Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Breaking Down 2014 Topps Heritage

Topps Heritage continues to be one of the more popular products released annually and is back once again for its fourteenth year with another great design.  Heritage continues it's popularity merging today's players with the design of the 1965 set and in my mind is what I would recommend for collectors getting back in to the hobby or for those already involved.  It's a large set with 500 total cards in the base set, 75 of which are short printed with additional variations and purposeful error cards inserted to the base set.  The variations include logo variations, action images (see the Verlander cards pictured), and throwback uniforms for certain players.

In addition there are plenty of inserts and parallels that include black backs, mini's, chrome, chrome refractors, black bordered, and gold boarded.  Additional inserts include "Real One Autographs", Clubhouse Collection relics, '65 Mint Coins, Hot Iron Transfers, and more base inserts like New Age Performers, Then & Now, Flashbacks, News Flashbacks, and 1st Draft Cards.

Each hobby box contains 216 cards and 1 autograph or relic card.  On top of each box is either an ad panel of three players or an actual card from 1965.  Each pack contains 9 cards.  Here's a box that was recently opened and what was found...

Box Cost: $68
Packs Per Box: 24
Cards Per Pack: 9
Cards Per Box: 216
Rookie Cards: 17
Extras: One Autograph or Relic & One Box Topper

Base Set Cards
SP's: Jurickson Profar, Justin Verlander, Justin Verlander (action), David Ortiz, Brandon Phillips, Evan Longoria, Carlos Santana, Craig Kimbrel, Jered Weaver (action)

Chrome: Matt Cain, Clay Buchholz
Chrome Refractor: Derek Jeter ($60)
Ad Panel: Jeremy Hellickson/Eric Stults/Giancarlo Stanton
Baseball Flashbacks: Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax
1st Draft: Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan
New Age: Wil Myers, Xander Bogaerts, Yasiel Puig
News Flash: Malcom X, Voting Rights
Then & Now: Juan Marichal/Bartolo Colon, Maury Willis/Jacoby Ellsbury
Clubhouse Collection Memorabilia: Wade Boggs Jersey

Total Beckett Value: $256.60

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grading the Tigers Early

So I'm trying to make sense of the start of the Tigers season essentially 1/10th of the way in, as they've become very difficult to watch without getting frustrated.  The easiest way to get to the bottom of things is for me to bucket them and go from there, so bucket grade for the start of the season and please keep in mind the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint...

The pitching has been ok with the starters mostly living up to what we thought they'd be and after Ricky P got the Angels monkey off his back on Sunday I'd almost say they may be a little better than expected, however Anibal has slipped slight backward.  I'm not counting Drew Smyly's start on Friday as part of this since it was his first of the year and he gets the benefit of the doubt at this point so looking at the other four starters they have a record of 5-5 with Anibal win less at this point.  Starters ERA minus Smyly sits at 2.70, however 7 runs scored on errors to this point.  So the starters are doing their share.  Grade: A

Then there's the pen.  Generally fans thought with a new closer and Rondon back that the pen was fixed, however listening to experts, we knew the issue was much bigger then that and wasn't truly addressed in the off-season with the reduction of Smyly from the pen.  The current pen is 4-1, however Nathan blow two of his first three saves with "dead arm", however it  does look like he's moved past that.  The current pen also sits on a 5.06 ERA with Putkonen's 7 earned the other night driving it upward considerably.  Grade: C- and hope the starter goes 7 at least.

Defensively the team was to be better this year with the trade of Fielder, the move of Cabrera back to first, and making Jose Iglesias our starting shortstop.  Well we know where we sit with Iglesias and his replacements have been pretty bad with Alex Gonzalez (recently released) booting 3 balls in 9 games and Romine adding another.  Oddly enough Torii had a drop on Opening Day, AJax has 3 errors and Rajai has added one for a total of 5(!) errors in 16 games in the outfield.  Add 9 others from infielders and JV and we're averaging just under an error a game...not good.  Factor in the inabillity to stop the running game allowing 18 stolen bases so far and only throwing out 5 (22%) and really tough to say we play fundamentally tough.  Grade: D and load up Tom Emanski defensive drills on to all the Tigers iPads

Oh that Tigers offense.  Need to go back and look but how many times in 16 games do you remember them going 1-2-3 in the first?  The teams negative 1 run differential can solely be placed on the offense.  The team gets on base (.327/9th in MLB), hits well (.260 avg/9th), and even slugs slightly above average (.391/13th), but scoring only 63 runs or just under 4 runs a game with place you 26th in the Majors (granted they played the leagues fewest games).  We take in to account that the Tigers have played three fewer games than the rest of the league so adding 12 runs to the total ranks the Detroit tied for 22nd.  Now I love seeing the steals (16 already), but they do no good when you can't drive the runner in.  As a matter of fact, we have only two hitters who have an average of .300 or better with runners in scoring position (RISP) and Ausmus sat Nick Castellanos (.333) half the interleague games.  By the way, Ian Kinsler has a .375 average with RISP.  Look no further then the middle of the order with the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera hitting just .209 and .167 with RISP and Victor hitting .182 with RISP.  AJax is hitting .077 with RISP and Alex Avila at without a hit yet.  With two outs and RISP, forget about boys, get your gloves as only Nick C is hitting .333 with RISP and two outs.  The good news, the offense can't be this bad all season as Cabrera is due to bounce back and those hits with RISP will start to come.  Grade: D

