It dawned on me recently that when I write my columns here or when I talk with a host on the radio, I have a tendency to articulate my own personal opinion about guys I like and guys I really like.
I realized that I should compile the list - just to see what it looks like. Do I really like the guys I say I like?
I determined I would divide the leagues - the American League this week and the National League next week.
I think the number of guys I REALLY like is actually fewer than I thought. The number of guys I like might be more than I realized.
In each case, I'll tell you why.
I get to watch professional baseball in these situations:
The Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Rookie League (summer)
minor league games
major league games
All-Star and Futures Games.
I am the luckiest person in the world. Seeing all those guys gives me an opportunity to scout present as well as future players. As a result, I have compiled a list of players that stand out in my mind. Not all are stars, by any stretch of the imagination. Many are.
This is my list. I'm sure there are guys you think I should have added to the list. You can ask me why or why not. I may not have a reason. You know I always tell you what I'm thinking.
To be sure, many, many stars of the game are not on my list. There is a reason they are not. That doesn't mean I don't think they aren't good players. They just don't make me do everything I can to get them on my fantasy teams.
Whenever a list is provided, I think there should be criteria. Here are mine (in no particular order):
- High Energy - I like energy, passion and guys who play like they like the game.
- Tools - I tend to look at guys with multiple tools as guys I like or REALLY LIKE (listed in bold caps)
- Character - I tend to gravitate to guys with solid character. (At least guys that I think have good character)
- Guys that don't accept losing easily - I tend to move towards guys that will do anything ethical to beat the opposition. Slide, eat dirt, get hit by a pitch, take a walk, etc.
Here's my list. Team by team.
Chris Tillman - Tillman was with the Mariners when I was a scout. He was traded to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard deal. I was among many that thought he and Adam Jones would one day be stars. Tillman is on his way. He's a big, big guy at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds with a big arm. Watch him continue to get better. His command and control is improving as he continues to learn how to pitch and not just throw, plus he's still only 24 years old.
Chris Davis - It was inevitable. I was impatient in a league and traded him when I couldn't wait any longer and I needed players. Last year we saw who Davis was going to become. This year we are seeing who he really is. His swing is outstanding. He's tailor made for Baltimore. Davis may be prone to strike out, but what he delivers for the team is a professional at-bat and the long ball. And the long ball is not happening as much as it used to in baseball. That makes him very valuable.
Adam Jones - We could see it as scouts when he was a young prospect with the Mariners. He was also a mistake in the Bedard deal. Now he has become a dangerous hitter and very valuable center fielder. A guy that can hit, hit for power run and play defense is a star. Jones is a star. He and Chris Tillman should still be in Seattle. At 27, he's entering his prime years.
Manny Machado - What a player. He is way ahead of his projected arrival time. We haven't even seen the best of him. Watch the power develop as he grows older. Hitting at Camden Yards, he should be a force. On top of that, his defense is outstanding. Machado is a very charismatic player and one that I hope to have on my teams some day soon.
Miguel Gonzalez - I just like the way he can command the strike zone. I also appreciate his cool demeanor on the mound and his ability to pitch to contact. He'll keep his team in the game. As long as he stays healthy, I think Gonzalez will have a place as a No. 2 starter going forward. I want him on my teams, especially in leagues that value quality starts.
BOSTON RED SOX
Clay Buchholz - For me, it's been a question of health. Can he stay healthy and command his pitches? This season he's really been remarkable. He's given up 57 hits in 84.1 innings with a 1.71 ERA. We could see this coming. John Farrell has helped with he repertoire and rhythm. I think we are now seeing what Buchholz is all about. He doesn't overthrow, instead staying within his capabilities and pitching to contact. He lets his defense do their job and he tries to be economical with his pitches.
Koji Uehara - This guy has an elastic arm. He can pitch every day if they would let him. It was a huge mistake by Texas to let him go. Eventually, I think he closes - somewhere. Uehara has great makeup, great stuff, and he heats up in the pen in a hurry. The best reliever few people have ever heard of. In a league with limited rosters that don't reward holds, he won't help much.
Dustin Pedroia - I have no idea where the Red Sox would be without his leadership. I also wonder what he can do if he were 100 percent healthy. Pedroia does it all - he can hit, run and play defense. He can also hit with some power. Just a player I love to watch.
