2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

The sixth and final installment of the Game Haus’s 2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season. The season is almost upon us with just 14 days until pitchers and catchers report.

While teams continue to make minor moves before the start of camp, it appears rosters are mostly settled. Soon the conversation will switch from MLB hot stove to who will make the cut this spring. As Arizona and Florida prepare for early spring action it falls on The Game Haus to finish ranking those elite few who will undoubtedly be contending come October.

Without further ado, it’s time to round third and head for home.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

2016 record: 91-71

The Dodgers are getting the band back together and they certainly paid to do it. Both Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner collected sizeable payouts at five years $85 million and four years $65 million respectively.

Los Angeles also managed to procure Logan Forsythe from Tampa to fill a minor gap at second. Offloading a prospect like Jose De Leon indicates a win-now mentality and there’s no reason LA shouldn’t have one.

Los Angeles brought the juggernaut Cubs to six games in the NLCS. With a healthy Clayton Kershaw and a budding star in Julio Urias, they should be right back in the mix. The Dodgers may face some resistance from the Giants and potentially the dark horse Rockies, but they’re still a clear favorite in the division.

4. Washington Nationals

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

2016 record: 95-67

The Nationals experienced a disappointing ending to 2016 but should see a strong return in the coming season. A fully healthy Bryce Harper is going to help here along with the pickup of Adam Eaton to shore up the outfield. The loss of Wilson Ramos may leave some questions at catcher but there is more than enough pop elsewhere in this lineup.

Young short stop Trea Turner exploded onto the scene in 2016 and appears more than capable of holding his own. Lineup aside, the combination of Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg may represent the best one-two punch in the MLB, while the rest of the rotation remains solid.

Other than the Mets, the Nationals should have little to contend with in the East. Expect to see a Washington playoff appearance for the second year in a row.

3. Boston Red Sox

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

2016 record: 93-69

Chris Sale will head up a rotation that already has David Price and reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Pair that rotation with the lineup that scored the most runs in baseball last year, and it’s clear Boston will be formidable yet again.

There is no replacing Big Papi or his power production, but there is more than enough young talent to suffice. With arguably the number one prospect in Andrew Benintendi and MVP candidate Mookie Betts, a new generation of stars emerge.

The AL East may be the most hotly contested division this year, but the Red Sox remain a cut above.

2. Cleveland Indians

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

2016 record: 94-67

The Indians have been searching for a true middle of the lineup power bat for years. There can be no doubt they found it in Edwin Encarnacion. That move, a healthy Michael Brantley, and a pitching staff at full strength may help overcome a tough 2016 finish.

The Indians remain a team of scrappy role players but Terry Francona’s ability to manage this squad makes them dangerous. A top-tier rotation backed by the bullpen strength of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller means the Indians will need few runs to rack up wins.

A weakened AL Central clearly places them at the top of the division, but a strong October run is what’s needed to win it all.

1. Chicago Cubs

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Six

2016 record: 103-58-1

It’s hard to debate that the world champs and their young core will again be at the top of the mix. Some may have argued the loss of Aroldis Chapman would impact their less than dominant bullpen. However, this was quickly addressed with the addition of Wade Davis for an under-performing Jorge Soler.

Dexter Fowler chose to move on to a divisional rival, but will be replaced with more youth in Albert Almora Jr. Other than another year’s experience and one world championship under their belt, not much has changed in Chicago.

There’s a chance the consistent Cardinals or talented Pirates challenge the top, but it’s unlikely the Cubs miss a beat.

Link to Previous Rankings

 

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2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

The Game Haus returns with another issue of 2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season. This past week has been an emotionally charged roller coaster in the MLB. Hall of Fame inductees and snubs have sparked debates among fans, players and writers. Old PED skeletons have spawned a number of questions about the validity of records and the integrity of players.

Worst of all, tragedy has again struck a young player with the loss of Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura.

Part of what makes sports great is the tremendous passion fans have around the game. These instances, while emotional, are part of the history and reality that makes this America’s past time. Fortunately, we can continue to look forward to the upcoming season and many more of the great moments that made us all fans to start.

This week we tackle 10-6 in the rankings. The big guns are coming out. While these teams may be a few pieces short of complete, look for all to compete come October. Many of these organizations were in the hunt last year and we’d expect much of the same this time around. All of these contenders have plenty of fire power on one side of the ball or the other. Time will tell if they can bring enough consistency in some of their weak areas to make a true run at the fall classic.

 

10. Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

2016 record: 78-83-1

The Buckos has a solid offseason, managing to hold onto Andrew McCutchen and securing Ivan Nova in their rotation. That signing along with Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow’s continued development makes for a sneaky good rotation. If Pittsburgh somehow manages to get a deal done for Jose Quintana, the NL Central may have far more to bargain for than they originally intended. Pitching aside, the Pirates also sport one of the more promising outfields in the MLB. If the Pirates get even moderate contributions from their infield, expect a battle for an NL Wild Card come October.

 

9. San Francisco Giants

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

2016 record: 87-75

The big knock on the Giants last year was a lack of bullpen firepower. San Francisco certainly addressed that with the off-season acquisition of Mark Melancon. Overall, the Giants pitching has never really been their problem. Any rotation anchored by two of the best in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto give you a great chance come postseason time. The question is whether the offense can sustain production throughout 162 games. The Dodgers and a surprise Rockies team may challenge, but the Giants should be actively contesting the top of the division at year end.

 

8. New York Mets

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

2016 record: 87-75

Widely considered the single best rotation in the majors last year, the Mets’ pitching staff returns near full force. Matt Harvey’s health is perpetually in question and New York did lose Bartolo Colon, but this rotation is outstanding regardless. With Yoenis Céspedes resigning in the off-season and Jay Bruce looking for a bounce back year, the Mets should have plenty of pop to get the job done. With this rotation and dominant closer Jeurys Familia in the bullpen, this club won’t need many runs to win games.

 

7. Texas Rangers

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

2016 record: 95-67

The first of two teams in the AL west we at The Game Haus have affectionately dubbed “The Arms Race”. The Rangers and the Astros wasted little time in securing top tier sluggers across their lineups this offseason. The Rangers have taken that crusade one step further by also bolstering their pitching with the acquisition of Tyson Ross. Assuming Ross can bounce back from his 2016 season-ending injury, he should provide needed depth to the Texas rotation. Generating back-to-back 95 win seasons is a tall order for any organization. That said, one look at the offensive ability of this lineup and you’d have to think a repeat is possible.

 

6. Houston Astos

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Five

2016 record: 84-78

Narrowly inching out its rival in the division, Houston is poised to unseat their “Arms Race” opponent Rangers. The acquisition of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick add veteran power and presence to an already scary lineup. Young stars Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman continue to develop and I haven’t even mentioned perennial MVP candidate Jose Altuve. This lineup is that good. The question for Dallas Keuchel and staff is whether or not they can out-duel their divisional rivals. Both teams have the horses to win the AL West and for fans of baseball everywhere, this is the war to watch in 2017.

Link to Previous Rankings

 

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Mike Trout’s GOAT Potential: A rumble with the legends of the game

With the Hall of Fame induction vote finished, it only makes sense to take stock of our current MLB stars. No single player currently embodies the talent and qualities of a HOF candidate quite like Mike Trout. The debate rages on about the Angels’ inability to harness this generational talent into team success. However, Trout’s numbers speak for themselves and he only continues to improve year after year.

Mike Trout’s GOAT Potential

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

This MLB writer wasn’t fortunate enough to watch many of the past greats live performances, and can only admire the stats and the stories. Only now are childhood heroes like Jim Thome and Chipper Jones surfacing for induction into the hall. That said, the statistics remain, and it’s fascinating to compare the old-time sluggers to the players of today.

For this analysis, we take a look at modern day master Mike Trout against the best there ever was. The idea here is to predict Trout’s career in order to place him on par with the legends of the game. There will of course be some assumptions to follow, but those will be documented and explained throughout the analysis.

Without further ado, let’s nerd out.

 

Introducing first, fighting out of the present day, standing 6’2″, weighing in at 230 pounds, THE CHALLENGER, MIKE TROUT:

 

Mike Trout Career Totals

BAOBPSLGOPSHHRRBI
6 Year Totals0.3060.4050.5570.963917168497
162 Game Avg.0.3060.4050.5570.9631833499

 

Trout has been in the league 6 years and has consistently posted outstanding numbers while casually collecting two MVP awards. While the above takes into account more classic hitting statistics for comparison, Trout’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers are even more impressive. Trout continues to carve a legacy against the greats by already leading this statistic every year, at every age (An outstanding analysis by Neil Paine can be found here). His current career WAR sits at 48.5 through six seasons while averaging a WAR over eight.

To put this in perspective, the site FanGraphs defines WAR as follows:

  1. Scrub 0-1 WAR
  2. Role Player 1-2 WAR
  3. Solid Starter 2-3 WAR
  4. Good Player 3-4 WAR
  5. All-Star 4-5 WAR
  6. Superstar 5-6 WAR
  7. MVP 6+ WAR

In other words, Trout averages MVP caliber play. Even taking into consideration his sub-par rookie numbers after his midseason call-up in July 2011, the man is incredible.

Introducing next, fighting out of days of baseball past, standing at the greatest of all time, and weighing in at baseball’s finest, THE CHAMPIONS, THESE GUYS:

 

Legends Career Statistics

Years PlayedBAOBPSLGOPSHitsHRRBI’s
Barry Bonds220.2980.4440.6071.05129357621996
Ted Williams190.3440.4820.6341.11626545211839
Hank Aaron210.3050.3740.5550.92837717552297
Willie Mays210.3020.3840.5570.94132836601903
Babe Ruth220.3420.4740.691.16428377142214

Argue with me if you must about the names on this list, but these guys could hit a baseball.

 

The Comparison

In order to get apples to apples, we have to extrapolate Trout’s numbers over a period befitting of one of the greats. As demonstrated in the above table, each one of these players spent nearly two decades in the majors. An average of their time spent comes out to 21 years.

Now the big assumptions in calculating future Trout are as follows:

  • Maintains his current averages as it relates to the ratio-statistics
  • Will play to his 162 game average
  • Have at least a 21-year career

 

Mike Trout’s GOAT Potential

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

 

Obviously, there are some red flags here. The chances of Trout never getting injured, sitting for any extended period of time, or experiencing general regression in his later years are minimal. On the flip side, Trout hasn’t even reach what would be considered a “baseball prime” in terms of age. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible we have yet to see career highs from Trout in any of these categories.

With those assumptions in place, the math becomes relatively simple. Take Trout’s six-year career numbers, and add them to 15 additional years of the 162-game average statistics (15+6=21 years).

 

 

 

 

Do that, and the chart now looks like this:

Years PlayedBAOBPSLGOPSHitsHRRBI’s
Barry Bonds220.2980.4440.6071.05129357621996
Ted Williams190.3440.4820.6341.11626545211839
Hank Aaron210.3050.3740.5550.92837717552297
Willie Mays210.3020.3840.5570.94132836601903
Babe Ruth220.3420.4740.691.16428377142214
Future Trout210.3060.4050.5570.96336626781982

The Conclusion

Interestingly enough, this analysis doesn’t have Trout leading a single statistical category. Even so, he has numbers that rival the greats in literally every major hitting metric. Furthermore, this analysis doesn’t take into account WAR or fielding statistics which both add additional firepower to Trout’s case. GOAT may be some ways off, but most well-rounded is certainly in play as long as the performance continues.

It’s clear Trout still has a long way to go and a lot to prove if he wants to be considered among this outstanding group. That said, Trout is well on pace to rival the greats, and as anyone who’s watched him will tell you, the best is likely yet to come.

 

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2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

We’re back with the Game Haus’ fourth installment of 2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four. In recent news, the Mariners decided to spite my previous ranking by making a plethora of moves and trades to shore up their rotation heading into the season. While Seattle undoubtedly improved it was the Braves and the Rays that both left that exchange with a promising future. In the meantime, teams all across the league continue to avoid arbitration and extend their players with a multitude of contracts being signed. Finally, with less than a month remaining before pitchers and catchers report, several worthy veterans remain on the open market.

The rankings must go on! This week takes a look at teams 15-11. Now we’re talking competition. Each one of these teams has enough pieces for a solid 2017 campaign. While most wouldn’t place these teams in the top tier, any of these organizations could make a wild card run. As we all know, if you are still in the running in October, anything can happen.

 

15. Detroit Tigers

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

Record: 86-75

Many pegged the Tigers as sellers this offseason, but that sale never really came. Detroit returns in 2017 sporting much of the same core it’s competed with the last several years. Last season, Justin Verlander reclaimed his ace status and Michael Fulmer emerged as an extremely promising second option. Add that to a lineup chalk full of seasoned veterans led by Miguel Cabrera, and you’ve got yourself a shot. The Tigers should find success given the largely depleted AL Central, but will it be enough to match the Indians?

 

14. New York Yankees

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

2016 record: 84-78

No one would accuse Yankees GM Brian Cashman of being dormant this Winter. Not only did the Yanks clean up last trade deadline, but also managed to reclaim star closer Aroldis Chapman. Blue Chip prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres came over during the Yankees closer sale, but aren’t even part of the young core already on the field.  Didi Gregorious, Aaron Judge, and breakout star catcher Gary Sánchez have already emerged, and are expected in the 2017 lineup. The real question facing the Yankees is whether Masahiro Tanaka and company can bounce back from a tough 2016. Rotation aside, the Yankees may be a bit young for a serious run, but lookout for the pinstripes very soon.

 

13. Colorado Rockies

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

2016 record: 75-87

Admittedly this feels a bit high up in the rankings for a Rockies team with 87 losses in 2016. That said, one can’t help but be impressed by the lineup Colorado has assembled. The surprise signing of Ian Desmond alone gives the Rocks a sizable infield boost. Pair that with young players like Trevor Story and potential NL MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, and you’re looking at serious potential. Like many teams, the question mark hangs over a young rotation that did show promise in 2016. Coors Field will never be a pitchers dream, but if just one of those young pitchers can establish themselves as an ace, look for Colorado to do some damage in 2017.

 

12. Toronto Blue Jays

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

2016 record: 89-73

The Blue Jay’s had an AL leading 3.78 ERA in 2016, and that whole rotation will be returning. Tack on a presumably healthy Francisco Liriano, and you have one of the more dangerous rotations in the MLB. The rotation is set, but now Toronto must cope with the loss of star slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Further adding complexity is the loss of Michael Saunders from the lineup. Jose Bautista will be staying in Toronto. However, losing both Encarnacion and Saunders leaves a considerable gap for the Jays to fill. The offseason signing of Kendrys Morales certainly helps soften that blow by adding a solid DH. The Blue Jays may have a different dynamic than in years past, but expect them to be competitive regardless.

 

11. St. Louis Cardinals

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Four

2016 record: 86-76

The Cardinals are just solid. At this point, it’s basically their thing. The team continuously churns out seasons on the better side of 85 wins. Continue packing Busch Stadium with loyal red birds’ fans, and they continue their war against the top team in the MLB. The Cards have great depth and flexibility throughout their lineup bolstered by the poaching of center fielder Dexter Fowler. At this point, this question is the broken record of baseball, but again we’re asking, “What about that rotation?” Adam Wainwright is the perennial staple for this staff, but a slow decline the past few years is concerning. However, if Wainwright reclaims some former glory and Michael Wacha can bounce back from an injury-wrought 2016, the Cards may just have enough in the tank to cause trouble for the Cubs.

*Logos courtesy of MLB.com*

Link to Previous Rankings

Part 1: Here

Part 2: Here

Part 3: Here

 

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Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?

Not even two days after I wrote this: “In recent news nothing of any real note has occurred”. And this: “Not much has changed for Seattle, and they haven’t been tied to any deal of significance”.

The Mariners went out and traded for Drew Smyly to accompany Yovani Gallardo in anchoring the back of their rotation. The Braves then traded Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons to Seattle for Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. Finally, nothing short of 14 other transactions occurred around the MLB including contract agreements, designations, and releases.

Baseball God’s 1, Ignorant MLB writer 0.

Not that any of these signings are blockbusters, but clearly teams are still active before the start of spring training. The question remaining for most fans is whether or not their team will be the one to land one of the remaining big names. Suitable homes for Jose Bautista, Matt Wieters, and Mark Trumbo continue to be the source of speculation around the league. There is a risk and reward argument to be made for each. Today, The Game Haus breaks down likely landing spots for these veteran players.

Jose Bautista

Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?
POS: OF
2016 Slash Line:
.234/.366/.452

Player Profile

Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?What do two stints on the disabled list, regressing performance, and a controversial attitude get you at age 36 in the MLB? Apparently a long wait in free agency. Given the multiple injuries Bautista endured during the season, he still managed a strong finish to the year.

Clearly Bautista can still swing the lumber. He managed 22 home runs after missing 46 games. However, his regressing defense and propensity for providing opposing teams plenty of “bulletin board material” may make teams weary to engage in any sort of multi-year commitment.

Ideal Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays are Joey Bats’ true home, and probably one of the few places that can still stand him. Personality issues aside, the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, and the potential departure of Michael Saunders leave significant holes in Toronto’s lineup. Simply put, in one off-season the Jays are at serious risk of losing much of the run support that has made them contenders. Besides, Jays fans love those bat flips.

 

Matt Wieters

Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?
POS: C
2016 Slash Line:
.243/.302/.409

Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?

Player Profile

Matt Wieters is the “Mr. Reliable” of the remaining free agent class. He will provide consistent offensive production, strong defense, and veteran leadership to whomever signs this four-time all-star. Unlike others on this list, Wieters’ offensive numbers don’t jump off the page. Teams’ interest in him will likely be based around his defensive proficiency and ability to manage a pitching staff. Wieters’ 2016 was a down year statistically, but given his track record he shouldn’t have trouble finding a suitable home.

Ideal Landing Spot: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up to this point, Wieters has been closely linked to the Angels despite an earlier off-season trade for Martin Maldonado. However, the diamondbacks present an interesting option and could benefit greatly from Wieters’ veteran presence. Arizona has a young rotation anchored by Zack Greinke, and Wieters presents a significant upgrade over Jeff Mathis. 2017 looks like a toss-up between the two teams in terms of upcoming performance. That said, if Wieters is looking for a multi-year deal, the D-Backs long-term outlooks appear a bit more positive than the Angels.

 

Mark Trumbo

Finishing Free Agency: Where will the big names land?
POS: OF
2016 Slash Line:
.256/.316/.533

Player Profile

Crushing an obscene 47 home runs the year you’re up for free agency certainly doesn’t hurt one’s ability to collect a paycheck. Trumbo’s league leading ability to hit the long ball is matched only by his swing and miss potential. He ranked tenth among all players in strikeouts last season. This fact coupled with sub-par outfield performance makes Trumbo a risk, despite his career year in the home run category. Baseball aficionados will undoubtedly claim “regression to the mean” in Trumbo’s future. Even so, he has hit at least 20 home runs a season all but once in his career, and should make a valuable power addition to any team.

Ideal Landing Spot: Baltimore Orioles

The Rangers and Rockies have been linked to Trumbo. Given the Ian Desmond signing in Colorado and the Rangers interest in Mike Napoli, neither seems likely. Trumbo fits the power driven mold and positional needs for Baltimore perfectly. The Orioles can’t hope to come close to Trumbo’s production with Seth Smith currently slotted in right field. Trumbo isn’t there for defense, but does provide flexibility in right and at first when Chris Davis fills the DH role. Regression should be expected, but given the alternative, Baltimore needs to pay the man.

*Credit to sources http://mlb.mlb.com/home (Photos) and http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (Statistics)*

 

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Ranking the Farm: Top 100 Rookies and Prospects by Team

Ranking the Farm

If you are a dynasty fantasy baseball guru, you’re probably already familiar with the future generation of the MLB found here. This list is issued and updated by MLB.com to analyze and rank the top 100 rookies and prospects across Major League Baseball. Many recognize blue-chip prospect names such as Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito.

These young stars were involved in major trades this winter and many expect them to contribute in 2016. However, the White Sox haven’t been the only team building their farm system. The rest of the league also looks to cement their future with their own crop of top-tier talent. With this in mind, The Game Haus takes a shot at ranking the farm to determine which clubs have set themselves up for success.

SEPTEMBER 6: Yoan Moncada #65 of the Boston Red Sox (Now White Sox) (Getty Images)

For this ranking, a quick analysis was completed based on the positional ranking provided on MLB.com. First, a value was given based on ranking. For example, Yoan Moncada is worth 100 points at number one, Bradley Zimmer is worth 75 points at number 25, etc.

Second, these values were summed by the number of prospects on each team. Finally, an average is calculated by the number of prospects to give a general sense of prospect quality. Note: Rankings are based on overall sum, not on average.

 

Top 100 Farm Rankings by Team:

*Disclaimer* There are still moves to be made as the rumor mill continues to churn. This could affect the analysis completed here as teams continue to solidify their position heading into spring training. However, this should provide a high level snapshot of each team’s current farm system and how they stack up around the league.

Team RankTeamTeam # of Top 100Sum ScoreAverage Score
1Milwaukee Brewers840650.8
2New York Yankees640567.5
3Chicago White Sox639666.0
4Pittsburgh Pirates535470.8
5Atlanta Braves732746.7
6Philadelphia Phillies427067.5
7Colorado Rockies525450.8
8Boston Red Sox325183.7
9San Diego Padres423659.0
10Los Angeles Dodgers622437.3
11Cincinnati Reds420551.3
12Houston Astros520440.8
13Tampa Bay Rays317157.0
14Cleveland Indians517034.0
15Chicago Cubs416441.0
16Minnesota Twins414335.8
17New York Mets213668.0
18Oakland Athletics413433.5
19St. Louis Cardinals313344.3
20Washington Nationals211758.5
21Seattle Mariners211457.0
22Toronto Blue Jays36722.3
23Miami Marlins16464.0
24Texas Rangers14545.0
25Detroit Tigers13535.0
26San Francisco Giants22512.5
27Arizona Diamondbacks000.0
28Baltimore Orioles000.0
29Kansas City Royals000.0
30Los Angeles Angels000.0

Top 3 Analysis:

The Brewers are a team that has been rebuilding for a number of years. The Yankees were incredibly active at the 2016 trade deadline and it has paid dividends heading into 2017. The White Sox are largely considered to have won the winter meetings, securing top talent via offseason trades. The top three on this list utilized different methods, but all three are well positioned for the future.

AUGUST 28: Lucas Giolito #44 of the Washington Nationals (Now White Sox) (Getty Images)

Farm systems are clearly comprised of far more than a team’s top ranked prospects. These rankings do not take into account an organizations draft, or many of their Low / High / Single “A” ball players still working through the minors.

Several of the players factored in here have already made an MLB debut.  Many more will compete for a contributing roll in 2017 and will almost certainly be seen by the 2018 season. While not comprehensive, the above is a strong depiction of those organizations who have impact players waiting in the wings.

Where is your team positioned heading into the future?

 

 

 

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The MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement: The Good, The Bad, and The Boring

Of all the topics in baseball, this lacks the awe inspiring wonder of a walk-off home run. That being said, the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement is a major part of off-season news and deserves its due coverage. In order to keep it light, we won’t tackle every detail of the agreement. Instead, we’ll pick a few highlights in each section to save you the same fate as this guy.

MLB-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement

(Photo courtesy: osports.yahoo.com)

Overall, the consensus coverage of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is that neither side’s worlds were shattered. This may be the most important message of the agreement for fans everywhere. Short term, this will ensure another five smooth seasons of baseball. Hopefully there will be no bad blood between either side moving forward in the long term. Let’s break it down; The good, the bad, and the boring.

The Good

MLB-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement

(Photo courtesy: CNN/Elsa/Getty Images)

The All-Star Game

  • Quick Facts:
    • World Series home field advantage is no longer tied to the outcome of the game.
    • Bonus money; to the tune of an additional $20,000 to each player on the winning team.
    • More bonus money; Home Run Derby player prize money has increased.
    • Fans and players still vote, but the commissioner’s office, not the managers, now determine the final roster spots.

 

  • Impact:
    • Hallelujah! The MLB is inching closer to getting this thing right. There can’t be many left defending the home field portion, especially after last year’s impact. A little cash incentive on the other hand may be enough to get the competitive juices flowing between the MLB’s top tier talent.

 

Overall Schedule and Disabled list

  • Quick Facts:
    • Season extended to include four additional rest days.
    • 15 day disabled list decreased to 10 days.

 

  • Impact:
    • Fans and fantasy baseball aficionados alike have to be feeling good about this one. Additional roster flexibility for teams, and the opportunity for some additional rest days for players. 15 days is a long time to deactivate a player with a minor injury or soreness. Hopefully this provides more incentive to keep guys healthy without worrying about the length of their DL stint.

Luxury Tax Threshold

  • Quick Facts:
    • Threshold will scale from $189 million in 2016 to $210 million by 2021.
    • Overage penalties scale up to 50% depending on number of overages.
    • Surtaxes also included, scaling up to 45%.

 

  • Impact:
    • Another step closer to a more even playing field across the league. This won’t completely discourage the “money bags” teams around the league, but it may give the “money ball” teams a better shot.

 

The Bad

MLB-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement

(Photo courtesy: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

International Draft

  • Quick Facts:
    • Still no international draft.
    • Hard cap has been placed in the vicinity of $5 million to sign international players.

 

  • Impact:
    • The simple fact is the whole international system needs to be cleaned up. International players who get signed to mega-deals certainly benefit, but the rest of the system suffers. Some players have argued wage suppression only benefits the owners. Some owners have argued over the general equality of the entire system. Regardless, this hard cap seems like an odd purgatory, where wage suppression exists and the international system still doesn’t play by the same rules.

The Boring

MLB-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement

(Photo courtesy: CSN Chicago/MLB.com)

Rapid Fire (Requires little explanation):

  • No change to regular season roster size.
  • No change to post season roster size.
  • Smokeless tobacco banned if your first season is 2017 and beyond.
  • Additional drug testing requirements.
  • Small minimum salary increase to account for cost of living.
  • Pension and disability benefits improved.
  • Clubhouses to provide additional amenities.
  • Clubs agree to play a few games a year internationally.

 

This round of CBA negotiations clearly scored wins on both sides. To reiterate, the deal got done, there was far more good than bad, and it looks as though baseball has taken another positive step forward. With the paperwork out of the way, all that’s left to do is look forward to another exciting five years of baseball.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NL East: Offseason Needs

With MLB free agency in full swing, it’s time for teams to start diagnosing what positions they need to fill a gap at, and who would be the best fit for that spot. Over the next week, I’ll diagnose the needs of teams throughout the National League, and name a few potential free agents who could fill that role. I’ll begin with the NL East. I’ll work from the bottom of the division upwards. I am not proclaiming that these deals are sure thing. I’m simply suggesting free agent players who fill the role that the team needs.

Atlanta Braves – Catcher

Image result for geovany soto angels

Image courtesy of FOX Sports.

The Braves are starting to fill a lot of holes on offense. A catcher would be huge for them because he can play a huge part in developing all of the young pitching the Braves have available. They recently signed the two oldest starting pitchers in free agency, R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, to one-year deals. If you combine the experience these two have with an established catcher, it could really help these young arms flourish. We saw A.J. Pierzynski in this role for Atlanta last year, I think they could look for someone around his value this year. While names like Matt Wieters or Wilson Ramos would certainly be tempting, they might be too expensive for Atlanta. They could aim for ex-Angel Geovany Soto, whose injury riddled 2016 might lower his value, or maybe former Rockie Nick Hundley.

 

Philadelphia Phillies – A Big Bat. Anywhere.

Image result for adam lind mariners

Image courtesy of MLB.com

While the Phillies 2016 went the reverse of Atlanta’s, starting high and finishing low, they share a need for offensive production. The Phillies were in the cellar for almost every offensive category in the MLB, ranking last in the MLB in runs scored and OPS. They also sit in a similar position as the Braves in regards to where they are right now. They have some fresh offensive talent that showed it’s potential in 2016. Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez are all signs of things to come for the Phils. What they need now is someone to provide protection for these guys at the plate. The Phillies did recently acquire Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney. While Tommy Joseph showed some potential in his first Big League season at first base, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Phils go after someone like Adam Lind or Mitch Moreland. Both would be cheap options (especially compared to Ryan Howard) who can still provide at the plate.

Miami Marlins – An Ace SP

Image result for tim lincecum angels

Image courtesy of FOX Sports.

The Marlins rotation is going to struggle mightily without Jose Fernandez. Right now it consists of Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, and Tom Koehler. While Conley did show a lot of improvement throughout the season, he’s not a number one starter. The problem is, there is no established, dominant ace for Miami to pursue in the free agency this offseason. They don’t have the money to pursue Rich Hill, and even if they did he’s 36 years old and spent over two months on the DL in 2016. They could try to roll the dice on someone who has shown spurts of success, like Ivan Nova, but that’s the best they can do. If they really feel like gambling, they could go for Tim Lincecum. To get the big-name ace they need, Miami would have to work a pretty big trade this offseason. The free agency pool is just too shallow heading into 2017.

 

New York Mets – A Versatile Bat

Image result for ian desmond rangers

Image courtesy of The New York Times.

While there will certainly be questions surrounding the Mets starting rotation in 2017, the bigger concern has to be their bats. Despite being 5th in the MLB in home runs, they ranked 26th in runs scored and total hits. Losing Yoenis Cespedes will be huge for the Mets, as he led the team in home runs and RBIs. Even though they have the big bats of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto remaining, they lack the ability to consistently hit for average and drive in runs. Not to mention they’re all left-handed. Then there’s the situation in the infield. David Wright remains extremely vulnerable to injury, and second baseman Neil Walker also hit free agency. Assuming he can carry over his success from 2016, Ian Desmond could be a good fit for the Mets. He’s a righty, he has experience in the infield and the outfield, and he was a 20 homer, 20 steal player in 2016. If they’re not willing to try Desmond or Jose Reyes at second base, they might make an attempt at Stephen Drew or even Chase Utley.

 

Washington Nationals – First Baseman

Regardless of whether Trea Turner ends up staying in the outfield, or returning to the infield, the gap still remains at first base. Ryan Zimmerman has been a fan favorite around DC for a long time, but his effectiveness at the plate has been lacking in recent years. He hit just .216 in 2016, with just 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. That is not the kind of numbers you want to see from your first baseman. With that being said, most of the first baseman available in free agency are equally as inconsistent. Ryan Howard has more pop in the bat, but he hit just .196 in 2016. Ex-Indian Mike Napoli is an attractive choice, but Washington will have to fork up a good bit of money to pursue him. They might take an approach similar to the Phillies and look in the Adam Lind or Mitch Moreland spectrum of first basemen. James Loney was solid with the Mets, filling in for the injured Lucas Duda. If the Nats want to give Zimmerman another shot in 2017, they could grab Loney as an insurance policy if Zimmerman continues to struggle.

Image result for james loney mets

Image courtesy of amny.com

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Will Betances, Chapman, Miller be better than Davis, Herrera, Holland?

Betances

Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News

The New York Yankees have put together the most impressive trio of bullpen pitchers in all of baseball for the 2016 season.

To take it a step further Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller might be the most talented bunch of relievers the game of baseball has ever seen.

For the sake of discussion let’s compare them to the group that the Yankees got the 3-headed bullpen monster blue print from. The 2014 triad that led the Kansas City Royals all the way to game 7 of the World Series: Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrea, and Greg Holland.

In the 2014 regular season every member of the HDH lockdown formula logged over 60 innings and posted an ERA of less than 1.50. It was the first time in baseball history two relief pitchers from a single team posted sub 1.50 ERA’s with a minimum of 60 innings pitched, and the Royals had three.

So the simple questions is: Will Betances, Miller, and Chapman match what the 2014 trend setting Royals did?

The short answer is no. The long answer is, they certainly have the talent to outperform the 2014 Royals, but, a lot of things will have to go right for them to do so.

In fact the only member of the Yankees super ‘pen that has ever posted a sub 1.50 ERA is Betances, who did so in 2014. It is also worth mentioning that Betances posted a 1.50 ERA on the nose in 2015, so, another sub 1.50 ERA from Betances in 2016 is well within the realm of possibility.

Meanwhile Chapman posted a 1.51 ERA in 2012 and a 1.63 ERA in 2015. These values are obviously close to the sub 1.50 ERA standard. Still, Chapman would have to have a career season from a run prevention standpoint to help the Yankees match what the 2014 Royals accomplished.

Chapman, the hardest throwing pitcher in the league with a wicked slider no doubt has the stuff to post a sub 1.50 ERA. Moving from the NL Central to arguably the best hitting division in the AL East could also prove to be a barrier for Chapman in this hypothetical quest to 3 super-elite ERA’s.

Moving forward we have Miller, who had a career season in his first year with the Yankees, posting a 1.90 ERA and saving 36 games. Set to lose the closer job to Chapman through no fault of his own, can Miller post a career best ERA in 2016 and come in below the 1.50 threshold?

He certainly has the stuff too, but much like Chapman, this would be counting on a career best season from him in terms of run prevention.

The Yankees lockdown late innings will no doubt include more strike outs than the 2014 Royals posted. In 2015 every one of the Yankees trio posted a K/9 rate of greater than 14. The highest the 2014 Royals posted was Davis at 13.63, meanwhile Herrera did not even strike out a batter per inning.

Strike outs are important, especially late in games, and the 2016 Yankees will most likely punch out batters at a historic rate.

At the end of the day though, I think the most important thing for a pitcher is straight run prevention, and the best measure of that in my book is ERA.

I’m not going to sit here and argue that the Yankees ‘Pen in 2016 is not as talented as the 2014 Royals. In reality Betances, Chapman, and Miller are just as talented, if not more talented than HDH from 2014.

Based on talent alone the Yankees have a solid chance to have three relievers post sub 1.50 ERA’s. However, too many things would have to fall into place over the course of the 2016 season for the Yankees threesome to match what HDH accomplished in 2014.

Bracing For Bruce To Baltimore

Jun 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce’s days in Cincinnati could be coming to an end. The Cincinnati Reds right fielder has been long rumored to be on the trade block and Thursday evening Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Reds believe the Baltimore Orioles have the prospects to complete a deal. This came on the heels of Rosenthal’s report that the O’s have interest in Bruce. The team is also interested in Pedro Alvarez and Dexter Fowler.

The speculation is that the Orioles will add another hitter before spring training. If that’s via trade or free agency is still yet to be known.

The Bruce trade would make sense for the team. They need a hitter, they don’t want to pay an exuberant amount of money, and he has a ton of upside. The former first-round pick and top prospect in baseball has never lived up to his full potential while in Cincy. The biggest critique of the left-handed slugger has been his lack of consistency and high strikeout numbers.

Coming off of a season in which he slashed .226 / .294 / .434. He can smack balls all over the ballpark, evidenced by his 208 home runs in only eight seasons. However, the last two seasons he’s regressed to the point that his stock isn’t riding very high. That’s bad for Cincinnati, good for Baltimore. For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps.

For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps. He’s signed through 2016 with a club option in 2017. At $12.5 million, he’s affordable as a slugger. He will likely hit a minimum of 25 home runs, and if he gets his average back near .250, or higher, it would be a huge help to the lineup. Even better for Baltimore, should Bruce find the consistency he’s lacked for the duration of his stay with the Reds, he can be picked up on the cheap at $13 million next season. It’s not a bad situation for Baltimore.

For the Reds, with the stock riding so low on Bruce it’s decision time. Already in rebuild mode, Bruce would likely never play for another winning Cincinnati Reds team unless these final two seasons completely tank and they could afford to offer him a deal that would allow the 28-year old to finish his career in Cincinnati. So they’re going to have to move him. Will that happen now or at the deadline? That will likely depend on what Baltimore offers in return.

The prospect exchange for Bruce shouldn’t be too steep of a price. Two years ago when he finished 10th in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger would’ve been the key time to move him. Stuck in a “win now” mentality the Reds refused to deal him, probably not an entirely ludicrous idea as it appeared his career was beginning to trend straight up. Now, however, Bruce shouldn’t fetch anything too severe.

Should the Orioles be willing to part ways with a few prospects, the deal could happen within the next few days. If they low-ball Reds general manager, Walt Jocketty, and refuse to budge, the Reds would wait until the trade deadline and gamble on Bruce having a great first half of the season.

This seems to be a situation with a lot of winning potential for all involved.

For the Reds, the possible gains would be getting a few decent prospects in return for a player they’re likely to lose in the next few years, or keeping him and either getting a similar return at the deadline or possibly an even better deal (his stock can’t fall a whole lot).

For the Orioles, they can take a gamble on a potential superstar and hope that a new city and staff can do the trick for Bruce. Nelson Cruz had his best season in Baltimore after leaving Texas and nearly finished in the top five for MVP. Something remotely close to that would be a huge infusion of offense for the Orioles. This would all come at a relatively small cost for what they may be getting. Bruce is only 28 and still has heaps of potential.

For Bruce, this trade would mean getting a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Maybe some of the inconsistency could be ironed out, and he can blossom into the star he once appeared to be. He’s had a modestly good career to this point, but that breakout potential is still there. This move would be beneficial for him and probably preferred to a mid-season trade. This would also allow him to play in the more hitter-friendly American League and play in meaningful games – something he wouldn’t get to do in Cincinnati.

A Bruce-Baltimore love affair could be just what the doctor ordered for all parties involved. The O’s get offense, the Reds get prospects, and Bruce gets a chance at revival.