April 2016

A Matter of Opinion

The season is progressing along well enough for me to be upset about some things (basically my fantasy teams) and to be excited by others. So today I’m sharing the baseball related items that are lingering on my mind.

I don’t think there’s any denying that Corey Kluber has lost velocity on his fastball. He had a breakout season and then…? He was good last season and suffered from a lack of run support. This year he seems to have regressed into a very hittable pitcher. Perhaps he has some arm/shoulder/elbow issues about which we are unaware. Perhaps he has thrown enough innings and wear and tear is taking a toll. Whatever the case, he’s getting way too much of the plate. The ball is jumping off the bats of the opposition. Granted, it’s very early, but I think there has to be some concern about Kluber. I think he’ll rebound and I hope his team scores some runs for him. But I don’t think he’ll be in the Cy conversation at all whatsoever.

I have similar negative feelings about the back end of the Indians bullpen. I think Bryan Shaw began to scuffle last year and it hasn’t changed. Cody Allen scares me every time he enters the game for a save. I do, however, like what Zach McAllister brings to the late innings. And I believe there will be back end of the bullpen place soon enough for Shawn Armstrong. The Indians bullpen arms may just fall off they’re used so much.

I wish Tony Zych was a secret heading in to my drafts. Both DVR and I discussed him on our Short Hops podcast a couple of times during draft season. Zych could become a closer sooner than later. He’s that good. A high velocity arm like his with command and control is perfect for his home park in Seattle. Watch out for Zych.

I just don’t get the Diamondbacks. I just don’t get how they make decisions. They sent out Socrates Brito. He has multiple tools, can play center field, (a position of need), and yet they are sticking with Chris Owings to spell A J Pollock. I do hope that both Brito and Peter O’Brien get traded to American League clubs.

Do you like the Dbacks road uniforms? I’m just asking?

Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier for Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that one. What am I missing here? That one will haunt the Dbacks for a long, long time. Even if Shelby Miller makes the All Star team. Which I don’t think he will.

You remember when you were all over Jeremy Hazelbaker in draft season, right? You had to fight off everyone to get him, right? Are you kidding me? Where do the Cardinals keep coming up with guys? And now, he’s more than a guy. No. I didn’t know about him. No, I have never seen him play.

How bad are the Padres? Really, how bad are they? The NL West teams that think they can win the division have to beat up on the Padres every time they play them. I’m stunned at how the franchise has just turned around totally from being optimistic to being meh in the blink of one season.

I think Jose Quintana is still underrated as a quality starter. He keeps his team in most games and can really battle. Chris Sale, Quintana and Carlos Rodon are as formidable a trio of lefties as we will see in the game. And no-I’m not buying Mat Latos. Good for him that he’s thrown a couple of good games. But, he’s not my cup of tea.

What’s up with Matt Harvey? I can only hope he returns to 100% good health and that his mechanics return. But Logan Verrett has been a pleasant surprise. And Noah Syndergaard? I think he wins the NL Cy over Clayton Kershaw.

Young pitchers will tend to be inconsistent. Exhibit A and B= Steven Matz and Carlos Rodon. One great outing and one that kills your fantasy ERA and WHIP. They’ll both be terrific. Don’t panic with them.

I traded Corey Kluber even up for King Felix in an AL only league.

I really love the way the Phillies are piecing things together. Vincent Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Jered Eichoff and the other starters are so great to watch. And how about the future for Maikel Franco? We just don’t talk about him enough. He’ll be a true star for years to come. I love the new Phillies. And I’m really happy for good guys Pete Mackinin, Larry Bowa and John McLaren-fabulous coaches each.

We may actually get to see what Jarrod Dyson can do when he gets some sustained playing time on the large side of the Royals right field platoon. How many bases can he steal? I think he’ll be able to get on base with a nice, short swing and then….off to the races.

Javier Baez could have a huge year for the Cubs. With Kyle Schwarber out, Baez should see lots of at-bats from somewhere in the outfield. If Jorge Soler heats up in the summer and if Baez gets to hit, the Cubs will be able to cover for the lost Schwarber. The biggest downside in my opinion is having to use Miguel Montero more than they had planned behind the plate. Montero, David Ross and Schwarber would have split up the time in any given week. I wonder if the loss of Schwarber hastens the arrival of Willson Contreras?

I would think Collin Cowgill will be the odd outfielder out when Lonnie Chisenhal returns? Or does the Tribe farm out Tyler Naquin because he has options and they want to keep Cowgill’s defense? I’d keep Naquin at the big league level. I think a pitcher will go to make room for Michael Brantley. So an outfielder and a pitcher will get chopped for Chisenhal and Brantley IMO.

