Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton has gone from Double-A to the Major Leagues to Triple-A to the Major Leagues to Triple-A to the Major Leagues to Triple-A and back to the Major Leagues once again since the beginning of 2015.
Buxton, who was the consensus No. 1 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2014 season, has almost been like a card in a deck, being shuffled constantly.
It has got to be frustrating for him. His longest stint in the Major Leagues over the past two years was a 169-plate appearance run he received from May 31 to August 5 of this year, not nearly enough time to adjust to big league pitching, a huge step up from Triple-A.
In one respect, it's somewhat ridiculous that the Twins have not allowed him to work through the growing pains of being in the Major Leagues at age 22. It's not like they're contending and he's hurting their playoff chances. The 2016 season for the team should be one to see the future, and if Buxton is down in Triple-A for more than half the year, they aren't doing things right.
Granted, with all that hype, Buxton's big league career has been uneventful to say the least, and that may be an understatement. In 356 plate appearances at this level, he's hit .199/.248/.319 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He has not been able to showcase his 80-grade speed either, with just 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
A lot of this, at least in my mind, is on the Twins. But there becomes a point where a player has to start figuring things out in order to make it work in the Majors.
Call me crazy, but this September call up is going to be the time where we see the Buxton that was picked with the second overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
And it's a small sample--in fact, it's the smallest possible sample there is--but Buxton hit a second-deck home run in his first at bat back, taking a 1-2 off-speed pitch from Jose Quintana and driving it 388 feet with a 97 MPH exit velocity. He's only made harder contact 20 times in his entire career, according to Brooks Baseball.
Buxton has had two at bats since. His next time at the plate, he flew out to Adam Eaton. His exit velocity? 100 MPH off the bat. Then, in his third at bat, he also flew out to Eaton, and his exit velocity was once again 100 MPH.
Prior to his demotion to Triple-A this year, Buxton had an 89.76 MPH average exit velocity. Already, in just a short sample, he's making harder contact. And if he can continue to just make contact over the course of September (Buxton has a tendency to strike out a lot), he'll be getting a lot more hits.
Quite plainly, Buxton has come back to the Majors and is crushing the ball in three at bats. While, yes, it's just three at bats, it could be a sign of things to come.
Over the next month, in the midst of the pennant chases, award races and everything else baseball has to offer, I'm going to be watching Buxton, who could be on the verge of a breakout.
It's three weeks until baseball. And since it is Saturday, that means it is time for another division preview. After taking a look at a competitive AL East last week, I delve into the American League Central, home of the defending World Series champion Royals. This is a competitive division that may end up producing two playoff teams.
1. Kansas City Royals -- 2015 Record: 95-67; Projection: 93-69
Here we go again. After winning the American League in 2014 but losing the World Series to the Giants in seven games, most analysts thought coming into 2015 that the Royals just weren't that good. I, however, predicted them to win the division but never thought that they'd get back to the World Series, let alone win it. Now this season, many analysts are again picking against the Royals, but I just cannot get myself to do it.
The biggest move the Royals made this offseason was the re-signing of Alex Gordon to play left field. Outside of his good statistical season in 2015 (120 OPS+), Gordon is the heart and soul of this Royals team, and their front office recognized the need to pay him what he deserved. They also added Ian Kennedy to their rotation and Joakim Soria to their bullpen, but lost Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, and others.
The Royals' lineup does something very few lineups do: put balls in play. Their refusal to strike out makes them so dangerous and definitely helped them win the World Series last year. They have built many stars through their organization, including Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Gordon. The depth of their lineup is matched by very few American League team, and it should help them a very fair share of games in 2016.
As for their rotation, the loss of Cueto hurts. I, unlike others, like the signing of Kennedy. With the Royals' stellar defense, the team should be able to get plenty of value out of the starter. I would not be surprised if he had a really solid season. The lack of an ace in their rotation does hurt, and if they aren't at the top of the division at the end of the season, it is because their pitching faltered at some point or another.
2. Cleveland Indians -- 2015 Record: 81-80; Projection: 91-71
While the Royals' pitching may be their downfall, the Indians' pitching could be the reason they win this division. The team made a few modest moves this offseason, but when you have a rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin, you can't help but be excited. Indians' starters posted the fourth-lowest ERA in the American League.
