Noise on the North Coast – Opening Day Edition

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North Coast

 

After a long, hard winter along the North Coast today is the day that baseball comes back into our lives. After the harsh quiet of winter it’s always so re-assuring to have my house filled with the crack of the bat and the booming voice of Tom Hamilton once again. But let’s not get too nostalgic, this is the beginning of something, not the end. So let’s get loose on our first, regular-season edition, of Noise on the North Coast.

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Tri-State at the Plate Episode #45: Tri-State of Mind’s 2014 Prospect Spectacular

In this annual special edition of Tri-State at the Plate the guys get together to talk prospects. Andy and Staff Writer Chris Bradley tackle the Pirates system and they dig deep to go beyond the usual mention of Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco to discuss guys like Reese McGuire, Alen Hanson, Gift Ngoepe and Wyatt Mathisen as well as some of Andy’s personal favorites like Adalberto Santos and Stetson Allie. Jason tackles the Indians system and after a group discussion on Francisco Lindor and Clint Frazier he digs into the Tribe’s system to discuss guys like Francisco Mejia, Dace Kime, Cody Anderson, Kyle Crockett and even Silento Sayles. If you love prospects (and we sure do!) be sure to check out our 2nd Annual Prospect Spectacular.

TSM Baseball 2014 Preseason Award Predictions: Staff Edition

By TSM Staff

Tri-State of Mind Crystal Ball

Take a look at the Tri-State of Mind 2014 Preseason Award Predictions!

The amateur prognosticators are back for their second annual Tri-State of Mind Baseball Preseason Predictions!  Andy Burdick, Jason Ruggiero, Bob Finkbeiner, and Chris Bradley all put on their best soothsaying hats and try and give you, our faithful readers, a glimpse into the future of the 2014 Major League Baseball season.

Andy’s undying love for Mat Latos didn’t pan out and Jason’s assurance that Troy Tulowtizki would have a ‘classic Tulo season’ was as ambiguous as they come, but last season the National League MVP and American League Rookie of the Year were correctly predicted right here.  As an added bonus, this season we’ve even gotten new staff writer Chris Bradley thrown into the internet prognosticating business!

So get your bookie on the horn, folks and let him know you’ve got a parlay for the ages.  We feel pretty good that between the three of us, we can get at least two major award winners correct. Continue reading

The 2014 Definitive National League Central Preview

By Chris Bradley

As a shameless fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates ball club, I have seen 25 going on 26 seasons of “baseball”. For those of you actually counting it is more like 20 years of conscious regard, but it’s not like I wasn’t absorbing it as an infant, I just had bigger fish to fry: eating, sleeping, and pooping to name a few.  Not necessarily in any particular order. Now the priorities have changed, but not by much.  Just add “working” and “watching baseball” somewhere in that list.

The National League Central is quickly becoming a contentious division within Major League Baseball. As this preview will seek to posit, 4/5 teams have the ability on paper to contend in what will surely be a memorable 2014.  Since I am biased, I would leave this here as a disclaimer: I wouldn’t lose sleep if the Reds and the Cardinals decide to have a benches clearing brawl wherein many of their starters get suspended for weeks (not hurt). Continue reading

Tri-State at the Plate Episode #44: T-Plush Gets a Visa

This week Andy records the entire podcast while watching the 2013 NL Wildcard game in his basement. He’s envious of the stars and stripes blazers that the Red Sox players will wear to the White House this year. He opens up by discussing the Starling Marte contract extension, the first base situation, the contagious injury bug and successful Jaff’s in world history. Jason then discusses the hot corner in Cleveland, the return of T-Plush to the USA and Cleveland’s roster construction.

Noise on the North Coast – March 24

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North CoastWell we are finally here, one week from Opening Day (the real Opening Day that is, you know the one played in the United States at a normal time). In fact, this will be the final Spring Training edition of Noise on the North Coast.  So kick back and catch up on the last bits of news from Goodyear and try to forget about all the cruel jokes Mother Nature is playing up and down the North Coast.

 

 Pestano and Johnson Make the Cut

On Sunday, Indians GM Chris Antonetti met with Manager Terry Francona and members of the player development staff to begin the process of whittling down the Spring Training roster to 25 players. The day before it was announced that right-hander Vinnie Pestano and utility man Elliot Johnson would be on the Opening Day roster. That same day the Indians announced that outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Matt Carson would not be making the final roster. Francoeur was released while Carson was told he will finish the spring in big-league camp before being optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

 

Aaron Won’t Be Harang-ing Around Much Longer

During the meetings on Sunday the Indians staff informed Aaron Harang that he would not be on the 25-man roster to open the season. Harang has an opt-out clause that must be exercised by the end of today and it appears that he has exercised that clause and signed a deal with the pitching-starved Atlanta Braves.

