Every week throughout the season (minus last week, when I was vacationing at Safeco Field), I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. First up, it’s the NL. It’s The Senior Class – Week 9! (All records correct as of Saturday morning).
- San Francisco Giants (9-3 over the last fortnight, 36-19 overall) → After initially hoping they’d be able to avoid a roster move, Matt Cain was finally placed on the DL yesterday, and Yusmeiro Petit will take his turn against the Cardinals today. With Pablo Sandoval and the rest of the offense rolling, and ten consecutive games against sub-.500 teams after this series with St. Louis is complete, there’s probably no better time for the Giants to lose Cain for a stretch.
- St. Louis Cardinals (7-6, 29-26) ↑ With Matt Adams banished to the DL with a calf strain, the Redbirds finally pulled the Super-2 trigger yesterday and called up their top prospect, Oscar Taveras. The jewel of St. Louis’ loaded farm system, Taveras was batting .325 in 49 games with Memphis with seven homers and 40 RBIs, and is being counted on to provide an injection to a languishing Cardinals offense that after leading the senior circuit in darn near every metric last year, is producing just 3.93 runs per game in 2014 (10th best among NL teams). The 21-year-old Dominican will apparently bat sixth in the order, and also presumably push Allen Craig to first base while he plays in right field. The real fun however, will come when the Cards finish up their early June interleague schedule and Adams returns; someone is going to be squeezed out of playing time, a problem shared by the…
- Los Angeles Dodgers (6-7, 29-27) ↓ An awkward situation resolved itself on Wednesday when left fielder Carl Crawford was placed on the DL with a left ankle sprain. For the previous 5 days, Matt Kemp had found himself riding the pine, replaced in center field by Andre Ethier – something that apparently didn’t sit too well with the highly-paid Kemp. Crawford’s injury permitted Kemp back into the lineup, but starting in left field for the first time since his rookie year, the 29-year-old hasn’t exactly excelled since his return; he’s gone 0-13 over the last four days, and is now batting .242 with a .719 OPS on the season. Given how Don Mattingly is making noise that he might not even start Kemp today, it might be time to go out and grab Joc Pedersen in your fantasy leagues.
- Atlanta Braves (7-7, 29-25) ↑
- Milwaukee Brewers (6-7, 33-22) ↓ After racking up 13 saves with a 12.9 K/9 ratio in April, the Francisco Rodriguez revival train came off the tracks in May. Over the past 30 days, K-Rod has allowed 7 earned runs and three homers in just 11 innings pitched, his strikeout rate falling to a meager 6.5/9 in that span. Paging Jim Henderson…
- Colorado Rockies (4-7, 28-26) ↓
- Washington Nationals (4-8, 26-27) ↓ Ryan Zimmerman went 0-3 as a designated hitter in his first rehab game at Class-A Potomac yesterday, but the bigger news is where he’ll be playing today. Working his way back into the swing of things after breaking his right thumb back on April 12th, Zimmerman will be playing left field, his first experience of the outfield, as the Nationals experiment with him at positions other than third. The 29-year-old will also apparently get time at first base, which he could man for the Nationals while Adam LaRoche remains on the DL.
- Miami Marlins (6-5, 28-26) → In some much-needed good injury news, right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been cleared to pitch Tuesday after complaining of a sore elbow in his most recent start. The last thing the Marlins need is another promising starter following Jose Fernandez to the operating table.
- New York Mets (6-7, 25-29) ↑ Rafael Montero has been demoted, clearing the way for Daisuke Matsuzaka to start next Wednesday. I would argue, but the Mets have 35 quality starts this season, the third-highest mark in the majors. They must be doing something right.
