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Ricky Romero: Aiming For 2013 As The #5 Starter

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Tuesday March 19th, 2013

Ricky Romero had a rough 2012 campaign, posting a 9-14 record to go with a sky-high 5.77 ERA. He is looking to rebound in 2013 with the help of the revamped Blue Jays lineup and rotation.

Ricky Romero led the American League with 105 Walks – and featured a brutal WHIP of 1.674 en route to a 9 – 14 campaign with a 5.77 ERA. This was only a year removed from being an ALL – Star in 2010 – and finishing 10th in AL CY Young Voting. The Blue Jays Left Handed Pitcher was 15 – 11, with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP. After the year, the team traded for Josh Johnson, former AL Cy Young winner Mark Buerhle – and reigning NL CY Young winner R.A. Dickey. Along with fellow returning Blue Jays Starter Brandon Morrow.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

At the beginning of 2012, Ricky Romero was solidified as the number one starter in a strong Toronto Blue Jays roster. In the previous three years of his career, he only had an ERA above 4.00 once (in his rookie season, 4.30), and had won more than 10 games every year.

2012 was an absolute disaster for Romero as he posted a sky-high 5.77 ERA and a 9 – 14 record. He had fans confused as to how such a solid pitcher could do a complete 180 and turn from an ace to an iffy back-of-the-rotation starter.

Romero is in a very interesting situation for 2013. The Blue Jays added two very formidable starters in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle when they acquired the two in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins. The two former Marlins starters will help support the preexisting rotation consisting of Brandon Morrowand Romero..

Also in contention for a spot is Kyle Drabek, who has made starts over the past couple of years, but has never really stuck. Johnson, Buehrle, Morrow, and Alvarez will round out the top four spots, and Romero will most likely be the fifth starter for 2013.

Ricky Romero Interview:

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What 2012 Really Meant to the St. Louis Cardinals

Thursday November 1st, 2012

2012 was a season that ended with disappointment which ultimately distracted us from recognizing what a successful year it really was. 2012 highlighted a lot of the greatness that is to come for this great franchise.

Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer)

The St. Louis Cardinals came into 2012 as the defending World Series Champions.  In 2011 they just eked their way into the post season on the final day of the regular season when they defeated the Houston Astros and the Braves, who were tied for the wild card spot with St. Louis, ended up losing to the Phillies in extra innings.  Coming into the 2011 postseason, the Cardinals were huge underdogs.  That didn’t stop them from going for what they wanted: to win it all.

While most analysts amongst the sport would not have guessed St. Louis would even make it to the World Series, yet alone win it, the Red Birds emerged to show their true colors.  The current team that the city of St. Louis has assembled and gets to watch for 81 games a year is, undoubtedly, a team that plays on all cylinders and the highest octane fuel.  They play with the intensity of a little league team that wants nothing more than the coach to bring them out for ice cream when they win. Watching the Cardinals brand of baseball is to watch baseball again as a game, and not just as a competition played by millionaire athletes with tremendous talent.

Watching the scrappiness of St. Louis native David Freese in the 2011 playoffs is the perfect example.  His David Eckstein-like approach to the game reminds us all of one of our teammates back in middle school.  The one at the sandlot that always slid hard, tried to steal home, and complained when the rest of us wanted to go home because “it was getting dark”.  In 2011, David Freese and his 39 teammates played baseball together as a true team and sent Tony LaRussa home with a World Series title in his final year managing.  Read the rest of this entry

2012 MLB Trades And Deadline Deals Revisited for Contenders: Who Won and Lost

Friday, October.26/2012

Ichiro Suzuki played the best baseball he has in the last 2 years with the Yankees. It would be a wise move to re-sign the guy for at least the next season. In my opinion, they should have Jeter and Suzuki linked together on the club until they retire.

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer):

I love the new era of baseball.  One thing the 2nd Wild Card team enabled this year was a flurry of transactions right near the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, plus we even saw a bunch of trades between Aug.01-31 as well.  I am not going to breakdown the trades for who went the other way (unless both teams were in contention) since we have a dedicated page for that here.  What I am going to do is see who made out well with their new player.  I will tell you right  now that the hands down winner was the San Francisco Giants for picking up Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence.  Marco Scutaro hit .362 for the Giants and smacked 90 hits in 61 games.  He has parlayed another 19 hits in 59 AB during the playoffs (.322).

I am going to be writing a series of payroll breakdowns for each MLB team in the offseason.  I have already compiled reports for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals.  These reports can be found in my author archives here.  In addition to this, I am going to write another piece on Payroll Strategy specifically geared towards making runs at trades near the deadline.  Look for those in the coming weeks.  The work never ends here, and we will have you game ready for spring training when it comes to all of the clubs. Read the rest of this entry

What’s Wrong with Ricky Romero? Jays Hope Their Ace Can Return to Form

Thursday August 2nd, 2012

John Burns:  The 2012 season has been one to forget for Ricky Romero. Romero was the Blue Jays ace coming into this season after posting a 2.92 ERA in 2011. This year has been a complete disaster for Romero. The Jays lefty has a 5.68 ERA this season and has allowed 82 earned runs in 129.2 innings. Last year, Romero allowed 73 earned runs in 225 innings. It’s obvious that something is not right with Romero this year. Romero has also lost seven straight starts for Toronto. The second half has been even rougher for Romero. Since the All-Star break, he has 8.38 ERA. Read the rest of this entry

The Prince is Crowned Yet Again! Fielder Wins Another Home Run Derby Title

Tuesday July 10th, 2012

John Burns:  Kauffman Stadium was electric Monday night from the top sluggers in baseball putting on an absolute home run clinic. Detroit’s Prince Fielder won his second Home Run Derby by beating Toronto’s Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final round. Fielder got off to a slow start with 5 homers in the first round which barely advanced him over Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen who both had 4 home runs in the first round. After the first round it was all Prince Fielder. Prince hit 23 homers in the final two rounds and became only the second player to win multiple titles in the Home Run Derby.

Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano were the captains for their respected leagues and picked 3 sluggers to represent the NL and AL. The first round results for the sluggers were: Robinson Cano (0 homers), Matt Kemp (1 homer), Andrew McCutchen (4 homers), Carlos Gonzalez (4 homers), Prince Fielder (5 homers), Mark Trumbo (7 Homers), Carlos Beltran (7 homers), and the leader in the first round Jose Bautista with 11 homers.  Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez were all eliminated after the 1st round. Read the rest of this entry

Ian Kadish MLB Guest Blog: I Owe It All to Them…

Sunday January 22, 2012

Ian Kadish (Guest MLB Blogger):   Once again, I was lucky enough to be asked back to write another blog post for MLB Reports!  I always love being asked to write for them!  This time they asked me to write about the biggest baseball influences in my life…and I’m warning you, this could take a while!  I have been playing baseball for as long as I can remember, so obviously I am going to have many people that have influenced my baseball career.  If I don’t mention you specifically, I am sorry, but the list is way too long and I have to pick the biggest influential people in my baseball career. 

I am going to start by saying my parents are easily the single biggest influence in my life, whether it be on or off the field.  They have molded me into the man (sometimes little kid) that I am today and I am a product of them.  They have always supported me no matter what I do and they have always been there for me through thick and thin.  They have been there for the hardest times and have somehow always gotten me through it.  They have taught me to chase a childhood dream and put everything I have into it.  They taught me to never give up, they taught me to work harder than anybody else, they taught me to play the game right, the list could go on for days of what they have taught me and I could never thank them enough.  For that and everything else they have done for me, I owe it all to them.  I love you Mom and Dad!

The second biggest influence in my baseball career is an easy choice.  It is a guy named Mike Maundrell.  He was my pitching coach when I played at Midland and started the molding process of the pitcher that I am today.  He has taught me literally everything I know about pitching and is still teaching me today.  I have known him since I was 16 and he completely changed me as a pitcher and as a person.  He was the first coach I had who taught me what hard work really was and what I had to do to better myself.  I still work with him to this day and I have been training with him this offseason here in Cincinnati.  I can honestly say, I would not still be playing baseball if I had never met Coach Maundrell.  He knows more about pitching than any human probably should know and he could talk about pitching for days on end.  I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with him for several years and will forever be in debt to him for everything he has taught/ is teaching me about pitching.

Another big influence in my baseball career is Tim Adkins.  He and I both will admit we had our tough times together, but he was the one that gave me the great opportunity to play collegiate baseball at Marshall University.  He was the pitching coach at Marshall at the time and he pushed me to great lengths.  He pushed me to the breaking point, but he made me as strong as I am today because he pushed me to such great lengths and found that breaking point.  He was the one that truly found out what made me tick and what got me going.  I learned so much from him not just on the baseball field, but off as well.  He continued to teach me what hard work is and he taught me to find out what works for me.  I owe him a tremendous amount of credit because he developed me into the hard worker that I am and taught me that if I want something to go get it and let nothing get in my way.  Along with Coach Adkins, I owe Coach Waggoner a tremendous amount of credit as well.  He was my head coach at Marshall University and he has always been there for me.  He always told me if I ever need anything at all to call him and he would be there for my family and me.  He genuinely cared about my family and me and I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate it.  He always had confidence in me whether I was really good that day or extremely bad.  He deserves a great amount of credit for how much he stood behind me and I thank him for that.

Coach Adkins departed from Marshall University after my Sophomore year and was replaced by Joe Renner.  Coach Renner and Coach Maundrell are like brothers and they both teach the same concepts.  Coach Renner continued to teach me what Coach Maundrell taught me.  Coach Renner and I grew to become extremely close in just 2 years.  I feel like I can go to him with anything and talk about it and he will help me through it to the best of his ability.  It was extremely sad to walk off the field after my last collegiate game and see tears in his eyes because it was the last game he would coach me in.  It brought tears to my eyes and I will never forget the 2 years I worked with him.  He worked extremely hard to get me to the next level and I am very thankful for everything he has done for me.  I know we will remain in contact for years to come!

The last person that I want to mention who has been tremendously influential in my baseball career is Clarence Mitchell.  He was my baseball coach when I was 13-15 years old and I am telling you what, he was the strictest coach I have ever had.  He taught me the true meaning of discipline and made sure he engraved it in our heads.  I still remember to this day taking a ground ball to the eye during infield practice and the eye swelling up instantly and bleeding profusely, but refusing to come out because of the discipline he preached or  the running for hours on end if we messed up or did something the wrong way.  He taught me what hustling is and I still to this day have everything he taught engraved into my baseball actions and life in general. 

Other people that were influential in my baseball career include Chris Fiehrer (my high school coach), Scott Humes (Midland Coach), Jeff Newman (Midland Coach), and Bernie Barre,  Although Bernie Barre wasn’t a baseball coach and had nothing to do with baseball, he taught me life lessons I can use on the baseball field.  He was my football coach and was one of the best football coaches in the history of Ohio High School Football. 

I also want to mention Dennis Holmberg.  He was my very first professional baseball manager and he taught me so much more about the game of baseball that I never knew.  I made sure I wrote down everything he taught me so it will be with me forever.  He made my first professional season one that I will never forget. 

I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate everybody that has had an influence on my baseball career.  I owe them all a HUGE thank you and I would not be where I am today without them.  I am so grateful for everybody that has influenced me so Thank You from the bottom of my heart!      Ian

Thank you to Ian Kadish for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Ian on Twitter (@BearJew36)  or through his website (http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com) for comments and questions.   We also thank Ian for sharing the photographs used in today’s feature from his own private collection. 

Previous Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog Entries on MLB reports:

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  Part 2 – Offseason and Expectations for 2012  October 3, 2011

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  Part 1 – Recap of My 2011 Season   September 30, 2011

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  My Baseball Journey  September 11, 2011

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Casey Lawrence Interview: Blue Jays Pitching Prospect (Casey’s Got Game!)

Monday January 16, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I love talking baseball prospects. I can discuss them and debate them all day long. I get asked all the time: how do you know which prospects will make it? The truth is…picking prospects is not an exact science. Some highly touted ones end up falling off the map, while relative unknowns can shoot up and shine. But if you ask me my measuring stick, it always begins with one statistic. Walks. I look for hitting prospects that take walks and pitching prospects that give up very little walks. It is that simple. The process if far more complicated and this is an oversimplification. But if a walk total stands out, you definitely have my attention.

On the hitting side, take Jaff Decker in the Padres system. The outfield prospect took 103 walks last year in AA. Ranks him very high in my books. But as rare as it is to find  a hitting prospect who can take a walk with pop in his bat, it is even more rare to find a good control pitcher in the minors that gives up few walks and punches hitters out. Let’s say I was to find you a pitcher. In his first two professional seasons combined, here are his numbers: 21-11 record, 2.80 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 228 1/3 IP, 211 hits allowed, 172 strikeouts and…only 36 walks allowed.  Interested? That is a 4.78 SO/BB ratio. Only 1.4 BB per 9 IP. At 24-years of age, welcome to the world of Casey Lawrence.

At 6’2″, Casey has good size for a pitcher. He stepped into professional baseball in 2010 and has dominated from day one. As starting pitchers goes, I really like his potential. There is a common obsession in baseball circles to favor pitchers who throw 99 mph gas but are generally wild. In my book, an out is an out. Casey Lawrence still has a good share of strikeouts, but it is his control and stinginess on walks that separates him from the pack. 2012 will be a big year for the kid who’s got game. I would like to see what he can do in AA. He has shown that he can pitch. The Jays now need to take that potential and put it up against the next level. If he continues on his current path, Toronto will not be too far behind. 

For all his success to-date, Casey has not let the numbers get to his head. With his down to earth nature, Casey is not getting too far ahead of himself. He does not consider himself above the game, but rather a student of the game. This is what we call the total package- and Casey Lawrence will continue to turn heads in the coming years. Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present our interview with Blue Jays Pitching Prospect, Casey Lawrence:

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Casey!  First question we like to start off with: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Casey Lawrence:  The player that I most idolized growing up was Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles. I admired Cal for his ability to show up to the field day in and day out, without ever taking a day off and playing through injuries. I admired the way he accepted a position change from SS to 3B for the betterment of his team. I admired the way he played the game and had fun doing it.


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

Casey Lawrence:  Today, I admire Derek Jeter for the way he handles himself on and off the field. He is the type of player that has become a household role model. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played and has that “it” factor; the ability to make the big play, clutch hit, and find a way to win.


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

Casey Lawrence:  My most proudest accomplishment of my career-to-date would have to be a combination of two: the day I signed my contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and being given the honor of starting the 2010 New York-Penn All-Star Game. I consider both to be honors and rewards for the hard work I’ve put in each and every day.


MLB reports:  You started your baseball career with the Jays organization in 2010.  Did you expect to be signed by Toronto? What was that process like?

Casey Lawrence:  I had been shown some interest from a few teams after my junior year at Albright College heading into the draft. While no teams took a chance then, I still had faith that my time would come after graduating my senior year. My senior year was greeted with several more teams showing interest, but yet again the draft came and went without a single phone call from any of the 30 MLB teams. That means I had been passed over in the draft 3,000 times in two years. But wasn’t the first time I had been looked over, so I had accepted the fact that I had to continue to prove people wrong each and every day. I had actually been in Florida for vacation during the 2010 draft. I returned home that Sunday and pitched in a local men’s league game for the Brushtown Bulldogs. Monday morning I received a phone call from Blue Jays scout Bobby Gandolfo saying that they would like to offer me a contract. I flew back to Florida Tuesday morning and my journey started.


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

Casey Lawrence:  I consider my knowledge of the game as one of my greatest baseball skills. I grew up learning and playing  the game I love from my Grandfather, who was offered a professional contract from the St. Louis Browns. But he turned it down because my Grandmother insisted he stay home and take care of the family, my Father and my Uncle. I really enjoy talking the game and strategy of baseball every day and don’t know what I’d do without it.


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

Casey Lawrence:  I am continually working to better myself within this game whether it be mentally or physically. I always keep “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” close by me and consider it a pitcher’s Bible. I also have been striving to continue to get stronger and increasing my arm strength in order to stay healthy and consistent.


MLB reports:  I am very impressed with your numbers.  Good win totals, low ERA and WHIP.  I am particularly blown away by your low walks rates.  What’s the secret of your success?

Casey Lawrence:  The secret to my success is no secret at all but rather hard work. I have always worked hard at throwing strikes, locating all my pitches, getting ground balls, and allowing the defense to make plays. My Uncle Dave (also my pitching coach at Delone Catholic High School) and Gary Yeager Jr. (my pitching coach at Albright College) always preached about pounding down in the strike zone and that hasn’t changed since signing with Toronto.


MLB reports:  Long-term do you see yourself as a starter or a reliever?

Casey Lawrence:  Long-term I see myself doing whatever the team asks me to do. Obviously, I’d love to continue to start; but if they feel I’d help the team more by relieving ,then that’s what I’ll do.


MLB reports:  What pitches do you throw?  Best pitch? Anything you are currently working on?

Casey Lawrence:  My repertoire consists of a 2-seam sinking fastball, 4-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curveball. I’m continuing to develop my breaking pitches into being more consistent and sharper.


