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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 676

post #20251 of 73398
Originally Posted by GotHolesInMySocks View Post

I think ATL will give them a run, though.

its gonna be a dog fight for the NL east. BJ Upton can't even find his swing in spring training laugh.gif this guy is useless mean.gif
post #20252 of 73398
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

My NL pick for the World Series. Against some team for the AL West. laugh.gif I like the Angels, but their pitching depth worries me.
Nats/Rangers World Series nerd.gif
post #20253 of 73398
Speaking of nats/rangers...I really wanna hit DC and catch two of the games they play but idk if I'll be able.
post #20254 of 73398
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

My NL pick for the World Series. Against some team for the AL West. laugh.gif I like the Angels, but their pitching depth worries me.
Nats/Rangers World Series nerd.gif

I can see it. I mainly waver between the Rangers and Angels for the AL. Pretty much stuck on the Nationals though.
post #20255 of 73398
Why are people picking the Angels? Honest question.
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 #20256 of 73398

^ Idk either. Maybe they're counting on Pujols returning to how he was on the Cards and Hamilton having a good year. But I don't like their rotation except for CJ and Weaver.

post #20257 of 73398
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

Speaking of nats/rangers...I really wanna hit DC and catch two of the games they play but idk if I'll be able.
I'll definitely be hitting up one of those games, love seeing Prince put a show on in BP smokin.gif

I see the AL West going:

post #20258 of 73398
I don't like the Angels rotation all that much, but I feel their offense will have a nice resurgence this year. Mainly the reason is Trout. I'm expecting his best year yet. I also think even the aging Pujols and Hamilton should do decent damage in the same lineup with Trout. Love the addition of Mr. Clutch in Freese and I think Kole Calhoun will be a nice season-long addition. The offense, in my opinion, should keep them close for them to pull a deal for a pitcher or two at the deadline.

It's probably going to be the A's that come out of that division and have the better team of the 3 though anyway. I never give them enough credit and they always always always win...Just not the WS.
post #20259 of 73398
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

Drew to the Tigers? Looks like Iglesias is out for most of 2014.

What's the real deal with him? The Espn article said "extended period" to "the entire year", which could mean anything. Sucks too, because with the prince trade everything slotted perfectly and they need his glove with that infield
post #20260 of 73398
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

I don't like the Angels rotation all that much, but I feel their offense will have a nice resurgence this year. Mainly the reason is Trout. I'm expecting his best year yet. I also think even the aging Pujols and Hamilton should do decent damage in the same lineup with Trout. Love the addition of Mr. Clutch in Freese and I think Kole Calhoun will be a nice season-long addition. The offense, in my opinion, should keep them close for them to pull a deal for a pitcher or two at the deadline.

It's probably going to be the A's that come out of that division and have the better team of the 3 though anyway. I never give them enough credit and they always always always win...Just not the WS.

I think Pujols is gonna rake this year, not as confident in Hamilton bouncing back though. The additions of Ibanez and Freese balance their lineup out more but their pitching is so mediocre after Wilson I just can't see them winning the division.

Also, I know it's Spring Training, but Kershaw has been getting rocked this spring. My dude Avisail Garcia crushed a three run bomb off him yesterday smokin.gif I kinda like the core the White Sox have with Garcia, Abreu, Eaton, Sale, and Viciedo.
post #20261 of 73398
If Oakland doesn't win the WS this season it will be a huge disappointment imo. They have by far the best team in the AL.
post #20262 of 73398
Best team in the AL by Far? That's extremely generous, i think...
post #20263 of 73398
Originally Posted by Nowitness41Dirk View Post

Best team in the AL by Far? That's extremely generous, i think...

Agreed. Detroit still holds the cards to putting the A's to sleep: power arms and bats (though without Prince maybe it's less of an advantage now).

Frankly, Oakland has built itself up for a serious run with it's bullpen and adding better hitters to the lineup. Let them get past Detroit or find a way to avoid them in October and I'll be a believer.
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 #20264 of 73398
AL is wide open. You can make a case for the Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, A's or Rangers to be the best. No team really sticks out IMO.

Corbin has elbow damage. May need surgery, he's going to get a second opinion.
post #20265 of 73398
Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

If Oakland doesn't win the WS this season it will be a huge disappointment imo. They have by far the best team in the AL.


post #20266 of 73398

Some shots from today:


post #20267 of 73398
post #20268 of 73398
Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

If Oakland doesn't win the WS this season it will be a huge disappointment imo. They have by far the best team in the AL.

Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #20269 of 73398
Shocked people are picking the Nats after what happened last year.
post #20270 of 73398
The Nats were a dissapointment, sure. But they definitely finished a lot stronger than they started and played the way many thought they would. Now with injuries to the Braves, and no one else really being close, the Nats are the favorite to win the East.
post #20271 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Yea, as much as I dump on them sometimes, last year was definitely an aberration for that Nats team. Healthy and now with Fister? That's right up there with St Louis and LA.
post #20272 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Tigers and Stephen Drew no perfect match.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jose Iglesias will be out for a long time because of his shin trouble, the Tigers now have a clear need at shortstop, and Stephen Drew would certainly fill that need. To borrow a Kevin Bacon line from "A Few Good Men," these are the facts, and they are undisputed.
[+] EnlargeStephen Drew
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Stephen Drew is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents the injured Jose Iglesias.

Drew and Iglesias are both represented by Scott Boras, who has had a good working relationship with Mike Ilitch, the Tigers’ owner who relentlessly seeks a championship. Through the years Detroit has signed Boras clients like Magglio Ordonez and Prince Fielder. Again, these are the facts, and they are undisputed.

All of this suggests that Drew and the Tigers could be a match.

But there is one major hurdle to any type of Detroit deal for Drew, and it may not be passable. There may not be a deal structure that would satisfy all sides, given all the mitigating factors.

In fact, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told beat reporters who cover the Tigers on Sunday that he seeks an internal solution to replace Iglesias at shortstop.

Think about what the Tigers might be looking for: They could need someone to play shortstop for one season. They don’t need a long-term solution at short, because they’ll continue to plan around Iglesias. They also have veterans under team control beyond this season in other spots in the infield in first baseman Miguel Cabrera, second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Nick Castellanos.

So they don’t really need Drew for more than one year. And in order to sign Drew, the Tigers would have to surrender their first-round pick and the dollars attached to it in the draft slotting system, at a time when their farm system is perceived to be thin. Most general managers will tell you privately they have no interest in giving up a draft pick for a player on a one-year deal unless they get such a ridiculous discount that it’s very much worth their while, or, in the case of the Braves last week, that their need is so desperate, they have no choice.

With that in mind, think about what Drew and Boras are looking to get out of the deal: He turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer last fall from the Red Sox, and so if he doesn’t get exactly that kind of salary, as Ervin Santana got from the Braves, he would want something at least close to that -- or a solid two-year deal, like (and this is speculation) two years at $25 million, or three years at $27 million.

Considering the sacrifice of the draft pick, considering the concerns about Drew’s medical records that some teams have had, those salary numbers may be way beyond what the Tigers are comfortable with, given the kind of player Drew is.

"He’s a good shortstop, no question," said one evaluator Sunday morning. "Is he a star player? No." Drew hit .253 last season, with a .333 on-base percentage, in helping the Red Sox win a World Series -- albeit in another year greatly affected by injury. He hasn’t played in more than 124 games in any season since 2010.

The Tigers could sign Drew to a multiyear deal with the intention of perhaps trading him after this year, but the medical history could impact their thinking about that, as well as the trade market.

The Tigers need a bargain to make this happen, considering the draft pick sacrifice. Drew needs a lot more than a bargain, considering what he turned down from the Red Sox last fall. One side or the other will have to surrender in order to make this happen. Or else it won’t.

Are Cubs' finances worthy of their future?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Earlier this week, we looked for some holes in the Top 300 fantasy rankings for Messrs. Berry, Karabell et al. In the name of fairness, it’s worth expressing some regret over the placement of a particular team in our Future Power Rankings, which came out Thursday.

Namely: I’m really, really surprised we have the Cubs as high as No. 7.

That's over the Tigers, who have made the playoffs every year lately. Over the Braves, who just locked up one of the youngest cores of stars in the big leagues -- Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, Julio Teheran -- and had the second-most wins among NL teams last season. We had the Cubs over the Tampa Bay Rays, who have won as many postseason games in the past six seasons (12) as the Cubs have won in the past 78 years. We have the Cubs over the Yankees, who may not have run the most efficient franchise or farm system in the past decade but who have a habit of qualifying for games in October.

If you reverse-engineer the polling results, you can figure out how it happened. The Cubs are building a strong group of prospects, with Kris Bryant and Javier Baez among the best -- although so far, they have a whole lot more depth among their position players than in their pitching. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who lead the baseball operations department, have strong track records.

But there is a number I think we may have overvalued: the Cubs’ financial situation.

I think we still look at the Cubs through the broad strokes: They're the most powerful team in Chicago, a club that has done better as a money machine than as a baseball team over the past 25 years.

However, we still haven’t seen evidence that the Ricketts family will spend big dollars when the Cubs’ group of prospects is ready to ripen. Look at the team’s payroll trend:

2010: $144.3 million
2011: $134 million
2012: $109 million
2013: $107 million
2014: About $90 million, according to Baseball Prospectus.

(This does not include the $13 million of Alfonso Soriano’s deal that the Cubs will assume.) Generally speaking, the payroll has gone down by about 30 percent over the past four seasons.
Javier Baez
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Young star Javier Baez could be called up this year.

The Rickettses, like a lot of incoming owners, took on debt to buy the Cubs, and the scrap with the rooftop owners outside of Wrigley Field has probably turned out to be much more complicated than anticipated. They have ambitions for a Fenway-like remodeling.

The bottom line: So far, the Rickettses’ spending on their major league product has been much more like that of the Brewers or Reds than a big-market superpower that we usually assume they should be. Maybe that will change as the prospects ascend and develop, and maybe the Cubs will settle their ballpark and rooftop issues and spend more freely.

But I’m not sure we can simply assume, based on the information at hand, that this will happen -- just as we don’t assume the Mets are going to spend. In retrospect, the Cubs should certainly be lower on the Future Power Rankings.


