Tuesday, January 24, 2023

My Unofficial 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot

 Yes, I have been enjoying my January. I've just been busy, haven't had much to write about and haven't picked up many cards. Today, however, we finally reach something I know I can write about. Hall of Fame Nominations.

We are one or two years away from some truly big guns hitting the Hall of Fame ballot. Next year Adrian Beltre is eligible. The year after Ichiro Suzuki and C.C. Sabathia are eligible. Eventually we're gonna get years where Buster Posey, Albert Pujols, Dustin Pedroia, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday hit the ballot. So we can excuse this era we're in now, where a lot of the sure things are guys that have been overlooked on previous ballots.

The biggest addition to the ballot this year is Carlos Beltran, and while he is, begrudgingly, a Hall of Famer, the last year of his career is clouded by cheating the likes of which has not been seen on a HOF ballot since...a month ago in the Veterans vote. So honestly, I'm still toying with whether or not he goes on my unofficial ballot. As usual, I'm playing by BBWAA rules, allowing myself up to 10 names, and being serious enough about what qualifies a Hall of Famer. My thinking is 'can the story of baseball be told fully without this player?'. And, as a follow-up, 'did this player cheat in any way, and how did it affect their career impact?'. 

Suffice to say, I've got some names. Whether they get in this year or not is another thing entirely, but i've got some names. Here, in alphabetical order, are those names on my unofficial ballot, and why I think they deserve at least a look.

Bobby Abreu:
I will continue to vouch for Bobby Abreu until everybody else does. It worked for Edgar Martinez, it ultimately worked for Fred McGriff. But Bobby Abreu did incredible things. At the plate he was good for power, contact, doubles, whatever. In the field he was dangerous and capable of great things. Also, he has 400 career steals, 1300 career RBIs and a .291 career average. Anybody who breaks into the 60 career WAR threshold gets my attention, and Abreu has the sort of hitting trajectory that voters are rewarding for older players. I don't think he gets the full support for another few years, but man I hope it eventually happens. Especially considering that, at this rate, the HOF inductions are going to be chock full of Phillies in the next few years. 
Team of Induction: Philadelphia Phillies
Odds of 2023 Induction: 25 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 15 to 1

Carlos Beltran:
Yeah, I'm not proud of it, but he deserves to be in. 400+ homers, 1500+ RBIs, 2500+ hits, close in several accounts to pure marks of greatness but the consistency and peak numbers speak for themselves. The Mets got his best numbers, with a 31.1 WAR, 149 homers and 559 RBIs. The Cardinals, in two years, got two straight ASG nods, MVP votes in 2012 and a force that made them compete for a World Series. The Royals, yes, got that Rookie of the Year, but also a stretch that gave them perennial street cred in a troubled era of the team. The Yankees even got that awesome 2016. As I said before, the cheating is a dealbreaker if it directly enhances a player's success, and makes them less of a HOF case without it. Carlos Beltran, though he knew about the sign-stealing, and was going to spread it to Queens, was not a better player in 2017 because of it. In fact, he arguably should have retired after 2016. So I think he has enough career accomplishments to get in. Maybe not this year, as his early numbers aren't looking great, but eventually. 
Team of Induction: Kansas City Royals
Odds of 2023 Induction: 6 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 2 to 1

Mark Buehrle:
This is one of my trademark stretches, but when was the last time you checked out Mark Buehrle's career stats? Do you have any idea how rare it is for a pitcher to make 30+ starts every year for 15 years? Especially in the current era where somebody will do that, blow out their arm and be injured for half the following year? Mark Buehrle was a measure of consistency that didn't exist anymore at this point. He came up when teams were expanding their rotations to 5, turning the average healthy starts from a 35 to more like 32. Buehrle feels like, along with Roy Halladay and, arguably, Justin Verlander, the last of the old-school consistent, durable workhorses. Buehrle has only 1870 career strikeouts, but this was when the strikeout didn't matter. He has 214 wins, won 10+ games every year of his career, and only finished with more losses than wins once, in 2006. Buehrle has 4 gold gloves, made 5 all-star teams, and is responsible for one of baseball's very few perfect games. And, like Abreu, Buehrle did cross that 60 WAR threshold, which means he's definitely got some numbers worthy of checking out. I don't think I'm gonna get many people on my side for Buehrle, he's probably more a 'Hall of Very Good' guy, but he was one of the best in the game for 15 years, without any real slowing down. Maybe eventually people will come around. 
Team of Induction: Chicago White Sox
Odds of 2023 Induction: 40 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 32 to 1

