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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 18

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What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
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post #512 of 77570
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What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
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What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
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post #513 of 77570
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Trying to guess what will happen in September and October is a little silly, because you really don't have any idea of all the factors that will come into play over the course of seven months. When I got on a plane to spring training this year, I assumed that Adam Wainwright would help lead the St. Louis rotation, that Chase Utley would be hitting third on Opening Day for the Phillies, that Brad Lidge would be closing games for perhaps the greatest collection of starting pitchers we have ever seen, and that Kendrys Morales would be hitting in the middle of Angels' lineup.

So already, the foundation underneath a lot of the conventional wisdom has shifted, before CC Sabathia throws a first pitch to Austin Jackson today, on Opening Day. There will be a lot more injuries that affect division races and force teams to make trades, good and bad.

Nevertheless, it's always fun every year to step out on a ledge of prognostication and take a leap. It's worth mentioning that a couple of years ago, my picks turned out pretty well, and last year, they were pretty mediocre; I had the Rockies winning the World Series. No one should ever pretend they know what's going to happen; this is only one guess as to what I think will happen. As of today.

NL East: I went to spring training assuming that I would take the Phillies to win the NL East, but their injuries are significant, a major concern for a lineup that appears very thin. Charlie Manuel is scrambling to identify a No. 3 hitter and a No. 5 hitter, and as one veteran pitcher said to me this spring, there is absolutely no reason to throw Ryan Howard anything but breaking balls. Other heroes have to emerge.

On the other hand, the Braves had a great camp. It appears their bullpen will be in capable hands (Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters) and Freddie Freeman will help what will probably be a subpar infield defense, and Chipper Jones looks spectacular. Beyond that, this is a team with a ton of depth from which to trade if needs arise. Atlanta is set up well for the 162-game grind.

I've got the Braves winning the division and the Phillies winning the NL wild card, and if Philadelphia makes the playoffs -- presumably improved by midseason trades by an aggressive front office -- it will still be the team that nobody wants to play because of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

NL Central: The Reds' core is young and hungry and getting better, and while Cincinnati will open the season amid a lot of rotation questions, this is still the best team on paper. The Brewers don't have a lot of depth, but their rotation is dangerous. And the Cubs and Cardinals could find ways to win this division.

I'm picking the Reds to repeat.

NL West: While the Giants won the World Series with the help of a lot of misfits, from Pat Burrell to Edgar Renteria, the core of this team is extraordinarily talented and young -- Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez, with Buster Posey and Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval hitting in the middle of this lineup. The team got significantly better in the last two months last year, and that improvement will continue. The Rockies had an excellent spring training, but I still think the Giants' rotation will propel and separate them from the NL West pack. I'm picking the Giants to win the West.

AL East: The Red Sox still have lingering issues at the back end of their rotation, and that will continue, but their lineup is exceptional. This is a lineup built to wear down opposing starters and get into the middle relief quickly, which will create a high margin for error for Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey.

I went to spring training thinking about picking the Rays or the Athletics over the Yankees for the wild card, but New York had a great camp, showing more pitching depth than a lot of folks expected -- and Alex Rodriguez looks like a different player than he was last year. They'll be the wild-card team, and Boston will win the East.

AL Central: My pre-camp favorite was the Twins, but between some of the injury issues that nagged at Minnesota's rotation last year and the more significant past ailments of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, I wonder if they can hold up. And every scout and GM I spoke to about the White Sox sees great improvement in this team, with a strong and powerful bullpen, an expected bounce-back season from Gordon Beckham, and a powerful core lineup augmented by Adam Dunn. There will be days when Dunn's strikeouts will drive the casual White Sox fan crazy, but there will be a month when he puts Chicago on his back -- and in my eyes, he will help the White Sox win the division.

AL West: We turned in our picks two weeks ago, and I have to be honest -- if I could get a mulligan, I might choose Oakland, because the Athletics' pitching staff looks poised to be a monster force, and Texas is scrambling to fill out its rotation. But the Rangers' everyday lineup will be one of the best in the majors, and it's possible for young pitchers like Derek Holland to emerge. I worry about the age regression in the Angels' everyday lineup, especially given the fact that they don't know when Kendrys Morales -- who hasn't played in 10 months -- is going to be back on the field again. I've picked the Rangers.

Playoffs: And the Giants will be the first National League team since the '75-76 Reds to win back-to-back championships. They showed again that in October, it comes down to pitching, and San Francisco has that.

MVPs: Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols

Cy Youngs: Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels (who will have a good chunk of the season matching up against No. 4 and No. 5 starters)

Rookies of the Year: Ivan Nova and Brandon Belt

Notables

• The Braves have a different look this year, writes David O'Brien.

• After coming into camp with a lot of injury questions, the Twins will open the season relatively healthy, as La Velle Neal writes. The Twins' rotation will get a do-over, writes Kelsie Smith.

• One of the season's first interesting matchups will be between Justin Verlander, who was the best pitcher in Florida this spring, against Yankees leadoff hitter Brett Gardner. If Gardner reaches bases, one of the best base stealers will go toe-to-toe with a pitcher who possesses one of the best right-handed pickoff moves in all of baseball.

Verlander is poised for a big start to his season, after working on his mental focus.

Curtis Granderson is ready to go for today. It will be cold today for the Tigers and Yankees, as Bruce Weber writes. The Yankees don't think of themselves as underdogs, writes Anthony McCarron.

• The Mets are looking for $200 million from an investor, writes Richard Sandomir and David Waldstein.

Moves, deals and decisions


1. In the end, the Giants decided to keep Brandon Belt, who is said by rival evaluators to have a chance to make an immediate impact. From John Shea's story:

"I've been dreaming of this my entire life. It's come true now," said Belt, who cried when hearing the good news from manager Bruce Bochy and remained teary-eyed long afterward. "I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack. I want to cry at the same time. I don't know what to think right now."... With a crowd at Belt's locker, a voice was heard from across the clubhouse:

"Hey, Belt, you crying?"

It was Aubrey Huff.

Belt: "A little bit."

Huff: "Why you crying? I'm the one who's gotta play right field every day."

Travis Ishikawa was cut in order to make room for Belt, as mentioned within this notebook.

2. Oakland sent Tyson Ross to the minors, to continue as a starting pitcher.

3. The White Sox have decided to open the year with 11 pitchers, rather than 12, as Mark Gonzales writes.

4. The Phillies released Luis Castillo, and kept Pete Orr.

5. The Pirates might still have some moves to come.

6. Jamie Moyer is set to work for ESPN.

7. Jim Leyland knows this could be his final year with the Tigers.

8. The Indians set their 25-man roster.

9. Some of the Mariners on the bubble can now breathe a little easier, writes Larry Stone. Great story, and I would add this; I think the Mariners' roster will be a work in progress all year, as the front office tries to milk as much offense out of it as possible, like squeezing blood from stone.

10. Chris Davis was sent to Class AAA. From Anthony Andro's story:

Every other player who had at least 43 total bases or five homers or 18 RBIs made a big-league club.

That's tough for even the upbeat Davis to take.

"Very disappointed," he said. "I keep a positive attitude. I really thought, for whatever reason that I was going to have a legitimate chance of making the roster seeing the way things shaped up the last couple of weeks. I know those guys [management] had a tough time making that decision.

11. Dan Johnson's great work paid off .

Dings and dents


1. Barry Zito was in a car accident, and was later released from the hospital.

2. A strained muscle could mean that Jason Bay will open the year on the disabled list.

3. Jason Isringhausen agreed to stay behind in Florida. This is a really strange situation, and a sign that the Mets are watching every nickel, as they work to reduce payroll: The Mets think Isringhausen is one of their best relievers in camp, and yet they also seem convinced that he might blow up at any time and they don't want to take the risk of signing him to a major league contract -- which would not be for a lot of money, relative to the Mets' payroll. In past years, there would have been absolutely no hesitation to add Isringhausen to the roster.

4. Edward Mujica swears there's nothing wrong with him after he fell on his elbow. This does not sound good.

5. The Brewers are ready for the season after an injury-riddled spring, writes Tom Haudricourt. Mark Kotsay will start in place of Corey Hart. It turns out that Zack Greinke likely will miss all of his April starts.

6. Jair Jurrjens will throw a bullpen today.

7. The Astros remain optimistic despite their rash of spring training injuries, writes Zachary Levine.

Wednesday's games


1. Dallas Braden was sharp in his last outing.

2. Derek Holland threw well. He could be a pivotal guy for the Rangers' staff.



Some Cubs, Rangers & Royals prospecsts.

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Some miscellaneous notes from the last two days on the back fields in Arizona:

Trey McNutt threw three innings in the game the Cubs played against a team of their prospects at HoHoKam Park on Wednesday, with the proceeds going to charity. He didn't throw as hard as I had expected based on reports from last year -- 88-92 mph, but everything at 91 or 92 was up, often way up, and his arm in general wasn't free and easy. His slider had good shape but most finished out of the zone, while he had good arm speed on the changeup and turned it over well. He could have had a dead-arm day, or may not have been going all out in what was essentially an exhibition-squared game, but it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped it would be.

• Another Cubs reliever, Kevin Rhoderick, threw an inning and was 90-93 with a hard-breaking slurve, but both pitches were extremely hittable. I mention him only because as a college freshman he was electric, 94 or better with more life on his stuff, but never recaptured that form, making him another cautionary tale of college relievers who don't hold their value. (The Cubs drafted him late, a perfectly reasonable flier to take on a once-promising arm.)

• I'd seen Texas lefty Martin Perez (the No. 18 prospect in my most recent top 100 ranking) before, but had always left wanting to see a little more -- scouts and execs would tell me they'd seen a version of him that I never quite caught. I think I caught that one on Tuesday, however, as he was lights-out, 92-95, getting the ball in on hitters, hitting 95 to the glove side like he was walking down the street. His changeup at 83-85 showed both good arm speed and hard fading action, and his curveball was average to a tick above, 72-76 with varying angles, some true 12-to-6 downers and some with more traditional two-plane break. His body also looked better, more mature and stronger, and his command was excellent. This is the guy who I had in my preseason top 10 going into 2010.

• Texas right-hander Barret Loux threw on an adjacent field, but his stuff wasn't as good as Texas execs had reported from previous outings. I had Loux at 87-91 with an ordinary mid-70s curveball and an average changeup; he's got good size and his arm works fine, but he has major damage in his shoulder and elbow that led Arizona to void their deal with him last June. The Rangers have every incentive to push him as quickly as his performance allows, and if he's 90-94 as he was earlier in the month, they'll be able to do that. If he's working with fringy stuff like I saw, they won't.