- Cincinnati Reds (5-8, 24-29) ↓ With a team OPS of .673 for the season, the Cincinnati offense is officially floundering. Jay Bruce is back, but has done little, scratching his way to a .111/.111/.148 triple slash line since making his return. Perhaps worse, he’s now being out-slugged by Billy Hamilton. Only two members of the Reds starting lineup, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco rank above league average by OPS+. Joey Votto, the only other Red who can claim such a title, is eligible to come off the DL today, but unfortunately doesn’t yet appear ready to return. Thank goodness for Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, and the rest of the excellent starting pitching, a staff should be further boosted by the imminent return of Mat Latos. Without them, my Reds would be dead and buried already.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (8-6, 25-29) ↑
- Philadelphia Phillies (7-6, 24-28) ↑ Ruben Amaro remains a contentious figure at best, but it appears he at least got something right – keeping Chase Utley. After receiving a lucrative contract extension in the midst of a successful streak last summer, the 35-year-old has continued his hot-hitting ways in 2014, batting .323/.379/.525 so far. At the keystone, that’s incredible production, and well worth the $15 million the Phillies have invested in him this season. Whether he can avoid injury and keep it up for the remaining length of the contract however, well into his late thirties, remains the funkier angle of Amaro’s logic.
- San Diego Padres (5-7, 25-30) ↓
- Arizona Diamondbacks (5-6, 23-34) → Believe it or not, the D’Backs have actually been relatively respectable in May, going 14-12 over the past month. Arizona’s pitching remains a mess, but with Aaron Hill supporting Paul Goldschmidt nicely, their offense isn’t half the train wreck. They travel to Coors Field this week, so expect the trend of horrific pitching, good hitting to continue.
- Chicago Cubs (6-6, 19-33) → Going into Thursday’s game, Kris Bryant was batting .349 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Tennessee Smokies, with a .452 OBP (he’s added another home run since, obviously) .Accordingly, he was bumped up to no. 8 in Keith Law’s most recent prospect rankings, leapfrogging fellow Cubs prospect Javier Baez, who checked in at no. 9. The first round selection of the Cubs last year, Bryant has destroyed Southern League pitching to such an extent that a promotion to Triple-A can’t be far away, which will hopefully serve as a prelude to a September cup of coffee in the big leagues. Until then though, it’s another dull losing season at Wrigley.
Check back tomorrow for my AL rankings – The Designated 15: Week 9!
Every week throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. First up, it’s the NL. It’s The Senior Class – Week 7! (All records correct as of Saturday morning).
- San Francisco Giants (4-3 last week, 27-16 overall) → Bruce Bochy‘s gang continue to quietly roll on atop the NL West, but the injury bug that they had mostly evaded for the first 6 weeks of the season has begun to bite; after losing Brandon Belt for six weeks after he underwent surgery to repair his fractured thumb, Tim Hudson missed his Friday start against the Marlins with a strained hip.The 38-year-old should be back in time for his next start, but probably won’t be too miffed if he’s held out again – he’ll otherwise be taking on the Rockies at Coors Field.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2, 23-20) → Yasiel Puig so far in May: 67 plate appearances, .421/.507/.772 triple slash line, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts, and five home runs. The wild horse is loose, and bat-flipping like his life depended upon it.
- Milwaukee Brewers (5-1, 27-15) ↑ In his 152 plate appearances this year, Khris Davis has 3 walks, good (bad?) for a 2.0 BB%. In his 152 plate appearances this year, Khris Davis has 42 strikeouts, good (bad?) for a 27.6 K%. And yet by OPS+ (he has a disgusting mark of 73, 13th worst among Senior Circuit qualifiers) the artist formerly known as Khrush is by far Milwaukee’s best option to play left field. Dear Lord do the Brewers need a outfield bench upgrade from the pitiful trio of Logan Schafer, Elian Herrera and Kaleb Gindl.
- Colorado Rockies (2-3, 24-19) ↓
- Washington Nationals (3-3, 22-19) → Doug Fister‘s second start as a National went a lot better than his first, as he allowed just five hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking none, in Wednesday’s win. Then again, he was only facing the Diamondbacks.