Todd Helton:
Though no one on the official HOF vote tracker is polling at about 79%, two nominees are leading the pack so far without being complete locks for induction, and it was slightly surprising to see Todd Helton as one of them. Not that it's completely shocking, as Helton's case has been climbing every year, and went above 50% last season. I always figured he'd get in eventually, and his numbers in the 2000s made him one of the premier corner infielders of his time, as well as one of the better power bats of his generation. I just...didn't think it'd actually look plausible this year. That Helton's best shot at an MVP ended up with a 5th place finish, despite leading the league in RBIs, WAR, doubles, average and hits, to frigging Jeff Kent...that's just unfair. Helton has 2500 hits and a career .316 average, as well as 369 homers and 1500+ RBIs. Solid numbers, and a chief piece of a Rockies team that was never completely out of the NL race for most of his career. Helton, now with beard, made a World Series in 2007 and traded blows with Ortiz and Ramirez. Helton would finish seasons with a .300+ average in an era [the late 2000s, early 2010s] where it barely mattered anymore. I think Todd Helton definitely deserves to be in Cooperstown, and if he doesn't get in this year he certainly will in 2024. 
Team of Induction: Colorado Rockies
Odds of 2023 Induction: 4 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Andruw Jones:
Yeah, it happened...the Andruw bandwagoners finally got to me. I'd been looking at his 2007-2012 stuff for so long that I'd completely lost sight of, like, his 1996-2006 stuff. It's the Alomar case all over again, just because there's a sharp career drop-off doesn't mean there isn't a full decade of dominance there. From 1997 to 2006, Andruw Jones was undeniably one of the best players in baseball. Nobody made plays in the outfield like him, nobody hit for power like him, and nobody made those 2000s Braves teams contenders like him. Between 1998 and 2006, Jones hit 319 home runs and 940 RBIs. He also won the gold glove every year from 1998 to 2007. And he had that insane 2005 with 51 homers and 128 RBIs that would have been an MVP year had it not been for Albert Pujols. Jones...did some incredible things, was dominant for an entire decade, and yes, does deserve to be in the HOF with some of the other Braves of his era. It won't happen this year, but the audience has finally arrived for him. 
Team of Induction: Atlanta Braves
Odds of 2023 Induction: 10 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 5 to 1

Francisco Rodriguez:
One of my other stretches. I've put Billy Wagner up the last few years but if it's him and K-Rod on the ballot, and there's probably not gonna be another great closer getting in for a WHILE...K-Rod's the guy. The man had 225 saves from 2005 til 2009, including his incredible 2008 season in LA where he broke the single-season saves record because he could. While I worried he'd fallen off in New York, he returned to form in the mid-2010s, with 126 saves between 2014 and 2016. The closers that are in the Hall were dominant their entire careers and completely stifled opponents in a number of ways, and I honestly think Rodriguez deserves to be in there with Sutter, Fingers, Eckersley and Rivera. He's a defining closer of his era, and one of the last closers for a while to really be seen as a full-career consistent closer. We'll have people like Kimbrel, Chapman and Jansen to talk about in a decade or so, but until then, Francisco Rodriguez might be the last closer I can see as a Hall of Famer. One thing is for certain, though: he's not getting in this year.
Team of Induction: Los Angeles Angels
Odds of 2023 Induction: 100 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 20 to 1

Scott Rolen:
If anybody is getting into the Hall of Fame this year, it will be Scott Rolen. Rolen has accumulated a HOF case over the past several seasons on the basis that the numbers he's had aren't worth waiting for 6 extra years. Scott Rolen has a 70 WAR, only A-Rod has higher on this ballot. Scott Rolen has 8 gold gloves, 7 ASG nominations and a season where he was 30 runs better than the average third baseman. Rolen's defense was insane in the 2000s, and made the Cardinals World Series competitors for most of the decade. His hitting was also on par, and his landmark 2004 season also included 34 homers, 124 RBIs and a .314 average. Scott Rolen was a hero for Philly and St. Louis, and then returned to be a hero for the Reds. Scott Rolen was one of the best defensive third baseman of his era, and since Nolan Arenado will be going in first ballot in 10 years, we might as well get Rolen in as soon as we can. 
Team of Induction: St. Louis Cardinals
Odds of 2023 Induction: 7 to 3
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Jimmy Rollins:
A lot of what I said for Abreu can be recycled here. J-Rol was a leadership figure for a team that captured the hearts of a nation, was a grade-a shortstop for 15 or so years, won an MVP in 2007 as his team nearly made a World Series, was perennially one of the biggest stars in the game during his heyday, and lasted long enough to mentor Tim Anderson and Corey Seager. I don't know if he'll get in, especially considering another Phillies infielder will be getting in this year, and another one still might get in next year. But man, I'm gonna keep putting him on this ballot until I no longer can. I just loved how he played.
Team of Induction: Philadelphia Phillies
Odds of 2023 Induction: 40 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 25 to 1

