So here I am in Florida for Spring Training.
Last Saturday when I arrived I asked for a rental car with low mileage and XM radio. I got a car with 2,000 miles, but no XM. So every 20 minutes as I leave an area, I have to find a different sports station.
When I return the car the odometer will have no resemblance to the one I picked up. It seems all I do is drive, watch games and sleep. There are no parks close to each other. I remember that from my past trips here, but this year is different. I have teams I want to see for their prospects so I’m criss-crossing the state. And my eyes.
So who has impressed me so far? You may want to remember these names:
Mike Foltynewicz who’s name I can’t pronounce pitches for the Astros. Let’s just call him Mike. Mike threw strikes in the game I saw. Yes, his Minor League history shows a lack of command and control. I saw a huge, 6-foot-4 guy with a gun for an arm. I think he can probably hit 100 with ease. He’s on my futures list. I think he’ll be a star if he continues to progress.
Steve Matz is a Mets lefty with great promise. He threw at about 92-94 when I saw him. Nothing was hit hard. And he consistently repeated his delivery. I think the Mets have a left-handed gem a couple years away. Maybe he’ll change his name to Steve Mets.
Then there’s Tim Cooney of the Cardinals. It’s not as if they don’t have enough pitching to stock two full rotations, here comes an amazing lefty in Cooney. All he did was throw strikes and make hitters miss. And he’s only their 5th or 6th or 7th best pitching prospect. It really is amazing.
So there are so many people visiting in Florida at this time of year that the hotel internet band width can’t keep up. So how’d ya like that? Don’t ever tell me I’m not technologically savvy. I can drop a “band width” with the best of em. So anyway, my connections have dropped every night in every hotel I’ve been in. Maybe they need a new ISP (internet service provider) how’d ya like that one?
The trio of Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jon Singleton showed why they are good prospects. BUT-and here’s the but. Each is still raw. Each has a part of his game that needs refinement before being exposed day in and day out to Major League pitching. But I’m way out on a limb with Correa. He’ll be outstanding. And he’s a huge 6-foot-4 at age 19.
I saw the Twins. I feel sorry for my Twins fan friends. The team is empty. There is little to no depth. And the loss of Miguel Sano is a crushing blow.
Lou Brock took the lineups to home plate before the Cardinals game I saw. Way cool.
The water in Phoenix tastes much better than Florida’s water. But the best water anywhere? Chicago. By far. Love Chicago water.
Tigers don’t look as solid and as complete to me this year. Their fine at the top of the order, but it goes sour very quickly thereafter. And I have concern about their top prospect-Nick Castellanos. Will he hit Major League breaking balls? I’m just askin.
I think the Tigers will really miss Doug Fister. And Jhonny Peralta. And Price Fielder.
Look for Brad Ausmus to attempt more stolen bases, put on the hit and run and be more aggressive than Jim Leyland. He’s going to make things happen.
Who plays left field for the Tigers now that Andy Dirks is having back surgery? I look for a platoon of Rajai Davis and Don Kelly. And by the way, Jose Iglesias has not played yet. There are concerns he may not be available for opening day. Hernan Perez? Ramon Santiago is gone. There are some holes Tigers fans. Some holes.
Jhonny Peralta hit two home runs against the Tigers. In a Cards uniform.
Someone with the Yankees told me there are times they have nearly 100 Japanese media following Masahiro Tanaka. And when I saw Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch for the Mets, there were about 30 Japanese media at that game. It’s fabulous that they love their players so much and their fans have such a thirst for the progress of their guys.
I’m not eating well. Either is Rafael Furcal. Looks like he’s put on a few lbs. Well actually, more than a few. But he’s the Marlins second baseman. For now.
The Tigers and Marlins could use Stephen Drew. And that’s just among the teams I’ve seen so far. How does he not have a job yet?
We have a 90% chance of rain today in Orlando. That means there’s a 10% chance it won’t rain. And you thought I couldn’t do math. So today you learned I’m a computer wizard (remember band width from above) and a math genius.
Oh, by the way. Some of you have asked if I’ll have my fantasy selections on BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD. The answer is….yes. As soon as this weekend. I’ll talk about guys I want and guys I’ll avoid.
OMG, IMO I can LOL at my limited computer skills. How’s that for knowing computer talk? Bet you didn’t know I could do that. I can sling it with the best of you. Or, not.
And listen, thanks for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com and for following me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff.
That’s it. I’m done.
Ok-so here I am in Jupiter Florida after watching a few games in The Cactus League the first week.
I haven’t seen Clayton Kershaw throw up high as often as he did on Opening Day at Salt River. And that’s a no no against professional baseball hitters. Kershaw didn’t look comfortable at all on the mound. After he left the game, he threw another 15 pitches in the pen. I have no worries about Kershaw. But it was interesting. Nothing was working for him.
