Tagged: Giancarlo Stanton

Toss-Up: Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez?

Giancarlo StantonAccording to MLBTradeRumors.com, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News has information that the New York Mets’ front office may be looking seriously at trying to swing a trade for either Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies.

We don’t need to tell you that the Mets’ outfield is a mess (the two highest-paid outfielders on the team aren’t actually on the team), or what kind of impact either one of those bats would have on a young lineup struggling to keep pace with the monster of the NL East. But, that’s what we’re here for. So…

…it’s this writer’s opinion that trading for Stanton is the best hypothetical move for the Mets. I prefer Gonzalez as an all-around player, but he’s more expensive to maintain in the long run than the 23-year-old Stanton would be and allows them a lot less financial flexibility to bring in free agent replacements for the pitching staff.

Though the Mets front office has indicated they are willing to increase the payroll (contrary to popular belief, it is not so they can pay Bobby Bonilla even more interest), the 27-year-old Gonzalez would bring over a contract that owes him nearly $65 million over four years, whereas Stanton will be under team control through 2016.

But as Mets’ superfan and MLBFanCave Dweller Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller) mentions: “I’d go with CarGo. Even though he’s a few years older, he’s a proven .300 hitter who can swipe bags, and is gold glove-caliber in the outfield. A 500-foot bomb is pretty to look at from time to time, but I’ll go with the five-tool player every single time.”

It’s a tough choice, knowing that either trade would likely cost the Mets their top two prospects in Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud, as well as a hefty financial investment. But the opportunity to improve the heart of the order and complement David Wright may be too good to pass up.

CarGo

Stanton brings massive home run potential and has been improving his batting average every year in the big leagues (career high .290 in 2012), but Gonzalez has won a batting title and two Gold Gloves, and sports an average slash line of .299/28/97 with about 25 steals.

Would CarGo struggle away from the thin air of Coors Field? Would Stanton continue to blossom into a premier all-around hitter? Nobody knows for sure, but it seems the Mets may be willing to pay in order to find out.

Vote in our poll below–who would be the better hypothetical pick up for the Mets? And comment with who YOU would prefer if your team was in the same situation.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

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Rangers and Elvis Andrus agree on a long-term extension

Where did all these teams find the money? Following the trend of giving young marquee players huge extensions the Texas Rangers have signed two time All-Star shortstop Elvis Andrus to an eight year extension worth $120 million.

Elvis-Andrus-Getty

The Rangers now have $131 million committed to Andrus over the next 10 seasons. Looking at similar deals given to young shortstops like Troy Tulowitzki the Rangers could have just signed Andrus to a very team friendly deal.

Andrus can opt out four years into his extension which will go into effect after his current deal expires after the 2014 season. So he will be in a Rangers uniform until he is at least 30 and maybe until he is 34 if he decides not to opt out.

This signing is very good news for the Rangers as both Hanley Ramirez and Derek Jeter’s contracts both expire after the 2014 season, and face it the free spending Yankees and Dodgers are both capable of outbidding the Rangers for Andrus.

The Rangers now have some flexibility on the field that GM Jon Daniels will have to work out. He has some very important personal decisions to make regarding certain players futures with the team. What does this extension mean for Ian Kinsler, Jurickson Profar and many others on the team?

This move almost certainly means that top prospect Jurickson Profar will either be the Rangers second baseman in the future or he could be the centerpiece in a deal that brings either David Price or Giancarlo Stanton to Texas. Both of whom are expected to be available  as they near free agency and arbitration respectively. That future could come later this season if Kinsler is moved to first base or elsewhere in the field.

Mitch Moreland could be the player most directly affected by this signing. Before Spring Training this season for the first time in his career Moreland was the starting first baseman from day one. He won’t be platooned like he has in the past few seasons, being sat down against lefties. One reason for this is because of the loss of Michael Young and Mike Napoli but the team also thinks he has matured into an everyday player. With this signing though his leash has likely been shortened and they might be quicker to pull him in favor of bringing Profar up and moving Kinsler over.

Currently the Rangers only have two outfielders on the big league roster under contract past this season, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin. Both Nelson Cruz and David Murphy could hit free agency at the end of this season if they can’t agree on extensions with the team. So the Rangers could look to next season and try Kinsler in the outfield to see if he can be a replacement for either one of them.

What do you think of the signing? What should the Rangers do about Profar now? Let us know in the comments.

-Brian Boynton (@gingabeard_man)

3U3D Break It Down: The N.L. East

Has the National League evolved into a two-team arms race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves?  It seemed all offseason one would make a move and the other would counter it.  B.J. Upton, Dan Haren, Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, and Jordan Walden all enter the fray and make these two teams on paper the teams to beat.  The Phillies aren’t ready to go down with a fight adding Ben Revere and Michael Young in the offseason.  The Mets and Marlins?  Well they might go down without a fight, let’s break down the National League East.

