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An A-to-Z Guide to My MLB Offseason

Friday  November 11, 2011

Daniel Aubain (Guest Writer):  Question: What does a fantasy baseball blogger without a blog do during the offseason? Answer: Guest write an article for one of his favorite baseball sites!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Aubain and I used to run a fantasy baseball blog called Colorado Springs Fantasy Baseball Addict or COSFBA, for short. I recently decided to shut the site down and pursue other writing opportunities but the itch to write has been too strong to ignore. While I am currently working behind the scenes on a new venture, I wanted to take this opportunity today to highlight for you some topics of interest I’ve been or will be following this baseball offseason.

Below is an A-to-Z guide of some of the key topics I am paying attention to this baseball offseason. Enjoy!

  • A is for Awards: So Brett Gardner doesn’t win a Gold Glove (even though he was the best defensive player in all of baseball). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t get a Silver Slugger. And now the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on Twitter. I’m very excited to see what November 14th through November 22nd has in store for the blogosphere.
  • B is for Baseball: The most minor free agent news or offseason trade (see: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo) trumps ANYTHING going on in the NFL, NHL (that’s still a thing) and the NBA (how much longer until this is no longer a thing?).
  • C is for Closers: Fantasy baseball GMs know to “never pay for saves”. How come real GMs don’t know this? Ryan Madson possibly getting a 4 year/$44M contract offer from the Phillies? Good luck with that.
  • D is for @DJAubain: That’s right. Shameless self promotion. Be sure to follow me at my new Twitter account name. The link is RIGHT THERE!
  • E is for Exhibition Baseball: I hope all of you with the MLB Network were able to catch some of the Taiwan All-Star Series. It was a nice fix for those of us going through withdrawals after an amazing World Series.
  • F is for FanGraphs: Any aspiring Sabermetrician or fan of advanced baseball statistics has to be familiar with FanGraphs by now, right? Well, why not support their work and show the world you’re a big baseball nerd by purchasing one of these fabulous t-shirts. I’ve got mine.
  • G is for Gold Glove: I still can’t believe Brett Gardner didn’t win a Gold Glove. The mainstream media may love awards such as this (it even had its own television show this year) but those of us with any true understanding on how to measure “worthiness” with more than just web gems and name recognition are left scratching our heads more often than not.
  • H is for Hot Stove: Free agent signings. Winter meetings. Blockbuster trades. What’s not to love about the MLB offseason?
  • I is for Intentional Talk: I’m sorry, MLB Network. For all you do right in my eyes, this is your ultimate worst. I find this show unwatchable. It’s so bad it belongs on ESPN.
  • J is for Jose Reyes: Reyes to the Marlins? Not hating it.
  • K is for Keepers: Fantasy baseball GMs all over the country are anxiously discussing whether or not player X or player Y is worthy of being a keeper. I think it is absolutely crazy that some leagues have already required you locking in keepers. Wait until February or March to lock up keepers. It will make your league better. Trust me.
  • L is for Lefty Specialists: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are both 41 years old, coming off of World Series appearances and free agents. Which GMs are going to overpay for 50-60 appearances and 40-50 innings pitched? I’m hoping the Yankees get one of these guys to replace Boone Logan.
  • M is for Mystery Team: Nothing says offseason free agent signings like a good mystery team in the mix. Who will it be this offseason?
  • N is for Nick Punto: Nick has a World Series ring. Ted Williams and Ernie Banks have zero. Just in case you were wondering.
  • O is for Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie is now with the soon-to-be Miami Marlins and every Latin ballplayer is now rumored to be heading his way via free agency or trades. If only I understood a word he was saying in English. Don’t believe me? Check out his Twitter feed during the World Series.
  • P is for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: How high are these contract numbers going to go and which teams are in the mix? The Yankees can’t sign everyone (in theory). It will be interesting to see where these top sluggers land.
  • Q is for Carlos Quentin: With the Chicago White Sox discussing getting younger and cheaper in 2012, could Quentin be the type of player shipped out of town for a handful of prospects? We shall see. I hear the Marlins have money. Hmmmmm.
  • R is for Realignment: Moving the Houston Astros to the AL West makes absolutely no sense. Thanks, Bud Selig, for the usual knee-jerk reaction to a problem. I’m a huge fan of a radical realignment based on true geographical rivalries. Forget the AL/NL thing. Screw the traditionalists. Make the DH optional. Create regional television networks. Let’s move this game into the 21st century already!
  • S is for Sabermetrics: It’s not going away. It’s not made up of basement-dwelling bloggers. And it is definitely NOT ruining the game of baseball and how it is played on the field. It is a tool used to evaluate and measure the performance of players. Embrace it.
  • T is for Twitter: If you’re not using Twitter, I suggest you check it out. It’s not Facebook.
  • U is for UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely accepted defensive metrics available and yet Brett Gardner, the best defensive player at any position, doesn’t win a Gold Glove. Bitter much? Yes.
  • V is for Vernon Wells: Just a reminder, Wells still has three years left on his contract at $21M per year. That is all.
  • W is for Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped? Unreal. This is just a horrible situation. I hope this gets resolved quickly and without tragedy. We wonder why agents and players lie to escape other countries to come to America to play baseball.
  • X is for X-Factor: No, not that horrible television show on FOX. I’m talking about the intangible “x-factor” agents will be talking about their clients bringing to a team’s clubhouse. Jim Thome has it. Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t have it.
  • Y is for Yuniesky Betancourt: According to the Bill James’ 2012 Handbook (and this tweet), Yuniesky has been baseball’s worst defensive shortstop over the last three seasons; costing his teams 46 runs. Keep that tidbit in mind as this Type B free agent lingers on the market.
  • Z is for the AriZona Fall League: If top prospects are your thing, then you need to be paying attention to what’s taking place in ‘Zona (see what I did there?). Check it out online and be sure to follow it Twitter, too.
Thanks to the great folks at MLB reports for allowing me the opportunity to share my voice with their audience. I truly appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates on what the future has in store for me and all other guest posting articles I’ll be doing this offseason.
 
