Ask Daniel Rathman what you need to know.
Daniel Rathman: Welcome, everyone! Break out those party hats and wish a happy birthday to Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, who ranks third on the all-time home run list for players born on September 5.
Alex (Anaheim): The Yankees are going to survive this...right?
Daniel Rathman: Stranger things have happened, but I can't imagine the Yankees missing the playoffs. The O's and Rays will give them a run for their money, but it's hard to imagine all of those bats slumping much longer. And remember, the Yankees finish the season with 10 games against the Blue Jays, Twins, and Red Sox, so even if they cough up the lead now, they'll have plenty of chances to recover.
Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): 101 steals, twelve bombs and a bunch of walks. Is Delino DeShields jr. a top 100 prospect heading into 2013?
Daniel Rathman: The key in this stat line to me, the flashy steals number notwithstanding, are the walks, which resulted in a .401 OBP for Low-A Lexington before the Astros bumped DeShields up to High-A. He's slumped since then, but you can dream on DeShields as a very dynamic leadoff man if all breaks right, with an ETA of 2015, per KG's Top 11 list heading into the season. That said, I wouldn't have him on my top 100 list yet; I'd want to see him prove the bat in High-A, because he didn't excel until his second go-round in the Sally League.
Cain you suck my posey (SF): Do you envision Xavier Nady making an impact for the gyros (knock on wood) we make the playoffs? Or is he just a filler
Daniel Rathman: I don't see Nady making a big impact, but he's better now than Francisco Peguero is, which is what the Giants need. I'd still rather see Gregor Blanco out there for his glove, but anyone who won't hack at sliders darting for their back foot is an upgrade at the moment.
Todd Gack (New York, NY): Should the Yankees miss the playoffs, how do you think it impacts their plan to get below the luxury tax threshold in 2014?
Daniel Rathman: What is that, Dutch?
I don't think you'll have to worry about that a month from now, but the biggest issue they'll face is assembling a passable starting rotation behind CC Sabathia, and a poor September could really exacerbate those concerns. If they do fail to make the playoffs this year, it will be even more difficult for them to do without investing in pitching as A-Rod, Teixeira, and co. age, so you may well see those plans tweaked.
MBErickson (KC): Dynasty league fantasy player here, if you wanted a pitcher who is currently in the minors to build you rotation around who would you take?
Daniel Rathman: Dylan Bundy is probably the popular answer here, but the name that jumps to mind immediately is Taijuan Walker. He has world-class stuff and a great pitcher's park. If you're looking for someone closer to the majors, Shelby Miller might be the guy.
Alex (Bronx, NY): Can my return make a difference, or will I be spending October crying into my wads of money?
Daniel Rathman: Wow, lots of concerned Yankees fans out there today. Whether A-Rod's return makes a difference or not, if he's healthy, I'd expect him to be playing well into October. Our playoff odds (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/odds/) still give the Yanks an 87.7 percent chance of making it, and I've already mentioned the friendly end-of-season schedule.
The biggest difference A-Rod can make is reviving the Yankees' offense against left-handed pitching. They still rank atop the league with a 794 OPS against RHP, but are now 11th at 759 against LHP. Rodriguez's return should help to balance things out.
Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): Recently Jordan Lyles has been hitting 94-96 MPH on the radar gun with fairly regular consistency. Is he a breakout candidate for next year? What's his realistic ceiling at this point, considering that bump in velocity and his age?
Daniel Rathman: Lyles was kind of rushed to the majors as a 21-year-old last year after only 16 starts in Triple-A and 20 in Double-A, so it's not surprising that it's taking him a while to settle in. He's definitely on the list of breakout candidates for next season, but his upside is more of a mid-rotation starter than an ace. It doesn't help that Minute Maid Park punishes pitchers for mistakes, so Lyles will need to work on keeping the ball in the yard to take that next step.
Earl Hafler (Dallas, TX): If the Rangers go with Profar at SS next year, what do they do with Andrus? Does he get dealt? What do you think they'll look for?
Daniel Rathman: I'm not convinced the Rangers will slide Profar into their everyday lineup that quickly, so the decision on Andrus is not urgent. That said, given the dearth of elite defensive shortstops who also contribute at the plate, I imagine Jon Daniels will see some intriguing offers float across his desk. Either young pitching or a high-ceiling outfielder would probably top his wishlist, and the Diamondbacks might have the pieces if the Rangers decide to make a move.
Jim (Baltimore, MD): I watch the Orioles every night, waiting for it to all come crushing down. Are there some statistical upsides to grasp on to, or are we relying on luck and a Pythagorean anomaly the rest of the way?
Daniel Rathman: There's no question that it's going to take some luck for the Orioles to stay atop the standings, either in the East or the wild card, for the next month, but there are some encouraging signs. Zach Britton's recent success is one of them, as is Manny Machado holding his own and providing some offense from a position that was previously a black hole. And as I wrote in today's WYNTK, the O's run differential over their past two games is +16; those were wins against the gutted Blue Jays, but run differentials can change quickly.
If you haven't already, read Adam Sobsey's piece on how continuous roster turnover has helped the Orioles to date: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18227
Jake (Springfield): Do the Cardinals make TOO much sense as a trading partner with Texas for Andrus? Lots and lots of high upside pitching in that system.
Daniel Rathman: That's another possible fit, but I think they'd much prefer to find an in-house solution at shortstop and hang on to that pitching. I'd probably give Ryan Jackson a legitimate chance to prove himself before dealing for someone like Andrus. The league-average OPS for shortstops this year is 685, and Jackson should be able to provide that — or at least serve as part of a shortstop platoon with a similarly-talented lefty hitter — while offering a better-than-average glove.
Steve (New York, NY): In your eyes, which teams took the best strides towards future success in 2012? Can any make a surprise run at a division or wild card spot in 2013?
Daniel Rathman: The Orioles are the obvious answer in the AL, and even if they don't make it this year, they should hang around in 2013, with Manny Machado benefitting from the experience and Dylan Bundy topping the rotation. Zach Britton's health and effectiveness will be a big factor.
In the NL, I'm probably a year too soon with this, but don't sleep on the Padres. They've shown flashes over the past few weeks, and there's a lot of talent both on the major-league team and coming up through the pipeline, not to mention Cory Luebke and Tim Stauffer, who should help the rotation. It's an increasingly competitive division, but a couple of breakout seasons could pave the way for a second-place finish and a shot at one of the wild-card spots.
Brian (Gainesville, FL): Should the Red Sox consider moving Middlebrooks to 1B, and preparing Bogaerts or Cecchini for life at 3B?
Daniel Rathman: If Middlebrooks and Bogaerts are their long-term corner infielders, I think you're more likely to see Middlebrooks at third and Bogaerts at first. Middlebrooks may well be the best defender of the three, and possibly by a lot, so I wouldn't be in any rush to move him away from the hot corner.
Daniel Rathman: In case you missed it, Adam Wainwright just hit a home run off R.A. Dickey. I'll take that as my cue to let you get back to watching the games.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by! Let's do this again soon.