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2014 MLB Team Previews

The 2014 MLB season is almost here! Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman brings you an in depth look at each of the 30 teams, prospects and key questions as we head towards opening day.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Weekly Podcast - Playoffs Heating Up!

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The weekly podcast is up!  Check it out here

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Friday, June 7, 2013

2013 MLB Draft Results - Round 1

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2013 MLB Draft Results

A look at the first round results for the 2013 MLB Entry Draft.

Who did you team take?



Draft#:1
Mark Appel
Ht/Wt:6' 5"/190 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Stanford



Draft#:2
Kris Bryant
Ht/Wt:6' 5"/205 lbs
Position: 3B
School: San Diego



Draft#:3
Jonathan Gray
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/240 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Oklahoma



Draft#:4
Kohl Stewart
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/185 lbs
Position: RHP
School: St. Pius X HS (TX)



Draft#:5
Clint Frazier
Ht/Wt:6' 0"/190 lbs
Position: 3B/OF
School: Loganville HS (GA)



Draft#:6
Colin Moran
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/175 lbs
Position: 3B
School: N. Carolina



Draft#:7
Trey Ball
Ht/Wt:6' 6"/175 lbs
Position: LHP
School: New Castle Chrysler HS (IN)



Draft#:8
Hunter Dozier
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/220 lbs
Position: SS
School: Stephen F. Austin



Draft#:9*
Austin Meadows
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/200 lbs
Position: OF
School: Grayson HS (GA)



Draft#:10
Phil Bickford
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/185 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Oaks Christian HS (CA)



Draft#:11
Dominic Smith
Ht/Wt:6' 0"/195 lbs
Position: 1B
School: Serra HS (CA)



Draft#:12
DJ Peterson
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/190 lbs
Position: 3B
School: New Mexico



Draft#:13
Hunter Renfroe
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/215 lbs
Position: OF
School: Mississippi St.



Draft#:14
Reese McGuire
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/190 lbs
Position: C
School: Kentwood HS (WA)



Draft#:15
Braden Shipley
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/190 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Nevada



Draft#:16
JP Crawford
Ht/Wt:6' 2"/175 lbs
Position: SS
School: Lakewood HS (CA)



Draft#:17
Tim Anderson
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/180 lbs
Position: SS
School: East Central HS (MS)



Draft#:18
Chris Anderson
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/225 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Jacksonville



Draft#:19
Marco Gonzales
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/185 lbs
Position: LHP
School: Gonzaga



Draft#:20
Jonathan Crawford
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/205 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Florida



Draft#:21
Nick Ciuffo
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/200 lbs
Position: C
School: Lexington HS (SC)



Draft#:22
Hunter Harvey
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/175 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Bandys HS (NC)



Draft#:23
Alex Gonzalez
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/200 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Oral Roberts



Draft#:24
Billy McKinney
Ht/Wt:6' 2"/195 lbs
Position: OF
School: Plano West HS (TX)



Draft#:25
Christian Arroyo
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/185 lbs
Position: SS
School: Hernando HS (FL)



Draft#:26
Eric Jagielo
Ht/Wt:6' 3"/215 lbs
Position: 3B/OF
School: Notre Dame



Draft#:27
Phil Ervin
Ht/Wt:5'11"/190 lbs
Position: OF
School: Samford



Draft#:28*
Rob Kaminsky
Ht/Wt:6' 0"/190 lbs
Position: LHP/OF
School: St. Joseph HS (NJ)



Draft#:29*
Ryne Stanek
Ht/Wt:6' 4"/180 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Arkansas



Draft#:30*
Travis Demeritte
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/195 lbs
Position: SS
School: Winder-Barrow HS (GA)



Draft#:31*
Jason Hursh
Ht/Wt:6' 1"/197 lbs
Position: RHP
School: Oklahoma St.



Draft#:32*
Aaron Judge
Ht/Wt:6' 7"/240 lbs
Position: OF
School: Fresno State



Draft#:33*
Ian Clarkin
Ht/Wt:6' 2"/190 lbs
Position: LHP
School: James Madison HS (CA)

Original Six Teams Eye Cup

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Original Six Teams Eye Cup
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

It was supposed to go down as two of the greatest Conference Finals match-ups of all time. No other time in NHL history had the previous four Stanley Cup winners all advanced to the Conference Finals (LA 2012, Boston 2011, Chicago 2010, Pittsburgh 2009). Instead of the drama, intrigue and all but certain supply of overtime thrillers and games sevens, here we are looking at potential knockout games in each series.

Boston comes into tonight's home game four match-up with a chance to send Sid the Kid & Co. packing. Fans across New England have their brooms ready. "His bags are packed. He has his plane ticket. Bring him to the airport. Send him home..."

Happy Gilmore references aside, the Bruins have turned what was thought to be a battle with an offensive juggernaut into your typical Boston grind-it-out, frustrate your opponent, type of low scoring affair. The dipsy-do Pittsburgh superstars have not been given an inch of ice without being met abruptly by a black and gold sweater and usually a shoulder, stick or hip for good measure. That is Bruins hockey. Blue collar, rough around the edges, find a way to win: will yourselves to victory.

There has been no better example of this than "energy line" grinder Gregory Campbell who went down to block a Evgeni Malkin slapshot during a 2nd period penalty kill only to have the shot fracture his fibula. In true Boston fashion, he got back right up hobbled around the ice for another 30 seconds shutting down the Penguins attack and blocked another shot before finally limping to the bench.

