Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Alex Gordon
Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Kansas City Royals



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Long a punching bag for fans and media alike, the Kansas City Royals have become a darling in recent years due to their strong farm system. We keep hearing about how they'll be a World Series caliber team by 2014 and the first wave of strong talent hit the bigs in 2011 -- with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas leading the charge. There's more on the way, too. For the purposes of this exercise, though, the Royals get to add two All-Star veterans to the lineup who have long since departed. Oh, and they get back an aloof ace.

Lineup

1. Alex Gordon, LF
2. Johnny Damon, RF
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Carlos Beltran, CF
5. Billy Butler, DH
6. Mike Moustakas, 3B
7. Salvador Perez, C
8. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
9. Mike Aviles, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Zack Greinke
2. Luke Hochevar
3. Aaron Crow
4. Danny Duffy
5. Chad Durbin

Bullpen

Closer - J.P. Howell
Set up - Jeremy Affeldt, Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Tim Byrdak, Mike MacDougal
Long - Louis Coleman

Notable Bench Players

Matt Treanor, Kila Ka'aihue, Mark Ellis, David DeJesus, Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson

What's Good?

That really looks like a nice lineup. There's obviously some growing up to be done in the 6-7-8 spots, but that's a lot easier done when the top five spots are that strong. And remember, Wil Myers is on the way ...

What's Not?

With Beltran and Damon getting up into their high-30s, the outfield defense would lack range. Of course, DeJesus and Dyson are both available off the bench as late-inning defensive replacements, so the situation wouldn't be dire. There is no real closer, but that's a bit overrated anyway. And the starting rotation leaves something to be desired, for now, until Crow and Duffy prove their worth and some of the other prospects (like John Lamb and Mike Montgomery) start to arrive.

Comparison to real 2011

It's actually pretty similar, aside from a few huge names. These Royals have Beltran and Damon instead of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, while Greinke has been thrown atop the rotation. Those are upgrades and, remember, the real-life Royals didn't get full seasons out of many of their young players. It's reasonable to put this squad above .500 and maybe even lingering around in the playoff chase into August.

Up Next: Atlanta Braves

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:28 pm
 

Baseball reveals Gold Glove winners

Molina

By Evan Brunell


For the first time, the Gold Gloves were unveiled in a televised presentation on Tuesday night. Below, you can find the results of the awards. Winners are chosen by managers and coaches who vote for players in their leagues and can't pick players on their own teams.

Catcher
AL: Matt Wieters, Orioles -- Wieters became the first Orioles catcher to win the award. I predicted Wieters would win the award in late September saying that "Runners fear Wieters' arm -- he's only allowed 56 stolen bases all season, while the next-lowest total among catchers who qualify for the batting title is J.P. Arencibia's 77, achieved in 10 less starts. Oh, and Wieters has nabbed 32 runners for a caught-stealing rate of 36 percent, a high percentage for a catcher.

NL: Yadier Molina, Cardinals (pictured) -- Obviously. He wins the award for the fourth straight year, the first time since Charles Johnson from 1995-98.

First base
AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox -- Gonzalez wins his third Gold Glove and pairs with second baseman Dustin Pedroia to keep the right side of the infield to one team in the AL. The same goes for the NL.

NL: Joey Votto, Reds -- Votto takes home his first Gold Glove award to put on the mantel along with his MVP trophy from 2010.

Second base
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox -- This is Pedroia's second Gold Glove and first since 2008. As one of the best second basemen in the league, this was a no-brainer. "It's fun playing alongside him," Gonzalez said of Pedroia on ESPN2, saying the communication is top-notch between the two players.

NL: Brandon Phillips, Reds -- The color red really dominated first and second, as the Reds in the NL take home the awards at each respective position. Same with the AL and Red Sox. Phillips wins his third Gold Glove.

