Spare Change – Pretenders and Contenders – All Star Game Reflections

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Distinguishing the Pretenders from the Contenders:

Heading into today, the Yankees, Royals and Angels all sit atop their respective decisions. Meanwhile, the two AL Wild Card spots are being held by the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. The two (surprise) teams have a 3 game lead over their closest threat (Toronto Blue Jays) and both are in dire need of reinforcements.

In the National League (to no one’s real surprise), the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers lead their respective divisions, with the Pirates and Cubs holding the two Wild Card positions. As it stands right now, the Pirates have a 3.5 game cushion on the Cubs, with the Giants (1 GB) and the Mets (2 GB) being the only real threat to the Cubs.

Despite all of, if not most of these teams currently sitting in, or near a playoff position, many of them still have glaring holes to fill and needs to address before it can be determined which teams are legit contenders, and which teams are just pretending.

Pretenders with NO CHANCE:

miggy

Detroit Tigers

Current Record: 46-47 (4 GB in Wild Card and 10.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Justin Verlander looks completely lost on the mound.
• Outside of David Price, the entire starting pitching staff has been woeful and far from consistent.
• The Tigers pitching staff currently ranks in or near the bottom 5 in most major pitching statistics.
• Seem to be more in a position to sell off assets than to add them.
• Soon to be free agent players like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes could fetch a sizeable reward and help the Tigers in the near future.
• Depleted farm system might not be deep enough to make any trades of importance.

Bartolo Witness

New York Mets

Current Record: 49-46 (2 GB in Wild Card and 3 GB in the NL East)

Biggest Need(s): Offense.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Sure they have a solid pitching rotation, but the Mets have one of the more inconsistent offenses in all of MLB. They currently rank in the bottom 10 in almost all of the major offensive categories.
• Injuries and durability concerns to key contributors like David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, David Murphy and Travis d`Arnaud.
• Despite being loaded with young pitching talent, the Mets management seems to be unwilling to move key pieces of the future for offensive help today.
• Could be more tempted to spend money on offense in the offseason than to move prospects at the trade deadline.

maddy bumgarner

San Francisco Giants

Current Record: 50-44 (1 GB in Wild Card and 2.5 GB in the NL West)

Biggest Need(s): Outfield offense and pitching help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:

• Matt Cain hasn’t been Matt Cain for a while
• Tim Lincecum has become even more of a shell of himself and was recently diagnosed with a degenerative hip disorder
• The veteran trio of Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, have performed more like washed up vets than crafty one.
• In the outfield, Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan have been pedestrian at best and have struggled to contribute consistent run production.
• It’s not an even numbered year…
• Not possessing the deepest of farm systems, the Giants may be hesitant to further deplete a system that is in the middle of a rebuild.
• More likely to attempt to add a big named starter in the offseason. Recent rumours have them linked to pursue Zack Greinke if and when he hits the open market.

Honourable Mention: Tampa Bay Rays.

Pretenders with SOME chance:

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Toronto Blue Jays

Current Record: 48-47 (3 GB in AL Wild Card and 4.5 GB in the AL East)

Biggest Need(s): Pitching, pitching, pitching and even MORE pitching.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Their ridiculous offense. The big bad bats of the Blue Jays currently sit atop or in the top 5 in nearly every MLB offensive category.
• No seriously… the offense, nothing else.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Despite having one of the deeper farm systems in the majors, one that could (easily) be dipped into it in order to make a move or two, and an apparent $10 million in payroll flexibility, the Blue Jays front office seems unwilling to mortgage the future for a chance today.
• Even though he hasn’t been shy to make a move in the past, GM Alex Anthopolous seems to be a bit hesitant when it comes to moving top prospects, especially after being burned in the Dickey trade.
• If they don’t make a trade to help their poor pitching staff, the Blue Jays will definitely be adding another year to their playoff drought; 22 and counting.

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Minnesota Twins

Current Record: 50-43 (Leader in AL Wild Card and 6.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Offensive and pitching depth.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Received fairly consistent production from a somewhat unheralded or “no name” offense.
• Pitching staff has been above average to good and the return of Ervin Santana from suspension gives the Twins some pitching depth without having to make a big move.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Twins helps them to shrug off stressful situations. It has been a big factor in their “never give up” attitude.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• They don’t have the payroll flexibility of big market teams to take on additional payroll.
• May be unwilling to dip into their deep farm system in order to make a run at it this season.
• Inexperience could work against them as the season progresses.

kris bryant

Chicago Cubs

Current Record: 51-43 (Leader in NL Wild Card and 9 GB in the NL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Joe Maddon’s supply of fairy dust that he brought with him from his tenure in Tampa Bay.
• Currently possess one of the best statistical pitching staffs in MLB.
• Depth of farm system and a management team that is hungry to win and willing to spend to do so, could see the Cubs be one of the more active teams at the trade deadline; and not as a seller for once.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Cubs could be a blessing in disguise for the Cubs and could help them shrug off stressful situations down the stretch.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Asking price on trade targets could be more than Theo Epstein and crew are willing to spend. Sure the Cubs are looking good this season, but don’t think that they will mortgage their very bright future for a chance this season.
• Could be more willing to take on payroll and spend money in the offseason, especially with a deep pool of free agent pitching help.
• Youthful Cubs could succumb to the grind of a 162 game season and start to break down as the season goes on.

