Blog Archives

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.
Advertisements

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

Monday October 17, 2011

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Take the recent MLB reports Poll:  We would love to hear your opinion and comments!

Drew Taylor Interview: The Story of an Intercounty League Pitcher

Wednesday  September 21, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Drew Taylor, former Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays prospect pitcher, currently playing in the Intercounty Baseball League.  Based in Ontario, Canada, the Intercounty League has produced several major league players including Rob Butler, Rich Butler and current Brewers closer, John Axford.  Drew’s baseball blood lines run deep, as his father Ron Taylor is former MLB pitcher himself.  Part of the 1969 Miracle Mets during his playing career, Dr. Taylor is a long time team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Did I mention that Drew is also dating Miss Universe Canada 2010?    From getting signed by the Jays, having a World Series champion pitcher as a father, recovering from injuries and life in the Intercounty League and working towards becoming a doctor, we covered many topics with Drew.  For a great baseball tale from a different part of the game, we present our recent interview with Drew Taylor:    

  

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MLB reports:   I have read that you have been involved with a number of charity groups surrounding baseball and sports, with your girlfriend Elena Semikina, Miss Universe Canada 2010. Tell us more about it and what type of effect Elena has had on you.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Thank you again to Drew Taylor for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Drew.  As well, please follow Drew on Twitter (@DrewWTaylor).

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

 

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

Adam Dunn: The Future of the White Sox Slugger

Wednesday August 31, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Not every player can fit onto a particular MLB team.  That is a baseball reality.  In fact, there are very few, if any players that could produce the same statistics playing for any team.  A player’s production is based on many factors, including home park, lineup, adaptability to particular cities and so on.  When a team trades for a player or signs a free agent, the hope is that the new player will be able to meet or exceed previous production levels on a new team.  Sometimes, the hope is that new environment will revitalize a stagnant player and breath new life into them.  In the case of Adam Dunn, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a free agent contract last year.  A large deal, 4 years for $56 million dollars.  A fair deal in my estimation at the time.  The White Sox by signing Dunn were hoping to land an established slugger to fit in the middle of their lineup.   What they ended up with was quite different.

Take a look at Adam Dunn’s current production in comparison to his career numbers:

  BA HR RBI     OBP
Regular Season .163 11 40       .290  
Career .244 365 920     .374  

To say that Adam Dunn has been anything but a disaster since his arrival in Chicago would be an understatement.  Prior to 2011, Dunn’s worst season produced an .819 OPS.  That was in 2003, his 2nd full season in the majors that was cut short by injuries.  Turn the clock and Adam Dunn sits with a .578 OPS this season with no likelihood of redemption.  While some pointed to Dunn playing in a new league for the first time and starting off slow, a turnaround was expected at some point this season.  Dunn has actually regressed to the point that he is benched by manager Ozzie Guillen at a frequent rate.  A sad state of affairs for one of the game’s previously most consistent sluggers.

For a two-year stretch, from 2003-2008, Adam Dunn was a 40 home runs and 100 walks guy.  In his last two seasons, Dunn played in a less than friendly hitters park in Washington and still hit 38 home runs per season.  Moving to the White Sox, expectations were that playing in a hitter’s park with a deep lineup would produce possible MVP type numbers for the burly slugger.  So what happened?  Why the sharp regression?

Part of the issue has been the move to the American League.  The adjustment has not worked for some hitters and we have seen NL hitters in the past that cannot play in the AL for whatever reason.  Glenn Davis is one famous example that comes to mind, who moved from Houston to Baltimore and literally fell apart overnight.  Dunn also is a full-time DH for the first time in his career.  Some hitters never take as well to moving off the field and into a DH role, citing inactivity and removal from the full game experience as distractions from their hitting.  Given though Dunn’s perceived weak fielding, at both first base and the outfield, a move to DH should have been a welcome change for him.  Yet the move was another factor in his year-long slump.

