Inside Pulse » 30 Teams in 30 Days A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Fri, 28 Nov 2014 01:36:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » 30 Teams in 30 Days 30 Teams in 30 Days: Minor League System Rankings Wed, 31 Mar 2010 23:00:31 +0000 General

2010 MLB Minor League System Rankings
Here are my system rankings.

I’ve also included the rank of how they evaluate amateur talent; I looked at my rankings and adjusted the pre-trade ranks. So, the Dodgers took credit for Carlos Santana rather than the Indians; it makes it a little more interesting to see how well each team drafts and signs international free agents.

1. Boston Red Sox
Pre-trade Ranking: 1
Many teams have to think it’s not fair that the Red Sox can afford almost any free agent while still getting the top amateurs. They had 7 guys in the top 100; it would have been eight if they still had Nick Hagadone.

2. Cleveland Indians
Pre-trade Ranking: 19
This is important for a team like the Indians; with rebuilding, they are relying a lot on the system. Of course, a lot of these guys came from trades; Hagadone, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana all came from trading guys off.

3. Tampa Bay Rays
Pre-trade Ranking: 4
The Rays are almost always near the top in the prospect recent years; they draft very well and they make good trades. This system is full of quality arms. Everyone one on the top 100 was drafted/signed by the Rays.

4. Reds
Pre-trade Ranking: 6
Without the signing of Aroldis Chapman, the Reds would have dropped to 11th. They’ve developing some good fielders and Mike Leake looks like a top flight pitching prospect. If they have another strong draft and international free agent class, they move up further.

5. Royals
Pre-trade Ranking: 7
The one thing Drayton Moore has done for this organization is re-stock the minor league system. They draft well and have been able to reel in a couple of international prospects. They’ve shown they are willing to spend on amateurs, which is something they’ll have to do to compete.

6. Tigers
Pre-trade Ranking: 18
The Tigers got a boost by adding Austin Jackson and Daniel Schlereth to their system. Add in the recent drafting of Jacob Turner and Casey Crosby, and they have a top notch system. They will sign above slot in the draft, so they don’t miss many good first rounders.

7. Nationals
Pre-trade Ranking: 8
Without the 2009 draft, the Nationals would move from top third to bottom third. Strasburg is a start in the making and Storen is under the radar due to Strasburg. Norris is definitely someone to watch as well. They will need to continue to have strong drafts to off-set the loss of Strasburg and Storen to the majors this year.

8. Braves
Pre-trade Ranking: 3
It’s seems like Atlanta always has a strong system. This year they will graduate Jason Heyward to the majors. If you look at the guys they’ve traded away though (Neftali Feliz, Tyler Flowers for example), you’d have to wonder how good this team could be soon.

9. Marlins
Pre-trade Ranking: 9
While the Marlins are known for trading veterans for prospects, this ranking is really based off their drafts. Michael Stanton may be the best hitter in the minors with Heyward graduating to the big leagues. I expect big things out of Logan Morrison too.

10. Mets
Pre-trade Ranking: 13
The Mets system is underrated, in my opinion. People are down on Fernando Martinez, but he’s still young and full of potential. They have sleepers in Wilmer Flores, Jenrry Mejias, Ike Davis, and Ruben Tejada. If the guys in the low minors continue to develop, they should be set for some time.

11. Twins
Pre-trade Ranking: 14
The success of the Twins lies with their minor league system. They normally draft well and made an international splash this off-season by signing Miguel Sano. They should continue to get the young guys cycling through the system.

12. Dodgers
Pre-trade Ranking: 2
The Dodgers still have some good players in their system, but how nice would Carlos Santana and Josh Bell look right now? They draft well, so they can fill in a few of the holes in the up coming draft.

13. Yankees
Pre-trade Ranking: 5
I don’t think the Yankees have the strongest drafts each year, but they can get those international guys. I’m not saying they don’t draft well; they have a good draft here and there, but not consistently like the Red Sox, Tigers, or Rays.

14. Rangers
Pre-trade Ranking: 22
The Rangers have a strong system overall, but they lack the high profile guys outside of Feliz, Perez, and Smoak. They’ve drafted pretty well the last few years and they have candidates for break outs this year.

15. Giants
Pre-trade Ranking: 15
See the Rangers – lacking high profile guys outside of Posey and Bumgarner. I could see a few guys breaking out as well.

16. Athletics
Pre-trade Ranking: 29
They have Carter and Taylor as their only elite prospects. Green is close. Outside of that, they don’t have a lot to show from drafts and trades of Huston Street, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, etc. They are also hurt by graduating a lot of players last year.

17. Mariners
Pre-trade Ranking: 16
The talent level in this system took a small hit when they traded Carlos Lee, but none of the guys traded cracked the Top 100. There are some definite question marks, but there is some upside too.

18. Diamondbacks
Pre-trade Ranking: 10
This is another system that has graduated a few players in the last couple of years. They had a solid draft in ’09 and could have a few guys that move up in status. They normally draft well, so they could be back in the top half next year.

19. Rockies
Pre-trade Ranking: 17
The system is doing pretty well with pitching, but they are lacking an elite hitter. If they can get 1 or 2 solid fielders in the draft, they could have a strong system again.

20. Cardinals
Pre-trade Ranking: 12
This system has probably dropped the most in the last year since they traded for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. They’ve had some decent drafts since Jeff Luhnow took over the minor league system. I’d expect them to sign another high profile draftee this year.

21. Padres
Pre-trade Ranking: 20
They’re in rebuilding mold, but they need to rebuild the whole system. They have a couple of solid guys, but they need to do more. Hopefully the new ownership and front office will turn things around.

22. Astros
Pre-trade Ranking: 21
They’ve made strides over the last 2 years, but they still have a lot of work to do. As we mentioned in the Astros Roundtable, they have a few trade candidates that could bring some prospects in.

23. Orioles
Pre-trade Ranking: 26
They were solid last year, and still have Matusz in this system. They could be hurting next year when he’s no longer a rookie. They have a couple sleepers in their system, but it’s looking a little bare.

24. Blue Jays
Pre-trade Ranking: 30
J.P. Riccardi did a number on this system. He could have gotten a good package for Halladay mid-season, but they had to settle for less. Of course, they got 2 top 30 prospects in the end; those are their only 2 elite prospects.

25. Cubs
Pre-trade Ranking: 23
If it wasn’t for Stalin Castro, they’d look weak. Vitters could go either way still. They do have some young guys that could progress to elite status, but they have a long way to go.

26. Brewers
Pre-trade Ranking: 24
The Brewers’ system is in a downturn after trying to make some trades to compete. They have a good track record in the last decade of bringing guys through the system, so they should be fine in the long run.

27. Angels
Pre-trade Ranking: 25
I don’t think the system is a high priority for the Angels; they can spend to bring big names in. They don’t mind giving up draft picks, but they’ll need to draft a little stronger to make up for lack of picks.

28. Pirates
Pre-trade Ranking: 28
You would think that since they’ve traded veterans, they’d have a better system. I still think Jose Tabata could be a worth while player, but they only have 1 elite prospect (Alvarez).

29. Phillies
Pre-trade Ranking: 11
They’ve kept the Major League team stocked at the expense of the minors. They’ve given up more than they received back for Lee. Aumont could possibly crack the top 100 next year, but it depends on how he does in the starting rotation.

30. White Sox
Pre-trade Ranking: 27
This system is extremely weak and took a hit when Gordon Beckham graduated to the majors. They have a couple of guys at are close to being into the top prospect status, but we’ll see how they do this year.

