Articles by Bernie Pleskoff

A listing of all the articles written by Bernie Pleskoff for the RotoWire Blog.

it’s Time To Start Thinking About Baseball

It’s been a fantastic off season so far. While there still may be more action, it’s time to start thinking about baseball.

New White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has stated his preference for building his club from within. He plans on using the draft and his farm system to stock his big league roster, rather than buying expensive free agents or trading away prospects. This winter, he has added Jeff Keppinger to help with a glaring hole at 3B. Ultimately, the prospects will have to come through for the club to remain competitive in a quickly changing American League Central.

The biggest loser of the off season? For me, it’s Giancarlo Stanton. Will he ever see a quality pitch to hit? If I were facing him, he’d have to chase pitches out of the strike zone. I wouldn’t care if I walked him. I think he’ll end up chasing those pitches to try and get his numbers. He and his fantasy owners may lose in the process.

Shin-Soo Choo will likely feel the pressure of both his Cincinnati Reds front office and from his celebrated agent as he plays in his “walk year” for the Reds. Choo is a sensitive guy. He takes things to heart. He wants to succeed. He has to just be himself and realize he’s on a fantastic team, playing in a fantastic park with some outstanding hitting around him to help. I look for a big year from him-especially in that park.

Kudos for the Minnesota Twins for addressing their most glaring of several weaknesses. They now have a completely revamped starting rotation that will feature Vance Worley and Scott Diamond at the top. Gone are Jason Marquis and Carl Pavano along with Francisco Liriano. The Twins may be able to avoid getting into the bullpen in the 5th inning-a factor that destroyed them.

However, the Twins strengthened their club at the expense of outfielders with speed. Especially glaring will be the stolen bases and defense that will depart with Denard Span and Ben Revere. Now they will have to rely on converted 1B Chris Parmelee and Darin Mastroianni (who does have some speed) to play the outfield.

The value of the addition of Torii Hunter to the Tigers can not be over stated or under estimated. We all moaned last year when they didn’t have any real protection in the lineup for Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Now they have Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez. In addition, Anibal Sanchez will be around the entire year. The left field job belongs to Andy Dirks until he gets in Jim Leyland’s dog house. An awesome team.

I don’t think the Angels will start the season with their existing bullpen. They now have an amazing lineup with speed and power. They have a fantastic defense. Their starting pitching is thin in my opinion. I still think they’ll flirt with the idea of bringing in Rafael Soriano. Look, when you’ve spent that kind of money already and you have a gazillion dollars coming in from television, why not finish your team? I’m just sayin.

The Dodgers still have pitching to deal. Chris Capuano could fetch a pretty good infielder or even a catcher. I think they’ll do more before the season begins.

I was really pleased with the way Nick Swisher handled his introductory press conference in Cleveland. I believe his joy and enthusiasm to be genuine and I think he wants to be there. I credit Terry Francona with making him feel wanted and orchestrating a tremendous recruiting effort. Swisher will help. But the Tribe still needs pitching. Badly. And no, I don’t think Chris Myers is the answer. I’m hoping he will eat innings and keep teams out of the bullpen early. Other than that, we’re talking Derek Lowe II.

Surprises this off season? One is the New York Yankees and former catcher Joe Girardi being satisfied with a catching corps of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. I think they’ll really miss Russell Martin.

When will the business with the trading of Justin Upton end? When he’s traded. If he lasts that long, I don’t see how they will keep him after this contract expires. How would you like your bosses constantly indicating they are waiting for a good offer and then they’ll get rid of you? I don’t get the psychology of the entire matter. Way, way too public. You want to trade him? Fine. Don’t shop him publicly at every opportunity.

The Boston Red Sox are in limbo with the Mike Napoli situation. Again, why was that announced well before it became official? A bad hip? Hips are crucial to hitting mechanics. Yikes. I still think they’ll get it done, hip or not. If not him, who?

I think the ball will be flying off the Green Monster when Ryan Dempster pitches in Boston.

If Jose Bautista is healthy? Oh my goodness. Encarnacion, Reyes, Melky and on and on. They haven’t played any games yet, but I really do like the Blue Jays.

And I really do think the Rays will greatly miss James Shields. And no-I don’t see how the Rays start the season without Wil Myers in the outfield. But they’re the Rays. They’ve done it many, many times before. But, hey guys-you just gave up James Shields.

But you know what? It’s really hard to criticize the Rays front office. They know what they’re doing with their limited resources. I have changed my mind 3 times already on what I think they’ll do with Myers.

I may have a couple more off season blogs prior to the beginning of Spring Training. I hope you’ll stop by and give them a read. Remember-Spring Training games start in late February this year because of the World Baseball Classic. During Spring Training my regular column, Bernie On The Scene will return to RotoWire.com. I will be sharing my scouting thoughts during those spring columns.

Hope you will follow me on MLB.com twice a week in the Voices section. Also on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

Hot Stove Thoughts-Royals-Rays Deal

It’s a deal that could change the focus of both franchises. The Royals and Rays shook up their franchises with a deal that involved 6 players and one to be named later.

As talk of a possible trade that included Wil Myers being traded from the Royals to Tampa Bay gained momentum, I never thought it would be a one player for one player deal. In today’s market, starting pitching is at such a premium, even a top prospect player with Myers’ upside can’t fetch a quality starting pitcher by himself in a trade.

Here is how I look at the deal of the Royals Outfielder Wil Myers, P Jake Ororizzi, P Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard going to the Rays for P James Shields and P Wade Davis. Another player is said to be on his way to Kansas City to complete the transaction.

