Tag:Brad Mills
Posted on: December 3, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Angels send C Mathis to Jays for LHP Mills

Jeff MathisBy C. Trent Rosecrans

After acquiring Chris Iannetta earlier this week, the Angels have traded catcher Jeff Mathis to the Blue Jays in return for left-hander Brad Mills.

Brad MillsMills, 26, started four games for the Blue Jays last season and appeared in relief in one more game, going 1-2 with a 9.82 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 12 walks in 18 1/3 innings. In 14 career games and nine starts, he's 2-3 with an 8.57 ERA. He was 11-9 with a 4.00 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A, striking out 136 batters in 157 1/3 innings. 

Mathis, 28, hit .174/.225/.259 with three homers in 93 games for the Angels last season and is a career .194/.225/.259. He was expendable after the acquisition of Iannetta, who will team with Hank Conger as the Angels' catching tandem.

Mathis was a favorite of manager Mike Scioscia, who kept him in the lineup despite his horrendous numbers at the plate. The move could show a weakening of Scioscia's influence over roster moves under new general manager Jerry DiPoto. The Angels chose Mathis over Mike Napoli last offseason and we all saw how that worked out for the Angels and (ultimately) the Rangers.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 11:53 pm
 

Levine, Hunsicker candidates to watch for Astros

By Matt Snyder

With Ed Wade reportedly set to be given his walking papers Monday by new Astros owner Jim Crane, the ballclub will be searching for a new general manager very soon. With Houston favorite Andrew Friedman likely out of the running, Thad Levine is an early candidate to watch, sources have told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler.

Levine, 40, is the assistant general manager for the Texas Rangers, a position he's held since 2005 -- when Jon Daniels was hired as the youngest GM in baseball history. The Rangers' brain trust has put together back-to-back American League championship clubs, and this was an organization that had previously never won a playoff series, so Levine is obviously well-groomed to take over a ballclub of his own.

Also, per Knobler, don't rule out Gerry Hunsicker. He currently works with Friedman as an executive for Tampa Bay, but still has a home in Houston. Hunsicker was the Astros' GM from 1995-2004, presiding over/setting up a period of time that easily qualifies as the best in franchise history -- when the Astros went to the playoffs six times in a nine season span and also made their only World Series appearance.

There's no way of knowing how quickly Houston would want to hire a new GM, considering the firing of Wade hasn't actually happened yet, but the Winter Meetings start in a week, so it would behoove them to make a very quick hire, if possible.

Finally, on the managerial situation, Brad Mills will not be fired, reports Richard Justice.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 12:20 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Houston Astros

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Houston Astros
Record: 52-100, 37.5 games back in NL Central
Manager: Brad Mills
Best hitter: Carlos Lee -- .277/.338/.455 with 18 HR, 86 RBI, 59 R, 36 2B
Best pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez -- 11-10, 3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 177 2/3 IP, 160 K

Unfortunately for the Astros, leading off the R.I.P. series means they're the worst team in baseball. So the biggest theme of the 2011 season in Houston was losing. They've already set a franchise record with 100 losses and could creep up on the MLB list of most losses in history with a bad final week and a half. The "best hitter" listed above is by default because both Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence were traded at the deadline. With the ownership situation in limbo -- Jim Crane still hasn't been approved -- it's hard to tell what direction the Astros will take in the future. One would expect promising youngsters like Jose Altuve and Jordan Lyles to lead a youth movement.

2011 SEASON RECAP

It was pretty forgettable from Day 1, when the Astros blew a ninth-inning lead against the Phillies. The Astros would open the season 0-5 and never get back to .500 -- the closest they got was when they were 7-11. Perhaps unbelievably, they did win the season series against the defending champion Giants (four games to three). They also took two of three from the Blue Jays, but didn't have a winning record against anyone else. The best month was August, when the Astros went 12-17. So that pretty much sums it up.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Astros GM Ed Wade dealt Bourn and Pence before the non-waiver trade deadline in July for some prospects. He also traded Jeff Keppinger. There was a youth movement from about the middle of the season on, but it's a pretty lackluster movement, as the system simply isn't stocked with much talent -- for example, in Baseball Prospectus' midseason top 50 prospects, Altuve was No. 42. He was the only Astros prospect on the list. The preseason top 101 only had two Astros, with Lyles at 59 being the top prospect in the system.

