November 2013

Just Some Thanksgiving Leftovers

This will be my last blog prior to baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando. I’ll be providing a constant update on events during that week.

We have seen some very major moves in the past couple of weeks as well as some less “glitzy” transactions that could prove to be important.

With the acquisition of Peter Bourjos in St. Louis, is it possible that Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras will be given more development time prior to being summoned to the big leagues? With Matt Holiday in left, Bourjos in center and Allen Craig in right, wouldn’t it be good to have Taveras make up some missed Minor League at-bats (injured in ’13) early in the season? Then, if the need arises, Taveras will be even more prepared.

In the Cardinals configuration, it appears Matt Carpenter moves to 3B and rookie Kolten Wong will start the season at 2B. Craig may figure to be a fill-in back at third if he’s needed.

The Colorado Rockies have two very dominant pitchers not many people outside Colorado talk about. Keep an eye on right-handers Jonathan Gray (2013 draft) and Eddie Butler (2012 draft). They are impressive pitchers that I’ll be watching and writing more about beginning this spring. While it’s tough to pitch at Coors, these two guys may really be helpful in the future.

The Twins got better with the signing of Ricky Nolasco. It makes great sense for a starting pitcher to try to find sustained success in pitcher-friendly Target Field. I look for the club to make a serious run at Phil Hughes. That’s an ideal place for a fly ball pitcher like Hughes. While home runs may still hurt him on the road, they won’t be as great an issue at home.

I still think Carlos Beltran will get a three year contract from a club looking to put his bat in the middle of their lineup. In my opinion, whatever team gets him becomes instantly better. But he fits best where he can be a designated hitter and spot outfielder. The knees just aren’t what they once were.

Curtis Granderson would make a formidable addition to the White Sox if that’s where he lands. Few places can offer him the home run environment he enjoyed in Yankee Stadium, but U. S. Cellular Field may come close.

The Cubs have come up with the clever and catchy name “Cubs Park” for their Spring Training home. It won’t be long, however, until the name is changed with a corporate sponsor coming forward. The park is ready and waiting for the February 27th game between the Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks to open the spring slate.

I think the Cardinals Randal Grichuk may prove to be a real surprise and “sleeper” in the deal the club made with the Angels. Grichuk had a very fine season at Double-A Arkansas where he hit 22 home runs. He is on target in his development as a former 1st round draft choice.

The Mariners had been counting upon pitchers Danny Hultzen (surgery), James Paxton and Taijuan Walker to be rotation starters, probably by the coming season. As it looks, it may be only Walker with a chance to help in the rotation sooner than later. The situation is similar to the one the Royals faced when they thought Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer would lead them to consistent winning seasons. That’s why a team can’t have too much pitching. Both starters and relievers.

The Cardinals front-load of Jhonny Peralta’s contract is pure genius. Perhaps if the club wishes to part ways with Peralta for one reason or another in the last couple years of his deal, it will be much easier to trade the contract. And that’s just another reason the Cardinals are a great organization.

I credit Joe Maddon and the Rays front office and coaching staff with changing defensive baseball. They study spray charts and know where the opposition tends to hit the ball. With that knowledge, they move the defense accordingly. It’s not a trend anymore. It’s a way of managing a game. Now the hitters have to adjust.

I was pleasantly surprised with the overall defensive play of Giants 1B Angel Villalona in the Arizona Fall League. For a big, big man he moves very well. Good hands and quicker feet than one might imagine. And he crushes fastballs.

I think Anibal Sanchez is on his way to a Cy Young type season.

The Marlins have to find some protection for Giancarlo Stanton. Same with the Diamondbacks and Paul Goldschmidt. Can you imagine what those two guys will do with if they see some decent pitches from April thru September?

I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. And believe me-I am thankful for you. I am thankful you read and support my work here and on MLBPipeline.com. Please follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

They Made Some Deals

During cold winter nights I used to sit and listen to my favorite sports radio talk show hosts, Peter J. Franklin from Cleveland and Pat Sheridan from Milwaukee.

Those two made the baseball off-season melt away as I waited for Spring Training. It was a long wait, but with their mellow voices and constant trade talk, winter became bearable.

I fast forward many years and I’m still clinging to every word and every bit and morsel of baseball news I can find during the Hot Stove period.