Third base
AL: Adrian Beltre, Rangers -- What I said back in September: "Beltre somehow only has two Gold Gloves despite a career of success. That success continues in 2011 in Texas, as Beltre has tremendous range compared with soft hands. Evan Longoria is a fantastic defender as well, but in the AL there simply is no comparison to Beltre."

NL: Placido Polanco, Phillies -- Back in September, C. Trent Rosecrans picked Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. "There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year," he wrote. Gold Glove voters disagreed, and Polanco gets his third Gold Glove -- first at third base. He becomes the second major leaguer to win a Gold Glove at two separate positions, following Darin Erstad nabbing one for first base and outfield.

Shortstop
AL: Erick Aybar, Angels -- It's Aybar's first Gold Glove, and he's as good a pick as any to dethrone Derek Jeter's undeserved Gold Glove last season.

NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies -- Trent may not have gotten Sandoval right, but he nailed Tulo. "The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken," he wrote.

Left field
AL: Alex Gordon, Royals -- Gordon racked up the assists this year, but how do you not give this to Brett Gardner?

NL: Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks -- Parra grabs his first Gold Glove. I haven't heard Parra as a name among the elite defenders, but there you go. He appears worthy.

Center field
AL: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- Ellsbury's victory gives the Red Sox three Gold Glovers. It must be sweet music for the center fielder too, after being moved to left field to start 2010 amid reports of poor defense. Frankly, this is a stretch -- Ellsbury still takes poor routes to the ball. But he's fast, so that helps. It's the first time since 1979 Boston has three winners.

NL: Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- Really? Kemp is a poor center fielder, and it's really difficult to imagine Kemp as a Gold Glove finalist, never mind a victor. But we all know that Gold Glove awards usually aren't worth much, and in this case...

Right field
AL: Nick Markakis, Orioles -- Markakis is not a very good defender. In fact, he made my list as the AL's worst defensive right fielder. I wouldn't go so far as to say that anymore, but a Gold Glove? Frankly, though, I have a hard time getting worked up about who wins the Gold Glove because it's such an irrelevant and inefficient award. For true honoring of defensive prowess, check out the Fielding Bible winners.

NL: Andre Ethier, Dodgers -- It's just the second time in the 21st centery that outfield teammates have won a Gold Glove award. Ethier wins his first. Not quite deserved.

Pitcher
AL: Mark Buerhle, White Sox -- It's his third straight Gold Glove.

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers -- It's the first award for Kershaw, who said on ESPN2 during the unveiling that he did not expect to win the award. Kershaw spoke about how pitchers fielding practice in spring training can get old, but it provides the basis for good defense. "Once you get out on the field, repetition helps it sink in," he said.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 4:55 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Kansas City Royals

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Kansas City Royals
Record: 70-89, 22 games back in AL Central
Manager: Ned Yost
Best hitter: Alex Gordon -- .303/.376/.502, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 101 R, 45 2B, 17 SB
Best pitcher: Aaron Crow -- 4-4, 2.80 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 64 K, 61 IP

Few seasons that end with a team 22 games back will garner as much optimism as the 2011 Royals, a team with few expectations other than playing time for young players and giving a glimpse of the future. Even before 2011, that future was bright -- but with some of the performances by the Royals' youngsters and even its less-youngsters -- have made that future seem even brighter.

2011 SEASON RECAP

For the 2011 Royals, the wins and losses were never part of the proposition, it was progress by the likes of Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez. What the Royals found was that Hosmer is an absolute stud, Escobar can contribute enough at the plate to keep his glove in the lineup and Moustakas, after a rough start, has shown the ability that had so many excited. 

Not only were the new toys impressive, so were some of the other, slightly older types, such as Gordon, Billy Butler, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur (none of whom are older than 27). In all, the Royals were sixth in the American League in runs (719), fourth in batting average (.274) and fifth in OPS (.743) -- all marks better than league average.

The problem for the Royals was finding pitching, finishing 12th out of 14 AL teams in team ERA at 4.46, allowing the third-best OPS by opponent batters (.763) and their starters had a 4.83 ERA. 

