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Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

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

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

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

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

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

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

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

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

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

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

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

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

Phillies in 4

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

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

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

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How Far Will the Yankees Go in the 2011 Playoffs? Prediction Time

Sunday September 25, 2011

 

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.

As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).

The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the  nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.

Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.

The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.

There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.

Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.

The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.

The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.

The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face.  Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.

Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.

Prediction: Yankees in five

Texas Rangers:  All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing.  The pressure is immense.  Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.

Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.

The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.

Prediction: Rangers in five

Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played.  If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.

The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs.  Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.

 

 

***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 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.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez to the Yankees? Rockies May Move Ace to the Bronx

Saturday July 16, 2011

MLB reports:   As an unbelievable as it may seem, there has been talk in baseball circles that the Rockies are taking calls on their ace pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.  Start after start, game after game last year, Jimenez for the majority of 2010 was as unhittable as they come.   Despite coming back down to earth in the 2nd half, Jimenez last year appeared in his first All-Star game and finished 3rd in the NL CY Young voting.  He also pitched the very first no-hitter in Rockies history on April 17, 2010.  With a young Rockies team that was expected to contend in 2011, the 27-year old Dominican Jimenez was expected to anchor the team.  Now sitting with a 45-49 record, 8.5 games out of 1st in the NL West, the Rockies are on the fence as to whether they still have playoff aspirations this year.  Further, the team’s brass needs to decide whether Jimenez is a part of those aspirations and future playoff runs.  Media outlets have speculated that the Yankees are quietly making a run at Jimenez.  There is a strong probability the trade could happen, but in my estimation, the Rockies would be making a colossal error if they do.

There is no denying the strength and ability of Ubaldo Jimenez.  As the pitcher has slowly improved every year, especially noting his strong 2009 and 2010 campaigns, the hurler clearly has a world of potential.  Taking a look at his numbers, the results speak for themselves:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 0 0 3.52 7.2 5 3 3 1.043
2007 4 4 4.28 82.0 70 37 68 1.305
2008 12 12 3.99 198.2 182 103 172 1.435
2009 15 12 3.47 218.0 183 85 198 1.229
2010 19 8 2.88 221.2 164 92 214 1.155
2011 5 8 4.08 110.1 101 43 99 1.305
6 Seasons 55 44 3.60 838.1 705 363 754 1.274
162 Game Avg. 14 11 3.60 212 178 92 191 1.274

With pitching at such a shortage, many baseball analysts are scratching their heads as to how the Rockies could possibly think about trading Jimenez.  The San Francisco Giants proved last year that the World Series could be won almost exclusively on the strength of pitching.  Tim LincecumMatt CainMadison BumgarnerJonathan Sanchez.  The Giants had so many weapons to throw against its opponents every night and good young pitching at the end of day beats good hitting much of the time.  The Rockies, ravaged by injuries and inconsistent performances, are unlikely to reach the postseason this year.  But in the management of the team, the present and future must be considered.  Look at Felix Hernandez on Seattle, Roy Halladay on the Phillies and Lincecum on the Giants.  Every team that is trying to build a winner needs a stud pitcher at the top of its rotation.  Jimenez is that guy for the Rockies and losing him on the roster will be a hole that will be difficult, to impossible to fill.

So given the positives that Jimenez brings to the table, the issue remains how and why the Rockies could possibly consider moving him.  There are a couple of main reasons in my estimation.  Part of the equation is the performance of Jimenez this season.  While he has been good, Jimenez for the most part has not been great.  His record this year is far off from his most recent seasons, despite a strong rebound in his last few starts.  Given his inconsistencies in 2011, the Rockies may be getting a little worried and looking to sell high before Jimenez starts to decline and/or injured.  But given his strong resume to date, young age and rebound recently, I would like to think the Rockies are more intelligent than that.  Players have their ups and downs, at all levels.  It happens.  Without a larger body of work for reference, it is almost impossible to reason that Jimenez is on his way down.  His recent numbers tend to show otherwise.  So while Jimenez may not be the same pitcher that we saw in early 2010, he is still the ace of the team.

