Prospect Pipe Line
It is very difficult to think of another season that rivals this one in terms of top prospects making their MLB debuts. The only year that really comes to mind would be the 1995 season which marked the first appearance of the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera) and Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Hideo Nomo, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Mike Cameron, Phil Nevin, Brian Giles, Matt Lawton, Esteban Loaiza, Brad Radke and (current Rockies pitcher) LaTroy Hawkins.
Through 64 games this season, not only have we seen the arrivals of MLB.com’s Top 5 prospects (Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor), but we have also had the privilege of witnessing the MLB introductions of: Joey Gallo, Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki, Carlos Rodon, Archie Bradley, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Austin Hedges, Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez, AJ Cole, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Yasmany Tomas, as well as a trio of Blue Jays (Roberto Osuna, Miguel Castro and Devin Travis). And that is not even including the highly talked about debut of ambidextrous relief pitcher, Pat Venditte.
This year’s “bumper crop” of prospects is just the latest in a five year boom of young talent arriving at the MLB level. Since 2010 baseball fans have had the privilege of witnessing the arrivals of: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, George Springer, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Michael Wacha, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Zach Wheeler, Matt Moore, Corey Kluber, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Craig Kimbrel and half of the foundation of the Kansas City Royals roster (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Lorenzo Cain) to name a few .
And those are just players who were drafted through the MLB Draft; we’re not including players who were signed as International Free Agents like: Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Guerrero and the rest of the Royals roster foundation (Yordano Ventura, Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera).
The funny thing is that this recent prospect yield is far from over. Obviously in the coming years we will be privy to see the arrivals of numerous prospects, but with this year not even half way over, we may be in line to witness more (young) talent embark upon their career. Depending on how the division and wild card races play out down the stretch, not to mention the rosters expanding in September, we could see the likes of Corey Seager (LAD), Mark Appel (HOU), Steven Matz (NYM), Alex Meyer (MIN), Miguel Sano (MIN), Carl Edwards (CHC), Aaron Nola (PHI) and J.P Crawford (PHI) before all is said and done.
Thoughts on the Mid Summer Classic
With EIGHT Royals set to start for the AL in Cincinnati in just under a month’s time, a lot of bitching and moaning has been cast toward the fan’s ability to vote and decide the starters for the All Star team. Even the players have been sharing their two cents. Detroit Tigers starting pitcher and an All Star himself, David Price, tweeted that the voting system “is not funny but it’s kind of a joke,” and further chided “I wanna know how many votes Jeter has right now… I know people have written him in and voted… my guess is 1.5 million.”
Despite the American League All Star roster starting to look more like a regular season affair, some of the Royals own players weighed in on the voting process. Outfielder Alex Gordon, who is currently sitting as one of the starting OF in the game, had this to say when interviewed by USA Today Sports:
“To be honest with you, I’ve never agreed with the All-Star voting, I always thought that guys most deserving, and having the best years, should go, especially now that the All-Star Game decides who wins home-field advantage. But it’s a popularity thing now, and after getting to the World Series, we got popular.”
It is hard not to agree with Price, Gordon and the side who vehemently oppose fans having the final say on who starts the All Star game. In fact, I am one of those people who believe that the system needs to be changed.
Having the fate of All Star starters rest in a fan held vote robs players who DESERVE to be there! With a fan vote, a player who is having a career year or one who is a “feel good story” might not get the chance to be named an All Star because one fan base is larger than another and voted more often for their hometown players; regardless of the season they’re having.
With that in mind, I do believe that fans should still play a role in selecting players, just not the starters. Why can they not vote on who will take place in the Home Run Derby? I understand that not everybody is an option to take part, but why can they not vote out of those who are willing to participate? I also like the idea of fans selecting the last player to be named to the All Star game. It really tends to be a selection made more for depth in case of extra innings, so why can we not limit them to voting for that, or even expand it so they can vote for the last three roster positions?
All that being said, until the system is changed, I (unfortunately) have to side with Kansas City Royals manager, Ned Yost, on the fan voting and All Star selection… “If you don’t like it, go out there and vote.”
The Return of Thor and Bitching About the Blue Jays in Bullet Points
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri put out an incredible Blue Jays article and an accompanying podcast. The Blue Jays are discussed in the first twenty minutes of the podcast and Jonah is joined by Scott MacArthur from TSN 1050 for the segment.
