Yu Darvish flirts with perfection again and Aroldis Chapman returns, plus more from a busy weekend and preview for Monday.
The Weekend Takeaway In his first start of the 2013 season, Yu Darvish set the tone for his stellar sophomore campaign with 8 2/3 flawless innings against the Astros. When the 27th batter, Marwin Gonzalez, hit a grounder that turned into a single, the Texas right-hander threw his hands up and couldn’t help but crack a smile.
The Rockies have a pair of very hot hitters, plus other action from Monday and what to watch today.
The Monday Takeaway Troy Tulowitzki took the field on Monday batting .400/.500/.730 on the season and .591/.655/1.000 at Coors Field. Just a reminder: That was before Monday’s opener versus the Rangers.
These young players have officially graduated from the minors and are ready to help your fantasy squad this year.
I’ve been partial to the phrase prospect fatigue as it applies to players who are on the radar for so long that we start to ding them for being (somewhat) known quantities as opposed to the younger players who let our minds run free, unencumbered by the shackles of previous performance. Well after the prospect fatigue guys come post-prospects. They live in stasis in our brains, some purgatory of youthful but not eligible for a minor league roster spot, yet still not useful enough for a major league keeper spot. Before this turns into the final season of LOST though, we should note that these players tend to be divisive, riding the line between being overvalued thanks to a perceived undervaluing or just straight up undervalued. Here’s a look at five in the NL:
Wily Peralta, P, Brewers
Peralta put together a nice second half of the season last year, making it two years in a row he’s put together small sample sizes of good performance that could lead one to hope for more the next year. The problem of course was his brutal first half, as he only struck out 14 percent of batters and got rocked to the tune of a 4.61 ERA. He was better, though not great, in the second half, with a 3.99 ERA, but the real improvement showed up in his ability to miss bats. Peralta saw his strikeout rate jump to 19% once he started incorporating his slider more consistently. In the first three months of the season he never used it more than 22.68 percent but starting in June (32.34 percent), Peralta never saw his slider usage dip below 24.38 percent and twice registered a number above 30 percent. The ability to miss bats to his exceptional ability to burn worms is a much needed addition, and one Peralta is poised to exploit in the upcoming season.
The Rockies pull the trigger on a long-awaited promotion.
The Situation: Rockies infielder Chris Nelson could not duplicate the success he experienced in 2012, posting a .242/.282/.318 line in 22 games this year, and the club designated him for assignment over the weekend. Nelson’s departure opened the door for Arenado, ranked third on the Rockies Top 10 list by Baseball Prospectus over the offseason, to make his major-league debut on Sunday.
Background: Drafted in the second round in 2009, Arenado raked at every stop through his first three years in the minor leagues. His professional debut in the Pioneer League was a rousing success, with an even .300 batting average and 17 extra-base hits in just 54 games. Pushed to the Low-A South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old in 2010, Arenado responded with a performance worthy of top-prospect praise, highlighted by a .308/.338/.520 line in 92 games. Promoted another level in 2011, Arenado hit .298 with 32 doubles and 20 home runs in the High-A California League. The jump to Double-A in 2012 proved a little difficult for him, as he “struggled” to the tune of a .285 batting average, 36 doubles, and 12 home runs. Through 18 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, he was hitting .364/.392/.667.
Nolan Arenado could turn into a newt, maybe. What else could go wrong for young Rockies players?
