Monthly Archives: May 2011

Revisiting: Brett Wallace, Matt Holliday, Michael Taylor, Anthony Gose: 4 Players, 4 Teams, 3 Trades

Tuesday May 31, 2011

 

MLB reports:  Brett Wallace has experienced a baseball odyssey like few others  ever have.  Drafted twice, traded three times and playing in 4 different baseball organizations before his 25th birthday.  The man with the golden bat, Wallace has been coveted by many MLB teams yet somehow managed to move in three separate transactions over his short career.  Usually in these scenarios, we would consider the player to be more of a role type player and not likely to be a superstar in the making.  But considering the players and transactions involved, it is clear that Wallace has been in demand all along.  Now finally entrenched in Houston and playing every day in the big leagues, Wallace is finally fulfilling his early promise and making a name for himself as a future All-Star and possibly batting champion in the National League.

Wallace first hit our radars in 2005 when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 42nd round.  Unable to sign him, Wallace went on to start playing college ball for Arizona State University.  From there, Wallace blossomed into a 1st round pick, 13th overall for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008.  Playing in the Cardinals minor league system at third base, Wallace was touted as the next Cards superstar hitter in the making.  With Pujols entrenched at 1st base and up-and-coming slugger Colby Rasmus also in the picture, the Cardinals appeared to be set offensively for years to come.

The plan was changed on July 24, 2009, where the Cardinals making a playoff push, traded Wallace to the Oakland Athletics with Shane Peterson and Clayton Mortensen for slugging outfielder Matt Holliday.  The plan worked as the Cardinals were able to make the playoffs and proceeded to sign Holliday to a long-term deal as protection in the lineup for their main superstar, Albert Pujols.  Wallace, played out the season in the A’s organization and the debate started as to whether his long-term future was at third or first base.

Part of the mystery Wallace was solved as Toronto finally landed its prized target on December 15, 2009.  As part of the Roy Halladay swap, the Jays acquired outfielder Michael Taylor from Philadelphia.  One quick transaction later, Alex Anthopoulos and Billy Beane followed through on a Taylor for Wallace trade.  Wallace was moved permanently to first base with an eye towards joining the Blue Jays as their new first baseman by 2011.  Or so we all thought.  As Alex Anthopoulos started to show the baseball world, he was not afraid to make multiple trades to get the players he wanted.

The Houston Astros in mid-2010 finally started their fire sale.  Franchise player Lance Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees and ace pitcher Roy Oswalt was moved to Philadelphia.  As part of the Oswalt trade, the Astros received young speedster outfielder Anthony Gose.  The Gose acquisition actually led to two further moves.  The Jays apparently were keen on Gose for sometime and were unsuccessful in originally prying him away from the Phillies in the Halladay deal.  The Astros with this knowledge, were able to trade away Berkman knowing that his replacement would come from Toronto if Gose would be a part of the equation.  Trade #3 was then consummated and Wallace found a home in Houston.

Sitting 1/3 of the way into the 2011 season, it is time to look at all four players involved in the three Wallace transactions and get a glimpse as to how each is performing.  In the process, it is interesting to note which teams ended up benefitting from being a part of each Wallace trade.  Let’s look deeper into the numbers of Brett Wallace and the Astros, Michael Taylor and the Athletics, Anthony Gose and the Jays, and Matt Holliday and the Cardinals.

Brett Wallace – Astros

So far, so good for the young Astros slugger.  Having made the team out of spring training, Wallace currently has a .308 AVG, .379 OBP, .442 SLG, 19/39 BB/K, 3 home runs, 22 runs and 16 RBIs.  For a young team in need of offense, the Astros could not ask more from Wallace.  For a kid that always known to be able to hit, the numbers back up the hype.  Having watched him play this year live, I can attest that he plays a fairly solid first base defensively as well.  With the Astros now having their future cleanup hitter getting his feet wet in the majors, they look to have benefitted as a team by acquiring Wallace.

Matt Holliday – Cardinals

Despite paying a heavy price to acquire Holliday in the first place, one cannot argue with the results.  A contending team that has made the playoffs with him on its roster, the Cardinals have been a better team with Matt Holliday.  Since joining the Cardinals, Holliday has since 2009 had an OPS each year of 1.023, .922 and .981.  Holliday hit 13 home runs in 63 games in 2009 and 28 home runs last year.  As Pujols protection, the Cardinals were able to sign Holliday to a long-term contract and bring stability to its lineup and clubhouse.  If the Cardinals had not traded for Holliday, he would have not as likely signed with the team as a free agent as his time playing in St. Louis played a large role in his decision to sign.  The other components of the trade, Peterson and Mortensen turned into expandable spare parts, role players at best.  While the Cardinals could have used Wallace’s bat, there was no room for him at first base and his glove did not project to allow him to stay at third.  The trade turned into a good win for the Cardinals, as strong of a return as the team could have ever expected.

Anthony Gose- Blue Jays

Once we get past Wallace and Holliday, the return on the last 2 Wallace trades still remain relatively unknown.  We start with Anthony Gose of the Jays.  Seen as a strong defensive player and future stolen base champion, the Jays acquired a player known more for tools over the refined and polished bat of Wallace.  So far in 2011, the 20-year old Gose at the advanced AA level has held his own, with a .272 AVG, .375 OBP, .391 SLG, 4 home runs, 22 RBIs, 33 runs, 27/41 BB/K ratio.  Having stolen 76 bases in 2009 in the minors, speed is clearly a big part of Gose’s game.  On the season, Gose already been successful 22/27 times on stolen base attempts.  With Adam Lind entrenched as the new first baseman for the Jays, the team appeared to have indicated by trading Wallace that there was no room for Wallace and that the potential of Gose had a higher value to the team.  With the Jays offense being up and down all year, I think the bat of Wallace rotating through first and DH would have been very useful for the team.  Time will tell on this swap, but at the moment all the Jays have is potential and hype in Anthony Gose while the Astros have defined production from Wallace.  Until proven otherwise, the Astros have the advantage over the Jays in the last Wallace swap.

Michael Taylor- Athletics

The last player to be reviewed is Michael Taylor of the A’s.  A highly considered outfielder once upon a time in the Phillies system, some analysts rated Taylor higher than current Phillies prospect Domonic Brown.  Since joining the A’s organization, Taylor has been sidelined by injuries and has not been able to fully get himself on track.  In 2010, Taylor hit .272 in AAA with 6 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 127 games played.  This year, Taylor has only played 15 games with 1 home run, but has hit .333 with a .795 OPS.  The potential is still there for Taylor but at 25 and in his second full season at AAA for Oakland, Taylor will have to produce to justify the A’s swap of Wallace for him.  Considering that the Athletics have one of the worst offenses in baseball and could desperately use Wallace’s bat in their lineup, it is clear that the A’s came up with the shortest end of the stick, so to speak, among all the teams involved in the Wallace swaps.  Considering the price that the A’s paid to get Holliday originally, including Carlos Gonzalez and Houston Street, losing Wallace and having Taylor stuck in AAA makes all of their trades look even worse.  I still hold out h0pe for Taylor, but another lost year could result in a required change of scenery for him.

It will be interesting to catch up with Wallace, Gose, Holliday and Taylor in another year and then five years from now and see the stage of each player’s career at that time.  Wallace and Holliday should still be proven commodities.  It will be Gose and Taylor as the wild cards that will either blossom or fail as prospects.  The future is bright and still unknown for both of these players.  Until then, we will continue to enjoy watching Brett Wallace as he continues to develop as a player in Houston.

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Buster Posey Out for the Season: Time for a Rule Change?

Monday May 30, 2011

On the Reports, we will be occasionally featuring an up-and-coming baseball writer that has come to our attention and share their work with you, the readers.  Part of our mandate at MLB reports is to provide the best baseball coverage and analysis in the business.  MLB reports ultimately is designed to expose our readers to the world of baseball and the stories, facts, insights and profiles behind it.  In order to meet this goal, we would like to give exciting young writers the chance to showcase their talents and provide a fresh pool of ideas to our site.  In today’s feature, we are excited to have Brian Lozier as our guest writer with his post on the Buster Posey injury.  Brian’s topic was to look at the Posey injury and whether a rule change is required in baseball.  Enjoy! 

 

Brian Lozier (Guest Writer for MLB Reports): Injuries are another way of saying “Unfortunate event”.  Things that are literally out of the hands of the people involved.  There is nothing there to prevent injuries, slow them or make what unfolded heal any faster.  Nothing can change an injury after it occurs, so people try to take measures into their own hands and prevent future occurences from happening.  But at what cost to the game do we try to prevent injuries from taking place?

In the extra-inning thriller staged in AT&T Park in San Francisco this past Wednesday, former Rookie of the Year winning catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg and is out for the rest of the season and possibly the start of 2012 as well.  A future All-Star candidate, Posey was run over by Scott Cousins of the Marlins, who scored the go-ahead run in the 12th inning.  Posey, becoming an everyday catcher last season after being called up in May, played the role of protector of home plate on the play.  Posey took his destiny and the future of his team in his hands by doing all that he could to fight for his team to pull out the win.  The resulting cost though to the Giants organization was devastating.

After an MRI came back showing a broken fibula and three torn ligaments, Posey’s agent, Jeff Barry reached out to Joe Torre and the MLB head office with a plead for a change of the rules in order to stop collisions at the plate.  Barry stated that “You leave players vulnerable.  I can tell you MLB is less than it was before [Posey’s Injury]”.  Barry went on to compare the incident to a helmet to helmet collision in the NFL.  “If you go helmet to helmet in the NFL, it’s a $100,000 fine.  In baseball, you have a situation in which baserunners are slamming into fielders. It’s brutal.  Borderline shocking.  It just stinks for baseball.”

I can understand an agent’s view to wanting to keep players safe.  I can see the importance of Major League Baseball taking measure to stop “senseless” injuries and preventing side-liners and career-ending plays.  However, I have to draw the line when people ask to remove excitement from this great game.  Train wrecks have been a part of baseball since the sport came into existence.  The most famous of which might have been the 1970 All-Star Game and the Pete Rose collision at the plate.  Or perhaps the collision to end game 6 of the 2003 World Series.  I will let you be the judge.

Understanding one’s role and doing what it takes to win is a major part of being a Big-Leaguer.  The speedster on each squad knows that it’s his job to steal bases.  Consequence: Possible broken fingers.  Outfielders on the other hand, are expected to catch balls on the fly. They might break a rib as a result, but it’s a part of their role.  Pitchers go out knowing they could take a ball to the face or throw out an arm every time they step out onto a mound.  But it’s what they do and is necessary for their respective teams to win.  The above logic is no different when it is applied to the catcher.  A catcher defensively at the end of the day must first and foremost, stop the baserunner.  No question, no doubt.

What would happen if the rule changed and home plate collisions were a thing of the past?  No one knows for certain, but it’s almost safe to say it would turn home plate into another first base.  This would result in every close play into a force out situation.  This would be a nightmare for teams when facing a contact pitcher.  The result would be raising concern in places where most teams whole have a sigh of relief.  Imagine stopping the notion of a  deep sac fly to score a winning run.  Or worse, stopping the suicide squeeze.  Baseball would almost become a game without a soul.

I admire Jeff Barry for standing up for his client, I really do.  In fact, more agents need to stand up for their players.  I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of the game and the intensity of the sport that fans deserve.  Why would anybody want to agree to this rule change?  By abandoning home plate collisions, proponents of the rule change would be removing chance, excitement and thrill to the game of baseball.  The clash of the titans at home plate during a game shows heart and guts to win a game which could possibly lead to a future World Series ring.  Although not a perfect system which can result in the occasional injury, baseball needs to be played in the way it was meant to be.  My baseball includes home plate collisions.  It has been a part of the dynamic of baseball for all these years up to and including today and should continue to have a place in the sport for years to come.

***Thank you to Brian Lozier for preparing today’s article on Buster Posey and rule changes in baseball.  You can follow Brian on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Where Are They Now: From Retired MLB Players to Minor League Managers and Coaches

Sunday May 29, 2011

MLB reports:  Having attended many baseball games in my lifetime, I was reflecting the other day on life after retirement for baseball players.  Getting to watch players for upwards of 20 years, one day each and every one departs the game eventually.  Once their playing careers are over and the players hang up their spikes for the last time, fans often ask: what happens to them?  This is a question I find myself asking time and time again.  Some players turn into broadcasters and scouts.  Some retire and live on secluded islands, never to be seen again.  Some are lucky enough to find jobs in the major league level, from front office positions to on-field coaching assignments.  However, many that wish to stay in the game end up going back to the minors and starting over.

Looking at the list of minor league managers and coaches, familiar names from days gone by get triggered.  What I did notice though was a reoccurring theme.  With the exception of few, you are unlikely to find too many hall-of-famers and superstar players in the grass-roots levels.  The best coaches and managers, occurring to many industry people that I have spoken with, are within the role players and grinders that studied the game well and fought for their playing careers.  Ex-catchers are often labelled as strong future managers and coaches for their knowledge of the game.  A superstar often gets by on talent and skill, but their results on the field do not always translate well in the dugout.  To be a good manager or coach, you have to know the game inside and out and be able to teach, motivate and get the most results out of your players and team.  Grinders, catchers, utility players, bottom-end starters and middle relievers are the ones that had to fight for every day, week, month and season to be kept on a major league roster.  Being able to squeeze maximum results out of limited ability often as a player will lead to success as a future coach or manager.  Or so the theory goes.

Take some of today’s active big league managers.  From Mike Scoscia, to Bud Black, John Farrell, Joe Girardi, and Ozzie Guillen among others, we see a list of managers that had long-lasting playing careers but were never hall-of-fame material.  The above list of managers got by as players on smarts, craftiness, effort and getting the most out of their abilities.  The same characteristics these men had as players, they are now forging for their respective teams as big league managers.  While superstar players turned into managers have and will continue to exist, like Pete Rose and Ryne Sandberg for example, they are the exception rather than the norm.  Part of the reason could be that role type players just make better managers.  Other reasons could be that superstars with their lifetime playing career incomes do not have the desire to take on manager and coaching roles with little financial reward.  Superstars are also less likely to take the busses and go back to the minors to work their way back to the majors.  The end result though is that in most cases, it will take a certain breed of ex-players to manage and coach in the minors after their playing careers are finished.

As of the 2011 season, I have prepared a list of ex-MLB players who can be found coaching and managing in the minors.  I have based this list on the better known players for reference sake.  Each person on the list has their organization, level and position noted.  If nothing else, this list will serve as a wonderful walk down memory lane to remember some of our favorite players from the past and find where they are managing or coaching currently.

Our noted coaches and managers in the minors are as follows: (Note SS= Short Season, Rookie= Rookie level)

Paul Abbott – SS Pitching Coach (Red Sox)

Edgardo Alfonzo – Rookie Coach (Astros)

Wally Backman – AA Manager (Mets)

Damon Berryhill – Rookie Manager (Dodgers)

Willie Blair – Low A Pitching Coach (Padres)

Ricky Bones – AAA Pitching Coach (Mets)

D.J. Boston – Rookie Coach (Braves)

Jeff Branson – AAA Coach (Pirates)

Jerry Browne – AAA Coach (Nationals)

Tom Browning – Rookie Pitching Coach (Reds)

Tom Brunansky – AA Coach (Twins)

Steve Buechele – AA Manager (Rangers)

Dave Burba – SS Pitching Coach (Rockies)

Brett Butler – AAA Manager (Diamondbacks)

Frank Castillo – Rookie Pitching Coach (Cubs)

Phil Clark – High A Coach (Indians)

Gregg Colbrunn – Low A Coach (Yankees)

Scott Coolbaugh – AAA Coach (Rangers)

Brian Daubach – Low A Manager (Nationals)

Chili Davis – AAA Coach (Red Sox)

Storm Davis – Low A Pitching Coach (Rangers)

Steve Decker – AAA Manager (Giants)

Delino DeShields – Low A Manager (Reds)

Rich Donnelly – SS Manager (Mets)

Doug Drabek – High A Pitching Coach (Diamondbacks)

Mariano Duncan – AA Coach (Cubs)

Leon Durham – AAA Coach (Tigers)

Sal Fasano – AA Manager (Jays)

Jeff Fassero – Low A Pitching Coach (Cubs)

Tom Filer – AAA Pitching Coach (Pirates)

Tony Fossas – Low A Pitching Coach (Reds)

Rich Gedman – SS Coach (Red Sox)

Jim Gott – Rookie Pitching Coach (Angels)

Tommy Gregg – AAA Coach (Royals)

Ken Griffey Sr. – High A Manager (Reds)

Brian Harper – AA Manager (Cubs)

Jeff Harris – Low A Pitching Coach (Indians)

Lenny Harris – Low A Coach (Dodgers)

Ron Hassey – High A Manager (Marlins)

Greg Hibbard – SS Pitching Coach (Indians)

Bobby Jones – AAA Manager (Rangers)

Kevin Jordan – Rookie Coach (Phillies)

Pat Kelly – Rookie Manager (Reds)

Terry Kennedy – AAA Manager (Padres)

Steve Kline – Low A Pitching Coach (Giants)

Randy Knorr – AAA Manager (Nationals)

Tim Laker – AAA Coach (White Sox)

Les Lancaster – Rookie Pitching Coach (Phillies)

Tom Lawless – AA Manager (Astros)

Matt LeCroy – High A Manager (Nationals)

Craig Lefferts – High A Pitching Coach (Athletics)

Doug Linton- AAA Pitching Coach (Rockies)

Nelson Liriano – Rookie Manager (Royals)

Dennis Martinez – High A Pitching Coach (Cardinals)

Joe McEwing – AAA Manager (White Sox)

Bob Milacki – AA Pitching Coach (Phillies)

Mickey Morandini – SS Manager (Phillies)

Phil Nevin – AAA Manager (Tigers)

Greg Norton – AAA Manager (Marlins)

Lance Painter – AA Pitching Coach (Mariners)

Phil Plantier – High A Coach (Padres)

Ariel Prieto – Rookie Pitching Coach (Athletics)

Tom Prince – Rookie Manager (Pirates)

Mike Redmond – Low A Manager (Jays)

Jody Reed – Rookie Manager (Dodgers)

Pete Rose Jr. – Rookie Manager (White Sox)

Luis Salazar – High A Manager (Braves)

Ryne Sandberg – AAA Manager (Phillies)

Dick Schofield – Rookie Coach (Angels)

Kelly Stinnett – Rookie Manager (Diamondbacks)

Franklin Stubbs – AA Coach (Dodgers)

Tim Teufel – AAA Manager (Mets)

Bobby Thigpen – High A Pitching Coach (White Sox)

Randy Tomlin – AA Pitching Coach (Nationals)

John Valentin – AAA Coach (Dodgers)

Frank Viola – SS Pitching Coach (Mets)

Matt Walbeck – Low A Manager (Braves)

Pete Walker – AA Pitching Coach (Jays)

Turner Ward – AA Manager (Diamondbacks)

U.L. Washington – Rookie Coach (Red Sox)

Trevor Wilson – Low A Pitching Coach (Angels)

Vance Wilson – Low A Manager (Royals)

Shawn Wooten – Low A Manager (Padres)

 

From the above list, it will be interesting to see which of these ex-players end up graduating to the big leagues and in what capacity.  Many will find that the road to the show as a player was actually easier than the path as a manager or coach.  We fondly remember many of these individuals for their contributions to the game of baseball on the field.  We look forward to finding out which of them will be able to find similar success in the dugout.

 

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The 2011 MLB Draft: The Report and Inside Scoops

Saturday May 28, 2011

MLB reports:  For all the baseball fans, observers and analysts, one of the happiest events in the year is almost upon us.  The 2011 Major League Baseball Draft.  All the standout players that we have all been tracking on-line and reading about in publications like Baseball America are about to be drafted by major league teams and hopefully signing their first professional contracts in hopes of one day making the big leagues.  The draft is scheduled to run between June 6th – June 8th and will be broadcast live on mlb.com.

The talk around baseball is that changes could be in store for the MLB draft, as early as the 2012 draft year.  With the expected potential of increased restrictions on entry player salaries, the word is that players will be more likely to sign this year under the current system.  It will be interesting to see what percentage of drafted players sign with their teams and how many decide to re-enter the draft.  With the MLB draft system in transition, the 2011 draft should turn out to be one of the most interesting baseball events in some time.

Once upon a time the MLB draft was conducted secretly over the telephone with little to no media coverage.  But in our golden age of internet and instant media, the draft has become a featured event.  After the Nationals recently drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in consecutive years, the topic of the top picks in the MLB draft has become a heated debated among baseball observers.  With the high talent level this year, the discussions are raging louder than ever.

Considered to be a very deep draft pool, the 2011 class is heavy with pitching prospects.  Names like Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy and Trevor Bauer are on the lips of all baseball analysts.  Although not as strong in the hitting department, the media has worked overtime in profiling the likes of Anthony Rendon and Bubba Starling, among others.  Looking at the early predictions of the “experts”, it appears that the expected draft results are literally all over the map.  With the draft a little over a week away, the anxiety over the results of the draft continues to increase.

With so much talent in the 2011 draft, there appears to be a range of debate as to which team each players will be drafted by and in what draft position.  Thanks to our inside scouts, MLB reports will shed some light for you today as to some of the expected results.  We have compiled our list of rising and falling prospects and which teams have been linked to certain players.  Are you ready for the inside scoops on the 2011 MLB draft?  Let’s jump right into it and see what our scouts had to say about many of the players in the 2011 draft class (noted draft ranking by MLB.com beside each player and position):

RISING PROSPECTS

Dylan Bundy RHP (4) – Owassa HS (Okla.), Senior 

It’s not much of a rise when you are a top 5 pick, but with his strong on-field demeanor and stuff being among the best in the draft, he may end up with the best career of any 2011 draft member.”

Taylor Jungmann RHP (7) – Texas, Junior

“Looking like a great fit for #8 Indians.  Cleveland has shown they have the bats in the system to compete and have stock piled arms lately.  If they think they could compete in the next 3-4 years, then a college arm who could move quickly up their system is exactly what they will be looking for.”

Brandon Nimmo OF (30) – Cheyenne East HS (Wyo.), Sr.

“Big time bat that projects to move quick in nearly any system and the draft.  This kid is loved by the New York Yankees but shouldn’t get past the Toronto Blue Jays or Milwaukee Brewers.”

Joshua Bell OF (23) – Jesuit College Prep (Texas), Senior

“One of the best true bats available.  The Angels have outfielders spread throughout the organization, but the Angels must see a Trout/Bell outfield if he is available at #17.”

