When Jay Bruce Pulls the Ball Good Things Follow

Houston Astros v Cincinnati Reds

On May 7th the Cincinnati Reds slugging right fielder Jay Bruce was hitting a paltry .246/.296/.345 with a single home run in more than 150 plate appearances. His unintentional walk rate (after subtracting the two plate appearances) was 5.3% and he was striking out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances. Needless to say, Bruce was not off to a good start.

Luck is not to be blamed for Bruce’s poor start due to his .370 BABIP which is well above his sub-.300 career mark coming into the season. Bruce seemed to be too aggressive at the plate, seeing 3.79 pitches per plate appearance.

Bruce’s power outage was likely due to his “all-field” approach. Usually, when a player starts using the entire field, the result is a better triple-slash. In Bruce’s case, it appeared to only give him a few more singles and a higher BABIP. Take a look at his spray chart from Opening Day to May 7th: Continue reading


Reds Unload for Mat Latos

Today, possibly the biggest trade of the offseason thus far has gone down. The Padres traded 24 year old, Mat Latos to the Reds for quite the haul of players. The Padres will be receiving Yonder Alonso, Edison Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Broxberger. The Reds receive a potential ace in Latos and the Padres really cashed in. I like the deal for both sides.

For the Reds, Latos bolsters an already solid rotation. He joins Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. That rotation along with the big bats of Votto and Bruce should be very competitive in the NL central this year. Latos is still very young and already has two full years under his belt. He has a career ERA of 3.37 and a K/9 of 8.7. He has looked great but what worries me is that he is moving from the canyon of Petco Park to the hitter friendly stadium of the Great American Ballpark. I don’t think it should have a huge effect but it is something to watch for. Another very attractable part of Latos is that he is not arbitration eligible until the end of 2012 so the Reds should have him under team control for quite a few years to come.
Continue reading

Random Predictions – NL

Continuing on from yesterday’s AL Predictions are my NL predictions. I honestly cannot wait to see the reactions when I tell everyone that…

Atlanta Braves – Nate McLouth is going to revert to 2009 form and go 20/20 with a .350 OBP. Craig Kimbrel will save 20+ games and strike out 100+ as part of the best relief squad in the Majors. Chipper Jones will hit .300 in his final season. Mike Minor will replace Brandon Beachy as the 5th starter by June.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Russell Branyan will set a career high by hitting 35 or more homeruns this season. That’s right! All he needs is playing time and I predict he will gain 3B eligibilty. Joe Saunders will have an ERA north of 5.00. David Hernandez will lead the team in saves with less than 20.

Chicago Cubs – Tyler Colvin will get 500+ plate appearances but will not hit more than 25 homers. There will be more “head case” headlines about Matt Garza than there will be about Carlos Zambrano who will be the better pitcher of the two this year.

Cincinnati Reds – 2010 was more Brandon Phillips norm going forward and he will continue a decline offensively to the tune of .260/.320/.420 at best. The starting rotation will be called overrated by September. Drew Stubbs will be more valuable when factoring ADP than B.J. Upton in fantasy. Jay Bruce will hit 30+ homers but lose defensive value and not be more valuable than he was last year according to fWAR. Aroldis Chapman will finish with less than 5 saves and an ERA above-4.00.

Colorado Rockies – Troy Tulowitzki will win the MVP and be worth close to 8.0 fWAR. Dexter Fowler will break out this year. Jose Lopez still will not hit and be a terrible defender and Ty Wigginton will club 20+ homers. Jason Hammel will finally match his performance with his FIP and post an ERA below-4.00.

Florida Marlins – Mike Stanton will hit 35 homeruns and be very humble about it. Anibal Sanchez will pitch 200+ innings of 3.25 or lower ERA and 175+ strikeouts. Omar Infante will hit closer to his career slash-line of .274/.319/.395 than his last two year’s .316/.359/.408. The 3B position will struggle to combine for a positive fWAR.

Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez will end up with double-digit saves. Brett Wallace will hit .285/.345/.450 and give the Astros hope for the future. The shortstop position will the weakest in the league offensively. Jordan Lyles will be up and be their best pitcher after the trade deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Juan Uribe will set another career high in homers with 25 this season. Jonathan Broxton may lose the closer role but he will still strike out 90+ with an ERA below-3.00. Matt Kemp will be worth +5.0 fWAR or better. Left field will be a revolving door that will never stop and be lucky to produce at a higher level than replacement. A.J. Ellis is the best catcher on the roster but will see the least amount of time.