Projected Order of Finish: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Miami Marlins

Why the Braves could win the N.L. East: It’s pretty hard to believe that Atlanta lost three of the four best hitters from last season in Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn and the lineup is better.  The Upton brothers move into the outfield along with Jason Heyward, giving the Braves two MVP-potential candidates in the corners.  Andrelton Simmons showed in the WBC that he is ready, especially defensively.  Freddie Freeman’s growth continues in an all-star caliber 1st baseman.  The rotation might not be on the Nationals level overall, but Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran is solid.  Teheran could be ready to shine as he was spectacular in spring training.  Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, while Eric O’ Flaherty is among the best setup men.  All the pieces are there for a return to the playoffs.

Why the Braves wouldn’t win the N.L. East: First, the leadership from Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn’s departure throws off the clubhouse and no one behind Tim Hudson steps up.  The lineup is filled with just too many strikeouts that kills putting together rallies.  Brian McCann’s shoulder is completely shot and he’s not the player he once was or even comes back at all leaving the catching duties to Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis.  Jonny Venters injury is more serious than planned (i.e. Tommy John surgery) and Jordan Walden isn’t ready to go and the bullpen suffers and becomes overworked.  Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John surgery mid-season isn’t able to come close to the form he displayed at the start of 2012.

Why the Nationals could win the N.L. East: The rotation is the best in MLB with Stephen Strasburg’s innings cap behind him, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler.  The bullpen is no slouch either with Rafael Soriano (42 saves in 2012) joining Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Ryan Mattheus is a great bullpen.  The lineup is good to great and can be better than great if “The Phenom” Bryce Harper continues to progress into an MVP candidate.

Why the Nationals wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The Braves end up just slightly better top to bottom.  Newly-signed Denard Span reverts back to an injury-plagued season like in 2011.  Ryan Zimmerman’s right shoulder, that caused him to receive cortisone shots throughout last season, acts up and his bat his lost from the middle of the lineup.  It’s really hard not to see the Nationals as a probable playoff team.

Why the Phillies could win the N.L. East: Roy Halladay might not be what he used to be, but Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are both still good enough to carry a rotation.  I highly doubt Lee will only win six games again.  The lineup is improved with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, plus Ben Revere providing speed at lead-off.  Michael Young joins Philadelphia to provide leadership and hitting prowess.  He would need get back to hitting .300 for the Phillies to have a real chance.  Domonic Brown’s spring breakout continues into the season and he finally pays dividends for all of those trades Ruben Amaro Jr. refused to do when Brown was a prospect.  Plus, Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the games.

Why the Phillies wouldn’t win the N.L. East: It’s entirely possible that Roy Halladay never gets back to what he was before 2012.  His velocity has been down after an injury-plagued season.  The lineup is on the wrong side of their prime with Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Young all over 33 years-old.  Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension messes with the pitching staff and they get off on the wrong foot after Ruiz broke out offensively.  Brown does what he’s done his whole career and tease greatness, but not come through.

Why the Mets could win the N.L. East: David Wright’s injury is nothing and the new Mets captain goes on to be his usual self in the middle of the lineup.  Ike Davis evolves into a 35-40 home run hitting first baseman.  The Mets call up Zack Wheeler and pair him with Matt Harvey and create the best young pitching duo in the division.  Travis d’Arnuad can’t be held back anymore in the minors and starts developing into the next Mike Piazza.

Why the Mets wouldn’t win the N.L. East: Johan Santana is probably out for the season taking leadership out of the clubhouse on a daily basis.  The bullpen in atrocious.  The outfield is near-atrocious, unless Jordany Valdespin steps up big.  The Mets are a rebuilding project, but there are some nice pieces coming to Flushing.

Why the Marlins could win the N.L. East: They can’t, but what kind of season would Giancarlo Stanton have to have to put Miami in contention?  60 home runs?  I do like Steve Cishek a lot as a potential closer, but he may end up trade bait at the deadline.  I might just like him because he’s a submariner.

Why the Marlins wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The rotation is the worst in the division, where their “ace” Ricky Nolasco can’t be trusted to not blow up on any given start.  The lineup has some veterans who can hit for average in Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, and Casey Kotchman, but aside from Stanton there isn’t a 2nd run producer.  This might take years for Miami to get into contention.