 
 
 
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.
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Breaking Down the Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera Trade

Tuesday November 8, 2011

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  On Monday, the hot stove just got a bit juicier. The San Francisco Giants sent lefty Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Melky Cabrera.

Melky Cabrera had one of the most successful seasons of his career, hitting a season-high in average for his career (.305), 201 hits, 102 runs, 87 RBIs, 18 homers and an additional 20 stolen bases to his best season in his career. Today, Brian Sabean, has told the Associated Press, that the reason of their high impressions on Melky Cabrera is that he’s breaking out at 27 and has played for several years already, and this breakout leads him on a path to a successful career ahead of him.

Known for his powerful arm, his 13 outfield assists tied for the sixth-highest in the majors. Cabrera played center field in Kauffman Stadium, and is known as one of the most successful players defensively in the major leagues. Cabrera will bring a strong offensive force we’ll need at AT&T Park. The Giants are both excited and joyful of the new force to the team.

After coming off a career-year in 2010, powerful lefty Jonathan Sanchez will soon be in a Royals uniform. Sanchez had some deep troubles this year, as he barely was able to pitch over 100 innings and was deeply bothered by injuries throughout the season. His control was plagued by the injuries, and he is hoping to recover in time for a successful 2012 season at Kauffman Stadium.

Jonathan Sanchez had his moments, including a no-hitter, which helped lead the Giants to the playoffs in 2010 and to succeed through the playoffs, which led to the team’s championship rings. Sanchez dominated and struck out 11 batters in that NLDS, which led to a 3-2 win. However, his success didn’t completely continue, as he gave up three runs throughout six innings in the second game of the NLCS and only lasted two innings in Game 6 of the series. Sanchez pitched in Game 3 of the World Series, which ultimately led to a loss.

Sanchez started off the 2011 season second in the rotation, with expectations to have another year with a near three earned run average. Instead, he posted a 4.26 ERA, much worse than his expectations. He didn’t get run support with the plagued offensive forces of the Giants and he ended finishing off the season with a poor 4-7 record on the 2011 season. His WHIP was high at 1.44, also his strikeout/walk ration was extremely poor, as he had 102 strikeouts compared to 66 walks on the season.

After a frustrating season on the Giants, Sanchez is hoping to continue where he left off the 2010 season with the Royals. Kansas City thinks of him as a solid No. 3 starter, who was on a champion team and help stabilize the rotation. In addition, the Royals also added Ryan Verdugo, another force to their already amazing farm system.

Now I am going to discuss a brief conclusion of this trade and the affections which have been created from this deal:

This trade has been a definite advantage for both teams, as the Giants received a force in their lineup, which is much needed, and the Royals added a powerful lefty to their poor rotation. They have also compared in a burst of successful seasons. Sanchez had a breakout season in 2010, which was unexpected and out of the ordinary. Cabrera also had a breakout season last year, as both teams are taking a risk on this deal, which helps both teams in opposite ways.

The Royals ace, Luke Hochevar, has had a terrible and dreadful year. Even with the recent struggles of Jonathan Sanchez, he is still likely to be in the front of the rotation. Almost all the members of the rotation have been inconsistent for the Royals. The only strong force was arguably Bruce Chen, who had trouble getting past batters as he posted less than 100 strikeouts in the season.

The Giants can now subtract Cody Ross from the lineup, who had a weak average at .240. Melky Cabrera is a powerful lefty who is a force all around and can likely satisfy most of the Giants’ needs through his offensive and defensive abilities. Cabrera is a great addition to the outfield of the Giants.

Overall this deal has helped both teams in separate ways. There was no specified loser in this deal considering each side met their needs and received a potential solid player in return.


***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.

Evaluating Strikeout Pitchers For Your 2012 Fantasy Baseball Team

Tuesday October 18, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Depending on the type of fantasy league, high strikeout pitchers hold varying degrees of value. In 5 X 5 Roto League’s, strikeouts are crucial as they represent one of the five pitching categories. Furthermore, strikeout ratios are indicative of a pitcher’s future success. Needless to say, the more a pitcher misses the bat of a hitter, the more primed he is to retire batters. As I touched upon this subject a few weeks ago in my piece about the value of setup men, today, I shift the focus to starting pitchers who look to finish atop the strikeout rankings in 2012.

