Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More MLB Notes...

Some statistics, trade stuff, and observations as trade deadline weekend approaches...

There are currently 73 NL players that have enough plate appearances per game (3.1) to qualify for the batting title. Some players of note and where they rank...

Dan Uggla - you guessed it, #73
Jayson Werth - #72
Alex Gonzalez - #68

Players rumored to be of interest to the offensively challenged Braves....

Ryan Ludwick - #62
Carlos Beltran - #22
Hunter Pence - #9
Colby Rasmus - #57

Other Braves

Martin Prado - #41 (Down from #7 in 2010)
Freddie Freeman #28
Brian McCann - #10

The Surprises

Michael Morse - #6
Daniel Murphy - #5

Just some interesting numbers to look at as the trade deadline approaches and teams assess where they are as a club. Losing your only player near the top 10 in McCann for 3+ weeks may cause the Braves to accelerate their pursuit of a bat.

It is unfortunate that the Braves can't go hard after a corner outfielder that could be under team control for more than the rest of 2011, but they won't push Chipper out of 3rd, so Prado and Heyward are pretty much penciled into those spots for the rest of the season (barring injury).

The OPS stat gives a further indication of overall offensive production, so lets look at some other guys and where they rank here...

McCann - #13
Freeman - #22
Chipper - #33
Uggla - #62
Gonzalez - #72

So, back to the trade deadline, it appears the Braves ideally would like to acquire a center fielder that hits right handed (or switch) that won't cost them Teheran/Minor/Vizcaino/Delgado.

I think that is the right stance for Beltran, but Hunter Pence's name has started to resurface as someone that can be had for the right price. I wrote on May 9th that Pence would significantly improve this ball club, and I feel even more strongly about that stance now.

Lets take a quick look at the obvious reasons to make the deal:

1) Pence (.308-11-62) would immediately be the Braves 1st or 2nd best hitter in a lineup that needs offense.
2) He can run and play multiple outfield positions (more on this in a bit)
3) His acquisition will give the team some needed momentum after the McCann injury
4) The team has the prospects to give up with so many young pitching studs (Hanson, Beachy, Medlen, Jurrjens, Minor, Teheran, Vizcaino, Delgado)
5) Chipper is likely to retire after this season and there will be money available to retain Pence long-term (and he is under team control for 2012).

Reasons not to make the deal:

1) The asking price may be too high (which may be the case) - I definitely feel that Teheran won't be a part of the deal, but would a package of Minor/Delgado do the job?
2) Concerns that Pence isn't a center fielder

Ok, here are my thoughts on #2...Hunter has played only 95 of his career 673 games in center field, but he has done fairly well there. He can run and cover ground, and his statistics show that he can play the position.

Pence's Run total per year numbers (total number of runs above or below average a player is worth over 1200 innings) in center is -1. In right field, that number drops to -3. In comparison, Nate McLouth has a career Rtot/yr of -7 and Jordan Schafer is -17 in just about the same number of career games at the position as Pence. Andruw Jones, the best defensive center fielder of this generation, has a career Rtot/yr of 18 in CF.

So, assuming Pence is right around 0, which is an average center fielder, his value to the team with his bat should be a higher number of runs per game than anyone on the current roster

Again, if a package centered around Minor/Delgado is enough, the Braves would add a true star that plays the game the right way. I would then use this order for now:

1) Prado
2) Pence
3) Jones
4) Freeman
5) Uggla
6) Heyward
7) Ross
8) Gonzalez

Then, when B-Mac returns:

1) Prado
2) Pence
3) Jones
4) McCann
5) Uggla
6) Freeman
7) Gonzalez
8) Heyward

The one issue with Pence being somewhat available, though, is that the Braves may not get into the talks, but the Phillies might. This tweet scared me quite a bit...

Speaking of good lineups...


Getting Beltran would make Philly pretty much untouchable in the NL too (assuming they aren't there already).

So, lets hope for the following things to happen come Monday morning:

1) Wren pulls the trigger on deals for one of the 2,324 right handed relievers on the market and gets a significant RH OF bat
2) The Phillies don't do either of these

Friday, July 22, 2011

MLB Notes...

Some quick notes as the MLB season is about to hit August...

The Carlos Beltran sweepstakes is on the forefront of most trade deadline conversations, and rightfully so. He has had quite a resurgence this year and is the best outfield bat available for a reasonable price, and the Mets are likely to reap the rewards. By paying some or all of the 6 million still owed to Carlos and not limiting themselves to teams outside their division, they should drive the price to acquire Beltran up pretty high.

