Reflections From Minneapolis-All Star Game

There’s something about seeing so much talent on one baseball field that is electrifying. Last night’s game just made me love the game of baseball even more-and I don’t know how that’s possible. I’ll tell you why a bit later.

The day began with the red carpet parade of players right outside my hotel door. There was excitement in the air. The hotel had set up a charcoal barbecue station with hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. right outside the revolving doors. The smell of charcoal provided a fantastic backdrop to the parade. The crowd was about eight people deep lining the sidewalks for as far as my four eyes could see. Minnesota has these fantastic walkways (with shopping malls and restaurants) above the streets for pedestrian traffic during inclement weather. The walkways were packed with people-their noses pressed to the window if they were in the front row. It was great to see and be part of.

Right down from my hotel is a statue to Mary Tyler Moore-star of the bygone days sitcom about a Minneapolis news room. The statue is wonderful and I’m glad I got to see it.

The All Star Game was really Derek Jeter Night, and he didn’t disappoint. I know there are people who don’t like him or anything Yankees. However, don’t count me among them. He’s a great player-a team player. He’s a gentleman. Classy. Intelligent.
His play on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning grounder set the tone for his overall game.

It was more than fitting that Jeter and Mike Trout hit one and two in the AL lineup. Because if Jeter is No. 1 now, at the end of the season, Trout will take that honor. And he deserves it. And he deserved his MVP Award last night. Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s in his prime at 27. Or if he plays until he’s 40, like Jeter.

I missed seeing Big Papi and Albert Pujols. They belong on the biggest stage of stars.

Chris Sale didn’t seem comfortable coming in during a game as opposed to starting.

I don’t know if anyone will ever hit a home run further in Target Field than Giancarlo Stanton hit during the Home Run Derby-just had to get that in. Sorry about that.

Jonathan Lucroy may now be a household name and not a secret anymore. The man is a double’s machine. He can hit, plays great defense and his game is coming to its peak.
He could help the Brewers into the playoffs if he keeps swinging like I think he can.

Dee Gordon was a blurrrr circling the bases faster than I could swallow a swig of water on Lucroy’s double. And he made a fine defensive play on Michael Brantley.

Yasiel Puig may have gone back to Los Angeles with a bit of humility. All Star Week saw him take a donut in the Derby and strike out three times in three plate appearances at the ASG.

I would have started Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the NL, but nobody asked me.

How cool was it that Glen Perkins of the Twins finished the game throwing to Kurt Suzuki of the Twins.

American League gets home field advantage in the World Series. Think it isn’t important? Ask the Dbacks and Yankees.

Next year the ASG will be in Cincinnati. The following years have not been announced. Here are my guesses-two of these three: Washington and either Los Angeles Dodgers or Oakland. I have no inside information. Just my hunches.

There was an ASG first yesterday-no pitcher went more than one inning.

Aroldis Chapman hit 101 mph twice.

Broadway singer Idina Menzel did a spectacular job with the National Anthem. It was stirring. Don’t know if they showed it on television, but if they didn’t, you missed a beautiful moment. F-16′s buzzed the field as she concluded.

I would like to hear God Bless America sung at every park in every 7th inning or before every game. It’s a beautiful song and it reminds us who we are, what we have and where we are.

I heard that Adam Wainwright said he threw Jeter a pitch in the first inning he knew Jeter could hit. Um…I’m not buying. I think Adam Wainwright threw Jeter a mistake Jeter could hit in the first inning.

Did you like the greeeeen shoes and the orange laces and trim? I’m just wondering.
I’d love some greeeeen shoes, but I can’t find any in my size. I wear a wiiiiide. Did you like the caps? I think I did. I had to think about it for a while, but I decided I liked them.

I walked back from the park last night. It was the most peaceful, happy, non-threating crowd I’ve seen in years. Folks were having a great time. I didn’t see one drunk.

Derek Jeter’s was the first car in the Red Carpet parade yesterday.

I really got a laugh seeing 6-foot-5 Jose Abreu standing next to 5-foot-5 Jose Altuve.

Isn’t it time for Fernando Rodney to put his cap on straight? I’m just asking. Or maybe he can just have a head tilt operation. I think the tilted cap is so…what’s the word….yesterday. So…… last decade.

Name the pitcher: 1 inning, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks and 2 strikeouts. Does that sound like Adam Wainwright? Remember when Justin Verlander blew up in Kansas City? And how about Jon Lester?…1 inning, 3 hits, 2 earned runs. He let the NL back in the game. And one more. Pat Neshek. 1/3 of an inning, 3 hits, 2 earned runs and a closing ERA of…54.00. I’m sure each of them wanted the ground to open so they could crawl in.

So now I return to Phoenix. All Star Game activities are over for another year. It was great. Thank you Minneapolis. Thank you Twins, MLB and MLB.com. This was a wonderful week. And thank you for reading my Reflections From Minneapolis.

I hope you will keep up with my work on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com and follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I have the best followers in the world and you can become one yourself.

That’s it. I’m done.

Reflections From Minneapolis-Home Run Derby

My seat last night during the Home Run Derby was directly behind 3B in the Auxiliary Press Box. Usually the auxiliary box is in the outfield. These seats were outstanding. I’m hoping to claim the same seat tonight for the All Star Game.

The rain came and went three different times. Fans were getting restless and wondering if the Derby would ever begin. But the end result was worth the wait.
Mother Nature made a cameo appearance to make up for the rain delays. The rainbow was spectacular. Full arc. I’ve seen lots of those in Arizona, but this was very fitting as sort of a “consolation prize” for the long wait.

I did a poll on twitter asking who would win each league and who would win the overall competition. I had tons of entries, but only one was correct. The fly in the ointment was Todd Frazier. Surprisingly, several people picked him to win the NL. But two people had him winning the entire competition.

Be honest with me here-were you among those that cheered when Yasiel Puig took a donut? The crowd in the stands was kind of pleased.

