2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 237
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Mike Trout is a disgusting human being.
I love him. Sucks he plays for the +@#%### Angels...
Profile: Trevor Bauer, D-Backs.
The situation: With /espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/6383/joe-saunders">http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/6383/joe-saunders')" cache="true" content="tabs#ppc" fpopheight="357px" fpopwidth="490px" gameroot="flb" playeridtype="sportsId" playerid="6383" instance="_ppc" tab="null">Joe Saunders heading to the disabled list with a shoulder injury, the /espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/ari/arizona-diamondbacks">http://espn.go.com/mlb/te...ari/arizona-diamondbacks')">Arizona Diamondbacks made the highly anticipated move of calling up Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, who will make his major league debut by starting on Thursday. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, Bauer ranked second in the minor leagues with 116 strikeouts in 93 innings, to go with a 2.23 ERA.
Background: While he was part of a UCLA rotation that included eventual No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole (Pirates) last spring, Bauer was statistically the best pitcher in college baseball last year, finishing his junior year with a 1.25 ERA and a Pac-10 record 203 strikeouts in just 136⅔ innings. Beyond his numbers, his rituals in between starts have garnered just as much attention. He is a proponent of long tossing, throwing from outfield pole to outfield pole before games, and he also works out with giant rubber bands as part of resistance training.
What he can do: Bauer can miss bats at any level with a wide assortment of offerings. Using a delivery that features an exaggerated stride and lightning-quick arm action, Bauer has a 93-95 mph fastball that can bump a bit higher at times, and he backs up the pitch with an outstanding curveball, as well as a plus slider and deceptive changeup. He also can vary the grip on his fastball to add cutting or sinking action to the pitch, and hitters never know what's coming. Because of the speed in his delivery, he can get out of sync at times, leading to problems with control and efficiency. He's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings this year, and in his eight starts for Triple-A Reno, he's averaged 101 pitches for every six innings he's thrown.
Immediate big league future: There is no debate that Bauer has star-level stuff, and he should rack up plenty of strikeouts immediately. The question is how many innings he will throw. He still has a tendency to get too cute with the depth of his arsenal at times when he should simply be attacking hitters, and with his pitch count being monitored, he'll need bullpen support to get wins. With Arizona's injury woes, Bauer looks like he's up to stay, and even with his issues he's among the best fantasy rookie pickups going forward.
Long-term: Bauer will be good now and is likely five years away from peaking. He has the talent to turn into a consistent All-Star and possibly even a future Cy Young candidate. No matter which ceiling he reaches, 200-plus strikeouts will be a constant.
Midseason prospect promotions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We still don't know when Player X is going to get called up, as injuries and ineffectiveness at the big league levels -- and the constant service-time calculations -- can play a far larger role in these decisions than simply a prospect's performance.
One thing we can get some clues from, however, is the flurry of promotions that come at midseason. Here are 10 players who recently were promoted, and a breakdown of how that affects their path to the majors.
Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox
Nobody should have been surprised to see the Red Sox select shortstop Deven Marrero in the first round this year, as they've made a habit of selecting players who entered the spring as a potential top-10 pick but then slipped. Anthony Ranaudo hasn't exactly worked out, but Bradley sure has so far. After showing a line drive bat, outstanding approach and hitting .359/.480/.526 in 67 games at high-Class A Salem, he was moved up to Double-A Portland. A plus defender in center, Bradley is suddenly on pace to reach Boston by next September, if not earlier.
Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
A second-round pick in 2010, Buckel had a 2.61 ERA in his full-season debut last year. He exploded in the first half of 2012 with a 1.47 ERA at high-A Myrtle Beach and 94 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings, while limiting Carolina League hitters to a .186 average. Buckel doesn't have monster stuff, but his fastball and changeup both grade out as above-average, and all of his pitches play up due to outstanding command. He doesn't have star-level upside, but he's on the fast track as a potential No. 3 starter after beginning the second half at Double-A Frisco.
Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Only hitters are supposed to dominate in the California League, but Cingrani went against the grain by putting up a 1.11 ERA in 10 starts for high-A Bakersfield, with 71 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings. A third-round pick last June as a senior out of Rice, scouts wondered how well Cingrani's arsenal would work at the upper levels. His fastball and changeup are both plus pitches, but his slider is well below average. He's been good, but not nearly as dominant in four starts at Double-A Pensacola; a majority of talent evaluators believe he could be in the big leagues next year with a move to the bullpen.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
The top overall pick in last year's draft, Cole was consistently good at high-A Bradenton, which, given the inconsistency of his UCLA career, was quite a surprise. Most expected dominant starts mixed with duds, and he had few of each. Now at Double-A, Cole has the potential to make some noise with the Pirates next spring and should make his debut at some point in the 2013 season.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
A first-round pick in 2010, the Angels had been taking it slow with Cowart, who signed for $2.3 million as a third baseman when most teams preferred him as a pitcher. He didn't make his full-season debut until this spring, but then he lasted just 66 games at low-A Cedar Rapids while hitting .293/.348/.479. Now playing for high-A Inland Empire in the much more hitter-friendly California League, Cowart could go from a slow mover to a position prospect who reaches Double-A before his 21st birthday.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Colorado Rockies
Dickerson hit 32 home runs last year for low-A Asheville, but that looked to be the product of a park that adores left-handed power, as 26 of those homers came at home; he slugged just .363 on the road. While Dickerson had problems showing the same power at high-A Modesto to start the year, he still hit .338/.396/.583 in 60 games, but he's off to a slow start at Double-A Tulsa. As a bat-only prospect limited to left field, Dickerson has to hit to maintain his prospect status.
Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners
Franklin's stock took a dip in 2011. After a breakout year in 2010, big things were expected with Franklin heading to High Desert, but mononucleosis sapped his strength, and he struggled at the plate. He got all of his stock back and then some with a .322/.394/.502 first-half at Double-A Jackson. More offensive fireworks at Triple-A Tacoma this summer suddenly could make him the favorite to be the 2013 Opening Day shortstop in Seattle.
