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The Case for Bryce Harper as the 2012 National League ROY

Friday September 21st, 2012

Sam Evans: Bryce Harper is two years removed from high school and he is a young leader on a team leading the competitive N.L. East. Baseball has never seen a high school prospect draw as much attention that Harper got yet somehow, he has managed to live up to the hype at every level he’s faced. As with any rookie, Harper has had struggles. What has impressed me the most about him is how he responded to those slumps. Harper has a 181 wRC+ in the month of September and he is showing no signs of slowing up. For these reasons and others, I believe Bryce Harper deserves to be the National Rookie of the Year. Read the rest of this entry

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Why the Washington Nationals Will Make the Playoffs in 2012

 

Thursday June 21st, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: The last time the city of Washington D.C. saw a World Series trophy was in 1924. That was the work of the Washington Senators with the help of Walter “Big Train” Johnson. Although this year’s version of the team doesn’t have a veteran baseball legend, they do have a couple budding superstars. First is Stephen Strasburg. The first-overall pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg made an enormous impact in his first career start and most of the 2010 season, but ended up on Dr. Lewis Yocum’s table towards the end, and missed most of the 2011 season. Thankfully for the Nationals, Strasburg is back and better than ever, posting an 8-1 record and a 2.45 ERA (before Wednesday’s win versus Tampa Bay: 7IP 5H 2ER 10K and got the win). Unfortunately for the Nationals, Strasburg is on an innings limit this year to protect his young and fragile arm, so he probably won’t be available to start games come September and October.

Thankfully for the Nationals, they have a very deep pitching staff. Strasburg is backed up by Gio Gonzalez, who the Nationals traded for this winter, Jordan Zimmermann, and also newly acquired Edwin Jackson. Gonzalez has finally come into his own after having some pretty decent seasons in Oakland. He has almost identical numbers to Strasburg with an 8-3 record with a 2.52 ERA. With numbers like these at his young age, a Cy Young or two may be in his future. Gonzalez has no innings limit, so he will most definitely be the anchor to the rotation down the stretch. An option for the Nationals if they have a comfortable lead in their division (which is weak as of now… I’ll cover that later), would be to move Strasburg to the bullpen in late August or early September and have him in the rotation for the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry

Strasburg-mania Returns to the Nationals September 6th

Saturday September 3, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Stephen Strasburg burst onto the MLB scene with the Washington Nationals in his first start on June 8, 2010 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In his 7 inning gem, he struck out 14 batters with 0 walks, and only 4 hits allowed.  Throughout the rest of the 2010 season, he relied on a fastball that averaged 97.3 mph.  Strasburg also possesses a hard biting, 82 mph curveball and a 90 mph changeup.  His 2010 season came to a grinding halt on August 21st that year, when he left a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he was dominating with elbow tightness.  The Nationals’ front office and coaches all held their breath until after Strasburg’s MRI, which revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Stephen Strasburg required Tommy John Surgery and would be on the shelf for a year.

Strasburg had been previously dubbed as the best pitching prospect ever.  Strasburg was drafted #1 overall out of San Diego State University in 2009 after what is arguably one of the best college careers for a pitcher of all time.  Strasburg signed a $15.1 million dollar bonus just 77 seconds before the deadline that year.  In the 2009 season leading up to the draft, Strasburg was pretty much unhittable.  In 109 innings, he gave up only 59 hits and 19 walks, compared to 195 strikeouts.

Strasburg’s 2011 season has seen him start off with his rehab in Viera, Florida at the Nationals’ spring training facility.  His first official appearance on his rehab stint was for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League in Single-A.  Strasburg pitched 1 2/3 innings as he was under a strict pitch limit, and gave up one run with 4 strikeouts.  Every 5th day the phenom has taken the mound for Hagerstown, then Potomac in the Advanced A-ball Carolina League.  He also pitched in AAA with the Syracuse Chiefs and for the Harrisburg Senators in AA.  His last start was the most impressive of all.  On September 1st, Strasburg toed the rubber for Harrisburg against the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate.  Through 6 innings, he faced one batter over the minimum, with only one hit and 4 strikeouts.  He also hit 99 mph on the radar gun a number of times.

Strasburg is expected to be called up to start on September 6th at home.  He is actually tentatively scheduled to start 4 home games in the month, in part so that the Nationals can reap the benefits of increased gate revenue as well as being able to control game time starts in case of inclement weather.

The fact that Strasburg took less than 12 months to be back on a mound is a testament to: a) the advances in the surgery, allowing for less rehab time; b) Strasburg’s work ethic; and c) Strasburg’s freakish body healing so quickly.  Strasburg will surely be handled with kid gloves, as he has his entire professional career, never throwing over 100 pitches in a single start.

Strasburg seems to be healthy, and will be looking to be as dominant as his early career has shown.  With ultra prospect Bryce Harper and young phenoms like Strasburg, Drew Storen and Ryan Zimmerman, including recently drafted Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke,  the future actually looks bright for a franchise that has been hurting for a winner.  With a growing fan base (and likely taking fans from the lowly Orioles), this young crop of players look to take the Nationals franchise from laughingstock to a true contender in the tough NL East.

Look for Strasburg’s first start of the season on September 6 against the LA Dodgers.  Strasburg is a true rare talent that only comes around once a generation.  So if you ever get a chance to see him live, I highly recommend you do so, because you could be a witness to history.

 

 

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

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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.***

 

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.

Team USA: Preview of the 2011 MLB All-Star Futures Game

Friday, July 8, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  With the World Team roster covered here on the Reports, we now bring you the potent line-up of Team USA. They are highlighted by standouts Mike Trout (LAA) [named to the squad but just called up to the Angels] and Bryce Harper (WAS).  Team USA also boasts an electric mix of pitching arms, including Shelby Miller (STL) and Jacob Turner (DET).

