Hi folks, This week's Starting 9 is on MLB's first-half surprises. It's up on the baseball page now. Let's start the chat.
Should we be close to hitting the panic button on Joe Mauer? Around .300 and only 3 HR's? What gives?
Beau, Unless Joe Mauer is in traction with back problems, I'd never hit the panic button on him. I'm sure he's been affected by the new ballpark, and last year's power surge was a bit of an aberration. When a catcher is "only" hitting .300, is that a reason to panic?
Hey Jerry, is it time for the Rays to trade Upton? He hasn't lived up to his potential and seems to lack the motivation. New change of scenery could do him some good? What if the Rays made a run at Lee? They could throw in Upton and dip a little into their system to get that No. 1 starter they lack. Their playoff outlook and subsequent success in them would improve vastly.
Matt, It's probably time for a change of scenery for B.J. Upton. But he's still just 25 years old, and I'm sure the Rays are wary that something will click and he'll have a breakthrough somewhere else. And if Upton is always having motivational issues in Tampa, how is he going to fare in a big market with a tougher media presence?
No Alex Rios on your Surprise List? Could you just not find a category?
Dennis, Alex Rios has been a very positive story in Chicago. But the guy is in the middle of a seven-year, $70 million contract, so it's not as if the White Sox plucked him off the scrap heap. He's just living up to the potential he had all along.
Has anybody made any sense of the Russel Branyon trade yet? I love Jacky Z, but I can't think of a single good reasont to trade prospects (albeit, not great ones) for an aging first baseman w/ a bad back on a 1 year contract.
Mike, The Mariners really liked Branyan last year, he's inexpensive, they didn't have to give up much for him, and they felt like they needed some kind of power presence in the middle of that lineup just so everybody else on the team didn't have to live through 90 more games of lifeless, disheartening baseball. It was unexpected, sure, but it's not as if he's blocking a really good prospect.
How does San Diego sound as a landing spot for Upton? Pads could deal from their bullpen.
Teddy, I haven't heard any B.J. to the Padres speculation, but I can think of a lot worse landing spots for him. That seems like a nice place for him to jumpstart his career, and San Diego does have some young pitching depth to play with.
Yadier Molina starting the ASG? Really, fans? I know he plays good defense but he has the worst OPS of any catchers that qualify. Surely his D doesn't make up for THAT. What say you JC?
Josh, It's been an awful year for NL catchers. In my Starting 9 today I mention Miguel Olivo of the Rockies. If you go strictly by performance, he's the guy who deserves to start behind the plate for the NL.
Could the Phillies move Ibanez to bolster bench and pitching with promoting Dom Brown in mind?
Caleb, I don't think there's much of a market out there for Ibanez. Too much money, aging guy, too little production at this point. Sorry.
Jerry, do you think players are more reluctant than ever to participate in the HR Derby because they believe it will hurt their swing? There are a few examples of players falling off after an impressive HR Derby. I know it's for the fans, but it seems like as a player, the smart thing to do is pass on the derby. What does Jerry Crasnick think??
Chet, Some guys are wary that it might mess up their swing -- a la Bobby Abreu. And some guys are probably nervous about going out there in front of 50,000 people and putting up a doughnut.
Can we give a quick shout out to the College World Series Champion South Carolina Gamecocks! Congrats on their first title!
Matt, Sure, I'm up for it. Congratulations to the Gamecocks. And how about the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier? He was really into it, wasn't he?
What are the chances Boesch keeps it up in Detroit? Not necessarily where he is now, but as a .300/30 hr/ 80-90 rbi type guy every year?
Adam, I'd like to see him go around the league a couple of times before I'm sold. He's not the most patient hitter in the world, and even though he's shortened up his swing, he's a pretty big dude with some holes that can be exploited. I can go with the 30 homer, 90-RBI part, but I think he's more of a .260-.270 hitter than a .300 hitter.
The Rockies are a game away from sweeping the NL West leading Pads. Could this be the beginning of their summer charge to make the playoffs?
Drew, I picked the Rockies as my preseason World Series winners, so I've been waiting for them to get going. The Tulo injury definitely hurts, but the depth of talent in that organization should allow them to make a run in the second half. They need a couple of starters to step up and take some heat off Ubaldo Jimenez, though.
Brennan Boesch reminds you most of (insert name of other major leaguer here).