There is a bit of help for today and help for tomorrow for both clubs in this deal Here’s my take:

KANSAS CITY


The Royals began their off-season by bringing in former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher Ervin Santana and re-signing starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. They would anchor a rotation that would also include Bruce Chen and a couple other starters from among Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Jake Odorizzi and Felipe Paulino (depending upon his health.) That wasn’t enough to challenge the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.

The fan base in Kansas City was getting increasingly restless with unfilled promise of pitching prospects. The list was lengthy and included names such as Danny Duffy (hurt) Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer (previous back injury) John Lamb (a year removed from fractured pitching elbow) and more. The Royals brass got the message. The time was now to make a bold move. The time had arrived to trade some of their organizational depth for a star pitcher to anchor the rotation.

James Shields was their target.

They got their man. At quite a price.

Shields is a top of the line, 200 innings, 200 strikeout per season pitcher. His vast arsenal of pitches has improved over time with command of breaking balls being his greatest improvement. This past season, Shields threw 227.2 innings, winning 15 games and striking out 223 hitters. He was a fantasy stud. He threw to a 3.52 ERA and 1.168 WHIP. There were few, if any teams that wouldn’t want Shields in their starting rotation.

But keep in mind that Shields has only two seasons of control under his current contract. That means the Royals must win within the next two seasons or sign Shields to an extension and extend his life on their club. Given the contracts of Zack Greinke and eventually Anibal Sanchez, how much will Shields fetch on the open market if he is allowed to test free agency? Do the Royals have that kind of money?

It is highly, highly unlikely the Rays could have extended Shields. And that’s why he was traded when his value was high rather than in his final year with Tampa Bay.

Shields goes immediately to the top of the Kansas City rotation. But then what? They remain with the same other 4 starters I mentioned above.

The Angels need starting pitching. They knew they had a very good chance of losing Greinke, which they did. Knowing that, why didn’t they keep Santana?
Because just as he did with my fantasy team before I traded him, Ervin Santana continued his inconsistent ways in 2012. One start he was good. For the next two starts he was bad. Then he’d be great for a start. Then there would be three clunkers. The Angels tired of the inconsistency. Soon that reward for his presence in the starting rotation will belong to Kansas City. For lots of precious dollars.

Wade Davis pitched very well out of the Rays pen last season. He threw in 54 games without starting any. He had a 2.43 ERA out of the bullpen last season. He’s only 29 and he should be entering his prime. He threw 70.1 innings and only yielded 48 hits. However, when he started for the Rays in 2011 he wasn’t nearly as effective. He threw to a 4.45 ERA and 1.375 WHIP as a starter.

If the Royals intend to use the right-handed Davis out of the pen, I think he is a good addition. If, however, they want to stretch him out in Spring Training and bring him back to the rotation, I think they are asking for trouble. Is he better as a starter than Hochevar or Mendoza? Maybe. Is he better than a healthy Paulino? No. So-maybe Davis grabs the 5th slot in the rotation. I won’t be grabbing him in any format if he’s a starter. Again, for me, he’s a reliever and the price paid for his services was very high.

TAMPA BAY


This almost isn’t fair.

I think they cleaned up. I’m just sayin. I think they have potential building blocks for the future that give them flexibility to make more moves and/or mix and match players between the Major and Minor leagues. The key word is potential. They traded for promise. For upside. For potential. They got 4 prospects. If half succeed, it will be a very good trade. Of course, it depends upon which half. It has to start and continue with Wil Myers. I think it will. For sure.

Wil Myers has All Star upside. He projects to be a starting outfielder at my scouting grade of 65 on a Major League Scouting scale of 40-80. That means he is All Star caliber at full development. He’s only 22. He has the ability to hit for average and for power. He has the speed to steal bases. He is learning the outfield after having spent the first part of his career as a catcher. He told me last spring he would never return to catching.

Myers is the type of athlete that does things well. He has natural ability and an ease about his game. I think he needs to improve his pitch recognition, but it’s not far off right now. He is patient. He can take a walk if needed. He doesn’t get himself out. He doesn’t give away at-bats. That’s probably the quality I like best. He is one very tough out.

The Rays will have 6 years of control of Myers as opposed to the Royals having two years with Shields. That’s huge.

This past season, Myers hit a combined .314/37/109 over two classifications, Double-A and Triple-A. The Royals traded 37 Minor League home runs and 109 Minor League RBI. Because they want to win now. Because they were tired of all the criticism. And because a James Shields doesn’t come around every day and there is a price to pay for a pitcher like that.

They paid the price. The home runs and RBI were Minor League home runs and RBI. Wil Myers hasn’t done it in the Major Leagues yet.

Jake Odorizzi is a back end of the rotation starter. For me, he’s much better in that role than Wade Davis. I wouldn’t be surprised if Odorizzi didn’t make the Rays out of Spring Training. Or if he was flipped in a trade for a much needed catcher or outfielder. The Rays have pitching. They still have unmet position weaknesses in their farm system.

Odorizzi is not overpowering. He is more a finesse pitcher. He was 11-3 with a 2.03 ERA last season in 107.1 innings of Minor League baseball. That shows he can pitch. However, when he was promoted to Kansas City, he had a 4.91 ERA in 2 starts covering 7.1 innings.

Odorizzi was also traded once before. He went to Kansas City after having been drafted by the Brewers in the first round of the 2008 draft. He’s still only 22 and he has upside remaining. He won’t strike out many hitters and his command is such that he may walk too many. He’s still a prospect. But again, he’s a pitcher the Rays can use for roster flexibility or in trade.

