January 2013

Top 100 Prospects List Released

The big story of the day on Tuesday was the release of a new report that linked multiple MLB players to performance enhancing drugs, including Alex Rodriguez, yet again, who admitted to having used them, back in 2009.

While the PED news was the main thing on everyone’s mind on Tuesday, I’m not going to talk about it at all. There’s still so much uncertainty, that I don’t feel comfortable writing about it; it’s not really my place to anyhow. If you’d like to read about it, a quick Google search will lead you to articles covering everything you might want to know about the subject. As far as I’m concerned, the highlight of the day was the release of the Top 100 prospects list. And that’s what I’m going to be discussing in this particular blog post.

I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list; the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until last year, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often–living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team–so I have to get them on their way up.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks–10 prospects at a time–but I’m not going to be talking about them all; that would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2013. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training, but have a chance of a call up later in the season.

Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I list below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2013. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects Number 100-91

Gary Brown (100), Tervor Story (99), Aaron Hicks (98), Adam Eaton (97),

Jose Iglesias (96), Martin Perez (95), Henry Owens (94), Oswaldo Arcia (93),

Bruce Rondon (92) and A.J. Cole (91).

Of the ten players listed above, the only players that have a shot, I feel, of making the big league club out of Spring Training are Adam Eaton and Jose Iglesias. Both Eaton and Iglesias saw time in the major leagues in 2012, and it’s likely they’ll get a chance at a near full season this year. In 2012, Eaton was a late season call up, and batted .259 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI’s, in 22 games. Iglesias didn’t fair as well, batting .118 with a homer and a couple of RBI’s. Iglesias and Eaton should both get a good amount of time in the Majors this season, to redeem themselves. How big of an impact they have is yet to be seen, as they both have fairly small MLB sample sizes.

Bruce Rondon, Gary Brown and Aaron Hicks all stand decent chances at getting a call up sometime during the 2013 season, with Martin Perez standing the best overall chance of making it back to the majors; Perez is the only one of the four who has had big league experience, pitching in 12 games in 2012, and going 1-4, with a 5.45 ERA. The future closer of the Tigers, Bruce Rondon, who has been known to hit triple digits, is another guy who is likely to get a chance at pitching in the majors sometime this season, as he had an ERA of 1.53 in 2012. Brown and Hicks are still question marks, in my mind, for whether or not they’ll make it to the major league level in 2013. They may end up having to wait until the 2014 season.

Prospects Number 90-81

Roberto Osuna (90), Jarred Cosart (89), Jorge Alfaro (88), Cody Buckel (87),

Kyle Crick (86), Joc Pederson (85), Luis Sardinas (84), Michael Wacha (83),

Adeiny Hechavarria (82) and Andrew Heaney (81).

Jarred Cosart stands the best shot, if not the only shot, of making the major league club out of Spring Training, of the ten players above. Cosart possesses a great fastball, along with an above average curveball and change up, but his overall lack of control may be the one thing that keeps Cosart in the minors to start out the season. However, even if he doesn’t break camp with the Astros, you’re sure to see Cosart in the big leagues sometime this season; sooner rather than later.

Adeiny Hechavarria also has a good chance of making it back to the big leagues later this year. Spending 41 games with Blue Jays in 2012, he has major league experience, however, Hechavarria, who has since been traded to the Marlins, didn’t produce nearly as often as I feel he’s capable of, and therefore is likely to begin 2013 with AAA New Orleans. Even with a late start, Hechavarria has the ability to make an big impact for the Marlins this season. With the loss of several key players due to a questionable trade, the Marlins could use a valuable bat to help them out towards the middle to late parts of the coming season, and Hechavarria could be just the guy for the job.

Prospects Number 80-71

Ethan Martin (80), Kolten Wong (79), Zach Lee (78), Matt Davidson (77),

Yasiel Puig (76), Tyler Austin (75), Lucas Giolito (74), Austin Hedges (73),

Justin Nicolino (72) and Allen Webster (71).

I’m not sure there are any players from the group above that have a chance at making the major league club out of Spring Training. Matt Davidson stands the best chance of all of them, however, even he–with his .261 batting average to go along with 23 HR’s and 76 RBI’s–might end up having to wait a month or two. The only other players worth talking about, that could receive a call up during the season, are Kolten Wong, Allen Webster and Tyler Austin. All three have big league caliber talent already, however, it may end up being just Wong and Webster who see time in the majors in 2013, as Austin is yet to have enough minor league experience. But you never know what could happen down the road.

Prospects Number 70-61

Jake Marisnick (70), Casey Kelly (69), Courtney Hawkins (68), Kaleb Cowart (67),

Tony Cingrani (66), Gregory Polanco (65), Wily Peralta (64), Didi Gregorius (63),

Nolan Arenado (62) and James Paxton (61).

If the Padres don’t break camp with Casey Kelly in their rotation, they don’t really know what their doing as a franchise, in my opinion. You could argue that Kelly doesn’t have enough experience, or that when was called up to the majors last year that he didn’t do all that well–going 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA–but as far as I’m concerned, Kelly is the key to the Padres success in 2013, and as such, should start with the team as soon as possible. Unfortunately, however, it’s not up to me.

A few other players who stand a great chance of making it back to the big leagues are Wily Peralta, Tony Cingrani and Didi Gregorius. All three have short stints of big league experience under their belt, and all three also possess the ability to impact their respective teams this season; none more so than Didi Gregorius. Having been compared to Derek Jeter, Gregorius possesses the kind of athleticism that you don’t see every day from a short stop. His ability to make plays on balls that would normally drop for a hit gives him added value, in addition to his ability to hit the baseball in a fairly consistent manner. Peralta and Cingrani should also get recalled back to the big leagues in 2013, but won’t have nearly the impact of Gregorius, as far as I can see right now.

Prospects Number 60-51

Jesse Biddle (60), Yordano Ventura (59), David Dahl (58), George Springer (57),

Hak-Ju Lee (56), Rymer Liriano (55), Alen Hanson (54), Max Fried (53),

Brian Goodwin (52) and Robert Stephenson (51).

Hak-Ju Lee and Rymer Liriano are the only players from the group above that I feel have a chance of seeing time in the big leagues this season. If their time comes at all, it would come towards the end of the season, as both Lee and Liriano need some more minor league innings before they can be considered big league ready; not a ton more, however. Whether it’s this season or next before Liriano and Lee are ready, both will eventually be impact players for their respective teams, as both have the ability to hit for average; though, Liriano possesses a good deal more power than Lee. They both are great at fielding their respective positions, however, and should be receiving the call up to the big leagues fairly shortly.

Prospects Number 50-41

Jedd Gyorko (50), Kyle Gibson (49), Addison Russell (48), Nick Franklin (47),

Chris Archer (46), Jake Odorizzi (45), Taylor Guerrieri (44), Trevor Rosenthal (43),

Jorge Soler (42) and Mason Williams (41).

