Tag Archive | "Mike Trout"

Triple Play: Postseason predictions edition

In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, I take a look back at how well (poorly?) I fared with my second-half predictions, plus I make some postseason predictions (because why not?), and more, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Without further ado:

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Second-half predictions, revisited

AL MVP – Who I predicted: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. At the All-Star break, he was having an even better season than his Triple Crown MVP 2012 season. He still is, although he has fallen off drastically this month. Two months ago, I wrote that Chris Davis was Cabrera’s primary competition. Davis still leads the American League in home runs and total bases, but he, too, has slowed down his unbelievable production as the season winds down. The third player I noted has not only ramped up his play, but he has carried his team all season as the big-money free agents and pitching staff crumbles around him. That player is Mike Trout. In my mind, he is the front-runner to win the AL MVP. But, just as last year, it will not be an injustice of Cabrera wins again.

NL MVP – Who I predicted: Yadier Molina, St. Louis. Buster Posey is an outstanding player, but I stand by my statement earlier this season that Molina is the best catcher in baseball. His balky knee (and the usual wear and tear of an everyday catcher’s workload) has led to a slowdown at the plate, but Molina’s value to the Cardinals remains undeniable. However, as Andrew McCutchen leads Pittsburgh almost certainly to its first postseason appearance in 21 years, I believe he will win the MVP award over Molina and Paul Goldschmidt.

AL Cy Young – Who I predicted: Yu Darvish, Texas. I still think he is the best starter in the AL this season, but there’s one number that will likely work against him in the voting. The number 20 – as in the number of wins for Detroit’s Max Scherzer. While Crazy Brian Kenny will stamp his feet and yammer incessantly about the win statistic, the fact remains that Scherzer has been consistently great this season. The award will go to him. Deal with it, Brian.

NL Cy Young – Who I predicted: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles. Didn’t exactly go out on a limb here, but why would I? This was spot on. The best pitcher in baseball.

AL Rookie of the Year – Who I predicted: Jose Iglesias, Boston. I’m calling this one a win, even if Iglesias was traded to Detroit eight days after I made this prediction. If anything, it’s a slam-dunk case now. Iglesias was acquired to replace Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended as part of the Biogenesis matter. He did far more than that; he made Peralta obsolete. Wil Myers should get some votes too, but Iglesias was thrown into a tough situation and flourished.

NL Rookie of the Year – Who I predicted: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles. Puig might have been the one who really kick-started the Dodgers’ turnaround, but Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke and Kershaw have been the true anchors of the team. That said, Puig deserves serious consideration for the award. I’m not one of the cranks who thinks Puig should be banished to the bench because of the occasional baserunning blunder or overthrow. However, Miami’s Jose Fernandez should win this award in a landslide. He is the most electric 20-year-old to take a major-league mound since Dwight Gooden.

American League division winners – Who I predicted: Boston, Detroit, Texas. Two out of three ain’t bad.

AL Wild Cards – Who I predicted: Tampa Bay, Oakland. This one is still too close to call. I think the Rays will hold on, but the Rangers are clearly running out of gas down the stretch here. Cleveland is going to hang on and grab the second wild-card spot. And if the Indians win that game, they could give Boston some trouble in the division series.

National League division winners – Who I predicted: Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles. Again, two out of three, with potential for a clean sweep. The Cardinals just have to hang on while the Reds and Pirates beat each other up over the season’s final week.

NL Wild Cards – Who I predicted: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. Lookin’ pretty good here too.

Postseason predictions

Wild Card games – Pittsburgh over Cincinnati, Cleveland over Tampa Bay.

ALDS – Boston over Cleveland in four, Detroit over Oakland in five

NLDS – Los Angeles over Pittsburgh in five, St. Louis over Atlanta in four

ALCS – Detroit over Boston in seven (MVP – Miguel Cabrera), Los Angeles over St. Louis in seven (MVP – Hanley Ramirez)

World Series – Los Angeles over Detroit in seven (MVP – Clayton Kershaw)

Random Thoughts

  • Not that it did the Texas Rangers any good, but I was correct in predicting that they would acquire Matt Garza.
  • Turns out they would have been better off with Jake Peavy.
  • Predictions on which I completely whiffed: Francisco Rodriguez-to-the-Tigers and Alex Rios/Alexei Ramirez-to-the-Pirates.
  • The Orioles have been satisfied with K-Rod in their bullpen though.
  • Pittsburgh went two different directions, acquiring Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. You could quibble that they need a shortstop, but you can’t argue with the results of what the Pirates have done this season.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. Last Wednesday, in Denver, Wainwright was a regular one-man gang. In addition to tossing 7 2/3 innings of three-hit ball, he went 3-for-3 at the plate with a double and two RBI. For the season, Wainwright is 17-9 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, 209 strikeouts and just 34 walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 6.15, good for 2nd in the National League (Matt Harvey is juuuuust ahead of Wainwright at 6.16). Wainwright will next start against the Washington Nationals, where he will have perhaps his last chance to pass Harvey’s mark.
  • Not only have the Athletics blown past Texas, but they are only two games behind Boston for best record in the AL. It’s time to stop thinking of Oakland as baseball’s Island of Misfit Toys.
  • Their stadium (and the plumbing), on the other hand…..YIKES.
  • Something for future Indians opponents to consider: with their 9-2 steamrolling of the hapless Astros yesterday, Cleveland became the first team in 52 years to sweep a four-game series six times in the same season.
  • The last team to do that? The New York Yankees, who won the World Series.
  • Incidentally, the Indians are 16 games above .500 for the first time in six years (when they reached the ALCS).
  • Where they blew a 3-1 lead to Boston, which was managed by their current manager, Terry Francona.
  • Little coincidences like are part of what make baseball so much fun, if you ask me.
  • I’d also love to see Cleveland get a little payback, but I digress.
  • There’s always a worse-case scenario: after watching that bee delay in the Mariners-Angels game, I vow not to grumble the next time I get rained on at a baseball game.
  • Sure was nice of former Royals closer Joakim Soria to groove that fastball that Justin Maxwell crushed for a game-winning grand slam to give Kansas City a 4-0 win over imploding Texas.
  • Watching the Rangers this month, I wonder if their window is closing or if this is a nasty pothole in the road.
  • Then I looked at the standings again and realized that Texas is only a game out of the wild-card race.
  • Baltimore is about done, though. Just not enough pitching. Manny Machado can’t do EVERYTHING.
  • Jeff Locke has had an unexpectedly good season for Pittsburgh, but he is absolutely killing them right now. The Pirates cannot afford to start him again this season if they want to win the NL Central or even host the wild-card game.
  • Given the dearth of steals in fantasy baseball these days, Billy Hamilton might be worth a first or second round pick next year.
  • Why did the Reds wait so long to call him up?
  • News: Scott Boras wants the first two games of the World Series played at a neutral site. Views: Scott Boras is an idiot.
  • How do you know it’s been a bad year for the Cubs? When a former player gets hired as manager of the Phillies.
  • How do you know it’s been a bad year for Marlins baseball? When one of their wins clinches a postseason berth for two other teams.
  • Watching Andy Pettitte pitch yesterday (seven innings, two hits, two runs, six strikeouts), I wonder how many general managers thought to themselves, “we sure could use a good lefty like that?”
  • It’s truly unfortunate that the Yankees couldn’t muster more than one run against those tomato cans the Giants sent out there yesterday. Enter Sandman would have been much more enjoyable to hear if Mariano Rivera had been entering a save situation.
  • Finally, farewell to the great Rivera. Of all the things that have been said or written about him in his career, I think this stands above all: he will be the final major leaguer to wear the number 42 and there is no one for whom that is more suitable.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Mike Trout, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton

In this week’s Triple Play, we look at the best all-around player in baseball, the best rookie in baseball, a retiring Rockie, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Let’s dive in:

MikeTrout

Who’s Hot?

