Tag Archive | "Base Percentage"

Five storylines from Kansas City Royals camp

This has been an interesting spring for the Kansas City Royals. Some position battles have been settled, while others are still being hotly contested. Some players have sizzled in the Cactus League, while others have struggled. There is no shortage of news as Opening Day is inching closer and closer. Here are five storylines from Royals camp:

1) Yordano Ventura will crack starting rotation

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Ventura was in a battle for a spot in the Royals rotation this spring, with his main competition being Danny Duffy. Well it didn't end up being much of a battle in the end. Ventura has dazzled this spring forcing manager Ned Yost to name him as one of his five starters. After Ventura pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Rangers on Monday there really wasn't a choice for Yost.

"We knew this was probably the way it was going to go," Yost said after Ventura pitched six innings of four-hit ball in a St. Patrick's Night, 6-0, greening of the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. "After tonight I think we've just seen enough. There's no reason not to announce this now." -Royals.com


Yost also told Royals.com that Ventura will slide into the third spot in the rotation behind James Shields and Jason Vargas, rather than as a fifth starter like many expected. This spring, Ventura has a 1.76 ERA over 15.1 innings and has held batters to a .185 average.

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David Freese could be right-handed version of Matt Adams for St. Louis Cardinals

The moments of brilliance for St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese come in flashes.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

He hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers and just Monday he delivered a vital pinch-hit, two-run double to extend the Cardinals lead to 8-5 in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But those moments are not enough for a player who the Cardinals have tried to make a cornerstone at the third base position. They are more fitting of a pinch hitter, such as first baseman Matt Adams, who has been a left-handed, pinch-hitting weapon for the 2013 Cardinals.

Sure, Freese is a good guy, he is considered a good teammate and he combined for a .295 batting average in 2011 and 2012, topping out with 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in during the 2012 season, but he has since become an average player, at best.

He started the 2013 season in a horrible rut. He bottomed out with a .163 batting average April 29 and a 20-game hitting streak between May 17 and June 11 raised his average to .284, but he is now back down to .265 with just six home runs and 46 RBIs.

Those aren’t horrible numbers and were good enough when the Cardinals did not have a replacement infielder outside of the .255-hitting Daniel Descalso, who also has a paltry .310 on-base percentage.

However, Freese also has a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement value, meaning he has played slightly worse than would be expected from a typical third baseman, and the Cardinals now have a replacement, although he comes in the form of a second baseman.

The team called up second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis last week, and manager Mike Matheny has started him in three of his first four games.

With Wong getting regular playing time at second, regular second baseman Matt Carpenter has had to move elsewhere. At first, Carpenter got a needed day off, but Matheny has continued to put Wong in the starting lineup so Carpenter has moved to his original position at third base and Freese has moved to the bench.

Freese isn’t buried on the bench, however. Matheny has given other regular starters extended time off throughout the season. He sat center fielder Jon Jay for several consecutive days in April and early May when he was struggling to fix his swing, and shortstop Pete Kozma didn’t play for several days in a row in late July and August when he went in an extended slump at the plate.

But a long-term view of the Cardinals infield suggests Freese could be the odd man out if Wong takes the starting job as second baseman and Carpenter becomes the everyday third baseman.

Carpenter plays solid defense and occasionally replaced Freese late in games in 2012 because Matheny wanted a stronger defensive player at that position in the late innings. Plus, Carpenter has hit .312 with 61 RBIs and has a WAR value of 5.1.

More than anything, the Cardinals figure to get more consistent production with Wong and Carpenter in the lineup than Freese, who has always been a streaky hitter.

Yes, he hit .390 in the 2011 postseason and was the Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series and World Series that year, but his batting average had also dropped from .326 to .297 in the six weeks that led up to the playoffs.

Instead of the everyday third baseman, Freese could take on the role Adams has for the Cardinals throughout the season. Adams has played in the field in just 46 of the 76 games he has played in during the 2013 season, but he has hit .277 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs while primarily coming off the bench.

Freese has some power and could give the Cardinals a reliable right-handed pinch hitter, which has been a lacking aspect of the team for much of the season.

Freese is a good player, but his value to the Cardinals might be higher in the late innings off the bench than throughout an entire game at third base.

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The state of the Royals offense

If you are a fan of the long ball, the Kansas City Royals may not be the team for you.