Miles Head, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Part of the return from Boston for Andrew Bailey, Head had some of the loudest numbers in the minor leagues during the first half of the season, hitting .382/.433/.715 in 67 games. That earned him a more-than-logical promotion to Double-A Midland, but scouts still aren't quite sure what to do with him because of his weird profile. He's short, stocky, unathletic and right-handed, a combination rarely seen in major league impact players. All he can do is keep hitting, but the A's have no obvious solution at the infield corners, so Head could be closer than expected to getting an opportunity to be part of the solution.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners
The only thing surprising about Hultzen's promotion to Triple-A Tacoma was the fact that it took so long. After allowing five earned runs in his pro debut, the second overall pick in last year's draft allowed just five more in his next 12 starts, finishing his Double-A Jackson run with a 1.19 ERA. Some would argue that the most big league-ready player in the 2011 draft was ready for Triple-A to begin the season, and he won't need 13 more starts to reach the big leagues.
Dan Straily, RHP, Athletics
One of this year's biggest breakouts among pitchers, Straily had 108 strikeouts in just 85 1/3 innings at Double-A Midland, and his scouting reports are nearly as impressive. His 91-94 mph fastball, slider and changeup all are projected as possible plus pitches, and his command and control are also above-average. Not bad for a 24th-round pick in 2009. After firing seven shutout innings with eight more strikeouts in his Triple-A debut, Straily has gone from nice organizational arm to potential September call-up.
Trade targets for the Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The ambulance chasers will be on the phone, one evaluator noted after the New York Yankees lost CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte in the span of about four hours Wednesday. What the evaluator meant is that any team looking to dump a veteran player with a bad contract will be calling the Yankees, just in case they're ready to jump.
Ned Colletti, the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, would probably love to get more of those calls today. He would probably appreciate having more options than he does right now, as he looks to apply a little defibrillation to his team's fading offense. Andre Ethier is now out, and Matt Kemp isn't going to be back for a few more weeks. The Dodgers have been shut out in their last three games, and in the month of June, only the Miami Marlins have scored fewer runs.
Colletti has been calling around asking for help, and the team's new ownership is ready to make suitable deals when they become available.
Here's the problem: There are staggeringly few options in the market right now, and even fewer attractive possibilities, with so few teams having declared themselves as sellers. But there are still some players the Dodgers could be interested in:
Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals: Kansas City prospect Wil Myers appears ready and thinks about a promotion every day, and if he's called up, Francoeur would theoretically become expendable. But as of Wednesday afternoon, Francoeur had a .702 OPS, which ranked 51st among 60 outfielders, and given the nature of his contract and the type of player that he is, making a trade would be tough. He's owed about $9 million for the rest of his deal, which runs through next year, and given his lack of production this year, the Dodgers will probably want the Royals to absorb at least some of the money -- and the Dodgers likely wouldn't give up anything decent for him.
Is this Kevin Youkilis II? Not at all. Because while Youkilis was generally unhappy, Francoeur has an important presence in the KC clubhouse. Why would the Royals simply give away a healthy player whom they're already going to have to pay, anyway?
And while some Royals fans are clamoring for Myers with the presumption he'll be an upgrade, consider what's happened this year with Eric Hosmer, who has had a tough season despite the fact that he continues to be regarded as one of the top young players in the majors. There's no guarantee that Myers will hit right away, which means that KC won't be in the giveaway business with Francoeur.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs: He's owed about $46 million, and Chicago is certainly prepared to eat a whole lot of it. But Soriano is an incredibly streaky player, he is limited to left field, and if the Dodgers traded for him, there's probably as good of a chance that he would be part of the problem as there is that he would be part of the solution. Imagine the Dodgers playing the next month with Soriano and Bobby Abreu on the corners?
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres: He'd be a great fit for the Dodgers in every way, giving them some positional flexibility. But the Padres might not be wild about trading within their own division -- the history of trades between these two teams is a lot like Yankees-Mets -- and San Diego's franchise is currently in the final stages of being sold. The process for any significant deal might slow down, unless the Dodgers were willing to overpay.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: Yes, he's eligible for free agency after this season, and he's having a strong year, and he'd be a nice fit. But it's probably far too early for Toronto to start dumping players, and prying Encarnacion away from the Jays right now would cost the Dodgers' sticker price, plus 25 percent. And L.A. really doesn't have a very good farm system.
Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels: Oh, sure, the Angels would probably be open to a conversation about Wells, who is owed about $50 million for the next 2 1/2 seasons, and the Dodgers wouldn't have to give up any prospects for him. But there is an open question about whether Wells can still play right now.
Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: He's owed about $22 million for the rest of this year and next year, and there is such significant injury risk because of his concussion history that some executives simply don't believe any team would make a move for him.
Boston Red Sox leftovers: In the next couple of weeks, Boston will get back Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, and so the Red Sox could have a surplus of outfielders with Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney. But there is no guarantee that Crawford's elbow will hold up under the stress of playing every day, and the Red Sox would want something decent in return -- maybe more than the Dodgers would want to give up.
Hanley Ramirez, Miami Marlins: Miami owner Jeffrey Loria spoke to his players last week, so it's probably far too early for him to think about dumping players. Ramirez is owed $40 million and is hitting .260, and they'd want significant return for one of Loria's favorite players.
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: Here's someone who could be a nice fit. The Dodgers have bullpen help, which the Mets need, and the price for Murphy wouldn't be prohibitive now, because he's had an off year. But Murphy had always hit before this year, and the Mets have long thought his best position is actually third base, where L.A. has a need.
The bottom line: Colletti is going to have to work through some less-than-perfect options.