The ovations for Justin Morneau were spectacular. I expect to hear similar volume tonight for Derek Jeter.

I’m not sure the new format helps the first round winner. They didn’t remain in a groove and both seemed to cool off with the time off.

Lots of people on twitter told me they were bored watching the lengthy Derby. I was only bored during the rain delay. However, I wish they had an umpire and that a called strike would count as an out. That’s how it was in the 1960′s original Home Run Derby television show. It would speed the process tremendously. Lots of pitches are taken that are down the middle of the plate. But then again, all the sponsors and network wouldn’t have the time to get their needed revenue.

I wish we could have seen Big Papi, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera just to name four big boppers. Then I think it would have been a much more competitive and exciting event. A truer Home Run Derby.

Most everyone in the contest looked exhausted at the end of the first round. Not just from the physical standpoint, but from the mental wear and tear as well.

Did you like the new format?

I want to see a “Baseball’s Fastest Player” contest replace the Home Run Derby. For example, imagine seeing Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon settle the issue from home to first. Each club would get to send one player. Elimination rounds would go quickly.
Injury worries? Maybe. But these guys are in great shape. I don’t think there would be more injury potential than in the Home Run Derby. We could settle the speed questions once and for all. is Mike Trout faster than Peter Bourjos? I like it. I really do.

I would like to see the All Star Game players wear their regular uniforms during the week’s activities. Whites for the home club, grey for the visitors. Simple. Clean. Many fans in attendance never get to see those uniforms. Even if there are duplicate numbers, the uniforms would be different.

I thought Jose Bautista would win it all.

Cespedes hit the longest shot at 452 feet. Cespedes was also second at 447 feet. And um, he was third at 446 feet. Giancarlo Stanton went 430 feet in the first round.

Stanton and Cespedes are the two guys I try not to miss during batting practice. At Chase Field, Stanton hit the restaurant at the top of the left field bleachers this month.

In my twitter contest, not one person picked Troy Tulowitzki to even win his league. Imagine, Frazier was picked several times. Not Tulo.

The infield wasn’t covered with a tarp during any of the downpours. I thought that was odd. Maybe they wanted the rain to soak into the ground and soften the infield. Anyway, during the Derby puddles were evident.

The Derby was a sellout.

Yasiel Puig not only has a form of a mohawk, he has a star cut in as well.

Tomorrow I’ll provide my reflections of tonight’s All Star Game. I feel very fortunate to be here for Derek Jeter’s last All Star Game. As usual, he is handling this event with calm and cool. Almost like it’s just another game. The players, the media and especially the fans know it’s different. By the way-he’s the only guy to come to the media interviews in a suit and tie. I’m just sayin. He’s just different. In a positive, special kind of way. Some people dislike Jeter because he plays for the Yankees. I think that’s silly.

With Ken Griffey, Jr. being the last guy to win back-to-back Home Run Derby contests before Cespedes, people are wondering if Cespedes can be the first to win three in a row? I wouldn’t put it past him.

I didn’t have time to visit the candy store yesterday. I could almost feel the lack of carmel corn with nuts ruining my entire day. I’ll try to make up for that today.

Thanks for reading my articles on MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Your support is always appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done. For today.

Reflections From Minneapolis-Futures Game

Way Cool. No doubt about it, Minneapolis is way cool. I walked outside today in just a short sleeve logo shirt and almost got blown away. The forecast isn’t too good for tonight’s Home Run Derby. But hey, this is only July.

When I arrived in Minneapolis on Saturday it was pouring. I mean pouring. Living in Arizona, I hadn’t seen rain for months. It was a welcome sight and it went away quickly.

The City of Minneapolis is all dressed up in All Star finery. The local folks have been great. Very friendly. They bring warmth to the chilly outdoors.

Yesterday was my first look at Target Field. The stone on the outside gives it a special look and the interior is done tastefully as well. I enjoyed that everything is well marked and easy to find. Beautiful place.

I was pleased to speak with several of the players prior to the Futures Game. Joey Gallo told me about he and Kris Bryant growing up together and Gallo’s dad throwing batting practice to the guys. Gallo’s older brother played with Bryant. Gallo is a bit younger.

Kris Bryant indicated he is really happy to be playing with Manny Ramirez, one of his new coaches. He said Ramirez takes time to help him and that Ramirez is a very hard worker. Bryant really appreciates being around him. Bryant wore number 23 in the Home Run Derby, but he won’t be getting that number when he’s with the Cubs. It belongs to Ryne Sandburg.

I asked Indians shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor to tell me something he’s never told another writer. He laughed and said he was a member of Concert Choir in high school. He loved it, but he said he can’t sing.

I can’t tell you how impressive Joey Gallo’s batting practice was. He cleared the stadium over the right field wall and shattered a window on a display car. He said he broke a window once before in his Minor League career. This guy has awesome power. And he’s working hard to control his strikeouts.

Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien put on quite a show. Usually a guy goes easy in his first round of batting practice. Not O’Brien. He was swinging for the fences on the first pitch. I was standing next to the batting cage and I asked him about it. He said he “had to get his rips in when he could.” Makes sense to me. Everybody was watching. He’s definitely on my radar now. And he took every swing with a smile on his face.

The Red Sox Henry Owens and the Mets Noah Syndergaard both told me before the game they would mix in some off speed pitches to go along with their wicked heat. They did and it kept hitters off balance. Syndergaard is sporting a “modified” mohawk. He loves it and it looks good on his tall, thin frame.

It was amazing to see legend Tony Oliva out on the field with the World Team. He can probably still hit. He still walks with a limp from his bad wheels, but Oliva looks like he can play today. Bert Blyleven threw batting practice to the World Team and kept telling the players “I gave up lots of homers in my career, so don’t be shy about doing it to me here.”