2012 AUDIT

The rotation remains a mess, and without a significant trade or two in the offseason will likely stay that way. It's never a good sign when your best starter was Bruce Chen. There are, of course, good pitching prospects, but the arms the organization was banking on breaking through all took steps back in 2011, with lefty John Lamb undergoing Tommy John surgery, another lefty, Mike Montgomery, struggled in Triple-A, while yet another lefty, Chris Dwyer, struggled in Double-A.

Left-hander Danny Duffy had his ups and downs, going 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA in the big leagues, but his stuff was never in question. Many talented young pitchers have struggled in the big leagues before finding their control.

Former Astro Felipe Paulino (an actual right-hander) pitched relatively well this season for the Royals, going 3-6 with a 4.10 ERA for the Royals in 118 2/3 innings. Luke Hochevar, a former No. 1 overall pick, has teased with his talent -- but seems to do so every year. If this is the year he puts it all together…

FREE AGENTS
C Jason Kendall
RHP Kyle Davies
LHP Bruce Chen
LHP Jeff Francis

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The offseason focus is pitching, namely starting pitching. Of course, few teams aren't looking for starting pitching. The difference is the Royals still have some talented prospects to dangle.

  • Every offseason there seems to be a pitcher that most didn't think was available, but yet the thoughts of a big-named prospect can get another GM excited (think Shaun Marcum last offseason). The Royals have the prospects to flip for a high-quality pitcher -- and any chance they get, they should take.
  • The Royals missed their shot to trade high on Joakim Soria, who went from one of the game's best closers to being that guy in Kansas City. That said, he has a track record and team-friendly contract. He could bring back a starter for a team desperate for a reliever. The Royals have a $6 million options or 2012 and options for 2013-14. He does have a limited no-trade clause, but that could be waived.
  • Move Crow from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He can always go back, and going back is easier during the season than moving into the rotation. Crow was a starter until this season and still projects as one.
  • Offer arbitration to Melky Cabrera -- sure, he's due to regress and he'll probably make more than he's worth right now, but he could bring something at the trade deadline if nothing else works out. It also doesn't seem like the team has a center fielder ready to take over quite yet.
  • Ricky Nolasco has talent, but his recent struggles mean the Royals won't have to give up much to get the right-hander from Florida. A middle-tier Royals prospect is better than some team's top-tier prospects and it may not even take that to get Nolasco. Kauffman Stadium is a place where pitchers can succeed, so a change of scenery could help. He's owed 20.5 million over the next two seasons, but the Royals are said to have some money to play with. If they take his salary, they won't even have to give up much in prospects.
The Royals are unlikely to contend in 2012, but the promising start of 2011 should continue and if the pitching talent develops or the team makes some big moves to get pitchers to Kansas City, the playoffs could reach KC by 2013.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 12:46 pm
 

What if MVP was decided like Manager of the Year?



By Matt Snyder


As my esteemed colleague C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out Monday in a really creative and entertaining way, the Manager of the Year award is routinely roped off for certain managers. For example, heading into this season, the Phillies and Red Sox were heavily predicted to make the World Series. The Yankees are the Yankees, and the Giants and Rangers went to the World Series last season. So right there, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington are virtually eliminated from the chance at winning the Manager of the Year award in their respective leagues.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, because managing is far different from playing. It's totally apples vs. oranges. But it's fun to imagine if the MVP awards were decided in the same fashion. Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez would have zero chance at winning. Former winners like Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia? Sorry. Heavily predicted 2011 winner Adrian Gonzalez? Cross him off. Sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard? Nope, you guys are supposed to hit for all that power.

Instead, the candidates would be guys having amazing seasons that we might not have expected. Like Kirk Gibson being the runaway NL winner over Manuel. For example, Jose Bautista would have easily won last season in the AL.

