Best Landing Spot for MLB’s Top Free Agent Players

The 2014 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are already taking place. The biggest trade that has happened so far is undoubtedly Jason Heyward going to Free Agentsthe Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller, however, there is a good chance that there will be several more before 2015 begins.

As far as free agent signings go, Pablo Sandoval signing to play with the Red Sox was a big time deal, with Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez inking large contracts as well.

But despite that, not too many of the 100+ free agent players have signed yet — just over a dozen are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Jon Lester, James Shields, and Nelson Cruz, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked player available at each position (in my mind), and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player/team, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2014 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski

Team I feel should sign him: Pirates

Losing their catcher from 2014, Russell Martin, to free agency, A.J. Pierzynski would be a decent pickup for the Pirates. Though they have a few options for the catcher position, including former first round draft pick Tony Sanchez, who has been waiting and waiting to take over the spot, Pierzyski could serve at least as the backup. His veteran presence, along with his overall offensive production, would give the Pirates a slightly better lineup in 2015.

Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz

Team I feel should sign him: Mariners

Although Nelson Cruz has played both outfield and designated hitter over the course of his career, he would best serve as a primary DH, in my mind, going to the Mariners. After falling just short of the playoffs in 2014, adding Cruz to protect Robinson Cano in the lineup would go a long way in making the Mariners contenders in 2015. Given, moves that seem to make sense don’t always work out, but taking a chance on Cruz is more than worth the risk.

First Base: Michael Morse

Team I feel should sign him: Rays

This move would be a better fit for the Rays rather than Michael Morse, however, it could end up benefiting Morse in the long run. Having played numerous positions, Morse could answer a lot of problems for the Rays, even if he serves as a platoon player and part time DH, as Morse’s bat could go a long way in helping the Rays next season. All they need is a little more offensive pop, as their starting pitching is already good. Morse could be a great addition to the Rays.

Second Base: Jed Lowrie

Team I feel should sign him: Marlins

Jed Lowrie didn’t have the best season in 2014, but he’s one of those players that is just good enough to have an impact. Though that impact can vary from game to game, Lowrie has been a good player over his career, and could fill the Marlins’ second base slot. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a record deal, and with the young players the Marlins are adding to the roster, Lowrie at second could help the Marlins finally make a push in 2015.

Third Base: Chase Headley

Team I feel should sign him: Giants

With Pablo Sandoval off the market, and the Giants’ backup option for third base, Yasmany Tomas, out of the running as well, Chase Headley is their best free agent option. While he can’t completely replace Sandoval, Headley would fill the spot well. Headley had decent offensive numbers this past season with the Yankees, and he plays a decent hot corner. Everything together, the Giants could solve their problem at third base relatively cheap.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Now that Hanley Ramirez off the market, the best remaining free agent shortstop is Asdrubal Cabrera. Although he played second base for a good part of last season with the Nationals, he’s a natural shortstop and would do a good job of filling the Yankees’ empty spot at short, now that Derek Jeter has retired. Although it wouldn’t be a long term solution for the Yankees, Cabrera taking over the shortstop role would help for the time being.

Left Field: Melky Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Athletics

Melky Cabrera had a bounce back season in 2014, and could be a valuable pickup for the Athletics if they decide to snag him. While the Athletics aren’t the favorite to sign Cabrera, and aren’t really in the running at all, after the loss of their previous left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes, to the Red Sox for Jon Lester last year, getting Cabrera would make the A’s a better all around ball club, in my opinion. That is, if he can have a year close to the one he put together in 2014.

Center Field: Colby Rasmus

Team I feel should sign him: Braves

Despite being a solid outfielder, Colby Rasmus heading to the Braves is admittedly a long shot, but I feel he would fit in nicely. With Justin Upton in center field, Rasmus would have to move around in the outfield throughout the season, but he’s a good enough defender with a decent amount of pop in his bat. Rasmus isn’t a player that would completely transform the Braves, but after they missed the playoffs in 2014, he could help them over the hump.

Right Field: Torii Hunter

Team I feel should sign him: Orioles

The Tigers have made it clear that they don’t plan to bring back Torii Hunter to play right field in 2015, and therefore he’ll be on the move this offseason. Although Hunter has been around for years, he’s still a very consistent player, both offensively and in the outfield. With only a year or two left from Hunter, he’ll likely be looking to head to a playoff contender. Thus, I feel Hunter would be a good fit with Orioles (assuming they lose Nick Markakis).

Starting Pitcher: James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer

Team I feel should sign them: Red Sox (Shields), Cubs (Lester) and Rangers (Scherzer)

With the free agent market overflowing with great starting pitching, it was impossible to narrow the options down to a single top choice. In the end I got it down to three, with James Shields, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester coming out as the best statistical starters available.

