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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 670

post #20071 of 73540
Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

Chill. Yall couldn't even keep your own big name player

Because we didn't want to keep paying him into his 40s.
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #20072 of 73540
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Them low expectations

Aren't you a raiders fan laugh.gif
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20073 of 73540
Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Them low expectations

Aren't you a raiders fan laugh.gif

Lets keep it baseball related in here, okay champ? wink.gif
Edited by JumpmanFromDaBay - 2/27/14 at 7:45am
post #20074 of 73540
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Them low expectations

Aren't you a raiders fan laugh.gif

Lets keep it baseball related in here, okay champ? wink.gif

Lmao I saw what you posted before. Good thing you switched that up. You were obviously hurt
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20075 of 73540
I didn't want to derail the thread! You had to bring another sport into this laugh.gif it's okay I would to if I was a Mariners Fan
post #20076 of 73540
31 DAYS!!!!




post #20077 of 73540
31 days until MLB opening day and Minneapolis was -16 degrees today mean.gifsick.gif


This photo was snapped a spring training game between the Reds and Indians at Goodyear Park, where an ad depicting a very nice suburban kitchen—the kind that's far too perfect to ever exist in real life—has been painted on the right field wall.
post #20078 of 73540
Can't wait
post #20079 of 73540
Any concern that Hamilton missing Spring Training is going to mess up his timing at the plate and leak into the season?
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 #20080 of 73540

Everyone has slumps even Miggy :lol It's more a question how much will it effect him. I think he will bounce back relatively well considering having Trout , Pujols , and Freese. You know the old adage 'hitting is contagious"




post #20081 of 73540
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Any concern that Hamilton missing Spring Training is going to mess up his timing at the plate and leak into the season?
He hasn't had his proper timing at the plate since August 2012 anyway laugh.gif
post #20082 of 73540
Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

I didn't want to derail the thread! You had to bring another sport into this laugh.gif it's okay I would to if I was a Mariners Fan

Is that why you were cheering for the sea hawks so much? Sorry excuse for a fan

I could give 2 ***** about the Seahawks. I was rooting for my boy Lynch. Anyways can you stop posting about football in a baseball thread? laugh.gif
post #20083 of 73540
First Nats Spring Training game tomorrow pimp.gif

2014 Predictions:

AL East
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox

AL West
Texas Rangers
Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros

NL East
Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves
Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets
Miami Marlins

NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
AL ROY: Xander Boagerts

NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg
NL ROY: Kolten Wong
post #20084 of 73540
Got a 2011 Ring Ceremony Posey Authentic for 140$ From mlbshop pimp.gif
post #20085 of 73540
Thread Starter 
Exceptional Defense Touches Everyone.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here’s something that should be pretty evident: If you’ve got a ground-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong infield defense. Likewise, if you’ve got a fly-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong outfield defense. I feel like I don’t even need to explain the thought processes. How many times did people express concern over Rick Porcello starting for last year’s Detroit Tigers? Porcello’s a ground ball guy. Last year’s Tigers started Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners. Intuitively, that could’ve been a problem.

OK. As presented on FanGraphs, the UZR era stretches back to 2002. Over that span, last year’s Tampa Bay Rays had one of the best infield defenses, at +50 runs. Not surprisingly, ground-baller Alex Cobb posted an ERA well below his FIP. More surprisingly, fly-baller Matt Moore showed an even bigger positive difference. Let’s flip things around. The 2004 New York Yankees had one of the worst outfield defenses, at -68 runs. Not surprisingly, fly-baller Javier Vazquez pitched below his peripherals. More surprisingly, ground-baller Jon Lieber showed an even bigger negative difference. These are just carefully selected individual examples, but they help to set up a bigger-picture study.

Here’s the handwritten note on my notepad, from a few nights ago:

GB pitchers and great/bad infields

It started with me wanting to know how ground-ball pitchers have been affected by pitching in front of great infields and lousy infields. That turned out to be just the first step, as the study grew from there. It only made sense to examine all four of the following:

Ground-ball pitchers in front of good/average/bad infields
Fly-ball pitchers in front of good/average/bad infields
Ground-ball pitchers in front of good/average/bad outfields
Fly-ball pitchers in front of good/average/bad outfields
We can all guess the results, but we might as well get the actual numbers. So I went after the actual numbers, looking at data covering the past dozen years. I got information for a whole bunch of teams, and I got information for a whole bunch of players.

I generated a spreadsheet that included every pitcher season with at least 100 innings. I deleted those pitchers who were moved midseason, which left me with a sample of 1,578. For each pitcher season, I calculated a z-score for the ground-ball rate. I defined ground-ball pitchers as guys whose ground-ball rates were at least one standard deviation above the mean. I defined fly-ball pitchers as guys whose ground-ball rates were at least one standard deviation below the mean.

The next step was pairing players with corresponding team defenses, split into infield and outfield. I messed around with z-scores a little bit more. I defined a good infield or outfield defense as a unit that was at least one standard deviation above the mean. I defined a bad infield or outfield defense as a unit that was at least one standard deviation below the mean. For infields, one standard deviation was 21.4 runs. For outfields, one standard deviation was a nearly identical 22.5 runs. All the other defenses, by the way, were included in the “average” group. So this is an examination of groundball pitchers and fly-ball pitchers with good infields, average infields, bad infields, good outfields, average outfields and bad outfields.

I know this probably seems like a lot. The results make it out to be a lot simpler. There are going to be four tables, and here’s the first of them. This is data for ground-ball pitchers, with various infield defenses.

Inf. Defense WAR/200 RA9/200 ERA- FIP- BABIP Infield, z Outfield, z
Best 2.6 3.4 90 95 0.285 1.4 0.0
Average 2.7 3.0 93 95 0.293 -0.1 -0.2
Worst 2.7 2.1 100 96 0.303 -1.4 -0.3
To walk you through real quick — groundball pitchers in front of the best infield defenses averaged 2.6 WAR per 200 innings. They averaged 3.4 RA9-WAR per 200 innings. They averaged an ERA- five points lower than their FIP-, and they posted a .285 average BABIP. The best infields were an average of 1.4 standard deviations above the mean, in UZR. Those same teams also had average outfields.

Nothing about this table should be surprising. Ground-ball pitchers in front of good infields allowed a BABIP 18 points lower than ground-ball pitchers in front of bad infields. The good-infield group outpaced its WAR/200 by 0.8, while the bad-infield group undershot its WAR/200 by 0.6. The message: ground-ball pitchers benefit from guys who are better at dealing with ground balls. Of course.

But now let’s look at fly-ball pitchers, with various infield defenses.

Inf. Defense WAR/200 RA9/200 ERA- FIP- BABIP Infield, z Outfield, z
Best 2.4 2.9 97 103 0.276 1.4 0.4
Average 2.1 2.1 105 106 0.285 -0.1 0.2
Worst 1.9 1.4 110 108 0.289 -1.6 0.0
Even though you expect ground-ball pitchers to benefit the most from having a good infield defense, it’s not like fly-ball pitchers are left untouched. The good-infield group here outpaced its WAR/200 by 0.5, while the bad-infield group undershot its WAR/200 by 0.5. There’s a 13-point spread in BABIP. You can’t ignore the last column; there’s a small outfielder effect, here. But it’s mostly about the infield. Fly-ball pitchers also benefit, sometimes rather significantly, from guys who are better at dealing with ground balls.

Now to the third table. This is data for ground-ball pitchers, with various outfield defenses.

Outf. Defense WAR/200 RA9/200 ERA- FIP- BABIP Infield, z Outfield, z
Best 2.8 3.1 92 93 0.292 -0.2 1.6
Average 2.6 2.8 95 96 0.293 -0.1 -0.1
Worst 3.1 2.9 94 92 0.301 -0.5 -1.4
The good-outfield group here outpaced its WAR/200 by 0.3, while the bad-outfield group undershot its WAR/200 by 0.2. There’s an eight-point BABIP spread. Clearly, groundball pitchers derive a bigger benefit from a good infield than from a good outfield, but a good outfield does still help. A really good outfield can help by maybe half of a win.

Now for the last table: fly-ball pitchers, with various outfield defenses.

Outf. Defense WAR/200 RA9/200 ERA- FIP- BABIP Infield, z Outfield, z
Best 2.1 2.6 99 106 0.278 0.2 1.5
Average 2.2 2.1 104 105 0.284 0.1 0.1
Worst 2.1 1.7 108 107 0.287 -0.2 -1.3
The good-outfield group here outpaced its WAR/200 by 0.5, while the bad-outfield group undershot its WAR/200 by 0.4. There’s a nine-point BABIP spread. Obviously, fly-ball pitchers have gotten some help from good fly-ball catchers. But here something interesting: At least based on this evidence, fly-ball pitchers have been helped or hurt as much by the infields as by the outfields. Also interesting: At least based on this evidence, ground-ball pitchers have been helped more by good infields, relative to bad, than fly-ball pitchers have been helped by good outfields, relative to bad. It could be that I’m seeing something that isn’t there. It could be this would all go away with bigger sample sizes. For the moment, it’s something to think about.

And that’s maybe getting a little too particular. Here’s the most general point: Don’t forget that ground-ball pitchers allow balls in play in the air. Don’t forget that fly-ball pitchers allow balls in play on the ground. When you have a ground-ball guy or a fly-ball guy, it’s easy to pretend they only allow one thing. But infields don’t make a difference only for ground-ball guys, and outfields don’t make a difference only for fly-ball guys. If you’ve got a great infield or a lousy outfield, everyone’s going to feel it. After all this information, it seems so obvious. It is obvious. But defense matters, for everybody — always. It doesn’t matter the pitcher’s specialty, or the defense’s.

Top 10 Prospects: Oakland Athletics.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Oakland has an interesting system because a lot of the players on the Top 10 list are unproven. The 2014 season will be an interesting one for the organization as many of those players are poised to either take big steps forward or big steps backward.

#1 Addison Russell | 65/AA (SS)
19 614 143 37 18 71 140 26 .271 .368 .486 .376
The Year in Review: Russell opened the year as a 19-year-old shortstop in High-A ball and, after a short adjustment period, hit very well. He produced a solid average and good power while also displaying a keen eye and speed. He earned a one-game trial at the Triple-A level and also played in the Arizona Fall League as one of the younger prospects invited.

The Scouting Report: Russell can do a little bit of everything. His approach at the plate — including using the whole field — and quick bat should allow him to hit for a strong average in the Majors while also producing average or better power. He has a solid eye and isn’t afraid to take a walk. When he gets on base, he has the above-average speed to make the pitcher pay. In the field, he has excellent actions, good range and a solid arm.

The Year Ahead: Russell should open the 2014 season in Double-A but could very well reach Triple-A in the second half of the year. Expect him to make his MLB debut in 2015.

The Career Outlook: If he keeps developing as expected, Russell could eventually develop into a 20-20 threat at the plate while playing above-average defense.

#2 Daniel Robertson | 55/A- (SS)
19 451 111 21 9 41 79 1 .277 .353 .401 .351
The Year in Review: Robertson had a solid season in Low-A ball at the age of 19. He hit .277 and produced an on-base percentage of just over .350. Five of his nine home runs came in August when he also hit .314 with an .877 OPS.

The Scouting Report: If you buy into Robertson’s ability to stick at shortstop, then you have an intriguing prospect on your hands. Because he’s not overly quick, the young infielder has modest range but he’s reliable and has good actions and a solid arm. If he has to move to third base, his power will likely grade out as fringe-average to average for that position. He should hit for a solid average; he has a developing eye and keeps the strikeouts to a respectable level.

The Year Ahead: Robertson will move up to High-A ball in 2014 where he’ll look to polish his defense at shortstop and also work on his overall consistency.

The Career Outlook: Truth be told, Robertson likely won’t ever regularly play shortstop at the big league level for the A’s — barring an injury to fellow prospect Addison Russell. He’ll lose a little value with a position switch but he should develop into a pretty good hitter.

#3 Billy McKinney | 60/SS (DH/OF)
18 243 70 9 3 20 33 8 .326 .387 .437 .389
The Year in Review: The 24th overall selection in the 2013 draft out of a Texas high school, McKinney performed quite well during his pro debut. The young outfielder hit .320 in 46 Rookie ball games before moving up to the more advanced short-season ball where he hit .353 in nine games. In total, he produced an .824 OPS but just 15 of his 70 hits went for extra bases.

The Scouting Report: McKinney is a bit of a one-dimensional player with all his value tied up in his bat. He projects to hit for a strong average from the left side of the plate due to his solid approach and his above-average bat speed could help him produce average or better home run pop. With that said, McKinney has some work to do against southpaws. He also has limited speed, which impacts both his base running and his defense. It could limit him to left field as he moves up the ladder.

