Tag Archive | "Arizona Diamondbacks"

A Pair Of Aces

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A Pair Of Aces

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In poker a pair of aces is nowhere near the best hand, but on the diamond a pair of aces can lead a team to the promise land. The old adage is pitching and defense wins championships and good pitching always beats good hitting. The one thing better then having an ace of a staff is having two.

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In the 90’s the Atlanta Braves were well known for having two and sometimes three aces in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. The trio led Atlanta to yearly division titles, personal accolades, and a world championship. The 2001 season saw the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy a season headlined by one of the most dominant duos ever in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two only combined for 52 wins regular season and post season, a CY Young, co Sportsman of the Year, and co World Series MVP’s. In short, that is not too shabby.

Currently, the top ten pitching duos are:

#10 – Atlanta Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson is the elder ace who is still getting the job done. He will eat up innings and touch that 15 win mark. Minor is up and coming and seems to be finding his stride toward the end of last year and starting off this season. They also have a third wheel in Paul Maholm whose 2013 is on a good start.

#9 – Chicago White Sox Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. They are another duo featuring a veteran and youngster. Both are capable of racking up strikeouts and dominant starts. However, there is the occasional DL stint or rough outing.

#8 – Los Angeles Angels Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both have been very consistent and productive. However, walk rates are subpar and strikeout rates are middle of the road.

#7 – Tampa Bay David Price and Matt Moore. Together they are two young guns with great out pitches that throw from the left side. Price is a yearly CY Young contender and Moore has yet to allow a run in 2013.

#6 – Boston Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both have high potential that is waiting to be tapped. Injuries have held back both at times but 2013 could finally be the year. They both had excellent springs and are a combined 4-0 thus far this season.

#5 – Detroit Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If you are a hitter, close your eyes and swing early. Both have well above average fastballs and dominate the strikeout leader board. They both also collect a ton of innings and can save a bullpen.

#4 – Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are CY Young winners that do not lose on their home mound. Each is capable of building long winning streaks and carrying the team for the night.

#3 – Philadelphia Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Suddenly this duo is seemingly under the radar within the division. They are two left hand pitchers with the x factor of pitching well in the post season. They are two trustworthy guys come late in the season and in October.

#2 – San Francisco Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants earn the 1990’s Atlanta Brave award as it is not just a duo. These two are also complimented with Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Barry Zito. The offense does not need to score a ton of runs when any of them take the mound as they are all capable of winning 1-0 games. They all can be stoppers in their own way and it is the most balanced rotation top to bottom.

#1 – Washington Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. This is the duo that could most rival the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season each is likely to be in the CY Young running and at the top of all major pitching categories. The one question remains, can they pitch in October?

The pitching duo most likely to be next on this list comes out of New York. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are young and ready to help the Mets contend. Harvey is off to a blistering start in 2013 looking like an up and coming ace. Wheeler is the pitcher that was apart of the Carlos Beltran trade a few seasons ago. He is likely to join the big club sometime this year and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Each of these teams has the ability to avoid long losing streaks and stay in contention thanks to these duos. Aces are wild. Shuffle up and deal.

 

 

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

How are those brackets holding up? Have they made it to the trash can yet? On the bright side, we are days away from Opening Day! Last week, the prediction jinx was placed on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to represent the American League in October’s Fall Classic. This week will be the National League 2013 preview.

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There figures to be compelling season long races in both the National League East and West. The west features the defending World Series Champions, San Francisco Giants and also the new version of “Showtime”, the Los Angles Dodgers. While in the east, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves both had very busy off seasons in the hopes of playing deep into October.

Starting out west, the rival Giants and Dodgers are expected to be in a season long two team race for the division championship. The Colorado Rockies are rebuilding and potentially experimenting with a new pitching model. Aside from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies will have struggles and finish fifth with the campaign. The San Diego Padres will always compete with a solid bullpen and pitcher friendly park. However, in the end, the offense is not quite there to compete. They will finish just behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs, after making one of the impactful trades of the season will be a hard team to forecast. Ian Kennedy will have a nice season on the bump and Paul Goldschmidt is an emerging first baseman. Much like the Padres, they just do not have enough talent to compete.

