MLB
2013 National League Projections
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB National League Season Preview

 

 

With games starting as Sunday night when the newly minted American League Houston Astros host their cross-state rival Texas Rangers on Sunday night, the 2013 Major League Baseball season is upon us. No more talk about the Hot Stove, no more trade or free agent speculation, just baseball. Pure and simple.

 

But we still have a few days left before the first pitch is thrown and the long, arduous season is underway. That means we have a few more minutes to make some predictions and assumptions about how things will play out and who will be wearing the crown when the dust settles.

 

In case you missed it, we started with the American League yesterday. Tonight, we're going to move forward with the National League, and then close things out on Monday with an Awards prediction.

 

So, let's open this up shall we?!

 

 

National League East

 

1.) Washington Nationals

2.) Atlanta Braves (WC)

3.) Philadelphia Phillies

4.) New York Mets

5.) Miami Marlins

 

The Washington Nationals were the toast of baseball in 2012, putting together baseball's best record during the regular season at 98-64. However, their postseason dreams were short-lived when the Cardinals came back from a 0-2 deficit during the divisional series to send them home. So the strong went and got stronger. Washington added Dan Haren to replace Edwin Jackson, Denard Span via a trade with Minnesota, and shored up at closer with Rafael Soriano. Oh, and they get some guy named Stephen Strasburg for a full season. Yeah, this team is sick and should be considered a favorite, not only for the divison, but the World Series as well.

 

Playing second fiddle will be the Atlanta Braves, who had a solid offseason of their own. The Braves knew they needed more thunder in their line-up, so they signed B.J. Upton and then acquired Justin Upton in a trade with Arizona that cost them Martin Prado and a slew of prospects. That said, Atlanta is now home to one of the best outfields in baseball, with the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward holding down the fort. The team is also strong in the pitching department, with a solid rotation and a stellar closer in Craig Kimbrel. That will all be good enough for the Wild Card, but not the division title.

 

Speaking of better, but not quite good enough, we have the Philadelphia Phillies. Philadelphia is still lead by its pitching staff, but the entire roster is aging in a hurry. Ryan Howard looks at leas 5 years older after an Achilles injury last season, Roy Halladay looks like years of high innings totals are finally catching up to him, and you never know how healthy Chase Utley is going to be. The Phillies did make two solid additions in Ben Revere and Michael Young, but this is a team in its last year of contending before a tear-down is in order.

 

Tear-downs are exactly what has been going on with the New York Mets. Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Matt Harvey are three solid young arms, but what looks to be a possible career-ending injury to Johan Santana may doom this team from the start. After trading R.A. Dickey this winter, the Mets are as thinner in the rotation that any team in baseball outside of Colorado. Additionally, outside of David Wright and the inconsistency of Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, this offense it a mess. The only reason they don't finish last is that they play in the same division as....

 

The Miami Marlins did what is practically inexcusable in baseball. They finally get the brand new stadium they were clambering for and then screw the fans by dismantling the team in one broad stroke. Yes, the Marlins got some solid prospects in return from Toronto in Jake Marisnick, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Justin Nicholino, but outside of Hechavarria, the rest of the lot is at least 3 seasons away from being Major League ready. Can the people of Miami really wait another three seasons to see a return on their investment before they lynch Jeffery Loria in the streets?

 

National League Central

 

1.) Cincinnati Reds

2.) St. Louis Cardinals

3.) Chicago Cubs

4.) Milwaukee Brewers

5.) Pittsburgh Pirates

 

You really have to appreciate a team like the Cincinnati Reds. They play the game the way it is meant to be played, with passion and fun. That formula lead them to a 97-65 record last season, and the team made a few small tweaks in 2013 to help make them just a bit better. Adding Shin-Soo Choo will be an experiment in center, but having his bat in the line-up alongside Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce will be solid. The only question with the Reds is why they signed Jonathan Broxton to close and then keep Aroldis Chapman in the role. Regardless, this is a team that is on the cusp of making a real playoff dent.

 

The Cardinals are my choice for runner-up in the division, but not because I believe they are as good or better than the team that won 88 games a year ago. I just feel this is a weak division, again, and the Cardinals always seem to prosper from that. They signed Adam Wainright to a long-term extension, but they also let Kyle Lohse walk without replacing him adequately. Furthermore, I'm not convinced that Jon Jay is the right choice in centerfield, especially when Oscar Taveras is knocking on the door.