Honurable Mention: Baltimore Orioles

Contenders with BIG Needs:

arod pouty

New York Yankees

Record: 51-41 (1st AL East) • 4.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• Regression of C.C Sabathia and the durability concerns of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, could see the Bronx Bombers pursue a starting pitcher or two.
• Could also look to add infield and outfield depth to take load off of aging roster.

Most Likely Outcome:

• GM Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that he predicts that the Yankees were “more likely not doing anything than something significant.” He then followed that up by saying that they were “still making their calls” though.
• My take away from this is that the Yankees aren’t necessarily looking for the big name addition, but could look to add depth to the back end of their rotation like they did last season when they added Brandon McCarthy.
• Even with their respectable division lead, the Yankees will need to make a move in order to firmly solidify their grasp on the AL East.

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game Two

Kansas City Royals

Record: 56-36 (1st AL Central) • 6.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The season long struggles of Yordano Ventura and the recent news that Jason Vargas needs Tommy John surgery will have the Royals tied to every big name pitcher available leading up to the trade deadline.
• With the injury to Alex Gordon and the durability concerns that are Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales, don’t be surprised to see the Royals also look to add some outfield depth or some bench help.

Most Likely Outcome:

• I would honestly be shocked to see the Royals not make a move of significance to bolster their starting rotation. They have enough top prospects and a deep enough farm system to add one, if not two, starting pitchers.

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Houston Astros

Record: 52-43 (AL Wild Card leader and 2nd AL West)

Biggest Need(s):

• With rookie phenom, Lance McCullers Jr., facing an innings limit and the back end of the rotation being suspect at best, the Astros could and will be in the market to add an impactful starter.
• George Springer’s injury could mean that the Astros will also be on the hunt for some outfield help or depth. This isn’t a top priority, but it could be something that is addressed nonetheless.
• It wouldn’t be surprising for them to look for some 1B help, especially with Chris Carter currently hitting under .200.

Most Likely Outcome:

• Rumours have already started to swirl in regards to the Astros being tied to the big names available on the trade market. This week alone they have been linked to the trio of Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and David Price.
• No guarantees that the Astros land one of the big name pitchers available, but they may look to add an arm or two of lesser status.

Joc Pederson

Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 54-42 (1st NL West) • 2.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The injury to Brett Anderson earlier in the week was just the latest blow to an already paper thin Dodgers rotation. Outside of the dynamic duo of Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers had also been leaning heavily on Anderson and Mike Bolsinger to fill the void left by Hyun Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, who both suffered season ending injuries.

Most Likely Outcome:

• The severity of Anderson’s injury will really dictate just how active the Dodgers are leading up to the deadline. That being said, even if the injury isn’t severe, you can bet that the Dodgers will be looking to add some starting pitching depth. This week alone the have been linked to actively pursuing Cole Hamels.

Honourable Mention: Pittsburgh Pirates

Contenders with Minimal Needs:

• Los Angeles Angels
• Washington Nationals
• St. Louis Cardinals

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Reflections on the Dinger Derby and Mid Summer Classic:

• Introduction of the new format helped revitalize the Home Run Derby, not only from a timing standpoint, but also helped add some much needed life into something that had become stagnant in the past couple seasons.
• A combination of seasoned veterans (Pujols and Fielder), up and coming stars (Rizzo and Donaldson), the 23 and under stud club (Pederson, Bryant and Machado) and the home town favourite (Todd Frazier), easily made fans forget about the “big” names (Trout, Harper and Stanton) not in attendance.
• Even if you’re not a Reds fan, hearing the Cincinnati crowd basically will Frazier to the finals and the Derby title, was one of the best moments in recent All Star game memory.
• This interaction between Albert Pujols and Joc Pederson’s brother, Champ. Moments like this are really what the game is all about.

