Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.
American League East
2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push
X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP
Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East
Boston Red Sox
2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF
Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East
New York Yankees
2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP
Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East
Tampa Bay Rays
2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP
Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East
Toronto Blue Jays
2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS
Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP
Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP
Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central
2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF
Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central
2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP
Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central
Kansas City Royals
2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP
Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central
2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF
Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central
American League West
2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS
Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP
Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West
Los Angeles Angels
2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH
Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP
Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West
2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP
Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS
2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West
2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP
Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West
2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B
Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West
American League MVP
- Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
- Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
- Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox
American League Cy Young
- Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
- Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
- Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays
American League Rookie of the Year
- Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
- Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
- Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays
With 11 wins in 12 games since the acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki, a 1 game lead on the Angels for the top Wild Card spot and currently sitting 1.5 games back of the Yankees for the division lead in the AL East, it is a DAMN good time to be a Blue Jays fan!
It is hard to believe that this is the same team that only a few weeks ago we were discussing if they were a contender or pretender. Needless to say that in the span of those few weeks things have DRASTICALLY changed in the land called the “6” and the city has been abuzz in a way that has been absent since the days that WAMCO wreaked havoc on opposing pitching.
But how did we wind up here?
Well aside from the aforementioned trade for Tulowitzki, Blue Jays GM and resident Ninja, Alex Anthopolous, has been working the phones harder than a sex phone operator (“Tonight I’m staying in and calling QUEST”). Since the end of July, the Blue Jays roster has seen six new players be added, while thirteen players and prospects have been shipped out of town in the subsequent trades.
In: SS Troy Tulowitzki • LHP David Price • RP LaTroy Hawkins • RP Mark Lowe • OF Ben Revere • IF Cliff Pennington
Out: SS Jose Reyes • RHP Jeff Hoffman • LHP Daniel Norris • RHP Miguel Castro • LHP Jairo Labourt • LHP Matt Boyd • RHP Jesus Tinoco • RHP Alberto Tirado • SS Dawel Lugo • LHP Rob Rasmussen • LHP Jacob Brentz • LHP Nick Wells • RHP Jimmy Cordero
As you can see, the cost to make those upgrades and bring those players in was a high one to say the least. In the Tulowitzki deal we lost two top 5 pitching prospects in Hoffman and Castro, and another top 30 prospect in Jesus Tinoco.
The Price trade was almost as costly from a prospect point with the Jays giving up their #1 prospect (Norris) and two top 15 prospects (Boyd and Labourt). But what could make this trade all the more costly is the fact that Price is a free agent at seasons end and there are no guarantees that he resigns. In fact, I would put it at below a 15% chance that we even have a chance. It also hurts that the Blue Jays will not receive a compensation draft pick if Price chooses to sign with another team in the offseason. None of that will matter of course if Price helps the Blue Jays break their 22 year old playoff drought.
Speaking of Price…
David Price Delirium:
First Donaldson, then Tulo, and now, DAVID F****** PRICE!!!
The Blue Jays went from having Felix Doubront (gas can in hand) taking the mound every 5th day to having one of the best pitchers in the game taking it! I was still breathing into a bag over the trade for Tulo when news of an apparent Price deal broke. Being WAY too emotionally invested in this team to begin with, the latest news forced me into the realm of a preteen girl, I just couldn’t even deal.
Even with him already making two (INCREDIBLE) starts for the Blue Jays so far, I still can barely fathom that DAVID PRICE is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. As mentioned above, the cost to get Price was a steep one to pay, but it is one that had to be done in order to give the Jays a legit shot at the playoffs this season. I am sure that some “fans” will point out that three top prospects, including your #1 prospect, for 10 to 12 starts is asinine at best and, to be honest, they’re not (entirely) wrong.
Where they are wrong is believing that those three prospects, if held onto, will turn into the same calibre pitcher(s) as Price and give us the same shot in 2 to 3 years to contend as we have now. There are no guarantees that any of those guys stay in the big leagues, let alone blossom into a 5x all star and Cy Young award winner. Sure they offer more “control” from a payroll point of view, but from a winning or playoff point of view, all they offer is a big question mark. Price offers us a chance for now.
