Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Bull Session
2007-02-23 05:42
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Phillip Hughes wowed-'em" in Tampa yesterday during a BP session. What can you say? We are all looking foward to watching the kid pitch (All together, everyone knock on wood and let's hope he stays healthy). After all, look what happened to Mark Prior, who was billed as the second-coming of Tom Seaver.

I got together for drinks and burgers with Cliff, Jay Jaffe and Jake Luft last night in the distinctly gentrified neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. I love being able to soak-up baseball knowledge, and these three have it in spades. I mean, they really have a thorough working knowledge of players, even prospects, in both leagues--an ability that never fails to impress me. Yo, I have a hard enough time following just one team, let alone the AL East, or the entire American League, forget about both leagues. Anyhow, at one point I said the player I'd like to see have a breakout season this year, pushing him over-the-top as a legitimate star, is Carl Crawford. Jake thinks Crawford is already there (and a quick look at Crawford's stats show that Jake is probably right). But imagine if he continues to build on last year's success? The dude is only 25.

What talented player do you think will make that jump this year? Or, which player would you like to see make it?

2007-02-23 06:08:48
1.   mehmattski
I'm just ticked that the SWB-Yanks don't travel to Durham (where I am, and the Bulls are) until June, when there's almost no chance that Phil Hughes is still in AAA.

As for player that I want to see make the leap, I'm gonna have to stick with the Rays (again with the Durham Bulls connection, since I watched these youngsters play). I'd really like to see B.J. Upton come into his own and become a dominant offensive player, whatever position he ends up playing. I watched him whack a walk off grand slam (seriously, the Bulls were down 3 in the ninth) on opening day in Durham last year, well over the "Blue Monster" in left field, and I was hooked.

First? Me? That hasn't happened in ages...

2007-02-23 06:20:21
2.   Jim Dean
Me, I'd like to see Tyler Clippard get his due with a solid five months in AAA then maybe a taste or two in September. That said, I'd rather not see him with the Yanks because that would mean alot of other things went wrong.

Otherwise, I want to see if the two Youngs - Chris and Delmon - are all they're hyped up to be.

2007-02-23 06:25:44
3.   Knuckles
IMO, Crawford's already a star- if he wasn't buried in Tampa, he'd definitely be a household name by now. And one of the more exciting players in baseball to watch, to boot.
I think Prince Fielder's a good bet to have an impact season. Conor Jackson (who I was hoping the Yanks'd snag in the Unit trade) is also on my watch list. Sizemore's primed for a big year, and I think Zimmerman will start to solidify his place in a very stacked NL 3rd base contingent.
And while not a breakout candidate, I'd love to see Cano continue to rake, maybe a 320/370/480 line?
2007-02-23 06:26:20
4.   rbj
I wouldn't mind seeing A-Rod get the WS MVP.

Prospect-wise, obviously the Yanks prospects. But since my local team here is the Mudhens, I'll have to see who's on the roster (Marcus Thames is now sporting a firstbaseman's glove, so that he can play more positions.) Kevin Hooper is a fan favorite in town, but he's basically my size -- 5'9", 155 Lbs, and without any power so he's not going to make the show.

2007-02-23 06:39:04
5.   yankz
Robinson Cano. I want to see him hit .350/25/90. As for other teams, I'm not really sure; I suppose a Hughes/Bailey rivalry could be fun.
2007-02-23 06:41:15
6.   JoeInRI
3 I think Sizemore had a pretty big year last year. If his BBs continue to rise and he can put a lock on his K's, we could be talking about the best OF in baseball. IMHO.
2007-02-23 06:42:22
7.   JoeInRI
Can I say I'd like MCI to have an absolutely horrible year?
2007-02-23 06:45:30
8.   Dimelo
What talented player do you think will make that jump this year?

ARod will endear himself to all the haters!!!! His Yankee fan haters that is.

2007-02-23 06:46:21
9.   yankz
"A quickly assembled panel of three - one NL GM and two scouts who have seen a lot of both second basemen - gave Utley the nod, 2-1, noting his superior speed and plate discipline. Cano was viewed as the better defender."

I'm amazed that it wasn't a 3-0. I can't wait.

