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Tag:Matt LaPorta
Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Milwaukee Brewers

Prince Fielder

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What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional?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.

Last offseason the Brewers made two huge moves that powered them to a National League Central title -- trading for Zack Greinke from the Royals and Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays. One look at roster of players the Brewers have drafted and signed out of Latin America tell you exactly why the Brewers had to reach outside the organization for starting pitching. While the team has consistently developed position players, its track record with pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- is not so good. So, check out one of the best lineups in this exercise, and worst pitching staffs.

Lineup

1. Corey Hart, RF
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
3. Prince Fielder, 1B
4. Ryan Braun, LF
5. Rickie Weeks, 2B
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Lorenzo Cain, CF
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Starting Rotation

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Manny Parra
3. Dana Eveland
4. Mark Rogers
5. Tim Dillard

Bullpen

Closer - Mike Adams
Set up - Craig Breslow, Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Braddock, Tom Wilhelmsen, Michael Fiers, Mike McClendon

Notable Bench Players

The bench actually has a nice mixture of bats -- Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, along with two outstanding defensive replacements in Alcides Escobar in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield. There's also a super-utility guy in Bill Hall.

What's Good?

The lineup is ridiculous. It's like the team's lineup from this year, but better. Lawrie at third base adds serious pop, while Hardy is an upgrade at shortstop (and really, who isn't an upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt?) The core of the lineup is about the same, and shows the team knows how to spot bats that will play in the big leagues. This lineup is certainly one a manager would love to pencil in every, single day.

What's Not?

That pitching staff is ridiculous -- and not in a good way. Yovani Gallardo is a really good pitcher, but the rest ... woof. The fourth starter (Rogers) has 10 innings in the big leagues. The back of the bullpen with Adams, Breslow and Jeffress, well, it's better than the rest of the bullpen. Really, this is all a mess. There's no way this team could compete with this pitching staff. Just brutal.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, the pitching staff ensures this team wouldn't win the division or even sniff the playoffs. The staff is so bad, that even with all the runs they put up, there's likely no way this team wins 70 games. The Brewers tried to slug their way to titles in the past and it was proven it doesn't work. In the end, it's why the Brewers had to gut their minor league system to get Greinke, and trade away an impact bat to get Marcum -- pitching is vital to the success of a baseball team and this hypothetic team has next to none.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 9:54 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 10:06 pm
 

Indians tag Mazzaro with 10-run inning

By Matt Snyder

Needless to say, Monday night was a rough one for Royals pitcher Vin Mazzaro. First of all, he wasn't even supposed to pitch. He was slated to start Tuesday, but an early injury to starter Kyle Davies forced Mazzaro into relief duty.

What followed was sheer catastrophe.

Eight hits. Two walks. Ten earned runs. All of this happened in the fourth inning.

The Cleveland Indians were the perpetrators. There wasn't just one big blow, there were actually three. Travis Hafner had a bases-loaded, three-RBI double to break the game wide open. A few batters later, Matt LaPorta doubled in two. Two batters later, Michael Brantley -- who had already walked and scored in the inning -- clubbed a three-run home run.

Here's the play-by-play: Single, fielder's choice, walk, single, fly out, walk, double, single, single, double, single, home run, strikeout.

Shin-Soo Choo was the only member of the Indians' lineup who failed to reach base -- and the eight others all also scored at least one run. Brantley and Jack Hannahan crossed home plate twice.

Mazzaro's final line was an even worse nightmare. He went 2 1/3 innings and allowed 14 earned runs, making him the third pitcher since 1947 to allow 14 earned runs since 1947 and the first since 1998. (via Joe Posnanski Twitter)

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

Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Indians' hot start setting up for division race

Masterson

By Evan Brunell

With one day in the books in baseball's second month, the division leader of the AL Central has gotten off to a commanding 19-8 start, building up a 4 1/2 game lead over the second-place finisher.

Except second place is Kansas City, which is odd enough. Even odder is who is atop the Central in the Cleveland Indians, who are 9 1/2 and 10 games, respectively, ahead of the White Sox and Twins, the trendy picks to win the division in the offseason.