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Kansas City has 54 home runs as a team this year. This puts them second to last in the MLB, in front of only the Marlins. The Royals are the only team in baseball that doesn’t have a player with 10 or more home runs. Eric Hosmer leads the team with nine homers, including five home runs in the teams’ last eight games. Alex Gordon is second on the team with eight home runs.

The Royals have only four players with five or more round-trippers. Billy Butler has six and Mike Moustakas has five. As a point of reference, the Orioles lead the league in homers and have eight players with five or more and four players with 10 or more.

Last year Butler led the team with 29 homers and Moustakas added 20, but both are well off the pace they set in 2012.

Not only does Kansas City struggle to hit home runs, but they also don’t walk and thus they are in the bottom half of the league in runs scored.

With 210 walks on the season, the Royals rank 26th in the majors. Kansas City is 21st in the league with 334 runs scored. They are also in the bottom half of the league in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.

The strengths of the Royals’ offense are hitting for average and being aggressive in the running game. As a team, Kansas City is hitting .260 on the year and is 4th in the majors with 60 stolen bases.

For the offense to get better, they must get more runners on base, especially via the walk. With more base runners, the Royals can attack on the base paths and have more chances to hit with runners in scoring position.

George Brett, the new Royals hitting coach, needs to stress the importance of drawing walks and having a patient approach. Kansas City has plenty of good hitters, even if hitting home runs is not their strength. With more walks the team should see a spike in runs scored and will give the Royals’ pitchers the run support they’ve been lacking.

The sixth inning of Thursday’s game against the Indians was a good example of the power of drawing a walk. Hosmer and Butler drew back-to-back free passes off of Ubaldo Jimenez and after Moustakas reached on an error, Lorenzo Cain launched a grand slam. It was nice that Cain came up with the big hit, but it was all set up by the lead-off walks.

The Royals took advantage of eight walks in the game and hit three home runs in a 10-7 victory over Cleveland.

More of the same would be nice for Royals fans.

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Triple Play: Oakland A’s, Rick Ankiel, Vernon Wells

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we examine the hottest team in baseball, take a look at what could be the end of one of the most fascinating careers in recent baseball history, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

RickAnkiel

Who’s Hot?

Oakland Athletics

Here they go again. The A’s are on another one of their white-hot streaks. Since last losing two games in a row on May 14-15 versus the Rangers, the A’s have gone 18-5 and now sit a half-game behind first-place Texas in the AL West. It’s not just a home-field advantage, either; Oakland has played 15 road games during this stretch. Whereas previous A’s teams have had dominating starting pitching, it is the bullpen that has been the most dominating feature of the 2013 team. Closer Grant Balfour and setup men Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook have slammed the door on the opposition, each boasting an ERA below 2.00 and park-adjusted ERA+ numbers over 200. The rotation is anchored by 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who has walked six batters in 77 innings this season. He doesn’t strike out batters the way he used to, but he adapted quite well, as demonstrated by his two complete-game shutouts. Everyone else in the A’s rotation is 26 or younger. The oldest position player is 33-year-old outfielder Coco Crisp, who serves as the team’s spark plug, with a .383 on-base percentage, 13 steals, 40 runs scored and 22 RBI. The blossoming star of the team, though, is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who leads the team with 13 home runs, despite hitting only .236/.305/.492. The flashes of brilliance from the 27-year-old Cuban defector are tantalizing, to say the least. But the real revelation this season has been third baseman Josh Donaldson, who we discussed in last week’s Triple Play. His .328/.395/.528-9-42-2-33 hitting line has deepened the A’s lineup and eased pressure on Josh Reddick, who has battled injuries and an awful slump so far this season. Obviously, the A’s won’t continue to play at a .750-plus clip, but even if with the inevitable regression to the means, they have a strong enough team to be the challenger to the Texas Rangers that most analysts expected the Los Angeles Angels to be. Underestimate the Athletics at your own risk.

 

Who’s Not?

Rick Ankiel, New York Mets/???