• Ryne Sandberg says the Jimmy Rollins benching was not a disciplinary move. Sandberg set a tone with this Rollins benching, writes Mike Sielski.

It became clear, as Sandberg talked to reporters, that something Rollins said earlier this week bothered the manager, writes Jim Salisbury. Sandberg is right to try to defuse this situation, to back off; he’s made his point to Rollins and, at the same time, everybody else in the clubhouse.

• On the Thursday podcast: Atlanta GM Frank Wren explains his course of action in the aftermath of the Kris Medlen injury; Matt Gelb discusses the Rollins-Ryno flap; and Jerry Crasnick talks landlords.

• Mike Trout says he has not set a deadline on his contract talks.

• More injury issues for the Rangers: Jurickson Profar had four impacted wisdom teeth removed. Adrian Beltre left Thursday's game with a tight quad.

Meanwhile: Shin-Soo Choo took an injection in his elbow and hit a home run.

• Ryan Zimmerman is not going to throw for a couple of days. Doug Fister is still feeling tightness in his elbow. Washington may need more than one extra starter, writes Brian McNally.

• A trade built around Francisco Cervelli and Gordon Beckham is not out of the question, writes Joel Sherman.

• Stephen Drew would love to be back with the Red Sox, writes Nick Cafardo.

The fight for jobs

1. Mike Olt is packing some power. Folks who know Olt are rooting like crazy for him, given all that he’s had to work through the past couple of years.

2. Zach Duke is trying to win a job in the Milwaukee bullpen.

3. A Marlin is trying to make their bullpen, writes Manny Navarro.

4. Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to look good, Tyler Kepner writes.

5. Ruben Tejada is the Mets’ shortstop.

6. Zach Britton is thinking about a possible bullpen job.

7. Ricky Romero is turning heads in the Toronto camp.

8. Paul Maholm was hit hard.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Tigers signed Nate Robertson.

2. David Price will be the Opening Day starter for the Rays. Here’s Price talking about it.

Thursday’s games

1. Eric Hosmer kept taking the ball the other way, Andy McCullough writes.

2. Lance Lynn punched out a bunch of Braves.

3. Matt Moore had a better outing, writes Roger Mooney.

4. Carlos Correa had a big day at the plate and in the field, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz.

5. Bud Norris had a tough job.

6. Josh Johnson had a great day.

Dings and dents

1. Taijuan Walker tested his shoulder and felt good.

2. Jason Giambi is going to be out awhile.

3. Sean Marshall is set to throw off a mound.

4. Pedro Florimon is ready for some game action.

5. Derek Norris was back in the Oakland lineup.

AL East

• The Yankees are headed to Panama.

• Jacoby Ellsbury is off to a slow start, writes Mark Feinsand.

• Jake Peavy threw a splitter.

• All signs point upward for the Red Sox, writes Gordon Edes.

• Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera are looking to bounce back.

AL Central

• Drew Smyly doesn’t have his cutter, yet.

• Marla Ridenhour wonders about the composition of the Cleveland rotation after the first three.

• The White Sox are trying to get Ronald Belisario up to speed.

• Glen Perkins is the king of Perry’s Hill, writes Mike Berardino.

• Losing eats at Joe Mauer, writes Jim Souhan.

AL West

• Oakland’s new spring facility will be outstanding.

• Jon Singleton broke his hitless streak.

• The Rangers have a lot of catching up to do, writes Gil LeBreton.

• A couple of Oakland players are contemplating changes because of replay, writes John Hickey.

NL East

• Henderson Alvarez’s hitless streak ended.

• The Marlins hired an administrative coach.

NL Central

• Oscar Taveras must earn his promotion, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Joey Votto is off to a slow start.

• Hal McCoy’s description of Bryan Price is interesting.

• The 2013 season is over for the Pirates, Dejan Kovacevic writes.

• Ray Searage has built trust with his pitchers.

NL West

• The new D-backs pitching coach has a presence.

• The Rockies will have a skilled and rangy defense, writes Troy Renck.

Yasiel Puig is proud of his defensive improvement.

Reds won't play by normal relief rules.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This is very, very interesting: New Reds manager Bryan Price -- a longtime pitching coach -- is not going to adhere closely to lefty-righty matchups with his bullpen.

From John Fay’s piece:
“Perhaps the biggest difference between [Dusty] Baker and Price will be how the bullpen is used. Baker, like most other managers, was big on getting left-on-left and right-on-right matchups late in the game.

Price says he won't do that.

"You're going to get some criticism when they don't do the job," he said. "But you don't go out and get Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton so they can come in get one left-handed or right-handed hitter out. I feel very strongly about that."

Price knows that this goes against the current thinking.

"There are a lot of managers who have had a lot of success," he said. "I understand that. But, for me, for the longevity of the reliever and the success over the full season of play, as a pitching coach, I've never liked it."

Part of that is because Price is a former pitcher. Most managers aren't. Price says for that reason they tend to overlook how taxing it is to get warmed up.

"I've said to myself, ‘I don't know what it's like to be an everyday player professionally,’" he said. "But I do understand what it's like to be a pitcher and what these guys go through on days they don't pitch. Is so-in-so available? Well, we got him hot three times yesterday and he pitched the two games before.”

As thought on reliever use has evolved -- particularly with how much work is used up in the bullpen, as relievers get up and throw and sit down, repeatedly -- I've thought that you could measure a manager’s anxiety level by how many times you see double-barreled action in the bullpen.

It’s easy to reflexively pick up the phone and ask for a right-hander and a left-hander to start throwing, to create a full array of options in every moment, and undoubtedly, there are situations in which that can be fully appropriate.

But when you see a lefty and a righty throwing in the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning, well, that’s just asking for trouble, because inevitably the toll of a high number of times they are asked to warm up will weigh on the relievers. In the big picture, it’ll be better to take the more measured approach that Price is talking about. In the big picture, it’ll be better to prepare one reliever to face a sequence of hitters, rather than to have two relievers constantly up without any specific plan of when they will be used.

In doing Sunday night broadcasts of the Giants’ games, it has been fascinating to me to watch how Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti operate the San Francisco bullpen -- often like a 4x100 relay team. As one reliever is summoned into the game and the need for another is imminent, the second reliever will jog down to the bullpen to start throwing as the first reliever is warming up in the middle of the diamond to pitch.

Compared with other teams, the Giants don’t seem to waste a lot of work in the bullpen, and nor do the Baltimore Orioles, given the close attention that manager Buck Showalter pays to when and how to warm up relievers. When watching Orioles and Giants games, you don’t see a lot of instances when two relievers, a lefty and righty, are standing on the bullpen mounds with their arms folded, fully warmed up but uncertain about when they might be called on. That is the worst possible posture for a bullpen over the course of a season.

The Reds have had a lot of success with their bullpen in recent seasons, and it’ll be interesting to see how Price’s adjustment affects the performance and health of his relievers.

• On a related note, the Reds have all but given up hope that Sean Marshall will be ready for Opening Day.

• Johnny Cueto made a bid to be an Opening Day starter.

Around the league

• This is really unbelievable: For the second time in less than a week, the Braves learned that a starting pitcher needs a second Tommy John surgery. This time, it’s Brandon Beachy.

From David O’Brien’s story:
And now Beachy, 27, knows he might also need his third overall surgery and second TJ surgery in a span of about 21 months. That’s assuming that [Dr. James] Andrews would even recommend having so many surgeries within such a short period of time.

“Lot of frustration,” Beachy said Friday. “Really, really frustrated.”

Medlen and Beachy would join fellow Braves pitcher Jonny Venters in attempting to be among the few pitchers to come back from two Tommy John surgeries and pitch at or near the same level as before. Andrews has placed the success rate at about 20 percent for pitchers to return to pre-surgery form after a second TJ surgery, and the percentage has been higher for relievers than starters.

What this means is that the Braves need Alex Wood to be a productive member of their rotation, behind Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, and not just a place-holder who is often not competitive.

• The Oakland rotation will be down two at the outset of the season because Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin will open the year on the disabled list.

From Susan Slusser’s story:
Parker had Tommy John surgery, performed by Andrews, in late 2009; forearm pain can sometimes indicate ligament issues. He put up a 10.61 ERA this spring and his velocity had dropped into the high 80s in his last start, with his top reading at 91 mph.

Griffin, who has a 10.38 ERA this spring, also had some arm soreness toward the end of last year and appeared to run out of gas. He was throwing in the mid-80s in his start Thursday night and said that perhaps he was having a dead-arm stretch.

With Parker and Griffin hurt, Jesse Chavez, who has been perhaps Oakland's top pitcher this spring, and left-hander Tommy Milone, who has won 25 games with the A's the past two years but had been slotted as a sixth starter, will join the rotation.

Chavez was contending for a spot in the rotation even with the team fully healthy. He's unscored upon in 12 2/3 innings over four appearances this spring.

• Jose Iglesias went to see a specialist about his shin problem, which all but assures that he will not be ready at the outset of the season.

From Lynn Henning’s story:
“We’re not there yet, but it’s getting more and more tenuous [about Opening Day],” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Friday.

Eight months after he came to Detroit by way of a dramatic three-team trade, Iglesias, 24, was viewed as the Tigers’ best infield defender and was being counted on to offer speed, as well as a lock-down glove, at a critical up-the-middle position.

But pain in his shin regions -- the Tigers have backed away from the term “shin splints” -- has relegated him to a routine of rest and gentle batting practice as he attempts, with increasingly low odds, to return in time for an Opening Day roster spot.

The pain has been persistent and progress has been slow, prompting his session with a specialist Ausmus did not name.

• On Friday’s podcast, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti talked about how the Cleveland rotation is coming together, and the progress of Carlos Santana at third base. Tim Kurkjian also gave advice on what you do when you happen to be seated next to a really drunk guy on a plane.

Glen Perkins
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Twins reliever Glen Perkins agreed to a four-year, $22.175 million contract extension.
• Glenn Perkins’ new deal with the Twins includes a limited no-trade clause, writes Mike Berardino. Perkins made the offer that the Twins gladly accepted, writes La Velle Neal.

This reminds me of Tony Gwynn’s efforts, throughout his career, to remain with the Padres, and in San Diego, where he wanted to play. Perkins had one of the most distinctly team-friendly contracts in baseball, within the context of Perkins’ ascension into becoming one of the game’s best relievers.

