Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Predictions for the 2017 season

Last year I managed to get exactly 50% of my predictions correct, including all 5 of the NL play-off teams, and the prediction that Didi Gregorius would hit more home runs than A-Rod. I also said Marcus Stroman would win the AL Cy Young, and that Byron Buxton would breakout and become a star. Well, can't win them all. I'll do my best to explain my thoughts behind the 15 predictions listed below, but as you all know, there's a lot of guess work and luck (either good or bad) that goes into getting these things right or wrong. Hope you enjoy!

 1. Matt Boyd wins 12+ games

The Tigers announced today that Anibal Sanchez will start the season out in the bullpen, giving Matt Boyd the 5th starter spot in the rotation. Boyd will look to build off of his very solid second half last year, and the Tigers offense should give him a realistic shot at double digit wins. I'd expect something like 13-7 with an ERA around 4.00 if he stays in the rotation all season.

2. Ben Revere steals 30+ bases

This is based primarily on the fact that Cameron Maybin is wildly injury prone, and any time he misses will give Revere more chances get on base, and to steal. He only hit .217 last year, but with a spectacularly low .238 BABIP, nearly 100 points lower than his career average. Assuming that regresses, Revere should hit closer to .280 or so, and with regular at-bats should be a lock to steal 30 this year.

3. Keon Broxton finishes 20/20

Broxton hit 9 home runs with 23 steals in only 75 games last year, so it's hardly crazy to predict 20 steals again, and 11 more home runs seems feasible as well. Broxton is still very young, but he struck out in 36% of his at-bats last year. If he can limit that, he has the tools to be a 20/20 guy not just next year, but for many years to come.

4. Kevin Kiermaier finishes with a WAR above 8.0

Going off of baseball-reference, Kiermaier put up a 7.3 WAR in 2015 in a full season, and a 5.5 WAR in only 105 games last year. Kiermaier's 7.3 WAR season came with an OBP less than .300 and an OPS+ of only 99, so assuming he even becomes a slightly above average hitter, Kiermaier should accrue a WAR over 8. His high WAR comes from his spectacular CF defense primarily, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kiermaier with 15+ home runs and 25+ steals this season as well.

5. Adrian Beltre passes Dave Winfield in home runs and hits

Beltre needs 20 home runs and 168 hits to tie Dave Winfield in those categories. Over his last four years Beltre has averaged 179 hits and 25 home runs. So if he can stay healthy, I think both those numbers are not only attainable, but likely. The question is health, but Beltre has managed to avoid lengthy DL stints throughout his career, so I'm confident he can do so for one more year.

6. Nolan Arenado is the NL MVP

Arenado should build off his incredible 41 home run, 133 RBI season last year. He's still only 25, and I believe will continue to be one of the best players in baseball for years to come.

7. Mookie Betts is the AL MVP 

Betts will have to beat out Mike Trout and Jose Altuve, but as a player capable of a 30/30 season who plays great defense and scores tons of runs, I'll take my chances on him finishing the season with some hardware.

8. Marcus Stroman finishes top-5 in Cy Young voting

Marcus Stroman had a really bad first half last season. But he was much better in the second half. After a dominating performance in the WBC, I'm inclined to believe that Stroman is more like the pitcher he was in his first 1.5 years (and second half last year) than the pitcher he was early in 2016. If he can return to that form, he's a top 5 pitcher in the American League.

9. The Red Sox don't have a top-10 rotation in the league

Chris Sale goes from a pitcher friendly park to Fenway, and has to deal with the Boston media. Considering his already frail emotional state, that seems troublesome to me. Price is hurt and may not be the same pitcher we are used to seeing. Porcello's numbers were a lot better than he was last year, and he will absolutely regress back to his normal, high 3.00 ERA self. E-Rod and Pomeranz are fine capable back-end starters, nothing more. Steven Wright is an inconsistent knuckleballer. I don't have a lot of faith in this rotation, especially with most of their games in the AL East.

10. Greg Bird hits more home runs than both Matt Holliday and Cris Carter

Not combined, although that would be epic. I think Holliday and Carter form a semi-platoon at DH and Bird gets the vast majority of the at-bats at 1B, with Carter occasionally filling in for him. I think Bird will hit around 25 home runs this year, with the potential for 30. Holliday will get his 20 or so, but I doubt much more. And Carter's playing time will severely limit him. Barring injuries, Bird is the guy you want out of this 1B/DH situation in NY.

11. Hanley Ramirez has 30/100 with 10 steals

Hitting fourth in the line-up will be great for Hanley, and switching to a full-time DH (which appears likely) will help him stay healthy and productive all season long. A healthy Hanley put up 30 home runs, 111 RBI and 9 steals last year, so a repeat performance hardly seems outrageous, providing health and that he runs enough to grab double digit bags.

12. AL play-off teams: Rangers, Indians, Red Sox: Astros and Yankees

Nothing too crazy here. Astros are a bit of a stretch because their pitching is so unpredictable, but I think if they put it together they can challenge for that wild card spot with ease. Mariners and Tigers, my two teams, are on the outside looking in yet again this year.

13. NL play-off teams: Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals: Giants and Mets

Picking only one NL Central team feels weird, but I don't see the Cardinals or Pirates being better than either the Mets or Giants this year. Depends on health for NYM, but if they can stay healthy they should squeak into that wildcard spot. 

14. World Series: Rangers vs. Cubs

Rangers pitching is concerning behind Hamels and Darvish, but if they are hitting well I could see them pulling off a trade for another arm (Quintana maybe?) and making a run. Their farm system is already pretty rough after the Lucroy trade, so they may have to get creative, but I think this is their last chance, so I think they'll go all in.

Cubs are basically an all-star team, and with Maddon as their manager I think they'll be back in the WS again.

15. Cubs don't want to wait another 108 years for this one, win again. Become hated

I should say become more hated. People love an underdog, until they aren't. The fact that I'm a Gonzaga fan/alum is certainly not factored into that statement.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Analyzing the Tigers abysmal 2003..........draft?

On June 3rd, 2003 the Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres, 3-2, to move up to 15-40 on the season. However, many Tigers fans were focusing on another event; the 2003 MLB draft. The Tigers had the third overall pick, and fans were hoping they could use the draft to help rebuild the franchise to glory amidst an entire decade of mediocrity, and in the midst of a historically bad season (they finished 43-119, the most losses in regular season history). Three years later, the 2006 Detroit Tigers were in the World Series, having swept the Oakland A's in the ALCS......no thanks whatsoever to their 2003 draft. In fact, the only thing worse than their god awful 2003 season may have been their 2003 draft, which has to go down as one of the worst individual team drafts in history.

The Tigers drafted 50 players in the 2003 draft. Of those 50, seven played in the major leagues. Of those seven, only two had a WAR greater than 0. Those two are Dustin Richardson (39th round pick, 0.4 WAR) and Dusty Ryan (48th round pick, 0.1 WAR). Let me reiterate that; only two of the 50 players had a positive WAR in the major leagues, and they were selected 1150th overall and 1405th overall. Yowza. Here's a list of all seven of the players who made it to the Major Leagues from that draft:

Round 2, pick 40: Jay Sborz, RHP. 1 game, -0.2 WAR
Round 3, pick 70: Tony Giarratano, SS. 15 games, -0.3 WAR
Round 7, pick 190: Virgil Vasquez*, RHP. 19 games, -1.1 WAR
Round 11, pick 310: Brian Rogers*, RHP. 13 games, -0.3 WAR
Round 16, pick 460: Jordan Tata, RHP. 11 games, -0.4 WAR
Round 39, pick 1150: Dustin Richardson*, LHP. 29 games, 0.4 WAR
Round 48, pick 1405: Dusty Ryan, C. 27 games, 0.1 WAR

*Played for other teams

115 Major League games played, a -1.7 WAR between all of them. No matter how you spin it, this draft was a colossal bust for the Tigers.

The Tigers 2003 draft woes started right at the top, after they selected Wake Forest junior right-hander Kyle Sleeth with the third overall pick. Sleeth had just polished off an incredible college career at Wake Forest, but he didn't sign with the Tigers until August, meaning he didn't debut in the minors until 2004. Sleeth was ranked as the #36 prospect in all of baseball prior to his first pro season, but injuries and ineffectiveness meant he was out of baseball by 2007. Sleeth finished with a 6.30 ERA across 3 MiLB seasons, none above AA. Fellow first round selections taken after Sleeth include Nick Markakis, John Danks, Aaron Hill, Carlos Quentin and Adam Jones.

Rounds two and three belonged to Jay Sborz and Tony Giarratano, both of whom made the Major leagues for the Tigers, playing in a combined 16 games with a -0.5 WAR. In fact Sborz only threw 2/3 of an inning in the Majors, giving up a spectacularly bad five Earned Runs on three hits and two hit batters. Scott Baker and Andre Ethier went in the second round, and Shawn Marcum, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Harrison all went in the third.

Round four was a high school righty named Josh Rainwater (amazing name) who pitched all the way until he was 28, but never at the MLB level. Michael Bourn and Jonathan Papelbon followed.

This could continue, but you get the point. I understand that the MLB draft in particular is a complete crap shoot, and that first round picks bust with regularity. However, to see absolutely none of the 50 players selected have any level of success is alarming, especially when you consider how quickly the team turned it around. Was the coaching in the minor leagues poor? Did they have inferior scouting? Was it just extremely unlucky? Who knows! But at least they fared better in the first round the following year, when they took another high profile college righty with the 2nd pick, Old Dominion's Justin Verlander.