2015 ranking of all 30 farm systems

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
6:00
AM PT

To kick off my look this week at the best prospects in the minor leagues, I've ranked all 30 MLB farm systems from top to bottom, considering only the players who are currently in the systems and have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. (I use the same criterion for the individual player rankings that will be posted over the next few days.)

Similar to last year, there are only a handful of systems that combine both a few high-impact or high-ceiling prospects and the depth down to and past the end of their top-10 list. (My top 10 rankings by team will be released Friday.) Many systems ranked in the teens boast a couple very good prospects -- say, one or two guys who project as above-average regulars and another two or three who might be everyday guys -- and then it's bench parts and relievers. Those players are good to have, as you'd much rather fill those spots with minimum-salary players than have to reach out to free agency, but their asset value is much lower than the values of prospects who project as average or better.

One major change: You'll notice this year I have more large-market teams in the top 10, as ownership groups in those cities recognize the value in building better stables of prospects, which has included hiring better scouts and coaches away from other organizations. The draft has always offered a competitive advantage to lower-revenue teams willing to put their money into amateur scouting, in part because the clubs with higher payrolls chose to put their cash into the big league roster. If that's no longer true, it will reduce the opportunity for the Pittsburghs and Kansas Citys of MLB to continue to contend.

1. Chicago Cubs

Take a moment to recover from your surprise ...

How serious are the Dodgers about Yoan Moncada?

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
10:54
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The most exciting Dodgers-related news lately are the multiple reports that the team had a private workout for Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada on Monday, one attended by both president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly, according to MLB.com.

Then again, is it exciting news or troublesome news? The Dodgers have had mixed success with Cuban defectors lately.

Many people thought they were just showing off their newfound financial muscle when they signed Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million contract 2 ½ years ago after a short scouting trip to watch Puig work out in Mexico. Though Puig has caused the Dodgers plenty of headaches along the way, he has had an outstanding .888 OPS in two major-league seasons, electrified the team’s fan base and established himself as probably the majors’ second-best Cuban position player after Jose Abreu.

On the other hand, the Dodgers may have swung and missed on two expensive Cuban infielders, Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena, who signed for a combined $53 million and last winter and have done nothing but make negative headlines while in the minor leagues. The Dodgers no longer mention Guerrero, 27, when discussing their infield (or outfield) plans and they designated Arruebarrena for assignment after signing pitcher Brett Anderson.

Guerrero lost part of his ear in a dugout brawl with a teammate, Miguel Olivo, last season and Arruebarrena sparked one of the nastiest minor-league brawls of 2014 with an ultra-slow trip around the bases in a Triple-A game.

Moncada, 19, appears to be in a different category than Guerrero or Arruebarrena, who arrived with glaring question marks -- Guerrero’s defense and Arruebarrena’s offense -- based on reports out of Cuba. According to Baseball America, Moncada, is “a 6-foot, 210-pound switch-hitting infielder who’s the best teenager to leave Cuba since Jorge Soler, a player with exciting tools and dominance of the Cuban junior leagues on par with what Yasiel Puig did at the same age.”

(Read full post)

Notes from the MLB awards dinner 

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
10:04
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Clayton Kershaw and Sandy KoufaxGetty Images, USA Today SportsClayton Kershaw has dominated his era, just like former Dodger great Sandy Koufax.
Our colleague Willie Weinbaum filed this from Saturday night’s annual baseball soiree.

On a night of transitions and tributes, the 92nd annual awards dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America began with a moment of silence in memory of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. The evening concluded with the remarks of obscure former Cub Bob Hendley, who pitched a one-hitter nearly 50 years ago in the same game that the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax achieved perfection.

Koufax, who sat on the dais between one commissioner whose term was about to begin and another whose tenure was about to end, fulfilled the wish he articulated at the event a year ago -- to present Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw with another National League Cy Young Award. Kershaw’s three awards equal Koufax’s career total, and he also received the NL MVP Award from Koufax, so the dominating lefties of eras a half-century apart each have one MVP too.

About 24 hours before Kershaw traveled to the banquet, his wife Ellen gave birth to their first child. In an emotional speech citing his family, Kershaw gave thanks by name to every Dodgers player and staffer he said he encountered daily last season. Surprisingly, he also expressed gratitude to the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that eliminated him and the Dodgers from the postseason.