- Move over Mike Trout, there is a new man crush in town. Josh Donaldson seriously makes me swoon like a high school student getting noticed by their crush. I just get butterflies looking at the dude…
- Apparently I am not the only one either… The Don (Don Cherry) made a televised plea to baseball fans to vote for the “Bringer of Rain”
- I am still reeling after that 11th inning loss to the Mets on Monday night that ended the 11 game win streak. Regardless of how many runs we put up on a nightly basis, it is losses like that that will define, and subsequently doom, a season
- That Noah Syndergaard kid looked pretty damn good (6 IP · 2 H · 1 ER · 2 BB · 11 SO), but hey who needs him when you got good ol’ Runs Allowed Dickey
- More impressive than his stat line was Syndergaard’s ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes in fastball counts, following the Bautista home run in the 1st.
- Gregg (Two G) Zaun made a decent point about our whipping boy Dickey during the pregame broadcast. He said that Dickey is effectively the same guy he was when he was pitching for the Mets, the main difference being that when he was with the Mets, he was pitching in a bigger ballpark, in a weaker division and against weaker lineups. I hate giving RA any benefit of doubt, but I do agree with Zaun’s analysis on this one.
- What I don’t agree with is anytime Zaun, or any Jays other analyst (I’m looking at you Wilner) for that matter, tries to defend trading Syndergaard and d’Arnaud for Dickey. Trading Syndergaard straight up for Dickey would have been egregious enough, let alone throwing d’Arnaud into the package. I am sure if you ask AA, he’ll agree this is one he wants a mulligan on
- I have said it before and I will say it again, but I have as much faith in Brett Cecil closing out a win, as I do in bargain bin folding chairs supporting my rotund frame
- Can we please (FINALLY) address our lack of pitching!? I fully understand that everybody fears making another R.A Dickey/Syndergaard type of trade, but you know what we really should fear?!?!? Not making the playoffs… AGAIN!!!
- I am totally on board with dealing some of our tomorrow for today! You have to be willing to take a chance in order to make it to the playoffs. It might work, it might not, but it is worth trying especially when the opportunity presents itself.
- The Giants for instance traded Zach Wheeler to the Mets for three months of Carlos Beltran in an attempt to win. Sure it didn’t work for them that season, but those are chances contenders and winning franchises make. Why can’t we?
- As much as I love prospects like Norris, Castro and Pompey, I wouldn’t hesitate to package them for a closer and a starter. You have to figure that those three (at least) get the conversation started on a Cueto/Chapman or Clippard/Kazmir deal? Hell, just one of them should be enough to land Papelbon from Philadelphia.
- If the prospects can’t contribute this season in helping us win, then why not use them via trade to help improve the roster and give us a chance this season? I completely agree with Scott MacArthur when he says that it is time to “bleep or get of the pot.”
- On a positive note, the Blue Jays have signed almost all of their draft class to contracts. This includes the top three picks, all of whom signed for or under slot value. For more info, check out the link from BlueBirdBanter:
With the MLB Amateur Draft now entering its third day it is time for us to take a quick look at how the Blue Jays have fared so far. With not having the best access to scouting information or video, I have relied heavily on scouting reports and break downs from MLB.com and the great Blue Jays community website, bluebirdbanter.com.
1st Round (29th overall): Jon Harris · RHP · 21 yrs old · Missouri State · 6’4 · 175lbs
- From MLB.com: “A 33rd-round choice by the Blue Jays out of a Missouri high school three years ago, Harris took a step forward in the Cape Cod League last summer and has continued to improve as a junior. He works comfortably at 92-94 mph with his fastball, and it plays up because it has run and sink and he uses his height to deliver it on a nice downhill plane. He has added some strength and his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame still has room for more, so he could pick up more velocity. His curveball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches at times. Harris has power and depth on his breaking balls, and he has made huge strides with his changeup and trusts it more than before. He also has improved his command and is doing a better job of pitching inside with his fastball.”
- Although not possessing nearly the amount of upside as 2014 first rounder, Jeff Hoffman, some scouts believe that because Harris is more polished and closer to being a “finished product,” that he could move quickly through the Blue Jays minor league system.
- Jim Callis of the MLB network said that the Blue Jays got a “steal” in Harris, who was rumoured to have been going in the first 15 picks. Needless to say he was not expected to be there when the Jays were picking at #29.
