Payrolls in 2004
Will your team be spending or selling this offseason? Today's article is a primer on what 15 teams will be doing as a whole in the winter months.
Anaheim- BUYERS- New owner Arturo Moreno is going to spend a lot of money this offseason. The team has spoken about reaching the $90M mark, which is about $20M more than this season. Miguel Tejada is expected to sign here, and the team will also pursue a top starting pitcher free agent. The team will still be smart fiscally, and should non-tender Adam Kennedy when Tejada jumps aboard. Next season expect the Angels to be contenders again, thanks to Tejada protecting Garret Anderson, and an improved starting staff.
ARIZONA-SELLERS- En route to a World Series championship, Jerry Colangelo made some bad decisions. His choices to defer millions of dollars in contracts will hurt the team next season, as they'll have to sell. Expect Junior Spivey and Matt Mantei to be the first one's out the door. The team will investigate trading Curt Schilling, because they will not re-sign him after 2004. Any spare money should be spend acquiring a top-notch right fielder, the only real hole on offense.
ATLANTA- SELLERS- The problem with corporate ownership will be shown with the upcoming Braves offseason. Ya think AOL/Time Warner's troubles correlate to the Braves dropping payroll. Oh yeah. Luckily, the team does not need to trade players to lose payroll, just let some go. Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Darren Holmes, Javy Lopez, and Vinny Castilla combined to make salaries in the $43M range in 2003, and all of them are free agents after the playoffs. Maddux will surely bolt, and I doubt Sheffield will turn down the Yankees. Lopez could be headed elsewhere due to Johnny Estrada, and Darren Holmes will not get big-time money. The Braves may be a player in the free agent market, but there is no way that payroll will near $100M in 2004.
Baltimore- BUYERS- Peter Angelos is finally putting money into his product, now that Major League Baseball threatens to put a team in Washington D.C.. Actually, the team had tons of contracts that didn't matter last year, and this team may have more spending money than anyone else. The Orioles could possibly offer Guerrero $20M per year, and have money to fill the rest of their holes. Albert Belle and Scott Erickson will be stricken from the record books next season, and Baltimore should finally turn a corner.
Boston- BUYERS- Theo Epstein's fantastic season deserves a lot of credit, and may be the reason the team boosts payroll next season. The team surpassed a $100M payroll last year, and should do the same next season. Epstein is going to pursue such starters as Javier Vazquez and Curt Schilling, and probably won't need to take on big salary. And think that this team will be paying Pedro, Nomar, and Manny somewhere in the $50M range. The Red Sox need to be buyers to compete with the Yankees, and as long as Yawkey Way stays crowded, John Henry won't complain.
Chicago Cubs- BUYERS- The Cubs will have roughly $15-20M to spend on players not signed next season, although who knows where they'll spend the money. Miguel Tejada will likely end up in Anaheim, and Andy Pettite should be staying in New York. Pursuing Jose Vidro and Javier Vazquez in a blockbuster trade is one idea, stocking the team with mid-level veterans like Luis Castillo and Ugueth Urbina is another. But don't test Jim Hendry's creativity, he's done enough to prove he'll do anything to win.
Chicago White Sox- NEITHER- The Sox should be looking to sign from within this season, and little else. Rumors have it that Bartolo Colon is about to re-sign, and he's Ken Williams' top priority. The team also wants to re-sign Roberto and Sandy Alomar, Tom Gordon, and possibly Carl Everett. Either Carlos Lee or Paul Konerko should be traded, and Carlos could demand much higher value. But its Frank Thomas that determines the future of the club: will he stay in Chicago for $8M in 2004?
Cincinnati Reds- NEITHER- I put neither because the team already did all of its selling out. This is a club that could legitimately compete in 2004, but management would need to boost payroll about $7M. That won't happen. The fact that Barry Larkin re-signed baffles me, but the Reds often do. Can this team afford Jason La Rue and Richie Sexson, probably not. Are they stuck with them? Quite possibly. Dumping Casey to the Dodgers and signing Kevin Millwood could make this team a contender next season. Instead, they'll be in a war for last place.
Cleveland- NEITHER- Ownership is waiting until the rebuilding plan is over until they allow a boost in payroll. Instead, don't be surprised if the payroll is a little less next season. Danys Baez and Ellis Burks should be goners, giving the team money to fill holes with. Signing a short-term 2B/3B plug is a good idea, as is a innings-eater or two for the rotation. Mark Shapiro is a genius GM, and the Indians should be increasing payroll and wins by 2006.
Colorado Rockies- NEITHER- Don't expect a big difference in Rockie payroll next season. The team should trade Jay Payton away for pitching, allowing Rene Reyes a starting job. Garrett Atkins is ready to start at third, and an improved Mark Bellhorn should be present next year as well. This team needs some starters to step up, and could use a solid closer. But until Todd Helton or Larry Walker stop congesting the payroll, this team will be limited.
DETROIT- NEITHER- Well, it can't get much lower, and there's no way its getting higher. I'll be writing an article later in the week on this team, but there really is no bright spot in the future. They lose the big Dean Palmer contract this season, and stop paying Damion Easley next year. The Tigers should be present in the free agent market, but won't be spending more than $5-10M on roster fillers.
Florida Marlins- BUYERS- I say this hesitantly. The Marlins were buyers during this season, and their payroll won't increase too much next season. But ownership is making strides to improve this team, and doing everything to make baseball work in Florida. I would trade Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, and Brad Penny, to make room for future arbitration dollars. Next year Miguel Cabrera becomes a star...you've been warned.
Houston Astros- SELLERS- Drayton McLane is in financial trouble, and the Astros will suffer as a result. Either Billy Wagner or Richard Hidalgo will be traded this offseason, and there's a possibility both get dealt. Don't expect Brad Ausmus to be re-signed, unless he takes really low numbers. Wagner can easily be replaced by Dotel, and Hidalgo by Jason Lane. To acquire one of these players, the Astros need to add serious starting pitching depth. If Houston hadn't pitched Jeriome Robertson and Ron Villone against Milwaukee, maybe the Cubs wouldn't be in Atlanta right now.
Kansas City- BUYERS- David Glass proved if fans come watch, he'll treat them with respect. The team won't be re-signing Raul Ibanez, but expect Carlos Beltran to be retained. There's a lot of veteran depth on this team, and it will be interesting to watch the future of Rondell White, Joe Randa, Brent Mayne, Brian Anderson, Graeme Lloyd, Curt Leskanic, Al Levine, and Jason Grimsley.
Los Angeles- NEITHER- Until a rich ownership group takes over this team, they won't be adding payroll. Yet the team has the responsibility to adding a lineup to their repertoire, because the pitching is already there. My advice to Dan Evans would be to pursue Richie Sexson will all of his power. The team must also hang onto Hideo Nomo, whom has proven to be the perfect Dodger Stadium pitcher.
OK, really tired....must go to bed.
The 2003-2004 WaTNeY awards
It's time folks. Today, is the first annual WaTNeY awards, the prize of tomorrow. All of these picks are way far in advance, but if their right, I can honestly say I got it right before anyone else. So here are the awards NONE of you have been waiting for:
WaTNeY for 2004 Breakout Hitter- Aaron Guiel- OF- Royals
Before ASB: .270/.345/.520 in 100AB
So, he's consistent, powerful, and will take his walks. Guiel has twenty doubles and ten home runs after the break, and I'm one to think those doubles will go out of the park next year. While he's only 5'10'', Guiel has a power streak in him. Raul Ibanez should be out of the lineup next year, so Guiel will be in the top five in the order. Expect big things. Guiel's 2004: .280/.350/.500.
Honorable Mention: Mark Teixeira (everyone's pick), Carl Crawford, Criag Wilson (ask Ben Jacobs), Joe Crede, Miguel Cabrera, Aramis Ramirez (going for a second time), and Pedro Feliz.
WaTNeY for 2004 Breakout Pitcher- Adam Eaton- S.D. Padres
Next season Eaton should be far past Tommy John surgery, and ready for a big step. He won't be good for too many strikeouts, but an ERA around the 3.50 range will be welcome to any fantasy team. And with the explosive San Diego offense, 15 wins isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Honorable Mention- Jake Peavy (Eaton teammate), Oliver Perez (former teammate), Victor Zambrano, Jorge Sosa, Carl Pavano, Darrell May, John Thomson (free agent)
WaTNeY for 2004 Burst Into Superstardom- Vernon Wells- OF
Before ASB: .299/.338/.556 in 405AB
Yes, Wells hit much less HR/AB after the break as opposed to before. But he hit a lot more doubles, and his K/BB rate improved greatly. He hit 23HR in 2002, and 33HR in 2003. While I'm not sure if 43 for next year is expecting too much, I wouldn't be surprised. How about these 2004 numbers: .330/.400/.550?
WaTNeY for 2004 Step to Superstardom- Josh Beckett- SP
Beckett: 6-4 2.55ERA 75H/88.1IP 93K/30BB
OK, threw in Prior to make mockery of the other selections. Truly, these are the four arms that I would want more than any in baseball. Yes, that includes those kids in Oakland as well. The only reason I didn't choose Vazquez was that he can make arguments he is a superstar. If Boston or New York trades for him this winter, it will be the best acquisition of the offseason. And yes, that includes Guerrero, Sheffield, and Schilling.
Beckett was a former top prospect, and a reason TINSTAPP isn't true. While it may take top pitching prospects a little longer than hitters, they are worth waiting for. If Florida ends Atlanta's run in dominance in 2004 (I think it'll happen), it will be in no small part thanks to Beckett.
WaTNeY for the Next Great Reliever Award- Ryan Wagner- Cincy
WaTNeY Rocky Biddle Award (most random closer to notch 30 saves)- Juan Rincon- Minnesota
WaTNeY 2004 Breakout Teams- Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres
San Diego I like even more. This team has this lineup:
Sean Burroughs- 3B- LH
Wow, how nice would that be? Then, they would also have Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy, both mentioned in my breakout pitchers list. It looks like they might sign David Wells, and already have Brian Lawrence. This team looks sure-fire to win the NL West next season. Kudos Kevin Towers.
Wait 'Til Next Year Award for team with high hopes that fall apart- Los Angeles Dodgers
C- Koyie Hill
Still, the team will have to wait for the James Loneys, Delwyn Youngs, and Franklyn Gutierrezzzzz. But, I'm afraid no matter how much this team spends they'll fall apart, and Dan Evans should be out of a job in one year.
That's all for today. If you have any more ideas for a potential WaTNeY, e-mail me!. And Congrats to the 2003 NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs! Here's to a World Series of Boston and ChiCubs!
Don't Like Sosa? Put a Cork In It!
News Item: Sammy Sosa becomes the first National Leaguer to hit 40 home runs in six consecutive seasons. Sosa had been tied with Ralph Kiner (1947-1951) and Duke Snider (1953-1957) for the N.L. record with five straight years of at least 40 homers.
1 Sammy Sosa 1998-03 6 T2 Ralph Kiner 1947-51 5 T2 Duke Snider 1953-57 5 T4 Ernie Banks 1957-60 4 T4 Barry Bonds 2000-03 4 T5 Ted Kluszewski 1953-55 3 T5 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3 T5 Vinny Castilla 1996-98 3 T5 Andres Galarraga 1996-98 3 T10 Chuck Klein 1929-30 2 T10 Johnny Mize 1947-48 2 T10 Willie Mays 1954-55 2 T10 Willie Mays 1961-62 2 T10 Hank Aaron 1962-63 2 T10 Willie Mays 1964-65 2 T10 George Foster 1977-78 2 T10 Mike Schmidt 1979-80 2 T10 Barry Bonds 1996-97 2 T10 Greg Vaughn 1998-99 2 T10 Mark McGwire 1998-99 2 T10 Vladimir Guerrero 1999-00 2 T10 Jeff Bagwell 1999-00 2 T10 Todd Helton 2000-01 2 T10 Shawn Green 2001-02 2Babe Ruth (1926-1932) holds the major league with seven years in a row. Alex Rodriguez also has a current streak of six straight seasons with 40.
MAJOR LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
1 Babe Ruth 1926-32 7 T2 Alex Rodriguez 1998-03 6 T2 Sammy Sosa 1998-03 6 T4 Ralph Kiner 1947-51 5 T4 Duke Snider 1953-57 5 T4 Ken Griffey Jr. 1996-00 5 T7 Ernie Banks 1957-60 4 T7 Harmon Killebrew 1961-64 4 T7 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4 T7 Barry Bonds 2000-03 4Slammin' Sammy and Barry Bonds are tied for second place in the N.L. circuit for the most 40 home run seasons with seven, one behind Hank Aaron.
NATIONAL LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
1 Hank Aaron 8 T2 Sammy Sosa 7 T2 Barry Bonds 7 4 Willie Mays 6 T5 Ralph Kiner 5 T5 Duke Snider 5 T5 Ernie Banks 5 8 Eddie Mathews 4 T9 Andres Galarraga 3 T9 Johnny Mize 3 T9 Mike Schmidt 3 T9 Vinny Castilla 3 T9 Jeff Bagwell 3 T9 Ted Kluszewski 3Sosa and Bonds are tied with Ken Griffey Jr. with the most 40-HR seasons in major league history, trailing just Harmon Killebrew, Aaron, and Ruth.
MAJOR LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
1 Babe Ruth 11 T2 Hank Aaron 8 T2 Harmon Killebrew 8 T4 Ken Griffey Jr. 7 T4 Barry Bonds 7 T4 Sammy Sosa 7 T7 Willie Mays 6 T7 Mark McGwire 6 T7 Alex Rodriguez 6 T10 Ralph Kiner 5 T10 Juan Gonzalez 5 T10 Lou Gehrig 5 T10 Jimmie Foxx 5 T10 Duke Snider 5 T10 Ernie Banks 5 T10 Frank Thomas 5 T10 Rafael Palmeiro 5The Chicago Cub great also reached the century mark in RBI in 2003, becoming the first National Leaguer in history to drive in 100 runs nine consecutive seasons.
NATIONAL LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
1 Sammy Sosa 1995-03 9 T2 Mel Ott 1929-36 8 T2 Willie Mays 1959-66 8 T2 Chipper Jones 1996-03 8 5 Gil Hodges 1949-55 7 T6 Jim Bottomley 1924-29 6 T6 Bill Terry 1927-32 6 T6 Joe Medwick 1934-39 6 T6 Johnny Mize 1937-42 6 T6 Jeff Bagwell 1996-01 6 T6 Jeff Kent 1997-02 6Sosa tied Albert Belle and Rafael Palmeiro for fourth place on the all-time major league list.
MAJOR LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
T1 Lou Gehrig 1926-38 13 T1 Jimmie Foxx 1929-41 13 3 Al Simmons 1924-34 11 T4 Albert Belle 1992-00 9 T4 Sammy Sosa 1995-03 9 T4 Rafael Palmeiro 1995-03 9 T5 Babe Ruth 1926-33 8 T5 Mel Ott 1929-36 8 T5 Willie Mays 1959-66 8 T5 Frank Thomas 1991-98 8 T5 Chipper Jones 1996-03 8In addition to the above milestones, Sosa passed Mickey Mantle for tenth place on the all-time HR list.
HOME RUNS HR 1 Hank Aaron 755 2 Babe Ruth 714 3 Willie Mays 660 4 Barry Bonds 658 5 Frank Robinson 586 6 Mark McGwire 583 7 Harmon Killebrew 573 8 Reggie Jackson 563 9 Mike Schmidt 548 10 Sammy Sosa 539Sammy appears to be a good bet to pass Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, and Killebrew in 2004 and Mark McGwire and Frank Robinson in 2005.
According to 756watch.com, Sosa has a 26.2% probability of hitting 756 HR. Only A-Rod (37.5%) and Bonds (28.0%) have a better shot at surpassing Aaron.
Finally, Sosa's most significant achievement of all may have been passing the Bambino and setting the major league record for HR over a 10 year span with 469. The top ten rankings are the exclusive domain of Sosa, Ruth, and Bonds.
