Blog Archives

Theo Epstein Heads to the Windy City to Lead the Cubs

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  On October 12, 2011, Theo Epstein, former GM of the Boston Red Sox agreed to a 5 year deal worth more than $15M.  With the Chicago Cubs.  This all comes as no real surprise to anyone, as it had been speculated since the Cubs fired GM Jim Hendry in August that Epstein was their top target.  The real surprise is that Epstein and the Boston Red Sox’s falling out happened so swiftly.  Within two weeks of the Red Sox collapse, which has been widely discussed by everyone in baseball circles, manager Terry Francona and the team parted ways, as well as, now, their general manager Theo Epstein.

It has been well-documented that Epstein was able to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” by employing a bunch of “idiots” in the locker room that went on to win a World Series in 2004.  This mentality has been a similar mantra of the Red Sox throughout his tenure.  Because they won in 2004, and also in 2007, it was completely acceptable for players to do what they pleased in the locker room.  Now that the epic collapse took place, the organization needed a change, and true accountability never took place for the Red Sox.

Epstein is a GM of great stature.  He is trusted and many people believe in his abilities.  He employs a “Moneyball” type strategy, which is also aided by having a large payroll, something he will also have the ability to create in Chicago.  Ownership of the Cubs have not been afraid to spend money, and most of the time have put themselves in unfortunate situations.

Two contracts come to mind when I think of the Cubs.  Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.  Prior to the 2007 season, Soriano inked a contract worth $136M over 8 years.  In 2007, Zambrano signed an extension for the 2008-2012 seasons, with a vesting option for 2013 worth $91.5M.  Epstein has a lot of work cut out for him with an aging, mediocre core, but finding a suitor for these two players, or finding a way for them to produce and not be distractions in the clubhouse is paramount.

Another major task for him is to figure out what he wants to do with incumbent manager, Mike Quade.  Quade was hired as the Cubs’ interim manager on August 22, 2010, and in October, the interim title was stripped.  Quade led the Cubs to a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish in the NL Central, only ahead of the lowly Houston Astros.  This record was tied for the 5th worst in all of baseball.  When Quade was hired, much to the dismay of Cubs fans, who wanted Ryne Sandberg to take the helm, he was highly regarded as a smart, methodical baseball thinker.  Was the year and month enough of a trial, or will Epstein want to bring in his own talent to manage this struggling franchise?

Epstein will also consider bringing in his own front office, using members from his group with the Red Sox.  With news breaking that Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington will take over as GM in Boston, Epstein will be fighting to bring his favorite guys over with him.

The last thing holding up this deal is compensation for the Red Sox.  Since Epstein had one year remaining on his contract with Boston, the Cubs had to ask permission to even speak with him.  Epstein had made it known to the organization that he would be leaving after 2012, so the Red Sox allowed talks to run smoothly, as they would have owed him $3M for the season, and a contract bonus of $4M.  Cash and/or prospects will easily get the job done.

The deal has not yet been completed due to some of these complications, but should be done by the beginning of next week.  Epstein will have a major challenge in Chicago, as they are not even close to competing.  Major decisions need to be made, and even with his high level of competency, it will take up to five years for the Cubs to be a major contender in the NL Central.

 

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

 

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

Jobless in 2012 – MLB Managers on the Hot Seat from 2011

Saturday September 10, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When a team has a disappointing season, the most likely candidate to lose his job is the manager.  So far in the 2011 season, there has already been three managers who have either resigned or been fired.  The Oakland Athletics fired Bob Geren on June 9th and replaced him with Bob Melvin.  A week and a half later, Edwin Rodriguez resigned from his post as manager of the Florida Marlins.  Jack McKeon became the oldest manager since Connie Mack at 80 years old.  Yet another week later on June 26th, Jim Riggleman of the Washington Nationals resigned and was replaced by Davey Johnson two days later.  With only a few weeks left in the regular season, who are the frontrunners to be replaced after the World Series?

With eight managers being new to their respective teams to start the 2011 season, one would think there can’t be too many jobs to lose.  The first criteria I look at in order to predict who will not be returning his club is if the team was expected to contend for the playoffs, and fell short.  Another thing I look at is the perception of the clubhouse, ie. if players get along, or if the manager is able to manage egos.  Of course, the manager’s ability to create a lineup and manage a bullpen is taken into consideration.  Other factors such as injuries and expectations of players are measured as well.  The list that follows are my top 3 managers who could be canned after this season.

Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs

It is not often that I would think a first year manager would be fired like this, but there are so many circumstances that make me believe he will be gone.  First, there has been grumbling since day one in Chicago that Quade was hired over franchise icon Ryne Sandberg.  The Cubs have been packed with talented players such as Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol.  Add in Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, and you would think they could at least come close in the terrible NL Central.  They are 22 games behind the streaking Milwaukee Brewers, and 21.5 behind Atlanta for the Wild Card.  Their record is 62-81 with a 35-40 record at Wrigley Field.

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

With 2011 being Black’s 5th season with the Padres, a 62-82 record and already 21 games behind Arizona for the NL West title, he could be on the way out.  The Padres have yet to reach the postseason under Black, however they were involved in a 1-game playoff with Colorado for the Wild Card title in 2007 that many of us will never forget as one of the most exciting games we have ever witnessed.  In 2010, the Padres held a 6.5 game lead over eventual World Series Champs San Francisco Giants on August 25th.  After a 10 game losing streak, the Padres were still in contention, and were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until the final day of the regular season with a 90-72 record.  Those were the only winnings seasons in Black’s tenure and his time in San Diego may be up.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

Is it really fair to say Gardenhire’s job is in jeopardy?  Probably not, but it definitely is possible.  Over his 10 year career with the Twins, he has amassed an 861-740 record and they have been in the playoffs 6 times.  However, they have only won 6 games, 4 of which were in one series, in Gardenhire’s first season; 2002.  The Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, being swept in 2006, 2009 and 2010 in the American League Division Series.  This year, Gardenhire has had to deal with crippling injuries of former AL MVP’s Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  Statistically, the best hitter has been Michael Cuddyer, hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI.  The best pitcher has been Scott Baker who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 131 2/3 innings.  Francisco Liriano has not been the same as he was before undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, and aside from his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3, he has been downright awful and is now on the 15-day disabled list.  When the best players don’t perform, or are hurt, the manager is forced to do the best he can with what he is given.  However a 59-84 record may just be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for Gardenhire.

This year, with 3 mid-season changes already, and eight new managers at the beginning of the season, shouldn’t see too much activity.  I do believe that with the Cubs’ search for a new general manager under way, Quade’s days are numbered in Chicago.  I also believe that Black’s inability to get the always promising Padres to the next level will leave him without a job by November.  Gardenhire has not proven to me that he can bring the Twins to the World Series, and that is what the job description entails.  Has it ever happened where both Managers of the Year from their respective leagues gets fired the following year? It could happen if Black and Gardenhire are let go.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News

 

Sunday September 4, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:

 

I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week.  “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth.  I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review.  Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks.  While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer.  I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections.  For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.

One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia.  After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs.  Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix.  But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards.  It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee.  Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes.  Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal.  For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.

Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012.  Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington.  From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman.  With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City.  All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap.  Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base.  Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.

I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013.  As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012.  New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil.  In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament.  From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament.  The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries.  One particular country I discussed was Israel.  Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis.  Quite the powerhouse offense.  To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions.  That is really what the WBC is all about.

For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient.  Your teams will be better.  It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day.  The only variable against you is time.

With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West.  How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me.  Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office.  Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender.  It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place.  Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge.  A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team.  Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.

Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees.  For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them.  Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void.  During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads.   There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year.  But having the teams in baseball is a good thing.  Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand.  You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees.  But you love to hate them.  For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.

I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason.  I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes.  Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes.  Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the  Phillies.

With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series.  My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies.  Call it a hunch.  Call me crazy.  I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.

Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done.  If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can.  When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans.  Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball.  With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer.  But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game.  Enjoy as many of those games as you can now. 

 

 

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.

James Shields to the Reds for Alonso and Grandal: July 31st MLB Trade Deadline Rumor

Saturday July 23, 2011

MLB reports:   We are now only eight days away from the MLB non-waiver trade deadline and the rumors continue to fly fast and furious.  Along with the Carlos Beltran and Heath Bell sweepstakes, the names Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Willingham, Brandon League, Hunter Pence and Hiroki Kuroda have been tossed around as possible candidates to be moved next week.  Another big time name has recently been thrown into the mix that we will be looking at today.  James Shields, “big game James”, one of the top starting pitchers on the Tampa Bay Rays may very well be playing for a new team very soon.  The Cincinnati Reds are apparently calling and with big prospect bats sitting on the farm, the Reds may very well have the necessary bait to haul in one of the biggest fishes on the trade market.