Carlos CarrascoSo that still begs the question – who will grab that final rotation spot? On Sunday Antonetti and company wouldn’t say anything more specific than that the choices have been narrowed to Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer. While Bauer had a fantastic outing in a B-game last week  I think he has the lowest chance of making the team. (UPDATE – He was optioned to Triple-A this afternoon.) Tomlin has pitched great but he is out of options and the Indians need some kind of quality depth at Triple-A that they can count on. Carrasco had a decent outing today against the Reds, so I think Tomlin’s best chance to make the rotation went out the window when Harang opted-out of his contract and signed with Atlanta.

On Monday C.C. Lee was also optioned out to Triple-A Columbus. That means Blake Wood will most likely start the season as the seventh man in the bullpen. The only hitch would be if the Indians only keep seven relievers and Tomlin makes the rotation. However, the 25th roster spot is still un-decided (even after the moves explained below). If that move goes to a pitcher three of the following four could still make the team, Wood, Carrasco, Tomlin and Scott Atchison.

 

The Chiz Kid

Thankfully the Indians announced Monday afternoon that Lonnie Chisenhall would be part of the Opening Day roster. We all know that Chisenhall can succeed in Triple-A and he has nothing else to prove there. My concern going forward is that if Chisenhall begins to struggle will Tito still find the strength to write his name on the lineup card when he has another legit option in Carlos Santana? I understand this may be Chisenhall’s final chance, but I just hope he does indeed get a chance.

 

Does T-Plush Get His Own Locker?
On Monday the Indians also announced that Michael Bourn would be added to the disabled list and that outfielder Nyjer Morgan would make the Indians Opening Day roster.

Michael Bourn's injury has opened the door for Nyjer Morgan and his alter-ego T-Plush to start the year in Cleveland.

Michael Bourn’s injury has opened the door for Nyjer Morgan and his alter-ego T-Plush to start the year in Cleveland.

Obviously the news about Bourn is concerning but I’m not at all surprised. As I wrote in last week’s column the usual timetable for a hamstring strain recovery is around 4 weeks and the Indians were suggesting that Bourn could be ready in a week. While he might be ready if the ALCS started tomorrow I think it’s best to take the cautious approach with your $48 million outfielder.

With that out of the way there is one interesting thing to watch here. If Morgan gets a lot of playing time than the Indians obviously were not comfortable switching Michael Brantley back to center in Bourn’s absence. If Morgan plays sparingly and Brantley does slide back to center it seems odd that the front office would choose to keep Morgan over someone like Francoeur who at least brings a right-handed bat (and some power) to an all left-handed outfield.

 

Random Musings

–  I made my feelings about the Indians and Justin Masterson breaking off extension talks pretty clear in my piece on Friday so I won’t belabor that point anymore except to add one thing. There are already people out there talking about how the Indians will trade Masterson before the end of the season. The Indians already have a bit of a PR disaster on their hands by not extending Masterson and if they trade him they will have a full-scale revolt. Unless the Indians just absolutely tank this season I can’t imagine a scenario where the Indians trade Masterson during the season.

– When the major league players pack up and leave Goodyear later this week veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum will be staying behind in extended Spring Training. I had high hopes for Marcum but he is still working his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and has only thrown a handful of innings thus far. When he is ready for a full-scale rehab assignment then we will begin monitoring his progress again.

2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects: #5 – 1

By Andy Burdick

Check out prospects 20 – 16 here.

Check out prospects 15 – 11 here.

Check out prospects 10 – 6 here.

5. Austin Meadows

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 18 Pirates GULF Rk 43 189 29 47 11 5 5 20 3 2 24 42 .294 .399 .519 .918
2013 18 Jamestown NYPL A- 5 22 8 9 0 0 2 2 0 0 5 4 .529 .636 .882 1.519

Austin Meadows Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect outfielder Jamestown JammersAustin Meadows was selected ninth overall by the Pirates last season as a compensation pick for not signing Mark Appel the year before.  Meadows made an immediate impact within the organization, breezing through 189 plate appearances in the GCL before a brief stint in short season Jamestown. Continue reading

2014 Cleveland Indians Top Prospects #5-1

By Jason Ruggiero

Indians_LogoIt’s finally here! Time to reveal my number one prospect for 2014 in the Cleveland Indians farm system.  I’m sure you have no idea who I’m going to select (insert sarcasm here) but you might have questions about the previous 15 prospects I ranked. If that’s the case be sure to check out #’s 20-16, #’s 15-11 and #’s 10-6 before you go any further. If you’re up-to-date on your prospects well bully for you – you’re cleared to move on to the Top 5 below.

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The Case For Signing Justin Masterson

By Jason Ruggiero

Justin Masterson

I’m going to put this as clearly and simply as I can. By not signing Justin Masterson the Indians are blowing it.

What is it you might ask? Nothing too important, just a chance to keep a clubhouse leader, a front of the rotation starter, a guy that wants to stay in Cleveland and a good role model for young fans. Just an opportunity to prove to a fan base, that about a year ago was on the brink of total revolt, that you are in fact interested in building a winning team.

In case you missed it, it was widely reported today that extension talks between the Cleveland Indians and Justin Masterson have broken off after the Indians balked at giving Masterson $17 million a year. I know, it’s a lot of money, I know Masterson has never had two great back-to-back seasons and I know that contract would take up about 20% of the Indians total payroll but what are the other options?

The harsh reality is that good pitching is expensive. Sure there are doubts that Masterson is a “true #1 starter” but in case you haven’t been paying attention – $17 million a year isn’t true #1 starter money anymore. $17 million for Masterson is just about right and the Indians front office was lucky enough that their best pitcher, on the verge of free agency (and just weeks after Homer Bailey signed a 6 yr./$105 million deal) proposed that he would consider a two or three year contract.

Think for a moment about how often that situation occurs. The correct answer – never.

Right now Masterson is in the top tier of his pending free agent class. In the open market he could easily match Bailey’s deal. But instead he offered his current team a two or three year contract!

I know all about the qualifying offer system and its impact but Justin Masterson is no Ubaldo Jimenez. Someone will make Masterson a rich man next year and they won’t worry about the draft pick they lost.

In spite of all that, the Indians have decided that $17 million is too high for the one guy in their rotation that you can count on . . . for anything. Corey Kluber has awesome stuff, but he suffered a weird finger injury and has one MLB season of experience. Zach McAllister had a weird finger injury too – and he looks awful this spring. Danny Salazar has made ten starts in major league games and has a lot of durability concerns. Then you’ve got Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and they each haven concerns.

It’s true, imagining next year’s rotation without Masterson could be ugly but that’s not even the most depressing part. The most aggravating and depressing part is that Masterson gave ownership and the front office the chance to look like heroes. He gave them a chance to put a bow on top of all their recent accomplishments and they blew it.

Progressive FieldInstead, by not signing Masterson, they will fall right back into the cycle of negativity that they were so close to breaking out of. I don’t know that signing Masterson makes Progressive Field full again but I can’t see how it hurts. I know they got burned on contracts to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner but so what? They’re never going to sign another player again?  If they sign Masterson then all the “Dolanz are cheep” commenters look like even bigger fools and the Plain-Dealer’s focus on all the negatives looks silly. But now? Now those comments look spot on.

Imagine this scenario – a struggling team pulls off a coup by signing an incredibly renowned manager. They back this up by opening up their wallet and signing two upper-level free agents. Then they rattle off a playoff season where their homegrown second basemen goes to the All-Star game and they get to show off their hot new pitching prospect in the playoff push. That off-season they lock up a young outfielder and are discussing an extension with the second baseman. To top it all off they sign their best pitcher to an extension – partly because he likes the town and wants to stay.

Does that sound like the kind of team run by a bunch of polo-shirted hacks? No, that looks like a team that is on its way to building a consistent winner. Too bad this story might end differently.

Now here’s the really sad part – a consistent winner is the one and only way to build a consistent fan base. You can’t count on having 20,000 walk-ups every night. That means the only way to build ticket revenue is to have season ticket holders and season ticket holders aren’t going to pay all that money for a crappy product (unless we’re talking about Browns season tickets of course).

How do you build a consistent winner? Well you build a good farm system, sign young players to long-term contracts and exploit market inefficiencies for starters. But what you don’t do, what you never, ever do, is let your best pitcher expose you as being cheap.

You never talk about mitigating risk because of limited resources and when your best pitcher offers you a contract where he assumes the bulk of the risk you turn him down.

No. No, you never do that because then you just blew it.

 

2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects: #10 – 6

By Andy Burdick

Check out prospects 20 – 16 here.

Check out prospects 15 – 11 here.

10. Barrett Barnes

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 21 West Virginia SALL A 46 206 26 49 9 0 5 24 10 3 17 48 .268 .338 .399 .737

Barrett Barnes has the speed to stick in center, which is one thing that plays in his favor; it could help compensate for his below average arm. He gets on base at an okay rate and has decent pop for a projected up the middle outfielder. So far in his career his biggest knock has been that he hasn’t been able to stay on the diamond.  In 2012 he had a shin injury that cut his season short and he strained his hamstring and had back issues last season, which limited him to 46 games.  If he can stay on the field, he has the upside to be a serviceable center fielder with plus power.  It never hurts to stock up on outfielders with 20 – 25 home run power. Continue reading