Nationals pitcher Lucas Gioloto got touched for 2 hits, and 2 earned runs in his 2/3 inning of work. He suffered a blown save. Larry Doby Futures Game MVP Joey Gallo saved the day for the U S Team with the Tigers Jake Thompson getting the win. Syndergaard picked up the save.

The U S Team struck out eight times. The World Team 10. There were only two walks issued in the game, one by the Angels Victor Alcantara and the other by the Orioles Hunter Harvey.

I was blown away by Mariners prospect Gabby Guerrero’s physical resemblance to his uncle Vladimir Guerrero. He looks, swings and acts just like him. I predict a huge future for him as a game-changing hitter. He needs some more meat on his frame, but he has all the makings of a star. He doesn’t wear batting gloves…yet.

Orioles outfielder Daniel Alvarez has a great arm. Both in strength and accuracy.

We may have Big Papi junior in Twins prospect Kennys Vargas. I’ve heard comparison to former Pirates star Dave Parker. I agree.

Keep your eye on Tigers prospect outfielder Steven Moya. This guy has big time power on a tall, thin body. He has work to do on recognizing pitches coming off the bat, but he’ll hit his way on to the Tigers club. Big upper body with thin legs. Quick hands can take the pitch to the opposite field for him.

OMG-there’s a candy and popcorn store right next to my hotel. I promise I’ve only purchased the smallest size carmel corn…twice. The one that’s loaded with a variety of nuts.

Food carts are huge here in Minneapolis. They’re on every corner. But I haven’t ventured down that road…yet. If I do, I’ve learned to choose the one with the longest line. Makes sense, right? Or is that just because people are told to choose the food cart with the longest line? You see my point, right?

A guy in the Celebrity Softball Game was named Fat Joe. He was.

Ricky Henderson could probably play today and steal bases. He’s in great shape. Looks wonderful and can still play the game.

I think the World Team had better overall players yesterday, but they still lost the game. I’m just sayin’.

It’s such a shame that Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton weren’t in the Futures Games lineups. Buxton is just now returning and Sano is still hurt. But Alex Meyer threw 95-96 in his four pitch inning, making the Twins proud. And of course, Vargas represented the club well. Jose Berrios threw well.

Tonight is the Home Run Derby. You may want to check out my MLB.com feature on the original 1960 Home Run Derby television show. I loved watching that and I wanted to bring it back to life in my MLB.com piece. Hope you like it.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com. Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And please listen to Short Hops, our podcast on iTunes.

That’s it. I’m done.

Only Yellow Bananas

The last thing any analyst should do is criticize a front office or ownership group for not spending the money to put his team over the top. Opportunity knocks infrequently for some clubs. Teams have to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

I think of the 2013 seasons of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians and can’t help but wonder. Why didn’t they finish the job? Why didn’t the Pirates go out and find that additional pitcher or do whatever it took to sign A.J. Burnett? Why didn’t the Indians strike quickly to keep Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez? Then I remind myself that I’m not in those meetings. I didn’t hear the conversations. Maybe they both did try. Maybe the players just wanted to pitch elsewhere. So I give them a pass. Reluctantly.

This past winter Oakland General Manager Billy Beane struck quickly and took Kazmir off the board as a free agent. It was a swift move and it left the Indians reeling. I was told he was their first priority in the off-season. But they waited too long. Kazmir is now pitching for the Athletics. And doing well, thank you. There will be hiccups along the way, but he has helped a starting rotation that is without A. J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Drew Pomeranz. Actually, he’s done more than helped. He’s saved the bacon.

And now Mr. Beane has struck again. The man is fearless. And his timing is usually impeccable. Why wait until the trade deadline to pluck one of the two best starting pitchers from this year’s trading block? And, oh, by the way, why not get another outstanding arm in the same deal? Two starting pitchers were added to the Athletics rotation in one striking, swift and savvy deal. But once again, that’s Billy Beane. He must have ice water in his veins. He traded away one of the most athletic players I have scouted in quite some time. Addison Russell has it all. Size, strength, speed, great hands, quick feet and a wonderful temperament. He has the tools and demeanor of a winner.

Billy Beane lives for the moment to win. He sees the opportunity to win a World Championship this season-not two or three years down the road. Billy Beane buys bananas when they are ripe. He’s not waiting for green to become yellow. Actually, he wanted Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in yellow and green. And he got them. Just where he wants them. I believe they will be one and two in the new Athletics rotation, followed by Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. And then some configuration from among Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez. And maybe even Brad Mills. That, my friends, is pitching depth.

Oakland now has a chance to get past the Tigers in the postseason. That’s something they haven’t been able to do. In a short series, they will need all the pitching they now have. This trade had “beat the Tigers” written all over it. Who can blame them?

For their part, the Cubs get another fantastic piece to their ever growing prospect puzzle. At some point, at least one of the shortstops from among Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, or even middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara will have to be moved in a trade for starting pitching or they will have to change positions. But the adage is true-a team can’t have enough good prospects. And man, do they have prospects. Billy McKinney came over in the recent deal with Oakland. He’s a former number one draft choice. And he’s a center fielder. Not to mention guys like Kris Bryant (who I feel is their best overall prospect), Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. They also have starting pitching prospect C J Edwards. And don’t forget that the Cubs got Dan Straily in the deal. He’s got starting pitching experience-but for me, he’s doesn’t have quite the same type upside the Cubs need long term. But if needed, he’s an option.

The winner in this deal? Fans of both the Athletics and the Cubs.

Oakland has shown again that they will do whatever it takes to win. Top prospect Russell? But—unproven at the big league level. Great upside. Great makeup. A physical presence. Jeff Samardzija? A proven, experienced top of the rotation pitcher to get the team through the playoffs and give them a chance to win a World Championship. Now. This year. Not later. Now. And Jason Hammel is right behind him.

The Cubs buy more time to find the right starter. They have a perfect group of chips to throw in the pot when the stars align. Could it be David Price? Why not? Could they hold the prospects and go head first in the pitching market next year? Why not?

