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Arizona Diamondbacks

20 Days of Thinking Blue: The toughest competition in the NL West?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
Who is the Dodgers’ toughest competition in the NL West?
 
Can the answer be no one?
 
No, it can’t. This isn’t soccer. There are no ties.
 
Let’s get this out of the way: barring a string of injuries, the Dodgers will win the NL West. And it could be by a wide margin. Let’s take a look at the field:
 
Colorado Rockies: The Rox finished last in the NL West last season, and with good cause–they were pretty horrible. The team is obviously in the midst of a rebuilding movement, with Todd Helton retiring and young guys like Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and Willin Rosario taking over key positions around the diamond. Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau should add a little more pop behind All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but the problem with the Rockies is, and is usually never the offense.… Read more...

NL West Preview: Respecting the Reigning Champs, Beyond All Reasonable Logic

The reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants should be the unquestioned favorites for the division. But looking at their opening day line-up, they’re not bulletproof. Not even close.
 
The roster that brought them two titles and perhaps a Scott Cousins rampage away from a third is still intact, but maybe that’s not the best thing. SS Marco Scutaro played out of his skull for the last three months of the season (.859 OPS, .362 batting average), but he’s a 37 year-old shortstop, and those age about as gracefully as whatever that’s currently replacing Meg Ryan’s face. OF Hunter Pence will be 30 in a few weeks and just came off his worst offensive season ever. The former Phillie is in a contract year, which bodes well for an improvement in performance, but he also did almost nothing to contribute to the Giants’ 2012 title. The 6-7-8 slots in the line-up are inhabited by the bodies of 1B Brandon Belt, OF Gregor Blanco and SS Brandon Crawford, who are better suited for late-game defensive replacement duty rather than everyday hitters. I would be shocked if between them they hit 15 home runs this year. Buster Posey–arguably one of the top-5 players in the entire league–is of course in the middle of the order, but he’s the only sure thing there. 3B Pablo Sandoval and OF Angel Pagan have All-Star potential, but are extremely unsteady performers.
 
On paper, with a line-up with so many questions and so much dead weight, how could MAMBINO possibly pick them to win the division?
 
Because we have to.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Justin Upton to the Braves

Atlanta Braves get: OF Justin Upton, 3B Chris Johnson

Arizona Diamondbacks get: 3B/OF Martin Prado, SP Randall Delgado and minor leaguers SS Nick Ahmed, 1B Brandon Drury and SP Zeke Spruill

Since Ted Turner sold the Braves several seasons ago, Atlanta management has subtly turned a team with a nine figure payroll into shrewd, budget conscious operation with an eye always towards the future. Instead of spending multi-millions to sign or retain high-salaried veterans, the Braves have kept a healthy mix of older players with young, emerging prospects, which seem to sprout from their minor league system as steadily as Milton Bradley felony charges.

Although we had a couple initial thoughts here at MAMBINO HQ regarding this trade, we turned to resident Braves fan and writer The King for his thoughts. Let’s get to it:

  1. The Braves have the best bullpen in the game, one of the best rotations and stellar defense. The lineup was the weak part of this team not because of depth, but because of a  lack of superstars (a problem that has worsened with Chipper Jones’ retirement).  Justin Upton gives them a hitter that has the potential to be a superstar. 

 

The King is right in his assessment; the Braves have one of the best young starting rotations and bullpens in the game, a raft of twenty-something pitchers with tremendous upside. More to the point, they’re all on controllable rookie contracts, increasing their value tenfold–look at what 22 year-old pitcher Randall Delgado fetched, after all. The Braves absolutely need more stability in their line-up with a departing Chipper Jones (a legitimate All-Star in his age 40 season) as well as the departing free agent Michael Bourn. Grabbing a five-tool 25 year-old outfielder with a top-5 MVP finish to his credit should do the trick, right?… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds get: OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald

Cleveland Indians get: SP Trevor Bauer, RP Matt Albers, RP Bryan Shaw, OF Drew Stubbs

Arizona Diamondbacks get: SS Didi Gregorius, RP Tony Sipp, 1B Lars Anderson

In the second major transaction of the night, the Reds may have gotten the final piece to their championship puzzle in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while the Indians bolstered their team for the future and the Diamondbacks…did something.

Just two months ago, the Reds were on the precipice of eliminating the future World Series champion Giants with a commanding 3-1 lead at home. However, their offense scuttled in games 4 and 5, as Cincy’s first two hitters in their line-up scored one combined run in 18 at-bats. In fact, both SS Zack Cozart and 2B Brandon Phillips managed to plate only 3 runs the entire series, which isn’t so strange when you consider that Reds top two leadoff hitters all season hit to a below .650 OPS overall and had a nearly 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. In other words, Cincy’s 3-8 hitters were so good that even without placesetters, they were able to score the 9th most runs in the Majors. Amazing. 

With a rock solid bullpen (with or without Aroldis Chapman, who may be converted to a starter), a devastating rotation led by Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto and a young, versatile line-up of mashers that only had a one-legged Joey Votto last season, the Reds’ sole weakness was a leadoff hitting corps who were more comparable to Endy Chavez than Tim Raines. In many ways, Shin-Soo Choo allays that problem.