The Giants and Dodgers have two very different philosophies. The Giants are a team first collective effort franchise. The sum of the parts is greater than one individual. Buster Posey is the offensive leader on the club and the pitching staff is one of the best in the league. On the other hand, the Dodgers brought in deep pockets to re-buy a new club. With one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball it will not quite be enough to overtake the champs in the divisional race. The Giants will be one, the Dodgers runners up.

For the first time in awhile, the Central Division has five teams competing. The division figures to be a one playoff team group with the Cincinnati Reds the favorites. The Reds have a balanced attack offensively and on the mound. How will Aroldis Chapman be utilized is the big question. The Pittsburgh Pirates have improved over the last two seasons. Led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates will continue to improve but fall short of the post season again.

With the remaining three teams in the Midwest, all will have very intriguing summers. The St. Louis Cardinals will compete. The offense under the arch has some pop. The club has two major downfalls however. The loss of Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse will have the starting rotation rely on young arms. Along with that, up the middle appears to be a weak spot and prevent a trip to the postseason. The Chicago Cubs have more questions then answers. The current outfield on the North side is not exactly Cooperstown bound but the Cubs however do have potential. They will be toward the bottom of the league in home runs, but quality of at bats will be a category they will be vastly improved in. The Milwaukee Brewers a week ago was a team that seemed to be viewed as an also ran. However, the surprise signing of Kyle Lohse makes the rotation much more improved. Can Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez carry the offense enough?

The National League East also figures to be a two team race as well between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The Miami Marlins cleaned house again and figure to have fifth place locked up. The New York Mets have young arms that could keep them relevant but sadly, David Wright will not quite have the same protection he did during the World Baseball Classic. A very under the radar team, The Philadelphia Phillies could wedge themselves into the division race, and also compete for a Wild Card spot as well. Health will be the key for the Phillies. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley play 140 plus games? Can Roy Hallady and Cliff Lee get back to CY Young numbers?

The popular pick in the National League is the Nationals. Loaded with talent, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez will lead the club all year. However, I expect even bigger things from the Braves. Chipper Jones is gone, but the law firm of Upton, Upton, and Heyward will be the “Big Three” in the ATL. The Braves lineup on paper is one of the best 1-7. The bullpen is top tier and the rotation will keep them in ball games. The Braves, not the Nationals win the East.

Once October hits the Wild Card match up will be east versus west as the Nationals will defeat the Dodgers and advance. Because of the weaker division, look for the Reds to be the team welcoming that wild card winner. However, the season will end there for the Reds as the Nationals will advance to the National League Championship. The other Divisional match up will pit the Braves versus the Giants. In an entertaining five games, the Braves will move on setting up an all east coast series.

With the two teams evenly matched in all categories, I am high on the Braves making a return trip to the Fall Classic to battle the Angels. An Angels versus Braves match up will be very entertaining to watch. The future of the game will be on display for both teams. In six games, I am giving the edge to the Angels to defeat the Braves in the World Series and make a short drive over to Disneyland to celebrate. Rally Monkeys welcomed.

When awards season hits, the East will be the landing spot for all of the major awards. Look for the Rookie of the Year to be in New York with pitcher Zack Wheeler. The CY Young winner will be in D.C. No it is not Stephen Strasburg, but Gio Gonzalez who has found a home in the National League and is the award winner. Both the Manager of the Year and MVP will be found on the same team. Once again, Atlanta could have a magical season after difficult ends to the previous two seasons. Manager Fredie Gonzalez and newcomer Justin Upton will bring home hardware. In a new uniform Justin Upton is the pick to click in the National League.

Soon it will be time to Play Ball and in October these will be lead pipe locks!

