On one hand, the San Francisco Giants are the defending world champions and can look forward to having a full season of Hunter Pence in the middle of their lineup. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers went out and spent about 500 Houston Astros to acquire the most powerful lineup in the league and add a second ace to the rotation. And don’t forget about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who this writer believes is a dark horse to win the West with a more balanced lineup and a ridiculously underrated pitching staff. Sorry Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres fans…your teams just won’t cut it this year. Let’s break down the N.L. West:
Predicted Order of Finish: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies
Why the Dodgers could win the N.L. West: There’s a difference between what the Yankees used to be hated for doing every off-season and what the Dodgers did this winter. Rather than just throwing the most money at every ego maniacal overage player on the market, Los Angeles actually went out and acquired new corner infielders, a leadoff man, and a top of the rotation pitcher who they believed would mesh into an already-tight clubhouse and contribute on the field. Taking a chance on Carl Crawford might pay off huge for the Dodgers, who can use him as an invaluable trading chip at the deadline if he’s playing well (remember, Yasiel Puig should be nearly ready by then). With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top, it’s easy to overlook the fantastic spring from Hyun-Jin Ryu, too. But with a strong rotation, good bullpen and explosive lineup, a lot of things will have to go wrong for the Dodgers to not at least be in the hunt down the stretch.
Why the Dodgers wouldn’t win the N.L. West: I’m not buying into the whole “team chemistry” issue, and not just because I root for the team. The Dodgers in the preseason seem to have become a fraternity of sorts, without the cheap beer and piles of laundry. Anyway, there is something to be said for the injury history of key players on this team. The entire starting outfield has had recent issues, both middle infielders have encountered some bad luck lately, and three-fifths of the starting rotation either had problems throughout the 2012 season or during this spring. If the injury bug doesn’t hit Southern California, there is always the possibility that Greinke bombs and the Dodgers are left leaning on Kershaw as the lone stud pitcher, which could mean big time trouble.
Why the Giants could win the N.L. West: The Giants won the World Series last year, god forbid Angelo or I forget it. And they’ve been one of the models of consistency throughout the regular season over the last few years. It’s scary that this 2013 team, on paper, is their best in years. We know the pitching staff is dominant, even with Tim Lincecum struggling, and Sergio Romo anchors a very good bullpen. But the biggest reason you might see the Giants make another run at defending their division and world titles is because their offense is going to be MUCH better than people are expecting. Angel Pagan is in his prime, and we know what Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Pence can do in full seasons. Additionally, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford seem to be getting better with the bat every week.
Why the Giants wouldn’t win the N.L. West: At the rate the Dodgers improved their roster and the ease with which they gelled in spring, it might just be bad timing for the Giants. They could still be just as good or better than last year and miss out on the division title. But the two guys who could really end their dreams are the city’s newest hero and the city’s oldest. Lincecum looked awful again in the spring, and could cost the Giants in the long run–Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are all either good or great pitchers, but nobody ever had the consistency that Lincecum had during his glory years. And Marco Scutaro is bound to come down to earth. As a 37-year-old middle infielder, chances are his .362 average with the Giants in 2012 drops back to around his career average of .275.
Why the Diamondbacks could win the N.L. West: As I mentioned in the intro, this is the most dangerous team in the league that nobody is talking about. When you have to send Tyler Skaggs, one of the better rookie performers of last season, to the bullpen because your rotation is already too stacked, you are pretty set for pitching. And the level of talent in the lineup can’t be understated. Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, and Martin Prado are all signed for the long run, and are complemented by a strong outfield group and a powerful second baseman in Aaron Hill. This team loves playing together and now that it cut out the cancer of Justin Upton, manager Kirk Gibson can take control and mold the team as he pleases.
Why the Diamondbacks wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Not only are the two teams that finished above Arizona last year improved, but questions do linger in the D’Backs starting rotation. As high-potential as it might be, you never know what you’re going to get from Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy is always on the DL. Furthermore, how will the offense respond without long-time outfielders Chris Young and Upton no longer in the clubhouse or lineup? I have faith in Jason Kubel and new addition Cody Ross, but I’m not sure if either will be reliable enough over the course of an entire year.
