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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 673

post #20161 of 73580
Marlins going to have a surprise World Series run this year? nerd.gif
post #20162 of 73580
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

I feel Ervin Santana's completes his deal this weekend. 4/$50M to Jays or Mariners.


Thought he'd get a deal done soon but Ken Rosenthal is saying he's considering changing agents. I take it as he's frustrated having to wait around and he's not getting the offers that he wants or none at all. 

post #20163 of 73580
The draft pick compensation is ridiculous, not fair to the players at all.
post #20164 of 73580

Can someone explain what the money part is that goes along with the qualifying offer/draft compensation? From watching different shows and reading different articles they say that its not really the losing of a draft pick that scares off teams but its the pool money that they lose that scares them off. How are they losing money?

post #20165 of 73580
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post

Can someone explain what the money part is that goes along with the qualifying offer/draft compensation? From watching different shows and reading different articles they say that its not really the losing of a draft pick that scares off teams but its the pool money that they lose that scares them off. How are they losing money?

I'm assuming since you lose you a pick, you lose the suggested slot value for that pick. Not 100 percent sure, but that would be my logical answer.

Every team now has an aloted amount they can spend on players taken in the first 10 rounds, if I'm not mistaken.
post #20166 of 73580
Thread Starter 
I doubt Ervin signs a multi year deal now. He's gonna take a one year deal and go into FA again next year w/o the pick hanging over him.
post #20167 of 73580
Thread Starter 
Five potential roster disasters.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While all teams will officially stand at 0-0 when the season starts, what happens in March has a great deal of importance. Those decisions made during the spring have real consequences that will have an effect on the games that count.

If you've ever seen "Return of the Jedi" -- or at least have been on the Internet for more than a day or two -- you're probably familiar with Admiral Ackbar shouting "It's a trap!" Well, baseball teams have their own spring training traps to avoid as well, even if they don't typically involve Imperial TIE fighters firing on the 25-man roster.

Here are five roster/lineup pitfalls that certain clubs must avoid between now and Opening Day.

New York Mets: Avoid the retreads
Despite the Mets' financial problems in recent years -- not to mention five consecutive losing seasons -- there's a lot to like about them right now. No, they're not likely to cause headaches for the Nationals or Braves, but they're a team that has an excellent farm system with a number of really interesting young players already at the MLB level.

Unfortunately, the Mets seem content to focus on veterans or career role players rather than seeing what some of these young players can do. Juan Lagares was one of the most valuable defensive players in baseball, yet they've shown little interest in playing him full-time in 2014.

Lagares wasn't exactly an offensive force last year, with an 80 OPS+, but the Mets not only don't seem to mind giving every opportunity to Eric Young (career OPS+ of 76), but actually seem inclined to stick him at leadoff. If your decision-making process involves giving Young the most at-bats of anybody on the team in each game he plays, you might need to develop a new one.

The shortstop situation isn't much better. Yes, Ruben Tejada was disappointing and injured in 2013, but he's also just 24 and was a league-average shortstop at ages 21 and 22. The Mets' public pronouncements that he's their guy stem only from the fact that Stephen Drew turned down their contract offer.

The same goes for the fifth-starter situation. Jenrry Mejia was sterling after being activated from the disabled list last year, striking out a batter an inning with a 2.30 ERA in five starts. A team in the position of the Mets needs to prioritize what it has in the 24-year-old Mejia over Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lannan, yet manager Terry Collins has already indicated that it's the veterans who have the inside track on the last spot in the rotation.

Cleveland Indians: Don't count on Santana at third
The Indians get points for creativity in giving Carlos Santana a shot at third base to improve the team's flexibility going forward. By all accounts, Santana has worked very hard to be a capable third baseman, playing the position in winter ball, but a cold, realistic look suggests that the Indians have to think of it more as an occasional option when the matchups demand it, rather than anything Santana's going to do daily.

Santana, a catcher by trade, has spent some time at first base, but he doesn't have much range at the cold corner (career UZR of -6.7) and it's not a coincidence that mediocre defensive first basemen are moved to third and play well just about never. You can point to Miguel Cabrera or Kevin Youkilis, but those situations were different. The Indians don't have roster construction that practically forces Santana to play third as the Tigers did, and Youkilis was an excellent first baseman. And both Cabrera and Youkilis had more experience playing third.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Run away from Kendrys Morales
The Pirates have been a player in the lively market for nonelite first basemen this offseason, targeting James Loney, considering bringing back Justin Morneau, and now dipping their toes into the tepid Kendrys Morales waters. Pittsburgh needs to get its foot out of that pool and dry it off right now, because that first-round pick is more valuable than anything Morales would do for the team, not to mention he'll actually need to be paid.

Nobody would confuse an Andrew Lambo/Gaby Sanchez combination with Joey Votto without a serious eye condition, but a classic, old-school platoon here should get the Bucs at least adequate production. Sanchez is a .300/.399/.496 hitter in his major league career against lefties, and Lambo has crushed righties in the minors, combining for a .950 OPS against them over the past two seasons.

There's room for complaints about some of the Pirates' decisions this offseason, such as not giving A.J. Burnett a qualifying offer. But here, the Pirates need to continue to ignore the impulse to upgrade first base in an expensive way.

Baltimore Orioles: Stop auditioning DHs
Ignore for a second that he doesn't hit for average, hit for power, draw walks or steal bases, and in the outfield takes circuitous routes toward hit balls more bizarre than those of your pet cat. Maybe if you forget everything about Delmon Young, you may think that he could be a platoon designated hitter. But once you have Nelson Cruz on the team, even that justification becomes difficult.

The O's are still hinting that Young can make the team, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, given that whatever Young does, Cruz does better and pushing Cruz -- a poor defender -- into an outfield spot is simply counterproductive. The Orioles are better off with a left-field platoon of David Lough and Nolan Reimold, both of whom are better defenders than Young, with Cruz as a full-time DH.

In an era of 12- and 13-man pitching staffs, Young has no logical role on the Orioles.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Let Guerrero play
There's one second baseman in Dodgers camp who has serious offensive upside, who could put up a Jeff Kent-type year and help push the Dodgers over the top in the NL West, and his name is Alex Guerrero.

But the Dodgers are worried about his conversion to second base -- and the fact that he's rusty after a year away from the game -- and it now seems likely he will start the year in the minors. That would be justified if they still had Mark Ellis, but the other options have big red flags as well.

Dee Gordon has never hit in his career, Justin Turner's not exactly Robbie Alomar, and it's kind of perverse to worry about Guerrero's layoff but give a serious look to Chone Figgins, who not only also had significant time away from baseball, but hasn't even contributed positively to a team since 2009.

Unless Guerrero's such a disaster over the next month that the Dodgers are essentially forced to play him at Triple-A in the short term, any competition at second should be there only for the purpose of motivating their Cuban signing.

Ervin Santana left out in the cold.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ervin Santana fired agent Bean Stringfellow, according to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes, and he will represent himself. It's hard to know exactly what will come out of this at this stage in the winter, with so many teams essentially operating with a closed budget.

There were teams interested in Santana in a moderate-sized contract early in the offseason -- something in the Ubaldo Jimenez salary range, three years at $35-plus million or four years at roughly $50 million -- but at that time, the asking price for Santana was over $100 million.

The Kansas City Royals, who had approached Santana about an extension in September, loved him last season, but it's unclear whether they have enough dollars to woo him back. The Toronto Blue Jays haven't spent notable money on a starting pitcher yet, so perhaps they could be a landing spot for him. The Texas Rangers have had a tough winter with their pitching, with Derek Holland going down with a knee injury and Matt Harrison likely out for the first couple of weeks of the season, at least -- but the Rangers have focused on building up a depth of options in recent weeks, signing Tommy Hanson and Joe Saunders.

The Mariners have lost Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma for indefinite periods of time and might be able to use Santana -- certainly Robinson Cano has lobbied on his behalf -- but again, how much money would they have left? Orioles manager Buck Showalter told Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports the other day that he wouldn't rule out his team signing Santana. Dan Connolly addressed this in the Baltimore Sun:
The best I can glean is that the Orioles maintain interest in the veteran right-hander and wouldn't blink at all about surrendering their third-round draft pick for him. But there hasn't been any real dialogue in the past couple days, a source said Wednesday night.

The problem is that Santana has played the waiting game all offseason and his demands have not dropped significantly. And so the Orioles aren't currently excited about meeting those (which are still believed to be in the Ubaldo Jimenez range of four years and $50 million). The sides haven't spoken in a couple days, but the dialogue doesn't appear dead at this point, either.

There's no real mystery here: The Orioles' interest comes down to how many years and how much money Santana can get. You'd think with the need for pitching throughout the majors, being patient will get Santana a lucrative job (that's what Kyle Lohse did last year and landed a three-year, $33 million deal in March). But, like Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, the Orioles are interested in Santana if they think the final deal is a good value.

There are two major factors are working against Santana, beyond the calendar:

1. Whatever is in Santana's medical history about his right elbow ligament scares the heck out of teams. The fact that Santana is tied to draft-pick compensation has hurt him, but the bigger problem for him -- and the reason why the $100 million-plus request on his behalf had absolutely no chance of happening -- is that teams are scared of his elbow blowing out soon. Some team evaluators have said there's no way they'd invest significant money in a player who appears to be that close to a major blowout.

Those fears are exacerbated by the fact that Santana threw highest percentage of sliders in 2013 of any pitcher in the majors, a pitch that is notoriously tough on elbows.

2. He is a fly ball pitcher, having led the AL in home runs allowed in 2012, before the Angels nearly non-tendered him. So for a team like the Rangers, or the Orioles, which inhabit ballparks that play small, he's an imperfect fit.

• Speaking of teams that need pitching: Cole Hamels has been shut down, again. This is the kind of setback that the Phillies don't need, writes David Murphy.

Around the league

• John Danks and his pitching coach, Don Cooper, have talked about how crucial he is to the Chicago White Sox pitching staff. This is a team that has remade its everyday lineup in the past nine months, trading for outfielders Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia and third baseman Matt Davidson, and signing first baseman Jose Abreu, and along the way it has surrendered pitching, in Addison Reed and Hector Santiago. Chris Sale, the White Sox ace, is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and Jose Quintana is a good No. 2.

If Danks can bounce back from shoulder trouble, he could give the White Sox the kind of rotation depth that would enable them to get back to contending in the AL Central, and on Thursday, Danks looked really good against the Mariners, and felt good, throwing in the 90-91 mph range without punching up his effort level.

"I welcome the challenge, if you will, of being the seven-inning-plus guy, night in and night out, 200-plus innings," Danks said. "You're only as good as your pitching, and I'm kind of the swingman, I guess. I welcome that. I'm expecting a good year, and I'm going to work hard at it, and feel like I'm where I need to be at this point."

• On Thursday's podcast, Jayson Stark examined the meaning of spring training results, and buys in (or not) on some early performances; Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times had an interesting take on the Mike Trout negotiations, and why Trout seems to want fewer years than the Angels want to give him. And Derrick Goold checked in on Matt Carpenter's contract.

• Matt Carpenter's dedication and success are about to be rewarded. He is close to finalizing a six-year deal, as Derrick Goold writes.

• Early in the offseason, the Dodgers did not assign No. 14 right away -- which happens to be the number of David Price. But as the winter wore on and Price remained with the Rays, Dan Haren signed with the Dodgers and he got No. 14.

• The Miami Marlins are upset with the Red Sox for fielding a substandard lineup, writes Juan Rodriguez.

The fight for jobs

1. Carlos Santana's effort to shift to third continues to be a work in progress.

2. So far, there has been no standout in the battle for the Diamondbacks' shortstop job.

3. Chris Dickerson is trying to make the Pirates' roster.

4. The Padres' Cameron Maybin won't undergo surgery.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Russell Martin would consider extending his stay with the Pirates.

2. Like a lot of teams, the Reds are looking for a replay assistant, writes C. Trent Rosecrans.

3. The Jays need to add pieces fast, writes Richard Griffin.

4. Jarred Cosart opted to have his contract renewed.

Thursday's games

1. Masahiro Tanaka drew praise. Tanaka's splitter looks nasty, writes John Harper.

2. Justin Verlander got his work in.

3. Ian Kennedy felt he was productive in a loss.

4. Dan Haren was sharp.

Dings and dents

1. Andy Dirks says of his situation: It could be a lot worse.

2. Luke Hochevar is thinking about surgery, as Andy McCullough writes.

3. Oakland's Ryan Cook has made progress.

4. Matt Kemp continues to progress.

AL East

• Andy Pettitte is helping CC Sabathia with a new pitch.

• Ubaldo Jimenez is excited about making his Orioles debut.

• Alex Anthopoulos sat down for a Q & A with Ken Fidlin.

• Colby Rasmus has made a mechanical adjustment.

• Tampa Bay's pitchers got their work in.

AL Central

• Omar Infante is plugging a big hole for the Royals.

• Travis Wood pitched three scoreless innings.

• Francisco Lindor is trying to find the balance between patience and impatience.