Unfortunately, it looks like this might be the end of the line for one of the most intriguing players of the past 12-15 years. The Mets, desperate for competent outfielders, designated Ankiel for assignment prior to Sunday’s game against the Marlins. If this is in fact the end for Ankiel, Saturday’s game was not a satisfying conclusion: four at-bats in the 20-inning marathon, three strikeouts. Between his time this season with the Astros and Mets, Ankiel did manage to bash seven home runs and drive in 18, but he hit just .188/.235/.422 with 60 strikeouts in 136 plate appearances and drew only eight walks. His combined OPS+ was 79. That was just too far below replacement level for any team to accept. Since leaving the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2009 season, Ankiel played for the Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets. He was a serviceable part-time player with Washington in 2011, but was overexposed due to too much playing time. Since then, his strike zone discipline, never great to begin with, has further deteriorated. The Mets are going nowhere this season and are much better served to give Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 25, and Juan Lagares, 24, a chance to stick in the majors. If it is in fact the end for Ankiel, he can look back at two distinctly different career paths – both of which ended up in the major leagues. From the dominating rookie year, to the shocking meltdown in the 2000 playoffs, to the switch from pitcher to outfielder, to the legendary home run in his first game back in the majors as an outfielder (all with the Cardinals), to the journey around baseball as a part-time player, Ankiel has had one of the most fascinating careers of any professional athlete. He will, and should, be remembered as one of the most unique baseball players of his generation.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 4-6, 5.82 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 78 ERA+

Player B: 2-4, 6.30 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 72 ERA+

Talk about ugly. Player A is Jon Garland, who was designated for assignment Saturday by the Colorado Rockies. Player B is Jeff Francis, who replaced Garland in the rotation Saturday and pitched four largely ineffective innings in his return. Remember that scene in The Last Boy Scout, where Bruce Willis’ character catches his best friend hiding in his bedroom closet and asks him “head or gut?” That’s the kind of choice that Rockies fans have to endure with these two pitchers. Frankly, neither one has any business being on a major-league roster. Garland was tolerable in April, but has been shellacked regularly since then. Francis, who barely throws harder than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, is hopefully just holding a place in the Rockies’ rotation until Roy Oswalt is ready to go (he is scheduled for two more starts at Double-A Tulsa). If you are a fantasy owner who actually had Garland or Francis on your team, your first move isn’t to dump them from your roster – it’s to ask yourself whether you should even be playing fantasy baseball in the first place.

Player A: .241/.285/.409, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB, 25 runs

Player B: .220/.364/.429, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, 26 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Vernon Wells. Player B is Josh Willingham of the Twins. Remember Wells’ fast start, where he smacked six homers and slugged .544 with a .911 OPS in April? Yeah, that’s just a fond memory now. Wells may as well be wearing concrete shoes with the way he is sinking. It started in May, when his average slumped to .221, but he hit four more homers and ended the month with 24 RBI. He was still being reasonably productive, especially considering what had been expected of him before the season started. The wheels have completely come off the wagon now. Wells is hitting a pathetic .115 in June with no extra-base hits. If fantasy owners haven’t dumped him yet, the time has probably come. Willingham, on the other hand, might be snapping out of a funk that dogged him the entire month of May. Since the calendar flipped to June, though, Willingham has hit a home run and driven in six. Despite the poor May, Willingham is still on pace to hit 28 dingers and drive in close to 90. Hopefully you weren’t expecting the 34-year-old to repeat the 35-110-85 line he put up in 2012, as that was clearly an outlier compared to the rest of his career. Isn’t it interesting, though, how similar these two stat lines are for these two players? One is slumping his way to the bench, while the other is showing signs of heating up.

