Tag:Justin Upton
Posted on: July 5, 2011 8:19 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:00 pm
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Picking a better Derby field

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Prince Fielder and David Ortiz have picked their teams for next week's Home Run Derby, and while all the picks are good, I'd pick a different squad.

If I were in Fielder's or Ortiz's shoes, here's who I'd pick:

National League
Wily Mo Pena, Diamondbacks: Five of Wily Mo's eight hits have reached the seats. He's struck out 17 times and hasn't walked, but that's real baseball. This is the Home Run Derby -- few can hit them as far as Pena -- especially when they're all straight and all in the strike zone. You know who agrees with me? The American League captain. Ortiz was asked about adding Pena and told WEEI.com, "That's not good. We would lose right away."

Check out this homer at Comerica Park -- which is hardly a bandbox.


Mike Stanton, Marlins: Like Pena, Stanton is a big, big man. Twelve of Stanton's 14 home runs have traveled more than 400 feet. I don't care if he's not seeing the ball clearly, this is a batting practice show and few can put on a show like Stanton.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: This is the one that Fielder and I agree on, and not just because Upton has the homefield advantage (which is a real advantage in this case). Upton has 13 home runs this season and according to HitTrackerOnline.com, only Fielder has hit a ball further than Upton's 478-foot bomb off of Chris Carpenter on April 12.


American League
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: The guy has 81 homers since 2010 began, you'd be a fool not to pick him. It's no surprise he was the first guy Ortiz called. He'd be my first call, too.

Josh Hamilton, Rangers: His 28-homer first-round performance at the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium is probably the most memorable Derby of all time. Hamilton said would have listened had Ortiz called him. He'd be my second call after Bautista.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: And here's my wild card. Suzuki has just one homer this season and has averaged less than 10 a year in his career, but anyone who has watched Suzuki in batting practice knows in that setting he can put the ball into the seats at will. In the Derby, you not only want the big boppers, but also the guys who can put together a streak of homers. Suzuki can do just about anything he wants with a bat, plus it'd be fun to watch the tiny Suzuki with all the other hulking players I've picked.

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

Posted on: July 4, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Hurdle upset with McCutchen's snub

Clint Hurdle

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wasn't happy about Andrew McCutchen's All-Star snub and made sure everyone knew about before Monday's game against the Astros.

John Grupp of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review passes along Hurdle's tirade:

"I know the challenges that come from [picking an All-Star team]," said Hurdle, who managed the NL All-Star team in 2008. "I sat in that chair. Well, I'm going to take this opportunity and be one of those managers and be disappointed in the entire process. The MLB whiffed. That he's not one of the guys getting in this little vote thing, getting into play in that. They whiffed on that. That's an absolute whiff."

"Look at the numbers he has," Hurdle said. "You can look at metrics. You can look at straight batting average, OPS, stolen bases. Whatever you want to look at, he's an All-Star.

"The players, they whiffed. Everybody whiffed on this one for me, in Andrew's case. Being his manager, I'm going to take my 42 seconds of soap box and remind everybody what a whiff-job they did with him not being on the All-Star team."

McCutchen entered Monday with a slash line of .294/.393/.498 with 12 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He's absolutely one of the best players in the National League, and not just outfielders.

The fans voted for the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, Brewers' Ryan Braun and Cardinals' Lance Berkman, while the players added St. Louis' Matt Holliday, Cincinnati's Jay Bruce and Houston's Hunter Pence. National League manager Bruce Bochy added Carlos Beltran of the Mets and Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks. Upton was the Diamondbacks' lone representative. 

The five players on the Final Vote ballot are the Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy, Nationals first baseman Mike Morse and Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.

McCutchen is second in WAR (3.7) among NL outfielders according to Baseball-Reference.com and sixth among NL outfielders in OPS (.892) and fifth in OPS+ (150).