So why the reports of trade talk with the Yankees?  I will give you two words.  Cliff Lee.  The same Cliff Lee that was all set to be traded last year from the Mariners to the Yankees in a package including Jesus Montero.  The deal was completed to the level that major media outlets were announcing the trade as fact.  As the story goes on that one, the Mariners played the Yankees against the Rangers and took a package from Texas built around prospect Justin Smoak at the very last-minute.  The Yankees were fuming to the level that they contacted the higher-ups in Seattle to complain about the conduct of their GM, Jack Zduriencik.  The fallout was the Rangers making it to the World Series and the Yankees left at the altar without their prize.  As a further dagger, Lee in his decision to sign with the Rangers or Yankees this past offseason, ended up going to the Phillies at the last-minute.  Again, the mystery team coming at the last second out of the woods and the Yankees were left standing with egg on their face.

Do not underestimate the New York Yankees.  They are the strongest and one of the proudest teams in baseball.  The Yankees and their fans do not like to be left disappointed in the constant search for top talent.  With Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia sitting in their rotation, the Yankees are clearly itching to make a move to bolster their rotation.  While names like Jeremy Guthrie, Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo being thrown around, it starts to shed some light as to where the Jimenez talk is coming from.  This is the Yankees and they do not like shopping at the Ford dealership.  This is a team built on Mercedes and BMW’s.  The problem is that the top cars, i.e. ace pitchers, are not readily available.  After making runs at Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano, the Yankees are still in search of a strong #2 to compliment ace CC Sabathia.  Considering that Sabathia can opt out of his contract during the coming offseason and possibly leave New York, the pressure is even greater to land a top starting pitcher.  From all the names that have been tossed around, the one that makes the most sense is Ubaldo Jimenez.

When Jimenez is on his game, he is as Cliff Lee-like as you can get.  Jimenez is a horse that has the potential to pitch a complete game shutout almost every game out.  This is the type of numbers that the Yankees are looking for.  Rather than waiting to what comes in free agency, the Yankees are trying to hedge their bets and make a run now.  Any package for Jimenez will be built around uber-prospect Jesus Montero.  Considering his strong bat, Montero could move from catcher to first base to replace the aging Todd Helton.  The Rockies still have faith in their own young catcher, Chris Iannetta, who has taken longer to develop than expected.  Montero would be great insurance and an almost guaranteed monster bat, in addition to the other prospects that would be headed to Colorado.  A win-win for both teams if it happens, considering the bodies that would be moving as part of the trade.  But still not quite if you consider the value of Jimenez to the Rockies.

Other teams  will sniffing around Jimenez as well.  The Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Angels and Rangers could all be considered in the mix.  Jimenez would not come cheap and if the Rockies are smart, they will auction him off to the highest bidder.  At the end of the day, this is a trade that the Yankees have to make.  With little to no other options on the market, the Yankees have to overpay for Jimenez or risk failing to win a World Series despite the highest payroll in business.  The Yankees lost out twice on Cliff Lee and need to do everything in their power to land an equivalent pitcher to their fold.  While Ricky Romero or Jered Weaver would be nice acquisitions, realistically neither one will be made available by their respective teams.  With Carlos Zambrano overpriced and inconsistent and Johan Santana a question mark for the season, at this point it is Jimenez or bust for the Yankees.

In considering this trade from a Rockies perspective, think how long the organization suffered from a pitching perspective.  Despite always having strong hitting, the Rockies as an organization have been challenged to develop and maintain reliable pitching.  Now that the Rockies have an ace in place, the team should be focusing on building around Jimenez rather than moving him.  If the Rockies build their core of hitters and fail to have a deep and consistent starting rotation, the team will mean little come playoff time.  The team will simply fall back into old habits and fail to adapt to the new Major League Baseball.  With the steroid era past us, baseball is built around pitching and defense now for the most part.  The Rockies, like every other team, needs good young pitching to contend.  Jimenez has the potential to give them a high level of pitching for at least the next five years.  If the Rockies feel they have a chance to contend during that time, they must hold onto him or risk setting themselves back even further.