The Year Ahead: McKinney will no doubt move up to Low-A ball where he’ll look to build off his solid debut from 2013 — and hopefully add some additional pop to his game.

The Career Outlook: The 19-year-old prospect has a chance to be a good hitter but his lack of defensive and running values hurt a bit.

#4 Raul Alcantara | 55/A+ (P)
20 27 27 156.1 157 11 7.14 1.38 3.11 3.14
The Year in Review: The late 2011 trade that saw RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeeney head to Boston in exchange for OF Josh Reddick, 1B Miles Head and RHP Alcantara continues to pay dividends for Oakland. The right-handed pitching prospect saw his game take a big step forward in 2013 as the split the year between two A-ball levels and stuck out 124 batters with just 24 walks in 156.1 innings.

The Scouting Report: Alcantara has above-average control for his age but he’s still looking for continued improvement on his command within the strike zone. All his offerings took a step forward in 2013, although they still have a ways to go to become legitimate out pitches. The heater works in the low 90s and touches the mid-90s. His second-best offering is a plus changeup, and he also has two breaking balls with the slider having a slight edge over the curveball.

The Year Ahead: The Dominican Republic native should move up to Double-A in 2014 unless he completely melts down in spring training. Job #1 will be to polish the breaking balls.

The Career Outlook: Alcantara has a shot at developing into a mid-rotation starter if he continues along the development path he’s been following in recent years.

#5 Michael Ynoa | 55/A+ (P)
21 22 21 75.2 68 5 8.09 4.16 3.69 4.01
The Year in Review: Signed all the way back in 2008, Ynoa has fewer than 120 innings to his credit over that span due to injury after injury creeping up. The right-hander made a career high 22 appearances (21 starts) in 2013 and also pitched the most innings of his career at 75.2. He struck out 68 hits but walked 35.

The Scouting Report: Ynoa’s lost development time due to injury continues to haunt him when it comes to the development of his secondary stuff, as well as his command/consistency. The right-hander still has excellent velocity at 92-95 mph but neither his curveball nor his changeup are constantly average offerings but both show flashes of potential. Ynoa isn’t overly athletic on the mound and is pretty stiff in his delivery. I’m concerned over his lack of follow through.

The Year Ahead: Aside from staying healthy, the goal for 2014 will be to break the 100-inning mark as he either returns to the California League or gets pushed up to Double-A.

The Career Outlook: Unless Ynoa makes some further adjustments to his delivery, he may continue to suffer from shoulder woes, which makes him an injury risk moving forward — but he has significant upside. If his secondary stuff doesn’t develop, he might be better off in the bullpen.

#6 Bobby Wahl | 55/SS (P)
21 10 5 21.2 20 3 11.63 3.32 4.15 3.52
The Year in Review: The University of Mississippi alum is more talented than his fifth round selection might suggested and he showed flashes of that during his pro debut in 2013. Wahl struck out 27 batters in 20.2 innings in short-season ball. He employed a fly-ball heavy approach during his first 10 pro ball games.

The Scouting Report: Inconsistent stuff blamed on injuries caused Wahl to slip in the 2013 draft. However, he has the stuff to be a solid starter with a 90-95 mph fastball, potentially-plus slider and a changeup that should be average or better in time. Wahl needs to stay on top of the ball and ensure he’s working down in the lower half of the zone in an effort to limit the fly ball. He needs to polish his command.

The Year Ahead: Wahl’s performance in spring training will likely help determine if he heads off to Low-A or High-A ball for April. He has a solid shot at reaching Double-A during the season.

The Career Outlook: If his injuries are truly behind him, Wahl has the ceiling of a very good No. 3 starter.

#7 Renato Nunez | 55/A- (3B)
19 545 131 27 19 28 136 2 .258 .301 .423 .330
The Year in Review: Nunez held his own in the full-season Midwest League in 2013 as a teenager. He produced a .725 OPS and slugged 19 home runs. On the downside, he walked just 28 times and struck out 136 times in 128 games.

The Scouting Report: Still very young, Nunez just needs at-bats to hone his overly-aggressive approach at the plate. He also needs to improve his pitch recognition and handling of breaking balls. He has very good bat speed, which helps him generate above-average power and he could tap into it even more consistently once he learns to wait for better pitches. Defensively, his arm is his best asset but he doesn’t move well or have much range at third base. He also needs to improve the accuracy of his throws.

The Year Ahead: Nunez should move up to High-A ball where his offense could get an additional boost from the California League but, really, it’s his approach at the plate that needs the most work.

The Career Outlook: Nunez doesn’t play defense overly well and he’s not much of a runner or an athlete so his bat is going to have to continue to develop if he’s going to be an impact player for the A’s.

#8 Dylan Covey | 55/A- (P)
21 14 14 59.1 73 4 6.98 2.73 3.79 3.49
The Year in Review: Covey produced respectable numbers during his pro debut in 2013, but didn’t exactly dominate. He didn’t allow an earned run in four starts in shorts-season ball but then he gave up 64 hits in 47.1 innings in the Low-A Midwest League. On the plus side, he induced a massive number of ground-ball outs.

The Scouting Report: Covey was the 14th overall selection in the 2010 amateur draft but decided to attend school. His value dropped over the next three years and he slid to the A’s in the fourth round. Covey has strong frame and could be an innings-eater. His fastball works in the low 90s with good sink and he also possesses a good slider, followed by a curveball and a changeup.

The Year Ahead: Covey will likely return to Low-A ball in 2014 but he could receive a quick promotion to High-A ball if he’s firing on all cylinders and develops a consistent swing-and-miss offering.

The Career Outlook: Improved fastball command is much needed if he’s going to realize his full potential as a No. 3 or 4 starter.

#9 Billy Burns | 50/AA (OF)
23 540 140 12 0 72 54 74 .315 .425 .383 .383
The Year in Review: It was an eventful year for the Georgia native who opened the season as an A-baller. The speedy outfielder then hit .312 with a .422 on-base percentage to earn a promotion to Double-A after 91 games. At that level, Burns hit .325 and saw his on-base percentage hit .434. In total, he stole 74 bases in 81 tries. The switch-hitter managed just 21 extra base hits in 121 games.

The Scouting Report: Burns’ game is built around his plus speed. He understands his strengths and weaknesses as a player and doesn’t try to do too much. He keeps his swing short and to the ball, which allows him to use the whole field and hit for a high average. He also has a good eye at the plate and gets on base as a high clip, which allows him to steal a ton of bases. Not only fast, he’s also a smart base runner and a good fielder although his modest arm strength causes him to see more time in left field than centre.

The Year Ahead: Traded to Oakland in the offseason, Burns will likely return to Double-A to open the 2014 season.

The Career Outlook: Burns is in the right organization to be appreciated for his on-base abilities. He may not have a future as a regular (the jury is still out) but he could be an impact player from the bench or as a member of a platoon.

#10 Matt Olson | 50/A- (1B)
19 558 108 32 23 72 148 4 .225 .326 .435 .349
The Year in Review: Olson put on a power display in 2013 with 32 doubles and 23 home runs. He hit just .225 but his on-base percentage was .100 points higher thanks to 72 walks. He also struck out 148 times. A left-handed hitter, Olson struggled mightily against southpaws.

The Scouting Report: Olson’s potential is undeniable but he has a long way to go to reach his potential. He has some of the best raw power in the system, as witnessed by his 2013 numbers, but he needs to improve against off speed pitches and is still working on his pitch recognition. He has some bat speed but his swing gets long. He has a patient approach and works the count well, which leads to high on-base percentages and helps to compensate for the lower batting average. Olson has a lot of work to do against southpaws (.613 OPS vs LHP, .816 OPS vs RHP in 2013).

The Year Ahead: The young first baseman should move up to the California League (High-A) in 2014 where he’ll have to avoid the temptation to get even more homer happy in the offense-boosting league.

The Career Outlook: Olson, a Georgia native, could hit 30 home runs in the Majors — if he can find a way to make enough contact to eventually get out of Double-A.

The Next Five:

11. Dillon Overton, LHP: Overton produced inconsistent stuff during his college career and worked anywhere from the high 80s to mid 90s with his heat. He dealt with some forearm issues in college, which may have scared some teams away and caused him to slide from the first round to the second during the 2013 draft. The University of Oklahoma alum also has a potentially-plus slider and a good changeup.

12. Max Muncy, 1B: A first baseman, Muncy is going to have to hit and hit a lot of he’s going to develop into an everyday player. He slugged 25 homers in 2013 but 20 of those came in the potent California league and his slugging percentage dropped almost 100 points with a promotion to Double-A. In truth, he’s more of a doubles hitter than a pure home runs hitter. He produces excellent on-base rates thanks to a patient approach that helped him amass 88 walks in 140 games last season.

13. Nolan Sanburn, RHP: With a modest frame and an injury history that included a shoulder strain in 2013, Sanburn may find his future is in the bullpen — a role he performed at the University of Arkansas. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he also possesses a slider, curveball and changeup. The slider is his most promising secondary offering and it has plus potential.

14. Chad Pinder, SS: The Virginia Tech alum had a modest pro debut in 2013 but showed the ability to play a respectable shortstop with good arm strength in pro ball but will likely eventually move to second base. He projects to hit for average as he develops because he utilizes a smart approach with a short stroke and uses the whole field. His swing isn’t geared for power so he’ll probably never hit for much.

15. B.J. Boyd, OF: Because he played multiple sports in high school, Boyd is somewhat raw on the diamond, which is why he spent a second year in short-season ball in 2013. He started to tap into his power potential more consistently last year but he stopped running despite above-average speed. He played mostly left field in ’13 but can also handle centre.

Idle Observations from a Single Game of Alex Guerrero.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban emigre and infielder Alexander Guerrero this offseason, with a view (it would seem) towards installing him at second base for the 2014 season. Because Guerrero didn’t participate in the most recent World Baseball Classic and because there’s little in the way of other extant footage of him and because there’s only so much his Cuban league stats can tell us — regardless of how responsibly they’re translated — there’s naturally an air of mystery surrounding him. Indeed, Guerrero’s two plate appearances during the Dodgers’ spring-training opener on Wednesday against Arizona were the first which offered competitive footage of him in any sort of broadly available way.

This isn’t a particularly common occurrence, turns out. Almost every prospect of note has both appeared in a number of televised minor-league games and/or been considered closely by means of footage offered by this or that analyst. Players from Japan and Korea — and even Cuba, actually — have typically participated in international tournaments, such that a reasonably engaged fan of the Pastime has had an opportunity to acquaint himself with most players before those same players have recorded their first ever spring-training at-bat.

For Guerrero, that’s less the case. In light of that, his spring-training start yesterday represented the first opportunity for people like the reader — and other (probably sad) people like the author — to acquaint him-/her-/themselves with Alex Guerrero.

What might one learn from Guerrero’s first two plate appearances? Not much conclusively, of course. Still, as a fan of baseball, I personally don’t need much of an invitation to demonstrate enthusiasm for the debut of a heretofore unknown player.

Below is a pitch-by-pitch examination of Guerrero’s first spring-training game. Each pitch is labeled by a decimaled figure, where the first number represents the number of the plate appearance in question; the second number, the pitch of the relevant plate appearance. Each pitch is also accompanied by commentary of a generally useless nature.

Pitch 1.1
This is Brandon McCarthy‘s first pitch to Guerrero, from the second inning. It’s unique insofar as it appears to be either a changeup or a curve that maybe backs up a little — which is to say, not a fastball (i.e. the most common kind of first pitch). Perhaps because it’s an offspeed/breaking pitch or because he’s the sort of batter who regularly takes the first pitch of any plate appearances, even if it’s a strike, Guerrero doesn’t swing.

Pitch 1.2
The second pitch is a fastball — probably a sinker, given McCarthy’s historical pitch tendencies. Despite the fact that said pitch gets quite a lot of the plate, Guerrero takes this one, too. One theory for that: he didn’t think he’d hit it well. A second one: it moved more than he’d anticipated from the outside of the plate. A third: he has no plans to ever swing, even once, in the States.

Pitch: 1.3
This is a curve, pretty far from the strike zone. Guerrero takes, unsurprisingly.

Pitch: 1.4
This is almost the precise pitch as above in terms of velocity and break, but located much more ably by McCarthy and caught well by Miguel Montero. Once again, Guerrero takes… and strikes out, actually. That’s four total pitches, then, of which three were in the zone. Zero swings by Guerrero.

Pitch: 2.1
Now in his second plate appearance, Guerrero faces talented reliever J.J. Putz. Putz’s first pitch is a fastball — neither particularly low nor particularly inside, but a ball. Once again, Guerrero takes. That’s five pitches with zero swings, now.

