Posts Tagged ‘Lance Berkman’

In what has become an annual event in the CHEAP SEATS, the first entry of this year’s Top 100 players in baseball will be released this week. This season the location will be different, as it will debut in my column at The Sports Fan Journal, but there will still be links to each here. Other than that, everything will be the same: 100 players in total (obviously), released in five sections until the top 10 is revealed in an extended version in the final entry.

Last year, there wasn’t much mention of the players that missed, or why. While I’ll discuss the methodology of how I come to my selections in the first entry tomorrow, I can discuss why some of both the toughest omissions and subtractions from last year’s list were made.

First of all, there are at any time, 750 players on Major League rosters, so not being counted in the upper 7.5% of players isn’t exactly a defeat in the status of guy. If anything it speaks to how much talent there is spread around the game that explaining why a guy in the 7.6-8.0% range doesn’t make the proverbial cut. But a cutoff is a cutoff, and somebody has to miss. To speak to that ever evolving element of the fluctuating MLB/CSP elite, there are 26 players that won’t return from last season’s group. That is due to a variety of reasons, which…..is where we will move on to showcasing the “almost makes for this year”….

Crawford will have a chance to rejoin the game's elite this year in the midst of the stack Dodgers' lineup

Crawford will have a chance to rejoin the game’s elite this year in the midst of the stack Dodgers’ lineup

Group 1— Injury Issues: There are players that were either severely limited by injuries last season or will have their season limited this year due to them.

Alex Rodriguez (33): Between a downtown in his play, hip injuries, new steroid scandals and more postseason failures, A-Rod has hit an all-time low in his career. A reoccurrence of his hip injury, and recent surgery, has put his career into question.

Chris Carpenter (35): The Cardinals right-hander was limited to only five starts out of him last year due to a nerve injury in his shoulder that necessitated a rib being removed for him to be able to continue rehab. After the injury flared back up this spring, Carpenter’s career is likely over.

Carl Crawford (44): He opted for Tommy John surgery to heal his ailing elbow in August, but also still hadn’t completely turned around from a bad 2011, where his hit only hit .255.

Brian Wilson (45): He didn’t throw a pitch in 2012, as he also underwent Tommy John surgery. Questions regarding where his rehab is at have kept interest in him low on the open market this winter.

Lance Berkman (54): After his huge 2011, a series of leg and knee injuries limited him to only 32 games a year later.

Neftali Feliz (58): The switch from closer to starter wasn’t kind for Feliz, who was effective in seven starts, but his elbow wasn’t up to the workload. He will return as a reliever in the late part of 2013.

Joakim Soria (89): His second Tommy John procedure of his career shelved him for 2012, and saw his contract option not be picked up in Kansas City. He signed with the Texas Rangers, but will not be able to return until June.

Ichiro will make the longest slide from last year's list at #25, to off it entirely a year later.

Ichiro will make the longest slide from last year’s list at #25, to off it entirely a year later.

Group 2—Declines: The career arch of some players has taken a swing since the beginning of last season. This group won’t make a repeat appearance due to the either their downsides of their career setting in, or an extremely large swing from where they entered last year to 2013.

Ichiro (25): 2011 was a low mark in his career, but 2012 went even lower in Seattle, hitting only .261 at the time of his trade to the Yankees. He had a brief revival in pinstripes, but he’s clearly on his downside.

Michael Young (34): His hit total swung down by 44 from from 2012, and his lowered by 61 points. Now in his new home in Philadelphia, he’ll have to switch back to third base after two years as a majority DH.

Eric Hosmer (50): The sophomore slump hit hard, to the tone of a .232 average and 13 home runs.

Kevin Youkilis (60): A career-low batting average of .235 average hit Youk, who also failed to reach at least 125 games for third straight year.

Jose Valverde (66): He followed up a statistically perfect year as a closer, with a season that spiral out of control to the point of a 25.31 postseason ERA.

 Ubaldo Jimenez (67): His first season in Cleveland was a forgettable one: he led the AL in losses with 17 and his ERA sat at 5.40.

Dan Uggla (75): His traditionally poor glove work couldn’t be offset by his bat any longer. He hit only .220 and his home run total swung down to 19 from 36.

Heath Bell (91): His season imploded from the start. Throughout three demotions from the closer position in Miami, he blew eight saves and finished with ERA greater than 5.00.

Josh Beckett (96): A loser of 11 games in Boston before being dealt to the Dodgers, and finished with an ERA of 4.65.

