Speculating on a Roy Oswalt-to-Texas deal

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Craig thinks the pieces are in places, but he doesn’t know what those pieces may be. So let’s speculate on some of the possibilities to be shipped from Texas to Houston in return for Roy Oswalt.
Too good to include:
Neftali Feliz (RHP – Age 22) – Feliz is 15-of-17 in save chances since replacing Frank Francisco in the closer’s role for the Rangers, and he’s been particularly good over the last six weeks, allowing runs in just two of 18 appearances. He has a ridiculous ceiling as a starting pitcher, as well, and he probably qualifies as one of the game’s 20 or 30 most valuable properties at the moment.
Justin Smoak (1B – Age 23) – Smoak has stepped up of late, hitting .317/.429/.537 so far in June to improve his overall line to .213/.328/.374 in 155 at-bats since he replaced Chris Davis as the Rangers’ first baseman. Since he’s contributing right now and he’s going to be a great bargain these next few years, the Rangers shouldn’t be willing to part with him.
Martin Perez (LHP – Age 19) – With a 5.32 ERA in 11 starts, Perez isn’t exactly dominating Texas League hitters. However, he just turned 19 a month ago and many of the guys he’s facing are three and four years older than he is. With a stellar fastball-curveball combination, he ranks as one of baseball’s best pitching prospects.
Tanner Scheppers (RHP – age 23) – Scheppers has missed some time of late with a hamstring injury, but he has a 1.32 ERA and a 48/10 K/BB ratio in 34 innings as a reliever between Double- and Triple-A. The big concern here is his history of shoulder problems. However, he currently appears poised to make the same kind of impact Feliz did last August. Also, t’d be problematic to deal him anyway. Since he signed late last year, he’s not eligible to be traded until mid-September.
More likely possibilities:
Michael Kirkland (LHP – Age 23) – If acquired, he’d be an obvious choice to step right into Oswalt’s rotation spot. The southpaw is 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’s been rather wild this year, walking 38 in 65 1/3 innings, but he has a legitimate low-90s fastball and a four-pitch arsenal that could make him a No. 3 starter.
Robbie Ross (LHP – Age 20) – Ross is a bit on the small side and he doesn’t have much of a changeup yet, but with his fastball-slider combo, he should be able to avoid a move to the pen. He’s allowed just one homer while amassing a 2.12 ERA and a 52/16 K/BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings for low Single-A Hickory this season.
Chris Davis (1B-3B – Age 24) – Davis hasn’t come close to matching his success from his rookie year in 2008 (.285/.331/.549 in 295 games), but he’s still just 24 and he still has 35-homer power. The Astros could pick him up and shift him back to third base, where he’s adequate defensively if a bit error-prone. Let him and Chris Johnson battle it out for a spot in the team’s future plans.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C – Age 25) – The Astros have their catcher of the future in 2008 first-rounder Jason Castro, but Salty could be a perfect buy-low candidate. He’s shown plenty of offensive potential in the past, and he hasn’t hit his prime seasons yet. Freed from the responsibilities of catching, his career might take off as a first baseman or left fielder. The Astros certainly need some bats with upside, and while Salty’s stock is well down, he qualifies.
Alexi Ogando (RHP – Age 26) – The Rangers just added the hard-throwing Ogando to their pen after he opened the season with a 2.05 ERA and a 42/11 K/BB ratio in 30 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. His age is practically irrelevant, since he was one of the Texas prospects to miss four seasons because of his involvement in a human trafficking ring. He has the potential to turn into a closer down the line.
My guess is that it will take two from second group and then maybe a lesser name or two to get a deal done. The Rangers shouldn’t have to part with anyone from the top group unless they want the Astros to eat some salary in a trade.

2017 World Series Preview: How the Astros and Dodgers match up

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The Dodgers are seeking their first World Series championship in 29 years. The Astros are seeking their first in the franchise’s 56-season history. Clayton Kershaw is making his first appearance on baseball’s biggest stage. Justin Verlander is making his third, but looking for his first ring. The Astros two aces are facing the Dodgers’ deep lineup. The Dodgers power throwing bullpen will face off against the Astros powerful lineup. For the first time in 47 years each team in the World Series won 100 games in the regular season.

Stars taking on stars. Power facing power. History, of one kind or another, somewhere between five and nine days from being made. It’s the Fall Classic, and it gets underway tonight. Here’s how it all breaks down:

 

THE ROTATIONS

It’s a bit of a shame that the rotations didn’t line up in order to give us a Verlander-Kershaw battle in Game 1, as it’s not every day you see two pitchers who each won an MVP Award face off. We’re still going to get some great matchups of staters here, however, as Kershaw — who still has something to prove as a big-game pitcher, his pennant-clinching Game 5 NLCS victory notwithstanding — meets 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel in tonight’s Game 1. Game 2 gives us Rich Hill, who has remade himself into one of baseball’s best in the latter stages of his career, against Verlander, who many though his best days were behind him. That was before his trade to Houston and his 9-0 run for the Astros that culminated in a couple of the most dominant postseason starts in recent memory.