In the end, Hurdle knows exactly the reason McCutchen was overlooked and pointed that out as well -- "The name on the front of the jersey has some challenges with it," Hurdle said. "We're out to knock them down. That has been our goal since the start of the season. This is another one we've faced and we'll knock this one down as well."

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2011 3:39 pm
 

National League pitchers and reserves

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Albert Pujols may be back before the All-Star Game, the Cardinals said on Saturday, but he won't be on the All-Star team. Here's the rest of the National League team:

National League

Pitchers

Jonny Venters, Braves (players' pick)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (players' pick)

Cole Hamels, Phillies (players' pick)

Jair Jurrjens, Braves (players' pick)

Joel Hanrahan, Pirates (players' pick)

Heath Bell, Padres (manager's pick)

Matt Cain, Giants (manager's pick)

Roy Halladay, Phillies (players' pick)

Tim Lincecum, Giants (manager's pick)

Brian Wilson, Giants (players' pick)

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants (manager's pick)

Cliff Lee, Phillies (player's pick)

Tyler Clippard, Nationals (manager's pick)

Reserves

OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (manager's pick)

3B Chipper Jones, Braves (players' pick)

SS Starlin Castro, Cubs (manager's pick)

2B Brandon Phillips, Reds (players' pick)

OF Jay Bruce, Reds (players' pick)

1B Joey Votto, Reds (players' pick)

SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (players' pick)

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (manager's pick)

OF Hunter Pence, Astros (players' pick)

OF Carlos Beltran, Mets (manager's pick)

OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals (players' pick)

C Yadier Molina, Cardinals (players' pick)

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

Posted on: June 4, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Best first-round picks of the last decade



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the MLB Draft beginning Monday night at 7 p.m. ET, the Eye on Baseball crew is going to look at the best -- and worst -- first-round draft picks by each team in the last 10 years. 

With the way the baseball draft goes, there are plenty of busts in the first round every year, but there are a lot of great players in the game that were drafted in the first round and the supplemental first round. Tomorrow we'll look at the misses, but for today, here are the hits.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Most first overall picks make the majors and many (Alex Rodrgiuez, Ken Griffey, Chipper Jones) find their way to superstardom. Justin Upton may not be a superstar yet, but the first overall pick of the 2005 draft already has one All-Star appearance under his belt and will probably have more to come.

Atlanta Braves: With the 14th pick in the 2007 draft, the Braves took a local kid, outfielder Jason Heyward. Nice pick.

MLB Draft

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is close to taking this spot, but for now it's still Nick Markakis, who was taken with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 draft out of Young Harris College in Georgia.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox had five picks in the first round and the supplemental first round in 2005, and as good as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie are, the pick here is right-hander Clay Buchholz, taken 42nd overall out of Angelina College.

Chicago Cubs: While his name is now a cautionary tale, it's easy to forget just how good Mark Prior was before arm trouble. Drafted with the second pick of the 2001 draft, he won six games in 2002 and 18 in 2003, his best season. Overall, Prior was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA.

Gordon BeckhamChicago White Sox: Even with his struggles last year and this season, Gordon Beckham has been a productive player for the White Sox after he was taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Cincinnati Reds: Taken out of high school with the 12th overall pick in 2005, Jay Bruce is the reigning National League Player of the Month and only seems to be getting better at 24. He already has 85 homers in his career, including a National League-best 17 this season.

Cleveland Indians: How bad have the Indians' first-round picks been the last decade? The 18 players taken by Cleveland in the first round and the supplemental first round over the last 10 years have collected just 506 games in the majors, 334 for Cleveland. Lonnie Chisenhall (29th overall in 2008) may eventually be their best in this list, but for right now it's the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, who at least has 40 big-league wins.

Colorado Rockies: While the Indians' choice was tough, the Rockies' wasn't -- Troy Tulowitzki was taken with the seventh overall pick in 2005.

Detroit Tigers: With the second pick in 2004, the Tigers took Justin Verlander.