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Stow attacker pleads in weapons case

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
6:35
PM PT

LOS ANGELES -- A man who severely beat a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger Stadium has pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge.

Marvin Norwood pleaded guilty Thursday in Los Angeles to being a felon in possession of firearms. He faces 10 years in prison when he's sentenced May 7.

Norwood, 34, and Louie Sanchez, 32, were sentenced to state prison for the 2011 stadium attack that left Bryan Stow with permanent brain damage. Federal authorities arrested Norwood when he finished serving time in the beating case.

Police investigating the beating found semi-automatic rifles, other weapons and ammunition during a search of Norwood's home. Both men had previous felony convictions in San Bernardino County.

Court records show Sanchez is scheduled to change his plea on a similar count Jan. 29.


(Read full post)


Top 100 prospects of 2015

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
11:22
AM PT

Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2015 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

This is my eighth such ranking for Insider, with a lot of the same names near the top of last year's list but in a different order based on what we learned from those players' 2014 seasons. Just 10 players from last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for this year's list due to exceeding the limits for rookie of the year eligibility. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down, as with the previous year's ranking. A number of the top arms from last year's list were hit by the injury bug, including a few Tommy John surgeries and a number of other arm problems that kept them off the mound, some for almost the entire season.

A complete list of the top 100 is below, and a more detailed explanation of the process in determining these rankings is found at the top of each of the player capsule pages.

Top 100 index Insider | Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider


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Top 100 prospects (Nos. 51-100)

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
11:05
AM PT

Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2015 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

This is my eighth such ranking for Insider, with a lot of the same names near the top of last year's list but in a different order based on what we learned from those players' 2014 seasons. Just 10 players from last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for this year's list due to exceeding the limits for rookie of the year eligibility. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down, as with the previous year's ranking. A number of the top arms from last year's list were hit by the injury bug, including a few Tommy John surgeries and a number of other arm problems that kept them off the mound, some for almost the entire season.

The Guidelines

• The rankings are limited to players who still have rookie eligibility; that means they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors and have not yet spent 45 days on the active roster of a major league club, excluding call-ups during the roster expansion period after Sept. 1. That means Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Sardinas, for instance, is ineligible, based on his days on the 25-man roster.

• Only players who have signed professional contracts are eligible.

• I do not consider players with professional experience in Japan or Korea "prospects" for the purpose of this exercise, which means no Jung-Ho Kang this year (among others). I also exclude Cuban players who are considered professional free agents by Major League Baseball by virtue of their experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional de Béisbol. This list includes Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, but will consider Cuban players whom MLB treats as amateurs, like Roberto Baldoquin (who just missed this list) and Yoan Lopez.

• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplemented with conversations with other scouts and front-office executives as needed -- as well as performance, adjusted for age and context. I've made one adjustment in my ranking philosophy in recent years, favoring higher-upside prospects over lower-ceiling prospects who are closer to the majors. This better reflects how these players are valued now by front offices and scouting departments, and gives me a chance to deliver more information on prospects whose names or scouting reports might be new to you.

• I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" thousands of times across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.

• I've included last year's rank for players who appeared in the top 100 in 2014. An "ineligible" player was still an amateur at this time last January, whereas an "unranked" player was eligible but didn't make the cut. I've also tagged players who were on last year's sleepers list or list of 10 players who just missed the cut.

Top 100 index Insider | Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider


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Are rehabbing pitchers the new market inefficiency?

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
5:36
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Brett Anderson estimates that half the teams in baseball checked in on him early in the offseason. By the winter meetings, the serious suitors were down to fewer than half a dozen, he said. Within a few weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers stood alone, signing him to a one-year, $10 million deal that could be worth as much as $14 million if he reaches all the incentives.

[+] EnlargeBrett Anderson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsBrett Anderson could prove to be a bargain if he's able to overcome injuries issues he has dealt with recently.
That's big money for a pitcher who has eclipsed 150 innings in his career only once, when he was a rookie, and has already undergone elbow reconstruction and been on the 60-day disabled list twice in one season (last season) for unrelated injuries.

"Yes and no," Anderson said when asked if he views his signing as a risky one. "Due to my track record, it's hard to say. I haven't been able to go out as consistently as I would like and the teams I've played for would have liked, but then again a lot of the injuries have been fluky things."