Now, here they are on the brink of sweeping the team everyone and their uncle thought would walk their way through the East to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Over in the West we are seeing a similar lopsided result. The Chicago Blackhawks are out to a 3-1 series lead thanks to Thursday night's 3-2 come from behind victory. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings, who had not lost a home playoff game since game four of last years finals, find themselves in a heck of a hole looking up at the #1 seed Blackhawks.

Surprisingly, the Blackhawks were able to get the job done in game four without star defensemen Duncan Keith who was suspended a game for his slash on Kings forward Jeff Carter. A slew of young defensemen and a goaltender in Corey Crawford, who has rediscovered his early season brilliance, have stymied the defending champs.

Like Pittsburgh, the Blackhawks have been the darlings of the West all season long; all but a lock to go to the finals. Unlike the afore mentioned Penguins however, the Blackhawks are living up to expectations, surviving the hard hitting physical play of their opponents and finding a way to put the pucks in the net. The Penguins would give half their roster to get the goaltending that Chicago has had -- its been all the difference.

So here we sit seven games into the Conference finals. Many assumed this would be the half way point. For two original six teams it marks an opportunity to take care of business and punch their tickets to a return to the Stanley Cup.

Boston vs. Chicago? I think the league would be just fine with that.

Rise (and Possible Fall) of the Mid-Majors

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Rise (and Possible Fall) of The Mid-Majors
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

In 2004, the Utah Utes, with Alex Smith as their quarterback and Urban Meyer as their head coach, took college football by storm, going 11-0 en route to a Fiesta Bowl Match-up with the Pitt Panthers, which they won 35-7. Utah ended the year undefeated, and was ranked #4 at the end of the year, becoming the first true “BCS Buster,” a mid-major team who not only took an “At-Large Bid” for a BCS bowl game, but won the game in decisive fashion, showing that there is plenty of strong football being played outside of the major conferences.

While major conferences and their teams receive all the publicity and money, teams from mid-major, or non-BCS conferences, have been relegated to playing the role of spoiler during the season and in bowl games. However, teams from these conferences play with pride and have shown the nation that they can take on any team from any conference. Since Utah’s Fiesta Bowl win, Boise State has won two Fiesta Bowls, Colt Brennan led Hawaii to the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, TCU has played in a Fiesta Bowl and won a Rose Bowl with Andy Dalton as their quarterback, and last year, Northern Illinois, a team from the MAC, made it to the Orange Bowl. With the increased expectations amongst all teams in college football, and the transition from the BCS to the new playoff format, there will be opportunities for mid-majors to leave their imprint on college football. The new playoff format is designed to pit the top four teams in the country against each other, based on a selection committee. With the other conferences getting tougher, it is likely that a team like Boise State could go undefeated and be among the top 5 teams once the selection committee is set to choose its teams. The new playoff system will also allow the top mid-major teams to play in prime-time bowl games, increasing their visibility and ultimately revenue.

Though the playoff system will provide a better opportunity for mid-majors to play in the championship game, all success has consequences. Because of the overwhelming money in college football and the broadcasting rights of those teams, college football has been undergoing aggressive realignment, which will continue for the next three years. Already, three mid-majors; TCU, Temple, and Utah, have aligned with BCS conferences; with many more changes to come. At one point, Boise State was considering a transfer to the Big East for football, but has since reconsidered and is staying in the Mountain West. However, with the continued success of certain programs, the amount of money being paid for conference television rights, and the opportunity to play the best teams in football at some of the best venues, it seems that many of the best teams in smaller conferences will soon be lured into the larger conferences. The two conferences most likely to get divided are the Mountain West and Conference USA, for entirely different reasons. The Mountain West is by far the most talented of the non-BCS conferences, and may be better than the Big East and ACC top to bottom. With teams like Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, and Nevada, major conferences would love to be able to add one or all of those teams in order to increase competition and revenue within their conference. Conference USA has already started to lost its high profile teams, with SMU, Houston, UCF, and Memphis aligning with the American Athletic Conference. Conference USA also has teams that represent various areas of the country, so multiple conferences could divide the conference up evenly. If these conferences were to get absorbed, it would leave only three non-BCS conferences left, which would create a large divide in college football; pertaining to money, talent, and recruiting ability.

The next five years will dictate the future of college football, with the non-BCS conferences as the only ones that will be largely affected. The success of the new playoff system will go a long way to determining whether or not teams can expect to compete while in smaller conferences, or if they need to “sell out” and join a bigger conference. No mid-major has ever made it to the National Championship Game, but let’s hope that it changes, because if not, there may not be mid-major teams left.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hoopshysteria: Championship Breakdown

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Hoopshysteria: Championship Breakdown
By Wild on Sports Analyst Talyon Perry

With the finals around the corner lets take a look into the match-ups on the floor.

