Blog Archives

The New York Yankees Must Retain Hiroki Kuroda

Wednesday November 14th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: The New York Yankees are in a bit of a flux. They can no longer buy their way to championships like they did in 2009, for example. Instead, they have a plan in place to get under the $189 threshold by 2014, which certainly limits their spending this off-season. Talk about a change of events. With big names presumably out of the question due to the aforementioned restraint, Hiroki Kuroda becomes their primary focus to resign this winter.

Kuroda is fresh off what was arguably his best season as a pro. He posted a 3.32 earned run average with career-highs in the wins department (16), innings pitched (219.2), strikeouts (167), and ERA+ (126). So in short, his market value is as high as it can probably be which will increase his personal demands greatly.

However, Kuroda is still viewed as a tier two free agent with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez being the cream of the crop. While he won’t make Greinke type money, it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to sign a deal worth roughly $90 million over a five-year or six-year deal. Whatever Kuroda has in mind, the Yankees must figure out a way to keep him around. Read the rest of this entry

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Robby Rowland MLB Blog: Pirates Prospect Discuss His Transformation, Trade and Much More

Friday October 5th, 2012

Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present the return of Robby Rowland, Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching Prospect. Robby is back on MLB Reports with his latest MLB Blog. We have been very fortunate to have Robby appear several times on MLB reports, in interviews and MLB Blogs prepared by Robby in his own words. One of our fave alumni returns with thoughts from Robby’s World. Robby looks at his transformation as a pitcher, trade to the Pirates organization and much more. Get ready for a special treat. Robby Rowland is real, funny and informative. We know you missed him…as we all did! Get ready to fulfill your Robby Rowland fix!

Robby Rowland-  Guest MLB Blogger:

For those of you who have followed my journey through these blogs, I apologize for taking so much time to write this one. I would like to say thank you to MLB reports for having me on once again. For those of you who are reading one of my blogs for the first time, I want to apologize ahead of time for the writing style. I have so much that I would like to touch upon and I may not always use the proper commas or periods that some English major would… or something like that, I’m not sure. One more thanks is to my computer class teacher, who taught me how to type without looking. I’m glad I can use this skill in my baseball career, unlike all the other subjects in school that seem useless now. I also am known to ramble on a little bit, so bear with me here. Hopefully you will enjoy reading this as much as I did when I wrote it.

As I sit here, listening to a country music Pandora station, I try to think of some things that you guys would like to read about. I’ve heard some good topics via twitter and I will try my best to write about those and try to pick out topics that I can elaborate on. I will try to make this blog entry as entertaining as possible because I know how boring reading can get… if what you are reading doesn’t interest you. I had to do it ALL 4 years in high school… well, I had to read the sparknotes of whatever, which were still boring when they didn’t have anything to do with sports!

I will first talk about my transformation of becoming a “sinker ball pitcher” just over a year ago. Then I will talk about getting traded at the beginning of the season. After I have covered those 2 subjects, I will go on to write about lighter topics. Hope you enjoy and I don’t bore you! Read the rest of this entry

Why Kris Medlen Is The Braves X-Factor For Postseason Success

Wednesday September 19th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: Ever heard of a pitcher named Kris Medlen? By now, you should have at least come across the name. The Nationals were the most recent victims of Medlen’s dominance, as the unknown starter fanned 13 Nats hitters.

The Braves loss of ace Brandon Beachy was a void that supposedly couldn’t be filled. Medlen has seemingly done the impossible since being thrown into the starting rotation. But, with success comes higher expectations. And yes, going 7-0 with a 0.86 ERA is certainly a successful stint. Meaning, Medlen is the Braves X-factor for late season success, and barring a collapse, aka 2011, he is their X-Factor for a successful postseason run.

Why? Read the rest of this entry

Was Edwin Jackson The Most Valuable Free Agent Signing During The Offseason? Smart Move By The Nationals

Wednesday September 12th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: During all the chaos that surrounded Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder during the offseason, the Washington Nationals made a very sneaky addition to their pitching staff by adding Edwin Jackson. The deal was signed in early February, which made it the final piece to their rotation, as Gio Gonzalez was added before Jackson. But this move flew under the radar as Pujols and Fielder garnered most of the media. Obviously that didn’t come as a surprise. Now, Jackson looks like the most valuable offseason signing.

The thing about Jackson, is that he didn’t break the Nationals’ bank. He came at a reasonable $11 million price tag, and compared to the contracts that Pujols (10 Year, $254 Million) and Fielder (10 Year $214 Million) brought in, Jackson’s contract is practically nothing. Simply, he’s a value player. Talent-wise, he clearly isn’t as respected and accomplished as Pujols and Fielder. But that’s not the point.

However, Jackson won’t be flying under the radar for much longer now that Stephen Strasburg is out of the equation. He will have to play a much bigger role in a starting pitching staff that leads the National League in ERA (3.32). Yes, the Nationals have decent alternatives to fill Strasburg’s void. Those alternatives being Ross Detwiler and John Lannan, but Jackson takes an immense step up depth chart pyramid. Gio Gonzalez now assumes the “ace” role, Jordan Zimmerman follows him, and now Edwin Jackson is third option which means higher expectations. It also means that Jackson’s production can’t be taken as a bonus anymore. His production is now crucial for the Nationals to continue to find success on the pitching area of the game. If he depletes, the Nats are suddenly down to two consistent arms— Gonzalez and Zimmerman. That’s no longer intimidating.

Can he thrive under the pressure? Read the rest of this entry

Josh Beckett: Will The Change Of Scenery Deliver A Hollywood Ending For the Struggling Veteran?

Tuesday August 28th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: Josh Beckett, or more formerly known as the most hated man in Boston, won’t nearly have as much pressure on him with the Dodgers. That will be a vastly different change for him considering the hefty amount of heat he took in Boston. Granted, the criticism was for the most part deserved, but the Dodgers and their fans don’t view Beckett as the main piece in a deal that also landed them Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, and Carl Crawford. They view him as a bonus piece. If he rejuvenates himself in Los Angeles, great. If he doesn’t, the pressure from the organization won’t be as substantial. On the other side of the coin, it won’t go unnoticed, nor will his large contract.

However, it’s assuming too much to say that he’s going to struggle with his new team. Sure, his 5.21 ERA isn’t great, but he’s moving to one of the most pitcher’s friendly ballparks in Dodger Stadium. To be specific, it’s the eighth best pitcher’s park in the majors per ESPN Park Factors. What should be noted is the fact that Chris Capuano and Clayton Kershaw both boast elite home ERAs. While the success isn’t entirely due to the fact that Dodger stadium is spacious, it’s a piece of the pie. In comparison, Fenway Park is the third best hitters park in baseball. So the difference is substantial. In spite of the difference, his first start in a Dodgers uniform came in the worst pitcher’s ballpark in the majors, Coors Field. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible, surrendering three runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Dodger Stadium alone isn’t going to transform Beckett into an ace, though. It’s not that pitcher friendly. Beckett will have to make some tweaks to get back to “ace” form. Read the rest of this entry

The Interesting Case of Francisco Liriano: Twins Look to Move a Starter by the Trade Deadline

Thursday July 26th, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): There is no doubt that the Minnesota Twins are going to be sellers this year at the trade deadline. At 18 games under .500, they have the worst record in the American League, and with a team ERA of an even 5.00, they find themselves only ahead of the Colorado Rockies at the bottom in terms of pitching. According to Jayson Stark , the Twins are willing to move “just about anybody” on their roster, and all signs point to starter Francisco Liriano’s departure. The troubled starter ranks 93 out of 101 qualified pitchers in ERA (5.31) and is just one loss off a league worst 11. Liriano’s $5.5 million salary is fifth highest among Twins players, and it goes without saying that his performances are well below what he’s being paid. But does that mean he has no trade value? Read the rest of this entry

David Price: The Best Starting Pitcher in the American League?