So his offer to the Twins for more guaranteed dollars, given his recent performance, makes sense for him. If he had simply waited until the end of his deal, sure, he could’ve been in position to make more money as a free agent. However, there also would've been the risk of injury or performance decline. Give Perkins credit for being proactive in ensuring he gets to stay where he wants to be.

• Scott Boras tells Jerry Crasnick that clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales will be willing to wait for their deals.

It’s possible that this strategy will pay off, in particular for Drew, if a major contender suffers a significant injury to an infielder -- Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers, for example. But there is a potential downside to waiting, as well. Club executives have some injury/durability concerns about both players -- Drew turns 31 on Sunday, amid questions about his medical records, and Morales turns 31 in June, having already lost about 1.5 full seasons following a freak ankle injury. The longer they sit out, the more conservative some teams will be in weighing possible multiyear offers. There will be doubt among some evaluators about whether the two will hit the ground running after they sign.

Drew is unlikely to be the Mets’ answer at shortstop, writes Dan Martin.

• Mike Olt is making progress and getting back on track.

• Rich Hill returned to the mound.

• Giancarlo Stanton has barely scratched the surface of what he will be, as Jayson Stark writes.

The fight for jobs

1. Danny Duffy is having a rough spring.

2. Josh Tomlin had a good outing.

3. The White Sox infield is in a state of flux.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Brewers are going to discuss a possible extension for Jean Segura.

2. Jeff Samardzija will get the ball on Opening Day for the Cubs.

3. A Phillies reliever who was sent to the minors may be back soon.

4. The Pirates optioned Gregory Polanco to the minors. He’ll be back in June, writes Travis Sawchik.

5. A Rays reliever got his work visa.

6. Roster decisions for the Mariners (and other teams) are shaped by the rules, as Bob Dutton writes.

Dings and dents

1. Starlin Castro’s hamstring injury is healing slowly, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

2. Doug Fister’s bullpen session was a step in the right direction.

3. Dylan Bundy has thrown himself into his rehabilitation, writes Dan Connolly.

4. Josh Beckett’s thumb forced him out, writes Steve Dilbeck.

Friday’s games

1. Rick Porcello struggled.

2. Michael Wacha had a strong outing.

3. Wei-Yin Chen tossed four scoreless innings.

AL East

• This spring is better in a lot of ways for Mike Napoli, writes Peter Abraham.

• The Red Sox have eased up on Clay Buchholz’s workload.

• Brian McCann leans on technology.

• Mariano Rivera led a tour of the Panama Canal. Bob Klapisch got to go to Panama and is loving it.

• A couple of rotation candidates for the Jays had good days.

• Jose Bautista is feeling really confident, writes Bob Elliott.

AL Central

• Nick Castellanos keeps hitting.

AL West

• Lucas Harrell is making an effort to alter his image, writes Jesus Ortiz.

• Giving back is natural for Robbie Ross.

• Prince Fielder is hitting a lot of ground balls.

• Tom Wilhelmsen is trying to bounce back.

• Joe Blanton has moved to the other side of the pitching rubber.

NL East

• Darin Ruf is getting a long look from the Phillies.

• Scouts are raving about a Marlins prospect.

NL Central

• Bernie Miklasz has the lay of the land in the NL Central.

• Matt Garza wants to kick the teeth in of the Cubs.

• The Pirates’ highly rated farm system is bolstered by a couple of position players.

NL West

• Gerardo Parra is more complete a player than ever, says Kirk Gibson.

• A couple of Rockies pitchers are getting schooled the hard way.

• Few Giants are taking advantage of Willie McCovey’s knowledge, writes Henry Schulman.

• Padres Manager Bud Black had a conversation with Corey Brock.

Confident Tanaka could stabilize Yankees.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka fell behind in the count to Justin Upton in the first inning Sunday, two balls and no strikes, and a lot of pitchers in this situation would see their options limited.

But in the moments that followed, Tanaka demonstrated what separates him from almost every other pitcher in the world, and why the Yankees made him one of the highest-paid pitchers in the world. He can throw strikes with any of his high-end pitches at just about any time, and slowly, he dug himself out of the ball-strike deficit.

Tanaka had thrown sliders away with his first and second pitches, and on the third pitch, he threw a good fastball to the outer part of the strike zone to Upton -- at a relatively average 90 mph. But Upton, having seen breaking balls on the first two pitches, seemed surprised by it, and was just a tad late in swinging through the fastball. Two balls and one strike.

The count went to 3-1, and then Tanaka threw a slider for a strike; it was a bit of a hanger, but Upton fouled it off. The count was full.

Put yourself, for a moment, in Upton’s mind, in this moment. Upton had seen sliders and fastballs, but had not yet seen Tanaka’s split-finger fastball, which is regarded as his best and nastiest pitch, a tremendous finishing weapon on two-strike counts. Upton had seen Tanaka throw the splitter to the guy who batted right before him, Freddie Freeman, and based on Freeman’s late and uncertain swing-and-miss, it was evident he had not seen the ball well.

A reasonable guess for Upton, then, would’ve been that Tanaka would throw him something off-speed. The splitter, perhaps, or a slider at the outside corner.

Instead, catcher Brian McCann called for a two-seam fastball inside, and Tanaka agreed. Eighty-seven miles per hour, belt high, inside corner.

Upton froze, and took strike three. The 87 mph fastball must’ve looked like 97 mph, after all the off-speed pitches that he had seen Tanaka throw for strikes.

There has been a lot of debate in the industry through the winter about whether Tanaka will have enough fastball to be a frontline pitcher, but after seeing Tanaka pitch in person for the first time, I wonder if that question is completely off the mark. Because if you can command secondary pitches the way Tanaka can and use a breaking ball and a splitter to set up the fastball -- and throw strikes with everything -- the hitters will have an extremely difficult time tracking him.
[+] EnlargePedro Martinez
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Tanaka reminds some of Pedro Martinez later in his career, when movement and diversity of pitches made up for diminished velocity.

He reminds me a lot of the post-’99 Pedro Martinez. Not the vintage Pedro, who could consistently throw in the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball, but Pedro after he lost some velocity. Martinez could throw strikes with anything, leaving the hitters to guess whether they would see a curveball at 75 mph or a changeup, and when necessary -- in big spots, with two strikes -- he could pump up his velocity to 91 or 92 mph to finish off hitters.

This is the kind of pitcher that Casey McGehee and Andruw Jones saw in Japan last season, when Tanaka went 24-0. This is the kind of pitcher who may not be at the Kershaw level, but has a chance to be pretty good for the Yankees, and right away. A longtime scout who saw Tanaka Sunday has fallen in love with how he pitches. “He pitches with a lot of confidence,” said the evaluator, “and he looks like he knows what he’s doing. You can see how competitive he is. Guys get on base and even though it’s spring” -- an exhibition game -- “he is pitching to make sure nobody scores. He’s not trying to get his work in. He’s all about getting hitters out.”

The Yankees’ camp opened with a ton of questions about the rotation, about the whole pitching staff. But Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday, when we’ll broadcast the Yankees and Red Sox at 1 p.m. Eastern, has had an encouraging spring. The Yankees also have Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, and if Pineda wins the No. 5 spot, that’ll mean that David Phelps and Adam Warren can pitch out of the bullpen, with David Robertson and Shawn Kelley. Matt Thornton has had a rough spring so far, with five hits allowed in 1 2/3 innings, but the Yankees are increasingly intrigued by Vidal Nuno, a left-hander who threw his curveball for strikes 78 percent of the time last year.

And Tanaka, the first and most important domino that the Yankees need to fall, has looked great.

Tanaka has made it look easy, writes Peter Kerasotis. Some Braves were impressed, writes Kevin Kernan.

Sabathia had a nice five-inning outing.


• Instead of getting on a plane to Australia with his teammates, Patrick Corbin awaits final word about the nature of his ligament injury, and his season could be over. That would be a body blow for the Diamondbacks. As this offseason began, Arizona’s goal was to land a frontline starter, somebody who could take the lead in the rotation or be comparable to Corbin, and after trying to land Jeff Samardzija and others, they were unable to do that. So they signed Bronson Arroyo and opened camp with Corbin as the frontline guy -- and now Corbin is down.

This increases the likelihood that Archie Bradley will be needed to play a significant role for the Diamondbacks this season whenever he is called up.

J.R. Murphy walked up to Yankees catching instructor Gary Tuck the other day and asked him who has got the quietest hands among all catchers -- in other words, who receives pitches without hand movement, something Charlie O’Brien could do very well, and Brad Ausmus.

Tuck’s response: “You.”

In Tuck’s eyes, the 22-year-old Murphy does everything efficiently, from the way he catches the ball to the way he moves behind the plate to the way he swings the bat. “Special,” Tuck said.

• The Orioles have been impressed with the throwing of Nelson Cruz. Baltimore, like Minnesota, will have their outfielders throw regularly as part of daily infield, which is not a common practice in the majors leagues.

• Billy Hamilton sparked a rally Sunday, and continues to play well.

• A longtime evaluator saw Twins center field prospect Byron Buxton play for the first time this spring, and was in awe. “He’s going to be a beast,” the evaluator said.

• Jose Iglesias is out for the foreseeable future, but Stephen Drew is not a great match for the Tigers because of what Detroit needs and what Drew needs; I wrote this piece Sunday about that. Drew is not the savior, writes Lynn Henning.

• The Twins tickets sales are down, as Mark Kaszuba writes, and there is a feeling within the organization that the turnaround must begin this year. None of them want to see anything again like what happened last year, when the team wasn’t competitive a lot of the time. They upgraded their rotation with Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and others, but the greatest shift may come through the season as they address holes. The level of accountability will be raised, and the Twins figure to be more aggressive in altering the roster if they don’t see performance, including the promotion of young players with high-end tools.

• Before last season began, Mike Trout talked about wanting to be more selective at the plate and take walks when appropriate -- and he increased his total by more than 50 percent and led the league. So it’s worth keeping this in mind: Trout now says that this season, he’ll look for opportunities to do damage, as mentioned within this Alden Gonzalez piece.

