Tagged: San Diego Padres

Episode 41 – Today’s Recipe: One Greinke Collar Bone With A Side Of Fantasy Pickups

Three Up, Three Down took in the first week of baseball and found out a few things. The Atlanta Braves are very good at baseball like activities, and that Zack Greinke isn’t as big as Carlos Quentin.  We recap our thoughts on the brawl between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres and touch on the other injuries around baseball. The classic “3U3D Fantasy Special” is back and you might like what we have to say, especially if you’re already a cellar dweller in your league. Check it out and thank us when you start your climb to the top!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast!

or use this link to download on iTunes

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=508049520

Twitter: @3U3D
Facebook: Three Up, Three Down

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Insanity in San Diego: Greinke Injured in Brawl, Kemp and Quentin Fight After Game

dodgers padres brawl

Update (4/12/13): Greinke is out for approximately eight weeks. Quentin has been suspended for eight games, Hairston, Jr. for one game. Both of those players have appealed.

This blog has already morphed and transformed 100 different times tonight as more and more details are released about the ridiculous brawl at Petco Park. We have embedded videos from sources like MLB and ESPN to give you a clear timeline of what went down. Enjoy the madness, and vote in the polls below!

Bottom of the 6th inning:

Carlos Quentin, leading off the 6th for the Padres (who were down 2-1 at the time), took the count to 3-2 against Zack Greinke. That next pitch got away inside and nailed Quentin on the elbow, at which point he charged the mound. You can see the fight in its entirety here:

As many Tweeters reminded us, Quentin routinely leads the league in hit by pitches:

These things happen when a batter crowds the plate and takes away the pitcher’s inside corner. And it doesn’t help that Quentin clearly has no idea how to get out of the way of an inside pitch (from the first game of the series on Tuesday):

As you see in the video of the brawl, Quentin and Greinke collided shoulder-to-shoulder, and the 50-pound advantage of the batter definitely took its toll on the smaller pitcher. The benches cleared as Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis tackled Quentin to the ground. Many people thought Greinke may have yelled something to Quentin after the beaning, which this ESPN video shows is true (embedding ESPN videos does not work on WordPress):

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:9162952

My expert lip-reading abilities tell me that Greinke said something along the lines of “F— off.” Hardly grounds for a rage-induced attack on Quentin’s part. For all I know, Greinke may just have been tired of Quentin’s act, as a fellow NL West pitcher became last season:

Before we go any farther, let me bring you back a few years…

April 8th, 2009:

Different teams, a different division, in a different league; same matchup. In Greinke’s 2009 Cy Young year with the Kansas City Royals, he beaned then-White Sox Quentin in the 4th inning of an early-season game. Quentin took a step toward Greinke before being cooled off and taking first base.

After that outing (the Royals won 2-0), Greinke said it was an accident, and even mentioned that he was “scared” for Quentin at first, thinking it might hit his head:

“He had a reason for [being upset],” said Greinke of Quentin. “Any time you throw it that high, it’s justified. You’ve got to be better than that and not pitch like that. You’re going to make mistakes, but the last thing you want to do is hit someone where it could seriously hurt them. As soon as I let go of it, I was scared for him.”

So there was history. Whether or not it was intentional then, or intentional this year, is a matter we can likely never pinpoint. But in both instances, Greinke held a slim lead–hardly a situation in which you want to put anyone on base purposely.

Unless Quentin slapped Greinke’s mother years ago for some unknown reason, there is no motive for Greinke to throw at Quentin in the first place. Not to mention, that little dust-up was four years ago now. That’s a long, long time for someone to hold a grudge in sports.

Okay, memory lane was fun. Let’s bring it back to present day…

Halfway through the brawl:

In the video of the fight, you can see Matt Kemp going absolutely bonkers in the scrum (kerfuffle, if you will). At one point, he had multiple teammates restraining him after getting in a face-to-face shouting match with Padres manager Bud Black.

After it looked like the dust had settled, Dodgers utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. took off toward the Padres dugout with his finger pointed at someone. If Don Mattingly’s postgame comments are any indication, the Padre in question was backup catcher John Baker, who was raised in my hometown of Walnut Creek, CA and does not seem the type to be involved.