Tuesday July 24th, 2012



Jake Dal Porto (MLB reports Intern Candidate):  The American league consists of several dominant pitchers, but David Price is arguably the best of the crop. Better yet, he hasn’t even reached his full potential as a pitcher at the ripe age of just 26 years-old. While his stats are far ahead of his experience in the major leagues, there’s still room for him to grow… which is actually quite scary.

 

Price took the American League by a storm in 2010. Leading the Rays’ rotation at the age of just 23, he finished the season with an astounding 19-6 record accompanied by a stellar 2.72 ERA, nearly winning the A.L. Cy Young award. Although the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez edged him out for the honor, baseball took notice on Price’s exceptional season. Yet, this was just the tip of the iceberg for him. Read the rest of this entry

What to Expect from Tim Lincecum in the Second Half: The Return of the Giants Ace to Form?

Thursday July 12th, 2012

Sam Evans: Tim Lincecum has been proving doubters wrong his whole life. Despite his small frame, Lincecum has managed to win the Golden Spikes award and two N.L. Cy Young awards. However, in 2012 Lincecum hasn’t looked like the same pitcher. He has not only lost velocity on his fastball, but his numbers across the board are not what we expected from one of the best pitchers in the game. It’s hard to conclude what has caused Lincecum to struggle in his first fifteen starts. But the question on everyone’s mind is: what is next for Lincecum?

From 2007 to 2011, Tim Lincecum ranked fifth in Wins Above Replacement among all starting pitchers. He was simply dominant. In 2008 and 2009, Lincecum became the first pitcher ever to win back-to-back Cy Young awards in their first two full seasons. The Giants largely owe their 2010 World Series title to Lincecum and his 2.43 ERA in the playoffs. Heading into the 2012 season, the Giants reportedly offered Lincecum a five-year, $100 million contract, which he turned down to sign a two-year deal worth about $40 million. Looking back at it, Lincecum probably should have taken the deal which offered him long-term security. Read the rest of this entry

Roy Oswalt Working Back to True Form

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): Fourteen months ago, Roy Oswalt took a leave from the Philadelphia Phillies to be with his family after a series of tornadoes ripped through Mississippi. He left the team, where he was one of the showcased “Four Aces,” with a 3-1 record and a 3.33 ERA and returned with a sore back. He spent a short time on the disabled list, but returned to start in eight more games before once again landing on the DL with “lower back inflammation.” It is unclear whether his back troubles arose during his leave of absence, but Oswalt continued to pitch because he didn’t “want to be labeled a quitter.” Ultimately, his injury became too much, and during his latter stint on the DL there was doubt that he’d ever pitch again. He did return, though, and finished the year with a 9-10 record and 3.69 ERA. After his team faltered (or imploded, depending on how you look at it) in the playoffs, Oswalt declared free agency; his career was not over after all.

At age 34, Oswalt has appeared in eight playoff series, one World Series and three NLCS. When he hit the market last offseason, Oswalt made it clear that he wanted to play for a winner. More specifically, he wanted to play for a team that would have a great chance of winning it all. Like Roger Clemens in 2006 and 2007, Oswalt told teams that he would continue to stay in shape but wait until midseason to sign with the team that he thought would do the best in the postseason. On May 29th, Oswalt picked the 31-19 Texas Rangers and began his road back to the MLB.

Read the rest of this entry

Who is the Best Starter in Baseball?

Thursday May 10, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): It could be said that the starting pitcher is the most important player in the game. A great starter, like Justin Verlander, puts his team in a position to win every time he hits the mound, while a poor starter, like A.J. Burnett, puts pressure on the bullpen when he gets run after just a couple of innings of work. A great starter, or even a mediocre one, can stay in the game for years with consistency (see: Jamie Moyer), but the drop off is steep and a pitcher underperforming is usually the first to be sent down. The best hurlers in the game combine dominance with consistency, rarely ever having a bad appearance. After the jump, we’ll be taking a look at who the best starters are in the game right now, and what makes them so great.

Read the rest of this entry

Michael Pineda’s Early Demise

Saturday April 28th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Exactly one year ago today, Michael Pineda was just a few starts into his major league career. He had a fastball upwards of ninety-five miles per hour and seemed to be the next Felix Hernandez in the Mariners organization. It would have been impossible to predict where he is now and what he is going through. The Yankees announced Wednesday that Pineda would miss the rest of the season due to an anterior labrum tear in his shoulder and would need to undergo arthroscopic surgery. The best-case recovery time is 12 months, making a return for Opening Day 2013 nearly impossible.

       

A shoulder injury is one of the worst possible injuries a pitcher could have. Compared to elbow injuries and the recovery from Tommy John surgery, the recovery from a torn labrum is a much longer and tougher process. Pineda most likely suffered this injury due to fatigue from his large workload last year (171.0 IP). The good news for Pineda is that the rotator cuff is not damaged, and the surgery is successful 85-90 percent of the time. A couple of recent pitchers who recovered successfully from this type of surgery are Curt Schilling and Chris Carpenter. Schilling had a similar injury in 1995 when he was 28 years old, which caused him to miss most of the 1995 season. For Schilling, it only took ten months to fully recover and by May 1996, he was pitching again. Carpenter tore his labrum in 2003 and made a full recovery to come back to have a great 2004 season. Pineda’s return isn’t impossible by any means, especially because he just turned 23. Talk about a sophomore jinx for Pineda — he didn’t even get to start his sophomore campaign.


Unfortunately for the Yankees, their highly touted prize in the Jesus Montero trade must be placed on the disabled list for the rest of this season. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik claims he had no knowledge whatsoever about a possible injury for Pineda when he made the trade, so it seems that the Yankees just got unlucky. At the time of the trade, it seemed that both teams were getting a great deal for each of their needs. The Yankees needed pitching and got exactly that from Pineda with a solid 3.74 ERA in his Rookie year with 171.0 innings pitched and 173 strikeouts. This type of performance earned him All Star honors. The only concern was the large number of innings pitched, which, in my opinion, ended up doing him in. The Mariners, knowing that they were going to have sufficient pitching in the future with Felix Hernandez and highly regarded prospect Danny Hultzen, traded Pineda for Yankees prospect Jesus Montero who was ready to be on the big club after spending the majority of 2011 in the minors (tearing it up, I might add with an overall .308 average over a five-year span). For the anemic Mariners offense that needed some pop, Montero promised to help improve a club that, in 2011 ranked dead last in average, runs, slugging percentage, on base percentage, and 25th in home runs. This already perfect deal for the Mariners turned out even better sadly when Pineda went down with this injury.


Now the Yankees are stuck with an injured Pineda, and do not have Jesus Montero in their lineup (who was hitting .263 as of today, but hey, at least he’s playing). The Mariners also got pitcher Hector Noesi, who is also part of the Mariners’ rotation, and the Yankees received minor league pitcher Jose Campos, who has posted a 1.23 ERA so far for the Charleston RiverDogs Single-A team (I guess that’s the only silver lining for the Yankees). Five years from now when all of the players who were involved in the trade are established major leaguers, this may all be a distant memory. But right now for the Yankees, it hurts a lot.


**Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshanksy, MLB reports Intern candidate.  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 Bernie on Twitter. (@BernieOlshansky)***

 

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Michael Pineda is Out for the Year: When Will the Yankees Pitcher Return?