I love watching Bryce Harper hit. And play defense. And run. Can he hit 60 homers in a season? I wonder.

Knock knock. Who’s there? Jose Reyes. Jose Reyes who?

I’m glad you were all over Ross Stripling in you fantasy drafts. Are you kidding me? Another miss by…everyone.

I hope you will read my scouting reports at TodaysKnuckleball.com. I will be featuring lots of young first and second year players several times a week. I’ll be adding a scouting grade at the end of the report. I think FanRagsports.com is an outstanding sports site. Packed with good writing, interesting stories and personal opinions. I’m pleased to be a part of the organization.

After almost two weeks of illness, I’ll return to Chase Field this coming weekend. Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff for my take on the Dbacks and Pirates.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

And Their Off-We’ve Been Waiting For This

I have just returned from an outstanding weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was the guest of TSN radio’s Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich. Besides being a fantastic radio host, he is an instrumental figure in some of the most competitive and exciting fantasy leagues I’ve seen in a long, long time. I was invited to help Bob in one auction and fill-in for missing participants in two other auctions; one American League only and one National League only. The owners of the teams gave me written instructions on players they wanted for their respective teams. I was fortunate to be able to deliver in most cases. Even though I had to pay $49 to secure Chris Sale. The inflation was amazing. Even catchers went for premium prices. But I landed the guys requested.

Bob and the men who participated were fantastic hosts. We did two of the auctions at the classic Nat Bailey Stadium, originally used in 1951. Our auctions were conducted in the clubhouse area. It was like walking back in time. Bob took me for a stroll out to the field where I could see lights and other components of Nat Bailey Stadium that were imported from Seattle’s Minor League park. On the way to the park, Bob got us in the mood by playing 50-s and 60-s music in the car. That’s right in my wheel house.

Nat Bailey, still in use, is the Short Season Affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Their first home game will be June 20 and I expect the park to be all dressed up and ready to go.

Thank you to “the Moj” and all the great guys who made me feel more than welcome in their world of fantasy baseball. It was so great to be in the company of men who shared my true passion and love for baseball as well as the competitive nature of fantasy sports. Moj and his friends took great care of me and for that I am most appreciative.

The first games of any new season always bring cheers and jeers. How about the opening game of his career for the Rockies Trevor Story? Two home runs. Both off Zack Greinke. Are you kidding me? I did a scouting report of Story today for TodaysKnuckleball.com which I expect you can view today or tomorrow. Story had a night to remember, that’s for sure. So did Greinke.

I know it’s only one game, but I cautioned any who would listen or read what I have said about Greinke and Chase Field. Chase is really “Coors light.” It is a very, very tough place to pitch. Last night, as I watched from home, I noticed Greinke kept going away and away, much like Ian Kennedy did when he pitched in Chase. It is imperative to get the ball in on hitters and make them turn on the ball. Greinke will do that. I’m sure he’ll be fine. But it was a rough, rough outing.

And how about Nolan Arenado? I have no more platitudes. I’ve said it all. He is simply a great player. Both on offense and defense.

I’m not worried about Madison Bumgarner’s start. Yet. Wait until the weather warms a bit. But his control and command were missing in action. He still won the game.

King Felix has no luck at all. None. And that loss wasn’t anything new. In many games he has yielded few hits and walks and has taken an “L”. Baseball isn’t always fair. Yesterday, the King yielded one hit…and lost.

It looks to me like Robby Cano is healthy, right? Watch out.

Is there any doubt about the greatness of Mr Kershaw? No runs as in 0. One hit and one walk over seven innings. In the first game of the year. And nine strikeouts. Yikes!

My concern for the season is how the great teams in the NL will pound the rebuilding teams into submission in the NL. The divisions play each other over and over and over and the “haves” are going to kill the “have nots.” I think it’s an issue.

Good point made in the broadcast of one of the games I watched on TV yesterday. Some of these pitching coaches are “chronologically advanced.” It may take them 30 seconds just to get to the mound, let alone have a conversation. I think that new 30 second conversation rule with the pitcher will be tweaked a bit.

I watched the Angels-Cubs game on a national feed and I couldn’t hear the announcers. Even when I turned up the sound. What’s up with that?

The Dbacks play the Cubs for four games here in Phoenix starting Thursday. That’s a shame. The Dbacks need the attendance boost in the hot days of summer, not the nice spring days like now. The Cubs do not return. This is their only visit.

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

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

American League Pennant Predictions

Yesterday I posted my predictions for the National League. Here are my thoughts about the American League.

