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James Shields or David Price: Tampa Bay Rays are Ready to Trade an Ace

Thursday November 8th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  With center fielder B.J. Upton most likely leaving for free agency, the Tampa Bay Rays will have some gaps to fill in their lineup this offseason. Unless they sign a high-profile free agent like Josh Hamilton (which I discussed in my last feature), the Rays will need to make a move to land a bat. The Rays have a solid pitching staff. Some may even say they have a pitching surplus. With David Price and James Shields leading the staff that includes Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, the Rays can say that pitching is their strength. Out of all these pitchers, one should probably be traded though in order to boost the offense.

The two pitchers that would carry the most trade value on the staff are Shields and Price. Hellickson and Moore are both young and somewhat unproven, so they would probably not provide much of a return. Shields is a pitcher I compare to Mat Latos, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds from the San Diego Padres last offseason. The Padres cashed in big time. For Latos, the they got a haul including Edinson Volquez, the projected number two starter in the Reds’ rotation at the time, Yonder Alonso, a top prospect, and Yasmani Grandal, another prospect and first-round pick. If the Rays traded Shields and got a deal similar to that of the Padres, they would be set up quite nicely for future success.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Brotherly Love and the Upton Brothers

Saturday November 3rd, 2012

 

Can Phillies Phans fathom having these big-league-brothers manning the outfield at Citizen’s Bank Park?

Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer):  Both B.J. Upton and his younger brother Justin will be available this offseason.  Bossman Junior (B.J.) will be a top centerfield free agent option, and Justin signed a lucrative 6-year deal just two years ago, is widely known to be on the trading block from Arizona.  The Upton brothers are the two highest drafted brothers in sports history.  B.J. was a second overall pick in 2002 and Justin, the first overall pick of the 2005 draft.  They have both had ups and downs in their young careers, but both have performed extremely well and shown glimpses of brilliance.  Justin has already cashed in on his first big major league contract, and B.J. is looking to so this offseason.  Where B.J. will sign, we will find out over the next months.  But one thing that is clear…he makes since for just about any team out there.

The Philadelphia Phillies are one of those teams that could envision B.J. Upton gracefully patrolling centerfield for 162 games.  As a premier center fielder facing free agency, B.J. as become far too expensive a commodity for the Rays to retain going forward.  He plays top-notch defense in centerfield and has a cannon for an arm.  All he did in 2012 as 27-year-old (in his 8th year in the MLB) was hit 29 doubles, 28 home runs and steal 31 bags.  Yes, with this amazing tool set that combines defense with speed and power comes a lifetime .255 batting average and about 150 strikeouts a year.  There are weaknesses in every player’s game, but B.J. Upton’s strengths make him a very attractive target for any team that doesn’t have Joe DiMaggio manning centerfield.

There is no doubt that B.J.’s speed and power will fit very nicely into the Phillies lineup along with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard.  We have to also consider what it is going to take to get B.J. signed to a contract.  Right now, we know that the Tampa Bay Rays have offered B.J. a qualifying offer.  While the chances of B.J. agreeing to this are virtually ‘zero’, it does mean that whoever signs B.J. is going to have to sacrifice their first round draft pick next year to Tampa.  For a team like Philadelphia that can afford to sign top free agents, giving up a top prospect is an acceptable part of doing business. Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Shawon Dunston Jr.: Future Cubs Superstar

Sunday November 6, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Shawon Dunston Jr., outfield prospect for the Chicago Cubs.  Shawon was an 11th round pick for the Cubs this past year.  While he was expected to go as high as the 1st round, signability issues centering on his commitment to Vanderbilt allowed him to drop to Chicago.  The Cubs were able to get Dunston Jr. to sign on the dotted line before the signing deadline and just like that, Shawon Dunston Jr. was a Chicago Cub.  Expected to be the team’s center fielder of the future, Chicago is happy to have yet another Dunston in its system. While Dunston Sr. played shortstop for 18 seasons, Dunston Jr. is starting his own career and legacy in professional baseball.  A player with strong tools and reputation in the game, we look forward to watching Shawon Dunston Jr. patrolling the outfield of Wrigley Field in the near future.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Cubs prospect and 2nd generation Major League Baseball player, Shawon Dunston Jr.:

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MLB reports:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Dunston Jr.:  Growing up, I wanted to be just like Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play.  I was also a fan of Barry Bonds

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  I look up to B.J. Upton.  He makes everything look effortless.  I want to be a Jacoby Ellsbury type player.  Dexter Fowler as well has speed and pop at the CF position.

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  Playing in the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic during the summer of my junior year.

 

MLB reports:  Did you fully expect from the start of the draft to sign with the Cubs?  When was the final decision made in the process to sign with Chicago?  Any disappointment with being drafted in the 11th round or did have to do more with your signability status than anything else?

Dunston Jr.:  I was actually surprised they chose me.  I thought three teams were going to get me earlier; I talked to the Cubs’ area guys, but didn’t think they were going to choose me.  I was going to Vanderbilt right up until the last day of the deadline.  It was a tough decision, but my decision came down to the Cubs getting close to my (final dollar) number, getting into the system early and developing now (by playing everyday).  On draft day I was mad and no, I don’t think that I am an 11th round type player.  My bonus I got says it all (got back-end, 1st round money).  My signablity hurt me and also being very committed to Vandy, where I intended to attend.  But that is the past and I am ready to get going.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?

Dunston Jr.:  It was more of a relief, like: “Finally- I got drafted!”  I was still upset though that I did not go higher.  Over time my reactions did not change, as looking back I still expected that I should have been drafted higher.  But I use my feelings as a motivator go-forward.

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  My athleticism.  I am very athletic. 

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  All part of my game can be improved.  I am just trying to be a better player overall.

 

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?

Dunston Jr.:  Yes, I am going to need to take a better approach at the plate. I am confident that will happen.  I am young and have time to develop.

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  Center field.  That is the position that I am playing now and that will be (the position) I will be playing down the road as well.  I play good defense.

