December 2015

Adios 2015

Every year on New Year’s Day my wife and I follow our tradition of eating sauerkraut to bring good luck. In 2015 the sauerkraut must have been an off brand or too old. it didn’t work. In most respects, it was a lousy year for the two of us. We are ready to turn the page and welcome 2016. A fresh start is needed. Better luck. Exciting challenges. Good health.

The year will begin with a change in BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD. For now, this blog will be the primary communication outlet for my scouting reports and opinions on players. Beginning at the end of January I will be writing this blog with more frequency. The main focus will be scouting information on both prospect and big league players. I am grateful to MLB.com for providing me this opportunity to write on this great blog platform.

You and I will still be able to communicate via twitter @BerniePleskoff. I am committed to responding to those who take the time to ask questions or make comments. Twitter will be my primary two-way communication home.

Derek VanRiper and I will still be doing our ShortHops podcast. It will return at the end of January. The response has been fantastic and we will continue the same format. Thank you to our loyal listeners. We’ll offer more of the same in 2016.

I will still be doing my weekly radio spot with RotoWire every Wednesday on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports radio. I’ll return at the end of January as well.

As I have done for years, I will be contributing my thoughts on players for 2016 to the annual RotoWire Baseball Preview magazine which will be available later on newsstands or by subscription to RotoWire.

While I won’t be posting weekly articles at MLB.com Pipeline, I will be attending just as many baseball games and sharing my scouting thoughts with you as I noted above.

From time to time more outlets may be added. I will share those with you if they occur.
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I really think the White Sox-Reds-Dodgers trade has tremendous ramifications for the future. Especially for the White Sox.

Todd Frazier gives them an All Star third baseman with a loud power bat to fit next to Jose Abreu in the lineup. An excellent defender, Frazier gives them the third baseman they have needed for years. U.S. Cellular is made for Frazier’s right handed power.
And what did they give up to change the fortunes of their franchise?

Frankie Montas has solid upside with a fastball, slider, changeup mix. For now, however, he needs to gain confidence on the mound and throw more strikes. In the times I have seen him he has been wild and has not repeated his delivery. He has been more a thrower than a pitcher. I think the Dodgers will eventually use him in the rotation, but he has development remaining. He’s talented with a big arm, but he’s raw. He’s probably a 55 in scouting terms in my opinion.

Trayce Thompson has always been seen as a good defensive outfielder with speed. He surprised some last September with a solid bat. I’m not sure that will continue. I see him as a 4th or 5th outfielder at best or as a 4-A player. I see him as a 45.

Micah Johnson has very, very good speed. His left-handed bat can offer a solid batting average with little to no power. I think his defense is the question. Will he yield more runs than he produces? He can be an everyday player if the Dodgers are willing to concede some defense for speed and a good hitting tool. I have him at a 50.

The Reds get blazing fast Jose Peraza to team with the speedy Billy Hamilton to form a solid one-two punch of guys that can (hopefully) get on base, steal and score. They won’t just steal second. They’ll steal third. If they can get on. Peraza has a good hit tool and is a No. 1 prospect for sure. He will really help the Reds put pressure on the opposing pitcher. He was a major acquisition. I see him as a 60.

Scott Schebler has a solid bat with some power from the left side. But he has little to no speed as his defense is just meh. He may be a 4th outfielder on most clubs, but given the Reds outfield situation, I think he’ll see playing time in a platoon or as a corner outfielder full-time. For now. Players like Winker and Ervin wait in the wings.
I would put a 45 on him at present with a possibility to grow to a 50.

Brandon Dixon’s most comfortable position is second base. I haven’t seen him play and I don’t know anything about him.

I think the Reds could have gotten more for Frazier, but I wasn’t in the conversations. I think in their minds they made the best deal possible. Frazier could lead to more player movement in Chicago. They still need a shortstop until Tim Anderson arrives, probably late this year. But even if they do no more, they have jumped into contention in the AL Central. But it’s early.

With limited resources to play in the deep end of the pool, I think the Indians did very well to sign Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis and Joe Thatcher. Each can help in his own way.
Napoli can still hit the ball out of the park if his hips are healthy. Davis adds good speed and defense in center field, a team need. Thatcher adds a left-hander in the pen. If he has something left in the tank and if not overused by Terry Francona, he can be very useful.

