Posts tagged ‘Brandon Phillips’

Thursday: 05.26.2011

Fixing the Contenders – National League

Continuing onto the National League, let’s take a look at some moves the contenders could reasonably entertain in the coming months to patch holes and solidify their team to assert themselves for the entire year.

Fixing the Contenders – AL

A note from the AL piece: I forgot to point out that Hiroki Kuroda has a full no trade clause that could muddy things up if the Dodgers were looking to trade him this summer.  Thanks to Ray Guilfoyle from FakeTeams.com for letting me know that and also suggesting that Ryan Dempster could be an option for the Yankees.  I agree with Ray that he would be a nice fit as well.  Hell, maybe they will go for both.  They have enough minor league pieces to acquire both without decimating their system.

San Francisco Giants (27-22)

Team Needs: C, SS, bats in general

Had I not had plans last night to see The Hangover 2 (which was very funny, not as good as 1, but no one should expect it to be), this section would have looked a whole lot different because star catcher Buster Posey was lost for the season during a 12-inning battle against the Florida Marlins.  His leg was destroyed while blocking the plate against Scott Cousins and their anemic offense has now lost its best player.  Posey wasn’t hitting like he did last year, but the bar to be the best Giants hitter hasn’t been terribly high in 2011.  Posey had a .284/.368/.389(!) line with four home runs and 21 RBIs, not bad, but not quite the .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs stud we saw a year ago, either.

This is a devastating blow to a team that desperately needed hitting before the injury.  The Giants could dial up the Cincinnati Reds and inquire about some of the amazing depth at catcher that the NL Central reigning champs have both on their team and in their system.  Or is that a fit?  Because Posey is a franchise player who will be back next year, the Giants don’t need to go big and trade for Devin Mesoraco, the 23-year old prospect who is following up a breakout 2010 with a big 2011 at AAA.

The Reds are currently top five in the majors in catcher production between Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.  With Mesoraco waiting in the wings, they could afford to move one of them to address one of their needs at the same time.  Hernandez (.327/.375/.558)  is a 35-year old backstop in the last year of his contract while Hanigan (.253/.349/.347) is 30 and just starting a very team-friendly 3 year/$4-million dollar deal so I think the Reds would be more likely to deal Hernandez even though he is hitting better right now.

The Reds have the 2nd-worst team ERA from their starters (4.95) despite coming into the season with what seemed like a surplus of starters.  For either catcher, the Reds aren’t going to draw one of San Francisco’s top four arms (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner).  Ryan Vogelsong has been such a revelation and the 33-year old journeyman is pitching out of his mind with some pretty strong skills to back up his pint-sized ERA and WHIP (1.77/1.06).  Given that Barry Zito would be too expensive to trade, whether for the Giants (who might be forced to pay a bulk of the cash) or the receiving team (who would have that albatross contract on their books), Vogelsong might be the one to move.

Of course they can’t give up two of their top five arms and there is another move that is being rumored that would fit much better in the short and long term meaning they need to either to go with Eli Whiteside (the current backup), search within their system, hit the scrap heap of the free agent pool (Bengie Molina anyone?) or make a smaller trade with someone.

TRADE: Prospect Ryan Verdugo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ryan Doumit – The Pirates farm system is getting better, but they need to keep stockpiling arms as their lineup is starting to come together and a lot of their pitching prospects are years away.  Verdugo is a solid lefty who shifted back to the rotation after three years of relieving as a pro and he is having a strong season with 44 strikeouts in his 41 innings of work.

Doumit, meanwhile, has seemingly been on the block for several years now as his star has dimmed since a breakout 2008 season that portended big things on the way that never ended up coming to fruition.  He’s an adequate bat that would be a significant upgrade over staying in house with Whiteside.

So this overwhelming devastation may heighten San Francisco’s focus on filling their shortstop void that they inexplicably thought was filled with the Miguel Tejada acquisition this offseason.  Pablo Sandoval’s injury mercifully pulled Tejada from the most important defensive spot on the field, but it left Mike Fontenot there.

Overshadowed in today’s Posey news is that Fontenot is now on the disabled list, too, leaving them with Emmanuel Burris and rookie Brandon Crawford at the position.  From awful to equally awful to the most awfulest everz at a very important position.  Two key positions obliterated in one fateful night.