• I saw a few Royals prospects, although only one of their big arms, right-hander Tim Melville. He worked at 90-93 with some life on the pitch (possibly a two-seamer, although it wasn't as much tail as you'd expect on that pitch) and flashed an average curveball at 77-80. His changeup was too hard, around 85, a little too much like a bad fastball. More concerning to me is that he's still not taking full advantage of his size and gets insufficient extension out front. He's got a good body and frame and a loose arm, but I feel like there's still untapped potential here.

• I saw two at bats apiece from KC's Chelsor Cuthbert and Texas' Jurickson Profar, so consider this a preliminary observation. Cuthbert has a baby face and is a little pudgy for someone his age -- not heavy at all, but not the skinny guy I expected -- but he worked the count in both plate appearances and has a very pretty right-handed swing with good hip rotation and nice loft in his finish. I like how well he stays upright through contact as well, which is good body control for someone his age. Profar is more lithe and quick, with quick hands and good plate coverage. I'd be surprised to see him develop much power but hands like those should lead to lots of contact and a high average. He was just 4.33 down the line, less speed than I expected to see from him.



Rumors.

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Platoon in right at Fenway?

12:46PM ET
Boston Red Sox
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The Boston Red Sox will start Mike Cameron in right field on Friday versus Texas Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, tweets Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, meaning J.D. Drew will sit out the opener.

Might the Red Sox use a bit of a platoon in right field as long as Cameron is healthy? Possible, though there has been no indicators until now that they were considering such a plan. Drew, however, hit just .208/.302/.309 versus southpaws a year ago while Cameron has posted a .980 OPS against them over the past three years.

Drew has a track record of handling left-handers, however, so if he gets into the lineup and shows that last season was the outlier, he'll probably get a large portion of the playing time in right field, regardless of who is pitching.

There is the thought that by resting more, both players could stay healthier than they have of late. Stay tuned.

- Jason A. Churchill

Latest on Jair

12:36PM ET
Jair Jurrjens | Braves
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UPDATE: According to a tweet by David O'Brien, Jurrjens felt good after a bullpen session Thursday and will step up the intensity of session slated for Sunday. Barring a setback, he;ll make his April 6 start at Milwaukee.

...

The Atlanta Braves chose right-hander Brandon Beachy over southpaw Mike Minor for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, but Minor may get a few starts early in the season, anyway. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens tweaked his left side during a start last Thursday, and may not be able to make his first start.

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets Wednesday that Jurrjens played catch Tuesday and will throw a bullpen sessions Thursday. The session will give the Braves an idea of whether or not Jurrjens will have to hit the disabled list again.

He spent chunks of time on the DL a year ago with shoulder and hamstring issues -- the former simply a lingering effect from surgery.

Minor was solid in his time with the Braves last season and it was a bit of an upset that the club chose Beachy instead. Whether he fills in for Jurrjens in April or not, Minor should see the majors again this season and Beachy isn't exactly a sure bet to make 30-plus starts himself.

- Jason A. Churchill

Davis staying in Tampa

12:33PM ET
Wade Davis | Rays
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With all the young pitching on its way up through their farm system, including Chris Archer and Matt Moore, the Tampa Bay Rays have identified right-hander Wade Davis as a keeper, as they have inked the 25-year-old to a long-term extension, reports Marc Topkin via Twitter.

The deal guarantees Davis $12.6 million over the next four years and could be worth as much as $35.1 million over a total of seven seasons. Such a pact strongly suggests that Davis is staying in Tampa for the foreseeable future and that if the club is to deal away soon-to-be expensive pitching it will be James Shields or Jeff Niemann rather than Davis.

The cost certainty could help the cash-strapped Rays with their payroll situation over the next four seasons, too, as player such as B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and David Price get more and more expensive via arbitration.

- Jason A. Churchill

Pale Hose to carry 11 arms

12:24PM ET
Chicago White Sox
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The Chicago White Sox have decided to go with 11 pitchers to start the season -- that's four starters and seven relievers -- reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.

The Sox don't need a fifth starter until April 10 and are hoping right-hander Jake Peavy, who was placed on the 15-day DL Wednesday -- retroactive to March 22 -- will be back before that date to debut for 2011.

If he's not ready, the club is likely to recall Jeff Marquez, who was sent down to Triple-A Wednesday.

The big winner in all this is outfielder Lastings Milledge, who had his contract purchased and will serve as an extra outfielder. The Sox, however, have two infielders on the 25-man roster -- Mark Teahen and Brent Lillibridge -- that can play the outfield.

- Jason A. Churchill

Cause for concern with Mujica?

10:53AM ET
Edward Mujica | Marlins
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We know spring training outings don't count, but the Florida Marlins have to at least be concerned with the health of Edward Mujica after the reliever allowed a pair of home runs in a four-run inning against the Mets Wednesday.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports Mujica took a nasty fall Sunday in which he landed on his pitching elbow and banged his head.

The Marlins were aware of the previously undisclosed accident when they optioned Burke Badenhop to the minors on Tuesday, but Wednesday's performance could mean the Fish are having second thoughts.

Mujica, acquired from San Diego in the deal for Cameron Maybin, is expected to have a key role in the Marlins' bullpen.

- Doug Mittler

Belt's impact on Burrell

10:28AM ET
Pat Burrell | Giants
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The San Francisco Giants decided that the potential upside of Brandon Belt was too big to bypass, and the highly touted prospect was awarded the job of Opening Day first baseman.

The most immediate casualty was Travis Ishikawa, who was designated for assignment, but the decision to keep Belt will have a ripple effect throughout the roster.

Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News writes that left fielder Pat Burrell will see his at-bats reduced as the Giants look for ways to get Mark DeRosa into the lineup.

In two weeks, the Giants will have to make room for Cody Ross, who is scheduled to return from injury, and Burrell could be bumped to the bench. Burrell hit 18 homers in 96 games for the Giants last season, but his numbers dipped sharply in the postseason.

Our Eric Karabell gives his take on Belt's immediate future by the Bay:

- Doug Mittler

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Eric Karabell

Belt's fantasy value

"Belt is owned in only 6.5 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues, but if he hits, he'll likely become one of ESPN's most added players. If not, he'll likely head to Triple-A when Cody Ross comes off the DL in late April."


Brief trip to the minors for Davis?

10:19AM ET
Chris Davis | Rangers
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Despite a solid spring, Chris Davis was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City Tuesday, leaving the Texas Rangers with a different Opening Day first baseman for 2011.

His latest tenure in the minors might be a brief one. The Rangers are opening this season with just 12 position players because of concerns about the pitching. When they go back to 13, Davis could be an option to be promoted, reports Anthony Andro of the Star Telegram.

The Rangers will begin the season with Mitch Moreland, Michael Young and Mike Napoli sharing the first base and DH duties.

The surplus of talent at the position could have the Rangers looking to move Davis for pitching help. Rumor Central's Jason A. Churchill says the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking for more pop from their first baseman and if they don't get it from James Loney, Davis could be a fit.

- Doug Mittler

Mets pinching pennies with Izzy?

9:57AM ET
Jason Isringhausen | Mets
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Blaine Boyer has won the final spot in the bullpen with the New York Mets, leaving Jason Isringhausen on the outside looking in. He has chosen to stay in extended spring training for two weeks and hopes he shows the club he can help.

Clubs are always needing bullpen help, but whether or not Isringhausen can find a role with another club soon enough to warrant leaving the Mets is no guarantee.

The right-hander has already said he will not accept a minor league assignment and would instead retire, but there were no reports on whether or not he would be OK with staying behind in Florida in April to continue to get his arm in shape.

Our Buster Olney writes in Thursday's blog that money could be behind the Mets' decision on Isringhausen:

- Jason A. Churchill

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Buster Olney

Izzy waits for his chance

"This is a really strange situation, and a sign that the Mets are watching every nickel, as they work to reduce payroll: The Mets think Isringhausen is one of their best relievers in camp, and yet they also seem convinced that he might blow up at any time and they don't want to take the risk of signing him to a major league contract -- which would not be for a lot of money, relative to the Mets' payroll. In past years, there would have been absolutely no hesitation to add Isringhausen to the roster."


Castillo's future

9:51AM ET
Luis Castillo | Phillies
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Luis Castillo is without a job on Opening Day, and whether he will find a job anytime soon is an open question.

The Phillies ended their experiment with Castillo Wednesday, releasing the veteran second baseman even though the team would be on the hook for just a portion of his $6 million salary.

Castillo's release from the New York Mets earlier this month was expected since the team was under new management and he did not fit the mold that GM Sandy Alderson was looking for. Castillo's inability to win at least a temporary job in Philadelphia was more of a surprise since the Phils have a glaring need due to Chase Utley's knee injury.

Castillo may have to wait for another team to endure a second base injury in order to get a third chance.

- Doug Mittler

Saturday start for Almonte?

9:06AM ET
Milwaukee Brewers
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One of the feel-good stories of the spring could belong to 33-year-old Erick Almonte.

Almonte, who has played in just 39 major league games, and none since 2003 with the Yankees, landed one of the final spots on the Brewers' roster.

With Corey Hart on the disabled list, Almonte is in the running to get a start in right field on Saturday against Reds left-hander Travis Wood, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel.

- Doug Mittler

Greinke out for all of April?

8:47AM ET
Zack Greinke | Brewers
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Thursday was the day that Zack Greinke was expected to be unveiled as the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers.

A cracked rib resulting from a game of pickup basketball derailed those plans, and now comes word that the former Cy Young Award winner could be out longer than expected. On the eve of Opening Day, manager Ron Roenicke said Greinke is still weeks away from being activated from the disabled list and could miss all of April.

Barring rainouts, the Brewers will need a yet-to-be-determined fifth starter on April 6, 16 and 26. The likely choice would be Sergio Mitre, who was acquired from the Yankees last week,

- Doug Mittler

Can Lastings last in Chicago?

8:21AM ET
Lastings Milledge | White Sox
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Lastings Milledge will begin the season with the Chicago White Sox, but his roster spot could be in jeopardy if a need for an extra pitcher arises.

Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune writes that the White Sox are taking a gamble by carrying just 11 pitchers, and Milledge could be a casualty.

The White Sox are hoping that their first four starting pitchers ? Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, John Danks and Gavin Floyd ? to pitch deep into games as the club awaits the return of rehabbing Jake Peavy.

If the Sox need to add another pitcher without putting someone on the disabled list, they might lose a player since Milledge and Brent Lillibridge are out of options and could be claimed on waivers.

- Doug Mittler

Pivotal season for Leyland

8:00AM ET
Jim Leyland | Tigers
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Jim Leyland could be among the managers on the hot seat as his Detroit Tigers begin their 2011 campaign at a very chilly Yankee Stadium.

Leyland downplayed his job status, but John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes that 2011 will be a pivotal season for the veteran skipper.

Owner Mike Ilitch hasn't given any public indication of how he'll decide whether to rehire Leyland or general manager Dave Dombrowski, both of whom are in the final year of their contract.