As I said, I have no idea if anyone's actually getting in this year. Nobody's pulling overwhelming early numbers, we could just have a year where they top vote-getters get 68% and that'll be that. My hope is that either Rolen or Helton, or both, get in, but I'm not sure if they will. Next year, with Beltre and Utley there, we'll definitely have inductees. I'd love to have some this year, I'd hate to think Fred McGriff's gotta go in alone, but...we'll see. I have a good feeling, but we'll see.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Yankees

 

As we are about to ring in a New Year, let's remember a Yankees season that was very much reminiscent of the last few. A huge rise, a steep midyear drop-off, some close playoff wins and an inevitable loss to Houston. Same Yanks, different year.

I'm not gonna lie and say there weren't any improvements to this Yankee team, because there certainly were. People like Nestor Cortes and Jose Trevino showed up and became surprise heroes, late additions like Harrison Bader and Matt Carpenter made for an exciting second half, and, well, Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs and gets to be a Yankee for the rest of his life. Even as the highs were higher than a lot of Yankee seasons of late, we still couldn't make a World Series, and it's getting to be that this team may not be able to leg it out for an entire postseason now that it's a month+ ordeal.

Aaron Hicks, this year, played his fullest season in a Yankee uniform since 2018. Though his defense has improved since the injury-plagued years, Hicks' plate numbers left a lot to be desired, as he hit .216 with 40 RBIs and 8 home runs. We've got him for another 3 or so years, and it's looking like he'll be starting the year in the outfield, so I hope he has something left.
2023 Prediction: He doesn't. Oswaldo, you're up, buddy.

2022 was Aroldis Chapman's final one in Yankee pinstripes, and in his absence, Clay Holmes, a 2021 pickup, got the ninth. The first half he was incredible, scoreless through May, and nabbing an All-Star nod. His July was almost enough to sink him, and he allowed 16 earned runs from July to September after allowing just two before then. Postseason Holmes was more akin to his earlier behavior, as he went scoreless in 5 appearances with 7 strikeouts, even if the ninth inning role had been given to another pitcher by this point. Still, Holmes ended the season with 20 saves and a leg up on the closing position going forward.
2023 Prediction: 30 saves. Not cleanly, but still. This is the post-Rivera era of Yankees pitching, not every closer is gonna be clean.

Inevitably, Domingo German had an opening this season to start again. I don't know if the Yankees have forgiven him in the way they forgave Chapman [initially], but he at least improved this year, with a 3.65 ERA and 58 Ks in 15 starts. Not perfect, but the exact kind of extra arm the Yanks had in mind.
2023 Prediction: Seeing as the Yankees will be going with a Cole-Rodon-Cortes-Montas-Severino rotation, and four of those guys have had health issues to this point, I expect 20 starts.

We signed Marwin Gonzalez to be a useful utility bat who can play just about anywhere, and that's exactly what he was for us. His fielding numbers were excellent, with his best fielding statistics since 2019 in Minneapolis. At the plate, while he did have 6 home runs and 18 RBIs, he still struggled to hit for average. 
2023 Prediction: Uses a Korean Leagues season as a ramp to eventually be a useful piece of a 2024 contender.

The Yanks had two relevant bullpen hidden gems for me this year. One of them was Ron Marinaccio, the rookie from Toms River, NJ who began the year in the Yankee bullpen. In 40 games he had a 2.05 ERA, 56 Ks and gained a fan-following. For a kid that grew up a Yankee fan, that's gotta be pretty cool.
2023 Prediction: Finishes in the top tier of the Yankee bullpen and lasts the whole season.

Additionally, Wandy Peralta continued his strong work since coming over from San Francisco. In 56 games he held a 2.72 ERA, only allowing 17 earned runs and coming away with 4 saves. Peralta was the team's primary closer during the postseason, and got 1 save during the Cleveland series, while striking out 8 and allowing 3 earned runs.
2023 Prediction: A down year, but the bullpen won't exactly suffer.

Of all things I expected going into this season, the Yankees signing Matt Carpenter and him being one of their biggest midyear successes was certainly not one of them. After his subpar years with St. Louis, and after a botched Spring Training gig with Texas, I figured he didn't have anything left. In just 47 games, Carpenter hit .305 with 15 home runs and 37 RBIs, finishing the season with a higher OPS than even Aaron Judge. Yes, an injury robbed him not only of a second half continuation but of any pop during the postseason, but that June was enough for us to appreciate him.
2023 Prediction: I don't think the Padres are gonna get much of what we just got.

