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The Athletics have continued to adapt to changes in the market and the analysis of the game since the much-hyped Moneyball era, writes MLB.com’s Mike Bauman. Getting on base is still a key, says Bauman, but this year’s club is winning with success on the bases and in the field. Manager Bob Melvin explained: “A guy like Josh Reddick, even when he’s not swinging the bat well, can play because he runs the bases well and he plays good defense. There’s value to all different variables, and we do value all of them.”
- Of course, the most recent notable shift has been GM Billy Beane’s heavy investment in the bullpen, which continued with the Athletics‘ recent extension of Sean Doolittle. The club’s relief corps currently has a 2.71 collective ERA (fourth-best in the bigs), and could soon benefit from the return of Eric O’Flaherty. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the former Braves southpaw is nearing a rehab assignment and could be looking at an early June debut in Oakland. O’Flaherty was inked to a back-loaded, two-year, $7MM deal in the offseason.
- The Orioles may be holding their collective breath until tomorrow, when catcher Matt Wieters will pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews to receive an evaluation of his sore elbow, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Though Passan notes the possibility of a UCL tear, Wieters played today in the DH slot and manager Buck Showalter downplayed the seriousness of the issue in comments to reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (links to Twitter). Showalter said that the team simply hopes to learn more about the cause of the soreness, and hopes to have Wieters back behind the dish tomorrow.
- The Indians have struggled to nail down the back of the rotation in the early part of the season. After letting Aaron Harang go and seeing Carlos Carrasco struggle, says Zack Meisel of the Plain Dealer, the team will now give Josh Tomlin a chance to seize a regular spot. Manager Terry Francona explained that the decision-making out of camp was driven by roster limitations. “For what I think are the right reasons, we wanted to see Carlos pitch,” he said, noting that Tomlin suffered in some respects because he still had an option. “We tried to figure out a way to keep Aaron Harang. We had so many meetings about that. You want to keep depth, knowing that you’re going to need it.” Tomlin, a 29-year-old righty, was solid in his return to Cleveland tonight after missing most of 2013 to Tommy John rehab and then losing his arbitration case to the club. David Laurila of Fangraphs provided an interesting breakdown of Tomlin’s offerings and how he hopes to succeed in his return from surgery.
- Of course, the Indians also have a surging Trevor Bauer throwing at the Triple-A level. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes, the 23-year-old is among the top prospects in the game who are still waiting for their chance to shine at the major league level. For Bauer, who had 25 days of MLB service coming into the year, extended time in the minors would be needed to maintain an additional year of team control and avoid Super Two status. Rosenthal discusses the fact that several excellent youngsters seem ready for promotions that have not yet been forthcoming.
In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Keith Law examines some of the prospects whose stock has fallen this season due to poor performance and diminished tools. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and Kansas City's Bubba Starling are the first mentioned on Law's list of eight. Here's more from around the league…
- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels appeared on the Inside Pitch show with MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden today and told him that teams are waiting longer to place players on waivers in August in recent years. Teams are waiting for there to be fewer buyers before attempting to sneak players through waivers, he elaborated (Twitter links).
- The bullpen will once again be an area of focus for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. this offseason, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gelb examines the struggles the Phillies have had in developing relievers, noting that Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have been the only two reliable bullpen arms developed in-house by the Phils over the past decade.
- The Mets have given no consideration to releasing troubled utility man Jordany Valdespin in light of his 50-game suspension and recent temper issues, GM Sandy Alderson told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo (Twitter link).
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with new Diamondbacks reliever Matt Stites about his inclusion in last week's Ian Kennedy trade. Stites is likely done for the season after an emergency appendectomy, but the Snakes have high hopes that he will be a big factor in their bullpen for years to come, writes Piecoro.
