Thursday, May 24, 2012

Real or Not Real Part 2

In the previous edition of Real or Not Real we looked at the Baltimore Orioles and whether they could maintain their success or not. I came to the conclusion that due to their home run powered offense, poor plate discipline and lack of starting pitching depth they would eventually regress. Today we will look at a team that is almost the opposite of the Orioles.

Washington Nationals- 26-18 (1st NL EAST)

Since Spring Training started I have been praising this team saying that they could contend for the division title or at the very least secure a wildcard spot, and so far this season they have proved me right. The real question is can they maintain this level of success? I believe they can but there are a few issues they will need to overcome to reach the postseason.

The Offense is the weakness of the team thus far as they rank in the middle of the NL in almost every offensive category. That being said they have had to deal with a multitude of injuries early in the season. Mike Morse has not played at all this season, Jayson Werth was put on the DL early in the season, Ryan Zimmerman has been injured on and off and Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and is done for the year. Considering those guys were the Nationals four best offensive performers last season it is amazing they have been as good as they have been. Most of their offense this season has come from the resurgent Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. So once Ryan Zimmerman is at full strength and Morse and Werth get back in the lineup this will be a much better offense. They still lack a good top of the order hitter but I would expect they will try and make a deal for one near the deadline.This is an offense that should continue to improve over the course over the season and only make this team better.

The Nationals rotation has been arguably the best in baseball this season. They rank 1st in the NL in ERA, K/9 and WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and 2nd in HR/9. They have an ace in the making in Stephen Strasburg fronting the rotation followed by dominate lefty Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson and surprise star Ross Detwiler. All five of these pitchers have ERA's of at least 3.65 or below and Strasburg and Gonzalez both are averaging over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings. The Nationals have the type of pitching staff that can match up with any team in baseball. While the pen has not been as good, they have been good enough to hold leads for this dominate pitching staff and once they get Drew Storen back from the DL they will get even better.


This is a team that has finally reached its potential and is ready to make a big postseason run. They have the pitching to carry them there and once their offense gets healthy they will be unstoppable. I am very much on the Nationals bandwagon now and am making them my pick to win the NL Pennant, so they are definitely REAL!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Real or Not Real- Part 1

As we are roughly a quarter of the way through the 2012 MLB season there have already been plenty of surprises and disappointments. Some teams that we thought were locks for the post-season are sitting in last place and teams we thought were cellar dwellers are sitting in first. So the question become which of these teams will sustain there success or failure over the course of the season. So lets jump right in and analyze these surprise teams.

Baltimore Orioles- 28-16 (1st AL EAST)

The Offense definitely seems legit with the young stars in Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters powering the team. If it was not for Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones could be considered an MVP candidate at this point hitting at a .306/.349/.594 clip with 14 HR and 6 SB. As a team they have scored the 4th most Runs and SLG% but despite that success they have had some issues that make you concerned. The main issue is that they lead the American League in strike out percentage and are only 9th in the AL in walk percentage. So what should you take from all these numbers? There are a couple of things, first the Orioles offense relies heavily on scoring via the home run as they lead the AL in that category. Secondly they are not a particularly disciplined team at the plate as the lead the AL in strikeout percentage and are near the bottom in OBP (On Base Percentage). When you look at this lineup it makes you question the sustainability as they are going to need to rely on a couple of young stars who have never really had this type of success or been relied upon to carry a team into the playoffs.

Now after looking at the offense there are already many questions but with the pitching staff even more questions are raised. At a quick glance at the team stats everything looks ok but a more in depth look is where the problems arise. The first issue is that they lack a true ace, now while that may not sound like a very "scientific" critique its still a valid point. Almost every good playoff team has an ace and if a team lacks one that presents match up issues down the road. Ace's are also good at stopping losing streaks and winning key games so again without one this presents problems.The second issue is depth beyond their top 3 starters there is a significant drop off in talent. Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter are far from quality major league arms at this point and are filling out the back of their rotation. This is a staff that is benefiting from a high scoring offense and a dominate bullpen led by closer Jim Johnson. These pitching issues combined with the Orioles below average defense lead to some major concerns.