Knowing that this is a trade that Yankees must make and the Rockies should pass on, the final question is whether this trade will happen.  My heart says no, but my brain says yes.  Despite all the reasons that the Rockies should hold onto Jimenez, it appears in my estimation that the Yankees will make an offer that Colorado cannot refuse.  In fighting for World Series titles in New York, all necessary resources have to be acquired at any cost.  Considering that the Yankees will include Montero and 2-3 more top prospects, the Rockies will have a hard time saying no.  Perhaps the Yankees will include a couple of top pitching prospects in the package that will allow for a smoother transition for Colorado.  But the reality is, that while prospects are intriguing and desirable, they are far from a sure thing.  For every Derek Jeter that is drafted, developed and becomes a future Hall of Fame player, there are 1000’s of Todd Van Poppel clones that come highly touted and burn out just as quick.  Ubaldo Jimenez has the experience and numbers that are proven.  While I am always skeptical of pitching, based on injury risk (see Stephen Strasburg), the potential risk in this case by keeping Jimenez is worth the reward of the potential for future playoffs.  This will be the one case where I advocate that a team hold onto their starting pitcher rather than cash in for prospects.  But it is also the case where there is extreme speculation and rumors and I foresee the trade occurring.  The Yankees are the Yankees for a reason.  They usually get what they want.  They want Ubaldo Jimenez and before July is done, he very well could be in pinstripes.

 

 

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Devin Mesoraco: Catcher Cincinnati Reds, On the Verge of Getting the Call

Saturday June 11, 2011

MLB reports:   With catching at an all-time premium in baseball, few teams are lucky to have one, let alone two solid catchers in its system.  The Cincinnati Reds have an abundance of riches at the position, with two serviceable catchers on its major league roster and two of the brightest catching prospects in its lower levels.  For all the talk of the New York Yankees and Montero, Sanchez and all of its up-and-coming catching prospects, a look to the future catching superstars of Major League Baseball points to Cincinnati.

Top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco stands 6’1″ and weighs a very solid 220 lbs.  Only 22-years of age, Mesoraco was drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB draft (15th overall).  Catchers typically take longer to develop and Mesoraco has been slowed in his development by the injury bug.  But despite missing many games over his short career, his bat has never slowed in the process.  Last year at the tender age of 21, Mesoraco played through three levels and rose all the way to AAA.  This year, in his first full turn at AAA, Mesoraco has been simply outstanding.  With a .323 AVG, .407 OBP, .542 SLG, 8 home runs and 25/39 BB/K, Mesoraco has shown the MLB reports favorite hitting combination:  power and patience.  A lifetime .270 hitter in the minors with an .802 OPS, Mesoraco has only gotten stronger and better as he has risen through the Reds system.  But not far behind him, there is another strong Reds catching prospect waiting in the wings by the name of Yasmani Grandal, as well as  two existing roadblocks in Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.

Grandal is also 22-years of age.  Born in Havana Cuba, he was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 27th round of the 2007 draft.  After failing to sign, Grandal became the next catching 1st round pick of the Reds, being drafted 12th overall in the 2010 draft.  Missing out on three years compared to Mesoraco, Grandal played eight games last year in rookie ball and currently plays high A ball in Bakersfield.  With 9 home runs this year in 50 games played, combined with a .279 AVG, .878 OPS and 37/50 BB/K ratio, Grandal is proving himself to be every bit the hitter that Mesoraco is.  A promotion is due shortly to AA and very soon the Reds will face a dilemma in choosing their catcher of the future.  A great problem to have if you are the Cincinnati Reds, who are the envy of Major League Baseball in their ability to draft and develop talent.  Grandal is also a switch-hitter to boot, which will make the Reds catching choice even that much more difficult.

Given that Mesoraco has the most experience and has played at the higher levels, he will be given the first crack at the Reds catching job.  His first roadblock is veteran Ramon Hernandez, the Reds incumbent starting catcher.  Hernandez at 35 should be starting to near the end of his career, having played 13 seasons for 4 different major league teams.  Hernandez suffered through injuries in both the ’09 and ’10 seasons, but still received a 1-year, $3 million contract for 2011 from the Reds.  Hernandez has rewarded the Reds thus far with a strong season.  Hernandez on the year has hit .310, with 7 home runs and an .898 OPS.  But despite his strong play, Hernandez is injury prone and has otherwise started to show a declining bat over the last couple of seasons, despite playing in a hitter’s park in Cinci.  Expect an injury or slump by Hernandez to open the door for Mesoraco to get his chance sometime this year.

