Keith Law: Los Angeles Dodgers

Astros make a nice pickup; Royals don't 

December, 16, 2014
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Jed LowrieJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsHe might not be able to stick at SS, but Jed Lowrie is a good short-term upgrade there for the Astros.
Jed Lowrie has agreed to terms with the Houston Astros and will be paid about what I expected, getting three years and $23 million with a fourth-year option for another $5 million. It's a deal that underpays him based on expected performance but prices in his injury risk and the probability that he's not able to stay at shortstop for the entire deal.

The Astros did need a better shortstop solution in the short term, with Jonathan Villar, who still has the potential to be at least a quality backup infielder, showing no progress at the plate over two partial years in the majors.

Moving Rollins the right move for Philly 

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
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Jimmy RollinsAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallThe Dodgers got exactly what they needed in Jimmy Rollins. And Philly did the right thing.
The Philadelphia Phillies threw up the black flag about a year or so too late, but appear to be finally acknowledging that their major league roster was too damaged to repair and that it was time to begin the process of weeding out the old guard. In trading Jimmy Rollins, their icon shortstop and one of the best players in franchise history, they've taken a critical first step in turning the page on the 2008-09 pennant winners so that the next season isn't wasted again on a team that can't go anywhere.

Rollins, 36, is exactly what the Dodgers need

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Kemp's not cheap, but Padres get a bat 

December, 11, 2014
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Matt KempJeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kemp will play a key role in boosting the Padres' weak offense.
The Padres' 2014 offense was one of the worst in big league history, and acquiring Matt Kemp is a huge boost toward fixing that weakness (although I'm not sure that any one player, even Mike Trout, could do that by himself). Padres left fielders hit .229/.318/.366 in 2014 -- and that was their most productive outfield position. Kemp's bat alone is a three- to four-win upgrade if he just has a solid, healthy Kemp season, with the nonzero chance that he produces a lot more now that his shoulder issues seem to be behind him. In total, the deal the Dodgers and Padres agreed to terms on sends Kemp along with catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego. The Dodgers will receive catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and right-handed pitching prospect Zach Eflin.

The issue

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Dodgers' creativity prevails Wednesday 

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
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Howie Kendrick Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsAfter nine years with the Angels, Howie Kendrick will head across town to play for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers created an opening at second base with their trade of Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins early in the day Wednesday, and filling it with Howie Kendrick was a quick one-or two-win upgrade over what they could have reasonably expected from Gordon in 2015. Kendrick is a much better defender than Gordon and also a better contact hitter, even if he never quite lived up to the expectations placed on him as a prospect because he has never been patient enough to work the count. Kendrick's walk rate spiked in 2014, and if that's a skill change rather than a fluke, he'll be one of the majors' top second basemen and a bargain at $9 million for the year.

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Dodgers did well to trade Dee Gordon 

December, 10, 2014
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Dee GordonAP Photo/Jayne Kamin-OnceaDee Gordon led the majors in steals, but posted a lower WAR than Scott Van Slyke, among others.
The Los Angeles Dodgers need a shortstop, so of course they traded their second baseman. Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins needed a second baseman and got one, but I think the price they paid exceeds what they got in return.

In Dee Gordon, the Marlins get an everyday second baseman and clear upgrade over what they ran out there in 2014, a 1.5-2 win upgrade depending on Gordon's bat.

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My predictions for the NLDS matchups 

October, 3, 2014
Oct 3
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Jake Peavy and Stephen StrasburgUSA TODAY SportsJake Peavy and Stephen Strasburg square off in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday afternoon.
I posted my thoughts on both American League Division Series yesterday, so here is the companion piece, predictions for both National League Division Series and with my rationales. My early guess at the World Series matchup and winner is below.

San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals

 
 

I think the Nationals are the best team in the postseason, and also the team best built for the postseason, which is not necessarily the same thing, but both are applicable in this case.

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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Julio Urias showing big league stuff 

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
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UriasAP Photo/Brian WesterholtJulio Urias, just 17 years old, is showing a repertoire advanced beyond his years.
Though only 17 years old until August, Julio Urias was my No. 14 prospect coming into 2014 and he’s already showing big league stuff. He performed very well in a brief stint in the low Class A Midwest League last year and threw an inning for the Dodgers on Saturday. He then came back with a crisp three-inning outing on Wednesday in an A-ball game against the Cubs' high Class A roster.

Urias was 91-95 mph with his fastballs, showing good life on a two-seamer and a lot of confidence in the four-seamer, running it in to a right-handed batter for a strikeout when the hitter was probably looking for off-speed. Urias didn't throw his curveball, but threw some very sharp sliders anywhere from 81-86, tending toward the top end of the range for right-handed batters. His changeup was at least solid-average, 81-84 with a little action, relying more on deception and his ability to control the pitch.

Urias' delivery is very clean and simple, with a good stride, plenty of hip rotation, a clean arm swing and a landing that puts him online to the plate.