Random Thoughts

  • Time for our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. All season long, we are keeping track of how stingy the Cardinals’ ace is being with the free passes. In his most recent start Friday night against the rival Reds, Adam Wainwright tossed another seven brilliant innings, striking out seven Reds and issuing just one walk. That brings his season total to seven walks (in an NL-leading 96 innings), versus 91 strikeouts. His K/BB ratio is 13-to-1, still tops in either league. He has also allowed only two home runs this season.
  • Kyle Blanks, who looks like a defensive end trying his hand at baseball, is giving San Diego’s lineup a much needed jolt of power (6 HR, 21 RBI, 17 runs) since being recalled in mid-April. Chris Denorfia and Will Venable are acceptable 4th outfielders, but neither has any business playing regularly ahead of Blanks.
  • I don’t understand all the surprise about Jeff Baker and his 8 home runs for the Rangers this season. He’s not an unknown rookie, folks. In 2008, he thumped 12 long balls with the Rockies. He held the utility job with the Cubs from 2009-12 (until Theo Epstein started his Windy City rebuilding project). Always had some pop in his bat; now he’s in a great hitter’s park. Perfect situation for Baker.
  • Speaking of puzzling fantasy analysis, what’s with all the love for Casey Kotchman in Miami? He was the Opening Day first baseman, but was injured April 3 spent two months on the disabled list. Upon his return, he’s gone 0-for-16. He doesn’t have a hit this season. All he was doing is filling a roster spot until the REAL first baseman of the Marlins’ future returned: Logan Morrison (who was activated Sunday). That’s the name that smart fantasy analysts should have been filing away.
  • Tell me whether you recognize this feeling: you see a slugfest, like the Padres-Rockies 11-9 game Friday night and you think to yourself “Sweet! Lots of fantasy goodness here!” Then you check the boxscore and…..nothing. Your fantasy player contributed a big fat ZERO to the game (coughChaseHeadleycough). If there is a more annoying feeling in fantasy sports, I don’t know what it is.
  • Is the Frenchy love-fest finally over in Kansas City? It should be. Jeff Francoeur has been as terrible the past few weeks as well (one measly homer, four extra-base hits, five RBI since May 1). Never a player interested in drawing a walk, Frenchy has seen his OPS drop to a ghastly .375 in June. At least fans can take solace knowing that Wil Myers is on the way….er, um, wait. Never mind.
  • The 18-inning game, 5 ½-hour tilt between the Rangers and Blue Jays on Saturday was the longest game in the history of either franchise.
  • Here are some notes from the longest game of the season, the 20-inning marathon endured by fans Saturday between the Mets and Marlins (won by the Marlins 2-1):
    • The two teams combined to leave 32 men on base (22 by the Mets!) and whiff 35 times.
    • Four pitchers turned in quality starts: original starters Jose Fernandez (6 IP, 1 ER, 7 Ks), Matt Harvey (7 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks), plus Miami’s Kevin Slowey (7 IP, 8 hits, 8 Ks) and New York’s Shaun Marcum (8 IP, 5 hits, 7 Ks). Despite his yeoman’s job out of the bullpen, Marcum was charged with the loss.
    • Daniel Murphy had two of the most eventful outs of the game: first, he was thrown out at home to end the 12th inning, then his potential game-tying homer was caught on the warning track to end the game.
    • Marlins’ rookie outfielder Marcell Ozuna’s throw to gun down Murphy at the plate was part of a beautiful double play to end the 12th. Ozuna sprinted to the right-field line to rob Marlon Byrd of a hit, then he fired a strike to catcher Rob Brantly, who held on to the ball despite a ferocious collision with Murphy.
    • Entering Sunday’s game, Ozuna is hitting .328 in 35 games since being called up. At 22, he is giving Marlins fans (all six of them) another reason to keep watching while Giancarlo Stanton is on the DL.
    • Mets fans have got to be holding their breath after their ace, Harvey, depart the game with back pain. Harvey and David Wright are all that separates the Mets from being Marlins Part 2.
  • How the Rockies remain above .500 is beyond me. In addition to trotting out Garland and Francis far too often this year, their bullpen (other than Rex Brothers) has been putrid. Friday night, some guy named Rob Scahill allowed five runs without retiring a batter, as the Rockies twice gagged away a six-run lead. I was there. It was one of the worst relief performances I have ever seen in quite some time. Sunday was just as bad. Juan Nicasio was perfect for 5 1/3 innings before tiring. By the time the bullpen finished pouring turpentine on the fire, the Padres had gone from trailing 4-0 to leading 7-4. Even with help on the way (Roy Oswalt, Tyler Chatwood), it’s probably time to start searching for relief help. If the bullpen doesn’t get upgraded soon, all the hitting heroics in the world won’t save the Rockies season.
  • Sending good thoughts to Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy. Already on the DL with shoulder inflammation last week, McCarthy suffered a seizure that doctors said was related to his head injury last season. Scary stuff. McCarthy has told reporters that he is fine now. I hope that is truly the case.
  • Finally, heartfelt condolences to the family of legendary Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, whose wife lost her battle with brain cancer last Thursday. She was just 64.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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No offense, but the Royals offense isn’t very offensive

It’s a quarter of the way through the season, and May hasn’t been a good month for the Royals. Since May 1, the team is 7-12 and 21-22 for the season. In 11 of their 19 games, the Royals scored 3 runs or less with a 1-10 record in those games. They’ve suffered two three game losing streaks and a four game losing streak Since May 6.