From the story:
Few guys have been in as many deep counts as Mike Trout these last two years. Only eight of them have had more plate appearances with a full count; only six have hit with two strikes more often. The approach is a credit to Trout's comfort with two strikes, but it's one that also leads to a lot of walks and strikeouts, limiting the star-studded outfielder's ability to drive in runs.
This year, it'll be different

"I think the biggest thing, for me, is being aggressive early," Trout said. "A lot of counts last year, I'd be taking, seeing pitches. But I'm going to be aggressive this year. Instead of just flipping one over for strike one, or 2-0 strike one, I'm going to be up there hacking, I'm going to be up there swinging."

Playing against the Rockies at Salt River Fields on Saturday, a 4-4- tie, Trout struck out in his first at-bat, grounded out to third in his second and noticed he was out in front. His third time up, he committed to keeping his hands in, even if it meant getting jammed, and then took an inside fastball and hit it way over the center-field fence for a two-run homer that probably traveled 450 feet.

Trout's batting .433 this spring, but most gratifying to him is that he's struck out only four times in 32 plate appearances.

By the way: The deal that Trout is discussing could turn out to be in the six-year, $148 million range.

• Jonathan Schoop, 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, must be one of the largest second baseman in major league history whenever he is promoted to the big leagues. “[Ryne] Sandberg was taller,” Orioles GM Dan Duquette wrote in an e-mail. “Schoop has good hands and arm for the pivot.”

• Josh Hamilton is ready for his Cactus League debut today.

• With Jon Niese out indefinitely, Jenrry Mejia could be a rotation option for the Mets, writes Ken Davidoff.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Mets have plenty of pitching to trade for offense, writes John Harper.

2. Brandon Morrow might be moved to the fifth spot in the Toronto rotation.

3. Kyle Drabek was sent to the minors, along with others.

4. Addison Russell was sent to the minor league camp.

5. The Dodgers waived Javy Guerra, writes Steve Dilbeck.

The fight for jobs

1. Anthony Gwynn, Jr. is eyeing a job with the Phillies.

2. Tyler Flowers has won the job of starting catcher with the White Sox.

3. Edinson Volquez will be in the Pirates’ Opening Day rotation, says Neal Huntington -- which means Jeff Locke would not be, in all likelihood.

4. Ryan Webb is settling into a role with the Orioles, as Eduardo Encina writes.

5. Jordan Lyles is trying to win the No. 5 spot in the Colorado rotation.

6. Wade Davis is a pivotal piece for the Royals’ bullpen.

7. Brad Hand helped his effort to be in the Marlins’ rotation.

8. The Astros’ closer job remains up for grabs.

9. Ron Washington thought that Neftali Feliz had a better day.

10. Jeff Francoeur and Aaron Harang are hanging around.

11. Dustin McGowan is likely to land in the Toronto bullpen.

12. Conor Gillaspie is settling in at third base for the White Sox.

13. A left-hander is hoping to make the jump to the Mariners.

Dings and dents

1. April is iffy for Cole Hamels.

2. Michael Bourn is dealing with a hamstring issue.

3. Jeff Keppinger is really hurting, which he makes clear in this Daryl Van Schouwen piece.

4. Manny Machado says his setback is not a big deal, writes Dan Connolly.

5. Freddie Freeman got dinged up, as Carroll Rogers writes.

6. Will Middlebrooks says he did not reinjure his finger.

Sunday’s games

1. Justin Verlander had a strong outing Sunday, and feels ready to go.

2. Ron Roenicke was ejected.

3. David Price had a strong outing.

NL East

• Anthony Rendon has bulked up.

• The Marlins have brought in a couple of veterans, as Tyler Kepner writes.

• The Braves got to play against former teammate Brian McCann.

NL Central

• Jeff Branson is a man of many hats, writes Jenn Menendez.

• The Pirates need to hit better, writes Dejan Kovacevic.

• Adam Wainwright aims to be less predictable.

• Kris Bryant could be ready before the Cubs are, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

NL West

• Andrew Cashner got in his work.

AL East

• Xander Bogaerts is establishing himself, writes Tyler Kepner. The Red Sox are in a good position at shortstop, writes Michael Silverman.

• For the Yankees, it’s back to business after the trip to Panama, writes Bob Klapisch.

AL West

• The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel is striving to improve.

• Credit and blame should go Jon Daniels’s way, writes Tim Cowlishaw.

• Yu Darvish is working out the kinks in his delivery, writes Gerry Fraley.

• Shin-Soo Choo should prove more than capable.

• Yoenis Cespedes’s swing is a work in progress.

• Chris Iannetta is ready to make clear progress, writes Bill Shaikin.

MLB Future Power Rankings.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We've once again asked three of our top baseball analysts -- Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney -- to rank all 30 teams across five different categories (see table) in an attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years. When we last did these rankings, in August, the two teams who went on to meet in the World Series occupied the top two slots.

MAJORS (full weight): Quality of current big league roster
MINORS (full weight): Quality and quantity of prospects in their farm system
FINANCE (2/3 weight): How much money do they have to spend?
MANAGEMENT (2/3 weight): Value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff
MOBILITY (1/3 weight): Do they have a lot of young, cheap players, or old, immovable guys?
For a full breakdown of the MLB Future Power Rankings methodology, click here.
The better your rank in a given category, the more points you get, and the average point scores from the three voters are available in the bar graphs accompanying each team's section, rounded to the nearest integer. We weighted the categories and then gave each team a score on a scale of 1 to 100, with the score representing a team's percentage of total possible points. (For a detailed breakdown of the methodology used for the Future Power Rankings, click here.)

With each team's ranking, you'll also get a take from Buster, Jim and Keith. Buster will give an overview of the franchise's future, Jim will explain the biggest dilemma currently facing the team and Keith highlights a prospect facing a make-or-break season.

So who's No. 1? Which team did our team of experts think is best equipped for success over the next half-decade? It's time to find out.

1Boston Red Sox
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
A year ago, even coming off of their disastrous 2012 season, the Red Sox came in 10th in these rankings, and then second in our August update, so it's not like they fell off the map completely even during a period of struggle. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball as well as incredible financial flexibility, with a little less than $14 million committed for the 2016 season, most of which is owed to face of the franchise Dustin Pedroia, who signed one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball last year. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Red Sox have tremendous depth on the mound and infield, but their long-term outfield picture is unclear beyond rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. They should be fine this year with Shane Victorino in right and Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava once again platooning in left, but they need to find some youth in the outfield corners. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Red Sox prospects)
Brian Johnson was the Red Sox's second first-round pick in 2012, after Deven Marrero, as a low-ceiling, quick-to-the-majors starting pitcher, but he took a liner to the face that August and missed about half of 2013 with a shoulder ailment. He's now 23 years old with no projection and should already have been ready for Triple-A, making a healthy 2014 a critical step for him. -- Keith Law

2St. Louis Cardinals

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
This is our fifth installment of the Future Power Rankings, and here is how the Cardinals have ranked, starting from the beginning: 4, 3, 1,1, and now second. You hear the phrase "model organization" thrown out a lot in regard to St. Louis, and it's simply the truth. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Cardinals are expected to the start the season with Allen Craig in right field and Matt Adams at first base. However, when top prospect Oscar Tavares is ready, Craig will be move to first base and Adams will be back to fighting for playing time. At some point the Cardinals will have to decide to trade one of Matt Holliday, Craig, Tavares and Adams, with Adams the most likely to be dealt. But do you keep all of them for a year or two holding on to the depth or trade one if the right deal comes along? -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Cardinals prospects)
This is a huge year for Carson Kelly, a 2012 draftee who converted to catching in instructional league last fall and could be Yadier Molina's long-term successor if he can adapt to the position. -- Keith Law

3Los Angeles Dodgers

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
There may come a time in a few years where the Dodgers' financial power might not be able to make up for a lack of minor league depth, but right now they have a number of star players in their prime, some solid prospects on the horizon, and enough financial clout to stay atop the NL West for the forseeable future. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
This one is obvious: How do you handle four outfielders who are all paid like superstars? For now, it's Yasiel Puig in right, Andre Ethier in center, Carl Crawford in left, and Matt Kemp on the DL. This will get tricky once Kemp is healthy, particularly if the other three are playing well. And let's not forget top prospect Joc Pederson, an athletic center fielder who could be ready this year. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Dodgers prospects)
Pedro Baez is entering his second full year as a pitcher, showing the arm strength but not the feel or command last year to be a major league reliever; this should be the year he takes that step, and the bullpen is one of the only places where there might be room for a prospect in L.A. this year. -- Keith Law

4Texas Rangers
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Rangers' streak of three straight playoff appearances was broken last year, but the team that finished first in the first two versions of the Future Power Rankings is still in great shape. GM Jon Daniels opened up a spot for wunderkind Jurickson Profar this winter by trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, and coupled with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers will have a much more dynamic lineup for years to come. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Rangers rebuilt their lineup to one of the best in the league, and if and when their pitching staff finally gets healthy, they should return to the postseason. However, they still don't have a long-term solution at catcher. They had interest in Brian McCann before he signed with the Yankees and now have set their sights on Matt Wieters and Miguel Montero, both of whom could become available via trade soon. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Rangers prospects)
Both Joey Gallo and Lewis Brinson, high picks in the 2012 draft, have huge offensive tools but posted enormous strikeout totals in low Class A Hickory last season; they'll move up to pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach this year, where the challenge will be improving their contact rates while facing tougher competition. -- Keith Law

5Pittsburgh Pirates

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
If you thought the Pirates were a one-year fluke, you are going to be wrong. While it's possible Pittsburgh will take a small step back this year if Francisco Liriano can't repeat his excellent 2013, rival evaluators have marveled this spring about the wealth of young talent on the cusp of the majors, starting with right fielder of the future Gregory Polanco. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Pirates need a power bat to put between Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez in the lineup, and a first base platoon of Andrew Lambo and Gaby Sanchez won't cut it. They have a deep farm system and will be looking to trade for an elite first baseman. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Pirates prospects)
Jameson Taillon has premium stuff and the size to be a top-of-the-rotation workhorse, but ancillary factors like fastball command and lack of deception have made him less successful than his stuff would indicate. Gerrit Cole turned that corner last year, and there's no tangible reason Taillon couldn't do the same. I'll also add power-hitting outfielder Josh Bell, who had a healthy year in 2013 and now should be ready for the breakout year I thought he might have in 2012 before he blew out his knee. -- Keith Law