 

PITCHERS

Jarred Cosart – RHP –Texas – PHI –Clearwater Threshers – A – Florida State League

Jarred sits in the mid 90s and has touched 99 in some starts.  This is his second straight year at the Futures Game, although he did not pitch last year.  He has average command, as witnessed by his 36 walks in 92 innings, but if he can improve upon that, many scouts see him as a frontline starter.

 

Kyle Gibson – RHP –Indiana – MIN –Rochester Red Wings – AAA – International League

Gibson has the look of a middle of the rotation innings eater.  His fastball has late sink, which gets him a ton of ground balls.  With better defense as he moves up, and his ability to throw strikes, he could be a fairly useful 3rd starter.

 

Matt Harvey – RHP –Connecticut – NYM –Binghamton Mets – AA – Eastern League

Harvey pretty much carved up the Florida State League earlier in the year, but in 3 starts in AA, he has not been able to get past the 5th inning.  He strikes a lot of guys out, and doesn’t walk many.  As he matures and makes adjustments, he should succeed. He is expected to fast track to the Mets rotation, possibly as early as 2012.

 

Shelby Miller – RHP –Texas – STL –Springfield Cardinals – AA –Texas League

Ranked as the 4th pitcher in Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects List, Miller has been skyrocketing through the ranks, as he got to AA before his 21st birthday.  Miller has struck out 119 batters in 91 innings, while his WHIP sits at 1.10.  His fastball usually sits in the low 90s with sink and run.  He also possesses an above average changeup and a good curveball.  Miller has all the tools to win a Cy Young Award someday.

 

Matt Moore – LHP –Florida – TB –Montgomery Biscuits – AA – Southern League

Moore is rated 3rd overall on BA’s list, and has top of the rotation stuff.  He led the minor leagues in strikeouts in both 2009 and 2010, collecting 384K in 267 IP between High-A and AA.  Moore has picked up where he left off, with 125 K already this season.  His best pitch is a curveball from a low ¾ arm slot.

 

Brad Peacock – RHP –Florida – WAS –Harrisburg Senators – AA – Eastern League

Another pitcher who seems to finally have put it all together, he has 129 K and hitters have a paltry .179 average against him.  Peacock is wiry and should fill out to increase his velocity.  I see him as a mid rotation guy with a good fastball and breaking ball and decent change.

 

Drew Pomeranz – LHP –Tennessee – CLE –Kinston Indians – A –Carolina League

Pomeranz sits at 92 with his fastball, with good command.  His breaking ball can be a plus, although it is inconsistent.  He keeps the ball in the yard, and due to his large workhorse type frame, he could be an innings eater at the  number 2 or 3 spot in a rotation. 

 

Tyler Skaggs – LHP –California – ARI –Visalia Rawhide – A –California League

Skaggs has gained 15 pounds over the offseason, which has allowed him to raise his velocity a couple notches.  For a lefty who throws from a ¾ slot, he has surprisingly little movement.  His changeup has improved this year, which makes me believe his ceiling could be as a number 2 starter, but most likely settles in the 3-4 range.

 

Tyler Thornburg – RHP –Texas – MIL –Brevard County Manatees – A –FloridaState League

This 3rd rounder in 2010 has simply overmatched his competition so far this year.  With an ERA under 2.00, and opponents hitting under .200 against him, even after a move up to the Florida State League, Thornburg has the tools to succeed.  He has a good fastball and a power curve while his changeup needs time to develop.  If it doesn’t, a career in a setup role is possible.

 

Jacob Turner – RHP –Missouri – DET –Erie Sea Wolves – AA – Eastern League

Turner has a heavy fastball with late life that sits around 93, touching 95.  He has a sharp, but inconsistent curveball, which if he polishes, could be a devastating combo out of the pen.  For a guy who just turned 20 playing AA, Turner has pitched very well with a K:BB ratio at 2.7:1.  Opponents have also only hit .233 off of him.

 

CATCHERS

Devin Mesoraco – C –Pennsylvania – CIN –Louisville Bats – AAA – International League

Catchers with 25-30 homerun power are so rare that they often get moved to first base or even the outfield.  Mesoraco’s defense is average at best, so the move does seem likely in a few years.  Mesoraco walks a fair amount and is a doubles hitting machine, which makes me think he will be an above average regular by 2013.

 

Austin Romine – C –California – NYY –Trenton Thunder – AA – Eastern League

Romine hasn’t wowed anyone with his bat, but has shown steady improvements from year to year.  In his second year of AA he has raised his average, OBP and OPS.  He has a cannon for an arm and quick feet, although his receiving isn’t quite ready.  He could be a solid regular in a few years if the Yankees give him the chance.

 

 

INFIELDERS

Nolan Arenado – 3B –California –COL –Modesto Nuts – A- California League

This big, strong third baseman has decent feet and an average arm, so I see him being Todd Helton’s replacement in the future.  He has a power bat that should develop even further as he matures.  Arenado doesn’t strike out much and walks enough to have a decent OBP, so his bat will suffice at any position.

 

Tim Beckham – SS – Georgia – TB –Montgomery Biscuits – AA – Southern League

Although he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of his number 1 overall selection in the 2008 draft, he has shown enough skill to keep moving up the ladder.  Every year, his numbers have improved, and I believe he is close to a breakout.  He is still a plus defender which will keep him in the big leagues for a very long time.

