April 2013

Stanton Heating Up: Still Bound For A Subpar Season?

After failing to hit a home run in his first 17 games of the season, Giancarlo Stanton has started to heat up lately, as he’s blasted (and I do mean blasted) three home runs in his past two games. But while this is certainly great for both Stanton and the Marlins, you have to question whether hi-res-165543857_display_imageit will actually play out over the remainder of the season.

If Stanton continues to tear it up at the plate, it’s likely he’ll find himself getting walked more and more, as there’s really no one in the Marlins’ lineup that can hurt a team as much as Stanton.

If Stanton can’t swing the bat, he can’t hit home runs.

Taking a look at Stanton’s stats so far this season, the additional walks are already taking place. Having only been walked 46 times last year, in which he hit 37 homers, Stanton is on pace to reach base via walk 78 times; that’s going off him playing 123 games like last year.

Assuming Stanton stays healthy for most of the season, resulting in more games played, it’s not all that hard to imagine him getting walked over 100 times. If he still continues to rake, perhaps even more than that.

So where does that leave Giancarlo Stanton?

The absolute best thing that can happen to Stanton is for him to get traded. A big blockbuster trade would be beneficial to both Stanton, helping him to somewhat salvage what’s sure to be a non-Stanton season, as well as the Marlins, gaining them some key pieces that will help them win more games down the road.

Stanton alone, while he’s an incredibly talented player, isn’t going to win the Marlins games. Maybe a few, here and there, but not enough to affect the outcome of a season. They need more than just one guy.

Therefore, sitting just four home runs shy of the 100th for his career, while Giancarlo Stanton will undoubtedly reach the milestone sometime within the next week or two, I see it being the last milestone he’ll achieve in a Marlins uniform.

4/24/13 Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

I hadn’t been planning on attending this game–under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have–but I was trying to accomplish what I was unable to do the last time I was at the ballpark: Get an autograph from Rays’ number one prospect, Wil Myers. That was my main reason for being there, on what turned out to be a fantastic day for a ballgame: DSCN5586 I figured with it being a day game there wouldn’t be as many people at the ballpark, making it easier to get autographs. I was partially right, as while there was a decent amount of people at the game, there were fewer than usual autograph seekers. But in the end, fewer people didn’t do much good, as just like the first Bulls game I had attended, a couple weeks ago, Wil Myers didn’t sign for me. It was very frustrating.

But I didn’t let it bring me down, as the game itself was far more exciting. With there being fewer fans than usual, you could basically sit wherever you wanted, and I ended up sitting in the fourth or fifth row to start the game. The close proximity to the field made the game all that more enjoyable. (Not that I don’t always have a great time at the ballpark.)

Bulls’ starting pitcher for the game, Jake Odorizzi….: DSCN5589 ….didn’t do as well as I had expected him to (though he would get the win) giving up a solo-shot to the third batter of the game, Nick Castellanos, who would go 3-3 for the game.

The home run was a very big deal for me because (for those of you who don’t know) Castellanos is the Tigers’ number one prospect, and baseball’s 21st overall prospect. My heart literally skipped a beat when he crushed the ball out onto the center field grass and I was still seated in the infield. I looked on for a few minutes, fully expecting someone to run out there and grab it, but to my surprise, no one did. A few people went over to have a look, but no one grabbed it. I couldn’t stand to just sit there, so I decided to see if I could make it over in time to get the home run ball.

Now, something you have to realize, at the Durham Bulls ballpark, it’s not a mere walk to the outfield. There’s a big flight of stairs you have to climb before you can make the trek over. During that climb, I had my eye off of the center field grass for nearly half a minute, and I was worried that during that short period of time, someone had gone out to get the ball. But thankfully, when I finally made it to the outfield, in what must’ve been record time, I saw a little white speck over in the grass. I patiently waited for three outs to be recorded before I jumped the short fence, and trotted over to grab the ball: DSCN5602This was Nick Castellanos’ second home run of the season, and just the 19th of his career.

