March 2013

Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

Q and A With Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer was drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. In his first professional season, Meyer showed off why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA, to go along with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. A year which George Brett,  Alex Meyerincluded pitching in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s fair to say Meyer had about as good of a first season as you can have.

Going from the Nationals to the Twins in November, in exchange for outfielder, Denard Span, Meyer is up for some new challenges that come with a new organization, but he’s looking forward to being part of the Twins. I fully expect Meyer to have an even better season than he did last year, truly showing off his full potential and finally receiving the recognition that’s due to him. (I feel he’s vastly underrated.)

Though consistency with finding the strike zone has been an issue for Meyer in the past, he did a much better job of it last season, and that alone should enable him to excel in the coming year, if he can continue his progression. Meyer possesses an above average fastball, with a decent slider and changeup, and if things continue to go the way they’re going, barring any major setbacks, Meyer could see time in the majors as soon as the second half of the 2014 season.

Alex Meyer–top pitching 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 started playing ball at age 4. I have had a passion for the game ever since my first practice. My dad played a very influential part in getting me started.

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

Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play. Watching him do everything he did was always exciting.

3.) You were drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting process throughout the whole thing. I was excited when I saw on TV my name come up. It was something I had dreamed about happening for a long time.

4.) After spending a full season in the Nationals’ organization, you were traded to the Twins, in November of 2012. What are you looking forward to most with your new team?

Just the opportunity to keep playing. I enjoy baseball and the fact that the Twins thought highly of me and traded for me makes me even more excited to get to playing.

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?

I don’t really find anything too difficult about it. I enjoy being with my teammates and getting to check out the different cities. I spend a lot of time listening to music or reading.

6.) You pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City. What did you take away from that experience? What was most memorable about it?

The whole experience is something I’ll never forget. Just being able to be on the field with some of the top players in the minor leagues at a major league venue and a setting like that was truly unexplainable. It’s hard to put how incredible something like that was into words. Being able to call George Brett my manager for a day is pretty cool.

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

I try not to read into them. I just worry about every 5th day.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What are your goals for 2013?

I feel in 2012 it was good to be able to go out and throw a full professional season. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again with a new organization in 2013.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I loved the 24 series, but now I am a big fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘The Walking Dead’. Favorite food would probably be a nice steak.

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

Work on getting better every single day, and if you do that, good things will come.

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

Big thanks to Alex Meyer for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Meyer17A

National League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. I did my American League predictions on Thursday (if you’d like to check them out, CLICK HERE), so today, as the title states, I’m giving my 2013 National League standings predictions, starting with the NL East:

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

With all of the offseason additions, including both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, the Braves have a really good chance to win their division, in the minds of many baseball fans, myself included. Their starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark, being good, but not great, however, I think the lineup they currently possess will be more than enough to get the job done. This will be the first season in more than a decade in which Chipper Jones isn’t in the dugout, but I think it’s going to be an exciting year for Braves fans nonetheless.

The Nationals had a breakout season last year, bringing playoff baseball back to Washington D.C. for the first time since 1933, and all signs point to them having another great season. The only reason I have them finishing behind the Braves is that their lineup isn’t quite as lethal, although their pitching staff can compete with nearly any team in baseball. Stephen Strasburg isn’t going to be on an innings limit, as he was last season, and the loss of that stress should allow for him to thrive. I fully see the Nat’s making the playoffs yet again in 2013.

For the Phillies, I’m still yet to be convinced that they’re going to do much of anything this year. Unlike last year, the Phillies should have a healthy Ryan Howard for the entire season, who will undoubtedly improve their lineup, but with Roy Halladay struggling a bit in spring training–given it’s just spring training–and the remainder of the rotation being merely decent, I can’t see them finishing any higher than third; being that the Braves and Nationals are in the division. But the Phillies certainly have the potential to prove me wrong.

Adding tons of big name players to their roster in the offseason of 2011, everyone thought it would help the Marlins win a few more games than they did the previous year. But things didn’t go as planned for the Marlins, as they finished 2012 with even fewer wins than in 2011, and in a questionable move, decided to redo nearly the entire team during this past offseason. With the loss of so many players, combined with the way the remainder of the team–with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton–played last season, they aren’t predicted to do much in the coming year.