- St. Louis Cardinals (4-2, 22-20) → After playing 26 of the first 38 games on the road, the Redbirds returned home to Busch Stadium on Monday and were promptly hammered 17-5 by the Cubs. They’ve won 3 straight since though, and remain the sleeping giants of the NL in my eyes. With Trevor Rosenthal struggling in the closer role of late, keep an eye on Jason Motte‘s imminent return in your fantasy leagues.
- Atlanta Braves (3-3, 22-18) ↑ The Braves released renderings for their new $672 million stadium in Cobb County this week. In other news, aside from Freddie Freeman and his dancing, Atlanta’s offense still stinks.
- Miami Marlins (2-4, 22-21) ↓ I’m still not ready to write about how I feel regarding Jose Fernandez‘s Tommy John surgery, but thankfully Bill Barnwell has moved on already. In his Friday post for Grantland, Barnwell astutely illustrated how Fernandez was the perfect prototype for aggressively calling up stud young pitchers – demonstrating how he was basically the same guy in High-A ball as he was in the major leagues. By promoting him straight from Class-A ball however, the Marlins extracted over 200 innings of Cy Young worthy pitching from Fernandez before his injury, while fellow heralded prospects Dylan Bundy and Jameson Taillon lingered in the minors before blowing out their arms. A great piece, and an interesting future strategy, though being labeling Fernandez a prototype rather than a cautionary tale does little to soften the blow of losing the most exciting pitcher in the game.
- Cincinnati Reds (3-3, 19-21) → I hate to think about where the Reds would be this year without Johnny Cueto; with Mat Latos yet to make a start, Homer Bailey scuffling, and Tony Cingrani ineffective, not to mention an offense already without Jay Bruce and perhaps now Joey Votto too, Cueto has been carrying Cincinnati almost single-handedly thus far in 2014. This week apparently, everyone else aside from Reds fans like me also caught on to how good he has been; amongst many other pieces, the Dominican Republic native was most notably given the spotlight treatment from Dave Schoenfield on the ESPN Sweetspot blog, and the subject of a brilliant PitchCraft feature from Shane Ryan on Grantland. Sam and Ben on the Effectively Wild Podcast too, noted how Cueto’s ERA+ since 2011 is second only to Clayton Kershaw amongst all qualified starters during that time. Knowing Cincinnati’s (lack of) injury luck this season though (the Reds are second only to the Rangers in DL assignments thus far), he’ll be down within the next week now.
- San Diego Padres (4-2, 20-23) ↑ With Carlos Quentin back from injury, the battle for outfield playing time is officially on. Considering how Seth Smith‘s recent tear will likely grant him a corner spot, that leaves 2 positions to be filled by either Quentin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, or Cameron Maybin. With the Padres ranking last among all teams in the majors in batting average (.219), on base percentage (.274), and slugging percentage (.342), you would have to think manager Bud Black will prioritize offense when filling out his lineup card.
- New York Mets (3-4, 19-22) ↓ Both Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom were more than solid in their big league debuts on the mound this week, limiting the Yankees to just four runs in 13 innings between them. They received absolutely zero run support though, the offense behind them tallying only 7 cumulative hits in those two games. deGrom however, did finally end the Mets pitchers’ streak of futility at the plate – the group are now 1-66 on the season.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (2-3, 17-23) ↓ Jason Grilli reckons he’s ready to return from the DL, and wants to step straight back in as closer. He probably will too given Mark Melancon‘s performance on Thursday; the 29-year-old failed to record an out, and allowed two hits and two walks en route to his second blown save in seven opportunities, bringing the Pirates’ blown save total to 10 already this season. After nailing down 55 of their 70 opportunities last year, Pittsburgh are currently on pace for the most blown saves ever, a record currently held by the 2004 Colorado Rockies (34).
- Philadelphia Phillies (1-4, 17-22) ↓
- Arizona Diamondbacks (3-3, 16-28) → Jonah Keri made the point here somewhat, but when will the Kevin Towers and the Diamondbacks accept their fate and start to sell off some of their few desirable players?
