Posts tagged ‘Buster Posey’

Friday: 02.8.2013

Top 10 C – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 First Basemen Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, former MLB catcher Dave Valle, and special guest Bill James. There was no list from Kenny this time around because he usually shares his on his show Clubhouse Confidential and unless I missed an episode, I haven’t seen one from him. So we’ve got the two guests and The Shredder, which is MLBN’s “objective” system that allegedly just uses the raw data of recent history to project 2013. The Starting Pitcher list for 2013 told me all I needed to know about its objectivity, though. There’s no way it’s simply processing data to come up with its list.

Here are all three lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10Clists

The Shredder

There is no real way to justify Carlos Ruiz at three prior to his offseason news, but then when you factor in his 25-game suspension, it just makes no sense. As with first base, there isn’t too much disagreement among the actual guys who belong in the top 10, just slotting. At some positions, I had three or four different than some of the lists, but the max is two at catcher. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Buster Posey swept first place, but he really shouldn’t have since we are judging the best catcher. Yadier Molina is a significantly better catcher than Posey and he played nearly 200 more innings at the position than him. Posey outdid him offensively, but part of that advantage is mitigated by the fact that he played 29 games at first (and raked). In fairness, he still outhit Yadi in his catcher-only numbers, but that’s where the defense comes in.

Salvador Perez at six and more importantly ahead of Matt Wieters makes little sense to me, too. Wieters hasn’t hit like we expected when he was in the minors, but he’s better than Perez at this juncture.

My inclusion they didn’t have: Brian McCann

Dave Valle

I thought he too overrated Ruiz and not including Carlos Santana annoyed me a bit (though he isn’t particularly good at actually catching which I’m sure bothers Valle a good bit as a former catcher himself), but NO JOE MAUER???? Not at all? OK, his caught stealing rate was awful this year at 14 percent and he only played half of his games at catcher, but doesn’t the offense as a catcher at least merit a top 10 slotting?

My inclusions he didn’t have: Mauer, Santana

Bill James

This might be the first James list that didn’t have at least one head-scratcher selection. Well actually, A.J. Pierzynski is pretty close to that. He’s terrible at catching and James of all people can’t possibly believe his 2012 is a new level of performance that will be maintained. And he obviously cares about defense because I’m assuming Ryan Hanigan’s MLB-best 48 percent CS rate is the only reason he made the list.

My inclusions he didn’t have: Perez, Alex Avila

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Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 Catchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall*”. They will air both the catcher and first base shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

I didn’t really have anyone that I fretted over leaving off. Wilin Rosario doesn’t actually play catcher so his hitting exploits would have to be about 2x what they are currently. OK, he puts on the equipment and positions himself behind home plate, but to say he plays catcher is an insult to even the worst of defenders behind the dish, let alone the best.

Jonathan LuCroy was probably closest, but he was beat out by another guy who played under 100 games last year as I expect this guy to top LuCroy in 2013.

THE LIST

10. Salvador Perez (KC) – There is a lot of speculation on this one as Perez has just 115 games played in his major league career, but part of these lists is projected 2013 performance and I’m expecting a nice year from him which should be his first full season. Despite the small sample of work, he has shown a lot. He has shown legitimate power (.471 slugging percentage & 14 HR), a strong hit tool (.311 batting average), and an ability to make adjustments as he dropped his strikeout rate from 12.7 percent in 2011 to 8.9 last year. The Royals no doubt see the potential signing him to a 5-year, $7 million dollar deal before last year which includes options for 2018 and 2019 which will be remarkably affordable (at $5 and $6 MM, respectively) if he continues at the trajectory we’ve seen early one.

9. Carlos Ruiz (PHI) – He is on the shelf for the first month of the season serving a 25-game suspension for banned substances which is unfortunate as he looks to follow-up his breakout 2012. Of course, he put together his .325/.394/.540 line in 114 games last year so missing 25 doesn’t necessarily preclude him from repeating. Suspension or not, the big question is whether or not his spike in HR/FB rate (from 4.4 in ’11 to 15.1 last year) is legitimate and thus will sustain his 16-homer output. That’s huge spike especially in light of his flyball percentage shrinking five percent.

8. Brian McCann (ATL) – The latest news has McCann’s shoulder feeling better and gives him a shot to be ready by Opening Day. Last year was an unmitigated disaster given his standard of excellence as he played a career-low 121 games with a paltry 87 OPS+ output. He kept his 20+ HR streak intact, but that was probably the only positive point in his season. This ranking takes the injury concerns into consideration as he’d be much higher without them.