I will transition to the New Year by taking a month away from normal life. I will be on hiatus. No blogs, no radio, not many tweets after December 20th. Discover me again on January 20th or thereabouts.

Thank you for all your wonderful support of my work. Until we meet up again, I wish you great health, great happiness, great holidays, a very Happy New Year and…..peace. Peace, please.

@BerniePleskoff

A Certain Comfort Level

Chronologically advanced readers may remember the days when the Kansas City Athletics (now Oakland) and the New York Yankees had a working relationship that saw many of their players changing uniforms between the two clubs. There was a certain comfort level that had developed. That same type relationship now exists between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves. A trust exists between the two clubs. The connection is critical to the fortunes of both organizations.

Just to review a bit-Justin Upton went from Arizona to Atlanta along with others. Martin Prado (and Nick Ahmed) came to the Dbacks, along with others. That may have been the most dramatic of the deals. However, it is amazing to consider that three first round Diamondbacks draft selections have been part of transactions with the Braves. Not just any three–three highly regarded prospects. In order, Aaron Blair, Touki Toussaint and Dansby Swanson now adorn the Braves Top Prospects list.

Toussaint’s departure in a deal for Bronson Arroyo cleared the Dbacks financial books of money that could have held them back for years. They have used those resources to obtain Zack Greinke via free agency. But Toussaint may ultimately become a star in his own right. However, at this point he is still a prospect and therefore, unproven.

In obtaining Shelby Miller the DBacks gain yet another starting pitcher to help them put a winning team on the field NOW-not two or three years from now. With Greinke and Miller in the fold to compliment Patrick Corbin, the team has a legitimate one-two-three combination- you pick the order behind Greinke.

I have said in this space that prospects serve three purposes: strengthen your big league lineup, help fill out your organizational Minor League rosters or to use in trade to accomplish either of the other two purposes. Prospects are unproven.

The Diamondbacks package for Miller was a shock to me. Ender Inciarte is becoming a really viable everyday player with the ability to hit, hit for power, field his position and run well. What more can one ask? Yes, the DBacks have outfield numbers. I really like Pollock, Peralta, and Brito. But Inciarte was a catalyst.

Dansby Swanson was a No. 1 draft pick. 1-1. He had outstanding upside as a hitter and defender. He was seen by most scouts as scrappy and talented. Now he’ll take his numerous tools to the Braves. Nick Ahmed (who came to Arizona from Atlanta) is now firmly entrenched as the Arizona shortstop. I think. Swanson may become a star. Will Ahmed hit? And lets not forget the DBacks traded Didi -in my opinion a star on the horizon.

Blair was a first rounder. My rub in this deal revolves around Blair. I think Aaron Blair is going to be a bulldog on the mound. I think he’ll be a very solid No. 3 starter. But now he’ll take the ball in Atlanta. Maybe not this year, but soon enough.

I don’t know anything about Gabe Speier, the other pitcher coming to Arizona. When I haven’t seen a prospect I do not comment. Perhaps he’ll be really, really good. Perhaps not.

Shelby Miller is a mid-rotation starter. He’s a good pitcher. He was moved by the Cardinals because they had too many pitchers. He was fine for Atlanta. Mid-rotation in my opinion. So-here’s my rub. You traded for Shelby Miller, a proven pitcher for Aaron Blair, a potential mid-rotation starter who may be half a year to a year away. And it also cost you Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte. What’s wrong with that picture?

I think patience is a virtue with prospects. I live prospects. I know they don’t all come through. But I think Blair will.

I believe the Diamondbacks could have cobbled together a good enough pitching staff without Miller to contend this year. And they still would have Inciarte, Swanson and Blair. Three very good players for their future.

By the way, Greinke is the closest pitcher I have seen to Greg Maddux. It was a very good signing. However, as it turns out, it cost them Touki. I can live with that. It is now easier to accept than when he was traded to get Bronson Arroyo’s money off the books.

There is a certain comfort level between the Braves and the Diamondbacks. But we need to watch the Braves organization very carefully over the next few years. How will they develop with several of Arizona’s top prospects? Will they be patient with Toussaint, Blair, and Swanson? Will they flip any of them for more seasoned veterans? I don’t think so. Shelby Miller was not going to take them to a title anytime soon. The DBacks guys may–within a few years. The bigger question in this. Will Shelby Miller help take the Diamondbacks to the title they seek NOW? Will Shelby Miller join Zack Greinke in helping put a ring on the finger of Paul Goldschmidt? Man, I hope so.

