The tour around baseball to check in with every team and every minor league system is now 66% done with and only the East divisions remain. Until very recently, no team in the AL or NL East had a losing record and even now its the Red Sox and Phillies that find themselves in the cellar.
It's June 13th and the Red Sox are 5.5 games worse than the Orioles. The Phillies are 9.5 games back of the Nationals!
It's been a very weird year in the AL East but the Yankees currently sit one game ahead of the O's and Rays. Nobody can be certain how long Baltimore will really stick around for but they've got at least one fantasy MVP this season that's going to do his best to "Andrew McCutchen" the O's for as long as he can to keep pace with the rest of the division. And I still haven't talked about the Blue Jays yet, a team that might be good enough to win any division besides the AL East... maybe.
For recaps on my "really outdated" reports on the other divisions, you can click on AL West, AL Central, NL West, NL Central, respectively. But please do it with respect. Respect to the fact that baseball news is outdated each and every day practically! But for today, we update you on all those teams out East and find out what the heck is making them all so good. With the exception of....
Boston Red Sox (30-32)
Breakout: Mike Aviles
Pop quiz hot shot: Which Red Sox have the three highest total value contracts on the team? If you guess Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Josh Beckett you are.... wrong, wrong, wrong.
Of course you probably guess right. Adrian Gonzalez ($154 million), Carl Crawford ($142) and John Lackey ($82.5) are the top three dogs but overall this team is paying big salary bucks to a bunch of players that aren't performing. Gonzalez has an OPS of .723 for an OPS+ of .94. Pedroia has an OPS+ of 100. Kevin Youkilis has an OPS+ of 77. Jacoby Ellsbury has played in seven games and Crawford has played in zero. This is only part of the formula of how a $173 million payroll winds up in last place. The other part of that is of course that the Red Sox don't have a single starter with an ERA below 4.00.
Bad pitching, bad defense, bad hitting but at least you know that $173 million can buy you an almost .500 record despite looking like a team on paper that should be fighting with the Padres for worst record in the bigs.
Mike Aviles is not exactly an exception. He is hitting .259/.279/.417 but he's done enough to warrant the breakout tag on THIS team. More on why that is and everything else in the AL East after the jump...
I pegged Aviles as the breakout player for this team pre-season (blows on fingernails, shines them on shirt) despite the fact that he's not young and he's not especially great. However, you can rack up things like RBI and runs for Boston. And that's what he's doing.
A shortstop that has 37 RBI, 8 HR, 7 SB, and 32 R is quite valuable to a fantasy owner despite a .696 OPS and 35 strikeouts against only 8 walks. It depends on the scoring in your league but in most standard formats, that's good production from a SS.
In addition to that, Jarrod Saltalamacchia looks more like the player that the Rangers thought they were getting when they traded for him so many years ago, except that he's doing it for the Red Sox now: .259/.302/.538, 11 HR.
Disappointment: WHERE DO I START?
I almost feel like a disgruntled Red Sox fan when I write this despite the fact that I do not want the Red Sox to win. A few years ago everyone made a big deal about the Mariners when they lost 100 games with a $100 million payroll. Well, what if the Red Sox can't finish above .500 with a $173 million payroll? That's much worse, right?
Gonzalez: .260/.313/.411, 5 HR, 33 RBI. He recently went over 100 plate appearances without drawing a walk, the longest streak in baseball this year.
Pedroia: .273/.332/.411 with 5 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB. Last season he stole 26 bases. In his career, he has always had more walks than strikeouts except for in 2008 (52 K/50 B) and 2010 (38 K/37 BB) but this season has struck out 34 times and walked 20.
Youkilis: .219/.303/.352 with 4 HR, 13 RBI. Youk showed more signs of decline last year and he hasn't played in more than 120 games since 2009. He has never played in 150 games. This season he's only played in 37 games and he's 4-for-32 in June with 9 strikeouts.
Jacoby: Perhaps the best player in fantasy, he has not returned from his shoulder injury which has to be disappointing for fantasy owners.
Crawford: I have read that his throwing program "is in slow motion." Not a good sign either.
Jon Lester: I mentioned him yesterday in my "14 Day All Stars" but that doesn't change the fact that K's are down to 6.92 per nine innings, after he posted better than 9 K/9 over the last three seasons.
Josh Beckett: Strikeouts are down to 6.43 after posting over 8 per nine in each of the last five seasons. If your league counts losses, Beckett already has seven of them.