The only team I’m predicting to do worse than the Marlins are the Mets. Although they resigned their superstar third baseman, David Wright, for the next seven years, they traded away their 2012 Cy Young award winner, in R.A. Dickey. While that move alone isn’t going to be the make or break point for the Mets, I don’t see them winning an awful lot of games this year. I do, however, like their chances down the road, as some of their key prospects are knocking on the door. As soon as next season, I can see the Mets making some noise in the NL East.

CENTRAL

1. Reds

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

After an extremely successful 2012 season, in which the Reds finished first in their division on 97 games won, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have an equally impressive, if not slightly better, 2013. They have the same basic roster, which includes one of the best closers in all of baseball, however, the one major difference is a healthy Joey Votto, which is why I see the Reds having an even better season this year. If they acquire the speedy Billy Hamilton, who stole 155 bases in the minors last year, towards the end of the season, I could see them going very deep into the playoffs, as well.

The Cardinals are a team that’s good enough to give the Reds a run for their money, but I’m not predicting for them to win the division. The Card’s have an extremely good pitching staff, when it comes to both starters and the bullpen–though their stellar closer, Jason Motte, is expected to begin the year on the disabled list–,however, their lineup isn’t quite as good as the Reds. It’s certainly going to be fun to watch to see how it all plays out, but regardless, I don’t see them being good enough to earn even the second wild card spot, as I feel the Nat’s and Giants are going to have better seasons.

This is going to finally be the year for the Pirates, in my mind. They started off incredibly last season, with their All-Star, Andrew McCutchen, leading the way with a batting average in the high .300′s, however, when McCutchen began to struggle following the midsummer classic, the rest of the team followed suit. If the entire team can rally together and play to their full potential, for the entire season, while I don’t see them making the playoffs, I could easily see them finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1992.

If it wasn’t for Ryan Braun, the Brewers arguably wouldn’t have won nearly as many games last season, which is why I feel they’re bound to flip spots with the Pirates in the coming year. Their pitching staff isn’t what you would expect out of an above .500 ball club, but it gets the job done, nonetheless. Even so, their lineup is missing a few key components–some of which just aren’t there, and some players that are injured–for the Brewers to have any sort of a chance at a playoff run, as far as I can foresee.

All signs point to the Cubs’ streak of 104 seasons without a World Series title continuing yet another season, with there not being much chance for a successful season in 2013. They have some good, young prospects working their way up the ranks, but until they make it to Wrigley field, a few years down the road, all the Cubs can do is make it through another subpar 162 game season.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

It’s pretty much going to be either the Dodgers or Giants winning the NL West division, and if the Dodgers can play to their fullest potential, I have a good feeling they’re going to win their division. They have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, which includes former Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, along with Zack Greinke and newcomer Hyun-Jin Ryu, from Korea, and that, combined with one of the best lineups in baseball, should be enough to prevail them past the 2012 World Champion Giants, in the NL West division.

With the Dodgers winning the division, I have the Giants coming in a close second. Coming off their second World Series title in three years, the Giants are one of those teams that doesn’t have an incredible team, but make the very most of what they have. Last season, Tim Lincecum really struggled to find his groove, posting a career worse 5.18 ERA, but I see Lincecum having a bounce-back 2013 season. While a healthy Lincecum will help keep the Giants in the running for the division title, I still predict them coming up just short.

The Padres made some noise towards the end of last season, and I look for them to play more of the same type of intensity baseball for the entire 2013 season. They don’t get a lot of recognition, just because of who they are, not having made the playoffs since 2006, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t possibly be the shockers of the 2013 season. While I don’t see them finishing higher than third, with the Dodgers and Giants in the division, I’m predicting they’re going to be a lot better than most people are expecting.

Having finished with a record of 81-81, exactly .500, in 2012, I don’t see the Diamondbacks improving at all in the coming season, especially with the offseason trade of Justin Upton to the Braves, as well as promising young pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer, to the Indians. By losing a couple of players who would’ve likely made a noticeable impact for the D-back’s in the coming season, I see them finishing next to last in the division. Both their pitching staff and lineup are decent, but I just can’t bring myself to place them any higher in the standings for my predictions.

