For my final magic trick, I will entice millions of readers to come here by putting the words "Bryce" and "Harper" in the headline. As the British dude from Jurassic Park would say, "Clevah girl."
(If you're new here, I'm not a girl I'm a boy. A real live boy!)
I've worked harder than Seacrest on smashing these together for the past two weeks and I don't know about you, but I've learned a lot. Like I keep saying, if you've got any sort of life outside of baseball it's hard to keep track of all of the thousands of players. So I've come across quite a few surprises these past two weeks in looking at the breakouts, disappointments, rookies, and minor league systems of every division. For a recap you can click on links such as AL East, AL West, AL Central, NL West, and NL Central.
I don't know how hard or involved these articles look on your end, but on my end you have to just trust me that I'm putting hours into each one. Takes longer than you might think to look at every minor league team and major league team and individual performances into the hundreds. No big deal!
Today we are finishing up with the NL East. There is no shortage of interest, intrigue and excitement in the NL East where you've got perhaps the best teenage hitter ever, perhaps one of the best under-25 pitchers ever, the world's unlikeliest potential All-Star game starter, and the strongest-looking team of the division over the past decade sitting nine games back of a team that's never won the division, even when they were in Canada.
In my world, we start worst to first so let's kick off this party with the...
Philadelphia Phillies (31-34)
Breakout: Carlos Ruiz
There's not much to be happy about in Philly, but at least Ruiz decided to start smashin' while every other hitter was on the DL. I'm stunned at how many 30-and-over players I've picked for a "breakout" in this series but I got to go with what the numbers tell me.
Ruiz is a career .274/.363/.410 hitter and his excellent K:BB ratios every year might make him one of the most underrated players in the bigs, but he's never done anything like this: .361/.420/.579 with 8 HR. His career high is 9 HR so he's basically almost already at his career-best season. It's not as wild as the A.J. Ellis breakout (Ruiz has finished in the top 25 of NL MVP voting in each of the last two years) but his hitting this year has been superb, unlike any other year.
His 3.2 fWAR puts him among the leading candidates for NL MVP.
Disappointment: Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee
Despite the fact that you probably are going to, please don't misread this as me saying that Lee and Halladay are bad. A "disappointment" is an end result that doesn't meet expectations and leaves you unsatisfied with the outcome. You were expecting these kinds of seasons from Halladay and Lee? Then no, you aren't disappointed. I'll explain more after the jump...
Over the past four seasons combined, Halladay has been the world's best pitcher. 77-37, 2.59 ERA, 35 complete games, 6.14 K/BB ratio. This season he is 4-5, 3.98 ERA, 4.00 K/BB ratio, 0 complete games and a trip to the disabled list. Will Halladay ever be the same?
Lee has pitched very well this season, with an ERA of 3.18, 74 K/13 BB in 70.2 innings, but 98% of your leagues count wins and Lee has a combined total of 0 wins. We're just a couple of weeks from the midpoint in the season you know?
Wins are a dumb stat and an 0-3 means nothing of Lee's performance, but fantasy leagues count wins and a pitcher with 7 wins is a hell of a lot more valuable than a pitcher with 0 wins. Lee has been disappointing if you drafted him and if your league counts win and losses.
Second baseman Freddy Galvis is hitting .226/.254/.363 with 3 HR and 24 RBI in 200 plate appearances.
Joe Savery has an ERA of 4.12 in the bullpen with 12 K/4 BB in 19.2 innings.
Jake Diekman has an ERA of 4.50 in the pen with 16 K/7 BB in 10 innings.
The Phillies have suffered through injuries to Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard but they've traded away most of the rookies or minor league players that could have potentially helped in this situation. Philly paid a high price for this team and now they're seeing the effects of having a team that is old and expensive and that costs you players and dollar signs.
I mean, we knew that Ryan Howard's entire career was in jeopardy after his injury last season and that this is just what Utley does now, but certainly the front office has to be worried about their long-term future now that this dream team is falling apart. It's still early yet and Utley is back on the comeback trail but it's interesting to look ahead:
Utley missed 106 games over 2010-2011 and hasn't played this season at all. He's getting $15 million this season and next and then the Phillies can let him go, but maybe he just decides to retire if he can't stay on the field. The news is not nearly as good with Howard.
He's in the first year of a 5-year, $125 million contract that nobody has ever understood. He's 32.
The 33-year-old Jimmy Rollins has a 3 year deal that vests to 4 years and $44 million if he gets enough plate appearances. He's posting a .668 OPS this year, the lowest of his career.
Are they going to re-sign soon-to-be FA Shane Victorino? Cole Hamels? Hunter Pence is a FA after 2013.
Halladay gets $20 million a year until 2013 and if he puts up Halladay-like innings in 2013 he gets another $20 million year. No matter what they're giving Cliff Lee $100 million and most of it comes after he turns 35.
My point is that their old players are signed long term and the players that look like they need to be part of the future are going to be free agents. After this year, Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels can walk and Hamels is going to get offers over $120 million. Whatcha gonna do Philly?
Domonic Brown, the #4 prospect in the world headed into 2011, is now hitting .266/.314/.416 with 4 SB in 47 games. Philadelphia traded away a lot of prospects over the last few years but maybe should have cashed in on Brown instead of Jonathan Singleton and others.
Phillippe Aumont, acquired FOR Cliff Lee from the Mariners a few years ago, has 25 strikeouts in 16 innings in AAA but has also walked 16 batters. He's not starting anymore but he's got seven saves. At 23, there's time for him to still become a dominant reliever.
JC Ramirez, also 23, also acquired for Lee, has 19 bullpen appearances over AA and AAA has 24 K/15 BB in 31.1 innings with a 3.45 ERA.
Skipping to Tyson Gillies, the other player acquired for Lee, also 23, is hitting .280/.354/.423 with 7 SB in 42 games in AA. I'd say that the Mariners did pretty awesome in which prospects they let go to get Lee, whom they eventually traded for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, and others.
Sebastian Valle is hitting .242/.264/.387 with 6 HR in 48 AA games.
Jiwan James is hitting .251/.288/.398 in 58 games for AA Reading.
BA's top Phillies prospect is Trevor May, who has a 4.95 ERA in 12 Reading starts with 67 K/25 BB in 63.2 innings.
Jonathan Pettibone has a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts for Reading with 48 K/21 BB in 79.2 innings.
21-year-old Julio Rodriguez has an ERA of 2.84 in 12 starts with 61 K/30 BB in 66.2 innings.
Jesse Biddle has a 2.98 ERA in 1 starts for high-A Clearwater with 70 K/21 BB in 60.1 innings. He was tabbed as the second best prospect in the system, but maybe #1 now.
Brody Colvin has 48 K/35 BB in 59.2 innings with a 4.68 ERA.
There's just not a whole lot to see here outside of Biddle and May.
Miami Marlins (32-31)
I don't feel comfortable handing this very important, life-altering award to anyone on the Marlins. I could give it to Giancarlo Stanton, since there was never a Giancarlo Stanton in the majors before this season, but that would be cheating.
I will note that Stanton, though he's cooled off significantly in June, is hitting .309/.391/.654 in his last 44 games. He's hit 14 HR in that time, a pace of about 52 over a full season.
Disappointment: Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison
I wonder if LoMo will quit the Petey and LoMo show on SBN now that he's having a hard time hitting the ball far.
Morrison hit 23 HR last year, and not in a full season, so expectations were probably closer to 30 homers in 2012 but so far he's hit just 5. Over his last 29 games, Morrison is hitting .183/.262/.355 with 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 22 strikeouts. And that includes him going 6-for-his-last-12.
Sanchez was always a player I liked but in 40 games this year, he's hitting .190/.233/.285 with 1 HR and 13 RBI. You would be better off with Willie Bloomquist as your starting first baseman.
Also, John Buck is hitting .163/.299/.279 in 46 games. He was an All-Star just two years ago.
Plus, Ricky Nolasco is 6-5 with an ERA of 4.37, but most importantly has lost the Ks: 5.5 K/9, a scary downward trend from a pitcher I had always thought was underrated after he posted 6.5 K/9 last year and 8.4 K/9 the year before.
Finally, Heath Bell.
The Marlins were a sleeper pick before the year and honestly they'd be competing if it weren't for all of these underperforming stars, and it's not like Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes have been other-worldly.
Donovan Solano is 10-for-25 with two doubles and two walks. This is actually a veteran team.
Gaby Sanchez has hit .310/.494/.483 in 19 AAA games.
Matt Dominguez is hitting .225/.281/.335 with 4 HR and 31 RBI in 62 games for New Orleans. He's always been glove-first and he's only 22, but is he ever going to be able to hit .250 in the majors?
Brad Hand is 4-4, 4.30 ERA, 69 K/41 BB in 75.1 innings.
Kyle Skipworth is hitting .225/.290/.382 with 6 HR in 54 games for AA Jacksonville. Skipworth was the 6th overall pick in 2008 but is a career .221/.282/.367 hitter. His $2.3 million bonus is the fourth largest in team history.
Scott Cousins is hitting .292/.355/.472 with 7 HR and 12 SB.
Top prospect in the system, Christian Yelich is hitting .276/.354/.519 with 7 HR, 11 SB in 42 games for high-A Jupiter. Seems unfair to play on Jupiter, but what do I know?
Marcell Ozuna is hitting .258/.331/.500 with 15 HR on Jupiter.
Jacob Realmuto is hitting .256/.331/.340 with 11 SB in 58 high-A games.
Noah Perio is hitting .237/.285/.301 in 60 games.
Chad James is 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA, 37 K/21 BB in 58.2 innings.
Rob Rasmussen has a 4.63 ERA, 58 K/29 BB in 70 innings.
Brent Keys is hitting .361/.434/.476 with 14 SB in 61 games for single-A Greensboro. The 21-year-old was a 17th round pick in 2009 and has one career home run, but he's got four this season and is displaying an interesting hit tool. The outfielder has 30 walks against only 21 strikeouts in 275 plate appearances.
Remember the name: Jose Fernandez. He was the Marlins first round pick (14th overall) last season so you might already know the name, but he's killing it for Greensboro in the Sally League. The 19-year-old is 6-0, 1.27 ERA, 88 K/17 BB, 43 hits allowed in 71 innings. He turns 20 on July 31st and he should be due for a promotion as a birthday present because he's just murdering fools at his level.
Adam Conley is 7-2, 2.60 ERA, 69.1 innings, 80 K/22 BB and the 22-year-old definitely needs to move up.
Atlanta Braves (34-29)
Breakout: Michael Bourn
It's not like Bourn wasn't a highly-owned player or highly-regarded player in the first place. The Braves had to give up four players to get him and he's been worth over 4 fWAR in each of the last three seasons, but he's never been THIS good. Bourn has 3.6 fWAR already and is on a 162-game pace of: 9.25 fWAR, 15 HR, 113 R, 44 SB. He already has a career-high HR count of 6 after hitting 7 total home runs in the last three years combined.
The only players with more fWAR than him right now are Joey Votto and David Wright.
Never thought I'd be saying this, but the Braves just dominated that trade as it looks right now.
Disappointment: Jason Heyward
I'll emphasize that Heyward is still only 22-years-old but I guess I was just expecting more by now. Any player that was ranked by many ahead of Stephen "freaking" Strasburg would have expectations that high. He regressed in his second year and hasn't broken out by his third.
Heyward is hitting .226/.315/.425 in his last 42 games after a nice start. Is he picking it up? He's hitting .333/.368/.611 with 2 HR in 10 June games.
Taylor Pastornicky is hitting .248/.281/.324 with 2 SB in 45 games.
Andrelton Simmons, called up just recently, is hitting .289/.372/.474 as the shortstop.
Randall Delgado is 4-6 with a 4.34 ERA, 54 K/36 BB in 66.1 innings and is 22.
Julio Teheran, only 21, made one start and gave up 4 R in 4.1 innings with 5 K/1 BB.
Teheran, still a young man for AAA, has a 3.15 ERA, 43 K/21 BB in 54.1 innings.
Pastornicky is hitting .236/.276/.327 in AAA.
Felix Pie is still alive and unbelievably beyond all odds only 27-years-old. He is hitting .267/.318/.436 in AAA.
Andrelton hit .292/.372/.421 in AA Mississippi.
Christian Bethancourt is hitting .255/.285/.270 for AA.
Sean Gilmartin has a 3.40 ERA with 61 K/21 BB in Mississippi.
Zeke Spruill has a 3.54 ERA, 51 K/23 BB in AA. Both he and Gilmartin are 22 and were in BA's top 10 list for Atlanta.
Edward Salcedo is hitting .261/.302/.415 with 7 HR, 11 SB in 67 games for high-A David Lynchburg.
Brandon Drury, the Braves #10 prospect, is hitting .189/.229/.275 for single-A Rome.
The Braves system doesn't quite look as good as it used to. But they're the Braves, I'm sure they'll figure something out, they've got some of the best scouting in the majors over the last twenty years.
New York Mets (35-29)
Breakout: R.A. Dickey
This is the year of the old man breakout, but no man is older than Dickey. The 37-year-old was the Rangers 1st round pick in 1996, the same year that Kris Benson went 1st overall. There were a lot of pitchers taken in that first round and Dickey is one of the only guys still around. Names like Braden Looper, John Patterson, Adam Eaton, Eric Milton, Jake Westbrook, Jason Marquis and Gil Meche.
Going into his first season with the Mets in 2010, these were Dickey's career numbers when he was 35 years old: 22-28, 5.43 ERA, 271 K/117 BB in 442.2 innings.
Dickey was all over the place in the minor leagues, spending significant time as a starter and as a reliever, playing for Texas, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Minnesota. He also wasn't especially good as a minor league pitcher and had been in AAA since 1999. The good thing about being a knuckleball pitcher is that your specialty, if you're good at it, can keep you around for years. The bad thing is that finding these pitchers and finding the catchers than can catch them, is incredibly difficult and rare.
Normally you wouldn't say "This 37-year-old has a bright future!" but for a knuckleballer, there's good reason to believe that Dickey has 10 more years left in him.
Dickey is a major-league leading 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA, 90 K/19 BB in 90 innings with 66 hits allowed and he just came within inches of a no-hitter and didn't allow a single walk. We were that close to two perfect games in one day. Dickey posted an ERA of 3.08 with the Mets over the last two years but his 5.6 K/9 in that time was nothing close to what he's doing now. He's gone from being a knuckleballer that has shown he can survive and be a solid #3 to being the best pitcher in baseball this season, perhaps.
Also, Lucas Duda has 10 HR which is the same amount of HR he had last season in over a 100 more plate appearances.
Disappointment: Ike Davis
A healthy Ike Davis is hitting .188/.273/.320 in 61 games with 6 HR and 61 strikeouts. He hit 19 home runs as a rookie and played in only 36 games last year (and killed it for a .925 OPS) but he's been really, really bad this year.
He's picked it up over the last week though. Davis is hitting .409/.567/.682 with 1 HR and 7 RBI in his last eight games.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis is hitting .298/.360/.429 with 5 HR, 23 RBI, 4 SB in 62 games.
Jordany Valdespin is hitting .190/.227/.405 in 44 major league plate appearances.
Jeremy Hefner has a 5.32 ERA in 23.2 innings, 15 K/2 BB across the bullpen and the rotation.
Pitcher-turned-hitter Adam Loewen is hitting .270/.400/.568 with 3 HR in 12 games for AAA Buffalo. It seems like Loewen, the 4th overall pick in 2002, should be really old but he's only 28. He hit .306/.377/.508 with 17 HR and 46 2B for the Blue Jays AAA team last season.
Elvin Ramirez has 14.2 innings at AAA, 19 K/1 BB, 5 H, and 0 R. He was called up to the majors and gave up 6 ER in his first three bullpen apperarances but a scoreless inning on June 12.
22-year-old Jeurys Familia has a 4.35 ERA at AAA Buffalo with 60 K/38 BB in 60 innings.
Matt Harvey has a 3.87 ERA, 74 K/35 BB in 74.1 innings.
Jenrry Mejia, the top prospect returning from TJ, has 7 minor league starts over three levels with a 2.57 ERA and 23 K/9 BB in 35 innings.
More slightly weird names: Jefry Marte is hitting .295/.358/.435 for AA Binghamton.
Reese Havens is hitting .171/.299/.293.
Top prospect Zack Wheeler has a 1.92 ERA in 11 starts with 70 K/27 BB in 65.2 innings with 39 hits allowed. Knowing the Mets, he'll be in the majors soon.
20-year-old Wilmer Flores is hitting .299/.341/.481 with 10 HR in 61 games for high-A St. Lucie.
Michael Fulmer has a 3.35 ERA with 44 K/19 BB in 51 innings. He was the 44th overall pick last season out of high school.
Young outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the 13th pick last season, has not debuted this year.
Washington Nationals (38-23)
Breakout: Bryce Harper
Is Harper going to have the best season by a teenager ever? Is he already there? Last season as a teen, Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390. Alex Rodriguez hit .232/.264/.408. Ken Griffey Jr. hit .264/.329/.420 with 16 HR and 16 SB in 127 games. Mel Ott hit .322/.397/.524 with 18 HR, 77 RBI in 124 games. Edgar Rentaria hit .309/.358/.399. Tony Conigliaro, the record-holder for HR by a teenager, hit .290/.354/.530 with 24 HR.
Ott and Conigliaro are the only teens ever to post an OPS over .800 with a minimum of 100 games played.
Bryce Harper is hitting .303/.384/.548 with 7 HR, 19 RBI, 4 SB, 9 2B, 4 3B in 41 games. Over a 162-game season that would be 27.6 HR and 79 extra-base hits. That's clownin'. Oh, he also has a laser beam cannon for an arm and laser beam cannons haven't even been invented yet.
At 19, Harper could easily be at high-A, AA, or AAA and that would be normal. Some people his age are in extended spring training. But he could make the All-Star game as a teen. Ridiculous.
Gio Gonzalez is also having a breakout season.
Disappointment: Ryan Zimmerman
I recently traded Zimmerman for Joe Nathan. Now, I wouldn't normally recommend this, but I have David Wright and I was desperate for a closer and a change and I wasn't that worried about it right now because Zimmerman is struggling. He's hitting .239/.311/.340 with 3 HR, 22 RBI in 47 games.
Zimmerman has always been one of my favorite players, but this has not been his year.
Also Jayson Werth because of his injury.
That Harper guy.
Steve Lombardozzi is hitting .275/.338/.355 in 47 games and has played LF, 3B, 2B, and SS.
The Nationals did some gutting of their farm system in trades like the one to acquire Gio Gonzalez, but it's paying off so far and the Nats are in first place and looking solid with a team era under 3.00.
Tyler Moore was drafted by the Nationals three times before he finally signed. He hit .310/.372/.660 in AAA with 9 HR in 28 games (and hit 31 HR in each of the last two years) and was called up to the bigs for the second time recently. He was 3-for-4 with 2 HR and 5 RBI on Wednesday against the Blue Jays.
Corey Brown is hitting .284/.380/.576 with 16 HR, 39 RBI in 60 AAA games. He was a sandwich first round pick of the A's in 2007.
Destin Hood is hitting .220/.291/.302.
Anthony Rendon was at high-A Potomac but got hurt early.
Michael Taylor is hitting .234/.333/.349 with 10 SB in 62 games for Potomac.
Rob Wort is a 23-year-old reliever in Potomac with 52 K/8 BB in 30.2 innings.
Robbie Ray has a 4.89 ERA in 42.1 innings with 37 K/14 BB.
Brian Goodwin is hitting .293/.415/.440 with 11 SB in 32 games for single-A Hagerstown.
Matt Skole is 22, hitting .294/.442/.541 with 14 HR for Hagerstown.
Alex Meyer has a 3.31 ERA with 68 K/26 BB in 65.1 innings.
Matt Purke has made three starts, 5.87 ERA, 14 K/12 BB in 15.1 innings.
That's it! We're done for now, maybe we'll talk about this again at the 2/3rd mark.
Hope you've enjoyed this tour of all 30 teams in baseball as well as their minor league updates. If you have any questions, throw em in the comments and I'll do my best.