The main culprit in my estimation is the fit, or lack of in Chicago.  Perhaps it is the city, or the ballpark, teammates, media or his relationship with the manager.  Whatever the reason, I ultimately believe that Adam Dunn and the White Sox simply do not mesh more than anything else.  While  a return to the field and/or the National League may help, first and foremost Dunn needs to get out of Chicago and start fresh. 

I think of Chone Figgins and his move from the Angels to the Mariners.  Despite staying in the same division even, Figgins was never able to meet expectations in Seattle and regressed throughout his time with the Mariners.  Had he stayed in Anaheim, the chances are higher that Figgins would have continued playing his game and not transformed into a shell of his former self.  Carl Crawford in Boston and Jayson Werthin Washington are players that also signed big-ticket deals and also stayed in their respective divisions, yet faltered in the wake of big contract expectations.  But the difference with Crawford and Werth is that they have shown some glimpses of life this season, while Dunn has shown none.  I fully expect Crawford at least to be able to make the necessary adjustments and rebound by next season.  In Dunn’s case, I do not see that happening without a trade.

Nick Swisher is a situation that I will point to as an example.  From the moment Swisher was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, nothing went right.  After suffering through the worst season of his career in Chicago, Swisher was traded to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and blossomed in New York.  The same will likely occur to Dunn.  A move to the Yankees is a possibility, for a high-profile team that can afford to take on or part of most of Dunn’s salary.  A trade for a bad contract is another one, with the Cubs for Zambrano or Giants for Zito as possibilities.  Better yet, a move to the Angels could also be the answer.  With Mike Trout ready to join an outfield of Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, the Angels may not have room for failed trade acquisition Vernon Wells.  The White Sox could plug Wells into their outfield and Angels use Dunn to replace Bobby Abreu as DH.  A long shot, but certainly a possibility.

No one can be sure if this season is an outlier or an indication of the beginning of the end for Adam Dunn.  Based on his strong body of work until this year, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that a rebound will occur.  The White Sox might wait it out and give Dunn another shot next year.  But then GM Kenny Williams has never been the patient type.  After moving Swisher very quickly, I expect the White Sox to do the same with Dunn.  This would be a classic buy-low situation for another MLB club.  Expect many calls on Dunn in the offseason and a new team by 2012.  Despite Dunn indications of having retirement thoughts due to his poor season, I cannot see him going down in this manner.  Adam Dunn will be back.  The only question is where.

  

 

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.

Vernon Wells Trade Discussion: Midseason Winners and Loser

Sunday July 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  January 21, 2011 is seen as a bit of a turning point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.  General Manager Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time face of the franchise, Vernon Wells.  Wells had been with the Blue Jays since he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall by the Jays in the 1997 amateur draft.  After making his debut in 1999, he played in a Toronto uniform through the 2010 season.  His name is littered across franchise record books, and he was a beloved figure in the clubhouse.  On December 15, 2006, Wells signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, which at the time was the 6th largest contract in MLB history.  Over the next few years, Wells’ lack of production and time spent on the disabled list, made his contract “unmoveable”.

That was of course until Alex Anthopolous took the helm as Jays GM, and was able to find a taker for Wells and the four years and $86 million remaining on the contract.  Into the picture came Tony Reagins, GM of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  It has been said that Reagins approached Anthopolous about Wells.  One would think that in order for a deal to work, the Blue Jays would have had to send a large sum of cash to the Angels in order for the deal to go through.

The deal that was finally consummated was to send Wells and approximately $5 million to the Angels in exchange for OF Juan Rivera, and C/1B Mike Napoli.  Rivera was seen as a throw-in, as his $4M contract was more than the Angels wanted to pay.  Napoli had fallen out of favour in manager Mike Scioscia’s eyes; despite hitting at least 20 home runs in each of the three previous seasons despite receiving limited playing time.  Toronto then flipped Napoli to the Texas Rangers for standout reliever Frank Francisco.  The Rangers received the powerful, right-handed versatile hitter they coveted, and the Blue Jays thought they received the closer they needed.