From ESPN Stats and Info, more on the Dodgers' slide:
The Dodgers went 1-8 during their nine-game road trip and are now tied with the San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West.
Dodgers/Giants win percentage by month this season
From Elias Sports Bureau: It's the first time the Dodgers have ever been shut out in a series sweep of three or more games. The last time the Dodgers were shut out three straight times came back in August 2007 against the Diamondbacks and Reds. The Giants' sweep of the Dodgers in San Francisco comes just a week after the Dodgers were swept by the Athletics across the bay in Oakland. In the two series combined, the Dodgers were outscored 24-2.
• On the morning that the Angels summoned Mike Trout to the big leagues, they were 6-14. Since then, these are the pertinent numbers:
Angels' W-L: 36-19
Trout's batting average: .344, best in the AL
Trout's hits: 75
Trout's walks: 21
Trout's runs: 47
Trout's extra-base hits: 24
Trout's stolen bases: 21
In addition, Trout has been a dominant defensive player, as exhibited by the incredible catch he made Wednesday.
Josh Hamilton was the prohibitive favorite at the end of May to win the AL MVP Award, but as of today, Trout might be running neck and neck.
• Brian Cashman, general manager of the Yankees, said over the phone on Wednesday, "I believe in Freddy Garcia." He went on to explain why he isn't going to rush out and make a deal in the aftermath of injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte, and he acknowledged that during his 15 seasons as GM of the Yankees, he's become more and more conservative about midseason deals. Adam Warren is getting the ball later this week.
All of that does not preclude the possibility that the Yankees could look to add pitching in a trade in the next 33 days, before the July 31 deadline. One pitcher who might make some sense is Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins, who has thrown well of late. If his next team doesn't like his work as a starter, he could always be moved into a reliever role.
The Twins were beaten again, and the team's struggles might nudge it closer to making moves.
Moves, deals and decisions
Dings and dents
7. Gerrit Cole got smoked.
NL West notes
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Lincecum won:
A) Lincecum threw off-speed pitches 59 percent of the time, his second-highest percentage this season. Dodgers hitters were 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Lincecum offspeed pitch.
B) The Dodgers missed on 17-of-33 swings against Lincecum's off-speed pitches, the first time this season an opponent has missed on more than half its swings against Lincecum's off-speed offerings.
C) The Dodgers put nine of Lincecum's off-speed pitches in play, six of which were hit on the ground.
• The Padres' hitters came up empty.
AL West notes
• The Mariners had a frustrating day.
AL Central notes
• The Indians were swept.
NL Central notes
NL East notes
• The Marlins stopped the bleeding.
• The New York Mets broke out in a big way.
AL East notes
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
3: Opposite-field hits for Mike Trout Wednesday; he had three all of last season.
4: Mets with at least four RBIs Wednesday, the fourth team since RBIs became official in 1920 to have four players drive in at least four.
6: Home runs this June for the Dodgers; 11 players across the league have more in the month.
13: Home runs this June for Jose Bautista, most ever by a Blue Jays player in one month.
21: Hits for the White Sox, tied for second-most in a game by any team this season.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The minor league apprenticeship of Wil Myers is nearing a conclusion and the Kansas City Royals could call up the top outfield prospect at any time.
Myers, a third-round pick in 2009, entered Wednesday leading the minor leagues with 24 home runs along with a .327 average and 63 RBI. But Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star cautions that a promotion is unlikely to happen before the All-Star break.
The promotion of Myers will only add to the speculation that Jeff Francoeur will be expendable, especially since the Dodgers will be looking for an offensive boost following three straight shutout defeats in San Francisco. Francoeur, however, is hitting just .263 and is owed around $9 million for the rest of his deal, so the Royals may get far from a king's ransom in return.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney says there is no guarantee Francoeur will be a summer rental:
- Doug Mittler
Buster OlneyFrancoeur staying in KC?
"Is this Kevin Youkilis II? Not at all. Because while Youkilis was generally unhappy, Francoeur has an important presence in the KC clubhouse. Why would the Royals simply give away a healthy player who they're already going to have to pay, anyway? And while some Royals fans are clamoring for Myers with the presumption he'll be an upgrade, consider what's happened this year with Eric Hosmer, who has had a tough season despite the fact that he continues to be regarded as one of the top young players in the majors. There's no guarantee that Myers will hit right away, which means that KC won't be in the giveaway business with Francoeur."
Scoring drought in LA
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers limped home from San Francisco Wednesday after failing to score a run in a three-game series against the Giants, the first time that has happened in the history of the storied rivalry.
Already missing All-Star Matt Kemp, the Dodgers lost Andre Ethier after one at-bat to a left oblique injury that could land him on the disabled list. Ethier, injured on a check swing, will undergo an MRI on Thursday.
While the Dodgers would love to add a bat, there are "incredibly few" middle-of-the-order options available on the trade market, Buster Olney tweeted Wednesday. The likes of Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano are available, but they no longer are difference makers.
The Dodgers have been linked in the past to Houston's Carlos Lee, so maybe those talks could pick up steam. Lee has a limited no-trade clause and the Astros would be looking for the Dodgers to absorb plenty of what is left on his $18.5 million salary for 2012.
Oln ey has more on the Dodgers in Thursday's blog:
- Doug Mittler
Buster OlneySlim pickings in LA?
"Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has been calling around asking for help, and the team's new ownership is ready to make suitable deals when they become available. Here's the problem: There are staggeringly few options in the market right now, and even fewer attractive possibilities, with so few teams having declared themselves as sellers."
There is more encouraging news on Oakland lefthander Brett Anderson, who threw off a bullpen mound Wednesday for the second time since experiencing a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Anderson will throw again Sunday in Texas.
Manager Bob Melvin did not offer a timetable for Anderson rejoining the rotation, but it will certainly be after July 14, the one-year anniversary of his surgery, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Doug Mittler
If Millwood misses time
Right-hander Kevin Millwood left his start Wednesday after aggravating a groin injury, the second time he's done so in the past month or so. He was replaced in the game by Hisashi Iwakuma, who could potentially get a start next time around if Millwood can't answer the bell.
