Recapping the Mets’ Offseason

– The K Zone –

Source:
https://elitesportsny.com/2019/02/15/new-york-mets-2019-lineup-breaking-down-rhp-lhp-possibilities/

March 27, 2019

Recapping the Mets’ Offseason by Mojo Hill

With Spring Training coming to an end as the teams are all gearing up for the grind of the regular season, the New York Mets are coming off one of their more active offseasons in recent memory. New General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has gone out and worked hard to make this team a “win now” contender after a miserable 77-win season last year. The question is, has Van Wagenen really done enough to make this a playoff team?

While the Phillies undoubtedly had the best offseason in the NL East, adding four All-Stars including superstar Bryce Harper for 13 years, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Mets had the second best offseason within the division, and one of the better offseasons in all of baseball.

To start off, the Mets didn’t really lose any key pieces via free agency. Their six free agents were Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Jose Reyes, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and Austin Jackson. Losing Blevins (signed with the Athletics) hurt a little bit because of the lack of left-handed bullpen depth, but Blevins had a down year and was aging anyway.

The Mets did a good job to fill and upgrade that void, signing Justin Wilson to a two-year, $10 million contract and Luis Avilan to a minor league contract. While Wilson has had control problems the last couple years and Avilan has had some health issues, both are proven quality options that allow the team to not have to rely on the talented but unproven Daniel Zamora for a left-handed reliever. Zamora will now likely start the year in the minors and act as a solid depth option rather than the only lefty in the bullpen. The Mets made this upgrade without breaking the bank, too, as they practically got a steal by snagging Avilan on a minor league contract.

Source:
https://metsmerizedonline.com/2019/03/avilan-uses-upwards-mobility-clause-in-contract.html/

So far, the only free agent the Mets have resigned is backup catcher Devin Mesoraco, who is really just depth and isn’t even a lock to make the team out of Spring Training with the presence of Travis d’Arnaud and the new addition of Wilson Ramos.

And according to a report from Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Mesoraco has requested his release rather than being sent to Triple-A Syracuse. And he may retire if the Mets do not grant his wish. If the Mets lose him, it’s no big deal, because d’Arnaud and Nido are both superior options as a backup.

Update: According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Mesoraco has been placed on the restricted list and gone home to Pittsburgh, meaning that he is retiring after the Mets failed to grant him his release, as he would rather not play in Triple-A.

Another player who ultimately ended up electing free agency at the end of November was utility infielder Wilmer Flores. Flores ended up signing with the Diamondbacks for one year and $4.25 million with a club option for 2020.

While Flores was a fan favorite for many, in large part due to his crying on the field and walkoff home run two days later in the Mets’ 2015 division title run, losing him wasn’t too much of a burden either. Flores was never a great player, posting a career high fWAR of 1.7 in 2015 and regressing down to 0.5 in 2018. He was essentially a league average bat without a true defensive position. He was awful at third base and shortstop, below average at second base, and not a good enough hitter to be playing first base regularly. With the emergence of Jeff McNeil, there really wasn’t a spot for Flores anymore.

In early December, the Mets made their biggest move of the offseason, a blockbuster trade that sent outfielder Jay Bruce, right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak, right-handed relief prospect Gerson Bautista, top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, and top pitching prospect Justin Dunn to the Mariners for eight-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.

This trade was a good sign of Van Wagenen being aggressive early, but it also raised some concerns as many fans were not nearly as happy about the trade as others. The positives of the transaction were that they got rid of the bad contracts of the not-so-good Bruce and Swarzak. They also obviously acquired one of the best second basemen in baseball, albeit one who’s 36 and has five years and $120 million left on his contract, as well as a hard-throwing 24-year-old who was arguably the best closer in baseball last year.

The negatives? The Cano contract is still quite large, and could get ugly fast if Cano declines. They also had to part with their first-round pick from the 2018 draft, Jarred Kelenic, who has a serious amount of upside and potential and could develop into a real star in this league. Dunn was also a really high upside starting pitcher, so his loss hurt a lot as well. Bautista was just a throw-in, and is still very raw and unpolished, but even he still has potential with a triple-digits fastball.

This trade really set the tone for what Van Wagenen is trying to do with this team. His goal seems to be to create a short-term “win now” contender, sacrificing long-term success to build a team that can compete and win in the near future. This was an extremely aggressive move, as the Mets took a huge risk by unloading two majorly talented prospects for a strong but arguably light return.

Source:
https://www.offthebenchbaseball.com/2018/12/07/what-cano-diaz-trade-means-for-the-new-york-mets/

Shortly after the trade, the Mets claimed right-handed pitcher Kyle Dowdy off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in the Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old is a hard thrower with a fastball in the mid-90s and a strong cutter in the upper-80s. While he has an impressive arsenal, the results haven’t quite matched up with the stuff, as he had held a 5.15 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A last season. After posting a 5.56 ERA and 1.94 WHIP this spring, Dowdy’s roster status is not exactly set in stone.

Update: Dowdy was claimed by the Texas Rangers, so that last bullpen spot appears to be going to righty Tim Peterson, who made his MLB debut last year and posted a 6.18 ERA in 22 appearances, imploding after a strong start.

While the Mets took another risk by claiming Dowdy, who ended up having to be sent to Texas with his quality stuff but unproven results, they made a high-profile signing just the next day to bolster their bullpen with the signing of old friend Jeurys Familia.

Familia spent his whole career with the Mets until he was traded midseason last year to the Athletics for Will Toffey, Bobby Wahl, and international pool money. But Familia, who loves playing in New York as it’s all he’s ever known, was thrilled to come back and re-sign for three years and $30 million. With an elite closer in Diaz and a dominant setup man in Familia, the back end of the bullpen was beginning to look scary, aiding a bullpen that was the team’s biggest weakness in 2018.

The Mets capped off a big month just four days later by signing free agent catcher Wilson Ramos, another huge addition to offense, providing a strong right-handed presence with some pop in a position of weakness for the Mets in recent years.

The Mets went into the offseason with the catcher position as one of their top priorities, behind only bullpen depth. They went after three top catchers on the market, making offers to free agents Ramos and Yasmani Grandal, as well as having discussions with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto. Ultimately, they settled on a two-year, $19 million contract with Ramos after Grandal reportedly declined their offer of four years and $60 million. While Grandal is likely the slightly better catcher, Ramos isn’t much worse and came on a much better contract than what the Mets were looking to give Grandal. While Grandal would have been nice, Ramos was ultimately a win for the Mets as they acquired a top-ten catcher in all of baseball.

Source:
https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/mlb/mets/2018/12/18/ny-mets-sign-wilson-ramos-rather-than-trade-mlb-talent-jt-realmuto/2346978002/

Rolling into the new year, the Mets did not slow down, making three trades in the first week of 2019.

The first was the acquisition of center fielder Keon Broxton from the Brewers for prospects Adam Hill, Bobby Wahl, and Felix Valerio. None of the prospects they traded were huge names or anything, but it was still odd to trade some guys with upside for essentially another Juan Lagares.

The second trade they made almost immediately after was trading catcher Kevin Plawecki to the Indians for minor leaguers Walker Lockett and Sam Haggerty. While Plawecki wasn’t great and declined defensively in 2018, this return still felt light for a guy who is a better hitter than the average Major League catcher and had become a solid contributor. The chances of Lockett or especially Haggerty ever helping the Mets win games is very slim.

However, it did make sense for the Mets to trade one of Plawecki or Travis d’Arnaud after Ramos was signed. D’Arnaud is a much better pitch framer and a better offensive player when healthy, but has always had trouble staying on the field. Ultimately, the Mets chose to take the risk of d’Arnaud staying healthy to be the primary backup over Plawecki.

The Mets made yet another trade the same day, with this one possibly being the oddest of the three. They acquired third baseman J.D. Davis from the Astros for prospects Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea.

Davis murdered Triple-A pitching last year, but has struggled immensely in his limited time in the Majors to the tune of a 60 wRC+ in 181 plate appearances. He’s a strong guy who hits the ball hard but can be beat easily by a good fastball. He’s also not particularly great at any defensive position, although he does have some versatility.

In some ways, Davis is similar to what Flores was, except that Davis hasn’t even proved that he can be that yet. And while the Mets didn’t give away any superstar prospects for him, they definitely overpaid, particularly with the inclusion of Santana, a 19-year-old second baseman who was among the Mets’ top 20 prospects and has a .329/.426/.465 batting line in three minor league seasons. He definitely has some upside, and to throw in two decent prospects along with him just for a mediocre, unproven bench bat was quite baffling. It looks even worse when you see that a similar player to Davis such as Matt Davidson was still available on the free agent market.

The Mets continued to bolster their bullpen with the signing of Justin Wilson in late January, as previously discussed. To make room for Wilson on the roster, they designated former first-round pick Gavin Cecchini for assignment after he missed most of the 2018 season with a foot injury. Somewhat surprisingly, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to the Syracuse Mets.

Among many other transactions, the Mets made a lot of small minor league signings to bolster the depth that they so severely lacked last season and which led to their demise.