It is quite obvious that no matter how any of those players perform, the Blue Jays are the big winner because of the payroll space they have cleared and can use to extend their star players, see Jose Bautista.  However, this deal has not been so cut and dry.  While Napoli has swung the bat with authority, Juan Rivera has been traded to the LA Dodgers, and Francisco has been awful out of the Jays bullpen.

Let’s take a quick look at each player’s production and how their respective teams have fared so far.

 

Mike Napoli

Again performing as a part-time player at three positions, Napoli has been very solid for the Rangers.  He has hit 13 home runs and driven in 34 RBI in only 187 plate appearances.  While his average leaves something to be desired, he makes up for it in his ability to take walks and hit the ball to the gaps.  With his OPS at .906, he has proven that he is a tremendously underrated player.  His WAR through half the season is at 1.7, and he is on pace to break his career high of 2.6.

 

Juan Rivera

Because he was seen as a salary dump for the Angels, the Blue Jays took him on and saw him as the everyday left fielder and DH out of spring training.  He was never able to get it going, and quickly fell out of favour in Toronto.  His OPS sat at .666 when traded, with a limited ability to get on base and very little power.  This on top of the fact that he played atrocious defense led to his -1.2 WAR.  He was traded to the LA Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations on July 12, 2011.

 

Frank Francisco

Seen as a pretty successful power arm for the late innings, Francisco was picked up from the Texas Rangers along with cash.  He continues to strike out a ton of batters, (10.1 K/9), but he is giving up more hits than he has in the past.  However, part of this is due to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .359.  His xFIP is actually almost two runs lower than his ERA, 3.56 as opposed to 5.40.  I think that Francisco has been unlucky, and when it all evens out, it will show that he is at least a competent late inning reliever.

 

Vernon Wells

Wells was obviously the big fish in this trade.  He has the ability to be an MVP-caliber player (see his 2003 and 2006 seasons).  He has two gold gloves in center field, as well as three All-Star appearances in his career.  He has hit 30 home runs three times and driven in 100 RBI three times.  Wells’ production in 2011 has been nothing short of horrendous.  He has 14 home runs so far, but other than that, hasn’t done anything particularly well.  His OPS is .671 with an OBP of .254.  Wells is striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and walking in less than 4%.  Now, you could look at his BABIP (.228) and think he has been unlucky, but it is that low because of his awful 10% line drive rate.  With a flyball rate of 47% and by hitting a ton of infield flies, his BABIP won’t likely rise much.  It is unlikely that Wells will ever return to being the player he once was.

 

VERDICT: 

Taking a look at these stats, we can see that the Rangers were an instant winner.  They gave up an expendable reliever, and gained a valuable bat off the bench.  The Angels are the big losers in the deal, as they owe Wells over $60M over the next 3.5 years.  That kind of production out of a left fielder is unacceptable for a team trying to contend for the playoffs.  Toronto knew that with the trades they made, they would not be as good of a team without Wells.  They are in a rebuilding mode, and the money they save can be used on drafting and developing young talent.  Francisco could be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, so another draft pick could be theirs. 

**The grand winner in this series of moves is the Blue Jays, as with the departure of Wells, they have been able to extend Jose Bautista with a five-year, $65M contract.  They have been aggressive in international signings this month as well, and look to pour more resources into the draft. ***  

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the Vernon Wells trade.  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.

Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays: MLB Home Run Leader, The Inside Report

Tuesday May 17, 2011

MLB reports:  Today’s article is as much about admission of guilt as it is about profiling Toronto Blue Jay’s home run king and the greatest slugger in the game going, Jose Bautista.  Yes, in order to fully analyze Bautista, it is time for this writer to come clean.  When you talk and review as much baseball as I do, the one thing that you never like to do is admit is that you are wrong.  There are times where circumstances happen beyond one’s control and predicted results can change and take different forms.  That’s fine.  In the case of Jose Bautista, I am finally prepared today to admit that I was wrong.  Not once.  Not twice.  But three or more times.  For all the “experts” that say they saw the Jose Bautista of today emerging, my hat is off to them.  If they are being truthful, which in most cases I would have a hard time believing.  For in my estimation, Jose Bautista was the one player that literally appeared out of nowhere.  From the abyss of the unknown to bona fide superstar overnight.  Let’s trail the story of Jose Bautista and how the slugger has managed to shape a doubter into a baseball believer.  It took time, but I am finally prepared to state that Jose Bautista here is to stay.

