Time to finish up the American League with the American League East where the Red Sox finally bring back bobblehead giveaways in 2014. While you’re here check out the AL Central and AL West bobblehead battles. As a reminder, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness. Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.
Boston Red Sox (all fans in attendance)
Monday, April 7th, David Ortiz: You couldn’t ask for a better Red Sox player to start the bobblehead giveaways with. This would’ve been a perfect ***** if it had been of Ortiz raising his fist telling Boston to stay strong. Red Sox are going to rate highly giving these away to every fan. ****
Wednesday, April 30th, Dustin Pedroia: And if you were going to pick a 2nd player on the current Red Sox to immortalize on a bobblehead, it would be former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia. Better have real dirt stains! ***1/2
Tuesday, September 9th, Pedro Martinez: Come on Red Sox! No bobbling goodness in May, June, July, or August? For shame! You get some redemption with the best pitcher in Red Sox history and the man who asks “Who is Karim Garcia?” ***1/2
Total: 11 stars
New York Yankees (18,000 fans)
Thursday, June 19th, Mark Teixeira: Yankees bobbleheads in 2013 were a murderer’s row (unfortunately not the actual Murderer’s Row) with Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Yogi Berra, and Mariano Rivera. This years crop? Not so much, starting off with the oft-injured Yankees first baseman. **
Wednesday, July 2nd, Lou Gehrig: I love this bobblehead and is by far the best one in the Yankees crop. It celebrates the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, it’s a must have, especially if you can get the Twins one to pair with it. ****1/2
Sunday, July 27th, Paul O’Neill: A solid Yankees player that has found a home in the YES broadcasts with the team, so he’ll be in attendance for this one. Don’t think there will be as much excitement for this one than Matsui last year. ** 1/2
Wednesday, August 20th, Joe Girardi: Has Yankees World Series rings as a player and as a manager and is worthy of a bobblehead, but I can’t get too excited for it. **
Total: 11 stars
Tampa Bay Rays (20,000 fans)
Saturday, April 5th, Wil Myers Rookie of the Year: I just like the way that this bobblehead looks. Props to the AL East for having larger giveaway numbers. ***
Friday, May 23rd, Alex Cobb Military Themed: I’m interested to see how this one ends up looking, but it sounds pretty solid. For now, though. ** 1/2
Saturday, September 6th, Evan Longoria 80’s Hair Band: Another Rays bobblehead that I need to see to believe. I want to have faith that this is going to be spectacular though. *** 1/2
Total: 9 stars
Toronto Blue Jays (20,000 fans)
Sunday, April 27th, R.A. Dickey: This Dickey bobblehead would’ve meant more if he had repeated his 2012 performance north of the border, but it’s a good effort and he deserves it. ** 1/2
Sunday, June 8th, Jose Reyes: I can basically say the same thing for Reyes that I said for Dickey, right? ** 1/2
Sunday, August 24th, Mark Buerhle: Let the 2013 Blue Jays disappointment bobblehead train continue! **
Total: 8 stars
Baltimore Orioles (Promotion schedule not posted as of 3/7)
What do you think is the best bobblehead collection in the AL East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is 83 days away, but never fear you can start voting for your favorite players today here. You get 25 votes that gets bumped up to 35 if you log in with your MLB.com account. Of course there are still paper ballots that can be found at every stadium and the MLB Fan Cave for you to fill out. While I don’t fill out mine until I get a better grasp of who deserves it (like that ends up mattering) here’s what my ballot would look like on April 24th.
