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My 2018 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

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Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Hi there.  Its time to write about the “silly season” of baseball.   Its my annual awards predictor piece.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  Important note: This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go, it is how I think the current electorate will vote …  though I do tend to believe that the MVP award in particular is not just about naming the WAR leader in the league.  And I also tend to favor giving a pitcher the Cy Young and a non-pitcher the MVP.  But feel free to discuss in the comments if you think i’m wrong.  I can be argumentative either way :-)

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Betts
  • NL MVP: Yelich
  • AL Cy Young: Snell
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer
  • AL Rookie: Ohtani
  • NL Rookie: Acuna
  • AL Manager: Melvin (Oakland)
  • NL Manager: Snitker (Atlanta)

Prediction Results?  2 for 2.


 

Discussion/Reasoning

  • AL MVP: Mookie Betts is the best player on the best team, always a good place to start with MVP thoughts.  Yes, once again Mike Trout is having a phenomenal year, and once again he toils on the West Coast and for a team out of the playoff race.  I’m eternally sympathetic to those who think MVP should not include team performance … and i’m perennially finding myself agreeing with “old school” sentiments that ask a simple question; how can you be the most valuable player when your team isn’t a factor for most of the year.   Also in the mix would be Betts’ teammate J.D. Ramirez, the Oakland phenomenon Matt Chapman, Houston WAR leader Alex Bregman, and Cleveland stars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  My personal hedge statement here: I’d be rather surprised if Betts did not win.
  • NL MVP: Christian Yelich has really exploded late in the season to put his name into this discussion.  But the question may end up being this: is this one of those weird years where no dominant, obvious position player candidate steps up and thus the award goes to a pitcher?  I’d suggest this might be possible … except that the top 3-4 pitching candidates all play for non-playoff teams.  And that doesn’t match the narrative.  I’m going to go with Yelich, then the top NL pitchers right behind him, with perhaps Javier Baez,  Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman getting some votes as their respective “best player on a playoff team” status.  Coincidentally … did you know that Anthony Rendon is 2nd in the NL in fWAR behind Yelich?  I certainly didn’t.  Personal Hedge statement: I’d still be shocked if a pitcher for a non-playoff team won here, and would find it hard to vote for one of these other position players mentioned.
  • AL Cy Young: Blake Snell.   This might be an interesting case of whether you’re wow’d by conventional stats or not.  Snell has a sub 2.00 ERA, but he’s doing it thanks to a ridiculously low BABIP, which drags down is fWAR and puts him well down the league leader list.  Meanwhile in bWAR … he’s the top AL pitcher, ahead of his competition for this award.  I think the fact that he’s put up the numbers that he has playing in the AL East and having fully 25% of his starts this year come against Boston and the Yankees is pretty amazing.  I’d vote Snell.  Also in the mix here: Verlander, Cole, Sale, Kluber, Bauer.  Personal Hedge: wouldn’t be surprised if this went to Verlander or Sale instead.
  • NL Cy Young.  Max Scherzer  Yes i’m convinced that his broaching the 300k mark put him over the top, despite the unbelievable season that Jacob deGrom had.  I could be wrong; maybe the electorate has now advanced to the point where they recognize that a guy who finished 10-9 was indeed the best pitcher of the year.  We’ll see.  Either way, I sense these guys go 1-2.  After them, look for Aaron Nola Kyle Freeland, and Patrick Corbin.  Personal Hedge: deGrom is getting enough “holy cow look at this season” buzz that it wouldn’t really surprise me if he won.  And he’d be completely deserving.  Btw, as the off-season narratives grew, I became less and less convinced I had this one right.  Writing this ahead of the awards, I think deGrom wins.
  • AL Rookie: Shohei Ohtani: it shouldn’t be close honestly.  He had a 4.0 WAR season, clubbing more than 20 homers and looking pretty darn solid on the mound before the inevitable elbow injury derailed his season and cost him 60 games or so.   Only Gleybar Torres is close; this should be a unanimous vote and I hope Ohtani comes back from injury sooner than later.  Personal Hedge: a vote against Ohtani is really a bad one honestly.
  • NL Rookie: Ronald Acuna; its Acuna or Juan Soto, both of whom had historic seasons at a young age.   Acuna’s monster September pushes him over the top, and his stat line for the season is just slightly better than Soto’s, despite the missed time.  By narrative, Soto would have this hands-down though; he advanced from Low-A to putting up a 4-win season as a 19yr old, has had perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best teen-aged season in the long history of our game, and might have been in the MVP race had the Nats won the division.  Hedge: I begrudgingly have to admit that Acuna is slightly better, and rookie status isn’t given context (ie, its not part of the equation that Soto started the year in Low-A and Acuna was in AAA and a known #1 overall prospect).
  • AL Manager: hard not to say that Bob Melvin‘s performance taking an expected also-ran to nearly 100 wins isn’t the Mgr of the year.  He’s on his like 18th starter of the year, he’s winning with a bunch of non-prospects, he’s turned trash into treasure (Blake Treinen).
  • NL Manager: Brian Snitker, who took the NL east by 8 games in a complete surprise based on nearly every pundit’s pre-season predictions.  No other NL playoff team was really this big of a “surprise” so he gets it.