Focusing efforts on a certain star shortstop who is available, the Giants should make a blockbuster deal to fill this massive void now and in the future.

TRADE: Bumgarner, Crawford, Clayton Tanner and Darren Ford to the New York Mets for Jose Reyes – That feels like it should be enough, but it also feels like it could be too much.  I’m just not 100% sure where Reyes’ value is at this point.  The Mets’ farm is garbage right now so a big time major league arm and some solid pieces to stock the high minors for a piece like Reyes seems viable on their end, too.

Obviously to give up a huge arm like Bumgarner, a top 10 prospect from their org. and two other pieces, the Giants would have to gain some sort of assurance for themselves that Reyes isn’t just a rental.  You don’t take that kind of hit to your rotation for a few months of an electric table-setter.  It’s not like he can go on a Manny Ramirez run circa 2008.

If Reyes were just a rental then I think you lop off Bumgarner immediately and then perhaps that trio is enough.  Or maybe they replace Crawford with Ehire Adrianza, who is also a shortstop prospect that checks out a bit higher and is just 22 years old.

If a move for Reyes can realistically be done without devastating their current 25 to the point where there is no net gain, then they really should entertain it.  Crawford being instantly successful would be a huge upset considering he was a 24-year old in High-A who had reached AA in 2009 and 2010 yet performed terribly both times and has yet to hit AAA.

He was definitely raking (.322/.412/.593), but he was a 24-year old in the Cal League, so he should have been hitting well.  The Giants are rolling the dice with him because they have limited options at this point.

Moves:

  1. C – Trade Verdugo for Doumit
  2. SS – Trade Bumgarner, Crawford, Tanner & Ford for Reyes

Atlanta Braves (28-23)

Team Need: OF

When was the last time the Braves had three viable outfielders play a majority of their games in left, center and right?  It has been quite some time, but it looks like 2003 when they had Chipper Jones in left, Andruw Jones in center and Gary Sheffield in right.  All three posted .851 or better OPS marks while Chipper and Sheff were at .920 and 1.023, respectively.  Since then, they have pieced things together at one and sometimes two of the spots and injuries have put them right back there again in 2011.

They needed outfield help before Jason Heyward went out, but then he and Nate McLouth hit the disabled list together leaving Martin Prado as the last man standing out there.  Lucky for them they have a stupid amount of pitching both at the major league level and throughout their minor leagues which should allow them make a move with ease.

The problem is there is one major and a couple strong bats out there, but they are all corner outfielders.  With Prado in left and Heyward out, but expected back and in right, centerfield is their biggest need and there just aren’t a ton of options out there.  And I can’t see them trading with their hated rivals, the New York Mets, to get Carlos Beltran.  Plus Beltran probably works best in a corner to conserve his health.

That really limits their options unless something opens up from now until July.  As such, I could see them biding their time with fill-ins and then making a move for a guy who is also currently injured and scheduled to return in about a month, at the earliest.

TRADE: Prospect Erik Cordier to the Chicago Cubs for Marlon Byrd – Look, McLouth is terrible.  His return doesn’t help the Braves at all.  And there aren’t any significant outfield prospects on the way up for the Braves so getting Byrd not only helps this year but also in ’12 when he costs just $6.5 mil.  He isn’t a middle of the lineup impact bat, but he can definitely help the top of their lineup by getting on base early 35% of the time.

Cordier barely registers for the Braves, not because he’s a poor prospect, but because they have such a disgusting depth of arms.  Seven of their top 10 prospects this year are starting pitchers and a handful more within their top 25.  Not to mention the fact that they have a deep rotation at the major league level, too.

If he could realistically play CF, the Braves could inquire about and possibly acquire Andre Ethier from the Dodgers, but I just don’t see that.

Moves:

  1. OF – Trade Cordier for Byrd

Cincinnati Reds (26-25)

Team Needs: RP, SP

I discussed separately and in the AL portion of a move the Reds could do with the A’s to improve their bullpen while merely scratching the surface of their insanely deep stock of hitters in the minor leagues.

Their first two months of their 2011 season are a shining example of the adage: “you can never have too much starting pitching.”  It’s impossible.  It such a volatile position and so prone to injury that there really is no such thing as “too much”.  They came into the season with Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood ready to go as well as Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney for depth.