Brandon Beachy

In 2011, the 25-year-old right-hander busted onto the scene with a 7-3 record, 3.68 ERA, and 1.21 WHIP in 141.2 innings. However, the real value he provided was the 169 strikeouts, a 10.74 K/9 ratio that ranked him first among starting pitchers. Undoubtedly, Beachy will be a highly valued player entering the 2012 season, yet I still think many owners still undervalue him. Many owners will be impressed, but not wowed by his ERA and WHIP numbers, which are right on par with Jamie Garcia’s 3.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. However, Garcia struck out just 156 batters in 194 innings. If pitchers are not contributing to the strikeout category, he needs to be VERY good in the others, and it will be difficult for a player to do so with out the ability to miss bats. This helps explains Garcia jump in ERA from 2.70 in 2010 to 3.56 in 2011.

Beachy’s strikeout ratio indicates that his rookie season was no fluke. He has the ability to miss bats and therefore should not see a regression in his numbers. He was consistent throughout the year and actually struck out more batters as the season progressed. Furthermore, his .300 BAPIP indicates that he was not a product of good fortune. He is the real deal and has potential to provide terrific value in all give pitching categories and looks to be among the elite in strikeouts. Beachy’s more well-known teammate, Tommy Hanson, it also a pitcher who is among the games best strikeout pitchers – improving his rate in each of his three seasons in the major leagues.

Here are some lesser-known players that had a strikeout ratio higher than that of C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and David Price:

Brandon Morrow (10.19 K/9)

Cory Luebke (9.92 K/9)

Anibal Sanchez 9.26 K/9)

Jonathan Sanchez (9.06 K/9)

Matt Garza (8.95 K/9)

Gio Gonzalez (8.78 K/9)

Although these pitchers are by no means fantasy aces, their fantasy value is often hidden and undiscovered by owners. They are often lumped into the same category as players with similar ERA and WHIP numbers (e.g. Mark Buehrle). However, their potential for strikeouts can give an owner valuable extra points. While no means must-start players, if you use the Garza, Gonzalez’s, Morrows, etc in favorable matchups, don’t be surprised to see them produce ‘five category’ Lincecum-like starts. Just don’t start them against the better half of the league’s top offensive teams. It is all about finding the edges, and strikeouts are a category that many owners are first to ignore. Therefore, I strongly suggest you fill your tougher innings with such players that can help you finish at the top of this category. If a player is putting up strong ERA and WHIP numbers without the strikes, it is more likely to be a fluke. Therefore, to be safe and to finish atop the K category, target the players who show the best ability to make major league hitters swing and miss.

 

 

***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.

Carlos Beltran to the Giants: Mets Likely to Trade Slugger to San Fran

Tuesday July 19, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB rumor mill is working overtime as the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st quickly approaches.  With less than two weeks to go, the speculation is heating up as to which players will be changing uniforms.  Francisco Rodriguez is already a Brewer and Jeff Keppinger was just traded to the Giants.  But rumors persist that the Mets and Giants are not finished with their activity.  With both superstars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran eligible for free agency at the end of the season, talk is that one or both players will be moved out of New York.  With the possibility of the Mets trying to retain Reyes, the most likely scenario is Carlos Beltran changing addresses.  At the center of the speculation is the San Francisco Giants.  The defending World Series champions have been simply atrocious this year offensively.  With their cleanup hitter Buster Posey out for the season, the team cannot afford to miss out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. 

The Giants were very fortunate to win the World Series last year.  The playoffs are a tough road and requires the perseverance normally of a balanced team to make it to the end.  The Giants, while solid in the pitching department, were essentially using smoke and mirrors to score runs last year.  The team relied on the likes of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez on offense.  While useful role players, these players are not the big sluggers that are supposed to win championships.  Now with Buster Posey out, the Giants are forced to rely on Eli Whiteside, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell and company to score the team’s runs.  Possessing one of the best, if not the best pitching staff in baseball, the Giants can ill-afford to limit itself offensively and essentially waste such strong pitching.  To defend its championship, the Giants will have no choice but to beef up their offense.

Carlos Beltran has been one of the most consistent hitters in the game over the course of his career.  Taking a look at his numbers, we see a consistently high level of production:

Year Tm AB R H HR RBI SB BA
1998 KCR 58 12 16 0 7 3 .276
1999 KCR 663 112 194 22 108 27 .293
2000 KCR 372 49 92 7 44 13 .247
2001 KCR 617 106 189 24 101 31 .306
2002 KCR 637 114 174 29 105 35 .273
2003 KCR 521 102 160 26 100 41 .307
2004 TOT 599 121 160 38 104 42 .267
2004 KCR 266 51 74 15 51 14 .278
2004 HOU 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
2005 NYM 582 83 155 16 78 17 .266
2006 NYM 510 127 140 41 116 18 .275
2007 NYM 554 93 153 33 112 23 .276
2008 NYM 606 116 172 27 112 25 .284
2009 NYM 308 50 100 10 48 11 .325
2010 NYM 220 21 56 7 27 3 .255
2011 NYM 328 54 94 14 59 3 .287
14 Seasons 6575 1160 1855 294 1121 292 .282
162 Game Avg. 621 110 175 28 106 28 .282
               
KCR (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
NYM (7 yrs) 3108 544 870 148 552 100 .280
HOU (1 yr) 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
               
