When deciding whom to vote for on the 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, many factors come into play. While I am not old enough or established enough to vote, I still know most of the players on the ballot, including some that played the end of their careers during my lifetime. Every now and then I saw a shadow of whom they used to be. Even still, I have read stories and watched videos about most of the players on the ballot, so I will try to give you my best judgement on the ten players I picked.
You can view my ballot from last year here, but I made a few changes to it. I voted for seven players last year, and three (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas) made it into the Hall. My four other selections, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Jeff Bagwell, will be on my ballot once again. That leaves six spots, three of which have to go to first-timers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Those pitchers were three of the best pitchers to step on the field.
In terms of steroids, I left Barry Bonds off last year's ballot, but really he is the greatest home run hitter, and the Hall of Fame is meant to preserve history and Bonds' feat is very historic. Bonds will be on my ballot. I'm still scratching at my head as to why they won't put Pete Rose on the ballot, but that is a separate issue. In terms of other alleged "steroid" users, none, maybe except for Roger Clemens, were as dominant, or as prominent, as Bonds. He is the only of those players to go on my ballot.
My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot with Career Highlights:
Randy Johnson, Left-Handed Pitcher
Pitched from 1988 to 2009
Five-Time Cy Young Award Winner (2002 Unanimous)
Ninth All-Time in rWAR for pitchers (Baseball Reference)
4,875 strikeouts (2nd All-Time)
Career Adjusted 135 ERA+
Pedro Martinez, Right-Handed Pitcher
Pitched from 1992 to 2009
Three-Time Cy Young Award Winner (Twice Unanimous)
Seventeenth All-Time in rWAR for pitchers (Baseball Reference)
Averaged 4.15 strikeouts per walk (3rd All-Time)
Career 154 Adjusted ERA+ (2nd All-Time)
John Smoltz, Right-Handed Pitcher
Pitched from 1988 to 2009
1996 NL Cy Young Award Winner
3,084 Strikeouts (16th All-Time)
Only pitcher in MLB history with 200+ wins and 150+ saves
Craig Biggio, Second Base
Played from 1988 to 2007
Ninety-Second All-Time in rWAR for Position Players (Baseball Reference)
3,060 Hits (21st All-Time)
414 Stolen Bases (66th All-Time)
Mike Piazza, Catcher
Played from 1992 to 2007
427 home runs (47th All-Time)
.545 Slugging Percentage (29th All-Time)
143 Adjusted OPS+ (62nd All-Time)
Curt Schilling, Right-Handed Pitcher
Pitched from 1988 to 2007
3,261 innings pitched (96th All-Time)
3,116 strikeouts (15th All-Time)
4.383 strikeouts per walk (2nd All-Time)
Jeff Bagwell, First Base
Played from 1991 to 2005
1991 NL Rookie of the Year
1994 NL MVP
Thirty-Seventh All-Time in rWAR for position players (Baseball Reference)
Barry Bonds, Left Field
Played from 1986 to 2007
Seven-Time NL MVP
Second All-Time in rWAR for position players (Baseball Reference)
762 home runs (1st All-Time)
Edgar Martinez, Designated Hitter
Played from 1987 to 2004
.933 On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (33rd All-Time)
.418 On-Base Percentage (20th All-Time)
514 Doubles (51st All-Time)
Tim Raines, Left Field
Played from 1979 to 2002
808 Stolen Bases (5th All-Time)
Seventy-First All Time in rWAR for position players
123 Adjusted OPS+ (276th All-Time)
Just because I "voted" for these ten does not make them the only ten worthy of a Hall of Fame choice. I really took into consideration how well each of these players played the game, and most of them ranked in the top 50 of their respective best parts of their game. Sure, Mike Mussina, Alan Trammell, and Larry Walker might deserve to be in the Hall, but with a limit of ten selections, it was hard to put them above Edgar Martinez, above Raines, or above Bagwell.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch came up with a great idea on how to revise the Hall of Fame balloting to a binary system, where each voter would decide if a player is "yes" hall worthy or "no" not Hall worthy. This eliminates having to decide who was better between Mussina and Raines. Both deserve yeses. The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) needs to make a change to the balloting and allow more players to be voted in. That is very evident.
With the seventh pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, the Colorado Rockies selected a shortstop out of California State University Long Beach. His name was Troy Tulowitzki.
Known as "Tulo," Tulowitzki made his big league debut on August 30, 2006 with Colorado, at age 21. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tulowitzki has gone on to play in 961 games with the Rockies, recording 1,068 hits, 176 home runs, and four All-Star appearances, all while being a cornerstone in their lineup and also being known around the league as one of the better shortstops in baseball.
