Cashman vs. A-Rod: The War To End All Wars

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The funniest part about Brian Cashman’s statement to the media that injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez needs to “Shut the <bleep> up” is that at the conclusion, it sounded as if he stormed off saying, “I’m gonna call Alex right now,” in a frenzied desire to directly tell his player the same thing he muscularly told the media, then couldn’t get A-Rod on the phone and told him….by email!!!

How’d that go?

Dear Alex,
Shut the <bleep> up.
Love, Brian

Did he then return to the media and declare that he couldn’t get A-Rod on the phone, say that he sent him an email instead and add, “Yeah, well. Maybe I didn’t speak to him directly, but he got the message!!!” jabbing his finger for emphasis?

Since being a GM has become such a prominent role and transformed from a bunch of nameless, faceless men who got the job because they were former players or sycophants to the owners into the corporate, power-suit wearing, catchphrase uttering, recognizable and approachable entities they are now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a GM tell a player—especially one of A-Rod’s stature—to “shut the <bleep> up.” Not even the most outspoken loose cannons since the GM job has changed like J.P. Ricciardi went that far, and Ricciardi was about as hair trigger as it gets. When Dallas Braden got into his public back-and-forth with, not-so-shockingly, A-Rod, it went on for awhile before A’s boss Billy Beane said he’d speak to the player. He did and it stopped. There was no public, bullying pronouncement from Beane that he called the player onto the carpet and reamed him out.

From the old-school GMs who have been in the game forever to the new age stat thinkers, can you name one—one!!!—who would say such a thing about a player to a media as hungry for a headline as that in New York?

Dave Dombrowski? Brian Sabean? Dan Duquette? Beane? Sandy Alderson?

I’m not even sure Jeff Luhnow uses foul language period, let alone saying something like that about a player before speaking to him and storming off in a huff with a “I’m gonna go call him now!!” and trudging away with the corners of his mouth twisted downward and a fiery look in his eyes like a child sent to time out. (That’s how I envision Cashman anyway.)

Plus, was A-Rod’s tweet this big of a deal? Or is it a big deal because it’s A-Rod?

Cashman’s goal since leveraging full control of the Yankees’ baseball operations has been to be seen on a level with Beane and Theo Epstein as “geniuses” whose vision led their particular organizations to success rather than a checkbook GM who covers up for mistakes by using endless amounts of Yankees cash (it’s like real money, only more cold, corporate and drenched in a self-anointed superiority). Yet the professionalism and CEO-style is lacking. He’s a caricature and a bad one at that. It’s satirical more than evolved.

Cashman’s behavior in the Louise Meanwell scandal was embarrassing to an organization for whom being embarrassed is the last thing they want and he’s still acting like a brat in a mid-life crisis, desperate for credit and the off-field perks that come with a powerful position, but unable to behave in an appropriate fashion when they arrive.

Maybe that’s why A-Rod is such a continuing source of irritation: he embarrasses them. But the solution to A-Rod’s continuous penchant for making headlines isn’t for the GM to make it worse by trumping A-Rod’s headlines with his own. And in this case, what exactly did A-Rod do that was so terrible? The doctor said he was ready to start a rehab assignment and the Yankees haven’t signed off on it. So? All Cashman had to say was, “The doctor who made that call is an outside doctor and the organization’s medical staff will decide when A-Rod’s rehab will begin. It could be next week or it could be next month.” Instead he decided to vent his anger at the easiest target he has in A-Rod and make a new mess simultaneously making the usual villain, A-Rod, look sympathetic.

We can speculate what would have been said if Derek Jeter has made a similar statement and then go into the litany of differences in tone and public perceptions between Jeter and A-Rod, but when digging underneath all of refuse that has piled on during A-Rod’s tenure in pinstripes, it’s not all that different and Cashman most certainly wouldn’t have told Jeter to “shut the <bleep> up.” If anyone needs to follow that advice, it’s the GM whose own tenure is growing more pockmarked by his attitude, statements and behaviors by the day. And he hasn’t done a particularly great job running the team sans the aforementioned “Yankee money” either.


So Billy Beane Gets Another Rebuild?

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Isn’t the point of stocking the farm system, accumulating pitching that’s young and high-end and signing them to long-term contracts to bypass their arbitration years meant to help the organization win?