Playing in one of the best hitters ballparks in all of baseball, with the high altitude, doesn’t help out the Rockies when their pitching rotation is one of the weakest in all of baseball. Although they’ll have their star short stop, Troy Tulowitzki, back healthy–Tulowitzki only played in 47 games last year–along with veteran, Todd Helton, the Rockies’ lineup isn’t nearly strong enough to overcome their below average pithing staff. Therefore, I’m predicting a second straight last place season, in the NL West division, for the Rockies.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

American League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. As the title states, I’m giving my 2013 American League standings predictions today, starting with the AL East:

EAST

1. Rays

2. Yankees

3. Orioles

4. Blue Jays

5. Red Sox

With the Yankees’ season uncertain, I see this as the year the Rays need to make their move. With the lineup they have, the Rays have the ability to win their division, but it’s going to come down to if their starting pitching begins and ends with David Price, or if their potential superstar pitchers in Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson can get things going. That’s the deciding factor, for me.

Although the Yankees’ season is up in the air, I still have them finishing second in the AL East. Why? Because they’re the Yankees; a team that seems to be able to always find a way to win. But it’s going to come down to Derek Jeter, in my opinion. If he misses a large chunk of the season, at any point, it could send my predictions way off course. Right now, I’m not too worried about him missing the first few games; but that could change.

The Orioles surprised everyone last season with the way they were able to put things together, however, I still think it’ll be 2014 before they stand a good chance of winning the division. Their phenom prospects are still far from ready, with top prospect Dylan Bundy beginning the season in AA Bowie, and I just don’t see everything clicking together in their favor this season.

I’m hesitant to place the Blue Jays all the way down in fourth, with so many people seeing them finishing near the top, but it’s the way I foresee their season panning out. Even with the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, etc., I don’t see the Jays putting together a season much over .500. You just can’t buy chemistry, and with so many new faces, I don’t see them gelling from the start of the season.

What can I say about the Red Sox? They were once major competitors in the division, but after a couple of horrible seasons, by their standards, I don’t see this year being any better. They didn’t do much to improve their team in the offseason, and it’s going to show once the season starts up. I’m looking down the road, when their key prospects such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts arrive, before I can see them getting things going in the right direction again.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Royals

5. Twins

There’s truly no reason the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the AL Central division. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball, including sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with newcomer Victor Martinez, their lineup should be there. The only question mark is their pitching. Justin Verlander is going to dominate–that’s a given–but the remainder of the rotation is a bit uncertain. But all in all, I think they’ll be just fine.

Coming in second, I have the Indians, as they did a great job of signing guys in the offseason to fill key spots they were missing last year, and I feel it’s bound to pay off in the coming season. The only concern would be their starting pitching. Without a true Ace, you don’t know who to look to for to carry the team throughout the season. It’s definitely something worth watching, however, they should be able to have enough decent pitching to make things very interesting in the division.

It was really a toss up between me placing the Indians or White Sox in third place (with the other in second) but I decided to have the Sox finishing third in the division. The Sox have a future Cy Young winner, in Chris Sale, but with the remainder of the pitching, as well as the lineup, a question mark, I can’t see them winning too many games over .500 in the 2013 season. They still have too many holes to fill.

I’m still questioning the Royals’ decision to trade away their phenom prospect, Wil Myers, along with a few other prospects, to the Rays, in exchange for a couple of middle of the rotation starting pitchers, on most teams, in James Shields and Wade Davis, but it is what it is. I see the move doing more harm than good. The Royals certainly needed starting pitching, but to trade away your top prospect is a poor choice, in my opinion, which is why I have them finishing next to last in the division.

The Twins are a team that have the potential to be very good a year or two down the road, but for right now, I see them having to endure another last place season, in their division. They just don’t have enough top notch guys, both in their pitching rotation and lineup, to make any sort of a run this season, as far as I can see.

WEST

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Astros

For the Angels, the AL West division is theirs to lose. With the addition of Josh Hamilton in the offseason, along with their already potent lineup of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there is no reason the Angels shouldn’t dominate the division. Although they lost Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, their rotation is still really good, and it should all combine to be enough to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Athletics were one of the big surprises of last season, but I don’t feel it was a fluke. They’ve put together a really great team out in Oakland, and with the majority of the other teams in the division (with the exception of the Angels) still trying to figure things out in the coming season, the Athletics stand a good shot of making the playoffs for the second straight year.