The Tigers reached the World Series in their first season under Leyland in 2006, but have finished no better than second since. The expectations are high with the addition of free agent Victor Martinez, so another non-playoff season could have Ilitch contemplating a change.

- Doug Mittler

Burnett's availability

7:39AM ET
A.J. Burnett | Yankees
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The New York Yankees dealt with a significant change in temperature earlier this week when they left sunny Florida for a trip to the chilly Bronx. Along the way, right-hander A.J. Burnett caught a bad head cold.

It is too early to say whether the ailment will keep Burnett from his start against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. "You would think by Saturday that hopefully most of it would run its course. But we won't know," manager Joe Girardi said.

Phil Hughes could be moved up a day in the rotation if Burnett remains under the weather.

- Doug Mittler

Mets options without Bay

7:16AM ET
Jason Bay | Mets
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The New York Mets have a new manager and general manager, but also the same old back luck.

Left fielder Jason Bay was scratched from Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Nationals with discomfort in his left side and will be placed on the disabled list Thursday morning, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.

The Mets had spent all spring answering questions about the health of right fielder Carlos Beltran, who has been plagued by knee problems but appears ready for Opening Day.

The likely candidate to replace Bay in left field would be Lucas Duda, who batted just .202 after a September call-up but had a solid spring. Another option is Willie Harris, who is expected to back up Beltran in right.

- Doug Mittler

A's utility job

7:06AM ET
Andy LaRoche | Athletics
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UPDATE: LaRoche has won the utility gig in Oakland over Eric Sogard, reports Joe Stiglich of the San Jose Mercury News, among others.

LaRoche is likely to get most of his playing time at third base, but has a little experience at second. With Adam Rosales now on the 60-day disabled list, LaRoche or second baseman Mark Ellis could see time at shortstop when Cliff Pennington is unavailable.

...

It's apparent that the starting infield for the Oakland Athletics will consist of Daric Barton at first, Mark Ellis at second, Cliff Pennington at short and Kevin Kouzmannof at the hot corner. But Andy LaRoche continues to make a strong case to be included in the mix, thanks to his versatility, wrote John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month.

The former Dodgers prospect hit his fourth homer of the spring Saturday and may win a spot based solely off his performance at the plate.

- Jason A. Churchill

Update on Happ

7:05AM ET
J.A. Happ | Astros
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UPDATE: Happ threw long toss and completed some other drills Wednesday night and told the Houston Examiner that he felt good.

The club has not made any decisions regarding the left-hander. Perhaps that will come Thursday so the club can check and see how Happ feels after throwing.

...

The Houston Astros could be shuffling their rotation for a weekend series in Philadelphia after J.A. Happ was forced to leave Tuesday's game against their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City after three innings with a strained right oblique.

Happ is slated to pitch Sunday against Roy Oswalt, the pitcher he was traded for last July.

Bud Norris and Nelson Figueroa, listed as the fourth and fifth starters, could each move up a slot in the rotation. One possibility for fifth starter is Ryan Rowland-Smith, who lost out to Figueroa, in the spring competition, or long reliever Aneury Rodriguez.

- Doug Mittler

Fate of Ross

7:04AM ET
Tyson Ross | Athletics
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UPDATE: Ross was sent to Triple-A Sacramento, according to the Contra Costa Times, which means he'll stay in the rotation and likely serve as the first arm called up should a starter -- or a reliever, for that matter -- go down with injury or struggle for an extended period.

...

The Oakland Athletics' starting rotation is set, but there is a spot in the bullpen that could be filled by right-hander Tyson Ross, who has had a terrific spring, showing command and consistency over his 15 1/3 innings. But, as ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes, the A's may prefer to send him to Triple-A Sacramento to continue developing as a starter.

Ross may get some starts this season, especially considering the attrition rate of pitchers in general, but also because the track record of the A's starting five suggests there will be stints on the disabled list. Brandon McCarthy, who was solid all spring, isn't exactly a guarantee to hold down his job all season, either.

But with closer Andrew Bailey on the DL to start the season, the late-inning arms all move up a spot, which could mean a big-league job for Ross to open the season.

post #514 of 77570
Thread Starter 
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Trying to guess what will happen in September and October is a little silly, because you really don't have any idea of all the factors that will come into play over the course of seven months. When I got on a plane to spring training this year, I assumed that Adam Wainwright would help lead the St. Louis rotation, that Chase Utley would be hitting third on Opening Day for the Phillies, that Brad Lidge would be closing games for perhaps the greatest collection of starting pitchers we have ever seen, and that Kendrys Morales would be hitting in the middle of Angels' lineup.

So already, the foundation underneath a lot of the conventional wisdom has shifted, before CC Sabathia throws a first pitch to Austin Jackson today, on Opening Day. There will be a lot more injuries that affect division races and force teams to make trades, good and bad.

Nevertheless, it's always fun every year to step out on a ledge of prognostication and take a leap. It's worth mentioning that a couple of years ago, my picks turned out pretty well, and last year, they were pretty mediocre; I had the Rockies winning the World Series. No one should ever pretend they know what's going to happen; this is only one guess as to what I think will happen. As of today.

NL East: I went to spring training assuming that I would take the Phillies to win the NL East, but their injuries are significant, a major concern for a lineup that appears very thin. Charlie Manuel is scrambling to identify a No. 3 hitter and a No. 5 hitter, and as one veteran pitcher said to me this spring, there is absolutely no reason to throw Ryan Howard anything but breaking balls. Other heroes have to emerge.

On the other hand, the Braves had a great camp. It appears their bullpen will be in capable hands (Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters) and Freddie Freeman will help what will probably be a subpar infield defense, and Chipper Jones looks spectacular. Beyond that, this is a team with a ton of depth from which to trade if needs arise. Atlanta is set up well for the 162-game grind.

I've got the Braves winning the division and the Phillies winning the NL wild card, and if Philadelphia makes the playoffs -- presumably improved by midseason trades by an aggressive front office -- it will still be the team that nobody wants to play because of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

NL Central: The Reds' core is young and hungry and getting better, and while Cincinnati will open the season amid a lot of rotation questions, this is still the best team on paper. The Brewers don't have a lot of depth, but their rotation is dangerous. And the Cubs and Cardinals could find ways to win this division.

I'm picking the Reds to repeat.

NL West: While the Giants won the World Series with the help of a lot of misfits, from Pat Burrell to Edgar Renteria, the core of this team is extraordinarily talented and young -- Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez, with Buster Posey and Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval hitting in the middle of this lineup. The team got significantly better in the last two months last year, and that improvement will continue. The Rockies had an excellent spring training, but I still think the Giants' rotation will propel and separate them from the NL West pack. I'm picking the Giants to win the West.

AL East: The Red Sox still have lingering issues at the back end of their rotation, and that will continue, but their lineup is exceptional. This is a lineup built to wear down opposing starters and get into the middle relief quickly, which will create a high margin for error for Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey.

I went to spring training thinking about picking the Rays or the Athletics over the Yankees for the wild card, but New York had a great camp, showing more pitching depth than a lot of folks expected -- and Alex Rodriguez looks like a different player than he was last year. They'll be the wild-card team, and Boston will win the East.

AL Central: My pre-camp favorite was the Twins, but between some of the injury issues that nagged at Minnesota's rotation last year and the more significant past ailments of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, I wonder if they can hold up. And every scout and GM I spoke to about the White Sox sees great improvement in this team, with a strong and powerful bullpen, an expected bounce-back season from Gordon Beckham, and a powerful core lineup augmented by Adam Dunn. There will be days when Dunn's strikeouts will drive the casual White Sox fan crazy, but there will be a month when he puts Chicago on his back -- and in my eyes, he will help the White Sox win the division.

AL West: We turned in our picks two weeks ago, and I have to be honest -- if I could get a mulligan, I might choose Oakland, because the Athletics' pitching staff looks poised to be a monster force, and Texas is scrambling to fill out its rotation. But the Rangers' everyday lineup will be one of the best in the majors, and it's possible for young pitchers like Derek Holland to emerge. I worry about the age regression in the Angels' everyday lineup, especially given the fact that they don't know when Kendrys Morales -- who hasn't played in 10 months -- is going to be back on the field again. I've picked the Rangers.

Playoffs: And the Giants will be the first National League team since the '75-76 Reds to win back-to-back championships. They showed again that in October, it comes down to pitching, and San Francisco has that.

MVPs: Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols

Cy Youngs: Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels (who will have a good chunk of the season matching up against No. 4 and No. 5 starters)

Rookies of the Year: Ivan Nova and Brandon Belt

Notables

• The Braves have a different look this year, writes David O'Brien.

• After coming into camp with a lot of injury questions, the Twins will open the season relatively healthy, as La Velle Neal writes. The Twins' rotation will get a do-over, writes Kelsie Smith.

• One of the season's first interesting matchups will be between Justin Verlander, who was the best pitcher in Florida this spring, against Yankees leadoff hitter Brett Gardner. If Gardner reaches bases, one of the best base stealers will go toe-to-toe with a pitcher who possesses one of the best right-handed pickoff moves in all of baseball.

Verlander is poised for a big start to his season, after working on his mental focus.

Curtis Granderson is ready to go for today. It will be cold today for the Tigers and Yankees, as Bruce Weber writes. The Yankees don't think of themselves as underdogs, writes Anthony McCarron.

• The Mets are looking for $200 million from an investor, writes Richard Sandomir and David Waldstein.

Moves, deals and decisions


1. In the end, the Giants decided to keep Brandon Belt, who is said by rival evaluators to have a chance to make an immediate impact. From John Shea's story:

"I've been dreaming of this my entire life. It's come true now," said Belt, who cried when hearing the good news from manager Bruce Bochy and remained teary-eyed long afterward. "I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack. I want to cry at the same time. I don't know what to think right now."... With a crowd at Belt's locker, a voice was heard from across the clubhouse:

"Hey, Belt, you crying?"

It was Aubrey Huff.

Belt: "A little bit."

Huff: "Why you crying? I'm the one who's gotta play right field every day."

Travis Ishikawa was cut in order to make room for Belt, as mentioned within this notebook.

2. Oakland sent Tyson Ross to the minors, to continue as a starting pitcher.

3. The White Sox have decided to open the year with 11 pitchers, rather than 12, as Mark Gonzales writes.

4. The Phillies released Luis Castillo, and kept Pete Orr.

5. The Pirates might still have some moves to come.

6. Jamie Moyer is set to work for ESPN.

7. Jim Leyland knows this could be his final year with the Tigers.

8. The Indians set their 25-man roster.

9. Some of the Mariners on the bubble can now breathe a little easier, writes Larry Stone. Great story, and I would add this; I think the Mariners' roster will be a work in progress all year, as the front office tries to milk as much offense out of it as possible, like squeezing blood from stone.