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?

Casey Lawrence:  That’s a tough one, really putting me on the spot with this one! I’ll say this. I see my arrival in the big leagues whenever the team feels I’m ready. Obviously, everyone wants to get there sooner rather than later, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there. They are the greatest players in the world. The truth is “if you think you’re ready, you’re probably not”. Every day is another opportunity to get better and learn something new. No one is guaranteed the opportunity to play at that level and if I’m fortunate enough to one day have that opportunity, that would be a blessing.


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

Casey Lawrence:  When I’m not playing baseball, I enjoy going to the movies, watching television, playing some video games and golfing.


MLB reports:  Have you visited Toronto yet?  

Casey Lawrence:  I honestly have never been outside the United States. My passport is ready if the time calls for it, but I’d rather not just visit.


MLB reports:  You just completed your second professional season, finishing in High-A ball.  Do you know where the Jays likely plan to start you this season?

Casey Lawrence:  I have no idea where the Blue Jays plan on starting me this season. I’m anxious for Spring Training to start and earn a spot on the team they feel I fit best.


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

Casey Lawrence:  My message to the fans of the Blue Jays would be to continue with their unbelievable support and that the whole entire organization is working very hard day in and day out to bring them a World Series. Hopefully in the near future!


MLB reports:  Final thoughts?

Casey Lawrence:  Finally I’d like to thank my family, friends, and fans for their continued support. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they have meant to me in my life. It’s truly a blessing and I thank God each and every day for the opportunity I have to play the game I love for a living.

***Thank you to Casey Lawrence for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports (and the pictures used in todays’ feature)!  You can follow Casey on Twitter (@CaseyLawrence). Casey is very social media savy, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Good luck in 2012 Casey, the crystal ball sees big things for you this season!***

 

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.

Steve Palazzolo Interview: The Pitching Tower of Pisa

Sunday January 15, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  When I first spoke with Steve Palazzolo, I was blown away by his stature. How could you not be…the man stands 6’10” and throws baseballs for a living! The first images that went through my mind were Jon Rauch and Randy Johnson. Comparisons that I am sure Steve has heard his whole life. But once you get past the sheer size of the man, you find a person with an even bigger heart. A gentle giant, Steve is very well spoken and intelligent to converse with. With the shortage of quality arms in today’s major league bullpens, one would expect that available arms would be snapped up in a second. But that is not always the case, especially for Steve Palazzolo. He pitched five seasons in the minor leagues, between the Brewers, Giants and Mariners organizations. He made it all the way up to AAA before returning to Indy ball the past season and a half. Steve will be 30 by opening day and continues to battle his  way to achieve his dream: making the big leagues. As we discussed in yesterday’s interview with Luis Lopez, Jerome Williams made his way from Indy ball to the Angels rotation last year. Dreams do come true. Steve Palazzolo has shown that he has the talent. Taking a look at his numbers from last year, Palazzolo pitched 53 games for the Blue Crabs- finishing with a 9-5 record, 3.06 ERA and 1.200 WHIP.  He only surrendered 4 home runs while striking out 57 batters. Watching him on video and considering his talents and strong character, I would be snapping this guy up pretty quickly if I was a baseball General Manager. To succeed in baseball, you need to have talent and a chance. Steve Palazzolo has the talent.  Now he is just waiting for his opportunity.

Today on MLB reports, we are proud to present pitcher Steve Palazzolo- or as we refer to him:  The Pitching Tower of Pisa

MLB reports:  First question:  Steve.  Palazzolo is an interesting last name.  Meaning and origins?

Steve Palazzolo:  It comes from the Italian word Palazzo, which means palace.   There is also a village in Sicily named Palazzolo. I’d definitely love to visit some day.


MLB reports:  Everyone reading your profile would see: 6’10”, 29-years-old and a right-handed reliever.  On paper you should be in a major league bullpen.  What is your current active status?

Steve Palazzolo:  Current active status is “trying to join a major league bullpen.”  Really, though, I’ve spent the last year and a half in the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, just continuing to learn and get better. It’s definitely a never-ending process in baseball, and I’ve spent the last couple years adding different pitches and arm angles, while also learning different ways to attack hitters.

I’m also looking at a possible opportunity to play in Japan, so we’ll see how it all plays out.


MLB reports:  We last saw you playing for AAA Tacoma in 2010.  Since then you have been playing Indy ball.  What led you back to playing Indy?  What are the differences between Indy and playing in the minor leagues?

Steve Palazzolo:  I was sent back to Indy ball in what I viewed as a three-way trade. Back in July 2010, it went something like this:

Rangers Get: Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe

Mariners Get: Blake Beaven, Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson

Blue Crabs Get: Steve Palazzolo

OK, so the Cliff Lee deal brought in a few minor league pitchers and I got the axe.

I’d say the main difference in Indy ball is the organizational structure. There is no class level, so you’re not really worried about moving up or being sent down. Just go out and do your job and do it for the team. I’d say my Indy teams have been the most closely knit teams I’ve ever been on. It’s usually the same core of guys for the entire year, and everyone wants to get back to affiliated ball, but there is a definite emphasis on winning as a team. Not to say that affiliated teams can’t be close, but there is a lot more player movement that tends to disrupt team chemistry throughout the year.

 

MLB reports:  You have played in the Brewers, Giants and Mariners systems.  Tell us about the best teams that you pitched for in your professional career.

Steve Palazzolo:  As far as talent goes, the 2009 Fresno Grizzlies are near the top. Our overall record doesn’t show it, but with about three weeks to go in the season, we had the second best record in the Pacific Coast League but we were 14 games out of first place behind Sacramento.

Bullpen wise, the 2008 Connecticut Defenders was probably the most talented I’ve been a part of. We had a number of pitchers who went on to have some big league success, most notably Sergio Romo who was closing for us.

If we’re talking clubhouse unity, I mentioned the Indy teams, but the 2010 Tacoma bullpen will always hold a special place for me. Even though I was only there a short period of time, we had an outstanding group of guys who genuinely cared for each other and did a great job of staying entertained for the first five innings of every game (always an important in the bullpen).

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?  

Steve Palazzolo:  First to marry the love of my life, and best friend, Kelley Donoghue (she is looking over my shoulder as I type).  Simple answer is to pitch to the best of my ability, regardless of where I’m playing.


MLB reports:  You were signed as a free agent by the Brewers as your first organization in 2006.  Tell us about the process in joining Milwaukee.

Steve Palazzolo:  Pretty fun story actually. I had just finished my second professional season with the Worcester Tornadoes and was sitting at my computer on a Thursday in late January when I received an email from my good friend, Will Carroll. He forwarded me an email from a Brewers scout that referenced an invitation-only tryout at their spring training complex that Saturday. Will mentioned how it was unfortunate that I was not in Arizona. I emailed him back with the title, “Last Minute Trip to Arizona?” Will sent the request back to the Brewers scout who agreed that if I could get to Arizona, I would be welcome to try out. I immediately booked a flight for Friday and made the workout on Saturday. At the workout, they suggested I mix in a couple different arm angles (which I’d experimented with before) and as it turns out, I was one of only two guys signed that day.

 

MLB reports:  Given your size, most people would think that you would be a power pitcher.  How would you describe yourself as a pitcher and tell us about what you throw.

Steve Palazzolo:  I wouldn’t say power pitcher, but I do think my height gives me a big advantage and helps all of my stuff to play a little better. I throw a 4 seam fastball, slider, splitter and I just added a new changeup. My change is interesting as I started to experiment with it toward the end of last year, and I may have found a really good grip that I will stick with for good, possibly even replacing the splitter. As I mentioned, I’ve also experimented with a number of different arm angles, so I’m always mixing it up.


MLB reports:  Every baseball player works towards making the big leagues.  What do you need to do in order to achieve that dream?

Steve Palazzolo:  At this point in my career, or anyone’s career for that matter, the phrase you hear is “right place, right time.” Pitchers mature and figure things out at various times in their careers so that’s why I’m constantly looking to improve. I think I just need another shot to play in Double or Triple A, then it’s all about pitching well. Pitch well, and if it matches up with a situation where the big league team needs a pitcher, then it can happen. I know this: I’m confident in my abilities to pitch successfully in the big leagues, it’s simply a matter of continuing to improve while also getting an opportunity.

 

MLB reports:  If you weren’t playing baseball today- what would you be doing?

Steve Palazzolo:  I’d probably be a pitching coach, and that’s what I do all offseason. On my long road through the minors, I used myself as my own science (pitching) experiment. It’s been a constant process of trial and error, and I’ve learned so much along the way. So my plan is to coach, while also developing my own business as a pitching coach. I have a couple of blog posts up at www.stevepalazzolopitching.wordpress.com, but I have to get better putting up more consistent material.

I’m also an analyst and writer for www.profootballfocus.com. Just started this year, and it’s been a lot of fun breaking down the NFL.


MLB reports:  Looking back at your career to-date, would you have done anything different?

Steve Palazzolo:  I do remember a hanging slider I threw in 2008 that went for a home run. I should have thrown a fastball.

Really though, I made the decision early in my career to put everything I had into it, and I’ve been very blessed along the way. No major regrets.


MLB reports:  When you think of your expectations going into professional baseball, what are some of the biggest surprises you have encountered?

Steve Palazzolo:  This is a tough question. Making me think here. As a kid, expectations are always glamorous. Everyone wants to be like their TV heroes, but when I entered pro ball, I already knew that it was a difficult grind. Not sure I can think of any major surprises, but I will mention the one thing I appreciate and that’s the uniqueness of everyone in the game. Players coming from all walks of life, all over the world, unified by the game of baseball. It’s really amazing to think of the people I’ve met along the way.


MLB reports:  Choice of cleats and glove- what brands do you use?

Steve Palazzolo:  Nike cleats and Spalding glove. If and when I hit, always Franklin batting gloves.


MLB reports:  Given your height, how do you find clothes shopping?

Steve Palazzolo:  It’s difficult. There are a few stores that carry big sizes, but I have to do a lot of my shopping online. The Big and Tall store is better for wide rather than tall, so a lot of the stuff is just way too big.


MLB reports:  Which past or present MLB players would you most compare yourself to?  Are either Randy Johnson or Jon Rauch a close comparison?

Steve Palazzolo:  Kenny Powers. Actually, he stole my look. I’ve been rocking the mustache and long hair since ’06.

I really try to take something from everyone, whether it’s Randy Johnson or Tim Lincecum. As far as comparisons, Johnson isn’t great because he was such a hard thrower. Rauch is an OK comparison, but he has a higher arm slot than me.

The one pitcher I’ve seen who compares favorably is Kameron Loe from the Brewers. We’re not identical, but our natural arm slot is similar. He’s 6’8” tall and also likes to mix up arm angles so I can relate to his style a bit.


MLB reports:  We discussed the potential of you heading to Japan.  What are your thoughts on heading to the far east?

Steve Palazzolo:  It would be a great opportunity. The competition is great and I’ve seen a lot of pitchers who have gone there and then come back to the states as better pitchers. It’s a different style in Japan, and I think the hitters force each pitcher to use his entire repertoire. Even though the culture change would be difficult, I’m hoping I get the chance to play there.


MLB reports:  Last question:  to a young pitcher in school just starting out, what advice would you give them?

Steve Palazzolo:  Work hard, work smart. I don’t think the grammar is correct on that statement, but I think it gets the point across. Anyway, pitching is a lot more than throwing a ball to a target (or is it?). Preparation is extremely important, and when I work with young pitchers, I like to break it down into four main areas: mechanics, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and mental approach. Oh and it’s important to have fun while doing it. The best players love the preparation.

***Thank you to Steve Palazzolo for taking the time out of his offseason training to speak with us today on MLB reports!  You can follow Luis on Twitter (@Palo50). Steve loves interacting with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he would appreciate your support!***

 

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.

Luis Lopez Interview: The Real Life Crash Davis of Baseball Worldwide

Saturday January 14, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The numbers are outstanding.  Six Most Valuable Player awards.  An All-Star seven times.  Over 2000 hits.  Over 1000 RBIs.  A minor league hall of famer for sure, Luis Lopez has been playing this game his whole life. He has done it and seen it all.  He played in the majors with both the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.  Played in the minors for four different MLB organizations.  Luis has played in both Japan and Mexico. Indy ball. His baseball resume is quite extensive, as are his passport stamps. But at the age of 38, Luis is far from done. He still plays third and first, searching for his chance to make it back to the show. He has strong inspirations to keep him going. Julio Franco played in the major leagues until the age of 49! Even Jerome Williams, at the tender age of 30 provides hope. Away from the big leagues for four seasons, he rose up from Indy ball and back to the Bigs. Luis knows this and keeps the hope deep in his heart as he continues his baseball grind. One of the greatest baseball stories I have heard, Luis Lopez is a true blue-collar baseball player. He is everything that the game is about and a true credit to the sport. Going into his 18th professional season, Luis Lopez is still laughing and having a great time. He just plain loves baseball and will continue to do so for as long as he can.

On his road back to the Major Leagues, we are proud to feature our interview with the real life Crash Davis- Luis Lopez: 

MLB reports:  First question:  On my count, there are three professional ballplayers named Luis Lopez. Why the popularity of the name? How often do you get mistaken for one of the other ones?

Luis Lopez:  I get mistaken all the time. Their cards are sent to me to sign and I’m pretty sure mine to them. The worst part is in the airports flying out of the country. I’m asked to the little room every time for extra screening (laughs). My wife thinks I’m a delinquent cause it happens so often! (laughs harder)

 

MLB reports:  Born in Brooklyn, New York.  A baseball hot bed!  What is your family’s origins? Do you have roots in New York?

Luis Lopez:  My family is from Puerto Rico. My dad from Dorado and my mom from Ponce. I considered myself from PR as well even though I wasn’t born there. I was born in NYC. I’m glad I was because it gave me the drive and desire to think that I will make it!

 

MLB reports:  You originally signed with the Jays in 1996 and made your professional debut in 2001.  Tell us about your first major league game.

Luis Lopez:  (laughter fills the room) Funny you ask. My first at-bat was against the Angels in Toronto. Bengie Molina was catching and I knew him from all my years playing winter ball in PR. He was talking to the pitcher Holtz and then walked back to the plate. He says in Spanish congrats Luis. I said “thanks brother, my heart about to come through my shirt.” (Grin) Delgado and a bunch of the guys had their hands in their shirts showing me how my heart was pounding! Then Bengie says “relax, we’re gonna put you on so you will hit tomorrow.” I said “what?” All of a sudden I was being intentionally walked! All I could think then was that I would be one an answer to a trivia question! (laughs hard) Not too many people on their first at-bat are walked intentionally!


MLB reports:  We last saw you playing in the big leagues for the Expos in 2004- the last year of the franchise. Ironic? If the Expos come back, will you come back with them?

Luis Lopez:  Would love to!

 

MLB reports:  You have played in the Jays, Expos, A’s and Braves systems.  Tell us about the best minor league teams that you played for in your professional career.

Luis Lopez:  That’s tough because I learned how to play ball the right way in the Blue Jays system! They broke down everything for me. With the A’s, we won championships. Atlanta is a big league organization. They treated me like I was with them forever.


MLB reports:  In recent years I have you played in the Mexican league, Japan and Indy ball.  You are a baseball nomad!!!  What was the process like going to Mexico and Japan? What were each of those experiences like?

Luis Lopez:  After being around so long, my name is around. A lot of the time it is reports or videos that are seen and then reps get in touch with you. A phone call or e-mail usually. Baseball is baseball. You just have to get used to living in another country that’s all. That’s the biggest problem for some guys; but I can live anywhere.


MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Luis Lopez:  To stay healthy and win a championship! I’ve accomplished a lot of personal goals throughout my career. I just want to produce and help my team win!

 

MLB reports:  At 38-years of age, you have seen it all and done it all.  Why do you keep going- what motivates you?

Luis Lopez:  I love the competition! I feel like I still can play in the big leagues and help a team win- even one with only a little chance. I want all of my family to see me play again in a big league stadium. Especially my mom! Every time she came to see me play, I would get sent down that day. It was crazy!


MLB reports:  You and I talked a lot about Julio Franco.  How much of an inspiration is he to you?  Do you plan to play until you are 50?

Luis Lopez:  He inspires me a lot! Julio made it back at an age MUCH older than me because someone gave him a chance again. That’s all I want- a chance! If I couldn’t do it anymore, I would walk away; but I know I still have it. The mindset! (laughs) 50? Wow! Nah I don’t see that. Only God knows!


MLB reports:  Favorite position to play:  1B, 3B or any others?

Luis Lopez:  I love playing 3rd. Still play it. But I will play wherever to get a chance. I just want to hit! (big smile)

 

MLB reports:  Every baseball player works towards making the big leagues. You have been there and want to get back:  What do you need to do to make that dream happen?

Luis Lopez:  To be honest… I don’t know! I think I have done enough to have ten years in! But I will always stay positive and keep playing hard. You never know who is watching!

 

MLB reports:  If you weren’t playing baseball today- what would you be doing?

