Tag:Chris Iannetta
Posted on: December 4, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: December 4, 2011 7:25 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Colorado Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Building a team in Colorado has been a bit of a conundrum throughout the Rockies' brief history -- the offensive numbers will come in the elevation, while pitchers have to be homegrown because free agent pitchers aren't exactly lining up to play in the high altitude.

Lineup

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Seth Smith, RF
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
4. Matt Holliday, LF
5. Todd Helton, 1B
6. Juan Uribe, 3B
7. Chris Iannetta, C
8. Clint Barmes, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Jhoulys Chacin
3. Jake Westbrook
4. Aaron Cook
5. Jeff Francis

Bullpen

Closer - Franklin Morales
Set up - Luis Ayala, Jamey Wright, Pedro Strop, Edgmer Escalona, Rex Brothers, Matt Reynolds
Long - Juan Nicasio

Notable Bench Players

Wilin Rosario and Josh Bard give this team a good stable of catchers, while Everth Cabrera, Chone Figgins, Ian Stewart, Juan Pierre and Ryan Spilborghs give the team some veratile players in the field, with Brad Hawpe perhaps the best bat off the bench.

What's Good?

The lineup's going to score some runs, that's for sure. Especially in Colorado, having a 3-4 of Tulowitzki and Holliday is going to be impressive. Of course, there's not Carlos Gonzalez, so it's pretty much even compared to the regular team. The team is strong up the middle defensively, which it will need...

What's Not?

The pitching staff is similar to what we saw in real life in 2011, with Chacin leading the way and Jimenez struggling before being traded. Westbrook helps, but you have to remember he wasn't even on the Cardinals' playoff roster for the first two rounds and pitched two innings in the World Series. The bullpen is deep, but not overpowering.

Comparison to real 2011

The wheels fell off the Rockies in 2011, with the team going a disappointing 73-89. The offense on this team is similar, while the pitching (especially the bullpen) is not as good -- that formula adds up to another losing season and probably a 90-loss season.

Next: Arizona Diamondbacks

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
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.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Monday trade sets stage for busy Hot Stove season



By Matt Snyder


Sure, Derek Lowe was dealt to the Indians in a salary dump and we've seen a few signings, but things have been pretty slow of late in Major League Baseball news. When the biggest name to sign a contract with a new team thus far is a backup first baseman/pinch-hitter (Jim Thome), it says everything you need to know about this past week in actual transactions. So forgive us for loving Melky Cabrera and Jonathan Sanchez swapping addresses. It's something, and it serves as a nice little unofficial start to the Hot Stove season.

With just one week to the general manager meetings in Milwaukee, it's time to focus on other potential trade candidates. Obviously rumors don't always come to fruition and we're shocked with non-rumored trades going down on occasion, but here are some names that either make sense or have been rumored to be on the move in the recent past.

• The White Sox's farm system is in absolute shambles and the major-league club doesn't appear ready to compete with the Tigers any time soon, so it's possible general manager Kenny Williams decides to rebuild. Since Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have no trade value, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Carlos Quentin would be the parts most likely to move.

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie is a free agent after the 2012 season and he could be a helpful four or five starter for a contender. He's thrown at least 190 innings in each of the past four seasons.

Hot Stove Season
• Do new Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer look to cut the sunk costs of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano? They'd have to eat a significant portion of the remaining salaries (and for Soriano it's $54 million left on the deal), but the duo isn't helping the Cubs win in 2012. Also, Marlon Byrd only has one year left on his contract and prospect Brett Jackson will likely be ready to take over in center soon. The guess is Byrd has more value by the trade deadline in '12, though.

Rays center fielder B.J. Upton has long been rumored to be a trade candidate, and this winter it might finally happen with Desmond Jennings clearly ready to take over in center. Also, if the Rays are ready to deal a starting pitcher, Jeff Niemann is most likely.

Denard Span was rumored to be a trade candidate back in July, and the Twins could part with their center fielder to shore up the pitching staff.

We've already heard the rumors about Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado from Atlanta, but it's possible since talks fizzled with the Royals that the Braves just hold both.