10. Chris Davis was sent to Class AAA. From Anthony Andro's story:

Every other player who had at least 43 total bases or five homers or 18 RBIs made a big-league club.

That's tough for even the upbeat Davis to take.

"Very disappointed," he said. "I keep a positive attitude. I really thought, for whatever reason that I was going to have a legitimate chance of making the roster seeing the way things shaped up the last couple of weeks. I know those guys [management] had a tough time making that decision.

11. Dan Johnson's great work paid off .

Dings and dents


1. Barry Zito was in a car accident, and was later released from the hospital.

2. A strained muscle could mean that Jason Bay will open the year on the disabled list.

3. Jason Isringhausen agreed to stay behind in Florida. This is a really strange situation, and a sign that the Mets are watching every nickel, as they work to reduce payroll: The Mets think Isringhausen is one of their best relievers in camp, and yet they also seem convinced that he might blow up at any time and they don't want to take the risk of signing him to a major league contract -- which would not be for a lot of money, relative to the Mets' payroll. In past years, there would have been absolutely no hesitation to add Isringhausen to the roster.

4. Edward Mujica swears there's nothing wrong with him after he fell on his elbow. This does not sound good.

5. The Brewers are ready for the season after an injury-riddled spring, writes Tom Haudricourt. Mark Kotsay will start in place of Corey Hart. It turns out that Zack Greinke likely will miss all of his April starts.

6. Jair Jurrjens will throw a bullpen today.

7. The Astros remain optimistic despite their rash of spring training injuries, writes Zachary Levine.

Wednesday's games


1. Dallas Braden was sharp in his last outing.

2. Derek Holland threw well. He could be a pivotal guy for the Rangers' staff.



Some Cubs, Rangers & Royals prospecsts.

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Some miscellaneous notes from the last two days on the back fields in Arizona:

Trey McNutt threw three innings in the game the Cubs played against a team of their prospects at HoHoKam Park on Wednesday, with the proceeds going to charity. He didn't throw as hard as I had expected based on reports from last year -- 88-92 mph, but everything at 91 or 92 was up, often way up, and his arm in general wasn't free and easy. His slider had good shape but most finished out of the zone, while he had good arm speed on the changeup and turned it over well. He could have had a dead-arm day, or may not have been going all out in what was essentially an exhibition-squared game, but it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped it would be.

• Another Cubs reliever, Kevin Rhoderick, threw an inning and was 90-93 with a hard-breaking slurve, but both pitches were extremely hittable. I mention him only because as a college freshman he was electric, 94 or better with more life on his stuff, but never recaptured that form, making him another cautionary tale of college relievers who don't hold their value. (The Cubs drafted him late, a perfectly reasonable flier to take on a once-promising arm.)

• I'd seen Texas lefty Martin Perez (the No. 18 prospect in my most recent top 100 ranking) before, but had always left wanting to see a little more -- scouts and execs would tell me they'd seen a version of him that I never quite caught. I think I caught that one on Tuesday, however, as he was lights-out, 92-95, getting the ball in on hitters, hitting 95 to the glove side like he was walking down the street. His changeup at 83-85 showed both good arm speed and hard fading action, and his curveball was average to a tick above, 72-76 with varying angles, some true 12-to-6 downers and some with more traditional two-plane break. His body also looked better, more mature and stronger, and his command was excellent. This is the guy who I had in my preseason top 10 going into 2010.

• Texas right-hander Barret Loux threw on an adjacent field, but his stuff wasn't as good as Texas execs had reported from previous outings. I had Loux at 87-91 with an ordinary mid-70s curveball and an average changeup; he's got good size and his arm works fine, but he has major damage in his shoulder and elbow that led Arizona to void their deal with him last June. The Rangers have every incentive to push him as quickly as his performance allows, and if he's 90-94 as he was earlier in the month, they'll be able to do that. If he's working with fringy stuff like I saw, they won't.

• I saw a few Royals prospects, although only one of their big arms, right-hander Tim Melville. He worked at 90-93 with some life on the pitch (possibly a two-seamer, although it wasn't as much tail as you'd expect on that pitch) and flashed an average curveball at 77-80. His changeup was too hard, around 85, a little too much like a bad fastball. More concerning to me is that he's still not taking full advantage of his size and gets insufficient extension out front. He's got a good body and frame and a loose arm, but I feel like there's still untapped potential here.

• I saw two at bats apiece from KC's Chelsor Cuthbert and Texas' Jurickson Profar, so consider this a preliminary observation. Cuthbert has a baby face and is a little pudgy for someone his age -- not heavy at all, but not the skinny guy I expected -- but he worked the count in both plate appearances and has a very pretty right-handed swing with good hip rotation and nice loft in his finish. I like how well he stays upright through contact as well, which is good body control for someone his age. Profar is more lithe and quick, with quick hands and good plate coverage. I'd be surprised to see him develop much power but hands like those should lead to lots of contact and a high average. He was just 4.33 down the line, less speed than I expected to see from him.



Rumors.

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Platoon in right at Fenway?

12:46PM ET
Boston Red Sox
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The Boston Red Sox will start Mike Cameron in right field on Friday versus Texas Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, tweets Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, meaning J.D. Drew will sit out the opener.

Might the Red Sox use a bit of a platoon in right field as long as Cameron is healthy? Possible, though there has been no indicators until now that they were considering such a plan. Drew, however, hit just .208/.302/.309 versus southpaws a year ago while Cameron has posted a .980 OPS against them over the past three years.

Drew has a track record of handling left-handers, however, so if he gets into the lineup and shows that last season was the outlier, he'll probably get a large portion of the playing time in right field, regardless of who is pitching.

There is the thought that by resting more, both players could stay healthier than they have of late. Stay tuned.

- Jason A. Churchill

Latest on Jair

12:36PM ET
Jair Jurrjens | Braves
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UPDATE: According to a tweet by David O'Brien, Jurrjens felt good after a bullpen session Thursday and will step up the intensity of session slated for Sunday. Barring a setback, he;ll make his April 6 start at Milwaukee.

...

The Atlanta Braves chose right-hander Brandon Beachy over southpaw Mike Minor for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, but Minor may get a few starts early in the season, anyway. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens tweaked his left side during a start last Thursday, and may not be able to make his first start.

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets Wednesday that Jurrjens played catch Tuesday and will throw a bullpen sessions Thursday. The session will give the Braves an idea of whether or not Jurrjens will have to hit the disabled list again.

He spent chunks of time on the DL a year ago with shoulder and hamstring issues -- the former simply a lingering effect from surgery.

Minor was solid in his time with the Braves last season and it was a bit of an upset that the club chose Beachy instead. Whether he fills in for Jurrjens in April or not, Minor should see the majors again this season and Beachy isn't exactly a sure bet to make 30-plus starts himself.

- Jason A. Churchill

Davis staying in Tampa

12:33PM ET
Wade Davis | Rays
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With all the young pitching on its way up through their farm system, including Chris Archer and Matt Moore, the Tampa Bay Rays have identified right-hander Wade Davis as a keeper, as they have inked the 25-year-old to a long-term extension, reports Marc Topkin via Twitter.

The deal guarantees Davis $12.6 million over the next four years and could be worth as much as $35.1 million over a total of seven seasons. Such a pact strongly suggests that Davis is staying in Tampa for the foreseeable future and that if the club is to deal away soon-to-be expensive pitching it will be James Shields or Jeff Niemann rather than Davis.

The cost certainty could help the cash-strapped Rays with their payroll situation over the next four seasons, too, as player such as B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and David Price get more and more expensive via arbitration.

- Jason A. Churchill

Pale Hose to carry 11 arms

12:24PM ET
Chicago White Sox
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The Chicago White Sox have decided to go with 11 pitchers to start the season -- that's four starters and seven relievers -- reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.

The Sox don't need a fifth starter until April 10 and are hoping right-hander Jake Peavy, who was placed on the 15-day DL Wednesday -- retroactive to March 22 -- will be back before that date to debut for 2011.

If he's not ready, the club is likely to recall Jeff Marquez, who was sent down to Triple-A Wednesday.

The big winner in all this is outfielder Lastings Milledge, who had his contract purchased and will serve as an extra outfielder. The Sox, however, have two infielders on the 25-man roster -- Mark Teahen and Brent Lillibridge -- that can play the outfield.

- Jason A. Churchill

Cause for concern with Mujica?

10:53AM ET
Edward Mujica | Marlins
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We know spring training outings don't count, but the Florida Marlins have to at least be concerned with the health of Edward Mujica after the reliever allowed a pair of home runs in a four-run inning against the Mets Wednesday.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports Mujica took a nasty fall Sunday in which he landed on his pitching elbow and banged his head.

The Marlins were aware of the previously undisclosed accident when they optioned Burke Badenhop to the minors on Tuesday, but Wednesday's performance could mean the Fish are having second thoughts.

Mujica, acquired from San Diego in the deal for Cameron Maybin, is expected to have a key role in the Marlins' bullpen.

- Doug Mittler

Belt's impact on Burrell

10:28AM ET
Pat Burrell | Giants
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The San Francisco Giants decided that the potential upside of Brandon Belt was too big to bypass, and the highly touted prospect was awarded the job of Opening Day first baseman.

The most immediate casualty was Travis Ishikawa, who was designated for assignment, but the decision to keep Belt will have a ripple effect throughout the roster.

Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News writes that left fielder Pat Burrell will see his at-bats reduced as the Giants look for ways to get Mark DeRosa into the lineup.

In two weeks, the Giants will have to make room for Cody Ross, who is scheduled to return from injury, and Burrell could be bumped to the bench. Burrell hit 18 homers in 96 games for the Giants last season, but his numbers dipped sharply in the postseason.

Our Eric Karabell gives his take on Belt's immediate future by the Bay:

- Doug Mittler

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Eric Karabell

Belt's fantasy value

"Belt is owned in only 6.5 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues, but if he hits, he'll likely become one of ESPN's most added players. If not, he'll likely head to Triple-A when Cody Ross comes off the DL in late April."


Brief trip to the minors for Davis?

10:19AM ET
Chris Davis | Rangers
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Despite a solid spring, Chris Davis was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City Tuesday, leaving the Texas Rangers with a different Opening Day first baseman for 2011.

His latest tenure in the minors might be a brief one. The Rangers are opening this season with just 12 position players because of concerns about the pitching. When they go back to 13, Davis could be an option to be promoted, reports Anthony Andro of the Star Telegram.

The Rangers will begin the season with Mitch Moreland, Michael Young and Mike Napoli sharing the first base and DH duties.

The surplus of talent at the position could have the Rangers looking to move Davis for pitching help. Rumor Central's Jason A. Churchill says the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking for more pop from their first baseman and if they don't get it from James Loney, Davis could be a fit.

