Results tagged ‘ Houston Astros ’

The 2013 MLB All-Bloodline Prospect Team

2013 draftFor those of you living under a rock, or maybe hiding behind Scott Van Slyke’s mustache, the MLB amateur draft starts tomorrow. While it lacks the glitz and glam of the NFL draft (thank god), and bust potential is very high with so many picks (where ARE you Tim Beckham?), it’s still an exciting event for baseball nerds like us.

The stars of tomorrow (if you’re Bryce Harper…but more likely the stars of 2016) are all waiting in the wings of this draft. Follow along on MLB Network or MLB.com tomorrow, starting at 6 p.m. EST, to see which young player you need to know as he tears up your farm system over the next couple seasons.

So what is this nonsense we are spamming your timeline with tonight? Oh, just the dream team of MLB family genes! Using this article as a reference, we’re picking the all-bloodline team of the prospects who could get drafted this week, purely based on how said family member performed in his career. We probably won’t find the next Barry and Bobby Bonds or either of the Griffey’s, or any of the Boone’s, but it will be fun either way.

Enjoy:

Catcher: Kean Wong (brother of Cardinals #3 prospect Kolten Wong)

As much as this Warriors/Dodgers fan wanted to pick Ryan McCarvel (nephew of former NBA first-round pick Chris Mills) or Chad Wallach (son of current Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach), you can’t deny the exceptional talent that is evident in the Wong family. Kolten is one of the best prospects in baseball, and that alone made this an easy choice. We’ll see if Kean (I’ll give you a bag of corn nuts and a fist bump if you can tell me how to pronounce this name) lives up to his brother’s reputation.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Lidge (brother of former reliever Brad Lidge)

First base: Cameron Berra (“relative” of Yankees legend Yogi Berra)

I almost went with Manny Ramirez (yes, it’s the dreaded one’s son) here, but word on the street is that he’s joining pops in  Taiwan to ensure that the family dominance continues there. That’s a completely made up rumor. But how can you pass on the relative–even if the connection looks sketchy–to one of the greatest personalities and players in baseball history? I mean, the man has a World Series ring for each finger. And, yes, he has all 10 fingers. If Cameron is even one-fifth as successful, somebody made a good draft selection.

Honorable Mention: Preston Palmeiro (son of former slugger Rafael Palmeiro)

Second base: Cavan Biggio (son of snubbed Hall of Famer and lifelong Astro Craig Biggio)

Dad joined the 3,000 hit club, retired, and was immediately left out of the Hall of Fame this year. I’m over that. Totally. Can’t you tell? Anyway, I’m less concerned about why Craig named his son “Cavan,” than I am about the offspring actually matching Dad’s success. It’s a tall order, but even if he plays good defense and is a HBP magnet, we’ll be saying “like father, like son.” Too bad the ‘Stros already have a franchise second baseman. It would have been nice to see that name on the back of an Astros uni again.

Honorable Mention: JJ Franco (son of former reliever John Franco)

Third base: Luke Borders (son of former catcher Pat Borders)

To be honest, I was never a huge follower of Pat Borders’ career. I knew who he was and it seemed like he was around forever. So at the very least, if Luke can give that longevity, he’s worthy of this spot. His dad was extremely average, but enjoyed two rings and some good years defensively in Toronto. And with all apologies to Ruben Amaro and his hot-corner-handling nephew, I had to give the ‘stache potential points to the Jones family in the honorable mention category.

Honorable Mention: Alex Jones (son of former reliever Todd Jones)

Shortstop: Dillon Moyer (son of MLB’s father time Jamie Moyer)

Imagine my disappointment when I found out Jay Buhner’s son Gunnar qualified here but was not the kid on the epic SI cover shot. He gets the axe. We already gave JJ Franco, who can play both middle infield positions, an honorable mention elsewhere. And as much as I like BJ Surhoff (nephew Colin Moran is the #6 prospect in the draft and has an outside chance to go first overall), the rest of the group is better. Carl Crawford’s cousin J.P. is hanging around, but won’t quite make the cut. And because Walt Weiss has too many w’s in his name, his son Brodie is out (sorry not sorry). It’s simple subtraction, people. Plus, Jamie Moyer rules.

Honorable Mention: Ali Rodriguez (nephew of A-Roid A-Rod)

Left Field: Jacob Heyward (brother of talented Braves outfield Jason Heyward)

Topping his older brother’s first at-bat heroics is not going to happen, but Jacob could eventually become an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, too. Maybe the Braves can just move Jason to centerfield and replace another member of a brotherly duo in B.J. Upton, with the younger J-Hey. But if Braves GM Frank Wren has his choice between another Heyward and either of his sons, will he really slap family in the face like that? Spoiler: he definitely should.

Honorable Mention: Kyle and Jordan Wren (sons of Frank)

Center Field: Torii Hunter, Jr. (son of Tigers outfielder and notorious badass Torii Hunter)

Anyone else not realize until now that Torii Hunter was Torii Hunter, Sr.? The only reason I chose baby Torii over the bloodline of a Hall of Famer (see: Yount, Robin) is because there is a more direct DNA track between the two. If Hunter, Jr. is even a shell of his father, the team that drafts him is not going to be sorry. Hunter, Sr. has been one of the elite outfielders in baseball for almost two decades, and has been a helluva hitter as well.

