Recently at a holiday Christmas party, I found myself in the midst of a heavyweight conversation with some baseball fans discussing the activity of the winter meetings. One of the gentleman mentioned to me that he was taking a trip to Los Vegas over Christmas week and wanted my “expert” opinion on some MLB Futures bets he should make on the 2015 season. We here at NatsGM fully condone gambling, primarily because it is fun and brings added interest to the game of baseball.
With this in mind, I did a Google search to find out what the current odds are to win the 2015 World Series and quickly found three sources, MyTopSportsBooks, ESPN.com, and Vegas Insider. I have provided the links here:
After examining the odds, these are my current 3 favorite wagers available as we near Christmas Day.
#1 Boston Red Sox 28:1 Bet On
The Red Sox suffered through a miserable 2014 season where virtually everything went wrong and the majority of their team underachieved statistically. However, just 14 months ago Boston was celebrating a World Series championship and appeared poised for a healthy run of success. Certainly Baltimore looks formitable and Toronto has improved this winter, but Tampa and New York do not appear strong at the moment. Boston has overhauled their offense this winter adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and upgraded their rotation by adding Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello.
If Boston can now use their surplus of prospects to acquire an Ace-level pitcher like Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann, the Red Sox could quickly be the best team in the American League. That feels like a good value at 28-1.
#2 New York Yankees 25:1 Bet Against
The Yankees will always be bet due to their passionate fan base and enormous payroll, but 2015 is shaping up to be another rebuilding year in the Bronx. Sure the additions of Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson improve the bullpen and Chase Headley improves third base, but with questions throughout the rotation and the infield, the Yankees feel like a .500 team if everything breaks right for them next year.
#3 Chicago White Sox 45:1 Bet On
Dear Priceline and William Shatner, please book me the next flight to Vegas to put my own money on this one – The White Sox are coming off a 73 win season and have struggled in recent years, but Chicago’s offseason has upgraded their many areas of weakness this winter. Acquiring Samardzija thoroughly improves the starting rotation, and the signings of Zach Duke and David Robertson should solidify the bullpen.If Adam LaRoche can replace Paul Konerko in the lineup and Avisail Garcia can have a breakout season, the White Sox should score plenty of runs. In addition, Chicago has top pitching prospects Carlos Rodon and Francellis Montas near major league ready, and they should bolster the pitching staff midseason.
Certainly improving from 73 wins to the playoffs is extremely difficult, but the talent and potential is there for a magical season on the south side of Chicago.
Wednesday afternoon the Washington Nationals participated in a true blockbuster trade, as Wil Myers headlined a 3-team 11 player swap bringing RHP Joe Ross and SS Trea Turner to Washington. As has become customary after new prospects arrive in Washington, I reached out to some of the top prospect evaluators on the web to receive some exclusive scouting reports for NatsGM. In particular, I was curious about Turner and his ability to hit, currently the biggest weakness in his game.
With this question in mind, I contacted former guest on THE NatsGM Show and noted hitting guru Ryan Parker from Baseball Prospectus, to get his thoughts on Turner’s swing and long-term potential. Fortunately Ryan was familiar with his swing and provided me these scouting notes on Trea Turner.
“Trea’s swing is in a state of flux but in the best way. Here are a couple swings from Trea in college. There are a couple things that jump out to me. On the plus side I love how slow and smooth everything is. It’s easy for athletes like Trea to speed up when necessary but the hard part can be getting guys like him to be slow and fluid. His lower body ends up a bit wide but everything is moving nicely. I really dig how his backside moves.”
“His hands start high and on the borderline of showing bat wrap. His path is smooth but it’s a tad long. He is making contact with the ball with his left arm far out in front of his body and already nearly at full extension. At the college level he could get away with this thanks to some impressive batspeed and flexibility.”
“In pro ball he’s tightened everything up. Hands start lower and have a shorter path and his stride is not the full batters’ box length it was in college. His lower body still works very slow and smooth. His upper body doesn’t quite have that fluid natural rhythm he had it college but it’s a better pattern.”