And now the rest of the AL West reacts once again to Billy Beane. So must the Tigers react. They need bullpen help.

No tomorrow for the Oakland Athletics. They want their run now. Before opportunity stops knocking at the door. Before their core players get too expensive or lose skill or drop in value. Not tomorrow or next year. Now. The Cubs? Tomorrow may have come a bit sooner. Take another great prospect and turn water into wine. Maybe. We’ll see. The proof will come when the prospects are promoted. But this deal gives them even more hope.

I loved this deal. Just loved it.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Catch Short Hops weekly on iTunes.

That’s it. I’m done.

 

The David Price Sweepstakes

There is no doubt several clubs would love to add Rays left-handed starter David Price to their rotation. He may be the final piece of the puzzle for a number of teams in contention.

Price is coming off a start in which he just missed a complete game shutout. He gives his team a chance to win every time he steps on the mound. And that’s what several teams need right now-a chance to win.

I have examined every club I feel has a good chance of trading for the year and a half left before Price becomes a free-agency. He would give his new team two good chances to get to the postseason and possibly win a World Series.

There are several factors that come to play when discussion Price. It all comes down to …price. What is the cost to add David Price to a pitching staff? If a team has a chance to win NOW-they have to take that chance. It is very, very difficult to win a championship Just ask the Texas Rangers.

If I am a team looking to deal with the Rays, I have the following condition: I must have several days to try to pound out a contract extension with Price to keep him from going to free-agency. If I can get the extension, I am willing to add a 3rd prospect and perhaps a Major League player (3 to 4 players) for Price.

If I can’t get Price to sign an extension, I am less willing to forfeit more than two prospects to obtain his services for a year and a half. I can not deplete my farm system for less than several years of David Price.

Price is 28. He will be 29 in August. That’s a factor for me. He has thrown 1097 Major League innings on top of the 151 innings he threw in his 3 season Minor League experience. He has some pitches on that left arm.

So here’s what I would do if I’m the Yankees:
I would offer one from among catchers Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy. Each has Major League potential and can stabilize the catching position for years to come. Each is an upgrade to their existing catching corps. Ryan Hanigan would be my backup catcher with one of these three the primary receiver. If I were the Rays I’d choose Murphy. He can really hit. So can Sanchez, but I really like Murphy.
Then I would have to sacrifice Dellin Betances. He has closer potential and could be very attractive to the Rays. Their closer issues would be settled for years to come.
So my deal would be a catcher and Betances. If I had to throw in a third player, it would be pitcher Ivan Nova. But I’d hate to throw in another player for Price. The two guys I’ve offered are top prospects. Nova is more than a journeyman. He can become a 5th starter for the Rays. They would yield a starting catcher, a closer and possibly a starting pitcher for a star quality pitcher they will lose in 2016 anyway unless he signs that extension. Price could provide a championship for the Yankees. And I think he would extend with New York for the right money.

Here’s what I would do if I’m the Cardinals:
I would offer the Rays the outfielders they need to contend. Outfield has been a need for the club for quite some time. I would offer one from among Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, or James Ramsey. The second player I would offer would be a pitcher. I would give them a choice of either right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez or lefty Marco Gonzales. Both of those are quality pitchers with upside remaining. Each would really be the focal point of the deal, not the outfielder. Each can fit with the Rays sooner than later. If I had to offer a third player, it would be outfielder Peter Bourjos and not the other outfielders or another pitcher. It would be Bourjos. That would be a tremendous package of players for Price. It gives the Rays a much needed injection of fresh players and it provides the Cardinals with the starting pitcher they need while they face injuries to Michael Wacha and Jamie Garcia.

Here’s what I would do If I’m the Astros:
The Astros aren’t in contention, right? Why would they need him? If they could sign David Price to an extension, he could be a piece to the puzzle that helps them complete their organizational makeover. He could be the ace they seek to compliment a great group of up and coming position players. But there would be a steep cost to pay in addition to the extension money. I would offer one from either Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski or Lance McCullers. Each of those are outstanding pitchers and I could understand if the Astros would be reluctant to give any of them up in trade. But Price might be the guy worthy of such a deal. The second player would be outfielder Domingo Santana, an outstanding corner outfield prospect. Those two players would be a terrific duo for Price. If I had to add a third player, I’d let the Rays choose from among outfielders Marc Krauss, Delino DeShields or Robbie Grossman. It would be a great deal for both clubs.

Here’s what I’d do if I were the Cubs:
The Cubs need pitching more that anything. But their chances of landing Price are minimal because they don’t have pitching to offer in return. I would offer these two players for Price-the focal point of the deal would be outfielder Jorge Soler. He has a big future and would play well on the Rays club. The other player in the deal would be Arismendy Alcantara an outstanding prospect that can play either shortstop or second base. He could become a star and isn’t spoken of in the same conversations with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler or C J Edwards. Alcantara could fill an infield need for the Rays. Especially if they plan on dealing Ben Zobrist. if a third player is needed to complete the deal I would offer either third baseman Christian Villanueva or pitcher Jason Hammel. This deal is not as deep in “can’t miss” prospects, but it gets Price out of the American League and yields two potential stars in Soler and Alcantara with a good third player in the mix.

Here’s what I would offer if I were the Orioles:
If I knew for sure that Dylan Bundy will return to form after Tommy John surgery I might include Kevin Gausman in a deal. But I don’t know that and I need Gausman for the future. Even if I can get Price. If Bundy were healthy, I could give up two very high quality pitchers to get one back. As it is, I am willing to give up huge upside in Eduardo Rodriguez, a lefty with big upside. I would offer either Hunter Harvey or Mike Wright as the other pitcher in the deal. The Rays would be getting two quality starting pitching candidates in Rodriguez and either Harvey or Wright. I am holding on to lefty Tim Berry and Bundy. Especially if I’m dealing Rodriguez. I would not offer a third player in this deal. Two quality pitchers, one of them my best left-handed prospect is enough.