 

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?

Dunston Jr.:  I just need to work hard.  Through development and time, I will get there soon.  I just need some time.

 

MLB reports:  What are your offseason plans?  Have the Cubs indicated to you at what level you will likely start 2012 and at which position?

Dunston Jr.:  I plan to get bigger, stronger and faster.  I am excited to be getting ready for spring training and my first professional season!

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Dunston Jr.:  I enjoy hanging out with friends and family.

 

MLB reports:  Have you visited Chicago often in your life?  Any impressions?

Dunston Jr.:  I don’t really remember much from it when my dad played there.  The last time I was there was in the 2003 playoffs at the NLDS with my dad.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send out a message to the Cubs fans, what would it be?

Dunston Jr.:  I am glad to be a part of this great organization and cannot wait to be playing in Wrigley Field soon!

 

Thank you again to Shawon Dunston Jr. for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Shawon.  As well, please follow Shawon on Twitter (@SDUNSTONJR)

 

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.


2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Tuesday October 4th

Wednesday October 5, 2011

MLB reports:  While three teams on Tuesday could have moved on to the next series, only one team did. Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Tuesday’s games: 

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Four

With A.J. Burnett on the mound, Yankee fans were on the edge of their seat in anticipation for the game against the Tigers. They knew they needed a win, and a big one.

Well, they got exactly that.

Derek Jeter started the scoring in the third inning with a double that scored Russell Martin and Jorge Posada.

They would hold the 2-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth, when Victor Martinez launched a solo homerun to make it a 2-1 game.

That would, however, be the only run that the Tigers would score as the Yankees scored another run in the 5th, when Curtis Granderson doubled Brett Gardner. Later in the inning, Alex Rodriguez would score Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

And they never looked back.

In the top of the eighth, Al Alburquerque, facing Jesus Montero, balked which allowed Alex Rodriguez from second. Montero would later single to score Mark Teixeira. Daniel Schlereth would then come in for the Tigers, but it didn’t get any better, as he threw a wild pitch that scored Montero and then gave up a 2-RBI single to Robinson Cano. After a 6-run inning the score was 10-1.

Evidently, that would be the way the game ended as Boone Logan struck out the side in the ninth, as the Yankees forced a game 5. Burnett went 5.2IP allowing one earned run on four hits, three walks and one strikeout. From then on in, the collective bullpen pitching, including Rafael Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched 3 1/3 of no-hit baseball, allowing no walks yet striking out six.  Game five goes tomorrow night in New York, Fister vs. Nova for all the marbles.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampay Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Four

The Rays had been in this position not too long ago – one loss away from not being able to move on to the next step. Recognizing this, they sent Hellickson to the mound against Rangers’ Harrison.

That said, after already winning two games in a row, the Rangers were not going to go down easy as Ian Kinsler hit a home run in the first at-bat of the game.

In the 2nd, the Rangers added to their lead with another home run, one from Adrian Beltre, and already Texas was up 2-0.

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays cut the Rangers lead in half thanks in part to Matt Joyce’s RBI double.

Adrian Beltre, did not give up easy and in the forth, launched another solo home run. His 2nd of the game.

But again, the Rays fought back and again, Sean Rodriguez scored, this time off the bat of  Casey Kotchman.

Adrian Beltre though would not allow the Rays to catch up as, in the top of the seventh, he launched his THIRD home run of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the score 4-2, Sean Rodriguez once again told his team he wanted to cross the plate once again. So sure enough, Casey Kotchman singled him in with one out in the ninth, making the score 4-3.

But the third Beltre homerun proved to be the difference, as Alexi Ogando got Matt Joyce to pop out and Desmond Jennings to ground out.

Harrison got the win, going five complete innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out nine.

With the win, the Texas Rangers move on to the next series, facing off against the winner of the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

 

Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLDS Game Three

Everyone loves great baseball and that is certainly what was received when Phillies’ Cole Hamels faced off against Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

There was no score until the seventh inning as both pitchers were cruising along. Much like what occurred in all other aforementioned games, a home run proved to be the difference as after Shane Victorino singled and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked, Ben Francisco was placed in to pinch hit and he did not disappoint – launching a three run home run to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Cards fought back in the bottom of the inning as David Freese hit an  RBI single that scored Allen Craig.

They would carry this momentum into the ninth inning as Albert Pujols led off the inning with a double off Ryan Madson. Pujols would later score off of a Yadier Molina single but that would be all they would get as Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the game, enabling the Phillies to win by a score of 3-2.

Cole Hamels got the win, going six complete innings without a run, allowing five hits and three walks, but striking out eight.  Game four goes tonight in St. Louis, Oswalt vs. Jackson.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Three

In a must-win game for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they sent Josh Collemeter to the mound against Brewers’ Shaun Marcum and Collemeter did not disappoint.

Arizona got on the board early against Marcum thank in part to a RBI double from Miguel Montero and an RBI single from Paul Goldschmidt.

Both of these scoring plays were fielder by centerfielder Corey Hart, so Hart felt he needed redemption. When he got up to bat in the third, he did exactly that, hitting a homerun to left field, and cutting Arizona’s lead to 2-1.

The damage, however, had already been done. In the bottom of the inning, Arizona added to their lead when Aaron Hill scored on Montero’s second RBI of the game. On the play, Nyjer Morgan got Justin Upton out on a close play at the plate.

With the score 3-1, Arizona knew they needed a few more runs to ensure a game four. Evidently, Paul Goldschmidt was thinking the same thing as in the fifth inning, he hit a GRAND SLAM (GOLDSCHMIDTTTTT!). Kameron Loe would then come in to pitch and replace Marcum, but Arizona was much too dominant, scoring another run in the inning from a Ryan Roberts RBI single, giving the Diamondbacks an 8-1 lead.

This evidently would be how the game would end as Milwaukee managed only three hits in the game. This can be attributed to Collemeter’s fantastic game as he went seven complete innings, allowing only two hits, one earned run on two walks and six strikeouts.