Teams like the Braves and Phillies don't have dollars to take on the 6 million, but would likely be willing to give up better prospects in a deal. The Mets seem to think so in regards to the Braves, as they had scouts carefully watching Mike Minor last night.

I don't think in the end that Frank Wren will give up what it will take to get Beltran and settle for a lesser RH bat (Gomes, Ludwick, etc) and also pick up another reliever to help O'Flaherty and Every Day Jonny get to Kimbrel. If Carlos goes to the Phillies, I hope they have to give up Dominic Brown, their top OF prospect.

My guess? Beltran goes to the Giants...Brian Sabean sees a window where he has elite pitching and another excellent chance to make a run in the post-season. After losing Buster Posey, this team needs another bat, and Beltran would be a solid fit in their lineup. They have already show a willingness to make deals by acquiring Jeff Keppinger earlier this week.

Some interesting Adam Dunn quotes yesterday, as he hinted that he has thought about retirement during his dreadful season in Chicago. Guys like Carl Crawford and Dan Uggla have struggled with their new clubs, but no where near like Big Adam, who has gone in the tank.

At age 31, Dunn is currently hitting .158-9-36 while striking out 124 times in 339 at bats. He has always been a high strikeout guy, but this pace is more than ever and he is down in his career average (.245) by 87 points and won't get near his consistently solid home run numbers. Since 2004, Dunn's HR numbers have been 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. Amazing he could have this type of drop off while still playing in his prime.

Today is July 22, about a month and a half since the MLB Draft, and just 1 1st round pick has signed. The deadline idea was a good one, but August 15th is too late. Don't worry about when classes start at universities and consider that these guys need to be training with their teams and playing in games. Move the date to July 15th and there is still plenty of time to get draft picks into Rookie League games and get their careers started. Instead, agents have players working out on their own while the agents sit on their hands until August 14th.

It looks like a very competitive AL Cy Young race will come down to the wire with Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver not letting up at all. Guys like CC Sabathia (14-5, 2.62) and James Shields (9-8, 2.53 7 CG's) have a chance, but there are some serious studs right now in both the AL and NL.

Finally, with the AL/NL Eastern Divisions looking like they will produce the Wild Card and the Giants and Rangers separating themselves in the West, the AL/NL Central Divisions look like they will give us the best pennant races come September. Here are the top teams in each league that are still in contention and the player I would look to acquire to put each team in the best chance to compete for the Division title.

NL Central

Pittsburgh - Carlos Beltran - The Pirates have excellent pitching with Karstens, Morton Maholm, Correia, and Hanrahan, but could really use an OF bat in the middle of their order with McCutchen and Walker.

Milwaukee - Michael Bourn - The Brewers lost Carlos Gomez yesterday to a wrist injury, and could use an upgrade from Nyjer Morgan in CF. The bullpen looks solid with the K-Rod trade and Gallardo and Greinke are front line starters that are complemented well by Marcum and Wolf.

St Louis - Mike Adams - The Cardinals lead the NL in runs scored and have solid starting pitching, so bullpen help is the main need here. Salas has been good finishing games so bringing in one of the top 8th inning guys in the league without messing with too much bullpen chemistry is the move for the Cards.

Cincinnati - Ubaldo Jimenez - The Reds should be buyers, as they have a strong team with the 3rd best run differential in the NL (+28, behind ATL/PHI). I would have put Jose Reyes here, as the Cincy lineup has been pretty bad as of late, but the Phillips/Votto/Bruce murderers row along with guys like Stubbs and Rolen will heat up and give more offense. Jimenez gives the Reds a solid 1-2 punch with Johnny Cueto at the top of their rotation. Leake and Arroyo have been OK, but they really need some better starts from them along with a strong finish from either Homer Bailey or Edinson Volquez.

AL Central

Detroit - Wandy Rodriguez - The Tigers can swing the bats, but only Baltimore and Kansas City have given up more runs in the AL. Verlander is as good as it gets at the top of the rotation, but the guys after him like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have been very inconsistent. Detroit doesn't have a left-handed starter, and Rodriguez has been very good this season (6-6, 3.67) pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark on a bad team.

Cleveland - Aaron Harang - The surprising Indians have been at or near the top of the division all season despite a very young and inexperienced club. Young starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, and Josh Tomlin have had excellent seasons, but Harang will provide an innings-eater veteran that will help solidify their staff.