The Mariners are still hoping Millwood can make his next start Monday, reports Geoff Baker.
Other options include Blake Beavan, who started the season in the rotation but was optioned to Triple-A earlier this month. Prospect Danny Hultzen was just promoted to Triple-A and is slated to make his second start there this Thursday, but the Mariners may prefer to hold off on calling up the left-hander for another few weeks or more, both for development purposes and to stave off service time concerns.
If Millwood hits the disabled list and Iwakuma gets the nod, the Mariners are likely to call up reliever Steve Delabar, who has spent most of the season in the big leagues, but could also summon prospect Carter Capps, who is now in Double-A Jackson.
- Jason A. Churchill
We mentioned Wednesday that second baseman Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup all four times the Mets have faced a left-handed starter in the past week, leading to speculation that he may be on his way to being part of a lefty-righty platoon.
Murphy did make a case to stay in the lineup, at least against righthanders, by belting a pair of homers in a 17-1 rout of the Cubs.
Murphy has seen his playing time reduced since Ronny Cedeno came off the disabled list. ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney says Murphy might be a fit for a team out west:
- Doug Mittler
Could Murphy land in Hollywood?
"Murphy is someone who could be a nice fit in LA. The Dodgers have bullpen help, which the Mets need, and the price for Murphy wouldn't be prohibitive now, because he's had an off-year. But Murphy had always hit, before this year, and the Mets have long thought his best position is actually third base, where L.A. has a need."
That timetable has been scrapped after Carpenter still experienced weakness following a 34-pitch throwing session Friday in Kansas City. Carpenter, still searching for answers, will see a nerve specialist Thursday in Dallas, reports Derrick Goold.
GM John Mozeliak has recently said that knowing Carpenter's availability by July 1 would influence the players he pursues at the trade deadline. Carpenter's shaky status should only intensify the Cardinals' quest to land another starting pitcher.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the Cardinals are interested in Cubs starter Matt Garza, who is under club control through 2013. If the Cardinals are thinking bigger, the Brewers' Zack Greinke and the Phils' Cole Hamels could be pursued as expensive short-term rentals.
- Doug Mittler
End of the line for Houston train?
Big changes are coming to Houston, where the Astros are under new ownership and preparing for a move to the American League in 2013. When all is said and done, the train above left field at Minute Maid Park might not be going along for the ride.
Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle reports new owner Jim Crane, who already plans to remove Tal's Hill (the sloped wall in center field) from the Astros' home park, may scrap the signature train as well as part of an overhaul franchise overhaul. The train could be a casualty of a new set of signs above the Crawford Boxes and Home Run Alley.
- Doug Mittler
The 34-year-old Scott, who hasn't played since June 8 because of back stiffness, finished his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham earlier this week. Scott's return will likely reduce of the role of Hideki Matsui, who will become more of a pinch-hitter and back-up outfielder.
- Doug Mittler
Cubs and White Sox pursue Puig
Cuban defector Yasiel Puig, a 21-year-old outfielder, has been declared a free agent and could finalize a deal with a major league club by Friday, reports MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
Puig could get a contract similar to that of Jorge Soler, who received a nine-year, $30 million deal from the Chicago Cubs earlier in June.
The Cubs and White Sox are believed to be among the teams seriously interested in Puig, says Phil Rogers in Thursday's Chicago Tribune.The reason for such a high price? Well, aside from his age and talent, there's a key timing factor that could give Puig a lot of leverage. The new regulations set forth by the CBA allow clubs all of $2.9 million to spend on international free agents (including Cuban defectors), but that doesn't kick in until Monday. So if Puig is declared a free agent before then, teams will be fighting over his rights -- and have more money to spend.
As for other teams expected to be after Puig, ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com's Enrique Rojas mentions - among others - the Dodgers, Yankees,Giants and Phillies.
- Doug Mittler
Bronx rotation problems
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees absorbed a painful 1-2 punch Wednesday, first placing CC Sabathia on the disabled list with a left groin injury and then losing Andy Pettitte to a fractured left fibula that will sideline him for six weeks.
Sabathia is only expected to miss a few starts, but the injury to Pettitte requires some shuffling. The Yankees plan to first look from within while general manager Brian Cashman will stay in touch with other GMs, writes Andrew Marchand.
As our Buster Olney noted Wednesday, the Yankees will give Freddy Garcia, David Phelps and Adam Warren a shot to show they are starters. On Monday, Garcia will pitch in Pettitte's place in Tampa Bay. The Yankees specifically sent Phelps, despite a 2.94 ERA as a major-league long man, down to the minors earlier this season to fill such a position.
Francisco Liriano could be someone the Yankees could have interest in as a starter or reliever, but Olney said on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" that Cashman is not involved with any talks as of now.
Two guys who surprisingly aren't in the picture are highly-rated prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. Betances is 3-5 with a 6.39 ERA at Triple-A, while Banuelos is on the DL with a sore elbow. On the year, Banuelos is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA, also at Triple-A.
As for other trade options, the Yanks could inquire about Cubs righties Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, who are rumored to be available. Lefty Wandy Rodriguez of the Houston Astros could also be trade bait.
ESPN's Stephania Bell has more on Sabathia's injury:
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
"As a southpaw, Sabathia's injury is on his stance leg, which demands power and control while balancing on a single limb. The adductor and hip flexor muscles must then be able to properly stretch or lengthen as he transfers weight toward the right leg when releasing the ball. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, the demands on the stabilizing muscles are not insignificant. Given those demands, it is imperative that Sabathia's injury heal properly so this does not turn into a chronic issue. As the evolution of understanding these injuries comes about, it is becoming more apparent that chronic tears or defects in the core musculature, particularly groin or abdominal injuries located near their attachment on the pelvis, may ultimately require surgical intervention. The good news is that this is reported to be the mildest variant of a muscle strain. Rest and proper rehabilitation can help prevent this from becoming something more severe. A look around the league reminds us that a number of stars have been lost for significant portions or even all of the season. The team that emerges victorious in the postseason may well be the team with the most players left standing. So the Yankees will sit Sabathia now in the hope that he will be standing on the mound for them this fall."
