The 2016 season has come to a close, which is unfortunate in some respects. But it appears we are going to have an exciting postseason ahead of us--we always do, honestly--perhaps adding a little bit of sunshine on the overall sadness that another year has gone by.
But, with every 2,430 games that come in a single baseball season, some players (and managers), stand out above the rest. Thus, we honor them, and I’ll do my best here to provide my selections for both leagues’ top awards. Without further ado, my MVP picks and choices for the rest of the major awards. . .
National League Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (8.4 fWAR)
It’s still hard to think that Bryant was a rookie just last year, but the former No. 2 overall pick has proven why he was one of the most hyped prospects since Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Bryant, this season, hit for a .292/.385/.554 slash, popping 39 home runs and driving in 102 RBI. He’s been by far the best player on by far the best team in baseball, making the MVP award almost a lock for him.
Worth nothing: The Cubs as a whole have four of the top-15 players in OBP this season, and they’re all right near each other, at Nos. 11, 13, and two tied for 14 (Bryant is here). Bryant, even with the fourth-best isolated power in the NL, still manages to be a top-15 player at getting on-base. That’s a lethal combination right there.
Runner Up: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (5.5 fWAR)
American League Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (9.4 fWAR)
I’ve ranted a lot on Twitter about Trout being the American League MVP, including the usage of the #TeamTrout hashtag, which may or may not actually exist elsewhere. But, the debate about whether we should name an MVP based on whether a player is playing a pennant race is appalling. Sure, “valuable” and “best” are definitely different words, and I think most (if not all) would agree that Trout is the best player in the American League. But even still, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said it best, by naming an MVP on a contending team, we’re basically rewarding a player for having good teammates.
Maybe if the race was closer, I’d consider looking elsewhere. It’s harder to play better under the stress of a pennant race, so guys like Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado should get some credit, but they are so far behind Trout it really isn’t fair to the Millville Meteor, as he is often called. This season, Trout hit for a .315/.441/.550 slash and sat on 29 home runs, 100 RBI and 30 steals, all while playing solid defense in center.
Runner Up: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (7.7 fWAR)
National League Cy Young: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins (6.2 fWAR)
What happened to Fernandez is obviously upsetting to everyone in the baseball community, and it’s hard to say that I did not take that into account when making this selection. The National League featured lots of good pitchers this season, but no one pitcher really took the spotlight this year, as Clayton Kershaw often does. This, then, leads me to Fernandez, who definitely comes with his array qualifications to get the nod, tragedy aside. But honestly, there’s not a better way to honor Fernandez then by giving him an award he was likely to get at some point during his career.
Looking at the conventional stats, Fernandez posted a 2.86 ERA this season, ranking 7th in the National League. His 16 wins tie him for fifth. But his 182 ⅓ innings put him down at 19th, and if there’s a reason as to why he won’t win the award, this is likely it. But Fernandez really shines in the advanced metrics, with only one pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, having a better FIP and no pitcher having a better xFIP. Fernandez also struck out batters at the highest rate in the NL, with his K-BB% also ranking first. In a wide-open field, Fernandez could capture the NL Cy Young award this year.
Runner Up: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (5.6 fWAR)
American League Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (5.2 fWAR)
Asking me to pick an American League Cy Young is like asking me to choose between a glazed or a sprinkled doughnut. Yes, I like doughnuts. But if Boston Creme isn’t an option, I could take it or leave it. The American League Cy Young race lacks a Boston Creme, and it’s filled with glazed and sprinkled (with maybe a jelly-filled in there somewhere). Due to the lack of a true “Cy qualified” candidate, many writers have found themselves choosing Zach Britton, something I cannot get myself behind, purely due to his lack of innings pitched. So, this leads me to the White Sox’ Sale.
Sale tied Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander on the fWAR leaderboard, with 5.2 wins above replacement, but Porcello got over six-and-a-half runs per game in run support (ranking first in the Majors), obviously making his job much easier. Sale received 4.47 runs of support per game, ranking 32nd of 74 qualified starters. Sale didn’t rank 1st in the AL in FIP (3nd) or xFIP (7th), but sometimes it’s a combination of results and dominance, which is where Sale finds himself. His K-BB% is the 2nd highest in the league, and his overall 17-9 record with a 3.21 ERA isn’t shabby either. Sale has the chocolate sprinkles in this race, which are obviously better than rainbow.
