The Dust Has Settled

Prospects serve several crucial purposes in an organization:
1- Hopefully, the player be good enough and will help the Major League club
2- The player can be used in trade to improve or lengthen the Major League roster
3- The player can fill out organizational Minor League rosters-a critical need

In this year’s non-waiver trade deadline deals, we saw players move that met one or more of those basic purposes. Without a doubt, some will help their new Major League club.

I spoke of several in my past two blogs.

Today I wish to highlight a few more prospect players that I feel can be difference makers. In fact, I think the trade deadline deals have shaken the standings in all four divisions. It’s a shot in the arm for baseball and a new life for several franchises.

Right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer was not a household name in the Mets organization like prospects Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz or Rafael Montero. But in my opinion, Fulmer is a prize. I don’t think the Tigers trade Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets without Fulmer or Montero in the deal. Fulmer can hit 96 with relative ease. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. He throws a wicked fastball/slider combination with an improving changeup. I see him as a mid-rotation starter with nice upside. And he’s only 22. I think he’s an under the radar guy right now, but if he stays healthy, he’ll perform.

The Tigers also plucked Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt from the Blue Jays.
All three are left-handers. Are you kidding me? Yup. Three lefties in one deal. Of course, the Price was lefty David Price. The price for Price was three highly ranked top prospect left-handers from the Blue Jays farm. Amazing. How do you pry three lefties away? Offer David Price.

Norris gets the most buzz. He’s got four very good pitches including a fastball that touches 98 and an equally good slider. He also throws a very solid curve and change. Four excellent pitches that each need command refinement. He’s almost there.

Labourt is another very solid 91-96 quick armed starter who’s behind Norris in development. He throws a fastball, slider and changeup and each is average or above.
He gets lots of sink on the ball and induces ground balls.

Boyd is 24 and is probably doesn’t have as high a ceiling as Norris or Labourt. But the Tigers may have a lefty reliever in him due to excellent command and three good pitches. He’s a starter now, but that may not last. He can be very valuable in the pen.

Not to mention that the Blue Jays gave up righties Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro to the Rockies–both very top pitching prospects. So by my count, the Blue Jays have traded five of their Top 10 prospect pitchers to get a chance for the playoffs. But that’s one of the values of prospects as I mentioned above.

The Indians moved their best home run hitter, Brandon Moss to the St. Louis Cardinals for lefty Rob Kaminsky. I think this was an outstanding move for the Tribe.

Kaminsky was the Cardinals first round selection in the 2013 First Year Player Draft. He isn’t very big at 5-foot-11, but he can pitch. He’s got an excellent mound demeanor and has a plus plus curve. He also throws a low-90’s fastball and a changeup. All with command. He changes the balance of the hitter and should be a mainstay i the future Indians rotations. He gives the Indians a future left-handed starter.

WHO REALLY HELPED THEMSELVES?

While it cost them 12 pitching prospects at last count, the Blue Jays should make the playoffs with Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins in the fold.

The Mets were desperate for a bat and got that in Yoenis Cespedes. He can be a lethal hitter. And his defense is excellent. Big upgrade for the Mets. Not to mention Juan Uribe and his influence in the clubhouse, which is huge. Tyler Clippard really helps stabilize the bullpen. He’s a plus.

The Royals should fight the Blue Jays to be the American League representative in the World Series. Are you kidding me? Adding Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. Ben Zobrist who is like getting five players in one with all the positions he can play. He will help ease the sting of losing Alex Gordon in the event Gordon can’t come back.
The Royals were already good. Now they’re better.

The Phillies changed their entire future. They got a boatload-but I had already discussed that in a previous blog.

The Giants got the pitcher they needed in Mike Leake for prospect flamethrower Keury Mella. Leake will really help settle a shaky rotation. Mella is still a prospect.

WHO DIDN’T HELP THEMSELVES:

Yes, the Dodgers got the pitchers they needed. But-and this is a huge but- they have called tremendous attention to themselves by obtaining other teams highly priced, unwanted players and then eating their salaries before cutting them loose. Millions and millions of dead dollars are going to guys the Dodgers traded for and cut. Don’t want this expensive contract? Send him to the Dodgers along with a good player. They’ll eat it. I don’t like that at all. I don’t think it’s good for the game. I think something has to be done-but it’s a free market system. If they have the money they can spend it. It just bothers me. Especially when I see teams I like having to struggle with owners who either won’t spend the money they have or don’t have the money to spend. It’s a huge inequity. And it isn’t good for the game.

I have more in mind, but this is getting long. Maybe next time.

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

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Blue Jays and Rockies Trade-My Take

I’ve shared my thoughts on the Phillies and Rangers trade. Now I take a look at what the Blue Jays have done in their deal with the Rockies.

At the time the deal with the Rockies was announced, I mentioned on the Short Hops podcast that I felt they needed at least one more pitcher. They got him in David Price. He’s not just any pitcher. He’s David Price-a difference maker. More about that in another blog. The deal they made with Colorado is my focus here.

The prospects the Blue Jays sent to Colorado are top shelf in my opinion. And the Blue Jays get a legitimate star. Some say a superstar. I’m not among them. But he’s a star.

THE ROCKIES GET: SS Jose Reyes, P Miguel Castro, P Jeff Hoffman and P Jesus Tinoco.

Reyes should do well offensively at Coors Field. He will contribute to the team’s offense by getting on base and scoring runs. I’m not sure we’ll see much in the way of stolen bases from him. What he won’t bring is the defense he once played. His defensive decline is troublesome. If, in fact, the Rockies are trying to upgrade their pitching, it will be difficult without Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. The drop off from Tulo to Reyes could be dramatic. That said, I’m not sure Reyes remains with the Rockies. Maybe he’ll be flipped in the off season and find a role with an American League club where he can serve as a DH and play shortstop. Maybe. If I’m the Rockies I listen.