Mike Montgomery could put this deal way over the top for Tampa Bay. He’s a big left-handed starter who has not reached his potential. He has scuffled since being selected with the Royals first pick in 2008. He’s left-handed and at times, lefties take longer to develop. Now is his time. He has to learn to command his fastball. If he can do that-watch out. He’s big and strong. He’s just wild. Imagine if he does come around. Then the Rays have yet another pitcher in their stable. This one left-handed.

I have never seen Patrick Leonard play. He’s a third baseman with a good bat. He hit .251/14/46 in Rookie League ball. That’s not bad. Especially the 14 home runs. I can’t comment further until I see him play. He’s only 20 years old. He was a 5th round pick in 2011.

There are victories in this trade for both clubs.

The Royals get the ace they wanted. They also get another pitcher with Major League experience to use in their rotation or their bullpen

The Rays get a hot prospect outfielder that they control for 6 years when he makes their club. And they get more organizational depth.

The risk/reward equation in this deal, something I always calculate in trades, tilts to Tampa Bay. It more than tilts. It falls off the table.

That said, the Royals have satisfied an unmet need. I wish them well.

Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff throughout the Hot Stove season and read my analysis of the 3 team Reds-Dbacks-Indians trade on this same site.

Hot Stove Thoughts-Reds, Dbacks, Indians deal

I’ve been thinking of the recent flurry of baseball transactions and decided to put my thoughts in writing.

I believe each team came out a winner in last night’s 3 team trade between Cincinnati, Arizona and Cleveland.

The evening began when Cleveland shipped outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and utility infielder Jason Donald to the Reds for shortstop Did Gregorious and outfielder Drew Stubbs. The deal built from that foundation and ended with the following:

Cincinnati adds Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald from Cleveland.

Arizona adds SS Didi Gregorious from Cincinnati, left-handed reliever Tony Sipp from Cleveland, and first baseman Lars Anderson from Cleveland.

Cleveland adds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer from Arizona, relief pitcher Bryan Shaw from Arizona, relief pitcher Matt Albers from Arizona and outfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati.

Here is my take on each club’s yield:

CINCINNATI

Choo is an outstanding left-handed line drive hitter. He is a Major League average to a tad above average defender in right field. He has a cannon for an arm. However, I have seen him get poor reads on balls, taking bad routes and arriving late. His outfield play isn’t consistent. At times he makes outstanding plays, and at times he scuffles.

Offensively, I feel he is best suited in the 5th hole in the lineup. He does have some pop in his bat and playing in Cincinnati will benefit his overall power game. However, he is brutal vs. left-handed pitching. He hit only .199 vs. lefties and .327 vs. righties in 686 plate appearances. He struck out a whopping 150 times. That’s an issue. It’s an issue because the Reds plan to hit him in the leadoff position. He hit there a great deal for Manny Acta as an Indian. For me, a leadoff hitter can’t strike out as much as Choo. That said, he did have an on-base percentage of .373 last season. My point? It could have and should have been better. He’s a good hitter. He has to cut down those strikeouts and improve against lefties.

My other concern regarding Choo is the pressure he will place upon himself in his walk year in Cincinnati. He will be a free agent at the end of next season and I doubt his agent, Scott Boras will encourage him to extend his contract with the Reds. In fact, that’s why Cleveland traded him.

I am one that believes Choo will not be playing centerfield for the Reds. I believe Jay Bruce will move to center and Choo will remain in right. Just a hunch.

From a fantasy standpoint, I think Choo will be an outstanding choice in a draft or at auction. He will be in a hitter’s haven. He will get lots of at-bats. Every category should improve, including his 21 stolen bases. But especially his home runs. He could go from 16 to 22 to 25.

Jason Donald is a nice player off the bench but won’t help much in fantasy. The Reds signed another former Indian, Jack Hannahan as a back up third baseman.
I don’t know if Donald has much future with the Reds.


ARIZONA

Didi Gregorious is an outstanding defensive shortstop. He can play Major League shortstop right now. His range is outstanding. His arm is strong and fairly accurate. His first step quickness is among the best I’ve seen. In fact, he was the best overall athlete I saw in this season’s Arizona Fall League.

Dbacks General Manager compared Gregorious to Derek Jeter as a youngster. I won’t go that far.


Gregorious is a left-handed hitting line-drive hitter. I believe his power will continue to develop.

Right now, I’d say he is a little too much “pull happy” and I haven’t seen him take many pitches to the opposite field. But he is growing and learning as a hitter.
I believe he will be playing in Arizona before 2013 is over. Once he begins his big league career, he will become an All Star player and remain at shortstop in Arizona for years to come. As he has 6 years of control left, his future for that length of time is set. And very bright.

The Diamondbacks got Gregorious because they did not want to extend the contract of Stephen Drew, who is now a free agent.

If you have roster space and patience, Gregorious is the type of player that will pay dividends with his extra base hits and increasing power. He can also steal more bases than he has shown so far. He’s sneaky fast. I look for him to run in Arizona.

He actually passed through Cleveland on the way to Arizona. It is believed the Dbacks had a preference for Didi over Asdrubal Cabrera in their dealings with Cleveland. Hence, to get Bauer, the Indians traded Gregorious to Arizona. Personally, I wish they had kept Didi and traded Cabrera.

Tony Sipp is a situational left-hander that can actually be more than that. He can get right-handed hitters out as well. However, it is tempting for managers to contain his work to getting lefties out. He has a wicked slider and curve ball. However, I don’t like his sudden losses of command. He loses it quickly and it lasts for a few hitters. He can become frustrating at times. But he’ll help the Diamondbacks pen. His fantasy value is limited to those leagues where “holds” are valued.

