Spare Change – Week One Reflections and More

opening day

 

 

What We Loved

  • Maddy Bumgarner’s Opening Day performance – 11k 2 HR
  • Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff position. The big LF is making Joe Maddon look like an even bigger genius with his torrid start out of the one hole.
  • Stephen Piscotty’s perilous trip around the bases. The Cardinals RF got hit by the ball 3x during the same journey. At least he was rewarded with a spot on Kimmel.
  • The absurd power throughout the Orioles lineup – Is JJ Hardy the weak spot? He did hit 30 in 2011
  • Unintentional comedy of the picture of 6’7 Aaron Judge and 5’8 Ronald Torryes
  • Bryce Harper on opening day… 5th HR in as many Opening Day’s
  • Not to be outdone, Mike Trout hit his 3rd HR on Opening Day
  • Albert Almora Jr. in CF – http://atmlb.com/2p4Hybi – http://atmlb.com/2owiSL1
  • Greg Holland closing out games. Former All Star has looked good upon his return from Tommy John.
  • Manny Machado’s glove work. Not only (arguably) the best 3B in the AL but also might be the best in the entire business.
  • The ludicrous power of Joey Gallo. The Rangers 1B caused a glitch in stat cast.
  • Fans turning Cueto into a horse via photoshop – http://www.thescore.com/news/1272381
  • The entire toolkit of Francisco Lindor. Add a late game grand slam to take the lead to his already impressive resume.
  • Eric Thames going yard in the show for the first time since 2012.
  • Jameson Taillon and Chris Sale lock horns at Fenway.
  • Bartolo’s return to Citi. Serious goosebumps – http://www.thescore.com/news/1272906
  • Josh Donaldson’s Barry Bonds earring. The Dangly cross just drips with swag from the late 80s and early 90s.
  • Manny Margot’s MLB debut. Padres top prospect hit back to back ding dongs in his first two MLB AB’s.
  • Yadier Molina’s chest protector. No way there isn’t something sprayed on that thing.
  • Jumbo Diaz jogging in from the pen. I’ll eat my hat if he is actually the 278 lbs that he is listed at.
  • Andrelton Simmons ridiculous tag – http://on.si.com/2pq8SQz.
  • The D-Backs red hot start. Last year’s bigger disappointments are already looking better than they did in 2016.

What Caused Us to Cringe

  • Masahiro Tanaka on opening day. The Yankees ace gave up a career high 7 earned in just 2.2 innings.
  • Tanaka’s UCL. The 28 year old is still pitching with a partially torn UCL which could possibly snap at any moment.
  • Waino pulling a 50 Cent but does it to allegedly protect Yadi. The Cardinals righty told reporters that he uncorked the egregiously wild pitch because he noticed that his catcher was set up for a curveball instead of the fastball that Wainwright was throwing. Commendable and all, but still ugly as hell.
  • Brett Cecil’s introduction to Cardinals fans. The former Blue Jay serves up a moonshot to Kyle Schwarber to give the Cubs the lead and the eventual game.
  • They aren’t who we thought they were. The Royals bullpen getting shelled for 12 runs through 2 games
  • Clayton Kershaw making more than the entire Padres roster. How is AJ Preller still employed?
  • Pretty much everything that the Blue Jays have done so far.
  • Jason Grilli at Camden Yards – The Grilled Cheese blows his 2nd consecutive save on the Orioles turf.
  • Josh Donaldson’s calves – why do I get the feeling that this could be a theme all season long?
  • Casey Lawrence’s introduction to Blue Jays fan (for further reading see below).
  • Walking in the winning run with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Seriously though, why not throw it right down the cock instead of trying to finesse it in there?