MAJOR LEAGUE, MODERN (1900-)
1 Sammy Sosa 1994-03 469 2 Babe Ruth 1920-29 467 T3 Babe Ruth 1921-30 462 T3 Sammy Sosa 1993-02 462 5 Babe Ruth 1923-32 455 6 Babe Ruth 1919-28 450 7 Babe Ruth 1922-31 449 8 Babe Ruth 1924-33 448 9 Barry Bonds 1993-02 437 10 Barry Bonds 1994-03 436Courtesy of Lee Sinins, Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia.
Given the fact that Sosa hit only 25 HR in 1994, he stands an excellent chance of setting the record again next year. Another 40 HR campaign would give Sammy 484 over the 1995-2004 period, an average of more than 48 per season for ten consecutive years. I don't think there is anything corky, I mean quirky, about that.
Postseason special: Check back during the week for a couple of Rich's Weekday Baseball BEAT articles.
BIG DAY: Playoff teams in two months
Hey everyone, I want to start off today thanking my readers, this has been a record-setting hits week. I hope I can keep putting out quality for you to read, and give you a different way to look at baseball.
After a subpar week, I decided to write a lot today. In 9 seperate posts below, I've written about the upcoming offseason for all nine playoff teams or contenders (not Phillies). Here are the links to these pieces, if you want to pick just one, or scroll down and read them all. I'll be off on a vacation this weekend, ironic that my one chance comes on baseball's big weekend. Without further adieu, here are the links:
New York Yankees
New York will likely pick and choose more in this free agency, as there are few holes to fill. Right field is one however, and the team has its choice. Gary Sheffield has been the rumored player, as Vladimir Guerrero has stated a dislike of New York City. Sheffield would be a huge addition, giving the Yankees the kind of lineup that Boston has. That's if Joe Torre realizes that Alfonso Soriano is NOT a leadoff hitter, and that Derek Jeter IS.
The lineup, other than RF, should be identical next season. Here's what we're looking at, if Joe Torre learns some lineupectomy:
1. Derek Jeter- SS- RH
I'm sure I will get an angry e-mail from a Yankees fan disputing that, but I'll stick to my guns. Hopefully the team has learned their lessons and will build a bench in 2004. They only have to look within to see David Delucci (the perfect bench player), Fernando Seguignol (AAA MVP), and Juan Rivera. Although if Rivera is included in a trade to land a 5th starter, don't be surprised. Erick Almonte is in that same boat, and the team has an infatuation with Enrique Wilson.
Steinbrenner's rotation won't have the big names it had in 2003, but it should be very effective. Mike Mussina returns, and seems to finally have mastered pitching for the Yankees. Jose Contreras will be handed a spot, and should compete for the Cy Young. The Cuban right-hander has gone 6-1, 2.34ERA in 9 starts. He's allowed only 38 hits in 57.2 innings, while striking out 57 and walking 19. Yes, he'll be on my 2004 fantasy team. Jon Lieber will return to the Majors next season, but the team shouldn't expect anything more than fifth starter output. Lieber should be good for 200 innings, but will likely need a year to gain effectiveness. Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Andy Pettite are all free agents next season. Clemens will probably retire, and the team has no interest in retaining Wells. But Pettite has been a career Yankee, and will show his loyalty. The team will bring their southpaw back for big dollars in 2004, ensuring them a third starter. That leaves one spot open for a fourth starter.
With the Yankees money, finding a starting pitcher shouldn't be difficult. Expect the team to have three options: Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, and Javier Vazquez. It would be nice if they signed Greg Maddux, but I think they'll be smarter than that. Vazquez is included simply because the team will want to stop the Red Sox from signing him. See, the Red Sox have a similar list, although I question if they could get Schilling. I think he makes sense in only pinstripes or back as a Phillie next year, no other teams can afford him. But if New York gave the Diamondbacks Juan Rivera, Erick Almonte, Jeff Weaver, Danny Borrell, and a low-level prospect, he could probably be theirs. If Nick Johnson is a must, I would advise against the deal. Colon ain't a bad back-up choice, either.
The bullpen doesn't have too many problems, just a lot of free agents. Mariano Rivera will be back, and Steve Karsay will return from a year's rest. Chris Hammond will make a second run in the Big Apple, and that's all the signed players. Well, you could say Jeff Weaver, but I doubt the team has interest in bringing him back. Antonio Osuna and Gabe White have big options, and Osuna should be a lock. White's awful expensive, and Felix Heredia has done well. Jeff Nelson will be considered, as he's struck out 20 in 17 innings with the Yankees. What might be the most interesting, is if Steinbrenner spends the winter shopping for either a GM or manager.
Yet again, the A's will be losing an MVP, and one of the game's best closers. Miguel Tejada is out the door, leaving Oakland with basically no right-handed power. And Keith Foulke will be leaving as well, so Billy Beane will be going to his fifth closer in five years in 2004. But you can never truly rule out the A's, who will have a healthy Mark Mulder in the rotation next year, along with a full season from Rich Harden.
>From a batting standpoint, there's not a lot to be done. Ramon Hernandez had a solid year, and neared 140 games for the season behind the plate. Beane had stated he originally wanted to platoon Hernandez with Mark Johnson, whom hasn't played since April. The team has now ran into Adam Melhuse, whom helped clinch the division with a 10th inning off-the-bench home run.
The infield is pretty set, with not much needing to be done. The team stupidly locked up Scott Hatteberg for next season, and will likely choose between Graham Koonce and Dan Johnson in 2005. Second base is the only position that has some controversey, with Mark Ellis posting a .295OBP in the 2nd half. Esteban German has re-emerged, and will make a run at the position next season. The team may pursue a free agent, and a player like Tony Graffanino would fit Beane's profile well. Top prospect Bobby Crosby will be inserted full-time at shortstop, and is a favorite for Rookie of the Year. And at third, expect a big season from Eric Chavez, whom has hit .313/.379/.551 in the second half. The team will lose contracts like Scott Hatteberg and Jermaine Dye next season, and they've talked about inking up Chavez long-term.
Is there something as too much depth? Yes, only when you're on a big budget. That being said, expect the team to trade or non-tender Ted Lilly next season. Lilly is 7-2, 3.00 in the second half, and expect the "mastermind" Beane to use that to his advantage. After that, the team has a pretty easy decision. The Big Four are all locks, with Mulder's hip as the only concern. The fifth spot will be Justin Duchscherer's until Joe Blanton claims it.
Jermaine Dye and Chris Singleton were to be leaned on a lot this season, but together they've put up 112 hits, cumulatively less than the Cubs' Alex Gonzalez. Singleton won't be back in 2004, but Dye will, to the tune of $11 million. The team thought a superstar had landed in their lap when Eric Byrnes hit .356/.405/.625 in May, and .322/.395/.583 in June. But Byrnes has tailed off, only managing a .174 average in the second half. The team has turned to Billy McMillon, a AAA veteran known for taking walks, and Terence Long. Long has disappointed, not eclipsing the .240 mark. But McMillon hasn't, and his splits vs. right-handers (.298/.392/.496), compared to Byrnes against lefties (.290/.340/.531) will make for a decent platoon. Jose Guillen was brought into be the big right-handed bat, and hasn't disappointed. But he was mad the team didn't immediately re-sign him, and might walk. If he does, the team may have to use Lilly for a left fielder, or sign a free agent. The team was previously interested in J.D. Drew, and those talks may re-ignite. And if the Sox will part with Carlos Lee, look out.
Beane must prove the ability to build a bullpen out of scraps more than any other time in 2004. Keith Foulke, one of the league's best closers, will probably walk this season. But the team has some many stashed away, and don't be too surprised if they go after him. If not, Lilly may be traded for one, or Beane will sign a free agent. The team also needs a set-up man, as inept Jim Mecir is gone. Ricardo Rincon will be back, as will Chad Bradford. Rule V pick Mike Neu will be in the bullpen next year, as will Chad Harville. The team will have to acquire a closer, set-up man, and swing-man, unless Mike Wood will fill the latter hole. Billy Beane will be tested in 2004, and must come up big to have the A's win, and to prove GMs don't hate him because of Moneyball.
Imagine this...the Twins were to be contracted two years ago. Wow. This team will have to make some big changes next year, and the lineup should be very different.
While Doug Mientkiewicz has had a huge season, the team can't afford to bring him back next season. Justin Morneau is more than ready, and should be a big part of the offense next season. Luis Rivas' successes in the two-hole will likely make the Twins bring him back next season, and he could turn into a 30SB threat. Christian Guzman will be retained, simply because the team has no other options. Prospect Jason Bartlett is coming on fast, but won't be there until 2005. Corey Koskie has a $4.5M option for next season, and the team has no reason to buy out that contract. Expect him back, and healthy, next year.
Another player that will surely be back is Shannon Stewart. While Shannon is a free agent, the team must sign him, as he proved to be such a big acquisition. He will sit atop the lineup, and split time in left, right, and the DH spot. Splitting time with him will be Jacque Jones, who quietly had a nice season. While the power wasn't in the 2002 form, he did hit .303. Torii Hunter had a disappointing season, and seems to be a "close-eyed swinging-hard" type player. The last spot (RF/DH), must be decided between Mike Cuddyer, Mike LeCroy, Mike Restovich, Lew Ford, and Mike Ryan. A.J. Pierzynski has one more year as a Twin, before the team ships him off somewhere to make room for Mauer.
The rotation will have a younger look next year, and a full season with their new ace. Johan Santana is 11-2, 2.99ERA as a starter, and is one of my favorites for the 2004 Cy Young. He is an amazing pitcher, and probably the best Rule V pick EVER. Brad Radke will look to build on his 9-1 second half with a big 2004. He probably will remain uneffective, but will eat his innings. Kyle Lohse has had a little disappointing of a season, and will be in the 2004 version. Eric Milton should also return full-time, giving the team at least two lefties. Grant Balfour could claim the last spot, although I feel he is better suited for middle relief. But if he holds it until J.D. Durbin claims it, no big deal. But I would advise the team to go after someone as a filler, a Cory Lidle or Ismael Valdes type.
The bullpen will be much different next year, as Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins are angry at Twin management. They both wanted re-extensions, and have threatened to leave. Guardado may be re-signed, but Hawkins is already gone. The team is comfortable with Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, and prospect Jesse Crain all closing. The rest of the bullpen will include Michael Nakamura, Carlos Pulido, and possibly Brad Thomas. Balfour should be in there, and would help out a lot. This bullpen won't have big names, but should be very effective. My advice to Terry Ryan: sign Shannon Stewart!!!
Boston Red Sox
Theo Epstein will give it another go in 2003-2004, as he had a good first trial. There are some huge decisions to make, as the Yankees should be stacked next season.
David Ortiz is a free agent, and there is no way the team will let its newfound hero leave. Look for him to make hefty money, somewhere in the $4M per year range. Kevin Millar will be back next year, as will Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller. The question about Mueller is where? The team could go after a 2B (Re-sign Walker? Graffanino?), or move Mueller there and put Kevin Youkilis at third. But Youkilis is likely part of a deal for pitching, so expect the first option to happen. The oufield will not change, but I doubt Gabe Kapler will return.
There is pitching on this team, just not a lot of it. Pedro leads the rotation, and Derek Lowe will undoubteduly have his option picked up. Tim Wakefield also has a rotation spot locked up. The interesting story will be Jeff Suppan, who has struggled as a Red Sox, and has a $4M option next season. I advise the team to pick that up, because in the least he'll match Jon Lieber in IP and effectiveness. Plus, it only leaves one hole in that rotation.
As I eluded earlier, I expect that spot to be filled by Javier Vazquez or Bartolo Colon. Vazquez won't cost too much, somewhere in the range of Kevin Youkilis, Jorge De La Rosa, and Casey Fossum. Vazquez has had a monster second half, and would definitly be able to match Jose Contreras. If Boston lands him, I will likely include Javier in my list of most likely to win the 2004 Cy Young.
While people have made a lot out of bullpen problems, the team has some decent options. Byung-Hyun Kim will return, and he's done a much better job in Boston than given credit for. Scott Williamson has struggled in a Boston uniform, but just needs an offseason to work out his troubles. As do Scott Sauerbeck and Ramiro Mendoza, who have had disappointing season. Alan Embree has been inconsistent, but the team can depend on him when they need it. Bronson Arroyo, the International Cy Young, will fill the long spot very well. That leaves room for one set-up man to replace Mike Timlin. Expect whoever it is to be a big name, one of the Armando Benitez variety. Theo Epsein is a genius, and I would put him ahead of Billy Beane for all those who want to know.
Every year I question the Braves' ability to make the playoffs, and every year they prove me wrong. Therefore, I'm going to officially question the Braves' ability to make the 2004 playoffs. John Scheurholtz is the game's best GM, but has some hard times in front of him.
Surprisingly, the team's strength in 2003 was its offense. But, of this top-notch offense, few players will be returning. Up the middle, Marcus Giles, Rafeal Furcal, and Andruw Jones will all return. As will Chipper Jones, whom has now become the Braves' best hitter since Hank Aaron. But, the team will lose Gary Sheffield, Vinny Castilla, Rob Fick, and Javy Lopez, all whom had big 2003s. The team could go with prospects to fill 1B and C, they have Dave LaRoche and Johnny Estrada ready. Castilla should re-sign, or the team will go after Robin Ventura or Joe Randa. Javy Lopez may get re-signed, but he'll likely be too expensive.
One interesting rumor floating around is Richie Sexson. This team is loaded in pitching prospects, and would probably have to pick one or two blue-chippers, along with Dave LaRoche to do the deal. He would replace Gary Sheffield in the lineup, and allow the team to go cheap in right.
Greg Maddux, the Braves' best since Warren Spahn, won't be wearing an Atlanta jersey in 2004. Right now, the rotation has Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, Horacio Ramirez, and Paul Byrd locked up. They may look within, someone like Bubba Nelson or Adam Wainwright, or sign a cheap free-agent like Shane Reynolds.
What will be really interesting, is the bullpen. John Smoltz will be back in full force next year, but the team must put better arms before him. Kent Mercker and Will Cunnane have been sensational in Braves' uniforms, probably giving the team reasons to not bring Roberto Hernandez and Ray King back. Jaret Wright, Trey Hodges, and Kevin Gryboski should compete for two spots, and Jung Bong and Andy Pratt for another. The team may pursue a big-name set-up man, although I feel that isn't necessary. This is a team that will need the balls to bounce the right way, again, for them to win in 2004.
San Francisco Giants
Despite the league's best attendance, the Giants probably will not be able to add payroll next year, they may have to decrease it. That isn't good news, especially when the club will have four open position spots, two rotation holes, and a couple of bullpen spots.
Barry Bonds is all a team needs to succeed. Add in an improved Edgardo Alfonzo and Ray Durham, plus Marquis Grissom should be enough. But, its important to note the team will probably lose J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, and Benito Santiago to free agency. They also must decide on Jose Cruz Jr., whom has a $4M option for next season. My advice: let everyone go but Aurilia. Todd Linden and an extremely cheap free agent (think Ben Grieve), would be enough next year. At first, the team could go with a combination of Pedro Feliz (honestly, 30HR), and Lance Niekro. Behind the plate, the team has already started to groove Yorvit Torrealba for the role. But Aurilia is the key, and I think the team must sign him. No, platooning Neifi Perez and Cody Ransom doesn't make up for Rich.
With all that money being saved in the hitting department, the team should focus it on pitching. Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, and Jerome Williams are all guaranteed rotation spots next year. The final fifth slot could go to a mix of Kevin Correia, a veteran like Dustin Hermanson, and Boof Bonser. This gives the team lots of money to be in the races for Kevin Millwood, Sidney Ponson, and even Greg Maddux. Those are the three the Giants could go after.
Robb Nen is gone for a year, and the team discovers Tim Worrell. Only to lose him? Maybe. It's likely the G-Men will be forced to decide between Worrell and Felix Rodriguez. Peter Gammons hints the team would pick Worrell, and put him in middle relief. Joe Nathan is ready for a set-up role, and in 2005, the closer spot. The team is well-equipped from the left side, they can choose between Jason Christenson, Chad Zerbe, Scott Eyre, and Noah Lowry. They will likely re-sign Matt Herges, who would come cheap and did a good job for them. And finally, expect Jim Brower to be back in some capacity, he's been good since the break. Until Barry Bonds retires, the Giants have chances. But, the Padres will likely be the favorites next year.
