2012 – The Year of the Laboratory?

There are a surprising number of experiments going on in Major League Baseball for this coming season. Players are trying out new positions, relief pitchers are trying to be starting pitchers. Heck, even the Yankees are trying to be cost conscious. Strange things are happening in a training camp near you. With all that is happening, you will need a scorecard to track all the goings on. We at MLB Dirt are happy to help. What follows are the experiments happening all over baseball plus this writer’s take on whether the lab results will be positive or negative. Here we go. Got your pencil handy?

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Willie Mays Award – American League

I posted my National League ballot earlier today and I continue with my American League ballot now. This is by far the more difficult of the two awards to decide on.

There are probably one of four guys that I think belong at the top and I have to narrow it down to a ballot of three. Very difficult but I will try my best.

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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.

2011 Fantasy Rankings – Catchers

Carlos Santana

When it comes to catchers the concern for me is when to take them. Do you take the top catcher on your board early? Do you join the catcher-run when it starts? All tough situations that you can ponder but really cannot answer until the opportunity stares you down. I believe there is decent depth at catcher this year, especially if you are in a 10-team mixed league but be warned, there are few that can help in more than 3-4 categories.

With that, here are my rankings for catcher:

Rank Player Tier
1 Joe Mauer 1
2 Carlos Santana 1
3 Buster Posey 1
4 Brian McCann 1
5 Victor Martinez 1
6 Mike Napoli 2
7 Geovanny Soto 2
8 Miguel Montero 2
9 Matt Wieters 2
10 Kurt Suzuki 3
11 Jorge Posada 3
12 Chris Iannetta 3
13 Yadier Molina 4
14 J.P. Arencibia 4
15 Carlos Ruiz 4
16 John Buck 4
17 John Jaso 4
18 Jarrod Saltalamacchia 4
19 Ryan Doumit 4
20 Hank Conger 5
21 Chris Snyder 5
22 A.J. Pierzynski 5
23 Alex Avila 5
24 Russell Martin 5
25 Jesus Montero 5
26 Ramon Hernandez 5
27 Nick Hundley 5
28 Josh Thole 5
29 Wilson Ramos 5
30 Jonathan Lucroy 5
31 Tyler Flowers 6
32 Miguel Olivo 6
33 Jason Castro 6
34 Ryan Hanigan 6
35 Yorvit Torrealba 6

 

Three I’d Reach For Reason
Carlos Santana With all due respect to Mauer, Santana could be the #1 catcher by the end of the season. His power and On-Base Skills are huge, especially my main league.
Mike Napoli Love the park, love the power, love the lineup, love the potential.
Chris Iannetta He will probably hit below .250 but he walks and has power. Oh, and he plays in Colorado and should finally get the bulk of at-bats at catcher. Career: 13.1% BB rate and HR every 22 at-bats.

 

Three I’ll Let Pass Reason
Victor Martinez I would just rather wait for Napoli than reach for Martinez once the catcher run starts.
Jorge Posada The hit tool is fading as is his health. Plus Yankee fans love to draft him. They can have him.
Miguel Olivo Poor on-base skills, horrible park. I’ll pass completely on him.

 

Top 3 Rookie C Reason
J.P. Arencibia Could hit 25+ homers this year.
Hank Conger His bat can play now, his glove needs work. Should get bulk of at-bats with Angels.
Jesus Montero Posada and Russell Martin are the only things holding him back. He should get at-bats at catcher and DH by May.

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

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