 

One team that made some solid noise this winter in this division was the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are still in a rebuilding phase, but they made some decent moves to make them at least more competitive this season, adding Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva to the rotation and Nate Schierholtz to the outfield. A full season of Anthony Rizzo will provide needed punch. That all said, if the Cubs should falter, watch them closely. With a trade chips in Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano to flip, there is a move to be made there. And is it too early to think they may consider a blockbuster trade for Starlin Castro with Javier Baez making some noise in camp and expected to start the season at Double-A.

 

When I orignally wrote these rankings, I had already written off the Milwaukee Brewers. Then they signed Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal. Well, I still think they are going to struggle in 2013. The loss of Corey Hart is going to be tough to replace, and the platoon of Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt at first isn't going to get it done. Additionally, the long-term extension the team signed with Carlos Gomez looks like a stinker right out of the gate. I just don't think this team has what it takes to play as a cohesive unit.

 

Finally, we have the Pittsburgh Pirates. I actually the Pirates as a team and wish they could figure it out. With a collection of young talent that is enviably, and a pitching rotation that should be better than it is, the Pirates should be easy to root for. Unfortunately, they cannot play ball for an entire season and are consistently tripping over themselves. Andrew McCutcheon, Neil Walker, and Starling Marte may be fun to watch, but until James McDonald becomes the ace he should be and Pedro Alvarez figures out how to be a Major Leaguer, there is going to be more years of losing in Pittsburgh.

 

National League West

 

1.) Los Angeles Dodgers

2.) San Francisco Giants (WC)

3.) Arizona Diamondbacks

4.) San Diego Padres

5.) Colorado Rockies

 

Don't tell me that the ghost of Frank McCourt doesn't still haunt the Dodgers. There is no other reason to justify why this team is spending money the way they are. First it was the big trade with Boston last August that brought in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and their millions of dollars in contracts. Then it was a stupid big contract to player like Brandon League. Finally the Dodgers capped it off with a huge deal  with Zack Greinke. The Dodgers are trying to buy themselves a championship. It'll likely be enough to buy them a division title, but until Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier can stay on the field for an entire season, that's all it will be.

 

The San Francisco Giants are the perfect example of a team that turns it on when they need to. Both of their titles in 2010 and 2012 came from strong runs to the postseason and then bursts to the title. The recently extended Buster Posey is now the face of the franchise and rightfully so, and the pitching staff isn't too shabby either (read here as stellar) with the likes of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelson, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito. Still, I see a lot of similarities between this team and the 2011 Giants, a team that stood pat with streaky players and got burned. Of course, that team also lost Posey for an entire season due to injury, so maybe I'm being too critical.

 

Call me a fool, but I love the new-look Arizona Diamondbacks. Funny how the loss of one player and the addition of two known scrappers, Prado and Cody Ross, and you change the entire look of a team. This D-Backs squad is carved right in the image of manager Kirk Gibson and they will play their hearts out night in and night out. Do not be surprised if they leap either San Francisco or Los Angeles, especially if their pitching staff throws like it did in 2011.

 

The San Diego Padres are moving in the right direction, but these things take time to build. The prospects keep coming with the addition of Jedd Gyorko and he'll help weather the burden lost with Chase Headley out for the first few months. Another year of experience for Yonder Alonso may also help him break out. The true enigma is Carlos Quentin. When he is in the line-up, he's been tremendous, but it's getting him there that is the hard part. Admittedly, I know nothing of their pitching staff outside of Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, but I don't take that as a good sign either.

 

Speaking of pitching staffs and bad signs, our final team is the Colorado Rockies. This team is going to be dreadful. When Jhoulis Chacin and his lifetime GO/AO ratio of 1.57 is your staff ace in Mile High country, then you know things are going to be rough. This is a team that is hampered by huge contracts to Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitski, and Todd Helton. Helton's will come off the books this winter, but Tulo and CarGo should be trade candidates for a team badly in need of a rebuild.

Virgil Trucks passes away
Category: MLB
Tags: Virgil Trucks MLB New York Yankees Detroit Tigers

Virgil “Fire” Trucks, one of 5 pitchers to throw 2 no-hitters in a season, and the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers oldest living ballplayer passed away at the age of 95. He also was only one of two pitchers to win a World Series game without wining a regular season game. Virgil also tossed 4 no-hitters in the minor leagues.

In 17 seasons Trucks was 177-135 with a era of 3.39 and 1,534 strikeouts.