Arroyo has flailed (5.28 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), Bailey started the season hurt and looked great in his first five starts before getting hurt again; his status is up in the air, Cueto also got a late start to the season, but has been great in his four starts (2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), Leake has been terrible and likes to steal cheap shirts, Volquez has imploded to the point where he has been sent back to the minors and Wood’s ERA (5.11) looks a lot worse than his skills would normally suggest (3.63 FIP).

That leaves them with a reliable arm in Cueto, a second who should improve with Wood and four question marks.  LeCure has been great as a swingman with four starts in his 12 appearances with great skills in both roles, but a significantly better ERA in the bullpen (0.68 vs. 4.79).  Maloney has been nothing special in AAA.

As I mentioned, they have remarkable hitting depth and that would allow them to make a move for a legitimate starter.  Of course, there aren’t a ton of legitimate starters set to be available, but I think the Dodgers would be a good trade partner with a putrid offense that needs help now and going forward.

TRADE: Prospects Chris Valaika and Neftali Soto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ted Lilly – Lilly also has a full no trade clause (why the hell do the Dodgers keep giving out full NTCs????) so a move would again be contingent upon the player, but I’m not sure why he wouldn’t want to go to a surefire contender like the Reds.  The Dodgers need a lot on the diamond, but infield is the real issue.

James Loney isn’t a good first baseman.  He simply doesn’t hit enough.  A lot of people believe he will at some point because of what he showed as a 23-year old (.919 OPS, 15 HR in 96 games), but at 27 after three straight years of sub-.800 OPS (and a .573 so far this year), I think it’s time to stop thinking something great is on the way.  Soto has some nice power potential that would fit really nicely at first base for the Dodgers with the added bonus that the Reds tried him out at catcher last year and it wasn’t a complete failure.

He would be an asset to the Dodgers at either position as both are barren for them (assuming they leave Jerry Sands in left).  His plate patience could use some work and he needs to shorten his swing or he could get eaten up in the high minors and then the majors, but his power has been on full display early on in his first stint at AA (.680 SLG).

Meanwhile Valaika probably works best at second base, but could maybe stick at short or third base depending on need.  Lucky for him, the Dodgers need all three positions.  With 237 games at AAA where he has had mixed success (struggled initially, but solid this year and last), it is time to give him a real shot at the big leagues and see what the 25-year old is made of and whether or not he can stick at the majors as an everyday player.

The Reds could reasonably do this move and the one I’ve proposed with the A’s to get Andrew Bailey for Yonder Alonso without seriously damaging their minor league system.  It would be a dent that’s for sure, but Alonso and Soto are blocked by Joey Votto and Valaika is blocked by Brandon Phillips at second and Scott Rolen now and likely Juan Francisco in the future at third so they are trading from surplus to improve their team and give them the best shot to win in 2011.

Moves:

  1. RP – Trade Alonso for Bailey
  2. SP – Trade Soto, Valaika for Lilly

These are obviously just some ideas for the seven teams across both leagues who I see as contenders.  Perhaps none of them come close to happening, but I think they are reasonable possibilities for how these teams could improve their team for 2011.

Among the NL contenders not listed, I didn’t see natural fits for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers.  Whether it’s a thin minor league system or not enough major league depth to trade from or the lack of legitimate opening to trade for, these four teams are contenders in my eyes, but as it stands in late May, I don’t see a major move for them right now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two pieces.  When it comes to trades with prospects included, I am making my best educated guesses, so we could see a team trade for a major leaguer I predicted, but give something totally different in return.  I look forward to seeing how things play out in June and July leading up to the trade deadline.

Thursday: 02.10.2011

Daily Dose – February 10th

You don’t have to read complaints about the weather today, let’s instead jump right into the Daily Dose:

The Los Angeles Angels beat writer for the LA Times, Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) quoted GM Tony Reagins on the likelihood of Mike Trout making it to Anaheim this year: “I would say it’s unlikely”, which is definitely the right thing to say right now.  There’s no reason to put undue pressure on the top prospect and get him worrying about playing up to a standard that will earn him a trip to the show.

Do not take Reagins’ comments as a definitive guarantee that Trout won’t be up all year, though, because things can and will change as the season evolves.  Looking at two of the best prospects to make their mark on the league last year, Jason Heyward and Buster Posey, they each elevated through minors pretty quickly.  Posey was a college star at Florida State, though, so he’s a bit different than Heyward and Trout so let’s just look at Heyward.