We're just past the halfway mark of the 2013 Major League Baseball season and well past the midway point of the Minor League Baseball season. While taking stock of the top prospects from around baseball, a number of names appear in the "disappointment column," which is not surprising given the general volatility of young players. Below, we take a look at some of the prospects having disappointing seasons, as well as some educated guesses as to what might be ailing them.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox: Barnes' season hasn't been as bad as some of the other players on this list but it's still been a disappointing 2013 for the right-handed hurler. The former first-round pick was expected to zoom through the minor leagues and possibly even help the big league club this season, but he currently has a 5.32 ERA with 78 hits allowed in 67 2/3 innings at the Double-A level. As the Boston Globe's Julian Benbow explained, Barnes has been working on fleshing out his secondary pitches this season so he doesn't have to rely so heavily on his low-to-mid-90s fastball.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians: Bauer is the perfect example of the volatility of prospects. Selected third overall in the 2011 amateur draft, the right-hander out of UCLA dominated competition during his first taste of pro ball but the wheels fell off the wagon towards the end of 2012. Bauer's issues — both on and off the field — lead to an offseason trade and continued into 2013. His results at Triple-A have been less than ideal. After his most recent disastrous big league start, the young pitcher was returned to the minors and — according to a piece by Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal — he may focus on pitching exclusively from the stretch as a starter.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels: Los Angeles doesn't have a very deep minor league system whatsoever so when their top prospects stumble, it hurts them more than most organizations. The young third baseman is hitting just .215/.280/.309 at Double-A this season and some adjustments he made during the springtime could be to blame for his slow start. As Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com explained, the switch-hitting Cowart quieted his stance and eliminated the leg kick from the left side of the plate. He's still hitting just .198/.261/.275 versus right-handed pitching so clearly there are more wrinkles to iron out.
David Dahl, OF, Rockies: Like Bauer, Dahl's value is down as a result of well-documented off-the-field actions and maturity concerns. But those aren't the only things that have gone wrong for the outfielder in 2013. In early May, Dahl suffered what was expected to be a pulled hamstring while running the bases. About a week later, though, the prospect revealed on Twitter that his hamstring had been torn and was much more serious than first reported. That halted his season after 10 games (He got off to a late start because of the maturity issues mentioned above) and he hasn't appeared in a game since that time. His timetable for a return to the game is still up in the air.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds: Hamilton, 22, hasn't had a terrible year but he has yet to build off of the momentum he created last season when he hit .323/.413/.439 in High-A ball and stole 155 bases between two minor league clubs. Promoted to Triple-A to begin 2013 after spending just 50 games at the Double-A level, the speedy Hamilton has struggled to find his footing at the plate. On the plus side, the shortstop-turned-outfielder has nabbed 50 bases in just 80 games. His stolen base total could become much higher once he improves upon his .300 on-base percentage.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox: Hawkins has experienced a lot of struggles in his first full professional season. After hitting a combined .284 between three levels during last season's debut, he's batting just .191/.273/.485 with 95 strikeouts in 55 games during 2013. Scott Merkin of MLB.com talked to Hawkins regarding the learning curve he's experienced in High-A ball and how he plans to come out ahead.
Bubba Starling, OF, Royals: Starling opened 2013 with huge expectations surrounding him, but he hit just .195/.263/.379 with a massive strikeout rate in April. As Danny Wild of MiLB.com explained, things got so bad that Starling was sent to have his eyes examined for possible LASIK surgery in May — similar to what the Rangers did with third base prospect Mike Olt. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com later updated the story to report that the outfield prospect underwent the procedure on May 16. In June, after the eye surgery, Starling improved to hit .250/.327/.369 for the month, but he continued to strike out at a similar rate. He also hit jut one home run in 24 games. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals: During the first three months of the year, Zimmer posted an ERA of more than 5.00 despite showing the same strong repertoire that caused him to be chosen fifth overall during the 2012 amateur draft. Thankfully, the right-hander may have finally turned a corner in July. He's posted a 2.77 ERA with no walks and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings. On the season, he's now whiffed 103 batters in 84 2/3 innings of work. Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com spoke to Zimmer, who stated that he's finally becoming comfortable with his pitching mechanics, which is in turn allowing him to provide more consistent command.
A number of prospects have also suffered significant loss in value due to serious injuries. The list of walking wounded include: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles; Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets; Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners; Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres; Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays; and Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Cubs.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Billy Hamilton | Boston Red Sox | Bubba Starling | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Colorado Rockies | Courtney Hawkins | David Dahl | Kaleb Cowart | Kansas City Royals | Kyle Zimmer | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Matt Barnes | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Trevor Bauer
If you are looking for some interesting reading this evening, have a look at the evolution of the defensive shift as told by Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Meanwhile, let's take a look at some American League clubs and ballplayers:
- We heard on Wednesday that the Yankees were looking for a right-handed bat, and all signs point to that need being real. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that Jayson Nix, who sports a career .365 slugging percentage, has been taking balls at first base in case the team wants a righty to spell Lyle Overbay. Nix has held down third base while Kevin Youkilis works his way back, but the Yanks' recent acquisition of Chris Nelson provides the club with another option at the hot corner.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman deserves a ton of credit for finding value in Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. There may be a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel for the scrambling Cashman, however. Hoch reports that Ivan Nova, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Youkilis are all expected to report to the Yankees' Tampa facility for rehab work. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson has been playing in extended spring training since Wednesday.
- Count Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer as a fan of the Indians' decision to trade for young pitcher Trevor Bauer this offseason. Hoynes writes that Bauer is ready to be a successful big leaguer this year, and may be the most talented pitching prospect in Cleveland since a certain CC Sabathia.
- Of course, all three teams involved in the deal that brought Bauer to the Indians seem to have gotten what they wanted out of the deal (at least so far). In addition to Bauer, outfielder Drew Stubbs is off to a fairly promising start for Cleveland, and currently sports a .284/.340/.420 line. The Indians have also enjoyed quality bullpen work from Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo has clobbered the ball for the Reds, putting up a .330/.467/.541 line. He has done so while playing a passable, albeit below average, center field. And the Diamondbacks not only seem quite pleased with shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius, who is off to a .407/.448/.778 start in his first 30 plate appearances, but have received solid production from veteran reliever Tony Sipp.
- Of course, not all deals turn out the way you hope. As ESPN's Buster Olney notes on Twitter, Twins fans are (or should be) cringing at the hot start for the Brewers' Carlos Gomez. After emerging as a solid regular center fielder last season, Gomez is putting up excellent power, speed, and on-base numbers thus far in 2013. The Twins shipped Gomez to Milwaukee in return for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season, and later sent Hardy to the Orioles to make way for the failed Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment. In exchange for Hardy, in turn, the Twins got a pair of young righties — Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson — who have failed to deliver any value to the club.
- While the full ramifications of trades often take years to clarify, the Blue Jays could be wondering already how the recent trade for R.A. Dickey will turn out. As Mark Simon of ESPN.com explains, Dickey is failing to get hitters to chase pitches outside the zone, which could attributable in part to decreased knuckleball velocity. On the other side of the ledger, the Mets have surprisingly received incredible production from a seemingly minor piece of that deal — catcher John Buck — and were able to slot prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard atop the team's prospect list.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan had dinner with principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson Friday night to discuss his future role with the franchise. Simpson called the meeting "productive" while Ryan remained silent until today when he released a statement through the team. "Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson, and I have been in discussion and met in-person. The conversations have been productive, and we have discussed my role as CEO of the organization. We agreed these discussions will continue as we go forward. I am very proud of what the Rangers have accomplished over the last several years, and I believe our preparations for upcoming season are what is important." Sources have told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Ryan could leave after he fulfills his two remaining team obligations: in San Antonio for the Rangers' two exhibition games there March 29-30 and in Houston during the Rangers' season-opening series against the Astros. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Rick Porcello became the first Tiger pitcher to pitch five innings this spring, allowing no runs on three hits while striking out four. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press tweets Porcello was happy to discuss his outing, but refused to comment on the many trade rumors surrounding him.
- J.A. Happ, also a subject of trade rumors, is frustrated by his role with the Blue Jays and sees himself as a Major League starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm (Twitter links). Happ, as quoted by Chisholm on Twitter, realizes he is auditioning for other teams, "I know there are other people in the stands as well so I'm trying to just keep my routine and we'll see what happens."
- Indians manager Terry Francona has named Zach McAllister as the team's fourth starter, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). If the Indians choose to start Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Corey Kluber in the minors, the leading veteran candidates for the final spot are Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who would put his money on Kazmir.
Leaving the Reds behind and heading to the Indians in the Shin-Soo Choo deal was bittersweet for outfielder Drew Stubbs, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports. "There were definitely some mixed emotions," says Stubbs. "The toughest part for me was, when you're comfortable in a place, having to leave a bunch of great people behind." Stubbs will move from center field to right (after Cleveland's signing of Michael Bourn) and from one corner of Ohio to another, but Bastian notes that Stubbs' spring training home has scarcely changed, since both the Indians and Reds train in Goodyear, Arizona. Here are more notes on the Indians.
- So far, Terry Francona is impressed with Trevor Bauer, who also came to Cleveland in the Choo trade, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes. "When you tell him something, you have to have a reason, which you’re supposed to have anyway," says Francona. "It was like managing Doug Glanville [for the Philadelphia Phillies]. You would want to say, 'I know you’re smarter than I am. You don’t have to apologize for it.'" Bauer appears unlikely to make the team out of camp, however.
- After a pair of offseason trades, the Indians' Mike Aviles seems to be happy to be reunited with former Red Sox manager Francona, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. "I've talked to Tito numerous times, and he's assured me I'm going to get a lot of at-bats," says Aviles, who looks like he'll serve as a utility infielder in Cleveland. "That's really the main focus, to get on the field as much as possible." In October, the Red Sox shipped Aviles to Toronto for David Carpenter and manager John Farrell. The next month, the Blue Jays sent Aviles to the Indians with Yan Gomes for Esmil Rogers.
After Brian Sabean traded Matt Williams to the Indians for a package that included eventual San Francisco cornerstone Jeff Kent, the public reaction against the newly minted Giants general manager was so strong that he felt compelled to declare: “I’m not an idiot.” Sixteen years later, with two World Championships under Sabean’s belt, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes that he “has proven that, emphatically.” Sabean still abides by the credo he adopted while working for George Steinbrenner: “keep your head down and do your job.” Here are some notes on teams hoping to dethrone Mr. Sabean’s Giants in 2013:
- Having agreed yesterday to a minor league contract with the Pirates, 41-year-old reliever Jose Contreras reported to camp quickly with plans to take it slow, says Tom Singer of MLB.com. Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and having just returned from his first visit to his native Cuba since defecting over a decade ago, Contreras said that the Pirates instructed him “to take my time and recover at my own rate.” Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, for whom the signing was a “low-risk” gambit to bolster the club’s bullpen, stated that Contreras would “rehab throughout Spring Training” and that the team would “be patient with him and get him back as quickly as his body allows.”
- The Indians have set up a three-way competition for the last spot in the team’s starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom are attempting comebacks, will compete with recently-acquired prospect Trevor Bauer. All three pitchers appeared in today’s Cactus League game. While MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk maintains that Kyle Lohse could fit nicely in the Tribe's rotation, the team seems likely to utilize one of the options it already has on hand.
- With Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis likely out for more than six weeks with a fractured collarbone, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro discusses the club’s search for a new second backstop behind presumed starter Rob Brantly. In addition to considering internal options like Kyle Skipworth, “the club is combing through other rosters, exploring possible trade options and trying to figure out which teams have a surplus.”
- Other than Sabean, only one current GM has overseen multiple championship clubs: the Yankees’ Brian Cashman. Cashman revealed today that, contrary to his previously stated belief, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is in fact out of options, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. MLBTR has labeled Cervelli as out of options from the start; check out our full list of players here. Of the three primary catchers competing to break camp with the Yankees, then, only Austin Romine can still be optioned. (Chris Stewart, like Cervelli, has had his options exhausted.) When asked to comment on the catching situation, Cashman wryly reported: “We’ve got two guys out of options and one guy with an option. I think the two guys are winning.”
- Of more immediate concern to Cashman and the Yankees, of course, is the injury to outfielder Curtis Granderson. In addition to the analysis of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, other commentators have begun to weigh in. Bill Madden of The New York Daily News explores the options for replacing Granderson and worries that the club could face a power shortage. MLB.com’s Richard Justice opines that Cashman should stick to his winning strategy of “being smart and efficient” and “not overreacting to every crisis.” For FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, on the other hand, the injury “exposed the Yankees’ flawed roster construction” and leaves the club’s 2013 postseason prospects in doubt.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he is "shocked" and "broken-hearted" that reliever Jose Valverde hasn’t signed yet, according to the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Valverde and Kyle Lohse are the only players from MLBTR’s list of top 50 free agents who have yet to sign. Here are some links from around MLB as we await their decisions…
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon insists that he's financially solvent and willing to spend. Less than a year from now he'll have the chance to prove it, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes.