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

It’s become a popular theme this month, how well Trout continues to hit while Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera struggles (mostly due to injury). Specifically, Trout has hit .356/.540/.489 in September; Cabrera has hit just .179/.343/.214. However, that narrow-minded view completely ignores just how good Trout has been throughout the whole season. Trout’s 1.029 OPS in September is only his fourth highest mark this season. After leading the American League in stolen bases, runs scored and OPS+ as a rookie in 2012, Trout has been even better this year. He again leads the AL in runs scored (103 entering Sunday), walks (99) and his OPS+ is 181. He already has exceeded 2012’s RBI total and is all but certain to better the 315 total bases from last year.

In a year that has seen most everything go wrong for the Angels (horrible pitching, career-worst season for Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton’s awful first year in LA), Trout has been the only thing to go right. For the second straight year, Trout is worth 10 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), the only player to do that since Barry Bonds. He might not win the MVP this year, but he probably should. The Angels have been so bad this year, Trout is about the only thing separating the Angels from being the Milwaukee Brewers or the Minnesota Twins.

Who’s Not?

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

Speaking of the Twins, they were officially eliminated from the postseason over the weekend. Unofficially, they were eliminated on Easter. Mauer certainly did his part, compiling a .324/.404/.476 slash line. So why is he in this section? Because of the concussion symptoms from which he continues to suffer. The injury supposedly occurred on August 19, when he took several foul tips off his catcher’s mask. But when you’re a catcher, absorbing foul tips and assorted other punishment is all part of a day’s work. Who really knows when the injury happened? He started light workouts several days ago, only to have the symptoms return and he was sent home on September 11. Is there any benefit to have their homegrown star rush back to the field this season? Absolutely not. Further, if there is any team in the majors that should be extra careful when it comes to a superstar with a concussion, it’s the Twins. Justin Morneau’s concussion issues were such that he has never returned to his MVP-caliber level once he sustained his. Here’s hoping that he is able to recover during the offseason and return to Target Field fully healthy for the 2014 season.

Playing the Name Numbers Game

Here are some interesting numbers from the 2013 season (entering Sunday’s games):

Random Thoughts

  • Todd Helton told Troy Renck of The Denver Post on Saturday that he intends to retire after the 2013. “It just seems like it’s time,” Helton said. He is right. Although he reached the 2,500 hit mark, it has become clear that Father Time has caught up to the 40-year-old lifetime Rockie. The power is mostly gone, as is the bat speed that helped produce ten straight seasons with a park-adjusted OPS+ of at least 118. Helton’s slash line this year is just .244/.315/.408, with 13 homers, 52 RBI and 34 runs scored.
  • In his career, Helton sports a lifetime .317 average, .415 on-base percentage, .539 slugging percentage, 367 home runs, 1,397 RBI, and 1,394 runs scored.
  • According to the Post, those 1,394 runs scored represent eight percent of all the runs scored in Rockies franchise history.
  • Think about that for a moment.
  • Although he tarnished his name with the cement-headed decision to drive drunk earlier this year, Helton’s career will be defined by two iconic moments: 1) Sept. 18, 2007, a walkoff home run off Dodgers closer Takashi Saito that jumpstarted the improbable “Rocktober” run of 21 wins in 22 games, culminating in the team’s only World Series appearance; 2) the image of Helton exulting, fists and head lifted toward the sky as he caught the final out of the 2007 NLCS.
  • Helton probably could elect to continue his career as a reserve/DH, much in the way Jason Giambi has, but the Post story indicates that such an idea never seriously crossed his mind. Helton seems weary and ready to step away from the game. He is fortunate that he gets to do so on his own terms.
  • Five years from now, his Hall of Fame case will be a compelling one to watch.
  • In the short term, this is the best thing for the Rockies. His big salary comes off the books, they can shift Michael Cuddyer to first base and use those funds to bolster the ghastly middle relief.
  • Earlier this year, I wrote that the NL Rookie of the Year award was Yasiel Puig’s to lose. I was wrong. That award should go to Miami’s Jose Fernandez.
  • In his final start of the season last Wednesday, Fernandez shackled the division-leading Braves for seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.19, with the 0.98 WHIP. His 5.8 H/9 and 9.7 K/9 are tops in the National League. Since his electric appearance at the All-Star Game, Fernandez seemed to get better each start. In his final 10 starts, he averaged seven innings per starts with 1.32 ERA, 84 whiffs, three homers allowed. A whopping 68% of his pitches were strikes and opposing hitters slugged a paltry .239. Here are some other numbers to chew on from his inaugural season in the big leagues:
  1. Surrendered more than five runs just twice in 27 starts
  2. 20 quality starts (at least 6 IP and less than 3 ER allowed)
  3. 10 home runs allowed in 172 2/3 innings pitched
  4. 187/58 strikeout-to-walk ratio
  5. Four starts in which he gave up two hits or less
  •  With apologies to Puig, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (all of whom would be strong contenders in any other year), this is a no-brainer. Fernandez is the Rookie of the Year. In fact, you could make a reasonable argument for him to win the Cy Young Award ahead of Clayton Kershaw.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. Last Friday, Wainwright spun another gem, an eight-inning, six-hit, one-run performance against Seattle (he did not factor in the decision). The outing lowered his ERA back below 3.00 (2.96), and his WHIP is down to 1.069. He has a 16-9 record, with 201 strikeouts and 33 walks. Although his K/BB ratio remains sterling at 6.09-to-1, he no longer leads the majors in that category. That honor now belongs to Matt Harvey (6.16). Wainwright likely has three more starts this season to raise that ratio and a favorable schedule in which to do so.
  • Which is more surprising, that the Kansas City Royals remain in the wild-card hunt on September 16, or that the Washington Nationals have crept to within four games of the Cincinnati Reds for the 2nd wild-card spot in the NL?
  • Texas’ Yu Darvish became the fourth pitcher in modern era to strike out at least 250 batters in his first two major-league seasons. The others: Herb Score, Dwight Gooden and Tim Lincecum. He has 12 starts this year in which he has fanned 10 or more batters.
  • Darvish has four 1-0 losses this year, including his past two decisions. Three of those losses have been at home, which is mind-boggling, given the hitters’ paradise in which the Rangers play.
  • Last Monday (Sept. 9), Darvish lost to Pittsburgh’s 23-year-old Gerrit Cole. Saturday, he lost to 40-year-old Bartolo Colon.
  • Saturday was the sixth time Colon did not allow a run in one of his starts.
  • The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has done that eight times this season.
  • Raise your hand if you foresaw Ubaldo Jimenez stepping up to become the Indians’ stopper with Justin Masterson on the disabled list.
  • I wonder if Jimenez would be this effective if he were still pitching for the Rockies.
  • News: Dodgers allow 19 runs to the archrival Giants, the most the team has ever surrendered ever at Dodger Stadium. Views: San Francisco can celebrate that feat while watching Los Angeles play October baseball.
  • In news sure to enrage Crazy Brian Kenny: Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka wins his 25th straight start. He has won all 21 starts this season, plus his last four in 2012. Obviously, Japanese statistics do not count in the US, but 25 consecutive wins beats the major-league record of 24 straight starts without a loss set by Carl Hubbell in 1936-37.
  • At 24, Tanaka is a prime candidate to pitch in the majors in the next couple years.
  • Hopefully, Kenny will have to address this news on air.
  • We end this week with a feat achieved only once in baseball history: on September 14, 1990, the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. became the only father-son duo to club home runs in the same game (off Kirk McCaskill of the then California Angels). Not only that, they did it back-to-back. The elder Griffey was 40, Junior was 20. Both teams finished below .500, out of the playoff picture. But, as is the greatest thing about baseball, history can happen at any time.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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The Kansas City Royals Did Not Lose The Trade

The Kansas City Royals trounced the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. We got to watch Wil Myers play. Which brings up the one thing that will always be associated with Myers to baseball fans and especially KC baseball fans. The trade.

