Colin’s 1st Annual Grapefruit/Cactus League All-Stars

Colin’s mysterious hiatus is over.

With one month in the books for the 2012 MLB season we have seen several surprises, some positive and some negative. On the positive side how about baseball relevancy in the Nation’s capital? This is about the time of year that the Nationals and Orioles get thrown off the back of a boat wearing cement shoes. Ahh, but not this year as both teams sit in the top half of their respective divisions.

The Nationals seem to be winning despite manager, “old man” Davey Johnson, looks to be sleeping and shows emotion only when post game fireworks remind him of the dinner bell at the local nursing home. For the Orioles, maybe they’re buying into Buck Showalter’s plan or maybe they’re winning in spite of Bucky.

Will it last? I highly doubt it. While Nationals expected win total is just one off their actual win total (based on runs scored/runs allowed), they are 9-6 in one run games and their starters have posted a microscopic era of 2.26. Wow! And that is done playing half of their games in a park that favors batters. I am pretty sure that we will see those pitching numbers regress and when they do the hitting isn’t explosive enough to carry them. Plus, their division is stacked with teams that figure to play better, see the Marlins and Phillies. I see the Nats making a run at the division until about August, and falling just short of a wild-card in September.

The Orioles face a much tougher battle to stay competitive. For starters, the AL East is brutal with three legit contenders in the Rays, Yanks and Blue Jays. Add to that they have been somewhat lucky so far, 19-11 record, but 17-13 Pythagorean expected record. Oh and let’s throw this in – they own a 6-0 record against the two worst teams in baseball, the Twins and Red Sox. By the All-Star break the Orioles will have re-located to 4th place in the AL East and there they will stay. Hey, it’s better than last place!

On the flip side is there any doubt about the two most disappointing teams out of the gate? It has to be the Phillies and Red Sox, right? The Phillies have owned the NL East for the last five years and were expected to do so again. Unfortunately, for them they have “Judy” but no punch, loosely translated – they can’t score runs! When teams struggle scoring runs even the best of pitchers, and the Phillies have maybe the best 1-2 in MLB in Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, try to be too perfect which seemingly never works well. The Phillies have scored 2 or less runs in 14 of their 32 games this season, not surprisingly they are 2-12 in those games. And sure we knew this team was going to struggle to score runs but the depth of their ineptitude has reached the bottom, it simply can’t get any worse. Translation – with their pitching they will be just fine.

Unfortunately, I am not as optimistic for the other disappointing team, the Boston Red Sox. For them the words “complete disaster” fit aptly. Too harsh? Maybe not harsh enough. For a team with virtually unlimited resources, is it acceptable that their starting outfield consists is like a “journeymen club of America” Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Marlon Bryd and Darnell McDonald? Sure it’s a bit unreasonable considering the Red Sox clubhouse looks more like an M.A.S.H. unit with Youkilis, Crawford, and Ellsbury on all the DL. Ellsbury plays recklessly, you have to think there is at least a better than average chance he could be seriously hurt. Youkilis has been breaking down for the past few years. And Crawford, well let’s just leave it at this – Carl Crawford used to steal bases now he just steals money! So Red Sox management, where is the contingent plan? Oh yeah, Marlon Bryd was in the contingent plan. Really, Lucchino? I am sorry but if the Yankees suffered the losses the Sox had this season, they would go get a legit major leaguer. And sure they would have to eat a huge contract down the line, but they wouldn’t sit idle while Ryan Sweeney fails in the 9th with a running on third and less than two outs in a one run game.

Let’s switch gears from teams to players, specifically players who fooled us by posting great spring training numbers only to fall off the map once MLB starting playing for keeps. So, here is Colin Wynner’s 1st annual Grapefruit and Cactus league All-Star teams. These guys literally left it in Florida and Arizona!