• Do the Angels try to shed Alberto Callaspo and/or Maicer Izturis and then land free agent Aramis Ramirez at third? They probably would need to shed more payroll in order to do so.

• Starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers could easily be on the move from Houston, but the guess is the ownership situation would need to be resolved first.

• After a disappointing 2011 season, the Rockies have plenty of trade candidates. Chris Iannetta probably stays put, but Huston Street, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and Ty Wigginton all make sense in potential deals.

Dodgers first baseman James Loney finished 2011 with a bang, which might mean it's the Dodgers last chance to get something of value in return for him. There are a few small-market matches, too, including the Indians.

• Finally, as we've already noted, the A's have put basically the entire team on the block.

So fasten your seatbelts, the action has only just begun.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 1:19 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Colorado Rockies

By Evan Brunell

RockiesAnother 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: Colorado Rockies
Record: 73-89, 4th place, 21 games back
Manager: Jim Tracy
Best hitter: Troy Tulowitzki -- .302/.372/.544 with 30 HR, 105 RBI
Best pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin -- 11-14, 31 GS, 194 IP, 3.62 ERA, 150 K, 87 BB

The Rockies season didn't go as intended. Instead of competing for the division title, the club barely avoided the cellar and saw their rotation ripped up. Jorge De La Rosa dealt the big blow, suffering an injury that required Tommy John surgery while Ubaldo Jimenez found himself packed off to Cleveland. With a disappointing season in the books, Colorado is ready to plunge ahead and change their fortunes next season.

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Rockies got the season off to a nice start, finishing April with a 17-8 record, enough to pace the division by four games. The wheels fell off in May, though, with two separate four-game losing streaks in the month. There were also two separate instances of a three-game losing streak, including one to end the month at 8-21, slipping out to 4 1/2 back. The first game of a double-header on May 24 was an especially big blow, with De La Rosa exiting the game after 2 1/3 innings and later undergoing Tommy John surgery. The left-hander had signed a two-year, $21.25 million deal in the offseason.

The rest of the season basically played out the string, as the team hovered around .500 the next three months, dealing Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline. September saw a collapse, suffering a nine-game losing streak that perfectly capped the year for Colorado. The silver lining is that the team will get a high draft pick in next year's draft and restocked its pitching depth, but the year was still a big letdown.

2012 AUDIT

Despite nearly finishing in the cellar, the Rockies are poised to contend. The offense isn't an issue, anchored by Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Even the pitching figures to rebound now that the club will get a full year of Chacin and a projected second-half return of De La Rosa. The rest of the rotation is a question mark, although the club will look for Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, part of the return in the Jimenez trade, to fill out the rotation. If Juan Nicasio can return from breaking his neck to round out a solid front five, the bullpen will be able to end games.

FREE AGENTS

Aaron Cook, SP (mutual option that will be declined by the team)
Jason Giambi, 1B (mutual option)
Mark Ellis, 2B
Kevin Millwood, SP
J.C. Romero, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • The Rockies have been linked to Michael Cuddyer hot and heavy over the last few months. Cuddyer would be a great fit for most teams, but the Rockies need to pass. There are more pressing concerns, and the outfield is set with a Seth Smith - Dexter Fowler - Carlos Gonzalez setup, although Smith will platoon. The Rox are rumored to want to shop Ty Wigginton, but he is a great option to platoon with Smith, plus Wiggy can play multiple positions off the bench.
  • The priority the Rockies have to go after here is a starting pitcher. There's just too many question marks beyond Chacin, who is hardly capable of anchoring the rotation. There needs to be at least one other pitcher the team can count on. Edwin Jackson would be an intriguing sign, but there isn't much room to maneuver in the payroll. Better for Colorado to take the plunge and sign some high-risk, high-reward pitchers like Rich Harden and Erik Bedard. The rest of the rotation is also high-risk for various reasons, but the more pitchers you add, the better chances you have of hitting on a couple. The Rockies could also go the trade market here and could revisit Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros if Houston capitulates on eating a larger percentage of his contract.
  • Hang onto Huston Street. The market will be flooded with elite and solid closers, plus a good amount of quality relievers. It will be difficult to get a good return for Street, so the team would be better off hanging onto him to create a lockdown bullpen that can take the slack off the rotation and be used as a trade chip in July.
  • Resign Mark Ellis. Ellis was a sparkplug upon being dealt to the Rockies and provides fantastic defense up the middle. The offense has plenty of thump, so Colorado should focus on shoring up middle-infield defense.
  • Sign Omar Vizquel or acquire another middle infielder capable of playing short and third. Vizquel may not be interested in Colorado, but there are plenty of middle infielders the Rockies can sign or trade for. The team needs a backup infielder primarily, but most importantly, needs a viable option behind Ian Stewart at third base should Stewart crash and burn yet again. Jerry Hairston, Jr., with his oodles of versatility, might also be a nice fit.
  • Don't trade Chris Iannetta. Having quality catchers is a rarity and while the team is high on Wilin Rosario, the hot prospect needs more time in the minors. If Rosario is ready by mid-July, that's a great problem to have, but Colorado shouldn't handicap itself by entering Opening Day with a question mark in Rosario's ability to sustain a full season in the bigs.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 25, 2011 11:45 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Rockies raze Astros, Matusz bombs