JamesShields

The common wisdom about the James Shields for Wil Myers trade was that The Royals were making a huge mistake. Without any of the players yet to have played for their new teams, it was deemed a failure for Kansas City. It was also immediately speculated that the only reason Dayton Moore even made the trade was to save his job by throwing away the future to squeak out a .500 season.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that came out immediately after the trade that heralded it as a failure for The Royals. Now I also cringed when the trade was made. More for what Myers could be plus I had to watch Jeff Francoeur start another season (without realizing at the time the blessing of his release was in the future). I remember before the trade saying that if they were to do it, Matt Moore better be in the package. But as we all know now he wasn’t. It was James Shields with Wade Davis thrown in.

So now as we’re over three-fourths of the way through the season, with only a little over a month  left, I wanted to look at what has transpired and what is possible for the rest of the season. While looking over the evidence it occurred to me, so far this trade hasn’t been that bad for the Royals. I want to use the doom and gloom of the Yahoo article to compare to what has happened and to come to this conclusion:

It may turn out to be a good trade for the Royals for these reasons:

Wil Myers is not Mike Trout (yet)

Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He’s a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he’s like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.  – Yahoo

And yes that is all true. All of those different random things could happen, but none of it has happened yet. Including this year, Myers first full year in baseball. Can you imagine the pain we would have felt if he did what Trout or even Harper did last year? Of course rookie years mean nothing, as even Ken Griffey Jr had a rough rookie year. But at least he has not torn the league apart yet like those guys have. This year he is hitting .302/.356/.472 with 9 homeruns. Many players on The Royals are trumping that.

Not only is he not better than Trout or Harper, he’s barely better than Lough

Francoeur was the obvious replacement player for Myers. But since baseball is a beautiful game, David Lough has stepped up and surprised everyone in right field. With Myers’ aforementioned slash, he has a WAR of 2.o. Lough, comparably, has a WAR of 1.8 regardless of his weaker slash of .287/.307/.408. How is he doing it? With phenomenal defense. Those paying closer attention to the stats will see that with a strong final month of the season, Lough could steal the Rookie of the Year award away from Myers. How good will that feel to KC?

Plus, with Lough being a rookie, who’s to say he can’t continue to improve and put up a career comparable to Myers?

The Underrated James Shields

Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That’s all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he’s logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He’s not as good as David Price, and he probably won’t be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays’ third-best pitcher.  –Yahoo

I don’t care his record is 8-8. I don’t care his ERA is a respectable 3.22. I don’t care his WHIP is a respectable 1.27. What I care about is he is an innings machine and has done this over 181 innings. Which is why his WAR is 2.9. I don’t get why this is hard for people like the author of the Yahoo article to understand. It’s like when you do cardio at the gym. You can get your heart rate up to 160 for 10 minutes. That’s good and all, but if you can sustain a lesser 140 heart rate for 40 minutes, you are getting a better workout. His WAR in 2012 was 3.9. 2011 was 4.5.

Shields is the 140 heart rate for 40 minutes pitcher. And yes, he is an ace.

Shields May Re-Sign

Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in ’14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn’t heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they’ll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.  –Yahoo

The Yahoo article contradicts itself. It warns to be careful of decline from Shields because of the amount of innings under his belt, but claims he is entitled to a large contract in spite of his innings count. Regardless, I consider Shields to be about the same level as Gil Meche when he signed with KC. Shields seems to be happy in KC and has made comments about resigning.

So on the surface, The Royals get him for 2 years. But this can be like McGwire trade for The Cards. Where it was for a few months, but turned into the rest of his career. Don’t take the Shields-for-two-years talk as gospel. He could easily be a Royal in 2015. Especially if they keep winning.

The Royals need a .500 season

Everything about that sentence kills me. It’s not the way I look at the game. You either win or you don’t. You either make the playoffs or not. But since The Royals haven’t been .500 in ten years and haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, this may be the exception to the rule (along with The Pirates).

The Royals are a black hole of signing players. It’s been widely reported that they are one of the teams players just don’t want to go to. A big reason is their history of losing. A .500 season, as this year may bring, would be good for both the fans and the future. And may be worth bringing Shields in alone.

Davis is not as bad as everyone says.  Odorizzi, on the other hand…

But funnily enough, you just hear people complain about Davis. Yes Davis is just okay. 6-10 with a 5.67 era. But the amount of innings he’s thrown is impressive. His FIP is much lower though. Opponents BABIP is ridiculously high against him to the point where it should be taken with a grain of salt as an outlier. And his WAR is still 1.5.

Odorizzi however, for The Rays, has an era of 6.00, a WHIP of 1.44 and has generally been crushed. Yet the media just talks about Davis.

The Royals Need To Win Games, Not The Trade

Even if Myers takes off, Lough regresses and Shields leave The Royals, it doesn’t matter if the The Royals can end over .500 and do something next year. Kansas City needs a shot at the playoffs. The Royals need a World Series. Myers could be the next Ted Williams. The Royals could have let the next Williams go. But keep in mind, Ted Williams never won a World Series. But with Shields and the talent shown in the second half by The Royals, it could all be worth it next year.

Because prospects come and go, but flags fly forever. And the trade being a failure for The Royals is still just wild speculation.

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Congratulations to The Royals. But What Hosmer is Doing is Probably More Important

EricHosmer

The Royals are on fire. But that’s not the most important thing happening in Kansas City. The Royals are currently four games over .500. They have won the last 5 series and are finishing an 8-1 road trip. They are one of the hottest teams in baseball.

But unfortunately, not to be a downer, it may be too little too late. I would love nothing more for the Royals to make the playoffs, but their percentage chance of making still stands at right around 10 pct. They are still 7.5 games behind The Tigers and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card. That may not sound too far back, but there’s four teams, The Rays, Indians, Rangers and Orioles, all ahead of them. So not only would The Royals have to make up that ground, but everything would have to go right with the other teams too in order for The Royals to pass them all up.

That’s why, even more exciting than the recent success of The Royals, is the success of Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was talked about as being the possible best of the three when compared to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout while coming up. Here’s a Sports Illustrated article from 2011, naming Hosmer as the best power prospect over both Trout and Mark Trumbo. Here is Keith Law talking about the potential of Hosmer, comparing him to Adrian Gonzalez.

“Hosmer had a solid big league debut in 2011 as the American League’s youngest regular, but it only represents a fraction of what he’s capable of producing,” writes Law. “He’s very strong and has great hip rotation to produce power to all fields, and showed great pitch recognition on his way up the Royals’ system before an early promotion in May.