7. Alex Avila (DET) – Avila labored through a tough season after a huge 2011 breakout as nagging injuries hampered him from day one. Most catchers are usually dealing with an ailment or three by the time Spring Training hits the one-week mark, but Avila seemed to suffer more than his fair share and lower body ones to his hamstring and knee held his power numbers down quite a bit. Despite the injuries, he was still above average offensively and an offseason rest should help him chase down those 2011 numbers again in 2013.

6. Carlos Santana (CLE) – A rough start to 2012 didn’t stop Santana from putting together an excellent season and the only thing keeping him this low is that he’s not a particularly great catcher defensively. I wrote about him in detail in my Countdown to Spring Training series if you’re interested in more.

5. Joe Mauer (MIN) – He still played the majority of his games at catcher and after an ugly half-season in 2011, his numbers returned to what we expect from Mauer (unless you’re still expecting 2009, in which case just stop). He’s still an excellent player even if he spends most of his time at first base or DH, but he’s not a good defensive catcher so he can only be ranked so high as we move into the elite who combine offense and defense.

4. Matt Wieters (BAL) – He’s yet to become the offensive juggernaut we expected when he was coming up through the minors, but that hasn’t stopped him from rounding into one of the best catchers in all of baseball. The defensive piece is in place and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his offensive game take off in these final three years of his 20s.

3. Miguel Montero (ARI) – Like Santana, Montero didn’t sprint out of the gate in 2012, but that couldn’t deter him from a great season at the dish and he pairs that bat with great work behind the dish. In fact, he has improved a ton when it comes to shutting down the running game the last few years. After posting a 26 percent caught stealing rate in his first full season back in 2009, he has since posted rates of 31, 40, and 42 percent. The 42 percent a year ago was the third-best in baseball. He is really one of the best overall catchers in the game and yet doesn’t get nearly enough credit as such. I will be especially interested to see where he rates on the lists tonight.

2. Buster Posey (SF) – How much can really be said about this reigning NL MVP that hasn’t been said yet? His 2010 was a precursor to his excellence which was delayed a year by his injury in 2011. Those who were worried that the injury might take some time coming back from were shown the door immediately as Posey ripped the league apart for a 1016 OPS in April. But it was his second half of the year that really earned him the MVP as he posted a 1023 or better OPS in each month with 21 RBIs per month and his .364 average in September was his worst from July on as he hit a combined .371 in the three months.

1. Yadier Molina (StL) – This shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Sure, Posey won the MVP, but he also played 29 games at first base and Molina was a legitimate candidate finishing 4th in the voting. Long regarded as the unquestioned best defender in baseball, Molina’s offensive outburst the last two years puts him in the discussion as the single best player in the game if you were talking about building a team from scratch.

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.

Wednesday: 02.9.2011

Daily Dose – February 9th

As much as I hate the miserably cold (relative to our climate) weather that has besieged Austin, I am comforted by the knowledge that baseball is on the way and we are seeing more baseball preview content up every single day.  Soon MLB Network will start their 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and with that hopefully the bitter cold of mid-20s with near single digits wind chills will head back to the Midwest and Northeast where it belongs.  I wish this kind of weather understood how unwelcomed it was here in central Texas.  Go back to the people who are insane to actually crave four seasons of weather.  I’m fine with one: summer.

Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) has a fun series over at RotoTimes.com called “I Like Because…” where he digs deeper on some second and third tier players to show their upside.  He makes his case for getting away from the term “sleeper” positing that in the information age, they don’t really exist.  I see where he is coming from on the whole sleeper thing mainly because I think there are different levels of players being undervalued and putting them all under the header of sleeper simplifies it too much, but no need to rabbit-hole on that right now.  I still use the term, but I like to categorize my sleepers when I do articles dedicated to identifying them.

I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I do like that he gives some love to Justin Masterson, someone I’ve been a fan of for a couple of years now.  Masterson didn’t perform as I expected last year as he continues to get positively obliterated by left-handers.  He needs to figure that out if he is ever going to reach his potential.  For his career, lefties have a .291/.381/.433 line against him while righties are much worse at .228/.304/.322.  Until he shows noticeable improvement against southpaws, he is a spot-starter against right-handed-heavy lineups only.

Over at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli) did some great analysis in examining some of the top scouts of the last five years.  Through his own admission, this piece is merely a jump off point to further analysis, but it is a very interesting study that I look forward to seeing fleshed out either by Cistulli or others.