Castro is a 20-year old right-handed pitcher with a cannon for an arm. He is a big man at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. I think he can stand to add more weight and strength to his frame, and that may happen. He can touch 97 with regularity on his fastball and needs development time to improve his command. He’s walking over 5 per nine innings, but he’s still very, very young and inexperienced. His role will have to be defined by the Rockies, but he can pitch at any point in the game-from start to finish. He throws a sweeping slider from a low arm slot and it’s difficult to pick up the ball in his hand. His third pitch is a changeup that continues to improve. While I won’t classify him as elite, he could become way better than a Major League average pitcher. The Rockies bought upside with Castro. Huge upside. They will have to be patient.

Hoffman may be the real gem of the trade. This guy is 6-foot-4, 185 pounds. He’s right handed and is a former first round Draft pick out of East Carolina University. He throws gas. He has an outstanding fastball and it isn’t unusual for him to hit the very high 90’s.
Unlike lots of other prospect pitchers, Hoffman has command and control that play. He may not be that far off. He throws a wicked slider, curveball and changeup along with the heat. He did, however, have Tommy John surgery and has returned to pitch in Double-A. He misses bats and gets ground ball outs-both crucial components to pitch at Coors.

Tinoco is the one in the group I know the least about. I do know he’s…you guessed it…6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. He’s a right-hander from Venezuela and he’s 20 years-old.

THE BLUE JAYS GET: Troy Tulowitzki and LeTroy Hawkins

Tulowitzki showed his power and value immediately for the Blue Jays as he homered in his first game with his new club. He will thrive in Toronto as he did at Coors. I think he’ll be fine on the road, but we have to wait and see how he adjusts to American League pitchers and American League parks. But consider being a pitcher and having to navigate through Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Colabello, Martin, Pillar, etc. Yikes! Those are some formidable bats. If nothing else, they can pound the opposition into submission.

I am concerned about how the artificial turf will impact Tulowitzki’s legs, back, hips, etc. I’m sure he isn’t too thrilled about playing on that surface.

Without a doubt, Tulowitzki lengthens the power potential of the lineup and adds a tremendous defensive dimension to the team. The price was steep to get him, but how many times does a club get to add an All Star of his caliber to their everyday lineup?

Hawkins is a seasoned veteran on the back end of his career. I hope he can add some value to the Blue Jays pen, which does need a shot in the arm.

When it’s all said and done, this is a trade that could help put the Blue Jays in the playoffs now-especially with the addition of David Price which I’ll discuss in a different blog. But-it also provides the Rockies with a new road map out of the basement. They may be able to see some light in the future. The future being two years from now.

In reality, the Rockies did not win anything with Tulowitzki on the roster. Actually, they haven’t won with Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. It all comes back to pitching. They had to find guys that can blow the opposition away. Hoffman and Castro have that potential. Add them to Butler and Gray and it brings hope. The jet stream and altitude of Coors are significant factors in finding pitching success. It isn’t impossible to pitch there. However, the pitcher either has to keep the ball down in the zone and induce ground balls or strike the hitter out. Get the ball up in the zone and you can kiss it goodbye. And the outfield real estate is so spacious that doubles and triples are as lethal as home runs. So-these new arms change the dynamic in Colorado. At the price of a huge star-Troy Tulowitzki.

This trading deadline breathes life into the Phillies and the Rockies in my opinion. It doesn’t make either contenders. Yet. But it puts them back on the baseball map. Neither team has been in the discussion for years. Now we’ll watch them and talk about them.

While I like the Blue Jays improvement with Tulowitzki, I like the change of direction and new life it gives the Rockies. It’ll be refreshing for them when these guys are mature enough and ready to help. Patience will be a virtue in Colorado. Patience.

Now, add Price in to the equation for the Blue Jays and it changes everything. He and Tulo together put the club on a whole new path. One that leads directly to the playoffs.

I’ll have more to say here at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD regarding other trades. Especially David Price going to Toronto.

Thanks for reading this. Follow me @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

My Take: The Phillies and Rangers Trade

The Philadelphia Phillies have been coming up dry for months digging test wells throughout the United States and probably Ontario, Canada as well. Last night they finally struck oil. And it was a gusher. Appropriately, the discovery was in Texas- a state where the oil flows.

And as quickly as I can write the words “the Phillies are relevant once again” the Phillies became relevant once again. It probably took a great deal of time to cobble the deal together, but after the deal was announced, the team immediately returned to the conversation regarding baseball teams that are on the upswing. It happened that quickly. They are once again a meaningful franchise.

THE TEXAS RANGERS GET: Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman as well as Cash.

Cole Hamels is coming off a masterful no-hitter against the Cubs. He’s an ace with time left on his contract. He has pitched in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, making the transition to the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park more palatable. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Hamels is 31. And of course, he’s left handed. He stabilizes the Rangers rotation and adds depth and quality to their club.

Jake Diekman is a 28 and is also left-handed. He isn’t quite Aroldis Chapman, but he brings his fastball at 98 mph out of the bullpen. He’s hittable and still has some refinement left in his command and control. He misses lots of bats, but he walks too many batters. Diekman is more than just another arm. He’s a power arm.

THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES GET: C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, P Jared Eickhoff, P Alec Asher, P Jake Thompson, P Matt Harrison and a partridge in a pear tree.

Christmas in July for the Phillies. I don’t know which front office people did the prospecting in this discovery, but they did a fantastic job.

Alfaro is a hitter-first catcher with tremendous upside. He’s recovering now from an ankle injury. Sitting only behind the Cubs Kyle Schwarber as the best overall prospect catcher in baseball, Alfaro could be a huge part of the Phillies future. He’s 6-foot-2 and 225 very strong pounds. I see him eventually as a perennial All Star. When I saw him a couple seasons ago in the Arizona Fall League he stood out as a “can’t miss” stud. He’s an exciting player to watch hit. And he’ll be outstanding in that park.