Ryan Hanigan, the Reds backup catcher, was signed in the offseason to a 3-year, $4 million contract.  Some observers questioned the move, given the up-and-coming catchers in the Reds system.  But the Reds were smart to lock-in a highly considered backup catcher to mentor their young prospects and help groom them to be possibly the next Johnny Bench.  Hanigan at the age of 30, has played parts of 5 seasons for the Reds.  Last year was by far his strongest campaign, with a .300 AVG and .834 OPS.  For his major league career, Hanigan has a 98/77 BB/K- thus exhibiting one of the best batting eyes I have ever seen for a catcher.  Despite his slow start this season, with a .248 AVG and .673 OPS, Hanigan plays strong defense and does enough offensively to ensure that he will remain as the Reds backup catcher for the foreseeable future.

With Hanigan as the backup and Hernandez playing out the string this season, we can expect to see Mesoraco make his major league debut this year.  Given that he is only 22, the world should not be expected of him yet.  As mentioned earlier, catchers take a lot longer to develop into complete major league players compared to other positional player.  One only has to look to Baltimore, where Matt Wieters came slowly out of the gate until he started to find his way in the big leagues.  While watching Buster Posey‘s run last year with the Giants was exciting, he is definitely the exception to the rule.  Scouts and analysts that I have spoken to are divided on Mesoraco and Grandal.  From the people that I have spoken to, there was nearly a 50/50 split on which prospect would become the future #1 catcher in Cincinnati.

A similar situation has already developed for the Reds with the blocked path for Yonder Alonso, one of the top Reds prospects still in the minors.  Alonso, a first baseman by trade, has been attempting to shift to the outfield in the hopes of eventually joining the Reds.  The reports that I have received are that his defense has been graded at far below average and the Reds are not comfortable calling him up as a result.  With Joey Votto entrenched at first, Alonso will only make the big leagues at this point by injury or trade.  With 8 home runs already on the season in AAA, to compliment his .327 AVG and .911 OPS, the 24-year old Cuban born Alonso has a major league bat.  His fellow countryman Grandal may face a similar conflict in a couple of seasons.  With such a strong farm system, the Reds are building themselves for a dynasty run for several years to come.  The likely quarterback of the pitching staff in the near future will be Devin Mesoraco, who will also hit in the heart of a deep lineup in a great ballpark.  The sky is the limit for this great prospect who is on the verge of joining the big leagues.  We look forward to watching his debut very soon and hope that Mesoraco will have a long and productive career at the most demanding position in the game.

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

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 4th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 4, 2011

Q:  Magglio Ordonez said today he is hitting with one leg.  The Tigers should put him on the DL. He looks horrible this year. From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports:  No dispute from my end.  In 77 at bats this year, Ordonez is hitting .169 with a brutal .411 OPS.  No home runs and two RBIs.  Whatever the Tigers need to do to get him off the field, I say go for it.  Ordonez was coming off a decent 2010 campaign, where he hit .303, twelve home runs in 84 games with a .852 OPS.  But at 37 years old, there are few excuses for the once big time slugger who is starting to show his age and wear and tear.  Ordonez was lucky to get a contract with the Tigers for this year, who were planning to let him go after last season.  But his steady numbers warranted one more go around for them.  In my estimation, father time is calling and has Magglio’s number.  With a hurt ankle and pride still on the line, I would like to see Ordonez finish his career on a high note rather than hanging on for too long.  The DL is coming soon and retirement should not be far away from there.

Q:  Most underrated player in the AL? In your opinion?  Mine’s Maicer Izturis.  From Taryn, New Jersey

MLB reports: Izturis is a nice pick, with a .340 average, .897 OPS, 9 runs and 10 RBIs going into today’s action.  My pick is one of my favorite whipping boys, Jeff Francoeur of the Royals.  I am extremely hard on Jeff for his poor eye at the plate.  While he will never be Jose Bautista at the plate, Francouer is experiencing a career renaissance this year.  .315 average, .956 OPS, seven home runs, 23 RBIs and 19 Runs.  Francouer has seven walks to date which is on pace for a career high for him, but his twenty strikeouts are a little alarming.  Overall, Francouer has benefitted from playing with Gordon and Butler and has provided the steady veteran leadership that the team needed.  While I do not expect him to continue this pace, he is by far the most underrated player in the AL in 2011, rising from the scrap heap to glory overnight.