Speaking of great performances stunted by an ill-timed injury, Andrew Benintendi was a high-profile trade for us, coming over from Kansas City. Though he took a while to get used to New York, he was just getting the hang of things, notching 5 RBI in the last weeks of August and keeping his season batting average above .300. Then, beginning of September he gets injured, Bader takes his place and becomes a postseason hero.
2023 Prediction: A worthy sequel to his 2021 KC numbers in Chicago.

And finally Frankie Montas, the one move I really wished the Yankees wouldn't have made. I figured Luis Castillo was a surer bet, but the Mariners got him and locked him up. Montas always came off as streaky and ineffective. After trading J.P. Sears and Ken Waldichuk to Oakland for him, Montas pitched 8 starts, and had a 6.35 ERA with 28 earned runs in the midst of injuries. 
2023 Prediction: I really hope there's some level of improvement. I really, really do. Cause if not, we just wasted another trade deadline. 

That's all I've got for 2022. I hope you've enjoyed the blog this year. Hopefully there'll be some level of content in the next few months before pitchers and catchers report.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: White Sox

 

The Chicago White Sox were supposed to dominate the AL Central this year. Instead they ended the season in 2nd place at exactly .500, losing to the one team that made the least strides to compete going into 2022.

On one hand, I want to think the evil has been vanquished after Tony LaRussa was sent packing. But on the other hand, Pedro Grifol is not the sure bet I figured the team would go for this season, nor is he the sure bet I figured Miguel Cairo would be. And, in addition, the White Sox lost a lot of ground this year, and will be heading into 2023 without Jose Abreu. Yes, they have a lot of great players left, and could still make a run at things, but they are no longer the proven success they were in 2020 and 2021.

One of the uncertain aspects of this team is Yasmani Grandal, who was signed to catch three years ago and has not been giving prime material. Grandal did have his best season to date in 2021, but it came in a shortened season. 2022 was also shortened for the veteran backstop, but here he hit a disastrous .202 with 27 RBIs and 5 homers in 99 games. He got so much done in 93 that it was upsetting to see him so listless. 
2023 Prediction: This will be Grandal's last year on the contract, so either he's a success and gives the team what they paid for, or he's a throw-in for a deadline contender.

Also fighting injuries this year was corner infielder Yoan Moncada, who led the team in strikeouts despite only playing 104 games this year. Moncada hit .212 with 51 RBIs and 12 homers, which aren't bad power numbers, but for a guy that's wrapped up for a few more years and was supposed to be one of the big pieces of this team, it's still disappointing. At least Rhys Hoskins quieted the detractors and had an incredible year this year. Moncada needs one of those.
2023 Prediction: An improvement, and more contact production for his age-28 season. Might be one of the heroes of this team.

Lucas Giolito has been one of the league models for consistency since 2018, only missing a game or so and providing the White Sox at least 160 innings per the full seasons. The only downside is that since umpires have started checking for tack, Giolito's ERA has mysteriously gone up a bit. This season, in 30 games he had a 4.90 ERA, lowered in the last month of the season, and gave up 88 earned runs while at least striking out 177. Even though Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech have taken Giolito's place as pure aces, it's gotta be upsetting watching Gio now and thinking about what he could have been.
2023 Prediction: Maybe he recovers a little, but I don't see his ERA going below 4.

A.J. Pollock was a late throw-in to a trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Los Angeles. Pollock's deal was beginning to grate on the Dodgers, so the Sox hung onto it. Due to injuries to Robert and Jimenez, Pollock ended up playing a lot of games in the outfield, and the 2nd-most games of any White Sock behind Jose Abreu. In that time, Pollock hit .245 with 56 RBIs and 14 homers. Far from his Phoenix days for sure.
2023 Prediction: Somebody takes a flyer on him, but I don't think he has much left.

With Grandal injured and McGuire terrible defensively, the White Sox turned to longtime minor league backstop Seby Zavala to start some games for the Sox, and he actually did pretty well, hitting .270 with 28 RBIs and and 48 hits in 61 games, in addition to some halfway decent defensive catching. Like Tomas Nido in New York, fans took to him relatively quickly.
2023 Prediction: Primarily backing up Grandal but could be starting again by the second half.