Williams is an exciting, dynamic outfielder. When I saw him he could punish pitches in one at-bat and then look awful in another. He’ll turn 22 in September. At 6-foot-3 and a slender 195 pounds, he has power and speed and makes things happen. And yes, he is prone to strike out. But his upside is outstanding and he, too, could be an All Star. His natural talent is off the charts and it will come to fruition at some point in the next couple of years.

Eickhoff is right-handed, is 25 and is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. He throws a very solid fastball/curveball combination among a four pitch mix that includes a slider and change up. The resource I spoke with last night called Eickhoff a real “sleeper” in the deal. Right now he’s 9-4 at Triple-A Round Rock. He’s a great arm to develop for the Phils.

Asher is a right-hander similar in stature to Eickhoff. He is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He has an outstanding slider as his main offering. He’s also at Round Rock where he’s got a 3-6 record as a starter. He’s had some issues with home runs in his career.

Thompson is another right-hander with a physical frame of….you guessed it, 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. He came from the Tigers in a trade and is now pitching in Double-A for Frisco. His best pitch is also a slider, but like the other pitching prospects he has a full arsenal including a fastball, curve and changeup. He, too, has to refine his command and control.

Harrison is a …here’s a shocker…6-foot-4, 240 pound lefty coming off serious injury. He’s been pitching in the big leagues for parts of eight seasons. He’s going to be 30 in September. I frankly don’t know how much he will help Philadelphia. His injury history is not good. It may have been a case of “take on this salary and you get….”

Yes, I think the Phillies came away with a bonanza. Overnight they stocked their shelves with lots of goodies. When Alfaro returns healthy and Williams figures out quality pitching, in my opinion we’ll be talking about them as stars of the game.

Could Philadelphia have gotten more from another club? I think if they could have, they would have. The front office dug those wells and came up dry for months and months. Finally, they hit the mother load.

As for Hamels and the Rangers-he will pair with Yu Darvish when Darvish returns to health to form an awesome one-two, righty-lefty punch at the top of the Rangers rotation. He will help the Rangers compete with teams like the Angels and Astros in the division. It will be tough to sweep the Rangers in any series with those two studs at the top of the rotation. And if they do get to the playoffs next year, teams will have to navigate through Darvish and Hamels to move on to the next level. That won’t be easy.

Hamels steadies the rocky starting pitching road the Rangers have been riding for more than two years. Their starters have been hurt. They needed Hamels. The cost was steep.

We must remember this: prospects are prospects. Proven players like Hamels are proven players. Night and day. But that said, I really, really like the prospects that will now be calling Philadelphia their new home.

Watch for my next blog as I break down the Blue Jays/Rockies trade.

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

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Cincinnati-All Star Environment

I’m happy to be writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio. And caps off to the folks of the Queen City, as they have done a wonderful job making guests feel comfortable and at home in this historic city.

The ambiance and welcoming began at the airport. Signs greetng fans to All Star Week were everywhere to be seen. What I really like is the mustache logo that is carried everywhere in the All Star environment.

As I write this sitting in the press box at Great American Ball Park, I’m looking at the logo carved in center field. The mustache is evident. Way cool.

Our MLB.com folks are staying at an all suites hotel that is very conveniently located. Right outside is a statue of President Garfield. And down the street about three blocks is one of the true classic watering holes in the country—Arnold’s. Arnold’s was built in 1861, and everything about it is mellow. Yes, it looks old. But yes, it has tremendous charm. There’s an outside area where two men from a Shakespeare group performed on stage. When they were introduced I kind of rolled my eyes. Shakespeare? But they did the famed Who’s On First Abbot and Costello routine and then Casey At The Bat. They were outstanding. My negative initial impression was way wrong.
I had an outstanding hamburger. Outstanding. With coffee. No fries. And no beer. I don’t drink much beer.

Walking back to the hotel I got the scent of horses. Of course, that meant there would be horse and buggy rides available. And man, were they busy. The buggy’s were all decked out in purple and/or red lights with flowers, peace signs, love birds and various and sundry ornaments. It made for a nice atmosphere on the very crowded streets. No, I didn’t take a buggy ride. I lived vicariously through the sensory gifts they provided.

Yes there are some vacant stores, but there are also some very vibrant and up to the minute shops and entertainment venues in the downtown area. The people could not be any more friendly.

Fountain Square was packed with food trucks, artists, musicians and people just having a good time.

No-I haven’t had Skyline Chili yet. I don’t think I can handle that today, if you know what I mean. I’ll leave the chili for others. But believe me, Skyline can be found all over the city. And at the ballpark. I have to pass for this trip. Everyone who tries Skyline says it’s outstanding. But I only eat chili and/or meatloaf made by my wife.

I was surprised to see old fashioned hat stores in downtown Cincinnati. Several. And they had every type of hat one can imagine. But no baseball caps. Looking in the windows I felt I had stepped back in time 50 years. I mean, really. We don’t have hat stores in Phoenix. Not that I know of. But who wears a hat in 110 degrees?

I walked to Great American Ball Park from the hotel. Exactly 3165 steps according to my fit bit. It was a great walk along the downtown streets.

It poured all night long in Cincinnati on Saturday. I’m not used to seeing rain, but it was great to experience. Of course, everyone hopes it will stay away for the Futures Game today. Right now it’s humid but not raining. I just saw the sun.

I’ll be filing stories on the Futures Game at MLBPipeline.com. I then leave Cincinnati on Monday for Omaha and the Triple-A All Star Game next week. So keep up with me from there as well.

It’s so great to see so many fans walking around in Reds gear. Shirts, hats, everything. It’s a sea of Reds. And that’s how it should be. But yes, there are folks supporting other teams wearing their own colors proudly. But make no mistake. This is Reds country.