Florida Marlins: The team's best pick of the last decade came in the fourth round of the 2002 draft when it took high school pitcher Josh Johnson, but as far as first-round picks, their best is right-hander Chris Volstad, taken with the 16th pick of the 2005 draft.

Chris BurkeHouston Astros: The Astros didn't have first-round picks in 2003, 2004 and 2007 and haven't had much production from any of them. There's really just two choices, Chris Burke (10th overall, 2001) and Jason Castro (10th overall, 2008). Castro has potential, but is out this season and has played in just 67 big league games, so the pick is Burke, who played in parts of six seasons with three teams, but his 18th-inning walk-off homer (left) to clinch the 2005 NLDS against the Braves is one of the franchise's signature moments.

Kansas City Royals: This choice could be much more difficult in five years, but for now it's pretty easy -- Zack Greinke. The Royals selected him sixth overall in the 2002 draft and he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jered Weaver was the 12th pick of the 2004 draft.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers took lefty Clayton Kershaw with the seventh pick of the 2006 draft out of a Texas high school.

Milwaukee Brewers: This could change in a couple of years, but for now, Prince Fielder (seventh overall, 2002) leads Ryan Braun (fifth overall, 2005). Fielder is a free agent this offseason, while Braun is under contract through 2020.

Minnesota Twins: There were those who questioned the pick of hometown boy Joe Mauer with the first pick in the 2001 draft instead of Prior. Not anymore.

New York Mets: Fred Wilpon may not think he's a franchise player, but David Wright is the team's best first-round pick in the last decade, taken with the 38th overall pick in 2001.

New York Yankees: The Yankees have plenty of first-round picks on their roster, although few were their picks. Two key pitchers, starter Phil Hughes (23rd overall in 2004) and reliever Joba Chamberlain (41st overall in 2006), were Yankee picks. The pick here is Chamberlain, who has allowed fewer runs in a similar number of innings and is currently pitching.

Oakland Athletics: A chapter of the book Moneyball focuses on the 2002 MLB Draft and Billy Beane's distaste of drafting high school players. In the book, the team is excited the Brewers take a player they won't touch (Fielder), and the team also doesn't want Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels or Matt Cain -- all high school player. But they get the man they want the most, Nick Swisher at No. 16. It's a good pick, as is Joe Blanton at 24 -- but it's hardly Greinke, Fielder, Hamels or Cain. The team also picked Jeremy Brown, a catcher out of Alabama, and Mark Teahen in the supplemental round. 

Philadelphia Phillies: Another pick from the Moneyball draft, the pick after the A's took Swisher, the Phillies snatched up Hamels, the left-hander from a California high school with the 17th pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The 2005 draft featured six players listed as center fielders taken in the first round -- and all six have made the big leagues. The second one taken was the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen with the 11th overall pick. The others were Cameron Maybin (10), Bruce (12), Trevor Crowe (14), Ellsbury (23) and Colby Rasmus (28).

San Diego Padres: The Padres may have had one of the biggest busts of the last decade in Matt Bush, the first overall pick in 2004 draft, but he's not been their only bad pick. The best of the lot was Khalil Greene, taken No. 13 in 2002, who had a promising start of his career, but his troubles with social anxiety disorder drove him from the game. Still, he's the Padres' career leader in homers by a shortstop with 84.

San Francisco Giants: Nine teams passed on the right-hander out of Washington, some scared off by his funky motion and small stature. Tim Lincecum proved them wrong.

Evan LongoriaSeattle Mariners: Adam Jones (37th pick in 2003) played in just 73 games for the Mariners, but was named an All-Star and won a Gold Glove with the Orioles in 2009.

St. Louis Cardinals: With a compensation pick for the Red Sox signing Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals used the 28th pick of the 2005 draft to take Rasmus out of an Alabama High School.

Tampa Bay Rays: Were Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds better than Evan Longoria? The Royals and Rockies took those two right-handers with the first two picks of the 2006 draft, leaving Longoria (left) for the Rays.