So far, the Indians' dominance is no fluke; they're tied with the Rangers for the AL lead in runs scored with 146 and also boast the league's third-best ERA. They're doing all this with the second-youngest roster in baseball with an average age of 27.8, and that number could get dragged down as the months go on if they promote top prospects Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis to man third and second, respectively.

How have the Indians pulled all this off with a roster that was projected to lose over 90 games?

Simply, the Indians have benefited from production out of left field that isn't going to hold up over the entire season. Justin Masterson, for example, is doing his best Derek Lowe impersonation and has rocketed off to a 2.25 ERA start, going 5-0. Another hot performer is Josh Tomlin, who has one less win than Masterson and has registered a 2.45 ERA.

"The biggest question mark," closer Chris Perez said of the Indians coming into the season to MLB.com, "was getting quality starts, [Nos.] 1-5, and we've done that."

But here's where red flags pop up. Masterson, if he has indeed finally learned how to neutralize left-handed batters, could have taken the next big leap forward toward becoming a top starter in the league. But even if he's taken that step, a 2.25 ERA just isn't sustainable and will backslide at least a full point. Tomlin, for his part, is due a serious regression shortly. Last season, he posted a 4.56 ERA and 4.76 xFIP in 12 starts. This year, those marks are at 2.45 and 4.02, respectively. While one may have to start buying into Tomlin as a solid starting pitcher despite an 87-mph fastball, any ERA under 4.00 means Tomlin is pitching over his head.

The outlook is rosier when you turn to the hitters. Travis Hafner's .342 average simply isn't sustainable, but he remains a quality bat while Asdrubal Cabrera has jumped out to a quick start along with Grady Sizemore. These performances are far more believable, and even if some hitters regress, it will be offset by the emergence of catcher Carlos Santana and right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo once those two kick into gear. Choo and Santana are both attempting to keep their OPS's above .700 when they should be breaking .800 without a sweat. That will happen by the end of the season.

"We're not putting godly statistics up there," backup outfielder Shelley Duncan said. "And we still have a couple guys who haven't really started hitting, and we still have some young guys who are going to get better and better."

Some of those young players include Matt LaPorta, a key player in the CC Sabathia trade way back in 2008. LaPorta has failed to live up to his billing so far, but may finally be ready to cobble together a quality season at age 26, already knocking out four homers and slashing .263/.344/.513.

So yeah, the offensive production of Cleveland looks like it will hold up well, but despite a strong bullpen to date, the starting pitching looks due for a serious regression. The offense will be able to cover that up to some degree, and Alex White could end up being the team's saving grace, but for now, that can't be assumed. Currently, the Indians shape up to be a team with a talent level that of a .500 ballclub or a shade under.

Here's the rub, though -- you can't backdate true talent. That 19-8 record is in the books and cannot be changed, period. Even if the Indians play to .500 caliber the rest of the way, you're looking at around 86 victories total. That's plenty enough to capture the AL Central the way things are going. Last season, the Twins took the division with 94 wins (and that's not happening again this year) while the White Sox took second with 88 victories.

Right there, it's clear Cleveland will contend into September unless they experience a sudden and massive decline back to being a 90-loss team, but that looks out the window at this point. In addition, if the Indians are in the hunt in late July, you have to figure the club will be buyers in the trade market and could supplement the team that much more.

"Everything's really falling into place for us, if you look at it," Perez said. "It's there for the taking, but it's not going to be easy. ... It might be one of those five-team races where nobody is really leading the pack. That's why it's nice coming out to this great start, because if we do stub our toe, we could still be there.

"That's all we can ask for is to have a chance."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: March 2, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 12:30 am
 

Sorting out Johnson's place on Indians

By Matt Snyder

In case you missed the news yesterday, Nick Johnson is on the verge of signing a minor-league contract with the Indians (Twitter links contained via MLB Trade Rumors ). And if you did miss it, shame on you. How dare you not follow every move of Nick Johnson. This is clearly the most monumental signing of the offseason.

I kid, I kid.

Still, the move is at least intriguing enough to see where he might fit with the Tribe, should he join the big league club at some point -- and stay healthy for an extended stretch, which is a huge "if."

The reason for this is Matt LaPorta is expected to play first base for the Indians this season while Travis Hafner is slotted as the designated hitter. Johnson can't fit anywhere else.