Ianetta and Co.
By Evan Brunell

3 UpRockies hitters: Colorado exploded for 19 runs, led by Kevin Kouzmanoff who scorched the ball for two homers, driving in five. But there were plenty of other contributors, with seven of nine players getting at least two hits, six of them with three or more. And even Kevin Millwood got in on the fun with a home run, the second of the season. He now has a .474 slugging percentage with a .180 career mark. Ty Wigginton, Thomas Field and Jordan Pachecho each had four hits, while Chris Iannetta tied Kouz with five RBI and a three-run blast. Only the first and ninth marked scoreless innings for the Rox.

Gavin Floyd, White Sox: It was a good year for Floyd, who posted a career-low 4.37 ERA this season. The cap to his successful year came with an eight-inning, three-hit performance against the Royals. He allowed only two walks and punched out 10 over 121 pitches. The White Sox considered moving him earlier this year and if he hits the market this offseason, there should be quite a bit of interest, especially given the weak free-agent market. He ended up losing because minor-league lifer Luis Mendoza out-dueled him, but Floyd gets the up for not just the game, but his season overall.

Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox: The outcome of the game isn't why Papelbon's here. In his longest outing since May 2010 (and before that, 2006), Papelbon dominated the Yankees by throwing just 29 pitches over 2 1/3 innings, striking out four. The stumbling Red Sox seem to have everything going wrong for them, but Papelbon is the one thing going right. Get Papelbon a lead this year and he will hold it. Until giving up a run in his last relief appearance on Sept. 20, Papelbon hadn't given up a run since July 16.



3 DownAstros pitchers: The Rockies did most of their damage against the bullpen, knocking Lucas Harrell out of the game after just three innings and five runs (two unearned). Then began a procession of four pitchers, each of whom gave up at least four runs before Juan Abreu stopped the bleeding in the ninth. Rule 5 selection Aneury Rodriguez was lit up for four runs in two innings and Lance Pendleton surrendered five in his own two innings of work. Xavier Cedeno gave up five runs in the eighth after two one-out appearances marked the start of his career. Cedeno's ERA is now 27.00.

Brian Matusz, Orioles: The left-hander's season is finally over. Coming off a strong 2011, the youngster was primed to take the next step toward becoming an ace... and instead now ends 2011 with a 10.69 ERA that was actually lowered Sunday when he coughed up six runs over five innings to the Tigers, with a three-spot in the fifth as Matusz's last taste. That ERA will set a record for a pitcher with at least 40 innings, STATS LLC reports -- but he's in good company, as the previous record of 10.64 was held by Roy Halladay (2000).
"I'm going to have a lot of motivation going into this winter, because I'm never going to forget what this has felt like," Matusz told the Associated Press. "I've got a lot of mistakes to learn from." I'd say so.