Texas Rangers: Funny story here -- in 2001 I was working at the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia and was covering the NCAA Regional in Athens when a Teixeira-led Georgia Tech squad was bounced from the tournament. After his last game, a kid from the student radio station asked Teixeira if he thought his poor showing in the regional would hurt his draft status. The Georgia Tech coach, Danny Hall, took the microphone before Teixeira could answer and said, "No." So did the Rangers, who took him fifth overall.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays took lefty Ricky Romero out of Cal State Fullerton with the sixth pick in the 2005 draft.

Washington Nationals: Another pick that could change with the emergence of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but that's still several years away because of the fourth pick of the 2005 draft,  Ryan Zimmerman.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:27 am
 

Pepper: Greinke progressing

Zack Greinke
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Great news for the Brewers -- with the Reds' loss and Brewers' win on Tuesday, the Brewers are tied for first place in the National League Central. And Zack Greinke is on his way back.

Greinke threw three scoreless innings at Class A Brevard County on Tuesday night. Greinke retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, struck out four and threw 35 pitches. He allowed a single hit, to Tampa's Mitch Abeita, who singled with one out int he third. Greinke struck out the next two batters he faced.

According to the Brewers, Greinke said he "felt great" and threw 91-94 mph with his fastball.

Greinke's next start is expected to be Sunday for Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers want him to make at least three starts in the minor leagues, so he'd return May 4 against the Braves at Turner Field.

And hey, with the Brewers in contention, Greinke may decide to try this year, so that's nice. [MLB.com]

BASEBALL TODAY -- NESN.com's Tony Lee joins Lauren Shehadi to talk Red Sox as Boston is still looking for its first road win following Tuesday's loss in Oakland (as predicted on yesterday's Baseball Today by some wise, handsome baseball writer).

MESSAGE SENT -- Tim Hudson didn't mean to throw at Dodgers rookie Jerry Sands on Monday -- he was just throwing at his body. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

A-ROD RETURNING -- Alex Rodriguez is expected back in the Yankees' lineup tonight. He hasn't played since leaving Saturday's game with lower-back and oblique stiffness. [New York Post]

SO YOU'RE SAYING THERE'S A CHANCE -- If the Nationals win both games of their doubleheader today and the Phillies and Marlins both lose, Washington will lead the NL East. [Washington Post]

MISSING MARTINEZ -- The Tigers won't move the hobbled Magglio Ordonez to designated hitter full-time with Victor Martinez on the disabled list. Alex Aliva will catch most of the games with Martinez out, but Omir Santos, called up Tuesday, will catch some, including today. [Detroit Free Press]

UPTON HISTORY -- A cool look at the history of Upton brothers rumors -- and there's been a lot for the pair from Chesapeake, Va, the latest that the Nationals are now scouting B.J. Upton (he's the one with the Rays). [MLBTradeRumors.com]

Mets PLATOON -- The Mets will platoon Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner at second base. [New York Times]

STAND BY YOUR MAN -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has issued a vote of confidence in his closer, Jonathan Broxton. Broxton has a 6.14 ERA, but has converted all five of his save opportunities this season. [MLB.com]

SIZEMORE'S SCHEDULE -- The Indians will be watching Grady Sizemore carefully in his return. He won't play more than two games in a row during his first week back and that could be the plan for a while. [Akron Beacon Journal]

BRADEN TO SEE SPECIALIST -- A's left-hander Dallas Braden will see Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on Wednesday for another opinion on his stiff left shoulder. Right-hander Tyson Ross will take Braden's spot in the rotation, starting Friday in Seattle. [MLB.com]

MOYER'S PLAN -- Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer, 48, will start his throwing work on May 1. Moyer had Tommy John surgery on Dec. 1. [Philly.com]

KINGLY DRAW? -- Do more people come to see Felix Hernandez pitch? The Seattle Times' Larry Stone breaks down the numbers and the result is -- a few. [Seattle Times]

DODGER VICE CHAIRMAN -- I think Frank McCourt is awesome and should be emperor of the universe.

