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Tag:Padres
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:03 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Epstein to join Cubs, bring along Pads GM Hoyer

EpsteinBy Evan Brunell

The Cubs are expected to make Theo Epstein a member of its front office on Thursday, ESPN Chicago reports.

A news conference is expected on Friday to announce the hiring, with commissioner Bud Selig having given the team permission to announce the news during the World Series. Friday is a scheduled off-day as the teams travel to Texas.

"The two sides are on the five-yard line," a source told ESPN Chicago, noting that a package of Cubs prospects will be headed to Boston. None of the prospects will be Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt or Matt Szczur. Previous attempts at compensation had included Boston asking for ace Matt Garza and even having Chicago take John Lackey's contract. However, the Cubs appear to have negotiated the Red Sox down to a more sane level of compensation. Cash is not expected to be part of the transaction.

Speaking of Lackey, there's another connection he has to all this. Epstein is expected to be named president of the Cubs, so he will need to hire a GM. His focus has been trained on the Padres, where he is expected to pilfer current GM Jed Hoyer, allowing senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes to ascend to the role. (ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reported at 3 p.m. ET that the deal was done: Theo as president, Hoyer as GM, Byrnes replacing Hoyer in San Diego.)

The Padres will not ask compensation for Hoyer, largely because Padres CEO Jeff Moorad has long wanted Byrnes to GM again, having hired him to GM the Diamondbacks back when Moorad steered the Arizona ship. Byrnes was fired in July 2010 after originally being hired by Moorad in 2005. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts also close with Byrnes' brother in a bond business, and both Moorad and Ricketts are friends. Perhaps this is why Hoyer would leave a situation in which he would appear to have more control -- if Byrnes has an influential voice and the ear of Moorad, Hoyer's voice in San Diego may not be as powerful as previously thought. In that regard, why not take a higher-profile job working under Epstein?

Throughout all this, a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune says that the Padres have discussed internally whether or not to acquire Lackey in a trade.

The Padres would need Boston to eat most of what is remaining on Lackey's deal. He originally signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal that has three years to go. Lackey might be able to succeed in a weaker division, a friendlier home park and a manager in which Lackey is familiar with. Bud Black was the pitching coach for the Angels when Lackey came up, so all told, Lackey may be able to turn his career around in San Diego. Boston might be motivated to eat much of Lackey's deal just to get him out of town, so this bears watching once Byrnes takes over in San Diego.

Incoming Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says he has yet to hear anything, and any reports are "premature. Haven't heard anything this morning," he told the Boston Globe.

Catch up on all the Theo Epstein to Cubs madness here.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Report: Epstein may steal GM Hoyer from Padres

HoyerBy Evan Brunell

The Cubs are considering stealing away GM Jed Hoyer from the Padres to work under Theo Epstein, SI.com is reporting.

Epstein is expected to become the new Cubs GM before long provided his current employer, the Red Sox, can agree on a compensation package to allow Epstein to depart to Chicago. Part of the issue is which of Epstein's assistants in Boston, if any, he would be allowed to take with him to Chicago. Given that Boston is playing hardball, it's possible Epstein may not be able to take anyone.

Hoyer (pictured) worked under Epstein for years in Boston and was co-GM in 2005 along with Ben Cherington, expected to be Epstein's replacement, for a month when Epstein briefly resigned as GM of the Red Sox. There's no indication that Hoyer would be interested in leaving his GM post for a lesser spot, but the fact that he's being considered is fascinating.

While there's a slim possibility of this happening, it's difficult to see. Hoyer is signed through 2013 and the move to Chicago would either be lateral or a step down from his current role. If Epstein joins the Cubs as president, as expected given moving from Boston GM to Chicago GM would be a lateral move, that does leave a GM spot open in Chicago, but why would San Diego let Hoyer out of his contract for a lateral move? Organizations can poach people from other clubs for promotions, but Hoyer departing for a demotion or lateral move would be unprecedented. You would think that if this came to pass, the Padres would ask compensation to allow Hoyer to depart.

If he did leave to Chicago, senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes -- also with connections to working under Epstein in Boston -- would take over as Padres GM. If Hoyer stays, Epstein is expected to target Byrnes as well as Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod, also formerly of the Red Sox.