After grabbing the ball, I decided to stay seated in the outfield for a few more innings, just in case anyone blasted a home run onto the grass, but looking back, that was a dumb decision. I ended up getting sunburnt, and as I sit here typing this, my arms tingle with every keystroke. (Perhaps not wearing sunscreen was the dumb decision?)

Anyway, when it became apparent that no one was going to hit a home run in my direction, and that my arms were turning red, I gave up my outfield view, for my original seat, where I had begun the game: DSCN5616I know it doesn’t appear to be, but the seat I was in had just fallen into the shade. It felt good to not have my skin roasting anymore.

Since I had been in the outfield for the majority of the game up until this point, I had missed Wil Myers’ first two at-bats. Therefore, I ended up taking roughly 30 pictures of Myers (I won’t share them all, don’t worry) beginning with his third at-bat of the game….: DSCN5641 ….and continuing with him above the dugout….: DSCN5653 ….in the on-deck circle….: DSCN5658 ….and ending with him on first base, after singling in his final at-bat: DSCN5690 I went a little Myer’s-crazy. I know. I admit it. But hey, it’s Wil Myers.

The Bulls would go on to win the game, 9-8, despite an attempted comeback from the Mud Hens, who scored four runs in the top of the eight inning. I failed, yet again, in getting Myers to sign for me after the game, but I was able to get Mike Fontenot to autograph a card for me. So it wasn’t a total loss for the day, autograph-wise.

It remains a top priority for me to get an auto from Wil Myers, and although I won’t be able to attend tonight or tomorrow night’s game, if he’s still with the Bulls when they return home from an 8-game road trip, on May 6th, I plan on going back. It’s certainly a challenge to get an autograph from Wil Myers, but I generally enjoy challenges, and refuse to give up.

Top MiLB Prospects Ready To Make MLB Impact

There are numerous top prospects set to make an impact in the major leagues this season, as I wrote about a few months ago, but for this particular post, I’m only focusing on the players who are ready right now to get a callup to the big leauges; but are yet to, for one reason or another. Keep in mind, as you’re reading through my list, the players (in no particular order) I’ve included are yet to play a single game in the majors:

The first player I feel is major league ready is Wil Myers. I’ve done a few blog posts on him in the past, about how I felt Myers has been ready for awhile, and I really don’t see the point of leaving him down in the minors. Batting .304, with a homer and 12 RBI’s, so far this season, Myers is one of those players who I could see thriving at the next level. The Rays need to give him a shot, in my opinion.

Bruce Rondon is off to another great start, so far this season. Through seven innings pitched, Rondon hasn’t allowed any runs, while limiting the offense to a .179 batting average. Having been clocked at over 100 miles per hour in the past, combined with the closer role for the Tigers still a weak point, I’d say it’s time for Rondon to be called up, and just see how he performs.

A guy who’s not on everyone’s radar, but has the ability to make a big impact in the major leagues is Donnie Joseph. Limiting the opposing batters to a .125 average, including a 1.35 ERA and 12 strikeouts, through 6.2 innings pitched, so far this season, Joseph is ready, in my mind, to show off his stellar stuff in the majors, with the Kansas City Royals.

Though I’m not quite jumping onboard with the thoughts of others that Mark Montgomery will be the next Mariano Rivera for the Yankees, I do agree with many of them, that Montgomery is going to be a star at the major league level. Though he’s still young, at age 22, having only pitched in just over 100 innings, his career 1.61 ERA goes to show just how good Montgomery really is, and in my mind, how ready he is.

Mike Zunino is the last player on my list of players ready for the major leagues, but as the saying goes, he’s certainly not least. If anything, Zunino is near the top of the list, having hit 5 home runs and batted in 21, in just 13 games so far this season. These stats fall in line with his 13 homers and 43 RBI’s in just 44 games last season, and lead me to believe that he’s ready to face big league pitching.