We’ve had some huge deals so far, and it isn’t even Thanksgiving. Here are my thoughts on a couple of them:

Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler and money. Lots and lots of money.

Fielder has an opportunity to put up tremendous power numbers in a hitter-friendly park. Much, however, will depend upon his conditioning. It’s hot and humid in Dallas in summer. He has a history of playing every game without time off and without injury. If he’s fit, watch out. If he loses some weight I think he’ll win the AL home run title.

Kinsler solves an issue at 2B for Detroit that wasn’t really an issue. For me, the bigger issues were in the bullpen and in LF. I think the Tigers will use any money saved on Fielder to shore up those two areas. I look for Joe Nathan or Brian Wilson, proven closers both, to be courted. I also think Detroit is a natural landing spot for Shin-Soo Choo or even Curtis Granderson. I see a left-handed hitter arriving. Soon.

The Tigers will be weakened if they do not find a sufficient bat to protect Miguel Cabrera. And don’t forget, they lost Jhonny Peralta as well. Victor Martinez can’t do it by himself. Torii Hunter helps, but Fielder is a big loss. A 25 home run loss.

I’m thrilled that Peter Bourjos has an opportunity to play every day in St. Louis. I think he’ll be healthy and provide the speed/defense combination that will compliment the Cardinals.
But make no mistake, David Freese can still hit. Moving Matt Carpenter to 3B and putting Kolten Wong at 2B is interesting, but some impactful offense will be lost.

Randal Grichuk is the wild card in this deal. The Cardinals may have gotten a player with big time offensive upside. And not many people are talking about that. He could blossom in two more seasons, if that. Or–he could wilt. I like his chances to thrive though.

Fernando Salas will help in the Angels pen. He doesn’t have the power arm that the Cardinals have been developing lately. He likely wasn’t going to survive the competition in St. Louis. But he has some experience, and the Angels may be able to use him late in games.

I think the Yankees signing of Brian McCann will be one of the best off-season moves. He’s a natural in Yankee Stadium. But beyond that, their pitching staff will be less experienced this coming season and he’ll handle them very well. It’s as important to them as the offense he will provide from the left side of the plate. He’ll be aiming at the short right field porch in the Stadium. Great move.

The Indians will miss right-handed reliever Joe Smith. He was reliable. His submarine arm slot was deceptive and different. The Angels helped themselves in the pen. Now they need starting pitching. And the Indians need bullpen arms. Badly.

Chris Young will help the Mets by playing solid defensive centerfield.

Josh Johnson signing with the Padres is about as good as it can get for both the player and the club. The park is outstanding for his pitching style (for any pitcher’s style, actually) and the club gets a fair contract for a limited period with a pitcher wishing to establish an improved value. It’s a win-win. Don’t sleep on the Padres. I think they’ll continue to make moves.

I’ll weigh in on other deals as the winter progresses.

But man, do I miss Pete Franklin and Pat Sheridan.

I hope I can be your Pete and Pat-only on twitter and here at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.
I’ll try to keep your hot stove burning all winter long. You can read my player profiles at MLBPipeline.com and follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. I’d really like that. And…thanks.

That’s it. I’m done.

Just Outside The AFL Top 20—C J Cron

The last time I wrote about Los Angeles Angels prospect
C J Cron he was beginning to show promise as a power hitting first baseman.

I wrote about him following his participation in the 2013 All Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York. His dad Chris, a former Major League first baseman and now a coach in the Detroit Tigers system, was his first base coach in that game.

C J was a first round selection of the Angels in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He was the 17th player taken overall.

After watching Cron play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, it is even more convincing that he has the type of home run power that can be game changing.

Cron led the AFL in hitting with a whopping .413 batting average covering 80 at-bats in 20 games.

I saw him hit the Spring Training scoreboard at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa. It’s a towering drive, and he made it look easy.

Cron was the starting first baseman for the East Division squad in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on November 2, 2013.

He and two other players, White Sox outfielder Jared Mitchell and Red Sox first baseman Travis Shaw hit five home runs, one less than Cubs prospect Kris Bryant’s league leading six.

Cron, a big man at 6-foot-4, 235-pounds, also had six doubles and a triple among his 33 Fall League hits. He struck out only 11 times.
For a middle of the order power hitter, that’s extremely good bat control and contact hitting.