 


Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing).  Finalists announced 11/4/18.

My prediction results: tbd

Links to other awards that I didn’t predict this year (again, updated post-publishing as they’re announced)

Other links to awards worth noting


 

Who are the Nats targeting at #18 plus Mock Draft review of top5 picks

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Lots of pundits think the Nats are taking Fedde at #18.  Photo via chicagonow.com

Lots of pundits think the Nats are taking Fedde at #18. Photo via chicagonow.com

The annual amateur/Rule-4 draft is upon us.  Wendy Thurm posted a nice overview of the festivities, kicking off today, June 5th.   Who is going at the top, and who do we think the Nats are going to take with their first round draft pick (#18 overall?)

Lets check in with some experts and pundits.  Unlike in years past, there’s no real consensus #1 overall pick this year thanks to a host of factors.  But the top-5 is relatively consistent no matter who the pundit.  We’ll talk about predictions for the first few picks plus who they think the Nats will end up with.  (Link to the draft order for the first few rounds to show all the missing picks and supplemental additions from MLB.com).  Note that all the Keith Law and Jim Bowden links are ESPN insider.  Profiles on the frequent top-5 picks and the names being associated with the Nats potential picks are below the list of pundit’s mock drafts:

  • MLBDraftInsider’s Chris Crawford has done a host of Mock Drafts this spring (the sixth version dated 5/28/14 and the “near final” version on 6/2/14, his penultimate mock on 6/3/14, his “really final” board on 6/4/14 and his “final mock ever” on 6/5/14)  and in his last mock has come down on the Nats taking Hoffman. Predicted top 5 in final mock: Aiken, Rodon, Nola, Conforto, Gordon.  Same movements that Law is projecting at the final minute.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law put out his first mock draft on 5/16/14, his second on 5/27/14, his third on 6/4/14 and his final/last on 6/5/14 and had the Nats on Erick Fedde, calling it a “lock” in the industry.  Top 5 in the latest mock: Aiken, Rodon, Nola, Conforto, Gordon (only list on here without Kolek in top 5).
  • MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo posted a mock on 5/16/14, another on 5/30/14.  One last one 6/5/14.  In his latest he went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon.  He has the Nats taking Jeff Hoffman, saying that it could come down to “financials” and who is willing to go over-slot.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis posted his latest mock on 5/23/14 and one last one 6/5/14.   He went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Gordon, Kolek.  He has the Nats on Hoffman as well, but in the description basically says he says Hoffman could go top 10 and/or the Nats could take Fedde.
  • MinorLeagueBall’s Matt Garrioch posted his first mock draft early (3/10/14), his second on 5/19/14.  His top 5: Rodon, Kolek, Aiken, Jackson, Gordon.  He has the Nats on Kyle Schwarber.
  • ESPN’s Jim Bowden posted his Top-10 picks on 5/28/14, trying to think like the GM of each top-10 picking team, and went Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Jackson and wildcard Freeman.
  • BaseballAmerica’s John Manuel has posted mock drafts on 5/9/14, 5/16/14 and v3.0 on 5/25/14 and his final the day of the draft 6/5/14.  His top 5 in his most recent mock: Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Conforto, Gordon, with the Nats on Fedde.