The Athletics were picked to win the American League West last year by multiple outlets, in part, because of that young pitching.

But they’ve already traded Trevor Cahill in spite of Cahill being signed to a long-term contract and being a solid—if slightly overrated—innings-eating arm; they’re listening to offers on Gio Gonzalez and, once he proves he’s recovered from shoulder surgery, are sure to part with Dallas Braden as well. (Be funny if he’s traded to the Yankees.)

Am I missing something? How many more times is this going to go on unchecked by the media at large?

And why does Billy Beane continually get a free pass for what he’s doing based on nothing other than the factually inaccurate and twisted tale of Moneyball (book and movie)?

Is it because he’s a guarantee of webhits and attention for those who write about him glowingly? Is it due to his aura of a fearless and ruthless corporate entity that rose from a failed baseball player without a fancy college degree to the top of his industry?

Doesn’t it matter what’s true?

Whether or not Beane is lauded for the prospects he receives in trades is secondary—the objective truth is that he’s been relegated to throwing things at the wall and hoping that they work. Last year it was rely on the young starters, beef up the bullpen and sign affordable bats.

It failed—just as everything else he’s tried has failed since the last teardown in 2007.

We can go through his entire history and find evidence of this type of randomness masqueraded as a “plan”.

It’s a lie.

After repeated builds and rebuilds, the A’s are awful and trapped in a division that contains two powerhouses in the Angels and Rangers; the Mariners are similar to the A’s in that they have an executive who came from the same thought processes as Beane in Jack Zduriencik, but are also a figurative disaster.

Is the absence of a new ballpark the latest reason for Beane to demolish what he built? How many times does the same architect get to blueprint, construct, try to sell and then bulldoze even if he owns 4% of the property (Beane’s ownership stake in the Athletics)?

The A’s aren’t going to get approval for a new park in San Jose no matter who lobbies, cajoles, bribes, takes to the media and whines. It’s not happening.

They’re a ramshackle structure in a dilapidated and unfriendly ballpark trapped in a high-end divisional neighborhood and—Beane or no Beane—that’s not going to change.

In short, the Athletics are an eyesore run by a man with a reputation and backstory with no practical evidence behind the myth. He’s a creation based on having turned market inefficiencies into opportunities; once those market inefficiencies were discovered and exploited, they were copied and he was back where he was when he took over Athletics GM and had to find a different way to compete.

And he can’t do it.

He was an innovator in that he implemented the strategies, but it wasn’t the work of a genius—it was intelligent opportunism. Now he’s manipulating the belief in his “genius” to do what he wants and again endure 2-3 more years of losing under the guise of lack of funds and other issues that the Moneyball character Beane would roll his eyes at and refer to as excuses for being a loser.

Now Cahill (age 23 and signed at $30 million through 2015) is gone. Gonzalez and presumably any other player in whom an opposing club has interest will be out the door as well.

Judgments of the trades and prospects they receive in cleaning house are irrelevant; the A’s are starting over. Again.

Beane’s taking advantage of his infomercial-style reputation to lose, lose and lose repeatedly and few are willing to confront this reality in a nod to selfish interests and it’s gone on long enough.

Once it becomes trendy to criticize him, then the bandwagon will empty.

How many more managers can he fire? Players can he trade? Whisper winking, underlying complaints that the “system isn’t fair”?

The system supposedly wasn’t fair before and that’s how he became famous as the epitome of one who beat a system that was weighed against him to begin with.

The system was never fair. That was the foundation for his rise.

He’s being exposed for what he is and is still given a pass.

When is this going to end? When will Beane be judged for what he truly is? A mediocre GM and crafted entity who’s using that perception to shield himself from rightful scrutiny?


Teams Are What They Are

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Some would-be “experts” might not want to indulge in a stroll down memory lane, but if you look at clubs before the season and in April and May, you’ll see such teams like the Orioles, Royals, Nationals and Mariners who were playing over their heads and eventually fell back into what they are.

Other clubs have talent but excuses for their failures. The Athletics, Dodgers, White Sox and Rockies can be reasonably placed into this category. Without going into detail, you can look at a team like the A’s—who were overrated for numerous reasons—and say that the injuries to their pitchers Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson hurt them on the mound; that the slow starts from Josh Willingham and David DeJesus robbed them of an improved offense.

