The Jews of MLB

Larry Levin

There are ten current Major League Baseball players on current rosters identified as Jewish according to Jewish Baseball News (jewishbaseballnews.com). Two others, free agent Ryan Kalish and Reds nonroster invitee/former Cardinal Jason Marquis, may ultimately be added to the group. But in the meantime, for the ten in place on MLB rosters, here’s a brief rundown on their prospects for the coming season:

Ryan Braun, OF/1B, Mil: Now 31, the onetime prevaricating PED user is mostly healthy, getting through a lingering thumb injury. His Brewers squandered a super hot start in 2014 and clung to first place for months before a more balanced and deeper Cardinal squad waved to Milwaukee in the rear-view mirror in September. It would be silly to expect the results of his heydey, but a healthy and contributing Braun is essential to the Brewers having the remotest of chances in 2015. Expect a slashline of .280/.330/.465/.795 (Batting Average/On Base/Slug/OPS).

Craig Breslow, P, Bos: The last two years were a seesaw for the Red Sox reliever, who blew batters away with regularity in 2013, posting a 1.81 ERA despite a paucity of strikeouts. In St. Louis we try hard to forget anything Boston from that season, though Breslow’s success in the World Series was, shall we say, limited. At 34-plus, Craig sits with former Cards closer Edward Mujica in the deep Fenway bullpen behind Uehara and Tazawa, the closer and setup guy.

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Ike Davis, 1B, Oak: A fine pick-em first baseman, Davis has never had a full oustanding offensive year. His Mets career was full of teasing promise, but expectations always outstripped performance. It’s not that he’s a bad major league hitter; he’s just not good enough to man first base without an exceptional cadre of hitters in front of him. He’s Oakland’s guy now, so we’ll see if his third stop after New York and Pittsburgh will bear fruit; after all, he’s only 28.

Scott Feldman, SP, Hou: The 32-year-old Feldman sits second in the starting rotation of the improved Astros, who are general managed by former Cards exec Jeff Luhnow. A guy who waited his chance a couple years to become a starter, this guy has turned into the most average of average rotation men. When he keeps his walks and homers down, he can be effective, but too many bats meet balls for him to be anything but spot on.

Nate Freiman, 1B, Oak: Two Jewish first basemen in Oakland? Maybe. Freiman is battling for the backup spot to Davis but a bad back took him out of a couple weeks of spring training. We’ll see.

Sam Fuld, OF, Oak: Fuld is fast, but not fast enough to avoid being hit in the face by a shortstop’s throw as he reached first base in a game this week. Fuld had a strange 2014: Signed by the A’s as a free agent, taken off waivers by Minnesota, then traded back from the Twins to Oakland. He’s a fine defensive player but not a major threat at the plate other than his occasional running game.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Det: Now this is a fine ballplayer indeed. Though not possessing the pop he once had in his glory Rangers days, Kinsler will still provide double digits in both HRs and steals, and play a fine second base, as he showed by leading the American League in defensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2014. Swapped for Prince Fielder before last year, Kinsler has never had less than 566 plate appearances in a season since his second season in 2007. That’s a true and talented gamer.

Joc Pederson, OF, LA (N): Ah, this is where it gets interesting. The superprize prospect for the Dodgers gets his everyday chance in CF. Last year in AAA Albuquerque, 33 HRs, 30 bag swipes, and an OPS—combined onbase plus slug – of over 1.000. That’s Mike Trout territory. Stay thirsty, my friends, stay thirsty.

Kevin Pillar, OF, Tor: Sneezing. No, really, he sneezed last week and strained his oblique muscle. How tough a break is that? Still, he’s moving better, and not only is a solid backup outfielder for the Jays, but will patrol left field, assuming he’s healthy, til an injured Michael Saunders recovers.

Danny Valencia: 1B/3B, Jays: Five teams in five years, and his stats have been just as jumpy. He’s only had more than 300 at bats once, but he’s a serviceable backup, in this case to 3B Josh Donaldson and when ready to go, 1B Edwin Encarnacion. He is, however, expendable if the Rays seek another direction.