David Ortiz - I wish I had him everywhere. I don't. Here's a guy that realized he had to get in better shape to sustain his career. He lost a ton of weight and got in great shape. The ball just zooms off his bat. I haven't seen his bat get slower. I haven't seen any negative issues, and I like the way he can put a team on his back and carry them.
Xander Bogaerts - An amazing combination of power and speed on the offensive side and a very good glove, footwork and arm on the defensive side. I have no idea what the Red Sox will do in the future with Iglesias and Bogaerts hanging around. I think one will play third base if Middlebrooks doesn't come around.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Adam Dunn - Dunn must be watched every day to be appreciated. He's such a professional hitter. Few know the strike zone as well. Few have the plate discipline and pitch recognition to walk as much as he does. He's feeling pressure now and swinging at more bad pitches. That's understood. But when Dunn sees a pitch at his knees, "Katy - bar the door." I miss watching him in Arizona.
He's Fallen Off:
Dayan Viciedo - When I first saw him, I though he would be a force. He hasn't turned it on yet, and I'm concerned this is who he is. For me, he's a huge disappointment.
Yan Gomes - I think I'd like to see this guy catch every day and have the Indians ship Carlos Santana somewhere that can fetch some pitching. Gomes is a fine defensive catcher with a cannon for an arm. He can also take a pitch to the opposite field and crush home runs. He may be exposed if he plays too much, but I don't think so. I think he's a regular and not a role player. The trade with Toronto that yielded Gomes and Mike Aviles was one of the best the Indians have made in a long time.
Mike Aviles - Aviles is the consummate utility player. He comes off the bench and plays anywhere in the field. He has some pop and knows how to hit. I love to see him playing shortstop while Cabrera is out. I don't know if Aviles holds up all season, but he can hit and make all the plays. I love knowing I have him on my bench as he'll probably qualify at every position with the exception of team doctor and manager.
Jason Kipnis - A converted center fielder, I've gotten to see Kipnis since he played in Tempe at Arizona State. What a great attitude. A good player. He may become an All Star. I think he'll continue to become a better second baseman. I like his line-drive bat with the capability of going the other way. Fun to watch.
FRANCISCO LINDOR - I understand why everyone loves Jurickson Profar. but I'm not sure Lindor won't be as good, or even better. He has a great glove and he can hit the gaps. As he grows into his body, I think he'll hit with more power. He's just such a good athlete, it's scary. There are plenty of them at shortstop, he's just one of many. I think he takes over late next season. Then the job is his. If the Indians want to roll the dice, he takes over at the beginning of next year and Asdrubal Cabrera is traded in the offseason.
On My Cusp:
Corey Kluber - I gave up on him early. He's close to being good and consistent.
Lonnie Chisenhall - I've seen the swing. I know it's in there. I'm waiting. I won't give up yet.
Miguel Cabrera - I'm glad I get to see this show he's putting on, but I worry about those week to two-week stints when he goes in the tank. It does happen. But what a great hitter. He is playing much better at third base than I ever thought he would. Power and a great eye at the plate make him special. If he can extend his arms, he's lethal. I get concerned that he presses at times when he hasn't hit a homer in a while.
Prince Fielder - How would you like to pitch to Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back-to-back-to-back? No thank you. The guy can hit lefties, he can take the ball to the opposite field and he has enormous power. And he plays a very good first base. More agile than people think, Fielder is an outstanding player. I think his weight will hurt him in two more seasons.
Torii Hunter - For me, this was one of the best offseason acquisitions. He is such a great leader on the field and in the clubhouse, and he hasn't lost much at the plate or in the field. He has power and quick hands through the ball. Add it all up, and you have an extremely good baseball player.
RICK PORCELLO - I never lost faith and I traded for him this offseason. I've always liked his composure on the mound. Now that he can pitch inside and uses all his secondary pitches with confidence, I'm even more excited. Porcello is only 24 years old. That's amazing, since we've seen him around the fringes of being a pitcher for quite a while. Tigers color commentator Jim Price talked with me about Porcello at length this past spring in Florida. I trust Price implicitly. He predicted this breakthrough and he told me why. I've always believed, and I believe in him even more now.
Al Alburquerque - Yes, he was injured last season and his command hasn't returned, but I still believe he's got great stuff and we'll be seeing him before the season is over. He could eventually be the real answer for Detroit or some fortunate team as a closer or "the" setup man.
Justin Verlander - He's Justin Verlander. How would you like to be able to add and subtract from your power fastball at will? How would you like to be able to kill hitters with secondary pitches that are just a tad below your all-world fastball in quality? He's still great, but others are catching him. Lots of pitches on that right arm is a concern for me.