Jim C., Good question. How about "hopefully not Kevin Maas"? Do any other Boesch-o-philes out there have a suggestion?
Quick odds on possible landing spots for Lee? Who's the Crasnick favorite to bring him in? And who do you think SHOULD go after him that won't?
Mike, I'm with everybody else, I guess: The Mets and Twins seem like the teams with the greatest sense of urgency to try to land him before the deadline. I can see the Yankees and Cubs jumping in with fervor once he's a free agent in the offseason.
what on earth is wrong with tommy hanson?
Jordan, I asked an NL front office man that question this week. His answer: "Tommy Hanson is 23 years old." Clayton Kershaw has gone through some struggles, and even Tim Lincecum is going through it here and there this season. It's tough to ask a kid to come up at that age and be great every start. From what I understand, Hanson is healthy. He's just enduring the inevitable growing pains.
Why is it that Stan Musial is often overlooked by fans? He was hands down one of the greatest baseball players of all time
Jack, Stan the Man got overshadowed by a lot of other great players in his day, but baseball people know how truly great he was. His name came up in Philly this year when the Braves were in town, and Bobby Cox got this glow in his eyes talking about Stan. I think Cox might be the world's biggest Musial fan.
Why is Tiger's Boesch not listed on espn's stats for batting average, he has more at bats than Ian Kinsler, who is listed?
Richard, I don't know for sure, but I assume that it's based on plate appearances, not ABs. That's how the batting average race is calculated.
If the Mets can't land Cliff Lee, would it make sense for them to send a much smaller package to Seattle for Erik Bedard?
Rocco, The Mets have already had enough headaches with Oliver Perez and John Maine. They don't need to take a flyer on another injury guy like Bedard. If he comes to NY and gets hurt, Omar Minaya would get crucified by the press.
Will the White Sox go after Adam Dunn to give them that left handed bat that they desperately need?
Adrian, I'm not sure if it's Adam Dunn, but I'd be surprised to see the trade deadline pass without the White Sox doing something to upgrade that offense. No general manager in baseball gets a bigger thrill out of making a big deadline deal than Kenny Williams. (Just look back to the Peavy stunner last July).
Hey Jerry, feeling better about your White Sox win the AL Central prediction?
Patrick, Yes, I'm feeling better about it than when they were 9.5 games out and Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were at each others' throats. Is there a team in baseball that thrives on internal dissension more than the White Sox?
Are the Fish going to be buyers or sellers? Seems like Uggla or Ross would be on the block... but then again, they are only 7 games back and Loria seems pretty confident they are a playoff team.
Brodie, Well, if Jeffrey Loria believes that the manager was the problem, he should back it up and spend some money to upgrade the bullpen in the second half. Apparently that option wasn't high on his list during the offseason, when the Marlins actually could have done something about it.
How could you leave Adrian Beltre out of your surprises? He's batting .349 with a .561 sugging and has a legit shot at AL MVP the way he's been playing for the Red Sox.
Sprung, I mention Adrian Beltre at the top of the piece. Did he deserve his own category? Probably. But it's hard to make everybody happy when you only have room for nine.
What kind of impact do you believe Beltran will have on the Mets?
Tim, I think the Mets are planning to break Beltran in slowly and limit him to 5 games a week in center. He's such a great all-around player, he's bound to have an impact at the plate, on the bases and in the field. But I suspect he'll be tentative on that knee at the outset, and it might take him 2-3 weeks to really start hitting.
Prince. Traded by July 31 or in the offseason?
Eric, Judging from Doug Melvin's comments, I think Fielder is more of an offseason acquisition than a guy who gets moved in July.
The Reds are 1/2 game out of first place but their CF is hitting around .230. Could the Reds use some of their depth and trade for Upton? It seems like a more logical landing spot for him.
Mike, Cincinnati makes sense on some levels. The Reds have a pretty deep farm system, and Dusty Baker might be able to have a positive impact on Upton. The problem is, Upton's value is really low right now, with his lack-of-hustle issues and his .220 batting average. Tampa GM Andrew Friedman doesn't strike me as a "sell low" type of guy.
Bigger suprise this season? Brennan Boesch or Colby Lewis?
John, I'll go with Boesch. A lot of people thought Colby Lewis could have an impact on the Rangers' rotation. I don't think anybody figured Brennan Boesch would have a .609 slugging percentage in the middle of the Detroit batting order.