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Calling All Short Stops

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Calling All Short Stops

Posted on 08 March 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

During the off season, Arizona Diamondbacks fans certainly had their hearts toyed with from the whirlwind of trade talk that constantly surrounded one of their favorite players.

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While some of the fans prepared for Justin Upton’s inevitable trade, others held out hope that the outfielder would once again wear sedona red in 2013. When the deal was done and Upton was sent to play the best game in America with his brother in Atlanta, many were left wondering what would happen with the line up this year.

All of the changes the Diamondbacks made to their roster over the winter left my head spinning. Although many improvements were made, they put a lot of emphasis on fixing a major issue. Last season, they could not find any players to fit comfortably at short stop or third base. Defensively those players were lacking, and if they would improve their glove, their plate performance would suffer. After desperately trying to resolve the infield problem, the Diamondbacks ended up with a crowd.

The big ticket in the Upton blockbuster trade was Martin Prado. Any day that Prado walks on to a baseball field, is a day he tries his best. The Diamondbacks are a club full of selfless players with that same type of team-first mentality. Prado will fit in well at his new home. After the loss of both Chris Johnson and Ryan Wheeler, Prado will help fill the gap at third base along with another new Diamondback, Eric Chavez.

Last season, with the Braves Prado hit .301/.359/.438 with 81 runs and 70 RBIs. He is known to have patience at the plate and thanks to hitter-friendly Chase Field, he should be blasting more long balls this season. He has some pop in his bat, but he can also run, swiping 17 bags in 2012.

He will be a regular at the hot corner, but if the Diamondbacks are smart they will utilize his experience all over, including outfield and short stop. Defensively, he is a great pick up for his versatility and can add depth to a weak spot on the team. Along with Prado, the Diamondbacks brought on board Didi Gregorius and Cliff Pennington. This will allow the club to strengthen the deficit at short stop and solidify the left side of the infield.

Gregorius was out with an apparent elbow injury, but the Diamondbacks have high hopes for the 23 year old. The injury did not require surgery, but after limited practice during Spring Training, he will unlikely be ready for the big leagues on Opening Day. He made his MLB debut with the Reds in September of 2012, and has a chance to be the Diamondbacks everyday short stop once he works on his performance at the plate. He has big league abilities defensively, but still needs to get his bat ready.

There is high anticipation surrounding Gregorius at SS and they already have confidence in Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald being solid backups, so what was the point of trading for Cliff Pennington earlier in the off-season?

Any fan that follows the Diamondbacks knows that their skipper loves to make changes to his line up. He wants the best head to head match up possible. And with Pennington, they will now have a switch hitter. Even though his slashline was only .215/.278/.311 last year, he will still be a huge asset when it comes to match ups. He was picked up for his strong defensive ability, but I think he will add depth to Kirk Gibson’s ever changing line up card.

Veterans Bloomquist and McDonald will most likely remain as infield options this season; and until Gregorius is ready for the majors, they will likely share SS along with Pennignton. And as if the desert did not already have enough players for this position, prospect Chris Owings and his promising career, cannot be forgotten. It also never hurts to stockpile talent at any position for future trading purposes.

While the Diamondbacks seemed to be making mindless changes to their roster over the off-season, it is all starting to make sense. Crowding short stop and gaining versatile Prado, are just pieces of the puzzle that will make the Diamondbacks a strong contender in the NL West. The pain of losing Justin Upton will soon be a distant memory.

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

Posted on 24 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

Josh Booty may have won the MLB Network’s “The Next Knuckler,” but his work has just begun.

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Booty showed up to camp on Thursday and worked a bit in the bullpen with former Major League knuckler and current Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Tom Candiotti. “He’s got the best fastball of any knuckleballer I’ve ever seen,” Candiotti told MLB. “He can flat out throw it.” He threw 88-89 mph during the bullpen session with his fastball.