I really think it is going to be a struggle for the Orioles to maintain this division lead especially considering how tough the AL East is and that the teams competing against them have more talent. This team reminds me a bit of the 2011 Cleveland Indians and i have a feeling they are really going to tail off in the second half as they have some major flaws.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cubs Hitting Prospects

After watching the Cubs offense struggle in this past series with the White Sox, I thought it was time to take a look at how their hitting prospects are performing thus far in hopes that it would give Cubs fans hope for the future. So here is a list of the Cubs top 10 position player prospects and some analysis of their season thus far.

1. Anthony Rizzo-1B (AAA)- 156 AB .346/.414/.692  14 HR  27 R  39 RBI  2 SB

The Dude definitely looks like he is major league ready. He is hitting for contact and power the only concern still is strikeouts but we already know that. The word from the front office is that they are already working on figuring out ways to get his bat in the major league lineup. This could be as soon as the June 8-10 series in Minnesota where they could move LaHair to DH and eventually move him to RF and play Dejesus in CF. So it looks like we will be seeing this kid play very soon.   

2. Brett Jackson-OF (AAA)- 153 AB .235/.333/.444  4 HR  25 R  13 RBI  7 SB

He has scuffled a bit to start the season and it mostly has to do with his strikeouts. He has already struck out 54 times in 153 AB while also walking at a steady clip of 21 BB. The talent is there he just needs to figure out how to make better contact. I doubt that we will see him any sooner than a September call up unless he drastically turns it around at the plate.

3. Javier Baez-SS (SS)- N/A

He has been playing at extended spring training and will start the year at Short Season Boise. I have heard good stuff about his performance at Extended Spring Training but he is a long way away from the Big Leagues.

4. Matt Szczur- OF (A+)- 147 AB .265/.359/.395  1 HR  37 R  9 RBI  18 SB

He struggled out the gate but has really heated up recently hitting .343 over his past 10 games. He is a solid CF prospect who is on the rise and if he continues to hit well will likely make it to AA before the end of the season. He is still a year or two away from the big leagues but is still looking like a good prospect.      

5. Reggie Golden- OF (A)- 26 AB  .192/.250/.192  0 HR  1 R  0 RBI  1 SB

He was struggling and then went on the disabled list so he really isnt any closer to the big leagues. A very raw prospect that is a while away from the big leagues.

6.  Junior Lake-SS (AA)- 49 AB  .265/.379/.449  1 HR  7 R  4 RBI  3 SB

He started the season on the disabled list but since coming off has played pretty well. He has shown some plate discipline drawing 9 BB against 10 K which has tended to be an area of weakness for him. If he continues to play well he could make it up to AAA and possibly a September call up as the Cubs have shown a willingness to call guys straight up from AA. I think he is about a year away from contending for a big league roster spot.

7. Josh Vitters- 3B (AAA)- 137 AB  .248/.293/.394  4 HR  19 R  18 RBI  1 SB

He has played OK to start the season but has not really shown an improvement in his plate discipline which is what is holding him back. So far in his career it seems to take about a season to adjust to each league he plays in before he hits well so look for a breakout in the 2013 season and a potential call up then. He could still get called up this season depending on injuries and if Ian Stewart continues to struggle at the plate.

8. Ronald Torreyes- 2B (A+)- 117 AB .162/.229/.222  0 HR  11 R  5 RBI  4 SB

Acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal he has really struggled to start the season. He has drawn comparisons to Houston Astros 2B Jose Altuve but has not lived up to those comparisons this season. He is still very far away from the majors at this point.  

9. Dan Vogelbach- 1B (SS)- N/A

Another member of the Cubs heralded 2011 draft class, he is also playing at extended spring training. He will start the season at Short Season Boise and is also a long way away from the big leagues.

10. Jeimer Candelario- 3B (SS)- N/A

An international free agent who will make his big league debut this season. Last I heard he was still playing in extended spring training and will likely start his career at Short Season Boise. Yet another player who is a long way from making it to the big leagues.


So when looking at this list it really gives you the impression that the Cubs are a long way off from having a good offense made up of players from within the system. While that is somewhat true I think the combination of Rizzo, Jackson, Lake and Vitters could be a very successful group of ballplayers. Rizzo being the good middle of the order bat, Jackson could be a potentially good 2 hole hitter who hits for power and speed, Lake being an intriguing power speed combo that could play at 2B, SS, or 3B and Vitters who has a great swing but just needs to find some plate discipline. I am very excited to see how these players evolve and also am excited to see how the first draft under Jed and Theo plays out in the next few weeks.