 

James Darnell – 3B –California – SD –Tucson Padres – AAA –Pacific Coast League

Darnell just got called up to AAA after dominating Texas league pitching.  His defense is simply average, and may have to move to a corner outfield.  However, his bat is his plus tool, as he has shown even more improvements from his 2010 season in which he struggled.  He already has 19 home runs, and has walked 52 times as opposed to only 48 strikeouts, so his approach at the plate is advanced.

 

Paul Goldschmidt – 1B –Delaware – ARI –Mobile Bay Bears – AA – Southern League

Goldschmidt has unreal power potential.  He has been a solid hitter at every level, but has taken his game to another level this year.  He already has 25 HR and 77 RBI, and he walks a ton.  This guy could be in a big league uniform as early as this September, but more than likely will be sometime in 2012.

 

Grant Green – SS –California – OAK – Midland Rock Hounds – AA –Texas League

Green profiles as a true shortstop with slightly above average hands and arm, with the ability to produce good numbers offensively.  He hit 20 HR last year in high-A, and the move to AA this year has stunted his power, but he still walks and gets on base at a good clip.  He isn’t flashy but he gets the job done and could be one of the better regular shortstops in the league.

 

Jason Kipnis – 2B –Illinois – CLE –Columbus Clippers – AAA – International League

This former center fielder shifted to 2B, where his lack of range still limits him to being only an average defender.  However, his bat will keep him in the big leagues for many years.  His numbers have improved every year, despite moving up a level.  He walks at a good rate and has some pop.  Doesn’t have a high ceiling, but what you see is what you will get.

 

Manny Machado – SS –Florida – BAL –Frederick Keys – A –Carolina League

Machado is still thin, but looks like he could fill out, in which case a move to third would be warranted.  He has a plus arm and solid footwork to go along with his very soft hands.  Although he has struggled a bit since being called up to high-A, he has the IQ to really succeed at the plate.  He takes pitches and isn’t afraid to hit with 2 strikes.

 

Will Middlebrooks – 3B –Texas – BOS –Portland Sea Dogs – AA – Eastern League

Middlebrooks has had a slow ascent through the minors, and with continued production, he could get a look at the big leagues by next year.  He is a solid defender at third, with a good bat.  Needs to work on discipline as his K:BB ratio is at 59:18.  Could be a regular in the big leagues by 2013.

 

 

OUTFIELDERS

Gary Brown – CF –California – SF –San Jose Giants – A –California League

Brown has absolutely blazing speed, with a very good bat.  He has stolen 35 bags, but also been caught 14 times, so he must learn to choose his spots more wisely.  Brown also shows the ability to hit for power, stroking doubles in the gaps consistently.

 

Bryce Harper – RF –Nevada – WAS –Harrisburg Senators – AA – Eastern League

By now, everyone knows the legend of Bryce Harper, and he has lived up to the billing.  He dominated the Arizona Fall League as a taxi squad player, and showed enough early in A-ball to warrant a call-up straight to AA.  The fact that Harper could even surpass people’s expectations is astounding, and I believe he could be a September roster addition for the Nationals.

 

Wil Myers – OF –North Carolina – KC – Northwest Arkansas Naturals – AA –Texas League

Myers moved from catcher to outfield in the fall of 2010, and this move should pay off for him in the long run.  He is aggressive at all times, and he is extremely raw still.  He lost part of the season due to an infection from a cut, so he is just rounding into form now.  AA has been tough for him, but his tools will shine in the long run.  One of the favorites of the Reports, keep an eye on this kid.

 

Matthew Szczur – OF –New Jersey – CHI Cubs –Peoria Chiefs – A –Midwest League

Szczur has tremendous speed and he covers a lot of ground in the outfield.  He hits well for average, but hasn’t quite developed his power yet.  This could happen as he matures.  He walks at a decent clip, and has the ability to steal a ton of bases, so he could be a mainstay near the top of the Cubs line-up.

 

**Mike Trout – CF – New Jersey – LAA –Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – MLB

As I began writing this, it was reported that Trout had been recalled to the big league team, and no replacement has yet been named.  Trout does everything well, and many people were very excited to see him play alongside Harper.  He may not offer as much power as Harper, but he might be one of the fastest players in the big leagues. 

 

Many people will be disappointed that Trout and Harper won’t be playing alongside each other in the Team USA outfield in the Worlds Game, but there is so much talent at this year’s event that nobody will leave Chase Field disappointed.  MLB`s ability to showcase not only current talent, but future stars, highlighted by this year’s fanfest events, make the MLB All-Star Weekend festivities the best of any of the major sports.  Get ready for an explosive Futures Game this Sunday, as the youngsters duel for the spotlight and the chance to make the major leagues one day soon.

 

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Futures Game, preview of the World Team.  You can 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.

 

 

MLB All-Star Futures Game 2011: World Team Preview

Thursday, July 7, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):   Since its inception in 1999, the Futures Game, now sponsored by XM Satellite Radio, has grown steadily in popularity.  The players involved are split into two squads:  USA and the World team. The rosters comprise of 25 players each, with every MLB organization represented, and no more than two players from each team.  This year’s game will be played at Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field on Sunday, July 10th, a day before the MLB All-Star Homerun Derby.

Previous editions of the Futures Game has been littered with immense talent, and this year is no exception.  The MVP of the inaugural event was Alfonso Soriano, and in other years it was Jose Reyes (2002), Grady Sizemore (2003), Aaron Hill (2004), and Billy Butler in 2006.  Other notable past participants were superstars Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees, and Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers.