Some honorable mentions, of player who are getting close to being major league ready, but aren’t quite, include: Bryce Brentz, Kyle Gibson, George Springer, Sonny Gray, Nick Franklin, Jarred Cosart, Michael Choice, Christian Bethancourt, Zack Wheeler, Wilmer Flores, Danny Hultzen and Nolan Arenado.

All are showing tons of major league potential, and the majority of those players should see time in the major leagues at some point in the second half of this season. The remaining few will get their first glimpse of the majors in the early part of 2014.

Clayton Kershaw 1,000 K’s; A.J. Burnett 2,000 K’s

In the second inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Padres, Dodgers’ Ace, Clayton Kershaw, struck out Yonder Alonso to notch the 1,000th strikeout of his MLB career.

Clayton Kershaw becomes just the thirteenth Dodger to ever reach 1,000 K’s in their career, and the second fastest Dodger to reach the mark–beating out numerous Dodger greats, including four Hall of Famers, in Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Don Drysdale and Dazzy Vance–at just 15.2 more innings pitched than Hideo Nomo.

Kershaw would go on to lose the game, allowing three runs, on three solo shots, increasing his season statistics to 2-2, with a 1.88 ERA. The 2012 National League Cy Young winner currently sits just five strikeouts back of the 2013 strikeout leader, A.J. Burnett, with thirty strikeouts so far this season.

Speaking of A.J. Burnett, he was stellar in his Wednesday night start against the Cardinals, carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, before Carlos Beltran broke it up with a double. Beltran’s hit would turn out to be the only hit Burnett would allow, as he struck out eight, over seven innings pitched. The second of those strikeouts being the 2,000th of his career, making him one of just four active MLB pitchers with 2,000 or more career strikeouts.

Burnett moves to 1-2 on the year, with a 2.63 ERA, but more impressively, 35 strikeouts in just 24 innings pitched.

Bryce Harper & Mike Trout: New Season, Different Start

When Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were called up to the Major Leagues last season, both, coincidently, on the same day (April 28th), Trout started off his season tearing it up out of the gate, while Harper struggled a bit before finding his groove to finish out the season sharper-trouttrong.

Both would go on to win the 2012 Rookie of the Year, however, this season around, it’s Harper who is making some noise to start the year, while Trout is off to somewhat of a rough start. Things are certainly not playing out like I had expected.

Bryce Harper blasted two home runs on Opening Day, and now sits at five home runs for the season. Harper also currently holds a .372 batting average, including 10 RBI’s, through eleven games played. Mike Trout, on the other hand, has a mere batting average of .245, with no home runs and only one RBI, through the same number of games played. While there’s still plenty of time left in the season, in which either Harper or Trout could continue on their current paths or have things turn around, it’s something worth noting, nonetheless.

Which leads me to my main question, of if Harper will keep up his hot start and if Trout will continue to struggle. For both, I say no.

Harper is going to have an incredible year, but he’s by no means going to hit for a near .400 average all season long, as well as keeping on his current pace to blast 80 home runs and 160 RBI’s. I see Harper slowing things down in the coming weeks, to lower his stats back down to a realistic level. Even so, I’m predicting him to finish the season with even better stats than last year, with a .315 batting average, to go along with 32 home runs and 98 RBI’s. (But as with most predictions, this is all merely speculative.)

As far as Trout goes, he’s bound to bounce back to being his normal superstar self, increasing his batting average and squaring up the baseball more often. Trout’s just in a bit of a slump that he’s sure to pull out of before too long. If I had to make a prediction for how he’ll finish the year statistically, I could see Trout slugging 26 homers and batting in 80 runs. Slightly down from the monster numbers he put up last season, but the poor start he’s off to is sure to have an effect on his long-term stats.

In the end, however, both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are likely to have stellar seasons.

That’s almost a sure bet.

Who will have the better 2013 season: Harper and Trout? Will either win MVP? Leave a comment below.

