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)
The NL MVP race is possibly the most wide-open of all the awards with three or four players that have a case to be tops in the National League. Here’s how we filled out our ballots at 3U3D:
Here are our thoughts on NL MVP:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): Numbers four through 10 don’t really matter all that much; this is a three-horse race. Even though the Pirates and Brewers both fell short in their postseason quests, you can’t discount the seasons each team’s star player had. But to out-gallop Posey, who has been the catalyst behind the Giants’ runaway division title, is much too difficult. That being said, I like Posey to take this award, as his team ran away with the NL West, and the rest of the field barely snuck into the playoffs or missed altogether. If the Brewers had made the postseason, Braun would have won. If the Pirates had even managed a slightly better August and September, I’d give it to McCutchen. But as it stands now, there is no more important player to one single team than Posey.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Buster Posey had the best 2nd half of any player in the majors and led the Giants to an NL West championship. Buster’s post-all-star numbers (.389/.462/.644) propelled him to an NL batting title (.336). Posey becomes the 2nd catcher in 70 years to win a batting title (Joe Mauer) and the first NL catcher in 100 years to win the on-base percentage stat.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Ryan Braun proved this season that he may actually have been telling the truth about his alleged steroid use. His power numbers are better this year: Home Runs 41 to 33, RBI 112 to 111, and he did this without Prince Fielder being in the lineup. Buster Posey has been a stable force behind the plate and at it. He lead his pitching staff to the fifth best ERA in the NL. He played in 147 games hitting .337 with 24 home runs. McCutchen was almost able to lead the Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years. He set career highs in batting average (.327), Home Runs (31), and RBI (96). Was there a bigger surprise this season other than R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer beasted up this season finishing with 20 wins for the New York Mets while having a 2.73 ERA. He set career highs in almost every statistical category. Not bad for a 37 year old.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Looking at the NL MVP selection, people may still be hung up on this summer’s PED scandal, but Ryan Braun has been tearing the cover off of the ball. He leads the league in HRs, total bases, slugging, and OPS. He is in the Top 5 in runs, hits, OBP, and average, while being 9th in steals. Only he and Mike Trout have a 30/30 season and has only the 11th 40/30 season in Major League history. It’s no question: Ryan Braun is the NL MVP.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Andrew McCutchen was atop my rankings for the previous three months and I thought that if he got the Pirates to the playoffs he was a lock. If the Pirates finished above .500, he was going to have a good chance. Instead, the Pirates fell below the .500 mark again and I seriously debated dropping him to 4th, but his overall offensive numbers (1st in offensive WAR) saved him. This opened the door for Buster Posey and Ryan Braun to have a tight 1-2 battle for me. Braun’s raw numbers are better and is the better power-speed combo, but Posey led the NL in OPS+ which takes into account park factor and opponent that was the difference to me. I was surprised to see Braves Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel only on my ballot as Bourn provided a spark atop the Atlanta lineup and Kimbrel had arguably the most dominant season by a closer striking out more than half the batters he faced. I wish I had room for Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Martin Prado. Prado did anything and everything for the Braves this year. I’m also sad that I had no room for one of my favorites Giancarlo Stanton, if he was healthy the whole season, things might have been different for Miami.
Congrats to Giants Buster Posey on winning the 3U3D NL MVP!
Who’s on your NL MVP ballot? Let us know in the comments or if you want to debate our ballot, hit us up on Twitter!
July is in the books with Mike Trout of the Angels and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates taking home player of the month honors. Was it enough though to stay atop my MVP rankings? Let’s find out. Keeping with the Olympics theme as a protest to baseball and softball still not being included. All statistics are through play of August 1st.
National League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds
Update: Our sources tell us Lance Lynn, though not reaching the minimum innings total in 2011, was on the active roster for more than 45 days and is therefore NOT eligible as a rookie in 2012, awkward because MLB had him on the “Top Rookies Tracker” for a while.
Lucky for Reds fans, that means Todd Frazier gets the nod as the bronze medalist for NL Rookie of the Year. A first time appearance on the medal stand is largely due to his .275 average, 13 homers and 40 RBI this season. Frazier has basically rendered Scott Rolen useless for the Reds, especially in July when Frazier hit over .300 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. Besides, how can we not include a guy who hits home runs by throwing his bat at the ball?
Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals
I was THIS close to dropping Harper to the bronze for this month. Harper quite frankly looked like a 19 year-old this past month hitting just .222 in July with one home run and seven RBI in 99 at-bats. I’m giving Harper some credit for the intangibles that he brings to Washington and helping keep them in first in the N.L. East. Most pundits will have Harper winning Rookie of the Year, but at this moment I don’t think it’s the case. Harper is closer to dropping down than overtaking my leader. Take a close look at the numbers and you could even say Reds Todd Frazier has been a better rookie hitter than The Chosen One. It’s a great 19 year-old season, just not the best rookie season in the N.L. right now.
Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
Where would the Diamondbacks be without Wade Miley? He’s just been so consistently good. Lance Lynn has had better months, but Miley hasn’t gotten blown up at all like Lynn has. July was just another ho-hum month for Miley going 3-2 with a 3.31 and 1.13 WHIP. Miley is 12-6 on the year and 2nd among NL rookies in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, plus 1st among N.L. rookies in WHIP. Miley is the real deal.
Just off the Podium: Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Michael Fiers, Brewers, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
American League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins
Blind resume time! Player A: 11-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 ratio, and 2.07 K/BB ratio. Player B: 9-5 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, and 3.93 K/BB ratio. You’d rather have player B right now, right? Congrats, you just picked Scott Diamond over Rangers Yu Darvish, welcome to the club. We have a meeting every 5th day when he makes a start.
Silver Medal: Yoenis Céspedes, Athletics
A new addition to the rankings. I had been hesitant to add him due to his injury early in the season and players being ahead of him still. Since returning on June 1st, Céspedes is hitting .347, with 9 homers, a .391 OBP, and a .984 OPS. The Athletics are 29-15 over that span and are the biggest surprise in the American League in playoff contention. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in home runs, slugging, OPS, batting average, and runs scored. The only problem? Céspedes is 2nd in all those statistics to this next player.
Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
All of those numbers that I said Céspedes is 2nd in among A.L. rookies, Mike Trout is first in and it’s not even close. Tack on leading not just A.L. rookies, but the entire American League in stolen bases as well and we can move on to the next award. We’re going to Trout again in this blog I promise you.
Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Tyson Ross, Athletics (not really on Ross, but you get the picture), Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Addison Reed, White Sox, Matt Moore, Rays, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers
National League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
If you thought the A.L. rookies was deep just now, wait until you see the National League pitching pool. For as amazing as R.A. Dickey was in June, he was that bad in July with a 5.13 ERA. That’s the life of a knuckleballer. Dickey goes from 1st to “just off the podium” and we welcome Jordan Zimmermann to the top three. When you think Nationals pitching you think Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but it’s Zimmermann that’s been the best of the three so far. His 8-6 record doesn’t reflect it, but he’s 2nd in the N.L. in ERA (I’m excluding Ryan Dempster), 5th in WHIP, 2nd in WAR and has shown great control in 4th in BB/9 and 9th in K/BB ratio. You’re more than welcome to make the case for Strasburg and it’s a great one, but Zimmermann deserves this spot.
Silver Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds
Cueto takes another step up the podium in his pursuit of becoming the first Reds pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Cueto leads the National League in pitcher WAR and is tied for the league lead in wins. He’s great at all times, but he’s a spectacular 9-0 in day games for the Reds. What’s the most impressive statistic on Cueto this season though? He is tops in the National League in home runs allowed per 9 innings at just 0.32. That’s incredible considering he pitches his home games in one of the easiest parks to hit a bomb.
Gold Medal: Matt Cain, Giants
Cueto moved up a spot, so I might as well move Matt Cain up another rung. Cain didn’t have the greatest July, but it was good enough to keep his overall numbers looking spectacular. He leads the league in WHIP at 1.00, 4th in ERA, 2nd in innings pitched, 1st in shutouts, and 7th in strikeouts. Cain becomes the 4th different pitcher in four months to be at the summit of my N.L. Cy Young rankings. With how wide open this race is, we could see a 5th at the start of September.
Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Cole Hamels, Phillies, and A.J. Burnett, Pirates (Yes, that A.J. Burnett)
American League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox
Remember on MTV’s “Total Request Live” when the band Korn was always 3rd behind the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC? Alright you probably don’t, but like how #3 was the Korn spot, in these rankings #3 is the Sale spot. He’s there for the 3rd straight month. The young White Sox ace is 2nd in the American League in ERA and pitching WAR, 3rd in wins, WHIP and HR/9 ratio. It’s just not enough to get above the next two pitchers, one who has better numbers in a similar amount of innings and a pitcher with slightly worse numbers, but has tossed an extra 36 innings.