Sure the cost was high and his Blue Jays future unknown, but I would rather have those 10+ starts from Price and a shot for it today, than waiting on the Norris’, Boyd’s and Labourt’s to come up and make an impact, if any. Hey, it could be worse, we could have given up a top prospect for Mike Leake (currently on the DL with the Giants) or traded Norris-esque pitcher to the A’s for Ben Zobrist like the Royals did with Sean Manaea.
David Price Day #1 (August 3rd, 2015 vs. Twins): 8 IP • 3 H • 1 ER • 2 BB • 11 K
David Price Day #2 (August 8th, 2015 @ Yankees): 7 IP • 3 H • 0 ER • 3 BB • 7 K
Next up… Oakland or the Yankees (round #2)… depends on what Gibby decides.
Blue Jays Bandwagon Filling Up:
With back to back sell outs looming for the upcoming weekend series vs. the Yankees and the following one vs. the Tigers, it looks like the Bandwagon fans have finally woken up from their 1993 hibernation. These are the same fans that make it a point to be at every Blue Jays home opener, followed by being the first ones to put away their Jays gear following a 5 game losing streak or the annual June swoon. A message I received from long time friend/part time contributor, GW, said it best:
“Yeah, it’s definitely trendy to like the Jays all of a sudden. I feel like one of those hipster music fans who shout at people that they liked Band X before it was cool.I’d shout: I was there for Jacob Brumfield! David Segui! Brad Fullmer! Brad Wilkerson! Kevin Mench! and Simon F****** Pond!!!! Where were you?!!?!?”
I guess it must be all of those “Leaf fans” who have nothing better to do since all the sports channels started to talk about the Blue Jays, opposed to their usual Leafs ball washing.
Random Rumbling and Ranting:
- Still in absolute awe that we held the Yankees to 1 EARNED RUN over an entire weekend series in the Bronx nonetheless! In fact, that 1 ER came on an absolute wall scraper of home run off of the bat of Mark Teixeira and could have been ruled a double due to fan interference.
- Remember when our pitching staff was a MAJOR cause for concern? Apparently, that is not the case anymore. The Blue Jays pitching stats for the second half in comparison to their first half is practically night and day. The ERA currently sits at 2.48, down from 4.18, and their WHIP is 0.96, down from 1.30.
- Resident whipping boy, R.A Dickey, has been absolutely en fuego lately. The much maligned knuckleballer has only allowed 8 earned runs over his last 49.2 innings pitched and has posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his last 13 starts, compared to a 5.77 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his first 10 starts.
- As much love as AA gets for his trades for Donno, Tulo and Price, it was the trade with the Brewers for Marco Estrada that should start getting more love. Originally thought to be a long relief/spot start candidate, Estrada has been an absolute revelation in the Blue Jays rotation this season. Aside from Pit-Buehrl, Estrada has been the Blue Jays most reliable starter for the majority of the season.
- You know who hasn’t been reliable for any of the season? Drew Hutchison. Hutch has been the poster child for why you shouldn’t pay attention to a pitchers win/loss record. The man known as “Poopy” Hutch in these parts, has 10 wins to go along with a 5.42 ERA and a ghastly 1.52 WHIP. Those 10 wins should be credited to the Blue Jays batting order who has given Hutch an average of 8+ runs per start.
- If it wasn’t for Stro’s torn knee or the fact that we traded all of our potential call ups to other teams, you would have to bet that Hutch would have been a prime candidate for a demotion to AAA Buffalo. As it is now, it looks like AA is still working the phones in the hopes of landing another starter.
- First it was the Royals, more specifically Edinson Volquez, who were giving the Blue Jays bulletin board material. Now it appears that the Royals broadcasters want to further fan the flames. During Monday nights coverage of the Royals and Tigers, Bill O’Brien starts to drone on about how you would have to think that the Royals are tired of hearing about the Blue Jays offence. His partner, Eduardo Perez, then chimes in and says that the Royals can beat you in a multitude of ways and they can also hit it out of the park when they need too, but they’re not that “Beer League Softball team they have up there in Canada”… Are you serious? Do these clowns not remember that we just took 3 games out of 4 from those same Royals that he is verbally sucking off?