Both Jedd Gyorko and Kyle Gibson stand really good chances of making the major leagues out of Spring Training. Gyorko had a great 2012, batting .311 with 30 homers and 100 RBI’s, and should make the big leagues without a problem if he can continue to produce the same kind of numbers throughout Spring Training. Gibson, unlike Gyorko, didn’t have all that stellar of a 2012 season, but he’s one of the front-runners to make the Twins’ rotation on Opening Day, just for the fact that if it wasn’t for his health, he’d be there already. Gibson is at the point where I feel the Twins need to give him a shot, and see how he does. I feel he has the stuff to be a near front of the rotation big league starter for many years to come.

Trevor Rosenthal, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi all stand great chances of making it back to the majors in 2013. All three are pitchers, and all three saw time at the big league level in 2012. Rosenthal was the most impressive, pitching in 19 games resulting in a 2.78 ERA, however, Archer and Odorizzi weren’t far behind, as although both ended with a season ERA above 4.00, they showed off their ability to get batters out at the big league level. Nick Franklin is another guy who stands a chance at seeing big league time in 2013, however, unlike Rosenthal, Archer and Odorizzi, Franklin’s time is likely to come towards the very end of the season.

Prospects Number 40-31

Alex Meyer (40), Albert Almora (39), Matt Barnes (38), Kevin Gausman (37),

Gary Sanchez (36), Aaron Sanchez (35), Kyle Zimmer (34), Carlos Martinez (33),

Jackie Bradley (32) and Julio Teheran (31).

Julio Teheran stands the best chance of playing in the majors in 2013, of all the players listed above, but I wouldn’t rule out a call up of Jackie Bradley Jr. and/or Carlos Martinez, towards the end of the year. Teheran had a rough 2012 with AAA, going 7-9, with a 5.08 ERA, and didn’t fair much better when he received a mid season call up to the big leagues that resulted in a 5.68 ERA. While there’s not much room for error with Teheran moving forward, he still has a couple more season to figure things out, before being considered a bust, however, as far as I’m concerned, he needs to show what he’s capable of this year. Both Bradley and Martinez have the ability to receive late season call ups, but it all depends on how well they do during first half of the coming season. While a call up for Bradley isn’t out of the question, I feel the Red Sox should wait until 2014 to bring him up. He’s going to be a great player, and I feel calling him up too early would do more harm than good.

Prospects Number 30-21

Carlos Correa (30), Noah Syndergaard (29), Anthony Rendon (28), J. Singleton (27),

Bubba Starling (26), Shelby Miller (25), Archie Bradley (24), Mike Zunino (23),

Mike Olt (22) and Nick Castellanos (21).

Mike Olt and Shelby Miller saw big league time last season, and both have good chances of seeing it out of the gate in 2013. Receiving late season callups last season, Olt and Miller showed their ability to impact their teams, however, it’s fair to say that Miller impacted his team a good bit more than Olt. Posting an ERA of 1.32 in six games with the Cardinals, in 2012, Miller has the ability to be an incredible pitching talent, once he makes a few minor adjustments.

Mike Zunino and Nick Castellano both could see time in the major leagues in 2013, but I’d say Zunino stands a better chance than Castellanos. While Castellanos hit .320 in 2012, there’s not an open spot for him in the Tigers’ lineup, just yet, so I’d say if anything, it’ll be towards the very last portion of the year when Castellanos gets called up; if he sees MLB playing time at all in 2013. Zunino, on the other hand, could very well see time in the majors just a few months into the season. With the catching position uncertain, up in Seattle, combined with hitting .360 with 13 HR’s and 43 RBI’s, in 44 games, in 2012, I’d say it’s a fairly safe bet to say that Zunino will be playing with the Mariners sometime in 2013.

Prospects Number 20-11

Xander Bogaerts (20), Byron Buxton (19), Danny Hultzen (18), Trevor Bauer (17),

Javier Baez (16), Jameson Taillon (15), Francisco Lindor (14), Christian Yelich (13),

Miguel Sano (12) and Billy Hamilton (11).

While there may be some of you out there who disagree with my opinion, I feel the Indians need to place Trevor Bauer in their starting rotation right out of Spring Training. While he didn’t fair all that well when called up to the majors last year, with the D-back’s, Bauer is the future Ace of the Indians’ rotation, and going 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in the minor leagues, in 2012, I feel he’s ready. Only time will tell, however, if the Indians’ plan on playing it safe, or decide to give Bauer a shot to start off the season.

For those of you who felt that Billy Hamilton should’ve been a September call up to the Reds last season, you’ll get your chance to see Hamilton in action at the big league level this season; much sooner than September, more than likely. Hamilton already possesses the speed of a major league player, however, he needs to become a little more consistent at the plate before the Reds will consider bringing him up. Once there, there’s no doubt in my mind that Hamilton will be a big league fixture for many years to come, as guys with speed compared to that of Rickey Henderson don’t come around all that often.

Another guy who has a chance of making the big leagues in 2013 is Danny Hultzen. Hultzen had a fairly decent season in 2012–going 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA–however, his control was somewhat of an issue. If he can figure things out, he should be helping out the Mariners, along with Mike Zunino, towards the end of 2013.

Prospects Number 10-1

Tyler Skaggs (10), Gerrit Cole (9), Zack Wheeler (8), Jose Fernandez (7),

Travis d’Arnaud (6), Taijuan Walker (5), Wil Myers (4), Oscar Taveras (3),

Dylan Bundy (2) and Jurickson Profar (1).

The number one prospect in all of baseball, Jurickson Profar, should make the big leagues right out of Spring Training without a problem; the only dilemma being, where the Rangers will place him. Profar received 17 MLB at-bats last season with the Rangers, and although batting a mere .176, it’s only a matter of time before he begins to hit at a consistent level. Profar is one of the main players you need to keep a close eye on going into the 2013 season, and beyond.

You can pretty much bet on the fact that you’ll see Dylan Bundy, Wil Myers, Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Skaggs in the major leagues sometime during the coming season. All of them are special talents, however, I don’t think any of them will break camp with the big league club. Skaggs and Bundy are the only two that have seen big league innings, but Myers and d’Arnaud aren’t far from being ready; many felt Myers was ready last season. The biggest everyday impact player, of the four, I feel, is going to be Wil Myers, who batted .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBI’s in 2012. It’s likely that he could’ve held his own in the majors towards the end of last season, but he didn’t receive the chance to prove it. I look for Myers and Bundy to take the baseball world by storm in 2013, with d’Arnaud and Skaggs making a splash as well.

Oscar Taveras, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole could also see time in the majors in 2013, however, I don’t see them getting the call up until the end of the season. All three have the ability to become future MLB All-Star caliber players.

I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list, for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were; but I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2013 season have been announced, I ask you this: Which player do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2013? Cast your vote below:

Feel free to leave a comment below, with your overall thoughts on the top 100 prospects list, heading into this year.