Once Joe Saunders is ready to return from the disabled list, the club could choose the veteran over the rookie, but even after calling up Trevor Bauer to make his big-league debut this week, the D-backs still have a front line prospect they could summon in southpaw Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs started the Southern League All-Star Game against Seattle's Danny Hultzen and has been solid all season. Barring a trade that adds starting pitching, Skaggs appears to have a good chance to see the majors sometime in July or August.
The Hudson injury is likely to linger well in 2013, too, so any moves made for pitching this summer should reflect such a need.
- Jason A. Churchill
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Minor League Standouts and Players of Note.
The minor leagues are a vast landscape of prospects, fillers and veterans. Each year, players from all three of those category impact the major leagues — sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But before they make their September callups or injury replacements, let us familiarize ourselves with some of the standouts.
International League (AAA)
Jack Cust (.405 OBP, .502 SLG, .406 wOBA, 157 wRC+)
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Yusmeiro Petit (3.25 ERA, 2.69 FIP)
Justin Christian (.432 OBP, .540 SLG, .427 wOBA, 155 wRC+)
Mexican League (AAA)
The Mexican League is quite a different animal. I personally cannot recall the last time a player of great renown came from the Mexican League — it seems to function as a resting place for many Latin American stars on the decline, rather than a farm ready for harvest. It also is a league that skews towards offense, with smaller and funny-shaped parks, I’m told.
That being said, there are few players too intriguing to resist. These guys may not make it to the MLB, but they at least deserve a shot in the IL or PCL next season:
Leonardo Heras (.398 OBP, .557 SLG, .413 wOBA, 140 wRC+)
Hector Rodriguez (2.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP)
Andres Meza (4.07 ERA, 3.64 FIP)
Pablo Menchaca (4.50 ERA, 2.68 FIP)
And for giggles:
Jose Cabrera (1.14 ERA, 1.31 FIP)
Pounding the Zone: Walk Rate Peripherals.
When we look at a hitter that’s struggling to produce, we have plenty of peripherals at our disposal. When we look at a pitcher that’s struggling with his control, we have… two? We have his zone percentage, and we have his first-strike percentage. We can compare those to the league average and hope we have a sense of how important either is to his walk rate going forward.
Well, let’s see how well these things correlate to walk rate. Why not.
Seemingly, zone percentage is the most important number. You want to have a better walk rate? Throw the ball in the strike zone. Of course the two are related, but you might be surprised about the slope of the line describing their relationship:
Yeah that’s not a heck of a slope. The r-squared value for this relationship is .0875, meaning that zone percentage describes just short of 9% of the variance in walk rate. There’s a general relationship between the two, but this means that there are plenty of wild guys like Danys Baez in 2002, who hit the zone 56% of the time while walking 11.3%, and plenty of good control guys like Mark Buehrle last season, who hit the zone 43.1% of the time while walking 5.2% of the batters he faced. Zone percentage is just a general guide.
Why is this? It might be because pitchers with exceptional stuff can get batters to chase on pitches — that’s not a pitch in the strike zone, but it’s a strike, not a ball. Maybe we can find our low-zone-percentage, low-walk-rate hurlers and look at their o-swing percentage? Taking pitchers with a below-average zone percentage (we’ll use 49%) and an above-average walk percentage (we’ll use 8.5%), we get a group of 91 pitchers that averaged swings on 29.57% of their pitches outside the zone compared to the league average o-swing of 28.06%. But if you limit the list to only those with a better-than-average contact percentage, the list gets (smaller and) more interesting:
|Season||Name||Zone% pfx||BB%||O-Swing% pfx||Contact% pfx|
Now that we’ve narrowed our list to those pitchers that pitch in the zone less than average but still have better-than-average walk rates — and also garner more whiffs than average — we get a stronger result. These pitchers get whiffs on swings outside the zone, and that helps mute the effect of zone percentage on walk rate.
We still have first-strike rate to fall back on. It makes sense that fewer at-bats that start 0-1 will end up in a walk (4.6% vs the league average of 8.2%), but it also seems that if it was that easy, everyone would just throw strikes on their first pitch.
Here, the r-squared is .435, meaning that first-strike percentage is much more important to walk rate. It explains almost half of the variance in walk rate! That’s pretty impressive. After all those years hearing about the importance of getting strike one and pounding the zone — now we know which is more important.
As a bonus, the size of the circles in this last graph was determined by the pitcher’s zone percentage. As you can see, the bigger circles (better zone percentage) are clustered on the lower part of the graph. Perhaps, with the two together (and o-swing% and contact%?), we can find an equation for expected walk percentage. I’ll just have to go math up a little before we can get there.
The Rockies Should Trade Michael Cuddyer.
Michael Cuddyer will remain a member of the Colorado Rockies. Even though the team has allegedly received numerous calls about the veteran outfielder, Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd has insisted that Cuddyer isn’t going anywhere. But with the Rockies already 13.5 games back, and Cuddyer struggling, O’Dowd may want to reconsider.
When Cuddyer signed his three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Rockies this off-season, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm about the move. Though Cuddyer had been a useful player throughout his career, he was also overrated. And as Matt Klaassen pointed out when he analyzed Cuddyer’s deal in December, there were better outfielders on the market that signed for significantly less money. Even if Cuddyer played well, he was likely to be overpaid. Trading him now could allow the Rockies to reap some benefits after handing out a poor contract this off-season.