- Bulletin board material aside, what all this chirping does for the Blue Jays is to help fuel an “us against the world” mentality and force this team to further #ComeTogether. This team already plays with one of the biggest chips on it’s shoulder, you have to bet that this recent batch of hate is only going to continue to add to that chip. Judging by David Price’s tweet today, they’ve already taken notice…
- With Marcus Stroman being cleared to begin throwing off of a mound today and Dr. James Andrews being “stunned” by his recovery, it is looking like #Strotember is looking more and more like a reality.
- Good news: #Strotember is a possibility. Bad news: 2B Devon Travis is out until at least September with a shoulder strain/inflammation. It’s a shame that DT has to miss another month this season as the dude just rakes and plays solid D when he is healthy and in the lineup. Silver lining here is that we have been winning in lieu of having him in the everyday lineup.
- It wouldn’t be a shock to see AA further upgrade his depth at 2B especially with DT out and Ryan Goins barely hitting the weight of my leg. A few writers have speculated that Chase Utley would be a good fit for the Blue Jays, but it seems more likely for him to end up with the Giants, who have been rumoured to be heavily interested in his services.
- Remember Michael Saunders? Remember how that ligament removal surgery was suppose to have him back on the field in April? Wait a minute, are you telling me that he is still having complications from said surgery? Sounds like, in hindsight, he should have just opted to have the ligament repaired. Most recent update has Saunders back by September, at the earliest.
- Still a bit saddened/shocked about the loss of Danny Valencia on waivers to the Oakland A’s. Also still confused why we opted to DFA him for Muni instead of optioning one of our 7 men bullpen down. But hey, in AA we trust. Glad to see that he is continuing to hit well for his new team, although I hope that bat cools with the A’s in town for a 3 game set.
- Look forward to a whole lot of Dave Dombrowski to the Blue Jays rumours for the next few months. With the Tigers relieving Dombrowski of his duties as GM it looks like the next (logical) step for him, career wise, would be to take on the President position of an MLB team.
- With the Blue Jays almost willing to trade Jeff Hoffman to the Orioles for Dan Duquette in the offseason and Paul Beeston’s looming retirement at seasons end, you can bet that the Blue Jays will be one of the more aggressive pursuers for Dombrowski’s services; as will both the Mariners and Red Sox.
- Both Dombrowski and current Blue Jays GM, Alex Anthopolous, have a shared past as they both cut their MLB front office teeth with the Montreal Expos franchise. This tie could make it a bit easier for Dombrowski to step in as Anthopolous’ boss. It also wouldn’t be out of the question to see AA get promoted either.
Anthony Alford • OF • 21 • 6’1/205 • Single A Dunedin
91 G • 350 AB • 75 R • 22/5 2B/3B • 2 HR • 29 RBI • 21 SB • 92/56 SO/BB • .294 BA • .798 OPS
Connor Greene • RHP • 20 • 6’3/165 • Single A Dunedin
9-6 • 3.27 ERA • 21 GS • 107.1 IP • 100/27 SO/BB • .268 BA • 1.29 WHIP
Obscure Blue Jay from Yesteryear:
Craig Grebeck • IF • 1998-2000
202 G • 655 AB • 89 R • 5 HR • 60 RBI • .289 BA • .745 OPS
* Before signing off, I would like to add something on a more personal note. My paternal grandfather passed away this past Friday morning. Even though we hadn’t been close or communicated in the past couple years, it is a loss that has been weighing on me for the last couple of days. While I was growing up, my grandfather was one of my idols. He was my protector, my confidant and my biggest fan. He was also one of the people who helped ignite my love and passion for sports, especially baseball.