Lars Anderson is an organizational, 4A type player the Indians got from Boston this past season.

He will provide depth for Arizona at a position of weakness. He doesn’t have much power. He’s an above average defender and he may shine if given a sustained opportunity-something he has never experienced. He could be a sleeper. His fantasy value is limited. But I have seen players like Anderson come out of nowhere. It may happen. He’s that type of hitter. Don’t write him off. Watch and see what happens in Triple-A.

CLEVELAND
,p.
Trvor Bauer is the cornerstone of the deal from Cleveland’s perspective.

The team is desperate for starting pitching. Before the trade the rotation was to be Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco who is returning from injury. Yikes!

Bauer may or may not start the season in the rotation. If I had to guess, the 21-year old might be shipped out to gain more seasoning.

Bauer lost velocity on his fastball in 2012. He has a weird and unorthodox workout/training/preparation routine that scared many, many teams away from him before he was drafted 3rd overall in 2011. The Dbacks agreed to let him keep his different methods and they paid a price.

The team tired of Bauer’s lack of command on his fastball. They soured on his workout regimen, thinking it was hurting instead of helping his progress. They didn’t like his attitude and approach in the big league clubhouse during his brief 3 start trial at the Major League level. They rushed him to the big leagues and it was a mistake. He had a very rough time against Major League hitters. He didn’t listen to his catcher, Miguel Montero. As a rookie, he shook off Montero all night long. That was a huge mistake. One for which he paid a price in the clubhouse.

But. But Bauer has outstanding upside. He could become a big winner. The risk/reward for Cleveland was a no brainer. They were going to lose Choo after this coming season. Instead, they turned him into Bauer and Drew Stubbs. And bullpen help as well.

Stubbs is a puzzle. He’s a guy with huge potential. He hasn’t realized it yet. Maybe the change of scenery will help. Maybe not.

A right-handed hitter, Stubbs scuffles against righties. So Choo has trouble with lefties and Stubbs with righties.

Stubbs also strikes out way too much. How about 166 times last season in 544 plate appearances. He will be in the same lineup with Mark Reynolds. I believe hot humid nights in Cleveland will be aided by the breeze generated from the bats of Stubbs and Reynolds combined.

I find it interesting the Reds were looking for a leadoff hitter. That could become, and probably will become Choo. But Stubbs should have been that guy in Cincinnati. He had his chances and he flopped.

In the right scenario, because of his trouble hitting right-handed pitching, Stubbs should hit 8th in the Indians order against righties and lead off against lefties.

Stubbs can run. He can steal bases. 30 last season. He was caught only 7 times. Not bad. Will Terry Francona allow him to run? Will Stubbs get on base is the bigger question? And where will he play? Left, center, right? Who knows. The Indians other outfielder (they have only one more quality outfielder) is Michael Brantley. I am not a huge Brantley fan but I’m warming up a bit as he is maturing as a hitter. But can he stay healthy?

Bryan Shaw came over from Arizona. In 2011 he was amazing out of the pen. He can bring pitches at 97 MPH. But last season he just “lost it.” If he hadn’t regressed he would still be with Arizona today. Kevin Towers knows his bullpen pitchers. He builds teams around bullpens. He traded Bryan Shaw. Believe it or not, if he returns to form, Shaw could be a top set-up man. It eats at me that Towers traded two bullpen arms. To Cleveland.

Matt Albers has been around a long time. It seems we still associate him with Houston. Yes, it’s the same Matt Albers. He can bring his fastball in the high 90’s. I like him in Cleveland’s bullpen. He doesn’t have a broad enough repertoire that he can command to become a starter. Stick him in the pen and give him the early bullpen innings. But there’s that Towers bullpen thing haunting my mind again. Does he know something Chris Antonetti doesn’t? It doesn’t matter, really. The Indians didn’t forfeit a great deal for the gamble.

This next part is important-building a quality bullpen will continue to be crucial for Cleveland. Their starting pitching is so bad they will be in the pen early every single game, regardless of the starter. They do not have one starter to stop a losing streak or that can be called an “ace.” And that’s why Shaw and Albers are important to the trade they made with the Reds and Dbacks. This was all about pitching for Cleveland. Stubbs is nice addition-but they had to improve their pitching. This trade was all about pitching-even if Kevin Towers soured on Shaw and Albers.

For me, this deal is a winner for all 3 teams.

The Reds get a big bat in Choo that they like at the top of the order. The Dbacks get a potential All Star shortstop (3 years from now) in Gregorious and a lefty for their pen. The Indians get a top prospect starting pitcher and two bullpen arms along with a roll of the dice in Stubbs. Both Stubbs and Bauer were former 1st round draft picks. Nice haul for Choo, Sipp and Anderson.

Follow me during the hot stove season on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. I’m active when things get popping. You can read my weekly columns on MLB.com under the Voices section on the MLB.com home page. As always, your comments and questions are always welcome.

Bernie On The Scene-At the All Star Game

I was listening to sports talk radio tonight driving back to the hotel after the All Star Game. I heard to hosts talking about how boring the game was. How it needed to change. How stupid it is to have so many players on each team.

I didn’t think it was boring. I thought it was fascinating. There were so many stories to cover. So many people made an impression. Here are some of my thoughts.