Honorable Mention: Cody Yount (nephew of Robin)

Right Field: Mike Yastrzemski (grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski)

Please don’t tell Paul O’Neill that his nephew is merely an honorable mention for this position. But…really? What do you want me to do? NOT start a relative of the great 19-time All-Star? I don’t care how good this Mike kid is — if the Red Sox draft him, people are going to go absolutely nuts in Boston. But now that I jinxed him, the Yaz of the younger variety is probably going to get picked up by the Yanks. Uh-oh.

Honorable Mention: Mike O’Neill (nephew of hot-headed Yankee Paul O’Neill)

Starting Rotation:

1. Kacy Clemens, RHP (son of genetically-enhanced strikeout machine Roger Clemens)

2. Dalton Saberhagen, LHP (son of two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen)

3. D.J. Sylve, RHP (grandson of Bay Area and MLB legend Willie Stargell)

4. Ben Verlander, RHP (brother of best-pitcher-in-baseball Justin Verlander)

5. Chad Hockin, RHP (grandson of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew)

There were plenty of good options for the rotation, and you can see how clotted the bloodlines are (I should really work on that word choice) if the Leiter and Pettitte families get snubbed. Despite any steroid allegations, you can’t ignore the Clemens family dominance at the top of the rotation, followed by the studly southpaw in Saberhagen (really the only lefty worthy of consideration). Even though Killebrew and Stargell were hitters–very, very good hitters–it made sense to include their relatives here, as both are in the Hall of Fame. And naturally, even if he can never live up to big brother’s successes, leaving the name “Verlander” out of the starting rotation would be blasphemous.

Honorable Mentions: Mark Leiter, Jr. (nephew of Al Leiter), Josh Pettitte (son of Andy Pettitte), 

Closer: Jordan Sheffield, RHP (nephew of free-swinging hero Gary Sheffield)

As far as I know, all the pitchers on the list are starters anyhow, but I had to find a way to get Gary Sheffield’s DNA into this group. I’m just imagining his nephew Jordan having a violent arm waggle when he’s in the stretch before a pitch. With the violence that uncle Gary played with, I expect Jordan to at LEAST touch 123 MPH on average with his fastball. Really, Quantrill or Hunter Brothers (Rockies’ reliever Rex’s little bro) would have been the more sensible choice, but it’s GARY SHEFFIELD, people!

Honorable Mention: Cal Quantrill (son of former reliever Paul Quantrill)

What do you think? Will any or all of these guys get drafted today? Who would YOU include on your all-bloodlines team for this year’s draft? Did I include too many mustache pics in this blog? Follow along with Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or tweet us @3u3d with input.

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Umpire Suspended for the Botched Call Nobody Cares About

No, not that botched call. It seems no matter how poorly Angel Hernandez umpires a game, he will forever go unpunished (unless the court of public opinion counts, which sentenced him to life without parole about 15 years ago).

On the other hand, according to MLB’s official Twitter, Fieldin Culbreth was fined and suspended two games for screwing up a rule in yesterday’s Angels-Astros game:

Culbreth–and his whole crew–definitely made the wrong call in that game, but it didn’t end up costing the Angels, who came back to win the game anyway. Hernandez, on the other hand, blew a home run call that would have tied the game in the ninth inning for the A’s in Cleveland earlier this week.

But, wait. He even blew the call again after consulting instant reply, deciding there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the initial ruling. You can see that play here:

Not enough evidence, huh? Did Hernandez stop to think maybe that was enough evidence? That just maybe, he is one of the worst judges of “evidence” the world has ever seen? At least he had the gall to admit his mistake to reporters after the game. Oh, wait.

Man, that guy really sucks. Why is he still employed again?

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for all your 2013 MLB news!

Episode 40 – Yu Can’t Predict Ball

Coming fresh into a new season the Three Up, Three Down crew jumps right into the opening series with a lot to talk about. A few extensions were handed out to players such as Elvis Andrus, Justin Verlander, and Paul Goldschmidt and who could forget watching Clayton Kershaw slicing and dicing the San Francisco Giants while taking one deep? Was that better than Yu Darvish’s almost perfect performance against the Houston Astros? Not only are the pitchers doing well, two hitters have made a statement this early in the season as Chris Davis and Michael Morse are smashing the ball, but who would you rather have the rest of the season on your fantasy team? Take a listen and choose wisely!

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Enjoy!

Top 5 Moments of Opening Day

Opening DayThis is no April Fools prank: Baseball. Is. Back!

After the Houston Astros dis–hey…stop laughing…it really happened–dismantled the Texas Rangers last night at Minute Maid Park, we had our first full day of baseball today.

Naturally, ESPN kicked it off with proof that they are extremely stubborn as a network, pitting C.C. Sabathia and the hobbled Yankees versus Jon Lester and the completely average Red Sox.

There were so many amazing moments in a long day of ball that it was hard to narrow down to just five. But here is our best shot at it. This is what we do at Three Up, Three Down. We write stuff on baseball-related activities for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!

5. Justin Jacks One

Welcome to Atlanta, where the playa’s play and Upton hits bombs like every day. No disrespect to Freddie Freeman, who also went mammo today, but this Justin Upton blast was put in orbit. And it’s not just a top moment because of the distance–the Braves outfield is the most freakish in baseball, and this is just the first sampling. The Braves faithful have been waiting for this moment since the original trade was made, and the little bro definitely didn’t disappoint.