Anderson has yet to get back on a mound five months removed from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, but he said he expected to do so in the coming week. Working with a sports medicine physician in Arizona, he says he thinks he has identified the source of his back problem and has come up with a series of hip exercises he can continue throughout the season.

Speaking on a conference call Wednesday, Anderson sounded a lot like Brandon McCarthy, the other major pitching addition to the Dodgers' staff this offseason. McCarthy says he thinks a new regimen helped keep his right shoulder healthy throughout a full season for the first time in 2013.

If you discount the finger Anderson broke while he was in the batter's box, and believe that a 26-year old pitcher who has already undergone Tommy John surgery is capable of rebounding strongly, Anderson could prove to be a bargain on a one-year deal. So could McCarthy, who pitched 200 innings last year and had a better than 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Dodgers signed McCarthy, 30, to a four-year, $48 million deal coming out of the winter meetings.

Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, vice president of player personnel Josh Byrnes and general manager Farhan Zaidi may have identified a new market inefficiency, or at least they'd like to think so: teams becoming overly wary of pitchers with injury histories.

(Read full post)

30 things to look for before spring training

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
10:44
AM PT
Jordan ZimmermanEvan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsJordan Zimmerman will be a free agent following the 2015 season. Will he end up on the trade block?
We’re a month away from the official start of spring training, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some unresolved issues and potential news items still out there in baseball land. Here are 30 things to keep an eye on:

1. Now that the Nationals have signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year contract, will the Nats look to trade impending free agent Jordan Zimmermann? A rotation of Scherzer, Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez certainly has the ability to be one of the best we’ve seen in recent years, and that doesn’t even include Tanner Roark, who quietly went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA last year.

2. If the Nationals do look to move Zimmermann (or Fister, also a free agent at season’s end), will they use that trade to help restock the farm system or acquire depth in the bullpen? The pen looks a little thin after they traded setup man extraordinaire Tyler Clippard and lost Rafael Soriano to free agency.

3. Where will James Shields go? The one difference-making free agent who is still unsigned, Shields reportedly turned down $110 million from a team he apparently didn’t want to play for. Or maybe that was just posturing to try to ramp up the offers.

4. Will the Marlins trade Dan Haren? The veteran right-hander, set to make $10 million, had threatened to retire if he wasn’t traded back to a California team. But the Dodgers just traded him to the Marlins and don’t have room in their rotation, and the Los Angels also added rotation depth in the offseason. The Dodgers gave the Marlins $10 million to offset Haren’s salary, which they keep even if Haren doesn’t play. It looks like the ball may be in Haren’s court, as you know Jeffrey Loria would be more than happy to keep the cash.

5. Is Billy Beane done wheeling and dealing? It’s been a whirlwind offseason for the Oakland A's general manager, who has traded away Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Derek Norris, John Jaso and others, while acquiring Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Clippard and other young players and prospects. Yunel Escobar was even acquired from the Rays and quickly dealt to the Nationals for Clippard.

6. Are Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer done wheeling and dealing for the Cubs? They just picked up Dexter Fowler from the Astros, giving the club a more legitimate center fielder than converted infielder Arismendy Alcantara. With the addition of Fowler, the Cubs' lineup could look like this:

Fowler CF
Starlin Castro SS
Jorge Soler RF
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Kris Bryant 3B
Miguel Montero C
Chris Coghlan LF
Javier Baez 2B

That lineup has potential, and it's backed up with a rotation featuring Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood. But with Fowler signed only through 2015, maybe the Cubs will make one more big move to draw closer on paper to the Cardinals and Pirates. Maybe Shields, to bolster the rotation even more?

[+] EnlargeJohnny Cueto
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJohnny Cueto was second in the National League in 2014 with a 2.25 ERA.
7. Will the Reds sign Johnny Cueto to a long-term contract? Cueto will be expensive to sign, and while he may not command Scherzer money due Cueto's injury history, he’s coming off a season that would have won the Cy Young Award in most years. The long-term commitments the Reds have already made to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey may mean that a third $100 million-plus player doesn’t fit into their budget.

8. Will the Reds sign Aroldis Chapman to a long-term contract? Like Cueto, Chapman is a free agent after 2015. The Reds are hosting the 2015 All-Star Game, so don’t expect them to trade either player -- at least until after the All-Star Game and only if the Reds are well out of the pennant race.