With rumors swirling of a possible trade of Tulowitzki, it is finally time for the Rockies to part ways with the shortstop this offseason. Because if they do not, it could really be a detriment to their team down the road, one that other teams, such as the Phillies, are starting to feel already.
Tulowitzki is locked up for the next six seasons on a $118 million deal. He is scheduled to make $20 million from 2015 to 2019, while deescalating his salary to "only" $14 million in 2020. This is the contract for a player that last made 600 plate appearances in 2011, for just the third time in his career.
When on the field, Troy Tulowitzki is fun to watch. Really fun. In 375 plate appearances this past season, "Tulo" had 107 hits, 18 doubles, a triple, 21 homers, and 52 runs batted in. That's in 91 games, ten more than half a season. Tulowitzki posted a 171 OPS+, the best in his nine year career.
But the injuries have kept Tulowitzki from being the stud that he is when on the field. He tore a labrum this past season, going under the knife for a second time in his career. And that isn't it. From 2012 through this past season, Tulowitzki missed 213 of 486 games due to injury (via Baseball Prospectus). In the past three seasons, 43.8 percent of the Rockies games have been without Tulowitzki due to injury.
It's time for the Rockies to make Tulowitzki's someone else's problem and deal him. The Yankees and Mets have reportedly been interested in acquiring Tulowitzki from the Rockies. Neither, however, have been able to divy-up the elite-level prospects that Rockies ownership has wanted for him.
The Rockies need to take what they can get for him. While playing in Denver is not good for his health, who's to say he would be a 100 percent healthy Tulowitzki somewhere else? The Rockies have been reluctant to give any team even the slightest bit of a discount due to his injury history.
The fact of the matter is, the Rockies are not contending within the next couple of seasons. If they can trade Tulowitzki at 75-85 percent of what he would be worth healthy, that would still get them a very nice package, one that would improve their farm system immensely, and almost immediately. They don't have to sell Tulowitzki at healthy price. And I'm not sure they have realized that.
A trade of Tulowitzki would not only help the Rockies. It would help Tulowitzki himself. Moving out of that Denver air, Tulowitzki would be able to play more games, condition at a higher level, and might just be able to have continued success for a lengthier amount of time. He wants to play for a winner, and the Mets, for one, are a lot closer to that than the Rockies are.
Taking a look at all the factors, a trade of Troy Tulowitzki is the right move. The young shortstop taken in that 2005 draft finally has to get out of Denver. And that should come this offseason.
Has the next international phenom arrived to play in the Major Leagues?
People are asking themselves that when reading about Jung-Ho Kang, the newest member of a list of international baseball prospects that seemingly gets longer by the day. And now that the Pirates have made the winning bid on the shortstop, I am wondering if he can really make the transition to the MLB, and what they can expect from him as their shortstop into the future.
After doing some minimal research before the Pirates had reportedly won the bidding, I found one common theme amongst all scouting reports. That one common theme was that people were skeptical of Kang's power and how it will translate to the big leagues.
It's not just his power that makes scouts skeptical. Kang's inability to make routine plays has scouts worried the most. His arm is decent, and at roughly six foot and 210 pounds, he isn't too big to play the position. He might just not be able to handle the Major League plays of a shortstop.
As an MLB scout put it, "Kang has a functional arm at shortstop, but he may be better suited at third base or right field. He doesn't have enough range to play shortstop and I don't think he has the glove to play third base. He may be able to play right field, but that position will require better offensive production."
Kang does not appear to be too terrible out at shortstop, but moving him to third base would put Josh Harrison out of a job for the Pirates. Right field? Gregory Polanco. Left? Starling Marte. Second base? Neil Walker. Kang's future in Pittsburgh would be at shortstop, where he needs to handle himself in the field. And nobody knows if he can.
I know I haven't been too optimistic, but one other reason to worry about Kang's defense is that he spent most of his time in the KBO playing on a turf field. Other Korean ballplayers who tried to make the transition to the MLB had serious issues playing defense on a grass field. While grass is easier on the body, especially the legs and knees, the bounces are different and it can be harder to field your position, especially for an infielder. That is not promising for Kang.
However, the Pirates are one of the best teams with scouting reports and defensive positioning. They could move Kang specifically based off splits and where a hitter is likely to hit a ball, possibly making it easier on him in his transition to the Major Leagues.
Kang hit 40 homers last season and posted a 1.198 OPS last season with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. There is just one other Korean-born player to play in both the MLB and KBO, and that is Hee-Seop Choi, who's OPS increased by 15.8 percent the season after leaving the MLB for the KBO. While 15.8 percent seems low based on what I have heard, it goes to show that the KBO is a real hitter-friendly league.