With the loss of Josh Hamilton during the offseason, I don’t see the Rangers doing much of anything this year. While they have a few big bats in their lineup that can change the outcome of a game with one swing, I don’t see their rotation as being strong enough to overcome the uphill climb they face. It’ll be interesting to watch unfold, but I don’t like their chances in 2013.

The Mariners are one of the most interesting teams to keep track of. While I don’t see them having all that impressive of an upcoming season, with all of the talent they have knocking on the door of the big leagues, I feel they’ll be major contenders as early as next season. They don’t have all of the necessary pieces, just yet, to put together a playoff run, but starting in 2014, keep a lookout for the Mariners to do big things in the AL West division.

Last season was flat out ugly for the Astros, as they finished in dead last, with a league leading 107 losses. Being that they’re making the transition from the National League to the American League this year, I don’t see things being any better for them; but when you lose over 100 games in a season, it can’t really get all that much worse.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Click HERE to be taken to my National League predictions for 2013.

Chapman Prefers Closing; Myers To Begin 2013 In AAA

When it was first reported that the Cincinnati Reds had plans to convert Aroldis Chapman–known for his overpowering fastball, that’s been clocked up to 106 MPH–from closer to a starter, to begin the 2013 season, I couldn’t help but question the decision.mlb_u_chapman_b1_400

Chapman struggled a bit last year after pitching in multiple outings in a row, so I don’t understand what good would it really do to make him a starter. And now, with the recent comments from Chapman himself that he would prefer closing out games over starting, I question the change even more.

“In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn’t know,” Chapman stated in an interview. “But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game when the game is more exciting and has more meaning, I kind of liked it. Yeah, the adrenaline goes up and I like to be in that situation. I would like to be a closer, yeah, but there are some things that I can’t control.”

I understand that the Reds would like for Chapman to have a greater impact on the entire game, rather than just the ninth inning, but I feel they should just leave things the way everyone’s used to: With Chapman as their closer. That’s where Chapman feels the most comfortable, and where he has proven to be the most dominant–recording 38 saves off a 1.51 ERA, with 122 strikeouts in 71.2 inning pitched, last season.

To me, there’s too much uncertainty to have the move work out in the long run, especially with Chapman not fully on board.

In other news, Wil Myers was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday, ensuring that he will begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Durham. Thus finally answering the question everyone had on their minds throughout the entire offseason, of whether or not Myers would break camp with the big league club.

Myers seems to be taking the news well, stating, “It was something I knew was going to come eventually. It wasn’t a surprise at all…I’m really looking forward to getting down there [to minor league camp] and getting some at-bats….I really enjoyed my time here, it was a blast. But now I’m ready to get down to business.”

While I somewhat disagree with the Rays’ decision, Myers beginning the year with Durham guarantees the opportunity for fans, like myself, to see the number four prospect in all of baseball in action. So I can’t really complain all that much.

UPDATE: 3/21/13

The Reds have made the decision to leave Aroldis Chapman as their closer.

Home Run Milestones That Should Occur In 2013

Below you’ll find a list of the home run milestones that *should* occur in 2013. I say should because there’s no guarantee that any given player on the list will reach the milestone; they could get injured, have a bad season, or whatever. I made the same type of list last season, and it was well-received, so I figured I’d post another one for this year.

In order to make the list, the player had to meet the following criteria:

  1. You can’t be a pitcher. Although there are some pitchers that can hit home runs, you won’t find any on my list. Reason being is that they’re not everyday players.
  2. You have to have hit at least one home run in the Major Leagues. There are several dozen players going into 2013 that haven’t hit an MLB home run, but adding them to the below list just didn’t make sense.
  3. You have to be closing in on an even milestone, like 100, 200, 300, etc. I didn’t include anyone that’s a few homers away from number 50, 75, 125, etc. It just didn’t seem necessary.