This year’s game is no different, as 14 of MLB.com’s Preseason Top 50 Prospects List will be participating in the event.  That number could very easily be higher, but more than a dozen of those 50 are currently playing in the MLB.  This year’s USA crop is highlighted by Mike Trout, #1 on the top 50 list, (LAA) and Bryce Harper, #3, (WAS) sharing the same outfield.  The World team boasts a strong pitching staff, led by Julio Teheran, #10, (ATL) and Henderson Alvarez of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Let’s take a close look at the featured players that will be respresenting this year’s World Team:

 

WORLD TEAM

 

PITCHERS

Henderson Alvarez – RHP -Venezuela– TOR –New Hampshire Fisher Cats – AA – Eastern League

Alvarez is a right-handed starter who is in his second turn at the Futures Game. He has always possessed plus command, walking only 1.8 batters per 9 innings in his 5 year minor league career.  An increase in weight over the offseason has also helped increase his velocity, as he touches 98 mph.

 

Liam Hendriks – RHP -Australia – MIN –New Britain Rock Cats – AA – Eastern League

Had an appendectomy just days before last year’s game, so this is a reprise for him.  Not unhittable, but throws a ton of strikes; just 18 walks in 90 innings so far.  Sits in the 87-91mph range with average secondary offerings.

 

Kelvin Herrera – RHP -Dominican Republic – KC – Northwest Arkansas Naturals – AA –Texas League

Diminutive right-handed reliever who has been almost untouchable this season. Since his call-up to AA early in the season, he has walked 2 batters to 35 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.  He sits around 95-96mph with a plus change-up.

 

Gregory Infante – RHP -Venezuela – CHISox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Another flame-throwing righty, he has managed to lower his walk rate and raise his strikeout rate in getting to AAA this year.  He gets enough groundouts and doesn’t give up many homeruns.  His lack of a consistent second pitch is holding him back, although his curve shows flashes of brilliance in the low 80s.

 

Jhan Marinez – RHP -Dominican Republic –FLA –Jacksonville Suns – AA – Southern League

Another righty reliever that can touch 98, with an exceptional 2-seamer that sits at 92.  His problem, as most young arms, is control.  Over his career he has average 6 BB/9, and has so far managed 7.9 BB/9 this year.  He has struck out almost 12 per 9 innings though.

 

Carlos Martinez – RHP – Dominican Republic – STL – Palm Beach Cardinals – A – Florida State League

A Latin pitcher, thin and wiry who sits mid 90s with his fastball which has a good late cut.  He has given up only 31 hits in 44 2/3 innings pitched, and is able to induce a lot of ground balls.

 

James Paxton – LHP -Canada – SEA – Jackson Generals – AA – Southern League

A tall, strong lefty, who didn’t sign after being selected in the supplemental first round in 2009, got a later start on his professional career after three years at the UniversityofKentucky.  He sits 92-95mph with an above average curve, a power slider and average change-up.  As a starter this year, he has struck out 81 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

 

Martin Perez – LHP -Venezuela –TEX – Frisco RoughRiders – AA –Texas League

A left handed starter with a fastball that sits around 92mph, his bread and butter is his sharp, hard-breaking curveball.  His command is average, as he walks close to 4 batters per 9 innings.

 

Julio Teheran – RHP -Colombia – ATL – Gwinnett Braves – AAA – International League

It’s not often you see a 20-year old in AAA with his numbers. 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 90 2/3 IP.  He possess a plus fastball that sits 92-94, with a plus plus change-up with great sink.  Projects to be a #2 starter, if not a true ace in the big leagues.

 

Arodys Vizcaino – RHP -Dominican Republic – ATL –Mississippi Braves – AA – Southern League

Strong, well developed legs allow him to sit in the 91-94 range, topping at 95. His curve and change have yet to fully develop, but show flashes of promise.  He has the ability to miss bats, as he has compiled 76 K in 78 2/3 IP.

 

CATCHERS

Willin Rosario – C -Dominican Republic –COL -Tulsa Drillers – AA –Texas League

He possesses 30+ HR power, but lacks discipline and doesn’t walk.  He has power to all fields but strikes out in almost 20% of his at bats.  If he can learn some patience, he could be one of the top young catchers in the game.

 

Sebastian Valle – C -Mexico – PHI –Clearwater Threshers – A –Florida State League

Valle is a catcher who has hit at every level so far, yet still lacks patience, which is very common with young backstops.  If he can raise his walk rate, and keep hitting the ball to all fields, he could be a special catcher in the Phillies organization.

 

 

INFIELDERS

Yonder Alonso – 1B/OF -Cuba – CIN –Louisville Bats – AAA – International League

Alonso is a very polished hitter.  He has begun to play more innings at left field, because the Reds have Joey Votto as a lock at 1B.  He hits to all fields, with some pop, and he walks a fair amount, which has led to his .861 OPS in AAA.

 

Jose Altuve – 2B -Venezuela – HOU – Corpus Christi Hooks – AA –Texas League

Listed at 5’7”, but plays as if he was 6’3”.  Altuve is currently hitting .362 with 4 HR and 22 RBI in 31 games in AA after starting the season in A-ball, where he hit over .400 in 52 games.  He doesn’t walk much, but when he is hitting everything thrown at him, he doesn’t really need to.

 

Hak-Ju Lee – SS -South Korea – TB – Charlotte Stone Crabs – A –FloridaState League

He is a plus defender at shortstop with good speed.  Lee needs to work on his base stealing to better utilize that speed.  He is having the best offensive season of his career, and is really looking like a steal in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs.

 

Francisco Martinez – 3B -Venezuela – DET –Erie Sea Wolves – AA – Eastern League

Martinez is a prototypical third baseman with a quick bat and strong arm.  Once he fills out his athletic frame, he should develop plus power.  He still strikes out too much as he adjusts to AA pitching.

