” is a little more tricky to measure purely statistically. I settled on saying a pitcher had good raw stuff if he either:

a) had an average fastball velocity more than a standard deviation above the mean (which turned out to be 94.5 mph), or
b) had a fastball velocity that was at least average (91.6 mph) and used it less than average (63.2%), implying a solid collection of offspeed pitches.

There were 65 pitchers who put together at least one season in which they had the stuff and effectiveness to match the above criteria, with several posting multiple years. It’s not the biggest sample, but in investigating where each of these pitchers were at age 23*, we can shed some light on how many of these guys really are difficult to see coming.

*Note: For pitchers who were inactive or injured for most/all of their age-23 season, I used the next year they pitched in place of the age-23 season.

The first thing I did was to look at what level these hurlers played at. Somewhat surprisingly, a full 28 of them (43%) were in the majors for more than just a token appearance or two during their age-23 seasons. This included phenoms like Francisco Rodriguez, Huston Street, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Broxton, and Trevor Rosenthal, who were already tremendous MLB relievers at age 23, but it also included John Smoltz, Tom Gordon, and Kerry Wood, who were excellent starters who made late-career conversions. Oddly, Phil Hughes and Zack Greinke also were on the list, due to blip half-season relief stints early in their careers. Then there were others, like Ryan Webb, Juan Oviedo, Kevin Jepsen, Brett Cecil, and Kyle Farnsworth, who we don’t really remember as being especially effective at young ages, but nevertheless, they managed to make it up to the bigs in some degree by age 23, so they can hardly be said to come out of nowhere. Sure, Farnsworth had a 6.13 FIP as a 23-year-old starter in 1999, but he had a huge fastball and had a decent upper-minors track record as a starter at 22–developing into an above-average relief pitcher a couple of years later isn’t a huge step.

So let’s look at the rest of this group of 65–the other 37 hurlers. Fifteen of these spent their entire age-23 season, like Nina, without advancing to Double-A or higher. Another 14 spent their age-23 campaign entirely in the upper minors–Double-A, Triple-A, or both. The other eight spent time in both the lower and upper minors, rising throughout the year.

We can also break the pitchers in this group down by what role they were used in as 23-year-olds. In this case, twelve were relievers, twenty-one were starters, and four were in some sort of swing role.

Of course, age, level, and role don’t tell the whole story of how “out of nowhere” a pitcher is. If a 23-year-old Low-A reliever were to strike out 100 batters in 60 innings while walking four, he’d probably get noticed (and, frankly, promoted before he would reach the 60 inning mark, but that aside…). Conversely, there are plenty of 23-year-old upper-minors starting pitchers who get as little buzz as Nina does and aren’t considered legitimate contenders for future MLB jobs in any role.

It’s tough to draw a hard line between those who put up numbers worthy of notice in this group and those who did not, so in lieu of that, I want to point out some interesting statistical tidbits we can find in these cases.

I looked at strikeout rate, ERA, and FIP for the pitchers. The average strikeout rate was 22%, the average ERA was 3.83, and the average FIP was 3.55. Certainly, plenty of pitchers established themselves as very interesting at age 23 even without making the big leagues. Grant Balfour struck out 33% of the batters he faced as an upper-minors reliever. Jonathan Papelbon and Brad Lidge were extremely effective High-A starters. Brian Wilson had a 1.35 ERA across three levels. Tom Wilhelmsen and Jason Motte weren’t even pitching professionally at 23, but they took to it from the moment they next stepped on a pro mound.

However, thirteen of the 37 minor leaguers failed to crack the 20% strikeout rate mark, and only one of those–Jonny Venters–saw time at Triple-A in his age-23 season. Most of these pitchers were starters, with the two exceptions being Heath Bell and Steve Cishek; Fernando Rodney and Steve Delabar worked in swing roles, however. It’s hard to believe that Rodney, who now regularly posts strikeout rates in the upper 20s, struck out just 15.86% of opposing batters as a Low-A swingman at 23–in a lot of ways, he’s a better comparable for Nina than just about anyone on this list. Some other surprising names are on the sub-20-percent strikeout list, like Octavio Dotel, Matt Thornton, Jonny Venters, and Damaso Marte–players who were, for at least a brief period of time, intimidating bullpen presences who were capable of missing MLB bats or a regular basis. The lowest strikeout rate on the list was 11.4%, and it belonged to Alan Embree, then a Double-A starter; Embree would go on to strike out 20.8% of batters in his long career, including 32.3% in 2002.

Sixteen of the 37 pitchers had ERAs over 4.00, while eleven had FIPs that topped that mark, with the worst again being Delabar and Bell. Sergio Santos had an 8.16 ERA in his first season pitching, but his FIP was a more reasonable 4.11, he struck out over 20% of batters, and he was rushed through four levels in a scant 28 2/3 innings. Some new names that pop up are Joel Hanrahan (5.08 ERA, 4.93 FIP) and Ramon Ramirez (4.39, 4.20); Jean Machi (6.03 ERA, 3.88 FIP) was a victim of Cal League inflation that compounded his poor control (58 BB in 97 IP). Two pitchers that had ERAs over 4.00 while spending the entire season in Low-A, as Nina did, were Guillermo Mota (as a starter) and David Carpenter (as a reliever), though both had FIPs closer to 3.00.

This all paints an incomplete picture, but we can take a couple of things from it. First, despite the claim that relievers “emerge from nowhere,” a lot of dominant, intimidating relievers come from fairly obvious places. K-Rod, Street, Chapman, Broxton, Bobby Jenks, Kelvin Herrera, and others were well-established MLB relievers at very young ages. Others were effective starters who moved to the bullpen for other reasons, like Wood, Gordon, Smoltz, and Brett Myers. Others, like Trevor Rosenthal and Jake McGee, were touted starting prospects who switched to the bullpen out of organizational need (or organizational convenience, depending on who you ask) and quickly found a home. And still others remained in the minors at 23, but showed strong signs of an impending quick maturation to MLB effectiveness in some role, like Papelbon, Wilson, Lidge, and Balfour.

In fact, the overarching weirdness of the group seemed to stem not from many of the players rising out of statistical obscurity, but rather a select few coming from bizarre origins. Motte, Carpenter, Mota, Santos, and Carlos Marmol were all converted position players. Delabar was injured and retired shortly after his age-23 season. Wilhelmsen didn’t play organized baseball from age 19 to age 26. Joe Nathan went through a series of injuries as a starting pitcher, then suddenly emerged as a bullpen force.

Indeed, there wasn’t really anybody who had the profile of Nina or even the now proven-successful Webb. The only pitchers who worked in a relief role in Low-A and spent the whole year there were Carpenter, who had just converted to pitching, and partially Rodney. There weren’t any pitchers who didn’t even make it to full-season ball at 23, either. Given that we’re talking about a twelve-year span of dominant relievers, it’s somewhat striking that there are so few precedents in that regard. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, of course. As Webb shows, good stuff is good stuff, and it’ll get a reliever far if he has an idea what he’s doing with it.

Perhaps, then, our notion of the strangeness of reliever origins comes from two places: First, they can come from a number of places (converted position players, converted starters, or plain-old career relievers), and guys like Axford, Wilhelmsen, or Delabar can basically come off the street and immediately find success in the role if they can throw hard, have another pitch that moves, and throw both in the strike zone. Certainly, there are other types of effective relievers beyond the “pure stuff” types discussed here, too, like sidearmers and deception specialists–throw it all together, and nearly every team is bound to have a reliever or two who has some interesting quirk or narrative that feeds the notion of relievers springing from nowhere.

And the second thing, I think, is the same thing that made the afternoon of August 19, 2012 and the evening of July 30, 2013 so special for me–we never really think about relievers much. Most prospect talk largely eschews minor league relievers, and you’d be hard-pressed to find large portions of fanbases anxiously tracking the progress of their organization’s relief prospects. And when we take in a major league game, we start out focused on the starters, not really thinking about relievers, except for maybe the established closers of the teams that are playing. Relievers, especially middle relievers, don’t have anyone’s attention until they begin their jog in from the bullpen. And yet, unlike starters, they can pitch in a ton of games, and so they can seem virtually ubiquitous once they are trusted with high-leverage roles and start to gain a track record and some momentum. And so they can go from seemingly nowhere to everywhere in the blink of an eye–even though the stuff was probably always there, or at least somewhat there, lurking just beyond our view.

The Return of the Return of Grady Sizemore.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On the one hand, I’d feel like an unoriginal hack for going over Grady Sizemore‘s career history. It is, after all, familiar to just about everyone — or at least everyone reading this website. He’s kind of like an outfield version of Mark Prior or Rich Harden: unbelievable talent, unbelievable fragility. He was amazing in 2008. But Franklin Gutierrez was amazing in 2009. Sizemore’s just another guy who hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and he’s well past the point of people thinking it might be bad luck.