6Washington Nationals

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Nationals were seen as one of baseball's biggest disappointments last season, yet they still won 86 games, which says a lot about their talent. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are ready to jump into the MVP and Cy Young discussions, and the trade for Doug Fister gives them the deepest rotation in the game. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
GM Mike Rizzo would love to get right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and Harper to sign long-term deals, but both have proven to be a challenge. Zimmermann has turned down several "ranges" of offers, and Harper is represented by Scott Boras, who prefers to let his clients test free agency. Perhaps a long-term extension for Mike Trout in Anaheim would set the parameters for potential Harper deal. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Nationals prospects)
Michael Taylor looks like he'll be an elite defensive center fielder, and just has to find enough bat to get his glove to the majors. Getting stronger would help, as he hasn't put on the muscle we expect to see from players as they hit their early 20s, and he has spent the last two seasons at high Class A Potomac. -- Keith Law

7Chicago Cubs

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Cubs are poised to lose 90 games again, and there are growing questions about exactly when club ownership will start building a payroll worthy of a team of such financial power. But if you talk to execs around the National League, you can tell they are already worrying about this sleeping giant. With prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler on the horizon, the Cubs could soon have a powerful lineup. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Cubs' elite hitting prospects should begin to arrive this year and have them ready to compete by 2016. That gives club president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer two years to find a pitching staff worthy of those hitters. They tried to sign Masahiro Tanaka, but lost out to the Yankees, and don't be surprised if they look to free agency again next winter when the likes of James Shields and Max Scherzer could be available. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Cubs prospects)
Arodys Vizcaino appears to be back after two years lost due to arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery; once among the top starting pitching prospects in the minors, he'll likely have to work his way back as a reliever given all the time he's lost. -- Keith Law

8Detroit Tigers

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
Like the Rangers, the Tigers remade their lineup with the Fielder-Kinsler trade. They should be much better defensively, which will make their already dominant pitching look that much better. A weak farm system suggests they won't contend indefinitely, but the window is still open for the next few years. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Left field continues to be an area of long-term concern for the Tigers, who will platoon Rajai Davis and Andy Dirks there this year. They don't have an elite corner outfielder in the pipeline, so a trade or free-agent signing at some point will have to be made. The Tigers could use a typical power bat in left as they'll certainly miss Fielder's thump this year. It's possible Jose Bautista or Ethier could become available later this summer at the trade deadline. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Tigers prospects)
Outfielder Tyler Collins had a disappointing season in Double-A at age 23, so while he's still one of the Tigers' top position-player prospects, his relatively advanced age and lack of power output so far mean time is running out for him to become anything more than a left-handed bench bat. -- Keith Law

9Atlanta Braves

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
When the winter began, execs around the league were wondering how the Braves would handle the impending arbitration cases for Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward, with many folks in the industry believing that the club would have to trade Kimbrel if he won his case. GM Frank Wren shocked many of his peers when he was able to get Freeman and Kimbrel to sign long-term deals, as well as Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran. They now have a new stadium on the horizon and the young core locked up for years. It's a great recipe for success. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Braves need a true No. 1 starter who can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Kershaw and Strasburg in the playoffs. They don't have that guy in the organization, and recent injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy have further sapped them of depth, and the addition of Ervin Santana doesn't materially change the question. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Braves prospects)
Atlanta plans to start the year with El Oso Clank-o, Evan Gattis, behind the plate, but the opportunity is there for top prospect Christian Bethancourt to seize the job. He has the defensive chops -- an 80-grade arm and soft hands -- as well as power, but it took almost a year-and-a-half in Double-A for him to develop enough of an approach to become an adequate hitter there. -- Keith Law

10Kansas City Royals

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
You have probably heard some people say that the Royals "need to make the playoffs" this year. That would certainly help GM Dayton Moore's long-term job prospects, but the club is still in good shape even if their 29-year postseason drought continues. James Shields will likely leave as a free agent next winter, but young pitchers like Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura are ready to fill the void. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Royals are not engaged in contract negotiations with Shields at this time, and Shields told me that once the season starts he has no interest in negotiating until the offseason. Therefore, the Royals must decide whether to get engaged in talks between now and Opening Day or risk losing him for draft-pick compensation should he leave as a free agent. That would be a tough pill to swallow considering they gave up 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers for him. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Royals prospects)
Bubba Starling wasn't young for the Midwest League, but the former fifth overall selection hit .241/.329/.398 in low-A, striking out in over a quarter of his plate appearances. The Royals hope that LASIK surgery last May can help him at least become a low-average power hitter, but the results were just marginally better after the operation, and to make matters worse, he'll start 2013 at pitcher-friendly Wilmington. -- Keith Law

11New York Mets
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
That Matt Harvey is out for the season doesn't change the fact that the Mets have one of the best collections of young pitching in all of baseball. Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler have looked electric this spring, and the Mets' new Generation K may pay off in a way that Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher did not. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Mets have built their starting rotation for the long haul and now they must concentrate on surrounding David Wright and Curtis Granderson with a competitive lineup. They won't be able to do it strictly through free agency, so trading some of their minor league talent to get young major league-ready position players should be next on GM Sandy Alderson's agenda. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Mets prospects)
Brandon Nimmo, the team's first-rounder in 2011 (one pick ahead of Jose Fernandez), was inexperienced for an American high school player when he signed, as Wyoming (where he's from) doesn't have high school baseball, but he showed signs of progress in 2013 and seems primed for a breakout year as a prospect as he moves out of pitcher-friendly Savannah. -- Keith Law

12Tampa Bay Rays
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Rays have done an incredible job of not only developing homegrown talent, but also selling high on players who were not part of their long-term plans. However, their last few drafts have not been so fruitful, and if they have to trade David Price, they must get some elite, close-to-the-majors talent in return, or risk falling behind the behemoths in the AL East. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Rays were tempted to trade Price over the winter and did the right thing by deciding to hold on to him. It's doubtful they'll now consider trading him in July unless they're not in the race for some reason. Therefore, once the season is over they'll have to make the final decision whether to sign him (not happening without a new stadium), trade him, or hold on to him for one last run at a World Series realizing the latter means they might only get draft-pick compensation. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Rays prospects)
Richie Shaffer was a first-round pick in 2012 out of Clemson, with some of the best bat speed in that entire draft class, but he was inexcusably unproductive in high-A as a 22-year-old last year, with a .308 OBP. Port Charlotte's a lousy place to hit, but Shaffer's numbers are about more than just a tough home park. -- Keith Law

13New York Yankees
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
It is hard to rank the Yankees much lower than this when you consider their financial clout, but they have once again tied their sails to a number of high-end free agents who are in the midst of (Jacoby Ellsbury, McCann) or past (Carlos Beltran) their primes. This formula worked for them when they won the 2009 World Series, but back then they also had a few other All-Stars on the roster. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Derek Jeter will retire at the end of the season and if Alex Rodriguez returns it probably would be as a right-handed platoon at DH. In other words, the Yankees will need to remake the left side of their infield. There could be several free-agent options for the Yankees at shortstop next offseason, highlighted by Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera. At third base the best potential free agents are Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley of the Padres. One thing is for sure: the answer is not in their farm system. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Yankees prospects)
Take your pick -- Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott are all in big swing years for them, the last three coming off injury-wrecked 2013 seasons. Sanchez just needs to finally have that year where his enormous offensive gifts (hitting for average and power) manifest themselves for an entire season. -- Keith Law

14Baltimore Orioles
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
Perhaps no team has confused the industry more than the Orioles. They have a championship-caliber core, led by Adam Jones, Manny Machado and \Wieters, yet they have been hesitant to spend money to fill in holes around them. The signings of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz are a step in the right direction, but it's unclear if those two are good enough to put them over the hump in the next couple of years. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Wieters and Chris Davis have two things in common: Both are free agents at the end of the 2015 season and both are represented by Boras. The O's must decide if they are willing to spend what it will take to keep either of them in Baltimore, either now or when they hit free agency. If the answer is no, they need to trade them. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Orioles prospects)
Jonathan Schoop has been on my top 100 prospects rankings the last three years, but 2013 was a lost year due to a stress fracture in his lower back; he has power, flexibility, and the potential to be above-average at second or third, but at 22 he should be able to put up a big offensive season while repeating Triple-A. -- Keith Law

15Cincinnati Reds
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Reds may be a small-market team, but they've shown a willingness to take care of their own, locking up homegrown stars Joey Votto and Homer Bailey to nine-figure deals. But the loss of Choo robs the lineup of an elite OBP threat, and if speed demon Billy Hamilton is unable to hit major-league pitching, the Reds run the risk of falling well behind the Cardinals, Pirates and even Cubs in the NL Central for years to come. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
With Bailey locked, the Reds must decide if they want to give a similar contract to Mat Latos or Johnny Cueto. If Cueto's option is picked up, both are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. The Reds need a right-handed power bat more than anything, so it's likely they will use available resources on that. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Reds prospects)
Jeff Gelalich was the team's third pick in 2012, coming in the sandwich round out of UCLA, but had an atrocious year in 2013 -- .245/.331/.300 at low Class A Dayton -- even though he was old for the level, and notably hitting just one home run all year. He's a non-prospect unless he has a breakout season in high-A in 2014, preferably getting himself to Double-A by midyear. -- Keith Law

16Oakland Athletics
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
There may not be a more resourceful franchise than Oakland, whose win totals always seem to exceed the sum of their parts. Most impressive has been their two straight AL West titles despite not faring that well at the top of the draft in recent years, which speaks to GM Billy Beane's ability to find undervalued players via trades, and manager Bob Melvin's willingness to platoon. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Everyone in baseball would like to see what Beane can do with a nine-figure payroll, but that won't come until the A's find a way to get a new stadium in San Jose. A's ownership, the Giants -- who are blocking the deal by invoking their territorial rights -- and the league need to find a way to make it happen. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 A's prospects)
Michael Ynoa is now on the 40-man roster, even though he's got all of 115 innings pitched in the five years since Oakland signed him to what was at the time a record deal for a Dominican amateur. He has the fastball, the body, and the easy delivery, but he's barely pitched and hasn't performed well when he has. He needs a full, healthy, productive season to make it worth it for the A's to carry him another winter. -- Keith Law