Luis Lopez:  I would be managing, coaching or in the front office. Something with baseball. Many of my friends and family members feel I will make it back as a manager- because they feel I have the makeup for that. I can see it!


MLB reports:  Looking back at your career to-date, would you have done anything different?

Luis Lopez:  (Big Smile) Wow! To be honest… I probably wouldn’t have gone to Japan. It was a great experience; but I think as a position player I went out there too young. When you try to come back, it’s harder that you think. Also Atlanta let Julio Franco sign with the Mets on a 2-year deal because they wanted me to be the righty off the bench.


MLB reports:  When you think of your expectations going into professional baseball, what are some of the biggest surprises you have encountered?

Luis Lopez:  It had to be when I signed and how far I got to play. I signed for two gloves and a pair of spikes as my bonus; but I made it!


MLB reports:  Choice of cleats, bat and glove- what brands do you use?

Luis Lopez:  Nike cleats. I use my boy ex-player Pete Tucci’s bat company. Tucci Lumber and he’s MLB approved! (Big laugh) My glove is Nike also.

 

MLB reports:  Which past or present MLB players would you most compare yourself to?

Luis Lopez:  Edgar Martinez and Kevin Millar. I would love to have a pic of all three of us! (Laughs)

 

MLB reports:  If the major leagues are not an option, do you plan to stay in Indy ball?  Will you try to make the minors for a MLB team or go to another country like Japan again?

Luis Lopez:  As of right now, yes- I will be playing in Bridgeport in the Atlantic League. So hopefully someone will come find a guy (like me) that can pinch hit in the bigs and get a game winning hit! (Laughs)


MLB reports:  Proudest baseball accomplishment?

Luis Lopez:  There are many! I think and say thank you God for letting me be successful! HOF at Coastal Carolina University. 6 MVP’s. 7 time all-star. Over 2000 hits. Over 1000 RBI’s. All in the minors- but i feel anywhere is good! Plus I am going into my 18th year professionally.


MLB reports:  You really are the real life Crash Davis. Tell us about the comparison.

Luis Lopez:  Hahaha. I’ve seen a lot of places. Many great ballplayers. I try to help everyone just like Crash did in the movies because guys need to realize that Indy ball is another path back- it’s not the end. You put in the work and you will be fine. Look at Jerome Williams! He was in Lancaster last season. Then he got picked up and was on TV again last year. This year he is slated to be the number five starter for the Angels!  Way to go Jerome!

 

MLB reports:  You must have made many friends for life in this game.

Luis Lopez:  There’s too many to mention! But if I show up to spring training or any stadium, trust me that a lot of them would come up and say wassup! (Big grin)


MLB reports:  Final thoughts?

Luis Lopez:  Don’t ever let anyone say you can’t do something, because I’m living proof of what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself! Surround yourself around POSITIVE people especially in this sport… because it is a game of failure. Lastly: play hard or go home!

***Thank you to Luis Lopez for taking the time out of his offseason training to speak with us today on MLB reports!  You can follow Luis on Twitter (@DoubleL1919). Luis is great and absolutely adores interacting with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he would appreciate your support!***

 

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.

Jonathan Broxton Signs with the Royals: Joakim Soria to be Traded?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Another reliever is off the market.  On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a 1-year contract.  The deal is reported to be for $4 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.  There will be an official announcement once Broxton passes his physical.  Given his health over the past couple of seasons, there are no guarantees that this deal will go through.  But assuming that Broxton’s elbow has recovered from his September surgery, he should be an official member of the Royals any day now.

There are many significant items to come out of this signing.  Broxton was in heavy demand, with at least a dozen teams interested.  The Royals did have to pay a premium to land him, considering the state of his health in recent times.  Looking at the numbers, Broxton had three solid seasons between 2006-2008 as a middle reliever and part-time closer.  He broke out in a big way in 2009, with 36 saves, 2.61 ERA and 0.961 WHIP.  Broxton’s slide began in 2010 and he was shut down effectively for most of 2011.  The Royals are banking on a return to form for the 27-year old Broxton.  At a reported playing weight of 300 lbs., Broxton will need to come in shape to camp and work hard this offseason to be an effective Major League pitcher.  He is still young and has the arm.  The big variables will be is the health of his elbow and his commitment to conditioning.

Based in Georgia, it is reported that location played a large part in his decision to sign with the Royals.  With an up-and-coming Royals team, Broxton could be a good fit as the team looks to be a playoff contender in the near future.  At worst, the team will lose $4 million for a season.  But the upside could be a very effective setup man or closer at a reasonable rate.  A low risk- high reward proposition for the Royals.  So now, where does this leave Joakim Soria?  The Royals have denied interest in moving their top closer.  I would disagree.  Regardless of whether the Broxton signing goes through, it is my gut feeling that Joakim Soria will not be a Royal come 2012.

 The Royals have set themselves up quite nicely in the bullpen.  After Soria and Broxton, the team still has Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland, among others, as setup men and possible closing options.  If Broxton were to take over as closer for Soria in 2012, this would allow the other members of the pen to develop and grow.  At least one of these bullpen candidates could be groomed into a closer by late 2012 or 2013.  The options are there for the Royals.  In fact, with so many valuable bullpen arms, the team could even try Aaron Crow into the rotation.  I see his fit likely best in the bullpen, but at the least the option is there…and options are a good thing.  When I look at Joakim Soria though, I see a valuable chip that can be moved to better the team in the long term.

After four strong seasons in the Royals pen, Soria is coming off a weak 2011 by his standards.  He still finished with 28 saves, but also had a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP.  The Royals have to ask themselves a couple of questions.  Given Soria’s arm troubles in the past, could he get injured?  Also, will 2011 be a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?  Let’s face it: pitchers, especially relievers, are injury risks.  To compound possible health issues, closers are at risk to implode at any time and lose their job.  Soria has been outstanding for several seasons.  Is he the next Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon? Or another B.J. Ryan or Bobby Thigpen?  None of us can look into a crystal ball and tell.  But what we do now is that there are only a handful of closers in major league history that were effective long term and consistently reliable for their careers.  For every Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman, there are hundreds of closers that were strong early in their career and faded.  With the Royals about 2-3 seasons away from contending, Soria is a luxury that they cannot afford to keep at this stage.

For a team looking to acquire Soria, he is signed to a very reasonable contract.  He will make $6 million in 2012 and has 2 team options for 2013-2014 at approximately $8 million per season.  The Royals can choose to keep Soria and perhaps be set at the closer position for another decade.  Or they can keep a reliever that can be injured or ineffective in 2012, thus discounting heavily his trade value.  They also run the risk of losing Soria as a free agent after the 2014 season.  The point is that the longer they wait, the less the Royals will get back for Soria.  With Broxton and company in the bullpen, the Royals would easily find themselves a setup man and closer for 2012 without likely missing a beat.  But given what Soria can bring back in trade value, this is a move that likely should and will happen.

Despite denials from both the Blue Jays and Royals, some outlets have reported discussions of a Colby Rasmus for Joakim Soria swap.  Not a bad move for either team.  I don’t see this trade happening, unless the Royals include another prospect bat (i.e. Wil Myers) and the Blue Jays include a top starting pitching prospect.  The Blue Jays have a glut of outfielders in their system, including Jose Bautista, Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames and Anthony Gose.  The Jays can afford to move an outfielder to acquire the closer they seek.  The top free agent closer at this point is Heath Bell.  At 34-years of age, I would not be terribly excited to give him the 3-year contract he seeks.  Plus he would prefer to play on the West Coast?  Ryan Madson?  To come close to the 4-year, $44 million contract that the Phillies reportedly offered him would be ludicrous, given that he only has 1 full season of closing experience.  For the Jays, given age, contract and ability, their top target should be Soria.  The team was looking at Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies- a sign that they do not want to grab a closer off the scrapheap.  They want the real deal.

Rasmus has the potential to be an all-star and top outfielder for years to come.  A big price for the Jays to pay.  One that I just don’t see happening.  Rasmus though will be the price unless the Jays can offer a good package for Soria.  I think that they have the will and the ability to make this deal happen.  Travis Snider will be the first prospect to be included in the package.  He has not shown enough in Toronto and likely needs a change of scenery at this point to thrive.  The offensive and defensive potential of this young outfielder are still there.  At 23-years of age, the Royals would be acquiring a former 1st round pick who should be major league ready for them in 2012.  But what else to include?  I could see 1-2 pitching prospects heading to Kansas City.  But the name I am stuck on is Brandon Morrow.  Acquired from the Mariners for Brandon League, the 27-year old Morrow has pitched two fairly inconsistent seasons in the Jays rotation.  He has electric stuff, as shown by his 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings this past season.  He is an enigma, much like Edwin Jackson.  Some of the best stuff in baseball but unable for some reason to consistently put it together for a full season.  The 28-year old Jackson will likely obtain a 3-year deal in the $50 million range this offseason.  Considering that Morrow is controllable for another 3 seasons, he could be attractive for the Royals as a potential top starter.

The Soria for Morrow and Snider swap should benefit both the Jays and Royals in the short and long term.  Some people may be surprised that the Jays would move Morrow.  But given the depth of young starters in their system and perhaps waning confidence in Morrow, the time might be right for him to move on.  Thames has already moved ahead of Snider on the depth chart, with Gose likely ready in the next couple of seasons.  The time is also right for Snider to find a new home and advance his career.  I can see the combination of Moustakas, Butler, Snider, Myers and company pounding out runs for the Royals for many seasons.  Joakim Soria, on the other hand, could be signed to a long-term deal by the Jays and become the top closer they have craved for at least the next five seasons.  A good old fashioned baseball trade that benefits both teams.

So there we have it folks.  Jonathan Broxton is likely to become a Royal very soon.  If he does come on board, the Royals are in great shape to move Joakim Soria and fill out some needs in their outfield and starting rotation.  But even if the Broxton deal falls through, the Royals have the depth to still trade their closer.  The Blue Jays, with one of the top systems in baseball, have the pieces to make a deal with the Royals.  Don’t count out Alex Anthopoulos and Dayton Moore.  These are two of the sharpest GMs in baseball.  Neither one will show their hands until they play their cards.  Expect a deal to possibly come as soon as the Winter Meetings.  The MLB reports crystal ball appears to be very clear on a deal of this magnitude coming.  Stay tuned!

 

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.

Did Braun and Verlander Deserve Their MVP Awards?

Wednesday November 23, 2011

Sam Evans: Over the last two days, Major League Baseball announced their 2011 MVPs. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers took home the award in the American League while Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won the National League award. Now that the voting is over, we can look at who really deserved the awards.

American League MVP: In August, Buster Olney sparked discussion on the AL MVP, when he said on Twitter that if he had a vote it would go to Verlander. At the time, I thought that the award was Jose Bautista‘s to lose. However, after watching Verlander dominate team after team, it became clear to me that this was the most valuable player in the American League. He meant more to his team than any other player in the league. Verlander finished with a with a 2.40 ERA in 251 innings. Verlander threw more innings than any other pitcher in the majors, and to have that strong of numbers in those innings makes it even more impressive.

Verlander also threw his second career no-hitter this year, and led the majors in strikeouts. Jacoby Ellsbury and  Jose Bautista are not shabby candidates either, but they didn’t have the effect Verlander did on his team. The Tigers expected to win every single time that Verlander was on the mound. Overall, even if the BBWAA made this decision based on Verlander’s twenty-four wins, it was the right choice. Verlander became the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

National League MVP:  In somewhat of a surprising decision, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was awarded the NL MVP award, receiving 20 out of 32 first place votes, and a total of 388 points. Finishing a close second was Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who received 10 first place votes, and a total of 332 points.

First of all, these were obviously the top two candidates. They both had amazing years that should not go unnoticed despite who actually won the award. What I think it came down to was that Braun made the playoffs and Kemp didn’t. This is somewhat understandable because you can make the argument that if a certain player had such a big impact on their team then they should have made the playoffs. The real question is did Braun really make his team that much better, or did he just play on a much better team? Also, did the distractions surrounding the Dodgers and its ownership affect Kemp’s chances of winning the MVP? It definitely did not help his case.

To truly compare these players first you have to evaluate their defense. Kemp played a much harder position then Braun and he had to cover more ground. Kemp had a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat used to show how much ground a player covers) of -4.6. Braun had a UZR of -3.8. Neither of these is very impressive, so I guess we can just call this comparison a draw.

As for offense, in my own opinion, Kemp had a stronger year. Both players were very similar in normal statistics. Braun hit .332 with 33 HR and 111 RBI. Kemp hit .324 with 39 HR and 126 RBI. What impresses me is that Kemp scored more runs than Braun despite not having Prince Fielder batting behind him. Also, Kemp had a harder ballpark to hit in, and plays in a stronger pitching division. Kemp was really the only dangerous hitter in the Dodgers lineup, so pitchers could avoid him more than Braun.

According to Baseball-Reference WAR, Kemp was by far the more valuable player. Kemp led the NL with 10.0 WAR, which make Braun’s 7.7 seem miniscule. Kemp also led the National League in total bases, with 353, and Adjusted OPS + with 171.

These two players had almost identical years. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Kemp. But I don’t think Braun winning is anything to get worked up about.  A strong case could have been made for him, as shown by Braun being the winner of the 2012 NL MVP award.

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

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

Interview with MLB Prospect Lance Durham: Talking Baseball with “The Bull”

Sunday November 20, 2011

 


Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Lance Durham, first base prospect and 2nd generation baseball player.  His father, Leon Durham, played 10 seasons in the show.  Best known as an outfielder/first baseman for the Cubs, Leon had pop in his bat and a strong ability to get on base.  Following in his dad’s footsteps, Lance looks to make his own mark on the game.  Originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, Lance opted to attend college and was drafted again in 2009, this time by the Toronto Blue Jays.  Lance has just completed his third season in the Jays’ organization.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to talk baseball with Lance on several occasions.  He is an extremely intelligent bright man, with a strong sense of his roots and his path in the game.  An extremely motivated and hard-working player, Lance has the fundamental tools to succeed in the game.  At 23-years of age, the future looks bright for “The Bull”.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with baseball prospect and future superstar, Lance Durham:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Lance Durham:  My favorite baseball player growing up was my father. I know it sounds cliché but it’s the truth. I didn’t get to see him play in person but we have tapes all over the house of him when he was with the Cubs and I loved the intensity he played with. His demeanor, swagger and confidence were never lacking out on the playing field and that’s something I try to carry out on the field.

 

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

Lance Durham:  I admire Prince Fielder the most. First, he was the only player to play all 162 games in 2011 and 160 games in 2010. That’s something to admire a lot because he brings it to the table everyday and doesn’t ask for days off.

 

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

Lance Durham:  Having the opportunity to follow in my father’s footsteps.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Lance Durham:  Stay healthy and set no limitations for the season. Sky’s the limit.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Tigers in 2006 and Blue Jays in 2009 and not signing with the Tigers originally?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Jays in 2009?

Lance Durham:  When I first got drafted out of high school, I thanked God and was happy to know that my name was already out there. But I thought it was best for me to go to college at that point. In 2009, it was just like “well, its time to start the grind” because I wasn’t a first rounder like my father and he told me it was time to out perform the competition. I didn’t sign with the Tigers originally because I was drafted in the 45th round and I figured going to college and getting smarter about the game of baseball and physically stronger (was in my best interests). Not to mention mom (Angela Durham) always wanted me to go college and I promised her I would one time in my life. So I did it (went to college) fresh out of high school.

 

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

Lance Durham:  I just hope to improve on all areas of the game, whether it’s hitting, base running, defense, and having a great baseball IQ- which I think is the best advantage. The more you know about the game, the better you will do.  My baseball IQ includes knowing what to do with the ball once you get it, thinking before the play even happens, so that the game slows down for you.

 

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

Lance Durham:  Well home runs are awesome.  There is no better feeling for me, except winning a ball game.  Walks are also great because it shows your patience at the plate. Those are two statistics that you want to be pretty high.

 

MLB reports:  How much of an influence was your dad on you growing up? What did you learn from your dad that has shaped you as a baseball player?

Lance Durham:  Dad was a great influence on my baseball career. He has been involved in baseball his whole life, so to learn stuff from him about the game is great. The thing I learned from my dad the most is the mental part of the game. You are going to strike out. You are going to make errors. But it is how you learn from them and not make the same mistakes twice. He always preaches adjustments. If we are in the batting cage and I keep making the same mistake over and over, he won’t say anything until I make the adjustment on my own.  Then he will say “what took you so long,” and we just laugh. But the quicker you pick up on the adjustments, the better ball player you will become.

 

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?

Lance Durham:  Hopefully as soon as possible. That is what all of minor leaguers strive for. I am just going to take it one day at a time. Even in the offseason: with the workouts and the cage work and everything, you just have to have it on your mind and want it bad.

 

MLB reports:  If you were not playing professional baseball, you would be ____

Lance Durham:  A video game creator.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun away from the ballpark?

Lance Durham:  Hanging out with friends, go to the movies and spending time with the family.

 

MLB reports:  Which of your teammates are you closest with – any good stories?