To sum it all up...Starting pitching good, relief pitching is sort of what was expected, defense bad, offense bad for an overall Grade: C- and we're still a game up on the division

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Opening Week For The Detroit Tigers; Signs Of Things To Come?

Tough to find anything to complain about when yoku open the season at home on what was the best weather to that point of the year, a win, and a 4-1 start to the season.

From the week at home I took away both positives and glaring weaknesses as I think most of us saw.

First, Opening Day was great.  JV looked strong except for one inning and a nice come from behind win with shortstop fill-in Alex Gonzalez coming through in the clutch not once but twice.  Lets not forget however that he botched a ball for an out in the inning which JV gave up 3 and then there was Torii's dropped fly ball. The bullpen looked amazing though with Reed, AA, and Joe Nathan holding it down.  One of the other interesting things to watch for me was rookie Nick Castellanos (#19 in the Pepper Top 100 MLB Prospects for 2014) and his flailing swings at times bur also how he was able to regroup and end the day 2 for 4. Victor's and AJax's swings were on too, so I'd say a pretty good day.

Game 2 brought us another walk-off win with newcomer Ian Kinsler the hero this time with a homer in the 4th before Joe Nathan blew the save after eight strong innings from Max, to only come back up again in the 10th to drive in AJax.

Detroit walloped Baltimore on Friday after a rain delay sent Ricky P to the showers early and Drew Smyly came in to keep the game locked down before Joba came in to give up 2 runs in the 9th for a 10-4 win.  By the way, pretty awesome to see Miggy homer for his 2000th hit (7th youngest player to reach that milestone).  The only negative besides Joba that I saw was Austin Romine's error at short.

Saturday's game was yet another blow out with Detroit taking a 7-1 lead in to the 9th with Torii collecting 5 RBI on the day, but the human gas can Phil Coke threw 14 pitches for 2 hits and 3 earned runs, with Al Al giving up a run, along with Joe Nathan before Nathan got the final 2 outs for the win.  By the way, Alex Gonzalez had another error.

Sunday saw a very nicely pitched game by JV throwing eight and giving up 2 along with another run in the 9th given up by Al Al, but Detroit could only muster 5 hits against Orioles ace Chris Tillman losing 3-1.  I did forget to mention that Torii homered for the 3rd consecutive game!  Hey, you can't win them all.

So, my take a ways are kind of what we thought early on.  Shortstop is going to be weak, but 3 errors in a week could catch up to us.  What baffles me more is the 9th inning relief right now.  Nathan is going to blow a save or two, it just happens, but for Detroit relievers to give up every earned run in the 9th (9 total) is just weird.

Positives Through Week One
  • Head to the west coast 4-1
  • Starting rotation ERA of 1.93
  • Evan Reed has looked good out of the pen
  • DKB is hitting .750 (for you Suchy & McConnell)
  • Nick Castellanos is looking good with a .385 average and .928 OPS
  • Nick C, Gonzo, Cabby, AJax, Rajai, Kinsler, and VMart all hitting over .300.  Good for 3rd in the MLB with a team .288 batting average and 2nd in slugging at .488
  • 3 Stolen bases already
  • Lots of room to improve on the pitching side and they rank in the top 3rd in most team pitching stats

Concerns Through Week One
  • In 2 starts, JV has given up 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 5.  Very un-JV like.
  • Per the usual early on, the starters only have 1 win amongst them in the first 5 games
  • Bullpen ERA is at 6.08
  • Evan Reed is being investigated for a possible sexual assault
  • Phil Coke and his 81.00 ERA
  • Alex Avila hitting .083
  • 4 team errors, 3 from SS and one from Torii which I don't expect to see again
Now the true test comes of the early trip out west with two in LA against the Dodger and three against the Padres eliminating the DH.  LA has been ok at 5-3 (watch out for Matt Kemp) and the Padres have been pretty poor at 2-4 but keep and eye on Friday nights starter Andrew Cashner.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tiger For Life

Still yet to become official as Cabrera has to pass a physical, but Miguel is about to sign the largest contract in the four major sports history and to be honest I don't care about the money.

I've read numerous articles about how it's a bad contract, comparing it to Pujols, Hamilton, Ryan Howard, ARod, and so on.  I DON'T CARE.