PG: Tony Parker vs Mario Chalmers
Tony Parker is coming off a 37 point game in game 4 of the western conference championship and isn't going to slow down. And did I mention that he was the finals MVP in 2007? Chalmers will be splitting time with the younger Norris Cole, both great 3 point shooters. Luckily for the Heat, Lebron will be the field general more than Chalmers or Cole.
Advantage: Spurs

SG: Dwayne Wade vs Danny Green
Wade, like Parker, is a former finals MVP but has been limited due to lingering injuries. Wade did come up with a big 21 point game to help the Heat in game 7. Green replaces Ginobili due to injuries, but Ginobili could be back to form after the rest he received while the Heat were battling for their lives. Green is shooting 43% from three, so don't leave him alone on the perimeter.
Advantage: Heat

SF: Lebron James vs Kawhi Leonard
I will make this one short because this matchup isn't even close. Lebron has won more MVP awards (4) than years Leonard has been in the league (2). Kawhi is a defensive player but he's no match for Lebron.
Advantage: Heat

PF: Udonis Haslem vs Tiago Splitter
This matchup features two very average players, surprising given each team's talent level. Haslem has had a few postseason games that have neared 20 points but are few and far between. Splitter has also been uneventful but is shooting 58% from the field, if only his free throw percentage was that high.
Advantage: Neither

C: Chris Bosh vs Tim Duncan
Normally this would be an even matchup but this postseason Bosh has been a train wreck. Bosh was averaging under 38% from the field and 4.3 rebounds against the Pacers. Duncan on the other hand has nominated several overtimes in the playoffs, and will be battling for his 5th ring.
Advantage: Spurs

Bench: Heat vs Spurs

One of the Heat's biggest advantages is its bench featuring Bird Man Anderson, Ray Allen, and Shane Battier. The Spurs on paper have a very limited bench but the players are capable of coming up huge when needed. Given the way Anderson has been playing its impossible to go against the heat in this category.
Advantage: Heat

I predict the Heat and Spur series will mirror the results of the match ups. 
Prediction: 4-2 Heat.

State of the Farm - AL West

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State of the Farm - AL West
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

As we inch closer to the 2013 MLB draft I thought it would be fitting to take pre-draft look at the state of each minor league system. On the agenda today: AL West...

Los Angeles Angels:
OVERALL: The Angels challenge the White Sox and Brewers for the worst system in baseball as we near the season’s midpoint. Their top prospect has spent most of 2013 hitting under .200 and they’ve given away lots of talent in trades and lost draft picks. There won’t be much help coming in this draft, either, as the Angels don’t have a pick until no. 59.

GRADUATIONS:
Lefty Michael Roth was one of the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the major leagues, but he’s given up 14 runs and 14 innings (that’s a 9.00 ERA).

TOP PROSPECT: Kaleb Cowart, 3b, is Los Angeles’ best prospect despite a miserable .226/.286/.333 start to the season for AA-Arkansas. He’s still only 21 and last year Cowart showed good power defense at the hot corner. He was also more patient last year; Cowart is still probably the only position prospect who projects to be an above-average regular in Anaheim’s system.

BIGGEST RISER: Mark Sappington, rhp, is holding his own in the tough pitching environment of San Bernardino (their official name is the “Inland Empire 66ers” in the high-A California League). He currently has a 3.97 ERA and 62 K in 68 IP. He throws hard and has a chance to stick as a starter.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
Cowart. Although Nick Maronde, lhp, who came into the year as their second-best prospect, is not off the hook as his conversion to relief has not gone particularly well. He’s walked 19 batters in 20.1 IP with a 4.87 ERA for AA-Arkansas, a puzzling development for someone who’s never had control issues.


Houston Astros:
OVERALL: The Astros might have the deepest farm system in baseball, the product of (so far) successful trades and strong drafts in recent years. Last year they were able to take advantage of baseball’s strict slotting system by saving money on top pick Carlos Correa, allowing them to allot some money to other picks and finding several more intriguing players. That might be the only way to draft multiple first-round talents under the new rules. It will not be long before more promising players start showing up in Houston.

GRADUATIONS: The Astros have yet to call up any of their true top prospects, but there have been some interesting rookies on their roster early on. Potential lead-off man Robbie Grossman has gotten on base but he’ll have to do better than a .198 batting average with zero power. Third baseman Matt Dominguez has hit for empty power (8 HR but a .262 OBP) and even that might be a fluke, he’s not a long-term answer. Brad Peacock, rhp, come over in the Jed Lowrie trade and he’s done terrible in multiple roles for Houston, coughing up an 8.77 ERA and .302 opponent’s batting average in 26 IP. More promising are relievers Paul Clemens and Jose Cisnero who can dominate with their fastball in multiple-inning stings.

TOP PROSPECT:
Carlos Correa, ss, was last year’s top pick in the draft, and he’s more than held his own as a teenager (18) for low-A Quad Cities. Correa has cooled down after a hot start but he’s still hitting .275/.383/.401 with 3 HR and 33 RBI in 167 AB. That plate discipline is very impressive for someone so young, and the scouting reports anticipate a premium bat with enough speed (and more than enough arm) to stick at short.

BIGGEST RISER: Nolan Fontana, ss, was another early-round pick last year by the Astros, and although he is older and less athletic than Correa, Fontana has demonstrated impressive plate discipline and a strong hitter’s profile. In his career, Fontana has a .458 OBP in over 400 plate appearances, and even though high-A Lancaster is a hitter’s environment, Fontana’s .317/.450/.479 line makes him a top prospect up the middle. Could he be another Ben Zobrist?

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Rio Ruiz, 3b, earned $1 million in the draft last year due to his power potential, but the 19-year-old has struggled so far in low-A Quad Cities. Ruiz is hitting just .219/.325/.336 with 3 HR, although he’s drawing walks and that’s always a good sign for a teenager.