The White Sox brought up two infield prospects in 2021, and they were both firmly in the picture during the 2022 season. Gavin Sheets played 124 games this year, mostly in right field, and hit .241 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs. Pretty much on par with a lot of this team's other hitters.
2023 Prediction: I think this season means he's starting in the outfield next year? I think the plan is to DH Vaughny? But either way he'll hit 20 homers.

Meanwhile, Jake Burger, while subpar on the field, hit 8 homers and held a .250 average in 51 games. He was mostly a fill-in for Moncada, but Moncada is ultimately a bit more versatile. 
2023 Prediction: Surprise power boost from the bench, possibly doesn't make it to September?

The big surprise was netting Elvis Andrus in a waiver deal and turning him into a fitting backup for Tim Anderson. Andrus looked beaten down in Oakland, and upon joining the Sox he felt renewed, as he hit .271 with 9 homers, 28 RBIs and 11 steals in 43 games. Even if Andrus didn't get this team to October, he at least made sure they finished the season higher in the standings than the Twins.

Finally, tomorrow we look at the members of a Yankee team that did the same thing the Yankees always do.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Twins

 

The Twins have done the '1st place team falls apart and doesn't make the playoffs' thing as recently as 2017. The Twins have done the 'Byron Buxton gets injured and the team shutters without him' thing as recently as last year. And the Twins have done the 'finishes low in a tight race but still doesn't make the playoffs' thing as recently as 2018. 

The Minnesota Twins by the halfway point were playoff favorites, and by the end of the season they were in third behind the exactly .500 White Sox. What a fall. It's not that it was a bad year, as Luis Arraez had an incredible year, and so many young pieces came alive. But two of the team's top 4 performers, Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela, will not be on the team as they suit up in...underwhelmingly-designed new uniforms.

Nick Gordon, after years of bubbling up, finally got a full year to showcase his skills in Minneapolis, and the 26-year-old hit .272 with 110 hits, 50 RBIs and 9 homers. Gordon seems to be a bit more versatile than his older brother [who bowed out with Washington this year], and can be useful as a power hitter, a contact hitter, an outfield bat and a speedster. And, as another one-up on Dee, he's not on any illegal substances.
2023 Prediction: Another full year, some more great production, and perhaps a nice extension of some sort?

Trevor Larnach, like Buxton, was excellent when he was healthy but bowed out too soon to aid the team down the stretch. In 51 games, Larnach hit .231 with 37 hits, 18 RBIs and 5 homers. The goal is for him to be more useful over the course of a full year, but we've never seen such a year from him so far.
2023 Prediction:  Kepler hasn't gone yet, but I reckon he will at some point, after which Larnach will get a ton more reps and a ton more eyes on him. I think he'll notch 20 home runs at least.

Several Twins starters this year fell into the category of 'how the mighty have fallen'. Dylan Bundy was a strikeout artist in his prime, and was a phenom for LA as recently as 2020. However, he struggled mightily last year, and this year he tried his damndest to not rely on throwing hard as much as he had. Bundy started all 29 games, and had a 4.89 ERA, an 8-8 record and 94 strikeouts. An improvement over 2021, but a pretty boilerplate year overall.
2023 Prediction: Minor league deal, maybe a few MLB starts, but the big stuff might be over for this guy.

Similarly, Chris Archer was an absolute stud for the Rays before he lost his footing and never picked it up again. He'd done well in Tampa last year with more control, but his hard stuff is sorely missed. This year with the Twins, Archer, had a 4.56 ERA, 8 losses and 84 Ks in 25 starts. Yes, fuller season than usual, but like with Bundy, the edge is gone.
2023 Prediction: I hate to say it, but I don't think anyone comes calling. Maybe he tries the international leagues.

Bailey Ober starts were fleeting this year due to both call-ups and injury, but he made the most of them, with a 3.21 ERA and 51 Ks spread across 11 starts. Ober is young, reliable, and coming into his own, and if the Twins' rotation wasn't so crowded in 2022, he could have proved it.
2023 Prediction: Thankfully the rotation will be a lot sparser next year, so he'll get 28 starts and be a top arm for this team.

The injuries got so bad at one point that the Twins called upon Voorhees, NJ product Devin Smeltzer, who they'd flirted with giving some starts to in 2019, for some integral starts. Smeltzer outdid expectations, with a 5-2 record, a 3.71 ERA and 40 Ks over 70 innings. Once some more arms got activated and dealt for, Smeltzer's role diminished, and after the year he was cut to make room for...somebody.
2023 Prediction: I really, really hope someone picks him up. You always want local kids to succeed, and he's pretty sharp.