EAST

Toronto Blue Jays: I had to think long and hard about both the east and the central. I like the Blue Jays because I don’t see a breather in their lineup for the opposing pitcher. How would you like to have to navigate through Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Bautista, and Encarnacion? Seriously, that’s some awesome firepower. I think their pitching is weak and they did themselves a disservice by not shoring up the rotation in the offseason. In short, if one of their Big 4 bombers goes down for any length of time it will add undo pressure to the entire team. I have grown to like what Chris Colabello can do with the bat as well. The pitching staff is led by Marcus Stroman, a 5-foot-8 righty with a repertoire and mound presence much bigger than his frame. He should be able to log some serious innings as long as he is healthy. The Blue Jays could roll.

Baltimore Orioles- I like the Orioles for some of the same reasons I like the Blue Jays. They can rake. I think the addition of Pedro Alvarez was brilliant. Yes, he’ll strike out and he won’t play defense. But think of the damage he will inflict along with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Mark Trumbo in the lineup. There will be a serious number of home runs flying out of Camden Yards. The late Earl Weaver would have loved managing those three run homers. The pitching? Meh at best. Chris Tillman has to pitch better than last year. The rest of the rotation would keep me up at night if I were in the Orioles front office. I do like the back end of the bullpen. Between Totonto’s lack of pitching depth and Baltimore’s lack of pitching depth, I like Toronto a bit more. The Orioles could hang in and fight it out.

Boston Red Sox- There are just too many rotation problems on the Red Sox for me to take their resurgence seriously. I really like David Price as the ace. To be truthful, I have some issues with him pitching 16 games in Fenway with the short left field wall. But then the pitching goes downhill with the health issues of Clay Buccholz a real concern and the inconsistency of Rick Porcello a true problem. I think Henry Owens will find his way into the rotation. Some very bright stars in the offensive galaxy of the Red Sox should keep them competitive. Players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart will lead the team through the future. The Panda situation could be a huge distraction. But I like what Hanley Ramirez can bring with the bat if he’s healthy.

New York Yankees- Even though their farm system is producing prospects like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, it is not their time yet. The Yankees will field an increasingly aging lineup and a rotation of injury prone pitchers. It doesn’t add up to a winning combination in my book. While I think Didi Gregorius is a budding star, what type of attitude will Starlin Castro bring to the Bronx? Elsbury, Gardner and Beltran all add another year to their resume’. Healthy Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann should put plenty of home run balls into the right field seats. The pitching? When do Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda go on the DL? I do like Severino a bunch. And Chapman.

Tampa Bay Rays- I do like the addition of Corey Dickerson and I think Brad Miller will really help. The Rays can pitch. Archer is the real deal, as are most of the guys in the rotation. And Blake Snell is on the way. This club is the opposite of Toronto and Baltimore. They have the pitching and need the thunder. Pitching wins, right? Not all the time. And not in the AL East. The Rays are on the right track. Now if they can only get out of that stadium things will be looking brighter.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians- I haven’t picked the Indians for years. I like what I’ve seen. Why?
I think Mike Napoli, Marlon Byrd and Juan Uribe can inject some much needed offense to this club. Doubles count. They can smack doubles. I think Carlos Santana is driven to improve. The pitching staff is probably not as World Class as advertised, but Kluber and Carrasco are really good. My jury remains out on Danny Salazar. He’s way too inconsistent for my tastes. Trevor Bauer to the bullpen took guts. He really has not progressed. He is pouting about the assignment and his attitude could put a cloud in the clubhouse. The veterans have to nip that in the bud. If the Indians lose the pennant it could be due to the pen. i think the arms are going to fall off the set-up men because they work so much. But the Indians should compete and avoid long slumps.

Kansas City Royals- It will be really, really tough to knock them off their perch. They play the game so well and they run the opposition to death. Their core players including Hosmer, Cain, Gordon, Moustakas, and Perez should lead them to victory. I’m not sure Kendrys Morales can repeat his performance from last year. Right field is a bit of an issue-and one they have really not addressed. The pitching is OK, but certainly not great. There is no true ace IMO. No one guy to stop a losing streak. I don’t think Yordano Ventura is at that stage. Ian Kennedy should help eat innings and get the team to that fabulous bullpen. The pitchers need only go five or six. That helps.

Detroit Tigers- Miguel Cabrera is healthy. His lower half is strong. He’s lethal once again. J D Martinez remains the steal of the century. How the Astros ever let him go two years ago and how he slipped to the Tigers is beyond me. Anyway, if Victor Martinez isn’t hamstrung and if newly acquired Justin Upton is more hot than cold in his usual inconsistent patterns, the Tigers will be awesome at the plate. When I saw Ian Kinsler this spring it was the best he has looked in years. And here it comes—the pitching? Justin Verlander is clearly not washed up. He’s a very good, very solid starter. And then? Yikes! I wish Shane Greene well, even though he killed my fantasy team last year. I wish Anibal Sanchez a healthy season. He can be very good if healthy.