Lance Durham:  This past year on the Lansing Lugnuts team, I got really close with a lot of guys. Michael Crouse, Jake Marisnick, Jack Murphy, Markus Brisker, Matt Nuzzo. The stories could go on for days. Let’s just say that they are a great group of guys and I thank God I got to play with them.

 

MLB reports:  Your father Leon was known as “The Bull”.  Do you go by the same nickname? What is the origin of the nickname and how did you adopt it?

Lance Durham:  Well my dad’s nickname just stuck with me because of him. When he would bring me into the locker rooms as a kid, everyone would already call me “Little Bull” when I was like 10. So it has stuck with me even until today, so I just roll with it. Won’t be long until they just start calling me BULL!!!

 

MLB reports:  Final thought:  When fans think of the name Lance Durham, what images do you want them to associate you with?

Lance Durham:  He was a student of the game.  He played the game right and he played the game hard.  He was also a great teammate.


Thank you again to Lance Durham 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 Lance.  As well, please follow Lance on Twitter (@LanceBullDurham)

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.

Ask the Reports: Saturday November 19th

Saturday November 19, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

So keep reading MLB reports. Everyday. Twice a day or more if your schedule allows it. Subscribe to the site to have all current articles sent to your e-mailbox. But most of all:  participate. Send tweets. Write on our Facebook wall. Comment on articles and leave feedback. MLB reports is for you: the readers. The love of baseball is best nurtured if enjoyed as a community. So don’t be shy. Get in touch with us as often as you can. Let your voice be heard on our Facebook wall. There is nothing better than an old-fashioned baseball debate.  We call it MLB4Life on Twitter because we all love baseball for life. Baseball is more than a passion.  It is a lifestyle. Thank you for enjoying MLB reports and we look forward to hearing from you.  Plus you never know when your questions will be answered in “Ask the Reports”: so keep checking and asking your questions every week!

Let’s get to your questions:

Q:  If a modern-day MLB pitcher won 20 games for 20 seasons, he would still be 111 wins short of Cy Young’s win record..  From Eric, LA
 
A:  Great comment.  A true reflection on the evolution of the game.  Let’s start by taking a look at the career of Cy Young:
Denton True Young (aka Cy Young).  Born March 29, 1867 in Ohio.  Threw right-handed, stood 6’2″ and weighed 210 pounds.  He played for 22 seasons: 1890-1911.  He finished his career with a 511-316 lifetime record.  He actually had 5 seasons of 30+ wins.  36 in 1892 and 35 in 1895 being the career highs.  The man pitched in 906 games, starting 815 of them.  He threw 7356 career innings.  Ponder that one for a minute.  He had 5 seasons of 400 + innings and a dozen more seasons of 300-399 innings.  17 years of 300+ innings pitched.  If a modern-day pitcher were to pitch 200 innings per year for 20 years, he would reach 4000 innings.  About half of Cy Young.  That says a lot to me.  In the modern age, the only person that will come close to pitching those kind of innings was Nolan Ryan.  The Ryan Express pitched for 27 seasons.  807 games, 773 starts.  5386 innings pitched.  Career record:  324-292.  So to win as many games as Cy Young, you would need to win 25 games per year for 20 years.  An impossible feat in today’s modern game.  A pitcher would need to start 35-40 games and pitch 300-400 innings per year.  With closers, middle relievers and the stats of MLB bullpens, teams will not allow their starters to go deep into all those ballgames.  A “quality” start is 6 innings pitched.  At 30+ starts per year, most starters today are lucky to crack 200 innings.  Without the starts and innings, starting pitchers have less and less chances to stay deep in games to win.  Plus pitchers need offensive support and health to stay on the field and have a chance to gain wins.  Teams have 5-man rotations and also skip  or push back starts during the season.  We will never see another Cy Young.  Not the way baseball is played today.
 
 
Q:  What do you think Pat Burrell will do after he retires?  Fans of Pat Burrell
 
A:  I could see Burrell taking time off from the game.  Counting his dollars and maybe taking in a party or two (rumor has it that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man…).  But given his quality eye at the plate with pop, Burrell clearly knew a thing or two about hitting in his day.  Almost 300 home runs and 1000 walks do not happen by accident.  When Pat the Bat is ready to return to the game, he will join the Giants or Phillies likely as a minor league hitting instructor, or full-time hitting coach.  If he can show he can coach in the minors, you could see him as a hitting coach or 1st base coach one day in the major leagues.  Pat the Bat has a future in baseball- provided that he can teach and work well with the kids in helping them develop their abilities at the plate.
 
 
Q:  With 8 years and $160 Million, is Matt Kemp worth Manny Money or did L.A. pay a $30 Million premium to keep him off the open market next year?  Or both?  From Jason
 
A:  They did call Matt Kemp “Baby Manny” for a reason.  The Bison has always been highly touted coming up with the Dodgers.  For the last 2 seasons going into this year, some of that promise was starting to show.  Campaigns with 26 and 28 home runs respectively will catch people’s eyes.  Kemp looked like a .290 hitter with 20+ home run pop.   Pretty good- but not a superstar.  Then in 2011, Kemp simply exploded.  He led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs, a difficult feat considering he had little support in the lineup and played his home games in a pitcher’s park.  With a .324 average, we nearly had a triple crown winner.  Kemp had a .399 OBP and .586 SLG.  Superstar numbers.  I am torn in analyzing him.  He was a year away from free agency.  Is he worth $20 Million per year for 8 years?  That is all relative.  Here is how I can best put it: what if Kemp would have hit .290, with 25 home runs with 90 runs and 90 RBIs in 2012 and hit free agency?  Would he have received the same deal?  Very likely.  At that point would the Yankees or Red Sox given him 7 years and $140 million to sign?  Carl Crawford got that same deal last year.  At 28 years of age, Kemp has shown good health and appears to be in great shape.  To say he is able to keep this pace until 35-years of age is not a stretch.  At worst, Kemp would have landed $15 million per season for 7 years, a total of $105 million.  So my thoughts are that the Dodgers would have needed to pay him $20 million for 2012 regardless.  By signing him early, they may have overpaid by $35 million over the life of the deal.  Or Kemp could have signed for $5 million per season on the open market (if no other alternatives) and cost an additional $35 million.  In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have seen more 2011-type seasons from Kemp before handing him this type of contract.  But given his fairly strong track record, health and young age, the Dodgers needed to lock him up now or risk very much losing him after 2012?  Did they overpay?  Not much by free agency standards.  Even if they overpaid by $30 million over the life of the contract, as long as Kemp continues to stay healthy and produce great to strong numbers, this was a deal that had to get done.  With the ownership turmoil and inability to attract and keep key players, this signing sends a message that the Dodgers are “back in business.”  Exactly what the fans want to hear.
 
 
Q:  Thoughts on Cespedes and Darvish? Any chance Blue Jays sign ’em?  From Thomas
 
A:  There are approximately fans from 30 MLB teams that are hoping their teams will make a push for the 2 likely biggest international free agents.  Yu Darvish from Japan and Yoennis Cespedes from Cuba.  While Darvish will need to be posted and bid upon, Cespedes once declared would be free to sign with any team.  At 26-years of Cespedes is reported to be major league ready.  Viewers of his YouTube video are excited at his abilities at the plate.  He will reportedly cost in the $50 million range to sign.  Darvish, at 25-years of age, is one of the most highly touted pitchers ever to come from Japan.  If he is posted (which is still a big-if at this stage), Darvish is likely to cost north of $100 million (with the posting fee) to sign.  Will the Jays sign either or both?  My answer: no.  Not because the team is not competitive.  Far from it.  But because they will not throw a lot of money on risky propositions.  Neither player has played a single inning of Major League Ball.  No matter how each has fared competitively to-date, few could predict how their games will translate to the major leagues.  The Jays are already stacked in the oufield, with Bautista, Rasmus, Snider and Thames to choose from.  Edwin Encarnacion is even being tried out in the outfield in winterball.  Anthony Gose is also a young hot-shot prospect that will be landing in Toronto soon.  The Jays do not have a strong need for an outfielder and certainly will not want to devote a large portion of their budget to an unknown like Cespedes.  Especially given the mixed track record of Cuban hitters thus far in the majors.  The Jays’ budget would be better spent on pitching.  But to pay $50 million to win the Darvish posting and then sign him for another $50 million, that could translate to $20 million per season for 5 seasons.  That is insanity money.  At that point, I would rather sign C.J. Wilson for 5-years $100 million.  A far more certain return.  The Jays will pick up a strong DH bat this offseason, perhaps a new first baseman and 1-2 new starting pitchers.  They will be shopping.  But no mail-order-players are likely coming anytime soon to Toronto.
 
 
Final Q:  Psychology professor asked what our biggest stressors in life are. I said Brandon Inge still being a Tiger. Everyone looked at me weird.  From Ashley
 
A:  Time to change schools?  If any of your classmates are baseball fans, they must not watch the Tigers very often or simply fail to grasp the horrible play of Inge.  I rarely use the word “hate”. But as a Tigers follower (yes…they are my team), I do not have the time of day for Inge.  The team has him signed for 1 more season at $5.5 million and a team option for $6 million in 2013 or a $500K buyout.  Expect the buyout.  I get that he is a great team guy, and blah blah blah.  In 144 games in 2010, he hit .247 with 13 home runs.  Looking at his numbers, he had a great year in 2006 and 2009.  That is it.  But yet the Tigers have him signed through to 2012.  Last year, Inge hit .197 with 3 home runs and earned himself a trip back to the minors.  At 34-years of age.  He is done.  Done as dinner.  Stick the fork in him.  One of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched, he could do it all with the glove.  Perhaps he sticks around as a late-inning defensive replacement.  He is a good emergency catcher and strong third baseman.  But his career as a full-time player is over.  If the Tigers are prepared to leave him on the bench and mentor the young players, I am all for it.  But otherwise, they need to hang onto Ramon Santiago and simply let the Inge-era end.  Brandon Inge has cool tattoos and has provided some spark hits through his career.  Its time for the Tigers to thank him for his contributions and move on.   Thank you Ashley for understanding.  I feel your pain.
 
 

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

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


Stolen Bases: Fantasy Baseball Strategies to Increasing Steals

Thursday November 17, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Of the five categories in standard 5X5 roto leagues, it is SB’s that fantasy owners most commonly have the incorrect approach. In this article I will highlight players to target and avoid in the stolen base department, as well as discuss basic fantasy strategy.

There are certainly several one trick ponies, such as Brett Gardner, Michael Bourn, and Coco Crisp, who provide elite production in this department. However, there are a couple of things you must consider. These types of players, who will hopefully hit for average and contribute to runs, will hurt your team’s HR and RBI performance. Therefore, be sure that you have excess value dispersed throughout the rest of your lineup to compensate. Secondly, you are heavily relying one on player for your production in this category, and as a result an injury can leave your team devastated. Thus, it is essential, particularly in the early rounds, that you find players who do everything, including steal bases. Even 5-10 steals that a player contributes above the position average will give you a significant edge.

A player to target next year, Eric Hosmer, quietly stole 11 bases in 2011. The young left-hander batted .313 with 11 HR and 44 RBI’s in the second half last season. While his still progressing power production puts him the second tier of first baseman, his double-digit stolen base potential makes him intriguing and perhaps underrated. Still, this guy finished the season with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s in 128 games played. Since there are a slew of first baseman that finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, they will likely be targeted before Homer. Therefore, I like Hosmer as a guy who might just as well approach these power numbers but also steal 15 bases. For this same reason, I like Joey Votto over any other first baseman not named Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera. While, Adrian and Gonzalez and Prince Fielder might put up higher power numbers and similar batting averages, Joey Votto’s 10 stolen bases will make him significantly more valuable. Albert Pujols is also good for ten stolen bases as well. Only Miguel Cabrera out produces Votto enough in the other four categories to excuse his lack of stolen bases.

Now extend this approach to each position. Dustin Pedroia and his 25-30 stolen bases is more valuable than Robinson Cano and his 5-10 stolen bases, despite the fact Cano finished with 7 more home runs and 25 RBI’s. A player I like at this position if you can afford to take the hit in HR’s and RBI’s is Jemile Weeks, who finished with 22 stolen bases in just 97 games. He will get to play full-time in Oakland, and as long as he is hitting above .290, can be valuable to your roster as a good source of steals. On the decline is Brandon Phillips who has dropped from 25 to 16 to 14 stolen bases the last three seasons. This makes him no longer elite, especially when Ian Kinsler is doing 30/30. An interesting group of players, Kelly Johnson, Danny Espinosa, and Ben Zobrist each his 20 home runs and stole over 15 bases. However, they each struggled with average. Again, take not of your team’s strengths. If you own Votto and a couple of other average anchors, these types of players can be good sources of power and stolen bases at the second base position.

Instead of continuing on and telling you the elite base stealers position by position (you can easily look this up), I will give you my 2012 sleepers and busts.

Stolen Base Sleepers:

Don’t forget that Brett Lawrie’s one-quarter of a season not only put him on pace to hit 36 home runs and 100 RBI’s, but also projected him to finish with 28 stolen bases.

Peter Bourjos made noise at the end of the season and once stole 50 bases in the minor leagues. For the speedy outfielder, it was all about getting on base after a 2010 debut in which he batted .204 in 51 games. However, he greatly improved his contact ability, although still needs to improve walk rate, and batted .271 and stole 21 bases for the Angels. He also hit 12 home runs, and has the potential for a productive .280 15 HR 30 SB stat line in 2012.

After stealing 19 bases in 2011, I expect Shane Victorino to reach the 30 mark once again in 2012. It’s not that he didn’t run when he was on base, but his lower than usual BABIP and high than usual ISO (measures true power) simply meant he was not on first base as often as he normally is. With Rollins likely out of Philadelphia, I expect Victorino to ne at the top of the lineup and as aggressive as ever on the base paths.

Keep you eye Cameron Maybin, who stole 40 bases in 137 games for the Padres. As long as he has the chance to play semi-regularly, he is elite in the stolen base category. Furthermore, he appears to be approaching double-digit home run output as well, although he is only a career .255 hitter.

Monitor where Coco Crisp ends up in 2012. I loved him at Oakland in 2011 because he was one of the better hitters on the team (sadly) and at times batted third, but also batted lead off and in the second spot. In addition to leading the American League in steals, he had decent contributions in other categories (8 HR and 54 RBI) compared to some of the other stolen base leaders.

Dexter Fowler is a name to remember because he is simply one of the fastest players in baseball. However, he only stole 12 and 13 bases during the last two years, respectively. He was also caught an alarming 25 times. If he can learn to run on the base paths, he can be elite in this category. It is possible for major leaguers to learn the art of stealing bases. Look at Adam Jones, who was 12/16 on the base paths in 2011 after a 7/14 2010. I expect Jones, who is approaching a contract season, to come closer to 20 steals in 2012.

Speedsters to avoid? Juan Pierre. He really contributes in no other categories and is getting slower, getting caught 17 times in 44 chances in 2011. Furthermore, I do not expect any team to give him the 639 at bats that the White Sox foolishly provided him. Sadly, Ichiro Suzuki is clearly on the decline and appears to be a shell of his former elite self. The same is true with Bobby Abreu.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  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 Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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 Free Agent Closer Carousel

Friday November 11, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end.  The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball.  On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.”  While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.”  All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case.  Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so.  Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011.  However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series.  There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.

There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list.  It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market.  Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan  Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option.  It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery.   It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.

Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012.  Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.

The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.

Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies.  The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon.   All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio.  His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is.  I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.

Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly.  Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer.  A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25.  4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games.  His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth.  The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod.  Rodriguez  has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim.  I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).

Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field.  His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP.  San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent.  Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego.  This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower.  Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.

Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back.  Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011.  However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again.  The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career.  The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.

Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value.  The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September.  His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009.  His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time.  Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy.  He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.

Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati.  The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back.  However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career.  While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime.  Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007.  While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons.  He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.

It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen.  Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so. 

***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 onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Steve Karsay: Reflections on a MLB Pitching Career

Friday November 4, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  While I get to interview many current MLB prospects and stars on the Reports, it is rare that I have the opportunity to talk baseball with a former great that I watched growing up. As a personal bonus to me, that chance recently came up when I was able to connect with Steve Karsay, former major league pitcher.  Steve was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (22nd overall in the 1990 draft).  After being a part of the famed 1993 trade to Oakland for hall-of-famer Rickey Henderson, Steve played 11 major league seasons for 5 different squads.  Steve played his final season in 1996.

I reflected with Steve Karsay on his career, from his time with the Blue Jays organization, through to his final season. Steve was very candid in his responses and certainly did not hold back.  For all the readers that grew up idolizing Steve Karsay and wondering about his future baseball plans- today you will receive your answers. 

 
Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with former Major League pitcher, Steve Karsay:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Steve.  Let’s start today’s interview from the beginning.  A 1st round pick in 1990 with Toronto.  What was the feeling when you got the call?  Did you expect to be drafted by the Jays?  Thoughts/feelings at the time?