Hey, we all want a good, cushy job. Writing positive things about mcCourt worked for Steve Soboroff. The Los Angels developer was hired by the Dodgers as their vice chairman and will be charged with "leading the efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium, strengthening ties to the region's community and philanthropic organizations, and expanding conservation and sustainability programs at Dodger Stadium."

To me it sounds like you've just got to go to a ton of baseball games, complain about the lines at the bathroom, go to some parties and drink some beers and wine -- and when you're done, make sure you throw the cans and bottles into the recycling bin. And all he had to do was write a letter to the Los Angeles Times saying the Dodgers' owner is super-duper. So, yeah, Frank McCourt, over here! I think you're awesome and doing a bang-up job.

YANKEE THEFT -- A woman is accusing the Yankees of stealing their famous top-hat logo from her late uncle in 1936. [New York Post]

BYE BYE PING -- Are the new college bat rules helping or hurting scouting? [FanGraphs]

GARBAGE ON, OFF THE FIELD -- The Mariners gave away compost as a promotion -- luckily for players, it was given away after the game. [MetsGrrl]

YOUK! -- The Kevin Youkilis Photoshop contest. [Big League Stew]

ANGELIC WEDDING -- If you find a woman who will let you have your wedding at a baseball stadium? Well, that means you are a lucky, lucky man. Congrats, Matt Griffin. [Orange County Register]

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:10 pm
 

Pepper: Dangerous game for fans, too

Jose Salazar

By C. Trent Rosecrans


When I went to Class A game the other day, I sat in the front row just to film from that angle and I was shocked at just how close I was sitting -- and how little the fans around me were paying attention.

Of course, it's worse at the minor-league level and in spring training where the stadiums are smaller, but it's still dangerous at the big-league level. Last night in Los Angeles, a fan at the Dodgers game was hit by a foul ball from Matt Holliday and carried off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. [Associated Press ]

This spring, of course, Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar was struck in the face by a foul ball and lost an eye.

On Friday, Salazar returned to manage the Lynchburg Hillcats.

This weekend, it was a feel-good story to see Salazar back in uniform, but it was so close to being different. [Lynchburg News Advance ]

STRANGE BALK -- Take a minute to watch this -- last night Justin Verlander tried to pick off Daric Barton at first, but caught a cleat in the dirt, so instead of making a bad throw to first, he threw home and hit David DeJesus. Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck ruled it a balk, awarding Barton second base. DeJesus later walked. Verlander said afterward, even he laughed at how it looked. [MLB.com ]

BRADEN LEAVES EARLY -- A's starter Dallas Braden left Saturday's game with shoulder stiffness after five innings. There's no update yet, but it could be bad news for the A's. [San Francisco Chronicle ]

AFRICAN-AMERICAN PARTICIPATION DECLINES
-- As teams honored Jackie Robinson this weekend, the Mets' Willie Harris finds the lack of African-Americans in the game "sad." Only 9.1 percent of major leaguers on opening day 2010 were African-American, while 20 percent were in 1995. Harris said he doesn't think MLB markets its top African-American stars, such as Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford and CC Sabathia, well enough. [New York Daily News

Rockies STARTER FALLS - - For the first time this season, a Rockies starter picked up a loss in the game. Jason Hamel was the first Rockies starter to earn an L, falling 8-3 to the Cubs and ending the Rockies' seven-game winning streak. [Associated Press ]

AND THERE'S THAT
--The other day White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he has the league's best bullpen, despite his relievers blowing six saves and converting just one. On Saturday, he said he knows he has a good defensive team, despite its 15 errors this season, 13 in the last 10 games. [Chicago Tribune ]
 
SPEAKING OF -- The A's lead the majors with 17 errors, including one more on Saturday. First baseman Daric Barton -- widely viewed as one of the best defensive first basemen in the game -- is tied for the team-lead with three errors. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff has three, as well. [MLB.com ]