Ricky Nolasco, Marlins:
Wrapping up this edition of horrible pitching performances is Nolasco, who lasted just two innings and gave up six earned runs (plus another unearned). He was ripped apart for nine hits, spiking his ERA to 4.67. Nolasco has long been a pitcher whose peripherals have portended future success, but he simply can't put it all together, and it's time to stop expecting him to. He's a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter, but that's really all he can aspire to be at this point.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Colorado Rockies' Chris Iannetta (20) is congratulated by teammate Ty Wigginton (21) and Jordan Pacheco (58) after all three scored on his home run as Houston Astros catcher J.R. Towles (46) watches during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, in Houston. The Rockies defeated the Astros 19-3. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Posted on: July 25, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: July 25, 2011 12:16 pm
 

Trade Deadline Primer: NL West

By Matt Snyder

We conclude our series of primers for the MLB trade deadline with the home of the defending World Series champions: The NL West. It feels pretty obvious here, as there are two teams in it, two definitely out of it and one just kind of lingering in mediocrity.

San Francisco Giants
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Offense. Offense. Offense.
Notes: The Giants did already trade for Jeff Keppinger and promoted prospect Brandon Belt to the majors in an attempt to jumpstart their offense. Still, they may not be done. Outfield, shortstop and catcher would seem the obvious spots where an offensive upgrade would help, and the word is they'd rather add salary than give up prospects. Carlos Beltran's name has been prominent when it comes to the Giants making a move, but B.J. Upton's name has surfaced as a possible alternative. Plus, general manager Brian Sabean told reporters the Giants aren't close to getting Beltran (SFgate.com). Ivan Rodriguez would make sense as a half-season rental behind the plate, but he's injured and not coming back anytime soon. Sabean also recently said he wants to significantly upgrade the offense, but doesn't feel as if any moves are imminent (MLB.com). So it sounds as if the Giants will be quiet at least for the first half of this week. But remember, the July 31 deadline is only a non-waiver trade deadline. Players can pass through waivers and be traded in August, and that's how the Giants landed postseason hero Cody Ross last season.

MLB Trade Deadline
Arizona Diamondbacks
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Pitching. Big bat.
Notes: The Snakes are reportedly after pitching of all kinds (Fox Sports). Wandy Rodriguez's name has come up in rumors, but the Astros have been said to be asking for a lot in return. Maybe the asking price comes down as the deadline gets closer. He's really the only starting pitcher heavily involved in rumors to the D-Backs. Otherwise, it's been all relievers' names that have surfaced. Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports the D-Backs are focused on less-expensive, veteran relief pitchers. The following names have all been connected in at least semi-legitimate rumors: Jason Isringhausen, Kerry Wood, Brad Ziegler, Jason Frasor, Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch. Obviously, there are bound to be more guys on the radar of the D-Backs and not all those names would work. Wood, for example, is very unlikely to leave Chicago. Basically, it sounds as if the Diamondbacks will be relatively quiet as they tinker a bit with the bullpen. But things can easily change. UPDATE: Shortly after this posting, the Diamondbacks were reported to be a great fit for Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena.