Yes, I noticed that Yasiel Puig looked bigger. It was all in his lower body. I didn’t see any weight gain that impacted his speed on a ringing double he hit to dead left-center. It was a shot that just jumped off his batt. Great, great bat speed.
Brandon McCarthy was playing catch in his first start. He looked as sharp and as confident as I’ve ever seen him. If it keeps up, you’ll see smiles on the Dbacks faces.
I still think J. J. Putz will not give up his closer role to Addison Reed without putting up a fight. But I still think Reed will close. At least to begin the season. We’ll see.
We all talk about Didi Gegorius and Chris Owings being in a battle for the shortstop role in Arizona. But let me tell you–Cliff Pennington is a fine defensive shortstop. He makes all the plays and he has a gun for an arm. A club or two may want him.
Paul Goldschmidt was beaten on pitches up in his eyes. In three weeks he won’t swing at that pitch. For now, however, the high pitch probably looks too good to pass up.
The Indians and Reds both wore new jerseys. The Indians have the traditional C on the front and a red and blue combination on the back. I like em. The Reds sported a black warmup and they looked beautiful. I had never seen those before.
The Reds Logan Ondrusek is 6-foot-8, 230 pounds and he pitches downhill. What a great weapon he is is for the pen.
I got my first look at Alex Guerrero. He’s smaller and lighter than I had thought. His power has to come from somewhere. He was late on some pitches but I think he’ll come around. I see him as a wrist hitter. Good swing. Henry Aaron was the best wrist hitter I’ve ever seen. So if Guerrero uses his wrists, I can see some pop.
Where does Jedd Gyorko get his power? He has huge legs. His lower body does much of the work in his swing. I can see him hitting for power. Very strong guy.
Worries for the Mariners. Iwakuma and Walker are going to be delayed. A couple of injuries that have to be monitored and not rushed. Suddenly, a rather nice pitching staff could take an early April hit.
I look for Mike Zunino to have a very solid year for the Mariners. Rushed to the big leagues a bit, Zunino has everything needed to succeed with the bat. His defense is still a work in progress.
Jesus Montero is the balloon we see once the party is over. It starts to deflate a bit. He had some promise. But the Yankees must have known what they were doing. I can’t describe how awkward and desperate his swing looked. It was like-”Let me try this.” It doesn’t look pretty.
It was good to see the Padres Rymer Liriano playing again. He blew out his arm and had surgery. He’s back now, and I think he can have an impactful bat.
I’d like to see Lonnie Chisenhall hit against every left-hander possible this spring. There is no way he will ever get better (and he does need to get better) watching them from the bench or just hitting against them in batting practice. If Chisenhall is going to be a player, he has to play. And he has to hit lefties.
John Axford may have been the beneficiary of the Cardinals pitching gurus. Believe me, he looked very smooth on the mound with his mid-90′s fastball working with sink for the Indians.
Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com. It is much appreciated.
That’s it. I’m done.
Earlier this week I wrote about those American League players I’m targeting for my fantasy teams this year. I also admitted I was nuts to share all my innermost secrets.
So now it’s time for me to spill the beans about some guys I really want to pick up in the National League.
Caution: These are just my opinion. Nothing more than that. Of course, if I’m right I want you to heap praise upon my shoulders. If I’m wrong, don’t even bring it up. I won’t remember.
My absolute breakout player is Christian Yelich of the Marlins. I’ve seen too much of his great swing in the past to think he won’t register a great batting average and score some runs. He’ll drive in his share as well. I want him wherever I can get him.
I still like Junior Lake of the Cubs. I don’t like much of the team that currently surrounds him, but I do like Lake. He has speed to steal bases and I think he’ll make some noise. And he’ll be cheap in auctions and drafts.
Nolan Arenado plays in a great hitter’s park with huge gaps for his personal target practice. He should be much more comfortable now in Colorado. I look for a big year from him with the Rockies.
I have never been one to dismiss the Braves Andrelton Simmons as a hitter. I do think he will continue to get better and better. And I think you can get him low in the shortstop pool. Steady progress means he will make himself a viable hitter.
Why not take a flyer on Devin Mesoraco now that he has a more stable role with the Reds? Nice hitter’s park. More self-confidence and good parks in the NL Central add up to a nice pick at catcher. I’m in.
Speaking of catchers. How about Wilson Ramos? I look for a very fine year from him. Catchers are getting better and better, and I really like the lineup surrounding Ramos. He’s worth a shot. Remember-most leagues use two catchers.
Khris Davis can hit. The question is if the Brewers will stick with him if he scuffles the first month. I’ve seen him hit long bombs. His hands are very quick through the ball. He has natural instincts. He could really blossom in Miller Park. IF. If they let him play.
