Tag: 2010 MLB Spring Training

2011 NL West Pre-Season Preview: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres (2010 record: 90-72)

Notable additions: SS Jason Bartlett, 1B Jorge Cantu, RHP Aaron Harang, 1B Brad Hawpe, 2B Orlando Hudson, CF Cameron Maybin, SP Dustin Moseley, C Gregg Zaun

Notable subtractions: 2B David Eckstein, RHP Jon Garland, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, CF Tony Gwynn Jr., SS Miguel Tejada, C Yorvit Torrealba, RHP Chris Young

IMO, there is very little chance the Padres repeat their surprising performance of 2010. The club lost three-quarters of its starting infield, its center fielder, one of its catchers, and one of its best starting pitchers. In each instance, the replacement player was a significant downgrade, except at second base (Hudson in place of Eckstein). It is pretty safe to say that the club has thrown itself headlong into re-building mode.

The offense:

C: Nick Hundley
INF: Brad Hawpe (1B), Orlando Hudson (2B), Jason Bartlett (SS) and Chase Headley (3B)
OF: Ryan Ludwick (LF), Cameron Maybin (CF) and Wil Venable (RF)

Gonzalez had another outstanding season, yet at the end of the year it became obvious the organization would not be able to sign him. So he was shipped to Boston in exchange for three of the Red Sox’s top six prospects (including No. 1 prospect Casey Kelly). But he wasn’t the only player to find a new home, as three-quarters of the infield was turned over.

The impact of the loss of 1B Adrian Gonzalez is incalculable, especially when you consider he has been replaced by Hawpe (.245, 9 HR, 44 RBI). The additions of Hudson and Bartlett in the middle infield will do little (or nothing) to help offset A-Gon’s loss, as both are getting long in the tooth. Hudson’s skills are clearly diminishing with age.

As for Bartlett, his numbers with Tampa last year were pretty dismal by his standards, although his sub-standard performance can be explained (in part) by his 30 percent hit-rate. Headley was supposed to provide power and production when he arrived in San Diego, but Petco Park seems to have sapped some of the pop in his bat (though his splits illustrate he struggles on the road, too, and that he is not getting the ball in the air often enough to take advantage of his power).

In the outfield, Ludwick’s production back in 2008 has proven to be an outlier. His productivity diminished in each of the last two seasons and, at 32 years of age, it is clear his better days are in the rear view window.

Maybin has shown tremendous potential in the minor leagues, but his contact rate and on-base skills in the big leagues have prevented him from taking full advantage of his elite speed. As for Venable, he should be considerably better in 2011. Last year he had a dismal contact rate (67 percent, well below his career mark). Looking ahead it seems likely it will return to the low-to-mid-70s, raising his average considerably. If he is able to get on base more consistently, his speed could allow him to develop into a 40-to-50 steals guy.

The pitching staff:

The pitching staff will likely take a considerable step backwards in 2011. The exchange of innings-eater Garland for the increasingly injured (and ineffective) Harang will have a significant adverse impact on the club in 2011. It is a trade-off that will result in (at least) a half-dozen fewer wins in 2011.

Mat Latos showed tremendous growth last year, especially in terms of his DOM and ground ball rate, but his increased workload suggest a regression, or injury risk, is in the offing for 2011.

LHP Clayton Richard had a great first half last season, but struggled throughout the second half. It remains to be seen whether he is the solid pitcher the Padres saw in the first half or the guy who posted a 4.78 ERA in the second half.

The fifth spot in the rotation will likely go to former first-round pick Tim Stauffer, a ground ball pitcher who has demonstrated the ability to strike out enough hitters to be effective in the major leagues.

The bullpen has a bevy of solid arms. Heath Bell is among the best closers in all of baseball. Luke Gregerson (89 K in 78 IP), Mike Adams (73 K in 66 IP), Joe Thatcher (45 K in 35 IP) and Ernesto Frieri (41 K in 31 IP) provide manager Bud Black a bevy of strong-armed options out of the bullpen to bridge the gap between the starting rotation and Bell.

Prediction for 2011: fourth place, 77-85

It’s likely the team will have offensive deficiencies it will not be able to overcome. The team ranked 12th (of 16) in the NL in runs scored last year and then lost its most productive hitter. Only two of the team’s returning regulars had as many as 50 RBI.