The Indians helped fix their woes at third base with the signing of Juan Uribe this offseason. He is getting up there in terms of age, but has still proved to be a valuable asset over the past few years. Three other signings-Will Venable, Rajai Davis, and Mike Napoli-could all find themselves in the lineup come Opening Day. They add to the already-existing nucleus in Cleveland of Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, and Michael Brantley, who is expected to begin the season on the disabled list.
A full season of Lindor should be huge for the Indians offense, which, even in 2015, was one of the better offenses in the AL. The loss of Brantley for an extended amount of time due to shoulder surgery definitely hurts, though. However, the Indians are in prime position to make the postseason in 2016 thanks to pitching alone. I would not be surprised to see the Indians in the Wild Card game, and if everything goes right, they may be able to overtake the Royals as American League Central champions.
3. Minnesota Twins -- 2015 Record: 83-79; Projection: 85-77
The Twins have the brightest future of any team in the American League Central. Their turnaround almost began in 2015; the Twins were in the Wild Card hunt for most of the year, and they finished above .500 for the first time since 2010. Three stud consensus top-100 prospects (per Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus)-Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Max Kepler-should find their way into the big leagues this season. Miguel Sano, who had the sixth-highest HR/FB ratio in the Majors (min. 300 PA), has his first full season at baseball's highest level. The stars appear to be aligning for the Twins.
But in 2016, they're still a bit away. The rotation has questions. Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, and Tyler Duffey probably won't be able to hold their own against some of the staffs just inside their own division. The bullpen is good, and Glen Perkins remains one of the most underrated closers in baseball. Again, though, I don't see their bullpen keeping pace with the Royals' bullpen, per se.
The lineup was given a boost with the signing of Korean slugger Byung-ho Park, who projects out as their designated hitter. Park, who has looked good in Spring Training, could end up being a fantastic one-two power punch with Sano. Add in Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer (who's still a fairly solid contact hitter), and the Twins are looking at a formidable and deep lineup.
My target date for the Twins' next postseason team is 2017 or 2018. I still leave the door open for a run in 2016, but that would be based upon perhaps unrealistic development from top prospects that have yet to see even a cup of coffee in the Majors (Berrios, Kepler). Let's just say this: What Carlos Correa did in 2015 by coming up to the Majors and succeeding right out of the gate is the exception to the rule. Twins fans, 2016 isn't your year, but you are on the up and up.
4. Chicago White Sox -- 2015 Record: 76-86; Projection: 81-81
The White Sox confuse me. Do the White Sox confuse you too? They were easily the hardest team to predict in this division. The team has some good pieces, but I just don't like the fact that five of their projected starting nine were not in the organization last season. Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier, Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, and Jimmy Rollins are all new additions to the club, and I don't know how they will mix together.
The biggest move that the White Sox made this offseason was the acquisition of Todd Frazier from the Reds. The 30-year-old Frazier did hit 35 home runs last season, posting a .806 OPS (117 OPS+) in 678 plate appearances. However, his career OPS is almost 100 points lower outside of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. I'm not sure how he'll do out in the South Side of Chicago. The only real staple in the White Sox' lineup is Jose Abreu, who, even in a season considered a down year, hit 30 home runs and posted a 135 OPS+. As a whole, though, I have my doubts in the fluidness of the White Sox' lineup and how they will fare over the course of a season.
I do, however, like the White Sox' pitching staff. Chris Sale is dominant. Jose Quintana's and Carlos Rodon's best days may still be ahead of them. John Danks is an innings eater. And Mat Latos may have a bounce-back season and be a valuable asset as well. In the bullpen, the Sox have a nice group of arms in David Robertson, Matt Albers, Nate Jones, and Zach Duke. The team had one of the better bullpens in terms of xFIP, and with no significant losses there, they should be just fine in 2016 too.
Overall, the White Sox just don't appeal to me as a team destined for contention in 2015. I'll give them credit where due, though. They do appear to have a plan, but I'm just not sure if they will have strong enough chemistry to win the division in 2016.