Pitch: 2.2
Putz’s second pitch is also a fastball and also a ball. Guerrero takes this, as well. Perhaps realizing that he’s now refrained from offering at the first six pitches he’s seen in what amounts to his major-league debut, Guerrero is compelled to signal, by means of a head shake, that he’s seen nothing to his liking thus far:

Pitch: 2.3
On the seventh pitch to him — a fastball on the outer half of the plate — Guerrero records his first swing, sending the ball into the stands along the first-base line. At 14.3%, Guerrero’s swing rate remains 20 percentage points below the lowest figure among qualified batters from 2013.

Pitch: 2.4
Zut frigging alors: a second consecutive swing. This is the fourth fastball thrown by Putz in four pitches, the location of this pitch not entirely different than the second pitch of Guerrero’s at-bat against McCarthy. Guerrero fouls this one off, as well. Some numbers through eight pitches: 25% Swing, 0% SwStrk, 0% O-Swing.

Pitch: 2.5
Of note regarding this ninth pitch: J.J. Putz has averaged about a 25% swinging-strike rate on his split-finger fastball over the last three-to-five years. The footage here demonstrates why: the pitch starts in the zone and then more or less disappears. This is probably the most impressive moment of Guerrero’s ten pitches faced, holding up his swing like this against Putz’s splitter. Still a 0% O-Swing through nine pitches.

Pitch: 2.6
On his sixth pitch to Guerrero, Putz throws his fifth fastball of the at-bat — in this case, almost exactly through the middle of the strike zone. Guerrero swings for the third time out of the last four pitches, grounding the ball pretty harmlessly to second base. With 10 pitches faced now, Guerrero has a swing rate of 30% (still very low) and a swinging-strike rate of 0%. He does seem to have demonstrated a sense of patience — to the degree that any batter can do so over 10 pitches. Should he continue to produce merely a .000 BABIP, however, his prospects as a major leaguer are rather dim.

Another Way of Explaining Mike Trout’s $50 Million Valuation.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Mike Trout is reportedly close to signing a long term deal with the Angels that will value the free agent years he’s giving up at around $30 to $35 million apiece. At the time he signs the deal, he’ll almost lock in the largest single season salary ever guaranteed to a Major League player, topping the $33 million that Clayton Kershaw will earn in the last year of his freshly minted extension. And even with that, he’s still going to be drastically underpaid.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks where I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain why Trout is worth something between $40 to $50 million per year for his free agent years. In a time where even the best free agents are signing for half of that, it’s a tough sell, and I’ve realized that most people just generally don’t believe that Trout is twice as valuable as other star players.

So, this post is an effort to help illustrate the dramatic gulf between Trout’s value and the kinds of players that are signing for $20 to $25 million per year. I’m going to try to make the math as non-scary as possible, and avoid using fancy acronyms or models that rely on black box data. We’re just going to deal with the basics.

Thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, we have a pretty good sense of what premium free agent outfielders cost this winter. Between the two of them, the Yankees and Rangers will pay an average of $40 million per year for the next seven years. Is it really possible that Trout and some random scrub is more valuable than having the two best free agent outfielders from the 2013 free agent class?

Well, just for fun, let’s do a comparison of their performances from last year, combining the two free agent outfielders into a tandem we’ll call Jacoby Choo. The difference between Trout’s individual line and their combined line produces the numbers that Random Trout Teammate would need to produce for that pair to be equivalent to owning both Ellsbury and Choo instead.

Mike Trout 157 589 716 190 115 39 9 27 110 136 9 33 7
Jacoby Choo 288 1146 1348 334 229 65 10 30 159 225 31 72 15
Difference 131 557 632 144 114 26 1 3 49 89 22 39 8
To make Trout’s 2013 line match up with the combined line of Jacoby Choo, Random Trout Teammate would have to play fairly regularly, rack up some doubles, draw some walks, get hit by a bunch of pitches, and steal a lot of bases. He wouldn’t have to hit for any power, and since Trout and Ellsbury come pretty close to canceling each other out on defense in center field, he’d just have to manage to be about as good in a corner spot as Choo is, which is nothing special. Basically, he needs to be an average corner defensive OF with some speed, but no power.

He needs to be Eric Young Jr. Seriously, look at Young’s 2013 line compared with the gap between Mike Trout and Jacoby Choo.

Difference 131 557 632 144 114 26 1 3 49 89 22 39 8
Eric Young 148 539 598 134 98 27 7 2 46 100 2 46 11
There’s 20 missing HBPs, but there’s also 16 fewer singles and six extra triples, and the differences mostly come out in the wash. 2013 Eric Young is almost an exact match for what Random Trout Teammate would have needed to do to make Trout’s pair equal the combination of Jacoby Choo. In other words, in terms of performance, you wouldn’t have a huge preference between having last year’s versions of Trout and Young or Choo and Ellsbury.

Last summer, the Rockies traded Young to the Mets for Colin McHugh, a replacement level minor league arm. Young wasn’t free, but he was pretty close to it. He played better in New York, so his stock has probably gone up some, but I think it’s fair to say that Young’s market value is in the low single millions. As a free agent, maybe he’d cost a few million, and land a similar deal to the ones signed by guys like Willie Bloomquist, Skip Schumaker, and Emilio Bonifacio this winter.

Just for sake of argument, let’s give Random Trout Teammate $3 million for the above line. That leaves $37 million per year for Trout, right? Pretty close to what the reports suggest he’s going to get for his free agent years from the Angels, so maybe this is all proof that the $50 million figure that $/WAR comes up with is total bunk, no?

No, because there’s one more thing we have to keep in mind: Ellsbury and Choo are getting $40 million per year for their age 30-36 and 31-37 seasons, where significant decline is expected. The Yankees and Rangers have locked themselves into a $20 million per year valuation for each player despite knowing that neither is going to continue to be as good as they were in 2013. They’re almost certain to get worse simply due to the effects of age. Trout is 22. While he has to be expected to decline a bit just because there is far more downside than upside when you’re a +10 WAR player, the rate of decline is much slower for a great young player than it is for a good old player.

In other words, Trout should be able to retain a good chunk of his value for the next seven years, while by the end of their current deals, Ellsbury and Choo will probably be somewhat close to worthless. The Yankees and Rangers knew this, but were willing to guarantee them $20 million per year for those worthless years because they believe that they’re worth more than $40 million per year in the short term. They’re getting a discount on the value of their current performance in exchange for paying for years where there won’t be much value coming back in return.

These deals for Ellsbury and Choo essentially value their combined value at somewhere in the range of $50 million for 2014, and hope that they’ll play at that kind of level long enough to make up for the fact that they’ll be getting money for nothing at the end of the contract. Since Trout would not be expected to be a nothing player at the end, his free market value wouldn’t have to reflect that kind of significant decline, and thus, his long term AAV would be even higher than the one commanded by guys in their 30s.

Now, of course, Trout isn’t a free agent, and he doesn’t get to sign a deal that pays him market value for the next seven years. But the recent trend of extensions shows that players are getting something very close to current market value for the free agent years they sell in advance, essentially exchanging their injury/collapse risk for the team’s risk of future inflation. If Trout’s really planning on signing away three or four free agent years for between $30 and $35 million apiece, the Angels are getting a huge steal, because Trout actually is, by himself, as valuable as two premium free agents. You are as well off with Trout and Random Trout Teammate as you are with Choo and Ellsbury.

Certainly, there’s additional risk with tying up your value in one player, as having an +8 WAR player instead of two +4 WAR players means that one injury can do more damage to your team’s chances of success. However, there’s also a decreased chance of injury, since it’s less likely that Trout will get hurt than that either Choo or Ellsbury will get hurt, and there are the roster benefits that go along with consolidating value into one player instead of requiring two roster spots to get the same total production.

I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that having one superstar isn’t clearly better than having two good players of equal value to the one star, but at the same time, it isn’t clearly worse either. The point is to accumulate value, and if you can +8 WAR in an +8/+0 package versus a +4/+4 package, you shouldn’t pay dramatically more for either one. +8/+0 should cost something fairly similar to +4/+4, and the market is pricing +4 WAR free agents at between $20 and $25 million per year for their decline years.

I know it’s not easy to accept, but Mike Trout is worth more than Ellsbury and Choo combined. And the market clearly is pricing that kind of combination in the $40+ million range. If Trout takes anything less than $40+ million for his free agent years, he’s giving the Angels a real discount.

Will Andrelton Simmons Hit?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the major pieces of breaking baseball news in recent days was the Braves’ signing of shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a seven year, $58 million contract extension. This is big news partially because Simmons is arguably the first, youngest and least experienced player to earn such a deal primarily because of his defensive excellence. That excellence is supported by both the metrics and the scouting eye, and he is almost universally regarded as the single most valuable defensive player in the game. We’re not going to focus on his glove today, however. Simmons was far from a total zero with the bat last year, hitting 17 homers, not an insignificant sum at his end of the defensive spectrum. It will be Simmons’ development with the bat that will eventually determine whether the Braves get great value from this deal instead of an average to solid return. Today we’ll take a closer look at his offensive profile to get a better feel as to what the future holds.
Andrelton Simmons was a somewhat perplexing prospect in the 2010 draft. A native of Curacao, he was a two-way player at Western Oklahoma St. Junior College, a raw but athletic defensive specialist at shortstop as well as a fireballing righthanded pitcher who reached the upper 90′s with his fastball. Many teams thought he would never hit, and projected him as a pitcher. The Braves, among other clubs, saw it differently, and stepped up and popped Simmons in the 2nd round. Their role in developing Simmons, and helping to transform his raw tools into useable skills, has been impeccable to date, and they have been handsomely rewarded to date with his performance. His glove rocketed him through the minors to a NL Gold Glove Award in 2013, with his bat fighting to keep up, as he has been far from the automatic out at the major league level that many thought he would be. Let’s take a deeper look at the 2013 plate appearance outcome frequencies for Simmons and a couple of his youthful shortstop peers, to get a better feel for their respective offensive games.

Andrus % REL PCT
K 13.9% 77 23
BB 7.4% 92 45
POP 5.5% 70 26
FLY 20.8% 72 4
LD 20.2% 93 30
GB 53.6% 128 96
— — — —
Castro % REL PCT
K 18.3% 101 56
BB 4.3% 53 9
POP 5.0% 63 20
FLY 25.9% 90 29
LD 22.1% 102 58
GB 47.0% 113 79
— — — —
Simmons % REL PCT
K 8.4% 46 3
BB 6.1% 75 25
POP 12.4% 157 91
FLY 28.3% 99 48
LD 18.0% 83 8
GB 41.3% 99 51
For each player, the frequency of each plate appearance outcome is listed in raw percentage form, relative to MLB average (scaled to 100), and is also expressed as a percentile rank.

Elvis Andrus, 25, possesses the classic high-floor, low-ceiling offensive profile possessed by many long-haul shortstops over the years. A low K rate coupled with a low popup rate is the surest road to someday batting .300 in the major leagues. Derek Jeter represents the absolute offensive apex that can be reached by this type of shortstop, while later-career Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel are more emblematic of the type of production to which Andrus can aspire. Keep your head above water in the early years, and then perfect your offensive game as you physically mature and learn to even better manage at-bats. 2013 was in many ways a step backward for Andrus, as his popup percentile rank of 26, while still well better than average, was his first percentile ranking higher than 7 in his five-year career. Andrus’ line drive percentile rank of 30 was also by far a career worst.

Starlin Castro‘s frequency distribution suggests both a significantly higher floor and ceiling compared to Andrus. Like Andrus, Castro, 24, stepped backward offensively in 2013, with his K rate jumping from a previous high percentile rank of 31 to 56, and his always low BB rate dropping from a career “high” percentile rank of 16 in 2012 to 9 in 2013. While his 2013 line drive percentile rank of 58 was still above the MLB average, his previous career low percentile rank was 73. Castro is approaching a crossroads in his career – if he can spruce up his K and BB rates while solidifying his line drive percentile rank above 70, all while gaining physical strength, he can still become a star. If he continues down the slippery slope he was on in 2013, however, he could become an unplayable OBP sinkhole.

Before we delve into Simmons’ frequency profile, let’s put his 2013 offensive season into some sort of big-picture context. Since 1901, 2,334 regular player-seasons have been logged at the shortstop position. Those seasons result in an average slash line of .261-.321-.360, and an 87 OPS+. In 2013, Simmons slashed .248-.296-.396, with an 87 OPS+. I’d call that about exactly average performance for a shortstop in a historical context. Only 14 23-year-old shortstops since 1901 have hit more than 17 homers in a season, and it’s quite a list – Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Hanley Ramirez, Cal Ripken, Dale Sveum, Jhonny Peralta, Denis Menke, Vern Stephens, Jose Reyes, Arky Vaughan, Ernie Banks, some guy named Eric McNair, and Rico Petrocelli.