Prospect #1: 3BNolan Arenado Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources Who: Selected in the 2nd round in the 2009 draft, Arenado has emerged as the best pure hitting prospect in the system. Armed with fantastic hands that are both quick and strong, the 21-year-old can barrel balls to all fields, showing the ability to hit in all quadrants against a variety of offerings. He’s not as gifted in the field, were his below-average speed creates a limited workspace at the hot corner, but his glove is at least average and his arm is a plus tool, so his overall skill set will play in the majors. The total package is a first-division talent, with a high-6 hit tool that comes with a mature approach, enough bat speed and strength to prompt some scouts into projecting plus power down the line, and enough defense to stay above water at third.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Arenado is a great prospect, and every team in baseball would welcome him into the fold with open arms, but what could go wrong in 2012 is that the realities of the skill set start to become more representational against more advanced pitching, leaving the picture of a good prospect, but not one with impact level talent at the next level. I really like Arenado’s approach to hitting, as he’s aggressive without being reckless, and he shows pitch recognition skills and the ability to adjust in sequence. He’s a smart hitter that can stay inside a pitch and drive the ball, and manipulate the barrel to match the plane of breaking balls. But his swing wasn’t built for over-the-fence power, as his linear stroke works better in the gaps, despite the raw strength and bat speed necessary for power. Some scouts think the power will develop down the line, as Arenado learns to introduce more loft in his swing, but how much hit tool utility will be sacrificed for the sake of power? I asked around to get ceilings on Arenado, and the majority saw him as a potential .275+ hitter with 10-15 home runs and a truckload of doubles. I like this projection, as it's reasonable and realistic, but it’s not a first-division talent, is it? A few other sources saw a .300+ hitter with 25+ bombs a year, which would make Arenado an All-Star and one of the most valuable players at his position in baseball. Because he’s taking his licks at the Double-A level, we are going to get a better view of what Arenado will be able to bring to the table in the future, as the major leagues are very much within his reach. We all know Arenado can hit, but the questions will be: how much can hit, and how much power will he be able to bring into game action? Again, I think he’s a great prospect, but I tend to think his future is closer to a solid-average regular than an All-Star, which is still a very valuable player to have.
Between the surprises of urban planning and the surprises of backfield performances, Jason still has plenty to share as his time in Arizona winds down.
Day 30, 8:00 AM
Patricia, before arriving at the Spring Training facility each morning, Roommate Jason and I cruise the main drag in Surprise, Arizona looking for hot coffee from below-average gas stations. You might wonder why going out for coffee is a necessity when we have a coffee maker at the house, and why gas station coffee is the preference when a Starbucks is only a half of a mile farther down the road from the complex, but I’d suggest just letting it go. We all make mistakes, and some of us make a habit of making mistakes. This is a prime example of the latter. The thoroughfare in question is called Bell Road, and it’s probably the most dangerous stretch of road in the modern world. Traversing Bell Road multiple times a day shows the devolution of society, with each near automotive accident and each ten-minute trip that inevitably turns into a twenty-minute trip; however, the road itself is merely a victim of the incompetence of design, as the city expanded from a one-horse-town to a growing sprawl of chain restaurants, ubiquitous examples of chain retail consumerism, and all things cookie-cutter America. The sprawl was allowed to sprawl directly off of this main road, which is ill-equipped to support it.
Bell Road was the spine of this dusty little town, which worked fine when the town was dusty and little. But when the Rangers and Royals decided to build a beautiful baseball facility and make the town attractive for at least one month a year, the city reacted to this economic boom with the efficiency of a dial-up connection. This ghost-town that is now all grown up has yet to adjust to the resulting sprawl by allowing drivers to actually reach that sprawl from the main road. U-turns and complicated maneuvering through parking lots are almost always required to reach your consumer sprawl destination of choice, and even when you are lucky enough to locate a consumer sprawl off a stoplight, the consumer sprawl in question is almost always designed so that you can’t enter the parking lot without first negotiating the parking lots of another sprawl, in which you might have to halt your vehicle at one of the numerous stop signs contained within the larger parent sprawl, which are de facto duck crossings for the elderly, and trust me, there are a lot of really slow, elderly people that like to walk across the parking lots of the consumer sprawls, and their pace is somewhere between ice melting on a cold day and Calvin Pickering’s metabolism.
Kevin shares his picks for Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Making pre-season picks for minor league player of the year honors is a bit more complex than doing the same for big league awards. The biggest issue is, of course, playing time. The trio of Rays lefty Matt Moore and outfielders Bryce Harper (Nationals) and Mike Trout (Angels) are universally seen as the top three prospects in baseball, but none is a good pick for 2012 honors: Moore will open the year in the big leagues, and Harper and Trout will likely follow suit. Instead, you need a player who will spend the entire year away from the majors, either in an environment that is conducive to putting up good numbers, or with an assignment where the player can impress for other reasons. Here are my top ten candidates.
Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.
Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.
As Jay Jaffenoted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.