4. Brewers Bailed Out

One of KP’s least favorite memories of the 2012 season was any blown save by John Axford and Co. If you see our tallest group member, give him a hug. Because Axford was at it again on Opening Day, giving up a no-doubter with two outs in the ninth to the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler, which tied the game. Fortunately for Milwaukee and the home fans, the Rockies pitching staff is deplorable and Jonathan Lucroy was able to score a walk-off sac fly and bail the bullpen out.

3. Bryce Decides Twice is Nice

If there was any debate that last year’s NL Rookie of the Year would suffer from a sophomore slump, he killed it quick. In his first two at-bats of the 2013 season, Bryce Harper absolutely crushed two Ricky Nolasco pitches and put them in the right field bleachers. I’m not buying that his second one has landed yet. In fact, it might currently be traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for it. The 20-year-old phenom is on pace for 324 jacks this year. 

2. Stan the Man MUSIAL PATCH

The late Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Stan Musial is being honored by the team with a cool, classy patch (pictured to the right) on their left sleeves in 2013. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, who hosted the Cards on Opening Day, pulled off a fantastic move by paying homage with a video tribute to Musial between innings. Unfortunately, I don’t have video for you, but the gesture itself was a true act of sportsmanship and remembrance of one of the greatest hitters and humans the world has ever seen.

1. Kershaw Goes Krazy

Let me set the stage: The defending champions travel to their heated rival’s new stadium and face their fancy new team in a battle between two of the best pitchers in the league. A pitcher’s duel turns into a one-man show as Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw not only throws a complete game, four-hit shutout, but hits a go-ahead home run that breaks a scoreless tie in the eighth inning. Unbelievable. And in a game that began with a well-choreographed first pitch skit from Dodgers heroes Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. I have to take a second to brag, as humbly as possible. I tweeted THIS about five minutes before magic occurred. Of course it was a coincidence  but it makes me believe in fairy tale endings, and reinforces our love of this magical sport.

Buckle up, baseball fans. This was just day one. Only 161 more regular season games to go! Vote below on which one of these moments should have been in the top five, or comment about any moments we missed!

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook! The best baseball coverage, coming at you from five different states and five different fan bases.

Every Team’s New Years Resolution

new-years-resolutionsIt’s that time of year again. That time when you realize your resolution to lose 30 pounds failed – in fact, we gained 30, didn’t we? When your declaration that your vampire novel would finally be finished and sent to the publisher, never got off the shelf.

Or that your dream of visiting Tahiti ended up being a shady motel for a weekend in Oakland on business.

Now that we’ve set a bleak mood, here’s the point: It’s New Years resolution time. We will all be making them, whether it’s private or public. And likewise, our favorite MLB teams must have one resolution they are aiming to accomplish in 2013.

Since we survived the apocalypse for now, here are Three Up, Three Down’s resolutions for every MLB team:

AL West:

Texas Rangers – Make a new friend – The Rangers either shopped in the wrong place or got screwed over for every player on their Christmas wish list. It’s not too late to snag Justin Upton from the D’Backs, though it gets less likely with each passing day. Texas should be going after the powerful right fielder hard in January.

Los Angeles Angels – Make a little money - Hear me out. Everyone knows that Arte Moreno and his Angels are filthy rich, but do they really have enough left over to re-work the decimated starting rotation? Trading for Jason Vargas was a nice touch, but will Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson really replace Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana?

arte morenoOakland A’s – Move to a better ‘hood – Lew Wolff is fooling nobody. Because everyone and their mother knows that o.Co Coliseum is not a viable venue for a professional baseball team. Wolff claims he wants at least another half-decade in Oakland, but I’m calling his bluff. Their resolution should be to get OUT, and fast.

Seattle Mariners – Bulk up – No, not on the Bartolo Colon diet. The M’s took a good first step toward that workout regimen by trading for Kendrys Morales. But just because that punch-less offense now benches the bar doesn’t mean opponents will quiver with fear. The M’s need to go out and get some more power to legitimize those playoff hopes.

Houston Astros – Graduate – It’s no secret that the ‘Stros are a big work in progress. Moving to what was last year’s best division in baseball isn’t going to help things. While the other four teams in the division are – at the very least – grown men, Houston is struggling to graduate from a student to a serious businessman. Can they take that step in 2013?

AL Central:

Detroit Tigers – Learn to close – Take this as you may. There are thousands of frat boys in America resolving to improve in the same fashion next year. But I meant it as a nod to the Tigers getting handled in a sweep in the World Series in 2012. Adding Torii Hunter and bringing back Anibal Sanchez were big steps, but 2013 will be a failure without redemption.

Kansas City Royals – Become a “cool kid” – Oh, don’t pretend like you weren’t aspiring to be one your whole academic life. The Royals got some nice clothes and a haircut over the winter vacation, and are looking to butt their way into the “in” crowd. In baseball speak, that means they are aiming to be the new playoff darlings after adding much-needed pitching.

torii hunter

Cleveland Indians – Get along with Dad – The relationship wasn’t that bad before, but the Indians sure would like to impress new skipper Terry Francona in 2013. Cleveland is loaded with untapped potential, and they are hoping to play well for a full season to show their manager and fans that they are serious about this job.

Chicago White Sox – Prove everyone wrong - Wait, didn’t they do that last year? Sure, but people like me are still unconvinced. Their numbers were unexpectedly good, but that just makes the boss curious. Can they repeat? Do they actually deserve the promotion? The Chisox sure would like to move on up, but they will have a tough road.