Eric Thames slugged at a similar rate to Kang in the KBO after retiring from the MLB. In the Major Leagues, he posted a 96 wRC+, suggesting that he was 4 percent worse than the average player at creating runs, adjusted based on park factors. Thames was worth a -0.1 fWAR in the big leagues, mostly because he could not play average defense.
Kang won't be too costly for the Pirates, as he will "only" cost them $5-6 million per year on a multi-year contract. But if he can even partly reach his potential or numbers from the KBO, he will be a valuable piece for them. Kang is young, as he is only 27, and could be their starting shortstop for years to come.
Every signing a team makes is risky, but the fact that Kang is a complete unknown makes it even more risky. The upside and potential is definitely there, and pretty soon, the Pirates will be negotiating with the best player in all of the KBO. That is a risk they are willing to take. And if Kang works out, they have a steal. If he doesn't, he could be just an expensive utility man or even just a little dead money.
But as the Pirates attempt to go for the World Series crown, expectations for Jung-Ho Kang are thrown out the window. They understand that he's a risk, perhaps a costly one for years to come, but in the MLB you need to take risks in order to win, and that is enough to justify this move for the Pirates.
Now let's see what Jung-Ho Kang can do.
The Padres' offseason can be described in one word. "Wow." Their baseball operations, along with GM A.J. Preller, have been so busy these past two days, acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks.
Winning the offseason by no means winning in the regular season.
Kemp, Myers, and Upton might be great offensively, but their defense is absolutely horrific. According to FanGraphs' defensive rating, the defensive combination of Kemp, Myers, and Upton posted a -37.2 rating in 2014. That's an average of a -12.4 rating per player, which would be, as one player, the 10th-worst rating in the majors. Padres' pitchers should watch out if they plan on giving up fly balls.
On the contrary, Kemp, Myers, and Upton are some of the better right-handed power hitters in the major leagues. They posted 140, 78 (Myers was injured), and 133 wRC+s last season, respectively. However, the conditions out at Petco Park are brutal for power hitters, as Petco has ranked in the bottom five of the major leagues in home runs from right-handed hitters two of the past three years.
So the question becomes, are the additions of three power hitters that cannot play good defense worthwhile for the Padres?
We have seen two teams, the 2012 Marlins and the 2013 Blue Jays, making unnecessary signings and trades, as the world thought that they were the "winners" of the offseason. They did not perform, or perform well rather, on the field. I am just not sure what this Padres team turns out to be. But it will be interesting to see nonetheless.
One reason that will make me believe that they are different than the Marlins or the Jays is that they are acquiring younger guys than Toronto or Miami in their respective seasons. When Jose Reyes signed with the Marlins in 2012, he was 29. Then he was moved to Toronto as a 30-year-old, where he still is today, and likely will still be through the 2017 season.
As for the Padres acquisitions, Wil Myers is 24. He was drafted just five years ago. Justin Upton is 27. Kemp is the outlier of this group, at age 30. But the main difference between these guys and the ones that the Blue Jays and Marlins acquired was that these pieces are still young and evidently very talented.
Add in 26-year-old Will Middlebrooks, who was baseball's 55th-best prospect (via Baseball America) prior to the 2012 season, and 25-year-old Derek Norris, who isn't arbitration-eligible until next season. Middlebrooks, who still has talent, was acquired for a backup catcher. And four years of Derek Norris were acquired for two young pitchers, while still keeping the Padres' rotation intact.
A.J. Preller is taking youth and upside over proven veterans. Sure, he's got two proven veterans in Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, but when you step back and see what he's doing, he's getting young talent, and buying most of it on the low (Myers, Middlebrooks).
If the Padres don't win in 2015, it isn't the end of the world. All these acquisitions will translate into jersey sales, season tickets, TV contracts, and more. The small market San Diego team might be taking a different approach to winning. Preller is doing something amazing.
Regardless of the performance on the field, A.J. Preller has shown that he will do anything it takes to make the Padres win on the field. And that makes them the real winners.
When Jon Lester was closing in on signing, the speculation was astounding. Some were believing that the Red Sox and Cubs were finalists, others were saying Cubs and Giants, with some even saying Dodgers and Red Sox. The Lester ordeal was a real eye-opener, showing how much social media has changed the way we get and distribute baseball news. Without further ado, here are the winners and losers from the Winter Meetings.
