March 2015

Guys I Like For 2015

Every year I try to share a list of guys I really like for the coming season. I hope to include guys that haven’t quite become stars-maybe guys with one or two years in the big leagues. In the past I’ve included Christian Yelich, Sal Perez, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, Wilin Rosario, Michael Wacha, and others because i really believed in their upside after watching them in either the Arizona Fall League or Spring Training. This year I’m including a few guys with more service time, but still under the radar a bit. Oh, and I’ve missed, too. For example, I was really high on Nate Schierholtz and he never really busted out. He’s a fine player, but not the impact guy I projected.

Here they are. In no particular order.

Kris Davis-Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, I mentioned him last year and he came through for me and for you. And for the Brewers. But he’s still way too far under the radar. This guy has power and an ability to drive in runs. I look for an increase in his batting average, even more home runs and more RBIs.

Carlos Carrasco-Cleveland Indians. No, I don’t think he’ll have a Corey Kluber break out. But he’s watched how Kluber does it. His time in the pen taught him how to throw strikes and not try to throw 100 mph every pitch. I think there will be more ups than downs and a fine season for Carrasco.
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Jorge Soler-Chicago Cubs. While all the attention has gone to Kris Bryant (with good reason) Soler is the guy I think may be the talk of the town at some point. He has tremendous power and is a very good athlete. He’s still under the radar but I love to watch him hit. Look for a true breakout this year.

Carlos Rodon-Chicago White Sox. No surprise here. When I watch him pitch I marvel at his command and poise for his age. Some say he reminds them of Steve Carlton. He may not break with the club, but he’ll be pitching in Chicago and pitching well. This year. By the way-he isn’t even on the 40-man roster yet.

Devin Mesoraco-Cincinnati Reds- A repeater on my list from last year. But he still doesn’t get the love. His swing is perfect for his home park. Power and good contact make this guy an All Star candidate. He only had 384 at-bats last year for the parent club. He’s ready to bust out.

D J LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies-He’s the guy on the club nobody talks about. I like everything he does. His numbers in all categories should increase this year with the confidence of being “the” guy at second base.

Kole Calhoun-Los Angeles Angels- Right field should belong to him. He can smoke line drives and when he gets in a groove he makes things happen. I like everything about his offense and I think there is more power to come beyond 17 homers last year.

Will Middlebrooks-San Diego Padres. I never thought I’d write that I think Middlebrooks could become a consistent offensive force. After seeing him in Spring Training, I believe. I also think the third base job is his to keep in San Diego with a good lineup around him. Hope I’m right.

Taijuan Walker-Seattle Mariners. He has had the spring the club has been waiting for. He’s throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and using a complete repertoire. He now has confidence-the most important ingredient for success.

Ryan Rua-Texas Rangers- I think he has a chance to at least platoon in left field for Texas. They guy can hit with some power and drive in runs. It’s a great ball park for him and he can make a difference for the club hitting from the right side of the plate.

Mookie Betts-Red Sox. What an athlete. If he doesn’t win a starting job in Boston something is woefully wrong. Line drives, power, good speed, the total package from a guy still under the radar. Outstanding upside.

J D Martinez-Detroit Tigers-The one (of many in my opinion) that got away from the Astros. Big time power in a great lineup. More experience. Some tweaks in his approach and he’s off and running. Love it.

Eddie Rosario-Minnesota Twins- I don’t know if the Twins will give him a chance this year. But if they do, he won’t disappoint. Outstanding line drive hitter with great balance and eye-hand coordination at the plate. Can play LF well.

Alex Colome-Tampa Bay Rays-Once he’s healthy and back in pitching shape after beginning the season in the Minor Leagues, I believe Colome will find his way to Tampa. He’s got very good stuff and can get hitters out. Just a matter of when during the season. I also like his teammate Nate Karns.

Of course there are other young guys I like, but those above seem a bit more special to me. Will they all succeed? Probably not. But as a scout, I see things in each of them that speak to upside and impact.

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

We’re only a week away from playing games that count. Stick with me during the season and we’ll talk some ball.

That’s it. I’m out.

At The Halfway Point

I write this as we’re about midway through Spring Training. Only a couple more weeks and the games begin to count. Here are some more of my observations from the games and players I’ve seen so far.

I have a hunch that the Reds offense is going to really come to life this year. I like what I have seen and heard from Jay Bruce. I look for big numbers from him as he has decided to play his game and not worry about what pundits have to say. I also look for a healthy Brandon Phillips to exceed expectations. Again, if these guys are healthy the team will score runs in bunches. And of course, it’s very possible Joey Votto will make it through the entire year in one piece. The problem I see is pitching. The rotation still seems thin to me and I don’t quite know how they cover injury or poor performance.
But I like the offense a great deal.

