In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
The 1st of September. The day baseball fans realize surprise teams are for real. (Looking at you Athletics, Orioles, and Pirates) There’s only one baseball holiday left to celebrate. (Happy Labor Day everyone!) However, it gives us a great chance to really figure out who could be going home with some hardware at the end of season. Going to stick with the Olympics theme and give a top three and “just off the podium” for each award.
National League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Michael Fiers, Brewers
True story on the podcast, we basically panned Fiers when he got called up. Since then, he’s been probably the best starter in the Brewers rotation. He’s tied for the best ERA among any rookie with 100+ innings pitched at 2.85 (we’ll get to the other player in just a little bit) and has had a great K/9 and K/BB. Fiers will be a solid piece in the Milwaukee rotation in the coming years.
Silver Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds
Has there been a rookie who’s stock has risen as much this season as Todd Frazier? The once top prospect came into the 2011 season as the 9th ranked prospect, in the Reds system, not even in all of the minor leagues. Frazier though has been fantastic, especially since filling in the lineup in the absence of Joey Votto. He leads National League rookies in OPS, slugging, and RBI. He’s second in home runs to only Wilin Rosario. Frazier is one of the key cogs why Cincinnati was the first team to 80 wins this season.
Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
Frazier has one more month to try and track down Miley, who sits a top my Rookie of the Year rankings once again. Miley has the same ERA as Fiers, but has thrown 57 more innings than his Brewers counterpart. Miley also leads all MLB rookies in wins with 14. Even more impressive is Miley is 6th in the entire N.L. in WHIP and is tied for 3rd in WAR among pitchers. The gap between Miley and Frazier is small enough that September will decide who will be Rookie of the Year.
Just off the Podium: Bryce Harper, Nationals (though he’s heated up again this week), Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, and Yonder Alonso, Padres
American League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins
Despite the best efforts of Matt Moore (3-1, 2.19 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August), Diamond has the better overall numbers (10-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) to maintain his 3rd position for the 3rd straight month. Every other A.L. rookie is in a completely different tier from these next two who are both in a tier of their own.
Silver Medal: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics
In most years, Cespedes would be the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in batting average, OBP, slugging, home runs, runs batted in, hits, and runs. All while helping lead the surprising Athletics into playoff contention on Labor Day weekend. Sadly for Cespedes, he’s second in all those statistics and is getting blown out by this next player.
Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
See all the stuff I said Cespedes was second in? He trails Trout in all of those categories. It’s not a question of if Trout is the Rookie of the Year anymore, it’s if he’s still the A.L. MVP.
Just off the Podium: Matt Moore, Rays, Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers
National League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds
This is the most wide open awards race in all of Major League Baseball. There are 10+ players who have a good to great case on why they should win the trophy. Here is Cueto’s case. He leads the senior circuit in wins, ERA, and pitcher WAR. Cueto has been the best starter on the team with the best record in the league. He’s still underrated if that’s possible.
Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
It took me all month to decide that with all of these starters with similar numbers, why not give it to a player that has been utterly dominant in a relief role? Then on the last day of the month I got swayed back to one of the starters that we’ll get to next. Chapman’s numbers have been video game-esque. He is 2nd in the N.L. in saves with 33, impressive considering he lost nine saves at the start of the season to Sean Marshall. Even more impressive though is his 1.27 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and an astonishing 113 K in 64 IP, good for an eye-popping 15.9 K/9.
Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets
I’m back on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon! I’m sorry about that month where he wasn’t great and I dropped him out of the top 3 in my rankings. Let me apologize by putting him back in the top spot. I watched Dickey’s start against the Marlins on 8/31 and it was just awesome. Dickey posted his N.L. leading 3rd shutout of the season, 5th complete game, and tied Cueto with 17 wins. The shutout also lowered his ERA down to 2.63, good enough for a tied for 2nd with Jordan Zimmermann. Dickey is also top 3 in WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, and pitcher WAR. He’s been one of the best stories in MLB this season.
