2017 MLB Season Preview – American League Central

jose-quintana

 

Chicago White Sox

2016 Record: 78-84 • 4th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: P Derek Holland • 2B Yoan Moncada • P Michael Kopech • P Lucas Giolito • P Reynaldo Lopez • OF Rymer Liriano • RP Giovanni Soto • OF Peter Bourjos

Moving Out: P Chris Sale • OF Adam Eaton •OF Austin Jackson • 1B Justin Morneau • C Alex Avila • P Matt Albers • P Anthony Ranaudo

Key Player(s) in 2017: Carlos Rodon. Departure of Chris Sale and potentially Jose Quintana (at some point) means that Rodon’s progression will need to continue if the White Sox hope to expedite their rebuild. The 2014 2nd overall pick still needs to improve his command, surrender less long balls (23 in 2016),and to further develop his change-up which would give him 2 complimentary pitches to his fastball.

Potential Breakout: Lucas Giolito. Centerpiece of the trade that send OF Adam Eaton to Washington. Former MLB #1 Prospect. Made MLB debut with Washington in 2016 and should start 2017 with White Sox. Projects as front end starter. 6’6 frame, electric stuff (mid 90’s heat and a big ol’ overhand curve). Needs to further develop his command. Averaged close to 3 BB/9 to go along with a K/9 well over 9. Along with Rodon, could help expedite Chicago rebuild and give them two young, controllable arms for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: 2B Yoan Moncada • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Lance Broadway (15th) over Jacoby Elsbury (23rd) in 2005.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Quintana • 2016 Stats: 13/3.20/1.16/181/5.1 WAR in 208 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Newly loaded farm system. Gives the Pale Hose a chance to compete sooner rather than later, as well as a something they haven’t had in a while; a budding farm system.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL Central

 

encarnacion

 

Cleveland Indians

2016 Record: 94-67 • 1st AL Central

O/U on Wins: 92.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • P Boone Logan • 1B Chris Colabello • C Erik Kratz

Moving Out: 1B Mike Napoli • OF Rajai Davis • P Jeff Manship • OF Coco Crisp

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Michael Brantley. Massive breakout year in 2014 (.327/.890/20/97/6.8 WAR in 611 AB) where he finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting. Followed that up with another solid season in 2015 (.310/.859/15/84/3.4 WAR in 529 AB). Unfortunately for both Brantley and the Indians, Brantley was sidelined with a shoulder injury for all but 11 games in 2016, including the playoffs. Even without (arguably) their best offensive player the Indians were able to make it to Game 7 of the World Series. If Brantley can come back healthy and play up to his potential, you can can pencil the Indians in as one of, if not the favourite in the American League to make it (back) to the World Series.

Potential Breakout: P Trevor Bauer. Despite related incidents and engaging in flame wars via Twitter, Bauer enjoyed a solid 2016 where he set career highs in wins (12), innings pitched (190), and WHIP (1.31). Even with those improvements, Bauer still has more to offer as far as his potential goes. He will need to continue work on his command and control in order to further his development and see more positive outcomes.

Top Prospect: OF Bradley Zimmer • Age: 24 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Beau Mills (13th) over OF Jason Heyward (14th) and C Devin Mesoroco (15) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Andrew Miller • 2016 Stats: 10 W/1.45/.68/123/12 S/3.9 WAR in 74.3 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Francisco Lindor. I say that despite the incessant ball washing that was heaped upon him from the MLB commentators during the 2016 ALCS; as well as his murdering of the Blue Jays during the same series. Hard not to swoon over a switch hitting SS with perennial 20/20 capability (23/19 in 2016). Not to mention that he is pretty decent with the glove too.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL Central

 

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

 

Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 86-75 • 2nd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Under

Moving In: C Alex Avila • IF Omar Infante • IF Brendan Ryan • P Edward Mujica • P Daniel Stumpf

Moving Out: C Jared Saltalamacchia • SS Erick Aybar • IF Casey McGehee

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Justin Verlander. The Detroit ace enjoyed a huge “comeback” season in 2016 after posting two straight sub par campaigns. Verlander went 16-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 227.2 innings and added 254 strikeouts, which was good enough for 2nd in Cy Young voting. Verlander’s renaissance season came on the heels of rebuild rumblings in the Motor City and he will need to continue to pitch like the Verlander of old if the Tigers are going to compete in the Central and stave off any rebuild rumours for (at least) another season.