4/9/13 Bulls Vs. Braves–My First Ever Home Run Snag

When it was made official a few weeks ago that Rays’ top prospect, and number four overall prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, was going to start the season in Triple-A Durham, I knew I’d be attending one of the first home games of the season. Though I would rather have gone to Opening Day, it wasn’t possible, so the next game would have to do.

My main goal for this game was (obviously) to get an autograph from phenom, Wil Myers. I had seen on the Durham Bulls’ twitter page that Myers had signed autographs the night before, so I was keeping a positive mindset, hoping he would sign, once again. But it wasn’t meant to be, as although I was the first person to arrive down by the dugout, before the game, when Myers came up from the clubhouse, he didn’t even look over in my direction. He ended up signing for a few people down the line, but I wasn’t able to get him to come over.

This day would turn out to be a horrible one, if you’re a person like myself who loves collecting autographs. The only player on the entire Bulls team, of the players I wanted autos from, that signed for nearly everyone, was Rays’ number five prospect, Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was extremely nice about it, and I was happy to get his autograph, even if it was the only one I got before the game.

After failing to get any more autographs, I made the trek up to my ticketed seat:

DSCN5528Wil Myers, who was serving as the Bulls’ designated hitter for the night, was chilling at the top of the dugout for most of the game:

DSCN5530

As for the game itself, it was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen in person. After Bulls’ starting pitcher, Alex Torres, struck out the side, in the top of the first, the Bulls proceeded to go on a tear, causing Gwinnett’s starting pitcher, Daniel Rodriguez, to be pulled from the game after only a third of an inning pitched, in which he allowed eight runs:

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The Bulls would end up plating two more, for a grand total of TEN runs in the bottom of the first. Five of those runs came from the bat of Brandon Guyer, who blasted two home runs–a two run, and a three run–in the first inning. (The first International League player to do so since 2005.)

Seeing that the ball was flying out of the ballpark, on this particular night, and with the outfield seats being so empty….:

DSCN5546….I decided, as I’ve done in the past, to move to the outfield seats, after the conclusion of the first inning.

It was during my walk to the outfield that one of the most unusual things to ever happen to me at a baseball game occurred.

As I was making my way through the concourse, a guy, who I had seen earlier taking photos with an old-fashion-looking camera, stopped me and asked if I had been getting autographs down by the dugout before the game. I told him yes, and he went on to tell me that he was a photographer from Minnesota that had been hired (or picked?) by the Bulls (I think?) to take photographs of people at the ballpark for an art gallery (or museum?), and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be photographed. As you can tell, I didn’t fully understand it all, but I agreed to it, nonetheless.

We both made our way out to where his camera was, which happened to be where I was headed anyway. It probably took 10 minutes for him to get the photo he was looking for, but I had nothing else to do, and was happy to do it. Here’s a picture of the camera….:

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….with him and his friend standing just below it, looking at the field. So if you happen to see me on a wall somewhere, now you know why; let me know if you do.

Moving back to the game, and to the reason I moved to the outfield, with there still being five innings left in the game after I finished having my picture taken, I was optimistic that someone (I didn’t care who) would hit a home run in my direction. The seats continued to empty more and more as the game went on, and I was getting more and more anxious.

When it got to be the sixth inning, and no balls had even come close to me, I began to feel it was unlikely that a home run would be hit my way, but just as the thought crossed my mind, Gwinnetts’ Ernesto Mejia blasted a moon shot (the 114th HR of his MiLB career), which barely cleared the center field wall. I wanted to just run out there and get it, but I recalled the Triple-A National Championship game, when a guy ran out onto the grass after a home run ball, and the umpires stopped the game. I didn’t want to be “THAT guy”.

So I waited patiently, hoping no one would make a run for it. A few people came over and had a glance, but they didn’t try to retrieve it, which made it extremely easy for me to jump the short fence and run over to grab it as soon as three outs had been recorded.