“The surprise of his year on offense was that he didn’t get walks as often as he did in the minors, which could be just a young player making adjustments, or commensurate with a team philosophy that doesn’t value getting on base. Hosmer’s an agile first baseman with a plus arm (he was up to 94 as a pitcher in high school) who’d probably be fine in right field, although the Royals show no inclination to move him. His ceiling is an Adrian Gonzalez-type of player, adding value through average, walks, power, and defense, but with a little more speed as well.”

Royals fans expected so much from him, and he didn’t deliver right away, like Harper and Trout did. With Royals fans becoming more used to top prospects not panning out and fears of problems in the development process of their farm systems, it’s become easier to just accept it when a player’s talents don’t come to fruition.

But what made Hosmer so great along has been his ability to make adjustments. Every step of the way, he has kept up with the level of adjustments that were needed. But besides the hot streak he had when he first came up, he has been rather unimpressive in his tenure as Royals first baseman. And it’s not just his stats, it was also his appearance. You could see the problem in his swing. He had too much going on in the swing. In theory, his swing worked. He was both getting power from dropping his arms back and crouching down to get some uppercut power. But everything happening in it was causing him to not get much on his swings. As you can see from this Royals Review article, his groundball rate was insane.

Groundout – 30.1%
Single – 20.3%
Strikeout – 15.7%
Flyout – 9.3%
Walk – 7.2%

So obviously, he was in line to make another adjustment. And George Brett appears to have been just the man for that.

“When we got here, his hands were in close (to his head),” Brett said. “We moved them back a little bit. So now, he doesn’t have to move his hands back to hit. They’re already back. Now, he just has to bring them forward.” Since the change, Hosmer is batting .296 and has been able to pull the ball in play more often. Brett thinks Hosmer has less going on with his hands now since they’re better positioned, which reduces the movement in his swing.

“His swing is shorter,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s in a better position to pull the ball. His stride is shorter. He’s backed up off the plate. He’s getting more extension to his swing. He’s getting the bat head out on pitches in.”

The narrative about Brett fixing The Royals became annoying after a while, but it is possible he helped fix one player, potentially the best player. And that extra production has helped the Royals that much more. You can see it in Hosmer’s swing. Much more compact, creating less ground balls and he’s getting much more on his hits.

And the statistical results are undeniable also. In March and April, he had an OPS of .643. In May, his OPS was .659. Brett was quoted in the above article on June 18th. In June, Hosmer’s OPS was .889. In July, .847.

So Royal’s fans should be very excited, but maybe not for the obvious reasons. This is the Eric Hosmer we have been waiting for. There may be too many obstacles to overcome this year. And the future may not be quite ready yet, it’s still undeniable, the future is definitely here.

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Triple Play: Second half predictions edition

The All-Star break is in the rear view mirror and trade rumors are heating up. This week’s edition of the Triple Play is a change-up: instead of looking back at the previous week, we look ahead and make some predictions for the rest of the season (we didn’t want to feel left out since everyone else is doing it!). Without further adieu:

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Who’s Hot – Award Predictions

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. Not exactly going out on a limb here, I know. But the man just keeps getting better and better. The likelihood of him continuing to do what he is doing is greater than Chris Davis. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mike Trout also is having a better season than in 2012, but he will probably be hurt in the voting by the Angels’ disappointing season.

NL MVP: Yadier Molina, St. Louis. Cardinals fans have learned that John Mozeliak was right when he called Molina the heart and soul of the team (and NOT Albert Pujols). This is the year that Yadi finally gets the proper recognition as not only the best all-around catcher in baseball, but one of the best players, period.

AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish, Texas. He might only be on pace to win 14 games, but he is also on track for over 250 strikeouts with a WHIP barely above 1.00. I believe Max Scherzer is due for a little regression, leaving Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale as Darvish’s primary challengers.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles. Kershaw will outduel Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey to win his second Cy. Harvey will tire down the stretch and Wainwright will be a runner-up again, despite having better peripheral stats.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Iglesias, Boston. Compared to the class of rookies in the NL, the AL group is quite weak. Oakland’s Dan Straily will finish the season with a better case to be the ROY, but Iglesias will benefit from the east coast publicity to win the award.

NL Rookie of the Year: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles. Look at the rookies in the NL this year: Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez, Evan Gattis, Trevor Rosenthal, Jedd Gyorko, Julio Teheran, Hyun-Jin Ryu. Every one of them would have a stronger case than the AL nominees. Miller and Fernandez are budding aces and were the front-runners before Puigmania swept across the NL. The award is his to lose.