Jerry, Chipper, McCann, McLouth, Escobar, Diaz, Lowe, Jurrjens, and to some extent Tommy Hanson are all having down years and yet the Braves are leading a tough division. How is this happening and do you see Bobby Cox winning a manager of the year award in his final season?
Jeff, Martin Prado, Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus have really saved that offense. As for the Manager of the Year award, San Diego's Bud Black is the NL guy at the season's midpoint. If the Mets or Reds make the postseason, Jerry Manuel or Dusty Baker could creep into the conversation. And Coxy will be in the mix somewhere.
Do you see the Phillies making any moves before the trade deadline? With all these injuries they have right now, they gotta... right?
Matt, The Phils really got thrown for a loop by the Utley and Polanco injuries. I think Ruben Amaro had his eyes open for pitching help, but he never expected to be in the market for a hitter. Right now it's just a question of how long Utley and Polanco are going to be out. The Phillies know they can only tread water with Wilson Valdez, Juan Castro and Brian Bocock for so long.
Jerry, Just thought about it. Would the White Sox be able to put together a package for Prince Fielder? He gives them a lefty, power bat. He can play 1B or DH. Your thoughts? Thanks!
Brandon, The White Sox took a pretty good bite out of their depth last year with that Peavy trade. And what do you even make of Gordon Beckham right now? Is he a top prospect, does he need more seasoning in the minors, or was he a little overrated to begin with? Kenny Williams has a lot of ingenuity, but I can't figure out how he could put together a package for Prince Fielder right now.
Instead of Jamie Moyer, how about Carlos Silva of the Cubs for surprise career revival (pitcher)? 8-2 with a 3.01 ERA?
Jim, Carlos Silva is a good one as well. Since I already mentioned him in one or two recent Starting 9s, I thought I'd give a shout-out to the ageless Jamie Moyer.
It's close enough to July 1st.. Which of the division leaders right now (NYY, MIN, TEX, ATL, STL, SD) do you predict will not win their division?
Steve, I love what the Padres have done, but I just don't see how they're going to hold up without an addition or two to that lineup. And Atlanta isn't going to win that division without a serious challenge from the Phillies and (it appears) the Mets.
Are the rumors true that the Cardinals proposed a trade for Cliff Lee?
JJ, I asked around a little today, and I don't think the Cardinals are a fit for Cliff Lee. They have no plans to trade Shelby Miller, and with Pujols' contract situation moving closer to the front burner, they have some other very pressing issues to confront.
With all these glaring injuries to the Red Sox, do you forsee this "glue & rubber bands" approach by management keeping the Sox in second place behind the Yankees. Or, do you think Theo goes out at the deadline and tries to fill-in many of these personel gaps?
Brendan, As Theo Epstein has indicated, I think the Red Sox will hold off as long as they can and try to make do with what they have. Is Ty Wigginton really an upgrade over Bill Hall at second base? There might come a point where Epstein has to pull the trigger, but it won't be until after the All-Star break.
When you talk about "asking around" about players or situtations etc. What does that mean? Are you calling a buddy that works w/ the organization? Are you cold-calling the team somehow? It would interesting to find out what goes on with something like that..
Steve, Just the usual suspects: Front office people, scouts, agents, etc. People tell people things, and they tell other people things.
Who's going to start the all star game for the NL? It has to be Jimenez, right? Or will Manual be a homer and start Halladay?
Will, I'm not sure how the workloads will fall heading into the All-Star Game. If Halladay starts, it's more of a "lifetime achievement" thing. Based on this year, Jimenez obviously deserves to start. Personally, I don't think the identity of the starting pitcher is a huge deal. They'll both appear in the game.
Come on dude, talk some Orioles! I know there arent many reasons to but, do you think Buck is the right "fit" for the Orioles right now? Or should we wait till end the of year to see who else might be out there?
Rob, Buck Showalter is a very passionate guy, extremely organized, and about as smart a baseball guy as I've ever come across. I think he'd be a good fit in Baltimore. But I know Buck is sensitive to Juan Samuel getting a fair shake with the Orioles. I'm not sure what's to be gained from the O's making a move immediately. At this point, they might as well wait and see how the club responds to Samuel.
Thanks for the emails, everybody. I appreciate the responses. Let's do it again next week.