Oakland Athletics:
OVERALL: It is a farm system neither great nor terrible. Two winters ago Oakland built up the farm through rebuilding trades, but then they were surprise contenders, so some of that depth graduated and/or was given away again, this time to improve the major league team this year. Oakland has a spotty record with recent drafts, getting some solid hitting prospects like Michael Choice and Addison Russell, but at times failing to acquire the upside you’d expect from top picks (Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, etc).

GRADUATIONS: Older rookie Nate Freiman (and Team Israel “star” last September), 1b, is hitting well in limited playing time. Catcher Derek Norris is fighting to keep his batting average over .200. Control artist Dan Straily is doing better than his 4.60 ERA would suggest (8 starts).

TOP PROSPECT: Addison Russell, ss, showed five-tool star power in rookie-ball last year and so he was aggressively moved up to high-A Stockton as a 19-year-old. The results have been mixed, with Russell batting .215/.306/.410 with 6 HR and 5 SB, showing strong secondary skills but striking out a lot. The hits haven’t been falling in, but when they do, they are more likely to be for extra bases (22 out of 42).

BIGGEST RISER: Michael Ynoa, rhp, received a massive $4.25 million bonus all the way back in 2008, which at the time was a record for international teenagers. Since then he’s been mostly hurt, although the stuff has never disappeared. This year Ynoa has nearly doubled his career innings total at low-A Beloit, working in short stints but performing very well. He has a 2.52 ERA and 32 K in 35.2 IP.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Miles Head, 1b, entered the year with stats that said ‘future masher’ but scouting reports that questioned his long swing and aggressive approach. So far this year, the scouts have been right, and although Head is just 21, his .197/.272/.265 line for AA-Midland raises serious red flags. Since hitting is his only calling card, this amounts to a lost season so far and he’ll have to prove he can do something, even just hit for power, in the high minors, before re-establishing himself as a prospect.


Seattle Mariners: 
OVERALL: There’s a bottleneck of top pitching prospects in the upper minors for Seattle, which is a little strange considering they are trotting out washed-up veterans like Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman in the rotation. The Mariners’ have an enviable supply of pitching prospects, while on the hitting side they are largely dependent on the progress of toolsy-but-raw Latin American players in the low minors. Also, the grade from high-A High Desert up to Seattle is particularly steep, considering the relative hitting environments.

GRADUATIONS: Can shortstop Nick Franklin join Kyle Seager as a home-grown everyday player, one whose numbers survive Safeco Field? Brandon Maurer won a rotation spot in spring training but he’s been one of the league’s worst pitchers so far, with an ugly 6.93 ERA in 10 starts. Hard-throwing relievers Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor have done well.

TOP PROSPECT: Taijuan Walker, rhp, is repeating AA, but he’s lowered his ERA 2 runs down to 2.67 and he’s improved his K-rate to over a batter an inning (9.6). Walker has some of the best stuff in the minors and, come next year, could give Seattle a second ace. Even if he needs an adjustment period, he’s only 20, and Safeco Field is a soft landing for any pitching prospect.

BIGGEST RISER: Down in low-A Clinton, pitchers Tyler Pike (lhp) and Victor Sanchez (rhp) have dominated, but they were supposed to. The youngster who’s really surprised is South African native Dylan Unsworth, who compensates for sub-par stuff by throwing strikes. Lots and lots of strikes. The 20-year-old has a 2.25 ERA and just THREE walks in 56 IP, although his 5.8 K/9 raises a red flag that this might be the case of a polished control guy taking advantage of lesser hitters. In fact, it probably is. But at age 20, there is enough hope for growth or perhaps an uptick in his fastball that Unsworth could become a back-end starter down the road. And he’s from South Africa, which is pretty cool.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: John Hicks and Jack Marder were hard hitting catchers last year for high-A High Desert, but this year they’ve devolved into organizational depth, batting .242/.265/.349 and .189/.280/.276, respectively. Together they’ve drawn 14 BB and struck out 64 times. Further proof that batting lines at High Desert should be treated with extreme suspicion.


Texas Rangers:
OVERALL: Despite (or because of?) the success of the major league team, Texas’ farm system has taken a hit in the first two months of the year, not merely due to graduations, but also because their high-profile Latin prospects have failed to break out and several of their best prospects have endured bizarre collapses (we’ll get to that later).

GRADUATIONS:
Rookies have, in many ways, helped power Texas’ strong season. Twelve days ago Jurickson Profar, the best prospect left in the minors, was called up to play second base for an injured Ian Kinsler and he’s done well so far, hitting .300/.341/.475 in 40 AB. He’s real good. Outfielder Leonys Martin has made it easier to say goodbye to Josh Hamilton, as he’s hit .276 with 8 SB in 47 games so far. In the rotation, righties Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm have filled in for injuries, throwing strikes and eating innings. Tepesch is the younger and better of the two, although Grimm has pitched better than his 5.13 ERA. Martin Perez is young and left-handed, but his AAA numbers are spotty and he’s not had success yet in the majors. He’s ten innings away from losing his rookie status and might be more valuable as trade bait for mid-season reinforcements.

TOP PROSPECT: The promotion of Profar leaves no clear front-runner. Rougned Odor, 2b, and Luke Jackson, rhp, are the best position player and pitcher prospect left in their system. Odor is the rare infield prospect who has already moved to second base (most top 2b in the majors are converted shortstops), but his bat is for real and he’s smacking doubles (16) and stealing bases (14) for high-A Myrtle Beach at just age 19. Also at Myrtle Beach, Luke Jackson still lacks great command but he uses his fastball to great effect, generating a career 9.7 K/9 in in 250+ IP and this year sports a shiny 2.44 ERA.