Trucks was the uncle of Butch Trucks, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, and his great nephew Derek Trucks is also a member of the Allman Brothers Band and has his own band with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, called the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Virgil’s niece was my supervisor at the post office for 11 years. I have never met Virgil but I have met Butch before.

30 Players, 30 Teams - Baltimore Orioles
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Baltimore Orioles Dylan Bundy

 

 

 

In this series, we are going to spotlight one player on each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. However, we won't be highlighting just any player. Rather, we are going to call attention to the one guy from each squad that is the heart and soul of the team.


If you missed the previous installments, be sure to check them out:


Arizona Diamondbacks - Miguel Montero

Atlanta Braves - Craig Kimbrel

 

We're going to start things off alphabetically, which gets us started with the Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Baltimore Orioles - Dylan Bundy - Starting Pitcher

 

Acquired: Draft - 1st Round (4th overalll) 2011 Amateur Draft

Signed Through: 2019 (Pre-Arbitration Eligible)

MLB Debut: September 23, 2012

 

When a team pushes through an 18-inning game and uses seven relievers to do the job, they are often forced into calling on their farm system to bail them out the next day. When the Baltimore Orioles pulled the trick on September 18th, they followed that routine and went digging for depth.

 

What they came back with was perhaps a surprise to many.

 

At 4:00am on September 19th, the Orioles placed a call for back-up, but instead of dialing up a veteran they may have had stashed at Triple-A, Baltimore instead phoned up 19-year-old Dylan Bundy, the team's top prospect and pitching prospect of all pitching prospects.

 

That strategy had worked out well for Baltimore earlier in the year, when they recalled shortstop Manny Machado, just a year older at 20, to take over at third base for the team in order to provide them with an offensive spark in the middle of the pennant chase. That move paid off, as Machado his .262 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI over the last 52 games of the season.

 

But Machado had 219 minor league games worth of experience under his belt. Bundy on the other hand, was in his first year of professional baseball and pitching with an innings limit nonetheless. At the time of his call-up, Bundy had thrown 103.2 innings in a season where he had pitched at three different levels, topping out at Double-A. Still, he had been dominant at that, registering a 9-3 record with a 2.08 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 ratio, easily demonstrating why he is one of the best pitching prospects in the game.

 

Bundy would throw in just 2 games after his call-up, registering 1.2 innings pitched without a strike-out, but it gave him a taste of where he'll be shortly.

 

Just how shortly is dependent on the rest of the Orioles pitching staff. Baltimore has a rotation anchored by a starting five that should include Jason HammelWei-Yin ChenChris TillmanMiguel Gonzalez, and Brian Matusz. Additionally, the team has to figure out what to do with Steve JohnsonJake Arrieta, and Zach Britton.

 

Baltimore would prefer to give Bundy time to develop and have already optioned the right-hander to return to Double-A Bowie to start 2013. Bundy has a plus fastball that registers in the upper 90's, a plus change-up, and a developing curveball. However, he's also struggling with velocity issues this spring and the time in the minors will benefit him immensely.

 

Regardless, Dylan Bundy is a prodigy and if handled correctly, will see plenty of time at the top of Baltimore's rotation, where he'll be joined by fellow prospect Kevin Gausman (#37 overall - MLB.com). And hey, we've already seen the Orioles desire to go to the mattresses for top prospects in the past.

 

We may see plenty of Dylan Bundy again for the year is out.

 

30 Players, 30 Teams - Atlanta Braves
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Atlanta Braves Craig Kimbrel

 

In this series, we are going to spotlight one player on each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. However, we won't be highlighting just any player. Rather, we are going to call attention to the one guy from each squad that is the heart and soul of the team.


If you missed the previous installments, be sure to check them out:


Arizona Diamondbacks - Miguel Montero

 

We're going to start things off alphabetically, which gets us started with the Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Atlanta Braves - Craig Kimbrel - Closer

 

Acquired: Draft - 3rd Round (96th overall) 2008 Amateur Draft

Signed Through: 2016 (Pre-Arbitration Eligible)

MLB Debut: June 6, 2008

 

In 1992, at the age of 37, Dennis Eckersley won the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards with a season that saw "Eck" post a 7-1 record, a 1.91 ERA, a 10.5 K/9 ratio, and a measily 2.8 bWAR. Those stats aren't too shabby when you consider they came out of a closer and nabbed Eckersley the rare sweep of the award by a pitcher, let alone a closer. Eckersley would claim the award over three 20-game winners and four (!) pitchers who would throw more than 10 complete games on the season.