• Danny Santana wants to be the long-term solution at shortstop for the Twins.

• The Twins may have options to jump-start their offense.

• Joe Mauer is making the transition to first base, as Jayson Stark writes.

AL West

• Alex White continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery, as Evan Drellich writes.

• There are durability concerns about Alexi Ogando.

• Eric Sogard is happy with his role.

• Corey Hart is trying to work his way back with the Mariners.

NL East

• Nate McLouth has bounced back with the Nationals.

• David Wright has changed some of his routine.

• The Braves still have a powerful bullpen, writes David O'Brien.

NL Central

• Ryan Ludwick's spring is about proving he's back, writes Paul Daugherty.

• Tony Cingrani has a great pickoff move, as Hal McCoy writes.

• Chris Coghlan is healthy again, writes Gordon Wittenmeyer.

NL West

• Jon Gray is impressing the Rockies, writes Patrick Saunders.

• Hunter Pence is not a fan of days off, writes Henry Schulman.

• Matt Cain is focused on a stronger start, writes Alex Pavlovic.

Ken Griffey Jr. is still an enigma.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Whenever I get a chance to talk with journalism students, eventually the conversation always seem to circle around to player participation with the media, stories from the trenches, and I wind up talking about Ken Griffey Jr. And, after his awkward, cringe-worthy effort on a live "SportsCenter" Wednesday -- when Linda Cohn was a total pro -- I'm sure his name will come up again in the future.

I really don't know him that well, interviewing him some in the 1990s -- I was there when he shattered his wrist in '95 with this incredible catch, and talked to him as part of groups in spring training and All-Star Games. More than a decade ago, as a writer at the New York Times, I went to Cincinnati to do a story on him, an experience that provided further insight into his personality. For more than an hour, I watched him laugh with the teenagers who worked in the clubhouse, the athletic trainers, teammates. The rapport clearly was sincere, and deep, and Griffey could not have been better with the people around him.

Then, when the anointed hour came for us to speak, he reached over and looked at the press credential that dangled from my neck, and flipped it dismissively with a "pfffft." The interview process was as easy as a tooth extraction.

There was nothing personal about this. He didn't know me, and I hadn't really written about him before. So what I tell journalism students about him is that I bet he would be a really great neighbor -- someone who, once you got to know him, would be someone you could rely on, someone who is good with kids. And he also just doesn't like dealing with the media, generally, at least those he doesn't know. Some superstars enjoy the fishbowl, such as Peyton Manning, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia; some don't, such as Griffey.

Which is his prerogative. It's completely up to him whether he wants to do interviews and engage reporters, especially now, when he's retired. I don't know precisely what his relationship is with Upper Deck, the company that was essentially the backdrop for his interview with Cohn on Wednesday. Typically, companies like Upper Deck reach endorsement deals with players, and then reps from the company reach out to individual reporters and shows like "Mike & Mike" and "SportsCenter" to inform them that the player is available. Time is booked; the player does the interview and engages the questions, the product is mentioned, and everybody involved is happy.

But clearly, Griffey decided not to try during his interview. Only he can explain what that was.

I was involved in a similar situation with him at the 2011 World Series, in Texas. A company reached out to ESPN and indicated that Griffey would be available and asked us to talk to him. It was actually a good time, because the night before, Albert Pujols had tied a World Series record by clubbing three homers in a game against the Rangers. So the time to tape the interview was set.

When I approached Griffey before the interview began, I mentioned to him that I intended to ask about Pujols' performance the night before. He looked at me, grinned, and said, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"He hit three homers last night," I said.

"I don't know anything about that," he responded, looking away. "I don't even watch baseball. I watch college football."

Stonewalled, I told him that I would just ask him about Pujols as a player, and what he sees in him, and the resulting interview was much like the one he gave with Cohn yesterday -- he simply didn't try -- and so we bagged it.

Ken Griffey Jr. can do these interviews if he wants to, and if he doesn't want to, that's his right. He's a smart guy; he can just say no. This is not like Marshawn Lynch, who generally declines to talk to reporters and was compelled by NFL rules to participate in media day.

So it's ridiculous that Griffey would put himself in that kind of situation and basically refuse to engage, and really, it doesn't make any sense.

The interview with Cohn got a lot of attention -- and it wasn't good attention -- and after some time passed he reached out to Linda to apologize. It'd be really interesting to know why he sat in the chair in the first place if he didn't want to answer the questions.

For the record: He'll be on the Hall of Fame ballot after the 2015 season, and of course I'll vote for him; everybody should vote for him. He was one of the greatest players of his generation, and for a time, the best player in the game.

Around the league

• On the podcast: Robert Sanchez talks about his story on Ian Kinsler, and we played the audio of Kinsler's interview; you can judge for yourself if the comments about Jon Daniels are a little out of context, as Kinsler has said. Also: Jerry Crasnick on Ryan Braun's move to right field, and Marc Topkin on whether the Rays are a World Series-worthy team.

On Tuesday, Jayson Stark discussed the first use of replay, and Tom Haudricourt talked about the new and improved Brewers.

• Derrick Goold writes that Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals are talking about a contract extension, just another step in what has been one of the better stories in the sport.

• Justin Masterson says the Indians felt like home after they hired Terry Francona. From Paul Hoynes' story:
Masterson can be a free agent after this season, but his agent, Randy Rowley, has been trying to negotiate a multiyear deal before the end of spring training. Over the weekend, Masterson made a three- to four-year proposal to try and circumvent the Indians' differences over the six-year, $105 million contract that Homer Bailey signed last month with the Reds.

"We've talked over the last few days," said Masterson. "I imagine in some shape or form we're making some progress."

Rowley was at the Indians' Cactus League game Wednesday afternoon when they played the Mariners.

Masterson and Rowley are waiting to see how the Indians respond to their latest proposal. Both sides expect negotiations to close by the Tribe's season opener March 31 against Oakland unless significant progress is being made.

"We still have three weeks," said Masterson. "I think we're still working through it."

My sense is that the Indians' preference is for a shorter-term deal of two or three years, and the two sides might try to be creative to get something completed.

• Jim Fregosi was honored by the Braves and Phillies.

• Albert Pujols is healthy and ready to go, writes Jerry Crasnick.

• Mike Moustakas continues to kill the ball this spring.

• Ryan Braun has been retired once so far in spring training.

• Tony Sanchez is waiting for his turn to be the Pirates' catcher. The plan would seem to be fairly transparent. This year, the Pirates can play Russell Martin daily, with Chris Stewart as the backup and Sanchez playing everyday in the minors, and when Martin hits free agency in the fall, then Sanchez will be in the big chair.

The fight for jobs

1. Matt Williams is unconcerned about Danny Espinosa's slow start.

2. Brad Ausmus talked about his left-field options, in the aftermath of the injury to Andy Dirks.

3. James Paxton has emerged for the Mariners.

Dings and dents

1. Luke Hochevar could have a season-ending elbow injury.

2. Bronson Arroyo has a back problem, as Steve Gilbert writes. Not good.

3. Jeff Locke is being careful with a pull in his right side.

4. Jose Iglesias' return date is still unknown, writes John Lowe.

5. Oscar Taveras continues to test the patience of the Cardinals, writes Bernie Miklasz.

6. Mat Latos passed a test.

7. Dexter Fowler is dealing with a sore neck.

8. Zack Greinke threw for the first time.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Bottom line: The Twins didn't offer as much earning potential to Johan Santana as the Orioles have.

2. Now it looks as though the Dodgers will pitch Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in Australia, writes Ken Gurnick.

Wednesday's games

1. Brandon Morrow was roughed up.

2. Chris Tillman was satisfied with his work.

3. Jon Lester got in some simulated work.

4. Chris Sale had a rough second start.

5. Andrew Cashner threw well in his second start.

NL East

• Matt Williams has the Nationals on the run, writes James Wagner.

• The Phillies are going to use the shift.

• Another Mazzilli is wearing No. 13 for the Mets.

• Jenrry Mejia would prefer to be a starter, writes Matt Ehalt.

• Disappointment lingers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It was a bitter end in Boston, writes Scott Lauber. It seems fairly clear-cut. The Red Sox didn't want to pay him as much money as he wanted, and he got a better offer elsewhere.

• It's a new season, but Jose Fernandez is bringing the same energy, writes Clark Spencer.

NL Central

• Edinson Volquez is the latest reclamation project for the Pirates, writes Travis Sawchik.

• Yadier Molina continues to put in a lot of work.

• Jay Bruce is an MVP teammate, writes Hal McCoy.

• Nate Schierholtz wants to hit well against lefties, writes Mark Gonzales.

NL West

• A.J. Pollock is ready to build on what he did last summer.

• Archie Bradley got raves from a veteran catcher.

• The Rockies need Brett Anderson to pitch like an ace, writes Troy Renck. Totally agree.

• Gregor Blanco is refreshed.

AL East

• Ryan Goins is putting it together for the Toronto Blue Jays.

• Masahiro Tanaka is ready to face the Phillies' front-line players.

• Darren O'Day is trying a different thing with his changeup, writes Eduardo Encina.

• So far, John Farrell is not happy with his pitching or defense.

• Jake Odorizzi is developing a new pitch.

AL Central

• Chris Parmelee is looking for a spot with the Twins.

AL West

• A bolstered bullpen is going to be key for the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton.

• J.P. Arencibia talked about his engagement.

• Jon Daniels was just doing his job, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor.

• Alberto Callaspo is working out at first base, writes John Hickey.

• Jered Weaver is thinking finesse.

• Yu Darvish is going to try something new with Mike Trout.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Showalter hesitant to commit to closer
March, 7, 2014
By AJ Mass |
With last season's closer Jim Johnson no longer on the team, there was a sense that eventually the Baltimore Orioles would sign a free agent reliever to take over the ninth-inning role. However, despite a "close but no cigar" flirtation with Grant Balfour that ended up not bearing fruit, no such signing came to pass.

All signs point to Tommy Hunter beating out Darren O'Day and Ryan Webb for the closer's job, but as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes, if manager Buck Showalter has come to same conclusion, he's not letting on.

"Showalter has been coy in discussing the closer competition," Encina notes. "It's obvious that Tommy Hunter is the leading candidate, but he said it's too early to be gauging the competition."

In his own words, Showalter puts it this way, "I feel comfortable with the people we're considering for it now, but you never know where it will end up. It's not something you want to experiment with the whole season... You never know how good a horse you've got until you hook him up to a heavy load.”
Tags:Ryan Webb, Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter
Is Indians 3B experiment failing?
March, 7, 2014
The Cleveland Indians decided to experiment this spring by moving catcher Carlos Santana to third base. While the final verdict is not yet in, the preliminary results do not seem to be all that promising for a successful outcome.

ESPN Insider's Dan Szymborski lists this lineup decision as one of his five potential roster disasters. "The Indians get points for creativity in giving Santana a shot at third base to improve the team's flexibility going forward," he writes.

"By all accounts, Santana has worked very hard to be a capable third baseman, playing the position in winter ball, but a cold, realistic look suggests that the Indians have to think of it more as an occasional option when the matchups demand it, rather than anything Santana's going to do daily."

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer agrees that Santana does not pass the eye test at third base. "The Indians knew this wasn't going to be an incident-free transition. Their saving grace was that Santana, at least in practice, didn't look like a catcher trying to play third base."

"The problem is that every time Santana gets into a Cactus League game, that's exactly what he looks like. Right now, Lonnie Chisenhall and every other third baseman in camp look better than Santana when it comes to defense."

Although Hoynes admits that it's still early and that things could look a lot different when Santana is able to play multiple games in a row at his new location, he seems to feel that there's a good likelihood that we'll be seeing Santana as a full-time designated hitter in 2014. "Santana's bat, not his glove, will always be his calling card," Hoynes concludes.
Tags:Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana
Blue Jays to drop out of Santana chase?
March, 7, 2014
By AJ Mass |
According to Gregor Chisholm of, you can cross the Toronto Blue Jays off the list of teams interested in the services of free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana, even though the Blue Jays appear to have two spots up for grabs in their 2014 rotation.

Recent struggles on the mound, to go along with back problems, have put J.A. Happ's No. 4 spot in the Toronto rotation in doubt. However, Chisholm doesn't think Santana is in the conversation at present to step in and fill the potential void.

"It seems like the only way Toronto would be considered a realistic landing spot for Santana is if his asking price significantly drops. Santana reportedly has been seeking upwards of four or five years through free agency and likely will want at least the $50 million that Baltimore recently gave Ubaldo Jimenez," Chisholm writes. "That's too rich for the Blue Jays' liking."'s Buster Olney also theorizes on why Santana has been unable to find a new home for 2014. "Whatever is in Santana's medical history about his right elbow ligament scares the heck out of teams. The fact that Santana is tied to draft-pick compensation has hurt him, but the bigger problem for him -- and the reason why the $100 million-plus request on his behalf had absolutely no chance of happening -- is that teams are scared of his elbow blowing out soon."

The current in-house favorites to fill out the Blue Jays rotation are Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman, though Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers will also get a look.