• The “Franchise Four” announcements prior to the All Star game fun to hear, especially with teams like the Rays naming 4 players who are not only still playing, but also 2 that are no longer with the team.
• On the whole, there weren’t too many snubs or surprises in the balloting, although Marlins fans selecting Gio over Josh Beckett and DBacks fans naming Goldy over Steve Finley could be considered a bit of a shock. I’m also a tad surprised that Mets fans went with Piazza over the Kid, Gary Carter.
• No matter what your thoughts or opinions are about him, you have to admit that it was hard not to get goose bumps when Pete Rose was announced to the Cincinnati crowd.
• The naming of the four “Greatest Living Players” (Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench) was an emotional moment that is up there with Ted Williams being carted out for the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway.
• Sandy Koufax showing us, and 50 cent, how to properly throw out a first pitch:

• Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things. With the leadoff home run, Trout became the first batter since the legendary Bo Jackson to lead the game off with a ding dong. Not to mention that it helped to complete his career All Star Game cycle. Keep in mind that this was only his 4th All Star appearance.
• Very fitting that Trout would become the first player since Bo to leadoff the game with a home run, especially with his AL All Star teammate, Adam Jones, referring to him as the “white” Bo Jackson.
• It would be amusing to see what Trout could do on the gridiron seeing as he could play either offense (fullback) or defense (safety).
• Jacob deGrom needed just 10 pitches and his 98 mph fastball to strike out the AL side in the 6th inning. In doing so, deGrom joined 19yr old Doc Gooden as the only Mets pitcher to strike out the side in the All Star game.

Over Looked Season of Yesteryear:

1996: Ellis Burks • Colorado Rockies • 3rd NL MVP

156 G • 613 AB • 142 R • 211 H • 40 HR • 128 RBI • 32 SB • .344 BA • 1.047 OPS

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The Pulse on MLB – Prospects Abound, All Star Rant and Blue Jay Ramblings

Correa

Prospect Pipe Line

It is very difficult to think of another season that rivals this one in terms of top prospects making their MLB debuts. The only year that really comes to mind would be the 1995 season which marked the first appearance of the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera) and Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Hideo Nomo, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Mike Cameron, Phil Nevin, Brian Giles, Matt Lawton, Esteban Loaiza, Brad Radke and (current Rockies pitcher) LaTroy Hawkins.

Through 64 games this season, not only have we seen the arrivals of MLB.com’s Top 5 prospects (Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor), but we have also had the privilege of witnessing the MLB introductions of: Joey Gallo, Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki, Carlos Rodon, Archie Bradley, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Austin Hedges, Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez, AJ Cole, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Yasmany Tomas, as well as a trio of Blue Jays (Roberto Osuna, Miguel Castro and Devin Travis). And that is not even including the highly talked about debut of ambidextrous relief pitcher, Pat Venditte.

Venditte

This year’s “bumper crop” of prospects is just the latest in a five year boom of young talent arriving at the MLB level. Since 2010 baseball fans have had the privilege of witnessing the arrivals of: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, George Springer, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Michael Wacha, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Zach Wheeler, Matt Moore, Corey Kluber, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Craig Kimbrel and half of the foundation of the Kansas City Royals roster (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Lorenzo Cain) to name a few .

Hosmer Moose

And those are just players who were drafted through the MLB Draft; we’re not including players who were signed as International Free Agents like: Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Guerrero and the rest of the Royals roster foundation (Yordano Ventura, Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera).

yordano sal

The funny thing is that this recent prospect yield is far from over. Obviously in the coming years we will be privy to see the arrivals of numerous prospects, but with this year not even half way over, we may be in line to witness more (young) talent embark upon their career. Depending on how the division and wild card races play out down the stretch, not to mention the rosters expanding in September, we could see the likes of Corey Seager (LAD), Mark Appel (HOU), Steven Matz (NYM), Alex Meyer (MIN), Miguel Sano (MIN), Carl Edwards (CHC), Aaron Nola (PHI) and J.P Crawford (PHI) before all is said and done.

2015 MLB ASG

Thoughts on the Mid Summer Classic

With EIGHT Royals set to start for the AL in Cincinnati in just under a month’s time, a lot of bitching and moaning has been cast toward the fan’s ability to vote and decide the starters for the All Star team. Even the players have been sharing their two cents. Detroit Tigers starting pitcher and an All Star himself, David Price, tweeted that the voting system “is not funny but it’s kind of a joke,” and further chided “I wanna know how many votes Jeter has right now… I know people have written him in and voted… my guess is 1.5 million.”

Despite the American League All Star roster starting to look more like a regular season affair, some of the Royals own players weighed in on the voting process. Outfielder Alex Gordon, who is currently sitting as one of the starting OF in the game, had this to say when interviewed by USA Today Sports:

“To be honest with you, I’ve never agreed with the All-Star voting, I always thought that guys most deserving, and having the best years, should go, especially now that the All-Star Game decides who wins home-field advantage. But it’s a popularity thing now, and after getting to the World Series, we got popular.”