Now, obviously the Tribe only took a flier on Johnson to see if it would pan out. It's a minor-league contract, after all, so there is no risk or obligation. But let's say all three aforementioned players stay healthy and hit the ball like they're capable.

LaPorta, 26, was the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade. Even if his development hasn't come as fast as expected, someone with his potential isn't going anywhere, especially for a team not expected to contend.

Hafner was one of the best hitters in baseball from 2004-2006 -- and still pretty solid in 2007 -- but injuries have derailed that a bit. He had a 131 OPS-plus in 462 plate appearances last season, so we know he can still swing it. He's just averaged 90 games a year over the past three, though, so this could be where Johnson comes into play.

Say what you will about his health, but Johnson sports a career .401 OBP. If he battles all the way the back to 100 percent health, there should be a spot on a major-league roster for him. At 32, he's definitely not too old to be productive.

Again, this was a move with very minimal risk. If Johnson ends up injured and worthless, it doesn't harm the Tribe at all.

If he's healthy and swinging the bat well, he can be the insurance policy for the oft-injured Pronk.

But what if both are healthy and swinging the bat well? This could actually be where Indians management is really looking. Both guys are left-handed, so they are redundant to the roster -- therefore: Trade. Bait.

Travis Hafner is due to make $13 million in 2012, so he might be tough to move. Still, if a team suffers a serious injury and/or needs a big bat in the middle at the trade deadline, it isn't inconceivable to see a move. Let's just say the Yankees deal Jesus Montero in a desperate attempt to nab a top-line starting pitcher and then Jorge Posada suffers a season-ending injury -- it's not out of the question on either front. If that was the case, Pronk in pinstrips for the last two months of 2011 and all of 2012 makes some sense, especially with that short right-field porch. It would be a win-win deal.

And if they couldn't deal Hafner, they could get a something for Johnson. He wouldn't be as attractive as Hafner, but he'd come without the lofty price tag.

Anyway, that's all a long way from now and both Johnson and Hafner would have to be healthy. Just something to think about as we wait for meaningful baseball to be played.

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

Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:32 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Getting to know the Indians

Shin-Soo ChooMVP

Shin-Soo Choo has quietly become one of the best players in the game. He's also shown to be quite good under pressure. Facing the possibility of mandated military service for his native South Korea, Choo led his country to gold at the Asian games in November, hitting .571 with three homers and 11 RBI, two steals and five walks in the five-game tournament. With the gold, he and his teammates were exempted from the military service. While it can be tough to play at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, that's nothing compared to having his career on the line for five games.

PLAYER ORACLE -- Ray Chapman to Matt LaPorta

Ray Chapman played with George Uhle for the 1920 Cleveland Indians

George Uhle played with Bob Feller for the 1936 Cleveland Indians

Bob Feller played with Minnie Minoso for the 1951 Cleveland Indians

Minnie Minoso played with Harold Baines for the 1980 Chicago White Sox

Harold Baines played with Russell Branyan for the 1999 Cleveland Indians

Russell Branyan played with Matt LaPorta for the 2010 Cleveland Indians

POP CULTURE

The Indians, of course, are the subject of one of my all-time favorite movies, Major League. However, that's just too easy for this space. I assumed a franchise as old and storied as the Indians would have something else. So I searched and found this jewel -- did you know that Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First" routine  was preceded by this "Bob Feller" exchange on the team's June 18, 1947, radio show.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 19, 2010 4:49 pm
 

R.I.P. Indians: Yet another building process

RIP As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions in October. Today: the last entry in the Cleveland Indians.

Poor Cleveland. They came within one win of advancing to the World Series in 2007, but since then have been caught in a web of ineffectiveness that saw Eric Wedge booted and the roster undergoing an overhaul.

It's disappointing to see a mid-market team like this come so close and have to completely scrap their entire team and start from scratch. Yes, the Indians somehow only lost 93 games with a team that should have lost much more, but the next few seasons will be about building the team back up, not contending.