Marcum’s outing was not as great, as the ex-Blue Jay went 4.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three.  Game four is the late game tonight in Arizona, Wolf vs. Saunders.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Sunday October 2nd

Monday October 3, 2011

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  The first Sunday of postseason baseball didn’t have any letdowns for viewers.  Starting at about noon, I watched and listened to roughly ten hours of baseball.  Usually after I spend one of my Sunday’s watching baseball, I wish I could have those hours back because I really didn’t have the free time to watch all those games.  The postseason is way different.  No matter what I have to do, I always try to make sure watching the games is my top priority.  After Jason Motte recorded the final out of the day, I felt like that was the best way I could’ve spent my day.  Albeit from my couch, there’s nothing like cheering on your favorite teams and players during October.  Enough rambling, let’s get to the games.

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Two

In the top of the first inning, Miguel Cabrera hit a 2-0 changeup from Freddy Garcia 337 feet into the right field bleachers.  Only at Yankee Stadium is that a home run, the short porch in right field gives hitters an almost unfair advantage.  Max Scherzer was terrific, not allowing a hit until Robinson Cano singled in the bottom of the sixth.  Scherzer finished the game after throwing six shutout innings striking out five.  Freddy Garcia didn’t pitch that bad he was just made a couple of mistakes and had some bad luck.  After six innings, the Tigers appeared to be in control.  Then, the rain started coming down.   I can’t believe that the Yankees spent 1.3 billion on a new stadium but they couldn’t even construct a retractable roof.  Anyways, Joaquin Benoit twirled two innings, just giving up a Curtis Granderson homer.  Jose Valverde didn’t make it look easy in the ninth, allowing a Nick Swisher dinger, then a Jorge Posada triple!   Nonetheless, “Papa Grande” got Robinson Cano to ground out with runners on first and second to end the game.  On the offensive side of this game the Tigers star was Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI.  Cabrera showed how versatile of a hitter he is hitting an opposite field homer, poking an RBI single up the middle, and pulling a single to left field.  Now the series will head to Detroit tied up 1-1.  Game time is Monday at 8:30 PM ET.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Two

Ryan Braun got things started with a two run homer off Dan Hudson in the first.  However, in the top of the 2nd Paul Goldschmidt took Zack Greinke deep.  I have no idea why Kirk Gibson didn’t start Goldschmidt in the first game, as he obviously deserves to be in there.  In spite of both teams starting talented pitchers, this was not a pitcher’s duel.  Milwaukee took a 4-1 lead in the third thanks to Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder driving in the runs.  By the sixth, Arizona had tied it up at 4-4 largely in part to Chris Young and Justin Upton going deep.  However, in the bottom of the sixth everything fell apart for the D-Backs.  The Brew Crew had runners on first and third when catcher Jonathan Lucroy shocked the Diamondbacks by laying down a suicide squeeze to score Jerry Hairston.  After that, things just fell apart from Arizona’s pitcher Brad Ziegler; he gave up three straight singles to Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun.  By the time Ziegler was pulled, the Brewers had a 9-4 lead.  The Brewers relievers combined to throw four shutout innings, and the Brewers won by the final score of 9-4.  When asked after the game, Willie Bloomquist A.K.A Willie Ballgame had this to say, “We’re going to come out fighting on Tuesday. It’s a tough position to be in, but you know what? We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable.” The series is now 2-0 Brewers and the two teams will meet in Phoenix on Tuesday at 9:30 PM ET.

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Two

To lead off the game Rafael Furcal tripled but then the Cards ran into Cliff Lee, who retired the 2-3-4 hitters without allowing a run.  The Phillies delivered a big blow in the bottom of the first, with Ryan Howard coming through with a bases loaded single.  Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days’ rest, had a rough day, only lasted three innings while giving up four runs.   In the fourth inning, the Cardinals scored three times, and would’ve scored four if it weren’t for it weren’t for Raul Ibanez gunning down Jon Jay at the plate.   Jay tied things up in the sixth with a single to score Ryan Theriot from second.  The Cardinals bullpen threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings baffling Phillies hitters.  I was impressed by Tony LaRussa’s methodical use of his bullpen.  Some games LaRussa looks like an idiot, some games he looks like a genius.  I guess that’s just the way he works.  In the top of the 7th Charlie Manuel decided to leave Lee in despite him being over 100 pitches.  The decision backfired when Shane Victorino misplayed an Allen Craig line drive.  Craig was in at third with a standup triple and he didn’t have to wait long before Albert Pujols drove him in.  Jason Motte needed only six pitches (all of which were over 90 MPH) to earn the save.  The Cardinals finished with thirteen hits to the Phillies six.  The series will switch to St.Louis all tied up.  The next game is on Tuesday at 5:00 PM ET.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, 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.

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***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 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 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.

J.P. Arencibia vs. Travis d’Arnaud: Who is the Jays Catcher of the Future?

Saturday September 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  Two weeks ago, I posted that the toughest question Blue Jays’ fans are dealing with right now is figuring out whose comeback, whether that of Dustin McGowan or Adam Loewen, is more impressive. Today I pose a question that some would say is equally hard to answer: who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher of the future – J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud?

What they have in common:

Interesting, while many people do not realize this, both catchers share their origin in common – the 2007 MLB first-year player draft. In fact, Arencibia was drafted 21st overall by the Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee. As the 37th pick overall, the Philadelphia Phillies went with Travis d’Arnaud, out of Lakewood High School. At the time it was believed that the Jays were interested in d’Arnaud’s potential and would pick him with the 38th pick and move Arencibia to first base. Yet the Phillies chose the young star from Florida one slot before, forcing the Jays to choose left-handed pitcher, Brett Cecil. That said, a persistent GM, Alex Anthopoulos, would get his player; as the Blue Jays acquired Travis d’Arnaud two years later in the well-known Roy Halladay trade.