On the other hand, over the past couple years it’s not like Sizemore’s provided anything to write about. Since the start of 2012, Sizemore has as many big-league plate appearances as Barry Bonds and Eddie Collins. And so if you’ll indulge me, I think it’s worth the very briefest of refresher courses.

This is relevant, incidentally, because Sizemore has been signed by the Boston Red Sox. He got a major-league deal, and it’s worth $750,000, though it could be worth up to $6 million if he hit all his incentives. Earlier, it looked as if Sizemore was going to land with the Cincinnati Reds, but that potential deal came apart, perhaps because Boston had a big-league deal on the table. So Sizemore’s going to try to stick with the defending World Series champions. It could be that his luck is beginning to turn.

Now for the quickest possible thorough review of Sizemore’s career. Between 2005 and 2008 — Sizemore’s age-22 and age-25 seasons — only Ichiro Suzuki played in more games, and only Ichiro and Jose Reyes batted more times. Between 22 and 25, Sizemore was worth 26.8 WAR, 20th in baseball history. Names around him include Evan Longoria, Barry Bonds, David Wright and Andruw Jones. He was worth 5.5 WAR per 600 plate appearances, 58th in baseball history. Names around him include Hank Greenberg, Hanley Ramirez, Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson.

Sizemore last appeared in a major-league game on Sept. 22, 2011. On Sept. 27, 2011, Jarrod Parker made his major-league debut.

Every superstar eventually declines into nothing. In the big picture, Sizemore was simply a little hasty about it. But he was durable, and he was awesome. But then seemingly overnight, he became neither durable nor awesome. Even right now, Grady Sizemore is 31. He’s younger than Shin-Soo Choo. This is the nightmare scenario when a team locks up a stud young player like the Rays did with Longoria; but the nightmare scenario almost never actually happens, making it feel particularly tragic when it does.

As you know, Sizemore didn’t decline because his skills got worse. Rather, his body got worse. He needed a whole mess of surgeries. As AJ Cassavell noted:

Sizemore’s long list of injuries includes a pair of right knee ailments that hindered him in 2011-12 and a lower back injury that officially sidelined him in ’12. He has undergone seven surgeries since the ’09 season.

He’s had his elbow worked on. He’s had his back worked on. He’s had a couple sports hernias. Both knees have been through microfracture procedures. Word is, right now, Sizemore is working out, and he finally feels healthy. That word is probably coming from Grady Sizemore’s agent. That doesn’t mean it isn’t completely true, but Sizemore’s body has earned the distrust.

I think how you feel about Grady Sizemore is in some way reflective of the sort of person you are. If you believe — or if you at least want to believe — then you’re probably a positive person. You’re someone who looks for the best in others. If you refuse to be tricked again, if you’re skeptical that Sizemore will get on the field, you’re probably colder, which comes with its upsides and downsides. You’ve got reason on your side — and a healthy skepticism — but you might not wear enough smiles.

I’m not sure about what to do in projecting Grady Sizemore. The last time he was healthy, he was incredible. He could walk, he could hit for power, he could run, he could handle center field. That was years and years ago. He made a lot less contact in 2010 and 2011, but that could’ve been injury-related. He walked less frequently in 2010 and 2011, but that could’ve been injury-related. There’s nothing from the past two years.

Let’s cheat and try something. Let’s look at other guys who were worth between 5 and 6 WAR/600 between the ages of 22 and 25. Excluding the younger actives, this gives us a sample of 22 players since 1950. These are all sorts of position players; there’s a variety of positions and a variety of skillsets. Between 22 and 25, they were worth an average of 5.4 WAR/600, with a median of 5.4, as well. At 31, they were worth an average of 2.7 WAR/600, with a median of 3.1. Only Kal Daniels didn’t play, due to injury and decline. Andruw Jones, at 31, was a disaster. Fifteen of the players were worth at least 2 WAR/600. A dozen were worth at least 3. Six were worth at least 4.

Given what Sizemore was, you’d like his chances of still being a pretty good player at 31. But those comparable players are terrible comps in one important way: They didn’t go through what Sizemore has gone through. You have to try to figure out what to make of all the physical problems — and how they might take a toll on Sizemore’s performance — if he can even stay on a field long enough.

The surgeries are all supposed to be curative, right? It’s tempting to believe that, but it’s probably naive to think Sizemore has come away with nothing but a constellation of scars. Chances are, because he’s had his knees cut open, he doesn’t run so well anymore. Maybe that means he’s not a true center fielder anymore. The other operations could’ve had an effect on his swing, directly or indirectly. Reduced flexibility means something in a whole lot of areas. And this all ignores the likelihood of Sizemore getting hurt again. The strongest indicator of a future injury is a past injury. Sizemore has a lot of past injuries, and he’s spent an awful lot of time in the shop. Even without playing, he’s added some miles.

There’s a reason Sizemore got a small contract. There’s no reason to believe that he should be trusted, and he hasn’t even seen big-league pitching in two years. That would have an effect even without all the injuries. The Red Sox can evaluate Sizemore in the spring and if they don’t like what they see. They can cut him loose without it hurting too bad. The Sox had a fine outfield before this, and they can have a fine outfield without this.

There’s also a reason Sizemore got a contract, and a big-league contract at that. We tend to have soft spots for talented players with injury problems, and teams aren’t too different in that regard. If nothing else, Sizemore still has the mind that allowed him to be a star for several years. While his injury history is among the ugliest in the league, there is the corresponding positive view: It’s not like there’s too much evidence of Sizemore’s skills declining. He hasn’t been worth -0.2 WAR since 2010 over 2,000 plate appearances. He’s been worth -0.2 WAR since 2010 over 435 plate appearances, with zero since 2012. With Sizemore, you don’t have to hope for a talent rebound, necessarily. It might simply be about health.

And so I, like you, will be rooting for Sizemore. It wasn’t that long ago he could do things like this. I hope this return is the last he needs to attempt. I hope he can successfully spell Jackie Bradley Jr. I hope he can chip in in left field and off the bench. I hope he can stick — and succeed — for his sake and for the sake of all of those injured but talented players, current and future. After all, if Grady Sizemore can make it all the way back, who can’t?

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Kansas City Royals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Royals have a solid system with depth and impact talents — both on the mound and in the field. Kansas City is one of few organizations with two potential top-of-the-rotation arms that could be ready to contribute at the big-league level by the end of 2014.
#1 Kyle Zimmer | 65/AA (P)

21 22 22 108.1 91 11 11.63 2.99 4.32 3.07
The Year in Review: The University of San Francisco alum got off to a slow start in 2013 but he was nearly untouchable in the second half. Even with his struggles, Zimmer still struck out 140 batters in 108.1 innings of work. After making 18 starts in High-A ball he was promoted to Double-A for another four appearances.

The Scouting Report: Zimmer has all the ingredients necessary to develop into a top-of-the-rotation arm. He has a fastball that works in the mid-90s and can touch the upper levels; it’s an overpowering offering when he can consistently command it. Both his breaking balls — a curveball and a slider — show the potential to develop into plus offerings. He also has a changeup that is a few steps behind in its development but has average potential. Zimmer’s athleticism helps him remain consistent with his delivery and his relative inexperience on the mound hints at further untapped potential.

The Year Ahead: Zimmer should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season but a quick start could see him promoted to either Triple-A or all the way to the Majors.

The Career Outlook: If he can stay healthy, Zimmer has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter if everything clicks. Even if his fastball command remains inconsistent or he fails to further develop the changeup it’s hard to envision him being anything less than a No. 3 starter.

#2 Yordano Ventura | 60/MLB (P)

22 15.1 6.46 3.52 48.9 % 3.52 5.33 4.30 0.3 0.0
The Year in Review: Ventura, 22, opened the year in Double-A but didn’t stay there long. After just 11 starts he was promoted to Triple-A for another 15 appearances. In total, the right-hander struck out 155 batters in 134.2 innings. He earned a late-season promotion to The Show and held his own in three starts.

The Scouting Report: Small but mighty, Ventura can routinely hit triple digits with his heater. He backs that up with an above-average curveball but his changeup still needs further refinement to be a reliable offering. His lack of premium size could preclude him from routinely breaking the 200-inning barrier but he’s held up well to date. Ventura’s control waivers at times and I’d like to see him change eye levels with the fastball a little more consistently.

The Year Ahead: Ventura will look to parlay his 2013 success into a permanent gig at the big league level but he’ll have to battle both Wade Davis and Danny Duffy for the fourth or fifth starter’s spot.

The Career Outlook: The Dominican native will always have his detractors due to his lack of premium size but Ventura has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if his body holds up to the rigors of pitching 200+ innings a season.

#3 Raul Mondesi | 60/A- (SS)

17 536 126 13 7 34 118 24 .261 .311 .361 .312
The Year in Review: It was an up-and-down year for Mondesi during his first taste of full season ball, which is not surprising given his age (17). When the dust settled at the end of the year, though, he had compiled respectable numbers across the board — although he struck out a fair bit and his on-base percentage left a little to be desired.

