Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 Predictions

Predictions in baseball are stupid, but they are also a lot of fun.   So, here are mine for 2013 as Opening Day has finally arrived:

Division Races:

AL East:

1.  Toronto Blue Jays- I'm not as big a fan of all the trades they made as some, but they are a loaded team now.  Some depends on whether Jose Reyes' legs will withstand the pounding from the artificial surface and that is a thin reed to lean on, but the team has a lot of other assets.

2. Tampa Bay Rays- They need a healthy season from Longoria on offense, but they have great pitching led by David Price.

3.  Baltimore Orioles- If everything breaks right again, they could end up #1, but their pitching doesn't seem to cut the mustard for me.  Dylan Bundy would be a huge upgrade right now, but they will keep him down for a couple of months for arbitration clock management.

4.  Boston Red Sox- I'm not as impressed with the additions of Victorino and Napoli as some, and their pitching still seems like a complete mess.

5.  New York Yankees-  Oh how have the mighty fallen?  The Yankees are now known more for picking up players off the Giants scrapheap than for signing superstars.  The trade for Wells was obviously made out of desperation and will not help.  This is, all of a sudden, a very bad team!

AL Central:

1.  Detroit Tigers- They are loaded again and should run away with the division.

2.  Kansas City Royals-  They added pitching in the offseason and they have several young players who are primed for breakouts.

3.  Chicago White Sox- They have some interesting young players, but the talent pipeline is not running fast enough so they will come up short.

4.  Cleveland Indians- They added some respectable pieces in Bourn and Swisher, but their pitching is still pretty pathetic.

5.  Minnesota Twins- The Twins have some talent in the pipeline but are not ready to compete yet.

AL West:

1.  Oakland A's- The Rangers and Angels are the popular favorites, but the A's have much better hitting than Texas and much better pitching than the Angels.

2.  Seattle Mariners- The Mariners retain their excellent pitching and add several power bats.  Pitching still rules in baseball and the Mariners are going to be a lot better than people expect now that they have decent hitting to back up their pitching.

3. LA Angels- Lineup of superstars but the pitching staff is a collection of innings eaters.  Loss of velocity and K% bodes ill for Jered Weaver's future.  A collapse is not out of the question.

4. Texas Rangers- The lineup loses Hamilton and Napoli and does not add anything.  That is not a scary lineup anymore!  The pitching is decent, but will it be enough?

5.  Houston Astros- This team is rebuilding and doing it the right way, but they will be very bad this year.

NL East:

1.  Washington Nationals- Best team in baseball on paper.  In a playoff matchup, I'll take Bochy to outmanage Davey Johnson, but the Nats are going to win the NL East.

2.  Atlanta Braves- The Braves have a lot of talent and could give the Nats a run for their money if it all falls into place.  They've got problems at catcher, 2B and possibly 3B, which will likely hold them back.

3.  Philadelphia Phillies- Ryan Howard and Chase Utley seem to finally be healthy and Domonic Brown seems to be finally ready, but this team has a lot of age.  Halladay looks like he might be done.

4.  New York Mets- David Wright starting the season with a rib cage injury is not a good thing.  The Mets have a couple of nice building blocks on the pitching side with Matt Harvey ready to break out and Zack Wheeler coming soon, but overall the talent level is not there.

5.  Miami Marlins- How bad are the Marlins?  2/5's of their pitching rotation goes down with injuries on the eve of Opening Day and 20 year-old Jose Fernandez is being pressed into service.  The Marlins have some talent on the farm but it's gonna be a long walk home for them.

NL Central:

1.  St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals are weak up the middle, but they have pitching, pitching and more pitching and a pipeline of talent that is backed up for miles.

2.  Cincinnati Reds- If he can stay healthy, Shin-Soo Choo will help the top of their lineup a lot.  The pitching is still not quite up to the Cardinals standards and they don't seem to know what to do with Aroldis Chapman.  Read Keith Olbermann's blog for a spot on take on Chapman.

3.  Pittsburgh Pirates- The Pirates have a nice lineup, but the pitching leaves a lot to be desired.  Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon would be immediate upgrades but will start the season in the minors.

4.  Milwaukee Brewers-  The BrewCrew has evolved away from the Harvey's Wallbangers days into a run and gun team.  They have added even more speed with Jean Segura at SS.  The signing of Kyle Lohse helps shore up the rotation which is underrated.

5.  Chicago Cubs- the Cubs have a few nice pieces in Castro at SS, Rizzo at 1B and Samardzija on the mound as well as some interesting prospects, but this team is still a long, long ways from contending.

NL West:

1.  San Francisco Giants- The Giants are defending champs for the second time in 3 years.  It's crazy hard to repeat, but I think this team has it in them.  They do need Pablo Sandoval's elbow to get healthy soon, but with Belt and Crawford now forces in the lineup, it's less critical than in past years.  What could derail everything is a couple of injuries to the starting rotation.

2.  LA Dodgers- The Dodgers have undeniably bought themselves a lot of talent.  I'm not convinced that it all fits together.  I am also not convinced that Clayton Kershaw is completely healthy.

3. San Diego Padres- the injury to Headley and suspension of Grandal hurt a lot, but this is a much better team than they are generally given credit for.

4.  Arizona Diamondbacks- This team absolutely hemorrhaged talent in the offseason in an effort to gain "chemistry".  They bet the farm on Adam Eaton taking over in CF and he's out for who knows how long with UCL issues.

5.  Colorado Rockies- If TMT(Two Month Tulo) can stay healthy, they will have a dangerous lineup, but the pitching is a complete shambles in many ways.

Wild Cards:

AL:  Tampa Bay Rays and KC Royals.

NL:  Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds.

AL Pennant:  Detroit Tigers

NL Pennant:  San Francisco Giants

World Series Champion:  Giants

AL MVP:  Yoenis Cespedes

NL MVP:  Bryce Harper

AL Cy Young:  David Price

NL Cy Young:  Stephen Strasburg

AL ROY:  Dylan Bundy

NL ROY:  Jean Segura

What are your predictions?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: A's 4 Giants 3

The A's and Giants traded 3 run homers which made the run the A's scored in the first inning the difference in the ballgame.  Key Lines:

Joaquin Arias- 2 for 4.  BA= .279.  I would like to know what Arias' numbers would look like if he played every day, but not bad enough to think he should be playing ahead of any of the Giants starters.

Guillermo Quiroz- 1 for 4, HR(1).  BA= .282.  I said to myself after Quiroz hit the 3 run dinger, "he just won himself a roster spot!"  And he did. The Giants will apparently carry 3 catchers to start the season and Gillespie gets sent to Fresno along with Pegs.  Somehow, that just doesn't seem right after the way those two battled throughout spring training.  Keeping 3 catchers does give Bochy better flexibility and Quiroz certainly made the case for himself with solid play throughout the spring.

Ryan Vogelsong- 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 3.60.  I think it is safe to say Vogie did not appear to have his best stuff today.  The 3 run dinger to Cespedes was off a hung curveball.  The run in the first inning was a pure BABIP job, though.  Seeing eye single through the right side of the IF.  Cue shot liner to left just out of Crawford's reach.  Bloop fly down the LF line that hits the chalk.  Vogie actually did a masterful job of pitching out of the ensuing 2 on, nobody out jam.

Pablo Sandoval reportedly took batting practice today without pain.  The Giants are cautiously optimistic he will play on Opening Day.  Bochy did say it would "go down to the wire", though

Hot Tip: 2013 Power Breakout Candidates

Theres an interesting article in Beyond the Boxscore linked in Fangraphs using a statistical model to predict power breakout candidates for 2013.  You should read it, but the best part is that 2 of the candidates are the two Brandons, Crawford and Belt, from the Giants.  I think we've all been thinking that too.  Woo Hoo!!

Fantasy Focus: Presenting the 2013 Savvy Vets

I finally had my fantasy baseball auction draft last night. Here are the 2013 Savvy Vets.  I'll list the players by position with their auction price and some comments.

C   Salvador Perez, Royals.  $6.  My targets were Wilin Rosario and Perez.  By the time they were nominated, I was getting a bit worried about how many $$ I had left.  When the bidding got to $10 for Rosario, I bailed and then got Perez later.  Jesus Montero was my Worst Case Scenario plan.

1B  Albert Pujols, Angels.  $39.  Pujols ended up as my most expensive player.  I think that's pretty good considering several players went up in the $50 range.  I had Pujols as my #5 overall player.

2B  Rickie Weeks, Brewers.  $2.  My first target was Aaron Hill, but when the bidding got into the 20's with him, I bailed and got Weeks in the bargain bin a few nominations later.

3B  Pablo Sandoval, Giants.  $16.  The draft started at 8 PM PDT, so I was unaware that Pablo's elbow had flared up again.  $16 is not a huge hit if he hits the DL, though.

SS  Ian Desmond, Nationals.  $19.  The price was a litte higher than I wanted to go, but I ended up with a few $$ on the table it all worked out in the end.  Their was a steep dropoff at the SS position after Desmond, so I felt I had to take him unless his price went through the roof.

IF  Allen Craig, Cardinals.  $21.  Again, a bit pricey, but Craig is being taken as high as the second round in a lot of expert drafts.

OF  Bryce Harper, Nationals.  $30.  Maybe a bit rich, but gotta love the upside here.

OF  Jason Heyward, Braves.  $22.  I've always been a Heyward fan going all the way back to the 2007 draft.  I think this might be Heyward's year to really bust out.  Even if he just repeats last year's stat line, $22 is still a bargain price.

OF  Adam Jones, Orioles.  $24.  I wanted my OF to be 3 out of Harper, Heyward, Cespedes and Jones.  I had Cespedes targeted before Jones, but I had to bail when the bidding for Cespedes went to $28.  Jones has improved his numbers every year of his career so far.  I think he is just hitting his stride as a player.

UT  Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays.  $4.  I wasn't particularly targeting Melky. He went for a lot more in the mock drafts I did.  When I had the opportunity to grab him in bargain time, I went for it.

UT  Pedro Alvarez, Pirates.  $2.  Alvarez is, at worst, a very cheap source of HR's.  In this case, he's insurance if Pablo goes on the DL too.

SP  CC Sabathia, Yankees.  $16.  I still can't believe CC was my first pitcher.  I was hoping for at least 1 higher ranked ace, but the early bidding for pitching got really crazy.  Even David Price went in the high $30's.

SP  Mat Latos, Reds.  $11.  Latos was not on my radar at all, but I just felt $11 was too cheap to pass up for him.

SP  Yu Darvish, Rangers.  $18.  I was expecting Darvish to go in the low $20's, but by this time, guys were starting to run out of cash.

SP  Ryan Vogelsong, Giants.  $4.  I thought Vogie would go a lot higher.  What a steal for $4!

SP  Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners.  $2.  Nice bargain bin value here.

RP  Glen Perkins, Twins.  $1.  I was conflicted about drafting closers, but if you can get one for $1 in my league, I think you have to go for it.  He has trade value.

RP  Fujikawa, Cubs.  $1.  I mistakenly bid $3 on Carlos Marmol earlier, so I figured I'd at least handcuff him with Fujikawa since I was stuck with him.

RP  Carlos Marmol, Cubs.  $3.  I thought I was bidding $2 on Marmol, but someone else got their bid in first, so when I hit the button the bid was at $3.  Oh, well.  $3 ain't much even if I end up dumping him onto the waiver wire.

P   Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees.  $4.  Kuroda helped Savvy Vets a lot last year.  Does he have anything left in the tank?

P   Matt Harvey, Mets.  $2.  I thought I might have to go a lot higher for Harvey.  He's my big breakout pitcher this year.  I think this is a huge bargain.

BN  Alex Cobb, Rays.  $1.  Cobb is high on a lot of sleeper lists this year.  Is he for real?  I'll pay $1 to find out.

BN  Brett Anderson, A's.  $2.  Anderson is the A's #1 starter. I expected him to go way higher than this.

BN  Julio Teheran, Braves.  $1.  Teheran reportedly has his velocity and command back and was dominant in spring training.  Again, he's way worth $1 to see if it's for real.

BN  Dylan Bundy, Orioles.  $1.  A stash pick.  On talent, he should have broken camp with the Orioles, but he'll stay down until June for arbitration clock purposes.

BN  Gerrit Cole, Pirates.  $1 See Dylan Bundy above.


My offense is balanced.  I will ride with it and see if I need to add more power or SB's down the road.  I should do well in the BA category which mangers often overlook when they are focused on HR or SB's.  Alvarez and possibly Weeks are my only BA drags.

I would have liked a little more at the top of my pitching rotation, but I got all of the later round guys I targeted and more.  I'm not sure I can afford to stash Bundy and Cole until they come up, but if I can stay in the playoff hunt until then, I think it will pay off in the second half.

What to do with my RP's?  Should I keep then and try to acquire 1 or 2 more as the season goes along or should I just punt and put SP's with RP eligibility in there and go for wins in W's and K's?  I'm considering offering all 3 of my RP's to another guy who really likes closers for Alexi Ogando, then pick up Shelby Miller off the FA list.  I would then use Iwakuma, Ogando and Miller in my RP slots and pick up yet another SP.  That would put my rotation at 13 pitchers without Bundy and Cole.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 3 A's 1

The Giants pitching, led by Barry Zito, stifled the A's lineup while the bottom of the Giants lineup picked up the slack for the top.  Bad news on the Pablo injury front.  Key Lines:

Angel Pagan- 2 for 4, SB(2).  BA= .268.  Looking for a lot more lines like this from Pagan this season.

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .371.  Crawford stays hot.

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 2, 3B, BB.  BA= .283.  The Giants get games like this with plus D in LF from Blanco and hey, I'll take that!

Nick Noonan- 2 for 3, 3B.  BA= .273.  Young Nick stays hot. He has raised his spring BA by about .100 in a little over a week.

Barry Zito- 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.70   The peripherals are ugly, but he got more GO's than FO's and kept the A's at bay.

Chad Gaudin- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.55.  Impressive versatility from Gaudin.

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 11.88.  After getting torched in his last appearance, good to see Lopez bounce back.  The ERA resets after tomorrow.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.50.  Casilla gets the 8'th inning according to script.  Someone paid $6 for Casilla in my fantasy auction draft last night.  LOL!

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's, Save.  ERA= 2.45.  Nice practice run for the regular season.  Romo was lights out.

Pablo Sandoval- 0 for 2.  BA= .400.  Forget the boxscore.  The important thing here is Pablo left the game early, even though he was only DH'ing, due to recurrent pain in his elbow.  Gotta be concerned about that.  It would seem highly unlikely that he will be ready for Opening Day.

Apparently Nick Noonan has nailed down the reserve IF job.  He played 3B for Pablo in this one.

Francisco Peguero got sent down to Fresno to play every day.  Giants are still deciding between Cole Gillespie and carrying 3 catchers.  The Hector played in a minor league contest without any apparent setbacks.

My daughter saw Barry Bonds at Urrth Cafe in Beverly Hills yesterday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

News and Notes: Giants Sign Buster Posey To A Long Term Contract

The Giants have reportedly signed Gerald Dempsey "Buster" Posey III to a whopping 8 year $159 M contract with an additional option year.  As a difference-maker, Posey is definitely worth the $20 M per season and more.  The only question is with the length of the contract, but that's the market in baseball right now.  It is highly unlikely that Buster will remain as a catcher throughout the length of the contract.  He is a good enough offensive player, that he should maintain value if he has to move to 1B in the future.  Still, it's a risky move in the longterm, but one the Giants almost had to make.

Now, I do not ever want to hear one word of complaint about the Giants cheaping out on anything ever again!

Game Wrap Bay Bridge Series 2013: A's 7 Giants 3

The A's used the longball to ruin what started out as a promising start by Tim Lincecum.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .364.  Pence scalded a ball down the 3B line for a two-bagger that led to the Giants first run.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 4, 2B.  Belt's double was pulled down the 1B line.  Kruk explained that he seems to have successfully ditched the shoulder wrap that was causing him to get tied up on inside pitches.  One more piece of evidence that just going out there and playing everyday was probably not what Belt needed to develop, but rather to work on his mechanical flaws then put it into practice.

Joaquin Arias- 2 for 4.  BA= .266.  Arias is a guy who I think could be a real revelation if he played every day, but he has no position to play if all the Giants starters are healthy.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4, 2B, 3B.  BA= .373.  Crawford is another guy who Kruk says has made some mechanical adjustments.  To my eye, he is still holding his bat close to his shoulder but he's bringing it up into hitting position a lot sooner in the pitcher's delivery so he has time to react to the pitch.  Brandon was also working his magic on the field including an amazing play to his left on a hot smash up the middle by Sogard with a 360 to throw him out.  I'm not sure there are any other SS's in the game who make that play.  It required elite level quickness, athleticism and arm strength to get it done.

Tim Lincecum- 4.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6 K's.  ERA= 10.57.  Timmy looked sharp in the first 3 IP, but then Cespedes took him deep in the 4'th and he couldn't get out of the 5'th.  Affeldt then gave up a 3 run dinger to Reddick that cashed in 2 runners Timmy allowed on.  Kruk was raving about how great Timmy looked.  To me, it was the same old Timmy as last year.  Dominant for a few innings, but once things started going south, he couldn't stop the bleeding.

Kontos, Mijares, Proctor- 1 scoreless IP each.  All 3 looked sharp.  Mijares outing was particularly encouraging.

Pablo Sandoval reportedly will play on Saturday.

Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy get their contracts extended through 2016 with options for 2017.  I think you all know what I believe about Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, so I'm not going to belabor the point.  If you want a more complete discussion of their merits, I wrote posts on both early in the postseason.  Of course, I think this is a great move by the Giants and neither man seems to be close to running out of ideas.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hot Tip: Keith Olbermann Previews the NL West

Hey team!  Gotta check out Keith Olbermann's 2013 Previews/NL West:  How To Lose A Pennant.  It's linked over on the left.

Oh man!  He just flames the Dodgers!  Yep, takes a blowtorch and turns it up to full blast.  He is harsh, harsh, harsh on the D'Backs, Rockies and Padres too.  He saves the best for last and you are going to have to read what he says about the Giants.  Uh huh!  Brian Sabean too.  Absolutely must reading!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 8 D'Backs 6

The Giants wound up the 2013 Cactus League with a resounding win that was not as close as the final score would make it seem.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 1 for 2, HR(3).  BA= .365.  The Reverend is ready to start the season and is playing for a contract.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, HR(8).  BA= .448.  Boffo spring for the former phenom.  If Belt so much as shows modest improvement in last year's numbers, the Giants are gonna be alright.

Francisco Peguero- 1 for 3, HR(1).  BA= .333.  I don't remember when I've seen two guys go after a final roster spot the way Pegs and Gillespie have this spring.  I still think Pegs has to win the full time starting job in LF to make the team as the Giants will want him to play everyday.

Nick Noonan- 3 for 4, 2B, 3B.  BA= .254.  Talk about making the most of your opportunity.  Young Nick has grabbed this one by the throat!

Guillermo Quiroz- 2 for 3, 2B, SF.  BA= .294.  I'm still not sure that The Hector is a lock to be the backup catcher.

Madison Bumgarner- 5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K's.  ERA= 2.29.  Bummy is ready to start the season!  Game 2 in LA!

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 0 K's.  ERA= 13.50.  Gotta have faith the Lopez will pull it together once the season starts.

Sergio Romo, Chad Gaudin, Heath Hembree- 1 scoreless IP each.  Hembree earned his 4'th Save of the Cactus League.  He had 2 K's in this one and looks like a good bet to be one of the first callups if needed in season.

The Bay Bridge Series starts tomorrow night against the A's at AT&T Park.  Game 2 is Friday night also at AT&T and Saturday afternoon it moves to the Coliseum.  Then Easter Sunday off and opening day in LA on Monday, April 1.  Woo Hoo!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 4 Padres 2

Yusmeiro Petit, who had been absolutely torched in prior spring appearances, got in a good one against the hapless Padres and the Giants offense was just good enough.  Key Lines:

Marco Scutaro- 1 for 2, 2 BB, SB(2).  BA= .219.  Scutaro pulled the old walk/SB trick as he just kept going to an uncovered 2B after drawing the BB.  This is the 3'rd time he's done it in his career.  Too bad he did it in a game that doesn't count.

Hunter Pence- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .361.  The Rev looks like he's ready to start the season.

Brandon Belt- 3 for 4, 2B, SB(3).  BA= .453.  Belt has been ready to start the season for a long time now.  He played LF in this one and showed no ill effects from his sore neck.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .365.  Interesting article in BA about Jake Dunning and his decision in instructional league to give up playing SS and take the mound.  He made the decision after watching Brandon Crawford play in the AFL and realized that Crawford was ahead of him and that he had no chance of beating him out of the position.

Yusmeiro Petit- 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 7.11.  Just a bit of redemption for Petit near the end of spring training.

Jose Mijares- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 13.50.  If there was any question about Mijares making the team, and there probably wasn't, it was likely answered with this appearance.

Affeldt and Scott Proctor pitched scoreless IP although Proctor walked 2 and gave up a hit.  Proctor apparently can refuse and minor league assignment.  Bochy talked to him and reportedly isn't sure if Proctor will accept or not.  I had read somewhere that Proctor has an opt out on July 1.

News and Notes

The MCC crowd can breath a huge sigh of relief as Yuniesky Betancourt will not be signing with the Giants.  That would be be BrewCrew instead.

The Yankees continue a recent pattern of eating the crumbs the fall from the Giants table.  Latest is Dan Otero claimed off waivers by the Yanks.  Man, things must be very grim in the Bronx these days!

Congrats to Chad Gaudin as the Giants formally gave him a roster spot by purchasing his contract from AAA Fresno.

Fantasy Focus: Worst Case Scenario- Second Base

Same drill as with C and SS.  Here's Yahoo's top 10 fantasy 2B players:

1.  Robinson Cano
2.  Dustin Pedroia
3.  Ian Kinsler
4.  Ben Zobrist
5.  Jason Kipnis
6.  Aaron Hill
7.  Brandon Phillips
8.  Martin Prado
9.  Jose Altuve
10. Rickie Weeks.
11. Chase Utley
12. Neil Walker

I added 2 at the end because Zobrist and Prado will likely be rostered as shortstops.  Cano is a first round pick.  Personally, I would rank Hill a lot higher so I guess that makes him the guy I would target in this list if I miss out on Cano.  The last guy in the top 10 lists has a good chance of being there in the last round of the draft, so Neil Walker is the other target.  Utley might be underranked this year as he seems to be healthy enough to play from day 1 of the season which he was not the last 2 seasons.  Here are the next 5:

13.  Kyle Seager
14.  Danny Espinosa
15.  Dan Uggla
16.  Josh Rutledge
17.  Howie Kendrick

Kyle Seager hit 20 HR's and had 16 SB's last year. He's a 3B but has 2B eligibility.  Espinosa is a 20/20 candidate with a low BA.  Mark my words, Uggla is done!  Stay Away!  I'm less sold on Rutledge than most, but the upside is quite enticing.  Howie Kendrick gives you a decent BA but not much else.  Now watch this the year he wins the batting title.  Here's a few more just for the sake of thoroughness and because I am not in love with a lot of these options.

Dustin Ackley- is he a post-hype sleeper?  Might be worth a dollar or a final round pick to find out.
Emilio Bonifacio- If he wins a starting job, will be a SB machine.
Omar Infante- Solid average with double digit HR and SB.
Daniel Murphy- terrific BA, but hasn't done a whole lot else.
Jedd Gyorko- May not gain 2B eligibility as fast as hoped due to Headley's injury.

Here is my final Worst Case Scenario rankings for 2B:

1.  Neil Walker
2.  Kyle Seager
3.  Danny Espinosa
4.  Josh Rutledge
5.  Howie Kendrick
6.  Omar Infante

2B is a position where you go bold or go home.  Cano has the biggest gap in production between him and the pack for any position in baseball.  I will be willing to pay into the low $40's for him in my auction and have him ranked #4 overall in standard drafts.  If you lose out on Cano, I would try to target Aaron Hill but you have to be careful to not overpay as he is somewhat volatile in his performances from year-to-year.  I do think the volatility thing is not as big a concern as it is with most fantasy players which is one reason why I think he is undervalued. Pedroia is worth considering but is always expensive and Kinsler is always wildly overrated.  Once past Cano, Hill and Pedroia, you might as well take 2B to the bottom of the draft and go into worst case scenario mode.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 9 Cubs 3

Then this team is purring on all cylinders, it is one happy kitty.  Today, the Giants came as close to that as they have all spring in a dominant win over the Cubbies.  Key Lines:

Angel Pagan- 2 for 5.  BA= .310.  Angel just seems a lot more confident and ready to lead this team from the top of the lineup than at this time last year.

Joe Panik- 1 for 2.  BA= .154.  After being injured early in camp and then starting off something like 0 for 8, Panik has put together some nice AB's lately.

Joaquin Arias- 3 for 5, 2B.  BA= .268.  Arias has a strong game to bring his average up.

Buster Posey- 3 for 5, 2B.  BA= .293.  2 hits yesterday, 3 today.  Caught all 9.  Yeah, I think he's just about ready.

Cole Gillespie- 1 for 3, 2B, 2 BB.  BA= .275.  Is Gillespie pulling ahead again in the race for the last roster spot?  I still think it's his to lose.

Nick Noonan- 2 for 5, 2 2B.  BA= .220.  Noonan is smelling the finish line to a roster spot and has the pedal to the metal.  Go Young Nick!

Todd Linden- 1 for 4, SF.  BA= .250.  Todd Linden!  Where have you been all this time?  Todd gets a cameo, possibly as a look-see for a possible emergency callup if Belt has an injury in season?

Around the League:  Kyle Lohse signs with the BrewCrew for 3 years/$33 M.  BrewCrew loses their #14 draft pick and the Giants move up to #25.  Woo Hoo!!!  Not sure I'd be too happy if the Giants gave up a #14 draft pick to sign a Kyle Lohse, although if Lohse simply pitches to his career average over the next 3 years, there's at least a 50/50 chance that is more value than they would ever get out of the draft pick.

Ryan Vogelsong- 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 2.70.  Solid, if not dominating, effort from Vogie.

George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo- 3 scoreless IP each.

Shawon Dunstan Jr.(Cubs)- 1 for 2.  BA= .500.  OK, I'm going to be a curmudgeon here.  I get that a kid's first hit in a MLB game, even in spring training, is pretty special for a parent, but Puhleeeeze!  Do we have to have a running play-by-play of every teardrop running down Shawon Sr.'s face?

Pablo Sandoval- Pablo's elbow reportedly feels a lot better and he is "determined" to play Opening Day against the Hated Ones.  If his elbow is completely well by then, that's great but I'm a lot more interested in having Pablo in the lineup for the first game of the postseason.  Don't rush it, Pablo!

Brandon Belt's neck is feeling better.  I'm not too worried about that one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 5 Angels 4

The Giants pushed a run across in the top of the 9'th to come away winners of a see-saw contest.   Barry Zito had another strong start.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, 2B, BB, SB(2).  BA= .368.  The Rev looks like he's ready to go.  Hope some of this carries over into the season.  He'll be playing for a contract.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3, 2B, BB, SB(1). BA= .354.  Crawford is on fire.  Again, hope some of this carries over. He was a very tough out by the end of last season.

Ricky Oropesa- 2 for 3, 2B.  BA= .346.  I would say Ricky has made the most of the opportunities he has gotten this spring and it is apparent the Giants appreciate that.

Barry Zito- 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 3.00.  Another strong start by Zito.  I think all of them have been good since the first 1 or 2.

Scott Proctor- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.91.  Proctor is making the final bullpen decisions painful.

Jose Mijares- 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 19.29.  Mijares might not want to get too comfortable with the way Proctor is pitching.

Chad Gaudin- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R,  0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.81.  Gaudin shows his versatility pitching out of the Mijares jam.

Heath Hembree- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 5.63.  This is the first time I've seen Hembree pitch on TV and the first time I've seen him pitch at all since seeing him in 2011 in San Jose.  He certainly looks like future closer material.  Easy heat with a long, loose arm.  He looked especially good elevating the fastball and getting swing thoughs with it, but he can bust it down in the zone too.

Pablo Sandoval had more tests on his elbow with no new findings reported.  Seems like being ready for Opening Day might be too much to expect.

Brandon Belt woke up with a stiff neck and was a last minute scratch.  I'm less worried about that than Pablo's elbow.

Fantasy Focus: Worst Case Scenario- Shortstop

Shortstop is another position that lends itself to this kind of analysis because, like Catcher, it is a relativey offensive challenged position and most fantasy managers are not going to carry more shortstops than they are required to.  Again, I will look at this from the standpoint of my own 10 team fantasy league, but you can adapt the exercise to 12 team leagues or higher.  Again, remember that the bigger your league, the less you are going to want to rely on being able to find a good player in a shallow position with the last pick in your draft.

Here are Yahoo's current top 10 ranked shortstops(numbers are their overall rank):

1. Troy Tulowitzki(16).
2. Jose Reyes(18)
3. Starlin Castro(39)
4. Ben Zobrist(52)
5. Ian Desmond(56)
6. Jimmy Rollins(63)
7. Elvis Andrus(76)
8. Martin Prado(81)
9. Asdrubal Cabrera(89)
10. Hanley Ramirez(106)

Of that group, the first two plus Hanley Ramirez have the potential to put up big numbers but they have all had significant injury issues and Hanley is currently out after undergoing surgery for torn thumb ligaments.  Of the rest, Ian Desmond is the guy I would target, but there are even concerns about his secondary stats and whether a significant regression is likely.

The next 5:

11.  Derek Jeter(151)
12.  Danny Espinosa(154)
13.  Erick Aybar(169)
14.  Alcides Escobar(172)
15.  Josh Rutledge(177).

Again, a very risky group for multiple reasons.  Jeter is almost 40 yo and still having problems with the leg that suffered a stress fracture last postseason.  Stay Away!!!  Espinosa has 20/20 potential but at the cost of a very bad BA.  Aybar's main appeal is that he hits in a good lineup.  Rutledge is the hot sleeper pick but has horrible plate discipline and may not continue to produce even if he wins a starting job out of spring training.  Of these 5, I like Escobar the best, mainly because he gives you everything Andrus gives you for a lot lower price.  I would submit that if you wait this long, you might as well wait until the very last round or two and until you get to the $1 stage of the draft.

Let's look at who is available even later:

JJ Hardy(188)
Everth Cabrera(195)
Jed Lowrie(229)
Andrelton Simmons(234)
Marco Scutaro(249)
Zack Cozart(258)
Jean Segura(264).

Of these, Segura is the only one you can be 99% sure is going to be available at the very end of a 260 player draft, but unless your league has a MI roster slot, it is highly unlikely that any of the last 3 or 4 names are going to be taken earlier.  In fact, it is quite unlikely that unless it is required by your league roster rules that any more shortstops will be taken than the number of teams in your league.

So here is my Worst Case Scenario target list for shortstop:

1. Everth Cabrera- Cabrera is someone who may get nabbed earlier for a utility slot by a SB chaser.  If he falls to the end of the draft, though, he is a very cheap source of elite SB numbers and SS is a great position to use for that.
2.  Jed Lowrie- If he can stay healthy, and that is a big if, he could hit 30 HR's.  If he doesn't, hey, you haven't invested a lot in the pick and you can get something off the waiver wire as a replacement.
3.  Alcides Escobar- As I said earlier, gives you everything Andrus gives you for a whole lot cheaper.
4.  Jean Segura- Has the starting SS gig in Brewtown.  Love his minor league numbers and love his cameo last year.  The only concern is, besides his obvious inexperience, is that he may get stuck batting 8'th all season.
5. Andrelton Simmons- Similar to Segura but possibly less power.  Has an advantage in being named the leadoff hitter by Manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Deep Sleeper:  Don't forget to put Brandon Crawford, who I think might surprise a lot of people, on your watch list.

Hot Tip: Quantifying Plate Discipline

Baseball Analytics has a particularly interesting article up with an attempt to quantify Plate Discipline into one metric.  One of the problems with the concept of plate discipline is that it is often used synonymously with OBP.  We all know, of course, that plate discipline is a lot more complicated than that.  I think the metric itself is reasonable and incorporates most, if not all, of the facets of hitting that go into Plate Discipline.

What is interesting, once again, is the lists of names of players with high and low Plate Discipline scores.  On the high side you see names like Luis Castillo, Marco Scutaro and David Eckstein.  These are all hitters you might like to have in your lineup, but you also would probably not want to have your whole lineup filled with hitteres like this.  On the low side you see Delmon Young and Jeff Franceour, both bad hitters to be sure.   You also see Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero, 2 hitters who when healthy you would love to have in your lineup.  Surprisingly, I didn't see Pablo Sandoval's name on any lists, but I'm guessing he is closer to the low side than the the high side.  Again, Pablo is a very productive hitter when fully healthy.


1.  We are making progress in defining Plate Discipline.
2.  While having high Plate Discipline is probably better than low Plate Discipline in most cases, it is not all defines a good vs bad hitter.

News and Notes: Releases

In addtion to releasing Wendell Fairley, the Giants released several other minor leaguers from the organization, some of them a bit surprising:  RHP Demondre Arnold, RHP Keith Bilodeau, RHP Matt Graham, RHP Tyler Hess, RHP Reiner Roibal, LHP Zack Edgington, LHP Gaspar Santiago, LHP Jason Stevenson, C Rey Duran, 2B Jose Cuevas, OF Nick Liles, OF Jarrad Page.

Of that group, I am most surprised by Arnold who I included in my Top 50 prospects list.  There were possibly a couple of others. I will have to check.  I thought they might be a bit more patient with Jarrad Page, a former football player, who has a nice toolbox, but maybe not enough time to develop them.  I've seen Nick Liles play and he is really good.  He's another lesson on just how crazy hard it is to make it in professional baseball.  Jason Stevenson was a feel-good story.  An older guy with a dream to redeem himself that came up short, as most of them do.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: A's 12 Giants 5

Tim Lincecum's struggle to find consistency continued on a day when the wind was blowing the desert air out and balls were riding on the jet stream.  Key Lines:

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, HR(7).  BA= .433.  Belt just keeps on Beltin'  Please, please save some for the regulary season!

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3.  BA= .333.  Crawford looks really good at the plate right now.  He made several spectacular plays look routine out on the field too.

Nick Noonan- 2 for 4.  BA= .212.  Noonan backed up yesterday's HR with a 2 hit game today.  Both his hits today came off LHP's.  In fact, Belt's HR and Crawford's hits came off LHP's too.

Cole Gillespie- 1 for 1, HR(2), BB.  BA= .271.  Gillespie is not quite ready to concede the roster spot to Pegs.  Nice day at the plate for Cole after he entered the game.

Chuckie Jones- 0 for 1.  BA= .000.  Chuckie Jones gets a cameo!  What a thrill THAT must be for the kid!  He reached for an offspeed pitch and flied weakly to LF but I thought he looked pretty good up there at the plate.

Tim Lincecum- 3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 10.97.  By now familiar scene for Timmy as hitters were able to lay off his split change in the dirt.  I saw several 0-2 counts that got away because he did not have that put-away pitch.  I will say that physically, Timmy looks better than he has in 3 years.  He looks strong out there, so hopefully he can bring it all together in time for the regular season.

Dan Runzler- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 7.27.  Runzler may have sealed his fate with this one wild-pitching a couple of inherited runners home and generally looking wild out there.  Of course, as long as Mijares is healthy, it's a moot issue anyway.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.50.  Casilla had an effective inning.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 3.38.  Romo looks heavier this spring.  I saw a couple of very nice tailing changeups which should be a nice complement to his 2 seam FB against LH batters.  In his interview with Amy G after his stint, we found out he has an ice cream named after him.  It's a Mexican chocolate with chocolate and cinnamon.  Hmm....I'm going to have to try to get some of that!

Bill Gates- The multi-gazillionaire attended the game in person as a guest of the Giants ownership.  Hmmm....

Pablo Sandoval- bad news on Pablo. He tried to throw today and had pain in the elbow.

Fantasy Focus: Worst Case Scenario- Catcher

One of the exercises I like to do in preparing for a fantasy draft is look at what I call Worst Case Scenarios at specific positions.  What I mean by that is what might be available at a given position if I wait until the last pick of the draft for it, or if I run completely out of money in an auction and have just $1 to spend.  Or, what if I wake up the morning after the draft, look at my roster and say OMG, what was I thinking?!

There are several ways to look at this.  For me, there are two key numbers I look at:  1.  How many teams are in your league which tells you something about how many players are going to be rostered in the league at a given position.  2.  How many total players are going to be drafted?

I play in a 10 team league, so there will be a minimum of 10 players drafted for each position.  We don't distinguish OF's so that means there will be a minimum of 30 OF's.  We also have IF, and 2 UT slots which are usually filled by corner IF's or OF's, but occasionally by a MI and rarely by a catcher.  We roster a total of 26 players when you count bench slots, maybe 28 if you count DL slots, so there will be 260 players drafted, with a few going on the DL as soon as the season starts for those managers who draft an injured player to stash him for later in the season.  Of course, you can do the same exercise for a 12 team league or larger.  The larger the league, the slimmer the pickings at the end of the draft and the more pressure to spend for a better player early.

Catcher is a nice place to start for several reasons:  1.  Catcher tends to be an offensive challenged position and most catchers do not play every day, so managers are less likely to carry more than one catcher.  2.  Catcher is a position that is vulnerable to injury and as in #1, they don't play every day anyway, so most managers would prefer to not spend their auction $$$ or high draft picks on a catcher who might end up injured or not play every day.

With that introduction, let's take a look at who you want to have marked down as you Worst Case Scenario pick at catcher in case someone else targets the same $3 catcher you do and starts a bidding war you would rather not get into or in a snake draft if someone takes your last catcher 2 picks before your turn comes up.  The good news here is that if you are in a 10 team league and someone grabs your #10 catcher early, there is about a 95% chance that another catcher you ranked higher will drop to you!

Here is a list of Yahoo's top 10 catchers as of right now:

1. Buster Posey
2. Joe Mauer
3. Carlos Santana
4. Victor Martinez
5. Yadier Molina
6.  Matt Wieters
7.  Wilin Rosario
8.  Miguel Montero
9.  Mike Napoli
10. Salvador Perez.

Note that the first 4 names and 6 out of the 10 have missed significant time in their careers due to injury.

My personal targets for my draft are Wilin Rosario in the $10-12 range and Salvador Perez in the $3-5 range.  I am not a fan of Napoli at all.  Montero is reliable but unexciting.  So, who will be left on the board if other managers have the same idea and target Rosario and Perez too, and I don't want to be stuck with Napoli?  Here is Yahoo's next 5:

11. Brian McCann
12. Jesus Montero
13. AJ Pierzynski
14. Jonathan Lucroy
15. Ryan Doumit

Out of those 5, I'm staying far away from McCann due to injury concerns, and I would rather forfeit my league than roster AJP for reasons only Giants fans can appreciate.  Montero is an interesting name who had a solid season last year which nobody seems to appreciate because expectations were so high.  There is a strong feel of post-hype sleeperishness about him which I like a lot.  It doesn't hurt that they are moving the fences in at Safeco Field.  Mark Jesus Montero down as a Worst Case Scenario Catcher pick.  I like Lucroy to as he will help bolster your BA which not all catchers will do.  He's a bit power challenged, but should give you at least double digit dingers and has hit for more power in the past.  Mark another one down!  Ryan Doumit was my pet sleeper from last year and he may be again this year.  He will play mostly other positions but as long as he has fantasy eligibility at catcher, who cares?  He should also be good for a .260-.280 BA with close to 20 dingers.  #3 on my Worst Case Scenario list.!   Since were are talking cheap here, Alex Avila #16/#239 may worth a flyer to see if he can have a bounceback season.

Looking past the #260 overall ranking, there are 3 names that I think is worth keeping in mind:

Welington Castillo, #329.  Castillo should be the Cubs #1 catcher this season.  He hit 5 HR's in 170 AB last year with a .265 BA.  Looking at his minor league record, he could well maintain the BA with around 15 HR's in a full season worth of AB.  Playing time is half the battle in fantasy baseball so having that starting gig in Chicago gives him a leg up. There is some thought that his peripheral numbers portend a regression, but he will also be able to call on big league experience to improve those peripherals.

AJ Ellis hits for a decent average and gets on base at a prodigious rate, but doesn't give you much else.  He did hit 13 HR's last year but his combination of high walk rates and hitting down in the order probably actually hurts his fantasy value as it limits his contributions in counting stats, RBI and Runs.  Still, having a catcher who won't kill your BA is probably a plus.

Jason Castro appears to be finally in line to get a full season's worth of AB's with the downtrodden Astros.  He hit .257 with 6 HR's in 257 AB last year and is ranked #910 overall.  He ain't gonna be drafted!

Worst Case Scenario Catcher Draft Board:

1.  Jesus Montero
2.  Jonathan Lucroy
3.  Ryan Doumit
4.  Alex Avila
5.  Welinton Castillo
6.  AJ Ellis
7.  Jason Castro

One final thought:  If the A's end up running a straight L-R platoon with Derek Norris and John Jaso, so that you can predict when each will be playing based on the handedness of the opposing SP, it might be worth rostering both players and running your own platoon!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 11 Rockies 6

It was an eventful day in Arizona as the Giants made some significant roster moves and Brandon Belt led a ferocious offensive attack pounding the Rockies into submission.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 3 for 4, 2B, 3B.  BA= .280.  Blanco has been hitting better after a slow start to the spring.  He apparently started out trying to copy Marco Scutaro's batting stance and swing, but did not have success with it.  Pagan was originally slated to start, but the Giants decided to give him an extra day to recuperate from the rigors of the WBC.

Hunter Pence- 1 for 3, HR(2).  BA= .353.  Has anyone else noticed that the baseball is flying out of the spring training parks as the weather has heated up in Arizona?  Still, The Rev is having an encouraging spring.

Brandon Belt- 4 for 4, 2B, 2 HR(6).  BA= .439.  Woo! Hoo!!  The Belter is absolutely on fire!  Can we please bottle some of this up and save it for the regular season?  Anyone else think Belt may be worth a late round flyer in my upcoming fantasy draft?

Nick Noonan- 1 for 5, HR(1).  BA= .188.  It was only 1 for 5 and it was in the desert, but Noonan just might have sealed the deal on a reserve IF roster spot with that dinger.

Chris Heston- 4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 9.28.  The spring has been a mixed bag for Hesto Presto.  These  ST games get mighty tough for pitchers with the warming weather, so not sure how much stock to put in this subpar outing.

George Kontos- 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 3.75.  Very nice job here by Kontos who has to be a lock for a bullpen job.

Scott Proctor- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 5.40.  Proctor's only chance would seem to be if Mijares does not make it back in time for opening day and the Giants decide Runzler needs more seasoning in Fresno.  Proctor is on a minor league deal and can't opt out until July 1.

In somewhat surprising moves, the Giants released Wilson Valdez and Ramon Ramirez today.  The timing came as a courtesy to allow them time to try to hook up with other teams before the end of spring training as the Giants brass made a decision that neither player was going to be in the opening day roster.  The Valdez move leaves Nick Noonan in the driver's seat for the last IF roster spot, although the Giants will undoubtedly be looking intently at waiver wires as spring training winds down.

The Giants also released minor league OF Wendell Fairley who was part of the 2007 draft class.  The current scorecard on the 6 first and supplemental first round picks from that draft:

Madison Bumgarner- Currently Giants #2 starter and quickly becoming a star in the major leagues.

Tim Alderson- traded in 2009 for Freddy Sanchez who did not help the Giants in 2009, but came with an option that helped the Giants re-sign him.  He was an important member of the 2010 World Series Championship squad.

Nick Noonan- See discussion above.  Currently battling for a roster spot as a reserve infielder.

Wendell Fairley- released today.

Charlie Culberson- Got a cup of coffee with the Giants last year, then was traded to the Rockies for Marco Scutaro and another World Series Championship.

Jackson Williams- Still in the organization as a defense first catching prospect.  May have a big league future as a backup catcher somewhere.

Dump on that draft all you want, but by my accounting it played an essential role in the first 2 World Series Championships in San Francisco Giants history with possibly more to come.

Hot tip:  Check out a very nice article on draft prospect Oscar Mercado over at Big League Futures.  It seems like  his stock has dropped just a bit and he may be drafted in the late 20's of the first round.  I think he would make a very nice pick for the Giants at #26.  The post generated a spirited Giants-oriented discussion in the comments so make sure and go have a look-see.

Around the League:  The Cincinnati Reds announced today that Aroldis Chapman will be their closer in 2013.  It would seem that Dusty Baker and Aroldis won their battle with GM Walt Jocketty over Chapman's role.

Adam Eaton has a strained UCL and is expected to miss out at least 8 weeks.  Wow!  The D'Backs pretty much bet the farm on Eaton and now they are staring at him missing the first 3'rd of the season and possibly all season as you never know with UCL's.  Man, that must be a bitter pill for them to swallow!  Pretty much throws a monkey wrench into their plans.

Down on the Farm:  Alex Pavlovic is reporting on Giants Extra that it now looks like Mac Williamson will open the season with San Jose and Chris Stratton will open in Augusta.  Stratton in Augusta would seem to be disappointing for last year's first round draft pick.  Hope he is not still having post-concussion issues.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Rockies 10 Giants 4

Matt Cain had dominant numbers but got hurt by the longball while the Giants batters got lots of runners on base, but could not bring enough of them in.  Key Lines:

Andres Torres- 2 for 3, 2B  BA= .308.  Torres is having a fine spring, but left this game early with a sore foot.  He's had trouble staying healthy the past 2 seasons.

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, BB.  BA= .354.  Another nice game for the Rev.

Joaquin Arias- 3 for 4.  BA= .262.  Arias did not score or drive in a run despite the 3 hits.  He played 1B in this one.

Francisco Peguero- 1 for 4, 2B.  BA= .354.  Pegs played all 3 OF positions in this one.  Gillespie went 0 for 2 while Pegs drove in a run and scored one.

Ryan Cavan- 2 for 4, HR(1).  BA= .500.  With nobody grabbing the reserve IF role, you never know.

Matt Cain- 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 8 K's.  ERA= 4.50.  Love the K/BB.  Cainer got hurt by a 2 run Wilin Rosario bomb.  I'm planning on not getting outbid for Rosario in my fantasy draft.  Cain's increased use of breaking balls has helped him get more K's, but he also occasionally hangs one and when he does it gets hit a long way.  The stat line pattern he has become famous for may be changing.

Dan Runzler- 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 6.75.  Runzler's first hiccup of the spring and it was a doozy.

The Giants re-assigned Kensuke Tanaka, Johnny Monell and Jackson Williams to minor league camp.  That leaves Wilson Valdez as the apparent last man standing in the reserve IF competition, but he is not exactly tearing up the Cactus League and the Giants are believed to be looking outside the organization.  Anyone ready for a Riot?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 6 Padres 4

Brandon Crawford continued his strong spring hitting and the Giants lineup, made up mostly of kids and reserves, mounted a sustained offense.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 3, CS.  BA= .239.

Mac Williamson- 1 for 2.  BA= .500.  Williamson makes his first spring appearance in a MLB game and gets a hit.  He reportedly put on a show in batting practice back in Scottsdale too.

Gary Brown- 0 for 4, BB, SB(1).  BA= .219.  Brown has had an uneven spring.  Needs to put it together for Fresno this year.

Brandon Crawford- 3 for 5, 2B.  BA= .316.  Man, I'm thinking a breakout for Brandon Crawford is a becoming a bit more than a pipe dream.  Yeah, I know spring stats don't mean anything, but check out what he did in the second half last year, and not just with superficial stats.  He showed definite improvement in K's and BB's too.

Brock Bond- 1 for 1, BB.  BA= .435.  Bond came out of the game with an injury to his side.

Ryan Cavan- 1 for 1, SB(1).  BA= .500.  Cavan gets a chance to show off his stuff too.

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 4, 3B.  BA= .318.  Ricky's mom thought the game was later in the day.  I looked up Gameday and saw that Ricky was coming up.  I sent her a text message that the game was on and Ricky was batting.  He hit the triple just as she opened the Gameday page.  How great is that?

Nick Noonan- 1 for 4, 2B.  BA= .186.

Chad Gaudin- 3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB,  2 K's.  ERA= 2.93.  A bit shaky here with 7 hits over 3 IP, but he didn't walk anyone and kept the Giants in the game.

Kontos, Proctor and Hembree- 1 scoreless IP each.

The kids turned a total of 5 DP's.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 0 Brewers 0

Ryan Vogelsong appeared to be in midseason form and then some while the Giants offense sputtered against some good BrewCrew pitching in a game that ended after 10 innings without any runs being scored.  Key Lines:

Ryan Vogelsong- 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K's.  ERA= 1.93.  Can we start the season tomorrow?

Affeldt, Lopez, Romo, Otero- 1 scoreless IP each.

Torres, Scutaro, Arias, Monell, Peguero- 1 hit each.  Pegs hit into a bases loaded DP with no outs in the bottom of the 10'th.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Mariners 6 Giants 3

Barry Zito was sharp in his longest spring start to date, but Daryl Maday and Shane Loux gave up 4 runs over the last 3 innings.  Key Lines:

Andres Torres- 0 for 2, 2 BB, SB(2).  BA= .263.

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, HBP, SB(4).  BA= .209.  The Giants first two hitters were on base 4 times out of 8 PA's with 2 SB's and 2 Runs.  I really like a lineup with those two speedsters at the top.  Of course, I would rather have Pagan at the top and let the other two compete for the #2 spot and we know Scoots ain't giving up his spot in the 2 hole.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, 2B.  BA= .420.  Belt continues to be insanely hot at the plate.  Let's hope he can carry this success into the season.

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 1.  BA= .333. Ricky got called back for the game and gets another hit.

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 3, 3B.  BA= .273.  Crawford continues to show some consistency at the plate and be a threat to produce runs at the bottom of the lineup.

Barry Zito- 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K's.  ERA= 3.46.  Wow!  Look at that K/BB.  I'm really liking this new Barry Zito kid.  Where did the Giants find him again?

Pablo Sandoval reportedly underwent an MRI which showed a bone spur, not a new problem for him.  At this point it is looking like a relatively minor inflammation and irritation of the ulnar nerve and he will likely be back in time to start the season.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.  Pablo is a big part of any scenario that has the Giants contending for a repeat title.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 9 Rockies 7

Cole Gillespie hit a walkoff 3 run homer to give the Giants the W over the Rockies after a see-saw battle.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 3 for 4, 2B.  BA= .333.  The Rev is red hot and wouldn't it be nice to have him go through some streaks like this in season?

Brandon Belt- 3 for 4, 2B, BB, SB(2).  BA= .404.  Another minor league line for The Belter.

Cole Gillespie- 2 for 2, HR(1).  BA= .306.  And Gillespie serves notice that he is not going to lose that roster spot without a fight.

Brock Bond- 1 for 1, 2B, BB.  BA= .409.  Bond's magical bat continues to argue HIS case for a roster spot.

Tim Lincecum- 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 9.39.  OK start for Timmy.  Might be still a bit generous with the free passes.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.50.  Romo's scoreless frame gets credited with the W.

Pablo Sandoval was scratched from the lineup at the last minute with elbow pain.  He reportedly felt something on a throw yesterday and still had pain today.  THAT does not sound good, but hopefully it's just a strain or some inflammation.

Yusmeiro Petit gets outrighted off the 40 man roster.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Indians 4 Giants 3

The Giants scored 2 runs in the top of the 9'th inning to take a 3-2 lead only to give it back in the bottom of the 9'th in a split squad game in the Indians home training park.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 0 for 4, 3 K's.  BA= .189.  Blanco better watch his back or else Torres or Pegs is going to grab his   playing time.

Roger Kieschnick- 2 for 4, 2 2B.  BA= .219.

Brock Bond- 1 for 4, 3B.  BA= .381.  What an impressive spring Bond is having!

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 2, BB, SF.  BA= .294.  Ricky puts a nice finish to the major league portion of his spring training.  Good impressions on the manager and GM can open doors down the road in a young player's career.  That is true in all walks of life, actually.

Chris Heston- 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 8.10.  Heston has had his ups and downs this spring, but was at his best in the two games that counted the most:  The split squad game at Salt River Flats that the entire front office attended, and this one which might be more impressive because he faced a mostly MLB lineup.

Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.29.  Runzler continues to put together solid outings.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Reds 7 Giants 6

A tight pitching duel through 7 innings turned into a slugfest over the final 2 innings with the Reds pulling out a narrow win.  Key Lines:

Andres Torres- 0 for 1, 2 BB, PO/CS.  BA= .308.  Torres has made several baserunning gaffes this spring.  Doesn't do any good to get on base if you get yourself thrown out, Andres.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 3, 2B.  BA= .435.  If Pablo can just stay healthy.....

Adam Duvall- 2 for 2, HR(2).  BA= .231.  Duvall shows off his power.

Francisco Peguero- 1 for 4, 2B.  BA= .395.

Ehire Adrianza- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .200.

Cole Gillespie- 1 for 1, BB.  BA= .265.

Johnny Monell- 0 for 2, E, PB.  BA= .529.  Monell struggles on defense.

Madison Bumgarner-  5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 1.84.  The lone run came after a Billy Hamilton triple in the top of the first inning scoring on a groundout.

Chad Gaudin- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 2.19.  Gaudin takes another step toward nailing down the long reliever spot on the roster.

Javier Lopez- 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 18.90.  Not worried about Lopez who might be working on something.

Ramon Ramirez- 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 12.00.  Not looking good for Ramon.

This is a split squad day with a nightcap against the Cleveland Indians with Chris Heston taking the mound for the Giants and the lineup heavy with players who will be leaving for minor league camp after the game.

Scouting the Draft: Hunter Renfroe

Hunter Renfroe is a player who may be getting some major traction in 2013 draft rankings.  He's a guy whose college career has developed slowly, but he has performed well in wood bat summer leagues and is in the midst of a major breakout in his junior year in college at Mississippi State.

Renfroe has played OF, C and RHP, but seems to have settled into RF this year.  He's got terrific size at 6'2", 211 lbs, B-R, T-R.  He probably doesn't have CF range in the OF, but has a plus arm, so could be a defensive asset as a RF in the right ballpark and right CF playing next to him.  What really stands out about him is the bat which has terrific power potential, with a solid hit tool to back it up.

Here are his stat lines for college and summer league ball:

2011 NCAA:                   .154/.233/.192 in 26 AB.
2011 Cal Ripkin League:  .305/.371/.581 with 8 HR in 105 AB.  #1 prospect in the 2011 Cal Ripkin League.
2012 NCAA:                   .257/.333/.381 with 4 HR in 218 AB.
2012 Cal Ripkin League:  .366/.469/,866 with 16 HR in 134 AB. He hit 3 more HR in their championship series.
2013 NCAA:                   .433/.464/.883 with 6 HR in 60 AB.

Fantasy Focus: All Rookie Team

Last year was a banner year for Rookies with two superstars of the future(and present) breaking in, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  It is unlikely that this year's crop has anyone who compares to either of those two, but it's still a nice class and possibly deeper.

C  Rob Brantly, Miami.  Barely Qualifies as prospect/rookie, but I like his lefthanded bat and give him a slight edge over Travis D'Arnaud of the Mets who I'm not sold on hitting right away.

1B  Mike Olt, Rangers.  There were only two possibilities on this list, Olt and Jonathan Singleton of the Astros.  Singleton is suspended for the first 50 games, while Olt has some challenges breaking into the Rangers' lineup.   Not a great choice.

2B  Jedd Gyorko, Padres.  Jurickson Profar is a better long term prospect who may play 2B for the Rangers in 2013, but it's not clear Profar is going to be able to force the Rangers to move Ian Kinsler off 2B.  I'll go with Gyorko who has a starting gig from day 1.

3B  Nolan Arenado, Rockies.  Arenado has been the Rockies' 3B of the future for almost as long as I can remember and there is absolutely no reason for them to delay his MLB debut.  They may want to delay the start of his arbitration clock, but he should be up by mid June at the latest.

SS  Jean Segura, Brewers.  Segura was the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade for the Brewers and he will be the starting SS out of the gate in 2013.  Excellent minor league resume and a promising start to his MLB career in limited action last year.  If you are looking for a cheap fantasy SS with a whole lot of upside, look for Segura.

OF  Aaron Hicks, Twins.  Hicks has has a tremendous spring and appears to have all but won the starting CF gig for the Twins.  5 tool player who will likely give more speed than power early in his career.

OF  Adam Eaton, D'Backs.  Eaton is an on-base machine who the D'Backs like enough to trade away Chris Young to make room for him.  He'll be the starting CF/Leadoff Batter for the snakes out of the gate.

OF   Wil Myers, Rays.  Myers will start the season in AAA, but look for him to be called up as soon as his arbitration clock gets delayed.  The premier power hitting prospect in this rookie class.

P   Dylan Bundy, Orioles.  Bundy will almost certainly be up by the first of June.  He should have an immediate fantasy impact.  Definite draft and stash candidate.

P  Gerrit Cole, Pirates.  Cole also will almost certainly be up by the first of June and should have an immediate impact.  Also a draft and stash candidate.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 5 Rangers 2

The Giants appeared to be almost ready to start the season after a crisp win over their 2010 World Series foes.  Key Lines:

Andres Torres- 2 for 4, HR(1), SB(1).  BA= .333.  Torres has been hurt for much of the early spring, but this line brings back fond memories of 2010.

Buster Posey- 1 for 1, 2 BB.  BA= .238.  Buster has had a quiet spring, but I think the Giants have been trying to pace him a bit and figure out who his backup is going to be.

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, 2B, HR(1).  BA= .314.  Lines like this out of the Rev will be most welcome this year.

Nick Noonan- 1 for 2.  BA= .194.  Noonan made a late run at a roster spot, but it was apparently too little too late.  Noonan got the word, along with 21 other players, that he is being sent down after the game, so this one was for the good times.  Not sure I completely agree with that decision.  I just posted a response on Shankbone's site this morning about how I though Noonan might be the best choice for the final IF slot.

Ricky Oropesa- 0 for 1.  BA= .267.  Another one for the good times.  Ricky's gotta feel pretty good about his first MLB camp.  Got in quite a few games, made some nice defensive plays, hit a tie-breaking dinger to impress the manager.  It doesn't get much better than that for a kid coming off his first professional season.

Matt Cain- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 3.60.  Cainer looks like he's rounding into mid-season form.

Edwin Escobar- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Escobar gets called up from from minor league camp and gets to throw an inning.  Hmm.....

Heath Hembree- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 7.50.

Rangers Lineup- I guess Nelson Cruz will be back, but that lineup is looking decidedly not fearsome without Josh Hamiton and Mike Napoli.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Team Japan 6 Giants 3

Yusmeiro Petit had another subpar pitching performance as the Giants fell behind Team Japan 4-1 after 4 innings, and were never able to catch up.  Key Lines:

Francisco Peguero- 1 for 2, SF.  Peguero drove in 2 of the Giants 3 runs.  He continues to press his case for a roster spot while his main rival, Cole Gillespie rang up an 0 for 4.

Gary Brown- 1 for 1, HR.  Brownie gets his chance to show off for the brass.  It is remarkable how many Giants prospects have gotten a chance to show what they can do and have made the most of the opportunity.

Kensuke Tanaka- 1 for 3, E.  Familiar story with Tanaka.  Gotta be able to field a position to make the team.

Scott Proctor, Dan Runzler and Ramon Ramirez-  1 scoreless IP each.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 9 Reds 5

Barry Zito had a nice start and several prospects took advantage of a chance to show their offensive chops as the Giants topped their 2012 NLDS rivals.  Key Lines:

Andres Torres- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .250.  Torres got thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple the promptly hurled in the dugout.  Ewwwww!!!!  Seems a GI virus is loose in the Giants clubhouse.

Nick Noonan- 2 for 5, 2B.  BA- .176.  Nick Noonan has been coming on over the last week or so.

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 2, HR(1).  BA= .286.  Ricky broke a 3-3 tie with a 2 run dinger in the 8'th.  That's a good way to leave in impression on the manager.  It doesn't get much better than surviving the first round of cuts then rewarding your bosses who made that decision with a performance like that for a non-roster kid who appears to be ticketed for AA.

Juan Perez-  1 for 2, HR(1), Assist.  BA= .200.  Perez has been doing some impressing the last few games himself.

Francisco Peguero- 2 for 4, SB(2).  BA= .424.  Contrast this performance with Cole Gillespie's last night.  Pegs may be gaining some traction here.

Johnny Monell- 3 for 4, 2 2B.  BA= .600.  Monell is suddenly the talk of the town.  Notice he was the DH in this game.  I don't think he has seen much, if any, time behind the plate this spring.

Guillermo Quiroz- 1 for 2.  BA= .333.  I suspect Quiroz is currently #3 on the Giants catching depth chart.

Barry Zito- 3.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 3.38.

Jake Dunning, Chad Gaudin, Jean Machi- 1 scoreless IP each.

Late word that Brett Pill will undergo knee surgery and be out at least 3 weeks.  Guess he won't start the season as the 5'th OF.

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Padres 6 Giants 2

The Giants kind of sleepwalked through this one, perhaps because they might have had difficulty picking up the junk Freddy Garcia was throwing in rather poor lighting in Scottsdale Stadium.  The game was on TV, though, and it was great to see some baseball, any kind of baseball, being played by the boys in orange and black.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 2, BB.  BA= .233.  Blanco negated his single with some sloppy baserunning when Mark Kotsay threw behind him on the turn at 1B and Blanco was unable to beat the throwdown to 2B.

Johnny Monell- 1 for 1, HR.  BA= .545.  Monell homered deep into the RF bleachers in the 3'rd pinch-hitting for Edlefsen who cleaned up for Timmy in the 3'rd inning.

Cole Gillespie- 0 for 3, 3 K's.  BA= .242.  Gillespie had a tough game getting rung up 3 times and slipped in the OF whiffing on a ball that got past him and allowed 2 insurance runs to score for the Padres.

Hector Sanchez- 0 for 3.  BA= .211.  The Hector had a tough night at the plate and behind it.  He looked frustrated.  Baggs is questioning how secure his roster spot is.

Kensuke Tanaka- 0 for 2.  BA= .216.  Tanaka had another tough day on the field.

Tim Lincecum- 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 14.73.  This was Timmy's first start since healing a blister on his finger.  He looked strong in the first 2 innings and his FB was clocked at 93.  Everybody still seems optimistic about his season.

Kruk and Kuip-  The dynamic duo was in mid-season form:

TV camera shows a guy wearing a T-shirt that say "Kings Wear Rings."

Kuip:  "The Giants get their rings during the first homestand.  I don't know if we're going to have to wear our tuxes or not."

Kruk:  "I'm thinking of wearing mine all year!  That's how I'm feeling tonight!"

I laughed out loud for at least 5 minutes on that one.  Of course, it's pretty easy to amuse me after almost a half-year without any baseball to watch.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fantasy Focus: All Breakout Team

Breakouts are the Holy Grail of fantasy baseball.  Every fantasy baseball manager wants to have that player on his team who gets taken late in a draft or for single digit $ in an auction, yet breaks out with an elite season.  Here is my 2013 All Breakout Team with some comments:

C   Salvador Perez, Royals.  I've had Matt Wieters the last 2 years, so this is probably the year HE breaks out.  Jesus Montero is also a candidate, but I'm going with Perez.  He was considered kind of a sleeper last year when the Royals signed him to a long term contract.  Perez then tore the ACL in his knee and missed half the season.  When he came back, though, he put up excellent numbers, .301/.328/.471 with 11 HR in 305 PA.  Few people noticed because it was midseason and the Royals were out of contention.  Give this guy a full season of PA's and you have one of the elite hitting catchers in baseball.

1B  Brandon Belt, Giants.  Eric Hosmer might be a more obvious candidate and Anthony Rizzo has a lot of supporters, but I'm going to go with The Belter here.  Does anyone remember his magical 2010 season when he tore through 3 minor league levels and was the toast of the prospect watching community?  That was awhile ago, but Belt found some confidence at the plate late last year, hitting .349 in August and .310 in September, and it appears to be carrying over into the spring.

2B  Neil Walker, Pirates.  Walker has been kind of the definition of boring since breaking into MLB in late 2009 after a touted minor league career.  He's been a very reliable .270-.280 hitter with solid BB and K rates with double digit HR power.  He's a switch-hitter and those guys sometimes take a bit longer to develop.  He's also big for a 2B at 6'3', 210 lbs and you have to think there is a lot more power lurking in there somewhere. He is also entering his age 27 season even though it seems like he's been around forever.

3B  Pablo Sandoval, Giants.  Some people may say he's already broken out, but I'm thinking The Panda has only started to scratch the surface.  He performed poorly in 2010 due to lack of conditioning.  He lost significant parts of the last 2 seasons to broken hamate bones, both of which have been surgically removed.  With no hamate bones to break and a seeming understanding with Bochy that he has to keep himself in some semblance of shape, I'm thinking we could be in line for a .330 BA with 30+ HR's in 2013.

SS  Jed Lowrie, A's.  Oh, I want to put Brandon Crawford here real bad, but I think Brandon's improvement will come more incrementally than in breakout form.  I'm going with Lowrie to finally stay healthy  and reward Billy Beane with a 25 HR season.

OF  Bryce Harper, Nationals.  This one might be too obvious and is it really possible for a ROY to have a true breakout season?  We'll see, but the sky is the limit for Bryce Harper.  We're talking along the lines of what Mike Trout did last season.  Possibly more HR's and fewer SB's but Harper is going to be a monster when he is fully developed.

OF  Yeonis Cespedes, A's.  Another guy who maybe did a bit too well last year to considered a breakout candidate, but it is very possible that last year was just the tip of the iceberg.  Think 30/30 as a starting point.

OF  Starling Marte, Pirates.  Go look up Marte's minor league numbers.  He was a beast!  I've got Marte down for an easy 10/30 season with a whole lot more possible.

P    Homer Bailey, Reds.  It seems like Bailey has been around forever, but he's just entering his age 27 season.  The projection systems are not impressed, but what the projections don't see is that he was an absolute beast coming down the stretch last year and into the postseason.  He had an ERA of 3.21 in the second half with 92 K's against 24 BB in 103.2 IP including a 1.85 ERA and a no-hitter in September.  Classic post-hype sleeper.  Actually he might be a post-post-hype sleeper!

P  Matt Harvey, Mets.  Harvey made his MLB debut last year and pitched very well.  He was highly regarded out of HS and again out of college and North Carolina.  His pedigree, numbers from last year and stuff make me think he is going to be a horse and he's underrated and undervalued right now.

P   Brett Anderson, A's.  Anderson has already shown he can be very good, but injuries have gotten in the way.  He appears to be healthy this year, despite a collision on the field in a spring game.  He's always had the stuff and moxie to be a good one.  This could be the year he puts it all together.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 2 Rangers 1

Madison Bumgarner and Yu Darvish hooked up in spring training version of a pitcher's duel and Bumgarner got the best of it while Hunter Pence brought the bat the Giants and their fans hope they see a lot more of this year.  Key Lines:

Tony Abreu- 1 for 2.  BA= .500. Abreu complained of pain above his knee after the game and is not expected to play tomorrow.  Dude has been hurt his entire career!

Nick Noonan- 1 for 3, 3B.  BA= .143.  Noonan reportedly made a great play from 3B in this one and may be getting some traction for a roster spot.

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, 2B, 3B.  BA= .300.  I think that's the guy we would all like to see in more games this year.

Kensuke Tanaka- 1 for 2, BB, SB(3).  BA= .229. If Tanaka can convince the Giants he's safe to put on the field on defense, I would think the reserve IF job it his.

Madison Bumgarner- 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 1.86.  I have found myself shying away from Bummy in fantasy mock drafts due to that mysterious loss of command and velocity last year.  I might have to re-think that after today.  Still 3 weeks away from my real fantasy draft, though.

Chad Gaudin- 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.61.  Not as good as his spot start, but probably good enough to keep the inside track to the last bullpen job.

Heath Hembree- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 9.00.  Nice bounceback from a rough last outing.

Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K. ERA= 2.50.  Mijares better get his elbow ready in a hurry or he could find Runzler occupying his roster spot.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Giants 6 Brewers 1

The Giants dispatched the BrewCrew in workmanlike fashion as Matt Cain pitched 3 strong innings, the offense chipped out some runs and the bullpen was lights out.  Key Lines:

Hector Sanchez- 1 for 2, BB.  BA= .250.  Hector draws a walk!

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 1.  BA= .267.  OK, it was a ball that glanced off the 2B glove, but 2 hits in 2 games after surviving the first cutdown.  Parents there to see it to boot.  Ricky making the most of his opportunities!

Cole Gillespie- 2 for 4. BA= .267.  Gillespie strengthens his hold on the 5'th OF spot.

Wilson Valdez- 2 for 4.  BA= .250.  Valdez played SS which is what sets him apart from the other contenders for the reserve IF role.

Brett Pill- 1 for 3.  BA= .280. Pill is stating his case for the a reserve corner IF/OF role.  Gillespie would seem to be his competition, but maybe the Giants would carry just 1 MI reserve?

Matt Cain- 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 5.40.  I believe this is Cainer's strongest outing of the spring so far.  That's OK, it's a long spring.  Don't want to peak too early and get worn down.

Jake Dunning- 2 IP, 0 R.  ERA= 1.59.  Dunning has had a strong spring for future reference.

Sandy Rosario(1.80), George Kontos(1.50), Jean Machi(3.60), Dan Otero(2.25)- 1 scoreless frame each.

The Giants scheduled a B game against the D'Backs in Salt River Fields just so they could see Mike Kickham and Christ Heston pitch a few innings.  Both turned in strong performances with Bruce Bochy and Rags sitting on the bench and none other than Brian Sabean and several of his peeps in attendance.  I don't think we are going to see a boxscore from that game.

Hot Tip:  I have a new link posted over to the left.  I noticed I was getting some traffic from a site called Giants Win.  I checked it out and it's a nice little blog.  Look for it over on the left and check it out for yourself.

Fantasy Focus: Yet Another Mock Draft

With the long spring season in baseball, it seems like an eternity waiting for my fantasy baseball draft which is scheduled for Friday, March 29.  After pouring over draft rankings and thinking out strategies in my head, I needed to test some of them out, so signed up for a mock auction draft on Yahoo Friday night.  I specifically wanted to clarify my budgeting at the top of the draft, see if I could punt Saves and get the SP's with RP eligibility that I wanted for the right price, and see what players I could get at the end of the draft if I spend big at the top.

In past years, I used to mainly look for pitchers with high K rates and  pretty much ignored ERA and WHIP.  Last year, I made a concerted effort to roster pitchers with historically low WHIP's and found that it paid off by putting WHIP consistently in the Win column for Savvy Vets.

My goal was to get 3-4 stud players for a total of around $150, add in 2-3 in the $10-20 range and then try to fill out the rest of my roster with players who cost less than $10.  Here's how it went:

C   Wilin Rosario, Rockies  $10.  My backup plan was Welington Castillo, but Rosario came up huge for the Savvy Vets in last year's championship run.  If I can get him for under $15, Rosario is my catcher.

1B  Albert Pujols, Angels  $45.  My initial thought was to see if I could get one of the Big 3 for $50 each, then get one ace pitcher and go scrubs the rest of the way.  Alas, every one of the Big 3 went for well over $50 with Mike Trout going for the big 6-oh.  I then adjusted my sights to try for my #4 and #5 ranked players, Cano and Pujols. I was hoping to get them in the low $40's, and then maybe try for 2 aces.  Not sure what I would have done if Pujols, my #5 went for over $45, but he didn't and I landed him.

2B  Robinson Cano, Yankees  $42.  I have Cano ranked #4 overall, but he gives the biggest positional advantage on the board.

3B   Pablo Sandoval, Giants  $19.  This might have been a slight overpay for Sandoval, and he does carry some risk, but if he has the breakout season I think he might and he's not on my fantasy team, I will not be happy.  So, I think I've gotta go for Sandoval in my draft.

SS  Jean Segura, Brewers  $1.  I made a run at Ian Desmond, but another guy started bidding me up out of my price range.  Made another run at Alcides Escobar.  Based on his minor league record, I think there is a decent chance Segura outperforms Escobar anyway.  Rookies are always dicey though.  I may be busy on the FA/Waiver wire looking fo SS's with him, but it's only a $1 risk.

OF  Yeonis Cespedes, A's.  $21.  There are 4 young 5 tool OF's I really like, Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Adam Jones and Cespedes.  Cespedes seems to be the most affordable of that group.  He may have the highest ceiling too, well, except for Harper but Harper is way more expensive.

OF  Ben Revere, Phillies  $4.  I think Revere is likely to put up better numbers than Michael Bourn and is going for a fraction of the cost.