No A-Rod, No Playoffs? Not So Fast

The original plan for Alex Rodriguez, after undergoing hip surgery on January 16th, was for him to be fully recovered, and ready to play, by the second half of July; August at the latest. That plan may not pan out, however, as in an interview on Friday, Yankees’ GM BrianYankees%20Rodriguez%20Baseball_JPEG-0515e Cashman stated that there’s the possibility Rodriguez could end up missing all of 2013, saying, “I think because [of] the serious nature of the surgery and the condition that he’s trying to recover from, you know, there is that chance.”

While Cashman’s comments are worthy of attention, for Yankees fans across the country, I don’t feel they’re worthy of panic. The Yankees have always seemed to be able to find a way to win, most of the time, even when their chances looked poor. Though the Yankees appear to have their backs against the wall, I feel, with or without Rodriguez in the lineup, the Yankees will once again find a way to make it to the playoffs in the coming season.

How deep they make it into the playoffs is yet to be seen.

Looking at the Yankees’ roster, even without Rodriguez, I see a group of players that have the ability to dominate, but it’s going to come down to whether or not they’re able to perform as well as they’re capable of, throughout the entire season. If they let up, even for a few weeks, it’s likely that either the Orioles, or the newly revamped Blue Jays, will pass them up, and never look back. That’s what I feel the Yankees need to be worried about; not losing A-Rod, but losing momentum.

For me, the key player to the Yankees’ success in 2013, as it has been for the past decade, is Derek Jeter. While the looming loss of Rodriguez is a definite blow to the team, the Yankees have a decent replacement for him, in Kevin Youkilis. Though Youkilis doesn’t have the kind of pop that A-Rod possesses, when healthy, Youkilis is just as good, if not slightly better, of a defender than Rodriguez, at the hot corner. The way I see it, a_250x375right now, the Yankees can survive without Rodriguez, but in the event that Jeter doesn’t return completely healthy, the Yankees, in my mind, are set to have a very disappointing season; for their standards, at least.

As stated, I truly do feel the Yankees have the players they need to make 2013 an outstanding year. While they’ll be without Rodriguez until at least July–with the possibly of losing him for the entire year–the lineup still has enough pop to make the Yankees a great team. Although the offseason, thus far, brought the loss of Nick Swisher to the Indians, and Russell Martin to the Pirates, I don’t feel those two players leaving will hurt the Yankees all that terribly much. Thus, I like the Yankees chances in 2013; especially with a healthy Mariano Rivera.

If, however, the Yankees end up suffering in the coming season, I’m not going to throw all the blame on Alex Rodriguez. Sure, Rodriguez, when healthy, plays a major part in whether or not the Yankees win, but in the end, you have to play with the players you have. And as far as I can see, the Yankees have the players they need to win, and win often.

Justin Upton To Join Brother B.J. Upton In Atlanta

Ever since B.J. Upton signed with the Atlanta Braves, back in November of 2012, the question on everyone’s mind has been whether or not Justin Upton, who has been at the center of trade rumors for quite awhile, could possibly end up joining his brother down in Atlanta, with the Braves.

After months of speculation, the baseball world finally got its answer, as it was announced early Thursday that Justin Upton had been traded, and would in fact be heading down to play for the Atlanta Braves, starting this coming season.

Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+pF-7pXyaqUhl

In return for trading Justin Upton (along with Chris Johnson) to the Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks received Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill.

I, for one, like the trade; for the most part.

I feel the Upton’s will bring out the best in each other, and although a lot of Braves fans seem to be upset with the loss of Martin Prado, at third, the Braves received back what I view as an adequate replacement, in Chris Johnson, who had slightly better stats than Prado in 2012. While Prado had a higher batting average than Johnson (.301 compared to .281), Johnson slugged 5 more homers as well as 17 more RBI’s. Not drastically better, but better nonetheless.

Now, while I feel the trade will benefit both sides somewhat, comparing the Diamondbacks’ side of the trade to the Braves’ portion, I’m not so sure the D-back’s received a fair deal. Sure, trading two players away and acquiring five players in return is always a plus, but the players the D-back’s received, with the exception of Prado and Delgado, are all prospects. And while Randall Delgado isn’t considered a prospect anymore–as 102594869_display_imagehe’s had some MLB experience–I still don’t see him making a big impact for the D-back’s in 2013, as he went 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA with the Braves in 2012.

The way I see it, the Braves received a couple of major league proven players, while the D-back’s received just one, in Martin Prado. That doesn’t seem all that even, to me.

The three prospects the Diamondback’s received back, in return for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson, are Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill; all of which are (at least) a couple of seasons away from being MLB ready. That’s one of the main things I feel weighs down the D-back’s side of the trade.

Ahmed spent all of 2012 with A+ Lynchburg, batting .269 with 6 HR’s and 49 RBI’s. While he’ll still be fairly young (age 23) at the start of the 2013 season, it’ll take at least a few more seasons for Ahmed to even be close to major league ready, and unless he improves in the years to come, considering how much farther he has to go before the major league level, it may never happen at all.

Spruill is also one of those players who I’m not sure will ever make a big impact at the major league level. Spruill, as with Ahmed, is only 23 years old, however, going 9-11, with a 3.67 ERA in 2012, at AA Mississippi, it’ll take a real turn around for him to develop into anything all that valuable, as 2013 will be Spruill’s sixth season in the minors, and he’s yet to have played above the AA level.

The only player I like in the D-back’s receiving portion of the trade, besides Martin Prado, is Brandon Drury. Batting .229, with 6 HR’s and 51 RBI’s in 2012, at A Rome, he’s no superstar, however, he’s the youngest of the group, at age 20, and has plenty of time to develop into the great player he’s capable of becoming.

Overall, I’d say the Braves were on the better end of the Justin Upton trade. I feel the Braves, in addition to getting a great outfielder, may have possibly received the missing piece they’ve been lacking for the past few seasons, to allow them to make a true playoff run.

In addition to making it deep into the playoffs, with Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers in the outfield, combined with an infield of Johnson, Simmons, Uggla, Freeman and McCann, behind the plate, the Braves have a real shot, I feel, of doing what they’ve been unable to do since the 2005 season: Win their division.

Q and A With Jason Adam

This is the second time I’ve conducted an interview with Jason Adam. If you’d like to check out the first one, click HERE.

In the full season in between the first interview I did with Jason Adam and this one, Adam did a great job of honing his skills as a pitcher. 305515_291402037615357_100204916735071_654857_2025297113_nLowering his ERA from 4.23 the previous year, to 3.53 for 2012, Adam showed off his ability to locate all three of his pitches consistently.

In addition to a lower ERA, Adam was also able to increase his average number of innings per game, from 5 innings in 2011, up to 6 innings; further evidence of how much Adam matured as a pitcher in 2012.

Adam spent all of 2012 with A+ Wilmington, and although he failed to end the season with a win-loss record at, or above, .500 (as was the case in 2011), as stated, he improved statistically in nearly every category that he, himself, could control. (I feel the win-loss record is overrated anyway.)