But Cuddyer has struggled to live up to expectations this season. The 33-year-old is hitting just .261/.316/.486. Plate discipline has never been one of Cuddyer’s strengths, and this year his 7.8% walk rate is even worse than normal. He’s also striking out more often. Cuddyer’s strikeout rate has jumped to 20.2% this season, his worst performance in the category since 2006. A look at Cuddyer’s plate discipline charts confirms those struggles. Cuddyer’s been more aggressive at the plate, but has made less contact than normal this season. Each of Cuddyer’s swing rates (O-Swing%, Z-Swing% and Swing%) are up this season. But all of Cuddyer’s contact rates (O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact%) are down. Cuddyer’s SwStr% has jumped to 9.7, which explains why he’s struck out more often. Pitchers seem to be getting ahead of Cuddyer early in the count, as his F-Strike% is to 63.1% this year.
Cuddyer has regressed while playing in arguably the best hitters park in the game.
Cuddyer moved from Target Field — which suppresses home runs for righties, but mostly plays neutral — to Coors Field, arguably the best hitters park in the game. And while Cuddyer’s overall numbers have been down, they are inflated by his performance at Coors Field. Cuddyer is currently hitting .294/.364/.529 at home, and just .223/.260/.438 on the road. Without that Coors Field boost, Cuddyer’s slash line wouldn’t be good enough for teams to take interest. Take away Coors Field, and Cuddyer has been a below-average offensive player this season.
Cuddyer has a reputation as a great guy and a team leader, which is one of the reasons O’Dowd may keep him on the team. But in order for this team to compete, they are going to need useful, young players to build around. If teams have legitimate interest in Cuddyer, the Rockies could flip him for a useful cog that might be around when the team is able to compete again. O’Dowd has already built a solid foundation around Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, and getting more young talent around them should be his biggest priority right now.
Cuddyer is in decline. He’s surviving only because he’s been able to hit in one of the friendliest hitters ballparks in the game. And even though his numbers have been good at home, the team isn’t going to contend this season. He’s exactly the type of player that Rockies should be shopping at the deadline. But O’Dowd better change his mind soon, because once other teams start to realize Cuddyer’s performance this season is built on smoke and mirrors, the calls are going to stop.
Stat Nerd NL All-Star Roster.
We did the AL earlier this afternoon, so now we’re tackling the 34 man rosters for the National League. Quick primer in case you didn’t read the AL post — I value first half performance (even flukes) since I see the game as a reward for the players, every team gets a representative, and injured guys are not considered. On to the picks, with starters listed first.
Don’t need four catchers, but can’t leave any of these guys at home. The first two would be legitimate MVP candidates if not for some first baseman in Cincinnati, and Ellis and Posey have been huge factors in their team’s success as well. They all deserve to go.
Apologies To: Miguel Montero.
Hey National League First Baseman Not Named Joey Votto – you suck. Okay, Goldschmidt is having a solid enough year, but the lack of depth behind Votto at the position in the NL is pretty staggering. There are seven qualified NL first baseman with less than +0.6 WAR. Essentially half the team’s in the NL are getting nothing from their first baseman. Let’s move on.
Apologies To: Fans of NL teams who have to watch their league’s first baseman hit.
A pretty balanced group here, with Phillips getting the starting nod mostly because his track record suggests he’s probably the best of the three. While this is a performance reward, when the performance is this close, tie goes to the best guy.
Apologies To: Jose Altuve, who is in if he’s healthy.
Lowrie’s an easy pick, but it gets a bit tougher to pick the reserves after that. Castro gives us a needed Cubs representative and is pretty much in line with the rest of the non-Lowrie guys, so he gets a spot. Reyes isn’t far back of the group in 2012 performance while being a worthy player based on talent, but I wouldn’t argue much if you wanted to swap him out for one of the others.
Mostly cut-and-dried here, with Wright as the obvious starter, Headley as the obvious Padres representative, and Freese getting the last spot due to nothing more than personal preference. I’d have no problem with anyone who wanted to change out Freese for someone else out of the pile of similar players.
There are about 15 deserving candidates here, so the apologies list could span a couple of pages, but I took nine so that one of them could serve as the DH – probably Beltran. The first eight guys are all clearly deserving on performance, while Harper gets in as something of a good-for-the-game selection. He’s played well enough that it’s not a charity selection, and having him and Trout make their first all-star games together will simply make the event more fun. This is the one case where I’m going with fan spectacle over pure player performance, and thankfully, Harper has played well enough that he’s not a ridiculous pick on his own merits.
The NL has so many good starting pitchers that I’ve decided that I just can’t exclude as many as I did in the AL, so the NL’s bullpen is going to be almost entirely made up of starters. Really, which of these eight guys don’t deserve to go? Even among the guys who I’m already apologizing to, there are legitimately strong cases for a spot on the roster. The NL might want to consider just bring 33 pitchers and Joey Votto just to be fair to the NL starting pitching field.
Probably the two best relievers in baseball right now, so my regrets to all the good setup guys in the NL — sorry, you were aced out by ridiculous starting pitching performances this year.
What Happened to Ricky Romero.
Right now, like as this is being written, Ricky Romero is in the process of getting bombed by the Red Sox. The 27-year-old lefty just finished an inning in which he gave up a double to Dustin Pedroia between two walks before an error and a few groundouts allowed singles from Mike Aviles and Darnell McDonald to plate some runs. Six runs in all. So far all the balls in play have been ground balls — his bailiwick — but something is still off.
Going into the start today, the primary culprits were not at fault. The batting average on balls in play that Romero has allowed this year is higher than the one he allowed last year, yes. But the ‘new’ number is .252 and last year’s number was .241. That’s not the problem. Neither can we blame a velocity drop. Well, he’s down a tick from 92.1 mph to 91.1 mph, but his career velocity is 91.5 mph on the fastball. That’s not the problem, either. He’s using his curveball a little more than he has in the past, but are we going to blame his two-run difference in ERA on 55 extra curveballs this year? It doesn’t look like he’s altered his pitching mix much otherwise, so that doesn’t look like the problem.