Why the Padres could win the N.L. West: Because you never know. Who in their right mind would have thought the Orioles or A’s would have represented the American League in the playoffs last season? The Padres do have a scrappy team of mostly unknown players who proved they can play some good ball. Down the stretch in 2012, they played spoiler and looked like a legitimate dark horse playoff team. If they can carry some of that momentum over and get a full season out of closer Huston Street and slugger Carlos Quentin, San Diego will turn some heads. They have some solid young hitters like Yonder Alonso and Cameron Maybin who could completely turn around the team’s fortunes if they continue to progress, too.
Why the Padres wouldn’t win the N.L. West: They just don’t have enough. The pitching rotation is not deep and it’s very inexperienced. The bullpen has some fire, but it isn’t on par with the three teams ahead of them. And the facts that Yasmani Grandal will be suspended for 25 games and Chase Headley, far and away their best player, will be nursing an injury and start the season on the DL, make a death sentence. I truly think the Friars are close to contending (give it two more seasons), but this is a year they focus on building some of the young talent.
Why the Rockies could win the N.L. West: Let’s put it this way: Most players in the Colorado lineup know how to hit baseballs very far. Last year, they were the most prolific offense in the National League, and they didn’t even have Troy Tulowitzki around, or Michael Cuddyer for much of the year. The fact that both of those guys will be back (at least to start the year) is a terrifying proposition for opposing pitchers. In 2012, the Rockies scored 758 runs and hit .274 without their two stars. Those numbers could go up, believe it or not, in 2013.
Why the Rockies wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Is it possible the Rockies score 10 runs per game? Sure! But if they give up 11, it doesn’t matter. The pitching staff, on the other end of the spectrum, was god awful. The worst in baseball by a comfortable margin. And the Rockies really didn’t do much to improve that particular aspect of the team over the winter. There is some promising young talent in the farm system, but nowhere near the level they need to be competitive. And even some of the best potential has been wasted once their fastballs start sailing through the thin Rocky Mountain air in Denver.
Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers
Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval – San Francisco Giants
Martin Prado – Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Headley – San Diego Padres
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies
Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants
Brandon McCarthy – Arizona Diamondbacks
Rookie of the Year
Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Eaton – Arizona Diamondbacks
Jedd Gyorko – San Diego Padres
So will the Dodgers steal the division away from the defending champs? Do the D’Backs sneak up and surprise everybody? Can Colorado or San Diego battle for the cellar or make spoiler runs? Comment below!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
The day started off like any other in the MLB world, teams were settling in after Grapefruit and Cactus League games ended, Opening Day was right around the corner and then one tweet from Buster Olney sent us into a frenzy.
Hearing rumblings of major news… More to come.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 29, 2013
What did it mean? Was the Biogenesis investigation over? Did another player get busted for performance-enhancing drugs? A blockbuster trade? JUST TELL US BUSTER!
The suspension fears were alleviated when Tigers ace Justin Verlander followed by tweeting.
Today is going to be a great day. Big news coming!
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) March 29, 2013
Big news certainly did come starting with the 2011 American League MVP. The Tigers signed Verlander to a new contract worth seven years and $180 million, with a vesting option for an eighth year that would make Verlander the first ever $200 million pitcher. He will make the same $20 million for the next two seasons and then get bumped up to $28 million for each season from 2015-2019. The deal makes Verlander the highest paid pitcher in MLB history, surpassing the $175 million given to Felix Hernandez this offseason.
We weren’t done with just one MVP getting copious amounts of money. The Giants got in on the action handing defending N.L. MVP Buster Posey a nine-year contract worth $167 million. It is the longest and richest contract in the history of the San Francisco Giants. The deal ensures that Posey will be a Giant into the next decade, there is a team option for the 2022 season with a $3 million buyout and includes a no-trade clause. The deal is also the 2nd largest ever for a backstop, just behind Joe Mauer’s eight-year $184 million deal he received from the Twins in 2010. When you lead a team to two World Series titles and an MVP award in your first three seasons, you deserve to be the highest paid player with less than four years of service time in MLB history.
Lost in the shuffle of the Verlander and Posey deals is a savvy five-year, $32 million contract for up-and-coming first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt will stay in the desert through 2017, with a club option of $14.5 million for 2018. Arizona has looked to lock up it’s current talent with Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, Martin Prado, and Aaron Hill all signed long-term. He broke out in 2012 with 20 home runs and a .286 batting average. The extension will keep Goldschmidt around until he’s at least thirty years old.