- Doug Mittler

Mets pinching pennies with Izzy?

9:57AM ET
Jason Isringhausen | Mets
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Blaine Boyer has won the final spot in the bullpen with the New York Mets, leaving Jason Isringhausen on the outside looking in. He has chosen to stay in extended spring training for two weeks and hopes he shows the club he can help.

Clubs are always needing bullpen help, but whether or not Isringhausen can find a role with another club soon enough to warrant leaving the Mets is no guarantee.

The right-hander has already said he will not accept a minor league assignment and would instead retire, but there were no reports on whether or not he would be OK with staying behind in Florida in April to continue to get his arm in shape.

Our Buster Olney writes in Thursday's blog that money could be behind the Mets' decision on Isringhausen:

- Jason A. Churchill

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Buster Olney

Izzy waits for his chance

"This is a really strange situation, and a sign that the Mets are watching every nickel, as they work to reduce payroll: The Mets think Isringhausen is one of their best relievers in camp, and yet they also seem convinced that he might blow up at any time and they don't want to take the risk of signing him to a major league contract -- which would not be for a lot of money, relative to the Mets' payroll. In past years, there would have been absolutely no hesitation to add Isringhausen to the roster."


Castillo's future

9:51AM ET
Luis Castillo | Phillies
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Luis Castillo is without a job on Opening Day, and whether he will find a job anytime soon is an open question.

The Phillies ended their experiment with Castillo Wednesday, releasing the veteran second baseman even though the team would be on the hook for just a portion of his $6 million salary.

Castillo's release from the New York Mets earlier this month was expected since the team was under new management and he did not fit the mold that GM Sandy Alderson was looking for. Castillo's inability to win at least a temporary job in Philadelphia was more of a surprise since the Phils have a glaring need due to Chase Utley's knee injury.

Castillo may have to wait for another team to endure a second base injury in order to get a third chance.

- Doug Mittler

Saturday start for Almonte?

9:06AM ET
Milwaukee Brewers
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One of the feel-good stories of the spring could belong to 33-year-old Erick Almonte.

Almonte, who has played in just 39 major league games, and none since 2003 with the Yankees, landed one of the final spots on the Brewers' roster.

With Corey Hart on the disabled list, Almonte is in the running to get a start in right field on Saturday against Reds left-hander Travis Wood, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel.

- Doug Mittler

Greinke out for all of April?

8:47AM ET
Zack Greinke | Brewers
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Thursday was the day that Zack Greinke was expected to be unveiled as the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers.

A cracked rib resulting from a game of pickup basketball derailed those plans, and now comes word that the former Cy Young Award winner could be out longer than expected. On the eve of Opening Day, manager Ron Roenicke said Greinke is still weeks away from being activated from the disabled list and could miss all of April.

Barring rainouts, the Brewers will need a yet-to-be-determined fifth starter on April 6, 16 and 26. The likely choice would be Sergio Mitre, who was acquired from the Yankees last week,

- Doug Mittler

Can Lastings last in Chicago?

8:21AM ET
Lastings Milledge | White Sox
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Lastings Milledge will begin the season with the Chicago White Sox, but his roster spot could be in jeopardy if a need for an extra pitcher arises.

Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune writes that the White Sox are taking a gamble by carrying just 11 pitchers, and Milledge could be a casualty.

The White Sox are hoping that their first four starting pitchers ? Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, John Danks and Gavin Floyd ? to pitch deep into games as the club awaits the return of rehabbing Jake Peavy.

If the Sox need to add another pitcher without putting someone on the disabled list, they might lose a player since Milledge and Brent Lillibridge are out of options and could be claimed on waivers.

- Doug Mittler

Pivotal season for Leyland

8:00AM ET
Jim Leyland | Tigers
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Jim Leyland could be among the managers on the hot seat as his Detroit Tigers begin their 2011 campaign at a very chilly Yankee Stadium.

Leyland downplayed his job status, but John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes that 2011 will be a pivotal season for the veteran skipper.

Owner Mike Ilitch hasn't given any public indication of how he'll decide whether to rehire Leyland or general manager Dave Dombrowski, both of whom are in the final year of their contract.

The Tigers reached the World Series in their first season under Leyland in 2006, but have finished no better than second since. The expectations are high with the addition of free agent Victor Martinez, so another non-playoff season could have Ilitch contemplating a change.

- Doug Mittler

Burnett's availability

7:39AM ET
A.J. Burnett | Yankees
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The New York Yankees dealt with a significant change in temperature earlier this week when they left sunny Florida for a trip to the chilly Bronx. Along the way, right-hander A.J. Burnett caught a bad head cold.

It is too early to say whether the ailment will keep Burnett from his start against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. "You would think by Saturday that hopefully most of it would run its course. But we won't know," manager Joe Girardi said.

Phil Hughes could be moved up a day in the rotation if Burnett remains under the weather.

- Doug Mittler

Mets options without Bay

7:16AM ET
Jason Bay | Mets
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The New York Mets have a new manager and general manager, but also the same old back luck.

Left fielder Jason Bay was scratched from Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Nationals with discomfort in his left side and will be placed on the disabled list Thursday morning, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.

The Mets had spent all spring answering questions about the health of right fielder Carlos Beltran, who has been plagued by knee problems but appears ready for Opening Day.

The likely candidate to replace Bay in left field would be Lucas Duda, who batted just .202 after a September call-up but had a solid spring. Another option is Willie Harris, who is expected to back up Beltran in right.

- Doug Mittler

A's utility job

7:06AM ET
Andy LaRoche | Athletics
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UPDATE: LaRoche has won the utility gig in Oakland over Eric Sogard, reports Joe Stiglich of the San Jose Mercury News, among others.

LaRoche is likely to get most of his playing time at third base, but has a little experience at second. With Adam Rosales now on the 60-day disabled list, LaRoche or second baseman Mark Ellis could see time at shortstop when Cliff Pennington is unavailable.

...

It's apparent that the starting infield for the Oakland Athletics will consist of Daric Barton at first, Mark Ellis at second, Cliff Pennington at short and Kevin Kouzmannof at the hot corner. But Andy LaRoche continues to make a strong case to be included in the mix, thanks to his versatility, wrote John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month.

The former Dodgers prospect hit his fourth homer of the spring Saturday and may win a spot based solely off his performance at the plate.

- Jason A. Churchill

Update on Happ

7:05AM ET
J.A. Happ | Astros
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UPDATE: Happ threw long toss and completed some other drills Wednesday night and told the Houston Examiner that he felt good.

The club has not made any decisions regarding the left-hander. Perhaps that will come Thursday so the club can check and see how Happ feels after throwing.

...

The Houston Astros could be shuffling their rotation for a weekend series in Philadelphia after J.A. Happ was forced to leave Tuesday's game against their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City after three innings with a strained right oblique.

Happ is slated to pitch Sunday against Roy Oswalt, the pitcher he was traded for last July.

Bud Norris and Nelson Figueroa, listed as the fourth and fifth starters, could each move up a slot in the rotation. One possibility for fifth starter is Ryan Rowland-Smith, who lost out to Figueroa, in the spring competition, or long reliever Aneury Rodriguez.

- Doug Mittler

Fate of Ross

7:04AM ET
Tyson Ross | Athletics
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UPDATE: Ross was sent to Triple-A Sacramento, according to the Contra Costa Times, which means he'll stay in the rotation and likely serve as the first arm called up should a starter -- or a reliever, for that matter -- go down with injury or struggle for an extended period.

...

The Oakland Athletics' starting rotation is set, but there is a spot in the bullpen that could be filled by right-hander Tyson Ross, who has had a terrific spring, showing command and consistency over his 15 1/3 innings. But, as ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes, the A's may prefer to send him to Triple-A Sacramento to continue developing as a starter.

Ross may get some starts this season, especially considering the attrition rate of pitchers in general, but also because the track record of the A's starting five suggests there will be stints on the disabled list. Brandon McCarthy, who was solid all spring, isn't exactly a guarantee to hold down his job all season, either.

But with closer Andrew Bailey on the DL to start the season, the late-inning arms all move up a spot, which could mean a big-league job for Ross to open the season.

post #515 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Organization rankings con't:

Mets #21

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An organization in turmoil, the Mets nonetheless have the assets to make the turnaround on a short time frame. It’s hard not to like the new management in place, and a new stadium in that market with those resources – the pain can’t continue can it?

Present Talent – 78.33 (t-16th)

Mets Season Preview

Future Talent – 65.00 (t-26th)

Mets Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 76.54 (18th)
Baseball Operations – 72.50 (t-16th)

Overall Rating – 75.79 (21st)

New York Met fandom, self-mutilation be thy name. There’s something about following a team that hasn’t won in a while that turns you against them in a strange way. Doom and gloom settle in, and cynicism abounds. New GM? Ah, he’ll screw it up. New manager? Well he’s not a true Met. New pitchers on the cheap? Yeah, they’ll be injured by May. New stadium? Oh, doesn’t matter if the team sucks. Money to fund one of the most expensive rosters in the game? Yeah, but for how long?

But aren’t some of the non-talent pieces in place? Sandy Alderson has worked his magic with the small market Athletics and Padres, and now is at the helm of a nine-digit roster for a team with a beautiful stadium in a large media market. There’s no reason that a team with those resources shouldn’t be able to spend smartly and find their way to contention. Even with a poor minor league system and an injury-riddled veteran roster, the light should be on the horizon.

Except for that whole Bernie Madoff situation. Cue a return to the cynical Mets fandom. With the newest clawback filings demanding more than a billion dollars from the Mets owners, their financial situation is suddenly cast back into doubt. That has led to the Wilpons offering up a minority stake in the team – but willing investors at that level seemed hard to find at first. Now that some are in town looking at the financials, many don’t like what they see. On the heels of the revelation that Bud Selig helped the team with a confidential $25 million loan earlier this offseason, this news doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the team’s cash flow.

All of this negativity comes despite the fact that Forbes magazine valued the team at $747 million, the fifth-highest in baseball. A closer look at Forbes’ list reveals the same fissures, though. The Mets were one of two teams that lost overall value last year, and they had baseball’s second-worst profit margin in their yearly budget. The Mets also have a 60% debt-to-value ratio. If you only actually own about two-fifths of your worth, you’re not quite rich. That’s one of the lessons of the last decade, perhaps.

So maybe a lot of the darkness among Mets fans is justified. Even with some bounce-backs from the present veterans like Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay, and maybe a step forward here or there from Ike Davis and Jon Niese, it’s difficult to move a likely third place team much further up than 16th in present talent. Even if you like Wilmer Flores and Jenrry Mejia a little more than some, the Mets system is not stocked full of top-end talent. And now it’s become obvious that even though the Mets have money in some respects, they also have money problems. Maybe Alderson’s small-market skills will come in handy after all.