American League: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles Davis is off to a hot start for Baltimore. He’s hitting .382 with an AL-leading 7 home runs coming into the games on the 24th. Mike Napoli and Prince Fielder have cases and Napoli would be my pick if he was on the ballot at catcher, not first base. (Runner-up: Prince Fielder, Tigers)
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds The power numbers aren’t there, but Votto-matic is automatic at getting on base leading the league with 26 walks so far and a crazy .485 OBP. The next highest walk total is 16 by David Wright. (Runner-up Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers)
American League: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees I can make a case that Robinson Cano is the MVP of the American League right now. Then you can make the case that it’s April 24th and that’s stupid. (Runner-up Ian Kinsler, Rangers)
National League: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds It must be nice for Phillips to just get to drive in OBP-machines Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo getting on base ahead of him all the time. He leads NL second baseman in RBI and is tied for the lead in home runs. Plus, he’s the best defender at the position in the league. (Runner-up Daniel Murphy, Mets)
American League: Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics Lowrie has been quite a coup for Billy Beane’s boys. Lowrie leads AL shortstops in runs, RBI, and batting average. (Runner-up: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays, I’m not joking either)
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies Why have the Rockies been surprising in 2013? A healthy and hitting Troy Tulowitzki is a big part of it. He leads NL shortstops in home runs, RBI, and runs, while hitting .292. (Runner-up: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers)
American League: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers The defending AL MVP is off to a quiet start, but is still among the league leaders in hits and is best among AL third sackers in batting average. (Runner-up: Evan Longoria, Rays)
National League: David Wright, New York Mets I really wanted to have NL batting leader Chris Johnson here, but Wright has had the overall better start to the season, especially on the basepaths. There’s a lot of depth here right now with Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, and Martin Prado off to solid starts. (Runner-up: Chris Johnson)
American League: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays Napoli not being on the ballot at catcher is Arencibia’s gain for now. He leads the American League in home runs with eight after another one on Wednesday. He’s my least likely from here to be on my actual ballot in a couple months. (Runner-up: Carlos Santana, Indians)
National League: John Buck, New York Mets Let’s just sum up Buck’s start with this meme. (Runner-up: Evan Gattis, Braves, wait he’s not on the ballot?!?)
American League: Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, and Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles These three have been the best all-around outfielders in the American League this season. It’s not my fault that they’re all center fielders. (Runners-up: Austin Jackson, Tigers and Alex Rios, White Sox)
National League: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, and Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals There is a ton of depth at National League outfield right now. You could take the next four on my list and make a case they deserve it on to the squad. Justin Upton has been hands-down the best hitter in the game so far this season, it’s ridiculous that he’s still on pace for 90+ home runs. (Runners-up: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, Dexter Fowler, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, and Andrew McCutchen, Pirates)
American League: Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians Reynolds has been a great find for Cleveland with seven home runs and 18 RBI, both are top ten in MLB right now. (Runner-up: Travis Hafner, New York Yankees)
Who would you have on your All-Star ballot on release day? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much. Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors? Let’s take a look!
Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles
Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation. James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings. The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria. If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape. I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.
Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East: The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready. Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012. Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic. Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step. Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble. The Blue Jays really are that good.
Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team. The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow. It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though. Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season. The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.
Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East: It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds. Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year. The bullpen still has a ton of question marks. Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team? Is Sergio Santos completely healthy? Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old? The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those. Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one. Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?
Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East: First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone. John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse. Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012. The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy. Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention. Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”. Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively. The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch. Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half. Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010. John Lackey is John Lackey. The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.
Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East: They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out. They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs. The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half. The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps). The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division. Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.
Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The injury bug is just too much. The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break. They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.
Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck. The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season. Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year. Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace. Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.
Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games. The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year. Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division. With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.
Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays
Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox
David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays
CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees
Jon Lester-Red Sox
R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays
Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays
Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox
Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
After a big scare, USA advanced to the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic! Joining the Americans will be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy. Yes, Italy. Forza Italia! Jeremy and Mapes are back with their picks for “Round Two Pool Two” for World Baseball Classic Fantasy. Mapes took the Pool C/D 1st round draft 124-121 over Jeremy (despite Brett Lawrie’s injury), but Jeremy has a sizable lead in “Round Two Pool One”, with just Netherlands vs. Japan left. Remember, for this draft we must have at least two players from each team and no more than four from any country. Mapes picked first last time, so Jeremy will have the 1st pick in this round of drafting!
Countries to pick from: USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP
Hitter scoring: Single: 1, Double: 2, Triple: 3, Home run: 4, Run scored: 1, RBI: 1, Stolen base: 1
Pitcher scoring: Out recorded: 1, Hit or walk allowed: -1, Run allowed: -2, Strikeout: 1, Win: 10, Loss: -5, Save: 5
Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)
I learned my lesson in round one. NEVER BET AGAINST ROBBIE CANO! That being said, I knew I had to take the Dominican slugger (and arguably the MVP of the entire tournament so far) first overall. Sorry, Mapes!
Pick #2- Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)
NOOOOOOO!!!! Cano was going to be my top pick. I’m going to go back to the well with Ryan Braun and hope that he can snap out of his little funk he had in round one. He typically doesn’t hit well at Chase Field, so I hope that’s all it was.