Some guy named Tony Romo got a $100+ million extension too, but ain’t nobody got time for that.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Part one is in the books, if you’d like to check out who crack my list from 20-16 click here. There’s one Giant name on my list still that wasn’t on the MLB Network top 20. Who is it? Keep reading!
I really didn’t think I would have this much of a drop on one of the biggest sluggers in the game, but there are just other players I prefer slightly better. He’s durable (13 games missed since 2006 and only one since 2009) and is the perfect hitter to give protection to another superstar. Please note that he’s hit directly after an MVP in each of the past two seasons. Would Braun and Cabrera have been the best in league without Fielder looming in the next spot? I don’t think so. He may never be an MVP himself, but Prince knows how to help bestow the crown.
Another player with a four spot drop in my rankings, which is amazing considering Hamilton is coming off a career-high 43 homer season. I’m concerned with the drop that Hamilton had in the 2nd half last season where his OPS dropped from an other-worldly 1.016 to .833 in the second half. I think his numbers will take another dip going from Texas to Anaheim, where the park plays more in favor of the pitcher. He’s ahead of Fielder for me because unlike Fielder I think Hamilton CAN win an MVP award when he has it all together.
Hamilton had the great 1st half in 2012 and Pujols had the great 2nd half. If both put together full seasons in 2013, the Angels lineup will be lethal. I also think another year of adjustment to American League pitching will continue to help Pujols return to the MVP candidate he’s always been. Pujols had his worst home run output last season and it was still good for 30 blasts. Pujols has had at least 30 home runs AND 99 runs batted in in each of his twelve seasons. The man truly is a machine.
How can the reigning MVP not be in the top 20 in the game right now? He led the National League in batting average and OPS+ while playing in one of the best pitchers parks in the league. Posey handled one of the best pitching staffs in the league and brought them to a World Series title. He’s only going to get better as he’s another year removed from that devastating ankle injury. He was underrated by MLB Network, not by me.
I don’t think there’s a player that does more quietly than Adrian Beltre. I remember watching “MLB Player Poll” last season where they asked who the best third baseman in the game was and I was shocked that the players actually picked Beltre. That’s the kind of respect he has from his peers and should get more of it from fans. He’s blossomed into a complete player that can hit for average, hit for power, and can field his position better than anyone. It’s up to Beltre to continue to improve to make up for Josh Hamilton’s departure from the Lone Star State.
That’ll do it for numbers 16-11. Do I have Posey too high? Who do you think should crack the top 10? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter with the link below and use #MapesRightNow.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
I’m sure some or maybe all of you have heard that Jeremy and I made the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave in 2013. We’ve been blown away by your support so far and we want to start by saying thank you.
Now for the main event! The 2nd annual jersey draft battle! I may have had the worst pick in the draft last year (Adrian Gonzalez, who’s no longer on the Red Sox), but I did score the NL MVP’s jersey (Buster Posey) with the 2nd to last pick. Plus, I got to give grief all season for Jeremy picking Matt Cain 4th overall.
The rules are simple: I will pick 1st because Jeremy had the first choice last year. Jeremy will get 2nd and 3rd picks and then alternate from there. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. You can only have one player, per team on your own draft. Both of us can pick a player from the same team, for example Matt Cain/Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder were all picked last year. It does play into strategy, because it let me wait on Posey, knowing Jeremy couldn’t take another Giants player. Without further adieu!
Team Mapes Pick #1, #1 Overall: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Last year, I picked Albert Pujols at #3 overall based on the long length of his contract ensuring great use from his Angels jersey. This year, Trout is the most exciting player in the game and is under team control through 2017. Trout’s jersey’s the hands down top pick to me. You’re getting five seasons of sweet-jersey wearing time. Bonus points for completing the Trout ensemble with a foam Trout hat. I might have just let Jeremy get a steal of Pujols or Josh Hamilton later in the draft though, time will tell. You’re up Mr. Dorn. I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be repeating your top pick from 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #1, #2 Overall: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles
Two things: First, Mapes is absolutely correct. No way I’m not going to take my first overall pick in last year’s draft, Matt Kemp. Not only is he under contract in Los Angeles through the decade, but when healthy he is the best all-around player in the game. Teammates like him, fans like him, and even opponents like the laid-back, uber-talented center fielder of the Dodgers. He came freakishly close to a Triple Crown and 40/40 season in 2011, and will look to return to that form after injuries derailed him last year. Oh, and secondly — give me crap all you want for the Cain pick, but the dude threw a perfect game last season and I hypothetically had that jersey!
