It was a cold February day, one preceded by 15 inches of snow, but there was a beacon of hope that is the promise of spring and the return of baseball as my intrepid mailman braved my unshoveled front walkway to deliver a book-sized package to me. Knowing it could only be one thing, I eagerly opened it, and there it was -- Baseball Prospectus 2015, that compendium of knowledge, wit and wisdom that proves even in the depths of winter, one has something to look forward to.
This is my second time relating my favorite passages. I selected nothing from the essays for two reasons -- some essays were written straight, others with humor, and it would be unfair to single people out (plus the Marlins essay was horrible).* And I've only read about four of the team essays.
* - Editor's Note: Harsh, but fair.
I've selected a comment from each team. For the first time, BP has added bylines to the comments (I asked them to do this last year, so I'll take total credit), but it's always "Writer X and the BP staff," so I still don't know who wrote each individual comment. So, one more suggestion -- add initials of the comment writer.
There's a poll at the end to vote for your favorite quote. With that, enough of my words, and on to the good ones!
Allen Webster, Diamondbacks P
Webster is what we get when we fall in love with a starting pitcher who offers only two good pitches. For years we've been taunted by his athleticism, his lively fastball and his legitimately great changeup, waiting for him to add a third pitch and to iron out his command issues. Vladimir and Estragon will be done waiting before we are.
Todd Cunningham, Braves CF
As T.P. once wrote, if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. (Huh?)
Manny Machado, Orioles 3B
Here's the good news: Machado is still a mere 22 years old and he still should be a high-end third-baseman-or-maybe-shortstop for years. The bad: He has already had both knees repaired, and a third injury-plagued season would be a Grady-Size'd red flag, particularly if he manages to injure a third knee.
Beyond the Box Score alum Jeff Long wrote the Orioles essay, so that's reason enough to buy the book.
Dan Butler, Red Sox C
Dan Butler is salt-of-the-earth backup backstop whose summoning to the major leagues last season was a testament to human resiliency and the value of hard work. And if he sees any significant MLB time in 2015, something went horribly wrong and everybody in Boston will be miserable.
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs SP
"Know thyself" comes down from Apollo himself, and who are we to argue with the god of the sun? You won't catch Hendricks disagreeing: He doesn't blow anyone away with his mundane offerings, but he knows his limitations, learns from his mistakes and makes the most of what he has. One of them Ivy League types (Dartmouth, economics), Hendricks relies on plus command to induce weak contact.
I wrote about Edwin Jackson last Friday -- as a Cubs fan, here's to hoping Hendricks keeps Jackson out of the rotation.
Hector Noesi, White Sox P
There's no easy way to explain how major-league baseball teams gave Hector Noesi 172 1/3 innings last season. Were life a meritocracy, that number would decrease by 172 1/3 in 2015.
Brennan Boesch, Reds RF
Between stints of futility with the big league club, he won the PCL batting title, joining Willie McCovey, Edgar Martinez and Bobby Bonds in the only conceivable list that includes the four of them.
Bryan LaHair, Indians 1B
Bryan LaHair couldn't hack it in Nippon Professional Baseball, signed a minor-league deal with Cleveland and proved that his bat had regressed below even Double-A level; don't look for him in the 2016 edition of this book.
Ah, Bryan LaHair, Cubs All-Star in 2012 ... and out of major-league baseball after that. Shows the depths of the Cubs woes these past couple of seasons.
Chad Bettis, Rockies
Can you name the two other pitchers in the past seven seasons to finish with an ERA over nine pitching in at least 20 games? Hint: they own the same surname.
It's not a rhetorical question -- get on it (answer later and in a random section).
Al Alburquerque, Tigers P
White Castle's menu has other options besides sliders, although they're not very good. The same can be said of Alburquerque's pitch selection.
Alex Presley, Astros OF
If you're looking for a dependable fourth outfielder who can hit and play defense, consider signing him. Then sign Alex Presley just in case that guy gets hurt.
Moises Sierra, Royals OF
Moises Sierra's modest power and fairly high strikeout rates have reduced him to a Quad-A player, causing a whole new generation to associate "Sierra missed" with disappointing pop.
The writer of this comment should: a) never have to pick up another bar tab in his life or b) be tarred and feathered. Discuss.
Matt Joyce, Angels LF
Picture a carefree teenager wanting to live her life every day to its fullest. Meanwhile, her dad, while cooler and more free-spirited that most of the pops on the block, wants what is best for his daughter. This means a strict curfew and, most importantly, keeping her away from "that boy." She knows he means well but does not understand why she can't make her own choices . . . All the while, the ne'er-do-well down the street is just waiting for his chance to disrupt the household's order. You've figured this out by now, but: Joyce is the daughter, Joe Maddon is the father and that dastardly boy is all of the left-handed pitchers in the league. Now that the family is broken up, will step-dad Mike Scioscia try to win the kid over by relaxing the rules?
Note my subtle use of the ellipsis in there -- the actual comment is even longer. Shakespeare wrote plays that were shorter (but it's still a good comment).
Roberto Hernandez, Dodgers P
A lot is made of who this guy used to be, but we can't help but mention it: He used to be really good!
Casey McGehee, Marlins 3B
Gold stars for everybody who predicted McGehee would be a fine stopgap for the Marlins at third base in 2014. Come collect your gold stars. Anyone? Anybody? Good, because we forgot to buy any gold stars.
Dang it, forgot to grab a Brewers quote -- give me a sec. Okay, got it!
Kyle Wren, Brewers OF
See, sometimes nepotism pays. Wren has garnered more attention for being Frank's son that he would have with the same skill set and a different last name. . . Should he prove able, he could be the Braves' fou-
Never mind, Wren was traded two months after his dad got canned.
Eric Young, Mets LF
Eric Young is so fast, he snuck his way onto 99 lineup cards and Terry Collins was none the wiser. Young is a one-tool player who has been lucky to land in two great situations: the Rockies, for altitude-related reasons, and the Mets, for "We don't have anyone else"-related reasons.
Didi Gregorius, Yankees SS
So good on defense that he could teach a class on it, Gregorius failed to crack league average on offense once again. While his glovework is unquestioned, his inability to contribute on offense is why he opened the season no. 2 on Arizona's shortstop depth chart. You have to respect how gifted he is around the bag, and his ability to do the jump throw like he's shooting baskets. Those traits will keep him in the game for a long time, but unless or until he can be within shouting distance of "tolerable" on offense, he should be a backup. Not a "my way or the highway" type player, Gregorius should continue to progress under the tutelage of New York's coaching staff. He will work well as a defense-minded bench player who is a bit handicapped in the batter's box.
Jorge De Leon, Athletics P
Hard-throwing Jorge De Leon should earn a trophy for going a whole season in the PCL without allowing a home run. He then should lose the trophy for allowing two homers in his September call-up. What a cruel hypothetical award system.
You get a two-fer with the next one (and not the last two-fer, by the way).
Roman Quinn/Ben Revere, Phillies CF
The easy comparison is to Ben Revere, but that's lazy; beyond superspeed and body type, there's not much there. [skip to Revere comment]. The easy comparison is to Roman Quinn, but that's just lazy. It isn't wrong to say that Revere had a massive power surge in 2014, in the same way that Sochi had a massive surge in Olympics hosting, and that Princess Leonore, Duchess of Gotland, had a massive surge in instances of being born.
Answer to the trivia question earlier: Victor Marte (2010) and Damaso Marte (2009) -- this list shows every major league pitcher to accomplish this dubious feat.
Chris Stewart, Pirates C
Starter on the Pirates turned backup on the Yankees. It's an old, tiresome dance that we've seen performed too many times before. What the whole thing does, really, is underscore how bad baseball's competitive balance is, and how much we need . . . wait. Stewart went from starter on the Yankees to backup on the Pirates? My oh my, do we live in strange times, times when dogs have blogs and sabermetrically inclined writers embrace offensively challenged catchers, which, it should be noted, is what Stewart remains.
Derek Norris, Padres C
Did you know: Norris has not shaved since 1973.
Travis Ishihkawa, Giants 1B
From now on, whenever coaches encourage veterans to continue their careers until no one gives them a uniform, to endure the long bus rides, meager pay and minor-league anonymity, they'll tell Ishikawa's story . . . "With a little luck, that could be you," 60-something baseball lifers will say, as down-on-their-luck 30-somethings shake their heads, and some day, one of them will be proven right. When that happens, both euphoric player and beaming coach will have Travis Ishikawa to thank.
Corey Hart, Mariners DH
According to Bertrand Russell, a proper noun is a set of properties that distinguish that noun from others . . . Corey Hart needs a new name. He is no longer Corey Hart, because the words "Corey" and "Hart," when put together, insinuate a person of reasonable strength and character who also wields two functioning knees. This, sadly, is and probably forevermore will be untrue.
Xavier Scruggs, Cardinals 1B
It's not particularly rare for 26-year-old first basemen to post gaudy numbers in the Pacific Coast League, but it is rare for them to have a name as awesome as Xavier Scruggs.