Are you asking yourself, what’s “The Next Kunckler”? With the Knuckleball quickly becoming an extinct pitch, the MLB Network aired a reality show about the search for the pitch’s heir apparent. Think “American Idol”…but with Kevin Millar.

“With the knuckleball, he can throw it,” Candiotti said. “He’s got the ability to be able to take the spin off the ball. It’s a constant battle for him right now with his mechanics right now, being able to repeat his delivery, because he drifts a little bit.” “In my mind, I’m taking it serious,” Booty said to MLB. “I don’t want to come in here and goof off.”

The Diamondbacks agreed to have Booty in camp and will allow him to at least throw one inning during a Major League game. Past that, he will need to earn anything else he gets. It is possible if he impresses enough that he could wind up getting a spot in the Minor Leagues.

Convinced I am the only one that watched this show, is anyone shocked that the team in question is the Arizona Diamondbacks? Has Kirk Gibson gone Hollywood?

To be fair, Josh Booty has a history on the diamond. He was actually drafted fourth overall out of high school as a shortstop by the Marlins in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft. The Marlins inked him to a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus with the stipulation that he not play football.

“I cried the night that I signed the contract,” Booty said to MLB about having to give up football.

Booty spent 1994-98 in the Marlins system, where he hit .198. He got 30 plate appearances in the big leagues from 1996-98 and hit .269. In 1999, he left baseball and went to Louisiana State University, where he played quarterback for two seasons.

In 2001 he was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks and bounced around a few organizations, mainly on the practice squads. Nevertheless, at age 37, he’s hoping for one more shot.

“It’s kind of writing the last chapter,” Booty said to MLB. “I’ve been close a few times. This is like I’m a rookie for the third time. If I was able to get on the field, I mean it’s crazy. I’m just going to have fun with it to be honest with you and get myself in shape so that I have a chance and keep it simple.” Not many players attempt comebacks at his age, but his athletic prowess and ability to throw a knuckleball mean he can’t totally be counted out. After beating out former NCAA Division I quarterbacks John David Booty (his brother), Doug Flutie, Ryan Perrilloux and David Greene, Josh Booty now finds himself back at Spring Training, this time as a non-roster invitee.

“Yeah, I’m 37 years old, but I don’t have any wear and tear on my arm and my shoulder and I never got hurt because in the NFL I was a backup the whole time,” Booty said. “I feel comfortable and my arm is healthy and I think I can get it back to where I was when I was in my 20s.”

When MLB Network pitched the idea of the reality show at a Major League Baseball owners meeting, Diamondbacks team president/CEO Derrick Hall immediately volunteered to be the team that gave the winner a non-roster invitation. It was a chance for national brand awareness for their new look, tougher franchise. (Ask Justin Upton.)

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (who I did not pin for one who would participate in the trappings of our new realty show culture) threw Booty into a pitching group right away on Friday. He said the organization wants to make sure that he’s able to handle himself on the mound before sticking him in a game.

While the show finished taping three weeks ago, the final episode aired Thursday night. Ever since he knew he won the competition, Booty has been throwing long toss and trying to get his body in better shape. Two weeks ago, he spent a week with former knuckler Charlie Hough in California and last week he was in Florida working with Tim Wakefield, another longtime Major League knuckleball pitcher.

“I know my pitching is a lot better now than it was on that show three or four weeks ago,” Booty said. “I’ve come crazy far in three weeks and if I can get another 10-15 opportunities to throw sides, bullpens, work with [pitching coach Charles Nagy], do some things here with Candiotti … I think the sky would be the limit.”

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Better Late Than Never: Chris Carter, Oakland Athletics

Posted on 14 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

In Better Late Than Never, I will be profiling 25 year old Oakland A’s post-hype prospect Chris Carter. In this profile I will give you some background on his career in the minors, his past struggles in the majors and his surprising emergence this year at the major league level as well as my recommendation, fantasy-wise, for the rest of the season in yearly and dynasty/keeper leagues. Unlike another famous Cris Carter, where all he did was catch touchdowns, all this Chris Carter does  is hit home runs.