If I were the Marlins I would offer:
The focal point of my deal would be Justin Nicolino. He’s a crafty left-handed starter with a great ability to get sink on his fastball and induce ground balls. I would add pitcher Nick Wittgren to the package as a reliever that could become a closer for the Rays. He’s got a big fastball with the mound presence to take the ball in the 9th inning. I would also add outfielder Jake Marisnick as a third player in the deal. I’d include him right off the bat in a 3-for-1 package of two pitchers and an outfielder. Marisnick has some upside. If a 4th player were needed for me to get David Price, I would reluctantly add Anthony DeSclafani, a right-handed starting pitcher. The Rays would get 3 quality arms and an outfielder. And Price would put the Marlins in position to win the NL East by next season. No-I would not give up Jose Urena or Andrew Heaney. This is a very deep package, but the Marlins have enough organizational depth to withstand the loss of prospects provided they can sign Price to an extension.

There are other teams that covet starting pitching. I don’t think clubs like Texas, Kansas City, the Angels, the Giants or the Indians have enough in their system right now to fetch Price. The Rangers are so depleted they have to hang on to their able bodies and not trade them away for one pitcher. But they may need him for the future more than any other team in baseball. Texas has been torn apart by pitching injuries.

Those are my projected deals for David Price. Each comes with a caution sign: He must be signed to an extension to give up the quality prospects I am proposing.

Thank you for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and for listening to Short Hops on iTunes. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

 

Greetings From Chattanooga

I greet you today from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the location of the 2014 Southern League (Double-A) All Star Game. I’m hoping to see some fine prospects while enjoying the Home Run Derby and the game itself. I’ll be commenting about both events starting Monday night and continuing Tuesday @BerniePleskoff on twitter.

Lots of people have asked me who I would have taken in the recently concluded First-Year Player Draft. I have watched lots of video but I haven’t seen any of the players in person. I generally like to watch players live before commenting. However, from the video, my choice would have been Shepherd (Texas) High School flame thrower Tyler Kolek. I don’t think that physicality and that arm strength come around all that often. He’s just a massive guy with the potential to get even bigger and stronger. My second choice would have been Brady Aiken of Cathedral High School in San Diego. There are no “sure things” in any draft. But these two guys look like winners. I just would have reversed the order.

Where do the Cubs go with Jeff Samardzija? Well, Oakland is looking for another starter and they may have the prospects to play. How about the Braves? Would they give up catcher Christian Bethancourt among others? The Yankees? They have a couple of prospect catchers in Gary Sanchez and J R Murphy. Yes, I think the Cubs need a catcher along with a pitcher or two in the deal. I like the Giants to get Samardzija. Why? They always pick up a very good player in late June or July. They have outstanding catcher Andrew Susac waiting in the wings. Would they trade him? If it meant winning another World Series, why not? I have no “inside” information. I’m just sharing my ideas.

Do I think David Price gets traded? Yes, if they move rather quickly. The longer they wait, the lower the value. He can fetch some players to rejuvenate the franchise. If he’s traded now he brings a season and a half of play for his new team. Justin Masterson? I don’t think so. The Indians have a shot at a Wild Card and they would have to get a starting pitcher in return. Not happening IMO.

The Throw. The only other throw I’ve seen that is close to the one Yoenis Cespedes made on the fly from the left field corner to the point of home plate was years ago by Roberto Clemente. But I was much younger then and I was amazed by everything. But Cespedes proved his arm is a treasure to be enjoyed by fans for years to come.

Few teams have fallen from grace as quickly as the Rangers. And lo and behold, they are only 8 games out of first place in the A L West as I write this. But they have three teams to jump over. And we don’t talk about them anymore.

Albert Pujols is hitting .258. Joe Mauer is hitting .261. Evan Longoria is hitting .265. And Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .301. What’s wrong with that mural? The times are indeed, changing.

“Baseball America” has done a study on Tommy John surgeries. One of the conclusions is that drafted college pitchers have greater rates of Tommy John surgeries than drafted high school pitchers. The study was based upon data from Jon Roegele of “The Hardball Times.” 30% of the surgeries were college draftees, 25% high school, and 25% international. 9% were junior college and 9% were non-drafted free agents. The other 2% were signed out of independent leagues.

I hope the Diamondbacks plan on giving Jordan Pacheco some playing time. I do think he has a loud bat-especially at Chase Field. But he has trouble hitting from the bench.

Do the Blue Jays need another starter? Do they have the prospects to land David Price or Jeff Samardzija? It would have to start with Aaron Sanchez and that’s a huge price to pay for a year and a half. I think they’d have to have an extension deal in place before they made that type of move. Sanchez is a fine prospect. Maybe the Rays would require less. I doubt it.

Of all the teams that could have signed Kendrys Morales, the last I had on my list was the Minnesota Twins. Be honest now, they weren’t on your list either.

Are the Indians wise to keep Jason Giambi around once he returns from the disabled list? Does he still have magic in his bat? I’m just askin’.

Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout? Your choice? Is Ryan Braun in that conversation? Bryce Harper? Andrew McCutchen?

Dynamic trio-George Springer, Jon Singleton and ultimately Carlos Correa. Yikes! Just think what the Astros may have on their hands with those 3 guys. Then add pitchers like Mike Foltynewicz and Asher Wojciechowski, Mark Appel and Lance McCullers. It might not be fair. And they don’t all have to be stars to elevate the Astros. Just good, solid players. But at least 3 will be stars IMO. Maybe more.

Then there’s the Cubs Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C J Edwards, Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach and Arodys Vizcaino, just to name 6. Not to mention one of my favorites in Arismendy Alcantara. Which team soars further? Quicker? I’m really wondering myself. Just think of what’s ahead of us in the next couple years.

Have you watched Gregory Polanco play? How about that outfield of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco. It can be scary good.

I’ll pretty sure I’ll see Kris Bryant tonight in the Southern League Home Run Derby. If not then, he’s on the Southern League North Division team and will be playing in the game.