FALLING STARS

Taylor Guerrieri RHP (13) – Spring Valley HS (S.C.), Senior

“Multiple legal issues (had to switch high schools) and off-field issues could have Guerrieri slip.  He is one of the top prep arms in the draft so someone will take a flyer high.  If he gets by the #7 pick (Arizona), he could get into the teens.”

Kolten Wong 2B (25) – Hawaii, Junior

“Once a projected top 15 pick, many believe Wong may not go into the 1st round.  The falling is for no-fault of his own.  Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays amongst most interested.”

Anthony Meo RHP (26) – Coastal Carolina, Junior 

“Threw a no-hitter in Big South opener.  Big time success at college level and should have a nice pro career (think Blake Cooper with more upside) but there are some concerns with his delivery.  Some teams see Meo as a future reliever which could see him slip.  Meo was drafted previously in the 43rd round in 2008 out of High School by the Nationals.”

Jake Eliopoulos LHP (N/A)

“Once taken in the 2nd round by the Blue Jays in 2009 (higher than Jake Marisnick), he decided to turn down the Jays offer of $525,000+ to go to school.  Eliopoulos then attended two schools and was drafted again, this time by the Dodgers.   With an ERA above 10.00 at junior college, he is currently pitching for the Jet Box Baseball Club and went 2 IP with 10 BB and was hitting 85-86 mph as per Bob Elliot (Twitter).  I would expect the Jays or even Seattle to draft him in the late 40’s with little to no signing bonus just because of his past.”

What we are hearing:  Players that Teams are Considering

Oakland Athletics:   Daniel Norris, Alex Meyer, George Springer

New York Mets:  Brandon Nimmo, Matt Barnes, Cory Spangenberg, Jed Bradley

Toronto Blue Jays:  Sean Gilmartin, Josh Bell, Daniel Norris

Kansas City Royals:  Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, Bubba Starling

Where the Players are Likely to Land

Nick Ahmed – SS – University of Connecticut – Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals

Peter O’Brien (40) – C – Bethune-Cookman – Florida Marlins, New York Mets

Aaron Brown – OF – Chatsworth HS – Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres

Michael Reed – OF – Leander HS – Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros

Matthew Purke (27) – TCU – Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers

Andrew Chafin (39) – Kent State – Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves

Tyler Beede (50) – Lawrence Academy HS – Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds

Tom Robson – Lander, BC – Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets

Kevin Matthews – Richmond Hill HS – Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers

Carter Capps – Mount Olive – Milwaukee Brewers

Mike Wright – East Carolina – Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins

Steven Proscia – University of Virginia – Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Faulkner – South Aiken HS – Atlanta Braves, New York Mets

Carlos Rodon – Holly Springs HS – Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals

Chuck Ghysels – University of Maryland – Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves

Justin Atkinson – North Surrey, BC – Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros

Trevor Gretzky (son of Wayne Gretzky) – Oaks Christen HS – Los Angeles Angels

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Pujols vs. Bautista: Battle of the Sluggers- Friday Faceoff

Friday, May 27, 2011

MLB reports:  On the surface we appear to have a changing of the guard in baseball.  Albert Pujols had been anointed the next Babe Ruth many years ago and his numbers to-date have been simply outstanding.  416 home runs over 11 seasons with a lifetime .329 AVG, .423 OBP and .617 SLG are clear hall of fame numbers.  But then something seems to have happened this year.  As Pujols entered his free agency year, his numbers began to drop.  As Albert Pujols has fallen back down to earth, home run king Jose Bautista continues his career rise.  After 54 home runs in 2010, Bautista has hit the ground running in 2011 and has the MLB world talking.  After so many requests for this faceoff, let’s take a look at Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista in 2011 and determine which is the better player.

Age

Pujols is 31 years-of-age while Bautista is 30.  Rumors have constantly circled Pujols that his actual age may be closer to 33-34, based on Dominican age scandals in the past.  But without substantiation, we will take Pujols at his word and conclude that both players are very close in age and in the same stage of their careers.  Verdict:  Draw.

Power

Bautista leads the majors in home runs with 19 while Pujols has been slow out of the gate at 8.  Pujols has a .407 SLG while Bautista sits at .785.  There is no question that Bautista has far exceeded Pujols in the power department this year.  Considering that Bautista has only had Adam Lind for part of time for protection in the lineup with few other sluggers makes the numbers even more astounding.  Pujols has both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday in the mix and should be able to see far better pitches than Bautista.  This part is a no doubter.  Verdict:  Bautista, by a country mile.

Patience and Batting Eye

This should have been Pujols category for the taking.  With a career 934/666 BB/K, Pujols has a batting eye that few can match.  This year however, Pujols sits at 20/20 BB/K.  Good numbers, but not superstar Pujols type numbers.  Bautista on the other hand leads the way with 42 walks on the season and is on pace to break 150.  With only 24 strike outs in 2011, Bautista has an almost 2/1 BB/K ratio.  It looks like we have a new sherif in town.  In 2010, Pujols was great with 103/76 BB/K while Bautista produced 100/116 BB/K.  While the walks were evenly matched, Pujols was able to strike out fewer times.  But that was then and this season reads a different story.  Pujols has a .330 OBP and Bautista leads with a .492 OBP.  Not even close.  Verdict:  round 3 goes to Bautista.

Batting Average

Pujols has a lifetime .329 AVG while Bautista sits at .250.  In 2010, Pujols had a .312 AVG while Bautista sat at .260.  In 2011 though we have a seen a role reversal.  Pujols has a .261 AVG while Bautista has a .342 AVG.  Case closed again.  Verdict:  Bautista. 

Stolen Bases

Neither player is a speed demon by any stretch.  Bautista has 5 stolen bases on the year with 9 in 2010.  Pujols had 14 last year but three this year.  Neither gets on base with the thought of running and the stolen bases are negligible between the players.  Pujols has stolen up to 16 bases in his career and stole 14 last year.  But at the current pace, the numbers are fairly even.  Pujols has stolen three bases without getting caught while Bautista has been 5 for 7 in his opportunities.  Verdict:  Draw.

Verdict

With 3 rounds going to Jose Bautista and 2 draws, this week’s competition was a no-brainer.  Jose Bautista in 2011 has taken the crown of best hitter in baseball away from Albert Pujols.  It almost seems like the players have somehow changed bodies.  Jose Bautista has literally become the Albert Pujols of 2011, while Pujols himself has morphed into a lesser slugger in the mold of Bautista before 2010.  Bautista is doing all the right things, by hitting for average, taking a lot of walks and hitting home runs with no end in sight.  Pujols in contrast, has been a shell of himself this year.  He is not able to do any of the things that Bautista has and will need to get himself moving if he hopes to catch up.  As mentioned before, Pujols has great lineup protection and should be seeing many more fastballs and quality pitches to hit than Bautista.  While Adam Lind was hot for a stretch, he is by no means Berkman or Holliday.  Jose Bautista has had to produce with sub par players surrounding him in the batting order for most of the season.  Pujols has also played 9 more games than Bautista, who missed games due to personal reasons and a neck strain.  We shall see where these players are at come season’s end.  Only time will tell.   But until then, we are ready to crown Jose Bautista as the best hitter in baseball.  Check the numbers, they don’t lie.

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Wilpon Sells Minority Share in Mets to Einhorn, Not Seinfeld

Thursday May 26, 2011

MLB reports:  The seemingly never-ending circus that is the New York Mets took another turn today, as the team announced that it has sold a minority stake in the ball club to hedge fund manager, David Einhorn.  The amount of interest sold in the team is not yet known, but the price tag on the purchase has been set at $200,000,000.00.  A nice chunk of change for a team that has indicated it would be losing up to $70 million this year alone.  The money according to owner Fred Wilpon would be used towards the payment of debts and expenses of the team.  In essence, a short-term attempt to stop the bleeding.

The 42-year-old Einhorn is an interesting choice as a partial owner of the team.  Growing up in New Jersey, Einhorn was a Mets fan and has come home so to speak.  Ironically, Einhorn moved to Milwaukee as a kid and actually grew up next door to Bud Selig.  With the deal apparently a commissioner rubber stamp away from approval by MLB, the connection between the new owner and the MLB commissioner should mean a quick process.  Knowing Selig well should integrate Einhorn quickly into the “old boys club” so to speak as a partial owner of a major league baseball team.  Knowing the city and growing up a fan of the Mets, the hope is that Einhorn can use his financial knowledge and passion for the team to build a financially viable contender.

As a limited partner, it is unclear if Einhorn will have any say or control over the team.  Fred Wilpon has indicated that the investment is limited and does not include any control stake in the team.  But with a team valued at approximately $747 million by Forbes, we can assume that Einhorn purchased approximately 20-25% in the Mets.  If Wilpon continues to falter financially, one would assume that Einhorn would have first right to purchase an additional interest in the team.  If Einhorn does become a great stakeholder in the team, the issue will become if he will do everything that it takes to make the Mets a winner, or keep a strong eye on the bottom line.  Einhorn made his money by being a strong manager of money as the President of the investment firm Greenhouse Capital, Inc.  The long-term implications of the sale are not yet known, but this could be a start of a bright road for the Mets depending on Einhorn’s intentions.

So what is the connection to Jerry Seinfeld you ask?  Before the Einhorn announcement, Seinfeld was my choice to become the new minority owner of the Mets.  With a net worth close to $800 million, Seinfeld has the money and credibility to join the sports ownership business.  A life-long Mets fan, as evidenced by his hit television sitcom, Seinfeld would have become the perfect fit.  A celebrity in the ranks to take the spotlight away from the troubles of the Mets and allow the fans to get excited about its ball team again.  However, from all accounts that I have read, Seinfeld does not have any interest to purchase a sports team.  A deeply private person by nature, Seinfeld does not want to consistently be before the press and the responsibilities that go along with becoming an owner in the Mets.  Sports ownership is also not always the best financial investment and that appears to have factored into Seinfeld’s decision as well.

Finally, Fred Wilpon is a person that enjoys the spotlight and more than likely would not have enjoyed the attention being shifted away from him to the celebrity Seinfeld.  However, given the scandals and turmoil that has plagued the Mets recently, having Jerry Seinfeld as a partner may have been the best cure for Wilpon.  But as it stands today, it appears that the Mets have a new minority owner in David Einhorn.  Hopefully the new owner brings luck and fortune to a team that desperately can use any help that it can get.

 

 

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 25th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 25, 2011

Q:  Is Jose Bautista’s start for real?  Do you think he can keep it up?  From Brian,Toronto

MLB reports:  Hello Brian.  Great choice of topics as Bautista has been the talk of baseball in 2011.  Considering his body of work, every day that goes by you have to believe that the Jays slugger is for real.  After a great September in 2009, Bautista hit 54 long balls in 2010 and is already up to 19 in 2011.  It is mind boggling considering that Bautista has missed several games this season already for personal reasons and neck issues.  We prepared a profile on Jose Bautista at the Reports, which you can view here.  Jose Bautista appears to be a late bloomer that has discovered his stroke and is here to stay.  He is now the face of the Toronto Blue Jays and a home run force for several seasons to come.

Q:  What is your favorite major league ball park and why?  FromAngela,Vermont

MLB reports:  Although I have not been to every MLB stadium, I have definitely seen my fair share. J If I had to select a favorite, it would likely be PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  The view of the water, the layout of the stadium and the overall baseball feel is one that is without comparison.  I have enjoyed every seat that I have seen in Pittsburgh and would highly recommend seeing the park if you can.  A close second is Comerica Park in Detroit.  Comerica is a combination of my love of the Tigers team with a beautiful stadium and rich history.  That stadium really has it all.  But for overall look and feel, PNC wins out. 

 

Q:  If you could watch baseball in any country, which would you pick and why?  I am thinking Japan?  From Larry, San Francisco

MLB reports:  You are correct Larry, Japan goes to the top of the list.  Clearly you have been paying attention to my tweets!  The enthusiasm and energy from a Japan baseball game, as I have seen on television, literally has no comparison in any other country.  I cannot wait until the day when I am in Japan and watch a game live at a local stadium.  From the food, cheering fans, uniforms, style of play…Japan has it all.  I also have Cuba very high on my list.  From what I watched in the World Baseball Classic, Cubans take their baseball very seriously and my gut feel is that diehard fans would love watching live baseball in Cuba.  Hopefully it works out for me one day, we shall see!

 

Q:  I have been a Cubs fan for 30 years.  I think that I’m done suffering and looking to change teams.  Are my cubbies ever going to win?  From Bruce, Windy City

MLB reports:  Bruce…Bruce…Bruce.  Stand by your team!  I cannot blame you for being discouraged.  But if the Red Sox and White Sox can win the World Series, so can the Cubs.  If your team goes all the way and you are off the bandwagon, I think you will feel very sorry.  Part of a sports fan, especially baseball, is that you will have to suffer for many years sometimes.  In your case as a Cubs fan, for a lifetime potentially.  But team loyalty is key and stick with your Cubs.  They are on the right track in slowly rebuilding the farm system and should be a contender hopefully in the near future.

 

Q:  Will Mariano Rivera ever stop being good?  I wish he had signed with the Red Sox when FA.  He throws one pitch and is over 40, what’s up with that?  From Gene,Boston

MLB reports:  The mystery of Rivera and the famous cutter will live in baseball legendary for years to come.  How he does it few of us know, but somehow he was able to master one amazing pitch and has used it to build a hall of fame career.  You can dream, but Rivera was never going to leave the Yankees.  He came up a Yankee and will retire as a Yankee.  The Red Sox did make a play for him in his last free agency year, but he indicated all along that he was staying in New York.  But despite his magical career numbers which grow with his strong 2011 season, the time is drawing near for the Sandman.  I can see Rivera having 1-2 years at most left in the tank.  But once age and injuries finally catch up, we will know when he is done.  Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest reliever of our generation, if not of all time.  It has been a pleasure to watch him and we wish him the best as he writes the final chapters of his storybook career.

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E-MAILBAG ARCHIVE:  Click here for the Archives of Ask the Reports

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Part II: Wilpon, Mets, Madoff and Scandals

Tuesday May 24, 2011

MLB reports:  In yesterday’s report on the Mets, we took a look at the New Yorker interview that was just released with Mets owner Fred Wilpon.  After making many comments on the state of his team and star players, Wilpon by not hold backing is now facing the wrath of theNew York fans and media.  The best comparison that I can make is the John Rocker interview with SI, a no-holds barred discussion that left Rocker’s career in the dust and from which he never recovered.  Please click here to view yesterday’s post if you missed it to read the quoted damaging words uttered by Wilpon that have tarnished himself and his team.  It will give you as the readers a sense of the controversy in place and what has led to the continuing events surrounding the Mets on a now daily basis.

From the aftermath of yesterday’s media storm, some new comments and developments have emerged.  Firstly, son Jeff Wilpon, the Chief Operating Officer of the Mets, has apparently sat down with some of the named players from his dad’s interview to help “clear the air.”  Given that the elder Wilpon is responsible for the war of words, it is a shame and disappointing that his son was sent in to clean up his mess and attempt damage control.  The offended players would likely have had more respect for Fred Wilpon if he had faced them personally and come clean with his errors.  It seems that Fred Wilpon will never learn and he continues to dig a deeper hole for himself and one that he likely will not be able to escape at this point.

The first player response to the Wilpon interview came from Mike Pelfrey.  The baseball world was unsure as to how the players on the team would react to their owner’s disparaging remarks.  In true tongue-in-cheek fashion, Pelfrey became the darling of the media and Mets fans by having the following to say about Wilpon:

“I think guys will be upset,” pitcher Mike Pelfrey said. “But we’re all a family: ownership, coaches and players. Sometimes people say things they regret. It’s a mistake and you learn from it. Maybe next spring when we have our media workshop for the players, Fred can come and sit in on it.”

I do not expect Pelfrey to receive any reprimands from his team for his statements.  While it would be fitting to hear how the other Mets players feel about Wilpon’s interview, most will likely remain neutral or keep their opinions to themselves.  While most of the Mets players are likely insulted and hurt by Fred Wilpon’s statements, the players likely only want a resolution and the ability to play ball and have a winning team at the end of the day.

Another story emerging from the Mets is another Bernie Madoff side note.  Last week, a story emerged that Bobby Bonilla, a former Mets player, is being paid by the Mets starting this year $1.2 million for the next 25 years.  The story is that the Mets chose this delayed compensation plan over paying Bonilla a lump sum $5.9 million dollars for the 2000 season.  By delaying the payment, the Mets in essence are paying Bonilla $29.8 million for a $5.9 million lump sum payment, abased on an 8% interest rate paid (a nice investment for Bonilla indeed).  The math is mind-blowing and critics have been blasting the team for such poor financial decision making.  Well, according to SI, the Mets at the time of making the decision turned to Bernie Madoff to help them plan how to get rid of the malcontent Bonilla after the 1999 season.  Rather than releasing the player and paying the remaining money owed to him, the Mets created the delayed payment plan on the basis that Madoff would invest the Bonilla money with an expected rate of return between 10-12%.  Now the Mets likely have lost the invested money due to Madoff’s actions and are on the hook for the Bonilla debt that will haunt the team financially for the next 25 years.  Similar deals were struck with former pitchers Bret Saberhagen and Tom Glavine, which will hurt the team’s future payrolls as well.

Wilpon Gate is far from over and after the Madoff financial scandal and the New Yorker interview, we will continue to hear about Fred Wilpon for the next few coming weeks and likely months.  Wilpon is on record to trying to sell 49% of the stake in his team but based on his shaky financial and credibility standing, the state and ownership of the Mets will be in flux until a final resolution can be arrived at.  Until then, expect rumors and stories to continue to circle the team in a circus-like atmosphere.  With the both the Mets and Dodgers in crisis mode, it is up to Bud Selig and Major League Baseball to step in and stabilize two of the leagues historical and proudest franchises.  Successful and productive teams in Los Angeles and New York is what baseball fans expect and deserve.  The challenge is out to Major League Baseball:  my hope is that they can hit a home run in both cases.

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Wilpon and the Mets: The Scandals Continue

Monday May 23, 2011

MLB reports:  As if the New York Mets have not faced enough issues during the past few seasons, owner Fred Wilpon has brought the team’s troubles to the media forefront again.  The laughing stock of baseball, only the Dodgers and the McCourt divorce rival the embarrassment of the once proud franchise.  In a John Rocker type interview as given to Sports Illustrated in December of 1999, Fred Wilpon recently spoke extensively with The New Yorker.  In a no-holds barred interview, Wilpon lashed out at anyone and everyone associated with his team.  I could only describe the piece as the final nail in the coffin, as Wilpon is about to receive a backlash from the Mets media, fans and major league baseball that he likely never expected.  As the Mets attempted to recover from the Madoff  scandal and sell a portion of the team to save itself financially, the Mets are back in the news for all the wrong reasons.  What you are about to read is going to shock you.

Here are some snipets of what Wilpon had to say about the New York Mets as a team and its players:
On David Wright, the Met’s third baseman: “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

On Carlos Beltran, who starred for Houston in the 2004 playoffs before signing a seven-year, $119 million deal with the Mets: We had some dummy in New York, Wilpon says, referring to himself, “who paid him based on that one series. He’s 65 to 70 percent of what he was.”

On Jose Reyes, the often-injured shortstop with an expiring contract: “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”

As the game progresses during the interview, a Mets rally expires, during which Wilpon refers to his team with an expletive and, again, with the word lousy.  He says the team is “snakebitten” and essentially agrees when Toobin suggests the Mets could be cursed.  “He gave sort of a half laugh,” Toobin writes, “and said, ‘You mean’ — and then pantomimed a checked swing of the bat.”

“He’s happiest when he’s talking baseball, arguing about baseball,” Omar Minaya, whom the Wilpons fired as the team’s general manager after last season, told me. “I always felt best when we were arguing over a player and Fred would say, ‘Omar, you’re full of s***'”.

Ike Davis, the sophomore first baseman and the one pleasant surprise for the Mets so far this season, was up next. “Good hitter,” Wilpon said. “S****y team—good hitter.”  Davis struck out.  Angel Pagan flied out to right, ending the Mets’ threat.  “Lousy clubs—that’s what happens.” Wilpon sighed.  The Astros put three runs on the board in the top of the second.  “We’re snakebitten, baby,” Wilpon said.

And Wilpon has now suggested that he may be willing to sell up to forty-nine per cent of the team. The combination of his financial troubles and the value of the Mets—perhaps more than a billion dollars—has driven speculation that he will have to surrender control of the team.

The first day the architects came to the site, they started saying blah, blah, blah, and I said to them, ‘Let me tell you how this is going to work,’ ” Wilpon told me recently. “ ‘The front of the building is going to look like Ebbets Field. And it’s going to have a rotunda—just like at Ebbets.’ And then I said, ‘Guess what. Here are the plans for Ebbets Field.’ And I handed them over.”

To read the entire Wilpon profile in the New York, click here.  If you are a Mets fan, detractor or a general follower of baseball, you won’t want to miss this one.  In this day and age of history and instant media, you think that people would learn to be smarter and conduct themselves in the best possible manner.  For a man that has lost much of his fortune and jumps from one scandal to another, Fred Wilpon does not appear to have learnt his lesson.  After this latest episode, the book may be finally closed on the man who will go down in history for almost destroying the Mets franchise and setting the team back as a result.

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Pitching Keeps Tribe Alive

Sunday May 22, 2011

On the Reports, we will be occasionally featuring an up-and-coming baseball writer that has come to our attention and share their work with you, the readers.  Part of our mandate at MLB reports is to provide the best baseball coverage and analysis in the business.  MLB reports ultimately is designed to expose our readers to the world of baseball and the stories, facts, insights and profiles behind it.  In order to meet this goal, we would like to give exciting young writers the chance to showcase their talents and provide a fresh pool of ideas to our site.  In today’s premier feature, we are excited to have Shane Miller as our first guest writer with his post on the Cleveland Indians.  Shane’s topic was to discuss the start of the Indians season and to review the success behind it.  The direction and focus of the story was up to our writer and in today’s feature, Shane takes a look at the Indians and the pitching that has been the core of the team’s success in 2011.  Enjoy! 

Shane Miller (Guest Writer for MLB Reports): As the second month of the Major League baseball season is coming to an end, the Cleveland Indians to many baseball fans surprise still sit atop the American League Central division.

Well today I am here to discuss how the Indians have managed to lead the AL Central for the first two months of the season. My observation has been that pitching has been the main component to their early season success.  As part of this article, I will be discussing the Indians pitching staff and how they have led their team to success beyond the wildest dreams of most baseball observers.