It’s likely that Adam will begin the 2013 season at AA Northwest Arkansas, however, that won’t be determined until late March. No matter where Adam begins 2013, if he can continue to develop into the pitcher he’s capable of becoming, it shouldn’t be all that terribly long before he’s on the mound up in Kansas City, pitching for his hometown Royals.

Jason Adam–top 10 prospect in the Kansas City Royals organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At the beginning of last season you stated that you were looking to do a better job in 2012 of controlling the running game, along with consistently locating your three pitches. For the most part, you seemed to do just that this past season. What do you feel allowed you to accomplish those goals?

I think all that it really took was a little bit of effort. Controlling the run game is something that you can do regardless of talent level. And as far as consistently locating all 3 pitches, part of the improvement was due to another year of pitching under my belt. I also had a much higher focus level in all my bullpens and playing catch every day.

2.) Being ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in the Royals’ organization, does it have any affect on you, in terms of living up to the expectations?

I try not to pay too much attention to the prospect rankings at all. My goal is not to be a top prospect, it is to be a top MLB pitcher. If I focus on the goals I set for myself, and what the Royals organization wants me to do, then all the rest will take care of itself.

3.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I generally try to ignore my stats until the season is over. I don’t want thoughts of lowering my ERA clogging my head when I’m not throwing well, and I especially don’t want to get a big ego when things are going well for me. Pride comes right before the fall. I do like to look at minor stats such as first pitch strike percentage and off speed pitch percentage, because those are things I feel I can make improvements on between starts.

4.) You seemed to have a close team this past season. Do you feel your relationship with your teammates off the field transfers onto the field, in terms of playing together as a team?

I absolutely believe that a close team off the field leads to winning on the field. If you look at all the championship teams and talk to all the players, they almost always talk about how close their clubhouse was. It just makes the game more fun and when you can play the game thinking about what you can do to best serve your team instead of best serving yourself, then the results will always be better.

5.) Talk a little bit about life on the road. What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time? And although you’re playing the game you love, does it ever get old?

I don’t mind life on the road too bad. I can sleep on the bus pretty well, so most the trips don’t seem too terribly long. If I’m not sleeping I’ll just listen to music and stare out the window. It keeps me entertained enough. The only part I really don’t like is the constant packing and unpacking and basically living out of a suitcase. None of it has gotten old to me yet. And I don’t see it getting old, because hopefully before I have time to get sick of it I will be in the big leagues where travel is pretty luxurious to say the least. I’m very blessed to get paid to play the game that I love, so remembering how lucky I am helps me keep from getting sick of the travel.

6.) Obviously the ultimate goal, as it is for every MiLB player, is to make it to the big leagues. What would it mean to you to make it to the majors? (Especially with the added aspect of playing for your hometown team.)

Thinking about making it to the big leagues, with my hometown team the Royals, gives me the chills every time. It’s the place and team I grew up dreaming about playing for ever since I can remember. But I don’t just want to make it, I want to make it and be a big part of the Royals turning themselves back into a consistent World Series contender, and bring that World Series trophy back to KC.

7.) What was the most memorable moment from the 2012 season?

I would have to say when we clinched a spot in the postseason. We had just won our game, and now all we needed was the other team to lose. We were all huddled in Vance’s office around the computer, listening to the game, and when they recorded the last out we went nuts.

8.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to prepare yourself for the 2013 season?

I’m living in Arizona all offseason and training at the Royals’ facility in Surprise. My goal is to put on some more good weight and refine my mechanical flaws to bring back the velocity and command that I think I should have. I’ll work as hard as I can, and let God take care of the rest.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Big thanks to Jason Adam for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Jason_Adam9

Two-Year Anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the day I sat down to begin ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’. Starting this blog was more of a spur of the moment thing than it was me looking to begin a long term blog. At the time, I never could’ve imagined that I would keep at it long enough to be typing up a two-year anniversary post; to his day, I’m still surprised that I kept with it. But I’ve come to love blogging, and interacting with fellow baseball fans, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to take a look back at the past two years, using a timeline, of sorts, to tell the basic story of how my blog came to be where it is now (click the headers to be taken to each post):

‘Explanation of Me’–My first blog post

As the header would suggest, this was the first blog entry I ever published. It covered who I am, and the fact that I have no favorite team that I root for more than another team. While it does a decent job at getting the general point across, looking back, I’m fairly appalled at how horribly written it is. The post doesn’t flow, the grammar is terrible and my punctuation is subpar. Given, I’m by no means a professional writer now-I’m sure there are tons of issues with this post–compared to my writing style now, it’s almost as if it was a completely different person who wrote that first post. I suppose, in a way, it was.

‘MLB Logo and Its Designer’–My first interview post

I didn’t start out with interview intentions. I merely emailed Jerry Dior (the designer of the MLB logo) to ask him questions I had about the design process, and the story behind the logo. It wasn’t until a month later that I had the idea of putting the questions into an interview format for a post on my newly established blog. In the days after posting it, I noticed that people seemed to have a good reaction to the interview, so it was at that point that I decided to begin interviewing ballplayers; the interviews took off from there. I’ve now conducted several dozen interviews, and plan on continuing to do them in the future, as long as the players continue to be willing.

July 23, 2011–Signed Up for Twitter

This has nothing to do with my blog, yet it has everything to do with its success. Signing up for Twitter not only allowed for a way for me to get in contact with ballplayers for interviews, but it also served (and still serves) as a way of spreading the link to each new post, around to baseball fans everywhere. If it wasn’t for Twitter, it’s very possible that I would’ve discontinued my blog, as my reader base wouldn’t have been as fast to grow.

How Bernie Williams Became My Favorite Player Ever

This is more of a personal entry than it is an informative one. In this blog post, I detailed exactly how Bernie Williams came to be my favorite player to ever play the game of baseball. There’s a great story behind it, but I really don’t want to say much more than that. If you’re truly interested, feel free to click the header to be taken to the post I did on the subject.

Bernie Williams’ Reflects On 9/11/01–Ten-Year Anniversary

Yet another Bernie Williams post, but this one is more somber than the first. With the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I decided to contact Bernie Williams on Twitter to ask if he’d be willing to share his own personal experience and memories from that horrid day. He agreed to it, and after a bit of back and forth conversation, of me detailing exactly what I wanted him to talk about, I received an email from Williams, containing a fairly long response. If you don’t read another blog entry from this anniversary post, I suggest you read this one.

The Blog Post That Put My Blog On The Map

Ozzie Guillen and the Miami Marlins played a large part in making my blog as successful as it is today. The article I wrote on the “new look Marlins” caused my blog to absolutely explode, in terms of views. In the months following when I first posted the entry, I received day after day of several hundred view days. In all, that one post racked me up over 11,000 views, all by itself. While things have backed off slightly since then, I still have a fairly large reader base, and it can all be traced back to that one post.