9. Are the Cardinals satisfied with their rotation? They had been rumored to be interested in signing Scherzer or maybe acquiring David Price from the Tigers, but Price is certainly unavailable now -- not that he was in the first place -- with Scherzer out of the Detroit picture. The Cardinals did sign Lance Lynn to a three-year extension. But the health concerns of Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia and the uncertainty of young arms such as Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzalez means the Cardinals have question marks within their depth.

10. Are the Braves really committed to keeping Craig Kimbrel? After trading away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, the Braves have all but admitted they’re building for 2017 when they open their new park. General manager John Hart insists the club can still compete in 2015, but the projection systems argue otherwise and say the Braves will be one of the worst teams in the majors. The smart move would be to cash in Kimbrel now.

11. Speaking of ... are the Tigers going to do anything about the bullpen?

12. Speaking of ... Francisco Rodriguez is still a free agent. And probably with good reason, considering he led all relievers in home runs allowed in 2014. Still, he posted a 3.04 ERA and recorded 44 saves for the Brewers, so some team may be willing to give him a shot at closing. Especially a team that had major issues up and down the bullpen last year, including in the postseason.

13. Will the Mets acquire a shortstop? I think we’re all a bit tired of this story by now. Mets fans seem to want a new shortstop. The New York media definitely believes the team needs a shortstop. Sandy Alderson would probably like a new shortstop. Troy Tulowitzki may want to become the new Mets shortstop. Meanwhile, the Wilpons are probably too busy watching old films of the Brooklyn Dodgers to care.

14. Will the Diamondbacks trade Mark Trumbo? This is probably more of a spring training decision, depending on whether Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas can handle third base. If he can’t, he'll move to left field and the D-backs have to shop Trumbo.

15. Will Dave Stewart give us more quotes about "real" baseball teams and those apparently fake teams that worry too much about analytics?

16. Will the Mariners acquire a right-handed bat? Right now, the M’s have Nelson Cruz penciled in at DH, Logan Morrison at first base, and a right-field platoon of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano (with lefty-swinging Dustin Ackley in left field). Jesus Montero is still around, but a right-handed bat who can play first base or DH against southpaws (with Cruz moving to the outfield) would create more balance in the lineup.

17. Will the Phillies release Ryan Howard? At this point, it’s probably best for all if Ruben Amaro just puts Howard on waivers. Nobody is going to trade for Howard, but that doesn’t mean you need to create a negative distraction by inviting him to spring training. It’s a sunk cost. Let it sink and see if any team wants to give Howard a shot to DH.

18. Who will be the first columnist to point out Howard’s RBI total from last year? Like, in a good way.

19. Will the Red Sox make a move for their rotation? While the Red Sox actually project to have a decent rotation, according to some projections, it’s also difficult to buy completely into Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson.

[+] EnlargeCole Hamels
AP Photo/Alex BrandonCole Hamels was in the top 10 in the National League last season in ERA (2.46) and strikeouts (198).
20. Will Cole Hamels be traded? Hamels may be worth more at the trade deadline than he is now, so don’t be surprised if Hamels is starting on Opening Day for the Phillies. But if he does get traded, the Red Sox and Padres still seem likely destinations; the Red Sox have a slew of prospects and the Padres have catching prospect Austin Hedges.

21. What’s going on with Dan Duquette? The only noise the Orioles’ president has made this offseason has been with the rumors that he’s leaving Baltimore to take over the presidency of the Blue Jays. If this was going to happen, it should have been resolved by now, as Duquette’s lack of activity in Baltimore could have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

22. Will the Orioles bring in a right fielder? Colby Rasmus is the best free agent out there and would be the easiest option, if inelegant. There are also unappealing trade options such as Andre Ethier or Carlos Quentin.

23. Which young star will get locked up by a long-term extension? Small-market teams have been able to remain competitive in recent years in part by signing their young stars to team-friendly extensions -- think Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh or Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay -- but as premium free agents continue to get $100-million plus contracts, there’s going to be less incentive for young players to potentially leave tens of millions on the table.

