- Some names you may not be familiar with----but will be:
There's been talk in recent days about players who might be ready to break out and zoom into stardom. Well, here are my picks for potential bust-out stars. Some you may or may not be familiar with. If you aren't you will be.
You will be.
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP--Toronto Blue Jays
The 24-year-old lefty pitched well for the Blue Jays in 11 starts last season (2-4 record; 3.67 ERA; 51 hits in 61 innings; 30 walks; 60 strikeouts; 7 homers allowed) after zipping through the minors. Motion-wise, he reminds me of Mark Mulder when Mulder first arrived in the big leagues----nice, free, easy and repeatable. Rzepczynski needs to trust his stuff and pound the strike zone to lower his pitch counts; he tended to rack up 100+ pitches by the sixth inning.
My big problem with him is I'm having trouble remembering how to spell his name!
Denard Span, OF--Minnesota Twins
Considering the year he had, it's hard to say that no one knows who Span is, but he's not mentioned prominently yet. Only 26, Span was footnoted in Moneyball as a player out of high school at whom the "genius" Billy Beane was enraged because Span wanted a $2.6 million signing bonus and the demand was causing him to slide in the draft, thereby blocking Beane from getting players he did want.*
*Note to Billy Beane AKA Einstein: You might've, in retrospect, been better off going after Span (or Prince Fielder for that matter) rather than some of the players your brilliant mind fixated on such as Jeremy Brown or John McCurdy. Beane drafted Nick Swisher before Span, but also on the board were James Loney; Cole Hamels; and Matt Cain.
Be that as it may, Span batted .311 with a .392 on base; had 16 doubles; 10 triples; and 8 homers. He also stole 23 bases. He walks a lot and doesn't strike out much. I'd bat him leadoff and let him wreak havoc.
Brandon Wood, INF--Los Angeles Angels
There are no excuses left for Wood. He's going to get a chance to play now; to win the third base job outright and if he doesn't do it now, he's going to have to go somewhere other than Anaheim to make it in the big leagues. The Angels will give him the opportunity, but they're not going to wait forever for him to figure it out.
He's faltered in every brief chance he's gotten to play in the majors after trashing the place in the minors. Third base is less taxing defensively than shortstop; the Angels have enough offense from other avenues that the pressure on Wood won't be great; he's got to do it now at age 25 or they're going to move on.
Yunel Escobar, SS--Atlanta Braves
He makes Bobby Cox and the veterans nuts with his temper tantrums, but there's nothing he can't do. He gets on base; hits for power and average; is a Gold Glove caliber fielder; and has a howitzer for an arm. The 27-year-old's power numbers have increased from 5 homers as a rookie; to 10 in his second year; to 14 in 2009; he'll hit 20 this year and the Braves popgun offense needs him to produce.
John Maine, RHP--New York Mets
He's missed chunks of the last two seasons with shoulder problems, but he has vicious stuff and a deceptively free and easy motion. Maine racks up high pitch counts with lack of command and a lot of foul balls because of his high fastball; but he's proven he can be efficient with his 15-10, 191 inning performance in 2007. If Maine's healthy and pitching well, he slides right behind Johan Santana as the Mets number 2 starter and could make the All Star team.
Elijah Dukes, OF--Washington Nationals
I know, I know.
But one thing people failed to notice last season was that Dukes behaved himself (that we know of) on and off the field last season. He can hit 35 homers and get on base frequently if he bridles his temper and his game. At age 26, he's got to take the next step.
Yovani Gallardo, RHP--Milwaukee Brewers
Under the tutelage of Rick Peterson (it's early in Peterson's tenure so his stories and in-your-face pedantry won't have caused his pitchers to tune him out----yet) and if the Brewers take off the shackles, Gallardo should contend for the NL Cy Young Award. With a power fastball and great curve, there's nothing stopping Gallardo from superstardom.
Andrew McCutchen, OF--Pittsburgh Pirates
I saw this kid run out a triple and that was it for me. He's going to be a mega-star. I'm talking 200 hits; 20 doubles; 20 triples; 20 homers; and 50 stolen bases. He's only 23 and is going to explode.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP--Los Angeles Dodgers
Another pitcher for whom the rules of overprotection are about to be removed. I've said this recently but have to say it again: he's only 22 and we're talking about 20-win potential with 300 strikeouts.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF--Colorado Rockies
The 24-year-old has already been traded twice in blockbusters. First from the Diamondbacks to the Athletics in the Dan Haren trade; then from the Athletics to the Rockies for Matt Holliday. He's got power, speed and on-base ability. He didn't play frequently against lefties last season, but handled them well enough to show that he deserves a chance to play every day.
Kyle Blanks, OF/1B--San Diego Padres
He's a giant (6'6", 285) and has 45 homer potential. He's playing the outfield because the Padres kinda have a first baseman now named Adrian Gonzalez, but Gonzalez is going to get traded and Blanks will be able to move back to first base.
Everth Cabrera, SS--San Diego Padres
He wasn't considered a great prospect, but he looks like a player. He lacks range at shortstop and may eventually have to move to second base where the Padres have a hole and little help on the horizon at the position. Cabrera's a switch hitter and he's small (5'10" 175), but I think he'll eventually have 10-15 homer power; and he can run.
- Viewer Mail 3.1.2010:
Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Pirates president Frank Coonelly:
Frank Coonelly is funny. Funny like a clown.
Maybe I should pay him a visit...
Sometimes just letting someone unravel on their own is sufficient. Plus, who cares about the Pirates anymore?
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE ESPN:
I wonder what qualifications you need to be an ESPN analyst these days. Maybe just a pulse?
The worst part about ESPN is that they hire people whom you'd think would be interesting----and would be interesting----if they let them go and be themselves rather than utter the plotted, scripted and unbelievable nonsense that they come up with. You'll see in the coming weeks as they make their "predictions" for the upcoming season; each and every one of the "analysts" sitting around the desk is going to have a different team winning every division. What are the odds?
J.P. Ricciardi might be good because he doesn't listen to what people tell him, so I'm holding out hope for the guy.
The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE ESPN and Ricciardi:
ESPN allowed Steve "man-slut" Phillips to step all over Joe Morgan on Sunday nights like gum on the sidewalk. I could see ESPN letting J.P. be free (as long as no sexual harassment is involved). If he says anything at all, it would be twice as much as John Hart is offering on MLB Network. There is tact and linguistic skill GMs must have as you alluded to. With Hart you see his lips moving but I'm getting zero out of it. At least a good snow job I can appreciate.
Why does everyone hate Lumbergh AKA Steve Phillips?
I thought he was a good broadcaster, but then after listening to Joe Morgan for so long, maybe I've been institutionalized. (Don't say it!!!) Anyone correcting Morgan's thrice-sentence contradictions is all right with me; although Morgan is entertaining because he says stuff that sounds like it's coming from Neptune.
I can't sit through the MLB Network broadcasts long enough to be able to offer anything more than a baseline critique, but then I guess that in and of itself is a critique.
Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Pirates:
Maybe we need to go to the Pirates' office and offer our services.
To clear out the current "management"; to fix the place; or both?
I'd genuinely love to get my grubby mitts on a franchise that is so screwed up and try to fix it. At least I'm not delusional/deranged----not in baseball matters anyway.