Justin Verlander tried to throw the ball through the brick wall. On the ultimate national stage, Verlander wasn’t content to throw in the mid-90’s or use his secondary pitches. He wanted to-no, he needed to throw 100 MPH. He did. And it was straight as an arrow. I thought he looked nervous. Uncomfortable. He pitched as if he had never been on the biggest stage before tonight. It was a much worse showing than the hits he permitted. Rather, it was a bad performance. Period. He didn’t have command. He threw cookies over the plate and got hit. Hard.

Melky Cabrera has proven himself to be a professional hitter. He has shown that last year was not a fluke. He has hit in the American League and now he is hitting in the National League. The real mistake was made by the New York Yankees. They traded a young player before he was ready to play. They traded a young player before it was necessary. So did the Kansas City Royals. They traded him for left hander Jonathan Sanchez. The Giants were going to cut Sanchez. Non-tender him. They offered Sanchez around and got one–that’s 1 taker. That was the Giants. The rest is history. Cabrera is a league hitting leader.

Pablo Sandoval showed how valuable he can be. He showed that he’s a player the team can depend upon down the stretch. Sandoval and Cabrera form a one-two punch that will drive in some runs. Add some pitching to that, which they have, and the Giants will be tough to beat.

Mike Trout got a hit in his first at-bat in an All Star game. And then he stole a base. He’s an amazing, mature talent. In an interview before the game I asked Trout who was faster, Peter Bourjos or himself. I said, “What do you do home to first?” His answer? “Run.” And then he laughed. He knew what I meant. He said he can run at 3.5. He said Bourjos can beat him around the bases, but not home to first.

Bryce Harper was with Trout in the interview room. He said he and Trout were like Bird and Magic.

Cole Hamels looked really tough to hit tonight. His stock soared.

Greg Kimbrel threw 100 and was upstaged by Aroldis Chapman who threw 101. But Kimbrel threw strikes. Chapman threw strikes and balls and more balls. But his arm is really alive again. The zip is back and he looks like he’s pitching pain free.

Balls hit in the air died. The atmosphere was such that nothing really flew. And at dusk, Harper lost a ball in the lights. He threw his hands in the air when he lost it.

David Price’s cutter is one great pitch. He has this nice, easy delivery and then he throws down the hammer. Just a solid pitcher.


Ryan Braun took a pitch to the opposite field with great ease. He has the ability to use his strong wrists and his great hand-eye coordination as assets. His bat is really quick.

2000 media credentials were issued. The press box was packed. It was tough to see the game. I stood in front of the windows and watched as I was tweeting away. It was festive. Good food (the same as the other two nights) and plenty of good conversation among colleagues.


Kansas City has a beautiful ball park. They have the clearest Jumbotron I’ve ever seen. They also have miles of lower level tunnels where the media was sent to do interviews and meet the players. It was a confusing maze, but the staff did a great job helping everyone navigate the scene.


The crown mowed in to the grass in center field was really awesome. I don’t know how it showed on TV but it was really a neat piece of work.

The press pin had a royal crown at the top. Pretty cool.

I really didn’t hear the pre-game entertainment.

Joe Mauer is going to have an amazing second half. I just have a hunch about that. He’s centering the ball very well. I see some doubles in his future. Not many homers, but some doubles. And a Mauer type batting average. He looks healthy to me.

You want speed? Not only Trout. How about Jose Altuve. He can really fly. I like the guy a great deal.

Classy move by Ian Kinsler regarding the ground ball hit by Chipper Jones that turned in to a hit. I saw what he did. I respect it. Chipper leaves his career with a hit in his last at-bat in an All Star Game.

Losing home field advantage for the 3rd time could once again doom Texas if they get to the World Series. That’s why this game was so huge.

So now All Star Week is over. I’m exhausted but it was great. I prefer the Futures Game to any of the events. I didn’t like the Home Run Derby.
I didn’t like Cano getting booed. I didn’t like all the pitches the hitter’s took. I didn’t like how long the whole thing took. I didn’t like that it went on and on and on. Here’s what I would do to make the event better-

Appoint a home town player and add 3 others via the Captain system.
Put a clock on the hitter. He gets a total of X minutes or X number of pitches. Once his clock or his number of pitches run out, he’s done. The way it is now is too open ended.

Games begin again on Friday. Hope all is well with your teams.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

Bernie On The Scene-At The Futures Game

The Futures Game is one of my favorite baseball events of the year. I hope to share some of what I saw with you below.

Some of you have been to Fan Fest in the past. Hats of to Kansas City for doing a fine job with the family friendly event. Everything from getting an autograph from Fergie Jenkins, learning how to slide with Cal Ripken, Jr. or making a purchase from the Pin Man, the experience is wonderful. I dropped a few dollars with vendors and came away with some things I wanted. If Fan Fest ever comes to a city near you, make sure you give it a try. There really is something for everyone.

Downtown Kansas City is all dressed up and ready for a party. The fountain at the Convention Center is spewing beautiful blue water. The city is nuts for their Royals.

Last night we went to the Negro Baseball Museum at 18th and Vine in the jazz district. It was a beautiful evening and the place is first rate. Give it a look and see for yourself.

Of course, The Futures Game didn’t disappoint. The hitting was outstanding. The pitching left much to be desired and the food in the press box was just as I would have hoped for. More about that later.

Before the game I had a chance to speak with several of the United States players. I was sitting right behind the Reds Billy Hamilton on the plane from Phoenix. I heard him engage the people next to him in baseball talk. He was kind and generous with his conversation. They saw his Reds duffle bag with the number 44 on the side and they knew he must be going to the game-they just didn’t know who he was. I really don’t think they ever found out. but he was really nice to them.