Micah Johnson has looked like a starting second baseman for the White Sox. He’s a non-roster invitee but he’s played very well so far. He can bunt well and smoke some line drives. If he’s on the club, he’ll steal some bases.

I admit I was surprised the Rockies released Jhoulys Chacin.

Bad blood continues between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Both teams better be careful because at the rate their going, somebody will get hurt and lose playing time. It’s really getting ugly with players being hit by pitches.

Tuffy Gosewisch has won the starting catching job for the Dbacks. And Nick Ahmed is in the mix at shortstop. If that happens, Chris Owings moves to second base and Aaron Hill goes to the bench or to third base. What about Yasmany Tomas? He went three for three with a homer on Monday. He was playing third base. I think the Dbacks jury is still out on him. I know mine is.

Speedsters Terrance Gore and Reymond Fuentes have both been sent out by the Royals. That means the primary designated runners remain to be Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain. I was a bit surprised Fuentes isn’t on the club.

Jason Kipnis’ back problems may be a concern as the year progresses. Is this an isolated incident? Will the issue linger? He has some at-bats to make up in the closing weeks of spring. My bell is ringing about Kipnis. I’m not on the band wagon yet.

Zach McAllister is throwing more off-speed stuff to go along with his very good fastball. If he continues to gain confidence in those pitches he will enhance his chances of making the rotation. Teams have been sitting on the fastball and now they have more to think about. it’s a long season-I think McAllister will start for the Tribe at some point.
It may even happen right out of the gate. I really like T. J. House as well. But I have some concerns about the inconsistency and over-thinking of Trevor Bauer and the inconsistency of Danny Salazar. Upside? Yes. But when? Maybe this year. But I’m not running to Vegas just yet.

More and more teams are throwing high fastballs to Mike Trout. But I’ve seen him make adjustments to that pitch. He isn’t as quick to swing and when he does, he doesn’t try to do to much with that high heat. He’s every bit as great as his press clippings. I’m more convinced every time I see him.

The issue with the barking shoulder of Dodgers Hyun-jin Ryu is serious. If he misses any amount of time, the health of Brandon McCarthy and and Brett Anderson become even more crucial. And both have had their health hiccups in the past. Where do the Dodgers turn for pitching depth? And who closes for them with Kenley Jansen hurt? It was going to be…wait for it….Brandon League. But he’s hurt too. The Dodgers coasting to a West Division Championship is not a slam dunk.

Already thin in the outfield, the Giants Angel Pagan is suffering back issues once again. He’s a real catalyst for the club and any time he misses will put more stress on an already difficult situation. Brandon Belt may play some in left field and Buster Posey may play more at first base. Pagan is crucial given the losses of Sandoval and the injury to Pence.

I still think Ryan Rua will win the left field job in Texas. He has a solid bat, can play average defense and adds a nice right-handed bat to the lineup. I have no inside information, but I think Rua is the guy. Or at least one of the guys. I think he makes the final cut and is on the roster.

Nick Martinez and Nick Tepesch will fight it out for the last spot in the Rangers rotation.
The winner? I have no idea.

Rule 5 addition Mark Canha is an interesting option for the Athletics. He can play first, the outfield and even some third base. And he has some pop in his bat, something the team really needs.

I have some concerns about some of the news from Florida. Specifically, the health of Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. A bad hamstring has been keeping him out of games. That scares me. And the club isn’t deep in back end of the bullpen guys.

I like the Twins a lot more than some people. Why? Because of their offense. No, I don’t like the overall pitching depth and quality, but I sure like the offense with guys like Vargas, Plouffe, Dozier, Mauer and Hunter. And during the year we’ll probably see Byron Buxton and maybe Miguel Sano. A guy I really, really like is Eddie Rosario. I would not bet against him seeing big league action this year.

Next week I will do two blogs on my division predictions. I got pretty lucky last year with team won-loss records and standings predictions. I hope I can do it again. I’ll do two blogs-one AL and one NL.

This coming week I’ll be featuring three Rule 5 players on my scouting profiles for MLBPipeline.com. They include Mark Canha, Taylor Featherston and David Rollins. I don’t know when they’ll post, but I’ll go into some depth on each of the three.

As always, thanks for reading my work and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

Early Spring Training Thoughts

We’ve completed two weeks of Spring Training and I thought I would share some early observations and thoughts regarding what I’ve seen so far in Arizona. I won’t be going to Florida this year as had been originally planned.