One thing is for certain: It may not be hard, but it’s also definitely not easy being a Mets fan.



Padres #20

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Losing Adrian Gonzalez would be painful to any team. But for a Padres squad whose second-best 2010 regular (or quasi-regular) was Will Venable (.324 wOBA), it was a monumental loss. Still, the haul from the Gonzalez trade boosts the team’s farm system ranking significantly, and there are some reasons for optimism on a team with limited resources and little chance of contending in 2011.

Present Talent – 75.00 (T-20th)

Padres Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Padres Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 68.08 (29th)
Baseball Operations – 81.67 (11th)

Overall Rating – 76.09 (20th)

I have a theory about park effect adjustments that goes like this: They’re not telling us enough. A left-handed hitter with power to right-center is likely to suffer more offensively than a simply Petco Park adjustment would suggest (think Brian Giles before he fell off a cliff and ultimately retired). On the flip side, a pitcher whose biggest weakness is, say, home runs by left-handed hitters, is likely to benefit more from Petco’s deep dimensions and moist marine air than a simply park adjustment might suggest (if Pat Neshek‘s healthy, that’s a perfect pickup for a Padres team that already has an outrageously deep bullpen).

The point is this: The Padres’ first priority, like any team’s first priority is to scout, draft, sign, develop and if possible, trade for star players. But for the rest of the major league roster, they’ll need to (continue to) think about ways to exploit one of the most extreme ballparks in the majors.

Jed Hoyer and company hope to achieve both of those goals with the acquisition of Cameron Maybin. Still a couple weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Maybin can still be considered a prospect — despite breaking in as a talented player with an abysmal batting eye way back in 2007. The batting eye hasn’t improved much with age, as Maybin’s career strikeout rate is four times higher than his walk rate. But there’s speed, above-average defense, and even flashes of power sprinkled into his skill set, meaning we probably shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Maybin becomes a star. We’ve seen too many Brandon Phillips-like cases of players struggling for several years, then finding a new ballclub and flourishing, to rule out Maybin’s upside. He’s also a player who could benefit more from Petco than most. Maybin’s range in center field should play well in Petco’s vast outfield pasture, and right-handed hitters with power potential are generally better off than comparable lefties. The Padres did give up two solid relief pitchers, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, to get Maybin. But given the team’s strong track record of grooming and acquiring good relievers, and the need for potential high-level everyday players, it was a move that made all kinds of sense.

The other position player with star upside is Chase Headley. We have to take one-year UZR samples with a gigantic grain of salt. Still, the huge jump in Headley’s defensive value (-6.7 as a left fielder in 2009 to +16.5 as a third baseman in 2010) has to excite his employers, even if future regression toward the mean might be expected. The question now becomes, when or if Headley’s offense will blossom. There are subtle signs of improvement, including a strikeout rate that dropped from 31.4% in 2008 to 22.8% in 2010. But Headley’s power has also ebbed during that span, from a .151 ISO in ’08 down to .111 last season. He’s got a history of solid power production in the minors, albeit generally in hitter-friendly parks. Entering his age-27 season, is this the year that Headley establishes himself as an elite player, someone with enough sock to overcome even Petco’s supernatural offense-squashing powers? The Padres really need that to happen.

There is that potential down on the farm, though, and the Padres will be patient in letting that talent develop at its own speed. Slugging minor league first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the known commodity among the two position players acquired for Gonzalez, and the 42 doubles and 25 homers he socked last year between high-A and Double-A bode well for his chances of growing into, if things break right, a poor man’s Gonzalez. The real prize among the two position players, say scouts who like to dream big, could be Reymond Fuentes, the 20-year-old skinny Puerto Rican with exciting speed and the potential to become an impressive two-way outfielder. Fuentes remains raw, though, so much so that even if Maybin does buck the odds and become a star, he might be playing for someone else by the time Fuentes becomes a legitimate big league outfielder.

The pitching side of the ledger looks more encouraging, and not just Petco can make non-adjusted numbers look Nintendo-*%!. Mat Latos is the real deal as the staff ace, fanning more than a batter per inning last year and emerging as a top-flight starter before age 23, in just his second year in the majors. Other, less-talented hurlers figure to put up numbers thanks to Petco, with Clayton Richard back for year two in SoCal after coming over from the White Sox, and Aaron Harang replacing Jon Garland as mediocre pitcher you now want in your fantasy league because of Petco (there could be some legitimacy to Harang’s numbers too; he’s flashed strong K/BB rates throughout most of his career, with his home run tendencies often being his biggest weakness).

The bullpen remains overloaded even with Mujica and Webb dealt for Maybin, and Adam Russell and Brandon Gomes thinning out the prospect stock a bit in San Diego’s deal for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Heath Bell is one of just 15 MLN pitchers with FIPs of 3.50 or lower in each of the past three seasons (in Bell’s case, the last four). Luke Gregerson‘s Slider of Death would make him scary in any park, and Mike Adams has followed Bell as a buy-low guy who’s turned into an elite option in Whale’s Vagina.

Hoyer enters his second season as Padres GM with a big comedown likely in store. No one expected anything close to 90 wins last season, yet that’s what the Padres managed; acknowledging the flaws with using Pythagorean record to peg a team’s won-lost record, it’s still interesting to note that the Pads by that measure were a 91-win club, buoyed by run prevention results that looked damn good even after accounting for Petco. There are more quality pitchers nearing the big leagues, with Red Sox transplant Casey Kelly and homegrown right-hander Simon Castro the best of a promising bunch. There’s athleticism in the pipeline in Donovan Tate, a potential power bat they sorely need in Jaff Dacker, and other goodies on the farm. Some of the key personnel who helped build the team’s minor league depth left along with former GM Kevin Towers. How new(*%!) Scouting Director Jaron Madison and other new-regime hires fare will tell us a lot about the sustainability and upside of the Padres’ youth movement.

More than losing Gonzalez or a likely building-and-waiting process for at least the next couple years, that 29th ranking in Financial Resources should worry Padres fans the most. In 2009, Jeff Moorad became the lead partner in a group that stepped in to grab majority control of the team from financially-strapped owner John Moores. But the takeover is expected to occur gradually over a five-year span, with Moorad still owning 12% of the Diamondbacks (am I the only one who thinks that’s completely crazy?) and the team unlikely to start spending heavily during that time of transition. It’s tough to say what Moorad’s financials might look like in 2014, or if the Padres will be at the appropriate phase of their building cycle to go on a spending spree at that time.

For now, we wait. We wait to see if Maybin and Headley can become front-line players, if Venable has room for improvement entering his late-20s, if Latos can turn into a perennial Cy Young candidate, if the trend of building killer bullpens and flipping relievers for real talent can continue, if the next wave of pitchers can form a formidable future Padres rotation, if the Padres can figure out a way to fully harness Petco’s unique Petco-ness, and if Hoyer and his lieutenants can offer more surprises, even if a step back from last season’s 90 wins is a mortal lock.



Cubs #19

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

The Cubs wield great financial strength, which gives them an advantage over the bulk of their competition. But as their ranking indicates, they haven’t necessarily put those resources to best use.

Present Talent – 74.17 (t-22nd)

Cubs Season Preview

Future Talent – 75.00 (t-20th)

Cubs Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources: 83.46 (t-5th)
Baseball Operations: 71.67 (29th)

Overall Rating: 76.46 (19th)

The FanGraphs staff does not have a particular affection for Jim Hendry. Not only do his 2011 team and farm system rank in the bottom third of the league, but the entire baseball operations ranks ahead of only Houston, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for one of the longest-tenured GMs in the game.

Hendry took over the Cubs on July 5, 2002, when the team had a 34-49 record. They went 33-45 the rest of the way, but then experienced a 21-win improvement in 2003, winning the NL Central and making it to Game 7 of the NLCS before ultimately falling to the Marlins. The run certainly bought him some favor in Chicago. Since then he has produced a mixed track record.

For the Cubs, the baseball ops score goes hand-in-hand with the financial resources one. It’s not as though they’ve performed poorly since Hendry took over. In three of the eight years of his tenure they’ve finished below .500, but in another three years they made the playoffs. For many teams, perhaps most teams, that would be considered a favorable set of outcomes. But for a team that wields the financial might of the Cubs, the inconsistency comes as a disappointment.

In terms of trades, Hendry has a decent, perhaps even good, track record. Trading for Kenny Lofton and Randall Simon in 2003 helped them in their World Series quest. (Hendry also receives praise for acquiring Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek before 2003, even though they represented downgrades at their respective positions.) Getting Aramiz Ramirez along with Lofton was an even bigger steal. He won huge on the Derrek Lee trade. Acquiring Rich Harden in 2008 proved a solid move, as did swapping Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva last season. He even turned a profit on Tom Gorzelanny. There are some losers on the list — trading Ricky Nolasco and Juan Pierre, for example, but for the most part Hendry’s trade record has been a net positive.

The problem is the way Hendry has deployed his considerable financial resources, which has come mostly in recent years. Sure, signing Jeromy Burnitz in 2005 might not have been a great idea, but it was only a one-year deal. Re-signing Nomar Garciaparra might not have worked out, but it was a swell enough idea. Perhaps the only glaringly bad move, in both process and results, that Hendry made before the 2006 off-season was continuing to employ Neifi Perez. There were some good moves mixed in there, too, such as bringing back Greg Maddux and signing Ryan Dempster (the first time, though the second was quality, too).

In 2006 his track record took a turn for the worse. It started with the eight-year, $136 million contract for Alfonso Soriano. Perhaps Soriano was worth a $17 million annual investment, but not for eight years. After a stellar debut season, Soriano’s production has, not surprisingly, declined. Even with a rebound in 2010 he was worth only 2.9 WAR. His three-year, $21 million deal for Jason Marquis that same off-season was also misguided — Marquis, remember, had produced a 6.02 ERA the year before, with a nearly matching FIP. Ted Lilly‘s $40 million deal worked out well, but it was almost negated by Marquis.

Hendry was quiet the next few offseasons, save for re-signing Ryan Dempster. It was a risk move, considering Dempster had just moved back to the rotation after years in the bullpen, but the move has worked in Chicago’s favor. But the next offseason Hendry again misguidedly handed out a multi-year deal – Milton Bradley for three years and $30 million. Only the Silva trade fixed that. And while it wasn’t a major move, paying $7.5 million for two years of John Grabow wasn’t a well-advised signing. While we’re at it, neither was two years and $4.9 million for Aaron Miles.