The Scouting Report: Mondesi is a dynamic player both in the field and at the plate. He has a good idea at the plate for his age but needs more at-bats to improve his pitch recognition, contact rate, and consistency with his hitting mechanics. He shows good, but inconsistent, pop and should hit with more authority as he matures. Defensively, he is an excellent fielder with above-average range, a strong arm and improving actions. He could steal 30+ bases at the big league level.

The Year Ahead: One of the youngest players in every league he’s appeared in, it will be more of the same for Mondesi in 2014 when he moves up to High-A ball. Just 18 years old, he’ll likely spend the bulk of the year in A-ball but could sniff Double-A by the end of the season.

The Career Outlook: Mondesi has the tools necessary to develop into an impact player — both on offense and defense. He has a shot of reaching the Majors before his 20th birthday.

#4 Miguel Almonte | 55/A- (P)

20 25 25 130.2 115 6 9.09 2.48 3.10 2.76
The Year in Review: Almonte enjoyed his first full pro season at the Low-A ball level. He showed above-average control for his age with just 36 walks in 130.2 innings of work. The right-hander saw a significant increase in innings pitched from 77.0 in 2012 to 130.2 in 2013.

The Scouting Report: Almonte has an advanced feel for pitching for his age and his control is well above average for his experience level. His fastball works in the low 90s but touches the upper 90s at times. His changeup has its moments but the curveball needs a lot of polish. Almonte does a nice job of keeping the ball in the park but he could stand to command the ball down in the zone on a more consistent basis as he moves up the ladder.

The Year Ahead: The Dominican native will move up to High-A at the age of 20. If he continues to pitch like he did in 2013, Almonte could see Double-A in the second half of the ’14 season.

The Career Outlook: Almonte has a chance to develop into an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter.

#5 Jorge Bonifacio | 55/AA (OF)

20 444 111 26 4 44 83 3 .285 .360 .408 .354
The Year in Review: Bonifacio’s solid season was slowed by a broken hamate bone. Despite the missed time in the middle of the season, though, the young outfielder posted an .800 OPS and just missed a .300 batting average. He played at both High-A and Double-A (as well nine rehab games in rookie ball) during the regular season. After the season ended, he received some additional development time in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Bonifacio makes good use of his plus bat speed and short stroke. He has all-fields power but he’s still learning to turn his raw power into useable in-game pop. He hits for a good average because he uses the whole field and has a patient approach. Defensively, he has a strong arm but his modest foot speed limits his overall impact.

The Year Ahead: After spending just 25 games at the Double-A level in 2013, he’ll likely return to that team to begin the year. A strong start could catapult him to Triple-A, and possibly the Majors, in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: Bonifacio has a solid shot at developing into an average or better right-fielder at the big league level.

#6 Sean Manaea | 55/DNP

The Year in Review: The left-hander was an early favorite to be selected in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft but injury concerns pushed him to the Royals in the supplemental first round. He didn’t play after signing due to hip surgery.

The Scouting Report: Manaea has yet to throw a pro pitch but he showed a mid-90s fastball in college to go along with an above-average slider and developing changeup. The changeup will be important to help him combat tough right-handed hitters, although his fastball has good movement to it and he commands it well. He’s expected to rebound from the hip injury and has the frame to develop into an innings-eater.

The Year Ahead: If all goes well in the spring and he’s healthy, Manaea should open the year in High-A ball and could move quickly.

The Career Outlook: Manaea has a shot at developing into a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can avoid further major health issues.

#7 Hunter Dozier | 55/A- (3B)

21 317 84 30 7 38 37 3 .308 .397 .495 .402
The Year in Review: Dozier was the Royals’ first round pick in 2013 but many considered him to be an overdraft. Someone forgot to tell the infielder, though, and he hit like a top draft pick. Splitting his time between Advanced Rookie ball and Low-A ball, Dozier slugged 37 extra base hits in 69 games and hit more than .300. He also walked more than he struck out (38 BB/37 K).

The Scouting Report: Dozier has a good eye at the plate and does a nice job of waiting for his pitch. He has above-average power potential, although he could stand to add more loft to his swing. Defensively, he can handle both shortstop (although at a fringe-average level) and third base right now but projects to develop into an above-average fielder at the hot corner thanks to a strong arm, good range and solid actions.

The Year Ahead: Although he spent just 15 games in Low-A ball, Dozier is advanced enough to move up to High-A ball to open the 2014 season. If he continues to out-perform expectations, he could reach Double-A in the second half of ’14.

The Career Outlook: Some caution must be used when reading too much into Dozier’s outstanding (small sample) 2013 season but his tools hint at a future as a solid big league regular on the left side of the infield.

#8 Bubba Starling | 55/A- (OF)

20 498 105 21 13 53 128 22 .241 .329 .398 .338
The Year in Review: The fifth overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft, Starling had a disappointing 2013 campaign in Low-A ball. He had a slow start to the year but picked it up a little bit in the second half and posted a .973 OPS in August.

The Scouting Report: Starling is a high-ceiling, toolsy player that has yet to effectively jumpstart his offense. His stance and hitting mechanics have been tweaked a few times and he’s still trying to figure out what works for him. He has plus power potential but has yet to fully tap into it. Starling has above-average speed, strong defense and a plus arm in the outfield.

The Year Ahead: With any luck, Starling’s strong finish to the year was a harbinger of things to come. He’ll likely move up to High-A ball but could very well spend the full season at that level unless he really lights the world on fire.

The Career Outlook: Starling has the raw tools to be a star but he has mechanical adjustments that need to be made to unlock that potential. A former football star in high school, he also needs reps and at-bats to further his approach and pitch recognition.

#9 Jason Adam | 50/AA (P)

21 33 33 173.0 178 16 7.80 3.17 4.99 4.00
The Year in Review: Statistically speaking, it was an underwhelming season for Adam in Double-A. His ERA sat above 5.00 and he allowed 153 hits in 144.0 innings of work. The right-hander had stronger results after the regular season ended when he attended the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Adam has a durable, strong frame and his fastball works up into the mid 90s. It’s his lack of reliable secondary offerings, though, that keeps him from finding more success. The right-hander’s four-pitch mix also includes a slider, curveball and changeup, and two of those offerings need to improve for him to stick as a starter. He also needs improved fastball command and to work down in the zone a little more consistently.

The Year Ahead: Adam may return to Double-A to open the year, although it comes down to the pitching depth ahead of him at the Triple-A level. He needs to start making some strides with his secondary offerings and his overall command.

The Career Outlook: As it stands right now, it looks like Adam may end up in the back end of a big league bullpen. If things click, though, he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.

#10 Orlando Calixte | 50/AA (SS)

21 592 131 27 9 43 146 15 .243 .301 .362 .298
The Year in Review: Calixte’s offense appeared to be waking up in 2012 but it went back into a deep slumber in 2013 when he moved to Double-A from High-A ball. He swung and missed at a high rate and piled up 131 strikeouts in 123 games. He also saw his power output dip significantly when his slugging percentage went from .444 to .368.

The Scouting Report: The young Dominican is a flashy defender who should develop into a plus fielder at the big league level. He has good range and a strong arm to go along with excellent actions. At the plate, he needs to improve his pitch recognition and become more patient, which will provide him with better pitches to hit. When he makes contact, he can put a charge in the ball and could hit 30+ doubles and 10-15 home runs in his prime.

The Year Ahead: Calixte may have to return to Double-A to open up the 2014 season but a hot start to the year could push him to Triple-A. With incumbent shortstop Alcides Escobar potentially signed through 2017, it may be a while before the Dominican gets a shot at playing every day.

The Career Outlook: The 21-year-old shortstop has a chance to play every day based on the strength of his defense but he may end up as a slick-fielding back-up infielder capable of playing multiple positions.

The Next Five:

11. Elier Hernandez, OF: A big ticket international signee from 2011, Hernandez repeated advanced-rookie ball for a second year and saw his OPS jump from .536 to .790. He also hit more than .300 but continued to hinder his ultimate success with an overly-aggressive approach and poor pitch recognition. Just 19, Hernandez has the raw skills to develop into a dynamic player but he’s definitely a long-term project.

12. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B: Cuthbert, 21, keeps showing flashes of his potential but he has yet to put everything together for a full season. To date, the third baseman’s best season saw him post an OPS of .742. The good news from 2013 is that he started to drive the ball more consistently and slugged 37 doubles (to go with eight homers). Defensively, he fields most of what he gets to but there are concerns over his range.

13. Sam Selman, LHP: The hard-throwing southpaw features a four-pitch repertoire but command and control issues could force him to the bullpen nonetheless. He walked 85 batters in 125.1 innings in High-A ball in 2013 — but was difficult to hit (88 base knocks). His second best pitch is his slider. Selman made some improvements in the second half of the year — it was his first full season in pro ball — so he’ll almost certainly be given another opportunity to stick as a starter.

