Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
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The corner outfield spots are known for production, but one field has been far more dominant in recent years.
My working theory was that it began with Scott Podsednik. In December 2004, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams sent slugging left fielder Carlos Lee to the Brewers for a three-player package that included Podsednik, who was coming off a so-so season as Milwaukee's center fielder. He had stolen 70 bases and bopped 12 homers—a nice return in the fantasy realm—but had hit just .244/.313/.364. His .237 True Average was hardly anything to write home about, and here at BP, both Christina Kahrl and Joe Sheehantossed aroundphrases like "as a hitter plugged into left field, the nicest thing you can say is that he makes a great part-time center fielder." At the time, the Sox were set with an All-Star caliber center fielder in Aaron Rowand, 27 and coming off a breakout .310/.361/.544 campaign, which didn't exactly clarify matters.
A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
Bernie Williams burned it up with the Yankees during his career, but did the Puerto Rican do enough to blaze a trail to the Hall?
Before Derek Jeter, there was Bernie Williams. As the Yankees emerged from a barren stretch of 13 seasons without a trip to the playoffs from 1982-1994, and a particularly abysmal stretch of four straight losing seasons from 1989-1992, their young switch-hitting center fielder stood as a symbol for the franchise's resurgence. For too long, the Yankees had drafted poorly, traded away what homegrown talent they produced for veterans, and signed pricey free agents to fill the gaps as part of George Steinbrenner's eternal win-now directive. But with Steinbrennerbanned by commissioner Fay Vincent and the Yankees' day-to-day baseball operations in the hands of Gene Michael, promising youngsters were allowed to develop unimpeded.
After a brief stop near the Golden Gate, Carlos Beltran finds himself looking for a new baseball home.
The doozy of a headscratcher that was Monday's Melky Cabrera/Jonathan Sanchez swap between the Royals and the Giants raised more questions than it answered. One of them—beyond "You woke me for this?"—is, "What does this mean for Carlos Beltran?" In recent weeks, it was thought that the Giants would work to retain the 34-year-old (35 on April 24) right fielder, whom they acquired from the Mets back on July 28, but the Melkman's delivery casts doubt upon that.
If you tuned out when the Rangers led 7-5 in the ninth, you missed quite a finish
It was the best worst World Series game—or perhaps the worst best World Series game—I've ever seen. Four and a half hours, 11 innings, 42 players, 19 runs, 23 men left on base, six home runs, five errors, two final-strike comebacks, a handful of bad relief performances, some managerial howlers including a cardinal (not Cardinal) sin… and it all ended with the much-maligned Joe Buck giving a fitting nod to history by emulating one of his father's most famous calls. As David Freese's game-winning blast landed in the grass beyond the center field wall of Busch Stadium, Buck exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!" Game Six of the 2011 World Series will be remembered as a classic—a Game Six that can sit alongside those of 1975, 1986, and 1991, among maybe a couple others—as the Cardinals staved off elimination to beat the Rangers 10-9, forcing a Game Seven.
The playoff races have been de-zombified, and Team Entropy was on the prowl, looking for meaningful baseball going into the final game.
Welcome to Team Entropy! Grab a seat on the couch, and here, have a beer. You've been invited to this party because after almost exactly six months and 160 games of regular-season baseball, you've suspended the need to root for a specific team and are working for the greater good, more interested in maximizing the amount of end-of-season chaos the remaining schedule can produce. The amount of season, even, if it comes to a 163rd game—or two.
With the rankings now complete, is our resident prospect man about to turn his back on who he ranked at the top of each position?
Right-Handed Starters Shelby Miller (Cardinals) The Case For: First and foremost, Shelby Miller is a Texan, and therefore already has an advantage over his competition for this title. I’m open about my bias. See the second rule.
From a scouting perspective, Miller has everything I look for in a future top-of-the-rotation arm. With prototypical size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and room for additional strength, Miller has the body and the delivery to log innings and maintain his stuff deep into games. His fastball is a legit plus pitch, and can show plus-plus velocity, as he touches the upper 90s at times. The curveball is another above-average offering, flashing plus more than it flashes the potential to be plus, with excellent depth to the break and a tight spin. As with most young power pitchers, Miller’s changeup was underdeveloped in relation to his other offerings when he was drafted, but it has quickly emerged as another plus-potential pitch. It plays well off his fastball with good weight and some arm-side fading action.
While Bryce Harper is the cream of the crop in right field, as it turns out, there are other legit corner outfielders in the minors.
Well, friends, this is it, the final installment in the series (although I am planning on doing a recap article, so I guess that’s not entirely true). It’s been an exercise within an exercise, and by this point in the minor-league season, the initial lists in the series are obsolete. I’d hang myself with the arbitrary noose of the process, but I thought it was fun to compile, and the constant [read: pestering] correspondence with my sources strengthened my willingness to correspond with my sources. Let’s call it professional growth.
Throughout the 11-part series, I’ve tried to put a spin on traditional rankings by mixing up the formula, either by manipulating the display or profiling players based on characteristics other than their present skill level. At times the waters were murky, but I’m a lake man, so I prefer the dangerous swill of that liquid to the pellucid waters of the norm. I wanted to create conversation and consternation, rather than consensus and contentment. One of my biggest pet peeves is the need to make everything black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Baseballs might come in a box, but the end result should never fit comfortably back into one, so I try to encourage the debate that stems from dissatisfaction, even when the debate is firmly rooted in general ignorance and internet chest inflation.
Craig Counsell has been in a bit of a slump lately. Okay, maybe that undersells it a little. Counsell is 0 for his last 45 at-bats. His last hit came a couple months back, on June 10. Another hitless at-bat will tie him with Bill Bergen of the 1909 Brooklyn Superbas for the longestknown streak of hitless at-bats by a position player.