Cron, a right-handed hitter, played at Double-A Arkansas this past season. He hit 14 home runs and drove in 83 runs on his way to hitting .274 in 134 games. He had 565 plate appearances.

Cron, who began his career in 2011 at rookie level Orem, has hit 54 Minor League home runs in parts of three seasons. Despite having a torn labrum and ultimately needing surgery, he hit 27 homers playing for Class A Advanced Inland Empire in 2012.

Defensively, Cron can play Major League quality first base. He is agile and moves well around the bag. He reduced his errors from 19 at Inland Empire to ten at Arkansas.

Since I last scouted and wrote about Cron, his plate discipline, his pitch recognition and his overall approach at the plate have improved markedly. But then again, that’s the purpose of development programs.

Cron is seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and is using patience and selectivity in his approach. He isn’t swinging at nearly as many pitches out of the strike zone, and is refusing to chase breaking balls.

C. J. has an opportunity to be a dynamic hitter.

At 23-years old and having had experience playing for the University of Utah, Cron has faced good pitching since college and he may be nearing a time when he can be considered for a big league role.

Given the presence of Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo as first basemen currently on the Angels roster, Cron makes an excellent addition to the team’s power hitting depth.

While Kris Bryant won the Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award from the Arizona Fall League, Cron certainly was worthy of consideration.
His bat helped his club to the Championship Game, which they lost 2-0, to the Surprise team of the West Division.

Put quite simply, Cron has the look of the winner. A big winner, at that.

Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and read my scouting profiles at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done.

OUTSIDE THE ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE TOP 20- EDUARADO RODRIGUEZ

I profiled Baltimore Orioles left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez early in the Arizona Fall League season. My scouting comments on MLBPipeline.com indicated I felt Rodriguez has excellent potential to become part of the Orioles rotation in the near future.

My mind has not changed. In fact, I am even more convinced Rodriguez has the “pitchability” to start for Baltimore or any other club looking for a lefty with good pitching mechanics.

A look at Rodriguez’ fall numbers may speak a different story.

His final totals from the fall league included a 0-1 record with an ERA of 5.52 and a WHIP of 1.50.

But Rodriguez really stepped up and was counted when it mattered the most.

Rodriguez started his Surprise team’s 2-0 victory against Mesa in the Arizona Fall League Championship game. He threw three scoreless innings, giving up two hits and not walking a batter. He struck out four.

In those three innings, Rodriguez showed poise and control in the biggest game of the Fall League season. And yes, for those involved in the game, a Championship in that league means a great deal. He came through. Big time. He set a terrific tone for the game.

And he took control.

That’s what I like about the well proportioned, 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rodriguez. He takes charge. He doesn’t get rattled.

Rodriguez has a very smooth and uncomplicated delivery. He takes his time and finishes his pitches. He repeats a very clean, mechanically sound delivery.

He pitches as though he has absorbed quality coaching. He pitches as though he wants to be a pitcher, and not a thrower. There’s a huge, huge difference between a pitcher and a thrower. I happen to gravitate towards pitchers.

In four seasons of Minor League ball in the Orioles organization, Rodriguez has a very fine combined ERA of 3.14. He got touched up a bit in his latest promotion to Double-A Bowie, but he’ll rebound.

Rodriguez, from Venezuela, is only 20-years old. He has time to develop his secondary pitches and refine his repertoire.

His fastball (88-94) has great range of velocity and depth as it reaches the plate. He mixes in a very effective slider at 79-83 mph and can buckle knees with a changeup that sits between 80-84 mph. His pitch selection and sequencing is an advanced quality.

Rodriguez is mature beyond his age. He has the mound presence and demeanor of a pitcher several years older.

I’m not suggesting Rodriguez is ready to step into the Orioles rotation. However, I am suggesting he is a pitcher to watch very carefully as he progresses in his development and fine tunes an already positive approach to getting hitters out. And that’s what pitching is all about.
Getting hitters out.

He didn’t make the consensus Top 20 Arizona Fall League Players list, but Eduardo Rodriguez made a great impression on me.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and read my work on MLBPipeline.

That’s it. I’m done.