  • GradingontheCurve’s Shaun Kernahan put up his mock draft 5/29/14.  He went Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Jackson, Gordon with the Nats on Gatewood.
  • MinorLeagueBall did a community Mock Draft on 5/30/14 (so, not full of expert opinion but interesting nonetheless to see what the crowd-sourced opinion on players is).   They went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon with the Nats taking Conforto.  Based on where Conforto is now being projected, there’s little chance he survives to #18.
  • BaseballInstinct’s Thomas Belmont has a top-200 draft board that isn’t a mock draft but lists top 5 as Aiken, Jackson, Kolek, Rodon and Toussant.  #18 is Grant Holmes, who I would be surprised if the Nats picked despite his pedigree.  He posted his mock draft on 6/4/14 where he follows his board, but I have a problem with his rankings considering what the professional reporters above are showing for top 5 and for the Nats.
  • PerfectGame’s Patrick Ebert posted a bunch of mock drafts; in his last one on 6/4/14, he went top-5 of Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon, Nola with the Nats on Bradley Zimmer.
  • Si.com’s Dave Perkin (a former professional scout who does some writing) posted a last-minute mock 6/5/14 online.    He goes Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Freeland, Jackson with the Nats on Beede.  I like this scenario.

How do I think the top 5 will go?  I like Aiken #1, Rodon to the Marlins (for the cuban-american/quick to the majors factors), then Kolek.  From there I have no idea; the Cubs by all accounts want a college arm but the next best one (Nola) isn’t worth the #4 spot.  Maybe they take a college bat (Conforto?), maybe they go BPA.  I’m guessing they bite the bullet and play the hand that they’ve been dealt and get Jackson or Gordon 4th, with the other going 5th.

ACTUAL DRAFT RESULTS: Aiken, Kolek, Rodon, Schwarber and Gordon.  Who was closest?   hard to tell; Schwarber came out of nowhere, and nearly everyone had Rodon before Kolek.

A quick overview of the names in discussion for top 5 selection:

  • Carlos Rodon: lhp from NC State; was the heavy consensus 1-1 overall pick all winter, but a rough spring and high pitch counts have dropped him on most people’s mock boards.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Brady Aiken is a prep lhp from San Diego who could be just the third high school pitcher ever picked #1 overall.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Keith Law scouting video.
  • Alex Jackson is a prep C also from the San Diego area.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Scouting video from Keith Law.
  • Tyler Kokek is a prep RHP from Texas with big time stuff; 100mph velocity on his fastball.  Scouting video from Keith Law.
  • Aaron Nola is a polished RHP friday starter for LSU who may not overpower you with velocity, but is a good pitcher.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Nick Gordon is a prep SS from Florida.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Michael Conforto is a junior OF from Oregon State.
  • Kyle Freelan is a lhp junior starter from Evansville.  He has good velocity, a good slider and great control.
  • Max Pentecost is a C from Kennesaw State who may be a stretch to go top-5 but should be top-10.
  • Touki Toussaint is a prep RHP from Miami, FL who is considered the second best prep RHP arm behind Kolek; he doesn’t quite have the velocity but he has better secondary stuff.

MLB.com reports that seven of these guys will be in-studio during the draft (all high schoolers), including a couple that may drop out of the first round (could be a bit embarassing for both them and MLB).