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Top 100 Prospects Wed, 31 Mar 2010 18:00:25 +0000 Prospects

Now that we’ver previewed all 30 teams, discussed them, and looked at their top 10 prospects, I’ve put together the Top 100 Prospect List.

When making this list, I looked at their abilities, their proximity to the majors, their potential, and what they’ve already done. You might notice some guys that ranked differently compared to their teammates on the team lists, which is common in making the Top 100 lists.

Also, this list is my opinion. There may be rankings here that you don’t agree with or don’t see on other lists. I base my rankings off of scouting reports, video, and other prospect lists and sites.

Rank Player Pos Team
1 Stephen Strasburg P Nationals
2 Jason Heyward OF Braves
3 Brian Matusz P Orioles
4 Desmond Jennings OF Rays
5 Michael Stanton OF Marlins
6 Jesus Montero C Yankees
7 Neftali Feliz P Rangers
8 Buster Posey C Giants
9 Madison Bumgarner P Giants
10 Chris Carter 1B Athletics
11 Carlos Santana C Indians
12 Dustin Ackley OF Mariners
13 Jarrod Parker P Diamondbacks
14 Justin Smoak 1B Rangers
15 Casey Kelly P Red Sox
16 Pedro Alvarez 3B Pirates
17 Michael Taylor OF Athletics
18 Martin Perez P Rangers
19 Wade Davis P Rays
20 Brett Wallace 1B Blue Jays
21 Logan Morrison 1B Marlins
22 Starlin Castro SS Cubs
23 Aroldis Chapman P Reds
24 Fernando Martinez OF Mets
25 Jeremy Hellickson P Rays
26 Alcides Escobar SS Brewers
27 Kyle Drabek P Blue Jays
28 Domonic Brown OF Phillies
29 Ryan Westmoreland OF Red Sox
30 Jhoulys Chacin P Rockies
31 Derek Norris C Nationals
32 Yonder Alonso 1B Reds
33 Aaron Hicks OF Twins
34 Christian Friedrich P Rockies
35 Eric Hosmer 1B Royals
36 Jacob Turner P Tigers
37 Josh Vitters 3B Cubs
38 Mike Moustakas 3B Royals
39 Wilson Ramos C Twins
40 Josh Bell 3B Orioles
41 Todd Frazier 2B Reds
42 Alex White P Indians
43 Wilmer Flores SS Mets
44 Aaron Crow P Royals
45 Austin Jackson OF Tigers
46 Tyler Matzek P Rockies
47 Nick Hagadone P Indians
48 Dee Gordon SS Dodgers
49 Michael Bowden P Red Sox
50 Shelby Miller P Cardinals
51 Donovan Tate OF Padres
52 Lonnie Chisenhall 3B Indians
53 Freddie Freeman 1B Braves
54 Jason Castro C Astros
55 Brett Lawrie 2B Brewers
56 Jenrry Mejia P Mets
57 Brandon Allen 1B Diamondbacks
58 Drew Storen P Nationals
59 Ryan Kalish OF Red Sox
60 Kyle Gibson P Twins
61 Tyler Flowers C White Sox
62 Mike Leake P Reds
63 Jaff Decker OF Padres
64 Arodys Vizcaino P Braves
65 Tim Beckham SS Rays
66 Casey Crosby P Tigers
67 Matt Dominguez 3B Marlins
68 Mike Montgomery P Royals
69 Michael Saunders OF Mariners
70 Junichi Tazawa P Red Sox
71 Ethan Martin P Dodgers
72 Lars Anderson 1B Red Sox
73 Trevor Reckling P Angels
74 Chris Withrow P Dodgers
75 Grant Green SS Athletics
76 Jaime Garcia P Cardinals
77 Bobby Borchering 3B Diamondbacks
78 Hector Rondon P Indians
79 Julio Teheran P Braves
80 Chris Heisley OF Reds
81 Carlos Carrasco P Indians
82 Jose Iglesias SS Red Sox
83 Daniel Schlereth P Tigers
84 Jordan Lyles P Astros
85 Ike Davis 1B Mets
86 Tim Melville P Royals
87 Carlos Triunfels SS Mariners
88 Ryan Tucker P Marlins
89 Mike Trout OF Angels
90 Manny Banuelos P Yankees
91 Jiovanni Mier SS Astros
92 Simon Castro P Padres
93 Reid Brignac SS Rays
94 Ben Revere OF Twins
95 Aaron Miller P Dodgers
96 Daryl Jones OF Cardinals
97 Chris Marrero 1B Nationals
98 Scott Sizemore 2B Tigers
99 Zach Wheeler P Giants
100 Austin Romine C Yankees

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30 Teams in 30 Days Finale: Predictions Wed, 31 Mar 2010 13:30:13 +0000 General

To end the 30 Teams in 30 Days Roundtables, I’ve asked the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to pick their World Series match up and their picks for the 3 majors awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year).

Jeff Parker:
WS – Cardinals vs Yankees
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – Feliz Hernandez

Dick Smith:
WS – Yankees vs Dodgers. Dodgers win.
NL MVP – Manny Ramirez
AL MVP – Joe Mauer
NL CY – Doc Halladay
AL CY – King Felix
NL ROY – Alcides Escobar
AL ROY – Austin Jackson

Daniel Moroz:
WS – Braves over Mariners
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – Cliff Lee
NL ROY – Stephen Strasburg
AL ROY – Brian Matusz

WS – Red Sox over Cardinals in 6
NL Cy Young – Halladay
AL Cy Young – Verlander
NL MVP – Pujols
NL ROY – Heyward

Bill Parker:
WS – Braves over Rays
NL MVP – Pujols
AL MVP – Mauer
NL CY – Halladay
AL CY – Felix
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Scott Sizemore

Michael Metzger:
WS – Phillies over Rays
NL MVP – Chase Utley
AL MVP – Adam Jones
NL CY – Adam Wainwright
AL CY – Zack Grienke
NL ROY – Starlin Castro
AL ROY – Dustin Ackley

James Rygg:
WS – Angels over Cardinals
NL MVP – Ryan Braun
AL MVP – Evan Longoria
NL CY – Dan Haren
AL CY – Ervin Santana
NL ROY – Justin Heyward
AL ROY – Carlos Santana

Jeff Morrick:
WS – Cardinals over Red Sox in 7
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Victor Martinez
NL CY – Johan Santana
AL CY – Jon Lester
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Scott Sizemore

Daniel Shoptaw:
WS – Cardinals over Yankees in 6
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera
NL CY – Adam Wainwright
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Brian Matusz

Gregg Fertel:
WS: Yankees over Cardinals in 6 games.
NL MVP – Ryan Braun
AL MVP – Mark Teixeira
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Scott Sizemore

Steve Keane:
World Series – Phillies vs. Red Sox. Red Sox Winners.
NL MVP – Chase Utley
AL MVP – Joe Mauer
NL CY – Dan Haren
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Brian Matusz

Chad Jorgenson:
WS – Yankees over Rockies
NL MVP – Ryan Braun
AL MVP – A-Rod
NL CY – Clayton Kershaw
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Aroldis Chapman
AL ROY – Austin Jackson

Matt Seybold:
WS – Phillies over Red Sox
NLCS – Phillies over Brewers
ALCS – Red Sox over Yankees
NL MVP – Prince Fielder (just to be different)
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – C. C. Sabathia
NL ROY – Aroldis Chapman
AL ROY – Trevor Bell

WS – Phillies over Yankees
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Austin Jackson