Awards Watch

N.L. MVP

Jason Heyward and Justin Upton-Braves

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg-Nationals

Cole Hamels-Phillies

David Wright-Mets

Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins

Cy Young

Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen-Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez-Nationals

Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee-Phillies

Rookie of the Year

Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria-Marlins

Julio Teheran-Braves

Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler-Mets

Who do you think wins the N.L. East?  The Nationals?  The Braves?  Can one of the other three teams steal the division away?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part One

MLB Network concluded their yearly series “Top 100 Players Right Now” on Tuesday night.  The full list of 100 players can be found here.  I’m shocked, but respect that they actually put Josh Willingham at #43.  The thing about baseball is that there is never an agreement on anything.  I couldn’t resist making my own “Top 20 Right Now”, starting with 20-16 today and another group of five over the next three days.

On the MLB Network list, not on my list: #15 Giancarlo Stanton, #16 Evan Longoria, and #20 Cole Hamels

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.03.54 PM#20, Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (MLB Network’s #27)

Call me a homer, especially to have Kimbrel leap over NL East rivals Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Giancarlo Stanton, and David Wright into my top 20.  However, when you look at players at their position that are purely dominant Kimbrel is at the head of the class.  Kimbrel struck out over half the batters he faced in 2012, a first for any pitcher.  He also has finished 23rd and 8th for NL MVP the last two seasons, which is better than anyone in the NL East I jumped him over.  I’m going to give the best closer in the game, the respect he deserves.  I would’ve done the same with Mariano Rivera a decade ago.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.18.03 PM#19, Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB Network’s #24)

Well this will end my homerism quickly, I jump Molina up a full five spots and into the top 20 after his best season in the majors.  You can make a case that he’s the best catcher in the game right now.  I won’t go that far, but Molina’s awesomeness at throwing out potential base stealers is unparalleled and gives the Cardinals a dynamic that other teams don’t have.  Molina’s won five straight Gold Glove’s and has improved at the plate, not just behind it, hitting over .300 each of the past two seasons.  Molina finished a career-best 4th in NL MVP voting in 2012.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.02.15 PM#18, CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (MLB Network’s #18)

Our first agreement!  Sabathia has almost become underrated as the ace and work horse of the Yankees staff.  Even with an injury last year, Sabathia logged his 7th straight 200 innings pitched season.  He’s also not just eating innings, Sabathia is giving quality innings, as he hasn’t had an ERA over 3.38 since 2006.  He’s been so good for so long, that he’s being overlooked by new pitching flames like Stephen Strasburg.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.13.37 PM#17 Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (MLB Network’s #19)

I’m such a sucker for Cliff Lee because he doesn’t walk anybody.  I think growing up watching Greg Maddux not walk anybody made me have an affinity for pitchers with great control.  Lee is the epitome of that now, he’s led the league in BB/9 three times and K/BB ratio twice, including leading the league in both in 2012.  Lee also hasn’t had an ERA over 3.18 since his breakout Cy Young season in 2008.  He’s the shining example that pitcher wins aren’t the correct barometer of pitching quality.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.23.19 PM#16 Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, (MLB Network’s #17)

McCutchen moves up a spot on my list as I have him ahead of Evan Longoria and Giancarlo Stanton, but not ahead of a future player.  The other two might have more talent, but right now I think McCutchen brings the goods better than both of them.  McCutchen broke out in 2012 and finished third in the MVP voting, while taking home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.  The Pirates star has developed into a true 30 HR, 25 SB, .300 BA threat that is hard to find in the game.  He’s the foundation for the Pirates to end their sub-.500 streak and I believe they will this season.

That’s the first part of my “Top 20 Right Now”.  Who would be on your list?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter using the link below with #MapesRightNow!  Tomorrow is 15-11, featuring a player who makes a big leap from the MLB Network list!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Cincinnati to Host the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

Commissioner Bud Selig announced today that the MLB All-Star Game would return to Cincinnati for the first time since 1988 when the Reds played at Riverfront Stadium.  It will be the first All-Star Game played at Great American Ballpark, which will join Riverfront Stadium and Crosley Field as Queen City ballparks that have hosted the mid-season classic.  With Great American Ballpark hosting the 2015 game, it will leave just Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PETCO Park in San Diego, Nationals Park in Washington D.C., Marlins Park in Miami, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, and New Yankee Stadium in The Bronx as the only current stadiums not to have hosted the All-Star Game.   The Reds franchise will join the Minnesota Twins (who are hosting the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field) to host the festivities in THREE different ballparks.

Here’s the glorious part about Great American Ballpark having the All-Star Game in its confines.  It also gets to host the Home Run Derby!  If there ever was a stadium that is perfectly set up for a derby, it’s the stadium that is lovingly called “the Great American Small-Park.”  I’m already getting excited to see the games best mashers blasting homers.  We could be there all night!  Even better, is the Ohio River beyond the right field wall gives lefties a great target to go for.  I mean if Juan Francisco could do it in an actual game in 2011, I think the game’s best could do it in a home run derby.  I almost want to fast-forward to 2015 now to see it play out.  I haven’t been this excited for a home run derby since Ken Griffey Jr. took aim at the warehouse beyond Camden Yards.