Chris Carter is a 25 year old first basemen for the Oakland Athletics.  He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2005 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. During the 2007 offseason Carter was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin.  Two weeks after he was traded to Arizona, Carter was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of the package to bring Dan Haren to Arizona.

In four previous stints with the A’s prior to this season, Carter was a major disappointment. Once considered the club’s top prospect, he struggled mightily. In 2010, he hit .186 with 3 Hrs and had 21 strikeouts in 24 major league games.  Then, in  2011, his performance was even worse, hitting just .136 with 0 Hrs and 20 strikeouts in 15 major league games.

However, the tools and talent have always been there. In 2009, he seemed destined to become an impact power hitter. He produced 28 hrs and 115 rbis in 544 at-bats in season, splitting time at both the double-A and triple-A levels and also appeared in the Future Game. In 2010, he produced  31 Hrs and a .258 avg with 94 RBIs in AAA.

While prior to this season, he had never been able put it all together at the major league level, the talent was evident at the minor league level. In his last four minor league seasons, he was good for 122 home runs and 399 RBI.  While putting up good numbers in the minors, he had fallen off most “top prospect lists” and many insiders were beginning to label him a Quad-A player (a Quad-A player is a player is one who has enough talent to dominate in Triple A but continually fails in the Majors). Was this who  Carter was destined to become?

Enter 2012. It now seems he has arrived. The now post-hype prospect has hit . 272 with 10 HRs, 22 RBIs and only 33KS in 103 ABs this season.  While he could still work on lowering his strikeout numbers some, it’s a major improvement from his high K-rate in much less ABs in his short stints in the majors in ’10 and ’11.  Plus, the power is definitely there. His 10 Hrs in only 103 ABS in a pitcher-friendly park is nothing to scoff at. Finally receiving consistent playing time, it looks like the late-blooming  25 year old Chris Carter may have finally arrived.

Now for his fantasy value. Chris Carter is only owned in 5% of Yahoo!, 7% of ESPN and 33% of CBS leagues. While I know his past struggles had him off most fantasy owners radar early in the season, why the reluctance to roster him now, gamers? He has hit 10 HRs in 103 ABs. That’s virtually one home run for every 10 ABs. And with just 28 total hits, 35.7% of them have been home runs.

In comparison, a very disappointing Eric Hosmer has 10 HRs in 408 ABs and is 68% owned in Yahoo leagues. That’s a 63% ownership difference between Hosmer and Carter. I know a lot of ownership levels are based on name alone but if we could all get past what we thought Carter was and see what he is doing and becoming,  he’d be a very valuable pick up and commodity for anyone needing power in general, specifically at the first base position. I understand your trepidation, gamers. I really do. I was leery of picking him up myself but needless to say I finally did and have been reaping the benefits ever since. Now is the time to pick him up. Under 10% owned in Yahoo and ESPN is criminally low.

It has come to the point where he’s in my lineup over guys like Brandon Belt and Yonder Alonso, both with a slightly higher ownership percentages. The one and only thing going forward to keep a close eye on is playing time.  He has played on a regular basis during the month of August and it looks as if the A’s management now realizes they have finally found their first baseman of the future.

I recommend a Chris Carter pick up in all leagues right now and even recommend him as a borderline keeper. If he is fully endorsed as the A’s starting first baseman heading into next spring (which I do expect to happen), I’d then give my full endorsement on keeping him. Keep a very close eye on this situation next spring.

In summary, it looks like Carter is reaching his full potential this year and, with his low ownership numbers, is out there for the taking in all leagues. While it may have taken him longer than most highly-rated prospects to finally become a fantasy factor, like they say, “It’s better late than never”.

Will you be picking up Chris Carter or have you already? Do you feel he is finally for real and here to stay or are you still not buying into him? Let me know in the comments and as always follow me on Twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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