 

The (New) Golden Age of Shortstops 

As baseball fans, we are currently being treated to the best crop of talented, young SS since Jeter, ARod, Alex S Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria and Rey Ordonez were posing shirtless on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

shirtless-ss_orig.jpg

What makes that cover even more ridiculous is that future All Star and AL MVP Miguel Tejada wasn’t even invited; neither was Boston folk hero NOMAH! At the time of posting this, the likes of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Addy Russell, Dansby Swanson, Trevor Story, Tim Anderson, Trea Turner, Aldames Diaz, Corey Seager, Ketel Marte and Orlando Arcia are all 25 or younger. And that’s not even including the top SS prospects that are still in the minors like Gleybar Torres, Ahmed Rosario, Brendan Rogers, JP Crawford, Nick Gordon, Willy Adames, Kevin Maitan, Franklin Barretto, Jorge Mateo or Kevin Newman. This list also does not include Manny Machado who just turned himself into (arguably) the best 3B in the game. Nor does it include other SS who have changed positions to accommodate their teams needs a la Alex Bregman.

Besides the abundance of young and upcoming SS, we are also still witnessing the play of exceptional talent from those who are 30 and under such as Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, Brandon Crawford, Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons; Simmons alone being a treat himself and might just be the best defensive SS to ever play the game. I say that with full respect, love and admiration for the Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Smith). Furthermore, Troy Tulowitzki, who has just been the best SS for the past decade, is entering the latter half of his SS career, and although his bat doesn’t seem to be what it used to be, his glove alone is worth the price of admission.

Not only are we experiencing an increase in talent alone, but also one in the power department. In that shirtless shortstop year of 1997, only three shortstops hit 20 or more homers (Nomar, Arod, and Jay Bell), whereas last year ELEVEN different shortstops (not counting Machado) hit 20 or more, including Didi Gregorious and Freddy Galvis! Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s not everyday that you are treated to a renaissance like this.

 

Games Without G-Ma

I honestly thought that losing Eddy to the Indians would be the biggest loss that I suffered this off season. Little did I know that it would barely be a dent in comparison to losing my grandmother. My grandmother was, and still is, the biggest Blue Jays fan that I have ever known. And I am not saying that because she listened or watched each and every game. I am saying that because like myself, she lived and breathed everything Blue Jays. Even the teams that I could barely talk myself into (I’m looking at you Ty Taubenheim, Terry Adams, and Doug Creek) she would tune in as if it was the hey days of the 80’s or early 90’s. She knew all of the players, coaches, trainers and prospects. She loved the scrappy underdogs like Johnny Mac and Craig Grebeck, and hated showboats or selfish players. Not a phone call between us went by without at least a five minute breakdown of the weeks past games, impromptu scouting reports or prospect profiles. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to talk her into such and such prospect or insert recent addition only to have her rebuff me with a “Ill believe it when I see it” attitude.

Like her favourite coach (Cito Gaston) she was overly protective of her veteran players and would fight with me tooth and nail if I tried to side with any kind of youth movement; especially when it came to her favourite, Jose Bautista. Of all the players whom she claimed as “favourites” over the years (Stieb, Key, Borders, Gruber, Carter, Molitor Delgado, Wells, Halladay), I am certain that Joey Bats was her favourite; she was even cremated with his shersey.

Although she passed away after Christmas, I am starting to feel her loss more now than I did then and that’s because it was during the baseball season that we bonded the most. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had just one more conversation with her about the Blue Jays; even if it was just over the phone for five minutes like we used to. Despite my heart feeling like a million pounds from sadness, I take solace in two things:

  1. Knowing that she got to watch the Blue Jays make the playoffs not only once more, but twice.
  2. Remembering her calling our house after midnight in 1992 when they won their first World Series. I can still remember hearing her gravely voice choking back tears of joy and excitement because her boys had finally done it.

It’s moments like that that will never die and are what will get me through this difficult season ahead. Rest in peace G-Ma, I know you’re up there somewhere cursing this 1-5 start like the rest of us. Hope you enjoy the Home Opener tonight.