Here’s the ball:

DSCN5554This was the first home run ball I had ever gotten, and with the rush I got from running over and picking it up, I highly doubt it will be my last.

I stayed in the outfield for one more of Wil Myers’ at-bats, but after he failed to hit a home run, I made my way back to where I had begun the game.

The Braves would make things interesting, scoring two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, to make it a 12-8 ball game, but that would end up being the final score. As soon as the final out had been recorded, I quickly headed down to the dugout, with a dozen others, to try for an autograph from Myers, but once again, he didn’t even look up.

I did succeed in getting an autograph from the star of the game, Brandon Guyer, afterwards, and he was extremely nice about it. He seems like a really great guy in general, as before the game he went out of his way to ask how everyone was doing, when he came up from the clubhouse. It’s guys like that, that you want to see do well, and I wish him the best moving forward.

I’m not sure when my next MiLB game will be, or whether it will be a Mudcats or Bulls game, but if it’s half as great as this one was, it’s sure to be a fun time.

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

We’re just over a week into the 2013 MLB regular season, and I wanted to post a blog, just like last year, on the fastest and slowest starts to the season for both entire teams and individual players. While it’s a small sample size, the list gives you an idea of what’s been taking place so far this season. Some of the players and teams are performing nearly as well as expected, but others are putting on performances that I never would’ve predicted them to begin the season with.

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

The Braves currently lead all of baseball with a win percentage of .857. Justin Upton has been making a major impact, hitting six home runs in the first seven games, and I fully expected the Braves to have a season long performance like the one they’re currently starting out with. The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Red Sox and Mets are all surprising me, so far, as I expected them to all have poor seasons, and while it’s still very early, at the moment, they’re making things interesting. As far as the Athletics, Rangers and Reds go, it’s not a shock that they’re doing so well. Though I thought the Rangers would have a bit of a struggle this season, without Josh Hamilton, they seem to be doing just fine. It should be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

Adam Jones is the only player on the list of fastest start players that I’m not surprised with. Having recorded a 32 homer, 82 RBI season, in 2012, Jones is in the prime of his career, and is set to have another fantastic season. For Jed Lowrie, Carlos Santana, Michael Cuddyer, Carl Crawford and Jean Segura, they better enjoy the hot start while it lasts, because I don’t see any of them having an all that spectacular year. But as with anything in baseball, there’s always the chance for me to be proven wrong.

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

After beating the Rangers, 8-2, on Opening Night, the Astros have done nothing but go down hill, ever since. With 155 games left to play, and just 94 losses away from 100, it’s likely the Astros’ season will end with yet another year of 100+ losses. The Marlins, Padres and Pirates are all teams that have the potential to win now, but it’s likely to be a year or two before they start to become big time contenders in their divisions. The Brewers and Phillies are the only teams that surprise me, somewhat, on this list, but they just haven’t performed well so far this year. And as for the Cubs, they’re just being themselves; destined to make it 105 seasons without a World Series title.

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

No one on this list surprises me, other than Neil Walker. Walker is arguably the best player on the list, but he hasn’t been able to find his groove so far this season. I look for him to get things going, however, and record another season like he has the past few years–10-15 homers and 65-80 RBI’s, with a high 200′s batting average. For Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Hanigan, Aaron Hicks and Pedro Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if they get their acts together, or if this is a sign of things to come for them this season, as things can certainly only go up.

Keep in mind, while those are the players and teams with the fastest and slowest starts to the season, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and anything can happen. Only time will tell if the current trends will last; that’s why they play 162 games.

My First Two MiLB Games of the 2013 Season

Opening Day for Major League Baseball took place on Monday, however, Opening Day for the Carolina Mudcats (A+ affiliates of the Indians), of hawkinsthe Carolina League, is taking place later tonight. For the second season in a row, I’m attending tonight’s game, once again versus the Winston Salem Dash (A+ affiliates of the White Sox), and I’m extremely excited. This year’s Opening Day game is packed with top notch talent.