- Chicago Cubs (1-5, 13-27) → As good as he’s been so far this year, if the Cubs could get Jon Gray for Jeff Samardzija, as proposed by Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post here, they should pull the trigger in a millisecond. Sounds pretty darn unlikely though.
Check back tomorrow for my AL rankings – The Designated 15: Week 7!
For a moment at least, I for once found myself agreeing with Diamondback’s GM Kevin Towers on something; on the morning radio show on Arizona Sports 98.7 with Doug and Wolf, Towers said of his team’s sluggish start, “We realize it’s April. We don’t want to panic, we don’t want the players to think we’re panicking. But to me, if things don’t get better, I think change needs to happen.” ‘Finally,’ I thought, ‘he’s recognized that Arizona’s starting pitching isn’t up to scratch. Maybe now we’ll see Archie Bradley called up to the majors – let me go check my fantasy teams’ waiver wire.’ Alas, Towers had other plans; it has since been announced (as reported earlier by Jacobo Hakim on MLB Nation), that the D’Backs have instead signed Randy Wolf to a minor league deal, and also plan on transitioning Josh Collmenter back into the starting rotation after his beginning the year in the ‘pen.
Not exactly the moves I had in mind, but at least an honest admission of the pitching incompetency behind Arizona’s early struggles.
At 4-8 (even after taking their last two games from the San Francisco Giants), Arizona have been repeatedly burnt by the negligible contributions of their starters. With presumptive ace Patrick Corbin pronounced out for the year before the season opener in Australia, darn near everyone who needed to step up in his absence has so far failed to do so; Trevor Cahill has been rocked to an 0-3 record, giving up 12 runs and 29 base runners through his first 13.2 combined innings (this after accruing a 6.95 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in 22 Spring Training innings). Brandon McCarthy – of whom I despise pointing out flaws purely because of his hilarious Twitter account – and his 7.82 ERA (with four home runs allowed through 12.1 innings) hasn’t fared much better. Randall Delgado too has been a welcome sight to opposing hitters, allowing nine earned runs in his first eight innings of work and posting a nauseating 2.88 WHIP along the way. Not even offseason addition Bronson Arroyo has been able to provided a spark – his typically ‘meh’ 4.82 ERA bettered only by Wade Miley (4.05 through his first three starts). With 72 runs allowed through their first 12 games – 32 alone resulting from pitches thrown by the CahCarthGado pu pu platter – if there was ever a team in dire need of rotation help, this Arizona squad would be it.
How much of that sorely-needed help can be gained by signing Wolf and moving Collmenter however, seems dubious. How much help can Towers realistically expect from a 37-year old Wolf, who will be trying to resurrect his late-career comeback from a second Tommy John surgery after being (rather ignominiously) cut from the Seattle mariners this spring? The last time he was seen on an ML bump in 2012, Wolf was providing Milwaukee, and for a short spell, Baltimore too, with -1 WAR value and a 5.65 ERA. Collmenter too, figures to be of little help; the whole reason he was in the bullpen in the first place was because of his awry time as a starter (once his funky delivery was seen enough times, the Michigan man became home run fodder). Judging by his splits, the 28-year-old quite belongs in his current role as the team’s long man.
No, the real help lies in wait in Reno – and via the school of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ reasoning, can’t be called up soon enough. Back in my pre-season preview series I documented how Archie Bradley might be the difference maker for the Diamondbacks but would likely be held back with a view to limiting his service time, and as it turned out – to no one’s surprise – he was. Now though, with his big league ship plummeting quickly, it’s time for Towers to blow up that conservative plan of common logic lest he want to see Arizona’s season down the drain by the time Bradley would have originally arrived – the ninth best prospect in all of baseball per Baseball Prospectus is needed to keep the runs off the board at Chase Field right now rather than simply dominating down in Nevada.