I then read about how this screws up the Tigers long term flexibility, how other GM's think DD is crazy, how it's bad for baseball.  Again, I DON'T CARE.

10-years, $300m, plus 2 possible vesting options and I'll take it all as I want to see how this story unfolds for Cabrera.  Statistically he's going to get worse with age, that's a given.  What I want to see is how my generations best hitter will end his career in measuring up against the best.  Right now, Cabrera ranks in my mind as one of the top-10 right handed hitters of all-time and he will just be 31 this season.

In my mind, you basically had to pay for whatever he was asking, you couldn't let him walk away from this team.  Could the Tigers have structured the contract differently...sure, but at the end of the day the Tigers organization kept a player on it's team that is a sure Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats and didn't let money interfere with that.

The one caveat I make, is that this is an obvious reaction to the Scherzer news as well as the trading of Prince and recent injury bug, as the Tigers were trying to create a positive story in my opinion heading in to Opening Day.

I can't wait for my son to tell his kids (like my dad told me about Kaline) that he once saw one of the greatest hitters play the game.

See you all Opening Day!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet New Tiger Third Baseman Nick Castellanos

By now most fans know the name Nick Castellanos and after the big spring that he's had, he seems like he's here to stay.  So read up below and impress your friends on opening day with some Nick C facts.

Nick was born in March of '92 (ugh) in Davie, Florida where he attended American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida before transferring to Archbishop McCarthy High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida after his sophomore year. Castellanos was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida his senior year hitting .542 before winning his second state championship.  Nick went on to be the MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game and was part of the 18 and under US National Baseball team where he played in the 2009 Pan Am Junior Championships and was named to the all-tournament team.

Castellanos slipped to the 44th pick in the 2010 draft before Detroit snatched him up taking a gamble on him after Nick committed to play shortstop at the University of Miami.  The Tigers took risk out of the equation giving Castellanos $3.45 million dollar signing  bonus which was the highest given to a player outside the first round ever.

Since being drafted, Baseball America has ranked Nick their 65th best prospect in 2011, 45th in 2012, and 21st in 2013.  He was left off this year with the assumption he'd be on the Major League roster.  (He was ranked 19th however on Pepper Baseball's Top 100 Prospects of 2014)

Castellanos, started his career in the Gulf Coast League after signing late and appeared in 7 games in the 2010 season.  Nick was then started out at West Michigan (Single-A) where he went on to be named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year playing third base and hitting .312 with 158 hits, 36 doubles, 7 home runs, and 76 RBI in 135 games.

The following season, Nick started out in High-A Lakeland where he demolished pitching, hitting .405 with 3 homers and 32 RBI.  He was promoted to Double-A Erie after 55 games but had a stop over to play in the 2012 Futures Game where he was named MVP after hitting a 3-run homer.  Castellanos finished the season out at Erie, hitting .264 with 7 homers and 25 RBI and taking his season stats to a season batting average of .320, 10 homers, 32 doubles, 57 RBI, and cut his strike our rate from 130 the season before to 118 while playing the same amount of games.

Most will remember Castellanos shifted to left field in the 2012 season working with Al Kaline at times since he was blocked now by Miguel Cabrera at third for the time being.  In 2013, Nick was the full-time and youngest player (21) to play in Triple-A (Toledo).  Nick made the All-Star team for the International League and hit .276 while increasing his power to 18 homers and 76 RBI, while hitting 37 doubles, and again cutting his strike out rate to 100 this time around in the same amount of games, and for the first time saw his walk rate grow.

Nick made his Major League debut on September 1st last year when rosters expanded going 0-2 against Cleveland.  Castellanos was used sparingly and finished up September with Detroit hitting .278 with no homers or RBI and only a strike out it 18 plate appearances.

The trade of Prince Fielder to Texas opened the door for Cabrera to move back to first and allow Nick move back to his comfort zone if he had a good spring.  That good spring is actually a great spring with Nick hitting .368 right now in 60 plate appearances with 2 homers, 9 doubles, and 16 RBI.

The Tigers opening day roster was announced today with Nick's name on it and we're pretty much guaranteed to see him take the field on Monday.

So congrats to Nick Castellanos, welcome to the bigs, we hope you stick around for a long time!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014 Spring MLB Standouts

No one puts a whole lot of faith in to spring numbers and rightfully so, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to look at the numbers as long as you don't take them to realistically.  I like to look at batting average, hits, hormers, and RBI for hitters and just ERA and strike outs for pitchers.  ERA isn't a great indicator with the innings restrictions on these guys but at least we get an idea what's working and what isn't.  Here are the standouts as of 3/24...