14. Zane Evans, C: Drafted out of Georgia Tech with a fourth round selection in 2013, Evans had an outstanding pro debut with the bat by hitting .352 with a .931 OPS in 41 games. Both a pitcher and catcher in college, the young player is still raw on defense but he has the potential to become average, if not better, behind the dish. As a pitcher he could throw in the mid-90s and that arm strength also helps him control the running game as a catcher.

15. Chris Dwyer, LHP: Dwyer made 28 starts in Triple-A in 2013 but his future could find him in a big-league bullpen. The southpaw’s stuff hasn’t held up to the rigors of pro ball and he battled thyroid issues in 2012. Both his command and control need significant polish to succeed as a starter. Focusing on his fastball/curveball combination in shorter stints could help his stuff play up.

The Cardinals’ Crowded Starting Rotation.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Like the Atlanta Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals often have good problems. The Cardinals are likely to have a top 10 rotation in 2014, but they still have to figure out who is going to slot into the rotation, and who will be the odd men out. Men is the key word here, because the Cardinals don’t have just six options, or even seven, but rather eight legitimate candidates for the starting rotation. Let’s walk through it, shall we?

First, the sure things. Adam Wainwright tops this list. Since he came back for the 2012 season, only four pitchers have accumulated more WAR than has Wainwright — Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. There isn’t a rational argument for keeping Wainwright out of the rotation.

Based on the fact that he started Game 2 in both the National League Championship Series and the World Series, Michael Wacha would also seem to be a lock. Certainly, the rookie was impressive in both the regular and postseason. Of the 274 pitchers who tossed at least 60 innings last year, Wacha’s 80 FIP- ranked 52nd. He actually wasn’t as good as a starting pitcher as he was a reliever, but the outlook for him is still bullish in 2014. Both Steamer and ZiPS peg him to be in the discussion for second-best starter on the squad:

Pitcher Steamer IP Steamer ERA Steamer FIP Steamer WAR ZiPS IP ZiPS ERA ZiPS FIP ZiPS WAR
Adam Wainwright 193 3.24 2.94 3.9 208.3 3.2 2.93 4.0
Michael Wacha 155 3.75 3.51 2.1 155.3 3.53 3.65 2.3
Lance Lynn 160 3.7 3.51 2.1 173.7 3.52 3.41 2.6
Jaime Garcia 166 3.66 3.28 2.3 116.3 3.79 3.42 1.4
Shelby Miller 112 3.66 3.67 1.3 174.7 3.3 3.57 3.2
Joe Kelly 81 4.17 3.9 0.4 146.7 3.87 3.93 1.5
Carlos Martinez 83 3.65 3.69 0.3 108.3 3.74 3.79 1.3
Trevor Rosenthal 65 2.59 2.86 1.1 79.7 2.37 2.51 1.6
The others in that mix would appear to be Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. Miller seemed to be underappreciated by his team during the postseason, and the fact that he never received an explanation for why he wasn’t being used was clearly frustrating to him, not to mention a good portion of the baseball Twitterati. As Mike Podhorzer pointed out in THT ’14, Miller did throw his changeup more in the second half, and introduced a cutter as well, and as a result saw his strikeout and walk percentages regress, but he didn’t suddenly turn into a pumpkin.

While Miller was only unappreciated during the postseason, Lynn has been regularly underestimated. He was written off after his breakout 2012 campaign, as many observers said his problems with left-handed hitters would hold him back in 2013. But it didn’t. Whether you fancy ERA, FIP, xFIP or wOBA allowed, Lynn did better against lefties in 2013 than he did in 2012. He walked fewer of them on a rate basis, and he allowed far fewer homers as well. The differences weren’t major, but they were enough to make him a three-win pitcher, and three-win pitchers don’t exactly grow on trees.

Over the past two seasons, only 32 pitchers have been more valuable than Lynn. His 6.0 WAR is better than Jeff Samardzija, Ricky Nolasco, C.J. Wilson, Matt Cain, Mike Minor, Jose Quintana, Jered Weaver and Justin Masterson. He doesn’t fare as well in RA9-WAR, which is likely the reason why he ends up being shoved to the periphery, but even here he has done better than Samardzija, and the Cubs have been demanding a ransom for him. Still, Lynn has experience in the bullpen, and he was good there. Both his ability to pitch there and pitch well there make him a potential rotation victim.

Clocking in after these two is Jaime Garcia. Unlike Lynn, Garcia isn’t going to be flexible in his role. In fact, it’s an open question as to just what he has left. Projections are conservative, as they should be. Garcia battled shoulder troubles in October 2012, and decided to try and pitch through it. Now, he’s on the wrong side of both Tommy John and shoulder surgeries. He’s a lefty and just 27-years-old, and he’s had plenty of past success, but he’s one to watch in spring training. But whether or not he’s good, he can’t be used in any sort of high-leverage bullpen role, so he’s essentially starter or bust.

On a normal team, you’d slot these five guys into the rotation and do the dance of joy. But the Cardinals are not a normal team, and they have at least three additional candidates for the rotation. Carlos Martinez was twice ranked in the top 40 by Marc Hulet last year, and while there are concerns about him being able to be a starting pitcher long-term, you can’t know if he is a failed starter until you let him try to be a starter. Joe Kelly probably isn’t that good, but he had that shiny 2.69 ERA last season, and he shut down the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and things like that tend to linger in a manager’s mind — even if he did give up four runs in five innings in and took the loss in Game 5 of the NLCS. Finally, there is Rosenthal, who is the real fly in the ointment and/or monkey in the wrench here.

Rosenthal has been told he will be the closer next season, but he wants to start. And as a 24-year-old with four-to-five years of control, an electric fastball and (ostensibly) a four-pitch mix, the only reason to not let him try to start is because you have too many qualified candidates for the rotation. But is that really a good reason? Jason Motte should be ready to come back and hold down the bullpen, and even if he doesn’t, someone else will step up. Someone always does for the Cardinals. The bullpen was supposed to be the way that Rosenthal broke into the majors, not be where he stayed. Things don’t always work out the way you plan them, of course, but what is the harm in giving him his shot?

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the situation. Perhaps Martinez, Kelly and Rosenthal give St. Louis a deep bullpen that can toss multiple innings at a moment’s notice, and are happy to carry out the task. Perhaps Garcia will immediately be as good as he used to be. Perhaps Lynn is never considered for the bullpen. But perhaps Garcia won’t be the same, or be able to go at all. Perhaps people figure out how to lay off Wacha’s stuff. Perhaps Lynn gets relegated to the bullpen, or becomes trade bait. In any of those cases, the Cards will have plenty of reinforcements. And that’s a good thing, even if figuring out the pecking order gets complicated.

This is Not an Evaluation of the Masahiro Tanaka Contract.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
So we know, now. It always looked like Masahiro Tanaka would get six or seven years, and an average annual value a little north of $20 million. There was little to guess about, with regard to his contract. The question was which team would end up being able to give it to him, and now we know that team is the Yankees, who seemed like the favorites from the beginning. After all the rumors, after all the drama, after all the dead nothing in between, Tanaka went to the more or less predictable place for the more or less predictable commitment. As soon as the changes to the posting system were put in place, it was obvious that Tanaka would end up getting free-agent money.

Whenever something big goes down, people want to read about it, because they want to know what it means. Was it smart, or was it not smart? What does this mean for the team, now? What does this mean for the team down the road? What does this mean for the rest of the teams? Basically, what are the implications of the news? One here is that we know where Tanaka is going. Another one here is that the rest of the market should spring back to life. But as far as an evaluation of the deal is concerned, unfortunately that’s next to impossible. So an evaluation isn’t what follows.

I mean, it’s obvious that Tanaka has been dominant in Japan. There’s not a single person on Earth who questions the success he’s had overseas, and that’s success he’s had pitching baseballs against quality opponents. Tanaka’s pitched well in some approximation of the high minors, and that’s why he was treated like an elite-level domestic prospect. Yu Darvish was dominant, too, and so was Daisuke Matsuzaka, and so was Hideki Irabu before him. Tanaka gets connected to the same names over and over and over, and it gets boring and even aggravating to read about, but there’s a legitimate reason for the connections — because Japanese baseball is different from American baseball, the history of Japanese players is instructive.

And no matter how much you dig into the data and the scouting reports, you’ll come away in basically the same place: some guys have had good success here. Some guys have busted. There might be reasons for the busting in hindsight, but then, there can always be reasons. If Darvish busted, we could’ve blamed his workload. If Hisashi Iwakuma busted, we could’ve blamed his shoulder issues. When literally every single pitcher anywhere is a risk, hindsight doesn’t really do us very much good.