WHAT WENT WRONG

You hate to see a team kicked when down, but that's exactly what happened on August 2 when the Red Sox's Ryan Kalish barrelled into Santana. The catcher ended up having to undergo knee surgery to repair his LCL. A shame given Santana (pictured, below right) is perhaps the best young catcher in the game with a .260/.401/.467 line in 192 plate appearances. He became the first Indians player since 1997 to make his big-league debut batting third. That's how good this dude is.

Meanwhile, first baseman Matt LaPorta, acquired from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade, flailed in his extended shot of playing time. LaPorta is the team's future when it comes to a power bat, but the 25-year-old just couldn't do anything in 2010. He finished with a .221/.306/.362 line and 12 home runs in 425 PA and time is fast running out for the slugger. He'll get another shot in the bigs in 2011, but it's time for him to do what he does so well in the minors: mash.

Lastly, Grady Sizemore, one of the more exciting five-tool outfielders in the game, hit rock bottom. The 27-year-old cranked 33 home runs and bashed to the tune of a .268/.374/.502 line in 745 PA in 2008, but missed the end of 2009 with left elbow surgery. His return consisted of 140 trips to the plate and an unsightly .211/.271/.289 line before having surgery on his left knee for a microfracture. Can he ever regain his top form? Probably not.

Carlos Santana WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Indians did have something go right for them with the emergence of relief pitcher Chris Perez. Perez, acquired from the Cardinals for Mark DeRosa in 2009, grabbed 23 saves and wrested the closer's role away from Kerry Wood while posting a 1.71 ERA. That's above his head as evidenced by a 4.30 xFIP, but he should still turn into a quality closer. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Perez may price himself out of the team's range by the time the club is ready to contend again. Fortunately, however, the Indians should get a nice return if and when they deal Perez.

Speaking of Kerry Wood, the Indians did what so few other non-contending teams did with their veterans who weren't going to return: they got rid of them. Wood went to the Yankees and flourished as a setup man while the Indians came away with some money recouped. The club also dealt away Austin Kearns (also to the Yankees) and Russell Branyan (Mariners), freeing up playing time for Perez, outfielder Michael Brantley and Shelley Duncan.

Fausto Carmona also returned from a two-year absence as an effective starting pitcher to post a 3.77 ERA in 210 innings. The 26-year-old is locked up for years and incredibly cheap as well, which has made him very in demand for other teams. Cleveland can opt to either get a nice haul in return for Carmona or have him head up the rotation as the club rebuilds. Either way, the team has a top-flight starter for cheap.
 
HELP ON THE WAY

The Indians graduated plenty of players to the bigs in 2010 that should have major impacts the rest of the way, including Santana, SP Mitch Talbot (acquired from Rays), reliever, Frank Herrmann and 2B Jason Donald. But the team needs so much more.

Fortunately, the team is rather deep in prospects remaining. Those that could help in the year 2011 include Nick Hagadone, acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal. Hagadone struggled as a starter but could morph into a dominant reliever. Meanwhile, Nick Weglarz represents Cleveland's new hope as a power hitter and should debut at some point in 2011 and Jason Kipnis could wrap up the second base job for years by the end of the season.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011

The Indians are still in a rebuilding phase. While the team has an intriguing number of bats, they are still too young and inconsistent, while the pitching remains far off. 90-plus losses is all but certain.

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011

The Indians figure to go after a first baseman to pair with LaPorta, a starting third baseman, and perhaps even an outfielder although Weglarz could be handed the job in spring training.

Tackling in reverse order, the Indians should stay pat and go with an outfield of Trevor Crowe-Michael Brantley-Shin-Soo Choo and filter in Weglarz and Sizemore when the two are deemed ready.

Jason Donald While third base could be permanently occupied by Jason Donald (pictured, left) or Luis Valbuena once Kipnis debuts, the team needs another year of protection. Adam Kennedy, who resurrected his career with the Nationals, could be that person. Kennedy can play around the infield and would collect enough at-bats to be worth bringing in while not stunting the development of Donald, Valbuena or Asdrubal Cabrera.

As for first base, the Indians need someone who can platoon with Matt LaPorta, but not send LaPorta to the bench. An ability to play the outfield is a plus as well, and the answer is already on the team in Shelley Duncan. Bringing Russell Branyan back isn't a terrible idea, but the team shouldn't spend much time looking for options as a backup first baseman.