What a crazy year it's been for the Marlins. Every up and down a team can go through, they have. The team has many off-season decisions to make, including re-signing the likes of Pudge and Luis Castillo.
Before I explain how they got there, here's my 2004 Marlins lineup card:
C- Ivan Rodriguez
Wow. I think the team should go to lengths to re-sign Pudge and Castillo, both have expressed interest in returning. Conine is a long-time Marlin, and the team should trade Derrek Lee to get money. Mike Lowell has to be considered for a long-term contract, they should make him a career Marlin. Cabrera will have a huge 2004, this is a player who's hit .267/.320/.475 as a 20-YEAR-OLD!!!! And finally, the team should non-tender or trade Juan Encarnacion to free up some money. To play right, they should bring in Shim, a Korean player they had in Spring Training last year, and probably the Korean Leagues' second most valuable player. This team would be very good offensively and defensively, with no real holes.
When A.J. Burnett went down, the season was over. Right? Wrong. The Marlins found great pitching in unpredictable places, and now have some of the best pitchers in the league. Josh Beckett has a 2.55ERA since the All-Star Break, with hit rates below 9 (75H in 88.1IP) and K-rates above it (93K). He will be on the top five list for the Cy Young, next year. While Dontrelle Willis has faded down the stretch, it has been a fantastic run for a 21-year-old, and he should do nothing but improve next season. While Mark Redman looked like a solid addition last winter, not many people thought he'd eclipse 150Ks. He's become a very good left-handed pitcher, capable of eating innings, and really uses Pro Player Stadium. Finally, I'm a big believer in Carl Pavano. I think he's been slowly building back ever since his arm injuries, and he's about to have a big season. He's a solid fourth starter, and he's yet to reach his ceiling.
Whom I didn't include was Brad Penny. With Burnett coming back, there isn't room for Penny on this team. Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, and Brad Penny are big names to throw away, but the team must do it. Burnett may need some time to gain effectiveness, so the team has Michael Tejera. In time, Burnett will become the ace he is, and the Marlins will deal him for good players.
Tim Spooneybarger missed most of this season, and he is big in the plans for 2004. The team should plan on non-tendering Braden Looper, to give them sufficient money to re-sign Ugueth Urbina. Ugueth has been huge for the Marlins, and seems to love Florida. He's a great guy to have in the clubhouse, and should be high on the Marlins wish list. Chad Fox has done a good job here as well, and should also figure into the plans. Spooneybarger will set-up, and Fox will have say in that as well. Armando Almanza will take the leftie duties, and Nate Bump will be in there as well. There are a lot of arms in this organization, so I wouldn't get caught up in middle relief.
There's a lot of things Larry Beinfest needs to do to become a great general manager, but it's all in front of him. Miami will be packing the seats next year, its Beinfest's job to keep them there.
Jim Hendry did everything and anything he could to the Cubs this year, but in reality, 2004 is their year. In the last 95 years, there hasn't been as good of a time as now for the Cubs to make a run. Hendry doesn't have much to do, but there is unfinished business.
First, Sammy Sosa will be back. You might here that he is "testing the waters" or stuff like that, but he ain't moving. Corey Patterson will be back next season, although Kenny Lofton did a great job filling in. Aramis Ramirez is a great candidate to have a breakout 2004, he's hit 15 homers in only 219 at-bats with the Cubs. Forty to fifty home runs from Aramis' bat is quite possible. Randall Simon will likely be retained, as Dusty doesn't want to bring Hee Seop Choi out there every fifth day. While I doubt it will happen, the Cubs could send Choi and Cruz to the Expos for Vazquez.
What should happen is Miguel Tejada. Alex Gonzalez isn't getting it done at shortstop, and the team could probably throw him into some deal. Tejada would be a big right-handed bat, and give Sammy Sosa protection he's never had. Second base is a hole, and the team should probably re-sign Mark Grudzilanek. Picking up his option is stupid, but he's done great in a Cubs' uniform and probably should return. Although, that would make him the de facto leadoff man. The team will look into signing Fernando Vina instead, since he has leadoff experience.
The rotation is pretty set. Mark Prior will be the ace, and like I said yesterday, flirt with an ERA under 2.00. Kerry Wood will have another big season, now that he's firing that slider for strikes. Carlos Zambrano will further his development, and put up ace numbers. Matt Clement should revert back to 2002 form, since he'll have time to get over all his little injuries. Juan Cruz is quite capable in the fifth slot, and is simply holding on until Angel Guzman is ready.
The bullpen needs some work. Joe Borowski is more of a middle relief/set-up type, and the team should get a closer. Eddie Guardado would give the Cubs the option of a platoon closer, bringing in Guardado vs. lefties, and Borowski to face right-handers. Or, look for the team to look to re-sign Rod Beck. He loves Dusty Baker, and loves Chicago. He'd get to fight for the closer spot, although he may be bitter about not making the team out of Spring Training. The only other possibilities are Ugueth Urbina and Tom Gordon. Look for the team to sign another right-hander, someone of the Jason Grimsley variety as well. With a little help, this team could breeze through the NL Central, and possibly end the near-100-year-losing streak.
Prediction: This is the beginning of the end for the Astros. It's all downhill from here. The money isn't there, and the team is getting old. Gerry Hunsicker will have to do a lot of things right for this team to succeed next year and beyond.
Offensively, there's not a lot to do. Brad Ausmus is a free agent, and although he's well liked on the team, prospect John Buck can do everything Brad can. Other than that, the team should focus on giving Morgan Ensberg the 3rd base job, and trading Richard Hidalgo. The team desperately needs to free up money, and trading Hidalgo is a good idea. He could go to the Braves, who will need a bat to make up for the loss of Sheffield. The team could then slide Jason Lane into that spot, without losing too much value.
>From a starting pitching standpoint, things have to get better. Roy Oswalt badly needs groin surgery, and after he does that this offseason, should be healthy in 2004. Wade Miller has been up and down, and probably needs the winter break to regain arm strength. Tim Redding is starting to develop blisters, which the team really doesn't want to start developing. Finally, Jeriome Robertson had a solid rookie year, and must build on that. Ron Villone probably won't be brought back next season, as the team should be looking for better arms. With Hidalgo's money gone, Hunsicker should investigate signing Sidney Ponson, whom he's long coveted for.
The bullpen doesn't need help. Wagner closing, Dotel and Lidge setting up. Ricky Stone and Kirk Saarlos should handle the middle relief duties. The team could use a LOOGY, and Mike Myers will probably be available. If Myers were to return to dominance in an Astro uniform, they'd start making arguments for the best bullpen ever.
I think this team is treading water, and will slowly start to sink. The Cubs are catching up, and soon it will be the Astros that are chasing.
Run-ons and what-nots
Just my luck. I don't think I've ever been as busy in my life as I have the last two days. And of course, the majority of my work comes during the days' most important games. But yes, I did witness Shawn Estes do the unthinkable yesterday. And by that, I mean ink himself a contract somewhere next season. I think he may actually have the potential to do well in a giant park, something like Dodger Stadium or Shea.
Here's some thoughts I've been having...
- Someone asked me a couple of days ago about who I thought would/should get fired this offseason. These are the managers that likely won't be back next season:
1. Mike Hargrove- Orioles
That's it. Hargrove is a good manager, but benefitted from a good team in Cleveland. He may be a good fit in Philadelphia, with ex-pals Jim Thome and Joe Kerrigan. Jim Tracy is a fantastic manager, but the Dodgers must put the blame on someone. The Reds should go after him, but that's doubtful. Manuel is terrible, and will be playing the role of bench coach next year, probably with the Alou's Giants. Bowa is hated by all players, and shouldn't be back ever again. So naturally, he'll interview for the White Sox job.
Expect Willie Randolph to land his first gig, and Terry Franchone will be back. It also sounds like Eddie Murray has the Baltimore job. I will officially laugh if Joe Torre or Grady Little get fired...they shouldn't. And I pray that Tony La Russa quits.
- I hope Major League Baseball replaces Omar Minaya as GM of the Expos with Sandy Alderson. Imagine what Alderson, who taught the overrated Billy Beane everything he knows, build the failing Expos. He'd deal Javier Vazquez to the Red Sox quickly, just so he could get Kevin Youkilis to play third. Kelly Shoppach would also need to be included in that kind of a deal.
- The U.S. Olympic team was named, with some interesting guys on there. The all-prospect lineup would be:
C- Joe Mauer
SP- Cole Hamels
CL- Jesse Crain
Not a bad team. Except my memories of baseball in the Olympics was me overhyping Ben Sheets and Kris Benson to people because of their excellent performances.
- Jose Contreras will be mentioned in Cy Young debates next year, and Johan Santana might win it. In the NL, Mark Prior will flirt with an ERA under 2.00, while Josh Beckett gets a top-five vote.
- Is .250/.280/.500 from your 1B OK when you have Barry Bonds in left? The Giants may put Pedro Feliz out at first next year, they need to put their money in other places. Feliz could hit 30HR easily next season, but would doubtfully hit the .300OBP marker. Then again, don't be surprised if Rafeal Palmiero ends here.
- Follow-up from yesterday's column...reader Jody Maulton informed me that the rule is 50IP for pitchers and 130AB for hitters when they lose rookie eligibility. That means Rafeal Soriano lost his eligibility Tuesday, and Cliff Lee of Cleveland will lose his Friday.
- This site never talks about the current season, but I'm throwing in my views now. Here, quickly, are my awards and predictions:
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL Pennant Winner: Boston Red Sox
World Series Victor: Boston Red Sox
And yes, I really believe what I just wrote.
Back with a real column tomorrow. I'm currently looking at the past couple AFLs to see if it dictates future performance at all. I miss minor league baseball already!
2004 Rookie Contestants
As the days before the infamous WaTNeYs make their premier, I must start thinking about the 2004 Rookies of the Year. So in doing so, here's a look at players that should qualify next season for the AL:
I'm not exactly sure where the rookie cutoff is...if you know it, e-mail me....
New York Yankees- No one, are you kidding me?
Not an All-Star division. Youkilis was terrible in AAA, and will probably not get the job. De La Rosa will have a hard time as well, expect them both to get dealt. Kevin Cash is a great defensive catcher, so even decent offensive numbers will help his case. Arnold got worse as the year went on, so I don't like his chances. I'm a big Gabe Gross fan, I just don't see where he fits in on the Blue Jays. Matt Riley, a southpaw, probably is the choice from this division. He was a top pitching prospect a few years ago, and finally broke back on the scene. Gaudin may or may not be a rookie, but if so, has already proved himself in the big leagues.
To the Central: (Cliff Lee, Jimmy Gobble, not candidates?)
Crain may get the closer role, with Guardado and Hawkins likely out the door. Ford will probably not get a job until he's traded, simply too much of a logjam. Cotts proved he's not quite ready for the Majors, and the Sox have big decisions to make for the future of Reed and Miles. DeJesus is a solid bat, as he will be leading off for the Royals next season. Escobar has made significant improvements since hitting the Major League club, and may hit 30 home runs next season. Tadano will likely have a Hasegawa-like role next season, prohibiting him from the award. If Cruceta gets a rotation slot, he's a good bet, but the Indians can wait on Francisco and Jeremy Guthrie. Cody Ross has no real redeeming quality, and doesn't have the skills for this award.
Crosby is the front-runner, as the A's are handing him Miguel Tejada's job next season. Duchscherer will start the year in the five-slot, and Blanton should finsih in that role. Rett Johnson or Travis Blackley will get a spot in Seattle, and whomever does will compete. The Angels have to wait until their big five is ready, but they should sweep the 2005 awards. Nivar is a solid player who has no real position, and Dominguez isn't quite ready.
Check back next Tuesday for the WaTNeYs, and my 2004 ROY pix...
17 straight in 2004...but where?
Greg Maddux eclipsed a sensational record this week, winning 15 games for the 16th straight season. While I tend to agree with Rob Neyer that the record is a bit overhyped, Maddux is one of the two great pitchers of this generation. The other one, Roger Clemens, will likely be hanging his spikes up for the final time at seasons end. Maddux will enter the free agent market blind for the first time in his life, and actually with lack of desiring competitors.
The Braves know that the only way to keep their aging superstar is to offer him arbitration, where he would make in excess of $10M, a figure he wouldn't come close to approaching on the free agent market. So instead, the team will likely opt to decline him arbitration, meaning they can't negotiate with their best pitcher since Spahn until May 1. That means Greg Maddux has 29 teams to pick from, except not all will be vying for his services.
Why not? Here's the two numbers I would point out:
OPS against (courtesy of ESPN)
These numbers pieced with the fact that Maddux's ERA is the highest it has been since 1987 is frightening. Two weeks into next season Greg will reach the tender age of 38, and be more of an injury concern than ever. Randy Johnson's 2003 is testament to the fact that good things are always ended by old age.
Another disturbing fact is that Maddux's IP/GS was down to 6.1 this season. That figure is significantly lower than 6.95, his career mark. Basically, Maddux goes 6 innings on average, compared to seven during his prime.
But, here's a look at Maddux's 2003 half-season splits:
2003 Pre-AS: 7-8 4.63 135/126.1 76/22
Greg has improved as this season went on, which shows a little hope. There's gas left in this tank, and there's no better assistant pitching coach than Maddux. While I believe Leo Mazzone has a good argument for the Hall, not enough of his success is attributed to Maddux. He's helped establish many careers, and is a great acquisition as a player/coach.
So whom could be interested? Here's the following teams that will call Maddux's agent:
1) San Diego Padres
Now, let's see whom we can eliminate. Peter Gammons reports the Padres will not pursue Maddux, although I believe it would make sense. The Diamondbacks are in huge money problems, and although Greg would like to return home that doesn't seem plausible. Boston will have their priorities in acquiring Vazquez, Schilling, or Colon, with Maddux as a backup. The Cubs will also have priorities in other places, and likely have their rotation filled. But it would be nice to bring him home. Chicago's other team will have that in mind, but should also pursue Colon and Sidney Ponson first. Anaheim wants Miguel Tejada, and will throw millions his way. The Giants make sense, as Maddux would fit in nicely beside Jason Schmidt. But do they have the dough to bring Maddux in?
My final list:
I don't really believe Gammons that the team is more apt to sign Sterling Hitchcock than Maddux, and I think they'll pursue him. Texas needs a mentor, and having an ace like Maddux would give them 2004 hope. San Francisco needs rotation arms, and has no problem getting older. And I also threw in the Cubs, because who else will they go after?
B.A.S....Baseball After Selig
Prayers have been answered. Baseball fans have been saved. The new commissioner countdown has begun.
While I acknowledge the commissioner's job is the hardest in baseball (my resume won't be sent in), there are obvious blemishes in the game. The largest is the economic system, which lags behind that of the NFL and NBA. Restraints on owners must be in place, so that teams both stay in competition and minimize losses.
Another poster child for Selig's ugly career is the current state of Los Expos. I've stayed away in the past from writing on this, but have deep feelings on the subject. Moving unsuccessful teams to new locations isn't a bad idea, but split schedules are horrendous.
Finally, nothing demands more change than the draft. Baseball America and Mark Prior have popularized the amateur draft to its highest interest level yet. But baseball's lack of self-promotion (and a formidable marketing department) has delayed its emergence upon your TV screen.
CHANGING THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM
$150 million. That immense number is the rough estimate of the difference in payroll between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While the Rays are making significant strides, its virtually impossible for a $20 million payroll to reach one of $170M. The Commissioner's office must amend this problem, as nothing would help promote the game more than 30 competitive teams.
I tend to understand the hesitance to create a hard salary cap, there are more ways than luxury tax to help competitive balance. In my mind, there is nothing that would help more than a minimum payroll. While restricting the Yankees to one day have a $200M payroll will be difficult, telling Devil Rays' ownership to add $20M or be sold isn't. Here's the numbers that should be made if it were done today:
In other words, give teams one year to create an economic plan, then make them spend. Giving the Devil Rays $20M to go after players like Mike Cameron and Matt Clement would not only help competitive balance, but likely increase Tampa Bay attendance. These are obvious rough estimates, but wouldn't be difficult. Then, as the average payroll increases, as would the minimum.