So watch this space throughout the week as I chronicle my time in Cincinnati and Omaha. And enjoy the Futures Game, the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game. It’s a great time to celebrate the great game of baseball.

That’s it. I’m done. And thanks for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

 

CHECK PLEASE, PLEASE CHECK—-MY NEW INITIATIVE

Yesterday I encouraged male readers of this blog to be certain to have a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test and every female reader to have tests relative to female cancer.

Today I am beginning a new initiative—with you. As my partners.

THE GOAL:

I want to get as many of my readers and followers tested for cancer as possible.

THE INITIATIVE:

If you have had a male or female cancer test in the past six months or complete such a test from now until the first day of the World Series (October 27, 2015) I will donate $10 to either TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute) or to Stand Up 2 Cancer for the first 300 people tested who respond.

TGen is a World Class-and I do mean World Class-research institute working tirelessly on cancer research. Stand Up 2 Cancer is doing the same and is tremendously effective.

REGISTRATION:

Beginning right now, if you have been checked for cancer in the last six months let me know on twitter (@BerniePleskoff.) If you complete a test between now and October 27, 2015, let me know on twitter when the test is complete.

Simply go to @BerniePleskoff and say, “I was checked, send a check.” Include where you want the donation to go–either TGen or Stand Up 2 Cancer.

On October 28, 2015 I will send a check to TGen and a check to Stand Up 2 Cancer that equates to $10 each for the first 300 people that have been tested and registered on my twitter account.

WHY GET TESTED?
You will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing the results of the test. If something is wrong, your doctor can proceed. Early detection is the key.

We can do this. Together. We can take the few minutes necessary to get checked out. Check, please. Please check.

And let me know @BerniePleskoff when you get checked out.

Thanks.

AND THE DOCTOR SAID…

I have been less active in baseball related activities since the beginning of Spring Training than any time I can remember. For the first time in years I went to very few spring games. In fact, I missed going to Florida for the first time in a long, long time. I was not active on twitter. I missed some games at Chase Field. I did not travel at all.

I’m a very lucky man. I’m fortunate to have Dr. Frederick Dicke as my physician. As a doctor working closely with professional baseball as he does, Dicke knows my lifestyle as a baseball scout/analyst. He knows me very well.

After monitoring my annual test results for years, at the end of last year Dr. Dicke saw that the score on my Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA) had escalated a bit. He wasted no time and sent me to the urologist.

We have a group of writers, scouts and baseball related personnel who gather often in the offseason to talk some “hot stove” baseball. At our January 8, 2015 luncheon I casually told a friend I was going to get the results of a recent prostate biopsy. I never mentioned it to anyone else. I wasn’t concerned in the least. Life was good. I really didn’t have a care in the world.

I entered the urologist’s office and wished the doctor a Happy New Year. He returned the greeting and asked me to have a seat. After a bit of chit-chat about his beloved Chicago Cubs, the urologist turned very serious. He looked me in the eye and said,
“You have prostate cancer.” Me? Certainly not me.

I remember thinking that I didn’t feel any pain or anything out of the ordinary. I felt fine. How could that be? Cancer? I turned numb. It was probably more from the shock of hearing those words.

The doctor showed me the results of the biopsy. I had cancer in three of the prostate lobes. He said it was caught early and he explained my options.

I chose to have radiation therapy. The treatment would last nine weeks, five days a week.

Prior to the treatment beginning, the urologist implanted “targets” to my prostate. Called “Calypso” the targeting acts like a GPS system so the radiation is localized to the cancer cells and nowhere else.

While getting the implants, I got a very stubborn infection. I was hospitalized for a week and subjected to constant antibiotic treatment. A peripherally inserted central catheter (Picc line) was placed in my right arm. It allows the flow of intravenous medicine without having to prick my arm every time I received treatments.

To rid my body of infection, I faced daily early morning treatments seven days a week for over a month at an Infusion Center. As I would sit quietly in the chair at the center, the potent antibiotics were working their magic.

During the infusion treatments my wife noticed my arm was swelling. A nurse at the infusion center immediately responded by alerting my infectious disease physician who was treating my infection. The nurse told the doctor she thought I had a blood clot. The doctor order an ultrasound exam.

The ultrasound showed I did not have a blood clot. The nurse at the infusion center was skeptical of the results. She was very firm in her belief that, indeed, I had a blood clot in my upper arm. She was very unsettled with the first ultrasound results.

I returned for a second ultrasound and the clot was discovered. I don’t know how or why it was missed initially. But the infusion nurse was 100% correct and I am grateful for her tenacity and persistence.

Indeed, the Picc line caused a blot clot to form in my right arm. I have been on blood thinning medicine for three months. I will find out soon if the clot remains. My arm is still swollen.

Finally, after waiting for weeks due to my infection, blood clot and to let my prostate settle from the original biopsy, my radiation treatments finally began March 20 with a trial experience. The following Monday the radiation began in earnest. They concluded May 22. which also happened to have been a milestone birthday. It was a big day for me.

I had to go to the Prostate Cancer Treatment Center at 8AM every weekday. For the 20 minutes prior to the treatment I had to drink 36 ounces of water. The water elevates the bladder, thereby offering a clearer, best pathway to the targeted prostate area.

Every day when I climbed aboard the radiation table I was treated to background music from the 50’s and 60’s. Right up my alley. I loved it. It helped make the best of a nasty situation.

Cancer introduces the patient to an entirely new world. There are unfamiliar words and treatments. There are countless tests, pokes and prods. My vocabulary and daily routine were altered beyond my normal comfort level.

The personnel at the Prostate Cancer Treatment Center in north Phoenix were beyond fantastic. The three technicians responsible for my daily treatments were greatly skilled and keenly sensitive. The oncologist responsible for the Center is beyond brilliant. I put my trust in them and I have every confidence the results will be favorable. I thank them for providing the best possible state of the art response to a wicked and evil demon.