- Jacoby Ellsbury said he loves playing for the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter). However, the center fielder has decided to defer to agent Scott Boras when it comes to his contract status. Ellsbury, a free agent this coming offseason, ranks fourth on MLBTR's initial Free Agent Power Rankings.
- Red Sox CEO/president Larry Lucchino suggested the team could discuss an extension with Ellsbury this spring, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports. "We’d very much like to have him here," Lucchino said.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs believes the low-cost options built into the contracts of pitchers such as John Lackey and Felix Hernandez could represent the beginning of a positive trend for MLB as a whole.
- Trevor Bauer told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that he doesn't have "hard feelings" toward his former team (Twitter link). The Diamondbacks traded Bauer to the Indians in December and Miguel Montero had some critical words for the right-hander earlier this week.
The Indians have been very busy during the first days of 2013 officially announcing the free agent signings of Nick Swisher and Brett Myers. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports the team will open the season with a payroll hovering around $66-68MM (not including the $2.75MM buyout of Travis Hafner's 2013 club option and the $3.5MM sent to the Reds in the Shin-Soo Choo trade). As a result, GM Chris Antonetti has said the team's financial resources have been exhausted. The lone remaining hole in the lineup is designated hitter. Bastian says the Tribe could rely on internal options like Mike Aviles, Yan Gomes, Ezequiel Carrera, Tim Fedroff, and Rule 5 selection Chris McGuiness. Even bringing back Hafner is a possibility according to Antonetti, "I think some of that is going to depend upon other opportunities for Travis and his thoughts on returning, as well as what opportunities we may have for him compared to other guys." Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has more news and notes concerning the Indians:
- Hoynes adds Matt LaPorta to the list of in-house DH options, but says Antonetti could still sign a hitter or bring one in on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
- Hoynes thinks Delmon Young would look good as the Tribe's DH, but doesn't see it happening at this time because of his asking price and character issues.
- The Indians will still consider trading Asdrubal Cabrera or Chris Perez, but only if the return is comparable to what they received in the Choo deal.
- The starting rotation looks like Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Myers, and Zach McAllister. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco are the leading candidates for the fifth spot.
- With the flush of spending of this season, does this put extra pressure on the front office to win now? Hoynes doesn't sense any panic in the hallways of power, especially since new manager Terry Francona can opt-out of his deal if certain members of management lose their jobs.
- Phil Mickelson will not be part of the Padres' ownership group, reports Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The golf star said he isn't "able to make that kind of long-term commitment to the city and to the team."
- It doesn't seem logical for the Rangers to give Edwin Jackson (what would have to be) a four-year, $50MM contract, opines MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. We heard earlier tonight that the Rangers and Cubs were the final two contenders for Jackson's services.
- Major League Baseball has ruled that the $2MM the Angels will donate to Josh Hamilton's charitable foundation will count towards the team's luxury tax payments and be counted as "noncash compensation," reports The Associated Press. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted the charitable portion of Hamilton's contract earlier today.
- It can be difficult for players to mentally adjust to the "baseball limbo" that is the offseason rumor mill, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes.
- Money has been no object for Tigers owner Mike Ilitch as he pursues a World Series title, but ESPN's Buster Olney wonders if the Tigers' next owner will be able to keep the club's payroll in the $150MM range given the limitations of Detroit's market. (An ESPN Insider subscription is required to read Olney's column.)
- Nick Swisher will not be visiting the Giants during his tour of potential destinations, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. With the Giants not having enough payroll space left to pursue Swisher, I think we can finally put this rumor to bed.
- The Twins and Carl Pavano don't appear to be a fit, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger writes. The two sides met during the Winter Meetings and though Pavano has pitched well in Minnesota, he turns 37 in January and missed most of last season with an injured shoulder. I agree with Bollinger that the Twins would probably want a more reliable option than Pavano given that several other projected members of the Twins rotation are also coming back from injuries.
- Baseball people suggest Trevor Bauer has a better chance of becoming an impact player than Didi Gregorius, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The Diamondbacks sent Bauer to the Indians last week in the three-team deal that brought Gregorius to Arizona. As Piecoro explains in detail, however, there were some questions about Bauer's personality and his ability to be a team player.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post