The 29-year old James Shields was drafted by the Rays in the 16th round of the 2000 MLB draft.  Shields made his major league debut in 2006.  Here is a quick rundown of his lifetime statistics:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 6 8 4.84 124.2 141 38 104 1.436
2007 12 8 3.85 215.0 202 36 184 1.107
2008 14 8 3.56 215.0 208 40 160 1.153
2009 11 12 4.14 219.2 239 52 167 1.325
2010 13 15 5.18 203.1 246 51 187 1.461
2011 9 8 2.53 156.1 118 40 151 1.011
6 Seasons 65 59 4.02 1134.0 1154 257 953 1.244
162 Game Avg. 13 12 4.02 224 227 51 188 1.244

 

A definite innings-eater, James pitched almost 1000 innings over his first five seasons, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers in the game.  A lack of run support has definitely hurt Shields over the years, as he had the numbers to obtain more wins had the Rays offense been able to support him better.  I have watched too many instances of Shields pitching complete or near complete game losses, despite only giving up 2-3 runs per game.  2009 and 2010 were not kind to James in some ways, as some analysts viewed Shields as having hit his peak and starting to decline.  Going into 2011, nobody knew what James Shields the Rays would be getting.  The steady ace that the team enjoyed for the majority of his career or the 2010 inconsistent version.  Looking at Shields at the halfway mark of the season, he is enjoying by far his greatest season in the majors.  A sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.011 WHIP, Shields has been everything that the Rays could have expected more.  But with success comes many questions, with the most pertinent being what the Rays should do with James.

The whispers and talk has been growing by the day that the Rays may be looking to move Shields by July 31st.  The Reds have been the team most linked to the Rays, given their desire to bolster their rotation and the deep farm of prospects they can offer the Rays.  The Reds are sitting on some of the top prospects in the game that are currently blocked at the major league level.  Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF is considered one of the best hitters not at the major league level.  Alonso would represent the centerpiece of a potential Shields deal.  Born in Cuba and having attended the University of Miami, Alonso is often compared to his friend Alex Rodriguez, based on his combination of power and patience at the plate.  Not bad company at all.  The 24-year old Alonso was drafted 7th overall in the 2008 draft by the Reds and has quickly advanced in their system.   Currently in AAA, Alonso sits at a .297 AVG, .871 OPS, with 12 home runs and 46/59 BB/K.  The Rays, desperately in need of bats, currently have Casey Kotchman manning first.  Alonso would be a perfect fit in taking over the first base job for the next decade.  He is a special hitter that does not come along very often.  While a pitcher of Shields stature is not easy to replace, the Rays would be filling a huge void in their lineup by adding Alonso.  Dealing from strength to fill a need is smart baseball management and the reason why we are discussing the trade of Shields today.

In addition to acquiring Yonder Alonso, the Rays would be adding a number one catcher to their system in either Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco.  I have seen both names thrown around, but my gut is that the Rays will end up receiving Grandal.  Mesoraco was featured by us back in June.  The likely Reds catcher of the future, Mesoraco is expected to get the call either this year or next at the latest to replace incumbent Ramon Hernandez.  With a solid backup in Ryan Hanigan, the Reds have an abundance of catchers, a strength considering that few major league teams have potential superstar backstops playing in their lower levels.  The 22-year old Grandal was born in Cuba and played in Miami, similar to Alonso.  Drafted 12th overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Grandal recently got the call to AA.  Mesoraco on the other hand, is 23-years of age and was drafted 15th overall by the Reds in the 2007 MLB draft.  Mesoraco is back for his second tour of duty in AAA, hitting a solid .309 and .895 OPS, with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.  After battling injuries in his career, Mesoraco hit a combined 26 home runs over 3 levels last season and has not slowed down since.  The Rays would be thrilled to receive Mesoraco in a Shields trade, but Grandal is considered by many to actually be the more talented backstop.  A win-win either way for Tampa Bay.

But why trade Shields and especially, why now?  Many Rays fans are asking themselves those questions right now.  On the surface, Shields and the Rays look like a perfect fit.  He is young and still in the prime of his career.  Shields has proven to be healthy and durable since joining the Rays.  He is signed through this year, with team friendly options through 2014 at $7, $9 and $12 million per year respectively from 2012-14.  In baseball they say you can never have too much pitching.  If that is the case, then some feel the Rays should consider stockpiling their pitchers and building their team from strength.  But that is a narrow view of major league teams and how they operate.  Let’s take a look at our five top reasons for the Rays to trade James Shields right now:

1)  Sell at the Peak

You never know what the future will bring, so sometimes it is important to live in the moment.  Shields, while a steady and consistent pitcher, is currently pitching at the highest level of his career.  The Rays will need to determine if he has truly broken out or merely playing above his head.  The value for Shields may never get higher than it is today.  As well, teams contending for the playoffs may be willing to pay more at the deadline than the offseason for Shields.  The Rays, if feeling especially lucky, could request the addition of either Mike Leake or Travis Wood to the trade mix from the Reds.