Only four of these players – Garciaparra, Peralta, Banks and McNair, were in their first full year as a regular shortstop at age 23, as was Simmons. Petrocelli’s line in 1966 – .238-.295-.383, with 18 HR and an 85 OPS+ – is eerily similar to Simmons’ 2013 performance, but he was notably the only player of the 14 with an OPS+ lower than Simmons. Of course, if Simmons were to go on to post Petrocelli’s career numbers – .251-.331-.420 with 210 HR, including 40 in a season, and a 108 career OPS+, the Braves would be overjoyed.

Simmons’ 2013 frequency profile is unusual in several respects. On the positive side, his K rate was one of the lowest in baseball, with a percentile rank of 3, confirming the exceptional hand-eye coordination that drives his defensive excellence. On the negative side is his extremely high popup rate (91 percentile rank) and extremely low line drive rate (8 percentile rank). While line drive rates fluctuate from year to year more so than the other batted ball types, it must be noted that Simmons’ line drive rate was almost as low in his two-month major league debut in 2012, so this may be in fact indicative of his true talent level.

Simmons’ walk rate was also low, with a 2013 percentile rank of 25, though that is not an unusual level for a first-year regular shortstop. This odd confluence of frequencies, unfortunately for Simmons, has only one peer among recent-vintage shortstops – Yuniesky Betancourt, who posted a .289-.310-.403 line with an 86 OPS+ in his first season as a then-flashy defender with exceptional hand-eye coordination at the shortstop position in 2006 at age 24.

Now that we’ve looked at the outcome frequencies, let’s look at the actual production these three generated on the various batted ball types in 2013, and then adjust that production for context:

FLY 0.183 0.385 32 35
LD 0.647 0.735 86 91
GB 0.268 0.279 124 107
ALL BIP 0.305 0.370 71 70
ALL PA 0.258 0.314 0.313 82 81
— — — — — —
FLY 0.243 0.551 62 68
LD 0.640 0.825 93 93
GB 0.208 0.212 73 108
ALL BIP 0.302 0.427 80 92
ALL PA 0.244 0.276 0.344 75 86
— — — — — —
FLY 0.278 0.669 87 84
LD 0.642 0.874 99 94
GB 0.186 0.200 61 96
ALL BIP 0.269 0.421 69 77
ALL PA 0.245 0.291 0.383 88 96
For each of the three major batted ball types, the 2013 actual AVG and SLG is listed. In the “REL PRD” column, the actual AVG and SLG is compared relative to MLB average, scaled to 100. In the “ADJ PRD” column, that relative figure is adjusted for ballpark, luck, etc.. The next to last row for each players includes the relative and adjusted production for all balls in play, and the K’s and BB’s are added back in the last row, which lists the same information for all plate appearances. All SH and SF are included as outs, and HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation for purposes of this exercise.

Andrus does very little damage on fly balls (35 adjusted production), but this doesn’t hurt him much, as he hits so few of them. He generates less extra-base power from his line drives compared to the MLB average, largely due to his relative lack of physical strength at this stage of his career. His performance on ground balls was much better than the MLB average, largely due to the premium derived from his speed, and also because he sprays the ball around – an important factor, as we shall see later.

All in all, in 2013 Andrus seems to have reached his high offensive floor, as his relative solid K and BB rates push his very low adjusted relative production on balls in play of 70 up to a more respectable 81, not far below average for his position. I would not be surprised if Andrus never again has as bad an offensive season as 2013 in what will very likely be a long career. With an eight-year, $118 million contract extension that doesn’t even begin until 2015 in place, however, the potential for significant excess value over Andrus’ contract is somewhat limited given his lack of power potential.

Castro had more success on fly balls (adjusted relative production of 68) than Andrus in 2013, but was still well below average. Like Andrus, he gets below average power out of his line drives, as he is still gaining physical strength at this stage of his career. In fact, Castro’s frame, when compared to Andrus, would seem to be able to accommodate more bulk down the road, suggesting more power potential. Castro was flat unlucky on ground balls, with 73 relative production, while his hard/soft ground ball rates, as well as his solid speed, would suggest a better than MLB average 108 adjusted production figure.

Adjusted for context, Castro’s relative production of 92 on all balls in play is solid for his position – but his poor K and BB rates drop him down to 86. Basically, without his bad luck on grounders last season, Castro would have been just as productive as Simmons before adjustment for context. Castro is signed to a fairly comparable contract to Simmons, an 8-year, $60.6 million deal that runs through 2019. The value could go either way here, with the Cubs getting a massive bargain with offensive growth, or a potential albatross if .280ish OBP with inconsistent defense remains the norm.

Simmons was more productive than the other two on fly balls last season, with a relative production figure of 87, adjusted slightly downward for context to 84. His line drive authority was almost identical to that of Andrus and Castro, with an adjusted production figure of 94. Like Castro, Simmons performed poorly on ground balls last season, batting .186-.200, for a relative production mark of 61. His hard/soft ground ball rates suggest an upward adjustment to 96 – but not so fast.

Simmons is an “extreme ground ball puller”, and can easily and at low risk be overshifted by opposing infield defenses. Thus, I would expect his future actual production to be much closer to his 2013 actual rather than the adjusted level. On all balls in play Simmons (69 relative production) did less damage than Castro, and about the same as Andrus, if you don’t adjust Simmons ground ball production upward. Once the K’s and BB’s are added back, however, Simmons becomes the most productive of the three, thanks to his very low K rate.

About that “extreme ground ball pulling”…….let’s look at the pull tendencies of these three, using a very simple tool. For each of these righthanded hitters, the pull ratio for each batted ball type equals balls hit to (LF + LCF)/(RF + RCF):

Andrus 0.74 0.93 3.25
Castro 0.41 0.86 2.77
Simmons 2.49 2.59 6.88
RHB MLB AVG 1.18 1.63 3.32
This is very interesting data to add to the discussion. When you hit the ball to all fields, defenses must play you relatively honest and avoid the overshifting that can drastically cut into batting averages. At this stage of Andrus and Castro’s respective careers, they rarely burn opposing outfielders by hitting the ball over their heads, but once they can, especially in Castro’s case, the ability to use the field will open up additional areas of opportunity all over the field.

Both players also have plenty of slack to selectively pull the ball in the air more for additional power, as many more experienced players do without pulling their liners and grounders at excessive rates. Simmons would already seem to be tapped out with regard to selective pulling. The numbers above clearly indicate that Simmons is looking to pull the ball almost all of the time. In fact, he had a higher overall pull percentage than Raul Ibanez in 2013, if you can believe that. This is yet another Betancourt-esque trait, and we all know where his offense has gone over the years.

Simmons’ bottom line is likely this – he very likely snuck up on a lot of MLB pitchers last season, pulling a lot of their mistakes over the left field fence. Now a “book” has begun to be compiled on Simmons, and he is going to be peppered with pitches on the outer third of the plate and beyond, with the occasional hard one out of the zone inside to keep him honest. His excellent hand-eye coordination will likely minimize the swings and misses, but weak contact will often ensue if he doesn’t learn to better manage the strike zone and increase his walk rate. As someone who watched Yuni and Jose Lopez make weak contact on pitchers’ pitches on a regular basis, take it from me, the offensive downside of an Andrelton Simmons who is either unwilling or unable to make the necessary adjustments is quite low.

Andrus and Simmons possess fairly narrow but normal platoon splits, while Castro’s is a much larger normal split, doubling down on the notion that Castro is the risk/reward guy of the three. All are very likely to be MLB regular shortstops for quite awhile, with Andrus likely to find a niche somewhere in the Luis Aparicio/Ozzie/Omar lineage offensively, and Castro having the potential to jump up to the Ian Desmond/Edgar Renteria level at best or lapse into late-career Garry Templeton mode at worst.

Andrelton Simmons, the offensive player, is a pretty tough call. I could easily pigeonhole him as a Yuniesky Betancourt in waiting with the bat, but his overall lack of reps as a hitter, his very high contact rate, plus the fact that he has been a very quick study to date in all facets of the game gives me pause. Extreme defenders such as Simmons became that good thanks both to natural gifts and extreme work ethic. Applying such a work ethic consistently over time – something Betancourt did not always do – will keep Simmons above the danger zone with the bat, and will not endanger the value of the Braves’ substantial investment in him.

Miguel Cabrera: Developing Predator.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This began with an observation: Since 2008 — covering the bulk of the reliable PITCHf/x era — Miguel Cabrera has swung at just under 47% of pitches with the bases empty, and just over 53% of pitches with a runner or runners on. Now, in that span, 130 different players have faced at least 10,000 pitches. Out of all of them, Cabrera has the biggest positive difference in swing rate. As it happens, Derek Jeter has the biggest negative difference in swing rate, but maybe that’s a different article. Cabrera has swung more with men on; and at bats with men on are more important at bats.

I wanted to dig deeper.

The next step was to break things down by year, to see if there might be a developing trend or a steady pattern. As is often the case, I have to express my gratitude for the existence of Baseball Savant. This table suggests one thing:

Year None On Runner(s) On Difference
2008 47% 54% 8%
2009 47% 55% 7%
2010 44% 54% 10%
2011 45% 52% 6%
2012 46% 53% 6%
2013 50% 52% 2%
As shown in the table, Cabrera increased his swing rate with the bases empty in 2013, and he somewhat lowered his swing rate with runners on. He posted the lowest difference of his recent career, and that’s where I just about stopped digging. But part of me wanted to keep plugging away, and, see, Baseball Savant has this tool that allows you to isolate pitches in and out of the PITCHf/x strike zone. Are you in the mood for some more tables?

Let’s look at the same table as above, but this time, let’s only consider pitches inside the PITCHf/x strike zone:

Year None On Runner(s) On Difference
2008 60% 74% 14%
2009 65% 77% 12%
2010 71% 81% 10%
2011 73% 80% 7%
2012 68% 77% 9%
2013 77% 84% 8%
Each year, with runners on, Cabrera has been considerably more aggressive swinging at strikes. Even last year, despite what was suggested by the first table. So why don’t we look at the same table again, only this time, let’s only consider pitches outside of the PITCHf/x strike zone:

Year None On Runner(s) On Difference
2008 38% 42% 3%
2009 36% 41% 5%
2010 30% 40% 10%
2011 31% 38% 7%
2012 34% 39% 5%
2013 35% 35% 1%
In every season, Cabrera has been more aggressive swinging at balls, too, with runners on. So he’s just swung more often in general, which makes some sense, given that swings with runners on can do more damage than swings with nobody on. But now look at last year. Focus exclusively on last year. With runners on, Cabrera increased his swing rate at strikes by 7.6 percentage points. With runners on, he increased his swing rate at balls by 0.7 percentage points. Cabrera was more aggressive, but in a controlled and disciplined way.

Last season, with nobody on, Cabrera’s Z-Swing%/O-Swing% ratio was about 2.2. That’s right around his recent established average. With runners on, however, his ratio was about 2.4. That’s the best we’ve seen out of him, at least since we started having access to this sort of data. Here’s the short, plain-English explanation: In Miguel Cabrera’s most important at bats last year, he improved his selectivity, swinging at more hittable pitches without also swinging at less hittable pitches.

A potential consequence of that? This might be confusing correlation and causation, but last year, with men on, Cabrera slugged .733, with an isolated slugging percentage of .366 and a wRC+ of 222. All of these were career-best marks, by far. With the bases empty, he was also very good, but he was very good in a typical Miguel Cabrera kind of way. He slugged .549, and put up a 163 wRC+. The difference for Cabrera was plate appearances with men on, and that’s where he demonstrated some never-before-seen disciplined aggressiveness.

What sorts of adjustments might Cabrera have made? Let’s leave behind the runner/no-runner splits. Take a look at this chart, from Brooks Baseball. There are 11 boxes in which — during the PITCHf/x era — Cabrera has slugged at least .500. Two years ago, he swung at 66% of pitches in those boxes. Last year, he swung at 72% of pitches in those boxes. That suggests Cabrera has become more aware of his strengths.

We can also take a different approach. Two years ago, Cabrera swung at 58% of pitches over the middle or more inside. He swung at 37% of pitches over or beyond the outer third. Between 2008 and 2012, those rates were 59% and 38%. Last year, Cabrera swung at 64% of pitches over the middle or more inside and 36% of pitches over or beyond the outer third. Cabrera’s specialty is driving pitches more in than out, and if he has a weakness, it’s making solid contact with pitches away and off the plate. He’s been able to swing at more of the good stuff without also swinging at more of the bad stuff. Two years ago, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown. Last year, Cabrera showed signs of improvement.