Colorado Rockies
Status: Sellers.
Players available: Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, Jason Giambi, Matt Belisle, Ty Wigginton, Aaron Cook ... Ubaldo Jimenez?
Notes: Well, the big name here is obviously Jimenez, but the Rockies want an absolute killing in return. It would actually be pretty shocking to see him dealt, as it seems as if his name was only floated so the Rockies could get a realistic reading of his value. Instead, the focus with Rockies rumors should be more on the players most likely to be traded. There aren't many quality catchers on the open market, and Iannetta is reportedly expendable because of minor-league backstops Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network. MLB.com reports that Street, Belisle and Betancourt are available for the right price, also adding that Cook could be had -- if anyone would want him. Tracy Ringolsby of Fox Sports reported that the Rockies are fielding calls about Street and Betancourt, and also threw Ryan Spilborghs in the mix. Troy Renck of the Denver Post echoed a few of the above names and also threw in Ty Wigginton. Gammons then reported the Rockies aren't interested in moving Spilborghs. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has reported that Jason Giambi is garnering interest. Though the slugger reportedly wants to stay, he'll discuss any possible moves with the ballclub. Finally, one-time prospect Ian Stewart cannot seem to get things going and a change of scenery would probably be in the best interest of all involved parties. Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post reports the Rockies had been playing Stewart more frequently than usual because they were hoping another team saw something it liked and dealt for him. To sum things up, the Rockies are out of the race this season, but have a strong, young core and could easily compete in 2012. They'll likely only sell pieces that aren't part of the nucleus or could be replaced.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Status: Sellers.
Players available: Hiroki Kuroda, Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll.
Notes: If you're pining for your favorite team to land Matt Kemp in a blockbuster deal, you're going to be doing so for quite a long time. Kemp -- along with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon -- is unavailable as part of the future nucleus (MLB.com). Note the absence of Andre Ethier's name on that list. His name hasn't popped up much in legitimate rumors, but you never know. The Dodgers are pressed for money, and he's due a decent chunk next season before becoming a free agent after 2012. Much of the focus here has centered on Kuroda, though, and he's the most likely to be moved. General manager Ned Colletti has said he's ready to start dealing and is looking at 2012 (OC Register), so any prospects coming back would have to be nearly major-league ready. The Tigers are reportedly front-runners for Kuroda (Jeff Passan of Yahoo!), with the Brewers, Rangers and Indians in the mix. The Red Sox and Yankees are also reportedly interested, but Kuroda has said he's unsure if he wants to go to the East Coast and may use his no-trade clause to avoid the situation. Of course, now he's saying he's keeping his options open (Fox Sports). CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler notes that a trade might only be for two months, as Kuroda's a free agent at season's end and the Dodgers could just sign him back. Knobler said the Dodgers expect Kuroda to be pitching with them in 2012, if he stays in America. There have been whispers about Carroll heading to the Brewers and Furcal is surely available if a contender wants to take a shot at him staying healthy. Simply put, expect the Dodgers to be aggressive in dealing parts that aren't essential to building a contender for next season.

San Diego Padres
Status: Sellers.
Players available: Heath Bell, Ryan Ludwick, Mike Adams, Aaron Harang, Chad Qualls and maybe more.
Notes: We talked to Corey Brock of MLB.com -- the Padres beat writer -- and he said they love Adams, see him as a possible replacement for Bell, but he's not off the table. Brock also said they need a young, controllable shortstop and a catcher. General manager Jed Hoyer reportedly said he's going to make multiple deals to get prospects and the ballclub is not in the position to have any untouchables (Marty Caswell). As far as Adams goes, we've seen a report that he's not going to be traded and a report that the report wasn't true. So, yeah, your guess is as good as ours. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that the Padres' trade talks are focusing on moving Bell, Qualls, Ludwick and Harang. Crasnick also notes that Jason Bartlett is going to remain in San Diego. On the other hand, Bell himself has said he expects to be traded. The Tigers have been said to be interested in Harang heavily, which is interesting because of the Kuroda-to-Tigers rumors. Ludwick has been connected to the Indians, Red Sox, Phillies, Reds and more. Adams and Bell have been rumored to pretty much every team in the race that is seeking bullpen help. The bottom line is that the Padres look to be the busiest team in the division and are looking to stock their farm system.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: March 1, 2011 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2011 10:21 am
 

Pepper: Finding Mauer in Montero


Posted by Matt Snyder


In the latest Ear on Baseball podcast , C. Trent Rosecrans and I had Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein on, and among other things we discussed how Yankees star catching prospect Jesus Montero may eventually be ticketed for a position change.

Interestingly, in a Tuesday morning Bats blog (via New York Times ), there's a piece on Joe Mauer discussing similarities between the two catchers and how he believes Montero should do everything he can to remain a catcher, if that's what he wants to do.

"Too big. Not quick enough. I heard everything under the sun," Mauer said. He's 6-foot-5, while Montero is 6-foot-4.

Mauer also encouraged Montero to learn everything he can from veteran catchers Russell Martin and Jorge Posada in camp, and to learn everything about the pitchers he might be catching.

