Who is Trae Santos?

The Frontier League Homerun Derby took place at Carshield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri this week.  Fans filled the stadium for a chance to see former Cardinals greats compete with Frontier League All-Stars in matchup of local favorites vs. unknown up and comers.  Former Cardinals Mark Whiten, Ray Lankford, Kerry Robinson and Rick Ankiel were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance. To their surprise they were upstaged by a little known first baseman playing just across the river for the Gateway Grizzlies.  His name was Trae Santos.

Trae Santos put on a show from the first pitch launching mammoth homers over the giant right field wall at Carshield Field.  Santos ran through the Frontier League competitors smashing 22 homers in the first two rounds, setting up a matchup with former Cardinal P/OF Rick Ankiel.  Santos dispatched of Ankiel rather quickly beating his 3 homers in just a few swings.  Fans that had come to see the former Cardinals greats swing left wondering who was this power hitting machine manning first for the Grizzlies.  Who was Trae Santos?

In 2005, star pitcher and first baseman Trae Santos led the Guam Little League team all the way to the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With that success, the Santos family made a momentous decision. They decided to move their family to America where Trae began to make his mark the baseball community. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres out of Troy University.  Playing 4 seasons in affiliated ball Santos had trouble standing out.  Hitting his peak during the 2015 season, Santos hit 14 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League. Unable to improve on those numbers the Padres released Santos after the 2016 season, leaving Trae at a crossroads in his career.

“The phones weren’t really ringing last year.  I just kept working on my swing and hitting the gym everyday. Waiting for that opportunity.” said Santos when asked about taking the 2017 season off.

Manager Phil Warren gave Trae a call with an invite to tryout for the Gateway Grizzlies.  With the departure of long time first baseman Craig Massoni their was an opening on the Gateway roster.   Looking for pop in the middle of the order Santos seemed to fit right into the needs of the team.  Beating out Kristian Brito for the starting first baseman spot, Santos jumped right into the middle of the Gateway lineup.  Santos came out the gates struggling in 2018.  Showing signs of rust from the year off of competitive baseball.  After a few weeks into the season Santo was hitting well below .200.  Phil Warren refused to give up on the young slugger.

“I sat Trae down and told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself.  These guys are out here trying to get you out.  Stop worrying so much and just do what you know you can do.” said Warren.

The brief conversation paid off huge for Santos as he was able to turn things around almost immediately.   Hitting .288 with 11HRS, 34RBI’s, earning himself a slot in the Frontier League All-Star game his comeback was complete.

Santos has had a roller coaster career so far in baseball.  Right now he is heading towards the top of the coaster in hopes that there will not be the long drop this time.  At the age of 25 getting a call back to affiliated ball will be a long shot.  But the statement he made during the Homerun Derby will live on in the history of the Frontier League.  Maybe Santos will not be the second player ever to make it to the Majors but he will go down in the Frontier League history books along with the creation of the Baseball’s Best Burger and Brett Gray’s 25 strikeout night.

Come see Trae Santos lead the Gateway Grizzlies in the second half of the season beginning July 14th vs. the River City Rascals.

All Star Snubs, Who they should replace.

All Star games are for the fans first and foremost.  Most of the time the fans make a wrong choice here and there to get a fan favorite in the game…Bryce Harper.  For the mot part the fans got the teams right.  Still there are times where even with the help of the coaches, players and fans the choice are wrong.  Let’s dive into the five biggest mistakes.

Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins.  Should replace: Michael Brantley

Eddie Rosario has struggled over the last few weeks when compared to the start of the season.  Still he owns nearly every statistical advantage over Indians left fielder Michael Brantley.

Brantley, 11HR, 49RBI, .306/.351/.490

Rosario, 18HR, 53RBI, .301/.342/.536

Brantley has the luxury of playing along side stars like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion.  He has protection all around him as well as many more chances to knock in runs on a team that is loaded with talent.  Rosario features a lineup with the minimal protection.  Currently hitting in front of career utility man Eduardo Escobar has made him target for pitching around.  I get that the Indians are a superior team, but rewarding their 4th best position player with a spot on the All Star team seems a bit ridiculous.