5. Detroit Tigers -- 2015 Record: 74-87; Projection: 77-84
I hate to say it, but the Tigers may just be falling down a 2012-2014 Philadelphia Phillies path. The team is trying to piece together free agent signings with their aging core, something the Phillies did to no avail during that time period. The team didn't get what they wanted--a World Series title--with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez closer to their primes, and there is no reason to believe they will do so now, even after the additions of Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, and a whole new back-end of the bullpen.
The Tigers had five hitters-Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez-who posted a 100 OPS+ (considered league average) or higher last season. Cespedes is gone, but is basically replaced with Upton. Victor Martinez will hopefully be 100 percent in 2016. I'll admit: the Tigers lineup is very good. They were among the best offensive teams in baseball last year, adjusted for park factors. But offense is nothing when there is no pitching to support it.
Even with the addition of Zimmerman, who I wouldn't consider an ace, the Tigers have lots of unknowns in their rotation in 2016. Anibal Sanchez had an awful year last year with a 4.99 ERA, and his peripherals (Ks and BBs) were equally as bad. Justin Verlander was decent, but still only made 20 starts and missed time due to injury. Daniel Norris is a promising young starter, and he could have a really good year. But then the Tigers brought in Mike Pelfrey, an innings eater at best, to round out the rotation. As for the bullpen, the Tigers brought in Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, and Justin Wilson this offseason to attempt to improve on the third-worst bullpen in baseball last season by fWAR. The Tigers are notorious for building bad bullpens, but maybe they'll be better this season with a new regime in the front office.
The overarching theme of this preview, however, is age. The Tigers' main guys are getting up there and that might not bode well for them. The best case scenario for Detroit is that 2015 was a fluke, everyone stays healthy, and they challenge the Royals for the AL Central title. But I just don't see that happening.
Next up: AL West.
Using Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds, you should be able to tell who has the best chance of doing just that. Teams really should take those odds to determine whether they should be buyers and sellers because more often than not, they are right.
After games being played on July 6 last year, five of the ten eventual postseason teams had a 80 percent chance of making the playoffs or better. Every team that did have an 80 percent or greater chance of making the playoffs on this date last year did.
The team with the highest percent chance to make the playoffs on July 6 that ultimately didn't was the Milwaukee Brewers, who had a 71 percent chance to punch their ticket, but collapsed down the stretch and failed to make it.
Only three (Orioles, Royals, and Pirates) had less than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs following action on July 6. By July 31, the Orioles were up to a 71 percent chance, the Royals were at a 17 percent chance, and the Pirates were at a 46 percent chance.
Knowing this, I will use Baseball Prospectus' current postseason predictions to determine who should buy and who should sell at the 2015 Trade Deadline.
All In (85% or greater)
St. Louis Cardinals (99.3%)
There's no reason why the Cardinals, who own MLB's best record at 54-28, should consider selling. In fact, Baseball Prospectus says that they have a 99.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, leaving just a very small chance for an extreme collapse. If the Cardinals play just .500 ball the rest of the way, that would put them on pace for 94 wins, which would definitely put them in prime position to punch their ticket to the postseason. The Cardinals have no reason to do anything but buy.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92.9%)
The Dodgers have the second-highest playoff percentage in the league, and nothing suggests that this team won't buy at the trade deadline. I predicted them to go out and get Johnny Cueto, perhaps the best pitcher available not named Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are always willing to spend money and prospects to make their team better and can easily justify doing so at the deadline.
Washington Nationals (85.6%)
The Nationals have arguably not played their best baseball yet, but still have an 85.6 percent chance to make the playoffs. They could use some reinforcements in their bullpen, but most of the additions the Nationals will be getting will be players coming back from injury, such as Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg. They may not need to make a ton of moves in July, but if they do, they have good reason to do so.
Houston Astros (84.7%)
The Astros have already shown interest in some of the top pitchers that will be available, and Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds completely backs that up. Houston's playoff percentage, at 84.7 percent, is so close to 85 percent that I had to shove them into this category. The Astros have showed that while they are a bit of a surprise, they still can win ballgames and do it over a period of time. The Astros by no means are "pretenders," as they have been able to hold a comfortable AL West lead since late April.