Also, lets remember where Ryan Raburn ranked on these lists a couple years ago and how that turned out

Batting Average Leaders
  1. M. Moustakas, KC - .467
  2. A. Jackson, DET - .457
  3. M. Cabrera, TOR - .429
  4. A. Pollock, ARZ - .425
  5. B. Hicks, SF - .421
  6. D. Ackley, SEA - .414
  7. B. Miller, SEA - .412
  8. M. Trout, LAA - .408
  9. F. Freeman, ATL - .400
  10. H. Kendrick, LAA - .396
Tiger Notables: N. Castellanos - .373, M. Cabrera - .366

Hits Leaders
  1. D. Ackley, SEA/M.Cabrera, TOR - 24
  2. T. Medica, SD - 22
  3. M.Brantley, CLE/B. Burns, OAK/A. Jackson, DET/B. Miller, SEA/M. Moustakas, KC - 21
  4. R. Cano, SEA/M. Choice, TEX/F. Freeman, ATL/J. Maxwell, KC/H. Pence, SF/M. Trout, LAA - 20
Tiger Notables: N. Castellanos - 19

Home Runs
  1. C. Heisey, CIN/L. Valbuena, CHC - 6
  2. J. Baez, CHC/J. Bautista, TOR/J. Danks, CWS/A. McCutchen, PIT/M. Olt, CHC/G. Stanton, MIA/M. Trout, LAA - 5
  3. M. Adams, STL/F. Cervelli, NYY/C. Davis, BAL/R. Martin, PIT/B. Miller, SEA/M. Moustakas, KC/H. Pence, SF/B. Phillips, CIN/D. Uggla, ATL/T. Wheeler, COL - 4
Tiger Notables: M. Cabrera, T. Collins, I. Kinsler - 3

Runs Batted In
  1. M. Moustakas, KC - 17
  2. N. Castellanos, DET/M. Trout, LAA - 16
  3. G. Stanton, MIA - 15
  4. D. Ackley, SEA/H.Sanchez, SF - 14
  5. R. Cano, SEA/M. Choice, TEX/J. Loney, TB/ W. Ramos, WAS/M. Saunders, SEA - 13
Tiger Notables: A. Jackson - 12, D. Kelly/D. Worth - 10

ERA (Minimum 14 Innings)
  1. M. Bumgarner, SF - 0.00
  2. A. Wood, ATL - 0.45
  3. J. Masterson, CLE -0.95
  4. E. Ramirez, SEA -0.96
  5. W. Miley, ARZ - 1.29
  6. J. Teheran, ATL - 1.42
  7. T. Kohler, MIA - 1.50
  8. C.C. Sabathia, NYY - 1.59
  9. C.Martinez, STL/M. Wacha, STL - 1.76
Tiger Notables: J. Verlander - 0.00 (13.2 IP), D. Smyly - 3.80

Strike Outs
  1. C.J. Wilson, LAA - 28
  2. M. Scherzer, DET/J. Shields, KC - 24
  3. F. Morales, COL - 23
  4. I. Nova, NYY - 21
  5. J. Chavez, OAK/T. Jordan, WAS/J. Masterson, CLE - 20
  6. C. Lee, PHI/L. Lynn, STL/H. Santiago, LAA - 19
  7. B. Hand, MIA/E. Jackson, CHC/F. Paulino, CWS/D. Pomeranz, OAK/E. Rogers, MIL/Y. Ventura, KC/C. Villanueva, CHC - 18
Tiger Notables: K. Lobstein/D. Smyly - 13, A. Alburquerque/J. Ortega/E. Reed - 12

Hitters Struggling:
Strike Outs
  1. R. Howard, PHI - 21
  2. A. Avila, DET - 20
  3. B.J. Upton, ATL - 19
  4. C. Hart, SEA - 18
  5. A. Castellanos, SD, C. Rasmus, TOR/M. Tuiasosopo, TOR/D. Uggla, ATL - 16
Pitchers Getting Hit Around:
Hits Allowed
  1. R. Vogelson, SF - 33
  2. B. Anderson, COL - 30
  3. B. Beaven, SEA - 28
  4. C. Kluber, CLE - 28
  5. F. Paulino, CWS - 27
  6. T. Cahill, ARZ/D. Hale, ATL/T. Skaggs, LAA/D. Smyly, DET - 26
Home Runs Allowed
  1. B. Beaven, SEA/D. Duffy, KC/R. Wolf, SEA - 6
  2. J. Blanton, LAA/T. Redmond, TOR/R. Vogelsong, SF - 5
  3. T. Cahill, ARZ/J. Chavez, OAK/K. Lobstein, DET/Z. McAllister, CLE/D. Smyly, DET/T. Thornburg, MIL - 4

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fooled You!! My Take On Max Scherzer Turning Down The Tigers

Finally getting a minute to chime in on the Max Scherzer decision to turn down the Tigers contract extension offer rumored to be 6-years and somewhere between $144m and $150m.