Group 3—Come up short: Part of the game is that there’s always a guy on your heels, ready for his opportunity to breakthrough. It doesn’t always mean that one player had a bad effort, because none of the players in the group did. But either they didn’t have quite the same impact on 2012 as they did on 2011, or they were simply victims of other players moving into the elite.

Jeremy Hellickson (95): The 2011 Rookie of the Year still posted a top 10 ERA, but his wins (10) and innings (177) regressed.

Shane Victorino (68): He swiped a career high 39 bases, but his range in the field and his batting average lowered as well.

Alex Avila (72): He came down from the Silver Slugger-winning season in 2011, and was limited to 116 games due to injury.

Carlos Santana (73): His average picked up to .252, but his power numbers dropped across the board (27 doubles to 27, 27 homers to 18).

Mike Napoli (76):  Power numbers stayed strong, but his average dipped down to .227 and only nine doubles.

John Axford (79): A year after winning the Rolaids Reliever of the Year honor, his era rose nearly three runs, and he lost the closer job early in the season, but regained it later.

Jonny Venters (81): High usage over his first two seasons caught up with him last year, and he eventually landed on the disabled list. But had a strong second half (1.71 ERA) that shows promise for 2013.

Hunter Pence (83): His average fell from .314 in 2011 to .253 in 2012, including batting only .219 after a deadline trade to the San Francisco Giants.

Nick Markakis (97): Two stints on the DL kept him out for much of the Orioles run last year, but he still hit .298 and drove in 54.

Tyler Clippard (98): He had a solid year (32 saves), but perhaps was a bit over exposed due to injuries in the Nationals bullpen.

 

How’s it going to play out this year? Find out starting tomorrow, and talk it early and often with me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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Spring Training is bit under a month away, yet there are still significant deals being inked around Major League Baseball. As I’ve said before here, this is the season where the in-between the lines deals get worked out; ones that can be very significant in the long run. Over the last few weeks, two contenders have gotten aggressive in doing just that, and banking their dollars on a few high risk/high reward elements.

The Washington Nationals have been the movers of the week, bringing back an MVP finalist, moving a big trade chip in Mike Morse as a result. That was expected, but was more of a shock was adding a big money closer to the mix as well, which really changes everything about a team that was already among the four or five best teams in baseball. Also, down in Texas a much heralded native son returns with something to prove….and a contract that demands it.

Here’s the updated MLB signing report, based from the original Top 75 Free Agent list.

LaRoche returned to DC out of necessity in some regards, but he also returns as a bonafide power boost to round out an impressive lineup.

LaRoche returned to DC out of necessity in some regards, but he also returns as a bonafide power boost to round out an impressive lineup.

7. Adam LaRoche—First Base, Resigned w/ Washington Nationals: 2 years/$24 million

This was a stalemate of a deal where the Nationals ultimately won out on both fronts. LaRoche was dead set on a three-year deal all winter, while the Nats put their foot in the ground on two years only. Ultimately, no team countered with a three year guarantee, and the Nats were the only show in town, so LaRoche returned to DC, to reap a generous deal on the heels of his 33 homer, 100 RBI breakout campaign. He landed a mutual option to extend for a third year, so if he keeps playing up to it, he’ll get what he was seeking.

11. Rafael Soriano—Pitcher, Signed w/ Washington Nationals: 2 years/$28 million

The now ex-Yankees closer took the risk of the offseason, walking away from a guaranteed $14 million per year in NY to test an uncertain free agent market. After a long while waiting on a calm pond of a market, he got the deal and the gig he was looking for. He becomes a bonus piece in the Nats pen that knocks everyone else down a slot in the pen, but very well could have been the final touch in making DC baseball’s most well-rounded club.

42. Lance Berkman—First Base, Signed w/ Texas Rangers: 1 year/$10 million

An interesting deal for the Rangers, who absolutely had to replace offense in their lineup after not resigning Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli, and trading off Michael Young,  in landing Berkman. After making only 97 plate appearances for the Cardinals in 2012 due to mixture of elbow and knee injuries, the Rangers made a very generous investment in one on the only power options left on the market, but are rolling the dice at investment they made at best he can recapture his 2011 form.

There are still deals to be inked and players to match with clubs. Follow me on Twitter in the meantime to get up to the moment word at @CheapSeatFan.

Of all the contenders entering this offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals were the most complete on what they would look like headed into the next campaign. While they are not concrete everywhere, there were very few questions about who would be representing the club where in 2013.

However, as is always the case, there is business handle and to move on from. The Cardinals came into the offseason with three succinct needs, and one of which they made a top priority to handle at the General Manager’s Winter Meetings: a left-handed reliever. However, two exiting Cardinals have provided much worth to the free agent market due to what they provided the Cardinals throughout their two consecutive pennant push seasons.