Ranking After the 2011 Year of Blogging

After a year’s worth of blogging, I was fairly anxious to see how I would stack up against all of the great blogs around the MLBlogs community. I was fairly stunned when the results came out, stating that my blog was the 35th most viewed blog of 2011. That alone gave me a reason to continue blogging.

The Blog Post That Got Me the Most Views For A Single Day

While my post on the Marlins netted me the most views for a single blog post, the entry I posted on the Cleveland Indians-Carolina Mudcats exhibition game, for some reason, led to the most views in the history of my blog on a single day. I’m still not all that sure as to why, but people came flocking to my blog on that particular day, netting me a total of 892 views. I haven’t had a day since that’s received more than 615 views; but I hope to change that this year.

First MLB Game Recap Entry

Living in North Carolina, I don’t get the chance to attend an MLB game all that often. As a matter of fact, this particular post recapped the first MLB game I attended since starting this blog. Therefore, it was the first MLB recap I’d ever done. The plan right now is to attend at least one MLB game this year, up in Milwaukee, so I’ll no doubt be blogging about that one as well.

Trip To the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby

The all expense paid trip I received to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby, courtesy of State Farm, is by far the best thing to ever come out of this blog. While I’ve been fortunate enough to experience several blogging related benefits since then–which range from getting free stuff, to meeting ballplayers in person that I’ve interviewed–I feel confident in saying that nothing will ever top this.

Triple-A National Championship Game

As the MiLB equivalent of a World Series game 7, the 2012 Triple-A National Championship game is the most significant minor league baseball game I’ve ever attended, thus it’s the most significant MiLB blog posts I’ve done. Therefore, I wanted to include it in this two-year anniversary post. Getting to see Reno Aces win the National Championship, along with meeting 2011 American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery, made this great game even better.

Ranking After the 2012 Year of Blogging

After coming in 35th at the end of the 2011 blogging year, I had no idea what to expect going into the 2012 results. While I received over five times the number of views this past year as I did in 2011, I was still eager to see where I would rank. When the rankings were posted, I was ecstatic to find my blog at the number 17 spot. I truly appreciate all of those who read my blog.

Blogging Goals for 2013

This post wasn’t posted all that long ago, but I wanted to include it nonetheless. Basically, this post covers my goals for the 2013 blogging year. I won’t waste time going over what each of my five goals are, for those of you who remember. For those of you who’ve forgotten, and are curious, you can always click the header.

‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ Fast Facts

  • Total number of words written to this point: 113,428 words
  • Total number of posts: 211 posts
  • Average number of words per post: 538 words
  • Number of different country views: 113 different countries

As stated in previous posts, I hope to make 2013 the best blogging year yet; and that means posting content that you, the reader, enjoy reading about. So, if you have anything you’d like to see me do, or stop doing, please leave a comment below.

Any Players Bound for Breaking An All-Time Record?

With Spring Training a month away–putting the 2013 regular season at just under 3 months away–I thought I’d take the time to type up a blog post covering six all-time MLB career records (3 hitting, 3 pitching) and whether or not I believe there are any active players that have a shot at eventually breaking the records, sometime down the line, many seasons from now.

Keep in mind, this is all purely speculative. I have no way of knowing how long a particular player will play, whether or not they’ll remain healthy throughout their entire career, or whether they can keep on producing the kind of stats they’ve shown, and I feel, they’re capable of. Each of those three elements are extremely crucial when it comes to a player being able to break any of the following records:

All-Time Record for career Hits: 4,256 (Pete Rose)

Closest: Derek Jeter, with 3,304 career hits, is currently the closest active player to Pete Rose’s mark of 4,256.

Best Chance: Derek Jeter, sitting 952 hits back of Pete Rose, stands the best chance of breaking Rose’s record, in my mind, of any other player currently in the majors. What it’s going to come down to for Jeter is how healthy he can stay, and subsequently, how many more years he can play. If he can play as long as Rose did–up until age 45–I see Jeter passing Rose fairly easily, as that gives him another seven seasons to rack up hits, and even if he starts to slump downward, and begins to collect only 140 hits a season, he would still end his career with a total of 4,284 hits. Though, with Jeter being a team player, and not focusing on personal stats, I’m not sure I can picture him playing long enough to get the job done.

Worth Watching: While it’s still far too early to be making any long shot predictions, Starlin Castro is one of the main players worth keeping an eye on in the many years to come. Castro will be a mere 23 years old when the 2013 season commences and has already collected 529 career hits. If he can play into his early 40’s, and keep pace with the electric start to his career, he could be nearing Rose’s (possibly Jeter’s by then?) record for career hits a couple decades down the road.

All-Time Record for career Homeruns: 762 (Barry Bonds)

Closest: Alex Rodriguez, with 647 career home runs, is currently the closest active player to Barry Bonds’ mark of 762.

Best Chance: Alex Rodriguez, sitting 115 homers back of Barry Bonds, is the closest of any current player to Barry Bonds’ record for homers, however, I don’t feel he has a very good chance at passing Bonds. With his injury tendency, and age, I don’t see A-rod getting too far past 700, if he gets there at all. Albert Pujols on the other hand, with 475 career home runs, stands a slightly better chance, in my opinion, than A-rod. Though, I feel he could end up sharing in the same fate as Rodriguez; coming up just short of 762. At age 33, even if Pujols played until age 40, and could keep up his career constant of 30 home runs a season, he would end his career with only 685 home runs. Still 77 back of Bonds.

Worth Watching: It’s still early into his career, but Giancarlo Stanton (age 23) is a player worth watching in the coming years, as he continues to add to his current total of 93 career home runs. I found it interesting when I discovered that Albert Pujols (71), Hank Aaron (63), Barry Bonds (41) nor Babe Ruth (9) had as many home runs as Stanton, going into their age 23 season. That’s impressive. While I’m by no means comparing Stanton to Babe Ruth (just yet) I’m simply saying that if Stanton can go on a run of blasting 40+ homers a season, for the next few seasons, I could see him coming up extremely close to the record that Bonds currently holds, if he doesn’t in fact break it.

All-Time Record for career RBI’s: 2,297 (Hank Aaron)

Closest: Alex Rodriguez, with 1,950 RBI’s, is currently the closest active player to Hank Aaron’s mark of 2,297.

Best Chance: Alex Rodriguez is currently the closest player to the record for RBI’s, however, just as with career home runs, his health is going to bring him up just short of the record. Also as with the home run category, the next closest in line behind A-rod is Albert Pujols, who currently has 1,434 career RBI’s. While Pujols has been able to drive in no fewer than 100 runs in every one of his 12 career seasons thus far–with the exception being 2011, when he only drove in 99 runs–I don’t see him having enough 100 RBI seasons left to break the record. As it stands now, Pujols is 863 RBI’s back of Aaron, meaning it would take just over eight more seasons of 100+ RBI’s to pass him.