They say there isn’t a pitch Cabrera can’t destroy, that he has hands-down the best plate coverage in baseball. That’s probably true. But there are certain pitches he tends to destroy more often than others. Last season, Cabrera swung at more of the pitches that, historically, he’s punished. He didn’t simultaneously increase his swing rate at pitches he has more trouble with. He most showed off his improved eye with runners on base, when he could do the most damage. Cabrera was a nightmare for pitchers before last year, and then he took a step forward.

I don’t know how much of this is sustainable, and I don’t know how Cabrera’s going to be pitched in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what these numbers look like in eight months. But it used to be said that Cabrera had the best eye in baseball. There’s evidence that, last year, it got even better.

Stetson Allie, Pittsburgh Pirates Power-Hitting Prospect.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
By now, the Stetson Allie story is well known. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of a Cleveland-area high school in 2010, the big right-hander had a 100-mph fastball and little idea where it was going. Less than 30 innings into his professional career, his pitching days were over. He became a corner infielder with plus raw power and a lot of swing-and-miss.

Allie’s story remains mostly unwritten. Still just 22 years old, he is coming off a Jekyll-and-Hyde first full season as a position player. In 66 games at low-A West Virginia, he hit a loud .324/.414/.607, with 17 home runs. In the same number of games at high-A Bradenton, he hit .229/.342/.356, with 4 home runs.

There is no doubting Allie’s potential as a hitter. There is even less doubt about his comfort zone. A fish-out-of-water on the mound, he feels right at home in the batter’s box. Allie revisited his work-in-progress transition, including why he struggled as a pitcher, earlier this week.

Allie on his background and maturity level: “I’ve always been blessed to have my dad’s indoor baseball facility where I could take ground balls and hit. He had a facility in Florida and when I moved to Ohio for high school he had one there. So I never had a problem with being from Ohio. I was working out just as much, if not more, than guys growing up down south. I was just doing it inside. My biggest problem was immaturity.

“I was immature on the field and off the field. When I signed, I was a guy who thought he had the world by the balls. I thought I knew some things I didn’t. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve become a lot more mature and a lot more ‘This is my job and this is what I have to do to be ready.’ I realize I need to focus more. Going through those hard times was a good learning experience.”

On failing as a pitcher: “I don’t like people saying . I was young. Where I was at mentally is what messed me up. I feel I could go out on the mound now and be way better, because I’d be mentally in it. I had the talent, it’s just that my values were all off. To try to play this game, at this level, and be immature just doesn’t work.

“As a pitcher I had all this free time and that free time wasn’t good for me. When I switched to being a hitter, it was a new day every day. That really helped me out. I’m a guy who is high energy and hates to sit around. When I sat around, I would do things I shouldn’t be doing. Growing up, I always needed to be doing something.

“When I was younger, I never knew anything about pitching. I think a lot of people don’t understand that. When I was in high school, I just threw hard. I never had pitching lessons or whatnot. I had my dad’s facility, but he has always been a hitting coach. When I’d go to showcases, I was a third baseman and a first baseman, and it was kind of a light-up-the-radar-gun type of deal. In pro ball, that doesn’t work. You have to throw strikes and have good mechanics.

“The most success I’ve had as a pitcher has been as a one-inning guy. I just went up on the mound and was athletic. Instead of thinking about my mechanics, I just threw the ball. That success wasn’t in [State College or West Virginia]. It was when I came back here [to Bradenton for extended spring training in 2012]. I was a one-inning guy staying athletic and just doing my thing. I had success doing that, but for me, and the Pirates, being a hitter is more suited for who I am.”

On his comfort zone: “A big reason I had success as a hitter last year is my work ethic. I wanted to keep hitting. I wanted to hit off the tee, I wanted to hit in the cage, I wanted to take ground balls. I wanted to do extra. As a pitcher, you just throw.

“When I signed, I had more confidence as a hitter. I know my swing, because I’ve hit my whole life. I only pitched my senior year of high school. I know when my swing is on and when it’s off. I know how to critique it and I know who to call. I feel I was always a lot more ahead of the game as a hitter, so when they told me I was going to hit, I ran with it. I’m more comfortable hitting than I ever was pitching.”

On his hitting approach and his future: “I like to keep it simple. My power is to the middle and to right field. I’m not a guy who likes to pull the ball, so I always look middle to middle away. I look for a fastball to drive and adjust to a breaking ball. I’ve found I have the most success when I stick with something easy. The simpler my approach, the better.

“I got away from my approach at times last year. I started trying to pull the ball over the left field fence. I struggled. That’s something I had to learn from. When I stick to my approach, the sky is the limit.

“I think I could [go back to pitching], but I honestly try not to even think about when I was a pitcher. I’m a hitter now and I love it. I literally love hitting.”

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Pirates have one of the strongest systems in baseball. The club boasts both depth and impact talent. What’s also impressive is that fact that the club has impressive prospects both on the mound and in the field. The Pirates have also done a nice job of acquiring talent through both the amateur draft and the international free agent market.

#1 Gregory Polanco | 65/AAA (OF)
21 536 134 30 12 52 73 38 .285 .356 .434 .361
The Year in Review: Polanco entered 2013 with no experience above Low-A ball. Despite that fact, he finished the year in Triple-A. He showed gap power, controlled the strike zone and also nabbed 38 bases in 49 tries. The young outfielder appeared in 44 Dominican Winter League games and produced a .922 OPS.

The Scouting Report: A fast-mover, Polanco is still learning so it’s impressive that he reached Triple-A on the strength of his raw talent. The outfielder has a chance to be an above-average fielder with right field being his most likely destination where he’ll be able to showcase his plus arm. At the plate, he flashes the ability to hit for both average and power but he’s still learning to identify and handle breaking balls. He also has a bit of a long swing at times and needs to focus on taking a shorter route to the ball because he doesn’t need to swing out of his shoes to hit the ball with authority — thanks to his above-average bat speed.

The Year Ahead: It seemed inconceivable a year ago but Polanco may very well make his MLB debut in 2014 at the age of 22. Most likely, though, he’ll spend the majority of the season in Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: Polanco has all the tools necessary to develop into an impact outfielder at the big league level. The development of (or lack thereof) his power tool will help determine if he’ll be more of table-setter or run producer.

#2 Jameson Taillon | 65/AAA (P)
21 27 26 149.1 144 9 8.80 3.19 3.68 3.27
The Year in Review: Taillon opened 2013 back where he ended the ’12 campaign: Double-A. The right-hander produced a solid season at that level with a good ground-ball rate and 106 strikeouts in 110.1 innings. He received a late-season promotion to Triple-A where he was more of a fly-ball pitcher but struck out another 37 batters in 37.0 innings. Taillon made one start in the Arizona Fall League but left due to a minor groin injury.

The Scouting Report: Like Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s numbers haven’t been as eye-popping as one might expected given the pure stuff. However, Pittsburgh’s philosophy of focusing on fastball command, throwing strikes and pitching to contact deviates from the skills that would lead to high strikeout rates. The right-hander has swing-and-miss stuff with a mid-90s fastball that can hit the upper 90s, as well as a curveball that has plus potential. His third pitch is a changeup that he’s still learning to trust. The Texas native has good control for his age.

The Year Ahead: Taillon should be ready to join Cole in the Majors by mid-season and the two hurlers could create a formidable two-headed monster at the top of the Pirates’ rotation for years to come.

The Career Outlook: After a couple more months of Triple-A seasoning, Taillon could be ready to start his big league career en route to a future as a No. 2 or 3 starter.

#3 Tyler Glasnow | 60/A- (P)
19 24 24 111.1 54 9 13.26 4.93 2.18 3.19
The Year in Review: Glasnow joined Gregory Polanco as one of the biggest movers — in terms of prospect value — in the Pirates system in 2013. The young hurler walked 61 batters in 111.1 innings but allowed just 54 hits and struck out 164 batters. He held left-handed hitters to a .137 batting average.

The Scouting Report: This power righty is a less-developed version of Jameson Taillon. He doesn’t have the same control and he doesn’t leverage his height quite as well (to create plane and induce ground-ball outs) but he has a mid-90s fastball that can hit the upper 90s and a potentially-plus curveball. His changeup might actually end up being a little bit better than his teammate’s offering.

The Year Ahead: Glasnow, 20, will move up to High-A ball to open the 2014 season but he may not be there for long. The tall, lanky California native could receive a handful of starts at Double-A in the second half.

The Career Outlook: The right-hander still has a few rungs to climb to reach The Show but he has the talent to develop into a No. 2 starter once he polishes his command/control.

#4 Austin Meadows | 60/SS (OF)
18 211 56 11 7 29 46 3 .316 .424 .554 .458
The Year in Review: The Georgia native was selected ninth overall in the 2013 amateur draft. Just 18, he hit a combined .319 with a .977 OPS in 48 games. He flashed good power with seven home runs but also struck out 46 times. Although he spent most of the year in Rookie ball, he hit .529 in five games in the New York Penn League against competition mostly two to three years older than him.

The Scouting Report: Meadows has the potential to develop into a very good hitter. He shows a willingness to use the whole field and he improved his pitch recognition during his brief pro debut. He’s a little too aggressive at times, which is natural for a young hitter. Meadows doesn’t flash a ton of home run pop right now but he makes hard contact and should hit a ton of doubles while learning to clear the fences more consistently. Defensively, he’s a strong fielder and can currently play a solid centre but his modest range and so-so arm could eventually land him in left field.

The Year Ahead: Meadows will no doubt open the year in Low-A ball and could spend the full season at that level.

The Career Outlook: The young outfielder has a chance to be a special player — especially if the power develops and/or he sticks in center field.

#5 Alen Hanson | 55/AA (SS)
20 645 158 28 9 45 113 36 .271 .324 .413 .336
The Year in Review: Hanson followed up his breakout 2012 season with a modest performance split between High-A and Double-A. In total, he hit .274 with a .755 OPS. He stole 30 bases but was caught 16 times. After the season, he attended the Arizona Fall League and produced on OPS of just .623 in 21 games.

The Scouting Report: Predominantly a shortstop over the past three seasons, Hanson’s inconsistencies and youthful mistakes in the field — along with modest arm strength — will likely force him over to second base — although he could still easy backup any position on the left side of the field. At the plate, he shows surprising pop for his size and whips the bat through the zone with good bat speed. He probably won’t ever hit more than 12-15 home runs but he could provide a lot of extra base hits that stay in the park. Hanson has above-average speed and could nab 20+ bases in a full season.

The Year Ahead: Hanson will return to Double-A where he’ll look to erase memories of his struggles in the latter part of the year. If all goes well, he could see the Majors in September with an eye on a regular gig at some point in 2015.

The Career Outlook: Hanson doesn’t have the same star quality talent that some of the names higher up on the list possess but he should be an average to slightly-above-average big league regular at second base.

#6 Nick Kingham | 55/AA (P)
21 27 25 143.1 125 7 9.04 2.76 2.89 3.00
The Year in Review: Kingham, 22, compiled more than 120.0 innings for the second straight season. While doing that, he also found a way to keep the ball in the yard more consistently and trimmed his home runs allowed from 15 in 2012 to just seven last year. The right-hander struck out 144 batters and walked just 44.

The Scouting Report: The right-hander hurler isn’t in the same class of flame throwers as Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow but he still works in the low to mid 90s with his fastball. He backs it up with a solid curveball and improving changeup. He stands 6-5 but he’s still learning to create plane and work down in the zone consistently. Still, he does a nice job of limiting the home-run ball. Kingham has good control and could possess both above-average control and command as he matures.

The Year Ahead: A strong spring performance might be enough to push Kingham to Triple-A at the beginning of April but more likely than not he’ll return to Double-A for perhaps half a season before moving up. He has to be added to the 40-man roster in November anyway so he might receive a taste of the big leagues in September.

The Career Outlook: Kingham could make a solid mid-rotation starter capable of chewing up innings thanks to his strong, durable frame.

#7 Reese McGuire | 55/R (C/DH)
18 215 62 11 0 16 19 6 .323 .380 .380 .364
The Year in Review: McGuire’s glove was highly-coveted as a draft-eligible prospect in 2013 — and it helped make him a first round draft pick — but he had unexpected success with the bat during his pro debut. Playing in Rookie ball, the young backstop hit .330 and struck out just 18 times in 46 games. He earned a late-season promotion to the New York Penn League where he appeared in five games.