Steve Karsay:  Wow! Going back a few years. That is correct- I was the 22nd pick overall in the 1990 draft by the Blue Jays. What a great time and what a great organization I was drafted by. The Blue Jays and their organization taught me so much to make me the player I was over my 16 year career. I will always be grateful to the Blue Jays organization and the coaches for the years I spent there. I did not know I was drafted until late in the afternoon for the fact that I was playing for my high school championship at Yankee stadium at the time. The feeling when I did receive the call was shock. I was not sure I was going to get drafted in the first round and had my sights set on going to LSU in the fall. But when it sunk in and realized the opportunity that I had and the feeling of shock turned to joy and excitement made the decision to sign and start my career in St. Catharines.

 

MLB reports:  You will forever be linked to hall of famer Rickey Henderson, being traded for him in July 1993.  What was your reaction when you learned of the trade?  Have you ever spoken to Rickey about it?

Steve Karsay:  First being traded at the time for Rickey was a great honor. I was only 21 at the time in 93′ when the trade happened so learning I was traded I had a mix of feelings. I was disappointed because I wanted to reach the big leagues with the team that drafted me.  But realizing that I may get my opportunity to pitch in the big leagues faster, I understood that these are the things that happen when the big club is trying to position itself to win a World Series. After the trade I ended up making my Major League debut two weeks later against the Brewers at the Oakland Coliseum. So that is what made the trade worth it. As far as talking with Rickey, we had a brief conversation when he returned to Oakland the very next year.

 

MLB reports:  After being in the Toronto organization your whole life, what was it like joining the A’s and playing for them for three seasons?

Steve Karsay:  Being with Toronto for three years and going to Oakland was an adjustment, but for me was an easy transition. I enjoyed the A’S organization very much. Working with Dave Duncan and having Tony La Russa as my first manager was great. They were both mentors and I credit them for helping me transition to pitching in the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  Injuries took a big toll on your career- especially your surgeries in 1995 and 1996.  After undergoing Tommy John, did you think your career was finished?  Give us an idea as to what the surgeries/rehabs were like and your road to continue playing baseball.

Steve Karsay:  To be quite honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I had had to have Tommy John and back in 1995, it was not nearly as perfected as it is today.  So I knew there was a chance that I may never play at the big league level again. The surgeries were lengthy and the rehab tedious, but I always had the drive to get healthy and pitch in the big leagues again. I was never one to give up. It was a long three years but in the end to resume my career and compete at the highest level was an accomplishment in itself.

 

MLB reports:  Your career actually took off when you joined the Indians.  Your four years in Cleveland represent some of your finest major league numbers.  What was the secret of your success with the tribe?

Steve Karsay:  I guess if there was any secret to my years in Cleveland, it was that I was finally healthy. I had gone through some tough years with injuries and rehab and when I finally got traded in 97′ to Cleveland, I felt like I turned the corner and it was just all coming together. In Cleveland they decided to put me in the bullpen and really got into a nice niche of what I was really capable of doing. But ultimately I would have to say that the four years in Cleveland I was as healthy as I have ever been throughout my career.

 

MLB reports:  Aside from the occasional start, you became a full-time reliever in 1998.  What was the process like to transition from starting to the pen?  After coming up as a starter, how did you feel about becoming a reliever?

Steve Karsay:  As a starter you have routines and you know what days you’re going to pitch and who you are going to pitch against. As a reliever you just have to be prepared every day. The transition was fairly easy for me because I had some great mentors when I did it in Cleveland. Mike Jackson, Paul Shuey, Paul Assenmacher, and a few others, so I got to learn from some guys who tough me well. I wasn’t excited at first to become a reliever but it definitely grew on me and felt after having success in the bullpen that is where I was supposed to be. It also gave me a new found respect of how hard the bullpen is.

 

MLB reports:  You finished your career with 41 saves.  Looking back, do you wish that you had more 9th inning opportunities- was the “closer” role something that you had in the back of your mind?

Steve Karsay:  I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a closer for a bit in Cleveland and fill in New York when Mariano Rivera was injured. I always had the “closer” role in my mind but was never what drove me to play. I figured opportunities would present themselves if I pitched well enough. My saying was ”How well you are pitching will determine where you pitch in the game coming out of the pen”. When I signed as a free agent, I had the opportunity to go to a couple other clubs to compete for that job but chose to go to NY to set-up. At that point, winning was more important to me than closing. That was a tough choice I had to make.

 

MLB reports:  Your career ended in 2006, after pitching 9 games with the A’s.  Why the decision to hang up the glove at that point?  Any regrets?

Steve Karsay:  I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to retire in 06′. At that particular point, I was still having problems with my shoulder (after having surgery on my rotator cuff in 03′). I was pitching with pain and I felt personally like I couldn’t compete at that level with an injured shoulder. It was not fun any more coming to the ballpark, and I had always told myself that if I felt that I couldn’t compete at the highest level, I wanted to walk away from the game as a player on a respectable note. After retiring I had one last shoulder surgery to repair my rotator cuff for a final time. I came to realize that I was pitching with my rotator cuff torn the whole time in 2006.  So looking back, I felt the choice I made was 100% correct.

 

MLB reports:  You pitched for 5 major league teams (A’s, Indians, Braves, Yankees and Rangers).  Favorite team(s) that you played for and why? 

Steve Karsay:  All of the teams hold a special place in my heart. I had great memories with all of them. I had the opportunity to meet and play with some of the best players in the history of the game over my career. I will always be grateful for the Blue Jays for drafting me and giving me the chance to start my career in professional baseball. Then the A’s for giving me my first shot in the Major leagues. The Indians is where I had my most productive years and had the chance to experience playoff baseball for the first time. Atlanta and playing for the great Bobby Cox. He is a player’s manager and a great man. Also having the opportunity to have great teammates in every spot that I played. Too long of a list to compile, but to name a few of the greats I played with: Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, Ron Darling,  Rickey Henderson, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Robbie Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina. I know I am probably missing many other great ones I played with.  Overall, the experiences were priceless. It was the most exciting time in my life with the exception of the birth of my son Kingston.

 

MLB reports:  Do you still keep in touch with many of your ex-teammates- any ones in particular?

Steve Karsay:  I don’t keep in touch per say with them, but whenever I get the opportunity to see them when they come into town I always like to stop by the ballpark and say hello.

 

MLB reports:  Growing up so close to Shea Stadium, it must have been a dream come true to play in New York.  Were you a Mets fan growing up- did you consider playing for them at one point?

Steve Karsay:  Growing up in NY and so close to Shea was great. I was a baseball fan growing up. I liked players more than I did teams. I watched both the Yankees and the Mets. I went to more Mets games as a kid because it was just a short train ride away. I never had the opportunity to play for the Mets over my career, but playing for the Yankees and the tradition of the Yankees was definitely a highlight of my playing days.

 

MLB reports:  Since you left the game, what has been life been like for Steve Karsay?  What are you up to these days Steve?

Steve Karsay:  Life has been wonderful since retiring in 2006. After being able to have a 16 year career in baseball I wanted to step away from the game for a short time to pursue a few things that I was not able to do while I was playing- like travel and explore different countries. I also became involved in my friend’s company in Aerospace Manufacturing which has been exciting and to say the least interesting. And last but not least, the birth of my son which has been more work than all of the above. With that being said, baseball is my life and I am pursing opportunities to get back in the game in some capacity. The time off was great, but I want to be able to pass along the knowledge of baseball that I learned while I was playing and help young kids fulfill their dreams of hopefully getting to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  If you could give one piece of advice to a young baseball player trying to make it to the show, what would it be?

Steve Karsay:  My advice would be to work hard, be consistent, and do not take anything for granted because you never know when it will come to an end.

 

MLB reports:  Will we be seeing you in the future in the major leagues in another capacity, perhaps a broadcaster or coach/manager?

Steve Karsay:  I hope so. I am pursuing some things as we speak and would love to get back in the game in any capacity, either as a broadcaster, front office or on the field coach. Baseball is my passion and it what I love.

 

MLB reports:  Final question Steve:  everyone at the end of the day wants to leave a mark on the game.  What do you most want to be remembered for as a professional baseball player?

Steve Karsay:  Looking back I would want to be known for every time I stepped between the white lines I gave everything I had and I did not take anything for granted. I wanted to be the best player I could be when I stepped out on the mound. The fire for competition was always burning when I played. If I can be remembered for that, I would be very proud.

 

MLB reports:  Thank you very much for taking your time out of your busy schedule so we can have you with us.  Much appreciated!

 

Thank you again to Steve Karsay 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 Steve.  As well, please follow Steve on Twitter (@Steve_Karsay)

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.


A Tribute to Steve Karsay: MLB Pitcher and Warrior

Thursday November 3, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  In the world of baseball journalism, it is very important for one to separate the roles of writer/commentator/analyst from fandom.  For those of us that write about the great game of baseball, it is the majority of the time for the pure love of the sport.  We love every aspect of baseball and while the job requires long hours and a great deal of hard work, it is all worth it because the work centers around a dear passion for all of us.  Each piece we prepare though rarely contains a personal vested interest.  We write about a subject.  We discuss the different aspects of the topic and will usually include our own viewpoints.  But when the subject matter contains an emotional attachment, it can make the experience that much more rewarding.

As the Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports, I have had the privilege and honor of interviewing many of the game’s up and coming prospects and stars.  When I found out though my latest interviewee, I have to admit that I had some goosebumps.  Steve Karsay is a name that is well-known in baseball circles.  A veteran of eleven major league seasons, Steve played for five major league teams between 1993-2006.  Growing up in Toronto, I knew Steve early on in his career as a 1st round pick (22nd overall) in the 1990 draft.  At 6’3″ and 210 lbs, Steve coming up was labelled a “can’t miss” prospect.  I will admit that I followed his career from his debut with the A’s and later retiring with the same Oakland squad.  In between, Steve suffered through a variety of injuries and surgeries, including Tommy John in 1996.  The reason that I rooted for Steve Karsay was his resiliancy.  The man overcame great adversities and was able to transform himself into a successful major league pitcher.  I respect players with ability and heart- and you will be hard pressed to find anyone that can match those qualities as found in Steve Karsay.

Any discussion on Steve Karsay has to begin with the start of his career.  Despite being drafted by the Jays, Steve actually made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics.  As part of the Jays 2nd World Series run in 1993, Toronto traded Steve Karsay with Jose Herrera for hall-of-fame outfielder, Rickey Henderson.  Getting traded for a player with Henderson’s pedigree before even throwing a major league pitch has to be a nice complement.  If nothing else, it will always be a story that Steve will be able to share with his grandchildren.  With great expectations on him, Steve was not able to deliver on the promise of stardom as an A’s starter.  Injuries never allowed him to get on track and Karsay moved from the A’s to the Indians as a reliever.  In his first full healthy season as a reliever in 1999, Karsay flourished in Cleveland.  He finished that year with a 10-2 record, 2.97 ERA and 1.284 WHIP.  The following year, Karsay saved a career high 20 games for the Indians.  Karsay continued to flourish, excelling for the Braves in the 2001 postseason and for the Yankees in the 2002 season.

Shoulder surgery in 2003 set Steve back another season.  He came back to play part seasons from 2004-2006, when he finally called it a career.  Karsay left the game with solid major league numbers and a resume to be proud of.   When I think of Steve Karsay, I will always think “what could have been”.  What if injuries and surgeries had not been a part of his career.  Could we have seen a 300 game winner in Oakland?  Or perhaps a 300 save closer as his role evolved?  We will never know what paths Steve Karsay’s career could have taken, had his body allowed him to fulfill his potential.  But considering the battles and adversities he faced, Steve Karsay can look back on his career with pride.  Countless pitchers with fewer injuries over the years never made it to the show to even throw a major league pitch.  Rather than enjoy the occasional cup of coffee, Steve Karsay was able to battle through and enjoy a lengthy and productive career.  Watching him in his prime, he was as solid of a major league reliever as I have seen in my time.

Coming up on MLB reports, we will hear from Steve Karsay directly.  I recently interviewed Steve and covered many topics with him, including his career, the Rickey trade and his baseball future.  It was a pleasure to speak with Steve and hear what he had to say.  If you enjoy baseball discussions, stay tuned for my exclusive interview with Steve Karsay.

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.

Sabathia and the Yankees: Did anyone ‘CC’ this coming?

Tuesday November 1, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays and Prospects Writer – MLB reports):  At the stroke of midnight, C.C. Sabathia wouldn’t have turned into a pumpkin, but the Yankees had the potential of not getting the fairy tale they wanted.

But, lo and behold, a fairy godmother appeared, in the form of a signed contract, which showed that C.C. Sabathia would accept a new deal and remain with the New York Yankees.  The new deal also had the effect of adding 30 million dollars to his bottom line.

As such, Sabathia did not become a free agent. But at what cost?

Sabathia already had $92 million left on the old contract, or, in layman’s terms, about $23 million a year. Now, the new deal increases his salary to $25 million for 2016 and also gives the Yankees a $25 million option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout (depending on whether Sabathia can stay healthy in 2016).

Was the money worth it? At a quick glance it would appear that the money is well-spent for the Yankees. In fact, since signing a $161-million, seven-year deal with the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia has gone 59-23 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season for the Yankees.

But that’s not the only reason that the money was well spent for the Yankees.

If the Yankees would not have been able to convince Sabathia to stay, their rotation (as it stands now) would have consisted of A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and unless some offseason trading or signing occurs, likely David Phelps and Hector Noesi.

Had Sabathia not signed, the Yankees would have been even more likely to chase any and all free agent starting pitchers on the market, including C.J. Wilson of the Rangers, and Japanese phenom (who the Blue Jays and Rangers are currently rumored to be targeting), Yu Darvish.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Sabathia did agree to sign.  But I would not assume that the Yankees have stopped their search for additional starting pitchers to beef up their rotation.  Rather far from it.  In order to get over the hump, the Yankees will need to acquire complimentary pieces to their existing ace pitcher.

But with that being said, can one even imagine what would have happened if Sabathia had not stayed in New York?  And if perhaps some other team came and swept Sabathia off his feet during the upcoming free agency courting period?

If Sabathia had opted out of his contract and become a free agent, it would be interesting to review which teams could have been the right fit for the Yankees’ ace.  Potential suitors could have included the Nationals, who already are developing a young up-and-coming team with a stellar rotation. It could have also been the Red Sox, as after the Tommy John surgery to John Lackey, also require  more depth to their rotation.  Finally, the Los Angeles Angels could have been a suitable destination, because as was saw last year with Vernon Wells, the Angels do not care about the price.  Rather the team looks at the quality of the player (in effect, taking the player they want at any price). The Angels could have been a very strong suitor for Sabathia location-wise, given that CC is a California native.

Overall though, despite the fact that he was born in California, Sabathia admitted that his family has now made New York their home.  Sabathia moved his family to New Jersey and is an active member of the local community.  So much like the end of every fairy tale, CC of course, will live happily ever after.  Then again, making $122 million over the next five years, with the potential for $147 million ver six years, certainly helps!

 

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

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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

David Ortiz to the Jays or Yankees? Try the Rays or Angels

Monday October 17, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the World Series all set to commence on Wednesday (Cardinals and Rangers)- our attention is slowly shifting to the upcoming free agency period.  A big name (literally) of discussion has been David Ortiz, or better known in baseball circles as “Big Papi”.  The rumor mill is running wild as to where Ortiz will play in 2012.  Let’s shed some light on the subject and clear up the confusion.

The soon to be 36-year old Ortiz is coming off one of his finest seasons in recent memory.  Papi finished with a steady all-around season:  29 home runs, 96 RBIs, 84 runs, 78/83 BB/K, .309 AVG and .953 OPS.  Ortiz was named to his 7th all-star team and finishing up a 5-year, $64.5 million contract.  For a player that appeared to be in decline back in 2009, Ortiz has shown the last two seasons that he has some juice left in the tank.  But with the Red Sox in shambles, given the departure of long-time manager Terry Francona and soon to be ex-GM Theo Epstein, Ortiz himself has said that Boston has become too much of a soap opera.  The question on every baseball fan’s mind:  will he stay or will he go?

 The Ortiz decision to stay in Boston will largely depend on several factors.  Firstly, it is unclear whether the team wishes to retain him or go in a different direction.  As an aging team with hitters that could use the rest from playing in the field every day, the Red Sox may not longer wish to commit the DH spot to one exclusive batter.  Taking that into account with Papi’s streaks and slumps that past few years and recent comments, may be enough for the Red Sox upper management to wish to move on.  But if the team does wish to retain him, or give in to fan pressure to keep Ortiz (which is likely to come given his immense popularity), will Papi himself want to remain in Boston?  Only the man could answer that question.  To know the answer, one would have to get into the player’s head.  Does Otiz get along with his teammates or are there divided fractions?  How much did the 2011 collapse take a toll on his morale?  When will a new GM come into place and will he be able to have a good relationship with Ortiz?  Same issue for a new manager…and you get the idea.  There are many variables that put into question whether Ortiz could or would stay in Boston.