My starting pitcher plan was to grab who is facing Italy, but I don’t know who actually is. I’m going to go with Gio, who is rested and ready to go. He’s pitching in his hometown of Miami and has more pitches to work with. I think he can get a win against Puerto Rico.
Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)
Redemption! It’s so, so sweet. After suffering through round one with Carlos Santana (just kidding, he wasn’t that bad), I knew I had to take my boy Yadi with this pick. His bat’s starting to heat up, and that’s bad news for opposing pitchers.
Pick #5- Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)
You took one half of the Dominican dominance up the middle, so I can’t let you have the other. Reyes was great in game one, but fell off a little in the other two games. However, he’s the clear top shortstop in this pool and I’m happy to have him.
Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: David Wright, 3B (USA)
I should have known to take Wright last time, given his history in the WBC. There has been no player more clutch than Wright in the Classic over the years, and I’m betting on him coming up big again in round two.
Pick #7- Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)
Keeping with my theme from the last draft involving Italy, I want to make sure I get the best player on that team. That is clearly Anthony Rizzo hitting in the middle of the lineup and the crop of 1st baseman isn’t very strong in this pool.
Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Samuel Deduno, SP (Dominican Republic)
I’m taking a big risk this high, but Deduno was masterful in his first start. I’d prefer that he end up pitching against Team Italy, but I’m pretty comfortable with this guy’s electric stuff on the mound at any point in round two.
Pick #9- Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)
I needed to grab someone from Puerto Rico and I have a hard time rooting for Carlos Beltran for some strange reason. *cough Mets* *cough Cardinals* I’ll take Pagan who hit a team-best .455 in round one from the lead-off spot.
Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Craig Kimbrel, RP (USA)
I’m just glad Kimbrel’s around this late. You love your Braves, but I have to nab the guy right here and make sure I have the most dominant closer in the world right now on my squad. If the USA plays a close game (it will), guess who’s getting me at least five points?
Pick #11- Team Mapes: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)
You had to go and take my Braves guy, I see how it is. I can’t let the other closers fall now, so I’m going to get Fernando Rodney who pitched in all three games for the Dominicans. I think they’re going to win a couple games, so there will be save chances for the man with the crooked hat.
Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Xavier Cedeno, RP (Puerto Rico)
Good move grabbing Rodney. He’ll score you some points. I can only hope that Cedeno does the same for me with Team Puerto Rico. He was the best reliever on the team in round one, but it’s still unclear to me if he’s the actual “closer.”
Pick #13- Team Mapes: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)
I really thought about taking Cedeno because I needed another player from Puerto Rico, good pick Jeremy. I have no clue who Dickey will face, but I hope with some more time under his belt the knuckler will be dancing against whomever he pitches against in round two.
Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)
You passed on Beltran, but I refuse to make the same mistake. Not only is Beltran dominant in the MLB postseason, but he has solid numbers across his WBC career. Puerto Rico’s captain clutch should rack up some points for me this round.
Pick #15- Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Good! You can have Beltran! I wanted to grab the best player on the board for my utility spot and I believe that is the man they call “E5” he hits in the middle of a strong Dominican lineup and I think he’ll put one out of the park this round.
Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Chris Denorfia, OF (Italy)
One of the reasons I wasn’t worried about you snagging Rizzo early was that I knew you wouldn’t go after Denorfia. Even though his hot start fizzled a little at the end, he’s hitting in front of Rizzo and has good contact and base running abilities. Give me some sneaky points, Chris!
Pick #17- Team Mapes: Alex Liddi, 3B (Italy)
Time to grab another Italian! You wouldn’t let me pick him off the waiver wire when Brett Lawrie went down with a rib injury, so I’m making sure I get him now!
Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Alejandro De Aza, OF (Dominican Republic)
One of the players I was most impressed with in round one was De Aza, who looks more and more like a sleeper pick in normal fantasy leagues this year. He’s getting on base, scoring runs and swiping bags. Expect more of the same this round.
Pick #19- Team Mapes: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)
Well, since you took my planned second baseman in Cano, I’ll settle for Nick Punto who was a spark on the top of the Italian lineup. Then hope that it’s Rizzo and Liddi who are knocking him in!
