Michael Ynoa: High Expectations, 40-Man Rosters, and the Agonizing Burden of Waiting for Greatness

The legend of right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa began the moment he signed a then-record $4.25 million contract with the Oakland A’s in 2008 as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Because of recurring injuries, he has pitched only a total of 39.2 innings in the five seasons since landing that landmark deal, assuming the identity of a real-life Sidd Finch. Already cursed with having to bear the weight of so many expectations, the load just got even heavier for Ynoa, who despite his rawness was just recently added to the A’s 40-man roster. Earlier this summer I had a rare opportunity to meet this enigmatic player, but left feeling like I had even more questions about the intriguing prospect and what his future ultimately holds. Continue reading

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AL Cy Young Award: Verlander vs. Price

The regular season is almost a full week from conclusion and two of the first round playoff matchups have two teams up 2-0 on their opponents. It seems, to me, like the season only started three months ago but baseball will be without games in another month but baseball season never ends thanks to an offseason that is more active than any other sport.

One of the big topics for the offseason is awards. Who will win? Who will get shafted? Which award will cause the most debate? When it comes to the American League Cy Young Award voting there are only two names that I believe should be at the top of voters ballots: Justin Verlander or David Price. The race for the award probably will not be as close as the two are in stats but there is still case to be made for either pitcher. Let’s take a look at their stats side-by-side with American League ranks in parenthesis: Continue reading

The Umpires Got it Right in Seattle

After what could have been another black eye for umpiring in the major leagues last night, a call at the plate was reversed thirty seconds after the runner was initially called safe. Plays at the plate are rarely reversed (this writer doesn’t ever recall one happening) and thus, Terry Francona was ejected for arguing the decision. But it was the right call and, even if it ended up being the deciding run in the game, this writer is thrilled that the umpires made the right decision.

Here’s what happened (and you can view the video here): The Red Sox, already down 5-0 against the tough Felix Hernandez, had runners at first and third with one out in the top of the fourth. The runner at third was Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the fastest players in baseball. Dustin Pedroia was at the plate. The two players are part of the mix in AL MVP chances as both have been unbelievable for the Red Sox this season.  Pedroia lifted a fly ball to medium right field and toward the line. Ichiro Suzuki, long known for his throwing arm in right, fielded the ball on his glove side (not the best technique) but quickly shifted his weight and threw a bullet to home that Josh Bard caught on one screaming bounce.

The amazing throw clearly beat Ellsbury to the plate but there was a big collision and Josh Bard’s head took the brunt of it. The home-plate umpire, Mark Ripperger, looked completely undecided. It appeared that he had a thousand different thoughts during the few seconds after the play. Eventually, Ripperger threw his arms out that Ellsbury was safe. Felix Hernandez went wild and Eric Wedge wasn’t thrilled either and was arguing while also tending to his injured catcher. While all that was going on, the umpires huddled up and the call was reversed.

Tito went wild and was ejected from the game. He explained later that he was never given an explanation as to why the call was reversed. But he answered his own question further into the interview by stating that he was going to get thrown out while they were trying to explain things to him. The crux of the reversal was that Ripperger thought that Bard had not held on to the ball after tagging Ellsbury. But it was clear from the replay that Bard never lost control of the ball. The other umpires confirmed this and the home-plate umpire allowed himself to be overruled.

This is the way that umpiring should work. The ultimate goal is to get the call correct and in this case, correctness won out. Credit Mark Ripperger the openness to listen to his teammates and also credit the other umpires for not allowing an incorrect call to stand. Umpiring has taken a lot of heat this season and this writer has to admit to being part of those critics. But their job–sans replay–is not an easy one and when they get it right, they need to be congratulated.

The lost run ended up being the difference in a 5-4 loss for the Red Sox. But in the end, that loss is justified by the game being called correctly. Win one for the umpires!

-William J. Tasker, a/k/a The Flagrant Fan, a knowledgeable and passionate baseball fan that can be followed on twitter and found writing daily at his blog

2011 AL West Preview

1. Texas Rangers

The Good: The Rangers are a young talented team that has emphasized pitching over offense and this group has not hit the ceiling yet. They may have one of the best offenses in the game with MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz (a MVP caliber player), Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and having 3 guys to play all 8 positions and DH with David Murphy, Mike Napoli and Mr. Ranger Michael Young. Adding Adrian Beltre was a smart move because he helps improve a shoddy Rangers defense and will benefit greatly from hitting in Texas with this lineup. The Rangers have talent on the mound as well with CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darren O’Day and Neftali Feliz.