Keep an eye on Andrew Lambo. You remember-that Andrew Lambo. Yes, that Andrew Lambo. Well, it says in my head that the Pirates will need some help at first base. If that holds true, Lambo could get a chance. If Lambo gets a chance, he may become the Andrew Lambo i’ve been waiting for since Nixon was President. I think the guy can hit. I hope I’m right. Remember-he’s just a sleeper. Not a buy high or a high draft choice. He’s an afterthought. Reserve pick-up.
Well, there are more, but I’m keeping quiet on them for now.
I’m out front now where everyone can see. My picks are public. There’s no turning back. Unless or until I see these guys in Spring Training and they do something to make me change my mind. I reserve that right.
Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And remember, I’ll be tweeting every day starting February 26th from a Spring Training game. Get your friends to follow me @BerniePleskoff on twitter-we need to build a very strong support system at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.
Why? Because we have to watch out for each other. That’s why.
That’s it. I’m done.
I must be crazy. I must be totally crazy.
Guys like me should never go public with guys we are targeting in Fantasy Leagues.
But part of the game is sharing information. That’s what I do. I try to share my ideas and thoughts as an analyst. If it costs me someone scooping a player from me, so be it.
No, I’m not a martyr. I just think it doesn’t hurt to share.
I like my track record on targets. But this year, I may bust. So beware. I have no certainty these guys will turn your season around. They just happen to be guys I like. You may not. Don’t blame me. Just praise me profusely if I get it right.
I am not including the obvious like Sano and Buxton in keeper leagues. I am reaching a bit. So here goes—these are guys I wouldn’t mind owning shares of this season:
My absolute break out candidate is Henry Urruita of the Orioles. If you follow me, I raved about him last year. I think he’ll be even better as a left-handed designated hitter. I think when he does get to hit, he’ll be a doubles machine with homers to come.
I’m a huge Avisail Garcia fan-especially in keeper leagues. He’s just in his infancy. He’ll keep on keeping on. Especially at that hitter friendly Chicago play pen.
I think the Indians John Axford could be a sleeper as a closer. I believe in Mickey Callaway’s ability to fix pitchers. I like Axford this season.
Speaking of Indians, I’ll take my shares of first baseman Jesus Aguillar in a keeper league. I think he’ll play and hit-eventually. May be in 2015.
A surprise here: I’m very bullish on Grady Sizemore making a comeback with Boston. He’s still a good athlete. He’s healthy. And he’s getting a chance. I’ll take him.
Norichika Aoki is underrated. I think the Brewers made a mistake letting him slip away. He will score runs for the Royals. I want those runs.
Off that same Royals club, I’ll take Yordano Ventura in a keeper league and stash him. Not big. Just a big arm. When he finds the strike zone, watch out.
Another keeper to stash: I really like Taylor Lindsey of the Angels and I don’t think it’ll be too long until he’s playing 2B for them. A couple years at the most.
I think Alex Colome will be pitching in Tampa at some point this year. I wouldn’t mind having him on my bench.
Oh, I have more. Many more. But I’ll save them for another day.
There you have a few. Let the debates begin.
I’ll be at three Spring Training games in Phoenix this week. I leave for Florida on Saturday. Please follow me on twitter. I hope to bring you the goods
Up next: My National League targets.
And thanks so much for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.
That’s it. I’m done.
My last blog was dedicated to providing my opinion of the key player on each National League club.
This week, I look at the American League and note the player for each time I think holds a key for the team’s success.
I think the Orioles really need a big season from Nick Markakis. If he is going to be leading off, his importance is even greater. His power has diminished recently but he still has the tools to drive in runs, score runs and make things happen.
There are lots of stars on the Red Sox, but Jackie Bradley may be really important. If he wins the center field job with solid, consistent performance, it will make the transition away from Jacoby Ellsbury so much easier. He can be a catalyst from that position.
The White Sox are counting on Adam Eaton to add some speed and energy to their club. If he is 100% healthy and can get on base, it will set the table for the rest of the lineup.
Hitting at the top of the order, his job will be to jump start the offense. Can he do it?
Michael Bourn will play a similar role for the Indians as Eaton does for the White Sox.
Bourn has to get on base, steal and score runs. That’s his role. He has to make things happen and take some pressure off the rest of the lineup. He needs a big year.
Slated to be the Tigers new cleanup hitter, Victor Martinez has the task of driving in runs. There will be men on base for Martinez and he has a shot to have a monster year. But is the bat the same as it was? Can he go deep or hit the gaps for doubles? We’ll see.
How good will Dexter Fowler be making the transition from the NL to the AL? Can he be a veteran team leader the Astros need? Can he get on base enough to allow their young hitters a chance for some RBIs? It’s the new look Astros. And a new team for Fowler.
What kind of production can the Royals expect from Mike Moustakas? Is he ready to take his place as a consistent run producer with men on base? Can he be effective week in and week out and not fall into prolonged slumps? Has he turned the corner?