Worth Watching: Miguel Cabrera, currently with 1,123 career RBI’s, is a player worth watching moving forward, if you weren’t already. At age 29, Cabrera could have another 11 seasons ahead of him, and if he can accumulate around 100 RBI’s a season, he could end up passing Aaron for RBI’s, around a decade from now. Although 100+ RBI’s a season, for 11 season, will be difficult (if not impossible) to do, as he gets older, if anyone can do it, I imagine the 2012 Triple Crown winner can.

All-Time Record for career Strikeouts: 5,714 (Nolan Ryan)

Closest: Andy Pettitte, with 2,320 strikeouts, is currently the closest active player to Nolan Ryan’s mark of 5,714.

Best Chance: I’m not even going to waste time talking about this record. No active player–or future player for that matter–stands a chance at breaking Nolan Ryan’s all-time record of 5,714 strikeouts. While Andy Pettitte is the closest active player, he’s still 3,394 strikeouts away from Ryan; truly showing just how hard it is to do what Nolan Ryan was able to accomplish.

Worth Watching: Though it’s likely that no player will ever surpass Ryan for career strikeouts, the player most worth watching, in my mind, is Felix Hernandez. Hernandez is only 26 years old, and has already amassed 1,487 career strikeouts. If he can continue to pitch up until age 40–14 more seasons of 200+ strikeouts–he stands a good chance of ending his career with over 4,000 strikeouts. Still nearly 2,000 shy of Ryan’s record, but impressive nonetheless, as only four players in the history of baseball have been able to accumulate 4,000 strikeouts or more.

All-Time Record for career ERA: 1.82 (Ed Walsh)

Closest: Mariano Rivera, with an ERA of 2.21, is currently the closest active player to Ed Walsh’s mark of 1.82.

Best Chance: The way pitching works nowadays, I don’t think it’s possible for a pitcher to end with a career ERA below 2.00; at least for a starting pitcher, that is. Evidence of that being that Mariano Rivera is the only active player in all of Major League Baseball with a career ERA below 3.00; and thus falls into the category of ‘best chance’ of breaking the record. But not even Rivera, with his 2.21 ERA, has a chance at a career ERA below 2.00. As even if he doesn’t allow a single earned run in this his (more than likely) final season, his career ERA would still stand above 2.00, at 2.11.

Worth Watching: There really aren’t any pitchers worth watching. I’d say Walsh’s record is fairly safe. As stated, no current player in the majors has a career ERA below 3.00, so as it stands, no active player has a shot at a career ERA below 2.00.

All-Time Record for career Wins: 511 (Cy Young)

Closest: Andy Pettitte, with 245 wins, is currently the closest active player to Cy Young’s mark of 511 wins.

Best Chance: Andy Pettite is the closest of any player to Cy Young’s mark of 511 career wins, but even so, he sits 266 wins back. Thus, let’s face it: There is never going to be another 500-game winning pitcher, as pitching isn’t gone about the same way as it was back then. As such, I find it more of a fair comparison to match today’s players up against a guy like Greg Maddux, who ended his career with 355 wins. Of those, C.C. Sabathia, age 32, stands the best shot, in my mind, of reaching the 300 win plateau. Currently with 191 career wins, if Sabathia can pitch another 8 seasons, and rack up 14+ wins a season, he should get there without a problem; as keeping with my logic, he would end his career with at least 303 wins.

Worth Watching: While there are never going to be any more 500-game winning pitchers, the current pitcher (besides Sabathia) worth keeping an eye on, for the possibility of reaching 300 career wins, is Justin Verlander. Verlander, age 29, doesn’t stand an extremely good chance, in my opinion, of reaching 300 wins, as although he’s still fairly young, he only has 124 career wins. Therefore, it would take 11 straight seasons of 16+ wins to reach the 300 win mark. Not very likely, but then again, it’s Justin Verlander. I wouldn’t put anything past him.

What do you think? Does any (active or future) player stand a chance at breaking any of the six all-time records listed above? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Egraphs Adds NBA; Giving Away A Free Egraph

When Egraphs first launched, back in July of 2012, it was merely a product for fans of Major League Baseball. While that’s just fine for many of you reading–as the majority of you are presumably baseball fans–for those of you who are fans of other sports, you were out of luck for the past six months. But that’s not the case any more, as Egraphs has recently broadened it’s horizon to include the National Basketball Association.Curry_to_Romo

Currently offering nearly 80 players, with new players being added all the time, the NBA Egraphs are well on their way to becoming as popular as the MLB Egraphs have become.

But it’s not a real mystery as to why the Egraph concept has been so well received by sports fans around the country.

Egraphs is one of the most ingenious sports related ideas to come along in awhile, as it allows for a player-to-fan interaction that no other company is able to provide–making it a one of a kind product.

As I first wrote about last month, Egraphs isn’t simply unique in the sense that it provides an electronically produced autograph from your favorite sports figure. What makes this product incredible is the personal audio message that comes along with each Egraph, recorded just for you, by the player in which you purchase the Egraph from. There’s currently no other company that even comes close to offering anything on the same level.

Running anywhere from 25-125 dollars, depending on the player–including guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, Tracy McGrady and Stephen Curry from the NBA, and R.A. Dickey, David Price and Ryan Braun from MLB–Egraphs is a must-have for any sports fan.

Whether you’re a fan of the NBA, MLB, or both, the cost of an Egraph is truly a small price to pay for a priceless interaction with the athlete you idolize.

While an Egraph normally runs 25 dollars and up, I’ve teamed up with Egraphs to give away one at a very discounted price: FREE. That’s right; you have a chance to receive a free Egraph from the (NBA or MLB) player of your choice.

The rules for entering to win are fairly simple:

  1. You MUST be following myself and Egraphs on Twitter. If you’re not, you aren’t eligible to win. So go ahead and make sure you’re doing that, by following me (@MLBFollower1) and Egraphs (@Egraphs) on Twitter.
  2. Fill out the ‘Egraph Giveaway’ form by clicking HERE.
  3. You’re only allowed to enter once. While the form will let you enter as many times as you’d like, I’ll be checking, and if your information shows up more than once, you automatically become ineligible to win. So, please, enter only once.

You have from now until 11:59:59 p.m. EST on Monday, January 21st to enter.

The randomly selected winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd, on Twitter.

UPDATE

The contest is over. A winner has been selected.

No Players Elected To the Baseball Hall of Fame

The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon that, for the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) failed to elect a single player, from the 2013 ballot, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This causing a vast amount of controversy among the baseball world, as everyone seems to have a different opinion in regards to the voting results.

There are those who are glad that no players got in, there are those who are upset that no players got in, and then there are guys like me, who fall somewhere in between. I’m not all that upset that not a single player received the required 75% of the vote needed to get into the Hall of Fame, but, at the same time, I would’ve liked to have seen at least a couple of guys make it into the HOF, from the 2013 ballot.

But it is what it is; there’s always next year.

Bonds-Rocket-hofWhat it comes down to for me is the fact that this didn’t have to happen. Had the ‘Steroid Era’ never of occurred, the likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would’ve been first ballot Hall of Famers, no question about it. Instead, they might not ever get in, as they only received 37.6% and 36.2% of the vote, respectively, this time around. For them to eventually get a plaque in the Hall of Fame, they will have to amass double the number of votes they did in this year’s vote, and I just don’t see that happening.

While they each have an additional 14 years of eligibility, I feel the voters have already made up their minds, for the most part. While a few members of the BBWAA might’ve merely held off in voting for Bonds and Clemens, in this their first year, just to prove a point, and might end up voting for them eventually, either you think Bonds and Clemens should get into the Hall of Fame or you think they shouldn’t. End of story.

But where does that leave the rest of the players from that era? Guys like Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, who were never proven to have taken anything, but fall under the cloud of suspicion due to the era in which they played. Well, I see it like this:

They pretty much fall into the same category as those connected to PED use. Either the voters are going to vote for them, or they aren’t. There’s not much grey area here, as far as I can see, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the voters aren’t going on suspicion alone and just decided not to vote in Biggio, Piazza and Schilling this time around for one reason or another. For the sake of the Hall of Fame, I surely hope so. Leaving out Biggio, Piazza and Schilling would be a real shame.

The other main player I’d like to talk about, that many people feel should be a HOF’er, but didn’t make the cut yet again this year, is Jack Morris. Morris was a great player, but, in my mind, he’s not Hall of Fame worthy.

jack_morris-thumb-250x375-4861The thing that gets me the most when people try to make a case for Morris, is their tendency to use the intimidation factor as the reason they feel he deserves to get in; that you didn’t want to face Morris in any given situation. But it’s not the Hall of Intimidation, it’s the Hall of Fame. The place where the games’ all-time greats get enshrined to forever be seen by generations of baseball fans to come. To me, a career 3.90 ERA just doesn’t cut it. Thus, I agree with Morris not getting in–this being his 14th time on the ballot.

While the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot saw no players receiving the necessary number of votes needed to get elected, there are multiple players set to be added to the ballot in 2014 who are shoo-ins to get in on the first go around.

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are three of the favorites to do just that, with some making the same case for guys like Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. We’ll just have to wait to see, but no matter what happens, there are sure to be at least a few players who get into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

In addition to the near certainty that several players will be voted in in 2014, next year’s vote should tell the tale once and for all of whether or not Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens stand even a slight chance of ever getting into the Hall of Fame.

If their percentages jump a large amount–due to BBWAA members voting for them that didn’t in 2013–they might have a shot of getting in, several years down the road. If they fail to receive greater than a few more percentage points, however, I’d say it’s a lost cause for two of the best players to every play the game of Major League Baseball.

MLB Hall of Famers I’ve Seen In Person

With the 2013 Hall of Fame class set to be announced tomorrow at Noon, on MLB Network, I thought it would be fun to post a blog entry on all of the Hall of Fame players I’ve ever seen in person. If my memory serves me correctly, I’ve only encountered a total of nine members of the baseball Hall of Fame. Furthermore–an interesting point to make–every HOF encounter I can recall ever having has taken place within the past seven months.

I might be forgetting a player I saw in one of the earlier years of my life, but I’m fairly sure that the following are the only HOF players I’ve been lucky enough to see in person:

JOHNNY BENCH-JOE MORGAN

Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were the first two members of the Hall of Fame that I can recall seeing. Admittedly, I was around 100 feet away from them, but it still counts, as we were all in the same live scenario at the same time. This particular interaction came on June 23, 2012, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (If you’d like to read all about the entire day–where I actually got to shake hands, and take pictures, with several Reds’ HOF’ers–feel free to check it out HERE.)

Basically, as far as Bench’s and Morgan’s purpose goes for being in ‘Cincy’, Sean Casey and Dan Driessen were at Great American Ballpark with the sole purpose being that they were getting officially inducted into the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame. The Reds decided to bring back a couple dozen members of their HOF, and Morgan and Bench happened to be two of the players they brought out to the ballpark:

DSCN4717I realize it’s not the most flattering picture, but it’s the only one I took of the two of them together. In case you can’t tell, Johnny Bench is the one in the white shirt, putting on his jacket, and Joe Morgan is the one just to the left of him; also putting on his jacket.

The next six Hall of Fame encounters I’ve had came while on a trip out to Kansas City, Missouri, to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby:

CAL RIPKEN JR.-TONY GWYNN

I ran into Cal Ripken Jr. at around 6:30 in the morning, on July 9, 2012, shortly after chatting with Ryan Howard. Ripken was surrounded by several media members at the time and was having a conversation with Manny Machado:

DSCN4809Cal Ripken Jr. is on the right. (Manny Machado is on the left.)

I could’ve (and should’ve) waited until Ripken was finished doing was he was doing and approached him to ask for an autograph, but, in addition to it being early in the morning–with me still being half asleep–I regretfully neglected to take a ball card of Ripken out to Kansas City. I still kick myself about it, but you can’t go back in time. Perhaps I’ll run into Ripken again sometime down the road, but if not, at least I’ll always have the memory of our encounter.

My Tony Gwynn sighting came just a few hours later, only a couple hundred feet away from where my Cal Ripken Jr. encounter had occurred. Gwynn was set to sign autographs for an endless line of fans–many of which had been in line for a couple of hours–and I, in anticipation of his arrival, positioned myself off to the side of the crowd, as I waited for Gwynn. I ended up standing there for what seemed like forever, as Gwynn didn’t show up until 45 minutes after his scheduled appearance time. I was tempted to leave about 30 minutes into the wait, but I’m glad I didn’t. The extra 15 minutes of patience allowed me to be able to add another HOF’er to the list, as well as get a picture:

DSCN4870A bit obvious which one is Tony Gwynn.

BARRY LARKIN-REGGIE JACKSON-HANK AARON-GEORGE BRETT

Barry Larkin would be the next Hall of Famer I would come across while out in Kansas City. Just to the right of where I took in most of the All-Star workout day’s batting practice, Larkin was hard at work, as an episode of ‘Baseball Tonight’ was being filmed. There’s not much more I can say about my Larkin sighting, so I’ll go ahead and leave you with a photo:

DSCN4899Barry Larkin is the one just to the left of Terry Francona.

Reggie Jackson has the most interesting story (in my mind) of any other HOF player I’ve ever seen in person. My first (notice I said *first*) sighting of Jackson came shortly before the start of the home run derby, when he made his way out onto the field to throw out the first pitch:

DSCN5026Reggie Jackson, folks.

It was great to see such a great player–one of only four to ever hit three home runs in a World Series game–in person, but little did I know, at the time, that this story would only get better from there. The next morning, I was sitting in the Kansas City airport terminal, when who walks by? Reggie Jackson. That’s right, Mr. October himself just so happened to be on the same flight (he was in first class) as I was. How cool is that?! It’ll be hard to ever top the encounter I had with Jackson out in KC, but you never know….

