BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger
Relievers can be difficult to project because performance can sway so drastically from season to season. The limited number of innings, and the various situations the pitchers are used can lead to occasional spikes or dips in results. Sometimes you don’t know if your established 8th inning guy will have to take over closer duties, which can also affect his numbers depending on the situations he’s used in. I’m not of the mind that a minute number of relievers can close; most guys can do it if they have a big fastball that can be consistently thrown for strikes. However, given how much of a financial incentive it is to be a big time closer, teams will overvalue based on saves, when they should really be looking at how effective the pitcher was overall. I digress, so here are my top 5 setup men aka potential closers that currently aren’t.
5. David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks (68 IP, 98 Ks, 22 BBs, 2.50 ERA)
Former Team Mexico/USA pitcher is underrated, he improved his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate in 2012, and figures to be used by Kirk Gibson to trade off the 7th or 8th with the inferior Heath Bell.
4. Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (30 IP, 24 Ks, 8 BBs, 2.37 ERA)
Let’s throw out that blowup inning against the Cardinals in NLDS game 5 last year, Storen is going to be getting key outs against the Braves lineup for a team that many will predict to win the World Series this year.
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger
Some may think of left field as that position where a youth baseball coach would hide his worst player. In Major League Baseball, it’s quite the contrary, In fact, many former center fielders, who had a younger player with a tad more defensive skills bump them out of their former positions, will usually move just one spot left. It also seems like a lot of the games top power hitters call left field their home. We’ll look at both cases in today’s blog of the top 10 left fielders in the game today:
10. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins (.260 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 2.9 WAR) – One of the most underrated power hitters in baseball.
9. David Murphy, Texas Rangers (.304 BA, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB, 3.2 WAR) – One of the most underrated players in baseball.
8. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics (.292 BA, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 3.4 WAR) – Great rookie season from the defected Cuban, expect more in 2013.
7. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (.303 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 1.3 WAR) – Big platoon split due to Coors Field.
6. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (.294 BA, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 10 SB, 6.2 WAR) – Excellent defensive fielder with an improved bat.
5. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (.295 BA, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 3.8 WAR)
Holliday is one of the great sure things in baseball. Consistently reliable slugger who drives in runs and generally does things well. One of the things he doesn’t do well is defend, or really have great range, at least not anymore. Regardless, he’ll be a big factor the Cardinals yet again.
Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part six of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
As older third basemen with aging knees trot their way over to first base or become designated hitters, a new wave of third basemen are showing us just as much power.
Like first base, a bit of pop is expected to come from third basemen as well as a quick glove and even quicker reactions. Defense is a must just left of shortstop. A solid bat also comes with the territory. While many consider shortstop the toughest defensive position in the game, third base is where screamers come down the line. And if those players don’t have the instincts to stop a smash, they won’t have a job for long.
Major League baseball still has a plethora of talent at the hot corner. In fact, last year a third baseman took home the first Triple Crown in more than 40 years. Talent will always lye closest to the away team’s dugout and with some hefty power hitters, this year is no exception. So here’s a look at Couch Side’s top 10 third baseman for 2013:
• A quick glance at five guys outside of the top 10: Brett Lawrie, Aramis Ramirez, David Feeze, Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas … Further out who still deserve recognition: Will Middlebrooks, Trevor Plouffe and Manny Machado. Alright, now, let’s start the show!
10. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks (.301 BA, 10 HR, 70 RBI, 5.4 WAR): Prado makes my list simply because after Miguel Cabrera, this 29-year-old may be the best contact bat / on-base guy at the hot corner. His .359 OBP also isn’t anything to sneeze at. What a player!
9. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (.244 BA, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 2.6 WAR): For fantasy purposes, Alvarez makes my top 10. Quite honestly, I think he is going to blow up this season. Yes, he strikes out a lot, however his power numbers easily forgive that. This may sound premature, but Alvarez could very well be the next Jose Bautista.
8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (.283, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 2.0 WAR): In a separate blog I wrote on Couch Side, I was forced to look up Sandoval’s defensive statistics. And considering this guy is pushing 280 pounds, he is quite nimble on his feet. Add those praises to his consistent and impressive bat, and Sandoval could easily be a top five third baseman. He just lacks power.
7. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (.282 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 3.8 WAR): After slumping at the beginning of the year in 2012, Zimmerman bounced back to have a very impressive second half. In 2012, Zimmerman more or less had his best year at the plate since 2009 when he set career highs in all batting categories. He has to be loving that revamped Nationals lineup and his numbers are every indication of that.
6. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.257 BA, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 1.2 WAR): Ramirez is slowly working his way back into the type of player he was in 2009 when he set career highs in every single hitting category. Last season, he obviously slumped for the Miami Marlins, but he really turned things around in the Dodger white and blue, batting in just four less runs than he did while in a Marlins uniform. That’s extrmely impressive, considering Ramirez played in 29 fewer games as a Dodger.
5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (.289 BA, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 2.3 WAR)
I probably won’t make many friends ranking Longoria No. 5 on this list, but his injury does concern me. It seemed like Longoria took too long to heal from it, at least that’s what the experts said, and that just raises red flags. His numbers coming back, however, may place my own foot in my mouth as it was like Longoria didn’t miss a beat after injury. Check out the stats above and then consider that the 27-year-old was able to achieve them in just 74 games. I’m sure this youngster has many MVP years ahead of him. I’m just not buying into his big bat this season.