MLB In Full Bloom 12/2/2013

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72 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

119 – Number of days until Opening Day

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving and time with family and friends. We took about a week off at BEONDECK and Buehler's Day Off. My wife and I traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina and spent time with the family. I ate my first fried turkey, which was tremendous. I found time to visit Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University and got to check out the home of the Durham Bulls. But, now its time to get back to work as we are just a week away from the MLB Winter Meetings.

Happy December!!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Rickey Nolasco and Phil Hughes agreed to deals with the Minnesota Twins. The Twins were a team that had virtually no starting pitching last year- 5.26 rotation ERA which was the highest in the majors. Their rotation struck out only 477 hitters last year and when you compare that to Yu Darvish had 277 strikeouts all by himself, adding Nolasco and Hughes is certainly an upgrade for the Twins. They did not lose draft picks or have to trade any young talent to get either free agent pitcher. The problem is that both pitchers are below average in ERA and neither is a #1 or #2 starter.  Hughes should benefit from being in a bigger field, but he has some work to do beyond changing ballparks. Both are worthwhile gambles, but will the high expectations be met by either of these guys.
  • Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees seem to be closing the gap on a long-term deal. The two sides seem to still be $80 million apart which  is alot of money to bridge. But, at the same time its not that something that cannot be done. A deal is not imminent and with the number getting closer to $200-$250 million, we may see other teams jump in at some point.
  • Ryan Vogelsong and the San Francisco Giants agreed on a one-year contract this past weekend. Vogelsong went 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA in 19 starts and 103 2/3 innings during an injury-shortened season. He broke two bones in the right pinkie area of his pitching hand and also dislocated a knuckle on a swing May 20 and underwent surgery the next day. He is certainly a candidate for a bounce back season in 2014.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired catcher Chris Stewart from the New York Yankees for a player to be named later or cash considerations. He'll be in the running for the backup job behind Russell Martin in Pittsburgh.
  • Ted Lilly announced his retirement after 15 years of pitching because of further problems with his shoulder and back. His body told him it was time to shut it down. Lilly is a two-time All-Star with a 130-113 career record with a 4.14 ERA. He pitched for Montreal, Oakland, Toronto, the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • Dioner Navarro and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a two-year deal this morning pending a physical. Navarro had a pretty good year with the Chicago Cubs last year in a back up role. It appears the Blue Jays will move forward with Navarro and Josh Thole and will look to trade J.P Arencibia. Arencibia has continued to struggle at the plate with a low on base percentage, high strikeouts, and low batting average. He puts up big home run numbers, but there are a lot of questions about Arencibia game overall. We'll have to see what the demand is on the market for him.
  • Today is the deadline for arbitration eligible players by midnight tonight. There are a lot of them and most of them will get tendered. But, there are some players that are beginning to make some money or maybe overvalued that teams are not going to want to keep on their roster. There will be some interesting players that are not tendered, which will provide some interesting moves this offseason.

MLB In Full Bloom 11/26/2013

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78 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

125 – Number of days until Opening Day

Monday did not provide the fireworks in the Hot Stove that we saw last weekend. There were no blockbuster trades or noteworthy signings, I will give you my top 5 fantasy players for the 2014 season. It's never to early too start building your fantasy draft strategy that you will execute in March. And, for those of us that have completely punted their interest in fantasy football because all it takes to win is luck and no actual strategies can be applied in that game, let's turn our attention to the most rewarding fantasy game - fantasy baseball.....

Top 5 Fantasy Players for 2014

1. MIKE TROUT

Mike Trout has the incredible combination of hitting for power and having outstanding speed. Because of that combination, Trout is my preseason selection to be the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player. Miguel Cabrera will continue to hit for power and provide fantasy owners with a solid batting average. However, the separation between Trout and Cabrera lies with speed and defense. Trout displays that speed on the bases and in the outfield and with Peter Bourjos being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last week, Trout will settle back into centerfield every day. Trout is a legitimate .300 hitter that will continue to provide fantasy owners with above average power, stolen bases, runs scored, and he provides solid RBI production. In 2013, Trout had 97 RBI and he hit leadoff most nights. At 22-years old, he is going to continue to post impressive offensive numbers and will continue to be the #1 selection on draft day for a long time.

2. MIGUEL CABRERA

Miguel Cabrera has been the best hitter in baseball the past two years. However, the injury bug caught up to him in the second half this year and he was not himself down the stretch of the season or the playoffs. It was a surprise that the injury woes that  bothered Cabrera the past month-plus did not crop up in 2012. It can be argued the fact he was healthy all of 2012 masked that injury was always a possibility. Fantasy owners are left to assume this will drop him out of the top spot next spring. It does for me.

3. PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT

Most experts that will give you their rankings will have Paul Goldschmidt in the first round, but not many will put him this high. Coming into the 2013 campaign, my concern was whether Goldschmidt would regress from the previous season with respect to contact rate. My fears were unfounded as Goldschmidt's present strikeout rate was even lower by a wide margin. Now, add in his 30-plus homers and steals in the teens and we have a perennial top-five fantasy pick in his prime.

4. ANDREW McCUTCHEN

Andrew McCutchen led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first winning season since 1992, batting .317 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 27 steals while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Like with Mike Trout, there were questions about McCutchen's ability to repeat the .327 average he posted in 2012. And like Trout, he improved his contact rate while drawing more walks. McCutchen's power might has dropped a little bit from 2012, but McCutchen is still one of only three players to hit at least 20 homers and steal at least 25 bases. The others are Trout and Carlos Gomez.

5. CARLOS GONZALEZ

I know...I know.... Carlos Gonzalez will not play an entire season. I get it, but I also know that if he were to stay healthy, the argument could easily be made that Gonzalez slide in to the top 3 behind just Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. There is risk with every player on the board, so by placing Gonzalez in my top 5, I'll accept the risk that I'd rather take the 400-500 plate appearances from him and hope for more. In 2013, Cargo only had 391 plate appearances, but in the three previous seasons, he averaged 528 plate appearances and still posted 25 or more home runs in each of those seasons with solid RBI production.

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