NL (8 yrs) 3441 614 956 171 605 128 .278
AL (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
 
 

His resume speaks for itself.  Beltran is a 1999 AL Rookie of the Year.  He has won four Gold Gloves for his defensive work in the outfield.  He won two silver slugger awards.  A lifetime .282 AVG, .360 OBP and .495 SLG.  In 2004 he hit the magical 30/30 mark (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), and was actually two home runs short of 40/40.  For the most part, Beltran in his prime could do it all.  Hit home runs, hit for average, steal bases, catch and throw the ball like few players could.  One of the few true five-tool players in the game.  The aberrations we find in Beltran’s statistics were the last two years.  Due to various injuries, particularly knee woes, Carlos Beltran was forced to miss much of the last two seasons and saw his production sharply decline.  Now healthy and extremely motivated, Beltran has come back in a big way. 

Beltran played in his sixth All-Star game this year in Arizona.  While he rarely steals bases these days, the rest of Beltran’s game has returned as shown by his numbers.  The only issue surrounding Beltran is whether his knee will hold up for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.  From there, a team will need to determine his long-term health and abilities in awarding him a free agent contract.  But from all indications, Beltran is a player that can still play ball at the highest level when healthy.  An ideal fit for the Giants that lineup that desperately needs run production. 

How bad has the Giants offense been in 2011?  Going into tonight, the Giants as a team are hitting .243, with a .309 OBP and .363 SLG.  The team has collectively hit 63 home runs and scored 356 runs.  Yet somehow the team continues to sit in first place in the NL West, 3.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks.  If not for Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants pitching staff, the Giants would be in the basement of the division.  The run of the Giants over the past two seasons has been incredible, but clearly linked to its pitching.  To support its pitchers and put runs on the board, the Giants have to step up and beef up its offense.  While Jeff Keppinger is a useful player, he will not be enough to get the job done.  Rather, the Giants need to acquire a bomber, the way the Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday a couple of years ago in their playoff run.  Or closer to home, when the Astros acquired Carlos Beltran in 2004.  Beltran hit an incredible 8 home runs during the Astros playoff drive that year.  Coincidentally, Beltran was an impending free agent that year as well.  Fast forward to 2011 and the very same Carlos Beltran is available.  Having a fantastic campaign, Beltran in 2011 has hit .287 to-date, with 14 home runs, league leading 28 doubles, with a .381 OBP and .512 SLG.  Again during a free agency year.  Definite playoff calibre numbers and a perfect fit out west in San Francisco.

The Giants and Carlos Beltran are well suited for one another.  San Francisco needs a strong cleanup hitter.   Carlos Beltran wants to compete for a World Series championship and boost his free agency stock for one more prime contract.  The odds of getting a ring don’t get any better than joining the defending world champions.  Some experts have speculated that Beltran may not waive his no-trade protection to join the Giants.  I am not buying that theory.  The Giants are a terrific organization to play for, with highly regarded management, a fantastic ballpark in a beautiful city, and are one of baseball’s most historical and treasured teams.  Beltran would look fantastic in a Giants uniform.  What better way to showcase his abilities and earn his last free agency contract than by playing for a contender and fighting for a World Series championship.

Remember 1994, the year that Beltran was traded from Kansas City to Houston and played like a man possessed in nearly single-handedly leading the Astros to the World Series.  That performance, combined with his numbers to-date, earned Beltran that off-season a 7-year, $119 million contract from the Mets.  Now Beltran is on the cusp of free agency again and has the potential to “earn his pay” so to speak with the Giants in the same manner that he did with the Astros in 1994.  With Scott Boras as his agent, Beltran will surely receive the advice that playoff performance equals free agency dollars.   

The Giants will have a choice in making a pitch to the Mets for Carlos Beltran.  They will either have to absorb the majority of the contract and provide fairly decent prospects, or have the Mets absorb a large chunk of money and offer 1-2 elite prospects in return.  The Giants are well stocked in the minors and have excellent pitching at the major league level.  The Mets may request Jonathan Sanchez off the major league roster or a combination of minor leaguers from the farm.  Outfielder Thomas Neal and pitcher Zack Wheeler could be on the Mets wish-list.  Or perhaps the Giants will be able to give up a package of lower level prospects and not lose their top prospects and major league level.  The decision will boil down to the money involved and players offered by other teams in trade packages.

At the end of the day, much like the Yankees must acquire Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies (see our recent feature), the Giants have no choice but to trade for Carlos Beltran.  The Yankees cannot afford to waste their superior offense without enough top-level pitching and the Giants in turn, need to surround their talented pitching staff with consistent run production.  It is a lot of pressure to have a team win 2-1, 3-1 games night-in and night-out.  Carlos Beltran has proven that he can carry a team on his back when he is on his game.  Well, in 2011 he is definitely playing at his highest level in years.  Beltran needs the Giants for his next contract and a chance for a ring, while the Giants need his bat and glove to increase their chances of a championship.  The perfect marriage, expect Beltran to be a Giant by the end of July.  This acquisition makes too much sense for the Giants and Brian Sabean will continue to stock his team on route to a possible back-to-back World Series run for the Giants.  Carlos Beltran to the Giants.  Not a question of if, just a question of when.

 

 

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.

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.