There is also the team’s draft record to consider. Since Hendry took over in 2003, this is the list of the team’s draft picks who have made the major leagues, whether with the Cubs or another organization: Jake Fox, Sean Marshall, Casey McGehee, Mitch Atkins, Eric Patterson, Sam Fuld, Sean Gallagher, Jerry Blevins, Micah Owings, Donnie Veal, Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Darwin Barney, James Russell, Andrew Cashner, and Casey Coleman. Few names stand out, and one that does, McGehee, was placed on waivers, only to realize success elsewhere. The 2005 draft was particularly poor. Veal was the only pick to make the majors, and that came only because the Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft.

Every GM has blemishes on his track record. General Managers with big market teams are prone to them, because they can afford to outbid others on big talent, and we know that it’s not a rarity for big talent on the free agent market to provide less value than their contracts suggest. But, again, this is more about the baseball operations in relation to the team’s strong financial position than it is strictly about a poor GM and front office. For the last two seasons the Cubs have ranked third in the league in payroll, spending a combined $269.62 million. For their efforts they have won just 158 games, finishing second with 83 wins in 2009 and fifth with 75 wins in 2010.

For a while it appeared as though the Cubs were headed for big things. They made some splashes, and in 2007 and 2008 won the NL Central. But behind the scenes things weren’t completely set in place. The Cubs might have finished second in 2009, but there were definite problems abound. Before last season we ranked them No. 18. You can basically look at Dave’s summary there and say the same thing about the team this year. The first line in his concluding paragraph has aged well. “When I try to balance the strengths and weaknesses, this is where the Cubs end up – in the middle of the pack, getting less out of what they have than most clubs, but having enough to keep them from being too bad.

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Organization rankings con't:

Mets #21

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

An organization in turmoil, the Mets nonetheless have the assets to make the turnaround on a short time frame. It’s hard not to like the new management in place, and a new stadium in that market with those resources – the pain can’t continue can it?

Present Talent – 78.33 (t-16th)

Mets Season Preview

Future Talent – 65.00 (t-26th)

Mets Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 76.54 (18th)
Baseball Operations – 72.50 (t-16th)

Overall Rating – 75.79 (21st)

New York Met fandom, self-mutilation be thy name. There’s something about following a team that hasn’t won in a while that turns you against them in a strange way. Doom and gloom settle in, and cynicism abounds. New GM? Ah, he’ll screw it up. New manager? Well he’s not a true Met. New pitchers on the cheap? Yeah, they’ll be injured by May. New stadium? Oh, doesn’t matter if the team sucks. Money to fund one of the most expensive rosters in the game? Yeah, but for how long?

But aren’t some of the non-talent pieces in place? Sandy Alderson has worked his magic with the small market Athletics and Padres, and now is at the helm of a nine-digit roster for a team with a beautiful stadium in a large media market. There’s no reason that a team with those resources shouldn’t be able to spend smartly and find their way to contention. Even with a poor minor league system and an injury-riddled veteran roster, the light should be on the horizon.

Except for that whole Bernie Madoff situation. Cue a return to the cynical Mets fandom. With the newest clawback filings demanding more than a billion dollars from the Mets owners, their financial situation is suddenly cast back into doubt. That has led to the Wilpons offering up a minority stake in the team – but willing investors at that level seemed hard to find at first. Now that some are in town looking at the financials, many don’t like what they see. On the heels of the revelation that Bud Selig helped the team with a confidential $25 million loan earlier this offseason, this news doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the team’s cash flow.

All of this negativity comes despite the fact that Forbes magazine valued the team at $747 million, the fifth-highest in baseball. A closer look at Forbes’ list reveals the same fissures, though. The Mets were one of two teams that lost overall value last year, and they had baseball’s second-worst profit margin in their yearly budget. The Mets also have a 60% debt-to-value ratio. If you only actually own about two-fifths of your worth, you’re not quite rich. That’s one of the lessons of the last decade, perhaps.

So maybe a lot of the darkness among Mets fans is justified. Even with some bounce-backs from the present veterans like Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay, and maybe a step forward here or there from Ike Davis and Jon Niese, it’s difficult to move a likely third place team much further up than 16th in present talent. Even if you like Wilmer Flores and Jenrry Mejia a little more than some, the Mets system is not stocked full of top-end talent. And now it’s become obvious that even though the Mets have money in some respects, they also have money problems. Maybe Alderson’s small-market skills will come in handy after all.

One thing is for certain: It may not be hard, but it’s also definitely not easy being a Mets fan.



Padres #20

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Losing Adrian Gonzalez would be painful to any team. But for a Padres squad whose second-best 2010 regular (or quasi-regular) was Will Venable (.324 wOBA), it was a monumental loss. Still, the haul from the Gonzalez trade boosts the team’s farm system ranking significantly, and there are some reasons for optimism on a team with limited resources and little chance of contending in 2011.

Present Talent – 75.00 (T-20th)

Padres Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Padres Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 68.08 (29th)
Baseball Operations – 81.67 (11th)

Overall Rating – 76.09 (20th)

I have a theory about park effect adjustments that goes like this: They’re not telling us enough. A left-handed hitter with power to right-center is likely to suffer more offensively than a simply Petco Park adjustment would suggest (think Brian Giles before he fell off a cliff and ultimately retired). On the flip side, a pitcher whose biggest weakness is, say, home runs by left-handed hitters, is likely to benefit more from Petco’s deep dimensions and moist marine air than a simply park adjustment might suggest (if Pat Neshek‘s healthy, that’s a perfect pickup for a Padres team that already has an outrageously deep bullpen).

The point is this: The Padres’ first priority, like any team’s first priority is to scout, draft, sign, develop and if possible, trade for star players. But for the rest of the major league roster, they’ll need to (continue to) think about ways to exploit one of the most extreme ballparks in the majors.

Jed Hoyer and company hope to achieve both of those goals with the acquisition of Cameron Maybin. Still a couple weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Maybin can still be considered a prospect — despite breaking in as a talented player with an abysmal batting eye way back in 2007. The batting eye hasn’t improved much with age, as Maybin’s career strikeout rate is four times higher than his walk rate. But there’s speed, above-average defense, and even flashes of power sprinkled into his skill set, meaning we probably shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Maybin becomes a star. We’ve seen too many Brandon Phillips-like cases of players struggling for several years, then finding a new ballclub and flourishing, to rule out Maybin’s upside. He’s also a player who could benefit more from Petco than most. Maybin’s range in center field should play well in Petco’s vast outfield pasture, and right-handed hitters with power potential are generally better off than comparable lefties. The Padres did give up two solid relief pitchers, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, to get Maybin. But given the team’s strong track record of grooming and acquiring good relievers, and the need for potential high-level everyday players, it was a move that made all kinds of sense.

The other position player with star upside is Chase Headley. We have to take one-year UZR samples with a gigantic grain of salt. Still, the huge jump in Headley’s defensive value (-6.7 as a left fielder in 2009 to +16.5 as a third baseman in 2010) has to excite his employers, even if future regression toward the mean might be expected. The question now becomes, when or if Headley’s offense will blossom. There are subtle signs of improvement, including a strikeout rate that dropped from 31.4% in 2008 to 22.8% in 2010. But Headley’s power has also ebbed during that span, from a .151 ISO in ’08 down to .111 last season. He’s got a history of solid power production in the minors, albeit generally in hitter-friendly parks. Entering his age-27 season, is this the year that Headley establishes himself as an elite player, someone with enough sock to overcome even Petco’s supernatural offense-squashing powers? The Padres really need that to happen.

There is that potential down on the farm, though, and the Padres will be patient in letting that talent develop at its own speed. Slugging minor league first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the known commodity among the two position players acquired for Gonzalez, and the 42 doubles and 25 homers he socked last year between high-A and Double-A bode well for his chances of growing into, if things break right, a poor man’s Gonzalez. The real prize among the two position players, say scouts who like to dream big, could be Reymond Fuentes, the 20-year-old skinny Puerto Rican with exciting speed and the potential to become an impressive two-way outfielder. Fuentes remains raw, though, so much so that even if Maybin does buck the odds and become a star, he might be playing for someone else by the time Fuentes becomes a legitimate big league outfielder.

The pitching side of the ledger looks more encouraging, and not just Petco can make non-adjusted numbers look Nintendo-*%!. Mat Latos is the real deal as the staff ace, fanning more than a batter per inning last year and emerging as a top-flight starter before age 23, in just his second year in the majors. Other, less-talented hurlers figure to put up numbers thanks to Petco, with Clayton Richard back for year two in SoCal after coming over from the White Sox, and Aaron Harang replacing Jon Garland as mediocre pitcher you now want in your fantasy league because of Petco (there could be some legitimacy to Harang’s numbers too; he’s flashed strong K/BB rates throughout most of his career, with his home run tendencies often being his biggest weakness).

The bullpen remains overloaded even with Mujica and Webb dealt for Maybin, and Adam Russell and Brandon Gomes thinning out the prospect stock a bit in San Diego’s deal for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Heath Bell is one of just 15 MLN pitchers with FIPs of 3.50 or lower in each of the past three seasons (in Bell’s case, the last four). Luke Gregerson‘s Slider of Death would make him scary in any park, and Mike Adams has followed Bell as a buy-low guy who’s turned into an elite option in Whale’s Vagina.

Hoyer enters his second season as Padres GM with a big comedown likely in store. No one expected anything close to 90 wins last season, yet that’s what the Padres managed; acknowledging the flaws with using Pythagorean record to peg a team’s won-lost record, it’s still interesting to note that the Pads by that measure were a 91-win club, buoyed by run prevention results that looked damn good even after accounting for Petco. There are more quality pitchers nearing the big leagues, with Red Sox transplant Casey Kelly and homegrown right-hander Simon Castro the best of a promising bunch. There’s athleticism in the pipeline in Donovan Tate, a potential power bat they sorely need in Jaff Dacker, and other goodies on the farm. Some of the key personnel who helped build the team’s minor league depth left along with former GM Kevin Towers. How new(*%!) Scouting Director Jaron Madison and other new-regime hires fare will tell us a lot about the sustainability and upside of the Padres’ youth movement.

More than losing Gonzalez or a likely building-and-waiting process for at least the next couple years, that 29th ranking in Financial Resources should worry Padres fans the most. In 2009, Jeff Moorad became the lead partner in a group that stepped in to grab majority control of the team from financially-strapped owner John Moores. But the takeover is expected to occur gradually over a five-year span, with Moorad still owning 12% of the Diamondbacks (am I the only one who thinks that’s completely crazy?) and the team unlikely to start spending heavily during that time of transition. It’s tough to say what Moorad’s financials might look like in 2014, or if the Padres will be at the appropriate phase of their building cycle to go on a spending spree at that time.

For now, we wait. We wait to see if Maybin and Headley can become front-line players, if Venable has room for improvement entering his late-20s, if Latos can turn into a perennial Cy Young candidate, if the trend of building killer bullpens and flipping relievers for real talent can continue, if the next wave of pitchers can form a formidable future Padres rotation, if the Padres can figure out a way to fully harness Petco’s unique Petco-ness, and if Hoyer and his lieutenants can offer more surprises, even if a step back from last season’s 90 wins is a mortal lock.