2)  Numbers Game:  Rotation Log Jam

The Rays have been known for acquiring, developing and stockpiling pitchers in their system.  This past offseason was no different, as the Rays traded away top starter Matt Garza to the Cubs for a package of prospects, including Christopher Archer and Sam Fuld.  With Jeremy Hellickson ready, willing and able to join the big club, the Rays needed to clear room for their next future star pitcher.  Hellickson, combined with David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann form a formidable one through four punch in the rotation.  Based on their age and salaries, none of these starters will likely be going anywhere soon.  While Alex Cobb has been brought in for temporary measure to the majors, Matt Moore just got the call to join AAA Durham in anticipation of joining the Rays rotation soon.  Moore, one of the top-five pitching prospects in baseball, will not likely be kept on the farm too long given his dominance over minor league hitters to-date.  That is how the baseball system works.  Prospects are developed and either traded for veterans or take over for departed veterans from major league teams.  As the Rays have no intention of trading Moore, a spot will have to open up for him.  Unfortunately for James Shields, he is the veteran most likely to go.  From there, it will only be a matter of time before Archer is ready to join the big club and the cycle will continue.

3)  Dollars and Cents

It is no secret that the Rays are on a very tight budget.  Low attendance figures, despite continued recent major league success including a World Series appearance in 2008, has meant that the Rays cannot afford to hang onto high priced veterans.  Shown the door in recent years were Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano, among others for financial considerations.  While James may have what is considered a team friendly contract, paying him close to $10 million or so per year for each of the next three seasons does not work for the Rays budget.  Moore, combined with Alonso and Grandal, would fill three positions for the Rays at a combined salary that will be a fraction of what Shields makes.  In other words, Shields is a luxury that the Rays cannot afford and can fill quite adequately within at a cheaper cost.  While we do not like to think about the economics of the game, it can drive roster decisions on the same level as talent and ability.

4)  Innings- Wear and Tear

James Shields is starting to enter a zone that many MLB teams dread.  The 200-innings per season for over five seasons club.  While an informal group, there has been much talk in baseball circles that most pitchers after their first 1000 innings pitched have a high risk of injuries and decline.  Pitchers like Brandon Webb and to a lesser extent Ben Sheets, are shown as examples of modern pitchers that have arm/shoulder problems after pitching many major league innings over a span of 5+ years.  While Shields has not shown any risks yet of developing injuries, his numbers going into this season were of concern for the Rays.  So while Shields is having a Cy Young caliber season, the Rays may be fearful that he will be susceptible to injuries or declining performance very soon.

5)  Pitchers Need Run Support

In the same way a fast car needs a powerful engine and reliable tires, a major league team needs both offense and strong pitching.  The current build of the Rays is starting to mirror the San Francisco Giants.  Great young pitching but not enough hitting.  The Rays can stockpile as much pitching as they like, but if they cannot score runs they will have a difficult time making the playoffs, let alone win a World Series title.  Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal are two superstar bats in the making that the Rays desperately need and do not have in their own system.  The expression goes that teams “develop pitching and buy bats.”  In this case, the Rays will be taking to buying the bats that they themselves cannot produce.  With a starting lineup of nine hitters, that Rays will be instantly filling over 20% of their lineup by way of this trade.  The hit the rotation by losing Shields would be absorbed by the addition of Matt Moore to the major league club.  But the boost to the team’s offense as a result of the addition of Alonso and Grandal is invaluable.

Verdict:  The bottom line is that the Tampa Bay Rays are in a quandary.  James Shields is the heart and soul of their pitching staff, the go-to guy who has earned his nickname of “big game.”  But as the most expensive starter on the staff, with the team’s top prospect almost ready to receive the call to the show and the team desperately needing good young hitting, the Rays have no choice but to consider moving Shields at the trade deadline.  As the team is still in contention, management will have to be careful of not sending a message that they are throwing in the towel on the season.  But to get the biggest reward, the team will have to pay a big price.  It will be difficult in the short-term to accept the trade of James Shields from Tampa Bay.  But considering the hitting that the Reds would be sending to the Rays, this is a deal that the Rays cannot afford to miss out on.  Keep an eye on Tampa Bay as the team will continue to improve, get younger at a competitive payroll come deadline day and still remain in contention.  If this is truly James Shield’s last week in a Rays uniform, please be sure to catch his last start live or on television from Oakland this coming Wednesday July 27th.  With Desmond Jennings and Dane De La Rosa just recalled by the Rays from AAA, the cycle of player and prospect replenishment has already begun again in Tampa Bay.