Just off the Podium: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Matt Cain, Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Craig Kimbrel, Braves
American League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: David Price, Rays
Oh no! The Sale spot is gone! It was fun while it lasted, but Sale and Jered Weaver’s sub-par August’s knock them out of my top 3. Enter David Price who leads the best rotation in the American League this season. Price is second in ERA (2.53), tied for 1st in wins (16), 5th in pitcher WAR (4.9), 6th in strikeouts (170), and 7th in WHIP (1.10).
Silver Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers
Verlander has still been his usual great self this season leading the A.L. in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched. He’s provided solid peripherals while keeping the Tigers in the playoff hunt. Verlander having his worst month of the season though in August opened up the door for another pitcher to take his #1 position. Then again, Verlander’s worst month is still a pretty good month for most pitchers.
Gold Medal: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
This is not a “oh Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, he should win the Cy Young” pick. King Felix has the goods to win his 2nd Cy Young award. He leads the American League in ERA (2.43), innings pitched, HR allowed/9 (0.2!) and shutouts (5). Hernandez has more shutouts than any pitcher in the American League, except Verlander, has complete games. Plus, that perfect game was pretty awesome.
Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, Chris Sale, White Sox, Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees, Matt Harrison, Rangers, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Fernando Rodney, Rays
National League MVP
Bronze Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers
If the award was “Most Outstanding Player” Braun’s case would be that much better. He leads the National League in home runs (36), runs batted in (92), slugging, and OPS. Braun is doing all of this without the protection he had from Prince Fielder in his MVP season just a year ago. If Fielder was still around and the Brewers were in the playoff hunt, it might be Braun in the pole position for back-to-back MVP’s. Instead, he’s merely in the hunt.
Silver Medal: Buster Posey, Giants
Posey has been a man on a mission in the 2nd half of season hitting .388 with a 1.131 OPS. Posey is top 6 in batting average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and offensive WAR. He also has handled one of the top pitching staffs in the league at catcher, while leading them to the top of the N.L. West at the start of September. Posey will need to stay hot as San Francisco continues to look for offense with Melky Cabrera suspended for the rest of the season.
Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
McCutchen tailed off considerably in the month of August, but his overall numbers and his team’s standing is still enough to warrant the top spot again. He leads the National League in offensive WAR, hits and runs scored, 2nd in batting average, OBP and OPS, 3rd in slugging, plus throws in 24 homers and 15 stolen bases because he’s nice like that. Don’t forget his Gold Glove-caliber fielding as well.
Just off the Podium: Matt Holliday, Cardinals, David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Jason Heyward, Braves, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Aroldis Chapman, Reds
American League MVP
Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees
The “Sale Spot” might now be the “Cano Spot” as the Yankees 2nd baseman finds himself in 3rd place for the 3rd straight month. Cano is top four in offensive WAR, total bases, doubles, and hits. He’s been carrying along with Derek Jeter a Yankees offense that has been without A-Rod and Mark Teixeira lately. Cano is also the favorite at second base for a Gold Glove award.
Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
The gap between Cabrera and his first MVP award is closing. Cabrera stayed hot in August hitting .340 while the Tigers continue to try and get into the playoffs. Cabrera is top 3 in offensive WAR, batting average, slugging, OPS, total bases, RBI, and extra-base hits. If the Tigers get to the playoffs, while the leader’s team falters. This award could end up a toss-up by the end of the season.
Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
Trout is doing things never seen before in baseball. He’s the youngest player to have 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He’s on pace to become the first rookie and youngest player to go 30-30. He leads the American League in offensive WAR, batting average, stolen bases, and runs scored. The only mark against Trout, his team is floundering right now among their lofty expectations. If the Angels make the playoffs, Trout is a lock to win MVP.