It is hard not to agree with Price, Gordon and the side who vehemently oppose fans having the final say on who starts the All Star game. In fact, I am one of those people who believe that the system needs to be changed.

Having the fate of All Star starters rest in a fan held vote robs players who DESERVE to be there! With a fan vote, a player who is having a career year or one who is a “feel good story” might not get the chance to be named an All Star because one fan base is larger than another and voted more often for their hometown players; regardless of the season they’re having.

With that in mind, I do believe that fans should still play a role in selecting players, just not the starters. Why can they not vote on who will take place in the Home Run Derby? I understand that not everybody is an option to take part, but why can they not vote out of those who are willing to participate? I also like the idea of fans selecting the last player to be named to the All Star game. It really tends to be a selection made more for depth in case of extra innings, so why can we not limit them to voting for that, or even expand it so they can vote for the last three roster positions?

All that being said, until the system is changed, I (unfortunately) have to side with Kansas City Royals manager, Ned Yost, on the fan voting and All Star selection…  “If you don’t like it, go out there and vote.”

Thor

 

The Return of Thor and Bitching About the Blue Jays in Bullet Points

  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri put out an incredible Blue Jays article and an accompanying podcast. The Blue Jays are discussed in the first twenty minutes of the podcast and Jonah is joined by Scott MacArthur from TSN 1050 for the segment.

http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-jonah-keri-podcast-scott-macarthur-on-the-blue-jays-and-justin-halpern-on-the-padres/

http://grantland.com/the-triangle/mlb-toronto-blue-jays-playoffs-historic-offense-starting-pitching/

  • Move over Mike Trout, there is a new man crush in town. Josh Donaldson seriously makes me swoon like a high school student getting noticed by their crush. I just get butterflies looking at the dude…
  • Apparently I am not the only one either… The Don (Don Cherry) made a televised plea to baseball fans to vote for the “Bringer of Rain”
  • I am still reeling after that 11th inning loss to the Mets on Monday night that ended the 11 game win streak. Regardless of how many runs we put up on a nightly basis, it is losses like that that will define, and subsequently doom, a season

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  • That Noah Syndergaard kid looked pretty damn good (6 IP · 2 H · 1 ER · 2 BB · 11 SO), but hey who needs him when you got good ol’ Runs Allowed Dickey
  • More impressive than his stat line was Syndergaard’s ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes in fastball counts, following the Bautista home run in the 1st.
  • Gregg (Two G) Zaun made a decent point about our whipping boy Dickey during the pregame broadcast. He said that Dickey is effectively the same guy he was when he was pitching for the Mets, the main difference being that when he was with the Mets, he was pitching in a bigger ballpark, in a weaker division and against weaker lineups. I hate giving RA any benefit of doubt, but I do agree with Zaun’s analysis on this one.
  • What I don’t agree with is anytime Zaun, or any Jays other analyst (I’m looking at you Wilner) for that matter, tries to defend trading Syndergaard and d’Arnaud for Dickey. Trading Syndergaard straight up for Dickey would have been egregious enough, let alone throwing d’Arnaud into the package. I am sure if you ask AA, he’ll agree this is one he wants a mulligan on
  • I have said it before and I will say it again, but I have as much faith in Brett Cecil closing out a win, as I do in bargain bin folding chairs supporting my rotund frame

Cecil

  • Can we please (FINALLY) address our lack of pitching!? I fully understand that everybody fears making another R.A Dickey/Syndergaard type of trade, but you know what we really should fear?!?!? Not making the playoffs… AGAIN!!!
  • I am totally on board with dealing some of our tomorrow for today! You have to be willing to take a chance in order to make it to the playoffs. It might work, it might not, but it is worth trying especially when the opportunity presents itself.
  • The Giants for instance traded Zach Wheeler to the Mets for three months of Carlos Beltran in an attempt to win. Sure it didn’t work for them that season, but those are chances contenders and winning franchises make. Why can’t we?
  • As much as I love prospects like Norris, Castro and Pompey, I wouldn’t hesitate to package them for a closer and a starter. You have to figure that those three (at least) get the conversation started on a Cueto/Chapman or Clippard/Kazmir deal? Hell, just one of them should be enough to land Papelbon from Philadelphia.
  • If the prospects can’t contribute this season in helping us win, then why not use them via trade to help improve the roster and give us a chance this season? I completely agree with Scott MacArthur when he says that it is time to “bleep or get of the pot.”
  • On a positive note, the Blue Jays have signed almost all of their draft class to contracts. This includes the top three picks, all of whom signed for or under slot value. For more info, check out the link from BlueBirdBanter:

http://www.bluebirdbanter.com/2015/6/10/8755563/2015-draft-signing-table

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