But as Hairston, Jr. tweeted later, he was going at the Padres because he saw a player making fun of Greinke:

Finally, the skirmish ended and Greinke was walked off the field by head trainer Sue Falsone. The umpires eventually ejected the pitcher, along with Quentin, Kemp, and Hairston, Jr. Shortly thereafter, Chris Capuano relieved Greinke on the bump for Los Angeles, and promptly allowed a game-tying single.

Though the unlikeliest of heroes, Juan Uribe, went deep later to help seal a 3-2 victory for the Dodgers, nothing could take the sting out of the news that broke after the game.

Postgame press conferences:

As soon as the game ended, fans demanded answers. Mattingly was happy to give them his, with multiple microphones stuck in his face. But first, the Dodgers got awful news regarding their $147 million pitcher:

According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, who is by no means a medical expert but does his research very thoroughly, the Dodgers can expect to miss Greinke for at least six weeks:

So needless to say, Mattingly was upset with the result of everything except the win. When pressed about the incident, Mattingly referred to Quentin as an “idiot” who has “zero understanding of the game of baseball,” given the situation in which he charged the mound.

Most shockingly, the skipper also declared that Quentin deserved to be suspended for as long as Greinke was on the shelf. Many writers on Twitter agreed with this sentiment, and yours truly can’t argue the idea. Of course, Quentin won’t get a lengthy suspension. Chances are, he’ll be looking at a four or five game suspension at the most. But we will have to wait and see what kind of action the league decides to take, and also to see if they discipline Kemp for his actions.

As if Quentin needed anyone else against him, A.J. Ellis told Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times that a few Padres apologized to him on their teammate’s behalf:

We also have the video of Quentin’s postgame chat with reporters here, which is full of blame deflections and question avoidance. Black, Quentin’s manager, said the history between the two players did play a part in the brawl. Greinke responded with some comments of his own, insisting he didn’t mean to hit Quentin and never has in the past. Plus, additional notes from Mattingly on the injury at the beginning of the video:

After cooling off, you’d think the situation would be put to rest. Alas, this night got crazier…

In the clubhouse tunnel:

Kemp couldn’t let the issue go, and stayed extremely fired up at Quentin for injuring Greinke. He went after Quentin by the player’s exit, reportedly asking why he charged the mound and ended up injuring Kemp’s teammate:

The Associated Press was able to snag a picture of the two players arguing (see below) before they were separated. The scene could have gotten much uglier, but it was luckily diffused in time. On one hand, you have to admire Kemp’s willingness to defend his pitcher and not back down from what he considered a threat. Leadership like that can pull a team closer together.Matt Kemp, Carlos Quentin

But on the other hand, the last person the Dodgers need getting suspended or playing upset is Kemp. The star center fielder is already struggling with the bat so far in 2013, and needs to recognize the difference between playing hard and playing pissed.

At the end of the night, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (who was injured in the World Baseball Classic and has been on the DL all season) tweeted a slight silver lining, apparently in an attempt to calm the angry hordes:

So the Dodgers won the game, the series, and a bit of hope from Ramirez. But losing Greinke is a huge blow for the Dodgers pitching staff, who will likely replace him with either Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano–both massive downgrades. San Diego and Los Angeles reconvene at Dodger Stadium for a three-game set on Monday, prompting the Dodgers official Twitter account to put out this gem after the game:

At the very least, that series will be under an intense microscope by fans, players and journalists everywhere. For the Padres, a chance to be relevant. For the Dodgers, a chance to prove that they are more than a rich all-star team–that they can win with talent and heart and team chemistry.

Stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down for more coverage as the news continues to roll in. Please vote in the polls below, and feel free to share your comments with us, too.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down for all your breaking MLB news!

“What in the World is Hashtag?” – Vin Scully

Vin Scully“Can I ask you an honest question, between you and me? What in the world is “hashtag?”” – Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.

This golden nugget of greatness occurred before the bottom of the fourth inning began at Petco Park on Wednesday, in a game that the Dodgers would eventually win 4-3 over the Padres.

Scully continues to go on a slightly nonsensical, yet thoroughly enjoyable, ramble about a new DirecTV service called “DogTV. Then, the 85-year-old, smooth-voiced legend concluded with a relevant question: “Does that mean cats can’t watch it?”

Scully’s ability to be at the top of a difficult profession for decades upon decades and master his craft with grace, style, and accuracy is why he will forever be remembered as the greatest announcer who ever lived. The fact that Scully was able to tear viewers’ eyes away from game action to tune in with full attention to his brief tangent and end up just smiling with amusement, is beyond impressive.