As for where Santana might actually end up, as we wrote Thursday, the Baltimore Orioles seem to be the most likely candidate, with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers also making sense due to the recent run of injuries in their rotations.
Tags:J.A. Happ, Ervin Santana, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman
Should Rangers worry about Ogando?
March, 7, 2014
By AJ Mass |
The Texas Rangers can ill afford any more bad news from their pitching staff this spring. Already they've lost Matt Harrison for a few weeks to a bad back and Derek Holland to a knee injury. Meanwhile, Colby Lewis is doing his best to make it all the way back from hip surgery.

As Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas reported on Wednesday, Joe Saunders has been brought in to compete for a spot in the rotation, alongside "a gaggle of starting-job seekers, including Tommy Hanson, Michael Kirkman, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Nick Tepesch." The only "sure things" right now appear to be Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando.

That said, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News wonders if Ogando will be able to remain healthy over the course of an entire season of starts. Referring to Ogando's latest spring outing, where he threw three strong innings against the San Diego Padres, Fraley writes, "The Rangers know Ogando can pitch like this. They do not know how often he can do it as a starter. Can he make it through a full season without side trips to the disabled list?"

"In 108 career relief appearances, Ogando has never had a problem that put him on the DL. He opened last season in the rotation but made only 18 starts and went on the DL three times, an unusual feat."

Richard Durrett
Some pitching questions still need answers
"Matt Harrison's tight back earlier in camp has put him behind the other starters. The good news is that after a battery of tests, it appears it was nothing more than a bad mattress. But that soft bed means Harrison likely starts the season on the DL and that the Rangers will need yet another starter to fill out the rotation."
Tags:Joe Saunders, Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando
Twins not short on SS options
March, 7, 2014
By AJ Mass |
Last season, Pedro Florimon was the starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. Despite hitting just .221 on the year, with few other options, Florimon was once again headed towards an everyday role with the team in 2014.

However, after an appendectomy in mid-February put the start of the season in doubt for Florimon, a new candidate has apparently emerged to potentially take over the position -- if not this April, then perhaps down the road, and on a permanent basis.

That candidate is Danny Santana, who hit .297 at Double-A New Britain last season with 30 stolen bases. According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Santana "gives (Minnesota) hope of a long-term solution at shortstop."

"If Florimon isn't ready," Neal writes, "that leaves Eduardo Escobar and Doug Bernier as the only players in camp who played shortstop in the majors last season. While Escobar and Jason Bartlett -- on the comeback trail following 1 1/2 years away from the game -- look to be the best short-term options, Santana could be the long-term solution at short if he continues to develop."

Manager Ron Gardenhire seems to agree, saying "I like him a lot. He's as advertised. He can fly, plays shortstop, has a good swing. He's got a cannon. He's got all the tools. Now it is just a matter of if he harnesses everything."
Tags:Pedro Florimon, Danny Santana
post #20168 of 73580
Thread Starter 
Michael Roth, Los Angeles Angels [Smartest] Pitcher.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When I talked to Michael Roth, he said he wasn’t too familiar with Eric Stults. I suggested maybe he should be. Stults, a savvy southpaw for the San Diego Padres, mixed and matched his way to 11 wins and a 3.93 ERA last year. Roth has a similar skill set and could one day have the same kind of success.

Roth doesn’t overpower hitters. What he does is possess enough moxie to have reached the big leagues less than a year after the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft. A 24-year-old graduate of the University of South Carolina, Roth made 15 appearances out of the Angels bullpen. He went 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in 20 innings.

There is no questioning Roth’s intelligence, on or off the field. Despite his lack of pure stuff, he helped pitch the Gamecocks to consecutive College World Series championships. In the classroom he earned a degree in international business.

Roth on getting called up last season: “I don’t think that’s what they had planned for me. I wasn’t even in big league camp during the spring. I suppose it was a number of factors, from throwing the ball pretty well to my past experiences. They knew I’d pitched in front of some big crowds and wouldn’t be intimidated by being thrown into the fire.

“It felt awesome to be in the big leagues. I didn’t execute as well as I could have, or should have, but was I a little bit nervous? Yeah, I was kind of nervous walking into the clubhouse. I didn’t know any of those guys. When I first walked in, it was Trout, Trumbo and Iannetta sitting on the couch. They’d never seen me before. I had to break myself into the team and that was probably more nerve-wracking than throwing a baseball against, say, Adrian Beltre.”

On his approach: “I’m not going to go out there and try to make a pitch I can’t. Or say a certain guy is weak on curveballs — that doesn’t mean I’m going to break off four curveballs in one at bat. I’m going to stick to my strengths, which are locating the ball down, throwing a sinker and changeup, and knowing how to pitch inside.

“I won’t overpower hitters with my stuff. I’m going to execute pitches. When I don’t execute, I‘m going to get hit. When I do, I‘m going to get outs. Maybe that’s a good thing about being left-handed. I can throw 88 and it’s good enough.”

On scouting reports: “When we were going over scouting reports, I was trying to find out what guy’s tendencies are as far as first-pitch swinging and at what point they’re going to ambush a pitch. Is it mostly with men on base? Also, where are their holes, in? Some guys don’t like it up and in. Others don’t like it in down by the knees. Basically, where is the hole in their swing on inside pitches?

“One guy for the Mariners — they said if you’re going to throw him a breaking ball with two strikes, bounce it. Don’t actually throw it down in the zone, throw it in the dirt. Our starting pitcher that day didn’t follow the advice and the guy hit a home run on a slider down. You need to pick up on those kinds of eye-catching tendencies some hitters have.”

On working out of the bullpen: “It wasn’t hard, it was just different. To me, pitching is pitching whether it’s in relief or as a starter. The main thing is your routine. When you’re a starter you’re very routine-oriented because you’re out there every five days and have the stuff you do in between. As a reliever, I was one our last guys out of the pen so I didn’t know how much I’d be throwing. I had to figure out when I needed to do side work and how much throwing to do before the game. It was learning what I needed to do to be prepared for a given night.

“Early on, I struggled a little bit. Some guys helped me out. Garrett [Richards] talked to me a lot. [Scott] Downs was also great. The last month I was up there, I really figured out how to get loose in about 12 pitches. As long as I was moving around in between innings, I could jump back up and start throwing the ball and be loose in a hurry.

“I’ve talked to [assistant GM] Scott Servais a little and have told them I believe I can be a starter in the big leagues. I think they see that as a possibility as well. I also know we want to win this year.”

On his fastball and changeup: “I throw both a two- and a four-seam [fastball]. My velo was all over the map last year with all the up, down, getting extended to a starter, going back to relief. In spring training I think I was pretty much 88-92 [mph]. By the end of the year I was 84-87.

“My changeup is my go-to. I trust it a lot. It’s just one of those pitches I feel is always there, If I’m down in the count I can always throw it to get back in the count. It’s kind of evolved. Basically, it’s a four-seam grip, but I drop the thumb under. It’s almost like my thumb is on the same spot it would be if I were throwing a fastball. That’s why I get good spin on the baseball — I don’t circle it up. So it’s like a circle, but with my thumb on the bottom and not the side.

“I’ve always thrown a pretty good changeup. When I was younger I used to throw a circle. My pinky would be more on the top and my changeup kind of tumbled out of my hand. It was a good pitch, and really slow, but hitters could see the tumble early on so it wasn‘t as much a swing-and-miss pitch. Then I kind of dropped my pinky on the side and got better spin. I still didn’t really like the way it looked. Then I dropped my thumb underneath with the fingers on the side. It came out with four-seam fastball spin, which is what I was after.

“The movement is pretty similar to my four-seam, only slower. I’m not sure, but it’s probably 78-80. It’s just a few ticks off. It’s not like a Mike Morin changeup, where it’s 20 mph slower. It’s more in the 6-10 range. Ideally, I think most guys want a difference of about 10 mph, but for me, as long as it’s just enough off, I’m fine. If I’m locating well it’s not going to get hit too hard. If it’s up — if it’s six inches above the knees — it’s probably going to get smoked. At the knees or lower it’s probably going to be a roll-over.”

On arm angles and the rest of his repertoire: “I throw kind of a slider-cutter type deal. Early in the year I was throwing a cutter and a slider. I’ve kind of banged the cutter. But what I call my slider, some people are calling a cutter. I messed with the grip a little last year and usually just try to throw the hell out of it.

“I had a Bloomberg account and they were reading the differences between my cutter and slider. My first couple weeks in the big leagues I was throwing my two-seamers 88-90, my cutters around 88, and my four-seamers 91-92. My slider would be 83-85. It’s a shorter slider.

“I’ll drop down and throw a sidearm breaking ball as well. That’s a lot slower than my over-the-top slider. I’m also working on a curveball over the top, although haven’t thrown it too much. Right now it’s a pitch I’m just trying to drop in to steal a strike.

“I’ll throw a fastball, changeup and curveball from down low. Being able to throw all three from different angles gives hitters something to think about.

“I was actually recruited to be a first baseman at South Carolina. I started pitching out of necessity, basically so I could get on the field. That’s because I sucked. When I was turning double plays at first base, the pitching coach saw that I kind of dropped down when I was throwing across the infield. I had a terrible slider at the time. We needed a lefty specialist out of the pen, so he asked me if I ever though of dropping down. I was like, ‘No, you’re crazy.’ But he asked me to drop down, so I started dropping down.

“I was mostly sidearm to lefties my entire college career. When I got to minor league ball is when I started throwing both over the top and sidearm to both righties and lefties.”

On striking out four consecutive batters in his MLB debut: “Usually, I’m not going to strike out a lot of guys. If I’m throwing well, I’m normally getting about a strikeout per inning, but there are always going to be some crazy days in there. Sometimes it’s the umpire’s strike zone. Sometimes a hitter isn’t expecting something in, and you locate it really well, in. There are a number of factors that lead to strikeouts. I’m not going to blow 97 past somebody. For me, it’s locating well, ideally with a pitch that has them off balance. That‘s what I need to do to be effective.”

Finding the Toughest and Weakest Divisions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I hope you don’t think this is going to be an extensive study. I hope you don’t want for this to be an extensive study. Because, look, here’s the deal:

And that’s it. Those are the results. You can leave now, enlightened, if you so choose. All that’s coming is explanation, commentary, and history, and some people want that and some people don’t. The AL East projects to be strong! The NL East projects to be strong, too, relative to something other than the rest of this year’s major-league baseball. Relative to that, it’s pretty weak.

I wouldn’t say it’s critical to have an understanding of divisional strength, but at the very least, it’s neat, and more than that, it can help reconcile differences between team strength and playoff odds. After all, if you play in a weak division, your odds will look better than they would in a strong division. I feel a little weird writing when I already gave away the conclusions, but, always move forward, that’s what I say.

The graph above was simple to generate. As you know, we’ve got author-maintained depth charts for every team in the league. As you know, we’ve got 2014 projections that blend both Steamer and ZiPS, and as you might know, this page exists, showing off a detailed team-by-team WAR summary. Making the graph above was almost as easy as just adding numbers together. I did have to make one adjustment, because the linked page projects a few too many WAR. But that did nothing to change the order — it just brought all the numbers down a little bit.

I wound up with the AL East projected for 188 WAR. In second place is the NL West, at 176, so that makes the AL East the toughest projected division in baseball. At the other end, the NL East is projected for 142 WAR. Next-lowest is the NL Central, at 154, making the NL East the weakest projected division in baseball. Both the Nationals and Braves, of course, are pretty good, but the division’s mighty thin behind them, and it stings the Mets extra bad to have to play this season without Matt Harvey. Not that Harvey being healthy would be enough to turn the Mets into certain contenders, but a healthy Harvey is the very image of a difference-maker, and, well I didn’t expect to spend this paragraph daydreaming about the Mets.

Over the past decade, the best division in baseball has averaged 195 WAR, and the worst division in baseball has averaged 142. The projected numbers, naturally, regress toward the mean, so there’s going to be a smaller spread, but there’s a clear gap between the upper tier and the lower. It certainly shouldn’t be a surprise to see the AL East on top, but it’s worth taking a moment to discuss some of the implications.

For example, the Orioles and the Mariners are projected for just about identical WAR totals. Yet we give the Orioles a 12% shot at the playoffs, while the Mariners come in at 41%. The Mariners also have higher playoff odds than the Blue Jays, despite projecting for a lower WAR. The Orioles and Phillies are tied in playoff odds, even though the Phillies project for a significantly lower WAR. While the Marlins project for one more WAR than the Astros, they also project for six more wins. Everybody take a breath, and the next paragraph will contain more examples.

By total projected team WAR, the Braves currently rank 16th, between the Indians and the Pirates. By playoff odds, the Braves rank sixth, between the Red Sox and the Angels. There’s a definite upper class of five teams, by playoff odds, but by WAR, there isn’t that same separation, as the Rangers and Rays are right there with the Nationals. Even though those three teams are equivalent on the WAR page, the Rangers and Rays combine for playoff odds of 86%, while the Nationals are at 77% on their own.