Chris_Getz

Besides Alex Gordon (.352), Lorenzo Cain (.298) and Salvador Perez (.308), the other regulars on the lineup are hitting .267 or less. Mike Moustakas has the lowest batting average of .176. As a team, the Royals are last in the American League in home runs (27) and walks (108). They’re next to last in the A.L. in at-bats (1,483) and total bases (573). They’re 13th in the A.L. with 184 runs.

The bright side? Well, Royals batters have only 290 strikeouts, the least in the A.L. They’ve stolen 33 bases and caught stealing seven times. They’re second in the A.L. with 11 triples. They’re fourth in the A.L. with a .265 batting average, but are tenth in the A.L. with a .318 on-base percentage and 13th in the A.L. with a .386 slugging average.

The Royals focused most of their offseason upgrades on starting pitching, which was desperately needed. But little was done concerning the offense, except for firing hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and hiring new hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David. Maloof and David were brought in to help the offense to drive the ball and hit more home runs. So far, that hasn’t happened yet. But would the Royals offense be any better if Seitzer was the hitting coach? It’s hard to say, but realize Seitzer was the hitting coach when the Royals had their 12-game losing streak in April 2012 and were 13th in the A.L. with 131 home runs.

So what can be done? The Royals could send Moustakas down to AAA Omaha, but that means the 38-year old Miguel Tejada would be the third baseman the Royals pick off of the Third Baseman Tree. Sending Chris Getz to Omaha and calling up Johnny Giavotella might help, but Yost would probably keep Giavotella on the bench and play Elliot Johnson at second base. The Royals could bench or release Jeff Francoeur, but is David Lough capable of being an everyday league average outfielder until Jarrod Dyson returns? As for firing Ned Yost and/or Dayton Moore, it might temporarily satisfy a frustrated fan base, but that won’t improve the offense. If there’s any blame to be placed, it’s on the Royals offense. Yes, they’re a young team and they’re pressing. But they have to adjust and get out of this offensive slump or it’s going to be another losing season.

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I really like this Lorenzo Cain fellow

In a way, the 2013 performance of center fielder Lorenzo Cain is bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad he’s playing well, especially with the struggling Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the lineup. But if Cain stayed healthy last year, would he play as well in 2012 as he is now? It’s hard to say, but Cain played well before various leg injuries limited him to 61 games, ending up with a .266/.316/.419 line with 222 at-bats, 31 RBI, nine doubles, seven home runs, striking out 56 times, drawing 15 walks and stealing 10 bases.

Lorenzo_Cain

Cain knew a good 2013 performance would decide if he was the Royals center fielder of the future or another has-been. In the offseason, Cain worked on strengthening his legs to avoid the leg and hip injuries that plagued him last year. And so far, it’s paying off. He’s played 17 of 18 games with a .350/.420/.483 line, 60 at-bats, nine RBI, five doubles, a home run with 14 strikeouts, six walks and two stolen bases.

Against lefties, Cain has a .357/.500/.357 line with 14 at-bats, four RBI, two strikeouts and three walks. Against righties, Cain has a .348/.392/.522 line with 46 at-bats, five RBI, five doubles, a home run with 12 strikeouts and three walks. He’s hitting and scoring well against left and right handed pitching, though he’s faced more righties than lefties.

Among regular staring position players, Cain leads the team in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.420), on-base percentage with slugging (.904) and he’s got caught stealing three times. Actually, he leads the American League in being caught stealing, so his running game needs some work.

Cain has a .970 fielding percentage in center field, with the league fielding percentage being .990. His range factor per nine innings as a center fielder is 2.41, with the league range factor per nine innings is at 2.66. He’s only committed one error in 119.2 innings of play, so while his current defense is below league average, he’s far from a defensive liability in the field.

It’s unlikely Cain will keep up his high batting average and he won’t hit a lot of home runs. But so far, Cain is a good center fielder who can hit, get on base and play average defense. If he stays healthy (and there’s still a question if he can) and works on his running game, Cain will be a solid center fielder for the Royals. And at 27, he’s got the potential to improve. With the Royals offense being what it is, let’s hope he does improve.

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Cardinals Position of Interest: Organizational Outfield

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down each position/area of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, from the Majors down to the rookie levels. Sparked in part by the organization’s multiple top rankings as “best minor league” system and Major League future, as well as questions about ETA’s and “who’s next” conversations based on injuries and depth. Today, we start in the outfield…and with one of the most obvious questions of the spring…

Tavaras_Jay

Majors: The St. Louis outfield is a position of strength for the club entering into 2012. The lineup could potentially feature all three everyday outfielders hitting in order to start the game off, with Jon Jay leading off, followed by Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday hitting third.   Both Beltran and Holliday stood in as All-Star representatives, and both topped 95 RBI and 25 homers. Jay played his best ball in the second half once he was made an everyday leadoff hitter, and for the season he notch a .303 average and .362 on-base percentage while at the top of the lineup.