That’s it for this time. I’m done.

As always, thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for listening to Short Hops. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Much appreciated.

 

Memorial Day Memo

Let me being by thanking all the wonderful service men and women who are away from home and helping to keep our country free. Your tireless and unselfish efforts are beyond words and are most appreciated and respected. And let us remember those who sacrificed their life for our continued freedom.

The Chicago press has really had a field day with the Cubs signing Manny Ramirez as a player-coach for their Iowa club. The print media has column after column saying it’s a huge mistake to have someone who served a suspension for illegal substance use as a coach is not the right message to send prospects. Countering that, the Cubs brass have indicated Manny has learned from that and is an excellent teacher of fundamental hitting. Especially hitting the breaking ball. Whatever side you come down on, it should be another interesting chapter in the Cubs Long Range plan. I can see both sides. Believe me, Manny Ramirez is one of the most lethal right-handed hitters I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen quite a few. I remember when he was a skinny young man as a rookie with the Indians. He was shy and very humble. But as a coach? I really am not so sure.

I’ve been at Cellular One for the White Sox weekend games with the Yankees and now I’m catching one game against the Indians before I head to see the Brewers and Orioles.
There isn’t anything in sports quite like a Yankees game. People come out of the weeds to watch them play. The press box is always mobbed. And it was the last White Sox stop for Derek Jeter on his farewell tour. He made it a good one, getting four hits. Crowd gave him a standing ovation every time to the plate. And believe me, he busted his tail on a triple to right-center. It’s great to watch him play.

I got my first look at Masaharo Tanaka. As I said on twitter yesterday, I think he can throw a ball into a teacup from the mound. What makes him so good is his pin point control and command of every pitch. The splitter is really, really nasty. I think the best thing to do is move up in the box and try to hit the ball before it moves. Good luck with that.

I think what was then called Comiskey Park was the first home of the dessert cart for suite owners. A dessert cart came around late in the game and the suite dwellers could choose whatever they wanted. For a price, of course. The host always got a hefty bill. But it’s still going on. And the desserts are outstanding. Including the carrot cake.

I spoke with White Sox first baseman Jose’ Abreu in the clubhouse (thru an interpreter). He indicated he is on schedule for a return from the disabled list June 2nd. He had a big smile on his face and he’s raring to go. Quite a nice young man.

Michael Brantley is on my list as one of the most underrated players in the game. All he does is come through in the clutch. Can’t say the same for Nick Swisher. Not at all.
I hope Brantley is on the All Star team.

I met up with my dear friend Klauss on Saturday night. He and his wife and my wife and I went to a place called Antique Tacos on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. My wife had heard of it from the Food Channel. It was amazing. Lots of vegetables. But of course, I got the tacos that had the meat. Soft taco shells. I eat vegetables about once a week if I have to. I look it, too.

My wife replaced my worn and used Harry Caray tee shirt with a brand new one from a place at Water Tower Place. I’m lovin’ it. Every baseball fan should have a Harry Caray tee shirt. The shirt has nothing to do with the White Sox or Cubs-just the outlined face of Harry Caray. This outline is in blue, not like the one I have in black.

I had never seen Yangervis Solarte play. Now I know why the Yankees kept him. The man can rake.

The Rangers are reported to be looking to make a deal with the Nationals for a first baseman. And so-the trade rumors begin. From now until July, we’ll have to sort out fact from fiction.

Watch out for the Blue Jays.

The Trevor Bauer experiment is still a work in progress. He didn’t have a good outing his last time up with the Indians.

It’s really hot and humid here in Chicago today. But I guess it’s a welcome change from the cold wintery weather they’ve been having. Coming from Phoenix, I’m not at all used to the humidity.

Oh well, have a great week. And as always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and listening to Short Hops podcast on iTunes. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

Tony La Russa Is In The House

Tony La Russa had been sitting in the press box at Chase Field for a few games prior to the announcement that he would become the Chief Baseball Officer of the Diamondbacks. That announcement came this past Saturday. I really can’t say I know one person who knew of the pending hire in advance. Everyone I spoke with was shocked. And thrilled. And waiting to see what happens.

La Russa has earned tremendous respect in baseball and in society. He has a law degree, is very articulate and is extremely intelligent. And he knows baseball. Inside and out.

La Russa brings a swagger to his role. He will soon bring a Hall Of Fame induction plaque to hang on his wall— along with mementos from the World Championship clubs he has managed. He has been part of three World Series championships, six league championships and twelve division championships. That’s not only amazing, it’s totally impressive.

Now 69 years-old, La Russa embarks on a new challenge. Can he help the Diamondbacks become competitive in a division with the surging Rockies, the steady and consistent Giants, the super star Dodgers, and the promising Padres?

La Russa will be reunited with at least two of his former staff members with the St. Louis Cardinals. Dave Duncan is an organizational pitching guru for the Dbacks and Dave McKay is the club’s first base coach. Both have deep roots with La Russa. Both are trusted.

So what can the baseball world expect from La Russa in his new role, a role that includes having general manager Kevin Towers reporting to him? First, I think he will review the landscape. He and his trusted allies will evaluate what they have. Not just at the big league level, but they will drill down. They will look at every aspect of organizational talent (or lack thereof) and instructional technique. I think he will be pensive and circumspect. He will watch, ask and learn. I don’t think he will jump in and make changes for changes sake.

I think he and the organization will provide much more patience with young prospects. Instead of trading them away, they will develop their young players. No player will come to the Major League club before he is ready. The draft will be the focal point of player procurement. And this draft board will be scrutinized and evaluated before the first pick is made. What will this player or that player bring to the organization as part of our team? As a component of a total team effort, not just as an individual.