I’m just going to let you eyeball the rest. Obviously, the projections aren’t perfect, but they’re also the best we’ve got right now, and they should convey a pretty good sense of things. It isn’t just about how good a team is. It’s also about the context in which that team exists and competes, and while over the long run these things should average out, in any given year the divisions are going to be uneven. Right now, the NL East looks particularly weak. The AL East looks strong, but then, that’s usually the case.

For funsies, here’s an overview of the last ten years. For the nine years that the AL West had four teams, I multiplied the divisional WAR by 5/4. For the nine years that the NL Central had six teams, I multiplied the divisional WAR by 5/6. For so long, we accepted that one division had four teams while another had six. The more distant that gets, the more hilarious it seems. That’s absurdly unfair! All right.

The weakest division was the 2005 NL West. That’s the NL West the Padres won with an 82-80 record. The five teams combined for a WAR of 126. The strongest division was the 2008 AL East. That’s the AL East the Rays won with a 97-65 record. The five teams combined for a WAR of 210. The four strongest divisions were all the AL East. For that matter, the AL East was the strongest division in six of the ten years. In three of them, the AL West was the strongest division. In one, it was the AL Central. That means that, over at least ten years, the National League hasn’t had the strongest division in baseball. Nor does it project to have the strongest division in 2014. The gap between the leagues seems to be shrinking, but it has undeniably existed for a while, and that’s evident in the WAR. Especially since WAR includes a league adjustment, on account of the NL having been inferior.

On average, over the decade, the AL East came in at 189 WAR. The NL Central came in at 154. It’s been helpful to have the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same division, so that each could compete with the other. And this makes the accomplishments of the Rays all the more incredible. In time, the Rays will regress, as long as they don’t spend a lot more money. Already, the farm system is drying up, as they haven’t been able to lean on high draft picks. But plenty is already in the books, and lately the Rays have been a little bit miraculous. Which, yeah, sorry, Toronto and Baltimore. A lot of it’s cyclical, but that’s no consolation today.

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Washington Nationals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Nationals don’t have an overly deep system but a willingness to gamble on draft picks like Lucas Giolito could pay off in the long run. Shrew trades have also brought Top 10 talent into the organization from other teams such as Tampa Bay and Arizona. Slowly but surely, this system is turning itself around.

#1 Lucas Giolito | 65/SS (P)
18 11 11 36.2 28 1 9.57 3.44 1.96 2.74
The Year in Review: The 16th overall selection from the 2012 draft, Giolito may have gone much higher if he had been healthy. Unfortunately, he injured his elbow prior to the draft and later underwent Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound in late 2013 and dominated despited the layoff. At two short-season levels, Giolito struck out 39 batters with a strong ground-ball rate in 36.2 innings. He allowed just 28 hits.

The Scouting Report: The California native has an impressive repertoire that includes a mid-to-high-90s fastball that can touch triple digits, as well as a potentially-plus curveball. His changeup show flashes of potential but has yet to become a consistent offering. Giolito has a strong frame so he should bounce back well from Tommy John surgery and be able to handle a large pitching load. He has a strong understanding of fundamentals and both his command and control should be better than average.

The Year Ahead: Giolito will likely move up to Low-A ball to play a full season but his pitch counts and inning totals will be monitored closely. It’s conceivable that he could see High-A ball in the second half.

The Career Outlook: In a year’s time, Gioltio could be one of the Top 3 arms in all of minor league baseball. He’s that good. The Nationals prospect has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter.

#2 A.J. Cole | 60/AA (P)
21 25 25 142.2 127 15 9.53 2.08 3.60 3.23
The Year in Review: Signed out of high school in 2010 for $2 million, Cole was traded to Oakland in late 2011. He spent one disappointing season with the A’s and was then flipped back to the Nationals. Cole’s 2013 was quite successful. The right-hander solved High-A ball in his second attempt and then pitched well in seven games at the Double-A level. In total, he struck out 151 batters in 142.0 innings.

The Scouting Report: Cole has solid heat in the 93-96 mph range and the pitch has good movement. His secondary stuff, though, still needs a lot of work. His changeup is inconsistent but is usually average. The slurvy breaking ball needs the most attention and its development will ultimately determine if he can stick in the starting rotation. Both his command and control have an opportunity to be above-average.

The Year Ahead: Cole should return briefly to Double-A at the beginning of 2014 to work on his secondary offerings. Once he gets more consistent with those he should receive a shot at Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: Cole has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter if he irons out his wrinkles. If not, though, he could potentially develop into a solid set-up man.

#3 Brian Goodwin | 55/AA (OF)
22 621 139 23 12 70 143 22 .258 .352 .413 .352
The Year in Review: Goodwin reached Double-A in his first pro season in 2012 but returned to the level in 2013 and spent the entire season there. He produced a respectable — but hardly eye-popping — line. The speedster stole just 19 bases and was caught 11 times. After the season ended, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .296 with a .778 OPS in 19 games.

The Scouting Report: The North Carolina native strikes out too much for a player with average to slightly-above-average power potential. On the plus side, he’ll take some walks, which helps his on-base percentage. He also doesn’t utilize his speed effectively on the base paths and needs to become a smarter runner. Defensively, he shows the potential to play center field but he needs to improve his reads and routes to become an above-average fielder.

The Year Ahead: Goodwin will move up to Triple-A in 2014 but needs to continue to get better in all facets of his game. The prospect’s play in the coming year could help the organization determine if it’s going to pick up incumbent center-fielder Denard Span’s $9 million bonus for 2015.

The Career Outlook: Goodwin needs to continue developing if he’s going to become an above-average regular. Worst case scenario for the prospect’s future is probably a platoon outfield role due to his struggles against southpaws.

#4 Sammy Solis | 55/A+ (P)
24 21 20 88.2 91 4 7.31 2.64 2.94 3.08
The Year in Review: Like far too many pitchers in the Nationals organization, Solis lost a year of development to Tommy John surgery. Since turning pro after being a second round pick in 2010, the southpaw has yet to pitch a full season and missed all of 2012. He came back looking good in 2013 and posted a 3.43 ERA in 13 appearances in High-A ball. He then made another seven starts in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Solis returned from surgery with his good control but his command was inconsistent. He needs to keep his 89-94 mph fastball down in the zone by utilizing his height to create a solid downward plane. His changeup has a chance to be a plus offering for him and the curveball may eventually develop into an average pitch.

The Year Ahead: The 2014 season will hopefully represent Solis’ first full year in pro ball and he’ll likely start out in Double-A. He could see Triple-A in the second half and, possibly, even the Majors in September.

The Career Outlook: Solis projects to develop into an innings-eating, No. 4 starter.

#5 Felipe Rivero | 55/A+ (P)
21 25 23 127.0 122 7 6.45 3.69 3.40 3.88
The Year in Review: Rivero broke the 100-inning mark for the second straight season in 2013 while pitching in High-A ball. He struggled (uncharacteristically) with his control by walking 52 batters and he struck out just 91 batters in 127.0 innings. He was traded by the Rays to the Nationals shortly before spring training along with backup catcher Jose Lobaton and fellow Top 10 prospect Drew Vettleson.

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

The Year Ahead: The Venezuela native should open the year in Double-A and will need to polish his command if he’s going to succeed against the more advanced hitters in the league. The trade to Washington eases his path to the Majors with fewer quality arms ahead of him on the depth chart.

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

#6 Steve Souza | 55/AA (3B/OF)
24 385 99 26 16 49 91 32 .305 .400 .538 .419
The Year in Review: Souza appeared to be on the way to a very impressive 2013 campaign but injuries limited him to just 81 games. At the Double-A level, he hit .300 with 40 of his 84 hits going for extra bases. He also stole 20 bases in 26 attempts. Healthy in the fall, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .357 with another 10 steals in 11 games.

The Scouting Report: Souza is one the more toolsy players that you’ve never heard of. Health issues, maturity concerns and even a performance-enhancing suspension have all marred his career to date. He became more dedicated to the game in 2012 and the change in his performance has been startling. Souza has 20+ home run potential thanks in part to outstanding bat speed. His eye at the plate is much improved but he still struggles against the soft stuff. He has above-average speed, which could help him become an above-average fielder when paired with his plus arm strength.

The Year Ahead: Souza should be ready for the challenge of Triple-A and, if he can stay healthy, he’ll likely see Washington at some point in the summer.

The Career Outlook: Souza turns 25 in late April but the former prep draft pick (way back in 2007) appears almost ready for The Show and he has 20-20 (home runs-steals) potential if he can break into a full-time starter’s gig.

#7 Zach Walters | 50/MLB (3B/SS)
23 9 11.1 % 0.0 % .375 .444 .625 .454 195 1.0 0.2 0.2
The Year in Review: I ranked Walters as the 10th best prospect in the system entering 2013 and he made good on that… and more by finally tapping into the raw power that was alluded to in his previous writeup. He slugged 29 home runs with another 37 extra base hits in 134 Triple-A games and earned an eight-game MLB trial. He spent part of his off-season playing in the Venezuelan Winter League.

The Scouting Report: Walters’ power potential has exploded over the past two seasons, and it’s even more valuable because he swings from both sides of the plate. With that said, he has more thunder from the left side of the plate. The biggest downside to Walter’s game is his overly-aggressive approach, which leads to high strikeout rates and very few walks. Originally a shortstop, the prospect’s future is probably at the hot corner where his strong arm would be an asset.

The Year Ahead: There aren’t many openings on the Nationals roster so Walters could spend much of the 2014 season back in Triple-A. However, if Danny Espinosa is traded, he could find himself with a bench role.

The Career Outlook: Walters, 24, reminds me a little bit of former Nationals outfielder Michael Morse and projects to have a similar ceiling.

#8 Drew Vettleson | 55/A+ (OF)
21 516 128 29 4 40 78 5 .274 .331 .388 .331
The Year in Review: One of my favorite sleeper prospects in the Rays system, Vettleson was acquired by the Nationals in February. His 2013 season was solid but unspectacular as the Florida State League’s large parks sapped much of his pop and he managed just 39 extra base hits in 121 games. On the plus side, he struck out just 78 times.

The Scouting Report: Vettleson has a well-balanced approach with a good eye as a left-handed hitter but he needs to drive the ball with authority on a more consistent basis if he’s going to be an everyday corner outfielder. The Idaho native has the potential for more pop thanks to good bat speed; he just needs to make some mechanical adjustments. He also needs to improve significantly against southpaws after posting an OPS .200 points lower against them than right-handers. Defensively, he shows solid range and a strong arm that should allow him to handle right field.

The Year Ahead: Vettleson will enter his first spring training in the Nationals organization looking to earn a spot on the Double-A roster. He has a couple of solid outfield prospects ahead of him on the depth charts but he’s still just 22 years old.

The Career Outlook: The young outfielder projects to develop into an average big league corner outfielder or, in terms of floor, a very good bat off the bench.

#9 Michael Taylor | 50/A+ (OF)
22 581 134 41 10 55 131 51 .263 .340 .426 .351
The Year in Review: Taylor (not to be confused with the A’s outfield prospect of the same name) has been sniffing around the Nationals’ top prospects lists for a few years now but he has yet to have the breakout that everyone keeps expecting. With that said, he posted some very impressive numbers during his second stint in High-A ball. He slugged 41 doubles and also nabbed 51 bases in 58 tries. Unfortunately, he struck out 131 times in 133 games.

The Scouting Report: Taylor’s greatest strengths aren’t even at the plate. He’s a plus defender in right field with outstanding range and instincts. He also possesses a plus arm. His above-average speed is starting to manifest itself on the base paths and he could steal 30 bases in a big league season if he can get on base enough. At the plate, Taylor has an inconsistent swing and an aggressive approach. That leads to poor contact rates and a pile of strikeouts. He may need to overhaul his approach and swing, and try to hit for less power while focusing on using more of the field.

The Year Ahead: After striking out more than 22% in each of the past three seasons, Double-A will be a stiff test for Taylor. The 2014 season could very well be his sink or swim year.

The Career Outlook: If he makes some adjustments at the plate, Taylor could be an above-average regular. If not, his defense and base running could still allow him to stick around the Majors as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

#10 Matt Skole | 50/AA (3B)
23 71 10 2 3 17 20 0 .185 .380 .426 .380
The Year in Review: Skole appeared poised for a big 2013 season but his campaign ended after just two games when he suffered a serious elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He returned in time for the Arizona Fall League but was out-of-synch and hit just .184 with 18 strikeouts in 15 games.

The Scouting Report: The Georgia Tech alum has plus power from the left side of the plate and could eventually slug 20+ home runs in the Majors. He also has a good eye and produces strong on-base percentage thanks to high walk totals. His pull-heavy approach leads to high strikeout rates and he may not hit more than .250-.260 in the Majors. Defensively, Skole can handle third base but his range is fringe-average. He picked up first base quite quickly and looks like he could develop into an above-average fielder at that position.

The Year Ahead: Now 24, the lost development time definitely hurt Skole but a hot start to the 2014 season could allow him to split the year between Double-A and Triple-A with an eye on the Majors for the following campaign.