The White Sox have been a dysfunctional train wreck for whom GM Kenny Williams is about to hit the trapdoor to send his players—en masse—into his James Bond villain style trap of crocodiles with laser beams attached to their heads.

The Dodgers are mired in (Mc)Court with legal proceedings hovering over them. In fairness, had they stayed healthy, they had a chance to be pretty good. (And I’m not pulling a Francesa and saying that because I picked them; it’s true.)

Certain clubs regularly straddle the line between good and mediocre and they do it on an annual basis; they’re treading the fine line between being deadline buyers and sellers. The Rockies are one such club.

Then there are teams for whom the writing was on the wall if you chose to read it. The concept of the Astros replicating the 2009 Padres and making drastic improvement because of a strong second half the previous season was idiotic.  The Padres had a lot of talent to justify their play; the Astros didn’t. It was a groundless, baseless assertion that came from absolutely nothing other than both playing well for a memorably stretch; there was no context, nothing.

And finally there are the overachievers. The Pirates have been around .500 and near first place when no one expected them to do so. While they’ve slumped lately, they gave their fans a reason to think they could get better eventually. The Mets have played above their heads in the face of rampant injuries; they overcame a horrific start and legal/sale issues of their own to play respectably.

The Diamondbacks have been a revelation.

No matter how a knowledgable voice comes to his conclusions, there are bound to be deviations; but for the most part, teams are going to play up to their talent levels. Did anyone believe that the Red Sox were going to have an off year after their atrocious start? With that talent?

Who saw Albert Pujols having the year he’s had?

That the White Sox would’ve gotten similar production had they chosen to the pitcher hit rather than using Adam Dunn as their DH?

Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia doing the work they’ve done for the Yankees?

Joe Mauer being booed?

There’s a reason they play the games and no one’s infallible, but with a fundamental understanding of players and people you can—within a framework—pigeonhole clubs and players as to where they’re going to be and what they’re going to do.

For many, that fundamental understanding is missing, clouded by a smug arrogance and a refusal to admit that they may be wrong.

Either they’re pledging allegiance to a corporate entity nudging them into a certain direction (the Favre Effect of needing webhits and ratings) or they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Or both.

Will they admit they were wrong? Will they come up with a nonsensical caveat? Will they cling to their agendas regardless of reality?

It depends. The insecure, egomaniacal and partisan will justify themselves like a paid endorser; the truth-tellers with self-belief and confidence will admit mistakes and chalk them up to experience.

It depends one where you’re getting your information and what you believe.


Swift And Deadly 6.7.2011

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The MLB Draft and destruction of legendary tales.

I…I’m almost unable to speak; to fathom; to understand.

The new Mets front office was supposed to be immersed in Moneyball, objective analysis, and all the faith-based tenets.

I’m shaken to the core.

The Mets drafted…HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS; and worse, they drafted a…HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER!

Selecting high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo and high school pitcher Michael Fulmer directly contradicts that which he who appeared from the heavens to teach us the proper way to run a baseball team.

Wasn’t it Michael Lewis who wrote in the sacrosanct text of Moneyball that drafting a high school pitcher was “delightfully mad”; that it “defied reason”?

What happened?

Are they not “card-counting”? Was it a ruse?

I…I can’t believe in anything anymore. My faith has been shattered.

Leave me be. Please. I…need some time to myself.

Speaking of Moneyball, Billy Beane and “genius”…

In all seriousness, I wasn’t as sold on the Athletics before the season as others were.

Much like in 2009, there was a benefit of the doubt aspect to assessing the Athletics. Intentional or not, there is an underlying expectation of Beane figuring it out, somehow.

I had them at 84-78 and a few games out of the top spot in the AL West.

My book with said predictions is still available by the way. Click on the links in the left column.

I did provide warnings as to the fleeting nature of young pitching. Dallas Braden is already out with Tommy John surgery and Brett Anderson might need the procedure.

There’s no one to blame for that, but it’s symptomatic and proves my point that there’s no “genius”. There never was.

The A’s have lost 7 straight, demoted Kevin Kouzmanoff and manager Bob Geren doesn’t appear long for his job.