The Diamondbacks are in the midst of evaluating the fruits of their off season labor. They have experienced a set back with the injury to Rule 5 catcher Oscar Hernandez. A solid defensive catcher, Hernandez was making strides with his offense before being hurt. The good news is that non-roster catcher Peter O’Brien continues to raise eyebrows with his offensive game. And his defense is improving. It would not surprise me in the least if we didn’t see O’Brien on the big league roster at some early point in the season.

Remember the name Aaron Blair. Of all the Dbacks pitchers I have seen, Blair impresses me the most. He has a solid repertoire, grit on the mound and he can throw strikes. Repeating his delivery is a factor setting him apart for me.

While I like Rubby De La Rosa’s stuff, his command and control still are major issues. To find success, he simply has to reduce his walk rate and throw strikes. It’s a huge challenge.

Can Yasmany Tomas play third base? It’s a huge question that must be resolved by the Dbacks staff. Can he react at the hot corner naturally and without going through a thought process after the ball is hit. His actions have to be more automatic. The club has another half month to figure it out. They can live with mediocre defense if the ball jumps off his bat. We’ll see. It’s too early to reach conclusions.

Royals pitcher Christian Binford has already been reassigned to Minor League camp. The right-handeder wowed me with his ability to consistently throw strikes. I mean this righty is a strike machine. He has everything I look for in a pitcher. Most importantly, he trusts his stuff and throws strike one and gets ahead in the count.

I’ve never seen a switch-pitcher. Athletics reliever Patrick Venditte can throw both right and left-handed. A rule is in place requiring him to declare which arm he is using before the at-bat. Venditte’s ability can be very useful in saving a bullpen.  The guy can pitch and it’s really fun to watch.  His glove is specially made, allowing him to pitch with either hand.  Amazing.  I don’t know if he’ll stick, but he can be an option during the season.

Marcus Semien has shown some real pop in his bat. Yes, the air is thin in Arizona and the ball flies. But he has shown power. He has shown the ball comes off his bat quickly and with force. I like what I’ve seen so far.

The White Sox are a nicely balanced club with hitting, speed and pitching. The back end of the rotation isn’t the strongest, but in Sale, Samardzija and Quintana the first three guys in the rotation are very solid. I think Quintana is a very underrated pitcher. And getting David Robertson to close games is huge.

So far this spring, the Indians Danny Salazar has really scuffled. That despite his early arrival in Goodyear to work himself into good pitching shape. I’m not as convinced the Indians rotation is as sound as is being advertised. But I do like T.J. House as their fourth starter behind Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer. It’s that fifth spot that gives me some concern. Can’t have enough pitching.

Once he learns to recognize pitches more quickly and avoids swinging at pitches he can’t drive, I think the Angels C J Cron will become a very, very good Major League hitter. He has outstanding power and a nice stroke. He should get lots of at-bats with the Josh Hamilton situation. I’m a big believer in Cron’s upside.

I can only imagine the damage Howie Kendrick will do in the middle of the Dodgers lineup. He looks terrific so far. But what has surprised me the most is the energy and focus of Jimmy Rollins. I think he can almost taste success and a possible ring and it is reflected in his offense and defense so far. He looks sooooo good.

With the injury to Chris Taylor, the Mariners shortstop will likely be Brad Miller. Both are excellent options for a club that looks very good to me. Yes, Jesus Montero has lost a ton of weight, but I still see him being beaten by high velocity fastballs up in the zone. That’s a hole that can be exploited. I don’t know what his future will be with the club. But if he hits-they can use him at first base and at designated hitter.

What to do with Kris Bryant? He now has six spring home runs as I write this. If I’m in the front office of the Cubs, I promote him in mid-April at the point where the team will be guaranteed another year of service time. I think it’s crucial. A year more of Bryant is worth waiting a half a month. I think it’s a no brainer. But come mid-April (I think around April 17)-up he comes.

Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin and even Rymer Liriano and Abraham Almonte are all outfielders on the Padres 40-man roster and each is behind Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton. With the injury to catcher Tim Federowicz, maybe the club will move an outfielder for a catcher such as Dioner Navarro of the Blue Jays. As a matter of fact, even the Dbacks could use Navarro. So could lots of teams. While I think the Padres are greatly improved, the NL West will be aiming for them.

In my next installment I’ll reflect a bit on the Rockies, Reds, Brewers, Giants and Rangers. Plus anything new I discover.

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

That’s it. I’m done.