Friday, May 24, 2013
Believe in Jean Segura, not Edward Mujica
By Jim Bowden
Jean Segura has made believers out of those who scoffed after the Brewers traded for him.
Sparky Anderson once told me he didn’t believe in anything he saw on the field until June 1. Only after two months of baseball could he have confidence a player or team’s performance was legitimate.
With June just around the corner, there are several teams and players who I believe and don’t believe in. Last week I wrote about how the Seattle Marinershave what it takes to contend all season. Then Monday I wrote about how the Cleveland Indianscan’t even be considered as a wild-card contender unless they acquire more pitching help. In that same vein, here are five other performances I think will either hold up for the rest of the season or won’t.
When the Milwaukee Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels last July, people in the industry were mostly unimpressed with the package Milwaukee received in return. They shrugged their shoulders at right-hander Johnny Hellweg because of control and command issues, as well as Segura, who many felt would have to eventually move to second base. They also questioned how much he was going to hit.
Fast-forward 10 months -- Segura is one of the best offensive shortstops in the NL. He leads the league in triples, is second in hitting and has played an above-average shortstop. Brewers scouts are vindicated in their assessment of Segura, who looks like the team’s long-term solution at the position.
Although Segura won’t hit .351 all year, he will finish above .300 and has demonstrated good plate discipline. He possesses great hand-eye coordination and offers a good path to the ball. There is no reason he won’t be a legitimate offensive threat for years to come.
Likewise, Gomez has proven his naysayers wrong. Teammate Ryan Braun told me in spring training Gomez is a legit five-tool athlete who had figured things out last season and is now one of the best all-around talents in baseball. Twenty home runs and 20 stolen bases are the minimum Brewers fans should expect from both Gomez and Segura going forward.
OK, so it has been a nightmare two months for the Dodgers so far. Both GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly are on the hot seat. Their most pressing problems:
The Dodgers can’t determine a closer; they can’t get any offense from the left side of the infield nor can they keep the starting rotation healthy. Most troubling, they can’t get their veterans to play the game hard day in and day out.
However, at some point soon this team will turn it around and find success the rest of the season.
As the Dodgers settle the waters and establish more definitive roles in the bullpen, both Brandon League and Kenley Jansen should start holding and saving games. A trade for another reliever such as Miami Marlins lefty Mike Dunn would help, but there are enough solid bullpen arms already to turn things around.
The left side of the infield is a mess now, but when Hanley Ramirez returns they should make him the full-time third baseman. He is best suited for that position at this point in his career. Then Colletti should come up with the right trade package to acquire Alexei Ramirez from the White Sox to solve shortstop.
In the outfield, moving Andre Ethier for prospects and freeing up money would make sense because a promotion of Yasiel Puig and/or Joc Pederson would inject the youth and enthusiasm this team desperately needs.
And they will only continue to improve. Curtis Granderson is back, Mark Teixeira is on his way and Derek Jeter continues to progress through his ankle injury. But most important, the rest of the Yankees have learned they can win without their big stars.
Closer Mariano Rivera just picked up where he left off as if he was never injured, while David Robertson looks right at home in the eighth inning. The pair remain the best late-inning tandem in the AL East.
The Yankees’ rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes also has proved to be close to the best quartet in the division (despite Pettitte’s recent trip to the DL). With the rotation and bullpen intact, the Yankees’ nucleus is good enough to keep them in the race to the very end.
Edward Mujica came to the Cardinals’ rescue after closer Jason Motte went down with elbow problems, Mitchell Boggs failed miserably and Trevor Rosenthal struggled. By default he became St. Louis’ closer and he has seized that opportunity.
In essence, he has been the perfect reliever; he’s 13-for-13 in save opportunities with a 2.25 ERA. He is a ground ball machine, but he also has struck out 19 in 20 innings, walking only one batter all season. This has led to a 0.65 WHIP -- an important trait for successful closers. No, he’s not overpowering at 91-93 mph, but his command and control in the bottom of the zone is legit.
However, by season’s end I think you’ll see Rosenthal as the closer, taking advantage of his 100 mph fastball and wipeout breaking ball. Simply, he can throw his fastball by the best hitters in the game. Mujica setting up Rosenthal is a more typical arrangement based on stuff and repertoire.
It might take until late August before this switch happens, but Rosenthal’s velocity and approach scream closer. I think Mujica actually can be better used for multiple innings in the seventh and eighth, where his ability to induce grounders for game-saving double plays will be crucial.
Goldschmidt and Davis sounds like a law firm. But make no mistake, these two first basemen have become bona fide power brokers. Among current first basemen, they have the most power in the game. Davis has 15 home runs, while Goldschmidt has 12. I think both will end up leading their respective leagues in home runs at the first base position.
Watch Davis at bat; he has simple mechanics and new plate discipline. His head is so still. He has reduced his preliminary action to a minimum, lets the ball travel deep and drops the barrel of the bat and kills it. He has power to all fields. He will take an outside pitch over the wall in left but will turn on an inside pitch and launch it to right.
In spring training, ESPN analyst Aaron Boone compared Goldschmidt to Jeff Bagwell. I agreed with Boone’s power assessment, but I questioned Goldschmidt’s ability to hit for average.
“Boonie” was right. Goldschmidt is a legitimate hitter, not just a power hitter, and he understands the pitches he can handle and has the ability to spit the ball out of the zone. He’s a high on-base, high-slugging power hitter, and the Diamondbacks’ multiyear deal with him will prove to be one of the best long-term contracts of 2013.