I can write the pending press conference statement for the eventual Geren firing if the “genius” likes.

“This is no reflection on Bob.”

“Everyone in the organization is at fault and the main culprit is me.”

“We feel we’ve underperformed and something needed to change.”

“We’re better than this.”

“I’m taking full responsibility for this club’s problems.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I can’t wait for the Moneyball movie; although I don’t know if 74-88 will be a selling point for the “genius” of Billy Beane.

Lenny’s new accommodations kinda fit.

Lenny Dykstra wanted to be a billionaire; he talked and spent as if he was.

People believed him until they were caught in the middle of his schemes, scams, tricks and lies.

Now he’s in jail on a whole slew of different charges from those he was arrested for last month—NY Times Story.

I doubt we’ll see Dykstra at any Mets/Phillies reunions unless it’s to hit people up for his legal defense fund.

It’s just as well.


Fantasy Man


Regarding the title, I mean that in all possible connotations in relation to me.

I don’t play fantasy sports. I don’t get it. People tell me they make money at it, but I prefer watching and analyzing the game for the actual play, strategy and drama; not to interpret the numbers so I can make my own lineups, pitching staffs and whatevers.

Whether or not I’d be any good at it if I did play is hard to determine. I don’t really know the rules; apparently they vary from league to league with certain stats more important than others among many other factors.

With that in mind, here’s a non-partisan list of names who might help you in your baseball fantasy leagues.

And no, I’m not naming Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, C.C. Sabathia or any of the in-demand players who everyone knows are going to put up numbers.

I’m digging through the muck.

Yunel Escobar, SS—Toronto Blue Jays

It’s not a good sign when the former teammates on the club that traded you—the Braves—stood up and applauded when your replacement Alex Gonzalez walked through the clubhouse doors.

No, Escobar wasn’t popular in the Braves no-nonsense clubhouse and Bobby Cox wanted to murder him; but his talent is unmistakable. He played reasonably well after joining the Blue Jays, but nowhere close to what he was in 2009 when he looked to be an emerging star.

Perhaps the presence of Jose Bautista mentoring him will have a positive affect.

Kyle Farnsworth, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

You read that right.

It may sound insane, but think about it.

He’s always racked up the strikeouts; he still throws very, very hard; the Rays don’t have a defined closer and a history of rehabilitating failed talents like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit.

Because of the absence of an ironclad “known” closer, there’s a chance that Farnsworth will get a chance to rack up some saves.

Matt Thornton, LHP—Chicago White Sox

He throws gas; like the Rays, the White Sox don’t have a defined closer and Thornton’s a likely candidate. The White Sox don’t have a fear of trying a youngster like Chris Sale in the role, but Thornton, now, is the better option and he handles both lefties and righties.

Billy Butler, 1B/DH—Kansas City Royals

His full name is “Billy Ray Butler”; can he sing?

He doesn’t need to. At least until after his career’s over and he decides to write and record a song like Bobby Murcer did with his “Skoal Dippin’ Man”. Somehow I doubt that would play well today in our politically correct society.

Butler has gotten better every single season he’s been in the big leagues, racks up the doubles, has 15-20 homer power, hits over .300 and gets on base.

The right-handed Butler was far better hitter vs righties than lefties, but that was probably a freak thing for one year and all the more reason he’s going to have a massive season in 2011.

Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics

The team behind him is better both offensively and defensively. Just make sure you stay off his mound and remember the way they roll in the 209.

Joel Pineiro, RHP—Los Angeles Angels

I’m going there again.

Much was made of how I told people how Pineiro’s success with the Cardinals was going to translate to the American League and the Angels. The thought was that switching leagues and being away from the protective nuzzle of Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa would revert Pineiro to the pitcher he was late in his time with the Mariners and brief days with the Red Sox.

It was nonsense.

Surface-wise, the numbers back up that claim. In truth, Pineiro’s ERA was blown up by starts in which he got blasted; before an oblique injury sabotaged him, he was on his way to a very solid season. When his sinker’s not sinking, he gets rocked; but if his time with Duncan taught him anything, it’s how to battle his way through when he doesn’t have his best stuff.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year too, which should inspire a healthy, productive season; you just have to be careful which teams you use him against. (That’s how Roto works, right?)

