Thoughts from the Throne – 2. Spring Training / MLB

We’re back as promised! Many more random text conversations have transpired and now, here we are, ready to take down some of the elephants in baseball’s room. So why don’t we just start with the biggest one.

Did MLB get it right with Aroldis Chapman’s 30 game suspension?

Shaun’s Thoughts: To be determined. In a perfect world the Jose Reyes decision would have come first (correction, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be any domestic violence) but baseball could not wait for the Reyes trial to take place before deciding on Chapman. The fact there was no appeal means this was a negotiated and agreed to punishment, and in reality Chapman will only miss about 15 appearances. The real question comes when all the facts and legal processes play out with Reyes. Will they be able to truly drop the hammer with a full year suspension should it be warranted, or will 30 games become the number all appeals get dropped to. That is where the jury is still out (no pun intended) on the success of the Chapman suspension.

Torsten’s Thoughts: No, quite the opposite. It’s great that they want to make statement against domestic violence, but everything here just smells bad; the alleged greater ban if Chapman appealed is basically extortion. The number of games seems arbitrarily chosen. The threshold for criminal charges not being met is odd. The alleged firing of the gun in the garage is terrifying, but if it wasn’t at his girlfriend, is a separate issue from the DV. I just don’t know. At the risk of oversimplifying, I’d like to see an iron-clad policy in place resembling this: If you’re detained or arrested on suspicion of DV, you’re suspended, with pay, immediately until an investigation can be completed. If you’re confirmed to have actually engaged in DV, you’re suspended for 81 games without pay. If the DV resulted in injury, it’s 162 games. You can’t start serving your suspension while incarcerated. Again, I know I’m probably oversimplifying, but it shouldn’t be difficult to put a policy in place that’s transparent and iron-clad.

Are there any free agents still out there that can help a contending team?

Shaun’s Thoughts: Alex Rios did not have a great year last year, but he can still help a club as a fourth or fifth outfielder. I may be a bit biased as I got to know him a little over the past two springs, but he is impressive. He is from Alabama, grew up in Puerto Rico, and has played more games for a team based in Canada than any other team. He would bring a great locker room presence that can relate to all players regardless of background, he can act as an additional coach, and he can still perform some on the field. He could be a sneaky good pickup for young club looking to make a run. Oh, and he is the type of guy that after you meet in person, you realize he could steal your girl and you wouldn’t even blame her, just saying.

Torsten’s Thoughts: Tim Lincecum. I’m reading he still wants to be a starter but if a team can convince him to transition to a bullpen role, he has shown the ability to be dominant. There’s precedent. Joe Blanton was a useful starter for years, became an oil spill, reinvented himself as a reliever, and was spectacularly good for Pittsburgh. Playoff caliber teams NEED guys who can shut town teams for multiple innings out of the pen. I’m a little befuddled, actually, that he’s resisting making the switch. If I were ever good enough to pitch in the big leagues, I would have preferred relieving over starting. The opportunity to meaningfully impact as many as 80 games in a season sounds more fun than meaningfully impacting 30ish.

Who is your breakout player for 2016?

Shaun’s Thoughts: Saying Mookie Betts would make a play for MVP has actually become somewhat trendy, and Xander Bogaerts was quietly one of the best shortstops in the game last year, but I am not choosing either of them. Instead I am going to pick somebody that last year would have been too easy, but this year is being overlooked. Byron Buxton was the top prospect in all of baseball going into last year for a reason, and we all know what a year it was for rookies. This year, if Buxton can stay healthy, he will become a household name to even the casual fan. He plays great defense and can really run, but at the plate he has fantastic bat control and enough strength in his wrists to show real power. He will officially arrive this year.

Torsten’s Thoughts: I have two. One in the breakout young player mold that most people assume this question is about, and one in a vet finally getting meaningful playing time and justifying it mold (think Justin Turner last year). And sadly for me, they’re both Mets. Michael Conforto looks like the absolute real deal. He’s got that mid-prime Bobby Abreu thing going on, and I mean that in most complimentary imaginable way. If you’ve forgotten how good he was, look up his stats from the early 2000s. My breakout vet is Jacob DeGrom, which is weird because going into his third season, he’s not exactly a vet, and he’s already broken out since he was an all-star in 2015. But I think this is the year you see him take the leap to elite status. If I had to guess a Cy Young winner for this coming season and Clayton Kershaw was not an option, it would be DeGrom.

BONUS Homer Corner: What Red Sox (Shaun) and Dodgers (Torsten) prospect are you dying to see in a Spring Training game?

Shaun’s Thoughts: I really want to see Anderson Espinoza throw in a Spring Training game. He has a big fastball but has hardly thrown in America, much less above complex league ball. Seeing Yoan Moncada play has been fun, but he is their top prospect and too easy to pick. The guy who I am really interested to see how he does this spring is Mauricio Dubon. He will likely be moving back to short since Javier Guerra has been traded and can play good defense up the middle. The question is just how quickly can the bat develop?

Torsten’s Thoughts: Two. And neither are Urias. People who know way more than me universally agree that if he stays healthy he’s basically a can’t miss guy. I really want to know what all the excitement is about when it comes to Jose De Leon and Cody Bellinger, who nobody really knew anything about before last year. Depending on who you believe, De Leon’s inclusion at last year’s trade deadline in any discussions for a front line starter was a deal breaker for the Dodgers, and some are saying Bellinger is Adrian Gonzalez’s heir apparent at first base. With lofty praise such as that, whose curiosity WOULDN’T be piqued?

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