Blake Snell, P, Tampa Bay Rays.  Should Replace: Joe Jimenez

Blake Snell could be he best pitcher in the entire American League…right now.  Snell owns the American Leagues best ERA (2.09) as well as an impressive 12-4 record.    Despite his ideal numbers Snell has fallen victim to another player on his teams success.  With his catcher Wilson Ramos making the team it seemed as if it was decided that the Rays are only allowed one representative. Snell should not only consider this a snub, he should be asking why he isn’t starting the All Star game.

This injustice continues when you see a guy like Joe Jimenez on the roster.  The Tigers are a sinking ship that will be looking to unload every last bit of extra cargo at the trade deadline.  I have never been a proponent of every team should have an all star, but if you are going to have one, make sure they chose the right all star.  Joe Jimenez has had a fine season but a reliever with a solid but not overly impressive 2.45ERA should not be in the All Star game.



Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinal. Should replace: Buster Posey

Buster Posey is a future Hall of Famer.  He is a former MVP, no doubt he deserves a shot at the All Star game.  This year he should have fell short of that honor.  It has nothing to do with Posey’s abilities as a player.  This is all about the offensive output of the multi time Gold Glover Yadier Molina.  Despite missing time with an injury I choose not to speak of, Yadire Molina has put on one of his best offensive seasons in his storied career.

Molina’s 13HR 38RBI and .495Slug are all on pace to be career highs for the Cardinals backstop.  Molina’s responsibilities with a young pitching staff has made them one of the most effective staffs in years despite dealing with a flurry of injuries, including to mainstays like Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and ace Carlos Martinez.  When you are dealing with two great players the debate can go on for a long time, this one I can live with.



Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers. Should replace: Joey Votto

Reputation clearly matters, and before this season the Milwaukee first baseman didn’t have much of one. Aguilar is a destructive force in the middle of a first place lineup. 22 home runs and 63 RBI, and his 1.001 OPS is tops in the NL overall.  Yet he is hoping on the fans to vote him in on the last ballot.

Joey Votto is a great player with a great background.  He is one of the best players in the National League over the last five seasons, but the Reds have representatives at two different places on the infield, Votto should have not even been in the conversation of being an All Star.  It’s debatable whether he should be in over any other first baseman in the NL Central.

Hopefully the fans make the right decision and vote him in.  This selection should never have made it to this.  Shame on the MLB.

 

Don’t Blame Boogie

Unless you live under a rock you probably saw that DeMarcus Cousins has signed with the Golden State Warriors.  The 4-time All-Star joins the two time defending champions creating arguably the best lineup in the history of the NBA.  In the eyes of most fans the NBA title was wrapped up before the end of most teams first summer league games.  Outrage broke out in the social media community ridiculing the Warriors and especially Boogie Cousins for his choice to join the dynasty that has ruled the NBA for the last four years. The world can be as mad as they choose at DeMarcus Cousins but he is not to blame for this situation, NBA GM’s have to be given the blame for the way this situation worked out.  Don’t blame Boogie for making the best choice for himself.  Look at you team’s front office.

One of my greatest pet peeves is when I am drafting a fantasy team whether it is football, baseball or any other sport.  You hear another person yell “I was gonna take him” after you make a pick.  I always say the same thing to that person, if you were going to take him then you should have with your first pick.  DeMarcus Cousins was a free agent, 29 other teams had the chance to make their offers to the skilled big man but they didn’t want to commit their money to him.  Whether it was his injury or his locker room history, Cousins was not looked at as a cornerstone piece deserving of a mutli-year contract.  Cousins, one of two players ever to average 25 PPG, 10RPG, 5APG, 1.5BPG, 1.5SPG, the other  being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thought he was a high level player that deserved a max contract.  But when teams thought they could low ball him he decided to turn the table on them.  Instead of allowing front offices to have control he took it upon himself to control the outcome.

The Warriors are the lucky recipients of a market that undervalued a great asset.  Cousins achillies injury could hold him out of the start of the season, by signing with the Warriors he will not need to rush back. He will be able to make sure he is fully healthy before returning and for once not watch his team fall out of a playoff hunt.  Those who question whether Cousins is hurting his chances of getting a max deal because his numbers will most likely take a dive during the 2018 season are not taking into account that this move is more of a public relations decision rather then a professional one.  The former Kentucky big man skills have never been questioned, his ability in the block is second to none, but teams worry about his ability to keep his head straight, front office personal have labeled him as a “cancer”.  Playing with the personalities that the Warriors have will be a great test to see what kind of a person he is.