2nd Round (56th overall): Brady Singer · RHP · 18 yrs old · Eustis HS (FL) · 6’5 · 180 lbs
- From MLB.com: “Whenever a projectable high school pitcher shows a jump in stuff, he’s bound to move up Draft boards. That’s exactly what was happening with Singer in Florida, though some concern about mechanics was giving some scouts pause. Singer, a 6-foot-5 right-hander committed to the University of Florida, had always intrigued because of his frame and fairly solid idea of how to pitch. When he went from throwing his fastball in the 88-92 range to sitting closer to 92-94 mph and touching 96, his stock definitely jumped. He’ll complement the fastball with a slider that flashes average and he shows some feel for a changeup. Singer uses a three-quarter arm slot with a high elbow, a kind of unorthodox delivery that will make some scouts pause. Given the leap he’s made stuff-wise, a team is bound to look past that and nab him in the first few rounds of the Draft.”
3rd Round (91st overall): Justin Maese · RHP · 18 yrs old · Ysleta HS (TX) · 6’3 · 190 lbs
- From MLB.com: “One of the biggest pop-up guys this spring, Maese sent scouts scurrying to El Paso amid reports that he was hitting 96 mph with his fastball and 86 mph with his slider. While he only flashes that type of stuff rather than maintains it, it’s possible that he could sneak into the top three rounds. Though Maese’s fastball can climb into the mid-90s, he doesn’t tend to hold that velocity and often works at 88-92 mph. His slider has its moments too but he throws it too much and it often devolves into a less powerful pitch with slurvy break. Also a star quarterback for Ysleta High, Maese has the athleticism and frame to remain a starter. To do so, the Texas Tech recruit will have to become more consistent with his fastball and slider, develop a changeup and improve his control and command.”
4th Round (122nd overall): Carl Wise · 3B · 21 yrs old · College of Charleston (SC) · 6’1 · 215 lbs
- From MLB.com: “Lightly recruited out of high school, Wise has established himself as one of the most reliable power hitters in college baseball. He homered six times in seven games in March and has reached double figures in two of his three seasons at Charleston. Facing top competition in the Cape Cod League last summer, he tied for second with six longballs. Wise has good strength and excels at generating backspin on his drives from the right side of the plate. He can get pull-conscious at times but generally stays under control at the plate and manages the strike zone reasonable well, so he should hit for a decent average. Wise has enough arm strength for third base but almost certainly will move to a different position in pro ball. His throws lack accuracy at times and his hands and quickness are subpar for the hot corner. First base is his likely destination.”
5th Round (152nd overall): Jose Espada · RHP · 18 yrs old · Jose Collazo Colon HS (PR) · 6’0 · 170 lbs
- Okay so the above picture is clearly Cubs phenom, Kris Bryant. Why did I post this you ask? Well, two reasons really. The first, is that I could not find an actual picture of Espada, and the second, and much sadder reason is because the Blue Jays actually drafted Bryant while he was still in High School in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and were unable to sign him… so yeah. Anyway, back to Espada…
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “Per Jim Callis on the MLB Network draft broadcast, the Blue Jays told him he was an ahtletic, projectible pitcher who they’ve had up to 92 MPH, flashing a plus breaking ball. It sounds like he’s an under the radar pop-up guy who’s taken significant steps forward in the last 6-8 months, someone who the Jays scouts really like and should be a quick and easy sign since you don’t go so far off the board for a guy you aren’t sure you can sign.”
6th Round (182nd overall): JC Cardenas · SS · 20 yrs old · Barry University (FL) · 6’0 · 185 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “pick is pretty far off the draft board, as neither Baseball America nor Perfect Game list him among their top 500 prospects. This past year, he posted a .352/.457/.519 triple slash line in 43 games, with 4 HR, 11 other extra base hits, and a 28/22 BB/K ratio. Career, his numbers aren’t quite as good, .312/.410/.426 with 9 HR and 25 other extra base hits and 74/88 BB/K. It looks like he took a nice step forward in the past year. Fielding percentage is a poor indicator of anything at the MLB level much less the amateur level, but his .920 mark this year and .921 career number is pretty poor.”
7th Round (212th overall): Travis Bergen · LHP · 21 yrs old · Kennesaw State (GA) · 6’1 · 205 lbs
- From MLB.com: “When Kennesaw State became the first NCAA Division I team in 21 years to win a regional tournament in its playoff debut last June, Bergen was named Most Outstanding Player after picking up two victories in the four days. He followed up with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League and has performed well again this spring. Bergen can hit 94 mph with his fastball, but he usually pitches at 88-92 mph. He lacks downhill plane because he’s 6 feet tall and leaves his heater up in the strike zone more than he should, but it’s effective because his extreme crossfire delivery produces run and sink and allows him to get inside against righties. Bergen’s breaking ball varies between a fringy slider in the lower 80s and a promising cutter in the upper 80s, and he may want to focus on the cutter in pro ball. His changeup has some sink and is an effective third pitch. He throws enough strikes to remain a starter, though his lack of a true plus pitch gives him little margin for error.”