2007-02-23 06:46:27
10.   Knuckles
6 Sizemore did have a solid year but I think it went somewhat unnoticed due to the fact that Cleveland fell out of the race so early. I think the Indians will bounce back this year, and if Grady approaches the 30-30 realm, we'll start to hear a ton about him.
2007-02-23 06:59:11
11.   vockins
PECOTA doesn't seem to be too jazzed on Sizemore, but it's hard for me to agree. I think he'll tear it up.
2007-02-23 07:02:28
12.   Sliced Bread
Keepin' it Yankee-centric Alex Belth stylee, I'd like to see Melky have another great year.

I don't like to think about the scenarios that would get him more than 500 ABs, but I think he has the talent and "likeability" to become a bonafide star someday, beyond just a hometown favorite.

Pitching-wise one of the less obvious hurlers I'd like to see enjoy a breakthrough of sorts is Jose Veras.

He's already 27, so there's little chance he'll ever emerge as a star, but the big kid can chuck, and I imagine part of him still believes he can set-up for Mo.
He's one of the off the radar guys I'm rooting for this year.

2007-02-23 07:04:18
13.   Shaun P
I think that Howie Kendrick (Angels 2B) is going to wow a ton of people by competing for the batting title. The Cano-Kendrick debate is going to be an awful lot of fun to watch unfold over the next decade.

I've also read so much about KC's phenom 3B, Alex Gordon, that I'm excited to see him. Many people think he's going to hit real well real fast, and that the AL ROY is going to be between he and Delmon Young. That should be another fun race to watch.

2007-02-23 07:14:03
14.   JoeInRI
13 If ARod decides to walk in '08, Mark Teahen might be a good pickup for 3B, especially if Gordon is the real deal.
2007-02-23 07:16:11
15.   Shawn Clap
Brian Bruney as a Lights-Out 2 inning setup man (ala Mo 1996).
2007-02-23 07:22:47
16.   pistolpete
If he can stay healthy, keep an eye on Nick Swisher.

On the Yankees front, I think Robbie Cano is going to bring his game to the next level - write it down, he starts in this year's all-star game.

2007-02-23 07:29:58
17.   vockins
The Rays look like they might turn the corner, if not finishing last in the AL East counts as turning the corner. I think Baltimore will finally hit the cellar in 2007.

A Rays game with Kazmir on the mound will definitely be worth watching. Maybe he'll start one of those $5 tier seat weekday games.

The Yanks are doing $5 tier seat weekday games this year, right?

2007-02-23 07:41:55
18.   jedi
Sticking to the Devil Rays, I would really like to see Scott Kazmir develop into the dominating ace that can overtake the American League. If there is someone low key other than Zambrano and Santana the Yankees should target in the future, I would put my chips in for this guy. The Mets know they made a mistake and paid for their short solution in that trade. Now, Kazmir is developing into a strikeout pitcher and all he needs is to stay healthy and go to a contending team. Sooner or later the Devil Rays can't afford him right?

Honorable Mentions goes to Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Eric Duncan. They need to start solidifying all the hype. I just don't see what everyone was talking about through the drafts.

2007-02-23 08:38:13
19.   Alex Belth
Howie Kendrick, yeah, I know a bunch of people who are high on him. I could see him breaking out. And, yeah, Crawford probably is a star. I wonder what kind of wonderful he needs to be to attract legit star attention playing down in Tampa.

I've never been to the Trop but Jake Luft, a Florida native, says it's a pretty good place to watch a game, no matter how horrid it looks on TV. Said there is a great cherce of beers there and even an Outback Steakhouse, so, not only can you cherry-pick your choice of seats, but you can eat a bloomin onion in your seat too!

2007-02-23 09:12:32
20.   rsmith51
Anytime a 2b, SS, CF, or C (maybe 3B) have an OPS over .900, I think they have reached stardom. So I think Sizemore is already there. I think he would be my first pick in a fantasy draft.

We got great seats in 2002 or 2003 to see Pedro pitch and we bought the tickets that day.

When we were leaving, we got lost driving from the stadium and ended up at a dead end. The funny thing was that there was a line of 10-15 cars that were following us. I guess they thought we knew where we were going.

2007-02-23 09:13:45
21.   rsmith51
20 I was talking about the Trop.
2007-02-23 09:57:45
22.   mehmattski
9 That's interesting, re: Cano's defense, given that the huge knock on him in the minors was that he had rocks for hands. Maybe that's an indictment of Utley's defense rather than Robby's, I don't know. Cano's Zone Rating (.827) was only slightly higher than Utley's (.823). They also had nearly identical rate stats offensively last year, though Cano's OBP comes from hits while Utley's comes more from walking. Given that Cano is four years younger and is cheaper- if he were to walk a bit more I'd take Cano everytime.
2007-02-23 10:10:32
23.   hoppystone
IMHO, the Trop is easily the most dismal imaginable place to watch MLB (even worse than the old Kingdome), and that's before you consider the team that plays there. Think of watching a game played in an airplane hangar, or a warehouse club, and you'll have the picture.