Lastly, the Indians need to bring in a veteran starting pitcher who can soak up innings and mentor the young pitchers. Picking up ex-Indian Kevin Millwod could work, as well as Justin Duchscherer or Aaron Harang.

2011 PREDICTION

It's going to be more of the same for the Indians next season, and the team needs to find a way to develop an impact pitcher rather than the back-end types the team has proven especially adept in producing.

Check out the other R.I.P. reports here.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:07 pm
 

LaPorta bashing in full-time duty for Indians

Matt LaPorta When the Indians acquired Matt LaPorta for CC Sabathia midway through 2008, the hope was that the first baseman would emerge as a power threat.

It's taken about two years, but LaPorta may finally be delivering. The University of Florida graduate debuted for Cleveland last year, bashing seven home runs but hitting just .254 in 198 plate appearances with a scant 12 walks. He began 2010 on the big-league roster but was sent down to Triple-A after hitting .218/.290/.277.

Once Russell Branyan was sent out to Seattle, however, the Indians brought LaPorta back and installed him as the full-time first baseman. That's done wonders for his production and he's proving his first-round pedigree by cranking three home runs and hitting .294/.368/.882 in 17 at-bats. Yes, small sample size, but encouraging nonetheless.

"It definitely helps knowing that you're going to play pretty much every day," LaPorta told MLB.com. "It makes those 0-for-4 games a little less hard to take, because you know you're going to come out the next day and have a chance to get your knocks."

LaPorta has struggled to get regular playing time in the past but is finally coming into his own as the Indians rebuild. His recent success has made him confident, but he cautions in getting overconfident.

"If you get too high, then you can start getting too low," he notes. "I think you always want to stay on that even-keel. I feel like I've always been able to hit. It was just a matter of time before I was going to do it."

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 27, 2010 12:32 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2010 8:47 pm
 

Branyan returns to Seattle in trade

Russell Branyan Maybe Russell Branyan can bring back the magic of the Mariners' 2009 season, the team traded two minor leaguers to Cleveland for the slugger.

Branyan hit 31 home runs for Seattle in 2009, when the Mariners, despite not making the playoffs, were a feel-good story and posted a winning record. This season, not so much. The Mariners are 30-43, Ken Griffey Jr. has retired and much of the off-season optimism has been drowned by Seattle rain.

The Indians aren't any better, boasting a 26-46 record. Cleveland received minor-league outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and minor-league shortstop Juan Diaz in exchange for Branyan and a player to be named or cash.

Carrera, 22, was named the Mariners' 15th-best prospect by Baseball America and was hitting .268 in 64 games for Triple-A Tacoma before being put on the disabled list with a left hip pointer. Diaz, 21, is playing at High-A High Desert.

More importantly for the Indians, the team called up Matt LaPorta, who will now become the team's everyday first baseman with Branyan's departure. LaPorta was the key figure in the trade of CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

LaPorta struggled in his first stint with the Indians this year, hitting .218/.290/.277 with a home run and seven RBI in 35 games. Despite struggles at the big league level, it's obvious Triple-A holds no challenge for the University of Florida product -- LaPorta is hitting .362/.457/.638 with five home runs and 16 RBI for Columbus

Branyan was signed in February to a one-year, $2 million contract and was hitting .263/.328/.491 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. This will be his second stint with the Mariners and end his second stint with the Indians. In all, he's played for eight different teams and been with the Indians, Mariners and Brewers twice.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times ' Geoff Baker reports Branyan is expected to arrive in Milwaukee for the Mariners' game against the Brewers just after noon, Milwaukee time. If he can get to the park by the 1:10 p.m. local start time, he'll be on the roster, available to pinch hit. In that case, Mike Carp will be option to Triple-A. If Branyan's cab doesn't beat the clock, Carp gets to stay with the team one more day.

But that won't mean there won't be a move made today for the Mariners -- the team has already called up pitcher David Pauley to serve as the team's long-man out of the bullpen on Sunday and put Mike Sweeney on the disabled list with back spasms. Sweeney has a history of back problems, but this one is nowhere near as serious, the team said.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.




 
 
 
 
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