Basically, they have a long way to go in order to get back to respectability, and I'd venture to guess the overwhelming majority of Astros fans would even admit as much. Whenever there's an ownership change, they need to start over. The mantra should be to clean house and build a foundation from the ground (low-level minor leagues) up ...

2012 AUDIT

Which leads us here. Can the Astros compete in 2012? We obviously have no way of knowing exactly what's going to go down in the offseason, but it's hard to see the team being much improved by next season. Most of the young players either aren't very impressive or aren't yet ready. The veterans  still on the roster are either not very good or past their respective primes -- which is why they weren't traded like Bourn and Pence.

As you can see below, there isn't really any money coming off the books from the current club, though dealing Bourn and Pence did help matters a bit there. Still, it's unlikely the Astros have tons of money to burn on free agency, so the team will have to improve either internally, or through trading veterans like Brett Myers, Lee or Rodriguez. Considering the salaries of each player compared to production, they aren't going to land enough back to immediately make a drastic improvement.

Unless the youngsters all make huge leaps, it's entirely possible the Astros are again the worst team in baseball in 2012.

FREE AGENTS

Clint Barmes, 2B
Jason Michaels, OF

OFFSEASON FOCUS

As stated above, there has to be a complete makeover of the entire organization. Minor-league player development and a youth movement should continue to be the focus. Even if new ownership is firmly in place before free agency and opens the floodgates with spending -- which is, again, unlikely -- there isn't enough in place to make the team competitive with big signings. For example, say the Astros land Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson. (I'll pause for laughter). That still isn't a playoff team. It would be like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, and by the time the youth movement was ready to help those three, they might not be in their prime anymore.

Instead, a much better road map would be to follow the Royals' plan. Fill in holes with temporary players while waiting on the prospects from the low levels of the minors like Delino DeShields Jr. (2B), Jonathan Singleton (1B), Chris Wallace (C) and Jarred Cosart (SP) to develop. Meanwhile Lyles, Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, J.D. Martinez and others already in the bigs need to continue to develop. Of course, the Royals had the best farm system in baseball heading into this season while the Astros were ranked in the bottom five by most outlets. So, again, that's where the focus should be for the next few years. The entire system should be revamped.

So if I was the incoming Astros owner, here's what I'd hope to do:
  • Try to lure Andrew Friedman back home -- he was born and raised in Houston -- and give him the title President of Baseball Operations. He's helped work wonders with the Rays, so it's pretty easy to trust he can build a farm system basically from scratch.
  • Trade Myers, Rodriguez and Lee for whatever prospects they can bring back, even if it meant eating some of the salary. A three-to-five year plan should be put in place, so you need to play young players and see who can hack it at the big-league level. Aging veterans only take away spots from the young players.
  • Put an excellent coaching staff in place with an emphasis on player development. The focus has to be on the foundation before the big-league club at this point. It's far too much a mess to solve in one offseason.
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Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:17 pm
 

How blockbusters explain Manager of the Year

Kirk Gibson

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated came up with what he calls the "Movie Plus-Minus" -- it's a stat he uses to rank movies. It's simply this: how much he expected to like a movie versus how much he actually liked a movie. It's how a good movie can still be seen as bad, because expectations were too high -- or how a bad movie can actually be good. Anyway it's all about the expectations in judging the experience, if you don't expect much and it turns out to be good you have a more favorable impression than maybe a movie that you expect to be pretty good and turns out to be about what you expected, even if that movie is much better in a vacuum.

That's exactly how it seems that the Manager of the Year Award in baseball is awarded. Manager of the Year is usually an easy formula:

(Wins) - (Expected wins) = MoY total.

The highest number of MoY gives you the hardware.

Last year nobody expected anything out of the San Diego Padres, yet they nearly won their division. So little was expected that it didn't even matter that the Giants won the division or the Padres piddled away a lead at the end, they were in it and that was enough for the voters to make Bud Black the winner. In the American League, Terry Francona may have done his best managing in 2010, but because he finished third and the Red Sox are expected to make the playoffs every year, he finished fourth in the voting with no first-place votes. Instead it was Ron Gardenhire, followed by Ron Washington and Joe Maddon.

The likely winner in the National League this year? Well, that's easy. Kirk Gibson is going to be the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous, winner because nobody expected the Diamondbacks to contend, and here they are. Manny Acta and Maddon, whose teams were picked to make the playoffs by just about nobody, are frontrunners for this year's award in the American League.

So which managers scored high on the Movie Plus-Minus? Let's look at this summer's blockbusters and who their managerial equivalents:

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson as Rise of the Planet of the Apes: In April, it sounded ridiculous -- another Plaent of the Apes reboot? Didn't anyone see Tim Burton's attempt? This was a bad idea. A horrible idea. And that's what it looked like in Arizona, where the team started the season with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright in the rotation. How about Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora. Geoff Blum? But like Gibson, Apes director Rupert Wyatt made all the right moves, making the ridiculous exciting and harnessing the energy and genius of his enigmatic star (James Franco and Justin Upton). While it may not be the best movie or take home either an Oscar or a World Series title, it certainly had the highest Movie Plus-Minus and Gibson will take home some hardware, even if his team doesn't.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke as X-Men: First Class: The franchise has had its hits, but stumbled in its last outing (X-Men: The Last Stand and 2010). Back with a new focus (the origin story for the movie and pitching for the Brewers), the movie not only lived up to tempered expectations, it exceeded them -- just like the Brewers. A thoroughly enjoyable season for the Brewers and a fun movie, both will be punished because there were decent expectations for the movie and the season, even if they delivered the goods. As a bonus, you can also use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to link X-Men First Class and Roenicke -- Roenicke manages Ryan Braun, who was in one of the world's worst commercials with Marissa Miller, who was on Entourage with Kevin Connolly, who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Bacon, the bad guy in X-Men: First Class.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as Green Lantern: Neither ended up being being good, but compared to expectations, it was an Oscar and a World Series. If you weren't scared off by the words "Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan", you certainly were when you heard about the CGI suit. Expectations were incredibly low, just as they were in Pittsburgh (and after 18 losing seasons, why not?). That said, there were some bright spots -- the suit wasn't anywhere near as bad as expected and there was a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to superhero cliches in the movie, while Andrew McCutchen is a superhero himself. Both had a  decent quick start, but in the end, both suffered as time went on and some concepts (a ring given to some dude by an alien, or Kevin Correia as an All-Star), proved too ridiculous for anyone to fully get behind the movie -- or the Pirates. In the end, though, you'll remember it as "not that bad" even if the Pirates do record their 19th consecutive losing season, but Hurdle will likely have a positive MoY score.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi as Super 8: You figured it would be good -- it was from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, there was plenty of money behind it. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and neither Spielberg nor Abrams are strangers to hype. A solid leading man (Kyle Chandler, Derek Jeter) and surprising performances from others thrust into lead roles (the kids in the movie and the not-quite-kids like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees' rotation), made it a great summer. While some expectations can never be met, the Yankees and Super 8 got the job done. Of course, rarely are awards given for merely meeting expectations.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Everyone knew the story coming in -- Harry would defeat Voldemort and the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would prove as unbeatable as the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility. It was great fun to watch, but the source material was handed to director David Yates by J.K. Rowling, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick gave Manuel this pitching and roster. Dismissed as just a press-button manager or director, the film succeeded, but those charged with doing so will have their role in making it so diminished because the perception is that it would be difficult to screw up the hand that was dealt.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy as Cowboys and Aliens: An excellent cast, a director with a good track record, beloved source material and, well, in the end it wasn't a hit.

Astros manager Brad Mills as The Smurfs: You expected it to be bad, but maybe not this bad.

Now, it'll just be interesting to see if Moneyball lives up to Art Howe's managing.

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Posted on: August 12, 2011 12:47 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Sans chicken wings, Cueto's back



By Matt Snyder


Johnny Cueto, Reds. Cueto had been rolling right along, sporting a 1.72 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through 16 starts. He was coming off a shutout when he was shelled by the Cubs last Saturday for seven hits and five earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings. What was wrong? Cueto said he had chicken wings and his stomach wasn't feeling right when he took the hill. So this time around he avoided the wings and got back on track. Thursday, Cueto worked seven shutout innings against the Rockies, giving up just three hits and walking two while striking out nine in a 2-1 victory. He trimmed his league-leading ERA down to 1.94.

St. Louis Cardinals. If the Cardinals lost this one, they'd have fallen six games back to a Brewers team that is playing as well as anyone right now. That isn't an insurmountable deficit, but it would be quite the climb. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter was touched up for two runs in the top of the first, too, but after that everything fell into place for the Cardinals. Rafael Furcal and Albert Pujols hit first-inning homers to tie it. Pujols didn't let up, going 4-for-4 on the night with Matt Holliday sidelined. Carpenter labored at times, yet found a way to battle through eight innings without allowing a third run. Closer Fernando Salas worked a perfect ninth. The defense was actually good, too, as the Cardinals turned four double plays in the 5-2 win. They're still four games out and the Brewers are still the favorite, but this was a game the Cardinals needed in this race.

Mark Buehrle, White Sox. The veteran threw eight innings, allowing only six hits and three runs while walking none and striking out six. He picked up the win as the White Sox remained four games out in the AL Central, yet crept to within one of second-place Cleveland. While it was a good outing, Buehrle's in this spot because it marked his 18th stright start in which he allowed three runs or less (Mark Gonzales on Twitter). That guy gives his team a chance to win every single time he takes the ball. And he's talking retirement after this year as he's set to hit free agency. He's only 32.



Brad Mills, Blue Jays. This just in: Oakland isn't very good at offense. Entering Thursday, only the Mariners had scored fewer runs among AL teams. But the A's lit Mills up. He only lasted three innings, allowing five hits and six earned runs in a 10-3 Blue Jays' loss. Maybe the Man in White switched sides. I mean, guys don't just hit in that stadium without some kind of extra help, right?

Nationals in ninth. The Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out against fickle Cubs closer Carlos Marmol Thursday afternoon. The deficit was two and it appeared Marmol had no idea where any of his pitches were going. After an Ian Desmond strikeout -- in which he fought off several pitches out of the zone -- Wilson Ramos had an infield single to cut it to one. Brian Bixler followed with a check-swing strikeout before Rick Ankiel flew out to the warning track to end it. Of all the balls the Nats swung at in the ninth, I'm gonna guess about 35 percent were actually in the strike zone. Even their two hits were of the infield variety.

Nyjer Morgan, Brewers. I rarely have a problem with players on opposing teams having a shouting match. In fact, I quite prefer that kind of fire rather than befriending the opponents. It's supposed to be a competition. But when your teammates are telling you to stop, it's probably a bit ridiculous. According to multiple reporters (including Derrick Goold) at the game, the brief stoppage of play in the top of the eighth inning was due to Morgan yelling at Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter from the dugout. Teammates were reportedly trying to get him to stop and when the camera cut to home plate, Prince Fielder and Yadier Molina could actually be seen laughing about it. If the two clubs are at odds, that's competition. If there's only one guy yelling and everyone else is either telling him to stop or laughing, well, that's a bit out of whack.

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Posted on: June 30, 2011 11:44 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 11:54 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Pierre comes through in clutch



By Matt Snyder


Juan Pierre, White Sox. It's been a rough season for Pierre thus far, but he came through in a big way Thursday. In the top of the eighth, Pierre hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Then, in the top of the tenth, Pierre stepped to bat with the bases loaded and came just a few feet from hitting a grand slam. Mind you, this is a guy with 15 career home runs in over 7,000 plate appearances. He laced a Clayton Mortensen pitch off the high right field wall in Coors Field that was probably about three feet from landing in the seats. Since Paul Konerko was holding on first, Pierre only managed a single, but he did drive in two runs, which proved to be the game-winners. On the day, Pierre went 3-5 with three RBI and a stolen base as the White Sox hung within four games in the AL Central.