The Bad: How does this team fare without Cliff Lee? Granted, Lee was average in the regular season with the Rangers but, he will be sorely missed. Asking to have CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis  replicate 2010, something they have never done before that, while also anchoring the rotation is the biggest key to the Rangers season. If this duo falters the Rangers are not winning this division. The bullpen has talent and plenty of nice numbers but, it needs to show more poise as they were occasionally hit up in big spots last season.

What to Look For: The balance of playing time and productivity of the Napoli-Murphy-Young trio will be interesting to watch. If RHP Tanner Scheppers and OF Engel Beltre continue to shine in the minors they could get a call up. Is Brandon Webb OK? Is he still the best sinker ball pitcher in the game? That is something to watch. Also, the learning curves of Tommy Hunter, Matt Harrison and most importantly, Derek Holland will be critical to the Rangers success.

Projection: While maybe a tick below last year’s bunch the Rangers are plenty good and could be even better. The pitching has to fall into place, like any team. It would be a wise choice not to bet against this bunch.

89-73 (1st Place)

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Good: The Angels can go toe to toe with anyone with starting pitching. Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro are a pretty safe quartet to keep you in games. Although it had some problems last year the bullpen has promise too considering it added Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs to go along with Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen.

The Bad: The Angels were embarrassed in free agency this past winter and had to take on the overly bloated Vernon Wells contract. The Halos have major question marks with C Jeff Mathis and 3B Maicer Izturis. Both guys are usually bench guys with little power and are being forced into everyday roles. While it is good that the Angels are giving kids 1B Mark Trumbo and CF Peter Burjos shots at the big leagues they also need these kids to produce right away which maybe too much to ask. The Halos can only hope and wonder when 1B Kendry Morales can come back and contribute after ankle surgery. Morales is the most vital cog to the Angels offense.

What to Watch For: The Angels need top prospect C Hank Conger to make the break through to the Show sooner rather than later. The same can be said for OF Mike Trout. The outfield trio of Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu gets another year older with the same measure of offensive expectation to produce. Can they all still do it? Can Erick Aybar replicate his 2009 season or is the player we all saw last year? The bullpen while upgraded, has major issues.

Projection: Age, bullpen problems and consistent offense, not something you are used to hearing with a Mike Scioscia team. The Angels have plenty of questions but, they also have plenty of starting pitching and a good manager. If the Rangers falter don’t be too surprised to see the Angels somehow in the mix to take the AL West flag.

86-76 (2nd Place)

3. Oakland A’s

The Good: The A’s have one of the  best starting rotations in the AL when all healthy. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez can confound and hold down offenses most nights. The great thing about the staff is there aren’t all the same type of pitcher each one is different and has a different wrinkle throwing offenses off.  Adding OF’s David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui was a major boost to a punchless offense. The A’s also have a very good bullpen as well with Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Mike Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and closer Andrew Bailey.

The Bad: The A’s offense got off the hook in 2010 because the Mariners offense was so historically bad. This team needs home runs desperately because it was powerless in 2010. The A’s have to hope the additions of Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus pay off. Also, having OF prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor break through to the MLB Level full time would help too.

What to Look For: If the A’s stay healthy and pitch to their potential and possibly get Rich Harden healthy throwing strikes out of the bullpen then look out, this team could win the division their pitching is that good.

Projection: A down year for the AL West means the time is ripe for the A’s to strike. This is a good team that just needs more runs to be scored. Billy Beane did a solid job upgrading this team and while they are picked here at 3rd place I think if Texas loses this division it’s more likely because the A’s win it not the Angels.

85-77 (3rd Place)

The Good: A very limited selection here. The Mariners do have the reigning CY Young Award winner who is soon to be 25 in Felix Hernandez. The Marniers also have a future Hall of Famer in Ichiro Suzuki who is good for a .310 plus batting average, 30 plus steals, 200 hundred plus hits and a Gold Glove in rightfield. The Mariners boast a pretty good defensive team as well.