Minnesota Twins – Get back on their feet – Plenty of people have to resolve to do this every year. Whether it be an economic downturn,  family problem, or injury, some years are just destined to be awful. The Twins know they won’t contend in 2013, but they can start the grueling process of getting back to a stable place.

AL East:

New York Yankees – Forgiveness – They better learn how, because former public enemy number one, Kevin Youkilis, will be manning third base for the Yanks in 2013. What this really means, is that if Youk bounces back and has a good year, the Yanks will forget all about their problems, and likely return to the postseason.

Boston Red Sox – Get cleaned up – This kind of resolution is usually reserved for a junkie of some kind, but it’ll fit nicely with the BoSox here. Boston got so far off track last season that they traded away millions of dollars in bad contracts for below-average prospects. Once they finish cutting out the rot, the Sox might contend again, even in this division.

Toronto Blue Jays – Build an empire – Such a wish is much more foreboding when applied to business in the real world, but opponents of the Jays should really be terrified of the changes this team has made. Their one and only goal with so many major acquisitions must be to not only make the playoffs, but to dominate everyone on the way.blue jays new players

Tampa Bay Rays – Try something crazy – I want to go skydiving, or hike a volcano, or start a band. The Rays, however, should do a whole different kind of crazy. Start Wil Myers in the big leagues, and see if it takes off. The kid is ready, and the lineup needs a boost. Anything remotely good from Myers may mean a playoff berth for Tampa.

Baltimore Orioles – Update the security system – In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with home security. I’m not talking a drawbridge and moat, but we’ve learned that the best teams are thriving because of good pitching staffs, to protect any other weaknesses they may have. Baltimore NEEDS a couple starting pitchers.

NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers – Give to charity – I swear, this isn’t even a “rich ownership” joke. Okay, it kind of is. But with all the money this team has shelled out over the past ten or so months, why isn’t their most deserving commodity seeing any of it? They keep talking about an extension for Clayton Kershaw, but show the fans you mean business!

San Francisco Giants – Share with friends – Not the World Series title itself, although this Dodgers fan would appreciate them passing that honor along next season. I’m talking about the Giants sharing with their San Francisco cohort, the 49ers. As the new year starts, the 49ers will be in contention for a title of their own, and any advice would be great.

Arizona Diamondbacks  v San Diego PadresArizona Diamondbacks – Cut ties with a family member – Sometimes it’s just necessary. You hate to see anyone secede from the clan, but signing free agent outfielder Cody Ross makes it inevitable. Will it be Upton? Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra? One will need to go, and it’s only a matter of time before they get dumped.

Colorado Rockies – Get health insurance – I know, I know. It’s not affordable in this country anymore. That’s one thing I won’t argue! But you have to think, given the regularity of major injuries to Colorado’s best players (Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, etc.) they would find any way to keep everyone off the DL.

San Diego Padres – Earn a promotion – Any opponents who take the Padres lightly in 2013 are foolish. With Chase Headley, Alexi Amarista and Yonder Alonso backing an underrated pitching staff, San Diego could be the A’s of 2013. They will have to fight and scrap their way to get there, though.

NL Central:

Cincinnati Reds – Follow through – This is a tough one for any given person to accomplish. We make all sorts of promises to ourselves that oftentimes go unfinished. The Reds have made a silent pact to be even better than they were last year, and finally achieve what they’ve been on the brink of for years now. They might be the team to beat in the NL next year.

St. Louis Cardinals – Rekindle the flame – In a non-romantic way, of course. One of the reasons the Cardinals were able to shock fans everywhere and make that insane title run in 2011 was the clutch gene. They weren’t missing it last year, but everything was just too inconsistent in St. Louis. If they rediscover their balance and passion, watch out everyone else.

2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

Milwaukee Brewers – Be a good parent – Confused? Good. The Brewers almost clawed their way all the way back into a Wild Card slot in 2012 after a dismal, bullpen-failure-laden start to the year. With a loaded lineup and above average pitching staff, this should not happen again. So their resolution is to help tutor young shortstop Jean Segura into a star.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Improve their grades – The Pirates were so close to being eligible last year. Not for the playoffs, or any nonsense like that. But to finally getting over the hump. Pittsburgh needs a 2.0 to be eligible – in this case, they need 81 wins – to be taken seriously. Will they reach the .500 mark? A slight improvement in 2013 will do it!

Chicago Cubs – Change their image – There really is no changing an entire image built around loss and devastation, as Cubs fans have known all too well for over a century. But even a slight uptick in wins and a breakout season from one of their young stars (Brett Jackson, maybe?) will at least give people hope that they can change.

NL East:

Washington Nationals – Make up – Adam LaRoche needs to be back in D.C. for 2013. All he wants is one extra year on a contract he has more than earned. Without a doubt, he was the most consistent hitter on the best team in the league in 2012, and should get paid as such. My New Years advice to the Nats is to make up with him. Sign the guy for three years.

Atlanta Braves – Learn acceptance – I remember being taught in psychology that the standard grieving process goes Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Braves fans and any good fan anywhere are surely coming out of the Depression stage right now (I know I am) and trying to transition into Acceptance at the fact that Chipper Jones has retired.

chipper farewell

Philadelphia Phillies – Become more patient - This is easier said than done for anyone, but it’s especially pertinent in Philadelphia. From an outsider’s perspective, I thought Philadelphia was caving into a sinkhole given the fans general reaction to last season’s debacle. Patience, Phillie fanatics. Your team is still very, very good. They are close, too.

New York Mets – Have more fun – I presume life as a Mets fan hasn’t been very enjoyable for the past three seasons – well, at least after the All-Star break. But they re-signed poster boy David Wright and gained some really solid prospects in the R.A. Dickey trade. Everything is headed in the right direction, Mets fans. Just calm down and have a little fun with it.

Miami Marlins – Make amends with people – Strange, you say? Au contraire! The smaller fan base that follows the Marlins are no doubt let down by the shocking fire sale that took place this winter. No more executive-speak, front office. Give it to the fans, and your best remaining player Giancarlo Stanton, straight. What is the plan? Honesty will take you far.

Tweet @3u3d with what you think your team’s New Years resolution should be, or Facebook Three Up, Three Down with your suggestion! Don’t forget to subscribe and follow the blog and podcast here.

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Arizona Fall League: Winners and Losers From the Rising Stars Game

When we told you that Three Up, Three Down really loves baseball, we weren’t kidding. On Saturday, I watched the Oregon vs. USC football game until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, at which point I switched away from one of the best games of the year to focus on MLB Network.

No, I’m not crazy – I just love baseball, and the Arizona Fall League’s (AFL) annual Rising Stars Game was on. For those of you that don’t know, the AFL is basically grad school for each team’s top prospects. All 30 MLB teams assign seven players to the AFL, comprised of six teams.

It’s basically a little extra work for the superstars of tomorrow. Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper played in the Rising Stars Game. Mike Piazza, Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are just a few of the alumni of the AFL. And the game in 2012 was no different, showcasing a plethora of talent we will be sure to see on Major League teams in the very near future, such as Detroit’s Nick Castellanos, who won the Futures Game MVP in July.

I’ve picked five winners and losers from the game yesterday – read on to see if one of your team’s top prospects made an impact!

Full rosters for the Rising Stars Game can be found HERE!

WINNER:

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Hamilton was this game’s biggest draw, and he delivered big time. One of the few players to start and finish the game, Hamilton got to show off the speed that has made him Cincinnati’s top-rated prospect (Minor League record 155 steals in 2012 – that is NOT a typo) right from the get-go. After drawing a walk to lead off the game, Hamilton promptly stole second, stole third, and scored on a double two batters later. Hamilton also laid down a beautiful bunt that forced an errant throw, resulting in him coasting to third base on the play. Though he recently transitioned from shortstop to center field in order to take advantage of those wheels, Hamilton looked right at home, making a diving play later on in the game. This kid is undoubtedly a future star.

LOSER:

Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins

Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law had a very rough time against the elite hitters of the AFL. Tonkin pitched to five batters and didn’t get a single one out – instead, he allowed three hits, five base runners and four earned runs (five runs total) on 17 pitches. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old righty has really strong stuff, but melted in a big spot yesterday. To add to the disappointment for Tonkin, he was charged with a blown save, took the loss, and saw a 4-3 lead turn into an 8-3 deficit under his watch. Tonkin has a good, low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a pretty good slider – his 2.08 ERA and 97 K’s in 69 1/3 innings in Minor League ball this past season don’t lie – but he really fell apart in the Rising Stars Game.

WINNER:

Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres

Holy smokes, can the Padres’ number one prospect swing a bat! There’s a visibly arrogant swagger to Liriano’s game, but he walks the walk on the field, and proved it again last night. In five plate appearances, Liriano went 3-for-4 with two doubles, walked, drove in a run, and scored a run. He had great plate discipline and was being lauded by premiere minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo for his speed as well. The Padres may have a legitimate offensive threat in Liriano, as long as they can keep him grounded when he hits a slump in the big leagues.

LOSER:

Michael Almanzar, Boston Red Sox

It’s been a strange journey for Almanzar, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. When he was originally drafted, the Red Sox thought they were getting a future power hitter. And while he’s shown potential to pop a few out of the yard, he needs to put on some muscle. At 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he has the frame of a guy who should be shooting the gap, yet the eye and the swing of a homer-happy free swinger. The Rising Stars Game proved to be a disaster for Almanzar, as he came up to bat twice, including in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, and struck out both times. To his credit, Almanzar did have a good at-bat in the 9th, before caving to strike three.

WINNER:

Austin Romine, New York Yankees

Going 1-for-2 with a strikeout doesn’t sound like such a fantastic game, does it? But the Yankees’ farm hand narrowly missed a monster home run in his first at-bat, instead settling for a triple. Romine also was hit by a pitch in the left elbow and came around to score his second run of the game. The reason Romine is a winner here, is because the kid has suffered through injury after injury during his young career, and proved his toughness in front of a TV audience last night. The half inning before getting plunked, Romine took two hard foul tips off the body and walked both of them off. He’s a gamer, and proved it in Arizona – the Yankees will definitely be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training.

LOSER:

Nick Ahmed, Atlanta Braves

Ahmed actually has a good-looking future, as he swatted 36 doubles and swiped 40 bags in 130 games in the Minors this season. I don’t know if his future with the Braves will be at shortstop, but he didn’t give them any reason to think so in this one-game sample size last night. Ahmed made a couple nice plays and redeemed himself later with a walk and a run, but he started the game with a strikeout at the plate and an ugly error in the field. I’m talking, line drive right to him, off the glove, into left field type of error. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky already ahead of him, Ahmed might be looking to learn a new position if he wants to break in with the big club.