The obvious difference comes in his walk rate, and even in today’s big inning, the walks were a problem. Romero walked 10.3% in his rookie season, then he walked 9.3% in his decent followup, and 8.7% in his breakout season last year. Now his walk rate is at a career-worst 11.3%. You have to go back to his first shot at Double-A (in 2007) to find a walk rate that bad. Look at his strike zone stats, and you’ll notice that he’s close to league average at finding the zone (43.3% this year, 45.4% career, 45.4% is the league average this year). It’s probably not those 32 pitches outside the zone that separate him from league average. He is, however, showing a career low in first-strike percentage (52.8%) that’s well below league average (59.7%) and his own average (57%). Perhaps a renewed emphasis on strike one would solve many of Romero’s woes.
On the other hand, his current walk rate is not an extreme outlier. His career walk rate in the minor leagues was 9.7%, which is worse than average. But he was getting enough ground balls and strikeouts to make that walk rate work then. It’s not working that well right now, and there’s a general regression in his other peripherals that is contributing to the problem.
His swinging strike rate is under league average for the first time (8.0%, 8.9% is league average, 9.2% for his career). So it makes sense that he’s lost a couple ticks of his strikeout rate (16.9% this year, 18.9% career). His ground-ball rate is at a career-worst (53.4%, 54.5% career). He’s giving up a career-worst number of home runs off of his fly balls (17.1% HR/FB, 12.5% career). Some of this is luck. None of it, by itself, would sink a player completely. All of it, together, has reduced his effectiveness.
Lastly, there’s the issue of expectations. Pitch to a 2.92 ERA in the AL East over 225 innings and you’re an ace. Pitch to a 4.20 FIP/3.80 xFIP/3.78 SIERA in the AL East over 225 innings, though, and you’re a horse. Considering those numbers describe the same season, perhaps we should just have been expecting a horse. And, given the Blue Jays’ pitching health woes right now, perhaps it’s okay if their ace is actually a horse right now.
Stat Nerd AL All-Star Roster.
On Sunday, the rosters (minus the 34th guy, who is voted in by the fans after the announcement) for the 83rd All-Star game will be announced, and you can be sure that next Monday will be full or discussion over who should and shouldn’t have been included. We’re just going to move up the discussion a few days, though, and so this afternoon I’m presenting the rosters I would select if I have complete and total authority and I was so shallow that I used that authority to select rosters for the All-Star Game. This is a weird hypothetical, but let’s go with it for now.
One quick note – I’m a guy who believes that the All-Star Game is more of a reward for the players than a spectacle for the fans, though it is obviously both at the same time. As such, I place more importance on first half performance than some others who feel that the game should always just be filled with the best players of their time, regardless of how they did in the first three months of the season. If a guy has three fluke months, I’m not keeping him out just because I don’t think he can keep it up. First half totals aren’t the only factor, but for me, they’re the biggest one.
Oh, and we’re playing by the rules, so every team gets a representative, deserving or not, and injured players were not considered since they’re, you know, injured. On to the rosters, with the starter listed first.
Mauer’s had a nice bounce back season and is one of the few things going right in Minnesota this year. Wieters has been up-and-down at the plate but is a monster defensively, and Salty has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year in Boston. All three are deserving on their own merits, and none of them are here because we needed a representative for their team.
Konerko is one of the main reasons the White Sox are atop the AL Central and is a pretty easy pick to serve as the starter this year. Dunn’s resurgence deserves recognition, as does the pretty fantastic performance being put up in Toronto by Encarnacion. Fielder is the only representative of the guys you’d expect to be here, as Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez are notably absent, but they just haven’t played like All-Stars this year.
Apologies To: No one. It’s not a very good year for first baseman.
The Yankees second baseman has pulled away from the pack, but Kipnis and Zobrist are both deserving candidates. Kinsler has faded after a hot start, but with 34 man rosters, there’s room for a quality player having a solid first half, especially since Zobrist can function as a utility guy and play multiple positions.
Apologies To: Ian Kinsler
You could make a case for Cabrera as the starter, but Andrus is having a fantastic year as well, and is definitely the better defender of the two. Besides, you can bring Kipnis and Cabrera in at the same time and have them take over as the AL’s middle infield tandem, which is kind of fun.
Beltre is cementing himself as one of the game’s premier all around players, providing his usual combination of good offense and great defense. Cabrera’s offense is down but still All-Star worthy, and Moustakas is one of the best breakout stories of the year.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
The easiest selection in the sport. Big Papi is deserving and has little competition among regular DHs.
Apologies To: Billy Butler
Verlander’s a no-brainer, but there’s a lot of nits to pick after that. Price and Hammel get extra credit for pitching in the AL East, and the White Sox duo have to overcome a tough park to pitch in as well. There are other deserving candidates, but with a large field to pick from, you have to draw lines somewhere.
Nathan and Rodney have both been astonishingly good after being somewhat written off, and both deserve credit for rejuvenating their careers this season. Perez hasn’t allowed a home run all year, which is why he leads the AL in saves and is a deserving selection, while Wilhelmsen is both a terrific reliever and the most deserving member of the Mariners roster. If you found room for someone from Seattle elsewhere on the roster, you could argue for any number of other deserving candidates, but since we filled out the team without any Mariners before now, Wilhelmsen gets the call.
Cuban OF Yasiel Puig Declared Free Agent.
Cuban outfielders have been a hot commodity over the past year, and another young Cuban defector was declared a free agent on Tuesday evening and is now able to sign with any major league team, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
Twenty-one-year-old Yasiel Puig has long attempted to make his way to the United States. In fact, he was suspended from playing in the Cuban Serie Nacional this past season due to attempting to defect. He successfully did so this summer, establishing temporary residency in Mexico, and is expected to agree to terms rather quickly in hopes of signing prior to July 2, when the new CBA regulations will severely limit international spending.