Trout and Heyward both signed early as mid-to-late first round picks, but Trout signed earlier got 32 more games in than Heyward.  Both sample sizes are too small to draw much from, but a nice taste for fans to see what their team’s first pick garnered.  Both exploded in their second season and became top five prospects across baseball (Heyward 5th, Trout 1st).  And that brings us to this year, Trout’s third.  In his third, Heyward, after crushing A-ball with a taste in High-A, went back to High-A for 49 games and acquitted himself quite well.  Trout crushed A-ball last year, too, but 50 of his 131 games were at High-A unlike Heyward who only had seven in his first go-round.

Is Trout ready to make the jump to AA after 50 High-A games?  Heyward needed just 56.  Of course Heyward only played 99 games in his third professional hampered by injuries so he only saw another 50 games between AA (57) and AAA (3) before reaching the majors last year.  Barring injury for himself, Trout could start AA and play 60-70 games there.  If he continues to mash as he has thus far, he could get another 50-60 at AAA before possibly earning a late season call-up to the majors.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out, either.  That said, anyone in a re-draft league needn’t waste their time drafting Trout in March, not even if there is a reserve roster.  There is no reason to tie up a roster spot on a slim chance.  Besides, even if he comes up this year there is no guarantee he would be a contributor.  I can’t wait to see how Trout progresses after his explosive 2010, but we will likely be waiting until Opening Day 2012 to see him suit up in Anaheim.

RotoAuthority has released their second basemen rankings for 2011 and they are veeeerrrry interesting to say the least.  I’m already on record about the depth at second base, which I think is significant, and looking at this list only reinforces that belief.  I don’t, however, fully agree with the ordering of the players.  It starts off with a bang by not having Robinson Cano atop the list.

I like Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia plenty, but why you’d take either ahead of Cano is beyond me.  Tsuyoshi Nishioka at #7 and Sean Rodriguez at #9 ahead of Brandon Phillips at #10?  I wish there were projections tied to this list because I’d love to see the fall off in production that puts Martin Prado at #15 behind Danny Espinosa (#13) and Howie Kendrick (#14).  If we all drafted using the same lists and valuations then this game wouldn’t be much fun, but some of these are real head-scratchers to me.

Second base was a hot topic today as Ross Tremblay over at Fake Teams compared Utley and Cano and their projections for the 2011 season.  He ended up with Utley ahead of Cano in terms of who he would want.  The biggest problem I see in Tremblay’s analysis is that he vastly underrates the injury risk and age-related decline of Utley.  He compares the two at full health which is already a bit of a hypothetical stretch meant to strengthen the Utley side.

Second base, as Tremblay correctly points out, is a position that shows age-related attrition more than any except catcher.  Add in that Utley has three significant injuries (hand, hip, finger) in the last three years (though he didn’t miss time due to the hip surgery in the offseason) and there is legitimate risk.  Utley’s biggest statistical edge for Tremblay’s projections is in the stolen base department.  Again, I find this somewhat tenuous as his running could be in danger in order to mitigate some of the injury risk.

He’s a remarkably efficient base-stealer and ran plenty in September, his first full month after the injury, but Tremblay has him down for 15-20 bags which strikes me as the high end best case scenario.  He has topped 15 just once in the last five years, three of which were full seasons.  A year older and coming off of a season in which he played just 115 games, I would have him down for 12-15 bags.

Tremblay concedes that Cano is slightly better than Utley on the whole, but the cost of each sways him toward Utley.  Cano is a bona fide first round pick while Utley is going somewhere in the second round.  I’m all for value, but I’m more for mitigating risk, especially in the early rounds.  That reason alone is enough for me to value Cano a good bit higher than Utley, even if he costs my first round pick.  I didn’t like the hypothetical comparison Tremblay used to show Utley had higher value.

He paired each with a first baseman and determined that the Utley and Mark Teixeira/Adrian Gonzalez combo is better than a Cano and Ryan Howard/Prince Fielder pairing.  I don’t necessarily agree with that statement on its own, but more to the point, who says you have to take a first basemen in the first two rounds?  It’s the deepest position along with starting pitcher.  It’d be great to get a stud, but I think he is once again using a hypothetical device to strengthen his Utley position.  When you’re talking about a one round difference at most, you definitely want the best player, especially when he is less risky, too.  That is Cano.