Now I can't fault a guy wanting to reach his highest salary potential but don't go public (right after the season) and say how much you love Detroit and the organization and that you want to stay and then in turn pass up a very fair offer that makes you the top-6 or 7 paid pitcher in the league with really only one spectacular season under your belt.

Furthermore, what ever games were played with the Tigers in giving them hope (and I partially blame the Tigers organization here) in signing Scherzer to a long term contract which may have attributed to the Fielder trade (not that likely) and the Fister trade (very likely) then shame on Max and shame on DD for believing it.

What upsets me most isn't that Max turned down a very fair contract extension looking for max dollars, but how the Tigers went about their business in trading Doug Fister.  I'll harp on this for quite some time this season, not because it was a terrible trade (it was), but because we took flexibility away from the team in case Scherzer didn't sign.  Everyone knows we got jacksh*t for Fister, now think if we didn't make that trade to free up salary and are sitting here with 6 starters and a banged up group of Iglesias, Rondon, and Dirks.  A trade then would be very feasible of Scherzer with the ability to help the team replace the injuries (not all of them) with more than a situational bullpen lefty (Krol) and marginal prospect (Ray).  The teams needs could have been addressed considerably if we still had options, but what seemed like a sure thing has put us behind the 8-ball squarely.

At the end of the season, maybe the Tigers retain Max in free agency (a la Anibal Sanchez) and maybe we don't.  Someone will pay big I'm sure if Scherzer wins 16 or more, but lets remember Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson, and Jorge De La Rosa will be out there too.

So good luck Max, bring us home a ring, but don't expect a whole lot of fan support while you're doing it...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospects

We're back at it again with our 5th annual Top 100 Prospect list for 2014.  The list consists of players who may or may not make an impact in 2014 and is more based on potential.  It is worth noting that the higher the player is on a list, the more likely they are to make an impact this year or at least for the most part.  If you'd like to check out our previous lists you can do so with the following links for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

The list was initially created for my minor league fantasy draft and evolved in to this annual blog entry which tends to be one of the top post for us each year.  This year I've created a ranking system from eight different lists that I found relevant based on their top 10's and eliminated others I couldn't agree with.  I then will remove the players highest and lowest ranking and average the remaining six sites.  Without any doubt, the top prospect in all of baseball is Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton who was rated #1 on 7 out of 8 sites.  Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is easily the second best prospect ranking #2 on 7 of the 8 lists and #1 on the list Buxton wasn't. Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals was an easy 3rd place and then things started getting tight.  Also, keep an eye on how many shortstops are on the list...

By the way, I left Tanaka off the list as he most likely would be a top 10 guy, but all signs point to him being in the Majors from the start but included Jose Abreu as there is a chance he could start in the minors.

Without further ado, here are your Pepper Baseball Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospect for 2014 (bolded if they were named on all 8 lists):