The back end of the rotations, featuring Yu Darvish and Alex Wood for L.A. and Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers for Houston, are pretty evenly matched. At their best the Dodgers back two are probably better, but they have each been touched at times late in the season while both Morton and McCullers found a new gear in the ALCS. Whether driving at that gear has them low on gas at the moment is an open question. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers’ lineup has been top heavy in the postseason, but the top has been really, really heavy, so it’s been just fine. Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig have been nearly impossible to pitch to. Fill-in shortstop Charlie Culberson was a revelation in Corey Seager‘s injury absence, but Seager’s back is better and he will be back for the World Series. The bottom half of the lineup has not come through too often — Kiké Hernandez’s big NLCS Game 5 notwithstanding — with left field (Andre Ethier/Hernandez/Curtis Granderson) second base (Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley) and catcher (Austin Barnes, who has pushed Yasmani Grandal to the bench) struggling. The Dodgers can win it all if the top half of the lineup continues doing what it’s doing, but given how slumps can hit at any time, Dave Roberts would like to see a new postseason star emerge.

The Astros bats need no introduction, but they could use a bit more consistency in the postseason. Houston led the majors in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, were second in homers and struck out less than any team in baseball. The Yankees kept them quiet in the first five games of the ALCS but they roared back to life in Games 6 and 7. The attack will be keyed, as always, by possible AL MVP Jose Altuve, leadoff power source George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. As Houston showed all season, however, almost everyone in this lineup is dangerous.  ADVANTAGE ASTROS.

 

THE BULLPENS

This is probably the biggest separator between the clubs, with the Dodgers sporting a big advantage. Unlike in postseasons past, Dave Roberts has not had to use Clayton Kershaw or his other starters as relievers. This is due in part to the Dodgers taking care of their business quickly, sweeping the Dbacks in the NLDS and beating the Cubs in five in the NLCS. It’s mostly, though, due to the uncharacteristic depth and power of L.A’s relief corps. They didn’t allow a run against the Cubs in 17 innings of work in the NLCS.

Kenley Jansen needs no introduction. He continues to be one of the best if not the best closer in the game. Roberts will not hesitate to use him for multiple innings if need be. Has retired 24 of the 28 batters he has faced in the playoffs. He’s yet to be challenged. Hard throwing Brandon Morrow looks like an ace closer this postseason. Kenta Maeda has been a revelation as a setup man who can go multiple innings if need be. Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson and Josh Fields have not been used heavily, but each provides Roberts with an embarrassment of matchup possibilities.

Houston has talent in their pen, but it’s been somewhat shaky in the postseason. Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Joe Musgrove were all gotten to by Yankees hitters in the ALCS. Ken Giles has been OK, but not dominant, and A.J. Hinch has leaned a bit heavier than usual on him at times. More tellingly, Hinch has leaned on starters in relief, using Justin Verlander in that role in the ALDS against the Red Sox and using McCullers for four innings of relief in Game 7 of the ALCS. Hinch’s best hope is that he gets a lot of innings from Keuchel and Verlander in Games 1 and 2 and then has everyone in the pen well-rested for he middle games of the Series. If not, he’s going to be doing a lot of shuffling and, yes, we may see a lot of short rest work from starters in relief roles. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE MANAGERS

Dave Roberts is the reigning NL Manager of the Year and both he and A.J. Hinch has a good shot of winning the award this year. Neither man has been second guessed very often in this postseason, as Roberts has not had to gamble at all and Hinch’s gambles have largely paid off. Unlike in some years, there are few dramatic storylines and little philosophical tension at play here. Both of these guys played the game, both work well with analytically-minded front offices yet both have shown that they have a free hand to use their instincts to make changes on the fly and manage the game on the field rather than simply carry out a game plan. If either of these two guys make themselves into a big story in this series it’ll be pretty surprising. EVEN.

 

THE BENCHES

The Dodgers lineup is a bit more fluid than Houston’s, with Roberts subbing in different guys at left field and second base in various postseason games. As such, if they’re not starting they may be a bit more game-ready than your usual benchwarmer. Houston tends to roll with the same lineup most nights, but Hinch has some flexibility at catcher where Evan Gattis and Brian McCann are both options and at DH in the home games, where either of them or Carlos Beltran can see action. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

X-FACTOR

We don’t put much stock in intangibles, history or dramatic storylines when it comes to the World Series. We’ll leave that to the producers at Fox. Buy we will throw one wild card into the mix: home field advantage.

It’s not often the most important thing going in baseball, but it’s been an usually big boost in the 2017 postseason. Home teams are 23-8 (.742) this October, which is the best mark since the playoffs expanded to include Wild Card teams. So far the Astros are 6-0 in Houston and the Dodgers are 4-0 in Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers, likewise, had the best home record in all of baseball in the regular season. L.A. hasn’t yet had to bring a playoff series back home after it began, but the chance to host four home games in a best of seven may loom a bit larger this year than most. Oh, and keep an eye on guys’ stamina levels in Games 1 and 2. It’s gonna be close to 100 degrees at Dodger Stadium at game time for each of those tiltsADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

PREDICTION

This is the matchup many of us were hoping for as early as late July. The Dodgers swooned in late August and early September, but the fact that they still won 104 games tells you just how dominant a club they were in 2017. While the Indians had the AL’s best record thanks to their late season winning streak, the Astros were, in our view, the best team in the American League all season long. This is the first matchup of 100-win teams in the Fall Classic in 47 years. It is, quite simply, the best on-paper World Series matchup we’ve had in many, many years. It’s sad someone has to lose this thing, but that’s how it goes.

Los Angeles hasn’t had to come back to Dodger Stadium to finish off a series yet. We don’t think they’ll be that lucky this time around, but we do think that their bullpen gives them a clear advantage and will work to neutralize those dangerous Astros bats in the final 3-4 innings of every game. That’s enough daylight for us to say that, in our view it’ll be . . .

DODGERS IN SIX