Warren Parris:
WS – Rockies over Angels
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Ichiro Suzuki
NL CY – Roy Halladay
AL CY – Justin Verlander
NL ROY – Brad Lincoln
AL ROY – Wade Davis

Griffin Cooper:
WS – Yankees over Cardinals
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Evan Longoria
NL CY – Tim Lincecum
AL CY – Felix Hernandez
NL ROY – Stephen Strasburg
AL ROY – Wade Davis

Ron Kaplan:
WS – Angels over Cardinals
NL MVP – David Wright
AL MVP – Joe Mauer
NL CY – Chris Carpenter
AL CY – CC Sabathia
NL ROY – Jason Heyward
AL ROY – Desmond Jennings

Russ Blatt:
Yankees over Cardinals in six games (hopefully I will be there again for Game 6)
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL MVP – Joe Mauer
NL Cy Young – Roy Halladay
AL Cy Young – Felix Hernandez
AL ROY – Jason Heyward
NY ROY – Neftali Feliz

Kerel Cooper:
WS – Cardinals/Yankees
NL MVP – Pujols
AL MVP – Mauer
NL CY – Johan Santana
AL CY – Cliff Lee
NL ROY – Stephen Strasburg
AL ROY – Austin Jackson

Eugene Tierney:
WS – Cardinals over Yankees
NL MVP – Pujols
AL MVP – Longoria
NL CY – Halladay
AL CY – Hernandez
NL ROY – Heyward
AL ROY – Matusz

Totals from predictions:
1. Cardinals – 14
2. Philles – 4
3. Tie – Braves, Rockies – 2

1. Yankees – 12
2. Tie – Angels, Red Sox – 4

1. Albert Pujols – 14
2. Ryan Braun – 3
3. Tie – Chase Utley, David Wright – 2

1. Joe Mauer – 9
2. Alex Rodriguez – 4
3. Evan Longoria – 3

NL Cy Young:
1. Roy Halladay – 12
2. Johan Santana – 3
3. Tie – Chris Carpenter, Dan Haren, Adam Wainwright – 2

AL Cy Young:
1. Felix Hernandez – 12
2. Tie – Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia – 3

NL Rookie of the Year:
1. Jason Heyward – 13
2. Stephen Strasburg – 4
3. Aroldis Chapman – 2

AL Rookie of the Year:
1. Austin Jackson – 5
2. Brian Matusz – 4
3. Scott Sizemore – 3

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects Tue, 30 Mar 2010 23:00:37 +0000 Nationals

1. Stephen Strasburg, P – If you don’t know about Strasburg, you’ve been living under a rock. He’s got an incredible fast ball that can hit triple digits; it also moves and looks like his other pitches coming out of his hand. His curveball has late break and has some horizontal movement; it also comes from the same arm-slot that the fastball comes from. He’s got an above average change-up that he doesn’t use much; he should work on it in the minors to prefect it. He’ll start in Double A, but I wouldn’t be surprise if he was in Washington by June.

2. Derek Norris, C – I’m expecting big things this year from Norris; he’s got approach of someone that’s been in the majors a while. He’s a very disciplined hitter and doesn’t swing for pitches out of the zone. He can recognize pitches better than others in the low minors. He’s still raw as a catcher, since he’s only been behind the plate for 3 years. He’s got the arm for the position, but needs to work on calling games and his footwork; he can’t block balls that well. He’ll still need a minimum of 2 seasons in the minors.

3. Drew Storen, P – The Nationals took Storen with their second first round pick in 2009 knowing he’d be a fast mover. He’s got closer written all over him and will see time in the bullpen this year. There was talk of moving him to the rotation, but I don’t see much to it. He’d need to improve his change-up, but that might take longer than the Nationals would hope.

4. Ian Desmond, SS – It was announced over the weekend that Desmond beat out Christian Guzman for the starting shortstop job. He’s got limited power, but his speed and batting eye should help make up for it. He’s a solid glove in the field too. He won’t be considered an all star, but he’ll be a solid player for years.

5. Danny Espinosa, SS – Espinosa may bump Desmond to second, since he’s a better hitter and fielder. He’s got above average power for a middle infielder. He’s got holes in his swing he needs to iron out and he needs to cut down on his strike outs. He’s got speed, but need to work on his stealing; he was thrown out in a little over a third of his attempts. He’s got great range and a strong arm, so he’ll stick at short.

6. Chris Marrero, 1B – Marrero is a bat only first baseman. He’s got a nice, short swing which generates a good amount of power. He’s still tapping into his power, so he should continue to hit homers as he gets to Triple A and the majors. He needs to work on recognizing off speed pitches, which should lower his strikeout numbers. He should be ready for the majors when Dunn leaves.

7. Destin Hood, OF – Hood is still very raw, but the Nationals liked what they saw enough to take him in the second round of the 2008 draft. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him; he strikes out almost a third of the time he hits. He doesn’t have much speed and has limited power. The power should develop though. He’ll be in Lo-A this year and won’t be ready for the majors for quite a while.

8. Michael Burgess, OF – Burgess has great power, but the current concern is his long swing; it causes a high strike out rate and low average. If he can be a little more patient, he should be able to increase his walk rate, which isn’t horrible now. He also needs to work on his base running, where he was thrown out 8 times in 20 attempts. His arm is suited well for right field and gets good reads on balls hit his direction. He should start in Double A this year.

9. Aaron Thompson, P – Thompson has average pitches, but he has great control of them. The lefty has problems allowing hits, which will only get worse at he moves to Triple A and could limit him to a LOOGY in the majors. He’s got 4 pitches, but only his change-up is a plus pitch. He could see some time in the bullpen this year to get his feet wet, but don’t expect him full time until 2011.

10. Juan Jaime, P – Jaime is a good power arm, but there are questions about his secondary pitches. He hasn’t developed anything to complement his fast ball. At this point, I’d say he’s a reliever; he could be a closer if he can get an average curve or slider.

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals Roundtable Tue, 30 Mar 2010 18:00:35 +0000 Nationals

Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux, Ron Kaplan from Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf and Mike Henderson from Hendo’s Hutch.

Question 1 – Was Stephen Strasburg’s demotion justified?
Ron: Sure. It’s not as if he’s the one piece that will put them over the top. There’s no harm in farming him out, giving him some pro experience. Perhaps, in a couple of months if Marquis, Wang, and Lannan can keep the Nats from sinking to the bottom of the division, the team can reconsider. Of course, if it’s a matter of putting fannies in the seats, that’s another story.

Then there’s that pesky free agent-arbitration eligibility thing…

Mike: The arb and free-agent eligibility is the big-picture issue for both Strasburg and Drew Storen. Especially considering the arb raise Strasburg would likely command after the expiration of his current major-league contract, it’s important from a business point of view that the team extend his arbitration eligibility out as late as possible.

Matt: “Justified” is certainly pushing it. I think it’s safe to say that with Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and Chien-Ming Wang opening the season on the DL, Stephen Strasburg definitely proved that his was one of Washington’s five best options at starting pitcher.

That said, I applaud the move on fiscal grounds. The Nats aren’t going to contend in 2010, but they’re a quietly putting together a team that might be reasonably good a couple years from now. Better to have Strasburg for all of 2016, than for the first two months of this season.

I do not, on the other hand, see any reason to keep him in the minors past midseason, assuming he is dominating. Starting him there helps to relieve some pressure and alleviate the media microscope, but you also want him under the watchful eye of major-league pitching coaches and medical staff. The worst-case scenario for the Nats is having Strasburg develop some kind of arm problem before he gets to the majors. I think he’ll make his first start in Washington sometime around June 1st, after which I expect the Nats to severely limit his innings (and maximize their profits) by pitching him primarily at home.

