Baseball America, Perfect Game Release Pre-Season College Baseball Top 25

College World Series

Yesterday, Baseball America and Perfect Game USA each released their pre-season College Baseball Top 25 rankings. In both polls, the University of Virginia was ranked as the number one team. Both Top 25 rankings are listed below:

 

Baseball America Perfect Game
1. Virginia 1. Virginia
2. Oregon State 2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Indiana 3. Oregon State
4. Cal State Fullerton 4. Florida State
5. NC State 5. Indiana
6. Florida State 6. Mississippi State
7. South Carolina 7. South Carolina
8. Mississippi State 8. UCLA
9. LSU 9. Oregon
10. Vanderbilt 10. NC State
11. Oregon 11. Vanderbilt
12. UCLA 12. LSU
13. Clemson 13. UNC
14. Lousiania-Lafayette 14. Clemson
15. Rice 15. Florida
16. Miami 16. Louisville
17. UNC 17. Rice
18. Texas 18. Arizona State
19. TCU 19. Texas A&M
20. Lousville 20. Miami
21. Alabama 21. Alabama
22. Kansas State 22. Kansas State
23. Florida 23. Oklahoma State
24. Texas A&M 24. Florida Atlantic
25. Arkansas 25. Texas

The Road to Omaha begins in about two and a half weeks. Looking forward to having some live baseball to follow.

TS

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Top 10 First Basemen

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The next position that we will be taking a look at is First Base.

10. Eric Hosmer, KC  3.1 fWAR, 119 wRC+, .302/.353/.448, 118 OPS+

Hosmer finally had the breakout season the Kansas City Royals thought he was capable of. In 2012, he struggled as he hit .232. Hosmer seems to have benefited from George Brett’s brief stint as the Royals hitting coach, because he raised his average 70 points in 2013. He also had a fantastic defensive season as he won his first Gold Glove. If the Royals want to go to their first postseason since 85’, Hosmer will have to have another big year.

9. Mike Napoli, BOS 3.9 fWAR, 129 wRC+, .259/.360/.482, 129 OPS+

Napoli signed with the Red Sox in 2012, and helped lead them to a World Series title in his first full season as a first baseman. There was speculation that Napoli couldn’t handle first base, but had a fantastic season defensively as he lead all first baseman with a 9.7 UZR. He did have a 32 % strikeout rate, but Boston signed him to drive in runs and that is what he did with 92 RBI. Napoli resigned with the Sox and should have another big year in the middle of their order.

8. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR 4.1 fWAR, 145 wRC+, .272/.370/.534, 145 OPS+

I thought Encarnacion’s 2012 season may have been a career year, but he put up incredible numbers in 2013. He ranked 3rd in the big leagues in home runs with 36 and 9th in RBI with 104. After two straight big years, I determined that this guy can flat out mash. It’s a little surprising that he only has a 10 % strike out rate for being a power hitter. Expect him and Jose Bautista to put up big numbers in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup.

7. Joe Mauer, MIN 5.2 fWAR, 144 wRC+, .324/.404/.476, 144 OPS+

There is no question that Mauer is one of the best overall hitters in the big leagues. He has a picture perfect swing and never seems to be off balance. The 3-time batting champion is moving to first base to protect him from possible injuries. It will be interesting to see if he has better stamina later in the season because he isn’t squatting behind the plate 300 times a game.

6. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD 2.8 fWAR, 124 wRC+, .293/.342/.461, 126 OPS+

In his first full season in LA, Gonzalez looked like his old self. He was back to hitting with power and driving in runs. Yasiel Puig looked like he had an impact on Gonzalez as he seemed like he was having fun, unlike his years in Boston. I think it is safe to say that Gonzalez is at his best when he is playing on the West Coast. Expect Gonzalez to be right in the middle of the Dodgers run for an NL pennant.

5. Freddie Freeman, ATL  4.8 fWAR, 150 wRC+, .319/.396/.501, 144 OPS+

Freeman is emerging as one of the best young players in the big leagues. The 24 year old had another big season as he finished 5th in the NL MVP voting. He hit 23 Home Runs and drove in 109 RBI. I believe Freeman is turning into the leader of the Atlanta Braves and a piece they desperately have to have healthy in the middle of the order. Freeman has improved his defense and I expect him to be right in the mix for NL MVP again.

4. Chris Davis, BAL 6.8 fWAR, 167 wRC+, .286/.370/.634, 165 OPS+

Davis had a big 2nd half to the 2012 season, and he was able to put together a full season in 2013. He found his Home Run stroke from day 1 when he hit a Home Run in the first 4 games of the season. He finished the season with 53 Home Runs, which was tops in the majors, and had 138 RBI. Davis had a breakout year, but I feel he can continue to put up similar numbers because Camden Yards is a perfect place for him to hit. The ball carries to left field in Baltimore, and Davis has excellent opposite field power. Davis showed in 2013 that he can be an above average defender making him a complete player.

3. Joey Votto, CIN 6.2 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .305/.435/.491, 154 OPS+

There is no other way to put it, but Votto is an incredible hitter. He may have the best plate vision in the game. His 135 walks was tops in the majors and that enabled him to score 101 runs. Votto has great bat control that allows him to hit to all parts of the field. He is a power hitting first baseman who hits for average, and his .435 on base percentage was second in the game behind Miguel Cabrera. Votto only drove in 73 runs because he hit second in the Red’s order for part of the season but do not let that fool you, because he is still one of the best run producers in baseball.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI 6.4 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .302/.401/.491, 160 OPS+

Paul Goldschmidt should have won the NL MVP. I do not want to take away what Andrew McCutchen did for the Pirates but Goldschmidt had an incredible 2013 season. He hit for average (.302), hit for power (36 HR), scored runs (103), and won a Gold Glove. I don’t know what more Goldschmidt could have done other than demand a trade, because the only reason he did not win was because his team did not make the postseason. JOKE! The 26 year-old has emerged as one of the game’s best talents and expect him to have another solid season.

1. Miguel Cabrera, DET 7.6 fWAR, 192 wRC+, .348/.442/.636, 187 OPS+

Back to back MVP titles pretty much tells the story for Miguel Cabrera. He is one of the best right handed hitters of all time and he continues to impress. Cabrera has the ability to hit for a very high average and still have great power numbers. He has power to all fields and can hit any pitch in the zone. Cabrera dealt with a groin and abdominal injury for the second half and into the postseason that slowed down his hunt for another triple crown. He has had surgery on his abdomen and is expected to be ready for opening day. If he is healthy, he is the best hitter in the game and expect him to have another big season.

— MS

 

 

Top 10 Catchers

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The first position that we will be taking a look at is Catcher.

 10. Yan Gomes, CLE     3.7 fWAR, 131 wRC+, .294/.345/.481, 40.8% CS

Though only playing in 88 games last year, Gomes was extremely productive, ranking seventh among catchers with a 3.7 fWAR. Serving as the back up to Carlos Santana during the first half of last season, Gomes took over the primary catching duty during the second half of the season. Cleveland has decided to go into 2014 with Gomes as their number one guy behind the plate, and I expect another strong year from the 26 year old.

9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MIA     3.6 fWAR, 117 wRC+, .273/.338/.466, 21.2% CS

Saltalamacchia had a strong year for the world champion Red Sox last year. Though he struggled a bit during the ’13 playoff (with the exception being the walk-off hit in the dramatic game two versus Detroit in the ALCS), Saltalamacchia was a key part to the Red Sox offense last year, especially during the middle of the season when David Ross was sidelined with a concussion. Saltalamacchia led the American League with 40 doubles, but struggled in the running game, only throwing out 21% of base stealers. Saltalamacchia has taken his talents to South Beach, where he will be asked to take on a bigger role with the Marlins.

8. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL     3.6 fWAR, 118 wRC+, .280/.340/.455, , 21.6% CS

I think Lucroy is one of the more underrated offensive players in the National League.  In the last two years, Lucroy has hit 30 HRs and is fourth among catchers in slugging. One downside is that Lucroy has a problem controlling the running game, where in 2013 he threw out 21.6% of attempted base stealers, allowing the second most stolen bases in the national league (80).

7. Matt Wieters, BAL     2.4 fWAR, 86 wRC+, .235/.287/.417,  35.3% CS

Wieters struggled in 2013, posting a sub .300 OBP for the first time in his career. Though he was below league average at the plate for his position, Wieters is very strong defensively. With below average offense, he still ranked 13th among catchers with a 2.4 fWAR. I think the two-time all-star rebounds from his rough 2013 from an offensive standpoint and gets back into the discussion for top catchers in the game.

6. Salvador Perez, KC     3.7 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .292/.323/.433, 35.5% CS

When I first saw Perez play, I thought he was too big to play catcher. But as I began to watch him more, you could easily see that the 6’3”, 245-pound Perez could handle the position. The kid had a nice 2013, earning his first all-star appearance and winning the Gold Glove award in the American League. I expect Perez, who doesn’t turn 24 until May, to continue to improve, though his walk rate (4%) is alarming.

5. Brian McCann, NYY 2.7 fWAR, 122 wRC+, .256/.336/.461, 24.2% CS

McCann is a premier bat at the catching position. Since 2011, McCann has hit 64 HRs with a .441 slugging percentage. Those numbers should only increase this year with half of his games coming in the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. The short porch and the DH position might allow McCann to hit 30-35 HRs.  I expect McCann to have an outstanding season in the Bronx.

4. Jason Castro, HOU 4.3 fWAR, 130 wRC+, .276/.350/.484, 24.7% CS

Castro had a breakout year in 2013 for the Astros, earning his first all-star appearance. The 26 year old was able to play over 100 games for the first time in his career, and put his name in the discussion for top catcher in the American League. The one thing that Castro has had a hard time doing is staying healthy. Castro missed all of 2011 with an ACL tear, and only played in 87 games in 2012. In 2013, Castro missed the final month with surgery on his right knee to remove a cyst. If Castro can stay on the field, I expect him to have a good year, putting himself right in the middle of the Astros core going forward.

3. Russell Martin, PIT     4.1 fWAR, 101 wRC+, .226/.327/.377, 40.4% CS

Last year, the Pirates got a steal when they were able to sign Russell Martin to a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal. Martin was vital to the turnaround in Pittsburgh. Watching him in the playoffs, you could really appreciate just how good Martin is behind the plate. He handled the pitching staff, was tremendous blocking balls in the dirt, and was able to control the running game. Though the low batting average, Martin still was able to get on base at a .327 clip because of his 11.5% walk rate. Martin’s place on this list does not necessarily come from his statistics, but instead by what you can see by watching him on an everyday basis.

2. Buster Posey, SF 4.8 fWAR, 133 wRC+, .294/.371/.450, 30.0 % CS

Even though I have him number two on my list, I would take Posey over any catcher if I had my pick. I think Posey has the chance to be the Jeter of this era. When you look at what Posey has done in his career already, it makes you wonder what his resume will look like at the end of his career. Two-time World Series champion, NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, two time all-star. Most players would love to have a resume like this at the end of their career, and Posey has done this before his age 27 season. I expect Posey to lead the Giants offense and guide the pitching staff in 2014.

1. Yadier Molina, STL 5.6 fWAR, 134 wRC+, .319/.359/.477, 43.5% CS

Like Posey, Molina has quite the resume and may be on his way to the Hall of Fame when his career is complete. Two-time World Series champion, six-time Gold Glove award winner, 5-time all star, and one-time silver slugger. The guy is the ultimate competitor and is one of the best defensive catchers that I have ever seen. The way he handled last years pitching staff, with how young that staff was, was remarkable. On top of his defense, he has turned himself into an above average hitter over the past couple of years, making him on of the most valuable players in all of baseball. I expect Molina to continue to play at a very high level in 2014, leading one of the best teams in the National League.

-TS

 

Added by Mick:

Personally, I would have had Perez higher on my list. I think he is a terrific young talent, and I believe he has the strongest arm of all the catchers in the big leagues. He showed last year that he can hit for average and provide some power.

I would have added Miguel Montero to the list. He had a down year in 2013 as he dealt with an injury, but I fully expect him to get back to being a run producing catcher. In 2012, he hit .286 and drove in 88 runs and produced a 4.6 fWar. When he is healthy, he is definitely a top 10 catcher.

Tanaka chooses Yankees.

          Image                Masahiro Tanaka agreed to a 7 year deal worth 155 million dollars with the New York Yankees, and the contract has an opt-out clause after 4 years. The deal for the Japanese star is the 5th highest contract in baseball history for a starting pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and C.C. Sabathia. Tanaka pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013 and went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average.

                I feel the New York Yankees were going to outbid anyone no matter what it took. The Yankees beat out the Cubs, White Sox, and Dodgers to get a piece they desperately needed. Tanaka joins Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, and Phelps in the Yankees rotation. The additions the Yankees have made this offseason have all been upgrades on the offensive end with signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees had to make a big sign for a starting pitcher, because they have question marks in their starting rotation. Sabathia is coming off his worst season with the Yankees as he had a 4.78 earned run average. Kuroda had a strong first half of 2013 but struggled in the final two months. He is also entering his age 39 season. Nova has shown glimpses of being a strong starter but has not been consistent. Phelps will compete for a starting job along with Michael Pineda, who is trying to come back from a torn labrum. The Yankees are no doubt taking a risk on a player who has never thrown a pitch in the big leagues, but Tanaka could be a huge part of an organization that is trying to get back to the postseason.

                Another huge part of this signing is how the change of the posting system for Japanese players affected the contract of the player. The MLB and the NPB ( Nippon Professional Baseball) agreed that the max a team can pay a Japanese team to release their player is 20 million dollars. In the past, teams tried to outbid other teams no matter the cost. The Red Sox paid a 51.11 million dollar posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the Rangers paid 51.7 million dollars to talk to Yu Darvish. After the fees, Matsuzaka received a 52 million dollar contract for 6 years and Yu Darvish received a 6 year contract worth 60 million dollars. There is no question that the new posting system will allow Japanese pitchers to earn millions more for the same amount of years.

                It will be very interesting to see what this Tanaka deal does for future free agent pitchers. If a guy who has never pitched in the big leagues before gets a deal for 155 million, what will a CY winning pitcher get like Max Scherzer and David Price? Time will tell but there is no doubt the Yankees are one of the biggest winners of this offseason. 

-Mick

It’s Official: Replay Expanded

Image

On Thursday, MLB clubs voted unanimously to expanded instant replay in the upcoming 2014 season. Expanded replay was bound to happen once home runs were allowed to be reviewed back in 2008. I have to admit, at first I was not in favor of expanding instant replay. I like the idea of having the human element in baseball and I feel replay may eliminate that. But with all of the technological improvements over the years, it’s hard to argue that replay can only make the game better.

The clubs agreed on the following plays to be reviewed at the start of the 2014 season:

  •  Home run
  • Ground rule double
  • Fan interference
  • Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
  • Force play (except the fielder’s touching of second base on a double play)
  • Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
  • Fair/foul in outfield only
  • Trap play in outfield only
  • Batter hit by pitch
  • Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
  • Touching a base (requires appeal)
  • Passing runners
  • Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)

Although I will miss seeing managers throw a temper tantrum on the field, there is no question Major League Baseball is making the right decision by doing everything they can to get the call right. Calls like Jeter’s home run in game 1 of the ALCS, Jim Joyce’s blown call to end Galarraga’s perfect game, and Todd Helton being a foot off first base but still getting an out call will all be corrected by instant replay. Instead of the manager running out to scream in the face of an umpire, the manager will let the crew chief know that he wants the previous play reviewed. If any part of the play is overturned, the manager will be awarded another challenge. After the sixth inning, the crew chief can choose to review any play they feel needs replay.

Many people have been wondering if adding addition replay will make baseball games even longer, but the results from the 2013 Arizona Fall League show that it will be a quick procedure as the average replay took a minute and forty seconds. I think there is no question Major League Baseball is making the right decision on expanding instant replay. If it improves the quality of the game, who can argue.

 

-Mick

 

 

 

Thoughts on Kershaw

Kershaw

News broke yesterday that the Los Angeles Dodgers and left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw agreed to a seven-year, $215 million contract extension that will cover his age 26-32 seasons. According to MLB.com, the deal contains an opt-out clause that would allow Kershaw to opt out after five years, setting him up to get another massive contract after his age 30 season. The contract is the richest ever for a pitcher and it has the highest average annual value for any player, regardless of position.

I think this deal was a no brainer for the Dodgers, and you can argue that they got a discount with this deal. No question, there is a massive amount of risk with giving a pitcher this type of money, but if there is any pitcher to make this type of investment in, it’s Kershaw. In my mind, if the Dodgers and Kershaw did not agree to this deal before the season began, this deal would have never happened and the Dodgers would have likely had to pay a premium to keep his services if Kershaw had reached free agency. If Kershaw was able to continue his dominance on his mound in 2014 and reach free agency, there is no telling how much a team would have given him. $300 million would not have been out of the question. 

With the extension, the Dodgers are able to pencil Kershaw in at the top of the rotation for at least the next seven years and lead their staff. What does that mean for the Dodgers? Here are the last three seasons for Kershaw:

2011: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 233.1 IP, 248 K, .98 WHIP, 161 ERA+

2012: 14-5, 2.53 ERA, 227.2 IP, 229 K, 1.02 WHIP, 150 ERA+

2013: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 236 IP, 232 K, .92 WHIP, 194 ERA+

Any team in baseball would sign up for a pitcher like Kershaw to lead their staff, and very few have the luxury of having a pitcher capable of putting up similar numbers (along with Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer, Price, Hernandez, Sale, Lee, and Wainwright may all fall on the short list of ace type pitchers). In the last three seasons, he has led the NL in ERA and in 2011 and 2013 he led the NL in strikeouts (in 2012 R.A. Dickey had 230 strikeouts to Kershaw’s 229). In 2011 and 2013 he was the NL Cy Young award winner. Entering his age 26 season, Kershaw should be able to continue his pitching dominance and pitch at an elite level.

With the Dodgers in ‘win-now’ mode, they have their ace to lead them to a title. Kershaw has the resume for the part, with two Cy Young awards, two All-Star appearances, and ERA titles to his name. Adding in Greinke, Ryu, Haren, Beckett, and Billingsley, the Dodgers have the quality and quantity to match the top rotations of the NL. If the Dodgers are able to win a title or two in the next seven years, the $215 million that they will be paying Kershaw may turn out to be a bargain.

Looking at how this affects the rest of Major League Baseball, it will be interesting to see what kind of contract Max Scherzer gets after the 2014 season. Entering his final year before free agency, the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League will likely be looking for a contract in between Kershaw’s $215 million and Verlander’s $180 million. With Scott Boras as the agent, the Scherzer camp may try to exceed the Kershaw contract and may succeed in doing so with multiple teams likely bidding for his services. In addition, I can only imagine what this does for a player like Mike Trout. Every day that goes by, the Angels better come to terms with handing out a $300+ million contract. 

Getting back to Kershaw, the man got his payday. It was well deserved and, as stated above, may be looked at as a bargain when the contract is completed. Now it is time appreciate the greatness of Kershaw, as we watch what could be one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time when all is said and done if he continues on his current path. I looking forward to watching Kershaw do his thing, leading the Dodgers staff and shutting down lineups every five days.

TS

Welcome to The Storms Bros Blog

On behalf of my brother (Mick) and myself, we would like to welcome you to The Storms Bros Blog. My brother and I have shared a passion for the game of baseball over the years, and we thought that a blog would be a great platform to enhance our discussions and experience with following the game. We hope to bring a unique take on the various aspects of baseball and hopefully spark some good debate and discussions along the way.

So what will you see in this blog? Well, we hope we can touch on many different areas of the game of baseball. The majority of the discussions will center around Major League Baseball, with other topics, such as prospects and college baseball, getting some attention as well. Whether the off-season, the grind of the regular season, or the chase for the pennant in October, we hope to give you our take on what is going on. My brother, Mick, is a huge Red Sox fan while I am a die-hard Mets fan (yes, this is a rather odd combination of teams for two brothers to be rooting for). Though you will see a lot of content regarding both of our favorite teams, we hope to look at what is going on through Major League Baseball, providing as complete a picture as possible.

We are looking forward to getting started and seeing where this goes. Hopefully, you will find the content interesting and worth reading as you follow what is going on in the game. If you like the content, you can follow us on twitter @StormsBros to find out when a new post is up or to ask us a question.

-Tyler Storms