Today I asked him about his speed from home to first? He said he was 3.4 to 3.5. He didn’t know that Mickey Mantle was 3.2. He said he is learning how to hit from the left side of the plate to get to first base quicker. Quicker? Do you know how fast you run, young man? He said his sisters think they can beat him in a foot race but he admits they have no chance. He has no timetable for his arrival in Cincinnati. He just wants to work hard to learn how to get on base regularly. Really a very, very nice guy. And very humble. He hit a triple by flying around the bases. He disrupted the pitcher when he was on third and scored on a pitcher’s error.

And that’s why I like the Futures Game. Little to no arrogance among the players. Everyone I spoke with was a gentleman and kind with their time and comments. Some even remembered the conversations we had during the Arizona Fall League. That surprised me.

Mike Olt of the Rangers told me he is very excited about the prospect of playing in the outfield as well as first and third bases. Olt is an outstanding athlete. He will make a tremendous fantasy play because he will be eligible at multiple positions and he can flat out hit. His defense is much better than people ever credit him with.

I asked Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich to tell me something he hasn’t told anyone else-ever. He laughed at that, thought for a moment ans said, “I’ve got it. I was one out away from quitting baseball when I was 6 or 7 years old. I was afraid of the ball. I thought it would hit me and I would get hurt. I told my dad I wanted to quit. My dad told me to play one more game. If I got a hit, he’d give me $5. If I didn’t get a hit, I could quit. I hadn’t gotten a hit until the last at-bat. I hit a dribbler in front of home plate and beat it out for a hit. I didn’t quit. And I’m still playing.” i thought that was a great story. He just looked at me and laughed. What a nice guy.

The Royals did a great job on the food in the press box. After all, let’s get our priorities straight. They had it all-hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, you name it. It was a first rate spread. Peanuts, popcorn and very nicely sized pretzels. I was very impressed. And bathrooms very close. Full soda machine with Mountain Dew. Yes, I like Mountain Dew. And Dr. Pepper. The doctor was in.

Oh, the game? Man, did the United States team rake. In batting practice, the Astros Jonathan Singleton and the Cardinals Oscar Taveras put on a show. Taveras hit a ball right under the batter’s eye in dead center field. He hit another one into the fountain in right-center. Singleton crashed and crushed the ball as well. I asked Taveras about his swings right after he finished hitting. “I know I did it, but I didn’t look.” Right.

There were a number of giant offensive shows during the game. Including the multiple hit performance of the Tigers Nick Castellanos who was voted the Most Valuable Player. Jurickson Profar was incredible at the plate. He took the ball to the opposite field as well as straight away.
Mike Olt was banging along with Wil Myers and others of course. I was glad to see the only two Indians prospects in the world, Francisco Lindor and Jesus Agular both had nice games. I was very quietly rooting for them. Very quietly. Your the only people who know.

Pitching was pretty mediocre. There were a few guys I really liked including the Mariners Taijuan Walker, Marlins Jose Fernandez and others. The Dbacks Tyler Skaggs pitched well. The pitching didn’t overwhelm. I’m not as impressed with 101 miles and hour if a guy gets hit. Anyway, most guys had the ball up in the zone all night and the weather was not conducive to allowing fly balls-they just flew and flew and flew into the gaps.

I forgot to tell you that during batting practice I got hit in the arm with a hard hit foul ball. Why didn’t I see it? Because I wasn’t looking. If I was looking I wouldn’t have gotten hit. I didn’t rub it. I was really, really tough. All I did was run into the bathroom to cry. No-that’s not true. I toughed it out. Did I quietly bend down and pick up the ball? Would you have? Did I? I’m not sayin. It’s my secret and I’ll never tell.

I’ve had better hot dogs. I forgot to tell you that. The chicken strips were dynamite however. I’m still paying for them.

Who do I think is coming to the majors the soonest? I’m saying Wil Myers. He doesn’t have much more to prove.

I reminded the Blue Jays Anthony Gose that he told me he would be the best center fielder ever when I met him in the Arizona Fall League. He remember it and told me exactly the location where he said it. He was right. He still believe that. I told him I liked his attitude. He made a great catch and throw today.

I don’t want to talk about the bad performances. These guys were nervous. They were excited and I don’t blame them. No matter what happened today, we can’t rain on their parade. It was a wonderful day.

Tomorrow I’ll share my experiences at the Home Run Derby. Hope you’ll join me on twitter @BerniePleskoff during the contest. I’ll be tweeting if all goes well.

At The Quarter Pole Of The Marathon

Most teams begin to assess their club right about this time of year. Some will be talking about huge surprises.

There really is no denying that the Baltimore Orioles fast start has been a surprise. Every one I spoke with in Spring Training was convinced they didn’t have enough pitching to compete with the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays. So far, the pitching has held up well. The Guthrie for Hamel deal certainly looks like a winner. Brian Matusz has a long, long way to go. I have little faith in him. I drafted him at the end of the pitching run in an AL only league, but I don’t start him. He’s my extra starter.

The Red Sox will have to mix and match in the outfield until they get Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury back. There is currently no return time for either. The Red Sox look at the waiver wire every day. But one thing is certain-Will Middlebrooks has responded extremely well to his opportunity. I have no idea what the club will do when Kevin Youkilis returns. I know what I would do. I think Youk could fetch the outfielder they need in trade. But they also need pitching. Put a package together that includes Youkilis (when he’s healthy) and the return might be worthwhile.

Dayan Viciedo is heating up a bit. It’s about time, right? He looks a bit thinner to me, but it may be my television. Hawk Harrelson calls him “Tank” for a reason.