Daniels: It was probably justified. Honestly, sending the kid out there on opening day without really knowing what he’s going to do against top-tier hitting is just a bad idea. Maybe he mows through an entire lineup, or maybe he gives up 10 runs without getting an out and is ruined forever. Strasburg isn’t going to be hurt by a season in AA or AAA, especially in a season when the Nationals probably aren’t going to contend in a loaded division. Let him season this year, sign a free agent pitcher next season, and let him come up then with a guy who’s better than him to keep him grounded. Nobody’s hurt by that other than Strasburg and his service time.

Question 2 – Can the Nationals attract free agents without over paying?
Ron: Sure they can, but they won’t be the top tier. If the Nats show they’re serious about remaking themselves into a well-maintained organization (which they haven’t been since the early 1990s), that might be a point in their favor. Their minor league outfit is ranked 21st by Baseball America in its 2010 Prospect Handbook, which doesn’t bode too well. Another admittedly lesser factor is more about the quality of life than on the diamond: What does DC have to offer, since the player will be spending considerable time there?

Mike: Few teams can attract quality free agents without overpaying, and the Nats are not one of the few. All the same, they need to bring on good young talent wherever they can find it, both to improve their current standing and as trade chips for prospects to help them continue to rebuild the still-anemic minor-league system. This will be a costly process, but essential if the team wants to contend before 2020.

Matt: The first step for the Nationals is retaining Adam Dunn. Dunn signed with them last offseason mainly out of desperation, as he found his market to be far less lucrative than expected. Assuming he posts another 40 HR, 100 RBI season in 2010, I have to believe he’ll have more suitors this time around. The Nats jumped from 15th to 8th in run-scoring last year largely because of Dunn’s presence. He provided protection for Ryan Zimmerman and RBI opportunities for the players hitting behind him. And, he seemed to be enjoying himself. If the Nats can persuade him to stay for another three or four years, the combo of him and Z-Pack, as well as an improved pitching staff, should make Washington a much more appealing destination for other free agents.

A good start would be finishing higher than fourth place, something which has happened only once in the last thirteen seasons. While 2010 probably isn’t the season they achieve this goal, the stable of young pitchers led by Stephen Strasburg and John Lannan makes me optimistic that by 2011 the Nationals will be featuring the best rotation they’ve had since moving to D.C. That should be enough to help them move toward .500 or better.

In the end, the Nationals best players are probably going to be groomed from within, as is the case for most contending mid-market franchises. They need to pay close attention to the models of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, and Arizona, organizations operating with roughly the same financial restraints (although Minnesota may surge ahead starting this season) who have managed to put a consistently competitive product on the field.

In most cases, the Nationals should not be targeting elite free agents, but rather looking for good complimentary players who might come at a discount. They’ve done a pretty good job of this recently, evidenced by the signings of Dunn, Adam Kennedy, Chien-Ming Wang, and Matt Capps. (I’m not so crazy about Jason Marquis and Pudge Rodriguez, but they were also relatively cheap, and I see the logic.)

If the Nats want to turn Zimmerman and Strasburg into franchise players, they need to field a contending team by 2013, after which Z-Pack becomes a free agent. Four years is certainly a reasonable amount of time to get this organization on the right track, considering the number of quality players already in the fold.

Daniels: It depends on what they look like when this season closes. I think the Nationals are going to make a little run this season and fade in the second half as their younger players run out of juice. If the team looks good, then they can probably pay market rate for free agents. If they still look catastrophically bad, not so much. But — the Nats are going to have a decent core of young pitchers, they have pretty good position players, and they’ll likely take Bryce Harper with the first pick in this year’s draft and rush him to rookie ball and the fall league. They can appeal to a big free agent’s ego with a “you’re the one thing that we need to get over the hump” sales job. It might cost them an additional guarantee year but, ultimately, that’s usually worth it.

Question 3 – Which player could break out this year?
Ron: Strausburg, obviously. Dunn and Zimmerman will be expected to do as they have done before, so there’s nothing to “break out” from. On the other hand, Wang might make a good comeback story. And don’t forget: Every team Marquis has been on since his debut has made it to the post-season. I’m just sayin’.

Mike: JD Martin, if he’s given a full season to prove himself in the rotation, could turn in a sub-4 ERA which would look pretty good on this staff.

Matt: A couple weeks ago, I probably would’ve answered this question by talking about Elijah Dukes. Alas, his breakout will have to happen elsewhere.

Nyjer Morgan hit .351 with 24 SB after joining the Nationals. This year, he’ll open the season as their everyday centerfielder and leadoff man and I think he’s capable of doing a pretty good Jacoby Ellsbury impression (but with better defense).

With Strasburg, Zimmerman, and Detwiler unavailable, at least for a couple months, the Nats would love it if somebody like Wang, Martin, or Craig Stammen stepped up and made a long-term claim on their spot in the rotation.

For me, however, the real “breakout” candidate is John Lannan. Lannan is just 25-years-old and has already had back-to-back seasons with 30+ starts and an ERA under 4.00. I like betting on third-year starting pitchers in their mid-twenties and although Lannan doesn’t have overpowering stuff like Chad Billingsley or David Price, he is a groundball machine, who with one small step forward could resemble Derek Lowe in his prime. The presence of Wang, a veteran sinkerballer, should be helpful, but most of all, the Nats improving offense and bullpen, might help Lannan pick up more then 9 wins (his total for both ’08 and ’09).

Ron: Let’s just hope it’s not out of jail…

Daniels: I have to agree on the huge year for John Lannan. As a fellow Siena grad, I only hope good things for him.

Question 4 – What place will the Nationals finish?
Ron: Fifth, even with a good year, unless the Braves collapse and finish there. I can’t see anyone else dropping into the basement.

Daniels: I honestly think this is the year the Marlins just can’t do it anymore. I think the Nationals pick up fourth in the division with about 75 wins. Next season, I think they’ll be terrifying.

Mike: Fifth. Not a galactically distant fifth as in the past two seasons, but still fifth.

Matt: I’d agree with Daniels, not necessarily about the Marlins specifically, but I think all three NL East borderline contenders – Braves, Mets, and Marlins – have pretty serious issues and a little bad luck could see one of them falling back of a maturing Nats team. I expect the Nats pitching will improve dramatically over the course of the season, as they get older and reinforcements become available in the form of Chien-Ming Wang, Strasburg, Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, and, depending on the progress of his rehab, maybe even Jordan Zimmerman by the end of the year. It will be very interesting to see how they deal with Adam Dunn and, to a lesser extent, Cristian Guzman, both of whom could have some value at the trade deadline. Their desire to resign Dunn doesn’t necessarily mean they can offer him up as a rent-a-player in July (Kenny Lofton, for instance, played a season with the Braves in ’97 before the Indians resigned him in ’98). But if Dunn gets a taste of the pennant race, will he even consider coming back?

Eugene: The Nationals did say they were not going to talk extension until Dunn proves he’s a capable first baseman. It could be their way of saying that he could be moved without saying it.

I see them in last, but as other have said, they will improve. If they can develop some hitters to complement the young pitchers, they’ll be in a good spot.

Daniels: Dunn is a DH is a National Leaguer’s body. His future is on an AL team… or the Mets.

Ron: Nah, he’s too healthy for the Mets. Let’s wait awhile. Then we can say he’s Over and Dunn.