BIGGEST RISER: CJ Edwards, rhp, has a 2.25 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 11 starts for low-A Hickory. Those numbers are actually the worst of Edwards’ brief minor league career, as he’s dominated the low minors (and rookie ball) to the tune of a 1.83 ERA in 123 IP.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Mike Olt, 3b, and Cody Buckel, rhp, were top prospects going into the year, and were featured in trade discussions this winter for players like RA Dickey, but they’ve started the season in such terrible fashion that not just their ceiling, but in fact their careers, have been called into question. Olt started the year hitting .175/.267/.300 for AAA-Round Rock, striking out in almost half his at-bats. He turns 25 in August so the clock is ticking, and fast. Buckel is only 21, but he’s done even worse, putting up an insane 20.25 ERA and 28 (!!!) walks in 9.1 IP. Control was never an issue before and that’s an unprecedented collapse. There hasn’t been an identifiable injury, either, as he’s currently working in extended spring training. This is Rick Ankiel wild-arm stuff. It will be a good story if Buckel can even recover to post solid numbers again at any level, let alone the majors.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

State of the Farm - AL Central

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State of the Farm - AL Central
 By Wild on Sports Analyst Aaron Dorman

As we inch closer to the 2013 MLB draft I thought it would be fitting to take pre-draft look at the state of each minor league system. On the agenda today: AL Central...

Cleveland Indians:
OVERALL: Cleveland’s farm system hasn’t been strong since mid-2011 when they graduated several infielders and traded two successive first-round picks for Ubaldo Jimenez. However, they are finally restocking the lower levels, mostly with intriguing bats from Latin America, and their impressive cache of shortstops could allow them to trade Asdrubal Cabrera to fill other holes, while still remaining contenders.

GRADUATIONS: Yan Gomes has done very well as a part-time catcher, slugging over .600 in a decent sample size. Cody Allen is already their best relief pitcher. Trevor Bauer could be their second-best starter…but control issues have held him back, and he’s gone back and forth so far this year between major league spot starts and AAA.

TOP PROSPECT:
Francisco Lindor, ss, has excellent plate discipline and blooming gap power, to go with his fine speed and defense. He’s only 19 and is flourishing with high-A Carolina, his .306/.375/.427 line impressing despite a recent slump. He’s got the Elvis Andrus tool-kit, and that’s a guy who’s now making $100 million in the big leagues.

BIGGEST RISER: Danny Salazar, rhp, began the year as an interesting thrower with Tommy John surgery in the past, but he’s since improved his stock to the point where he now looks like he could be an above average starter, and soon. Between AA-AAA, Salazar’s strikeout rate has jumped up from 7.8 K/9 to 12.3, and he has a 2.51 ERA in 46.2 IP. He’s still been limited to shorter stints so if he reaches the majors this year, it will probably be in the bullpen.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Dorssys Paulino, ss, was supposed to follow in Lindor’s footsteps as a premium up-the-middle-prospect, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential at all, hitting a week .229 with 7 SB for low-A Lake County. He has no Home Runs yet this year but he did hit 6 in the Arizona League last year, so there’s some strength here. But, even at age 18, his struggles have been so bad that he might be due to return to rookie-ball when the NY Penn League begins later this month.

Kansas City Royals:
OVERALL: The Royals farm system took a big hit when they traded for James Shields, but also new rules about spending in the draft means they weren’t able to money on top talents who fell due to signing demands, which is how they acquired the likes of Wil Myers and Bryan Brickhouse. Kansas City has had to use dollars to make up for poor development of pitchers, many of whom have been injured or ineffective.

GRADUATIONS: Nobody, which is pretty shocking considering their offensive needs. But they thought they had better players on hand, gambling on the myth of Jeff Francoeur despite years of data that prove he’ll never ever live up to his athleticism. That’s a mistake which will cost them for many years in the future as Wil Myers contends for Home Run titles in Tampa.

TOP PROSPECT: Yordano Ventura, rhp, throws hard with a plus curve, and he’s the closest pitching prospect to the big leagues for Kansas City. So far this year Ventura has a 2.34 ERA in 11 starts with 74 K in 57.2 IP for AA-Northwest Arkansas. He’s particularly adept at suppressing Home Runs (just 3 so far this year).

BIGGEST RISER: Kyle Smith, rhp, has done the best of a group of intriguing arms in A-ball for Kansas City who have put up big numbers this year. Smith is the only one who has advanced up to high-A Wilmington, however. At age 20, Smith has a 2.00 ERA and 58 K in 54 IP (ten starts). Smith’s fastball is only slightly above average (if that) but he impresses as a polished future mid-rotation anchor.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
Bubba Starling, of, raised questions about his game last year when he struck out 70 times in 200 at-bats. This year, his approach has really affected his hitting. He’s put up a .206/.284/.366 line for low-A Lexington. His strikeouts have remained constant (30% of his PA) but his walks, power, and batting average on balls in play have all done way down. He will have to change his batting style to be a real prospect again.