In my estimation, Ortiz is on his final contract.  He will likely obtain a 2-year contract, with an option for a third.  Based on his rich history and legacy in Boston, I think that when push comes to shove- the player will stay.  Boston needs Papi; and Papi needs Boston.  It would not feel right to see Ortiz in another uniform (check out highlights from his days in Minnesota and you will see what I mean).  Major League Baseball also would love to see Ortiz remain in Boston for marketing purposes.  With so many vested interests in getting this deal done, I believe it will happen.  But what if it does not?  What if Papi jumps ship? I see his options as far and few between.

The first option that jumped out was the Yankees.  It will not happen.  While the Yankees would love to stick it to Boston, they will not likely want another aging DH on their hands after the Jorge Posada fiasco this past season.  The Yankees also have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and company that need days off the field, A-Rod especially given his failing health.  With A-Rod becoming a part-time DH as soon as next year, the Yankees cannot afford to take on Papi at this stage.  Plus the team has up-and-coming superstar Jesus Montero that needs playing time and has nothing more to prove in AAA.  So the Yankees rate as a no.

 The next options for Ortiz?  It will only be American League teams as he is only a DH at this stage of his career.  The only realistic teams that have the open position and fit are Toronto, Tampa Bay and Anaheim.  The Jays are being thrown around many circles as a possible destination.  It makes sense for several reasons.  Ortiz knows the ballpark well from his AL East days.  He gets along well with Jose Bautista and would serve as a great mentor for the Jays young hitters.  Toronto was missing production last season from the DH spot and would welcome Papi’s bat.  But despite these factors, I don’t see this signing happening.  Ortiz will want to play on a contender and fight for another ring.  His career is winding down and so are his chances.  While Toronto has a strong young nucleus, they are at least 2-3 years aways.  As much as this would be a feel-good signing, I would rate is as another no.

Thus the battle for the services of David Ortiz will boil down to the Tampa Bay Rays and Anaheim Angels.  Two strong playoff contending teams that desperately need his bat.  Tampa Bay should be the favorite, given the familiarity of the AL East and the strong need of the team.  The Rays have the lineup spot for Ortiz and should make a big push for him.  The Angels have the same need, but not the best fit for position.  The team has a logjam in the outfield with Mike Trout likely to be with the big club next year and Kendrys Morales returning to the team from injury.  But when there is a will, there is a way.  Like many other squads, the Angels would need to do some creative shuffling to make room for Ortiz.  Vernon Wells may need to be moved for a bad pitcher’s contract in return (Carlos Zambrano anyone?)  Kendrys Morales may not be recovered or Trout may not be ready.  The Angels went through a desperate need all year in 2011 for runs and will not want to face the same issue come 2012.  Papi could be the perfect short-term solution for the Halos.

The four-horse race to sign David Ortiz will come down to the Red Sox, Jays, Rays and Angels.  The Rays are my dark horse favorite and best overall fit.  The Jays would love to take him on, it will just depend on the confidence Papi has in the team’s ability to compete.  Boston will hang in right till the end and the Angels will need to be aggressive to get him.  If we are playing the odds, I would rate Boston as a 70% favorite, followed by Tampa Bay at 20% and the Jays/Angels at 5% each.  Once the World Series ends, let the David Ortiz sweepstakes begin!

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

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

 

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Adam Dunn and Alex Rios: The Future of the ChiSox Sluggers

Monday October 10, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  There were perhaps no two bigger fantasy busts than Alexis Rios and Adam Dunn during the 2011 season. Although nobody was “screwed over” more than White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, many fantasy owners surely had a hard time overcoming the incompetency of these two players.

Although Dunn’s performance was unexpected by many, we have seen this from Alex Rios before.  Rios reemerged on the scene in 2010 as one of the rare five category players: .284 avg, 21 HR, 89 RBI, and 34 SB. However, Rios really tailed off at the end of his 2010 season and looked a lot more like the player that the Toronto Blue Jays flat-out released a year prior.  His 2011 numbers look eerie similar to 2009:

2009: .247, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 24 SB

2011: .227, 13 HR, 64 RBI, 11 SB

Oddly, 2008 and 2010 were different stories for Rios, as he amassed a total of 9.3 WAR in those two seasons. There is no doubt that Rios suffered from bad luck in 2011. He .237 BAPIP is 70 points below his career average. However, the fact remains that Rios is now on the wrong side of thirty. It is doubtful any team would make the same mistake Williams already has and taken on his salary, so chances are Rios will still be in Chicago. With his large contract and a new manager in town, I think it is safe to assume it will be his position to lose in 2012.

Rios’ inconsistencies throughout his career make him a difficult player to evaluate, but you have to think he will bounce back and be a good buy-low candidate. Whatever you do just do not overpay. His peripheral numbers indicate that his power is still there and that his batting average should improve perhaps to his career .270 range. We also cannot ignore his strong finish, batting .307, 5 HR and 12 RBI in his last 75 at-bats. It has been said that he “over thinks” and struggles with the mental side of the game, but his physical skills are undeniable. 

The signs indicate that Rios will bounce back in 2012 for a rebuilding White Sox team. Therefore, target him as a backup or final outfield option for a cheap price. Pay for the player he was in 2011 and hope to get the 2008/2010 Rios in return. With his track record it is simply not safe to pay for him as a .280/20 HR/80 RBI/20 SB guy that he could very well be.

I think you have to take the same approach with the other White Sox enigma, Adam Dunn. Dunn was the model of consistent for the last 10 years, and he appeared to be in a great position to succeed in Chicago in 2011. However, his strikeout rate increased to a stagger 35.7 percent, and when he did manage to put the ball in play, his .240 BABIP left him with a .159 season average. Historically bad.

Dunn is also aging and was noticeably out of shape last year. Watching him play every day, he simply seemed over matched and had trouble recovering form an early season appendectomy. Dunn has to realize what is at stake here (his career) and hopefully he picked up something from Paul Konerko’s professionalism and approach to the game.

The fact remains that with his contract, Dunn will get the chance to turn things around in 2012. If he has a repeat performance, then the White Sox might be forced to just cut ties and move on. Therefore, 2012 is truly do-or-die for Mr. Dunn. Thus, I expect him to put in the time in the off-season and bounce back next year. It is not to say that Dunn will put up the same numbers as he has in the past, but the home run total could still exceed thirty. U.S. Cellular Field is a notorious hitters park, and Dunn still has the ability to take advantage of its favorable dimensions.

The good news, fantasy owners and White Sox fans, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn cannot be any worse in 2012! The fact is they will both be giving an opportunity to bounce back in 2012 and try to prove the worth of their 14 million dollar per year contracts. Although, they will never come close to doing this, they can provide value for you next year. These are the types of guys that I love to target for cheap on my fantasy teams. Rios has bounced back before, and although his inconsistencies are mind bogglingly frustrating; it is not crazy to expect him to do so again. Bad luck, reflected by BAPIP, played a factor for both of these players. And with Dunn, if he does put in the offseason commitment, his track record is too long and strong to ignore. Therefore, expect both guys to bounce back.  Just don’t put your self in the position where you are counting on it.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  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 Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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.

How to Value and Manage Catchers on Your MLB Fantasy Team

Monday October 3, 2011

 

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  The catching position is one that is often the most mismanaged by fantasy owners.  A very thin position, it is difficult to find value from catchers in the deeper leagues.  Furthermore, you take a big risk dedicating a high pick or significant auction money at a very injury prone position, as 2011 owners Joe Mauer and Buster Posey owners know all too well.  Even a healthy catcher will sit for a significant amount of games each year due to the wear and tear of the position.

For these reasons, I generally advise to not overpay for a player at this position.  But with that said, for the right price, the top batch of catchers can provide you significant value.  However, too many times before we have seen significant year yo year decline from players at this position.  You simply should not rely on production at this position.  Spend your bucks elsewhere.  Based on matchups and playing time, it is possible to scrap together value for next to nothing.

For example, Chris Iannetta and his .238 average, 51 runs, 14 HR, and 55 RBI, disappointed many fantasy owners in 2011.  But a closer look at the numbers shows the true value he provides.  We all know the effect that Coors Field has on hitters, but for Iannetta it is staggering.  His 2011 home numbers look like this: .301 batting average, 10 HR, 39 RBI and 3 SB.

If you were to only start Iannetta at home in 2011, you would great numbers all across the board for half of the season.  You are essentially getting 50% of Brian McCann for way less than 50% of the price.  The discrepancy in his splits is dramatic that it makes him so easy to use as an owner.  Only start him at home and never think about starting him on the road!

Now, for the days that Iannetta is on the road, there are plenty of options in the bottom half of the rankings that would be available on the waiver wire.  Let’s pick someone like Miguel Olivo.  His 19 HR and 62 RBI provide great production from the thin catching position, but his .224 average leaves a lot to be desired.  However, an owner is much better equipped to muster this average if the number of at bats are cut in half.  If you combine this morph of Olivo and Iannetta, you are looking at these types of numbers:

.260-.270, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 6 SB.

These numbers are essentially right on par with Brian McCann’s 2011 line (.270, 24HR, 71RBI, 3SB).  McCann is a consensus top five catcher, while Iannetta and Olivo are viewed outside of the top-15.  You are essentially creating McCann for a lot cheaper and inherent risk that comes with investing money in the catching position.  Furthermore, there are more options out there if you think Olivo’s average is too much of a killer.  It all depends on your team’s needs and what categories you are chasing.  If you are more concerned about average, guys like Nick Hundley and Jonathan Lucroy might be more attractive options.  Looking for power and RBI production?  Names such as J.P. Arencibia, Russell Martin, Geovany Soto, Kurt Suzuki (there are even more) are all useful under the right circumstances.

For example, look at Geovany Soto’s numbers against left-handed pitching in 2011: .296 average, 7 HR and 15 RBI in just 98 at-bats. This is in stark contrast to his .207 average and 10 home runs in 323 at-bats against right-handed pitching.

The point is that it’s easy to piece together production at this position. There are several players who contribute in the HR and RBI categories and you can get the most out of them by maximizing their strengths based on matchups and ballparks.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  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 Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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.

Ian Kadish MLB Guest Blog: Part 2 – Offseason and Expectations for 2012

Monday October 3, 2011

MLB reports:  We welcome back Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish to MLB reports.  The right-handed pitcher pitched for the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Rookie Appalachian League in 2011.  With a 2-3 record, 7 saves, 2.67 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, and 11/35 BB/K, the 23-year-old Kadish showed some very strong numbers pitching in the pen in his first professional season.  With a bright baseball future ahead, we are proud to announce that Ian has agreed to become a regular MLB Guest Blogger on the Reports, describing his baseball journey for our readers.  In his own words, we present part 2 of 2 of our featured guest blog of Ian Kadish, the offseason and his expections for the 2012 season:

  

Ian Kadish (Guest MLB Blogger):  So MLB Reports asked me to do another blog entry because there was good feedback on the first one.  This will be a 2-part entry, the first part looking back at my 2011 season and how it went and the second part will be about what my offseason will consist of and my expectations for 2012.

Part 2 – Offseason and Expectations for 2012


This offseason, I am back in Huntington, West Virginia.  Marshall is located in Huntington and there are a few different reasons why I chose to come back even though I graduated last May.  The biggest reason I chose to come back is due to the fact that I would have a great gym to train at for free.  The Strength and Conditioning Coach that I had in college told me I could train there in the offseason for free if I wanted to.  The pitching coach at Marshall also told me that I could come throw with him whenever I wanted/needed to.  He offered to have somebody catch my bullpens when the time came and he also said I could face some hitters before I left for Spring Training, which will be a great help.  That makes it so much easier for me rather than being at home because I would have to find a gym in Cincinnati and pay a monthly fee and more than likely the gym wouldn’t have everything I needed.  I also would be scrambling to find somebody/somewhere to throw when the time came.

After a long college season, followed by another professional short-season, I gave my body a week off to recuperate from all the wear and tear of the baseball season.  This offseason, my plan is to hit the weight room hard in order to become bigger, faster, and stronger in a baseball pitching aspect.  The Blue Jays gave everybody in the organization a big booklet with specific workouts in them.   I have specific goals that I am wishing to achieve in the offseason.  I also want to improve on my flaws not only in the weight room, but on the field as well.  I am going to take time off from throwing to give my arm a rest, but not too long of a rest because I can’t use spring training as a time for my arm to get in shape.  I need to go to spring training 100% ready to go…

Aside from training in the offseason,  I got a job working at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  It’s just like a Sports Authority or any other sporting good store like that.  I wanted to get a job because I do not want to rely on my parents for everything.  Many minor league players have to get a job in the offseason because not everybody signs a large signing bonus so it is not uncommon to get an offseason job.  I am actually looking forward to it because it will keep me busy when I am not training.

My expectations are just like any other minor league player’s expectations.  We all have goals we want to achieve and we all have dreams we want to come true.  I’m no different.  I am very hard on myself and push my body to great lengths, almost to failure because I know it will pay off during the season.  The work I put in off the field will prepare me for every situation on field.  There are specific expectations/goals that I have.  Of course, one of them is to hopefully receive a promotion, but before I can do that I have to better myself.  I’m going to work extremely hard this offseason, harder than I have ever worked because that’s all I know.  I have worked extremely hard to get to this point and I am still not satisfied… I’m going to get after it and hopefully the hard work will pay off…  

   

 

Thank you to Ian Kadish for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Ian on Twitter (@BearJew36)  or through his website (http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com) for comments and questions.   We also thank Ian for sharing the photographs used in today’s feature from his own private collection. 

 

Previous Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog Entries on MLB reports:

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  Part 1 – Recap of My 2011 Season   September 30, 2011

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  My Baseball Journey  September 11, 2011

 

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.

Ian Kadish MLB Guest Blog: Part 1 – Recap of My 2011 Season

Friday September 30, 2011

MLB reports:  We welcome back Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish to MLB reports.  The right-handed pitcher pitched for the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Rookie Appalachian League in 2011.  With a 2-3 record, 7 saves, 2.67 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, and 11/35 BB/K, the 23-year-old Kadish showed some very strong numbers pitching in the pen in his first professional season.  With a bright baseball future ahead, we are proud to announce that Ian has agreed to become a regular MLB Guest Blogger on the Reports, describing his baseball journey for our readers.  In his own words, we present part 1 of 2 of our featured guest blog of Ian Kadish, the recap of his 2011 season:

  

Ian Kadish (Guest MLB Blogger):  So MLB Reports asked me to do another blog entry because there was good feedback on the first one.  This will be a 2-part entry, the first part looking back at my 2011 season and how it went and the second part will be about what my offseason will consist of and my expectations for 2012.

Part 1 – A Look Back at the 2011 Season

In my opinion, the 2011 season had its ups and downs as well a learning curve, both personally and as a team.  The Bluefield team made a great first impression and was a big hit (no pun intended).  It was the Blue Jays first year in Bluefield after a 52 year existence of the Baltimore Oriole organization.  We surely set the bar high for next year’s team.  From what everybody said, the Oriole’s didn’t win much in Bluefield and the fans didn’t show much support because they weren’t winning.  We brought a Division Championship to Bluefield in our first year, which the fans were ecstatic about, but what surprised the team was how into the Bluefield/Princeton rivalry the fans were.  I’m telling you, these fans went nuts when we played the Princeton Rays.  They sold out the stadium every game of the series because of the close proximity of the two teams (only about 15 minutes).  The rivalry was for the Mercer Cup.  It’s called the Mercer Cup because the two teams are located in Mercer County.  The Blue Jays won the Mercer Cup this year and I honestly think the fans were happier we won the Mercer Cup rather than the Division Championship!  Princeton had won the Mercer Cup the past several years and it’s about time it’s back in Bluefield.  We made it all the way to the League Championship vs. the Johnson City Cardinals, but came up just short.  They won the best of 3 series to capture their second league championship in a row.

The team was a great group of guys.  Everybody got along and a big reason why we were so successful was due to our chemistry.  Everybody pushed one another and everybody picked each other up.  We played as a team, just how our manager wanted us to play.  He always said to put aside your personal goals and go after the team goals and your personal goals will follow.  Our coaching staff was just as great.  I can’t even begin to explain how much I learned from my manager.  He taught me not only on the field, but off the field.  I actually have a notebook full of quotes he said and lessons he would teach the team throughout the season.  Now that I think of it, I still owe him a Marshall University clock and Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce (Montgomery Inn is a world-famous rib place in Cincinnati with the BEST barbecue sauce in the history of all barbecue sauces).  He loves collecting clocks and has a great amount of them hanging in the locker room.  I owe him a Marshall University one because I came into the locker room one day and saw a WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY clock hanging from a wall.  Marshall and West Virginia are HUGE rivals and it’s either one or the other…he told me if I got him a Marshall clock he would get rid of the West Virginia clock.

I could go on and on with the stories, but overall the season was a successful one, and one that made me want more…Now that it’s the offseason, I can concentrate on what I need to improve on and prepare for a strong Spring Training and 2012 season…

Up Next:  Part 2 – Offseason and Expectations for 2012

 

   

 

Thank you to Ian Kadish for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Ian on Twitter (@BearJew36)  or through his website (http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com) for comments and questions.   We also thank Ian for sharing the photographs used in today’s feature from his own private collection. 