Matt: I’m a big believer in the defensive metrics, but I think the trend worked spectacularly to Washington’s benefit in terms of Dunn’s contract. Dunn’s utter consistency, his durability, and his annual 900+ OPS are truly rare qualities, even in bumbling defenders. Wouldn’t you rather preserve you DH spot for somebody who’s fragile? Dunn has played 152+ games in seven of his eight seasons, despite the fact that he looked like Crash Davis is the outfield for much of that time. The cascading effect he has on the lineup everyday due to his patience and power is something the Nats would have a very hard time replacing at $10-$12 Million a year. Not to mention, by all accounts Dunn is an affable, fun-loving clubhouse presence.

Should Dunn make Mark Texeira money? Certainly not. But here’s a brief list of some of the players making more than Adam Dunn: Aaron Rowand, Chipper Jones, Travis Hafner, and Jose Guillen. I’ll pay for defense up the middle, but give me a fat, healthy, iron-gloved 40 HR slugger at first base for $10 Million and I’ll say thank you, thank you very much. My infielders will just have to work on throwing more accurately and remember how much they enjoy hitting in front of him.

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals Preview Tue, 30 Mar 2010 13:00:14 +0000 Nationals

Washington Nationals

Last Year: 59-103 (-34)
Over/Under: 70.5 (-125/-105)

Notable Gains

  • Brian Bruney
  • Matt Capps
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Jason Marquis
  • Ivan Rodriguez
  • Doug Slaten
  • Chien-Ming Wang

Notable Losses

  • Josh Bard
  • Marco Estrada
  • Livan Hernandez
  • Austin Kearns
  • Wil Ledezma
  • Mike MacDougal
  • Jorge Padilla
  • Saul Rivera
  • Zack Segovia
  • Jorge Sosa
  • Dmitri Young
  • Three Things To Love

    1) The General Manager: The Nationals might have had done the best free agent work this offseason. They grabbed Chien-Ming Wang at a discount. They picked up Pudge to work with an underrated staff of young pitchers. They seriously upgraded a bad bullpen by picking up both Matt Capps and Brian Bruney. They infinitely upgraded at 2B by signing Adam Kennedy to replace Anderson Hernandez. The Nationals made great bargain-basement moves. Credit there goes to the general manager – finding discounts where they were available and, if the media is to be believed, drafting really well.

    2) The Ownership: To this point, Jim Lerner appears to be proactive in building a future winner. They paid big money to bring in Stephen Strasburg. I’m presuming they’ll pay the same big money to draft Bryce Harper in June. The Expos, after nearly two decades of suck, look to be finally out of the dark and on the brink of good things. Giving them the benefit of the doubt on Strasburg, their second pick in the draft has future closer written on him. Coupled with a willingness to shop in the Free Agency Marshalls, the Nats might even be somewhat competitive this season.

    3) The Future: People say this about the Blue Jays and the Orioles all the time, but with the Nationals it’s really true: The Nats are about a year away from being jaw-droppingly good. Their rotation will be (fellow Siena Grad) John Lannan, Strasburg, Wang, Jason Marquis, and a huge mix of largely competent 22-year-old pitchers. And, if Bryce Harper is the real deal, their core will be Adam Dunn (presuming they can re-sign him), Ryan Zimmerman, Rule V pickup Jesus Flores, Adam Kennedy, Harper, and Nyjer Morgan. That’s a pretty solid group of young players that will look really good in this division when Philly’s contracts start expiring in 2012. If the Nationals are smart in a deep 2011 free agent market, they’re going to be contending for this division maybe by next year and definitely by 2012.

    Three Things To Hate

    1) As mentioned above – they’re still a team in transition. Next year will probably be a pretty good time. Unfortunately, this season looks like it’s still going to the standard Expos/Nationals poor 70-win effort. Fortunately, the team is still new enough with a big enough investment in the city that there’s no chance of them calling the whole thing off. As a city of transients, one can hope for the road teams to keep the stadium populated. Then, if the city’s lucky, a good team can start bringing in local fans and, hopefully, winning some fans from pitiful Baltimore.

    2) However, speaking of attendance, the Nationals should probably bring their ticket prices somewhat in to whack for a 70-win team. Folks, good seats for a bad team shouldn’t be more than $50. They shouldn’t be more than $20. In the Expos last few seasons in Montreal, tickets on the third baseline were $15. Canadian. And, for God’s sake, replace the Walgreen’s W with your DC logo. It’s infinitely better and not already reserved by a chain pharmacy.

    3) The television. Good lord, Washington – could you have put the home plate camera any further above the field than you did? Watching the game on television makes me feel like I’m sitting in the $2 seats at Shea Stadium. Why in the world would you design your stadium in such a way to make your camera angles suck so hard? This is my first chance to complain about it so, well, consider this a complaint. I understand you’re probably bitter about being a franchise without your own broadcast rights (which, by the way, is possibly the second worst sports’ business decision in recent memory — the first being the Jets remaining in Giants’ Stadium instead of moving to Queens — and will likely be the reason the Nationals move sometime in the next ten years), but do you have to punish all of us?

    Three Things That Will Be Fun To Watch

    1) Stephen Strasburg: Obviously with all the hype surrounding this guy, he’s going to be like a wrapped Christmas present until he makes his presence felt on the roster. Of course, should the Nationals stay out of contention all year, there’s also nothing wrong with keeping him down in the minors to keep the clock frozen until 2011. The only reason to bring Strasburg up this season is if the team’s in some sort of contention by June or July or if they desperately need to sell some tickets to make ends meet. The former is unlikely. The latter… kind of likely.

    2) The 2010 Draft: Bryce Harper was featured in an SI article last year. His plan was to get his GED so he’d be eligible to declare for the draft as soon as he cleared the age limit. The gist of the article was, first, he’s the best MLB prospect since A-Rod and, second, he’s kind of already an entitled douche. The Nationals already put a huge chunk of change in to the draft with the Strasburg signing and it seems likely they’ll have to put a good chunk in to Harper as well. But, as I mentioned before, the Nationals’ management gets it: there’s no chance for them to build through free agency (only the Yankees can do that), so they need to have three or four solid draft classes (two down) in a row with some solid trades and Rule V pick-ups.

    3) John Lannan: Maybe for me more than most as he went to my old college roommate’s high school and graduated from our alma mater. I can’t help but root for Lannan when he’s on the mound.

    Summary: As mentioned in the Marlins’ preview: I think this is the year that the young Marlin players just kind of run out of gas playing in front of a dead stadium. I think this opens up the Nationals to be the “Spunky Young Team Makin A Run” crown in the league this year. That’s probably good for fourth place in a pretty loaded division. As I said, though, next year might be very different.

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    30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects Mon, 29 Mar 2010 23:00:05 +0000 Blue Jays

    1. Brett Wallace, 1B – The Blue Jays drafted Wallace out of high school in 2005, but he passed to play at Arizona State. He’s ended up in Toronto after he was traded for Michael Taylor. Wallace will fit well, as Lyle Overbay is in his last year of his contract and Wallace is a better profile for first base. He can hit for power and decent average. He can take a walk and doesn’t strike out a lot, like most first basemen. He was a third baseman in college, but scout don’t like his body for the position; he’s built like Jim Thome, who also started at third before his move to first.

    2. Kyle Drabek, P – Drabek, son of former big leaguer Doug Drabek, is close to being ready. He’s got a mid-90s fastball and a top notch curve. He’s also working on a change up that could be an above average offering. He’s a Tommy John survivor and has shown no issues with control. His main concern right now is building up his durability. If he can have a strong showing in the minors and be healthy, he’ll be up by September.