Propping up the NL West, 3 games back of the division leading Dodger and Giants after less than two weeks of play already, the Diamondbacks need to get going, and quickly, if they’re to be playing for any meaningful purpose come August. Quite rightly, they’re throwing everything against the wall in hope of something sticking, but I fear that instead of shoring up the rotation, the measures taken so far will rather merely have the effect of a band-aid on a gaping wound. Aggressively calling up Bradley, though a drastic measure, may well be Towers’ last hope in regards to salvaging 2014 in Arizona.
Throughout the year, I’ll be separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings won’t be dependent on record alone and will factor in such aspects as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Last week, in The Senior Class – Week 1, I gave every team a comment in light of it being Opening Week. Week 2 sees a revert to my normal writing plan – 3-5 brief recaps for the most interesting teams of the week. Without further ado, I present The Senior Class – Week 2! (All records correct as of Saturday morning).
- Washington Nationals (3-1) ↑ The Nats took care of business this week, sweeping their opening series away to the NY Mets – beating a bad team like any good team should. With the Dodgers and Cardinals both scuffling this past week however, the Nats’ early dominance jumps them to the head of the elite pack. Even without Bryce Harper hitting (perhaps due to his continued aggression elsewhere on the field aside from the plate), Washington’s offense has been potent, with Jayson Werth in particular continuing his strong play from the second half of 2013, and Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman both also looking good. The offense needed to be on form to overcome a poor Opening Day start from Stephen Strasburg and his new slider (which made poor David Wright look silly), but Gio Gonzalez‘s and Jordan Zimmermann‘s impressive showings ensured the Nats easy wins, and highlighted the deep quality of the rotation (even without Doug Fister still). They have the Braves, the suddenly-mighty (see below) Marlins, and Atlanta again on the schedule this week, so will be tested a little more strenuously than by simply the Mets, but should they get contributions from Messrs. Harper and Strasburg, stand a good chance to be on pole again this time next Saturday.
- St. Louis Cardinals (2-2) →
- Los Angeles Dodgers (2-2 last week, 4-2 overall) ↓
- Atlanta Braves (3-1) →
- Pittsburgh Pirates (3-1) ↑
- San Francisco Giants (4-1) ↑ Last week I wondered if I was too down on the Giants by ranking them eighth; as it turns out, I was. SF are riding a three game winning patch (in my subjective opinion, it’s only a streak when it hits five) and are yet to play at home – not that Brandon Belt will ever want to go back to AT&T Park again. The focus of my pre-season Giants preview, the young(ish) lefty racked up 3 home runs against Arizona alone, propelling the Giants’ 3-1 win of the early intra-division series, and spearheading an offense that – with the starting pitching being rather touched up – has had to do some heavy lifting so far. That poor early pitching will be a concern to the Giants – only Tim Hudson‘s start on Wednesday saw San Francisco give up less than four runs, and reliever Jean Machi has picked up 2 of the team’s wins – but a series back at their friendly home confines against the rather anemic Diamondbacks offense should set things right. If Belt, Buster Posey, and Angel Pagan keep up their early raking, the early struggles of Tim Lincecum et al. might not come into play much anyway.
- Miami Marlins (4-1) ↑ As first posited by Michael Baumann, “Break up the fish!” While there was some pre-season conjecture that the Marlins were actually a team of secret operatives attempting to infiltrate the largest drug cartel on the Eastern seaboard while posing as a major-league baseball club, Miami have looked like a real legitimate baseball team over the last week. Sure, Baumann’s surveyance “Taking three out of four at home against a terrible Colorado Rockies team may not be much to brag about” might well be true, but the Marlins have, excuse the pun, made quite the splash this opening week – hence their jump up the rankings. After a ridiculous (in the ‘deserving or inviting derision or mockery’ sense of the word, rather than crazy good), positives were everywhere; José Fernández was electric on Monday, striking out nine in his six innings of work while ceding only one run on a Carlos Gonzalez jack – a shot that even titillated Fernández briefly amidst his dominance. Giancarlo Stanton – as is his wont – crushed some baseballs, and would have had three HRs but for a rocket going just foul on Wednesday (a crushing blow which would have nullified Henderson Alvarez giving Colorado a six run lead to work with, and put Miami at 5-0). Young pitching hope Nathan Eovaldi looked solid too, his average fastball velocity of 95.9mph on Tuesday sitting only behind Fernández (96.3) for the highest mark of the young season so far. Really, the only bad thing to happen in Miami this week was Dan Marino being let near a broadcasting headset; other than that, it’s been a wonderful week to be a Marlins fan (should any still exist thanks to Jeffrey Loria).