How they differ:

Defense

It is difficult to compare these players, as Arencibia has already made the jump to the majors while d’Arnaud just finished his season in AA New Hampshire. Arencibia has more professional experience having been drafted out of college, while d’Arnaud came out of high school. Here is a graph to compare how each player performed during their time at AA New Hampshire:

JP received the promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire half-way through the season; his stats have been doubled to receive a more accurate comparison.

Both players are pretty evenly matched. Nevertheless, d’Arnaud has the slight advantage on errors committed, fielding percentage, and passed balls. Meanwhile, Arencibia has a higher caught-stealing percentage.

Despite one player being in the majors and the other in the minors in 2011, an interesting comparison can be depicted if we compare both catchers’ stats for this season:

With each player in their fourth year of professional baseball, these stats show how close their defensive game truly is. Having committed the same amount of errors, the same fielding percentage and only one passed ball being the difference between them, the biggest distinction is that d’Arnaud has the slight advantage throwing out base runners.

Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher himself, and now the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach has admitted that he has seen a drastic improvement in Arencibia’s defensive abilities. Wakamatsu credits the improvement to a significant amount of practice and hard work. He stated: “Arencibia has done a phenomenal job trying to understand how to get the most out of our pitching staff.”

Defensively, Arencibia has a good arm, but he struggles at times with blocking pitches in the dirt. In his minor league career, Arencibia threw out close to 30% of base stealers, though charged with 60 passed balls in 357 lifetime games.

In regards to his defense, Arencibia stated, “Defense is obviously first, and I know that, and whatever comes with the bat is secondary.” He continued:I feel like my biggest thing is getting that pitcher through that game and I feel like I’m starting to get a real good understanding of my staff and giving us opportunities to win.” Since making these comments, Arencibia has improved his defense considerably in the second half of the season. For example, in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, JP was able to throw out Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.

Comparatively, Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills are stronger. He has a great game-calling abilities and he has a strong arm. While his career caught-stealing rates have suffered due to inexperience, he has also improved his game by working on his footwork behind the plate. At 22 years old, d’Arnaud is already one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and he has plenty of time to develop into a premier defender in the big leagues. This was proven when he was named the Catcher’s Captain Award recipient for 2011 by Baseball America. The award is given to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities, including leadership and dedication.

Offense

There is no denying that both players are also solid offensively. In 409 games in the minors, JP hit .275 with 121 doubles, 83 HR and 290 RBI. That said, he has also proven what he can do at the plate at the major league level as well. There is not a Blue Jays fan who does not remember J.P. Arencibia’s major league debut last year against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he launched the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run. He later singled and doubled and capped the day with a home run to right field. That game showcased Arencebia’s talents and his ability to hit the ball for power.

Offense is where Arencibia and d’Arnaud differ most. Essentially, while JP hits for power but not average, d’Arnaud is a more complete player at the plate, as he hits for average and power. This year with the Fisher Cats, d’Arnaud was named the Eastern League MVP after hitting .313 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. Here is how their 2011 numbers compare:

Prior to the 2011 campaign, many fans and analysts alike were not sold on d’Arnaud as anything more than a defense-first catcher. However, as his numbers this season have indicated, Travis experienced a bit of a learning curve early on in his career, as he made the jump from high school to the minor leagues. With his bat coming around this season, the offensive edge at this stage goes to d’Arnaud. It is evident that both players (as can be seen from the table above) need to work on the amount of times they strikeout, but other than that, both look solid at the plate and behind it.

Overall

Although both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud came from the same draft class in 2007, it appears that d’Arnaud has the greater upside. In essence, Arencibia has received the call to the majors quicker because he was able to develop in college before jumping to the professional ranks. As displayed through various charts, d’Arnaud appears to be more efficient both with his glove and bat. His numbers indicate that he could make the jump to the MLB as early as next year.  In a recent interview with Fisher Cats beat reporter, Dave Gershman, d’Arnaud showed that he has the confidence to make it to the big leagues, as he stated: “Hopefully one day I can get up to Toronto, and play like I’m playing now. And who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll be a good player.”

At the same time one cannot discredit J.P. Arencibia, as despite his quick progression to the MLB, he is still learning at the age of 25.   Arencibia recently stated as much when he admitted, “On both sides of the plate I’ve been maturing and making adjustments in different things,” Arencibia says. “But it’s still a work in progress. You’re always trying to get better.” With catchers requiring the most seasoning from all the positions, Arencebia can still be considered to be at this stage ahead of the curve.

Whoever is chosen as the lead catcher, one thing is certain: the Blue Jays are blessed with two young catchers – both at the plate – and behind it!  If the team’s worst problem is having two number one catchers on its roster within the next two years, then that is a great dilemma to have.  It is very possible that one of the above (likely Arencibia) will be moved when both catchers have proven themselves at the major league level.  Until then, with injuries and slumps being a reality of the game, the Jays will enjoy their abundance of talent behind the dish and lets the cards play themselves out.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

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The Hunt for Red Sox October

September 14, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Red Sox Nation is panicking. On September 1, the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Today, on September 13, they sit only 3 games ahead.  Since then, the Red Sox have gone 2-9, while Tampa has gone 8-3.  Many people believe that Tampa Bay has the pitching to get the job done.  Led by “Big Game” James Shields and David Price, they have a rotation that has been one of the top in the league all season.  As a team, they have given up the least amount of hits by 80 in the American League.  Their team ERA is also tops in the American League at 3.56.

