Tag Archives: Rick Porcello

NL East Division position comparison: starting pitchers

My evaluation of the National League East Division clubs moves on to ranking the pitching staffs of each team, beginning  with this look at the projected starting rotations. Later today the bullpens of each team will undergo that same evaluation and ranking, concluding the player portion of the process.

For the rotation evaluations, I have listed the projected top four starting pitchers for each team at the beginning of their below write-ups. Those arms make up the primary consideration in their ranking position. During the subsequent discussion, any arms in the running for a fifth-starter slot or who might impact the rotation at some point during the season will be noted.

Combine these pitching rankings with the examinations of each position around the diamond which have been taking place over the last ten days and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training. Those prior pieces can be viewed through links at the bottom of this article.

Early next week, I will take a look at each club’s manager, giving those skippers the same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11 for the opening of Phillies spring training.


  1. Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez

The defending world champions have the clear top three starting pitchers in the division, perhaps in all of baseball. However, a note of caution. That run to the first World Series title in franchise history put an extra month of wear and tear on those arms. Washington would not be the first team to find that becomes a difference maker in the following season. The Nats have a trio of interesting arms vying for the fifth starter role in Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth. If those three can prove ready to handle more of the starting workload, it would allow the Nationals to baby Scherzer and Strasburg along a bit during the summer.

2) New York Mets: Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Wacha

No team in the division has the potential to match the Nationals top three arms more than the Mets top trio. Syndergaard and Stroman in particular could elevate their games to another level. The real difference makers in the end in determining whether the Mets contend in the 2020 season is more likely to come from the back-end arms of Wacha and Rick Porcello. Beyond that, Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman give New York quality depth options. If Syndergaard and Stroman don’t have that extra level or break down physically, the Mets could easily slide down these rankings by one or two slots. For now, I like their talent.

3) Atlanta Braves: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Cole Hamels

The addition of the veteran Hamels to what was  a very youthful group could prove to be the smartest addition by any team in the division this off-season. The two-time division champion Braves also purchased a lottery ticket in former AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Atlanta has an exciting group of young arms fighting for rotation roles beyond that in Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, and Ian Anderson. The Braves quality young depth gives them a far better chance to weather injuries to any of their projected top starters than any other team in the division. It also gives them some potential trade chips to fill in any holes during the season.

4) Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

The Phillies are fine at the top two spots with Nola and Wheeler. Beyond that will come the pitchers whose performances will ultimately determine whether the Phillies can finally contend for a postseason spot in 2020. Can Arrieta stay healthy? He has given the club strong April-May performances the last two years, only to break down physically each year. Can Eflin elevate his game to become a truly effective big-league mid-rotation starter? Even if the Phillies get positive answers to these two questions, they have more questions beyond that than any of the clubs ranked above them here. Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and possibly Enyel De Los Santos will battle for the fifth starter role to open the season. However, top pitching prospect Spencer Howard should be ready to impact the rotation by May or June.

5) Miami Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, Jordan Yamamoto

Alcantara is not as well known to most fans as the other top arms in the division but he has legitimate talent and can be a part of the Fish rotation for years to come. Smith is a solid arm who generally keeps them in contention during his starts. Top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be ready to join the rotation at some point this summer. The Marlins have a further trio or arms in righty Edward Cabrera and lefties Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers who will be starting off in the minors, but who, like Sanchez, will be hoping to push for rotation spots later in the summer.



With Zack Wheeler on board, updating the latest Phillies rumors

The Baseball Winter Meetings open on Sunday, December 8 in San Diego and the ‘Hot Stove’ season in Major League Baseball is already fully underway with hot new rumors coming out every day.

The Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be one of the most active teams in free agency and perhaps in the trade market as well during this off-season period.

With his job squarely on the line, general manager Matt Klentak is under the spotlight, tasked with filling a number of holes in order to elevate his now .500 team to a genuine 2020 contender.

The Phillies landed one of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market in right-hander Zack Wheeler. Reports this afternoon are that he will receive a five-year contract with a total value at over $110 million.

There were also reports that Wheeler had received a higher offer from the Chicago White Sox than the $118 million total dollars which he will receive from the Phillies.

However, Wheeler’s wife is a Jersey girl, and that appears to have been a decisive factor once the offers were relatively close. The Phillies also beat out the Chisox for Bryce Harper last off-season.

The Phillies have been linked to a number of top free agent names to this point. They cannot possibly land every big name that the fan base is hoping to add. However, they surely will be successful in luring at least one or two talented veterans.

Let’s take a quick look at the very latest rumors involving the Phillies interest and involvement in the pursuit of the most interesting players available.