Here are four candidates for the MVP of each league, if voters reacted as they did in the Manager of the Year voting -- along with who I think would win and why.

American League

Alex Avila, Tigers
2010 numbers: .228/.316/.340, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 28 R, 12 2B
2011 numbers: .302/.392/.523, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 60 R, 31 2B
The best part about these numbers is they came from out of nowhere. Avila only hit .264 with an .814 OPS in his only season of Double-A. It's not awful, but those are hardly the type of numbers that scream future All-Star. And Avila's likely to get some real MVP votes this year (remember, each ballot gets 10 entries). Don't discount what kind of stamina he has to have to catch 120 games and still keep hitting like this, either. It's been an absolutely stellar campaign for Avila, and he's going to be a starting catcher in the playoffs.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2010 numbers: Doesn't matter, it was a lost season due to injuries. He only played 10 games.
2011 numbers: .317/.376/.533, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 104 R, 36 SB, 41 2B, 4 3B
He's got a real shot at the real MVP, and it's all due to his power increase. The average, OBP, doubles, triples, runs and steals aren't surprising at all, if you go back to Ellsbury's numbers pre-2010, and he's only 28. So we knew he had a real shot to drastically improve -- but he's approaching 30 home runs and 100 RBI. No one would have predicted that.

Alex Gordon, Royals
2010 numbers: .215/.315/.355, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 34 R, 10 2B, 1 SB (only 74 games due to demotion to minors and injury)
2011 numbers: .299/.371/.500, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 95 R, 45 2B, 16 SB
This wouldn't have been surprising in 2007 ... or 2008 ... or 2009 ... or maybe even 2010. But after four relatively failed seasons in the face of lofty expectations, people kind of gave up on Gordon. He went from a No. 2 prospect in all of baseball to an afterthought. And just when people gave up on him completely, he broke through in a huge way. Those 45 doubles lead all of baseball and he's doing pretty much everything well.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles
2010 numbers: .268/.320/.394, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R
2011 numbers: .264/.304/.483, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R
This is a return to where Hardy was in 2007 and 2008, though his home run rate is the highest it has ever been. He worked his big season into a multi-year contract extension for the Orioles and has solidified the middle infield.

And the winner is ... Alex Avila. It's a really close call over Gordon. With Ellsbury, I believe we all knew the potential was in there and injuries killed him in 2010. The power increase is nice, but Avila and Gordon are more surprising. Hardy's done it before and he's not old. Plus, his numbers pale in comparison to these other three. Sure, Gordon has far exceeded expectations, but I think if you asked most people before the season who was more likely to impress this year between Gordon and Avila, Gordon would be the answer simply based upon minor-league pedigree. That kind of talent doesn't just abandon someone. Gordon starred -- albeit years ago -- but Avila had never hit enough to believe this kind of monster season was possible. I could easily be wrong on this decision, though, as this is total guesswork. To reiterate, it's really close.

National League

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 48 R
2011 numbers: .290/.405/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R
The newly slender "Fat Elvis" shed loads of pounds this past offseason as he was determined to revert back to vintage "Puma." He did. Many mocked the signing by the Cardinals, especially as Berkman had to return to right field. Well, he hasn't been good defensively, but he's swinging the bat like he did back in his prime and the protection he's provided to Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols has been instrumental in keeping the Cardinals in contention for much of the season.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2010 numbers: .249/.310/.450, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 82 R, 19 SB
2011 numbers: .318/.397/.566, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 97 R, 38 SB
If he doesn't win the real MVP award it won't be because he didn't do enough for his team. It will be because his team didn't do enough for him. Kemp has absolutely carried the Dodgers' offense this season in every facet. He has an outside shot at the triple crown and the 40/40 club, but he'd have to get scorching hot. Still, from a guy who didn't even hit .250 last season, this has been a rebirth. On the flip-side, we knew Kemp had this potential.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
2010 numbers: .268/.323/.409, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 61 R
2011 numbers: .301/.345/.516, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R
If the counting stats don't look overly impressive this year, that's because he's only played in 103 games. Last season it was 152. He was so disappointing in 2010 that he only started five playoff games -- just once in the World Series. It's been a huge bounce-back season for Sandoval, despite the fact that his team has regressed a bit.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2010 numbers: .273/.356/.442, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R, 27 2B, 18 SB
2011 numbers: .296/.378/.547, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 100 R, 38 3B, 21 SB
Here's another guy who will get real-life MVP consideration. While 2010 was a disappoining campaign, this is the Upton the D-Backs drafted first overall in 2005. Look at the number jumps across the board for Upton, and he's still only 24. And his team appears headed for the postseason. Like Kemp, however, we knew this was inside Upton.