In Tanaka’s penultimate Japanese season, he registered almost nine strikeouts for every walk, not unlike Darvish in his last Japanese year. So far Darvish owns an MLB ERA- of 78. In Tanaka’s most recent Japanese season, he registered about six strikeouts for every walk, not unlike Matsuzaka in his last Japanese year. So far Matsuzaka owns an MLB ERA- of 102. That’s the essence of it, and while Matsuzaka had success early, and while he was a little older than Tanaka when he first came over, the reality is that Matsuzaka didn’t meet the hype, and at first he seemed almost flawless. People even believed that he threw a mythical pitch.

It seems like Tanaka’s stuff should play well, just like Iwakuma’s stuff, and just like Hiroki Kuroda‘s stuff. A good splitter is an almost unhittable weapon, and Tanaka seems to have one. He can get the ball in at well past 90 miles per hour, too, and he additionally offers a slider. He always did strike me as the best available pitcher of the winter, and I do like his odds of having success. But then, one notes that his strikeouts have slipped from 28% to 24% to 22%. This is dismissed by some who claim that Tanaka simply picks his spots now, and maybe that’s true. Or maybe he’s just gotten worse at strikeouts before even debuting Stateside. That’s just something we don’t know right now.

A thing we do know is that Tanaka will be working on a different schedule than he did in Japan. This always makes people worry that a pitcher might have trouble adjusting, at least at first. Iwakuma, for his part, required several months to build up his arm strength, as he wasn’t in good enough condition out of camp. Darvish was better in his second year than in his first. Kuroda hit the ground running. Matsuzaka too. Maybe if you analyzed all Japanese pitchers, you might be able to figure something out about their immediate adjustment periods, but that wouldn’t tell us anything about Tanaka specifically, because specific players aren’t subject to general adjustment factors.

Maybe I’m just wasting your time. Of course we don’t know for certain what Tanaka is going to be. We don’t know for certain what David Price is going to be. Hell, we don’t know for absolute certain what David Price has already been, and we have records of all that. It isn’t new to talk about the fact that all baseball players are mysteries, and analysts are arrogant and overconfident. It seems like Tanaka should be good. It seems like he should help the Yankees have one of the better starting rotations in baseball. It seems like Tanaka is a good investment for both the present and the future. On that basis, the Yankees invested an awful lot of beer money.

The real complication is that any evaluation has to consider both the player and the cost, and, what are we really supposed to do when it’s the Yankees who are spending? At least when it seemed like the Yankees were trying to get under $189 million, we had a line. We could say, all right, this move is or is not a good idea, with that target in mind. Now the Yankees have blown by $189 million, and my understanding is they’d passed that mark even before Tanaka was acquired. How are we supposed to interpret Yankees money? If they’re willing to pay a tax, and if their wallet is effectively bottomless, what hope do we have from here? If there’s no such thing as a move that prevents the Yankees from being able to make another move, can we really say anything, besides “that was a lot of money they spent”?

Even the Yankees, of course, have some kind of limit, and nobody wants to deal with the tax rate they’re going to face for each dollar spent above the threshold. But we don’t know where that limit is, and we don’t know if reaching it is even particularly realistic. It’s hard enough to evaluate contracts for anybody else, given the amount of money that’s flooding the game these days. Every team is richer, and so every team is spending more, and they’re going to spend even more down the line, and that’s all hard to make good sense of. But costs only really matter in that they take up X amount of budget space. Out of that budget space, teams are trying to get 40-50 WAR. If we don’t know what a team’s budget space is, and if it’s indeed likely to be astronomical, then, well, we’re left to just focus on the players, because the money can’t be made sense of. The Yankees are spending a lot on Masahiro Tanaka. If he’s a total failure, the Yankees will probably be able to make improvements. So what would it really matter to them if Tanaka fails, beyond the runs he’d allow on the field in the shorter term?

There are unknowns for every single move in baseball. There are unknowns with the Rays’ trade for Logan Forsythe. Therefore, evaluations of every single move in baseball have to come with error bars. But most of the time, at least, the unknowns can be turned into approximations, reasonable educated guesses. Masahiro Tanaka is a bigger unknown than most. And the significance of a dollar to the Yankees, relative to the significance of a dollar to somebody else, is a tremendous unknown, now that the Yankees are spending freely again. They could afford to spend a lot more than they will. So we’re left without knowing what to do with ourselves.

Except, I guess, celebrate that we’ll see Masahiro Tanaka pitching in the majors in a couple of months. That’s going to be swell, probably. Maybe we should’ve just been focusing on the players the whole time. That’s what baseball’s really supposed to be about, isn’t it? Maybe that makes the Tanaka contract some kind of psychologically liberating. Maybe he’ll just be good or bad or in between, and that’s all that’s going to matter.

Masahiro Tanaka: New York Yankee.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The annoying thing about Masahiro Tanaka’s signing window was that we knew nothing would happen until the very end of it. The convenient thing about Masahiro Tanaka’s signing window was that we knew there was a designated, set-in-stone end of it, so it’s not like things could drag on forever. This put Tanaka in a unique position, and in the end, he didn’t wait until the very last minute to make a choice — with a few days to spare, Tanaka’s elected to sign with the Yankees, for seven years and $155 million.

Also, there is an opt-out clause after the fourth year. Also, there is the matter of the $20 million posting fee. Put the numbers together and it’s a commitment similar to the one the Tigers made to Justin Verlander and that the Mariners made to Felix Hernandez, and while you can’t just add the posting fee to the salary total like that, and while the opt-out clause has its own value, and while some extra time has passed, and while this is the Yankees, and while those other guys weren’t free agents, it’s clear that Tanaka isn’t expected to contribute a serviceable 33 starts. Regardless of the fact that this is Yankees money, the expectation is that Tanaka will pitch like an ace. At least, like he’ll pitch like a good No. 2.

On multiple occasions, there were rumors that the Cubs would out-bid everybody else, in both money and years. Though the Cubs aren’t quite ready to win yet, the argument was that the front office loved the idea of signing a young potential superstar. The Dodgers were also in the mix, as the only team that can really compete with the Yankees’ finances, and there was talk that Tanaka would prefer to land out west. But the Yankees always seemed like the predictable destination, once they accepted that $189 million was unrealistic. They openly talked about their need for another 200 innings, they’re expected to be good every season, and they sure do have a lot of money to play with. Throw in the success of Hiroki Kuroda and nothing about today’s events is surprising. Maybe you didn’t expect Tanaka to decide until Thursday or Friday, but one way or another, it seemed pretty likely he’d end up with the Yankees by the end of the week.

The opt-out clause is important — Tanaka could, conceivably, enter actual free agency right before he turns 29. That would put him in line for another major payday if he manages to stay healthy and pitch well enough. At that point, he’d have three years remaining with the Yankees, at a total of $67 million. He’d simply have to project to beat those numbers as a free agent, and when you think about that, remember to account for multiple years of inflation. If Tanaka’s as good as the Yankees expect, he’ll opt out. If he’s a little worse, he might still opt out. In a sense this is only really a seven-year contract if things for New York go somewhat poorly.

We’ll go into greater depth a little bit later. For now, the Yankees have their man, which most people should’ve been expecting. They probably still aren’t good enough to catch the Red Sox, but they’re a pretty certain Wild Card contender, which they might not have been with a worse starter in Tanaka’s place. And with Tanaka having made a decision, at last, the remaining offseason dominoes ought to begin toppling with spring training right around the corner. Bid farewell to the quiet period — February came early this time around, and now we should have activity of interest leading right into pitchers and catchers. And thank damned goodness for that.

Building (or Finding) the Ideal Pitcher.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The PITCHf/x ERA is approaching ten years old, but the research spawned by the free public access to the data is impressive. We’re now seeing teams start to act on those findings as they try to use the data to inform best practices. Could we take the research as far it might stretch? Can we build the perfect pitcher?

We aren’t talking rates here, at least not in the ‘the perfect pitcher would strike out 100% of the batters he faced and walk zero,’ sort of nonsensical way. We’re talking about research into injury likelihood, and pitch effectiveness, and platoon splits. Let’s list some of those findings because bullet points are easy.

• Heavy breaking ball use may lead to injuries.
• Pitchers with great control stay healthier, on average.
• Pitchers that throw the changeup heavily have lower attrition rates.
• Changeups have one of the lower batting averages on balls in play.
• Throwing sidearm puts more stress on your elbow.
• Changeups generally have a reverse platoon split.
• A ten-mph-plus difference in velocity is indeed important if you’re throwing your changeup for whiffs.
• The rising fastball has the smallest platoon split among fastballs.
• First-pitch strikes are the best peripheral associated with walk rate.
• A pitcher’s velocity, on average, drops every season.
• More velocity means fewer runs allowed.
• Beyond 96 mph, there’s a jump in swinging strikes on the fastball.
• Vertical movement on the fastball means more grounders.
• Pitchers with long arms and long strides release the ball closer to home plate and make their velocity play up.