Team Jeremy Pick #2, #3 Overall: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
I snatched this pick off Mapes’ team from last year, and I’m glad I did. Votto has been one of the most consistent, destructive hitters (when healthy) since he entered the league, and will be mashing in Cincy through 2024 under his current contract. Votto should always be a favorite in the National League for the MVP award, given his batting average, on-base percentage, power numbers and defense in a given year. Plus, the jersey just looks GOOD!
Team Mapes Pick #2, #4 Overall: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
There are so many options at this pick it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk (or type) out loud and give you any ideas though! I think that Cutch was going to be your next pick so I’m grabbing him now. He’s under team control through 2018, a great player, and completely entertaining as evidenced by his MLB Fan Cave videos. He’s a player you WANT to root for and a baseball fan that has a Pirates jersey when they finally end their sub-.500 season streak will be looking good. That being said, I really hope you don’t take the player I strongly considered here. McCutchen moves up from the #8 jersey overall selected in 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #3, #5 Overall: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Oh, yes I did just pick the J-Hey kid from your own squad! No way I’m letting you stack your lineup with one of the best and most popular players in the game today. After a dismal sophomore season in 2011, Heyward bounced back to prominence and beyond in 2012, and will be a power-hitting, web gem-making, on-base getting (huh?) beast for at least the next four years in Atlanta. Snag his jersey now, before it’s too late. Mapes, when you’re done crying that I’ve drafted your boy, feel free to make your next pick!
Team Mapes Pick #3, #6 Overall: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU JEREMY?!?! I’ll have to console myself with the TWO Jason Heyward shirseys that I have hanging in my closet. Don’t worry, I have a plan for my Atlanta Braves pick later. There’s only one real way to get back to you and that’s with a picture of the Giants having a champagne celebration. When was the last time the Dodgers did that? Posey is a great jersey pickup, solid name, defending NL MVP, and safety of knowing he’ll be in the orange and black for a long, long time. Plus, Posey and I are birthday buddies on March 27th!
Team Jeremy Pick #4, #7 Overall: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
That is a low blow, my friend. I’ll pretend there is just a bubbly leak from the sprinklers in that clubhouse picture. Jones is quickly climbing the chart of all-around athletes in MLB and fans are really starting to take notice. Not only is Jones a graceful defender, but he’s only just starting to fully develop the offensive side of his game at age 27. He’s signed in Baltimore through the 2018 season and is extremely close to breaking into McCutchen popularity territory in my opinion. This is the only orange and black jersey in my collection this year, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #4, #8 Overall: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Adam Jones is a solid pick, but I’d rather have a new Orioles hat than a jersey, I think. I’m going back to an MVP I took at #5 last year. Braun is basically going to be a Brewer forever, or at least 2020 seems forever away. He’s been consistently good so far in his career and I don’t think there will be much of a drop off later in his career. It’ll always be cool to wear a Braun jersey, especially in the Badger State. Eight picks in and we have six National League player jerseys…interesting.
Team Jeremy Pick #5, #9 Overall: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Given recent news, that pick could become problematic for you. I really hope it doesn’t, and I’ll give you mad props for taking the risk. I’ll continue the run on National Leaguers with the first pitcher of the draft. Of all the exciting young pitchers who I was eligible to select here (remember, I already took Kemp, so Clayton Kershaw was out of the question), I wanted to snag one of the most popular pitchers in all of baseball. Strasburg is a freak of nature on the mound and lights up the radar gun and TV ratings every time he pitches. Not to mention, he’s locked up through at least 2017.
Team Mapes Pick #5, #10 Overall: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Thanks so much for letting me wait and just steal Bryce Harper at the end of the draft. This pick was basically made for me with the news of King Felix’s extension. He’s now the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, that shows to how great he is. He’s a Cy Young award winner, the face of the Mariners franchise, and you’ve gotta love the King’s Court fan base. Seven years in a Seattle uniform and those trade rumors go away? I’m sure there will be a large influx of Hernandez jersey’s flying off shelves. Let’s just hope they don’t change their uniform scheme.