What happens if owners fail to comply? The first time the team should get a warning, a slap on the wrist. The second time the ownership is fined, and Baseball looks into selling the team. The third year the team is sold with profits going to Major League Baseball, and not the former owners. Harsh, but necessary.
LOS EXPOS AND REALIGNMENT
News Item: The Players Association has rejected Major League Baseball's ploy for another split schedule during the 2004 season.
For a team to properly compete, basic things must be given to them. Among those include September call-ups and 81 home games. These rights were taken away from the 2003 Expos, and likely cost them a playoff berth. That fact is disgraceful to baseball, and precautions must be made so that never happens again.
In doing so, the Expos should be moved to the right home, as should other failing teams. Here's what I would do, in order:
1. Move the Expos to Washington D.C. There have been groups in D.C. investigating bringing a team to the nation's capital for years. Its one of the country's largest cities, and one of its most important. The team could play in RFK during 2004 and 2005, and a new stadium could likely be completed by 2006. Peter Angelos shouldn't scare Major League Baseball away, he's just a greedy owner looking for another dollar.
2. Move Tampa Bay to Mexico City. When talks of contraction were happening, the Devil Rays were eliminated because of an ugly 30-year lease. While this problem would likely stand in the way of relocation, 2 teams can't survive in Florida. Yes, the Florida Marlins can, but not a team in Tampa. The commissioner's office should look into the richest people in Mexico, and hope to put a team in the largest city in North America. After a trip to Mexico, I have never doubted a team could sell 30,000 tickets per game (at least).
3. Realign. This notion seems to scare Major League Baseball, but it shouldn't. The NFL's successful transition to 8 divisions is proof that it works. I think it's important that every division has five teams. Here's how the affected divisions work out (changes capitalized):
AL EAST: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, SENATORS
The present-day Expos would have to become an American League team, but I don't think that's a problem. Mexico City is only 929 miles from Arlington, which is shorter than the distance between New York and Tampa (1025 miles). The realignment would allow the Pirates and Phillies to start a Pennsylvania rivalry, and would give NL Central rivals (Cubs and Cardinals) more games against each other.
4. Future Expansion- If baseball was to start succeeding again, there are four places I would expand to. I don't see this happening any time in the future, but it is something baseball should always have off-hand. Here's my top 4:
1- Las Vegas (Pete Rose as owner?)
And that, my friends, is how baseball realigns and relocates itself for success. I can guarantee ownership groups could be had in the matter of hours for both D.C. and M.C.
JUNE AMATEUR DRAFT
I may see this as more of a flaw than other people, but I despise the way baseball runs its draft. There are three things that must change: who sees it, who gets drafted, and who does the drafting.
First, baseball must televise this event. Baseball America's website had a busy server in June, due to excessive visitors. The Baseball Primer discussion list was the largest I had ever seen. There is legit interest in this event, and ESPN (or at least ESPN 2) is better off showing this than the World Billiards Championships. Its insane to believe that people would watch every round, but to show the first five would be smart. It's probably wrong to start glorifying high schoolers, but the NBA already does it, and it would probably help interest in college baseball as well.
Next, if the event was to be televised, it would also need to be dramatized. The drama of draft-day trades in both the NFL and NBA keeps me glued to my TV screen every year. One could argue that those two leagues can see the results of these trades immediately, as football draft picks play right away. But while baseball's picks don't play right away, it would likely increase interest in minor league baseball, as people would want to see how their last trade acquisition is performing in the Southern League.
Is there anything that perplexes you more than international signings? I mean, was it big news to any of you when Sammy Sosa signed with the Rangers, or when the Expos inked Vlad? It wasn't to me. But what would happen if Sosa had been the first pick in the Major League draft? I'll answer that: then you would have known about Guerrero and Sammy long before they hit the minors. For this reason, a worldwide draft should happen. My belief is that the Japanese professional players should be the only ones not included. That means the Yankees could still sign the next Hideki Matsui, but the next Jose Contreras would have to be drafted.
In conclusion, there aren't many things I look forward to more than B.A.S. Let's hope the next commissioner realizes the most basic fact in this business: the fans come first. There will always be bickering between rich players and richer owners, but its us fans that pay their bills.
Keeping Up With Jones
T1 Mel Ott 1929-36 8 T1 Willie Mays 1959-66 8 T1 Sammy Sosa 1995-02 8 T1 Chipper Jones 1996-03 8 5 Gil Hodges 1949-55 7 T6 Jim Bottomley 1924-29 6 T6 Bill Terry 1927-32 6 T6 Joe Medwick 1934-39 6 T6 Johnny Mize 1937-42 6 T6 Jeff Bagwell 1996-01 6 T6 Jeff Kent 1997-02 6Sammy Sosa has 97 RBI through Saturday. If Sosa drives in three more runs this year, he will extend his current streak of 100 RBI seasons to nine--passing Jones as well as Mel Ott and Willie Mays in the process. Jeff Kent (with 91 RBI) will need a big final week to prolong his streak.
T1 Lou Gehrig 1926-38 13 T1 Jimmie Foxx 1929-41 13 3 Al Simmons 1924-34 11 T4 Albert Belle 1992-00 9 T4 Rafael Palmeiro 1995-03 9 T6 Babe Ruth 1926-33 8 T6 Mel Ott 1929-36 8 T6 Willie Mays 1959-66 8 T6 Frank Thomas 1991-98 8 T6 Sammy Sosa 1995-02 8 T6 Chipper Jones 1996-03 8Rafael Palmeiro recently increased his current streak of 100 RBI seasons to nine, vaulting into a fourth place tie with Albert Belle. Interestingly, all of the players on the above list who are eligible have been voted into the Hall of Fame.
Along with teammate Gary Sheffield, Larry "Chipper" Jones also stands a good chance of reaching the .300 BA, .400 OBP, and .500 SLG trifecta for the sixth consecutive season. Sheffield is a virtual lock at .330/.422/.601, while Jones (.301/.399/.510) is hovering near each of the magic marks.
1 Stan Musial 1948-55 8 2 Rogers Hornsby 1920-25 6 T3 Paul Waner 1926-30 5 T3 Hack Wilson 1926-30 5 T3 Johnny Mize 1937-41 5 T3 Gary Sheffield 1998-02 5 T3 Chipper Jones 1998-02 5 T8 Honus Wagner 1903-05 3 T8 Jack Fournier 1923-25 3 T8 Rogers Hornsby 1927-29 3 T8 Mel Ott 1934-36 3 T8 Jackie Robinson 1949-51 3 T8 Duke Snider 1953-55 3 T8 Larry Walker 1997-99 3 T8 Jeff Bagwell 1998-00 3 T8 Brian Giles 1999-01 3 T8 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3 T8 Todd Helton 2000-02 3Barry Bonds (.341/.533/.758) and Todd Helton (.353/.452/.622) are in the midst of enjoying their fourth consecutive campaigns of .300/.400/.500.
Jones and Sheffield also rank in the top ten in major league history. Manny Ramirez is working on four straight and will undoubtedly make it five at the conclusion of 2003 (.324/.427/.583), joining a group of Ty Cobb, Paul Waner, Hack Wilson, Foxx, Johnny Mize, and Mickey Mantle.
1 Lou Gehrig 1926-37 12 T2 Babe Ruth 1926-33 8 T2 Stan Musial 1948-55 8 T4 Harry Heilmann 1921-27 7 T4 Frank Thomas 1991-97 7 T4 Edgar Martinez 1995-01 7 T7 Babe Ruth 1919-24 6 T7 Rogers Hornsby 1920-25 6 T7 Tris Speaker 1920-25 6 T10 Ty Cobb 1909-13 5 T10 Paul Waner 1926-30 5 T10 Hack Wilson 1926-30 5 T10 Jimmie Foxx 1932-36 5 T10 Johnny Mize 1937-41 5 T10 Mickey Mantle 1954-58 5 T10 Chipper Jones 1998-02 5 T10 Gary Sheffield 1998-02 5While Lou Gehrig may have been more well known for his consecutive games streak, the Iron Horse is number one all time in consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBI as well as consecutive seasons with .300 BA, .400 OBP, and .500 SLG--a remarkable combination of durability and productivity. Once again, all of the players on the above list who are eligible have been voted into the HOF.
Although broken last year, Jones also has one of the longest streaks in N.L. history of hitting .300 with 30 HR and 100 RBI--a combination of feats Bill James called "a Hall of Fame season" (Gus Bell entry, page 761, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract). Jones only trails Mike Piazza, Vladimir Guerrero, and Helton for the longest run in league history. Piazza's streak ran out in 2000, while Guerrero will terminate his record this year due to a shortfall in HR (25) and RBI (79). Helton, on the other hand, has already assured himself of continuing his string (which I have included in the list below) by virtue of his .353 BA, 31 HR, and 115 RBI.
T1 Mike Piazza 1996-00 5 T1 Vladimir Guerrero 1998-02 5 T1 Todd Helton 1999-03 5 T4 Hack Wilson 1927-30 4 T4 Chuck Klein 1929-32 4 T4 Ted Kluszewski 1953-56 4 T4 Chipper Jones 1998-01 4 T8 Mel Ott 1934-36 3 T8 Duke Snider 1953-55 3 T8 Stan Musial 1953-55 3 T8 Hank Aaron 1961-63 3 T8 Willie Mays 1961-63 3 T8 Andres Galarraga 1996-98 3 T8 Vinny Castilla 1996-98 3 T8 Jeff Bagwell 1998-00 3 T8 Gary Sheffield 1999-01 3 T8 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3
Despite the fact that Bonds is leading the league in OBP (.533), SLG (.758), OPS (1.291), HR (44), and BB (145), he is unlikely to maintain his .300-30-100 streak, given his current RBI total of 87.
RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE
1 Barry Bonds 768 2 Edgar Martinez 490 3 Jim Thome 469 4 Manny Ramirez 463 5 Jeff Bagwell 462 6 Gary Sheffield 419 7 Jason Giambi 394 8 Frank Thomas 377 9 Chipper Jones 373 10 Mike Piazza 360
RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION
1 Barry Bonds 712 2 Mike Piazza 432 3 Alex Rodriguez 423 4 Edgar Martinez 411 5 Manny Ramirez 401 6 Jeff Bagwell 367 7 Jim Thome 358 8 Chipper Jones 350 9 Bernie Williams 347 10 Gary Sheffield 343Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Chipper Jones has been one of the top ten offensive players in baseball since his first full season in 1995. Through 2002, Jones ranks ninth in runs created above average and eighth in runs created above position. Only Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Jim Thome, Ramirez, and Jeff Bagwell are ahead of Jones in both categories during this period.
The bottom line is that Mr. Jones has been and continues to be a Blue Chipper investment for the Atlanta Braves.
Good morning everyone, today I will sound off on useless thoughts that have been circulating in my head. Good luck with the interpretation...
- To me, the Padres are the team to beat next season in the NL. This team will have a huge middle of the order, with Giles-Klesko-Nevin. Mark Kotsay should have a huge 2004, and Khalil Greene belongs in Rookie of the Year talk. Rumors will be wild on an Xavier Nady for Jason Kendall switch, and if that doesn't happen, the team will snag Benito Santiago.
And the pitching is also impressive. Rumors are swirling that Maddux will land in San Diego, giving the team a boost in every facet of pitching. And, two of my breakout pitchers for next year will definitly be Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy. The reasoning behind Eaton is the extreme success he's had a year away from surgery. For people like Roy Halladay and Kerry Wood, it took one recovery year to re-adjust to pitching. Eaton's hit rate is down, and he is still striking out. The same holds true for Peavy, who will be seeing his third year in the bigs at 23 next season. Along with Brian Lawrence and Ben Howard, this team is poised for a run.
- Joining them in the playoffs should be the Cubbies. Next year the Cubs should be sensational, especially if they take my advice and sign Tejada. He would give them a huge bat, and allow Randall Simon to be non-tendered. Juan Cruz is another pitcher who you should buy next year, and Corey Patterson will be back full-time. Watch out!
- Two random pitchers you probably didn't see having huge second halfs: Kip Wells and Javier Vazquez. There's an increasing likelihood that Vazquez will be wearing a Red Sox uniform next season, and he should have a Pedro-like effect. He has one of the better H/9 numbers in the game during this second half, and has a K/9 of nearly nine. Wells has had similar success, although he just can't get a win in Pittsburgh. But he and Wade Miller have both favored the second half, a note you may want to keep for Fantasy Baseball 2004.
- People in Montreal have been quite happy to hear the team is speaking with Vladimir Guerrero's agent. Hogwash. Major League Baseball is simply doing this so that when Guerrero locks up in Baltimore they can shrug and say, "We've tried." The leagues inability to find an owner for this team may have been the single most disgracing thing in Selig's tenure. On Monday, I'll be writing about where MLB should be in 2008 (after Bud), and you better believe Expo relocation is included.
- Interesting free agent news. The Arizona Diamondbacks are hoping to lower payroll $14M for 2004, which shouldn't be bad because of Matt Williams' retirement. But what was shocking to me was the fact that they are shooting for $55M in 2005. That surely means that Curt Schilling won't get another contract extension. One likely place for him will be...
The Texas Rangers have also indicated they'd like to drop their team payroll by about $20M next season. Rafeal Palmiero and Juan Gonzalez will take big chunks out of the payroll, although the team has said they'll try to bring back Palmiero. The lineup will be a good one, something along the lines of:
Michael Young- 2B
Not bad at all. The team should be reinvesting in pitching, but instead are waiting for Dominguez and Travis Hughes to establish themselves. The Rangers will win a division during A-Rod's contract.
- Lou Pinella is sounding off on his desires for the offseason. The Devil Rays want to add a power bat, and some relief pitching. Expect Tony Batista, Mike Cameron, and Carl Everett to all get calls. And Pinella will also want to add either Tom Gordon or Arthur Rhodes to his bullpen. Some interesting times ahead in Tampa.
- I'd also like to announce the first business day after the regular season ends, I'll be running the first annual WaTNeY awards. Categories will include Most Likely Hitter to Breakout in 2004, and best 2003-2004 free agent signee. Its something to look forward to. Oh yeah, and after that I'll be doing team-by-team organizational reports (two a day during the playoffs), and after the playoffs documenting what each team needs to do in the offseason. Oh yes, exciting times ahead on Wait 'Til Next Year.
I'll be catching the Chili Peppers tonight, so no baseball watching for me. Have a good weekend, and let's go Cubs!
Central's fate...in 2004
After a day when the Twins won the division and the Cubs gained ground on the Astros, I decided it was time to analyze the Central. But on this site, I won't give you my 2003 predictions (Twins and Cubs obviously), but rather a look into next year. Six teams...
There are three free agents I want to mention in conjunction with the Twins: closer Eddie Guardado, set-up man LaTroy Hawkins, and outfielder Shannon Stewart.
The latter has been the poster child for the resurgent Twins, as he's hit .331/.390/.483 in Minnesota. But the more important number is 37, the win total the team has since his arrival (against only 20 losses). Stewart has been a catalyst atop the lineup, and has missed only one game since the July 16 trade.
Yesterday on ESPN, Doug Mientkiewicz mentioned the team thought Stewart should be considered for the MVP! Granted, some wild names are being thrown out in the AL race, but I think it speaks volumes for what the team thinks of Stewart. And with his hitting leadoff, Christian Guzman can drop down in the lineup. The team will likely make re-signing Stewart its top priority, and tell Jacque Jones to start learning right.
Minnesota bullpen ARP leaders (from Baseball Prospectus):
LaTroy Hawkins: 18.7
As you can see, Hawkins and Guardado have been the two key elements of the Minnesota bullpen. But both sounded off earlier in the season about not being re-signed, and thus dropped in the favor of Terry Ryan. While J.C. Romero is having a disappointing season, he and Rincon could make for a solid finishing combo. And throw in the #1 relief prospect in all of baseball, Jesse Crain. A look at Crain's numbers:
High-A: 2-1 2.84 10H/19IP 25K/5BB
Overall, he saved 19 games, and allowed only 47 hits in 84 innings. During that span, he struck out 114 people, walking only 25. Crain is ready for the Majors, and should be able to close games as well. The team has used Grant Balfour out of the bullpen, and he'll likely be a middle reliever next season. Rounding out the bullpen will be a mixture of people from Carlos Pulido to Mike Nakamura to Mike Fetters.