Friday April 27th, 2012

Sam Evans: On this past Wednesday, we learned that twenty-three year old Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was diagnosed with an anterior labral tear, and that he will undergo surgery on May 1st. Pineda is definitely out for the year, and there is a chance he could never pitch in the majors again. There is talk though that he could be out for less than a year and come back stronger than ever. But that possibility is hopeful at best. Thus is the nature of Pineda’s situation. Let’s take a look at his injury, and when the Yankees could hope to see him pitching in New York.

When Michael Pineda was acquired from the Mariners this offseason, Yankees fans were feeling pretty good about their rotation. They had just traded for one of the top young arms in the majors. In 2011, Pineda was an All-Star and started twenty-eight incredible games for the Mariners. He barely had any issues with control, he struck out a ton of batters, and he had the poise of a veteran. He wore down as the season came to an end, but that was normal given his age and experience. Even though the Yankees gave up two talented players to get Pineda and a prospect, he had a chance to be the #2 starter that they were looking for when they signed A.J. Burnett. Read the rest of this entry

Jamie Moyer: A Pitcher Older than the Rockies

Friday April 20, 2012

Bryan Sheehan: Jamie Moyer is old (I’ll give you a second to wipe up the coffee undoubtably spilled onto your computer after reading this shocking fact). So old, in fact, that he is older than thirteen of the thirty current MLB teams, if relocated teams such as the Atlanta Braves are considered unique from their Milwaukee counterpart. So ancient, that his 25 year career is longer than the life of Wilin Rosario, who caught his record-setting win Tuesday. This performance, which came in the form of a seven-inning shutout gem against the woeful San Diego Padres, made Moyer the oldest starter, at 49 years and 150 days, to win a game of baseball. In a time when power pitchers and young flamethrowers, like Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, are lauded, Moyer and his sub-80 MPH fastball (he never got higher than 79 MPH on Tuesday, according to the Denver Post) are still effective enough to win. Tied for 35th all time in wins and just 32 away from the famed 300 club, it would be nice to think that he could stick around a few more years and break even more records. But looking at his current status, it’s hard to tell when his fairytale career will end.

Read the rest of this entry

Losing Burnett Is a Huge Loss for the Pirates

Wednesday March 7th, 2012

Sam Evans: The Pittsburgh Pirates made a very aggressive move, acquiring Yankees starter A.J. Burnett a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to a freakish injury, the Pirates will miss Burnett for the first couple months of the season. Let’s look at Burnett’s injury and the effect it will have on the Pirates roster.

During his healthy years with the Marlins, A.J. Burnett was one of the top pitchers in the N.L. East. After seven years with the Marlins, and three solid years with the Blue Jays, Burnett signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the New York Yankees. Burnett’s last three years with the Yankees haven’t been pretty. He had a decent year in 2009, but in 2010 and 2011 Burnett had ERAs over 5.00, and he didn’t eclipse two hundred innings in either year.

Burnett, the thirty-four year old right-handed pitcher came to Pittsburgh in a trade this past February 17th. The Pirates traded Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones for Burnett. The Yankees will pay part of the $30.375 million dollars left on Burnett’s contract. Read the rest of this entry

Ricky Romero: Future CY Young Award Winner?

Friday February 17th, 2012

 

Rob Bland:  When Ricky Romero was taken 6th overall in the 2005 MLB Draft, ahead of the likes of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce, I was shocked, and to be honest, a little bit angry.  Romero was a good pitcher at Cal State – Fullerton, but he was raw; an unfinished product that still needed a lot of work.  Tulowitzki was a tremendous defensive shortstop with plus power potential.  He was bound to be a good Major League shortstop, whereas Romero was still very much a question mark.  McCutchen is a superstar in the making in Pittsburgh, and Jay Bruce is really starting to come together, hitting 100 home runs in his first four seasons.  While these three position players often come up in conversation that they will be perennial All-Stars or future MVPs, Romero has not quite garnered that attention.  He was an All-Star in 2011, albeit after a number of players declined their invitation to participate. But will Romero ever gain notoriety as a potential Cy Young Award candidate? Read the rest of this entry

The Aroldis Effect: What’s In Store for the Game’s Hardest Throwing Pitcher?

Thursday February 16th, 2012

Sam Evans: In the history of baseball, no pitcher has ever thrown a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman. In 1876, when the National League was founded, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call. The athleticism of baseball players and overall talent in the league has improved significantly since then, but it is amazing that we now have over four hundred Major League pitchers that have an average fastball speed that’s at least 90 MPH. Aroldis Chapman is a phenomenal talent, who with the right coaching, has a chance to make more than a few All-Star teams. Read the rest of this entry

Ben Henry Interview: Representin’ the Hickory Crawdads Bullpen

Monday February 6th 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Featured today on MLB reports, we bring you our conversation with pitching prospect Ben Henry. Drafted by the Rangers in 2007, Ben is best known for being a member of the feared Hickory Crawdads Bullpen. Heck, this guy cannot walk down the street of Hickory, North Carolina without getting mobbed for an autograph or photograph. Can you blame the fans? The man known in those parts as the “Mayor of Hickory” certainly laid down a deep hurt on the South Atlantic League hitters last season. Ben finished with a 6-3 record, 2.38 ERA and 1.166 WHIP. Breaking out at the tender age of 22, Ben Henry put himself on the baseball map and the road to the show. Standing 6’4″, the right-handed Henry is a reliever/spot starter. Pitching in a pitching-rich organization like the Rangers, I could certainly see Ben working well with Ryan and Maddux in perfecting his craft. 

When he is not breaking bats and getting hitters out, this mustache aficionado is a social media superstar. Teaming up with his good friend Michael Schlact, the duo are well-known Twitter powerhouses. They also enjoy getting fans addicted to the hit iPhone game “Temple Run” (thanks a lot for that guys!)  One of the most approachable athletes that I have spoken to, Ben is soft-spoken and lets his pitching do the talking. A true lover of the game, Ben appreciates every day that he gets to go out onto the baseball field. With that being said, we proudly present today our exclusive interview with Rangers pitching prospect, Ben Henry:

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Robby Rowland Guest MLB Blog: Inside the Life of a Minor League Player

Monday February 6, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen: Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect, Robby Rowland and his 2nd Guest MLB Blog. After a little bit of arm twisting, we were able to get Robby back on the Reports. Just kidding. Robby is a super guy and was very gracious in agreeing to return. For his latest Guest MLB Blog, Robby took in some suggestions from his followers on Twitter to come up with different topics to cover today. From all his entries, Robby chose to discuss life on the road, springtime and pre-game rituals. Exclusively on MLB reports, Robby Rowland is back with his latest blog entry:

Robby Rowland-  Guest MLB Blog:  Hello all! I am honored to say that I have been welcomed back onto the Reports. Once again, I would like to thank Jonathan for having me on here. It truly is an honor to be asked to share my experiences with the world. For those of you who have not met me in person, you should know that I just love to talk… I got kicked out of a lot of classrooms in my day because I love to chat. That’s why I am honored to be on here- because I am allowed to express my love of talking… but just on paper. I have some great topics to discuss with all of you today. The way I like to prepare my blog entries is by asking my twitter followers about subjects they would like to hear about. I like to first write them down on paper and later type in my blog. And once again I apologize if everything is just thrown down with no sense of proper writing. Boy would my english teacher in high school be upset if he/she read these…

So without further adieu, I would like to discuss several of the topics that you have all brought to my attention!