Pitching without a doubt has been the ultimate key to the Tribe’s early season success.  The Indians pitching staff has the second best ERA in the American League at 3.45 and have managed to keep the ball in the park by giving up the third fewest home runs in the AL by only giving up 28 home runs on the season. Also the Indians have also been successful in keeping runners off the base paths giving up the second fewest walks in the AL at 127.  A pitching staff that manages to keeps its walks and runs down will in most cases be successful and the Indians pitching staff of 2011 is proof that good pitching is the backbone of a winning baseball club.

A great deal of credit is due to manager Manny Acta, who has done a wonderful job with all the young pitchers he manages on the Indians.  Cleveland also happens to boast one of the youngest, if not the youngest starting rotations in major league baseball.

Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and rookie Alex White make up the Cleveland Indians starting rotation.  On paper, not much was expected of the Indians starting five going into the season.  But success is contagious and as the season has progressed, the pitchers that few in baseball gave much credit have proven that they are for real.  The fans in Cleveland are getting excited about their Indians and the team starts and ends with its rotation.

As the newly anointed staff ace, 26-year-old Justin Masterson is enjoying a break out season.  So far Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 48 strike outs and 19 walks in 60.2 innings pitched.  Masterson has done an excellent job this season in keeping the free passes to a minimum and keeping the ball in the park by only allowing one home run all year.  At his current pace, Masterson is a likely 2011 all-star candidate and is finally fulfilling the hype that surrounded him from the time he came up with Boston as a rookie.

Tomlin is another pitcher who is not getting enough recognition for the amazing season he has put together so far in Cleveland.  Looking at Tomlin’s stats, he is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, with 27 strike outs and nine walks in 52.2 innings pitched.  The only red flag that I could find with Tomlin is that he has given up eight home runs this season.  The number of long balls needs to go down as he only gave up 10 home runs in 73 innings pitched last season.

Another starter of note, the rookie White has pitched very good so far this season in the three games that he has started.   White has compiled a record of 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 13 strike outs and nine walks in 15 innings pitched.  Like I indicated with Tomlin, White also has an issue with long balls by giving up three home runs in 15 innings pitched so far.   This means that White is averaging a home run every five innings pitched.  In my opinion, if White can keep the ball in the park he will one day become an outstanding pitcher. (*Editor’s note:  at time of publishing White has been placed on the DL by the Indians with a finger injury.  While the severity is unknown, White could be lost for the season by the Indians.  As adversity tests character, the Indians rotation will be put to the test if White is lost to the team for any kind of extended period.*) 

With two of the five starting pitchers for the Indians enjoying breakout seasons and a rookie putting up great numbers in three starts, no wonder the Indians are in first place and have a record of 27-15.  The Indians bullpen has also been another source of strength of the Indians team overall.  The Indians bullpen is made up of Frank Herrmann, Joe Smith, Vinne Pestano, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin, Rafael Perez and closer Chris Perez.  While again unimpressive on paper to start the year, the Indians relief corps has been lights out all year and one of the best in the game.

The closer, Chris Perez has been very good for the Tribe this season, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 11 saves, 11 strike outs and 10 walks in 18 innings pitched.  The walk totals are very high and if Perez wishes to remain a closer long-term he needs to cut down on those walks.  He is currently averaging six walks per nine innings and that needs to be at least cut in half for him to be able to remain successful.

The setup man Rafael Perez has been astounding this season with a record of 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11 strike outs and six walks in 15 innings pitched. Rafael is one of the reasons why Cleveland has one of the best bullpens in the MLB and is sneaking up behind Chris Perez to one day take the closers role away from him.  If Rafael can continue pitching like he has this season, he could definitely be the closer by season’s end if and when  Chris falters.  Rookie middle reliever Pestano is also having a great year in the Indians pen with a 1-0 record, 1.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 18 strike outs and six walks in 16.1 innings pitched. Pestano has been amazing this year with a very strong 9.9 strike outs per nine innings.

Pestano has done an excellent job in limiting walks and home runs given up and has only allowed three earned runs all season. The Indians obviously have amazing pitching from the starting rotation all the way to the deepest part of their bullpen. Without some of these rookie standouts or career years the Indians might not be in this position to possibly contend in historically one of the deepest divisions in baseball.  Time will tell where this team is headed but if the start of the year is any indication, the Indians will be players in the AL Central in 2011 and possibly for many years to come.

***Thank you to Shane Miller for preparing today’s article on the Indians.  You can follow Shane on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Frank Gailey: Jays Prospect

MLB reports:  In our most recent interview, we sat down with Toronto Blue Jays prospect, Frank Gailey.  The organization’s 2010 Reliever of the Year, Frank is one of the up-and-coming Jays prospects that should be on everyone’s radar.  A 23rd round pick of the Jays back in 2007, Frank simply put has been dominant on the mound from the moment he put on a Jays uniform.  As Gailey has steadily and methodically risen up the organizational ladder, baseball insiders feel that its time for the Jays to move Gaily aggressively up the ranks to see what he can do.  Back for a second tour of duty with Dunedin High A, Gailey after 15 games this season has exploded, with a miniscule 1.21 ERA, 0.851 WHIP, 6/17 BB/K.  Considering the man has a 2.07 ERA in 5 career seasons with a 1.005 WHIP, Frank deserves to be on the fast track.  With nothing left to prove in Dunedin, Gailey will hopefully be seeing the bright lights of Las Vegas AAA this season.  With left-handed relievers furiously in demand through major league baseball, expect to see Frank Gailey up in Toronto one day soon.  Now, without further adieu, MLB reports presents:  Frank Gailey.

MLB reports:  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with us Frank.  It is much appreciated.

Frank Gailey:  Thank you for having me and for the opportunity.

MLB reports:  Starting off Frank, to get some background on the type of player that you are- we need to ask who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?   Athletes tend to mirror the players that they looked up to growing up from my experiences.

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that Tom Glavine was the one pitcher that I looked at most and enjoyed watching.  He is the type of pitcher that uses all approaches when on the mound.  I believe as a left-handed pitcher now in the minors, I now know that I can’t just throw a fastball anywhere and expect to be successful.  I need to locate every pitch in and outside the plate.  Change speeds and be smarter than the hitter.

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Frank Gailey: To be honest I admire all of them that had a dream like mine and fought through any set backs in their careers and made it.  One day, I wish I hope to be in their shoes.

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that all the accomplishments in my career on the field are amazing and I will never forget the teammates and coaches that were there for me.  However, the proudest moment was when I got the call that I was drafted by the Blue Jays.  To me that showed that all my hard work and dedication to my dream of one day being a big leaguer is paying off.

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2011 season?

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that my goals for this season are to be stronger and stay healthy while having a good season.  I believe if I do that, then I would be able to help my team be successful.

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted by the Jays, what were your first reactions? Did those reactions change over time? If you can comment on the team itself and your draft position in the 23rd round that would help.

Frank Gailey:  To be honest, I heard I was drafted and I was pumped.  I didn’t really care whom it was that drafted me, as I just wanted an opportunity to compete at a higher level.  But now being with the Jays for some time, I enjoy everyone associated with the Jays organization because they are there to help make me grow better as a player and person.

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Frank Gailey:  To me my greatest skills are my competitive nature and ability to stay calm and throw strikes with multiple pitches.

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Frank Gailey:  The part of my game that I wish to improve on the most is to be completely dominant against left-handed hitters.

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks/control figure into your game? Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Frank Gailey: To me strikeouts will come if you just throw quality strikes.  I don’t get on the mound to strike guys out, but rather to make one quality pitch at a time.  Personally I hate walking guys because it a free pass.  They did not have to do anything to get on base and I didn’t give my defense a chance to do their job.  I don’t see this mind-set changing because it fits my game plan.

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself staying in the bullpen? Do you envision yourself as a closer in the big leagues one day?

Frank Gailey:  If I had to guess I would say yes to the fact that I would be staying in the bullpen.  I don’t see myself as a closer but pretty much everything else.  But I am ready for any role asked of me by the team.

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Frank Gailey:  There is no way I can even guess an answer to something like that.  The only things I can do to help my chances are to compete and be the steady guy that the team can rely upon in the bullpen.

MLB reports:  Thank you very much for your time and appearing on MLB reports.  It has been a pleasure speaking with you and good luck on the season

Frank Gailey:  Thank you for having me and thank you to the fans for all of their support.

***A special thank you to Frank Gailey for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Frank on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

R.I.P. Macho Man Randy Savage: Death of a Wrestler and Baseball Player

Friday May 20, 2011

MLB reports:  Here on the reports we try to keep you, the baseball fan, up to date on all the latest news, reports and analysis from around the baseball universe.  Usually on Fridays you will find our weekly Friday Faceoff segment, where two players go head to head in a statistical matchup to determine the weekly victor.  This week’s segment has taken a back to seat to the news today that former WWE wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage has passed at the age of 58.  We will go into the story as available to us from TMZ on Randy’s passing for the update.  You will also learn the reason behind this segment, as besides being a world champion wrestler, Randy Savage aka Randy Poffo, was a baseball player in his day.    You will not often find a wrestling article on the MLB reports, but baseball and wrestling is not a combination that is found every day.

A car accident claimed the life of Randy Savage today in Tampa, Florida.  Driving in his 2009 Jeep Wrangler, Savage apparently lost control of the jeep and struck a tree in a single-car accident.  According to Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo, the Macho Man had a heart attack while behind the wheel of his vehicle.  A second generation wrestler, with famed wrestler Angelo Poffo as his father, Savage’s brother Lanny Poffo was a wrestler as well under the stage names “Leaping Lanny Poffo” and “The Genius”.

A little known fact about the now deceased Randy Savage was that prior to becoming a wrestler, he actually was a baseball player!  A switch-hitter, Savage was born Randy Poffo before changing his name as part of his wrestling persona.  Randy Poffo was drafted and came up with the Cardinals organization in 1971 after playing college ball with Southern Illinois University.  Poffo played as well in the Reds and White Sox organizations prior to retiring from baseball in 1974.  An outfielder, an injured right shoulder and a weak offensive bat was the end of Poffo’s baseball career.  A career .232 hitter in parts of four minor league seasons, Poffo also had 16 career home runs. Imagine if Poffo the baseball player had stayed healthy and gone on to the major leagues. The Macho Man might have never come to be.   But baseball did not prove to be in the cards and Poffo ended up discovering that in life, as one door closes, another one opens.  Poffo/Savage started wrestling in 1973 during the baseball offseason and upon retirement, went on to become a wrestler full time-until retiring from the ring in 2005.

Randy Savage/Poffo is survived by his wife Lynn, whom he married just over a year ago on May 10, 2010.  The Macho Man will forever be remembered for his wrestling exploits and “heel” image as a championship caliber wrestler.  But before he was dropping elbows from the top rope and selling slim jims, let’s remember today as well Randy Poffo: the baseball player.  Very few athletes are known to have made the transition from the diamond to the squared circle and Randy Poffo/Savage was one of them.  You can find Randy Poffo’s lifetime baseball statistics courtesy of baseball reference by clicking here.  As an 80’s and 90’s wrestling legend, Randy Savage was taken from this world much too soon.  It was a pleasure watching him grapple as a youngster and for those who admired and worshipped the Macho Man, always remember that your hero got his sports entertainment start  playing America’s favorite pastime and the greatest sport in the world:  baseball.

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MLB Realignment Proposal: Time to Overhaul the Divisions

Thursday May 19, 2011

MLB reports:  Looking at today’s divisions in baseball, the setup to me does not make sense.  From a geographical and competitive standpoint, the current six divisions in baseball appear to exist without much of a foundation or reason.  After years of watching baseball in its present day form, I believe that it is time for a change.  As a disclaimer, I will warn that this article is not about expanding or changing the playoff format, the unbalanced schedule within divisional matchups and revamping interleague play.  While all these items are worth discussing, they will need to be put on the back-burner for a different day.  For now, the focus is on the division setup and the new MLB divisions as proposed by MLB reports.

In order to create a new structure, we need to look at the recent history of the divisions in major league baseball to understand how we got to the current structure.  Not too long ago, the American League and National league were broken up into two divisions apiece:  the East and the West.  Each league was stocked as follows:

 American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

New York Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

American League West

California Angels

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Chicago Cubs

Montreal Expos

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Atlanta Braves

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

There were four divisions in total.  When the playoffs rolled around, the leaders of the East and West in each league faced-off and the winners met in the World Series.  A system that had its flaws, but the majority of people knew it and liked it.  The system worked for many years, but with time inevitably came change.  New teams entered baseball through expansion:  the Marlins, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays).  The Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.  Baseball wanted to expand its playoff format and add two more teams per league to the playoff mix.  As a result of the changes, baseball grew from a four division to a six division format.  Both the American League and National League had three divisions each:  the East, West and now Central Division.  Add to the mix that the Brewers moved to the National League, the Angels went through somewhat of an identity crisis and the MLB divisions now look as follows:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays

American League Central

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

American League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Checking the totals, we have 14 teams in the American League and 16 Teams in the National League.  Divisions have a range between 4-6 teams each.  From a competitive standpoint, teams in the American League West have the best mathematical chance at a division/wildcard entry, with the fewest amount of teams in their division and fewer teams in the league overall.  Based on competitive records, the impression is that teams in the American League East face the toughest battles, while the National League Central for example is a weaker division.  Finally, from a geographical standpoint, the current setup just doesn’t work.  Looking at a map one day, I thought to myself:  there has to be a better way.  After a geographical and competitive analysis, I believe that I have found the fix.

In order not to change the baseball landscape too much, I have left the current six named divisions in place.  For simplicity of discussion, let’s assume that this portion works.  I believe that too many divisions will create chaos, while too few divisions will create a logjam of teams.  I am prepared to proceed with five teams per division and simply realign the current system.  On that basis, the following is the MLB reports proposed MLB divisional realignment plan.  Featured for the first time ever, our new MLB would look like this:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Washington Nationals

American League Central

Cincinnati Reds

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

American League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Rays

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland Athletics

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

 

From a geographical and competitive standpoint, it is impossible to ever make a perfect division.  But on the basis of 15 teams per league and 5 teams per division, I believe that the above proposal is a vast improvement over the current baseball divisional arrangement.  I will present each division as proposed by MLB reports with the related commentary as to the logic behind each.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Washington Nationals

This division was one of the most difficult to build.  The Red Sox, Mets and Yankees were a given as the foundational teams to the new AL East.  Based on their history and makeup, the Red Sox and Yankees were not moving from the East.  Based on geography and rivalry, it was time to add the Mets to the mix and bringing them to the American League will create a fresh start for a team in need of change.  The last two teams for the AL East was between the Orioles/Nationals and Phillies/Pirates.  It would have been nice to see the Phillies in the Yankees/Red Sox division, but location and the team chemistries were part of the equation.   The Orioles and Nationals need to be in the same division based on proximity and are a better fit for the American league.  The Phillies and Pirates are still NL based and without good reason for a move, should remain in the senior circuit.  The Orioles have a long-standing rivalry with the Yankees and Red Sox, with the Mets and Nationals now joining the party that is the AL East.

American League Central

Cincinnati Reds

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

Definitely a different look to the AL Central, this new division is reminiscent of the old AL East.  The only difference is both the Yankees and Red Sox are missing with the Reds now on board in the American League.  After some thought, I think you will agree that the new AL Central will be one of the most competitive and fun to watch in baseball.  The Jays and Tigers have always enjoyed a strong rivalry and based on geography, it makes sense for the teams to be in the same division.  The same goes for both Ohio teams, with the Reds offense now enjoying an extra kick in the American League by adding the DH to their lineup.  The battle of Ohio will be a heated one and it is about time both teams were in the same division.  The fifth and final team came down to a choice of the Brewers or Twins.  While the Milwaukee fans might protest a return to the AL, the team overall seemed to be the best fit for the new AL Central.  A great offensive team that will match up well with the Tigers, Jays and remaining group in this division.

American League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

After watching the last few years of Angels/Mariners and Rangers/A’s matchups, it is time for a change.  These teams do not have the rivalry factor and the old AL West simply lacked excitement.  The Astros and Rangers in the same division will showcase the battle of Texas, which I believe will slowly become one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.  The Rockies and Astros have the offensive ballparks that were made for the American League, power and home runs in excess.  The Diamondbacks and Mariners based on location fit best into the new AL West, a division in search of an identity but strong overall in hitting.  Exactly what fans would expect from their AL teams.

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Rays

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

Rivalries, both old and new, will be the highlight of the new NL East as we showcase the new divisions of the senior circuit.  The Marlins and Rays are logical combatants based on their Florida location.  With the Braves not far away and already being rivals of the Marlins in the existing NL East, this division should feature some of the best baseball ever seen.  With the Pirates on the rebuild, the matchups of the Pennsylvania neighbors will bring back memories of the NL East from days gone by.  The Pirates became stagnant in the Central and with renewed rivalries and enthusiasm, this division will be competitive for years to come.  The move by the Rays to the NL should be an exciting one, with strong pitching and youth, the Rays will finally be home where they belong.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

The battle of Missouri and Illinois will run rampant in the new NL Central.  The White Sox after all these years will be the leaving the American League and changing leagues to do battle with their arch-rivals, the Cubbies.  These two teams do not like one another and the Illinois fans will go wild.  After a season or two, people will never understand how these teams weren’t in the same division to start with.  The Royals, with the best farm system in the game and some of the most highly touted young pitchers and hitters will be a force in the NL Central.  The battle of Missouri will ignite Kansas City and bring spark and life to this once proud franchise that needs a fresh start and identity makeover.  Further considering the rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals, I can see the Cardinals and White Sox having intense face-offs every year.  The White Sox in coming over to the NL also bring their rivals the Twins with them.  The Twins, always built on strong pitching and defense will enjoy their long overdue move to the NL and should continue to match up well against the White Sox, Royals and new division foes.  It may take some time for the Twins to find life in this realignment, but over the long haul they will be better off for it.

National League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland Athletics

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the last and probably the best new division in the baseball, the revamped NL West.  The Dodgers, Padres and Giants are all left in their rightful homes and coming over are geographical based enemies, the Athletics and Angels formerly of the AL West.  The A’s logically will match up well with both the Giants and Dodgers, cross town rivals and former World Series opponents.  Compared to the old matchups with the Mariners and Rangers, the Athletics will see a sharp spike in attendance and popularity in facing geographical opponents that will ignite strong pitching matchups and close baseball games game-in and game-out.  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, formerly the California Angels and the Anaheim Angels, will battle their “Los Angeles” foe in what will become as heated as the Yankees/Red Sox one day.  Having teams of geographical proximity playing in separate leagues in the past was preposterous.  The new baseball realignment will finally fix the divisional setup and create once and for all, an all California division that will showcase truly what the West Coast is all about.

I hope that you enjoyed reading our feature on the new proposed MLB realignment.  The ideas have been in my mind for some time and watching almost 1/3 of the season in 2011, it was time to suggest to align baseball into divisions that make sense.  The current setup as previously indicated does not make sense.  Baseball in its current form is nothing more than a patchwork set of divisions that quite frankly when viewed do not make sense.  It is time to get teams on more equal footing and create divisions that better reflect geographical proximity and competitive balance.  If major league baseball thought that creating interleague play and wild cards sparked new interest in the game, the new realignment will shake up baseball and bring a whole new level of fans to the sport.  It will be impossible to get everyone to agree on the divisional alignments.  But at the end of the day, most of us can agree that change is needed.  Here is one proposal on the table: let’s discuss it and work towards implementing the best system we can.  The fans deserve it and the game as a whole will benefit as a result.

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 18th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 18, 2011

Q:   Have the dimensions of Citi Field been to the detriment of the Mets franchise?  From Yair, Bat Yam, Israel

MLB reports:   Great question Yair and shalom (hell0) to you in Israel!  With the lacklustre play of the Mets the last few seasons, its great to see that they still have so many fans, even internationally.  Getting to your question, the topic of Citi Field has been a continuous one since its opening back in 2009.  The $850 million structure replaced Shea Stadium and has not played out in the same way that new Yankee Stadium has to say the least.  At a capacity of 41,800, the stadium holds 15,000 fewer fans than Shea and was meant to be more intimate.  Citi Field has some interesting features in its design. Citi Field’s fences are not the same size, ranging in height from being 15 feet in left field and 18 feet in right.  Shea Stadium had outfield fences that were all 8 feet in comparison.  The dimensions overall are not far different from Shea, with approximately 335 feet to the field lines and 408 feet to center.  Shea was never a great hitters ballpark to begin with and Citi Field is no better.  I would attribute the height of the fences as being a major issue for the team in terms of hurting the amount of home runs in the park.  As well, the shortage of quality hitters on the current Mets squad is the main reason for any offensive issues.  As a ball park, Citi Field ranks 11th currently in terms of home runs but 27th last year.  It will be interesting to see how the field plays out this season.  But the bottom line, is that the Mets have the same advantages and disadvantages at Citi Field as all opposing teams.  As a pitcher’s park, the team needs strong pitching and defense to remain competitive on its home turf, with good timely hitting.  This may sound obvious, but team talent and not the stadium will decide the team’s fate at the end of the day. 

Q: Ok how about this?  I am not yet dropping Derek Jeter from fantasy team.  Can I drop Brett Wallace or Mark Trumbo for Yunel Escobar as insurance for Jeter?  From Maury, Boston

MLB reports: Hell0 Maury and no, you cannot make this move.  As much as Jeter is struggling, dropping talents like Wallace and Trumbo do not make sense at this point.  Wallace is hitting .321 in 2011 with 3 home runs and .869 OPS.  Trumbo, while starting to struggle somewhat with a .244 AVG has 6 home runs and 18 RBIs.  If you must make this move, then drop Trumbo and grab Escobar, who is hitting .295, with 3 home runs and .775 OPS.  Quality numbers for a shortstop.  But Jeter is still Jeter and will rebound in my estimation.  Keep plugging the Yankees captain in your lineup and expect a rebound soon.

Q:  Can the Cubs please just leave Starlin Castro  in a fixed spot in the lineup? Like, say, leadoff?  Hitting him 3rd is (^*&&*%$!  From Reuben, parts unknown

MLB reports: I can’t argue with Castro’s numbers to start the season.  .327 AVG, .789 OPS, 23 runs scored, 18 runs driven in, 4 stolen bases and 6/14 BB/K ratio.  As a leadoff hitter or hitting in the second slot, Castro has strong abilities to get timely hits and create runs.  I couldn’t agree with you more that batting Castro in the third slot does not make sense.  With one home run this year and three all of last year, the power is not there for the Cubs shortstop.  The move to hit him third would be out of desperation than anything else.  It is a relection on the Cubs for a lack of other options, than Castro as a new power guy.  As the Cubs continue to gel through the season, expect Castro to have a permanent lineup slot soon.  Leadoff appears to be most likely his destination.