One of my favourite memories that I will always cherish was the time that Pat Borders flipped him off. My grandfather was a loud and obnoxious man who loved nothing better than to chirp (something I have indeed inherited). Anyway, following a strikeout with a runner on in a close game, Borders headed back to the dugout where he was subjected to my grandfathers verbal torment. Instead of turning the cheek like most players do, Borders looked right at him and gave him the finger. The crowd around us applauded Borders’ non verbal reply and even my grandfather had to tip his cap to the Blue Jays catcher.
Memories like that are what have helped me get through this and are what I will always remember. Whether it watching me at the SkyDome while my dad and uncle sat in the smoking section, getting lost on the Subway following a night game or just taking his grandson to McDonalds at 11pm to get the Smokey Joe (Carter) promotional burger because he had just won Proline and knew that Carter was his grandson’s favourite player. Sure there were memories, more recent ones, that weren’t as pleasant, but it’s the good ones that I will always look fondly back upon. *
David Mounsey • April 8th, 1942 – August 7th, 2015
What We Loved:
- An Arlington reunion. With the relationship between the Angels and Josh Hamilton in disrepair, it looks like the much maligned OF will be returning to the place where he experienced his biggest successes, Texas. With the Rangers, Hamilton already has an organization that is familiar with his struggles and has a solid support system already in place. This could turn out to be a move with mutual benefit to both Hamilton and the Rangers. If Hamilton can come back healthy and sober, he could be a big upgrade for a team that is struggling offensively.
- A meaningful subway series. The Yankees and Mets clashed in the Bronx over the weekend in a weekend series that saw the Yankees take two of three and end the Mets 11 game win streak. Depending on how season plays out for both teams, their next meeting, in September, could be very interesting and very entertaining.
- Mitch Harris’ debut. The 29 yr old Cardinals pitcher became the 1st Navy grad in 94 years to make his MLB debut. He wound up striking out the first batter he faced (Adam Lind) on four pitches, before going on to hold the Brewers scoreless through 1 1/3.
- Adrian Beltre and Garrett Richards. We all knew that the dude didn’t like his head being touched for whatever reason. Now we know not to mess with his bats either. The Rangers 3B sent the Angels starter an invoice for three broken bats following their most recent matchup that saw Richards break three of Beltre’s bats, in three at bats. No word if the invoice was paid.
- Slugfest between Brewers and Reds. Reds beat the Brewers 16-10 in a game that saw the teams combine to hit 7 homers, including 3 grand slams.
- Early season overreactions. The Astros… ASTROS… are currently sitting atop the AL West with a 2.5 game lead over the 2nd place Angels. I know it’s early, but it’s hard not to like seeing the Astros sitting in any position that isn’t dead last.
- Everything that is Bartolo Colon
What We Hated:
- The chip on Yordano Ventura’s shoulder. Ventura is listed as being and even “six foot,” yet that chip developing on his shoulder, is at least twice that size. I love this kid. I love his arsenal, his confidence and his swagger. What I cannot stand though is this “take on all comers” attitude that he has displayed thus far. I don’t hate him for throwing at batters in retaliation for his own players getting hit. What I hate is him running his mouth at Adam Eaton after fielding a routine comebacker. There is no one else to blame for sparking that melee than Ventura; he was the catalyst. This comes one week after Ventura was one of the prominent figures in the A’s/Royals brawl(s). Ventura is only 23 years old, and he is already becoming one of MLB’s most hated players.
- Pitchers getting injured while batting. After jamming his thumb during an at bat, it was announced that Nationals pitcher, Max Scherzer, would not make his next start, but he would also miss a trip to the DL. The Nationals should consider themselves blessed to have received that injury update, it was abundantly better than the news that the Cardinals received in regards to Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals ace will miss the next 8-12 months after suffering a torn achillies tendon. The injury occurred as Wainwright ran up the 1st base line following an at bat. Luckily for the Cardinals, if there is one team that should have no problem in handling a key loss like this, it is the Cardinals.