AL Division Winners: Boston, Detroit, Texas

AL Wild Cards: Tampa Bay, Oakland

NL Division Winners: Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles

NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

Playing the Trade Deadline Game

  • Besides Matt Garza, who is the biggest pitching prize available? Ricky Nolasco and Scott Feldman have already been dealt. Evidently, Philadelphia isn’t trading Cliff Lee. That leaves Jake Peavy, who could be a nice piece for a contender (as previously noted in this column). Yovani Gallardo and Bud Norris also have drawn interest, but are they difference makers? The Royals have some intriguing arms, but have shown no inclination to deal them. There had been rumors about the Giants trading Tim Lincecum, but that seems highly unlikely following his no-hitter. Teams should run the other way if the Padres make Jason Marquis or Edinson Volquez available.
  • Ultimately, I think Garza still goes to the Rangers.
  • Peavy is a little more difficult to guess. MLB Trade Rumors reported over the weekend that at least half a dozen teams were scouting Peavy’s start Saturday. He is under contract for 2014, so he wouldn’t be strictly a rental. That explains the heavy interest.
  • To me, Arizona would be an ideal fit for Peavy or Gallardo, but I haven’t seen any reports of the D-backs having any interest. To be sure, Peavy would benefit from a trade to the NL.
  • Gallardo would be a consolation prize for teams missing out on Garza and Peavy.
  • The market for hitters still seems fuzzy, but it appears that the Pirates have feelers out all over the place. The Alex Rios/Alexei Ramirez rumor is certainly intriguing in that it would allow them to upgrade two positions in the lineup. Pittsburgh has young pitching and outfielders to trade. This is a rumor that makes so much sense for both sides that it needs to happen ASAP.
  • Hunter Pence is another player whose name has come up recently, but it would really make no sense for the Giants to trade him. They can barely score runs WITH him in the lineup behind Buster Posey.
  • Jason Kubel has had a pretty lousy season so far, but this is a guy who smacked 30 homers last year. With Adam Eaton back, Arizona would love to trade him for a pitcher. Hello, San Francisco?
  • Aramis Ramirez is another veteran hitter who could be dealt if he can prove himself healthy between now and the trade deadline. I’ve got to believe he would be of interest to the Yankees and Red Sox.
  • Speaking of those teams, I don’t understand their interest in Michael Young. He’s 36, he doesn’t hit much anymore (.288/.345/.421, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 37 runs) and he’s an abominable fielder. His Offensive WAR rating of 1.3 is almost totally offset by his -1.2 defensive WAR figure, making him nothing more than an average player at best. Is it the whole “classy” thing? I thought that had been put to rest years ago; his history of pouting and arguing with team management has been well-documented. So why all the interest? In my opinion, Ramirez would be a much better target, as would San Diego’s Chase Headley.
  • It would be a shame if Baltimore really is “tapped out” financially and can’t make a move to bolster their pitching staff. The Orioles would be much more fun to watch in October than Boston, Detroit or Texas (to this writer, anyway).
  • Asdrubal Cabrera’s name has been linked to the Cardinals again. In the offseason, a Cabrera for Matt Carpenter/Lance Lynn/plus a prospect deal was rumored. After the season Carpenter has had, I’m 99.99% certain the Cardinals wouldn’t trade Carpenter straight up for Cabrera.
  • I think the Tigers will trade for Francisco Rodriguez to fill their closer spot.
  • I also think K-Rod will made some fans (and maybe even Jim Leyland) occasionally pine for Jose Valverde.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the season. Following his start Sunday against the Padres, Wainwright has walked just 17 hitters while fanning 137, good for an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio, best in the majors among starting pitchers. The ratio has come down noticeably in recent weeks, but Wainwright still has not walked more than two batters in any start this season. He is now 13-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
  • Thanks to the two walks yesterday, Wainwright is no longer the starter who has walked the fewest batters. That distinction now belongs to Bartolo Colon, who walked just 16 hitters (including one in Sunday’s complete-game shutout of the Angels).
  • The 40-year-old Colon (doesn’t that sound like a bad comedy routine?) has three shutouts this season, and 12 in his career. He is 10-1 with a 1.46 ERA. His 1.113 WHIP would be the lowest of his career.
  • Erik Bedard’s pitching line Saturday: 6 1/3 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 10 K. He was charged with the loss. Here are some interesting notes about that game:
    • According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was just the second time in the Live Ball Era that a pitcher allowed three or more runs while not allowing a hit in six or more innings. The other time was the Yankees’ Andy Hawkins in 1990 versus the White Sox.
    • Seattle scored two unearned runs in the sixth thanks to three walks, two passed balls and a sacrifice fly. Talk about ugly baseball.
  • Speaking of Bedard, here’s a stupefying stat about him over the weekend: in 207 career starts going back to 2002, Bedard has tossed eight innings just 10 times (hat tip to Billy-Ball). Wainwright has gone at least eight innings eight times this season.
  • Bedard has a grand total of one complete game. One.
  • In short, I’m guessing Astros manager Bo Porter wasn’t too surprised when Bedard took himself out of the game Saturday night. After the game, Bedard said this to reporters: “I’ve had three shoulder surgeries. I’m not going over 110 (pitches). I’d rather pitch a couple more years than face another batter.”
  • Erik Bedard has made at least $27 million in his playing career. He has never once made the playoffs. I wonder why.
  • News: Clay Buchholz is planning to visit Dr. James Andrews. Views: Uh oh.
  • Mariners shortstop Brad Miller bashed two home runs with five RBI Friday night. Brendan Ryan, who started at short on Opening Day for Seattle, has hit three home runs and driven in 17 – in 255 plate appearances.
  • Once upon a time, Hanley Ramirez was a Top 5 fantasy performer. He’s been reminding folks of that ability since returning from the DL: .392/.445/.721 going into Monday’s games, to go with 10 HR, 31 RBI, 29 runs and five steals (in 155 plate appearances). Puig is getting most of the headlines, but HanRam has been just as valuable to the resurgent Dodgers.
  • Good news: Matt Kemp returns from the DL and belts a home run and a double. Bad news: he left the game after twisting his ankle sliding into home in the ninth inning.
  • Great one-liner from the Denver Post’s Troy Renck: “Chris Carpenter is harder to kill than Jason Bourne.”
  • Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be back Monday after all? Whatever will the New York media do for its daily dose of sanctimonious soapbox screeching?
  • The Numbskull of the Day Award goes to Jose Reyes, who was plunked by an off-target pickoff throw at first base by Rays pitcher Chris Archer. Reyes was not wearing a protective cup at the time.
  • Has Sunday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game ended yet?
  • I did a double-take at this minor-league transaction: Left-handed pitcher Jason Lane signs with Padres, assigned to Triple-A Tucson. No big deal, you say. Except that it’s the same Jason Lane who played outfield for the Astros and Padres between 2002-07. He’s now 36. Could we be looking at Rick Ankiel Part II?
  • Miami hasn’t scored a run in 37 innings. That’s a club record, as well as the longest drought by a major league team in 28 years. The Houston Astros were held scoreless for 42 consecutive innings in July 1985. The Marlins haven’t scored since the fourth inning of a game against the Nationals on July 14.
  • Fortunately for them, the Rockies are next on the schedule, so the dry spell should come to an end in fairly short order.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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A Papi Trout

As Major League Baseball heads into the All-Star break two players stood out for me personally this week. Being a former pitcher, surprisingly neither of them are pitchers. Instead, they are two hitters from the American League, Mike Trout and David Ortiz.

DavidOrtiz

First, there is David Ortiz. Big Papi this week became the leader in hits by a designated hitter. Ortiz is 37 years old and still going strong. It was just a few seasons ago when Ortiz looked to be at the end of a big career. He was hampered by injury and a contract was ending. But the Red Sox Nation resigned one of their faces of the organization and stood by their DH.

Remember when Ortiz broke into the league in 1997 as a Minnesota Twin? After six seasons he moved over to Yawkey Way and became a star. He is a two time World Series Champion and in 2004 carried the Red Sox through that epic playoff series against the Yankees. It was that series where the Sox were down 3 games to 0, and then just so happened to win 4 games in a row. They also won another 4 in a row to break the curse of the Bambino.

David Ortiz has hit over 30 home runs in six of his 17 seasons. The question with this most recent milestone is where does he rank among all time designated hitters? With all due respect to Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, and Frank Thomas, Big Papi has to be number one. He has played the game the right way, he is a champion, and plays the game with a sense of flair. He has put a Nation on his big back and helped break a long over due curse.

Then there is Mike Trout. Trout is only 21 years old and has completed just one season. But in that season he was the runaway Rookie of the Year, and very nearly the MVP finishing second. He is lighting fast on the bases, scales walls in a single bound on defense, and the ball just jumps off of his bat in the batters box.

I recently was able to see Mike Trout play in person for the first time. Walking away from the game, the reaction was simply Wow. In person, he is all of those things you see on television and then some. On the bases and in the field he is super fast and my goodness, the sound the baseball makes when coming off of his bat is a loud noticeable pop. The thing that sets him apart is that all of these tools in his bag, he does them all with ease. A comparison would be to a young Ken Griffey Jr. He leaves you in awe.

With the break approaching, a migration back to the love of the pitcher will follow, but this week, it was a man crush for some hitters.

In closing, a friend of mine has told me that her fantasy baseball team is still in last place… Thanks Stephen Strasburg.

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Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, CC Sabathia

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we are discussing Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout (but not arguing about which one is better), CC Sabathia, D-backs rookie sensation Patrick Corbin and more. Off we go:

MiguelCabrera

Who’s Hot?

Is there anyone else we can put here besides Miguel Cabrera? We should just rename this section after Miggy. When Albert Pujols was at his best, Cabrera’s brilliance was a little underrated. No longer. The Tigers’ third baseman is in a class by himself as the most feared hitter in baseball. Entering Monday’s game against Pittsburgh (in which he went hitless and struck out three times), Cabrera had gone hitless twice in his previous 34 games. In the past week, Cabrera smashed another three home runs, drove in 10, scored seven runs and hit .364/.481/.818. He’s on pace for 47 home runs, 192 RBI (which would break Hack Wilson’s all-time record of 190), 138 runs scored, and a .384 batting average. Two months into the season, Cabrera leads all of baseball with a 3.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) rating. In fact, Cabrera is on track to improve in all fantasy categories except steals, where he is a non-factor anyway. Some analysts are already asking whether Cabrera can repeat as the Triple Crown winner, even though two-thirds of the season remains. That’s a topic for another day. For now, all Tigers fans and fantasy owners can do is marvel at the greatness. The torch has been passed. Pujols used to be the game’s greatest hitter. Now it’s Miguel Cabrera’s turn.