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Dee Gordon's hitting still a concern 

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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Dee GordonGregg Forwerck/Getty ImagesDee Gordon can handle second base, but he probably won't hit enough to hold a lineup spot.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Buster Olney noted earlier this week that Dee Gordon may already have won the Los Angeles Dodgers' second-base job, which may have something to do with the absence of any real competition here. Gordon did add an unusual amount of muscle this offseason, but he doesn't have the hand or wrist strength to turn on major league fastballs.

He loads his hands very deep, nearly barring his lead arm, and drags the bat through the zone. Between the late start and the lack of wrist strength, he can't accelerate enough to make hard contact.

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Mookie BettsMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRed Sox second-base prospect Mookie Betts is currently blocked by All-Star Dustin Pedroia.
My annual ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball and the top 10 (or more) prospects in each organization is completely organization-neutral: I don't consider the makeup of the club each prospect plays for when evaluating his potential as a major leaguer.

Many prospects on the list each year will face some obstacles in reaching the majors with their current employers because they're blocked by more established players, or even other prospects higher up in the system, and I've outlined the six prospects most affected by this phenomenon below.

I didn't include pitchers here because the injury rate for starters is high enough that no starting pitching prospect is every truly blocked; Noah Syndergaard and Archie Bradley are one sore elbow away from reaching the majors, and you can bet that the Mets and Diamondbacks, respectively, will have such openings before the 2014 season is out.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox

Betts is the most-blocked prospect in baseball at this point. He's one of the top pure second-base prospects in the game, but he's blocked by Dustin Pedroia, who is among the majors' best second basemen and is under contract through 2021.

Betts is a great athlete and could probably play shortstop … at which he's currently blocked by uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts, and he could probably play center field, at which he's blocked by elite defender Jackie Bradley Jr.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

My MVP and Cy Young picks 

November, 14, 2013
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Mike TroutAP Photo/Jae C. HongYes, folks, Mike Trout should be on the verge of his second straight MVP.
On Monday, I revealed my rookie of the year ballots (I voted in the National League). Today I wanted to reveal what my ballots would look like for the other major player awards. Again, I only voted for NL ROY, so this is for the purpose of discussion.

National League Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Cliff Lee
4. Matt Harvey
5. Jose Fernandez

This one was a rout, and the first-place vote that Wainwright received is quite a bit surprising. Wainwright was a pretty clear No. 2 for me, with Lee third as he was below Wainwright in WAR (per FanGraphs) and pitched in 19 fewer innings.

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My National League ROY ballot 

November, 11, 2013
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Jose Fernandez and Yasiel PuigGetty ImagesVoters had a tough choice between Fernandez and Puig for National League ROY.
The National League rookie class was stacked this year, and it would have been easy to find enough names to put on a ballot with 10 slots -- although ranking the players after the first three would have been difficult. The actual NL Rookie of the Year ballot includes only those three slots, however, so it was more painful to omit rookies who had great seasons such as Shelby Miller or Gerrit Cole than it was to decide how to rank the players who did make the cut.

As I did last year, I filled out my NL Rookie of the Year ballot by first considering each player's performance during this season, and then giving secondary consideration to factors such as the player's age and future projection. I wouldn't consider any of these variables when voting on the MVP or Cy Young Awards, where the purpose of each award is very clear. I believe the Rookie of the Year award intends to highlight an emerging star, not merely the rookie with the best stats, and I vote in that vein.

I think most fans and voters agree that this race came down to two players, Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, both of whom were born in Cuba and both of whom played like superstars at different points during the 2013 season.

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Royals punished by CBA; LDS picks 

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
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RoyalsOtto Geule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Royals get punished by the new CBA for being good but not making the playoffs.

By the standards of their own recent history, the Royals had a very successful season. The team won 86 games, their best record since 1989, and they outscored their opponents on a season for the first time since 1991. Their two biggest offseason acquisitions, Ervin Santana (in a dump trade with the Angels) and James Shields (in the Wil Myers trade with Tampa Bay), both pitched very well for the big club, helping the Royals allow the fewest runs of any team in the American League, 23 fewer than the division-winning Tigers. Some young players took strides: Eric Hosmer hit .317/.365/.492 after the team fired hitting coach Jack Maloof; catcher Salvador Perez had his first full, healthy season in the majors and performed well.

There were plenty of positives for the Royals, but because the season went well, some of the structural reasons that helped the team get to this point will now work against the team.

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Players who've exceeded my expectations 

September, 17, 2013
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Paul GoldschmidtStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesPaul Goldschmidt has proven to be a much better player than Keith expected him to be.
I wrote last year about five players on whom I'd been wrong at some point, whether in an initial evaluation or even a second look in pro ball. In that spirit, here's the 2013 edition, looking at six more players who beat my expectations and who I now think will continue to do so.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B | Arizona Diamondbacks


I saw Goldschmidt only once as a prospect, at the Futures Game in Phoenix in 2011, and saw a strong guy who wasn't a great athlete and showed raw power in BP but didn't have more than average bat speed. I talked to a number of pro scouts and front-office guys after that and heard similar opinions, calling him a fringy regular or a platoon first baseman.

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