And the winner is ... Lance Berkman. The other three players are young and have tons of potential, so their big turnarounds aren't entirely surprising, even if incredibly impressive. At least Upton, probably Kemp and maybe Sandoval were all predictable to have seasons like this. Kemp was definitely a bounce-back candidate, but not many would have envisioned him to be this huge in 2011. Berkman is 35 and many believed he was done as a productive major leaguer -- especially since the Cardinals were moving him back to the outfield. This one feels obvious, as opposed to the Avila/Gordon decision, which I'm still second-guessing ...

Wednesday: What if the Cy Young was decided with Manager of the Year criteria?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 10, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 7:51 pm
 

Gold Glove rules change outfield eligibility

FrancouerBy Evan Brunell

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that Gold Glove balloting will change this offseason in a long overdue move.

Instead of awarding a Gold Glove to three outfielders regardless of specific position, outfielders will now be broken down by which outfield spot a player plays in. That means a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder will all win the award, with candidates limited to those who play a specific amount of games at said position.

It's a great move to make, as the previous system was antiquated. Perhaps it made more sense in the olden days, when it was believed the best defenders in the outfield were always center fielders. In addition, defense was not as heavily prioritized as it has become the last few seasons due to a downturn of offense. Also helping matters is an increased understanding of the impact on defense each specific outfielder can have on the game. With multiple advanced defensive metrics easily available -- to varying degrees of effectiveness -- it's easier to figure out which defenders truly shone through as opposed to just handing the award to those who looked good in center.

The change in the award could potentially help Kansas City sweep the AL outfield Gold Gloves, as the three outfielders -- Alex Gordon in left, Melky Cabrera in center and Jeff Francouer (pictured) in right -- are currently on pace to be the first outfield trio since 1978 to rank first or second at his position in assists. (The Expos had their outfielders all finish first: Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine.) Unsurprisingly, K.C. leads the majors in outfield assists with 48, including an impressive 25 at home. Credit is being given to first-base coach Doug Sisson, who is in his first year on the coaching staff after previously serving as minor-league field coordinator for three seasons for K.C.

“We throw every three days to the bases,” Francoeur, the only Royal with a previous Gold Glove award (Braves, 2007), said. “And if we don’t do it right, Siss will hit another one. I give him a lot of credit for that. Siss has been a huge part of this team this year. He’s put us in position to make plays.”

Sisson believes throws should arrive on one hop, which helps outfielders not overthrow cutoff men, and passes credit onto the outfielders.

“It’s a product of putting in the time,” Sisson said, “making it important and throwing to the bases without cut-off men. That way, in their minds, they’re thinking about throwing guys out. Not hitting cutoff men.

“I’ve always believed the cutoff man’s job is to get in the way of the throw. It’s not an outfielder’s job to hit a cutoff man. If you’re trying to throw guys out, but your mind-set is to hit the cutoff man, then you’re not really trying to throw guys out.”