 

Alex Liddi – SS -Italy – SEA –Tacoma Rainiers – AAA –PacificCoast League

As the first Italian position player to sign a professional contract, he was seen as a bit of a project back in 2005.  He has begun to develop his power, bashing 15 HR so far this season, but strikes out a ton; around 30% of his plate appearances end with him walking back to the dugout.

 

Jeffry Marte – 3B –  Dominican Republic – NYM – St. Lucie Mets – A –Florida State League

Marte has good gap power and has a decent eye at the plate, as well as being smart on the base paths.  May not be able to stay at 3B long term, but as long as his bat continues to progress, could make it to the big leagues as an outfielder.

 

Jurickson Profar – SS – Curacao –TEX –Hickory Crawdads – A –South Atlantic League

Premium defender at shortstop, with speed and the ability to drive the ball all over the field.  He walks more than he strikes out, and once he fills out his 165lb frame, he could eventually become a 20/20 shortstop in the big leagues.

 

Jonathan Schoop – 3B – Curacao – BAL –Frederick Keys – A –Carolina League

Possesses the skills to play anywhere in the infield, his long term future looks to be 3B.  He has quick feet and a good arm, with a quick bat.  As he gets stronger, he could be a 20 HR guy that can drive in a ton of runs.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Chih-Hsien Chiang – OF -Taiwan – BOS –Portland Sea Dogs – AA – Eastern League

After five years of mediocrity in the minor leagues, he seems to have put it together this year.  Hitting in the middle of Portland’s line-up, he has not only driven in 58 runs and hit 14 homeruns, but also hit 26 doubles, giving him a .618 SLG.  Over half of his hits have been for extra bases, with gap power, he could prove that Boston’s roots in Asia are only getting stronger.

 

Reymond Fuentes – CF – Puerto Rico – SD –LakeElsinore Storm – A –California League

One of the pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, he should be able to man center field at Petco Park for years to come with his speed.  He already has 34 stolen bases, and he gets on base quite frequently.  He may never hit for power, but could be a leadoff type hitter in the big leagues.

 

Starling Marte – CF -Dominican Republic – PIT –Altoona Curve – AA – Eastern League

There aren’t many players in baseball that could push Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position, but Marte could be one of them.  He possesses the speed to cover a lot of ground, and although his power hasn’t quite developed, he could be a 10-15 HR player with a good OBP if his discipline continues to progress.

 

Alfredo Silverio – LF -Dominican Republic – LAD –Chattanooga Lookouts – AA – Southern League

Silverio has always seemed ready to be the power/speed combination outfielder the Dodgers envisioned when they signed him in 2003, and almost eight years later, he may finally be hitting his stride.  If his discipline can improve, he could be in the big leagues quickly.  Lacks a good arm, so he is basically destined for left field.

 

Dayan Viciedo – RF -Cuba – CHI Sox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Finally moved to the outfield this year, he has a solid arm for right field, and he flat out mashes.  Many see a 30 HR player in the near future, as he uses all parts of the field with a quick compact stroke.

 

The World team is comprised of players from twelve countries: eight from the Dominican Republic, five from Venezuela, two from Cuba and Curacao, and one each from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Stay tuned for analysis on the US roster.

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Futures Game, preview of the World Team.  You can 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.

 

 

Danny Espinosa,Washington Nationals: Hidden National Treasure

 Monday June 27, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:   With the shortage of quality second basemen in baseball, teams are always on the prowl for the next Roberto Alomar or Ryan Sandberg.  We often hear the names Dustin Ackley and Neil Walker thrown around.  Sitting quietly in Washington though is one of the better all-around second basemen in the game.  With each home run, the secret is starting to get out of the bag.  The Nationals keep winning games and building towards the Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg era.  But before the next can’t miss prospects make their mark, Washington already has a rookie assaulting the MLB record books.  His name:  Danny Espinosa.

The 24-year old Espinosa was born in California and selected by the Nationals in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft.  He made his major league debut last year and retained rookie eligibility in 2011.  The heir apparent to the shortstop position from once incumbent Christian Guzman, Espinosa moved to second for 2011,  took a hold of the job and ran with it.  Considering he had to learn a new position on the fly, Espinosa’s production is that much more impressive.

 

Here is a look at Espinosa’s numbers during his time in the minors:

Year Tm Lev AB R H HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2008 Vermont A- 64 8 21 0 4 2 2 17 17 .328 .476 .359
2009 Potomac A+ 474 90 125 18 72 29 11 74 129 .264 .375 .460
2010 2 Teams AA-AAA 481 80 129 22 69 25 11 41 116 .268 .337 .464
2010 Harrisburg AA 386 66 101 18 54 20 8 33 94 .262 .334 .464
2010 Syracuse AAA 95 14 28 4 15 5 3 8 22 .295 .349 .463
3 Seasons   1019 178 275 40 145 56 24 132 262 .270 .365 .455

 

Now let’s take a look at what Danny Espinosa has produced in the majors:

Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2010 103 16 22 4 1 6 15 0 2 9 30 .214 .277 .447
2011 277 39 67 12 4 14 47 9 2 22 70 .242 .323 .466
2 Seasons 380 55 89 16 5 20 62 9 4 31 100 .234 .311 .461
162 Game Avg. 581 84 136 24 8 31 95 14 6 47 153 .234 .311 .461

 

In addition to have a top-rated glove defensively, Espinosa has produced quite well offensively in the majors.  He is on pace for an outstanding 30+ home runs with close to 100 RBIs.  Middle-of-the order type numbers are what we are projecting, not the standard second base type production.  As with many rookies, Espinosa still has a difficult time making contact and his BB/K ratio will require substantial improvement for him to develop into a batting champion one day.  But the numbers in the minors show a great deal of promise.  The power has come at an early stage for Espinosa, it is the balance of his offensive game that needs to be rounded into form.