Runner Up: Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox (5.2 fWAR)
National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (7.5 fWAR)
Seager is not just a Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s also an MVP candidate and should easily finish in the top 5 of the voting. The 22-year-old hit like a big league veteran this season, slashing .308/.365/.512 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI, providing stellar defense at the game’s hardest position, shortstop. In terms of fAWR, Seager more than doubles second-place Trea Turner, who may have made this a closer race had he played more than 73 games.
Seager’s dominance in this race does not need much more backing, perhaps outside of the fact that he was the second-most valuable player (fWAR) in the NL this season, period.
Runner Up: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (3.2 fWAR)
American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (3.1 fWAR)
In the AL, you’ve got a ridiculously close race between two well-worthy candidates: Gary Sanchez, Yankees’ catcher; and Michael Fulmer, Tigers’ starting pitcher. Both, believe it or not, were worth almost exactly the same amount of fWAR, but I’m going with Sanchez here.
My reasoning for this pick is quite simple, actually: Sanchez made history, whereas Fulmer was good. Good usually wins this award, but when you have history, I think you have to side with that. Sanchez hit 20 home runs this season while playing just 53 games. It may be hard to give a player who played just two months of the season this award, but Fulmer himself only made 26 starts, raising the question of who truly had a larger impact. Sanchez plays a premium position defensively, and he’s pretty good at it, catching 11 of 30 runners stealing among other things. He also slashed .299/.376/.657 this year, which speaks by itself.
Runner Up: Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (3.0 fWAR)
National League Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals
The Nationals effectively ended their 2015 season with Bryce Harper being choked by Jonathan Papelbon in a dugout skirmish that ex-manager Matt Williams apparently did not see. Somehow, Baker managed Papelbon and Harper together (more just Papelbon by himself), and it appeared that no problems arose. The Nationals moved quite smoothly up until Papelbon was released (more due to performance than anything else) and continued to steamroll right along through the rest of the season.
If I told you at the beginning of the season that Harper was going to hit .243 this season with “just” an .814 OPS, and asked you to predict the Nationals’ record, many of you would have likely predicted them to win about 85 games, or perhaps even less. The Nationals went on to win 95 games this year and run away with the NL East. It’s true, not all of the credit should be attributed to Baker; Wilson Ramos had a phenomenal year behind the plate, Trea Turner provided a spark plug during the second half of the season; and the back-end of the rotation more than picked up the slack for the loss of Stephen Strasburg for extended amounts of time. Baker did a very nice job in his first season as Nationals’ manager, and thus, he’s my pick for NL Manager of the Year.
Runner Up: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
American League Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Francona has been a phenomenal manager throughout his entire career, leading both the Red Sox and the Indians to success (though his tenure with the Phillies from 1997 to 2000 is often forgotten, for obvious reasons).
In 2016, Francona showed excellent bullpen management especially. What really stood out to me in particular was his willingness to use Andrew Miller in roles outside of the 9th inning, taking the advice to use your best pitcher in the most important situations to heart. Miller made at least one appearance in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings with Cleveland. It’s also important to note that the Indians ran away with the AL Central and finished with the second-best record in the league.
Runner Up: Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
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.
Jeff Samardzija has been in this position before.
Last season at this time, Samardzija was nearing the end of his career as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He was dealt to Oakland in a multi-player deal in July.
At the time of his trade, Samardzija was one of the best pitchers in the game. He went 2-7 with a 3.03 ERA with the Cubs last year, striking out 100 as opposed to 29 walks in 101 innings.
This time around, Samardzija is in a bit of a different position. He is a member of a Chicago organization -- this time the White Sox -- but is not pitching nearly as well.