Who’s Not?

Lately, CC Sabathia is about as cold as it gets. He has had a history of starting a season slowly, but usually as Memorial Day hits, he eases into a groove. Not this month. Sabathia is winless in his past five starts, and he hasn’t been fooling opposing hitters at all. He has allowed 79 hits in 72 2/3 innings, including 11 home runs. Sabathia told MLB.com that he was hurting the team after his May 26th start against Tampa Bay. Looking closer, he’s right: his ERA and WHIP ratios would be the worst he has posted since 2004, while his H/9 and HR/9 ratios are the worst of his career. But it’s not all bad news. He continues to average over six innings per start, which has him still on pace for 200 strikeouts and 13 wins. But for fantasy owners to see a fair return on their investment, he needs to improve on the ERA and WHIP categories. You really have to ride out this slump, though. Trading Sabathia now would be selling low and you will have a Grade A case of seller’s remorse if he follows his career path and pitches better as the weather gets warmer. If he is still pitching this inconsistently at the All-Star break, it truly will be time to worry.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .385/.460/.677, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 41 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .302/.379/.564, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 39 runs, 12 SB

Player A is Miguel Cabrera. Player B is Mike Trout, who should not be forgotten when discussing players who are red hot. Entering Memorial Day, this is “all” Trout had done this month: eight home runs, four doubles, three triples, while driving in 20 runs, scoring 24 and stealing eight bases. Is it a coincidence that the Angels have won eight straight? I think not. Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Torii Hunter might make most of the cash, but Trout is the player that makes the Angels go. In his transcendent 2012 season, Trout hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. He is currently on pace to hit 32 bombs with 38 steals. The biggest difference is that Trout is on pace to drive in 33 more runs than 2012, which would actually make him a more valuable player for fantasy owners. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had a fascinating note about Trout in his most recent column: at age 21, Trout has gotten a hit on 35% of curveballs at which he has swung, making him the best curveball hitter in the game. Tons of young hitters can punish fastballs and remain mystified for years by Uncle Charlie. Yet, in his second season, Trout has leaped that hurdle. Think about what he’ll be able to do by, say, age 25.

Player A: 3-5, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 71 strikeouts
Player B: 8-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56 strikeouts

Player A is Stephen Strasburg. Player B is Diamondbacks’ starter Patrick Corbin. Obviously, Strasburg has pitched very well for Washington, but fantasy owners have been disappointed because the wins haven’t been there (thanks to poor run support and defensive lapses) and they used a high-draft pick or big auction dollars on the Nationals’ ace. Corbin, on the other hand, probably wasn’t drafted in your league unless it is a deep NL-only league. At 23, he is a year younger than Strasburg. He also has been the ace of Arizona’s staff so far in 2013. The secret to his success isn’t difficult: he has allowed only three home runs so far, and opponents are hitting .206 off him. He was particularly impressive on May 20, spinning a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rockies at Coors Field. He whiffed 10 Rockies that night, and they looked like a Double-A squad flailing away at Randy Johnson in his prime. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so he will not be able to sustain this level of dominance. Hey, just being realistic here. But the kid can flat-out deal. If you did take a flier on him late in your draft, or snapped him up off the waiver wire, then congratulations; your pitching staff is probably doing pretty well. The big question now is: do you keep him and bank on him to continue to be as good as Strasburg, or do you sell high to fill another hole on your team?

Random Thoughts

• Just when you think the Rockies might be turning a corner, they suffer a loss like Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park-home-run this past Saturday. The Rockies have a long history of letting painful losses like this affect them for days and it may be happening again: they dropped the finale of the series against the Giants on Sunday, then lost to the woeful Astros Monday night.
Carlos Gonzalez is doing all he can to prevent a tailspin, though. In the past two weeks, CarGo has tallied 6 homers, 13 RBI, 4 steals, 14 runs scored and a .333/.411/.784 batting line.
• Speaking of tailspins, remember that day – April 26, to be exact – when Yuniesky Betancourt batted cleanup while on a hot hitting streak? Yeah, no one else does either. In news that is sure to be reassuring to baseball fans everywhere (except maybe those who are stuck with Yuni on their fantasy teams), Betancourt has returned to his normal terrible self, wet-noodling his way to a .178 average in May.
• Brewers fans had to know going into 2013 that this would be a rebuilding season, but they couldn’t have expected them to be THIS bad. Without that nine-game winning streak, they would be in Astros/Marlins territory.
Cliff Lee 2012, meet Cole Hamels 2013. Cole, Cliff. You two have a lot in common.
• Just when the Yankees were welcoming Curtis Granderson back into the lineup, he gets injured again and they are forced to recall Brennan Boesch from Triple-A. In related news, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman had to return his Mercedes to the dealership for additional repairs and received a Dodge Neon as a loaner vehicle.
• Wainwright Walk Watch: the Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings before walking his first batter and he has walked fewer batters than any other starter in major league baseball. Going into this week (in which he will start twice), he has a 69-6 K-to-BB ratio (11.50), which is far and away the best of any starter in either league.
• At the rate they’re losing starters to injury, the Cardinals may start wanting him to start 3-4 times a week. Rookie John Gast is the latest to visit the trainer’s office. They don’t want to rush prized pitching prospect Michael Wacha, but they may not have a choice.
• At this rate, the Rangers will be printing playoff tickets at the All-Star break. Starter Colby Lewis is on a rehab assignment,
• From the “Apropos of nothing, but still interesting” file: Joe Mauer has broken up three no-hitters in the 9th inning in his career. Could somebody ask Jack Morris if that is considered “hitting to the score?”
• Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, a sincere thank-you to our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces or as first responders. Freedom is not free and we are able to devote our time and passion for baseball as a result of their actions and sacrifice. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez

It was definitely a Happy Mother’s Day at our house. Hope it was at yours as well. This week, we’re looking back at the gems the Cardinals’ pitched against the Rockies this weekend, a marquee outfielder who can’t get going, and more. Here we go:

Molina r1

Who’s Hot?

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

How do you pick which start was more impressive? I finally had to choose Miller’s since I’ve seen Adam Wainwright’s greatness before. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that the 22-year-old pitched the single best game by a rookie starter since Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece against the Astros in 1998. Miller struck out 13, walked NONE and allowed only a broken-bat base hit against the Rockies. Some of the strikeouts were absolutely jaw-dropping. Perfectly placed fastballs. Breaking balls that dropped right over the plate. You name it. Miller had it all working for him. He said after the game on MLB Network that it was the best game he had ever pitched. Among the many stats and charts I’ve seen over the weekend about the pure greatness of this start, this one really jumped out at me: in the past 10 years, how many starts have there been where the pitcher allowed one hit (or none), struck out at least 13 batters, while walking none? Three. That’s it.  Here they are:

  • 5/18/2004 – Randy Johnson, age 40, Arizona vs. Atlanta (perfect game)
  • 6/13/2012 – Matt Cain, age 27, SF vs. Houston (perfect game)
  • 5/10/2013 – Miller

The fact that the Big Unit pitched a perfect game at age 40 quite a feat as well, but a subject for another day. This is a damn impressive list. Miller is 22 and just scratching the surface of his abilities. If you own Miller on your fantasy team, here are a couple of other stats that will have you patting yourself on the back: he has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 51-to-11. That is dominating for any starter. Of course, it is important to remember that Miller has less than a dozen major-league starts under his belt and there is bound to be some adjustment as opposing teams become more familiar with him. It would be unrealistic to expect no regression. Then again, as he matures, he figures to get even better. So far, it appears that the #1 starter-like projections predicted for Miller are right on target. After Friday night, Rockies hitters are in position to argue that point.