As with any young players, it is difficult and somewhat unfair to have comparisons to establish major league players, let alone ones of the Hall of Fame variety.  But Danny Espinosa is showing some Ryan Sandberg type qualities at the plate at an early age with his strong power bat.  Second basemen traditionally have strong gloves and any production offensively would be considered a bonus.  Players of the Danny Espinosa variety do not come along very often.  Washington currently sits with a 40-39 record, above .500 as we near the All-Star break.  With the team playing explosive baseball (7-3 in last 10, 22-13 at home), the baseball world is starting to turn its attention to Washington.  At the forefront is rookie Danny Espinosa.  A possible All-Star come next month, expect to see Espinosa in many All-Star games to come.  Come one October soon, we expect to see Espinosa, Harper and Strasburg competing for a World Series title.  The word is out on Danny Espinosa, who will form a core for the next decade in building Washington into the next powerhouse team. 

 

 

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.

From Riggleman to Johnson: Davey is the New Sheriff in Washington

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MLB reports:   According to several sources, the Nationals are set to announce the hiring of their new manager.  Less than twenty-four hours after the abrupt resignation of Jim Riggleman (see yesterday’s feature), Mike Rizzo has apparently found the man for the job within the Nationals organization.  Ex-Mets skipper, Davey Johnson is set to move from the front office to the dugout.  Nationals fans couldn’t be happier.

Year Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1984 New York Mets NL 162 90 72 .556 2
1985 New York Mets NL 162 98 64 .605 2
1986 New York Mets NL 162 108 54 .667 1
1987 New York Mets NL 162 92 70 .568 2
1988 New York Mets NL 160 100 60 .625 1
1989 New York Mets NL 162 87 75 .537 2
1990 New York Mets NL 42 20 22 .476 2
1993 Cincinnati Reds NL 118 53 65 .449 5
1994 Cincinnati Reds NL 115 66 48 .579 1
1995 Cincinnati Reds NL 144 85 59 .590 1
1996 Baltimore Orioles AL 163 88 74 .543 2
1997 Baltimore Orioles AL 162 98 64 .605 1
1999 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 162 77 85 .475 3
2000 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 162 86 76 .531 2
New York Mets 1012 595 417 .588 1.7
Cincinnati Reds 377 204 172 .543 2.3
Baltimore Orioles 325 186 138 .574 1.5
Los Angeles Dodgers 324 163 161 .503 2.5
2038 1148 888 .564 1.9

Unlike his predecessor, Davey Johnson is a proven winner.  Johnson managed four teams in his career before accepting the Nationals position.  As a big league manager, Johnson has a career record of 1148 wins and 888 losses, good for a .564 winning percentage.  Johnson has finished 11 of his 14 seasons above .500.  He won a World Series title in 1986 with the New York Mets.  Looking further at the numbers, Johnson’s teams have finished first in their division five times and in second place on seven different occasion.  Johnson wins everywhere he goes and the same will be expected as the new face of baseball in the nation’s capital.

With Stephen Strasburg on the mend and Bryce Harper slowly making the climb to the big leagues, the Nationals will have a strong talent base for Johnson to mold.  The Nationals will be looking for its team to play “Daveyball” and try to recreate some of the Mets magic from 1986.  That team was filled with young prospects that gelled together at the same time, sprinkled with key veterans.  As Mike Rizzo continues to tinker with the roster, we could very well be seeing a Nationals playoff run by 2013.  Coincidently, that will also be the year that new manager Davey Johnson’s contract is set to expire.  Provided Johnson’s teams perform to expectations, his run in Washington will be far longer than that of Jim Riggleman.

Davey Johnson is known as a gamer.  A man who played with his heart on his sleeve back in his playing days and as an intense competitor behind the bench.  This is a man who refuses to lose.  For an organization that seemingly refuses to win, Johnson is a breath of fresh air and should turn out to be the voice of a reason for an organization in dire need of direction.  Bobby Valentine would have been a good choice as well (given the rumors surrounding him in the media).  But the Nationals have their man.  A former Manager of the Year (AL 1997) and World Series winner.  Welcome to the new Nationals manager, Davey Johnson.  Get ready to see a lot of W’s in Washington during the next few seasons.

 

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Jim Riggleman Resigns from the Nationals: Treason in Washington

Friday, June 24, 2011

MLB reports:   June has apparently become the month in baseball to fire your coach if you are a MLB General Manager, or to quit your team if you are a manager.  Follow along the coaching carousel:

  • June 8th:  Texas Rangers fire hitting coach Thad Bosley and replace him with Scott Coolbaugh
  • June 9th:  Florida Marlins fire hitting coach John Mallee and replace him with Eduardo Perez
  • June 10th:  Oakland Athletics fire manager Bob Geren and replace him with Bob Melvin
  • June 14th:  Houston Astros fire pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and replace with him Doug Brocail
  • June 17th:  Cleveland Indians fire hitting coach John Nunnally and replace him with Bruce Fields

It looks like where there is smoke, there is fire.  A lot of it apparently in the coaching ranks of baseball.  Teams were getting nervous and to help jump-start their slumping players, several teams decided to change a coach rather than making wholesale roster moves, or let go of the manager and/or General Manager.  On June 19th, the baseball world was stunned as manager Edwin Rodriguez of the Florida Marlins resigned and was replaced with 80-year old ex-Marlins manager Jack McKeon.  Then yesterday, Jim Riggleman, manager of the Washington Nationals, got the same itch from the “quit bug” suffered by Rodriguez and announced that he was resigning his post.  The captain jumped ship in Washington but unlike the Florida situation, Riggleman made his decision for all the wrong reasons.  As a result, he may never coach again in baseball.