The list is organized by player name, team, milestone they’re going for and how many home runs they are from that particular milestone:

2013 Home Run Milestones

Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies–Home Run Number 100 (1 home run away)

Mark Ellis, Dodgers–Home Run Number 100 (1 home run away)

Scott Hairston, Cubs–Home Run Number 100 (5 home runs away)

Joe Mauer, Twins–Home Run Number 100 (6 home runs away)

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins–Home Run Number 100 (7 home runs away)

Russell Martin, Pirates–Home Run Number 100 (7 home runs away)

Ben Zobrist, Rays–Home Run Number 100 (8 home runs away)

Jose Reyes, Blue Jays–Home Run Number 100 (8 home runs away)

Shane Victorino, Red Sox–Home Run Number 100 (10 home runs away)

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox–Home Run Number 100 (10 home runs away)

Delmon Young, Phillies–Home Run Number 100 (11 home runs away)

Nate McLouth, Orioles–Home Run Number 100 (12 home runs away)

Garrett Jones, Pirates–Home Run Number 100 (13 home runs away)

Shin-Soo Choo, Reds–Home Run Number 100 (17 home runs away)

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates–Home Run Number 100 (18 home runs away)

Chris Davis, Orioles–Home Run Number 100 (23 home runs away)

Chase Utley, Phillies–Home Run Number 200 (1 home run away)

Adam LaRoche, Nationals–Home Run Number 200 (3 home runs away)

Jimmy Rollins, Phillies–Home Run Number 200 (7 home runs away)

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays–Home Run Number 200 (17 home runs away)

Mark Reynolds, Indians–Home Run Number 200 (19 home runs away)

Robinson Cano, Yankees–Home Run Number 200 (23 home runs away)

Torii Hunter, Tigers–Home Run Number 300 (3 home runs away)

Carlos Pena, Astros–Home Run Number 300 (23 home runs away)

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs–Home Run Number 400 (28 home runs away)

Albert Pujols, Angels–Home Run Number 500 (25 home runs away)

Q and A With Bob Kendrick — N.L.B.M. President

kendrick1

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), located in Kansas City, Missouri, was first established back in 1990, originally functioning out of a one-room office. The museum has since grown in size, currently housed in a 10,000 square foot facility, in the heart of the KC Jazz district.

For the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, its main purpose is to preserve the history of African-American baseball, by continuing to provide those who visit with insight into the Negro Leagues. Not wanting to duplicate the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the NLBM acknowledges all Negro League players, instead of singling out the ones who had the biggest overall impact.

The most unique portion of the museum is the Field of Legends. A baseball diamond commemorating 10 of the first Negro League players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, for their Negro Leagues careers, the Field of Legends is made up of life sized bronze statues, of the players as they would have been seen on the field:

FieldofLegends1

Martin Dihigo in the batters box, Josh Gibson behind the plate, Buck Leonard at first, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd at second, William “Judy” Johnson at short stop, Ray Dandridge at third, Cool Papa Bell in left field, Oscar Charleston in center field, Leon Day in right field and Satchel Paige on the mound. 

President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick, took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which honors the best to ever play the game, the NLBM honors all Negro League players, regardless of their career statistics. Why did the NLBM decide to go about it that way rather than just include those players who had the biggest impact in the negro leagues?

It was far more important for us (NLBM) to preserve, celebrate and educate the public to a forgotten chapter of baseball and American history than it was to focus only on the stars of the Negro Leagues. The story of the Negro Leagues has never been properly documented in the pages of American history books, and collectively we felt that a museum dedicated to the entire story would have the most impact. The story itself is much bigger than the game of baseball. Baseball is merely a premise for more grandiose story of economic empowerment, leadership and ultimately the social advancement of America. It’s an all-en-composing history lesson. Our visitors not only witness the rise and subsequent fall of the Negro Leagues but they are able to simultaneously parallel the social rise of America.

By the time we established, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, through its Veterans Committee, had already started to recognize the exploits of some of the Negro Leagues biggest stars, so there was no need to duplicate or replicate what the Hall was already doing. The late Buck O’Neil was very passionate about the fact that there had already been enough separation in the game, and that the Hall of Fame was the proper place for all the people who made great contributions to our sport. So, as an institution, we became advocates for those who played in the Negro Leagues for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Of course, there was no greater advocate for inclusion than O’Neil.

2.) Since the museum’s opening in 1990, how has it grown in both physical size as well as the amount of historical information it provides on the history of the negro leagues?

We established the NLBM in a tiny, one-room office located in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz district in 1990. The late Buck O’Neil and Horace Peterson (who also established the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City), along with other former Negro League players living in the area, literally took turns to pay the monthly rent to keep those hopes and dreams of some day building an institution that would pay tribute to this inspiring and important chapter of American history. At that time, we had a few artifacts collected, but we knew from the onset that it would be the story that would drive this project. In November of 1997, we moved into our current home in the Museums at 18th & Vine (the American Jazz Museum is also a part of the complex), and now offers 10,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Negro League players and their families have generously donated items for display that helped bring the story to life and we’re constantly on the hunt for other pieces to add to our collection.