White Sox - Heath Bell - The White Sox have struggled finding a reliable closer since Bobby Jenks career went south, and getting Bell would immediately give them one of the games best. Only 5 games back with John Danks set to come of the DL soon, the White Sox could also use a hitter, and could use Edwin Jackson as bait to get some offensive help.

The trade deadline should be wild this year, keep checking back for updates as the Braves should be in some deep discussions the next 9 days...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

College Football Pre-Season Top 25

Every summer, I anticipate the moment I can check out the college football preview websites, magazines, newspapers, etc. I get a chance to look at depth charts, schedules, pre-season AA's, and who the top freshmen might be. Also each summer, I release a pre-season prediction of what I think the final Top 25 poll might look like.

After several months of research, there are definitely some teams I like and don't like in 2011. This list does not rank how good I think the teams are in order, but how I think they will end up based on conference, schedule, and other factors.

A weekly top 25 poll will begin the Sunday after the 1st full Saturday of games, but until then, here is the RSM Top 25.

1. Alabama (13-0) - There is a lot of pressure on AJ McCarron as a sophomore, but they are still good enough to win the SEC and go undefeated. There are no road games against top 15 teams (Penn St, UF, Miss, Miss St, AU) and the Tide will lock up a spot in the National Title game by defeating South Carolina in the GA Dome

2. Wisconsin (13-0) - As you can see, I really like the Badgers this year. The mass exodus at OSU, along with a favorable schedule give Wisconsin a great shot to go undefeated. Camp Randall is one of the toughest places to play in the country, and Wisconsin doesn't have a true road game until 10/22. That will give new QB Russell Wilson time to get acclimated with the squad and handle back-to-back road games against Michigan St and Ohio St. The biggest obstacles are the aforementioned road games and a home date versus new Big 10 team Nebraska.

3. Oklahoma (11-1) - Like the SEC, the Big 12 has several excellent teams in 2011, but it will be very difficult to go undefeated. Throw in the Sooners road game against FSU, and there are a lot of tough teams on their schedule (Mizzou, @Ok St, A&M, Texas, @KSU). They will slip up once, which will be one too many to get them to the BCS Title Game.

4. Florida St (12-1) - The Seminoles build off a strong Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over South Carolina with an ACC Title and top 5 finish. While EJ Manuel is a new starter at QB, he has experience and may be the best QB in the entire conference. The defense only has 3 new starters, but Tank Carradine may their best defender outside of Greg Reid.

5. Arkansas (10-2) - The Razorbacks get into the top 5 by winning at LSU over Thanksgiving despite not winning the SEC West. Tyler Wilson showed he is an elite passer in limited time last season, and the schedule finally sets up for Bobby Petrino.

6. Arizona St (11-2) - Another surprise team for 2011 that jumps into the top 10 after defeating Oregon in the 1st Pac-12 Title game. This team has a ton of guys back from last year, losing only 17 letter winners. They avoid Stanford from the North, and played a lot of really good teams close in 2010 (L @ Wisconsin 20-19, L vs Oregon 42-31, L @ USC 34-33). Brock Osweiler (6'8) is one of the biggest QB's in the country and was arguably the Sun Devils best QB in 2010.

7. Virginia Tech (11-2) - Although they lost to FSU in the ACCCG, the Hokies will be on the national scene for most of 2011. They have a very favorable schedule and do not play any big name out of conference opponents for the 1st time in many years (BSU, Bama, Nebraska, LSU, etc). That will give new QB Logan Thomas time to get rolling and give VT another strong season.

8. Oregon (11-2) - The Ducks will keep momentum from 2010 by defeating LSU in Dallas, but after losing at Stanford and to ASU in the Pac-12 CG, a BCS at-large bowl will be their best case scenario.

9. South Carolina (10-3) - The SEC East Champion Gamecocks will again fall in the GA Dome, but it will be another successful season for Steve Spurrier. The defense is still very talented, and play-makers Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery will provide plenty of scores.

10. Texas A&M (10-2) - Coach Mike Sherman had the Aggies playing very well at the end of 2010, despite a 17 point bowl loss to LSU. The entire offense is back, led by possible All-American RB Cyrus Gray. The defense also returns a lot, although the loss of Von Miller will hurt. Biggest hurdles will be 9/24 vs OSU, 10/1 vs Arkansas, 10/29 vs Mizzou, and 11/5 @OU,

11. Notre Dame (10-2) - Year 2 under Brian Kelly could see the Irish back in a BCS Bowl game. The schedule eases up a bit, but is still quite rigorous. Road games against Michigan, MSU, Purdue, and Stanford along with home games against USF, Navy, USAFA, and USC will determine how far ND can go. After winning their final 4 games of 2010 and Michael Floyd coming back with a veteran QB, look for the Irish to move back into the spotlight.