The Scouting Report: As mentioned above, McGuire’s defense is his meal ticket. He calls a strong game, is a natural leader and receives the ball well. He also has a strong arm and isn’t afraid to get dirty and block pitches. At the plate, he showed a better-than-expected approach with above-average contact. He still has room to improve his swing to generate more pop, although he may never be a home run hitter. McGuire needs more experience against good left-handed pitching.

The Year Ahead: McGuire’s early success should allow him open the 2014 season in full-season ball — unless he completely falls apart this spring. Expect him to spent most, if not all, of the year in Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: McGuire plays defense well enough to make the Majors on that alone so any offense, really, is icing on the cake. If the catcher keeps hitting, the Pirates could have something really special.

#8 Josh Bell | 55/A (DH/OF)
20 519 128 37 13 52 90 1 .279 .353 .453 .369
The Year in Review: Signed for a whopping $5 million bonus back in 2011 as a prep outfielder out of Texas, Bell returned to Low-A ball in 2013 after missing almost all of ’12 due to injury. He produced a solid season with an .806 OPS. He did a nice job of getting on base and showed developing power with 12 home runs and 37 doubles.

The Scouting Report: The 21-year-old outfielder is a big kid and has the raw power to eventually hit 20+ home runs in a full season. Right now, though, he showcases more gap power in game situations. He has a strong eye at the plate and shows a willingness to work the count. He’s a switch-hitter who’s a little bit stronger from the left side of the plate. In the field, Bell shows a strong arm but just average range; he should profile OK in right field.

The Year Ahead: Bell will move up to High-A ball but likely will only need half a season of at-bats before moving up to Double-A.

The Career Outlook: The outfield prospect lost some momentum in 2012 due to the injury but he could make up for lost time with a strong season in 2014. He the raw talent to develop into an above-average corner outfielder.

#9 Harold Ramirez | 55/SS (OF)
18 310 78 11 5 23 52 23 .285 .354 .409 .361
The Year in Review: Ramirez opened his 2013 season at the age of 18 and produced solid numbers. He stole 23 bases (but was caught 11 times) and hit .285. He didn’t hit with much power and he tired in the second half of the year.

The Scouting Report: The young outfielder has played a lot of centre field and projects to be at least average at the position. He has very good range but his arm is just fringe-average for the position. If he eventually moves from centre, it will be to left. At the plate, he shows a solid understanding of hitting for his age and should hit for a good average as he moves up the ladder. He doesn’t project to develop into a true power hitter but he flashes solid pop. His speed is above average, which helps him in the field and could also allow him to nab 20+ bases in the Majors if he develops into a future regular.

The Year Ahead: Ramirez may be the next breakout star for the Pirates. Just 19, he’ll open the 2014 season in Low-A ball and will look to continue polishing all aspects of his game.

The Career Outlook: The Colombia native still has a long way to go in his development but he shows flashes of developing into an above-average regular and a strong defender.

#10 Luis Heredia | 55/A (P)
18 14 13 65.0 52 5 7.62 5.12 3.05 4.49
The Year in Review: The 2013 season was more or less a lost year of development for Heredia, who repeated extended spring training for a third straight year after showing up in the spring out of shape. He was assigned to Low-A ball in June where he produced inconsistent results. He struggled with his control against left-handed hitters but he held them to a .207 average (compared to righties at .243).

The Scouting Report: Heredia, still just 19, wasn’t as dynamic in 2013 as he’d been in the past. He lost some zip on his fastball as well as the crispness to his secondary offerings. With that said, the Mexico native still works in the 88-92 mph range with his heater. His changeup has plus potential and his curveball should be average or better. He also throws a slider. His stuff could improve to previous levels with a renewed focus on his conditioning.

The Year Ahead: The 2014 season will be key to Heredia’s future. He needs to learn from his mistakes in 2013, come to spring looking strong (and thinner) and focus on taking his game to the next level over the course of a full season.

The Career Outlook: If Heredia dedicates himself to keeping in shape, he could develop into solid, innings-eating No. 3 or 4 starter.

The Next Five:

11. JaCoby Jones, SS/OF: A college infielder, Jones spent most of his (abbreviated) pro debut learning to play centre field. He’s an athletic, toolsy prospect who never really tapped into his full potential as an amateur. He showed some flash in his debut but appeared in just 15 games. The 21-year-old Louisiana State alum should open the 2014 season in Low-A ball and is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

12. Barrett Barnes, OF: The Pirates organization is loaded with intriguing outfield prospects. A supplemental first round draft pick out of Texas Tech in 2012, Barnes appeared in just 46 games due to a litany of injuries, mostly involving his legs. He still has intriguing tools but has to find a way to stay on the field in 2014 to further his development.

13. Wyatt Mathisen, C: A 2012 first round pick, Mathisen’s bat (considered his carrying tool) was slow out of the gate in 2013 at Low-A ball and it earned him a trip back to short-season ball. The Texas native is an intriguing prospect as an offensive-minded catcher but he needs to continue to develop behind the plate if he’s going to catch in the big leagues.

14. Clay Holmes, RHP: The 6-5, 230 pound Holmes made 25 starts in 2013 at the Low-A ball level but he may be miscast as a starter. He has a heavy (ground-ball-inducing) fastball, moderate control and modest secondary stuff. The right-handed pitcher could be more valuable as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever. The Alabama native will move up to High-A ball in 2014 where he’ll look to speed up his development.

15. Jaff Decker, 1B: Acquired from San Diego in late 2013, a change in scenery may due wonders for the prospect as he enters his seventh pro season. Decker, 24, doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he should have value as a solid left-handed bat off the bench or platoon first baseman. He produces high on-base percentages due to a strong eye at the plate but, at times, he’s too passive for his own good.
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Players, teams in need of strong springs.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Eduardo Perez spoke on the podcast Thursday about how his perspective on spring training changed after Tino Martinez joined the Cardinals in 2002. The numbers don’t count, the wins and losses evaporate once the regular-season starts, but what Perez took away from his time with Martinez was the importance of competing and striving to succeed in every opportunity, regardless of whether any of the results appear in a record book.

Any time you hear that spring training is meaningless, remember that hundreds and hundreds of decisions are being made based on what happens in Florida and Arizona over the next four weeks. Scouts are filling the seats behind home plate and jotting down observations as they prepare for possible acquisitions. Team staffers meet regularly to talk about who looks good and who doesn't. A fringe major leaguer who has a great spring can push his way into the conversation about who makes the team, and a fringe major leaguer who looks awful can find himself in the minor league camp by the middle of March.

New pitches and new swings are tried, and often they’re ditched; sometimes they’re not. Trevor Hoffman discovered his Hall of Fame changeup in a spring training game.

For some players and teams, spring training results could be especially important this year -- not because of the numbers, of course, but because of the direction they indicate. Here are some folks who could use a good spring:

Ryan Howard

Jayson Stark wrote a piece about how Howard is fully aware of the conversation about him possibly sitting against left-handed pitchers, and he’s not thrilled about it.

Think of Ryne Sandberg in this way: He’s like the auditor who has dropped in to evaluate the performance of the company, unconcerned about history or past varsity letters or awards. His approach has been to identify problem areas and then address them, and the fact is that the Phillies have a right-handed hitting alternative to Howard in Darin Ruf, and Howard is now 34 years old -- not 24. It would be reasonable for Sandberg to decide that some of Howard's troubles against left-handed pitchers are age-related, and to look for other ways to make the Phillies better.

It'll be important, then, for Howard to change the perception of what he can do against lefties -- and do it sooner, rather than later.

Billy Hamilton

You can make a strong case that no young player is under greater pressure than Hamilton right now, given all that he means to the Reds' lineup and offense. He is replacing Shin-Soo Choo at the top of their batting order at a time when evaluators still wonder if Hamilton can be effective hitting from the left side of the plate. Oh, sure, there are young players breaking in all over the place this spring, but Hamilton is not only trying to establish himself in the big leagues, but also bat first in the lineup for a playoff team that has high expectations coming into the season.

If Hamilton hits well this spring, it won't count … but it'll go a long way toward easing some of the concern about him. If he struggles, well, the pressure on him will only increase, perhaps from the inside.

Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton

They were awful last season for the Braves, struggling so badly that both were benched at various times down the stretch. But hitting coach Greg Walker said Wednesday that he is greatly encouraged by the adjustments both have made during the offseason. Uggla has worked to get his legs back under his swing, to keep his weight back and his head from moving so much. Upton also has worked on staying back, and driving down and through the ball.

Success in March for Uggla and Upton will reward them for the alterations, and reinforce the work they’ve done on the mechanics. Repeated failure, on the other hand, has the potential for spinning them off in a tough mental cycle, given what happened last summer.

Texas starting pitchers besides Yu Darvish and Martin Perez

The Rangers are hurting, having lost Derek Holland for a good chunk of 2014 to his knee injury, and Matt Harrison had some back pain early in camp. Maybe Harrison will be OK, and maybe Colby Lewis can bounce back. Maybe Tommy Hanson surprises.

The Rangers need progress among their rotation candidates this month, regardless of who it is. They need positive solutions.

Lewis recently had a good day. The sense of urgency is higher for the Rangers, writes Evan Grant.

Trevor Bauer

He was once the third player taken in the draft, and was an important piece acquired by the Cleveland Indians. And while his struggles make that seem like ancient history, remember, he just turned 23 last month. Bauer has been remaking his mechanics, and while he probably is headed back to the minor leagues, he could probably use a few zeros on the scoreboard to provide some peace of mind that he's moving in the right direction.

He still needs a lot of work, writes Terry Pluto.

Jose Abreu

He is the most important player on the White Sox other than Chris Sale, given the $68 million the team invested in him during the winter, and everything you hear about him is great, so far: the power, the work ethic, the intensity, the collegiality.

But just keep in mind that he is being asked to climb onto the highest caliber of baseball he’s ever played, and 2014 could be all about adjustments, with some significant struggles. Abreu is said to be really serious about his work, and he certainly understands his importance to the franchise. Some March extra-base hits could relieve some internal strain for a player new to the culture, as well as for the team.

Toronto Blue Jays

They were a deep disappointment in 2013, and beyond the addition of catcher Dioner Navarro, there hasn’t been a lot of winter change to the roster. Mostly, it’s the same group, brought back in the hope that Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and others can stay healthy. Nothing can really be won in March, but it will be important that the Jays at least play well -- and in particular, pitch well -- to help convince them that they can catch up to the other four teams in the AL East.

Around the league

• Joe Maddon sees value in spring training, as Marc Topkin writes.

• Zack Greinke made an early exit, and as Mark Saxon writes, it seems unlikely he will pitch in Australia.

"We'll see," Greinke said.

At some point soon, the Dodgers figure to announce that Clayton Kershaw will not pitch in Australia.

• More from the podcast: Jayson Stark had some interesting thoughts on the Mike Trout negotiations and what the length of the deal could signal about his future.

• Justin Masterson is optimistic about a multiyear deal with the Indians.

• Ryan Braun clubbed a monster home run in his first at-bat.

• Cliff Lee has plenty left in the tank, writes Bob Brookover.

• Neil Walker has no plans to change from switch-hitting this year.

Dings and dents

1. The Diamondbacks are using caution in the return of Cody Ross.

2. Mike Adams threw off a mound.

3. Shane Victorino says he’ll be ready when it counts, writes Gordon Edes.

4. Gerald Laird had some back spasms.

5. There are no major issues with Jon Niese’s shoulder.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates were thinking about Plan B when they claimed a third baseman on waivers.

2. Travis Sawchik writes about what a lifetime deal for Andrew McCutchen would cost.

3. The Mets need Noah Syndergaard, writes John Harper.

4. Edwin Encarnacion says he's fine playing first base.

5. Carl Pavano retired.

6. Darwin Barney is not surprised that he might be traded. When I saw the rumors about the Yankees perhaps looking at Barney, my first instinct was that Barney isn't really the Yankees' type of player, given his offensive numbers; they like hitters who get on base at a higher clip -- Barney had a .266 OBP last season -- and work the count. On the other hand, former Cubs GM Jim Hendry works for the Yankees, and knows Barney as well as anyone.

Thursday’s games

1. The Rockies' Jon Gray worked through some butterflies.

2. Derek Jeter returned to game action.

3. David Phelps had a nice outing.

4. Grady Sizemore was back on the field.

5. Kris Medlen kept Miguel Cabrera in the ballpark.

6. Jose Bautista is swinging a hot bat.

7. Rick Porcello is looking to take a step forward this spring.

8. Danny Duffy wasn’t very efficient.

The fight for jobs

1. The competition at first base for the Mets is unusual, writes Tim Rohan.

2. The Rays have limited competition.

3. Here are five Toronto jobs up for grabs, from Brendan Kennedy.

4. Chris Heisey is vying for another opportunity.

AL West

• New Oakland closer Jim Johnson has the right stuff, writes Susan Slusser.