 

Previous Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog Entries on MLB reports:

Ian Kadish Guest MLB Blog:  My Baseball Journey  September 11, 2011

 

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

Interview with Deck McGuire: Toronto Blue Jays Prospect and 2010 1st Round Pick

Wednesday  September 28, 2011

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  Recently I had the honor to interview Deck McGuire, top MLB pitching prospect.   Speaking to McGuire, I had the sense that he has the same goal as many other baseball players:  working to prove that he the real deal.  McGuire is a great guy and it was a pleasure interviewing him. 

Firstly, I would like to relay some information on Deck, courtesy of Wikipedia:

William Deck McGuire (born June 23, 1989 in Greensboro, North Carolina) is a professional baseball pitcher currently in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.  McGuire who spent three years at Georgia Tech was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft and is currently assigned to the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.”

Considering that he was a first round selection, Deck is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in baseball.   Plus he has one of the best baseball names in the game.  Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Deck McGuire:

 

Jeff P:  Hey, Deck.  First of all, I want to thank you for being with us today, it really is an honor to have you with us.  I’m sure you have a busy schedule so, let’s get this started.  First off, what was your reactions to being drafted, your thoughts, and the party post-phone call?

Deck McGuire:   I actually didn’t get the true draft experience.  We were playing against Alabama in the Regional Championship game, so I was actually in the dugout while we were playing to go to the Super Regionals.  I found out in about the 5th inning but I was way more concerned with the game at that moment.  Definitely the most bittersweet moment of my life because we lost, ending our season, and my time with the Jackets.

 

Jeff P:  You recently had minor struggles going into Double-A, was it a difficult adjustment?

Deck McGuire:  I don’t think it was really the adjustment but more that I never let myself get into a rhythm.  I got away from some of the stuff that got me there and then I got a little banged up.  I take it as a great experience and a chance to get better heading into next year.

 

Jeff P:  Can you give us some information on your daily rituals?  What do you do in the clubhouse, and what are your hobbies off the field?

Deck McGuire:  I seem to get there pretty early and I love to play cards, I have a slight competitive streak!  I love video games and golf off the field, probably the competitiveness again!

 

Jeff P:  How does your height of 6’6″ affect your play on the baseball field?

Deck McGuire:  Besides being really intimidating!?  Just kidding!  It really helps when I’m on top of the mound because I can get the ball going down hill, so it is tougher for the hitter to pick up.

 

Jeff P:  What do you find is the most special about playing for the different Blue Jays affiliates?

Deck McGuire:  The diversity of locations!  I got to play in Florida in the cold months and New Hampshire during most of the hot ones!

 

Jeff P:  What kind of music can you find on your iPod?

Deck McGuire:  Lots of country, a little rock, and even less rap.

 

Jeff P:  Who was the most difficult hitter you have faced so far in professional, or college baseball?

Deck McGuire:  Gordon Beckham.  I faced him when he was at UGA and I was at Georgia Tech.  His approach is unbelievable.  In pro-ball it was Matt den Dekker from the Mets, same reason really, his approach changes pitch to pitch so he is really difficult to fool.

 

Jeff P:  What baseball player would you most like to be compared to once you get to the big leagues?

Deck McGuire: I’d love to be compared to John Smoltz.  He was one of my heroes growing up because he is really the player who can define a winner and a team guy wrapped into one.  Starting or closing, he always got it done and did what his team needed to win.

 

Jeff P:  As a minor leaguer, you already have several different pitches that you throw.  Do you feel that your pitching arsenal will help you in your path to the big leagues?

Deck McGuire:  Without a doubt!  Something I have always prided myself on is my ability to throw a fastball, curveball, slider, and a change-up for strikes to any hitter and in any count.

 

Jeff P:  I read recently that you have been compared to Jonathan Papelbon.  Do you agree with this comparison?

Deck McGuire:  Well the guy is a winner so that’s good, other than that I don’t think I see it.  I mean he is a closer and throws fuel.  I am a starter and rely more on my array of pitches to get the job done.

 

Jeff P:  Do you think it’s fair to say that sometime next year, we will see you up in the MLB?

Deck McGuire:  That would be awesome, but my goal is just to keep getting better.  Whenever the Jays think I’m ready to help the big club win, then I am happy to give it my best shot.

 

Jeff P:  You are proud to be a former Yellow Jacket.  What were the big adjustments that you’ve gone through from college baseball to adjusting to professional baseball?

Deck McGuire:  The 5-day rotation vs. having a week off in college.

 

Jeff P:  I’m going to end off with this last thought.  If you weren’t a baseball player, where do you think you would be right now in your life?

Deck McGuire: Gosh I’d like to think I would be in baseball somehow, but I might have played football at a smaller school or maybe gone to med school to try to be an orthopedic surgeon.  I really don’t know.  I know it is cliché, but being a pro baseball player has pretty much been my dream my whole life!

 

Jeff P:  Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule for us today Deck.  Much appreciated!

Deck McGuire:  Thanks y’all!

 

Thank you again to Deck McGuire 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 Deck.  As well, please follow Deck on Twitter (@DeckMcGuire).

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  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 Jeff 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.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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.

Drew Taylor Interview: The Story of an Intercounty League Pitcher

Wednesday  September 21, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Drew Taylor, former Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays prospect pitcher, currently playing in the Intercounty Baseball League.  Based in Ontario, Canada, the Intercounty League has produced several major league players including Rob Butler, Rich Butler and current Brewers closer, John Axford.  Drew’s baseball blood lines run deep, as his father Ron Taylor is former MLB pitcher himself.  Part of the 1969 Miracle Mets during his playing career, Dr. Taylor is a long time team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays.    From getting signed by the Jays, having a World Series champion pitcher as a father, recovering from injuries and life in the Intercounty League and working towards becoming a doctor, we covered many topics with Drew.  For a great baseball tale from a different part of the game, we present our recent interview with Drew Taylor:

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Drew.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule for this interview.  First question we always like to ask: who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Drew Taylor:  I always loved to watch David Wells pitch when I was younger. As a lefty I learned a lot about setting up hitters and how to use a curveball effectively against left- and right-handed batters. I also loved his approach. He went right after hitters no matter who they were and rarely fell behind in the count. A true lefty – he was a character on and off the mound. I had the chance to get to know him a little when he was playing in Toronto. When I was in high school, I threw a bullpen in Spring Training for the Jays. I didn’t know I would be throwing that day so I only had my first baseman mitt with me. He gave me a glove to use and watched me throw giving me some pointers after the pen, very generous; he is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. I also learned a great deal from watching him that day in the way he treated people and engaged with fans asking for his autograph. Down to earth.

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

Drew Taylor:  I would have to say Travis Snider. I played with Travis our first year in the Blue Jays minor leagues and actually lived with him for the first part of the season. He came into the Jays straight out of high school and was thrust into a system that was known for drafting mostly college athletes. Here he was living with Jeff Gilmore, who graduated early from Stanford and had already begun a Masters in History and myself, already with Undergraduate and Masters degrees from the University of Michigan. But in truth, Travis was probably the most mature of the group of us. As I got to know Snider I found out why. He had faced a great deal for a kid of his age. There have been a number of articles written him since he broke into a big leagues focusing on what he and his family went through while he was in high school.  If you haven’t read them, I suggest you look them up.  I won’t go into all the details here, but in short when his mother was dealing with serious health issues, he was placed in a difficult situation at a very young age. As the only son, he stepped up to be a rock for his family. There are a lot of talented athletes that get drafted and Snider is definitely one of them.  Sometimes though it is experiences like these that separate the men from the boys and dictate who will have the resolve and discipline to make the jump to the big leagues.

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

Drew Taylor: I transferred for my sophomore year to the University of Michigan from Georgia Tech in 2003. I came into a program that had a great history but had struggled in the past few seasons, finishing only 21-32 the previous year. Rich Maloney had moved from Ball State to the Michigan to take the helm as head coach. He called each player in one by one before the season, sat us down and laid out what he expected of us. It was the first time a coach had talked to me that way. He demanded excellence and explained how each one of us as individuals could contribute to the team’s success. I owe a great deal to Rich and would not have had the success I had that year without his ability to inspire his athletes and instill confidence in them. He turned that program around and we ended up 30-27 that year, climbing to 43-21 and winning the Big Ten by the time I graduated. “Those who stay will be champions.” I personally ended up 9-1 in 2003, making the All-Big Ten and All-Region Teams and was given the Geoff Zahn award for Michigan’s top pitcher. After pitching only 9.1 innings the previous year, this was a big turnaround for me. Rich knows how to get the most out of his players and I hope he remains a college coach so I can send my kids his way one day.

MLB reports:  You were signed in 2006 by the Toronto Blue Jays after the draft. Were you scouted by certain teams before the draft and were you expecting to be drafted?

Drew Taylor:  The most amount of attention I received was probably in 2001. My velocity shot up during my final year of high school and while pitching for the Ontario Blue Jays the summer before starting university. I had a number of clubs call and make offers, including the Rockies, Blue Jays, and Braves, to see if I would forgo school to sign professionally. But I was dead set on getting my education. While at Michigan, I had a great sophomore year going 9-1 and followed it up with a good showing in the Cape League which drew some attention again. Then during my draft eligible Junior year I ended up injuring my shoulder in my first start of the year. I tried to come back and pitch a couple of times, but ended up having to shut it down for the season. That effectively ended any chance I had of getting picked up in the draft, so I focused on my rehab, knowing that I would be back at Michigan the next year and would have to prove I could compete all over again. In 2006, the Blue Jays called right after my final game and signed me to a free-agent contract. I reported to camp two days later.

MLB reports:   Being signed by your hometown Jays must have been very special.  What were your feelings after the draft and what was the process like up until the time you were signed?

Drew Taylor:  Being signed by your hometown team is always special, but there were so many things on the go I didn’t get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy the feeling. When I got the call I was in Michigan right after we got back from the NCAA Regionals in Atlanta. It was a little bit of a whirlwind because I had just got back to my apartment when I was told I was leaving again in two days. In those two days, I quickly packed up my apartment and hit the road for Toronto. Kevin Briand and Sean McCann were the scouts that signed me and I went down to the then named SkyDome to meet them and sign my contract. With the papers in, Kevin walked me down onto the field and it finally sunk in.

MLB reports;  As a 6′ 5″ left-handed pitcher and being the son of an ex-major league hurler, what were the expectations you set for yourself once you joined the Jays system?  Did you envision yourself in the major leagues one day and what was your plan to get there?

Drew Taylor:  Everyone who signs a contract, or for that matter who has played baseball at any level has thought about what it would be like to play in the majors. For me, I had a father who had done it for 11 years, and because of that I had the opportunity to be exposed to the game at a high level from an early age. I fully expected to make the majors and as soon as I signed professionally, I set out to realize that goal. Competition increases as you move up in the system and ultimately I never reached my goal of reaching the majors. There are a lot of talented players in professional baseball, many of the guys in the minors have the talent and ability to play in the majors, but lack consistency. At the major league level you have to be able to make adjustments within the same game or within the same at-bat. Realizing how to make these adjustments takes time and experience, which is one of the reasons athletes in baseball require time to mature and develop above other sports. The mental side of baseball is much more important than the physical… as Yogi Berra said “Ninety percent of baseball is mental, the other half is physical.”

MLB reports:  For all the fans that have never experienced minor league baseball before, give us an idea as to what life is like in the minor leagues as compared to what people see in major league stadiums.  The level of competition, amenities and support from the major league team for its minor league system- what is it like?

Drew Taylor:  Night and day. Have you ever watched Bull Durham? Its bang on. The minors consist of a lot of long bus trips, fast food, and tiny locker rooms. The other big difference that people do not realize is how little money players are paid in the minors. Bonus Babies get a big cheque at the beginning, but the weekly salary is barely enough to live on. I would love to see the Major League Baseball Players Union fight for better pay in the minors, but once you make it to the majors I assume those guys try not to even think about the minors again. I don’t see it happening. Another problem is that players in the US and Canada are entered into the draft, while international players are all free agent signs. This means that home-grown talent can only negotiate with the team that drafted them, while international players have the ability to shop around different teams and drive up their signing bonuses. We need to move to a world-wide draft. One thing I will say is that players who make it to the big leagues know what it is like in the minors because they came up through it. Many guys are very good to the guys at lower levels. Especially if they are back down in the minors for rehab starts. One guy that sticks out in my mind that always looked after the guys at the lower levels was Brandon League. He was down for rehab for a while in Dunedin one year and went out of his way for us.

MLB reports:  Injuries unfortunately played a huge part in your career, as it affects many young hurlers.  Please tell us what happened to you health wise and your path through injuries, surgeries and how health affected your career.

Drew Taylor:  I only threw twice in my junior year at Michigan before it was painfully evident that something was not right. I ended up having a small tear in my rotator cuff and a strained bicep. I rehabbed and came back strong enough to get picked up by the Jays. My velocity had never returned fully after my arm injury in University, so I had to find other ways of getting hitters out than just blowing it by them. Additionally, I moved primarily to the bullpen after being a starter my whole life. My mental approach to baseball improved greatly, learning how to set up hitters and get them out not just by beating them with a pitch, but beating them with a pitch they didn’t expect. Instead of facing the same hitters many times in one game as a starter, I was now coming in relief and mostly only had to face batters once. I had to develop the ability to strike out a batter when I came on with runners on base and I focused on improving out pitches. My first year was in Pulaski Virginia in the Appalachian league facing a lot of young free-swingers. I used this to my advantage and ended up striking out 37 in 27 innings. As you move up through the system, hitters have a much better approach and wait for you to throw a pitch they are looking for or for you to make a mistake. You have to improve with them, or you will get left behind.

MLB reports:  For those fans that aren’t aware, your father is Dr. Ron Taylor. A team doctor for the Jays, your dad was a star pitcher in the big leagues and played on World Championship teams.  What influence did your dad have on your career?  What was your relationship like growing up?

Drew Taylor:  My dad was a huge influence on me. He never pushed me into baseball, or medicine for that matter, they were both my choices.  Once I made the decisions to pursue being a professional pitcher and then a doctor, his support and guidance was bar none. He had a great career in the majors for 11 seasons, winning two World Series with the Cardinals in 1964 and the Amazin’ Mets in 1969. I had a big leaguer at my disposal and he taught me things about playing at a level that very few have made it to. Even when we would sit down and watch a game on TV, we would be talking about setting up hitters and he would always ask me what pitch I would throw next.  The biggest thing he taught me is how to deal with pressure and maintain focus and confidence – something I can take with me in all aspects of life. In 6 appearances in Major League post season games he threw over 10 innings without giving up a run. In 1964 he threw 4 innings in the World Series without giving up a hit, allowing only one base runner on a walk to none other than Mickey Mantle. There definitely were some expectations, and it was very tough to deal with when I had my arm injury and my future in baseball was in question. When I was released by the Phillies in 2008, I came home and he said something that will always stick with me. He told me if he “could only choose one career between baseball and medicine, it would have been medicine.” He has been able to help countless more people as a physician than as a pitcher. If I had kept playing baseball, my window to return to school might have closed. My brother Matthew, has also been a great guy to have around. What he lacked in talent he made up for in knowledge. I still talk shop with him when we watch games and he often comes out to watch me throw, giving me some pointers after the game, whether I want to hear them or not. He works in film, but I always thought he would be great in the front office or as a GM. He knows baseball, better than me.

MLB reports:  To go along with the Jays connection, you mentioned to me that you know Pat Gillick well.  Please tell us your relationship with Pat and the Phillies organization.

Drew Taylor:  After my second season with the Blue Jays, they let me go and I immediately got a call from the Phillies asking me to attend spring training in Clearwater next year. Pat is one of the greatest minds in baseball and has been a mastermind behind winning teams and franchises since he started as a General Manager. He is always at ground level watching his players from rookie ball up to the majors and has a huge presence at camp. When he was with the Blue Jays, he became great friends with our family and recently invited us down to watch the induction ceremony at Cooperstown. It was my first time there and a tremendous experience to see the rich history the sport has and its influence and presence in North America and around the world. Bobby Cox, who was also formerly with the Blue Jays was down at the induction as well and they told me the story of how I ended up being named Drew. My parents were deciding between Forrest or Andrew and Bobby suggested they just call me Drew. I am glad he did. Forrest Gump came out when I was 11… that would have been a rough year…

MLB reports: You currently play for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada.  Many famous players came through the IBL, most notably John Axford of the Brewers.  For fans that are not familiar with the league, please tell us more about playing baseball in the IBL and the Leafs’ organization.