Read the rest of this entry

Les Williams Interview: Blue Jays Pitching Prospect is Ready to Roll in 2012

Sunday February 5th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  One of our favorite type of stories on MLB reports is when we see a local kid that “makes good” in baseball. For the Blue Jays, then dipped into the Toronto market to draft Leslie Williams in the 37th round of last year’s draft. The Toronto native Williams went directly to the Appalachian League to suit up for the Bluefield Blue Jays.  Les got into 17 games, all but 1 coming out of the pen. Looking to 2012, Les is open to his role but would very much value a starting job. Standing 6’2″ at a solid 220 lbs, Les looks every part of a major league starting pitcher. His go-to pitch is his cutter, which he complements with a changeup. Les and I had the opportunity to speak while he was still in Toronto before leaving for Spring Training. A down-to-earth person, Les is definitely grounded and has his priorities in order. For a city looking for local heroes, Toronto fans can look forward to one day seeing Les Williams standing on the Rogers Centre’ mound- wearing the blue and white Jays uniform.

If you catch Les Williams away from the park, he will likely be eating chicken parmesan and listening to the Temptations. Just whatever you do…don’t stay overnight in an unlocked room at his place (or he will make sure that you have nightmares for years to follow!) With his dynamic personality and storytelling abilities, it was a treat to learn about Les Williams, the person. Today on MLB reports, I am proud to present my interview with Jays pitching prospect, Les Williams:

MLB reports:  Thank you for taking the time to join us today Les.  How has your offseason gone so far?

Les Williams:  My off-season has been great. I’ve been able to get a lot of work done physically and just preparing myself mentally for the season ahead. I’ve been able to get a good job that falls within my field of study at school, so that has been a lot of fun as well. I’m not a huge fan of the snow here in Toronto, so I’m looking forward to heading back down south.

 

MLB reports:  You just completed your 1st professional season.  How have you found the process of getting adjusted to playing professional baseball?

Les Williams:  The process has been for the most part what I expected. I’ve heard many stories from players who have experience life in pro ball and most of those stories hold true. The experience is something I’ve longed for since I started playing the game.

 

MLB reports:  You were drafted by the Jays in the 37th round of the 2011 draft.  Did you expect to be drafted by Jays – any pressure to be chosen by your hometown team?

Les Williams:  After going through the draft process in high school, I learned that anything can happen, and not to expect anything at all. I did well at a pre-draft workout for the Jays and I was hoping that I did well enough for them to consider taking me this year. As a college senior getting drafted in the later rounds there’s no pressure. All you can do is go out and prove to the organization that you are worth keeping around and that you are determined to reach your highest potential.

 

MLB reports:  How did you first find out you were drafted: what was that like?

Les Williams:  I was excited to say the least. I was in the middle of class watching the draft and when I heard my name I stepped out of class and called my parents. They pretended they were surprised but I’m sure they were watching the draft as well.  Seeing my name beside the Blue Jays logo was a dream come true.

 

MLB reports:  Ever have to pinch yourself: does it feel like a dream playing professional baseball?

Les Williams:  Have you ever had a dream and just moments after you wake up, you forget what you dreamt about? That’s what the couple of days after the draft were like. I barely remember anything between that day and the day I signed the contract in Florida.

 

MLB reports:  What other sports did you playing growing up? 

Les Williams:  I played just about every sport up until my sophomore year in High School. I continued to play basketball up until my senior year, which is when I decided not to take the risk of hurting myself and jeopardizing my scholarship.

 

MLB reports:  What are your most dominant pitches?  Any new ones you are working on?

Les Williams:  My cutter is my best pitch. I used it quite a bit my Junior and Senior years in college and it helped a lot during my season in Bluefield. I’m working on sharpening up my slider to have a pitch with some depth. And I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the effectiveness of my changeup as well.

 

MLB reports:  How would you describe “your game”?  What “type” of pitcher are you?

Les Williams:  I like to fill up the zone and get ahead of batters early. I HATE walking guys. There is nothing worse than giving up a free base because a defense can’t stop that. I much rather give up a hard hit single or a double because the next time the batter comes up, I know how I can approach his at bat better.

 

MLB reports:  Looking into a crystal ball, when do you expect to make it to the Show?

Les Williams:  That’s something I can’t put a timeline on. There are so many variables that determine that. The only thing I have control of is the way I compete and carry myself on and off the field. That is my ultimate goal and I am doing everything in my power to reach that pinnacle. I’m not going to stop until they rip the jersey off my back.

 

MLB reports:  Long term:  do you expect to stay a starter or will you consider a move to the pen?

Les Williams:  I’ve always been a starter and this year was the first time I was in a relief role. To be honest, I love to start. I enjoy being in control of the game and giving my team a chance to win. But being in a relief role, I experienced a type of adrenaline rush that you can’t get as a starter. Being in situations with the game on the line is what this game is all about. Any role that I can take to best help the organization succeed is one I am more than willing to take.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals for 2012?

Les Williams:  I plan on having a very successful year and show the organization that I’m here to stay. I hope to spend the majority of the year in A with Lansing and if all goes well, an end of season stint in Dunedin. As college guy, I have to set my expectations high because of the experience and the maturity level that college signed guys possess.

 

MLB reports:  If you weren’t playing baseball, you would be __________________

Les Williams:  Probably be working as a Federal Agent in ICE or A Fugitive Task Force. Or I’d be in grad school working my way to become a Forensic Accountant!

 

MLB reports:  Favorite pre-game meal?

Les Williams:  Chicken Parm. I threw a no-hitter when I was 12 after a chicken parm dinner, so now I try to eat it when I know I’m going to pitch.

 

MLB reports:  What music are you currently listening to?

Les Williams:  I listen to any and anything. Anything from The Temptations to Hip-Hop to Darius Rucker to plain old instrumentals.

 

MLB reports:  Funniest prank you ever saw in a clubhouse? 

Les Williams:  Well it wasn’t in our clubhouse but it was in our dorm where our team stayed after classes had finished for the year and our season was still in progress. One of our pitchers was staying off campus and moved out a couple of days to early, so he needed a place to stay. So he decided it was a good idea to sleep in a vacant room in the dorm. The doors don’t lock on this vacant room so one night at about 1am, me and another teammate dressed in all black and put on masks. We snuck into the room, opened the curtain to let some moonlight in and hovered over his bed. I ripped the sheets off him and said in a deep voice “You shouldn’t have left the door open”. I have never seen a grown man scream like that in my entire life. It is still by far the funniest moment of my time in college. (editor’s note: I will admit that I cannot stop laughing at this one…although I do feel sorry for this nameless soul that has been traumatized for life as a result…)


MLB reports:  Final question:  What would you most want to be remembered for in baseball when you hang up your spikes?

Les Williams:  I want to be remembered as someone who played his heart out and never wasted an opportunity to get better and succeed.


***Thank you to Les Williams for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports.  You can follow Les on Twitter (@LesRWilliams).  Les is VERY excited to be entering his 2nd professional season. Be sure to say hello and wish him the best of luck in 2012!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Looking Ahead to the 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

Saturday February 4, 2012


Rob Bland:  When Barry Larkin was elected into the Hall of Fame, it was obvious going in that he would likely be included.  As it turned out, he was the only player voted in by the BBWAA in 2012.  Larkin received 86.4% of the vote, a jump from 62.1% the year before, when he had the highest vote total of those who did not receive the requisite 75%.  