Just teasing this out in one sentence, it looks like we want a pitcher with a big rising fastball (96+), a sinker with serious drop, a changeup that’s more than ten mph slower than his fastball, just enough breaking stuff to keep same-handed hitters honest, and great control. Bonus points if he’s tall and has a long stride. Considering that the Pirates focus on teaching all of their pitchers command of two fastballs, and the Athletics’ and Rays’ effort to make all of their pitchers learn the changeup, some of this stuff is already being used in the development process. But here’s your mythical pitcher:

Pitcher McPitcherson (6′ 6″, 220, R or L?)
40% 96 mph rising fastball (-4 PFx_x, 10 PFx_z, 9+% swSTR, 40+% GBs)
20% 95 mph sinker (-9 PFx_x, 1.5 PFx_z, 6+% swSTR, 60+% GBs)
30% 86 mph changeup (-5 PFx_x, 7 PFx_z, 20+% swSTR, 50+% GBs)
10% 88 mph tight curve / slider (3 PFx_x, -4 PFx_z, 12+% swSTR, 50+% GBs)

As you can see, this pitcher has stuff that breaks in all directions. He’s got Chin Music, Bat Breakers and Knee Wobblers. He’s got something to break in on lefties, something to break in on righties, something to get whiffs with, something to get grounders with. He’d have a 12% swinging strike rate (five qualified pitchers did last year), and a 48% ground ball rate (only one pitcher did both last year).

Wait. Only one pitcher did both last year?

Is Matt Harvey the perfect modern pitcher? He satisfies the results end of the spectrum, since he was the only starter to combine 12% whiffs with 48% ground balls. He’s got the velocity (96 on the four-seamer, 94 on the two-seamer), and even if he doesn’t use the sinker as much, his secondary pitches are a changeup, slider, and curve. He’s really not far off, according to BrooksBaseball:

Matt Harvey (6′ 4″, 225, RHP)
57% 96 mph four-seam fastball (-6 PFx_x, 9 PFx_z, 12% swSTR, 38% GBs)
1% 94 mph sinker (-9 PFx_x, 7 PFx_z, 7% swSTR, 75% GBs)
12% 87 mph changeup (-9 PFx_x, 5 PFx_z, 20% swSTR, 60% GBs)
12% 83 mph tight curve (1 PFx_x, -3 PFx_z, 13% swSTR, 58% GBs)
17% 90 mph slider (1 PFx_x, 4 PFx_z, 17% swSTR, 52% GBs)

That’s almost uncanny. he’s got stuff breaking in all directions, hits all the benchmarks save the two-seamer, and gets whiffs and grounders. He’s six-foot-four (and dreamy), too.

And he’s hurt. Of course, injury was the reason we wanted a changeup-first guy, and he doesn’t *quite* satisfy the command component. He had good walk totals last year, but not in the minors, and not in his first go-round. Is there anyone else?

Cole Hamels is close. In 2011, he was even right there with whiffs (11.3%) and ground balls (52%). Here’s his pitching mix from that year:

Cole Hamels (6′ 3″, 195, LHP)
45% 92 mph four-seam fastball (4 PFx_x, 12 PFx_z, 5% swSTR, 41% GBs)
25% 83 mph changeup (-9 PFx_x, 6 PFx_z, 29% swSTR, 67% GBs)
12% 76 mph tight curve (-1 PFx_x, -3 PFx_z, 12% swSTR, 53% GBs)
20% 89 mph cutter (1 PFx_x, 7 PFx_z, 9% swSTR, 60% GBs)

It’s close. He’s changeup-first, and even if he doesn’t have the big velocity, he’s got the command we’re looking for. He’s been healthier, too. And he’s got the thing with the pitches breaking in the different directions and all that. His bonus comes from using his left hand more than his dreaminess.

Clayton Kershaw seems perfect now, but he’s still searching for the changeup. James Shields has the mix, but not the results. Anibal Sanchez is close. Really close. Tim Lincecum never had the control. Young man Michael Wacha really has a chance — a sinker might be all he needs. If Gerrit Cole was changeup-first, he’d be it. Maybe David Price and Max Scherzer deserve more attention. Down a little further on the changeup leaderboard, though, you might find the best candidate:

Felix Hernandez (6′ 3″, 230, RHP)
19% 92 mph rising fastball (-2 PFx_x, 7 PFx_z, 9% swSTR, 32% GBs)
36% 92 mph sinker (-8 PFx_x, 5 PFx_z, 5% swSTR, 54% GBs)
22% 89 mph changeup (-6 PFx_x, 0 PFx_z, 25% swSTR, 67% GBs)
11% 84 mph slider (2 PFx_x, -3 PFx_z, 12% swSTR, 58% GBs)
13% 80 mph roundhouse curve (6 PFx_x, -9 PFx_z, 13% swSTR, 60% GBs)

So maybe the younger Felix Hernandez, the one with more gas, maybe he was the perfect pitcher. Except back then he didn’t throw the changeup as much. And he’s never hit the threshhold for whiffs, with four double-digit swinging strike rate seasons out of eight. And there’s some other benchmarks he didn’t quite hit. Even if he does a look a lot like McPitcherson.

Of course there’s no perfect pitcher, in the end. It was a tight definition. And maybe that’s the point of the exercise. After all, we can define our perfect pitcher, we can ask our pitchers to strive for that ideal, and we can mold our practice sessions and coaching strategies to aid players in that process… but we can never achieve it. And so, if you get a 5-11 Dominican guy and you aren’t sure about his mechanics, or even a 6-10 dude that just throws way too many sliders to make you comfortable with his long-term health… sometimes it just works. After all, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson were okay pitchers in the end.

Throwing Less of Al Alburquerque’s Very Best Pitch.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For me, one of the most memorable pitches of the past few seasons is the fastball that Sergio Romo threw by Miguel Cabrera to clinch the 2012 World Series. On its own merits, Romo’s fastball isn’t particularly good, and for that reason, everybody watching figured Romo would throw a slider. For that reason, Romo threw an effective fastball, and it was the biggest pitch of his life — and it turns out every pitch is connected and one never has to really stand on its own merits. Romo succeeds with his fastball in the way that Tim Wakefield succeeded with his fastball: He uses the pitch to take batters by surprise, because his primary pitch is way better.

Game theory is a complicated concept, but pitch mixes make it simpler to grasp. Say you have a pitcher with an unbelievable changeup. Even though the changeup is his best pitch, it wouldn’t make sense to throw it 100% of the time, because a key component is surprise. Therefore there exists some optimum frequency with which the pitcher would throw something else, even if “something else” is something a lot worse. Because of the changeup, in theory, it wouldn’t look a lot worse in context. A hitter should never be able to know what’s coming, unless the pitcher is Mariano Rivera, who now is retired.

And this brings us to the current matter of Al Alburquerque, who has a slider. He has a very good slider, and he’s thrown it a whole bunch.

The Tigers would like for him to throw it less. From pitching coach Jeff Jones:

“Part of the problem is his slider is so good,” Jones said. “If you have a pitch nobody can hit, it’s difficult not to throw it every time the catcher puts the signal down.”

Jones said the Tigers spoke to him last year about using his fastball more, and will do so again this spring.

But sliders, Jones noted, are harder to throw for strikes and harder on the arm.

We can’t speak too much to the injury risk. Alburquerque has already had elbow problems, and it’s been suspected for quite some time that there’s a relationship between slider usage and developing arm issues. No matter what, Alburquerque will always be a high-slider pitcher, barring some sort of life-changing, mid-career epiphany.

We’ve got pitch-type information going back to 2002, and since 2002, just setting a minimum of 50 innings, Alburquerque’s 61% slider rate comes in first. If you split the seasons and set a minimum of 40 innings, then Alburquerque’s 2013 ranks fifth, at 65%. He’s between Michael Wuertz‘s 2009 and Carlos Marmol‘s 2011. Alburquerque is among the most extreme slider pitchers, probably ever, and based on that alone it stands to reason he could probably throw the slider a bit less. But then, here are some of them, from the same game last season:

I don’t know if those are particularly remarkable examples of the pitch. They’re more like representative examples of the pitch, which has been among the most unhittable pitches in baseball over the years, in the company of pitches like Ryan Madson‘s changeup and Brandon League‘s splitter and Jonny Venters‘ curveball. Just about half the time, batters have swung at Alburquerque’s slider. More than half of those times, the batters have whiffed. It’s the same for both lefties and righties, so it’s not like Alburquerque has run some horribly lopsided platoon split. He’s fallen in love with his slider because his slider has been amazing.