Who’s Not?

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

When your most noteworthy accomplishment of the season is a post-game altercation with another player, you know you’re off to a bad start. Someone please alert Kemp that the 2013 season started over a month ago. Entering Sunday’s games, Kemp’s batting line looked like that of a fourth outfielder on a good team: 1 HR, 14 RBI, 5 SB, .268 average. Okay, the RBI total is a little better than that of a reserve, but that’s about it. He just can’t get on track. How much longer can fantasy owners keep saying, “it’s early – he’ll be fine”? Fantasy owners cannot be happy to see that he is on pace for 4 HRs and 71 runs scored. Kemp has driven in one measly run and stolen a single base since Cinco de Mayo. He might have had an 11-game hitting streak going, but those hits aren’t translating to other stats for fantasy owners (or the Dodgers). Since you likely paid big auction dollars or used a high draft pick on Kemp, you really have no realistic choice but to wait and hope that he gets going soon. Trading him now would be a pennies-on-the-dollar move.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .298/.365/.632, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 10 runs, 1 SB

Player B: .285/.379/.551, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB

Player A is the Angels’ Mike Trout. Player B is the Indians’ Mark Reynolds. Trout is being viewed by some baseball analysts as a bust, while Reynolds is being hailed as the best bargain free-agent signing of the year. Both are incorrect. Trout is on pace for 27 homers, 112 RBI, 22 steals and 100 runs scored. Reynolds is not going to hit 50 homers and drive in 150, as he is currently on pace to do. But it’s a mighty nice hot streak for the Sons of Geronimo and fantasy owners to enjoy. Anyone who considers Trout a bust, or who thinks Reynolds is going to maintain his current numbers, is an idiot. Let’s check back in a month.

Player A: 1-0, 3.85 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 22 Ks, 14 IP

Player B: 2-0, 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 Ks, 11 2/3 IP

Player A is Yu Darvish of the Rangers. Player B is Ubaldo Jimenez of the Indians. I had to read those numbers three times to make sure I wasn’t mixing them up with, say, James Shields or another front-line AL starter. Jimenez has actually put together back-to-back quality starts for the Tribe. In fact, Jimenez out-pitched Justin Verlander on Saturday, his third straight win.  Results like that are more in line with what the Indians had in mind when they dealt two of their top pitching prospects to the Rockies for the former All-Star starter in  July 2011. Personally, I wouldn’t trust that Jimenez has made some sort of breakthrough, but his success and that of Scott Kazmir, Cleveland is on a roll the past couple weeks and is bearing down on Detroit for first in the AL Central. The Indians have plenty of hitting. If, by chance, Jimenez can continue pitching this effectively, the Indians will be a big step closer to being a genuine contender.

Random Thoughts

  • One final note on Shelby Miller: he has been quoted as saying that he has not shaken off a single pitch Yadier Molina has called for all season. Not only do you not run on Yadi, you don’t shake off Yadi, either.
  • Let’s not forget Jon Lester. He pitched a beauty of his own last Friday night against the Blue Jays. He allowed just one hit, a double by Maicer Izturis in the 6th inning. For the season, Lester is 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. It’s not a coincidence that he is pitching like an ace and the Red Sox are winning again.
  • Wainwright’s shutout of the Rockies on Saturday was no slouch, either. He didn’t strike out as many batters as Miller did Friday, but he had dazzling command of that 12-to-6 bender that gets hitters bailing out of the batter’s box, only to watch the ball drop right in the zone. When he gets that pitch going, he’s as fun to watch as any dominant ace.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: 4. That’s four batters that Wainwright has walked this season (in a National League-high 58 2/3 innings), compared with 55 strikeouts. That’s a 13.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is so far beyond ridiculously good that it’s, well, ridiculous.
  • On the other hand, there’s poor Philip Humber of the Astros. First he was banished to the bullpen by Houston. Then, after getting hammered out of the pen Saturday night, his stats sit thusly: 0-8, a ghastly 9.59 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 43 ERA+. When you see that Humber has allowed 14 hits and nearly four walks per nine innings, it’s no wonder he has been charged with the loss in eight of his nine appearances this season. How did he ever pitch a perfect game?
  • I think enough has been said and written about how terrible Angel Hernandez as an umpire. On second thought, no, it hasn’t been enough – his continued employment in an embarrassment to baseball. Likewise with Bob Davidson. A scientific poll (read: not scientific at all) reveals that the overall quality of umpiring would double if just those two were pink-slipped.
  • As incompetent as Hernandez’s blown home run call was, it pales in comparison to the fiasco the following night with Astros manager Bo Porter just making up rules regarding pitching changes. Botching a call is nothing compared to not knowing the stinking rule book. My idea for an outside-the-box punishment for those umpires? Having to umpire a game while wearing dunce caps.
  • They could borrow them from the ESPN executives who think it’s a good idea to pay John Kruk a salary to talk about baseball on TV.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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The Royals And Latin America

As we all know, Kansas City has carried a dismal baseball franchise since 1985. But as spring training rolls around, we have to again acknowledge how well the Royals have done in the Latin American talent market.

LatinAmericanBaseball

Everyone who pays very much attention to the Royals will directly turn there heads up to the sky and wink at their mental image of Salvador Perez, the Royals’ up and coming catcher. The Royals, though, have made some fantastic signings from Latin America. There are also some tremendous advantages to scouting in Latin America. Some of those will follow.

When you are hunting the streets of some small town in the midwest looking for the high school stadium to try to find the next Hank Aaron, you have to wait until he is 18. When you go to Latin America to try to find the future face of your franchise, the face can be younger. You can sign a 16 year old to a major league contract. So your Latin Mike Trout is more likely to begin his career just as Mike Trout did, under the age of 20.

If there is a tremendous amount of talent in some random high school in America, you probably wouldn’t be the only one to see it. Chances are, if he really is the next Ted Williams, there will be you and 29 other major league scouts sitting in the stands. The more scouts, the more money. No matter how humble a high school kid is, he will go to the highest bidder, which is generally a lot of money. In Latin America, roughly 28% of the people are in poverty. More will go for smaller amounts of money. This allows small market teams, like the Royals, to upgrade their minor league talent.

It isn’t just the Royals that do this though. On Opening Day 2012, 27.3 percent of players on Major League rosters were Latino. Teams are rightly buying into this gigantic talent base, and the Royals are very good at identifying talent in Latin America. This is why we get to have that mental image of Salvador Perez winking at us. The Major Leagues, and the Royals, have been, and will be, greatly enhanced by this pool of talent staring at us in the face. We would be idiots to ignore it.