Ultimately, and in his own time, I believe La Russa will put people in place he trusts with shepherding consistent, fundamental mechanics. He will put coaches in place that will insist on shorter swings, situational success, consistency, making contact, catching the ball, throwing to the right base, and hustling. Not only in good times, but in bad times as well. Playing with a sense of urgency. Doing whatever it takes within the rules of the game to……..win. Tony La Russa will never accept complacency or a lack of effort. He will never accept losing by being either lazy or lacking focus. He will never accept mediocrity.

I think the initial emphasis will be on pitching, as it should be. The Dbacks need an overhaul in pitching. At every level. There is no ace. There is no number 2 starter. Anywhere in the organization. Not at this time. Maybe that person will emerge. Archie Bradley has a long way to go after he recovers from his injury.

To me, A J Pollock, Chris Owings, Paul Goldschmidt and Didi Gregorius are the type of players Tony La Russa can build around. Add Aaron Hill to the list if he isn’t traded at some point. Miguel Montero has to be more consistent behind the plate and he has to continue using his more compact stroke at the plate. He has a long term, expensive contract and he probably isn’t going anywhere. There are no catchers that I can identify in the farm system.

La Russa realizes players are not robots. However, fundamentals have to come naturally. There has to be institutional standards. The “Dbacks way of doing things.”
And that will be the La Russa and his trusted allies way of doing things.

Tony LaRussa is a serious, dedicated professional. More than anything else, Tony La Russa is a winner. Can he help steer the Dbacks into the very special category of a winning baseball team? Time will tell. But all that being said, the clock has begun to tick.

Thinking Out Loud

Maybe someone put two and two together with Marlins super star pitcher Jose’ Fernandez after his last start in San Diego. In that game, he gave up 5 earned runs on 6 hits in just 5 innings. The start before, he yielded 2 earned runs in 7 innings against the Dodgers. He hadn’t given up a run in the 3 previous starts. As a matter of fact, Fernandez’ velocity had dropped from 97.6 mph in March to 95.9 mph in May. That isn’t a huge drop, but it causes some to wonder. The results just weren’t like Fernandez. Something was wrong. Now, on the brink of becoming a top shelf, All Star quality pitcher in the same conversation with Clayton Kershaw, Fernandez is on the shelf with an elbow issue. He’s likely to have Tommy John surgery. It hasn’t been announced, but it sure sounds like it. I’ve said it many times. He has the best curveball I’ve seen in a long time. And that pitch is right now or is very close to being the equal of the one thrown by Kershaw. And that’s saying something. We wish Fernandez all the best as he deals with a blip in his career. Hope that’s all it is. A blip and not a huge speed bump.

I like Chris Owings. I like Aaron Hill. But the Dbacks need pitching. Where do they go? They have to give up someone in trade for any type of starter they can find. One that can hang around Arizona for a while. Trade candidates include Hill, Martin Prado. Didi Gregorius or Nick Ahmed. Who’s available for Arizona? I have an idea. How about the Cardinals. They have the pitching. They can move Peralta back to third. Put Carpenter back at second. Bring in either Gregorius or Ahmed at shortstop. It would be good for both clubs. I won’t even guess which pitcher among their outstanding depth at that position might fetch a Didi. Ahmed would be less expensive. He’s a darn good defensive shortstop. I think that’s what the Cardinals need now. I like Peralta much better at third because of his lack of range at shortstop. It’s a good match.

I’ll say it again. After watching both John Axford and Addison Reed implode and lose games because of their penchant to give up the long ball, I have to wonder why set-up men can’t start the 9th. It must be illegal.

Charlie Blackmon is legit.

Puig or Braun?

If you’re the Dodgers, do you try to get H. Ramirez to sign a lengthy contract? Does his health concern you? I’m just wondering. It sure does concern me if I’m them. But I’m not them. They’re them. I would look to find a shortstop like Stephen Drew and play Dee Gordon at second while moving Ramirez to third this season. Then, I’d try to find a third baseman for next year.

What happens to David Price at the July trade deadline? And how about Justin Masterson? Both could be sent to contenders. Price has more value because he has a year and half. Masterson only from July through the playoffs. But he can help someone.

C.C. has been less than so so so far. And now he’s hurt. Is he toast? I’m concerned about the drop in velocity and the bum knee. He’s on the DL. But can the Yankees count on him? David Price? But who do the Yankees have to trade. Ah-a catcher. Maybe Gary Sanchez and a pitcher like Dellin Betances. Just thinking out loud. It might take more than that. No middle-infielders available on the Yankees. They need them themselves. Maybe a three way trade with the Indians. Plenty of middle-infielders. Start with Asdrubal Cabrera. Betances could be a closer some day. If he can command that wicked fastball.

If you haven’t watched Rougned Odor of the Rangers yet, you should. He has a combination of power, speed and defense that belies his 20 years of age. Just an amazingly quick journey through the farm system to the parent club. He has it all. Jurickson Profar got all the hype, but Odor is really quite a player to watch.

Sweet swing you ask? Try Christian Yelich. It says in my brain that he’s on his way to becoming a very dangerous hitter. Very dangerous. But then you knew I liked him. I’ve been raving about him for three or four years now.

Sleeper you ask? Wilson Ramos of the Nationals. Not even in the catching conversation. Hits and plays outstanding defense. Hitting 4th for the Nationals now.

Jonathan Singleton time soon in Houston. Soon. Springer and Singleton=hope. But not NOW. Be patient.

Gregory Polanco time in Pittsburgh? They can’t wait much longer. He’s the real deal. Pirates fans will love him. He’ll be a fantasy darling. And man, can he play. Great arm. Solid bat with power. Patience though. He’ll be adjusting to the way pitchers adjust to him. All Star time promotion. Sooner if it were me.

Oscar Taveras? Also soon. I see him moving in to his new home in right field in St. Louis and hitting the ground running. Exciting player.

Will the Phillies trade Cliff Lee? Yankees could sure use him, right?

How long does Kansas City wait for Mike Moustakas? What should they do? Does he have any trade value? Yes. Third base is not a deep position. Maybe a change of scenery will work for him.

