Top 100 Baseball Blog

Saturday, October 19, 2019

How the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets Could Be Perfect Partners on a Mookie Betts Trade

As I have previously written, under no circumstances should the Boston Red Sox trade Mookie Betts this offseason. However, if the team is as dedicated to getting their payroll under the luxury tax as they claim to be and the 2018’s departure is inevitable, there’s one team in particular, that might be a perfect trade partner—the New York Mets.

Betts, coming off a season where he made $20 million, will only see that figure rise in 2020—before hitting free agency in 2021. Despite the likelihood of him signing a massive contract once he becomes a free agent, he figure to be highly coveted if he is made available this offseason. Given the current financial state of the team and the bleak outlook of their farm system, which is widely considered to be bereft of top-flight young talent, the Red Sox would need to receive a package of prospects and/or affordable young talent if they were to pull the trigger on a deal. Enter the Mets, who have some pieces that could be an intriguing match for Boston.

There is no guarantee that Betts will re-sign with whichever team he is playing on in 2020. Any trade made has to be done under the assumption that it’s a one-year rental with the chance to indoctrinate him into new team culture to make a run at signing him long-term.
The Mets narrowly missed out on the 2019 playoffs with a team led by young hitters like Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, and a solid starting pitching staff headlined by the superb Jacob deGrom. Adding Betts could go a long way to rounding out their lineup and making them a valid postseason threat in 2020.

In particular, there are two players that Boston should target if the Mets let it be known they want to do the dance. The first is 24-year-old first baseman Dominic Smith. Long a top prospect, he has never been able to seize a starting spot in New York. Alonso and his 53 home runs this season means there is only room for him off the bench or in a corner outfield position, where he is not well suited.

Smith is actually a solid defensive first baseman, who has hit for power and average in the minors. He disappointed in stints at the major league level in 2017 and 2018, but flashed his potential this in 2019, producing an .881 OPS and 134 OPS+ in 89 games (197 plate appearances). He is not eligible for free agency until 2025 and could become an immediate starter in Boston, where veteran 34-year-old free agent Mitch Moreland is likely to not return.

If Smith, a three-time top-100 Baseball America prospect, produces in a starting role anywhere close to how he did this year, he would be an excellent complement to a young Boston infield that already boasts stars like shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers. He’s young, inexpensive and a potential impact left-handed bat, which would play very well in cozy Fenway Park. He checks a lot of boxes of what a team trading their best player would want as part of the return.

A second player the Red Sox could target from the Mets is closer Edwin Diaz.  After a stellar 2018 that saw him post 57 saves and a 1.96 ERA with the Seattle Mariners, he was dealt to the Mets and promptly imploded. The right hander, who possesses a wicked slider and an upper-90s fastball, was wild and extremely homer prone this past season. In 66 games, he saved 26 games and struck out 15.4 batters per nine innings, but he also had a 5.59 ERA, gave up 15 gopher balls in just 58 innings, while walking 22.

Still just 25, and not eligible for free agency until 2023, the right-handed Diaz is an excellent reclamation project, who could slide into a the closer role in Boston, which has not been right since the departure of Craig Kimbrel following the 2018 campaign.

Diaz threw harder than ever in 2019, according to FanGraphs. His struggles after three excellent seasons to start his career are therefore more attributable to approach rather than health or decline. With Boston desperately needing an upgrade in their bullpen that had a 4.40 ERA this season, prying away a reliever so young, affordable and full of potential would be a coup.

It remains to be seen specifically what the Red Sox might be seeking in a trade for Betts. New York is not a great fit if they are hoping for major league-ready top-flight minor league talent. The trade that brought Diaz to the Mets made a major dent in their system with disappointing returns. However, a package starting with Smith and Diaz might well get Boston’s attention because of how it would present an opportunity to fill some major holes. Perhaps some not-yet-ready youngsters on the New York farm could help sweeten and round out a deal as lottery tickets. Of course, if the Mets were able to then re-sign Betts long-term, it would go a long way towards erasing the bad taste they have of losing out on the last big trade plunge they took.

In an ideal world, Betts will spend the remainder of his career in Boston. Unfortunately, finances may force one of the best players in the game out of town. If that happens, the team should try to leverage their misfortune in the present into a deal that could help them in the long term. The team with the players who can help them accomplish that the best is the Mets. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Minor League Baseball Names 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award® Winners

Ke’Bryan Hayes becomes second Minor League player to win three straight Gold Glove Awards  

 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Oct. 14, 2019 — Minor League Baseball™ and Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc., today announced the nine recipients of the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award® for defensive excellence. The winners at each position were selected from players in the 10 domestic-based, full-season Minor Leagues. Each player will receive his own Rawlings Gold Glove Award, modeled after the iconic award given to Major League Baseball’s top defensive players, during the 2020 season. 
 
“We congratulate the 2019 Minor League recipients of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award® for their defensive excellence displayed throughout the duration of the season,” said Mike Thompson, chief marketing officer for Rawlings. “We’re proud of the relationship we’ve built with Minor League Baseball over the years and we both maintain a shared commitment to recognizing and rewarding athletes’ defensive skillsets at the highest levels of game play.”  

 “These nine men were the gold standard for defensive excellence in Minor League Baseball in 2019 and I am pleased to honor them with a Rawlings Gold Glove Award®,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “On behalf of Minor League Baseball and our tremendous partners at Rawlings, I congratulate each of them on their outstanding seasons.” 

 The 2019 Minor League Baseball recipients of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award® are as follows: 
 
1B Will Craig Indianapolis (AAA) Pittsburgh 
2B Nick Madrigal Winston-Salem (A), Birmingham (AA) Charlotte (AAA) Chicago (AL) 
SS Donnie Walton Arkansas (AA) Seattle 
3B Ke’Bryan Hayes West Virginia (A), Indianapolis (AAA) Pittsburgh 
LF Mark Contreras Fort Myers (A), Pensacola (AA) Minnesota 
CF Victor Victor Mesa Jupiter (A), Jacksonville (AA) Miami 
RF Jesus Sanchez Montgomery (AA), Durham (AAA), New Orleans (AAA) Tampa Bay, Miami 
C Jhonny Pereda Tennessee (AA) Chicago (NL) 
P Matthew Kent Portland (AA), Pawtucket (AAA) Boston   

Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) first baseman Will Craig posted a .999 fielding percentage in 886 total chances. Craig played 111 games at first base and recorded 828 putouts and 57 assists while committing only one error. Craig, 24, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Wake Forest University. 

Charlotte Knights (White Sox) second baseman Nick Madrigal recorded a .992 fielding percentage in 108 games between Class-A Advanced Winston-Salem (28 games), Double-A Birmingham (39 games) and Triple-A Charlotte (41 games). Madrigal handled 488 total chances and helped turn 95 double plays while making only four errors. Madrigal, 22, was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Oregon State University. 

 Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) infielder Donnie Walton posted a .990 fielding percentage in 103 games at shortstop. Walton handled 381 total chances, had a hand in 44 double plays and finished with 273 assists at shortstop. Walton was promoted to Seattle on Sept. 10, and played seven errorless games for the Mariners. Walton, 25, was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the fifth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma State University. 
 
Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes became the second player to win a Rawlings Minor League Baseball Gold Glove three years in a row (joining third baseman Ramon Conde, 1959–61) as he led Minor League Baseball third basemen with a .989 fielding percentage in 107 games at the hot corner. Hayes appeared in 104 games for Indianapolis and three for West Virginia on a rehabilitation assignment and totaled 287 chances (216 assists and 68 putouts) while making three errors. Over his last three seasons, Hayes has made just 17 errors in 331 games (872 total chances). Hayes, 22, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas. 
 
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Twins) left fielder Mark Contreras appeared in 94 games in the outfield with the majority of those starts in left field. He handled 182 total chances without an error and recorded 13 outfield assists. The Minnesota Twins selected Contreras in the ninth round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of California-Riverside. 
 
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins) center fielder Victor Victor Mesa recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage and 11 outfield assists in 102 games between Class-A Advanced Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville, handling 239 total chances. Mesa, 23, was signed by the Miami Marlins as a free agent out of Santa Clara, Cuba, on Oct. 22, 2018. 
 
New Orleans Baby Cakes (Marlins) right fielder Jesus Sanchez recorded 10 outfield assists and a .990 fielding percentage in 103 games for Durham (15 games), Montgomery (72 games) and New Orleans (16 games). Sanchez made only two errors in 212 total chances over 881.2 innings. Sanchez, 21, was originally signed by the Tampa Bay Rays as a free agent out of Higuey, Dominican Republic, on July 2, 2014. 
 
Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) catcher Jhonny Pereda posted a .996 fielding percentage in 85 games behind the plate, as he handled 833 chances over 743.2 innings while making three errors. Pereda threw out 33% (44 of 132) of would-be base stealers. Pereda, 23, was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs as a free agent out of Aragua, Venezuela, on April 1, 2013. 
 
Pawtucket Red Sox left-hander Matthew Kent posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage while handling 38 total chances in 152.1 innings pitched over 28 games (24 starts) for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Kent, 27, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas A&M University. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mike DeJean: Tales of a Relief Pitcher

Pitching prospects have it hard enough when trying to prove themselves without having to deal with the added pressures of pitching regularly in Denver for the Colorado Rockies, where the ball jumps off the bat. Right-hander Mike DeJean was not only drafted in the middle rounds, he spent six seasons in the minors and came up with the Rockies. However, he persevered to have a successful 10-year big-league career.

A shortstop while attending and playing for the University of West Alabama (Livingston), DeJean had a strong arm and successfully retired two batters in a pitching appearance during the Division II College World Series. Taking a chance on his potential on the mound, he was taken in the 24th round of that year’s draft by the New York Yankees and converted to relief pitcher.

DeJean made steady progress through the Yankees’ system as a closer, notching 65 saves in his first four seasons. His big break came after the 1995 season when New York traded him to the Rockies for veteran catcher Joe Girardi. The team had just finished their third year of existence and were still building a roster that had already seen them make the playoffs.

The time finally came for DeJean in 1997, as he made the big-league roster for Colorado. He finished with very solid numbers of a 5-0 record, two saves and a 3.99 ERA in 55 relief appearances.

Pitching to contact earlier in his career, the right-hander garnered more strikeouts as his career continued. After four years with the Rockies, he went on to pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, and finished his career back in Colorado.

His greatest success came with the Brewers, where he served as their closer in 2002 and 2003. 2002 was his best season, as his 27 saves and 3.12 ERA in 68 games was a bright spot on a team that won only 56 games.

All told, DeJean enjoyed a 10-year major-league career. In 565 games (all but one in relief), he had a combined record of 30-33 with a 4.30 ERA and 52 saves. Keep reading, as she shares some additional information about his career and background.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Ron Guidry. He was Louisiana Lightning.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 24th round by the Yankees in 1992?: Very unreal. I was glad I was a Yankee.

What kind of impact do you believe being traded to the Rockies for
Joe Girardi have on your career?: It got me to the big leagues quicker.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: How loud Coors Field was.

Which one hitter intimidated you more than any other, and why?: Barry Bonds. His power and he had a great eye. (Bonds was just 3-for-12 against him with no home runs and three strikeouts in his career.)

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: St. Louis, in the first game back after 9/11.

Can you explain what, if any, difference you felt as a pitcher when pitching in Colorado?: It was dry and hard to grip the baseball.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: All of them.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Enjoyed the cities I visited more.

What are you up to these days?: Coaching baseball, hunting, fishing and raising six boys.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Chicago Black Sox: What Might Have Been

The 1919 Chicago White Sox (aka Black Sox) were the one of the most famous and infamous teams of all time. After going 88-52 in the regular season, they rolled into the World Series to face off against the Cincinnati Reds as heavy favorites, but surprisingly looked clumsy and disinterested in the field; ultimately losing five games to three. It wasn’t long before it was alleged that eight of their players had known about/participated in a plot with gamblers to throw the Series. Although the culpability of those eight players has been debated over time, and they were acquitted in court, they were all permanently banned from baseball following the 1920 season—careers of varying ability cut short for their accused transgressions. But how good were these players and what would their futures have looked like if their careers had not been ended? Let’s take a look.

Swede Risberg, Shortstop- A supposed ringleader of the World Series plot, Risberg was a decent fielder, but not very good with the bat (83 careers OPS). An even 6’0”, he was a converted first baseman and big at the time for shortstop. However, he posted positive dWAR in each of his last two seasons. At 25, he was the youngest of the eight players when they were banned following the 1920 season. Since he played when shortstops had lower expectations offensively, he might have had a career that was long in length, but short on production.

Chick Gandil, First Base- The former bare-knuckle boxer was a large muscular man (6’1” and 190 pounds), who never produced the way you might expect from someone of his stature. In nine big-league seasons, spanning 1,147 games, he hit .277 with just 11 home runs. Even during the Deadball Era, those numbers are pretty underwhelming for a first sacker. 31 at the time of his banning, his career was already in decline. After having led the Washington Senators in RBIs for four straight years (1912-1915), 1920 was his fourth consecutive season of having less than a 100 OPS (league-average offensive production is 100 OPS). He was also a below average defender, who at 32, was likely looking at the end of his career anyways.

Buck Weaver, Third Base- Perhaps one of the most overrated players of the group. Some have suggested that he may have been a candidate for the Hall of Fame if not for his punishment. However, the 21.2 WAR he accrued through his first nine seasons indicate that was not the reality. That being said, he was a superior defender, who was coming into his won with the bat. His final season was his best at the plate, as the 30-year-old hit .331 with 208 hits, 102 runs scored and 74 RBIs in 1920.  He has always been one of the more popular Black Sox, as he hit .324 in the World Series, was banned because of his knowledge of the plot and not his participation. He unsuccessfully appealed for reinstatement multiple times throughout the remainder of his life.

Joe Jackson, Outfielder- The left-handed batter was easily the best player of the group. His .356 career batting average is still third-best of all time. Quiet and illiterate, he was never the most popular player, especially with his peers, however, fans loved watching his wickedly effective left-handed swing. Although he turned 33 during the 1920 season, he still finished with it being one of his best; hitting .382 with 218 hits, 12 home runs, a league-leading 20 triples and 121 RBIs. Although it was said his “glove was the place where triples went to die,” his career -6.1 dWAR suggest that was more anecdotal than truth. His 62.2 career WAR combined with still being in a productive phase of his career would have made him a near-certain Hall of Famer.

Happy Felsch, Outfielder- Perhaps the greatest example of “what might have been,” Felsch was 29 and coming off his best season when he was banned. In 1920, he hit .338 with 40 doubles, 15 triples, 14 home runs, and 115 RBIs. His rugged athletic build would have made him an excellent candidate to transition well to the lively ball era. With a 19.3 WAR and 123 OPS+ when his career ended, he could have possibly ended up as a fringe Hall of Fame candidate if his play continued to progress well and be sustained deep into his career.

Fred McMullin, Infield- The career backup was subpar offensively (85 OPS+) and just average defensively. He was a roster filler, who could step in if needed and acquit himself, but drew minimum salary. He his just .256 with a lone home run and 72 RBIs across 304 career games in six seasons when his career ended at the age of 28. He had just two plate appearances in the 1919 World Series (singling in one of them) and was only included in the plot/money taking because of his friendship with teammates like Risberg.

Eddie Cicotte, Pitcher- The sore-armed junk baller seemed to get better with age. After going 29-7 with a 1.82 ERA in 1919, he followed that up with 21 more wins in 1920 at the age of 36.  With 209 career victories, a 2.38 ERA and a 57.3 WAR, he would have been a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame had he been able to finish out his career naturally. The 90 wins and 111 complete games he threw in his final four seasons are a testament to the late success he found, due in large part to a shine ball and knuckler that all helped keep batters off stride. Even pitching in the Deadball Era, he was extremely stingy when it came to allowing home runs; coughing up just 32 in 14 years. He even went the entire 1914 season, spanning 269.1 innings, without a long ball.

Lefty Williams, Pitcher- Although he won a combined 45 games between 1919-1920, the tiny southpaw was more solid than star in quality. 27 at the time of his banishment, he had a career 82-48 record and 3.13 ERA. However, his 99 ERA+ (100 is average) show that he was essentially average when it came to his production. With pitching always being at a premium, there would have no shortage of opportunities for Williams to have had a lengthy career. Assuming steady health and ability, he would have been a good candidate to hit the 150-victory threshold if his career had continued uninterrupted.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.