Should be buyers (70-85%)
Pittsburgh Pirates (81.3%), Chicago Cubs (73.1%)
The Pirates and Cubs have a case of some serious bad luck. They are playing in the National League's toughest division and would be either leading or close to leading any other division in the league. The only reason I'm wary of either of these teams buying at the deadline is because they are not division leaders and have more of a chance to collapse and fall out of the playoff race altogether. Unless they believe they have a real shot at the Cardinals (which it appears they don't), they shouldn't completely unload their farm systems to go out and get the best guy on the market.
Kansas City Royals (75.3%)
Of the three teams in this category, I am most comfortable with the Royals buying at the trade deadline due to the fact that they lead their division by a comfortable margin and need just one or two pieces to really put the pressure on the rest of the division. All signs point to the Royals making the playoffs again this year, so I would go ahead and pencil them in as buyers at the deadline.
Los Angeles Angels (64.8%)
The Angels are in a good position right now. They are playing good baseball and have shown the need for an upgrade in left field. Of the teams listed in this section, I truly believe they are the best and most complete team, so therefore they should be buyers at the deadline. The Angels could use some rotation help as well, but if they patch up a few spots, they will get into the postseason. My verdict? They should be buyers.
AL East: New York Yankees (59.4%), Toronto Blue Jays (39.6%), Tampa Bay Rays (34.9%)
The American League East division is lumped together because the division is so muddled and close that really anyone could win it. Baseball Prospectus' simulations give the Yankees the best chance to go to the playoffs out of that division, but with some rotation help, the Blue Jays are the division's best team. The Yankees and Rays should stand pat or make small moves at the deadline, while the Blue Jays should go out and make a splash for a rotation piece.
Detroit Tigers (36.7%)
With Miguel Cabrera being sidelined with his hamstring injury, I'm going to pencil the Tigers in as should be sellers, but as this team continues to try and make a run once again, they will find themselves trying to buy. The Tigers are heading towards a Phillies-esque fall, and if they don't realize that soon, it could only get worse if they decide to buy at the trade deadline in hopes for one last run at the World Series.
Maybe/Stand Pat (20-30%)
New York Mets (28.9%)
Even if the Mets added an offensive piece, I don't think that would be enough to get them to the playoffs this season. With that said, however, I could see them dealing for a guy with more than one season of control, as their young and talented pitching staff comes into their own. The Mets couldn't justify buying for a rental player, but a guy who is at least signed through 2016 could make sense.
Baltimore Orioles (28.7%)
The Baltimore Orioles have a ton of free agents at the end of the season that they probably should move. The Orioles could be one of those teams that tries to get 25-man roster guys with more years of team control in return. The Orioles could be a team that buys and sells at the trade deadline, and I would be fine with that.
San Francisco Giants (22.9%)
It's an odd year. The Giants aren't good enough to win the NL West, and considering that they have to deal with the Cubs and Pirates for the Wild Card, it will be tough for them to really make a run into the postseason. However, they still have a good core group of guys and the team has proved me wrong before. They probably should stand pat.
Shouldn't buy (Less than 20%)
Minnesota Twins (18.2%)
The Twins just aren't that good. Sure, they had a good run earlier this season, but all the numbers suggest that they were going to fall out of first in the AL Central. The Twins should really try and go for 2016, when some of their rookies will be more polished.
Texas Rangers (15.0%)
While the Rangers shouldn't buy, they probably will, as I consider them to be in a similar boat as the Tigers are in. The Rangers could legitimately contend, but they would more than a couple of upgrades, to the point where they probably shouldn't go for it this season.
Cleveland Indians (13.5%)
The Indians were a popular postseason pick prior to this season, but Baseball Prospectus' simulations show that they would need some serious luck to actually get there. The Indians shouldn't sell any pieces other than the impending free agents because my gut says that they will be back in the postseason sooner than later.
Boston Red Sox (11.8%)
The Red Sox are in a tough position right now. It might not be time for a fire sale quite yet, but it's definitely not time to go out and try and contend this season.
Seattle Mariners (7.0%)
The Mariners have had some issues staying in the race this season, and while they shouldn't sell off their entire team, they really shouldn't be buyers either.
Oakland Athletics (6.8%)
The Athletics are already shopping their pieces and it looks like they will be sellers.