Can Albert Pujols return to the form that made him great? Is he fully recovered and able to play without pain and run normally? If he is, the Angels can be a very dangerous team. They need a healthy and productive Pujols (and Hamilton) to contend.
How will the Twins Joe Mauer respond to his transition from catcher to first base? Will his new position give him more energy and life along with fewer aches and pains? If he is totally healthy, he can be productive from the less stressful position. He’s the man.
Can the Yankees Carlos Beltran hold up physically over the course of an entire season? With the loss of Robbie Cano’s bat, Beltran will be among five new offensive players called upon to produce runs. Is he up to the task as a real team leader and go to guy?
Can Yoenis Cespedes be counted upon to produce runs as he did more consistently in his rookie season than the first half of last year? Will he produce as he did late in the season? Can he cut down the strikeouts and break up games with the long ball?
While we might be able to predict production from Cano and Corey Hart in Seattle, what will the team get from Justin Smoak? What happens if Smoak doesn’t hit early in the season? Can he drive in the runs they desperately need from the middle of the order?
Can Wil Myers be the All Star player many people predict? If he produces from the middle of the order, life will be much simpler for the offense hungry Rays. Their pitching will be solid, but Myers has to help the offense score runs to win.
New additions Choo and Fielder really make the offense in Texas even more dangerous. But will Jurickson Profar be healthy enough to play 150 games and help people forget the loss of Ian Kinsler. Can he be an everyday player of impact at age 20? He’s key.
What type of production will the Blue Jays get from Jose Bautista? is he the fence buster of old? Can he set the tone for Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus type hitters? Will Bautista stay healthy all year? Is he an All Star, game changing, impact player?
Of course, every team has more than one key player. But those are mine as we head into the American League season. Questions surround the keys. We get answers soon.
As always, thank you for following me @BerniePleskoff on twitter, and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com. And thanks for listening to Short Hops with @DerikVanriper on iTunes. It’s free.
That’s it. I’m done.
Spring Training camps are open and baseball is in the air in both Arizona and Florida.
Prior to the beginning of spring games, I thought I would share share my thoughts on the player I think will be key for each club in the coming season.
Today I look at the National League.
While all eyes will be on Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt, I really think the most important player for the Diamondbacks will be Miguel Montero. Can he rebound from a very difficult 2012? Can he provide protection and drive in runs? Will he be a force at the plate?
For me, a solid Evan Gattis behind the plate would be extremely helpful in moving the Braves beyond Brian McCann and into a new era. Will he hit consistently? If so, the team can allow Christian Bethancourt more development time.
Starlin Castro is a crucial component of the Cubs until Javier Baez is ready to take on a full time role. At that point, the team will have a decision to make. Maybe one of them changes positions. Until then, Castro can really help if he hits and plays with energy.
Can Billy Hamilton get on base and be a catalyst for the Reds? If he can, think of the stolen bases and runs he will produce. If he can’t get on base, his role could change dramatically. Bunting more will help. Seeing more pitches will help. He can fly.
For me, a healthy Justin Morneau will mean a great deal to the Rockies. If they can get good production from him, it will provide even more offense that will likely be needed in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Those pitchers need all the runs they can get.
A return to health for Matt Kemp can make the entire season for the Dodgers. Along with the other dynamic players in the lineup and on the mound, the team is poised to excel. But Kemp’s bat is important.
Christian Yelich setting the table and providing protection for Giancarlo Stanton will be really important to the Marlins. Stanton needs to see pitches to be effective. If Yelich gains the respect of pitchers with his own big bat, watch out!
A healthy Aramis Ramirez is important to the Brewers as long as he’s their third baseman. The team is not deep in corner infielders. If Ramirez is on the shelf again this season, it stretches an already thin roster even more. He’s important.
Who’s the real Ike Davis? Can he still hit and hit with power? If Davis can perform, it will take some pressure off David Wright and Curtis Granderson. His resurgence is important to the entire Mets lineup. This is a huge season for Davis.
Ryan Howard has lost weight and should be healthy. If he can stay on the field, can he still hit? And can he hit the long ball? Think what a healthy Howard will do for a Phillies team that is aging and trying to remain relevant. Without him? Issues.
Few people can hit the ball as far or as hard as Pedro Alvarez. If he can get hot and stay hot, he can help Andrew McCutchen and the rest of the Pirates gain a return to the Postseason. A consistent Alvarez will mean a great deal to the club.
I ask the same question of Chase Headley as I asked of Ike Davis? Who’s the real guy? I think Headley has it in him to lead the Padres to a big season. His bat is important in a venue that is very pitcher friendly. He’s a key guy in the lineup.
What can the Giants expect from Pablo Sandoval? He’s such a great natural hitter. But if he can keep the weight off, he can be even greater. He’s much more agile than people think and he plays a fine third base. But he has to hit and hit and hit for them to win.