JUST OUTSIDE THE ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE TOP 20-HENRY URRUTIA

When watching Baltimore Orioles outfielder/designated hitter Henry Urrutia play in the Arizona Fall League, I couldn’t help but be reminded of former New York Mets star Darryl Strawberry.

The left-handed hitting Strawberry, 6-foot-6 and 190-pounds, played in the major leagues from 1983 until 1999.

Known for his powerful home run swing, Strawberry’s best home run year was 1988, when he blasted 39. He finished with a career batting average of .259.

Urrutia has the same tall, slender look of Strawberry. He is 6-foot-5, 200-pounds. Like Strawberry, he hits left-handed.

At one point, Urrutia was a switch-hitter. He has concentrated his efforts to hitting exclusively left-handed.

Urrutia, a native of Cuba, is 26-years old. He played last season, his first in this country, at three classifications. He began at Double-A Bowie, moved to Triple-A Norfolk, was promoted to the parent Orioles, returned to Norfolk and was called back to Baltimore as a September call-up.

Urrutia hit a combined .347 in 347 Minor League plate appearances.
He hit a very respectable .276 in his brief 58 trips to the plate playing for the Orioles.

Watching Urrutia in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League, he appears to be on the verge of a major breakout as an impactful left-handed hitter. Especially if he is used exclusively against right-handed pitching, where he is the most dangerous and seems to thrive.

Urrutia finished the fall with the third best batting average in the league, hitting .377 in 18 games and 69 at-bats.

Urrutia hit one of the longest homers during the Fall League season. It was a tremendous shot far over the wall in dead center field. It was one of his three home runs. He also had three doubles among his 26 hits.
He only struck out eight times, a figure among the lowest in the league relative to the number of his plate appearances.

Like Strawberry, Urrutia has a sweet, almost picture-perfect, level swing. He doesn’t have extraneous movement before the pitch, and his extension and follow-through are outstanding.

Again, not unlike Strawberry, Urrutia has lightning quick hands through the ball. They aren’t as fast as Strawberry’s, as Strawberry had some of the best bat speed I have ever scouted.

Urrutia is a line-drive machine. The ball jumps off his bat with that great barrel of the bat sound. He hits the gaps with regularity.

If he adds a bit of loft to his swing, he may get the distance and backspin to clear the fence more often. But why tamper with a swing that is so sound? He should leave well enough alone.

Defensively, Urrutia might be considered a liability.

He doesn’t get a good jump on the ball, takes circuitous routes and loses the flight of the ball off the bat. He is best used as a designated hitter.

When he does play defense, however, his arm strength is strong enough for him to be used in right field. Sparingly.

While he isn’t Darryl Strawberry, Henry Urrutia’s sound hitting mechanics should provide assistance to the Orioles from the left side of the plate. In fact, he may be “Darryl Strawberry-The Line-Drive Edition.”

I hope you’ll continue to read BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD and follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. My articles on MLBPipeline.com appear three times a week.

That’s it. I’m done.

That’s A Wrap-Great Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League concluded Saturday November 16th with the Championship Game between Surprise and Mesa. Surprise won 2-0 in a well played game.

Here are some reflections on the season.

We saw three catchers that should be very effective future Major League players:
Padres Austin Hedges, Rangers Jorge Alfaro and Giants Andrew Susac. Of the three, Hedges and Alfaro have excellent arm strength. Alfaro is a tremendous all-around athlete with the ability to hit for average as well as play stellar defense.

While there were great athletes on display, Athletics shortstop Addison Russell might have been the best overall athlete in my opinion . Alfaro and Twins outfielder Byron Buxton were certainly in my top three.

The starting pitching this season was among the best I’ve seen in the league in years. Among they guys that got my attention were Blue Jays Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, Giants Kyle Crick, Orioles Eduardo Rodriguez, Nationals Sammy Solis, and Marlins Andrew Heaney. In a rarity, I did not see Angels Michael Roth pitch. Pirates starter Jameson Taillon was rusty in his first start-the one I saw. He left the league early with a bit of a groin injury.

Giants reliever Derek Law is a very good bullpen prospect.

Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia has a Darryl Strawberry body and similar quick hands to the former Mets star. Urrutia is a line drive doubles machine, but I think his power will come. He just can’t play defense. That means he’s a designated hitter type, as he may yield more runs defensively than he’ll offer with his bat.