17Houston Astros
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
General manager Jeff Luhnow completely tore down this club to build it back up, and it appears they may have finally bottomed out, and some of the products of their recent drafts, such as outfielder George Springer, should hit the majors this year. That said, much of their top talent, such as shortstop Carlos Correa, is still a year or two away, and it is hard to foresee playoff contention before 2016, at the earliest. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Astros have arguably the best farm system in baseball and now they must decide when to promote some of those players to the big leagues and start their arbitration and free agency clocks. The timing will be a critical because they must figure out when they can win, when the players are major-league ready and how long they'll be able to keep the young nucleus together. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Astros prospects)
The Astros took outfielder Ravel Santana in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees, so they don't have to return him if he doesn't play well, but after missing all of 2013 and fighting injuries the last two years, he has to have a good 2014 at age 21 to factor into the Astros' plans, especially as their 40-man situation gets increasingly crowded. -- Keith Law

18San Diego Padres
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Padres seem to be a franchise perpetually in limbo. They do a good job of building a roster well suited for their spacious ballpark, and they have accumulated some nice young depth. However, they've had an absurd number of injuries in the last couple of seasons, and a lack of high-end talent has prevented them from approaching 90 wins. Headley, the closest thing they have to an MVP-caliber player, will likely leave as a free agent next winter, giving rise to a new set of questions. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
San Diego could have traded Headley after his fantastic 2012 season, but held on to the third baseman, who came back to earth in 2013. His trade value is much lower now that he is just a year away from free agency, and the Padres must decide if they want to break the bank to re-sign him, trade him in July if they are out of the race, or let him walk as a free agent and take the draft-pick compensation. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Padres prospects)
I've been a Joe Ross fan since high school, but a bum shoulder ruined his 2012 season and he showed little progress in a mostly full 2013. He needs to refine his breaking ball, and more importantly miss more bats to be able to get close to the track record of his older brother, Tyson, and if it's going to happen this should be the year. -- Keith Law

19San Francisco Giants
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
It's hard to be too critical of a team that has won the World Series twice in four years, but the Giants' lack of position-player prospects could bite them very soon. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt provide a solid offensive core, but Pablo Sandoval is set to be a free agent next fall, and the lack of long-term solutions at second, third, left and center is a major concern. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Sandoval has proven that when he commits to fitness he can be an All-Star. He looks great in camp this year and the Giants have to decide if he is worth a long-term deal, or if he will put weight back on once he gets paid. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Giants prospects)
I like Mac Williamson quite a bit among Giants' hitting prospects, but his bat speed isn't great, so he's going to have to become a walks/power guy to overcome what will likely be modest (or worse) batting averages. -- Keith Law

20Arizona Diamondbacks
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The good news for Arizona is that they have Paul Goldschmidt, arguably the best young first baseman in baseball, and Archie Bradley, arguably the game's best pitching prospect. The bad news is they already have $50 million in salary committed for 2016, which is a lot of long-term commitment for what is typically a low-payroll team, and the rest of their lineup lacks upside. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
While the D-backs would like to see Bradley improve his changeup a little more before they promote him, the fact is he's ready now. Do you keep him in the minors and save the arbitration and free-agent clock or promote him now? Do you trade Brandon McCarthy if you promote him or hold him in case Bradley's not ready and has to be optioned back like Michael Wacha was last year for the Cardinals? -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 D-backs prospects)
The decision to move catcher Stryker Trahan to the outfield was peculiar; from the outside, it looks like the team either vehemently disagrees with the consensus that he'd be a fine catcher in time, or they don't grasp the enormous difference in replacement-level between catching and right field. Either way, it's not Trahan's fault, but he has to start hitting and hitting for power now that he's on a corner. -- Keith Law

21Cleveland Indians
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Indians' surprising run to the postseason was one of the better stories of 2013, but the club still has plenty of questions about its future. Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, two key cogs from a year ago, are gone, and Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera could soon follow as free agents. The latter wouldn't be too damaging, however, as Francisco Lindor is one of the game's best shortstop prospects. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Indians only made a qualifying offer to Jimenez to make sure they would get the draft-pick compensation. However, Masterson is another story as the Indians would love to tie him up with a long-term contract and he seems interested in staying even if it means fewer years than the market would dictate. The Indians must decide if an annual salary of $15 million-19 million is worth it in the context of their limited budget. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Indians prospects)
Trevor Bauer is on his second organization and his umpteenth delivery, having lost both his fastball and his ability to throw strikes in a lousy 2013 season. Even if he regains some measure of control, however, he'll have to get back into the low-to-mid 90s to be able to set hitters up for his quality off-speed stuff. -- Keith Law

22Toronto Blue Jays
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
One year ago the Blue Jays seemed like a franchise on the upswing, but now they are trying to regain their footing. They traded away a ton of assets to acquire the likes of Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, but they still won just 74 games last year while dealing with injuries to Reyes and Bautista. They did nothing to upgrade their rotation this winter, and Colby Rasmus, arguably their best player in 2013, is set to be a free agent next winter. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Jays won't contend until their improve their rotation, and they are in a tough spot because Dickey and Buehrle are nearing the end of their careers, while prospects like Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez aren't quite ready to make an impact. They may have to trade their veterans at the deadline and start looking ahead to 2015 and beyond. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Blue Jays prospects)
This should be the full-season debut of 2012 first-rounder D.J. Davis, who was more athlete than baseball player when the Jays took him. In two summers of short-season ball, he's struck out too much and his plus speed hasn't translated into any kind of baserunning value. He wasn't supposed to be a fast mover, so a bad 2014 won't be fatal to his chances of becoming a big league regular, but we should see more progress this year than we did in 2013, when his crude approach at the plate limited him to a .240/.323/.418 line in the rookie-level Appalachian League. -- Keith Law

23Minnesota Twins
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
In center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano, the Twins have the best one-two combination of position-player prospects in the game. Unfortunately, Sano will miss this season recovering from Tommy John surgery, which will delay his development, and the Twins still lack enough young pitchers who can make a long-term impact. Minnesota is headed in the right direction, but the Twins still lack key pieces. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Twins didn't expect to have to move Joe Mauer to first base as early as this season; if they did, they would not have traded Wilson Ramos to the Nationals in 2010. While Josmil Pinto has good minor league stats, scouts I talk to don't think he is the long-term answer at catcher, and the Twins must find one. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Twins prospects)
Eddie Rosario will miss the first 50 games of the season after failing a drug test. Those are games and at-bats he needs to develop as a hitter and find a permanent position between second base, center field, or, if worst comes to worst, left field. -- Keith Law

24Los Angeles Angels
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
It says a lot about the Angels' recent decisions that they have Trout, the best young player in a generation, and they still fall this far down the list. The reason? They have hundreds of millions invested in the quartet of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, none of whom are locks for the All-Star game anymore. The Angels also have what might be the worst farm system in the game. Trout is good enough to keep them relevant for the next couple of years, but it's hard to feel good about long-term prospects in a division full of smart teams. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Angels recognize that they can't keep giving up draft picks to sign elite free agents, but they don't have much on the farm. They should take a page out of their crosstown rival's playbook and explore the Japanese and Cuban markets, as free agents from those countries won't cost them a draft pick. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Angels prospects)
Third baseman Kaleb Cowart was No. 23 on my top 100 going into 2013, but had a miserable year as a 21-year-old at Double-A, struggling with his mechanics hitting left-handed. His defense remains Gold Glove caliber, but few prospects have two straight bad offensive year in their 20s and recovered to become good major league regulars. -- Keith Law

25Colorado Rockies
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
It was once believe you couldn't win at high altitude, but the Rockies proved that wrong by making two playoff appearances in the Troy Tulowizki era. Nonetheless, they keep trying to re-invent the wheel in an effort to build a sustained winner. Their major moves this winter involved relievers and an aging first baseman (Justin Morneau), and any long-term success is predicated on pitching prospects Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler fulfilling their enormous promise. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
I've said all along the Rockies will be contenders when Gray and Butler are ready to impact the top of their rotation. The dilemma the Rockies have is deciding when is the right time to promote them both from a baseball and business perspective. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Rockies prospects)
David Dahl started 2013 with a suspension for missing a team flight and just kind of acting immaturely, then suffered a leg injury in May that ended his year. He's still very, very good, but he needs a full healthy year of at-bats to continue his development. -- Keith Law

26Chicago White Sox
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The White Sox may not have made themselves much better this winter, but they certainly made themselves a lot more interesting, signing Cuban free agent Jose Abreu, and acquiring youngsters Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton from Arizona in separate deals. Throw in Avisail Garcia, who they brought in last summer as part of the Jake Peavy deal, and you can see the makings of a dynamic lineup, but the lack of young pitching paints a murky picture. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
When the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski leave as a free agent they thought Tyler Flowers was their long-term solution at catcher. He has flopped at the plate, and now they must find a backstop of the future, with Wieters or Yasmani Grandal possible trade targets down the line. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 White Sox prospects)
The White Sox pushed Courtney Hawkins, then a raw 19-year-old from Corpus Christi, to high-A to start his first full pro season in 2013, and it was an unqualified disaster for him -- other than, perhaps, his power output -- hitting .170 with 160 strikeouts in 425 plate appearances. He'll likely return to Winston-Salem to start 2014, with the hopes that he'll get his bearings under him and make more contact the second time around. -- Keith Law

27Philadelphia Phillies
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
Unlike many clubs, who have decided they would rather bottom out than linger on the fringe of contention, the Phillies refuse to give up on the core that helped them win a World Series in 2008. The problem is that Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are no longer stars, and Roy Halladay has retired. A mediocre big league club combined with a huge payroll and a below-average farm system is a recipe for some down years in the City of Brotherly Love. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Phillies have the oldest lineup in the game and if they fall out of contention they have to decide when to start the firesale they have been putting off for years. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Phillies prospects)
Roman Quinn appears to be ahead of schedule in his rehab from a torn Achilles' tendon; the shortstop's (and possible future center fielder's) entire game revolved around his speed, so the injury could prove catastrophic if his legs aren't what they used to be. -- Keith Law