Co-Gold Medals: Jered Weaver, Angels and Justin Verlander, Tigers
Am I copping out this month? You bet I am. Last month, I said that the difference between the two pitchers was razor thin, but I gave the edge to Verlander because of the extra innings he’s thrown. Weaver answered by going 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in July. Verlander was “only” 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP last month. Overall numbers are pretty close too. Weaver leads in wins, ERA, and WHIP. Verlander leads in WAR, innings pitched, and complete games. Verlander also is 2nd in strikeouts by just one to Felix Hernandez and has great peripherals. Give me another month and we’ll discuss again.
Just off the Podium: David Price, Rays, Jake Peavy, White Sox, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Matt Harrison, Rangers
National League MVP
Bronze Medal: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
No player made a bigger jump in the rankings for any award this month than Holliday. He went from not even “just off the podium” to bronze medal position. Holliday hit .363 with 7 home runs, 22 RBI and an eye-popping 1.130 OPS in July. The best hitter in the Cardinals lineup is now 1st in RBI, 3rd in offensive WAR and runs, 4th in OBP and 6th in batting average, slugging, and OPS and 5th in HR. He’s kept St. Louis alive in the wild card race.
Silver Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Blind resume part two time! Player A hit .332 with a .397 OBP, .597 slugging, .994 OPS, 33 home runs, 109 runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Player B hit .313, with a .398 OBP, .604 slugging, 1.002 OPS, 45 home runs, 112 runs, 114 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. You’d lean towards player B again I think. Player A is Ryan Braun in his MVP season of 2011. Player B is Ryan Braun current projection for this season and is leading the league in runs and home runs. I know the Brewers aren’t in playoff contention like last season, but Braun isn’t the reason why. He’s been remarkable with the distractions of the offseason and no Prince Fielder protection in the lineup. Braun’s numbers are better this season, but he’s denied by one player who’s been even better.
Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
McCutchen had grabbed the gold medal in my N.L. MVP rankings last month and was even better in July. McCutchen his .446 with a crazy 1.249 OPS in taking home N.L. Player of the Month honors. McCutchen leads the league in offensive WAR, batting average (.372), slugging, total bases, and runs scored. He’s 3rd in home runs and chips in another 14 stolen bases. He’s the most complete hitter in the National League at this moment. Plus, having the Pirates in contention for the playoffs makes him the N.L. MVP hands down.
Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Joey Votto, Reds, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Buster Posey, Giants, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks
American League MVP
Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees
Remember when Josh Hamilton was “running away” with the A.L. MVP and was a threat for the triple crown. Hamilton’s terrible June and atrocious July have officially knocked him from my top three. Cano has been the best hitter on the best team. He’s tied for 3rd in offensive WAR, tied for 5th in runs scored, 7th in slugging and OPS, and 9th in batting average and home runs. Add in his usual gold glove defense and Cano’s a contender for his 1st MVP.
Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
I think it’s kind of funny that I have the guy Prince Fielder left and the guy Prince Fielder joined both at runner-up for MVP right now. Moving to 3rd base wasn’t a distraction at the plate as Cabrera has been his usual, fantastic self hitting .323, good for 2nd in the A.L. El Miggy Poco is 1st in RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases, 2nd in offensive WAR, 3rd in OPS, 4th in slugging, tied for 5th in runs, and 8th in OBP and home runs. He won’t win a Gold Glove any time soon, but his offensive firepower makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.
Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
When I put Mike Trout in the top spot for A.L. MVP last month I thought it was going to have some backlash. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any. Like McCutchen, Trout took over the top spot and was even better in July also winning Player of the Month honors while hitting .392, with 10 homers and 9 stolen bases. Trout has turned the fortunes around after a 6-14 start, sparking them to a 49-33 record and a wild card playoff spot at this writing. Trout leads the A.L. in batting average, stolen bases, runs scored and offensive WAR. He’s also top 3 in OBP, slugging, and OPS. We’re witnessing the greatest season by a 20 year-old in the history of baseball.
Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Adam Jones, Orioles, Mark Trumbo, Angels, Jered Weaver, Angels, Justin Verlander, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Reddick, Athletics
Can’t believe we’re already through July of the 2012 season. With the 2nd Wild Card added the playoff races are crazy tight as it seems like more teams than not are still alive for a playoff spot. I don’t think any one will or should completely agree with my rankings, so let me know in the comments what you think!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)