The 2013 class boasts 13 players who received less than 75% but more than 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot.  There are also 32 new players on the list.  Players must have played in at least 10 MLB seasons, and have been retired for 5 full seasons to be eligible for the ballot.  Of returning players, the most notable are Jack Morris (66.7%), Jeff Bagwell (56%), Lee Smith (50.6%), Tim Raines (48.7%), Mark McGwire (19.5%) and Rafael Palmeiro (12.6%).  It’s hard to imagine that two of the best home run hitters of all time (McGwire and Palmeiro) could garner less than a quarter of the vote, in McGwire’s 7th year on the ballot and Palmeiro’s 3rd respectively.  However, due to steroid usage and their laughable performances in a congressional hearing, this is the case.  

2013’s ballot gets a whole lot crazier when you add baseball’s all-time home run leader, and possibly best player in history, one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers of all time, the best slugging catcher of all time, and a guy who hit over 60 HR THREE times, and totalling 609 blasts.  

Barry Bonds.  Roger Clemens.  Mike Piazza.  Sammy Sosa.  All four of these players have in some way or another been connected with steroids, whether it is pure speculation, or blatant proof.  Knowing what we know about McGwire and Palmeiro’s statuses in the Hall of Fame voting, 2013 could prove to be the most heavily debated election year ever.  Many believe that players who used steroids should never be elected in the Hall, and all records should have asterisks beside them.  Many others believe they should let them in, and that because steroids and PED usage was so rampant in the “Steroid Era” that it doesn’t affect the way they vote.  

Jack Morris’s case for the Hall has been so widely discussed that it bears not repeating.  He was a good pitcher on some very good teams that scored a lot of runs.  Bagwell put up tremendous numbers and has never been proven to be linked to PEDs but is kept out of the Hall because some suspect him of it.  Raines is inching closer to being elected, and Lee Smith is nearing the end of his run on the ballot.  Since I have already given my vote for 2012, and my opinion has not changed on any of those players, I won’t go into too much detail, other than the fact that I believe Morris will be elected in his 14th year.  

Bonds and Clemens would have been first ballot Hall of Famers, no doubt about it.  But because of this cloud of PED usage hanging over their heads, it could be a while, if at all.  

Bonds’ CAREER OPS 1.051 is higher than every player in the MLB not named Jose Bautista in 2011 alone.  His peak season in OPS+ was 268 in 2002.  268!  Career OBP of .444.  514 stolen bases.  He holds the record for most career home runs with 762.  Bonds was a 7-time National League MVP, 14-time All-Star, 8-time Gold Glover, and 12-time Silver Slugger.  Simply put, steroids or not, Bonds was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and should be treated as such.  He should be in the Hall, but may not be elected for many years due to his links to PEDs, his perjury charges, and his overall sour disposition when it came to dealing with the scrutiny of the media.  

Clemens was one of the top 3 pitchers in a generation dominated by hitting, along with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.  He has the highest fWAR of any pitcher (by a landslide) with 145.5 Wins Above Replacement.  His 8.56 K/9 ranks in the top 10 all time for starters with over 250 GS.  At age 42, (albeit possibly aided by PED) he went 13-8, 1.87 ERA, 185K/62BB, and ERA+ of 226.  Clemens won 7 Cy Young Awards while attending 11 All-Star Games and even winning the AL MVP Award in 1986.  Clemens was always known for his military-style workouts and his bulldog mentality, but as with Bonds, his links to PEDs will taint his legacy.  

Mike Piazza is another case where others have implicated him, and there has been no proof of his taking any PED.  Highest career slugging of any catcher in history; .545.  #1 in ISO; .237.  7th in fWAR; 66.7.  1st in HR; 427.  If these stats don’t make Piazza look like the best offensive catcher in history, I don’t know what else to say.  Maybe his .308 AVG and 140 wRC+, 9th and 1st all time for catchers, respectively, will convince you.  A 12-time All-Star, Piazza also won the 1993 NL MVP award with the LA Dodgers.  He also won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and was voted in the top 10 for the MVP 7 times.  Piazza should be voted in the first ballot as well, but, like Bagwell, will likely wait many years even though there has not been a shred of credible evidence that he took a PED.  

Between 1998 and 2001, Sammy Sosa hit 243 home runs.  60.75 home runs per year.  In the history of the MLB, there have been eight seasons where a player has hit 60 HR.  Sosa owns three of them.  With 609 career home runs and an OPS of .878, it is no wonder Sosa was regarded as one of the best power hitters of his generation.  Sosa played in 7 All-Star Games, won the NL MVP in 1998, and was voted in the top 10 six other times.  He also won 6 Silver Slugger Awards.  Sosa tested positive for PED use in a 2003 supposedly anonymous survey.  Also, not helping his reputation as a cheater is that he was caught using a corked bat on June 3, 2003.  

Curt Schilling needs to get a long hard look as well.  He was able to amass only 216 wins, but his career 1.13 WHIP and 128 ERA+ are very good.  Schilling also compiled over 3100 strikeouts while walking only 711 in 3261 innings.  If Jack Morris gets into the Hall of Fame with much lesser career numbers, but gets in on the merits of his Game 7 victory in the 1991 World Series, Schilling should be elected in his first 3 years of eligibility.  Before Game 6 of the ALCS in 2004, in which the Red Sox were down 3-2 to the Yankees, Schilling tore a tendon sheath in his ankle.  Doctors built a wall of stitches in his ankle to hold the tendon in place so that he could still pitch in the game.  Schilling went 7 innings, all the while blood oozed out of the wound through his sock.  He gave up 4 hits, no walks, and struck out 4 batters, and gave up 1 run.  The Red Sox won the game, and won the series the next night.  The game will forever be known as the Bloody Sock Game.  Schilling’s performance on one leg was one of the gutsiest events I have ever witnessed in this game.  

There are so many other notable names of good to great baseball players, but none should have a real chance of being elected into the Hall of Fame this year…with most likely never getting in.  These players include Craig Biggio, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Shawn Green, Julio Franco, Sandy Alomar, and of course, Jaret Wright.  Remember that guy?  

2013’s ballot is littered with guys who SHOULD be in, but won’t be elected.  Not now, and maybe not ever.  Personally, I vote Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa and Schilling.  Due to their PED connections, the first four won’t get in, and Schilling may take a few years to pay his dues through the process.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 Blandy 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.

Michael Schlact Guest Blog: Preparation for Uncertainty

Wednesday February 1st, 2012

MLB reports: It took us a year.  A long…long year. Begging. Pleading. We literally tried every trick in the book. Fortunately we did not have to resort to bribery. But it came close! ;) When you are one of the most popular baseball players on social media, time becomes a precious commodity for interviews and blogs. He is a busy man with many time commitments. But finally he is here. For your reading pleasure today, we have the one and only, Michael Schlact joining us with a guest blog.

In a recent article feature, the top 30 Must-Follow Baseball Players, Analysts and Writers were named. #8 on the list? MLB reports! Quite flattering and we were very humbled to receive the honor. Now…who came in #2 you ask? You guessed it: our dear Mr. Schlact. Michael plays Twitter like a fiddle. The man is smooth. 10,644 Followers as of this article and counting. The people LOVE this guy…and quite frankly, who can blame them? Michael is 26-years of age, stands 6’7″ and is a baseball pitcher. He is living the American dream! With his beautiful wife Jillian by his side, Michael is fighting and battling everyday to achieve his dreams of playing in the big leagues. 