- Pitchers batting. After the Giants catcher, Buster Posey, suffered a broken leg following a collision at home plate, MLB wasted no time in altering the rules of how a catcher could block the plate. This was done to protect catchers from experiencing an injury like the one that Posey had suffered. Perhaps it is time MLB follows suit regarding pitchers batting in the National League. This isn’t my idea though, even players are advocating for it. Following his injury while batting, Max Scherzer was quoted as saying that he believes that it’s time that the NL follows the AL and adopts the DH rule. Scherzer wasn’t advocating for it because of his recent injury, but rather on the basis of improving offense and entertainment. This is what he said to Jon Heyman of CBS:
“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit — Big Papi [Red Sox first baseman/DH David Ortiz] or me? Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules … Those kids, they want to see V-Mart hit,” Scherzer said, pointing out a group of children on the field at Marlins Park. “Those kids don’t want to see me hit. No one wants to see a pitcher hit. No one pays money for that … We keep searching for offense,” Scherzer added. “This would be the easiest way to add offense.”
Should be interesting to see how this plays out in the future; especially given new Commissioner Rob Manfred’s penchant for change.
- The Angels front office. For the third week in a row, the Angels front office has publicly struggled with what to do in regards to Josh Hamilton. We now know that the Angels were more willing to ship Hamilton back to Texas, eat (almost) all of his remaining contract, and receive NOTHING in return, over dealing with Hamilton’s relapse. Must be nice to have the money to make mistakes like this go away…
Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:
2B Miguel Cairo · 17 yrs · 1490 G · 3956 AB · 41 HR · 394 RBI · .264 AVG · .675 OPS
Blue Jays Love/Hate
What We Loved:
- Bautista vs. the O’s bullpen. Another series against Baltimore and another O’s reliever throws behind Joey Bats. Of course, Bautista smashes the next pitch into the LF bleachers. Only thing that made it better was Bautista’s reaction following the homer.
- Sweeping the O’s at the ‘dome.
- Anticipating every upcoming O’s/Jays series.
- The raw power of Edwin and Donaldson.
- Devin Travis looking more and more like a steal!
What We Hated:
- Being swept by the Rays. 1-6 on the season vs. Tampa.
- Knowing we still have 12 more games against the Rays.
- Guys throwing behind Bautista… no matter what he does after.
- Dalton Pompey’s defence of late.
- Jose Reyes’ rib. Put money on this injury plaguing him ALL SEASON long.
- Showalter pissing and moaning about the turf.
- Inability to close out games. Castro/Hendriks combine to give up 4 earned in last game vs. O’s. Bullpen blows 2-1 lead in 8th against Rays.
- The bullpen is who we thought it was…. it’s who we thought it was!
Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:
RP Aquilino Lopez (2003-04) · 90 G · 94.2 IP · 2-4 W/L · 3.99 ERA · 1.33 WHIP
Boston Red Sox
Home Ballpark: Fenway (Pahk) Park
2014 Finish: 5th AL East · (71 – 91)
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 86 · Over
What We Love:
- Moves, Moves and More Moves: The Red Sox were not shy in throwing the dollars around this offseason. The Sox landed two of the biggest free agents on the market (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) and picked up a nice, low risk/high upside, reclamation project (Justin Masterson). Not content with just inking players, the Sox flipped OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for SP Rick Porcello, then moved pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa to the Diamondbacks in exchange for SP Wade Miley. They even bolstered their (already) deep bench by trading 3B Will Middlebrooks to the Padres for C Ryan Hanigan. Now just because you go out and throw money around and bring players in doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the World Series, or even the playoffs for that matter. But what the Red Sox have done is gone out and strengthened a glaring area of weakness (starting rotation), as well as added a pair of potent bats to their already stacked lineup. Sure there are no guarantees, but it’s hard not to like the Red Sox chances of taking advantage of what looks like a WIDE OPEN AL East. Perhaps there are even more moves to come… paging Cole Hamels.