- Milwaukee Brewers (2-2) ↑
- Cincinnati Reds (1-3) ↓
- San Diego Padres (1-3) ↓
- Colorado Rockies (2-3) ↓
- Arizona Diamondbacks (1-4, 1-6) ↓ Yeeeeesh. With their .143 winning percentage, the Diamondbacks currently prop up the Senior Circuit, and have looked particularly brutal on their way to doing so (despite Paul Goldschmidt continuing his amusing one man assault on Tim Lincecum). Without Patrick Corbin, the pitching has been especially horrible (S/O to Trevor Cahill!), both hemorrhaging runs to the Giants at home this week, and giving up twelve to the Rockies at Coors yesterday; you have to wonder, if the team are serious in their thrust for contention this year, how long they can continue to hold down Archie Bradley in the wake of such a poor first turn through the rotation. If things continue in such a woeful vein too, Kirk Gibson could well soon be questioning Kevin Towers’ roster moves along with the rest of us from outside the organization.
- New York Mets (1-3) →
- Philadelphia Phillies (2-2) →
- Chicago Cubs (1-3) → Junior Lake wore the wrong jersey in a game this week. Your (early April) Cubs everybody!
Towers on Trumbo in LF: “There’s no doubt in our mind he’ll be a solid average defender.”
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) December 10, 2013
“First, (Trumbo) is a good athlete with a great arm… I really like his work ethic and he’ll be fine. The key is to make the routine play. After all, we want a good outfielder and a good outfield.” – Dave McKay, Arizona Diamondbacks First Base Coach.
“If you had to sum up Mark Trumbo in left field, it would have to be one word: Awkward.” – Vin Scully, Dodgers 3 vs. Diamondbacks 1, Top 8th, March 22, 2014.
It’s an annual tradition at this point. With two weeks of Spring Training in the books, the exciting young prospects are mostly cut, the superstars are going through the motions, and most everyone just wants the regular season to get underway. With little else to focus on then, the number of stories focusing on potential breakout performers increases exponentially, most of which are based off a ridiculously impressive, but ridiculously small sample size of Spring Training statistics. Yesterday, I added to that already large number, looking at the hot starts of Mike Moustakas and Tommy Medica in addition to the battle for Colorado’s final outfield slot. Today, I continue on with some more of Spring Training’s offensive leaders, and whether anything meaningful can be gathered from their performances so far.
The No. 2 overall pick from the 2009 MLB draft, Dustin Ackley has thoroughly disappointed in his brief tenure with the Seattle Mariners. After posting a combined .669 OPS at the dish while also failing to stick defensively at either second base or center field during his first three years with the team, Ackley will be starting in left for the Mariners in 2014, pretty much by default (S/O to Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik on his outfield construction). Much like Mike Moustakas, the lefty’s status as a regular figures to be in serious jeopardy should he again fail to hit, especially so given Seattle’s soon-to-be deep pockets could presumably quickly source an alternative. His strong .441/.472/.735 Spring Training line though, rather than a fluky aberration from a busted prospect, might actually have some real significance in regard to Ackley’s long-term future with the club.