The vast majority of the attention amongst Cuban outfielders centered around Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, and it should have. Puig possesses raw power — and actually showed game-power back in the 2010-2011 season with 17 home runs — but Ben Badler of Baseball America recently noted that the most recent scouting reports on the young outfielder have been extremely underwhelming.
Despite those disappointing reports and the fact that Puig has not played organized baseball in a year, teams will absolutely be lining up to ink him to a minor-league deal. Badler writes that the Texas Rangers have shown interest, and Jesse Sanchez hears from industry sources that five teams have expressed “serious interest
BTW, I feel like I'm the only one who thinks Bauer is going to get abused in the majors
Well, he will be pitching in the NL West.
BTW, I feel like I'm the only one who thinks Bauer is going to get abused in the majors
Well, he will be pitching in the NL West.
Yea but the kid has no command of the strike zone and little control of his pitches this year, I think they rushed him a little. Way more excited about Cashner being back and attempting to start.
I could see them shutting Cincy down when they're playing in SF.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Craig Kimbrel is really freakin’ good. While his blown save in the final game of the 2011 season gave him a bit more fame for the wrong reasons, Kimbrel has been downright tremendous in his young career. He has only gotten better this season, and at just 24 years old, still stands to improve a bit. Improvements beyond his current performance would make for one scary closer against whom almost nobody would reach base.
Kimbrel has now logged 126.2 innings in his career, and has the following marks: 1.71 ERA, 1.46 FIP, 15.3 K/9, 42.7% K/PA, 45.4% groundball rate. He has an 83.5% strand rate, a .157 opponents average and a 1.01 WHIP, even with a relatively high walk rate. But he’s getting better in that area as well, as his walk rate has decreased each year: from 18.2% to 10.5% down to his current 9.1% mark.
Whether we’re looking at the career numbers of all relievers in the history of baseball, or pitchers through their first three or four seasons, Kimbrel ranks ahead of everyone in most important categories. This is only his third season — and second full year — in the majors, but he is off to a historic start. It wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that, through three years and 120+ innings, Kimbrel has the best numbers of anyone ever.
Starting with a comparison of his young career to those of all other pitchers to log at least 120 innings, Kimbrel’s 1.71 ERA ranks 0.11 runs ahead of Ed Walsh on the leaderboard. Strictly looking at relievers, Kimbrel’s ERA is 0.20 runs better than Ernesto Frieri. Mariano Rivera, the gold standard, ranks third among relievers with a 2.05 ERA but falls further down the list due to a 5.51 ERA in a rookie season in which he made 10 starts. Kimbrel’s 1.46 FIP ranks almost a half-run ahead of second place Rube Waddell (1.92). Among relievers, the second spot belongs to Sergio Romo‘s 2.27 career rate.
Using our contextual FIP- and ERA- numbers, Kimbrel still fares tremendously. His 38 FIP- is the best of all time using the 120+ innings cutoff, and far behind him in second place is Strasburg at 52. His ERA- of 45 also ranks at the top of the list, ahead of Mo’s 49.
Lastly, Kimbrel’s 42.7% K/PA is far and away the best rate of all time. Behind him on the list is Billy Wagner, who finished his career as Kimbrel’s mentor, and with a 33.2% strikeout rate. Only eight pitchers in major league history have a strikeout rate above 30%, and the seven non-Kimbrels all range from 30.9%-33.2%. Interestingly, but not totally surprisingly, six of those eight pitchers are still around (Kimbrel, Frieri, Romo, Stephen Strasburg, David Robertson and Brad Lidge). Wagner retired recently as well. The only other pitcher on that list is Rob Dibble. Even with strikeout rates up and more pitchers surpassing the 30% plateau these days, nobody is even close to Kimbrel.
However, comparing his short career to the full careers of other pitchers isn’t as telling as how he fares relative to others through their first three or four years in the league. Wagner and Lidge, for instance, may have started off similarly to Kimbrel before slowing down as their careers progressed.
Using the same 120 inning cutoff, and restricting the sample to pitchers in their first four seasons (to get at least three full seasons for guys who threw, say, 5.2 innings in their technical first season), Kimbrel still comes out on top. The top five non-Kimbrel strikeout rates through a pitcher’s first four seasons (120 IP minimum) are:
Billy Wagner 36.6%
Brad Lidge 34.9%
Rob Dibble 33.9%
Francisco Rodriguez 33.2%
Troy Percival 32.5%
Strasburg is basically tied with Percival and both Robertson (31.1% from 2008-11) and Frieri (32.1% from 2009-12) aren’t far off the leaderboard.
But nobody in baseball history has gotten off to such a strikeout-happy start as Kimbrel. It remains to be seen how Aroldis Chapman factors into this equation, but as it currently stands, Kimbrel is pitching at a level of effectiveness through his first three seasons rivaled by next to nobody in the history of the game, and striking batters out at literally an unprecedented pace.
Is Baseball Getting Too Expensive For Kids?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A) At the amateur level (high school, college, etc.), baseball is primarily a game for the children of wealth and the upper middle class. Do you think that is true or false?
B) If you accept that A is true, is that good for the sport and what, if anything, should be done about it?
I accept his proposition. I played Little League baseball for five years or so, and I was a growing boy — I remember how many pairs of cleats and clean white jerseys and pants and metal bats and gloves I went through, to say nothing of the summer camps, the days at the batting cages, and the dues for the league themselves, much of which probably went to the trophy I invariably got for showing up every year. This despite the fact that I was, as many of my readers no doubt will have guessed, no good at all.
Because I wasn’t any good at all, my parents saved on things like travel (because I certainly wasn’t traveling), personal instruction, or the “metal contraption