28Seattle Mariners
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
Most teams have realized that you can't buy your way into contention, but that didn't stop the Mariners -- who won 71 games last year -- from giving Robinson Cano a $240 million contract. He will certainly make Seattle better in the next couple of years, but it's hard to see where they get the 20 wins needed to make the playoffs. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are two promising young arms to complement Felix Hernandez, but this lineup is still below average -- even with Cano. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
Seattle spent almost a quarter-billion dollars on Cano, and now the club must find another power hitter who can complement him in the lineup. Until they do, this team won't score enough to contend. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Mariners prospects)
Victor Sanchez will pitch at 19 years old in 2014, but has already shown that conditioning is going to be a long-term issue for him, and his stuff the last two years hasn't been as good as advertised when the Mariners signed him for $2.5 million in 2012 out of Venezuela. Just keeping himself in shape for a full, 140-inning season would be major progress. -- Keith Law

29Milwaukee Brewers
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
It is not out of the realm of possibility for the Brewers to compete this season, if Ryan Braun can regain his MVP form after his suspension and Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura prove to be for real. However, their lineup has holes at second and left, Aramis Ramirez is headed for free agency, and they have done very poorly in the draft in recent years, and rival the Angels for the game's worst farm system. Like the Indians last year, one year of contention cannot mask other depth issues. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Brewers believe they have long-term answers at every position except the infield corners. They are presently stop-gapping at first base with a combination of Mark Reynolds, Juan Francisco and Lyle Overbay and are hoping for another solid season from the aging Ramirez. But they'll continue to try and trade or draft for better long-term solutions at both positions. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year (Law's top 10 Brewers prospects)
Taylor Jungmann was the team's first of two first-round picks in 2011 -- passing over pitchers Fernandez and Sonny Gray -- and was just awful in 2013 as the Brewers made him move away from his traditional breaking ball in favor of a slider, and he responded by becoming very fastball-dependent and posting a 4.33 ERA at Double-A with almost as many walks (73) as strikeouts (82). There's still a potential back-end starter here if he can get back to what made him a top prospect at Texas. -- Keith Law

30Miami Marlins
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
Although the big league team is currently among the worst in baseball, this ranking has a lot more to do with management's willingness -- or unwillingness -- to commit to a group of players for an extended period of time. In other cities, a core of Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich would be the first step toward a dynasty, but owner Jeffrey Loria's track record of firesales and indifference to winning makes it hard to feel good about the idea of that trio ever playing in a World Series in Miami. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Marlins will soon have to decide if they should sign Stanton to a long-term deal or trade him while his value is still enormous. He will be a free agent following the 2016 season, and the recent contract given to Freeman, as well as a to-be-expected contract signed by Trout, will go a long way toward establishing the parameters on any extension for Stanton. -- Jim Bowden

Make-or-break year
Lefty Justin Nicolino earned some comparisons to a young Cole Hamels, albeit with less fastball, before he was traded from Toronto to Miami last offseason, but while his arsenal hasn't changed, the light velocity has made it hard for him to miss bats. Without a lot of projection, he'll have to change his style of pitching to keep high contact rates from slowing him down. -- Keith Law

Phillies must prep for fire sale.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A year ago, the Philadelphia Phillies won 73 games, and they had the oldest team in the National League. This is generally not a great combination, as old and bad rarely reverts to old and good. Based solely on those two pieces of information, rebuilding might have been in order for the franchise.

Instead, general manager Ruben Amaro doubled down on veterans this winter, signing a 37-year-old hurler (A.J. Burnett), a couple of 36-year-old catchers (Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves), a 36-year-old outfielder (Marlon Byrd), and a 33-year-old starting pitcher (Roberto Hernandez). The Phillies added experience, and are hoping that last year's struggles were simply an aberration and not Father Time's influence taking over.

It's probably not going to work. The FanGraphs playoff odds page currently forecasts the Phillies for 77 wins, 11 games behind the Nationals in the NL East and six games behind the Giants for the second wild-card spot.

And it isn't just the forecast distance, but also the quantity of teams that they would have to leap over to get back to the postseason; the Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies are all in line behind the Giants and ahead of the Phillies. Their calculated 5.3 percent chance of winning their division ranks 10th in the National League, and their 6.7 percent chance of making the wild-card game ranks 11th in the NL. Only the Brewers, Mets, Marlins and Cubs come out as less likely playoff contenders according to our forecasts.

Plenty of assets to deal
Projections are not infallible, of course -- we didn't have the Pirates as playoff favorites before the 2013 season began, for instance -- and the Phillies have enough talent that a playoff run isn't completely out of the question. But they also have enough flaws that a crash-and-burn season is significantly more likely, and with Cole Hamels probably beginning the year on the disabled list, the Phillies' season could be over before it really begins. And that's why the Phillies need to prepare for the possibility of a big-time fire sale this summer.

[+] EnlargeCole Hamels
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Hamels' big contract might look reasonable to some suitors.
The Phillies reportedly entertained the idea of trading Cliff Lee last summer, and he would again be a valued trade target, especially if the Phillies were willing to pick up part of his remaining contract in order to let more teams get in on the bidding. With a larger revenue stream and a reduced talent base, paying Lee to play for some other team -- in exchange for a better return in young players -- is one way the organization could essentially buy some good, young players, now that MLB has limited spending on the draft and young international free agents.

Hamels the best trade chip
Lee would not be Amaro's only attractive trade option, however. Burnett and Ruiz would also draw interest, and if the Phillies were willing to pay the majority of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining contract, they could likely flip him for a prospect or two as well. But they shouldn't just stop at marketing the older players, as a full-scale rebuild should also include gauging the league's interest in acquiring Hamels.

While he's due $118 million over the next five years, the explosion of free-agent salaries has served to make that look like a reasonable price, even for a pitcher who will begin the year on the DL. If Hamels returns to the mound and shows no lasting effects from his biceps strain, his combination of success and youth would make it likely that the Phillies could not only move him for young talent, but do so without picking up a significant portion of the dollars he's due going forward.

With the rising prices in free agency, $22.5 million per year for a pitcher of Hamels' caliber could be sold as a bit of a value, and he's young enough that he could be an appealing target both for contenders looking for a midseason upgrade as well as teams with a longer-term view that just want to add a high-quality starter without having to get into a free-agent bidding war.

Certainly, trading Lee, Hamels and Burnett would leave the Phillies with little in the way of high-level pitching, but the reality is that they're likely ticketed for fourth or fifth place in the division whether they keep their best arms or not. Clearing some salary off the books and infusing some good, young talent into the organization could allow the team to reallocate its resources to a short rebuild, and then go back out and spend the saved money to build around a new core of young talent like outfielder Domonic Brown, third baseman Maikel Franco, and lefty Jesse Biddle.

Punting a season or two to build for the future is never an easy thing, especially with a fan base accustomed to winning, but the 2014 season could very well provide a reality check for the Phillies and force them to make just that decision. If they start slowly, the team that finishes the year in Philadelphia should look remarkably different from the one that breaks camp on Opening Day.

Dahl looks like an elite prospect again.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Some thoughts from the matchups on Friday between the A-ball affiliates of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

• The Rockies' first-round pick in 2012, outfielder David Dahl missed nearly all of 2013 between an early-season suspension for insubordination and a torn hamstring that ended his year in mid-May. He's worked hard to get his body into premium shape for 2014, however, looking stronger and fitter than ever -- yes, he's in the Best Shape of His Life™ -- and given the ability we already knew he had, he should have a breakout season.

Dahl's added strength shows up in his swing, as he has better bat control thanks to stronger hands and forearms, as well as greater torque from his hip rotation. He's a plus runner as well, and if anything it seems more likely today that he could stay in center field long-term (if the Rockies choose to leave him there) than it did last spring.

I'd like to see some more swings from Dahl, and he didn't take great at-bats on Friday, but any time a talented player can bounce back from a lost year and show up faster and stronger than he was before, it's cause for real optimism. He ranked 47th on my ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball before this year, and I'll predict a jump into the top 20 after a healthy 2014 for him.

• Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia was in the group of players who just missed my top 100 list this offseason, in part because he's so far away from the majors and inexperienced. He's a very gifted hitter with outstanding bat speed, but gets virtually nothing from his lower half, setting up with a ridiculously wide base that makes it hard for him to stay balanced and impossible for him to transfer his weight.

When he swings it's always hard, but he rolls over his front foot more than half the time, which means he can't shift his weight to his front leg and doesn't have a lot of time to pick up an off-speed pitch. As odd as his lower half is during his swing, his top half is pretty simple and clean; his hands are quick and strong, so his contact is pretty loud. He's an above-average runner, not plus, but should have plenty of speed for an outfield corner. I love the hand speed and strength here, but the Rockies will probably have to clean up his lower half at some point before he reaches the majors, whenever it becomes a problem for him.

• The Diamondbacks' second overall pick from 2013, right-hander Aaron Blair, started in the low-A game and threw four innings, showing at least the raw materials to grow into a No. 4 starter. Blair was 91-95, sitting 92-93, and showed two breaking balls, a short mid-70s curveball with two-plane break and a slider with a lot of variance in velocity (80-86 mph) and shape. When he hit the slider, it was above-average to plus, with hard tilt and moderate length to it, so that he could keep it in or near the strike zone if he had to.

The pitch backed up on him a few times as well and I'm guessing the issue is finishing it all the way out in front of the delivery. Blair's a big kid but his body, like Dahl's, looks much better than it did last year at Marshall, so now he looks like a 200-inning horse. He'll have three or maybe four pitches to do it, assuming he can improve his fastball command (below-average on Friday) and get one of those two breaking balls to become a consistent weapon for him.

• The Rockies sent right-hander Johendi Jiminian up against Blair and he was just as promising, perhaps more so given his physique. At 21 years old, Jiminian can still fill out some on his 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame, but he was already 90-95, sitting mostly 90-92, showing a solid-average curveball in the 76-78 mph range and flashing a slider in the low 80s. He throws strikes, more control than command at this point, with a loose arm but some effort in the delivery.