  1. Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) - 5-tool guy who can do it all.  Expect Buxton to hit as soon as he gets up but not for power at first at will need time to develop.  
  2. Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) - Played 18 games last season in the Majors before making the Sox postseason roster and making an impact hitting .296.  Bogaerts played third last season but his natural position is shortstop which the Sox handed to him once Stephen Drew departed
  3. Oscar Taveras (OF, STL) - Played just 47 games last season due to an ankle injury and expected to make the Major League roster out of spring training by most, but no guarantees.  Comparisons say Taveras hits a lot like Vladimir Guerrero
  4. Javier Baez (SS, CHC) - Great bat speed with eventual 30+ home run power expected.  Won't be a big OBP guy, but will make up for it with power
  5. Carlos Correa (SS, HOU) - The #1 draft pick a couple years back turned it on last year hitting .320 with an .872 OPS and 10 steals at the age of 19
  6. Miguel Sano (3B, MIN) - Season ending Tommy John surgery for Sano announced over the weekend.  Big blow for the Twins who expected Sano to be up at some point this season.
  7. Taijuan Walker (RHP, SEA) - Expected to make the rotation out of spring training this year, now lilkely won't happen with recent elbow pain.
  8. Archie Bradley (RHP, ARZ) - Power arm who had questionable control up until last season.  Won't make the rotation out of spring training but could be up by mid-season or before if an injury hits
  9. Addison Russell (SS, OAK) - One of the most athletically gifted players in the minors who can handle a bat and the shortstop position.  Expect to see him at some point this season
  10. Francisco Lindor (SS, CLE) - Just 20, Lindor is already pushing Asdrubal Cabrera in the Majors after hitting .303, stealing 25 bases, and playing stellar defense at Double-A Akron last season
  11. Kris Bryant (3B, CHC) - Another great hitting product out of the University of San Diego who was taken 2nd overall last season.  Tore up High Class A and the Arizona Fall League last season with big power potential
  12. Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT) - Another 5-tool guy with top notch defense and 25 homer potential.  Ranked as high as 10th on the Top 100 lists and as low as 25th
  13. Noah Syndergaard (RHP, NYM) - Projected as an eventual number two or number three starter, Noah tops out at 98mph and will be a workhorse down the road.  The Mets rotation reminds of back in the day with three horsemen Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson, oh wait...
  14. Jameson Taillon (RHP, PIT) - The Pirates face a similar dilemma as they did a year ago with Gerrit Cole, however Taillon may be just a notch below Cole.  Hitting spots more consistently seems to be the major issue but with his repertoire Taillon could follow a very similar path as Cole being called up mid-season
  15. George Springer (OF, HOU) - 5-tool guy with very quick hands an gigantic power and speed.  Springer ended up 3 home runs shy of a 40/40 minor league season last year hitting .303 with 37 dingers and 45 steals
  16. Jonathan Gray (RHP, COL) - Tops out at 100mph with ace potential but questionable command at this point.  In his brief time in the minors last year, Gray went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 k's in 37.1 High Class A innings
  17. Robert Stephenson (RHP, CIN) - Ranked as high as 13th and as low as 29th on the prospect lists we used.  Stephenson has ace potential with high 90's heat and a very low walk rate.  He could find himself in Cinci this season
  18. Kevin Gausman (RHP, BAL) - Called up to soon was the consensus to his failure of an MLB debut in 2013, in which he was 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 20 games.  Interesting fact however, is that of his 25 slides thrown to Major League hitters, not one was put in play
  19. Nick Castellanos (3B, DET) - I have a feeling Tigers fans are expecting way to much out of Nick C this season, however the move back to third will help alleviate some of that.  Showed increased power and plate discipline last season as the youngest player in Triple-A   
  20. Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL) - Missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow and taken him down the list considerably as the games top pitching prospect to a top 10 pitching prospect until we can see him in games again
  21. Albert Almora (OF, CHC)
  22. Kyle Zimmer (RHP, KC)
  23. Lucas Giolito (RHP, WAS)
  24. Mark Appel (RHP, HOU) - The top pick in last years draft
  25. Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL) - Check out the article did on him (or don't!)
  26. Travis d'Arnaud (C, NYM) - Very good offensive catcher if he can stay healthy
  27. Yordano Ventura (RHP, KC)
  28. Austin Hedges (C, SD) -  Top defensive catcher in the minors
  29. Jose Abreu (1B, CWS)
  30. Aaron Sanchez (RHP, TOR)
  31. Jorge Soler (OF, CHC)
  32. Corey Seager (SS, LAD)
  33. Eddie Butler (RHP, COL)
  34. Andrew Heaney (LHP, MIA) - 9th overall pick in the 2012 draft and top lefty on our list
  35. Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) - Speed doesn't go in to slumps. We'll see...
  36. Kyle Crick (RHP, SF)
  37. Raul Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC)
  38. Alex Meyer (RHP, MIN)
  39. Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS)
  40. Clint Frazier (OF, CLE)
  41. Tyler Glasnow (RHP, PIT)
  42. Joc Pederson (OF, LAD)
  43. Maikel Franco (3B, PHI) - Seems like elevators aren't sure what to expect as he ranked as high as 17th on one list and as low as 90th on another
  44. Max Fried (LHP, SD)
  45. Rougned Odor (2B, TEX)
  46. Henry Owens (LHP, BOS)
  47. Kohl Stewart (RHP, MIN)
  48. Jorge Alfaro (C, TEX)
  49. Garin Cecchini (3B, BOS)
  50. Jonathan Singleton (1B, HOU)
  51. Julio Urias (LHP, LAD)
  52. Austin Meadows (OF, PIT)
  53. Matt Wisler (RHP, SD)
  54. Marcus Stroman (RHP, TOR)
  55. Kolten Wong (2B, STL)
  56. Lucas Sims (RHP, ATL)
  57. Gary Sanchez (C, NYY)
  58. Hunter Harvey (RHP, BAL)
  59. Mike Foltyniewicz (RHP, HOU)
  60. Colin Moran (3B, MIA)
  61. Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP, BAL)
  62. Eddie Rosario (2B, MIN)
  63. James Paxton (RHP, SEA)
  64. Alen Hanson (SS, PIT)
  65. Erik Johnson (RHP, CWS)
  66. Jake Odorizzi (RHP, TB)
  67. Chris Owings (SS, ARZ)
  68. Mookie Betts (2B, BOS)
  69. A.J. Cole (RHP, WAS)
  70. Miguel Almonte (RHP, KC)
  71. Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, HOU)
  72. Rafael Montero (RHP, NYM)
  73. D.J. Peterson (3B, SEA)
  74. Blake Swihart (C, BOS)
  75. J.P. Crawford (SS, PHI)
  76. Stephen Piscotty (OF, STL)
  77. Jesse Biddle (LHP, PHI)
  78. Braden Shipley (RHP, ARZ)
  79. Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL)
  80. David Dahl (OF, COL)
  81. Josh Bell (OF, PIT)
  82. Arismendy Alcantara (2B, CHC)
  83. Zach Lee (RHP, LAD)
  84. Jake Marisnick (OF, MIA)
  85. Brian Goodwin (OF, WAS)
  86. Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS)
  87. Christian Bethancourt (C, ATL)
  88. Matt Davidson (3B, CWS)
  89. C.J. Edwards (RHP, CHC)
  90. Dominic Smith (1B, NYM)
  91. Trevor Bauer (RHP, CLE)
  92. Phil Ervin (OF, CIN)
  93. Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, HOU)
  94. Allen Webster (RHP, BOS)
  95. Taylor Guerrieri (RHP, TB)
  96. Nick Kingham (RHP, PIT)
  97. Rosell Herrera (SS, COL)
  98. Hak-Ju Lee (SS, TB)
  99. Nick Williams (OF, TEX)
  100. Luis Sardinas (SS, TEX)
Just missed: Josmil Pinto (C, MIN), Jesse Winker (OF, CIN), Alexander Guerrero (2B, LAD), Anthony Ranaudo (SP, BOS), Chi Chi Gonzalez (RHP, TEX), Wilmer Flores (2B, NYM), Henry Urritia (OF, BAL), Amed Rosario (SS, NYM), Edwin Escobar (LHP, SF), and Alberto Tirado (RHP, TOR)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 125 Players of All-Time & Their Cards: #3 Barry Bonds & 1987 Fleer