The personnel at the Center and my wife provided incredible support and care during those long yet fascinating nine weeks.

My most prominent side effect was a complete lack of energy. I had to take a nap every afternoon. I was constantly tired. I wanted only cold food. I lost a few pounds (which is a good thing.)

Now I await my next PSA test to see if things have changed with my prostate. That will come in three months. I don’t know if the cancer cells have been eliminated. I do know I am a month removed from radiation and I’m beginning to feel better. I am still concerned about the blood clot. I still get tired, but not as badly. Dr. Dicke has cleared me to travel to watch baseball, which I will do beginning next week.

My colleagues and friends both inside and outside baseball have been of tremendous support to me. I didn’t tell them of my situation until I had started radiation. I told only my supervisors at MLB.com and my colleague at Short Hops-our weekly podcast. They were all fantastic. Supportive. Concerned. Caring and understanding. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, care givers, and everyone I have come in contact with in the past few months have been there for me every step of the way. It’s unbelievable how caring and concerned people have been. I am grateful and thankful for that support.

My wife’s support, care, commitment and dedication to my welfare go well beyond words. I can’t express what would have happened without her. She has been my source of strength throughout this ordeal.

Why am I telling you this? If you are a male I want you to go to your doctor and get the PSA exam. If you’re female, I want you to go to the doctor and have every test relative to female health. Early detection is crucial and the first step to a cure. These cancers are silent. They don’t tell you you are sick.

Every nurse and the myriad of doctors and technicians that have assisted me in this multi-faceted challenge surrounding my prostate cancer have been All Stars in my book. They are World Class. They work as a team and have instilled confidence and have eased my mind and spirits. From the hospital staff to the infusion center to the Prostate Cancer Center staff, to all the doctors on my team, to friends, colleagues, neighbors and all who have been there for me–Thank You.

And to Dr. Dicke. I credit you with a save. Thank you, sir.

And now I just wait patiently for all my results.

 

What Do We Know So Far

I’m not of the school that believes the first week of May is still “too early” to make some conclusions about players and teams. I think we have a good enough sample size to guide us for the remainder of the big league baseball season. Here are some of my thoughts so far:

The main difference I see so far in Bryce Harper is much improved patience at the plate. He is recognizing pitches very well and has concluded that a walk is as good as a hitter and better than striking out. I liked everything about Harper when I first saw him play in the 2010 Arizona Fall League. He’s an amazing athlete, and at the age of 22 the baseball sky is his limit. I love watching him play.

Those that follow me regularly know that I preach patience with young players. I always say it take two to three Major League seasons to learn how to play among the greatest players in the world. However, Kris Bryant has shown an ability that defies his rookie status. He lays off “pitcher’s pitches” and is willing to accept a walk. He isn’t always looking to hit the ball over the wall-he is well aware the home runs will come. But his plate discipline is remarkable.

We are seeing an entirely new crop of fantastic starting pitchers emerge before our eyes. Consider the future of Matt Harvey. He is pitching as though he never missed a start. But remember, this young man is returning from Tommy John surgery and blowing away hitters. And I really do like the Astros Dallas Keuchel. He’s a ground ball machine. And no, I’m not surprised at the great start for the Yankees Michael Pineda, even though he’s coming off shoulder issues. 16 strikeouts in seven innings. Yikes.

Conversely, I can’t help be concerned about Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. I’m just sayin’. In Kluber’s case, I think he really misses catcher Yan Gomes, out with an injury for a little while longer.

Are there any doubters remaining regarding the value and ability of Nelson Cruz? I do think he’ll go through a cold streak, but man…when he hits em, they’re gone. Even in Seattle.

I’ll say it again-some American League club (like Cleveland) needs to trade for Wilin Rosario. He’s warming the bench in Colorado because of poor footwork as a catcher and as a first baseman. But as a designated hitter? The role is made for him.

I’m a huge—and I mean huge Stephen Vogt fan. The Athletics have a gem. His bat and ability to call a good game allowed the club to shed both Derek Norris and John Jaso. Jaso is a long way from returning from the disabled list.

There is a lengthy list of teams that have laid an egg so far. They include the White Sox, the Indians, the Brewers, the Mariners, the Orioles, the Red Sox, the Marlins, the Blue Jays and to some extent the Nationals. Each has played worse than expected. But for every egg cracked, an omelet has been created. Enter the Astros, the Twins, the Yankees and the Rays. I can’t put the Mets in that category, as I expected them to be good. Same for the Cardinals, Tigers and the Dodgers.

In March I had grave concerns about the Red Sox pitching. I have even greater concerns now. And I never bought the Indians as a contender because of their pitching-pitching that everyone thought would be so great. The back end of the rotation was a concern and remains so. It will be very difficult for the White Sox and Indians to dig themselves out of the holes they created while losing so many games within their division.

I don’t get it. The Blue Jays were really, really excited about the rookies they broke camp with in April. Then, in less than a month they jettisoned a couple to the Minor Leagues. Talk about a quick hook.

Think success isn’t fleeting? Exhibit No. 1. Allen Craig. The same Allen Craig who was a hero in St. Louis is now playing in Triple-A.

I’m a huge Eddie Rosario fan and I hope the Twins give him a chance to play. Not just a game a week, but a spot in their lineup. The man can flat out hit.

How about the start for the Rockies D J LeMahieu. One of the guys I loved coming out of Spring Training.

When do the Astros promote Carlos Correa? With the team playing well and looking at the playoffs as a real possibility and with shortstop Jed Lowrie hurt, is he a viable option. Yes.

When do the Indians promote Francisco Lindor? With the team in the dumper and the shortstop not hitting and carrying six errors on his current resume, is he a viable option. Even though he isn’t hitting at Columbus, my answer is…yes, without a doubt.