He has the charm of a guffawing grandfather, the wit of a very old fox, and the voice of God (sorry,  Morgan Freeman). Go ahead and watch the clip linked below and try not to smile as Scully giggles and gasps his way through a very troubling set of questions for someone who was born when Babe Ruth was still playing (though I’d argue his general knowledge of all this doggone technology us whippersnappers use these days is far superior to most people his age).

And, in fairness, the questions remain–what IS a hashtag? They really don’t make sense, beyond the “trendability” of such things. And though DirecTV’s concept is marvelous, what happens to my poor cat when all he sees on the tube all day is those dumb dogs chasing their tails? I can only imagine.

Take a look at Vin’s hilarious diatribe RIGHT HERE. Is this one of the best announcer moments in recent memory? Tell us in the comments below!

Oh…and for what it’s worth? After Scully’s little speech, #VinScully began trending on Twitter. Naturally.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for all your 2013 baseball news!

3U3D Break It Down: The N.L. West

On one hand, the San Francisco Giants are the defending world champions and can look forward to having a full season of Hunter Pence in the middle of their lineup. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers went out and spent about 500 Houston Astros to acquire the most powerful lineup in the league and add a second ace to the rotation. And don’t forget about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who this writer believes is a dark horse to win the West with a more balanced lineup and a ridiculously underrated pitching staff. Sorry Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres fans…your teams just won’t cut it this year. Let’s break down the N.L. West:

Predicted Order of Finish: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies

A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis

Why the Dodgers could win the N.L. West: There’s a difference between what the Yankees used to be hated for doing every off-season and what the Dodgers did this winter. Rather than just throwing the most money at every ego maniacal  overage player on the market, Los Angeles actually went out and acquired new corner infielders, a leadoff man, and a top of the rotation pitcher who they believed would mesh into an already-tight clubhouse and contribute on the field. Taking a chance on Carl Crawford might pay off huge for the Dodgers, who can use him as an invaluable trading chip at the deadline if he’s playing well (remember, Yasiel Puig should be nearly ready by then). With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top, it’s easy to overlook the fantastic spring from Hyun-Jin Ryu, too. But with a strong rotation, good bullpen and explosive lineup, a lot of things will have to go wrong for the Dodgers to not at least be in the hunt down the stretch.

Why the Dodgers wouldn’t win the N.L. West: I’m not buying into the whole “team chemistry” issue, and not just because I root for the team. The Dodgers in the preseason seem to have become a fraternity of sorts, without the cheap beer and piles of laundry. Anyway, there is something to be said for the injury history of key players on this team. The entire starting outfield has had recent issues, both middle infielders have encountered some bad luck lately, and three-fifths of the starting rotation either had problems throughout the 2012 season or during this spring. If the injury bug doesn’t hit Southern California, there is always the possibility that Greinke bombs and the Dodgers are left leaning on Kershaw as the lone stud pitcher, which could mean big time trouble.

SF Giants

Why the Giants could win the N.L. West: The Giants won the World Series last year, god forbid Angelo or I forget it. And they’ve been one of the models of consistency throughout the regular season over the last few years. It’s scary that this 2013 team, on paper, is their best in years. We know the pitching staff is dominant, even with Tim Lincecum struggling, and Sergio Romo anchors a very good bullpen. But the biggest reason you might see the Giants make another run at defending their division and world titles is because their offense is going to be MUCH better than people are expecting. Angel Pagan is in his prime, and we know what Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Pence can do in full seasons. Additionally, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford seem to be getting better with the bat every week.

Why the Giants wouldn’t win the N.L. West: At the rate the Dodgers improved their roster and the ease with which they gelled in spring, it might just be bad timing for the Giants. They could still be just as good or better than last year and miss out on the division title. But the two guys who could really end their dreams are the city’s newest hero and the city’s oldest. Lincecum looked awful again in the spring, and could cost the Giants in the long run–Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are all either good or great pitchers, but nobody ever had the consistency that Lincecum had during his glory years. And Marco Scutaro is bound to come down to earth. As a 37-year-old middle infielder, chances are his .362 average with the Giants in 2012 drops back to around his career average of .275.