Drew Taylor:  The Intercounty Baseball League started in 1919 and was founded as a minor baseball league feeding the majors. Now it remains as an independent league. It has a great deal of variety in players and level of experience. Many of the players have had professional experience in affiliated ball and are at the end stages of their career. The rest of the players are comprised of current or former university and college athletes trying to get signed to professional contracts or who want to maintain playing baseball at a high level of competition. Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Spoljaric, Jesse Orosco, John Axford, Pete Orr, Rob Ducey, Rich Butler and Rob Butler are some of the major leaguers that have played in the league either before their major league career or afterwards. I have actually had the chance to pitch head-to-head against Spoljaric on a few occasions and it is always exciting to face off against a former big leaguer. The league has a shorter schedule and we don’t play every day, so it allows guys to maintain full-time jobs while playing, which is rather unique. I have been playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past three years while being a full-time student at the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital.

MLB reports:   I have read that you have been involved with a number of charity groups surrounding baseball and sports, tell us about that?

Drew Taylor: I have been getting involved in some charities that are doing great work in Toronto and across Canada. I recently participated in Strike Out Cancer in support of Mount Sinai Hospital with an all-star list of actors and hall of famers including Kurt Russell, Roberto Alomar, David Justice, Gary Carter, Gary Sheffield,  Bret Saberhagen, Devon White, and others. This past year the event raised over 1.4 million for research and treatment of women’s cancers. We also participated alongside local athletes, actors, musicians, and personalities in the Bulletproof campaign which sells apparel in support of the Special Olympics. Another fun group of people, Jays Days, get together when the Jays are on the road to watch the game together at Opera Bobs. Proceeds from sales of ball-park hotdogs, popcorn, and refreshments go to Horizons for Youth, a 35 bed youth-shelter dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk youth in Toronto.

MLB reports:  Having attended Michigan and with your father a doctor, a little birdy told me that you were looking at a career in medicine yourself. True or False?

Drew Taylor:  True. I ended up passing on professional baseball out of high school to attend university as I wanted to become a doctor. After finishing my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Michigan, I was signed by the Blue Jays. At the same time I signed I had sent in my application to medical school. I was accepted and had to make a tough decision. I decided that I would have the chance to go to medical school after playing, but only had one opportunity to play professional baseball.  Thus I continued to play ball. I didn’t want to lose any momentum in medicine, so I applied to the University of Toronto and continued graduate school in the off-seasons. While with the Phillies and now playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Intercounty League, I have been completing my PhD. I will finish this year and will be applying to medical school again.

MLB reports:  How many more years to you see yourself playing baseball?  When your playing career is done, do you see yourself staying in the game and in what capacity?

Drew Taylor:  I will continue to play as long as I enjoy the game and my arm holds up. I broke my elbow this past year and it was a long season of rehab before I was back pitching again. I finished the year strong so it rejuvenated my desire to keep pitching. Once it is over for good I would like to stay involved with baseball and sports in general. My PhD is in Biomedical Engineering and ultimately I want to pursue a career in Orthopedic Surgery, possibly even specialize in upper extremity to compliment my experience dealing my own injuries. My dad is the team Physician for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I would love to follow in his footsteps and serve a professional team.

Thank you again to Drew Taylor 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 Drew.  As well, please follow Drew on Twitter (@DrewWTaylor).

**Some of the photographs in today’s feature are from the private collection of our guest, Drew Taylor. **

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.

There He ‘Gose’ Again: The Future of Base-Stealing Blue Jays’ Prospect, Anthony Gose

Tuesday September 20, 2011

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  A native of Paramount, California, outfielder Anthony Gose was the Philadelphia Phillies second round selection in the 2008 Draft. Although a top prospect with the Phillies organization, Gose found himself in Toronto by the end of the 2010 season after a three team deal also including the Houston Astros.

PRE-BLUE JAYS

Glancing at his numbers from 2009, Anthony Gose led all minor league players with 76 stolen bases while hitting .259 with 20 doubles, 13 triples, seven home runs and 27 RBI. His walk-to-strikeout ratio was a bit cumbersome, however, as he walked 45 times, but struck out 132 times. After the season, MLB prospect writer John Sickels rated Gose’s performance, stating the following: “[I] Love [his] speed, youth, and the athleticism. Don’t like the high strikeout rate for a guy without much power. Most advanced of the uber-tools players collected in this system in recent drafts.”

In 2010, at 19 years old, Gose appeared in 103 games with Clearwater and 27 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays (A+). The 6-1, 190 lb., left-handed hitter collected 20 doubles, 13 triples, and seven home runs with 27 RBI while adding 45 stolen bases. While 45 steals sounds impressive, it should be noted that he was thrown out 32 times that season. That’s only a 58% success rate.

BLUE JAYS

Joining the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011, his first full season with the Blue Jays organization, Gose worked to improve his greatest asset – speed. This year he successfully stole 70 bases, only getting caught 15 times, going 23-for-24 in his last 24 attempts and increasing his stealing percentage to 82%. He then started to learn about when to steal, having the majority of his failed attempts coming at third base.

What’s more, along with base stealing, Gose saw improvement in the batters box, as he increased his power totals for the third straight year hitting 16 home runs, 20 doubles and seven triples. Unfortunately, his average has remained around the .250 mark (.253), comparable to the rest of his career in the minor leagues.

Another improvement for Anthony Gose this season was his patience at the plate. While only taking 41 walks in 2010, Gose took 62 walks in 2011 in a similar number of at-bats. He also saw though an increase in his strikeouts this season, as he had 154. Nevertheless when Gose doesn’t strike out and he does put the ball in play, he is batting .339, nearly 80 points higher than his regular average.

Not only has he improved at the plate, but Gose has also seen a rise in his game in the field.  His fielding was phenomenal in 2011, committing only three errors, giving him a .992 fielding percentage. Discussing his play in the field, Sal Fasano, the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, stated: “Gose has enough arm to play right or left in the majors. He caught a ball on the warning track in the right-centre, near the 375 sign, and threw out a guy at third — in the air.” Looking at the numbers, Gose had 15 outfield assists in 2010 and 14 assists this season. That can all be attributed due to his phenomenal range, as thanks to his speed, Gose is able to cover ground smoothly and regularly, making continual exciting plays in the field.

IN THE FUTURE

In late July of this year, 24-year-old center fielder, Colby Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the St. Louis Cardinals in a blockbuster deal that also involved the Chicago White Sox. The trade left many wondering if Gose still had a future with the Jays. Fasano’s response: [Gose is] arrogant enough to think they will move players to make room for him.”  However, many baseball analysts were not as optimistic and still wondered where he would fit.

There is no doubt that the Blue Jays have a deep farm system. Most would agree that the team has key players that they would be willing to move if the price was right.  If nothing else, the Jays’ GM has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the trade market. With the addition of a strong and powerful first baseman, a dominating starting pitcher, and/or a ‘lights-out’ closer, the Blue Jays are likely to contend by 2013, the year that Gose will likely make the majors.

With Colby Rasmus at centre, Jose Bautista in right, and any one of Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Adam Loewen, and Rajai Davis to play left and/or be the fourth outfielder, it is anticipated that a trade will be coming during this off-season.

With the Blue Jays’ need for a first baseman, the Jays could consider a trade with the Cincinnati Reds who are in dire need of an outfielder. Could Yonder Alonso be the future first baseman for the team in blue and the speedy Gose the future Reds’ centerfielder? With the Astros also needing outfield depth, would it not be ironic if the Jays traded Gose for Brett Wallace? (While this is a very unlikely scenario, it would fill the needs for both teams). The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team in need of a solid outfielder. Thanks in part to a deep farm system, a trade with the Pirates could work. The Jays are also in need of a top starting pitcher and a closer, so any future trade could package off other prospects as well, including, but not limited to, Travis Snider and/or Eric Thames.

The future for Anthony Gose will surely become clear this off–season by recognizing what trades Alex Anthopoulos, deemed as the ‘Silent Assassin’, will make. Along with teammates Yan Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria, Gose is also heading to the Arizona Fall League to work even more on his skills. Until a trade is consumated, it is evident with Gose, that the Blue Jays have a solid prospect that has a rare combination of top-notch speed, excellent fielding ability and top tools at the plate.

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

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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.

Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan: Which Blue Jays Comeback is More Impressive?

Thursday September 15, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer- MLB reports):  Toronto Blue Jays fans have been asked a plethora of difficult questions this season, but none have been as tough as the following: Whose recent comeback is more impressive – Dustin McGowan’s or that of Adam Loewen?

When I was first tasked with writing this article, it was a question that I asked myself continually.  Every time I responded, my answer would change. Comparable to many fans I spoke to, September 5th was a day in Blue Jays history that I will never forget.  Dustin McGowan, after having three surgeries, and spending over three years away from the majors, got the call-up to return to the big leagues.  I was excited for him that day and can only imagine how he must have been feeling on his return.

The same excitement McGowan felt playing in the majors, must have been shared by Adam Loewen.  A former high draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Loewen was forced to change positions from pitcher to the outfield.  Loewen could have quit baseball all together; however he didn’t, as he changed positions, and chose to sign with the Blue Jays as an outfielder.  Although the Orioles tried to re-sign their once star pitching prospect, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays and begin his three-year journey back to the majors.  Canadian born, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays as the team he grew up cheering for.  As luck would have it, two days after Dustin McGowan’s return to the big leagues, Adam Loewen would be called up to the Blue Jays to make his triumphant return as well.

PRIOR TO INJURY

Prior to their injuries and subsequent recoveries, both players left the majors on a high.  Dustin McGowan made 19 starts in 2008, accumulating a record of 6-7 with 4.37 ERA. Comparatively, in 2006, reaching the major league level at the age of 22, Loewen also made 19 starts, recording a 6-6 record with a 5.37 ERA.  Injuries, however, soon took their toll.  Dustin McGowan would endure a torn rotator cuff, a torn labrum, and torn cartilage in his left knee.  Loewen, on the other hand, experienced a stress fracture to his pitching elbow.

MINOR LEAGUE JOURNEY

Dustin McGowan began his journey back to the majors July 2011, when he was back pitching in the minor leagues with the Dunedin Blue Jays.  In seven games, he recorded a 0-2 record with a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched, holding opponents to a 228 batting average.  After a great performance with Dunedin, he was next sent to double-A.  Through five starts with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, McGowan saw both an increase in workload and results, including a record of 0-2 and a 2.47 ERA in 19.2 innings.

Loewen started out in high-A Dunedin in 2009 and hit .236 with 4 HR and 31RBI with .695 OPS in 335 at-bats.  Last year, in AA New Hampshire he had a .246 average, but the power numbers improved, as the former Oriole belted 13 homers and drove in 70 runs, while posting an OPS of .763.  After the Fisher Cats were eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs, he also worked on his plate discipline and power in the Arizona Fall League. This year, Loewen has proven that all of his hard work as part of his journey has been worth it.  In the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, Loewen hit .308, with 17 home runs and picked up 84 RBIs.  Most impressive was his .888 OPS.

SINCE MLB CALL-UP

On September sixth, against the Boston Red Sox, McGowan threw four innings, surrendering three runs on five hits.  While he surrendered three walks, he also struck out five, the majority of them coming off his fastball, which was consistently hitting the mid 90s.  During his first start in the MLB since 2008, on September 11th against the Baltimore Orioles, McGowan’s plate consistency wavered.  He pitched three innings, allowing four earned runs, on three hits and five walks.  He is presently sporting a 9.00 ERA in two games played.

BC native Adam Loewen made his first appearance with the Blue Jays the day after McGowan, on September 7th.  In his first big league appearance as an outfielder Loewen went 1-3 with a run scored.  His best game came September 11th, (also a McGowan Start) versus Baltimore, where he went 2-3, with a home run, which he belted to centerfield.  However, many presume that Tuesday’s game against Boston, where Loewen went 0-4 with two strikeouts was his worst game thus far in a Blue Jays uniform.  Yet, I would like to point out, Loewen made a stupendous catch over the centerfield wall during that game to rob a home run away from the Red Sox, which in my eyes made up for the poor day at the plate.  The young Canadian is presently sporting a .300 average with three hits, two runs and a home run, with no walks and four strikeouts.

OVERALL

Both Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan have come a long way since their respective career threatening injuries during the middle part of the decade. Each player symbolizes the heart and hustle motto that the Toronto Blue Jays have been preaching this year, as neither ever thought of quitting the game despite adversity.  The determination Loewen and McGowan have each shown in wanting to come back to Major League Baseball has also been extremely impressive.  Despite the small sample of success each has shown this month, I would suggest that both could be integral parts to a Blue Jays playoff run in the non-too-distant future.  Thus, returning back to the central question of whose return was more impressive…  I would have to say – – both.

 

What’s your opinion on the returns of Loewen and McGowan?  You can comment below, reach us by email at MLBreports@gmail.com and you can add me on twitter at @Alleycat17.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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.

Ian Kadish MLB Guest Blog: My Baseball Journey

Sunday September 11, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We welcome today on the Reports, Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish.  The right-handed pitcher pitched for the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Rookie Appalachian League in 2011.  With a 2-3 record, 2.67 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 11/35 BB/K, the 23-year-old Kadish showed some very strong numbers pitching in the pen in his first professional season.  With a bright baseball future ahead, we invited Ian to prepare a MLB Guest Blog describing his baseball journey for our readers.  In his own words, we proudly present the story of Ian Kadish- pitching prospect, Toronto Blue Jays:

  

Ian Kadish (Guest MLB Blogger):  I was recently approached by MLB Reports to be featured on their website.  We got together to come up with an idea of what to do and we decided on a blog post about the path I took to get to professional baseball.  Most of you guys that are close to me probably know the story already, but here it is again for the ones who don’t…

I went to a small high school just North of Cincinnati, Wyoming High School.  My graduating class was only 160 kids and football is the big thing there (Football is the big high school sport in Ohio).  I actually thought I was going to play college football as a kicker.  I thought I had a better chance at football than I did at baseball even though my childhood dream was to be a big league pitcher.  I was not highly recruited for baseball and if it wasn’t for the summer program I played for, I would not have had the chance to play college baseball.  I played for Midland Baseball and that is where I met one of the most influential coaches of my life, Mike Maundrell.  Coach Maundrell taught me everything I know about pitching and taught me exactly what I needed to do to be successful.  Midland is the best summer baseball program in the country and attracts kids from all over the country.  There is a great number of major leaguers that have played for them and it was an unbelievable experience to be able to play for them.  I learned more about baseball in those three years than I did at any point up until then.  I committed to play baseball at Marshall University.

I spent four years at Marshall, earning my degree in Business Management with minors in marketing and entrepreneurship.  In those four years, I learned a tremendous amount about baseball and life.  I really think those four years prepared me for professional baseball because I lived on my own and learned how to deal with factors outside of baseball.  I never really had great success in college baseball and at one point, I was ready to transfer out.  My mom and dad are the only ones that know how many break downs I had because I was so frustrated.  I was working harder than everybody and I was still not getting the results I wanted.

After my sophomore year, I went back home to play summer baseball in the Great Lakes League for the Cincinnati Steam.  I went home because I needed to decide if I wanted to go back to Marshall or transfer somewhere else.  That summer was the deciding factor because I got to spend time with my family and play with some very close friends that I had played with growing up.  I went back to Marshall as a Junior and there was a new pitching coach.  Joe Renner was a coach at Midland so I kind of knew him even though he was a new coach.  I was very excited to work with him and after the summer I had, I was newly energized and ready to get back to work.  I continued to work hard and ended up earning the Friday night starter role.  This was a big jump for me because I had never started and the previous 2 years, I was pitching out of the bullpen.  I struggled in the starter role and had again, another frustrating season.

After my Junior year, I went to play with the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League.  Playing there was truly the best experience for me since playing for Midland.  All the guys on the team were great guys and we all became pretty close.  The guys on the team taught me how to have fun with baseball again and relax.  I was taking the game way too seriously and was not playing up to how I thought I should be playing because I was too uptight.  Going into my senior season, the coaches wanted to put me in the closer’s role and I couldn’t have been happier.  I embraced the role and told myself I was going to have more fun that year.  Senior year turned out to be much more fun than the previous three years because I was more laid back.  After my senior season, I went home to wait and see what would happen with the draft.

I won’t lie, I was hoping I was going to get drafted, but as day three approached, I was slowly beginning to think that I was not going to get a chance to play professional baseball and keep my dream alive.  My dad and I went golfing on day three of the draft just to try to get my mind off of things, but I was still thinking about it.  I was on my phone all day and when I learned that it was late in the draft and I still had not gotten picked yet, I began to talk with my dad about where I go from there.  I did not know if I wanted to go to grad school or try to get a job in the real world.  As soon as the draft was over, we were just finishing golfing and that’s when I got the call.  Nick Manno, the area scout for the Blue Jays, called me and explained the situation to me.  He said he knew that money did not matter to me and he knew that all I ever wanted was a chance to prove myself and play.  He offered me a free agent contract and I gladly accepted!  My dream was still alive, and I couldn’t have been happier!

From there, I was off to Florida for a mini-camp and to keep my dream alive, just like every other little 12-year-old, to be a big league pitcher…

   

 

Thank you to Ian Kadish for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Ian on Twitter (@BearJew36)  or through his website (http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com) for comments and questions.   We also thank Ian for sharing the photographs used in today’s feature from his own private collection. 

  

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