OF  Michael Cuddyer, Rockies  $3.  Cuddyer was hurt last year, but hit 16 HR with 8 SB's in 394 PA.  Projected to a full season he gets you 24 HR and 10+ SB which is what his ZIPS projection says he will do in 2013.

UT  Pedro Alvarez, Pirates  $4.  Alvarez hit 30 HR last year. He's a former #2 overall draft pick and is still very early in his career.

UT  Starling Marte, Pirates  $1.  Marte was a beast coming up through the minors and his MLB debut last year was impressive.  Good bet for at least 10/30 with a whole lot more than that possible.

SP  Justin Verlander, Tigers  $36.  Having saved some $ on the offensive side by not overpaying for any of the Big 3, I decided to get aggressive on pitching side.  I always like to have strong pitching anyway.  IMO, pitching is the most underrated aspect of fantasy baseball by most analysts.  Verlander is the #1 SP on my board.  He's got the stuff and the track record and is in the prime of his career.

SP  David Price, Rays  $32.  I have Price as my #4 but in the same top tier as Verlander, Kershaw and Strasburg.  He's going for at least $5 and a full round later than the other 3 which makes him undervalued in my book.

RP  Marco Estrada, Brewers  $4.  This is where I diverged a bit.  Last year, I ended up with a very weak bullpen and was not really competitive in Saves in the second half or my fantasy playoffs.  This has gotten me thinking, you either win the category or you lose it. There is no in-between.  If I could win the championship by essentially punting Saves, I might do even better if I go all the way and replace those pitchers with good SP's who have RP eligibility.  The top guys for that are Medlen, Chapman and Lynn.  Medlen and Chapman are expensive and Lynn has a high WHIP and is looking like a regressor.  Estrada, Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez are my targets in this scenario.

RP  Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners  $1.  At this price, I consider Iwakuma one of the major bargains in fantasy baseball even if you fill your RP slots with closers and just use him in a SP slot.

P   Doug Fister, Tigers  $9.  Fister is fairly popular as a breakout candidate for 2009.  He's getting knocked around in spring training so far, but I still believe.

P  Anibal Sanchez, Tigers  $6.  I almost like Sanchez better than Fister and he's going cheaper.

P  Matt Harvey, Mets  $6.  I was hoping to get Harvey for $4 but I love him as a breakout candidate.

P  Homer Bailey, Reds  $3.  He was a beast down the stretch and into the postseason last year.  A classic post-hype sleeper.

BN  Wade Miley, D'Backs  $1.  There are thoughts that he is a classic regression candidate and I hate his home ballpark for a pitcher, but the WHIP looks good.

BN  Phil Hughes, Yankees  $2.  Hughes helped the Savvy Vets a lot last year and he's another post-hype sleeper type.  Yankee pitchers are always good for W's but they are such a mess this year, I might have to re-think this one.

BN  Tommy Milone, A's  $1.  Milone won't light it up with K's, but he doesn't give up walks and he pitches in a great ballpark for pitchers.

BN  Dylan Bundy, Orioles  $1.  Bundy will start the season in the minors, but will almost certainly be called by the first of June. He will have immediate fantasy value.

BN  Gerrit Cole, Pirates.  $1.  See Dylan Bundy above.

I left $7 on the table which is more than I would like.  Looking over my roster, I could have gotten a more established SS or maybe upgraded an OF or UT slot, but overall I am reasonably happy with my offense.  The one pitcher who I really wanted and got away was Brett Anderson and in retrospect, I could have used the extra $7 to be more aggressive in landing him.

This was a 12 team draft.  My real life fantasy league is 10 teams but 3 more roster spots each, so the total number of players drafted is quite close.  My league has an extra IF, SP and RP slot.  I would have moved Alvarez to the IF slot and targeted Dayan Viciedo for a cheap source of power for the vacated UT slot.  Erasmo Ramirez would have been my 3'rd RP and maybe Alex Cobb for my extra SP slot.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Game Wrap Spring Training 2013: Royals 13 Giants 2

If you are keeping score, this one was over almost before it got started as Yusmeiro Petit got rocked for 6 runs in the top of the first inning and the route was on.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, 3B.  BA= .208.  Blanco tripled in the 6'th inning and scored on Noonan's triple.

Nick Noonan- 1 for 2, 3B.  BA= .095.  Noonan tripled to drive in Gregor Blanco from 3B in the 6'th.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 2, HR(4), BB.  BA= .467.  Gotta be excited about what we're seeing from Belt this spring.

Ricky Oropesa- 1 for 1.  BA= .200.  Ricky survives the first cutdown and gets a hit.  I think his parents were in attendance.

Yusmeiro Petit- 1.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 10.80.  Just when you think Petit is turning it around, he puts up a stinker like this.  Sigh!

Scott Proctor- 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 0 K's.  ERA= 6.00.  If Chad Gaudin didn't have the inside track for the last bullpen spot, he does now.

Dan Runzler- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.80.  Runzler has one last option left.  He looks like he could help the MLB team if the needed him.

News and Notes: Spring Training Doldrums

Every spring it seems like you hit a stretch where the excitement and promise of a new season starts to wear off, but the real games are still a long way off in the future.  Time starts to slow down.  Players appear to go through the motions.  Off days and rainouts seem like an eternity.  Is it just me, or between off days, rainouts and the WBC, has spring training slowed to a snail's pace?

The Giants announced their first cut down from the major league camp late this week.  Andrew Susac, Joe Panik, Josh Osich, Fabio Castillo, Edward Concepcion, Justin Fitzgerald and Jose Valdez were reassigned to minor league camp and Angel Villalona was optioned to High A San Jose.

Andres Torres(oblique strain), Hector Sanchez(right calf strain) and Javier Lopez(bruised left hand) are on the mend and nearly ready to start playing again.

Tim Lincecum has missed a couple of starts due to a blister issue in his finger.  He pitched a simulated game  early today and reported that he is ready to pitch in real games.  Lincecum has had recurrent blister issues which have clearly prevented him from using his slider, which is a pretty good pitch, so there is concern going forward on that issue.

There are just 3 roster spots open for competition this spring, 5'th OF, reserve IF and 7'th bullpen arm.  At this point Chad Gaudin appears to have a comfortable lead for the last bullpen spot after pitching 3 scoreless innings in an emergency start replacing Tim Lincecum.  The ability to do that as well as go multiple innings if a starter gets knocked out early is an asset the Giants have lacked the last two years, especially after Mota go suspended.

Cole Gillespie continues to be the favorite to win the #5 OF slot as he has a RH bat and can play all 3 OF positions(actually, I'm not sure why the Giants think they need another guy who can play CF with Blanco and Torres virtual shoe-ins to make the team).  Francisco Peguero is having a tremendous spring, but probably has to win the starting LF job outright to make the team as the Giants will want him playing every day, while they have no reason to feel that imperative about Gillespie.

The IF job is more muddled.  Kensuke Tanaka appears to be the frontrunner, but has had significant struggles on the defensive side of the ball, especially at SS.  Beat reporters seem to think Tanaka has to be able to play SS to win a roster spot.  Brock Bond is having a good spring and Bochy, contrary to popular stereotype, really likes the OBP's in his minor league stat lines.  The problem with Bond is he doesn't really play SS and if Tanaka has to play SS to make the team, then why wouldn't Bond?  Wilson Valdez may end up winning the job just by default.

Sergio Romo caused some consternation in the Giants camp when he threw 27 pitches in a WBC loss to Italy.  He reportedly felt fine afterward and pitched a 1,2, 3 ninth inning in a shocking 5-2 win over Team USA last night.

Fantasy Focus Rookie Watch: Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks is a name that has gotten short shrift in discussions of impact rookies, but he is starting to make some noise in spring training and may be poised to be have the biggest impact of any rookie out there.  When the Minnesota Twins traded away Denard Span and Ben Revere in one offseason, they cleared the deck for Hicks to be their CF of the future.  The only alternative is Darin Mastroianni who is at best a temporary placeholder for the former first round draft pick, Hicks.  The Twins are believed to want Hicks to win the job in spring training and are behaving accordingly.  Mastroianni has not helped his own cause by missing time with injury.

If the Twins want Hicks to win the job outright, he certainly gave them terrific cover for that decision with a 3 HR game this week, with the first of the 3 dingers coming of none other than Cliff Lee.  Hicks was having a good spring even before the 3 HR outburst, but now sports a slash line of .400/.387/.900! with 4 HR.

Hicks is a true 5 tool player with plus speed and an arm that can throw a ball 96 MPH off a pitching mound.  He has been seen more as a speed guy with future power potential and the big question has always been the hit tool.  Some scouts liked him better as a pitcher, but he was drafted as an OF out of HS as the Twins first round pick in 2008.  He signed quickly and put up good numbers in rookie ball:  .318/.409/.491 with 4 HR, 12 SB in 204 PA.  His numbers were not as good in 2009-2011 as he repeated low A ball and after 4 professional seasons had only completed high A ball.  He scored an AFL assignment at the end of the 2011 season and played well there with a line of .294/./400/.559 with 3 HR, 5 SB in 120 PA.

Aaron was assigned to the Twins AA affiliate, New Britain, CT in the Eastern League for 2012 and put up surprisingly good numbers for a league well known to be very tough on hitters:  .285/.382/.459, 13 HR, 32 SB in 563 PA.  Even when he struggled in the minors, Hicks maintained a solid approach at the plate with walk rates of 13-15% while keeping his K rates at or below 20%.

DOB is 10/2/1989 so he is entering his age 23 season.  He is a switch-hitter who is much stronger from the right side. He throws right.  He is 6'2", 178 lbs, so has some room to fill out the frame and gain more power.

Yesterday, Twins GM Terry Ryan flatly stated that Hicks' arbitration clock will not play a role in his making the team.  There is still plenty of time for him to go into a prolonged spring training slump and make the Twins decided he would benefit from some time in AAA, but at this point, it would appear he is well on his way to being the Twins starting CF in 2013.  If he does, he is likely to be able to help a fantasy team in the steals category, if nothing else.  Don't expect a power breakout despite the 3 dinger day this week.  He'll get most of he PA's batting LH where he has less power and Target Field is particularly tough.  He should get on base at the top of the Twins order enough to give you 30+ SB's and score a lot of runs.  BA may be a bit dicy his first season or two.

Just as an aside, although they did not attend the same HS, Aaron was in the same HS class as Ricky O and they played together at the Urban Youth Academy and on the showcase circuit.  Ricky's mom says she know's Aaron's family well and is rooting for him to succeed.  Since my wife is from South Dakota and is a big Twins fan, I have double rooting interest in Aaron Hicks.