12. Nebraska (10-3) - The newcomers to the Big-12 won't be able to get past Wisconsin, but should escape most of their other games unscathed. Returning Taylor Martinez, Jared Crick, and Alfonzo Dennard will give the Huskers enough fire-power to make a Big splash in Year 1 in their new conference.

13. Stanford (9-3) - A lot of offensive and defensive losses will prevent the 2012 #1 pick Andrew Luck from getting Stanford in the National Title hunt. A 1st year head coach and some tough games against Oregon, ND, USC, and @Arizona will be a tough hurdle for this Cardinal team.

14. Oklahoma St (9-3) - A high-powered offense will make OSU fun to watch but some key personnel losses along with a tough schedule (@A&M, @Texas, @Mizzou, OU) will keep this Cowboy team from reaching 10+ wins like the 2010 version.

15. UGA (9-3) - If, and a big if, UGA can escape their 1st two games (BSU, USC), the schedule sets up nicely as the avoid LSU, ARK, and BAMA from the West. They have the top QB in the SEC and some needed energy around the program, which should lead to the 3 game turn-around from 2010.

16. Pitt (9-3) - The Big East champs will face another competitive Big East as USF, UConn, and WVU will all be pretty good. Pitt gets the nod with an excellent front 7 and returning starter at QB, which will help notch home wins against USF and UConn.

17. Boise St (10-2) - Boise will lose a tough game against UGA to start the season, along with another out of a tough group of match-ups (@Toledo, Nevada, USAFA, @Fresno, TCU) but keep the winning tradition going in year 1 in the MWC.

18. LSU (8-4) - A tough schedule and still offensively-challenged LSU team will lose its opener (Oregon) and finale (Arkansas) along with 11/5 at Alabama. I also don't think they escape the @MSU, @WVU, UK, UF, @UT, AU stretch without at least 1 more loss. This is a very talented team with a lot of returners, but the schedule doesn't work out nearly as well as it did in 2010.

19. Northwestern (9-3) - Although they stumbled down the stretch in 2010, the Wildcats have a ton of experience and favorable schedule in 2011. If they can go 3-2 on the road, the home schedule sets up nicely as this looks like a 9 win team with Dan Persa coming back at QB.

20. Texas (8-4) - Texas should bounce back nicely after a 5-7 2010, and 2nd year starter Garrett Gilbert will help lead the way. While they are still a bit behind OU, 2011 for the Longhorns will mean a return back to the national scene.

21. Air Force (10-2) - A lot of returners for a team that finished '10 with 4 straight wins and their only losses were by 2 @SDSU, by 5 vs Utah, by 3 to Oklahoma, and a bad blowout loss to Rose Bowl champ TCU. Road trips to ND and Boise will be tough, but USAFA gets revenge on TCU and gets to 10 wins.

22. Michigan St (8-4) - The Spartans have an elite QB in Kirk Cousins and some very good players on D, but look for them to be in the middle of the pack in the new Big-10 due to a brutal schedule that includes road games against ND,OSU, Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern.

23. USC - (8-4) - Matt Barkley is an elite QB, but this program still has a way to go to get back to being a 10 win team each year. Road trips to ASU, ND, and Oregon don't help make the schedule any easier either.

24. Southern Miss - (11-1) - The Golden Eagles only lost 18 letter winners from 2010 and have a very favorable schedule. It would not be surprising to see them survive their 6 road tests and get to 12-0.

25. Kansas St (8-4) - Newcomers Justin Tuggle, Bryce Brown, and Arthur Brown are very talented players that will help a veteran KSU squad become nationally significant again.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lets get into it!

Things have been a little slow around RSM this summer, but it is time to turn things up a bit. You won't get posts on here the next 3 weeks on the NFL/NBA lockouts, Derek Jeter's chase to 3000, or a Home Run Derby breakdown, but you will get some quality Braves, Fantasy Sports, College Football, and other tidbits as the summer is in full force.

One note I came across yesterday that I thought was interesting and on topic as our 4th annual top Braves prospects list is released is the career of Jose Capellan. He was the consensus top Braves prospect in 2004-2005 after going 14-4 with a 2.34 ERA and a ton of strikeouts in A/AA/AAA. He was later dealt to Milwaukee for Dan Kolb and after Kolb's breakdown, it looked like the Brewers got a steal.