I recall clearly being in Pittsburgh during the 2007 season.  I had visited the city the year before to attend the home run derby and all-star game.  Loving the park, the city and Fatheads (which if you haven’t been is one of the best American restaurants/pubs ever), I decided another trip to watch weekend baseball was in order.  Being a fan of baseball merchandise and memorabilia, I made sure to go through the souvenir shops at the park before each game.  I left with a Ryan Doumit jersey t-shirt (which I still own and wear proudly) but did not pick up any memorabilia on that trip.  One piece of merchandise that I saw that weekend does stick out in my brain though.  In the game used bat barrel, I recall going through the lumber that there were a couple of Jose Bautista un-cracked game used bats.  To make matters worse, the bats were a whopping $30 each.  I distinctly recall laughing at the sight of the bats and indicating something along the lines of that “…the store would need to pay me to take these away.”  Clearly I did not see a value to the Bautista bats that day or attach any future value to them.  A sign of things to come.

Fast forward a year later and the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates consummated a swap.  A good old fashioned baseball trade.  August of 2008, Jose Bautista gets traded to my hometown Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, turning out to be Robinson Diaz.  My thoughts at the time on the trade went along the lines of, “…I can’t believe the Jays gave up Diaz, a young catching prospect for a non-hitting utility guy.  Wow, the Pirates won this deal hands-down.”  For the balance of 2008 and the majority 2009, Bautista did nothing to change my opinion.  Bautista hit few home runs and his average was barely above the Mendoza-line.  It was actually unbearable at points watching him in his first full season as a Jay, as Bautista did receive 336 at bats in 2009 but mostly due to injuries.  A very late season surge barely made up for a season worth of failures.  To say that I was not sold on the player at this point would be an understatement.  Expecting little to nothing of him going into the 2010 season, Bautista was about to change the baseball landscape and his image in the game forever.  The player that I once considered inferior as a prospect to Robinson Diaz was about to become the “Bautista Bomb.”

Jose Bautista’s 2010 season is in the record books and truly one for the ages.  A relative unknown quantity going into the year, all Bautista did was finish as the MLB home run leader and champion in 2010, with 54 home runs playing in all but one of the Blue Jays games that year.  Add to the total 109 runs scored, 124 runs driven in, 100 walks, .260 average and .995 OPS and Jose Bautista, once a 20th round pick in 2000 for the Pirates was all of a sudden a star.  It’s not like the Pirates were alone in their assessment of the player.  Bautista along the way also had cups of coffees with the Rays, Orioles and Royals.  Despite the many scouts and executives in baseball that analyze the game and review its players, in the age of video and statistics none were able to predict the slugging beast that Bautista would become.  J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Blue Jays who acquired Jose Bautista, will have the Bautista/Diaz swap on his resume as the greatest baseball transaction of his career.  Ricciardi himself, now a New York Mets executive, admits that he never expected Bautista to develop the way he did.  While Ricciardi knew that Bautista had power in his bat having watched him on many occasions at spring training as the Jays and Pirates faced-off, the Bautista of 2010 was never on his radar.

Listening to industry insiders, Bautista in late 2009 made an adjustment to his approach at the plate and instead of being late going after the ball, Bautista was moving his hands quicker and starting his swing earlier.  Apparently the slight adjustment in his batting approach created all the difference in the world.  Credit then manager Cito Gaston, a former hitting coach, with one of his last and greatest teachings.  The big question going into 2011 was whether Jose Bautista was for real and could continue his success at the plate.  The next related issue was to determine Bautista’s value and future salary going into the offseason.  Bautista was arbitration eligible and due for a huge raise.