Jason Varitek, Red Sox. The venerable backstop used to have pretty good power for a catcher, but he's 39 now and on his last legs. Still, there's a little tread left on those old tires, as Varitek proved with a two-homer game Thursday. He entered the game with only three home runs in 130 plate appearances this season and hasn't hit two in a game since April 10 of last season. It was the 10th two-home run game of his career. Varitek also handled the Red Sox pitching staff from behind the plate to a shutout of the best team in baseball. All in all, well done for the venerable captain.

The Florida Marlins. Let us congratulate the Marlins. For the first time since May 25-26, they have won back-to-back games. In two days, they nearly doubled their win total in the nightmarish month, too. Before the modest winning streak -- can we say two games is a streak? Whatever, I'm doing it here -- the Marlins were 3-23 in June. They close it 5-23. Oh, and don't look now, but here's Hanley Ramirez's line in the past eight games: .355 average, two doubles, a home run, seven RBI, six runs and a .910 OPS. Maybe it was Jack McKeon's tough love, maybe it's hitting cleanup or maybe he was just bound to come out of the season-long slump eventually (probably a combination of the three). Regardless of the reason, it would appear Hanley is coming around.



Giants' offense. It's pretty bad to only get five hits in 13 innings. It's pretty bad to only score one earned run in 13 innings. It's really bad when you look deeper at the circumstances behind the offensive ineptitude, though. Cubs' starter Carlos Zambrano left the game during the second inning with an injury. In came Marcos Mateo and his 5.09 ERA. He was recently recalled from Triple-A. And he dominated the Giants. Mateo needed only 56 pitches to carve through the Giants in five scoreless innings. He only gave up two hits and struck out six. If you can believe it, things got even worse for the Giants' bats. In one stretch, they went 10 1/3 innings without a hit. Oh, and the Cubs came into Thursday with the worst ERA in the NL. Amazingly, the Giants would have won the game if the bullpen didn't blow two saves.

Brewers against Yankees/Red Sox. The Brewers have World Series aspirations this season, so it's a good thing for them it's only the halfway point of the season. In two series against the two best teams in the AL, the Brewers were pretty thoroughly embarrassed. Thursday, former teammate CC Sabathia owned them, as the Yankees cruised to a 5-0 win. The Brewers were outscored 22-4 by the Yankees during the three-game sweep. When the Brewers visited Boston, they lost two of three and were outscored 24-11. Add it up, and you have the Brewers going 1-5 and being outscored by an average of five runs per game. Meanwhile they've fallen back into a first-place tie with the Cardinals, and the Reds and Pirates are only two back.

Brad Mills, Astros. Yes, we're putting a manager from a team that won 7-0 here. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and no one on base, Mills made a pitching change ... and brought in his closer, Mark Melancon. The only earthly explanation for this would be to "get him work," as he'd only pitched once since June 22. Why not the whole ninth, then? Melancon ended up needing only two pitches to end the game. He can get that kind of "work" in the bullpen. The mid-inning pitching change was a waste of time and no good could have possibly come from it.

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Posted on: June 12, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Pence held out of lineup with back stiffness

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Hunter Pence, in the midst of a 22-game hitting streak, is sitting out the Astros'  game against the Braves on Sunday -- although there's still a possibility he'll play, as the Astros are down to just three healthy outfielders after scratching Jason Bourgeois.

Bourgeois was initially penciled in to replace Pence in right field, but his sprained left ankle is keeping him out of action today, with Jason Michaels playing right.

Pence told reporters he was just getting a day off, but manager Brad Mills said Pence's lower back is still stiff and bothering him.

"Hunter doesn't want to ask for a day off, and God bless him, that's the way you want everybody to be," Mills told Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle. "But throughout the conversation he said it hurt him when he ran and he felt like it was going to lock up on him and if it locks up on him when he tries to do something, he could really hurt something."