Orioles infielder Jonathan Schoop (pronounced Scope) is going to be in the mix for an infield job if he keeps up the improvement I’ve seen. Probably at 2B with the presence of
J J Hardy at shortstop.

Red Sox 2B Mookie Betts got my attention as a good athlete with a very good approach to his game.

The Indians Tyler Naquin makes things happen from the top of the order. He makes good contact and has a real gun for an arm in right field.

Nationals Steven Souza, Jr. is a player to really watch. He’s a big, strong guy with power and an ability to hit.

I was shocked at the agility and ability of huge Giants first baseman Angel Villalona.

The Astros Japhet Amador hit a ton of home runs in the Mexican League. Very big guy. I’m not sure he can hit Major League quality pitching. When he gets into a pitch, though, it flies a mile.

The trio of Cubs players including Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler made an impact. Especially league MVP Bryant. Almora left his game Thursday with a minor injury that kept him out of the Championship game. My jury is still out on Soler. I worry about a) his conditioning going forward and b) his aggressive swings at high fastballs.

Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed can play very good defense. His offense lags.

Angels 1B C J Cron looks to be very close to Major League ready to me. Maybe a bit more seasoning, but he had a great fall. As did Red Sox 1B Travis Shaw, but he doesn’t look as advanced as Cron.

Too bad White Sox infielder Micah Johnson had to leave the league early with an injury. He was making an impression.

Tigers 2B Devon Travis may not be big in stature, but his game is pretty well refined.

Twins OF prospect Byron Buxton left the league early with a shoulder that barked on him most of the fall. But he’s every bit the athlete advertised as the best prospect in the game.

I think the Brewers will like the power potential of OF Mitch Haniger. When he gets into a pitch, the ball just jumps. I was impressed.

I don’t see why Braves Tommy La Stella can’t play 2B for the Braves at some point in the coming season. He’s a gritty, hustling contact hitter.

I’ll be doing one more Arizona Fall League blog this coming week. In that edition of BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD I will share my position by position All AFL team.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for checking my articles on MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done.

Ive Been Watching You-More AFL Snapshots

Earlier this week I wrote about several AFL players.

Today, I continue those snapshots. Please note that I will not include players I have already profiled (or will profile this coming week) on MLBPipeline.com

Cory Spangenberg-INF Padres. He’s a scrappy player with a bat that plays. Has some speed to steal bases and score some runs. Good defender with range. No power. Good prospect.

Kyle Parker-IB Rockies.Home run and RBI power potential. Long swing, but when he connects the ball really gets out in a hurry. Should be dangerous at Coors. Hits for average.

Albert Almora-OF Cubs. One of the Cubs top prospects on display. Very good contact hitter. Hits for average. Power may come later. Should be able to hit better quality pitching.

Japhet Amador-IB/DH Astros. Huge (6-4, 315#) right-handed hitter from Mexico. Hit 36 home runs and drove in 121 runs in Mexico last season. A low-risk gamble who might deliver.

Stefen Romero-OF Mariners. Have always liked his line drive bat. Surprising pop with good RBI potential. Will need to play consistently to stay sharp. A long shot, but has value.

Andy Burns-INF Blue Jays-Has hit well so far and has gotten some attention. Line drive bat with some energy and pop. Very good contact hitter this fall while flashing speed/average.

Derek Law-P Giants- A true bullpen arm with command and control. Very good mound presence. Has enough in the tank to save games with different type delivery. Solid.

Angel Villalona 1B Giants- Very surprising agility and reflexes from a man 6-3 and 257 pounds. Has some pop in his bat-but has to gain experience hitting breaking balls.

Max Kepler OF Twins- Native of Germany. Tall and thin. Profiles best as 4th outfielder type. Not much power, but enough to keep me interested. Needs lots of development time. Raw.

Marcus Semien-IF White Sox. Played 2B for White Sox at end of the season and has a shot at playing there again to start 2014. No special tool, but can hit some. Dependable.

Each week I feature three scouting profiles on MLBPipeline.com. Many of them will be about the players above and other Arizona Fall League players.

There are a number of highly talented young men playing in Arizona. I will make every attempt to introduce their talent to you over the winter.

This is the final week of AFL play. The Championship Game will be played Saturday November 16th at Scottsdale. I will be there. And I’ll be tweeting from games whenever I can for the remainder of this week.