After a down 2011, the South Korean wonder returned to his all-world ways, hitting to a .815 OPS, with a .373 OPB, 21 steals and 16 homers in 155 games. He’s the solid, leadoff hitting center fielder that the Reds always wanted former first rounder Drew Stubbs to turn into, but never could. Shin Stubbs-Choo should slot in nicely in front of a lethal Cincy line-up that’s only getting better with an emerging Todd Frazier with a full year at third base, and a trio of All-Stars in Votto, Phillips and Jay Bruce behind him.

The Reds did give up some talent here, including Gregorious, a Dutch shortstop with a fantastic glove and arm, but a questionable bat. Cincy already has that on the field in a 27 year-old Zack Cozart, who rates as a positive fielder according to fangraphs.com, so for the time being, they’re not really losing much. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said that he sees a lot of “Derek Jeter in Gregorius”, which is a pretty intense statement, to say the least. Stubbs has regressed the past three seasons (.773, .686, .610 OPS, 22, 15, 14 HR, .255, .243, .213 AVG) and just isn’t showing signs that he’ll ever have the plate discipline to match his tantalizing mix of speed and power.

Cincinnati’s not on the clock here, seeing as Latos and Cueto still have multiple years left on their rookie deals and the core of their offense is locked up for many seasons to come. However, the Reds needed a solution at leadoff hitter if they expected to get past a hyper-competitive NL Central division in 2013, as evidenced by a first round bouncing by the Gigantes by getting very little run production out of their 1 and 2 hitters. The biggest downside to trading for Choo is that he’ll be a free agent in just one year’s time, but for the Reds, the window to win is now. They had to make this deal.

For the Indians, the motivation was clear–Trevor Bauer. The former UCLA Bruin was Arizona’s number one prospect and one of the very best in baseball. As a former fir… Read more...

MAMBINO Fantasy Mondays: The Kevin Youkilis Non-Trade Fall-out

In the move that everyone saw coming, the Boston Red Sox finally traded Kevin Youkilis on Sunday. After rumors flew around fast and furious like a CC Sabathia batting practice, GM Ben Cherington shipped his third baseman to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Zach Stewart and utility man and First Team All-MLB Ugly member Brent Lillibridge.

The trade fallout has been discussed all over the internet: the deal has largely been called a great one for the White Sox, who get a former All-Star third baseman to man their MLB-worst hot corner, who hit to a combined .466 OPS. Boston has rookie Wil Middlebrooks handily playing third and mashing, so at this point, an unhappy Youkilis wasn’t doing any favors sulking in the BoSox locker room and creating an uncomfortable situation for everyone. RP Stewart was one of the main pieces Chicago got back in the Colby Rasmus/Edwin Jackson/Marc Rzepcynski deal with the Cardinals and Blue Jays last summer, but has so far not panned out on the South Side. He’ll be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Lillibridge will largely serve in the same utility man capacity when on the White Sox.

The impact that this deal will have on both side is pretty clear: the White Sox get a formerly great hitter to play a position that was absolutely killing them day-to-day. On top of everything else, the Red Sox foot nearly $5.5 million of his salary, so unless Stewart turns into the next coming of Jonathan Papelbon, the White Sox largely gave up nothing for a guy who could potentially help them win the division. For Boston, this clears the way for Middlebrooks, and to a lesser extent DH David Ortiz and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, to play every day, and hopefully Stewart will be able to help a beleaguered Red Sox ‘pen down the line.

What’s more interesting though is how this trade impacts the teams that didn’t quite have enough to acquire Youkilis. According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Indians, Pirates and Braves were all involved in talks with Boston to some extent. Let’s take a look at how this non-move will affect these teams going down the line.


Los Angeles Dodgers

How badly did they need him? Pretty badly. The Dodgers third base situation has been tenuous from the onset, with offensive millstone Juan Uribe taking his historically bad season right into 2012. Adam Kennedy (.616 OPS), Elian Herrera (.716 OPS) and Ivan DeJesus (.708 OPS) have all taken their shots at the hot corner, with only Jerry Hairston (.821 OPS, .311 average in 36 games with 11 extra base hits) having any success there. However even Hairston, a lifetime utility man, can’t be counted on for production over the long term. LA has no third base prospects in the pipeline, and considering the cheap price the White Sox paid, it’s hard to believe that another game-changing third baseman will come along in a month that could potentially replicate Youkilis’ production (especially, keeping in mind that he’d be going from the AL East to the NL West).

So what do they do now? Jerry Hairston is the answer for the next month or so, but a very expensive (prospect-wise) inter-division trade for Chase Headley could be coming down the line.

Fantasy Spin: If you’re in a deep NL-only league, you’ve already got Jerry Hairston on your roster. I do think Headley is going right out of San Diego’s door in a month, as he won’t be under team control whenever they’re ready to compete. I’d most expect him to head to the Dodgers, but wouldnt’ be surprised if he g… Read more...