Results tagged ‘ Jordan Schafer ’

Foul Balls; And 2010 Forecasts: NL East

Before we
wrap up the National League forecast, the Denard Span incident this afternoon
in Tampa (he hits his own mother with a foul ball – and she is wearing one of
his uniforms at the time) called to mind three equally unlikely events with
players and fans and balls flying into the stands:

1. August
17th, 1957. Richie Ashburn, who got to the Baseball Hall of Fame largely by
virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches he didn’t
like, until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands
at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It struck – of all people – Alice
Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the newspaper The Philadelphia Bulletin. They
had to carry Mrs. Roth (and her broken nose) off on a stretcher. While
they were so doing, Ashburn, who was still
at bat and still fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul
ball.

2. Of
course, on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees picked up a
ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base. It instead hit a fan
sitting behind the dugout, breaking her eyeglasses. The fan, of course, was my
mother.

3.
And perhaps the unlikeliest of the events: After Span got hit, the Associated
Press was reminded of the Bob Feller incident (reminded by Bob Feller, of
course). On May 14, 1939, when the Hall of Fame flamethrower was still just 20
years old, he threw a pitch at Comiskey Park which some member of the White Sox
fouled into the seats – striking Feller’s mother. May 14, 1939 was, of course,
Mother’s Day.

Now to
finish up the NL:

ATLANTA is
the obvious sleeper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. If Troy Glaus and
Jason Heyward produce as Atlanta expects them, Bobby Cox will have a
competitive final year. If they exceed expectations (and Heyward gives off the
vibe of a Pujolsian, From-Day-One-Superstar) the Braves might actually air out
the division. The rotation gets a little sketchy behind Hanson and Jurrjens,
and there is little or no room for injury (if Glaus gets profoundly hurt or
Heyward is Jordan Schafer
, Eric Hinske and Omar Infante will be playing nearly every
day). And of course it would not be the Braves without another new closer.
Here, updated from its first appearance in this space last summer, is the Bobby
Cox bullpen honor roll:

1. Joe
Boever, 1990

2. Mark
Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990

3. Mercker
and Juan Berenguer, 1991

4.
Alejandro Pena, 1991-92

5. Jeff
Reardon, 1992

6. Mike
Stanton, 1993

7. Greg
McMichael, 1994-95

8. Brad
Clontz, 1995

9. Mark
Wohlers, 1995-98

10. Kerry
Ligtenberg, 1998

11. John
Rocker, 1999

12.
Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000

13.
Rocker, 2000-01

14. Steve
Karsay, 2001

15. John
Smoltz, 2001-04

16. Danny
Kolb, 2005

17. Chris
Reitsma, 2005

18. Kyle
Farnsworth, 2005

19.
Reitsma, 2006

20. Ken
Ray, 2006

21. Bob
Wickman, 2006-07

22. Rafael
Soriano, 2008

23. Manny
Acosta, 2008

24. John
Smoltz, 2008

25.
Soriano, 2008

26. Mike
Gonzalez, 2008-09

27.
Soriano, 2009

28. Billy
Wagner, 2010.

If FLORIDA
could make just two starters out of Anibal Sanchez, Nate Robertson, Andrew Miller, Sean West,
Ryan Tucker, Rick Vandenhurk, and Chris Volstad, the Marlins might be the
favorites. By mid-season this could be the most potent offense in the league,
because all Florida needs to produce seven house-wreckers in a row is for one
of the following three kids to live up to his promise: Logan Morrison, Gaby
Sanchez, Mike Stanton (if the Heyward-esque Stanton explodes to big league
quality, you put him in the outfield, you put the fabulous Chris Coghlan back at second or third,
and move either Jorge Cantu or Dan Uggla to first). Florida’s biggest question
mark is the bullpen, where Leo Nunez may or may not succeed.

All that
can be said about NEW YORK is: Sigh. I love the people who run this club, from
the ticket takers to the owners. But this year the wheels could fall off even
worse – and farther – than last. I think Jason Bay is a legitimate power
source, and I thought Jeff Francoeur a steal, but that begs the question of
what the Mets now expect from the guy who is still their top offensive
prospect, Fernando Martinez. If Bay, Beltran, and Francoeur are to be the
outfield for awhile, why is Martinez still there? Plus, the silence
about Beltran is ominous. The
ominousness of Daniel Murphy’s bat is silent. And there is nothing – nothing -
dependable in any of the three categories of pitchers, except for Johan
Santana, Pedro Feliciano, and Frankie Rodriguez, and the latter is just another
closer now. It is absolutely plausible that by June 1 the only questions will
be whether or not to give Ike Davis a taste of the majors, whether or not to
start screwing up Jenrry Mejia the way the Yankees messed with Joba
Chamberlain, and if some Japanese team will take Luis Castillo off their hands.

I’m not
the only person who believed Buster Olney’s story about PHILADELPHIA and Ryan
Howard – if not the plausibility of a swap for Pujols, then at least internal
musings about his decline against lefthanded pitchers and his decreasing
success against breaking pitches. When you are chewed up and spat out by Damaso
Marte, you are not exactly still in the same league as Pujols, or Adrian Gonzalez
for that matter. I’m a little suspicious of the assumed improvement in putting
Placido Polanco in at third (he’s 34, he fell off appreciably last year, he is
moving to a tougher position). Raul Ibanez seems to represent that Sword of
Damacles hanging over any team trying for three in a row (if you haven’t had a
significant position player injury in the first two seasons, you’re going to
in the third). I am not sold on the
rotation (Blanton, Contreras, Moyer, Kendrick – two of these guys must do well),
and the bullpen looks to be sketchier than a year ago.

There are
ways WASHINGTON can suddenly stop being a last-place team (the Ian Desmond
decision was superb – it needs to be followed by similar decisions involving Drew
Storen and Stephen Strasburg, and maybe new limbs grown by Jordan Zimmermann
and Chien-Ming Wang – quickly). Also, I think he’s a quality individual, but
the retention of Jim Riggleman as manager – after ten seasons that have produced
only one finish better than third (a weak second for the Cubs in 1998) – makes
little sense here. Unless Mike Rizzo is thinking of Pat Listach or Rick
Eckstein as a future big league manager, respectability for this club is going
to be the time it takes them to swap out Riggleman plus
the time it will take to break in his
replacement. Why not skip the first step?

DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
I’ll take the long odds that the Braves’ breaks fall the right way and Cox goes
out with a winner in a tight race over the Phillies. The Marlins will hit a ton
but waste the brilliance of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco by using 11
different fifth starters and half a dozen closers. The Mets will have their
nightmare collapse and be wondering if they can unload not only Castillo, but
maybe Beltran and Reyes, too. They will finish a few games ahead of the
Nationals – but only a few.

Tillman1967.jpg

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS: As mentioned, I like the Braves, Reds and the Rockies for the division titles. The Wild Card would seem to be a battle between the Phillies and the Giants – I really like San Francisco’s rotation, and I really do not like Philadelphia’s chances of getting through another season without physical calamity. So let’s assume the Rockies finish with the best record – they should handle the Giants, and the Braves’ experience should make them favorites over the Reds. An Atlanta-Colorado NLCS? I think the Rockies win that one, as much as I’d be rooting for the man I always greet as the guy the Braves once traded to the Yankees for Bob Tillman, who had been traded to the Yankees for Elston Howard, meaning Coxy was as good as Elston Howard….

Beerless Forecasts

Did Pirates Upgrade In Center?

Don’t get me wrong about Nate McLouth. Great guy, hustles, works hard, busted his butt at an All-Star Game, better than anything the Braves had in their outfield before tonight’s trade.

I’m just not convinced Pittsburgh didn’t improve its line-up by replacing him with Andrew McCutchen.
McLouth’s explosive 367 at bats before his epic night in the Bronx? 19 homers, 65 RBI, .281.
IMG_0539.JPG
His 346 at bats since August 1st of last year? 13 homers, 66 RBI, .261. And he is approaching his 28th birthday in October, the time at which the all-time graph of batters suggests improvements stop. The great hitters plateau at the peak. The others begin their descent. What you are seeing with McLouth is what you are likely to get henceforth: around 20 homers, around 20 steals, around a .270 batting average. Nothing to sneer at, but nothing to make Pirates’ fans believe that they have just had another Jason Bay or even Xavier Nady ripped from their bosom. Let us not forget that only a year ago, McLouth barely shook off Nyjer Morgan for the starting job, and the year before he lost a lot of playing time to Chris Duffy, for goodness sakes.
The key to this trade is that McLouth’s replacement does not come from it. McCutchen, who arrives in Pittsburgh as McLouth’s equal in speed and outfield skill, probably more than his equal for batting average, and eventually capable of producing 75% of his power, nearly made the majors out of spring training. The Pirates were sorely tempted to damn arbitration and take him north – that’s how authoritative a hitter he looked in Florida.
The worthiness of the trade depends on which Charlie Morton appears for Pittsburgh. The version Neal Huntington dreams of, dominated the International League last spring and this one. The other appeared as Atlanta’s starter fifteen times last year and could’ve been mistaken for a BP pitcher – but he was both hurt (back) and ill (weight loss). It should also not be assumed that the Braves think Morton is a washout – they have already seen sparks of interest caused by Kris Medlen, and are confident Tommy Hanson will shine as he steps into Medlen’s slot in the rotation on Saturday. The second pitcher in the deal, Jeff Locke, is an intriguing lefthander with a curve and control. If he and Morton both make it, the Pirates will have won the trade.
This is not to say Atlanta didn’t have to make it. McLouth not only fills a huge hole, but also takes enough pressure off Jordan Schafer that we might see the latter return this year, or at worst next, and force McLouth to either corner. McLouth might also serve as some sort of last-stab-in-the-dark at resuscitating the almost tragic Jeff Francoeur, before the Braves – do what? Sell him to a Korean League team?

That Was Fast

Little doubt now that the Braves are ready to go with the aforementioned Jordan Schafer in center. For real. This year.

The last impediment was finding somebody who would take Josh Anderson off their hands – he’s out of minor league options. The Tigers accepted, payment in the form of a 25-year old AA-pitcher named Rudy Darrow who has fought back from Tommy John surgery and might be a middle relief candidate sooner rather than later.

But it might as well have been Clarence Darrow. As I understand the way the Bravos’ thinking evolved this spring, it went from 1) Gregor Blanco in front with Anderson as an acceptable alternative and Schafer as a long shot, to 2) Blanco sliding to the back of the pack, to Schafer looking so sharp that they began to try to deal Anderson to clear a path for him before opening day, to 3) a fallback of keeping Anderson for a little while after Opening Day and sending Schafer to keep in shape in Richmond while they continued to try to trade Anderson, to 4) committing to Schafer and resigning themselves to losing Anderson on waivers if necessary.

Anderson has proved himself a superior baserunner, decent centerfielder, and adequate hitter in each of the last two Septembers. But given the Astros’ inexplicable desire to trade for Michael Bourn when they already had a Bourn-like figure in Anderson, and the Braves’ willingness to sacrifice Anderson to give Schafer a clear path, one assumes his own teams have seen weaknesses in his bat that would be soon exposed over a full major league season.

In any event this underscores the Schafer point below. Pure fans, step back and admire what is to come from the kid. Fantasy players, grab him and tell no one of what you have seen this day.

National League Fantasy, and Closers

Promised a few National League notes for anybody still drafting, as soon as my league was set, and here they are (the American League auctions next Sunday, so I doubt that will be of any use to anybody, but I’ll try to put in some abridged notes then, too).

Nothing drives me more nuts than hearing a Rookie Of The Year candidate described as a sleeper, so let’s just describe a few guys in terms of how seriously you should take them when compared to more proven commodities. I believe in Cameron Maybin (didn’t draft him only because Beltran, Chris Young, Bruce, and Upton were all available in the first 71 picks) and would expect he will outperform the likes of Andre Ethier and Mike Cameron.
Another guy I can’t praise too much is Daniel Murphy (again, had to go and fill out a pitching staff after the primo guys fell into my lap unexpectedly and late). There’s the potential for a batting champion in there – plate discipline that is all but lost in the 21st century game. Fernando Tatis will see a little work in leftfield, maybe Nick Evans too, against tougher righthanders but I would expect Murphy will get 450 or more plate appearances and is several times the player that some of the guys drafted ahead of him in our outfit are – Spilborghs, Fukudome, Byrnes. Right now, Murphy may be what Chase Headley is supposed to be.
Two outfielders could either shine this year or wind up in AAA and I took chances on both of them in the later rounds. Two weeks ago Hal McRae told me the difference between a successful Colby Rasmus and the one who coughed it up in the minors last year, is how much he can talk himself out of swinging for the fences. There will be homers, but this is a line drive guy and this spring, Hal says, he’s been doing a great job of – cliche warning – staying within himself.
You should think long and hard about Jordan Schafer. The suspension last year, the limited experience in the minors, the youth, the presence behind him of Gorkys Hernandez, the usefulness of Josh Anderson ahead of him – these factors are irrelevant. It’s not a lock that he’s going to open the season in centerfield for them, but the Braves would be delighted if he did. This is the real deal and he’s ready to play in the bigs today. If you are drafting this week, and he hasn’t been sent out, and it’s round 20 and your choice is between him and a Hairston brother – take the kid, then take the Hairston brother later if you have to (alter the analogy as needed for keeper leagues, reserve drafts, auctions, etc.)
And if you like redemption stories, one of the top prospects of 2007 may have finally straightened himself out. The Pirates think they’ve leveled both Andy LaRoche’s swing and his mentality. Too many people know about Travis Ishikawa’s homer-happy spring to make him the guy you sneak in to your 1B/3B slot – try LaRoche.
Let’s wrap this up with that most vexing of dilemmas: the Closer follies. Here’s all I know, culled from a variety of sources (and if you think these people annoy you, consider my plight – our league also counts Holds – try figuring them out in advance).
Arizona: Qualls is set. Pena is the alternative, but I don’t think it’ll come to that. Do not listen to any Max Scherzer rumors – he’ll open on the DL, then start.
Atlanta: This too is surprisingly clear. Moylan (when he gets off the DL 4/15 or so) and Soriano will set up Mike Gonzalez. The problem here isn’t with the intent, it’s with the curse. The list of Bobby Cox’s closers since he returned to manage the Bravos 19 years ago is now about 30 guys long. They change often, and usually after big messy explosions and injuries. For crying out loud, he literally had a closer for one day last year in Smoltz.
Chicago: I love and respect Lou Piniella but this announcement tonight about Kevin Gregg neither makes any sense nor will it last. Gregg barely hung on to the job in Florida and will not repeat the trick at loftier atmospheres. This makes Marmol more of a risk, but it’s a risk I’d take – he seems really (and appropriately) steamed. Another reason the Cubs are a lot more vulnerable than they, or most fans, think.
Cincinnati: Cordero has gotten lit up like Christmas this spring, but as we saw last year with Eric Gagne, a lot of money in a small market means you can blow about 10 saves before the manager dares to switch off. And to whom? Weathers?
Colorado: No freaking clue. Street pitched well, terribly, well. Corpas pitched well, but it’s as if he’s waiting, waiting for you to rely on him.
Florida: No information to back this up but any time they say “oh, we’re just going to let our closer sit out the rest of spring training but he’ll be fine come Opening Day,” I tend towards disbelief. I would guess Lindstrom is in far rockier shape than they are letting on – or know. The backup here was Scott Proctor, but he is officially hurt. Behind him is Leonel Nunez. Good luck sorting that out.
Houston: Valverde. As long as you don’t have to watch him pitch in person or have your job or your health depend on him, he’s fine.
Los Angeles: Broxton. Up and down but certainly the best arm of any of the closers or would-be’s in the NL and Joe Torre doesn’t have a second option.
Milwaukee: Florida, only colder. Hoffman is hurt, they’re being coy with the information, and Ken Macha says the sub could be Seth McClung. Or Carlos Villanueva. Or Todd Coffey for crying out loud. McClung of course is also a possible starter, long man, and 8th Inning guy. He’ll be busy.
New York: K-Rod, obviously. Putz in the 8th. Some suggestion Feliciano may move back to a full-time 7th Inning guy rather than a specialist against lefty batters.
Philadelphia: Lidge, period. As unambiguous as New York. Unless his saves streak ends with three or four in a row and then… who knows? There’s a Peter Pan quality to his stardom.
Pittsburgh: Capps, although there are fears that last year’s injury might return.
St. Louis: I think it’s going to be Motte as evidently he’s been given nearly all the pseudo-save situations in camp. The latest crystal ball readings suggest Chris Perez is going back to AAA. I don’t think McClellan or Franklin are options.
San Diego: It’s Heath Bell and I think he’ll do okay. Then again he might get fewer than 30 save opportunities. It’s not a robust ballclub.
San Francisco: Brian Wilson, and he has a touch of Valverde in him, but unless you subtract blown saves from counted ones, that’s not your problem.
Washington: Joel Hanrahan, in circumstances not unlike Wilson.
So to rank them:
1 K-Rod
2 Lidge
3 Broxton
4 Qualls
5 Cordero
6 Valverde
7 Wilson
8 Marmol
9 Hoffman
10 Bell
11 Capps
12 Gonzalez
13 Hanrahan
14 Motte
15 Gregg
16 Lindstrom
17 Corpas
18 Street
19 Villanueva
20 Nunez
21 C. Perez
22 Soriano (for Gonzalez, if the curse hits him afresh)
23 Moylan (for Soriano, if it then gets him)
24 Kerry Ligtenberg (if they lose the first three, it might as well be him or Schafer, or maybe it’s Stephen Marek)
Lastly, we all do this. Comes the fourteenth round, Jose Reyes having long since been the overall first pic
k (mine), my offense rounding out nicely, but my bullpen – in a Saves and Holds league – empty except for Broxton. And I pick… Edgar Renteria. I do not know what I was thinking.
Nevertheless, I was topped in the 23rd round (of 25) when my buddy the Commissioner, worried that Ramon Hernandez would be insufficient in a one-catcher league, taps… Sal Fasano, who was in camp with the Rockies this year. He apparently had him briefly in ’06 when Fasano was with the Phillies (he thought it was last year) and he hit a home run or something. So my Commish remembered his home run fondly. And his mustache.
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