Going into the offseason that year, the Jays and Bautista were set to face-off in arbitration.  The 2010/2011 offseason saw a vast amount of speculation surrounding Jose Bautista’s contract and what the Jays were going to pay him.  As Bautista was eligible for free agency the next year, fans and commentators debated the winter months whether the Jays should sign Bautista to a long-term contract, let an arbitrator decide or use a one-year contract as a determination whether the production would continue and sign a long-term deal the next year.  As memories tend to get hazy over time, I will help remind everyone the thoughts that were prevalent at the time.  It was clear that if the Jays were to sign Bautista to a one-year contract, they would risk losing him to free agency the next year as another monster season was likely to bring the potential of multiple bidders and exorbitant contract offers.  Considering that Jayson Werth had signed that offseason with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million, anything was possible.  Although unlikely, there was always the risk.  Arbitration was also seen as a risky proposition as feelings and relationships tend to get strained in such a process whereby teams do everything they can to devalue a player when going before an arbitrator.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made it clear in the offseason that he was breaking rank in Toronto and adopting a Rays type policy of not negotiating with players once arbitration amounts were submitted both the team and player in the arbitration process.  The Blue Jays, who had not gone to arbitration with a player since 1997, appeared to be headed to a showdown with Jose Bautista as both team and player had submitted their numbers by the deadline without an agreement.  However further events were about to unfold to change the dynamic of the team that few saw coming with the likely effect of stabilizing the Jays for the next few seasons as a result.

On January 22, 2011, I remember vividly at 6:30p.m. driving in my car and listening to sports radio as the announcer broke the news that Mike Napoli had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Long being a Napoli supporter, to say that I was overjoyed at the news was an understatement.  Power hitting catchers do not grow on trees and with the Jays need for an additional power bat in the lineup, Napoli was a welcome addition.  The only question was the price the Jays had paid.  The news at the time was that the Jays were trading an outfielder but his identity was not known at the time.  I was sure that Bautista was the outfielder in question.  Going into arbitration, I determined that Bautista was worth at most three years and $24 million.  Given that Bautista was unproven and coming off only one strong campaign, there was too much risk in investing any additional dollars in the player.  It made sense to me that the Jays would trade Bautista while his value was at his highest for a known commodity in Napoli.   The next news update literally made me fall out of my chair.  The outfielder traded to the Angels was not Bautista but rather Vernon Wells.  Somehow Anthopoulos was able to unload Wells and his albatross of a contract onto the Angels and spin a productive player in Napoli in return, along with spare part outfielder Juan Rivera.  Hailed as a genius, Anthopoulos created payroll flexibility for the young and up-and-coming Jays while removing a player seen as declining, both in the field and at the plate.  The Wells contract, signed by the aforementioned Ricciardi which was blasted for years by critics as one of the worst ever was now gone.  It did not even occur to me when I first heard that Napoli was coming to Toronto that Wells was headed the other way.  The Wells contract was probably the most unmovable contract in sports and to hear those words simply astounded me, Jays analysts and the baseball community at large.  While the Angels were criticized for overspending and taking on a weak asset in Wells, hope was abound in Toronto and the future appeared to be bright after so many dismal and hopeless seasons before.  I predicted that Rivera, a free agent the next year would have a campaign that would likely mirror the numbers that Wells would put up in Anaheim.  With the outfielders numbers a wash and Napoli on board, the trade was overwhelmingly hailed as a victory for the Jays.