    3. Zach Stewart, P – There are questions about Stewart’s role in the Majors – starter or reliever. He’s got 3 pitches (low-90s fastball, slider, change-up) that are all average, with the change being the weakest of the 3. He needs to work on control a bit, as he’s looked shaky with each promotion last year. His K-rate did improve with each move though (6.80 to 7.54 to 10.52). He’s a groundball pitcher, which makes him a valuable starter, possibly a #3 man.

    4. Travis D’Arnaud, C – D’Arnaud had a good year at Lo-A in 2009. His batting average was a little low, but it due to bad luck (.279 BABIP vs .255 BA). He’s got a solid approach and good walk and strikeout rates; those could change as he climbs through the minors. He’s solid defensively, but needs to work on getting base runners out (23% thrown out last year). He’s got time to work on that, as he won’t be ready for at least 2 years.

    5. Chad Jenkins, P – Jenkins, drafted in 2009, is big framed pitcher that doesn’t have a fire-ball arm. His fast ball sits around 90, but had good sink to it. His other pitches are solid as well (slider and change-up). He’s got the endurance to eat innings and gets groundballs. He’ll end up a #3 starter at best. He’ll make his pro debut this year, most likely at Hi-A.

    6. Brad Mills, P – Mills won’t blow you away, but he’s got the pitches to be a back of the rotation starter. His fastball tops out at 90 and normally sits in the high-80s. He’s got a plus change-up and an average curveball. He made 2 starts for the Blue Jays in 2009, and neither were amazing. He looked like he didn’t have confidence in his fastball and curve, which caused him to lose control of them. He’ll need to work on that before he’ll get another shot.

    7. David Cooper, 1B – Cooper had a down year, as he couldn’t hit for average or power in Double A. He can make contact and take a pitch, but he doesn’t look like he could push Brett Wallace out of the way for the first base job. Some scouts compare him to Lyle Overbay for his approach and limited power. He’ll probably top out at Triple A this year, with a possible MLB debut in September.

    8. Josh Roenicke, P – This is his make or break year, as he’s 27 and almost too old for a prospect. He’s got closer stuff – a high-90s fastball and great slider – and should be a regular in the bullpen. He gets strike outs, but has had control problems in the past. He’s not a groundball pitcher, so he could be prone to give up a couple of homers. I expect that he’ll be up with the Jays all season.

    9. Brad Emaus, 2B – Emaus has good tools, but none that stick out as great. He can hit for decent power and average, he’s can swipe a few bases, and has good plate discipline. He saw a slight decline in his stats as he moved up to Double A, but his BABIP dropped which may have been bad luck. His defense is at least average, so he’ll be a solid major leaguer when he’s ready. He’ll start the season in Double A and should be up with Triple A by the end of the year.

    10. J.P. Arencibia, C – Arencibia is going to have to work to be the catcher for Toronto. He’s stalled in Triple A this past year, as his bat took the year off (.236/.284/.444). He’s capable of hitting for good power, but needs to lower his strikeouts and increase his walks. Part of his 2009 problems were a kidney issue and astigmatism; both problems resulted in off-season surgery. His defense has improved, but he’ll be nothing more than an average defensive catcher. That makes his bat that much more important; if he improves this year, he could be catching in Canada in 2011.

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    30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays Roundtable Mon, 29 Mar 2010 18:00:10 +0000 Blue Jays

    Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux and Dick Smith from 1 Blue Jays Way.

    Question 1 – Did the team get enough for Roy Halladay? Would they have gotten more last July?
    Trent: No. They might have gotten more, but more is still not really good enough for this team. Maybe if they had taken up Lee instead of Drabek (or maybe both) in the latter trade would they have come out somewhere near even in the long run. I think it will be asking a lot for the Jays to make up that kind of production in the AL East, considering that Halladay was the one pitcher that made all opposing lineups stand up and take notice. That’s close to 25 wins they’re going to have to make up for and that isn’t something that gets replaced with ease.

    Matt: I strongly believe they could’ve gotten more if they had traded Halladay at the deadline last season, when teams would’ve had the opportunity to ride him to two postseasons before he was eligible to become a free agent, rather than just one. The failure to do so clearly led to the dismissal of J. P. Riccardi, who did a lot of good things in Toronto, but clearly bumbled and misread the market for Halladay from the beginning. That said, the package they did finally receive from Philadelphia/Oakland has some promising players in it. I expect Kyle Drabek and Brett Wallace will both be in the major leagues sometime this season and could make an impact as early as 2011.

    Warren: Not really. They could have gotten more last July because players closer to free agency tend to draw way to little and they could have gotten something better if he was traded in July when teams were looking for depth and a strong starting pitcher come playoff time.

    Dick: Could it ever really be enough? Sorry to answer a question with a question but he was all we had to cheer for sometimes. Roy Halladay is a dominant pitcher in the major leagues. A true ace. Anything short of that in return is a downgrade.

    That being said, it is unfair to evaluate this trade yet. The young player we received are all top prospects. Considering what the Twins got in return for Johan, I think we did alright.

    With respect to the deadline, unfortunately our former GM was a lying piece of garbage. I tuned him out years ago. Therefore based on what he said this deal was not available back then. But he is about as truthful as Tiger Woods.

    I think if we could have dealt him to Boston or the Yankees, then we could have got more. But that would have been suicide for J.P. Whatever fans we have left would have gone nuts, myself included.

    Don’t forget, Doc had a no trade clause. I’m sure he said no to a few destinations with better packages…..

    The way J.P. went about that entire ordeal no doubt cost him his job. Classless to the end.

    Daniels: I think they got what they could for him. Players with no-trade clauses are a pain and Philly was clearly the destination they had in mind all season. Philly likely would have given them about what they gave up anyway. I still think Riccardi’s best move was to give away Halladay for peanuts to an NL team with the condition they take Vernon Wells and at least 3/4ths the salary — then pray to every deity ever conceived that Wells have an insane 2010 and opt out of his current deal. In that case, they get more than prospects — they get $23M/year to spend on people who are good at baseball.

    Question 2 – How soon until we see Brett Wallace?
    Matt: I think that will depend mainly on the performance/progress of Edwin Encarnacion, Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, Lyle Overbay, Randy Ruiz, and whoever else gets thrown into the 1B/3B/OF/DH mix. We won’t see Wallace before the end of May, for certain, because the Jays will be looking to set back his arbitration clock. If the above players have performed fairly well up to that point (or if Wallace hasn’t been particularly productive at AAA), then we probably won’t see him until the second half, or even September.

    However, I doubt that will be the case. In all likelihood Wallace will get the call sometime in June or July. Even if Bautista, Overbay, and Ruiz play well, I think it is almost certain that the Jays would be willing to trade any one them at the deadline.

    From what I can gather (I haven’t actually seen him play), Wallace makes more sense at 1B or DH than at 3B. Overbay seems like the most likely trade bait, as many contenders might covet him as a left-handed pinch-hitter and defensive replacement (see Casey Kotchman in ’09). The Jays won’t get much in return because he has a relatively large, expiring contract, but they’d probably trade him for a 35th round draft pick at this point.

    Eugene: I think it’s a monetary reason that he won’t start the season with the big league club, plus the fact they couldn’t trade Lyle Overbay. Wallace won’t be playing third, the Blue Jays have already said that; the production of Encarnacion will have nothing to do with Wallace. They had the deal lined up for Chris Snyder of Arizona, but were scared off because of medical concerns. I think they will be able to trade him, but not get much back, as Matt said.