24. Where will the other free-agent relievers sign? Casey Janssen and Soriano are two relievers out there with closing experience. Soriano averaged 39 saves the past three seasons but lost his closer job with the Nationals late last season, while Janssen missed time with a back injury and saw his strikeout rate decline. Besides the Tigers, the Dodgers are seeking relief help.

25. Are the World Series champs done? The Giants just signed Norichika Aoki, although he and Gregor Blanco don’t make for a traditional platoon since both hit left-handed. They struck out on signing Jon Lester and Pablo Sandoval and trading for Justin Upton. The Giants could still be in on Shields, or could bring back Ryan Vogelsong for rotation depth.

26. Back to the Nationals: Could they trade shortstop Ian Desmond? It seems unlikely, but Desmond is a free agent after 2015 and reportedly turned down a $100 million extension. And the club did trade for Yunel Escobar, although moving him to shortstop would create a hole at second base. The team perhaps most desperate for a shortstop is the Mets, but they’re a division rival.

27. Arbitration tracker: Who’s left? While a lot of players have already signed, the most interesting remaining unsigned players are those who are still several years from free agency and who could potentially negotiate multiyear deals (similar to the one Lynn signed with the Cardinals). This group includes Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays; Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford of the Giants; Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain of the Royals; Devin Mesoraco of the Reds; and Garrett Richards of the Angels.

28. What will happen with highly touted Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada? The 19-year-old switch-hitter is projected as a power-speed combo who will likely end up at second or third base. The Giants recently held a private workout with him, and the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals and Marlins are among those teams reported to have strong interest and financial means. MLB has declared Moncada a free agent, but he needs to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control before he’s eligible to sign.

29. Who will join Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs in guaranteeing his team will win a division title?

30. Who will be the first player to report early to spring training in the best shape of his life?



Top 100 prospects (Nos. 1-50)

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
7:02
AM PT

Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2015 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

This is my eighth such ranking for Insider, with a lot of the same names near the top of last year's list but in a different order based on what we learned from those players' 2014 seasons. Just 10 players from last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for this year's list due to exceeding the limits for rookie of the year eligibility. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down, as with the previous year's ranking. A number of the top arms from last year's list were hit by the injury bug, including a few Tommy John surgeries and a number of other arm problems that kept them off the mound, some for almost the entire season.

The Guidelines

• The rankings are limited to players who still have rookie eligibility; that means they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors and have not yet spent 45 days on the active roster of a major league club, excluding call-ups during the roster expansion period after Sept. 1. That means Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Sardinas, for instance, is ineligible, based on his days on the 25-man roster.

• Only players who have signed professional contracts are eligible.

• I do not consider players with professional experience in Japan or Korea "prospects" for the purpose of this exercise, which means no Jung-Ho Kang this year (among others). I also exclude Cuban players who are considered professional free agents by Major League Baseball by virtue of their experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional de Béisbol. This list includes Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, but will consider Cuban players whom MLB treats as amateurs, like Roberto Baldoquin (who just missed this list) and Yoan Lopez.

• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplemented with conversations with other scouts and front-office executives as needed -- as well as performance, adjusted for age and context. I've made one adjustment in my ranking philosophy in recent years, favoring higher-upside prospects over lower-ceiling prospects who are closer to the majors. This better reflects how these players are valued now by front offices and scouting departments, and gives me a chance to deliver more information on prospects whose names or scouting reports might be new to you.

• I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" thousands of times across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.

• I've included last year's rank for players who appeared in the top 100 in 2014. An "ineligible" player was still an amateur at this time last January, whereas an "unranked" player was eligible but didn't make the cut. I've also tagged players who were on last year's sleepers list or list of 10 players who just missed the cut.

Top 100 index Insider | Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez discusses Mariachi music and how his Mexican roots play a role in baseball.

Erik Bedard, Dodgers reach deal

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
11:52
AM PT

LOS ANGELES -- Pitcher Erik Bedard has agreed to a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and been invited to big league training camp.

The 36-year-old left-hander was 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts last season for Tampa Bay, where new Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was head of baseball operations. The Rays designated Bedard for assignment in July.

Since 2009, Bedard has been bothered by shoulder problems and he missed the entire 2010 season. His best year was 2007, when he was 13-5 with Baltimore.