Milwaukee Brewers – Shaun Marcum will mail a thank you card to the Blue Jays for trading him out of the AL East and will post 200+ innings of 3.25 or lower ERA and 175+ strikeouts. Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan will combine for a wRC of 85 or lower. Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras will combine to hit 20 homers.

New York Mets – Carlos Beltran will reach 500 PAs and hit .280/.370/.470 or better. Angel Pagan will again be worth more than 4.0 fWAR. Francisco Rodriguez will not meet his Games Finished clause wheter he finishes the year out with the Mets or not. The Mets will have a fire sale in July and post a better record in the 2nd half and play “spoiler” to postseason contenders.

Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Howard continues his Cecil Fielder impersonation and hits worse than he did in 2010. Ben Francisco will hit 20 homers and steal 15 bases. Roy Halladay will post even better numbers than last year.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Andrew McCutchen will hit 20 homers and steal 40 bases. Joel Hanrahan will save 30 games and strike out 100+. James McDonald will be the only starting pitcher with more than 2.0 fWAR and he will have higher than 3.0 fWAR.

San Diego Padres – Tim Stauffer will log 175+ innings of sub-3.50 ERA and 125+ strikeouts. Brad Hawpe will lose his starting job by mid-June and struggle to hit above .250 with little-to-no power. Jason Bartlett will hit at least .285/.345/.425 and steal 20+ bases.

San Francisco Giants – Aubrey Huff will get off to a slow start and everyone will scream for Brandon Belt to get playing time. Which he will… in June, and contend for the Rookie of the Year Award by hitting close to .300 with 15+ homers. Jonathan Sanchez will be the best pitcher on the team.

St. Louis Cardinals – Colby Rasmus will hit 30+ homers and steal 15+ bases. Lance Berkman will bounce back to hit .275/.375/.475 with 20+ homers. Kyle McClellan will log 175+ innings of sub-4.00 ERA with 125+ strikeouts. Jason Motte will save 10+ games and record 70+ strikeouts.

Washington Nationals – Michael Morse will hit more homers than Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Livan Hernandez will post an ERA north of 5.00 and allow 225+ hits in less than 200 innings. Matt Stairs will hit a homerun for the Nats, his 12th different team.

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

2011 NL Central Preview

2011 NL Central Preview

1. Cincinnati Reds

The Good: The Reds have a solid combo of strong bats and strong starting pitching. Bronson Arroyo, Edison Volquez, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake form a formidible rotation. While the offense is spearheaded by triple crown candidate/MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce. Two things the Reds offense has is power with some speed.

The Bad: The back end of the bullpen is a cause for concern. Francisco Cordero has logged a lot of innings the past few years and looked like he was tired the 2nd half of last year. The Dusty Baker effect once again if you ask me. I am not buying all the hype surrounding Aroldis Chapman. Chapman can throw 115MPH for all I am concerned but, his control, mechanics and lack of developed secondary pitches raise some flags. Realize, the Reds are now expected to win and will be targeted by other teams, that changes the perspective for the young Reds a lot. Another crucial question: Can Scott Rolen stay healthy and productive for 2 straight years?

What to Look For: The continued development Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Edison Volquez, Travis Wood and Mike Leake will determine how far the Reds will progress this season. The Reds are following the right path in terms of a successful long term plan.

Projection: The Reds definitely seem to be trying to follow the Phillies blueprint: A solid starting rotation, good defense and plenty of power bats with some speed. The Reds weren’t a fluke last year and this year they should prove that.

92-70 (1st Place)

Milwaukee Brewers

The Good: The Brewers made massive upgrades to a pitching rotation that sorely needed it. 2009 1-2 starters Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolf get bumped down to 3 and 4 to make room for new ace Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. These were two very high impact moves by the Brew Crew and I am sure Marcum and Greinke will benefit from pitching in the NL and having strong offensive support. While being dominated by right handers, the Brewers can score runs. The offensive attack of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks is very impressive.

The Bad: The Brewers defense can be down right dreadful and that will cost them some games. John Axford, Zach Braddock, 41 year old Takashi Saito and Kameron Loe will have to shore up a bullpen that had plenty of leaks last season. Another critical question: Can Carlos Gomez be an everyday CF?

What to Look For: If the right deal comes along would the Brewers deal Prince Fielder and move Mat Gamel to 1B? That should be interesting to see. Also, the development of John Axford and Zach Braddock to the late inning roles is something the Brewers need to take shape if they want to be serious contenders.

Projection: If the Reds falter the Brewers are most likely taking the division. The Brewers are taking their shot this year realizing it most likely is their last with big slugging 1B Prince Fielder. Should be an exciting summer in Milwaukee.