For me, Jhonny Peralta is a key to the Cardinals. Can he drive in the big runs they will need with the loss of Carlos Beltran and David Freese? Can Peralta get to balls in the hole and help those fabulous pitchers or will his range become an issue?
The Nationals could sure use a solid Adam LaRoche at first base. If he hits to his capabilities, it can take some of the pressure off Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. If LaRoche is a force, it allows Jayson Worth to see many more good pitches to hit.
Next time I’ll take a look at my keys for the American League.
As always, thanks for reading my work here, at MLBPipeline.com and on twitter @BerniePleskoff.
When we last got together, I wrote about some pitching woes lingering in the American League. This time I’ll check out the NL to see what’s happening with the rotations.
The Braves will turn to youth for their pitching future. They are solid with Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood to fill their rotation. But health issues remain. Can Beachy and Medlen take the grind of an entire season? I’ll be writing about Aaron Northcraft soon on MLBPipeline.com. But in the end, most teams would love to have as solid a rotation as the Braves-if those guys can stay healthy.
This Miami Marlins team is just a hint of what is yet to come. With Jose Fernandez leading the pack, the Marlins could be set for years. Just wait until prospect Andrew Heaney joins him.
For me, Fernandez is a top of the charts pitcher. Few are better. Period.
I’m very bullish on Nathan Eovaldi. I’ve seen what he can do when his command is sharp. He’s a guy to watch this season.
Beyond Fernandez and Eovaldi, I think the rotation cools off with Jacob Turner being only average in my book. Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler probably take the last two spots. But with Heaney and Justin Nicolino on the way, things brighten.
Noah Syndergaard is the real deal, but he likely won’t make the Mets rotation out of Spring Training. However, Bartolo Colon is their ace, and that’s not bad. With the exception of Zack Wheeler, I’m not too excited.
For example, will Jon Niese find consistency in his release point? How about Dillon Gee? Can he be a big winner? Jenrry Mejia has an electric arm, but some of that has been lost in his elbow injury. Lots of questions on this staff.
I think this is the last hurrah for the Phillies and their staff. Cliff Lee will be dominant as usual and can be counted on to throw strikes, walk few and get little run support.
Cole Hamels pitches in bad luck as well. But after him, I think the rotation has issues with Kyle Kendrick, Miguel Gonzalez and Roberto Hernandez. This is not the pitching juggernaut that brought fear to the opposition in the past. But I do like Kendrick.
Then there’s the Nationals.
They are about as solid a rotation as one can find in baseball.
Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Fister and Detwiler. Yikes!. And can you explain to me how in the world they got Doug Fister from Detroit? For what? I’m just askin. That was the greatest steal of the last 10 years. What am I missing here?
The Cubs. You want pitching issues? This is a team with one of the greatest collections of position prospects I’ve seen in years! But where’s the pitching?
I like Jeff Samardzija. And I can spell his name. However, I begin to shake my head when I look at the rotation of Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta. Maybe they’ll surprise. But the pitching looks a little thin through these thick glasses.
The Reds will miss Bronson Arroyo. They’ll miss his innings and his ability. And they haven’t replaced him as far as I can tell. Can Johnny Cueto stay healthy? I do like Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. I think Tony Cingrani can be a stud. But what if Mike Leake leaks? Which I believe he is capable of doing. So overall, I don’t think it’s bad. I just think Arroyo is a huge loss.
Just who is Yovani Gallardo? Will the guy I thought he would be ever show up? Can Matt Garza stay healthy and not give up homers in Miller Park? I thought last year we would see Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada become big winners. Maybe this is their year. I like them both, but was disappointed last season. Kyle Lohse does help the Brewers.
I do think the top of the Pirates rotation is very formidable with Liriano and Cole. A great one-two punch. But they need A.J. Burnett to come back and eat some innings. I’m not a huge Wandy Rodriguez fan, but he is a solid 4th starter. Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez if Burnett bolts. That’s a bit scary for a pennant contender, no?
Here are my issues/concerns with the Cardinals rotation.—————————————
How would you like to be a manager and be able to throw Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, Garcia, Lynn, Kelly, or Martinez at the opposition day in and day out. Unfair!
Beware the Dbacks if you play in the NL. They got much better yesterday with the signing of Bronson Arroyo. They can absorb an injury now with Randal Delgado in the wings. And Archie Bradley, too. Corbin, Arroyo, McCarthy, Miley, Cahill. Not too shabby.
Yes, I feel sorry for any pitcher working in Coors. Even with the humidor. But the Rockies have some great arms such as Jorge de La Rosa and when healthy, Brett Anderson. Jhoulys Chacin can shine, but has to be healthy. Tyler Chatwood and Franklin Morales round out the rotation. BUT-Eddie Butler and Jon Gray are in development and just wait until you see them. They are both the real deal. Electric.