The Career Outlook: If he can make a little more contact, Skole could emerge as an average big league first baseman.

The Next Five:

11. Drew Ward, 3B: A man-child at 6-4, 210 lbs, the 19-year-old Ward had a much better pro debut than expected. Considered a bit of a wild card coming into the 2013 draft, he signed as a third rounder and then hit .292 with 25 walks in 49 Rookie ball games. However, his best tool — his raw left-handed power — failed to show up in his debut and he went deep just once. A shortstop in high school, Ward moved over to third base and was better than expected although his lack of premium range could become an issue.

12. Jake Johansen, RHP: A starter in college, Johansen may be better suited to the bullpen. He has a power fastball that works in the mid 90s but can touch the upper 90s. All of his secondary offerings — curveball, slider, changeup — are fringe-average or worse right now so he might be better off dropping a pitch or two. He needs to improve both his command and his control.

13. Pedro Severino, C: One glance at his three-year offensive stats line and you might wonder how Severino made the list. He’s an outstanding defensive catcher who will likely make the Majors on the strength of his glove alone. He’s an excellent receiver, handles pitchers well and has a strong arm. The development of his bat will dictate whether he’s a starter (although all he needs is fringe-average offense for a catcher) or a 50-game-a-year back-up.

14. Tony Renda, 2B: Renda produced some impressive numbers in 2013 but he was also a 22-year-old college product that spent the entire year (curiously) in Low-A ball. He has some gap pop and a good eye at the plate. He stole 30 bases in 2013 but is more of a smart base runner than a true speedster. He plays a competent second base and could develop into a solid backup infielder.

15. Matt Purke, LHP: A former highly-regarded amateur, injuries have significantly diminished Purke’s ceiling and he currently projects as more of a No. 4 starter, or possibly a seventh-inning reliever, in the Majors. His fastball velocity is down in the 88-91 mph range, which is respectable for a southpaw but he’s going to have to re-work his approach from his college days and focus down in the zone more in an effort to induce more ground-ball outs. His slider has a chance to be average or better, while the changeup is still a work in progress.

Pitch-Framing and a Peek Inside the Industry.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Pitch-framing research isn’t really new anymore. I mean, in the grander scheme of things, it’s only been a blink of an eye since the work first debuted, but we’re beyond the discovery stage. We’re at the point where the work is going into refinement, and earlier this week Baseball Prospectus published the latest update. The research was good, and the effort was extraordinary, but ultimately the piece offered a lot of confirmation. The guys we suspected were good are still good. The guys we suspected were bad are still bad. With framing, researchers are almost all the way there.

So, we know about framing, and we know about the numbers. We’re also on the outside, looking in. Whenever this comes up, there’s always the question: so, how is framing actually valued right now within the industry? For example, Jose Molina might be the face of the whole field of study. By the end of 2015, he will have played four years with the Rays for a total of less than eight million dollars. The framing numbers would suggest he’d be worth that much in a month or three. Teams just must not believe in it, right? Or they’re at least being super-cautious.

This is the reason I’m bringing this up:

according to 1 gm, their team ranks brewers jonathan lucroy as 1 of top 2 catchers, along with yadier molina. #highpraise

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 6, 2014

The replies are similar and predictable. Must be the Brewers’ GM. Where’s Buster Posey? How could Jonathan Lucroy possibly be more valuable than Buster Posey? Somebody must be stupid, or drunk, or both. There can be a lot of overlap between stupid and drunk.

Let’s make some assumptions. First, let’s assume Heyman is conveying an accurate message. Second, let’s assume the team was just talking about catcher rankings, and not catcher value rankings, so as to leave contracts out of this. The wording is “one of top two catchers”. Seems matter-of-fact. According to the GM of the team, it’s Molina and Lucroy, and then it’s presumably Posey and Brian McCann and the rest of the backstops. It’s a pretty bold evaluation and statement, even when made anonymously.

And here’s the simplicity of it: pretty much the only way to justify ranking Lucroy ahead of Posey is by putting a lot of weight on pitch-framing statistics. You can be really high on Lucroy’s overall skillset. You can see Posey as more of a future first baseman. Doesn’t matter. There’s still a pretty big gap, unless you factor in the framing. So somebody out there must factor in the framing.

For all I know, this could be Andrew Friedman and the Rays. The Rays, obviously, like Jose Molina, and they landed Ryan Hanigan, who they coveted for years. The Rays need to be aware of potentially undervalued skills, so it makes sense why they’ve jumped onto the pitch-framing bandwagon. If Heyman was talking to Friedman, then we don’t really learn anything. We already knew the Rays were on board. But there are 29 other general managers and 29 other teams, so it could be that framing is becoming more accepted as a skill with significant value. The industry might be starting to see this as legitimate.

The last three years, Yadier Molina has posted the highest catcher WAR. Posey’s in second, Lucroy’s in tenth, and McCann’s in 11th. Narrow the gap to the last two years. Posey’s a little ahead of Molina, with an edge in playing time. He’s about five WAR in front of Lucroy, over almost 300 more plate appearances. Posey’s been a tremendous hitter who’s been durable, who’s been good at blocking, and who’s been good at throwing. Buster Posey is a definite superstar, and that’s why it takes some balls to prefer Lucroy. Or should I say, extra strikes. (framing joke) (moving right along)

It’s clear that Lucroy has to make up a gap. It’s clear that there’s an argument. Here’s a pitch-framing leaderboard, generated by Matthew Carruth. His results agree strongly with the latest Baseball Prospectus results. Now, according to Carruth, Posey’s a pretty good receiver, all things considered. It’s not like this is a weakness of his. But Lucroy is phenomenal, and he’s been phenomenal for long enough that this doesn’t seem like it’s a fluke or a blip.

Over the last three years, Lucroy has gotten 242 more extra strikes than McCann, 345 more extra strikes than Molina, and 442 more extra strikes than Posey. Over the last two years, he’s gotten 137 more extra strikes than Molina, 160 more extra strikes than Posey, and 170 more extra strikes than McCann. Compared to Posey, just on receiving, Lucroy has been worth something like 60-70 more runs over three years, and 20-30 more runs over two years. Put Lucroy and Posey over the same playing-time denominator and the WAR gap disappears once framing is included. Even though Posey’s better than average, Lucroy is so outstanding that he erases the rest of the difference between himself and a perennial MVP candidate.

If you give the catcher all of the credit, that is. If you believe 100% in the calculated value of pitch-framing, you can make a very reasonable argument that Jonathan Lucroy is indeed a slightly better catcher than Buster Posey. And Yadier Molina, of course, is amazing, and he probably gets some bonus points for his coaching and leadership. Should catchers get all of the framing credit? That’s up for debate, and I don’t know if that’s settled, but it sure seems like the catchers are playing a big part. And note: at least one team out there is a major believer in Lucroy. You have to believe he’s worth as much as the framing numbers say in order to put him in the upper pair.

Catching pitches is how Jonathan Lucroy might be a better catcher overall than Buster Posey. It’s a controversial opinion, but knowing that at least one team believes it gives the opinion some legitimacy. And there are numbers to back the opinion up. Pitch-framing is a skill that’s highly valued by at least the Tampa Bay Rays. Probably, it isn’t just them. Probably, the industry will grow more and more confident.

Is Justin Masterson Actually Being Benevolent?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Justin Masterson is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, but over the last few days, he’s made it clear that he hopes he never gets there. He wants to re-sign with the Indians, and in fact, he’s made them an offer, and one that seems pretty generous on the surface, to be honest.

According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Masterson has asked the Indians for a three or four year extension in the range of $40 to $60 million. I think we can safely assume that a three year deal would be closer to the $40 million figure and a four year deal would be closer to $60 million. Just to make the math easy, let’s say that his offer is $40 million for three years with a $5 million buyout on the fourth year, making it either 3/$45M or 4/$60M, depending on if the option is picked up. That’s the kind of structure that would make sense given the range of numbers being tossed around.

And of course those numbers pale in comparison to what the Reds just gave Homer Bailey a few weeks ago. Bailey, also set to be a free agent at the end of the year, got $90 million for five years with a $5 million buyout on a sixth year option, so the Reds either paid 5/$95M or 6/$115M to keep Bailey in Cincinnati for the long term. Even the low end of Bailey’s total guarantee is 50% higher than the high end of Masterson’s reported asking price, making this seem like an obvious no-brainer for the Indians.

I even said as much on Twitter yesterday after reading the report on his request. But the more I look at it, the less sure I am that Masterson’s offer does represent a significant discount to the Indians. I think that instead, the Bailey deal may have skewed our perceptions for what a reasonable price point looks like for this situation.

There’s actually a name for this cognitive bias: anchoring. Our minds often turn an initial price for an item into an anchor that all future prices become relative to. This is basically how discount stores and outlet malls attract shoppers, marketing items as 50-60% off rather than focusing on the fact that they’re selling second quality merchandise that isn’t actually worth the MSRP. Our minds anchor the initial price as the market value of the item, and we become convinced that we’re getting a good deal, even if what we’re paying is the real market value for an item in lower demand.

Bailey getting $95 million for five free agent years can easily become an anchor for Masterson’s expected price because they are pretty similar pitchers in terms of value. Here’s their 2011-2013 data:

Homer Bailey 549.0 6% 21% 44% 11% 73% 0.290 97 96 95 7.5 7.2
Justin Masterson 615.1 9% 20% 56% 9% 71% 0.299 99 92 92 9.5 8.1
Bailey’s a little better by ERA, Masterson’s a little better by FIP/xFIP, but the margins are pretty small. Both have been very good pitchers in two of these last three years, with each having one mediocre season in the mix. For Bailey, that came in 2011, while it was 2012 for Masterson. If you prefer to heavily weight more recent performances, maybe you have a slight preference for Bailey, especially because he is a year younger. If you care more about established track record, though, Masterson wins pretty clearly, as his pre-2011 performance blows Bailey’s out of the water.

They’re not the same pitcher, but each have pros and cons that essentially balance out. In terms of future expected value, there’s no reason to be significantly more bullish on one than the other. They both project as roughly +3 WAR pitchers for 2014, and neither is at the point in their career that imminent decline should be expected. So Bailey makes sense as an anchor for Masterson’s price.

Except that anchoring is a cognitive bias. It’s an issue to be aware of and attempt to avoid, not one to accept as a good pricing system. Especially in baseball, it is much better to base pricing models based on expected future performance and opportunity cost rather than simply looking at one comparable player and deciding his contract “sets the market”. Sometimes, that market setting contract is a wild overpay, and I’ve already argued that the Reds probably paid too much for Bailey.

So, instead of simply noting that Masterson’s deal is a bargain relative to Bailey’s deal, let’s look at it through the prism of the market as a whole. On Tuesday, I showed that the median price of a win this past off-season was in the range of $6 million. For above average players, it was a little higher than that, but the non-Tanaka starters all came in around that figure: Ubaldo Jimenez got $5.5M per win, Ricky Nolasco got $5.9M per win, and Matt Garza got $6.6 million per win. The 2014 forecasts put Masterson’s value squarely in this class of pitchers, but his longer health track record and 2013 excellence might bump him up a bit in the eyes of the market.

Still, even with inflation, Masterson probably shouldn’t expect to get more than $7 million per win if he hits the free agent market next off-season. And since he turns 30 before the 2015 season, he won’t be a particularly young free agent. What would we reasonably expect a 30 year old Masterson to get as a free agent next winter? The standard half-WAR decrease aging curve would peg him at +7 WAR from 2015 through 2018, but maybe that’s too harsh; the 85% aging curve for players in their 30s that I used for the $/WAR post would suggest +8.6 WAR over those same four years. The specific number doesn’t matter so much, but it’s safe to say that his forecast production over four free agent years is somewhere in the range of +7 to +9 WAR.

Even at $7 million per win, assuming some inflation and that Masterson continues to pitch at an above average level in 2014, that’s $49 to $63 million over four years. Or almost exactly what he’s rumored to be asking for.

The value to the Indians here probably isn’t the total cost, but instead, the chance to get that fourth year on a team option. Even if Masterson simply agreed to sign for 3/$45M with no option, it’s not clear that this is a large enough discount for a mid-revenue team like the Indians to take the risk of doing the deal a year ahead of time. After all, the Indians aren’t a team that can afford to buy a ton of market priced wins, and so to take on the risk of his 2014 health and performance, they should get a real discount over what Masterson would be expected to get as a free agent.

In looking at Masterson’s actual expected production and the market price of wins in free agency, Masterson’s asking price seems entirely reasonable. Fair, even. He’s made the Indians a solid offer at a price that makes sense for him and probably makes sense for them as well. But it seems like the “massive bargain” reaction that I had, and many others seem to be having, might be more of a result of the Bailey overpay than anything else.

If we allow Bailey’s deal to “set the market” for good-not-great pitchers, then we’re tacitly acknowledging that this particular type of pitcher should be drastically overpaid relative to buying other types of wins on the market. Bailey’s deal shouldn’t be the anchor for a fair Masterson price. Bailey’s deal was too high, and the Indians are right to not want to to go anywhere near that price.