I wish that little voice in my head that I always trust wasn’t screaming at me. In full disclosure—I really, really like Aaron Blair and Touky. Almost as much as I like Didi.
And believe me, my followers know how much I like Didi. I really, really like Inciarte.
And Shelby Miller you ask? Talk to me in nine months. I hope it works. I really do.
For Goldy’s sake. I really, really like Goldy.

Calm So Far

Good morning from The Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville. Believe me, this place is all dressed up and ready for Christmas. Beautiful decorations all over the place. This is hotel is so big you can check in on Sunday and not find your room until some time on Monday.

The Winter Meetings have been here several times, so we really know our way around. But-there is so much to see and do that my fitbit might blow up. It’s not used to me walking so many steps.

In case you missed my Top Ten Prospects for 2016 as posted at MLBPipeline.com, here they are:

No. 10- Steven Matz-Mets

No. 9- Orlando Arcia- Brewers

No. 8- Tyler Glasnow- Pirates

No. 7- J P Crawford- Phillies

No. 6- Joey Gallo- Rangers

No. 5- Lucas Giolito- Nationals

No. 4- Yoan Moncada- Red Sox

No. 3- Julio Urias- Dodgers

No. 2- Byron Buxton- Twins

No. 1- Corey Seager- Dodgers

Like you, I was blown away when the Diamondbacks signed Zack Greinke. I have a couple thoughts about the deal: First and foremost, Chase Field, like Coors Field in Denver is a very tough place to pitch. However, Greinke fits for a couple reasons. He can keep the ball down in the zone and keep the hitter off balance. He has struck out 200 men a season more than once. Remember-he has pitched in hitter-friendly Miller Park. Chase Field is difficult, but he’s a cut above. A six year deal may be two years too long, but the buzz and the immediate improvement to contending status makes the deal more than viable for the Dbacks-who just signed a huge, huge TV contract worth lots of $.

Yes, the Dodgers lost Greinke and have more than one hole in the rotation. But getting Aroldis Chapman allows them to shorten the game for all their pitchers-including Clayton Kershaw. I think they’ll get at least one more starter. But it won’t be an ace like Greinke or Price, we know that.

The Giants have to re-tool their pitching staff. Age has crept up on them. I see them getting two starters some way, some how. And Justin Upton would really help their offense and outfield needs.

Take Mike Pelfrey out of Minnesota and put him in Detroit and he is…still Mike Pelfrey.
I like his stuff, but the results have been…meh.

David Price to the Red Sox. The ace they need. But they have to have the rest of their rotation improve for them to keep up with Toronto, etc. They have other questions as well in December—Hanley to 1B, Sandoval’s weight, etc. ??

David Dombrowski never really replaced Joe Nathan as a closer and suffered for it. It’s ironic that his first major move for Boston was getting a closer.

The Indians have to sign one from among (in order of my preference): Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter or….Yikes…Ike Davis. Doing so will bring some much, much needed power without yielding a starting pitcher.

If they do have to yield a starter to get a hitter, they better get a power hitter with some RBIs in his bat. I clearly wouldn’t trade Kluber or Carrasco. That leaves Salazar, or Bauer. One of those may be worth a healthy sum of RBIs IMO.

I’m really happy Peter Bourjos has signed a contract with the Phillies. He’s a good guy, a great defender and he can run. But he has to hit more and get on base. He’ll help the Phillies pitchers.

I like Nori Aoki in the Seattle outfield. He can slap the ball around that big outfield, get on base and score. But they really need lots of offensive production from their entire lineup, top to bottom.

My miss of the year? Will Middlebrooks. Wow, was I wrong. In Spring Training he did a fine job with the bat. But his bat is slow and he may well be a 4-A player. I admit when I’m wrong, and I thought he would hit.

Collin Cowgill can help the Indians outfield defense late in games.

Watch this space for Winter Meetings blogs once or twice a day until Wednesday afternoon.

Thanks for reading my columns at MLB.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it-I’m done for this first blog from Nashville.