    Matt: The only reason Encarnacion’s performance/health could come into play is that impacts how they use Jose Bautista, Randy Ruiz, etc. I don’t think Encarnacion will be the player replaced in the lineup by Wallace, nor will he be a player the Jays look to trade, but if he can only play DH because of the wrist injury, that could block Wallace from that position (which may be where he makes the most sense eventually). If he can only play infrequently or not at all during his rehabilitation, that could help speed Wallace’s path to the bigs. The recovery time after wrist injuries is very difficult to gauge (see Big Papi, Derrek Lee, etc.), so I think the Jays can’t expect much from Encarnacion this season, especially in terms of power.

    Dick: I’m thinking Sept. call up. Even if we trade Overbay at the deadline or before, Wallace is learning a new position. Speaking of which, why are we changing this kid to a 1B? If he is comfortable at third why move him? I have never seen him play, but a 3B is obviously more valuable than a 1B. Is he THAT bad there?

    Matt brings up a good point about service time. I think our new GM is going to be schooling us all on that in the coming years. No way he lets Wallace, Drabek or the Cuban become super two’s, even if they are ready to play in the big leagues.

    I like the thought of having some lefthanded power in the line up moving forward. Snider, Lind and Wallace…

    Eugene: He profiles as a first baseman; he’s got a wide base and his body has been compared to Jim Thome and Prince Fielder. I saw him briefly at the Futures Game and made a great play to his left. I still think he could be a league average third baseman if given the chance, but no one appears ready give it to him. That’s why the Cardinals traded him for Matt Holliday.

    I agree, it is somewhat surprising that nobody’s been willing to give Wallace a chance at the hot corner, especially since both the Cardinals and Athletics had very little talent blocking him at that position.

    After all, some bruisers have been okay there (Pablo Sandoval, Ken Caminiti, etc.). However, the trend recently has been away from playing big-time power-hitters at the position, even if they are okay defensively, as guys like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis, Aubrey Huff, and Russell Branyan all got moved across the diamond. I have to believe the main reason is to protect their health. Third baseman get hurt more often. I don’t know why that is, but it is a fact.

    In Toronto, Wallace’s mediocrity at the position might be further exposed by the fact that he’d be playing 81 games a year on turf, noted for both it’s difficulty for infielders and it’s tendency to be tough on knees and backs, one of the reasons Scott Rolen was traded despite his productivity at the plate and in the field.

    Eugene: Some of those guys were moved to make the team better or because they couldn’t handle the position. Pujols was moved for Rolen (well, he was first moved for Polanco since he could handle the position well and Pujols was fine in the outfield) and Youkilis was moved for Mike Lowell (and his bloated contract). Cabrera was moved because he was too out of shape to handle the position.

    I don’t think this is a trend in baseball – I think this is teams trying to be better by getting the right guys in the line up and preserving their high dollar investments.

    Question 3 – What should be expected of Brandon Morrow? Rotation or Bullpen?Question 3 – What should be expected of Brandon Morrow? Rotation or Bullpen?

    Matt: Morrow, though he doesn’t get nearly as much press, has followed almost exactly the same career path as Joba Chamberlain. He was a first-round pick who the Mariners rushed to the majors at the age of 22, after which they bounced him back and forth from rotation to bullpen, and even to the minor-leagues, perhaps stunting his development and maybe even exacerbating his injury issues, then gave up on him shortly after he turned 25.

    Morrow, like Chamberlain, has clearly been more successful (and more comfortable) in the bullpen, where his strikeout rate rises from 8.1 K/9 to 10.1 K/9 and his ERA falls from 4.42 to 3.65. However, I can see the temptation to turn him into the starter, where, if successful, he’d be much more valuable.

    Whatever Toronto decides, they need to commit to it, at least for the entirety of 2010. Considering the fact that Toronto’s bullpen already has a few solid arms and there are facing injury concerns with starters McGowan, Cecil, Marcum, and Richmond, it makes sense that they try to slot him into the rotation. If it doesn’t work out, they can turn him into a late-inning reliever in 2011, at which point reinforcements will have arrived in the form of Cecil, Drabek, etc., while closer candidates Downs, Frasor, and Gregg may all have become free agents.

    Dick: Brandon Morrow will start. Period. If he is unable to put it together at the Major League level, he will be optioned to AAA.

    The expectations on this young man in Seattle were immense. Being drafted before Tim Lincecum tends to do that. The switch from reliever to starter and back again definitely played a large part in his availability. Sure, his numbers are better in the bullpen and he may end up being a late inning guy somewhere down the road but for the next few years he will be given every opportunity to start for us here in Toronto. If he can develop his change up, his third pitch, then his chances increase greatly that he will stick in the five man rotation.

    It should be noted that he has never pitched above 70 innings in the big leagues. He will and should be capped around 100 innings this season which translates to about 20 starts. Look for reinforcements like Jesse Litsch or Shawn Hill to jump into his spot around late July.

    Eugene: I had high expectations before last season for Morrow, but the way the Mariners handled him had killed my expectations. Hopefully the Blue Jays are a little better to him. I’d say give him a season in Triple A as a starter to see what he does there. If he succeeds, he’ll have a good shot at the rotation in 2011.

    Question 4 – What place will the Blue Jays finish in?
    Matt: The rebuilding Jays won’t be too concerned with the standings this season, which is a good thing, since it seems like last place is probably a foregone conclusion in their deep, dominant division. Anything over 70 wins would have to be considered a great sign for the future.

    Dick: Dead last in the AL East, maybe even the entire AL.

    We won 75 games last season and that included contributions from Scott Rolen and Alex Rios for roughly two thirds of the season. We replaced them with Edwin Encarnasion and Jose Bautista. That win total also includes a full season of Roy Halladay and Marco Scutaro. We replaced them with Brandon Morrow and Alex Gonzalez. I hate to be so negative before the season even starts but I think we may be in danger of flirting with the teams fourth 100 loss season.

    Eugene: While I think last is possible, the Orioles could fight them for it. It appears that Toronto at least has somewhat of a plan for rebuilding. The Orioles will be relying on a lot of young pitching, where the Blue Jays have some guys with more experience. I think in the end they’ll win last place by being a game or 2 worse than Baltimore.

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    30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays Preview Mon, 29 Mar 2010 13:00:23 +0000 Blue Jays

    Toronto Blue Jays – 75-87, 4th Place in American League East, 28 Games Back

    2009 Review – At the end of the 2008 season, there was promise up in Toronto. They had arguably one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. They were led by Roy Halladay (20-11, 2.78 ERA), A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.07 ERA), Shaun Marcum (9-7, 3.39 ERA) and B.J. Ryan (32 Saves). That staff led the American League in ERA, Complete Games, Hits, Runs Against, ERA and Home Runs Allowed. On the offensive side, the team needed an upgrade as they were in the Top Nine in The American League in only Doubles and Triples. The offense needed help. But, led by that pitching staff the Jays finished 86-76, 11 games behind the A.L. East winner.

    The Jays opened the 2009 season with a 15-9 record in April and on May 18th, they were 27-14 and leading the American League East. The Jays then lost nine in a row and the season downspin started and finished the remainder of the season 48-63.

    There were bright spots during this lost season for the Jays. Roy Halladay continued his dominance of the American League with a 17-10 record, with a 2.79 ERA. Rookie Ricky Romero had a 13-9 record. Fellow rookie Brett Cecil won 7 of the 18 games he started.

    The offense was led by Aaron Hill, batting .286 with 36 home runs, 108 runs batted in and 103 runs scored. In his first full season, Adam Lind batted .305 with 35 home runs, 114 runs batted in and scoring 93 runs. Marco Scutaro had an excellent season, and before his trade to the Reds, Scott Rolen was batting .320 for the Jays.