That’s it. I’m done.

I’ve Been Watching You-AFL Snapshots

Believe it or not, we are heading to the last week of this year’s edition of the Arizona Fall League.

I say this every year-but this year’s edition was among the best.

I want to share my thoughts on some of the players I saw. Every week I have done at least 3 profiles of Fall League players on MLBPipeline.com. Those profiles are more in depth than in this space. They will continue through the off season. Hope you check them out.

Jared Mitchell-OF White Sox: I see some progress in Mitchell’s approach at the plate. He still isn’t the hitter we had hoped he’d be, but I like the patience I’ve seen. Has shown some pop.

Jorge Alfaro-C Rangers- What an arm. A cannon. And he can hit. Swing is a little long and strikeouts are an issue. Aggressive. Bat speed is a real plus. Catching mechanics still a bit raw.

Henry Urrutia-OF Orioles-Watch out for Henry. Has the body of Darryl Strawberry. Power is coming, but line drives jump off his quick bat. Great hands. Upside-especially vs. RH pitching.

Travis Shaw-1B Red Sox- Love to watch this big- bodied guy hit. Big power as a left-handed hitter. Has game-changing power and hits towering fly balls. Watch him.

Kris Bryant-3B Cubs-Everyone’s talking for a reason. His swing, his quick hands through the ball and his power are beyond impressive. Might be best in RF or 1B. Tall and athletic.

Byron Buxton-OF Twins- As advertised, for sure. Just pure athletic ability. Tools were on display. Power is real. Didn’t hit for average. Speed and defense all top notch, too.

Mason Williams OF Yankees- An outstanding center fielder with speed and very good “reads” off the bat. I still question his hitting ability. Hasn’t shown much power. Contact not great. Iffy.

Addison Russell-SS Athletics-Tempting to bring him up already at age 19. Very athletic. Good hands, quick feel and a very polished bat. He can do it all. One of the new, exciting shortstops.

Nick Ahmed-SS Diamondbacks-There has to be a place for him in the Major Leagues. Defense first. He has outstanding hands and feet at SS. Range and a solid arm. Struggling at the plate.

Corey Seager-SS Dodgers- Athletic shortstop with a bat that plays. May have to move to 3B if he continues to grow. Has nice range and a solid arm. Can do it all. Needs more time for sure.

C J Cron-1B Angels- Has shown tremendous power this fall. Hit the scoreboard at Mesa at least twice when I was there. Knocking in runs but hitting for great average as well. Soaring.

Andrew Susac- C Giants- Has shown both offensive and defensive tools. Powerful and accurate arm behind plate and enough pop to hit home runs and hit for average. Solid catching tools.

Alex Meyer-P Twins- Has had some good outings with command and control of mid-90’s fastball. Long (6’9) and lean, but fairly upright. Fewer hits than innings pitched. Close to ready?

Aaron Sanchez-P Blue Jays- Very similar approach to Meyer. Has really come along in last two starts. Top of rotation starter with great mix of fastball with late life and secondary pitches.

Kyle Crick-P Giants-Slow start but very solid recent outings. Has begun to repeat his delivery more and looks much more comfortable and in synch than early October. Has all the pitches.

Sammy Solis-P Nationals- Big lefty starter may be the most consistent. Throwing strikes. Can become hittable at times when he gets too much of the plate or gets the ball up in the zone.

I’ll have more snapshots mid-week. There are so many players that have been impressive.

That’s it. I’m done.

Hey, Where Do I Think You’re Going-Part 2

Yesterday I offered the beginning of my predictions of where I felt several free agents would land. Today, I offer Part 2 of my best guesses.
(where I think they’ go) and the location I feel is best suited for their particular game.

Carlos Beltran-(Yankees)-Cardinals. I think the combination of a friendly right field and designated hitter fits. Boston offers difficult outfield situation for Beltran’s knees.

Jhonny Peralta-(Mets)-Mets. The Mets offer a good home for Peralta. He will help them rebuild their club. Nice park for his gap power.

Masahiro Tanaka-(Yankees)-Yankees. This is more a gamble than some people realize. If he posts, I think he might be comfortable in New York.

Ervin Santana-(Blue Jays)-Padres. Santana will help in a park that is on the pitcher friendly side. I think the Blue Jays can afford his asking price.