I couldn’t resist thinking ahead to 2015 and who could actually be participating in the 2015 Home Run Derby.  I’m going to use the 2012 format to project who will be launching mammos in Cincinnati.

National League

Captain Bryce Harper:  The obvious player for this.  He’ll be 22 and a possible superstar by 2015 if everything goes according to plan.  Even better that he hits left-handed so the Ohio River will be in play.  If this video from when Harper is any indication of his derby abilities, there will more splashdowns than a water park.

Joey Votto or Jay Bruce: Have to get one of the hometown guys into the competition.  I don’t want a Billy Butler situation here.  Both are lefties which plays into my Ohio River hopes.  I think that Bruce is the more likely of the two to participate as he’ll be in his prime at 28 years old.  He also could be a legit 40-homer player by then.

Giancarlo Stanton: This one I’m not sure on.  He could be in the American League for all I know.  We all missed out on Stanton participating in the 2012 Home Run Derby in Kansas City, but I think he’ll return for the derby in 2013 at Citi Field.  That gives him a year to sit out in 2014 (sorry Twins fans) and come back to defend a potential title the way that Prince Fielder did this past year.  I can’t have eight left-handed batters though sadly.  This also gives me an excuse to show this video again.  HE BROKE A SCOREBOARD.

Jason Heyward: Alright a bit of a homer pick.  Pun intended.  Heyward showed that he has the potential to be a 35-homer player in 2012 when he blasted 27 yicketties.  If the power continues to develop, he’ll be 25 for the 2015 All-Star Game and quite possibly could be the best right fielder in the game at that point.  Also helps that, you guessed it, he’s left-handed!

Other potential derby participants: Ike Davis, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Anthony Rizzo

American League:

Captain Prince Fielder: I went back and forth on who potentially would be the captain for the American League.  I settled on Fielder, who I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a couple years off after winning the derby in 2012.  He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a two-time champion, and he’s left handed.  He’s going to want to eventually match Ken Griffey Jr. with three derby titles and I think he might wait til Cincinnati to do it.  Plus, he has experience hitting it in the water.


Adam Dunn: Hear me out on this one!  A) He’s left handed B) He’s never participated in a Home Run Derby C) It’d be nice for him to have his first one in Cincinnati where he used to play.  He’ll still only be 35 at that point.  If he was ever going to give it a go, I think the lure of doing it in the Queen City would be enough for him.  Especially with the Ohio River calling his name.

Yoenis Céspedes: If Céspedes was left-handed he’d be a dream for this future derby.  However, he will still be a great option.  He’ll be in the heart of his prime at 29 years old.  If he stays healthy, he’ll be a potential All-Star for Oakland.  We all know he has some major power too.  Especially after seeing this.

Wil Myers: The game isn’t until 2015!  I have to have one player that hasn’t even played in the Majors yet to speculate on, right?  I’m going to go with Tampa Bay’s future star in Wil Myers.  Myers has the best power potential of any prospect right now.  I’m deeply saddened though that I’ve now put three righties on the American League side.  Maybe Robinson Cano won’t be broken up and come back to try the derby again?

Other potential derby participants: Mark Trumbo, Robinson Cano, Dayan Viciedo, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer

Who would you want to see take aim at the Ohio River in the 2015 Home Run Derby?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Rate that Roster! USA World Baseball Classic Edition

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.

Catcher

WBC catchers

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+

First Base

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-

Second Base

WBC 2B

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+

Shortstop

WBC SS

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

Third Base

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-

Outfield

WBC OF

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

Starting Pitching

WBC SP

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-

Left-Handed Relievers

WBC LHP

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+

Right-Handed Relievers

WBC RHP

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)

Ranking the World Baseball Classic Rosters

World-Baseball-Classic-2013In 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**

Brazil hat wbc

#16: BRAZIL

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.”  

china wbc cap

#15: CHINA

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.

Spain wbc cap

#14: SPAIN

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).

italy wbc cap

#13: ITALY

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.

kingdom of netherlands wbc cap

#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**

south korea wbc cap

#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.

Australia-WBC-hat

#10: AUSTRALIA

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.

canada wbc cap

#9: CANADA

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.

taipei wbc cap

#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**

puerto rico wbc cap

#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.

mexico 2013 wbc cap

#6: MEXICO

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.

cuba wbc cap

#5: CUBA

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.

**The Favorites**

japan wbc hat

#4: JAPAN

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.

dominican republic wbc hat

#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?

USA wbc hat

#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 USAHow they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.

venezuela wbc cap

#1: VENEZUELA

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.

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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)