Detroit Tigers
OVERALL:
Their farm system is bad, but who cares? The first-place Tigers have not had a first-round draft pick since 2009, and even that player, rhp Jacob Turner, is now a Miami Marlin. They’ve preferred to build their team through free agency and astute trades. Their expensive stars and lack of depth make them a top-heavy team who nevertheless won’t look to stock the farm until the winning comes to a halt in Detroit.

GRADUATIONS: Bruce Rondon was supposed to be their closer but he had a bad spring and has been limited to 2 big-league innings so far this year. The Tigers management has a curious affinity for outfielder Avisail Garcia, a hacking outfielder who was rushed to the big leagues. Garcia has rewarded their faith with a .293 OBP in 41 plate appearances, not much of a surprise.

TOP PROSPECT: Nick Castellanos, of, could be a future batting champion, and Detroit wisely has let him work on his plate discipline at AAA rather than throwing him in the fire immediately. His .279/.353/.456 line at AAA-Toledo is more impressive than it looks on paper since he is one of the youngest players in the league at age 21, and he has indeed become more selective (his walk-rate has more than doubled since his time in AA last year). He could help Detroit soon, but there’s still no rush.

BIGGEST RISER: Daniel Fields, of, signed for $1.6 million in 2009, was rushed to the high-A Florida State League, and has floundered since…until this year, where the tools have finally come alive in a big way. Fields is hitting .281/.375/.495 with 6 HR and 11 SB in 49 games for AA-Erie. That triple slash line represents career highs across the board, and he’s already set a career-high in doubles (17). His strikeout numbers are pretty high (53), but so is his ceiling…at long last!

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
Casey Crosby, lhp, has pitched better lately, but he’s slowly gone from a top prospect to more of a tweener, battling through injuries and control problems in his minor league career. He made three terrible starts last year for Detroit and this year has been ho-hum for AAA-Toledo, with a 4.47 ERA and 5.2 BB/9 dampening the promise of his 9.2 K/9. Right now, he looks more like a possible swingman or long reliever in the majors.


Minnesota Twins:
OVERALL: Even with graduations, the Twins might have the most impressive collection of high-ceiling prospects in baseball. They almost certainly have the best pair of prospects in outfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano, both of whom are destroying a-ball pitching. Meanwhile, trades and better drafting has finally added some pitching depth to a farm system that in the recent past has had a major problem finding quality starters. There is a lot to like about the Twin’s future.

GRADUATIONS: A pair of rookie outfielders, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, have been playing full-time for the Twins, with varying results. Hicks is still recovering from a miserable 3-for-52 start to his season, and although he only hit .202 in May, that was nearly DOUBLE his April batting average (.118). Right now he’s up to .173/.245/.335 with 6 HR. Arcia has done much better, showing good power and holding his own, although eventually one might hope that his .255 batting average rises significantly. Among pitchers, only Rule 5 draftee Ryan Pressley has made an impression, with some solid long relief work, although his 1.29 ERA is a fluke.

TOP PROSPECT: Byron Buxton, of, is doing his best Mike Trout impression for low-A Cedar Rapids, batting .333/.435/.545 with 7 HR and 26 SB so far this season. He was considered the best athlete in last year’s draft but as indicated by his OBP, he’s shown a much more advanced feel for hitting than scouts expected. There is a good chance he is baseball’s top prospect by the end of the year.

BIGGEST RISER:
DJ Baxendale, rhp, is the best among the type of pitching prospect the Twins seem to produce in spades: mediocre fastball, some secondary pitches and deception, superior control. He was no match for a-ball hitters, going 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in his first 9 starts with 48 K and just 11 BB in 57.2 IP. His first start for AA-New Britain did not go as well, and that will be the real test for his stuff. His ceiling is something along the lines of a Kevin Slowey-type, which is a great find in the tenth round of the draft.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: None of their major prospects have disappointed this year, but Adrian Salcedo, rhp, has not yet recovered from his 2012 injuries and is pitching to a disappointing 5.25 ERA for high-A Fort Myers. His 10.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 indicate a better pitcher…but just the fact that he’s been forced to move to relief full-time is a disappointment for someone who looked like a potential impact starter two years ago.


Chicago White Sox:
OVERALL: It’s a disaster. The White Sox have long ignored their farm system, either bringing prospects up quickly (Gordan Beckham) or trading them for established veterans (Jake Peavy). They’ve been cheap in the draft, uninvolved in the International market, and after some interesting performances last year, nearly all of their prospects have struggled or underperformed so far in 2013. It’s probably the worst farm system in baseball, and definitely has the lowest number of impact prospects.

GRADUATIONS: Conor Gillaspie, inf, has been a nice surprise, picked up on the cheap from San Francisco over the winter. He’s hit .272 filling in for Beckham and Jeff Keppinger around the infield. Pitcher Dylan Axelrod has a 4.04 ERA and looks like capable innings eater/back-of-the-rotation starter, although his window is narrow and he’s already 27.

TOP PROSECT: Micah Johnson, 2b??? I throw up those question marks because before the season began, he was nowhere near the top of the White Sox prospect list. But a lot of those guys have really really struggled. Johnson was a ninth-round pick with a solid but unspectacular debut in rookie-ball under his belt, and profiled as a future utility guy, if that. This year, although he’s old for the league at 22, Johnson is having a strong season for low-a Kannapolis. He leads pro baseball with 47 SB and is hitting .320/.408/.481 with good gap power (20 XBH). He needs to move up to high-A so the White Sox can better assess his future. His stock is way up.