Yes, for me, it’s Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and then who?
The Dodgers go three deep and then fall off the ravine. I hope Josh Beckett is healthy. If he is-he’ll be fine. But it’s a big IF. I hope Dan Haren isn’t totally spent. If he is, they have issues. Zach Lee awaits his turn.
Health issues? What team has had to deal with more pitching injuries than San Diego?
But I think Ian Kennendy, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Josh Johnson and Erik Stults will give the club a chance to win every night. That’s all that can be asked of a starter. But will Johnson pitch past May? Tyson Ross is a real, real sleeper. The guy has a great arm. I’d like to see more movement on his fastball, but what an arm.
Lots of innings on the arms of the Giants starters. Especially Matt Cain. I’ve seen him very, very good and at times, bad. Madison Bumgarner just keeps getting better. I’m Tim Lincecum’s biggest fan and I want that fastball to miss bats. And I want him to throw strikes with it. Tim Hudson? I’m not sure. And I don’t know who the 5th starter is. David Huff? The Giants pitching has never been a question. Until last year. Now, I see some holes. And I’m really pulling for Lincecum to right the ship. I think he can.
As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. And you can follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and on Short Hops podcast available free on iTunes.
It’s time for baseball. I’ll be here all season. From Spring Training on. Hope you’ll be with me. And bring your friends to BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.
That’s it. I’m done.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to a couple of camps this week, there is still some unfinished business to be conducted.
Roster development takes the entire winter and spring. In some cases, major moves are yet to come. In others, maybe a nip here and a tuck there. But most team will make adjustments to the roster we see entering Spring Training.
But when it’s all said and done, in my opinion, starting pitching and then relief pitching will be the great separator in the American League. Today I look at the starters.
Given the injury to Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays have to find a starter for his role. Granted, they may not need him right out of the gate, but they’ll need that 5th starter at some point prior to Hellickson’s return. Jake Odorizzi may fit that role. I really like Alex Colome and Enny Romero. Both may be late 2014 additions. For me, Alex Cobb is the stud of the staff. I like David Price, but I really think Cobb is a huge winner.
I’m still thinking Ubaldo Jimenez signs with the Blue Jays. I just don’t know what’s taking so long. They may get Bronson Arroyo or Ervin Santana as well. They can certainly use the pitching depth. Huge questions abound with the entire staff as now constituted. I’m not convinced about Kyle Drabek. Or even J A Happ. And Mark Buehrle has lots of pitches on that arm. And on and on. R. A. Dickey? Who knows?
No matter how I look at it, the Yankees still come up a pitcher short. Problem solved if Michael Pineda is healthy. If so, they can afford a hiccup from one of their starters. I just don’t have the confidence that Sabathia, Tanaka, Nova, Kuroda and Phelps is a Championship rotation. If One of them leaks, and watch out. Kelly Johnson at third base isn’t very exciting either. Or Brian Roberts at second. The more I think about it, I think the Yankees have some holes to fill. But starting pitching has to be reinforced first.
The situation with Justin Masterson and the Indians is a concern. They are world’s
apart in the arbitration process. It seems like this will be Masterson’s last year in Cleveland. If that’s true, then they will have lost Kazmir, Jimenez and Masterson over a two-year period. The development of Danny Salazar is crucial. But Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer have to perform as expected. Lots of pitching questions for the Tribe. Mickey Callaway does a great job as pitching coach. He’s very underrated. Bauer? New delivery? That’s good, because he has to deliver.
Think of what the Rangers are facing with their rotation. Coming back from injury candidates include Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. Is the shoulder of Alexi Ogando healthy? And now they lose Derek Holland. So where do they get a starter? I’m thinking Robbie Ross. They can use one of the free agent pitchers. Starting pitching depth is not a Rangers strength. They’ll hit. But the starters are a concern.
The Mariners could have two rookies in their rotation. I’m on board with Taijuan Walker. I like what he brings. I’m much more concerned about James Paxton. Much more. And isn’t Scott Baker a huge question mark? I still like Erasmo Ramirez as a starter. They can certainly use more pitching-at one point a prospect strength. The injury to Danny Hultzen hurt badly.
I’d like to see Yordano Ventura grab one of the rotation spots in Kansas City. I’ve seen his fastball in action. There are times it’s straight as a string, but he has a fabulous arm. I think he’ll get a long look this spring and be promoted at some time during the season. If the Royals pitchers falter, the next waive includes Ventura and ultimately Kyle Zimmer, Chris Dwyer and John Lamb. Each is loaded with questions, but there is some depth.
I still scratch my head about the Tigers giving up Doug Fister. It isn’t as if they are deep in starters. Yes, Drew Smyly takes Fister’s role. But starter #6? If there is any vulnerability with the Tigers, starting pitching depth is first on my list.