Cubs #19

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

The Cubs wield great financial strength, which gives them an advantage over the bulk of their competition. But as their ranking indicates, they haven’t necessarily put those resources to best use.

Present Talent – 74.17 (t-22nd)

Cubs Season Preview

Future Talent – 75.00 (t-20th)

Cubs Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources: 83.46 (t-5th)
Baseball Operations: 71.67 (29th)

Overall Rating: 76.46 (19th)

The FanGraphs staff does not have a particular affection for Jim Hendry. Not only do his 2011 team and farm system rank in the bottom third of the league, but the entire baseball operations ranks ahead of only Houston, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for one of the longest-tenured GMs in the game.

Hendry took over the Cubs on July 5, 2002, when the team had a 34-49 record. They went 33-45 the rest of the way, but then experienced a 21-win improvement in 2003, winning the NL Central and making it to Game 7 of the NLCS before ultimately falling to the Marlins. The run certainly bought him some favor in Chicago. Since then he has produced a mixed track record.

For the Cubs, the baseball ops score goes hand-in-hand with the financial resources one. It’s not as though they’ve performed poorly since Hendry took over. In three of the eight years of his tenure they’ve finished below .500, but in another three years they made the playoffs. For many teams, perhaps most teams, that would be considered a favorable set of outcomes. But for a team that wields the financial might of the Cubs, the inconsistency comes as a disappointment.

In terms of trades, Hendry has a decent, perhaps even good, track record. Trading for Kenny Lofton and Randall Simon in 2003 helped them in their World Series quest. (Hendry also receives praise for acquiring Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek before 2003, even though they represented downgrades at their respective positions.) Getting Aramiz Ramirez along with Lofton was an even bigger steal. He won huge on the Derrek Lee trade. Acquiring Rich Harden in 2008 proved a solid move, as did swapping Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva last season. He even turned a profit on Tom Gorzelanny. There are some losers on the list — trading Ricky Nolasco and Juan Pierre, for example, but for the most part Hendry’s trade record has been a net positive.

The problem is the way Hendry has deployed his considerable financial resources, which has come mostly in recent years. Sure, signing Jeromy Burnitz in 2005 might not have been a great idea, but it was only a one-year deal. Re-signing Nomar Garciaparra might not have worked out, but it was a swell enough idea. Perhaps the only glaringly bad move, in both process and results, that Hendry made before the 2006 off-season was continuing to employ Neifi Perez. There were some good moves mixed in there, too, such as bringing back Greg Maddux and signing Ryan Dempster (the first time, though the second was quality, too).

In 2006 his track record took a turn for the worse. It started with the eight-year, $136 million contract for Alfonso Soriano. Perhaps Soriano was worth a $17 million annual investment, but not for eight years. After a stellar debut season, Soriano’s production has, not surprisingly, declined. Even with a rebound in 2010 he was worth only 2.9 WAR. His three-year, $21 million deal for Jason Marquis that same off-season was also misguided — Marquis, remember, had produced a 6.02 ERA the year before, with a nearly matching FIP. Ted Lilly‘s $40 million deal worked out well, but it was almost negated by Marquis.

Hendry was quiet the next few offseasons, save for re-signing Ryan Dempster. It was a risk move, considering Dempster had just moved back to the rotation after years in the bullpen, but the move has worked in Chicago’s favor. But the next offseason Hendry again misguidedly handed out a multi-year deal – Milton Bradley for three years and $30 million. Only the Silva trade fixed that. And while it wasn’t a major move, paying $7.5 million for two years of John Grabow wasn’t a well-advised signing. While we’re at it, neither was two years and $4.9 million for Aaron Miles.

There is also the team’s draft record to consider. Since Hendry took over in 2003, this is the list of the team’s draft picks who have made the major leagues, whether with the Cubs or another organization: Jake Fox, Sean Marshall, Casey McGehee, Mitch Atkins, Eric Patterson, Sam Fuld, Sean Gallagher, Jerry Blevins, Micah Owings, Donnie Veal, Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Darwin Barney, James Russell, Andrew Cashner, and Casey Coleman. Few names stand out, and one that does, McGehee, was placed on waivers, only to realize success elsewhere. The 2005 draft was particularly poor. Veal was the only pick to make the majors, and that came only because the Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft.

Every GM has blemishes on his track record. General Managers with big market teams are prone to them, because they can afford to outbid others on big talent, and we know that it’s not a rarity for big talent on the free agent market to provide less value than their contracts suggest. But, again, this is more about the baseball operations in relation to the team’s strong financial position than it is strictly about a poor GM and front office. For the last two seasons the Cubs have ranked third in the league in payroll, spending a combined $269.62 million. For their efforts they have won just 158 games, finishing second with 83 wins in 2009 and fifth with 75 wins in 2010.

For a while it appeared as though the Cubs were headed for big things. They made some splashes, and in 2007 and 2008 won the NL Central. But behind the scenes things weren’t completely set in place. The Cubs might have finished second in 2009, but there were definite problems abound. Before last season we ranked them No. 18. You can basically look at Dave’s summary there and say the same thing about the team this year. The first line in his concluding paragraph has aged well. “When I try to balance the strengths and weaknesses, this is where the Cubs end up – in the middle of the pack, getting less out of what they have than most clubs, but having enough to keep them from being too bad.

post #517 of 77570
Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif
post #518 of 77570
Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif
post #519 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Reds #9

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

After 10 years below .500, and 15 years without a playoff berth, the Cincinnati Reds surged to 91 wins, won the NL Central, and earned an MVP award for their homegrown (and Canadian!) star first baseman.

Present Talent – 83.33 (T-8th)

Reds Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Reds Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 77.31 (16th)
Baseball Operations – 82.50 (10th)

Overall Rating – 81.56 (11th)

Nearly everything that could have gone right for the 2010 Reds, did. Joey Votto blossomed into the league’s most valuable player. Jay Bruce showed why he’s been viewed as a premium talent on both sides of the ball. Drew Stubbs posted a 3-win season in his first full big league season. On the pitching side, Johnny Cueto recorded a 3.97 FIP and the best season of his young career, rookie Travis Wood flashed a K/BB rate of better than 3-to-1, and Aroldis Chapman showed the world he can throw 104 miles-per-hour.

There are few teams in baseball who can match the Reds in quality and quantity of young talent. They have the roster of a contender, and yet most of the significant pieces in place are in their primes or still headed toward it. This is not a team that’s going to suffer much regression due to age-related decline – they’re a good team that should still be on their way up.

That said, the Reds land in the ninth spot on this list because of what they already have in house – the writing crew here is a bit more cautious about their ability to add talent going forward. The team is operating on a $75 million payroll that hasn’t changed at all in four years, and while that’s enough to pay a lot of these kids in the early stages of their careers, it will take a significant boost in spending to keep this core together long term. Cincinnati is one of the smaller markets in baseball with Forbes recently estimating that they earn “only

post #520 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Reds #9

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

After 10 years below .500, and 15 years without a playoff berth, the Cincinnati Reds surged to 91 wins, won the NL Central, and earned an MVP award for their homegrown (and Canadian!) star first baseman.

Present Talent – 83.33 (T-8th)

Reds Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Reds Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 77.31 (16th)
Baseball Operations – 82.50 (10th)

Overall Rating – 81.56 (11th)

Nearly everything that could have gone right for the 2010 Reds, did. Joey Votto blossomed into the league’s most valuable player. Jay Bruce showed why he’s been viewed as a premium talent on both sides of the ball. Drew Stubbs posted a 3-win season in his first full big league season. On the pitching side, Johnny Cueto recorded a 3.97 FIP and the best season of his young career, rookie Travis Wood flashed a K/BB rate of better than 3-to-1, and Aroldis Chapman showed the world he can throw 104 miles-per-hour.

There are few teams in baseball who can match the Reds in quality and quantity of young talent. They have the roster of a contender, and yet most of the significant pieces in place are in their primes or still headed toward it. This is not a team that’s going to suffer much regression due to age-related decline – they’re a good team that should still be on their way up.

That said, the Reds land in the ninth spot on this list because of what they already have in house – the writing crew here is a bit more cautious about their ability to add talent going forward. The team is operating on a $75 million payroll that hasn’t changed at all in four years, and while that’s enough to pay a lot of these kids in the early stages of their careers, it will take a significant boost in spending to keep this core together long term. Cincinnati is one of the smaller markets in baseball with Forbes recently estimating that they earn “only

post #521 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by dland24

Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif


smokin.gif **cheers**

WOW, just tuning in to the Yankee game... a LOT of empty seats on the field level.
post #522 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by dland24

Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif


smokin.gif **cheers**

WOW, just tuning in to the Yankee game... a LOT of empty seats on the field level.
post #523 of 77570
Volquez is getting destroyed.
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #524 of 77570
Volquez is getting destroyed.
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #525 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CincoSeisDos

Quote:
Originally Posted by dland24

Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif


smokin.gif **cheers**

WOW, just tuning in to the Yankee game... a LOT of empty seats on the field level.



It's cold as !@%* out there man smiley: laugh this is the one time I don't blame em.
post #526 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CincoSeisDos

Quote:
Originally Posted by dland24

Happy New Year everyone. pimp.gif


smokin.gif **cheers**

WOW, just tuning in to the Yankee game... a LOT of empty seats on the field level.



It's cold as !@%* out there man smiley: laugh this is the one time I don't blame em.
post #527 of 77570
How cold is it exactly?
post #528 of 77570
How cold is it exactly?
post #529 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Like 40 but the wind swirls around down in the lower levels, makes it a hell of a lot worse. Those rich folk ain't trying to deal with that today laugh.gif
post #530 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Like 40 but the wind swirls around down in the lower levels, makes it a hell of a lot worse. Those rich folk ain't trying to deal with that today laugh.gif
post #531 of 77570
laugh.gif fair enough

About to head out to the ballpark in 30 minutes

Got my cooler, peanuts, seeds, i'm pumped.
post #532 of 77570
laugh.gif fair enough

About to head out to the ballpark in 30 minutes

Got my cooler, peanuts, seeds, i'm pumped.
post #533 of 77570
Half-game lead in the Central. smiley: pimp
post #534 of 77570
Half-game lead in the Central. smiley: pimp
post #535 of 77570
post #536 of 77570
post #537 of 77570
eek.gifeek.gifeek.gif
post #538 of 77570
eek.gifeek.gifeek.gif
post #539 of 77570
smiley: laugh i always think it's extra cool when you hit a walk off into the visiting team's bullpen.
post #540 of 77570
smiley: laugh i always think it's extra cool when you hit a walk off into the visiting team's bullpen.
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NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions.