Get Me Outta Here – 2016 Change of Scenery Candidates

The historic World Series Game 7 is now completely in the rearview mirror and front office personnel has turned their attention toward the forthcoming offseason.  Executives are scouring other rosters and free agent lists in search of players who could breakout if they played in a new environment.  Perhaps it is a former top prospect who has not yet seen his talent emerge or a journeyman player who fits perfectly elsewhere.

A prime example of this would be Arizona 2B Jean Segura, who was involved in a somewhat overlooked swap last winter before hitting .319/.368/.499 for the Diamondbacks in 2016.  An all-star in 2013, Segura struggled through two subpar seasons with Milwaukee before rebounding in Arizona last year.

After examining each team’s roster, here are five ideal Change of Scenery candidates this winter.

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Yasiel Puig                                         OF          Los Angeles Dodgers

Remember back to 2014 when Meghan Trainor was “All About That Bass” and Yasiel Puig was a 23-year-old 2nd-year outfielder coming off a season where he hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 home runs?  Only 24 months have passed and ever since Puig has scuffled through two injury-riddled, mediocre seasons, including a demotion to the minors last summer.  Still only 25-years-old, Puig is a possible middle-of-the-order hitter capable of playing all three outfield positions and under contract through 2019.

There are some injury issues and questions (right or wrong) surrounding his character, but there are few players in the majors with his talent level.  If he lands in the right situation and stays healthy for 140+ games, he has All-Star, 20-20 potential.

Trevor Rosenthal                             RHP        St. Louis Cardinals

Much like his teammates in St. Louis, Rosenthal struggled through a disappointing, injury-plagued 2016, posting a 4.46 ERA, 3.72 FIP and 56 strikeouts against 29 walks in only 40.1 innings.  Prior to 2016, Rosenthal had established himself as one of the top relievers in the National League, with two consecutive seasons of 45+ saves and an all-star appearance in 2015.  St. Louis appears to be moving forward with Seung-hwan Oh as their closer plus Kevin Siegrist and Matthew Bowman working as the primary set-up men – perhaps they could seek to move Rosenthal and his projected $6.3 million salary this winter to shore up other roster weaknesses.

Jurickson Profar              SS/2B    Texas Rangers

Only 4 years ago, a then 19-year-old Jurickson Profar was the top prospect in baseball and was poised to be one of the top middle infielders in baseball for the rest of the decade.  Unfortunately a combination of injuries and the emergence of other players, Profar now finds himself about to hit salary arbitration with only 184 career major league games played.  The Rangers are well positioned in the infield with Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre for the foreseeable future, leaving Profar on the outside looking in.

Understandably the Rangers will be hesitant to trade Profar, as it would be selling low on a tremendously talented 23-year-old.  However, in the best interest of his development and long-term career, Texas should trade Profar this offseason to an organization that can provide him the playing time to blossom.

Shelby Miller                     RHP       Arizona Diamondbacks

After being the centerpiece in one of the most controversial trades in years last winter, Miller struggled through a nightmarish 2016 in Arizona, posting a 6.15 ERA and 1.673 WHIP over 101 innings pitched. However, prior to last year, Miller had posted three consecutive impressive seasons with 30+ starts each and an ERA south of 3.75.  Quite frankly, Miller had quietly emerged as one of the top young starters in the National League.

The Diamondbacks are likely to shake up their roster this winter with the arrival of a new front office, and trading Miller to give him a fresh start might be the best thing for the talented 26-year-old.

Michael A. Taylor            OF          Washington Nationals

Nationals CF Michael Taylor

Washington’s toolsy outfielder finds himself on this list because he has the defensive ability, speed and occasional home run power to be an asset to many teams, especially as part of a creative outfield platoon.  Taylor is an asset at all three outfield positions and owns 20 home run & 20 stolen base potential.  Unfortunately, it does not seem like an opportunity exists in D.C. for sufficient playing time, making him a potentially intriguing gamble and Change of Scenery candidate.

Will The Washington Nationals Offer Ben Revere Salary Arbitration?

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On Episode #80 of THE NatsGM Show, guest Dan Rozenson and I were hypothesizing about possible Washington Nationals’ offseason moves – one particular comment Dan made, namely that Ben Revere would return in 2017, caught me off-guard.  After Revere was left off Washington’s postseason roster, I had made the assumption that Revere would not be offered salary arbitration this winter, making him a free agent.

Considering how shrewd Dan is, I started re-thinking my assumption and decided to revisit the Nats’ decision – Will Washington offer Ben Revere arbitration?

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The 28-year-old Revere suffered through the worst year of his 7-year career in 2016, missing the first 30+ games of the season with an injured right oblique muscle.  When Revere returned, he hit only .217/.260/.300 with 18 extra base hits and 14 steals over 103 games played.   These numbers are not simply awful, they made him one of the worst full-time players in baseball last season.  According to MLBTradeRumors, Revere is expected to command $6.3 million in his final season of arbitration.  Without question, these numbers do not warrant $6.3 million for 2017.

However, prior to 2016 Revere had been one of the more consistent hitters in baseball, batting above .294 each year from 2012-2015.  Even including last season’s woeful numbers, Revere is still a career .285/.320/.342 hitter with 190 stolen bases over 748 games.  Therefore, it is easy to ponder if last season was an aberration or the beginning of a steep career decline?

One must immediately question if Revere was fully healthy last season, as the right oblique is the lead side for a left-handed hitter.  Although his average exit velocity was relatively stable from 2015 to 2016, one must wonder why his velocity dropped so severely on off-speed pitches, going from 83.06mph to 78.41.  A further look into his numbers also shows that Revere’s line drive rate dropped significantly from 2015 to 2016 (26.4% to 18.1%) and his fly ball percentage spiked, going from 18.9% in 2015 to 26.5%.  Certainly these numbers could be a one year abnormality, but this does have me wondering if he was ever healthy last season.

Additionally, Revere struggled through a year with a BABIP of .234, 60 points below league average and 80 points below his career .314.  Furthermore, only Ryan Howard had a lower BABIP in 2016 (.205) than Ben Revere.  Normally players with Revere’s profile, namely very fast runners with good contact skills, do not see their BABIP decline so drastically, so there is good reason to expect this number to normalize in 2017.  Finally, his BB% and K% percentages remained in line with his career averages, and Fangraphs graded him as a positive baserunner and defensive outfielder.

In conclusion, the Washington Nationals have a legitimately difficult decision with Ben Revere.  If the team is convinced he was injured much of last year and/or believes he will rebound next season, it is a slam-dunk to offer him arbitration.  The Nationals have long coveted a 4th outfielder capable of serving as a starter if injuries occur, and prior to 2016, Revere was an ideal major league 4th outfielder.

However, if the Nationals are worried Revere’s disastrous season was not due to injury, but the first sign in a career decline, Washington should obviously redistribute those funds toward other options.  If Revere were to reach free agency, I do think he would have a large list of suitors gambling on an intriguing buy-low option in the outfield.

In the end, I believe Washington will offer Revere arbitration, as it gives the team tremendous positional flexibility and $6.3 million is the going rate for a quality backup outfielder.  With the market rather limited this winter with free agent outfielders, keeping Revere provides Washington with a potentially strong 4th outfielder, a possible platoon option in either center field or left field, and allows the front office to seek additional offensive upgrades from a position of strength.

My 2016 IBWAA Baseball Awards Ballot

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Several years ago the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) graciously invited me to join their illustrious group, one of many humbling moments I have had since creating NatsGM.  One of the perks of this organization is each year at the end of the season they contact each of their members to help select winners for the various major baseball awards.

While the overall vote totals should be released shortly, I thought I should share my ballot, along with a brief explanation for my choices.  Without further ado, here is my 2016 IBWAA Baseball Award selections.

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AL MVP :              1) Mike Trout  2) Jose Altuve  3) David Ortiz  4) Josh Donaldson 5) Mookie Betts

For me, Trout is the clear winner and the best player in baseball.  The next four players could have gone in any order, but being a middle infielder gave 2nd place to Altuve and sentimentality forced me to choose Ortiz third.

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AL CY :                  1) Corey Kluber 2) Justin Verlander 3) Rick Porcello

Again, Kluber seemed like the obvious choice for me as the CY Young in the American League.  The decision between Verlander and Porcello was a coin flip, but the slight nod goes to Verlander for the larger strikeout total and importance to his team.

AL ROY :               1) Gary Sanchez  2) Michael Fulmer  3) Edwin Diaz

This was a difficult decision, as Fulmer pitched well this season before getting shut down.  I gave my vote to Sanchez because of the his outstanding offensive numbers compared to his peers, along with carrying the Yankees to a respectable record this season.

{* Editors Note – Fulmer was NOT shut down, he has failed to reach the 162 innings requirement for the ERA title.  I/We did not explain ourselves properly.  H/T to Dave Hogg @Stareagle for identifying our error.}

AL Manager  :    1) Terry Francona  2) Joe Girardi  3) Jeff Banister

Easy choice here, as Cleveland dealt with plenty of injuries and still ran away with the American League Central.  Francona did a fantastic job getting 94 wins from this roster.  Girardi takes 2nd as his front office sold at the deadline and he still got 84 wins from his aging club.  Finally, Jeff Banister gets 3rd as he quietly got 95 wins and a division title from a team several predicted to finish in 3rd place before the season.

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AL Reliever  :      1) Zach Britton    2) Andrew Miller  3) Dellin Betances

All three pitchers were outstanding this season, but Britton’s complete dominance gives him my vote, with Miller’s numbers giving him the nod over Betances.

NL MVP :             1) Kris Bryant  2) Anthony Rizzo 3) Daniel Murphy  4) Nolan Arenado  5) Corey Seager

If this ballot was cast on September 15th, I would have chosen Murphy 1st, but missing the last two weeks of the season has him fall to third.  Bryant is the best player on the best team, making him my choice, with Rizzo a close 2nd.  If Arenado’s team had been better this year, he might have merited more consideration, but 4th feels about right, with Seager’s magnificent rookie season capturing 5th.

NL CY  :                 1) Max Scherzer  2) Jon Lester  3) Kyle Hendricks

I know wins should not matter, but 20 victories, plus all the innings and strikeouts made Scherzer my sentimental choice for this award.  Lester’s advantage in wins, innings and strikeouts gives him 2nd over his teammate Kyle Hendricks.

NL ROY  :              1) Corey Seager  2) Trea Turner  3) Trevor Story

Another slam-dunk choice, as Seager’s .308/105/26/72 stat line from a shortstop is one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory.  Turner’s energy and impact for the Nationals barely gives him 2nd place over Story’s 27 home runs this year.

NL Manager  :   1) Terry Collins  2) Joe Maddon  3T) Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker

Considering all the injuries the Mets suffered through this season, it is miraculous they won 87 games and have home field advantage in the NL Wild Card game.  Even fully acknowledging recency bias, Terry Collins job this season is one of the best I can ever remember.

Joe Maddon’s ability to manage expectations and the hype placed on the Cubs gives him 2nd place.  We should not overlook Dave Roberts’ effort with the Dodgers, who suffered through injuries and a mediocre bullpen to win the NL West.  Finally I had to include Dusty Baker, who reunited a divided clubhouse and helped the Nationals achieve 95 wins this year.

NL Reliever  :      1) Kenley Jansen  2) Seung Hwan Oh 3) Mark Melancon

One of the best relievers in baseball, Jansen had a tremendous season for the Dodgers in spite of a lackluster relief corps in front of him.  I wanted to include Oh in the rookie of the year award, as he has stabilized St. Louis’s bullpen and replaced the suddenly mediocre Trevor Rosenthal.  I guess he will have to “settle” for 2nd place in the reliever category. Finally Melancon quietly had another fantastic season, posting 47 saves and resolving Washington’s major hole at closer this summer.

* Any issues with my choices?  Post your thoughts in the comment’s section!

Talking Koda Glover

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Recently THE NatsGM Show Producer Josh Owens asked me a relatively simple question – “Where did Koda Glover come from?” Certainly there was some humor implied in the query, but also plenty of truth, as Glover has gone from a relatively anonymous prospect into a force in Washington’s bullpen in one year.

Washington selected Glover in the 8th round of the 2015 MLB Draft from Oklahoma State, where he served as the Cowboys’ closer.  Glover pitched only 23.2 innings in 2015, allowing 20 hits and 7 walks against 28 strikeouts.  Coming into the draft, Glover was known to have legitimate 94-96mph fastball velocity, along with a woefully inconsistent upper-80s slider.  Possessing a large 6-5 225lbs frame and easy plus velocity, Glover was still difficult to scout due to his lack of collegiate innings, and his pure relief profile made him project outside the top-5 rounds.

Washington signed him to a $200,000 bonus and aggressively promoted him to Low-A Hagerstown last season.  The Nationals continued to challenge the 23-year-old Glover, starting him at High-A this season and pitching 9.2 innings before a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg.  22.1 dominant innings at Double-A forced yet another promotion for Glover, who continued to overwhelm hitters at Triple-A, posting a 2.25 ERA over 24 innings.  A combination of injuries to Washington’s bullpen and his impressive statistics allowed him to reach the majors in late-July, making his debut on July 20th.  In limited time thus far in Washington, Glover has continued to gather outs, posting a 3.00 ERA with 12 strikeouts against 7 hits and 4 walks in 12 innings pitched.

Since the draft, Washington has refined his delivery and improved his slider, watching the pitch go from an inconsistent, fringe-average offering to a present above-average, whiff inducing weapon.  In addition, Glover’s fastball velocity has also increased, as he has averaged 98mph on his heater in the majors.  Furthermore, Glover possesses impressive moxie on the mound, challenging hitters with an obvious bulldog mentality.  Overall Glover has an easy “65” fastball and a “55/50” slider, along with an occasional curveball and changeup.  Combined with solid command and control of the strike zone, this allows Glover to profile as a late-inning, high-leverage major league reliever.

Washington’s scouting and development departments must be commended for finding and developing Glover – first the Oklahoma area scout had to work hard to see him pitch, then be aggressive enough to get his superior to also watch Glover pitch, then successfully lobby for his selection inside the top-10 rounds.  This is no small feat for an area scout.  Next Washington’s pitching coaches worked to streamline his delivery and develop his slider from a “45/50” pitch in college into a “55/50” in a year, another near miraculous development.  Without these improvements, Glover was likely destined to be a minor league reliever: now he looks to be a major cog in Washington’s bullpen going forward.

Certainly none of this occurs without the diligence of Koda Glover, but Washington must also be applauded for seeing his raw talent and helping it blossom.  Getting an 8th round pick to the majors is impressive in itself, but getting a potential impact player that late makes him one of the best values in the 2015 draft.