89-73 (2nd place)

Chicago Cubs

The Good: The Cubs offense should be able to produce runs with the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin. The Cubs front 3 starting pitchers of Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster give their fans plenty of reason to think they can contend and Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are not bad options out of the 4 and 5 spots.

The Bad: The Cubs have been awful at situational hitting the past few years and adding more strikeouts with Carlos Pena will not help. Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez looked old and worn out last year which is not a good sign. Middle relief was a disaster for the Cubs last year and outside of Carlos Marmol the closer, there are too many question marks for the Cubs.

What to Look For: Will be interesting to see how Cubs skipper Mike Quade is able to keep the usually hotheaded Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza on track. This is a transition year for the Cubs. I strongly believe Carlos Pena is a 1 year rental before the Cubs land Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau or Prince Fielder to play 1B.

Prediction: The Cubs will shine and have their moments but, unless they get some critical big hits, cut down on the strikeouts and get decent middle relief help they are only a decent team not a good team.

84-78 (3rd Place)

St. Louis Cardinals

The Good: The offense should be OK considering it has Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus at its core. Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia should help steady a questionable rotation.

The Bad: Plenty. Adam Wainwright and his Cy Young Award type numbers are gone for the year and more importantly, this could be Albert Pujols last year as a Cardinal. This is a major year of flux for the Cards who could also deal free agent to be Chris Carpenter at the trade deadline if they fall out of contention. Is RF Lance Berkman still an everyday player? What kind of production do the Cardinals get from the middle infield of Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker? Can the Cardinals recover from losing Adam Wainwright for an entire season?

What to Look For: If Carpenter, Tony LaRussa and Pujols leave within the next year the Cards could be in a full blown rebuilding phase. Dave Duncan is one of the best pitching coaches ever with all the pitching projects he has taken on and transformed. Duncan will have to use all of his skills this season to help the Crads overcome the loss of Adam Wainwright. Fireballer Carlos Martinez may arrive into the bullpen for the Cardinals this summer.

Projection: It already looks like this could be a rough year for the Cardinals will all the questions left unanswered. Where does this team go past 2011 is the most important question of them all.

79-83 (4th Place)

Houston Astros

The Good: The Astros GM Ed Wade did a heck of a job rebuilding the core of this team midseason in 2009 and finally has the Astros younger and cheaper then they have been in a while. 1B Brett Wallace, RF Hunter Pence and 3B Chris Johnson help give some much needed youth into the Astros everyday lineup. They may not jump out at you but, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris give Houston a decent starting rotation. Closer Brandon Lyon, Fernando Abad, Wilton Lopez,  and Mark Melancon are pretty decent options out of the bullpen too.

The Bad: The Astros are still a ways off in terms of getting younger better position players and are stuck with some stopgap solution players in their middle infield. Also, the Astros are saddled with the bloated Carlos Lee contract. Losing young catcher Jason Castro for the year to a knee injury is a blow not easily recovered from either.

What to Look For: The Astros can only pray that Carlos Lee has a big first half and can convince someone crazy or desperate enough to take him off the Astros hands even for half price.

Projection: When you have pitching you can win or in the Astros case, be representable. The Astros need to find position players but, are heading in the right direction with their relatively young pitching.

73-89 (5th Place)

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Good: Well, at least the Pirates have some good talent in the field eveyday and should score some runs with CF Andrew McCutchen, 3B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker and LF Jose Tabata. James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf give the Pirates a prayer that they can give up less than 5-10 runs at least 2 days out of the week. Evan Meek, Chris Resop and Joel Hanrahan provide some actual relief for a bullpen that’s pretty rotten.

The Bad: Are you kidding me?!?!? Well, the worst is the ownership who cares nothing about the franchise or the fan base because they maintain the lowest MLB payroll while turning one of the highest profits. Pathetic. As a Pirates player you are encouraged to play your best because the sooner you do the sooner you are traded from the team. Hard to believe the Pirates share the same city as one of the NFL’s all time elite/successful franchises and a very successful NHL franchise as well. The Pirates pitching staff was abysmal last year. When you have the worst team ERA and you are not in the AL or playing half the time in Cincinnatti, Houston or Philadelphia (3 great band boxes) you have major issues. Oh, yeah, and if that was not bad enough, the Pirates have plenty of problems catching and throwing the baseball consistently in the field too.

What to Look For: To see the Pirates roll out a borderline MLB team and not lose a 100 games. MLB should assume ownership of this franchise because the Pirates front office is a disgrace.

Projection: See the past 18 years. Somehow I think they will only lose 98 games this year. Yet, I cannot substantiate why.

64-98 (6th Place)