The All Sure-Handed Team.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If there are two somewhat separate skills when it comes to defense — getting to balls and converting the chances you can get to — we all know which one gets more attention. The leapers and divers get the oohs and ahs while those watching the ball all the way into the glove gets golf claps at best. It’s time to appreciate the guys that make the plays they are supposed to.

The All Sure-Handed Team.

Using the new Inside Edge leaderboards, we can find out fairly quickly which players made the plays they were supposed to last year. Only nine players made every single play that 60%+ of baseball ‘should’ have made: David Murphy, Buster Posey, Denard Span, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Reddick, Brandon Barnes, Jayson Werth, Marlon Byrd and Dexter Fowler.

Maybe Andrew McCutchen doesn’t deserve to be here. He makes all kinds of plays. In fact, our older advanced defensive metrics liked most of these guys last year. Most of them had above-average Ultimate Zone Rating numbers — Murphy (+15.5 UZR/150), and Reddick (+22.3 UZR/150) were superlative even.

Maybe we’d like to use this team to spotlight the guys that didn’t do well with our other numbers. Someone like Jayson Werth (-4.1 UZR/150) is probably perfect for the team. So let’s try to get the best mix of sure-handedness and mediocre overall numbers for our lineup. The percentage here is the percentage of plays the player made that 60-100% of baseball should have made.
Player UZR/150 60-100%
1B Nick Swisher -7.9 97%
2B Jason Kipnis -6.3 97%
SS Asdrubal Cabrera -16.8 97%
3B Chase Headley 8.2 97%
LF Matt Holliday -7 96%
CF Adam Jones -7.9 99%
RF Jayson Werth -4.1 100%
Hello, Indians’ infield. Maybe this has something to do with why the Indians had a negative team UZR/150 (-4.5) last year, huh? And if you’d like to see something about the relative value of sure-handedness, notice that the Indians were eighth-worst in batting average on balls in play allowed, 11th-worst in errors, and fifth-worst in team UZR/150. But at least few of their players can make the play if you hit the ball right at them.

You may notice something weird about third base and left field immediately. I had to look in the 96% guys to get a negatively-rated left fielder in Holliday. Among the guys that made 97+% of their ‘easy’ plays, only Alfonso Soriano was worse than a +10 UZR/150 guy, and UZR liked him last year (+7.3). And I couldn’t find a negatively-rated third baseman with sure hands.

A possible theory: those aren’t positions that are normally associated with range, so if you have sure hands and make the plays you are supposed to make, you’ll do fine in left field and third base by any defensive metric. The fact that most of Nick Swisher‘s negative numbers came from time in the outfield supports this theory, to an extent. There wasn’t another negatively-rated first baseman that made most of his plays.

But for the other positions, range is important. And you’d take a guy that could get to more balls at shortstop than Asdrubal Cabrera, for sure. If you watch Adam Jones and think he’s a good defender because you don’t see him make mistakes, his inclusion on this roster might open your eyes to his flaws even as it’s meant to laud him for being steady.

Guys like Brandon Crawford, who made five plays that fewer than 10% of baseball could make last year (best in baseball), are obviously better defenders. Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Carlos Gomez made three of those plays and you’d rather have them on your team.

You may hear some negativity about the gloves on our All Sure-Handed Team this year. There will be a reason for that. And yet, there’s also at least one reason these guys haven’t been moved off their positions quite yet. They make the plays they are supposed to, at least.

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield Prospect.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Joc Pederson can flat out hit. The 21-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect put up a .278/.381/.497 slash line last year in Double-A Chattanooga. Swinging from the left side, he went deep 22 times. For good measure, he swiped 31 bases. There is no reason to believe the system’s top prospect won’t continue to get better as he matures as a hitter.

Pederson on his mindset and approach: “You want to keep it simple, because hitting is such a hard thing to do. It can get complicated pretty quickly. The clichéd way to explain [keeping it simple] is ‘see the ball hit the ball’. Each hitter has his own cues and while it varies for each individual, I assume most good hitters keep it simpler than the hitters who struggle.

“If you’re thinking too much, you’re already at a disadvantage. The ball is coming so fast that you need to have a clear mind. When you keep it simple you can be confident with your approach and take that confidence into the box.

“I work off the fastball. I think most everyone does. I don’t look only for fastballs, but I do work off them. Other than that, what I’m looking for kind of depends on the pitcher and how he’s attacking you. A pitcher is going to go with his strengths, and you have to stick to yours, but you still have to be willing to vary up. It’s a cat-and-mouse game and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That’s a fun part of baseball.”

On developing a good swing: “You want to get on plane with the ball and stay through the zone for a long time. You want to get the maximum bat speed you can while still being in control. You want to do that off a good base.

“You want the going through the middle of the zone, right out until your arms can’t extend anymore. I guess that’s how you’d explain it. Our hitting coordinator talks about it being like an airplane landing on a runway. You want to land it smoothly. That’s kind of how you ride out your bat plane. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it’s one way to visualize it.

“I’m still making adjustments. I think you can [learn to create more backspin], but I also think it‘s going to come naturally with a good swing. There are a lot of vocabulary terms you can use for hitting, but essentially you need to be on plane with the ball if you want to hit it hard.

“I mostly try to stay out of the mechanics part, because that’s when it starts to get complicated. I look at hitting more as feel than mechanics.”

On Baseball America saying his most glaring offensive hole is against lefthanders: “I can probably agree with that. I need to hit lefties better. However you want to look at it — whatever the problem is and how to fix it — at the end of the day, I just need to hit lefties better. Do you know what I mean? This game is about results.

“Why haven’t I [been better]? I guess if I knew, I’d fix it. Honestly, I’ve been doing some trial and error, and hopefully it comes around sooner rather than later.”

Top 10 Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
At first blush, the Dodgers’ system doesn’t look that impressive but there are a number of pitching prospects that could be poised to take big steps forward in 2014. Add those players to the already-impressive bats in Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, and you have a solid system. The real knock, though, is the lack of depth but it’s getting better.

#1 Corey Seager | 60/A+ (SS)
19 505 113 23 18 53 114 10 .255 .335 .446 .352
The Year in Review: The teenaged Seager celebrated his first full pro season with an opening day assignment to the Low-A Midwest League. There, he hit .309 with a .918 OPS in 74 games. He struck out just 58 times and showed gap power. Promoted to the High-A California League, the young infielder struggled with a .566 OPS and 31 strikeouts in 27 games. He also attended the Arizona Fall League, as one of the youngest participants, and hit just .181 with 25 strikeouts in 19 games.

The Scouting Report: A left-handed hitter, Seager has had very few issues against southpaws. He has an advanced hitting approach and understands the value in using the whole field. He can turn on a pitch and drive it a long way and could eventually hit more than 20 home runs in a full big league season. Currently a shortstop, Seager will likely move over to third base as he fills out and his range diminishes. He has a strong arm for the hot corner.

The Year Ahead: Seager will no doubt return to High-A ball for a second attempt at taming the league. Age is very much on his side so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he were to spend the entire season in the California League.

The Career Outlook: Seager has a chance to be even better than his brother, Kyle Seager, who plays for the Seattle Mariners. The question with Corey is less about if he’ll hit and more about where he’ll play in the field.

#2 Joc Pederson | 60/AA (OF)
21 519 122 24 22 70 114 31 .278 .381 .497 .398
The Year in Review: The young outfielder enjoyed his time in the Double-A Southern League. Pederson, 22, slugged a career high 22 home runs and also nabbed 31 bases in 39 attempts. In total, he produced an .878 OPS and walked 70 times in 123 games. On the downside, he struck out 114 times. Pederson also spent some time in the Venezuelan Winter League and produced a .912 OPS in 34 games. He walked 36 times (with 42 strikeouts).

The Scouting Report: Pederson just keeps getting better and better. He originally looked like more of a fourth outfielder or platoon partner but the California native has worked hard to become a potential impact player. He has a chance to have five average or better tools. He should hit for average against right-handed pitching (although southpaws are his kryptonite) and he’s learned to tap into his power more consistently and could hit 15-20 home runs in the Majors. He’s also a good base runner with above-average speed so 20-30 stolen bases in the Majors is a possibility. Pederson could be an average center-fielder or an above-average corner outfielder.

The Year Ahead: Pederson will move up to Triple-A where he should spend most of his season. The good news for the young prospect is that the Dodgers outfielders have a collective history of getting hurt so he should definitely make his MLB debut in 2014.

The Career Outlook: It won’t be easy for Pederson to assume a full-time gig on the veteran-heavy LA Dodgers but he may force the organization to find a home for him — unless he becomes trade fodder.

#3 Zach Lee | 55/AA (P)
21 28 25 142.2 132 13 8.26 2.21 3.22 3.37
The Year in Review: The Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 2010, this former Texas high school star quarterback has taken some time to acclimatize himself to pro ball. Lee, 22, spent all of the 2013 season in Double-A where he allowed 132 hits and just 35 walks in 142.2 innings of work. He also struck out 131 hitters and induced an above-average number of ground-ball outs.

The Scouting Report: Lee has a four-pitch repertoire that is more solid than overwhelming. His fastball works in the 88-93 mph range and touches the mid 90s. His slider is his second-best offering over his curveball and changeup. His stuff plays up due to his solid command and control, as well as his ability to keep the ball on the ground. He lacks a reliable out-pitch.

The Year Ahead: Lee will almost certainly be assigned to Triple-A while awaiting an injury to open up an opportunity for him to make his first MLB appearance.

The Career Outlook: For me, Lee has the makings of a future mid-rotation starter. He’s not flashy but he gets the job done and has been quite durable and reliable to date.

#4 Julio Urias | 60/A- (P)
16 18 18 54.1 44 5 11.10 2.65 2.48 2.87
The Year in Review: This young Mexican rose to prominence (and much hype among prospect followers) by posting a 2.48 in 18 starts as a 16 year old. He issued just 16 walks and struck out 67 batters in 54.1 innings of work.

The Scouting Report: Urias has good stuff for his age with a low-90s fastball that can touch the mid 90s. His curveball has a chance to be a plus offering and his changeup should be average or better. While Urias’ dominance over professional baseball players at such a young age is almost unheard of, some caution must be used before getting too excited. The young player doesn’t have the most projectable frame and it’s not likely that he’ll suddenly shoot up five inches; He’s listed at 5-11, 160 pounds and the only significant growth he’ll likely do is around the middle. His lack of size is somewhat worrisome from when projecting the likelihood of future injuries.

The Year Ahead: Los Angeles will have to be cautious (and patient) with the young Urias, who will spend most of 2014 playing in High-A ball at the age of 17. After failing to break the 60-inning mark in 2013, there is no guarantee that he’ll be allowed to surpass the 100-inning mark — although he should at least come close.

The Career Outlook: I’d personally peg Urias as a future No. 3 starter but he has a long way to go before he’s ready for The Show.

#5 Chris Anderson | 55/A- (P)
20 12 12 46.0 32 0 9.78 4.70 1.96 2.66
The Year in Review: It was a good year for Anderson. He was drafted 18th overall by the Dodgers out of Jacksonville University. The right-handed hurler was then assigned to the Low-A Midwest League where he posted a 1.92 ERA with 32 hits allowed in 46.0 innings. He also struck out 50 batters. The young hurler will need to find a consistent weapon against left-handed hitters who batted .277 against him (compared to righties at .149) with an eye-popping on-base percentage.

The Scouting Report: Anderson, a Minnesota native, has good stuff. His fastball works in the low 90s and can touch the mid 90s. He also has a slider that has plus potential and a changeup that could be average or better. His strong frame suggests he should be capable of providing 200+ innings a year. As mentioned above, he struggled against lefties in his debut but continued improvements with the changeup should eliminate their advantages.

The Year Ahead: If he looks good this spring, Anderson should open the year in High-A ball. Most clubs try to avoid exposing top pitching prospects to the potent California League for any longer than they have to so the right-hander could see Double-A in the second half of the season, if not sooner.

The Career Outlook: Anderson is just beginning to scratch the surface of his big league career but he looks promising and could eventually develop into a mid-rotation starter.

#6 Tom Windle | 55/A- (P)
21 13 12 53.2 50 2 8.55 3.35 2.68 3.01
The Year in Review: Selected in the second round of the amateur draft out of the University of Minnesota, Windle was immediately assigned to the Low-A Midwest League where he pitched well. In 12 starts, he struck out 51 batters in 53.2 innings of work and gave up just two home runs. He posted a 2.68 ERA.

The Scouting Report: Windle has a chance to be a better-than-advertised pitcher. The lefty has good stuff with an 89-94 mph fastball and potentially-plus slider. His changeup has a chance to be average. He also has a strong frame. Windle has had a lot of success but he may be just scratching the surface on his potential considering his lack of experience compared to other pitchers his age. A Minnesota native, like fellow Top 10 prospect Chris Anderson, he didn’t have the benefit of playing year round like top prospects from California, Florida or Texas. As well, he spent the majority of his college career in the bullpen. The downside to Windle is his delivery, which isn’t the smoothest and may put added stress on his shoulder.