He's 5-4 with a 4.53 ERA through 101.1 innings. Despite those "ugly" numbers, Samardzija has had some particularly bad luck, as his 3.67 FIP suggests that with some better defense his ERA would be nearly a run lower. His 84 to 17 strikeout-to-walk ratio also is an indication that things will turn around.
Samardzija has been hurting from a .338 batting average on balls in play, 39 points higher than his career average. Again, with some better defense Samardzija is just as good as he was last year.
When the White Sox, who were one of the bigger spenders this offseason, decide to rebuild following their 32-40 record through their first 72 games, Samardzija should be the first to go.
For teams in the market for starting pitching, like the Astros, Blue Jays, Yankees, Giants, or even Dodgers, this has to be a welcome sight. Samardzija might be the most valuable addition for any club this trade deadline season.
First, he's a free agent this offseason, which means that if the White Sox do decide to move him, he'll be cheaper for acquiring teams than if he had more years of team control.
Second, his numbers aren't stellar. Any team could point to the fact that his 4.53 ERA should keep them from giving up very many top prospects in any deal.
Third, the saber stats do show that, with better defense, Samardzija can be an ace in any staff. So, to recap, a team could be getting a free agent to-be at a discounted price due to poor performances and could end up getting an ace out of it.
He may not be Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, but he's ready to become a key member of a new pitching staff for a contender down the stretch. His name is Jeff Samardzija and your team should go out and trade for him.
Sometimes, you just get lost on BaseballReference.com or on MLB.com. When you google a player, you not only see who they are, you see what team they played for, and from that, you then get sidetracked to another player from that same team and so on.
This just happened to me with the MLB Draft. After looking through players and players, seeing how each went on their roads to professional baseball, my eyes stopped on one player.
Chicago White Sox' 8th round pick Casey Schroeder took an improbable path to where he is today, but the path he took was an extremely intelligent one. Without it, I'm not sure he'd be an 8th round pick...or a draft selection at all.
Three years ago, Schroeder was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He decided to forgo professional baseball to go to college.
Schroeder was a newly-converted catcher (from shortstop) playing for the University of Kentucky. As a freshman, Schroeder received six at bats all season. Six at bats. All season. He did the furthest thing from develop.
"I was fairly new to catching in high school, and I know I was pretty raw," Schroeder said via MLB.com. "I wanted to get to learn the position, and I didn't feel we were getting as much instruction as we needed from behind the plate. I really wanted to find someone to teach me that has been back there and has had a successful career back there."
So, Schroeder made probably the best and perhaps riskiest decision of his baseball career.
He transferred from Kentucky to Polk State College, a community college located in Winter Haven, Florida. A small college, a community college, in fact, had something that the University of Kentucky didn't. That was a catching-minded coach.
Head coach Al Corbeil spent three seasons in the Los Angeles Angels system and four more in independent league baseball. He caught a career 118 games and used his experiences to develop Schroeder further as a receiver.
Over the course of his season out at Polk, Schroeder threw out 35 percent of baserunners and allowed just one passed ball. His performance earned him Suncoast Conference defensive player of the year honors. Offensively, he was just as good, hitting .321 with three homers and 28 runs batted in.
"It was the best decision I've ever made to transfer down there," he said. "It was the best year of my life."
Schroeder turned himself into a legitimate catching prospect. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, improving his draft stock by eight rounds, even out of a small community college.
But Schroeder was not done there. Instead of signing with the Athletics, he decided to return to school. But not to Polk State College.
Catching development improved, Schroeder went back to playing Division I baseball out at Coastal Carolina to play against better talent and polish his catching tools.
He hit .230/.370/.500/.870 with 13 homers and 31 runs batted in over 174 at bats at Coastal Carolina, throwing out 32.3 percent of base runners behind the plate.
That's how he was drafted in the 8th round, a six round improvement from 2014 and a 14 round improvement from 2012.
In a way, Schroeder created his own development program.
He started at a Division I school and realized that he needed someone to work with him on his catching, spurring a move to Polk State College. Then, he wanted more exposure, going back to Division I with his newfound skills and playing against better talent to get more recognition.
The White Sox may have just picked the smartest player in this draft. Not to mention, he's a pretty good catcher too.