Adam Rossi has a fun piece over at RotoHardball comparing players to various Hollywood starlets.  He does a great job combining my favorite things in the world: baseball and women.  Rossi points out early in the piece that those are his two favorite things, too!  He was right to believe he wasn’t the only one.  I take issue with his suggesting that Natalie Portman wasn’t still very attractive with the shaved head and that Carrie Underwood is the end all, be all of celebrity women.

She’s definitely pretty, but even he points out that she’s boring.  And that’s just it, there’s nothing particular distinctive about her and thus she can’t be the #1 famous hottie.  As I told him in the comments section, I could find a handful of girls as pretty or prettier than Underwood on University of Texas campus on any given day when school is in session.  Silly disagreements aside, I like these kinds of different articles that offer a fresh way to look at things.

Knowledge Bomb: I want to share something I learned yesterday that you may already know.  I absolutely love MLB.tv.  I love how it works across many platforms and you can choose your broadcast and they are working to improve it yearly.  One issue I always had was the fact that when you made it full-screen in your dual monitor setup, you couldn’t work on the other screen without it shrinking back down to regular size.  I made this known to the @MLBtv Twitter feed yesterday and whoever runs it promptly messaged me letting me know that this feature is in place and I had just been missing it this whole time!!

If you go to this MLB.tv FAQ page, it will show you that the dual monitor feature is in the Settings able to be toggled on and off and allow you to have your game on one screen in full mode while you  work on the other.  This seriously (or sadly?) made my day yesterday.  I knew the technology was available because Netflix Instant allows it.  I’m just glad it’s now part of one of my favorite products.  Sorry if you already knew this, but if you didn’t and have been clamoring for it, then it’s about as explosive as these knowledge bombs can get.

Saturday: 01.22.2011

Three Questions – Texas Rangers

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Michael Young. Go.

OK, that’s not really a question, but his offseason has been one of uncertainty with the signing of Adrian Beltre and Baseball-Reference.com referring to him as Mike Young for some reason, so what does 2011 have in store for him?  For fantasy purposes the movement on the diamond whether over to first base or off the field to designated hitter has no real impact on his fantasy value because he will still qualify at third base based on last year.  That is where his value is highest without question.  I can’t really see the position move impacting his offense too much, either, though sometimes guys just don’t respond well to DH’ing.

Young has been a legitimate fantasy asset now for eight straight seasons and even at 34 years old there is nothing in his profile to suggest that will change.  The batting average dipped below .300 for only the second time in the eight year stretch since 2003, but with his flyball rate climbing yearly since 2007, that is hardly shocking.  The tradeoff is the likelihood of his power staying in the upper teens, lower 20s area.  His team dependent numbers should remains strong as the lineup actually gets better than its 2010 iteration with addition of Beltre.  With third base still one of the thinner positions on the infield (shortstop is the thinnest), Young remains a quality asset whether at third or filling your corner infielder spot.

Can Mitch Moreland hold the first base spot all year or does Chris Davis take that job and run with it?

Moreland joined the Rangers late in July and enjoyed a solid 47-game stint, but the results aren’t indicative of what you should expect over a full season.  He showed uncharacteristic power (9 HR in 145 AB; 12 in 353 minor lg. AB) thanks to a 21.2% HR/FB which would be tough to sustain over an entire season and would certainly qualify as an upset if he did it.  With a 29 AB/HR rate in 1398 minor league at-bats, no one is betting he is going to sustain his 16 HR/AB over a full season in the majors.

Conversely, he showed a much better knack for getting base hits in the minors than he did in his short time at the big leagues.  A career .313 hitter in the minors, Moreland hit just .255 in his time with the Rangers.  In essence, I would bet on the two trends reversing where he a low double-digit home run total for the season would be paired with a .285+ batting average and above average plate discipline.

But will it be enough?  For your fantasy team, not in mixed leagues as he profiles as a slightly better Daric Barton.  For the Rangers, that is to be determined.  Davis is a prototypical AAAA guy who has mashed his way through the minor leagues on multiple occasions, but failed to carry it into the big leagues in his last two years after a strong rookie debut in 2008.  Of course despite being written off as a complete bust by most, he is still just 25 years old.  Plenty of guys don’t even start their major league career until age 25 and he already has 872 major plate appearances under his belt so it’s far from over for him.