BIGGEST RISER: Other than Johnson, Josh Phegley, c, is knocking on the door. Although already 25, Phegley is off to a great start with AAA-Charlotte, batting .321/.375/.618 with 11 HR. Before this year he’s shown a little power but has mostly been a glove-first catcher, without much of a ceiling. This could be the best two months of his career…but in Chicago, Tyler Flowers isn’t exactly establishing himself long-term.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
How can I pick just one? Let’s start with Courtney Hawkins, of, Chicago’s first-round pick last year who was rushed at just age 19 all the way up to high-A Winston-Salem. He’s hit .189 with an incredible 50 K in just 90 AB, although he has hit 8 HR. The year before that, Keenyn Walker, of, was Chicago’s top pick (2nd round), and is currently batting a punchless .195 for AA-Birmingham, with strikeout issues himself, although at least he’s stealing bases. Other familiar names are similarly depressing. Carlos Hernandez? “Slugging” .286 in AAA. Andre Rienzo? A 6.71 ERA. Yuck yuck yuck yuck.

MLB's Misguided Pursuit of Justice

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MLB Prepared to Punish Teams, Fans, in Misguided Pursuit of ‘Justice"
By Wild on Sports Analyst Aaron Dorman

Late tonight, this story came out, reporting that MLB had finally reached an agreement with the Miami clinic that had reportedly provided at least 20 players with PEDs over the past few years. The story about the clinic had been known since earlier this winter, but until now Biogenesis of America (now defunct) had refused to cooperate.

As a result, the players implicated could be facing up to 100-game suspensions, including former MVP Ryan Braun. Other significant names include Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Johnny Peralta and Nelson Cruz.

If the suspensions happen soon, this will easily be the most significant PED-related crack-down since MLB began their suspension policy. Were MLB to follow through on suspending these players, it would certainly represent a major commitment to disallowing PEDs and taking punitive measures…but at what cost?

If baseball were to suspend the players associated with Biogenesis of America, it would seriously upset pennant races and roster decisions. It exposes what is not working about baseball’s drug policy. Bud Selig and friends have maintained that stopping PED usage is essentially to preserving the integrity of the sport, but it seems to me that this situation would threaten the integrity of the season results.

Twenty players is almost a full roster worth of players, although some accused are minor leaguers. That is an incredible number of players who will suddenly have to be replaced. And teams that had no contingency plan in the event these players would be suspended will have to scramble to adjust and compensate. It will be little consolation to the Tigers, for instance, that they won’t have to pay Jhonny Peralta’s salary, if his absence costs them a spot in the playoffs.

Some might say that teams have to deal with surprise injuries all the team, and this is no different. However, when is the last time twenty players all were ‘injured’ for 50-plus games in the same night? And now teams will have to deal with injuries IN ADDITION to player suspensions. Finally, some players are “injury-prone” and therefore teams can prepare for contingencies. However, can you deem a player “PED prone”, and thus have adequate backups on hand? It seems pretty clear teams are unaware or uninvolved in their players’ PED usage.

Baseball clearly has not made a great case for not using PEDs, and a lot of that goes back to Bud Selig’s regime, which allowed steroids and PEDs to become rampant to the point where it was spread to nearly all teams and perhaps hundreds of players. The clubhouse PED culture and perception is clearly still disconnected from the demagoguery coming from the media and MLB.

Part of this is because the question remains: what exactly are these players being punished for? PED usage, yes, but how has that affected their game? MLB still can’t quantify objectively the effects of PED usage, and probably never will. The perception is it boosts strength and power, but then how would you explain what PEDs have done for Everth Cabrera, he of the career .339 Slugging percentage and reigning NL stolen base king? Or Seattle’s Jesus Montero, who hasn’t quite exactly lived up to his all-star billing, to say the least?

To punish the teams, and the fans, at the expense of the players, will be an outrageous error. Baseball needs to think more about how to handle this situation, possibly adjusting their rules to avoid a disaster. Perhaps it makes more sense to withhold suspensions until the end of the season? Or to clarify the rules, and/or fine players as a first offense instead of suspending them? Something needs to change. Otherwise it is MLB, and not the users themselves, who will tarnish the 2013 season.



UPDATE: According to this article, http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/tony-bosch-biogenesis-ryan-braun-alex-rodriguez-will-word-be-enough-to-bring-suspensions-060413, the testimony of Biogenesis' Tony Bosch will probably not be enough to suspend 20+ players simultaneously, meaning this could be drawn out over the next few months. Whether this is provides a distraction or a dialogue on PED usage will be up to the players and MLB

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

MLB Power Rankings - June 4th

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MLB Power Rankings
June 4, 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to hold onto the #1 spot in the Power Rankings checking in this week with the best record in baseball at 37-19.  The rest of the top 5 is largely unchanged except for the Boston Red Sox who jump one spot to five. The Chicago Cubs are the big risers this week jumping up five spots to #23. On the other side, the New York Yankees dropped five spots to take home the biggest loser prize for the week, checking in at number 10.



Where does your team rank this week?