Boston is limping into the end of the season, with 3 of their 5 opening week starters injured in some fashion in the last month.  Jon Lester has been every bit of the ace the Red Sox need him to be, with a 15-7 record and 3.07 ERA.  However, when the Sox leaned on him on September 11 against Tampa, he lasted only 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks.  John Lackey has been awful this year.  I cringe when I look at his stats.  6.30 ERA, 180 hits in 144 innings, and 18 hit batsmen to lead the league.  How has he won 12 games?  Buchholz was solid before going on the disable list, giving up only 76 hits in 82 2/3 innings, but hasn’t pitched since June 16.  It is believed he could be back as soon as next week, but in a limited bullpen role at best, so his impact won’t be felt much.  Josh Beckett has been great this year as well, but rolled his ankle in the 4th inning of his last start. At one point, after throwing a complete game, 1 hit shutout on June 15, his ERA sat at 1.86.  He is currently 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.985.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bust this year and required Tommy John Surgery in June.  In his place is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who currently sits at 200 wins on his career.  Wakefield hasn’t made it look pretty this year, but has put in 139 2/3 valuable innings to date.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the top rotations in baseball, with Opening Day starter David Price pitching very solid, without much run support.  He has a 12-12 record but his ERA is 3.40 and has reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time in his young career.  Big Game James doesn’t need much of an introduction, as his 11 complete games and 4 shutouts lead the MLB.  He has already thrown 226 innings, a career high, with 210 strikeouts, also a career high.  Wade Davis has thrown 165 solid innings as a follow-up to being 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting last season.  Jeff Niemann is really blossoming into a dependable middle of the rotation pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 129 innings.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but doesn’t walk many either, shown by his 3 K/BB ratio.  One of the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year is Jeremy Hellickson, who has been pretty much lights out all year.  With a 2.96 ERA and only giving up 135 hits in 170 innings, he will surely garner some votes.  The one wild card that the Rays hold, however, is Matt Moore.  Moore was just called up to fill a role similar to David Price in 2008.  He will be electric out of the bullpen after a minor league season that will rank him in the top 5 of all prospects going into next season.

Boston’s offense is abound with potential MVP’s and great hitters.  1 through 9, the Red Sox boast one of the best lineups I can remember.  Jacoby Ellsbury may win the MVP, but he will have to go through Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez first.  Also, David Ortiz is again proving the naysayers wrong, as he is hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 92 RBI.  When a player of JD Drew’s caliber can go on the disabled list and be replaced with Josh Reddick, who is hitting .298 and slugging .491 in 250 plate appearances, it gives a lot of confidence to a pitching staff.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally seems like the player who the Atlanta Braves envisioned when they drafted him in the 1st round in 2003.  Jason Varitek is also enjoying a fine season as a backup to Saltalamacchia, hitting 11 home runs in only 234 plate appearances.  This offense is one that no team will want to face in the final weeks of the season or the playoffs if they reach that far.

Tampa Bay may not have the “sexy” offensive players that the Red Sox do, but they have some players having mighty fine seasons.  Ben Zobrist has overlooked his mediocre 2010 season, and has put up numbers closer to his breakout 2009.  Although he probably won’t ever match that season, his 45 doubles lead the American League, and has a very good OPS of .820.  Casey Kotchman is still an on-base machine with little pop from first base.  He has hit at a .313 clip with a .382 on-base percentage, setting the table for the big run producers.  Evan Longoria may be having a down year by his standards, but most teams would be happy with a third baseman hitting 25 home runs and slugging .818.  Through May, Matt Joyce was an early favorite for AL MVP, but really tapered off in June and July, before turning it back up in the last month.  His .843 OPS leads the team, and he also has 12 stolen bases.  BJ Upton continues to be a low average, high power type of hitter, with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases while hitting just .234.  The worst position in terms of offensive production has been shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have handled most of the duties.  The Rays’ high-tempo style of offense has wreaked havoc on opposing batteries, as they have stolen 130 bases, good for third in the American League.

Both teams have completely different styles and techniques, but are successful in their own ways.  With the Rays aggressive style, and the Red Sox more reliant on taking pitches and making pitchers work, getting deep into bullpens early, this could be a battle to the bitter end.  The schedules they play the rest of the way will also dictate who is more likely to win the race for the Wild Card.

Boston:
1 vs Toronto
4 vs Tampa Bay
7 vs Baltimore
3 vs New York

Tampa Bay:
1 vs Baltimore
4 vs Boston
7 vs New York
3 vs Toronto

It is quite evident that Boston has a much easier schedule, and should win a fair number of them.  The Red Sox have gone 11-4 against the Yankees this year also.  Tampa has gone 5-6 against the Yankees, whom they see 7 more times.  Boston gets Baltimore 7 more times, and have beaten them 8 out of 11 games so far.  The pivotal series of all will be this weekend when the two teams square off against one another.  The game of the weekend may be on Friday September 16, where James Shields faces off against Josh Beckett.

I believe that Tampa Bay will come within a game or two, but the schedule differences give Boston a HUGE advantage.  The Red Sox 18-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays on Tuesday will be a catalyst for the team over the next two weeks, where they will produce runs and pitch just well enough to get into the postseason.

***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 Rob on Twitter.***

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B.J. Upton: Rays’ OF Trade Destinations and Recap of Beltran Trade to the Giants

Thursday July 28, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Trade Deadline.  More speculation.  Teams out of the playoff race sending their valuable veterans to contending teams for prospects.  This is a time of year that baseball journalists make a living out of contemplating where there is a fit.  The Tampa Bay Rays have quite a decision to make as to what to do with the frustrating yet ultra-talented Melvin “BJ” Upton.  Upton was the 2ndoverall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, and quickly rose through the ranks with the Rays.  In his first full season in 2007, he belted 24 home runs and stole 22 bases while maintaining an OPS of .894.  Every season since that breakout year, his BABIP has dropped, and he has been unable to replicate the type of power he previously displayed.  Upton is a good fielder in center field and a good base runner, with the ability to steal 30-40 bases a year.  This year, Upton has struggled at the Trop, where he is hitting .171/.250/.312/.562.  On the road, the numbers are much better at .284/.364/.481/.845.

The Rays would be wise to move B.J. Upton now as they could net a tremendous return from a team who may be desperate to make a push for the playoffs.  There have been close to a dozen teams who have at least called to check in on GM Andrew Friedman’s asking price.