 

 

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

MLB All-Star Futures Game 2011: World Team Preview

Thursday, July 7, 2011

 

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

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

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

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

 

WORLD TEAM

 

PITCHERS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CATCHERS

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

INFIELDERS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

OUTFIELDERS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Stay tuned for analysis on the US roster.

 

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

 

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

 

 

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 11th

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 11, 2011

Q:   Where do you see the Boston Red Sox finishing this season in the standings? From Jake, Boston

MLB reports:  My crystal ball in March said that the Rays would win the AL East, with the Red Sox finishing second in the division and taking the AL Wild Card.  I have no reason to deviate from my prediction thus far.  Despite the strength of the Yankees, the Red Sox have so much talent that several hot streaks are in store.  When playoff tickets go on sale, go ahead and order for the opening round at least.

Q:  Fantasy question:  Should I dump Jorge Posada for Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Hanigan, or Hank Conger?  I probably should have done something Monday, as Posada’s .151 AVG is killing my team.  From Bonzi, Parts Unknown

MLB reports: I take it that your league counts average, based on your e-mail.  Turning 40 this summer, Posada has definitely seen better days.  He does have 6 home runs and 14 RBIs, but his numbers overall are fantasy suicide.  I can’t believe Iannetta and Doumit are still available in your league.  If so, grab them in that order.  Iannetta is 28, plays in Colorado, has 5 home runs, 13 RBIs, .398 OBP, .494 SLG.  His .250 AVG is nothing to write home about, but as the #1 catcher for the Rockies, Iannetta has the biggest upside.  Doumit will be traded to a contender at some point likely but while he has shown a steady bat this season, he is always an injury risk.  If Iannetta is not available though, I like Doumit over Posada.  Ramos has been a nice player for the Nationals but is still young and likely won’t play at this level all season.  I would trust Posada over him.  Hanigan and Conger are nice replacement bats for injury but as part-time players offer little upside at this point.  If either was starting, they would still rank below Posada this season for me.

Q:Why do teams not pitch Jose Bautista away, away, away ALL the time? Why even try to challenge him inside?  From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports: It is not that simple Garrett, as Bautista has become such a dangerous hitter that there are not many pitches that he does not get to.  Judging by his 100 walks last year, which will be higher this year, Bautista has a great eye at the plate.  Based on the damage that he can do, I frankly don’t understand why teams just don’t walk him 4-5 times every game.  Being the strongest offensive option currently in the Jays lineup by a country-mile, Bautista is a long-ball threat every at-bat and taking the bat out of his hands likely will be best at minimizing the damage.  With not many healthy hitters in the Jays lineup that are threats to drive him in, I agree that opposing pitchers should not give Bautista much to hit…and in my opinion, not even give him the option at all.

Q:   Fantasy Trade Evaluation: Aramis Ramirez & Alfonso Soriano for Jason Bay & Brandon McCarthy. Who’s winning?  Who’s losing? I have Ryan Zimmerman on DL.  I am giving up Bay and McCarthy. From Mike, Brooklyn

MLB reports: This one is a toughy.  I wanted to say Bay and McCarthy to keep, but I can’t do it.  My factors are as follows.  McCarthy is 27 and has great upside.  But he is injury prone and cannot be counted on to stay healthy.  He can literally drop at a moment’s notice.  Plus he is 1-3, despite a 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  With little wins potential and health concerns, this trade really boils down to Bay for Ramirez and Soriano for me. 

Bay has been a disaster since coming to the Mets.  Poor production and concussions issues have done him in.  With 6 home runs last year and 1 home run this year with a .213 AVG, 7/19 BB/K ratio, Bay is regretting his decision to leave Boston for New York.  Bay is already 32 and his window of opportunity is closing.  Ramirez and Soriano are no spring chickens either.  Ramirez though has a .286 AVG with 14 RBIs, despite only 1 home run and .718 OPS.  Soriano has a league leading 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 Runs, with a whopping .550 SLG despite an unsightly .242 AVG and .270 OBP.  If you can stomach some of the warts shown by the 35-year-old Soriano and 32-year-old Ramirez, they will still provide much of the stats and comfort that Bay and McCarthy won’t.  In some ways this is a headache for headache trade, but by making the deal, you are getting the likely higher returns.  Go for it.