Royce Lewis was the Twins first overall pick in 2017, and it's taken him this long, thanks to injuries and such, to make it to the majors. Ironically, his first ever MLB season was halted in its tracks by another injury, but until then he was actually doing pretty well for the Twins, hitting .300 with 5 RBIs and 2 homers in 12 games. 
2023 Prediction: Correa and Urshela are both gone, Farmer will get one infield position...maybe Lewis tries at another one, and plays more than 12 games this year.

As for the trade deadline deals, the Twins got saddled with some bad luck. Tyler Mahle was a great piece for them, as he'd been stellar in Cincinnati. Mahle only got 4 Twins starts, with a 4.41 ERA and a 1-1 record, before he was injured for the majority of the season. Meanwhile, Spencer Steer, who he was traded for, got some playing time in Cincinnati. 
2023 Prediction: My thinking is he stays healthy and pitches well enough for his own good, but not enough to make much of a difference.

Then, after a phenomenal year in the bullpen for the Orioles, Jorge Lopez landed in Minneapolis with the closing job basically his. The only thing that could stop Lopez was a third party getting in the way, and that's ultimately what Jhoan Duran did, though Lopez' 4.37 ERA and 2 blown saves didn't help either. Lopez filled in as a decent middleman, but was nowhere as dominant as he was in Baltimore.
2023 Prediction: An improvement, but I don't think he'll be used in the ninth as much as he was.

Tomorrow, more about that 81-81 White Sox team.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Tigers

 

The Detroit Tigers went into 2022 with some very additions, including free agent signings, such as Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez, trade acquisitions, such as Tucker Barnhart and Austin Meadows, and up-and-coming prospects, such as Spencer Torkelson and, eventually, Riley Greene.

These new elements combined were responsible for 3.5 WAR. Six Cleveland Guardians have individual WARs greater or equal to that. And that's not even mentioning that Torkelson's -1.3 WAR had to be factored into it. 

The Tigers gambled big, and while Baez and Greene had nice seasons, they both paled in comparison to expectations, and the Tigers once again had to rely on tons of replacement players and reinforcements. While, somehow, the Tigers did not finish the season in last place, they only finished 1 win above the Royals, and 96 losses still isn't a lot to smile about.

Austin Meadows, to his credit, was actually doing fairly well through 36 games, as he hit .250 with 11 RBIs and, mostly shockingly for a 30-homer man, no round-trippers. The edge for Meadows was surprisingly his defensive work, which was never particularly on display in Tampa. However, in mid-May he went on the IL and would be out for the remainder of the season. The outfield and the lineup would never recover.
2023 Prediction: I think he goes back to power hitting, and makes a name for himself by the time the deadline deals start happening.

I had thought that Tucker Barnhart going to Detroit was a great deal for all involved parties, as it allowed the Tigers to get a true gold-glover behind the plate to relieve Greiner and Haase, and it allowed the Reds to start Tyler Stephenson. Unfortunately, Barnhart's year in Detroit was a down one at the plate, as he hit .221 with 16 RBIs in 94 games. As it has in the last year, his defense is also still slipping. Eric Haase, yet again, had to step in and be the more valuable catcher.
2023 Prediction: Will be the completely inoffensive, efficient catcher Chicago needs. I think he'll start more than Yan Gomes.

The other free agent signing that sparked attention was Andrew Chafin, whose 2020-2021 run between Arizona, Oakland and Chicago was nothing short of brilliant. His 2022, not only slightly-injury-shortened, was waterlogged by the mediocrity of the Tigers themselves. In 63 games, Chafin held a 2.83 ERA with 67 strikeouts and only a 0.3 WAR. 
2023 Prediction: Not to be crass, but...maybe Chicago brings him back? They could use a guy like him.

In the absence of reliable star players, it was once again up to people named Castro to be thrust into starting positions. This year, Willi had the slightly better year than Harold, with 31 RBIs and 8 homers, in addition to a team-high 9 steals, tied with Baez and Akil Baddoo. He's still a nice defender, a great utility guy, and...someone who really shouldn't be starting as often as he is. 
2023 Prediction: The Tigers plan on using Meadows, Baddoo, and Riley Greene in the outfield picture. That should, in theory, be enough to ensure that Castro isn't heavily utilized next season. This, however, is a Tigers team. So he'll be starting by July.

Speaking of outfielders, Akil Baddoo, after a strong start to the season in 2021, was primed for a great year this year. In 73 games, Baddoo hit .204 with 9 RBIs. On one hand, he is 23 years old and is finding his way around the majors. Still, a lot of Castro's second half work was spent making up for Baddoo's drop-off. Hopefully he can get his mojo back, but the Tigers are prepared for either outcome.
2023 Prediction: He figures it out and is the Tigers' star in the second half. 

With the trio of Manning, Mize and Skubal all being injured at some point, in addition to zero innings from Spencer Turnbull and Rodriguez going AWOL for a month or so, there were a lot of openings in the Tigers' rotation this year, and a lot of rookies were given the ball at different points. Beau Brieske was an earlier call-up, in 15 games he had a 4.19 ERA with 54 Ks. Ultimately, though, Briske ended up injured for a period as well, perhaps wanting to fit in.
2023 Prediction: In an ideal scenario where nobody's hurt, the Tigers rotation includes Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Eduardo Rodriguez and Spencer Turnbull. If they're all good and ready, they won't need Brieske, but I do think he will get at least 17 starts next year, because...I mean, if this season is any indication, it won't all go right.

Then as more starters dropped, Joey Wentz entered the picture. Wentz had a 3.03 ERA in 7 starts, striking out 27 in 32 innings. Those are great starter numbers, but they happened because the Tigers' first 9 or so choices were hurt. 
2023 Prediction: Dare I say this guy gets dealt or handed off at some point? I don't know if they have room for him AND Brieske, and I feel like they'll give Brieske a chance first.

And then there's the big rookie prospect Kerry Carpenter, who popped by in August and September and hit .252 with 6 homers and 10 RBIs in 31 games. Those 6 homers made 2022 a 36-homer year for Carpenter, who hit the other 30 between 2 different minor league teams. The Tigers need a guy who can hit for power when he's supposed to, as he'll add to a whole bunch of power hitters that will hopefully be on next year.
2023 Prediction: Third or fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Tomorrow, some remnants of a Twins team that nearly made the playoffs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Royals

 

The way I would sum up the Royals' 2022 season would be with rookies. Similar to the Royals' 2011 season, the loss of some big team heroes paved the way for a lot of young people roaming around and finding themselves. A bit ironic as Hosmer, Moustakas, Escobar and Cain are all swimming in free agency, but the baseball clock keeps ticking, and now a host of new people are thriving in Kansas City. Yes, a lot of the veterans let the team down, as Perez and Mondesi were injured for swaths of the year, Merrifield left in a trade, and some of the returning veterans were meh at best. But you can see the new era of Royals baseball on the horizon, thanks to people like Bobby Witt, Vinnie Pasquantino and Brady Singer. 

Hunter Dozier was one of the aforementioned remaining veterans still here. Dozier was third in game appearances and second in strikeouts. Dozier hit .236 with 41 RBIs and 12 home runs, which, while not bad, pales in comparison to his prime. The Royals have a few more years of Dozier, so he'd better get to some prime years eventually.
2023 Prediction: Maybe he has a surprise amazing first half and the Royals try to trade him.

Nicky Lopez, of all people, was second in game appearances for the Royals. Team of Salvador Perez, Michael Taylor, Andrew Benintendi, Adalberto Mondesi...yeah, Nicky Lopez was in more 2022 games than all of them. And yet I really can't name many things Lopez DID this year for the Royals. Guy hit .227 with 99 hits, took a step backwards in the field. I wish I had more to say about him.
2023 Prediction: On one hand, I want him to have a better season, on the other he might be trade bait in the next year or so.

Kris Bubic had a very formative second half in 2021, which is why it was so upsetting that his first half was so miserable this year. Bubic went 3-13 with a 5.58 ERA, giving up 80 earned runs in 28 starts, which is more than people who started more than him. He is 24 and still coming into his own, but this was a step backwards for the Royals prospect.
2023 Prediction: The Royals might have room for him in the rotation, but if he doesn't have a nice spring he'll have to work out of the bullpen next year, which I think is likely.

Now onto the rookies. Jonathan Heasley appeared briefly last year, but took several starts towards the middle bit of 2022, and did alright for himself. Later starts ballooned his ERA, and he ended up with a 4-10 record and a 5.28 ERA. 
2023 Prediction: I'm not sure if he's a high priority for this team. If anyone's gonna get cut or dealt, it might be him, but not if he has some key starts at some point next year.

In the absence of Salvador Perez, the Royals started rookie catcher M.J. Melendez, a catching prospect so promising that the team even dealt catching options like Nick Heath and Cam Gallagher. Melendez is a truly terrific power hitter, and managed 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. Unfortunately, Melendez hit .217 and struck out 131 times, seconded only to Bobby Witt. Even worse for the Royals, Melendez is a truly atrocious catcher, and is better as an offensive substitution than a defensive sub.
2023 Prediction: The goal for Melendez would be hopefully to get reps at DH, maybe if Pasquantino gets reps at 1st. But if Perez gets injured again, the man may need to catch. Hopefully he does better.

One of the big prospects the Royals have had to foster, besides Bobby Witt and...several people in this post, is Nick Pratto. Pratto was a 2017 1st rounder who had a monster year in the minors last year. It just seemed like he was having a lesser year in 2022 overall, as even before the promotion to the majors he was only hitting .228 in Omaha. In 49 games with the Royals, all coming after the pivotal Jays series where half the active roster was unvaccinated, Pratto hit .184 with 20 RBIs and 7 homers. He's still struggling to adjust, and may just need a fuller year.
2023 Prediction: With Pasquantino back, and Dozier still in the fold, the outfield corners are gonna be crowded, and I think Pratto won't make the team initially, but will work his way back up and have a HUGE second half for the Royals.

Another Toronto call-up was Nate Eaton, who was drafted low in the 2018 draft but still made it up by performing above the standard. Eaton may be one of the most pivotal second-half Royals rookies because he took to the majors the most confidently, hitting .264 with 12 RBIs and 11 steals in 44 games. 
2023 Prediction: Eaton honestly has a decent shot at being the starting 3rd baseman next year. Dozier might have a utility role, and he'll be competing against Lopez and...he might honestly have the edge.

Meanwhile, in the middle infield, Michael Massey kept his name in the ring throughout the second half and might be a cool infield piece going forward. In 52 games, Massey hit .243 with 17 RBIs, and he had decent numbers at 2nd.
2023 Prediction: Might have a utility role mostly next year, but I see him eventually getting big-game starts.

And finally we have Drew Waters, a former Braves farmhand who was dealt midyear for...some unknown reason. I assumed he was the PTBNL in the Soler deal, I don't think that's it, something happened, who knows, bottom line Waters was great for the Royals, hitting .240 with 5 homers and 18 RBIs. 
2023 Prediction: I don't know if Waters makes the opening day roster, but I think he'll be a staple of the team by August.

Tomorrow, a few reasons why the big Tigers team everyone was excited about flopped.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Rockies

 

The Colorado Rockies being the surprise winner in the Kris Bryant race and then only getting 42 games out of him...figures.

The Rockies have been losing more and more of what made them fun in the past, as Jon Gray, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story have all left. Two people in this post have already left also. The Rox, at the same time, have been trying to build a somewhat impressive team, and have Brendan Rodgers, Ryan McMahon and C.J. Cron at the ready for the near future. They are...trying to be good, but are in the wrong division to truly compete, as the Dodgers, Padres, Giants and D-Backs are also building themselves up next year. So the Rockies may just have some more years like 2022, where...they were alright, but ultimately finished in last. 

On one hand, the Rockies got decent years out of Kyle Freeland, Chad Kuhl and German Marquez. On the other hand, they got a disappointing year out of Antonio Senzatela. Senza went 3-7 with a 5.07 ERA and a 1.690 WHIP. He's still a decent innings eater, but they only got 19 games out of him this year.
2023 Prediction: It will be his age-28 season, so I'm guessing he has the ASG-worthy season he should have been rewarded for in 2020.

Connor Joe is just a fun player. Toils around the minors for a few years, gets his chance with Colorado and becomes a fan favorite. He got a full year as a lineup piece this year, and in 111 games he hit .237 with 96 hits and 28 RBIs. Not as productive as last year, but still fun in a pinch.
2023 Prediction: Joe will be among many people vying for a DH/bat position in Pittsburgh. I think he gets some time in the OF and does relatively well, but maybe not as well as in Denver.

Elias Diaz has been signed until 2024 to catch for the Rockies. Diaz is...a serviceable catcher. His defensive numbers went a bit downhill this year, and he only hit .228 this year. But with Dom Nunez out of the picture and Brian Serven looking like a backup, Diaz just seems like he's gonna be the guy, good or no, going forward.
2023 Prediction: I'm gonna get to next December and have to do a custom of this guy and that'll have been the first time I've heard anything about him since now.

And while he'd been a big piece for the Rockies in years past, Garrett Hampson began to fall out of favor with the team this year. After a career year in 2021, Hampson only hit .211 with 42 hits in 90 games. With Alan Trejo and Elehuris Montero in the picture now doing amusing utility things, it doesn't shock me that the Rockies let him go.
2023 Prediction: I'd say that Hampson will have to compete with Jon Berti and Joey Wendle in similar middle infield roles, but I think the Marlins are trying to trade Wendle, so maybe he'll be useful.

Coming Tomorrow- I have a surprising amount of Royals actually.