Diamondbacks

Why the Diamondbacks could win the N.L. West: As I mentioned in the intro, this is the most dangerous team in the league that nobody is talking about. When you have to send Tyler Skaggs, one of the better rookie performers of last season, to the bullpen because your rotation is already too stacked, you are pretty set for pitching. And the level of talent in the lineup can’t be understated. Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, and Martin Prado are all signed for the long run, and are complemented by a strong outfield group and a powerful second baseman in Aaron Hill. This team loves playing together and now that it cut out the cancer of Justin Upton, manager Kirk Gibson can take control and mold the team as he pleases.

Why the Diamondbacks wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Not only are the two teams that finished above Arizona last year improved, but questions do linger in the D’Backs starting rotation. As high-potential as it might be, you never know what you’re going to get from Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy is always on the DL. Furthermore, how will the offense respond without long-time outfielders Chris Young and Upton no longer in the clubhouse or lineup? I have faith in Jason Kubel and new addition Cody Ross, but I’m not sure if either will be reliable enough over the course of an entire year.

Padres

Why the Padres could win the N.L. West: Because you never know. Who in their right mind would have thought the Orioles or A’s would have represented the American League in the playoffs last season? The Padres do have a scrappy team of mostly unknown players who proved they can play some good ball. Down the stretch in 2012, they played spoiler and looked like a legitimate dark horse playoff team. If they can carry some of that momentum over and get a full season out of closer Huston Street and slugger Carlos Quentin, San Diego will turn some heads. They have some solid young hitters like Yonder Alonso and Cameron Maybin who could completely turn around the team’s fortunes if they continue to progress, too.

Why the Padres wouldn’t win the N.L. West: They just don’t have enough. The pitching rotation is not deep and it’s very inexperienced. The bullpen has some fire, but it isn’t on par with the three teams ahead of them. And the facts that Yasmani Grandal will be suspended for 25 games and Chase Headley, far and away their best player, will be nursing an injury and start the season on the DL, make a death sentence. I truly think the Friars are close to contending (give it two more seasons), but this is a year they focus on building some of the young talent.

Dexter Fowler

Why the Rockies could win the N.L. West: Let’s put it this way: Most players in the Colorado lineup know how to hit baseballs very far. Last year, they were the most prolific offense in the National League, and they didn’t even have Troy Tulowitzki around, or Michael Cuddyer for much of the year. The fact that both of those guys will be back (at least to start the year) is a terrifying proposition for opposing pitchers. In 2012, the Rockies scored 758 runs and hit .274 without their two stars. Those numbers could go up, believe it or not, in 2013.

Why the Rockies wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Is it possible the Rockies score 10 runs per game? Sure! But if they give up 11, it doesn’t matter. The pitching staff, on the other end of the spectrum, was god awful. The worst in baseball by a comfortable margin. And the Rockies really didn’t do much to improve that particular aspect of the team over the winter. There is some promising young talent in the farm system, but nowhere near the level they need to be competitive. And even some of the best potential has been wasted once their fastballs start sailing through the thin Rocky Mountain air in Denver.

Awards Watch

N.L. MVP

Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers

Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval – San Francisco Giants

Martin Prado – Arizona Diamondbacks

Chase Headley – San Diego Padres

Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies

Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants

Brandon McCarthy – Arizona Diamondbacks

Rookie of the Year

Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers

Adam Eaton – Arizona Diamondbacks

Jedd Gyorko – San Diego Padres

So will the Dodgers steal the division away from the defending champs? Do the D’Backs sneak up and surprise everybody? Can Colorado or San Diego battle for the cellar or make spoiler runs? Comment below!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

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.

Like what you see? Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for more WBC and MLB news and analysis.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Arizona Fall League: Winners and Losers From the Rising Stars Game

When we told you that Three Up, Three Down really loves baseball, we weren’t kidding. On Saturday, I watched the Oregon vs. USC football game until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, at which point I switched away from one of the best games of the year to focus on MLB Network.

No, I’m not crazy – I just love baseball, and the Arizona Fall League’s (AFL) annual Rising Stars Game was on. For those of you that don’t know, the AFL is basically grad school for each team’s top prospects. All 30 MLB teams assign seven players to the AFL, comprised of six teams.

It’s basically a little extra work for the superstars of tomorrow. Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper played in the Rising Stars Game. Mike Piazza, Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are just a few of the alumni of the AFL. And the game in 2012 was no different, showcasing a plethora of talent we will be sure to see on Major League teams in the very near future, such as Detroit’s Nick Castellanos, who won the Futures Game MVP in July.