 

Here are five teams who would be wise to make a big push for the outfielder:

San  Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are looking to repeat as World Series Champs and look poised to make the postseason, even with one of the worst offenses in baseball.  They do have RHP Zach Wheeler ranked as MLB.com’s preseason #33 prospect.  The 2009 1st rounder has done very well this year in the California League, but does need to refine command.  Offering Wheeler would probably force the Rays to make the deal, however, the Giants seem to be looking at Carlos Beltran and Colby Rasmus as their main targets.** (NOTE: Since preparing this article, Rasmus has been traded to the Jays and Beltran appears to be on the move to San Francisco.  It is a likely safe bet that Upton is not headed anytime soon to San Francisco.)

 

Atlanta Braves
With none of their regular outfielders hitting over .234, the Braves are getting pretty desperate for help.  Even though they are currently three games up in the wild card race in the National League, they need to bolster their line-up in order to do some damage in the playoffs.  The Braves have a ton of pitching prospects to get the deal done.   Arodys Vizcaino is one of these top prospects, who has shot up to AAA from A-ball this season.  With great command and a plus fastball and curve, Vizcaino could be used to bring Upton to Atlanta.

 

Philadelphia Phillies
With the aging Raul Ibanez and youngster Dom Brown struggling to hit in the corner outfield spots, Upton could be ushered in to fill one of those spots.  Incumbent Shane Victorino likely wouldn’t be moved from center, but could shift to left for Upton.  I could actually see the Phillies going with a young athletic outfield of Victorino, Upton and Brown.  Ibanez then becomes a decent weapon off the bench.  Still only 19 years old, Jonathan Singleton has drawn a lot of interest from other teams.  The Phillies have stated they will not move Singleton for Beltran, but I could see it happening with Upton.  Singleton has an advanced approach at the plate, and as he matures, will surely hit for power.

 

Cleveland Indians
With Grady Sizemore seemingly always on the disabled list, Cleveland needs to shore up the center of their outfield.  Michael Brantley has performed admirably, however if they really want to contend in the shaky AL Central, they need a difference maker.  Shin Soo Choo has underperformed this year and with the addition of Upton, I can see him being able to turn his season around.  Joe Gardner, a right-handed pitching prospect could be moved in this deal.  Gardner is an extreme groundball pitcher that needs work on secondary pitches, but along with Cord Phelps, a 2B/3B who played 19 games with the Indians this year, a deal could be struck. 

 

Pitsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ string of losing seasons could soon be over, and they’re in the hunt for the NL Central crown.  Only a game back, they may make a push for a complement to Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.  With Jose Tabata struggling and spending time in AAA, Upton to play right field for the Pirates could be a great idea.  Starling Marte, a speedy outfielder who may remind some a bit of Upton, could be dangled with an arm such as Colton Cain, a lefty who can throw in the mid 90s but needs work on his secondary stuff.

 

The most likely spot for Upton to land is Philadelphia.  With the package that Philly could put together to obtain him, they are capable of pulling the trigger.  If the Pirates do make a move, and don’t make the playoffs, they risk possibly setting the organization back again, as rushing their success could cause a tremendous fallout.  Slow and steady usually wins the race.  Hopefully the Pirates remember that. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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Editor’s Note:  The Giants acquisition of Carlos Beltran looks to be complete.  As proposed last week on the Reports, Carlos Beltran is on the move from the Mets to the Giants in exchange for top Giants pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.  The trade simply needs a rubber stamp, as Beltran needs to go through the formality of waiving his no-trade clause.  His agent, Scott Boras, worked diligently to land Beltran with a NL contending team and did not disappoint with the trade to San Francisco.  The 21-year old Wheeler was the 6th overall pick in the 2009 draft.  The Giants gave up the top pitcher in their system, no doubt.  But with a major league rotation consisting of Matt Cain, Tim LincecumMadison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Jonathan Sanchez on the mend, the Giants could afford to part with pitching to acquire hitting.  The Mets are also sending $4 million dollars of salary relief to the Giants as further consideration in obtaining a top prospect back.  Expect Beltran to be the middle-of-the-order slugger the Giants so desperately crave, especially with top hitting catcher Buster Posey out for the year.  I can see Beltran carrying the Giants into the playoffs and advancing quite far, given his previous playoffs heroics and incentive to land one more big free agency contract in the offseason.  Beltran is also likely to re-sign with the Giants, so this is a win-win all around.  The Giants get run production this year and in possible future years and the Mets add a much needed building block for their future which just got brighter.

Final Results and Recap: 2011 MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Futures Game

Tuesday July 12, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  The MLB Home Run Derby is one of the greatest events in comparison to the All-Star games of any sport.  Fans flock in droves to watch the event, hoping to catch an amazing feat such as Josh Hamilton hitting 28 in the first round in 2008, only to come in 2nd place, and Bobby Abreu hitting 41 total home runs on his way to winning the title in 2005.

When the teams were announced, the fans booed both Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks.  Fielder was chastised for his selection of Weeks, as most casual fans were not aware of the pure power that he possesses.  Weeks was chosen over Justin Upton, who would have been great in front of his Arizona hometown crowd.

Early on this Derby lacked excitement, save for Robinson Cano’s first round, in which he had his father, former major leaguer, Jose Cano, pitching to him.  Cano blasted a number of balls deep into the right center field bleachers, his longest being 472 ft. Jose Bautista was a bit of a disappointment, smashing only 4 home runs and ended up being eliminated in the first round of the derby.  Other disappointments included the aforementioned Rickie Weeks and Matt Kemp, who hit 3 and 2 home runs, respectively.

There was some excitement at the end, as both David Ortiz and Fielder hit 5 home runs a piece to tie Matt Holliday, forcing a 3-player swing-off for 3rd and 4th place.  In this swing-off, each player received 5 swings in which to hit as many home runs as possible. Holliday led off with 5, Ortiz hit 4, and Fielder hit a perfect 5, two of which were mammoth shots.