Q:  hows Danny Duffy been doing? What’s his chances of being brought up this year?  From Jory, Parts Unknown

MLB reports:  What a roller coaster this kid has been to-date.  From future game all-star appearance, to leaving camp to considering retirement last year to just coming off Pitcher of the Week honors in AAA.  The 3rd round pick from 2007 has been lights out this year.  In five AAA starts, Duffy is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 6/33 BB/K ratio.  Imagine, 33 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.  Outstanding.  Duffy played in four levels last year and has risen quickly through the Royals system.  At 22 years of age, he has a career 2.51 ERA and 1.093 WHIP.  How he ever feel to the 3rd round is beyond me.  After top prospect Grant Desme left the A’s last year to enter the priesthood and the psychological issues faced by ex-Royal Zack Greinke early in his career, the Royals have to be pleased that Duffy has been so consistently solid to-date. 

Two areas of concern though exist.  Firstly, the Royals will be careful not to bring Duffy up to quickly and burn him out.  They will want to see him excel over a long period in AAA before making the call.  Secondly, he has only pitched 26 innings in five starts and will need to build up his arm strength and endurance to be ready for the majors.  At the pace that Duffy is going and the Royals sitting above .500, the Royals cannot keep Duffy down for much longer.  With Eric Hosmer tearing up AAA as well (see yesterday’s feature), I can see the two top prospects coming to Kansas City at the same time, earliest  by the end of this month and latest July.  Duffy is likely to have little prove at AAA this year and is earning his shot.  Expect him to get it soon.

Q:  With Jesus Montero’s D such an issue, why not let the kid move to DH or 1B and just let him focus on hitting? From Rick, New York

MLB reports:  A good question that many baseball analysts have asked:  What to do with Jesus Montero?  If it were up to me, I would leave at catcher for as long as possible. Here are factors to consider.  The Yankees have one of the best all around first basemen in the game right now, Mark Teixeira who is signed to a long-term deal.  Russell Martin is the current Yankees catcher, who is still young and has turned around his career.  Martin is under team control until 2012 and based on his current play, will possibly be signed to another contract by the Yankees in the future.  The Yankees have additional catching prospects in the wings, Francisco Cervelli, Gary Sanchez and Austine Romine.  With no opening at first base and a logjam at catcher, the only opening appears to be DH.  Here are my thoughts:  Installing Montero as a full-time DH is the worst case scenario.  If the Yankees keep him and do not feel that he is their best option at catcher, DH is already an option.  But to groom him at this point to be a future first baseman or DH doesn’t make sense.  Montero at 21 would have his development stunted by moving from catcher to a non-essential position.  Plus his trade value would plummet. 

The Yankees need a top starting pitcher in the worst way and Jesus Montero is their best shot at one.  Montero’s highest trade value will be at catcher and that is where the Yankees will keep him.  If the defensive position does not work out, Montero could easily transition to first or DH, as these are not difficult areas to adapt to.  But if Montero is to bring strong trade value back for the Yankees or even have a shot as their future catcher, New York must leave him as a catcher in the minors.  After 21 home runs last year in AAA, Montero is currently hitting .373 in his second go-around in AAA.  The 2/16 BB/K ratio is a concern, as his only one home run on the season.  But recall, Montero started off slowly last year and finished the year strong.  The bat was never of concern for Montero and he will continue to hit no matter where he plays defensively.  The key is to maximum his value at this moment.

Q:  Looking at Dodgers minor league players. What do you think of Rubby De La Rosa? From Larry, Laughlin

MLB reports:  We end this week’s e-mailbag with #1 fan Larry, a big Dodgers fan and his finding of Rubby De La Rosa.  The 22-year-old Dominican pitcher is the 90th ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.  After a solid 2010 playing in 2 levels, De La Rosa is back for his first full year in AA.  The numbers are there:  2-1 record in 4 starts, 3.38 ERA and 8/29 BB/K ratio.  The 29 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings is phenomenal, although his 1.359 WHIP is a little high.  In his 5th minor league season, De La Rosa will be brought along slowly and will play most of the year at AA.  I could see him brought to AAA near the end of the year, with a chance to make the Dodgers in 2012.  The kid has a bright future, no doubt.  Baseball America ranks him high on the top prospect list for a reason.  At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, he could stand to fill out a little bit and gain better control.  The sky is the limit, as we could be seeing the next Pedro/Ramon Martinez.  The Dodgers have always been great at finding and developing Dominican pitchers.  De La Rosa should be next in line and provided he stays healthy, should see time in the majors by next year.  Great find Larry, this kid is a keeper.

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

E-MAILBAG ARCHIVE:  Click here for the Archives of Ask the 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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