Team Jeremy Pick #6, #11 Overall: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
I have a couple of things to say about that pick: First…SO LUCKY! If only that news had broken after you made your pick. Second, the Mariners should never change those awesome uni’s. Anyway, I’m going old-school with the Jeter pick. One of our criteria is length of contract, which will obviously not last forever for DJ. In fact, in the unlikely event that he declines his option for 2014, this could be his last year in baseball. But some players’ legacies live on forever, and this first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of them. His jersey was still the top-seller in all of baseball in 2012, and will be popular for years to come, and not just in New York.
Team Mapes Pick #6, #12 Overall: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
I can’t hate on the Jeter pick even though his time is almost up. The Yankees #2 will join #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8 as timeless jerseys to wear for Bronx Bombers fans. You know who’s time isn’t almost up? Evan Longoria. The Rays all-star is under team control through 2023. I would type that year in all caps, but the year is numbers. Hmm… he will potentially be a Ray for the next DECADE. There that works. I’ve had a Longoria shirsey for three seasons now, I hope it doesn’t wear out over the next ten.
Team Jeremy Pick #7, #13 Overall: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You know what is a formula for success? Besides signing Albert Pujols and Hamilton in successive years, I mean? It’s taking the guy who had MLB’s second-highest selling jersey in Texas last year, and moving him to Los Angeles for at least five years, where his jersey sales will go flying off the shelves again. You’re going to see a ton of Hamilton jerseys in Anaheim this year, and if this draft weren’t hypothetical, I’d be sporting one myself.
Team Mapes Pick #7, #14 Overall: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
What’s not the formula for success? You taking your Angel when you could’ve waited until the end to grab him. Plus, I think I take the extra years of jersey wearing from an Albert Pujols Angels jersey over Hamilton, but I digress. Can you believe Starlin Castro is only 23 this season? Seems like he’s already been around forever. He’s under team control until 2020, which also gets you through Castro’s prime. You’ll be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the bleachers for a long time rocking the Castro jersey. Bonus that the Cubs will never really alter their jerseys.
Team Jeremy Pick #8, #15 Overall: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Except that the Cubs might still be irrelevant in 2020. Just kidding. Castro is a cool pick, but I’m going with a different shade of blue on this pick. In his return from injury, Joey Bats will enjoy the comforts of a much-improved team in 2013. If the entirety of Canada didn’t already have his jersey, they will after this season when the Jays are sure to be featured on national TV broadcasts as much as possible. He’s signed through at least 2015, and will probably have his option for 2016 picked up by the team.
Team Mapes Pick #8, #16 Overall: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
I really want to take Giancarlo Stanton, but his uncertainty in Miami worries me a ton. My final two picks I already have planned out in my head from teams you’ve already taken. That leaves Tulo, who is so talented, but has the injury problems galore. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-star and a potential superstar. He could be in the purple and black for the rest of this decade, so you’ll get plenty use of this jersey.
Team Jeremy Pick #9, #17 Overall: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
I’ll admit, I was hoping Tulo would slide to me at this pick. But a very nice consolation prize is somehow grabbing the best overall catcher in baseball this late. The Cardinal jerseys are classics, and Molina is the best all-around player wearing one right now. He had one of the top-selling jerseys last year (probably mostly Cardinals fans), and will be wearing the birds on the bat until at least 2017, likely beyond. He may be one of the least appreciated players in baseball, but I’m showing him some love in the jersey draft for the second straight year!
Team Mapes Pick #9, #18 Overall: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Molina was on my short list, but after what the Cardinals have done to me the last two years I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of team jerseys I don’t want to wear, but I’m going to be objective here. Harper is a future star of the game and will be in the nation’s capitol for three years or more. I’d lean towards the or more part. I don’t like him, but I respect the way he plays the game. It’s a solid jersey for a fan to buy. Plus, I got out of picking David Wright at least?
Team Jeremy Pick #10, #19 Overall: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
This. Just. Happened. The reason I let you snag Evan Longoria earlier is because I knew I’d have this available to me for the last pick. Myers, the top prospect in baseball, isn’t a sure thing — no prospect ever is. But he’s going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays, who have him under control for at least six years, and will likely lock him up for longer as soon as he puts in a little service time. Judging by the last 15 position players who won Minor League Player of the Year (Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Mike Trout to name a few), Myers is going to be a very good player in the Majors, and I’ll be the first to have his pretty-lookin’ Rays on my back. Top that, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #10, #20 Overall: The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves
How do I top that? By going with the sweetest custom jersey in Braves history. You get not one, but BOTH Uptons. Special thanks to them for deciding to wear single digits to make this work. I went with the 82 because Justin plays in left, therefore his number goes on the left. This jersey will be good to go for 3-5 years and even if one leaves, just pull off one of the numbers and the S and you’re still set. Truly, saved the best for last!