1. St. Louis Cardinals (37-19, last week #1)
2. Texas Rangers (35-21, last week #2)
3. Cincinnati Reds (35-22, last week #3)
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (35-22, last week #4)
5. Boston Red Sox (35-23, last week #6)
6. Atlanta Braves (34-22, last week #7)
7. Oakland A's (34-24, last week #12)
8. Arizona Diamondbacks (32-24, last week #9)
9. Baltimore Orioles (32-25, last week #14)
10. New York Yankees (31-25, last week #5)
11. Tampa Bay Rays (31-25, last week #16)
12. Detroit Tigers (30-25, last week #8)
13. Cleveland Indians (30-26, last week #11)
14. Colorado Rockies (30-27, last week #13)
15. San Francisco Giants (30-27, last week #10):
16. Washington Nationals (28-29, last week #15)
17. Philadelphia Phillies (27-30, last week #18)
18. San Diego Padres (26-30, last week #20)
19. Minnesota Twins (25-29, last week #25)
20. Chicago White Sox (24-30, last week #17)
21. Kansas City Royals (23-31, last week #21)
22. Los Angeles Angels (25-32, last week #19)
23. Chicago Cubs (23-31, last week #28)
24. Seattle Mariners (24-33, last week #22)
25. Los Angeles Dodgers (23-32, last week #24)
26. Toronto Blue Jays (24-33, last week #23)
27. New York Mets (22-32, last week #27)
28. Milwaukee Brewers (21-34, last week #26)
29. Houston Astros (20-37, last week #29)
30. Miami Marlins (16-41, last week #30)

Team Lebron Silences Doubters

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Team Lebron Silences Doubters
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Count me among the doubters. There is no way that one player can carry a team to a championship, right? Well, for game seven of the Eastern Conference finals between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat that notion was half right; and the other half kinda sorta right as well.

Lebron James did not go out and drop 50 on the Pacers last night. Could he have? Sure, but that was the old Lebron, the 21 year old Lebron who single-handedly carried a Cleveland Cavilers team to the Championship series against more or less this same San Antionio Spurs team they will be facing starting Thurday night.

OK. Lets not get too far ahead of our selves here...

Monday night may have been a defining moment in the career of a player who will arguably go down as one of, if not the greatest player of all time. He knew he had it in him to will his team to victory; all the truly greats do in game 7's. But at the same time he also knew that to make it to the promise land and beyond he would need a supporting cast this time around.

Lebron James needs Dwane Wade and Chris Bosh to win a Championship. Plain and simple.

He realized that in game seven, forcing the ball into the hands of his co-stars early and often. The hobbled Wade took advantage, cashing in 21 points - his highest total this postseason. As for Lebron - a mere 32 points, 8 rebounds. Not bad for a nights work. In fact, pretty damn good.

The Heat had their foot on the gas from the get go. Indiana, didn't do themselves any favors. They looked nervous, sloppy, overall just an inferior team. Not the team that beat the Heat convincingly three times in the series.

Now we shift our attention to a re-match of sorts. In 2007 it was Lebron vs. Ducan and the Spurs. Still in his prime, Duncan reined supreme, in large part due to a supporting case with the likes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, also in their prime. Some six years later they meet again. This time it is Lebron in his prime with a supporting cast.

Lets see what kind of difference this new Team Lebron makes.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Puckmania: Don't Poke the Bear

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Puckmania: Don't Poke the Bear
By Wild on Sports Analyst Josh Tarr

Before I start my thrashing of Sidney Crosby, Geno Malkin, Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins as a whole, I would like to briefly touch up on an incredible experience I had yesterday.

I attempted the Tough Mudder Boston event, which took place in Gilford, New Hampshire at Mount Gunstock. If you’ve never heard of Tough Mudder, it’s essentially a 12 miles obstacle course, which tests your mental capacity beyond its limits. You are to jog (or walk, if you’re me) up and down various slopes and complete several obstacles in between, most of which, as you would imagine with the title, get you completely covered in mud. Now, I only completed 9 miles before developing shin splints and dehydration, but in the grand scheme of things, the most important part about my participation is that my entry money, which was about $150, went to the Wounded Warrior Project. So whether you’re a fitness nut, an adrenaline seeker or just want to spend a day bonding with friends and family, I would completely recommend looking into when Tough Mudder comes to your town. I don’t need to go into how the Wounded Warrior Project is a fantastic cause, because all of you know that.




Any who, how about that Hockey game last night?

As a Bruins fan AND a fair hockey analyst, I would have to say that Shanahan got the call right not to suspend Matt Cooke. Although I hate him with every fiber of my immensely fiber being, Brad Marchand made a similar hit from behind against James Neal and didn’t get a misconduct, thus, balancing out discipline in the long term. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Matt Cooke is a gutless human being who has not changed from his belligerent style of play.

Even worse, IMO, is that Evgeni Malkin took his frustration out of Patrice Bergeron (of all people) after being down 1-0 at the end of the second period. Followed by Sidney Crosby shoving Zdeno Chara and slashing the freakin goalie like he was a piƱata. Then in the third, Crosby took a blatant slash at Tyler Seguin’s leg and then proceeded to bitch and moan to the ref about the penalty call…

I understand that Sidney Crosby is the face of the league, and that being said, he has the right to reason with the refs and maybe have a call go his teams way in a crucial moment. But do you see Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Lebron James or any other respectable athlete complain as much as this guy? The answer to that is no, and for that reason alone, you have a legitimate reason to call Crosby a cry baby, a bitch, or anything else of the sort.

Oh, and to sum this rant up, I think shoving Zdeno Chara after play was a very bad idea on Crosby’s part. Especially for a guy who is still recovering from a broken jaw and was playing his first game without a face cage in about a month.

Don’t poke the bear.

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