Raul Ibanez, LF—Philadelphia Phillies

Amid all the talk that Ibanez was “done”, it was conveniently missed that for a player who’s “done”, he had 58 extra base hits!

Assisted by a better Jimmy Rollins and healthier supporting cast, he’ll give you your .800 OPS.

Eric Hinske, INF/OF—Atlanta Braves

He might have to play more than is expected. The Braves are going with a rookie first baseman, Freddie Freeman; don’t know whether Chipper Jones will be able to come back and it’s certain he’ll need frequent rest days; they don’t have competent big league backups besides Hinske. When he’s given a chance to play regularly, he always hits the ball out of the park.

Javier Vazquez, RHP—Florida Marlins

Back in the National League and freed from his prison Pinstripes, Vazquez is still young enough that a big year will get him a substantial payday. In a world where Carl Pavano was in demand after everything he pulled, Vazquez will want to have a similar renaissance. And his stuff is far better than Pavano’s.

Jonathon Niese, LHP—New York Mets

With Johan Santana out until the summer and the sudden rise of R.A. Dickey still in doubt, the Mets will need to lean heavily on Niese. Mike Francesa’s expert scouting report that he’s not all that impressed with Niese aside, I am impressed with Niese in stuff and competitiveness.

Mike Morse, OF/1B—Washington Nationals

With the Nationals lack of offense, I have a feeling we’re going to see Jayson Werth playing a lot of center field and Morse in right. Morse is a huge man (6’5″, 230) and had 15 homers in 293 plate appearances last season in his first legitimate chance to play semi-regularly. The Nationals haven’t shown the intelligence with Morse-type players as they repeatedly underestimated the value of Josh Willingham, but they might not have a choice in 2011.

Lance Berkman, RF—St. Louis Cardinals

He’ll be an adventure in right field, but in the Cardinals lineup with Pujols and Matt Holliday, plus looking at another chance at free agency a year from now, he’s going to hit.

Joel Hanrahan, RHP—Pittsburgh Pirates

He’ll get the chance to close and throws bullets. Naturally, being a Pirate, it begs the question as to how many save opportunities he’s going to get, but he strikes out a lot of hitters (100 in 69 innings last season).

Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres

I said this a year ago and those who got credit for “holds” thanked me. If the Padres fall from contention this year, Heath Bell is going to get traded and Gregerson will presumably take over as the closer and you’ll get your saves.

Brad Hawpe, 1B/OF—San Diego Padres

He was horrible last year with both the Rockies and Rays, but he consistently batted over .280 with a .380 on base and 20+ homers in the three seasons prior to 2010.

Kenley Jansen, RHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Barely a year removed from being a minor league catcher with no future in the big leagues, the 6’6″, 220 pound Jansen made it to the big leagues and was lights out with a blazing and moving fastball. Hitters looked frightened when he was on the mound and he’s going to be a key to the Dodgers season.

Brandon Allen, 1B—Arizona Diamondbacks

Allen has put up power/on base numbers at every level in the minors; the Diamondbacks are going to be terrible and have Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady as the first basemen ahead of Allen.

By May, it’s not going to make sense for Allen to be sitting on the bench in the majors or playing in the minors; the Diamondbacks should just play him every day and see what they have.

Tomorrow I’ll have a look at players from whom you should run like infected zombies from 28 Days Later for fear that they infect you with their dreaded disease!!

2011 Bust Out

Hot Stove

Occasionally I go for the deep strike. Based on facts (as I see them) and analysis that makes sense in the moment, this is how I come to my conclusions for better or worse.

Sometimes they’re good: accurately calling the Giants making the playoffs in 2010 and the Diamondbacks disaster, to name two.

Sometimes they’re bad: thinking the Mets would have a drastic turnaround.

At the very least, I had a viable reason for them, right or wrong.

So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some players whose stock may have fallen, who are still learning their trade, or are somewhat unrecognized for what they can do; players who are bust out candidates for 2011.

Matt Garza, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.

Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.

He’s ready to step forward.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP—New York Yankees

I’m a believer in the freedom of diminished expectations.

For all the perceived disappointment surrounding Chamberlain, the Yankees have an opportunity to redeem him; he has a chance to redeem himself.