Would you give Pablo Sandoval a long-term contract if you were the Giants? At big, big bucks? They have a decision to make.

Did Max Scherzer make the right decision turning down more money from the Tigers than is in my home town bank on any given day? Didn’t we watch that movie starring Ubaldo Jimenez just last year? I know Scherzer isn’t Jimenez, but the concept seems similar to me. How ca you say “no” to more money than they have in some city governments? Gutsy. I guess.

The day after the MLB draft should be fun. We should be seeing Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales sign contracts. But where?

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And listen to Short Hops on iTunes.

Thats’ it. I’m done.

A Little of This and Some of That

Sometimes I think one or two players set the tone for an entire roster. The departures of Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew have given the Red Sox an entirely different look and feel. They miss both those players-but especially Ellsbury. A guy that ignites an offense from the top of the batting order is hard to find. To watch him play for your biggest rival is difficult to handle. I think the Red Sox could struggle to score runs all year. In addition, the defensive shifts being deployed against David Ortiz are taking their toll on his productivity.

On the other hand, think of what the Yankees have been able to do because Robinson Cano left them for Seattle. They used the money targeted for him to fill several gaping holes and return to the Yankees of old. Very good free agent signings IMO on the part of Mr. Cashman.

It’s very difficult for me to watch John Axford come in to save an Indians game. I know he’s done the job–most of the time. But not without heartburn. And the loss to the White Sox Sunday was painful to watch. Corey Kluber pitched an 8 inning gem. While I left the room for an instant, Axford had already walked the leadoff hitter. Then it went downhill from there.

The hole I’ve seen in Jose Abreu’s swing is a high fastball. But not an 88 mph fastball. A mid-90′s fastball.

The Rockies have one of the best defensive infields I have seen in years. Nolan Arenado is incredible at third. D J LeMahieu is almost his equal at second. Tulo is darn good at shortstop and now, Justin Morneau brings a great glove to first. And man, can that club clobber the baseball. If they can use a pitching machine instead of humans they would win the World Series. But it’s tough to pitch in Colorado. Very tough.

I saw a statistic that said 31 pitchers have required Tommy John surgery since February. 16 have been on Major League pitching staffs. Maybe some doctor and hospital should consider providing a Tommy John surgery at birth. That would provide a tremendous public service.

How do the Dbacks come back from their horrible start? That’s the question I’m being asked the most lately. My answer? I don’t know. The farm system can not plug pitching holes–or position player holes for that matter. There are few players available on the trade front (at least until the trade deadline in July). And even if there were, who can they trade? Maybe second baseman Aaron Hill. Chris Owings could convert to second base with Didi Gregorius playing shortstop. I’ll get Didi in there somewhere.

The Marlins are a fun team to watch. And I firmly believe Jose’ Fernandez is in the conversation as the best pitcher in baseball. Why? I just think the Kershaw injury gives me a bit of concern. But if he is still behind Kershaw, he isn’t far away from being the best. His curveball is beyond fantastic.

The Tigers need Stephen Drew. Tomorrow if not today.

It’s very strange to look in the Wrigley Field stands on a televised game and see empty seats. But that’s reality. It’s been cold and the team isn’t winning. Bad combination-even for a tremendously loyal fan base.

Here’s something I never thought would happen this year—Oakland is looking for starting pitching. Are you kidding me? That speaks volumes about pitching depth and surgeries. They have two guys on the shelf in Parker and Griffin.

How tough is it to pitch to Major League hitters? The Angels are on the brink of returning Ernesto Frieri to the closer’s role. Yikes!

Is Prince heating up? Seems like it. And so is Miguel Cabrera. Watch out!

Speaking of Miguel. Have you noticed the shorter swing and different footwork for Miguel Montero in the batter’s box? He’s getting results. He’s much improved over the 2013 edition. But I’m still not buying it 100%. I want to see it for an entire season.

Corey Kluber is really a darn good starting pitcher.

I’m really happy for the Brewers. They are doing it with a balance of pitching and hitting. Hope they keep it up. It’s a good story. Small market and in the same division with the Cardinals. But the Cardinals hitters have really scuffled.

Kolten Wong has been sent out for more seasoning. Um….I think I many have mentioned…..in the pre-season.

I think the Angels will regret trading Randal Grichuk to St. Louis. I love his swing. He’s a little bit of a late bloomer, but he can flat out hit. The Cards have almost as much outfield depth as they have pitching depth. That’s scary good.

If you can figure out how the Padres can score some runs, contact Buddy Black. I feel terrible for him and Josh Byrnes. It’s a solid franchise, but they’re not scoring runs.

The Rays need pitching? Yes, they do. Speaking of good defense. That’s a team that plays good defense. I’ve seen some outstanding plays by Desmond Jennings. Game savers.

The Cubs Starlin Castro has responded very well to manager Rick Renteria.

The Royals? I just don’t see them hanging in with the Tigers. Even if they get hot, which they haven’t yet. The Tigers just have too much pitching.

Rick Porcello is having a great start to his year. Of course. I didn’t keep him in one of my keeper leagues. I had a hunch when I hit the delete button.

This month I’ll be in Chicago to see the White Sox and in Milwaukee to watch the Brewers. Hope you follow me on twitter for those games.

Angel Pagan may be among the most underrated players in the game. The Giants are a different team with him. When he had that prolonged injury they really scuffled.

Ubaldo Jimenez must be driving Buck Schowalter nuts. Which is the real guy? The one that bombed for his first few starts or the one who threw a gem last week? The Rockies and Indians have lived through that nightmare.

I still like the Orioles. Even with Chris Davis on the shelf. Very balanced club.

Sorry to see Jason Kipnis miss time with an injury. He’s the heart of the Indians IMO.

Looks like we’ll get to see left-hander Robbie Ray pitch for the Tigers this week. We’ll see the pitcher the Tigers got for Doug Fister.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for listening to Short Hops on iTunes. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Much appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

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