WINNER:

Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals

After the West team went up 2-0 in the top of the first, Goodwin sparked the East by hitting a leadoff homer, the only one of the game. The analysis on Goodwin is that he has legitimate five-tool potential. I can see why people might think so; Goodwin’s left-handed swing is extremely quick and he has the abilities to hit for average and power. He has decent speed and plays solid outfield defense, too. The Nationals may need to make room for this guy in their outfield very soon. My guess is he would supplant Harper in center field at some point in the next two seasons. Goodwin, who just turned 22 on Friday, had an OPS of .852 between two Minor League stops in 2012, and showed off his skills in Arizona going 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.

LOSER:

Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros

I was really excited to watch Cosart start this game, because I knew his reputation (a 2.60 ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year; electric fastball, good change-up, above average breaking ball and great command). He was a key piece, along with Rising Stars teammate Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal to Philadelphia in 2011. Cosart has been a top prospect in both organizations he’s played for since day one, but I was truly disappointed with his outing last night. Though the numbers weren’t bad (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), he was missing his spots all day, going 3-0 on multiple batters across those frames. I had no doubt after watching that Cosart has the tools to be a good starter or a great reliever, but he really laid an egg in his start on Saturday.

WINNER:

Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees

Yeah, yeah. I hate putting two Yankees in the winner’s column as much as the next guy. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t very impressed with both prospects I have listed here. Though I probably could have chosen any reliever after the sixth inning on either squad (The 12 total pitchers entering in the 6th inning or later, combined: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K), I went with Montgomery for his dominant performance. The 21-year-old righty blew away the West team in his frame, striking out all three batters on 16 total pitches. His 1.65 minor league ERA and 16.1 K/9 are ridiculous, and I wonder if he has the make-up or velocity (tops out at 95 MPH) to some day fill Mariano Rivera’s shoes as the closer in the Bronx. Either way, I expect to see him getting big league action by 2014 at the very latest.

LOSER:

Anyone who didn’t watch the game!

Seriously. It’s not a cop-out. I’m not saying you should also sacrifice your college football or NFL, or even NBA watching during the MLB off-season, but don’t pass up an opportunity to watch some of the next great generation of baseball stars in action. Follow along with the AFL this winter and see how your team’s top prospects are handling some of the best minor league competition in all of baseball. Better yet, just follow the 3u3d blog and we’ll give you everything you need to know until Opening Day is back upon us. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can find us @3u3d, and you can like us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down. All the glorious baseball news you can stomach, right here, all winter long.

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Grade That Trade! Early Astros Edition

If there is one team that has made it clear that they are sellers at this year’s trade deadline it’s the Houston Astros.  Why wait until July 31st to make some some moves though?  Houston already dealt Carlos Lee to Miami that we covered here  and Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow is continuing to build towards the future by pulling off two more deals this weekend.  Let’s take a look at how the Astros did.

Astros receive: RP Francisco Cordero and OF Ben Francisco, plus prospects RHP Joe Musgrove and Asher Wojciechowski, LHP David Rollins, C Carlos Perez and a player to be named later

Blue Jays receive: SP J.A. Happ, RP’s Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter

The Blue Jays were looking for any pitching help after losing Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek,  Drew Hutchison, Sergio Santos, Luis Perez, and Jason Frasor to injuries.  Drabek, Perez, and Santos are done for the season.  Happ can be serviceable in both the rotation and out of the bullpen.  He came out of the bullpen in his first appearance with the Jays.  Lyon will replace Cordero as the righty set-up man in the bullpen.

Cordero joins his 6th MLB team in his career and comes back to the N.L. Central after being with Cincinnati from 2008-11.  He has fallen off this season with a 5.77 ERA, but is only signed to a one-year contract, meaning the Astros will clear his salary at the end of the season or it makes him a target to be flipped by the end of July for more prospects.  Francisco was a former big-name prospect, but hasn’t lived up to it.  He’s turned into a reserve outfielder and is hitting .236 this season.

The Astros made this deal though for the prospects.  The three pitchers all have been good in the minors so far and two were high draft picks in the 1st compensation round.  Wojciechowski and Perez were top 15 prospects in the Blue Jays system according to “Prospect Corner.”

Astros receive: Prospects RHP Matt Heidenreich, LHP Blair Walters, and a player to be named later

White Sox receive: RP Brett Myers

Was there a more obvious trade candidate in the 2012 season than Brett Myers?  The Astros converted him to closer in order to maximize his value on the trade market.  The two prospects aren’t anything overly special, but stockpiling pitching lottery tickets and hoping one makes it, isn’t a bad strategy.  Walters, 22, was ranked by Baseball America as the 26th best prospect in the White Sox system, but has struggled since moving up to high A with a 7.01 ERA and 1.63 WHIP for Winston-Salem. 21 year-old Heidenreich was solid in Winston-Salem going 8-2 with a 3.57 ERA this season, but also has struggled since moving up another level.

Myers moves to the Windy City to help stabilize a bullpen that has the 3rd worst bullpen ERA in the American League.  Myers has 19 saves and a 3.52 ERA for Houston before being traded.  Myers, Matt Thornton, and Addison Reed isn’t exactly the strongest combination at the end of games, but it can be good enough to keep the White Sox in contention for the A.L. Central.

The Astros have shown that they’re trying to bottom out completely and pick up high draft picks in the draft to build a nucleus for the latter part of this decade.  We’ve already seen Houston grab Carlos Correa with the #1 pick in this years draft.  They’re setting themselves up to pick near the top once again.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Ranking Cain’s Perfecto

Wow.

That was the only word I could utter after watching Matt Cain finish off the Houston Astros last night in his perfect game for the San Francisco Giants. I’m a die-hard Dodgers fan who lives in the Bay Area, so two thoughts immediately crossed my mind, and one might surprise you:

1. WHY DIDN’T I GO TO THAT GAME?

2. Congratulations, Matt Cain!

The first is easily explainable. I live 30 minutes east of AT&T Park, but I don’t just empty the bank on random nights to go to a Giants game. And why in the world, out of every Giants game I could attend, would I pick one against the lowly Astros?

My second statement is the one that might surprise you – why is a Dodgers fan congratulating a rival pitcher on a historic feat, let alone on a night that saw his team lose one game of their division lead to said rivals? Because I’m a classy baseball fan! That’s what we do here at Three Up, Three Down, and you’d be hard pressed to find me ever dismiss a historic moment, no matter the jersey being worn.

And you know what else we do at Three Up, Three Down? We make lists. Because they are awesome. So without further adieu or desperate justification to save face with my Dodger fan buddies, let’s move on to the list du jour:

There have been 22 perfect games in Major League history, including two in 2012 (only the third year ever that two perfect games have been thrown in the same season – also done in 1880 and 2010), but few have been more dominant than Cain’s last night.

As if just tossing a game in which 27 batters come to the plate and make an immediate U-turn back to the dugout wasn’t enough, we have to split hairs and discover the best of the best. So here’s my list, in order of the most impressive perfect games ever hurled:

22. John “Monte” Ward, Providence Grays, 1880 

Yes, it counts if it was before cars were invented. This is an early era of baseball that a lot of fans don’t appreciate, but pitchers consistently threw every inning of almost every game and the ones who did it well deserve respect, even 132 years later. Ward, 20 at the time, struck out two Buffalo Bisons (if anyone knows where I can get a Bisons jersey, please let me know ASAP @Jamblinman on Twitter…seriously!) players en route to being the youngest perfect pitcher in MLB history.

21. Dallas Braden, Oakland Athletics, 2010

How can you not love what Braden did on Mother’s Day in 2010, unless your name is Alex Rodriguez? Braden’s first career complete game was surely the crowning moment of what is slowly becoming a less and less relevant Major League resumé. He perfected the Tampa Bay Rays who were an MLB-best 22-8 coming into the game, and accentuated it with a huge fist pump coming off the mound. 

20. Lee Richmond, Worcester Ruby Legs, 1880

Would you believe that a mere five days before Ward tossed his gem for Providence, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs (why can’t we still have awesome team names like this??) got things rolling with the first recorded perfect game in baseball history? He K’d five batters in a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Blues.

19. Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox, 2012

Humber struck out nine batters, including Brendan Ryan for the final out, on what may or may not have been a check-swing ball four. We’ll let it slide and give Humber the benefit of the doubt. One thing I don’t doubt is that this was an incredible, albeit fluky performance from Humber, who accomplished this feat on just 96 pitches.

18. Dennis Martinez, Montreal Expos, 1991

To further prove my aforementioned classiness, I will forgive Martinez for making my Dodgers look foolish in this game. I’m sure he is breathing a sigh of relief. But Martinez was already having a fantastic season in ’91, and adding a perfect game against a team that was 15 games over .500 was the peak moment for him.

17. Tom Browning, Cincinnati Reds, 1988

Another pitcher who victimized my Dodgers nearly became the first pitcher to throw two perfect games when he retired 24 in a row against the Phillies one year later. Alas, the poor guy had to settle for just one perfect game, and it was a doozy. On 100 pitches, Browning struck out seven batters on the first-place Dodgers.

16. Kenny Rogers, Texas Rangers, 1994

The pitcher, not the singer. And if you had them confused, please kindly exit this blog right now, close your laptop, undress, and apply 20 lashes to your own back. Trust me, it’s better than what @RangerfanBrian would do to you for disrespecting Kenny like that. Rogers threw a gem against the California Angels here, ringing up 8 batters on 98 pitches along the way.

15. Charlie Robertson, Chicago White Sox, 1922

Robertson’s perfecto is pretty mind-boggling for a few reasons. First, it was only his fourth career start and fifth game in the big leagues. Second, he perfected a Detroit Tigers lineup that was boasting a mind-boggling team on-base percentage of .373 at the time. And finally, he only had 49 career wins! But he can count this one as his most memorable, I’m sure.

14. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox, 2009

I still can’t decide what was more impressive – Buehrle’s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays (who were also perfected by Braden in 2010), or this ridiculous play on Opening Day of 2010. Just kidding, the perfecto is obviously better, but still. Pure athleticism. Buehrle, one of baseball’s good guys, struck out six batters in this game.

13. Mike Witt, California Angels, 1984

Witt’s perfect game came on an efficient 94 pitches against the Texas Rangers. The Angels and Rangers are the only teams to throw perfect games against each other in MLB history. Among those 94 pitches, Witt was able to snag 10 strikeouts. He was also the losing pitcher in Rogers’ 1994 perfect game, and is the only pitcher ever to start and finish a no-hitter (he was the closer for a no-hitter in 1990, started by teammate Mark Langston).