Chicago White Sox- I like 3/5 of the pitching rotation. I really like lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana (very underrated IMO) and Carlos Rodon. I really don’t like John Danks and Mat Latos. Like the Indians, they have three solid starters. But the offense still seems inconsistent to me. Jose Abreu is a professional surgeon at the plate-he carves up the defense by hitting to all fields. Newly acquired Todd Frazier should rock The Cell with his loud bat. After that-I’m not convinced. Lots of mediocre hitters with good speed.
But they have to get on base. Who is Avisail Garcia? Who is Melky Cabrera? We’ll see.

Minnesota Twins- They could win this division. That’s how close it is. And that’s how good they are—on offense. What if they had concentrated on pitching in the offseason? They can be really scary. Miguel Sano can be a monster at the plate. And Byron Buxton can really play-if he’s healthy. I like Eddie Rosario a great deal. Trevor Plouffe is very underrated IMO. Brian Dozier as well. Both those guys can rake. And I don’t think Joe Mauer is done by any means. The rotation? I’ll pass.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros- I really can’t state how great I think this team will become. They are a perfectly balanced club between awesome hitting and very, very good pitching. Carlos Correa is among the most exciting five tool players in the game. Add in Carlos Gomez, George Springer (still underrated) Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, and the amazing Jose Altuve and this team will score a bunch of runs. I saw Tyler White play several games when I was in Florida. He’s big and strong and can knock the ball out of the park. But there are some swings and misses in his game, just like Jon Singleton and the now departed Chris Carter. And A J Reed waits in the wings. Pitching? Try on a duo of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh for openers. Then mix in Lance McCullers, Doug Fister, Scott Feldman, Mike Fiers, and more to the equation. I like it. The bullpen got even better with the acquisition of Ken Giles. This is a fun team to watch. They win.

Texas Rangers- Another team that has some nice balance, but they can’t pitch with Houston. Once Yu Darvish returns they have more of a fighting chance. But they are not deep in starters. I don’t know where they would be without Cole Hamels. He’s the real deal and will lead the staff. The outfield will eventually get better when Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson take their spots. But they aren’t ready yet. The Rangers have a fence buster in Joey Gallo. Will he play this season? How much? Where?
I do like Odor at 2B. Prince looks even bigger to me this spring. Can he still hit? How about Choo? What will they do with Jurickson Profar? Trade him for pitching?
Adrian Beltre remains the heart and soul of this team IMO. I think the Andrus to LF situation can work. If he hits. But the pitching is the issue. I’ve written that a lot today.

Seattle Mariners- I have to say I don’t think the Felix of now is the Felix of old. I think there is a little slip in his performance. I hope I’m wrong. The pitching is solid. I like Wade Miley in that park. Robbie Cano has something to prove. He was not healthy last year. He is now. We keep waiting for Nelson Cruz to come back to earth. Man, can he blister a fastball. Why not throw him all breaking balls on the outside corner? I don’t know. Ketel Marte will continue to grow as a shortstop and hitter. I am not sold that Leonys Martin can hit big league pitching. Adam Lind is a huge addition for the team. He can change a game with real power. This is a more solid club than last year.

Oakland Athletics- If things break well for Oakland, they could be exciting to watch. If they get the Stephen Vogt of the first half instead of the injured Stephen Vogt of the second half last year that will make a difference. Josh Reddick has to provide some power. I am a believer in Danny Valencia. I don’t think it was a fluke. He can hit.
I also really like the speed of Billy Burns. When he puts the ball on the ground it’s a single. Khris Davis is streaky, but his power is real-very good wrist hitter. The pitching? Not horrible. Sonny Gray stabilizes the rotation. I am concerned about Sean Doolittle’s velocity. All in all, if the team is left in tact and not traded away, they will be spoilers.

Los Angeles Angels- The Angels last in the division? With Trout, Pujols and Calhoun? Yes. Because i don’t see much more. I think the pitching is woeful beyond maybe Garrett Richard and Tyler Skaggs if he returns. My jury is still out on Andrew Heaney. Jered Weaver? C J Wilson is hurt. I’m not a Hector Santiago fan. The bullpen? I just don’t think this team can compete with Houston, Texas and Seattle—and that’s who they will play most of their games against.

Thank you for following my work at TodaysKnuckleball.com. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m Done. For Now.

Now-beginning Sunday—-lets play some baseball. Good luck to you and your team.