Grapefruit League All-Stars

C – Russell Martin, NYY
ST: .275/.396/.721 7RBI/40AB RS: .188/.316/.641 7RBI/80AB
I wonder if the Yankees regret that Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda trade? I love this commentary from Pineda’s Wikipedia page regarding the trade – “The Mariners felt they could afford to part with Pineda because of their depth of top-tier pitching prospects…” Yeah, that and the fact that Pineda had an anterior labral tear that somehow went un-noticed by the Yankee doctors.
1B – Ike Davis, NYM
ST: OPS .798 RS: OPS .548
Ike is sporting a Mark Belanger-esque OPS of .548 so far in 2012. And about a week ago it gets reported that Ike Davis battled loneliness during spring training. Thank goodness for Ike that he is back in New York where there has to be at least a dozen or so groupies that don’t smell like urine and/or have an STD.
2B – Danny Espinosa, WAS
ST: .241/.302/.644 RS: .189/.278/.521 1HR
After a 2011 campaign that saw Espinoza blast 21 home runs, most experts figure that Espinoza would shake off rough 2012 spring and be a viable asset in the regular season. Who knew that spring training would be Danny’s hot streak for the year.
SS – Clint Barmes, PIT
ST: .288/.300/.639 RS: .152/.188/.481
There is quite a battle going on between Barmes’ OPS and David Wright’s OBP.
3B – Danny Valencia, MIN
ST: 4 HR, 12 RBI; 75 AB OPS: .845 RS: 1 HR, 11 RBI; 100 AB OPS: .494
Twins fan admit it – those 4 spring homers had you thinking this guy would make you forgot all about Corey Koskie.
OF – Matt Holiday, STL
ST: .383/.442/1.102 RS: .263/.338/.796
Holiday’s is a victim of the monster numbers he put up this spring and certainly no way deserves this reply to the question, “Should I trade Matt Holiday for Matt Cain?”, “Definitely, Cain is a stud and you’er trading away a spare part.” Ouch!
OF – Darnell McDonald, BOS
ST: .447/.512/1.327 RS: .179/.277/.634
Now I know why the Red Sox didn’t hastily attempt to acquire an outfielder after Ellsbury and Crawford were DL’d, because they actually believed in those spring numbers by McDonald. Because you know 33 is the age most players start to figure it out.
OF – Brennan Boesch, DET
ST: 6 HR/17 RBI; 73AB OPS: .928 RS:4HR/ 13 RBI; 126 AB OPS: .572
Brennan might be coming out of his early season funk now that he has been dropped to the 7th position in the batting order – .032 increase in his OPS in two games. Next stop – Ozzie Smith-land
SP – Francisco Liriano, MIN
ST: 33 K/5 BB; 1.11 WHIP RS: 21 K/19 BB; 1.356
Oh, where to start with this guy. Goodness is there a player in MLB more mentally weak than Frankie? He dominated the spring, those numbers were Koufaxian. But now that the regular season has begun he’s morphed into John Lackey, circa Theo Epstein. Yup, he can’t throw strikes, hardly gets outs and looks completely lost on the mound. You know it is bad when if your ERA is like an A1C test result of a high risk patient.
CL – Heath Bell, FLA
ST: 8IP, 0ER, 12K, 1-1 Save Opp RS: 11.2 IP, 13ER, 8K, 3-7 Save Opp
Four blown saves in the first month of the season has got Heath some mop-up duty of late. Marlins fans have been begging Heath to do his patented full speed slide at the mound in hopes he would tear a ligament in multiple leg locations.


Cactus League All-Stars

C – Kurt Suzuki, OAK
ST: .243/.349/.727 6BB/5 K RS: .216/.250/.534 3BB/17 K
Billy Beane hates players who don’t walk. Kurt you’re about to get a one way ticket to Minnesota. In fact maybe Suzuki and Liriano have some kind of Freaky Friday body switch thing going on since the beginning of the season. Kurt, for goodness sake, give Frankie back his strikeouts!
1B – Albert Pujols, LAA
ST: 7HR/20 RBI; 60AB RS: 1 HR/12 RBI; 138 AB
Al should have saved a few of those spring homers for the regular season. Still, I’d bet on the over 30 HR for him.
2B – Gordon Beckham, CHW
ST: .275/.346/.766 RS: .208/.280/.600
I think Gordon Beckham is the Michael Crabtree of MLB. High draft pick, loads of talent and, most importantly, roto owners all believe this is “the year” for him. Not. Going, To, Happen.
SS – Erick Aybar, LAA
ST: 5SB, 18R, .389/.421/.963 RS: 1 SB, 8 R, .200/.227/.470
Remember all the buzz about Aybar after Pujols was signed by the Angels? How he will be a run scoring machine? Remember when Erick scored 18 runs in spring? Yeah, that was fun. I am no sabermetrician, but it seems like a .227 OBP doesn’t give you many opportunities to score runs.
3B – Scott Rolen, CIN
ST: 4 HR, 12 RBI; 75 AB OPS: .845 RS: 1 HR, 11 RBI; 100 AB OPS: .494
Nobody has hit .400 since Teddy Ball-game’s .406 back in 1941, but Roeln is going to give some serious chase with that .494, oh wait that’s OBP, nevermind!
OF – Alex Gordon, KC
ST: .383/.442/1.102 RS: .256/.351/.762
How many times do you see it – a guy signs a huge contract in the off-season, then after lighting it up in spring, he falls off the map, his career goes in the tank, ends up on the Yankees and somehow resuscitates his career?
OF – Lorenzo Cain, KC
ST: .371/.450/1.193 5HR/11RBI RS: .133/.176/.310 0 HR/1 RBI
It’s a little unfair given that Cain has only played five games this season. Unfortunately, being fragile and batting 2/15, after having the spring Cain makes him a candidate for Cactus League MVP.
OF – Alfonso Soriano, CHC
ST: 6 HR/18 RBI; 56AB OPS: .963 RS:0HR/16 RBI; 112 AB OPS: .587
Maybe Alfonso can pick up some home runs on EBay. Over/under on what the Cubs will pay per Alfonso home run this run – $1.5 Million. Yup, 18 million just doesn’t get you as much as it used to.
SP – Luis Mendoza, KC
ST: 4-0, 0.47 ERA, 21 K/5 BB RS: 2-2, 4.76 ERA, 13 K/ 18 BB
Let’s be honest nobody gives a crap about spring ERA, but 0.47! Really? Wow and the K-BB ratio was great, so you had to think Luis was about to become the ace of a fairly mediocre staff. Then it hit me – the spring training strike zone is like Hillary Clinton’s jowls, already over-sized and growing by the minute.
CL – Hector Santiago, CHW
ST: 2-0, 0.82 ERA, 1-1 Save Opp RS: 1-1, 5.25 ERA, 4-6 Save Opp
Santiago named closer on virtually opening day, he then rewarded manager Robin Ventura’s by going 3-3 in the first six games. He hit a rough patch in the next 3 save opportuinites, blowing 2 of the 3. No biggie, right? Wrong, bye-bye Hector. And you thought your boss was a prick.



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