Clay Buchholz: You don't think that W-L is a bad stat? Buchholz is 7-2. He strikeouts fewer batters than Lester/Beckett and walks significantly more. He's the only starter in the rotation that's better than Daniel Bard.
Bard: 5-6 (ALSO MORE WINS THAN LESTER/BECKETT) posted more walks than strikeouts and he didn't strike out very many batters.
Will Middlebrooks was legit in replacement of Kevin Youkilis, hitting .300/.339/.508 with 6 HR, 22 RBI in 23 games. Youk has a $1 million buyout or $13 million option after the season. Will the Red Sox pick it up?
Former prospect Lars Anderson was 1-for-8 with three strikeouts.
Felix Doubrant has made 12 starts, 66.1 innings, 72 K/27 BB, 4.34 ERA. He got rocked by Washington in his last start but has posted good strikeout numbers.
Anderson is hitting .271/.399/.492 at AAA. He is only 24.
Middlebrooks is hitting .333/.380/.677 with 9 HR at AAA. BA tabbed him as the best prospect in the system.
A lot of Sox fans are waiting and hoping that Ryan Kalish can return from missing almost all of 2011 and join the big league club. He's hitting .367/.475/.673 in 13 games spread between three levels. In seven AAA games he's hitting .429/.529/.821.
C Ryan Lavarnway hit 32 HR last season. He is hitting .284/.374/.421 with 5 HR in 49 AAA games.
Super Glove SS Jose Iglesias is hitting .269/.317/.317 with 3 doubles, 1 HR, 1 3B, 8 SB in 42 AAA games.
31-year-old Mark Prior has been promoted to AAA from extended spring training. He has made four appearances from the bullpen, 5.2 innings, 3 hits, 13 strikeouts, 4 walks, 1 HBP, 1 wild pitch.
Andrew Miller pitched 11 innings for Pawtucket and struck out 23 batters but walked 14.
Junichi Tazawa has 29 innings in AAA, 38 K, 11 BB, 3.10 ERA in the bullpen.
Moving onto AA, Bryce Brentz is hitting .298/.349/.479 with 8 HR in 57 games.
2010 1st round pick Kolbrin Vitek is hitting .252/.302/.338.
Anthony Ranaudo has five starts, 24.2 innings, 18 K/17 BB, 5.84 ERA.
Aaron Kurcz is 21 in AA and has 32 relief innings, 44 K/15 BB.
Stolmy Pimentel has eight starts, 5.63 ERA, 38.1 innings, 28 K/17 BB.
The farm system basically revolves around two big names: Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts. The 19-year-old Bogaerts is hitting .288/.360/.482 with 8 HR in 60 games for high-A Salem. He's still playing SS, which is good for now, depending on how long he can continue doing that.
Jackie Bradley is hitting .380/.491/.560 with 14 stolen bases in 61 games. He's drawn 47 walks and struck out only 36 times.
Brandon Jacobs is hitting .280/.325/.413 with 9 SB in 47 games.
Matt Barnes has seven starts for Salem, 1.32 ERA, 30.1 innings, 33 K/7 BB. He dominated single-A in five starts: 26.2 innings, 42 K/4 BB, 12 hits, 1 R.
OF Keury De La Cruz is hitting .325/.378/.571 with 11 HR in single-A Greenville.
3B Garin Cecchini is hitting .298/.375/.430 with 20 SB in 57 Greenville games.
C Blake Swihart is hitting .251/.305/.380 in 46 games.
Henry Owens at age 19 in Greenville has 48.1 innings, 70 K/25 BB, 5.59 ERA.
Toronto Blue Jays (31-31)
Breakout: Edwin Encarnacion
It's not as crazy as A.J. Ellis breaking out but still pretty crazy. Edwin has 17 HR in 59 games and his career-high is 26 HR. He hit 17 HR in 134 games last season.
His 17.3% HR/FB ratio isn't really whacky but should definitely come down a tiny bit. Maybe.
Also, Colby Rasmus is heating up. Hitting .315/.358/.618 in his last 21 games.
Disappointment: Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie
Lind was so bad (.186/.273/.314) that he was sent to the minors. By the way, he's hitting .419/.477/.699 in 23 AAA games. But expectations weren't super high for him coming into the year. They were super high for Lawrie.
He's not "terrible" but he's hitting .279/.329/.384 with 5 HR, 24 RBI, 40 K/13 BB in 247 PAs. People were expecting more despite still being relatively new to the majors. I mean, I was expecting more but it's way too early to be "worried" or anything.
He's interspersed good stretches and bad stretches, not really getting super hot or super cold but the biggest issue is wondering where the power is, especially on a team where Encarnacion has 17 HR and Jose Bautista became the best power hitter in baseball.
By the way, why not include Bautista?
In his last 36 games he's hitting .278/.378/.639 with 14 home runs, 34 RBI, 25 R. That's prettttty prettttty pretttty good.
David Cooper was a first round pick in 2008. He's hitting .302/.351/.472 with 2 HR in 57 PAs.
Yan Gomes is hitting .226/.278/.516 with 3 HR in 36 PAs.
Drew Hutchison has 10 starts, 58 innings, 48 K/19 BB, 4.66 ERA. He's made four starts at home and is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. He has a 6.47 ERA in six road starts.
The Blue Jays have a deep and talented minor league system. Let's try and run through this as quick as possible.
Travis Snider is now 24, hitting .333/.411/.604 with 5 HR in AAA.
Travis d'Arnaud is hitting .343/.391/.614 with 15 HR in 56 AAA games.
Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting .324/.372/.458 at AAA.
Anthony Gose is only 21 in AAA, hitting .296/.372/.458 with 24 SB in 64 games. He is still shaping up to turn those tools into actual production as a big SB threat in the majors.
Deck McGuire has 13 starts at AA and has a 6.72 ERA, 45 K/25 BB in 64.1 innings.
Jake Marisnick is hitting .262/.338/.431 with 3 HR, 13 2B, 6 3B and 8 SB in 48 games for high-A Dunedin.
Asher Wojciechowski has 57.1 innings, 44 K/11 BB and a 4.87 ERA.
Noah Syndergaard has 39.2 innings, 51 K/13 BB and 4.31 ERA for single-A Lansing.
Aaron Sanchez has 43 innings, 48 K/23 BB and a 0.84 ERA.
Justin Nicolino has 47 innings, 45 K/9 BB and a 1.34 ERA.
Top high school arm Daniel Norris has not debuted yet.
The Blue Jays rotation right now is okay but it needs to get a lot better. Henderson Alvarez couldn't strike out Adam Dunn in a blindfold. Brandon Morrow is now hurt. Most of their help in the minors is in low-A though, so it will be interesting to see if they make a move to get major-league ready pitching or just a veteran.
Tampa Bay Rays (35-26)
Breakout: Fernando Rodney
I have now named off 23 breakout names (or so) for the 2012 season and I don't care if you're AJ Ellis or Mike Moustakas. This takes the cake. Fernando Rodney? What? Not only is he a veteran who had never been that good to begin with, but he's a relief pitcher. Hardly the thing of miracles. But what Rodney has done this year is unreal.
It defies everything we know about baseball, yet isn't that what the game is all about? The unbelievable?
Rodney is 35 years old and he's spent one season as the full time closer for a team. He saved 37 games for the Tigers in 2009 with a 4.40 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9. None of those numbers are good.
Coming into his first season with the Rays, his career numbers were 4.29 ERA, 430 innings, 8.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, ERA+ of 101.
This season: 0.94 ERA, 28.2 innings, 8.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 18 saves, ERA+ of 395.
He walked 7.9 batters per nine innings with the Angels last year.
I hardly thought I'd be naming a 35-year-old closer as a breakout of anything, but this is the perfect storm. Random relief pitcher who had no control becomes dominating closer for a team without any other strong candidate for breakout player of 2012.
Disappointment: Desmond Jennings
Ehhh.. It's a stretch really, but what's to really be disappointed about in Tampa? Evan Longoria has missed more than half the season but has hit .329/.433/.561.
Jennings has hit .257/.316/.389 with 8 SB in 38 games. Not what you were hoping for but I'd give it more time.
Ben Zobrist his hitting .223 but he hit .238 two years ago, so these ups and downs are common for him.
The Rays aren't a very good hitting team but they got defense and pitching. The low budget squad is fighting for first place again and I think most everyone is living up to reasonable expectations.
Matt Moore has a 4.59 ERA with 71 K/33 BB in 68.2 innings.
Jake McGee has a 1.77 ERA in 20.1 innings with 24 K/6 BB.
Brandon Guyer is 1-for-7.
The Rays aren't an old team but they aren't a super young team either, as you might expect. They give their players plenty of time in the minors so that they can maximize their production in the majors during their six years of club control, I suspect.
Tim Beckham is hitting .204/.290/.278 for AAA Durham in 13 games. He is serving a 50-game suspension for marijuana.
Chris Archer is 3-8 with an ERA of 5.04 with 85 K/42 BB in 69.2 innings. The strikeouts are good but he'll need to refine his control.
Alex Torres has a 7.47 ERA in 37.1 innings in AAA with 49 K/38 BB.
SS Hak-Ju Lee, 21, is hitting .241/.309/.315 for AA Montgomery with 16 stolen bases in 62 games.
Alex Colome has 5 starts in AA, 4.79 ERA, 30 K/10 BB in 20.2 innings.
Mikie Mahtook is hitting .273/.326/.359 with 14 SB in 61 games for high-A Charlotte.
CJ Riefenhauser, 22, has 15 game appearances and six starts with a 2.98 ERA and 73 K/17 BB in 57.1 innings. Riefenhauser, a 10th round pick in 2010, struck out 123 and walked 36 in 138.1 innings last season.
Enny Romero, 21, has a 2.96 ERA in 67 innings with 53 K/36 BB.
Josh Sale, 20, is hitting .313/.436/.663 with 8 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB 18 K/17 BB in 101 PAs for single-A Bowling Green. Sale was considered a prize hitting prospect coming out of high school and could see his stock skyrocket if he continues to hit like this.
Drew Vettleson is hitting .289/.361/.447 with 5 HR in 62 games.
Taylor Guerrieri has not debuted yet.
Baltimore Orioles (35-26)
Breakout: Adam Jones
It doesn't matter to me that he's a former All-Star or that he hit 25 HR last season. That was the other Adam Jones. Who is THIS Adam Jones? I've never seen an Adam Jones like this.
When the Mariners traded Jones away, I was like "aww man, that stinks!" but I wasn't that upset. I wasn't really in belief that he'd turn into a franchise player. Whoops! Jones is hitting .310/.353/.589 with 18 HR and 9 SB. His career highs in those categories are 25 and 12. Right now he's on pace for (guesstimating) like 42 HR and 25 SB.
Matt Wieters had this category sewn up until he had his publicized slump. But shhhh!!!! Wieters is hitting .350/.409/.500 in June, including his 0-for-4 yesterday.
You tell me. If you're an O's fan you have no right to be anything but elated. If you're just a fantasy owner, who did you draft that's doing worse than you thought? You thought that Brian Matusz would be a stud? You thought that Nick Markakis would hit better than .256/.333/.452? You thought that Wilson Betemit would go nuts?
I can think of two long-term names: Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. But this year, everyone's doing either what I expected or much better than I expected.
PS - Brian Roberts is back. He debuted yesterday and went 3-for-4.
Ryan Flaherty is 12-for-67 with 21 strikeouts and 1 walk.
Xavier Avery is hitting .217/.299/.317 in 68 PAs.
Wei-Yin Chen has a 3.68 ERA in 73.1 innings with 55 K/24 BB.
Avery is hitting .253/.355/.396 with 11 SB at AAA.
L.J. Hoes hit .265/.368/.372 with 12 SB in 51 AA games and .146/.180/.250 in 12 AAA games.
Young gun Jamie Moyer has one start, 5 innings, 5 K, 0 BB, 1 hit. This kid is gonna be good!
Tillman has a 4.23 ERA in 72.1 innings with 69 K/27 BB.
Britton has two starts in AAA with 10.2 innings, 4 K/4 BB and a 5.91 ERA.
Joel Pineiro, Dontrelle Willis, and Miguel Tejada are there too.
Manny Machado is just 19 at AA, and hitting .237/.332/.365 with 3 HR, 7 SB in 60 games.
Jonathan Schoop is hitting .242/.303/.319 there.
Okay, let's get to it. Dylan Bundy is being hyped now as not only the best pitching prospect in the minors, not only the best prospect in the minors, but one of the best pitching prospects (if not the best) that some scouts have ever seen. At single-A Delmarva he had 30 innings, 40 K/ 2 BB, 5 hits allowed, 2 R, 0 ER. In high-A Frederick he has three starts, 15 innings, 18 K/4 BB, 13 hits allowed, 5 ER, 2 HR allowed for an ERA of 3.00. Not as dominating, sure, but pretty damn good. And he's 19.
Bundy will probably enter next season as the top prospect in baseball. He'll probably report to AA, depending on where he finishes this season, maybe. But the O's will proceed with caution. They've had a LOT of top prospects in the last decade. Guys like Weiters, Jones, Tillman, Britton, Matusz, Machado... but maybe none of them compare to Bundy. For that reason, Baltimore wants to take it slower than a girl who just got out of a bad marriage.
Nick Delmonico is hitting .270/.358/.428 with 6 HR, 6 SB at Delmarva.
Parker Bridwell has an ERA of 5.98 with 33K/28 BB in 52.2 innings.
Jason Esposito is hitting .230/.297/.319.
New York Yankees (36-25)
Breakout: Ivan Nova
Nova went 16-4 last season but had only 5.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, which isn't very good in case you didn't know. The Yankees were biding time until their young pitchers would be ready to contribute and Nova was keeping the seat warm but nobody expected him (or at least, I did not expect him) to be long for the rotation. Maybe as a 4/5 guy but nothing like this.
He's actually got a significantly higher ERA (4.64) but is posting 8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9, which is pretty good. His 8-2 record puts him right at the top of the AL leaders too. Over his last two starts he has 15 innings, 11 K/2 BB and 1 R allowed.
Phil Hughes is quietly posting his best season since 2009.
40-year-old Andy Pettitte has a 2.81 ERA in 6 starts with 40 K/9 BB in 41.2 innings. Weird.
Rafael Soriano has 10 saves and a 2.01 ERA as the replacement for Mariano Rivera.
Raul Ibanez is actually having a good season again, now at the age of 40. You know what's weird? Eric Chavez is only 34 and Andruw Jones is only 35!
Disappointment: Brett Gardner
He had 49 SB and 87 runs last year but hasn't played since April 17th. He was hitting .321/.424/.393 with 2 SB in nine games but you gotta play to pay. So as a fantasy owner, that's gotta suck. Gardner says he'll play again this year while others have their doubts.
Mark Teixeira hit .248/.341/.494 last year and is hitting .250/.332/.463 this season. It's the fifth straight season that his OPS has declined and he's only 32-years-old. At the end of this year he'll be halfway through an 8-year, $180 million contract.
Alex Rodriguez is hitting .276/.368/.436 this year with 10 HR, 28 RBI and it's the fifth straight year that his OPS is declining too. Tex will never have the worst contract in baseball because A-Rod's contract is for almost $100 million more dollars and goes until 2017. And A-Rod is 36.
Michael Pineda is really hurt.
Cody Eppley has 12.2 relief innings, 6 K/6 BB.
David Phelps has a 2.94 ERA in 33.2 innings with 29 K/13 BB.
DJ Mitchell has 2.2 innings, 4 H, 1 R.
Manny Banuelos has six starts at AAA with 4.50 ERA, 22 K/10 BB in 24 innings.
Dellin Betances has 13 starts, 62.1 innings, 57 K/56 BB. (Yeah, really.)
Jose Pirela is off to a hot start at AA: .380/.451/.563 in 22 games.
Mark Montgomery has been a dominant reliever at high-A Tampa: 29.2 innings, 1.21 ERA, 47 K/9 BB.
Gary Sanchez, 19, is hitting .298/.345/.507 at single-A Charleston with 9 HR, 47 RBI and 10 SB in 53 games. The catcher is slated to be the top prospect in the Yankees system.
Mason Williams is hitting .306/.362/.471 with 16 SB in 51 games for Charleston.
Tyler Austin is hitting .330/.406/.656 with 14 HR, 50 RBI, 14 SB in 56 games. Austin, 20, hit .323/.402/.542 at low-A Staten Island last season and the 2010 13th round pick out of high school will start to turn some more heads now.
Dante Bichette Jr is hitting .266/.350/.330 with 1 HR in 54 games.
Cito Culver is hitting .231/.349/.303 in 53 games.
Jose Campos, the other part of the Montero-Pineda-Noesi deal, had pitched 24.2 innings, with 26 K/8 BB and a 4.01 ERA. The 19 year old has been on the DL with elbow inflammation.
Other Yankees prospects like Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine, and Ravel Santana have not played in 2012.
That's it for today. Five down and one division to go! Follow me on Twitter though.