Here are the impacts of the departing, and currently incoming Cardinals’, and where the team stands both with, and without, them…

 

The Comings…

Randy Choate: Per the John Mozeliak, Choate was the club’s number one target on the free agent reliever market. The commitment he received in a form of a three year deal at age 37 shows how important he was to the team’s projection and needs. He’s one of the most successful left-handed specialists in the majors over the last two seasons, with lefties swinging to the tune of a .156 average versus him in 2012. He’s the essential matchup pitcher, totaling just less than 40 innings in 80 appearances last year.

Former Yankee, Ray, Dodger and Marlin Choate brings balance to the pen and new match up potential.

Former Yankee, D’iamondback, Ray, Dodger and Marlin Choate brings balance to the pen and new match up potential.

He’ll be called upon to be the matchup option that wasn’t available last season, and force Mike Matheny to put a pretty straight forward and predictable combination of Edward Mujica-Mitchell Boggs-Jason Motte (all right handers) against any batter that came up. Choate will be a strong matchup representative in a division with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Garrett Jones and the infamous Pedro Alvarez. Also, it lowers the boom on Marc Rzepcyzski, who is better used in early scenarios now and is better in situations where a right hander could be in the mix.

All in all, Choate gives the Cardinals a chance at a complete bullpen from day one for the first time in roughly two years.

 

The Goings…

Kyle Lohse: It’s been a surprisingly easy move on from the most dependable pitcher for the team over the last two years. He won 55 games in five years for the club, including an average year of 15-6, with a 3.11 ERA and 200 innings in 32 starts per season. That’s tough to replace, but also tough to pay as well.

The prime reason that Jake Westbrook’s option was activated and extended in September is the foregone conclusion that Lohse would not be able to fit into the team’s pay rate. He could be in line for a annual income in the neighborhood of $13-$15 million per year over five seasons. With the effort to resign Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter showing he could make a return to the rotation, as well a surplus of young starting arms on the verge of breaking through, taking the cheaper veteran option in Westbrook was the more positive spin in.

However, if the young arms don’t come through and either Carpenter or Jaime Garcia’s health re-emerge as issues, his departure could be the most impactful the team has felt in years.

Lance Berkman: After an unsteady year that featured several unsuccessful attempts to return from leg injuries, Berkman’s deal ended with no chance of a return. This is due to the emergence of Allen Craig and looming presences of Matt Adams as much as anything. Carlos Beltran showed that his centerfield days are over, so time share that was tough to fit Berkman/Craig/Beltran into last year still remains as a potential issue if he was retained.

Ultimately, that’s not a problem. The risk (and price) for Berkman are too high to be a bench-only/part time contributor in St. Louis. On the open market, he’s a prime DH candidate for any number of clubs, including a return to the now AL West inhabitants, the Houston Astros.

Kyle McClellan: After tearing his labrum and missing the majority of the season, the return of McClellan was already a foregone conclusion. The talent level of the bullpen rose significantly across the season, and combine in his raise due to via arbitration, and his non-tender was a foregone conclusion.

 

For more on the Cardinals winter of additions, subtractions and the unknown in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and the CHEAP SEATS column at The Sports Fan Journal.

In something that’s becoming a bit of a trend for the club, off the bench comes an impact player that’s upstaging the bigger name Birds around him. While it’s been over a year since  tore St. Louis Cardinals’ Spring Training in half and took his Major League expectations to a new level, but finally a year later, he’s getting a real chance to extend his impact in the big leagues.

Carpenter has taken his Major League opportunity by the throat thus far this season.

That long awaited impact made it’s dynamic debut, as he seemingly single-handedly drummed the  out of  on Sunday, with a 5 RBI performance that featured both a two-run triple and his first big league homer. Overall, he plated four hits in a dynamic fashion while filling in for a fifth game for first baseman , and keyed a 10-3 Cardinal win that sealed a third straight series win to open the year. While he has seized every bit of his recent opportunity, hitting .500 along with some strong glove work as well at his third position in the young season, his clear way into the lineup is coming to a close. Berkman isslated to return to the lineup after sitting out to nurse a calf injury, which begs the question: what to do with Carpenter now?

 

For more on the Cardinals’ newest impact bat from within, as well as some other words around the organization, check out the rest of this piece over in my column at St. Louis Sports 360: http://stlouissports360.com/carp-town-mark/

 

And for more on the league moment to moment, and my never ending struggle to make it from Breakfast to Lunch to Dinner, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.