Montero, 21, is generally considered one of the top prospects as a hitter, but many scouts believe he'll be inadequate behind the plate in the bigs. Mauer believes he heard the same, but I think there's a difference. Most scouts knew Mauer could handle duties behind the plate, if memory serves correctly, it's just that many believe he needs to move away from behind the plate eventually in order to lengthen his career. He's too good a hitter to physically fall apart by his early 30s. That doesn't mean he's a bad defender.

CARLOS AT THE BAT: Yes, Cubs manager Mike Quade will use pitcher Carlos Zambrano as a pinch-hitter when the game dictates this season. While his actual skill with the stick pales in comparison to the sheer entertainment value of an at-bat, he can swing it. He has three Silver Sluggers and 21 career home runs to go with a .236 average and .631 OPS. Obviously that's pretty bad for an actual hitter, but if you're looking for someone to extend the bench, he's serviceable enough. In fact, he's hit at least .300 in a season twice, as recently as 2008 -- when he hit .337 with an .892 OPS. He was a better hitter than Derrek Lee that year. Seriously. (Chicago Tribune )

ZITO VS. PRINCE, PART II:
Last season, Barry Zito and Prince Fielder had a slight flare-up in spring training after Zito plunked the portly first baseman -- in retaliation for a Fielder celebration in 2009. Monday, the two had a spat ... over a walk? Really, guys? They were seen jawing at each other, but fortunately both took the high road after the game. Zito said he asked Fielder how his offseason went and how his family was doing. Fielder said they were discussing dinner plans. Boys will be boys, even when it's not yet summer, so there's no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel )

OBLIGATORY YOUNG UPDATE: Michael Young is not unhappy, nor is he dogging it in spring training. In fact, he's working just as hard as he ever has and made the first appearance of his life at first base Monday. He even accepts the addition of Mike Napoli, who is expected to steal plenty of at-bats from Young at DH this season. "He was a thorn in our side when he was in Anaheim. He can hit for power," Young said. "I think what he’s done in his career speaks for itself. When he got here in camp I think we’ve all been impressed with just how good a teammate he seems. That’s the kind of thing guys look at first. He seems a really good guy. Seems like he’s fit in really well since Day 1 and I’m excited that he’s here." (ESPN Dallas )

SCHLERETH INJURED: Tigers relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth injured his hamstring Monday. He actually felt a pop, but early the prognosis sounds positive, as the medical staff reportedly told the lefty it was a strain and not a tear -- which would cause him to miss significant time. Instead, it seems only a minor setback. In fact, he's more annoyed with the injury than anything else. "This is stupid," he said. "This isn't important. I'm not too worried about it. I just want to play. I want to make the team." (Detroit Free-Press )

TIME MACHINE: Mark Prior threw a perfect inning. In 2011. Granted, it was a single inning early in spring training, but it had to have been an encouraging outing for a man whose career was prematurely derailed years ago by injuries. For the optimistic out there, he's still only 30. There's time. (Star-Ledger )

WHO NEEDS OBP? The Rockies are ready to use catcher Chris Iannetta in the eight-hole this season. When you look at his batting average (.234) last season it makes sense. When you look at his OBP, it doesn't. His .353 career OBP is better than teammates Seth Smith, Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler and Ty Wigginton. But his batting average is lower. It still amazes me how hard this concept is to grasp for so many. It astounds me that people look at batting average before OBP. Think about it in reverse. On-base percentage is a measure of how many times you don't get out. Isn't that the actual goal when you step in the batter's box? In this specific case, you could argue Fowler and Stewart are still young and could get better, but Iannetta's 27 and has torn up minor-league pitching for years. And when he takes a ton of walks this season with the pitcher on deck, his batting average won't be near as high as his OBP. Serenity now. (Denver Post )

SOLID INTERVIEW:
Another thing we discussed in the Ear on Baseball podcast was how incredibly loaded the Royals' minor league system is. General manager Dayton Moore sat down with John Sickels of Minor League Ball for an interview. I'm not going to bother to summarize or cut it down at all, just click through. The whole thing is worth a look. And while I'm not a fan of the Royals or anything, it's worth noting I'd like to see everything come to fruition with this group. It's been a long time since the Royals were a serious contender, so a little change there wouldn't hurt anything. Now, about those Pirates ...

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