The Jays ended up a couple of days later flipping Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco.  The move was questioned and debated throughout baseball circles, in attempting to determine flipping a power bat for a power arm.  The jury is still out on the move and we will learn in the future whether Anthopoulos over-played his cards.  Jose Bautista on the other hand, had his arbitration hearing postponed at the last-minute in February as the team and player attempted to hammer out a new contract.  The numbers that I was hearing were a one year contract in the $10-$12 million dollar range.  That was the expectation as spring training approached.  On February 17, 2011, the Blue Jays announced that they had signed Jose Bautista to a five-year, $64 million contract.  At an average of almost $13 million per season for five seasons, the prevailing though in baseball was that the Jays had overpaid and taken on a significant risk.  Considering that they were fortunate enough to move Wells and his monster deal, the discussion was that the Jays had made a mistake by committing too much money and too many years to a player that could end up blowing up their face.  I will admit that when I heard the Bautista signing announcement, I hated it.  I saw the Bautista deal as the second coming off the Wells signing and commented that the lustre certainly was removed from Anthopoulos as GM fairly quickly.  One of the biggest questions going into the 2011 season was whether Bautista could repeat anything close to his numbers and be able to justify his large new salary.  While I read predictions of 20-30 home runs at most, the baseball community saw a decline and correction of Bautista’s numbers as he was to fall back to reality.  I cannot recall reading in February and March of any “expert” that predicted Bautista could approach anything close to his 2010 numbers.  I will admit that I was firmly in this camp and predicted a season of 30 home runs and .250 average at best.  Boy was I going to be wrong yet again on this one, as Jose Bautista going to teach the baseball world what he was really made of.

One report from spring training really stuck out to me.  Listening to news from around the Blue Jays camp, it was evident that there was no talk of Vernon Wells.  Management was not discussing the former Jays gold glove outfielder and team leader and none of the players were indicating that a void existed based on his departure.  That said to me a lot about the lack of value that Wells would have brought to the Jays had he remained.  The attitude around the Jays was positive.  A young squad, the team and its fans saw hope and optimism about with its young pitching and core developing hitters emerging.  Names like Drabek, Arencenbia, Lind, Lawrie, Snider and Romero were being tossed around as the Jays were going back to basics and having fun again.  At the center of it all as was the Jays developing leader and main power bat, Jose Bautista.  For the Jays to contend, Bautista would need to anchor the lineup and produce at a level close to his 2010 numbers.  While few saw that happening, it was clear that the ghost of Vernon Wells was gone from the team and the Toronto Blue Jays had a fresh new attitude.  But to say that anyone predicted that Jose Bautista was going to be the second coming of Albert Pujols or Babe Ruth in Toronto would be foolish.  Questions continued to circle around the Jays and Bautista going into the season that were only going to be answered once opening day was under way.

Throughout spring training, Bautista was playing third base as the team discussed playing an outfield of Rivera, Lind and newly acquired speedster Rajai Davis.  I was not a big fan of the move as I enjoyed watching Bautista play the outfield and with a cannon for an arm, I felt that he would best serve his team defensively in the outfield.  Despite being an adaptable fielder, it was my opinion that to have Bautista play at his peak, he needed to stay at one position and preferably at his most natural spot.  With the future of Brett Lawrie almost upon Toronto, I did not see the value of keeping Bautista at third.  Encarnacion, the incumbent third baseman was seen as somewhat defensively challenged to say the least.  Thus with few options in-house, the defensive alignment of the Jays was unknown as March was drawing to an end.  At the end of the month, the team out of nowhere announced that Bautista would indeed be the team’s right fielder on opening day, with Encarnacion moving to third.  Some how, some way, the team did listen to me and I was actually right about something when it came to Jose Bautista.  With his rightful position in place, now all Bautista had to do was hit.