Behind them, the backups are mostly situational replacements.  Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers are the clear alternatives for the likely one opening for a full-time back up coming out of the camp. Matt Carpenter spent a good deal of time in right field a year ago, and Allen Craig saw time there as well.  But with Carpenter in the mix for the second base job and Craig taking over full-time at first base, they likely won’t be as available for outfield duty as a year ago.

High Minors: The high minors for the Cardinals obviously yields the most intriguing part of the entire farm system, Oscar Taveras. The consensus top prospect in the organization will open up the season at Triple-A Memphis most likely, where he’ll get work in right field, but perhaps center as well. He’ll be pushing the doors of the St. Louis clubhouse; really he’s already banging on them. Eventually he’ll be let in, and it could be in the same party crashing fashion that Bryce Harper pulled off a year ago.

Outside of Taveras, non-roster invitee Justin Christian is making an interesting case in Spring Training as well. The numbers game will probably force him to Memphis as well, but there could be a chance for him to see some action in a limited role with the Cardinals this year if injuries hit the outfield. Back at Double-A, Mike McNeill hit .359 at two levels last season, including an 18-for-32 rip through Springfield. At 5’9 and around 180 pounds, he could be the next Shane Robinson-type at the upper levels of the Minors.

Low Minors: The depth of interesting prospects for the club starts in the lower rungs of the minors, especially at the center field position. There is legit athletic talent in Cardinals outfield system developing amongst its younger members. CJ McElroy stands out as a unique talent in the system, one with the ability to run up his stolen base numbers in a hurry. He swiped 24 bases in 61 games as a 19-year-old at Johnson City last season. He’s even drove in two runs on two hits in as many at-bats in big league camp this spring.

James Ramsey, the club’s second first round pick a year ago, debuted at High Class-A Palm Beach a year ago. He also manned center field, and struggled a bit at the plate, hitting only .229. But he was a very accomplished collegiate hitter at Florida State, hitting .378 last season as a senior before joining the Cardinals. He’s projected as a fast riser, who should see action at Springfield this year.

Another 2012 first rounder, Stephen Piscotty is getting some work in right field this spring despite being drafted as a third baseman and manning the position for 55 games at Quad Cities (now Peoria) last year.

Another player of note at the lower levels is Charlie Tilson, who was impressive in a brief debut stint in 2011, but missed all of 2012 due to shoulder surgery. And guess what: he’s a speedy center fielder as well.

Prognosis: In the three year picture, the starting Major League outfield projects as set. Holliday has another four guaranteed seasons under his belt, while Jay won’t be eligible for free agency until 2017. While Beltran’s contract ends this year, Taveras is already making it very hard to leave him down south as is and will inherit the right field position, uncontested, from the first day of camp next year.

However, the depth in the outfield in the organization over the next few years is questionable. While there is promising talent in the lower levels of the minors, there isn’t much else besides Taveras who projects to be a safe bet as a contributor at the Major League level. Some of this hinges on how McNeil’s impact translates over a full year in the upper minor leagues.  If Ramsey fares well in his first full season, and Piscotty continues to stay in the outfield consistently and develops quickly, this could ease the need the team to add outside the organization in the next few years.

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Early Patience Is Encouraging For Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals are poised to turn a corner in 2013.  Eric Hosmer and his return to form would be a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars - copyright i70baseball

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars – copyright i70baseball

In a dismal sophomore year for Eric Hosmer, there was an encouraging statistic that jumps out.  His power numbers took a big dip but he started to show patience at the plate and was able to increase his walks dramatically.  During his rookie campaign, Hosmer drew 34 walks and increased that number to 56 during the 2012 season.  Early on in Spring Training, he is showing good pitch selection once again.

It is hard to make much of Spring stats.  It is even harder to try to find something substantial about the stats this early.  The one thing that jumped out of the recent box scores to me was Hosmer drawing two walks and then drilling an RBI triple on Tuesday.