(Read full post)


A.J. Ellis agrees to 1-year deal

January, 13, 2015
Jan 13
3:25
PM PT

LOS ANGELES -- Catcher A.J. Ellis and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a $4.25 million, one-year contract, a $700,000 raise.

Ellis hit a career-low .191 last season while playing in 93 games. He spent time on the disabled list for knee surgery and a sprained ankle.

New general manager Farhan Zaidi recognized that Ellis is a leader on the club whose preparation and comfort level with the pitching staff is valuable. Ace Clayton Kershaw was vocal in his support of Ellis last season.

Ellis, who had been eligible to file for salary arbitration Tuesday, turns 34 in April.


(Read full post)


Dodgers sign right-handed reliever Sergio Santos

January, 8, 2015
Jan 8
8:00
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have signed reliever Sergio Santos to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The 31-year-old right-hander is 7-12 with a 3.89 ERA and 39 saves in 180 games over five seasons with the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

Santos is from Los Angeles and attended Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California. He was originally selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 27th overall pick in the 2002 first-year player draft.

The move was announced Thursday.
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and his entire coaching staff will return for the upcoming season, which will be Mattingly's fifth at the helm of the NL West champions.

He guided the club to its second straight division title and a 94-68 record before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. The Dodgers' record has improved in each of Mattingly's first four seasons and his winning percentage of .547 ranks fourth in franchise history among managers with at least 500 games.

Also returning are pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Lorenzo Bundy, hitting coach Mark McGwire and bench coach Tim Wallach. Others returning are bullpen coach Chuck Crim, assistant pitching coach Ken Howell, assistant hitting coach John Valentin, catching instructor Steve Yeager and bullpen catchers Steve Cilladi and Rob Flippo.

Defensive storylines of the offseason: NL

January, 8, 2015
Jan 8
10:15
AM PT
Getty ImagesJason Heyward, Miguel Montero and Howie Kendrick are notable defense-minded acquisitions.

The major league baseball offseason still has a way to go, but I thought I'd take a look at how teams have changed defensively heading into 2015.

Here's a look at the National League:

 

NL East

Atlanta Braves
Every move the Braves made this offseason weakened them considerably defensively.

First they traded the best defensive right fielder in baseball in Jason Heyward to the Cardinals (for fear of losing him in free agency next offseason) and signed Nick Markakis (now recovering from neck surgery) to replace him. The difference defensively may be a couple of wins alone (just for all the balls that Heyward chased down in the right-field corner that others don't reach).

They also traded Justin Upton with the intent of plugging the hole in left field with Evan Gattis. That could be dicey, given that Gattis chalked up -10 runs saved in 48 games in left field in 2013.

They signed Alberto Callaspo to play second base. He's accumulated -28 defensive runs saved there in the past six seasons.

And lastly, to mentor Christian Bethancourt, they signed A.J. Pierzynski. All Pierzynski did was rank 34th in defensive runs saved among the 35 catchers with the most innings played last season (-11).

Miami Marlins
The Marlins remade their infield, though not in a great way with Michael Morse penned in at first base (-5 career runs saved there) and Dee Gordon at second (-5 runs saved). Gordon at least looked comfortable at the position and there's potential for improvement there. Martin Prado was a good get from the Yankees. He has 24 runs saved at third base dating back to the start of the 2010 season and is definitely an improvement over Casey McGehee.

New York Mets
The Mets don't necessarily have their shortstop yet, and who that is could go a long way in determining their level of offseason success. It could end up being Wilmer Flores by default. Flores had minimal range in a tryout there last season, but proved skilled at converting outs on balls hit at him and at turning double plays.

The corner outfield also could be a bit shaky. Michael Cuddyer typically rates among the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and his and Curtis Granderson's aging legs in right and left field respectively could create a lot of extra ground for amazing center fielder Juan Lagares to cover.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies need to find some defensive skill among their young players, as they traded two of the few players on their roster who were decent defensively in Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins. Looks like we'll find out if Freddy Galvis can play shortstop full-time. In 41 games there, he's at -4 defensive runs saved.

Washington Nationals
The much anticipated move of Ryan Zimmerman to first base will finally come to fruition now that Adam LaRoche has signed with the White Sox. Zimmerman, a former Web Gem champ at third, hasn't been the same since he hurt his right shoulder, limiting his throwing ability.