On the whole, Davis has more upside than Moreland related specifically to his prodigious power so inking Moreland in at first base on your Texas Rangers lineup projection is dangerous.  A lot can change between now and Opening Day.  It is a situation to monitor closely throughout the spring, but in the end it is one to avoid in anything but the deepest leagues where I would be more willing to gamble on Davis with a late pick if he has a solid spring than invest in Moreland’s higher floor, but much lower ceiling.

Is this the year that Ian Kinsler finally puts it *all* together?

Kinsler, a fantasy favorite for a few years now, has a 30-30 season (2009), a 20-20 season (2007), a .319 season (2008), a .517 slugging season (2008), two 100 runs scored seasons and two All-Star appearances (2008, 2010) yet his career still feels like something of a disappointment when you realize it could be so much better.  In the 30-30 and 20-20 seasons, he hit .253 and .263 respectively.  In the All-Star seasons he only played 121 and 101 games.  In fact he’s only played more than 130 games once in his five year career.  He is either putting up an incredible minus one key factor and/or having injuries cut dream seasons short.

So is 2011 the season of 150 games, 100-30-90-30? … No, of course not.  Sorry, but there is just no way you can realistically project that at 29 he is all of a sudden going to make it through an entire season.  Health is a skill and it’s one he lacks.  That said, he is still generally putting up a season’s worth of numbers in the 100-odd games he does play so he is still worth drafting relatively given the risk, but I think it would be foolish to reach for him at a position that has a lot more depth than many seem to realize.

Maybe shortstop’s stink drifts over to second base or fantasy owners just associate middle infield positions with scarcity, but second base has plenty of viable option.  Those automatically ahead of Kinsler for include Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips.  After that group, Kinsler’s power-speed combo is just too rich to pass up for guys like Rickie Weeks and Martin Prado, who are very good, but just don’t offer Kinsler’s robust fantasy excellence.  Plus you can always dream that everything goes his (and your) way and he finally plays a full set of games.  Just don’t bet on it.

Monday: 06.8.2009

Roy Halladay: The Complete Picture

It wasn’t always bubblegum and lollipops for the American League’s best pitcher. Roy Halladay notched his major league-leading 10th win of the season on Sunday with a complete game shutout of the Kansas City Royals. The complete game was his third of the season and second of the week as he continues to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the junior circuit’s best pitcher. In fact he is right on the heels of Johan Santana for baseball’s best overall. It was an up-&-down path to stardom for Halladay, though.

He came to the majors for a cup of coffee in 1998 getting just two starts totaling 14 innings. He made the club the following season as a 22 year old and went 8-7 in 149 innings with an incredibly lucky 3.92 ERA. He had essentially a 1.0 K:BB rate with 82 strikeouts against 79 walks and allowed better than a hit per inning for a 1.57 WHIP. You can understand why I declared his ERA so fortunate. Things came to a head the following season as he maintained his 1.0 K:BB ratio and was decimated to the tune of a 10.64 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in 68 innings of work. He stayed down for the rest of the year save three relief appearances in September.

Then he had to work his way up from High-A at the beginning of the 2001 season. Toronto’s 1999 #1 prospect according to Baseball America was essentially in remedial classes as a 24-year old working his way back to the bigs from High-A, where he was a reliever. He made seven starts between AA and AAA before coming back up in July. In his first appearance (a 1st inning bailout of Esteban Loaiza, who had given up 5 runs in just 1/3 of an inning), he was destroyed, allowing six runs in 2+ innings of work and it looked like all of his hard work was for naught. But the Blue Jays stuck with him. He had come a long way having displayed the best control of his career during the minor league stints of 2000 and 2001. And though just 71 innings of work, his strikeouts were way up, too.

The rest, as they say, is history. He started 16 times the rest of 2001 and put together a 5-3 record with a 2.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 103 very strong innings. The next season he made the All-Star team and he followed that up with a Cy Young Award winning performance. His only hiccups in the run up to becoming one of baseball’s elite were a bum right shoulder in 2004 that limited him to 133 innings and a freak accident broken leg the year after that again held him under 150 innings (141.7). Since 2002, he has been the gold standard for complete games with his 40 (including Sunday’s) standing as a major league best in that timeframe (Livan Hernandez and CC Sabathia, 28).