Heading toward home now, and don't forget about that poll at the end.
Jose Molina, Rays C
In 1947, private investigator Eddie Valiant was declared a hero for his work in the murder cases of Marvin Acme and R.K. Maroon. With help from his girlfriend Dolores, Baby Herman and Maroon Cartoon Studio star Jessica Rabbit, Valiant discovered that Jude Doom killed Acme and Maroon in an attempt to take over Toontown. Unfortunately, Valiant's investigation came before the time of detectives Mike Fast and Max Marchi. The case was re-opened in 2011 when it was determined that Jose Molina was indeed the one who framed Roger Rabbit.
Jim Adduci, Rangers LF
After nearly 120 years toiling in the minors, Jim Adduci . . . finally got his first cup of coffee in 2013, but with a .467 OPS last season, he's already made the transition from "great story" to "depth guy" to "will play 2015 in Korea."
George Kottaras, Blue Jays C
George Kottaras signed with the Cubs before last year's winter meetings; by the end of the season, three other teams had rostered him. He'll be designated for assignment when you finish reading this comment.
Kottaras will be in a spring training camp -- with the White Sox.
Lucas Giolito, Nationals P
"How do you know you're looking at a Giolito scouting report?" the young scout in the thrift-store-vintage polo shirt and the Sperry Top-Siders asked the grizzled old scout. The scout tried to ignore him, as he had for the past three innings, but eventually looked up with defeated eyes and grumbled, "How?" "Because it has more 80s than the Slaughter/Winger concert I saw last year at the casino." The old scout nodded, not knowing what any of that meant.
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So much to choose from, and these are far less than half of what I initially culled. Using my completely subjective criteria, these five are my choices for the BP 2015 Quote of the Year. Voting will be open for two weeks, so vote early, vote often and enlist your friends. Bribes will be accepted, and if BP lets me write an essay next year I'll declare everyone a winner! Here are the choices:
Tyler Flowers, White Sox C
We've been waiting for Flowers to blossom for quite a while now, but he rose to the occasion in the second half of 2014. Vision proved to be a thorn in his side early in the year (check those irises) . . . But he turned over a new leaf . . . The 29-year-old has made perennial improvements defensively, and while he's not divine, he doesn't need to be supplanted by a backup late in games. We don't need to joke orchid about his game calling, either. The White Sox haven't kept mum about giving him full-time play in 2015, but pay no mind tulip service; if a better option sprouts up, they'll pounce. Still, there's no doubt Flowers is easier to root for today than he was a year ago, and while it took him longer than expected to have his day in the sun, Flowers has finally bloomed.
Tucker Barnhart, Reds C
Boy, Barnhart can really throw. Golly can he throw. Kid can throw like the dickens. Got an arm on him like you wouldn't believe, like a pirate ship's cannon hopped up on bath salts. Woo buddy, you see baserunners, some of these guys are quick like rabbits but they look like a possum caught in molasses against Barnhart. Heard one time he threw someone out so bad the guy just plum retired right there on second base. Or a couple feet from second base, really. Just gave it up. That's his arm.
(It's actually not even so much that Barnhart's throwing is that good as that we're trying not to say anything uncouth about his bat).
Greg Holland, Royals P
How fantastic is Holland's slider? Hitters don't miss it; their bats are merely too star-struck to approach it. Salvador Perez could flash his signs above his head and batters still wouldn't touch it. Joe Morgan refuses to call it a "slide piece" because it's too noble a beast for such a dismissive informality. The most common name for baby girls in Kansas City last year was "Emma," but "Hollandslider" came in second. Batters whiff on it nearly 60 percent of the time, and when they do put it in play they pound it into the ground 60 percent of that time. (One of these sentences is true).
Justin Bohn, Marlins SS/Justin Bour, Marlins 1B
Not to be confused with Justin Bour, Justin Bohn is a low-ceiling shortstop prospect without much power. He is unlikely to make an impact with the big-league Marlins * Not to be confused with Justin Bohn, Justin Bour is a low-ceiling first base prospect without much power. He is unlikely to make an impact with the big-league Marlins.
Doug Fister, Nationals P
If you judge Fister's season solely by the statistics that Murray Chass clings to when he sleeps at night, then the trade that brought him to Washington was even more lopsided than it seemed at the time. But if you peel away the first few layers of that onion, it reveals some signs of Dave Dombrowski Devil Magic.
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All quotes from Baseball Prospectus 2015 (unless I accidentally re-read last year's). Thanks to the folks over there for their witty banter and permission to do this.
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.