“Trea has shown a great ability to make changes in his swing without wrecking his internal timing (coordinating when different body parts move vs getting the bat on the ball— that’s external timing). His overall pattern is more efficient than in college but it’s not as smooth as repeatable yet. When he starts to blend the “flow” of his college swing with the improved mechanics at the pro level it’s going to be really fun.”
“Here’s the sparknotes of why I like Trea. He’s got 80 speed with a swing that’s built to hit and not just slap the ball around. Beating out infield singles is good. Stretching singles into doubles better. Making every ball in the gap a triples threat is the best. Enjoy the Trea-ples Nats fans!”
Wednesday afternoon the Nationals participated in one of the bigger trades in recent memory, a 3-team deal with San Diego and Tampa Bay involving 11 players, highlighted by Wil Myers going to the Padres. In this swap Washington shipped prospects OF Steven Souza Jr. and LHP Travis Ott to Tampa Bay in exchange for RHP Joe Ross and a Player To Be Named Later – expected to be SS Trea Turner.
Best known to Nationals’ fans as the man who caught the final out in Jordan Zimmermann’s No-Hitter this season, Steven Souza has diligently developed from a raw 3rd round pick into a major league player. Souza has taken many seasons to turn his outstanding athleticism and baseball tools into production on the field, finally breaking out in 2013 at Harrisburg. With above-average speed and a plus arm, Souza can play both outfield corner positions well and could handle center field in a pinch. However, he profiles best in right field.
Offensively Souza has excellent bat speed and a short, compact swing for a large man, which translates to plus raw power to all fields. He shows a knack for working the count, which allows him to draw his share of walks but conversely causes him to strikeout a healthy amount as well. I foresee Souza to be a below-average hitter in the .250-.270 range, but his ability to make hard contact should produce above-average on-base and slugging numbers. Souza will turn 26 next April, but this late-blooming slugger should carve out a quality career as a league-average corner outfielder beginning in 2015.
Travis Ott was the Nationals 25th round pick in the 2013 draft from a somewhat nearby Shippensburg, PA high school. Ott is a lanky 6-4 170lbs left-handed pitcher who flashes a high-80s fastball and the potential for an average curveball and changeup. Ott is raw but possesses a loose arm and projects as a possible back-end starter at the major league level. He was a tremendous value as a late Day 3 selection and the Nationals scouting and development staff should be commended for finding this gem.
In return for these two players, Washington receives right-handed starting pitching prospect Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner. Ross, San Diego’s 1st round pick in 2011, is a well-built 6-4 210lbs right-hander with an ideal pitchers frame. The brother of San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross, 21-year-old Joe features a quality three pitch mix including a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball is his best current pitch, sitting 91-95mph with some arm-side wiggle and can reach 97mph. The slider also shows above-average potential at 84-86mph with sharp tilt and his mid-80s changeup is presently an average pitch thrown with good arm speed and deception.
Ross received a brief cameo at Double-A late in 2014 after an impressive effort early in the year in the California League, a notorious hitters’ league. He should spend the majority of his age-22 season at Double-A and could reach the major leagues late in 2016. If he can improve his slider and refine his overall game, Ross has a ceiling as a #3 starting pitcher.
Currently the Player To Be Named Later in this trade, Trea Turner was the Padres 1st round pick last summer, 13th overall, after a distinguished three year career at North Carolina State. I scouted Turner last spring when he played a weekend series at the University of Maryland and here were my notes last March:
“An obviously toolsy athlete with elite speed, Turner physically looks the part of a top draft prospect, with a solid frame with some projection remaining. Offensively Turner shows a good eye at the plate, with a plan and approach during his at-bats. His swing shows healthy bat speed and he has good balance at the plate, getting his front foot down quickly and quietly. Although not known for his power, he even hit a home run this weekend, though he will not hit for much power as a professional. His game will be based upon gap power and utilizing his speed at the top of the lineup.
Defensively Turner has a surprisingly quiet weekend, but did make an athletic play to his right deep in the hole which caught my eye. He is clearly athletic enough to play shortstop in the majors, but does not flash the monster throwing arm expected from that position.”