Q:    Do you think Aaron Hill might be enough to protect Bautista in the Jays lineup?  I obviously don’t mean full protection, but maybe just enough for the Blue Jays to be a force.  Another great article by the way, I enjoyed reading your feature on Jose Bautista!  From Nolan, parts unknown

MLB reports:  Thank you for reading the reports, I always appreciate the feedback.  The Bautista article was a lot of fun to write and I enjoyed giving the readers a look into the Jays home run king (You can click to read our piece on Bautista).  As far as AaRon Hill coming back and providing good protection in the lineup, I will admit that I have my doubts to say the least.  Hill has missed several games this year due to injury and when he has been able to play, has hit to the tune of a .237 AVG, no home runs and .573 OPS.  If you take aside 2009, Hill has never shown to be a really good hitter and in my opinion, that season has been an outlier rather than the standard.  Aaron was actually the subject of the first ever article on MLB reports.  If you would like to read more about Aaron and his future on the Jays, please click here.  But if you want the brief synopsis:  Hill is more likely a candidate for a trade/release over the next year than any guarantee of production.  I do not have very much faith in him and neither should you.

 

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Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays: MLB Home Run Leader, The Inside Report

Tuesday May 17, 2011

MLB reports:  Today’s article is as much about admission of guilt as it is about profiling Toronto Blue Jay’s home run king and the greatest slugger in the game going, Jose Bautista.  Yes, in order to fully analyze Bautista, it is time for this writer to come clean.  When you talk and review as much baseball as I do, the one thing that you never like to do is admit is that you are wrong.  There are times where circumstances happen beyond one’s control and predicted results can change and take different forms.  That’s fine.  In the case of Jose Bautista, I am finally prepared today to admit that I was wrong.  Not once.  Not twice.  But three or more times.  For all the “experts” that say they saw the Jose Bautista of today emerging, my hat is off to them.  If they are being truthful, which in most cases I would have a hard time believing.  For in my estimation, Jose Bautista was the one player that literally appeared out of nowhere.  From the abyss of the unknown to bona fide superstar overnight.  Let’s trail the story of Jose Bautista and how the slugger has managed to shape a doubter into a baseball believer.  It took time, but I am finally prepared to state that Jose Bautista here is to stay.

I recall clearly being in Pittsburgh during the 2007 season.  I had visited the city the year before to attend the home run derby and all-star game.  Loving the park, the city and Fatheads (which if you haven’t been is one of the best American restaurants/pubs ever), I decided another trip to watch weekend baseball was in order.  Being a fan of baseball merchandise and memorabilia, I made sure to go through the souvenir shops at the park before each game.  I left with a Ryan Doumit jersey t-shirt (which I still own and wear proudly) but did not pick up any memorabilia on that trip.  One piece of merchandise that I saw that weekend does stick out in my brain though.  In the game used bat barrel, I recall going through the lumber that there were a couple of Jose Bautista un-cracked game used bats.  To make matters worse, the bats were a whopping $30 each.  I distinctly recall laughing at the sight of the bats and indicating something along the lines of that “…the store would need to pay me to take these away.”  Clearly I did not see a value to the Bautista bats that day or attach any future value to them.  A sign of things to come.

Fast forward a year later and the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates consummated a swap.  A good old fashioned baseball trade.  August of 2008, Jose Bautista gets traded to my hometown Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, turning out to be Robinson Diaz.  My thoughts at the time on the trade went along the lines of, “…I can’t believe the Jays gave up Diaz, a young catching prospect for a non-hitting utility guy.  Wow, the Pirates won this deal hands-down.”  For the balance of 2008 and the majority 2009, Bautista did nothing to change my opinion.  Bautista hit few home runs and his average was barely above the Mendoza-line.  It was actually unbearable at points watching him in his first full season as a Jay, as Bautista did receive 336 at bats in 2009 but mostly due to injuries.  A very late season surge barely made up for a season worth of failures.  To say that I was not sold on the player at this point would be an understatement.  Expecting little to nothing of him going into the 2010 season, Bautista was about to change the baseball landscape and his image in the game forever.  The player that I once considered inferior as a prospect to Robinson Diaz was about to become the “Bautista Bomb.”

Jose Bautista’s 2010 season is in the record books and truly one for the ages.  A relative unknown quantity going into the year, all Bautista did was finish as the MLB home run leader and champion in 2010, with 54 home runs playing in all but one of the Blue Jays games that year.  Add to the total 109 runs scored, 124 runs driven in, 100 walks, .260 average and .995 OPS and Jose Bautista, once a 20th round pick in 2000 for the Pirates was all of a sudden a star.  It’s not like the Pirates were alone in their assessment of the player.  Bautista along the way also had cups of coffees with the Rays, Orioles and Royals.  Despite the many scouts and executives in baseball that analyze the game and review its players, in the age of video and statistics none were able to predict the slugging beast that Bautista would become.  J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Blue Jays who acquired Jose Bautista, will have the Bautista/Diaz swap on his resume as the greatest baseball transaction of his career.  Ricciardi himself, now a New York Mets executive, admits that he never expected Bautista to develop the way he did.  While Ricciardi knew that Bautista had power in his bat having watched him on many occasions at spring training as the Jays and Pirates faced-off, the Bautista of 2010 was never on his radar.

Listening to industry insiders, Bautista in late 2009 made an adjustment to his approach at the plate and instead of being late going after the ball, Bautista was moving his hands quicker and starting his swing earlier.  Apparently the slight adjustment in his batting approach created all the difference in the world.  Credit then manager Cito Gaston, a former hitting coach, with one of his last and greatest teachings.  The big question going into 2011 was whether Jose Bautista was for real and could continue his success at the plate.  The next related issue was to determine Bautista’s value and future salary going into the offseason.  Bautista was arbitration eligible and due for a huge raise.

Going into the offseason that year, the Jays and Bautista were set to face-off in arbitration.  The 2010/2011 offseason saw a vast amount of speculation surrounding Jose Bautista’s contract and what the Jays were going to pay him.  As Bautista was eligible for free agency the next year, fans and commentators debated the winter months whether the Jays should sign Bautista to a long-term contract, let an arbitrator decide or use a one-year contract as a determination whether the production would continue and sign a long-term deal the next year.  As memories tend to get hazy over time, I will help remind everyone the thoughts that were prevalent at the time.  It was clear that if the Jays were to sign Bautista to a one-year contract, they would risk losing him to free agency the next year as another monster season was likely to bring the potential of multiple bidders and exorbitant contract offers.  Considering that Jayson Werth had signed that offseason with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million, anything was possible.  Although unlikely, there was always the risk.  Arbitration was also seen as a risky proposition as feelings and relationships tend to get strained in such a process whereby teams do everything they can to devalue a player when going before an arbitrator.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made it clear in the offseason that he was breaking rank in Toronto and adopting a Rays type policy of not negotiating with players once arbitration amounts were submitted both the team and player in the arbitration process.  The Blue Jays, who had not gone to arbitration with a player since 1997, appeared to be headed to a showdown with Jose Bautista as both team and player had submitted their numbers by the deadline without an agreement.  However further events were about to unfold to change the dynamic of the team that few saw coming with the likely effect of stabilizing the Jays for the next few seasons as a result.

On January 22, 2011, I remember vividly at 6:30p.m. driving in my car and listening to sports radio as the announcer broke the news that Mike Napoli had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Long being a Napoli supporter, to say that I was overjoyed at the news was an understatement.  Power hitting catchers do not grow on trees and with the Jays need for an additional power bat in the lineup, Napoli was a welcome addition.  The only question was the price the Jays had paid.  The news at the time was that the Jays were trading an outfielder but his identity was not known at the time.  I was sure that Bautista was the outfielder in question.  Going into arbitration, I determined that Bautista was worth at most three years and $24 million.  Given that Bautista was unproven and coming off only one strong campaign, there was too much risk in investing any additional dollars in the player.  It made sense to me that the Jays would trade Bautista while his value was at his highest for a known commodity in Napoli.   The next news update literally made me fall out of my chair.  The outfielder traded to the Angels was not Bautista but rather Vernon Wells.  Somehow Anthopoulos was able to unload Wells and his albatross of a contract onto the Angels and spin a productive player in Napoli in return, along with spare part outfielder Juan Rivera.  Hailed as a genius, Anthopoulos created payroll flexibility for the young and up-and-coming Jays while removing a player seen as declining, both in the field and at the plate.  The Wells contract, signed by the aforementioned Ricciardi which was blasted for years by critics as one of the worst ever was now gone.  It did not even occur to me when I first heard that Napoli was coming to Toronto that Wells was headed the other way.  The Wells contract was probably the most unmovable contract in sports and to hear those words simply astounded me, Jays analysts and the baseball community at large.  While the Angels were criticized for overspending and taking on a weak asset in Wells, hope was abound in Toronto and the future appeared to be bright after so many dismal and hopeless seasons before.  I predicted that Rivera, a free agent the next year would have a campaign that would likely mirror the numbers that Wells would put up in Anaheim.  With the outfielders numbers a wash and Napoli on board, the trade was overwhelmingly hailed as a victory for the Jays.

The Jays ended up a couple of days later flipping Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco.  The move was questioned and debated throughout baseball circles, in attempting to determine flipping a power bat for a power arm.  The jury is still out on the move and we will learn in the future whether Anthopoulos over-played his cards.  Jose Bautista on the other hand, had his arbitration hearing postponed at the last-minute in February as the team and player attempted to hammer out a new contract.  The numbers that I was hearing were a one year contract in the $10-$12 million dollar range.  That was the expectation as spring training approached.  On February 17, 2011, the Blue Jays announced that they had signed Jose Bautista to a five-year, $64 million contract.  At an average of almost $13 million per season for five seasons, the prevailing though in baseball was that the Jays had overpaid and taken on a significant risk.  Considering that they were fortunate enough to move Wells and his monster deal, the discussion was that the Jays had made a mistake by committing too much money and too many years to a player that could end up blowing up their face.  I will admit that when I heard the Bautista signing announcement, I hated it.  I saw the Bautista deal as the second coming off the Wells signing and commented that the lustre certainly was removed from Anthopoulos as GM fairly quickly.  One of the biggest questions going into the 2011 season was whether Bautista could repeat anything close to his numbers and be able to justify his large new salary.  While I read predictions of 20-30 home runs at most, the baseball community saw a decline and correction of Bautista’s numbers as he was to fall back to reality.  I cannot recall reading in February and March of any “expert” that predicted Bautista could approach anything close to his 2010 numbers.  I will admit that I was firmly in this camp and predicted a season of 30 home runs and .250 average at best.  Boy was I going to be wrong yet again on this one, as Jose Bautista going to teach the baseball world what he was really made of.

One report from spring training really stuck out to me.  Listening to news from around the Blue Jays camp, it was evident that there was no talk of Vernon Wells.  Management was not discussing the former Jays gold glove outfielder and team leader and none of the players were indicating that a void existed based on his departure.  That said to me a lot about the lack of value that Wells would have brought to the Jays had he remained.  The attitude around the Jays was positive.  A young squad, the team and its fans saw hope and optimism about with its young pitching and core developing hitters emerging.  Names like Drabek, Arencenbia, Lind, Lawrie, Snider and Romero were being tossed around as the Jays were going back to basics and having fun again.  At the center of it all as was the Jays developing leader and main power bat, Jose Bautista.  For the Jays to contend, Bautista would need to anchor the lineup and produce at a level close to his 2010 numbers.  While few saw that happening, it was clear that the ghost of Vernon Wells was gone from the team and the Toronto Blue Jays had a fresh new attitude.  But to say that anyone predicted that Jose Bautista was going to be the second coming of Albert Pujols or Babe Ruth in Toronto would be foolish.  Questions continued to circle around the Jays and Bautista going into the season that were only going to be answered once opening day was under way.

Throughout spring training, Bautista was playing third base as the team discussed playing an outfield of Rivera, Lind and newly acquired speedster Rajai Davis.  I was not a big fan of the move as I enjoyed watching Bautista play the outfield and with a cannon for an arm, I felt that he would best serve his team defensively in the outfield.  Despite being an adaptable fielder, it was my opinion that to have Bautista play at his peak, he needed to stay at one position and preferably at his most natural spot.  With the future of Brett Lawrie almost upon Toronto, I did not see the value of keeping Bautista at third.  Encarnacion, the incumbent third baseman was seen as somewhat defensively challenged to say the least.  Thus with few options in-house, the defensive alignment of the Jays was unknown as March was drawing to an end.  At the end of the month, the team out of nowhere announced that Bautista would indeed be the team’s right fielder on opening day, with Encarnacion moving to third.  Some how, some way, the team did listen to me and I was actually right about something when it came to Jose Bautista.  With his rightful position in place, now all Bautista had to do was hit.

Hit he did.  Over and over and over again.  Despite missing some games this season due to a personal leave (birth of baby daughter) and a sore neck, Jose Bautista in 2011 has become the talk of baseball.  Going into today’s action, Bautista has a .370 average with a major league leading 16 home runs (3 of which were hit on Sunday against the Twins in Minnesota), 35 runs scored, 27 runs batted in, 35/19 BB/SO ratio, .516 OBP and .849 SLG.  Imagine that Bautista has produced this season with little or no protection in the lineup.  Adam Lind was hot for a stretch of games but has since been out for some time with back issues.  I heard one baseball commentator compare what Jose Bautista is currently doing to Barry Bonds in his Giants peak years.  Bonds, like Bautista, had little protection in the lineup.  Without an all-star lineup like the Yankees around him, Bautista is vulnerable to be pitched around in the Jays lineup as their main and in some nights only true offensive threat.  Currently Bautista is getting maybe one or two good pitches to hit a game, which somehow Bautista is able to take advantage of and still hit them for home runs.  With a good eye at the plate and discipline, Bautista takes his fair share of walks and is not a Vladimir Guerrero  type hitter who takes balls out of the dirt and knock them out of the park for home runs.  The pace that Jose Bautista is currently on is rare and not often seen in the game.  We are witnessing what I can describe as “baseball magic” and people are finally taking notice.  No longer an afterthought or question mark, Jose Bautista is being recognized as the real deal and perhaps the greatest slugger currently in the game.

It is time to give the man his respect and due for his hard work and accomplishments.  While I will admit that I did not see Jose Bautista emerging, I can admit that I have been wrong almost every step of the way when it has come to this man’s career.  Baseball evaluations and predictions have never been an exact science.  For every Dan Uggla and Joakim Soria that I saw emerging, I have been left disappointed by the Phil Nevins and Todd Zeiles of this world.  I am happy to have been wrong on Jose Bautista and have been amazed at the player that he has become.  I was probably one of his biggest critics in the early part of his career and after some convincing, I have finally emerged as a believer.  I do not know Jose Bautista the person, although from all accounts and what I have seen he appears to be very personable and an extremely hard work on and off the field.  My feelings on the player have always centered on his hard numbers, statistics that he produced which to me always told the story.  Well if numbers never lie, then clearly the next big thing has emerged in baseball and his name is Jose Bautista.  As the Bautista bombs continue to launch throughout baseball, expect the player to get fewer and fewer pitches to hit as the season progresses.  Incredibly Bautista has only been walked intentionally twice this year and twice all of last year.  Barry Bonds in comparison, walked 232 times in his peak year of 2004, with 120 of the walks being intentional.  While not coming close to those figures, Bautista might exceed 150 walks this year and approach 175 by seasons end.  That is the sign of a great batting eye and a respected batter around the league.  Pitchers and teams are taking notice and despite doing all they can to limit him, Bautista continues to show a combination of power and patience at league leading levels.  I am finally ready to state that Jose Bautista is the real deal and is here to stay.  I think the rest of baseball finally agrees as well.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com.

 

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To Keep or Get Rid of the DH: The Future of the Designated Hitter in MLB

Monday May 16, 2011

MLB reports:  Growing up in an American League city (Toronto), my entire baseball life has existed with the designated hitter in baseball.  Aside from the occasional national league games on television, I always accepted and loved the DH.  Dave Parker was one of my favorite players and he epitomized everything good about the DH.  A great hitter with a sweet home run stroke, I would have likely not been able to watch Dave Parker for most of the tail end of his career if not for the designated hitter.  Parker, slowed by age, weight gain and lack of mobility saw his time in the outfield end fortunately by 1989 when he left the Reds and the National League forever and joined Oakland.  I always thought of the DH as giving the American League the advantage of an additional strong bat in the lineup, with the National League being less exciting being based on pitching, defense and weak pitchers hitting.  But as I grew in age, my opinion of the DH began to shift and I started to appreciate traditional baseball in its purest form.

If you give me today the choice of an American League or National League game, 9 out of 10 times I will choose the NL game.  When you account for the game having a pitcher bat, the dynamics of the game itself changes drastically.  The National League has more in-game moves by its manager, including pinch-hitting and double switches.  The best example I give of a typical NL game scenario is going into the 7th inning of a game, with a 1-run differential, 1-2 base runners on and the pitcher coming up to bat.  These types of scenarios and successful choices make or break NL managers.  By leaving a pitcher in to bat, the manager risks a likely out and the loss of an opportunity at scoring a crucial run.  But by pinch-hitting for the pitcher, the manager is forced to sometimes take out a pitcher who is pitching well and leaving the bullpen to possibly blow the game.  The game within the game is truly found in the National League.  But if the NL is so great and pitchers should be hitting, why is the DH still around?  For many reasons I will show and which likely means the DH is not going anywhere for a long time still.

Many modern baseball experts advocate the DH as saving wear and tear on pitchers, who as inexperienced hitters run the risk of injuries by batting and running the bases.  A classic example is Chien-Ming Wang, who injured his foot in Houston during  running the bases and later proceeded to hurt his shoulder and never recover.  It was argued that if Wang was  not forced to bat in the NL during inter-league play, he would have never been injured.  Further,  aside from a few exceptions such as Carlos Zambrano and Micah Owings, pitchers usually cannot hit their weight.  In many cases, pitchers are literally automatic outs.  To create excitement for fans and better offensive baseball, the DH was born in the AL in 1973 and has lasted ever since.  The DH also allows older hitters to keep playing even when their defensive games have abandoned them (see Guerrero, Matsui and Ortiz today).  Finally, the DH allows positional players the occasional rest by not having to play in the field but still keeps their bats in the lineup for their respective teams.

The bottom line on the DH comes down to tradition vs. convenience in my estimation.  I know in my brain that having a DH works best for the players, from the health and productivity of both pitchers and hitters.  For example, none of us would want to watch Adam Dunn in the outfield anymore and having the DH in Chicago allows his superior bat to continue cranking home runs while not hurting his team defensively.  But in my heart, I yearn for a Dodgers/Giants rivalry, where during a 2-1 game lineup changes run rampant in the later innings.  That is the way baseball was truly meant to be played.  I am not a full basebal purist, as I do advocate for an expanded playoffs and complete re-alignment in baseball.  But when it comes to the designated hitter, my hope is that one day it is abolished completely and we can go back to “real” baseball.

If we lived in a baseball world with no DH, pitchers would just have to take more BP and if truth be known, many of them would love hitting and value the chance at getting their swings in.  If you ask me truthfully though, I can’t see the American League getting rid of the DH and to go further, I actually can see the National League adopting the DH one day as well.  As we grow and move forward in time, most traditions tend to fall by the side for improvements.  In this case, this will be one of the instances where I hope that is not the case.  Some traditions need to remain intact.  I certainly hope the game of baseball as it is played in the National League continues until the end of time.

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Back Stiffness or Sitting Out, The Posada-Gate Report

Sunday May 15, 2011

MLB reports:  A big tilt was scheduled for last night, Yankees vs. Red Sox.  Always a classic between two of the biggest rivalries in baseball and all of sports.  While both teams have taken time to get out of the gate, signs were starting to appear that each was starting to come around and getting ready for a dog battle for the AL East crown with the Rays all summer long.  One minor sidenote was the lineups, which was shaken up by Yankees manager Joe Girardi.  Struggling DH Jorge Posada, normally batting somewhere in the middle to lower-end of the Yankees lineup, was dropped to the #9 slot.  Considering that Jorge was batting .165 and struggling all season for the Yankees, most baseball fans and analysts would not have given the move a second thought.  In fact, most would have applauded Girardi for making the necessary move to most help his ball club and perhaps ignite his stagnant DH.  But something happened along the way that resulted in Posada missing yesterday’s matchup.  As the mystery of the missing Posada is unfolding, tongues cannot stop wagging and the baseball world has its focus on New York to attempt to solve “Posada Gate”.

From the news and people that I have spoken with, it is clear that Jorge Posada came to manager Joe Girardi before the game and asked to be taken out of the lineup.  Girardi accommodated Posada in his request and changed the lineup.  Somewhere along the way Posada made mention of “feeling disrespected by the Yankees” as well.  The issue becomes blurry as it does not appear that Posada indicated at the time of his removal that he had any sort of injury and the comments on being disrespected is being directed to being placed in the #9 slot in the Yankees batting order.  During the game last night, damage control was in full effect.  Posada’s wife, out of all people, tweeted during the game that her husband was suffering from back stiffness and that was the reason for him missing the game.  The “back stiffness” account was confirmed by Posada’s agent as of this morning and by Posada himself last night after the game.  But something seems awry and not sitting right with me.  Let’s dig deeper to see if we can get to the bottom of this.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees General Manager, informed the media that Posada had removed himself from the game and did not make it known that any injury was behind the decision.  From reading Cashman’s comments, I had the distinct impression that the Yankees were not impressed with Posada’s actions.  Having Posada indicate that he felt disrespected was the kick in the teeth, the igniter of this Yankees fire.  I cannot understand what Posada was thinking in making such a statement, but it is clear that both player and team need to work towards finding a quick resolution to Posada Gate.  The team does not need such a distraction coming from one of its elder players and possible future hall of famer.  But in order for such a resolution to arrive, both team and player need to come clean, apologize and move forward.

Lets be clear from one end.  The New York Yankees do not owe Jorge Posada a single thing.  In 2007, the Yankees granted the then 35-year-old Posada a 4-year, $52.4 million contract.  On the open market, coming off back-to-back 20+ home run, 90+ RBI seasons, Posada would have been lucky to obtain a 2-year, $20 million deal.  The Yankees were essentially bidding against themselves and out of loyalty and reward for Posada’s years of service to the team, compensated him with one last big score.  The team knew full well that Posada would not be able to play out the contract as a catcher and would like move to 1B or DH at some point, making him less valuable from a financial standpoint.  But the team gave Posada his due and he happily accepted the contract.