Adding a fifth All-Star to an already dominate team is scary for the NBA.  I argue that watching greatness is what I look for when I watch the NBA. The only thing better than greatness is seeing David conquer Goliath.  Now the entire NBA is David, the ratings to watch the potential upset will be earth shattering.  There is always the chance that the mix of talents doesn’t work.  Just ask Karl Malone and Gary Payton what happens when you try and make a super team and it doesn’t work out.  There will be more pressure then ever on this Warriors team.  If they don’t win a championship their legacy will be forever tarnished.  This will make blowing a 3-1 lead in the finals look like losing an AAU season game.

I will admit that seeing DeMarcus Cousins signed a 1-year 5.3Million dollar deal with the best team in the world was deflating as an NBA fan.  Blaming Cousins for this is not fair to him.  If he signed with Boston would they not be the clear favorites in the East making that conference all but pointless?  Everyone can have their own opinion but this was a mistake made front offices that they will regret for the upcoming season.  It will be a nice learning experience for everyone.

Time to give up on Jameis?

Coming out of Florida State Jameis Winston was the clear choice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  A two sport athlete, excelling in baseball as well as football Jameis had everything physically a team wanted.  Standing a 6′ 3″  weighing 235LBS  he was the perfect size, he was mobile, agile, possessed great arm strength, had a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship.  The Buccaneers took Jameis with their #1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.  They had the face of their franchise, the quarterback that was going to lead them for the next ten years.  As they prepare for the fourth year of Jameis Winston the Buc’s may need to rethink their plans.

Entering the NFL with a checkered past, Winston’s talented overshadowed any problems that may come up from drafting an accused rapist.  The Buccaneers wasted no time turning their organization over to Winston naming him the starters right away.  He flourished early dominating his opening season matchup with fellow first round quarterback selection Marcus Mariota, confirming that he was the right choice for the struggling franchise.  Winston set franchise rookie records in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. Winston finished his rookie season with 4,042 passing yards, finishing 23 yards short of the franchise record set by Josh Freeman in 2012.  Tying the record for touchdowns in a game by a rookie (5) on November 22, 2015, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Winston had arrived. After Tom Brady declined playing in the pro bowl, Winston was chosen to take his place.

Following his rookie season big things were expected of Winston and the Buccaneers. Winston led the Buccaneers to their first winning season in 6 years after defeating the Carolina Panthers  in the regular season finale, during which he broke the franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start his career with consecutive seasons of 4,000 yards passing; however the Buccaneers were eliminated from playoff contention via a tie breaker with the Detroit Lions. He was ranked 57th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 of 2017. 

Entering the 2017 season it was not just Winston that had the high expectations but it was the team in whole.  The pressure seemed to bring out the worst in the team opening the season 2-6, immediately falling out of contention.  The poor start coupled with a Winston injury doomed the Buccaneers to a 5-11 season. While Winston’s numbers and play have shown flashes of brilliance the lack of development on the field has been noticable. After three years as an NFL starter, Jameis Winston is still hard to figure out. He has produced dazzling highlights coupled with maddening turnovers, finding open receivers long after plays have broken down, yet coughing up the ball when he should have taken sacks. While his development of the field has haulted, his maturity as a human being has yet again come into question.

As Tampa Bay enters the 2018 season they have been forced to deal with the new that Jameis Winston will miss the first three games due to an incident with an Uber driver in March of 2016.  The latest incident has raised the question of how much is to much from a public figure.  The face of a franchise cannot be a player that continues to show lack of maturity.

Feb. 22, 2017: During a talk to students at St. Petersburg’s Melrose Elementary School, Winston says that boys are supposed to be strong but ladies are “supposed to be silent, polite, gentle.”

This comment shows a false sense of understanding about how men and women are suppose to be treated in society.  The early excuses for Winston’s actions were that he was young and needed to grow up, but how much time can you give a person who is such a prolific person in your community.  When I took a trip to Tampa two years ago every street light and sign that had anything to do with the Buc’s featured Winston’s face.  He is Buccaneer football, but is that really what they want?