Catch up on all the Theo Epstein to Cubs madness here.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Photo: MLB.com.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:24 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:39 pm
 

Indians extend Acta; Royals clean house

By C. Trent Rosecrans

In what is expected to be a day or two of these kinds of procedural moves, the Indians announced they've picked up the team's 2013 option on manager Manny Acta.

In his second season in Cleveland, Acta led the Indians to a surprising 80-82 record, finishing second in the American League Central.

However, Acta's pitching coach, Tim Belcher, will not return. Belcher stepped down from his position in Cleveland to return to his position as special assistant in the Indians' front office. Belcher said he wanted to spend more time with his family. On Wednesday, it was announced that bench coach Tim Tolman would step down after being diagnoses with Parkinson's disease, while Sandy Alomar is expected to take over Tolman's position. Alomar, the Indians' first base coach, is also expected to interview for the White Sox manager position.

Also on Thursday, the Royals announced that they would not bring back pitching coach Bob McClure or bench coach John Gibbons.

In San Diego, Randy Ready was fired after two-and-a-half years as the Padres hitting coach. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:15 am
 

Pepper: From afterthought to MVP candidate

Michael Young

By C. Trent Rosecrans

I'm not sure I'd vote for Michael Young for the American League MVP, but I sure would have to consider the Rangers veteran if I had a ballot in the AL -- and that's a far cry from where Young started the season.

Remember going into spring training? Young had no home on the diamond and reportedly wanted a trade from the only team he's played for as a big leaguer. At 34, he seemed to be anything but what his surname suggested and of declining skills, not to mention he was a man without a position. The team signed Adrian Beltre to take over at third base, displacing him once again. Young had been moved off shortstop to make room for Elvis Andrus after previously being moved from second base. And now the team had another third baseman and it seemed there was nowhere for Young.

Instead, Young has wound up playing everywhere. In addition to 68 starts as the team's DH, he's made 39 starts at third base, 36 at first base and 13 at second. He may be the team's MVP -- with V standing for both valuable and versatile. He played in all but two games this season, and produced. He's hitting .338/.380/.477 -- all improvements over last season -- along with 11 home runs (down from a year ago), 104 RBI and a MLB-best 209 hits.

"People want to talk MVP? It's ridiculous if they don't consider Michael Young," Rangers manager Ron Washington told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'd like someone to tell me a utility player who does what he does… When it all started, nobody thought he'd be able to get playing time."

The AL MVP vote could be one of the toughest in recent years, but Washington's right, Young should seriously be considered.

Rockies to be aggressive in offseason: The Rockies were many people's pick to win the National League West, or at least the wild card. Instead, the team has limped to a 71-87 record so far, 21 games behind the surprising Diamondbacks. Colorado has money to spend and will look for several upgrades in order to be competitive in 2012. [Denver Post]

Sayonara Kuroda? Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda said there's a 50-50 chance he returns to Japan next year. Kuroda is 13-16 with a 3.17 ERA this season. [MLB.com]

Rasmus blames Cardinals: Colby Rasmus hasn't played well since going to Toronto, and for that, he's blaming the Cardinals. The 25-year-old center fielder has as much talent as anyone, but his head seems to continue to get in his way. Maybe Tony La Russa was right… [National Post]

Pinch-runner paying dividends: Tyler Greene isn't playing much shortstop for the Cardinals, but he's still making his mark on the bases. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Stadium holding back A's: The A's still hope to get a new stadium in San Jose, but if they do they'll likely hold back on spending -- because the stadium wouldn't be ready for at least three years, and the team would want to build toward opening strong in the new stadium. At least, that's what the agents for Josh Willingham hear. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Extending DatDude: Reds general manager Walt Jocketty will meet with the agents for second baseman Brandon Phillips in New York this week to talk about an extension. Jocketty has already said the team would pick up Phillips' $12 million option for 2012. [MLB.com]

Sanchez hopeful: Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said he expects to be ready for opening day in 2012. Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery in August. [San Jose Mercury News]

Homecoming: You think it's bad when you see minivans with a kid's name and number on the back? I know I'd be embarrassed if if my mom had "Trent" and "CBSSports.com" on the back of her car. Or even if she wore a t-shirt with that around town. Well, imagine how embarrassed Reds rookie Devin Mesoraco felt when his mother distributed more than 700 t-shirts with his image and name on it for Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. [OMGReds.com]