The inside story behind Riggleman leaving the Nationals was that he requested some sort of meeting from General Manager Mike Rizzo to discuss his long-term future in Washington.  When Rizzo refused to discuss his contract status, Riggleman departed from the team and resigned his position as manager.  Essentially Riggleman did not like the rules of the game, so in a childlike manner he took his ball and went home, so to speak.

“It’s been brewing for a while,” said Riggleman. “I know I’m not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what  I’m doing. It’s not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a  short leash.”

No Jim.  You are certainly not Casey Stengel.  Let’s take a look shall we, at Riggleman’s career managerial record:

 

Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
                 
1992 39 San Diego Padres NL 12 4 8 .333 3
1993 40 San Diego Padres NL 162 61 101 .377 7
1994 41 San Diego Padres NL 117 47 70 .402 4
                 
1995 42 Chicago Cubs NL 144 73 71 .507 3
1996 43 Chicago Cubs NL 162 76 86 .469 4
1997 44 Chicago Cubs NL 162 68 94 .420 5
1998 45 Chicago Cubs NL 163 90 73 .552 2
1999 46 Chicago Cubs NL 162 67 95 .414 6
                 
2008 55 Seattle Mariners AL 90 36 54 .400 4
                 
2009 56 Washington Nationals NL 75 33 42 .440 5
2010 57 Washington Nationals NL 162 69 93 .426 5
2011 58 Washington Nationals NL 74 37 37 .500 3
    San Diego Padres   291 112 179 .385  
    Chicago Cubs   793 374 419 .472  
    Seattle Mariners   90 36 54 .400  
    Washington Nationals   311 139 172 .447  
        1485 661 824 .445  
 

Jim Riggleman in his twelve-year managerial career has a record of 661-824, .445 winning percentage.  During his three years in Washington, Riggleman finished with a 139-172 record.  Riggleman’s best year was 1998 with the Cubs, where he had a 90-73 record and his team finished second in their division.  He had a 73-71 record in 1995 with the Cubs and was floating at .500 this year, with a Nationals team sitting at 37-37.  The man is clearly no baseball Houdini.  While some may argue that Riggleman was not given much to work with at each of his stops for the most part, the man clearly was not able to get much out of his teams at most stops.  A great manager should be able to turn out something out of nothing.  But alas, this was not one of Riggleman’s gifts as a manager.

The reality of baseball is that coaches and managers get let go by teams all the time, as evidenced by the amount of activity among teams this month.  Managers and coaches also quit sometimes. Rodriguez left his position in Florida, as did Riggleman in Washington.  But when a coach leaves a team, the intention and circumstances behind the resignation are crucial.  For it is the story behind the announcement that will ultimately dictate if and when said manager receives another crack at a big league post.  Gonzalez left his position for the better of his team.  The Marlins were floundering and in the interests of having his team recover, Gonzalez felt that a change was needed.  While that should have been up to the team to decide, at least Gonzalez acted in what he felt was best for his team.  His compassion and sentiments to the organization means that Gonzalez should continue coaching in baseball.  In the case of Jim Riggleman, that door has been shut close in my opinion.

The Nationals were not happy to say the least with the news.  “I was always taught that one of the cardinal rules of baseball was that no individual can put his interests before those of the team,” was the sentiments expressed by Mike Rizzo.  The GM is right in this case. Many MLB managers are on one-year contracts like Jim Riggleman was in 2011.  Some have a chance at long careers with their teams, while others are seen as more temporary solutions.  In Riggleman’s case, he was likely more of the temporary variety.  But players, coaches and managers are in this position all the time. Many veteran players sign for one-year deals, knowing full well that they will not be with a team beyond the period.  The same goes for managers, who can often be brought in to manage a young team and eventually be replaced with a fresh voice as the team looks to grow and change direction.  That is the rules of the game and Jim Riggleman is not better than the system.  If a player was to leave his team mid-season due to contractual issues, he would be seen as selfish.  Jim Riggleman as manager is no different.  He let his organization, players and fans down, by jumping ship.  He put his own financial and security needs ahead of those of the people around him.  So Riggleman wanted a long-term contract?  The best way to do it was to right the ship and lead the Nationals to their strongest possible record this year.  Instead, Riggleman has likely blacklisted himself from the game and lost the chance to manage again.

The 58-year old Riggleman does not have any excuses in my book.  He was a bench coach for several years, including stints with the Dodgers and Mariners following his departure from the Cubs in 1999.  He did not receive another managerial opportunity until 2008, where he was an interim manager with the Mariners. Again Riggleman received an interim managerial job with the Nationals the following year, but stayed on with the team until yesterday.  Was he a lame-duck manager so to speak?  Probably.  But that had more to do with his managerial skills and overall record than anything else.  Sure many people want job security, especially in baseball. But let’s keep this in perspective.  There are only thirty MLB manager jobs out there. Period.  Jim Riggleman had one but he threw it away.  He wanted to be a long-term manager but yet was not prepared to do what it takes to get there.  Nobody should be above the system.  I would not expect the Nationals to give Riggleman a strong recommendation, or any sort of reference in that regard.  Teams have long memories and will likely be very cautious with Riggleman, who is today seen as having acted as a “jilted lover.”