Hit he did.  Over and over and over again.  Despite missing some games this season due to a personal leave (birth of baby daughter) and a sore neck, Jose Bautista in 2011 has become the talk of baseball.  Going into today’s action, Bautista has a .370 average with a major league leading 16 home runs (3 of which were hit on Sunday against the Twins in Minnesota), 35 runs scored, 27 runs batted in, 35/19 BB/SO ratio, .516 OBP and .849 SLG.  Imagine that Bautista has produced this season with little or no protection in the lineup.  Adam Lind was hot for a stretch of games but has since been out for some time with back issues.  I heard one baseball commentator compare what Jose Bautista is currently doing to Barry Bonds in his Giants peak years.  Bonds, like Bautista, had little protection in the lineup.  Without an all-star lineup like the Yankees around him, Bautista is vulnerable to be pitched around in the Jays lineup as their main and in some nights only true offensive threat.  Currently Bautista is getting maybe one or two good pitches to hit a game, which somehow Bautista is able to take advantage of and still hit them for home runs.  With a good eye at the plate and discipline, Bautista takes his fair share of walks and is not a Vladimir Guerrero  type hitter who takes balls out of the dirt and knock them out of the park for home runs.  The pace that Jose Bautista is currently on is rare and not often seen in the game.  We are witnessing what I can describe as “baseball magic” and people are finally taking notice.  No longer an afterthought or question mark, Jose Bautista is being recognized as the real deal and perhaps the greatest slugger currently in the game.

It is time to give the man his respect and due for his hard work and accomplishments.  While I will admit that I did not see Jose Bautista emerging, I can admit that I have been wrong almost every step of the way when it has come to this man’s career.  Baseball evaluations and predictions have never been an exact science.  For every Dan Uggla and Joakim Soria that I saw emerging, I have been left disappointed by the Phil Nevins and Todd Zeiles of this world.  I am happy to have been wrong on Jose Bautista and have been amazed at the player that he has become.  I was probably one of his biggest critics in the early part of his career and after some convincing, I have finally emerged as a believer.  I do not know Jose Bautista the person, although from all accounts and what I have seen he appears to be very personable and an extremely hard work on and off the field.  My feelings on the player have always centered on his hard numbers, statistics that he produced which to me always told the story.  Well if numbers never lie, then clearly the next big thing has emerged in baseball and his name is Jose Bautista.  As the Bautista bombs continue to launch throughout baseball, expect the player to get fewer and fewer pitches to hit as the season progresses.  Incredibly Bautista has only been walked intentionally twice this year and twice all of last year.  Barry Bonds in comparison, walked 232 times in his peak year of 2004, with 120 of the walks being intentional.  While not coming close to those figures, Bautista might exceed 150 walks this year and approach 175 by seasons end.  That is the sign of a great batting eye and a respected batter around the league.  Pitchers and teams are taking notice and despite doing all they can to limit him, Bautista continues to show a combination of power and patience at league leading levels.  I am finally ready to state that Jose Bautista is the real deal and is here to stay.  I think the rest of baseball finally agrees as well.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista.  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.

Mike Napoli – The Next Jose Bautista?

MLB reports:  What a difference 48 hours make.  At this time Wednesday night, I was plotting to prepare my blog on Mike Napoli.  The theme was going to be the unappreciated and neglected catcher of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and what he needed to finally break through.  This blog was born by way of my promise on twitter to write a blog of choice for my 500th follower.  Little did I know that one of my tweeps who is a devoted Angels fan would un-follow and follow me on twitter purposely to rig becoming #500.  As a compromise, this tweep allowed me to blog on one of my favorite players who also was playing on his team, the said Mike Napoli.

We discussed the reasons why Napoli was often riding the Angels’ bench and seemed to be disliked by manager Mike Scoscia.  My theory was that 2nd catcher Jeff Mathis was built more in the Scoscia mode from his player, strong defensively with a weak bat.  Napoli on the other hand, with Adam Dunn type power in his bat, was the anti-Scoscia.  With  bat envy in mind, Scoscia continued to let Napoli rot on the bench essentially for 4 years while rotating the catchers.  This blog was meant to discuss what additional playing time and confidence would do for Napoli in allowing his talent to blossom.  At approximately 6:30p.m. on Friday January 21, 2011, everything changed when my sports radio station announced in my car while I was driving “…Ken Rosenthal reports that the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired Mike Napoli from the Angels, details to follow.”