Honorable Mention Team Mapes: Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, David Wright-Mets, Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder-Tigers, Joe Mauer-Twins, Martin Prado-Diamondbacks, and Eric Hosmer-Royals
Honorable Mention Team Jeremy: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies, Aroldis Chapman-Reds, Mariano Rivera-Yankees, David Price-Rays, Carlos Santana-Indians, Yoenis Cespedes-A’s, and Jose Altuve-Astros
There you have it. The 2nd annual Jeremy vs. Mapes jersey draft is complete. Now it’s up to you, readers! Vote in the poll below to tell us if Mapes will take home his second consecutive jersey draft title, or if Jeremy strengthened his squad enough to earn the victory. Here are the overall teams:
Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Starlin Castro, Troy Tulowtizki, Bryce Harper, Justin/BJ Upton
Team Jeremy: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Wil Myers
Remember, vote for the 10 jerseys YOU would rather have, not which group makes up the best hypothetical team. Let us know in the comments which jersey you want in your closet! Thanks for reading! You can like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or follow @3u3d on Twitter!
The World Baseball Classic returns for the 3rd time starting March 2nd. Fellow blogger Jeremy Dorn gave his rankings of every team in the WBC last week. (I haven’t figured out how he has South Korea 11th either) I wanted to delve more into team USA’s chances and how the roster stacks up.
Who’s In: Joe Mauer-Twins, J.P. Arencibia-Blue Jays, and Jonathan Lucroy-Brewers
Who’s Out: Buster Posey-Giants and Brian McCann-Braves
Interesting that the deepest offensive position with three players is at catcher. They clearly want to rotate these guys so they don’t get too banged up before the MLB season begins. Not being able to score the defending NL MVP in Buster Posey is a tough blow to team USA, but having hitting machine and former AL MVP Joe Mauer lessens the blow. He could even be the designated hitter option, when Arencibia or Lucroy are behind the plate. Arencibia’s inclusion seems to coincide with R.A. Dickey’s appearance on the roster. The two are now teammates in Toronto and have been working together to have knuckleball success. I’m sure the Blue Jays will be pleased with them getting reps together in high pressure situations. Lucroy had his best season at the plate last year, but was hampered by injuries. He’ll be a solid offensive piece down the lineup. Getting Posey on board would’ve made this an easy A, but alas. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Mark Teixeira-Yankees
Who’s Out: Prince Fielder-Tigers, Paul Konerko-White Sox, Adam LaRoche-Nationals, and Freddie Freeman-Braves
I would’ve much preferred the bat of Prince Fielder, but I have no qualms with Teixiera joining team USA for the 2nd time. He’s not the hitter he once was, but does have pop, will provide for some interesting decisions with his switch-hitting ability, and is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. He’s going to get a lot of work in as the only true first baseman on the roster, but could get spelled by Mauer and maybe even Ben Zobrist. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Brandon Phillips-Reds and Ben Zobrist-Rays
Who’s Out: Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox, Ian Kinsler-Rangers, and Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks
Pedroia and Kinsler are probably better hitters than Zobrist, but the Zorilla’s ability to play mulitple positions makes him a suitable choice. I don’t think we’d see any of the other possibilities manning right field or shortstop the way Zobrist does for the Rays. Brandon Phillips will get the majority of time at second base and the three-time Gold Glove winner will flash plenty of leather for the red, white, and blue. The only better second baseman in the tournament is Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Jimmy Rollins-Phllies and Willie Bloomquist-Diamondbacks
Who’s Out: Derek Jeter-Yankees, Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies, and Ian Desmond-Nationals
One would have to believe that Rollins is on the roster over Desmond just based on experience and leadership ability. Jeter’s ankle may not be 100% in time for the WBC and with Tulo’s injury history it was clear he wouldn’t risk it. Rollins is the defending NL Gold Glove winner at the position and played in the last WBC for USA. He’s not the hitter we once was, but can provide speed atop the lineup. Bloomquist is the questionable pick for the roster, but he’s a clear utility player and can play numerous positions in case of injury. When compared to the players team USA could’ve had if healthy, I can’t give out a great grade. Grade: C
Who’s In: David Wright-Mets
Who’s Out: Chase Headley-Padres, Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals, and David Freese-Cardinals
This was the easiest call for team USA. Wright is the best third baseman in America right now. The only problem for the Stars & Stripes is that Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera) and the Dominican Republic (Adrian Beltre) have better options at the position. Grade: A-