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MLB Pitchers and Walks: Flirting with Trouble

MLB reports:  Walks can make you and walks can break you.  That is our motto here at MLB reports.  If there is one stat that I use more than others to measure a player’s performance, its BB…base on balls…walks.  Recently, I featured an article on patient hitters and looked at the hitters that were the MLB leaders in walks.    As part of this post, I reviewed how walks could potentially improve every facet of a hitter’s game and why a good batting eye is a high indicator of future success.  Based on the response to that article, today we will look at the flip side, the MLB pitchers leader board in walks allowed.

In my opinion, there is not many things that are more frustrating about pitchers than those who give up a lot of walks.  Pitchers that walk hitters tend to get themselves in all sorts of trouble and create pressure on themselves as well as their team.  Defenses become on guard to avoid runners advancing and scoring, especially the catcher.  A stolen base, sacrifice and passed ball is all take to turn a walk into a run.  Pitchers that give up walks are often young hard-throwers who have not yet learned to command the ball.  They are throwers who need to develop into pitchers.  A veteran pitchers who throws soft and has no command will rarely survive in baseball (unless he has a lethal knuckleball, ala Tim Wakefield).  Regardless of strike outs, walks in baseball often lead to pitchers beating themselves.  I often tell young hurlers to trust in their stuff and led the hitters beat them.  By walking hitters, a pitcher will simply beat himself in the long run.  Looking at the MLB top 5 list of walks allowed, it is a who’s who list of potential, some success and plenty of frustration.

1)  Edinson Volquez, Reds:  28

The man traded for Josh Hamilton has one of the best power arms in baseball.  After undergoing Tommy John surgery (apparently a must-have these days to become a top pitcher for some reason), Volquez came back strong last year to reclaim his spot on the Reds pitching staff.  With a 28/38 BB/K ratio this year 38 1/3 IP, Volquez despite his 3-1 record is showing why he has unsightly 5.63 ERA.  With almost a hit allowed per inning, Volquez is playing with fire every game and needs to curb the walks to ultimately find long-term success.  Check out Volquez’s breakout year in 2008.  17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA.  Sparkling numbers on the surface.  His 93/206 BB/K ratio that year shows that when Volquez wasn’t striking guys out, he was loading them up on base.  In a hitter’s park like Cincinnati, numbers like that simply will not do.  Volquez has a lifetime 4.47 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.  At 27 years of age, he should be entering his prime year.  But Volquez is sitting on top of our leader board for a reason:  he walks the most hitters compared to any other pitcher in baseball.  That is a high feat and one that he should not be proud of.  A top pitcher can walk maybe 50 hitters a year at most to stay successful.  By walking 93 in 2008, Volquez showed that even in a breakout year he never completely figured it out.  Luck can only be on a person’s side so long and if Volquez does not transition better to being a pitcher, the sub-4.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP will result unfulfilled potential and mediocrity.  The best pitchers in my opinion have figured out that sacrificing strikeouts for ground ball outs can be just as effective and less taxing on their arms and walk rates.  This realization has not occurred yet to Volquez, but that will end up being the difference from becoming the next Pedro Martinez or Ramon Martinez, to a certain degree.

2)  Jonathan Sanchez, Giants:  26

The poster child for walks, Jonathan Sanchez is victim #2 on our list to high walk totals.  After becoming a full-time starter in 2008, Sanchez had his breakout year last year with the Giants.  13-9 record with a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are solid numbers.  His 96/205 BB/K ratio though left a lot to be desired.  Almost a mirror image of Volquez from 2008 if you compare the numbers.  This year, Sanchez sits at 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 26/47 BB/K ratio in 38 IP.  The best starting pitchers keep their WHIPs down below 1.20 and at most sit at 1.25.  Anything from 1.30 and above is considered a high WHIP, with 1.50 being unacceptable.  Despite his success in 2010, Sanchez still has a 1.38 career WHIP.  When people ask me why trade rumors consistently persist around Sanchez despite being 28 and in his prime, I simply point to the walk rate.  Granted he has unbelievable stuff and is literally untouchable when he is on (as all of the pitchers on this list are).  But one good outing for every three bad outings don’t cut it.  Sanchez throws hard and can successfully strikeout over 200 batters per season if he chooses to.  But with his high walk rate, he will likely suffer the same fate as Volquez.  Men on base can translate into runs allowed, which is unhealthy for a team’s won-loss record and a pitcher’s ERA.  Until Sanchez can cut down on those walks, I will continue to simply see him as a middle-of-the-road pitcher with unfulfilled potential.  If he can cut his walk rate in half, I could see 20 wins in his future.