Since then, however, Jose hasn't nearly lived up to the hype. He was decent in AAA in 08, going 4-1 with a 4.05, but 09 produced a 2-10 record with a 7+ ERA and a ticket out of the minor leagues. He was last seen in 2010 playing for Hanwha of the Korean league, where he went 0-11 with a 9.15 ERA in 13 starts. Those numbers will end your career in a hurry.

On to our Braves prospects list...This list has produced 3 current everyday players for the team the last 3 years (Schafer, Heyward, Freeman) and the new #1 moves up from the 2 hole last year and looks to be everything Jose Capellan should have been.

This list includes Braves players that have not received a big league call up yet or just been up for a very limited time (why you won't see Mike Minor but will see Randall Delgado). Prospects from the 2011 draft are also considered.

2011 Braves Top Prospects

1. Julio Teheran - (#2 in '10) - Julio has dominated AAA this year, going 9-1 with a 1.74 ERA. He has impressed in 2 big league starts as well and is just about untouchable for other clubs. Will be up with the big club for good in a month or two and then in the rotation starting in 2012.

2. Randall Delgado (#5 in '10) - Serving as the ace of the Mississippi Braves staff, Delgado has had great success in AA this year. Outside of a bad outing in late May, he has been very consistent all season. He also got some experience on the big league club earlier this year, and has a ton of potential having just turned 21.

3. Aroyds Vizcaino (#4 in '10) - Vizcaino was recently moved up to the AA Mississippi team with Delgado, and has done so with impressive results. In his 7 AA starts, Aroyds has pitched 5+ innings with 5+ K's in each start, collecting a 4.12 era and 14 walks to 46 K's in 43 innings.

4. Edward Salcedo - (NR in '10) - Salcedo was a big-time signee from the Domincan Republic a few years ago, and has now figured out in 2011. After struggling in his 1st 77 minor league games in '10 (.225-3-27), the 19 year old 3rd baseman has taken off in Rome (.267-9-40). He is still a few years away, but after Chipper retires the Braves will only need a stop-gap for a year or 2 at 3rd until young Edward is ready.

5. Christian Bethancourt (#6 in '10) - The Braves top catching prospect was just promoted to Advanced A ball in Lynchburg after hitting (.303-4-33) in Rome this year. Christian won't be 20 for another 4 months and this youngster has all the looks of a future major league starter.

6. Carlos Perez - (NR in '10) - Another 19 year old in Rome, Carlos has had a pretty good season so far in Rome (4-7, 5.17). He has shown a great deal of potential and is thought of very highly by the Braves front office.

7. Tyler Pastornicky (NR in '10) - Pastornicky was acquired along with Alex Gonzalez in the Escobar/JoJo Reyes deal last summer. He is still a few years away, but helped bring needed athleticism to the organization. Tyler is in Mississippi now and has a (.298-6-36) line for the year with 19 SB's.

8. Matt Lipka (#10 in '10) - Matt is leading off and playing short in Rome, and while not hitting for power, he is been steady in the field and shown off his speed. He is currently (.233-0-23) with 16 SB's on the year.

9. Adam Milligan (#8 in '10) - Adam has rebounded really well after an injury-plagued 2010 season. Playing in Lynchburg, the left handed hitting outfielder has 32 XBHs in 60 games, including 11 HR's. His .286 average is solid, but he needs to up his walks and cut down on strikeouts.

10. Zeke Spruill (#9 in '10) - Zeke is 6-7 with a 3.19 ERA in 17 starts so far in Lynchburg. In his last 10 starts, Spruill has 2 CG's and 4 other starts going at least 7 innings. He has excellent command and projects as a solid starter in the big leagues.

Bret Oberholtzer and JJ Hoover are also solid prospects that the organization really likes and are having solid seasons. The strategy of bringing in some speed and athleticism to the organization last year has worked with Lipka and Todd Cunningham (All-Star) having strong seasons and bringing in Pastornicky has been a nice addition.

The Braves are viewed around the league as having one of the best farm systems around. A lot of fans want to use some of these prospects to acquire another bat, but the team is a little handcuffed financially with a maxed-out payroll. I think the recent emergence of Uggla, the play of Schafer, and return of Prado will keep Frank Wren from making any big moves.

However, this off-season, with Minor/Teheran ready for the rotation and Lowe/Hudson/Jurrjens/Hanson/Medlen/Beachy under team control or contract, things could get interesting. Throw in some needed payroll flexibility with the likely retirement of Chipper, and Atlanta may be a huge player in the Hot Stove come December...