Taking a look at the situation following Posada’s signing, the value has not been there.  Posada was injured for much of 2008, limited to 51 games.  In 2009, Posada at 37 had his last big season, with 22 home runs, .285 AVG and .885 OPS.  But as we recall, Posada and teammate A.J. Burnett were having issues, as A.J. was insistent that Molina catch his games rather than Posada, based on Posada’s eroding skills behind the plate.  While much of the blame was directed at Burnett, Posada did little to calm the waters.  The Yankees stood behind Posada then, even considering that his defense was no longer acceptable at the major league level.  Going into 2010, Posada remained the Yankees catcher and played 83 games behind the plate.  Finishing the season with a .248 AVG, the Yankees were in a bind.  They had one more year to go with Posada with a monster contract.  Despite needing to make a change sooner, the Yankees showed Posada loyalty by sticking behind him up to that point.  But with the highest payroll in the game and team performance and team results coming first, the Yankees made the right move.  Former all-star catcher Russell Martin was signed as a free agent after being let go by the Dodgers.  The Yankees were able to outbid the Jays and Red Sox for his services and have been handsomely rewarded with Martin’s strong play behind the plate and with the bat.  Beating out the Red Sox, with the second-worst hitting catching tandem in baseball, makes the signing that much sweeter.  With also three of the top catching prospects in the game sitting in their farm system, the Yankees clearly had options.  Jorge Posada, based on his declining numbers and skills, was not one of them.

So here is where we sit today.  Jorge Posada got his big contract.  The team stuck with him through injuries and poor play, despite the fact that it was not the best decision from a baseball standpoint.  Going into 2011, the Yankees said “no more” and moved Posada to DH full-time.  To be able to save wear and tear and focus on offense, experts agreed the move was best for the team and player.  Posada offered little resistance, although he did indicate in the media several times that the adjustment was difficult and one that he did not necessarily enjoy.  But sitting in the middle of May, hitting .165, Jorge Posada was not in a position to make demands or question his manager’s authority.  Posada should be embarrassed with his statistics and working towards improving himself, rather than blaming others.  My feel for the situation, is taking a look at the lineup card Posada did remove himself from the lineup out of pride.  But where is the pride when he collects his giant paychecks every 2 weeks and does little to show for it?  That is the problem with baseball and sports.  When a player does well and is underpaid, he demands higher compensation out of “fairness”.  But when a player is making a lot of money and does not perform, the player does not return the money despite the fact that the team is not receiving its value.  “Respect” seems to go one way but not the other and that is not right.

The Yankees are justified in being upset with Posada, as they have shown him respect to-date as shown above.  When Posada removed himself from the game, the team justifiably took it as a slap in the face and called the player out for his treason.  Coming to his senses and realizing I believe the mistake of his ways, Posada is now trying to justify the situation by claiming “back stiffness” caused his decision to not play yesterday.  But why would he conveniently forget to tell his manager this piece of information?  If the team was aware of Posada’s injury, Cashman would have responded differently to the media.  Posada looks to me like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is now trying to get himself out.  The truth would have been best but now with the injury claim, Posada has made himself and his team look terrible and guilty.  Nobody wins in these situations.

The Yankees, don’t get me wrong, are not without fault.  I do not agree with how Cashman spoke to the media.  If Cashman spoke to Posada about the situation, both the player and team should have issued a joint statement after the fact.  But airing one’s dirty laundry in the media is not the proper method to use.  While the team is justified in being upset over Posada’s actions, it should have dealt with the matter privately and in-house.  Now the cat is out of the bag and difficult to hide and clear away.

I have seen this situation time and time again with teams and veteran players.  The issue is not as much the Yankees and Jorge Posada, but teams giving big money and long-term deals to older players.  It rarely works and often blows up in everyone’s faces.  Think to Frank Thomas, Raul Ibanez, Milton Bradley, Aaron Rowand, Barry Zito…how many of these big contracts to older players ended up working out.  What kills me is that the teams pay $10s of millions of dollars and its the teams that are seen as disrespecting the players by sitting them, moving them around in the lineup or releasing them.  That is not fair in my estimation.  If the players are cashing their cheques, there comes a point where they need to shut up, play and do as the team tells them.  But this notion is getting lost in baseball and is being lost in the Jorge Posada story today.

Where Posada Gates goes from here, few of us know.  The likely scenario is that the player will stick to the injury story, the team will grumble under its breath and the relationship will continue smoothly for the rest of the year.  Posada’s agent surely told him that he did not have a leg to stand on and to keep his reputation and contract in check, sticking to the injury story would be best for his image.  After all, if Posada did come out and state that he sat yesterday because he was upset for being dropped in the lineup, he would branded and blasted in the New York media.  But truthfully, I would have respected him more if he had come clean rather than rely on the childish cover-up attempt after the fact.  At the end of the day, the deed is done and we all need to move forward.  Both player and team need to say their respective stories, make peace and move forward.  But based on the Yankees loyalty shown to Posada, let’s remember the full story before we jump to conclusions.

Jorge Posada will be a free agent at season’s end.  The Yankees have already indicated that he is not in their plans and that they will be moving forward come to 2012.  I do not know of many teams that are looking for ex-catchers in their 40s hitting .165 as their lineup targets.  Baseball is evolving like we have never seen before.   Teams are going away from 40-something DHs and keeping the spot open for younger players to rotate throughout games to keep everyone healthy.  With the steroid era at an end and team salaries at an all-time high, baseball is becoming more than ever a young man’s sport.  While many players used to hang around till their 40s to pad their career numbers, players like Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Jermaine Dye essentially had mandatory retirement thrust upon them by a lack of interest.  Jorge Posada is one of the lucky ones.  He is getting to play to his 40th birthday and earning a maximum career salary.  While many players in their mid-30s need to play on minor league deals and incentive structures, Posada is getting full and unconditional pay.  Posada had to realize this year that he could no longer play in the field and is looking towards the future and realizing that he soon may not be able to play at all.  Rather than blaming the team, it is time to look in the mirror and to think how much he has left in the tank.  For a team that has given him so much money, opportunities and shown so much faith in him until this year, it is time for him to pay the Yankees back.  I hope to see everyone take the high road on this one at the end of the day.  It is better for the player, the team and the game.  Posada Gate was interesting and provided all of us with good conversation piece.  Now let’s be done with it and turn our attention to the only thing that should matter:  baseball action on the field.

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Interview with Yusuf Carter: Oakland A’s Prospect

MLB reports:  In our latest interview feature, we meet Oakland Athletics catching prospect, Yusuf Carter.  Yusuf is 26-years-of-age and currently playing AA ball with the Midland RockHounds.  Carter has the distinction of being drafted by three different major league teams, the Mariners, A’s and Cubs.  Carter ultimately signed with the Cubs and played in their farm system before joining Oakland.  The nephew of former major leaguer Joe Carter, Yusuf has graciously agreed to this interview with MLB reports.  After speaking with him, I can fully say that you would be hard pressed to find a nicer, more down to earth player than Carter.  A terrific human being and baseball player, Yusuf Carter is one of the lucky ones to play professional baseball and appreciates every minute.  He is a hard worker, does not take anything for granted and is giving it his all to make it the major leagues.  We proudly present:  Yusuf Carter, of the Oakland Athletics.

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Yusuf.  It is a pleasure to have you join us.

Carter:  The pleasure is all mine.  Thank you for contacting me and having me on board.

MLB reports:   Let’s start off with learning who was your favorite baseball player growing up.  Which player did you most idolize and pattern your game after?

Carter:  My favorite player growing up was definitely the kid, Ken Griffey Jr.  I loved the way he brought style and swagger to the game of baseball!  He was the best at hitting long home runs (and pimping them) and making highlight catches seemingly every night!  Griffey probably had the most pure talent of any player I have ever seen and I hope that he makes the hall of fame one day.

MLB reports:  To flip it around, which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Carter:  The player I most admire now is definitely Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.  I admire the way he goes about his business and plays the game.   Jeter works very hard and plays the right way, every day.  I am also impressed that Jeter has not let stardom get to his head and has remained humble despite his vast successes in baseball.

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Carter:  Well looking at my career so far, I would have to say winning the Florida State League Championship in 2008 with the Daytona Cubs.  It was the best feeling I ever had playing baseball.  I hit a game-tying home run in a crucial game during the series and that was a pretty awesome feeling.

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2011 season? 

Carter:  My goals are to hit  .400 with 50 home runs and 150 RBI’s!  They say it is important to dream big, right?! (laughing)  Realistically though, I am  just going to go out and play hard every day and give it my all!  I want to look back after every game and know that I never took a night off and never gave away any at bats.   As long as I play like that, I am sure that I can achieve at least half of my expected goals.  That would be pretty good!

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted by three different teams in three years, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time? If you can comment on each team and why you chose to re-enter the draft that would be great.  Please also tell the story of final signing with the Cubs and how you came to the A’s. 

Carter:  To be drafted at all is a pretty big deal.  After it happened 3 years in a row, I was very happy that different organizations thought I was good enough to play for them and wanted me.  That definitely gave  me the confidence that I can make it all the way to the big leagues one day and made me work that much harder on every aspect of my game.  But each situation was different for me. After considering all the factors, even when I got drafted early, I decided that I didn’t want to rush into signing and starting my career if the situation wasn’t the best fit for me at that particular stage.  The best situation was when the Chicago Cubs drafted me in 2005, so I signed with the Cubs and started my baseball career.  I played with the Cubs from 2005 -2008.  I was picked up by the Oakland A’s in the winter of 2008 in the rule 5 draft and have been with the organization ever since.

MLB reports:  Can you give an insight as to why you originally chose not to sign in the 2 previous times you were drafted before signing with the Cubs?  Did you have any fear that you may not be drafted again or not have interest if you did not sign each time you chose not to sign?

Carter:  I was first drafted out of high school by the Mariners and the offer wasn’t very much.   I knew it would be best for my career if I went to college and played more. That way I could gain more experience playing at a higher level, with the chance of increasing my value if I played well.  The second time around, I was ironically drafted by the Oakland A’s.  I was a draft-and-follow (before they got changed the system and got rid of it).   The A’s wanted me to play another year of college ball and come to a decision once the year was over.  I decided not to sign with them because they had just drafted a catcher in the 1st round that year and another catcher in the 2nd round.  Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell were both catchers that I knew of and as it turns out, are now the starting and #2 catchers for the A’s today.  With such a backlog at the position, I thought I would have a better chance at advancing with a different organization.  That’s when the Cubs drafted me and I felt it was a good situation for me and I signed.  I definitely had a slight fear each time that I may not be drafted again by not signing.  But I was also confident in my abilities and didn’t want to sell myself short just out of fear.  I just wanted to play hard and do well and I felt everything would work itself out.  Which it did. 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Carter:  I would have to say that in my opinion and based on what most people say as well, my best skill would have to be my arm.  I like throwing guys out anyway I can.  Defense behind the plate attracted me to the position and throwing out would- e based runners is the best part of being a catcher.

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Carter:  I honestly need to improve on all areas!  But I think as a catcher, I need to focus on improving my receiving skills so that I can handle all the different pitchers I work with on a daily basis much better.  I have made already strong improvements from this spring to now in that  area of my game.  As a result, I am feeling a lot more confident as I work towards being a major league catcher one day.  But my mindset is that I can always get better!

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Carter:  They play a huge part in my game.  When I feel good and comfortable in the box, I see the ball a lot better and I don’t chase many pitches out of the zone.   That inevitably leads to more walks and better overall results at the plate.  I don’t end up getting myself out as much. But if I’m not seeing the ball as well or I’m in a little funk, like most batters I tend to chase out of the zone and swing at pitches that I should have resisted!  That ends up leading to fewer opportunities for success.  My approach at the plate is something that I definitely see changing and an aspect of my game that I have to constantly stay on top of.

MLB reports:  Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?

Carter:  I have always been a guy that can play multiple positions, which I consider a strength for me.   By being versatile, I have more ways to stay in the line-up and gain experience in the field   But I think that if I had a choice, I would choose catching at this point.  I know that many people will call me crazy for choosing the most demanding position in the game!  But in my view, I see catchers as an important part of the game.  I have always thought that if I could master that position and be able to catch at the highest level, I would be very important to my team and organization.  As a catcher, defense is the main part of my game which always needs to be sharp!  I have to be able to do it all, including stopping easy runs from scoring by base runners advancing on balls thrown in the dirt or stealing, for example.  So yes, defense is huge.

MLB reports:  A little birdy told us that your uncle happens to be no other than…former MLB star and World Series hero Joe Carter.  Is this true? 

Carter:  Yes, indeed (chuckle).  You are correct.  Joe is my father’s brother and my uncle.  I definitely get my athletic genes from that side of the family.  Just to look in comparison, I am probably the “smallest” guy in the bunch at 6’3″ when I am around my dad’s family, including my father, uncles and brothers. My dad is 6’7″ so I got some of his height luckily (chuckle).

MLB reports:  What is your relationship like with Joe Carter?  Must have been pretty amazing.  What kind of influence was Uncle Joe on your baseball career and life?

Carter:  Joe and I always have enjoyed a great relationship.  He was one of the best uncles a nephew could ever asked for.  He has helped me and been there for me in so many ways since I started playing baseball.  Joe always gives me hitting advice if I needed it and just to talk baseball sometimes.  He always helped get me back on track and improve my game.  I had an advantage with Joe Carter as my uncle, as he always gave me good advice at each stage when I was trying to decide when and where to sign professionally. My agent happens to be also his agent that he has been with for 25 years, so I knew that he would have my best interests in mind.

MLB reports:  What was it like growing up with Joe Carter as your uncle?  I can only imagine the stories that you must have.

Carter:  Growing up with everyone knowing that Joe was my uncle was a good thing and a bad thing at times.  It was cool because I had a famous uncle to brag about if I wanted! (chuckling) Although I usually didn’t tell people about Joe often.   Having such a famous uncle got me a great deal of exposure and extra looks from scouts and teams.  The only thing was that I just did not want to be known solely as his nephew though.  I wanted to stand on my own and have people see that I could play and had talent as well.  But it was always cool going to watch him play whenever he played in New York (my hometown) against the Mets or Yankees!  I got to meet a lot of my favorite players after games waiting for him to come out.  That was always a treat.

MLB reports:  Any memories of your uncle that stick out?

Carter:  A cool time that I remember is when Joe was a commentator for the Cubs back in 2003.  That was my senior year in high school.  He set it up so that I could take batting practice on the field with the Cubs!  The team gave me a uniform and everything.  I got the chance that day to meet Sosa, Alomar and a lot of guys from both teams . I didn’t hit any out of the park that day, but it was fun!  Later, to top it off Joe brought me up to the press box with him and put me on tv with him for a bit!  I’m just lucky to have someone of his stature in the game, that has been there and to look out for me.  Joe knows what it takes to succeed in life and baseball and has always been there to give me advice and to help me out. 

MLB reports:  What have you most taken away from Joe Carter the baseball player?

Carter:  One thing that I always noticed about him when he played is that he had a constant smile on his face and looked happy to be playing the game. I definitely try to do the same when I’m out there on the field.  After all, let’s all never forget that it is still just a game!  The more fun that you have out there, the better you will play overall.

MLB reports:  I know that you must get this all the time, but we can’t talk about Joe Carter without me asking you: what are your memories from his famous walk-off home run in the World Series?

Carter:  A lot of people ask me what I thought about his walk-off home run to win the World Series for the Blue Jays back in the 1990s.   The truth is that I respond that I did not know anything about it until I was 12-years-old and started playing organized baseball!  So I actually learned about “the home run” 4 years after it happened.  Boy, I got a late start! (chuckle)

MLB reports:  What were your experiences like growing up as a baseball late bloomer?  Please give us an insight as to what your childhood was like and how that affected your playing career.

Carter:  I would say my culture or childhood affected me the most as far as playing goes.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood where I was fortunate to have many friends of the same age.  We were always involved in some type of sports every day. We would literally play all different sports throughout the day, every day.  My childhood is definitely where my competitiveness on the field comes from.  You never want to lose to another neighborhood at all, so I learned at a young age that you always have to give it your all in sports.  That is how I continue to play the game to this day.  I joined my first organized baseball team when I was 12 years old.  That is a late start for most people but I was lucky to have the raw skills from playing in the streets.  From there, I had to learn the game of baseball and the fundamentals that go with it.  But I think growing up that way taught me to work hard and always play the game the right way.

MLB reports:  How has your general interaction with fans been?  As far as autograph requests, cheering, heckling etc. please share insights.

Carter:  I always try to interact with the fans any chance I get.  I have never been a guy that takes himself too seriously, so I don’t mind small talk or signing autographs for fans if I have time.  I especially like to talk to the young kids at the game if I can.  It is important to me to make sure that the kids get the most out of their time at the ballpark.  In terms of fans cheering, I can take a joke that comes across as a good heckling.   I’ll usually laugh in those situations and not get upset.  As long as it is nothing personal or disrespectful, it doesn’t get to me.

MLB reports:  If you were not playing baseball today, what do you think that you would be doing?  When you aren’t playing baseball Yusuf, what do you do for downtime?

Carter:  If I wasn’t playing baseball, I would try my luck in acting or something.  I would be a bad guy or villain in my movies or the super cool hero! (chuckle)  Either an actor or a music producer.  I Love music, so that would be a fun role for me.  On my free time when I am not playing baseball, I usually try to kick back and relax.  Watch tv or catch a new movie that came out. I enjoy my downtime and try to let my mind and body relax and focus.  Nothing that involves baseball! (laughing)

MLB reports:  On a side note, have you ever met Billy Beane before?  If you can give any scoops as to how interactions with Billy were and/or other members of the Oakland management that would be great to give fans the inside feel.

Carter:  I don’t have much to share, sorry guys.  I have seen him before but haven’t actually met him and interacted with him.  But I would say it would be like any interaction with any management or boss.  My rule is to always do the right things.  Smile, don’t talk too much and laugh at their jokes! (laughing)  If you do that, you should be fine!

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Carter:  If I had a crystal ball I would definitely try to speed up that process as much as possible! (grin) In my estimation, if I continue to sharpen my receiving skills and work hard on the other parts of my game as well, I think I can be there in the next 1-2 years.  Until then, I will continue to work hard and bust my behind to make it happen!

MLB reports:  Keep up the great work Yusuf.  It was a pleasure meeting and speaking with you.  We hope that we can do this again soon and good luck on the rest of the season.

Carter:  Thank you for featuring me, you guys are awesome.  I read MLB reports all the time and love your articles.  This was fun! 


***A special thank you to Yusuf Carter for his time in speaking with MLB reports as part of this interview and providing several personal photos.  We look forward to Yusuf writing a blog entry for our MLB Guest Blog this season, exclusively on MLB reports.  You can also follow Yusuf Carter on twitter***

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Heyward vs. Hosmer: Battle of the Prospects- Friday Faceoff

MLB reports:  Another week, another rescheduled Friday Faceoff.  Originally scheduled to go head-to-head were Jason Heyward  of the Atlanta Braves and Mike Stanton of the Florida Marlins in the battle of young and up-and-coming National League outfielders.  But with the burst of MLB reports favorite Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals on the MLB scene a week ago, we couldn’t resist switching up the story.  With the e-mailbag being flooded for Hosmer requests and the promise I made last week for a Heyward feature, MLB reports is proud to present in the Friday Faceoff:  Heyward vs. Hosmer.

Age

Both Hosmer and Heyward are still pups at the tender age of 21-years-old.  It’s hard to believe that Heyward was an all-star and finished second in the NL ROY balloting last year at 20.  Incredible.  Born only 2 months apart, Heyward was the 14th overall selection in the 2007 draft and Hosmer- the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft tie in this category.  In terms of experience, Heyward has a year’s worth of experience in the majors over Hosmer, but then he was drafted a year earlier.  A draw in round 1.

Power

Looking at Jason Heyward’s numbers from a year ago, I am completely blown away.  By hitting 18 home runs last year with a .456 SLG, Heyward was one of the most consistent Braves hitters last year.  This year, Heyward already has 7 home runs, although his SLG is down to .433.  The trouble with measuring Heyward so far this year is that he has been bothered by a sore shoulder early on, missed some games, taken his cortisone shots and may only fully return by early next week.  While he is ready to pinch run and may pinch hit soon, Heyward’s health is a question mark at this point.  Comparatively, Hosmer had 3 home runs in his first 26 games at AAA this year and 2 home runs in his first 6 games since being called up.  While Hosmer has flashed power in the minors, including 20 last year between A+ and AA last year, Heyward has shown the steady power in the majors already.  Heyward for me is already at the 30+ home run capabilities while Hosmer is more of a 15+ home run hitter for me at this stage of his career.  Based on raw power, Heyward wins this round.

Patience and Batting Eye

Good luck in finding two better hitters with strong eyes at the plate compared to Heyward and Hosmer.  Heyward finished with 91 walks last year, unheard of for a 20-year-old hitter in the majors.  The strikeouts though did pile, up as Heyward whiffed 128 times in 2010.  This year Heyward has a 18/32 BB/K ratio, good for a young player but not quite the level we expect from our budding superstars.  Part to blame is his shoulder woes and the rest is the developing patience at the plate.  Hosmer on the other hand, is slowly becoming the new MLB king of patience.  In 2010 in the minors, Hosmer had a 59/66 BB/K ratio, almost 1-1.  In his call-up this year, Hosmer sits at 5/5 BB/K ratio.  With high walks and low strikeouts, round 3 goes to Eric Hosmer.  Heyward ranks high in this category, just not Hosmer good.

Batting Average

This category, as with the others, is based on a small sample size and considers results to-date and expected performance.  Some categories are easier to predict than others.  This one appears very apparent to me.  While I see Heyward having more future long balls, I can see Hosmer finishing with a higher batting average.  Heyward had close to a .400 OBP last year  and his .270-.280 average potential with 100 walks per year are fantastic numbers.  But Hosmer has the .300+ average potential and will likely exceed a .400 OBP year-in and year-out.  Last year in the minors, Hosmer had .338 AVG and .408 OBP.  In AAA this year, Hosmer was hitting .439 with a .525 OBP and is already hitting .333 in the majors with a .444 OBP.  The result is another victory for Hosmer.