Maybin wants to stay in San Diego: Cameron Maybin has apparently found a home in San Diego. When asked if he was open to signing a long-term deal with the Padres, Maybin said "100 percent." You can also find out where he buys his shoes. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

If you don't hit does it matter where you hit? The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano isn't happy about batting seventh most of the season fo rthe Cubs. Shouldn't he be more upset with him putting up the type of production that makes him a seven-hitter? [ESPNChicago.com]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 4:12 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 San Diego Padres

By C. Trent Rosecrans

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

Team name: San Diego Padres
Record: 68-88, 19.5 games back in NL West
Manager: Bud Black
Best hitter: Chase Headley -- .291/.377/.405, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 42 R, 28 2B, 13 SB
Best pitcher: Mat Latos -- 8-14, 3.60 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, 176 K, 187 1/3 IP

Nobody expected much out of the Padres after losing Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox  and they didn't disappoint. If 2010's run at the NL West title was a shock, 2011's last-place finish wasn't.

2011 SEASON RECAP

San Diego was eight games back by the end of April, so it's hardly a surprise the team finished dead last in the NL West. After fantastic pitching led the team to the brink of the playoffs a year ago, the team couldn't recreate its magic of 2010. Mat Latos took a step back (but was still pretty good), while Clayton Richard made just 18 starts before being shut down for the season and undergoing shoulder surgery.

While nobody stepped up to take all of Gonzalez's offensive load, the team had some surprisingly good offensive performances, as third baseman Chase Headley put together a solid season, as did catcher Nick Hundley (.289/.352/.471 with eight homers) and first baseman Jesus Guzman (.313/.369/.479 with five homers). And then there was Cameron Maybin, the former first-round pick of the Tigers and big part of the trade that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from Florida to Detroit had been labeled as a disappointment for several years now despite the fact he's now just 24 years old. Not only did Maybin hit a respectable .266/.322/.397 with nine homers and 38 stolen bases, he's shown the ability to patrol the spacious outfield at Petco. If he continues to improve and works on his on-base percentage, Maybin can be a maintain in San Diego.

2012 AUDIT

With the rise of the Diamondbacks, the return of the Giants, what has to be a better year for the Rockies and hopefully new ownership in Los Angeles, there's not much room for optimism in the NL West for the lowly Padres. But hey, it's a really nice ballpark, and you live in San Diego, what can you really complain about?

The rotation should be relatively stable, with Latos, Richard, Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley, with Cory Luebke, Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly ready to step in if needed. The bullpen is a bigger question, with free agent Heath Bell and the departure of Mike Adams

The biggest weakness in the lineup is the middle infield, where Orlando Hudson was OK, but aging, and Jason Bartlett didn't do much. Kyle Blanks has once again flashed the ability to rise above the constraints of the ballpark, but lacked consistency.

FREE AGENTS

Heath Bell, RP
Jeremy Hermida, OF

OFFSEASON FOCUS

Can the Padres get anyone who can actually hit the ball? Or is it that tough to do Petco Park? Well, it'd be nice to get a big bopper, but with the reputation of Petco, no free agent hitter in his right mind is going to sign with San Diego. Even those with good numbers before coming to Petco, like Ryan Ludwick, left without much success. While Ludwick hasn't exactly rebounded in Pittsburgh, his free agent stock will take a tumble and there's no doubt he and his agent will blame it on Petco. Petco -- and the team's payroll ceiling -- will force the Padres to add offense through trades and developments rather than free-agent signings.

Then there's the matter of the team's bullpen. There will be a lot of the same names, but the backend will be different than it was this season after the trade of Adams and the possible departure of Bell. Here's five things I'd do to help the Padres going forward:

  • Wave goodbye to Bell. Bell wants to stay in San Diego, but the team's budget can't afford a luxury such as a veteran closer like Bell, who made $7.5 million in 2011 and will be expecting a raise. San Diego held onto the right-hander at the trade deadline, but for a team like the Padres, the value of the draft picks if he doesn't accept arbitration and signs elsewhere was more than the team would receive at the trade deadline. It's tough to see Bell go, but is hardly like watching Trevor Hoffman save games for another team. That's  something they've lived with before and can live with again.
  • Trade Guzman to the American League. The guy is born to be a designated hitter and you just don't utilize that position in the National League. The Padres should ignore Anthony Rizzo's 2011 (.138/.274/.244 in 146 plate appearances) and let him get his chance to play every day in 2012. Rizzo struggled in the big leagues, but killed it in Triple-A. There's enough talent there to believe the Triple-A results are the real deal. If not, you know going forward. Guzman could pick up yet another starter, a reliever or even a replacement second baseman for the the aging Hudson.
  • Pick up the option on Aaron Harang. It's a mutual option, so he has a say, but there's no player happier to be playing for one team than Harang is playing for San Diego. A native of San Diego, Harang has loved being around his and his wife's families, especially after having Twins last December. A close second to family concerns for Harang is the relief of pitching in Petco Park. A fly-ball pitcher, Harang gave up an average of 24 homers a year in his six full seasons in Cincinnati, with 35 in 2008. This season he's allowed 20 -- and just seven at home. He's not going to get Cy Young votes anymore, but he'll be steady in the rotation. While Harang could maybe get more than the $5 million the Padres are on the line to pay in 2012, he's not going to get any more money from San Diego. It's the perfect marriage for the player and the team. There was certainly itnerest in Harang at the trade deadline this year, and there may be a year from now, too. 
  • See what you have in outfielder James Darnell. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Darnell hit .310/.406/.547 with 23 homer runs. Darnell had been a third baseman, but played a bit in the outfield for Triple-A Tucson. He needs to work on outfield play in the offseaosn and come into camp ready to take a spot.
  • Any free agent signings need to be modest and target the bullpen. Target lower-priced, veteran arms who could help out in the bullpen, not overpriced closers. Names to think about include Shawn Camp, Matt Belisle and Todd Coffey. Nobdoy's going to get excited about these moves, but they could work out and shouldn't cost too much.

No, the Padres aren't going to the World Series with these moves, but they'll be under budget and have a better idea of what their futures holds after the 2012 season. Some things may not work out, Rizzo may not be the hitter we think he is, but we'll know. And as a wise man once said, that's half the battle. The other half is lasers. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:13 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Papelbon falls in Sox loss



By Evan Brunell

Eric Hosmer, Royals:  Hosmer was lights out, going 5 for 5 on the night, driving in three runs and blasting his 18th home run of the season. His batting average is now a cool .300, and Hosmer seems like he should finish no lower than second in Rookie of the Year voting. Jeremy Hellickson likely has the award sewn up, but it's been a great year for Hosmer, whose five-night night was the first since Billy Butler accomplished the feat in July 2009.

Mat Latos, Padres:  Latos pitched his best start of the year on Tuesday, coughing up just one run in 8 2/3 innings against the Rockies. That lone run came in the ninth inning on a RBI single, but Heath Bell came on to finish out the game. Latos has only approached this kind of dominance once before, back on May 25 against the Cardinals. It's encouraging to see Latos finish the season strong, as his ERA has dropped in each of his September starts, entering the month at 3.82 and now resting at 3.60.

Ben Revere, Twins: Revere has hit in seven straight games, including a 4-for-5 night on Tuesday, swiping his 33rd stolen base. His batting average is now up to .264. Add in strong defense and the ability to swipe 40 bases a season, and Revere's stock is on the rise. The Twins will have to decide whether to keep both Revere and Denard Span and play one off the bench or deal one of the two for help. Odds are you'll see Span traded, likely to the Nationals, for middle infield and/or relief help.



Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox:  The last time Papelbon allowed a run, it was July 16. Unfortunately, that streak is now snapped after a bout of lousy timing thanks to a bases-loaded double scoring three Orioles runs that pushed Baltimore to a 7-5 victory. Papelbon came in with one out after Daniel Bard allowed two singles. While Papelbon punched out Chris Davis, he couldn't avoid another single and then a double to further send Red Sox fans into a pit of malaise.

Drew Stubbs, Reds:
Drew Stubbs punched out twice on Tuesday, giving him 200 strikeouts in a season. That gives him the distinction of being the first player not named Mark Reynolds to accomplish the feat. Even Adam Dunn hasn't done it, which shows you just how difficult it is to reach 200 strikeouts. "It is what it is," Stubbs told Eye on Baseball's C. Trent Rosecrans after the game. "It's not something anyone's ever proud of. I don't know. I don't know what else to say." Stubbs struck out a ton last season as well during a year where he notched a 20/20 season but has become a bit of a free swinger this year which may have something to do with his disappointing year at the plate. He's been increasingly hacktastic the last couple of months.