Re the big jump: how about Markakis? Sheely? Pelfrey?

2007-02-23 11:40:43
24.   rbj
23 Never been inside the Trop, been to the Kingdome. Warehouse was my first impression of it, is the Trop really worse?

There were a couple of good players on that Mariners team, Griffey, jr. and Randy Johnson. There was also talk of a young phenom at SS, name of Alex Rodriguez. Wonder whatever happend to him.

2007-02-23 11:51:21
25.   hoppystone
rbj - Where the Kingdome made no effort to hide its 'warehouseness' and seemed to wear its ugliness rather proudly (being a football stadium and all), the Trop seems to make a halfhearted effort to be a nice place. However, it fails on every level, except that you can certainly get a good seat. Really, they both suck pretty equally. But, at least the weather's nice. Ever go to Candlestick? I froze my *ss off at a game there and had to leave in the 7th inning for fear of frostbite - in July...
2007-02-23 12:56:57
26.   yankz
Hey Alex and Cliff, just wondering if you can update the link to Pride of the Yankees and add River Ave. Blues to the "Bronx Bloggers." They have some great writers over there. Thanks.

Ditto the comments on Tropicana. That place is a dump.

2007-02-23 22:18:32
27.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Break out candidates

Hong Chih Kuo
Howie Kendrick
Troy Tulowitzki

i love Kuo's stuff, and at least late last year he seem to be proving that he really can throw it over the plate. something that Oliver Perez havn't quiet done.

Kendrick is what he is, and a major reason why i think the Angels will win the west in a cake walk this year

Tulo is a bigger gamble, but should be pan out he should put the Rockies in serious playoff contention in a full season for the first time . the Rockies have quietly assembled a great team.

Guys that i'm rooting for a breakout/revive

Chin Hui Tsao (injury.. neeed to get stuff together... need chance...)

Chan Ho Park (if he's actually healthy for once.... in the Met's park he should be a steal)

Byum Yun Kim: just love the delivery, and he's only 27, he really should not be written off as just another guy.

2007-02-24 10:02:12
28.   jayd
I think andy phillips had a tough year last year and I'm hoping this year will be less stressful and that he will push Minky off the team.

I am hoping arod gets totally pissed off at derek and uses his simmering hatred and resentment to have a MONSTER year. He is also due for something huge.

I hope Melky gets 350 at bats and hits .320 and steals 30 bases.

Cano wins the batting title and spoils arods triple crown on the last day of the season.

the first gyroball thrown in Yankee stadium is recovered in row 45 of the black seats and is sold on ebay for $175,000.

2007-02-24 15:19:00
29.   das411
The Trop is a fun place to watch a ballgame, esp since single game lower level tix run for about the same as a decent meal in Yankee Stadium...

2007 breakout candidate = 50-HR Jonny Gomes!

And this may be the most appropriate place for the following:

2007-02-24 16:27:43
30.   mikeplugh
13 I'm late to get here on this, but the first two names that popped into my head were Howie Kendrick and Alex Gordon. I'm with Shaun P.

Cano is my Yankee guy. I made him my story of 2007 at Was Watching, when Steve Lombardi came a callin' and I think he could have a Mattingly-esque upside. PECOTA also doesn't agree with that, but it didn't project him to be what he is now either.

One guy to watch on the Japanese side, since that's my thing, Akinori Iwamura. Tampa signed him under the radar and he has had ZERO publicity there or over here. He's not Matsui or Ichiro, but he will be a very good hitting infielder. His career line in Japan was .300/.366/.519, but the last three years saw him put up:

2004 .300/.383/.583
2005 .319/.388/.555
2006 .311/.389/.544

In Japan he was a good glove third baseman, but the Rays will shift him to 2nd, where he'll do very well. I expect him to put up similar numbers to Tadahito Iguchi, which ain't chopped liver at 2nd, especially at the price they signed him. If he'd put up those numbers at AAA, we'd talk about him here, so I think a guy at 28 with professional experience can be expected to garner a little attention as well.

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