It seems so long ago that Chamberlain was treated with such paranoia; that the fan/media/baseball person debate was so intense as to whether he should be a starter or reliever that it was a war of attrition; it was unsolvable until it was resolved one way or the other on the field; the endless battle succeeded only in dismantling the Joba Monster that was created in the final month of the 2007 season and was advanced by the unreasonable expectations and babying that accompanied it.

Now, Chamberlain is an afterthought. He’s no longer untouchable in a trade; no one cares about the starter/reliever debate; he’s seen as a non-entity who isn’t even going to be trusted as the primary set-up man to Mariano Rivera.

This is freedom.

Freedom from the constraints of expectation and abuse masquerading as “development”.

The Yankees and Chamberlain now have the opportunity to use him correctly without worrying about injury. Since no one’s going to care one way or the other if he does get hurt now, they can let him pitch.

And that’s what I’d do.

I’d quietly tell him to prepare as a starter and give him every opportunity to win one of the open (gaping) spots in the Yankees rotation. Then I’d turn him loose. This doesn’t imply letting him throw 145 pitches in a start, but it means bagging those ridiculous and hindering rules that played a large part in his ruination.

If they let him pitch, who knows what they’re going to uncover? They can do what they should’ve done from the beginning; with that, they might get what they thought they had in the first place.

Kyle Drabek, RHP—Toronto Blue Jays

His motion and mannerisms are identical to his dad, Doug Drabek. He’s got similar stuff and more strikeout ability. And he’s mean.

Kyle Drabek is going to be a mega-star.

Chris Sale, LHP—Chicago White Sox

I’d trust Matt Thornton as the closer initially and work Sale into the role slowly, but the White Sox have no fear of throwing their young players into the fire. Sale has been dominant with blow-away stuff and he throws strikes.

Luke Hochevar, RHP—Kansas City Royals

Would someone please unlock this guy’s talent? Please?

I look at him, his size and his motion and think Roy Halladay; then I see the results and think former Mets #1 pick Paul Wilson.

Hochevar’s at the point where he could go either way. I’m thinking he’ll have a good year and start to develop into his gifts.


Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics

He showed you the 209 in his dustup with Alex Rodriguez; this season, if he’s healthy, he could also show you the CYA (Cy Young Award).

Johnny Venters, LHP—Atlanta Braves

The Braves don’t have a veteran closer and Venters has the strikeout numbers and deceptive motion to handle the job. In fact, he can dominate. Most importantly, he only allowed 1 homer in 83 innings last season.

Ruben Tejada, INF—New York Mets

Why the “experts” question whether or not he’ll hit is a mystery to me. He was overmatched early in his big league trial, but didn’t get discouraged while the bat was being knocked out of his hands and, late in the season, started turning on pitches and showing more pop than one would think he should have at his size.

Defensively, he’s fearless; I think he’s going to win the 2nd base job in spring training and he’ll be playing shortstop by August when the Mets most likely will have traded Jose Reyes.

He looks and moves like a player.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP—Cincinnati Reds

I saw him once last year—on video—and wondered why the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t grab him.


Wandy Rodriguez, LHP—Houston Astros

Rodriguez aggravates me because every year I say he’s going to bust out; every year he shows flashes; and every year, he ends up in the same position of “potential” only to re-start the process again.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so perhaps money will motivate him.

Andrew McCutchen, CF—Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen is going to win an MVP one of these years.

Well, if he’s ever on a competitive team, that is.

Clayton Richard, LHP—San Diego Padres

He took the next step in 2010 as he threw 200 innings and went 14-9. Richard’s a 20-game winner waiting to happen.

Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres

He’ll end up as the closer if (when) Heath Bell is traded. I’m waiting for an explanation as to what the Cardinals were thinking in trading him for Khalil Greene.

It’d have to be a doozy.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Let’s try this again.

Last year, I said Kershaw was going to blossom into an ace/Cy Young Award winner. He developed, but not to that degree. He went 12-10, but did pitch well enough to win 18 or so games. The strikeouts and hits/innings-pitched ratios show a potential for dominance. Kershaw’s control is wanting, but he’s going to be 23 in March.

The Dodgers need him to step up and take the reins. I think he will.