The Year Ahead: Windle’s strong start to his pro career has positioned him well to open the 2014 season in High-A ball. If he pitches well, the southpaw should see Double-A by the second half of the minor league season.

The Career Outlook: Windle may eventually move back to his previous role in the bullpen but he’s shown mid-rotation potential as a starter — assuming he can iron out his delivery.

#7 Chris Reed | 55/AA (P)
23 29 25 137.2 128 9 6.93 4.12 3.86 4.01
The Year in Review: The Standford alum had a solid, but unspectacular, year in the Double-A Southern League. The southpaw made a workman-like 29 appearances (25 starts) and allowed 128 hits in 137.2 innings. He struggled with his control, as witnessed by 63 walks, and he struck out just 106 batters. However, he produced a high rate of ground balls. Reed received a little bit of extra work in the offseason with four starts in the Venezuela Winter League.

The Scouting Report: Reed can hit the mid-90s with his fastball but the pitch is at its most effective when he takes a little off, creates good movement and dives down in the zone. He’s a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher who will keep the infield defense hopping and he’s not likely to produce massive strikeout rates. Reed is still working to develop consistency with his secondary stuff — a breaking ball and changeup. He has a solid pitchers frame so he should be capable of providing lots of innings.

The Year Ahead: The lefty will open the 2014 in Triple-A, one step away from making his MLB debut, which could also come this year. Reed will have to battle fellow Top 10 arm, Zach Lee, for the first call-up to The Show.

The Career Outlook: Like Lee, Reed doesn’t have a massive ceiling but he has a shot at developing into a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter. Failing that, the former college closer could return to the ‘pen as a set-up man.

#8 Ross Stripling | 50/AA (P)
23 27 22 127.2 115 5 8.25 2.11 2.82 2.58
The Year in Review: Stripling opened his first full pro season in High-A ball — a formidable assignment given the league’s offense-boosting qualities. The righty held his own thanks to a high ground-ball rate and good control. After just six starts he received a promotion to Double-A where he made another 21 appearances (16 starts) with similar results.

The Scouting Report: A fifth round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2012, Stripling has been a quick mover due to his polished approach. He doesn’t have “wow” stuff but his fastball works in the 88-93 mph range. He also possesses a slider, curveball and changeup. All three secondary offerings have a chance to be average or better. Stripling does a nice job of inducing ground balls and both his command and control should be better than average.

The Year Ahead: There may be some competition for Triple-A roster spots with Zach Lee and Chris Reed ahead of Stripling on the depth chart (The club will also need veteran insurance at AAA) so the Texas native may have to open the year back in Double-A.

The Career Outlook: Stripling profiles as a No. 4 starter capable of providing a lot of innings.

#9 Alexander Guerrero | 55/DNP (2B)
The Year in Review: A Cuba native like Yasiel Puig, Guerrero signed a four-year, $28 million contract back in October and is the early favorite to open the 2014 season as the Dodgers starting second baseman. He may be rusty, though, after a significant layoff while establishing himself to play in North America.

The Scouting Report: Guerrero, aka the Wildcard, is a bit of an unknown quantity, much like Puig was in his first pro season. There is much debate over his hit tool with a wide range of opinions. He’s not the most fluid or athletic player but he has shown flashes of hitting for a solid batting average with 10-15 home run pop. He’s a solid base runner but he’s never been a big base stealer. Defensively, he played shortstop in Cuba but projects better at second base due to his modest range and arm.

The Year Ahead: If things go as planned, Guerrero will be the Dodgers’ starting second baseman in 2014. However, not everyone is an immediate MLB star like Puig so it’s possible that the young Cuban could need a few months of minor league seasoning.

The Career Outlook: Cuban players are notoriously hard to project but the Dodgers are expecting him to be a good everyday middle infielder.

#10 Jesmuel Valentin | 50/A- (2B/SS)
19 415 92 16 4 49 62 15 .264 .364 .367 .343
The Year in Review: Valentin suffered from a false start in 2013 when his opening day assignment to Low-A ball in the Midwest League didn’t go so well; he was returned to extended spring training and later finished up the season in the Pioneer League. The good news is that the 19-year-old infielder wasn’t terribly overwhelmed even when he did struggle and was able to make decent (albeit weak) contact.

The Scouting Report: The switch-hitter needs to get stronger to avoid being overpowered by good fastballs, and to work on his approach at the plate. He’s a little too passive at times and needs to find a balance between attacking the ball the waiting for the right pitch. When he’s at his best, he shows a profile befitting a No. 2 hole hitter. Originally a shortstop, Valentin has spent more time at second base in pro ball and he profiles well there due to solid range, good actions and a solid arm for the position.

The Year Ahead: Valentin will return for a second shot at the Midwest League in 2014 and he’ll hopefully be more prepared for the return engagement.

The Career Outlook: The young Puerto Rican definitely needs to get stronger if he’s going to realize his full potential as a starting, big league second baseman or utility infielder.

The Next Five:

11. Onelki Garcia, LHP: As you might have heard, the Dodgers have had a little bit of luck with Cuban players… and Garcia could be ready to make an impact in Los Angeles in 2014. He made his MLB debut in 2013 (three games) but spent most of the year split between Double-A and Triple-A. He has a strong fastball with excellent sinking action that induces high ground-ball rates. His secondary stuff is still developing but his breaking ball has promise. His biggest issue right now is his lack of consistent command/control — as well as health.

12. Cody Bellinger, 1B: A 2013 fourth round draft pick out of an Arizona high school, Bellinger flashes plus defensive skills at first base. He didn’t hit much in his pro debut but he has a promising stroke and a projectable frame that could eventually add enough muscle to develop average power. He’s a sleeper worth keeping an eye on.

13. Matt Magill, RHP: A former 31st round draft pick out of a California high school, Magill made his MLB debut in 2013 — his six pro season. He was bounced around a bit in six starts because he struggles with both his command and control. When he’s at his best, the right-hander displays an average repertoire and durability that should allow him to chew up innings in the backend of a big league rotation or as a long man out of the ‘pen.

14. Zach Bird, RHP: It was a rough 2013 season for Bird but the potential is still there. He has the raw talent to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter but his command and control issues are currently wreaking havoc on his development plans. He’ll likely have to give Low-a ball another shot in 2014.

15. Kyle Farmer, C: Farmer? The eighth round draft pick from 2013 who signed for just $40,000 as an eighth round pick? Well, the college shortstop was immediately shifted behind the plate in pro ball to take advantage of his strong arm. If the move sticks (He’s not without his rough edges as witnessed by the 13 passed balls), the catcher could have significant value. He hit .347 with a .919 OPS in 41 games during his pro debut and has a chance to be an average-hitting catcher.
post #20169 of 73580
Thread Starter 
2014 Strengths of Schedule, Projected.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As we know, in any given year, the playing field isn’t exactly even. It’s just one of those things that we quietly accept, because there’s not really much of anything to be done about it. The hope just has to be that, over time, things more or less balance out. (They don’t, at least for teams in the AL East.) For 2014, as for all seasons, the playing field won’t be even. I already took a look at this by projecting divisional WAR. But that can still be taken to the next obvious step — team-by-team projected strengths of schedule, also by WAR.

See, some teams will play easier schedules, overall. Some teams will play more challenging schedules! The effect is relatively small, compared to just levels of talent, but at the extremes it can make a difference of a few wins. Which means it can make a difference between a playoff spot and not a playoff spot, or a protected pick and not a protected pick. From the divisional post, one could already kind of work out the toughest and the easiest schedules, but I thought I might as well just calculate the breakdowns.

I pulled all the schedules off of and put them into a spreadsheet. I gathered all the team-by-team projected WARs, as of the moment, and normalized them so that the sum came out to 1,000. For each team, I subsequently calculated the projected average 2014 WAR of their opponents. Here are the results, split by league, with the AL on the left and with the NL on the right, outlined in red for some reason.

The Orioles have the toughest schedule overall, with an average projected opponent WAR of 35.6. The Tigers have the easiest schedule in the American League, with an average projected opponent WAR of 32.9. The Padres have the toughest schedule in the National League, with an average projected opponent WAR of 33.6. The Nationals have the easiest schedule overall, with an average projected opponent WAR of 30.4.

The differences are small. The differences should be small, or else something would be severely broken. But remember, these differences are on a per-game basis, and each team is going to play 162 times, give or take one or two, so there can be a more significant effect. The Orioles will share the AL East with three really good teams and a team that ought to rebound in the Blue Jays. The Tigers will share the AL Central with a couple of borderline pushovers, and, importantly, the Tigers will never have to play against themselves. That’s the part of this that goes kind of unspoken: the worst teams don’t get to play the worst teams, and the best teams don’t have to play the best teams. This right here is one of the reasons a lot of people believe the Tigers have the clearest shot at the playoffs out of the gate.

In the National League, there’s hardly any separation in the middle. Between the fourth- and the 13th-ranking schedules, there’s a projected WAR difference of 1.1. All the way to the right, though, are the Nationals and Braves, who will share the NL East with one tough opponent and three fairly mediocre opponents. Obviously only one of those teams can win the division, but when it comes to determining the Wild Cards, the NL West is deep and for that reason it puts the teams at something of a disadvantage. It’s slight, but so will be the difference in record between the worst playoff team and the best non-playoff team. It’s up to you to decide how much you care about this. It’s a lot easier to just pretend like the schedules basically even out because then you can just concentrate on the baseball.

Yeah, WAR misses some stuff. Yeah, teams are going to change, and there are going to be injuries and transactions, and Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew and Ervin Santana won’t be free agents forever. Like all projections, these are guesses, and guesses come with error bars and an understanding that they can end up way off. But I don’t think you can really disagree with the conclusions from the graph above. Not today, not given the current MLB landscape. The landscape could change significantly, unpredictably, in the future, but then that’s the exciting part.

The Tigers and Their Left Field Sort-Of Problem.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
So here’s the deal for the Tigers: they were planning to run with a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field. Davis is still his ordinary, healthy, surprisingly-33-year-old self. Dirks, however, is hurt, and he’s going to have back surgery, and the timetable has him maybe returning in three months. Neither the injury nor the procedure is expected to jeopardize Dirks’ career, but he’ll miss a lot of time in this year’s first half. The Tigers have a problem because one of their projected regulars won’t be able to be a regular for some time, and the guys behind regulars are worse than the regulars are.

The Tigers are trying to be a playoff team, so on the heels of the Dirks announcement, the natural question is, what’ll they do to patch this? Suddenly, the team has an obvious weakness. Playoff teams ought to address their obvious weaknesses. If you’ve mentally skipped ahead, perhaps you’ve concluded that this won’t actually be that big of a deal. It turns out I agree with you, but wait, I have several hundred words of explanation! Don’t go!

Let’s say left field was going to be Dirks and Davis. Dirks, being the left-handed hitter, was in line to play more, by maybe something like 50%. So let’s say Dirks would’ve played the equivalent of roughly 110 full games. Now he’s injured and he’s going to have his body opened up by professionals. The current timetable would have him miss about a third of the year, or about 37 of his games. Maybe things go a little slower. Maybe Dirks ends up healthy and ready again around the midpoint. Then he’d miss about 55 of his games. What is the value of 37-55 games of a platooned Andy Dirks in left field? That’s what the Tigers project to be without. At the absolute max, maybe that works out to a win. More likely, it’s a fraction of a win. The news does remarkably little to change the overall numbers.

The value to a team of a good player over a full season can be overstated. The value to a team of a good player over a partial season can be overstated. The value to a team of a decent player over a partial season can be overstated. The Tigers are losing a decent player for a partial season, and it’s not like left field was a team strength before this news anyway. They were planning a platoon. The fact that Dirks was going to be platooned in the first place is indicative of his value as a player.

Now, the season hasn’t even started yet, and the Tigers are worse off. Obviously, that’s not good news for them, and even a handful of runs can be enormously significant when you’re a team on the bubble. That’s the old familiar win-curve argument. But the thing is that the Tigers aren’t on the bubble. With Andy Dirks, without Andy Dirks — the Tigers project to win their division, by quite a bit.

According to our Playoff Odds page, there’s an eight-win gap between the Tigers and the Indians, which is the biggest between first and second place in any division. PECOTA, meanwhile, sees a nine-win gap, smaller only than the 11-win gap between the Dodgers and the Giants. Odds are just odds and things can go wrong — Andy Dirks just went wrong — but the Tigers project to have a relatively easy path to the ALDS, and that means when it comes to left field, there’s not really a sense of urgency. Being without Dirks for a few months hurts. A bubble team would need to find a short-term solution. The Tigers would survive just playing Don Kelly.

So it doesn’t look like this is that big of a deal. The Tigers will still need to do something, even if that’s just agreeing to play Rajai Davis every day. That’s not what he was signed for, and that’s not what the Tigers hope for, and it would be better to keep Davis as a part-timer. He doesn’t really hit righties, and by having him available on the bench, the Tigers could best make use of his baserunning, which is the area where he really shines. The Tigers are going to want to plug in a lefty.