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.

MLB Top Home Run Hitters 2011: Updated

MLB reports:  Here at MLB reports, we consistently get fan requests for features on the top home run hitters in the game.  We recently ran a feature looking at the top power hitters and appreciate the feedback and responses.  As a bonus, for all those of you that dig the long ball, here is a look at the current MLB leader board and analysis on each of the top long ball threats.  Some surprises to this point for sure.

T1)  Curtis Granderson, Yankees:  11

For all the talk of the Tigers winning the Granderson trade in obtaining Austin Jackson, Granderson has really made the Yankees look good this year.  At 30 years of age and healthy this season, Granderson has really enjoyed his second year with the Bronx Bombers.  He has hit 11 home runs, to go together with his .283 AVG, .359 OBP and .646 SLG.  Add in 2 triples for good measure as Granderson has done it all for the Yankees in 2011.  Hitting higher in the order, Granderson will continue to have increased chances of scoring and driving in runs.  With a career high of 30 long balls recently in 2009, Granderson is on pace for a new personal best this year.  With his lineup and ballpark, the chances are very good if he stays healthy.

T1)  Alfonso Soriano, Cubs:  11

Left for dead by many experts, Soriano has come out of seemingly nowhere to rejuvenate his career… power-wise.  On pace for 50+ home runs, Soriano is hitting long balls, driving in and scoring runs at a high pace.  However note the key red flag:  4 walks to-date with a .273 OBP.  These kinds of numbers are simply unacceptable and with 31 strike outs, Soriano better find some plate discipline soon if he hopes to continue to receive regular at-bats.  At his late age, Soriano is slowly morphing into an all other nothing home run hitter and his free swinging ways is actually hurting more than helping the Cubs this season.

T2)  Lance Berkman, Cardinals:  10

At the age of 36, Lance Berkman has reclaimed his spot as one of the top hitters in the game for the Cardinals.  Healthy and playing like the Puma of old, Berkman has a 1.191 OPS to go together with his 17/16 BB/K ratio.  To say that he is paying outstanding baseball would be an understatement.  I really liked this signing at the time and playing with Pujols and Holliday has done wonders for Berkman’s bat.  With LaRussa as his manager and strong team along for the ride, I see 40+ home runs in the Big Puma’s future…provided he remains healthy of course.

T2)  Ryan Braun, Brewers:  10

The Hebrew Hammer just doesn’t let up.  The 27-year-old Braun already has 138 career home runs and continues to pile them on.  With Prince Fielder protecting him in the lineup, Braun will just continue to be Braun in 2011.  Mark him down for 30+ home runs and don’t think twice.

T2)  Jose Bautista:  10

As time goes by, Bautista’s numbers slowly but surely are silencing many of his critics.  Despite missing games this season with a neck strain and personal leave, Bautista has managed 10 home runs in 88 at bats.  Combined with his 30/17 BB/K ratio, .352 AVG, .521 OBP and .773 SLG and you have one of the best, if not the best player currently in the game.  Bautista has also produced with Adam Lind and very little else for support in the lineup.  The Toronto slugger is proving that he is not a one-hit wonder and here to stay on the MLB home run leader board.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitters in baseball.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com

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.

You can follow us on Twitter @MLBreports, on Facebook at http://facebook.com/mlbreports  and please subscribe for free to our site by clicking on the link at the top of our homepage, to receive e-mails on our daily articles:  http://mlbreports.com  

Top Home Run Hitters: MLB 2011

MLB reports:  For pure fun today, I wanted to scan the major league baseball leaderboard and evaluate the top home run hitters of 2011.  While this list can change at a moment’s notice, looking at the board with over three weeks into the season is always fun.  At least my idea of fun.  I originally planned to make a top ten list, but that was going to prove to be futile.  Six hitters sit at the top of the list with seven home runs a piece and eight hitters tied for second with six home runs each.  Let’s take a close look at the top fourteen then and see which hitters are likely to remain on the list and which have caught lightning in a bottle for a few games.

First Place – Seven Home Runs

Jose Bautista:  Toronto Blue Jays

After 54 home runs last year, is anyone still waiting for a slowdown?  With 19 walks already, .359 AVG and 1.256 OPS, Bautista continues to build on the momentum of last year.  Living up to his large contract extension signed in the off-season, it appears that the new Jose Bautista is here to stay.  At 30 years of age, Bautista is showing that he has enough juice in his bat to approach another 50 home runs this year.