As the baseball season draws nearer, so too does the release of MLB 2K11 (March 8th), the latest of a series that just keeps getting better annually.  Initially the bar was pretty low, but last year was a huge stride forward and 2011 is setting up to be yet another large step toward perfection.  Jon Robinson got a chance to interview Roy Halladay, this year’s cover, and discuss aspects of pitching a perfect game in 2K11 which is again will be worth a million bucks as it was last year, though Halladay admits it will be tougher.  I took a few no-hitters into the 8th inning last year and one into the 9th, but I was never more than six innings into perfection.  Operation Sports has plenty of MLB 2K11 coverage, too, including screenshots and previews.

MLB.com has released their fantasy baseball positional previews.  It’s a great primer to kick off your 2011 fantasy prep work.  They go deep at every position with 73 catchers, 83 first basemen, 95 second basemen, 85 third basemen, 81 shortstops, 202 outfielders, 21 primary DHs, 230 starting pitchers and 128 relievers.  Each player capsule has the pertinent previous 3 years of stats, projections for 2011, a dollar value, a paragraph with their outlook and a “Fantasy Bottom Line”.  Best of it, it’s all free.  It would be a value at $8-10 which is what you would pay for a fantasy magazine that is outdated long before it hits the shelf.

Want another opinion on players?  How about four more opinions?  Yahoo’s team of guy has released their positional rankings as well as a top 100.  These rankings are short on analysis containing just the 1 through however many deep each position goes, but the Y! gang will have plenty of content coming out throughout February and March so this is just something to whet your appetite for now.

Over at AOL Fanhouse, Frankie Piliere (@FrankiePiliere) released his top 100 prospects list for 2011.  His #1 player won’t surprise, but his #2 might as might a noticeable absence from the top five.  Piliere has experience as a talent evaluator and scout so this is far from a dartboard approach to he is using.  He certainly doesn’t tow the industry line either.  I scanned the list 1-100, but I’ve yet to read every capsule so I’m interested to see his analysis on players (1-50 have a paragraph of breakdown included).

Bill Ladson was on the Beyond the Boxscore podcast this week and he said he expects Stephen Strasburg to be pitching in September of this year.  That’s probably the most aggressive projection for Strasburg’s return as many have had him out for all of 2011.  If this is true, it possibly raises an interesting question for non-keeper drafters about whether or not to take Strasburg and when.  Obviously if you have to keep him in the active roster all year, there is no way you would draft him in March.

However, if there is a reserve roster system in your league then you have to weigh the potential of him helping you for a stretch run against killing a precious roster spot for a guaranteed five months.  For me personally, I wouldn’t even entertain it, but that’s my conservative approach.  Who knows what he would even deliver in six or seven starts to close out the season.  He could be like teammate Jordan Zimmerman who went 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 in seven starts or slightly better like Tim Hudson in 2009 who went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 6.4 K/9 also in seven starts.  Neither was a game-changer for their owner down the stretch, but neither has the talent of Strasburg, either.

OK, I like Blake Griffin as much as the next guy, but what the hell is going on here??  It’s pretty hilarious if you ask me, but definitely in a creepy kind of way.

In addition to being hilarious, this is also awesome: Saved by the Bell Megacast!  I don’t have a clue who Rob Cesternino or Eric Stein are, but by listening to the podcast I eventually learned that they are reality TV people of some sort.  That information is totally irrelevant.  All that matters is that they did a 2 hour and 51 minute podcast devoted solely to Saved by the Bell.  If you grew up loving the show like I did, watching the 2 hour blocks on cable during the weekdays and then the new episodes on Saturday mornings on NBC, then this is a must-listen.

Knowledge Bomb: In keeping with the theme of ranking lists being released today, I’ll share my top 24 catchers for 2011 in today’s KB.  Catcher remains top-heavy in terms of star power, but the next level down is much deeper than it has been in past years.  Catcher is a tough position to figure in fantasy baseball because it’s the only position with built in days off and the grind of catching can easily add extra days off to that total thanks to nicks and bruises throughout the season.

It is rare that the top catcher will be on par with the top guys at the other positions.  The exceptions are transcendent seasons like Joe Mauer’s 2009 campaign.  One strategy to consider is find catcher-eligible guys who will spend a lot or even most of their time elsewhere on the diamond this year.  Their value will still be highest at catcher on your roster, but if their team plays them at first base, outfield or DH, that’s a good thing for your team.