He's Fallen Off:
Victor Martinez - I was the original Victor Martinez fan. I saw him all through the minor leagues. I know his swing as well as he does, but I worry that the bat speed is waning. The injury took its toll and he's getting older. He has more in him for this season and beyond. I just know he wants to climb back up to my "like" list.
Jose Altuve - He isn't Dustin Pedroia, but he's pretty darn close. I wish I could see him play on a winning club. Altuve has some pop in his bat, but it's mostly his singles hitting and his running ability that endear him to me.
George Springer - He could bring a great deal of spark to the club if they bring him up this season. I wish I trusted the Astros to handle his development correctly, but I don't think they will. He's at Double-A hitting homers, hitting for average and driving in runs. He could be the Astros' best player, and I love to watch him play. He's the real deal.
Carlos Corporan - I've been telling anyone who would listen this guy can hit, and he hits with power as well. He's big and strong and he needs a chance. He won't get it in Houston. Perhaps he'll get some looks at DH. I hope some club looking for a catcher goes to the Astros with a deal. Corporan is a great player to have on your bench.
Chris Carter - I think his new park is going to make his career. When he was traded to Houston, his stock had to rise. He has great power, but playing in Oakland would likely have negatively impacted his home-run numbers. Carter could be a major piece of the Astros' equation for years. The best is yet to come. And I'll take it.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Kelvin Herrera - Consider that Herrera is still only 23 years old. I think his lack of control and command this season is only temporary. I have faith he'll return to being a "lights out" back of the bullpen guy. I also think he could be an effective closer somewhere. Arms like his don't come around very often, and his high velocity comes very naturally.
SALVADOR PEREZ - I liked this guy the first time I saw him. He can really hit. He uses the center of the field as his personal playground and squares up pitches. Eventually, his power will increase as well. And, oh, by the way-he is an outstanding defensive catcher. Amazingly, he's only 23 years old. Perez has hit at least .300 or more in each of his three seasons in the major leagues so far.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Howie Kendrick - I'm not the only person in the world that said Kendrick would win a batting title. That's been going on for years now, but it's true. He can hit. He used to own the right-center field gap. He's having a very fine season despite what his teammates are doing around him. I'd like to see him win. Kendrick is one of the few options I like to turn to at second base, but he's always long gone when I get to him.
Mike Trout - I'm in the club. I think he's a great player. I worry about his health going forward, but it doesn't seem to be an issue. He has power and speed and plays hard. What more can he do? He can be normal and come back to earth, but a half season isn't complete yet, and his numbers are pretty darn great so far.
Mark Trumbo - I wish the Angels would find a permanent location for him and let him play - like third base. Give him a season there and see what he can do defensively. He has amazing power. His at-bats will continue to improve, and he's just a very good guy to have in a lineup.
He's fallen off:
Erick Aybar - Aybar isn't hitting to his potential and he certainly isn't running. At one point, the Angels said he was an "untouchable." Now I think other teams could touch him. I won't abandon him in fantasy, but I won't reach for him.
JOE MAUER - This is one of the best pure hitters of our time. He has such a great left-handed swing. I worry about the stress he feels catching so often. It will ruin him eventually. He hits the gaps, but his park in Minnesota isn't conducive to home runs. He'll hit a couple, but it isn't his game. He gets hot and drives in runs. Just a terrific guy to have on a club. I love watching him hit.
Ryan Doumit - He's a dangerous hitter, especially with men on base. I think if he continues to stay healthy, he'll be a force. I don't like the park for his swing, but you can do much worse than Doumit at the catching position. I like him there - not as an outfielder.
Samuel Deduno - Here's a guy that could be a major rotation force in a couple years. I like him because he doesn't throw anything straight. I think if you asked Mauer or Doumit about Deduno they would say he's got incredible stuff. He has to command it, throw strikes with it and he'll be who I think he is. Two more years.
Byron Buxton - Buxton will soon become one of my favorites. And yours, too. Take a moment and watch video of him. He can hit for average, hit with power and run. He's the total package and he's flying through the Twins' system. He's got everything that a club needs. It'll be a shame that he'll have to hit at Target Field, but man - what a ceiling he has. Amazing player. Grab him soon.
NEW YORK YANKEES
David Robertson - I hope the Yankees give Robertson the chance to close next season. He deserves it. The man can pitch in pressure situations. He has good command and control and he throws strikes. I think he'll do a fine job-provided people don't try to think he's Mariano Rivera. That may happen with whoever takes over the closing role in New York.
Robinson Cano - Cano is poised to become a part owner of the Yankees along with the Steinbrenners and Alex Rodriguez. He might be worth the money—for the next two or three years. What a sweet swing. Throw the ball low and you'll be able to pick it up over the right field fence. Just a pure hitter.
Eduardo Nunez - The Yankees have always liked Nunez. So have I. It's a real shame he was hurt this season, as it was a time for him to show his hitting ability. He's a bit better defender than most people think. Nunez can be trusted to play all over the diamond - and hit wherever he plays.
Gary Sanchez- While the Yankees were touting the hitting ability of Jesus Montero, they certainly had their eye on Sanchez. He's the long-term catching solution in the Bronx. He has to improve his plate blocking and receiving skills. That said, he can hit with the best. I look for him to be behind the plate in the same manner Jorge Posada was - for a long, long time. I want him wherever I can get him starting next season.
YOENIS CESPEDES - I really enjoy watching this guy play. And hit. And run. He's a professional hitter with thunder in his legs - and his bat. He's a mountain of a man with great hand-eye coordination and an ability to make adjustments. He's just going to get better and better as he sees more pitching here in the states.
Coco Crisp - My favorite players don't go away, they may just fade a bit. Crisp has always been among my favorites since he came over to Cleveland. I wish he was still playing for the Tribe. Crisp can beat the opposition a number of ways. I still like him.
HISASHI IWAKUMA - I'm totally in. I believe. I try not to miss watching a game he starts. His latest effort was a bit of a hiccup, but he sure is capable of carving up the opposition in a very skillful manner. This guy has repertoire, command, control and a helluva mound presence. I don't think he's a flash in the pan, either. He should sustain.
Nick Franklin - I thought when I saw him in spring training that he would be the club's second baseman at some point this year. He's a barrel of the bat hitter with a very quality swing - tailor made for his home park in Seattle. He's also getting better at playing second base. The emergence of Franklin may drive Dustin Ackley back to the outfield.
Mike Zunino - When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League I got the feeling he would take over behind the plate for Jesus Montero. I thought Montero would be moved to the DH position to make room for Zunino. I was wrong. Montero has been moved to becoming a "project" as a first baseman. Zunino has a line drive bat and, like Franklin, he will develop power with age and maturity. He and Franklin will be a real dynamic duo going forward.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Alex Colome - I really like his arm. I like his mound demeanor. I like his command. I think we'll see Colome eventually (he's getting at least one start this weekend against the Yankees). I like him much more than Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi, he just doesn't get as much publicity.
Ben Zobrist - Any player that can move around the field and play with his results is extremely valuable. He has had some bad offensive moments, but the good times far outweigh the bad. I'll take him wherever I can get him, but I never get him.
ADRIAN BELTRE - This guy is scary good. He never gets the publicity like a Hamilton or Pujols, but Beltre plays an All-World third base and hits a ton. He has power enough to provide homers as well as an ability to hit for an excellent batting average. He's a total package. I'll take him anywhere I can.
Yu Darvish - He must have eight types of pitches. I'd like to see him concentrate on four. How anyone hits him is beyond me. He's so much better than the player I first saw in an exhibition years ago. He can change eye levels and the balance of hitters at any point in the count. A terrific pitcher.
Alexi Ogando - I'll take him as either a starter or reliever. He doesn't have great secondary pitches, but his fastball and slider can carry the day. If he stays healthy, he will contribute a mighty effort to his team and my fantasy efforts. I hate that his manager pulls him after 90 or so pitches, because that's only five innings now for Ogando. An inning short of a quality start. That will change will maturity and age. He'll go longer in games.
On My Cusp:
Jurickson Profar - I haven't crowned him King yet, but I think he's a fine player. I want to see him more before I can say I like him.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Jose Reyes - His injury was beyond unfortunate. In my opinion, it totally ruined the Blue Jays' season. If Reyes is around, poker changes. He's an outstanding shortstop, he's a very solid hitter and he can hit leadoff. I like his power, and I certainly like the way he runs the bases. The Blue Jays gave the Marlins a ton of talent with Reyes as the centerpiece of the return. What a shame!
Brandon Morrow - The Mariners debated using Morrow as a closer. The Blue Jays are using him in the rotation. He's a solid starter and I hope he continues to improve. I've always liked him.
Next week: The National League
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