The names associated/predicted with the Nat’s #18 overall pick:

  • Erick Fedde was UNLV’s friday starter before going down with the dreaded Tommy John injury, diagnosed on 5/10/14.  Before his injury Fedde was projected in the same general area where the Nats are picking … which makes me question this prediction.  I could understand if Jeff Hoffman falls (a projected top -5 pick) to #18 grabbing him … but here I don’t know if I’d agree with picking a guy who you won’t see for a year and a half in uniform.  Though that being said, BA had Fedde ranked #8 in their top-200 pre-injury draft rankings, so perhaps grabbing him at #18 could be appropriate.
  • Tyler Beede: RHP Vanderbilt starter, who was a projected top-10 pick thanks to his amazing sophomore season (14-1, 2.32 ERA and a Golden Spikes finalist), before a rough season (7-7, 3.49 ERA and 92/41 k/BB in 91 innings) dropped his draft status.  He turned down a big bonus out of HS as a Toronto 1st rounder and that apparently (combined with unknown/unstated “make-up” issues) has him dropping fast.  Personally, I think he could be a steal at #18.  BA’s Aaron Fitt profiled Beede on 5/29/14.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Kyle Schwarber, C/1B power hitter from Indiana.  Listed as 6’0″, 240.  .340/.450/.623 on the year with 12 homers, 27/41 K/BB ratio in 215 ABs.  Great numbers if he’s really a catcher; some listed him as C, others at 1B.  Question: Big10 baseball isn’t exactly the SEC; are his stats padded thanks to playing a bunch of weak programs all year?
  • Jeff Hoffman was ECU’s friday starter and a consensus top-5 predicted pick (perhaps as high as #3) before being felled by TJ surgery (diagnosed on 5/8/14).  I think he’s a huge long-shot to make it to #18 because Toronto picks twice in the top 11 picks and it makes complete sense for them to use their 2nd pick to take Hoffman, save some slot money and basically temper their draft risk by virtue of having a second high pick.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Jacob Gatewood is a prep SS from Fresno, California who has a ton of power for a middle-infield bat (he won the prep home run derby held during last year’s all-star game festivities), even if he has to move off Short to 3B.  Gatewood gets some mention as a potential Nats pick, but this seems very much out of Mike Rizzo‘s style.  I cannot see the Nats taking a high school player unless someone falls to them unexpectedly.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Casey Gillaspie is a 1B from Wichita State with huge power numbers in 2014: .389/.520/.682 with 15 homers and 28/58 K/BB ratio in 211 ABs.  But, like with Schwarber, do you draft a guy who is already locked into first base?  Are his numbers a mirage thanks to the weaker Missouri Valley Conference?
  • Michael Chavis is a prep OF/3B from Georgia who Crawford has the Nats taking in his mock draft … but which I cannot believe will happen.  I just don’t see Rizzo taking a HS player, practically ever, unless there’s huge upside or value.
  • Brandon Finnegan: friday LHP starter for national seed TCU.  Undersized but a big-time arm.  Not the prototypical pick for Rizzo (he likes big, tall guys).
  • Grant Holmes is a big RHP prep pitcher from South Carolina who likely goes before #18, but if he’s sitting here he could get a look.
  • Bradley Zimmer is an OF with a brother already in pro ball from San Francisco.

Who do I like for the Nats at #18?  Honestly, I think picking TJ surviver Fedde at #18 might be an overdraft.  Now, if Hoffman fell there I’d grab him … but most pundits put Hoffman at #11 (Toronto’s extra 1st rounder).  I’d love to take a crack at Tyler Beede; he was so good last  year and I don’t think he’s forgotten how to pitch.  I like Finnegan too.  Maybe they go with a college bat.  But one thing seems certain; I just cannot see one of these HS names at #18.  I think they’ll take someone whose quicker to the majors.

ACTUAL DRAFT RESULTS: In what may have been the worst kept secret of the draft, Nats take Fedde.