Pence left Friday's game with a stiff back, but was back in the lineup on Saturday, doubling in the first inning and in the 10th inning of a 6-3 loss to Atlanta. During the streak, Pence is hitting .391/.417/.587 with three home runs and 15 RBI. The team record for longest hitting streak is 30 games, held by Willy Taveras who did it in 2006.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:37 pm
 

A look at the best Triple-A performers

Willis

We're approaching the time in baseball where it's time to pay attention to Triple-A performances, as they will start impacting decisions on promotions and demotions.

In fact, it's already started as Jerry Sands was promoted to be the Dodgers' new left fielder after bashing five home runs in 10 games for Triple-A. Here's a look at some of the hottest performers down one rung of the ladder.

HITTERS

Anthony Rizzo, Padres -- Rizzo is hitting a ludicrous .436/.483/.764 in 60 plate appearances, bashing four home runs as a 21-year-old. Rizzo was supposed to be a legitimate prospect, but it appears as if he may have taken a major step forward this year to make Padres fans quickly forget about losing Adrian Gonzalez. With Brad Hawpe flailing, the Padres may want to call up Rizzo as soon as the calendar flips to June and it becomes unlikely he can qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player. At the very least, Rizzo's all but locked up making his big-league debut at some point this season.

Scott Sizemore, Tigers -- As the Tigers scuffle to find a solution at second base, the answer is staring at them in Toledo. Sizemore, who was supposed to become Detroit's second baseman last season before a broken leg dashed his hopes, is off to a .389/.463/.556 start in 41 PA. The Tigers will be forced to make a move at some point as they're already moving away from Wil Rhymes to Ryan Raburn. Raburn's shifting over from left to get Brennan Boesch's hot bat in the lineup, so Detroit will delay any decision a little while longer.

Wily Mo Pena, Diamondbacks -- A nice comeback story, as Pena famously cranked 26 home runs for the Reds back in 2004 as a 22-year-old, was traded to Boston with a heap of expectations, bombed spectacularly and eventually found himself in the independent leagues. The Padres gave him a flier last season in Triple-A after his indy stint, which went so well he got an offer from the Diamondbacks where currently leads the PCL in home runs with six and is just one behind the leader for overall Triple-A superiority. The 29-year-old needs to keep it up a bit longer and show he can actually hit a breaking pitch this time around, but if he keeps up this production, Arizona will find room for him in a hurry.

PITCHERS

Julio Teheran, Braves -- Teheran can't even drink yet, but he's baffling Triple-A hitters by posting a 1.69 ERA over 16 innings. His strikeout numbers are way down as his 11/6 K/BB rate suggests, but that will eventually rise. Considered one of, if not the, best pitching prospect in the game, Atlanta is ridiculously deep so it's possible they hold him back the entire year especially given his age, but this much is certain thus far in Teheran's career: you can't count him out, and he will eventually hold the top spot in the Braves' rotation.

Dontrelle Willis, Reds (pictured) --  Willis couldn't make the Reds out of spring training as a left-handed reliever, so he headed to the farm to function as a starter. And he's doing quite well, twirling 17 innings of one-run ball and punching out 15 while walking five. Let's not hop back on the D-Train just yet, but it's fantastic to see a good guy who fell on hard times start to figure things out again. The Reds rotation figures to undergo quite a few changes as the year progresses, so Willis could figure into the situation by year's end.

Brad Mills, Blue Jays -- Toronto has jettisoned Jesse Litsch and Brett Cecil from the rotation in the last few days, so Mills may be the first on this list to get the call to the majors. The 26-year-old has a career 7.80 ERA in the majors over 30 innings but seems to have figured things out this year. He has a sparkling 0.82 ERA in three starts. While his strikeout rate of 7.0 batters per nine is lower than his minor-league career mark of 8.6, his BB/9 is down from a career line of 3.3 to 2.0. Yeah, that'd do it. If Toronto doesn't shift reliever Marc Rzepczynski back to the rotation to fill the void, bet on Mills getting the call.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com