- The farm system that just won’t quit: It really isn’t fair just how LOADED the Red Sox farm system is, especially given the fact that they are (usually) considered a perennial contender. Where most top teams in the MLB have stripped their farm systems bare via the trade market, the Red Sox have stockpiled a considerable number of high ceiling prospects whom can be used as on the field assets or as potential trade bait. Not only do the Sox have “homegrown” players on the cusp of contributing to their everyday lineup in Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr, but they also have managed to lock up two highly touted Cuban players in Rusney Castillo and the 19 year old uber prospect, Yoan Moncada. Remarkably, the Sox system will only continue to get deeper as they are slated to pick 7th overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft.
- Don’t call it a comeback: Three seasons featuring a variety of hand and wrist surgeries. Two straight seasons of dropping power numbers. So why do we love Dustin Pedroia in 2015? Because he is determined to be back at 100% and if that happens, then you just know that a vintage Dustin Pedroia season is in play for 2015. Even with nagging injuries sapping him off his power, Pedroia still managed to appear in 135 games in 2014, where he contributed .278/7/53 and won a Gold Glove. Big Papi may be the soul of the Red Sox, but Pedroia is the heart of that team. A big year by the 2B could be the difference between a playoff berth and (another) Championship. Remember that whole curse deal??
- Watching the twilight years of one of the games premiere power hitters – Big Papi.
- The rifle attached to C Christian Vazquez’s right arm.
- The return of the Knuckleball to Fenway Park in the form of SP Steven Wright.
- Boston Fans being forced to cheer for a player named Mookie.
- Jerry Remy’s attempts at pronouncing Cuban imports Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada.
What We Hate:
- Trick or Treat Starting Rotation: Sure the Red Sox brought in a trio of starting pitchers in the offseason, but what version of those starters will show up? Rick Porcello enjoyed his best season last year (15-13 · 3.43 ERA · 204.2 IP) but his low velocity and lack of a “put away” pitch leaves him susceptible to getting hit (career ERA/WHIP: 4.30/1.36). Wade Miley is basically the same pitcher as Porcello but from the left side, and with a few more strikeouts. Of the three new hurlers, the one with the biggest question marks surrounding them will be Justin Masterson. An All Star in 2013, Masterson infamously turned down a contract extension from the Indians at the end of the 2013 campaign in the hopes of cashing in during free agency after the 2014 season. Wrong. Wrong. Masterson had an absolutely atrocious 2014, which not only saw him demoted from the rotation to the bullpen, but also saw him dealt from Cleveland to St. Louis. Shockingly, there weren’t a whole lot of big dollar, multiyear contracts awaiting him at season’s end, so he signed a 1 year/$9.5 million dollar deal in the hopes of rebuilding his value; a far cry from the supposed $17.5 mil a year he was seeking before 2014. The biggest trick or treat pitcher in the rotation however is, Mr. Clay Buchholz. Talk about flashes of brilliance, here is a look at Clay’s last 5 seasons:
2010: 17-7 · 2.33 ERA · 173.2 IP · 1.20 WHIP · AS
2011: 6-3 · 3.48 ERA · 82.2 IP · 1.29 WHIP
2012: 11-8 · 4.56 ERA · 189.1 IP · 1.33 WHIP
2013: 12-1 · 1.74 ERA · 108.1 IP · 1.03 WHIP · AS
2014: 8-11 · 5.34 ERA · 170.1 IP · 1.39 WHIP
The two biggest obstacles preventing Buchholz from maintaining a successful career have been injuries and himself (control/confidence). When healthy and on top of his game, Buchholz has the makings of an elite pitcher. However, last year it looked like Buchholz could barely find himself, let alone the strike zone. A healthy and dominant Buchholz could give the Red Sox the ace this rotation sorely needs. If not, I am sure they’ll be in the market for a legit #1; see Hamels, Cole.
- Barren bullpen and an aging, soft tossing closer.
- The Panda’s attempts at becoming bigger than the Green Monster.
- Mike Napoli’s days as an everyday 1B.
- The thought of giving starting RF job to 34yr old, Shane Victorino, over Mookie Betts.