 

CWS Field of 64 announced; teams and analysis

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CWS 2014 logo

Hot on the heels of our “local college team” post earlier this week, the full 64-team field has been announced.  (here’s a cool picture of all 64 uniforms in the tourney)

A preliminary announcement earlier on 5/26/14 stated the 16 regional hosts, each of whom is also automatically in the field.  The full field announcement came later in the day (link from College Baseball Blog and nicely formatted regional pairings from BaseballAmerica).  Oregon State got the #1 overall seed in the field of 64 and the Top 16 National seeds are:

  1. Oregon State: Pac-12 regular season champ (no tourney)
  2. Florida: SEC Eastern Division and overall regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up
  3. Virginia: 2nd ACC coastal division
  4. Indiana: Big-10 regular season and conference tourney champion.
  5. Florida State: ACC Atlantic division champion.
  6. Louisiana-Lafayette: Sun Belt regular season and conference tourney champion.
  7. TCU: Big-12 2nd place regular season, conference tournament Champion
  8. LSU: 2nd SEC Western division, conference tourney champion.
  9. Rice: Conference USA regular season and conference tourney champion.
  10. Cal Poly: Big West regular season champ (no tourney)
  11. Ole Miss: SEC Western Division champion
  12. Louisville: American Athletic Conference regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up
  13. Vanderbilt: 3rd SEC Western division
  14. South Carolina: 2nd SEC Eastern division,
  15. Miami: ACC Coastal Division and overall regular season champion,
  16. Oklahoma State: Big-12 regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up

By inferring the stated match-ups of regional hosts, we infer the 9th-16 national seeds from the regional hosts: The 16 regional hosts *usually* are also the top 16 seeds of the tournament, though there have been some deviations from this in the past.  However these seem accurate based on RPI rankings and typical top-25 votes.

Seeding Analysis: I thought Oregon State was slightly over-seeded at #1; I think you have to put Florida or Florida State there based on their record, Strength of Schedule (SoS) and the conferences they play in.   Otherwise in some form or fashion I think your top 8 seeds are correct.   Some are complaining about Indiana but their RPI and BA ranks are top 8 material and there’s no team seeded 9-12 that can make a real strong case to rise.   I think teams like Houston, Washington and Texas were pretty hard done by not getting at least a regional host/9-16 seed.  How does the Pac-12 get the #1 overall seed but its 2nd best team doesn’t even rate a top 16 seed?  Meanwhile Houston is 10th in RPI and #15 in the latest BA poll, and they have to go to LSU to compete against a championship-calibre team.

(Note: CollegeBaseballBlog is reviewing every regional this week ahead of the weekend games.  Click here for an example).

Easiest RegionalsMiami, who in their 42nd consecutive CWS appearance gets Ivy league champ Columbia as its regional THREE seed and a team with a losing record as its 4th seed.  Of course, Miami’s prize will be a super-regional matchup with my tournament favorite Florida and a likely trip home.   Oregon State’s regional looks incredibly straight forward; its #2 and #3 seeds are from smaller baseball conferences and its #2 seed (UNLV) just lost their friday starter (Erick Fedde) to Tommy John.   Indiana’s regional looks pretty easy all things considered, and Florida State’s regional isn’t difficult, with middling SEC team Alabama and small conference schools to contend with.

Hardest Regionals: LSU; they get Houston, a team that should have been seeded as well as conference champ Bryant.  Oklahoma State got no favors with Nebraska and traditional power Cal-State Fullerton.  Rice gets #12 RPI ranked Texas to go with Texas A&M.  Ole Miss gets 14th ranked and under-seeded Washington to go with 25th ranked Georgia Tech and a pesky 4th seed in Jacksonville State.   Florida has three teams ranked inside of the RPI #50 in its regional; no cupcakes here and it includes the best #4 seed in the tourney (College of Charleston with local favorite Taylor Clarke).  TCU gets baseball powerhouse Dallas Baptist to go along with Sam Houston State, a team ranked in and out of the top 25 all year.  Lastly Louisville has a regional that looks like a fantastic basketball tournament; they have Kentucky, Kansas and Kent State.  Kentucky and Kansas were in the top 25 as recently as earlier this month and this could be a very competitive regional.