The Nationals also signed Dan Uggla to a minor league deal. His usage should anything happen to Danny Espinosa could be problematic. Twice in the past four seasons, Uggla has ranked last among second basemen in defensive runs saved. Perhaps he could get a look at first base as well.

 

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
The Cubs' most visible defensive overhaul comes behind the plate, where Miguel Montero and David Ross, both excellent in the pitch-framing department, replace Welington Castillo, who ranked among the worst in that area.

"Framing is something [Montero] does well, especially in the low part of the zone which is important for us," said Cubs president Theo Epstein. "We have a lot of guys that pitch down there. He had outstanding framing numbers last season which jibes with the narrative of Henry Blanco working with him [in Arizona]. They really focused on that. It's a nice thing to have. He can steal a couple strikes here and there for your pitching staff."

Cincinnati Reds
The Reds had done little this offseason that tinkered with their defense until trading for Marlon Byrd.

Byrd should be a nice fit in left field for a year, though he's played only two games there in the past five seasons. He's been credited with 18 defensive runs saved the past two seasons in right field, which is currently occupied by Jay Bruce.

Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finally found a first baseman to replace Prince Fielder by trading for Adam Lind, but he's a shaky defender there (-13 career runs saved). There is an addition by subtraction element with the departure of second baseman Rickie Weeks, but Scooter Gennett needs to improve, lest he'll give the team below average production at that position. In short, this could be a very shaky infield. But at least the Brewers have Carlos Gomez and (at least sometimes) Gerardo Parra in the outfield to make up for it.

Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates couldn't afford Russell Martin, so they went back to the well that yielded him and Chris Stewart by trading for another good pitch framer (though one likely not in Martin's class) in Francisco Cervelli. The Stewart/Cervelli platoon will make for an interesting experiment.

Pittsburgh also will have a new first baseman with the move of Pedro Alvarez there and Corey Hart as his backup. Sean Rodriguez, in his jack-of-all-trades role, could also see time there, as he's someone capable of filling in defensively just about anywhere.

St. Louis Cardinals
The team with the most defensive runs saved in baseball last season just got better with the outstanding Jason Heyward patrolling right field. His defense could add a couple of wins by itself, considering Cardinals outfielders combined for -4 runs saved there last season.

 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks face two questions regarding their defense heading into spring training.

Can Yasmany Tomas handle third base?

Who is going to catch with the trade of Miguel Montero to the Cubs?

The answer to each is unknown. What is known is that Mark Trumbo is not a great fit in such a spacious outfield (to his credit, he is a good first baseman), but he'll be given another shot in left field.

Colorado Rockies
It sounds like the Rockies are going to try to see if former Gold Glove winner Carlos Gonzalez can shift to right field full-time, with Corey Dickerson now in left. The sample size on Gonzalez is less than 1,000 career innings there, but the results are decent (9 runs saved).

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will look very different on the defensive side with a new double-play combination in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick (described by team president Andrew Friedman as "dynamic players on both sides of the ball"), rookie Joc Pederson in center and a stellar pitch framer in Yasmani Grandal behind the plate.

"There's no question we're going to be significantly better defensively. I think it's going to help on the run-prevention side quite a bit," Friedman said earlier this offseason.

San Diego Padres
The Padres have an all-new outfield with some combination of Matt Kemp (most likely in right), Wil Myers (most likely in center) and Justin Upton (most likely in left).

The hope will have to be that they hit more than they let in. Kemp doesn't rate well at any of the three outfield spots, so it's a matter of finding where he'll do the least damage. Myers is basically stuck playing center by default, but given that he was at -11 runs saved over two seasons in right field, who knows how that will go.

Upton is great at getting to balls, but there's only so far he can go playing left field, and his throwing arm tends to spray balls all over the place.

The one thing the Padres do have going for them is that they can put a better defensive team on the field late in games, with Cameron Maybin and newly acquired infielder Clint Barmes serving a useful role on the bench.

San Francisco Giants
The big thing to watch will be how much the Giants miss the presence of Pablo Sandoval, who was actually a very good defensive third baseman when he was in good shape (such as last season). Casey McGehee has never rated particularly well at the position and we'll see how big a drop-off he represents.

Joe Panik rated about average at second base in a 70-game look in 2014, though he looked better than that in the postseason. He should get a full-time look there in 2015.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239