Player to Watch: SP Joe Kelly. A lot of people will probably have one of either Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts down in this spot and for good reason. I too am a big fan of both players, especially Betts, and believe that they deserve to be on everyone’s “Watch List.” Instead of going with the sexy or obvious pick, I decided to take a look at Joe Kelly. Kelly was a guy who went 10-5 for a Cardinals team that went to the World Series against these very Red Sox back in 2013. Kelly pitched 124 innings for the Cards in 2013, mainly out of the ‘pen, but he did make 15 starts too. The Red Sox acquired Kelly, along with Allen Craig, from the Cardinals in exchange for “Kentucky Fried” John Lackey. Kelly should slot in as the Sox 4th or 5th starter, but he has the stuff that translates more towards a mid rotation arm, opposed to a back of the rotation one.
Top Pitching Prospect: Henry Owens · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Yoan Moncada · 2B · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=bos
Final Prediction: 1st AL East
With the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting now being under a month (February 18th) and one of the biggest free agents finally landing his record breaking deal (Max Scherzer), I would say that now is better than ever to take a look back at the always fun and exciting Hot Stove Season.
Most Surprising Free Agent Signing:
It’s hard to imagine in an offseason that saw the Red Sox land not one but two marquee free agents (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) that we would be discussing a more surprising signing, but here we are. Although not made by the Red Sox per se, the biggest free agent splash did involve two of their former employees. The signing of Jon Lester by the Chicago Cubs has to be the most surprising move because of what it signifies for the game; the Cubs are ready to contend again.
Since Theo Epstein took over as President of the Cubs back in October 2011, he has done a great job of trading away everyday players for prospects, all while filling the Cubs minor leagues with high draft picks and international free agents. And now it looks like those moves are poised to pay off perhaps as soon as 2015. With top prospects Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking to crack the everyday lineup and join offensive threats like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the Cubs could be a team on the rise this season.
The Lester signing shows that the Cubs know that they are close and are now willing to be spenders opposed to sellers. More so, the Cubs are not afraid to gamble and spend on the big name free agents, opposed to picking up place holders and temporary solutions to long term problems. Realistically, the Cubs are probably still at least one season away from truly challenging for a Wild Card berth, let alone the NL Central. But the Lester signing now offers the Cubs a legitimate ace to anchor their rotation and allow them to be competitive while they wait for the fruits of their farm system to pay off.
Let’s be honest here, baseball is ALWAYS more fun and interesting when the Cubbies are good.
Most Surprising Trade:
As fun as it is to see the big name free agents changing teams and landing their proverbial paydays, the real joy of the Hot Stove season are the trades. There are few things that amuse this guy more than imagining a bunch of MLB GM’s tossing around hypothetical trades at the Winter Meetings like it’s a rotisserie league. And that’s exactly what happened this offseason.
Since Maddy Bumgarner led the Giants to (another) World Series title, we have seen the likes of Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzjia, Mat Latos, Rick Porcello, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Evan Gattis, Howie Kendrick, Dee Gordon, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Moss, Matt Kemp and Josh Donaldson all get moved to new cities. And yet none of those moves were as shocking as the three team deal that saw the Padres land Wil Myers from the Rays. The actual deal looked like this:
Padres: OF Wil Myers (Rays), C Ryan Hanigan (Rays), P Jose Castillo (Rays) and P Gerardo Reyes (Rays)
Rays: OF Steven Souza (Nationals), P Burch Smith (Padres), 1B Jake Bauers (Padres), P Travis Ott (Nationals) and C Rene Rivera (Padres)
Nationals: SS Trea Turner (Pardes) and P Joe Ross (Padres)
This trade is shocking for a few reasons. The biggest reason is the fact that the Rays were willing to move Wil Myers in the first place.
Sure the kid had a down year in 2014 (.222/6/35 in 325 AB compared to .293/13/53 in 335 AB in 2013) but for the Rays to give up on someone who wont be 25 until the end of the 2015 season just for one bad season is completely absurd. I would argue that 2014 was probably the first time in his entire playing career (amateur or pro) that Myers struggled as badly as he did, and rather than see how he would rebound in 2015, the Rays were more willing to give up on him.
