Tag: Dee Gordon

MLB 2015 NL East Preview

There isn’t much intrigue to speak of here. The Nationals will probably have the division all but locked up by the all-star break. As a whole, the NL East comes down to groups of teams trending rapidly in opposite directions. The Nationals added the top free agent pitcher available, The Marlins locked up Giancarlo Stanton for 68 years and 984 billion dollars, and picked up some productive pieces in Dee Gordon, Mike Morse, and Dan Haren. The Mets didn’t add a ton apart from Michael Cuddyer, but the healthy returns of Matt Harvey, David Wright, and Bobby Parnell, figure to help. And then there’s the other guys…

The Phillies are looking to…they’re in a…they should probably… Ok, let’s just call it what it is. If Ruben Amaro had a shred of sense, he’d have gotten what he could for aging slugger Ryan Howard, still productive veteran Chase Utley, and now injured hurler Cliff Lee last year, or at the latest, this off-season. I don’t know that trading your best pitcher is ever the answer, but if it was, Cole Hamels would also fetch the best return of prospects.

Then there’s the Braves. I’m not sure they needed to blow everything up, but at least they committed. Out with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, and in with… Shelby Miller and a bunch of guys they hope to see in a couple years. While the future may be brighter for one of these teams, this season figures to be a long one for fans of both.

Projected Winner: The Nationals. I get angry at weird things sometimes. I don’t know why. I just do. Last year, the Nats had a pitcher win 15 games and sport a sub-3.00 ERA. Moreover, his fielding independent pitching (FIP) supported those numbers being reflective of excellent pitching, rather than luck. And he isn’t good enough to crack their rotation. What. The. Fudgesickles? My point is this. If Tanner Roark isn’t good enough to crack your starting rotation, you either have an embarrassment of riches in starting pitching, or you have no clue who he is. So the Nationals will win this division. Because they have a guy who could secretly trade places with Zack Greinke and very few people would notice… and he’s not good enough to make their rotation. Ridiculous. 

Is there a Wild Card, perhaps?: If you asked me this question and no form of bet hedging was an option, I’d say yes. I think the Marlins have done enough to improve the roster to be in the conversation, and if Jose Fernandez successfully returns from TJ surgery in June, I think they have enough to make a run. I also think Christian Yelich is an all-star this year. You heard it here first. Unless you heard it somewhere else first, in which case you heard it here second. The Mets might also be a part of the conversation, but ultimately I think they’ll fade.

The Bastardization of the Prospect

That title used to mean something. The population of players between Rookie Ball and AAA were all collectively known as “minor leaguers.” But if you were a prospect, you were different. There were expectations of you. Greater things were imagined. People knew your name. From the moment you were drafted, your future was determined. The barrier between AAA and big leagues would be broken by you. At least that was the hope. There was always the chance, a significant chance in fact, that you would become a statistic – a tale of what could have been. 

Now, anyone with spikes and a bat is a prospect. Really. The truth is this. Tons of guys get drafted by organizations who know full well that they’re never getting to the bigs. But hey, mop up middle relievers are needed in blowouts at the AA level too, right? Why have some kid with a future risk his precious elbow when you could have some cheap labor handle it. But in the new world of baseball journalism, that guy is a prospect too. 

By very definition, prospect means that there’s a probability, likelihood, or at the very least, chance for future success. Here’s a couple of headlines and intros from this week’s baseball news. 

Kemp to Padres for C Prospect Grandal

Dodgers Acquire Prized Catching Prospect for Kemp

Gordon to Marlins for Three Prospects 

Yasmani Grandal is 26 years old. He’s been in the big leagues since 2012. That’s long enough for him to have raised expectations with solid rookie campaign, albeit in a tiny sample size, get suspended 50 games for PED use, return and blow out a knee, return from that and forget how to hit, as evidenced by his absurd 115 strikeouts in only 445 plate appearances in 2014. But he’s a prospect. Now, Grandal’s supporters will point to his 15 home runs, not a bad power display in Petco Park from a switch hitting catcher, as well as his proficiency in the ridiculously overblown metric of pitch framing. His detractors will point to his ludicrously bad contact rate, inability to even remotely control the running game, and the tricky nature of knee injuries for catchers. The fact that he possesses the ability to hit the occasional long ball will make him useful on a big league roster, but is that enough, irrespective of whether you believe he was enough of a return for Matt Kemp, to be given the label of prospect? At age 26!? 

Chris Hatcher, referred to by multiple media outlets as a pitching prospect acquired in the Dee Gordon trade, is 29 years old with an ERA of nearly 5 over 81 career games. He was originally drafted as a catcher, but couldn’t hit enough. Shifted to the mound, he stuck for the majority of a big league season for the first time in 2014. He’s a sort of success story who is easy to cheer for, and probably deserves a job pitching in a major league bullpen if his 5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio last season isn’t a fluke. But even the most fervent of optimist would have to admit that age 29, it’s likely he’ll never progress very far past where he is now, a potentially somewhat useful middle reliever. Is that a prospect? Can a 29-year-old even be a prospect? 

I don’t know if it’s the English language I’m grieving for, or if it’s the slow and painful death of insightful baseball writing. I’m appealing to you, Buster Olney, and you, Jonah Keri, and Bill Plaschke, and…and…hell, anyone with a keyboard. If you’re going to write about baseball, or any sport for that matter, can we start calling things what they are again?