Stolen Bases

A tricky category to utilize in comparing the two sluggers, who are known more for their bats than their speed.  Heyward had 11 stolen bases last year, although he was caught 6 times.  So far this year Heyward has only stolen 2 bases.  Hosmer himself is not much a burner, although he did steal 11 bases last year while only being caught once in high A ball.  On the season, Hosmer has stolen 3 bases in AAA and 1 steal in the majors, while not getting caught at either level.  My impression overall is that Heyward will steal more bases as he will take more opportunities, while Hosmer will take fewer chances but have a higher success ratio.  Pick your poison, I am calling this one a draw.

Verdict

A great matchup this week of two future MVPs and part of baseball’s changing of the guard as the kids begin to take over.  I am very excited about the prospects for both Heyward and Hosmer, as both are complete packages and truly the real deal in my estimation.  It is always my goal not to go too far in projecting prospects as too many factors can take over, including : injuries, faded confidence, legal troubles, bad teams, bad lineups…you name it, one factor can arise and sideline a bright star in a hurry.  Watching both Heyward and Hosmer, I have the impression that both are intelligent young men with good heads on their shoulders.  Both play with enthusiasm and heart, two strong qualities I look for future in players.  Going head-to-head, both are very young, with Heyward having a year experience on Hosmer.  Both are showing good power, although Heyward has greater power.  Hosmer though won out on batting average and batting-eye, displaying in his career patience personified, exceeding even the talented Heyward.  After both players tied in the stolen base category, this week’s winner is Eric Hosmer.  The future of the Kansas City Royals along with Moustakas and Myers, the George Brett comparisons are already ringing in for Hosmer.  My hope is that he will handle them better than once golden boy Alex Gordon, who has finally got his career back on track this season after enduring many hardships and failed expectations along the way.  Heyward, on the other hand, is becoming the new face of the Braves as Chipper Jones slowly begins to play out his last string.  Both are excellent players with each team very high on its respective budding superstar.  But the winner tonight is new MLB sensation, Eric Hosmer.

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MLB 2011 DL: Injury Updates

 

MLB reports:  To answer many of our readers inquiries, here is an update on some of the casualties and wounded in the world of baseball and when each player is expected to return from the disabled list:

Phil Hughes:  Yankees

Hughes went on the 15 day disabled list in mid-April with a “dead arm” and has not returned since.  On April 28th Hughes received a cortisone shot and reports have indicated that his shoulder has responded well.  The timetable for Hughes to return to the mound is 6-8 weeks, which would put him sometime into July.  Hughes has not started throwing yet but has visited specialists who have ruled out surgery at this point.  With a dead arm type injury, it is not always easy to predict where the future lies.  Justin Verlander went through such an episode in his career and has come back stronger than ever.  The fear though is that the velocity will not return and surgery could be lurking in the background.  Until Hughes begins throwing and regains his velocity, Yankees fans will continue to huddle in prayer and hope for Hughes to come back and reclaim his 2010 form this year.

Carlos Guillen:  Tigers

Guillen has been bothered by a sore left knee and out of action since mid-March and going on the 15 day DL.  Reports have indicated that Guillen is taking ground balls, but no other baseball activities at this point.  The original prognosis of mid-May does not appear likely, with an end of the month or early June return a possibility.  With his wonky surgically repaired knee, Guillen will likely be a DH at best if and when he returns to the Tigers lineup.  There is a possibility of a relapse here, so the Tigers are progressing forward without Guillen and any contributions this year will be considered a bonus.

Joe Mauer:  Twins

The $184 million dollar man is off to a dreadful start in 2011, the first season of his monster contract.  After having surgery on his knee in the off-season, Mauer has been bothered by leg weakness all season.  Mauer has started hitting and throwing, but his return is up in the air.  Once considered to be the greatest catcher in baseball, talk has already started about a position change in his future.  After moving prospect Wilson Ramos, the Twins cannot be happy about the state of Mauer’s health.  Like the other members of this list thus far, Mauer’s return date is unknown at this point.  With the Twins off to a terrible start this season, there is much pressure to get Mauer into the lineup to get the team going.  But considering the investment in the catcher, the team will likely be cautious and continue to bring him along slowly in the fear that further damage could result in rushing him.  Expect Mauer back sometime in June likely, but his catching days appear to coming to an end in the near future unfortunately.

Josh Hamilton:  Rangers

After breaking a bone in his right arm from a home plate collision early in the season, Hamilton is nearing his return to the Rangers lineup.  Hamilton is taking swings and should hopefully ready soon for a couple of minor league rehab appearances.  I would expect Hamilton back in the Rangers lineup in the next two weeks if all goes well.  The brittle Hamilton continues to endure bad luck in the health department, with the Rangers sorely needing a healthy Hamilton in order to contend in the AL West.

Chien-Ming Wang:  Nationals

After 2 missed seasons, Wang continues to try to come back from a torn shoulder capsule and pitch once again in the majors.  After breaking his right foot in 2008, Wang ended up injuring his shoulder and has not returned to pitch in a professional game since.  Still rehabbing in the Nationals system, it appears unlikely that we will see Wang pitch again.  Fans still hope that the former back-to-back 19 game winner can find health and pitch again, but after a prolonged absence, the window of opportunity continues to close further every week/month that goes by.

Johan Santana:  Mets

Another torn shoulder capsule survivor, Santana underwent his surgery last September.  Reports have indicated a possible July return for Santana, which appear to be optimistic at best.  With a similar injury to Wang, there is no guarantees of when Santana and what condition he will be in.  Good news in that Santana is throwing off a mound and flat ground and reported no setbacks to date.  But with these types of injuries, relapses are always a possibility.  If the Mets flounder this year as expected, the smart advice is to rest Santana and bring him along slowly, with a 2012 return being the better bet.  Only time will tell if Santana will return and reclaim his spot as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball.  At this point, I would not be counting on it.

Chase Utley:  Phillies

With injuries all around in baseball, few have been more anxious than thedisappearance of Chase Utley.  With the Phillies offense built around Utley and Howard, a long-term absence by the second baseman was seen as damaging by the Phillies faithful.  Talk at the start of the season was a possible September return by Utley, based on the knee injury.  Philadelphia got a great shot in the arm when Utley’s rehab progressed so well to the point that he is already DHing this week in minor league rehab games, with a possible return by the end of the month.  Far ahead of schedule, the hope is that Utley is fully recovered and will be strong for the remainder of the season.  Utley’s story is one of the few bright spots in our long list of injuries in this report.

Scott Rolen:  Reds

Placed on the DL at the end of April with a strained shoulder, Rolen is no stranger to baseball injuries.  But being the professional he is, Rolen also works very hard and keeps himself in strong game shape to attempt to avoid long-term absences.  Rolen has been taking batting practice this week and has also been running the bases and participating in fielding drills.  No timetable on his return at this point, but based on his advanced baseball activity, I would expect a return by the end of this month.

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 11th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 11, 2011

Q:   Where do you see the Boston Red Sox finishing this season in the standings? From Jake, Boston

MLB reports:  My crystal ball in March said that the Rays would win the AL East, with the Red Sox finishing second in the division and taking the AL Wild Card.  I have no reason to deviate from my prediction thus far.  Despite the strength of the Yankees, the Red Sox have so much talent that several hot streaks are in store.  When playoff tickets go on sale, go ahead and order for the opening round at least.

Q:  Fantasy question:  Should I dump Jorge Posada for Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Hanigan, or Hank Conger?  I probably should have done something Monday, as Posada’s .151 AVG is killing my team.  From Bonzi, Parts Unknown

MLB reports: I take it that your league counts average, based on your e-mail.  Turning 40 this summer, Posada has definitely seen better days.  He does have 6 home runs and 14 RBIs, but his numbers overall are fantasy suicide.  I can’t believe Iannetta and Doumit are still available in your league.  If so, grab them in that order.  Iannetta is 28, plays in Colorado, has 5 home runs, 13 RBIs, .398 OBP, .494 SLG.  His .250 AVG is nothing to write home about, but as the #1 catcher for the Rockies, Iannetta has the biggest upside.  Doumit will be traded to a contender at some point likely but while he has shown a steady bat this season, he is always an injury risk.  If Iannetta is not available though, I like Doumit over Posada.  Ramos has been a nice player for the Nationals but is still young and likely won’t play at this level all season.  I would trust Posada over him.  Hanigan and Conger are nice replacement bats for injury but as part-time players offer little upside at this point.  If either was starting, they would still rank below Posada this season for me.

Q:Why do teams not pitch Jose Bautista away, away, away ALL the time? Why even try to challenge him inside?  From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports: It is not that simple Garrett, as Bautista has become such a dangerous hitter that there are not many pitches that he does not get to.  Judging by his 100 walks last year, which will be higher this year, Bautista has a great eye at the plate.  Based on the damage that he can do, I frankly don’t understand why teams just don’t walk him 4-5 times every game.  Being the strongest offensive option currently in the Jays lineup by a country-mile, Bautista is a long-ball threat every at-bat and taking the bat out of his hands likely will be best at minimizing the damage.  With not many healthy hitters in the Jays lineup that are threats to drive him in, I agree that opposing pitchers should not give Bautista much to hit…and in my opinion, not even give him the option at all.

Q:   Fantasy Trade Evaluation: Aramis Ramirez & Alfonso Soriano for Jason Bay & Brandon McCarthy. Who’s winning?  Who’s losing? I have Ryan Zimmerman on DL.  I am giving up Bay and McCarthy. From Mike, Brooklyn

MLB reports: This one is a toughy.  I wanted to say Bay and McCarthy to keep, but I can’t do it.  My factors are as follows.  McCarthy is 27 and has great upside.  But he is injury prone and cannot be counted on to stay healthy.  He can literally drop at a moment’s notice.  Plus he is 1-3, despite a 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  With little wins potential and health concerns, this trade really boils down to Bay for Ramirez and Soriano for me. 

Bay has been a disaster since coming to the Mets.  Poor production and concussions issues have done him in.  With 6 home runs last year and 1 home run this year with a .213 AVG, 7/19 BB/K ratio, Bay is regretting his decision to leave Boston for New York.  Bay is already 32 and his window of opportunity is closing.  Ramirez and Soriano are no spring chickens either.  Ramirez though has a .286 AVG with 14 RBIs, despite only 1 home run and .718 OPS.  Soriano has a league leading 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 Runs, with a whopping .550 SLG despite an unsightly .242 AVG and .270 OBP.  If you can stomach some of the warts shown by the 35-year-old Soriano and 32-year-old Ramirez, they will still provide much of the stats and comfort that Bay and McCarthy won’t.  In some ways this is a headache for headache trade, but by making the deal, you are getting the likely higher returns.  Go for it.

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The Minnesota Twins 2011: What Went Wrong

MLB reports:  With the daily moans and groans filling my message box on the state of the Minnesota Twins in 2011, I decided to dig deeper today to analyze what is ailing this team thus far in the season.  A steady team that is a perennial contender every year, 2011 has been an unmitigated disaster thus far for the Twins.  The Twins record currently stands at 12-21, last in the AL Central.  The team is 10.0 games out of first, battling for the basement with the White Sox, who are 14-22.    I will be looking at the team’s overall statistics and then view individual players that have flopped and those that still offer hope.  To a very special Twins fan out there, I am sorry about the state of the team in 2011, but this article is for you.

Record:

With their 12-21 record, the Twins have the least amount of wins in baseball.  At home, they have been a respectable on 4-6, but 8-15 on the road.  Ouch.  The Twins are 3-7 in their last 10 games and currently are on a 3-game losing streak.  A 10-game hole in early May is still fixable, but the Twins have to be careful not to slide too much further or a 15-20 game deficit could result.  For a team that was expected to be a playoff contender, 2011 has turned into a nightmare for the team and it’s fans.

Team Offense:

The Twins have the 3rd worst offense in baseball, just ahead of only the Nationals and Padres.  In the American League, numbers like this just don’t cut it:

  • .230 AVG:  3rd last in majors
  • .292 OBP:  last in majors
  • .320 SLG:  last in majors
  • 15 total Home Runs:  last in majors
  • 46 Doubles:  2nd last in majors
  • 104 Runs scored:  last in majors
  • 93 RBIs:  last in majors
  • 93 Walks:  3rd worst in majors
  • 354 Total Bases:  last in majors

Sitting at the bottom on near bottom of almost every major offensive category, the Twins clearly have had little offense this year.  They are not hitting, walking, scoring or driving in  runs and hitting home runs.   At these kinds of numbers, a team cannot expect to win many games.  At 12 wins thus far, the Twins will need to get the bats going if they hope to climb back into contention this year.

Individual Hitters:

Looking at the Twins hitters, it is quicker to summarize which players are playing well than those that are not.  Literally only 2 Twins hitters have had good numbers this year, while all of the rest of the batters have either been injured or underperformed this year.  Jason Kubel has been the rock all season.  With a .347 AVG, .397 OBP, .508 SLG and 3 home runs, Kubel has shown good production this year.  Span has also been decent, with a .298 AVG, .361 OBP and 17 runs scored.  Essentially every other hitter has been missing in action, from Morneau, to Cuddyer, Young and Thome, the bats have been ice all season.  Valencia has been decent with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs, but a .229 AVG will just not cut it.  The health of Mauer will help, with a rebound from Morneau, Young and return by Nishioka to help ignite the offense.  Unfortunately the team may need to look on the open market for some offensive help if they want to improve their numbers.  Otherwise, runs may be difficult to come by all year.

Team Pitching:

For all the hitting woes the Twins have endured this year, the pitching has not been much better.  With the 3rd worst pitching staff in baseball, only the Orioles and Astros are below the Twins.

  • 4.62 ERA:  3rd last in baseball
  • 168 Runs allowed:  2nd last in baseball
  • 178 strike outs:  last in baseball

The above numbers are fairly indicative of the Twins pitching.  They are giving up a lot of runs and not striking out many batters.  Another recipe for disaster.  However, looking at the individual pitchers on the team, not all is doom and gloom.  The bullpen has been fairly steady and the Twins have received decent to good outings from some of its starters.  For a team built around pitching, hope still exists on the mound.  If the pitching can continue to return back to form, all the Twins will need is some offensive support to jump-start its team.

Starting Pitching:

The Twins starters have been as good as they have been bad all year.  Pavano and Liriano have been abysmal all year (except for Liriano’s no-hitter, which still came with a tag of 6 walks allowed).  Blackburn has been steady and Baker/Duensing have been very solid.  It is ironic that the team’s top 2 starters have caused the most problems for the team this season.  Both with ERAs over 6.60, both Pavano and Liriano have to pick up their games if the team is to contend.  Kyle Gibson, the team’s top pitching prospect has been decent in AAA, with a 1-1 record, 3.66 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  If he keeps it up, Gibson may get the call this year if the team needs an additional arm.  While the prospect does need some more seasoning, the state of the other arms will tell.  Kevin Slowey has also pitched well in relief and having come off the disabled list, could take a turn in the rotation if called upon.

Bullpen

The Twins bullpen has actually been very good this year.  Matt Capps has taken on the closer role and run with it, sitting at a 3.14 ERA and 5/6 in save opportunities.  Glen Perkins has been a rock setting-up, with a 0.55 ERA in 15 appearances.  Mijares also has been successful most nights, with a 3.18 ERA in 16 appearances.  The problem child has been their former closer to start the season, Joe Nathan.  With an 8.18 ERA, 8/9 BB/K ratio, Nathan has clearly not yet regained the form that made him an all-star closer.  Thrust too soon into the closing role, Nathan and the Twins dug a hole for themselves that has been hard to climb from.  Expect Capps to keep the role for the majority of the year and the bullpen to continue to improve, together with the starting pitching for a team known for its pitching.

The Verdict:  The season is still young and it would be foolish to write off the Twins at this early stage of the year.  There is nowhere to go but up for this team.  With so much talent on its roster, the Twins are due for a hot streak soon.  Hitting and pitching are contagious and as the Twins have shown this year, slumps tend to affect most players at the same time.  But assuming that the majority of the players can get hot at the same time, 7-8 game winning streaks could be in order.  The AL Central has been tough to figure out this year, with the Indians and Royals playing much above expectations and the rest of the teams playing much below.  Everything comes in cycles and once the Twins start hitting the hot weather, expect the team to heat up as well.  The numbers show that the team has done little from a hitting and perspective in 2011.  A continuation of these efforts would bring about one of the worst seasons in team history.  But the end is not here yet and the next month or so will be more telling of where the team is headed.  That is one of the things we all love about baseball: we never know what is going to happen.  Good luck to the Twins and we hope to see you battling for the playoffs come September.

Thank you for reading my feature on the Minnesota Twins.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at:  mlbreports@gmail.com
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

MLB Top Home Run Hitters 2011: Updated

MLB reports:  Here at MLB reports, we consistently get fan requests for features on the top home run hitters in the game.  We recently ran a feature looking at the top power hitters and appreciate the feedback and responses.  As a bonus, for all those of you that dig the long ball, here is a look at the current MLB leader board and analysis on each of the top long ball threats.  Some surprises to this point for sure.

T1)  Curtis Granderson, Yankees:  11

For all the talk of the Tigers winning the Granderson trade in obtaining Austin Jackson, Granderson has really made the Yankees look good this year.  At 30 years of age and healthy this season, Granderson has really enjoyed his second year with the Bronx Bombers.  He has hit 11 home runs, to go together with his .283 AVG, .359 OBP and .646 SLG.  Add in 2 triples for good measure as Granderson has done it all for the Yankees in 2011.  Hitting higher in the order, Granderson will continue to have increased chances of scoring and driving in runs.  With a career high of 30 long balls recently in 2009, Granderson is on pace for a new personal best this year.  With his lineup and ballpark, the chances are very good if he stays healthy.

T1)  Alfonso Soriano, Cubs:  11

Left for dead by many experts, Soriano has come out of seemingly nowhere to rejuvenate his career… power-wise.  On pace for 50+ home runs, Soriano is hitting long balls, driving in and scoring runs at a high pace.  However note the key red flag:  4 walks to-date with a .273 OBP.  These kinds of numbers are simply unacceptable and with 31 strike outs, Soriano better find some plate discipline soon if he hopes to continue to receive regular at-bats.  At his late age, Soriano is slowly morphing into an all other nothing home run hitter and his free swinging ways is actually hurting more than helping the Cubs this season.

T2)  Lance Berkman, Cardinals:  10

At the age of 36, Lance Berkman has reclaimed his spot as one of the top hitters in the game for the Cardinals.  Healthy and playing like the Puma of old, Berkman has a 1.191 OPS to go together with his 17/16 BB/K ratio.  To say that he is paying outstanding baseball would be an understatement.  I really liked this signing at the time and playing with Pujols and Holliday has done wonders for Berkman’s bat.  With LaRussa as his manager and strong team along for the ride, I see 40+ home runs in the Big Puma’s future…provided he remains healthy of course.

T2)  Ryan Braun, Brewers:  10

The Hebrew Hammer just doesn’t let up.  The 27-year-old Braun already has 138 career home runs and continues to pile them on.  With Prince Fielder protecting him in the lineup, Braun will just continue to be Braun in 2011.  Mark him down for 30+ home runs and don’t think twice.

T2)  Jose Bautista:  10

As time goes by, Bautista’s numbers slowly but surely are silencing many of his critics.  Despite missing games this season with a neck strain and personal leave, Bautista has managed 10 home runs in 88 at bats.  Combined with his 30/17 BB/K ratio, .352 AVG, .521 OBP and .773 SLG and you have one of the best, if not the best player currently in the game.  Bautista has also produced with Adam Lind and very little else for support in the lineup.  The Toronto slugger is proving that he is not a one-hit wonder and here to stay on the MLB home run leader board.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitters in baseball.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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MLB Pitchers and Walks: Flirting with Trouble

MLB reports:  Walks can make you and walks can break you.  That is our motto here at MLB reports.  If there is one stat that I use more than others to measure a player’s performance, its BB…base on balls…walks.  Recently, I featured an article on patient hitters and looked at the hitters that were the MLB leaders in walks.    As part of this post, I reviewed how walks could potentially improve every facet of a hitter’s game and why a good batting eye is a high indicator of future success.  Based on the response to that article, today we will look at the flip side, the MLB pitchers leader board in walks allowed.

In my opinion, there is not many things that are more frustrating about pitchers than those who give up a lot of walks.  Pitchers that walk hitters tend to get themselves in all sorts of trouble and create pressure on themselves as well as their team.  Defenses become on guard to avoid runners advancing and scoring, especially the catcher.  A stolen base, sacrifice and passed ball is all take to turn a walk into a run.  Pitchers that give up walks are often young hard-throwers who have not yet learned to command the ball.  They are throwers who need to develop into pitchers.  A veteran pitchers who throws soft and has no command will rarely survive in baseball (unless he has a lethal knuckleball, ala Tim Wakefield).  Regardless of strike outs, walks in baseball often lead to pitchers beating themselves.  I often tell young hurlers to trust in their stuff and led the hitters beat them.  By walking hitters, a pitcher will simply beat himself in the long run.  Looking at the MLB top 5 list of walks allowed, it is a who’s who list of potential, some success and plenty of frustration.

1)  Edinson Volquez, Reds:  28

The man traded for Josh Hamilton has one of the best power arms in baseball.  After undergoing Tommy John surgery (apparently a must-have these days to become a top pitcher for some reason), Volquez came back strong last year to reclaim his spot on the Reds pitching staff.  With a 28/38 BB/K ratio this year 38 1/3 IP, Volquez despite his 3-1 record is showing why he has unsightly 5.63 ERA.  With almost a hit allowed per inning, Volquez is playing with fire every game and needs to curb the walks to ultimately find long-term success.  Check out Volquez’s breakout year in 2008.  17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA.  Sparkling numbers on the surface.  His 93/206 BB/K ratio that year shows that when Volquez wasn’t striking guys out, he was loading them up on base.  In a hitter’s park like Cincinnati, numbers like that simply will not do.  Volquez has a lifetime 4.47 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.  At 27 years of age, he should be entering his prime year.  But Volquez is sitting on top of our leader board for a reason:  he walks the most hitters compared to any other pitcher in baseball.  That is a high feat and one that he should not be proud of.  A top pitcher can walk maybe 50 hitters a year at most to stay successful.  By walking 93 in 2008, Volquez showed that even in a breakout year he never completely figured it out.  Luck can only be on a person’s side so long and if Volquez does not transition better to being a pitcher, the sub-4.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP will result unfulfilled potential and mediocrity.  The best pitchers in my opinion have figured out that sacrificing strikeouts for ground ball outs can be just as effective and less taxing on their arms and walk rates.  This realization has not occurred yet to Volquez, but that will end up being the difference from becoming the next Pedro Martinez or Ramon Martinez, to a certain degree.