The fact of the matter is they have regressed as a team over the last three seasons,  In an NFL where quarterback play rules all, Winston has tons of trade value.   Still being young enough for a coach to think they can help with his turnover problem and a GM thinking they can fix his personality.  Winston could net the Buc’s a solid second round pick or better if a team really believes in him.  In a time of social consciousness in the NFL the Buccaneers have to make a decision that I am sure they do not want to, it is time to move on from Winston or continue to allow him to put their team at risk.

 

Paul DeJong, changing Cardinals needs

The St. Louis Cardinals currently sit four games out of the Central Division.  A team riding the proverbial roller coaster all season has kept themselves relevant despite having to make adjustments to the lineup all season.  The early struggles of lineup mainstays like Marcell Ozuna and Matt Carpenter had fans voicing their displeasure with management.  They shouted from the rooftops about trading away the young arms for a rental slugger like Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson.  As the Cardinals prepare to enter July they may end up receiving a power upgrade that will cost them no prospects.

Paul DeJong has targeted a return to the lineup around the All-Star break.  DeJong will instantly bring more power into a lineup that has begun to produce at more levels.  DeJong’s development as a hitter cannot be ignored.  While strikeouts are still a problem that is impossible to ignore, DeJong has increased his walk rate.  Through 108 games last season DeJong walked just 21 times. Before his injury in just 41 games he has walked 16 times raising his walk percentage by almost 5%. DeJong’s injury also allowed more at bats for Yairo Munoz, allowing him to establish himself as a major league player.

When comparing DeJong to both Machado and Donaldsons advanced analytics the differences are not what you may think. Donaldson’s numbers are nearly identical to DeJong, while  Manny Machado’s are not earth shattering in comparison, in fact they are very comparable if played out over a full season of the season.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 12.12.48 PM

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Machado Advanced Stats

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DeJong Advanced Stats

Machado’s advanced numbers with nearly double the at bats compare favorably to DeJong’s with no clear advantage.  Machado brings with him the intrigue of a marquee name, but does not bring the clear offensive advantages. The Cardinals also do not have to deal with the distraction of what to do with Machado at the end of the season.  They can focus on their current needs.

That brings me to what the Cardinals need to have their focus on, the bullpen.  Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks have cemented themselves in the backend of the pen but the need for help is still relevant. Padres closer Brad Hand sits at the top of the list for most contending teams, the price for him will be very high for the Cardinals.  They will most likely look at the second left handed reliever option Zach Britton.  Britton’s 2018 has not been great but he brings late inning experience as well as experience against high level opponents while playing in the American League East.

If the Orioles are being stubborn about the value of Britton, the Cardinals should take a look at a guy they let walk away in the offseason, Zack Duke.  The Minnesota Twins have not been able to put it together in 2018, they have a few assets on their roster that may be available when the trade deadline hits.  Duke has been extremely effective versus lefties in during the 2018 season allowing just a .184 average.  While it may seem crazy to “backtrack” on a reliever that they could have resigned in the offseason, Duke will be low cost both in trade value and contact cost.

If the Twins believe they are still in contention for some reason the next potential suitor would be Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers have a long rebuild ahead of them, a left-handed reliever will not help them long term.  Claudio has tons of value with his abilities to get out left handed hitters, similarly to Britton, Claudio has the experience in the late innings.

Cardinals fans want management to make a big move, but they have to understand that they have an impact player ready to make his return without costing the team any of their prospects.  Fill the needs that make sense, go out and get yourself the bullpen help that can cement you as a playoff team.  Fans have to see that it makes more sense to fill the bullpen need rather then bank on a big name for half a season.

 

 

NBA Draft: 3 Winners

The NBA draft is undoubtably the best draft of any professional sport.  There aren’t 27 thousand rounds like the MLB, it doesn’t take a whole week like the NFL and its not hockey.  The way a team drafts can define a teams legacy for the next 20 years.  No one wants to be the general manager that decided to select Greg Oden over Kevin Durant or Sam Bowie over the great Micheal Jordan.  Heaven forbid you be the guy that decided  to take Darko Milicic with the second pick of one of the greatest draft classes of all time.  the 2018 NBA Draft had a lot of promising and intriguing talent, its time to decide who had a great night and who made a Sam Bowie pick.