 

– $

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2015 MLB Season Preview · NL West

Chase Field

Arizona Diamondbacks

Home Field: Chase Field

2014: 64 – 98 · 5th NL West

O/U in 2015: 72.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Paul Goldschmidt. Runner up for the NL MVP in 2014, Goldy was limited to a mere 109 games in 2014, thanks to a fractured left hand, but he still was able to hit .300/19/69 with a .938 OPS in 406 AB. With the 2015 season having the potential to be a very long and dismal one, Goldy could be one of the (few) bright spots in the desert this season.
  • Power in the middle of the lineup. The duo of Goldschmidt and Trumbo have the power between them to hit a combined 70+ HR this season. That number could, and will go up when offseason addition, Yasmani Tomas, makes his debut in a D-Backs jersey.
  • Quantity of Starting Pitching. The D-Backs will begin the season with a starting rotation of: Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Archie Bradley, Rubby De La Rosa and Chase Anderson. They also have Daniel Hudson, Allen Webster, Robbie Ray and Randall Delgado on the 40 man roster, all of whom can, and have started in their career. Meanwhile starters Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo will open the season on the DL.
  • Archie Bradley’s upside. D-Backs top prospect could have a big impact after an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training.
  • Tuffy Gosewich’s name. Throwback to the days when players were named Pud and Nap.

What We Hate:

  • Catching situation. After trading incumbent catcher, Miguel Montero, to the Cubs in the offseason, the D-Backs will head into the 2015 season with the duo of Tuffy Gosewich and Jordan Pacheco splitting duties behind the dish. For their careers, Gosewich and Pacheco have played a combined 382 games in 8 combined seasons, with Pacheco (322 games) being the more experienced of the two. The D-Backs also have Oscar Hernandez in the minors, as well as veteran catcher, Gerald Laird. Laird was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason, but he will neither help nor harm this dearth of catching talent.
  • Quality of Starting Pitching. Jeremy Hellickson has been average at best since winning the AL Rookie of the Year back in 2011 and will need to rebound from elbow surgery that cut his 2014 short. Josh Collmenter would be a mid rotation guy in the majority of other ML teams and highly touted pitching prospect, Archie Bradley, will be pitching in his first full season. In addition to Bradley, the rest of the rotation (De La Rosa and Anderson) are also pitching in their first full seasons in the majors. The other starters, who are opening the season in the minors (Delgado, Webster and Ray), also lack an abundance of major league experience. In addition to the inexperience, the D-Backs rotation has also been shrouded in questions about their durability. As mentioned above, Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo will open the season on the DL, while Jeremy Hellickson will attempt to rebound from bone chip removal surgery on his pitching elbow. Daniel Hudson has also spent considerable time on the DL during his career.
  • The Yasmany Tomas 3B experience. The D-Backs were hoping that their big free agent signing would be able 3B decent enough to allow his bat to be in their everyday lineup. That did not work as expected. Tomas looked lost at the hot corner during Spring Training and was sent to AAA to open the season to refine his defensive positioning. It was recently announced that Tomas will now primarily play RF at AAA.

Impact Player: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Archie Bradley

Potential Bust Candidate: SP Jeremy Hellickson

Top Prospect: Archie Bradley · SP · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=ari

Augie Ojeda

Irrelevant Throwback Player: IF Augie Ojeda (2007-10)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Aaron Hill and Dotel were briefly teammates back in Toronto in 2011, before both were shipped out of town in separate trades.

Final Prediction: 5th NL West

Coors Field

Colorado Rockies

Home Field: Coors Field

2014: 66 – 96 · 4th NL West

O/U in 2015: 70.5 · Over

What We Love:

  • The Dynamic Duo of Cargo and Tulo. When healthy, these two are tops at their respective positions and among the best players in the game today. In fact, there are few teams that can offer the production that the Rockies get out of these two. It should be interesting to follow what happens with these two over the course of the season, as they are also two of the best trade chips in the game.
  • Trio of young starters. 2014 rookie, Tyler Matzek, will be joined in the rotation by one of the Rockies top pitching prospects, Eddie Butler. Meanwhile in AAA, 2nd overall pick in 2013 and top pitching prospect, Jon Gray, should be up in Colorado at some point this season.
  • Batting order could be sneaky good. The Rockies order for Opening Week: CF Charlie Blackmon, RF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Troy Tulowitzki, 1B Justin Morneau, 3B Nolan Arenado, LF Chris Dickerson, 2B DJ LeMahieu and C Nick Hundley.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of Cargo and Tulo. Sure they are among the game’s elite players, but they are also among the game’s most injury prone. Both Cargo and Tulo have spent lengthy trips on the DL FOUR times in their careers. Seeing as both players play a very physical, all out style of play, it’s hard not to believe that that DL number is only going to rise.
  • End of an Era? There is also the possibility that both of the Rockies talented, but oft-injured stars get traded at some point this season. Although this could be a good thing for the long term future of the Rockies, it also could go South quickly if the Rockies fail to trade the stars before their value diminishes.

Impact Player: SS Troy Tulowitzki

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Tyler Matzek

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Justin Morneau

Top Prospect: Jon Gray · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=col

Jose Jiminez

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Jose Jiminez (2000-03)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel had a cup of tea with the Rockies back in 2010 and was unspectacular at best. He pitched 5.1 innings over 8 games, posted an ERA of 5.06 and walked 4 batters to 6 strikeouts. The Rockies were also one of three teams that the right hander pitched for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 5th NL West

Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers

Home Field: Dodger Stadium

2014: 94 – 68 · 1st NL West

O/U in 2015: 91.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Batting Order. The Dodgers should throw out an everyday lineup that is among the best in MLB. It should look something like this: SS Jimmy Rollins, LF Carl Crawford, RF Yasiel Puig, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B Howie Kendrick, 3B Juan Uribe, C Yasmani Grandal and CF Joc Pederson. They also have OF Andre Ethier, IF Justin Turner and C A.J Ellis on the pine.
  • Top of the rotation. The trio of LHP Clayton Kershaw, RHP Zack Greinke and LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu give the Dodgers one of the best top of the rotations in MLB. Both Kershaw and Greinke are former Cy Young winners and perennial candidates for the award. Ryu is no slouch in his own regard, and has been one of the better LHP since coming to North America in 2013.
  • Addition of Andrew Friedman to the front office. Friedman, who built the Rays into a perennial contender, is considered one of the brightest minds in the game.

What We Hate:

  • Back of rotation. Sure the top three are beyond impressive, but the bottom two leave something to be desired. The 4th and 5th rotation spots belong to oft-injured starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Both pitchers have missed considerable amount of time during their career due to injuries, and there is no reason not to believe that a DL stint or two is in the cards for this season.
  • Bullpen woes. Closer Kenley Jensen is out until at least May and setup man, Brandon League, could be done for the entire season. The Dodgers will lean on Joel Peralta and JP Howell to get them through until Jensen is back throwing smoke in the 9th.

Impact Player: SP Clayton Kershaw

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Joc Pederson

Potential Bust Candidate: LHP Brett Anderson

Top Prospect: Corey Seager · SS · MLB: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=la

Yhency Brazoban

Irrelevant Throwback Player: P Yhency Brazoban (2004-08)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel pitched 18.2 innings in 19 games for the Dodgers back in 2010. The Dodgers were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 1st NL West