Outside of just being fascinating on its own accord, I wanted to write about Halladay on the heels on my piece of patience that I wrote yesterday. I’m not suggesting you should’ve held over Halladay yearly since 1999 if you owned him, but rather that you can’t just write off young players at the first sign of distress. Halladay was a highly thought of prospect, but it took 336 innings spanning parts of four years for him to really break through. Today’s fantasy owner would’ve discarded him after the 2000 meltdown and then been baffled by his emergence two years later. In fact, it’s unfair to limit it to just fantasy owners. The baseball watching public and media would’ve behaved similarly on both fronts. This is speaking generally of course, as there are pockets of people and certain outlets that don’t hastily judge prospects on minuscule samples.

Brandon Phillips is another example. He was a highly touted prospect for several years ranking 9th, 2nd, 1st and 1st in his organization from 2000-2003. He was in the top 20 for all baseball in 2002 (20th) and 2003 (7th). After a 31 AB stint in 2002, he came up for over 100 games in 2003, but struggled mightily in 370 at-bats. In fact, he put up a .206/.246/.310 line in his first 432 at-bats spanning parts of four seasons, but 86% of those at-bats came in one season as a 22 year old. Alas, the Indians gave up on him and let him go in a trade at the beginning of the 2006 season. He finally got a full season’s worth of work at the age of 25 and performed quite well with 17 HR, 25 SB and a .276/.324/.427 line. He got even better in his age 26 season, going 30-30 and garnering a shred of MVP consideration. He had paid dividends on the prospects from the early 2000s and it’s not like he was a late bloomer at 25, just that the Indians were wildly impatient.

The latest iteration could be happening before our eyes in the form of Edwin Jackson. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 17 back in 2001, it feels like Jackson has been around forever. The Dodgers afforded him a whopping 75 innings in the big leagues before discarding him at the age of 22 to the Rays for Danyz Baez and Lance Carter. The Rays gave him a sample even larger than Halladay’s 336 innings as they saw him through 381 innings spanning three seasons with varying degrees of success. The only thing is, they didn’t stick around for the payoff. Instead they dealt him to Detroit for Matt Joyce. Jackson is enjoying a career year at age 25 (just like Halladay) thanks in large part to massively improved control (just like Halladay). In fact, Jackson has improved his walk rate four straight seasons going from 6.2 BB/9 in 2006 to 2.1 BB/9 through 83 innings in 2009. I’m not saying Jackson is going to be the next Roy Halladay based on 83 excellent innings of work, but there are some nice similarities.

In fact, when I started this piece, it was for the sole purpose of showing Halladay’s path and how it had bumps in the road to stardom. As many of you may know, I’m a diehard Detroit Tigers fan so I don’t want this coming off as a spin job to say my favorite team’s new shiny toy is headed towards the top 3 starting pitchers in all of baseball in the coming years. Jackson is just one of many examples that shows that major league teams are sometimes hasty in their judgment of youngsters and expect too much of kids that haven’t fully matured. That effect trickles down to the fantasy baseball community and creates these seasons deemed as “out of nowhere” that shock everyone even if the player was highly thought of coming up through the minors and is still very young. They are actually just breakouts due to the maturation of mid-20s players. Not everyone will come up and be Ryan Braun, Tim Lincecum or Evan Longoria.

Ervin Santana went through this last year. His breakout was seen as a “rising from the dead” because he had been solid if unspectacular in his first two seasons and then hit a major road bump in season three with a 5.76 ERA in 2007. That season included a trip back to AAA to try and “fix” him. The thing is, his skills hadn’t just fallen off of a cliff that year. He was actually striking out more than ever (7.6 K/9) leading to his career-best K:BB ratio of 2.2. The walks were up a tick at 3.5 BB/9, but he wasn’t nearly as broken as was perceived. Then last year, his control improved dramatically and he had a breakout season at age 25. So far this year he has stumbled out of the gate after starting the season on the disabled list. Two flameout starts have inflated his numbers, but he took a huge step forward on Friday with 8 and 2/3rds of 1-run ball against the Detroit Tigers. It was the first start I had seen of his all year and he looked so 2008 as he brought the boom, boom pow on the Tigers. (I really won’t blame if you stop reading and never come here again after that…)

Who will be the next player written off at far too young an age only to meet or exceed his prospect promise?