But we probably won’t see either of them until June at the earliest.

I find it almost amusing the Diamondbacks are realizing they need a catcher. And to solve their offensive problems at the catching positions they have signed…wait for it… Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a Minor League contract. Something tells me he’ll be wearing a big league uniform by June at the latest. Talk me off the ledge here, friends. What am I not seeing in this picture?

I’ll be writing Part Two of What We Know So Far in the near future.

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

That’s it. I’m Done.

My Early Observations

Hats off to the Tigers. They completely destroyed both the Twins and the Indians. They looked like they could beat any team, any day. When Miguel Cabrera is going good he can center the ball to the middle of the field. That’s what I saw with a couple of his base hits. And then he totally smoked home runs to left. While I really enjoy watching Cabrera and his buddies totally torment pitchers, my greatest take away from the Tigers success so far has been the stellar pitching of Shane Greene. He’s thrown everything but the kitchen sink at hitters-throwing strike one and getting ahead in counts. I love watching this guy pitch. He gets it. Yes, he may have a bump in the road because he’s human, but man, he’s been outstanding.

How much has Nelson Cruz meant to the Mariners so far? The man can flat out hit. When he hits a rocket shot there isn’t a park that can hold it. No matter how far away the fences.

I don’t think Fernando Rodney is in jeopardy of losing his closer’s job. Not yet at least. He did break bats and all the hits weren’t solid. I see hope he stays in the role as the Mariners closer.

Why did the Rockies bring back 42-year old LaTroy Hawkins? I wish I knew. Maybe he lost his job so quickly because the Rockies are off to such a great start and they want to preserve every win. Whatever the reason, the job now belongs to Adam Ottavino, a very good arm. But…will he keep the job? Rafael Betancourt waits in the wings.
By the way, Hawkins is one of the finest gentlemen in the game. I hope all goes well for him. He deserves only the best.

Will the Yankees lose patience with the slow offensive start of Didi Gregorius? I sure hope not.

We should never be surprised at what Adrian Gonzalez can do with a bat. He’s that good a hitter. Great eye-hand coordination. Outstanding pitch recognition. And quick hands through the ball. He’s a master at his craft.

I tried to get D J LeMahieu in every league in which I play fantasy baseball. I couldn’t pull it off. I’ve told you before I like every thing about the guy. Now he’s getting some due publicity for his fast start.

I hope things continue for the guys on my Guys I Like This Year list. Most are off to great starts. I just hope I don’t jinx them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over…The Indians simply have to get another right-handed bat. They are still totally vulnerable to left-handed pitching.

How about the duo of Matt Harvey and Jake deGrom? Make that a trio when you add veteran Bartolo Colon to the mix. Watch out for the Mets.

Poker may change when guys like Kris Bryant and White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon make their big league arrivals. And how about the Twins Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano? There are so many great prospects waiting to make an impact. Some will come sooner than we may think.

I can’t help feeling badly about the total collapse of the Rangers pitching fortunes. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Not to mention Matt Harrison and Martin Perez. Yikes!

I love to watch the energy of the Kansas City Royals. Every game they put on a clinic about playing the game with gusto and guts. And every day I appreciate Lorenzo Cain more and more. I was on his band wagon early, but now I’m the drum major out ahead of the trumpet section. He’s that good.

I had my concerns about the Astros strikeout total in my pre-season pennant blog. I don’t know if they’ll ever make the necessary adjustments to make more contact. Yes there will be games when they blast the ball out of the park. But the strikeouts will kill lots of rallies.

How important is Chris Heston to the Giants? He stepped up when Matt Cain and (at the time) Jake Peavy were injured. Now I think he may be a more permanent member of the Giants rotation. No great overpowering pitches. Just a deep repertoire with command and control.

Yes-I’m really surprised at the start of the Atlanta Braves. But it’s a long season.

Miguel Castro was a Spring Training Blue Jays invitee. He wasn’t on the 40-man. Either was Roberto Osuna. Or Devon Travis. At the age of….20 Castro is the team’s closer. At least for now. I have shoes older than him. Those guys are all such great stories.

I’m still very concerned about the Indians pitching in the 4 and 5 slots. And I hope Carlos Carrasco can rebound from the terrible line drive to the jaw against the White Sox. He and Corey Kluber along with Trevor Bauer form a good trio. But then????

Jhoulys Chacin signed with the Indians. My contact with the Rockies told me he had lost two to three miles per hour off his fastball. Anything left in the tank?

Last I looked, Carlos Quentin is still out there looking for a job.

Mookie Betts is fantastic. Another of the great young stars we are getting to watch. He can do it all.

OK-that’s it for now. I’m done.

And thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

Nibbles Before The Main Course

Tonight. It’s here. This is like New Year’s Day. The long wait is over. The fantastic winter offseason is behind us. Spring Training was a time for several rookies to win jobs (see the Blue Jays for example) and for us to get bad news about more arm and elbow injuries. But we move forward now. Baseball has center stage. It all starts tonight.

I still have some crumbs on the table before the real main course. Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff this entire season for analysis and commentary.

I applaud the Diamondbacks for several very difficult decisions they made. I agree with each. First-they have sent Yasmany Tomas to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning. Expecting him to transition to a new country and a new position was asking a great deal. Giving him time to sort things out should help. And putting Nick Ahmed at short with Chris Owings at second makes all the sense in the world. I mentioned that several days ago as a possibility on my twitter account. And finally, inserting Archie Bradley in the rotation is a very sound move. I think he’s ready. He may be inconsistent-but most pitchers are.

The Dbacks also gave Trevor Cahill new life with the Braves. He could thrive there.
Now the Dbacks need to find a home for Aaron Hill. I suggest talking to the Angels or even the Nationals.