The Bad: The offense was so bad last year it was epically and historically atrocious. Scary thing is the only thing the Mariners did was add Jack Cust to the everyday lineup which means a lot more of unneeded strikeouts but, some much need walks and homeruns. The Mariners desperately need 2009 years from Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins not the bad 2010 years they had. The bullpen had its problems last year as well. You can add David Aardsma as a guy needed to have a year like he did in 2009 not last year. Jason Vargas and Doug Fister were OK for this rotation in 2010. It would be nice to see Erik Bedard just get on the mound in 2011 doing his Carl Pavano Yankees impression for the Mariners. This staff doesn’t have a real compliment to Felix Hernandez which is a problem.

What to Look For: The Mariners desperately need 1B Justin Smoak and LF Michael Saunders to figure it out and impact the everyday lineup immediately if this team has any expectation to be decent. You better add prospects LHP Mauricio Robles, RHP Michael Pineda and 2B Dustin Ackley to that list as well. That’s a lot of things that have to happen for things to be good this year in Seattle.

Projection: The offense couldn’t be much worse than it was in 2010 could it? Or could it be?  This is an odd year and the book says the Mariners will be 85 plus win team if you follow their past 5 years. I don’t know how they will pull that off this year but, then again no else saw them being good in 2007 and 2009 either. I don’t forsee them being a .500 or better team this year. But, then again I have been wrong many times before.

65-97 (4th Place)

AL Rookie of the Year Preview

Please welcome Harrison Crow as this week’s guest writer for MLBdirt.  Harrison writes for SoDo Mojo, a Seattle Mariners blog a part of the Fan Sided Blogging Network. You can also find more of his work on his personal blog Far From Port. Make sure you follow Harrison on Twitter as well. Here is his first guest article for the site previewing the AL Rookie of the Year.

Going into a fresh season there is always young and exciting new talent that is right on the verge of taking that next giant step. They’ve dominated the minors and now they seem poised to make waves across the league. While there are usually only a handful of guys every year that make any type of significant impact right away only one of those that will capture the honor as “rookie-of-the-year” (RoY) award.

Even if your team might not yet have a said “up and comer” that is major league ready it’s exciting to keep up with them and appreciate what they accomplish over the course of the season. Looking just at last year we had some extremely exciting moments where youngsters crashed the scene.

Most people have a wide perspective and they look all over the Major League Baseball. That’s for them but, for me I enjoy baseball played in the America League. That’s my focus and it’s the youngsters I look forward to seeing when my favorite team and the team of my youth, the Seattle Mariners, as bad as they are roll through town I look forward to seeing the young and budding stars. The American League produced youngsters Wade Davis, Carlos Santana, Neftali Feliz, Brian Matusz, Daniel Hudson and Austin Jackson all leaving their mark on 2010.

The question now becomes who will emerge from 2011? Let’s take a look at a few of the possible candidates:

Considered one of the top-3 prospects in all of baseball, Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays. Armed with a fastball that lights up radars and a curve that will sink hearts. Hellickson, affectionately refereed to as “hell boy”, is the odds on favorite for the RoY but there are plenty of others that will contend and make him earn it. Including his own teammate. Leading us to the next name on the list.

Desmond Jennings, was one of the reasons that the Rays let Carl Crawford walk (oh the money was kind of a big thing too). Rated #3 overall in the Rays organization by Baseball America, Jennings profiles as a potential all-star in center. The have Rays high hope that Jennings will able to take over as the lead-off man and replace at least a portion of the hole left behind by Carl Crawford. Something that does work against the youngster is the fact that no pure speedster as won the ROY since Vince Coleman (1985).

Much like the Rays, the Seattle Mariners potentially boast two possible RoY candidates in right-hander Michael Pineda and Second basemen Dustin Ackley. The only real question is whether either will start the season with the club. Ackley, the former #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft (right behind Stephen Strasburg), will return to AAA Tacoma to get a little more seasoning prior to a mid-season call-up. But could very well show himself to be one of the leagues most elite hitters.

Pineda, however, appears to be the front runner as the 5th starter in the Mariners rotation. He rocks an elite fastball with both great movement and command along with an above average slider and a change-up that is an average pitch. He may quickly elevate himself to the #2 guy behind King Felix in that rotation. But that will depend on some big adjustments that

Keeping with the tradition of teams and two star prospects the Toronto Blue Jays are no different. They boast the gem of the Roy Halladay trade Kyle Drabek. Drabek, whose father Doug Drabek pitched for a total of 13 seasons, features a 12-6 curveball that drops off the table, a four seam fastball capable of hitting the 96 mph and adding a cutter last winter to help keep left handed hitters off balance. While he has some health concerns he has the talent to be a top of the rotation pitcher

The other Blue Jay sounded his coming last fall. When in his major league debut, J.P. Arencibia collected four hits, with two of them home runs, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sure afterwards he went 1-30 but lets focus on the positives. Arencibia has huge power and if he can improve his talents behind the plate could be one of the premier sluggers in the game behind the plate. He has question marks swirling about his defensive make-up but if he can improve and stay behind the plate he has the potential to easily become one of the better ones in the league.