Starting Pitchers

Cole Hamels – He was “the people’s choice”, as Phillies fans wanted him back. Hamels also telegraphed that he wanted to return and was willing to settle for a one-year deal to return to the club with whom he starred for a decade.

It turns out that he got that deal – but from the division-rival Atlanta Braves. It was announced this afternoon that Hamels and the Braves had agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal.

Time to turn the page here, Phillies fans. We’ll get to cheer him again one day at his Wall of Fame ceremony. But before then, count on him getting booed strongly next season at Citizens Bank Park.

Gerrit Cole – The Yankees are making a big push to land Cole. However, many believe that the Newport Beach, California native genuinely wants to pitch on the west coast. The Phillies have the money to be in this discussion, but I just don’t see the interest on his part.

The Dodgers, Angels, and Padres are probably going to end up as the finalists for Cole, with the Yankees trying to shove their way in with lots of money and that old Bronx Bomber prestige and history.

Stephen Strasburg – After meeting with Cole on Tuesday, the Yankees are spending their Wednesday meeting with Strasburg. If they feel that Cole is committed to the west coast, Strasburg could become New York’s main target, which could blow any other team out of the water…assuming the big righty is interested in pitching in the Bronx.

There have been no major rumors involving a Phillies link to either Cole or Strasburg, unless you count this afternoon’s generic “the Phillies are looking at Strasburg” tweet from Jon Heyman.

My guess is that the club has already been informed by their agent, Scott Boras, that the Phillies would be secondary options for the two biggest pitching prizes.

Madison Bumgarner – Back in May, MadBum put the Phillies on his no-trade list. However, that was strategic per Rosenthal. Bumgarner didn’t want to leave San Francisco, and listed as many teams as he could who appeared likely to go after him at that time.

Rosenthal did a nice sales pitch for Bumgarner earlier today on MLB Network. It has been about a week since any talk linking him with the Phillies. But Jon Morosi reported that reps of the player and team have been in touch, and Morosi also stated that the Phillies are “actively interested” in the veteran lefty.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – The Phillies could really use a left-hander, if not two, for the starting rotation. Scott Lauber lumped the Korean southpaw in with Wheeler and MadBum this afternoon as a possible Phillies target.

Dallas Keuchel – Well, since the Braves snatched Hamels, perhaps the Phillies could snatch up Keuchel, who pitched last season in Atlanta?

After he shut the Phillies down in a September start for the Braves, Keuchel called out Phillies management for not going after him when the pitcher was available and the club had a need per Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia:

I mean, if you don’t come calling what is there for me to be mad about? I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too.

There have been no rumors linking the pitcher and the team. But if the Phillies aren’t seriously looking at him at this point, they have to be letting their egos get in the way.


Didi Gregorius – The hottest name linked to the Phillies thus far this off-season, Gregorius is a favorite of new manager Joe Girardi from his years with the Yankees.

While I personally don’t think Gregorius is a major upgrade over incumbent shortstop Jean Segura defensively, he would bring more pop to the Phillies lineup.

Salisbury reported this morning that “the Phils are engaged in talks with free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius.” It would appear to be more than speculation or rumor at this point.

Cutting ties with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco opens two spots on the Phillies infield. The club already has the potential to fill second base with Scott Kingery. Watching how they choose to align the 2020 infield will be one of the more interesting Phillies situations this off-season.

Josh Donaldson – The Phillies have a hole at third base with the Franco non-tender. Kingery is not a good option on an every day basis. Top prospect Alec Bohm is nearly ready, and could push his way to Philly no later than mid-summer of the 2020 season.

So, the question becomes would the Phillies shell out big bucks and tie up third base for multiple years. That is what it will likely take to land Donaldson, who played on a one-year contract in Atlanta last season and is not likely to settle for such a deal again.

There have been no real rumors linking the team and player other than a Monday tweet from Morosi that the Phillies were “maintaining contact” with reps for both Gregorius and Donaldson.

Anthony Rendon – While a big ex-Nationals reunion joining Bryce Harper with Strasburg and/or Rendon would be wonderful on the field, it likely wouldn’t work on the Phillies balance sheets.

Rendon is going to be the highest-priced position player free agent this off-season. The Dodgers have already met with he and Strasburg, and many feel that Rendon will end up with the Texas Rangers, with whom he has also already met.

Two weeks ago, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philly called Rendon “the perfect fit” for the Phillies. However, there has been nothing to really link the team and player directly to this point.

In my opinion and that of most others, the Phillies need to add not one, but two more proven veteran starting pitchers to their rotation.

The Phillies have successfully landed Wheeler with a lengthy contract at a high salary. Should they now fall short on the other arms listed previously you can expect them to shop for a pitcher in the “third tier” of free agents.

Were that to happen, arms such as Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Julio Teheran to get a longer look from the club. But this is not what the Phillies want or need, not really.

Wheeler adds a much-needed talented arm. He gives them a nice 1-2 punch with Aaron Nola. What would go well now would be a battle-tested and still talented left-hander. Someone like Bumgarner.



Rick Porcello turnaround could help Bosox pull away

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Rick Porcello helping the Bosox take charge in AL East

As late as June 2, the Boston Red Sox were just four games over the .500 mark. At that point, the team sat in third place in the AL East race, three games behind the arch-rival New York Yankees.

Flash forward a little more than seven weeks, and the Bosox have taken charge. They went 26-19 to flip the standings position, now leading the Yanks by 3.5 after the games of Saturday, July 22.
For the second straight season, Boston has an AL Cy Young Award front-runner. This time around, that top starting pitcher is lefty Chris Sale.
But last season’s top starter has struggled for much of the 2017 season. Rick Porcello won the 2016 AL Cy Young Award following the best season by far of his then eight-year big league career.
Porcello went 22-4 a year ago with a 3.15 ERA and 1.009 WHIP. He allowed just 193 hits over 223 innings with a 189/32 K:BB ratio.
Flash forward to this season, and Porcello’s numbers are nowhere near that level. The 28-year old righty has gone 4-12 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.436 WHIP. He has allowed 156 hits over 125.1 innings with a 115/24 K:BB mark.
Porcello has regressed to the type of pitcher he had been in his first seven seasons. That would be a nice, reliable, mid-rotation innings eater as opposed to a top of the rotation ace-caliber starter.
However, his recent starts have begun to signal what could be a turnaround towards numbers closer in line to last season.

Over his last five outings, Porcello has a 3.31 ERA. He has allowed just 32 hits over 32.2 innings with a 30/6 K:BB ratio. He also has just a .252 Batting Average Against in that period. Over a full season, that would be his second best mark, behind only last year’s Cy-winning campaign.
Boston skipper John Farrell was asked recently whether he thought that Porcello was regaining last year’s form.
“Oh yeah,” said Farrell, per Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “And you see it in his body language, the rhythm and pace he establishes in the game. All the while knowing he’s been pitching while, let’s face it, 50 percent of the time there have been zeroes on the board when he’s been on the mound. I think he’s done a very good job of pitching independent of that and just executing to the best of his ability.”
David Price returned from the Disabled List on May 29 and was increasingly looking like his own old, dominant self. That is, until he was roped around by the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night. That should ultimately prove a blip on the veteran left-hander’s pitching ledger.
Sale is dominating. Price is back in top form. Lefty Drew Pomeranz has been strong. Last week, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez returned to the rotation and provided an encouraging outing.
If these last handful of starts are more indicative of what Boston can expect from Porcello from here on out, the Red Sox just might begin to run away with the division. It would also give the team a trio of strong, seasoned starters come the postseason.

MLB Draft first rounders not guaranteed success

Last night’s first round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft was full of excitement and anticipation for the teams and families involved. 
However, history shows that most of those selected will prove to be forgettable choices.
As an example, a look back at the draft from exactly a decade ago reveals such varied results. There were a couple of superstars in that 2007 MLB Draft, and a few other star-caliber players. There were also some who carved out a small niche for themselves in the big leagues.
But there were also a bunch of never-weres mixed into the selection process. Each one of those misses was considered to be a strong prospect at the time they were drafted.
The Tampa Bay Rays held the first overall pick in 2007, and there really wasn’t much of a choice. Left-handed pitcher David Price from Vanderbilt had been considered a near lock for that top selection for months.
With the second pick, the Kansas City Royals chose a left-side infielder from Chatsworth High School in California. The surprise was that the Royals selection was Mike Moustakas rather than Chris Dominguez. ‘Moose’ had put on a big time power display that spring to pass his more heavily scouted teammate.


Price and Moustakas represent the possibilities at the top of the draft. Price was perceived as a can’t miss prospect. Over the next decade, he would live up to the hype.
Now with the Boston Red Sox, Price has a 122-66 record over 175 appearances, 170 of those as a starter. He was the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, and was runner-up for the honor on two other occasions. He is a five-time American League all-star.
Moustakas was the Royals starter at third base for the better part of five seasons, culminating with an AL all-star selection in 2015 as the Royals won the World Series.
His career on an individual basis doesn’t equal Price’s. But Moustakas’s contributions to a championship team certainly mean that Kansas City will never regret his selection.


If Price and Moustakas reveal the upside possibilities of players picked at the top of a draft, the next two players show the opposite. Both players are largely forgotten, never having made a mark in the big leagues.
Selected at third overall by the Chicago Cubs was a California high school third baseman named Josh Vitters. Over the next five years, Vitters seemed to be progressing on schedule as he rose through the Cubs system.
In August of 2012, Vitters received his first big league promotion. He would spend most of the final six weeks of the season as the Cubs starting third baseman. Vitters hit for just a .121/.193/.202 slash line. He had just two home runs and five RBI, and never again appeared in a big league uniform.
The fourth overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates was a pitcher named Daniel Moskos. The lefty out of Clemson University in South Carolina would similarly see action in just one big league season.
Moskos appeared in 31 games over two separate stints with the Pirates in the 2011 season. He had a 1-1 record with a favorable 2.96 ERA mark. But Moskos also allowed 29 hits over 24.1 innings with just an 11/9 K:BB ratio.
Released by the Bucs in July of 2012, Moskos has bounced through four other MLB organizations since. While a free agent in June of 2015, Moskos was suspended for 50 games after a second positive test for a drug of abuse.


A big winner in that 2007 first round were the San Francisco Giants. With the 10th overall selection, the Giants chose a North Carolina high school lefty pitcher named Madison Bumgarner. The rest is history.
Bumgarner would help the Giants to World Series crowns in 2010, 2012, and 2014. He is a four-time NL all-star, and has two Silver Sluggers in his trophy case. In 2014 he was selected as the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year as well as the AP Male Athlete of the Year.
Aug 11, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Bumgarner was the Giants first round pick at 10th overall in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
There were other “hits” in that 2007 MLB Amateur Draft first round. Four-time all-star and two-time Gold Glove catcher Matt Wieters was selected fifth by the Baltimore Orioles. And four-time Gold Glover Jason Heyward was selected 14th overall by the Atlanta Braves.
And all the way down at 27th overall, the Detroit Tigers chose Rick Porcello. A New Jersey right-handed pitcher, Porcello would finish third in the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year voting. It was the first of his six consecutive seasons as an innings-eater in a contending Tigers rotation.
In December 2014, Detroit shipped Porcello off to the Boston Red Sox for a package that included a star rental outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes.
Porcello would finally put it all together in Boston a year ago. He won 22 games in 2016, and was honored with the AL Cy Young Award.


There will be more than a thousand players selected over the course of three days in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. A number of the players chosen after the first round are sure to make an impact far greater than most of the first rounders.
Jun 9, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; As “Mike” Stanton, the Marlins outfielder was a big hit as the club’s second round pick in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Florida (now Miami) Marlins chase Dominguez with their first round pick at 12th overall. He would appear in parts of five big league seasons, but just one in south Florida.
However, the Fish are certainly happy with their second round selection that season. At 76th overall, the Marlins selected outfielder “Mike” Giancarlo Stanton that year.
Other pitchers selected after the first round in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft include Jordan Zimmermann (67), Corey Kluber (134), Jake Arrieta (159), Chris Sale (642), and Craig Kimbrel who was the 1,006th player chosen.
The 2007 Draft also included Freddie Freeman (78), Jonathan Lucroy (101). Anthony Rizzo (204), and Brandon Belt (348) as position players taken after the first round.


But aside from that handful of strong picks, the vast majority of the other two dozen players chosen in that 2007 first round were closer to Vitters and Moskos.
Feb 14, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; the Cincinnati Reds first rounder at 15th overall, Mesoraco was a 2014 NL all-star, but is now a backup catcher. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Sports
Others chose in the top ten that year included players who have tasted the big leagues, such as Ross DetwilerMatt LaPortaCasey Weathers, and Jarrod Parker.
Scattered throughout the rest of the first round were players who never even reached the big leagues, led by Beau Mills, a pitcher selected at 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians.
Devin Mesoraco probably represents a mid-level outcome for a first round draftee. The catcher was selected at 15th overall by the Cincinnati Reds.
Now in his seventh season, he was a 2014 NL all-star. But that was Mesoraco’s only real big season, and he is now relegated to backup duties.


History shows that, despite all the excitement surrounding the young men selected last night, most of them will never make even one appearance in Major League Baseball.
Every first rounder will be a millionaire. The slot value for the 30th overall pick, which is the final pick of that first round, has been assigned by MLB at more than two million dollars.
Hopefully the players and their families make some wise financial decisions in the coming weeks and months, because most are never going to see another huge payday from the game of baseball.
However, each now has a chance, which is more than most youngsters who have ever played the game have ever received. They will get first-class coaching and medical treatment, and as a first round pick, they will get at least a few years to prove their worth on the diamond.