    The disappointments were many, and the team had the potential trade of Roy Halladay lingering throughout the news. In the end, the fourth place finish with other financial problems for the organization would be a sign of things to come.

    On December 16, Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies for three prospects. As a condition of the trade, Halladay extended his contract for three seasons for $60 million. Many of the potential free agents declared their free agency and left the Jays. Kevin Millar, Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro will not be Jays in 2010. Reliever Brandon League was traded to Seattle for Brandon Morrow. Other roster subtractions from the 2009 season include Brian Bocock, Bryan Bullington, Brian Burres, Johermyn Chavez, Joe Inglett and Brian Wolfe.

    With all roster subtractions, there are additions. In the Halladay trade, the Jays received Kyle Drabek (son of former pitcher Doug Drabek) who was the top pitching prospect for the Phillies, Travis D’Arnaud and Brett Wallace (received from the A’s). Brandon Morrow (who will be 25 this season) was received in the Brandon League trade. Kevin Gregg was signed to be a potential closer. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez signed from the Red Sox. Other roster additions will include John Buck, Dana Eveland, Sean Henn, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Zach Jackson, Mike McCoy, Jose Molina and Merkin Valdez. The organization also signed the following players to minor league contracts with the invitations to spring training: Lance Broadway, Willie Collazo, Joey Gathright, Shawn Hill, Jorge Padilla, Jeremy Reed and Steven Register.

    2010 Preview – One thing we know about the Toronto Blue Jays, they will not compete for the American League East crown. They traded their best pitcher, have a pitching staff that has more questions than answers, their most expensive player coming off a poor season and other offensive deficiencies. So, where is the hope for the fans in the great White North?

    The pitching staff DOES have potential. Shaun Marcum will return this season from his injuries. Young pitchers Brandon Morrow, Dana Eveland and even Kyle Drabek could hold down spots in the rotation and second year pitcher Ricky Romero will return and probable be the number one pitcher for the Jays. How many games can this starting rotation can win? 50 games from these pitchers would be a good beginning and 60 wins from the starting rotation would be a great season to build the future upon.

    Vernon Wells should have a better season. He had off-season surgery to repair a sore left wrist. He is signed for five more seasons and no other organization wants that contract. He will be 32 this season and has many years ahead of him in the sport of baseball. The Jays can only hope that Wells can increase his offensive production and once again be a team leader for a very young organization.

    Speaking of Wells and financial obligations…The Jays will have salary obligations of about $70 million in 2010, down from $80 million in 2009 and $97 million in 2008. The trio of Wells ($16 million), Roy Halladay (owed $10 million in 2010) and B.J. Ryan (owed $6 million in 2010) make up 45 percent of the commitments. The Jays are becoming a “small market” team.

    Aaron Hill and Adam Lind will continue to improve. Travis Snider, after struggling his rookie season, will improve in his second major league season. The Jays have young players with potential and prospects that can make major impacts in the years to come.

    The Jays play in a division with three of the strongest organizations in the American League. They can not and will not compete for any division championship in 2010. They play 57 games against those teams as they did in 2009, winning 17 of 57 games against those teams. The goal for this organization should be to develop their young players, find a way to shed some unwanted salary from previous poor signings and to finish above the Baltimore Orioles.

    Good luck Canada.

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    30 Teams in 30 Days: Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects Sun, 28 Mar 2010 23:00:18 +0000 Rangers

    1. Neftali Feliz, P – Do you think the Braves regret the trade for Mark Teixeira? Feliz was a part of that deal, and now he looks like an ace in the making. He’s got a high-90s fastball that moves and sinks. He’s got an OK curve that works well because of his deceptive delivery – it looks like his fastball coming out of his hand. He’s got a change-up that he’s still working on and he’s got a 4th pitch that people can’t identify – it ranges from 2 seam fastball to cutter to faster version of his change up. He’ll be in the rotation this year.

    2. Martin Perez, P – Perez took a giant step forward in 2009, even with the Rangers limiting his work. He’s very advanced for his age (he’ll be 20 this year) and pitched great against older talent. He’s got decent mechanics, but there are concerns about his arm action. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and could get faster as he matures. He’s got a sharp curve and a deceptively slow change-up. His command of his pitches are pretty good. I think he could see some bullpen time in a September call up.

    3. Justin Smoak, 1B – Smoak could be a factor this year for the Rangers; he’s pretty much ready. His power was done last year due to an oblique injury. I think he’ll start the season in Triple A to prove that. He can hit for power and average, while providing league average defense at first. He’ll be a clean up hitter in his prime.

    4. Tanner Scheppers, P – Scheppers was drafted by the Rangers in 2009, after he didn’t sign with the Pirates in 2008. He was coming off a stress fracture in his shoulder and a stint in the American Association, where he was attempting to prove he was healthy. He made his affiliated debut in the Arizona Fall League, where he was throwing his fastball between 94 and 96. He’s got a good slider and a change-up that needs a lot of work. Right now, he could be a mid-rotation starter, but I don’t see him as anything higher than a #2 starter.

    5. Wilmer Font, P – Font is built like a future workhorse – 6’4”, 210 lbs – and he’s only 19. As he developes, he could add another couple of MPHs to his mid-90s fastball. He also has a curve and change-up, but needs to work on his command (4.90 BB/9). He gets a good amount of strikeouts and gives up few home runs; he also doesn’t keep the ball on the ground – something he’ll need to improve on. He’ll probably start out in Hi-A this year.

    6. Michael Main, P – Main has the potential to be a front of the rotation starter, but there are a few concerns. First off, he’s not made ore than 16 starts in a season since he’s been drafted. 2009 was pretty much lost to serious viral infection. Secondly, he’s got 3 pitches that could be average; he’ll need to make those better to be a top of the line starter. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, his curve is pretty good, and his change-up needs some work. He could be used as a reliever based off the durability concerns and solid 2 pitches. 2010 is his chance to prove himself.

    7. Kasey Kiker, P – Kiker had a strong 2009 in Double A, where he gave up less than a hit per inning and had 8.57 K/9, but also saw his BB/9 jump to 4.71. He’s got a solid mid-90s fastball, a plus change-up, and a good curve ball; a solid repertoire for a mid-rotation pitcher. He needs to work on his ground ball rate, especially pitching in Arlington, and his lefty/righty splits. He’ll spend this year in Triple A.

    8. Danny Gutierrez, P – I put Gutierrez this high for his potential, which we saw flashes of in 2008. He’s got a low-90s fastball that has good movement and a plus curve. He could be a prefect closer of the future. He needs to prove that he can stay healthy and out of trouble for that to happen; he’s had 3 brushes with the law since the beginning of 2008. He’ll attempt to show that he’s matured after he serves a 50 game suspension for an ADD drug, which he has a prescription for that he didn’t report to the Rangers.

    9. Mitch Moreland, OF – Moreland has come out of nowhere to become one of the better prospects in the system. The 17th round pick from 2007 split last year between Hi-A and Double A. He hits for average and had decent power for a corner outfielder. He doesn’t strike out much and makes good contact. He could have to move to first base, due to limited range in the outfield; his arm is very good though.

    10. Max Ramirez, C – Ramirez is ready for the MLB, but the question is where? He won’t stick at catcher, because of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden ahead of him and because he’s not very good at the position. His future lies at first base, which is fine because his bat works there. He won’t hit for average, but he’s got tons of power. Ramirez has said he’s ready for the switch in positions, so he may spend a year in Triple A working on it.

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