EARNING HIS KEEP -- Could this be the year Alfonso Soriano lives up to his promise and salary? Soriano leads the Cubs with five home runs and 12 RBI. [Chicago Tribune ]

NO LEFTY -- The Dodgers don't have a left-handed reliever in their bullpen after Hong-Chih Kuo was place don the disabled list and replaced on the roster by right-hander Ramon Troncoso. [Los Angeles Times ]

ROYAL PEN -- One of the reasons the Royals are leading in the American League Central is their bullpen, well, almost all of their bullpen. In a reversal of expectations, only closer Joakim Soria, one of the best closers in baseball the last couple of years, has struggled. Manager Ned Yost said his closer is just "human" and should be fine. Still, the likes of Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress and Aaron Crow have impressed. [Kansas City Star ]

NEW PITCH -- Giants closer Brian Wilson is playing coy about a new pitch in his arsenal. Wilson, who will talk about most subjects, isn't discussing a new pitch he's throwing to right-handed batters. It may be a two-seam fastball, a cutter or even a screwball. [San Jose Mercury News ]

ATTENDANCE WOES -- This month six teams have set records for their lowest attendance since their current park opened -- the Braves, Indians, Mariners, Cardinals, Yankees and Twins. Overall attendance is down just two percent this year, which is less than I expected. [USA Today ]

HOW LOW CAN IT GO? -- Seattle is being hit particularly hard at the turnstiles. [Seattle Times ]

UBIQUITOUS OBLUQUE -- I missed this earlier this week, but heard Tim McCarver bring it up during yesterday's Mets-Braves games -- Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times wrote a great article about the oblique injury, noting 14 players had gone on the DL this year with an oblique injury. Also, before MRI technology improved to its current point, the injury had been called rib cage or abdominal injuries, the diagnosis is just better nowadays.

BIG DRAFT -- What if you had to pick from Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Ricky Romero, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Mike Pelfrey, Wade Townsend, Chris Volstad, John Mayberry Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus or Clay Buchholz? The 2005 draft offered those choices. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ]

WRIGLEY GRIDIRON -- The Cubs and Northwestern want to continue playing football games at Wrigley Field, despite the challenges they faced this season. In the end, money wins. [Chicago Tribune ]

TUCSON HOME -- Padres owner Jeff Moorad said Tucson will be the Triple-A home for the Padres for at least another year and could be an option if the team isn't able to get funding for a park in Escondido, Calif. [Arizona Daily Star ]

A DIFFERENT MANNY -- Manny Ramirez changed when he went to Boston. [Akron Beacon-Journal ]

HOT DOGGIN' -- A look at the best and craziest hot dogs at ballparks this season. I'm thinking about getting that Meat Lovers Dog at Great American Ball Park later today. I'll take pictures. In the name of "journalism" of course. I'm also curious about the Bahn Mi Dog at Nationals Stadium and [SeriousEats.com ]

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


Posted on: April 13, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: April 13, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Pepper: Huston Street off to fast start

Street

By Evan Brunell

HOT HUSTON: The Rockies have zipped out to a 7-2 start, and closer Huston Street has nailed down five of those victories. The early success has enabled Colorado and Street to put aside a frustrating 2010 season. Meanwhile, Street is reaching milestones in Colorado as he ranks third on the franchise list for total saves, but also tops the list in save percentage.

Part of Street's success -- no blown saves this season -- has to do with his changeup, which wasn't really a factor last year.

"A lot of it has to do with the weapons that [Street] has available to him when he has hitters in counts that he wants to get them into," manager Jim Tracy said. "It's a combination of two things, actually. His put-away pitches are there where we saw them in the past. That's No. 1. And No. 2, the fact that his ball is doing exactly what he wants it to do. I'm throwing it here, it goes there. That is what makes him so special. When the guy is right, he can thread needles. That's exactly what he's been doing these last few times out. The performance in Pittsburgh the other night, when he threw three innings and threw only 27 pitches, is indicative."