Tim Hudson-(Red Sox)-Indians. I think David Ross helps recruit his former teammate to the Red Sox pitching staff.

Shin-Soo Choo- (Rangers)-Yankees. This one will be really expensive. Inviting right fields in both parks and the designated hitter bode well for his swing and longevity. But it could be the Mets after all.

Hiroki Kuroda-(Yankees)-Angels. I think he fits back on the west coast if the Yankees wish to move on to other pitching options. He may opt to return to Japan.

Ubaldo Jimenez-(Angels)-Blue Jays. Here’s where I think the Angels get their man. They need to shore up the pitching, and Ubaldo can sure help.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia-(Blue Jays)- White Sox. Blue Jays again. I think they play big in this free agent market. They need a catcher. Here he is. White Sox can use him, too.

A J Pierzynski- (Yankees)-Blue Jays. This is a short term solution until Sanchez is ready to catch full time for the Yankees. Inviting short right field porch convinces A J to go to New York.

Bartolo Colon- (Indians)-Padres. He can still pitch and win. He has the control. Might return back to Cleveland. Could be a one or two year deal.

Scott Feldman-(Padres)-Blue Jays. Feldman can help a team in need of a back end of the rotation starter. That’s almost every team in baseball.

James Loney-(Rays) Twins. Regardless of where he lands, the team will be getting a line-drive hitter with a very good glove at 1B. A good sign for a lucky team.

Ricky Nolasco-(Giants) Padres. Big park will help his comfort level. Season didn’t end well for him and he looks to rebound.

Fernando Rodney-(Mets) Diamondbacks- I don’t know if either team will pay free agent money for a closer.

Grant Balfour-(Angels) Padres- I like him remaining on the west coast at either of these two teams.

This is pure guess work. Every player has his own set of goals and objectives in free agency. But some teams are well positioned to spend this off season. Others will look to improve through trades or picking up non-tendered players.

In short, I think the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rangers, and to some degree the Padres will want to improve through free agency.

That’s it. I’m done.

Hey, Where Do I Think You’re Going?

The guessing game continues. Where will the free agents end up?

I’ve decided to weigh in with my best guess of where some of the free agents will be playing and pitching next season.

This is the first of two blogs on my predictions.

Previously, I indicated some general parameters regarding what I thought might happen.

Today I’ll get more specific. Of course, I have no inside information. I’ll list where I think the (player will sign) and where I think would be the best fit for his skills. They aren’t always the same.

My list is random and not ranked in any specific order of their value.

Joe Nathan-(Tigers)-Tigers. Nathan may be the closer the Tigers need to get to the next level. It’s a good fit and it could be a difference making signing.

Brian McCann- (Rangers)-Rangers. Losing McCann would be a tremendous loss for Atlanta. But Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt allow him to leave.

Robbie Cano-(Yankees)-Tigers. While I think he returns to New York to work closely with his agent’s marketing plan, I think Cano fits best with the Tigers. He puts them over the top.

Jacoby Ellsbury-(Mariners)-Reds. I think he’ll return to the northwest, but I think he could have a bigger impact playing CF for the Reds as their leadoff hitter.

Curtis Granderson-(White Sox)-White Sox. Conventional wisdom has Granderson returning to the Yankees. I think he helps put the White Sox back in contention.

Matt Garza-(Blue Jays)-Padres, Giants. I think the Blue Jays will make a very attractive offer to Garza. But he really fits very well in either San Diego or San Francisco. Big west coast parks.

Nelson Cruz-(Rangers)-Rangers. His absence confirmed what he meant to the Rangers. I think he has a comfort level there that is not worth threatening.

Mark Ellis-(Tigers)-Tigers. This is a perfect match of player and team need. Ellis is an underrated player that will help the Tigers at a position of need.

Bronson Arroyo-(Padres)-Padres. I think this is a perfect match for pitcher and team. Arroyo is a solid starter that will give the Padres innings in a good pitching environment.

Stephen Drew-(Red Sox)-Red Sox. The Red Sox saw the value of Drew’s defense after he was healthy. He’s a better hitter than we saw in the postseason. He’s found a home.

Tomorrow-at least ten more free agent predictions.

That’s it. I’m done.