Pitchers and catchers have reported, and most position players have either reported or will be reporting to their respective spring training camps in the next day or so. Baseball is back!!!
We are about 43 days from the first regular season game in the United States. and about 35 days from the first regular season game in Australia. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will play a two game series in Australia on March 22 - 23, before returning to resume their spring training in Arizona.
With the start of baseball so close, here are a few thoughts I have on a cold Sunday morning:
Projecting Masahiro Tanaka
After the Yankees signed Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, we started seeing many writers offering their rankings and projections for him. Some are optimistic, some are not. Actually, I was going through the exercise with my brother and a couple buddies via text yesterday. I project Tanaka to have a very good first season in major league baseball, winning 14 games with a 3.40 ERA. I think he will strike out close to 200 batters as well. Optimistic? Yes. My one friend, a Red Sox fan, projected him to win 11 games with a 4.65 ERA. Very pessimistic in my opinion.
Later yesterday afternoon, I came across this tweet:
Holy SHIT has anyone seen the Oliver projection for Tanaka? 2.59 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.47 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, second in value behind only Kershaw— Tommy Cook (@TommyECook) February 14, 2014
To be honest, this wouldn't surprise me at all. It is very optimistic for a pitcher in his first year in MLB, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
Phillies sign A.J. Burnett
I own Burnett at $2 in one of my NL only keeper leagues and was really hoping he re-signed with the Pirates, but he was not a happy camper at the end of the 2013 season, after being skipped for Gerrit Cole in game 5 of the NLDS series. Then, reports indicate the Pirate low-balled him with a one year, $8 million offer after the season.
Instead, Burnett signed a one year deal with the Phillies for $16 million, with an option that could push the deal to $33.5 million according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:
AJ can make $33.5M over 2 yrs counting $15M salaries (w/ phils/AJ both exercising '15 option), incentives and escalators.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 16, 2014
Citizens Bank Park is a much better hitters park than PNC Park. Last season, CBP ranked sixth in runs scored and first with a home run factor of 1.517, while PNC Park depressed run scoring by 9% and home runs by 32%. With that data, one can say that Burnett will struggle at times pitching in CBP this season. His ERA splits in 2013 show that he pitched much better at home (2.37 ERA) than on the road (4.22 ERA) last season. The ERA split in 2012 was not as pronounced: 3.10 ERA at home vs 4.01 on the road.
Burnett is a ground ball pitcher, and the move to Philadelphia and their aging infield of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard could result in more of those ground balls turning into singles, causing his ERA and WHIP to rise in 2014. As a result, I will move him down in my starting pitcher rankings, which will publish the first week of March.
Will David Price be traded?
Pitchers and catchers have reported to camps, so it appears that the chances that Rays ace David Price is traded this offseason is pretty slim, and close to zero. And all the better for the Rays and Rays fans. But the day will come where they will have to decide whether to keep him through 2015 or deal him like they did with James Shields and Matt Garza.
I began thinking about Price last night after reading that the Dodgers signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena to a deal reported to be in the vicinity of $25 million. Arruebarruena is reported to be "one of the best defenders on the planet" according to a recent tweet from Baseball America's Ben Badler. Considering that the Dodgers are also talking about signing Hanley Ramirez to an extension, this signing will push Hanley to third base, currently occupied by Juan Uribe. I see Uribe as nothing more than a guy the Dodgers signed to keep Yasiel Puig in check in the clubhouse and on the field.
So, what do these signings/extensions mean for top prospect Corey Seager? Good question. That question led me to believe that Seager is now trade bait for the Dodgers, assuming Arrubarruena is the real deal at shortstop. Could the signing of Arruebarruena lead to a Dodgers-Rays deal involving David Price this season, or next offseason?
We already know the Dodgers had an offer on the table for Price a few months back, but nothing ever came of it. Maybe the Rays were holding out for Seager to be added to the deal? Maybe the Dodgers are now willing to include Seager in a deal for Price? Time will tell, but nothing from the Dodgers surprises me at this point. Owner Mark Walter is hell bent on winning a World Series, and he is building the best team he can to make that happen. Adding David Price could be the last piece to finishing that team.
Dee Gordon to get "a long look" at second base
The Dodgers signed Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero a few months back to play second base in 2014, but recent reports indicate that he has had a tough time handling the position, with some saying he has stone hands at second base. Not good.
This offseason, the Dodgers have also signed Chone Figgins and Justin Turner to minor league deals as fall back options should Guerrero start the season in AAA to work on his defense. Another Dodger, and more interesting fantasy play, is Dodgers former shortstop Dee Gordon.
Gordon has played some second base and center field in winter ball this offseason, and has a good chance of making the team as a utility guy off the bench. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly stated yesterday that Gordon will see some time at second base this spring. Here is a tweet from TrueBlueLA writer Eric Stephen, who is covering the Dodgers in spring training this season:
Don Mattingly also said team is happy so far with Guerrero at 2B. Will need game action. Gordon "will get a good long look" at 2B, too— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) February 15, 2014
I don't know if Gordon can handle second base better than he handled shortstop, and one would hope that he can. I saw a pic of Gordon recently and it appears he has FINALLY been able to add some muscle to his frame. He looks much bigger in the upper body and arms, so there is a small chance he can be fantasy relevant this season. His speed alone is worthy of a late round pick in mixed leagues should he begin the season as the Dodgers starter at second base.
He stole 10 bags in 12 attempts in 106 plate appearances in the big leagues last season, and stole 49 bases in 60 attempts at the AAA level as well. His on base percentage in AAA last season was .385, and reports show that he carried that over to winter ball as well, so it will be interesting to see how he fares this spring. He could be a valuable late round sleeper in 2014.
Oscar Taveras 100% healthy
On Thursday, we learned that Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras was given 100% clearance to begin baseball activities. Here is more from Jennifer Langosch from MLB.com:
He has already tested his surgically-repaired right ankle by running on it, but the Cardinals are going to ease him into certain drills.
With more than six weeks remaining before Opening Day, the organization sees no necessity in pushing the 21-year-old Taveras to do too much, too soon.
"From a running standpoint, we just want to be smart and patient," Mozeliak said. "You will see him pushing himself, but you may see some of the range-type drills in the outfield, some of his might be shortened. We don't open tomorrow, so there's no reason to push him as if we were. We have six weeks, and he needs to take advantage of those six weeks. But where he is physically is very encouraging."
There is a chance, albeit small, that Taveras could force his way onto the Cardinals Opening Day roster. The health of Allen Craig's foot is no sure thing, and the fact that he is slated to begin the season as the Cardinals starting right fielder, could result in more injury for the injury prone Craig. If Craig shows he cannot handle or doesn't have the range in right field, the Cardinals could decide to push him back to first base, and Matt Adams to the bench, leaving right field open for Taveras.