2)  Jonathan Sanchez, Giants:  26

The poster child for walks, Jonathan Sanchez is victim #2 on our list to high walk totals.  After becoming a full-time starter in 2008, Sanchez had his breakout year last year with the Giants.  13-9 record with a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are solid numbers.  His 96/205 BB/K ratio though left a lot to be desired.  Almost a mirror image of Volquez from 2008 if you compare the numbers.  This year, Sanchez sits at 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 26/47 BB/K ratio in 38 IP.  The best starting pitchers keep their WHIPs down below 1.20 and at most sit at 1.25.  Anything from 1.30 and above is considered a high WHIP, with 1.50 being unacceptable.  Despite his success in 2010, Sanchez still has a 1.38 career WHIP.  When people ask me why trade rumors consistently persist around Sanchez despite being 28 and in his prime, I simply point to the walk rate.  Granted he has unbelievable stuff and is literally untouchable when he is on (as all of the pitchers on this list are).  But one good outing for every three bad outings don’t cut it.  Sanchez throws hard and can successfully strikeout over 200 batters per season if he chooses to.  But with his high walk rate, he will likely suffer the same fate as Volquez.  Men on base can translate into runs allowed, which is unhealthy for a team’s won-loss record and a pitcher’s ERA.  Until Sanchez can cut down on those walks, I will continue to simply see him as a middle-of-the-road pitcher with unfulfilled potential.  If he can cut his walk rate in half, I could see 20 wins in his future.

3)  Kyle Drabek, Jays:  25

Another Tommy John surgery survivor, Drabek is the 2nd of 3 pitchers on this list that lead baseball in walks allowed and had the procedure in their careers.  Is there a correlation?  We will need to find out one day in another post perhaps.  I could see there being a link between the motion that pitchers use to high walk rates and leading to Tommy John surgery.  An interesting little sidenote.  But I digress.  Drabek is the only rookie on this list, as all the other pitchers have experience in the majors.  None of the players on the list are vets yet, although Liriano and Volquez are starting to get there.  In his first full major league campaign, Drabek has a 2-2 record in 2011 with a 4.50 ERA, unsightly 1.63 WHIP and 25/28 BB/K ratio.  With almost a hit allowed per inning as well, Drabek is loading up the bases far too often in getting burnt.  In my estimation, I see Drabek differing from the first two players as follows.  Volquez is wild and needs to learn control.  Sanchez is occasionally wild but often tries to be too perfect in making his pitches and misses his spots.  Drabek quite often is trying be perfect and misses his spots, but otherwise has good control.  Drabek, like Sanchez, simply need to trust their stuff and just go after the hitters.  With nearly un-hittable stuff, Drabek and Sanchez would find they will beat hitters more often than not.  But a walk every inning a half will not cut it in the majors.  Not if Drabek is to fulfill his potential and become the Jays ace one day.  The comparisons between father and son will always continue for Drabek until he makes his own way in the world and I will take a brief look at Doug’s numbers.  The elder Drabek never walked more than 69 hitters in a season and finished with a career WHIP of 1.243, with 155 wins and 3.73 ERA.  He also finished with 1594 career strikeouts, with a season high 177 in his final season in Pittsburgh in 1992.  Kyle has the potential to succeed his dad, as son as better stuff than his dad and the potential for far more punch outs than his dad ever did.  If Drabek Jr. will figure that out one day, the Jays will have their ace for the next decade guaranteed.

T4)  Francisco Liriano, Twins:  24

The fourth member of our list of frustration, Liriano proved this week how utterly frustrating he can be.  Consider this:  Liriano this week threw a no-hitter against the White Sox.  Perhaps a no-hitter by the records, but the rest of his numbers were by no means special.  Liriano threw almost as many balls as strikes, finishing with 6 walks and only 2 strike outs.  These numbers translate to little or no control, but somehow not giving up a hit in otherwise poor pitching performance.  The no-hitter actually is in line with Liriano’s start to the season.  2-4 record, 6.61 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 24/20 BB/K ratio in 2011.  Not only is Liriano now not striking guys out, but he is walking hitters at an astronomical rate.  Liriano had one incredible partial season: In 2006 he had a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 32/144 BB/SO ratio in 121 IP.  Superstar numbers and an ace in the making.  Since then, health issues and poor performance have plagued the hurler for the most part.  The 3rd Tommy John survivor on our list, Liriano appears to have the same Volquez type control issues.  Last season I thought that we had seen a rebound from Liriano.  14-10 record, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 58/201 BB/SO ratio.  Maybe not ace numbers, but very solid pitching numbers.  Believe it or not, Liriano is on pace for approximately 150 walks this season.  Just when he looked like he might be coming around, Liriano regresses.  Then he goes out and throws a no-hitter and nobody knows what to think.  But I will tell you this much, walking hitters is a disaster…while walks and few strike outs means a complete implosion.  I suspect that there may be more to this story than meets the eye, as Liriano may be having health issues that is leading to his poor numbers.  Otherwise, at 27 years of age, Liriano may be continuing his hurler mode rather than becoming a fine-tuned pitcher as is preached by the Twins organization.  The potential is there, but until we know his health situation is better, all bets are off.

T4)  Charlie Morton, Pirates:  24

The last member of our group may not be a Tommy John survivor, but he is a 27 something year old pitcher (only Drabek is the youngster at 23).  Morton is also not on his original team, as he has been traded together with all the members of our list except Sanchez.  It is not a coincidence in my estimation that young hurlers with control issues would be moved by a major league team.  Liriano, Volquez and Morton were all seen as expandable by their respective teams in order to obtain needed talent.  Sanchez has been mentioned in trade whispers for years now and Drabek was moved, but only because the Jays demanded him in the Halladay swap.  Morton was moved in the McLouth deal, with the Braves moving an extra arm and the Pirates stocking up on much-needed pitching talent.  After previous frustrating campaigns, Morton appears to finally be coming around this year.  His 2011 record sits at 4-1 with a sparkling 3.13 ERA.  He is allowed less than a hit per inning, which is promising.  His 24/24 BB/K ratio means that Morton is striking out as many batters as he is walking.  The 1.41 WHIP is the issue with Morton, as it is with all the hurlers on this list.  Morton has a career 1.57 WHIP, so he is improving in the category.  Once he is able to put it together, Morton is able to get major league hitters out.  He may not have the stuff of the other members of this list, but he apparently knows how to get major league hitters out.  While not an ace, developing into a solid #2 or #3 starter could be in his future.  If Morton could limit his walks to approximately 50 in a season, I would love to see what he could do over the course of that year.  I see potential and improvements to warrant hope.  For a pitcher that used to give up over a hit per inning, those numbers are vastly improved.  Time will tell if the rest of his numbers will fall in line.

With young hurlers that have little control, teams do not often know what they are ultimately going to have.  In the time that it takes for a pitcher to learn control, the issue becomes whether a pitcher will be able to get major league hitters out by going for ground ball outs and fly outs while reducing walk totals.  Roy Halladay is the poster child for high strike outs and low walks.  With ERAs in the low 2.00s, WHIPs in the low 1.00s, 20 wins consistently, Halladay is everything that a pitcher strives to be.  But then take a pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine.  One of my faves on the Rays, Sonnanstine rarely walks hitters.  But without striking out many hitters either, Sonnanstine unfortunately does not have the stuff to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis and gets hit hard often.  As a result, Sonnanstine is constantly shuttling between the rotation, bullpen and minors.  If you take Sonnanstine’s control and the stuff of any of the pitchers on this list, you would have Roy Halladay.  Perhaps a touch oversimplified, but you get my message.  For pitchers like Jonathan Sanchez and Kyle Drabek, my advice is just go after and trust your stuff, good things will happen.  For Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, I think a change in mechanics and approach is in order.  I see too much wildness with little change in the future.  If these pitchers do not change their walking ways, the potential that each has will never be fulfilled and talent will end up being wasted.  With the emphasis in baseball on strike outs, pitchers like Volquez and Liriano fall into the trap in concentrating on punch outs and disregarding the finer points of the game.  The emphasis is on pitching, not throwing: I hope these guys understand that one day.  Unfulfilled potential at the end of the day is just failure in my book.  Remember that the next time when you watch these hurlers flirting with trouble in their next starts.

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jeter vs. Swisher: Love and Baseball – Friday Faceoff

MLB reports:  This week’s edition of the Friday Faceoff was originally scheduled to be a battle between the Cincinnati Reds top catching prospects or two of the Oakland A’s mega hitting prospects.  We get many requests for stories and updates on prospects on MLB reports and try to accommodate whenever we can.  We love the MLB stories but stories of up and coming players always carries a soft spot for us.  But then an e-mail came through this morning from Jenny in Texas as follows:

” Derek Jeter should have never gotten engaged.. Since his engagement he has been in a slump…. Ha .. Happy Friday.”

Simple and to the point, a classic message.  It got me thinking about Derek Jeter and his love live vs. his baseball performance.  I had read before that Jeter was engaged to actress Minka Kelly sometime during the past few months and was dating her since 2008.  Then I thought about one of my personal favorites, Nick Swisher.  Swisher married actress Joanna Garcia this past off-season after getting engaged in mid-2010.  Two Yankee players, both in serious relationships and both mired in deep slumps.  I started thinking that Jenny was on to something.
 
In comparing the Jeter/Swisher relationships and baseball performances, let’s take a deeper look into each story:
 
Nick Swisher
Swisher has been linked in the past to dating a model, but otherwise his love life has been kept fairly private compared to Jeter.  From his Oakland and Chicago days, Swisher was known as the long-haired party guy who liked to have fun and bring excitement to the clubhouse.  Following Swisher on twitter and facebook, he kept very active in the social media corresponding with fans and was not afraid to hold back.  2009 and 2010 were solid campaigns for Swisher, as he immediately adjusted to the Bronx and brought his “A” game to New York.  At the tender of age of 30, nothing appeared to hold him back.  Then Swisher met actress Joanna Garcia, got engaged during the 2010 season and got married during the past offseason.  From there, I started to see a new Nick Swisher emerge.
 
As soon as Swisher got married, I noticed that his twitter and facebook accounts were not very active.  When Swisher would make any posts, they would be of the generic variety, very plain vanilla so to speak.  Swisher appeared in two different television series before the season: Garcia’s “Better with You” and “How I Met Your Mother.”  I could smell trouble a mile away, as spending more time behind the camera and not focusing on baseball is never a good thing.  While Swisher is extremely popular on twitter (1.3 million followers makes him more popular than MLB on twitter), he has evolved from fun-loving single guy to serious, concerned and calculated married man.  The results show on the field.
 
29 games into the season, Swisher has a grand total of one home run, .214AVG and .614 OPS.  Brutal numbers for a man who averaged 29 home runs over the last two seasons and .869 OPS.  At 30 years of age, Swisher has not lost his skills…but rather his mojo.  There was talk that Swisher is continuing to look for acting opportunities and may get a part in a movie in the future.  Great for his acting resume, bad for his baseball career.   In my estimation, fair or unfair, he has to get his priorities in order and focus on what pays the bills: baseball.  Acting may be fun and works well with his wife’s career, but Swisher needs to get back down to basics to what brought him MLB success.  I do not profess to know Swisher personally and do not spend time with him in the batting cages, weight room or at home.  But something is going on with Swisher that has caused a dive in his numbers and it appears that his personal life may be playing a part.
 
We have seen over the years how divorce can affect a player’s performance, especially in athletes (see Jeff Gordon and Chipper Jones).  When someone has a distraction at home, it can create chaos in that person’s job.  Baseball is no different and distractions, good or bad, can affect play on the field.  In the case of Swisher and as we are about to see Derek Jeter, a change in relationships and lifestyle can possibly have a detrimental effect on playing performance.
Derek Jeter
When researching and writing this piece, I had an instant issue with categorizing Jeter as suffering on the field by scoring off the field, so to speak.  A long-time playboy, Jeter has been linked with many famous females including Mariah Carey and Jessica Biel.  The golden boy of endorsements as well, George Steinbrenner criticized Jeter at one point for worrying too much about his life off the field and should focus more on his baseball play.  While some critics blasted Steinbrenner, I agreed with the statement.  Although Jeter has had solid numbers in his career, I believe he could have done more if he had partied less and worked harder at baseball. My opinion, right or wrong, is how I have always felt.  Now watching the Derek Jeter of 2011, I believe lifestyle has finally caught up to him.
 
Jeter got involved with Minka Kelly according to reports in 2008 and became serious in 2009.  According to reports, the pair got engaged in recent months with a wedding date still unknown.  This is where the tricky part lies.  Jeter started his deterioration in 2010 and has been abysmal to-date in 2011.  This year, Jeter has no home runs, .250 AVG and .577 OPS.  He is on pace to set career lows in many categories.  This comes after a 2010 campaign where he hit .270 with a .710 OPS.  At 36 years of age, is lifestyle or age the culprit for the decline in Jeter?  I would argue likely both, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on lifestyle.
 
Jeter has his own cologne line “Driven”.  He was rated this year by a marketing firm as the most marketable baseball player.  He has endorsements with Gillette, Nike and Gatorade, just to name a few.  While Swisher learns to become an actor, Jeter is going strong as a pitchman.  I don’t think Yankee fans appreciate the extra-curricular activities if it takes away from their playing performances.  Based on the start of 2011 and judging by the numbers, I am convinced that both players are guilty of a lack of focus and drive.  The fact that Jeter has gotten engaged and planning to get married to Kelly says that there is something different about her for him compared to other relationships.  Whatever that it is, I do not see it helping his performance on the field.  As soon as things got serious for Jeter off the field, his play on the field declined.

The Verdict:

My message to Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher is quite simple.  Go rent the movie “Major League 2″ and recall what happened when Ricky Vaughn cut his hair, wore suits, dated an executive and was featured in his own television commercials.  Willy Mays Hayes starred in his own action movie in the offseason and came to camp with a new attitude and approach.  Both players failed miserably and had to go back to basics and lose “the attitude” so to speak to get back to playing at a high level.  Still not convinced?  Take the case of real life baseball players Kris Benson and Cole Hamels.  Each married a celebrity, a model/playmate and reality star respectively and each began to change.  Both became focused on marketing themselves and building their image than playing the game of baseball.  Look a the stats, the numbers do not lie.  I see the same slippery slope for both Jeter and Swisher.  My verdict is that both players are guilty of letting their love lives and off-field careers interfere with their baseball play.  My hope is that both will shape up before it is too late.  At Jeter’s advanced age and rise in the marketing game, he is likely not going to rebound much.  I do not see much hope in his case.  Maybe Swisher stands a chance, but if his acting career does take off, prepare for the new and declining Swisher to hang around.  It goes to show you:  love and baseball do not always mix.

 

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Andre Ethier: Chasing Joe DiMaggio and #56

MLB reports: In the history of baseball, 53 players have been able to achieve a streak of 30+ consecutive games with at least one hit.  Andre Ethier, the 29-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers is ironically sitting as of today on a 29 game hitting streak.  Ethier missed yesterday’s game with elbow inflammation and his team has a day off today.  On Friday, assuming reports are correct that Ethier will play, he will attempt to become player #54 of this exclusive major league club.

The current members of the 30+ consecutive games hitting streak club are as follows:

Hitting Streaks: Players With At Least 1 Hit in At Least 30 Consecutive Games
Rank Year Name Team League Games

1.

1941

Joe DiMaggio (AL Record)

New York

AL 56

2.

1896-1897

Willie Keeler (NL Record)

Baltimore

NL 45

3.

1978

Pete Rose

Cincinnati

NL 44

4.

1894

Bill Dahlen

Chicago

NL 42

5.

1922

George Sisler

St. Louis

AL 41

6.

1911

Ty Cobb

Detroit

AL 40

7.

1987

Paul Molitor

Milwaukee

AL 39

8.

2005-2006

Jimmy Rollins

Philadelphia NL 38

9.

1945

Tommy Holmes

Boston

NL 37
10. 1896-1897 Gene DeMontreville Washington NL 36

11.

1895

Fred Clarke

Louisville

NL 35

 

1917

Ty Cobb

Detroit

AL 35
  1924-1925 George Sisler St. Louis AL 35

 

2002

Luis Castillo

Florida

NL 35
  2006 Chase Utley Philadelphia NL 35

 16.

1938

George McQuinn

St. Louis

AL 34

 

1949

Dom DiMaggio

Boston

AL 34

 

1987

Benito Santiago

San Diego

NL 34

19.

1893

George Davis

New York

NL 33

 

1907

Hal Chase

New York

AL 33

 

1922

Rogers Hornsby

St. Louis

NL 33

 

1933

Heinie Manush

Washington

AL 33
23. 1922-1923 Harry Heilmann Detroit AL 32
  1996-1997 Hal Morris Cincinnati NL 32
25. 1885-1886 Jimmy Wolf Louisville AA 31
  1899

Ed Delahanty

Philadelphia

NL 31

 

1906

Nap Lajoie

Cleveland

AL 31

 

1924

Sam Rice

Washington

AL 31
  1965-1966 Vada Pinson Cincinnati NL 31

 

1969

Willie Davis

Los Angeles

NL 31

 

1970

Rico Carty

Atlanta

NL 31
  1975-1976 Ron LeFlore Detroit AL 31

 

1980

Ken Landreaux

Minnesota

AL 31

 

1999

Vladimir Guerrero

Montreal

NL 31

35.

1876

Cal McVey

Chicago

NL 30
  1895-1896 Dusty Miller Cincinnati NL 30

 

1898

Elmer Smith

Cincinnati

NL 30

 

1912

Tris Speaker

Boston

AL 30
  1922-1923 Charlie Grimm Chicago NL 30
  1927-1928 Lance Richbourg Boston NL 30
  1929-1930 Sam Rice Washington AL 30

 

1934

Goose Goslin

Detroit

AL 30

 

1950

Stan Musial

St. Louis

NL 30

 

1980

George Brett

Kansas City

AL 30

 

1989

Jerome Walton

Chicago

NL 30

 

1997

Sandy Alomar, Jr.

Cleveland

AL 30

 

1997

Nomar Garciaparra

Boston

AL 30

 

1998

Eric Davis

Baltimore

AL 30

 

1999

Luis Gonzalez

Arizona

NL 30

 

2003

Albert Pujols

St. Louis

NL 30
 

2006

Willy Taveras

Houston

NL 30

 

2007

Moises Alou

New York

NL

30

  2009 Ryan Zimmerman Washington NL 30

Rank

Yearn

Name

Team League Games
30+ Game Hitting Streaks | Hitting Streaks Records

Quite the list of the who’s who in baseball.  Pete Rose at 44 and Paul Molitor at 39 are two of the most recent players in recent memory that attempted to break “the record”.  One of the most, if not the most holy records in all of sports, is Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in 1941.  Many players have tried but few have come close to DiMaggio’s magic number.  Consider that six players EVER have hit for 40+ consecutive games and only two have achieved the feat since 1922.  Pete Rose with a 44 game streak back in 1978 and DiMaggio with the record 56 games in 1941.  That’s it.  It’s not like DiMaggio has the record by a short margin either.  Sitting at #2 is Willie Keeler with 45 games between 1896-1897.  A full 11 game difference.  To put the record in another context:  Keeler has the record for 44 years until DiMaggio breaks it.  Now DiMaggio has been the holder for 69 years and counting.  The consecutive games hitting streak record is one that does not fall very often.  Given the pace of DiMaggio’s record, we may never see anyone break it.  Ever.

Pete Rose and Paul Molitor were two of the recent athletes that were approaching “the streak”.  Jimmy Rollins had a 38 game streak between 2005-2006.  From there, Luis Castillo and Chase Utley had 35 games each respectively and Benito Santiago had a 34 game streak back in 1987 (the juiced ball year, as often described by baseball experts).  If you throw out 1987, you would be left with very few modern-day players at the top of the game hitting streaks leaderboard.  23 out of the top 30 streaks occurred before 1970 and the majority were in the early 1900s.  For all the talk of steroids and “cheaters” shattering hitting records, I do not see any of the accused or suspected hitters from recent times on the list.  Barry Bonds as a prime example of a hitter that was considered with a near perfect batting eye in his hey-day…not on the list.  But aside from Bonds, think of Ichiro Suzuki competing for batting titles year-in and year-out.  Not on the list.  John Olerud batting close to .400 for much of 1993…not on the list.  From there, let’s point to some of the greatest hitters of all time.  Stan Musial had a 30 game streak in 1950.  Ty Cobb had a 40 game streak as well as a 35 gamer back in the day.  But…no Ruth.  No Williams.  No Mantle.  No Ripken.  No Puckett.  No Rickey.  For all the accomplishments of so many of these great hitters, hitting the consecutive games leaderboard was not in the cards.  This really starts to put into perspective the difficulty of achieving Dimaggio’s record and how amazing his accomplishment really was back in 1941.

Fast forward to 2011:  Andre Ethier going into Friday’s action is at 29 games.  He is just over halfway the mark to beating DiMaggio’s record.  I have long been an admirer of Ethier’s capabilities on the baseball field and it does not come as a surprise to me that he would reach this point. Ethier has a .295 lifetime AVG with a .367 OBP.  This man knows how to get base hits and to take walks, as he has a great eye at the plate.  A couple of years with 160+ hits is nothing to sneeze at.  With Matt Kemp hitting behind him and still under 30 years of age, the sky is the limit for Ethier.  The talent and tools have always been there and now it is just a matter of putting it together.

With a hit on Friday, Ethier will become only the 54th baseball player EVER to reach at least 30 consecutive games.  If his streak was to end at that point, a pat on the back will be well deserved for a job well done.  In my estimation, anything beyond 30 games will be gravy and good luck to Ethier to try to climb as high up the leaderboard as he can.  But as far as breaking DiMaggio’s record?  Forget it.  Don’t write me off as being pessimistic or anti-Ethier.  Far from it.  I want to paint a realistic picture of what the record means and the hill that Ethier would have to climb.  As already discussed, throughout the history of time, the MLB record books show that few players in our generation have come even remotely close to making a dent in this record book…and for good reason.  As time goes by and the years continue, it will become even more impossible for a hitter to break DiMaggio’s record.  I could shoot out a million reasons, but let me give you my top factors behind Ethier being unable to surpass DiMaggio:

1)  Injuries:  Ethier would need to keep perfect health or close to it, in order to hit in 28 more consecutive games.  Consider that Ethier missed Wednesday’s game with elbow inflammation.  While being fairly durable for most of his career, like most players, Ethier will miss the occasional game to rest his broken down body during a long baseball season.  Few players can play as many consecutive games as Cal Ripken and few would want to.  When Ethier misses a game, the streak stays intact.  But if he ever has to come out of a game after receiving an at-bat, the streak would be broken.  Considering the ailments that he could suffer during a game (including the current elbow issue), the chances of being able to play nine innings in every game and produce at least a hit per game is nearly impossible.

2)  Lineup protection:  Right now the Dodgers offense is based on Kemp, Ethier and hope.  With very little solid hitters surrounding him in the lineup, there is a strong chance that teams will be tempted to pitch around both Kemp and Ethier throughout some games.  We are not looking at a Yankees type lineup where nearly every hitter is an all-star.  Loney, Barajas, Carroll, Uribe and Gwynn are not names that will strike fear into the heart of any opposing pitcher.  With so many opportunities to be pitched around, Ethier will have some games where he will be lucky to see maybe a handful of fastballs.  As the streak would lengthen and with games on the line near the 8th and 9th inning, I would not count on Ethier receiving quality pitches.  If Ethier walks an entire game, the streak remains alive until the next day.  But if Ethier is out at least once or has a sacrifice fly with no hit, the streak would die.  Unless some of his teammates have rebirths at the plate, the odds are against Ethier having enough pitches to hit every game in order to keep his streak alive.

3)  Schedule:  Take the month of May alone.  The Dodgers have games coming up against the Giants, Brewers and Marlins, plus the Phillies in early June.  Ethier may be going up against Lincecum, Cain, Greinke, Johnson, Halladay and Lee.  Some of the best pitchers in baseball, who tend to be very stingy with hits allowed.  Not only are the above named pitchers great, but they are also very proud.  Lincecum and Johnson would have no issue bringing their “A” game and shutting down Ethier for a night.  We are talking powerful pitchers with big egos, which is not the best combination for a hitter attempting to keep a hitting streak alive.  Friday brings Jon Niese and the Mets, which would be considered a good matchup for Ethier.  But not all games are created equally and with a tough schedule ahead and little lineup protection, the odds are against long-term success.

4)  Relief Pitching:  Once upon a time when starting pitchers used to stay out for 150+ pitches per game and pitch complete games, hitters like Ethier had easier chances for a consecutive games hitting streak.  Check again the timing on the above leaderboard and you will see since the dawn of specialized pitchers, the number of hitters that have achieved 30+ consecutive games hitting streaks is miniscule.  This is neither an accident or fluke.  We are in an era where starting pitchers go 5-6 innings per start on average, with specialized 7th and 9th inning relievers, right-handed and left-handed specialists and of course, the closer.  Take Kansas City, that can throw Collins, Crowe, Jeffress in the middle innings of a game and then turn the ball over to Soria.  The Braves have Kimbrel and Venters.  The Reds with Chapman and Cordero.  Keep in mind Ethier bats left.  All opponents will have no problem in throwing out a left-handed specialist in the late innings to get Ethier out in a tight game.  Check out the splits this year:  In 84 at-bats against right-handed pitchers, Ethier has a .429 batting average.  Contrast that to 35 at-bats against lefties and he is hitting to the tune of .229.  The lefty-on-lefty matchup will likely be Ethier’s downfall as he is susceptible to more frequent outs against lefties.  The game as it is set up today allows for fresh, hard-throwing pitchers to enter games in strategic times to neutralize hitters.  Chapman and his 105 mph fastball could end up making or break this streak for Ethier.

5)  Pressure and Luck:  With the turmoil surrounding the Dodgers team ownership, fans and media are clamouring for any feel good story to grab and hold onto.  Ethier is already starting to face a huge amount of pressure in this day and age of internet and instant access (yours truly included) to information and reports for fans.  As the streak continues, the amount of attention faced by Ethier will be mind-boggling and while professionals are supposed to block out distractions, the reality is that baseball players are human like you and I, not machines.  Ethier cannot help but think about the streak as it is brought to his attention and mental can make physical.  If the pressure gets to Ethier in some form, the streak is unlikely to stand a chance.  Combined with luck and chance, Ethier has the odds naturally against him.  Strong contact and well-timed hits can turn into outs based on the defenses that oppose the Dodgers on any given night.  For Ethier to sustain a hitting streak approach DiMaggio’s, he would need lady luck on his shoulders in addition to hard work and strong effort.  They say that some people can be lucky for some of the time. But nobody can be lucky all the time.  Ethier will need the luck with skill to thrive and the fortunes say that luck has to run out on at least one night during Ethier’s run.

My sincere congratulations to Andre Ethier for what he has accomplished to-date.  I will be watching every Dodgers game and Ethier at-bat with interest to see how far he gets.  Nobody would cheer for him louder than me if he could come close to Joe DiMaggio.  While wishful thinking is hopeful that there is a chance, logic and reason dictate that this is likely, if not impossible to happen.  Baseball today is not built the way it used to be and while there are exceptions to the rules, the law of averages tends to win out every time.  I cannot even begin to fathom that Andre Ethier would be able to accomplish what Williams and Ruth never could.  In our lifetime we have seen home run records shatter, baseball crown a new all-time hits king, no-hitters thrown on almost a monthly basis (including 2 by Halladay last year alone, the second in the playoffs nonetheless)…heck, even the saves record fell.  But the legend of Joe DiMaggio and #56 continue to live in the records.  Together with Cy Young and 511 wins, Cal Ripken with 2632 consecutive games played and Pete Rose with 4256 career hits are all records that are virtually impossible to break.  Until Andre Ethier reaches 40+ consecutive games with hits, let’s leave the legend of Joe DiMaggio apart from the equation.  Ethier is on a nice run but has ways to go before coming close to greatness.  Good luck Andre:  all the best from MLB reports! 

 

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 4th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 4, 2011

Q:  Magglio Ordonez said today he is hitting with one leg.  The Tigers should put him on the DL. He looks horrible this year. From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports:  No dispute from my end.  In 77 at bats this year, Ordonez is hitting .169 with a brutal .411 OPS.  No home runs and two RBIs.  Whatever the Tigers need to do to get him off the field, I say go for it.  Ordonez was coming off a decent 2010 campaign, where he hit .303, twelve home runs in 84 games with a .852 OPS.  But at 37 years old, there are few excuses for the once big time slugger who is starting to show his age and wear and tear.  Ordonez was lucky to get a contract with the Tigers for this year, who were planning to let him go after last season.  But his steady numbers warranted one more go around for them.  In my estimation, father time is calling and has Magglio’s number.  With a hurt ankle and pride still on the line, I would like to see Ordonez finish his career on a high note rather than hanging on for too long.  The DL is coming soon and retirement should not be far away from there.

Q:  Most underrated player in the AL? In your opinion?  Mine’s Maicer Izturis.  From Taryn, New Jersey

MLB reports: Izturis is a nice pick, with a .340 average, .897 OPS, 9 runs and 10 RBIs going into today’s action.  My pick is one of my favorite whipping boys, Jeff Francoeur of the Royals.  I am extremely hard on Jeff for his poor eye at the plate.  While he will never be Jose Bautista at the plate, Francouer is experiencing a career renaissance this year.  .315 average, .956 OPS, seven home runs, 23 RBIs and 19 Runs.  Francouer has seven walks to date which is on pace for a career high for him, but his twenty strikeouts are a little alarming.  Overall, Francouer has benefitted from playing with Gordon and Butler and has provided the steady veteran leadership that the team needed.  While I do not expect him to continue this pace, he is by far the most underrated player in the AL in 2011, rising from the scrap heap to glory overnight.

Q:  hows Danny Duffy been doing? What’s his chances of being brought up this year?  From Jory, Parts Unknown

MLB reports:  What a roller coaster this kid has been to-date.  From future game all-star appearance, to leaving camp to considering retirement last year to just coming off Pitcher of the Week honors in AAA.  The 3rd round pick from 2007 has been lights out this year.  In five AAA starts, Duffy is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 6/33 BB/K ratio.  Imagine, 33 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.  Outstanding.  Duffy played in four levels last year and has risen quickly through the Royals system.  At 22 years of age, he has a career 2.51 ERA and 1.093 WHIP.  How he ever feel to the 3rd round is beyond me.  After top prospect Grant Desme left the A’s last year to enter the priesthood and the psychological issues faced by ex-Royal Zack Greinke early in his career, the Royals have to be pleased that Duffy has been so consistently solid to-date. 

Two areas of concern though exist.  Firstly, the Royals will be careful not to bring Duffy up to quickly and burn him out.  They will want to see him excel over a long period in AAA before making the call.  Secondly, he has only pitched 26 innings in five starts and will need to build up his arm strength and endurance to be ready for the majors.  At the pace that Duffy is going and the Royals sitting above .500, the Royals cannot keep Duffy down for much longer.  With Eric Hosmer tearing up AAA as well (see yesterday’s feature), I can see the two top prospects coming to Kansas City at the same time, earliest  by the end of this month and latest July.  Duffy is likely to have little prove at AAA this year and is earning his shot.  Expect him to get it soon.

Q:  With Jesus Montero’s D such an issue, why not let the kid move to DH or 1B and just let him focus on hitting? From Rick, New York

MLB reports:  A good question that many baseball analysts have asked:  What to do with Jesus Montero?  If it were up to me, I would leave at catcher for as long as possible. Here are factors to consider.  The Yankees have one of the best all around first basemen in the game right now, Mark Teixeira who is signed to a long-term deal.  Russell Martin is the current Yankees catcher, who is still young and has turned around his career.  Martin is under team control until 2012 and based on his current play, will possibly be signed to another contract by the Yankees in the future.  The Yankees have additional catching prospects in the wings, Francisco Cervelli, Gary Sanchez and Austine Romine.  With no opening at first base and a logjam at catcher, the only opening appears to be DH.  Here are my thoughts:  Installing Montero as a full-time DH is the worst case scenario.  If the Yankees keep him and do not feel that he is their best option at catcher, DH is already an option.  But to groom him at this point to be a future first baseman or DH doesn’t make sense.  Montero at 21 would have his development stunted by moving from catcher to a non-essential position.  Plus his trade value would plummet. 

The Yankees need a top starting pitcher in the worst way and Jesus Montero is their best shot at one.  Montero’s highest trade value will be at catcher and that is where the Yankees will keep him.  If the defensive position does not work out, Montero could easily transition to first or DH, as these are not difficult areas to adapt to.  But if Montero is to bring strong trade value back for the Yankees or even have a shot as their future catcher, New York must leave him as a catcher in the minors.  After 21 home runs last year in AAA, Montero is currently hitting .373 in his second go-around in AAA.  The 2/16 BB/K ratio is a concern, as his only one home run on the season.  But recall, Montero started off slowly last year and finished the year strong.  The bat was never of concern for Montero and he will continue to hit no matter where he plays defensively.  The key is to maximum his value at this moment.

Q:  Looking at Dodgers minor league players. What do you think of Rubby De La Rosa? From Larry, Laughlin

MLB reports:  We end this week’s e-mailbag with #1 fan Larry, a big Dodgers fan and his finding of Rubby De La Rosa.  The 22-year-old Dominican pitcher is the 90th ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.  After a solid 2010 playing in 2 levels, De La Rosa is back for his first full year in AA.  The numbers are there:  2-1 record in 4 starts, 3.38 ERA and 8/29 BB/K ratio.  The 29 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings is phenomenal, although his 1.359 WHIP is a little high.  In his 5th minor league season, De La Rosa will be brought along slowly and will play most of the year at AA.  I could see him brought to AAA near the end of the year, with a chance to make the Dodgers in 2012.  The kid has a bright future, no doubt.  Baseball America ranks him high on the top prospect list for a reason.  At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, he could stand to fill out a little bit and gain better control.  The sky is the limit, as we could be seeing the next Pedro/Ramon Martinez.  The Dodgers have always been great at finding and developing Dominican pitchers.  De La Rosa should be next in line and provided he stays healthy, should see time in the majors by next year.  Great find Larry, this kid is a keeper.

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On the Verge: Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers, Kansas City Royals

MLB reports:  The long-suffering fans of the Kansas City Royals have reason to celebrate.  Their team has played fairly steady baseball this year, sitting above .500 at 15-13.  The young bullpen has been lights out and Alex Gordon is reborn and hitting the cover off the ball with Billy Butler.  But in the hope, continued promise exists.  The Royals have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and have been ranked number one on many experts lists.  A big reason for the top mark is the three prized hitters looking to graduate to Kansas City in the near future:  Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers.  With so much fanfare and excitement surrounding these top prospects, who are receiving press through MLB circles, let’s take a look at how each player has fared thus far this year: starting with the top prospect, Mike Moustakas.

MIKE MOUSTAKAS

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
OMA PCL .227 22 88 16 20 1 1 4 20 35 9 15 0 0 .299 .398 .69

2011 has not been kind thus far to the third baseman of the future for the Royals.  Moustakas has been walking at a decent clip but striking out far too much for AAA.  His .227 average, to go along with four home runs says that the power is there, but the strike-zone discipline is still developing.  After miscalculating on Alex Gordon, the Royals are by no means in a rush to promote Moustakas to the majors.  Likely to finish below .500 on the season, the Royals are prepared to give Moustakas a full season at AAA with a possible September call-up depending on his progress.  The talent is off the charts and we are looking at a possible forty home run caliber hitter in the future.  But at 22 years old, the former #2 overall pick has time on his side.  Based on his free swinging ways, Moustakas actually ranks third on my list of top Royals prospects.  But he has the most potential for power and with the admiration for the long ball, we will see Moustakas arrive to great fanfare once he gets the call in the next year or so.

ERIC HOSMER

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
OMA PCL .422 24 90 19 38 5 0 2 12 49 16 14 3 0 .505 .544 1.049

At 21 years of age, Hosmer is a year younger than Moustakas but playing at the same level in Omaha.  Hosmer has been the strongest out of the game for the Royals and making the push for an early season call.  With a 16/14 BB/K ratio, 1.049 OPS and .322 Average, the Royals will not be able to keep this future star in the minors for long.  Kila Ka’aihue has not hit much going into May and is looking to wind down his Royals career.  Kila is long considered a AAAA player, too good for AAA but never able to adjust to the majors.  Hosmer is blessed with the same strong batting eye and sweet swing, but will make a stronger impression once he joins the Royals.  The only knock on Hosmer is the two home runs thus far.  But when he is hitting the ball otherwise at the rate that he is, the Royals will be patient in waiting for the power to develop.  A mirror image of Logan Morrison in Florida, Eric Hosmer is my pick for the top Royals prospect, most likely to make the majors this year from this list and a future all-star and batting champion in the making.

 

WIL MYERS

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
NWA TEX .261 12 46 6 12 2 0 2 8 20 3 12 2 1 .300 .435 .735

The youngest player on this list, Myers is playing in AA at the tender age of 20.  Considering his age, the numbers thus far have been decent.  A .261 average combined with two home runs for a teenager can be considered promising.  His 3/12 BB/K ratio and .735 OPS suggests that he remains a work in progress.  A converted catcher, the Royals moved to Myers to the outfield to allow his developing bat a chance to make it to the majors soon.  The Bryce Harper express route as I call it.  Myers, while not quite in the Harper mold, is as solid as they come.  With time, Myers will challenge Moustakas and Hosmer for top spot on the Royals, as the batting eye and power are all within this kid.  He will require time for seasoning and a year or two at AA is not out of the question.  I do not expect the Royals to rush him, as 2013-2014 is the expected time frame for the top Royals prospects to reach the show and play together.  I was hoping for bigger things from Myers this year, but it is early and there is still a lot of baseball to be played.  The key with prospects is to be patient and give them time.  By season’s end, the good ones usually end up rising to the top.

By 2014-2015, imagine a Royals lineup with Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers.  Kansas City is clearly on the rise and building their team in the right mold.  The road to respectability has been a long and painful one for this one perennial successful franchise.  But strong drafts and development has led to a farm that is producing top prospects at a rapid rate.  While Hosmer is likely the first to make the leap, Moustakas and Myers will get there in their own time.  The Royals have decided to manage their farm system in the right manner and not rush and burn out their future stars.  The fans of Kansas City are grateful, as the promised land lies up ahead.

 

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Pujols and Fielder: Where They Will Land in 2012

MLB reports:  There are two seasons in baseball:  the season in itself with games and statistics to analyze and the offseason, with players moves and signings to report and speculate.  I rarely like to combine the two seasons, as fans spend several winter months running through rumors in the winter and are ready for actual baseball come March.  I am often told by fans that the MLB season is meant for playing baseball, not running through free agency analysis.  Yet, I cannot even begin to count the amount of daily requests I receive asking me on where Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will sign in 2012.  We may not want to discuss it in May, but the truth is that two of the biggest (literally) sluggers that the game has ever seen will be entering free agency at the same time this year.  In the back of our minds, we are all curious where each will play.  Today, I will help shed some light on the future of Pujols and Fielder.

As I look into the magic crystal ball, the top contending teams for the services of Pujols and Fielder are as follows:

St. Louis Cardinals

I have said from day one that Pujols is not going anywhere and I am sticking to my guns.  Pujols leaving St. Louis is like the Babe leaving Boston, franchise crippling (for many…many years at least).  The Cardinals, MLB, the fans of St. Louis and even the President of the United States will likely have a say in directing Pujols to re-sign with his current employers.  Pujols will get a huge payday, don’t get me wrong, but he does not seem to be the type to take the largest contract offer on the table.  Plus with Tony LaRussa at the helm, there will many forces at play to keep Sir Albert (aka “The Great Pujols”) in St. Louis.  In the event that the Cardinals lose out on their franchise player, logic dictates that they will make a run at Fielder.  I cannot see a fit here, as location and money does not seem to work for Prince.  I see the bright lights of the big city ahead for Fielder and with a stable of teams gunning for him, he will be a difficult player to sign.

New York Yankees

Any talk of free agency signings begin and end with the Yankees.  They are always a threat to make a run for the top hired guns and often get their way.  The Mark Teixeira signing came out of left field and after losing out on Cliff Lee last year, the Yankees are hungry to add more big names to their roster.  The top target of the Yankees would be Pujols, but I cannot see him fitting in New York.  With a gold glover entrenched at first, Pujols is not and will not sign to be a DH for the balance of his career.  The money might be right, but the position and environment does not suit Sir Albert.  On the other hand, Prince is a logical candidate for New York.  To become the biggest name in baseball, Prince would love to perform on its biggest stage and there is none bigger than New York.  Like his dad before him, Prince would look great in pinstripes.  Given the strained relationship between father and son, I could see Prince having an added incentive to perform better than his dad did with the Yankees.  I am not sure how Prince will take to being a DH but with age, weight and injuries all becoming a risk, I could see Prince getting off the field as a huge bonus for his career.  Posada is on the last year of his contract (and leg of his career) and a DH spot is about to open up in New York.  But if Prince is determined to keep his glove, then all bets are off.

Kansas City Royals

This team probably comes as a shock to  you.  Before you start with the angry messages, think about some factors.  I had considered this team in the past, but a limited budget and winning prospects left me with many doubts.  But after reading some articles on the subject, I began to be swayed.  Pujols went to school in the area.  Pujols met his wife in Kansas City.  Everyone supposedly wants to come home…and perhaps Pujols is the same.  The move to the Royals would not be far from his current location.  The Royals are a team on the rise with the best farm system in baseball.  The signing of Pujols could instantly bring the team to respectability.  Even though top prospect Eric Hosmer plays first and Billy Butler is the DH, positions can be realigned for Pujols.  The signing of Pujols could be the missing link that the Royals need and I can see this signing as a real possibility.  I will give the Royals a 10% chance at best at signing Pujols, but that is 10% better than most teams.  As far as Fielder goes, don’t even think about it, Pujols and the Royals are a one-time match only.

San Francisco Giants

The World Series champs have several factors going for them.  Money in the bank.  Great attendance numbers and incredible pitching.  Somehow the Giants won it all in 2010 with weak hitting but if they hope to get back to the fall classic, they will need better hitting.  They don’t come better or bigger than Pujols or Fielder.  Both players are solid fits for the Giants.  Signing with the Giants allows either player to stay in the NL.  The ballpark should not be a factor as Pujols and Fielder could launch home runs in San Diego if required.  The requirement for offense means the Giants will push heavily to sign one of these guys.  Since I see Pujols back in St. Louis, I will not give him much of a chance of signing here.  But that being said, it is one of the only credible possibilities.  Prince is more likely than Pujols to jump to San Francisco and enjoy the weather and admiration of becoming the next Barry Bonds, sans the steroids.  Again unlikely, but one of the only true landing spots for either slugger.

Toronto Blue Jays

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  The Blue Jays have money in the bank and a team on the rise.  They shed the huge Vernon Wells contract and despite paying Jose Bautista a king’s ransom, still have room in the budget for the right superstar.  Possibly.  Let’s not even discuss Pujols here.  It is not going to happen as I cannot see a fit for him in terms of market and team.  But Prince Fielder is another story.  Cecil made his professional debut with the Jays and Prince knows the city well.  I remember Prince as a youngster coming to Toronto and hitting home runs at BP when Cecil was with the Tigers.  The Jays have a first baseman in Adam Lind that can rotate first and DH with Prince.  Together with Jose Bautista, the Jays would have two of the biggest boppers in the game in their lineup.  The Rogers Centre, being the launching pad that it is, could see over fifty home runs for Fielder.  All the chips could be in place for a Toronto signing in Prince’s future.  The issues that I see are that Toronto is not a large enough market, may not hand out the biggest contract, Canadian taxes/visa issues in the minds of players and strength of team on the field.  The Jays would be an underdog to sign Fielder, but one of few teams that has the resources and the incentives to lure him away from Milwaukee.

One team that is missing from the discussion is the Milwaukee Brewers, Fielder’s current team.  They have been omitted for good reason.  The team does not have the finances to sign Prince and does not appear to have the resources to sign either slugger to a long-term contract.  With Braun, Weeks, Greinke all locked up, the Brewers are tapped out from the mega-dollars that both sluggers seek.  Other teams like the Cubs, Angels and Orioles have the money but do not have the market and/or lineups that Pujols and Fielder will be seeking.  The Mets and Dodgers are having ownership issues that will likely limit or eliminate their ability during the next free agency period.  So with that being said, the truth is that anything can happen.  As we saw last year with Cliff Lee, who went to the Phillies and Mark Teixeira signing with the Yankees before, a mystery team can always emerge.  But based on my evaluation and analysis, if you needed a final prediction from me:  Pujols to Cardinals, Fielder to Yankees.  Final answer.

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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