Game 1: Pirates Vs. Cardinals NLDS

Surely by now you have realized or heard by now that this is the first time the Pittsburgh Pirates have made the postseason since 1992. A lot of things has happened over the last 21 years in baseball but it’s finally time for baseball fans in the steel city to throw on their eye patches and root for their Pirates as they take on the division rivals and champion, the St. Louis Cardinals.

First the Pirates had to survive the one game playoff game against another division foe, the Cincinnati Reds to get the shot to move on and play the National League’s best record (97-65) St Louis Cardinals. Francisco Liriano spun a gem and Russel Martin smacked 2 home runs en route to a 6-2 victory over the Reds, the first postseason victory at PNC Park.

Starters: The St. Louis Cardinals closed out the regular season with 6 straight victories and are putting their ace, Adam Wainwright on the hill for game 1. The NL leader in Wins (19), will face the Pirates for the 4th time this season and owns a 3.00 ERA over the first 3 starts. The Pirates are throwing AJ Burnett on the mound who has faced the Cards 6 times this season, posting a 3.67 ERA.  I give the Cardinals the starting pitching advantage in game 1 of the NLDS.

The two teams have faced each other 19 times this season, with the Pirates taking the booty 10 times. But the Red Birds have won the last 4 of their match-ups. Pittsburgh has displayed more power, hitting 14 more home runs than the Cards in their 19 games but give St. Louis the upper hand if you’re talking recent postseason experience. I do feel that if it is close late in the game, the Pirates can do a better job keeping the lead close with their bullpen arms.

Statistics really only go so far when it comes to October baseball. Who will be the hero? I think the St. Louis Cardinals will take Game 1 but mark my words, without Allen Craig I think the Pirates have a legitimate shot at taking the Cardinals down in the NLDS.

-Tim Williams 

 

 

 

Examining the Matt Garza trade

Welcome aboard to your new team, Matt Garza. The Texas Rangers have completed a trade that sends third basemen Mike Olt, right handed starting pitcher Justin Grimm, right handed starting pitcher C.J. Edwards and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza. The deal could turn into 2 PTBNL depending on if the Cubs select Neil Ramirez or not. If they do, he will be the lone “player to be named later”. All of the Cubs PTBNL options are pitchers. Not really knowing who’s on that list, Neil Ramirez would be a nice addition to the Cubs organization which already got richer by dealing a half a season of Matt Garza who will become a free agent after this season.

A deal like this really shows you the depth and confidence the Texas Rangers have in their minor league system. I really enjoy the willingness and how aggressive the Rangers are to compete for the chance at a World Series championship.

The Rangers get:

Matt Garza – The 29 year old soon to be free agent will join a Texas Ranger rotation that should get them to a playoff spot. Seems as if Garza is over his elbow woes and is pitching to a tune of a 3.17 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 20 walks in 71 innings. In 5 starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Garza has an ERA of 6.04 and has given up 5 home runs. Albeit a small sample size, those numbers sure stick out.

The Cubs get:

Mike Olt, 3B – No doubt about it, Mike Olt can hit home runs to the moon, but it has already been reported in the past that he’d been dealing with vision issues. He’s been back on the field for AAA Round Rock and hitting .213 with an OBP of .317 and 11 home runs in 63 games this season. He’s got a long way to go to regain his 2012 form in AA but he’s only 24 years old. Baseball America has him as the 22nd best prospect before the year started.

Justin Grimm, SP – The Cubs get a guy they can throw right in their rotation to replace Matt Garza. Still 24 years old and has shown some bright spots in his time with Texas. Overall it’s clear he was no fit at the Rangers ballpark giving up 15 HR’s but a move to Wrigley sure could help. He has a 6.37 ERA in 17 starts, but 7 for wins. Control is there, but he has just been hit a ton. Grimm owns a career 3.07 ERA in the minors and a nice piece for the Cubbies.

C.J. Edwards, SP – Edwards is currently in A ball with the Hickory Crawdads in the South Atlantic division. The 21 year old starter has been brilliant with the Crawdads this season and possibly could be moved up to AA by years end in the Cubs farm system. In 18 starts, Edwards is 8-2 with a cute 1.83 ERA in 93.1 innings along with a disgusting 122 strike outs and only walking 34 batters. Not to mention he’s only given up 62 hits in that time. Probably the best prospect in this deal. Interesting note, C.J. has not given up any homer’s this season. Actually he has given up 0 home runs in his minor league career.

*Possible Player To Be Named Later:

Neil Ramirez, SP – 24 year old Neil is currently at AA Frisco. Neil Ramirez has similar statistics to Edwards, striking out 11 per 9 innings in 95.1 innings with a bit of a higher ERA at 3.68 mainly due to giving up 8 home runs.

Overall, the Chicago Cubs got what they wanted, a nice haul of prospects to may be able to help out at the big league level at some point in their respective careers and the Rangers got themselves a steady pitcher whom they will take aim for the title this year. You never know until down the road but I do like what the Cubs got as they continue to rebuild.

-Tim Williams

 

Future Fish

It’s no doubt the Miami Marlins are having one of their worst seasons in franchise history. Coming into this season expectations were low. After a surprising move of trading most of their veteran pieces (whom they had just signed) to the Toronto Blue Jays last season, it seems as though the backlash toward the Miami Marlins has cooled down a bit this year.

The Marlins surprised the baseball world by calling up starting pitcher and top prospect, Jose Fernandez earlier this season. Many people in the industry thought the Marlins were crazy for calling up the young righty, myself included. But Fernandez continues to shine bright like a diamond and through 18 starts he’s posted a strikeout per inning and boasts a 2.75 ERA. The kid is about to turn 21 years old and hasn’t even pitched past the A+ level. Oh yeah, and he made his first all star game appearance at Citi Field. The Marlins have a rock, no.. a boulder anchoring this pitching staff for years to come.

Their offense though? The Marlins rank dead last in runs scored, last in total hits, last in doubles, last in home runs, last in total bases, last in runs batted in, and last in average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. Last in every offensive category except triples. The only guy they really can count on is their stud, Giancarlo Stanton and he’s off to a terrible start, granted he missed some time with injury earlier this season.

Solution? Call up 2 top prospects in Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick and hope they can get this lineup going. Yelich is arguably their best prospect overall after Fernandez being called up and Marisnick is their best athletic player in the system who has shown he can hita bit. Baseball America ranks Yelich 15th best prospect in MLB coming into the season and Marisnick ranked the 64th best prospect on that list.

Jake Marisnick (left) and Christian Yelich (right)

Jake Marisnick (left) and Christian Yelich (right)

Both coming up from AA Jacksonville, Yelich has missed some time early on from injury but in 49 games he’s hitting .280/.365/.518 and he owns a .313 career minor league average. Yelich also had a nice showing in the most recent Futures Game at Citi.  He’s a guy who can play great defense, hit with some pop and steal a few bases. He’ll most likely patrol center for the fish. Just a complete player overall and the fans will go bananas.

Marisnick, is a third round pick in 2009. Coming over from the trade with the Blue Jays, is hitting .294/.358/.502 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 67 games this year. He’ll likely play in left field.

Both players are big bodied outfielders with high ceilings who have a chance to bring a little something to the struggling Miami Marlins offense who is in desperate need for some kind of anything to get them going. I really like the move to bring both of these players up and Miami shows no fear of starting young prospects service time in the majors, which I love.

-Tim Williams

Baltimore Orioles call up Henry Urrutia

Tomorrow marks the start of the second half of the baseball season. Midway through the hot blistering summer, this is where teams prove they are for real and other teams start to fade. The trade deadline is coming up and teams look to scramble around to add any additional pieces they need to succeed.

One division I’m really looking forward to watching in the second half is the AL East. It’s not just a 2 team race anymore. Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, and the Yankees are all within 6 games of each other and all have 51 or more wins. The Blue Jays sit at the bottom with a 45-49 record and 11.5 games back. But heck, with the expectations they had coming into the season and a healthy Jose Reyes now, they could land anywhere in that division.

It appears as if the Yankees may be buying and selling, Red Sox could be buyers, Rays will likely rely within and the Blue Jays are possible buyers. The Orioles have already acquired an arm in Scott Feldman and are making more moves.

One thing for sure is the Baltimore Orioles just called up outfielder Henry Urrutia from Triple A Norfolk.

henry

I don’t know a whole lot about this 26 year old Cuban outfielder but what I do know is that he is hitting. Urrutia was signed last season for under 800,000 dollars and after some visa issues he made his debut this year. Starting 52 games in Double A Bowie and 15 games at Triple A Norfolk. Combing the two, he is hitting a .365/.427/.531 slash line with a .958 OPS. He has 7 homeruns (all at AA), also is drawing walking and playing great defense. He hasn’t committed any errors in the outfield and has 8 assists.

The Orioles figure they have seen enough in Henry Urrutia and decided to solve their DH woes by calling up one of their own. My guess is he’ll see some time at DH and some time in LF and RF as well to give Nate McLouth and Nick Markakis some days off in the field. And why not? It’s worth a shot.

The Orioles are making moves and making them early.

Tim Williams

Phillies: Buyers or Sellers?

Oh the Philadelphia Phillies. It was announced earlier today that Phillies first basemen Ryan Howard will undergo surgery after being diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his left knee. Not exactly what General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr and the fans want to hear a week before the a week prior to the All Star break.

Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard drinks champagne after the Phillies defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 4 of their MLB National League Divisional Series playoff baseball game in Milwaukee

The Phillies have much improved this season compared to the season prior, entering today 3 games under .500 with a 43-46 record and 7.5 games behind the first place Braves. Mainly with help due to the health of their line up, break out season of Dominic Brown and Ben Revere getting on base and stealing bases after his crawling start. At the 2012 All Star break, the Phillies were 37-50 and 14 games back from first place, 2013 being a clear step up from the 2012 season. With the All Star break fast approaching  and the trade deadline at the end of the month, Amaro Jr has some big decisions to make.

With Howard now needing knee surgery that will put him out at least 6-8 weeks, we’re looking at a late August or early September return. It really wouldn’t be a huge shock to me if he was out the whole year. It Looks as if they will be calling up Darin Ruf from AAA Lehigh Valley who owns a .266/.344/.408 slash line along with 7 homeruns in 82 games this year. Not a lot of Simpsons for a guy who has big power potential as he showed last year in the minors and is also striking out more than once a game.

If I’m Amaro Jr (which I am not), I would seriously consider calling this season a wash. I know, the Phillies are hanging in there but realistically do you think they can compete with with the Nationals/Braves, the tight NL West and the successful Pirates/Reds/Cardinals out of the NL Central all fighting for the 2 Wild Card spots? The competition is looking quite fierce.

The Phillies don’t exactly have the depth and let’s be honest here, their system isn’t that great after shipping some talent to try and win it all again post 2009. There’s been interest in Toronto bringing in Chase Utley as well as the Kansas City Royals and the Dodgers all interested as well. Possibly unloading guys like Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young may be a good idea as well.

The Phillies have pieces like Brown, Revere and Hamels to build off of next year and getting some fresh prospects certainly would be an improvement to their organization. They sure don’t have enough pieces to get what they need at the deadline. If they don’t make some moves, I feel that they will run into the same problem again next season. It’s not an awful thing to think about building for next year. I just don’t think the Philadelphia Phillies have it in 2013.

Tim Williams

Back to the Youth

A big part of baseball for me is watching young talented prospects develop and learn the game through the minor leagues. Some develop into some of the best hitters and pitchers, some settle into bench roles or middle relief and others don’t meet expectations or fizzle out. Baseball is grueling, brutal and one of the toughest sports to play. Despite some people thinking it’s like watching grass grow.

Everyone has their favorite little all stars that are prime to brake out and i’m sure many of you lurk the top 100 baseball prospects list year to year like I do. Here’s a list of guys that are having themselves a strong season as they try to make a name in baseball.

Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees – Originally drafted by the Rockies in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft. Peter chose not to sign and attend the University of Miami. The following year in the 2012 draft, the Yankees drafted him in the 2nd round, 94th overall and he signed with the bombers. He’s a 6’3 righty catcher with power. He’s down in single A Charleston and tearing the covers off baseballs. He’s hitting a slash line of .333/.404/.640 with 11 homeruns and 41 RBI’s in 51 games. What’s also impressive is that he clubbed 22 doubles in that time.

Max Muncy, 1b, Oakland Athletics – Max was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 41st round of the 2009 draft coming out of high school. He chose not to sign and attend Baylor instead. Then in the 2012 draft, Max was selected in the 5th round by the Oakland A’s. Not an overly large first baseman, being only 6 foot but this kid has some power. There is one thing that sticks out to me from his rookie season last year at single A Burlington and this year at high A Stockton. In roughly about the same amount of games, in 2012 he hit 20 doubles and 4 HR’s. This season he’s translated that swing in a big way, hitting 9 doubles and a whopping 18 HR’s. Couple that with his .303/.422/.539 slash line and 61 RBI’s. But perhaps his best feature is the fact that he has more walks than strikeouts, 47:46 which is huge for a developing young ball player. Keeping my eye on this kid.

Anthony Ranaudo, P, Boston Red Sox – The first rounder from 2010 is making heads turn again. He struggled in 2012 with the Portland Sea Dogs posting a 6.69 ERA and basically walked everybody. This season he’s back at AA Portland and it seems that he’s adjusted quite nice. In 12 starts, Ranaudo posted a 2.12 ERA, only allowed 41 hits in 67 innings with a K:BB of 76:21. Looks like Boston has an ace in the making here and this dude is 6’7″. SIX SEVEN!

Rafael Montero, P, New York Mets – This kid amazes me. I think the Mets really have something in this arm. He hails from the Dominican Republic and signed with the Mets in 2010. What intrigues me is that he’s only walked 43 in 271.2 innings in his minor league career. In AA Binghamton, Montero posted a 2.43 ERA with a WHIP of .915 and a nice 9.7 K per 9. There is a reason why the Mets called him up to AAA Las Vegas and in 2 starts he’s pitched quite well. Don’t expect the Mets to call him to the majors just yet because of his innings but who knows, it’s baseball.

montero-gnats-closeup

-Tim Williams

@ItsTimWilliams

Great Scott! A Look Back on the Signing of Kyle Lohse.

Get in the Delorean and strap on your seat belts, we’re going back in time! All the way back to March 25 of the year 2013. Okay so maybe not that long ago but on that day, Kyle Lohse finally found a job. With the Milwaukee Brewers, for 3 years and $33 million. Which I still think was a mistake on the part of General Manager Doug Melvin. Maybe the scorpion sting got to his head.

kyle lohse 2

 

I’m going to be quite honest, I really didn’t see the Brewers to be the team signing Lohse. Sure they needed pitching but was it really worth it to sign a 34 year old to a 3 year contract and lose your first round pick in the upcoming draft? In 2012 the Brewers finished 3rd in the NL Central with a record of 83-79. Not too shabby, so I can see why they would think they have a shot to compete in the 2013 season. Respectfully Milwaukee has some nice pieces to build around but after losing Zack Greinke, having a bullpen that was struggling and a weak farm system, maybe it’s time to load up the system through the draft in the next few years. Lets face it, the NL Central has become a pretty competitive division as of late.

Don’t get me wrong, Kyle Lohse is a descent pitcher and coming off a great year but by signing him, Milwaukee forfeits their 1st round 28th overall pick to division rivals, St. Louis Cardinals. Their first pick in the 2013 draft came 54th overall which the Brewers drafted high school pitcher Devin Williams.

Push it to 88 MPH and travel forward to June and Lohse currently owns a 4.03 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 73.2 innings this season with a record of 2 and 6 through mid-June. The Brewers currently sit 4th in the NL Central with a record of 26-37, 15 games behind the team with the best record in baseball.. the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kyle Lohse

 

Overall I think when the time came, Doug Melvin shouldn’t of made the offer to Lohse, kept the extra pick and went after an innings eater at a more affordable rate. Although baseball is unpredictable and who knows what can happen, but I just don’t see the Brewers contending for a little while.

-Tim Williams