Snubs: West Virginia was the highest RPI ranked team left out (#38) but that was mostly on their SoS; they were barely a .500 team overall and were just 9-14 in divisional play.  Next in RPI rankings missing out were Mercer (#46), UCF (#48), and UC Santa Barbara (#50).  Central Florida likely was the “last team out” and Clemson/UC Irvine were the “last teams in.”  Duke may feel a bit unfairly done by; they finished ahead of two other NCAA teams in the conference standings.  CAA champ William & Mary just didn’t have the SOS to get in after losing the conference tournament.   Wright State won its conference going 25-4 in division only to lose the tournamnet to the team that finished dead last in conference play (Youngstown State).

(Links to other analysis from CollegeBaseballDaily blog, BaseballAmerica cool facts and tidbits, and BaseballAmerica field of 64 analysis by Aaron Fitt).

Local Rooting Interests: #3 overall seed and regional host UVA.  Liberty (#3 seed in Charlottesville region), Old Dominion (#3 seed in South Carolina’s region), George Mason (#4 seed in Rice’s regional), and U of Maryland (#2 seed in South Carolina region).  Tough matchup for Liberty.  Maryland returns to the tournament for the first time in 43 years, an amazing fact.  George Mason not only has to travel to Dallas, but they get two top 12 ranked teams in Rice and Texas.  Its hard to envision any of these teams besides host UVA advancing.

Big-time draft prospects to watch: Many of the biggest names in the upcoming draft failed to make the tourney (Carlos RodonBradley ZimmerSean Newcomb and Jeff Hoffman).  But you will have:

  • Aaron Nola, LSU’s friday night starter for the 2nd year running
  • Max Pentecost catches for Kennesaw State.
  • Michael Conforto, an OF with #1 seeded Oregon State
  • Brandon Finnegan, TCU’s #1 starter (a lefty who may be in Washington’s sights if he drops to #18 in the draft)
  • Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt’s #1 starter, who was a first rounder in 2011 out of HS but who failed to sign and has purported “make-up” issues (though finding links to whatever his transgressions may be are difficult)
  • Kyle Schwarber, Indiana’s backstop
  • Erick Fedde‘s team (UNLV) is in the tourney but he isn’t; he had Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks back.  Remember this name; more than one pundit has the Nats drafting him in 2 weeks time.
  • UVA has three 1st-2nd rounders of note as discussed here frequently: Derek FisherMike Papi and Nick Howard.

See more of the guys in play by scanning down MLBdraftInsider’s latest mock draft.  And mlb.com posted its link to the Tourney teeming with talent.

Regionals run from Friday 5/30/14 to Monday June 2nd (if needed).

My Regional winner predictions: I’ll go chalk with national seeds 1-8.  After that most of the 9-16 seeds could be in trouble:

  • I think Texas beats out perennially over-ranked #9 Rice.
  • I think #10 Cal Poly doesn’t have the SoS to compete with either Arizona State or Pepperdine and will get beat.
  • I like Washington over #11 Ole Miss.
  • I think Kentucky can outlast #12 Louisville.
  • I think #16 Oklahoma State could be in trouble with Cal State Fullerton looming as a pretty tough #3 seed.
  • I worry about small-conference #6 Louisiana-Lafayette’s lofty ranking (they’re #1 in the final BA poll) but they got a pretty easy regional.
  • Despite Houston’s pedigre I don’t think they can beat out #8 LSU, and someone has to go through Aaron Nola.  And despite some complaints with #4 Indiana’s seeding their bracket is pretty easy.

Other pundit regional predictions: CollegeBaseballBlog and MinorLeagueBall/Chris Slade.

But no matter what happens, I hope they bring along the “Bat Dog” for one of the regionals :-)


Useful College Baseball links to use: BaseballAmerica, and their top-25 lists.  d1baseball.com is fantastic and is the best place to get updated information on day-to-day data, standings, and tournament results.  PerfectGame.org has the best data on college players in their vast prep database.  Warrennolan.com has the best guesses on college baseball RPIs.  NCBWA does top-30 polls and other analysis.