I’ve picked five winners and losers from the game yesterday – read on to see if one of your team’s top prospects made an impact!

Full rosters for the Rising Stars Game can be found HERE!

WINNER:

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Hamilton was this game’s biggest draw, and he delivered big time. One of the few players to start and finish the game, Hamilton got to show off the speed that has made him Cincinnati’s top-rated prospect (Minor League record 155 steals in 2012 – that is NOT a typo) right from the get-go. After drawing a walk to lead off the game, Hamilton promptly stole second, stole third, and scored on a double two batters later. Hamilton also laid down a beautiful bunt that forced an errant throw, resulting in him coasting to third base on the play. Though he recently transitioned from shortstop to center field in order to take advantage of those wheels, Hamilton looked right at home, making a diving play later on in the game. This kid is undoubtedly a future star.

LOSER:

Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins

Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law had a very rough time against the elite hitters of the AFL. Tonkin pitched to five batters and didn’t get a single one out – instead, he allowed three hits, five base runners and four earned runs (five runs total) on 17 pitches. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old righty has really strong stuff, but melted in a big spot yesterday. To add to the disappointment for Tonkin, he was charged with a blown save, took the loss, and saw a 4-3 lead turn into an 8-3 deficit under his watch. Tonkin has a good, low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a pretty good slider – his 2.08 ERA and 97 K’s in 69 1/3 innings in Minor League ball this past season don’t lie – but he really fell apart in the Rising Stars Game.

WINNER:

Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres

Holy smokes, can the Padres’ number one prospect swing a bat! There’s a visibly arrogant swagger to Liriano’s game, but he walks the walk on the field, and proved it again last night. In five plate appearances, Liriano went 3-for-4 with two doubles, walked, drove in a run, and scored a run. He had great plate discipline and was being lauded by premiere minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo for his speed as well. The Padres may have a legitimate offensive threat in Liriano, as long as they can keep him grounded when he hits a slump in the big leagues.

LOSER:

Michael Almanzar, Boston Red Sox

It’s been a strange journey for Almanzar, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. When he was originally drafted, the Red Sox thought they were getting a future power hitter. And while he’s shown potential to pop a few out of the yard, he needs to put on some muscle. At 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he has the frame of a guy who should be shooting the gap, yet the eye and the swing of a homer-happy free swinger. The Rising Stars Game proved to be a disaster for Almanzar, as he came up to bat twice, including in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, and struck out both times. To his credit, Almanzar did have a good at-bat in the 9th, before caving to strike three.

WINNER:

Austin Romine, New York Yankees

Going 1-for-2 with a strikeout doesn’t sound like such a fantastic game, does it? But the Yankees’ farm hand narrowly missed a monster home run in his first at-bat, instead settling for a triple. Romine also was hit by a pitch in the left elbow and came around to score his second run of the game. The reason Romine is a winner here, is because the kid has suffered through injury after injury during his young career, and proved his toughness in front of a TV audience last night. The half inning before getting plunked, Romine took two hard foul tips off the body and walked both of them off. He’s a gamer, and proved it in Arizona – the Yankees will definitely be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training.

LOSER:

Nick Ahmed, Atlanta Braves

Ahmed actually has a good-looking future, as he swatted 36 doubles and swiped 40 bags in 130 games in the Minors this season. I don’t know if his future with the Braves will be at shortstop, but he didn’t give them any reason to think so in this one-game sample size last night. Ahmed made a couple nice plays and redeemed himself later with a walk and a run, but he started the game with a strikeout at the plate and an ugly error in the field. I’m talking, line drive right to him, off the glove, into left field type of error. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky already ahead of him, Ahmed might be looking to learn a new position if he wants to break in with the big club.

WINNER:

Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals

After the West team went up 2-0 in the top of the first, Goodwin sparked the East by hitting a leadoff homer, the only one of the game. The analysis on Goodwin is that he has legitimate five-tool potential. I can see why people might think so; Goodwin’s left-handed swing is extremely quick and he has the abilities to hit for average and power. He has decent speed and plays solid outfield defense, too. The Nationals may need to make room for this guy in their outfield very soon. My guess is he would supplant Harper in center field at some point in the next two seasons. Goodwin, who just turned 22 on Friday, had an OPS of .852 between two Minor League stops in 2012, and showed off his skills in Arizona going 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.