The second round started off with Ortiz, and he began to show his age.   Ortiz was likely tired after the first round plus enduring the sudden death swing-off.  Ortiz hit only 4 home runs in the second round, and his average distance was 426 ft.  Then came the Robinson Cano Show again.  Cano launched 12 home runs in the second round, averaging 436 ft.  His swing was picture perfect, and it seemed as though any time he didn’t hit a home run, his dad would be upset with him.  Robinson’s dad knows his son’s strengths, and was confident he could hit that many.  That is likely why Cano was named Robinson by his father, after the late and great Jackie Robinson.

Gonzalez was also able to put on a show in the second round, consistently pounding the ball 430+ft.  He put on a display, hitting theball to the opposite field, and straightaway center field on his way to finishing with 11 in the round, and 20 total, tying him with Cano.  Fielder was up next, and aside from his first swing, that he hit 474 ft, he was not able to do much else.  He finished with 4 in the round, 9 in total.  So, it came down to the Yankees and Red Sox again.  Cano and Gonzalez square off in the finals.

Gonzalez immediately impressed, hitting 8 home runs in his first 3 outs.  He cooled off and finished with 11 in the finals.  With the most impressive rounds of the night, Cano hit 10 in his first 16 swings, needing only 1 more to tie Gonzalez.  The crowd erupted as he hit a home run over 470 ft to tie it up.  The very next swing was the one that did it, as he hit it out to right center field.  Gonzalez had a record 11 home runs in the last round, and Cano was clutch in beating that.

What started off as a slow, uneventful night, wound up being a compelling night of watching the Yankees battle the Red Sox in a pure power slugfest.  Robinson and his dad embracing by the mound.  The American League beating the National League.  All in all, this year’s edition of the Home Run Derby was nothing short of spectacular.

 

 

Chase Field, Phoenix — AL 76 defeats NL 19
Player Team Round 1 Round 2 Subtotal Finals Total
Robinson Cano Yankees 8 12 20 12 32
Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox 9 11 20 11 31
Prince Fielder Brewers 5 4 9 9
David Ortiz Red Sox 5 4 9 9
Matt Holliday Cardinals 5 5 5
Jose Bautista Blue Jays 4 4 4
Rickie Weeks Brewers 3 3 3
Matt Kemp Dodgers 2 2 2

 

2011 ALL-STAR FUTURES GAME RECAP
 
 

 

In a game showcasing most of baseball’s brightest shining up and coming stars, there were several players who stood out from the pack.  Although Bryce Harper (WAS) stole the spotlight in both the pre-game and post-game festivities, he did not shine quite as bright during the game.  He was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and 2 ground outs to first.  One of which was hit fairly hard but a nice play by Yonder Alonso got the out.

Aside from two big innings, a 4-run 6th inning by the World Team hitters off of Drew Pomeranz, and a 3-run 8th inning off of Kelvin Herrera by Team USA, this was a game largely dominated by flame-throwing pitchers.

For the US Team, my standout hitters were Jason Kipnis, (CLE) who led off the bottom of the 1st with a home run over the right-centre field wall, and Grant Green (OAK).  Green crushed a double off the top of the wall in straight-away center that I thought would have been gone in any other park.  He also stroked another double, going 2 for 2 with 2 doubles, a run scored and RBI on his way to earning MVP of the game.  On the mound, I was blown away by Matt Moore, Tampa Bay’s mega pitching prospect.  He threw 11 pitches, 9 of which were strikes.  His fastball was clocked consistently between 94 and 98 mph, and he was also throwing a devastating slider at 86 mph.  Phillies prospect Jared Cosart was also very impressive.  He racked up 2 strikeouts and a fly out on 10 pitches; 8 strikes.  Sitting at 96 with the heater, he also displayed a plus change-up.

Jose Altuve (HOU) is a guy that doesn’t get much credit, because he stands at about 5’6”.  However, the Venezuelan native has hit everywhere he has played.  He was 2 for 3 with a single and a double, and I came away impressed with the diminutive infielder.  Jurickson Profar (TEX) may have been the youngest player there, but he was not overmatched, as he stroked a triple off Drew Pomeranz and displayed his impressive speed.  On the bump, Canadian James Paxton stood out to me.  The University of Kentucky product threw 6 pitches; all fastballs, and induced 3 quick outs. He was between 94 and 96 and showed better control than I remember the last time I saw him.  Henderson Alvarez (TOR) was also impressive, with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph, and getting Harper to ground out to first on a 95 mph sinker.

The US team jumped out to an early lead thanks to the leadoff home run by Kipnis in the first, and an RBI fielder’s choice by Wil Myers (KC) in the 2nd inning.  Team USA then made it 3-0 in the 5th on Green’s first double, which scored Gary Brown after he singled and stole second.  In the top of the 6th, Drew Pomeranz (CLE) struggled, and gave up 4 runs.  Alfredo Silverio (LAD) homered to left, scoring Dayan Viciedo (CWS) who had singled 2 batters prior.  A walk to Chih-Hisen Chiang (BOS) and a double to Sebastian Valle (PHI) spelled the end of the night for Pomeranz. With the score knotted at 3, Profar then hit his triple off Kyle Gibson (MIN), scoring Valle in the process.

Green led off the 8th with a double, and Tim Beckham (TB) drove him in with a double of his own to tie the game at 4.  After an Austin Romine (NYY) single and a Nolan Arenado (COL) double to right field, the damage was done, and the US had a 6-4 lead.  Jacob Turner (DET) and Matt Harvey (NYM) split duties to close out the game for the US Team.

The US has now taken a 7-6 lead in the all-time series.  A good number of these players will be on Major League rosters by season’s end, so be sure to check in on the minor league squads of your favorite teams for updates.

