Remembering Oscar Taveras: A Poem

Since the minute I heard the news that shook Cardinal nation last night, I wanted to write something to commemorate Oscar. However, I didn’t think it was right to write anything unless it was able to capture the emotion of it all, that wouldn’t be fair to him. I probably didn’t do that, because I’m certainly not a poet by any regards. This is the best I could do though, and I hope you all will enjoy it and remember Oscar fondly. Here goes nothing:

 

A swing so majestic, full of power and might

And a warm, bright smile that could bring the day light

We watched and waited for the day this hero came

With one of his mighty swings, #18 brought rain

It was a sign of great things to come, a great career still ahead

“He’s the next Albert,” that’s what the scouts said

Craig was sent to Boston, to free up room in right

OT could play forever, the future looks so bright

Soon October arrived, like an old friend in the fall

LA crumbled, just like the Berlin Wall

The Giants were next, to the Cards this was a wrench

Especially in game 2, trailing, with OT on the bench

Mike called his number in the 7th, Machi was the foe

Down by a run, could OT become a hero?

A 2-1 splitter was the tool Machi would implore

In one split second we all thought “I’ve seen that swing before”

Like a warrior slashing his sword, perfection in his craft

Sweet music to the ears, the song? Oscar’s bat

The ball a comet, leaving a trail as it passed the wall

OT crossed home and tipped his cap, a Cardinal curtain call

That was the last time Busch would feel the grace of 18

For life can be so cruel, and death’s bite is fierce and mean

October 26th, the fall classic being played

To Cardinal fans, nothing more, than another dreadful day

“There is more to life than baseball” they say to all the kids

There is no harsher reminder than what this tragedy did

The World Series seemed weightless, a petty, small thing

The important matter was a Cardinal, gaining his wings

Taken at 22, so young, and so unfair

The emotion of it all seems just too much to bear

Baseball heaven is blessed, to gain another great

I imagine that bright smile, passing through the pearly gates

Gone, but not forgotten in the hearts of me and you

Take care of DK and Josh, OT, we miss them too

There is no rhyme or reason, no easy rational

Fly high 18, we love you, forever a Cardinal

 

Oscar Francisco Taveras (1992-2014)

Credit: Cole Claybourn

Credit: Cole Claybourn

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September UCB Project: Cardinals Top 7 Prospects

Let me start by apologizing for my lack of writing. Work keeps me at my busiest during the early and late part of the seasons and really only allows me to blog during the dog days as well as the postseason.

Anyways, for my top 7 prospect lists, I’m defining a “prospect” as a player that has yet to make their Major League debut. As a newbie to the prospect world, I may not be as knowledgeable as I should be, but here it goes:

Honorable Mention: Jack Flaherty, Magneuris Sierra, Breyvic Valera

Notes: I’m not big on ranking low minors guys high on prospect lists. It is so hard to guess what a players future might be playing at a level like that, hence listing Flaherty and Sierra here. I’m a huge Valera fan, he is a great contact hitter, but playing 2nd base and possessing absolutely no pop leaves him just outside the top

  • Tim Cooney LHP – Cooney is the definition of a solid, but not special prospect. I was extremely impressed with Cooney’s control and fastball life when I had the opportunity to watch him. However, just being on this list worries me with Cooney. The Cardinals have not been shy about cycling pitchers to the big leagues, but Cooney hasn’t made it yet. Marco Gonzales and Nick Greenwood are a couple of lefties that got the call before Cooney this year, concerning.
  • Stephen Piscotty OF – Widely considered the top prospect in the system, I’m admittedly low on Piscotty. I must be missing the hype. Piscotty is an average defender in right field, with a plus arm. It’s supposed to be the bat that plays for the converted 3rd baseman, but Piscotty had a disappointing year at the plate for AAA Memphis. The .355 OBP is playable, for a .288 average with only a .406 slugging isn’t where it needs to be for a corner outfielder. If Piscotty isn’t going to hit the ball over the fence (9 home runs) he will need more than the 32 doubles he posted this year. A right handed Matt Carpenter, with fewer walks, seems like a decent comparison.
  • Rowan Wick OF – Wick burst on the scene by breaking the State College home run record (14) in only 119 AB’s. Wick slashed .378/.475/.815 for an INSANE 1.29 OPS. That drastically dropped to .220/.291/.433 when Wick got the call to Peoria. The power was still on display for the 21 year old outfielder though, posting 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 home runs in 141 AB’s. The knock on Wick is the inability to make contact. 91 K’s in 260 AB’s is glaring. When making my list, I just couldn’t ignore Wick’s power in an organization that desperately lacks it.
  • Mason Katz 2B – An even bigger shock than ranking Piscotty 6th, is ranking Katz 4th. I’ll tell you know that I have Katz rated as the best position prospect in the Cardinals system. Katz does two things incredibly well; he gets on base, and hits the ball over the fence. Katz is 24 and still hasn’t made it past A Peoria yet, which is startling. On the other hand, he plays 2nd base and slugged .436 this year w/ 20 bombs. While only hitting .237, Katz managed to get on base at a .321 clip so I’m not as worried about the lack of average.
  • Luke Weaver SP – Bring on the pitchers! Despite calling up Wacha, Miller, Martinez, Rosenthal, Gonzales, etc, Weaver is the second of four pitchers on this list. There isn’t much to talk about statistically with Weaver given that he only has 9.1 professional innings under his belt. The 2014 first round pick is expected to take a Wacha/Gonzales type fast track to the major leagues, and we should all be excited to see another young top arm in the system.
  • Alex Reyes SP – Electric is the first word that comes to mind with Reyes. Reyes struck out 137, yes 137, in just 109.1 innings at Peoria this year. Reyes mid 90’s velocity is a huge plus for an arm just barely 20 years old. Reyes also possesses a devastating breaking pitch. The only step left for this kid is to harness his control. 61 BB in 109.1 is just far too many. Even if Reyes has to sacrifice a few K’s to reduce the walks, his talent will play.
  • Rob Kaminsky SP – I’ll make this short and sweet. Kaminsky is young (20), left handed, possesses good velocity, good off speed stuff, good control, and impressive stats (1.88 ERA in A this year). Mix all that together, and you have the Cardinals top prospect.

Jon Jay, Lead Off Hitter

Jon Jay

No debate sparks more argument among Cardinals fans than the center field debate. I wrote about it preseason, in which I voted for Peter Bourjos to start in center.

Here’s that link: https://gatewaysc.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/pb-jay/

I still like Bourjos, and think he is a really nice piece to have on the roster, but the debate is over. Jon Jay has up and run away with the centerfield job, and frankly has become criminally underrated. Let us not forget that Jay was the leadoff man for the Cardinals not long ago, and possesses a career OBP of .358.

Fans turned on Jay last year because of a career low .276 average. Amazingly, Jay still maintained a .351 OBP which was higher than the .344 OBP he carried while hitting .297 in 2011. However, the Cardinal Centerfielder also posted career lows in slugging, and had a horrendous year defensively.

That is all in the past. Jon Jay is back, and better than ever. Jay’s average sits at .302, creeping up on his career high .305. His OBP of .372 is one point lower than his career high, and he is carrying the second highest SLG% of his career. Shockingly, Jay’s OPS sits at .772, higher than Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.

People will say what they will about Jay’s average being fueled by BABIP, and they aren’t wrong. Jay posts a ridiculously high .355 BABIP this year, .056 higher than the league average. I hear all the time on twitter “once Jay stops BABIPing, he will decline.” That would absolutely be true, but frankly, there is no sign that Jay will stop having an insanely high BABIP. In 2010 Jay had a .350 BABIP, and people called in unsustainable. In 2011, that number dipped to .340, and again it seemed unsustainable. Last year, Jay’s career low average was caused by a career low .325 BABIP, which was still good for .028 above the league average. That was the only year of Jay’s career in which he did not post a BABIP of .340 or better. It’s hard to say that Jay is going to decline once his BABIP does, because for the last five years, BABIP has been no issue for the Miami native.

In the offense’s current state, I would love to see Jay moved to the leadoff spot. Many, including myself, believe that Matt Carpenter makes for the ideal number two hitter. The only thing hindering that is that the Cardinals haven’t had anyone else to hit leadoff, now they do. This works for many reasons. Number one, Kolten Wong’s .292 OBP belongs nowhere near the top of the lineup. Secondly, the Cardinal offense has been crippled this year by double plays from the two hole. Four players have taken 40+ AB’s from the two hole this year, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong, and Jon Jay. Those four also happen to carry the four highest double play percentages on the roster. I have grown weary watching Matt Carpenter lead off the game by getting on base, only to be erased seconds later.

Moving Jay to lead off, and Carpenter down to second almost completely erases this issue. Jay’s OBP is only .007 lower than Carpenter’s and would be a .81 improvement over Kolten Wong. Simply put, the top two spots in the order would be getting on base 8% more often than they currently are. As far as the double play situation, Matt Carpenter holds the lowest double play percentage on the roster, so that issue would be relieved as well.

For an offense struggling as mightily as the Cardinals have, a little lineup reconstruction certainly wouldn’t hurt. The point being, is that Jon Jay can provide a healthy boost to the offense if used correctly. It’s time to stop with BABIP argument, and start appreciating the offensive weapon that Jay is becoming.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Discordance Ruling the Cardinals

This has been a strange year for the Cardinals, as strange as any that I can remember. It has left fans scratching their heads on a daily basis, and for the first time that I can remember, I’m questioning the front office.

There is an obvious discordance between Mozeliak and Matheny on a few things, particularly the Oscar Taveras situation. Mo has stated time and time again that if Taveras is going to be in the major leagues, he needs to play. Matheny obviously hasn’t gotten that message. “Matheny’s guys” (Craig, Jay, Cruz) continue to get the bulk of the playing time, and I’m not sure Mo is thrilled about it. This past week he practically called out the skipper in front of the media, threatening to send OT back to AAA if he didn’t start seeing the field more. Tony La Russa didn’t always see eye to eye with the front office, but I can’t really remember there being this obvious of a disagreement.

Besides that, there seems to be more confusion than ever on what exactly needs to be done to help this team. Mo has always been the type of GM to have a very precise plan on what to do, and when to do it. That hasn’t been the case this year. Wong and Taveras have both ridden the bus back and forth from St. Louis to Memphis, and injuries have caused disarray within the pitching staff. Most recently, Yadier Molina’s thumb injury has caused the greatest confusion yet. It’s very unlike Mozeliak to sign a George Kottaras only to release him five plate appearances later. It is even more unlike Mozeliak to sign a guy like AJ Pierzynski.

I’m sure people are sick of hearing the term “The Cardinal Way,” but if there is one player in baseball that doesn’t fit it, it’s Pierzynski. Hated anywhere he goes, this is a signing that I believe wouldn’t happen in years past. But Mo’s hand has

Credit: SI.com

Credit: SI.com

been forced by injuries, the incompetence of his manager, and the underachievement of his veteran players.

This team just hasn’t been fun to watch at times this year, more so than most. Perhaps bringing in a polarizing figure like Pierzynski could change that, but a 37 year old catcher isn’t going to fix all of this team’s problems. For the first time in my fandom, I don’t think Mo knows how to fix all of the teams problems. Pitching and offense are both a need, but an unwillingness to part with prospects will probably prevent the Cardinals from acquiring both.

A lot can change between now and July 31st, but on the needs to happen first. The GM and the manager need to get on the same page, it will be very difficult for a team to achieve full potential otherwise. Whatever happens, I’m going to sit back (attempt to) relax, and enjoy the potentially bumpy ride that lies ahead.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Question of the Day Pt. 2: Off Season Free Agent Signing

The question Doug presented to me in our questionnaire project, was what free agent I thought the Cardinals should sign in the off season if money was no object.

Here is Doug’s answer: http://baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/free-agent-id-sign-in-the-offseason-for-the-st-louis-cardinals/

I like the Shields idea, a lot actually. Big game James is an innings eater with top of the rotation stuff, that’s tough to come by. The biggest issue I had with this question is that this year’s class of unrestricted free agents (UFA) is bad. Mix that with a Cardinal team that doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, and you’ve got quite the pickle. The position player class is certainly weaker than the pitching class, so I decided to stick with a pitcher. Especially given that I’m sure a couple young pitchers will be deal to acquire Giancarlo Stanton (it’s a joke people).

My guy: Jon Lester
There are quite a few rumors swirling that the bottom dwelling BoSox might be looking to part ways with Lester at the deadline. I would be perfectly fine with the Cardinals acquiring him in some sort of deal, a cheaper alternative to David Price. If not, he would be my first free agent target. First of all, he is left handed, and the Cardinals could desperately use an effective left handed starter. Lester is also a little younger than other pitchers on the market like James Shields and Hisashi Iwakuma. Like Shields, Lester will eat plenty of innings. He has surpassed the 200 innings plateau five times, and is on pace to do it again this year.

The Cardinals experienced firsthand what Lester is capable of as a postseason performer, a trait I believe John Mozeliak values in a veteran free agent signing.

Credit: YawkeyWayReport.com

Credit: YawkeyWayReport.com

The price will be high, as it always is for free agent pitching, but the Cardinals can afford it. A rotation of Wainwright, Lester, Wacha, Lynn, and whoever else looks awfully good.

So thanks to Doug for this fun project, perhaps more will come in the future. Don’t forget to check out his blog over at baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com and as always, thanks for reading.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Question of the Day Pt. 1: Most Overrated/Underrated Player in MLB

This is part of a questionnaire I did with fellow blogger of mine, Doug V. We asked each other a question and both did a post answering our own question, and the other person’s question. My question to Doug was who he thought the most overrated and underrated players in baseball were.

Here were his takes: http://baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/question-of-the-day-most-underratedoverrated-players/

A year ago, naming the most underrated player would have been easy, Will Venable. Venable was a 20/20 guy last year, and a name hardly anyone knew. It has been a whole different story in 2014, Venable is failing to hit his own weight, and seemingly both his power and speed have disappeared. This leads me to my new most underrated player.

Most Underrated: Lonnie Chisenhall
The Indians 3rd baseman was once considered one of the top prospects in baseball, but failed to do much of anything in his first three years. Miraculously, Chisenhall is still only 25 years old, and it’s all starting to come together. Chisenhall is top 10 in the AL in OPS, posting a .908, fueled primarily by his ability to get on base at a .392 clip. He has only hit nine home runs, three of which came in one game, but still has enough pop for a .515 slugging percentage. Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and David Ortiz are amongst the names with lower OPS than Chisenhall this year. While I would primarily wait until someone posted multiple years of unappreciated success to call them underrated, it was hard to ignore the lack of attention Chisenhall has gotten for his incredibly hot start this season.

Most Overrated: Andrelton Simmons
This was a little tougher choice given the vast array of overrated players in MLB. I was tempted to go with Jeter, because of the All Star Game hype machine, but decided not to ride down that controversial path. Instead I went with a national league shortstop. In fairness, Simmons hasn’t been talked about in near as high regards this year compared to last, and for good reason, he has been terrible. Known for his defense, Simmons is starting to give off one year wonder concerns. There were scouts and media types last year legitimately crowning Simmons as the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith. Keep in mind; this is the guy that unseated Yadier Molina as the platinum glove winner.

41 defensive runs saved were through the roof last year for the Braves’ shortstop, but this year he has only saved nine. That is still third among shortstops (trailing Jhonny Peralta and Zack Cozart) but if Simmons isn’t going to hit, he better be elite defensively. Given his position, Simmons is a middle of the road hitter, but doesn’t possess any true tool. He lacks power, doesn’t get on base, and has no real speed to speak of. I’m sure many will disagree with me here, arguing about those elite defensive numbers. Frankly, I’m still not convinced Simmons deserved the platinum glove last year, and probably isn’t even destined for gold in 2014.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Names to Watch at the Trade Deadline

Oh trade speculation, how I’ve missed thee. While constant rumors and speculation drive some people crazy, I’m one of the fans that crave it. Perhaps because I have nothing better to do than sit on twitter and wait for the latest update, but let’s ignore that point.

The Cardinals are in a position this year where no one really has any clue what they’ll be doing. According to John Mozeliak, there isn’t a lot available in regards to offense, the Cardinals biggest need. Pitching seems to be a little more plentiful on the trade market, but isn’t necessarily a need for the Redbirds. Although if Michael Wacha is going to miss the rest of the year, which I’m fully prepared for, adding another starter isn’t a terrible idea.

Pitchers
The Long Shot: David Price

David Price rumors have swirled for over a year now. The Rays can’t resign Price when his contract expires, they know it, and so do the other 29 teams. Like any wise team would do, the Rays need to sell Price high while they can. However, the Tampa Bay ace won’t come cheap, and the Cardinals have shown a reluctance to part with young talent. If the Cardinals do add pitching, I believe it should of the top end variety, just not sure this will work. Perhaps something falls into place as the deadline approaches, but Price ending up in St. Louis is a long shot.

The Likely Candidate: Jake Peavy
For the second year, the Cardinals have been attached to rumors involving Jake Peavy. Last year they lost out on the Peavy sweepstakes to the Red Sox, this year, it remains to be seen. I stated already that I believe if the Cardinals add pitching, it should be of the top end variety. Peavy hasn’t fit that description since 2007. I simply don’t see how Peavy is an upgrade over guys like Carlos Martinez or Joe Kelly. The fit makes sense though. The veteran right hander has stated his interest in playing for the Cardinals in the past. Not to mention, the Red Sox are seeking outfield help, something the Cardinals have a surplus of. I suppose that Peavy isn’t a horrible idea, but dealing Allen Craig, as rumored, for a guy like Peavy would be a mistake.

Hitters: Adrian Beltre and Ben Zobrist
In the case of hitters, I’m not sure there is a “likely candidate” for the Cardinals to acquire. Zobrist and Beltre are two names that have been connected to St. Louis, and could be on the market. Of the two, I think Ben Zobrist makes the most sense. Most importantly, it would rid the major league roster of Daniel Descalso. Zobrist is a starter quality utility man capable of playing almost any position. Zobrist is an on base machine that I think could slot in nicely wherever, whenever.

Beltre would obviously be a welcome addition. The Cardinals have no bigger need than a middle of the order bat to drive in runs. This deal would move Matt Carpenter back to 2nd, and slot a gold glove caliber player in at 3rd. The hindrances here are that Kolten Wong’s playing time would see a significant drop (something I don’t see the Cardinals wanting). Also, Beltre is 35 years old, the Cardinals wouldn’t be looking to negotiate anything long term with him, and wouldn’t want to give up cost controlled players for a rental.

My pick: Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson.
I like both Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos, but centerfield remains the obvious upgradable position for the Cardinals in my opinion. The Rockies would love to get their hands on some of the Cardinals young pitching, and would have to part

Credit: Denver Post

Credit: Denver Post

with a bat like Blackmon or Dickerson to do so. Blackmon is a career .291 hitter with 15 HR/162 games.

Dickerson holds a monstrous .881 career OPS, but doesn’t have a lot of experience in centerfield. I think either Rockies’ outfielder would slot in nicely right behind Matt Carpenter in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only concern with these two is the Coors Field effect. Blackmon’s home OPS is .257 points higher than on the road. Similarly, Dickerson’s OPS is .308 points lower away from Coors. If I’m the Cardinals though, I’m taking the risk assuming the price is right.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