Adrian Beltre:  Texas Rangers

Another big contract signing entering 2011, Beltre has made good on the promise of his bat hitting in Arlington.  Inconsistent throughout his career, analysts have often said that if healthy and playing in a hitters park, the sky is the limit.  Beltre hit 48 home runs back in 2004 playing for the Dodgers and have never approached those numbers since.  At 32 and playing in one of the best hitters park in a stacked lineup, big numbers could come his way.  I see somewhat of a regression, but 30-35 home runs is a safe bet at this point.

Ryan Braun:  Milwaukee Brewers

The Hebrew Hammer has 128 career home runs in four seasons going into 2011.  He has Prince Fielder in the lineup with him.  At 27, Braun is this generation’s Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg.  No slowdowns ahead for this Brewer as he shoots for his first 40+ home run season.  The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year is a future MVP and his time could come this year.

Curtis Granderson:  New York Yankees

The only surprise in the top home run hitters category, Granderson has always shown glimpses of brilliance but injuries and slumps have slowed his path.  The 20/20/20/20 season in 2007 was impressive, as was the career high 30 home runs that Granderson hit in 2009 for the Tigers.  Even though he missed 26 games last year to injury, he still was able to amass 24 home runs.  Now healthy and with the short porch in Yankee stadium, Granderson has a good chance at equaling and besting his career best power numbers.  Given the Yankees lineup as well, I would not count him out.  Granderson is unlikely to remain among the league leaders in bombs, but a solid 30+ home run season is definitely in order.

Albert Pujols:  St. Louis Cardinals

Coming into this season, the Great Pujols hit a Ruthian 408 home runs in 10 seasons.  Truly our generation’s Babe Ruth, Pujols has to be considered one of the best home run hitters of all time.  With an .806 OPS, Pujols hasn’t even begun to heat up.  Pujols has Holliday and a resurging Lance Berkman for protection and going into his first free agency year, expect legendary numbers by seasons end.  This is Albert Pujols we are talking about…I do not have to say anything else.

Troy Tulowitzki:  Colorado Rockies

Still only 26 years old, Tulowitzki is working towards becoming the best player in baseball.  Missing significant time in 2008 and 2010, Tulo still has 99 career home runs going into today.  Playing in the home run haven called Colorado, all Tulo has to do is to stay healthy to succeed.  As this is an odd year, history is shown that he will likely play close to a full season.  His career high of 32 home runs is well within reach and I can see a 40+ home run season this year.  The talent and circumstances are all there…all he needs is health.

Second Place:  Six Home Runs

Lance Berkman:  St. Louis Cardinals

Going into the second tier of top home run hitters, we find some resurgent players, surprises and expected studs.  Berkman was an uncertainty coming into season.  The 35-year-old Big Puma has seen 40+ home run seasons in his career.  2010 was an injury shortened season and after getting traded to the Yankees and faltering in New York, critics began to write him off.  I was a big fan of his move to St. Louis, back to the NL Central and the opportunity to play with Pujols and Holliday.  Defense aside, Berkman’s 9 walks and league leading .725 SLG show that the Puma is back.  With the occasional days off and prime spot in the lineup, 35 home runs is my predicted total for this superstar.

Jonny Gomes:  Cincinnati Reds

The man has seem to been around forever but is actually only 30 years old.  Gomes has seen several 20+ home run seasons in his career, including 18 in 2010 playing in a career high 148 games.  With 18 walks, Gomes has disguised his poor .212 avg this season with a .386 OBP and .530 SLG.  The owner of a lifetime .332 OBP and .463 SLG, Gomes will get a fair amount of playing time this year.  While he is not the second coming of Adam Dunn, Gomes has clearly found a home in Cincinnati.  His lower average and 19 strikeouts concern me at this point as he will need to become a steadier hitter to continue to receive steady playing time.  Part of the surprises of this list, expect a return to form in order for Gomes.  Despite lofty totals, I cannot foresee a 30 home run season coming, even though he plays in that ballpark.  He is too streaky and Dusty Baker is not patient enough to stick with him.