3.) Who’s the biggest name (baseball player, or general celebrity) to have ever visited the NLBM?

It’s tough to narrow it down to one, because we’ve been fortunate to welcome so many amazing celebrities through the years, including two American presidents in Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and other dignitaries such as: Retired Gen. Colin Powell and the First Lady Michelle Obama; legendary sports stars such as Jim Brown, Oscar Robinson, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith and Kareem Abdul Jabbar; entertainers such as Geddy Lee, Harry Belafonte, Billy Dee Williams and Laurence Fishbourne. But my personal favorite was getting the opportunity to tour my idol, Hank Aaron. Mr. Aaron, of course, played in the Negro Leagues in 1952 with the Indianapolis Clowns before signing with the Boston Braves.

As a kid growing up in Georgia, I was, and still am, a big Braves fan. His epic chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record is still a milestone of my childhood, and when he hit the record-breaking home run, I remember circling the bases with him in the living room of our house and not being able to sleep that night because I was so excited for him. I met him for the first time in Denver, CO at the All-Star Game in 1998. The next year, MLB was celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Mr. Aaron’s breaking of Ruth’s record and in partnership with the Kansas City Royals, we were able to arrange a tour of the NLBM. Buck O’Neil was out of town and I drew the assignment of touring my idol. It’s the only time I’ve ever been nervous giving a celebrity tour. Afterwards, I joined Mr. Aaron and his wife, Billye, for Gates BBQ. I still consider it to be my greatest day in baseball!

4.) What’s something that a lot of people don’t know about the history of the negro leagues that you feel they should?

That they successfully operated for 40 years (1920-60). Most people assume that after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier that the Negro Leagues surely would have ended soon after that historic occurrence. It took MLB 12 years before every team had at least one Black player, with the Boston Red Sox being the last to integrate when the club signed Pumpsie Green in 1959. By 1960, the Negro Leagues ceased operations.

5.) Staying on the same general topic, nearly everyone knows who Jackie Robinson was, with many baseball fans having heard of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. Who are some of the lesser known players that played a big role in the history of the negro leagues?

You’re right; Paige, Gibson and Cool Papa Bell became mainstream names from the Negro Leagues, but there were so many great players that most fans have not heard about. Guys like:

Wilbur “Bullet” Rogan: Rogan began playing in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1920, and was one of the League’s first superstars. He was a legendary pitcher who earned his nickname “bullet” for his blazing fastball. Rogan was a tremendous athlete and when he wasn’t pitching he often hit clean up in the Monarchs batting order and played the outfield. He led the Monarchs to the inaugural World Series title in 1924. Rogan is now rightfully enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Oscar Charleston: Buck O’Neil called Charleston the “greatest baseball player he had ever seen.” Charleston was a do-it-all center fielder who began playing in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis ABCs. He excelled in every facet of the game and the old-timers in the Negro Leagues say that he was “Willie Mays before we ever knew who Mays was.” He combined the defensive of abilities of Tris Speaker, the tenacity of Ty Cobb and the bat of Babe Ruth, into one dynamite package.

Hilton Smith: Perhaps the greatest pitcher few people know anything about. Smith was a star pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs who was somewhat overshadowed by his charismatic teammate, Satchel Paige. Smith was every bit as good. The quiet, reserved Texan won 20 games or more in 12-consecutive years for the Monarchs, and was 6-1 in exhibition games against Major Leaguers.

Martin Dihigo: Nicknamed “El Maestro”, Dihigo was born in Cuba and is the most versatile player in baseball history. He could play all nine positions, and play them well. Dihigo is the only baseball player to be enshrined in five different countries’ baseball Hall of Fames: Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and United States.

6.) What’s your personal favorite portion of the museum? Why?

The Field of Legends. Naturally, I’m biased, but I think it is one of the most compelling displays in any museum anywhere in the world. The Field of Legends is a mock baseball diamond that houses 10 of 12 life size bronze sculptures of Negro League greats, cast in position as if they are playing a game. The statues on the field represent 10 of the first group of Negro League players to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for their Negro Leagues careers. The exhibition flows around the field, so our visitors can see the field, but they can’t walk out among those legendary baseball players until they’ve learned the history, at which time you’ve earned the right to “take the field” with 10 of the greatest baseball players to ever put on a uniform.