 

U.S. Futures 6, World Futures 4
July 10, 2011
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
World Futures      0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 4 8 0
U.S. Futures      1 1 0 0 1 0 0 3 x 6 10 0
World Futures AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Marte, CF 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 .333
  c-Fuentes, PH-CF 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000
Altuve, 2B 3 0 2 0 0 0 1 .667
  Schoop, 2B 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.000
Alonso, 1B 2 0 0 0 2 1 1 .000
Viciedo, DH 3 1 1 0 0 1 4 .333
  d-Martinez, F, PH-DH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000
Liddi, 3B 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000
  Marte, J, 3B 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
Silverio, RF 4 1 1 2 0 1 0 .250
Chiang, LF 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .000
Rosario, W, C 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  a-Valle, PH-C 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 .500
Lee, SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
  b-Profar, PH-SS 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 .500
  Teheran, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Hendriks, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Paxton, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Martinez, C, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Perez, M, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Alvarez, H, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Vizcaino, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Herrera, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Marinez, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 34 4 8 4 3 7 11 .235

a-Doubled for Rosario, W in the 6th. b-Tripled for Lee in the 6th. c-Flied out for Marte in the 6th. d-Popped out for Viciedo in the 7th.

BATTING
2B: Altuve (1, Skaggs), Valle (1, Pomeranz).
3B: Profar (1, Gibson).
HR: Silverio (1, 6th inning off Pomeranz, 1 on, 2 out).
TB: Marte; Altuve 3; Schoop; Viciedo; Silverio 4; Valle 2; Profar 3.
RBI: Silverio 2 (2), Valle (1), Profar (1).
2-out RBI: Silverio 2; Valle; Profar.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Liddi; Viciedo; Fuentes.
Team RISP: 1-for-5.
Team LOB: 6.

BASERUNNING
CS: Schoop (1, 2nd base by Gibson/Romine).
PO: Schoop (1st base by Gibson).

FIELDING
DP: 2 (Liddi-Altuve-Alonso, Lee-Altuve-Alonso).

U.S. Futures AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG  
Kipnis, 2B 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 .500
  a-Green, PH-2B 2 1 2 1 0 0 0 1.000
Machado, SS 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  b-Beckham, PH-SS 2 1 1 1 0 1 1 .500
Harper, LF 4 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000
Goldschmidt, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000
Mesoraco, C 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1.000
  Romine, C 2 1 2 1 0 0 0 1.000
Middlebrooks, 3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .500
  Arenado, 3B 2 0 1 1 0 0 1 .500
Darnell, DH 3 0 0 0 1 1 3 .000
Myers, RF 3 0 0 1 0 1 2 .000
Brown, G, CF 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 .500
  Szczur, CF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Skaggs, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Peacock, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Miller, S, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Moore, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Thornburg, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Pomeranz, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Gibson, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Cosart, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Turner, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Harvey, M, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 32 6 10 6 1 6 11 .313

a-Doubled for Kipnis in the 5th. b-Struck out for Machado in the 5th.

BATTING
2B: Green 2 (2, Perez, M, Herrera), Beckham (1, Herrera), Arenado (1, Herrera).
HR: Kipnis (1, 1st inning off Teheran, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Kipnis 4; Green 4; Beckham 2; Mesoraco; Romine 2; Middlebrooks; Arenado 2; Brown, G.
RBI: Kipnis (1), Myers (1), Green (1), Beckham (1), Romine (1), Arenado (1).
2-out RBI: Green; Romine; Arenado.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Beckham; Darnell.
GIDP: Middlebrooks; Myers.
Team RISP: 4-for-10.
Team LOB: 4.

BASERUNNING
SB: Brown, G (1, 2nd base off Perez, M/Rosario, W).

FIELDING
Pickoffs: Gibson (Schoop at 1st base).

World Futures IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA  
Teheran 1.0 1 1 1 0 1 1 9.00
Hendriks 1.0 2 1 1 0 0 0 9.00
Paxton 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Martinez, C 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Perez, M 1.0 2 1 1 1 1 0 9.00
Alvarez, H (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Vizcaino (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Herrera (BS, 1)(L, 0-1) 0.2 4 3 3 0 1 0 40.50
Marinez 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Totals 8.0 10 6 6 1 6 1 6.75

 

U.S. Futures IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA  
Skaggs 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00
Peacock (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Miller, S (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00
Moore (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Thornburg (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Pomeranz (BS, 1) 0.2 3 4 4 1 1 1 54.00
Gibson 1.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Cosart (W, 1-0) 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00
Turner (H, 1) 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Harvey, M (S, 1) 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Totals 9.0 8 4 4 3 7 1 4.00

Balk: Perez, M.
HBP: Mesoraco (by Martinez, C).
Pitches-strikes: Teheran 19-13, Hendriks 18-10, Paxton 6-4, Martinez, C 11-6, Perez, M 23-11, Alvarez, H 11-6, Vizcaino 6-5, Herrera 23-14, Marinez 11-8, Skaggs 17-11, Peacock 9-7, Miller, S 20-12, Moore 11-9, Thornburg 10-7, Pomeranz 23-14, Gibson 16-11, Cosart 10-8, Turner 9-6, Harvey, M 3-1.
Groundouts-flyouts: Teheran 1-1, Hendriks 2-1, Paxton 2-1, Martinez, C 1-0, Perez, M 1-0, Alvarez, H 2-1, Vizcaino 2-0, Herrera 0-1, Marinez 0-0, Skaggs 1-1, Peacock 1-0, Miller, S 2-0, Moore 2-0, Thornburg 2-1, Pomeranz 0-0, Gibson 0-2, Cosart 0-1, Turner 0-1, Harvey, M 1-0.
Batters faced: Teheran 4, Hendriks 5, Paxton 3, Martinez, C 3, Perez, M 5, Alvarez, H 4, Vizcaino 3, Herrera 6, Marinez 1, Skaggs 5, Peacock 3, Miller, S 5, Moore 3, Thornburg 4, Pomeranz 6, Gibson 5, Cosart 3, Turner 2, Harvey, M 1.
Inherited runners-scored: Marinez 1-0, Gibson 1-1.
Umpires: HP: Ben May. 1B: Will Little. 2B: Jimmy Volpi. 3B: Scott Mahoney.
Weather: 74 degrees, roof closed.
Wind: 1 mph, Varies.
T: 2:38.

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the 2011 Home Run Derby and All-Star Futures Game.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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