Potential Breakout: Daniel Norris. At this point, people know more about Daniel Norris, the surfing/photographer that lives and travels in a VW Bus during the offseason than they do about Daniel Norris, the southpaw that has shown glimpses of brilliance in a mere 32 MLB starts. While it’s no secret that Norris has the dynamite stuff and smooth mechanics that should enable him to stay in an MLB rotation for years to come, it’s his durability concerns that have caused him to miss out on reaching both his potential as well as making 30 starts in a season. A full, healthy season in 2017 could see Norris set new career highs across the board, not to mention help an aging Tigers team compete against the likes of the Indians and the Royals in the Central.

Top Prospect: Matt Manning • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: Kyle Sleeth (5th) over Nick Markakis (7th) in 2003

Fantasy Stud:1B Miguel Cabrera  2016 Stats: .316/.956/38/108/4.9 WAR in 595 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Daniel Norris. Definition of stud both on and off the field. As much as I loved the Blue Jay’s 2015 trade acquisition of David Price, the loss of Norris to Detroit hurt in more than one way. Not only did we lose a young lefty with huge upside but we also lost him to an American League team, and a historic rival of Toronto. For further reading, search “1987 Blue Jays season.”

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL Central

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

 

Kansas City Royals

2016 Record: 81-81 • 3rd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 80.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Jorge Solar •P Travis Wood • P Jason Hammel • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Bobby Parnell

Moving Out: P Wade Davis • DH Kendrys Morales • P Edison Volquez

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Lorenzo Cain. If it wasn’t for injuries, Lorenzo Cain would’ve (most likely) put up another spectacular season like he had in 2015 when he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting. The Royals will need a big bounce back season from Cain in order to give them a legit shot at competing against the Indians for top spot in the Central. Cain will also want to put up a strong season as he is a free agent at seasons end and could look for a big deal from somebody other than the Royals.

Potential Breakout: OF Jorge Solar. The Royals acquired Solar from the Cubs in exchange for closer Wade Davis. The hope is for Solar to open the season as the everyday RF but that will be up to the play of Solar. During his time in Chicago, Solar showed both moments of brilliance as well as moments of sheer frustration. A breakout year from Solar could make the (possible/eventual) loss of Lorenzo Cain a bit more easier of a pill to swallow.

Top Prospect: Matt Strahm • Age: 25 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Bubba Starling (5th) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez, S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 1B Eric Hosmer • 2016 Stats:

Money’s Man Crush: 1B Eric Hosmer

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

 

Miguel Sano, Brian McCann

 

Minnesota Twins

2016 Record: 59-103 • 5th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 70.5 • Over

Moving In: C Jason Castro • 1B Ben Paulsen • OF JB Schuck

Moving Out: C Kurt Suzuki • UT Trevor Plouffe

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Byron Buxton. The legend of Bux was already being written long before the Twins took him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Buxton’s tool set is off the charts. In the field, he’s a plus defender with plus range and a cannon for an arm. At the plate, he has shown some of his power potential but has yet to hit at a consistent clip. His inability to get on base has also rendered his plus speed and base stealing capability essentially moot. While it is sure to be a long year in the Twin Cities, a breakout year from Bux could give the fans at Target something to cheer about. However, another down year could see Buxton starting to look more and more like an Aaron Hicks 2.0 (all glove, no bat) instead of the legendary baseball figure that was being etched out back in his Georgia hometown.

Potential Breakout: P Jose Berrios. Berrios enters the season in competition for the fifth spot in the rotation against Trevor May. While Berrios has the higher ceiling of the two, his dismal debut (3-7/8.02 ERA in 58.1 innings) could give May the inside edge, at least on paper. Berrios will need to drastically improve his command and cut down on the free passes (5.4 BB/9 in 2016). Now I am not trying to be negative in regards to Berrios. I believe that his debut could be a mere bump in what could be a promising career. That promising career could begin as early as this season, it will all depend on Berrios’ approach throughout the season. He should have a rather lengthy leash with the Twins not expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.