The additions of Jerome Williams and Scott Feldman could help stabilize the Astros until pitchers like Mark Appel arrive. While the Astros have made strides in the offensive part of the game, pitching has to be the next priority. Appel will really help.
Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes may both find the going a bit easier in the spacious, pitcher-friendly Target Field in Minnesota. But I’m not betting the ranch on the Twins rotation. Home runs may not fly out of the park, but the gaps offer plenty of extra base hits. Nolasco and Hughes are similar. Each can be very good or very bad. Little in between. Both benefit from the park factor.
Parker, Kazmir, Gray, Griffin and Straily. That’s certainly a very solid rotation that can carry the Athletics a long, long way. And more great arms wait in the wings. The Athletics are one of the few teams with enough depth to get through a season without missing much of a beat. They may not have much power on the club, but they can pitch. It’ll keep them in games, just as in the past two seasons.
Chris Sale is an absolute stud. He anchors a White Sox pitching staff that will have three lefties with John Danks and Jose Quintana hanging around. I expect some nice results from big right-hander Erik Johnson. It’s that 5th starter’s role that could be a black hole.
Remember that Andre Rienzo got a couple starts last year. He can help. But again, as Yogi would say, there might not be deep depth.
The Red Sox are pretty well settled. If any of their starters don’t’ perform, they can turn to great arms like Ruby de La Rosa and Allen Webster to name a couple. But they need good performances from Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster to make everything work. Can they both perform?
Two huge questions complete the Angels rotation behind Weaver, Wilson and Richards. Can Tyler Skaggs equal his press clippings? For me, he has to pitch inside and use his curveball more often. It’s a darn good pitch. He seems to lack confidence. The upside is there. Can he deliver? Hector Santiago is another question mark. He has a good arm and I think will find success in Anaheim. But beyond that five, they sure need some help. The free agent market is calling. Ubaldo? Arroyo? A return of Santana? That’s more doubtful. But they need another arm.
As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. And I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops where Derek Van Riper and I talk baseball every week. You can find us on iTunes. It’s free. And please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.
That’s it. I’m done.
I certainly want you to know I’ve missed you. I’ve been away for a week, but I’ve kept up on all the happenings in baseball. But frankly, I expected more action last week.
We still have those free agent pitchers and Nelson Cruz hanging around. Having a team lose a draft pick is problematic for pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. I still think someone will get a fine starting pitcher with Bronson Arroyo. I hope he finds a home. Nelson Cruz could land in Seattle-maybe by the time you read this. Yes, it’s a tough hitter’s park, but the presence of Robinson Cano could be a big help.
We heard those great words this week—”The equipment trucks are leaving from Progressive Field to Goodyear, Arizona on Friday.” That’s today. My heart skips a beat when I hear words like that. And believe me, I have to be very careful about my heart skipping any beats.
The new hat designed to provide some protection for pitchers is getting mixed reviews from those who have seen it or tried it on. I think some of the reviews are coming from people who haven’t even seen it. I like that it isn’t mandatory that pitcher’s wear the new hat (with more protection on both the top and sides.) Anything that helps protect players is fine with me. It all comes down to comfort. If a pitcher isn’t comfortable with the added depth of the hat, he’ll just go back to using the traditional cap.
I don’t quite understand the collision at home plate business. I think it will be very difficult to alter the natural flow and instincts of a runner on a play at the plate. I have to admit that my jury is still deliberating that. I want to see how it unfolds.
There are a couple players I am particularly keen on watching this season. In each blog from now until the bell rings in April, I’ll talk about a couple.
My initial name for today is Jesus Aguilar of the Cleveland Indians. A big first baseman, I’ve seen Aguilar’s power first-hand. He won’t break camp with the club, but if an opportunity presents itself and he’s been hitting in the Minors, he’s a guy that can add some power. And just 13 months ago at the Winter Meetings, he was seen as a possible Rule 5 Draft loss for the Tribe. But he went unclaimed. I’ll be keeping an eye out.
Two other big first baseman I’ll be watching are the Astros Japhet Amador from the Mexican League and the Giants Angel Villalona who is returning to the club after spending time in a serious legal matter.
I really like watching big first basemen. I like to watch them field their position. Both Amador and Villalona are very agile and lithe for such big bodied guys. If they can hit, they’d be under the radar bonuses for their clubs. But believe me, they aren’t under my radar. I’ll be watching closely.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this forum, but I’m very bullish on Anibal Sanchez this coming season. If you followed me last year, my main pitcher recommendation was Chris Tillman. He didn’t disappoint. This year? Sanchez. Great stuff. Everything moves. Including the hitter’s eyes. And knees.
Those who have followed me in the past know that I get itchy this time of year. I start talking about guys I really love to watch. And guys I want on my fantasy team. So that’s what I’ll be doing from now on.