What also makes this shocking is the fact that the Rays didn’t even get a good haul in return for Myers. When the Rays landed Myers and prospects from the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis, the consensus from the MLB world was that the Rays had stolen Myers from the Royals. This year the Royals made it to the Game 7 of the World Series thanks to James Shields and Wade Davis, meanwhile the Rays flipped Wil Myers for essentially Steven Souza, Burch Smith and Rene Rivera. Nothing against those guys, but none of them have the ceiling that Wil Myers has.
Even more astounding is the fact that the Nationals got a better return for losing Souza (Turner and Ross) than the Rays got for Myers. I have to assume that if Andrew Friedman was still in charge in Tampa, this is a move that does not get made.
Biggest Winner (Thus Far):
It’s hard not to like the moves made by Ben Cherington and the Red Sox. This offseason alone he has brought in free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez and traded to bring in pitchers Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. The Marlins made a handful of additions (Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Mike Morse) in the hopes of capitalizing in a weak NL East. Even the lowly Astros made some nice moves in the hopes of just securing a winnind season (Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, Evan Gattis and Dan Straily).
With that being said, the clear cut winner of the offseason has been the San Diego Padres and their new GM, AJ Preller. The Padres have not only been cellar dwellers for the better part of the past decade but they have also been unable to parlay any of their high draft picks into serviceable everyday players, let alone all stars. Because of this, the Padres have fielded one of the worst offensive lineups in recent history. This offseason, Preller looked to change all of that overnight.
Since the middle of December, the Padres have added the likes of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, while only losing one everyday player (Yasmani Grandal), two high ceiling prospects (Trea Turner and Max Fried) and a handful of fringe prospects and depth players.
What is truly amazing is the fact that the Padres were able to make the above additions without having to part with any of their big three starting pitchers (Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy) or their top prospect, C Austin Hedges. In addition to the above “big” moves, the Padres also added some nice pitching depth with the signings of Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, and the addition of Brandon Maurer from Seattle for Seth Smith.
There are no guarantees that the above moves will ensure an NL West crown or even a playoff berth, but it definitely gives the Padres a better chance at making a run for the post season. At worse, they will sure be entertaining to watch.
Biggest Loser (Thus Far):
For a minute their it looked like Billy Beane and the A’s were going to be the ones to go home with this title. In the span of a few weeks, the A’s had traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Jeff Samardzijia and only brought in Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler as a replacement; it seemed that the A’s were going into a rebuild. But then Billy Beane did Billy Beane things and flipped prospects and catching depth to the Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, then subsequently flipped Escobar to the Nationals for Tyler Clippard. All of a sudden this rebuild went to a retooling and Beane and the A’s no longer were in running for loser of the offseason.
Instead that title has now been handed off to the Baltimore Orioles. It’s funny that in an offseason that saw the Rays lose their coach, GM and one of it’s best players, the Orioles still come out as a bigger loser. To date, the Orioles have lost 2/3 of their everyday outfield (Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis), their everyday catcher (Matt Wieters) is coming off of Tommy John surgery, their promising 3B (Manny Machado) still looks to be suffering from the effects of the knee he tore up in 2013 and Crush Davis is coming off of a dismal season that was marred by an ugly 25 game suspension for PED’s.
What makes things worse is that the Orioles have done nothing to replace their departed outfielders, nor have they addressed issues with their bullpen, rotation and bench. Right now the best available free agent outfielder is Colby Rasmus and after that the list drops off considerably. The Orioles stalling has caused them to miss out on Melky Cabrera, Nori Aoki and Mike Morse; even Torii Hunter would be looking pretty good right about now.
Another interesting Orioles storyline to follow in the coming weeks will be the future of GM Dan Duquette who has been rumoured to be attached to the Blue Jays Presidency. Duquette is under contract through 2018 and the Jays would have to give the Orioles compensation for hiring Duquette away. The big question though will be whether Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, allows Duquette to leave.
Stay tuned for more Hot Stove season rumblings and rants….