I'm not going to lie, I really not looking forward to writing this one as I really could never stand Barry Bonds as a player and is only compounded by the steroid use and "me" approach.  That said, when ESPN completed their Top 125 players of all-time, they said they would not take in to account PED's use, gambling, etc and ranked Barry as the third best player of all-time.  I already know that one Pepper Baseball Facebook Fan CH will be all over me on this and what can I say...I didn't make the list, but I will agree #3 is a bit high.  Now the list that I did make was taking a card from just about each one of the 125 players (some just aren't feasible) and creating a collection eventually to share with my son and pass down.

That's where Bonds comes in to play and his 1987 Fleer rookie card.  Bonds at this point had cards from 1986 Rookies and Traded sets and are labeled as XRC's which aren't true rookie cards.  The 1987 version was his most expensive and I just happened to have a graded version of it from when he went on his home run tear so I can't tell you what it cost when I bought it, but I can tell you that it books for $12 these days and I have a PSA graded 8 version of the card.

Barry Bonds
As I mentioned, I really do like Bonds so I'm going to skip over all his feats and just tell you that he is the single season and all-time home run hitter and won 7 MVP's, 3 of which came before the steroid use.  Baseball-Reference compares him closest to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth.  Bonds played until he was 42, never officially retiring from Baseball and made over $188 million dollars.

If you'd like to go see the head size change of Bonds, you can check out the baseball card timeline I create a while back

Now I'm going to go puke...

1987 Fleer
The 1987 Fleer release was nothing out of the ordinary with its typical 660 card base set release with blue boarder with the player and his position listed at the top and logo of the team in the bottom right hand corner.  The set seems to be a bit more scarce than it's Donruss or Topps counterparts from the same year however was sold in factory set form as well as a premium Glossy parallel set.

Cards could be bought in 17-card wax packs, 36-pack wax boxes, rack packs, and cello packs.

The set currently books for: $30 with factory sets listed at $40 with 12 additional World Series cards only available in those sets

Key players in the set include: Bonds RC ($12), Barry Larkin RC ($8), Bo Jackson RC ($8), Will Clark RC ($3), Roger Clemens ($3), and Ruben Sierra RC ($2).

There was also a 132 card update set as well

Boxes of 1987 Fleer can be had for as low as $20 on eBay, but buyer beware of sellers opening and resealing packs while taking out the good cards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 2014 Detroit Tigers By Position; Starting Pitching. Better or Worse?