• Stephen Vogt will be a welcome sight behind home plate, writes John Hickey.

• An Astros hitter is working on getting more lift.

• A Rangers pitcher suffered from the yips last season.

AL Central

• Phil Hughes will rely on his curveball, writes La Velle Neal.

• The Tigers have better speed and defense, writes Lynn Henning.

• Jose Quintana is likable, and bankable.

AL East

• The Yankees need a memorable farewell tour from Derek Jeter, writes Ken Davidoff.

• Nelson Cruz wants to be in the fire right away.

• Henry Owens may be Boston's best young arm, writes Steve Buckley.

NL West

• Martin Prado seeks offensive consistency.

• Justin Morneau is fielding praise, writes Patrick Saunders.

• Cameron Maybin is getting his feet under him.

NL Central

• Charlie Morton is savoring his new status with the Pirates.

• The Cubs are aiming to win soon, writes Tyler Kepner.

• Jeff Samardzija has a nice big chip on his shoulder.

• Carlos Martinez brings a wow factor, writes Derrick Goold.

NL East

• The Nationals are ready to learn, writes Thomas Boswell.

• Derek Dietrich is looking for a different kind of camp, writes Manny Navarro.

• Carlos Marmol is looking for a better mix.

Ranking strength of early NL schedules.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. Chicago Cubs

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 31 of first 40.
Home/away: 18 of their first 40 are at home.
Notables: The Cubs basically get to run an NL Central gauntlet in the first quarter of the season, with 21 of their first 40 games against the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. Not easy; it never is.

2. San Francisco Giants

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 29 of first 41.
Home/road: 18 of first 41 are at home.
Notables: Bruce Bochy's group will be trying to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season, and the tests will come early and often -- 10 straight games to open the season against the D-backs and Dodgers. At the outset of May, the Giants will face, in order, the Braves, Dodgers, Pirates and Braves. After playing L.A. on May 11, the Giants won't see L.A. again until July 25.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 32 of first 41.
Home/road: 24 of first 41 games are at home.
Notables: The Brewers' schedule reminds me of the Pirates' schedule early last year -- if they can somehow grind through the first quarter of the season playing close to .500 ball, this could launch them to a good season. Crazily, they play the Braves, Red Sox, Yankees and D-backs by May 11, as well as 20 games against the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds.

4. New York Mets

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 23 of first 41.
Home/road: 21 of first 41 are at home.
Notables: If you're looking for a candidate to stumble from the start, consider what they have to deal with when the opening gun sounds -- 19 of their first 22 will be against teams that were .500 or better last year. The Mets play four of the six series they have against the Braves before the All-Star break.

5. St. Louis Cardinals

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 22 of first 42.
Home/road: 16 of their first 42 are at home.
Notables: The Cardinals will spend a whole lot of time on the road in the first quarter of the season, opening with six games on the road -- at Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh -- and they have an 11-game road trip that runs April 14-24. It'll be a grind early for Mike Matheny's group.

6. Colorado Rockies

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 18 of first 42.
Home/road: 18 of their first 42 are at home.
Notables: The good news is that the schedule would appear to give Colorado a good chance to get out of the gate quickly this season -- only three of the Rockies' first 23 games are against teams that finished at .500 or better last year. Here's the bad: The Rockies play a staggering 40 games in the first 42 days of their regular season, which is usually a time when teams settle in and use the off days to aid their rotation.

7. San Diego Padres
Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 22 of first 41.
Home/road: 23 of first 41 will be at home.
Notables: The Padres open the season with three games at home against the Dodgers -- including the first game played in North America in the regular season March 30, on Sunday Night Baseball -- and then they won't see the Dodgers until June 20. Oddly, they have six games against the Indians and Tigers back-to-back in early April.

8. Cincinnati Reds

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 21 of first 40.
Home/away: 22 of first 40 are at home.
Notables: They go mano-a-mano with the Cardinals and Pirates early, with 13 games against those two teams by April 24. In fact, the Reds will play four of their six series against Pittsburgh by the All-Star break.

9. Washington Nationals

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 19 of first 40 games.
Home/road: 20 of their first 40 games are at home.
Notables: The Nationals will not leave the Eastern time zone until April 29, when they begin a two-game series in Houston. This will be something of a theme for the Nats, who appear to have very manageable travel all year -- two West Coast swings in the first half, two in the second half.

10. Miami Marlins

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 18 of first 41.
Home/road: 22 of their first 41 are at home.
Notables: Players generally like to settle in a little bit, and the Marlins really have a perfect schedule for that -- seven home games to start the season, and in late April, a nine-game homestand. Meanwhile, every road trip they make before May 7 is in the Eastern time zone, making for a highly livable schedule.

11. Pittsburgh Pirates

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 17 of first 40.
Home/road: 23 of their first 40 are at home.
Notables: The Pirates will get their fill of the Cardinals early on, with three series against St. Louis by May 11. Check this out -- Pittsburgh plays the Cardinals and Reds 26 times before the All-Star break, just 13 times after.

12. Philadelphia Phillies

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 17 of first 40.
Home/road: 19 of first 40 games are at home.
Notables: On the face of it, the Phillies would appear to have an early opportunity, because they don't see the NL Central powers until mid-May, and have only seven games against Atlanta and Washington among those first 40. This could help Philadelphia start quickly.

13. Los Angeles Dodgers

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 13 of first 42.
Home/road: 22 of first 42 are at home.
Notables: As Zack Greinke knows all too well, the Dodgers open in Australia and so there's no telling what the impact of that trip will be, with jet lag, etc. But once they get past that ... well, they have a relatively soft opening, with only one series against a power from the NL Central or East (Washington) before May 26.

14. Arizona Diamondbacks

Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 11 of first 43 games.
Home/away: 21 of first 43 (including the two games in Australia, for which they will be the home team).
Notables: Yes, they have to go a long way for their first two games. But Hawk Harrelson might look at the Arizona's early-season schedule and say the D-backs are picked to click. They don't face any of the NL Central powers early, and will mostly square off against teams that struggled last season. Including the two-game set in Australia, the Diamondbacks will have played four series (11 games) against the Dodgers by May 18.

15. Atlanta Braves
Games vs. teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 12 of first 40.
Home/away: 21 of first 40 are at home.
Notables: Last season, the Braves traveled a ton in the first half of the season, making early trips to the West Coast. This year, Atlanta doesn't have its first West Coast swing until mid-May -- the Braves play in only the Eastern and Central time zones through May 11 -- before making a three-game swing through San Francisco.

Around the league

• Bobby Wilson, whose career was altered by a plate collision, thinks the new rules are a good idea. The Giants gave the rules a thumbs up.

Brad Ausmus says the new rules won't affect catchers much. Jarrod Dyson thinks the catchers benefit. From Blair Kerkhoff's story:
At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, outfielder Jarrod Dyson, the Royals' fastest player, probably wouldn't win many collisions. But he said the catcher is the beneficiary.

"They're not doing this for the runner," Dyson said. "Man, all I'm trying to do is get there safe and sound. And most times when I take off, I feel like I'm going to get there. If a catcher blocks the plate without the ball, it should be counted as a run."

Marc Topkin had this from Rays' camp:
[Catcher Ryan] Hanigan said he, too, may have to make a small change -- he tends to stick his leg out to block the plate ahead of the throw -- but also doesn't see major adjustments needed. Plus he said he may feel more comfortable blocking the plate knowing he can't, at least legally, be run over.

"I've been doing it one way for so long, it's going to be tough to try to do anything different," he said.

[Joe] Maddon also will provide direction to the baserunners, who he feels may be more at risk of injury trying to avoid potentially illegal collisions. OF Matt Joyce was among those who see it the same way: "I think the runners are more vulnerable."

There really is no downside for catchers to attempt to block the plate if they believe the play is going to be close, because the worst that can happen for them is that the umpire rules the run counts. But if the catcher moves late and drops down on the runner -- all armored up, and without fear of being blasted himself -- there will be increased risk for the guy taking the shot from the catcher.

As I wrote here Tuesday, I think they've shifted the potential for harm too much from the catchers to the baserunners, rather than clean up the play for both. We had a lot of feedback from players on Tuesday's podcast, with distinct opinions, in particular, from catcher Gerald Laird and third baseman Chris Johnson.

The Dodgers had mixed reactions.

• Johan Santana was clocked at 81 mph in his workout for scouts Tuesday.

• There is no young, unproven player under greater pressure to perform than Billy Hamilton, and he leads off Wednesday.

• Tuesday was a rough day for the Angels: C.J. Wilson got whacked on the head with a line drive. Meanwhile, Josh Hamilton has a calf strain and is moving around on crutches.

Dings and dents

1. Jhoulys Chacin has no structural damage, the Rockies announced.

2. Matt Kemp will have his ankle examined Friday.

3. Jason Motte doubts he'll be ready for Opening Day.

4. Trevor Rosenthal is dealing with a leg issue, Derrick Goold writes.

5. Steve Cishek is transferring pain.

6. There is some progress in Colby Lewis, but Gil LeBreton is right: Let's wait and see.

7. Red flags continue to hang over the Phillies' Miguel Gonzalez.

8. Something is holding back Shane Victorino.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Ryan Zimmerman worked out at first base for the first time.

2. Kris Medlen could be in line to start the Braves' first game.

3. Yu Darvish is getting the ball on Opening Day.

4. Dan Duquette's patience paid off in the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, writes Peter Schmuck.

5. Masahiro Tanaka will get the ball Saturday.

6. The Yankees can use their surplus of catchers to address other needs, writes George King.

The fight for jobs

1. The Brewers have some veterans trying to win their first-base job.

2. Tommy Hunter says he'll be himself if he wins the Orioles' closer job.

Tuesday's games

1. Brad Ausmus was impressed with the Tigers' baserunning. The Tigers' hitters showed some promise.

2. A Heisman winner played the Yankees.

NL West

• Drew Stubbs doesn't want to come off the bench for the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

• Chone Figgins is back and might catch on with the Dodgers, writes Bill Dwyre.

• Will Venable is hoping to continue a career breakout this year, writes Corey Brock.

NL Central

• Zack Cozart hopes to pick up where he left off last year.

• The Cubs are eager to start playing some games.

• The Pirates are set to test replay rules.

• A Pittsburgh prospect is working hard to refine his game.

NL East

• The Mets have two promising catchers, writes Tim Rohan.

AL East

• Erik Bedard has come a long way as a pitcher.

• The Red Sox see a lot in Xander Bogaerts.

• Jackie Bradley Jr. is out to prove doubters wrong, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

• The Yankees are taking a risk with their infield, writes Bob Klapisch.

AL Central

• Jim Leyland was at Tigers' camp, but wants to stay out of the way.

• Danny Valencia insists he can hit right-handers, as well as left-handers.

• Nick Swisher's spring debut is being delayed.

• Young players have injected life into the White Sox's camp.

• Adam Eaton had no idea he annoyed people in the Arizona clubhouse, writes Daryl Van Schouwen.

• Brian Dozier wants to stay with the Twins forever, writes Mike Berardino.

• Aaron Hicks is going back to basics, as he tries to rebound in 2014, writes La Velle Neal.

AL West

• Prince Fielder prides himself as an everyday man, writes Drew Davison.

• John Jaso is returning to catching Wednesday.

• Lloyd McClendon is setting a tone in Mariners' camp.

• The Astros are scouting for the No. 1 pick.

Ranking strength of early AL schedules.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Cleveland Indians were 51-44 at the All-Star break, and when they lost four of their first five games in the second half, it was unclear whether they would remain in contention.

But here’s the thing: The Indians had what appeared to be on paper one of the easiest schedules in the second half, with relatively few games against teams with records over .500 -- and they feasted and made the postseason.

As I’ve written here before, managers and players really don’t care about strength of schedule, but a lot of front offices consider it as they assess their own teams. This is particularly true in the first part of the season, as expectations take shape.

Here is the American League strength of schedule rankings for the first chunk of the season, from toughest to easiest.

1. Minnesota Twins

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 31 of their first 40.
Home/road: 18 of their first 40 are at home.
Notable: My son plays a video game called "Injustice," and I think that lineup of villains is easier than what the Twins will face early in the year. They start out the season with six road games, and then beginning April 18, the Twins will play 25 straight games -- count 'em, 25 -- against teams that either made the playoffs or contended, including the Red Sox, Tigers, Rays and Dodgers. The Twins' new pitching will be tested early.