LOSER:

Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros

I was really excited to watch Cosart start this game, because I knew his reputation (a 2.60 ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year; electric fastball, good change-up, above average breaking ball and great command). He was a key piece, along with Rising Stars teammate Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal to Philadelphia in 2011. Cosart has been a top prospect in both organizations he’s played for since day one, but I was truly disappointed with his outing last night. Though the numbers weren’t bad (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), he was missing his spots all day, going 3-0 on multiple batters across those frames. I had no doubt after watching that Cosart has the tools to be a good starter or a great reliever, but he really laid an egg in his start on Saturday.

WINNER:

Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees

Yeah, yeah. I hate putting two Yankees in the winner’s column as much as the next guy. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t very impressed with both prospects I have listed here. Though I probably could have chosen any reliever after the sixth inning on either squad (The 12 total pitchers entering in the 6th inning or later, combined: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K), I went with Montgomery for his dominant performance. The 21-year-old righty blew away the West team in his frame, striking out all three batters on 16 total pitches. His 1.65 minor league ERA and 16.1 K/9 are ridiculous, and I wonder if he has the make-up or velocity (tops out at 95 MPH) to some day fill Mariano Rivera’s shoes as the closer in the Bronx. Either way, I expect to see him getting big league action by 2014 at the very latest.

LOSER:

Anyone who didn’t watch the game!

Seriously. It’s not a cop-out. I’m not saying you should also sacrifice your college football or NFL, or even NBA watching during the MLB off-season, but don’t pass up an opportunity to watch some of the next great generation of baseball stars in action. Follow along with the AFL this winter and see how your team’s top prospects are handling some of the best minor league competition in all of baseball. Better yet, just follow the 3u3d blog and we’ll give you everything you need to know until Opening Day is back upon us. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can find us @3u3d, and you can like us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down. All the glorious baseball news you can stomach, right here, all winter long.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

More Proof That Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Well, the San Diego Padres are the newest organization to give a big middle finger to traditionalist baseball fans by announcing they would move their outfield fences in for the 2013 season. Petco Park will follow Safeco Field in Seattle, Citi Field for the New York Mets before the 2012 season, and the ridiculous right field porch at the new Yankee Stadium.

What happened to the good old days? What happened to stadiums like the Polo Grounds (483 feet to the center field wall)? Okay, that’s a bit extreme. But still, since when does giving in to the fan’s thirst for the long ball take precedence over classic, fundamental baseball?

I’ll tell you when. It was 1998 when a juiced-up Mark McGwire hit a then-record 70 home runs in the same season Sammy Sosa hit 66. In 2001, Barry Bonds got so big it looked like he would have trouble lifting his arms above his shoulders, and he smacked 73 home runs in a single season.

Even though everyone and their mothers know those numbers were inflated, Americans really fell in love with the home run. And it’s understandable – to most fans, there is nothing more majestic than a perfectly squared up fastball hitting the upper deck on the fly. It’s the biggest, hardest, farthest, most impressive feat a batter can accomplish.

But we have the Home Run Derby every July, so why can’t we get our fix then? When the Mets decided to move their fences in to a more attainable distance, for lack of nicer terms, it didn’t help. They still finished in fourth place in the NL East, and star third baseman David Wright didn’t see a huge jump in his power numbers.

So what’s the big deal? Personally, I think it’s a cop-out. Did the Yankees really need a joke of a right-field fence? Did the Mariners really finish in fourth place because their fences were too deep? If the Padres get better in 2013, is it going to be because the fences were 11 feet closer? Or because they have a better team in general, regardless of the stadium?

Mets GM Sandy Alderson admitted that when the Mets decided to move the fences in at Citi Field, it was because “scoring brought excitement.” Well Sandy, so does winning.

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have two of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, and neither team were a power threat in their own stadiums in 2012. They finished 1-2 in the NL West and now the Giants are in the World Series.

Let’s ban the moving of the fences (and the wave while we’re at it…sheesh), and put together teams that thrive on base hits, good base running, bunting, defense and pitching.

You know…how baseball is supposed to be.

Alas, chicks dig the long ball. Fences will continue to move. But are you for or against it? This blogger says nay. Vote below:

If you like what you see, follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)