Rather unsurprisingly, hitters have come to somewhat expect Alburquerque’s slider. This is reflected by the reality that Alburquerque’s fastball has shown an incredibly small swing rate against, around 32%. It’s a pitch that’s taken hitters by surprise, but then, it’s a pitch that’s been hit nine-tenths of the time it’s been swung at. Batters rarely chase it out of the zone. When batters have made contact, the fastball’s been punished more than the slider. For a pitch that’s supposed to be a faster change of pace, Alburquerque’s fastball hasn’t helped him very much.

Additionally, it’s true, what Jones says: It’s generally easier to throw fastballs for strikes than it is with sliders. Alburquerque, sure enough, has a higher fastball zone rate than slider zone rate. But then, overall, 65% of his sliders have counted for strikes, in large part thanks to swings out of the zone. Just 56% of his fastballs have counted for strikes, in large part thanks to fewer swings out of the zone. And it’s not like Alburquerque is a guy with pinpoint command, so his fastball zone rate is still below 50%.

The suggestion there is that Alburquerque’s fastball could be a weapon, and that by throwing the fastball more, he could also make his slider more effective. What the numbers show is Alburquerque’s slider is already ultra-effective — and from a performance standpoint — he should throw it more often, since his fastball hasn’t been real good, even as a relative rarity. We have PITCHf/x record of 69 Alburquerque hits allowed, and 36 have come against his fastball, even though it’s been thrown far less often. It would be one thing if his fastball were better; that is, if he had better command of it. Failing that, Alburquerque’s done well to favor his breaking ball to such a ridiculous extent.

It’s perfectly valid to be worried about Alburquerque’s health, given the history of slider-throwers and given his own history. The Tigers know more about that than I ever will. For that reason alone, Alburquerque might consider cutting back some, to partially reduce his own risk. But he’s always going to throw a lot of sliders, since he has an elite-level slider, and he’s always going to be around a similar risk level. And while you might suggest throwing more fastballs could lead to quicker plate appearances, it could and would also lead to a higher OBP, so pitches might not actually be saved in the end.

Alburquerque might indeed be best as an extreme slider-thrower in the vein of Luke Gregerson. The data don’t seem to call for more fastballs. If Alburquerque starts throwing a better fastball that would be one thing, but every pitcher would be different if he threw better pitches. What Alburquerque has — what he’s always had — is an amazing breaking ball that confounds hitters on both sides of the plate. It’s a pitch he uses a lot. And it’s a pitch he should use a lot.

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The strength of the Rays organization is depth. The club lacks a true impact talent at the top of this list, although both Taylor Guerrieri and Hak-Ju Lee have the tools to be outstanding players if they can put injuries behind them.
#1 Jake Odorizzi | 55/MLB (P)

23 29.2 6.67 2.43 32.2 % 3.94 3.89 4.33 0.3 0.3
The Year in Review: Playing for the third organization in his young career, the Illinois native enjoyed his first season with the Rays and made his MLB debut. He appeared in seven games in the Majors and made four starts for Tampa Bay. The young pitcher spent the majority of the year in Triple-A where he struck out 124 batters in 124.1 innings of work.

The Scouting Report: The 32nd overall selection from the 2008 draft, Odorizzi has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter. He has a solid pitcher’s frame and should provide a healthy number of innings. His stuff is solid and he has a four-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, an above-average slider, a curveball and a changeup. He needs to work down in the zone more consistently and his fly-ball tendencies could get the best of him in the Majors.

The Year Ahead: Odorizzi has little reason to return to the minor leagues so he should settle in to the back end of the Rays’ opening day rotation.

The Career Outlook: The young pitcher should produce a solid career as a mid-rotation starter.

#2 Alex Colome | 60/MLB (P)

24 16.0 6.75 5.06 42.9 % 2.25 5.05 4.87 0.1 0.0
The Year in Review: Colome missed the second half of 2013 with an elbow strain. When he was on the mound, though, he was effective in both Triple-A (14 starts) and the Majors (three starts).

The Scouting Report: Colome has a chance to have three average secondary offerings to pair with his mid-90s heat. He throws a slider, curveball and changeup although he needs to become more consistent with the offerings. His control took a step forward in 2013 but he needs to do a better job of keeping the ball down in the zone.

The Year Ahead: After making 28 starts in 2011, Colome has failed to start more than 17 games each of the past two seasons while dealing with injuries. The 2014 season will be an important one for the right-hander; he needs to stay on the mound to both prove he can stay healthy and to further his development. He’ll very likely open the year in Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: If he can shake the injury bug, Colome has the talent to be a No. 2 or 3 starter at the big league level. If his body cannot hold up to the rigors of starting, he could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

#3 Enny Romero | 60/AAA (P)

22 4.2 0.00 7.71 64.3 % 0.00 5.62 6.79 0.3 0.0
The Year in Review: Romero spent the bulk of 2013 in Double-A where he showed excellent stuff but struggled with his command and control — as witnessed by his 75 walks in 148.1 innings of work. When he found the plate, the southpaw was difficult to hit and he allowed just 110 hits, although he needs to cut down on the fly balls and work down in the zone more consistently. He also made one start in Triple-A and one in the Majors.

The Scouting Report: The fly-ball pitcher needs to improve both his command and his control if he’s going to realize his full potential. The lefty shows good velocity in the low 90s and the fastball can even touch the mid 90s. His curveball has potential but the changeup still needs a fair bit of work. Although he can fire some heat, Romero is still learning how to “pitch.”

The Year Ahead: Romero will likely open 2014 back in Triple-A where he’ll work on polishing both his command and control. He could become big-league relevant in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: Romero has the talent necessary to develop into a No. 3 starter and he could develop into an innings-eating workhorse. However, if he can’t improve his command and control, as well as further develop his secondary stuff, he could end up in the bullpen.

#4 Taylor Guerrieri | 60/A- (P)

20 14 14 67.0 54 5 6.85 1.61 2.01 3.63
The Year in Review: Guerrieri’s first full pro season started off very well and he was dominating Low-A ball before he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. He was also levied a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use. When on the mound, the right-hander missed bats and opponents struggled to put the ball in the air against him.

The Scouting Report: When healthy, Guerrieri flashes very good stuff. His fastball works in the low-to-mid 90s and he also flashes a plus curveball, although it can be inconsistent. The changeup should be at least an average offering for him, if not better. Guerrieri has an athletic frame and repeats his delivery.

The Year Ahead: Guerrieri, 21, probably won’t pitch a competitive game in 2014 while he rehabs from surgery. However, he should be ready to go at the beginning of 2015.

The Career Outlook: The Georgia native has the stuff to develop into a No. 2 starter if he rebounds from his health woes and can stay on the straight and narrow.

#5 Hak-Ju Lee | 55/AAA (SS)

22 57 19 3 1 11 9 6 .422 .536 .600 .508
The Year in Review: Lee’s 2013 season came to an abrupt halt after just 15 games due to a serious knee injury. It was especially painful because the South Korea native was off to a hot start with the bat after a disappointing offensive campaign in 2012. The injury no doubt helped convince the Rays’ to pick up incumbent shortstop Yunel Escobar’s 2014 contract option.

The Scouting Report: A healthy Lee can be an impact player on the base paths and in the field. He has good range, a strong arm and reliable hands. Prior to the injury, he had the potential to steal 30+ bases in the Majors. Offensively, he doesn’t have a lot of upper body strength but he started driving the ball with more authority and does a nice job of waiting for his pitch.

The Year Ahead: Had Lee not gotten hurt, he may very well have opened 2014 as the Rays’ starting shortstop. Instead, he’ll return to Triple-A and will look to cement his status as the favorite to inherit the big league role for 2015.

The Career Outlook: Lee has the tools to be an impact player at the big league level even if his bat is only average — assuming he bounces back well from the knee injury.

#6 Ryne Stanek | 55/DNP

The Year in Review: A first-round draft pick from last season, Stanek did not pitch after signing out of the University of Arkansas.

The Scouting Report: Stanek slid to the 29th slot in the 2013 draft and was snatched up by the Rays who were less concerned than some other teams that he might end up in the bullpen. He has a four-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, a potentially-plus slider, good curveball and a changeup. Stanek needs to improve his fastball command — and trust it more. His mechanics are not the smoothest and hitters tend to get a good, long look at his pitches; those two concerns are what led some talent evaluators to project him as a future reliever.

The Year Ahead: Stanek should open the 2014 season in Low- or High-A ball. He may need some time to work out his mechanical issues if he sticks in the starting rotation. If the club chooses to move him to the bullpen, though, he could move much more quickly.

The Career Outlook: The Kansas native has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter but could also develop into a high-leverage reliever.

#7 Andrew Toles | 55/A- (OF)

21 552 169 35 2 22 105 62 .326 .359 .466 .374
The Year in Review: Toles had a breakout season in Low-A ball in 2013. He stole 62 bases in 79 attempts and was one of the leading hitters in the league with a .326 average. He also slugged 53 extra base hits. although just two cleared the fences.