The two walks brings his Spring total to three, in eleven plate appearances.  His average is still low and, other than the triple, there are no extra base hits on his early record.  Still, he is driving in runs early, striking out less, and driving a higher on base percentage.  If he can translate that into his game come time for the regular season, the Royals and their fans will be very happy.

Hosmer’s power numbers will increase as his plate selection gets better.  Many fans are frustrated with the under performance from Hosmer last season and rightfully so.  The team is poised with a strong pitching staff to alter their makeup and show a willingness to win this season.  To get there, Hosmer will need to be a big part of it.

Patience will be the key to his season.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Royals Claim Kottaras Off Waivers

GeorgeKottaras

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 25, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals today have claimed catcher George Kottaras on Outright Waivers from the Oakland Athletics.  To create room on the 40-man roster, the club designated infielder Tony Abreu for assignment.

The 29-year-old Kottaras (kuh-tar-us) has played for the Red Sox (2008-09), Brewers (2010-12) and Athletics (2012), batting .220 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 249 Major League contests.  The left-handed hitter posted a .351 on-base percentage while drawing a career-high 37 walks in 85 games for Milwaukee and Oakland in 2012 while helping the A’s win the American League West after being acquired on July 29.  He blasted six home runs for Oakland in just 27 games and then appeared in four games during the A’s Divisional Series vs. Detroit.  Born in Scarbourough, Ontario, Canada, Kottaras now resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Abreu, 28, hit .257 in 22 games for the Royals in 2012 after spending a majority of the campaign at Triple-A Omaha.

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Cards Reds Rivalry May Be Best Of 2013

As the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels spent unprecedented amounts of money during the offseason to try to establish dominance, a battle between rivals in the Midwest could be the most intense race of the 2013 season.

CardsReds

The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds have won the National League Central Division in three of the past four seasons, and each team has made moves this offseason to bolster their chances to do so again next year.

The Cardinals haven’t added much, but they also didn’t have many holes to fill. They signed left-handed relief pitcher Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million contract to fill the team’s biggest need in the bullpen. They also signed bench player Ty Wigginton to a two-year, $5 million deal, but unless Wigginton comes up with a late-inning homer against the Reds, that signing is negligable.

The Reds, who beat the Cardinals by nine games last year to win the division, made more substantial moves. They resigned reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million contract to be the team’s closer for the foreseeable future and resigned leftfielder Ryan Ludwick for $15 million across two years. The Reds also traded for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians to be their centerfielder and leadoff hitter next year.

The Broxton signing should allow flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to be in the starting rotation next year, and the trade for Choo fills a massive hole at the top of the lineup.

Drew Stubbs, who went to the Indians in the trade, held that spot last season, but he hit just .213 with a .277 on-base percentage and 166 strikeouts. By contrast, Choo hit .283 with a .373 on-base percentage and struck out 150 times. That’s still a lot of strikeouts for a leadoff hitter, but Choo provides more power and is certainly an upgrade in a spot the Reds tried to improve at last season’s trading deadline.

Although neither team has made nearly as many moves as several other teams so far in the offseason, the Cardinals and Reds have fortified their rosters to stage quite a battle throughout the 2013 season. They’ll do so without handing out contracts worth more than $100 million, as the Dodgers did by signing pitcher Zack Greinke and Angels did by signing outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The Cardinals and Reds have a recent history full of intense games that have at times led to shouting matches and even a full-out brawl in 2010. With both teams loaded and ready for battle heading into the season, one might think this could be a season series full of more temper tantrums and games that will leave blood boiling for both teams and both fanbases.

But this year’s rivalry might take a more professional turn. Both the Cardinals and Reds know each organization has a good team, and they will likely be the two strongest contenders for the NL Central Division title.

In past years, the Reds were an up-and-coming team that felt it had to rough up the more established Cardinals to gain entrance to the top of the division. Those days are gone. General manager Walt Jocketty has built a roster with a good starting rotation, solid bullpen and increasingly potent lineup filled with stars such as Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.

This year’s Cardinals-Reds rivalry could be similar to recent battles in the AL West between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Both teams had some of the most talented rosters in the league, and they stuck strictly to playing solid, intense yet not over-the-top baseball games.

Although it might be fun for fans to watch for extracurricular activities on the field and in the dugouts similar to a playoff hockey game, it might be even more impressive to watch a season series that has good, high-quality baseball.

So while big-market teams on the West Coast battle each other with dollar bills in the offseason, actual games between the Cardinals and Reds next season could create the most interesting division races in all of baseball.

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