Shipley shows elite off-speed stuff.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Right-hander Braden Shipley, the Arizona Diamondbacks' first-round pick last June, threw four innings in a low Class A game on Thursday, looking good in almost every respect, especially with his curveball -- the main question scouts had on him as an amateur at Nevada.

Shipley's fastball was 90-94 mph, mostly 90-92, getting some downhill plane but nowhere near consistent enough in that respect; nearly all the damage he gave up came when he left fastballs up, including the three-run double hit by Jonah Arenado (Nolan's brother) on a 92 mph first-pitch fastball that got way too much plate.

However, Shipley's secondary stuff was superb. His changeup was already a plus or plus-plus pitch in college, and it was filthy at 83-86, with arm speed and tumble that would work in the high minors right now. But the curveball was the pleasant surprise; I believed last year that he had it in him to throw a plus curveball but needed to use it more than the Nevada coaches would allow. On Thursday, he threw several that were at least above-average, 79-81 mph with outstanding depth and a little bit of two-plane action -- and he threw it for a strike when he wanted to.

With more consistency, which should come as he throws the curve more and more, that's going to be a plus pitch for him. His ceiling would then be a function of his velocity and command; he should be more 92-94 when the season starts, and he needs to keep that pitch down to avoid giving up too much hard contact.

• San Francisco Giants right-hander Keury Mella, who posted great stats across the board as a 19-year-old in the rookie-level Arizona League last year, started against Shipley and showed very easy velocity, sitting 92-95 with his fastball, most of them straight but occasionally flashing a little two-seam life on the pitch.

His curveball has a lot of depth but isn't consistent, 79-81 mph, all with a lot of depth but some looser than others. His changeup is a grade-35 at this point, as he has no feel for it and it comes out of his hand like a BP fastball. Mella's arm is very quick but the delivery isn't great, as he cuts himself off and comes slightly across his body; he's got a solid reliever floor, but at age 20 has plenty of time for the Giants to clean him up and help him develop a third pitch.

• Ray Black tossed an inning for the Giants, throwing only fastballs, hitting 100 three times with nothing under 94 mph. He had better control than command, walking one but punching out three, generally around the strike zone but not hitting spots. It's not a bad delivery, but Black has missed two years due to an arm injury, so even though he was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 he's never pitched an inning in a regular-season game. This would be found money for the Giants if he's healthy and ready to go.

• I did get a quick look at Stryker Trahan, the Diamondbacks' first-round pick from 2012 whom they've already converted from catching to the outfield. He didn't have a great day or look at the plate, but that aside, he's built too much like a catcher for the team to give up on him so quickly. He's not Wil Myers (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) or Bryce Harper (6-2, 230), giant kids who are also great athletes and who played catcher but also profiled as good right fielders or even third basemen; Trahan is listed at 6 foot-1, 215 pounds, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was more like 6-feet, 225. It's a catcher's build, not a corner outfielder's.

Yes, I'm taking this one a little personally, mostly because I don't understand the organization's thinking here.

Dee Gordon's hitting still a concern.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Buster Olney noted earlier this week that Dee Gordon may already have won the Los Angeles Dodgers' second-base job, which may have something to do with the absence of any real competition here. Gordon did add an unusual amount of muscle this offseason, but he doesn't have the hand or wrist strength to turn on major league fastballs.

He loads his hands very deep, nearly barring his lead arm, and drags the bat through the zone. Between the late start and the lack of wrist strength, he can't accelerate enough to make hard contact. He's still a plus runner and he looks like he'll be a plus defender at second, but I don't believe he's going to be able to hit any more than he has in his 600-plus at bats in the majors, during which he has posted a .234/.314/.298 line.

• The Dodgers' rotation is absurd on paper right now, with two aces at the top and the potential to go seven deep in starters if and when Dan Haren, Chad Billingsley, and Josh Beckett are all healthy. That sort of thing never seems to happen -- someone always gets hurt -- and the first prospect to get the call if the Dodgers need another starter will likely be right-hander Zach Lee, who backed up Zack Greinke in their home game on Wednesday against what I might charitably refer to as the Diamondbacks' junior varsity squad. (I might uncharitably refer to it as a preview of a future Atlantic League All-Star Game roster.)

Lee was a mixed bag on Wednesday, showing a potential out pitch in his slider but less arm speed (and thus less velocity) than I expected. Lee worked from 87-90 mph with some two-seam life even at the top end of the range, and he worked aggressively to both sides of the plate, coming in repeatedly to left-handed batters to try to hit the inside corner with the pitch. His curveball is pretty at 74-76 mph, between an 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 break, but it's more of a show-me pitch than a swing-and-miss option; his slider, 84-87 mph and at times showing hard tilt, is a better bet to miss right-handed bats. The shape varied; at 86-87 mph it was more of a big cutter, while at 84-85 mph he threw some that were plus with angle and depth.

His command of the slider was a bit erratic -- he put a few in the dirt and saw a few back up on him -- but there's the promise of a plus pitch here. He also flashed a few changeups at 82-83 mph but it was an afterthought, with one at 83 mph showing good deception but which was probably too close in velocity to the fastball.

Lee's delivery is very smooth and he has filled out some since high school, where he was a two-sport star who had a scholarship to play quarterback at LSU when the Dodgers took him in the first round. His velocity hasn't increased at all since then, however, and his arm looked slower Wednesday, which surprised me -- athletic guys like Lee are more likely to see their arm speed and velocity go up, not down. It's possible Lee wasn't throwing at 100 percent, because it certainly didn't look like maximum effort, but I'd like to see more fastball before I pencil him in as more than a back-end starter. With an average fastball and a plus slider, he'd be more like a solid No. 3 because he's aggressive and throws a ton of strikes.

• Chris Withrow threw an extremely promising inning in relief, throwing strikes and getting the ball down effectively. His delivery was a little smoother than I remembered from last year, with less of a plunge in back, so he wasn't throwing uphill -- and that meant he could work in the lower part of the zone. His fastball was 93-95 mph and the cutter was sharp at 90-92 mph.

• I caught one at-bat from Alex Guerrero in the Dodgers' intrasquad game on one of their minor league fields, not enough for a full evaluation but enough to point out that he doesn't have much bat speed. It's a "slider speed" bat, in the scouting vernacular, which means that it doesn't look like it's enough to catch up to a good fastball. It's a short swing, built more for line drives than power, but he's going to have to speed it up before Opening Day if he's going to hit big league pitching.

Jose Abreu's swing looks great.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract with some expectation that he'd be in their lineup this season, the sooner the better given the size of the investment. Given what I saw from him on Tuesday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, I think they had good cause for such optimism, as Abreu looks like he can really hit.

Abreu's swing is very clean and pretty -- he has no load, but explodes to the ball as if he'd cocked his hands much further back, so while his path to the ball is extremely short, he has the hand and wrist strength to hit for power. He's very rotational but gets a little uphill, so he may get on top of the ball too often (top-spinning the ball into the ground), and he had some trouble on Tuesday recognizing changes of speeds, striking out once on a slider where he was way out in front. But his swing is simple and he should be able to hit for average and for power even if he's not walking much right away.

Abreu also was more trim than I expected and played a very capable first base, looking agile and showing good instincts. We'll see how he looks against better pitching later this spring -- the Rangers rolled the revenant Joe Saunders out to the mound, followed by the tattered remains of Tommy Hanson's shoulder -- but the early signs have to have White Sox brass excited.

" The Diamondbacks are going to regret giving up so soon on Adam Eaton, as Eaton is up to his old tricks: Taking good at-bats, hitting the ball hard, running well (a solid 60 on the 20-80 scale), and playing an above-average center field, including an 8-3 double play on Tuesday that required him to throw a strike to first base. He's just what the Sox needed -- a high on-base guy for the top of their lineup -- and adding him and Abreu to their offense this year already makes them look more potent.

" Avisail Garcia showed his usual impatience, hacking at the first pitch he saw on the day and then again at the third pitch, which follows with his history of having tools, at least on the hitting side, that are ahead of his instincts or his feel. Garcia's swing is a little long, as he loads his hands up behind his rear shoulder, but he does have strong forearms and has the rotational swing to hit for power. His approach at the plate is not major league caliber, however, and I think he'd benefit from time in the minors that he's not likely to get after he hit .304 in his time with the White Sox last year.

He's a fringe-average runner who can throw but isn't going to add much value on the bases or on defense, so he needs to hit, and I'm concerned that his lack of plate discipline is going to hinder his ability to develop into an above-average hitter with power.

" Marcus Semien played most of the game at third base, and to some extent reaffirmed concerns about his ability to hit at the highest level. The biggest issue is with his swing, specifically how high his back elbow is when he loads. He's longer to the ball and cuts through pitches up in the zone, pitches where he'd be better off keeping his hands inside but can't because of where his elbow starts. He's a patient hitter, seeing 17 pitches in his three at-bats, but converting that into offensive production won't be easy.

Semien was replaced by a longtime favorite of mine, Matt Davidson, who lined a home run into left-center off lefty Pedro Figueroa. The White Sox have a lot of flexibility this year, but Davidson starting at third with Semien as a utility guy who can fill in at short, second and third seems like the ideal alignment.
post #20273 of 73398
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Yea, as much as I dump on them sometimes, last year was definitely an aberration for that Nats team. Healthy and now with Fister? That's right up there with St Louis and LA.
Fister's elbow inflammation is concerning, hopefully it's nothing and he can get back out there soon with no issues.
post #20274 of 73398
The Fister addition was huge.
post #20275 of 73398
This is awesome laugh.gifpimp.gif

post #20276 of 73398
You think Fister has ever been out with buddies and the next morning one of his buddies goes

"Guys what did Doug do"

"He Fist-er"


post #20277 of 73398
Still can't believe the Mariners traded a Fister for a Furbush
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20278 of 73398
Originally Posted by FinallyFamous View Post

You think Fister has ever been out with buddies and the next morning one of his buddies goes

"Guys what did Doug do"

"He Fist-er"

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 #20279 of 73398
Sizmore looking like the Sizemore of old in this game today. Glad to see him running around, diving and hitting the wall without issues.
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #20280 of 73398
He could shatter at any second.

I hope he can get his career back on track.
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