8th Round (242nd overall): Daniel Young · LHP · 21 yrs old · Florida (FL) · 6’2 · 195 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “Young has been used as both a starter and reliever in his college career, though mostly as a reliever during conference play in the crucible of the SEC. This year he only started one game, posting a 2.42 ERA in 26 innings, striking out 23 against 9 walks, allowing 26 hits and one home run. In SEC play, he pitched 9.1 innings, posting a sterling 0.96 ERA. Florida perennially has extremely deep pitching, and so whereas at another school a guy like Danny Young would have a much higher profile role, maybe or probably being a weekend starter, he was buried as a complementary bullpen piece among a ton of quality arms. Consequently, there is actually very little in-depth information available about him (which is maybe what the Blue Jays are exploiting).”
9th Round (272nd overall): Connor Panas · 3B · 22 yrs old · Canisius College (NY) · 6’0 · 218 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “6’0”, 218 pound Etobicoke native Connor Panas as a senior out of Canisius College in Buffalo. Panas is listed on the Draft Tracker as a 3B, but has also played LF, CF and 1B for Canisius this year, so he has some utility ability. Over the last two years, Panas has absolutely mashed the ball for Canisius, posting a .379/.476/.633 line in 2015 in 290 PA, hitting 10 HR, 24 other extra base hits and showing strong plate discipline with a 31/37 BB/K ratio. Over his four years at Canisius, he hit .344/.447/.522 with 80 extra base hits and a 103/106 BB/K ratio. Keep in mind, as dominant as those numbers are, the MAAC conference is not a baseball powerhouse.”
10th Round (302nd overall): Owen Spiwak · C · 20 yrs old · Odessa College (TX) · 6’2 · 185 lbs
- From bluebirdbater.com: “…Catcher and Mississauga native Owen Spivak from Odessa College, a junior college in Odessa, Texas. The 6’2″, 185 pound left-hand hitting Spiwak was selected by the Mets in the 26th round of the 2013 draft out Cawthra Park Secondary.In 2015 for Odessa, he posted a line of .387/.445/.629 in 220 PA, hitting 8 home runs and 20 other extra base hits with a 17/20 K/BB ratio. On the MLB Network broadcast, Jim Callis said he got a message from a non-Jays scout describing him as having a sweet left-handed swing.”
Late Round Picks (11 to 15):
11th Round: Marrick Crouse · RHP · 18 yrs old
12th Round: DJ McKnight · OF · 21 yrs old
13th Round: Daniel Perry · SS · 18 yrs old
14th Round: Ryan Hissey · C · 21 yrs old
15th Round: Jackson McClelland · RHP · 20 yrs old
Further Reading on the 2015 Blue Jays Draft Class:
- Jeff Moore from Sportsnet.ca: http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/mlb-draft-what-blue-jays-top-picks-can-offer/
- Ben Nicholson-Smith from Sportsnet.ca: http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/toronto-blue-jays-select-2015-first-round-pick-anthopoulos-missouri-state-right-hander-jon-harris/
- From bluebirdbanter.com: http://www.bluebirdbanter.com/2015/6/9/8752441/blue-jays-picks-in-the-2015-mlb-draft
What We Loved:
- A’s vs. Royals. If you’re a fan of the old time, hardnosed style of baseball, then this has become a must watch series. Takeout slides, bean balls, emptying benches and ejections were in ample supply in this 2014 AL Wild Card rematch. Lost in all the hate and animosity was the fact that the Royals were able to stay hot as they took 2 of 3 from the A’s. Make sure you have your PVR’s set on June 26th-28th for the next time these two square off, this time the A’s will have home field advantage.
- Beginning of Brighter Days in the Windy City. Both the Cubs and the White Sox have promoted their teams top prospects, 3B Kris Bryant and LHP Carlos Rodon. Although he struggled in his debut, Bryant has looked rather impressive in the 3 games he has played thus far; he even added a “house league homer” to his short highlight reel. Rodon, on the other hand, is set to join the White Sox early this week and will pitch out of the bullpen to begin his MLB career. The stream of prospects heading to the Windy City will only continue to flow as the Cubs are set to promote (another) top prospect, SS Addison Russell, at some point this week.