Top Prospect: Nick Gordon • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Chris Parmelee (20th) over P Ian Kennedy (21st)

Fantasy Stud: 2B Brian Dozier

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Miguel Sano

2017 Prediction: 4th AL Central

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2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions • American League

2016-opening-day

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

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

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

 

price

 

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

 

AP Blue Jays Yankees Baseball

 

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

 

archer

 

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

 

joey

 

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

 

sale

 

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

 

indians

 

Cleveland Indians

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

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Detroit Tigers

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

 

royals

 

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

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

 

Minnesota Twins

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

 

correa altuve

 

Houston Astros

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

 

trout

 

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

 

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros

 

Oakland A’s

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

 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners

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

 

rangers

 

Texas Rangers

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

 

Awards

American League MVP

  1. Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
  3. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
  2. Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
  3. Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Rookie of the Year

  1. Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
  2. Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
  3. Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

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Spare Change – David Price Delirium and Random Rumbling and Ranting

TBJ1

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?

AA

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…

DP

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 (W)

David Price Day #2 (August 8th, 2015 @ Yankees): 7 IP • 3 H • 0 ER • 3 BB • 7 K (W)

Next up… Oakland or the Yankees (round #2)… depends on what Gibby decides.

BJBW

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.

TBJ

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.

poopy hutch

  • 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?

http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/gotta-hear-it-espn-refers-to-blue-jays-as-beer-league-softball-team/

  • 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…

“Did really call us a “beer league softball team?!” I’m guessing cause we hit homers?? That’s all we do well right?!

Marcus Stroman

  • 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.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v352405283/houoak-valencia-hits-walkoff-single-in-the-9th/?query=danny+valencia

  • 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.

Futures Market:

Alford

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

CG

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

JAYS/PHILLIES

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. *

RIP Gramps….

David Mounsey • April 8th, 1942 – August 7th, 2015

– $

Spare Change – Pretenders and Contenders – All Star Game Reflections

att

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:

donno

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.

bux

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.

Correaa

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

all-star-game-baseball-ca8da7757f9d04a5

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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2015 MLB Season Preview · AL Central · Detroit Tigers

Comerica Park

Detroit Tigers

Home Ballpark: Comerica Park.

2014 Finish: 90-72 · 1st AL Central.

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 86.5 · Under

What We Love:

  • The Man They Call Miggy: What is not to like about a guy who plays in 159 games, hits for a .313 average with 25 HR and 109 RBI, and is considered to have an “off” year? Even despite getting off to a slow start and being hobbled by an ankle injury, Miguel Cabrera enjoyed his 11th straight season driving in 100+ RBI. Entering his 32nd year, Cabrera is still one of the top players in the game today and with his move to back to 1B last season, and ability to DH, he should continue to play at a high level for the foreseeable future. And that is great news for the Tigers, who will need Cabrera to continue his MVP style of play if they have any hope of holding off the Indians and White Sox for the AL Central title. Not to mention they’ll need/want him to stay healthy and productive as they are paying him a small fortune ($240 million) over the next eight seasons.

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Honourable Mentions:

  • Best front office in the game: Owner Mike Illitch and GM Dave Dombrowski.
  • Manager Brad Ausmus’ 90 win rookie campaign.
  • Anibal Sanchez rebounding from a subpar 2014 season.
  • Potential DP combo of Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler.

 

 

 What We Hate:

  • Verlander’s Arm and Velocity Woes: In 2009, Justin Verlander’s average fastball speed was 95.6 mph, the second best in MLB. In 2014, his average fastball was down to 92.6 mph, which had him outside of the top 25 qualified pitchers in MLB. It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to lose a few ticks off of his heater as he ages, but to seemingly fall apart overnight is another thing. Verlander’s 2014 was his worst statistical season since 2008, in fact, both seasons are extremely similar:

2008: 33 GS · 201 IP · 11-17 W/L · 4.84 ERA · 108 ER · 163 K · 1.40 WHIP

2014: 32 GS · 206 IP · 15-13 W/L · 4.54 ERA · 104 ER · 159 K · 1.40 WHIP

Verlander was also the American League leader in Earned Runs in 2014; finishing 2nd behind A.J Burnett for the overall MLB lead.