3)  Kyle Drabek, Jays:  25

Another Tommy John surgery survivor, Drabek is the 2nd of 3 pitchers on this list that lead baseball in walks allowed and had the procedure in their careers.  Is there a correlation?  We will need to find out one day in another post perhaps.  I could see there being a link between the motion that pitchers use to high walk rates and leading to Tommy John surgery.  An interesting little sidenote.  But I digress.  Drabek is the only rookie on this list, as all the other pitchers have experience in the majors.  None of the players on the list are vets yet, although Liriano and Volquez are starting to get there.  In his first full major league campaign, Drabek has a 2-2 record in 2011 with a 4.50 ERA, unsightly 1.63 WHIP and 25/28 BB/K ratio.  With almost a hit allowed per inning as well, Drabek is loading up the bases far too often in getting burnt.  In my estimation, I see Drabek differing from the first two players as follows.  Volquez is wild and needs to learn control.  Sanchez is occasionally wild but often tries to be too perfect in making his pitches and misses his spots.  Drabek quite often is trying be perfect and misses his spots, but otherwise has good control.  Drabek, like Sanchez, simply need to trust their stuff and just go after the hitters.  With nearly un-hittable stuff, Drabek and Sanchez would find they will beat hitters more often than not.  But a walk every inning a half will not cut it in the majors.  Not if Drabek is to fulfill his potential and become the Jays ace one day.  The comparisons between father and son will always continue for Drabek until he makes his own way in the world and I will take a brief look at Doug’s numbers.  The elder Drabek never walked more than 69 hitters in a season and finished with a career WHIP of 1.243, with 155 wins and 3.73 ERA.  He also finished with 1594 career strikeouts, with a season high 177 in his final season in Pittsburgh in 1992.  Kyle has the potential to succeed his dad, as son as better stuff than his dad and the potential for far more punch outs than his dad ever did.  If Drabek Jr. will figure that out one day, the Jays will have their ace for the next decade guaranteed.

T4)  Francisco Liriano, Twins:  24

The fourth member of our list of frustration, Liriano proved this week how utterly frustrating he can be.  Consider this:  Liriano this week threw a no-hitter against the White Sox.  Perhaps a no-hitter by the records, but the rest of his numbers were by no means special.  Liriano threw almost as many balls as strikes, finishing with 6 walks and only 2 strike outs.  These numbers translate to little or no control, but somehow not giving up a hit in otherwise poor pitching performance.  The no-hitter actually is in line with Liriano’s start to the season.  2-4 record, 6.61 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 24/20 BB/K ratio in 2011.  Not only is Liriano now not striking guys out, but he is walking hitters at an astronomical rate.  Liriano had one incredible partial season: In 2006 he had a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 32/144 BB/SO ratio in 121 IP.  Superstar numbers and an ace in the making.  Since then, health issues and poor performance have plagued the hurler for the most part.  The 3rd Tommy John survivor on our list, Liriano appears to have the same Volquez type control issues.  Last season I thought that we had seen a rebound from Liriano.  14-10 record, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 58/201 BB/SO ratio.  Maybe not ace numbers, but very solid pitching numbers.  Believe it or not, Liriano is on pace for approximately 150 walks this season.  Just when he looked like he might be coming around, Liriano regresses.  Then he goes out and throws a no-hitter and nobody knows what to think.  But I will tell you this much, walking hitters is a disaster…while walks and few strike outs means a complete implosion.  I suspect that there may be more to this story than meets the eye, as Liriano may be having health issues that is leading to his poor numbers.  Otherwise, at 27 years of age, Liriano may be continuing his hurler mode rather than becoming a fine-tuned pitcher as is preached by the Twins organization.  The potential is there, but until we know his health situation is better, all bets are off.

T4)  Charlie Morton, Pirates:  24

The last member of our group may not be a Tommy John survivor, but he is a 27 something year old pitcher (only Drabek is the youngster at 23).  Morton is also not on his original team, as he has been traded together with all the members of our list except Sanchez.  It is not a coincidence in my estimation that young hurlers with control issues would be moved by a major league team.  Liriano, Volquez and Morton were all seen as expandable by their respective teams in order to obtain needed talent.  Sanchez has been mentioned in trade whispers for years now and Drabek was moved, but only because the Jays demanded him in the Halladay swap.  Morton was moved in the McLouth deal, with the Braves moving an extra arm and the Pirates stocking up on much-needed pitching talent.  After previous frustrating campaigns, Morton appears to finally be coming around this year.  His 2011 record sits at 4-1 with a sparkling 3.13 ERA.  He is allowed less than a hit per inning, which is promising.  His 24/24 BB/K ratio means that Morton is striking out as many batters as he is walking.  The 1.41 WHIP is the issue with Morton, as it is with all the hurlers on this list.  Morton has a career 1.57 WHIP, so he is improving in the category.  Once he is able to put it together, Morton is able to get major league hitters out.  He may not have the stuff of the other members of this list, but he apparently knows how to get major league hitters out.  While not an ace, developing into a solid #2 or #3 starter could be in his future.  If Morton could limit his walks to approximately 50 in a season, I would love to see what he could do over the course of that year.  I see potential and improvements to warrant hope.  For a pitcher that used to give up over a hit per inning, those numbers are vastly improved.  Time will tell if the rest of his numbers will fall in line.