After batting just .205, Ackley was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma in May last year in order to re-work his swing and learn how to play the outfield again. With the Rainiers, the former top prospect not only raked .365 in 25 games, but apparently got his mindset right again – an epiphany he credited to Raul Ibanez’s book recommendation. Upon his return to the Majors after the All-Star Break, the 26-year old hit .304/.374/.435 in 53 games, looking just as comfortable as in his 2011 rookie season, after which stardom was expected. His numbers so far this spring then, though admittedly a small sample size, might be seen to indicate that the oft-maligned North Carolina product has legitimately turned a corner in his development, and is ready to contribute in a meaningful way this season.
The organization’s first round pick in 2009, A.J. Pollock began 2013 behind Adam Eaton on the Diamondback’s depth chart, but quickly assumed the starting role when Eaton’s troublesome elbow held him out of action. In 131 games, Pollock proved himself to be a roughly league average hitter, but a tremendous defender – ranking fourth in the NL in Fangraphs UZR and UZR/150 fielding ratings. He was so impressive in fact, that Eaton was traded away (at his lowest value – S/O to Kevin Towers) this past offseason, leaving the 26-year old Pollock Arizona’s center field job all to himself.
Rather than being content in his new role, Pollock so far seems out to prove that Towers made the right decision in keeping him over Eaton. His Spring Training stat line – .417/.475/.778 – though a small sample size, certainly would suggest that the former No. 6 prospect of the D’Back’s system is ready to bust out from his under the radar status. After all, it’s hardly unexpected for 26-year olds to suddenly make the leap – so his spring showing can’t be taken with the usual pinch of salt. If his bat ever comes close to matching his glove, Arizona might have a future star on their hands in Pollock. He’s making a valiant case for such a designation anyway.
As a brief aside, fellow Spring Training batting champion contenders Marwin Gonzalez (.462/.442/.654, 26 ABs), Matt Long (.455/.486/.667, 33 ABs), and Rajai Davis (.393/.469/.500, 28 ABs), are all undoubtedly doing it with smoke and mirror shows at the moment. Davis though, with Andy Dirks sidelined to begin the year, will be Detroit’s Opening Day left fielder, and a fantasy sleeper if there ever was one. If he can keep up some level of average production at the plate to go with his blazing speed on the basepaths and increased opportunity for counting stats in the potent Tigers lineup, he’ll be worth much more than a late-round selection by seasons end.
Acquired from Oakland last August in exchange for Alberto Callaspo, Grant Green hit .280 with a .720 OPS over 40 games down the stretch for the Los Angeles Angels, filling in more than capably for an injured Howie Kendrick at the keystone. That he had a BABIP of .391 in doing so however, made the winter speculation about Kendrick’s future with the club seem ridiculous. Green has so far posted another seemingly impressive .387/.364/.548 slash line this spring, but once again, the superficial numbers are undermined by poor peripherals; Green has yet to draw a walk against pitching judged 7.9 on the OppQual scale (for reference, a rating of 10 is ML level opposition, 8 is Triple-A), but has struck out 6 times. Green’s performance thus far is giving off all the signs of an impending regression should he face better pitching, and with better infield incumbents, it would be foolish for Los Angeles to talk themselves into Green as a more valuable asset than a utility infielder at the present moment.
After putting up a -7 DRS season at second base last year though, even that might be a stretch; his weak glove is an additional reason for Green not to receive time over Kendrick, Erick Aybar at short, or newly acquired David Freese at third base. A man without a position, and relying on inflated offensive stats then, Green’s status with the Angels is a troubling one. Still just 26, there’s still time for the USC product, but his immediate future will consist of bouncing between Triple-A and the Angels’ bench – especially if they’re intent on carrying an additional relief pitcher to back up their shaky rotation.
And so wraps up my weekend of looking at Spring Training’s early offensive leaders. I think we can all safely judge that early statistics are far from truly reliable in terms of indicating future performance, but sometimes, just occasionally, something meaningful can be taken from them. Either way, I’ll be glad when this time next week we’ll have a real regular season game to overreact to, and I can stop writing about mostly insignificant Grapefruit/Cactus League matchups. Bring on the season already!