- Nelson Cruz is who we thought he was. The Mariners big offseason acquisition is currently hitting .358/8/16 with an ungodly 1.234 OPS for the short season. That includes having a stat line of .500/6/10 this week alone.
- The Braves (current) Big Three. The trio of starters, Julio Teheran (2-0/3.71 ERA), Alex Wood (1-0/3.93 ERA) and Shelby Miller (2-0/1.69 ERA), are easily the Braves biggest strength and have shown that even with a somewhat suspect lineup, the Braves could potentially contend based on their arms alone.
- The return of Garrett Richards. Sure it wasn’t the prettiest of starts (5IP/5 H/4 ER) but at least Garrett Richards is back on a big league mound after undergoing surgery for a torn patellar tendon.
- Adam Jones. The Orioles CF is making an early and strong case for being the best CF in MLB. Jones is currently hitting .438/5/16 with a 1.294 OPS.
- The promotion of OF Yasmany Tomas by the Diamondbacks.
What We Hated:
- Kelvin Herrera headhunting. I am a big fan of that old style of baseball mentioned above. I also believe in the “you hit one of ours, we’ll hit one of yours,” approach in baseball. What I don’t agree with is throwing at a guy’s head. Not only is it a blatant intent to injure, but it could also kill someone, especially when you’re hitting 100mph on the radar gun like Herrera does. If you really want to get “revenge” for an aggressive takeout slide or one of your guys getting plunked, by all means hit one of their batters, but just aim for the ribs or thigh.
- Another DL trip for Derek Holland. The pitching starved Rangers were banking on the veteran left hander to be one of the brighter spots in a bleak rotation, but instead, Holland will spend upwards of the next two months on the DL with (another) shoulder injury. That now makes 9 Rangers currently sitting on the Disabled List.
- Are the Marlins this bad? Off to a 3-10 start and with rumours starting to circulate about the security of Manager Mike Redmond’s job, the Marlins seem far from the team that a lot of people were expecting to make some noise in the National League this season.
- Travis d’Arnaud’s durability. The Mets catcher is headed to the DL again. It’s a shame to see a combo of bad luck and proneness for injury keeping a player of d’Arnaud’s talent out of the lineup on a consistent basis.
- Mets injury woes. David Wright (hamstring), Travis d’Arnaud (Broken Hand) and Jerry Blevins (Fractured Forearm) are all the latest members of the Mets to wind up on the DL. At least this means that we will see one of the Mets top prospects, Kevin Plawecki, make his MLB debut.
- Kris Bryant’s debut. Not that we actually “hate” it, but the highly touted Bryant went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts in his MLB debut. Don’t worry… I’m sure it won’t be a trend.
- The Diamondbacks using Yasmany Tomas as a glorified pinch hitter.
Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:
SP Paul Wilson · 7 yrs · 170 G · 153 GS · 941.2 IP · 40/58 W/L · 619 K · 4.86 ERA · 1.450 WHIP ·
Blue Jays Edition
What We Loved:
- Kevin F*****g Pillar! Dude is playing on a different level. Followed up his highlight reel performance in Baltimore by making what could very well be the catch of the year…
- Devin Travis. Sure Tony the Chain is looking alright in Detroit, but Travis could prove to be a downright steal. All Travis has done since he made the team has played exceptional 2B D and not given away one single at bat. Seriously. Travis works each and every count like he is an 8 year pro. Oh… and he can also hit lead off.
- Josh Donaldson’s bat waking up. The Jays three bagger went 11 for 29 with 3 HR and 7 RBI this past week.
- The Old Breed. Veteran starting pitchers, Buehrle (2-0/3.75 ERA) and Dickey (0-1/3.26 ERA) have proven to be their usual reliable selves, as well as the lone bright spots, in a Blue Jays rotation that currently has a collective ERA of 5.14.
- Liam Hendriks. Never thought I’d heap praise in any kind towards one of the Jay’s “jobbers,” but the Aussie right hander has looked pretty decent in a mop up role out of the pen. Hendricks has seen his fastball velocity rise and has used it to strike out 9 in 5.1 shutout innings thus far.
What We Hated:
- Not being able to have anything nice. First it’s discovered that the oft-injured Jose Reyes could spend some time on the DL with a fractured rib. Then, early bright spot, Devin Travis, wears a fastball in the ribs and is forced to leave the game after sliding back to 1B to avoid a pickoff. Sure it turned out to be just a bone bruise… but still… anytime you have to employ a double play combo of Goins and Tolleson is a lose/lose.