12. Addie Joss, Cleveland Naps, 1908

Joss only struck out three batters in his perfect game against the Chicago White Sox. But the most mesmerizing statistic in the box score is his pitch count. An unbelievable total of 74 pitches were used over the nine innings, averaging less than three per batter. Joss later threw another no-no against the White Sox, becoming the only Major Leaguer to ever no-hit the same team twice.

11. Cy Young, Boston Americans, 1904

The guy that certain award is named after holds the career wins record with 511, a mark likely to never be approached for the rest of time. But only once was Cy perfect. He beat the Philadelphia A’s 3-0, recording eight K’s along the way, and contributing to a scoreless innings streak that eventually reached 45 total.

10. David Wells, New York Yankees, 1998

Many questions swirl around this perfect game, and none have to do with close calls or potential ball-doctoring. But after Wells perfected the Minnesota Twins, striking out 11 batters on 120 pitches, he told the media he was “half-drunk” on the mound that day, from partying too hard the night before. Fun fact: Wells attended the same high school in San Diego as Don Larsen, who will be making an appearance later on this list.

9. David Cone, New York Yankees, 1999

Only 14 months after his teammate was perfect, Cone doubled the Yankees’ pleasure, tossing a gem against the Montreal Expos. In the 6-0 win, no Expos batter reached a three-ball count, and Cone struck out 10 batters on just 88 pitches. Before the game, Don Larsen threw out the first pitch to Yogi Berra. Cone’s catcher was current Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

8. Len Barker, Cleveland Indians, 1981

Just like Cone, Barker never reached a three-ball count on anyone in this game, a 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first time a team in the designated hitter era was perfected, so Barker had one extra real hitter to deal with. Something I was very impressed with upon my research, was that all 11 of Barker’s strikeouts were swinging.

7. Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies, 1964

Bunning struck out 10 batters on just 90 pitches in this 6-0 win over the Mets at Shea Stadium. His was the first National League perfect game in 84 years, since Ward’s in 1880. He pitched it on Father’s Day, which is just a cool nugget, but the real story is that he completely bucked the voodoo tradition of not talking to a pitcher during a no-hitter. He kept talking to his teammates to keep them loose and relaxed along the way.

6. Catfish Hunter, Oakland A’s, 1968

The future Hall of Famer went 3-for-4 at the dish in this game with 3 RBI in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Oh, and he also just happened to allow no runs, no hits, no walks and faced the minimum 27 batters. What’s that you say? A perfect game! Just after the A’s moved to Oakland, too. What a welcome to California for Hunter and the A’s fan base.

5. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies, 2010

Just 20 days after Braden’s unlikely perfecto, Doc Halladay surprised nobody and finally threw his first career perfect game.  We all know he’s the mastermind of a playoff no-hitter the same year, but this 1-0, 11 K gem against the Florida Marlins was still his best overall performance of the season. Halladay was the obvious choice for 2010 N.L. Cy Young.

4. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2004

It was always a “when,” not an “if” The Big Unit would toss a perfect game as soon as his flowing, golden mullet cracked the scene in Montreal. Nobody could have guessed it would take him until age 40 to get there, becoming by far the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfecto. The Braves, who he beat 2-0, had a very solid .593 winning percentage at the time, too. His 13 strikeouts are second most ever in a perfect game, behind the next two on my list. Must know: Randy was born in Walnut Creek, CA; the same hometown as yours truly!

3. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants, 2012

I promise you this is not a case of “it just happened, it must be the greatest.” Comparing his to the rest of the perfect games on this list, there is no way he and his 14 strikeouts are out of the top three. Cain tossed the first perfect game in the Giants’ extensive franchise history, and was of course helped by this unbelievable catch by Gregor Blanco in the 7th inning. Fun fact that you probably already know: Ted Barrett, the home plate umpire, was also behind the dish for Cone’s perfecto in ’99.

2. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1965

Koufax’s perfect game almost didn’t happen – the opposing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Chicago Cubs only gave up one hit, but eventually his fine performance was forgotten by Koufax’s incredible start. Sandy struck out 14 batters, and recorded his fourth career no-hitter (one in each season from 1962-1965). Perhaps most impressive in this perfect game is that future Hall of Famer, and one of the best players of all time who didn’t win a ring, Ernie Banks, was held to 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

1. Don Larsen, New York Yankees, 1956 

The Yankees absolutely terrorized the late 1940’s and all of the 1950’s, playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series seven times in a 10-season span, and winning six of them (1955 being the exception). Undoubtedly, the most amazing moment of any of those championships was when Larsen fanned seven Dodgers en route to winning Game 5 of the World Series. The intensity and stakes involved in the playoffs skyrocketed this one to number one on my list, and there was no hesitation. Larsen’s gem was, and still remains, the only perfect game in postseason history.

—–

We’ve seen five no-hitters in 2012 now, of all shapes and sizes. There have been two perfect games, a no-hitter marred by controversy, a no-hitter for the ages from Jered Weaver, and one collaborated on by six different Seattle pitchers. But there is no doubt that Cain’s was the best of the bunch so far, and one of the greatest of all time.

This season has already been one of the most incredible, legendary seasons in any sport in any era. Here’s to hoping it continues to trend that way! I think it’s officially time to re-name 2012 the Year of the Pitcher.

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

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