Originally a third round pick by the Rangers in 2004, Michael pitched for seven seasons in the Texas system. He returns for his second season this year pitching in the Atlantic League for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Michael definitely has inspirations for his journey. Looking at a pitcher like Jerome Williams for example, he rose in 2011 from the Atlantic League (pitching for Lancaster) all the way to cementing a rotation spot for the Anaheim Angels. Dreams can come true and Michael Schlact looks forward to being the next baseball success story. He is young and just entering his prime. Good looking. Stable family man. Driven. Popular with the fans. Michael Schlact is the complete baseball pitching package. Plus did we mention that he is a talented writer?

Exclusively today on MLB reports, we feature Michael Schlact- with his Guest Blog titled “Preparation for Uncertainty”.  Enjoy!

Michael Schlact (Guest Blogger): First, I’d like to thank MLB reports for asking me to contribute to their website. I appreciate the opportunity and I’m honored they chose me to write a piece. A common question that I’m asked is regarding the preparation for the season. As a free agent yet signed with an independent ball team, how does that affect my off-season conditioning and strength program? How does not knowing what your future holds affect the throwing that you do? I will answer these questions and more as we continue.

For those of you that follow me on social media, I’m sure you saw my announcement last week that I have recently signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. I am honored to be a part of that organization and playing with those guys again in 2012. I want to make it clear however, that just because I signed with an independent ball team does not mean I can’t be signed by a MLB team as well. Until I throw my first pitch with the Blue Crabs in 2012, I can be signed by a MLB team without them having to buy out my contract. Once I’ve thrown a pitch in independent ball, the MLB team that wants to sign me must buy me out of my contract. Having that option available makes the future still uncertain even though I have signed to play somewhere. Having gone through this scenario last year, I’ve been able to fine tune my off-season workouts and conditioning to best suit my needs as I move forward.

There is one thing that’s certain at this point. Come April, I’ll head up to Maryland to begin the 2012 season. What is uncertain, however, is when or if a MLB team will come calling and need me to report to their spring training in February or March. This makes the throwing program and workout program very difficult to fine tune. I’ve figured out that if I work out and throw based on a MLB team’s spring training schedule, I’ll be ready for anything. The worst thing that would happen is that I’ll be beyond ready come April when I have to report to Maryland for the independent ball season. I’ve found that preparing for the earliest possible scenario motivates me and drives me to work hard and hope for the best.

My workouts are well-rounded, and I enjoy keeping my muscles guessing. I try to change it up often. Not only does this help with boredom, it keeps your muscles “thinking” and doesn’t allow them to become used to the same routines. A big focus for me is conditioning. I do a workout called Turbo Fire, which is a mix of high intensity training and kickboxing. I also run and ride the bike. My running is usually more sprints than long distance, but that all depends on the workout that I had and the amount of throwing that I’ve done the previous day. I work out my legs and core a lot, and because of my shoulder surgery, I do a lot of rotator cuff maintenance. Putting your body through a 140-160 game schedule demands that you keep your body in top condition.

I’ve been throwing since December, and that’s usually when I begin my program. I feel that it’s very important to slowly work up to long tossing, and building arm strength over an extended period of time tends to work better for me than jumping right in and trying to get game ready quickly. Once I have long tossed enough and my arm feels strong, I’ll hop on a mound. Personally, I get 5-6 bullpen sessions in before heading off for Spring Training. There is a fine line between being ready to go for Spring Training and being game ready too early. The latter tends to cause players to burn out in August.

As always, thank you all for the support that you show me at the stadium, in person, or on social media. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks to MLB reports for allowing me to give you a sneak peek into my off-season workouts, regardless of my destination. My hope is that I’ll play in a town near you and we can meet at the stadium. Make sure to come and say Hi if you see me! You can find me on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/michael_schlact or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/michaelschlact

Thank you to Michael Schlact for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to “like” Michael on Twitter and follow him on Facebook. You can follow Michael’s journey on his blog titled “The Schlact Stories”.  Michael loves interacting with his fans (and giving away game used goodies)- so be sure to say hello and tell him that MLB reports sent you! 


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.

Young Phenom Pitchers May Ignite Your City

Monday January 30th, 2012

Doug Booth-  Baseball Writer: Perhaps it is because we see pitchers for more plays in any given baseball game, or maybe it is that young pitchers so rarely dominate to start their careers. But witnessing young pitchers start their careers with a flash- ignites the baseball cities they play for at epic levels.  Sometimes these players may even captivate the baseball world across the nation or even the world.  Today I take a look at 4 players that I have watched or heard about from my baseball experiences.  These players are:  ‘The Bird’ Mark Fidrych, Kerry Wood, Dwight Gooden and (the last player is underneath everyone’s radar,) former Blue Jays pitcher Juan Guzman.

Juan Guzman- Career Record was 91-79 with a 4.08 ERA.  For those people that watched this guy burst onto the scene in Toronto, this was guy was virtually unhittable in his first four seasons.  Barring any other person telling me different, he holds the record for winning percentage for his first 50 starts.  Guzman started his career 39-11 (.780).  Guzman helped anchor a pitching staff that won back to back World Series in ’92 and ’93, by going 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA in his postseason starts.  Guzman would routinely walk batters and throw wild pitches, but when he was looking at runners in scoring position,  he often left them stranded with a strikeout or a weak grounder.  The early 1990’s Toronto Blue Jays  were the model franchise in the Major Leagues. The SkyDome created enough buzz about futuristic ballparks to have all teams look at building their own new ballparks for themselves.  Juan Guzman was there for much of the early successes.  The fans gravitated towards him at the park.  It seemed the more they cheered for him, the better he would bear down and concentrate.  Even though Juan struggled after coming out of the lockout in 1995 (until he retired) going 51-69, he is forever entrenched in the Blue Jays championship seasons.

 Dwight Gooden- Career Record was 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA.  As a teenager at age 19, Dwight Gooden went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA in capturing the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.  In his next season, Gooden had one of the best pitching seasons in the modern era.  He went 24-4 with a mind-boggling 1.53 ERA.  He threw 16 complete games and 8 shutouts, while his 268 strikeouts in 271 innings pitched helped solidify the pitching ‘Triple Crown’ of wins, ERA and strikeouts.  This New York Mets team was looking like they were on the verge of a dynasty with the likes of Gooden, Strawberry and veteran catcher Gary Carter playing so well.  In 1986, the New York Mets won the World Series with Gooden as their ace.  Even though he struggled in the postseason for his career with an 0-4 record, most times his ball club would have never made it to the playoffs without his strong regular seasons.  By the age of 26, Gooden was 132-53 for his career(.721).  He was headed for a Hall of Fame Career, however drug problems (as was the case with fellow Met Darryl Strawberry) caused the rapid decline of his career.  Gooden spent parts of many seasons fighting the addiction.  Gooden had his career revived with the New York Yankees in 1996.  In wearing the pinstripes, he threw a no-hitter and helped the team win the 1996 World Series.  His career winning percentage is still decent at .634, but what could this man have done if he was playing it straight?  As years go by, he is still revered by both New York clubs. So who knows what could have been?

 Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych- Career Record was 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA.  This guy is the best of example of a phenom pitcher capturing a city by storm.  At age 21, Mark Fidrych blitzed onto the scene with a 19-9 record, with leading the league in ERA (2.34) and CG (24), even though he did not make his first start until early May.  He won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award and his pitching galvanized the city of Detroit despite a 74-87 season.  Fidrych displayed some of the weirdest antics on the mound.  He would fix scuffs on his cleats, talk to the baseballs, manicure the pitching mound and throw back baseballs to the home umpire he thought ‘were going to make him give up hits.’  As a tall and lanky player, with constant body-jerk movements, he was given the nickname ‘The Bird” with his likeness to Sesame Streets character ‘Big Bird.’  Fidrych had his own fans come out for games at Tiger Stadium.  These fans were often referred to as ‘Bird Watchers.’  He was a big draw for attendance for both home and road games.  His 16 starts drew half of the teams 81 home games attendance in 1976.  Fidrych was truly a national celebrity by the time he started his second year.  However, a torn rotator cuff plagued him for the remainder of his brief career, as it went improperly diagnosed until Dr. James Andrews saw him in the mid 80’s.  Fidrych was still a popular figure around MLB until he was killed while working on his truck in an accident in April of 2009.