 

Yet, they had absolutely nothing on the season that Craig Kimbrel put forth for the Braves in 2012.

 

Kimbrel is the rare closer that when he comes into the game, most offenses feel like they are done. Last season, Kimbrel authored a closer's season for the ages, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.01 ERA, a 3.2 bWAR, and an astronimical 16.7 K/9 ratio. He converted 42 of 45 save opportunities. Kimbrel surrendered just 7 total runs in 63 appearances.

 

Yet, when the dust cleared from the National League Cy Young voting, Kimbrel finished a distant fifth, garnering only a single vote for the award that eventually went to R.A. DickeyClayton KershawGio Gonzalez, and Johnny Cueto all helped to make sure that Kimbrel received only a single first-place vote in what can only be seen as closer discrimination.

 

That aside, one would think this was a blip on the radar, that a statistical season like that for a closer would be a once in a lifetime occurrence. However, it was actually a slight improvement on his 2011 campaign. Here are the comparisons:

 

 

Year

W

L

ERA

G

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

ERA+

WHIP

SO/9

2011

4

3

2.10

79

46

77.0

48

19

18

3

32

127

183

1.039

14.8

2012

3

1

1.01

63

42

62.2

27

7

7

3

14

116

399

0.654

16.7

Generated 3/12/2013.

 

The Braves will once again look to their 24-year-old anchor to provide stability and leadership to the back-end of their bullpen. With a revamped line-up that included both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, Kimbrel will see plenty of save opportunities in the years to come.

 

And the man with the triple-digit gas will be more than happy to convert them.

 

30 Players, 30 Teams - Arizona Diamondbacks
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Arizona Diamondbacks Miguel Montero

 

In this series, we are going to spotlight one player on each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. However, we won't be highlighting just any player. Rather, we are going to call attention to the one guy from each squad that is the heart and soul of the team.

 

We're going to start things off alphabetically, which gets us started with the Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Arizona Diamondbacks - Miquel Montero - Catcher

 

Acquired: April 23, 2001 - Amateur Free Agent

Signed Through: 2017 (6-Year, $65.9 Million)

MLB Debut: September 6, 2006

 

They say that catchers are the gateway to the game and Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero is the perfect example of that philosophy. A 7-year veteran, Montero has proven himself as one of the best catchers in the game by placing in the top 4 among Major League catchers in fWAR in both 2011 (4.3) and 2012 (5.0).

 

Since becoming a regular in 2009, Montero has carved a solid name for himself with his bat, being one of the few catchers in the league that have been able to provide the unique ability to hit for both average and power, averaging nearly .283 at the plate while adding 15 home runs and 69 runs batted in over that period. His production has only increased over the last two seasons, as Montero has been thrust into a position as a run producer, with the stud catcher notching 86 and 88 RBI's in each of 2011 and 2012 respectively.

 

 

Year

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

7 Yrs

654

2395

281

581

135

6

73

334

227

463

.275

.351

.448

.798

109

162 Game Avg.

162

593

70

144

33

1

18

83

56

115

.275

.351

.448

.798

109

2009

128

470

61

125

30

0

16

59

38

78

.294

.355

.478

.832

113

2010

85

331

36

79

20

2

9

43

29

71

.266

.332

.438

.770

102

2011

140

553

65

139

36

1

18

86

47

97

.282

.351

.469

.820

121

2012

141

573

65

139

25

2

15

88

73

130

.286

.391

.438

.829

120

Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table

Generated 3/10/2013.

 

That all said, while Montero's skills at the plate are his calling card, he hasn't been too shabby behind the dish either. In 2012, Montero finished third in caught stealing percentage with a 42.1% mark, placing him behind only Ryan Hannigan of the Cincinnati Reds and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2011, Montero led Major League Baseball in the catergory, serving as the only catcher in baseball to throw out more than 40% of would be base stealers.

 

With the trade of Justin Upton and a remaking of the roster, Montero's role on the 2013 squad will be decidedly greater. The Diamondbacks have been remade under the image of their manager, Kirk Gibson, and by bringing in grinders like Cody Ross and Martin Prado to join dirt dogs like Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill, having one entrenched in the catchers role and in the heart of the order will be essential.

 

And that is exactly what Montero brings to the table. A down and dirty, take no prisoners approach to the game, and he's in the right environment for it.

 
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