  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Victor Martinez
  3. Brian McCann
  4. Buster Posey
  5. Carlos Santana
  6. Mike Napoli
  7. Geovany Soto
  8. Miguel Montero
  9. Matt Wieters
  10. Kurt Suzuki
  11. Carlos Ruiz
  12. Chris Iannetta
  13. Jorge Posada
  14. Yadier Molina
  15. J.P. Arencibia
  16. A.J. Pierzynski
  17. John Buck
  18. Miguel Olivo
  19. Ryan Doumit
  20. Alex Avila
  21. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  22. John Jaso
  23. Russell Martin
  24. Jesus Montero
  25. Jason Castro

Overvalued: Buster Posey – his great debut and playoff exposure has him going in the 4th round of a lot of drafts.  That’s really high for most catchers, but especially for those with just 423 at-bats on their record, even for a wunderkind like Posey.

Undervalued: A.J. Pierzynski – he’s not great by any stretch, but he’s often overlooked.  2011 will be no different as a putrid April and weak May tanked his numbers and covered up a .299 AVG/.719 OPS in the second half (up from .247/.664).

Best of the Rest: Josh Thole – a great approach at the plate (24 BB/25 K in 227 PA) plus a wide open chance at the full-time gig gives the 24-year old a chance at a solid season.  He’s never had even a modicum of power (10 HR in 1733 minor lg PAs) and that’s really what you want from your backstop which is why he didn’t crack the first 25.

Rookie to Watch: Jesus Montero – it’s hard not to be impressed with the prospects of Montero as he has ripped through the minor leagues like few before him, but the presence of Posada and Martin make it tough to project much playing time for the 21-year old right now.  Given that he needs to work on his defense if he expects to stay behind the dish, he’s like to spend a lot of time in AAA to hone his defensive skills.

I’ll leave you with a breakdown of reporting dates for each organization as we get closer & closer to the beginning of Spring Training:

Saturday: 05.9.2009

The Next Wave

Here is a quick look at how some of the baseball’s top prospects are performing so far this year:

HITTERS (sorted by OPS):
Mat Gamel is destroying the ball, but there isn’t a clear spot for him in Milwaukee especially because he’s a horrible third baseman and Bill Hall is doing pretty well thus far. They will do something to make room for him if he continues to hit this well, though.

Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings is another guy who is on fire, but appears to be blocked at every avenue in the majors. Though B.J. Upton is off to a horrible start, he isn’t the kind of guy that will get bumped for a minor leaguer, even a star in the making like Jennings.

Keeping with the trend of being blocked, both Jeff Smoak and Buster Posey are 2008 draftees that already turning heads with their bats. Smoak might not be as firmly blocked as the others with Chris Davis striking out in an absurd 47% of his at-bats. If he didn’t have eight home runs already, he would almost certainly be back in the minors. Meanwhile Bengie Molina has been San Francisco’s best hitter and he’s highly regarded as a catcher. Of course, Posey is not really “blocked” because he would stay in the minors until September even if Gregg Zaun was San Francisco’s starting catcher.

Speaking of Zaun, what is Baltimore waiting for with Matt Wieters? Wieters hasn’t been otherworldly in AAA, but he’s ready. Enough of the Zaun/Chad Moeller combo that has yielded a robust .224 average and .303 on-base percentage in 107 at-bats. With an average of .290 and an OBP nearly 100 points higher, Wieters has been good enough to make it clear that the O’s are keeping him down for service time/financial reasons. Enough already.

minor hitters

PITCHERS (sorted by IP):
Tommy Hanson has got to heading to the majors very soon. Kenshin Kawakami and JoJo Reyes have both been horrible and I don’t know that Kawakami’s mediocre outing today will be enough to save him. Yes he won, but he still walked four in six innings and dropped his ERA to a microscopic 5.79! Kevin Medlen has been brilliant in the minors so far this season, too, but Hanson is far more heralded and could get the first shot. The Braves might be best served giving both a shot together since they have two big holes.

With Joakim Soria headed to the DL, the Royals have finally called Luke Hochevar up. Hochevar had stretches last year, but overall he walked too many and didn’t strike out enough batters.

Baltimore not only has one of the best hitting prospects in the game, but they have several pitching reinforcements making their way through the minors, which is their biggest problem right now anyway. They actually have a capable lineup that ranks 7th in OPS in the American League, but their team ERA is 12th of 14. None of their starters hold an ERA below 4.00. The sooner that Brian Matsuz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta can get to the majors, the better. Hopefully Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara can be stable forces atop the rotation and teach the youngsters later this year and moving forward.

Super phenom David Price was massively overhyped in the fantasy baseball realm this offseason based on his strong playoff performance, but he failed to break camp with the team and he hasn’t been flawless down in the minors struggling with control and the long ball. He WILL be up this season, but those that invested double-digits in him for a non-keeper league are immediately regretting their decision.

minor pitchers

I’ll post another minor league update in a few weeks.