The Cubs Javier Baez is another player that should benefit by being sent down. He has to learn how to hit a cutter, a slider, a curve ball, a changeup and anything and everything that isn’t a fastball. I do not look for a quick return to the big league club for Baez. The team needs for him to get it right. Develop pitch recognition and plate discipline. I think that will take until deep into the second half, if then.

I think Carlos Rodon will be the key to the White Sox season. He adds needed length to their rotation. He’s that good. Look for him at a Cellular Field near you soon.

Why hasn’t anyone traded for the Blue Jays Dioner Navarro or the Cubs Wellington Castillo. And wouldn’t Wilin Rosario look good as the Indians designated hitter? The team really needs another right-handed bat. Or how about Carlos Quentin?

The Brewers are going to score a ton of runs. The pitching staff will yield a ton of runs. I watched three Brewers spring games last week and I was amazed at how loud those bats are. Especially Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun.

We talk about great defensive shortstops a great deal. Perhaps the best is still the Braves Andrelton Simmons. The guy that doesn’t get enough love is the Marlins Adeiny Hechavarria. I love to watch him play. Just like I love watching Didi Gregorius and Nick Ahmed. We have some amazing defensive shortstops in baseball now.

I loved watching the Athletics ambidextrous Patrick Venditte pitch. I’m sorry he didn’t make the final cut. Imagine bringing a guy in from the bullpen that can throw from either hand. He’s a situational lefty/righty who can really pitch.

The Angels need a second baseman. Really, really need a second baseman.

There are some fantastic outfields in baseball. The Marlins (Yelich, Ozuna and Stanton) are fantastic. But Pittsburgh’s trio of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco are right up there. I’m looking for each of those three, including Polanco to have fantastic years.

The Cardinals Marco Gonzales will start the season in the Minors. But he could be in the rotation for lots and lots of clubs. I think we’ll see him before too long.

Speaking of rotations-I think the Astros will need Mark Appel by mid-season at the latest.

In case you missed, that’ll be Mike Pelfrey taking the rotation spot of Ervin Santana for say…. roughly 80 games.

Word from Lakeland is that Joe Nathan looked very good at the end of spring. That said, I’m asking my stock broker to buy shares for me in Joakim Soria.

Who’s the real Trevor Bauer? I’m just asking. I think the Indians will, too.

Why don’t the Royals get more love? This was a very good team last year. And they are another year advanced in their maturity. I like the progress made by Eric Hosmer. And I’m a huge Lorezo Cain fan. So what is it? It’s the rotation. But the rotation is on a par with other Central clubs. Or is it? So why did I pick them 4th? Maybe the rotation isn’t quite on par with Detroit, Chicago and Kansas City after all. But isn’t that what we said last year? They are under loved. They can play the game.

Tyson Ross will no longer be a secret after this season.

I’m beginning to allow a bit of doubt to creep into my mind about the Nationals. Injuries mean Michael Taylor, Yunel Escobar, Tyler Moore (no, not Mary Tyler Moore) and Danny Espinosa are in their starting lineup instead of Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and even Nate McLouth. And…wait for it…Dan Uggla is on the bench. Talk me off the ledge here. What if they really, really scuffle until they get their regulars back. It’s an issue for me. They could lose ground quickly to teams like the Mets and Marlins. It’s a real concern.

OK-that’s enough nibbles for now.

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

That’s it. I’m done.

How I See The American League

It takes a great deal of skill mixed in with some good luck to win a division title. The competition in both leagues is stiff. Today I take a look at the American League and share my thoughts about the pennant races. Of course, one serious injury to a key player or a bad performance or two could certainly alter the playing field.

Last year’s record is in (). My prediction for this year follows immediately.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Seattle Mariners (87-75) 90-72 Those that have followed me for a while know that I have been very bullish on the Mariners and Marlins for a few years now-saying that their times will soon be coming. I’ve liked what both teams have been building. I think the Mariners time has come. The additions of Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith help lengthen their lineup and provide the firepower that has been missing. I really like what I’ve seen of Taijuan Walker during Spring Training. I think the team is hungry, balanced and poised to win the west. But it won’t be easy.

Los Angeles Angels-(98-64) 89-73 I’m not saying the loss of Howie Kendrick will amount to a 9 game swing in their record, but the loss of Howie Kendrick will loom large IMO. They have a huge hole at second base. I’m also a bit skeptical of their rotation-and the lack of starting pitching depth. I like the bullpen. And of course I like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. But I think the rotation and the bench may result in the losses piling up against the Mariners in head to head contests. And that’s how I think the division will be won by Seattle. I look for C J Cron and Kole Calhoun to shine. But it’s the pitching woes that concern me as well as games against Seattle.

Oakland Athletics-(88-74) 83-79 The injury bug bites again. And it’s Coco Crisp once again. He’s a guy they can’t afford to lose. But they have. Already shallow in the outfield, the loss of Crisp leaves a huge hole to fill. I like the pitching, but I think they are playing with an offensive water pistol as opposed to the cannons of the Mariners and Angels. They lost too much over the winter and even their pitching depth can’t help them overtake the clubs ahead of them.

Texas Rangers-(67-95) 78-84 Pitching, pitching, pitching. It just isn’t there. The loss of Yu Darvish is huge. There are just too many questions in the rotation. And in the pen. But. I really think Prince Fielder will rebound to have a very respectable year. The same goes for Shin-Soo Choo. So offensively, they will be a better club. They still have Adrian Beltre as well-albeit he’s another year older. I just don’t see the firepower being able to trump lousy pitching.