Arizona Diamondbacks (6.4%)
The Diamondbacks are a team that should stand pat. They still have pieces to contend in the near future and as their pitching improves with guys coming back from injury, they could be a legitimate contender coming 2016.
Atlanta Braves (3.8%)
The Braves, especially in the offseason, have committed to becoming a selling team. They don't have any exciting pieces, but even though they have kind of surprised, they should by no means buy.
Chicago White Sox (3.2%)
The White Sox are in a tough position. They reportedly won't have a fire sale, which makes sense considering how much money they spent in free agency, but they need to get rid of Jeff Samardzija and still be planning to try again in 2016.
San Diego Padres (2.7%)
The Padres could buy at the deadline, but in all reality, they shouldn't. They've got some important games coming up that they need to win if people start seriously seeing them as contenders. Once again, they are proving that the winners of the offseason don't necessarily win during the season.
Miami Marlins (1.6%)
The Marlins shouldn't go into a fire sale, but Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Brad Hand, and other free agents at the end of the season should be gone.
Cincinnati Reds (1.1%)
The Reds have Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and possibly Aroldis Chapman available, and while they won't sell until after they host the All-Star Game, I expect it to come, as it should.
Colorado Rockies (0.2%)
I'd pull the trigger and deal Troy Tulowitzki. It's time for a real change in Colorado if they want to be relevant down the road.
Milwaukee Brewers (0.2%)
The Brewers should enter into a fire sale.
Philadelphia Phillies (0.0%)
Now, these rankings and categories don't mean that each of these teams will do as I advise. Their postseason percentages could change and perhaps an addition is all they need to do that. However, Baseball Prospectus' odds are very accurate and should not be taken lightly. Teams really should use them to determine whether they could justify buying at the deadline.
The 2014 MLB Draft starts on June 5. Over 2,000 young men will become professional baseball players, as teams hope to find their future starts. I'll be covering the draft on Twitter, so make sure you are following and check it out as the draft goes on. Here are my predictions for how the first round plays out:
1. Houston Astros -- Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School (CA)
Aiken has the perfect pitcher frame; he's 6 foot, 3 inches, and weighs 210 pounds. The 18-year-old throws a fastball into the low 90s, many project it could reach the 92-94 range; has a solid curve that has a good break, it could become a plus offering; and has great deception on his change-up, which could also be a plus offering into the future.
2. Miami Marlins -- Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Carlos Rodon has a shot to go to the Astros at number one, but I think he'll fall to the Marlins at two. Rondon has a fastball that can touch 97 mph and can overpower hitters late in the count with a fantastic slider. He's working on a change-up that could be an average pitch into the future. He's got the durability and frame to become a number one starter when it is all set and done.
3. Chicago White Sox -- Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepard High School (TX)
The Chicago White Sox haven't selected a pitcher in the first round since they picked Chris Sale in 2010. They won't pick another position player here. Simply put, Tyler Kolek has the best fastball of the entire draft class. He can hit 97-99 mph routinely and can touch 100 on the gun. His command isn't top notch, but if it comes, watch out. Kolek has been compared to Nolan Ryan in the past.
4. Chicago Cubs -- Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
The Cubs have plenty of bats in their system, but pitching comes more at a premium. Aaron Nola, the righty coming from Louisiana State, can balance their organization. He hit the low to mid 90s with his fastball with some sink, a fantastic curveball, that, when he's on, can make anyone swing and miss, and a decent change that sometimes flashes plus. He's got good command and hits his spots. Of the 2014 draft prospects, Nola has the best chance to reach his ceiling and make the big leagues first.
5. Minnesota Twins -- Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia High School (FL)
The Twins have been connected to Gordon, and he will be drafted here. While passing up Alex Jackson, perhaps the best offensive player in the draft, they are getting a speedy shortstop with a fantastic glove. The brother of Dee, Nick Gordon has a nice line drive stroke with some pop, making him the best shortstop in the 2014 class. The Twins have a lot of pitching in their system, but are lacking some position players. Gordon will add to that.
6. Seattle Mariners -- Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo High School (CA)
This pick will enrage the Phillies, who need another bat in their system. Jackson could, and just might, be a top five pick, but I predict he falls to the Mariners at number six. While the Mariners have hitting in their system, they cannot pass up on Jackson, who's bat could post a .280 average with 25-35 homers in the big leagues. While he has a good arm behind the plate, many expect him to move to the outfield to maximize his bat.