At&t Park

San Francisco Giants

Home Field: AT&T Park

2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL West

O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Madison Bumgarner. You may have heard of Bumgarner after his near legendary post season pitching performance in 2014. Postseason success aside, Bumgarner is a legitimate ace, one of the best southpaws in the game today and only 25 years old. If injuries don’t derail it, we could be looking at a future Hall of Famer.
  • Buster Posey. Arguably the best catcher in the game today, Posey has three World Series rings, two All Star appearances, two Silver Sluggers and an MVP to his credit, all before the age of 28.
  • Bruce Bochy’s Bag of Post Season Fairy Dust. The Giants manager had it bequeathed to him when Tony LaRussa retired from the dugout.
  • AT&T Park. Pound for pound the most beautiful ballpark in the game.
  • The cream coloured, Willie Mays era jerseys.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of starting rotation. Maddy Bumgarner is the only member of the rotation to have not spent time on the DL during his career. Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy have all spent considerable time on the DL. And in the case of Matt Cain, there is no guarantees that he ever returns to the form that made him a 3x All Star.
  • Loss of the Panda. After fan favourite, Pablo Sandoval, left for Boston via free agency, the Giants decided to sign Casey McGehee to replace the departed Panda. McGehee enjoyed a comeback season in his return to MLB, after spending a year in Japan, but there is as likely to replicate his 2014 success as he is to return to the player who was out of the majors as recently as two seasons ago. What makes it worse is that the Giants have practically no depth at 3B (Joaquin Arias?) behind McGehee.
  • Post season success in even number years. The Giants have appeared in four World Series since 2001 (2002, 2010, 2012 and 2014). After losing to the Angels in 2002, they manage to win it all in their next three trips.

Impact Player: SP Madison Bumgarner

Potential Breakout Candidate: 2B Joe Panik

Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Casey McGehee

Top Prospect: Kyle Crick · RHP · MLB: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=sf

Jesse Foppert

Irrelevant Throwback Player: P Jesse Foppert (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Tim Hudson and Dotel were teammates on the Braves in 2007.

Final Prediction: 3rd NL West

Petco Park

San Diego Padres

Home Field: Petco Park

2014: 77 – 85 · 3rd NL West

O/U in 2015: 84.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • A.J Preller’s Shopping Spree. The new Padres GM wasted no time in showing MLB that he intended on turning the Padres into contenders over night. Acting like he was playing an elite version of MLB the Show, Preller added the likes of: Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris and James Shields, this past offseason. Not content with those moves, Preller than acquired All Star closer Craig Kimbrel and the Upton formerly known as B.J from the Braves on MLB’s Opening Night. Amazingly, Preller managed to make all of these additions without having to completely deplete his farm system.
  • The Bullpen. It was already suppose to be an area of strength heading into the season, but the last minute addition of Craig Kimbrel, now makes this one of the deepest pens in MLB. Kimbrel will be joined in the pen by hard throwing setup men, Joaquin Benoit and Kevin Quackenbush. While the rest of the bullpen will be rounded out by Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer. Aside from shutting the door on the opposition, the depth of their bullpen could allow GM A.J Preller and the Padres to use it as potential trade bait.
  • The Padres being the FINAL winner of the Wil Myers/James Shield trade.
  • The Tony Gwynn era brown jerseys.
  • The Friar mascot.

What We Hate:

  • Durability concerns in the rotation. Aside from medium sized game James, the rest of the Padres starting rotation have all spent time on the DL during their career. Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow both offer tremendous upsides and near unhittable stuff when they are healthy, unfortunately for the duo (mainly Morrow) their durability has held them back from making great leaps in pitching dominance. It looks like the durability issues have started early as the Padres placed starter, Ian Kennedy, on the DL last week.
  • Inexperience at SS. The Padres released Everth Cabrera and his off the field issues during the offseason and will turn to Alexi Amarista to take over the SS position.
  • Who is leading off in this lineup? Sure the Padres revamped (nearly) every area of their roster and lineup, but the one area they failed to address was finding a leadoff hitter.

Impact Player: OF Justin Upton

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Wil Myers

Potential Bust Candidate: OF Matt Kemp

Top Prospect: Hunter Renfroe · OF · MLB ETA: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=sd

Sean Burroughs

Irrelevant Throwback Player: 3B Sean Burroughs (2002-05)

Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Brandon Morrow and Octavio Dotel were teammates as Blue Jays, back in 2011.

Final Prediction: 2nd NL West

– $