- Blue Jay Killers. The Jays had the privilege of facing not one, but two players, whom flat out OWN the Jays for their careers. First, Desmond Jennings and the Rays came to town and took 3 of 4, including the Home Opener. Dezzy joins the likes of Longo and Carl Crawford as current and former Rays players, who just RAKE against the Jays. With Jennings and the Rays leaving town, the Braves were next to roll into the Dome. With them came the former O and long time Blue Jay killer, Nick Markakais. Sure enough, Markakis and the Braves were able to take 2 of 3 over the weekend. And we’re not even mentioning how the Jays have already faced known Blue Jay murderers, Brett Gardener and Adam Jones, to open the season.
- Dalton Pompey. The young CF has had more struggles than highlights in the young season. Given Kevin Pillar’s ridiculous play to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pompey be the one optioned to AAA Buffalo to make room for Saunders once he comes off the DL.
- The Young Guns. The three starting pitchers NOT NAMED Buehrle or Dickey all currently have an ERA sitting North of 6.00.
- Gibby doing his best Dusty Baker. Don’t you just get the feeling that Gibby is just going to grind the young arms of Osuna and Castro right into the Rogers Centre turf? And speaking of that turf…
- The amount of times per broadcast that you have to hear about the new turf. The over/under is set at 10.5 mentions per game; always take the over.
Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:
C Alberto Castillo · 132 G · 316 AB · 2 HR · 20 RBI · .206 AVG · .534 OPS
Home Field: Wrigley Field
2014: 73 – 89 · 5th NL Central
O/U in 2015: 81.5 Wins · Under
What We Love:
- Youth Movement. Years of poor finishes and savvy trades have left the Cubs with the best farm system in MLB. Cubs’ fans have already been introduced to the likes of Javier Baez, Arismandy Alcantara and Jorge Soler. Amazingly, the best is still to come. We’ll have to wait a few weeks, due to controllability reasons, but it will definitely be worth it, when one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, Kris Bryant, makes their highly anticipated debut. Following him will be the likes of SS Addison Russell, RHP C.J Edwards and C/OF Kyle Schwarber.
- Jon Lester. Not only does the signing of the left handed Lester give the Cubs a legit workhorse and ace in their rotation, but it also signifies that the Cubs are willing to be buyers opposed to sellers. Next step: contention.
- Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. The former Rays manager signed a 5 year deal to become the Cubs new bench boss in the offseason. Maddon is considered one of the best baseball minds in the game and it should be very interesting to see what happens when he teams up with another great baseball mind in Epstein. What Maddon and former Rays GM Andrew Friedman did in Tampa Bay was absolutely remarkable. It should be very fun to see what Maddon and Epstein are able to do with this roster and (deep) farm system.
- Anthony Rizzo. After a breakout year in 2014, the Cubs first baseman could be showing the first signs of potential super stardom.
What We Hate:
- Kris Bryant toiling in the minors. I understand that it’s more about the business end of the game (service time, controllability, etc…) than of a question of whether he has the talent to belong; he answered that during Spring Training. Either way, it sucks.
- Renovations at Wrigley. It just isn’t the same without the fans in the outfield bleachers. It also seems really odd to see a Jumbotron sitting above the ivy covered outfield. I’m sure this is what it must have felt like when they (finally) installed lights back in 1988.
- That ridiculous attempt at a mascot.
- Knowing that Mark Prior is only 34 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006.
- Chet Steadman’s pitching face and corresponding grunt.
Impact Player: 1B Anthony Rizzo
Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Jorge Soler
Potential Bust Candidate: SS Starlin Castro
Top Prospect: Kris Bryant · 3B · MLB ETA: 2015
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=chc
Irrelevant Throwback Player: RHP Sergio Mitre (2003-05)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Newly acquired CF Dexter Fowler was teammates with the reliever back in 2010, while they were both in Colorado. The Rockies were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.
Final Prediction: 4th NL Central
Home Field: Great American Ballpark
2014: 76 – 86 · 4th NL Central
O/U in 2015: 79.5 · Under
What We Love:
- Johnny Cueto. The Reds right hander made 34 starts a year ago went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, struck out 242 hitters over 243.2 innings and finished 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. It was his best season since he went 19-9 back in 2012. Cueto is signed through 2015 and becomes a free agent at season’s end, if the Reds are far enough out of it in this season, don’t be surprised to see Cueto become available.