The pitching will have to be good for the team to perform any better than this projection, but it seems unlikely the staff can come close to accomplishing what it did last season. The data suggests the team should be wary of counting too heavily on Latos; they have increased his innings pitched by 60-plus in each of the last two seasons. For pitchers under 25 years of age that type of increase has the potential to be disastrous. If he should struggle or suffer an injury, 70 wins becomes more likely than 80 wins.


Top Five Prospects:

1. Casey Kelly, RHP
2. Simon Castro, RHP
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Donavan Tate, OF
5. Cory Luebke, LHP

Casey Kelly was selected by the Red Sox with the 30th overall pick in the 2008 draft. The Sox lured him away from a Tennessee football scholarship with a three million dollar signing bonus. He had stated a preference to play the infield (shortstop) rather than pitch, so the Red Sox agreed to give him ONE year in the field before asking him to make a final decision.

In 2009, the organization allowed Kelly to spend the first half of the season pitching, with the concession he could play shortstop in the second half. While he showed impressive defensive ability at short, his superb performance as a starting pitcher warranted a permanent position change.

He was selected to pitch in the MLB Futures Game and was later named the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The choice was made—he would pitch.

He is a well-rounded pitcher who has three “plus” pitches, all of which he throws for strikes. He has a low-90s fastball that scouts score as a “65″ on the “20–80″ scale. His off-speed pitches make him a top-tier prospect. He has quick action arm and a consistent delivery that makes his changeup difficult to recognize. It is his out pitch… he uses it to rack up groundouts. Kelly also has an 11-to-5 curveball that has “swing and miss” potential.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Washington Nationals Spring Training Report: A Day of Bryce Harper

What a difference one week makes. Last week at this time, I knew everyone by name walking around the Nationals Spring Training complex in Viera, Florida. Today, I hardly knew anyone. The Washington Nationals’ first official day of full roster workouts were met with hoards of media and many fans.

The National media, the local DC media and everything else in between were there for basically one reason: to see the spring training debut of the 18-year-old baseball phenom known as Bryce Harper.

Harper made an appearance yesterday and was mobbed by autograph seekers. Nats manager Jim Riggleman admitted to me today that allowing Bryce into the mob was one of his biggest spring training gaffes in recent memory. “That will not happen again,” Riggleman said, and it did not today.

It was amazing to see all of the kids out at camp today, considering yesterday was the school holiday. I spoke with a young 10-year-old boy that told me he was there just to see Bryce Harper.

He also pointed out that he was only eight years younger than Bryce. Feeling even older than I am seeing the young superstar, I thanked the kid for his time and scooted him along his way, calling him a stinking something or another under my breath.

Today, for me, was also about Bryce Harper. A kid whose baseball hero was a guy that passed away when Bryce was three years old fascinates me. A guy he never got to see play, hell, his father, Ron Harper, never got see him play.

I am fascinated by any guy that signs his autograph with a Bible verse attached.

Bryce’s Bible verse is Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” It is strange to think that if Bryce’s hero had been as grounded an 18-year-old kid as Bryce is, he may still be with us today.

Mickey Mantle passed away on August 13, 1995 from liver failure brought on by years of alcohol abuse. The irony is that almost 15 years to the date of Mantle’s death, Harper was introduced at a press conference and handed a jersey and hat by Ryan Zimmerman as this year’s newest Nationals young superstar phenom.

He mentioned Mantle in his first press conference and there may be a lot of similarities when it is all said and done. Mantle was just 19 years old when he made his Yankee debut. Mantle, like Harper, was a highly touted prospect and in fact, many were saying that Mickey was the next Joe DiMaggio.

That’s a lot of pressure for any kid at any age, especially in New York City. We will see what happens in the next 20 years, but for now, there are some comparisons to be made.

Harper already seems to fit in, he belongs and he will earn his way into this lineup before the end of this year. You just know greatness when you see “it” and this kid has “IT.” It is Bryce’s goal to hear, “Now batting for the Nationals, No. 34, Outfielder Bryce Harper,” before the end of the year.

If I am learning anything about this kid from talking to his dad and others around him, it’s when Bryce sets goals, he does accomplish them.

“It’s hard to believe that this is just the beginning, considering everything he has done and how hard he has worked, and still works, to get to this point,” Ron Harper, Bryce’s dad, told me. “Bryce is a focused, grounded kid that welcomes any and all challenges head on.”