Clearly, that approach has worked to date. Combined with the rule changes, it could lead to the Royals being the first-ever team to sweep the outfield Gold Gloves. Two outfielders on the same team winning the award has happened multiple times, most recently in 2010 when Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki achieved the honor. Seattle has accomplished the feat four times (1996, 2001, 2003, 2010), tops in the majors.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 7, 2011 9:01 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 12:41 am
 

Video: Francoeur gets A's rookie at 1st from RF

Jeff FrancoeurBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The story, no doubt, at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland was right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, but there was something else that was more rare than a no-hitter that happened in Wednesday's game -- a 9-3 putout.

Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur threw out Oakland rookie Michael Taylor at first to end the second inning of the A's 7-0 victory over the Royals. It was just the fifth 9-3 putout in the American League since 1974 -- a span that has seen 47 no-hitters in the AL alone. The play is less rare in the National League, where it has been done 31 times since 1974, including once by Francoeur who got Padres pitcher Mat Latos at first.

Since coming up to the big leagues in 2005, Francoeur has 97 outfield assists -- the most in baseball over that span. However, Wednesday was the first time he got a position player.

"I wasn't even thinking about it," Francoeur told the Associated Press. "The ball was just laced at me, with the perfect hop and I just let it go. You kind of feel bad because you do it to a guy who is playing his fourth game in the big leagues, but that was really fun."

See the play here:


"I knew it was going to be a close play," Taylor told MLB.com. "I hit it and knew I hit it right at him. I took off and it hopped right to him, and he made a strong throw. It was a great play. He did everything he was supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do, and he came out on top."

Michael TaylorFrancoeur also got Jemile Weeks in the first inning on Coco Crisp's double with a little help from cutoff man Johnny Giavotella.

Kansas City leads the majors this season with 48 outfield assists, 25 of them have come at home plate. While Francoeur now has 15 outfield assists on the season, he's second on the team in the category to left fielder Alex Gordon, who has 20 outfield assists. Center fielder Melky Cabrera has 12 and Mitch Maier has one.

As for the other side of the play, Taylor isn't exactly a Molina brother. The 25-year-old outfielder has 75 stolen bases in his minor-league career and 15 triples and appeared to be running out of the box (there's only so much that gets caught on camera). In the sixth inning, he even added an infield single -- even if he couldn't beat out the hit to the outfield earlier in the game. He added a defensive highlight of his own on the very next play -- catching a foul ball off the bat of Savlador Perez after it popped out of his own glove (see it here). 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Sizing up the AL MVP contenders

Verlander, Bautista

By Evan Brunell

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL MVP.

The AL MVP race is shaping up to be one of the more interesting races as of late, with compelling cases to be made for several candidates. Increasingly, the MVP race in the junior circuit looks to be one that could bear out a surprise candidate. Without a clear-cut candidate, players will lose votes due to team performance, being a pitcher or seeing teammates stealing votes. This last distinction is important, as the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers will all boast multiple candidates.

In alphabetical order, here are the 10 candidates that figure to appear on the majority of ballots:

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: The presumptive top candidate, Bautista is getting dinged due to Toronto being way out of the postseason race. But since when does one player control the fate of a team that could be in the hunt if it didn't play in the AL East? Bautista leads baseball with 40 homers and is far and away the most productive hitter with a .306/.444/.632 line. Any votes he loses due to playing for Toronto could easily be negated with rivals splitting the vote with teammates, so Bautista remains the most likely victory.

Robinson Cano, Yankees
: Entering play Tuesday, both Cano and Dustin Pedroia had equal production on offense as wOBA suggests (basically OPS, but weighted on an OBP scale and tweaked to account for OPS' weaknesses). Cano checks in at .307/.350/.535, while Pedroia lands at .304/.391/.469 in one less game than Cano. The difference is on defense, where Pedroia has played worthy of a Gold Glove and Cano has slipped back to below average, but fielding isn't considered a major factor in MVP balloting. Both players are deserving, but aren't even considered the best MVP on the team.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
: Voters will be dealing with a lot of AL East fatigue in MVP ballots, which could cause Cabrera to slip up the ballot further than anyone may have otherwise thought. The first baseman will crack 100 RBI before the year is out and should also slide over the 30-homer barrier, which will be enough to make him viable to the voters still adamant about relying on traditional counting metrics. This is a player to watch.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
: Ellsbury has been a wrecking machine all season and may be the most popular candidate on the Red Sox for voters, who will love the five tools Ellsbury brings to the table. Leading off much of the year, the center fielder has contributed a .311/.371/.520 line, swiping 36 bags and hammering 24 homers. If he can get hot down the stretch and toss in a 30/30 season for good measure, his candidacy will be overwhelming and could take home the honors. But will it be enough to cut through the noise of two other Boston contenders?