Street feels this season has gone perfectly so far. While he'd always be confident, the road's been a bit easier in the early going as he hasn't really had a roadblock put in his way so far.

"You always carry confidence out there. You always expect to get the job done," he said. "It's frustrating when you don't. It's more so when you're not executing because of mechanics or a lack of a feel for a pitch at a certain time. I felt that this year I had the perfect Spring Training. No setbacks, just gradually build, turn up the velocity and the intensity, and it's allowed me to develop all three pitches nicely. At the same time you've got to go out and execute, and I've been making some good pitches, and I've had some good plays behind me to help out in some big spots. It's a team game and we're winning as a team." (MLB.com)

BASEBALL TODAY: Josh Hamilton is injured again, the Red Sox lose again and the Orioles get a big early season test. Tony Lee of NESN.com joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss the latest.

BACK OFF: Manager Ozzie Guillen isn't happy about the hometown fans giving mock cheers to White Sox outfielders for catching balls hit to them. Hey, after five flubs so far in the early going, can you really blame them? (Chicago Tribune)

JUST WIN, BABY: Jayson Werth knows how it works. After bashing a home run against his former team to lead Washington to victory, Werth spoke about how important it is for the Nats to beat the Phillies -- and really, everyone else. Winning will change the culture and bring fans to the ballpark. Doesn't take a mad scientist to figure that out, but at least Werth has the right mentality after signing his lucrative contract. (MASN)

A LEGEND GROWS: Sam Fuld's incredible night Monday was not lost on the masses, who propelled him to Twitter stardom. ESPN even came calling for a couple interviews after he stroked four extra-base hits to catch everyone's attention. The outfielder came back down to earth in Tuesday's game, but his name is already out there. (St. Petersburg Times)

POWER: Justin Upton flashed some power in Tuesday's game by blasting a 478-foot home run against the Cardinals. (Matthew Leach on Twitter)

SWITCHING IT UP: Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt could be switching positions, with Huff returning to his more familiar first base while Belt takes a crack at right. Manager Bruce Bochy has been displeased with the team's defense. But what do you expect when you play a first baseman out of position in right and a DH (Pat Burrell) in left? (MLB.com)

MORE BEER: There is a second outdoor beer garden opening a couple blocks from Nationals Park. Hey, fans need a nice stiff drink before watching a team that could lose 90 games, right? (MASN)

LONGORIA PROGRESSING: Evan Longoria has experienced no setbacks in his recovery from a strained left oblique. He'll need a few rehab games but should be able to return on schedule at the end of the month. (MLB.com)

ONLY JAPAN: Ever had to try to hit a pitch thrown by someone in midair after jumping off a trampoline? Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi had to deal with this on a trip to Japan a while back. (Fangraphs)

THANKS, CARLOS: If Indians pitchers want to thank someone for their early suggest, manager Manny Acta suggests thanking catcher Carlos Santana. Acta praised Santana's game-calling in the early going and believes getting the additional work now and seeing more teams and players that he wasn't familiar with is really helping his progression. (MLB.com)

BLAME THE JERSEY? A Pittsburgh sports columnist recently wrote an article centered around Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was critically beaten at the hands of two Dodger fans. The two takeaways from the articles? Adults wearing sports jerseys are creepy and weird, and Stow basically had it coming. Big League Stew rightfully excoriates the article. (Big League Stew)

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:58 pm
 

Five players to improve, five to decline for 2011

By Matt Snyder

Well, it's almost opening day, which means it's time for all us writers to put ourselves out there and make some predictions. In the end, every season is unpredictable and we're bound to be wrong on several of these. That doesn't make it any less fun. It's supposed to be fun, remember?

In this entry, we'll take a look at five players sure to improve upon what we saw in 2011 and five that are going to regress.