The Scouting Report: Toles has plus speed on the bases and plus center-field defense, although his arm strength is average at best. He’s still developing his hit tool, although he’s starting to understand how to take advantage of his strengths. With that said, he’s still too aggressive for his own good and needs to become more patient and focus on putting the ball in play and getting on base. He also needs to polish his pitch recognition.

The Year Ahead: Toles, 21, will move up to High-A ball to open the season but should see Double-A in the second half.

The Career Outlook: The Georgia native has a chance to develop into an impact lead-off hitter if he can improve at the plate. Even if he doesn’t, though, he’ll have a solid career based on his ability to run and play center-field defense.

#8 Nick Ciuffo | 55/R (C/DH)

18 169 41 6 0 9 40 0 .258 .296 .308 .290
The Year in Review: Ciuffo was the second catcher taken in the 2013 amateur draft, 21st overall out of a South Carolina high school. After turning pro, the left-handed hitting backstop had a quick start to his career but tired in August and saw his numbers take a significant dip. Ciuffo held his own against left-handed pitching during an early (and small) sample size.

The Scouting Report: Ciuffo has the potential to develop into a well-round player on both offense and defense. At the plate, he has an idea of what he wants to do, has developing pitch recognition and enough pop to hit 15+ homers in a season. As a catcher, he flashes a strong arm, improving receiving skills and good leadership/game calling.

The Year Ahead: Ciuffo may open the year in extended spring training because the Rays tend to be somewhat conservative with their young players and fellow catching prospect Oscar Hernandez should open the year in Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: Ciuffo is potentially four years away from the Majors but he has the all-around skills to develop into a strong leader and defender, as well as an offensive threat.

#9 Ryan Brett | 55/AA (2B)

21 407 103 19 7 34 52 33 .281 .349 .428 .359
The Year in Review: Brett had something to prove in 2013 after finishing off a suspension handed down in 2012. Once he got the green light to play, the diminutive second baseman posted an .886 OPS in 51 games in High-A ball to earn a promotion to Double-A. However, he struggled at that level. In total on the year, Brett stole 26 bases in 33 attempts. He made up for lost development time by appearing in 16 Arizona Fall League games.

The Scouting Report: Brett isn’t flashy but he’s a grinder that gets the most out of his modest abilities. He handles the bat well, makes solid contact and uses the whole field. Unfortunately, he can get too aggressive at times. He has above-average speed and could steal 30 bases at the big league level. Defensively, he should be an average or better fielder at second base thanks to solid range, an average arm and decent actions.

The Year Ahead: Brett should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season and could eventually work his way into the big league second base picture in 2015 with an eye on taking over the role in ’16 when Ben Zobrist is a free agent.

The Career Outlook: Brett could develop into a solid everyday second baseman and a No. 2 hole hitter.

#10 Felipe Rivero | 55/A+ (P)

21 25 23 127.0 122 7 6.45 3.69 3.40 3.88
The Year in Review: Rivero broke the 100-inning mark for the second straight season in 2013 while pitching in High-A ball. He struggled (uncharacteristically) with his control by walking 52 batters and he struck out just 91 batters in 127.0 innings.

The Scouting Report: Rivero is a talented southpaw but he needs to improve his command — especially with the fastball. Getting ahead in the count more often will certainly help him cut down on the base runners and improve his strikeout rate. His fastball works in the low 90s and he shows potential with his curveball. The changeup is also making strides and could be an average offering when all is said and done.

The Year Ahead: The Venezuela native should open the year in Double-A and will need to polish his command if he’s going to succeed against the more advanced hitters in the league.

The Career Outlook: As mentioned, Rivero needs polish and improved command but he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter if he realizes his full potential.

The Next Five:

11. Blake Snell, LHP: Snell has the raw ingredients to develop into a dominant left-handed pitcher as witnessed by his 106 strikeouts in 99.0 innings, as well as his well-above-average ground-ball rate. However, his control needs a lot of polish after he walked 73 batters in 2013 at the Low-A ball level. If everything clicks, he could become a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Rays.

12. Jesse Hahn, RHP: Hahn has flashed the potential to develop into a mid-rotation starter but he’s struggled to stay healthy and managed to make just 19 starts (67.0 innings) in 2013. He has only slightly-above-average stuff but it plays up thanks to above-average command. He also induces a ton of ground-ball outs and keeps the ball in the yard. If he’s healthy to open the 2014 season, he should be assigned to Double-A and could see the Majors by year’s end.

13. Kevin Kiermaier, OF: One of the best defensive outfielders in the minors, Kiermaier also has above-average speed on the base paths. Unfortunately, his offensive development is not as far along and his hit tool projects as fringe-average. If that’s the case, though, he could still spend some years in the starting lineup on the strength of his other tools.

14. Richie Shaffer, 3B: The 25th overall selection of the 2012 draft, Shaffer’s first full pro season was modest. He showed gap power but he needs to improve his approach at the plate and improve his on-base percentage. Seeing more pitches could provide him with better pitches to drive — unlocking some of his raw power. Defensively, he shows a strong arm at third base but so-so range.

15. Jose Mujica, RHP: Mujica received a significant bonus from the Rays in 2012 and was one of the best arms available in Venezuela. He opened his pro career as a 16 year old in the Gulf Coast League in ’13 and held his own against much older competition. The righty is quite a ways away from reaching the Majors but his ceiling is significant with an above-average fastball and potentially-plus changeup.
post #19638 of 73003
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post


Healthy Motte, Rosenthal, Siegrist, Maness, and whatever Shelby's role is when Matheny decides.

That's with Baby Pedro moved into the rotation.

Its crazy looking at the amount of options the Cards have this year for the rotation/bullpen.

I still wish we could have another SUPERSTAR on the team as far as the bat........ And hopefully Craig stays healthy, Adams gets better against lefties and keeps mashing righties and Carpenter has another excellent year like he had last year.
post #19639 of 73003

garza to the brewers, 4 years 52 mil 

post #19640 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Two deals just about done: Balfour 2/$12mm to TB and Garza 4/$52mm to Milwaukee.
post #19641 of 73003
Originally Posted by pacmagic2002 View Post


Its crazy looking at the amount of options the Cards have this year for the rotation/bullpen.

I still wish we could have another SUPERSTAR on the team as far as the bat........ And hopefully Craig stays healthy, Adams gets better against lefties and keeps mashing righties and Carpenter has another excellent year like he had last year.
I still wish ya'll traded for Tulo. He'd swag out in those uni's smokin.gif
post #19642 of 73003
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Balfour 2/$12mm to TB

Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #19643 of 73003
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

btw Champ...Reilly's been cold. ask her if she's giving it to him on the regular. he needs a spark laugh.gif
An assist in 5 of the last 8 games. Cooled off scoring.

Originally Posted by pacmagic2002 View Post


Its crazy looking at the amount of options the Cards have this year for the rotation/bullpen.

I still wish we could have another SUPERSTAR on the team as far as the bat........ And hopefully Craig stays healthy, Adams gets better against lefties and keeps mashing righties and Carpenter has another excellent year like he had last year.
Did Matheny ever provide an official explanation on Shelby Miller's lack of use in the postseason?

Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Two deals just about done: Balfour 2/$12mm to TB and Garza 4/$52mm to Milwaukee.
Friedman must have received a clean bill of health for Balfour. Seems the O's have strict medical clearance. First Balfour, now Colvin.

Dominos fall. Santana to the Jays. Jiminez to?
post #19644 of 73003
Spring Training just around the corner pimp.gif
post #19645 of 73003
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Spring Training just around the corner pimp.gif
You'll find me at Citi Field regularly.

All that Shake Shack gonna destroy your boy's abs.
post #19646 of 73003
Hoping to be able to go to 10+ Giants and 10+ A's game this season
post #19647 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Well if it's confirmed about Garza, I gotta imagine LAA is gonna go hard after one of them.

Balfour was in TB earlier in his career, I think they either know what's the deal and think they'll be okay or the O's are gonna stick to being super conservative and doing nothing.
post #19648 of 73003
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Hoping to be able to go to 10+ Giants and 10+ A's game this season
Take pics, man. East Coast people living vicariously through you.
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Well if it's confirmed about Garza, I gotta imagine LAA is gonna go hard after one of them.

Balfour was in TB earlier in his career, I think they either know what's the deal and think they'll be okay or the O's are gonna stick to being super conservative and doing nothing.
My lean was Garza to LAA or even MIN as a dark horse. Didn't see the Brewers as a real player but they ponied up the money.

I know Dipoto, Jersey native, is still mad he couldn't wrangle Archie Bradley from Arizona for Trumbo.
post #19649 of 73003
Will do pimp.gif
post #19650 of 73003
Thread Starter 
Brewers are idiots for doing that deal anyway. A team going nowhere at the minors and majors for the next three years or so but decide to give him out of all people four years? Especially with almost every GM at the meetings voicing health concerns?

I wouldn't give Archie Bunker for that waste of space but that's neither here nor there.
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