So what is the cause for this sudden drop off? Could it be “dead arm” (which is, hands down the most awesome, old timey name for a legitimate medical condition) aka arm fatigue? That is a pretty plausible scenario, especially given that Verlander has thrown at least 200 innings in every season since 2007. Perhaps it could be attributed to the core-muscle surgery he underwent before the 2014 season. The surgery might not be the culprit when it comes to the diminishing velocity, but it could be the reason why Verlander has started to experience arm issues. If he was unable to use his proper pitching mechanics and drive from his core and legs, that could have forced him to alter his mechanics and put more stress on his shoulder/arm. It could also be the reason why he was unable to locate and have solid command of his secondary pitches (curveball and slider).

In order for the Tigers to return to the Postseason they cannot afford to have another down year from Verlander. Even with David Price and Anibal Sanchez behind him, this is a starting rotation that will be weaker than it has been in years past. The bigger fear for the Tigers, if Verlander can’t return to his old form, is that they will be paying $28 million a season (through 2020) for an average to above average starting pitcher

*Now with all of this being said, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason NOT to believe that Justin Verlander can and will come back from this. He is still (only) 32 years old and is still one of the top tier starting pitchers in the game. Every pitcher eventually loses their fastball; even the greats. It’s what you do to re-shape your game after that happens which separate the good from the great.*

Verlander pulled

  • A Less Than Watertight Bullpen: In the past four seasons, the ERA of the Tigers bullpen has had them ranked 27th, 24th, 18th and 25th respectively in the entire MLB. The bullpen was one of the key contributors to the Tigers being bounced from the playoffs by the Orioles in 2014. What’s astonishing is that while GM Dave Dombrowski made the moves to replace departed starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, he neglected to address his bullpen in any way. In fact, it is almost exactly the same bullpen returning that was to blame for that dismal 2014 campaign. 40 year old, Joe Nathan, returns as the incumbent closer, a year removed from saving 35 games while posting a 4.81 ERA. Behind Nathan, the Tigers will have a pair of experienced setup men in Joakim Soria and Joba Chamberlain. Soria, who was acquired from the Rangers at last season’s trade deadline, has experience closing games and could replace Nathan if he falters. Even though they didn’t add anyone in the offseason, the Tigers bullpen may get a big mid-season upgrade if and when RHP Bruce Rondon returns from Tommy John Surgery. Rondon, who was viewed as a future closer, struggled in his first MLB performance in 2013 before missing all of last year following Tommy John surgery. The Tigers will take any kind of upgrade they can get and a healthy Rondon would be an immediate upgrade to that bullpen.

nathan

Honourable Mention:

 

  • V-Mart’s knees: torn meniscus during offseason workouts could force him to miss Opening Day. Bigger concern for Tigers should be that it’s same knee that forced him to miss all of 2012.
  • Attempting to replace Max Scherzer’s and Rick Porcello’s outputs with the likes of Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene.
  • Jose Iglesias’ durability.
  • Alex Avila’s long term health: the catcher suffered upwards of four concussions in 2014.
  • That collective sick feeling that I and every Blue Jays fan will get if Anthony Gose somehow manages to put it all together.

 

 

Player to Watch: 3B Nick Castellanos. Playing in his first full MLB season in 2014, Nick Castellanos enjoyed the highs and lows of life in the big leagues. Offensively he had a pretty decent season at the plate, hitting .259/11/66 in 533 AB. However, his defensive game left something to be desired, as he ranked near the bottom of every defensive metric. The reason for him being a defensive liability could be because he has bounced around between multiple positions since being drafted. Originally drafted as a shortstop by the Tigers in the supplemental first round (44th overall) back in 2010, Castellanos was first asked to move to 3B so his bat would not be blocked by Jhonny Peralta. However, when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to play 1B, Castellanos path to the majors became blocked by Miguel Cabrera, whom had moved across the diamond to accommodate Fielder. With Cabrera at 3B, Castellanos was then asked to ply his trade as a LF; which would only last a season. Following the 2013 season, Fielder was whipped out of the Motor City, Cabrera moved back to 1B, and Castellanos was asked (again) to switch back to 3B. While the Tigers have always known that Castellanos can hit, they’ll need him to make bigger strides defensively. Perhaps now that he has an established position, he’ll be able to fine tune his defensive skills. On the offensive side of things, it wouldn’t be outlandish to believe a 20 HR/75 RBI campaign is possible.

 

castellanos

Top Pitching Prospect: Buck Farmer · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015

 

farmer

Top Positional Prospect: Steven Moya · OF · MLB ETA: 2015

 

Moya

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

 

Final Prediction: 2nd AL Central.

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