- The new Todd-Father. After posting back to back above average seasons in 2012 and 2013, Frazier enjoyed a big breakout year in 2014. Last season, Frazier played in 157 games, hit for a .273 average and added 29 HR and 80 RBI; he also made his first career All Star appearance.
- The Cuban Missile. What’s not to like about watching Aroldis Chapman sling 100mph+ fastballs, with a wipeout slider, from the left-hand side?
- Billy Hamilton’s wheels. Hamilton would have fit right in during the stolen base heyday of the 1980’s. The Reds CF has elite speed and stole 56 bases in his rookie season a year ago. Hamilton’s speed gives him the ability to change the outcome of each and every game on the bases alone.
- The 2015 Mid-Summer Classic. The Queen City will be the host of this year’s All Star game and festivities. It should also make for an interesting Home Run Derby, given Great American Ballpark’s home run friendly reputation.
- Mr. Red, the Red’s mustachioed mascot.
What We Hate:
- The rotation behind Cueto. Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL and Mike Leake has been a pretty reliable starter since he came in to the majors back in 2010, but after those two, things get a little questionable. The Reds traded RHP Mat Latos to the Marlins in the offseason and one of the players they got back, RHP Anthony DeScalafani, will open the season in the Reds rotation. DeScalafani has 6 career starts to his professional resume. Veteran right-hander and 2015 “I can’t believe he is still eating in MLB” candidate, Jason Marquis, and Cuban rookie, Raisel Iglesias, will round out the rotation. LHP Tony Cingrani is also available to start, but he will open the season in the bullpen.
- Durability concerns. The Reds ability to contend in the Central could come down to how many man games they lose to the Disabled List. Players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Aroldis Chapman have all spent time on the DL at one point or another. SP Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL but should come off of it within the first couple weeks.
- 27 and counting. With Marlon Byrd slated to open the season as the starting LF, he will become the 27th different player to patrol LF for the Reds since the Big Donkey (Adam Dunn) left in August 2008.
Impact Player: SP Johnny Cueto
Potential Breakout Candidate: CF Billy Hamilton
Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Joey Votto
Top Prospect: Robert Stephenson · RHP · MLB ETA: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cin
Irrelevant Throwback Player: SS D’Angelo Jiminez (2003-05)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel was teammates with OF Skip Schumaker back in St. Louis in 2011.
Final Prediction: 5th NL Central
Home Field: Miller Park
2014: 82 – 80 · 3rd NL Central
O/U in 2015: 80.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- Brewers batting order. Even with Ryan Braun sitting out the first couple games of the season because of a strained side, this is a batting order that could be among the most potent in the National League. Until Braun returns, the Brewers batting order should look something like this: CF Carlos Gomez, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Adam Lind, 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Khris Davis, RF Gerardo Parra, SS Jean Segura and 2B Scooter Gennett.
- Jonathan Lucroy. Took a big next step in becoming an elite catcher with his 2014 season. Lucroy hit .301/13/69 in 153 games; his 53 doubles also paced MLB.
- Aramis Ramirez’s career. Seems like an eternity since he made his MLB debut as a 20yr old in Pittsburgh back in 1998. Now in the twilight of his career, Ramirez will most likely not end up in Cooperstown, but he had one hell of a career nonetheless: 18 seasons · 2060 G · 2189 H · .285 AVG · .840 OPS · 369 HR · 1342 RBI · 3x All Star · 1x Silver Slugger.
- The Robin Yount era throwbacks. Nothing more 80’s than that blue and yellow colour scheme. The MB Glove logo is also pound for pound tops in MLB.
- Any ballplayer named Scooter.
What We Hate:
- Starting rotation. The Brewers moved RHP Yovanni Gallardo to the Rangers in the offseason and in doing so; they have depleted a rotation that was already pretty thin to begin. Right-handers, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, will anchor the rotation but both have been susceptible to injury in their career. RHP Wily Peralta enjoyed a big 17 win breakout season in 2014 but it was only his second full season in the majors so who knows what happens this season. After those three, the rotation should be rounded out by Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson. Former 1st rounders, Johnny Hellweg, Taylor Jungman and Jed Bradley are all in the minors but have not shown much promise, if any, at the ML level.