Howie Kendrick:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Not one of my favorite players to cover, I have always soured on Kendrick for his inability to take walks.  With a career high of 10 home runs (twice), low stolen bases totals and inability to consistently get on base, I have rarely seen the upside of Kendrick at the plate.  This season, apparently as light switch has gone off inside his head or bat, as Kendrick is well on his way to shattering his previous power numbers and already has 10 walks on the season (last year he set a career high of 28).  Does a leopard change its spots…or does a Kendrick learn patience?  I will believe it when I see it.  I have watched Kendrick for too long to be sold on what I have seen thus far.  if he is still able to keep up this approach going into July, maybe I will cut him some slack.  Until then, I expect to see Kendrick off this list by mid-June at the latest.  A nice run, but a run is all this is at the end of the day in my opinion.

Russell Martin:  New York Yankees

The second Yankee on our list has found a new home and new lease on life in the Bronx.  Martin had a career high 19 home runs in 2007 playing for the Dodgers, earning a Silver Slugger award that year.  With an OPS of 1.099, Martin is the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.  Playing nearly every game this season and enjoying a healthy hip, Martin apparently has renewed drive and focus that was previously lacking in Los Angeles.  At 28 years old and continuing our trend of young superstars on the list, all Martin really has to do is stay healthy this year.  In the loaded Yankees lineup and with the short porch, Martin has a chance at 25 home runs this year.

Jorge Posada:  New York Yankees

Yankee #3 is on the downside of his career, or so we are led to believe.  The 39-year-old Posada is a full-time DH for the full-time in his career.  While his .153 AVG and .711 OPS, his 6 home runs (of his 9 total hits) is outstanding.  Too many factors are against Posada staying on the leaderboard.  Health is always a concern and despite no longer playing the field, any tweaks at this point could send the elderly Posada to the DL.  Further, his numbers are showing that when he is not hitting home runs, he is simply not hitting or getting on base.  As Posada continues his best Rob Deer impersonation, I don’t foresee great things ahead for the future hall of famer, nearing the end of an outstanding career.

Carlos Quentin:  Chicago White Sox

Both Chicago teams are represented, with the powerful Quentin starting off for the White Sox.  The likely pick for MVP had he stayed healthy in 2008, Quentin has a laundry list of injuries and ailments his entire career.  But when healthy, Quentin is always a home run threat.  With a 1.023 OPS and having Rios, Dunn, Konerko, Ramirez and Beckham in the lineup for protection, Quentin looks to best his career high of 36 home runs in 2008.  I am sitting on the fence on this one.  The potential is there, but so are the injuries.  Expect at least a couple of trips to the disabled list but assuming reasonable health, I will take 30+ home runs for Carlos.  The Adam Dunn factor cannot be discounted, as he will prove to be great protection for Quentin all season long.

Alfonso Soriano:  Chicago Cubs

A 20+ home run hitter for nine straight seasons, Soriano was written off for dead by many experts, yours truly included.  2009 was a dismal season for Soriano and although he had a steady return last year, at the age of 35 and with knee issues, little was expected from the talented Dominican.  Despite his .513 SLG this season, there are several reasons to expect a continuing decline for Soriano.  His BB/K rate this year is an abysmal 3/21, as his .244 AVG and .272 OBP.  If you ask me, I see Soriano slowly decaying into the next Yuniesky Betancourt.  Soriano is still a lock for another 20+ home run year but with the rest of his game on such a rapid decline, don’t expect much else.  If the Cubs have any other options, I expect Soriano to see more time on the bench or even a trade in order.  But at his salary, I cannot foresee any team taking a chance.

Mark Teixeira:  New York Yankees

The last player on our list and Yankee #4, Teixeira clearly did not get the memo that we are in April and not August.  A notorious slow starter, Teixeira is already up to twelve walks, .402 OBP and .621 SLG.  For the 31-year-old Teixeira who has 281 career home runs, his career high of 43 home runs in 2005 could be broken.  Considering that Teixeira has the ability to hit 10-12 home runs per month in the summer, I see a clear breakout year for this superstar first baseman.  The Yankees went out and got him for a reason.  In addition to his gold glove defense, I am smelling a possible silver slugger and MVP award in 2011.

What is the future of this list?  Hard to tell without a crystal ball, as so many factors can arise.  Injuries, playing time, lineup position…things can change.  But a trend is clear from the early season home run leaders.  Most are in the 27-30 year-old age bracket and are proven home run hitters in their careers.  I expect most of the above hitters to remain on the list, with some surprises to fade away and new players to emerge.  Other superstars, like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez will join this list very soon.  But even in the short span of three weeks into the season, it is clear that even with only a few games played, the home run hitting cream is already rising to the top.

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.

%d bloggers like this: