Spring has sprung-Early Observations

OK-I’m down off the ledge. I can function once again as a normal human being. Baseball is back. Reports from training camps are flowing daily and everyone looks healthy and happy. There are no problems. Every team is in first place.

I’d like to share some early observations:

We have seen a change of style between commissioner Manfred and former commissioner Selig. Mr. Selig did an amazing job building the financial as well as the internal peace and harmony of the sport. He was ahead of the curve in many areas. Other issues have taken longer to resolve. Mr. Manfred has shared his personal feelings more publicly. It is clear that he has thought long and hard about the issues and challenges to be faced. I don’t think there will ever be a dull moment in the Park Avenue aspect of the sport.

the “pace of game” initiatives being implemented make sense. Fans really want the game to flow. It isn’t as much how long the game lasts, it’s more about the pace and flow of the action. Or inaction. Two culprits keep popping in my head as I consider pace of game. First and foremost are the countless pitching changes being made. We live in an age of specialization. Get the right guy on the mound to face a particular hitter at the right time. Not a batter later. Not a batter too soon. Takes time. The second greatest culprit is throwing over to first base to keep the runner close. Fans hate it. It’s boring. But it’s strategic. In most cases, it’s important. In some cases it’s silly. Takes time. The integrity of the game would be harmed if either pitching change rules or “keeping runners close” regulations were changed. They are here to stay.

C C Sabathia came to camp some 30 pounds heavier than last year. He is convinced the extra weight will keep him stronger. My biggest concern is the progress he can make on his cutter. If he can get that pitch figured out properly and if his foot lands properly on the mound without pain, Sabathia may return to anchor the staff. I see him as a pivotal guy for the Yankees franchise.

The early pictures I saw of Pablo Sandoval gave me great pause. He looks like he’s still carrying around far too much weight for his frame. I’ve been fooled before. He has excellent range for his size. But when does that weight start impacting his knees, his core and his bat speed? I’m just askin’.

Drew Smiley raised some concerns publicly about the disparity between amateur signing bonuses based upon international players outside the United States, Canadian and Puerto Rican First Year Player Draft system. Clearly, an international draft is something that must be addressed. It could even include two systems-the current Draft and another for international players other than Americans, Canadians and Puerto Ricans. The money is getting scary. It’s an issue that will find a solution. The number of teams willing to pay taxes for exceeding international spending limits is minimal-causing an imbalance.

In case you missed it, B J Upton is now Melvin Upton. It is something he has wanted to do.

Yoan Moncada is now with the Red Sox. Here’s what I don’t get. Where were the Yankees? The Red Sox are loaded with position players and may have added Moncada simply because he’s a great player and eventually, he’ll earn his own position. The Yankees, however, needed Moncada in their middle infield. If there was ever a signing that had “Yankees” written all over it, I thought it was Moncada. So the Red Sox won twice. They got Moncada and the Yankees didn’t. But at a hefty price. Don’t the Red Sox still need a true No. 1 starter, or is that just me? Cole Hamels? Cliff Lee?

The Diamondbacks have earned a new mega television deal. Some of their recent moves may have been predicated on the future TV contract. They made two huge international signings by inking Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez, both from Cuba.
I think we will see great things from both of these prospects. Lopez may well force himself into the rotation discussion this spring.

Hanley Ramirez is giving every indication that he is thrilled to be playing left field for the Red Sox. If he’s healthy and happy, watch out.

Jurickson Profar is out for the year following shoulder surgery. It’s such a shame that we haven’t really gotten to see what this young man can do. Injuries have really hurt his career.

It appears that Prince Fielder is totally recovered and ready to go for the Rangers. A healthy Fielder can really add length to the lineup and ruffle some pitchers.

I have heard all the talk about how the Cubs may (and even should) break camp with Kris Bryant as their starting third baseman. I disagree. I think he will benefit from a couple months at Triple-A and the club will benefit by not starting his clock too soon. This is a super talent. I’d rather have him around as long as I could and promote him when he’s totally ready as opposed to squeezing a couple more months at the beginning of his big league career. The team has Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt who are both capable of holding down the fort until Bryant arrives later in the season.

How patient will the Cubs be with Javier Baez? He’s only 22. He has amazing bat speed. But he has to recognize pitches quicker and lay off the sliders and curve balls that tie him up. At some point, even the Cubs may find the strikeouts tough to live with. He’s such a great talent, but he has to show progress.

There is risk involved in the Phillies holding on to Hamels and Lee until the July trade deadline. If that’s their plan, what happens if either gets hurt between now and then? Or what happens if either are totally ineffective. And even today, I have heard that Chase Utley has opened the door to being traded. I’m certain the Phillies know what they want for each of their veterans, but the risk/reward tilts to them now for sure. I’m not as certain about five months from now.

Thank you for following my “On The Cusp” series at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done. I’ll be sharing my observations on Spring Training as we move along.

Pizza or pasta-I love em both

I know there are lots of forms of entertainment. To be truthful, there are movies I’ve seen that I didn’t like. Same goes for television shows, concerts and stage plays. But believe me, I have never seen a Spring Training game I didn’t like.

There is something very, very special about Spring Training. First and foremost, you’re there. Your friends probably aren’t. They may be back home shivering and shoveling if you live in a frigid winter state. Or, they may be at….work. Yikes!

Spring Training is renewal. Renaissance. It’s a time when even a 100 loss team has a chance. Hope. Vigor. Vitality. Players have that certain “skip” in their step, if you will. Everyone says they’re healthy. Everyone says “it’s the best offseason I’ve ever had. Got all my work done. Spent time with my family. Went hunting. Went fishing. Just chilled.” Renewal. Fresh. A new start. Everyone’s chipper. And when he played, Chipper was even more chipper.

In some parts of Arizona and Florida the scent of orange blossoms can still be discovered. You may have to drive a bit, but they can be found. Not as prolific as the past, but orange blossoms nonetheless. In both states it smells like spring. And spring smells good.

But man, these two Spring Training experiences are way different. I love pizza and I love pasta. Don’t ask me to choose. I love Arizona and I love Florida for Spring Training. Don’t ask me to choose. They are unique and special. Different in many ways and the same in some. It’s baseball.

FLORIDA

There is a charm about Florida camps that one does not find any longer in Arizona. Parks that are the homes to clubs like Detroit and Baltimore, Houston and Pittsburgh. Toronto and the New York Mets. And more. They have character. Some are in residential neighborhoods. Some are so quaint it seems like the fan is returning to 1950 and 1960. Updated, yes. But only the paint and some of the important amenities have been refurbished. The memories, the charm and the nostalgia can’t be painted over. I hope Florida doesn’t lose that. But some clubs will be moving to newer, more updated parks in the future. Some of the older and more nostalgic parks will remain.

The drive from one park to another goes on forever in Florida. Lots of traffic. Lots of cops out giving tickets. Some toll roads. Road construction. Everything we hate about driving with little of the good stuff. But at the end of the road…bliss. The ballpark. Get off the freeway to catch a Marlins or Cardinals game and you’re greeted with a small sign on a pole that says something like…”Ball Game Today.”
You bet. A game every day in March. Love it.

And Florida has Steak N Shake. Love me some Steak N Shake.

The humidity is greater than Arizona and the pitchers like that. The ball gets more movement.

Bus rides for players are longer and it isn’t unusual for major core components of a club to skip long road trips. But that happens in Arizona to some extent as well. Just don’t be upset if your favorite player isn’t at the park that day. It happens. But overall, it isn’t worth being upset. Nothing should upset you.

ARIZONA

Facilities in Arizona are all on the new side. Very modern. Very “state of the art.” But beautiful. Not as intimate as Florida. A different type of charm. A different experience totally. Many are upscale and really big.

Players seem more distant from the fans. I know that I’ve been told that fans have to work much harder to get autographs in Arizona. But it can be done. Some parks are easier than others.

But what an experience. Everything works. Hot water in the faucet at most parks. Not a given in Florida. Great, great food at the concession stands, similar to Florida.

The air is drier in Arizona and the breaking balls don’t break as much. Players really have to work to break a sweat.

Arizona has Portillo’s for hot dogs, beef sandwiches and milk shakes. I love me some Portillo’s.

Parks are close enough to see a day game and a night game on the same day without driving more than 30 miles. I do it with regularity.

Rental cars are very expensive in Arizona.

I want you to do me a favor. At some point in your life, make it a priority to visit a Spring Training site. Catch a few games. Buy the T shirts and the hats. Wear them proudly back home. Show off a little. Don’t boast. Just wear the goods. Breathe in the Spring Training scent of Karen’s ice cream truck. Or the kettle corn at Maryvale, home of the Brewers. Get some noodles at Peoria, home of the Padres and Mariners. You’ll be hooked.

Pizza or pasta? Florida or Arizona? Both great. Both have something for each of us. There is no such thing as a bad Spring Training game. Time stops. For those three hours we are in paradise. Lost with the crack of the bat and the smell of the mustard. Brown mustard at Goodyear, home of the Indians and Reds.

We might buy a baseball from a Phillies fan in Clearwater. One he says he caught at the game and is now selling for a buck or two. We might stroll through the new and renovated boardwalk at the Pirates camp in Bradenton. It’s fantastic. Or, we may pick up the free Lakeland newspaper they give us at Tigertown. What a place.

As the spring progresses, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the nuances and atmosphere of each place I visit in both Florida and Arizona. I’ll be your eyes and ears until you can get there yourself. But promise me you’ll set a goal of attending at least one Spring Training game in the future. You’ll be convinced you are very much alive.

My “On The Cusp” series continues on MLBPipeline.com. Look for your favorite team on the site or in my archives. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Much appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

Unfinished Business: NL East and Central

This is my last blog in this series of unfinished business. It’s my take on potential issues and concerns that remain with big league clubs prior to the start of Spring Training.

I clearly admire what the Braves have been doing to bolster their pitching in preparation for the arrival of their new stadium. However, I have some real concerns about their ability-or lack thereof- to score runs this coming season. Where’s the beef?
Where’s the sizzle? I see issues with a quick recovery from neck surgery for Nick Markakis, issues with B J Upton rebounding to hit quality pitching, and a fairly mediocre hitting infield with the exception of Freddie Freeman. Lots of offensive questions lead me to believe the Braves need some help. Quickly. Regarding prospect position players, I do like Jose Peraza and Rio Ruiz for the future. But I don’t see much in the way of trading chips for the present.

For me, the Marlins are a team on the move. A team fans will love to watch. If I have any issue, it’s with their bench. The rotation will get a huge boost when Jose Fernandez returns in mid-season. Mat Latos’ health is a bit of a concern. But the team could hum.

The Mets need a shortstop. For the fourth year in a row I believe the Mets need a shortstop. Jose Reyes left in November 2012. He hasn’t been replaced. They could also use some 1B depth. But I love the starting pitching. I think Juan Legares is an outstanding defensive CF and they have some nice pieces. Unfinished? Shortstop IMO.

The Phillies really have to find a way to get younger quicker. So do I. But that aside, I’m not sure how they enter a new season with the few moves they’ve made. It’s time to take the best offers for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. And Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. They didn’t get much younger adding Grady Sizemore and Aaron Harang. There may be deals to be made for prospects-and perhaps the prospects will inject some much needed vim, vigor and victories. Or maybe there aren’t deals to be made. But one would think Hamels and Lee could fetch the future. Utley is a very valuable player for a dedicated fan base. But if he can bring help for tomorrow, the fan base may be forgiving.

The Nationals are an extremely balanced teams that could really beat up on their NL East opponents. The only hiccup may occur in left field while they await the return of Jayson Werth from shoulder surgery. The rotation is outstanding. The pen is outstanding. The lineup is dangerous. Everything clicks like my teeth when I visit Chicago in January.

I think the Cubs pitching will be better than most analysts have indicated. I also think their farm system is as good or even better than advertised. Issues? Unfinished business? Not much. Left field is a minor concern for about half a season. Third base is a concern until the Cubs are satisfied that Kris Bryant is ready to see big league sliders and breaking balls on a regular basis. Probably…mid May. At catcher, I didn’t see the need for Miguel Montero over Wellington Castillo (who’s out of options, by the way) but I’m not the Cubs. I really like Castillo. And David Ross. Need I say more?
Jorge Soler is a monster of a hitter. Anthony Rizzo remains underrated IMO. Javier Baez has to learn to hit the cutter, slider, off-speed pitches and recognize them quicker. But the Cubs have few flaws. Go watch Soler. And when he’s promoted, go watch Bryant. And eventually Schwarber and Russell and Almora and McKinney and Alcantara and Edwards and on and on and on.

The Reds? Yikes. What happened to the Reds? On paper, they don’t seem that bad. They have good players. Depth is my issue. If Joey Votto gets hurt again or Jay Bruce or Todd Frazier or…you get my drift, right? The rotation is ??? Beyond Cueto I begin to worry. Age is creeping up on the club. They aren’t old, by any means. But the creep is starting. Brandon Phillips is 33. Marlon Byrd 37. Joey Votto 31. Skip Schumacher 35. Bryan Pena 33. Jason Bourgeois 33. Depth is my issue.

I think the Brewers fixed their 1B issue with the acquisition of Adam Lind. The guy can clobber right-handed pitching. Especially at Miller Park. They made a great deal to get insurance for Jean Segura and Scooter Gennett with Luis Sardinas. I do like this club. I don’t totally like the starting pitching, as I think they’re counting on Jimmy Nelson to do more than I’ve seen from him. And I don’t think they have the No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8 starters that every club seems to need these days. Pitching. Unfinished business.

My concern with the Pirates is very simple-what do they do about 1B if Pedro Alverez is not really sold on changing positions? Is that where Corey Hart comes in? And can he hit after his injuries? I think they contend. Waiting in the wings will be Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham-and if Charlie Morton gets healthy, Charlie Morton if they need more starting pitching. So they do have some pitching depth. Sean Rodriguez is the sleeper. He can play everywhere. Including 1B. So the unfinished business may be mitigated with Hart and Rodriguez. This is a good club. But keep an eye on Alvarez. I hope it works for him.

The Cardinals remain the Cardinals. Always in contention. Always knowing what they’re doing. They do need Jason Heyward to hit. And they need Adam Wainwright to stay healthy. And Michael Wacha to rebound. And Trevor Rosenthal to throw strikes. But for me, there aren’t any real flaws. It’s a solid club that will depend on average performances from their guys-which they’ll get. And some will exceed that. I’m not a huge fan of Jhonny Peralta’s defense at shortstop, but they can live with it. And thrive.
Unfinished business? Very little.

Thanks for reading this series. And when you go to bed tonight, remember this: The Equipment Trucks Are About To Arrive At Your Team’s Spring Training Park. Did you get the capital letters? That means it’s important. To me, to you and to your entire family. It’s Almost Baseball.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and at MLBPipeline.com. My followers and readers are the Best.

That’s it. I’m done.

Unfinished Business-National League West

Some MLB teams are more balanced than others. In my opinion, every club could still use a tweak, a nudge or even a transfusion to get them off life support. Today, I begin my look at the unfinished business of the National League. The West is up first.

General manager Dave Stewart has indicated that his Diamondbacks are fairly set behind the plate. As things now stand, they will begin Spring Training with Tuffy Gosewisch as the starter and Rule 5 selection Oscar Hernandez as the back up catcher. After making his declaration, Stewart did sign veteran Gerald Laird and he is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. The job will ultimately belong to prospect Peter O’Brien. He still has work to do on his defensive game, but O’Brien is an exciting offensive player. I look for him to wear a big league uniform at some point this season. I really like Tuffy, and maybe the club does have enough catching. But I remain concerned.

Speaking of catching, I’m among the many concerned about the nosedive performed by the Rockies Wilin Rosario last season. Never a good defensive catcher, his offense has always kept him in the lineup. But his bat tanked last year and the club has doubts. Nick Hundley waits in the wings. For me the problem begins and ends on the Coors Field mound. Somehow, the club has to get the baseball to home plate when the opposition hits during home games. That’s a shame. I think they’ll always have unfinished business on the mound. The humidor has helped but elevation, wind tunnels, and a huge outfield landscape are tough elements to overcome. If they could play only offense at home they would be World Class. But they have to pitch and play defense. Those are the rules.

For me, the Dodgers are far from perfect. Yes, I think the defense has improved with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick up the middle. But the power has taken a hit with the loss of Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon. Each has the ability to score runs and/or knock in runs. But the pitching is still sound. Especially if Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson deliver the goods at the back of the rotation. Third base is an issue for me. And while I like Joc Pederson as a center fielder, my jury on him must remain out until at least the middle of the season. So yes, questions still remain. The bullpen? I think they could have some hiccups. But the team is still way good.

As much as I really like what the Padres have done and continue to do, I think some gaping holes remain to be filled. I’m concerned about third base (Yangervis Solarte) in particular. And I don’t see much third base depth. I’m also not nuts about Wil Myers in center. But I do like the depth they have there with Will Venable and Cameron Maybin. If they remain with the club. Who knows, they may be part of a future trade. I think we’ll see one more starter and an additional third base option before too long. Is there a James Shields in the future? How about Cole Hamels? I’m just askin’.

The Giants never cease to amaze. But I think the pitching is the huge question. Or questions. I really believe they need one or two more starters in case Matt Cain can’t come back or Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy grind to a halt. And Tim Lincecum is penciled in as the fifth starter. The starting pitching? Yikes. And the 6th and 7th guys in line may be Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit. The pitching picture is blurry. But don’t ever count them out. Just count me concerned. They always find a way and every time we write them off, along comes the front office with a mid-season rabbit flopping out of their caps.

Overall, I’m not making any predictions yet, but I do think some of the flaws could be fatal. Wounds can be addressed. Direct hits to the heart from two feet away could spell doom. And that’s my concern with pitching depth. For me, pitching carries the day in parks like Coors Field and Chase Field. AT&T, Petco and Dodgers Stadium are more forgiving. I look at games played at both Coors Field and Chase Field with a jaundiced eye. That’s where pitchers have to keep the ball down and in the park. So for me, when I make my predictions this coming spring, pitching will factor heavily in the NL West equation. I don’t think what we see now is what we’ll get in April or even in July. Remember, the season is only half over in mid-July. That’s when lots of clubs strike (like the Giants) with their best late season moves.

Hope springs eternal-we are less than two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. Are you ready? Man, I am. And so is my wife. Get my drift?

Thanks of reading my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

“Unfinished Business-Part 2-AL West”

I haven’t ever seen a perfect team. Some, however, are more balanced than others. Today I share my thoughts about some unfinished business with the AL West.

I really believe the Astros helped themselves by improving their bullpen. The additions of Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Will Harris help stabilize the pen. But, when it’s all said and done I think they are still short on starting pitching. It may take eight starters to get through the season, and I don’t see the depth. While I like the offense, there are a ton of strikeout in the middle of the order with Springer, Carter, Rasmus and Gattis. But they should put up plenty of runs to cover high scoring games. Still, while I think they have improved, the pitching is worrisome.

The Angels won 98 games last year-ten more than the second place Athletics. But my concern is that they may have eaten into that advantage with the departure of Howie Kendrick. I have been and still am a huge Kendrick believer. The guy is a natural hitter with gap power and an ability to drive in big runs. He now yields second base to Josh Rutledge. I think the difference is dramatic. Yes, the team now has a good lefty pitching prospect in Andrew Heaney. I really like him. But he is untested. The team is still good, but a return to health from Garrett Richards is really important. They also need a bounce back from C.J. Wilson. For me, another pitcher, second base depth and more playing time for C.J. Cron would all work well.

Cespedes-gone. Moss-gone. Donaldson-gone. Jaso-gone. Norris-gone. Not to mention Samardzija and Lester. I’m probably missing some. This isn’t tinkering. This is a complete surgical reconstruction in Oakland. I think home runs in Oakland will go the way of the public pay telephone-few and far between. Yes, I like the young pitching received in return. I like Ben Zobrist. But the last I looked, Zobrist can only play one position at a time. They need him at second base, shortstop, in the outfield and selling programs with the names of the players. I think there are some holes in the lineup, to say the least. But here’s the but. But the Oakland front office always seems to know what they are doing. They should pitch well. Defense and power may be a thing of the past. I don’t think they’re done. I think they’ll find middle infield depth and maybe try to find some power somewhere. Then again, maybe not.

The Mariners are one of the few teams in the big leagues about which I have few, if any, questions. The are a balanced club of good starting pitching, good relief pitching, power, speed, and a good farm system to support the Major League club if needed. I love the fact the opposition has to navigate through Jackson, Smith, Cano, Cruz, and Seager. Will Brad Miller be able to keep the job at shortstop? That may be the only question. I look for huge offensive seasons from these M’s. The bench could use a boost, but that’s picking nits. I don’t like picking nits. This is a good team that should challenge for the top spot in the AL West-at least that’s what I think today at the beginning of February when we haven’t even started Spring Training.

The Rangers. I look for the greatest increase in wins in all of baseball to come from the Rangers. If…if Prince Fielder is healthy and can hit like he should. If Shin-Soo-Choo returns to health and his previous form of setting the table from the top of the order. If..if Yu Darvish stays healthy and limits his repertoire from eight pitches to maybe four or five. I really like Rougned Odor. Having him around can allow Jurickson Profar to get completely healthy before his return. But the Rangers need at least one more new starter beyond Yovani Gallardo. And I’m concerned Gallardo will get a stiff neck from turning around and watching balls fly out of his home park. Matt Harrison and Martin Perez may-and I mean may-offer late season help. They need to get that unfinished business finished. They need more starting pitching.

The AL West will be really fun to watch because every team seems solid and competitive. No 100 game losers. I don’t think. But business remains to be done regarding starting pitching throughout the division, with the exception of Seattle. I think they are the most settled at that crucial winning component. They have pitching depth, balance and a hunger to win.

And my favorite words?…”The equipment trucks have left for Arizona and Florida.”
Spring Training is within reach.

Thanks for reading my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com and my Top 40 Relief Pitchers for 2015 on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done.

Unfinished Business-American League East and Central

There are rarely, if ever, perfectly balanced teams with offense, defense, starting pitching, speed, power, relief pitching, and all the requisite components of greatness. Virtually every team has some flaws. Some have more than others.

Today I want to take a look at what I think remains to be done for several American League clubs prior to the bell ringing in April. I will update my thoughts periodically on this topic throughout the rest of the buildup to the season. My next blog will feature the AL West and one NL division.

I guess I am beyond surprised the Orioles have not been able to add to their roster after losing players like Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. The free agent market would have been attractive but they were burned badly by the ineffective (to put it kindly) performance of Ubaldo Jimenez. They did more than stick their toe in the water on that one. They jumped in head first and drowned. Everyone will pay a price for that mistake. But the fans will suffer the most. The team went from good to mediocre in one offseason. They need offensive outfield help. Even if their injured Manny Machado and Matt Wieters make it all the way back-I think they fall short.

The Red Sox are going to try to climb the standings without a true ace or even a traditional No. 1 starter. They have collected better pitching than last year, but they are dependent upon a return to form of Justin Masterson, some consistency from Clay Buchholz and a good adjustment to the AL by Wade Miley. That’s a great deal to ask. I like Rick Porcello, but it seems to me he will be pitching under more pressure. The team may be able to pound the opposition into submission with the likes of that lineup. I think they need another very good pitcher. Cole Hamels?

The Yankees have lots of unresolved issues regarding their starting pitching. Will CC come back strong or end up being So So? What about Michael Pineda? Masahiro Tanaka? Ivan Nova? Isn’t it a lot to except four guys to return to form? I don’t see a lot of proven starting pitching waiting in the wings. And that isn’t even to mention health concerns of Beltran, Teixeira, or ARod. I think they need at least one more proven starter. But the Yankees will find a way. I’m a huge Joe Girardi fan.

Where will the Rays find offense? I thought they were challenged in the past, but they appear to be even thinner this year. And can their defense help their pitching as they have done in the past? Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop? But I do like the addition of Rene Rivera behind the plate. They’ll miss Ben Zobrist. Their outstanding pitching may very well carry the day—in low scoring games.

The Blue Jays are as close to a solid club as I can find in the AL. All they need IMO is one more reliable starting pitcher and a proven closer. I think they can use Spring Training to find both of those. But overall, I like the club. Ultimately, Aaron Sanchez may be a solid big league closer. Maybe not yet.

I think the acquisition of catcher Geovany Soto was a very good move for the White Sox. He may eventually be a big part of what they accomplish. This is a very, very solid club. One piece worth fixing may be second base-but they have to give Carlos Sanchez a chance. Or do they return to Gordon Beckham? There is some middle infield depth in the farm system, but not Major League ready.

The Indians need at least one more right-handed bat. I actually think they could use more than one. Like other clubs, they are hoping for returns to health from too many players. Bourn (hamstrings) Swisher (knees) Kipnis (hand) Moss (hip). It’s asking a lot for them all to contribute to improving their personal 2014 nightmares. The pitching has the potential to carry the club. Have they improved their defense? That was a huge, huge problem and I’m not convinced at all they can catch the ball and throw the ball much better than last year.

The Tigers still need one more solid hitting outfielder, and yes, at least one relief pitcher. Maybe two. I am not sold that Anthony Gose will be the answer in center. Especially not offensively. And the back end of their bullpen has been among the reasons they aren’t yet World Series Champions. It’s still a flat tire. The Tigers will need a healthy Miguel Cabrera right from the beginning as the other Central clubs are better.

The Royals are solid, but I think they will find themselves a James Shields short of where they were last year. I don’t think Edinson Volquez makes up the difference. But Alex Rios instead of Billy Butler is probably a wash. Reymond Fuentes can run. If he makes the club, he adds another speedster to get on, get over and get in. I still like the club, but remember-a great deal went well for them in the 2nd half last season. Can that happen again. The bullpen is the best in the Central-by far. Maybe one of the best in the game.

The Twins are waiting for the arrivals of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. But when it’s all said and done, who’s pitching? Ervin Santana is a nice addition, but they need more. Much more. Tommy Milone may help, but…they just don’t have the pitching yet to compete in a tough division. Alex Meyer and Trevor May??? Um… I think the Twins have to make some bold moves to gain some swagger and play with the big boys. A new manager may bring a new voice and new priorities. I wish them well.

Next: more Unfinished Business.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and thanks for listening to Short Hops. As always, you are very much appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

p.s. run the ball on the goal line if you have one of the best in the business in the backfield.

Is This A Great Offseason, Or What?

So the greatest baseball offseason in my memory continues with deals, free agent signings and player transactions almost on a daily basis. Is this great for baseball junkies like you and me, or what?

Even though we are enjoying a tremendous baseball winter, we still can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report to Arizona and Florida, right? Spring Training. A new life for every team in baseball. We’ve been “waiting for next year” for several months and next year will finally be here. That’s when we begin to see what all the moving and shaking was all about. That’s when we get to see Yasmany Tomas in a Dbacks uniform. That’s when we begin to sort out which of the Cubs prospects have a chance to break with the club. With their lack of third base depth, does Kris Bryant assume the position right off the bat? Pablo Sandoval plays for the Red Sox. Wrap that around in your mind a bit. It’s only been words up to now. Soon it will be reality. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp will be in the same San Diego Padres outfield. Way cool.

OK-some deals went down this week and I have to weigh in with a couple of my thoughts.

I really like the way John Hart has targeted young pitching for the future of the Atlanta Braves. The pitcher that most intrigues me is Mike Foltynewicz. I remember seeing him pitch in the Astros Spring Training camp and being totally impressed. He’s a very cool customer on the mound with a very good arm. He has good command of a complete repertoire and I think he’ll be a fixture in the Braves rotation at some point-maybe even late this season. Add in Manny Banuelos, Shelby Miller, Max Fried, Tyrell Jenkins, etc. and the Braves are establishing a solid pitching foundation for their ultimate move to a new stadium. That said, I think they will struggle mightily to score runs this year. The lineup has been weakened tremendously, but all eyes are on their future.

I’m not one that thinks the Brewers forfeited too much in their trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers. I think eventually Jimmy Nelson will become a solid big league starter to take the place of Gallardo. It make take Nelson some time, but the upside remains. I do, however, like middle-infielder Luis Sardinas a great deal. It provides the Brew Crew with an outstanding defensive middle infielder and depth at two positions. Keep your eye on the health of Corey Knebel. If his elbow barks, it may be problematic. And the third player in the deal may be the “wild card.” Right-handed pitcher Marcos Diplan is very, very young. He has huge upside and could be the real winner of the deal. Time will tell.

Very quietly Carlos Corporan was designated for assignment and then traded from the Astros to the Rangers. While he may not be a starter is most team’s eyes, he has some pop in his bat. But he’s a guy that needs to hit regularly to stay sharp. If he were ever to get playing time, I think he could really emerge. We’ll see.

The Cubs have a new leadoff hitter after acquiring Dexter Fowler from Houston. I had disagreements on twitter when I said I felt he was a solid outfielder. Maybe not “outstanding” which was my original word, but I have seen him make some super plays roaming the huge outfield in Colorado. His defensive metrics aren’t good. But the Cubs get a guy that can get on base from the top of the order and one that will make the plays for them in center field. The Astros pick up Luis Valbuena to probably platoon at third base and Dan Straily for the rotation. Fowler will be replaced in center by free agent Colby Rasmus. Overall, I don’t see much improvement for the Astros during the off-season. Lots of moves, but are they better? I’m just askin’. I really think they could have used both Foltynewicz and Jarred Cosart who they traded to Miami last year.

IMO Jake Marisnick plays solid defense and should end up in left field most of the time in Houston with Rasmus in center. Marisnick came in the Cosart deal.

Max Scherzer to the Nationals? Who knew? Not me. I should have figured it out. The Nationals and the Boras Group have a very good relationship. Mike Rizzo drafted Scherzer when Rizzo was with the Dbacks. But man-in essence, isn’t Scherzer now equal to an “owner” of the club? I don’t write about money. But that’s some kind of money. And it’ll help James Shields. And next year’s crop of available pitchers like David Price and Johnny Cueto. If I’m the Nationals I keep all their starters. I wouldn’t think of breaking up a fantastic rotation that includes Strasburg, Scherzer, Zimmerman, Fister, Gonzalez and Tanner Roark if needed. On paper, they have a guy that can win every day. How many teams can really say that? Every day a starter touches the mound for Washington, they are a good bet to win that game. No #4 or #5 starter blues and woes. But. But games aren’t won on paper. They’re won between the lines. Injuries could hit. One or more of their pitchers could get a flat tire. But I sure like the makeup of that club.

Where does James Shields land? I still like the Orioles or the Blue Jays, but I have no idea. None whatsoever. I do know that he can lengthen a rotation, eat innings and help any big league club of his choosing. Maybe he’s waiting for that special team to call. Or he wants another year on the deal. Or more money. But it should be over soon. We should soon find out who wins the Shields Sweepstakes.

Remember when Hunter Morris was in the first base picture for the Brewers? It wasn’t too long ago. The job was his in Spring Training, but it didn’t work out. Now, he’s been designated for assignment. The light only shines for so long.

Tyler Clippard offers the Athletics a really fine late inning relief option. If needed, he can close. If not, he can set up. He’s a good fit for a club that may be better than many think. The deal they made with Washington for Yunel Escobar makes sense for both clubs. The Nationals can use more middle infield help. They got it.

And so now we wait. We wait for the words “the equipment truck departed today for Spring Training.” Those are among the sweetest words in the English language. Another great sentence is “Pitchers and catchers reported today to….to begin Spring Training.” Oh, how I love those words. So do you.

But keep your eyes posted here at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD going forward. And follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff so we can talk some ball. I hope you’re enjoying my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com. I write about each team’s prospects that may make the 2015 club at some point in the season. Finally, I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops on iTunes where my baseball partner Derek Van Riper and I talk baseball for at least an hour a week. And I’m still doing a weekly segment at noon eastern on Wednesday at Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports.

As always, thanks for your great support.

 

More Wood On The Stove

Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I hope this year brings you great health, great joy and a championship for your favorite baseball team. Well, we can all dream, can’t we?

I think there are a couple of sleepers that were moved in the recent flurry of trades. One of those is R J Alvarez who went to the Athletics from the Padres. He had previously gone to the Padres from the Angels, the team that first drafted him. Alvarez has a back of the bullpen power arm. He could eventually close. He has one true pitch-a “lights out” fastball. He was a starter at Florida Atlantic University, but has since converted to the pen. Keep your eye on him. I like his stuff.

More widely known is starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. Heaney was traded to the Dodgers and then flipped to the Angels. I think he has a chance to be a very solid starting pitcher. The Angels have to be patient with him, as it is quite possible he could scuffle a bit against better quality hitting. In time, he can be an innings eater and a winner. He scuffled a bit in his 2014 debut-and that’s what I’m talking about. However, he throws a quality fastball, slider and changeup that should play on the big stage. I’m a huge Howie Kendrick fan (traded for Heaney) but he may have departed when free agency was available to him. This deal was good for the Angels.

Max Fried went from the Padres to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade. There was some risk involved for the Braves, as Fried is recovering from Tommy John surgery. But I think he’ll become a star once he’s recovered. He had great stuff before the elbow issues. He knows how to pitch. I think the big lefty will return to his 95 mph fastball and wipe out curveball once his rehab is complete and his arm is stretched out. We won’t see him this year, but down the road—he’s a keeper.

Manny Banuelos, who went to the Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve was once spoken of in the same prospect sentences with star reliever Dellin Betances. I vividly remember when Betances had trouble throwing strikes. Like Banuelos, he has had Tommy John surgery. Betances came back from the surgery, regained his power arm and started throwing more strikes. Now-he (Betances) could be closing games for the Yankees. Worse case, he serves as a set-up man for Andrew Miller. But back to Banuelos. He doesn’t have the huge 6-foot-8 height of Betances. In fact, he’s only
5-foot-10. But I really like his upside. I think he’ll bounce back fine from surgery and be able to pitch either out of the Braves rotation or out of their pen. Clearly-the Braves have faith that both Fried and Banuelos will return to their original prospect form. I wouldn’t bet against either.

Franklin Barreto was part of the Josh Donaldson trade with the Blue Jays. He may one day become a star on a team that always seems to need middle infield help. He’s still only 18 (he’ll be 19 in February) but he has the poise and moxie of a guy much older. He barrels pitches and has a terrific feel for hitting. He hit .311/6/61 at Class A Short Season Vancouver last year in 328 plate appearances. For me, he was a top 5 prospect with the Blue Jays. Keep your eye on this young man-he may eventually take some of the sting away from losing Donaldson.

By the way-I also like Shreve, the lefty the Yankees got for their bullpen for Banuelos. I think you’ll see him pitching in New York this coming season. Not in a prominent role, but as an early call southpaw out of the pen.
Remember the name Christian Walker. I think the young prospect could make the Orioles out of Spring Training. They aren’t deep in first basemen, and Walker has a nice bat with a level, doubles/gap bat. The home runs will come.

Marlon Byrd may be the right guy for Reds as they prepare to pass the left field baton to Jesse Winker. But Winker to Cincinnati may not happen until later this year. Frankly, I would have liked to see Winker start the season, but the Reds probably want him to get more development time. So Byrd it is.

I’m still wondering how the Phillies get younger with the likes of Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur as well as the newly acquired Aaron Harang? I’m just wondering. Yikes!

And the Orioles? Yikes again. The AL East is flying past them.

Not to mention the Giants. But I just did. Some way they will shore up their club. It never fails. We look at the lack of moves they make and then suddenly…bam. Here comes a Hunter Pence or a Jake Peavy or a couple years ago a Cody Ross to save the bacon. I will never count them out. Or the Cardinals either.

Do the Marlins want James Shields? I say yes. But at what price? And I still think Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and the Boras Group will sit around the campfire, eat some pizza and come to terms on a return to Detroit for Max Scherzer. I just think it makes sense. The window on that club could slam shut–and the team has to make that expensive move. And they still need bullpen help. Scherzer would really make that starting staff even more amazing. Scherzer/Price/Verlander/Sanchez/Greene or Simon with the other to the pen. Probably Simon to the pen.

Can Alexi Ogando help someone or is he toast? I’m just wondering. I guess his shoulder is as bad as I thought it was. If not-wouldn’t he still be with the Rangers. Plug in the toaster.

The Red Sox will not start the season with their current starting pitching. I see another move or two coming in the future. Right?