Winners

Phoenix Suns- Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges (trade rights), George King, Elie Oboko

Ok I know, this is a a pretty easy choice, having the number one pick usually means you are going to get a great talent.  I want to praise GM Ryan McDonough for not over thinking the situation.  Luka Doncic was an intriguing prospect for a team that will still be in rebuild mode next season.  They ignored the intrigued and locked up the clear best player in the draft.  Scouting reports for Deandre Ayton listed very few weaknesses, the lone problem was a supposed inability to protect the rim. What most people seem to forget is that Ayton played a large amount of time at the power forward position drawing him away from the basket and limiting his ability to be in a position to effect as many shots.  The ability to improve defensively will come as he transitions to the center position.

For most teams Ayton would be enough but the Suns also pulled off a trade acquiring Villanova swing man Mikal Bridges. Bridges has the tools to be a versatile defender at the NBA level, especially guarding 1-3. Averaged 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40.  He also brings offensive efficiency to a young team.  Bridges time at Villanova allowed him playing on a winning team while not having to be the focus of the other teams attention.  He is a perfect fit to play alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.

Indiana Pacers- Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson

The Indiana Pacers put themselves back on the map during the first round of the playoffs taking mighty Lebron James to game 7.  Picking from the 23rd position usually it is not easy to find the perfect fit for whatever need you have but sometimes it does.  UCLA Guard Aaron Holiday fell down the draft a bit and ended up in a perfect place.  Indiana needed depth at the point and shooting guard spots and they got it with Holiday. Excellent blend of shotmaking and penetrating — 21.6 points per 40 minutes. Tremendous balance and touch. Made 2.8 3-pointers per 40 minutes at a 42.9 percent clip as a junior.  Holiday will allow Victor Oladipo to play the off the ball more as well as get more rest and know that there will still be a scorer on the floor.  Holiday has top 15 talent that the Pacers grabbed in the mid 20’s, look for Holiday to make and immediate impact…Donavon Mitchell like??

The Pacers also picked up mid-major phenom 6’8″ Point/Forward Alize Johnson with the 20th pick of the second round.  Johnson a swiss army knife on the floor can give the Pacers depth at multiple positions.  The Missouri Valley Conference 2x first team all conference player improved every year for the Bears including shooting 39% from three in 2018.  I great grab for today’s NBA style.

Chicago Bulls- Wendell Carter, Chandler Hutchinson

I have wrote and talked about the development of the young core of the Chicago Bulls all season.  With a healthy Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkenan  I think they have the building blocks of an Eastern Conference playoff team in 2018-19.  Sitting at #8 in the draft they could have taken some chances, maybe go with Micheal Porter Jr. or add a wing player like Kevin Knox or Mikal Bridges.  They went with the steady hand of Wendell Carter Jr.  Carter Jr. is a double double machine that has underrated shot blocking ability. Chicago picks up a big center who can slide in right next to Lauri Markkanen’s finesse game up front. He has excellent hands and touch around the basket. Carter compares very well to former Bull and Blue Devil Carlos Boozer.

Having a second first round pick allowed the bulls to take a gamble on a potential prospect gem in Boise State’s 6’7″ swingman Chandler Hutchinson.  The 2018 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year brings great size and length to the young Bulls.  Hutchinson has the potential to move right into the Chicago rotation and give them valuable minutes on both ends of the floor.  Chicago found a way to add two valuable rotational pieces that are NBA ready right now.

Honorable Mention : Denver Nuggets (Micheal Porter Jr. at #14 is a steal)

 

 

 

A “Rockie” bullpen

The Colorado Rockies found themselves in the National League Wild Card game in 2017, losing to the Diamondbacks.  The players looked at the season as a huge step forward for a young club.  With young starters like Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson carrying the load of the rotation as well as a offense packed with talent the Rockies had a clear hole to fill in the back end of the bullpen.  They needed depth and a new closer, enter Wade Davis.  Davis and Colorado agreed to a three-year, $52 million contract. The deal included a four-year vesting option that could take the total value up to $66 million if he finishes 30 or more games in the 2020 season.  The former Royal and Cub signed a historic contract pundits of the deal called it a classic “Coors overpay”.  Fans of the contract saw the final piece of a potential championship puzzle.

Davis joined free agent signee former Indian Bryan Shaw (3year, $27million) and the resigning of Jake McGee (3year, $27million). Along with the rebranded and dominating Adam Ottavino the Rockies thought they had shaped a bullpen that would be able to handle the pressures of Coors Field.  Unfortunately for Colorado their bullpen has been more rocky then the mountains they were named after.

If you exclude Ottavino the other top five Rockies bullpen arms based on usage:

Bryan Shaw 39 games, 7.08ERA, -1.5 WAR

Jake McGee 30 games, 5.40ERA, -0.1 WAR

Chris Rusin 23 games, 7.45ERA, -0.6 WAR

Mike Dunn  23 games, 9.00ERA, -0.5 WAR

Wade Davis 30 games, 4.55ERA, 0.3 WAR

Five players making a combined $130 million in contracted salary have combined to make the worst bullpen in the entire league with a combined ERA of 5.75.  Davis leads the league in blown saves followed directly behind him is Bryan Shaw, both have 4 blown saves for a team that is still looking to fight their way into a playoff spot.  Davis has also been uncharacteristically wild during the first two months of the season, sporting a 33.6 percent Zone% that is the second-lowest among qualified relievers.

The Rockies cannot blame the entirety of their troubles on their bullpen.  The starting rotation hasn’t been top level and the offense has been nearly non-existent at times during the season.  The Dodgers have had early season struggles and the Diamondbacks have been falling off from their red hot start.  The Rockies are still in the mix for the National League West despite being four games under .500. Colorado will need a drastic turn around from their bullpen to have a chance to make up ground with in the division.

The Nationals made the first move to improve themselves before the All-Star break acquiring Royals Closer Kelvin Herrara.  With some much money locked up in their current relievers its seems unlikely the Rockies will be able to go outside the organization for help.  They will have to rely on their players to overcome their problems.  There is hope despite recent struggles Wade Davis has had his moments including 18-20 saves before June as well as holding hitters to a .274 Xwoba at dreaded Coors field.  Adam Ottovino has established himself as a dominate reliever.  Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee are not young players, you would have to believe that they will find a way to figure out what is going wrong.

The NL West has done one of the worst things they can possibly do, allow a team that has underperforming talent stick around.  If the Rockies find a way to fix their bullpen they will leave their mark on the National League soon.

 

 

In 2017 the Minnesota Twins would have been the best story in baseball if they had not been overshadowed by the brilliant run by the world champion Houston Astros.  The Twins made a huge step forward finishing second in the Central, finding themselves in the American League Wild Card game.  Minnesota fell short against the powerhouse Yankees but the statement was made, they have arrived on the scene and are ready to make the next step.  The baseball world has begun to see the Twins but they have yet to notice their developing star Eddie Rosario.

Rosario burst onto the scene in 2015 for the Twins hitting 13HR, stealing 11 bases  and hitting an astounding 15 triples.  Rosario finished 6th in the rookie of the year voting.  Rosario struggled to stay healthy in 2016 playing just 92 games. Without their young star the Twins suffered a tough season finishing just 59- 103, 35.5GB.  A healthy Rosario took the field in 2017 and began his accent to a leadership role on a young Twins roster looking for a star.  Rosario’s stats spoke for themselves, being placed in the middle of the Twins order Rosario blasted 27HR. Rosario also saw a huge progression in his advanced analytics. 2017 Stats (Increases from 2016)  OBP +33 – SLG  +86 – OPS +120 – XWOBA +59. The impact of having Rosario created a boast to the team as they finished 85-77 a ridiculous +26 in there win total.  While there are many different reasons for the increase in wins for the Twins it cannot be ignored that Rosario’s presence was huge for this team.

Rosario has continued his development in 2018 continuing to be a force.  The Twins struggled out of the gate mainly due to pitching issues.  But as we inch closer to the All Star break the twins currently sit 4.5 games back from the Central leading Indians.Eddie Rosario has been the reason why this team has been able to stay afloat in the division.  Over his last 15 games he has a Ruthian stat line .379BA 7HR 13RBI.  Eddie Rosario came into the league as a guy with a little pop but a lot of raw skills.  He used his speed and defensive ability to get into the lineup.  There has been a regression in his speed game, but I believe that is due to the fact that the Twins needed a guy that can hit for power.  Players like Byron Buxton can provide speed, Joe Mauer can provide more OBP. Rosario has changed his game to address the needs of his team.  He has found more value swinging for extra base hits and driving in runs.

Right now Eddie Rosario’s numbers should place him right in the middle of the MVP discussions.  His .323BA (5th), 16HR (10th), 46RBI (6th) put him in the same class as players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts but he is still not looked at in the same light as these stars.  Rosario currently ranks 14th in AL All-Star voting behind players like Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Nick Castellanos and Michael Brantley.   While these players may be deserving they are not near the level of Eddie Rosario.   I live in realistic world, players in bigger markets are always going to be put in front of a player that plays in the midwest.  Rosario sits in a market that doesn’t receive the same level of coverage.  The baseball world has to open their eyes and see what is happening up in Minnesota.  The best way to make that happen is to win.  The Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau Minnesota Twins teams of the early 2000’s forced the sports world to pay attention.   If the Twins can get more consistency from their pitching and secondary players they can turn around what his been a disappointing season.

Eddie Rosario will most likely make the All- Star game, he may even find himself in the talks for MVP (Not Realistic to win).  What is certain though is that he is becoming a player that the league cannot ignore.  He hits both righties and lefties, he hits for power, he hits for average,  he has speed and he is only 26 years old! It is time to pay attention to this man and watch as he continues to be one of the best players in Major League Baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie Rosario- The star we don’t talk about

What should the Spurs do with Kawhi?

Kawhi Leonard established himself as arguably the best two-way  player in the league.  He has the ability to shutdown the other teams best player while also carrying the scoring load. Due to a nagging quad injury, he missed most of last season and only played nine games. That injury has caused a stable relationship to completely fall apart. The Spurs medically cleared Leonard, but he chose to sit out and rehab the injury away from the team. The dissention between the Spurs and Leonard had become uncomfortable.  Long time Spurs star Tony Parker publicly commented on Leonard not playing “My quad was 100 times worse.”  Uncharacteristically the Spurs dirty laundry was being aired out in public.  Suddenly the all mighty Spurs had become a headline for something that had nothing to do with winning.  They were more about drama then basketball.  The story has continued in the offseason, Leonard has announced that he would like to like to be traded from the Spurs during the offseason.

The Spurs sit in an interesting place.  They have a team that has been built around Kawhi Leonard.  Successfully they have supplied a group of rising roles players around him with Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson and Davis Bertans.  They have also given him a co-star in LaMarcus Aldridge.  Leonard has two years left on his contract but an opt out clause at the end of the upcoming season.  If Leonard decides to opt out at the end of the season the Spurs will lose one of the top stars in the league without anything to show for it.   The Spurs must act now.  The Indiana Pacers were dealing with a similar situation last summer when star Paul George made it very clear he would be leaving Indiana when he becomes a free agent.  Instead of just letting the star walk the Pacers were able to land a potential star in Victor Oladipo and solid role player Domantas Sabonis.  The Spurs have to find a way to cover themselves for the coming seasons.

The first and obvious answer for the Spurs is to give Kawhi what he wants.  Send him to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, potentially Julius Randle (RFA) and their first round draft pick.  Lonzo Ball’s name has been put into that conversation but let’s live in the real world.  Gregg Popovich will not have any interest in dealing with the Lonzo/Lavar Ball situation. Popovich is well known for not being interested in helping out team in the West.  While Kuzma may be a nice piece he would still not be acceptable as the centerpiece of a trade for a top 5 NBA player.  Kawhi May want to go to LA but being under contract gives the Spurs the power in this situation.

The move that makes the most sense for the Spurs would be to make a call over to Danny Ainge.  The Celtics are loaded with future draft picks as well as young stars.  With the return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving for the 2018-19 season the Celtics will be the favorites in the East.  A player the caliber of Kawhi Leonard could be the player that gives them a real chance against the dynasty of Golden State.  The Spurs can make a call and ask for Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and one of the many Boston owned draft picks.  This trade would give the Spurs two young cost controlled players that are on the verge of superstardom.  The Spurs would also have their pick of numerous future draft picks that the Celtics hold.  The Celtics would be fools to ignore the call fro, San Antonio, with their surplus of extra talent they can afford to move on from a few of their exterior talents.

The Spurs have to move Kawhi now, but this is not an organization that is going to panic.  They will wait and make the move when they need to make it.  This is still a team that made the playoffs last season even though Kawhi spent the season on the bench.  They still have a star they can build around.  The Spurs will make the right decision but don’t expect it to happen right away.

3 Reasons Mariners are Winning without Cano

The Seattle Mariners currently sit atop of the ultra competitive American League West.  One game up on the reigning world champion Houston Astros.  Seattle being in first at this point in the season is surprising. The fact that they sit on top with their best player Robinson Cano on the DL (or suspended list) is inconceivable.

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, known for his aggressive style, has made the moves necessary to cover for the 8 time All- Star.  These are the reasons why the Mariners are winning without their star

1.Soft Schedule

Winning is winning.  I will be the first to agree that it really shouldn’t matter who you play your team still has to show up and execute.  Still it is hard to ignore that the Mariners schedule is been very favorable over the past few series.  The Mariners have still not played the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and have also not had to travel to division foes Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros.

Seattle has won 13 of 16 over their last five series playing only one team with a record above .500, that team being the Oakland Athletics (25-23).  Seattle has feasted on struggling teams during this span.  Beating up the lesser competition in the American League will be vital as they wait for Robinson Cano to return to the lineup.

2.Bullpen Pieces stepping up

Jerry Dipoto made the first move of the 2018 season grabbing Rays Closer Alex Colome for a few mid level prospects.  Colome was another piece added to a bullpen that has begun to fill out their roles to perfection.  Offseason signee Juan Nicasio has begun to get back to his 2017 form, allowing the Mariners to have a 3 headed monster of power pitchers at the back end of the game.  Seattle’s bullpen sits at 8th in the league statistically allowing opposing hitters to hit just .228 against them.

Closer Edwin Diaz has made the conversion to top ten closer with an astounding .85WHIP during the 2018 season. Emerging arms Chasen Bradford, James Pazos and Ryan Cook have emerged as impact arms early in games.  Pazos has been especially nasty. Pazos has substantially decreased his home run rate. The 6’2” 235-lb hurler sports a career 15.6% HR/FB rate, which is thrown a bit out of whack by the 50% figure from his 3.1 innings in 2016. Pazos has given up a total of one run in his last 20 appearances.

3. James Paxton and Mitch Haniger

I put Paxton and Haniger together because they have both taken huge steps in their career during the early portion of the season.  Both highly touted prospects in the Mariners system have reformed themselves into team leaders both on the mound and at the plate.

Paxton the third round pick back in 2010 has emerged as the ace of the staff in 2018. Long time ace Felix Hernandez has not been the dominant force that he has been over the last ten years in Seattle. Paxton has emerged to dethrone the king in Seattle becoming more dominant at ever turn.  Paxton 5-1, 2.95ERA, has struck out an astounding 101 batters over 82.1 innings.  His dominance culminating in a no hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 9th.  Still just 29 years old Paxton is entering what could be the prime of his career at a time where the team needs him most.

Mitch Haniger is struggling right now for the Mariners.  Over his last 15 games he is just hitting .185.  The reason I have him on this list is because he has still been a force in the Mariners order.  For the season Haniger is has 12HR 43RBI this season.  Haniger has improved his advanced analytics across the board as well.  Picking up the production lost by the suspended Cano.  Haniger has stepped into the role as run producers for a team that lacked consistency through the order in 2017.

Haniger Advanced Stats (MLBSavant.com)

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The Mariners will eventually get back their star.  But if they are able to make it to the playoffs Cano will not be eligible to play.  This time without him will prepare them for that situation.  They have the pieces to contend but the upcoming months will provide us with a true idea of what this team is.  I see the playoffs in 2018….maybe.