Another area of worry is the starting rotation. The team holds an expensive option on Rick Reed, one that they will surely decline. Kenny Rogers is also a free agent at season end, and will doubtfully be pursued. Joe Mays recently went under the knife, although Eric Milton has returned. So, the team has four starters locked next year: Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Eric Milton, and Kyle Lohse. Look for the team to add another pitcher via free agency, like a Jeff D'Amico, or through a trade.
What may change the most next season is the infield. Justin Morneau will be ready to play 1B everyday next year, meaning Doug Mientkiewicz will be non-tendered. There have been rumors that Luis Rivas will suffer the same fate, although thats doubtful. Corey Koskie has a team option for next season, and the team will probably pick it up. But they could opt for trying Cuddyer everyday, and to look for a 2B, and give Rivas the boot. Behind the dish, A.J. Pierzynski has one more year before super-prospect Joe Mauer strips his starting spot from him.
My 2004 Twins lineup:
1. Shannon Stewart- LF
Ken Williams did all he could to put a winning team on the field this season, yet it still failed. Jerry Manuel won't be coaching Chicago next season, and I have my bets on Francone or Willie Randolph. This team has talent, but this may have been their best chance.
Reports say the team is close to signing Roberto Alomar to a two-year extension. This would be a mistake, as signing Adam Kennedy and platooning him with Tony Graffanino or Aaron Miles would be a better idea. Jose Valentin will be back next season, as will Graff, one of Williams' favorites. And since Alomar is being retained, chances are Sandy Alomar will return for a final hurrah.
After that, we know Magglio and Frank will be back...little else. There's speculation that Everett won't be brought back, and that either Lee or Konerko will be dealt. I don't think its a bad idea to trade Konerko, but Carlos is one of the prized jewels of this team. Plus...I have his jersey. The team may also bring back Everett, and try to keep a very similar team offensively.
But what must change, is the pithcing. Loaiza, Buerhle, and Garland are all guaranteed jobs next year. I worry that Colon will opt to leave Chicago, choosing the likes of Boston instead. But Williams will get a starter, and he has long been enfatuated with Sidney Ponson. The fifth spot will be a battle between Scott Scheonweis, Josh Stewart, Dan Wright, and anyone the club may bring in (Lidle?).
With all these signings, its the bullpen that will suffer. Billy Koch needs to bounce back next season, and Damaso Marte must continue his success. Kelly Wunsch will maintain his great LOOGY skills next year as well. After a good 16 innings in relief, Dan Wright may be back there next season. I've long said his knuckle-curve is suited for relief, where it would give hitters a different look.
So, what do you trade Konerko for? Prospects. This team could compete next year, but also must be thinking about the future. Bringing back Brian Daubach, and finding a platoon mate for the DH role isn't a bad idea. Then, get a solid pitcher for Konerko, who will replace Buerhle after he leaves in 2004.
There's just no more money left for Drayton McLane. The number one goal is keeping the team it has now, while putting more talented youngsters around them. You would think that means letting Brad Ausmus walk and substituting John Buck in, but the team has said that won't happen.
So, Buck will be re-signed, and offensively, the team may try to trade Richard Hidalgo. The team made a bad move giving him an extension, but his 2003 makes him tradeable. The Atlanta Braves, after they lose Gary Sheffield, or the Dodgers, are good teams to target. In return, land the fifth starter that you so badly need. Then, start Jason Lane (long overdue) in right.
Roy Oswalt will probably have offseason groin surgery, and hopefully put that injury behind him. Wade Miller is doing his annual 2nd half tear, teasing fantasy owners that he'll breakout one day. Jeriome Robertson has won 15 games as an NL rookie, good enough to put him fourth on my ballot. And Tim Redding has done a lot of good things as well. The team has enough candidates to fill a spot (Carlos Hernandez, Rodrigo Rosario), but should go after another top-notch arm instead.
Don't look for any change in the bullpen dominance. Next year the team will be going with Stone and Saarlos full-time, but will probably add a leftie to the mix.
This team won't be very different in 2004, but Gerry Hunsicker must use Hidalgo's big season as reasoning to land another starting pitcher (Odalis Perez?).
Mark my words: there will be no better chance for the Cubs to win the World Series then in 2004. Why?
1. Mark Prior
In conclusion, my 2004 AL Central picks are the Twins and Cubs, same as 2003. I didn't mention the Royals and Cardinals, who both have chances next season. The Brewers may very well finish fourth in the division, and are eyeing a playoff berth in 2006. More on that when I publish my organizational reports, the second week after the regular season ends.
Have a good day, and watch some baseball!
Checkin' on Jonah
You may or may not have checked out Jonah Keri's chat on Baseball Prospectus last night. If not, you missed the following:
Bryan Smith (Chicago): Jonah...please give me five names that will take big leaps next season. Thanks!
Jonah Keri: Mark Teixeira will have a similar leap to Hank Blalock v03 vs. v02. Brandon Phillips can't help but get better because he was Neifi-riffic this year...actually Neifi put him to shame. Adam Dunn will stay healthy next season, and cut down on his strikeouts just enough to trigger a healthy spike in production. Shawn Green will have a bounceback year after fixing his shoulder. Pat Burrell's 2003 season will look like a weird fluke five years from now.
The Bryan Smith from the question? Yes, that's me. Luckily, Jonah's answer gave me the subject of today's column. I decided to look into the five players PECOTA cards (a necessary tool and worthy of the Premium subscription), and see if I agreed with Jonah's prediction. I mostly looked for similar players, and decided to see how the rest of their career turned out.
So, without further adieu...
1) Mark Teixeira (1B/3B/OF)- What's interesting is that Jonah chose this, after I had started to prepare writing an article on him. I agree that Teixeira has some good years ahead of him, anything from winning the HR crown to leading the league in average.
What I don't agree with, however, are the PECOTA comparisons. While Nate Silver's computer throws names out like Dwight Evans and Jack Clark, my own research led me to Frank Howard, Billy Williams, and Ron Kittle. Let's look at these three players in their rookie seasons:
Howard (1960)- 268/320/464 23HR 77RBI 32BB/108K in 448AB
Teixeira (2003)- 259/332/477 23HR 77RBI 41BB/112K in 486AB
I think the best of these three comps is Howard, although I wouldn't rule out the incredible career of Howard. He didn't do well the next year, a season shortened by injury. But Howard was a four-time All-Star, including three seasons above forty homers. He never topped a .300BA though, and I do think Teixeira has the capability to do that.
If I was to use Billy Williams as an example, Billy kept his homers around 25-30 his whole career, but increased his batting average. Williams finished his career a .290 hitter, but topped the .300 mark multiple times.
Mark Teixeira could go either way, although next season we should begin to see his true potential. In 2004, Teixeira will likely start hitting in the fifth hole, settling behind Alex Rodriguez and Hank Blalock. They'll be ducks on the pond...can Teixeira deliver?
2) Brandon Phillips (2B)- I'm not so sure on Phillips. Jonah's reasoning for improvement is basically, 'He really can't do any worse.' Yes, Phillips is hitting 208/242/311 this season, which is even below PECOTA's 10th percentile guess of 217/278/337. He barely hit the Mendoza line in AAA, and is looking more like Wilson Betemit than Nomar Garciaparra.
PECOTA threw some interesting comparisons this way, including Jose Valdivielso, a 50s SS with a short history, Bobby Valentine, and Paul Blair. For a Phillips' fan, one can hope for Paul Blair, whom was a tiny OF with Baltimore in the 1970s. Here's a look at Blair's rookie season, then that of Phillips:
Blair ('65)- 234/302/338 5HR 19 2B 8SB in 364AB
Very similar. Their body types are very similar (Blair was 6' and 171lb. to Phillips 5'11'' and 180), and both were good at defense. Phillips showed power promise in the minors, and Blair converted that in the Majors. His high was 26, although he also posted numbers of 18 and 17.
Paul Blair was sensational in 1969, becoming a 20/20 player, gold-glove outfielder, and made his career high in batting average. Don't be surprised if Phillips has a breakout season like that at one point before his career is over. But next year? No, look for numbers along the 250/320/400 line next season.
3. Adam Dunn (OF/1B)- Yes, this may just be Prospectus' way of hoping a former cover boy doesn't go bad. They've had bad luck with Dunn, and Josh Phelps hasn't exactly been sensational this year. Dunn had a bad 2003, in which contact posed to be a huge problem. He showed the unique ability to near 30 homers and the Mendoza line. But at the same time, he can still manage an OBP around .350.
This is an extremely hard player to compare, as not many people (ever) have had the batting eye he does. PECOTA threw out some interesting names, but perhaps none better than Tom Brunansky. The former Twins all-star outfielder is a good comparison, although he wasn't capable of 100 walks in a season (he maxed at 86). Here's a look at the first three seasons each had:
Brunansky '82: 272/377/471 20HR 46RBI in 463AB
Dunn 2001: 262/371/578 19HR 43RBI in 244AB
One glaring difference is the fact that Brunansky steadily improved his first three seasons, and Dunn has made serious declines. Bob Boone did a lot of stupid things this season, like putting him at leadup, but this was still a lost year. He has a very long swing, and pitchers exploit it often. I think there's a good chance Dunn will hang around the .250 mark for his career, but that means OBP of .375, and he should knock about 40HR.
Brunansky? No, he never hit the 40HR mark. He maxed out at 32, the same year he was selected to the Midsummer classic. What's noteworthy is that it was his fourth year.
4. Shawn Green (OF)- Shawn Green is a superstar, and this season shouldn't take that away from him. In the past, Shawn has put up some insane numbers at one of the game's hardest stadiums, Chavez Ravine. But Green has to use the rest of his career to prove that hitting 91HR in two seasons wasn't a fluke.
That being said, I wasn't all that surprised when PECOTA spit out Roger Maris, responsible for the largest fluke season ever. But I looked past Maris, and Don Baylor, another PECOTA comp. Instead, I focused on Rocky Colavito, the six-time All-Star. Colavito played from 1955-1968, hitting 374 HR, and appearing on MVP ballots three times. Here's a look at Colavito from 1061-1063, when he took his huge plunge:
RC 1961: 290/402/580 45HR in 583AB
And here's a recap of what Green is on the verge of:
SG 2001: 297/372/598 49HR in 619AB
Insanely similar numbers! Both had MVP-type seasons in the first season I listed, a small dropoff the next year, and a tailspan in the latter year. What was especially noteworthy was how the average remained in tact, but the SLG% fell out from underneath the player.
Colavito hit 34HR the next season, boosting his OPS back to where it belonged. After that a residual decline led to the end of his career, and a quiet retirement. Shawn Green could have a very similar couple of seasons, returning to 2002 form next year, before slowly walking away.
5) Pat Burrell (OF)- Probably the largest mystery of 2003, and the reason the Phillies haven't locked a Wild Card berth. Burrell was signed to an extension prior to this season, and now has underperformed the PECOTA 10th percentile projection. Jonah suggests that this is just an aberration, yet a similar comparison yields different results.
In 1974, the American League posted low offensive numbers, allowing 23-year-old outfielder Jeff Burroughs to win the MVP. Burroughs followed it up with a pathetic 1975, and was gone as quickly as he had come. A look into Burroughs '74 and '75:
Burroughs '74: 301/397/504 25HR 118RBI in 554AB
And now let's compare that to Pat the Bat:
Burrell 2002: 282/376/544 37HR 116RBI in 586AB
Another very similar comparison. After his horrible 1975, Burroughs saw his SLG drop even more to .369 in 1976, before re-emerging. He caught on again in 1977, hitting 41HR, and was a 1978 All-Star. While Burroughs sat in a two-year slump, I find it more plausible that Burrell will rebound next year. Will he hit 40HR? Probably not, but at this point the Phillies are praying for baby steps.
Here's my 2004 predictions for all these hitters:
Mark Teixeira- 275/350/500
Revamping the Worst World Series (2002)
It's not very difficult to argue that the 2002 World Series was the worst of all-time. It gave viewers two Wild Cards, that used two weeks of good play to make the Big Dance. The Angels proved sabermatricians wrong by showing us that clutch hitting really does matter, and showed MLB the flaws in the playoff roster rules. The Giants used the fear of one batter, Barry Bonds, to revolutionize the way baseball is played.
In 2003, we have seen these teams spiral into two different directions. Anaheim is very close to becoming the first American League team to win the World Series, and then finish in last place. Injuries and lack of luck have brought the Angels record down, along with playing some of the worst 2nd half ball in the Majors. The Giants, on the other hand, have had this division for a couple of months now. Barry Bonds has spent numerous days away from the team, as has potential Cy Young winner Jason Schmidt. But the team has fought through all of this, and is threatening to finish with the best record in the National League.
In the news this week, Barry Bonds has flirted with the possibility of retiring in 60 days. We have to look at where this would take the Giants, and how new ownership will effect the Angels...
Angels Free Agents
San Francisco Free Agents
After a World Championship, Angels' management was perfectly content keeping the same team, not seeing any holes. This disappointing season has created new thought. In the last month, I've heard the following rumors:
1) Lee Sinins reported in the Sept. 10 ATM report that Bill Stoneman has a starting pitcher on the top of his wish list. Sinins mentions free agents Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, Greg Maddux, or acquiring Javier Vazquez or Livan Hernandez through trades.
2) The team has expressed interest in SS Miguel Tejada, and on September 9th, Tejada expressed interest in the team as well. The team has also been linked to Japanese SS Kaz Matsui.
3) Carlos Beltran has also been reported (by the LA Times) to be high on the Angels' wish list.
Peter Gammons has reported the team will non-tender Adam Kennedy, and would like to get rid of Darin Erstad. By pursuing a SS in Tejada or even Matsui, the team is moving everyone's favorite player David Eckstein to second. The team will go with Bengie Molina, Scott Spiezio, and Aaron Sele one more season before the likes of Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Bobby Jenks take over.
Darin Erstad's nagging hamstring may move him to 1B, or him and Tim Salmon could take tuns filling the empty DH hole. Ideally, the team's lineup would include the following:
Until Santana and Jenks come in, the Angels have a front four locked into the rotation. Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, John Lackey, and Aaron Sele all have jobs in their back pocket next season. Scot Shields had an opportunity to claim that fifth spot, but the team is convinced he is better suited for middle relief.
So, that leaves the team holes at SS, CF, and SP. Granted, the team could go with Alfredo Amezaga or Chone Figgins at short, Jeff DaVanon in center, and Shields in the rotation. But, this new ownership needs to put a winner back on the field, and try to prove that the 2002 version wasn't a fluke.
There is no questioning the team's ability to trade for any players, as Dallas McPherson would likely go to Kansas City in a Beltran trade. Alberto Callapso, ranked in my top 10 2B list, also could be dealt. The team has a host of pitchers besides Santana and Jenks, like Joe Torres, with considerable upside.
I think the Angels should go hard after Tejada, who has shown interest in the team. After landing him, the team could platoon Davanon and Figgins in center. Then, trade Amezaga and former prospect Chris Bootcheck for Livan Hernandez. This would give the team offensive threats, a much better defense, and more innings from their starters.
Moving on to the Giants...
First, let's say Barry doesn't leave. Inside we all know he wants that record, and the money he is passing up is insane. Here is the 2nd half performances of the four potential Giant free agents:
Snow (1B)- .253/.346/.341 in 91AB
Aurilia (SS)- .319/.353/.431 in 144AB
Outside of Aurilia, the other losses won't exactly be devastating. Snow and Cruz have fallen out of Alou's favor, and the Giants will almost surely decline their options. Santiago's age and decline in stats should lead to his exit.
But Aurilia is a different story. The SS played injured the first half, managing an OPS of only .709. But this big 2nd half with an OPS of .789 has changed things, and Aurilia is looking to be a big free agent once again. But with Tejada and Matsui grabbing most of the attention, there appears to be nowhere to go. My guess is the Giants will retain Aurilia, whom has spent his career in a Giants uniform.