7. Philadelphia Phillies -- Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
The Phillies farm system improved via their last draft, so I expect them to continue to boost their stock with the seventh overall selection. They take the best available player on the boards, picking Kyle Freeland of Evansville. Freeland can touch 94 with the fastball, while many expect that to rise as his big frame could bring that into the mid-90s. He's got a good slider and a good changeup, which could be an above average and a plus pitch, respectively.
8. Colorado Rockies -- Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
The University of Hartford has only had one player drafted before the tenth round (Jeff Bagwell, 4th Round) ever. Sean Newcomb will change that. He'll likely be a top ten pick, and I believe he'll go to the Rockies at number eight. He has a fastball that can reach 97 miles per hour, a slider with some bite, a change up, and a curveball. Although his command is not top quality, few can match his velocity.
9. Toronto Blue Jays -- Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
The Blue Jays get two selections in the top fifteen, at numbers nine and eleven. They select shortstop Trea Turner at number nine from North Carolina State. Turner has excellent speed and will be a threat to run whenever he is on the basepaths, is a decent fielder, and will likely bat at the top of the order. While his swing still needs improvement to get more line drives, Turner's speed will likely have him land at nine.
10. New York Mets -- Michael Confronto, OF, Oregon State
The Mets have some great pitching prospects. A college outfielder would definitely be a great compliment to that. Michael Confronto from Oregon State is Baseball America's highest rated outfielder (except for Alex Jackson who is a C/OF) and for could reason. Confronto has the opportunity to hit 25 or more home runs in the majors due to his size and uppercut he has in his swing. He swings and misses a lot, so his average shouldn't be great, but his average defense and above average power should be enough to land him at number 10.
11. Toronto Blue Jays -- Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs High School (FL)
The Blue Jays have a very strong connection with Toussaint, so there is no reason why he shouldn't be drafted by them. Toussaint's fastball operates in the 91-93 range, but has hit 97; his curveball has so much downward action that catchers can barely catch it; and his changeup needs work, as he throws it too hard into the mid-80s. Toussaint, however, does have good promise, and the Blue Jays should be willing to take a chance on him here at number 11.
12. Milwaukee Brewers -- Max Pentecost, C, Kennessaw State
The Brewers could go with a number of players here, but they are particularly weak at catcher in their organization. Pentecost has a good line drive swing and is smart in the batter's box. He also can post minimal power numbers, you might be able to get around 15 home runs in the majors. He's a decent backstop, as his arm is very good, but it needs work on accuracy. Many expect that Pentecost will be able to remain at the catcher position, so the Brewers will nab him here at number 12.
13. San Diego Padres -- Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
If anyone has the best chance ten years down the road to be considered a "steal" in this draft, Finnegan is it. He has a commanding fastball that can reach up to 98 on the gun, a good feel for a change up that could be above average, and a swing and miss "slurve-like" pitch. He's got decent command that keeps runners off of base via the walk and hit by pitch, and repeats his motion very nicely. Let me tell you again: Finnegan will be dominating hitters in the majors in just a few years.
14. San Francisco Giants -- Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway High School (SC)
The Giants have been connected to Holmes, so it's very likely they select him. Holmes can really throw the heater, touching triple digits at times. He has a ridiculous curveball that is harder than normal, but has great spin and depth. His changeup is still developing, something that will need to happen in order for Holmes to make it big at the next level. The Giants are good at developing some talent, so I think Holmes will be put into a good situation in San Francisco.
15. Los Angeles Angels -- Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana
The Angles will likely be looking for an advanced college bat to help them in the near future. Schwarber perfectly fits that mold as he has some very good power, while also working counts in his favor. People view him as a 30+ homer player if he can remain healthy and play everyday, which is why he could be making the move to first base in the near future. Besides C.J Cron, the Angels really don't have very powerful first baseman or catchers in their organization. Schwarber will change that.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks -- Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
Zimmer has a fantastic swing that keeps him in the first round of this draft. He hits line drives to all fields and could provide some power if he adds loft to his swing. Regardless, he's a very solid choice. Zimmer has good instincts on the base paths and has decent speed as well. He could play center field, but his arm definitely has the makings of a corner outfielder.