Rich Harden, Athletics: Ever since the trade deadline, Harden has been alternating clunkers with good games. There's the 10 strikeout game against the Royals... coughing up six runs to the Yankees ... blanking the Jays over seven innings... and Tuesday night, allowing five earned runs to the Rangers in just three innings, spiking his ERA to 5.17. Despite the late tailoff, Harden's talent is still so great that he'll get plenty of calls this offseason to be either a starter or reliever.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:26 am
 

Picking the National League's best defenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Gold Gloves are one of baseball's toughest awards to decide -- and sometimes toughest to understand. Unlike many of the game's other awards, the Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches, and every year it seems there's a winner or two that seems to win the award more with their bat than their glove.

Not only do some players seem to win it with something other than their glove, sometimes the award can be a lot like the Supreme Court, once you get elected, you're not going to lose your seat.

That said, it's a difficult award to vote for. There are better fielding statistics coming out every year, yet most are still in their infancy and can tell you only so much. Good defense, sometimes can be a lot like the definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave for pornograpy in Jacobelis v. Ohio in 1964: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embrued within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." 

With that in mind, perhaps the voters for the Gold Gloves should be the scouts, but instead I'll try my hand at picking out the best defensive players in the National League.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

As tough as it is to use numbers to evaluate fielders, it's even tougher with catchers. At least the numbers with other fielders have some meaning, with catchers there's so much more to what they do defensively that it's hard not to go on reputation -- and nobody has a better reputation than Molina.

Others considered: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies; Brian McCann, Braves.

First base: Joey Votto, Reds

When Votto was coming up, people knew he could hit -- that was hard to ignore -- but his reputation at first base was nowhere near as good. Even as a rookie, he often struggled, especially on throws to a pitcher covering first. Since then, he's improved every year and this year he has proven himself to be the best defensive first baseman in the league. Votto, last year's MVP, covers more ground at first than any other first baseman in the league, which means it can be tough to get a hit if you hit it on the ground to the right side of the Reds infield, beacuse of the next guy on the list.

Others considered: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Todd Helton, Rockies.

Brandon PhillipsSecond base: Brandon Phillips, Reds

A two-time Gold Glover, Phillips should be in line for his third. There may be no other player in baseball with as long of a highlight-reel as Phillips, who seemingly makes another amazing play every night.

Others considered: Chase Utley, Phillies, Omar Infante, Marlins, Neil Walker, Pirates

Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants

There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year. The advanced stats don't tell you everything yet, but they're still pretty good. Sandoval leads qualified National League third basemen in UZR (12.3), UZR/150 (21.2) and plus-minus (20). 

Others considered: Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken. 

Others considered: Alex Gonzalez, Braves; Jose Reyes, Mets; Clint Barmes, Astros.

Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

The voting has changed this year to award Gold Gloves to each of the three outfield positions instead of three generic outfielder awards that usually went to center fielders. Carlos Gonzalez is tough to categorize, but considering he's played more games in left than any other spot, he's the easy choice here. He's started 60 games in left, 34 in right and 28 in center. He's played all three well, which isn't easy at spacious Coors Field, committing only one error on the season.

Others considered: Matt Holliday, Cardinals. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks. Tony Gwynn, Dodgers.

Shane VictorinoCenter field: Shane Victorino, Phillies

This is one stacked category, with several deserving players. Under the old rules it would be easy, you'd have three center fielders and give them the three Gold Gloves. Under the new rules, it's a tougher choice. Victorino has had an MVP-type year, and no small part of that has been patrolling center field for the Phillies. The Flyin' Hawaiian is as good as anyone out there and his error-less season gives him the edge.

Others considered: Chris Young, Diamondbacks; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Cameron Maybin, Padres; Rick Ankiel, Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates.

Right field: Mike Stanton, Marlins

He may be known best for the moon shots off his bat, but Stanton is a surprisingly good defensive outfielder. Stanton has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.

Others considered: Jay Bruce, Reds; Carlos Beltran, Giants; Jason Heyward, Braves.

Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, Mets

A knuckleball pitcher needs to field his position well -- there are plenty of bad hits coming back to the mound off poor contact. Dickey has been very good fielding his position and helped his team with his glove.

Others considered: Jake Westbrook, Cardinals; Bronson Arroyo, Reds; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Derek Lowe, Braves.

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