“He expects nothing less than to be a good teammate first and a great player second,” Mr. Harper continued. When I asked him how he felt about the whole process and what he must be feeling today for Bryce, he answered “Like any other parent would, nervous, anxious and wanting nothing more than for my son to succeed. I am confident in his abilities in baseball as well as life.” Sounds like Bryce had some pretty good life coaching on top of his baseball training.  

Mr. Harper spent most of the day in a tower overlooking the four practice fields, watching Bryce in his first official day of spring workouts. It is too early to tell how quickly Bryce may make the show, but one thing is for sure.

If getting to the “BIGS” were strictly based on being grounded, well rounded and humble enough to be a God fearing 18-year-old making sure to give thanks when possible, then Bryce would be in the opening day lineup next month.

In other spring training news today, the Nationals completed about a three hour session of your basic baseball drill. Pitchers threw live batting practice on fields two and three. The infielders turned double plays and fielded bunts on field one, and an assortment of drills and conditioning took place on field four.

Each player took a turn, rotating fields, making sure they participated in every drill. Nats manager Jim Riggleman seems to be running a nice, focused and smooth camp. He has an array of veteran coaching help. Former Mets and Orioles manager, Davey Johnson, is a spring instructor, as is former manager Pat Corrales. Riggleman has some youth mixed in as well, like Coach Tony Tarassco.

All of the big guns were there taking their swings in the cage. Jayson Werth and his 126 million dollars worth of hair looked ready, as well as the clean-cut Adam LaRoche. Many of the players on all four fields could be overheard discussing the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Knicks.

However, there was one conversation I could not walk away from, a coaching session that just drew me in. On field three, third base coach Bo Porter was covering the signs he would be signaling this year while the players stood in the batter’s box.

Porter’s audience of about 20 players included future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Porter told them that understanding signs was both a verbal and non-verbal communication skill. One that, if they are going to succeed this year, was needed.

He explained the ramifications of missed signs and why it is so very important to pay attention, “If coach has a play on and you miss the sign, then you probably have also cost your team a chance of winning the game. Coach doesn’t put a call on if it is not a crucial time of the game,” Porter reminded them.

He got down on the ground, pushing both arms in an up and down motion, yelling “get down, get down,” to demonstrate how the on deck batter is responsible for the third base runner on a play at the plate. He also said something that a few individuals have probably heard in their careers, but never in a Nats uniform.

A line of thinking that has been missing in DC since the arrival of the Nationals.

He explained in almost an evangelical tone that everyone, regardless of how many years in the league, must be on board with the program. He told them that they need to understand that when he puts his right hand to his right ear, then a sign is coming and it is time to pay attention and listen, they had better be prepared.

He then said, “It is important to learn this now, gentlemen, because when we are playing baseball in late October and there are 55,000 screaming fans, you will know that one of reasons we are there is because you understood the commitment of learning verbal and non verbal communication. It all matters, men.”

While it is just day one of full roster workouts in Viera, Florida, it is never a bad omen to remind the players that they have a chance to play deep into the fall. In my mind, it is the only way to start the spring.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Countdown to Spring Training: 10 Non-Roster Invitees Who Could Earn a Contract

With the Philadelphia Phillies’ heist of former Cy Young-winner Cliff Lee from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers stealing the spotlight in MLB, the countdown to Spring Training 2011 is being lost in the fray.

Big-name acquisitions in free agency, like Adrian Gonzalez heading to the Boston Red Sox, will always garner the most attention, but we can’t forget about those less-heralded players that will ultimately make the difference in who wins the World Series.

That being said, here’s a list of 10 non-roster invitees to Spring Training who could earn a spot in the majors.

And no, Kenny Powers doesn’t count.

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Countdown To Spring Training: 10 Non-Roster Invitees Who Could Earn a Contract

This is about the time of year when baseball fans start getting antsy every season. 

It’s about midway between the World Series and the beginning of spring training, but this off-season has given us plenty to talk about. 

Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Cliff Lee’s $100 million contracts have kept us busy.

But now it’s time to start thinking about spring training, and one of the more interesting elements of spring training is non-roster invitees.

Spring training is pretty much a try out for these guys, and it’s rare to see anyone try harder than them. 

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