The 21-year-old Turner will find himself in an awkward position to begin 2015, as he will be playing for San Diego awaiting his arrival in Washington next summer when the trade can become official. Turner will likely start at High-A Potomac once he is a member of the Nationals and could arrive in the majors late in 2016. With potential to be an above-average defensive shortstop with a league average bat, Turner has the ceiling of a league-average or slightly better major league player.
This trade from Washington’s perspective is intriguing on a number of levels, as it is extremely rare to see a “prospects for prospects” trade in baseball, along with a Player To Be Named Later who will not arrive for six months. It is also uncommon to see a major league ready right-handed hitting power hitter with six years of control traded in this environment, as they seem more coveted than turkeys at Thanksgiving.
Souza is a quality prospect and terrific testament to the Nats’ development staff and Ott has some interesting potential, but the opportunity to acquire Ross and Turner for these two individuals is a swap the Nationals have to make. Parting with Souza, Washington’s minor league hitter of the year, is difficult, but his opportunity for playing time was blocked due to the presence of Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth for the next three seasons. Add in the fact that Michael Taylor appears to be the future in center field starting in 2016, Souza was an obvious trade candidate.
Therefore considering the position the front office was in, Washington did well to receive a possible #3/4 starting pitcher who has already reached Double-A, along with the top collegiate middle infield prospect in this past draft. Ross represents an outstanding trade piece if Mike Rizzo wishes to trade for a second baseman or provides a solid backup plan if Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister depart next winter. Furthermore, Turner gives the Nationals their shortstop of the future if they are unable to re-sign Ian Desmond and gives the front office excellent minor league middle infield depth along with Wilmer Difo and the newly-acquired Chris Bostick.
This swap attempts to provide answers to some long-term question marks throughout the organization while giving the front office additional options. In this deal Washington traded from two areas of organizational depth, corner outfielders and low level pitching, to acquire prospects in greater places of need, middle infield and upper level starting pitching. Tampa Bay will be rightfully questioned for this trade, as on the surface Washington received significantly more talent and potential than they gave up.
Last Friday the Washington Nationals made their first significant transaction of the offseason, sending LHP Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for prospects Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos. Since these players are not household names yet, I reached out to some industry heavyweights to share their thoughts on Bostick and De Los Santos. Thankfully a few responded with some exclusive scouting reports for both players to help introduce them to Washington.
“Both of the guys the Nationals got back for Ross Detwiler are decent prospects. I didn’t have either on the Rangers Top 20 list I wrote for MLBPipeline.com, though Chris Bostick was on there earlier during the season. For me, he’s the better of the two guys. Bostick is an offensive-minded second baseman with good pop for a middle infielder. He draws some walks and has the speed to steal a few bases, though he’s going to need to make more contact as he moves up the ladder. The worry with Bostick is that his hands and arm are below average, so he might be adequate at best at second base and can’t really be a utilityman.” –> Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com
“Average across the board, plays a decent second base and a little pop in the bat. Intriguing player with average bat speed and plays an average defense at second base. Likely not an impact guy, but could potentially provide some 2nd division ability if he can cut down on some of the strikeouts. He’s not athletic enough to provide Utility options, although he could certainly play the OF some.” -> Tucker Blair, Baseball Prospectus
“Bostick is a really athletic kid who has role 5; MLB regular upside. After seeing a few games of Bostick, I really liked his approach and plan at the plate and contact skills. He projects to hit in average to solid average range and has sneaky gap-to-gap power. At 2B, his glove and arm work well enough to where he could play average defense there at the big league level. I think this is a really nice trade for the Nationals, getting potentially two big league caliber players.” -> C.J. Wittmann Jr., Baseball Prospectus
Abel De Los Santos
“Abel de los Santos put up nice numbers this year as a reliever in Class A, but he doesn’t really have a plus pitch to hang his hat on. He throws strikes with his fastball and slider and keeps the ball down in the strike zone but I don’t see him becoming more than a middle reliever.” -> Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com
“De Los Santos is an average sized right-hander with a loose arm and he can generate mid-90s velocity. The looseness of the arm causes him to get offline and the command varies. If he straightens out the command issues then we could looking at a MLB reliever profile.” -> C.J. Wittmann Jr., Baseball Prospectus