There’s not a lot in the cupboard. Again, the team was going to play a lot of Andy Dirks. There’s Kelly, who’s a nothing player. There’s prospect Daniel Fields, but he doesn’t appear ready yet. Steve Lombardozzi could get outfield reps, but he’s just a younger Don Kelly type. Ezequiel Carrera‘s in camp as a non-roster invitee. The same goes for Trevor Crowe and Tyler Collins. There are different player types here, but one thing they have in common is they’re all probably more or less replacement-level. In that sense, it’s a tough decision that isn’t.

And the Tigers would survive playing any of these guys, most probably. It would do little to shift their overall team playoff odds. The Tigers say they intend to patch the hole internally, but there are external options if they want to pick up the phone. And those options range from more sexy to less sexy.

In Dave’s chat earlier Wednesday, someone asked about Detroit picking up Andre Ethier. That would count as a splash. Dave countered with the idea of Michael Saunders, and that would be more of a…I don’t know, a littler splash. There might be an extra consideration here — after this season, Torii Hunter is a free agent, and there isn’t big-league-ready help on the farm. This could conceivably prompt the Tigers to look for a short-term bump who could also help down the road.

Bigger options could also include names like Jon Jay and Will Venable. To go almost completely off the map, the Tigers could try to pry away Ichiro Suzuki. Mike Carp could keep faking it in left, and the Rays might be beginning to sour on Matt Joyce, and the White Sox are taking called on Alejandro De Aza now that they have three other, younger outfielders. There are guys the Tigers might be able to get, in exchange for value. These would be more significant moves, and they could leave Dirks on the outside looking in, even upon his return.

But then there are simpler potential external options. It could be that the Rockies would give up Corey Dickerson, as he’s not guaranteed a job. Even less sexy than that are names like Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic. Sweeney, right now, is a backup lefty outfielder on a bad team. Bogusevic looks like a backup lefty outfielder on a worse team. They could be available for relatively cheap, and then they could give the Tigers Dirks-level production while Dirks is away. And when Dirks is back, the situation’s re-evaluated, and no one is necessarily guaranteed anything.

The most interesting decision would be the Tigers going after a legitimate everyday player. A guy who’d make them better in 2014, and then perhaps in 2015 after Hunter’s gone. A more likely decision would be the Tigers going after a Bogusevic type. The most likely decision would be the Tigers staying internal, even though, internally, they’re light on outfield talent. Dirks won’t be gone all that long. Being without Dirks isn’t all that damaging. And the Tigers are on top of the Central, looking down on inferior rivals. Nobody ever wants to be dealt a blow. But the Tigers are in good position to take one, and this blow could’ve hit a more critical spot.

Baseball’s New Most Dominant Pitch.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baseball, without question, is going to be a worse game without Mariano Rivera. It wasn’t just that Rivera was consistently excellent. It’s that he was also unwaveringly humble and gracious, being the rare sort of Yankee you could like even if you rooted for a team of non-Yankees. But Rivera’s retirement does, at least, open up some questions that previously wouldn’t have been up for debate. When it comes to picking the best at something, Rivera’s absence gives a chance to somebody else.

I was asked in my Tuesday chat to identify the new most dominant pitch in baseball. Before, the answer was automatic: Mariano Rivera’s cutter. It was that way for nearly two decades, as Rivera rode one masterful pitch to glory and a certain place in the Hall of Fame. Rivera never really declined, and his cutter topped the list because of his command, his results and his longevity. But now we’re able to entertain the idea of other pitchers and other pitches. With Rivera out of the picture, choosing another pitch isn’t blasphemous. The way I see it, there are two contenders.

Rivera debuted in 1995, but he wasn’t himself yet. He was still thought of as a potential starting pitcher, and he didn’t find his groove until the next season. From that point forward, Rivera allowed a 42 OPS+. Recall that a 100 OPS+ is average, and a 99 OPS+ is above-average, for a pitcher. The difference between an average OPS+ allowed and Rivera’s OPS+ allowed is Sergio Romo‘s OPS+ allowed. Rivera was pretty good.

Craig Kimbrel, so far, has allowed a 28 OPS+. He’s been completely absurd. It would be hard to argue against the idea that Kimbrel has been baseball’s most dominant pitcher. But is he in possession of baseball’s most dominant pitch? I don’t think so, because he throws two dominant pitches with his fastball and his curveball. It makes it hard to separate one from the other. It’s interesting what happens if you follow along on the list.

Remember that Rivera, as a full-time reliever, allowed a 42 OPS+. So far, Aroldis Chapman has allowed a 42 OPS+. And, so far, Kenley Jansen has allowed a 43 OPS+. Also significant, for our purposes here: Chapman has thrown a whole bunch of fastballs. Jansen has thrown a whole bunch of cutters. According to the PITCHf/x information we have, and courtesy of Brooks Baseball, later-career Rivera threw 89% cutters. Jansen has thrown 89% cutters. Chapman has thrown 85% heaters. While neither is exclusively a one-pitch pitcher, neither was Rivera. They’re just mostly one-pitch pitchers, like Rivera, and that’s why I’ve settled on this particular pair of candidates.

This is different from finding baseball’s most unhittable pitch. That’s simply ordering pitches by swings and misses. What made Rivera’s cutter so dominant was hitters couldn’t hit it even when they basically knew it was coming. That’s how it’s been with Jansen’s cutter, and Chapman’s fastball. Cole Hamels, for example, has thrown an outstanding changeup, but it would probably be a lot less outstanding if he threw it nine times out of every 10 pitches. Pitches rely on one another; every pitch is connected. Rivera’s cutter relied on itself. Jansen’s cutter relies on itself. Chapman’s fastball relies mostly on itself. I don’t know if there’s an objective way to calculate the game’s most dominant pitch, but for me, frequency scores major points.

Because of that, I actually slightly favor Jansen’s cutter. Chapman has thrown a slider 15% of the time, and it’s extremely different from his fastball. Jansen has thrown a slider 8% of the time, and last year it was below 6%. Jansen is more of a one-pitch pitcher than Chapman is, and so I give extra credit to his cutter. Still, I couldn’t in good conscience write this just about Jansen without acknowledging Chapman’s unhittability. Pick whichever pitch you want between them, and I won’t argue. I’m just picking Jansen’s.

The following is a table of information, from Brooks Baseball. This covers the PITCHf/x era, so it misses a lot of Rivera, but gets all of the other two guys. And, for Rivera, it should be fairly representative.

Pitcher Pitch Strike% Contact% BA ISO
Rivera Cutter 69% 79% 0.192 0.077
Jansen Cutter 68% 66% 0.159 0.086
Chapman Fastball 64% 66% 0.177 0.088
Rivera, of course, wasn’t a strikeout pitcher in the style of Jansen or Chapman. Rivera’s strikeout rate peaked at 31%; for his career, he struck out about a quarter of all batters he faced. Jansen has struck out two-fifths of the batters he’s faces, and Chapman’s exactly the same. Rivera was famously able to induce weaker contact, because of his movement and command. Jansen’s cutter and Chapman’s fastball have yet to be pounded, but they’re just different pitches in style and intent.

I don’t refer to pitch-type values very often, but I will note this: Rivera’s cutter was worth around two runs better than average per 100 throws. That is, over the part of his career for which we have appropriate records. Chapman comes in around +1.2 runs per 100 fastballs. Jansen’s at about +1.8 runs per 100 cutters. There’s a lot that goes into these numbers, and they’re too complex to be tremendously useful, but they can at least be indicative of things, and so consider this confirmation that Jansen has a great cutter and Chapman has a great fastball.

A little more before I let you go. Chapman is no longer the hot mess he was in 2011. The past two years, he’s increased his fastball strike rate. Jansen’s even more interesting, because he was a catcher as recently as 2009. He’s still relatively new to pitching, so he’s still making some improvements. Here’s his cutter strike rate by year:

2010: 64%
2011: 66%
2012: 68%
2013: 70%

The thing about Jansen is he’s aggressive with his cutter in the strike zone. He doesn’t have Rivera’s impeccable command, but his command is plenty good and the quality of his cutter gives him a greater margin of error. He’s able to get away with more. Last year, batters swung through 30% of Chapman fastballs right down the middle. They swung through 33% of Jansen cutters down the middle. More often than not, with Jansen, hitters are going to get a cutter somewhere in the zone. That knowledge hasn’t helped them yet.

You don’t need to see Chapman’s fastball. You know what an Aroldis Chapman fastball looks like. You might be more curious to see Kenley Jansen’s cutter in action. So, as .gif relief, he’s Jansen carving through Yadier Molina last October:

Perfect, all of them. Kenley Jansen isn’t perfect, but neither was Mariano Rivera. He’s been about as close as humans can get, and he’s done it in large part with one pitch, a fastball with cut movement that just came to him naturally. Jansen and Rivera have a surprising amount in common, which should maybe be less surprising given that the former has extensively studied the latter.

With Mariano Rivera retired, which is the new most dominant pitch in baseball? Forced to choose, I’d say it’s Kenley Jansen’s cutter. Close behind, there’s Aroldis Chapman’s fastball. Craig Kimbrel is probably the most dominant pitcher in baseball, but that’s a different subject. Of course, we can’t think of Jansen’s cutter or Chapman’s fastball in the same way we think of Rivera’s cutter. One of the things that made Rivera’s cutter so extraordinary is he threw it so well for so many years. In that regard, Jansen and Chapman have a long way to go, with an awful lot to prove. But then, Rivera’s cutter was an all-time pitch, and you wouldn’t expect somebody to throw something just as good for just as long. Jansen’s cutter is amazing for now, and that’s good enough. Sadly, Rivera’s no longer an active pitcher in the peer pool.
post #20170 of 73580
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I doubt Ervin signs a multi year deal now. He's gonna take a one year deal and go into FA again next year w/o the pick hanging over him.

Which is stupid because Dayton offered him 1 year 14 mil and he scoffed and wanted 2 year 30 mill contract minimum.  Now he is begging for anything he can get




Hochevar out for tommy john surgery. I wish they would just put him out to pasture already




post #20171 of 73580
Thread Starter 
His agent convinced him he was a $100mm pitcher laugh.gif that's the only reason he's not back in the fold in KC. You're better off, let Ventura take that 5 spot and run with it.
post #20172 of 73580

Draft pick compensation and everything aside, Santana is still a free agent cause he and his team tried to get a $112 mil contract and then tried justifying it by saying he's a similar pitcher to Greinke. Plus a lot of teams are scared of his medicals. 


But things may be looking up for Santana. With Cole Hamels having arm fatigue and possibly missing all of April, conflicting reports saying that the Phils have checked in on him while others say they haven't. 


...And now Ken Rosenthal is reporting

Sources: Ervin Santana now seeking a one-year deal, and wants to sign as quickly as possible.

Edited by PhillyzPhan - 3/7/14 at 4:22pm
post #20173 of 73580
Im going to be very annoyed if we don't sign Santanna now, no excuse.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #20174 of 73580
Santana not that nice IMO
post #20175 of 73580
I laughed laugh.gif

Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #20176 of 73580
I wouldn't mind the Nats signing Santana to a one year deal. Especially now that Fister has elbow inflammation...
post #20177 of 73580
@Enrique_Rojas1, Ervin Santana will sign a one-year, $14M deal with the Blue Jays if he doesn't get a better offer by 5pm. Suspense!

not getting my hopes up yet.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #20178 of 73580

The O's are still in on Santana according to Rosenthal.


Don't get why he'd sign a 1 year deal now. If he signs now, the team can just offer him a qualifying offer again this offseason and he's gonna be in the same situation. If he waits until opening day and then signs, he can't be offered a qualifying offer.

post #20179 of 73580
@MaxWildsteinMLB 6m
Source: All signs point to P Ervin Santana and the #Orioles agreeing on a deal


Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #20180 of 73580
Wish Ervin Santana would disappear into the NL.
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 #20181 of 73580
was hoping the mariners could land Ervin mean.gif
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20182 of 73580
Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

was hoping the mariners could land Ervin mean.gif

He always killed the A's when he was in Anaheim. Real glad he stays out of the division.
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 #20183 of 73580

The regular season hasn't started and there's already beef. The Marlins were upset that the Sox sent a minor league lineup to face them so they complained to the league about it. Red Sox owner John Henry replied today, with this tweet.



He'll probably delete it soon but, only gets me more pumped up for the season.

Edited by PhillyzPhan - 3/8/14 at 3:46pm
post #20184 of 73580
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 #20185 of 73580

cold game :lol

post #20186 of 73580
That's just cold laugh.gif
post #20187 of 73580
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

was hoping the mariners could land Ervin mean.gif

He always killed the A's when he was in Anaheim. Real glad he stays out of the division.

exactly why i wanted him on the team laugh.gif
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20188 of 73580
eek.gifroll.gif at that Tweet.

Pure gold. laugh.gif
post #20189 of 73580
Nationals and Strasburg on MLB Network right now vs St. Louis.

I'm watching Stras' velo, so far hasn't gone over 92
post #20190 of 73580

The next three weeks can't go by fast enough




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