Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Milwaukee Brewers offseason moves and outlook

The Brewers continued their slide in the standings in 2013.  After winning the division in 2011, they fell to 3rd in 2012 before finishing 4th in 2011.  The only thing keeping them out of the NL Central basement was the woeful Cubs.

Here's a look at what they did this offseason to try to prevent further slippage:

Key Losses

Norichika Aoki, Corey Hart

Key Acquisitions

Matt Garza, Will Smith, Mark Reynolds, Zach Duke

The Brewers recent addition of Matt Garza helps improve a starting rotation that finished 11th among NL starters.  Holdovers Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta will round out the rotation.  The keys for the Brewers are the health of Garza and Estrada and improvement from Gallardo and Peralta.

In the pen, journeyman Jim Henderson returns as closer with Brandon Kintzler as the likely setup man.  Beyond that, its anybody's guess who will round out the pen, which is in a state of flux after the departures of former closer John Axford and middle reliever Burke Badenhop.

On the offensive side, the team will get a boost from the return of Ryan Braun from his PED suspension.  However, they will need more than that to bolster an offense that finished 8th in the NL in runs scored.

The biggest hole from last season was first base, where the Brewers finished last in the NL in OPS (.629).  Mark Reynolds was brought aboard on a minor league deal to battle Juan Francisco for the starting job, but neither one is a long-term answer.

Also unsettled is the second base job, which has been held by Rickie Weeks for the last 9 years (when healthy).  However, after a disappointing 2013 season, in which he posted the lowest average (.209) and OPS (.663) of his career, he will be pushed by youngster Scooter Gennett, who hit a robust .324/.356/.479 in 2013 (in 213 at bats).

In the outfield, Kris Davis will take over for the departed Norchika Aoki and provides a more typical power profile befitting of a corner outfielder.  The rest of the lineup is set with Jonathan Lucroy catching, Jean Segura at short, Aramis Ramirez at third and Carlos Gomes in center.

Overall, the hitting should improve and the pitching will likely improve as well, but I don't think its enough to push the Brewers into the upper division.  They should be a .500 team and could push the Reds for third place, but are unlikely to battle for the division crown.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chicago Cubs offseason moves and outlook

Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at the offseason moves of each of the NL Central teams and their 2014 outlook, starting from the bottom up and finishing with the Cardinals on or around the start of Spring Training.

Thus, today I start with the Chicago Cubs.

Key Losses

Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Dioner Navarro

Key Acquisitions

Tsuyoshi Wada, Wesley Wright, Jose Veras, Justin Ruggiano


The Cubs continued their rebuilding plan this offseason, making no big splashes.   Although they did make a run at Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, reportedly offering more than any other team, Tanaka ended up signing with the Yankees. 

If its any consolation for Cubs fans, they did sign another Japanese player in Wada, who came over to the states in 2012, but did not pitch in the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Wada won 107 games with a 3.13 ERA in his 9 seasons in Japan, including a 16-5 record with a 1.51 ERA in his final season in 2011. He is the epitome of the buy low players the Cubs have focused on in recent years.

The Cubs also picked up center fielder Ruggiano in a trade with the Marlins as well as a couple relievers in Wright and Veras.  Veras could compete with holdover Pedro Strop for the closer role, while Ruggiano should be the Cubs starting center fielder in 2014.

Despite the lack of moves by the Cubs, things are still looking up for them as many of their top prospects are on the cusp on joining the big club.

Top prospect Javier Baez clubbed 37 homers between high A and AA last year.  Third baseman Kris Bryant, who was selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, should not be long for the minors after hitting .336 with 9 homers in just 128 at bats in his debut.

Pitcher C.J. Edwards, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza trade last summer, has been downright dominant in his brief minor league career, posting a 1.72 ERA in 183.1 innings.

Add in top outfield prospects Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, and the Cubs have the makings of a strong nucleus of players to build a championship caliber team around.

Overall, I don't look for the Cubs to contend in 2014, as most of their top prospects are probably at least a year away, but if the team has bounce-back years from youngsters like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo and can patch together a decent rotation, they could push for a .500 record.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Peter Bourjos vs Jon Jay: Who is the Cardinals starting center fielder?

For those of you, like me, already penciling in Peter Bourjos as the Cardinals starting center fielder for 2014, Jon Jay is saying "not so fast".

According to Jennifer Langosch, Jay is expecting to compete with Bourjos for the starting center field job this Spring.  The article also indicates that the Cardinals have not promised Bourjos all the playing time, although you would think the Cards wouldn't have traded David Freese for a bench player.

So, it appears that we have ourselves a Spring training battle shaping up between Jay and Bourjos.  Let's see how these two stack up:


Overall, I would have to give the edge on offense to Jay.  He has a better career batting average than Bourjos (.293 to .251), gets on base better (.356 OBP to .306 OBP for Bourjos) and has an edge in OPS+ (109 to 98).

However, in his defense, Bourjos has been banged up most of his career.  In his one full season in 2011, he put up a line of .271/.327/.438.  His OPS+ of 116 for that season is better than any single season put up by Jay, who's best was 113 in 2012.

In addition, Bourjos has better overall speed that Jay.  For his career, Bourjos has stolen 41 bases compared to 37 for Jay, in 184 fewer games.  Also, Bourjos has a little more pop that Jay, with an isolated power of .146 for his career, compared to .108 for Jay.  Bourjos has 24 homers compared to 25 for Jay, again in much fewer games (and at bats).

So, even though I give the edge to Jay, mainly because of his ability to hit for average and get on base, the margin of victory is not very big.


Here is where Bourjos really sets himself apart.  All fielding metrics you look at show Bourjos as being far better defensively than Jay.

Bourjos has a .990 fielding percent compared to .988 for Jay (center field only).

Bourjos has a 2.74 Range Factor per 9 inning (RF/9) compared to 2.56 for Jay.

Bourjos has a defensive WAR (dWAR) of 4.2 for his career compared to -0.5 for Jay.

Bourjos has an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 40.1 for his career compared to -7.3 for Jay.

Overall, Bourjos just blows Jay away as far as defense goes, which is primarily the reason that the Cardinals acquired him.  With him in center and Kolten Wong at second, the Cards defense will get a major boost in 2014.


Even though it appears that there will be a competition for the center field job, the job is really Bourjos' to lose.  Assuming he's healthy (and stays healthy), Bourjos should be the Cardinals starting center fielder on opening day and for the majority of the season.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Projecting the Cardinals 2014 opening day roster

Let's face it, its been a pretty boring Hot Stove League for the Cardinals.  Most of their offseason shopping was done before Christmas and, as a result of that, the Holidays and busy season, I've been struggling to find things to write about.

Thus, to get me back on track, I decided to take a peek at the Cardinals current roster and see if I could predict who will make it on the opening day 25-man roster.

First, I already predicted the starting lineup and the starting rotation, so they automatically make the roster:

1.  Matt Carpenter, 3B
2.  Jhonny Peralta, SS
3.  Matt Holliday, LF
4.  Allen Craig, RF
5.  Yadier Molina, C
6.  Matt Adams, 1B
7.  Peter Bourjos, CF
8.  Kolten Wong, 2B
9.  Adam Wainwright
10. Shelby Miller
11.  Jaime Garcia
12.  Michael Wacha
13.  Lance Lynn

From there, we know that Mark Ellis will at least earn a spot on the bench, along with John Jay (assuming he's not traded).  The Cardinals will also need a backup catcher, most likely Tony Cruz, which puts us up to 16.

Then, there are certain guys who you figure have already earned a spot in the bullpen, including closer Trevor Rosenthal and setup men Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Randy Choate and Joe Kelly.

Assuming the Cardinals go with a 13 hitter/12 pitcher split, that leaves the Cards with 2 bench spots and 2 bullpen spots.

Bench Battles

The battles for the last two bench spots will likely come down to Daniel Descalso vs Pete Kozma and Shane Robinson vs Oscar Taveras.

Looking at the first battle, it pretty much comes down Descalso's versatility versus Kozma defense at short.  Granted, Descalso can play short, but if the Cardinals prefer a better defensive player as a backup to Peralta, Kozma is the man.

Given that Ellis is pretty much limited to second, the Cardinals would probably prefer Descalso's versatility to the defense of Kozma, so he gets the nod.

As for the outfield battle, it is more a question as to whether the Cardinals feel that Taveras is ready or if he would be better served with more seasoning in the minors.  Given the time he missed last year due to injury, I see Taveras returning to AAA at least at the start of the season, thus giving the nod to Robinson.

Bullpen Battles

One thing to look for in the spring is the health of Jason Motte.  If he's healthy, he will likely make the opening day roster.  However, I think the Cardinals will play it safe with Motte and let him start the season on a rehab assignment in the minors.

With Motte a question mark and former bullpen members Edward Mujica, Fernando Salas and John Axford no longer with the team, the battle for the last two spots will likely come down to Carlos Martinez, Keith Butler and Sam Freeman.

Look for Martinez to earn a spot, based on his post season work, with the final spot coming down to whoever has the better spring between Butler and Freeman.  I'll give the nod to Freeman, based solely on how he pitched for the Cardinals in 2013.

Thus, here is my projected opening day 25-man roster:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  2. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Allen Craig, RF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Matt Adams, 1B
  7. Peter Bourjos, CF
  8. Kolten Wong, 2B
  9.  Adam Wainwright
  10. Shelby Miller
  11. Jaime Garcia
  12. Michael Wacha
  13. Lance Lynn
  14. Mark Ellis
  15. Jon Jay
  16. Tony Cruz
  17. Daniel Descalso
  18. Shane Robinson
  19. Trevor Rosenthal
  20. Seth Maness
  21. Kevin Siegrist
  22. Randy Choate
  23. Joe Kelly
  24. Carlos Martinez
  25. Sam Freeman