Pick #20 – Team Jeremy: Eric Hosmer, 1B (USA)
Yes, please! Not only do I think Hosmer is a bounce-back candidate in the regular season, but his first two at-bats proved that he’s swinging it on the money right now. The bases-clearing double in the ninth to seal the game was all I needed to confirm this choice.
Pick #21- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, C (USA)
I need a catcher. Joe Mauer is a catcher. He hits in the middle of the USA lineup. Perfect.
Pick #22 – Team Jeremy: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)
I hate having a Giant on my team, but it paid off last round with Pablo Sandoval and Pagan. I think Vogelsong will get the start against Italy (though if it’s Dominica I may be screwed), and I think he will dominate them.
I probably should’ve taken my boy Giancarlo Stanton returning to Marlins Park, but man his zero points in round one scared me off. I’m going with Alex Rios who has some speed, some power, and I’ll hopefully get three games out of him.
Pick #24 – Team Jeremy: Anthony Granato, SS (Italy)
I just realized that neither of us has Stanton. In his home ballpark. Due for a couple dingers. DANG IT! I’ll move on and collect Granato, the Italian shortstop who put up very good numbers in round one.
Well I’m in a little bit of a pickle for my second reliever. I don’t think Italy wins a game, so that rules out Grilli getting a save. I’m going to the surprise from Team USA in round one in Ross Detwiler. If he comes out as the long reliever, I just hope he’ll rack up some outs and points that way.
Pick #26 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, 3B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Smart man, Mapes. Detwiler seems like more of a point-getter to me than Grilli will be. Nice rhyme, huh? Even though Ramirez had one hit in the first round (a monster HR), he’s swinging a hot bat and I think he drops at least one more bomb in round two.
Pool two, round two WBC fantasy draft is in the books! Did we make a mistake not taking Giancarlo Stanton in his home park? Should we have really picked all three American starters? Who would you want on your WBC fantasy squad this round? Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet using #WBCFantasy with the links below!
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)
3U3D alluded to the Marlins fire sale possibilities on July 23rd, then again on July 25th, but it wasn’t really there yet. They had kept everyone they signed in the offseason on the team…so far. Then a little fuel was added to the fire sale with Heath Bell being sent to the Diamondbacks on October 20th. Tonight, the hot stove and fire sale was set ablaze with a blockbuster deal that ends an era in Miami before it even begins and put the Blue Jays in the thick of the AL East, making it officially the toughest division in baseball. Let’s take a look at the trade that’s going down.
The Blue Jays receive: SS Jose Reyes, LHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, do-it-all player Emilio Bonifacio, and C John Buck
The Marlins receive: SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, and prospects Adeiny Hechevarria, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Desclafani, and Justin Nicolino
The first thought that comes to mind is wow. Look at all of that talent that is heading north of the border. The Blue Jays have decided to take on a ton of money (up to $165 million) in order to try and compete in the A.L. East. The speed throughout the order with Reyes, Bonifacio, and Rajai Davis will be the best in the American League. Buehrle and Johnson instantly become the best pitchers in Toronto and can provided veteran leadership for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. Romero will need it after the 2nd half he had in 2012. The Blue Jays also shed Escobar who needed a fresh start after the unfortunate, gay slur incident. I do find it interesting that the Jays brought in John Buck in the deal. The Jays have J.P. Arencibia behind the plate starting and top prospect Travis d’Arnaud looking for his opportunity in AAA. It almost makes me believe that one of those three could get moved in another move to get more pitching help. Pure speculation though.
What do the Marlins get out of this? Well obviously more PR woes and grief that they may have fleeced the city into a new stadium, while not providing a competitive team. Not to mention the continued outcry for owner Jeffrey Loria to sell the team. Miami basically stole the Red Sox reset button and brought it to little Havana. They’ve undone everything that they did in the offseason and then some. Escobar is a good, but not great player. Alvarez showed some promise in 2011, but took a step back last season. He’s still young (turns 23 early in the 2013 season) and more importantly to the Marlins, affordable. We’ve seen pitchers turn it around in the N.L. maybe Henderson Alvarez is next. Of the prospects, Marisnick is the most intriguing. He’s ranked as the #32 best prospect in MLB by ESPN’s Keith Law. Nicolino was the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Jays system. Hechevarria could replace Escobar at shortstop in the near future and was ranked by MLB.com as the 7th best prospect for Toronto.