Who’s In: Ryan Braun-Brewers, Adam Jones-Orioles, Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, and Shane Victorino-Red Sox
Who’s Out: Mike Trout-Angels, Bryce Harper-Nationals, Andrew McCutchen-Pirates, Josh Hamilton-Angels, and Matt Holliday-Cardinals
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Even without Trout and McCutchen, I love this outfield. Braun is the best left fielder in the game and a perennial MVP candidate. Jones is a budding superstar that helped turned the Orioles around and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Stanton is a straight masher that you can’t pitch around in middle of the lineup. Victorino doesn’t have the name of some of the other players that aren’t playing, but his ability to play all three oufield positions, while filling in as pinch-runner and possibly designated hitter is good enough. I know Mike Trout wanted to have a traditional spring training entering his 2nd full season, but I think that he’s going to come to regret not being around this talented group. Grade: A
Who’s In: R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays, Kris Medlen-Braves, Ryan Vogelsong-Giants, Derek Holland-Rangers
Who’s Out (for now): Justin Verlander-Tigers, David Price-Rays, Jered Weaver-Angels, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee-Phillies, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner-Giants
It’s pretty easy too look at those two lists and get a lump in your throat. There is one spot still open for a starting pitcher that’d presumably would go to Verlander if he wants it. Let’s look at what is definite right now. Team USA sports the defending NL Cy Young winner in Dickey, who’s knuckleball will give batters fits seeing it for the first time this season. Medlen was arguably (and I’d argue was) the best pitcher in the 2nd half last season. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable. Vogelsong is a fantastic story since returning to MLB from Japan and can be useful as he might have some inside knowledge on the Japanese hitters. Holland is a decent southpaw, great in the clubhouse, and let’s be honest we’re all secretly hoping he faces the Netherlands. If Joe Torre has a sense of humor, it’ll happen. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants, Tim Collins-Royals, and Glen Perkins-Twins
Who’s Out: Sean Marshall-Reds, Eric O’ Flaherty and Jonny Venters-Braves, Darren Oliver-Blue Jays, and Sean Burnett-Angels
No offense to Tim Collins, but I’d rather have all five pitchers in the “Who’s out” list than him. Affeldt is a great big-game pitcher as he proved in the 2012 postseason. He’ll have to come through in big spots as the best of this bunch. Perkins has become a solid lefty. He’s climbed his way up the ranks to become the Twins closer. Seeing a lot of quality lefties staying in their spring training homes is a little disheartening though. Grade: C+
Who’s In: Heath Bell-Diamonbacks, Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals, Steve Cishek-Marlins, Luke Gregerson-Padres, Craig Kimbrel-Braves, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano-Indians
Who’s Out: Jim Johnson-Orioles, Jason Motte-Cardinals, Jonathan Papelbon-Phillies, Joel Hanrahan-Red Sox
As long as the words “Heath Bell in a high pressure situation” aren’t used I really like the bullpen that Greg Maddux has to work with. Craig Kimbrel is the best relief pitcher in the world right now and should lock down any game in the 9th inning. Perez and Pestano work well together in Cleveland. Boggs was a revelation in St. Louis this past season. Cishek will be a change of pace reliever with his submarine delivery. Cishek did really well filling in as the Marlins closer when Heath Bell fell apart last season. Gregerson is one of the leagues most underrated relievers because he pitches in San Diego and has never had an ERA over 3.24 in his four seasons. Having Kimbrel on the roster is such a boon for this bullpen. Grade: A-
Final Thoughts: Team USA will have a real shot at knocking Japan off the top of the WBC mountain. The coaching staff with Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, Gerald Perry, Larry Bowa, Willie Randolph, and Marcel Lachemann is top notch. The only real question marks are at shortstop and left-handed pitching to me. I believe that if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen though, USA will be dangerous. I expect at least another run to the semi-finals and a trip to San Francisco. Every team at that level is so talented, it’s going to come down to the little things to decide the champion.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
It’s World Series all day today as we talk about our predictions, look back on the Championship Series, discuss managerial moves, injuries, and even get a special guest to stop in and talk about new developments out at Petco Park in San Diego. I hope you’re all excited as we are to see who comes out on top in this year’s World Series.
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It’s the two most beautiful words not just in baseball, but in all of sports. Game seven. One game decides your playoff fate. Everything you’ve put into the season comes down to one game where one pitch, one swing, one call, one stolen base, one error can be the difference. The San Francisco Giants brought us to these two words with their 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night. Monday night at AT&T Park the Giants will look to come back from two games down for the 2nd straight series and advance. Let’s try and figure out who will win.
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain
Have to start with the scheduled starters. Both of these starters have arguably had a career year in 2012 and this game will define how they look back on this season. Lohse has been great this postseason with a 1.96 ERA including giving up just one earned run over 5.2 innings in a victory over the Giants in game three. Lohse was erratic though giving up 5 walks. Lohse has has a history of not coming up big in huge games (see 2011 playoffs), but may have turned a new leaf in 2012. Cain, on the other hand, has been “Bizarro Lohse.” He was spectacular in big games previously (see 2010 playoffs), but has given up three runs in each start this postseason. Cain got the win for San Francisco in game five against the Reds. This one is close, but give me the previous elimination game winner.
Both bullpens have been spectacular this series. I’m sure everyone is going to be available for Monday’s game. Jason Motte has become the big closer everyone thought he would be. Sergio Romo has taken control of the closer role for the Giants and has the best slider in the game. I think Mike Matheny left Chris Carpenter in game six through four innings to try and preserve his bullpen for a potential game seven. St. Louis ended up using Shelby Miller for two innings, Fernando Salas for 1.1 innings, Marc Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica for 1/3 of an inning each. Not on that list is Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte. The Giants had to use their standard of Jeremy Affeldt (.2 IP), Santiago Casilla (.1 IP), and Romo (1 IP) to lock down a game seven. I would not be surprised if we see Motte come in for a six-out save in game seven if needed. This one is tough.
Slight Advantage: Cardinals
The big question stemming from game six is will Matt Holliday be ready to play? He may not be 100%, but if you think he’s missing this game I’ve got a giant bridge in San Francisco to sell you. Buster Posey has been completely off offensively this series, hitting just .136. Posey does have a flair for the deciding game dramatic as he hit a grand slam in game five of the NLDS against Cincinnati. Marco Scutaro has been the hot bat for San Francisco hitting .458. The other big question for the Cardinals lineup is with Holliday back, is there room for Matt Carpenter? Carpenter owns Matt Cain it seems and had a home run off him in game three. I think overall with Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese this should be good for St. Louis.
Manager: Mike Matheny vs. Bruce Bochy
I have nothing against Mike Matheny, but his team almost blew a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Nationals. His team has now blown a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Giants. It’s his first season. It’s his first playoffs. Give me the guy with the World Series ring on his hand, even though I’m sure Matheny is making a call to Tony LaRussa tonight.
The Giants have now won five straight eliminations games in these playoffs, only the 1985 Royals won more elimination games in a single postseason with six. The Cardinals have won six straight elimination games, dating back to 2002, where they lost to….you guessed it! The Giants. Mike Matheny could become the first rookie manager to lead his team to the World Series since Bob Brenly got the Diamondbacks there in 2001. The Giants have never won a game 7 as a team, they are 0-5, the worst mark in MLB history. This is the first game seven in the NLCS since 2006, where the Cardinals beat the Mets.
I reached out to my fellow podcasters for their predictions. Here’s what they have.
Jeremy Dorn: Cardinals 345, Giants 0. No really, 5-3 St. Louis. Lohse has been better than Cain this postseason and the Cards have never lost a game 7 right?
Brian Boynton: Giants 6-5
Kurt Peter: Giants 5-2
Angelo Feliccia: Lots of rain to help out my Tigers in the World Series. I’ll take the Giants 4-0, but I could see Romo blowing this game though late.
Final Mapes Prediction: Buster Posey shows why he’s the MVP and gets another big hit for the Giants. While Lohse is erratic once again forcing Matheny to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d like and is bailed out by Rosenthal, Mujica, and Motte. It’ll be too late as Cain gets the job done over seven innings and turns the ball over to Affeldt and then Romo. Then again, it’s baseball, nothing is EVER that simple. Giants 4 Cardinals 2, enjoy game seven everybody!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)