7.) What advice would you give to first time visitors of the NLBM, when it comes to how they should go about their self guided tour?

If possible, try to allot at least 90 minutes for the tour so that you can take in our featured videos in the Grandstand and Diamond Theaters. You could easily spend an entire day because there’s a great deal to enjoy. Artifacts, multimedia displays and fascinating text panels that set the tone for what America was like, but also triumphantly quantifies the passion, pride, perseverance that America’s unsung baseball heroes demonstrated in the face of adversity that ultimately changed our game but more importantly, changed our country.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

Big thanks to Bob Kendrick for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @nlbmprez

Jeter & Rivera Make 2013 Debuts; Rivera to Retire

The baseball world spent most of Saturday focused on the New York Yankees; more specifically, on Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Both played in their first official games since being injured last season–Jeter with a broken ankle, Rivera with a torn ACL–and, not all that shockingly, both had great Spring Training debuts. A good sign for the Yankees. mo113010--525x400

But the big news of the day wasn’t the debuts of two veteran Yankees, but rather the announcement by all time saves leader, Mariano Rivera, that the 2013 season would be his last.

“Now is the time”, stated the 43-year-old Rivera, in an early morning press conference. “I have given everything, and the time is almost ending. The thing that I have, the little gas I have left is everything for this year. After that, I’ll empty everything. There’s nothing left. I did everything, and I’m proud of it. That’s why it’s time.”

The time would have come at the end of the 2012 season, had Rivera not have suffered from a torn ACL. An injury which occurred while Rivera was shagging fly balls–his normal pregame routine–during batting practice in Kansas City. But, as expected, Rivera didn’t want to go out like that.

No, not Mariano Rivera. Wanting to go out on his own terms, he has far greater plans.

“The last game, I hope, will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series”, said Rivera. “That’s how I envision to be my last game of my last pitch on the mound. Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition.”

A great ambition indeed, but one that will be somewhat hard to pull off, in my opinion. As although I foresee the Yankees barely making the playoffs this year, with all of the injuries the team currently suffers, I’m not so sure they can make a deep playoff run.

For Mariano Rivera’s sake, I sure hope I’m wrong.

Having already broken a number of MLB records in his 18 seasons, all spent with the Yankees, the 12-time All-Star already has a resume to go out as one of the games’ greats, but a sixth World Series ring would obviously be icing on the cake.

It would truly make for a storybook ending to a storybook career.

TTM Autograph Requests Update # 2

Around a month ago, I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during Spring Training. At the end of the post, I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a couple autographs. Having received two more TTM autograph requests since my last update, I’ve now gotten back half of the requests I sent out, so I figured I’d post another update:

CASEY KELLY–PADRES ORGANIZATION

DSCN5524

Casey Kelly is currently ranked as the number 69 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He would probably be higher had it of not been for an elbow injury he endured for most of last season. An injury that limited Kelly to just 14 games pitched; 6 of which came in the majors. In the 6 games pitched at the big league level, Kelly went 2-3, with a 6.21 ERA, but showed signs of his readiness to be a major league pitcher. If Kelly doesn’t begin the season with the Padres, it would be a real shame. He has the ability to be an impact player for an improving Padres team.

JASON MOTTE–ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

DSCN5523

Although the ink from the autograph smudged off a bit in the mail, I’m very happy to add Jason Motte’s autograph to my collection. Topping out at 100, and regularly hitting the upper 90′s, Motte’s overpowering fastball is what makes him one of the best closers in the game. Last season, Motte saved a total of 42 games for the Cardinals, recording 86 strikeouts in 72 innings pitched, on a 2.75 ERA. This season should see Motte posting more of the same type of stats as last year.

I still have autograph requests out for Mariano Rivera, Adam Jones, Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pierzynski and Justin Masterson, so hopefully they’ll come back soon, so I can write about them; though there’s no guarantee they’ll come back at all.

2013 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching Opening Day, and so starts the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s always a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun. I’m going to be doing a seperate blog post on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season, in the next week or two, but for now I want to hear what you all think.

Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2013:

The 2013 MLB regular season has begun, and the polls are now closed. Thanks for voting.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113 other followers