Now please realize that I was born in Toronto and have lived in this city my whole life.  I am a life-long baseball fan, but never considered myself a Jays fan.  I admired many players throughout the years, regardless of which team they played for.  I became a fan of the Detroit Tigers based on location, which grew over time and as the team developed.  But I would never consider myself a Jays fan, not until this offseason.  First came the signings of the pitchers, Dotel, Cordero and Rauch.  The trade for Brett Lawrie.  The previous trades for Drabek, D’arnaud, Wallace and later Gose.  I started to see the vision of Alex Anthopoulos and what he was building in Toronto.  But never imagined that he would bring Napoli to my hometown team.  So what started off as a “play Napoli” piece became a “Napoli will play” blog.

To everyone who has been reading my tweets tonight, there is no need to further voice my opinions on this blog about the trade itself.  The fact that the Jays were able to unload the Wells contract in full without adding in money was a miracle in itself.  The Vernon contract was labelled by many as the most un-tradeable contract in baseball.  If AA was able to unload this albatross in itself, he would have been heralded a genius.  The fact that Vernon was traded and the Jays were able to acquire Mike Napoli was truly the icing on the cake.  Juan Rivera, in the last year of his contract at $5.25 million becomes a spare part 4th outfielder for the Jays, who may be moved before the year is out or may perform well and earn the Jays a supplemental pick in the 2011 draft.  Either way, the Rivera addition/cost is negligible in the equation.  The trade boiled down essentially to the deletion of Wells and the success of the Jays in this regard.  What I believe will be forgotten in the equation is the addition of Mike Napoli to the lineup.  By the end of the season, this will no longer be the case.

Mike Napoli (Napp-uh-lee) was born on Halloween, October 31, 1981, stands an even 6’0″ tall and weighs a sturdy 215 pounds.  I remember watching Napoli for the first time on television in 2006.  The things that stood out to me were the open buttons on his jersey and that the bat in his hand looked like a toothpick.  Very Adam Dunn like.  Napoli proceeded to crank one of the longest home runs I had ever seen in his first at-bat that I ever saw.  I was in awe.  That year Nap0li in 99 games and 268 abs hit 16 home runs, hit .228 but had a .360 obp and .455 slg.  Napoli is part of the new wave of Nick Swisher, Adam Dunn type money ball players, where batting average becomes less relevant and obp/slg/ops become more key.  Looking at the numbers, Mike Napoli has had 3 straight 20+ home runs years, last year cranking out 26 home runs playing in a career high 140 games.  For his career to-date, Napoli has a .251 avg with a .346 obp and .485 slg.  Very lofty numbers, particularly for a catcher.  Playing in an Angels lineup without many mashers, I always wondered why he never had a chance to play every day and prove what he can do.  In 2011, that chance will now come in Toronto.

Between catcher, 1B and DH, Mike Napoli should finally have a chance to truly play every day with the Toronto Blue Jays.  On a young developing team playing in a home fun friendly park, the sky will be the limit for Napoli.  Looking at Jose Bautista and what playing in Toronto has done for his career, I see very good things happening in Napoli’s career.  Dwayne Murphy and the Toronto coaching staff  did some great work with many of the Toronto hitters in 2010, particularly Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista.  Bautista in particular was always seen with power potential in his bat when coming up, but was never given the opportunity to thrive.  Working with Napoli and allowing him to grow and play every day, he will not have to press to produce each game in the fear that one false move will result in a banishment to the bench.  With new-found confidence instilled, Napoli can relax and develop into the power hitter that he was meant to be.

For all the talk of Vernon Wells leaving town, what the Jays have also done is acquired themselves their potential future cleanup hitter for the next 3+ years conceivably.  Playing at the Rogers Centre, Napoli has the potential to hit 40+ home runs, make the all-star team and win silver slugger awards.  Sound familiar?  If all goes according to my visions, the trade consummated on January 21, 2011 will one day centre on the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Mike Napoli rather than the focus on Vernon Wells being dumped on the Angels.  Welcome to Toronto Mike Napoli.  You are finally home.

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: