Monthly Archives: August 2011

Adam Dunn: The Future of the White Sox Slugger

Wednesday August 31, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Not every player can fit onto a particular MLB team.  That is a baseball reality.  In fact, there are very few, if any players that could produce the same statistics playing for any team.  A player’s production is based on many factors, including home park, lineup, adaptability to particular cities and so on.  When a team trades for a player or signs a free agent, the hope is that the new player will be able to meet or exceed previous production levels on a new team.  Sometimes, the hope is that new environment will revitalize a stagnant player and breath new life into them.  In the case of Adam Dunn, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a free agent contract last year.  A large deal, 4 years for $56 million dollars.  A fair deal in my estimation at the time.  The White Sox by signing Dunn were hoping to land an established slugger to fit in the middle of their lineup.   What they ended up with was quite different.

Take a look at Adam Dunn’s current production in comparison to his career numbers:

  BA HR RBI     OBP
Regular Season .163 11 40       .290  
Career .244 365 920     .374  

To say that Adam Dunn has been anything but a disaster since his arrival in Chicago would be an understatement.  Prior to 2011, Dunn’s worst season produced an .819 OPS.  That was in 2003, his 2nd full season in the majors that was cut short by injuries.  Turn the clock and Adam Dunn sits with a .578 OPS this season with no likelihood of redemption.  While some pointed to Dunn playing in a new league for the first time and starting off slow, a turnaround was expected at some point this season.  Dunn has actually regressed to the point that he is benched by manager Ozzie Guillen at a frequent rate.  A sad state of affairs for one of the game’s previously most consistent sluggers.

For a two-year stretch, from 2003-2008, Adam Dunn was a 40 home runs and 100 walks guy.  In his last two seasons, Dunn played in a less than friendly hitters park in Washington and still hit 38 home runs per season.  Moving to the White Sox, expectations were that playing in a hitter’s park with a deep lineup would produce possible MVP type numbers for the burly slugger.  So what happened?  Why the sharp regression?

Part of the issue has been the move to the American League.  The adjustment has not worked for some hitters and we have seen NL hitters in the past that cannot play in the AL for whatever reason.  Glenn Davis is one famous example that comes to mind, who moved from Houston to Baltimore and literally fell apart overnight.  Dunn also is a full-time DH for the first time in his career.  Some hitters never take as well to moving off the field and into a DH role, citing inactivity and removal from the full game experience as distractions from their hitting.  Given though Dunn’s perceived weak fielding, at both first base and the outfield, a move to DH should have been a welcome change for him.  Yet the move was another factor in his year-long slump.

The main culprit in my estimation is the fit, or lack of in Chicago.  Perhaps it is the city, or the ballpark, teammates, media or his relationship with the manager.  Whatever the reason, I ultimately believe that Adam Dunn and the White Sox simply do not mesh more than anything else.  While  a return to the field and/or the National League may help, first and foremost Dunn needs to get out of Chicago and start fresh. 

I think of Chone Figgins and his move from the Angels to the Mariners.  Despite staying in the same division even, Figgins was never able to meet expectations in Seattle and regressed throughout his time with the Mariners.  Had he stayed in Anaheim, the chances are higher that Figgins would have continued playing his game and not transformed into a shell of his former self.  Carl Crawford in Boston and Jayson Werthin Washington are players that also signed big-ticket deals and also stayed in their respective divisions, yet faltered in the wake of big contract expectations.  But the difference with Crawford and Werth is that they have shown some glimpses of life this season, while Dunn has shown none.  I fully expect Crawford at least to be able to make the necessary adjustments and rebound by next season.  In Dunn’s case, I do not see that happening without a trade.

Nick Swisher is a situation that I will point to as an example.  From the moment Swisher was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, nothing went right.  After suffering through the worst season of his career in Chicago, Swisher was traded to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and blossomed in New York.  The same will likely occur to Dunn.  A move to the Yankees is a possibility, for a high-profile team that can afford to take on or part of most of Dunn’s salary.  A trade for a bad contract is another one, with the Cubs for Zambrano or Giants for Zito as possibilities.  Better yet, a move to the Angels could also be the answer.  With Mike Trout ready to join an outfield of Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, the Angels may not have room for failed trade acquisition Vernon Wells.  The White Sox could plug Wells into their outfield and Angels use Dunn to replace Bobby Abreu as DH.  A long shot, but certainly a possibility.

No one can be sure if this season is an outlier or an indication of the beginning of the end for Adam Dunn.  Based on his strong body of work until this year, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that a rebound will occur.  The White Sox might wait it out and give Dunn another shot next year.  But then GM Kenny Williams has never been the patient type.  After moving Swisher very quickly, I expect the White Sox to do the same with Dunn.  This would be a classic buy-low situation for another MLB club.  Expect many calls on Dunn in the offseason and a new team by 2012.  Despite Dunn indications of having retirement thoughts due to his poor season, I cannot see him going down in this manner.  Adam Dunn will be back.  The only question is where.

  

 

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MLB Home Run Leaders: A Look at the Leaderboard

Monday August 29, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are coming to the last month of the MLB season.  Readers are often requesting updates as to the hone run leaders and to handicap who will be the leading sluggers by year’s end.  Taking a look at the current top 10 home run hitters in baseball, we find many familiar faces and some surprises.  Here is our updated look at the mashers and bombers of baseball:

 

T-1:  Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees (38)

Oh yes.  The Grandyman can.  The baseball world has gone Granderson crazy.  From what appeared to be a hitter on the decline when he joined New York, Curtis Granderson has reinvented himself into an MVP candidate in 2011.   Watching Curtis in Detroit, most expected him to be a 20 something home run hitter at most.  Imagine that he has already hit 38 home runs with a month to go.  It goes to show that baseball can be a very unpredictable sport and that New York still has the power to create miracles.  I do not expect to see him on this board for the next five years, but for 2011 at least, Granderson has shot up to the top of the baseball mountain.

 

T-1:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (38)

A regular on this list all season, Bautista has picked up from where he left off last season.  While unable to maintain the Ruthian pace he was on in the first half of the season, Bautista has maintained his strong numbers throughout the year.  With his 38 home runs, Bautista has already walked 107 times and has a 1.098 OPS.  MVP voters will have much to consider at the ballots this year.

 

3rd:  Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (35)

There are some certainties in life.  Death, taxes and Teixeira home runs.  This man is as steady as they come and despite the lack of flash and glitter, he always seems to get the job done.  No surprise to see him this high up on the list.  Teixeira is simply money in the bank.  You never have to worry about him.

 

T-4:  Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (31)

For all the talk of doom and gloom, Albert Pujols still made the top five list.  A “down” season for Sir Albert is a .895 OPS and 31 home runs.  Numbers that most players would die for, but not anywhere close to his high standards.  As an impending free agent, I fully expect Pujols to remain in St. Louis.  But with his statistics not at his norm, the Cardinals might be able to sign him at a slightly more realistic price tag.  $22 million per season rather than $25 million perhaps.

 

T-4:  Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (31)

Matt Kemp, or Baby Manny as he was called as a young prospect (the second coming of Manny Ramirez) has blossomed this year.  Together with his 31 home runs, Kemp has already driven in 100, has a .964 OPS and a .320 AVG.  Getting much press as a NL MVP candidate, Kemp is finally beginning to fulfill on the potential he had shown in his career leading up to this season.  People thought for some time he was good, but I don’t think many expected such a strong campaign.  A young player on the rise, Kemp might only be scratching the surface on many productive seasons to come.

 

T-4:  Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles (31)

Our generation’s Rob Deer keeps plugging away with the long balls.  Reynolds has a respectable 31 home runs thus far, but have come with a whopping 157 strikeouts.  More disturbing though his .226 AVG.  An all-or-nothing slugger throughout his career, Reynolds is not showing any signs of improvement.  The signs are showing for him to bounce around baseball, eventually ending up as a platoon player or even to Japan.

 

T-7:  Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins (30)

One of the youngest and brightest stars in the game, Stanton has exploded in Florida in a big way.  Heralded as the next Dave Winfield, Stanton has not disappointed in 2011.  With 30 home runs to go along with a .889 OPS, Stanton is showing that the promise and hype is for real.  Rumored to be requested by the White Sox as part of the Marlins hoping to land Ozzie Guillen as a manager, the Marlins are surely happy they held onto their young slugger.  Together with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, expect Stanton to blossom into a top ten player in baseball very soon.

 

T-7:  Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (30)

Once considered a top hitter in the game, Berkman had many question marks surrounding him after a down season last year.  While many analysts thought the Cardinals were taking a risk by signing him, the Cardinals brass were confident in Berkman’s ability to rebound.  Back in the NL Central and surrounded by Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, Berkman has not disappointed.  With 30 home runs, 77/75 BB/K, .289 AVG and .975 SLG, Berkman is getting MVP consideration as well as a lock as the NL Comeback Player of the Year.  While Berkman cannot continue like this forever, expect at least 1-2 more solid seasons out of the seasoned veteran.

 

T-7:  Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (30)

What a journey Uggla took this year.  With a .232 AVG, one expect Uggla to be considered to be having an off-year.  But with 30 home runs a 33-game hitting streak, Uggla has had his moments this year.  Considered one of the best hitting second basemen in the game, power is a big part of Uggla’s repertoire.  While the rest of the numbers are down, the long balls have remained constant.  With his first year on a new team out of the way, expect a rebound from Uggla next season.

 

T-10:  Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (29)

Considered to be one of the biggest prizes in the offseason free agent derby, Prince Fielder is having a fantastic campaign for the Brewers.  Together with his 29 home runs, Fielder scored 81 runs, driven in 102, has 87/84 BB/K and hit .295, with a .955 OPS.  The questions on people’s minds is whether he will stay in Milwaukee and if the biggest free agent contract this year will go to Fielder or Pujols.  With Scott Boras as his agent, my money is on Fielder moving to greener pastures and commanding the top contract as a free agent.  Together with Ryan Braun, Fielder gives the Brewers a strong team going into the playoffs in what is likely his last season in Milwaukee.  Although number ten on this list, Fielder has shown the consistency this season to be considered one of the top hitters in the NL this season.

 

 

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Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News

 

Sunday August 28, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and opinions:

First our condolences to the Flanagan family, as the baseball world learned of the loss of ex-Orioles and Jays pitcher Mike Flanagan.  Mike was a baseball lifer, having played the game and remained active as a coach, broadcaster and executive.  The part of the ordeal that makes the story most tragic is how quickly speculation and then reports surfaced that his death was a suicide.  In this age of social media, it is difficult to impossible to mask the facts behind a story.   When rumors begin that are untrue, it is then often too difficult to bury them when they are later proven untrue.  Once a story is put out into the world on the internet, it often remains there in people’s minds, if fact or faction.  So when we think of Mike Flanagan, let’s remember him for the star pitcher that he was in the later 1970s and all the contributions he made to the game in all different capacities.  Without having walked in his shoes, none of us could ever understand what was in his mind and the factors that led to his unfortunate passing.  We cannot change the past.  So when remembering Mike Flanagan, let’s remember him for his role in the game and not for the manner in which he passed away.  I’m sure the Flanagan family would want it that way.

From a sad story to a literally bizarre tale, Lenny Dykstra is in the news once again.  And for all the wrong reasons, again.  The former World Series hero for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies apparently was arrested for soliciting women on Craig’s List for fake jobs and then exposing himself to them.  Looking to hire women for roles such as assistants and cleaning women, Nails according to reports has hit a new low.  Once heralded as a business genius in business magazines, for his many business ventures including a string of car washes, Dykstra is now bankrupt and at the bottom of the barrel.  I had a reader write in that questioned why ex-players like Dykstra and Flanagan pull stunts to get themselves into the news and cannot get away from the limelight.  After my jaw dropped and blood boiled, I took some time to think about this comment.  Overall, my response is that there is a difference between Flanagan, Dykstra and a publicity hound like Jose Canseco.  Mike Flanagan passed in an unfortunate manner, but I think any reasonable person would not associate his death with a publicity stunt.  Flanagan was a troubled soul but in no way looking for attention.  Rather he was moving away from attention, likely looking for peace.  To say that Flanagan was seeking publicity is extremely disrespectful to his legacy and family that was left behind.  In the case of Dykstra, if the recent allegations are true, I also do not believe that he was seeking attention.  To commit such crude and strange acts indicates that the man is disturbed and in need of professional assistance.  Perhaps in some ways it is a cry for help, in other ways he may just have a giant ego and believes that he can do whatever he wants without repercussions.  But it is extremely unlikely that Dykstra was hoping his actions would be publicized to the world and bring his name back to the spotlight.  In a way it all comes back to Jose Canseco.  In his truest form, Canseco only acts in a manner so that he will get his name into the public spotlight.  From reality shows, boxing matches, independent baseball games, tell all books etc, Canseco’s singular purpose is to get attention.  So while there are many ex-athletes out there in the world, let’s not all be so quick to group them into the Jose Canseco category.  Some may have troubles, some may keep clean and we will never hear about them.  But just because a story emerges about an ex-MLB player, let’s not be so quick to think that all of them are publicity hounds.  Some want the exact opposite and enjoy their private time since their careers have finished.

 Don’t look now Texas Rangers fans, but the Angels are hot on the heels of your team.  The Rangers’ lead in the AL West is down to a mere 2.0 games with the Angels suddenly on fire.  In their last 10 games respectively, the Rangers are 3-7 while the Angels are a mirror opposite 7-3.  With the teams set to face-off today against each other, the gap could close even more.  It seems that the Angels have caught fire at the right time, while the Rangers have cooled off.  The Rangers are still scoring runs at a large clip, as they normally do in August in Arlington.  But while the Rangers pitching is starting to fall short, the Angels pitching is on fire.  Led by dual aces Jeff Weaver and Dan Haren, the Angels pitching looks unstoppable at this point.  The Rangers will be tough to beat, with one of the best offenses in baseball led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Mike Napoli.  They also have a very deep end of the bullpen led by closer Neftali Feliz.  But as the San Francisco Giants showed last year, strong pitching can beat good hitting to win at all.  The Rangers have the bats and the Angels have the arms.  While the Angels have some good bats, including Torii Hunter and Mike Trumbo, they are nowhere close to the level of the Rangers.  It will be an AL West dogfight right to the end of the season.  Baseball fans everywhere look forward to the September AL West showdown.

I read a really good article this week on the Sports Illustrated site.  It was a look at the large contract signed by Jered Weaver and the Angels and analyzing the rationale behind it.  The article made many strong points that I wanted to touch upon.  While many analysts have argued that Weaver left tens of millions of dollars on the table, such is not always the case.  Looking at the worst case scenarios of such a deal, the article brought up the Carlos Zambrano deal in Chicago and Brandon Webb not signing a contract with the Diamondbacks.  Zambrano signed at the time a “team friendly” deal which the Cubs are now working very hard to get out of.  On the flip side, Brandon Webb did not end up signing a long-term deal in Arizona and ended up getting hurt and costing himself millions.  I would throw in as well the failure of Nomar Garciaparra to sign a long-term deal with Boston that ended up costing him millions due to later injuries suffered and likely saving the team in the long run.  In the case of starting pitchers, you never know when one will get injured and waiting until free agency could result in injuries and lost wages overall.  So while some view Weaver as having lost millions, others could look at it as gained millions and take the sure road to a rich contract and not gambling on what the future could bring.  The bottom line is that Weaver is comfortable where he is and being paid handsomely to play the game he loves at home.  Both the team and player are happy with the deal and everyone wins as a result.  If Weaver gets injured or falters, the player will look as the victor.  If Weaver dominates over the next five years, the team will appear as coming ahead.  Without looking into a crystal ball, we will say that this was a fair deal for a player not yet eligible for free agency and we will call it a tie.  As Chone Figgins in Seattle, Adam Dunn in Chicago and Jeff Weaver also in Seattle can attest, the highest dollar isn’t necessarily the best one for a baseball career.  Staying in a productive situation can often best further a baseball career and lead to the most years played and quite often, the most dollars overall earned as a result.

Finally, one of our favorite baseball topics:  prospects.  From the explosion in exposure of the MLB draft to the countless websites devoted to tracking baseball prospects, baseball fans are hot on the heels of future “stars’ like never before.  In addition to the social media available reporting on prospects, teams have pressure to develop and call-up prospects at a quicker pace due to the dollar amounts involved.  With top prospects earning bigger bonuses than seen back in the day, executives are feeling the heat to rushing these bonus babies to the majors.  So the combination of big bucks and fan pressure is resulting in prospects climbing early to the majors at very young ages.  So while Brett Lawrie may appear to be an early success for the Jays, teammate Travis Snider has failed to reach his potential yet and is doing the trek from the minors to the majors and back.  Alex Gordon similarly came to the majors with a mountain of expectations and took many years to develop.  Colby Rasmus burnt out in St. Louis for many reasons and found his way to Toronto.  Matt LaPorta was traded by the Brewers to the Indians in the C.C. Sabathia trade and has failed to live up to Indians’ fans expectations thus far.  But on the flip side we see a Paul Goldschmidt come up with the Diamondbacks with little fanfare around the majors and find success.  We can look at hit and miss prospects all day, but my point is as follows.  Baseball prospects take the longest to develop out of all the major sports.  While the NBA and NFL do not have a minor league system per say and the NHL has one minor league level, Major League Baseball has several minor league stops.  It is rare to impossible for a baseball prospect to make it to the show without spending time in the minors.  While most baseball prospects realistically need 2-4 years in the minors to develop their game, many top prospects are being rushed like never before.  I do not see this as a positive in the game and in many cases a hinderance to the development of the players.  But with the baseball media machine at full blast and money being thrown at top prospects at record high levels, I cannot see the rushing of top prospects stopping any time soon.  But I think we all need to step away for a moment and really think about what is best for these players careers.  For every Brett Lawrie, there will be hundreds of failed prospects that will take time to develop.  Alex Gordon this year is one of the few lucky ones, that has been able to turn around his career.  But it took a position change and many failed attempts to get to this point.  Analyzing and watching prospects is one of my guilty habits, I will admit it.  I just hope that major league teams will give their top prospects the tools and ability to succeed, rather than set them up for failure.  It is a fine line and one that many teams are still learning to walk on.

 

 

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Edgar Martinez Should Be Inducted Into Cooperstown: Future Mariners Hall of Famer

Friday August 26, 2011

 

Sam Evans (Intern Candidate- MLB reports):  When you think of the most consistent hitters during the 1990’s, most people think of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.  One name that always gets overlooked is Edgar Martinez.  He had a .312 career batting average, reached base more than 40% of the time, has never has been linked to steroids, and he arguably saved baseball in Seattle for years to come.

Some of the arguments against Edgar being in the Hall of Fame are that he hardly played in the field, was not a superstar, never won a world series, and that his numbers just aren’t good enough.  As a Mariners fan, I definitely have bias but I’ll try to explain why I think Edgar should legitimately be in the Hall of Fame.  First of all, if his numbers aren’t good enough, why was Andre Dawson’s statistics enough for him to be voted into the hall of fame?  Let’s compare the two hitters:

Edgar (Career) .312/.418/.515. Wins Above Replacement (courtesy of fangraphs.com): 69.9

Andre Dawson: .279/.323/.482 Wins Above Replacement: 62.3 

What’s the difference between these two?  The Hawk is in the Hall of Fame, which Dawson deserved.  Other Hall-of-Famers with a lower WAR than Edgar are Harmon Killebrew, Dennis Eckersley, and Jackie Robinson.  There are over 230 former MLB players in the Hall of Fame.  I think it’s amazing that Edgar is not one of them.

After Edgar missed the 1994 season due to injury, he became the Mariners full-time designated hitter.  He would go on to be the Mariners starting DH for the next ten years.  When asked how that would affect his Hall of Fame chances, Edgar replied, “There are a lot of different opinions about it.  What I think is that the DH makes a daily contribution to the team, just like any position player who plays every day.”  In 1973, major league baseball instituted the Designated Hitter as a real position.  So why should this prevent a primary DH from ever reaching Cooperstown?

In his first season as a DH, Martinez won his second American League batting title, hitting .356 with an OBP of .479 and a slugging percentage of .628.  Hall of famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays never had a season with an OBP over .425.  It is my estimation that Martinez wasn’t a superstar across the baseball scene because of where he played.  If he played in New York, chances are it wouldn’t be this hard for him to get into Cooperstown.  The low light of Edgar’s career is definitely though that he never won a World Series championship.  Superstars that win the big one tend to be favored in the eyes of Cooperstown voters.

During the 1995 season the city of Seattle fell in love with the Mariners.  After having just two winning seasons in their first sixteen years, Edgar and Ken Griffey Jr. led the Mariners to a 79-66 record.  In the 1995 ALDS series between the Mariners and the Yankees, Edgar reached base 2/3 of the time and had two game winning hits.  On October, 8, 1995, with the series tied 2-2, the Mariners battled back to score two runs and send the game into extra innings.  After the eighth inning, the crowd started chanting “Randy! Randy! Randy!”  Finally Lou Piniella gave in and Randy Johnson walked out to the mound to Welcome to the Jungle booming through the Kingdome’s outdated speakers.  However in the top of the eleventh tragedy struck.  A walk, bunt, and single put the Yankees in the lead, and with their stud pitcher  Jack McDowell coming in to pitch the M’s chances looked pretty slim.  With runners on first and third, Edgar ended up hitting a double down the left field line to win the series for the M’s.  The Mariners were eliminated in the ALCS at the end by the Indians, but the effect of Edgar’s hit had MLB fans everywhere truly excited about Mariners baseball for the first time ever.

The thing is that he wasn’t just successful in the playoffs; Martinez won Seattle one of the more beautiful MLB ballparks, Safeco Field.  Two months earlier, 50.1% of King county voters voted NO on a $410 million proposal for a new stadium, to keep the Mariners in Seattle.  The state legislature later approved a new stadium for the Mariners, mainly due to public pressure.  This led people to think what would have happened if it weren’t for Edgar’s clutch hit.

Edgar was known for his great batting eye, which resulted from a series of drills before every game he utilized to improve it.  He also gave back to the community by founding the Martinez foundation, which helps give minorities’ access to proper education.  When Edgar retired in 2004, Paul Molitor said, “He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league.  The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was.”

In 2010, Edgar’s first year eligible for the hall, he received 36.2% of the BBWAA votes.  Martinez  missed the 75% cutoff.  This year he received 32.9 % of the vote.  Who knows if Edgar will ever be in the Hall of Fame, this year definitely wasn’t encouraging.  But in Bert Blyleven’s (elected in 2011, after 14 years of eligibility) second year on the ballot, he received only 14.1% of votes.  So there is reason for optimism.  Whether Edgar ever makes it to Cooperstown or not, he will always be a hero to Mariners fans and one of the best pure hitters in major league history.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by one of our intern candidates, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

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Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob 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 onFacebook .  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.

RIP Mike Flanagan: Former MLB Pitcher with Orioles and Jays Passes Away

Wednesday August 24, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are sad to report that Mike Flanagan, ex-MLB pitcher was found dead in Baltimore County today.  Flanagan was 59 years of age.  While the news is still trickling in, it is currently being reported that Flanagan’s body was found on a trail near his home.  The body has just been recently identified as being that of Mike Flanagan.  After some distresses relating to finances, Flanagan apparently took his own life.  A very spirited baseball man, Flanagan was a beloved figure in the sport and his death has sent shock waves through the baseball community.  Mike Flanagan devoted his life to baseball and we are all very saddened by the new of his passing.

Mike Flanagan was originally a 7th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1973.  Flanagan spent 18 productive seasons in baseball, with 15 coming in Baltimore.   In addition to pitching for the Orioles, Flanagan spent part of 4 years with the Blue Jays.  Although he pitched only a short time in Toronto, Flanagan’s name is still tossed around as one of the all-time favorite Jays pitchers.  Such is the effect this man had on pitching.  But Flanagan will forever be linked with the Baltimore Orioles, the club that he came up with and ultimately retired from.  Here is a look at the career numbers of Mike Flanagan:

 

Year Tm W L ERA IP BB SO WHIP
1975 BAL 0 1 2.79 9.2 6 7 1.552
1976 BAL 3 5 4.13 85.0 33 56 1.365
1977 BAL 15 10 3.64 235.0 70 149 1.298
1978 BAL 19 15 4.03 281.1 87 167 1.273
1979 BAL 23 9 3.08 265.2 70 190 1.186
1980 BAL 16 13 4.12 251.1 71 128 1.389
1981 BAL 9 6 4.19 116.0 37 72 1.250
1982 BAL 15 11 3.97 236.0 76 103 1.309
1983 BAL 12 4 3.30 125.1 31 50 1.324
1984 BAL 13 13 3.53 226.2 81 115 1.297
1985 BAL 4 5 5.13 86.0 28 42 1.500
1986 BAL 7 11 4.24 172.0 66 96 1.424
1987 TOT 6 8 4.06 144.0 51 93 1.382
1987 BAL 3 6 4.94 94.2 36 50 1.458
1987 TOR 3 2 2.37 49.1 15 43 1.236
1988 TOR 13 13 4.18 211.0 80 99 1.422
1989 TOR 8 10 3.93 171.2 47 47 1.357
1990 TOR 2 2 5.31 20.1 8 5 1.770
1991 BAL 2 7 2.38 98.1 25 55 1.108
1992 BAL 0 0 8.05 34.2 23 17 2.106
18 Seasons 167 143 3.90 2770.0 890 1491 1.334
162 Game Avg. 12 10 3.90 203 65 109 1.334
  W L ERA IP BB SO WHIP
BAL (15 yrs) 141 116 3.89 2317.2 740 1297 1.323
TOR (4 yrs) 26 27 3.94 452.1 150 194 1.393

 

Flanagan made his major league debut in 1975.  He started to come into his own in 1978, with a 19 win season and 4.03 ERA, to go along with his only all-star game appearance.  The real breakthrough came in 1979, when Flanagan won 23 games, with a  3.08 ERA and a whopping 190 strikeouts.  Flanagan that year won the AL Cy Young award, in addition to finishing 6th in the AL MVP voting.  Flanagan played in the World Series in 1979 with the Orioles, losing to the Pirates.  The Orioles and Flanagan were back though in 1983, beating the Phillies to win the World Series.  In 1987, Mike Flanagan was traded to the Jays for hurlers Oswaldo Pereza and Jose Mesa.  Flanagan played in the ALCS with the Jays in 1989, his final MLB playoff appearance.  In 1991, Flanagan re-signed with the Orioles as a free agent and he continued with the Orioles until retiring in 1992.  Mike Flanagan and the Baltimore Orioles will forever be linked in baseball history.  Flanagan spent the majority of his career in Baltimore, the sight of his greatest baseball triumphs. 

Following his retirement from the game, Flanagan continued in Baltimore in many capacities.  In addition to serving in the broadcast booth, Flanagan served as the Orioles pitching coach, as well as Vice-President/Co-GM (unofficially with Jim Duquette).  The man gave his heart and soul to the city of Baltimore and was a beloved sports figure in the eyes of the Orioles fans.   It is a tragedy when the MLB family loses one of its members and today we have lost a great one in Mike Flanagan.  We will remember Mike for his time in the game, as a player, broadcaster, coach and executive.  I had the pleasure of watching Mike pitch on many occasions.  He was a gamer.  Flanagan always gave it his all and was a steady presence on every pitching staff that he played with.  We thank Mike Flanagan for the memories and remember him fondly on this very sad day.

 

 

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Diamondbacks and Blue Jays Swap Second Basemen: Hill and McDonald for Johnson

Tuesday August 23, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the middle of a pennant race in the National League West, and yet made a change with their second baseman, Kelly Johnson.  Statistics show that Johnson had been underperforming this year, and GM Kevin Towers said he wanted better defense and infield depth.  With that in mind, Towers got a hold of Toronto Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos to inquire on super utility infielder John McDonald.  McDonald can play 2B, SS, and 3B at an above average level, although he doesn’t do much with the bat. With regular shortstop Stephen Drew lost for the season due to injury, the D’Backs have been forced to start Willie Bloomquist the majority of the games in his absence.  That led to talks involving Toronto’s longest tenured player, second baseman Aaron Hill.  The end result was Arizona acquiring Aaron Hill and John McDonald, with Kelly Johnson going to Toronto.

Aaron Hill had a terrific start to his career, which so far has peaked in 2009 when he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI.  He was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner that year.  He plays good defense and is a well-liked guy in the clubhouse.  His contract situation is an iffy one, in that he has 2 option years left worth $8M each.  By the end of 2009, it would have been a lock that those options would have been picked up, however, 2010 and 2011 have not been so kind to Hill.  Last year he hit .205 with a walk rate of only 7.1%.  He at least was able to club 26 home runs, which are numbers he has not been able to replicate this year.  Hill in 2011 is walking in 5.4% of his plate appearances, and has only 6 home runs to go along with his paltry .225 average.

McDonald is arguably the most beloved player in Toronto, after Jose Bautista.  He routinely gets standing ovations, and this writer can proudly say one of his favourite moments in MLB history was watching McDonald hit a home run in his first at bat after missing a few games.  The significance was that his father had just passed away, and McDonald promised to hit a home run for him.  So on Father’s Day of 2010, McDonald crushed a home run over the left field wall.  The teary-eyed McDonald crossed the plate and was embraced by every member of the Blue Jays.  McDonald is a phenomenal defender, often used as a pinch runner in key situations, but doesn’t hit much. In his 13 seasons, he has only 21 home runs, with 12 of them coming in his last 3 seasons.   His value comes as a player that will give everything for his team, playing every position imaginable and making highlight reel plays.

Johnson is only a season removed from a .284/.370/.496 slash line, and although scouts often say his defense is sub par, the advanced metrics tell a different story.  His UZR was 7.1 last year, and 3.9 this year, where 0 is average.  Johnson’s production, like Hill, has fallen off the table.  He is still hitting home runs; 18 this year compared to 26 last year.  He takes walks, just under 11% for his career.  But his main problem has been the strikeouts.  This year has been worse than usual, as he has struck out in over 27% of his plate appearances.  Johnson’s line drive rate is just a tick below his career numbers, so his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) being 50 points lower than his career average is probably a good indicator of why his numbers are so low.

All three players are free agents at season’s end.   McDonald and Hill both said during their press conference today that they are very open to returning to Toronto in 2012.  Until then, the Diamondbacks will look to add to their 1.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants with this move.  Should they be propelled to the playoffs, it is likely that an infield of Hill, McDonald, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Roberts (all former Blue Jays) could face off against another former Jay in Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.

This deal seems strange from a Diamondbacks perspective, as Hill is a downgrade from Johnson, even with the poor season Johnson has been having in 2011.  The amount of upside the Dbacks get from having McDonald over Bloomquist at shortstop is completely negated by this downgrade.  However, the Dbacks get two great clubhouse characters, who will surely help the club defensively and in teaching the younger players.  For the Blue Jays, this trade makes complete sense.  Johnson is currently set to be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, and with a hot streak, could become a Type A.  As a Type B, he would net the team a supplemental draft pick if he signs a major league deal with another team.  But if Johnson reaches Type A status this offseason, he will also net a first round pick on top of the supplemental pick.  The Jays can use this time to better evaluate Johnson, and by showing him what the organization has to offer, Johnson may sign with the team at the end of the year.

Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson were two players that have been coveted by each team for the last couple of years, but no deal could have been struck.  However, with both players struggling so badly this year, both players were in need of a change of scenery.  A fresh start could do wonders for Hill as he could get back into the groove he was in before the 2010 season, while Johnson could return to his 2010 form.

So at the very worst, the Jays get an extra draft pick as part of this trade, and in many people’s opinions, they will also get McDonald back in 2012 to be their utility infielder.  For the Dbacks, Hill’s production could seriously limit their offense and push them out of a playoff spot.  Both teams are facing risks, but I believe Toronto’s level of risk was much lower, as they are not in a pennant race.  The upside potential of this trade for the Jays makes them the winner in my books.

 

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob 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 onFacebook .  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.

The Sunday MLB Inside Reports

 

MLB reports:  Greetings readers from Cooperstown, New York. I am on the road and writing today’s report on my BlackBerry.  As I sit in my hotel and prepare to visit the Cooperstown baseball museum tomorrow, here are today’s reports:

Watching the Cubs and Cardinals playing the Sunday night game of the week, I had some thoughts.  Firstly, ESPN loves Starlin Castro. He was on the tv set about 60% of the game and had his name mentioned about 3,000 times. He is good, but still young and raw.  The hype needs to be toned down.  Also nice home run showings by Jon Jay and Yadier Molina with a pair.  But top prize goes to Albert Pujols for the bomb he hit off Lopez.  That shot will put Pujols back on the map as he proves health and performance on road to new contract in the offseason.  That home run may have earned another $20 million on his new contract.

The Tigers are looking good after this weekend.  They currently sit in 1st place in the Central. The Indians are 4 GB, with the White Sox 5 GB.  Watch out for the Sox as they are still in it.  In my opinion, there is not a better catcher right now in baseball than Alex Avila. With power and patience at the plate, to go along with strong D, Avila is doing it all for the Tigers.  Credit goes to Victor Martinez, a positive mentor to Avila and a great free agent acquisition for Detroit.  On the flip side, Ubaldo Jimenez got rocked Sunday.  The Indians starter does not look 100% on the mound and may have an undisclosed ailment.

The Braves bullpen combination of Venters and Kimbrel is downright scary for opponents.  To go along with starters Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens, the Braves should take the NL Wild Card come October.  The National League is officially on notice.

It looks like the Brewers are running away with the NL Central.  A very deep team top to bottom, the Brewers were built for the 2011 playoffs.  The Reds have been a big disappointment this year and the Cardinals simply do not have the pitching to match up with the Brewers.

Jose Bautista hit his major league leading 36th home run of the year.  Bautista has done it all this year, showing power and patience at the plate with great D at 3B and the outfield.  Perhaps the most valuable player to his team, expect Bautista to get many votes for AL MVP this year.

I enjoyed reading the Bill James Abstract today on the drive up to Cooperstown.  Given James’ important contributions to the game, consideration should be given to putting James in the Hall of Fame one day.  His contributions have been that important considering how much he has changed the game through statistical identification and analysis.

Baseball needs to stop digging in its heels as many decisions need to be made soon.  Upcoming baseball discussions centre on realignment, expansion, adding wild card teams HGH testing, rookie salary caps and finding a replacement for Bud Selig.  Expect much more information to come out as the current MLB CBA expires in December.

As a side note, it was a glorious drive up to Cooperstown this afternoon.  When you enter the town, it really feels like being in small town USA.  Many houses have American flags proudly displayed up front and there is grass, trees and baseball signs everywhere.  For a baseball fan, there is no better place on earth than Cooperstown. If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend it.

Have a great night everyone and I wish everybody a great week.  As the MLB pennant race heats up, be sure to support your favorite team.  September is around the corner and playoff baseball will be here soon.

 

Tyler Beede Chooses Vanderbilt over the Blue Jays

Saturday August 20, 2011

Before the 2011 MLB Draft, Auburn, Massachusetts native Tyler Beede signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Vanderbilt University.  In the months leading up to the draft, Beede made it known to MLB scouts and cross-checkers that he was going to attend Vanderbilt.  He felt as though the college experience and the education he would receive would be the best thing for him.

Vanderbilt is also a member institution of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).  The SEC is arguably the best conference in the NCAA for baseball as well as other sports.  There has been a long line of first round draft choices that have been Commodores.  In the last seven years, Vanderbilt has had 48 players drafted, while 6 of those have been in the first round.  Jeremy Sowers (6th in 2004), David Price (1st in 2007), Casey Weathers (9th in 2007), and Mike Minor (7th in 2009) are the pitchers taken in the first rounds of their drafts for the Commodores.  Vanderbilt also took part in their first NCAA College World Series in 2011, and hope to build upon that success.  Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has said that Beede has been in Vanderbilt baseball camps since his freshman year of high school, so it is safe to say that Tyler is extremely comfortable with the staff and surroundings.

When a player with as much talent as Beede chooses a successful program, it is often to create leverage in negotiating with a drafting team.  There have been many players who sign with schools such as University of Texas, Louisiana State University, or University of California simply to earn a larger signing bonus in professional baseball.  The stronger the player’s commitment to school, the more leverage he has to get the MLB team to offer top dollars.  Since MLB teams generally don’t like to “waste” their pick and not sign a guy, they will often have to break the bank to make him sign on the dotted line.

When a player tells a scout that he wants X amount of dollars, it often scares teams away from that player, dropping him to later rounds, or out of the draft altogether.  Tyler was drafted in the 1st  round (21st overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, although he could have gone sooner if not for his demands.  The Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos were known to be planning an aggressive approach to this year’s draft, and even though Beede stated he wanted the big bucks, the Jays were confident that they could sign him.  So confident that many people in baseball were calling for investigations that the Blue Jays had worked out a pre-draft deal with Beede for around $2M.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rob Bland, and like Beede, was a tall right-handed pitcher in high school.  I may not have thrown as hard as Beede but I routinely flashed 89-91 mph on scouts’ radar guns.  Scouts were behind the backstop for each one of my games from my junior year in high school on.  I played for a prestigious program in Team Ontario and graduated to the Canadian Junior National Team and had a ton of great exposure.  Before the 2002 MLB draft, I had signed with the University of Kentucky, also in the SEC, and told scouts I was going to school unless a lot of money was put in front of me.  I was ranked in Baseball America’s top 150 draft prospects list, and I was told by some teams I could go as high as the 7th to 10th rounds.  I went back and forth between school and professional baseball, but I felt I wasn’t ready to be a pro.  My parents, like Beede’s, thought that I was mature enough to make this life-altering decision on my own. Education has always been very important to my family, and ultimately I decided that unless I was blown away by an offer, I would go to school.  The fact that Beede has been on record of saying that he would have signed for $3.5M leads me to believe that he felt the same way.  He had a number in mind, and unless it was reached, he would be perfectly content in attending college.  I ended up requesting 3rd round money as a leverage tool (around $250,000 at the time).  I figured that I would improve so much over the next three years that I would easily be a 3rd round selection at worst in 2005.  Teams considered me “unsignable” and I was not selected at all.  I went to the University of Kentucky where I struggled with adjusting to college life and could not stay healthy, spending most of my time in the trainer’s room, until finally requiring Tommy John surgery.

I could look back and say I should not have declared lofty demands and just taken what could have been given to me, but the reality is that I genuinely wanted to go to college.  Beede has also been adamant that he wants to enjoy the college experience and step into a role where he can make a big difference.  I also thought at the time that when I worked hard, I could improve and be drafted higher in the future.  At the time I thought it was the right choice, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done in professional baseball.

I am not trying to compare myself with Beede, as he is obviously a much bigger talent, but there are some parallels.  If he gets injured, or if he struggles and cannot figure college hitters and metal bats out, he could be losing out on a lot of money and a career in professional baseball.

I have no doubt that Beede’s talent will shine in the SEC, and he will again be drafted in 2014.  However, I seriously doubt it will be as high of a selection, or that he will be offered the same $2.5M that the Blue Jays offered this year.  With the next Collective Bargaining Agreement sure to stop the huge spending on the draft, players will not have the same bargaining power.

I have heard many Toronto Blue Jays fans saying that Beede was foolish for turning down the money, or that they hope that he does not succeed and regrets his decision.  Some have said that he is immature, or that he doesn’t deserve to play professional baseball.  “Tyler Beede is greedy” and “Beede is a jerk” has been posted on Twitter .  All of these comments are completely unfair because he is an 18-year-old kid and decisions like these are not easy to make.  In my opinion, he made a very mature decision that 99.9% of us find easy to scoff at.  Who can turn down $2.5M to do something they love to do?  What people don’t realize is that he has a huge love for Vanderbilt and their program.  He feels more COMFORTABLE at Vandy than he does in the Toronto Blue Jays organization right now.  For a ballplayer, comfort breeds confidence, and Beede I am sure is brimming with confidence right now.

Is this a decision that Beede may regret in 10 years?  Maybe.  Is he dumb?  Absolutely not.  Beede will look to become the second Vanderbilt Commodore to be selected first overall in a future MLB Draft.   If that becomes the case, Beede will make a lot more money at that time than he was offered by the Blue Jays in 2011 and have a solid university education behind him.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob 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 onFacebook .  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.

Mike Jacobs: Rockies Slugger Receives 50 Game HGH Suspension

Friday August 19, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Major League Baseball commenced human growth hormone (“HGH”) testing in the minor leagues in the summer of 2010.  It was only a matter of time before players began to get caught under the new system.  Blood testing for HGH in the minors was the first step in bringing similar tests to the major leagues one day.  With HGH testing now in place as part of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, MLB cannot be far behind.  With baseball’s agreement with the union set to expire in December of this year, expect HGH testing to be a big topic on the bargaining table.  The first player to be caught in the minors using HGH and receiving a 50 game suspension is Colorado Rockies slugger, Mike Jacobs.  With the first HGH culprit found, pressure will be intense on baseball to bring similar testing all the way to the major leagues.

Mike Jacobs will forever be known as the first North American athlete to test positive for HGH.  Although HGH suspensions have occurred internationally, Jacobs is the first athlete in a professional North American athlete to be tested and fail a HGH test.  Things should have gone differently for Jacobs in his career.  Originally a 38th round pick for the Mets in the 1999 draft, Jacobs rose from baseball obscurity to star with the Marlins from 2006-2008.  Here is a look at Jacobs’ major league stats: 

Year 5 Tm R HR RBI SO BA OBP SLG
2005 NYM 19 11 23 22 .310 .375 .710
2006 FLA 54 20 77 105 .262 .325 .473
2007 FLA 57 17 54 101 .265 .317 .458
2008 FLA 67 32 93 119 .247 .299 .514
2009 KCR 46 19 61 132 .228 .297 .401
2010 NYM 1 1 2 7 .208 .296 .375
6 Seasons 244 100 310 486 .253 .313 .475
162 Game Avg. 71 29 90 142 .253 .313 .475
               
FLA (3 yrs) 178 69 224 325 .258 .314 .483
NYM (2 yrs) 20 12 25 29 .290 .360 .645
KCR (1 yr) 46 19 61 132 .228 .297 .401
               
NL (5 yrs) 198 81 249 354 .261 .317 .496
AL (1 yr) 46 19 61 132 .228 .297 .401

 

2008 represented the best season of Jacobs’ career.  He hit 32 home runs, to go along with 93 RBIs for the Marlins.  But despite the strong power numbers, critics pointed to his .247 AVG and weak .299 OBP that year and labelled him a one-dimensional player.  The Marlins agreed and traded Jacobs in October 2008 for current closer Leo Nunez.  Jacobs originally joined the Marlins in November 2005 as a package of players for superstar Carlos Delgaldo.  Big expectations were placed on Jacobs to replace Delgaldo ever since he joined the Marlins.  While Jacobs had the strong power numbers in 2008, the team ultimately was not convinced that he would ever fulfill his potential.  While Nunez went on to star in the Marlins bullpen, Jacobs lasted only one season in Kansas City, his last full season in the big leagues.

In 2010, Jacobs spent parts of the year playing in the Mets and Blue Jays farm systems.  He hit 21 home runs and drove in 93 in 120 games combined in AAA, with a .335 OBP and .482 SLG.  This season, Jacobs played exclusively in Colorado Springs and put up inflated numbers in the hitting friendly Pacific Coast League.  With 23 home runs in 117 games, 97 RBIs, .376 OBP and .534 SLG, there looked to be a chance for Jacobs to restart his major league career.  At 30-years of age, Jacobs was looking to have a year-end cup of coffee with the Rockies and leave a strong enough impression to perhaps have a chance in spring training 2012.  Reports had a call up imminent for Jacobs when news of the HGH positive test leaked out.  The Rockies immediately released the slugger, who is now on the MLB sidelines. 

Following the Marlins acquisition of Jacobs in 2005, I expected his career to develop differently.  It was clear the power was going to be there.   It was the rest of his hitting development that I expect to follow.  To stay in the big leagues, Jacobs was going to need to learn patience and to hit lefties.  Following his 2008 campaign, I still hoped in the back of my mind that those qualities would eventually come out.  But they never in fact did.  Looking back at his magical 2008 campaign, there were red flags that Jacobs had major shortcomings as a hitter.  25 of his home runs came against right-handed pitchers.  Against lefties, Jacobs hit .218 with a .248 OBP and .429 SLG.  At best, without improvement, Jacobs was likely destined to be a platoon player for the rest of his career.  Now today, Jacobs stands as the new poster child for HGH cheating.  A scarlet letter that will be difficult, if not impossible to remove.

With Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro gone from the game and the “steroid era” at an apparent end, the focus is now on HGH.  Apparently very wide-spread in the game, baseball officials are said to be taking a hard stance to remove HGH use from the game.  In suspending Jacobs, commissioner Selig indicated that baseball is on top of testing and is not hiding from the process.  I expect HGH testing to be a part of the major leagues as early as 2012.  Despite the tests and the threat of strict penalties, as Mike Jacobs has shown, athletes will continue to try to get ahead despite the risks involved.  Jacobs came clean following his positive test, admitting usage to overcome injuries and regretting his decision to use HGH.  The decision to use HGH will cost Jacobs more than 50 games.  It resulted in his dismissal from the Rockies and likely removal from major league baseball all together.  For a fringe player that was already hanging by a thread, having the HGH suspension on his resume will scare off many, if not most major league teams.

Mike Jacobs had his chances in baseball.  While many sluggers before him are lucky to get one shot at the big leagues, Jacobs had several chances.  Despite playing for three teams over six major league seasons, Mike Jacobs was never able to fulfill his vast potential.  Like many left-handed home run hitters, Jacobs could never hit well against lefties and get on base at a high enough level to compliment his power bat.  Now at 30-years of age, the legacy of Mike Jacobs will be as using HGH and failing the first North American test.  While I expected Jacobs to be fighting for home run crowns at this point in his career, he now sits outside of baseball.  A lesson to be learned for future sluggers.  It is better to play clean and keep your reputation than cheat and get caught.  Once the first failed test hits, any accomplishments in the past and future will always be tarnished.  As Palmeiro, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire can attest, poor public perceptions never seem to go away.  They just continue to linger, seemingly until the end of time.   

 

 

 

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Tyler LaTorre: Interview with San Francisco Giants Catcher

Thursday August 18, 2011

  

MLB reports:  Today on the Reports we are proud to feature Tyler LaTorre, a catcher with the San Francisco Giants. 

The 28-year old LaTorre is a true example of perseverance.  LaTorre bypassed the MLB draft and signed with the Giants in 2006, his favorite team as a youngster.  After playing four seasons at UC Davis, LaTorre began his professional career in the Arizona Rookie League in 2006.  This season LaTorre worked his way up the ranks to AAA Fresno and looks to be banging on the Giants door.  With Buster Posey entrenched as the Giants starting catcher, the California native LaTorre continues to strive towards a future position with the big league club. 

We are pleased to present Tyler LaTorre of the San Francisco Giants:     

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Tyler.  It is a pleasure to be speaking with you today.  Growing up, who was your favorite baseball player?  Which player did you most idolize and pattern your game after?


Tyler LaTorre:  My all time favorite player is Ken Griffey, Jr.  I was always number #24 when playing in little league and on up.  Being a left-handed hitter myself, I idolized and mimicked his sweet swing and tried to play the game with has much fun as he did.  In the end, baseball is still a game and is meant to be fun.  Junior played the game with so much fun and made the game fun to watch.


 

MLB reports:  Griffey is a very popular choice among current athletes we have spoken to.  On the flip side, which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
 


Tyler LaTorre:  I am a huge fan of all major league players and I admire them all.  I love watching big league swings and big league closers throwing hard with dirty off speed pitches.  The MLB At Bat app for the iPhone is amazing.  Multiple times a day I find myself watching big league swings and seeing what it takes to be a big leaguer.  I want nothing more than to someday have people watching my swing on the MLB At Bat app.

 

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


Tyler LaTorre:  I have won two league championship rings.  My proudest moment individually though, was getting a call to the big league spring camp this past year.  I was only there for a couple of weeks, but it was a dream come true to be a part of the World Series Champion Giants Spring Training.  I learned as much in those two weeks as I have learned in my four years in the minor leagues.  I was truly blessed to have been given that opportunity.

 

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

Tyler LaTorre:  My goals for 2011 are like years past.  When I get my opportunities, I have to take advantage of them.  I am no longer a prospect and I have never been a player that gets 500-600 AB’s in a season.  So when I get my plate appearances, I have to make the most out of them.  So far in 2011, I feel like I have done that and I am trying to stay sharp even though the next opportunity might not be today or tomorrow, but a week down the road.  Another goal of mine is to help my team win in any way possible.  I hate losing and I’ll do whatever it takes to win.  I would also like to stay healthy and play winter ball somewhere in the offseason.


 


MLB reports:  When you first found out you were signed by the Giants, what was going through your mind?  Why did you choose to bypass the draft and what  was the process like choosing to sign with the Giants in 2006?


Tyler LaTorre:  It was very surreal to me when I signed my professional contract with the Giants.  It didn’t set in until I was sent to Arizona before being sent to Salem, Oregon for short season.  I was a fifth year senior at UC Davis in 2006, and I put together a career changing season that got me a chance to play at the next level.  Since I had already graduated and got my degree when my college season was over, I had up to one week before the draft to sign with a team or I would have had to wait on the draft.  After my last college game I was offered contracts from some MLB organization, including the Giants.  I could have waited for the draft to see where that might take me, but I had the ball in my court and I got to choose where I felt would be the best opportunity for my future.  That choice was the San Francisco Giants.

 

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


Tyler LaTorre:  I feel like I am a great leader and that I have the ability to make my teammates better.  I handle a pitching staff very well and pitchers trust me to make the right decision on the field to help the team.  I take pride in pitch calling and controlling the other teams’ running game.  I also like to think that I can handle the bat pretty well and I hit from the left side, so that’s a strong skill that I possess.


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


Tyler LaTorre:  I am always looking for ways to get better in all facets of my game.  I want to quicken my foot work when catching and hit for more pull side power.  I also want to try to get some more leg strength to last a full season behind the plate if that opportunity ever arises.  In 2010, I caught the majority of the final two months of AA and I figured out what it was like to catch everyday.  That season  took a toll on my body and I want to be prepared so that I never feel like that again.  I would like to be strong and able to perform at the highest levels.

 

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?


Tyler LaTorre:  To me, striking out is the worst thing that I can do when I have a plate appearance.  Walking back to the dugout after a strikeout is a terrible feeling for me and I can’t stand letting my team down.  I have always had a pretty good eye in the box and I feel I know the strike zone very well.  Drawing a walk and getting on base for my team is a victory in itself, and I have always prided myself on having even strikeout to walk ratios in my career.  Strikeouts are going to happen, they are a part of baseball.  But I strive to make the pitcher work to get me out.  I look to walk or put the ball in play to make something happen, and to battle and compete during every one of my  at bats.

 

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself staying behind the plate?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?
 


Tyler LaTorre:  Catching is one of the funniest things I have ever done in my life.  I love catching, blocking, calling a game, and winning baseball games. Nothing more satisfying than working as hard as I can for nine innings and getting that 27th out and walking out to the mound and shaking my teammates’ hands.  However, I know the reality that there is only one catcher on the field at one time and there are prospects in this game that have to play.   So ultimately whatever can get me in the lineup to help the team win is what I want.
 

 

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?

Tyler LaTorre:  I need a chance.  I need someone or some team to take a chance on me and I need to show them they have made the right choice.  I don’t have a timetable on when I will join the Giants.  I wish it was tomorrow, but whenever that time may come or not come, I will always be ready to play and compete to the best of my abilities. 
 

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced?

Tyler LaTorre:  I didn’t really have many expectations.  I am the type of person that takes things day by day and even pitch to pitch.  I don’t worry about the past or future, I live in the right now and it has helped me stay focused my whole career.  On the high side has to be my short season team in 2007 when we had the best winning percentage in all of baseball and won the Northwest League Championship.  Also being a non-draftee, non-prospect in AAA right now competing at the level right below the big leagues is a pretty big high for me.  On the low side, in 2007 I didn’t make a team out of my first spring training and was sent to extended spring staining in 110 degree Arizona.  I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it out of there and was going to be released before I even had the opportunity to show my abilities.  But I stay focused and dedicated to baseball and four years later I am in AAA and looking forward to each day and an opportunity to make the big league roster.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?  Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?

Tyler LaTorre:  I love having a good time and laughing.  Whether it is on the field, the plane/bus, or at our apartment in Fresno, I try to stay positive and have fun.  I mostly hang out with Brett Pill, Jackson Williams, Brock Bond, and Brandon Crawford.  We all have a great time together and play video games, go to the mall, Golf, whatever we can do to take our minds off playing this tough and grueling game called baseball.  I would have retired from baseball a long time ago if I didn’t have such a fun group of friends in this game.   
 

 

MLB reports:  How has the Buster Posey injury affected the organization?  Did it have a direct influence on your playing time in your opinion?

Tyler LaTorre:  The injury hit me pretty hard.  To see a friend in so much pain, made me sick to my stomach.  I had to stop watching replays.  Buster’s injury was tragic and put our minor league organization in a bit of chaos.  We started moving catchers around, looking for trades, and signing free agent catchers.  But it never got me more playing time, which was frustrating.  The truth is that I haven’t really played that much this year.  It doesn’t affect my drive though.  I come to the field everyday expecting to be in the lineup and ready to help the team win.

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Tyler LaTorre for joining us today on the Reports.  We wish you the best of luck on your baseball journey and hope to see you playing for the Giants very soon.  You have competed very hard to make it to this point in your baseball career and look for you to take the final step to the big leagues.  We definitely encourage all our readers to feel free to contact Tyler with your comments and questions on his Twitter handle.  Tyler is a must follow!

 

 

 

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.

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday August 17th

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 August 17, 2011

 

 

 

Q:  Watched the Tigers / Twins game today ( Aug 15th ) and was happy to see my fave player, Jim Thome hit 600.  I consider him one of the best home run hitters of all time.  My question to you:  Thome has done most of his damage as a DH and on non playoff teams. What are his chances to make it to the Hall Of Fame and if he does go in, what hat do you think he will wear?  From Larry, Nevada.

MLB reports:  A great question Larry.  I wouldn’t expect anything less from our #1 reader!  Taking a look at Thome’s numbers, you may find a few surprises.  Thome in his career has played 1102 games at 1B and 492 games at 3B.  Thome did not become a full-time DH until 2006.  Considering that he came up with Cleveland in 1991, I do not believe the DH role late in his career will affect him much, if any.  The cloud of the steroid era may, as it seems that many big sluggers from Thome’s generation will have a difficult, if not impossible time getting into Cooperstown.  But unlike Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, Thome is seen as one of the “clean” home run hitters of his generation.  At 600+ home runs, a lifetime OBP over .400 and SLG over .550, I view Thome as a definite first ballot hall-of-famer.  With 12 years and 334 home runs in Cleveland, I can guarantee you that Thome will go into Cooperstown as a member of your beloved Indians. 

 

Q:  Any insight on Wade Miley?  From Joseph, Nashville.

MLB reports:  Great question, thank you Joseph.  Wade was a 1st round pick of the Diamondbacks back in 2008 (43rd overall), after being drafted in the 20th round by Tampa Bay in 2005 and not signing.  The 24-year old Miley is a 6’1″ left-handed starter in the Diamondbacks organization.  Currently pitching in AAA after a recent promotion, Miley has a 3.64 ERA , to go along with a 4-1 record and 1.270 ERA.  With this being his 4th season in the minors and showing steady development, it should come as no suprise that Miley got the call today as he has been promoted to the big leagues.  With Jason Marquis on the DL, Miley may get a few spot starts for Arizona and at the very least, a spot in their pen the rest of the way.  2010 was a breakout season for Miley and despite some regression this year in AA, he has gotten better as the season has progressed.  With the amount of pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks system, Miley will have a difficult time fighting for a rotation spot with the big club.  Long-term I see him as trade bait for an organization that has room in its rotation for him or perhaps a bullpen role.   He may yet develop into a solid #4 starter for the Diamondbacks, but at this point that remains to be seen.  The future is still bright for Miley, but 2012 will be a big year for him in Arizona.  We wish Miley the best of luck on his recent promotion, as he joins the first place Diamondbacks in the quest to win the NL West division this year.

 

Q:  Sorry if I missed it, but have you done a report on the Angels CF, Peter Bourjos?  That kid can fly?  From Craig, Texas.

MLB reports:  I answered this one briefly on twitter but wanted to elaborate.  I have received many questions on Bourjos this year, but have not filed a report on him to-date.  It was a calculated decision, mostly due to the fact that not many fans have asked about him outside of Anaheim.  Looking at the numbers, Bourjos is a steady, but not spectacular hitter for the Halos.  .271 AVG, .328 OBP, .416 SLG, 5 home runs and 15 stolen bases.  At this point, Bourjos is keeping a spot warm for future superstar Mike Trout.  Originally a 10th round pick, the 24-year old Bourjos may blossom into a future superstar.  But I have my doubts that will happen.  Long-term I see Bourjos as a #4 outfielder on most teams, with the chance of becoming a good leadoff hitter if he can increase his on-base percentage.  We will all continue to keep an eye on Bourjos, but be sure to keep expectations in check until a breakout occurs.

 

Q:  Do you think that the Indians are going to get a RH bat?  If so, who?  And do you think they are going to win the Central?  From Martin, Cleveland.

MLB reports:  Let the Indians theme continue!  Many solid questions Martin, I take it that you are a big supporter of the tribe.  One of the biggest surprises of the week was Delmon Young moving to the Twins to the Tigers.  Probably one of the better right-handed bats was passed over by the Indians to their division rivals in Detroit.  By passing Young over, my gut feel is that the Indians are likely done tweaking their lineup.  With the additions of Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians will go with their current roster for the most part in battling for the AL Central crown.  There is a chance that the team may add one more depth player, but I do not expect any real player of consequence at this stage.  As far as the AL Central race goes, it is a 3-team race between the Tigers currently in 1st place, the Indians 3.0 games back  and White Sox 3.5 games back.  This one is too close to call.  I will admit that I am very partial to the Tigers and like their chances at this point.  While the Indians seemed to be a team of destiny at the start of the year, the Tigers look to be prime for a division title led by Justin Verlander.  The Indians end the season going up against the Tigers in Detroit, while the White Sox face the Blue Jays in Chicago.  The AL Central will come down to the final week, with my money on Detroit to take it all. 

 

Q:  Any news on Yu Darvish?  Will we see him in North America next year?  From Shane, Kansas.

MLB reports:  Darvish is represented by an agent (Arn Tellem) and at 25-years of age would be a prime addition to any major league team.  There has been a debate in baseball circles whether his Japanese club, the Nippon-Ham Fighters will post him, which really boils down to Darvish wanting to leave Japan to come to the major leagues.  Despite mixed messages I have read in his interviews, it sounds like Darvish is ready to make the jump (and pocket the large paychecks that will follow).  Expect Darvish to arrive in 2012, with at least 8-10 teams fighting for his services.  The Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays and many others will be fighting for his services.  This one will simply boil down to which team is willing to pay the most and when Darvish is ready to make the change.   As one of the best, if not the best pitchers not currently in North America, Yarvish should be an instant ace for the team lucky enough to land him.  We will keep following this story and let you know as we have updates.

 

 

Thanks for the e-mails and keep them coming!  mlbreports@gmail.com

 

 

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2011 MLB Draft: Recap and Draftees who Didn’t Sign

Tuesday August 16, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Amongst all the madness that was the Draft Signing Deadline, I first have to say congratulations to Jim Thome for hitting the 599th and 600th home runs of his illustrious career.  He is only the eighth player in MLB history to reach that mark.

There were many signings that went down to the wire last night, and most players in the early rounds signed.  There were five Major League deals signed from this draft.  The Washington Nationals gave pitcher Matt Purke a 4-year, $4.4M deal out of the third round.  Second overall pick Danny Hultzen, the left-handed pitcher from Virginia University selected by the Seattle Mariners was given 5 years and a guarantee of $8.5M.  It was previously reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave RHP and third overall pick Trevor Bauer a 4 year, $7M deal.  High school pitcher Dylan Bundy was given five years and $6.225M from the Baltimore Orioles and Rice University’s Anthony Rendon was given four years and $7.2M as the most polished bat in the draft by the Washington Nationals.  Top pick Gerrit Cole was given an $8M bonus by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, there were three players in the first two rounds who did not sign, which will result in the teams who selected them receiving a compensation pick in next year’s draft.  First of those was RHP Tyler Beede.   Known to be extremely tough to sign, the Toronto Blue Jays selected him 21st overall.  Beede’s talent alone could have taken him into the top 10 picks, but his lofty demands as well as his desire to play for Vanderbilt University dropped him down to the Blue Jays.  It was reported that the final offer The Blue Jays offered was in the $2.3M range, but Beede did not budge from his demands.  In a tweet from his Twitter handle @TylerBeede, he said “g-d has plans for me and that is college first.”  Beede will look to follow in the footsteps of recent first round pitchers from Vanderbilt; David Price and Jeremy Sowers.   Beede was one of my picks that would come down to the wire, and I said that it would take close to $3M to sign him.  The Blue Jays will now pick 22nd in the 2012 draft.

North Carolina State University will get their coveted catching signee, as the San Diego Padres were unable to sign switch hitter Brett Austin.  The first supplemental round pick, 54th overall, has plus speed for a catcher, being clocked at less than 6.9 seconds in a 60-yard dash.  He has a quick release and routinely has a pop time (throwing the ball home to second as if a runner were stealing) under 2 seconds.  He has quick feet and a quick bat, although he has more bat speed from the right side of the plate.  With the Padres already locking up catcher Austin Hedges for $3M, they felt as though Austin was expendable, and did not offer a contract near his demands.  The Padres will choose 55th in the 2012 draft.

When the New York Yankees selected college junior Sam Stafford in the second round, 88th overall, it was widely believed that the University of Texas Longhorns had lost their top two pitchers.  Taylor Jungmann was selected 12th overall and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $2.525M.  However, talks with the Yankees hit a snag over parts of his physical, and Stafford was never offered a contract around the slot value.  Stafford was 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 81 1/3 innings this past season at UT.  The left-handed pitcher has had consistency issues with fastball command, but pitches in the 90-93 mph range.  His curveball and change-up are both works in progress and he shows flashes of plus potential in both.  The Yankees will select 89th in the 2012 draft.

The biggest surprise to me was that the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to sign Josh Bell.  It did not take a Major League contract, and only $5M to pull him away from the University of Texas.  This was much less than originally predicted, and his huge demands seem to have just been posturing.  The Pirates signed both of their top picks for a total of $13M, which in itself would have been the most money spent by one team in draft history.

Other notable signings were second round pick LHP Daniel Norris of the Toronto Blue Jays at $2.5M, 14th round pitcher Dillon Maples of the Chicago Cubs at $2.5M, and 6th round catcher Nicky Delmonico of the Baltimore Orioles at $1.525M.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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Flashback: Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni Profile

Monday August 15, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Today we are taking a walk down memory lane to revisit one of our favorite players of all time.  Steve Balboni, or better known to baseball fans as “Bye Bye” Balboni, was one of the prominent home run hitters of the 1980s.  Balboni was an all or nothing hitter, either launching home runs or striking out at a high clip throughout his career.  In the likeness of Rob Deer at the time and Mark Reynolds today, Balboni was the type of hitter that we do not often see in the majors anymore.  Always want fun to watch and having left us with memories of moon shots off his bat, today we look back at the career of Bye Bye Balboni.

Balboni played for four major league teams over his eleven MLB seasons:  the Yankees, Royals, Mariners and Rangers.  His power numbers over his career speak for themselves: 

Year Tm HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1981 NYY 0 2 1 4 .286 .375 .714
1982 NYY 2 4 6 34 .187 .228 .280
1983 NYY 5 17 8 23 .233 .295 .430
1984 KCR 28 77 45 139 .244 .320 .498
1985 KCR 36 88 52 166 .243 .307 .477
1986 KCR 29 88 43 146 .229 .286 .451
1987 KCR 24 60 34 97 .207 .273 .427
1988 TOT 23 66 24 87 .235 .277 .448
1988 KCR 2 5 1 20 .143 .156 .270
1988 SEA 21 61 23 67 .251 .298 .480
1989 NYY 17 59 25 67 .237 .296 .460
1990 NYY 17 34 35 91 .192 .291 .406
                 
1993 TEX 0 0 0 2 .600 .600 .600
11 Seasons 181 495 273 856 .229 .293 .451
162 Game Avg. 31 84 46 144 .229 .293 .451
               
KCR (5 yrs) 119 318 175 568 .230 .294 .459
NYY (5 yrs) 41 116 75 219 .214 .286 .415
TEX (1 yr) 0 0 0 2 .600 .600 .600
SEA (1 yr) 21 61 23 67 .251 .298 .480

 

One may have expected Balboni to have more than 181 career home runs over his career.  Consider though that over his eleven seasons, Balboni only played one full season (1985).  In the Royals World Series championship year, Balboni was at his peak.  He had a career high 36 home runs, to go along with his league leading 166 strikeouts.  Balboni only had 400 or more at-bats in four major league seasons.  Despite only having one full season of at-bats under his belt, Balboni had six or more seasons for of 20+ home runs.  But it was not the memory of the number of home runs or strikeouts that Balboni that has lasted with us.  It was the way he came to the plate and swung completely for the fences. 

When Bye Bye Balboni connected for home runs, the sound of the ball launching off his bat was a thing of beauty.  At 6’3″ and 225 lbs, Balboni was built like a tank.  The bat looked like a toothpick in his hands and when he saw a fastball that was to his liking, the ball was either going to end up out of the yard or in the catcher’s mitt.  A fan favorite wherever he played, Balboni was the picturesque cleanup hitter of the 80s.  With a career .229 AVG and .293 OBP, Balboni was not a “moneyball” type player by a stretch of the imagination.  But the 80s were a different time in baseball and Balboni fit the mold in his day.  The power hitting first baseman/DH.  A one-dimensional player (home runs and strikeouts), but a great deal of fun to watch for the fans.

Today’s game is built on young, athletic players with multiple-tools.  As we have left the steroid era, MLB teams are shifting towards teams built on strong pitching, defense and speed.  The 1B/DH types like David Ortiz and Travis Hafner are starting to disappear, as American League teams shift to using the designated hitter spot to rotate players rather than employing a full-time DH.  As a result, we are unlikely to see many more Bye Bye Balboni’s in the major leagues again.  Valentino Pascucci was the closest player that I could think of that resembled a modern-day Balboni.  But in today’s game, Pascucci has barely received a cup of coffee at the majors, while Balboni enjoyed eleven seasons in the big leagues.

Bye Bye Balboni got to live the major league dream.  He was a second round pick of the Yankees in 1978 and played five seasons in New York.  Balboni was also quite a legend in his day in the minor leagues, assembling 239 career minor league home runs, together with 930 strike outs.  Balboni was named MVP of the Florida State League in 1979 and 1980 in the Southern League.  Today, Bye Bye Balboni continues his career as a coach, with different organizations in the minors.  You can learn more about Steve Balboni by visiting his website, http://stevebalboni.com.

One of the players of his generation that will stick out in our minds forever, we thank Bye Bye Balboni for the home runs he hit and the excitement he brought to the game during every one of his at-bats.  While the game has evolved to new levels, there is a part of us that will miss the burly sluggers in the game in the Bye Bye Balboni mold that are no longer with us.   Thank you for the memories Steve and for the home runs! 

If you have a favorite Steve Balboni moment or story, we would love to hear from you.  Please leave your comments at the bottom of this article.

 

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Logan Morrison sent to AAA New Orleans: Marlins and Loria Censor LoMo

Sunday August 14, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  The Florida Marlins have one of the brightest prospects in the game in its system.  Logan Morrison, the 23-year old first baseman/outfielder is seen as one of the next up-and-coming stars.  I have compared him on many occasions to Will Clark and Mark Grace for his outstanding eye at the plate and smooth swing.  Blocked at first base by incumbent Gaby Sanchez, Logan (“LoMo”) Morrison has transitioned himself into a fairly steady outfielder.  Yet despite being one of the Marlins best offensive players and team leaders, LoMo finds himself headed to AAA as of last night. 

At 56-62, 13.5 GB behind the 1st place Phillies, 2011 has been a lost season for the Marlins.  Now is the time for the team to play its younger players, to get their feet wet and ready for next season.  Further the Marlins are opening up their new stadium in 2012 and need to build hype and excitement in selling future tickets.  With the team in last place, one would expect the Marlins to promote and push its best prospects and young players in selling the team to its fan base.  But rather than encourage its players to promote the team and connect with the fans, the Marlins and its owner Jeffrey Loria have demoted LoMo to the minors.  A big part of the reason is the social media known as Twitter.

For those of you not familiar or not active on Twitter, you may not know Logan Morrison is an active tweeter.  Using the handle @LoMoMarlins, LoMo is one of the most popular athletes on the site and is often found speaking and joking with fans.  In an age where athletes are either completely disconnected from fans or getting into hot water by being arrested/making inappropriate statements, LoMo is refreshing.  Morrison is a clean-cut athlete who is outgoing and fun.  I could not put specific numbers for you today, but I am sure that Morrison is singlehandedly responsible for building thousands of loyal Marlins followers, just based on his tweets.  At 6’3″, 235 lbs, Morrison has the looks and ability to be the face of the Marlins.  With the new stadium set to open up, I would expect the Marlins to promote the team around Morrison.  Rather the team has alienated one of its top talents and in the process, angered the fan base it should be reaching out to.

For background, the process of sending down LoMo is further upsetting based on how much he gives back to the Marlins.  He worked hard to learn a new position and become an above average outfielder.  He plays hurt.  He trains hard.  LoMo is also active in the community giving countless hours back in charity work.  Not that it should factor in his role on the team, but LoMo also lost his father to cancer in December 2010.  As father and son were very close, the loss of dad was obviously very hard for the young man to overcome.  I was very impressed that LoMo was able to go back on twitter and continue with his life in baseball, proving that he has a strong will and bigger heart.  Being active in the support of fighting cancer and volunteering his time, LoMo has a true heart of gold.  For the average superstar that collects a paycheque and goes home, LoMo stands above.  The Marlins are lucky to have him and need to embrace his heart and passion rather than censoring him.

There is more to the LoMo demotion than meets the eye.  There is always more to the story behind the scenes, likely more than we realize.  Morrison was very critical of his teammate Hanley Ramirez, which the team did not appreciate. Although Hanley has been criticized for his lack of hustle and selfishness at times, Morrison was reprimanded by the team for speaking out.  I was actually impressed that Morrison was acting as a team leader and making his teammates accountable to the team first and foremost.  Then a recent story came out about Morrison not appearing at a team function and the team once again disciplining him.   But as background, Morrison is very active in the community and making appearances for the Marlins.  Apparently the team dropped the ball in organizing a function, which dissapointed Morrison to the point that he spoke out on the next function.  Considering how much time Morrison gives, I do not believe the team is in a position to say that he did not make himself available.  If anything, Morrison makes himself too much available and it appears the Marlins are taking him for granted.

Then there are the stats.  LoMo was batting .249 at the time of demotion and the team indicated that he needed time to work on his game.  Considering that LoMo has a .327 OBP, .464 SLG, 17 home runs and 60 RBIs, I cannot say that based on the numbers LoMo deserved to be sent down.  The best place for LoMo to learn is at the majors and the Marlins need to help him get to the next level, not hurt him.  But these types of actions are nothing new for team owner Jeffrey Loria.  Ex-Manager Joe Girardi was let go due to personality conflicts with Loria.  All Girardi did was join the Yankees and win a World Series title.  Did I mention that Girardi was named 2006 NL Manager of the Year, weeks after being fired by Loria?  Disgraceful in my opinion.  A team owner should be on the sidelines letting his or her baseball people run a team.  When an owner becomes bigger than their team, it is a problem.  Loria loves the spotlight and being the centre of attention.  As LoMo becomes a big star and most popular player on the team, the LoMo demotion smells more like a power play than a baseball move.  It is not right and should not be acceptable in today’s MLB.

Carlos Zambrano walked out on his team the other day, cleaned out his locker and threatened retirement.  The player’s association has filed a grievance on his behalf.  Perhaps a grievance should now be filed on behalf of LoMo.  Major League Baseball needs to take action to protect a player like Logan Morrison who is hindered and unnecessarily punished by a team.  If such an action could be taken, baseball would actually be saving Loria from himself.  The longer LoMo is in the minors, the more likely he is to rebel and feel even more alienated from his team.  For a baseball club in desperate need of fans and moving to its new stadium, the timing of this demotion could not have come at a worse time.  Considering how much baseball has helped Loria over the years (purchase and sale of Expos, purchase of Marlins and subsequent new stadium), Loria has an obligation to manage the Marlins in a manner that is most conducive to make the team productive and competitive.  The LoMo demotion may be argued by the team to be based on production.  At the end of the day, this demotion is a power play and that just plain stinks. 

 

 

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Will the Diamondbacks Win the NL West in 2011?

Saturday August 13, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  With the playoffs just around the corner, it is time to slowly predict which teams will be making the cut in advancing to this year’s playoffs.  One of the closest races is in the NL West, where the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants are going head-to-head in fighting for the division title.  When the dust settles come October, we expect to see Arizona overtake the defending World Series champions and advancing to the playoffs.

The Diamondbacks with a 66-53 record are currently sitting two games ahead of the Giants in the standings.  On a four-game winning streak and a 6-4 record in their last 10, the Diamondbacks have been fairly hot since the All-Star break.  The Giants are headed in the opposite direction, currently on a two-game losing streak and a 3-7 record in their last 10.  When looking at the overall compositions of the team, I believe the Diamondbacks are better constructed to make the playoffs.

Last year the Giants were successful in winning the World Series almost exclusively built on pitching.  To be a playoff contender however, there usually needs to be a balance of both offense and pitching strengths on a ballclub.  Taking a look at the Diamondbacks roster, I see that required balanced.  The starting rotation is led by their big three, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders.  The bullpen has closer J.J. Putz and setup men, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler.  On offense, Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson and Chris Young lead the way.  Not a complete all-star team like the Yankees, but the Diamondbacks appear to have the best mix of components to take the NL West.  In comparison, the San Francisco Giants appear to fall far short.

The Giants as usual have some of the best starting pitching in baseball this year.  Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are as solid as they come.  Now add into the mix Ryan Vogelsong, Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants bullpen and you have almost enough pitching to singlehandedly lead the team to the playoffs.  Almost, but not quite in my estimation.  While the Giants proved last year that offense alone can win a World Series, I do not see that happening again this year.  Not with that offense.  With team leader Buster Posey out for the year and new acquisition Carlos Beltran on the shelf, the Giants will not be able to score enough runs to over take the Diamondbacks.  Pablo Sandoval cannot do it on his own and Aubrey Huff, Orlando Cabrera and the rest of the Giants batters simply can’t cut it.  The Giants will be able to stay close in ballgames, but the reality is that runs are needed to win the necessary games to make it to the playoffs.  While 2010 was a dream season, 2011 will now be a return to reality.

Much credit needs to be given to Kirk Gibson and his staff for turning a young and up-and-coming team and turn them into contenders almost overnight.  While Gibson has made the right moves on the field, GM Kevin Towers has been the lightening rod behind the scenes.  Strengthening the bullpen and beefing up the rotation with a mix of veterans and blossoming prospects has been the key for the team.  Having their young hitters turn the page like Justin Upton and Miguel Montero to take the next step has been the turning point.  If you compare the Giants and Diamondbacks just based on pitching, then San Francisco has the edge.  But considering that the Diamondbacks can score runs and the Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball, I see Arizona having the advantage.  Giants fans should feel no shame, as the glory of their championship from last year will shine bright for many years to come.  But until the team can find a stronger and balanced offense in its lineup, in the short-term the team has too many shortcomings on offense to overcome.  As a result, expect Arizona back to the playoffs this year.  As the Giants were a team of destiny last year, the Diamondbacks are the same team of destiny to win the NL West in 2011.  

 

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MLB Draft Signing Deadline: Who Will Sign By August 15th

Friday August 12, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):   With the August 15 deadline for all 2011 MLB draftees to sign, players and teams are getting down to the wire with negotiations.  Only two of the top ten picks have been signed, right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, and second baseman Cory Spangenberg by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, respectively.  Of the 33 first round picks, 9 have signed, as well as 14 of the 27 picks in the supplemental first round.  It is expected that most of the picks from the first round will go down to the last hour, if not minute.  However, there is a lot of speculation about who will not sign, and the fans of each team are hoping and praying their team will get their guy.  Some players come into the draft with lofty expectations and high estimates of signing bonus money.  As a result, many of the lower budget franchises stay away from these players, and draft “safe” players, who will sign for a more reasonable price.

The Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane was made famous through the book “Moneyball”, which portrayed the club as a bottom feeder organization financially.  They had to pick lesser talents in order to sign all their draft picks.  They shied away from the big “sexy” names on draft boards and targeted players with specific skill sets.  Other teams who have done this in the past to varying degrees of success are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals.  In the last couple of years, these organizations have turned their philosophies around, drafting tough to sign players with higher ceilings, and ending up signing most of them.  Today will highlight a few of the players drafted who will be tougher than others to sign.

From this year’s draft, one of the players who was known to be extremely difficult to sign was Josh Bell.  On talent alone, he was rated as an early first round pick, yet dropped to the second round to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He had sent a letter to Major League Baseball advising teams not to draft him on account that he wanted to attend the University of Texas.  Some have said this was just a bargaining tool to simply add more leverage to his situation, while others think he will not sign under any circumstances.  It has been predicted that it will take a minimum of $10M and a Major League contract in order to sign him.  I feel that the Pirates are an extreme long shot to sign Bell, and he will attend U of T and be a Longhorn for the next three years.

High school right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede could have been a top 10 pick, with his 95 mph fastball and devastating change-up.  Beede was widely known to be seeking a bonus upwards of $3-4M.  The Toronto Blue Jays and their new management have made it a point to take the best player available when they it is their turn to select a player in the draft.  So, when it came to their turn as the 21st selection, the Jays did not hesitate to choose Beede, who has said it will come down to money in the long run.  I believe the Jays will sign him in the final minutes for close to $3M.

With the 5th overall pick, the Kansas City Royals had a tough decision to make.  Outfielder Bubba Starling, a hometown kid from Kansas, was widely considered the top prep offensive talent in the draft was still on the board.  Starling has a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to play both football and baseball.  It is very likely that a bonus upwards of $8M will be what it takes for Starling to sign with KC on August 15.  Expect this deal to get done.

Gerrit Cole, the flame throwing right-handed pitcher from UCLA was taken by the Pirates first overall in the draft.  Cole has reached 102 mph on radar guns and routinely hits triple digits.  Cole has yet to sign, but is widely expected to join the Pirates.  A Major League deal for 4 years and $8M or so is likely.

Rice University has been known to producing top talent, as witnessed by having eight first round picks in the last 11 years, most notably when Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went 3rd and 4th overall in the 2004 draft.  Another first rounder from Rice was Lance Berkman in 1997.  So when one of the top three candidates for the first overall pick came down to an infielder from Rice, who just happened to win the Dick Howser Trophy, (essentially the Heisman Award for college baseball players), nobody was surprised.  Anthony Rendon may not have above average speed or the best glove, but he has an above average arm and was considered by most to be the best hitter in the country.  Rendon dropped to #6 to the Washington Nationals due to signability concerns but should sign for $4M plus.

Shortstops with ultra talent often get huge signing bonuses and Cleveland Indians’ first pick (8th overall), Francisco Lindor will be no exception.  Lindor has the talent to warrant a $3M bonus, but should hold out for more.  The Indians tend to shy away from this kind of pick, but the talent speaks for itself and I believe the Indians will go as high as $3.5M to sign the talented shortstop.

There has arguably not been a better high school pitcher in the last decade than flame throwing Dylan Bundy.  The right-hander has reached 100 mph and has 2 plus secondary pitches.  His high school pitching numbers are straight out of a video game.  71 innings, 2 earned runs. TWO!  He also had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks. FIVE WALKS!  Good for a 31.6:1 K:BB ratio.  Oh, and the fact that he can also hit, as evidenced by his 11 home runs and 54 RBI in only 105 at-bats doesn’t hurt.  The University of Texas commit could command a Major League contract and $6-8M.  He should sign; my guess is $6.5M.

 

Here is the breakdown of the entire 2011 first round of picks, with players in bold having already signed:

1 Gerrit Cole RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Danny Hultzen LHP Seattle Mariners
3 Trevor Bauer RHP Arizona Diamondbacks – ML deal 4/$7M
4 Dylan Bundy RHP Baltimore Orioles
5 Bubba Starling OF Kansas City Royals
6 Anthony Rendon 3B Washington Nationals
7 Archie Bradley RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
8 Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland Indians
9 Javier Baez SS Chicago Cubs
10 Cory Spangenberg 2B San Diego Padres – $1.86M
11 George Springer OF Houston Astros
12 Taylor Jungmann RHP Milwaukee Brewers
13 Brandon Nimmo OF New York Mets
14 Jose Fernandez RHP Florida Marlins
15 Jed Bradley LHP Milwaukee Brewers
16 Chris Reed LHP LA Dodgers
17 C.J. Cron Jr. 1B LA Angels – $1.467M
18 Sonny Gray RHP Oakland Athletics – $1.54M
19 Matt Barnes RHP Boston Red Sox
20 Tyler Anderson LHP Colorado Rockies
21 Tyler Beede RHP Toronto Blue Jays
22 Kolten Wong 2B St. Louis Cardinals – $1.3M
23 Alex Meyer RHP Washington Nationals
24 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Tampa Bay Rays
25 Joe Ross RHP San Diego Padres
26 Blake Swihart C Boston Red Sox
27 Robert Stephenson RHP Cincinnati Reds
28 Sean Gilmartin LHP Atlanta Braves – $1.13M
29 Joe Panik SS San Francisco Giants – $1.116M
30 Levi Michael SS Minnesota Twins
31 Mikie Mahtook OF Tampa Bay Rays
32 Jake Hager SS Tampa Bay Rays – $963K
33 Kevin Matthews LHP Texas Rangers – $936K

 

I think that although you can’t be sure about these kinds of things, my gut feeling is that every first rounder this year will actually sign by August 15th.  I also predict that at least one signing will come minutes after the deadline, probably a Scott Boras client, and the league will allow the deal to pass.

 

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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Interview with Toronto Blue Jays Prospect and 2010 Draftee: Art Charles

Thursday August 11, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Today on the Reports we are proud to feature Blue Jays prospect first baseman, Arthur Charles.  The 20-year old Charles was drafted by the Jays in the 20th round of the 2010 draft.  After being selected by the Orioles in 2008 and the Royals in 2009, Charles signed with Toronto and started his baseball journey last year.

At 6’6″ and weighing a solid 221 lbs, Charles projects to flash a great deal of power at the first base position for the Jays.  Currently playing for Bluefield in the Appalachian League, Charles has hit 10 home runs in 49 games, with an impressive .813 OPS.  Art is one of the most charistmatic players that we have interviewed on the Reports.  We can see him quickly becoming a fan favorite one day in Toronto.  A name to keep an eye on in the Blue Jays organization, the Reports is proud to present our interview with Arthur (Art) Charles:

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Art.  Looking to the past, who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Art CharlesMy favorite baseball players growing up would have to be Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. These two sluggers were my idols and in whom I modified my game after.  Griffey instantly stood out to me because I liked his swing and tried to modify mine to look like his.  His swing was just so pure, smooth, and simple.  Barry Bonds was the same way I loved his swing and how he hit so many home runs.  I used to tell my friends that I would break his home run record and that one day I would be “that guy” in the big leagues hitting bombs and lasers everywhere in front of the world. 


 

MLB reports:  Great choices in Bonds and Griffey.  We have seen Griffey in particular as a popular choice amond players.  On the flipside, which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Art CharlesThe current MLB player that I admire the most right now is Adrian Gonzalez.  I enjoy watching Adrian Gonzalez a lot because he is not only a very good hitter for the Red Sox, but he is a great defensive player as well.  His game is something that I now watch very closely for that reason.  I would like to be that kind of player, an all around player.  I want to be known as a threat and someone who will not only hit for power and average, but someone who has a golden glove at first base making plays and helping his team win on both sides, offensively and defensively.

 

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

Art Charles:  My proudest accomplishment of my professional career would have to be hitting a walk-off home run to against the Bristol White Sox this year.  This moment isn’t just big for me because I hit the game winning home run ,but because there was a lesson to learn from it.  In the top of that inning we were tied and one of the Sox’s players hit a ground ball to me that I made an error on, to give them the go ahead run.  I was VERY disappointed, but I knew there was a chance that I would be up in the bottom half of the inning.  Although I was heated, I told myself I was going to get up when my team needed me and I was not going to let them down again.  I was going to win the game for us.  Staying focused and visualizing my at bat, mixed with a little anger, had gotten me mentally prepared for the moment.  It was a full count with two runners on and two outs, the kind of moment that you imagine when you are young.  I then saw a good pitch and didn’t miss it.  Instantly I knew I had just hit the game winning home run and met with my teammates at home plate to celebrate.  I even had the shaving cream pie treatment and that made it one of, if not the most, memorable moments of my life.

 

MLB reports:  A great experience Art.  Thank you for sharing it with us!  Reflecting back, what were your goals going into the 2011 season? 

Art Charles:  My goals going into this season were to have quality at bats, hit balls hard where ever they might go, make plays on defense, do my part to help my team win, improve my game for the next level (offensively and defensively), get a promotion to one of our other teams, be a threat every time I step to the plate, work hard at everything I do, and be consistent on a daily basis.  I knew that if I did all of those things, that the rest would take care of itself.  Meaning home runs, RBI’s, doubles, and making plays in the field would come.  I just wanted to make sure I took care of my business and controlled what I could control and let the rest fall into place.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Orioles in 2008 and Royals in 2009 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Jays in 2010?

Art Charles:  When being drafted I was beyond excited.  Being drafted three times by three different teams is not only an honor and an accomplishment, but also a very exciting and blessed process.  Every time I was drafted I was very happy.  The process of these drafts was very similar.  When I was first drafted in 2008 to the Orioles I was still young, at 17, and needed to mature more and really prepare myself; not ready to make that move.  In 2009 I was taken again to the Royals, but still the timing and things didn’t work out.  Going into the 2010 season I knew this was the year that I was ready to become a professional ball player and in the 2010 draft the Jays picked me up.  I felt this was a good fit for me and I was very comfortable with the scouts and staff I had met in the pre-draft workouts so I knew this was home.

 

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

Art Charles:  I consider my greatest baseball skill to be hitting the baseball with power to all parts of the field.  I feel that hitting baseballs for power to all fields is what separates me from lots of other players, and its something that I will continue to do and get better at doing.

 

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

Art Charles:  The parts of my game that I wish to improve on are every part of my game.  I feel I need to get better offensively and defensively if I am going to be the all around player that I wish to become.  Nothing in life comes easy and I learned that at a young age.  So I will continually work hard to better myself and separate myself from others.  To be the best I have to be, in fact better than the best.  So my speed, agility, offense, and defense all have to improve.

 

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?

Art Charles:  Strikeouts and walks are going to come.  They are both part of the game.  So far this season I have struck out more than I would have liked to, but that’s part of my learning process as a player.  With those strike outs I have learned about how I might be pitched in counts, to be patient and get good pitches to drive, to see pitches up, and much more.  It’s all part of the process that everyone goes through to get to the big leagues.  Walks are also going to occur and that will be because I’m not chasing pitches, I’m being patient, and seeing the ball up.  It’s easier said than done, but like I said it’s part of the process.

 

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

Art Charles:  Long term I see myself in the big leagues as a power hitting first baseman.  I feel defense is just as important as hitting. I work on the both of them a lot because I know that if I want to become the player I envision myself becoming, I need to be good around the bag, pick up my teammates, and make plays.  I feel that I am still improving defensively and will continue to get better.  Defense is definitely part of my game I want polish.

 

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?

Art Charles:  If I could look into a crystal ball and see my expected time in the big leagues, I don’t know yet what I would see.  I would like to be there within three years, but I am young and have a lot to work on and lots of improving to do.  So I do not know at this moment what my expected time would be.  There isn’t really one thing in particular to say I would need most to get there because to get to the highest level, you need it all.

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced thus far?

Art Charles:  Pro ball has been everything I expected it to be and more.  I can’t say there are any lows because I love what I do and I haven’t had any really long bus rides yet.   But there are plenty of highs.  One being which seeing myself improve as a player.  There are many experiences playing that I have now, such as walk off wins, playoff pushes, fans, signing balls and playing for great skippers.  Did I say the fans?  I would have to say that one of my favorite things was having a little boy write me a letter thanking me for a handshake and telling me I was his favorite player.  The fans are what make this game that much more fun and signing balls, bats, cards, and shirts was a great experience for me.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?  Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?

Art Charles:  On a day off or after the game I like to lay down and relax to recharge my batteries a bit, listen to music, vibe out, stay up on my tweet game (@SirArthurC), talk to my family, and play Call of Duty (a favorite among players).  Sometimes the guys will come to my room and we play video games or go to the mall.  I have tons of movies so we watch movies, or play cards.  The guys that you will probably catch me with the most are Aaron Sanchez, Christopher Hawkins, Cody Bartlett, Myles Jaye, Les Williams, or Noah Syndergaard.

 

MLB reports:  Have you visited Toronto the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?

Art Charles:  I have been to Toronto for a pre-draft workout in the Rogers Centre last year and it was a lovely place.  I really enjoyed my brief stay, very nice city and even better people.  The Rogers Centre was great and an unbelievable stadium.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send one message to the Toronto Blue Jays fans, what would it be?

Art Charles:  My message to the fans would be thank you for the love and support.  It is very much appreciated and not forgotten.  You guys are the best!

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Art Charles for joining us today on the Reports.  We wish you the best of luck on your baseball journey towards joining the Jays in Toronto one day.  We definitely encourage all our readers to feel free to contact Art with your comments and questions on his Twitter handle.  Art is very active on Twitter and is a must follow!

 

 

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.

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday August 10th

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 August 10, 2011

 

 

Q:  Once Anthony Rendon signs with the Nationals, do you see him moving to 2B?  What’s your best guess?  From Flips, parts unknown.

MLB reports:  The Rice product, drafted 6th overall by the Nationals this year is likely to sign with the Nationals by the August 15th deadline.  In the unlikely event that he does not sign, then the Nationals would get a compensation pick next draft.  But luckily for Washington, Rendon is expected to join the club this year.  With Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at 3rd base, many people have speculated at which position Rendon will end up.  I have heard 2nd base tossed around, but the smart money is 1st base.  Adam La Roche is a temporary solution for the squad and not the long-term answer.  The Nationals appear to be set up the middle with Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond.  Rendon’s bat has never been a question.  To get him quickly into the lineup, expect the Nationals to move him to 1st base right away after being signed.  The outfield is another option, but more of a last resort. 

 

Q:  Will this be the year that the Texas Rangers win the World Series?  From Anne, Dallas. 

MLB reports:  If the Rangers had been able to sign Cliff Lee, my answer would have been yes.  But they did not and the Halladay-Lee combination will lead the Phillies to victory in the fall in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers have an excellent team.  An offense led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and company.  C.J. Wilson as the ace.  The bullpen trio of Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.  The Rangers can do it all.  But firstly, just to make it to the World Series the Rangers will need to pass the Yankees and Red Sox.  Even then, the Phillies if they end up as their opponent will be tough to beat.  The Phillies have a solid offense core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence.  The bullpen has been steady, led by closer Ryan Madson.  But it is the starting pitching that will see the Phillies through.  With all the roadblocks in the Rangers path, I see them as a strong contender but not necessarily the favorites to win the World Series this year.   

 

Q: Why is it legal to bulldoze a catcher when he clearly has the ball, but not a fielder at any other base?  From G Homan, Ohio.

MLB reports:  You will have to check the rule book on this one.  It is just as legal to take out a catcher as it is an infielder during play, but it depends on the nature of the play.  A baserunner cannot run outside of the baselines to purposely run over an infielder or a catcher.  But in the course of running the bases, runners can collide with an infielder as they would a catcher.  Now the runners cannot purposely injure a defensive player, like using the spikes or an elbow to the face.  But to reach base safely, a strong slide or collision is a part of the game and can happen at second base the same way it can at home.  Despite cries to change the rules after the Buster Posey injury, strong and aggressive base running remains a vital part of the game.

   

Q:  Will the Phillies get an arm for their bullpen through waivers?  From Miguel, Philadelphia.

MLB reports:  Last time I checked, your team was stacked fairly well at the back-end of their pitching staff.  Ryan Madson as closer.  Brad LidgeAntonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras (when healthy) and Kyle Kendrick.  I wouldn’t be too worried about the pen.  Some people are calling for Heath Bell still to go to the Phillies.  But with the waiver process in effect, I can’t see Bell falling to the Phillies before getting snapped up earlier on waivers.  Another arm or two might out there, but nothing too special.  The Phillies most likely go with what they got and that is still much above most other pens in baseball.   

 

Q:  If you look at the numbers, you will find out that Indianapolis, IN and San Antonio, TX are the most populous cities without a MLB team.  I would think size of market would drive who gets the next teams.  It is obvious that MLB is financially doing really well.  I would keep two leagues, and give the expansion teams to the AL, since they are the league with only 14 teams.
 
American League:

West                       Midwest                   East                 Atlantic
LA Angels                    Rangers             Indianapolis     Yankees
Oakland A’s                  KC Royals        Tigers                   Red Sox
San Antonio               Twins                  Indians                Orioles
Mariners                    White Sox           Rays                    Blue Jays
 
National League:

West                             Midwest                  East            Atlantic
Dodgers       Colorado Rockies        Chicago Cubs        NY Mets
Padres          Houston Astros           Cincinnati Reds    Phil Phillies
Giants           St. Louis Cardinals     Atlanta Braves     Florida Marlins
Dbacks         Brewers                           Pitt Pirates            Wash Nationals
 
I tried to used a US map,and place teams in divisions according to how the line up East and West.  From Tom, Orange CA.

MLB reports:  Very interesting alignment Tom.  Indianapolis and San Antonio have been two very popular destinations for our readers in selecting the next two expansion MLB cities.  There has been resistance by Bud Selig to further expand baseball.  However, as discussed in our previous articles on the subject, baseball needs to add two more teams to balance out the leagues to 16-teams a piece.  Also realignment is in order to create better geographical rivalries and even out the number of teams per division.  So far, the most that we have heard is that baseball is planning to realign by moving one NL team to the AL by 2013 (as the 2012 regular season schedule has already been prepared in draft format).  The problem with the 15/15 split is that an interleague game would need to be played most days, which does not seem like a worthwhile proposition.  Houston by most accounts is the team most likely to move.  So while we appreciate your thoughts, the expansion and radical realignment ideas are unlikely to happen… yet.  If and when they do, we would like to see more shifting of teams to create new excitement and rivalries in baseball.  But the framework you have laid down is a very good start.  Thank you for sending it in.     

 

 

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New York Yankees: 6-Man Rotation and Implications

Tuesday August 9, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  When you look at the New York Yankees pitching staff in 2011, two things come to mind.  C.C. Sabathia is the only frontline starter they currently have, and he has a pretty decent supporting cast.  That being said, last week, the Yankees have decided to go with a 6-man rotation for the time being.  This could be a motivational tool for Phil Hughes, who has struggled with injuries and command this season.  It also could be a way to limit some of the other starters’ inning totals.  Here is a quick look at all six members of the current rotation and how they stack up.

C.C. Sabathia is a true ace.  A workhorse.  A throwback to a generation where pitchers routinely threw 210+ innings in a season.  In his first 10 Major League seasons, Sabathia averaged over 210 innings per season.  This season, he is on pace for close to 250 innings.  Sabathia is once again this season one of the strongest frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award.

Bartolo Colon is having a resurgence nobody could have predicted.  His ERA+ (a stat that compares his ERA with league average as well as adjusting to ballparks) of 126 is the highest it has been since 2002 when he was traded from Cleveland to Montreal.  He has thrown 113 2/3 innings already, which is more than he threw from 2008-2010.  Although it is fair to say he didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2010.  Colon hasn’t thrown this many innings since 2005, when he threw 222 2/3 on his way to a Cy Young Award.  Colon is throwing strikes and eating innings.  Since joining the rotation, Colon has averaged over 6 innings per start.  Colon is a candidate to tire and wear down due to his large frame and weight, as well as the number of innings he has thrown in the last 5-years.

A.J. Burnetthas again been under-performing in relation to the 5-year $80M contract he signed before the 2009 season.  Burnett has always been touted as a pitcher with electric stuff, but unable it seems to figure it out.  Last year he was atrocious.  This year he is better, but still not very good.  He is on pace to lead the league in wild pitches for the second time in three years; in 2010 he was 2nd.  Burnett’s walk rate of 4 per 9 innings is not good, and he is giving up home runs at an alarming rate of 1.3 per 9 innings.

If we thought that Colon has been good this year, then Freddy Garcia has been great.  Once considered a great inning eater, with 7 of his first 8 MLB seasons throwing over 200 innings, he is back to his old tricks.  Garcia doesn’t throw with the same velocity as he once did; his fastball averaged 93 mph in 2002, whereas it sits around 87 now.  He knows this is the case, and actually only throws his heater 37.2% of the time, compared to 63% in 2002.  The biggest difference is that he now throws a split-finger 21.5% of the time, which he didn’t begin throwing with any regularity until 2006.  Garcia threw 157 innings last year, so I don’t see him wearing down yet as evidenced by his 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings this season.

Phil Hughes has not had the 2011 that the Yankees dreamed of after his terrific 2010 season, where he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA.  Hughes has only started 8 games this year, and has not pitched very well.  His main problem is that he is simply not missing any bats.  His K rate sits at 4.74/9 IP.  Hitters are hitting more line drives, and less ground balls off Hughes, which is a reason for a spike in his BABIP of .343 as compared to .274 last year.  The Yankees could be using his next couple of starts to see if they will stick with a 6-man rotation.  Hughes has been unable to last more than 6 innings in a start this year.   It should be noted though that his last start on August 2nd was an encouraging one, as he threw 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits and induceing 9 ground balls.

Ivan Nova had been dangled in trade talks seemingly from the end of the last World Series until this year’s trade deadline, where the Yankees pulled him back to keep for themselves.  GM Brian Cashman has said that they feel Ivan Nova is as good as the current version of Ubaldo Jimenez, so they held on to him, hoping to harness his ability.  When Hughes returned from the disabled list, Nova was initially optioned to AAA to make room in the rotation.  Nova has been pretty good all season, as his sinking fastball induces a ton of ground balls.  His 10-4 record with a 3.81 ERA has been impressive, but he still doesn’t strike out many hitters.  Nova threw almost 190 innings last year, so he will have no restrictions this year as he currently sits at 122 IP in the MLB and AAA combined.

The Yankees have a pretty good problem to have in that four of their starters are pitching well., one starter has been working back from an injury and is improving, and the other is a guy with tremendous talent.  The choice that many would like to see is Burnett being pushed to a bullpen role, but I don’t see that happening.  One more turn in the rotation should prove that the Yankees need to cut down on Garcia and Colon’s innings, and that Burnett should throw on 5 days rest instead of the usual four.  Garcia and Colon may also get skipped in the rotation a couple of times down the stretch to save their arms for the playoffs.

For the playoffs, most teams use a three or four-man rotation, using their fifth guy in a long relief role.  The Yankees can make a case for a four-man rotation, using Sabathia, Nova, Colon and Garcia if they all stay healthy.  That is a lot of talent and experience to utilize in a short playoff matchup.  Hughes has never been that impressive to me, but if he rounds into form, he could easily slot into the fourth spot, pushing out Colon or Garcia, depending on who loses the battle at the end.

The bottom line is that the Yankees have depth at the Major League level.  They have successfully held on to many of their top prospects in the last few years, while adding crafty veteran free agents to the mix.   The result is that the Yankees should continue contending for the American League East division title this year and for many years to come.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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August 15th Deadline to Sign MLB Draft Picks: 1 Week Away

Monday August 8, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  A popular topic on the Reports is the annual MLB Draft.  Readers love to learn about baseball prospects and future stars.  On June 6th, we summarized the first-round MLB selections and analyzed each player as selected by their respective club.  With the excitement of the draft still in the air, the August 15th deadline to sign each drafted player is only 1 week away.

A quick recap of the draft rules for everyone.  Players that were drafted by MLB teams this year must sign with their respective club by August 15th.  If unsigned, the player will enter next year’s draft if eligible.  In order to re-select the same player in a subsequent year, the team would need the permission of the previously drafted player. 

Another twist to the draft is that if a team is not successful in signing a pick by August 15th, the team would receive a compensation pick in the following year’s draft.  For a player drafted in the first or second round that goes unsigned, the team would receive the same slot pick the following year as compensation plus one.  For a player not signed in the third round, a compensation pick would be given in a supplemental round between the third and fourth rounds.  So for example, the National drafted Aaron Crow with the 9th overall pick, 1st round of the 2008 MLB draft.  When Crow did not sign, the National received as compensation the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, used to draft current closer Drew Storen, in addition to their existing 1st round pick (1st overall, which was used to take phenom Stephen Strasburg).  However, if a team is unable to sign the player taken with a compensatory pick, the team would not receive another compensation pick in following years.  Thus a team gets one chance to make-up a pick, so they better be sure they draft a signable player.

The story of signing MLB draft picks does not usually boil down to who signed, but rather who did not sign.  Draftees usually wait to the final hour to sign their contracts, minutes to the midnight deadline.  Sizeable contracts are handed out at the deadline, as players and agents attempt to one-up one another.  With the current MLB collective bargaining agreement set to expire on December 11, 2011, players and agents realize that future rookie contracts may be limited in a hard-cap, set-salary structure arrangement.  Thus many players would be well advised to sign their first professional contracts this year, rather than face the risk of the unknown future salary structure of rookies.

The biggest contract given to a 1st round pick this year so far has been Trevor Bauer, who signed a 4-year, $7 million contract with the Diamondbacks.  Other 2011 1st round picks to sign contracts already include Cory Spangenberg with the Padres, C.J. Cron with the Angels, Sonny Gray with the Athletics, Kolten Wong with the Cardinals, Sean Gilmarten with the Braves, Joe Panik with the Giants, Jake Hager with the Rays and Kevin Matthews with the Rangers.  To keep up-to-date on the 2011 1st round and supplemental MLB Draft picks signings, please click onto MLB Trade Rumors, a great baseball site that is maintaining a draft pick signing page.

As August 15th continues to approach, fans will continue to ask if and when the Pirates will sign Gerrit Cole, the 1st overall selection in this year’s draft.  Dylan Bundy of the Orioles, Bubba Starling of the Royals, Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and so forth also remain out there.  For all the anxious people worrying as to which players will sign, let us help alleviate your concerns.  The majority of the top picks will sign with their squads before the deadline and will get good contracts.  We will continue to cover the signing deadline and file a report when the final numbers are in.  The signing period is like a game of musical chairs with a great deal of money being thrown around with pre-arranged partners.  It will be interesting to see which draft picks are left standing without a contract in hand when the bell strikes midnight next week.

 

 

 

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Remembering Hideki Irabu: Japanese MLB Pitcher and Link to Donnie Moore

Sunday August 7, 2011

 

MLB reports:   Hideki Irabu was born on May 5, 1969 in Hirara, Okinawa.  Irabu played in Japan (Nippon Professional Baseball) from 1988-1996 and then again from 2003-2004.  In North America, we will most remember Irabu as a member of the New York Yankees from 1997-1999.  Irabu also played with the Montreal Expos from 2000-2001 and the Texas Rangers in 2002.  The baseball world sadly lost Hideki Irabu on July 27, 2011, an apparent victim of suicide.  A loss to the baseball world at the tender age of 42, Irabu was survived by a wife and two young children.

The story of Hideki Irabu is well-known in the baseball community.  He had his contract purchased by the San Diego Padres from his Japanese club, the Chiba Lotte Marines.  Irabu refused to sign with the San Diego Padres and stated his intention of only playing for the New York Yankees.  The Yankees were able to swing a deal for Irabu’s services, for a package of players including Ruben Rivera and cash.  Hideki Irabu ended up making his debut with the Yankees on July 10, 1997  and for his career pitched in 74 games for the Yankees over 3 seasons (64 starts).  Irabu won back-to-back World Series rings in New York in 1998 and 1999.  He was then traded to the Montreal Expos for Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook and Christian Parker.  A good haul for the Yankees considering the career spans of Lilly and Westbrook (had they stayed in New York).  Irabu then signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent and played out his last MLB season as a closer before returning to Japan to resume his NPB career.  After a stint in independent baseball, Irabu apparently had the intention of returning to Major League Baseball, but alas a comeback was not in the cards.  Reports have indicated that Irabu hung himself in his California home, with autopsy results to follow.  Today we look at the career of Hideki Irabu and the road that led to his untimely passing this year.

When joining the New York Yankees in 1997, Hideki Irabu was labelled the “Japanese Nolan Ryan”.  By the time he left New York, he was stuck with the moniker given to him by team owner George Steinbrenner “the fat toad”.  Looking at Irabu’s MLB numbers, he unfortunately fell short of the Nolan Ryan comparisons:

 

Year Tm W L ERA SV BB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 5 4 7.09 0 20 56 1.669
1998 NYY 13 9 4.06 0 76 126 1.295
1999 NYY 11 7 4.84 0 46 133 1.335
2000 MON 2 5 7.24 0 14 42 1.665
2001 MON 0 2 4.86 0 3 18 1.500
2002 TEX 3 8 5.74 16 16 30 1.426
6 Seasons 34 35 5.15 16 175 405 1.405
162 Game Avg. 11 12 5.15 5 58 134 1.405
               
NYY (3 yrs) 29 20 4.80 0 142 315 1.362
MON (2 yrs) 2 7 6.69 0 17 60 1.626
TEX (1 yr) 3 8 5.74 16 16 30 1.426
               
AL (4 yrs) 32 28 4.90 16 158 345 1.369
NL (2 yrs) 2 7 6.69 0 17 60 1.626
 

Injuries played a part in Irabu’s MLB career.  Irabu had both knee and shoulder surgeries after leaving the Yankees and blood clots ultimately led to his retirement from Major League Baseball following the 2002 season.  Bouts of heavy drinking, depression and rage also factored into Irabu’s career.  But despite all the distractions and factors that led to his unravelling in baseball, Irabu did show some glimpses of promise.  In addition to the two world series titles he earned in New York (despite playing in only one career post season game in 1999, giving up 7 ER in 4.2 IP to the Red Sox in the ALCS), Irabu had his best numbers during his time with the Yankees.  He earned both of his career shutouts in New York.  His best statistical season was 1998, where he went 13-9 for the Yankees, with a 4.06 ERA and 1.295 WHIP.  As a closer for the Rangers in 2002, Irabu earned 16 saves.  That unfortunately went together with a 3-8 record, 5.74 ERA and 1.426 WHIP.  For a proud young man who fought hard on and off the field, his major league career was taken from him much too early.  Despite attempts at a comeback, we never did see Hideki Irabu in a MLB uniform again after the 2002 season.

In our society, it is much too easy to write off the passing of another human being, especially a celebrity, without considering the person behind the name.  Granted Irabu faced many demons in his life and career.  But I think some people feel the need to label a player like Irabu an alcoholic and rageaholic and simply write him off when learning of his passing.  That is a tragedy in my estimation.  When I learned of Irabu’s passing, my immediate thoughts led to Donnie Moore.  For those of you not familiar, Moore was the Angels pitcher that gave up the tying and winning runs to the Red Sox in game five of the 1986 ALCS.  Many critics pointed to Moore as the reason that the Red Sox ended up beating the Angels and advancing to the World Series.  Moore was a popular target of Angels fans the following seasons and ended up shooting his wife and taking his own life.  A tragic story in itself, Moore like Irabu suffered from deep depression.  But without analyzing and comparing both men too much, I believe that it was the name calling and the reputations of each men that contributed greatly to their respective passings.  Victories and failures take place on baseball diamonds each and every day.  Moore in the playoffs and Irabu in New York, suffered their failures on some of the biggest baseball stages that you can find.  Had their losses been forgotten and each man allowed to continue fresh, they may have enjoyed longer and productive careers in baseball.  They may have also been able to enjoy their personal lives to a greater extent and still been with us today.  But the stigma of failure which was likely reminded to Moore and Irabu for most of their last days on this earth, was likely too much for each to bear.

Hideki Irabu, being of Japanese descent, was a very proud man.  Respect and reputation are considered very important in Japanese circles and criticism is often not taken very well.  Irabu, like Ichiro Suzuki after him, had a lifelong battle with the Japanese media.  Being of mixed descent, Irabu rarely discussed his background which was a difficult subject for him.  Before coming to North America, the Japanese media labelled him with very strong nicknames, including the “Shuwozenegga” and “Kurage”, which translates to jellyfish, for the sting of his pitches.  From there, being called the Japanese Nolan Ryan came with a set of expectations that Irabu could never live up to.  If that was not bad enough, the “fat toad” comment by George Steinbrenner stuck with him to his very last days.  It was my understanding that Irabu through most of his MLB career could not be in any baseball cities, especially New York without hearing some reference to the toad comment.  For a proud individual that did not take criticism well, such a nickname probably stuck within him like a dagger.  By no means do I directly blame Steinbrenner for Irabu’s suicide.  Far from it, as Steinbrenner lately expressed remorse for his comments and publicly apologized for his remarks.  But the choice of media and select fans to continue to remind Irabu of the nickname most likely helped contribute to his passing.  We cannot bring Hideki Irabu or Donnie Moore back.  But we can learn from their passings and help other athletes avoid similar fates.

I link the taunting of Irabu and Moore before him in public and media outlets to bullying in schools.  We have read stories of children and teenagers being harassed in schools and outlets like e-mails and Facebook to the point that they are driven to taking their own lives.   Words do hurt and a bully can be charged criminally.  For those people that went up to Hideki Irabu in a restaurant and called him a “fat toad”, or approached Donnie Moore in a shopping mall and called him a “choke” and “failure”, think about the result of those actions in retrospect.  Since athletes are in the public eye, that leads to many people feeling a sense of entitlement to judge and criticize players as they see fit.  Irabu by earning over $15 million over 6 seasons in Major League Baseball, was apparently fair game as a target to all forms of criticism that people chose to throw his way.  I have no issue with judging an athlete’s numbers on the field.  Analysis and discussion is what sports is all about.  But once we start with the name calling and viciousness, I feel that a line needs to be drawn.

Donnie Moore and Hideki Irabu chose to become professional athletes and were in the public eye.  That does mean that their wins and losses will be known to millions and discussed and analyzed by many.  But sports can go to extreme levels.  Homes vandalized.  Children harassed.  Even murders.  Critics and extreme “fans’ can go to dangerous levels in criticizing athletes.  While extreme situations, they do take place all too often.  These instances stem from bullying, which is not acceptable in schools with children but allowable in public forums with public figures.  We as members of society need to draw the line of what is acceptable in reviewing and criticizing athletes.  Although they choose to be in the public light, they are still human beings with real feelings and emotions.  Hopefully more people will remember that the next time they hurl disparaging remarks at an athlete, whether it be in a stadium, restaurant, radio talk show or newspaper.  Words do hurt and in the case of Donnie Moore and Hideki Irabu, they can also kill.

Donnie Moore, if you weren’t aware, played professional baseball for 13 seasons for 5 different teams.  He had a career 3.67 ERA.  His best season was 1985, where he has a 8-8 record, 1.92 ERA, 31 saves and 1.087 WHIP.  He followed up the following season with 21 saves.  He was an all-star in 1985, finishing 6th in A.L. MVP voting and 7th in A.L. CY Young voting.  Moore also pitched two perfect innings for the Braves in the 1982 NLCS.  But most people don’t remember those numbers.  When they hear the name Donnie Moore, they think of the 1986 ALCS defeat and suicide.  Hideki Irabu has now met a similar fate.  Many people do not remember that Irabu was the man responsible for the Japanese posting system.  By refusing to sign with the Padres, MLB helped institute the current posting system for Japanese players to come to North America.  If not for Irabu, the entire system of transferring NPB players to MLB could be much different today.  Irabu won two World Series rings and enjoyed some success in North America.  Before that, Irabu enjoyed great success in Japan on the baseball diamond.  But when people reflect on his passing, the main words that are spoken now are “fat toad” and suicide.  Even in death, Irabu and Moore continue to be criticized and bullied.  That is the saddest reality of all.

 

 

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Interview with Houston Astros Prospect and 2011 Draftee: Brandon Meredith

Friday August 5, 2011

 

MLB reports:  On the Reports we love discussing baseball prospects and looking towards the next up-and-coming MLB stars.  We especially enjoy talking to the players directly and bringing them to you on the Reports.  Today, we are very fortunate to be c0nversing with Brandon Meredith of the Houston Astros.  A 6th round selection in this year’s MLB draft, Brandon is in A-ball, currently playing outfield for the Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League.  With a .379 OBP and 6 stolen bases in only 34 games played, Brandon has certainly hit the ground running.   A native of California, Brandon attended San Diego State and played under hall-of-famer Tony Gwynn before getting drafted.  One of the nicest young men you will ever meet, Brandon’s future is very bright as a top prospect that will be playing one day for the Houston Astros.  Playing in his first professional baseball season, MLB reports is proud to present Brandon Meredith, outfielder for the Houston Astros:

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Brandon.  We are very glad that you have been able to join us today.  Let’s the hit ground running.  Firstly, as a youngster, who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Brandon Meredith:  I idolized guys like my coach Tony Gwynn at SDSU (San Diego State) and I loved watching Frank Thomas play the game growing up.  But I most pattern my game and like to play like Charlie Hustle (Pete Rose).  All hustle, all the time.
 

 

MLB reports:  You certainly were lucky to learn from Tony Gwynn, considered one of the best hitters that the game has ever seen.  From the the current crop of players, which MLB star do you most admire and why?

Brandon Meredith:  I like a number of guys, I can’t say that I can pick just one.  The players that I most look up to have the same qualities.  They bring it every night.  They hustle and play the game to win.  Those are the guys that I work hard to play like and mold my game around.

 

 

MLB reports:  What are your proudest accomplishments in baseball thus far Brandon?

Brandon Meredith:  My proudest accomplishment is getting drafted and having the chance to play professional baseball.  To get to this point and be a part of a major league baseball organization, I have made it much farther already than many players.  I truly feel blessed to be able to have this opportunity.

 

 

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

Brandon Meredith:  I was excited to get on the field and get into games fairly quickly.  I want to learn and grow as an individual, as well as a baseball player.  I want to learn the pro-style game of baseball and become strong in every facet of the game.  At the end of the day,  I want to be able to look back on this season and my career and know that I always gave everything I had and to have no regrets.

 

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Rays in 2008 and what were the factors in not signing with Tampa Bay and Houston originally?

Brandon Meredith:  When I was drafted this year, my first reaction was to reflect on the time I had at San Diego State.  It felt weird to know I was going to sign and not be a part of SDSU any longer.  The process was a good one in high school.   I learned a lot from being drafted at a young age and being a part of the draft process so early in my life.  I learned that a person should not expect too much from the draft process.   Let it come from you.  The factors that led to me not signing was partially the amount of money involved, but also the fact that I felt that I was not physically and mentally prepared to take on pro-ball before.  I wanted to develop as a player and person at the college level and become a professional baseball when the time was right.  2011 turned out to be the right time for me.

 

 

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

Brandon Meredith:  I feel like  I am a good and patient hitter.  I know the strike zone and have a strong understanding of my swing.  Overall, I feel that my biggest skill is my knowledge of the game and the fact that I love to play the game hard, every inning of every game that I am on the field. 
 

 

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

Brandon Meredith:  No matter how long I play this game, there will always be areas of improvement to bring my game to the next level.  I need to improve on arm strength and quickness.  I want to be an all-around baseball player, as both defense and offense are important to me.  I  also work hard on the ability to hit for power, without sacrificing  getting on base and stealing bases.
 

 

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game? 

Brandon Meredith:  I hate striking out first of all.  I love to walk more than strikeout and walks will always be a very important part of my game.  I like getting on base and making things happen.   I am working hard on pitch recognition and knowing my strike zone so that I can cut down on strikeouts, which I look to improving upon as much as I can as I continue to play the game.

 

 

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

Brandon Meredith:  I can see myself staying in the outfield and playing left field.  Defense is a big part of my game.  I feel that I am a good outfielder.  While I recognize that there are areas that I have to work on, overall I pride myself on being solid defensively.  I put a great deal of work on the defensive part of my game and while I can’t promise that a gold glove is in my future, I am definitely working towards being the best outfielder that I can be.
 

 

MLB reports:   Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  Tell us about your experiences thus far Brandon.

Brandon Meredith:  I truly love being a part of professional baseball.  It is the most fun that I have had in my life.  Interestingly, it feels so much easier than the college game.  I feel more relaxed, both mentally and physically.  Now I only have baseball to focus on.  The best part is that I have baseball and that’s it.  I get to play everyday and love my job.   The only downside so far is the cities that we are traveling to are new to me and experiences that take time to get used to.   But overall it has been  a great experience and ride so far.  
 

 

MLB reports:  With working so hard on the field, chill and down time off the field is very important I’m sure.  Who do you most hang out with on the ValleyCats Brandon and what do you do for fun?

Brandon Meredith:  I love to be competitive with my teammates.  We play everything from call of duty to ping-pong.  I hang out with Neiko Johnson, Zachary Johnson, Jacke Healey, Nicholas Tropeano, John Hinson, and Andrew Muren the most.

 

 

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?

Brandon Meredith:   I feel that I could potentially be there in three to five years.  Playing in Houston for the Astros is what I am working towards and will do everything that I can to make my dream come true.  For that to happen long-term, I will to need to hit for more power and work hard on my defense and quickness. 

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Brandon Meredith on joining us today on the Reports.  We wish you the best of luck on your baseball journey to the big leagues. We definitely encourage all our readers to feel free to contact Brandon with your comments and questions on his twitter handle.  Brandon loves interacting with the fans and is a must follow!

 

 

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.

On the Verge: Brett Lawrie Call Up by Jays is Imminent

Thursday August 4, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010.  Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum.  Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base.  This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years.  He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft.  That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly.  They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.

Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster.  However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year.  Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense.  This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach.  Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past.  When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand.  Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise.  Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.

When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off.  He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI.  More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense.  Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him.  Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.

Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play?  The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base.  Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders.  Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions.  Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future.  That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench.  You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then?  Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July.  He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span.  Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September.  Here is how that lineup stacks up.

Yunel Escobar – SS
Colby Rasmus – CF
Jose Bautista – RF
Adam Lind – 1B
Edwin Encarnacion – DH
Travis Snider – LF
Brett Lawrie – 3B
J.P. Arencibia – C
Aaron Hill –  2B

If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem.  The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen.  Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench.  This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term.  With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time.  Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years.  The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around.  If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there.  One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.

I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs.  If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player.  He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.

What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder.  Rajai Davis  has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team.  He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.

The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term.  Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen.  Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect. 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourge you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday August 3rd

 

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 August 3, 2011

 

Q:  More worrisome for the Braves?  Lack of offense or starting pitching?  From Jory, Parts Uknown.

MLB reports:   I’m not worried about either to be honest.  But if I had to pick one, I would have liked to see Atlanta add one more strong bat.  With Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones‘ injuries, plus Dan Uggla‘s inconsistency all season, another strong bat would have been in order.  Michael Bourn was a nice pickup and will help at the leadoff spot.  But Hunter Pence would have been better.  If Heyward comes back to health and Uggla continues to heat up though, watch out for the Braves.   With Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, the Braves should do well in a short series if they make the playoffs. 

 

Q:  Who got the better deal in the Seattle – Detroit trade? (Fister to Tigers)  From:  Martin, Cleveland.

MLB reports:  I would have liked to see the Tigers make a trade for a better starter.  Doug Fister is good, but not the Ubaldo Jimenez type pitcher that the Indians received.  David Pauley though was a solid addition in relief and boosts the Tigers pen greatly.  The four prospects the Mariners received are decent, but no superstars in the bunch.  I think the Tigers win this one in that they receive two players that will help the stretch run without emptying the farm of its top prospects.  Considering the need for pitching at the major league level, the Tigers did well for themselves.  It was a trade that the Mariners needed to make, as they continue to re-stock their farm.  But if I had to pick a winner, it’s the Tigers by a hair.

 

Q:  Still think the Phillies are going to win the World Series?  From Catherine, Edmonton.

MLB reports:  Without a doubt.  I am putting all my playoff eggs in the Phillies basket.  With Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee at the top of the rotation.  An offense led by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence.   An improving bullpen that should benefit from a healthy Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.  The Phillies are the team to beat in my estimation.  Come playoff time, no team can throw out a 1-2 punch like Halladay and Lee, combined with such a deep balanced team playing behind the pitchers.  The Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  No doubt.  But I give the Phillies the edge based on their offense.

 

Q:  If you had to pick one player to build a major league team around, who would you pick and why?  From James, New York.

MLB reports:  What a great question.  Many analysts tend to select a starting pitcher when asked this  type of question.  Not me.  Pitchers for me carry too much risk, given their propensity to get injured at much higher rates than positional players.  If I had to go with one player though, considering how many talented MLB players are out there, I would go with Bryce Harper.  Considering his age and tools, Harper is a once-in-a-lifetime type talents.  The kid can do it all on a baseball field and he would be my #1 selection when starting a team.  I have watched his batting stroke, speed on the bases and arm in the outfield.  This is the real deal and a future MVP for the Washington Nationals.  I would normally go with a proven major league player over a prospect.  But Harper is really that good. 

 

Q:  Did the Yankees make a mistake by making no trades at the deadline?  From Lance, Boston.

MLB reports:  One word answer:  yes.  Ok, let me explain in greater detail.  The team is stacked offensively.  No question, plus Jesus Montero is on the farm ready to get called up.  But with all the runs the Yankees can score, their pitching leaves much to be desired.  Their rotation is C.C. Sabathia and a pile of question marks.  Freddy GarciaBartolo ColonPhil HughesA.J. BurnettIvan Nova.  This is a patchwork pitching staff at best.  For what the San Francisco Giants are on offense, the Yankees are pitching-wise.  The bullpen has been good with Mariano Rivera and David Robertson leading the way.  If Rafael Soriano can come back strong, the bullpen will be that much more imposing.  Another arm in the pen would have been nice.  But one or two starting pitchers would have been essential.  Considering the team lost out on Cliff Lee last year, they made a similar mistake in my opinion by not acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez.  He would have been the difference maker for the team.  The Yankees might be able to keep up the smoke and mirrors on the mound through October, but I don’t see that happening. 

 

 

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Talking Mets with Author Howard Megdal

Tuesday August 2, 2011

MLB reports:  Back on June 5th, we had the pleasure of interviewing author Howard Megdal.  The author of The Baseball Talmud, we discussed with Howard his 2nd literary work, “Taking the Field:  A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.”  You can read our interview with Howard, as well as our review of Taking the Field

Well, we enjoyed speaking with Howard so much that we asked him back to talk Mets baseball.  Guess what…he accepted!  We questioned Howard on all Mets topics, including team ownership, drafting and trades.  For the best in Mets discussion, we bring you published author, Howard Megdal: 

 

MLB reports:  Thank you for joining us back on the Reports Howard.  You are our first return interviewee!  I enjoyed reading and reviewing “Taking the Field” very much and have received great feedback on it.  How have things gone so far with the book for you and what has been the response from the baseball community, particularly Mets fans?

Howard Megdal:  Response has been terrific throughout- I’ve really enjoyed the chance to hear what Mets fans think.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is entirely possible to get them to sign onto a clear positive vision of how to run the team.  Not universally, of course, but that’s what Mets fans want at the end of the day.

 
 
MLB reports:  Since the ending of your book, new chapters have been written in Mets history so to speak.  The names Wilpon, Madoff and Einhorn have been in the news for quite some time.  What are your thoughts on the Mets ownership situation?

Howard Megdal:  I think it is extremely unfortunate, since in Sandy Alderson, the Mets have the GM they’ve needed for 20 years-and now, the team’s medium-term financial future is in great doubt. Mets fans should be hoping for a speedy resolution here, and that probably means David Einhorn:  Majority Owner.

 
 
MLB reports:  Where do you see Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes playing next year?  What type of dollars and years are we likely talking?

Howard Megdal:  I believe Carlos Beltran will be playing outfield for a team willing to give him 3-4 years on a contract.  Me, and I’m the biggest Beltran fan there is, I wouldn’t bet a multi-year deal on his knee.  As for Jose Reyes, my gut feeling is that ends up a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox.  I don’t think the Mets have the financial wherewithal to bring him back to Queens.

 
 
MLB reports:  Many Mets fans have been banging their heads on the wall since Jason Bay joined the team.  I had a bad feeling on this signing, specifically that the ballpark and team would not be a fit.  How did you view the Bay signing originally and has your opinion changed since?

Howard Megdal:  My view of it originally is that it was exactly the wrong thing to do- he wasn’t likely to age well, he brought one skill- power- and that it would probably be an albatross contract by year 3.  Never did I imagine he would be so terrible from day one.

 
 
MLB report:  I suggested awhile back that Jerry Seinfeld should invest in the team.  I see him as a strong icon for the Mets that could turn around its popularity and fortunes.  Has this been discussed in Mets circles?

Howard Megdal:  It has, but it doesn’t sound like Jerry is looking to take on that kind of active role.

 

MLB reports:  Johan Santana.  While some say he “might” come back this year, I don’t see it happening.  Will the Santana of old ever emerge for the Mets?

Howard Megdal:  Who knows?  He’s had a complicated shoulder surgery, and the number of pitchers who have returned have varied widely in their subsequent performances.  The early signs are good, and I’d be reluctant to bet against a competitor like Santana.  What I think he has going for him is that he already knows how to pitch- he isn’t going to need to transition from being a pure stuff pitcher.  But could that shoulder give out at any moment?  Unfortunately, yes. My guess is he pitches 4-5 starts for the Mets in 2011, and pitches well.

 
 
MLB reports:  Mets fans must be thrilled with the team’s play of late.  Mirage or real?

Howard Megdal:  Well, as I told my friends and family who were freaking out over their 5-13 start:  “Don’t worry- the Mets are distinctly not terrible.”  I stand by that.  Had them at 84 wins at the start of the year, and still see them finishing around 80, even without Ike Davis or Beltran for the last two months.

 
 
MLB reports:  Sandy Alderson and his loyal foot soldiers.  Have they been everything that you hoped they would be?  Please give Alderson his Mets report card to date and don’t hold back!

Howard Megdal:  I am loving the way Alderson runs this team. There are small things I’d do differently here and there- Daniel Murphy playing 2B being the only one I can think of at the moment- but I absolutely adore the LOGIC, TRANSPARENCY and PASSION of his regime.  Just wrote a piece on a minor arc that some may miss- but it stands as a companion piece to, well, everything Steve Phillips did.  There’s a glorious attention to detail.

Piece is here:

http://mets.lohudblogs.com/2011/07/29/doing-it-right-the-feliciano-fulmer-affair/

 
 
MLB reports:  I have thrown around the idea of realignment.  In my world, the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals would all occupy the AL East.  Regardless of the exact arrangement, I think a move to the AL to sit in the Yankees division would work well.  You?

Howard Megdal:  I have long said that if it locks in an end to the Designated Hitter, I’d be willing to consider realignment, though I am attached to the NL/AL breakdown.  Will you agree to that? If so, sure.

 
 
MLB reports:  You will not find a bigger fan of banishing the DH, so agreed!Turning to Francisco Rodriguez, what is his future and does he still have “it”?

Howard Megdal:  I think K-Rod is one of the best closers the Mets ever had.  That said, Thank goodness they got rid of that ridiculous 2012 option.  Even if the team weren’t in dire financial straits, it is a ridiculous waste of resources to pay your non-Mariano Rivera closer $17.5 million.

 
 
MLB reports:  From what you proposed in “Taking the Field” to where the Mets stand today, have the Mets been following your plan and direction?  If you change anything about the current squad, what would it be?

Howard Megdal:  See above, the use of Murphy.  I don’t get it.  With his bat, he’s a top-five MLB 2B, and he’s handled the position well.  He is not even average at 1B offensively, and he flat-out cannot play the outfield.  But again, outside of that?  No, they’ve been fantastic. And because of their decision-making in other areas, I don’t conclude that they are just being ignorant about Murphy- I assume there’s more to know.  Certainly the first question I have for Alderson the next time I interview him.

 
 
MLB reports:  What do you think of Brandon Nimmo, the Mets 1st round pick this year?  Was he drafted based on talent or cost?  How has his selection been received in New York thus far?

Howard Megdal:  TBD, but as I said in the last answer, their overall performance gives me confidence in their individual choices.  I think projecting draft picks is a fool’s errand, however.

 
 
MLB reports:  Are Mets fans done waiting for Fernando Martinez to develop into a superstar?  Will he become the next Carlos Gonzalez or Lastings Milledge?

Howard Megdal:  Best-case, he’s Alex Escobar.  The guy just can’t stay healthy.  I saw him in spring training- he ran like an elderly person.  It is such a shame; the guy has tremendous talent, and he works hard.  His body just keeps betraying him.  Incidentally, I haven’t given up on Milledge, yet.  He’s only in his age-26 season. .832 OPS at Triple-A with 18 SB in 24 attempts.  It isn’t too late.

 

 MLB reports:  Thank you for joining us today on the Reports.  You certainly did not hold back in your answers and gave us a great education on Mets baseball.  We wish you the best of luck on your latest book and look forward to your next book project. 

We highly encourage everyone to check out “Taking the Field”, one of my personal favorite baseball books of the year.   You can follow Howard on Twitter and click here for Howard’s website.

 

 

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.

Summary of all Trades- 2011 MLB Trade Deadline Report and Analysis

Monday August 1, 2011

 

 

MLB  reports:  Another hectic MLB trade deadline is in the books.  This year’s trade market was just as much about the trades that were not made as the ones that were.  For all the speculation leading up to the deadline, star players like James Shields, B.J. Upton, Heath Bell and Carlos Quentin stay put.  The trades that did go down included Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Adams, Doug Fister, Colby Rasmus and much more.  Here is a rundown of all the trades that took place in Major League Baseball as part of the non-waiver MLB Trade Deadline, which was 4:00p.m. on Sunday July 31st:

 

Michael Bourn and cash (Astros) for Jordan Schaefer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu (Braves):  The Braves get a solid leadoff hitter, center fielder and base stealer from the Astros for four average prospects.  Without having to give up any of their top prospects and filled a huge hole in their lineup and outfield, top marks goes to the Braves.

 

Hunter Pence and cash (Astros) for Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later (Phillies):  A win for the Phillies, as they get one of the top outfield bats in the game in Pence, who remains under team control going into next year.  I like the return of Singleton, one of the top hitting prospects in the minors.  But still, the Astros should have received a higher return for Pence who was the face of their franchise.  A win for both squads but give the edge to the Phillies.

 

Mike Adams (Padres) for Joseph Wieland and Robert Erlin (Rangers):  A win for both sides.  The Rangers get one of the top relievers in baseball (Adams), who remains under team control after the season.  For a team that is a World Series contender, Adams and Uehara give the Rangers a suddenly formidable pen.  Wieland and Erlin were two top pitching prospects in the Rangers system and give the Padres much more depth.  For a team that acquired what it needed most without giving up any of its top prospects, the Rangers can chalk this trade up to a huge win.  The Padres did not do badly either, as Adams was a luxury they did not require and the Padres farm system all of a sudden became much stronger.

 

Brad Ziegler (A’s) for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto (Diamondbacks):  A deal that works for both teams.  Ziegler is a useful reliever that strengthens the Dbacks pen in a push for the NL West crown.  Allen is a highly considered first base prospect who should slot well in Oakland plus Noberto is another arm in the A’s organization.  It is too bad for the A’s that the Lars Anderson plus prospect for Rich Harden deal fell through with Boston, but Allen is a good runner-up prize.

 

Erik Bedard and Josh Fields (Mariners) for Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers) and Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife  (Red Sox):    Red Sox get Bedard and Fields (the reliever, not third baseman currently in Japan, Mariners get Robinson and Chiang, while Dodgers get Federowicz, Rodriguez and Fife.  Confused?  Good.  This was one of those three-way deals that when all is said and done, you are left scratching your head.  The key to this deal is Erik Bedard for the Red Sox.  If he stays healthy, and that is a big if, the Red Sox might have a valuable addition to their starting rotation.  Fields should also slot in well in the Red Sox pen.  Both Robinson and Chiang are considered to be good prospects and should have a very good chance at cracking the Mariners’ outfield.  The trade of Robinson came as somewhat of a surprise and the Dodgers have received a great deal of negative press on the deal.  The team however was looking for a prospect catcher and believe they have found it in Federowicz and the additional parts in Rodriguez and Fife.  The Mariners are the big winners in this deal, while the Red Sox play with fire and the Dodgers likely just got burnt.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride (Indians):  What a difference a year makes.  The Indians are going for it and have beefed up their rotation with the addition of Jimenez.  When on his game, Ubaldo is one of the best in baseball.  Further, Ubaldo continues to be under team control, so the Indians don’t simply acquire a summer rental here.  The keys to this deal for the Rockies are Pomeranz and White.  Considered to be the Indians two best pitching prospects, the Rockies add to their farm while losing their ace.  While Pomeranz is considered highly in baseball circles, I would have expected to see the Rockies get more major league ready talent.  Considering that they were supposed to get Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova from the Yankees or Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and/or Homer Bailey from the Reds, I give the Indians the edge on this deal.  Ace pitchers do not grow on trees and the Indians got one without giving up any of their major league talent or some of their other finer prospects, including Nick Weglarz.  Competing with the big boys, the Indians get the prize of the trade deadline and likely a division title as well.

 

Derek Lee (Orioles) for Aaron Baker (Pirates):  The Pirates are going for it and while Lee is an aging first baseman, he is an upgrade offensively over incumbent Lyle Overbay.  Baker is a Class A first baseman that is not considered a top prospect.  This trade is a draw, as the Pirates beef up for their playoff run and the Orioles auction off an impending free agent to stock their system.

 

Orlando Cabrera (Indians) for Thomas Neal (Giants):  This deal came out of left field, as the Indians are still contending and were expected to hold onto Cabrera.  With many young infielders on their roster, the Indians were prepared to sacrifice their utility man for one of the Giants higher rated prospect bats.  Speaking to Neal on several occasions, he is one of the nicer young men you will ever want to meet in the game.  Considered a great tools player, both offensively and defensively, the Indians have added another piece to their offensive puzzle while sacrificing a veteran that was expandable.  The Giants, with injury and offensive woes, took a chance on Cabrera, a good luck charm for each of his respective teams in the postseason.  While Neal was a big price to pay, the Giants are in win-now mode.  A draw, as both teams will away happy from this exchange.

 

Koji Uehara (Orioles) for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis (Rangers):  This is a good old-fashioned baseball trade.  The Rangers pick up a veteran reliever, who is enjoying his finest campaign in the big leagues and could be a setup man or closer.  The Orioles continue to stockpile prospects and add a starter and first baseman to their mix.  Davis has one of the most explosive bats in the game when he gets hot and the Orioles could have their cleanup hitter for the next 5-7 years.  Hunter should be a good #3 or #4 starter for the team.  A draw as both teams achieve their respective goals in this deal.

 

Mike Cameron (Red Sox) for player to be named later or cash (Marlins):  Cameron was not hitting in Boston but could be a valuable veteran presence in Florida.  I like this move for the Marlins as Cameron is solid player and person, perfect for their clubhouse.

 

Felipe Lopez (Rays) for cash (Brewers):  Lopez still has pop in his bat and could be useful for a playoff push.  There was no room for the Rays on their roster and they will happily take the financial relief.

 

Jason Marquis (Nationals) for Zach Walters (Diamondbacks):  I am a fan of what the Diamondbacks are doing in Arizona, but this trade doesn’t work for me.  Marquis will pitch in Arizona, but I don’t see him being the effective starter the team needs to fight the Giants for a playoff berth.  Walters is a prospect shortstop who could have been Stephen Drew‘s replacement one day when he left the team.  Walters has a good offensive bat and was not worth the price of Marquis.  Advantage Washington for adding another prospect to its growing farm while dumping a veteran pitcher that had no place on their roster.

 

Mike Aviles (Royals) for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz (Red Sox):  The Red Sox get some sort of infield insurance, which was unnecessary in my estimation with both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie on the roster.  If Lowrie is out beyond early August as projected, then this deal makes sense.  Otherwise, to give up two decent prospects for a player who has struggled this season and is unlikely to hit much in Boston does not equate for me.  Advantage Royals for dumping a player who did not fit on the team and continuing to stock their system.

 

Jerry Hairston Jr. (Nationals) for Erik Komatsu (Brewers):  The Brewers get depth for their playoff run and the Nationals get a marginal prospect back.  A draw.

 

Wil Nieves (Brewers) for cash (Braves):  Yawn.  An average catcher for cash.

 

Francisco Rodriguez and cash (Mets) for two players to be named later (Brewers):  A good trade for both teams.  The Brewers strengthen their pen with the addition of K-Rod, who could close or set up for the team and is a free agent at season’s end.  The Mets get salary relief and likely two decent prospects back.

 

Colby Rasmus, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet (Cardinals) for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen (White Sox) for Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Zach Stewart, three players to be named later or cash (Jays):  The good news with this trade is that I will not have to struggle to spell Rzepczynski anymore.  But in all seriousness, this was the first three-way deal of the deadline and probably the most interesting trade that went down.  The White Sox shed the contract of Teahen (to the Jays) and acquire Frasor and Stewart.  The Cardinals get Jackson for their rotation and Dotel/Rzepczynski for their bullpen, as well as three more PTBNL or cash from the Jays.  The Jays get the biggest prize, Rasmus to play center and bat second, as well as Miller, Tallet and Walters for their pen.  The Jays in our opinion win out, as they get a rare top prospect bat and only give up three middle relievers.  The White Sox did well in getting salary relief, a prospect arm in Stewart and a useful bullpen arm in Frasor.  The question marks surround the Cardinals, who give up the top player in the trade and might get left with very little more than adqueate playoff rentals as both Jackson and Dotel might not be with the team in 2012.

 

Nick Green and cash (Orioles) for Zach Phillips (Rangers):  Marginal reliever for marginal shortstop.  A push.

 

Ryan Langerhans (Mariners) for cash (Diamondbacks):  A depth player at best, the Diamondbacks hope to get one or two big hits out of Langerhans in the push for a playoff berth.  It looks like this was the best the Mariners could do in dumping another salary.

 

Doug Fister and David Pauley (Mariners) for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush and a PTBNL (Tigers):  For a Tigers team that was considered early in the day to be in the hunt for Ubaldo Jimenez, this one is a bit of a let down.  Fister will be a #4 or #5 starter for the Tigers, good but not great.  Pauley was having an incredible season for the Mariners in their pen and should do well in Comerica.  Wells will likely slot immediately into the Mariners outfield and the rest of the players are prospects to their stock their farm.  While I’m not excited about what Detroit received, I am equally not impressed by what they gave up.  Call this one a draw.  Middle of the road players for players at this point.

 

Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) for Alex Castellanos and cash (Cardinals):  With Dee Gordon in the minors and money woes being an issue, this trade for the Dodgers is about getting younger and saving money in the process.  The Cardinals are pushing for a playoff spot and if healthy, Furcal should give the team a spark offensively.  Personally, I would not trust Furcal based on his injury history.  The Dodgers get back a marginal prospect in this swap.   The fact that the Dodgers unloaded Furcal and got the Cardinals to pick up a large portion of his contract, I will label this trade a Dodgers win.

 

Juan Rivera (Jays) for player to be named later or cash (Dodgers):  Considering the Dodgers just released Marcus Thames, I am not sure why they chose to acquire Rivera.  They are very similar players, although I would give the edge to Thames for his better defense.  A win for the Jays, dumping a player that had no role on their team and was not hitting very much.

 

Jonny Gomes  and cash (Reds) for Bill Rhinehart and Christopher Manno (Nationals):  Gomes should be a good bat for the Nationals but with the team out of the playoff picture, it is a little curious why the team would give up prospects at this point.  Reds get the advantage as there was no room in their outfield for Gomes, they acquire two prospects and open up space for Yonder Alonso to play everyday.

 

Carlos Beltran (Mets) for Zack Wheeler (Giants):  One of the best trades of the year that will benefit both teams.  The Giants get the top bat they so badly needed after Buster Posey went down.  Together with salary relief (the Mets will kick in about $4 million), the Mets get one of the top pitching prospects in the game.   The Giants had to go for it and could not afford to waste their top pitching rotation without providing offense.  With Beltran an impeding free agent, the Mets strengthen their rotation for years to come.

 

Jeff Keppinger (Astros) for Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel (Giants):  The Giants get more bench depth for the playoffs and the Astros get back decent prospects.  Another boring but necessary trade for both.  Consider a draw.

 

Ryan Ludwick (Padres) for a player to be named later (Pirates):  The Pirates are looking to make a strong playoff run and former Indian Luckwick would fit well in their offense this year.  It remains to be seen what the Pirates have to give up, but for a player in as strong demand as Ludwick, as long as it is not too much, give the edge to the Pirates.  This one will hinge on the quality of the prospect going to the Padres.

 

Kosuke Fukudome and $3.9 million (Cubs) for Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith (Indians):  This trade is all about the Indians going for it in a year when the AL Central is ripe for the taking.  Fukudome, largely considered a disappointment in Chicago, is sent with cash to the Indians for their stretch run.  Good to get on base with the occasional pop, the hope is that the change of scenery will do Fukudome good.  The prospects the Cubs received back are marginal at best, as this trade was mostly about a salary dump.  Credit to Chicago for ridding itself of one its huge mistake contracts, with more such contracts to go.  The Indians hope they catch lightening in a bottle, but likely will get only decent production out of their latest Japanese import.

 

Wilson Betemit (Royals) for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez (Tigers):  The first trade in the deadline dealings, the Tigers upgrade their third base situation over Brandon Inge.  The Royals shed a contract and get two decent prospects.  We will call this one a draw.

 

 

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