Chicago Cubs - Winner
When Lester signed with the Cubs, we knew that they had achieved their ultimate goal of the offseason. And now, they are among the best in the National League, with a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 postseason. Jon Lester is that type of player. He is the guy you want in a Game 7, a postseason clincher, or any other big game. No, I'm not talking about James Shields, I'm talking about Lester, who has a 2.57 ERA in the playoffs, as a two-time World Series champion.
But it isn't just Lester that makes the Cubs the winners of this Winter Meetings. They made one other move, much more strategic and a lot less prevalent, acquiring Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs have needed catching, finishing second in the Russell Martin bidding, and the acquisition of Montero fits the bill. He's under team control for three more years and posted a 1.2 fWAR in 2014. The Cubs can surround Montero and Lester with their prospects and have a shot at the postseason.
Chicago White Sox - Winner
Move to the south side of Chicago, where we find our other Winter Meetings winner. The Chicago White Sox played both the free agent and trade markets well. They acquired Jeff Samardzija from the Athletics in a six-player deal and now they boast a rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Samardzija, and Jon Danks. Samardzija makes the White Sox rotation look like a contender's rotation, and now their team looks like it could be a contender.
The White Sox also added David Robertson to their relief corps that were highly inexperienced last season. Him and Zach Duke represent their transactions of relief pitchers this offseason, which helps to evolve a White Sox bullpen that previously didn't have anyone over the age of 27 in it. Duke and Roberston add experience and talent to a now-interesting Chicago team.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Winner
Dee Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Matt Kemp, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Brandon McCarthy, and Jimmy Rollins. What do all those names have in common? They were all involved in either a trade or a signing with the Dodgers. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman kempt (sorry, bad pun) himself busy during these meetings, wheeling and dealing with the Phillies, Marlins, Angels, and Padres. I'm not even sure who is on their roster anymore.
What makes the Dodgers a winner, you ask? They were able to unload one of their big-time outfielders (Kemp), while getting a young, promising catcher, something they needed, in return. They traded Dee Gordon, who posted a poor .648 OPS in the second half for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, and Austin Barnes. Heaney's career with the Dodgers didn't even last 12 hours, as they filled their hole at second base with an even better option than Gordon in Howie Kendrick, who, at 31, is among one of the better all-around second baseman in baseball. Oh yeah, they also signed Brandon McCarthy and traded for Jimmy Rollins, too. The Dodgers upgraded their outfield, catcher, shortstop, and rotation all in the matter of 24 hours.
Miami Marlins - Winner
Once the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to that big $325 million extension, I really wasn't sure if the Marlins thought they could be contenders, or if they just wanted to keep that gem they had in Stanton on their roster. After these Winter Meetings, I can definitely see that the former is true. They acquired Dee Gordon and Mat Latos at the Meetings, and while someone could argue that they gave up a lot, they are finally showing that they want to go all-in in 2015. Or at least have a shot at contending.
The Marlins starting eight looks like this: Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, Casey McGehee, Adieny Hechavarria, Dee Gordon, Garrett Jones, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Their rotation? Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Nathan Evoldi, and Jarred Cosart. Now you tell me, do you think the Marlins are contenders? I would say definitely. By acquiring both Gordon and Latos at the Meetings, Miami ownership proved to the baseball world that they want and are wiling to play meaningful baseball for the first time since 2003.
San Francisco Giants - Loser
I'm still confused as to what the Giants really want to accomplish in 2015. The best move for San Francisco at the Winter Meetings was getting Madison Bumgarner on the cover of Sports Illustrated after winning the Sportsman of the Year award. In all seriousness, I think you have to attribute some of the Giants' offseason success, or lack there of, to just plain old bad luck. They finished third for Lester, second for Yasmany Tomas and Pablo Sandoval. But any good Giants fan would tell you that they finished first in the most important category.
I'm still trying to understand where the Giants plan on spending the money that they were planning to give Lester, Tomas, or Sandoval. Could they go after a guy like James Shields? That would be interesting. Whatever the case, the Giants did not get better at the Winter Meetings. I guess that means San Francisco fans should just start watching the team again in 2016, the next even year.
Baltimore Orioles - Loser
The Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, and now perhaps their general manager, Dan Duquette. It was rumored last weekend that Duquette might soon be on the move to Toronto to become the Blue Jays' CEO, but it was later reported that the Blue Jays would reconsider until after the 2015 season. Regardless, Duquette has to deal with a mess in Baltimore. Three months after winning the AL East, they lose Cruz and Markakis, two of their top performers from the season.
The Orioles usually stay relatively quiet until later into the offseason anyway, so they might be able to salvage a good piece of what they lost with mid-tier free agents. But for now, their Winter Meetings weren't good, and they need to find a plan to get back to the top of the American League East, a division where the Blue Jays and Red Sox have already gotten better this offseason.