I wish I could figure out Porcello, Scherzer and Fister. If you’re frustrated and I’m frustrated, how do you think Jim Leyland feels? I paid for almost all of the Tigers rotation in a RotoWire Steak League and they’re killing me. Can’t dump them because the waiver wire is thin. I’ll have to wait it out. I still like all three of them. I’m a slow learner.

I have always liked Edwin Encarnacion. Brett Lawrie has been a bust as far as I’m concerned.

Two super players with Chicago ties have passed away. Kevin Hickey and Moose Skowron were both very well respected Chicago based guys. They will be missed.

I’ll be On The Scene at Coors Field during the early part of June. I’ll be checking out the digs and watching the Angels take on the Rockies. Looking forward to being there. Always looking for dining suggestions in downtown Denver. Keep in mind-my wife will be with me. Don’t give me the names of your favorite Gentlemen’s Establishments.

The Dodgers really don’t look like the same club without Matt Kemp. Very few bats to carry a game. I look for the Dodgers to go after David Wright in a big, big way. Even if he does sign with the Mets. That would make him more appealing. The Mets could turn their franchise around if they agree to deal Wright. Think of the prospects they could extract from Arizona for Wright. Amazing. It’ll be fun to watch what happens. Mets do things quietly. So do the Dbacks and Dodgers.
>p>
So, who’s killing your team/teams? How about Justin Upton, or Joe Mauer or Albert or Robbie Cano or Moore or Goldschmidt…I have way too many. Yes, friends. It was me. I’m the one that was very bullish on Paul Goldschmidt. I put him everywhere. I almost hung his picture on my bedroom wall. I have learned something in my years in baseball. It is very difficult–no, make that impossible-it is impossible to hit a home run from the bench. Or even a single. How in the world can a hitter ever learn to hit quality pitching while sitting on the bench? Goldschmidt stinks against right-handed pitching. True. How will he get better? Not watching Lyle Overbay. If you aren’t going to play him, send him back to Triple-A.

I look for Trevor Bauer to be on the Diamondbacks roster at some point this season following his promotion today to Triple-A Reno. He’ll have trouble with hitters there if he doesn’t show command.

Oh-I forgot. Dee Gordon as another of my team killers. He’s seeing a good view of the game now from the bench more and more frequently.

I have always liked Jeanmar Gomez as a back of the rotation starter. He may have some less than great outings, but I’ve always liked his stuff. I think he’ll win a few more games this season. He’ll be around in the rotation. Especially since Josh Tomlin has a bad wrist and can’t pitch. Hey-how about that Johnny Damon tearing up the American League. What did the Indians ever do without him? He’s all the way up to .226.

Is it possible to have too many good players? That may be the problem with the Angels. Who do you sit every day? Wouldn’t it be better to trade one of their outfielders for a relief pitcher? Right now-Peter Bourjos is riding the pines. They should trade him and give him a chance to play somewhere.

Kerry Wood’s last appearance was today at Wrigley in Chicago. He has decided to retire. Does he know something nobody else does? Is he the Orlando Hudson of the Padres? Would he have been shown the door? I don’t think so. The Cubs don’t have the $$$ to eat his contract that everyone thinks they have. He struck out the last guy he faced. He went out a Cub. He was one helluva pitcher in his prime. He had a good career and I really enjoyed watching him.

No doubt the Cardinals are an amazing team. But I really worry about their ability to stay healthy. We are now seeing Beltran hurt. Berkman was hurt. They have outstanding depth, but their big guns have to stay healthy.

When I saw the Giants play I was really stunned at their poor defense. They booted the ball around. They misjudged balls in the air. Brandon Crawford was having the most problems. I think part of it was mental. He’ll be fine.

I hope you’ll check out my series on Major League baseball drafts for my RotoWire On The Scene column. The last column of the series will run next week.

No radio for me this Wednesday with Jeff and Triple D. I’ll be away, but I’ll be back the following week. Thanks for those of you following my segments on the show and for your kind comments back to me on twitter. Your kind words are appreciated.

I’m curious to know your selection as the team that’s been the biggest surprise this season? Either good or bad. Let’s talk about it.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and on MLB.com in the Voices section. As always, your comments and questions are always welcome on both sites.

Reflections On A Sunday

We are now in mid-April and we’re looking at some horrible fantasy statistics. What to do?

Every year at about this time, we sit back and take a look at decisions we have made and decisions we could make regarding our fantasy teams.
Guys we know should be performing by now, aren’t. Do we offer them in trade? Dump them on the waiver wire? Hold steady and wait out the storm, knowing we are running a marathon and not a sprint? I ask myself those questions every season.

Some things are different for me this year. Robbie Cano is hitting .229. Justin Upton is hitting .208 and he has a bad thumb. Curtis Granderson is striking out against lefties once again and is hitting .188 or something like that. The exact numbers in their batting averages don’t matter. The fact they are struggling is the issue. Here we are in mid-April and Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, C. C. Sabathia, Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren are winless. We expected two in the win column as a minimum by now. We are watching teams with lesser pitching lap us. What to do?

I’m standing pat. Unless a player is injured, as is the case with Jacoby Ellsbury as an example, I am staying the course. I have learned through the years that baseball players generally tend to perform consistently after they have been facing major league hitters or pitchers for a while in their careers. Rarely do they tank. Rarely do they break out after 5 years. Yes, there are exceptions. Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz are late bloomers. But by and large, players tend to gravitate to their norm. It is simply my observation. Whenever I had a tendency to panic in the past I would regret the emotional decisions I made. When I kept my players that were doing poorly they tended to rebound to their norm.
This year is a bit different, I’ll admit. But I can’t let emotion dictate what I know as fact.