Who can use the excess Padres outfielders (the accounting firm of Quentin, Maybin, and Venable)? Or the Red Sox excess of Bryce Brentz, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, and possibly Shane Victorino? Mookie Betts is too good. He has to stay and play. Well, the Mets, the Orioles, the Giants, the Phillies, the Athletics, the Twins and on and on all come to mind. There is an outstanding market for most of those outfielders. The fly in the ointment? Nobody has what the Padres and Red Sox covet-Major League ready starting pitching. And if they have it, they’re keeping it.

And do you remember…Jackie Bradley, Jr.? That love affair didn’t last too long. I hope he gets a shot somewhere. Add him to the Red Sox outfield inventory.

Carlos Quentin. I wonder what a healthy Carlos Quentin could do? Will we ever find out? When he was with the Dbacks I loved to watch him hit. Then he got hurt. Then he got hurt again. And again. And again. And….you get the point.

Do you think the Yankees have enough starting pitching or do they need a Shields or Scherzer? Will Pineda and Sabathia both return healthy? And the big question-will Tanaka hold up? Don’t they need another arm or two? I love Eovaldi, but what if those other three guys I just mentioned can’t pitch? That leaves Capuano, Warren and Nova (if he’s healthy). I give that a Yikes! I’d be looking for that arm or two, but that’s just me.

Have I mentioned that I think Garrett Jones is going to really help the Yankees? Perfect home park for his swing. He may take DH at-bats from A-Rod. You remember A-Rod, right? And he’ll take some outfield time as well.

OK- that’s all for today. I’m done.

All my best to the kids. And remember your New Year’s Resolution—you forgot already. Well let me remind you. You’re going to tell your family and friends that they are always welcome to follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and to read my work at MLBPipeline.com.

The American Shuffle

As a chronologically advanced individual, I can’t remember an off season with so much action and intrigue. Scorecard sales should be up this coming season. Man, have the faces and places changed. Especially in the American League.

The Red Sox will open the season with a newly designed starting rotation and with a couple of different potent bats in the lineup.

Rick Porcello leaves the Tigers to become the potential ace of the Red Sox staff. He made his Major League debut at age 20. He’s now 25-soon to be 26. His baseball life is really beginning to peak. He has become a much better, much more reliable pitcher and the Red Sox will reap the benefits.

Justin Masterson will claim a spot in the rotation, returning to the club where his career began. I wish I could figure him out. I think the Indians and Cardinals wish they could have figured him out. He really, really scuffles against left-handed hitters. But his sinking fastball works well against righties. I’ve watched him lose his release point and blow up his game in the period of ten minutes. For me, he’s an “if.” If he can get lefties out. If he can throw strikes. If, if, if.

Lefty Wade Miley is the third new starting pitcher the Red Sox have added. I’ve watched the good and the bad of Miley with the Dbacks. Here’s my concern. I think the Green Monster is going to get a ton of new dents. He just isn’t overpowering enough to leave pitches up in the zone. If he keeps the ball down, he can be very good. Slow worker. And he has real trouble pitching from the stretch. Miley is a rhythm pitcher. When his release point is consistent he stays out of trouble. Some guys can pitch through a loss of mechanics. He has trouble with that.

I really like what Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez bring to the offense. But both have to stay healthy and stay on the field. They could have monster seasons.

I think the Rays did a great job getting back some outstanding prospects in their deal with the Padres and Nationals. Yes, they gave up Wil Myers. I have some real concerns about his ability to recognize pitches and make consistent contact. He may blossom, he may not. But I really like the upside of Steven Souza-an underrated former Nationals outfielder who was blocked in Washington. I think he starts for Tampa Bay. And I think he will hit-maybe not right away. Fans have to be patient.

The real win for the Rays is Rene Rivera behind the plate. He’s an outstanding defensive catcher with some offense to offer. Rays pitchers will be very happy he’s around. He’s far from a prospect, but he’s a very solid, dependable receiver.

I feel the back end of the Rays bullpen was really bolstered with the addition of Kevin Jepsen. I have a hunch he’ll be their closer. He’s certainly capable.

The Blue Jays are an entirely new team-fresh faces in the lineup to make everyone better. How about navigating through Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. The additions of Martin, Donaldson and outfielder Michael Saunders put this club in contention for an AL East championship IMO. If they can add one more solid starter–watch out.

The Indians added two significant parts to their roster. Brandon Moss will take a roll in the middle of the lineup. My jury remains out on his ability to rebound quickly and effectively from hip surgery. I hope they don’t rush him.

Signing Gavin Floyd and inserting him in the four hole in the rotation really took me by surprise. I hope his elbow is totally healed and he’s ready to go. But his acquisition leaves Danny Salazar and lefty T J House fighting for the final rotation spot. I thought both were set in their roles. One won’t be in the rotation.

While I don’t think Jed Lowrie is the long-term answer at shortstop for the Astros (that would be Carlos Correa) I think his bat will be welcomed in the lineup. He can help with some power from that position. Overall, the big change will come in the bullpen. Both Like Gregerson and Pat Neshek will certainly help late in games.

I don’t think the Mariners are finished with their off-season work. Nelson Cruz and Justin Ruggiano are nice right-handed bats to help balance and lengthen the lineup. But I still think they need another bat. Lefty J A Happ fits at the back end of the rotation. But maybe he could fetch another hitter?

In a need for pitching, the Rangers added lefty Ross Detwiler from the Nationals. I still think they need another hitter and another starter. I would guess their on the prowl now for both those areas. If he’s healthy, Kyuji Fujikawa could be a major, major addition to the bullpen. If Neftali Feliz falters, he can close.

Matt Joyce and Josh Rutledge could both find their way into the starting lineup for the Angels. Joyce adds a bit of pop from the left side of the plate and Rutledge should win the second base job vacated by the departed Howard Kendrick. The pitching depth was strengthened with the addition of left starter Andrew Heaney. I think he has tremendous upside, but patience will be required. He’s only 23 and still gaining confidence.

The Tigers supremacy in the AL Central could be threatened. I still don’t think they have replaced the loss of CF Austin Jackson from mid-2014. Anthony Gose is a good fielder and he can run. Can he get on base? That’s my issue. Having Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the order to compliment VMart and Miggy makes great sense. The guy to watch just may be J D Martinez. But Cespedes could put up some nice numbers. His issue is making consistent contact. The swings and misses may frustrate Tigers fans. Especially with men in scoring position.

Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien are now all part of a less potent Oakland Athletics lineup. Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are gone. That’s some significant fire power playing elsewhere. Kendall Graveman could make the starting rotation after being obtained from Toronto.

The Yankees have stabilized their third base situation for years to come with the long-term signing of Chase Headley. That was a really good move. I wonder how the situation will work with ARod and Carlos Beltran regarding playing time in the field? They both can’t DH. If they let him play, Didi Gregorius will shine at shortstop and he’ll surprise some people with his left-handed power in Yankee Stadium. Adding two very high quality lefties to the bullpen in Justin Wilson and Andrew Miller will provide the Yankees with one of the finest pens in baseball. Especially with Dellin Betances as the new closer.

Then there’s the Orioles. I feel badly for their fans. They lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis without getting anything back in return. They have huge holes in their lineup that have not been filled. What happens if Chris Davis doesn’t perform? Or if Manny Machado and Matt Wieters can’t rebound from injury? I’m confident the team they have now won’t be the same as the one that starts the season. They’ll make some changes.

Thank you for following my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

National Landscape Hasn’t Changed Much

It seems as though player movement becomes contagious. Teams watch clubs in their division make moves to strengthen their organization and it becomes a motivating factor to follow suit. While not all the meaningful transactions took place in San Diego, this past Winter Meetings kept participants on guard as transactions came quickly.

It seems more of the earth shaking moves took place in the American League, but the NL had its share of big transactions as well.

The Atlanta Braves have a new leadoff hitter in Nick Markakis. Markakis must first undergo neck surgery from a condition that has bothered him for some time. That may have been among the reasons the Orioles did not finalize a deal to retain his services. Markakis takes the role vacated when Jason Heyward was traded to the Cardinals. Pesky Alberto Callaspo slips into the two hole in the batting order as a free agent acquisition. The team hopes the additions of Shelby Miller to the rotation and Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino to the bullpen help make up for injury losses. Of course, the Braves may not be finished. Justin and B J Upton may be on the move.

The Cubs are beginning to give the north side of Chicago some hope. My fear is that expectations will be too high for the coming year. It will take at least two seasons in my opinion for all the young players and new veterans to come together and play as a unit. However, this club is headed in the right direction and could be lethal when they mature together.

Of course, adding Jon Lester as the ace of the staff is the foundation for the pitching future. He brings his cutter and mature mound presence to a club where his leadership will be as valued as his ability to pitch. Along with the newly refined Jake Arrieta, the team has an outstanding one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Jason Hammel returns to the team as the third starter. Very quietly, the Cubs added veteran flamethrower Jason Motte to the bullpen. If he’s healthy, that’s a big addition. The catching tandem of Wellington Castillo and newly acquired Miguel Montero could be formidable. Montero gets a fresh start in a new environment. He needs to renew his passion for the game and get back to solid catching fundamentals.

The Reds picked up starter Anthony DeSclafani is a deal for one time ace Mat Latos. Latos had come to the Reds as the focal point of the blockbuster deal with the Padres in December 2011. That deal included Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal. DeSclafani has good stuff and is a fine prospect. Probably the team’s fifth starter now, he can work his way up the food chain if he irons out some inconsistency in his command. Latos has had some injury issues, but if he’s healthy, he can really help the Marlins.

The Padres have still not finalized the much discussed deal for Matt Kemp. If they do get the outfielder from the Dodgers I have some very real concerns. First, will Kemp be happy in a lineup that doesn’t have much offensive pop? Will he be happy away from the brighter lights of Los Angeles? Even though it’s a short drive away, the two cities are totally different in feel and living environment. The issue for me is not the package of players returned to the Dodgers for Kemp, but more Kemp’s contract. Will the Padres be able to supplement the lineup with quality players or will one contract eat much of their available payroll? As I write this a proposed deal for outfielder Wil Myers from the Rays is in the works.

One thing is certain. The Padres front office is making every effort to change the offensive side of the club. They have been in discussions with many free agents and have thrown their hat in the ring for potential trades. Some may come to fruition.

In addition to the Cardinals adding Jason Heyward to right field, they have signed first baseman/third baseman Mark Reynolds as depth off the bench. It’s has some significance, because Reynolds is the type of guy that can win a ballgame with a home run as a pinch hitter in the late innings. Yes, he strikes out a ton. However, there is no doubt about his power. Jordan Walden came in the Heyward trade from the Braves and can add some depth to the bullpen. He along with free agent acquisition Matt Belisle of the Rockies will be new to the pen.

The Mets have added the bat of Michael Cuddyer to their lineup and he could be hitting in the cleanup spot. John Mayberry, Jr. signed as a free agent and could add some depth at first base and in the outfield.

The Pirates handled the loss of catcher Russell Martin by bringing Francisco Cervelli over from the Yankees. It was a great move for Pittsburgh, as Cervelli offers outstanding defense to a pitching staff that has prospered under Martin’s guidance. Cervelli is really a bit underrated in my opinion. And bringing back starting lefty Francisco Liriano really helped the continuity of their rotation. They’ll have an all Francisco battery. But the move I really like is the addition of utility player Sean Rodriguez in trade from the Rays. Rodriguez is a solid hitter with some power. He can play all over the field and his versatility will add great depth to the Pirates. Good move IMO.

The Phillies have added pitcher Odubel Herrera and outfielder Andy Oliver via the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. I have not scouted either player.

The Giants added infield depth by signing Carlos Triunfel. He was a good infield prospect several years ago for the Mariners.

The Brewers may have found their first baseman in Adam Lind. He has enough power to be a threat in the middle of the lineup and can help take some of the pressure off Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. He also adds a nice left-handed bat to the middle of the order. I think it was a nice move. He may not hit much for average, but Miller Park is a nice play pen for his swing.

The Rockies have not made many significant moves, but did add left-handed hitting Daniel Descalso to their roster. They also have picked up right-hander Jairo Diaz in trade from the Dodgers. He’ll likely assume a bullpen role.

The Nationals have added second baseman Chris Bostick from the Rangers in a move that could provide the team with some infield depth in the event of a future trade.

You can find my thoughts on the Dodgers and Marlins in previous editions of BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.

Tomorrow: The remaining American League teams.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

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