The Mets bolstered their outfield depth with not just the acquisition of Broxton, but with minor league signings like Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis. Not that these guys are much good or anything, but it at least means that in case of an injury there will be no more Kevin Kaczmarski or, God forbid, Tim Tebow type players getting called up to the Majors.

The Mets also improved their infield depth, most notably with the signings of Lowrie and Adeiny Hechavarria, and of course the Cano trade. Lowrie’s presence moves Todd Frazier to a bench role, creating substantial depth at the third base position. Unfortunately, both are hurt right now, but both have begun activity of some time and should not be out for a drastically long period of time.

Hechavarria is a weak-hitting shortstop with a good glove who could replace Amed Rosario if he happens to get hurt. They also already have Luis Guillorme to fill that role, and after a strong spring, he appears to have won that job over Hechavarria to begin the season. And there’s always Jeff McNeil, who can play third, second, and corner outfield.

Finally, to wrap up the offseason, the Mets made the move fans had been begging for, signing ace pitcher Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $137.5 million extension after a historic season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award.

Source:
http://www.espn.com/mlb/player/_/id/32796/jacob-degrom

Overall the Mets have built a much more versatile and deep team than in years past. There will be no more room for shenanigans like John Mayberry Jr. batting cleanup or James Loney starting at first base. This is a real competitive team that is going to give the other three competitive teams in the NL East a run for their money. With the new additions along with stars such as Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto, this team could be magical and full of talent on both sides of the ball. Don’t count out the Mets this year, because this is a scary group of players who are hungry to bring a title back to Queens for the first time since 1986.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out my analysis of Austin Barnes, or if you like interviews, Mike has plenty of those. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates on when we publish a new article or interview.  You can also follow me on Twitter.

 

 

The Mysterious Case of Ryan Schimpf

– The K Zone –

schimpf
Source: https://www.talkingchop.com/2018/3/5/17082090/who-ryan-schimpf-what-does-he-offer-braves-atlanta-mlb

January 22, 2019

The Mysterious Case of Ryan Schimpf by Mojo Hill

By now, most hardcore baseball fans have heard about Joey Gallo and how he is already having one of the strangest MLB careers of all time. Gallo, the man who has more career home runs than singles and has a career batting line of .203/.317/.498. No other qualified player in the history of baseball has ever had an average under .205 while maintaining an OPS over .600. And not only is his OPS above .600, but it’s actually a very good .815. And he does it with a 38% strikeout rate. Amazing. And Gallo, who has one of the highest fly ball rates in baseball, has never hit a sac fly. Hard to believe, right?

I present to you the man, the myth, the legend: the one and only Ryan Schimpf, who would probably have a lot to talk about if he were to have lunch with Joey Gallo. Schimpf is a lot like Gallo, but arguably even more extreme. In case you’ve never heard of Schimpf, allow me to enlighten you.

Unlike Gallo, Schimpf is not an everyday MLB player, which is why he is not known nearly as well and doesn’t have as many MLB plate appearances. But Schimpf’s sample size is still large enough (534 plate appearances) that we can have some fun looking at the numbers.

Schimpf made his MLB debut for the Padres in 2016 after spending seven years in the Blue Jays organization. When San Diego called him up for the first time at the age of 28, he was murdering Triple-A pitching to the tune of a monstrous 201 wRC+ and .373 ISO. And he hit well in his debut season, which turned out to be his most successful season to date (so far). Recording 330 plate appearances over 89 games, the second and third baseman batted .217/.336/.533, good for a 128 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR.

Schimpf took a step back in 2017, playing 69 games in Triple-A with a 98 wRC+ and 53 games for the Padres, where he hit .158/.284/.424.

After 2017, Schimpf was shuffled around a bit. After being traded to the Rays in the offseason for minor league shortstop Deion Tansel, he was designated for assignment and traded to Braves for cash in early March. Then on March 31, he was traded again, this time to the Angels for catcher Carlos Perez.

Schimpf only played five games for the Angels last year, going 1-5 with two walks and a home run. He was released in May after hitting a very underwhelming .178/.288/.355 in 30 games for the Salt Lake City Bees.

What fascinates me is how his value is being perceived by Major League clubs. Clearly, they are not very high on this guy. He had a solid minor league track record for the Blue Jays, yet they never promoted him to the big leagues. It took a monstrous season for the El Paso Chihuahuas for the Padres to finally give him his chance at age 28. He’s been thrown around in multiple trades, and each time he’s essentially been traded for peanuts or just straight up released.

Do teams not realize just how valuable Schimpf is and can be? As mentioned earlier, he accrued 2.5 fWAR in just 330 plate appearances. His career batting line through 534 games is .195/.318/.496. Yes, the average is low. But the OBP, aided by a 13.3% walk rate, is acceptable, along with a massive .496 SLG.

In fact, among all hitters in MLB history with at least 500 plate appearances, Schimpf’s .300 ISO is the foruth best of all time, behind only Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds.

Think about that. He’s hit for more power on a rate basis than sluggers such as David OrtizAlex Rodriguez, and Mickey Mantle, just to name a few. He may not put the ball in play often, but man when he does, he hits it really, really hard. Hey, and you know who’s fifth on that list? Joey Gallo, of course.

Despite his obvious flaws, Schimpf is a valuable hitter. The walks and power make up for the low average and high strikeout rate, just like in the case of Gallo. Gallo’s career wRC+ is 109, and the Rangers have granted him a starting role over the last two seasons. In each of those seasons, he’s hit for a 121 and 110 wRC+, respectively, with exactly 2.8 fWAR in each year. Schimpf’s wRC+ is 114, and he even has more defensive value being a second and third baseman as opposed to Gallo, who the Rangers announced will no longer be playing third base and will stick to first base going forward. Yet Schimpf can’t find a Major League job, and Gallo can.

Some teams will look at the .195 batting average and shudder. But come on. We’re in 2019 now. This new age of analytics has taught us that batting average is a mostly meaningless tool in terms of evaluating a player’s actual offensive production and value. Getting on base and hitting for power, and Schimpf does both those things in spite of his low average. The Rangers have accepted and even embraced this three-true-outcomes characteristic with Gallo, and it’s about time for other teams to realize the same with Schimpf.

schimpf3
Source: https://www.gaslampball.com/2017/6/9/15773368/padres-option-third-baseman-ryan-schimpf-call-up-rhp-jose-valdez-bullpen-help

Now, there are some things going against Schimpf. He is already 30 years old, as opposed to Gallo who is still just 25. Schimpf took forever to receive a promotion to the Majors, and despite a solid fifth round selection, was never regarded that highly as a prospect. He’s simply someone that scouts have doubted for his entire career because of all the strikeouts and pop-ups.

And in today’s day and age, when players are hitting home runs and striking out more than ever, guys with power and not much else aren’t being valued that highly since power has become a more common skill around the league. This is especially true for the one-dimensional first base/DH types, who are struggling to even get Major League deals at this point. While Schimpf isn’t a great defender by any means, he does at least play a passable second and third base, which boosts his value a little bit. But even in this new age of analytics when people are starting to look beyond batting average to value hitters (as they should), Schimpf’s one-dimensional toolset as well as his age and lack of fanfare are hurting him.

Still, he’s a 30-year-old infielder with pop, so he definitely has some baseball left in him and I would be stunned if he didn’t pick up at least a minor league deal.

Oh, and one last fun (or depressing) tidbit about Schimpf. Schimpf is the proud owner of one of the worst Spring Training performances in MLB history. Before the 2018 season while he was playing for a spot on the Braves’ Opening Day roster, he went 0-30 with a whopping 19 strikeouts. Yep, you read that correctly. Wow. Maybe that’s why teams don’t like him.

Seriously, though, Schimpf is a baseball player with undeniable flaws in his game, but also some admirable qualities that I think are being severely undervalued by teams. I don’t think teams realize just how much power he actually has. And with his value at a low point right now, I believe that any MLB team should be willing to give him a look on a low-risk minor league contract, especially a team in need of quality infield depth.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out my analysis of Austin Barnes, or if you like interviews, Mike has plenty of those. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates on when we publish a new article or interview.  You can also follow me on Twitter.

 

Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo Killed in Car Crash

– The K Zone –

valbuena2.jpg

December 8, 2018

Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo Killed in Car Crash by Mojo Hill

In a tragic and heartbreaking Tweet that was posted Friday night, it was reported by Marcos Grunfeld M. of Univision Deportes that former MLB infielders Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car accident that night.

Valbuena and Castillo were in Venezuela playing in a winter league for the Cardenales de Lara. They were reportedly in car together on Friday morning with former Major Leaguer Carlos Rivero, who was able to survive the accident. It was Rivero’s driver who was driving the car, and he was unable to avoid a large rock that had been purposely thrown onto the road.

This is apparently a common tactic in the dangerous streets of Venezuela, as rocks are purposely and strategically placed on roads in attempts to perpetrate highway robberies. In this case, it led to two tragic deaths. In a sense, one could say that this was no accident and that the two players were murdered.

Valbuena, who was just 33 years old, appeared in 11 Major League seasons for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs, Astros, and Angels, and was a free agent at the time of his death. His best season came in 2014 for the Cubs, when he posted an impressive 118 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR. Overall, he was a career .226/.310/.394 hitter in 1011 games with 114 career home runs. His main position over his career was third base, but he also saw time at second base, first base, shortstop, and even 15.1 innings in left field.

Most importantly, however, everyone who ever knew him or played with him remembers him for his infectious smile and burning passion for the game.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch had this to say about the tragedy:

“I am so sad to hear about the sudden loss of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo. I will miss Luis’ banter, smile, genuine love for his teammates, and, of course, the bat flips. He was a beloved person whether he was on our team or across the field. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the lucky ones who could call him a teammate or friend.”

Countless former teammates and friends also grieved for his loss over social media, and they all emphasized just how much love Valbuena had for the game and for his teammates.

valbuena3.jpg

Perhaps the best moment of his career came on July 8, 2016, when Valbuena was on the Astros. Down 9-7 in the bottom of the 9th to the Athletics, with runners on the corners and one out, Valbuena blasted a three-run walk-off home run off Ryan Madson, and of course followed it with one of his signature bat flips.

It is obvious just how much respect everyone around baseball had and has for Valbuena, who will never be forgotten from the baseball community.

Castillo was just four years older at age 37, and had MLB experience as well. He was a regular second baseman and third baseman for the Pirates from 2004-2007, and played for the Giants and Astros in 2008. Overall he was a career .254 hitter in 592 games and over 2000 plate appearances.

castillo1

Despite not having played in MLB since 2008, it was clear that Castillo loved the game as much as anyone, as he was still participating in the Venezuelan winter league. After his MLB career was over, he also played for various Mexican League teams from 2011-2016.

Castillo was an equally important member of the baseball community and along with Valbuena, will never be forgotten.

This tragedy continues what seems to be becoming an all-too-common theme in baseball recently.

In 2014, young Cardinals outfielder was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Two years later in 2016, the infamous boating accident involving star pitcher Jose Fernandez occurred. Then there were two more car crashes in the Dominican in 2017, with Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura both getting killed on the same day. Tragedies like these are happening just too often now.

With that said, on behalf of everyone from The K Zone, we send our best wishes to the families of the deceased and everyone who knew them or played with them. They will be missed but never forgotten from our wonderful baseball community.

valbuena4.jpg

2018 MLB Awards Picks

National League

MVP

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Yelich Yelich deGrom Yelich Yelich  Yelich
2 Rendon Carpenter Yelich Arenado Freeman Arenado
3 Arenado Rendon Arenado Carpenter Story deGrom

Breakout star Christian Yelich took first place pretty yelich.PNGeasily here, except for Mojo, who thought Jacob deGrom’s historic season was enough to earn him MVP nods. After that was a bit of a mix, with Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Story, and Freddie Freeman all receiving votes.

Cy Young 

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 deGrom deGrom deGrom deGrom deGrom deGrom
2 Nola Scherzer Scherzer Scherzer Nola  Scherzer
3 Scherzer Corbin Nola Nola Scherzer Nola

With Jacob deGrom dominating the league with hisdegrom.PNG 1.70 ERA, The K Zone members were easily able to overlook his 10-9 record, as he received unanimous first-place votes. Everyone had Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola as their second and third picks, except for Ian, who was not as impressed with Nola and instead snuck in a vote for Patrick Corbin and his 2.47 FIP.

Rookie of the Year

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Soto Acuna Soto Acuna Acuna Acuna
2 Buehler Soto Acuna Buehler Soto Soto
3 Acuna Buehler Buehler Soto Buehler Buehler

All of The K Zone writers had the same three rookies, acuna.PNGbut in various orders. Ultimately, Ronald Acuna edged out Juan Soto for first place, while Walker Buehler sat comfortably in third. Buehler was spectacular in his own right; in a different year, his 2.62 ERA and 9.90 K/9 may have won him the award.

Manager of the Year

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Counsell Counsell Counsell Snitker Snitker Counsell
2 Snitker Snitker Black Counsell Counsell Snitker
3 Kapler Black Snitker Black Black Black

There wasn’t a whole lot of controversy on this award. councell.jpgIt was the same three managers for all five writers, with three of them putting Craig Counsell and the other two putting Brian Snitker, with the exception of Mike, who was impressed with the job done by the Phillies’ Gabe Kapler.

American League

MVP

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Trout Trout Trout Betts Trout Trout
2 Betts Betts Betts Trout Betts Betts
3 Ramirez Ramirez Ramirez Ramirez Ramirez Ramirez

This award was the least controversial out of them all trout.PNGamong The K Zone staff. Each writer’s ballot was identical, with the one exception of Maddie putting Mookie Betts ahead of Mike Trout for first place. Trout and Betts were the clear top two, and all five writers agreed that Jose Ramirez’s season-ending slump wasn’t enough to offset the terrific season he had overall on offense and defense.

Cy Young

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Snell Verlander Snell Snell Snell Snell
2 Verlander Sale Verlander Sale Verlander Verlander
3 Cole Cole Sale Verlander Cole Sale

Most of the voters were all about Blake Snell and his snell.PNGleague-leading 1.89 ERA, not to mention his 11.01 K/9, but Ian wasn’t as impressed, as he left Snell completely out of his top three. Chris Sale likely would have won this award in a landslide if he had the same stats over more innings, but the lack of innings pushed him down a spot or more on every writer’s list. While Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole also had very strong years, it was surprising to see that not one writer voted for Trevor Bauer, who had the second lowest qualified ERA and FIP in the AL. Snell’s sub-2 ERA ended up getting him the win pretty easily, while Verlander’s advantage in innings put him over the edge against Sale’s pure dominance.

Rookie of the Year

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Andujar Andujar Ohtani Ohtani Ohtani Ohtani
2 Ohtani Torres Wendle Andujar Andujar Andujar
3 Torres Bieber Andujar Torres Torres Torres

Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese hitting and pitching ohtani.PNGsuperstar, did something that nobody had done since Babe Ruth, and while his innings were severely limited due to injury, the overall body of work and top-tier hitting were extremely impressive. At least, four of the writers seemed to think so. Ian chose to leave Ohtani out of his top three, and instead put the under-the-radar Indians pitcher Shane Bieber, who had a mediocre 4.55 ERA but strong peripherals. Mojo, valuing defense more than the other writers, also went with an under-the-radar pick in putting Joey Wendle second. Everyone agreed on putting Andujar ahead of Torres, but Ohtani and Andujar were neck-and-neck for first place despite their very different cases for the award and styles of play.

Manager of the Year

Mike Ian Mojo Maddie Jack The K Zone Official Ranking
1 Cash Melvin Cash Cora Melvin Cash
2 Cora Cash Melvin Cash Cash Melvin
3 Melvin Cora Cora Melvin Hinch Cora

For this award, the popular picks were two managers cash.PNGwho led underdog teams to great seasons along with the manager of the team with the best record in baseball who eventually went on to win the World Series. The only exception was Jack, who thought A.J. Hinch did a good job with the Astros, and was not as impressed with Cora, who ended up coming in third behind the two underdogs. Kevin Cash won, as his unique bullpen management and quirky decision-making skills helped a Rays team lacking in talent to win 90 games.

 

Images Attributed to:
Associated Press
Getty Images
USA Today

From On Top of the World to the Phantom DL: The Cruel Realities of Professional Baseball

– The K Zone –

image (1).jpg

September 11, 2018

From On Top of the World to the Phantom DL: The Cruel Realities of Professional Baseball by Mojo Hill

“When people lie to your face over and over you start becoming a person that you never wanted to be.”

It hasn’t been the easiest journey for former top Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini.

Garin grew up around baseball for as long as he could remember. His parents Glenn and Raissa were and still are coaches at Barbe High School in Lousiana, so Garin and his younger brother Gavin, who is about two and half years younger than him, have naturally been baseball players for essentially their entire lives.

Garin and Gavin grew up playing baseball together and being coached by their parents. They were always a baseball family, and Glenn especially has been described as a “baseball rat,” so Garin and Gavin grew up the same way. Baseball meant everything to the Cecchinis. Gavin even pitched in the 2006 Little League World Series, as you can see starting at 1:41 in the video below, along with Raissa Cecchini being interviewed while watching her son.

Gavin and Garin both went to Barbe High SchooL, and they both thrived there, setting school records in several offensive categories. Garin hit .402 his junior season at Barbe, while Gavin hit .413 as a senior. Shortstop was the primary position for both.

The summer of his senior year, Garin went on to help lead Team USA to a gold medal in an under-18 tournament. His strong performance led to him being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, where he was expected to develop as a third baseman.

Garin’s career got off to a very promising start in the minor leagues. He didn’t have a ton of home run power, but he hit for average and got on base while still collecting a good amount of extra-base hits. His first three seasons in the minors, 2011-2013, he hit for an .898, .827, and .915 OPS, respectively. His strong play, especially his .350/.469/.547 line in High-A in 2013, earned him a ranking as the Red Sox #3 prospect by Baseball Prospectus after the 2013 season, as well as the #74 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He was ranked just behind current Major Leaguers Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and ahead of current superstar Mookie Betts, who was ranked 8th at the time. There were some mild questions about his game power and defense at third, but he was seen as a future Major League regular, someone the Red Sox could build around and man at the hot corner for years to come.

garin1.jpg

But in 2014, Cecchini took a small step back that eventually led into his quick plummet into obscurity. He spent most of the year in Triple-A Pawtucket, posting much more pedestrian numbers with a .263/.341/.371 line. It was still enough to earn him a promotion to the Red Sox at the end of the year, where he performed solidly in a small sample size, hitting .258/.361/.452 in 36 plate appearances. Despite the down season in the minors, he appeared to be on a track to becoming the the Red Sox’ starting third baseman.

But on November 25, 2014, the Red Sox made two big signings, guaranteeing $95 million to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and $88 million to first baseman Hanley Ramirez. While at the time these two were considered the best position players on the free agent market, it was nonetheless a controversial decision as it seemingly blocked Cecchini from having a role with the 2015 Red Sox.

So, rather than starting 2015 as the Red Sox’ starting third baseman, Cecchini went back down to Pawtucket, which is when his fall off the face of the earth truly began. His offensive numbers fell off a cliff as he put up a miserable .213/.286/.296 slash line. It was really a terrible year for Cecchini. At a time when he was trying to prove he belonged in the Majors, he got worse in every possible offensive category. He started striking out more and not walking nearly as much. He also hit for a much worse average, and any power he had virtually disappeared. There wasn’t a single silver lining to focus on during this absolutely dreadful season – quite disappointing to see from a prospect who had looked so promising. The Red Sox gave him a brief chance at the very end of the year in the Majors, but he only played in two games and went 0-4 with three strikeouts.

Little did he know that that would be the last time he’d ever step on a Major League field.

On December 4, 2015, the Red Sox signed David Price for seven years and $217 million, and as the corresponding move, they designated Garin Cecchini for assignment. In just a year’s time, Cecchini had fallen from a top-100 prospect to a minor league free agent.

Price-Happiness.jpg

From there, Garin signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, playing the entire season in Triple-A before being designated for assignment again in October. He then signed a minor league deal with the Royals, and got limited playing time for their Triple-A team. He never got a Major League call-up in 2016 or 2017.

He rebounded somewhat, with a .705 OPS for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and a .690 OPS for the Omaha Storm Chasers, but he was never the Garin Cecchini from 2011-2013 again. After the 2017 season, he played in a winter ball league where he hit .288/.324/.409. After that, he didn’t get a contract offer from any team, so he decided to hang ’em up for good.

It was a sudden, quick, and tragic downfall for a guy who was once such a promising prospect. Disappointing and underwhelming prospects are not too rare of a thing in baseball, considering the nature of the game and how ruthlessly difficult it is. But we rarely see or hear what is actually going on inside the minds of these players as they succeed, struggle, or both. After all, these are still human beings with emotions, feelings, and day-to-day inconsistencies; they are not just a bunch of baseball-playing robots.

Last month, Kevin Wilson and Joe Ferraro for KWB Radio recorded an episode of their podcast in which they sat down with Garin and asked him to open up about going through this abnormal and frustrating baseball journey. The full podcast can be listened to here on mobile and here on desktop.

It should not come as too much of a surprise that Garin Cecchini has always loved the game of baseball, from playing with his brother as a little kid, to being coached by his dad in high school, to being drafted by the Red Sox and playing professional baseball. His favorite player as a kid was Derek Jeter, and he actually got the chance to play in some of Jeter’s final games in 2014. However, now in 2018, Cecchini says he doesn’t miss the game and hasn’t picked up a bat since his last at-bat in the 2017 winter league. He once loved the game for its beauty and for fun, but after all the events that transpired that resulted in his retiring at the age of 27, he has now clearly lost that passion and drive that is required to succeed at the highest level.

cecchinis.jpg
Gavin (left) and Garin Cecchini (right) as kids with their parents Glenn and Raissa

When Garin was drafted, he had the same emotions as any other player that gets drafted: Excited, nervous, and anxious to hit his way up to the Major Leagues. And when he got out on the field and immediately hit well during his first three seasons, it was like he was living a dream, a surreal fantasy that could not be described in words. Especially in 2014 when he got to play in Fenway Park against Derek Jeter and the Yankees in front of tens of thousands of people, he said he felt like he was “on top of the world.” He went on to say, “You’re on top of the world at that time, you know, you’re at the best place in baseball, you’re at the highest level, so it’s, you know, you kind of feel like you’re riding the wave, like a huge wave that just lasts forever.”

Through the 2014 season, Garin’s career had been what every little kid dreams about. He had been drafted by an MLB team, become a top prospect, hit well at every level and even gotten to play in the Majors against an MLB legend in Jeter along with the infamous New York Yankees. At the end of the season, the general manager of the Red Sox, Ben Cherington, sat down with Garin just to compliment him on what a great job he had done. He went on to tell Garin that he had done nothing but impress, coming up from the minor leagues and filling the third base spot and performing so well so quickly. He ended by assuring Garin that he had earned a chance to compete for a job on the 2015 team.

Hearing these words meant a lot to Garin. To have the general manager of your team tell you that you’ve done a great job and that they think you’re good enough to compete for a starting role is an extremely heartwarming and reassuring message to hear for any player, especially for a mostly unproven one like Garin. Most importantly, Garin now felt like he could trust Cherington as well as the entire Red Sox organization.

But when they signed Sandoval and Ramirez to huge contracts, Garin’s heart deflated as he completely lost all that trust that had built up. To Garin, these signings made it seem like the organization didn’t have any faith in him, making these huge signings to fill his spot not only for the 2015 season, but for the foreseeable future. It was then that Garin felt completely betrayed. In the podcast, he goes on to explain how he came into 2015 Spring Training strong and prepared, and he hit well, but ended up getting cut anyway. He felt like the Red Sox said one thing and did another, and ultimately Garin felt like he was being lied to.

panda.jpg

Suddenly, Garin was back on the Pawtucket Red Sox after tasting what it was like to play in the show in huge stadiums and on national television. But instead of trying to persevere, he went back down with a bitter and negative attitude. He was trying too hard to duplicate his past success, and according to him, he became a bad teammate and didn’t treat people right by not listening to them and not wanting to get to know them. The frustration built up more and more after every bad game, after every 0-for, digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole every night, as evidenced by his abysmal .213/.286/.296 line.

“Why didn’t I do this right? Why am I doing this? I don’t feel this” is the basic thought process that would ramble through his head as his struggles continued. As the season went on, he was in a very bad place mentally.

Looking back on the experience, Garin definitely feels regrets for the way he acted and thought back in 2015. He hung on to the great compliments that they gave him at the end of 2014, but their actions in signing Sandoval and Ramirez didn’t match the things they said, in Garin’s mind. But ultimately, Garin insisted on pointing the cause of his struggles to his bad attitude towards his teammates. An example he used was that he wished he would have gone to get a beer with his teammates after the game instead of “practicing [his] swing in the mirror in room 211 in Scranton.” To this day, Garin firmly believes that if he had tried to get to know his teammates better, and if he had tried to understand where the Red Sox organization was coming from, then it would have positively affected his results and he would have started hitting more. He believes that the root of his struggles was his mindset and attitude, not so much the physical act of hitting.

garin2
Red Sox legend David Ortiz gives Garin Cecchini some advice

The offseason after the 2015 season was a time for Garin to think and reflect on his struggles and sudden decline in the Red Sox farm system. He got married over the offseason, which was a nice thing to get his mind off of baseball, spend time with his loved ones and remember what’s truly important in life. He was scheduled to marry his wife Katie on December 5, 2015.

The night before, on the 4th of December, he got a call from the Red Sox telling him that he had been designated for assignment to make room for David Price.

It was a time of whirlwind emotions for Garin Cecchini. His baseball career, which had recently been on a rapid rise up, had suddenly hit a huge speed bump. However, his family and loved ones were there with him to support him through the difficult times.

Garin has emphasized the importance of his family through this whirlwind journey, stating that they’ve always been there for him at his highest points and his lowest points.

The night before the wedding, the Cecchini family sat around and had various relatives say a kind word or two to Garin about what he meant to them or how special he was. Gavin, who was on the rise in the Mets farm system after a breakout offensive campaign for Double-A Binghamton, gave Garin an extremely memorable little speech that Garin still remembers well to this day.

In it, Gavin apparently broke down crying, expressing how much his brother meant to him and had helped him along his journeys through both baseball and life. Gavin talked about how special Garin is to him and how he’s always looked up to him for as long as he could remember. Garin, at 25 years old, had never heard Gavin say these words to him before, and it meant everything to hear them. These words stuck with him forever as he formed an even closer connection with his brother who he was already close with. Nowadays, Garin says that his relationship with Gavin has never been better, and they still talk to each other on the phone every day.

cecchinis2.jpg
Garin (left) and Gavin (right) with parents Glenn and Raissa

After the roller coaster emotions of the 2015 season and offseason, Garin was not ready to give up on his baseball career. The Milwaukee Brewers were the first team to give him a second chance, signing him to a minor league contract as he hoped that a change of scenery could help spark a bounceback season.

“New year, new start,” said Cecchini at the time, courtesy of MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “New faces. New coaches. What a great opportunity for myself.”

He did make a considerable effort to be more positive in 2016, and he certainly improved from his terrible 2015. He had somewhat of a bounceback, but since he was no longer a top prospect and may not have had the same drive and passion that he once did, he never really was himself again.

He played the entire 2016 season as the regular third baseman for the Sky Sox, and hit a perfectly fine .271/.325/.380. But it wasn’t enough for a promotion.

DFA’ed after the season, Garin caught on with the Royals, and according to him, 2017 would be his most enjoyable season of professional baseball. This is despite the fact that he didn’t receive everyday playing time, hit a pedestrian .266/.296/.393, and never got a Major League callup.

Throughout his season with the Storm Chasers, he had multiple former teammates from the Sky Sox text him and tell him that the clubhouse wasn’t the same without him and that they missed him a lot. This is what meant the most to Garin; this connection with his teammates was bigger than baseball, and much more meaningful to him in the long-term.

Reflecting on the past, Garin admits that his 2016-2017 teammates have a much different perception of him than his 2015 teammates. His 2015 teammates likely remember him as the selfish guy who only cared about himself, would throw his equipment after messing up, and simply wasn’t grateful to put on a Paw Sox uniform every day. His 2017 teammates remember him as the exact opposite – a guy who cared about his teammates and was funny and kept things loose.

Garin’s tenure with the Royals organization may have looked weak on the stat sheet, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience. He absolutely loved the Royals organization, praising general manager Dayton Moore for being honest with him and always telling the truth.

But the main reason he loved his experience with the Storm Chasers so much is the positive change it had on him as a person. He started really being a helpful teammate and getting involved in their lives and struggles. He shares two stories in the podcast about two teammates who were struggling and wanted to quit, but Garin reassured them and told them that they were good and convinced them to keep playing. He also just talked about life and random topics for hours at a time to get to know them better and truly connect.

One was a pitcher who he did not name (although having done a bit of a research based on the information he did give, I have found pretty conclusive evidence that it was likely Luke Farrell). This pitcher had a terrible outing and wanted to quit, but Garin told him that he was great in the clubhouse, that he’s really good at limiting soft contact, that the homers he gave up were wind-blown, and that the hits were soft contact that found holes. He eventually convinced the guy to keep playing, and now he’s pitching in the big leagues. Garin may have saved this man’s career.

“I’m not a god, I’m not the best teammate ever, but I started to learn in ’17, you know, what success really meant,” Garin said of his experience. He learned not to care so much about the box score, but began to think of success as helping teammates and being there for them.

“I became peaceful on the phantom DL,” Garin continued, referencing the fact that he was no longer playing every day. The game didn’t mean much to him anymore, it was the people and the community that meant more to him than anything. At that point, the game was really just a platform for him to “talk people off the ledge.”

cecchinis3.jpg
Gavin, Raissa, and Garin in 2017

When he came back from Mexico playing winter-ball and nobody offered him a contract, Garin was not devastated or in tears. He decided he was at peace no longer playing the game he once loved and strove to be the best at.

The essential lesson that Garin learned through all this was to be grateful for everything you’ve gotten in your life. You should enjoy every day because you never know when it’s gonna end. He was happy with the way he ended his career, because people would remember him as Garin Cecchini, a great human being and teammate that they’re going to miss, not a selfish snob who only cared about himself.

Garin has spent the entire 2018 baseball season at home, spending time with his family and just enjoying family. Meanwhile, his brother Gavin has been going through some baseball struggles of his own. Once a first-round pick by the New York Mets in 2012, Gavin has seen his stock drop the past couple years due to under-performing in 2017 and missing most of the season due to injury in 2018. For now, Gavin has dropped out of the Mets’ future plans, but at the age of 24 along with a new, adjusted swing and stance, it is still a little early to drop the “bust” label on him. The 2019 season could be huge for Gavin, and could determine whether or not he falls down the same hole that his brother fell in.

cecchinikershaw.jpg
Gavin Cecchini celebrates after hitting his first (and so far only) career home run off Clayton Kershaw

The hardships and struggles the Cecchini brothers have had to deal with remind us just how hard baseball really is, and how unfathomably difficult it is to not only make it to the highest level, but to establish yourself and stay there. And it’s so much more than just physical difficulties; the mental aspect of the game can destroy you and affect you in a negative way, much like it did to Garin Cecchini, to the point where life took a priority over baseball. This is no fault to Garin, who showed tremendous strength and courage by choosing life over baseball, but just proof that he’s an actual human being and not just a baseball-playing robot like some casual fans tend to assume.

 

Recapping the Mets 2018 Draft

– The K Zone –

MetsDraftLogo-e1528132323104.jpg

June 7, 2018

Recapping the Mets 2018 Draft by Mojo Hill

Over the past few days, the 2018 MLB draft took place for all 30 teams, with teams drafting high school and college amateur talent through the process of 40 rounds. There are many factors that go into what player a team picks, such as their upside, their floor, their skillset, and their signability. Early in the draft, teams tend to go with the more talented players, rather than drafting for a need, but overall by the end of the draft it is good to draft a wide variety of players.

Here I will be reviewing the 40 picks selected by the New York Mets in this year’s draft. With their 40 picks, they took 27 college players and 13 high school players. Additionally, 15 of the picks were right-handed pitchers, five were left-handed pitchers, 10 were infielders, five were outfielders, and five were catchers.

1. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West High School

jarred_featured_2048x.jpg

With the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, the Mets selected outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic was born on July 16, 1999 and is 6’1″, 196 lbs. He is a tall, strong, true athlete, and has the ability to man center field very well with his above-average speed, although some pessimistic scouts do believe that he may end up having to move to a corner spot. Regardless, he has a very strong arm from the outfield.

With Kelenic’s name being linked to the Mets previously, this pick was not too much of a surprise. Kelenic is known for his impressively well-rounded skillset, as well as his strong all-around hitting ability. Scouts believe he will have the ability to hit for average and power as he was the one of the more polished hitters in this year’s draft class, and they also believe that he has the frame to tap into even more power as he develops.

Obviously there’s a still a long way to go, with Kelenic having just finished high school, but the Mets have done a very good job recently of developing fellow first-round picks who are also left-handed outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. The hope is that Kelenic will one day follow in Conforto and Nimmo’s footsteps.

2. Simeon Woods-Richardson, RHP, Fort Bend Kempner High School

Date of Birth – 9/27/00

Woods-Richardson had a commitment to the University of Texas, but he announced himself on Twitter that he was withdrawing that commitment to sign with the Mets and that he was excited for this opportunity.

Woods-Richardson has good stuff all-around, with fastball in the low-90s that touches 95 along with a big curveball in the mid-70s that really messes with hitters. He also features a changeup usually thrown around 80 mph that has plenty of potential as well. There’s a lot to like about Woods-Richardson.

He was also a right-handed hitter and played third base in high school, but his focus will be on becoming a pitcher in the Mets organization.

3. Carlos Cortes, 2B, University of South Carolina  

Date of Birth – 06/30/97

Cortes is small at 5’8″, 185 lbs, but he has a nice left-handed swing with some pop. He is ambidextrous and throws left-handed in the outfield and right-handed in the infield, although he was announced primarily as a second baseman. The Mets drafted him and didn’t sign back in 2016.

He had some contact problems and was streaky at the plate for South Carolina, but he started to add some lift to his compact swing to gain more power in his last season. After a slow start offensively last year, he was able to raise his line to .253/.380/.526 through 194 at-bats, likely raising his stock. For the Mets to pick him in the third round, they must have had a very optimistic belief in his streaky bat.

With Cortes possessing a below-average arm and speed, he’s really going to have to hit to move up the ranks. His best quality is his hit tool, although he has some defensive versatility as well. This was a bit of a risky pick, and is likely an underslot pick to save money for later rounds, but there is plenty of upside in his strong power and on-base skills. Cortes was ranked as the No. 177 draft prospect by Baseball America, and was unranked by MLB Pipeline.

4. Adam Hill, RHP, University of South Carolina  

Date of Birth – 03/24/97

Hill is a big righty, standing at 6’6″ and 215 lbs. He has a good fastball with late life on it that usually sits in the low 90s and tops out in the mid-90s. He also has a good slider in the low- to mid-80s and a changeup that is particularly effective against lefties, but he’s had issues with consistency and control of his secondary stuff.

This past season. he posted back-to-back starts with 14 strikeouts, but ended up struggling a bit to bring his numbers to a 4.58 ERA through 11 starts with 79 strikeouts and 35 walks in 57 innings.

Hill has shown flashes of brilliance but he will need to find consistency to be successful. The keys for him will be to improve his control and to keep his velocity up into the later innings. He was ranked 81st by Baseball America and 139th by MLB Pipeline.

5. Ryley Gilliam, RHP, Clemson  

Date of Birth – 08/11/96

Gilliam is a bit small at 5’10”, 175 lbs, but generates velocity into the mid-90s with very fast arm speed. As well as the fastball, he relies heavily on his 12-6 curveball which sits in the upper-70s.

He has experience starting, but broke out in 2017 as Clemson’s closer. He carried his success as a closer into 2018, when he posted a dominant 0.79 ERA with 50 strikeouts but a high 19 walks in 34.1 innings. His success stemmed from his electric fastball-curveball combination, mostly ditching his effective changeup that he threw more when he was starting.

He projects as a reliever going forward, and is a good athlete despite his lack of size. Control will be the area in which he most needs to improve. Ranked 207th by Baseball America and 127th by MLB Pipeline, he could very well have a future as an impact reliever. Here’s a video of him pitching from 2017.

6. Nick Meyer, C, Cal Poly  

Date of Birth – 02/18/97

The 6’0″, 175-lb backstop is about standard size for a catcher, and is known for his superb defensive skills. He receives praise in all aspects of catching, said to call his own game and to be an advanced receiver. He is great at framing and blocking pitches as well as guiding and mentoring his pitchers. He also has a very strong arm behind the plate, and can throw out base-stealers as well as pick runners off first base.

His offensive profile is where questions arise. He doesn’t strike out much and has decent on-base skills, but he offers little else offensively and does not have much power. Baseball America says about him, “Meyer’s upside is that of an A.J. Ellis-type, who makes a long career out of his defense and intangibles.”

There’s not a lot of upside offensively, but the defense is so good that if he utilizes his contact and on-base skills just enough, he could progress through the Mets system. He was ranked at No. 186 by Baseball America and No. 167 by MLB.com.

7. Kevin Smith, LHP, Georgia 

Date of Birth – 05/13/97

Smith is tall and big at 6’5″, 233 lbs, but his fastball only sits about 88-92, although it has been reported to reach 94. His out pitch is his sweeping slider to both sides of the plate, which is very effective against left-handed hitters especially. He also has a changeup which is more of a work in progress, but is coming along.

Smith’s future is definitely as a reliever, a role in which he thrived at Georgia Tech. He led Georgia with 76 strikeouts in 59 innings this season. He was unranked by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, but could become an effective reliever with his high spin rate and fastball-slider combo.

8. Tylor Megill, RHP, University of Arizona

Date of Birth – 07/28/95

Megill is another pitcher with a large frame, at 6’7″, 230 lbs. He has a loose arm action from a three-quarters slot, and throws strikes with some late tailing action on his fastball. He is said to sit 91-93 with his fastball with an 82-85 mph slider that has said to be average at best, as well as an 11-5 curveball that has been inconsistent but shown flashes of potential.

Like Smith, he will probably wind up as a reliever, and it will be interesting to see how he utilizes his large frame in the minors. He struck out 38 batters in 32.1 innings this year though he also walked 14. He was ranked 396th by Baseball America, and was unranked by MLB Pipeline.

9. Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP, University of Missouri

Date of Birth – 04/23/96

At 6’7″, 265 lbs, Montes de Oca is another pitcher with a large frame, but is much more overpowering than the previous two. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can reach 100 with heavy sink on it. He also has a wipeout slider in the upper-80s at its best.

He’s had to battle ulnar nerve transposition surgery, Tommy John surgery, and control issues, but there’s a lot of upside with this pick. He showed flashes of dominance as a starter, but most scouts believe his future is in the bullpen where he will be able to let loose and utilize his 100 mph fastball as well as his strong slider.

Experts believe that he can be a guy that sees the big leagues within two years. The biggest issues for him will be control, and of course, staying healthy. He was ranked 154th by Baseball America and 138th by MLB Pipeline.

Here’s a video of the strong righty pitching for Missouri in 2017.

10. Manny Rodriguez, SS, University of Cincinnati

Date of Birth – 07/04/96

A smallish and slender infielder at 5’10”, 165 lbs, it is believed that he will be able to stick at shortstop due to his good arm and range. There is also some power potential, as his slugging percentage increased by over .200 points between his last two seasons at Cincinnati.

If he keeps this newfound power up, he could become a very good shortstop prospect. He has also pitched, and has a fastball that tops out in the mid-80s with a curveball in the low-70s that he could throw for strikes. Still, his future is definitely as a shortstop, especially if he hits.

11. Franklin Parra, LHP, Copiague High School

Date of Birth – 9/13/99

Parra, a lefty reliever who stands at 6’1″, 170, has a fairly average fastball that sits in the low 90s but he has been able to wipe out high school hitters with his low-80s slider. This past season, he posted an eye-popping 19.5 K/9 due to his effective fastball-slider combo. Still fresh out of high school, there is a lot of development in Parra’s future before he will have a chance at getting Major League hitters out, but there’s a nice amount of potential for an effective lefty here.

He is expected so sign.

12. Ross Adolph, OF, University of Toledo

Date of Birth – 12/17/96

Adolph is a good-sized college outfielder at 6’1″, 192 lbs who was considered the top hitter in the MAC by many scouts when considering the positional and defensive value. He batted an extremely impressive .322/.445/.654 as a junior for Toldeo this past season, tying the school’s single-season home run record with 15. Adolph has the potential to hit for a lot of power and is also considered to be a very good runner, so there’s a good amount of upside with this pick.

He has indicated he has signed with Mets.

13. Christian Tripp, RHP, University of New Mexico

Date of Birth – 3/13/97

Tripp, another large reliever at 6’7″, 200 lbs, has battled some inconsistencies with his stuff and delivery but had a nice season for New Mexico last year, collecting eight saves with a 2.44 ERA. He has a cut fastball that ranges from 88-94 mph and an 83-84 mph slider that runs in on left-handed batters. He has the potential to be a quality reliever if he improves the consistency of his stuff and movement. He was ranked No. 460 on Baseball America’s list of draft prospects.

He is expected to sign.

14. Andrew Mitchell, LHP, Auburn University

Date of Birth – 10/23/94

At 6’0″, 190 lbs, Mitchell is a good-sized southpaw who has been overshadowed by his teammate and No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize. He has experience at both starting and relieving, and has been a bit inconsistent as evidenced by his 4.01 ERA last year, but he struck 11.6 guys per nine innings last year, so the stuff is there. He was one of the older players in the draft at 23 already due to being red-shirted as a Freshman, so his development will be interesting to watch.

He Tweeted out that he will join the Mets.

15. Phil Capra, C, Wagner College

Date of Birth – 10/1/96

Capra, 5’10”, 205, lbs, is a switch-hitting catcher who had a good offensive season for Wagner College last year, batting .312/.409/.551, and most notably breaking out some newfound power. He also had a very good strikeout-to-walk ratio and plays some infield positions as well as catcher. His future is a bit uncertain, but there’s a lot to like in this pick. Capra was ranked 27th in New York by Baseball America.

Expected to sign.

16. L.A. Woodard, SS, Middle Tennessee State University

Date of Birth – 6/13/97

Woodard is a relatively small shortstop at 5’11”, 165 lbs, and doesn’t have much power in his bat at all. However, he has very good speed and base-stealing skills as he stole 23 bases in 25 attempts last year while hitting a solid .267/.386/.356. In addition to his speed, he has good strike zone knowledge, hence the high OBP, as he walked 40 times in 52 games. He is also very good at limiting strikeouts. There isn’t a ton of upside due to the lack of power, but there’s potential for a solid player here if he can utilize his speed and on-base skills. He is also said to play very good defense at shortstop and have a leader’s mentality by his assistant coach Tim Donnelly.

Woodard says he will forgo his final season to go pro.

17. Allan Winans, RHP, Campbell University

Date of Birth – 8/10/95

Another older draftee at 22 years old, Winans is 6’5″, 175 lbs. He has been worked mainly as a starter, posting a 2.73 ERA last year in 15 games (14 starts). He also struck out 96 in his 82 innings. His season was a bit of a breakout as he had never had that type of success previously, so it will be interesting to see if he can carry it into the minor leagues.

18. Chase Chambers, 1B, Tennessee Tech University

Date of Birth – 8/22/95

Chambers, at 6’1″, 250 lbs, is a big slugging lefty first baseman who had a monster senior season, hitting .400 with a 1.150 OPS and 76 RBIs, while only striking out 24 times. There’s a lot of upside here with his powerful, sweet lefty swing, although there are questions about his athleticism and defensive ability. However, in 2014 Perfect Game stated that he moved well for his size and had good footwork, agility, and balance at first base. Chambers was also a left-handed pitcher, but it’s clear that his future is as a slugger. He was ranked 16th in Tennessee by Baseball America. The Mets did well to take someone with this high of an offensive ceiling so late in the draft.

19. Tommy Wilson, RHP, California State University, Fullerton

Date of Birth – 5/26/96

Wilson is a large right-hander at 6’4″, 220 lbs, and has a fastball ranging from the high-80s to the low-90s. It is said to be fairly straight, but he commands it in the strike zone with above-average control. He also has an effective slider in the low-80s that has the potential to get swings and misses. He has experience both starting and relieving, going 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA his junior year at Fullerton. Baseball America ranked him 74th in Southern California.

20. Brooks Warren, LHP, East Central Community College (Mississippi)

Date of Birth – 3/25/98

The 6’3″, 215-lb right-hander is said to have fairly average stuff, with a fastball ranging from the high-80s to low-90s along with a decent slider. He has experience both starting and relieving, so it’s unclear what the future holds for him in that regard. He did struggle last year with a 6.05 ERA, so there’s probably not a lot of upside with this pick. He was, however, ranked 17th in Mississippi by Baseball America.

21. Zachary Hammer, RHP, Alexander Central High School

Date of Birth – 7/04/00

At 6’3″, 170 lbs, Hammer has a tall, lean body type, and is said to have good stuff with a fastball topping out at 92 and a power curveball that really sets him apart from others. He’s still young at seventeen years old, fresh out of high school, and needs to work on his control, but there’s a good amount of upside here.

22. Jaylen Palmer, SS, Holy Cross High School

Date of Birth – 7/31/00

Palmer also has a tall and lean body, standing at 6’3″, 190 lbs, and has a plus arm at shortstop. He has also played outfield, but his strong arm and range, as well as his athletic frame should keep him at shortstop for now, although a move in the future would not be impossible. He’s said to have a very good amount of power potential, especially for a shortstop.

23. Saul Gonzalez, RHP, Montverde Academy

Date of Birth – 12/28/99

Gonzalez is an interesting pick because he’s a very big guy, standing at 6’7″, 235 lbs. He also has a power fastball in the mid-90s that scouts believe he may eventually be able to get into the upper-90s. His fastball is so good that it’s said to be potentially be a 70-grade pitch in the future.

However, he is still very far from developing any kind of consistent breaking pitch, as he pitched almost exclusively with his fastball in high school, only occasionally mixing in a work-in-progress curveball. There is plenty of upside with Gonzalez, but to get outs at the higher levels, he’s going to need to make significant progress on developing his secondary offerings. Baseball America ranked him at No. 401 in the draft.

24. Hayden Senger, C, Miami University

Date of Birth – 4/03/97

Senger, who is about standard size for a catcher at 6’1″, 210 lbs, broke out last year after a terrible year offensively in 2017. He bounced back to hit .349/.435/.530, increasing his stock that already had value due to his defensive prowess. He has been praised for his work behind the plate, and had a very impressive 42 percent caught stealing rate last year for Miami. His bat is still a bit of a question mark, but there is certainly potential there.

David Miranda/Photo from FAU Sports

25. David Miranda, OF, Florida Atlantic University

Date of Birth – 3/23/95

Miranda is a strong left-handed outfielder at 6’0″, 210 lbs., and is coming off a very good senior season at Florida Atlantic where he hit .321/.406/.542. He was among the Conference USA’s leaders in RBIs, runs, and hits, certainly boosting his draft stock.

26. Brian Sharp, 3B, University of Missouri

Date of Birth – 2/18/97

Sharp has a large 6’2″ frame and weighs about 205 lbs, and was drafted as a third baseman but also has experience as a pitcher and catcher. A left-handed batter, he hit a strong .321/.418/.500 this past season but has had issues with strikeouts. He is expected to sign.

27. Zach Rheams, SS, Texas Tech University

Date of Birth – 7/05/96

Rheams, 6’0″, 235 lbs, is a big outfielder who swings from the left side. He had a great season overall last year for Texas Tech, hitting .329/.460/.686, but particularly impressed with his power, swatting 17 homers and posting a monstrous .357 ISO. Like many sluggers, he has some strikeout issues, but there’s a lot of power potential here. This is another very good pick for this late in the draft, as Rheams has a lot of upside for a 27th-rounder.

28. Mitch Hickey, RHP, University of California San Diego

Date of Birth – 11/16/95

Hickey, a righty listed at 6’0″, 184 lbs, has a wide arsenal of pitches, with a fastball ranging anywhere from 88-94 mph, an 83-84 mph changeup, a sharp slider at 78-82 mph, and a 12-6 curveball at 71-76 mph. His stuff has received praise from scouts for its sharpness and depth, but command and control have been cited as huge issues. His future is as a reliever.

29. Nelson Mompierre, C, Miami Dade College

Date of Birth – 9/26/95

Mompierre, a 6’0″, 195-lb catcher, is known for his hitting. As a senior, he hit .355 with an OPS over 1.000, helped out by his strong on-base skills. He also had a knack for driving in runs as part of his well-rounded offensive profile, recording 31 RBIs in 37 games.

30. Chandler Avant, 2B, University of Alabama

Date of Birth – 7/11/95

A small second baseman at 5’11”, 170 lbs, Avant has one of the lower offensive ceilings of the players the Mets selected in this draft. He doesn’t have a lot of power mainly due to his small size, but is also not expected to make a lot of contact either. His defense is more of an unknown, but the fact that he’d already been moved off shortstop entering the draft is a bit worrisome.

31. Brendan Hardy, RHP, Harrison Central High School

Date of Birth – 12/15/99

Hardy, tall at 6’4″, 190 lbs, played shortstop as well as pitched in high school but was drafted as a right-handed pitcher. He had a 29 percent strikeout rate in high school, so there is some upside there, and will likely require an overslot deal to sign.

32. Jake Mangum, LHP, Mississippi State University

Date of Birth – 3/08/96

Listed at 6’1″, 185 lbs, Mangum is known for his strong contact ability from both sides of the plate, as well as well above-average speed. However, he is also said to be very aggressive at the plate as he doesn’t draw many walks, and there also isn’t a lot of power potential. He is a very good defender in center field due to his speed, so Mangum probably has a relatively high floor with his well-rounded skillset. There’s not a ton of upside, but it seems like a pretty solid pick. Mangum was ranked 134th by Baseball America and 180th by MLB Pipeline.

He already announced he will be returning to school for his senior season.

33. Michael Picollo, RHP, Blue Valley North High School

Date of Birth – 9/22/99

Picollo, 6’2″, 170 lbs, is not a huge upside pick, with a fastball that has been said to top out at 86 mph, but his velocity has supposedly been improving, so the Mets drafted this guy with the belief that he’s someone they could sign for a small amount and develop into something useful.

34. Duke Kinamon, 2B, Stanford University

Date of Birth – 9/04/96

Kinamon is a small player, listed at 5’10”, 190 lbs, without a lot of power and not a great hit tool. He does have very good speed. He missed his junior season (2018) with an injury, so he may not sign in order to boost his stock for the 2019 draft. He hit .284/.365/.379 in the 2017 season.

35. Ian Mejia, RHP, Sahuarita High School

Date of Birth – 1/31/00

The 6’4″, 175-lb righty has a simple pitching motion with a fastball that reaches 93 mph. Solid pick here with some upside, although for now he does have a commitment to the University of Arizona, so his signability is in question. He was ranked 19th in Arizona by Baseball America.

36. Denzel Clarke, OF, Everest Academy High School

Date of Birth – 5/01/00

A tall outfielder listed at 6’4″, 190 lbs, Clarke is a natural athlete. He has experience playing center field, but as he fills out his large frame, he is likely to move to a corner spot. His hit tool is graded higher than his power, but he could gain some power as he adds more muscle. He has dealt with timing issues and lack of strength as some of the main concerns with his offensive profile. He still has a good amount of potential, and was ranked 384th by Baseball America.

37. Zach Fascia, C, Turner Fenton Secondary School

Date of Birth – 9/15/98

The 6’1″, 225-lb catcher is a left-handed hitter who also has experience pitching. He has an athletic build and possess a quick, compact swing with some gap power. The information provided on his defensive skills makes him out to be a solid backstop.

38. Nick Zona, SS, Hanover High School

Date of Birth – 7/09/99

The 6’2″, 180 lb shortstop also has experience pitching, but is expected to play shortstop due to his strong arm and athleticism.

39. Kody Darcy, SS, Kentridge High School

Date of Birth – 6/17/99

Darcy, who also has experience at the other infield positions, has a 6-1″, 175-lb frame. He’s said to have clean and smooth footwork, range, and glove actions, as well as a pretty strong arm. At the plate, he has an open stance with a loose swing that generates solid bat speed, and has the ability to make some very hard contact.

40. Brian Metoyer, RHP, Louisiana State University

Date of Birth – 11/13/96

The tall, lanky righty Metoyer is 6’4″, 160 lbs and is another guy who gets a lot of strikeouts but also has problems with control. He posted a 5.60 ERA in a hitter’s league, and has plenty of issues to work out, but there’s enough upside that the Mets felt he was worth taking a shot on. He was the 40th and final pick of the Mets’ 2018 draft.

Gavin Cecchini Hitting Well and Working on Versatility in Vegas

– The K Zone –

Jun 20, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini (2) throws to first in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

May 12, 2018

Gavin Cecchini Hitting Well and Working on Versatility in Vegas by Mojo Hill

As I wrote in an article in February, 2018 is a critical year for Gavin Cecchini.

His prospect status took a hit when he was moved from shortstop to second base due to his defensive yips and the presence of Amed Rosario. Plus, he had a down year offensively in 2017 and failed to impress in his stint with the Mets.

But Cecchini showed up to camp in 2018 with a new swing and a new beard, determined to come back strong this year. Tim Healey of Newsday also wrote about how Cecchini wanted to improve his versatility.

After playing shortstop his whole life, it seemed as though at the end of last season he was pretty much restricted to playing second at this point. But with Cecchini still needing to prove that he can hit in the Majors, it would be hard for him to get a chance if he was limited to just one defensive position.

So, while Cecchini spent the offseason working on his swing, he also worked on improving and cleaning up his play on the left side of the infield. And so far this season in Las Vegas, the 51s have used him at second for 147.2 innings, shortstop for 87.2 innings, and even an inning at third. The typical middle infield has been Cecchini and Luis Guillorme, where they have been alternating between the middle infield positions.

But it’s clear that the Mets are trying to get Cecchini reps at more than one position to create a clearer path back to the Majors, and it’s been so far so good. The infielder has only made three errors so far this year, and those were all at second base, which has proven to be his steadiest position.

If he can continue to play relatively clean defense on both the left and right sides of the infield, he could become much more useful when he gets another call.

Last year, a position change brought offensive regression along with it. After putting up an .819 OPS in Double-A in 2015 and an .838 OPS in Triple-A in 2016, Cecchini batted just .267/.329/.380.

2018 will be a key year for him to try to bounce back with the bat as he settles into his defensive role, and he’s off to a fast start, hitting .294/.342/.468  with only 15 strikeouts in 119 plate appearances.

This fast start offensively is likely due to the adjustments he made to his swing in the offseason.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up and return to his 2016 level of hitting, and if he can overcome the fielding and throwing issues that took him off his lifelong position of shortstop.

The hope for Cecchini is that he reestablishes himself as a potential starting shortstop or second baseman that hits for average with strong gap power, because those attributes along with some defensive versatility could have a place on this Mets team. But he’s got to hit, and he’s got to not let the errors rack up like he did in 2016.

For now, all we can do is calmly wait and see how things play out for the 24-year-old infielder. This is his last major opportunity to earn a spot, and if he doesn’t take advantage of it, future opportunities may be scarce.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out my analysis of Austin Barnes, or if you like interviews, Mike has plenty of those. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates on when we publish a new article or interview.  You can also follow me on Twitter.

Top 20 Baseball Players

Official K-Zone Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking Guti’s Ranking
1. Mike Trout (LAA) Mike Trout (LAA) Mike Trout (LAA) Mike Trout (LAA) Mike Trout (LAA)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
3. Jose Altuve (HOU) Jose Altuve (HOU) Jose Altuve (HOU) Joey Votto (CIN) Jose Altuve (HOU)
4. Joey Votto (CIN) Bryce Harper (WSH) Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)  Josh Donaldson (TOR) Joey Votto (CIN)
5. Bryce Harper (WSH) Joey Votto (CIN) Joey Votto (CIN) Bryce Harper (WSH) Bryce Harper (WSH)
6. Nolan Arenado (COL) Max Scherzer (WSH) Bryce Harper (WSH) Aaron Judge (NYY) Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
7. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) Nolan Arenado (COL) Chris Sale (BOS) Jose Altuve (HOU) Kris Bryant (CHC)
8. Max Scherzer (WSH)  Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) Corey Kluber (CLE) Corey Kluber (CLE) Nolan Arenado (COL)
9. Kris Bryant (CHC) Trea Turner  (WSH) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) Nolan Arenado (COL) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY)
10. Corey Kluber (CLE)   Anthony Rendon (WSH) Freddie Freeman (ATL)  Max Scherzer (WSH) Corey Seager (LAD)
11. Charlie Blackmon (COL) Aaron Judge (NYY) Josh Donaldson (TOR) Corey Seager (LAD) Max Scherzer (WSH)
12. Aaron Judge (NYY) Charlie Blackmon (COL) Nolan Arenado (COL) Charlie Blackmon (COL) Carlos Correa (HOU)
13. Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) Kris Bryant (CHC) J.D. Martinez (BOS)  Mookie Betts (BOS) Charlie Blackmon (COL)
14. Anthony Rendon (WSH) Christian Yelich (MIL) Kris Bryant (CHC)  Kris Bryant (CHC) Corey Kluber (CLE)
15. Corey Seager (LAD) Mookie Betts (BOS) Anthony Rizzo (CHC)  Anthony Rendon (WSH) Aaron Judge (NYY)
16. Chris Sale (BOS) Francisco Lindor (CLE) Charlie Blackmon (COL) Justin Turner (LAD) Francisco Lindor (CLE)
17 Mookie Betts (BOS) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) Anthony Rendon (WSH) Carlos Correa (HOU) J.D. Martinez (BOS)
18. Francisco Lindor (CLE) Corey Kluber (CLE) Jose Ramirez (CLE) Francisco Lindor (CLE) Josh Donaldson (TOR)
19. J.D. Martinez (BOS) Chris Sale (BOS) Max Scherzer (WSH) Jose Ramirez (CLE) Anthony Rendon (WSH)
20. Carlos Correa (HOU)  Jose Ramirez (CLE) Mookie Betts (BOS) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) Manny Machado (BAL)
Just Missed Daniel Murphy (WSH) Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa (HOU), Trea Turner (WSH), Noah Syndergaard (NYM)  Adrian Beltre (TEX), Daniel Murphy (WSH), Christian Yelich (MIL), Chris Sale (BOS)

 

There you have it, the top 20 players in MLB for the coming season. We’ve written explanations for why each player made the list on the chart for that players’ individual position, all of which can be found here.

Top 10 Starting Pitchers

Official K-Zone Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking Guti’s Ranking
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)  Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
2. Max Scherzer (WSH) Chris Sale (BOS) Chris Sale (BOS) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH)
3. Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Corey Kluber (CLE)
4. Chris Sale (BOS) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Chris Sale (BOS) Chris Sale (BOS)
5. Steven Strasburg (WSH) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Stephen Strasburg (WSH)
6. Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Luis Severino (NYY) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Noah Syndergaard(NYM)
7. Luis Severino (NYY) Zack Greinke (ARI) Luis Severino (NYY) Luis Severino (NYY) Luis Severino (NYY)
8. Zack Greinke (ARI) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Zack Greinke (ARI)
9. Madison Bumgarner (SF) Chris Archer (TB)  Zack Greinke (ARI)  Zack Greinke (ARI) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
10. Chris Archer (TB) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Chris Archer (TB) Kyle Hendricks (CHC) Kyle Hendricks (CHC)
Sleeper Aaron Nola (PHI)

Rich Hill (LAD)

Aaron Nola (PHI)

Trevor Bauer (CLE)

Tyler Chatwood (CHC)

Jacob deGrom (NYM)

Rich Hill (LAD)

Carlos Carrasco (CLE)

Carlos Carrasco (CLE)

Trevor Bauer (CLE)

Aaron Nola (PHI)

 

Starting pitchers are likely the single most important individual in any game. The top tier of starters involves a “big four,” although the order in which they can go is heavily debated. The K Zone unanimously chose to lead off with Clayton Kershaw, who has topped this list for years and years past. Last year he held a 2.31 ERA with 10.39 K/9 and only 1.49 BB/9, a low walk rate perhaps being the calling card of the older version of Clayton. Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer ranks at a contested second. He had a 2.51 ERA with a 2.90 FIP and and 34% K rate last year. Scherzer is the oldest pitcher in the big four, but shows no signs of slowing down, as 2017 actually marked his best season in terms of ERA and strikeouts. Corey Kluber is the #3 starter in baseball, with a 2017 xFIP of 2.52, 11.71 K/9, and 1.59 BB/9. In the second half, Kluber’s ERA was only 1.79, although his more detailed statistics are similar in both halves despite the crazy run. Chris Sale put up almost identical numbers to Kluber in 2017, but ranks one spot below him. Sale’s FIP totaled 2.45 and he struck out batters at a 36% rate, while limiting walks to less than two per nine innings. Steven Strasburg heads the next tier of starting pitchers, beginning at #5. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when Strasburg is on the field, he can really pitch, like he did in 2017 with a 2.52 ERA, 2.72 FIP. He posted similar strikeout and walk rates as the big four, and allowed even fewer home runs than most of them. Noah Syndergaard missed nearly all of 2017 with a lat strain, but was excellent as a 23-year-old the year before, when his 2.29 FIP was even lower than his ERA. Noah’s 6.9 WAR was near the top of the league, including hitters. Luis Severino has the opposite story, struggling in 2016 but breaking out in a big way come last year. Severino had remarkably a similar 2.98 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 3.04 xFIP, while approaching a 1/3 K rate. He was assisted on balls in play by his 50.6% ground ball rate. Zack Greinke has returned to grace after pitching to a 3.20 ERA and 3.34 xFIP in 2017 with the typical high strikeouts and low walks for this tier. His 2017 numbers match his career stats well, signifying that there’s a good chance the 34-year-old can continue to help his team. A dirtbike accident cost #9 SP Madison Bumgarner much of 2017, and he wasn’t the same when he came back (although the command stayed, with 1.62 BB/9). However, before then, he was not only one of the most durable, but one of the most consistently strong pitchers in baseball. In every season since his debut, his ERA has been within a reasonable margin of his 3.01 career mark, and every year he has added strikeouts. Tough-luck Ray Chris Archer struck out an elite 11.15 batters in nine last year, leading to a 3.35 xFIP, even though the ERA did not agree. For three of the past four seasons, Archer ‘s FIP has been under 3.40, but a 19-loss 2016 and two years of a high ERA have cost him a lot of attention.

See the top 10 players at every other position here and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know whenever a new list comes out!

 

Sources:
Fangraphs
Baseball Reference

Images Attributed to:
Orange County Register
Getty Images
MLB
Sports Illustrated