Now that we've completed the day to day side of the ball, lets take a look at this years Tigers rotation vs. 2013.  The significant move heading in to 2014 was the surprising trade of Doug Fister for a bucket of balls and some pine tar to the Washington Nationals.  This moves Rick Porcello in to the 4th slot from the 5th spot and takes left hander Drew Smyly out of the pen and places him in to the 5th spot in the rotation.
Detroit starters had an absolutely amazing year last year even with Justin Verlander having a sub-par year when comparing to his previous two seasons with Max Scherzer putting it together on a consistent basis to win the Cy Young and Annibal Sanchez following closely behind actually leading the league in ERA and finishing fourth in Cy Young balloting.  Fister had an up and down season where it seemed like he couldn't find the consistency the others had and Rick Porcello had an amazing spring to win the fifth rotation spot from Drew Smyly and went on to have a pretty good year improving on most of his career averages.
That said, I think we all wanted to see Smyly move in to the rotation in 2014 adding a left hander who had brief success in 2012 and major success in the bullpen in 2013.  I have think we all believed that Rick Porcello would be the one traded in the off season and not Fister, and definitely not Fister for what we got in return. 
To make sure we're all clear on my stance before moving on...
  • Should the Tigers have traded a starter? Yes, I wanted to see Smyly in the rotation
  • Are you ok with the trade of Fister?  I would have liked to have seen them trade Porcello, but I'm ok with trading Fister
  • What's the problem then? The return on Fister was terrible in my opinion (and most others).  Also, why are GM's saying they wanted a shot at trading for Fister?  Why didn't DD talk to more people, I just don't get it.  Dombrowski has been great for Detroit and most want to give him a pass, but I seriously question this move
With all of that out of the way, lets look at how 2013 lines up against the 2014 FanGraph (steamers) projections...
All the stats that you see are pretty common with the definitions known minus FIP.  FIP stands for fielding independent pitching which takes a pitchers three true outcomes (HR, BB, K) and divides it by innings pitched, plus a constant normally around 3.2 which scales it similarly to ERA.  This stat isolates pitching taking the defensive factor out of it.  Meaning we can tell if Fister or Porcello will be the better pitcher in 2014 without the defense factor.  League average for FIP is about 4.00 and you can read more about FIP at FanGraphs.
Justin Verlander
As you can see, Steamers projections on FanGraphs show Verlander continuing to decline in performance while other projections on the site seem to show Verlander bouncing back.  From what I saw in the playoffs with JV throwing from a different arm slot and more downhill I really have little doubt that we won't a bounce back year.  Yes batting average against is a concern as well as an increased walk rate and batted ball in play average, but this downhill over the top arm slot sure made it look like JV was back to himself.
Verdict: Better in 2014 
Max Scherzer
Again looking at Steamers projections it shows a considerable decrease across the board and although Max benefited from a ton of run scored on average for him, I don't see him dropping to 14 wins, maybe 16 or 17.  Either way, I think Scherzer has a strong year but won't be the Cy Young pitcher that he was in 2013 as that will be a tough act to follow-up
Verdict: Slight decline from a Cy Young season
Anibal Sanchez
As of now you're starting to see a trend that Steamers projections believe that 2013 was a fluke for most Tigers starters with Sanchez taking a step back with an increasing ERA, home run total doubling, and almost allowing a third more runs in 7 innings more work.  I done believe Sanchez will have the season that he had last year but I also don't believe he ERA will inflate by close to a run, nor do I think he'll become home run prone all of a sudden in Detroit.
Verdict: Slight Delcine similar to Scherzer, although I do believe the win total will be at 14 or 15 this season
Rick Porcello
Ahh Ricky many believers after last season based on his age and maybe rightfully so after seeing just about all his numbers improve including strike out totals.  It seems as if Steamers also buys in to the improvement with Porcello's ERA projected to be under 4 for the first time since his rookie year as well as improvement in hits per 9, and home run totals.  Steamers doesn't believe the that the K/9 or BB/9 will improve so I have to believe this projection is defense related as when you isolate down to FIP, you'll see that he's basically the same pitcher
Verdict: Wash to improvement although I'm not buying and will probably eat my words (but hey, that's ok too)
Doug Fister vs. Drew Smyly
In my opinion it's not really fair to make this a Drew Smyly vs. Doug Fister conversation, however that is really what it boils down to.  Are the Tigers better in 2014 with Drew Smyly in their rotation or with Doug Fister?  Listen, I like Smyly and think he's going to be a good pitcher but he won't be near what Doug Fister will or would have done this year and really could make this more of a Fister vs. Porcello discussion as I think Porcello should have been traded.  Either way you can expect a decrease across the board in most stats and I agree with Steamers somewhat here that innings pitched will be down but not at 125 innings as Smyly needs to transition back to starter.  The 2014 Fister stats are for reference and can be argued that they'll improve because he's in the National League now, but NL East will offer plenty of offense.
Verdict: A sizable decline in 2014 with good upside however for years to come
2013 vs. 2014 Starting Rotation
Overall Verdict: Fewer wins, higher ERA, a FIP getting closer to league average, and a decreasing WAR total doesn't seem to make up for the neutral position of the offense, however I don't fully agree as I've said with these projections either.  Bottom line to me is JV is better, Scherzer will decline along with Sanchez, Porcello is neutral at best to me, and Smyly will do good but not as well as Fister would have meaning this staff will be worse off than 2013.
The rotation will wrap us up and will get to it next week at some point.  Not sure where I stand on it right now besides knowing our closer situation is a bit better.