17. Kansas City Royals -- Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Royals like their pitching, and Beede is no exception. He can pitch. Beede throws quite a heater; sitting around 92-94 and topping out a 97. He has a sharp curveball and good changeup, both looking like above average pitches into the future. He was selected in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Blue Jays, but decided to attend Vanderbilt. He was dominant and set a school-record 14 victories last spring. Beede could go higher, but his command has some issues.
18. Washington Nationals -- Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove High School (CA)
Hill's dad, Orsino, is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but likely won't get his shot at his son at pick 22, as Derek will likely be a top-20 selection. I have him going here to the Nationals, and even though they like college bats, Hill has the chance to be something special. He flies on the basepaths, is a fantastic defender, and offers a very good line drive swing with a nice approach. Hill has the chance to add some power as he gets older, something to perhaps make him more valuable.
19. Cincinnati Reds -- Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West High School (MO)
The Reds like Harrison because of his athletic ability, and while this may be a bit of a reach at 19, he's definitely worth a look late in the first round. Harrison has a ton of raw talent, as he has committed to Nebraska to play both football and baseball. Harrison's bat needs some improvement, but if he solely focuses on baseball, it should definitely speed that up. His arm is his best asset; he was clocked throwing 97 mph from center field during the Perfect Game National in June.
20. Tampa Bay Rays -- Casey Gallipse, 1B, Wichita State
Gallipse has awesome power. One scout said that Gallipse was the best switch-hitter he has seen in years and gave him a chance to be Mark Teixeira or Lance Berkman. His power is fantastic -- he led the Cape Cod League with eight homers in 43 games. He shows a great approach and is able to hit for a decent average. The Rays need to add to their diminishing farm system, and a college bat like Gallipse should do exactly that.
21. Cleveland Indians -- Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
The Indians want a college bat, like many of the teams in front of them, so they go with a proven prospect in Derek Fisher. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2011, and turned down a substantial offer to head to Virginia. Well here he is again, and better than ever. Fisher had some issues in his first two years in college, but had a strong showing in the Cape Cod League, posting a .453 on-base percentage. Fisher has raw hitting abilities and power and he could be a plus player into the future.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers -- Erick Feede, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas
The Dodgers would love Feede here. While they really don't need any older pitchers, Feede's upside is great, even though he did just have Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Feede can throw as high as 95 mph, sporting flashes of an above-average slider and a good changeup. His size isn't the biggest, so it is possible that Feede could end up projecting into a really good pitcher. And we know all too well that the Dodgers really like really good pitchers.
23. Detroit Tigers -- Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
Howard is used as the Cavaliers' closer, due to the fact that he can throw into the high 90s, touching 98 at times. He has a really good slider at times, but it can lose its bite. The Tigers might be able to convert Howard back into a starter, which may be the reason for taking him at 23 overall. But I don't have any issues with Howard sticking as a closer, something he might be able to excel at in the majors.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates -- Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School (CA)
This might be a bit low for Gatewood, but it's hard to project him going any higher. The Dodgers, who like players that add value, could nab Gatewood, but I have them going with Feede. Gatewood is a very powerful shortstop and is also a great athlete that has good arm strength. People were concerned about his bat in general, which has hurt his stock over the past few weeks. With a better bat, he could be a top 10 pick, which is why the Pirates could be getting a very nice steal at 24.
25. Oakland Athletics -- Ti'quan Forbes, SS, Columbia High School (MS)
Rumor has it that the Athletics like Forbes, so that is who I'm having them go with here. Forbes may be a bit of a reach, but Billy Beane knows young talent better than anyone. He's good across the boards, showing promise fielding, especially with his arm, which could end up moving him to third base. At 6-foot-4, Forbes' bat could improve into being a solid hitter. The Athletics like taking young bats under their wings and improving them.
26. Boston Red Sox -- Micheal Chavis, SS, Sprayberry High School (GA)
Chavis is very solid across the boards, but does not have one aspect of his game that wows scouts. He has a good line-drive swing and could hit 18-20 homers in the big leagues. His arm, one of his strengths, could move him to anywhere in the infield. The Red Sox will have many options if/when he comes up to the big leagues. He will likely end up at third base, where many think the Red Sox will draft this year.