What does Miami do next? There are rumors that Giancarlo Stanton could be next on the block, with Stanton even saying on Twitter that he was pissed off at the situation. Fans for every team are already comtemplating trades to get the slugger on their team. Time will tell if the fire sale rages on in Miami.
-Bryan Mapes ( @IAmMapes)
Three (in some cases four) finalists at each position in each league for the Gold Glove awards were announced today. The award, which recognizes the best defensive player at each position in each league, is voted on by managers and up to six coaches on their staffs.
Managers and coaches can not vote for someone on their own team. We’ve seen over the years that some deserving players get recognized (Yadier Molina has won four straight at NL catcher), some get snubbed (Mark Ellis and his career .991 fielding percentage has never won), and some only win because of their name.
Yes, even managers and coaches get caught up in player celebrity for things like this. Anyway, the final results will be announced tomorrow night on ESPN2, but we’re here today to tell you who should win each Gold Glove.
Finalists – Alex Avila (Tigers), Russell Martin (Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox), Matt Wieters (Orioles)
These were the only four A.L. catchers to start at least 100 games. Martin, Pierzynski and Avila all had a .994 fielding percentage, while Wieters sat at .991. While Wieters had the most errors of the group, he also had the best caught stealing percentage. For me, those nearly cancel out – I’m giving the award to Avila, who had the most consistent stats across the board.
Finalists – Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
It’s not even close. Again, Molina has blown away the competition and perfected the art of catching. Ruiz and Montero both had good seasons behind the dish, but one could argue that there were more worthy candidates to lose to Molina. In 133 games started, Molina made 3 errors (.997 fielding percentage) and threw out nearly 50 percent of attempted base stealers (35 out of 73). Need I say more?
A.L. First Base:
Finalists – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox/Dodgers), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
I’m not sure what Hosmer is doing as a finalist, since he had the second lowest fielding percentage for qualifying first basemen in the American League. Gonzalez and Teixeira both have a reputation for being smooth fielders, and proved so again this season. I give the edge to the Yankee first baseman because he made one less error in many more chances. And now we’ve avoided the awkwardness of giving a Dodger an American League Gold Glove.
N.L. First Base:
Finalists – Freddie Freeman (Braves), Adam LaRoche (Nationals), Joey Votto (Reds)
The Nationals most consistent player isn’t just a home run hitter. The guy can play a mean first base, and proved it this year. You’d never guess who the best defensive statistics among first base qualifiers belonged to in 2012 (Spoiler: It’s Carlos Lee…WHAT?), but LaRoche was right there with him. He edges Votto because LaRoche played in more games and had a slightly better fielding percentage.
A.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
I’m not sure why Ackley got the nod over the likes of Gordon Beckham or Jason Kipnis, but none of them would compete with Cano and Pedroia here anyway. They tied for the best fielding percentage in the league at .992, and though Pedroia turned more double plays, Cano has the better range. Both are good for one highlight play a night, but I think the vote will go to the Yankees star.
N.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Darwin Barney (Cubs), Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), Brandon Phillips (Reds)
All three of these guys certainly deserve to be here, but even if Mark Ellis had played a full, healthy season for the Dodgers he would have been snubbed. Sigh. Though Hill and Phillips and their .992 fielding percentages are very impressive, you can’t discount Barney’s ridiculous errorless streak in Chicago. Any other year, Phillips defends his title.
A.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Brandon Inge (Tigers/A’s), Mike Moustakas (Royals)
Brandon Inge didn’t even qualify at third base, technically. While that doesn’t mean he can’t be voted for, it’s a strange selection. How about the third best fielding percentage in the league for Miguel Cabrera? Give him the spot as a finalist. Alas, it wouldn’t matter. Moustakas has a lot of Gold Gloves in his future, but he might have to wait for Beltre and his league-leading 8 errors to retire.
N.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Chase Headley (Padres), Aramis Ramirez (Brewers), David Wright (Mets)
This is the closest race so far, as all three of these guys are grouped tightly way ahead of the rest of the pack at their position. Ramirez had a .977 fielding percentage, Headley had a .976, and Wright had a .974 this year…so how do you choose? Even though Ramirez had the best percentage, Headley had 125 more chances and only made 3 more errors, plus his range factor was the best in the league.