Just off the Podium: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, Adam Jones, Orioles, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Josh Reddick, Athletics, Austin Jackson, Tigers, Josh Willingham, Twins, Paul Konerko, White Sox, and Adam Dunn, White Sox
My quick Manager of the Year picks: Bob Melvin just over Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon in the A.L. and Clint Hurdle just over Davey Johnson in the N.L. Who are your picks for the awards right now? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Yesterday, I gave you my projected A.L. All-Star roster that can be found down below this post. Today with the final voting update being released for the National League, let’s see if I can figure out what the N.L. roster will look like. I’m really glad that Tony LaRussa retired and has a ton of time on his hands to figure out the roster, because this thing is pretty tough. Especially trying to put a Padres representative on the team.
Starter: Buster Posey, Giants
Reserves: Yadier Molina, Cardinals and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
This will be a close battle all the way to the end as Molina may still end up starting the game. Posey could be in danger of not making the game if not named the starter as Molina and Ruiz are the two clear-cut top catchers this season. LaRussa could decide that two catchers are enough and go with an extra back-up somewhere else.
Starter: Joey Votto, Reds
Reserve: Martin Prado, Braves
This is where I had to get creative. No offensive position has gone without a backup since Derrek Lee in 2005 for the N.L. In that game, Morgan Ensberg who was designated as a 3B moved over to replace Lee in the game. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano was the only 2B for the American League and Omar Vizquel switched over from SS to play 2B. There is precedent to not have a backup 1B and I don’t think there should be. The only one I can make a case for is the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt, but it would be bad if he becomes Arizona’s lone representative over a deserving Wade Miley. Prado is a versatile player that plays outfield, third base, and first base for the Braves. He’s a deserving All-Star, but N.L. outfield is so deep (we’ll get to that soon) that this is a way to get Prado on the team. I’m still figuring out why there are 873,526 wasted votes on Ryan Howard who hasn’t played this season.
Starter: Dan Uggla, Braves
Reserve: Jose Altuve, Astros
Uggla has fallen off hitting just .179 in the month of June, but Braves fans have continued to vote for him. He has a healthy lead on Brandon Phillips going into the final stage of voting. Altuve has been a find for the Astros hitting over .300 and being 5th in the league in hits. Phillips gets bumped to the Final Vote as the only infielder represented.
Starter: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
Reserve: Starlin Castro, Cubs
The injury woes of Troy Tulowitzki will allow Furcal to make his 3rd All-Star team in 13 seasons and it’s deserved. Furcal looked done after last season, but has bounced back to hit .287 and be solid atop the Cardinals lineup. Castro is the Cubs lone representative for the 2nd straight year. Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old.
Starter: David Wright, Mets
Reserves: Chipper Jones, Braves and David Freese, Cardinals
I’ve made it clear previously that I think that Chipper Jones should be starting the All-Star Game in his final season. Here’s my solution. The National League will need a designated hitter, so who better than Chipper Jones? He could have his moment like Cal Ripken did in 2001 and David Wright still gets to start at 3B like he deserves. I’m sure Chipper’s knees would also appreciate not having to play the field. Freese has been solid for the Cardinals as he’s top 10 in the league in HR’s and RBI. I’m sure LaRussa will bring him along after his postseason heroics in 2011.
Starters: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, and Ryan Braun, Brewers
Reserves: Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
This is by far the deepest position in all of the Majors. Not making the team includes Michael Bourn, Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence who have all been fantastic. Mike Trout was able to make my A.L. squad, but the deepness at the position here blocks Bryce Harper from making the initial squad at 19 years old. There is still a tight battle for the final starting spot between Braun and Cabrera, but both will make the team. Gonzalez and Stanton are being snubbed by voters, but will be the solo representatives for the Rockies and Marlins respectively. Ethier sneaks in the final outfield spot as he’s helped keep the Dodgers afloat in Matt Kemp’s absence. Kemp’s injury will hopefully open up an extra spot for Bourn, Holliday, or Pence.