27. St. Louis Cardinals -- Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger High School (CA)
The Cardinals are known for developing young pitching, so it's hard to project them picking anything but a pitcher. Luis Ortiz of Sanger High School has tremendous upside, topping out at 97 mph. He has a slider that can make hitters swing-and-miss, while also having a decent changeup. Ortiz is working on a curveball as well to add to his repertoire as well. There are some injury issues in his forearm, but the Cardinals should be willing to take a chance on him down at number 27.
30. Chicago Cubs (16-27)*
Pitcher Jeff Samardzija is second in the National League in ERA, but has yet to earn a win, going 0-4 in his nine starts. Since 1914, only Whitey Ford and he have gone nine starts, each allowing three or less runs, without getting a win. That goes to show how hard it is for the Cubs to score some runs and win ballgames consistently.
29. Houston Astros (17-29)*
Offseason acquisition Dexter Fowler has been the main cog in the offensive attack for the Astros, leading the team in OPS+, on base percentage, and runs scored. Overall, the Astros rank second-to-last in the American League in batting average, last in runs scored, and fourth-to-last in OPS. It's been a tough season all the way around for Houston.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates (18-26)*
The Pittsburgh Pirates cannot find that same spark that took them all the way to the postseason last year. Part of the reason could be the play from outfielder Starling Marte, who's OPS+ took a big hit, from 121 to 108. There is reason for hope in Pittsburgh. Their team batting average has gone up 22 points since the beginning of May, but their pitching staff has brought it's ERA up too. Losing five of their last seven does not help, either.
27. Philadelphia Phillies (20-22)*
The Phillies are seeing on-and-off play from third baseman Cody Asche so far this season. He has 16 hits and a .333 batting average in the month of May, but seven of those 16 hits have come in the last three games. Without those at bats and hits, Asche would be batting just .250. The Phillies offense has been just like Asche, inconsistent. The Phillies have been shut out five times in May, but have averaged 3.8 runs a game, higher than their April mark of 3.7.
26. Tampa Bay Rays (19-27)*
I am not really sure what has gone wrong with the Rays to begin this season. They have scored an adequate amount of runs, have an average American League ERA of 4.20, but are sitting at the bottom of the American League East at 19-26. Injuries seem to be the main issue. Matt Moore is going to miss the entire season, Ben Zobrist has a dislocated thumb, and Jeremy Hellickson recently had right elbow surgery. It does not get much worse than that.
25. Chicago White Sox (23-24)*
Jose Abreu is now on the disabled list. He leads the American League in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. He has been the heart and sole of the White Sox. Without him, it looks like they could be falling down this list, and fast. But for now, they are holding their own at number 25, despite losing six of their last eight games.
24. San Diego Padres (21-25)*
I expected more from the San Diego Padres going into this season. They really have not been meeting expectations, and injuries have slowed them more than ever. Like the Rays, many of their stars are currently hurt and on the disabled list, including Andrew Cashner and Josh Johnson. In order for the Padres to make a move, their offense has to pick up the pace. They rank second-to-last in the National League in runs scored, but rank second in ERA.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (18-29)*
The Arizona Diamondbacks made a fantastic hire in Tony LaRussa to lead their baseball operations. They have been able to string some wins together in May, going 9-6 thus far, scoring 0.6 more runs per game this month than they have all season. The light is finally starting to be seen at the end of this long dark tunnel. Their pitching is starting to figure it out as well, posting a 3.81 ERA in the month.
22. Cleveland Indians (21-25)*
Lonnie Chisenhall has been the Indians best producer this season, posting a .912 OPS, 162 OPS+, and a .364 batting average, all leading the team. Chisenhall has played in only three games against a left-handed pitcher, compared to 31 against righties, causing much uproar across the web. Over his career, Chisenhall has just a .205 batting average against lefties.
21. Texas Rangers (21-24)*
Prince Fielder has a herniated disk in his neck, which is just even more great news for Rangers fans. They have 13 players on the disabled list to begin the season, and even Fielder, who had played in 547 straight games, is now going to be on the sidelines, adding yet another player to the lengthy list of names of Rangers that are injured (although Fielder will not be going on the disabled list).