- Poor farm system. Years of poor scouting and player development has left the Brewers with one of the thinner farm systems in MLB. The Brewers farm system lacks both impact pitching prospects, as well as impact positional prospects. Not only does this lack of depth hamper the Brewers if injuries occur, but it also leaves the cupboards bare if Brewers management looks to add via the trade market.
Impact Player: CF Carlos Gomez
Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Wily Peralta
Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Adam Lind
Top Prospect: Orlando Arcia · SS · MLB: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=mil
Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Doug Davis (2003-2006, 2010)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Recently acquired, Adam Lind, and Dotel were members of the Blue Jays back in 2011.
Final Prediction: 3rd NL Central
Home Field: PNC Park
2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL Central
O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- Andrew McCutchen’s everything. The 2013 NL MVP winner actually had a statistically better season in 2014 than in his MVP year the season before. Cutch hit .314/25/83 in 146 games last season and led MLB with a .410 OBP. In seven seasons in the bigs, Cutch is a 4x All Star and has finished in the top three in MVP voting in the last three straight seasons.
- Josh Harrison’s versatility. Due to injuries and lack of production, The Jay Hey Kid saw time at 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF in 2014. But it wasn’t just in the field where Harrison had an impact on the Pirates. Harrison’s .315/13/52 in 143 games were all new career highs and helped propel the Pirates back into the postseason. The Pirates rewarded Harrison by signing him to a 4yr/$27.3mil contract before the start of the season.
- Gerrit Cole’s fastball.
- Pedro Alvarez’s power and move across the diamond to 1B
- Any throwback jersey from the 1970’s.
What We Hate:
- Loss of Russell Martin. In Martin, the Pirates lost a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse, an elite defender and receiver and some valuable run production in the lineup. The loss of Martin could have been softened by going out and acquiring another legitimate starting catcher, but instead opted to sign former Yankees backup, Francisco Cervelli. That of course leads me to the next point…
- Attempting to replace Russell Martin with Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli, who has spent his career as a backup in New York, has never played in more than 93 games in a season and is now poised to become a starting catcher for the first time in his career. Cervelli, who has spent considerable time on the DL, will also need to prove that he has the durability to catch upwards of 130 games.
- Back of rotation. The duo of LHP Jeff Locke and RHP Vance Worley are nothing special but will need to keep the seats warm until top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, are ready for the show.
Impact Player: CF Andrew McCutcheon
Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Gregory Polanco
Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Josh Harrison
Top Prospect: Tyler Glasnow · RHP · MLB: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=pit
Irrelevant Throwback Player: RP Damaso Marte (2001, 2006-08)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Pirates are one of the thirteen franchises that Dotel has suited up for. Dotel pitched in 41 games back in 2010.
Final Prediction: 2nd Central
St. Louis Cardinals
Home Field: Busch Stadium
2014: 90 – 72 · 1st NL Central
O/U in 2015: 87.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- The acquisition of Jason Heyward. Faced with suddenly having to replace Oscar Taveras, the Cards sent former 1st rounder, Shelby Milller, to the Braves for the talented Heyward. Heyward’s blend of speed, power and defense, should play well in this Cardinals lineup. What is also worth noting is the fact that the Cardinals should hardly miss having Miller in their rotation, as highly touted, former prospect, Carlos Martinez, is poised to fill that void.
- Yadier Molina. Still among the games top catchers and an elite defender at the position.
- Kolten Wong’s combo of power and speed.
- The management team of Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak.
- Carlos Martinez wearing #18 in honour of Oscar Taveras.
What We Hate:
- Durability of starting rotation. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are the only members of the Cardinals rotation who haven’t spent time on the Disabled List during their career. The others, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia, have all spent considerable amounts of time on the DL during their career.
- The tragic death of Oscar Taveras. Just an unbelievable loss of talent and life. RIP.
- Lack of power in the lineup. Outside of 1B Matt Adams, this is a team that is void of a true HR threat.
- Giving the Cardinals free 1st round picks as a “competitive balance.” Small market or not, how does a team that has won World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, as well as losing titles in 2004 and 2013, get given free first round draft selections?
Impact Player: RF Jason Heyward
Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Carlos Martinez
Potential Bust Candidate: C Yadier Molina
Top Prospect: Stephen Piscotty · OF · MLB ETA: 2015
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=stl
Irrelevant Throwback Player: 1B/OF Eli Marrero (1997-2003)
Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Dotel was part of the Cardinals World Series championship team back in 2011. Dotel was acquired by the Cardinals, as part of the package received from the Blue Jays, in exchange for CF Colby Rasmus.
Final Prediction: 1st NL Central