So, from an offensive standpoint, the team has some holes. They'll probably allow Yorvit Torrealba to get the full-time job next season, but will likely sign an able backup just in case. First base and right field are huge questions. Don't be surprised if the first base job goes to Pedro Feliz, whom has never gotten a full-time job here. The team will pursue older options in the outfield, toying with players like Rondell White and Reggie Sanders.
Now to the pitching...
It wasn't long ago that the Giants had the best Major League ready pitching prospect depth in the minors. Jerome Williams has now hit the big stage...by himself. Kurt Ainsworth suffered a horrific accident in April, and then was traded in July. And top prospect Jesse Foppert was in the Majors for 21 starts, but will likely be out until 2005 with arm surgery. That leaves the team a little more short-armed than they would have hoped for.
Jason Schmidt, whom has elevated himself into true ace status, is re-signed next season. As is Kirk Rueter, whom the Giants need to have a successful and healthy 2004. Jerome Williams has done good in his first Major League trial, and could be prepared for a Sophmore jump. But, this team simply can't have the likes of Jim Brower, Kevin Correia, and Dustin Hermanson filling out this rotation.
Sidney Ponson has pitched great since coming from Baltimore, using Pac Bell's spacious dimensions to his advantage. The team would love to re-sign him, but it will be difficult. He rejected a 3-year, $21M offer from the Orioles, something the Giants would be hard-pressed to beat. Among others, the White Sox should be hot after his trail this winter, and the Giants might lose.
In the bullpen, the team will hope Robb Nen returns to full form next year. Felix Rodriguez will be gone next year, as the team is getting sick of flirting with his successes. I expect them to bring Tim Worrell back, unless some team considerably tops the team's offer. And Joe Nathan will return, whom is quickly becoming one of the Majors' best at retiring right-handers.
Brian Sabean must not worry about Barry Bonds this offseason, but rather have his mind here:
- Is re-signing Rich Aurilia necessary to this offense?
And the answers: yes, yes, Carl Everett/Raul Mondesi, try Brian Anderson and Pat Hentgen (flyballers) in the SP holes.
FACT: The 2004 Angels will not win the AL West.
Have a good one...
There are not many baseball publications I look forward to reading more than Sports Weekly and Baseball America. But this weekend, these two sensational magazines left me more than disappointed.
On Friday, I looked at the Baseball America Player of the Year award. Again, the 10 candidates were:
1. Josh Barfield- 2B- Padres- High A- 20 years old
2. Travis Blackley- LHP- Mariners- AA- 20 years old
3. Bobby Crosby- SS- Athletics- AAA- 23 years old
4. Prince Fielder- 1B- Brewes- low-A- 20 years old
5. Zack Greinke- RHP- Royals- high-A/AA- 19 years old
6. Joe Mauer- C- Twins- high-A/AA- 20 years old
7. Dallas McPherson- 3B- Angels- 23 years old
8. Greg Miller- LHP- Dodgers- High-A/AA- 18 years old
9. Jeremy Reed- OF- White Sox- High-A/AA- 23 years old
10. Alexis Rios- OF- Blue Jays- AA- 22 years old
The condition of having a prospect win the award was a need for Baseball America, taking out players like Fernando Seguignol. But, all these ten players are prospects, so shouldn't the winner go to the player with the best numbers?
Here's my pick vs. Baseball America's choice
Wait 'Til Next Year Choice:
Baseball America Choice:
So, Jeremy Reed (Wait 'Til Next Year's selection) won out in AVE, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, BB/K, and SB, but lost? Granted, Joe Mauer, the official 2003 Baseball America Player of the Year, has great defensive value, but very subpar numbers. Surely, Baseball America took this into account.
In the September 10-16 edition of Sports Weekly, the magazine gave their final Organizational Power Rankings. These are supposed to dictate teams' farm systems, but they also include the progress of rookies into the rankings. The magazine's list follows, with an occasional comment from the magazine:
1. Cleveland Indians- "Some conspicuous failures, but ample successes too"
Now I have yet to complete a final list, so I'll probably make some ignorant comments too. Why I thought thought those comments were bad:
- You mean to tell me the best thing they could say about their top choice was they had "ample successes" to go along with "conspicuous failures"? While I agree the Indians have a deep farm system, I don't think this was a banner year.
Enough complaining. I'm really working on my own organizational rankings, but I can't agree on a final copy. I'm shooting for some time this week, but I have a lot planned this week.
I should say that while I'm truly disappointed by these two magazines, I will still be an avid reader of both. And you'll see me referring to Baseball America a lot on this site.
And don't even get me started on the Billy Beane chat...
Walker Faces Tough Hurdle
News Item: Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle questions Larry Walker's physical condition and says the right fielder needs to decide in the off-season if he even wants to continue playing.
Walker, who has two years and $26 million left on his contract, is having his first subpar season as a Rockie and perhaps the worst year of his career. Does Hurdle really want Walker to retire or is he just trying to motivate his slugger?
My guess is if Hurdle wants Walker to retire it's because he would like to free up his salary to spend on younger, more productive players. At the same time, I recognize Hurdle's comments may be nothing more than a ploy to get the Canadian-born outfielder to lose weight and get into better shape for the 2004 campaign.
There is no doubt that Walker has been a great player offensively and defensively since he broke into the major leagues in 1989. Larry has won three batting titles (1998, 1999, 2001), tied for the eighth most in the history of the National League. The man known as "Walk" is also a seven-time Gold Glove winner, tied for the sixth most by an outfielder in N.L. annals.
Walker won the MVP Award in 1997, a year that ranks among the best statistically in National League history. He became the first N.L. player to total 400 bases since 1959, posted what was at the time the fifth highest slugging percentage (.720), and was the third player to hit 40 HR with 30 SB and 200 hits in a single season. Walker also captured three legs of The Quad and was four hits and 10 RBI shy of the league's first Triple Crown in 60 years.
In 1999, Walker led the league in batting average, on base average, and slugging average--the first player to win the so-called percentage triple crown since 1980. His last batting title is only two years removed, and his stats last year (.338/.421/.602) stacked up with nearly everyone not named Barry Bonds.
Over his full career, Walker has put together some of the best rate stats among right fielders in baseball history.
OBP OBP 1 Babe Ruth .474 2 Mel Ott .414 3 Manny Ramirez .411 4 Harry Heilmann .410 5 Paul Waner .404 6 Gary Sheffield .399 7 Ross Youngs .399 8 Elmer Valo .398 9 Larry Walker .398 10 Tim Salmon .390
SLG SLG 1 Babe Ruth .690 2 Manny Ramirez .599 3 Larry Walker .574 4 Juan Gonzalez .563 5 Hank Aaron .555 6 Sammy Sosa .546 7 Chuck Klein .543 8 Frank Robinson .537 9 Mel Ott .533 10 Babe Herman .532
OPS OPS 1 Babe Ruth 1.164 2 Manny Ramirez 1.010 3 Larry Walker .973 4 Mel Ott .947 5 Harry Heilmann .930 6 Hank Aaron .928 7 Frank Robinson .926 8 Chuck Klein .922 9 Gary Sheffield .919 10 Babe Herman .915
Unadjusted for ballparks and era, Walker's numbers compare favorably with the best of the best (with only Babe Ruth and Manny Ramirez faring better in the area of rate stats among players categorized as RF for their careers). As shown above, Walker ranks ninth in OBP (.398), third in SLG (.574), and third in OPS (.973).
I recognize that Walker's stats are inflated due to spending two thirds of his career playing home games at Coors Field, the most hitter-friendly ballpark in major league history. As a result, a more appropriate measure may be OPS+, which adjusts for ballparks and era. Walker ranks 60th among all players in the modern era and 12th among RF in OPS+. His total of 141 means he has been 41% more productive than the average hitter over his career.
Going by Walker's numbers this year, one can no longer make the case that he is still an elite offensive force. In fact, his stats on the road this year suggest Walker has become a mediocre hitter with his main strength being the ability to get on base via walks.
Walker's 2003 Home-Road Splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Home 65 210 52 70 14 5 6 42 47 35 .333 .462 .533 .995 Road 67 209 28 47 9 2 7 27 41 46 .225 .365 .388 .753
Not only is Walker struggling away from Coors Field this year, but he is in the midst of a very poor second half. This combo should serve as a warning to any general manager interested in obtaining Walker's services in the off-season.
Walker's 2003 First and Second Half Splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Home 89 292 61 86 17 7 9 54 62 52 .295 .428 .493 .921 Road 43 127 19 31 6 0 4 15 26 29 .244 .382 .386 .768
The trend is clearly not Walker's friend.
Hall of Fame Bound?
If Walker were to retire after this season, should he be voted into the Hall of Fame? Let's take a look at the HOF criteria as established by Bill James.
Black Ink: Batting - 24 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Walker falls a little short relative to the average HOFer in the Black and Gray Ink categories (partially due to the explosion in the number of teams and players in the expansion era, making it more difficult to lead the league or be among the league leaders than in the pre-expansion era). Walker is right on the mark when it comes to HOF Standards, and he exceeds by a good margin what it normally takes to be enshrined based on the HOF Monitor. Of importance, these criteria are basically absolutes and not adjusted for ballpark effects or eras.
Chuck Klein (902) *
Without even looking at this list, I had thought all along that Walker was the modern day Chuck Klein. Like Walker, Klein benefited by playing the vast majority of his home games in an extreme hitter's ballpark known as the Baker Bowl. The fact that Klein has a plaque in Cooperstown shouldn't guarantee Walker's induction, but it probably makes the argument on his behalf somewhat stronger. Importantly, Walker has been a better defensive player and base runner than his comparables which should serve to help his cause on the margin when the time comes around for the Baseball Writers Association of America to consider his candidacy.
I don't think Walker's case is clear cut by any means. His absolute rate stats scream yes, his road and counting stats say no, and his adjusted stats say maybe. Accordingly, it is my belief that Larry needs to come back and return to his previous form for at least the final two years of his contract in order to overcome any and all hurdles in his HOF path. If he retires now or comes back and plays at a level closer to 2003 than 1997-1999, I would not be in favor of Walker's inclusion.
And the Player of the Year goes to...
I'd like to start out today mentioning that yesterday I promised today would yield organizational rankings. I lied. These are the most difficult of all to place in order, and I should have it up by the weekend. Instead, today's theme is a little more timely.
Today, at 12PM Eastern time, Baseball America will be announcing their 2003 Player of the Year. Past winners:
2002: Rocco Baldelli
While Ankiel and Rauch don't fit the bill, the rest of these players have turned out to be very successful. Its a highly prestigious award, that takes a few questions into play:
- Is a player dominating A-ball less impressive than a AA pitcher doing well?
For a Player of the Year Award, the answers should be yes, no, and sometimes. The Baseball America award is usually given to someone whom has at least reached AA, and hardly ever given to a low-A player. Those levels contain hitters learning to use wooden bats, and pitchers learning to throw the ball over the plate.
While an 18-year-old will normally make for a better prospect than someone 4 years older than him, it doesn't matter for this Award. This should go to the most dominant player, taking out the Fernando Seguignols of the world.
Finally, position and what arm you use are taken into account, but only when the hitting or pitching is equal. A shortstop hitting even with a first basemen is more apt to win the award, but only if their offensive statistics are extremely close. And, left-handers are less common in the Majors, which should help their minor league status. But the player must clearly dominate his fellow right-hander to use that in the court of arguing this award.
And now, to the contestants:
1. Josh Barfield- 2B- Padres- High A- 20 years old
2. Travis Blackley- LHP- Mariners- AA- 20 years old
3. Bobby Crosby- SS- Athletics- AAA- 23 years old
4. Prince Fielder- 1B- Brewes- low-A- 20 years old
5. Zack Greinke- RHP- Royals- high-A/AA- 19 years old
6. Joe Mauer- C- Twins- high-A/AA- 20 years old
7. Dallas McPherson- 3B- Angels- 23 years old
8. Greg Miller- LHP- Dodgers- High-A/AA- 18 years old
9. Jeremy Reed- OF- White Sox- High-A/AA- 23 years old
10. Alexis Rios- OF- Blue Jays- AA- 22 years old
And now to the first elimination round...
1. Travis Blackley (SEA)- LHP
I did this for a couple of reasons. First off, while Crosby, Mauer, McPherson, and Rios had great seasons, they were overshadowed. None of them won an MVP trophy, and many have glaring weaknesses. Crosby's average is too low to win the award; Mauer only hit 5 homers! McPherson has an average that is still too low, and Rios needs a boost in slugging percentage.
The hardest cut was Barfield. Not only was he the California League MVP and a second basemen, he led the minors in RBI. But his numbers are dwarfed by those of Fielder. Barfield has a low OBP, due to a poor K/BB rate. This is not Jeremy Reed's problem, who finished the year with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts.
Another interesting move was not cutting any pitchers. Greinke has impressed me ever since going to the Winter League less than six months removed from high school graduation. Blackley almost won the Texas League pitching Triple Crown, and Miller was my top pitching prospect.
1. Travis Blackley (SEA)
I chose to eliminate the pitchers for a couple of reasons. First, while Greinke's final numbers look great, he finished the year a little poorly with high hit rates in AA. He's a sensational pitcher, but that tarnished his status. And Miller finished great, with the aforementioned 0.97 ERA in his last 14, but started too slow. His FSL numbers aren't good enough to be Player of the Year material.
We have it narrowed down to an Australian pitcher, former All-Star's son, and a lesser known college star.
Now for the final run-down...
Finishing in Third Place, due to facing subpar pitchers, and despite posting great numbers is PRINCE FIELDER.
Finishing in Second Place, because his strikeout rates aren't good enough to be POY material is TRAVIS BLACKLEY.
Which means that JEREMY REED, an unknown before 2003, has risen to take the official Wait 'Til Next Year Player of the Year, or WTNYPOY. Reed finished the season keeping his average above .400. He doesn't have great home run power, but stole 45 bases off good baserunning. Reed has the ability to play all three outfield positions, but profiles best in right. There is no better prospect in the game at understanding the strike zone, and Reed should reach the Majors next season.
When I give my organizational rankings this weekend, we'll recap to see if Baseball America agreed. Thanks and have a good weekend!
No Sheehan, TISTAPP! Here's my 50...
Baseball Prospectus, namely Joe Sheehan, are staunch believers that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. I disagree with this whole heartedly, maybe because I'm more of a prospect-fanatic than the normal (and sane) male. But while I agree that there are a number of factors preventing these players from making out, I'm not about to miss the next Dontrelle, the next Prior, the next Pedro.
My goal, is that through reading this site that you won't either. After plugging some numbers and using some odd thought, I have compiled my top 50 pitching prospects.
Dayn Perry wrote a series of articles on Prospectus writing what the current group of elite pitchers did in their minor league seasons. The consensus was that the upmost echelon of Major League pitchers dominate just average hurlers in H/9 in the minors. This was the most deciding factor in my ranking of pitchers, although age, level, scouting reports (from Baseball America) and what arm a pitcher uses were also important.
Here's the top 50 with periodical breaks so that I can semi-defend myself (stars by name indicate pitcher is left-handed):
This is where the top group of pitchers end. Miller got the nod over Greinke for a couple of reasons:
To the second tier:
15. Fausto Carmona (CLE)
Break. A couple of names will probably jump off the page that other sources don't agree with. Chadd Blasko is higher on my lists than many, but he did go 10-5 with a 1.98 ERA in 136.1 Florida State League innings. And while putting a 17-year-old in the 24th spot sounds insane, he truly was the dominant player in the Northwest League. Jeff Francis and Bobby Jenks finished the year as the two hottest pitchers, and definitly got recognition from me.
26. Joel Zumaya (DET)
Another pause. Milwaukee dominated yesterday's positional rankings, and do really have two top-30 caliber pitchers. Bobby Brownlie may not have thrown a lot, but he did great in the FSL with limited arm strength. Adam Loewen is also hard to judge, but he has top-10 potential. Zumaya, a Tiger, was put on the list for striking out 126 in 90.1 innings, but he may be a candidate for an arm injury.
Nearing the end...
35. Matt Peterson (NYM)
This is a group of misfits. We have a former college star in Peterson, a high-school first rounder in Honel, a former top-prospect in Riley, and a soft-throwing leftie in Connolly. The latter may have had the most remarkable season in the minors (16-3, 1.41), but his K numbers (104/166) don't get him love from scouts.
Rounding out the 50...
44. Luis Martinez (MIL) *
Mostly AA players who have solid hit rates but below average strikeout numbers. Claussen is a sensational story, and may turn out to be the 2004 Reds' ace. Luis Martinez is already pitching in the Majors, and most of these players aren't far behind.
OK, to recap, here's the top teams:
The Cubs and Braves are no surprise, they've been breeding arms for years. Baltimore has welcomed all four, in one way or another, to the franchise in about one season. The Blue Jays need for pitching will be replenished soon, and this list doesn't even include players like Brandon League and Francisco Rosario.
I should also mention that I didn't include any of the recent drafted players. I think Kyle Sleeth, Tim Stauffer, and Jeff Allison are all top-50 worthy, but they should prove it in professional baseball first.
Tomorrow I will try to make the organizational rankings, which is always a difficult task.
Before I go, I want to mention a new blog you should read, entitled "West 116th St.". Irina Paley has the makings of a good blog, and I won't discredit her too much for being a New Yorker.
Come back tomorrow...
Positional Prospect Rankings
Next couple of days you're going to see a lot of rankings from me. Be prepared. Today, we'll go with positions, and tomorrow I'll make an attempt on pitchers. Here we go:
The top five players on this list have very high potential. Mauer hasn't hit for power yet, but may post Pudge numbers in the Majors. Mathis seems to be more like Mike Piazza offensively, and is raw defensively. Quiroz had a great year, even playing through a collapsed lung. Navarro may end up being the top performer, but needs to prove that .350 in AA isn't a joke. And Huber got off to a slow start, but should move Piazza to first by 2005.
This group was really bit by the wrist injury bug. Five of the top six players had wrist injuries that truly effected their seasons. Power potential is the reason that Fielder, Stokes, and Howard have high rankings. I love Kotchman, but Fielder simply has more potential. LaRoche will be the first of the group to hit the Majors, getting an everyday job next year.
Second straight number one for Milwaukee. Barfield proved it this season, but Weeks could fly through the minors. Its a good group of players, and I think Cano tends to be largely overrated. The Yankees will probably use that to snag some awesome Major League talent, and then Cano will show he's still just a .260 hitter. Nix in Coors Field could be a mean mix, and he should start hitting his stride in 2006.
Upton is by far the best of the bunch. He draws walks, and showed improved defense as the year went on. A mix between Jeter and Nomar is the guess right now, and he has tons of potenial. Upton should be the favorite for the 2005 Rookie of the Year award. Notice its the second, 2nd place finish for a Padres middle infield prospect, and the third straight Brewer in the top 3. I think Hanley Ramirez is overrated, and most likely to fall in the Wilson Betemit hole. Theo Epstein will probably wait one more season before using Hanley wisely.
Not the greatest group. I really like Andy Marte, who is a more powerful, but slower, version of Upton. He understands the strike zone, and has been young for his level. McPherson caught fire at the end of the year, and the Angels may allow high-priced Troy Glaus to leave to make way for this kid. Ian Stewart, a top-15 pick in this year's draft, hit more than 10 HR in less than 250AB in Short-Season league, and gets the top Rockie vote. Colorado has three players in the top 10!
Reed gets the top-place vote for keeping his AA average over .400 for almost 250 at-bats. He's a smart hitter, smart runner, and smart fielder. If he makes the White Sox out of Spring Training, he's the favorite for Rookie of the Year. Rios and Sizemore are good hitters who haven't quite developed their power. Their teams won't rush them, and they'll likely debut in 2005. Notice the Brewers have a spot on every offensive list.
Come back tomorrow when I'll try the pitchers....
Yesterday we checked in on the current top three organizations, today I'll look at last year's top 3. The rankings I give are those of Baseball America's 2002 Prospect Handbook. Enjoy...
NUMBER ONE: CLEVELAND INDIANS
This was a rebuilding year for the Indians, and it didn't go quite to plan. The team thought they had two rookie of the year candidates in Brandon Phillips and Travis Hafner. They also thought Josh Bard would be a reliable catcher until the arrival of Victor Martinez:
Phillips: .209/.246/.320 in 325AB
Horrible. Phillips also failed drastically in AAA, not hitting the Mendoza line in 200AB. The team went with Jason Davis and Ricardo Rodriguez out of Spring Training, and those two haven't performed:
Davis: 7-10 4.60 161/154.2 82/42
The pathetic performance of Rodriguez led to his being traded to the Texas Rangers. In exchange Mark Shapiro landed Ryan Ludwick, a promising young outfielder. The team's attempts at bringing Brian Tallet and Billy Traber had two different stories: Tallet struggled and only has 19 innings; Traber pitched 15 games in relief before having 17 consecutive starts. There has been some promise in Traber, but the results are still disappointing.
Yet the All-Star the whole time has been an unknown, Jody Gerut. Gerut was acquired with Bard from the Rockies in exchange to Jacob Cruz. In 410AB this season, he's hit .280/.339/.507, hitting his 20th HR this weekend. Coco Crisp also had a promising year, hitting .282 in his extended time in the Majors.
A look at the top 15:
1. Brandon Phillips- Disappointing, questions fog future
A few other names to throw at you: Fausto Carmona and Kazuhito Tadano. Carmona dominated low-A, to the tune of 17-4, with a 2.06ERA. He allowed 117 hits in 148.1 innings, striking out 83 against only 14 walks. He finished the year in Double-A, where he will begin next season. His low strikeout total will hurt his prospect status, and next season is extremely important.
He also finished the year in triple-A. Tadano is a sensational reliever, and is hoping to be Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the Majors. He should debut next season, with a chance of making the bullpen out of Spring Training. He has an interesting past, but is one of the top three relief prospects in baseball.
Shapiro also had a great draft, using his two first-round picks in hitters Michael Aubrey and Brad Sullivan. Aubrey made his debut in High-A, and could be ready in 2005. Sullivan has immense potential, but won't be ready until 2004. Mark Shapiro has done well in his couple of drafts, and we'll see how good in a couple of seasons.
NUMBER TWO: ATLANTA BRAVES
Unlike the Indians, the Braves weren't planning on incorporating prospects this season. The only one was #11 Horacio Ramirez, who won the 5th starter job out of Spring Training. His numbers under the tutelage of Leo Mazzone: 9-4 4.17ERA 156H/157.2IP 88K/66BB. He was my personal Rookie of the Year pick, and surprisingly didn't embarrass me.
Top prospect Adam Wainwright has the perfect pitcher's body, and had an interesting season at Double-A. While his final numbers of 10-8, 3.37ERA look good, it was an inconsistent season. I think the team will send him to Richmond next year, rather than hand him a rotation spot. He's still a little raw, but has immense potential. His inconsistent season has made him slip a little though.
It was a tough year for Braves' hitters. Betemit had a 2nd straight disappointing season, managing only a ..315OBP and .414 SLG% while converting to third base. It was his second trial of Triple-A, and has one more season before he's a prospect no more. Carlos Duran, the seventh prospect, hit only .224 at high-A Myrtle Beach. First Basemen Scott Thorman hit .243 for Myrtle Beach, and former big-name prospect Kelly Johnson struggled at AA.
There were three hitters that didn't struggle:
Andy Marte (A+): .285/.372/.469 in 463AB
I included Francoeur even though it could be argued he had a bad season. The first pro-season for high-school outfielders can be unpredictable, and I think he handled it well. LaRoche has the chance to be the Atlanta first basemen next season, as Rob Fick is likely to be gone. Andy Marte was still young for high-A, but had a great season. He is the best prospect in this system, and the top 3B prospect in baseball.
Two pitchers that have flown up prospect charts are lefties Macay McBride and Dan Meyer. McBride pitched only in Myrtle Beach, going 9-8 with a 2.95ERA He struck out 139 in 164.2 innings, only allowing 164 hits. He is a solid pitching prospect. Meyer had a great year splitting between low-A and high-A. He finished cumulatively 7-10, with a 2.87ERA. He allowed 145 hits in 160 innings. He struck out 158 in the process only walking 32 hitters. He has an argument for being the best prospect in the system, although I believe that belongs to Wainwright. Expect Marte-Wainwright-Meyer to be atop most Braves' rankings.
Reviewing the top 15
NUMBER THREE: CHICAGO CUBS
Injuries really made it a difficult year for the Cubs' organization, but also allowed them to open their eyes on a few more players. Angel Guzman, likely the top prospect, only managed 89.2 innings at double-A. Andy Sisco only pitched 94 innings, with some sore shoulder complaints. If you look at Sisco's H/9 and K/9, it indicated much better things than that of his ERA. Bobby Brownlie, last season's first-round pick, was shut down early. Number seven prospect Luke Hagerty was out for the season, and another prospect, Justin Jones, was only pitching for 71 innings.
Yet all the while, the farm system did very well for itself. While Guzman, Sisco, Brownlie, and Jones only cumulated 320.2 innings, but only Sisco had an ERA over three. Brownlie pitched sensationally in his debut, but still had arm fatigue. He could rise to the top of the rankings quickly if the time off helps him revert to the pitching he was doing his Junior year at Rutgers. This four prospects are great pitchers, and the team must keep their arms safe.
While the injuries hurt, it helped the team realize they had some great players, like Chadd Blasko, Jae-Kuk Ryu, and Ricky Nolasco. Their numbers:
Ryu (low-A): 6-1 1.75 59/72 57/19
Ryu also pitched 78.2 innings away from low-A, but they weren't as successful. He killed an osprey, getting national media attention. He is a great pitcher, and will be much more ready for Double-A next year. Blasko was a supplemental first-round pick from Purdue, and pitched amazing this year. He will move to West Tennessee next year, and another year of this would make him the top prospect. Nolasco has the same token, and has great numbers as well.
At AAA, the team saw minor disappointments in Dave Kelton, Nic Jackson, and Frank Beltran. Kelton's .338 OBP is still under what the team would hope for, and Jackson's .699 OPS is pathetic. Beltran had a decent season, but only struck out 33 in 48.2 innings. All three will start next season in Iowa again, and must shown significant improvement.
1. Hee Seop Choi- Disappointing debut, should improve next year
That's it... Positional Rankings start tomorrow....
Top 3- Blue Jays, Angels, Brewers
The minor league season has been completed, and I wanted to devote a week entirely to the minors. I'll be all over the Arizona Fall League and do rankings a lot of times, but this week will be the first version. Today I'll be writing about the top 3 organizations. Enjoy...
The Blue Jays farm system had a good season, adding and improving a lot of young arms. As they add more into this system, the Major League team should start to compete a lot more. Here's a look at a couple of players in the system who had huge seasons:
Alexis Rios- .352/.402/.521 in 514 AA at-bats
Guillermo Quiroz was once the fourth catcher in the system, and is now the 4th catching prospect in all of baseball. He had a great year at AA, despite discovering he had a collapsed lung at the end of the season He has a good arm behind the plate, and a good eye at the plate. He'll be catching full-time in Toronto in 2005, and should be a very good offensive catcher very soon.
David Bush wasn't on the Blue Jays radar before the season, but now can make an argument for being the top prospect. Even after being pushed to AA he did well, and has immense potential. He'll be up at some point next season, and you will want to videotape his debut.
Other players: Russ Adams 2B/SS, Aaron Hill SS, Gabe Gross OF, John-Ford Griffin OF/1B, Tyrell Godwin OF, Vince Perkins SP, Brandon League SP, Dustin McGowan SP, Jason Arnold SP, Francisco Rosario SP. That depth is what will make them one of the top three systems in baseball.
Five. The reason the Angels have such a good farm system is because they have five number one prospects. They are:
Jeff Mathis C- .323/.384/.500 in 378A+ AB AND .284/.364/.463 in 95 AA
Ervin Santana- 10-2 2.53 98/124.2 130/36 in A+ AND 1-1 3.94 23/29.2 23/12 in AA
Mathis is the second best catcher in the minor leagues, and Kotchman is the second best first basemen. Dallas McPherson has flown through prospect lists, and should be the top 3B in a lot of prospect rankins. Ervin Santana, formerly Johan Santana, has made a name for himself in the top ten of pitching rankins. Its hard to include Bobby Jenks anywhere, but his stuff is as good as anyone's.
The team is very deep, and doesn't have many prospects past those five. But all five are number one-type players, and should all be ready in 2005. With good management, the Angels should be ready to go for another run in a couple of seasons.
Lou Palmisano- .391/.458/.592 in 174 Pioneer League AB
Palmisano, a catcher, was the team's third pick, and has been huge. He's still at a young level, but those numbers are mind-boggling. He'll advance to the Midwest League next season. Prince Fielder was a former top draft pick, and showcased future 50-HR power this season. He was second in all of the minors in RBI, being closely edged out by Josh Barfield. He is the best first base prospect in the world, and an amazing player. Corey Hart has done well since moving to third base, and looks good for the future.
Rickie Weeks has passed Barfield in most second base rankings, and ranking Fielder and Weeks will be very difficult. He dominated at Southern University, and while he's a little raw at second, he has a sensational bat. He'll likely be pushed to AA next year, with hopes of having him be the 2005 Opening Day second basemen. I've heard rumors that they'll consider him next year, but that's pushing it.
The team has many other great players, and are looking at this future lineup:
C- Lou Palmisano
1. Ben Sheets
CL- Ben Diggins
That's a good team, and one that will be competing for CHAMPIONSHIPS by 2008. It's very early to start saying that, but I like all those players. That doesn't even include Richie Sexson, Scott Podsednik, Geoff Jenkins, and a few others who have futures in Milwaukee. With proper management, this team could win the World Series in the next ten years.
That's it for today, more organization breakdowns tomorrow...
Truth and Consequences
Comment: Suzuki is a great player but an MVP candidate he's not.
Comment: Too bad he plays for Tampa Bay.
Comment: Hey, Adam. Ever think about trying another profession?
Comment: I know, small sample size.
Comment: Dummy me. I thought .300-40-120 was going to be more like it.
Comment: .410/.473/.627 with 9 2B, 26 R, 16 RBI, and 13 SB with 0 CS last 20 games.
Comment: Any chance of Giambi adding a second MVP Award this year to his resume has gone down the drain.
Comment: Bonds - 82 RBI out of 340 AB (.241); Pujols - 117/516 (.227).
Comment: Ramirez has Hall of Fame stats and a Hall of Shame attitude.
Comment: Some Like It Hot.
Comment: Monroe and another youngster, Cleveland's Jody Gerut (.303/.359/.566 with 17 HR vs. RHP), would make for one helluva outfield platoon combo.
Comment: Gagne is in the midst of the best season by a relief pitcher ever.
I had a whole column written out responding to Jayson Stark's last column. In the end, I gave my top 12 free agents, which I'll re-do. I'll re-write the article this weekend, and post it Sunday when Blogger isn't screwing me over.
BRYAN SMITH TOP 12 FREE AGENTS
I'd also like to thank Will Carroll, who mentioned me in yesterday's UTK. Will is going to interview Britt Burns soon, and I'll pass along the information. Have a good weekend, and please check back Sunday.
Deciding to take a break from year-end reviews for organizations, and write about September call-ups. Here are 12 players to look for in box scores this season, in order of date of call:
1. Chad Cordero (MON)- called up August 29- Cordero became the second player from this season's Amateur Draft to reach the Majors, second to the Reds' Ryan Wagner. The Expos surprised some people with choosing Cordero, but he was a cheap option who could help them this season. So far, Cordero has thrown three innings, allowing a hit, a walk, and no runs. In that time, he has struck out five people.
The team said they would convert Cordero to starting at the end of the season, but there's also a chance he'll become the 2004 closer. In A-ball, Cordero allowed 6 runs in 26.1 innings, striking out 17 during that time. Those numbers need to improve for this to be a successful month, but I think the kid has that type of potential.