With Superbowl XLVIII in the rearview mirror and the dog days of the NBA fast approaching, what makes more sense than to look ahead to the upcoming baseball season. Accordingly, I’m going to be breaking down some of the players, teams, and story lines which I deem most relevant/engaging/amusingly-bloggable leading up to Opening Day 2014. Or actually just until the week before Opening Day – I’ll be in Nicaragua for the 8 days preceding the first pitch… Anyhow, by virtue of their alphabetical rank, I present my person of interest relating to the 2014 incarnation of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Archie Bradley.
If you want the quick and dirty 140 character scouting report of Archie Bradley, I refer you simply to Ben Badler’s tweet from last year’s Futures Game in which Bradley threw a perfect inning, inducing two groundouts and an easy fly out;
Archie Bradley with an overpowering 96-98 mph fastball and a low-80s hammer with power and depth. Filthy.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 14, 2013
Nothing Badler says in those few words is false – Bradley is simply so good that ‘Filthy’ sums his overpowering stuff up quite sufficiently. Drafted in the 1st round (7th overall) back in 2011 – the same draft in which the Diamondbacks also took the since-traded Trevor Bauer with the 3rd overall pick – the 6-4, 225lb Bradley looks set to crack the Arizona rotation at some point this year, if not straight from Spring Training, having spent his age 20 season dominating the minors. Boasting a fastball that consistently sits 94-96 mph, in addition to the aforementioned “hammer” curve (80-82 mph), Bradley possesses two plus-plus pitches, and while his changeup clearly profiles as his third pitch, it still projects to be comfortably above average. In combination with his above average control, and improving command, Bradley was simply too good for the lower levels in 2013, posting a 1.97 ERA over 152 innings across High A and AA ball, impressively striking out 162 in that span. His dominant year only served to confirm the high esteem in which scouts held him – Bradley could well be the future no. 1 of a big-league rotation, the ace which the Diamondbacks have been trying to acquire all winter long.
The Diamondbacks have clearly been shopping for their frontline answer to the riches possessed by NL West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers. In an attempt to bolster a starting rotation that was a large part of an underwhelming .500 2013 campaign that saw those Dodgers celebrate the capture of the division in their home pool, Arizona fell short in the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka, and rightly weren’t willing to include Bradley in any deal for David Price. For a team built upon the depth of it’s pitching more so than offense, the performance of Kirk Gibson’s staff was far from the ‘gritty’ pre-season expectations conferred upon it; though lefty starter Patrick Corbin posted an All-Star worthy first half, his performance fell off after the break, while sophomore Wade Miley (predictably) regressed from his surprising rookie campaign. Ian Kennedy, who entered the season as the staff’s leader only a season removed from winning 21 games himself, also struggled, generating more press for his plunking of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke than for his performance on the mound, before being dealt to the Padres in July. Following him out of the organizational door, last year’s top prospect Tyler Skaggs was sold low on in the winter trade that netted Mark Trumbo (from the Arizona perspective, the less said about this entire deal the better).
With Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Randall Delgado joining Corbin and Miley in the projected 2014 rotation (barring injury), Bradley figures to be on the outside looking in, at least to begin the season. But the Diamondbacks pitching quantity shouldn’t long obstruct his quality; if Bradley meets expectations, it wouldn’t be completely out of the equation for him to succeed from the jump, á la fellow 2011 draftee José Fernández in 2013. With GM Kevin Towers reportedly considering an 175/180 innings limit for his top prospect, the path of the 1st overall pick in that draft, Gerrit Cole, might be more relevant in regards to how much we see of Bradley in the majors next year; called up on June 11th, the Pirates not only suppressed Cole’s service time but still managed to wring 117.1 big-league innings out of him, and snuck into the postseason in the process.
The 2014 Diamondbacks can only hope to rebound from last year’s disappointment, and follow Pittsburgh’s lead into the playoffs. The performance of Bradley will be a huge factor in determining if they do so or not.