Archive for March, 2015

Five Breakout Candidates For 2015

As we unveil the players ranked 51-100 in the 2015 BBTN 100, let’s also look ahead to next year and predict five unranked players this year who are positioned to land on next year’s list. This discussion won’t include top prospects like Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson or Noah Syndergaard because their talent is well-known and everyone expects great things from them.

Today we’ll focus on five young players who have already had a small amount of big league success and could find themselves with much-higher public profiles — and possible places in the 2016 BBTN 100 — after what should be productive 2015 seasons. Read the rest of this entry »


Are We Overrating Madison Bumgarner?

How much do October heroics count for, really?

For the San Francisco Giants, what Madison Bumgarner did for them last autumn added up to a world title. It took a lot of moving pieces to get that third title in five years, but easily the most important part was Bumgarner doing things we’ve never seen, at least on that stage. In 52 2/3 postseason innings, Bumgarner allowed a mere six earned runs, and he carved his name into baseball history by throwing five nearly perfect innings to close out Game 7 on only two days’ rest, after having thrown a shutout in Game 5.

It was without question one of the most spectacular postseason performances we’ll ever witness. So how much is that worth? That’s the question today, because Bumgarner stands out as ranking surprisingly high (third) in the BBTN left-handed starting pitcher rankings, ahead of such names as David Price andJon Lester. He’s up two spots among lefty starters from a year ago, and judging by some of the names he’s ranked above, he’ll likely place much higher in the overall rankings as well (he was 40th in 2014).

To jump that far in a single year would indicate he’s coming off one of the most spectacular years in baseball. Based on only a few October weeks, maybe that’s true. But what about the far bigger sample size of multiple regular seasons, or that his regular season was a pretty good one that stood alongside pretty good ones from a lot of other pitchers? Were we so blown away by a few dozen great innings of pitching that we’ve looked past nearly a thousand innings across his career? Let’s investigate.

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The Orioles’ Winter Wasn’t So Bad

So, could you feel the evident disappointment of Baltimore Orioles fans this winter?

Coming off a 96-win year, the O’s did what seemed like a whole lot of nothing this offseason. As Andrew Miller, Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz all departed for big contracts elsewhere, the only major league players Baltimore added were journeyman lefty reliever Wesley Wright, Padres castoff Everth Cabrera¬†and former first-round bust Travis Snider.

Now compare that haul to the types of players added by Baltimore’s AL East division rivals, names such as (the aforementioned) Miller, Hanley Ramirez,Pablo Sandoval, Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. Worse, with O’s GM Dan Duquette spending much of the winter engaged in an awkward — and ultimately fruitless — discussion about taking a job with the Blue Jays, the perception grew that he was more focused on his own career than improving the team.

Whether that’s a fair judgment of Duquette or not, it all added up to a less than impressive winter in Baltimore. Just a month ago, ESPN’s Jayson Stark polled baseball people about the offseason we just completed, and coming in second place for “Most Unimproved American League Team” was none other than those Orioles.

So this was a disaster, right? A big step back for a team on the precipice of making noise in the playoffs, just as the rest of the AL East is dealing with enough holes that this seemed like it may have been the time to strike, right? That’s the narrative, but it’s far too simple. For the Orioles, an appreciation of what was a quietly good winter requires looking a little deeper. Read the rest of this entry »


Beware Sal Perez’s Horrifying Plate Discipline

If you were to take a peek at the current average ESPN live fantasy draft resultsfor catchers, you would see some familiar names in the top five. Buster Posey is obviously atop the list, and Jonathan Lucroy just finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. Devin Mesoraco had a breakout season, and Evan Gattis’ huge raw power might outweigh his strikeouts, at least in the fantasy world.

Sitting fifth, ahead of Yan Gomes, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Russell Martin,Yasmani Grandal and everyone else, is the Kansas City RoyalsSalvador Perez. Perez, who turns 25 in May, has increased his home run count every year he’s been in the bigs and saw his national profile grow exponentially during the Royals’ World Series run. He has a career .285 average and is one of only eight catchers with double-digit home runs in each of the past three seasons.

Based on that criteria alone, Perez’s high ranking looks to make sense, and that’s almost certainly why he is getting such respect in drafts. So why does it still seem so clear that he is being overvalued, perhaps to an enormous extent considering all the warning signs around him? Read the rest of this entry »


Odds Against Masahiro Tanaka Staying Healthy

After an uncharacteristically rough outing from Masahiro Tanaka in Cleveland on July 8 — 11 baserunners, five runs allowed, two homers — New York Yankees fans received the worst news imaginable: Tanaka, who had made the All-Star team and appeared to be worth every penny of the $175 million the Yankees had laid out to import him from Japan prior to the season, had to be placed on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, also known as the injury that generally leads to Tommy John surgery.

Rather than undergo surgery, which would have cost him most of the 2015 season, as well, Tanaka chose the path of rest and rehab, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. After missing more than two months, he made two appearances in September — one positive (5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Toronto on Sept. 21) and one much less so (seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in Boston on Sept. 27). He reportedly has had no problems with the elbow since, successfully completing several bullpen sessions at Yankees camp while hoping that the work he has done to strengthen the arm muscles around the ligament, along with changes in his delivery, will keep him whole.

For the Yankees, part of what appears to be a tightly packed AL East, there may be no player more vital to their success than a healthy Tanaka. That’s not only because he’s one of baseball’s best pitchers when healthy; it’s because with CC Sabathia’s knee still acting up, Ivan Nova still recovering from elbow surgery, Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy off to Detroit and Los Angeles, respectively, and Michael Pineda having thrown only 76 innings in the past three seasons combined, this rotation is more than a little risky. It’s not a stretch to say that the Yankees are contenders with Tanaka and hopeless without him — and unfortunately for both player and team, the odds aren’t in his favor. Read the rest of this entry »