The Royals fall into the it-takes-two category. Sporting Mike “Moose” Moustakas and Eric “I-dont-know-if-he-has-a-nick-name” Hosmer. Not to mention they have two in waiting that could possible debut at the end of the year in John Lamb and Mike Montgomery. It’s very possible that the Kansas City Royals currently have the farm system of the decade. Moose and Hosmer most likely won’t start off the season with the major league team, but like Dustin Ackley, could find themselves working their way into consideration for the RoY after a mid-season call-up.

The next name on the list is a pretty familiar name Jesus Montero. One of the top tier, elite, up-and-coming hitters in all of baseball and a product of the New York Yankee farm system. Montero doesn’t just sport power, though he has gobs and gobs of it, he’s an extremely proficient hitter making him all the more dangerous. He continues to end up in possible trade talks but he’s still around and appears ready to start the season as Russell Martin‘s back-up. It’s very possible that Martin doesn’t ever return to the player he was and by the end of May Montero is the every day guy behind the plate. Some worry about is overall ability behind the dish. But, from the looks at spring training he could turn out to survive enough to have a few serviceable years back there.

Chris Carter had a very painful fall last year going 0-33 during a 70 at bat audition as a member of the Oakland Athletics. Rated #2 overall prospect in the organization by Baseball America, just behind Grant Green, Carter is a beast of an hitter with exceptional power. He will be carried by his bat as the converted first basemen, now left fielder, will be at very best average in the field. While he has difficulty recognizing break balls he works a count and takes an absurd amount of walks. If he can get his strike outs under control Carter could be a serious problem for AL West pitchers for years to come.

Dark Horse Hitter: Lonnie Chisenhall – Cleveland Indians

Ben Badler of Baseball America calls Chisenhall one of the best pure bats in all of the minor leagues and right now the Cleveland Indians are having problems filling third base and finiding a reason not to start him out of AAA. Between Jason Donald‘s injury and the alternative being Jack Hannahan there lies the potential for Chi to start the season with the big league club. Chisenhall looks like a potential all-star and while realistically he could use a bit more seasoning and will most likely start the season in AAA, he will be up with the big league squad in no time.

Dark Horse Pitcher: Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles

Britton was recently labeled by Jim Callis over at Baseball America as one of the most polished pitchers out of all the elite up-and-comers (out of Kyle Gibson, Drabek, Pineda, Britton, Jake McGee, or Manny Banuelos). Which isn’t surprising really. Drafted as a 3rd rounder in 2007 Britton’s fastball sits in the mid 90s and has one of the best sinkers in baseball already and generates tons of ground outs. This combined with a second plus-pitch in his slider gives him a great 1-2 punch. But what makes him more successful than some of his other competitors is his ability to throw his change-up for a consistent strike and have confidence in it.

My 2011 MLB Predicitons

Troy Tulowitzki

I decided to dig a little deeper and lay out my predicitons from our inaugural post with the Win-Loss records and award winners that go up to five deep.

While I do not use fancy projection systems like PECOTA or Marcels, I do run my own numbers to try and garner a win total for a team based on my 2011 projections for that team’s players. By doing that, most teams end up with an extra win or two because I cannot predict injuries that ruin a player’s entire season and I have to trim those extra wins in order to make sure the total wins match the total losses (I usually end up with about 30 more wins than losses with my initial numbers). That is where some of the “human element” comes in to play.

With that, here are my projected standings and awards:

AL East
1. Red Sox (94-68)
2. Rays (90-72) (Wild Card)
3. Yankees (89-73)
4. Blue Jays (82-80)
5. Orioles (77-85)

AL Central
1. White Sox (87-75)
2. Twins (86-76)
3. Tigers (84-78)
4. Indians (70-92)
5. Royals (61-101)

AL West
1. Rangers (90-72)
2. Athletics (86-76)
3. Angels (78-84)
4. Mariners (65-97)

NL East
1. Phillies (94-68)
2. Braves (89-73) (Wild Card)
3. Marlins (79-83)
4. Mets (77-85)
5. Nationals (73-89)

NL Central
1. Cardinals (90-72)
2. Brewers (87-75)
3. Reds (87-75)
4. Cubs (80-82)
5. Astros (66-96)
6. Pirates (63-99)

NL West
1. Rockies (88-74)
2. Giants (86-76)
3. Dodgers (81-81)
4. Padres (81-81)
5. Diamondbacks (70-92)

World Series

Rockies over Red Sox in 7.