With young hurlers that have little control, teams do not often know what they are ultimately going to have.  In the time that it takes for a pitcher to learn control, the issue becomes whether a pitcher will be able to get major league hitters out by going for ground ball outs and fly outs while reducing walk totals.  Roy Halladay is the poster child for high strike outs and low walks.  With ERAs in the low 2.00s, WHIPs in the low 1.00s, 20 wins consistently, Halladay is everything that a pitcher strives to be.  But then take a pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine.  One of my faves on the Rays, Sonnanstine rarely walks hitters.  But without striking out many hitters either, Sonnanstine unfortunately does not have the stuff to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis and gets hit hard often.  As a result, Sonnanstine is constantly shuttling between the rotation, bullpen and minors.  If you take Sonnanstine’s control and the stuff of any of the pitchers on this list, you would have Roy Halladay.  Perhaps a touch oversimplified, but you get my message.  For pitchers like Jonathan Sanchez and Kyle Drabek, my advice is just go after and trust your stuff, good things will happen.  For Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, I think a change in mechanics and approach is in order.  I see too much wildness with little change in the future.  If these pitchers do not change their walking ways, the potential that each has will never be fulfilled and talent will end up being wasted.  With the emphasis in baseball on strike outs, pitchers like Volquez and Liriano fall into the trap in concentrating on punch outs and disregarding the finer points of the game.  The emphasis is on pitching, not throwing: I hope these guys understand that one day.  Unfulfilled potential at the end of the day is just failure in my book.  Remember that the next time when you watch these hurlers flirting with trouble in their next starts.

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At the Crossroads: Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB reports:  On paper, taking a look at Ryan Doumit (“Dough-Mitt”), there are two sides of the coin.  Heads, you find a switch-hitter turning 30 this year.  A 2008 career season consisting of 15 home runs, 71 runs, 69 rbis, .357 obp and .501 slg.  A catcher by trade, Doumit who stands 6’1”, also plays the outfield and first base.  Despite an injury plagued 2010 season, he still managed 13 home runs in 124 games played last year.  Tails, you find a baseball player that may be labelled as a catcher but often branded as a defensive liability without a home.  Injury prone, 2010 represented the most games Doumit has ever played in a major league season.  Bouncing between the minors and stints on the DL, Doumit next closest seasons were 116 games in 2008 and then 83 in 2007.  The power, while seen in small spurts through his sweet swing, has never materialized into the 20+ home runs projected for him.  Now cast as an outfielder/ back-up first baseman, the future is unclear for Ryan Doumit.  After signing a significant contract with the Pirates, the team has now spent two unsuccessful seasons trying to unload him.  There is even talk of a possible release on the horizon for Doumit.  But is the negativity surrounding this once bright star justified?  Let me put it simply: no.  I am not ready to write off Ryan Doumit and quite frankly, neither should anyone else.

For those of you that read me regularly, you will know that I tend to be biased towards high walks and obp type hitters.  Analyzing Doumit’s number of walks since 2007:22, 23, 20 and 41, it would seem surprising on the surface that I would invoke any type of support of him as a hitter.  Doumit does not have a great reputation as a catcher, lacking the natural instincts for blocking balls in the dirt, throwing out runners etc.  Believe, I have it heard it all and read it all when it comes to Doumit the player.  My discussion on Doumit falls into the “moneyball” vs. scouts debate.  The numbers vs. tools argument.  Having watched Doumit countless times on television and numerous times in person, I will state that the tools override the numbers in this case.  Doumit is a big strapping switch-hitter with the power for 30+ home runs in my estimation.  In the right line-up and ballpark, we could see a whole new player.  Further watching Ryan behind the plate, it always appeared to me that pitchers were very comfortable with him behind the plate and that he had a strong presence of controlling his team and game like a general.  The multi-positional abilities I believe have hurt Ryan in the long run and created a utility player tag on him that is unjustified.  Thus goes the game of baseball and very often the careers of many players.  But hope is not lost yet. 

This spring has already been a rough one for Doumit.  Low batting totals in only 10 games played thus far, Doumit has been sidelined for much of the spring with a strained oblique.  If I was viewing Doumit as a team, I would see a buy low and high reward candidate.  All of the lost games over the years means that Doumit has a lot of miles left, whether in the outfield or behind the plate.  I cannot see the Pirates at this point releasing Doumit for nothing.  Proven health and production this year would lead to an inevitable trade, likely by the all-star break.  Top teams are always in the need of reinforcements and as players continue to drop like flies this spring (Brandon Morrow just announced to start the year on the DL as I write this article), the demand will be there for Doumit.  Why the faith in a player that has not proven much to-date?  Again, simple answer:  tools.  The ability is there and when healthy, we have seen the production.  But we cannot fault Doumit because of injuries alone as he does play on a team that often resembles a AA team on many of its off-nights.  I have never personally seen Ryan Doumit every take a game off, night off or going through the motions during an at-bat.  Playing on a sub .500 team for as long as he has though, one imagine that it would start to take a toll on the confidence of any player, Doumit included.  The Pirates are rebuilding on an upswing, with talented players such as Alvarez, Sanchez and Meek ready to lead the team in the coming years.  I do not see the rebirth of the team occurring on Doumit’s clock, but that does not mean that opportunities should not exist for Doumit.  A fresh start and a defined role and purpose would make all the difference in the world.  Hopefully this will happen soon.

2011 represents a crossroads year for Ryan Doumit.  A talented player once expected to be the centerpiece of his franchise, Doumit is a man without a position and seemingly chance this year.  Given the opportunity to perform, I believe that Doumit will put up the numbers.  McCutchen is healthy and playing strong and as long as he is in the line-up, Doumit will hopefully see some good pitches to hit.  Rounding back into form, Doumit I expect will be on a new team and line-up by May or June at the latest this year.  Motivated by the move, I expect Doumit to flex the baseball tools we know that he has and start to live up to the expectations that are starting to fade for him.  Never count out a talent like Doumit.  The Pirates gave up on Jose Bautista back in 2008 and at age 30 he did pretty well for himself.  Good luck to Ryan Doumit on this upcoming year, I am looking forward to his march back to baseball stardom in 2011.