Boston Red Sox Just Pitching Away From Domination

The Boston Red Sox have some of the best young position player talent in the game and just need to upgrade their pitching in order to become truly dominant.

The Boston Red Sox finished at the top of the American League East Division standings in 2016. The club finished four games ahead of both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.
In the postseason, the Red Sox were swept out of the ALDS in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians. Two of the three games were decided by a single run.
The BoSox will be losing their longtime leader, David Ortiz, who rides off into the sunset of retirement. He will take 38 homers, 127 RBI, and a .315/.401/.620 slash line at age 40 with him.
While the loss of Big Papi will be a big one in many ways, the Red Sox have young talent that can make up for that loss. Veterans Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia will return to man the right side of the infield. They will provide the experience while a group of the most exciting and dynamic youngsters in the game continues to develop.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, third baseman Yoan Moncada, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and right fielder Mookie Betts are all among the best in the game at their positions. All are in their low-mid 20s.


At first blush, Red Sox pitching would not appear to be a major area of concern. Boston finished third in quality starts and batting average against, and fourth in ERA and strikeouts in the American League in 2016.
However, a closer look reveals that there may be things to worry about on the mound at Fenway Park going into the 2017 season.
Big ticket free agent David Price is now 31 years old. He is owed $187 million over the next six seasons. Price can opt out following the 2018 season, but it is hard to see him walking away from $30 million per year as he enters his mid-upper 30s.
This year, Price went up from a 2.45 ERA to a career high 3.99 mark. He led baseball with 230 innings pitched, but also yielded 227 hits. His 8.9 K/9 was his lowest mark since 2013.
Alone these aren’t panic numbers, but if they are precursors to what are often sustained slips by similarly aging pitchers of recent vintage through their low-mid 30s, then the contract could become a big issue.
Rick Porcello turns 29 years old next month and is coming off a Cy Young caliber season. That’s the very good news. Concerning for me is that he has never had a season this good previously. Is it a one-off outlier? Porcello is still owed $63 million over the next three years.
Steven Wright, now 32 years old, came out of nowhere to earn an AL All-Star berth and win 13 games over 24 starts. Would you be willing to count on him doing it again?
Clay Buchholz is also now 32 years old and is a career underachiever. He very suddenly got hot in September and salvaged his season by going 3-0 and pitching very effectively, earning himself a pick up of next year’s option.
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was really bad for a large swath of the season from June through August. He fashioned a 5.56 ERA while going 1-6 over 13 starts during that period.
Drew Pomeranz came over in a July trade from the San Diego Padres and went 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.369 WHIP. He now becomes arbitration eligible.


For me, this pitching rotation should be an area of concern this offseason for the Red Sox. In fact, with the dynamism of their starting lineup, the rotation is keeping them from becoming in the AL what the Chicago Cubs are becoming in the National League.
The bullpen should be at least competitive, even if the unit loses Koji UeharaBrad Ziegler, and Junichi Tazawa, all free agents.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Craig Kimbrel returns as a dominant closer. Robbie Ross is a strong lefty option. Heath HembreeMatt Barnes, and Joe Kelly will be back.
An interesting arm will be 24-year-old lefty Henry Owens, seen as a starter. Can he finally seize a regular role in Spring Training?
Boston had a $198 million payroll in the 2016 season. Right now that figure is at $147 million, but the BoSox have 10 players who are arbitration eligible including Bradley and Bogaerts.
There will probably be room to add a free agent arm, if management and ownership are willing to go in that direction.
Boston has at least two really good-looking young prospect arms in their minor league system in left-hander Jason Groome and right-hander Michael Kopech. However, at 18 and 20 years of age respectively, neither will be of help in 2017 and possibly not in 2018 either.

Are the Red Sox willing to count on Price to return to being a dominating ace, Porcello to again be a Cy-level starter, and the rest of their patched together bunch to give them enough effective starts to repeat in the AL East?
Even if they do, how does Boston go from being a division favorite to a pennant favorite? After all, with three World Series crowns over the last 13 years, that is now the goal throughout New England.


For me, the Red Sox need to improve their starting pitching. The need at least one, and probably two better, more reliable arms to open the 2017 season.
While the free agent market isn’t deep, Boston could find help here in arms such as Jeremy HellicksonRich Hill, and Jason Hammel.
Boston also has a strong and deep minor league system. They could use an arm such as Kopech in a deal, or put something else together, and pluck an arm from a rebuilding team.
The Red Sox aren’t going to fade away, even with Ortiz gone. But his loss doesn’t make things any easier. In the end, I believe that replacing his bat won’t prove their most important issue. That comes in shoring up the mound corps.