I’m thrilled to read the reports that Pablo Sandoval has lost weight. I hope it’s true. We’ll see in a couple short weeks from now.
Next week on MLBPipeline.com I’ll be writing about the Indians Tony Wolters and then I’ll be providing my National League Prospect Dream Team followed at the end of the week by my American League Prospect Dream Team. At the end of that piece, I’ll have an All Major League Prospect Dream Team. Hope you’ll read them. Probably Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Of course, that can change.
Enjoyed talking to the Sun City Grand crowd this week. Thanks for the nice reception and great turn out. Loved talking baseball with you.
As always, follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff, on Short Hops podcast with Derek Van Riper (which you can find free on iTunes) and of course, at my main landing spot-MLBPipeline.com.
And as always, thanks for reading my work.
That’s it. I’m done.
I’m sitting at LAX in Los Angeles waiting for my flight back to Phoenix.
The Scout’s dinner last night was outstanding. Dennis Gilbert and several other very dedicated baseball folks do a marvelous job helping scouts in need. It was a heartwarming event.
Prior to the dinner, a silent auction was held in virtually every ballroom available at the hotel. To say it is a mammoth display of memorabilia would be an understatement. It doesn’t just include baseball. Every sport, cinema, politics, the music world and all forms of relics and treasures from Pop culture are represented.
Among the items I saw was the actual assignment transfer of Babe Ruth from the Yankees to the Red Sox. I believe the opening bid was $10,000.
An autographed blown up program cover of the 1969 Mets was listed at $4500.
My personal favorite may have been an autographed collage of Albert Einstein that included a formula in pencil above his signature. Price? Opening bid of $7500.
Then there were signature cuts of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. Are you kidding me?
If anything sold in the room after room of amazing items the proceeds went to the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
So what’s on my mind today?
Yesterday on television I heard someone urge a colleague to “put his best foot forward.” I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out which of my feet was the best? Do you know which of yours qualifies?
I never get bored.
I think the Indians will hold on to Asdrubal Cabrera, hope he has a great year, let him go in free agency and claim the draft choice. No sense selling him short now.
While I like the Tigers rotation, I have concern about their depth. What if Verlander has to miss a few starts? With Doug Fister gone, do they really have 7 or 8 starting pitchers available? I’m just wondering.
I think the Reds will regret not having Bronson Arroyo if he leaves.
The Padres Chris Denorfia remains on my underrated list. He’ll be playing lots of innings-and I think he’ll hit.
I feel the same way about the Rockies Jordan Pacheco. He needs a sustained chance to play somewhere and I think he’ll hit. But where does he play? The Rockes have a loaded lineup. Loaded. But I still scratch my head about them giving up Dexter Fowler.
Don’t get excited in Spring Training if your targeted players hit a ton in the first couple weeks. Pitchers are getting their arms in shape and they throw lots of fastballs. “Cookies.” The true test could come in the last week. That’s when poker begins to change and the bigger chips come on to the table.
Spring Training tells me a few things about players. For example: is the guy in shape? How are his mechanics as a player or pitcher? Is he trying to perfect a new pitch? Has he changed his swing? It’s a time to work out kinks. So don’t put too much stock in Spring Training results. Look more for process than results.
I think fans get cheated when regular players don’t make road trips in Spring Training. If they aren’t going to play that day, take batting practice or throw on the field. Let fans see you. Spring Training tickets are not inexpensive. Then factor airfare, hotel, food. You see my point. There are allegedly supposed to be four regulars in every lineup in Spring Training. I don’t think that’s always the case.
I used to stay in a place just outside of Winter Haven, Florida that had the aroma of orange blossoms. I asked for a room at the back of the motel that faced the orchard. It was fantastic.
One year when I was with the Astros a hurricane had hit the area just days before camp opened. Every single mobile home was destroyed. They were a stone’s throw from the Astros complex. Not one item was destroyed at the Spring Training home of the Astros. It was a miracle. But those poor people lost everything.
I’ll be covering Spring Training from Florida and Arizona. I’ll keep you updated on what I see.
The Mariners and Padres will be moving in to renovated clubhouses this spring. The Cubs will be opening their new Spring Training home on February 27th. And the Oakland Athletics will be winding down their stay at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They move to the former home of the Cubs in Mesa next season.
The entire arbitration process and salary business is one of the aspects of baseball that I give little attention. I am much more concerned with the actual game than player contracts. It’s a necessary part of the game.
My jury is still out about instant replay. I’ll let you know as the season moves along. But I do think the games will get longer. And I like the human element of baseball. I like the arguments. They had excitement. We need kerfuffles. Let’s not lose kerfuffles.
You won’t be finding me here for about a week. But my articles will be posted on MLBPipeline.com and I’ll be tweeting on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Hope you’ll check them out.
That’s it, I’m done.
And as always, thank you for reading and supporting my work. Much appreciated.