 

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Meet Tony Sanchez – Future All- Star Catcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates

 

MLB reports:  “With the 4th overall selection of the 1st round in the 2009 Major League Baseball Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates select, Tony Sanchez, Catcher, from Boston College.”  With those words spoken, life would never be the same for Tony.  Much publicity surrounded the most recent 1st round pick of the Pirates, centering around the reasons for his selection.  To fully understand what was transpiring, one would need to look back briefly at the recent 1st round draft history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

2008:  Pedro Alvarez 3B – 2nd overall

2007:  Daniel Moskos P – 4th overall

2006:  Brad Lincoln P- 4th overall

2005:  Andrew McCutchen OF – 11th overall

2004:  Neil Walker C- 11th overall

2003:  Paul Maholm P- 8th overall

2002:  Bryan Bullington P – 1st overall

2001:  John VanBenschoten 1B- 8th overall

2000:  Sean Burnett P- 19th overall

With the Bryan Bullington pick still fresh in Pirates’ fans minds,  the 2006 and 2007 drafting respectively of Lincoln and Moskos were difficult to swallow.  The moves were seen largely as cost-sensitive selections, with the Pirates foregoing Morrow, Miller, Kershaw, Lincecum and Scherzer in 2006 and Wieters, LaPorta and Bumgarner in 2007 respectively.  Some missed players could be pointed to poor scouting and drafting, but others were seen by many as being salary restrictive.  The most notorious omission being Matt Wieters, a “can’t miss” catching prospect nabbed by the Baltimore Orioles in with the following 5th pick in the draft.  After selecting Pedro Alvarez in 2008, the Pirates maintained their 1st round selection of position players by choosing Tony Sanchez with the 4th overall pick.  Players left on the board were Mike Minor, Mike Leak and Drew Storen.  2009 was an interesting draft in the sense that Trout, the 25th overall pick of the Angels was just selection as MLB’s top prospect for 2011; proving that drafting is truly more of an art than a science.  But the Sanchez pick was not hailed as a victory by the analysts.  Reports seemed to indicate that the Pirates were attempting to make up for their Moskos/Wieters blunder by grabbing the best available catcher with the 4th pick, although Sanchez was considered by some to be a late 1st rounder.  Money was also thrown into the equation as Sanchez was seen as an easy sign for Pittsburgh.  But who is the aforementioned Tony Sanchez?  Lets take a look at the man behind the pick.

Standing 6’1” and weighing a solid 213 pounds, Jorge Anthony (Tony) Sanchez was born on May 20, 1988.   Tony attended Boston College and played the catcher position as a junior upon being drafted by the Pirates.  Known for having taken the “Jared Subway” diet, Tony committed himself to training and exercise and excelled on the diamond in his last season at Boston College.  In his 1st season of pro ball, Sanchez split his time between 3 minor league spots, finishing at a .309 average in 48 games, with 7 homeruns, 48 rbis, .408 obp and .539 slg.  Building upon that season, Sanchez was enjoying a solid 2010 season in Bradenton which ended prematurely by suffering a broken jaw after a beaning.  The final 2010 stat line for Sanchez was a .314 average in 59 games with 4 homeruns, 35 rbis, .416 obp and .454 slg.  Solid numbers for any hitter, especially a catcher.  Sanchez was named to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game and his future appeared to be very bright.  Despite having his season ended early, Sanchez fought weight loss and rust by rehabilitating and joining the Mesa Solar Sox for the Arizona Fall League season.  Despite subpar statistics, Sanchez did enjoy a 2-home run game on November 11th and was named a Rising Star in the AFL and most importantly, proved his health and commitment to playing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, its fans and the MLB community at large.

On February 13, 2011, Tony Sanchez will be reporting to spring training with the Pirates in Bradenton, Florida which ironically was his home field this past 2010 season.  The only other catchers drafted in the 1st round by the Pirates were Neil Walker in 2004 and Jason Kendall in 1992.  If the Pirates get a solid major leaguer like Kendall from Sanchez, the team and its fans will be overjoyed.  Baseball America has rated Sanchez as having the potential to being the first Pittsburgh catcher gold glove winner since Mike “Spanky” LaValliere in 1987.  It is time for the fans of Pittsburgh and baseball to let go of the ghosts of drafts past and live in the present and future.  Tony Sanchez, in addition to Pedro Alvarez and 2010 1st round pick James Taillon represent solid Pirates building blocks for years to come.  In his short time in baseball, Sanchez has shown that he has a potentially live bat and has received strong reviews for his work with the glove.  With an MLB ETA of 2012, the Tony Sanchez era in Pittsburgh will soon be upon us.  With a blue collar approach to the sport that will be well received in his new hometown, Tony Sanchez is starting to silence the critics and build upon the hype surrounding his play.  Remember the name: Tony Sanchez, catcher, Pittsburgh Pirates.

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