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
: Gonzalez leads baseball in batting average with a .339 mark and while his power has suffered with the move to Fenway, 23 homers and 67 extra-base hits is nothing to sneeze at. An August swoon dropped his RBI pace down and no longer leads the league in that respect, but he's still collected 103 on the season. Pair that with fantastic defense as always, and he's another strong candidate. Someone who was considered a lock to win the award before the year and even for the first few months of the season, Gonzalez may fall short thanks to Bautista's overpowering talents and Ellsbury doing it all on the same team.

Alex Gordon, Royals
: Gordon's not going to win the award, but with the MVP balloting going 10 deep, he figures to show up on enough to place on the ballot. He's been the Royals' best hitter by far, with a sneaky .303/.376/.502 line that would get far more play if he played on a better team or in a better media market. Gordon has also taken to left field, leading all outfielders with 20 assists. (Second best: Nick Markakis, 14.) While some of these assists are certainly players taking a risk early on in the season with an unknown entity manning left, it's still to Gordon's credit that he's become a strong fielder. If he keeps up these type of numbers in the coming years, he could have a MVP waiting for him down the line.

Curtis Granderson, Yankees
: Granderson is doing all he can to outslug Bautista with 38 homers and 109 RBI to his name, but where he drops off is in batting average, with his .271 line the lowest among any hitter on this list, and the only one under .300. That's going to hurt Granderson, as well as the presence of Cano as a candidate. And, while not listed here, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira could also steal votes. Mitigating things is Granderson's 24 stolen bases. If you throw fielding out of the equation, Granderson easily clears Ellsbury in terms of offensive value. But when you add in overall game... well, the balloting results should be interesting.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
: As mentioned above, Pedroia has the same offensive value as Cano, but wins it all on fielding. Yet, Pedroia pales in comparison -- at least as far as MVP chatter goes -- to Ellsbury and Gonzalez. Pedroia is the Red Sox at this point and is one of the most indispensable players in the game. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's MVP, and it's hard to look past the gaudy numbers Ellsbury and Gonzalez are putting up in favor of someone who just keeps motoring along. Perhaps in a weak class, he'd stand out.

Justin Verlander, Tigers
: The only pitcher on this list, Verlander has a chance to win it all because when he pitches, the Tigers win. When he doesn't the Tigers... well, they win too, but a lot less to the point where they'd be out of the postseason chase by now. Scott Miller describes his chase as well as anyone could: "Most dominant single individual player in baseball this season. In line to win the first pitching Triple Crown in the AL since Johan Santana in 2006, and he's 14-3 this season after a Detroit loss."

Michael Young, Rangers
: Young will get some love here for two reasons: First, he's not in the AL East. Second, the Rangers are currently poised to win the AL West, although the Angels may have something to say about that. (And even then, there's no clear MVP candidate in Los Angeles.) Plus, Young had that well-publicized spat with the Rangers over the winter, when he was booted to the DH spot, causing the infielder to ask for a trade. It didn't work out, but Young has been immeasurably valuable in his ability to play around the infield and has thrown up a .334/.376/.482 line, driving in 91 games, so he'll top 100. Getting votes as a MVP after the offseason he had would be an interesting story.

So all in all, who is the best candidate to win the MVP? We'll answer that later in the year, but drop in your responses in the comments.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com