Houston Astros-(70-92) 73-89 Color me among the few that do not like the moves the Astros have made of late. Losing players like J. D. Martinez, Jarred Cosart and Mike Foltynewicz made me scratch my head at the time of each transaction. Yes, the bullpen is better with Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek, but I still see lots and lots of strikeouts (with men in scoring position) by the offense. And a mediocre rotation. And yes, the team will hit tons of home runs. That should be exciting. I just don’t see enough wins to overtake any other club in the division.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL (this division can be won by any of four teams IMO)
Detroit Tigers-(90-72) 87-75 The addition of Yoenis Cespedes is important because he adds another potent (albeit inconsistent) bat to a lineup that already includes J D Martines, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. They can be lethal. Losing Max Scherzer and having injury issues with Justin Verlander are reasons to believe the team may not be as strong as in the past. Can Anthony Gose hit during the regular season or will we see a platoon with Rajai Davis? There are some outs to be found in the lineup-and opposing pitchers will have to count on those to succeed. The Tigers are still strong. The bullpen is an issue for me. Especially at the back end. But they win.

Cleveland Indians- (85-77) 85-77 The potential of the starting rotation is excellent. Corey Kluber may regress a bit, but he’s still an awesome presence. I look for Carlos Carrasco to have learned well from watching Kluber. Breakout time for him. Beyond that, I have questions about Bauer, House and McAllister. They can be very good or very inconsistent. I have to admit though, I really like T J House. The offense? Here’s where I have some problems. Jason Kipnis? Will he come back? Michael Bourn? Will his hamstrings hold up? Lonnie Chisenhall? Can he hit for a full season? For me, Michael Brantley is an incredible five tool player. The best they have. They may contend, but they need much more offensive, defensive and hitting consistency.

Chicago White Sox-(73-89) 84-78 This is the most improved team in the division, if not the entire American League. Adding David Robertson as their closer is a huge step. Adam LaRoche adds another big bat to lengthen the lineup. Adam Eaton is underrated as a terrific table center and outstanding defensive center fielder. But here’s my issue-beyond Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and the very underrated Jose Quintana I think they are very vulnerable. If the division beats up on their No. 4 and No. 5 starters, it could have very negative consequences. Both the Tigers and Indians have longer and deeper rotations. It’s the only reason I don’t have them No. 1.

Kansas City Royals-(89-73) 84-78 This was a difficult call for me. Why the five game differential from last year? I think the loss of James Shields is huge. Not the Shields of the postseason. The Shields of the regular season. He was stable and relatively consistent. I have the same issues with the length and depth of the Royals rotation as I have with the White Sox. I think their pitching has been weakened and it will cost them games against division opponents. I do like the offense. Especially Lorenzo Cain. I look for a big comeback from Kendrys Morales. But I can’t get past the rotation. The bullpen, however, is among the best in baseball. They’ll have to be because they will be called on early and often. But the pen will respond to the task.

Minnesota Twins-(70-92) 75-87 The offense on this team is very underrated. I think they’ll score plenty of runs. That won’t be a problem. Pitching, however, will be. Both in the back end of the rotation and the bullpen. Can Phil Hughes repeat his fantastic season? I’m a bit skeptical. How much will Ervin Santana help? A lot. But which Ricky Nolasco will show up? I’m not at all a believer in the pitching. But the bats will play. And the Twins will put a hurt on at least one contender at the end of the season.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST (this is my toughest division of any to predict)
Baltimore Orioles (96-66) 90-72 Yes, they lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. But they get Manny Machado back and Chris Davis for all but the first game of the season. Eventually, we’ll see Matt Wieters, I hope. But they still have the very reliable and dangerous Adam Jones. Steve Pearce remains an unknown to most. But he can hit. And I like the pitching. Especially Chris Tillman. I think they are deep enough in the rotation to hold off a charge by the Red Sox. But this is a very close call.

Boston Red Sox (71-91) 89-73 Do they have enough to make up all the ground from last to first? Hanley and Panda certainly help. But the real stud is Mookie Betts. I liked him when I saw him playing second base in the Fall League two years ago.
The team is an offensive juggernaut. The issues? Who is the real Clay Buchholz? Who is the real Justin Masterson? Can Wade Miley keep the ball inside the park? Will Koji Uehara return from his hamstring woes? Too many pitching issues for me to jump on board. But the offense just may beat the opposition into submission. It’s that good.

Toronto Blue Jays (83-79) 88-74 Six rookies have made the opening day roster. Yes, it’s a gamble. But it also means energy and excitement. Fans are going to love new second baseman Devon Travis. And of course, they added Josh Donaldson to go along with Bautista and Encarnacion. That’s some true power in the middle of the lineup. I like the pitching better than I like the Red Sox pitching. But I like the experience and depth of the Red Sox offense just a bit better. The Blue Jays will contend all season.

New York Yankees (84-78) 84-78 Wait until next year. I think the Yankees will have a field day with the free agent pitching coming on the market over the winter. Guys like David Price and Johnny Cueto. I think they bide their time this year and do the best they can with a chronologically advanced group of veterans. By next year we’ll likely see Gary Sanchez behind the plate and perhaps Greg Bird at first and Aaron Judge in the outfield. I look for a fantastic year from Michael Pineda but hiccups and heartaches from the rotation. C C will be so so. And will Masahiro Tanaka’s arm last the season. Lots of rotation issues. They’ll hit, but the starting pitching is suspect.

Tampa Bay Rays-(77-85) 75-87 We are seeing the transformation of a franchise in a short one or two year span. I really like the young pitchers on the staff. They have some depth and pitching can help win some games. I think the offense remains suspect. Steven Souza may struggle a bit at first, but I like his upside a great deal. Isn’t it time for Desmond Jennings to step up? I don’t see them being able to beat the other teams in the division with any consistency. The future looks brighter than the present.

I hope you will follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And thank you for reading my prospect profiles at MLBPipeline.com. I wish you all a great baseball season. May your team bring you great joy and excitement. And don’t be upset with me if I had harsh words for your club. I just try to write what I see.

That’s it. I’m done.

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