Finalists – Elvis Andrus (Rangers), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Brendan Ryan (Mariners)
Look, all three of these guys are good shortstops, but it’s inexplicable that Jhonny Peralta was left off this. He only made 7 errors all season! Andrus had a worse fielding percentage than Derek Jeter, so he’s out right off the bat. Ryan is one of the most exciting shortstops in baseball and can grow a great mustache. Sorry Seattle fans, that’s not enough – Hardy and his league-leading 6 errors take the cake here.
Finalists – Zack Cozart (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jose Reyes (Marlins), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)
It’s really a three-horse race between Cozart, Reyes and Rollins (the Mets’ Ruben Tejada should have had Desmond’s spot), and I’m giving it to the wily vet in Philadelphia for having the most impressive all-around defensive numbers at the position. Cozart is definitely a future winner though. As for anyone calling for Brandon Crawford? Yes, he had a great postseason defensively, but also had the second-most errors and third-worst fielding percentage in the league.
A.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Alex Gordon (Royals), Desmond Jennings (Rays), David Murphy (Rangers)
Let me explain myself – major props to Jennings (0 errors this year) and Murphy (1 error), but Gordon and his 2 errors are going to win his second consecutive Gold Glove. Yes, you have to be able to catch the ball and all three players do that supremely well. But you need to have an arm too, and Gordon blew away the competition with 17 outfield assists in 2012.
N.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Ryan Braun (Brewers), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Martin Prado (Braves)
This is definitely the most messed up voting by the managers and coaches so far, as these three were the bottom three performers among qualifiers at their position. Surprisingly enough, the two strongest candidates were Jason Kubel and Alfonso Soriano. Prado gets the edge for making half as many errors as Braun and having the most outfield assists of the three.
A.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Austin Jackson (Tigers), Adam Jones (Orioles), Mike Trout (Angels)
It should be Jackson, but will be Trout. Jackson had better numbers across the board defensively, though not by much. Trout only had 2 outfield assists, but made just 2 errors (Jackson had 1) and robbed at least four home runs. Surprisingly, Jones was one of the worst statistical center fielders, even though he’s extremely athletic out there. Again, it should be Jackson’s Gold Glove, but no way Trout won’t add this to his trophy case.
N.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Michael Bourn (Braves), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Drew Stubbs (Reds)
Angel Pagan, Carlos Gomez and Cameron Maybin all have stronger cases for this award than Stubbs, but for some reason managers and coaches LOVE the Reds’ defense (MLB-best 6 finalists). Neither Bourn nor McCutchen had many outfield assists, but both were stellar defensively. Even though the award should probably go to Jon Jay of St. Louis, it’ll be McCutchen edging out Bourn because of one less error.
A.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), Josh Reddick (A’s)
Reddick was a revelation in all facets of the game, making some of the most eye-popping plays of the year for the A’s in 2012, but 5 errors will outweigh his high range factor and 14 assists. It’s especially difficult to compete with Francoeur, who had less errors and a league-leading 19 assists. Choo had a great fielding percentage, but didn’t throw enough guys out to compete. That means the Royals’ corner outfielders threw out 36 guys on the base paths combined this year. Wow.
N.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Jay Bruce (Reds), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Jason Heyward (Braves)
Etheir won his Gold Glove in 2011 because he didn’t make an error all season and had a lot of outfield assists. His numbers declined a bit in 2012, but he was still worthy of a final spot. Bruce on the other hand? That spot should have definitely gone to Justin Upton or Carlos Beltran. Even tho Ethier had less errors and a slightly better fielding percentage than Heyward, you have to give J-Hey the Gold Glove for his 11 outfield assists this year, which was tops in the league.
Finalists – Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Jake Peavy (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels)
Ah, the most random and pointless Gold Glove award. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for pitchers to field their positions cleanly, but if we are talking about numbers, there is about a 37-way tie in each league. Technically, the most impressive line goes to Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees, but his name doesn’t appear. Among the three finalists, Peavy had the least errors and most double plays turned.
Finalists – Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Mark Buehrle (Marlins), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
All three of these guys are widely known for fielding their positions well, and while I’d love to give my boy Kershaw some love, I’ll let him keep his 2011 Cy Young Award and 2012 Roberto Clemente Award to themselves. All 3 guys made 0 errors this year, but Buehrle dominated in range factor and turned the most double plays. And making this play in 2010 earned him free Gold Gloves for the rest of his life. Geez, still the coolest play ever!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)