For the Carolina Mudcats, while their pitching staff isn’t too fantastic, their position players include the organization’s number one prospect, Francisco Lindor, 2012 1st round draft pick, Tyler Naquin, along with top prospect, Tony Wolters, who is making the transition this season from short stop to catcher. Wolters played with the Mudcats last season, and I really enjoyed watching him play. I’m looking forward to seeing how the move to behind the plate plays out.

As far as the Dash go, the highlight of the team is undoubtedly Courtney Hawkins, who was drafted 13th overall in last year’s draft; doing a backflip afterwards. Though Hawkins won’t be doing any backflips (as far as I know), I’m looking forward to seeing the White Sox’ number one prospect in action–maybe he’ll even blast a home run. If nothing else, I’m certainly going to try for his autograph, as I’m also planning to do from the Mudcats’ Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin.

But when it comes to autograph collecting, no other game throughout the entire rest of the season will have more highly ranked prospects than 579585_10151513541113908_2023782346_nthe April 9th Durham Bulls game I’m planning to attend. Having been traded from the Royals’ organization to the Rays, in the 2012 offseason, the number four prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, will be there and is sure to draw a huge crowd, so autographs may be hard to come by. I’ll just have wait and see how it goes.

A few other Bulls’ players worth mentioning, that I’m hoping to get autographs from on Tuesday night, include Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, who are the Rays’ third, fourth and fifth ranked prospects, respectively. In all, the Bulls are beginning the season with 7 of the top 20 prospects in the organization. I can’t think of a team in all of minor league baseball with more talent, which is why I’m going to be blogging about the game. It will likely be posted on Wednesday afternoon.

So that’s the basic plan for my first two minor league games of the year. I’m not sure when, or where, the rest of the year will have me going to games; the only game set in stone is the June 3rd Bulls day game, when they take on the Red Barons (Yankees affiliate). But one of the games during the series when Billy Hamilton comes to Durham with Louisville is almost a sure bet, as well. Other than that, I don’t know.

2013 MLB Beat the Streak

Sunday night marked the beginning of another season of Major League Baseball, as the Houston Astros took on the Texas Rangers, recording their first win as a member of the American League. I didn’t see the Astros winning the game, but that’s baseball for you. Each year brings surprises on any given day of the long 162 game season. photo

Another thing that comes with each new year is another season of MLB’s Beat the Streak, where anyone, with a little skill and a lot of luck, has the chance to win 5.6 million dollars, by “breaking” Joe DiMaggio’s all-time hit record of 56 consecutive games. Though it sounds fairly straight forward and simple, there’s a reason no one has won it in the 13 seasons it’s been around–it’s hard. Really hard.

This is my third year playing the MLB fantasy game, and I’m yet to reach a streak anywhere near the 57 needed to win the prize. Though, I feel like I stand a better chance this year with the strategy I’ve developed–if you can develop a strategy for such a game–and really think I can give it a fairly good run. Only time will tell if I’m right, or if another year of high expectations will lead to another year of disappointment.

If you think you can break the streak, I encourage you to give it a try. All you have to do is CLICK HERE and login to your MLB.com account; it’s free to sign up if you don’t already have one. From there, all you have to do is pick a player each day that you feel is most likely to get a hit. If they get a hit, your streak continues, but if they fail to record a knock, your streak falls all the way back to zero; no matter how high your streak was.

See why it’s so hard?

One of the ways to give yourself the most chances to put together a 57 game hit streak, is to double-down each day. Meaning, you can pick two players, instead of one, and if they both get a hit, your streak goes up by two, growing your streak twice as fast. But be warned, if both players don’t get a hit, your streak drops back to zero. Giving it the high-risk, high-reward factor.

Whether you actually go all the way to a streak of 57, to win the big cash prize, or fare the same as guys like me, it’s still fun to just play the game. So give it a shot, and if you begin to climb up the leaderboards, be sure to leave a comment.

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