Jumping back to the day before I saw Jackson in the airport terminal–with it still being July 9th–the next Hall of Famer I spotted was Hank Aaron. It wasn’t the best sighting ever, as it took me at least 30 seconds to locate him, after he was shown on the center field jumbotron, and I ended up with only a 5 second, or so, sighting; leading to a blurry photo:

DSCN5038Hank Aaron is the one in the white shirt, above the MLB.com sign, with his hand in the air.

Aaron is arguably the best player I saw out in Kansas City; perhaps the best of all the HOF’ers I’ve ever seen in person.

The last HOF encounter I had, on my trip to Kansas City, was George Brett. I first spotted Brett down by the field when he made his was to the broadcasting table to do an interview/play-by-play type thing, during a portion of the derby. Brett wasn’t out for long, thus I don’t have anything all that interesting to talk about, but he was, however, out in the open long enough for me to take a photo:

DSCN5061George Brett is the guy in the white shirt.

RYNE SANDBERG

The most recent story I have of a face-to-face encounter with me and a Hall of Fame member occurred on July 18, 2012, in Durham, North Carolina. The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs were in town taking on the Durham Bulls and Sandberg just so happened to be managing the visiting Ironpigs. Unlike the eight HOF’ers I had seen before, I was actually successful in getting an autograph from Sandberg–two if you want to be technical:

DSCN5493

The autographs I was able to get from Ryne Sandberg. (The Sharpie was running out.)

It was easier than I thought it would be, as I found it unusually simple to work my way down by the dugout, and to my surprise, Sandberg signed for nearly ten minutes; so that certainly helped out as well. I forgot to bring along my camera to this particular game, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I met Sandberg. (I suppose the above autographs are proof enough.)

So there you have it. Those are the nine Hall of Famers that I can remember seeing in person. If Mark McGwire, Bernie Williams and/or Sandy Alomar end up having their names called tomorrow, when the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results are announced, I can add anywhere from one to three more names to the list, as I’ve seen all three players before.

I have a feeling, however, that I’ll be stuck at nine players until at least the 2014 vote.

How many MLB Hall of Famers have you seen in person? I’d love to hear your answer, with the story behind it (if there is one), in the comments section below.

Q and A With Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Since the draft, things haven’t gone as planned for Gibson, as although his stats have been decent, he hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy; having to undergo Tommy John surgery in September of 2011.

As far as Gibson’s stats go, he’s certainly lived up, for the most part, to being a first round draft pick. The 2008 Team USA pitcher went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in his first professional season, in 2010. Good enough to earn him a promotion to AAA Rochester at the end of the year, after beginning the season with A+ Fort Myers.Gibson

Gibson’s stellar inaugural season didn’t translate into 2011, however, as although he was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game, at Chase Field, Gibson went 3-8 on the year, with a 4.18 ERA. To put it in simpler terms: That’s not very good. But Gibson’s poor pitching wasn’t entirely his fault. Gibson had an arm injury, which resulted in him having to have Tommy John surgery during the offseason. A surgery that would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Gibson.

Post surgery, Gibson had a sudden boost in velocity, as his fastball rose from upper 80’s to lower 90’s, this past season. In Gibson’s most recent (partial) season, he went 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA; which is misleading due to the few innings in which he was able to pitch. As a result of the shortened season, Gibson traveled out to Arizona to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected to make the start for the Western Division in the 2012 A.F.L. Rising Stars Game–lasting two innings and giving up a couple of runs.

As long as things continue to go smoothly for Gibson, between now and the start of the season, barring any unpredicted setbacks, you can expect to see Gibson in the Major Leagues sometime during the upcoming 2013 season; if not on Opening Day. He certainly has the potential to get the call up out of Spring Training, and as such, is a guy everyone needs to keep a very close eye on in the coming months.

Kyle Gibson–top 10 prospect in the Twins organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I have always been involved and interested in baseball because my dad was. He was a high school baseball coach after he played a little bit of junior college baseball in his prime. He still likes to play in a mens senior league to this day. I believe that is why he would be my biggest influence on my love for the game up to this point.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

I had a couple when I was growing up. My dad was a huge Nolan Ryan fan, so obviously I thought he was cool, but believe it or not, I used to play a little short stop in my younger/shorter/faster years, and at that time Barry Larkin was a favorite player of mine as well.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was a long and stressful process at times mainly because I found out I had a stress fracture in my right forearm about 4 days before the draft. That made everything a little more stressful than I imagined, but even with that said, it was a fun process and I learned a lot. My parents and I decided to stay home and invite some people over to the house to watch the draft, so I was sitting outside in our driveway under a tent with what ended up being a few more people than the “some” we had planned on inviting. Everyone was getting a little anxious because from everything we had heard there was no definite place I was going to get drafted. So as the picks went by we got a little more anxious, but when my name was called there was a loud cheer, and I still get chills thinking about that moment in my life.

4.) You had Tommy John surgery in September of 2011 and seemed to have an increase in velocity. Has that increase in velocity changed the way you go about pitching or did you keep the same basic approach?

It does not change the way I pitch too much, other than the fact that I now have a much different fastball and slider. I have needed to learn to trust my fastball a little more because it’s now consistently in the low 90’s where before I was more consistently 89. My slider has also gained some velocity and has sharpened up a bit, so I have needed to adjust to that as well.

5.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I would say there are a couple stats that I like to look at, and those are walks and ground ball/fly ball ratio. I hate walking people, so that is why that is so important to me, and I also know that when I am at my best, I need to have the defense involved. The best way for me to do that is to get lots of ground balls and allow our infielders to do the rest.

6.) You made the start for the West division in the 2012 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. What was that experience like, in terms of going up against some of the best hitters that minor league baseball has to offer?

That experience was a lot of fun. Had I not given up a moonshot to the first batter I might have enjoyed it slightly more…..just kidding. It was a great opportunity, even though for only 2 innings, to square off against [Jarred] Cosart, who I have known for many years dating back to when he had committed to Missouri out of high school before the Phillies drafted and signed him. It was a lot of fun for all of us, and good to get that chance to pitch another time against the best the minors has to offer.

7.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to help you prepare for 2013? What are your goals for 2013?

Since my regular season extended into my offseason more than usual, I am now starting to get back into the swing of things and throwing again. Workouts will get more intense as I make sure my arm and body are prepared for another long season. My goals have a lot to do with staying healthy, and hopefully making it up to the big club and having a positive impact on our chances of winning. Everyone wants to become a big leaguer, and I really hope I am able to do that this year.

8.) Favorite TV show?

‘Sports Center’ or ‘Duck Dynasty’.

9.) Favorite food?

Steak or Mozzi’s Pizza from Greenfield, Indiana where I grew up.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Always have fun. Baseball should be something that they enjoy doing. Work as hard as you possibly can. I always look back and know that I could have worked harder because I never really knew what it took to become a professional. So have no regrets and work as hard as you can, but have fun doing it!

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Big thanks to Kyle Gibson for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @kgib44

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113 other followers