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AFL Notebook: Myers, Colon Impress At Rising Stars Game

SURPRISE, AZWil Myers went 3-for-5 with a stolen base, a run scored, and two RBI’s, and Christian Colon scored a pair of runs in a 1-for-2 effort on Saturday at the Arizona Fall League’s annual Rising Stars Game, which was broadcast to a national audience on the MLB Network.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Jeremy Jeffress also chipped in a scoreless frame of relief, fanning all three batters he faced as their West Division squad cruised to an easy 11-2 win over their counterparts from the East Division, a squad that included baseball’s top two prospects in Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, not to mention Gerrit Cole, the number one selection in the 2011 draft by the Pirates, who started for the East and was roughed up to the tune of five runs. The Pittsburgh Pirates prospect recorded only two outs.

Meanwhile, Myers’ and Colon’s club, the Surprise Saguaros, continue to cruise along, currently sporting a 20-8 record, best in the six-team circuit. Entering play Wednesday, they needed only two wins or a combination of Surprise wins and losses for a 13-15 Peoria club adding up to two to have another date on National TV.

The MLB Network will broadcast the AFL Championship game on November 19th, which in all likelihood will pit Myers, Colon, and Jeffress’ club opposite the Salt River Rafters, the team which sits atop the East Division and includes players who may spend time in the Texas League with Tulsa and Corpus Christi next season.

Surprise has lived on its offense in what always is a nice offensive environment in the dry Arizona fall. And Myers has been a part of it, continuing his resurgence as he posts numbers that are comparable to the best the AFL has seen in its nearly two-decade history. It hasn’t gone unnoticed either – Myers’ name has popped up in trade rumors this off-season, as teams no doubt would love to have a 20-year old prospect who has dominated older or more experienced competition in a circuit like the AFL.

Myers has taken a breather from action since Saturday’s Rising Stars Game, with a league off-day Sunday and a cancellation of Surprise’s game on Tuesday, but leading into the game Saturday was a 5-for-5 effort in Friday’s game. Myers drove in two, scored three runs, and drew a walk. Anthony Seratelli has also continued his solid play, working a current six-game hitting streak. Seratelli has reached base in all 14 of his Fall League contests and is batting .367 overall in 14 games with a .492 on-base percentage.

On the hill, Brendan Lafferty has gotten back on track with two scoreless outings in the past week, helping lower his Fall League ERA to 4.73. Bryan Paukovitsalso has had three consecutive outings without allowing a run. Nate Adcock pitched an inning in the Rising Stars Game, allowing a home run. His most recent start for Surprise came last Tuesday with three scoreless innings.

Check back on nwanaturals.com for updates on the progress of these players. You can also get updates by following the Naturals on Facebook and Twitter.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Romak, Lisson, others hit free agency: Late last week Baseball America unveiled their annual listing of minor league free agents, as Major League Baseball granted 537 players free agency on November 2nd. The list included a handful of players who played in Northwest Arkansas all or portions of 2011 as well as many players who were Naturals prior to 2011. From this past season’s club, two mainstays in the Naturals’ lineup, 3B Mario Lisson and 1B/DH Jamie Romak are free agents, as are pitchers Henry Barrera, Willy Lebron, and Zach Miner. Mario Santiago, Andrew Dobies, and Edgar Osuna would have been eligible for six-year free-agency, as it is called, but they were re-signed by the Royals during the month of October.

Among former Naturals from outside the Royals’ organization, right-hander Blake Johnson, who started 2011 with the Naturals before moving onto Triple-A Omaha, is listed as among the free agents. Johnson was let go by Kansas City in June and signed quickly by the Colorado Rockies, where he finished out the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs. 1B Corey Smith (2009), INF Ed Lucas (2008-09), OF Jose Duarte (2008-09), C Adam Donachie (2008), INF Josh Johnson (2009), right-hander Roman Colon (2008), left-hander Dusty Hughes (2008) and right-hander Alex Caldera (2010) are among ex-Naturals who are free-agents.

Winter Ball Updates: Several other current and former Naturals are honing their craft this off-season playing in various winter leagues that span the globe.

The Puerto Rican Winter League opened this week, and, as expected, a couple of current and former Naturals are participating. Naturals’ infielder Rey Navarro is playing for the Criollos de Caguas, where thus far he has struggled, as he’s without a hit in his first nine at-bats. Faring better is former Natural Irving Falu (Indios de Mayaguez), who is batting .235 through his first four games of action. Falu is teammates in Mayaguez with former Natural and current Houston Astros shortstopAngel Sanchez, who is batting .231 through four games but has a hit in his past two starts.

In the Venezuelan Winter League, Mario Lisson (Navegantes de Magallanes) has three hits in his last two games to lift his average to .241. Overall he’s driven in five runs in nine games this winter season. Former Natural Jose Duarte (Leones de Caracas) got a hit Tuesday to snap a five-game hitless streak. Duarte has yet to swipe a base in 17 games. Ernesto Mejia (Aguilas del Zulia) had a homer Saturday and is riding on a three-game hitting streak, while Manny Pina (Bravos de Margarita) is still fighting a slump as his average has dropped to .160 (4-for-25) in 11 games.

In the Dominican League, David Lough (Aguilas Cibaenas) currently sports a three-game hitting streak, although his winter league average sits at .215. Naturals’ right-hander Manauris Baez (Estrellas de Oriente) has continued a great start to his season in the Domincan, allowing only two runs in four appearances, covering three starts for a sparkling 1.54 ERA. He has, however, walked eight and fanned just four. Mario Santiago (Tigres del Licey) gave up just one earned run in 3 2/3 innings in his most recent start, although four unearned runs came across. His winter league record stands at 1-0 with a 2.59 ERA. Naturals reliever Edgar Garcia joined Licey for a game and got roughed up in relief, allowing three runs (two earned) while recording just one out. Willy Lebron, Santiago’s rotation-mate in Licey and fellow Royals’ farmhand, allowed three runs in three frames in his most recent start and now has a 2-3 record and 2.95 ERA in five starts. Southpaw Brandon Sisk (Gigantes del Cibao) hasn’t pitched in over a week but owns a 2.84 ERA in five outings, while Kelvin Herrera (Leones del Escogido) hasn’t allowed a run in six outings thus far, fanning five in 7 1/3 innings. He’s teammates with Everett Teaford, who was roughed up to three runs in 4 2/3 in his last outing. Teaford’s ERA in three outings is 5.25. Also on Leones is Elisaul Pimentel, who joined the Naturals late in the season and will likely be in the 2012 rotation. Pimentel recorded one out in his only winter league outing of the year.…

In other leagues, former Natural Federico Castaneda (Tomateros de Culiacan) has a 1-2 record and 8.68 ERA in 12 outings thus far in the Mexican League, while former Naturals’ southpaw Paul Mildren (Adelaide Bite) made his first winter start in the Australian Winter League. He allowed two runs in five innings of work. Mildren has not pitched stateside since the 2009 season.

These teams and respective leagues will play the round-robin Caribbean Series which takes place in February just before early reports for Major League Spring Training.

Transaction log: Former Naturals outfielder Jordan Parraz, who was among the 537 players attaining free agency, didn’t have to wait too long to find a new club, signing a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves’ organization after spending 2011 in the New York Yankees’ organization with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The contract included an invitation to spring training. If he doesn’t make the big league roster, he’ll likely suit up for Triple-A Gwinnett…He may find himself as teammates with Ernesto Mejia, who was with the Naturals one season after Parraz in 2010. Mejia was re-signed by the Braves after a solid season with Double-A Mississippi…The Braves also elected their right to retain former Natural left-handers Rowdy Hardy and Ben Swaggerty. Those pitchers did not have the six years of service time required to become free-agents.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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