 Kerry Wood- Career Record is 86-73 with 3.64 ERA.  Still only age 34 right now, Kerry Wood has been pitching in the Majors since 1998.  In his 5th start as a player at age 21, Wood turned in one of the best all time single game performances.  The man struck 20 batters in tying Roger Clemens established record.  There were only two batters to reach base, a hit batsmen and a questionable hit that could have easily been scored an error, prevented Wood from throwing a no-hitter or perfect game.  Instantly Wood’s name was recognizable across the Cubs fans.  This was the year that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were going toe to toe in the historic single season homer chase, yet  Wood was just as popular at Wrigley Field.  Soreness in his elbow forced Wood to miss the last month of the season.  He still registered a 13-6 record, en route to a ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.  Wood spent 1999 on the shelf, from there he struck out 200 batters or more in three of the next four season.  In 2003, the ace teamed up with Mark Prior to deliver a great regular season that ultimately led to a 3-2 lead in the NLCS before the Marlins came back to win the NL Championship (Bartman).  The next 4 seasons were marred by injury, as neither he nor Prior could stay healthy for the Cubs.  It was only a move to the bullpen that finally saw him revive his career in 2007.  Wood was part of 2 division championships in his time with the Cubs, but the one that was sweeter was the 2008 season.  He made the All-Star team as a reliever and the fans were able to cheer for him on a regular basis again.  That season he converted 34 of 39 saves.  After decent years with Cleveland and New York in 2009 & 2010, Wood took less money to return to the city that he loves and started his career with.  Chicago fans will always return the love back for Wood.  He is where he ought to be, wearing number 34 for the Cubs.

So who might be the new pitcher to take on this mantra?  Could it be Matt Moore?  Or maybe it will be Stephen Strasburg in a larger sampling?  Whoever it is, that MLB team and/or baseball will be better served with another new pitching phenom entering its ranks!

 

*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 

 

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

The Future of Alfredo Simon

Sunday January 29th, 2012

Sam Evans: Alfredo Simon has not had the Major League career that most people grew up dreaming about. He’s never maintained success in his four years in the big leagues, plus he was accused of murdering a man during the last offseason. Luckily for Simon, he has a chance to be a starter in Baltimore’s talent-deprived rotation. He is still a promising player with a good build and a fastball that can touch up to 95 MPH.

Simon should be an inspiration to all minor league players. He spent seven years in the minors before he ever reached the majors. During those seven minor league years, he played for the Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Phillies, and the Giants. Simon never posted amazing minor league numbers and had problems with his offspeed pitches. What kept Simon on teams was his fastball in the upper 90’s and positive veteran influence. In 2008, Simon finally got his chance. The Orioles called him up to the majors and gave him a chance to showcase his abilities against major league hitters.

When Alfredo Simon signed with the Phillies over ten years ago, he claimed to be almost two years younger than he was, as he went by the name Carlos Cabrera. This wasn’t a huge deal, but eventually the information about Simon’s name and age was released to the public. Little did Simon know, this was just the start of his legal issues. Last year, on New Year’s, Simon was accused of killing Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his own brother. As the story was told, the locals were all bringing in the New Year at a huge party, with Simon celebrated by firing his gun into the air twice. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems very suspicious. If Simon was firing his gun up into the air, how did he kill someone? I don’t speak very fluent spanish, but according to a Dominican news telecast, Simon was at a street block filled with hundreds of people, away from Almonte at the time of the murder.

The justice system in the Dominican Republic is far from perfect. Simon could have just paid off people to cover this up after he actually did murder Almonte.  Or this could have been a misunderstanding or tragic accident. However, the court found indisputable evidence that Simon was not the murderer. He had approximately three hundred witnesses testifying his innocence. What I find amusing is that almost all of them showed up for the court appearance, dressed in Orioles gear and Simon’s jerseys. On November 8th, Simon was acquitted of all charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Back to baseball, Simon has never been able to maintain success for long periods of time in the majors. He has shown glimpses of being an electric closer at times. He’s also had moments where he looks like a potential innings-eater starter. Nobody, even Simon, knows where this talented veteran will fit into the Orioles roster. Whether it’s as a starter, or as a late-inning bullpen arm, Simon could be a breakout player in 2012.  Or he could end up on waivers.

Simón can still heat up the radar gun, even now at age thirty. Last year, his average fastball was 94.4MPH. He threw his fastball almost 1 MPH faster in 2010, but that’s likely because he was used out of the bullpen. Speaking of 2010, that was the year when Orioles fans got to see the potential of this 6’6” giant. Due to a Mike Gonzalez injury, and a dreadful Orioles bullpen, Alfredo Simón was name the O’s closer. Simon took complete advantage of the situation and he finished with 17 saves in 21 chances.

Simon’s peripherals suggest that he has been consistently getting lucky during his time in Baltimore. He has a 5.23 career FIP, but only a 4.19 career SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA). Simon is starting to look like another pitcher who consistently outperforms what their sabermetrical numbers suggest they should be. Sabermetrics are far from perfected statistics always and they could be misleading, in terms of Simon’s production.

In 2011, Simon returned to starting pitching. He had sixteen starts and he threw more innings in one year (115.2), than he’d thrown since 2007. He still missed time due to hamstring issues, but overall, Simon threw some quality ballgames for Baltimore. Eight of his sixteen starts were for six innings or more. If Simon can perfect his offspeed pitches better, I could see him having a Carlos Silva in 2004-esue year. That’d make him one of the Orioles best pitchers and he would then be due for a payday in 2013.

Recently, both Manager Buck Showalter, and General Manager Dan Duquette, have made it clear that they want to have players competing in Spring Training for a spot in the Orioles rotation. According to Orioles beat writer, Brittany Ghiroli, Simon has lost ten pounds this offseason and he’s been preparing to be a starter. There will be approximately eleven players competing for five spots in the Orioles rotation this spring. Fortunately for Simon, the majority of them are not very good.

If the Orioles coaching staff can ameliorate Simon into a starter who goes deep into games, without losing his velocity or blocking a younger prospect, then they will have gem of a pitcher at a fraction of the cost of most top starting pitchers. I really do believe in Simon’s capabilities. He has the potential and given that he has a good opportunity coming up this spring, I don’t see any reason why he can’t spend the entire year in the Orioles rotation (health permitting).

If starting doesn’t work out for Simon, he can still be an effective late-inning arm. The Orioles need to develop their pitchers better and stop messing with their roles. They can tell Simon if they want him to be a starter, or a reliever, but the worst thing they can do is have him switch back and forth. For Simon’s career, it’s now or never. 2012 will be the most important year of his career and the Orioles need him to produce at the Major-League level so that they don’t have to rush their young prospects any further.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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***

 

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

The 2012 Tampa Bay Rays Starting Rotation

Friday January 13th, 2012


Rob Bland:  Starting pitching surplus.  This is a phrase that every Major League Baseball franchise wishes they could say they possess.  However, one team that is quickly becoming a power in the AL East, has just that.  The Tampa Bay Rays’ rise to success began in 2008 where they were crowned the American League champions.  Since then, they have won due mostly to their strong pitching.  A while back, I heard someone say that the Rays franchise is like an onion: peel one layer off, and there is another layer there waiting to blossom.  When they lost Carl Crawford, probably the best player in franchise history, to free agency, ultra prospect Desmond Jennings came to Tropicana Field.  When Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs, hyped pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson took over the 5th spot of the rotation and finished the season with a 13-10 record and 2.95 ERA.  Oh, and he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award just to top it off.  The fact of the matter is the Rays have a scary rotation already in place, with David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Hellickson.  

Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked Hellickson the #6 prospect in baseball, with Matt Moore coming in at #15.  Moore is a flame-throwing lefty who was called up to the Rays on September 12, 2011 in the middle of a pennant race.  Moore threw 9.1 innings, with 15 strikeouts to 3 walks, and a 2.89 ERA.  He then went on to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, and threw 7 scoreless innings on 2 hits.  GM Andrew Friedman believed in his talent so much that he inked Moore to a 5-year, $14M contract that includes club options that would push the total value to $37.5M over 8 years.  Moore will only be 22 years old at the beginning of the season.  

Alex Cobb is another intriguing arm that is waiting in the minor leagues for his time to shine.  While he wasn’t included in the Rays’ Top 10 Prospects list before the 2011 season, he turned heads while pitching most of 2011 in AAA.  Cobb went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 12 starts.  Cobb struck out 70 with 16 walks in 67.1 innings, showing plus command of an 89-93mph fastball.  Cobb projects to be an inning-eating work horse in the middle of a rotation.  While he ended up with 9 starts for the Rays with success, there doesn’t seem to be a spot open for him just yet.  

So it appears as though the Rays have 7 viable starting options at the moment. SEVEN. Most teams can’t even say they have four that they are actually happy with. A true embarrassment of riches!  

Talent is not the only thing to consider when putting a team together, and the strapped-for-cash Rays are no exception.  Even with a team salary of just over $42M, the Rays still clinched the AL Wild Card and reached the postseason for the third time in four years in the loaded AL East.  James Shields has club options for 2012-2014, with a value of $7.5M, $9M and $12M, respectively.  For a team with such a low payroll, a pitcher like James Shields does not quite seem to fit the team’s plans.  It might be in the best interest of the club to be looking for suitable trade partners to potentially shore up the team’s needs at 1B and/or SS.  

The reality is that the Rays believe that Moore is Major League-ready now, hence the multi-year contract.  So therefore, one of the five starters from 2011 is either on his way out, or on his way to the bullpen.  Price, Hellickson and Moore are locks for the rotation it would seem.  Even though he missed all of May and half of June with back tightness after a rough start to the season in which he gave up 23 runs in 31.1 innings over 6 starts, Niemann had a very strong July and August. Niemann finished 2011 with an 11-7 record and 4.06 ERA.  Davis signed a contract prior to the 2011 season that would pay him $10.1M through 2014, with options from 2015-2017 for $7M, $8M, and $10M, respectively.  Davis was 11-10 in 2011 with a 4.45 ERA.  The fact that his career ground ball rate is 37.8% and he has struck out under 6 batters per 9 innings doesn’t bode well for him.  Davis’s stats have regressed in the last two years, and with his contract doesn’t seem likely to net a large return if traded.  He could, however, find himself in a swingman type role to start the season.

In James Shields, the Rays have a HUGE trade chip.  Since 2007, he has averaged over 220 innings per season.  His career marks of 7.5 K/9 and 2.07 BB/9 to go along with a 44% ground ball rate make him a very good pitcher.  With 3-years of control remaining, at an average of under $10M per season, Shields could net the Rays a king’s ransom type return.  When Friedman traded Garza to the Cubs, he received outfielder Sam Fuld, SS Hak-Ju Lee (#6 prospect by Baseball America), RHP Chris Archer (#38 by BA), OF Brandon Guyer (#6 Rays prospect), and C Robinson Chirinos.  Comparing Garza’s 2010 season and Shields’ 2011 season shows that while Garza pitched well going 15-10 and 3.91 ERA, his peripheral stats don’t quite stack up.  Not only is Shields’ platform season greater, but his career statistics prove he has been the better pitcher.  With the exorbitant prices some teams are paying for frontline starting pitching (see Gio Gonzalez and Matt Latos), the Rays should certainly be looking into moving Shields.  

In all probability, the Rays rotation will start out as Price, Shields, Moore, Hellickson and Niemann, with Davis going to the bullpen, and Alex Cobb biding his time in AAA.  The Rays could play out the first few months of the season, and look to deal one of Shields, Niemann or Davis based on where they sit in the standings, and their personal performances.  Starting pitching surplus sure is a great problem to have.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 Blandy 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.

Do the Diamondbacks Have a Strong Enough Rotation to Win the NL West?

Wednesday January 11th, 2012

Sam Evans: Last year, the Diamondbacks came out of nowhere and won 94 games.  This was thanks mostly in part to their offense. But having three pitchers throw over two hundred innings each didn’t hurt. This offseason, the Dbacks gave up some of their premium minor league talent to acquire Trevor Cahill, who should prove to be another solid pitcher in their rotation.

Last year, Arizona’s best pitcher was Ian Kennedy. He had a breakout year, finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. Kennedy had a 3.22 FIP, 2.88 ERA, and was worth a 5.0 WAR. Kennedy has turned into an ace ever since coming over from the Yankees in 2010. If Kennedy can turn in another workhorse season, the Diamondbacks will have their first All-Star pitcher since Dan Haren in 2009.

Daniel Hudson deserves almost as much credit as Kennedy for the Dbacks success. Hudson was worth a 4.9 WAR in 2011, and was better than his 3.49 ERA suggested. Another Dbacks pitcher who has less than two years of throwing two hundred innings is going to be heavily relied upon in 2012.

On December 9th, Arizona traded top prospect Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and reliever Ryan Cook for Trevor Cahill, Craig Breslow, and cash considerations. The Dbacks will probably come out on top in this trade. Jarrod Parker is going to be a stud for the A’s, but he still has some developing to do. Arizona acquired a front of the line starter, who brings much-needed consistency to the Diamondbacks rotation.

If the Diamonbacks have an area to improve in 2012, it’s their league worst GB% ( 41.9%). Cahill will already be a big boost to that, as he brings his 55.9 GB% from 2011.

After Josh Collmenter had pitched only 36.1 innings last season, he had garnered a following of non-believers. They said that once Collmenter faced the team for a second time, his effectiveness would disappear. Part of this opinion was probably formed because Collmenter was never a top prospect, yet was making the prospect experts look silly. Collmenter proved the haters wrong, finishing with a 3.38 ERA in 154 innings. This just goes to show that we can’t be right about prospects all the time.

In 2012, Collmenter will have a bigger workload and higher expectations. But if he proved anything last year, it’s that he’s up for a challenge.

The fifth starting spot for the Diamondbacks is still unknown. The Dbacks could bring in a free agent like Hiroki Kuroda or Jeff Francis. They also have some organizational options such as Wade Miley, who started seven games last year, or even 2011 first-rounder Trevor Bauer, who seems to be major league ready.

All of the Dbacks top three starters have come in through trades. With pitchers like Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer on their way to the majors, it looks like the Dbacks are starting to find homegrown talent as well.

I would say that the Dbacks rotation is second in the N.L. West only to the Giants. With a far superior offense than the Giants, it looks like Arizona has a pretty good chance of being able to win their division again in 2012.

**Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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***

 

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

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