Starter: R.A. Dickey, Mets
Reserves: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto, Reds, James McDonald, Pirates, Lance Lynn, Cardinals, Chris Capuano, Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
The battle to be the starting pitcher couldn’t be any closer between Dickey, Strasburg, and Cain. I just think that Dickey is such a wonderful story that it would be amazing to have him start the game, so I gave him the edge. My American League roster had eight starters, but there are so many options in the N.L. that I upped it to ten. Even that wasn’t enough as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke get snubbed. I believe that LaRussa will err on the side of the Cardinals and take Lance Lynn for the last pitching spot. Wade Miley is rightfully Arizona’s only representative.
Reserves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Aroldis Chapman, Reds, and Huston Street, Padres
Kimbrel has been lights out all season. Chapman had been perfect up until recently, but they are the two fireballers that the senior circuit needs to close out the game. Street goes to the game because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a Padre on the roster. I couldn’t have Carlos Quentin take a spot from one of the outfielders, Chase Headley over David Freese, or have Yonder Alonso be the back-up 1B. Street missed time with an injury, but has a 1.50 ERA and 0.78 ERA when healthy this season.
Michael Bourn, Braves, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Brandon Phillips, Reds, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, and Bryce Harper, Nationals
When I originally wrote out my roster Harper making the Final Vote didn’t even cross my mind. Then I had an epiphany, there is no way MLB doesn’t put Harper in, just to stir up some excitement for it. There are great voting fan bases represented in this final vote and I sadly couldn’t put in Zack Greinke. Greinke and Hamels will hopefully make the team on the “pitcher pitching Sunday” rule. Bourn has been wonderful leading off the Braves lineup and is among the league leaders in WAR. Brandon Phillips might make the All-Star game as a starter still, but him being in the Final Vote let’s him use his social media skills to the fullest.
Dodgers and Braves-4
Giants and Reds-3
Mets, Nationals, and Pirates-2
Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, and Marlins-1
Unlike the American League, I feel like there are a ton of snubs on my National League team. Joel Hanrahan, Tyler Clippard, Kenley Jansen, Zack Greinke, Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jed Lowrie just to name a few. Who would make your National League roster? Let me know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
At the beginning of May I unveiled my “Way Too Early MLB Awards” to show who’s in the pole position for each award at this juncture of the season. Another month is in the books so let’s knock off an adjective and dub this the “Too Early MLB Awards”. Going to mix up the format with the Summer Olympics coming this summer and have a top three for each award in medal order. Sadly, there is no baseball at the London Olympics, so I have to make a connection to bring it back for 2020. Please note this is not a “player of the month” post. This is cumulative from the start of the season until now. The May Player of the Month awards have already been handed out by MLB. Josh Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton were the top hitters, Chris Sale and Gio Gonzalez were the top pitchers, and Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were the top rookies. Where do they land in my awards?
National League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals
No better place to start than the May NL Rookie of the Month. The 19 year-old phenom has been everything Nationals fans hoped he would be since getting called up. Harper is hitting .288 thus far and has provided some consistency in the middle of the Washington lineup. His .922 OPS leads all MLB rookies. He still has time to track down the two rookies I have ahead of him for the award.
Silver Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
Miley took home top NL rookie honors in April and didn’t slow down very much in May. Miley leads Arizona with six wins and has the best ERA in the rotation at 2.72. Unfortunately for Miley, one player has even better statistics.
Gold Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals
Lynnsanity has hit St. Louis with full force. Lynn leads not just rookies, but is tied for the MLB lead with eight winsalong with Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey. Lynn’s 2.63 ERA is the best among eligible starting rookie pitchers, while holding batters to a paltry .213 batting average over 68.1 innings. Lynn has been the anchor on a pitching staff still missing Chris Carpenter and waiting for Adam Wainwright to be 100%.
Just off the Podium: Yonder Alonso, Padres, Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals, and Kirk Nieuwenheis, Mets
American League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Ryan Cook, Athletics
Yoenis Cespedes was the big name rookie for Oakland coming into this season. Jarrod Parker was the big get in the Trevor Cahill trade with Arizona in the offseason. But who has outperformed both so far this season in the Bay Area? Ryan Cook. Cook has appeared in 23 games for Oakland and has only given up a run in one appearance for an exquisite 0.75 ERA. He’s the Athletics closer of the future if they decide to deal Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour at the trade deadline.
Silver Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
I think when we reach the end of this season Mike Trout will end up as you 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. For now though, he’ll have to settle for the silver. Trout has been even better than Bryce Harper since they got called up on the same day. Trout leads all rookies in batting average at .315 and stolen bases with nine. He’s second among all rookies in OPS and OBP (behind Harper) and in slugging (behind Will Middlebrooks). More importantly he’s been the spark plug for a languishing Angels team that has surged since his call-up.
Gold Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers
Darvish keeps his top spot in my rankings, for now. Darvish leads American League rookies in wins (7) and strikeouts (71) while keeping together a solid 3.21 ERA. Darvish’s .230 batting average against has been great, but when you add in his wildness thus far, his WHIP is at a 1.44. With the way Trout has come out of the gate, Darvish’s days on the top of the rookie heap may be numbered.
Just off the Podium: Jesus Montero, Mariners, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Drew Smyly, Tigers
National League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Brandon Beachy, Braves
There is a ton of great pitching in the National League right now as evidenced by the NL leader in ERA being just 3rd in my Cy Young rankings right now. Beachy also leads in adjusted ERA and adjusted pitching wins, plus is 3rd in WHIP and tied for 2nd in WAR among NL pitchers. The pitcher that never pitched a game before getting drafted has adjusted tremendously to the mound.
Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
This will be a controversial pick I’m sure, but how can I not include a player who hasn’t given up a run in 28 innings and has 50 strikeouts this season. Let me repeat that AROLDIS CHAPMAN HAS NOT GIVEN UP A RUN IN 28 INNINGS AND HAS 50 STRIKEOUTS. I didn’t even pitch that well in video games when I was little. He’s done it in a set-up role and now as the closer for Cincinnati. He leads the NL in K/9 ratio, base-out runs saved, and win probability added. Chapman just has jaw-dropping numbers right now.
Gold Medal: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
Another month, another Nationals pitcher atop my rankings. Gonzalez has been arguably the best offseason acquisition in the Majors as he’s adjusted beautifully to the NL. Gonzalez sports a nifty 2.04 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, both numbers 2nd best in the senior circuit. He also his tied for 2nd with teammate Stephen Strasburg in strikeouts, but leads the NL in K/9 ratio. The best case for Gonzalez as NL Cy Young right now is that he leads NL pitchers in WAR at 2.4. Four pitchers are behind him a 2.0 including the aforementioned Beachy who Gonzalez beat head to head on the road on Memorial Day eve. Gonzalez and Strasburg have formed the best current 1-2 pitching punch in MLB.
Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Johan Santana, Mets, R.A. Dickey, Mets, James McDonald, Pirates, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Anibal Sanchez, Marlins and Cole Hamels, Phillies (told you NL pitching was deep)
American League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox
Is Sale a reliever? Is Sale a starter? I think after his 15-strikeout performance that the White Sox have figured out Sale belongs at the top of the rotation for a long time. Sale currently leads the American League in ERA and adjusted ERA. He’s gotten better it seems with each start since rejoining the rotation going from 5 IP and 3 ER to 5.1 IP and 1 ER to 7 shutout innings to the amazing 15 strikeouts in 7.1 IP against the Rays. He’s even started June off on the right foot with his first career complete game against the Mariners.
Silver Medal: Jake Peavy, White Sox
As good as Chris Sale has been, he hasn’t eclipsed his teammate Jake Peavy. Peavy was in the number one spot after April but slips back to #2 this month. Peavy’s numbers are still great with a 3.05 ERA and 2nd in the AL 0.93 WHIP. He’s also 2nd in WAR and situational wins saved. Peavy is 2nd of course to the guy in the #1 spot right now.
Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers
What’s weird is before I started digging into the numbers I didn’t think Verlander had been all that great. Before his 6/2 start against the Yankees, he led the American League in WHIP, strikeouts, WAR, and complete games. He had his first career one-hitter against the Pirates after losing a no-no in the top of the 9th. Even more impressive he’s gone 6 innings or more in 54 consecutive starts. The man is a workhorse, the best pitcher in the game right now, and my “too early” pick for AL Cy Young.
Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, David Price, Rays, CC Sabathia, Yankees, Jim Johnson, Orioles, CJ Wilson, Angels and Fernando Rodney, Rays
National League MVP
Bronze Medal: Melky Cabrera, Giants
Please don’t spit your drink out at your computer upon reading this. I decided pretty quickly who my #1 is for this award and then there was a cluster of about five to seven players than had a case for second and third. I went with Cabrera for now just because he’s leading the league in batting average, hits, and triples. Plus, he has helped tremendously with an anemic Giants offense scoring 40 runs atop that lineup, good for 2nd best in the NL. It was really tough to not give David Wright this spot or even the next one.
Silver Medal: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
I can’t get blamed for being a biased Braves fan and anti-David Wright if I put Carlos Ruiz second and leave off Michael Bourn right? Chooch has been everything for the Phillies in 2012. He’s had his normal brilliance behind the plate with the pitching staff, but it’s at the plate where Ruiz has shined this season. He’s just behind Cabrera in batting average at .371, while being 4th in OBP, SLG, and OPS. He is the only player in either league to be in the top 6 in both offensive AND defensive WAR. He deserves to start the All-Star Game.
Gold Medal: Joey Votto, Reds
When the season started with Votto’s long, expensive extension people thought it might have been the wrong move. I was ridiculed when I made him the first pick in my jersey draft early this season. Votto has been nothing short of brilliant thus far for the 1st place Reds. Votto is tops in the NL in WAR, OBP, OPS, walks, doubles, and extra-base hits. Matt Kemp’s injuries assured Votto the top spot, but Votto might have taken it anyway.
Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
American League MVP
Bronze Medal: Adam Jones, Orioles
This was probably the simplest of the awards for me. There are three clear-cut guys for AL MVP right now to me and they sort out nicely. Jones definitely earned his 85.5 million extension from Baltimore and it’s clear that this is his team. Jones has been a dual threat as he has 16 home runs (tied for 5th) and has nine stolen bases (tied for 6th) and should soon become the 1st player in the ALto double digits in both categories. Jones is 2nd in offensive WAR, plus adding his usual Gold Glove defense. Jones has evolved into a complete five-tool player. He’s one of the major reasons the Orioles are the biggest surprise in the AL.
Silver Medal:Paul Konerko, White Sox
If it wasn’t for the guy at #1, Konerko would have a legit chance at his first MVP award. You know what? He still might. Konerko currently is in the lead in batting average and OBP, while runner-up in slugging, OPS, and offensive WAR. He even finished 2nd on this week “MLB Player Poll” in which the question was “Who is the most underrated player in MLB?” One of these days he’ll be on top, probably when he sneaks across 500 home runs without anyone noticing.
Gold Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Was there any doubt who would still be number one? Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better he adds a FOUR HOMER GAME to his resume in May in taking home his 2nd Player of the Month award this season. Let’s just knock out all the categories he leads the American League in for the first-place Rangers and call it a blog post. Ready? Hamilton is 1st in WAR, slugging, OPS, home runs, total bases, runs batted in, extra-base hits, and even sacrifice flies. He’s the best player by far on a first place team, it’s his award to lose.
Just off the Podium: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Jason Kipnis, Indians, Derek Jeter, Yankees, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Mark Trumbo, Angels, David Ortiz, Red Sox and Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
What do you think I missed on? Should I really have had Melky Cabrera top 3 for NL MVP? Or Aroldis Chapman who spent most of the year in middle relief 2nd for a Cy Young? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)