2. Johnny Estrada (ATL)- called up August 31- While Estrada didn't win the 2003 IL MVP, he could have, hitting .323/.393/.494 during the season. I don't value this so highly anymore, as I have touted 2001 IL MVP and catcher Toby Hall. I predicted great things from Hall after winning the MVP, but it has yet to materialize. It's hard to tell if the Braves will let Javy Lopez walk and start their switch-hitting catcher, or if they don't believe like me. I guess the next month will decide Estrada's fate.
3. Bobby Crosby (OAK)- called up August 31- The question isn't if Crosby will have his chance next season, as the shortstop job is his. The team can't sign Miguel Tejada, and refused to trade Crosby even when it would have completed a Brian Giles deal. The team is hoping for more of Angel Berroa than Wilson Betemit, and is hoping he'll be more selective than his MVP predecessor. Billy Beane is an overrated GM blessed with good pitching, and the 2004 offense might be the worst yet.
But I should say that Crosby had a great year at AAA, setting his career high with 22 home runs. Overall he hit .308/.395/.544, but still struck out 110 times during the season. He had 24 stolen bases, but the A's don't value that statistic at all. Crosby is a great talent that is definitely a front-runner for the 2004 AL ROY.
4. Jeremy Griffiths (NYM)- called up September 1- Griffiths had a fantastic season at AAA this year, finishing the season 7-6 with a 2.74ERA. He only allowed 94 hits in 115 innings, while walking 26 guys. Griffiths isn't a strikeout pitcher, and strictly relies on his control to get by. Tom Glavine may show the kid a few Greg Maddux pointers, or Major League hitters will make mincemeat of him.
Because despite pitching better than prospect Aaron Heilman, Griffiths isn't guaranteed a starting spot next year. The team will give slots to Glavine, Heilman, Al Leiter, and Steve Trachsel. That leaves Griffiths and Jae Seo, who impressed the team in the first-half. Griffiths needs a fantastic year to get to start next year, but long relief looks the most probable.
5. Felix Sanchez (CHC)- called up September 1- Typically, Dusty Baker doesn't like young players. But of the few he was raving about in Spring Training, Sanchez was one of them. It's unknown where the southpaw's future lies, be it in the bullpen or a starting role. He has the stamina to start, yet the pitches to close. He'll move up to AAA next year, but will likely be highly considered to replace Mark Guthrie in 2004.
Here's Sanchez in '03: 2-2 3.23 57H/64IP 55K/31BB. So he must improve his control, and since I live in Chicago I'll get a first-hand account over the next month. But a youngster must be good to land on Baker's radar, which typically only sees the Shawon Dunstons of the baseball world.
6. Pete LaForest (TB)- called up September 2- I saw LaForest at the Futures Game, and I can tell you this: no one will question his bat. I think his potential is to be a rich man's Matt LeCroy, and even better than failed catchers Rob Fick, Craig Wilson, and Shawn Wooten. He'll either play 1B or DH next season, although I think Travis Lee will be retained.
LaForest had citizenship holdups, and began his season late. He finsihed the year with 201 AB at AAA, but made the most of it. He finsihed hitting .269/.382/.567, with 14HR and 36 walks. That means he'll lead the D-Rays in walks next year, and be battling for Aubrey Huff for the team HR title.
7. Humberto Quintero (SD)- called up September 2- Quintero was acquired from the Chicago White Sox for D'Angelo Jimenez, known for his Gold Glove behind the plate. Before moving to the San Diego franchise, he had struggled to hit the Mendoza Line. But this season was different, when Quintero hit .298/.343/.389. He had only three home runs and 19 walks, but the 26 doubles and 41 strikeouts are good.
Kevin Towers has wanted a catcher for a long time, and the team may pursue Pudge or Javy Lopez. But if Quintero has a great month, he'll allow the team to use the resources on other options. This guy has the potential to be a rich Jose Molina, or like his brother Ben with a better bat and weaker arm.
8. Khalil Greene (SD)- called up September 2- Yes, the Padres should have two good prospects playing everyday this month. But the latter, Greene, is far superior. Greene was the 2002 Golden Spikes Award, given to the best collegiate player. He was drafted 11th overall, and his rise to the Majors has been fast. He struggled at AA, hitting only .275/.327/.406 in 229AB. For some reason, the club decided this was enough for a promotion, and moved him up to the PCL. That was motivation enough for Greene, who turned it up a notch, hitting .288/.346/.442 in 319AB.
Greene is prone to strikeout a lot, and doesn't walk either. He hit only 13 home runs in over 500AB, but 10 of those came in AAA. He doesn't steal bases, and profiles as a #2 hitter good for 20 homers. I'll create a shortstop prospect ranking next week, and he'll undoubtedly hit in the top ten. It's obvious that the B.J. Uptons and J.J. Hardys are superior, but its hard to discern if he has more potential than Jose Lopez. We'll see...
9. Luis Martinez (MIL)- called up September 2- The Brewers have opted not to call up members of their great farm system this year, all except for Martinez. Not mentioned in the same breath as most of the Brewers prospects, Martinez catapulted himself this year, and has a rotation slot next season locked up. After going 8-5 with a 2.89ERA in AA, Martinez went 4-0 with a 0.99ERA in 7 AAA starts. The southpaw's great season should make him the Brewers best pitcher next year, possibly surpassing Ben Sheets. This is the best farm system in baseball, and Martinez is the first of the bunch to hit Miller Park.
10. David DeJesus (KC)- called up September 2- The next great KC outfielder? Could be David DeJesus, who has shown better leadoff skills than Johnny Damon did, and will play center if Carlos Beltran is traded in the offseason. David had a fantastic year playing mostly for AAA:
AAA- .298/.412/.470 5HR-23RBI 34BB/30K 8SB/4CS in 215AB
Those numbers have put DeJesus over Alexis Gomez, a skills-type player. With the walks and the ability to run well, the team sees their future leadoff man in David. The team also has Byron Gettis coming up the ladder, and he's another outfielder to watch out for.
11. Aaron Miles (CHW)- called up September 2- Miles is a short second basemen who will undoubtedly draw comparisons to David Eckstein. He is a little old, but should be entering his peak years in the coming seasons. He was named the International League Rookie of the Year, following being on the Southern League All-Star team. His final numbers were .304/.351/.445, hitting 11 homers in almost 550 AB. He was one of Jerry Manuel's favorite players in Spring Training, and had a very good season.
Baseball Prospectus recently described in their Chicago White Sox PTP that Robbie Alomar hasn't meant as much as he's given credit for, and Ken Williams should recognize that. Miles could handle the job next year, and produce similar, if not improved output. He doesn't run that well, but plays solid defense, draws his walks, and plays his heart out. This kid deserves a chance.
I'll be back tomorrow, and have decided that next week is officially minor league week. Thanks for reading, and come back soon!
Here and There
Yesterday I wrote about the Baltimore Orioles, and the great loot they got for Jeff Conine. But I didn't do enough criticizing of Larry Beinfest and the Marlins. While its noble the team is going for the Wild Card, its hurting their future in doing so. Here's what they've given up for Conine and Ugueth Urbina:
Adrian Gonzalez- Third overall prospect
Not to mention the fact that this season the team has lost Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Majors. What was once a thriving farm system with loads of depth is quickly becoming quite bare. Though, the team's goal is to bring people to the stadium and they've done that this season. How?
1. Pay $10M for Pudge Rodriguez, well-known in the community
Jeffrey Loria is trying very hard to make Florida baseball work, and I think it may. The team will use Conine at first base next season, allowing them to trade (or non-tender) Derrek Lee. Cabrera will likely stay in left, leaving second base as the only significant hole. If Pudge doesn't return, and I don't expect it, Ramon Castro is more than ready. Signing Luis Castillo is important for this team, as he's been here since the World Series. More on the Marlins in a future article...
Another trade I didn't depict detailed enough was the Brian Giles trade. I devoted a whole article to the Padres, as I expect them to win the 2004 NL West crown. But I chose not to write about the Pirates, who dealt their best player. August 11, in my first article, I stated Dave Littlefield had gotten too much heat. Not anymore. There wasn't reason to trade Giles, and the value wasn't sufficient. Waiting until the offseason, like the Royals with Beltran, would have been the best idea. But here's what they got:
Oliver Perez- One of my 2003 break through candidates who has let me down. Last season Barry Bonds called Perez the best young leftie he had seen all year. After that praise, Perez followed up the season pitching often in the Mexican Winter League. He was very tired this Spring Training, and struggled early on. His Major League numbers:
Perez ML- 4-8 5.77 107H/106IP 118K/70BB
He's figured out how to strike people out, but not to control his pitches. His first start for Pittsburgh went dreadfully, as he lasted only seven outs against the Atlanta Braves. He's going to be a good one, but may end up in relief.
Jason Bay- Traded to San Diego in the Steve Reed deal last season. Here's a look at some numbers:
Bay minor league career pre-2003: .300-33-168 in 1025AB .852OPS
Not the toolsiest of players, but has gotten the job done. He's ready for the Major League, and could hit 20 home runs next season. His upside isn't very high, definitely lower than that of J.J. Davis. Expect him to get his chances in Pittsburgh, and become a solid player. But mark my word: Jason Bay will never be an All-Star.
Cory Stewart- Independent League signing by the Padres, paying huge dividends. Stewart is a solid leftie, who throws two good pitches and strikes people out. He's on the same level of a Mike Gonzalez, a player who's playing in the Majors right now. Stewart's 2003 performance in AA:
AA- 12-7 3.72 104/125.2 133/50
Very good numbers. Stewart has the potential to sit alongside Sean Burnett, John Vanbenschoten, and Brian Bullington in a rotation. I also think Perez will be in there, so Kip Wells and Kris Benson are very available. This team has big problems offensively, and must get some power bats for the corners. Who knows what will happen with Jason Kendall, and what Pittsburgh ownership will let Dave Littlefield do. But next season the Pirates will be battling the Reds for last place, as the Brewers climb to fourth....
An interesting look:
Player A- 6-5 218lb. LH pitcher
Player A- 193G 161GS 70-60 3.66ERA 8.59H/9 6.03K/9 2.03K/BB
Pretty similar careers, huh? Player A had his career over at twenty-six years of age because of a hip injury. Player B? Currently 26 years of age and on the DL with a hip injury.
Player A= Britt Burns- Chicago White Sox
Now I should mention that Burns had a chronic hip condition that ended his career, while Mulder's is just a stress fracture. I don't know much about hips though, and have an e-mail out to Will Carroll. When he lets me know, I'll pass on the information....
Drew Henson is quitting baseball. I thought on a site of the future I should mention that, and give my best of luck to Henson. Next on the slate: Joe Borchard.
A quick football look: Henson is currently property of the Houston Texans, whom used a sixth-round pick on him this season. They have exclusive negotiating rights on Henson until the 2004 draft. Henson's three options:
1. Sign with the Texans and backup David Carr
I expect the final option to be exercised, and think that Henson is worthy of a first-round pick. I remember watching him back-up Tom Brady at Michigan, begging Lloyd Carr to give him a full-time job....
Following up my article on the Padres, I remembered another fact. I read an article where Kevin Towers stated he was interested in getting a good defensive 1B. Klesko is horrid, and is better suited for the outfield. The team could keep Nady in AAA for another season (or trade him), and move Klesko to the outfield.
Then, the Padres would go after either Doug Mientkiewicz or J.T. Snow. Mientkiewicz is the better option, and would make sense on that team. It's just an idea, but I think its a subplot to watch for in the Padres offseason....
The 2002 World Champs, the Anaheim Angels, could be looking different next season. There's a good chance that the middle infield (Eckstein and Kennedy) won't be back next season. In their place would be penciled Chone Figgins and Alfredo Amezaga. The team would then be interested in signing either Miguel Tejada or Japanese product Kaz Matsui.
It's also league news that the team is interested in dumping Darin Erstad, and adding a big outfield bat. Carlos Beltran and Vladimir Guerrero have been mentioned, and Beltran makes sense. The Angels have probably the best farm system in baseball, and could swing Erstad, Dallas McPherson, and Bobby Jenks in the Royals' direction. This team is going to look very different, an article on them could be expected very soon...
A few mini-scandals in baseball recently:
- Manny Ramirez spotted in a bar with Yankees coach. Oh my God! I saw an interview Ramirez did with Joe Morgan, when he said he'd enjoy playing for New York. He grew up blocks from the House that Ruth Built, and could see finishing his career there. So while predicting what's going to happen in 2010 is a little insane, my bet is Ramirez finishes a Yankee.
It's about mid-day on Labor Day, and I changed my mind and decided to make a post. What made me change my decision? The Baltimore Orioles. The new two-headed GM has made the organization flourish, and built the fastest growing farm system in baseball.
Yesterday, the Orioles traded Jeff Conine to the Florida Marlins for Denny Bautista and Don Levinski. Let's look at their numbers:
Bautista- 4-5 3.71 45/53.1 61/35 in 11 AA starts
Bautista was one of the Marlins top five prospects this year, and even made it to the Futures Game. Non-serious injuries shortened his year, and worsened his numbers. I saw him in Chicago, and he looked great. Pedro Martinez's cousin throws 95+ mph gas, and a good hard slider. He may have a few more starts in AA left before AAA, but should (at least) be a 2004 September call-up.
Levinski came over from Montreal in the Cliff Floyd deal last season. I saw him pitch in the minors, and he is a similar player. He was shut down last season with shoulder soreness, so that could be a future concern. Levinski has a big fastball, but walks far too many players. He's someone to keep an eye on, but may be moved to closing at some point.
Not only did Baltimore get these two good prospects, but they subtracted Jeff Conine from their roster. Although he's been the most consistent hitter all season, he makes 4.75M next season, far too much. The team is going to spend a lot of money this offseason, and this gave Beattie and Flanagan some extra money.
Also remember, the two-headed GM made a great trade sending Sidney Ponson to the Giants. In return, they added Damian Moss, Kurt Ainsworth, and Ryan Hannaman. Moss is an innings-eater leftie with little upside. But Ainsworth was a former top prospect who has been hurt this season, and will be the ace next year. Hannaman is a hard-throwing leftie with tons of upside, light years away.
Call me crazy, but I think the Orioles have the best prospect pitching depth in the minors. Their best prospect is John Maine, who's first full-season pitching trial has been sensational. When you hear arguments about the top pitching prospects in the minors, you'll hear his name. Here's why:
14 low-A starts: 7-3 1.53 43H/76.1 IP 108K/18BB
Combined, he has allowed only 91 hits, in 146.2 innings. He's also registered 185K and only 38 walks in that time. The team also has last season's #4 pick, Adam Loewen, who didn't disappoint in his first nine starts. Daniel Cabrera and Rommie Lewis have ace-stuff, but they must learn how to throw strikes more consistently.
After years of having pitching injuries, the team is working back. Last season's #1 prospect, Erik Bedard, not embarassing himself in five rookie league starts. It's been a hard road back from Richard Stahl, but the jury still isn't out. Their top hitting prospect, Darnell McDonald, was hurt this season, but could have a job in the majors next season.
One of the organization's best stories has been Matt Riley. Their former #1 prospect has struggled to get back from injury, before this season. Splitting time in AA and AAA, Riley has re-established himself as a top pitching prospect. Expect him to get a job out of Spring Training, and be a full-time starting pitcher for years. A look at his 2003 numbers:
14 AA starts: 5-2 3.11 56/72.1 73/23
What a come back! On the Major League level, the team has started to make improvements. Melvin Mora and Luis Matos had breakout seasons, although Mora has been injured the last month. Matos has played a great centerfield and done well for himself at the plate. Jerry Hairston was showing sensational leadoff skills, which should allow the GMs to deal Mike Fontenot. Brian Roberts did a good job taking over for Hairston this season, but needs to show he can handle third.
The team hasn't hid the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is their number one priority this offseason. With Albert Belle and Scott Erickson leaving the payroll, they'll have the money. I think they'll re-sign Tony Batista, and may bring back Rafeal Palmiero to fill Conine's first base slot. They have a good bullpen, although Willis Roberts and Buddy Groom had tough seasons.
Mike Hargrove may not return next season, but the Orioles have tons of upside. Peter Angelos is finally ready to pump money into the team, and Camden Yards should fill up again. Expect the O's to get third place next season, and they'll start eyeing the top of the division by 2005.