Hanley Ramirez looks hopelessly lost at the plate. Especially on breaking pitches. Having Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio surrounding him hasn’t seemed to help. I’m wondering if he isn’t the guy we saw last year. But, as I said in the graphs above, I’m sticking with him. For now. But he is one I won’t wait too long to move. I still like Bonifacio a great deal and I’m glad I had the conversation with Jeff Erickson about him this past spring.

David Freese is off to a great start. Now he’s hurt, just like he has been in the past. I have my eye on his health, not his bat. I think he can sustain his hitting if he can stay on the field.

Carlos Santana is a much improved catcher, thanks in part to Sandy Alomar. Santana can now block balls in the dirt and his footwork is much improved. Can he hit? My jury is still out. What’s up with Mike Napoli?

Miguel Cabrera’s bat seems to have gone a bit cold. Or am I just expecting too much? It may be a little of both.

Yu Darivsh is a blessing and a curse to his owners. He’s providing wins and strikeouts and killing WHIPs and ERA’s. Go figure. It may be some time before he realizes he has to dump a couple of his 8 pitches and get back to basics. His arm is amazing, but his control just isn’t there yet.

What do you make of Chris Davis? I traded him in the off-season. He hit a homer yesterday and there may be more to come. But another Mark Reynolds I don’t need. Speaking of Mark Reynolds, the Baltimore announcers were wondering aloud when Baltimore would realize he can’t play 3B. Or !B. They were lobbying for him to become a DH. But Baltimore is loaded with DH types. I saw Reynolds here in Phoenix. You have to watch day in and day out to understand and appreciate how bad he really is on defense.

No-I never saw Hector Santiago as the closer for the White Sox coming our way during the countless games I watched during Spring Training.
I didn’t hear him mentioned. I watched him pitch. He was interesting. But then…I think Robin Ventura will do things his own way. That’s refreshing.

The press in Chicago was very good to Ozzie Guillen. There were countless, and I mean countless comments he made over the years that were never reported that probably could have gotten him in boiling hot water. The press enjoyed Ozzie’s off the cuff, candid comments and they really protected him with “off the record” comments. It was fair. He is in a new environment now and the trust has to be built.

Joe Nathan is really scuffling. Alexi Ogando seems like he could be the go to guy at the end of the game. He certainly could be switching roles with Nathan if Joe doesn’t right the ship.

Jeanmar Gomez is a better pitcher than his Saturday start in Kansas City. Much better.

Tim Lincecum has scrapped the use of his slider to protect his elbow. At least in his first few starts this season. His velocity is down and he’s very hittable early in games until he gets his rhythm. I have real concerns about him. I think the Giants do as well.

Anthony Bass is a pitcher I have always liked. He’s now in the rotation in San Diego and I think he’ll continue to pitch well. He’s a high velocity pitcher with good enough command to win. Great park, good pitcher. Check your waiver wire-he could possibly help.

Changing leagues may be having an impact on Albert Pujols. Just a bit. I still think he’ll have a monster year. Remember that he started slowly last year and came on strong. I believe in the Angels and I believe in Pujols. They are too good to lose more than they win. They’ll be fine.

I’ve been high on the Mariners since Spring Training and I’ve seen little to change my mind. They scrap and scrape for every run, true. But they have some big bats on their club and they are still learning to play together. No, they aren’t better than Texas or the Angels, but they have improved.

Atlanta’s offense has taken a couple weeks off. They are asleep somewhere with the Indians.

I still do like the Blue Jays. Once Bautista and Lawrie start to hit consistently they will be giving other clubs fits. They can pitch and they can hit. They’ll be fine. I’m not as confident about Boston-especially the outfield with the loss of Ellsbury.

Few teams have spark plugs like Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. Both seem to take their club on their back and say, “here’s how it’s done.” They get the big homer or get on base when they need to. They just lead by example. I think Howie Kendrick has that potential.

Robbie Cano looks like he is playing without energy at times. It’s baffling me. I’ve never seen him give away at-bats like he has this year. But it’s early. I keep telling myself that. It’s early.

How do you like Lance Lynn?

Just when I feel good about my pitching, there goes Adam Wainwright. He said he had never had such a bad outing in his career. I believe him.

I may not be as patient with Brian Matusz. Nobody in America was as high on Matusz as I was when he entered the Orioles organization. He grew up here in my community in Cave Creek. I watched his high school and college development. He has a magic arm. He’s also pitching way too high in the zone and he has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. I wonder if he just won’t listen to his coaches. He starts again today. We’ll see. I have him front and center in an American League Only league. Very few replacements available. Yikes!

Do you like Johnny Damon to Cleveland? They tried to pry Rocky Colavito out of retirement, but he declined. The Tribe likes to chase lightning in a bottle. Most of the time, their bottle is broken.

Finally. I finally have been liking what I’ve seen of Aroldis Chapman’s mechanics. Maybe they’ll leave him alone for a while and just let that spectacular arm take over. I still see very big things for Chapman. Always have. Starter? No, lets put him in the pen. No, let’s start him. It gets old after a while but all clubs have those issues. I give you Feliz, Morrow and Sale as examples.

Josh Collmenter could be headed for the bullpen. Look for Wade Miley to switch roles with him. It really is too soon for Trevor Bauer or even Patrick Corbin who I like best among the lot. Miley is a pretty good, under rated pitcher.

That’s it for me this time. Have a great week and don’t panic. Yet. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and on MLB.com in the Other Voices section. My weekly On The Scene column will be up on Wednesday. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.