In looking to the future, it is interesting to read Riggleman’s take.  “I’m not sure if I’ll get another opportunity,” Riggleman said.  “But I’ll promise you I’ll never do a one-year deal again.  I’m 58. I’m too old to be disrespected.” His comments show that he clearly does not get “it”.  This is not a question of respect.  There is no entitlement.  The Nationals did not owe you a thing Jim.  They named you manager by removing the interim label.  You were working year-to-year.  Your lifetime managerial record did not entitle you to more.  You were very lucky to have a MLB manager’s position.  Your actions were selfish and disrespectful.  The truth is that the Nationals team and its fans are better off for this move.  They did not want to have a manager in the dugout who did not want to be there.  That would not benefit anyone and a fresh voice and style could prove to be beneficial in the long-term.  There are rumors that team is looking at Davey Johnson for the position. Personally, I think that Bobby Valentine should be considered for the job. But no matter who the Nationals hire, the team will be heading in a new direction.  Jim Riggleman has committed baseball treason.  For that reason, it is time for him to walk the plank and plunge into the waters of baseball oblivion.

 

 

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

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

MIKE MOUSTAKAS

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

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

ERIC HOSMER

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

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

 

WIL MYERS

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

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

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

 

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Bryce Harper vs. Manny Machado: Friday Faceoff

MLB reports:  For even the most casual baseball fan, the name Bryce Harper should sound alarm bells.  Considered by many experts to be the equivalent of the next Sidney Crosby in hockey, LeBron James in basketball and Peyton Manning in football, Harper is the next “big thing” in baseball.

A five-tool player in baseball is one that is able to hit for a high average, power, strong base running and speed, throwing well and fielding his position.  From all accounts, Harper is all of the above…and more.  If reports are accurate, Harper has Josh Hamilton type tools, which rarely comes around more than once in a lifetime.

Haper is all of 18 years of age, stands 6’3″ and weighs 225 lbs.  A catcher in his days at the College of Southern Nevada JC, Harper has started in pro career as an outfielder.  Drafted first overall in the 2010 draft by the Washington Nationals, Harper currently plays in the Class A South Atlantic league for the Hagerstown Suns.  Harper was the 2010 Golden Spikes Award winner as the top amateur player in the nation.

Going into today’s action, here are Bryce Harper’s 2011 statistics:

BRYCE HARPER:

2011 Season
Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
HAG SAL .323 19 62 14 20 5 0 5 18 40 11 17 4 2 .425 .645 1.070

In all the talk of Bryce Harper, a very talented shortstop by the name of Manuel (“Manny”) Machado seems to get lost in the shuffle.  Machado was drafted 3rd overall in 2010 by the Orioles.  At 18 years of age, Machado also stands 6’3″ but weighs 185 lbs.  Machado signed early with the Orioles and made his professional debut with short season Aberdeen in 2010.  Born in Florida, the Alex Rodriguez comparison whispers have already started with Machado.

19 games into the season, here are Machado’s 2011 statistics with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Class A  South Atlantic League:

MANNY MACHADO:

2011 Season
Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
DEL SAL .315 19 73 16 23 6 2 3 15 42 13 11 1 1 .420 .575 .996

With such close proximity between Washington and Baltimore, it is likely that Machado and Harper will be facing comparisons in the minds of fans of the Nationals and Orioles for years to come.  While both are off to strong seasons in Class A, it appears that Harper has displayed the slightly stronger bat to-date.  Harper has hit more home runs, although Machado has hit more triples and struck out less.  Harper also stolen more bases and has the higher overall OPS.

One interesting difference I did find between the players are their home/road splits.  Although from a small sample size, a little more difference begins to emerge between the players when viewed:

HARPER:

Entire Season AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
vs Left .318 22 1 7 2 0 0 5 3 7 2 1 .400 .409 .809
vs Right .325 40 13 13 3 0 5 13 8 10 2 1 .438 .775 1.213
Home Games .381 7 21 9 8 2 0 2 9 5 5 2 0 .500 .762 1.262
Away Games .293 12 41 5 12 3 0 3 9 6 12 2 2 .383 .585 .968

MACHADO:

Entire Season AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
vs Left .333 9 3 3 1 0 0 2 4 2 0 0 .538 .444 .983
vs Right .313 64 13 20 5 2 3 13 9 9 1 1 .400 .594 .994
Home Games .385 11 39 9 15 4 1 3 10 10 7 1 1 .510 .769 1.279
Away Games .235 8 34 7 8 2 1 0 5 3 4 0 0 .308 .353 .661

While both players exhibit stronger bats at home, Machado’s numbers are drastically lower on the road.  As a younger player, this is not abnormal and a sign that he is still developing as a hitter.  On the other hand, Harper’s strong numbers on the road shows maturity beyond his years.  With such dominance at home and on the road, it does not appear that Harper can be stopped anywhere.  While AA is on the horizon for both players, I would suspect that Harper will reach the next level a little sooner.

The Verdict:

Playing the same number of games in the same league, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have showcased that both are superstars in the making.  Machado plays a more gruelling position (shortstop) and while both are known for their great gloves, Harper’s cannon in the outfield is the talk of the scouting world.  As each continues to advance up the ranks to reach the major leagues, we will learn one day if each has what it takes to be a bona fide superstar.  We have two very good ones in the making, but the reviews and reports on Harper are too hard to ignore.  The baseball world loves this kid and for great reason: he really appears to be the real deal.  While much attention will unfortunately be deflected from Manny Machado as he continues to build his resume, it may serve to help him in the long run.  Playing in the shadow of a prospect like Harper, Machado can develop his skills without as much pressure and expectations from both the media and fans.  While I fully expect to see each both succeed, Harper has the added requirement to develop while being thrust fully in the limelight.  The smart money still lies on Harper and I fully expect that he will one of the next biggest superstars in baseball.  But don’t count out Manny Machado, who together with Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis should bring the Baltimore Orioles back to greatness.

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