Five players who will improve upon 2010

A.J. Burnett, Yankees. He was pretty brutal last season, but it's a new one. Opening day is time for rebirth and we have to turn the page. His xFIP and strand rates from last season both show us he wasn't nearly as bad as his 5.26 ERA showed. His stuff wasn't sharp at all, either, as his lowest K-rate since 2001 illustrates. There are many instances where spring stats don't mean anything (like CC Sabathia, to name a different Yankees hurler), but for someone needing to turn the page like Burnett, it's important to throw well. He did this spring, putting together a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. More importantly he struck out 11 and walked zero.

Derek Holland, Rangers. The youngster hasn't fared well in the majors thus far, but he's still only 24. He has lock-down dominated the minor leagues since being drafted in 2006. Last season in Triple-A he was 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA. He's 23-9 with a 2.47 ERA in his minor-league career with an outstanding 3.68 strikeouts for every walk. It's time to start showing this potential at the MLB level, and I believe 2011 will be the first step toward doing so.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers. He's refocused after a step backward in 2010. Which is weird to say, considering he had a 107 OPS+ and 28 bombs as a 25 year old -- but it really was a step back from his 2009 season, in which he won both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. He's having a solid spring and seems to be happier under Don Mattingly. Expect to see improvements in nearly every category -- except games played, since he appeared in all 162 last year.

James Shields, Rays. The traditional stat categories looked awful for Shields in 2010 -- 13-15, 5.18 -- but he really wasn't that bad. His strikeout rate was the highest of his career, balls in play were hits far too often (.341, as compared to a .308 career mark) and his xFIP was 3.72. If you don't like all the sabermetrics stuff, that's OK, but all of it says he's going to have a huge regression to the mean this year. In layman's terms, expect more 2008 (14-8, 3.56) than 2010.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. He appeared headed for superstardom in 2009, but took a step back in 2010. Still, like Kemp, he's awfully young (23) and his OPS+ was still good (111). This season, expect Upton's walk rate to continue to rise, as such he'll run more. Also, his power took a significant dip last season and he wasn't fully healthy. He is now, so look for a big step forward in '11.

Five players who will decline from 2010

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. I once worked with a guy who liked to say, "just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true." Just to clear the air, I don't think Bautista cheated nor do I think last season was anything other than a continuation of his last month in 2009, which resulted from a new swing. I do not, however, think he's ever going to hit more than 40 homers in a season again. He hit 54 last year. Even if he comes through with another big season, he's going to see a huge regression. Think about it, if he hits 35 bombs, that's a whopping 35 percent less than last year.

Mat Latos, Padres. His shoulder issue right now is concerning, as are the giant leaps in workload the past two seasons. Plus, he began to falter down the stretch last year anyway -- going 0-5 with a 8.18 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in his last five starts. And his team is now worse. Basically, I hope you let someone else draft him in Fantasy.

Josh Hamilton, Rangers. Led the majors in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Won the MVP. Are those things going to happen again? Technically speaking, it's pretty easy to say he's going to regress even if he has a solid season. If you wanna dig deeper, OK, his BABIP was a stupid .390, his isolated power flew off the charts and his ability to stay on the field must be questioned -- he couldn't even do that last season.

Buster Posey, Giants. His numbers were pretty insane last year in a short time. He struck out at a much lower rate than he ever did in the minors and didn't lose any of his power. There's a reason the "sophomore slump" term has hung around for a while, and it's not because guys automatically just play worse in their second year. It's because advance scouts, pitchers and pitching coaches have a large sample of at-bats to study and can start to find small holes in a swing. Some guys are immune. If Posey is, I'll be wrong in this pick -- and I'm fine with that. He's a very likeable guy.

Jayson Werth, Nationals. I do like that Ryan Zimmerman is his protection, but he's still going to a worse team in a worse lineup in a less homer-friendly ballpark. And now instead of playing behind Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels/Blanton he has to face them. Then, instead of facing the Nationals' pitching staff 19 times a season he's playing behind them. And he just got a huge, almost inexplicable, contract. It's hard to see him getting better.

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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