World Series MVP

Dexter Fowler

MVP
AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Miguel Cabrera

NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman

Cy Young
AL: Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Brett Anderson, David Price, Dan Haren

NL: Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Mat Latos

Rookie of the Year
AL: Jeremy Hellickson, J.P. Arencibia, Hank Conger, Kyle Drabek, Jesus Montero

NL: Domonic Brown, Freddie Freeman, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kenley Jansen

Comback Player of the Year
AL: Grady Sizemore, Conor Jackson

NL: Carlos Beltran, Pablo Sandoval

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at his other site Figure Filbert and on twitter at @FigureFilbert

MLB Dirt Predictions

Welcome readers and this is MLB Dirt, your baseball headquarters for news, analysis, and everything baseball. In our inaugural article, we have posted our predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball season.

You will find our predictions for each division, the playoffs, and who we think will win this year’s major awards in each league. This is the first step in the development and expansion of the site. Please tell your friends about MLB Dirt and be prepared to get dirty in baseball news.

For more MLB Dirt, make sure you follow us on Twitter @MLBdirt and “like us on Facebook

Without further ado, here are the 2011 Dirt Predictions:

 Division  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL East 1. Red Sox
2. Rays*
3. Yankees
4. Blue Jays
5. Orioles
1. Rays
2. Red Sox*
3. Blue Jays
4. Yankees
5. Orioles
1. Red Sox
2. Rays
3. Yankees
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays
 AL Central 1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals
1. White Sox
2. Tigers
3. Twins
4. Royals
5. Indians
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals
 AL West 1. Rangers
2. Athletics
3. Angels
4. Mariners
1. Rangers
2. Athletics
3. Angels
4. Mariners
1. Rangers
2. Athletics*
3. Mariners
4. Angels
 NL East 1. Phillies
2. Braves*
3. Marlins
4. Mets
5. Nationals
1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Nationals
4. Marlins
5. Mets
1. Phillies
2. Braves*
3. Mets
4. Marlins
5. Nationals
 NL Central 1. Cardinals
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates
1. Reds
2. Cardinals*
3. Brewers
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates
1. Cardinals
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Pirates
6. Astros
 NL West 1. Rockies
2. Giants
3. Dodgers
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks
1. Dodgers
2. Rockies
3. Giants
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks
1. Rockies
2. Dodgers
3. Giants
4. Diamondbacks
5. Padres

* Wild Card Winner

Awards:

 Award  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL Cy Young 1. Jon Lester
2. Felix Hernandez
1. C.J. Wilson
2. J. Papelbon
1. Jon Lester
2. Felix Hernandez
 AL MVP 1. Adrian Gonzalez
2. Evan Longoria
1. Adam Dunn
2. Miguel Cabrera
1. Evan Longoria
2. Adrian Gonzalez
 AL ROY 1. J. Hellickson
2. J.P. Arencibia
1. J. Hellickson
2. Kyle Drabek
1. J. Hellickson
2. Nick Weglarz
 AL Come Back 1. Grady Sizemore
2. Conor Jackson
1. Brad Penny
2. Alex Gordon
1. Josh Beckett
2. Grady Seizmore
 NL Cy Young 1. Roy Halladay
2. A. Wainwright
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
1. Cliff Lee
2. A. Wainwright
 NL MVP 1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Chase Utley
1. Albert Pujols
2. Andre Ethier
1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Albert Pujols
 NL ROY 1. Domonic Brown
2. Freddie Freeman
1. Brandon Belt
2. Julio Teheran
1. Aroldis Chapman
2. Mike Minor
 NL Come Back 1. Carlos Beltran
2. Pablo Sandoval
1. Carlos Pena
2. Jesus Flores
1. Javier Vasquez
2. Carlos Beltran

 

World Series

 Picks  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL Champ  Red Sox  Rays  Red Sox
 NL Champ  Rockies  Phillies  Phillies
 WS Champ  Rockies  Phillies  Red Sox