2. Chicago White Sox

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 32 of their first 42.
Home/road: 21 of their first 42 are at home.
Notable: The White Sox spent the winter upgrading their roster, and that's a good thing because they will step into an early-season meat grinder. Chicago has 16 April games against teams that made the playoffs last year -- Detroit, Tampa Bay, Boston and Cleveland. And the White Sox should get their parkas ready, because they won't see a warm-weather site until April 18.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 28 of their first 39.
Home/road: 20 of their first 39 are at home.
Notable: The Rays will play four series against the Orioles before the All-Star break; in June, they could have something of a respite, with a total of 11 games against the Marlins and Astros.

4. Seattle Mariners

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 27 of their first 41.
Home/road: 18 of their first 41 are at home.
Notable: No team may have more at stake early in the season, given the Mariners' winter Robinson Cano makeover, and they will have their feet to the AL West fire right away. Their first 16 games are against the A's, Angels and Rangers, including seven road games at the outset. Only 11 of the Mariners' first 34 games are at home, and Seattle plays 10 of its 19 games against Oakland by May 7.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 27 of their first 39.
Home/road: 20 of their first 39 are at home.
Notable: This is life in the AL East -- the Orioles play four of their first six series of the season against the Red Sox (two), Rays and Yankees. Plus a three-game set at Detroit starting April 4. Welcome to the 2014 season. The Orioles will get a three-game home set against Houston in early May.

6. Houston Astros

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 28 of their first 41.
Home/road: 22 of their first 41 are at home.
Notable: In the first quarter of the season, some of their out-of-division games include the Yankees, Royals, Tigers, Nationals and Orioles. Not easy.

7. Boston Red Sox

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 28 of their first 37.
Home/road: 21 of their first 37 games are at home.
Notable: Boston will have a nice stretch of games in Fenway, starting April 18 -- 15 of 18 games will be at home, including the weekend games against the Orioles leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21.

8. Toronto Blue Jays

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 25 of their first 42 games.
Home/road: 21 of their first 42 are at home.
Notable: The Jays have only one series against the Yankees before June 17, and a total of nine games against Boston and New York among their first 70 games. (And then, 29 of their final 92 games.)

9. Los Angeles Angels

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 21 of their first 39.
Home/road: 18 of their first 39 are at home.
Notable: From April 14 onward, the Angels will play 21 straight games against teams that had records over .500 last year. On the other hand, consider the Angels’ schedule out of the gate -- 12 games against the Mariners, Astros and Mets.

10. Texas Rangers

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 15 of their first 41.
Home/away: 21 of their first 41 games are at home.
Notable: The Rangers have had a lot of injury issues with their rotation, and maybe their early-season schedule will help buy them some time as they get their injured starters back in line. Thirteen of their first 41 games are against the Astros and Mariners, who could be among the weaker teams in the league, and they have a nice 10-game homestand in the middle of April as they get settled in.

11. Oakland Athletics

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 15 of their first 41 games.
Home/away: 22 of their first 41 games will be at home.
Notable: The Athletics won the AL West each of the past two seasons, and on paper, it would appear that they have a shot to get off to a nice April -- Oakland plays only nine games in the first month against teams that had winning records last season. On top of that, the Athletics play a total of three games against AL East teams before May 20. Throw a preponderance of home games on top of that, and Oakland could be out of the gate quickly.

12. New York Yankees

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 17 of their first 41.
Home/road: 20 of their first 41 are at home.
Notable: The Yankees appear to have the sort of schedule that could help them get off to a good start. They don't play any of the AL Central leaders from last season in the first quarter of the season, and from May 5 to June 16, the Yankees don't play a single game against an AL East opponent.

13. Cleveland Indians

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 13 of the first 42.
Home/road: 20 of their first 42 are at home.
Notable: There's some good and bad. Just as in the second half last season, they will play a relatively soft schedule. But the Indians have very little time off early in the season -- only two days off in the first 31, and they play every day for the last 16 days of April, which is unusual. The biggest question about Cleveland is its rotation depth, and this could be tested early, especially if weather complicates an already packed schedule.

14. Kansas City Royals

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 16 of their first 40.
Home/road: 17 of their first 40 are at home.
Notable: The Royals do have a stretch of a whole lot of road games -- from April 11 to April 27, they will play a total of three home games. There is this, too: They play 13 games against Detroit in the first half of the season, and won’t see the Tigers for a span of about two months, from mid-July to mid-September.

15. Detroit Tigers

Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 14 of their first 36.
Home/road: 23 of their first 36 games are at home.
Notable: They have the sort of schedule you wish for -- after opening with six home games, they play their next five in Southern California (remember, this is early April) against the Dodgers and Padres, before returning home for a 10-game stand against the Indians, Angels and White Sox. They have a ton of early-season home games, which might not be great for ticket sales but could be good for launching the 2014 Tigers.

On Wednesday, we'll rank the early NL schedules.

Around the league

• From the Carlos Santana injury in 2010 to the Buster Posey injury to 2011 to the Brian Jeroloman injury in Double-A last summer, the momentum has been building toward the rule change that was officially adopted Monday. It was an important step, but you do wonder if within the gray area that remains within the written rules there will be heightened risk for baserunners, particularly.

The principles adopted at the amateur levels are clear: The runner cannot target the catcher -- rather, he must slide -- and, at the same time, he is guaranteed access to home plate.

But the players' association, concerned about how quickly these rules could be implemented and how soon players could be retrained in their instincts, held firm in allowing catchers to block the plate when they have the ball. Which means that baserunners don’t have guaranteed access to the plate and that catchers will continue to block the plate when they can.

They should've taken the last step, as every other level of baseball has, and specifically barred catchers from blocking the plate.

Yes, they're protecting catchers with the new rule, and unquestionably the catchers need the protection the most because they have tended to be prone targets. But now it’s the runners who could be at a serious and dangerous disadvantage on the plays at the plate.

The whole issue of retraining catchers, in my opinion, is overstated. For a veteran catchers such as Henry Blanco and David Ross, yes, they've been blocking the plate for 20 years. But a significant portion of catchers were raised under the no-block rules in amateur baseball, and so the roots of reform are there.

Now, given how the rule is written, catchers will essentially be permitted to do what they have done for years: move to block the plate. And in a swift, reflexive play, catchers are not going to wait to secure the ball before then dropping into the path of the baserunner; as elite athletes, they're going to try to do it simultaneously. And runners are going to get crushed, whether the catchers actually possess the ball or not.

As this conversation has played out in recent years, I've heard from many baserunners and managers and executives over what they consider a play as dirty and dangerous as launching into a catcher: the late foot-drop by catchers.

What occurs is the catcher plays possum next to home plate, and then at the last moment, as he receives the ball, he drops his foot in front of the base like a telephone phone. The target of a sliding runner suddenly disappears, and he mashes against a fully armored catcher. Jason Varitek was renowned for doing this (to be clear, nobody called Varitek a dirty player; they just didn’t like the tactic, which worked for Varitek repeatedly, like in the playoffs a decade ago against Eric Byrnes.

Under the revised home plate rules, this sort of play appears to be permissible -- and now that catchers are indemnified from being targeted, they could be fully emboldened to attempt to block the plate more often. Under the new rules, the catchers really have nothing to lose in blocking the plate. If they try to ward off the runner and the umpire rules they didn’t have possession of the ball and the run counts ... well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The pendulum could swing back against baserunners, heavily. The risk for catcher concussions may well be reduced, but now runners could be in greater peril. The bet here is that this rule will be rewritten again within a year.

• The Cardinals will take that last step on their own and teach their catchers to not block the plate, writes Derrick Goold.

• Matt Wieters likes the new rule.

• The Dodgers may not start Clayton Kershaw in Sydney.

• Paul Goldschmidt used a new approach last season to stay calm in the clutch, writes Nick Piecoro.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
The Angels are currently working to sign Mike Trout to a long-term deal.
• One more thing about the Mike Trout negotiations, and why it could be better to go for the largest possible payday now rather than take a six-year deal and count on free agency when he’s 28 years old: There’s no possible way to predict how forces will change the baseball landscape.

Alex Rodriguez agreed to his $252 million deal after the 2000 season -- and it would be more than a decade before any other player got a $200 million deal. Baseball’s economy rippled from the effects of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, and it wasn’t until the new labor deal was negotiated in 2011 that Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto joined the $200 million club. Yes, the sport has been flush with money in recent years as teams make huge television deals -- but is that necessarily going to continue? Is it a sure thing that labor peace will be maintained, in the face of growing unrest among some of the smaller-market teams?

It's an interesting puzzle.

• The Trout extension won’t have to wait, writes Alden Gonzalez.

• Ike Davis made excuses, and then made himself look worse, writes John Harper.

• Rangers manager Ron Washington got an extension, but not a long-term investment, as Evan Grant writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Mets still are not happy with Ruben Tejada's condition, writes Kevin Kernan.

2. The Rockies' rotation is something of a riddle in the aftermath of the Jhoulys Chacin injury. Meanwhile, the Jeff Samardzija trade rumors won’t go away, writes Gordon Wittenmyer. You wonder if the Rockies and Cubs could find some common ground.

3. Jason Kipnis is ready to listen if the Indians want to talk contract.

4. The Pirates claimed a third baseman on waivers.

5. The Orioles initiated dialogue with J.J. Hardy about a new contract.

6. The O's will have a news conference for Nelson Cruz Tuesday.

Dings and dents

1. A batting practice session felt normal to Justin Verlander.

2. Jonathan Broxton may be ready for Opening Day.

3. Aramis Ramirez is aiming for health.

4. Ryan Mattheus had a chest MRI.

5. Mike Minor is a little behind in the Braves' camp.

The fight for jobs

1. Some contenders for the fifth spot in the Royals' rotation pitched.

2. The Phillies' job battles are underway.

3. Brad Lincoln seeks a role in the Phillies bullpen.

NL West

• The new Rockies hitting coach is fired up about baseball, writes Patrick Saunders.

• Buster Posey will not play the exhibition opener for the Giants.

• Yonder Alonso is eager to make up for lost time.

NL Central

• The Cardinals have another Rasmus in camp.

NL East

• The Marlins have a promising youngster in camp.

• David O’Brien asks: Will the Braves' $280 million in investments pay off?

AL East

• The Yankees' starting pitchers impress Joe Girardi.

• A Red Sox prospect is making a name for himself, writes Tim Britton.

• The Blue Jays are getting ready for their spring debut.

• It's time for the Jays to move on from Dunedin, writes Richard Griffin.

• Joe Maddon is still sorting through some of the details of instant replay.

AL Central

• Aaron Hicks had the meeting of a lifetime, writes Mike Berardino.

• Mike Ilitch is still chasing that elusive World Series ring.

• Joe Nathan is ready to be nasty for the Tigers, writes Lynn Henning.

• Corey Kluber believes in himself.

• The Twins have sizable expectations for a big prospect.

AL West

• Sean Doolittle has added some off-speed pitches, writes Susan Slusser.

• Logan Morrison is ready to hit or tweet for the Mariners.

• Corey Hart is ready to play daily, but is realistic.

• An Astros shortstop is aggressive by nature, writes Evan Drellich.

• J.P. Arencibia's fiancée is a singer.
post #20087 of 73540
My dude about to have a huge year:



post #20088 of 73540

Does anyone get spring training games on their CSP?  I get 2 KC games and get 22 Cardinals spring training games.  :|




post #20089 of 73540
I'm in 4 markets and I don't think any of em broadcast games like that...don't really care tho...I'll just watch what's on mlb network
post #20090 of 73540
MLB network plays spring training games all day long. Thank god baseball is here.
post #20091 of 73540

I know but I have very little interest in those. I want to see how my team is doing during spring training.




post #20092 of 73540
Originally Posted by FinallyFamous View Post

My dude about to have a huge year:


we heard that last year too and he failed to meet expectations.
post #20093 of 73540
Originally Posted by venom lyrix View Post

we heard that last year too and he failed to meet expectations.

we'l see.


post #20094 of 73540
Thread Starter 
Sucks to hear about Sano, out for the year mean.gif Minny can't catch a break lately.
post #20095 of 73540

They were about a year off anyway, but he could've used some of the big leauge experience he was sure to get this year. Dammit.
post #20096 of 73540

I don't understand the timing of this at all. Smh.
post #20097 of 73540
Dodgers x Brewers

post #20098 of 73540
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

I don't understand the timing of this at all. Smh.

The pain had subsided to being nonexistent and then I guess all it took was an off balance throw to feel that twinge and the discomfort was back. Got it checked out and now Tommy John.
post #20099 of 73540
Originally Posted by AlBooBoo5 View Post

I know but I have very little interest in those. I want to see how my team is doing during spring training.

hopefully yall finally get it all together and make the playoffs......I've been wanting to see KC do well the past 3-4 years
post #20100 of 73540

May is what screwed us otherwise we had a really good shot.  We lost just about every game that month. 




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