For Shields, the Royals would fare well to resign him, but it will likely be another team. In my opinion, the Red Sox would benefit from a signing of Shields as a cheaper version of Jon Lester. As far as Lester is concerned, he is reportedly in talks with a number of teams, including the Cubs, who, with their great, young lineup, would really be an intriguing team with Lester’s addition. Max Scherzer is yet another front of the rotation starter on the market, and if the Rangers are looking to compete again in 2015, signing Scherzer long term would put them into position to do so.

Relief Pitcher: Andrew Miller

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Some would place David Robertson ahead of Andrew Miller in terms of value, however, I have to put Miller first. He has turned into one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game today, and would make any teams’ bullpen immediately stronger. With the Tigers being a solid bullpen short of a World Series Championship caliber team, a reunion with Miller could help them make that type of playoff run in 2015.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each position, and which team should sign them. Odds are that everything won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel it should, but this is just the way I see things working out best.

Sandoval, Ramirez Agree to Multiyear Deals With Sox

26 days after winning it all with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval is heading to Boston.

Receiving a five-year deal from the Red Sox, reportedly worth around 100 million dollars, Sandoval is set to don a uniform other than that of San Francisco for the first time in his career, going to the Red Sox after three World Championships won with the Giants.

Reportedly offered around the same deal, both in years and dollar amount, by the Giants as was given to Sandoval by the Red Sox, a lot of people question why Sandoval, coming off a World Series title, would leave and join a team thatMLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals was one of the worst in baseball in 2014. But despite the Sox’ down 2014 season, there are many predicting a bounce back year for them in 2015.

A two-time All-Star, Sandoval will certainly help the Red Sox moving forward. Though Sandoval hasn’t hit 20 or more home runs since 2011 — his best all around year came back in 2009, when he blasted 25 homers (career high) and recorded 95 RBI’s (career high) to go along with a .330 average (career high) — that’s not to be expected from Sandoval each and every year. He’s still a respectable .294 career hitter, and a great defender at third base.

Staying healthy this past season, playing in a career best 157 games, Sandoval was able to record 16 home runs and drive in 73 runs, all while batting .279. While that’s certainly solid numbers for a third baseman, and around what you should expect Sandoval to produce from season to season, his most value comes in the postseason, where Sandoval has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.

If the Red Sox can find a way back to the playoffs in 2015, they should see a level of Pablo Sandoval that far exceeds his regular season statistics.

But Sandoval isn’t the only player that could help the Red Sox return to the postseason. Another player who should help the Red Sox’ playoff hopes is Hanley Ramirez, who the Sox also picked up on Monday.

Coming over from the Dodgers, where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s while manning the shortstop position this past season, Ramirez is receiving a four-year deal from the Red Sox, coming out to 88 million dollars. However, for Ramirez, who has played the infield for all of his career, there’s a slight catch in the contract.

RamirezDue to an already set infield, with newly signed Pablo Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts holding at shortstop, the Red Sox’ current plan involves moving Ramirez to left field — a postion he’s never played before. Getting placed in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, it will surely be interesting to see how Ramirez fares in the outfield, especially with the 37-foot wall looming behind him.

More importantly, however, sending the three-time All-Star, Ramirez, out to left field takes away the spot of Yoenis Cespedes, who the Sox acquired via trade for Jon Lester in the second half of the 2014 season.

With Cespedes an odd man out, and numerous other outfield options, including Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, etc., Boston will definitely have to move at least a couple of their players. Desperately in need of pitching, many feel it would best serve the Sox to trade away a non crucial outfielder (possibly Cespedes?) in return for some good pitching. And they’re rumored to be looking into doing just that.

But although Boston still needs to do some more work on their pitching situation, the signing of Ramirez would appear to be a good deal. The 2006 Rookie of the Year with the Marlins and Most Valuable Player runner up in 2009, when he hit a staggering .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s, Ramirez will likely be a nice fit for the Red Sox, regardless of the fact that he won’t be playing his favored position.

A .300 career hitter, Ramirez hasn’t been a superstar level player in a few years, but the potential to be one still remains. Ramirez in set to be 31 years old when the 2015 season begins, but he still can be a big impact on any team he’s on, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of players in baseball.

A Red Sox team that finished last in 2012, only to come back and win the World Series in 2013, and then wind up near the bottom of the pack in 2014, it will be intriguing to see what happens with them in 2015. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will definitely go a long way in improving their record, but it will take a few more changes to get the Red Sox where they want to be.

However, if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez are any sign of things to come this offseason, the Red Sox could be setting themselves up to make another playoff push in 2015 and beyond.

Q and A With Adam Brett Walker II

Adam Brett Walker II was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, after batting .343 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI’s in his Junior season at Jacksonville.

Walker 2Since the draft, Walker has posted some good numbers, with his best season thus far coming back in 2013, when he blasted 27 home runs and drove in 109 runs to go along with a .278 batting average.

This past season, Walker saw his number fall a bit, batting only .246 and driving in 15 fewer runs than the previous year, but he still managed to knock 25 balls over the wall throughout the year.

With power being the number one tool that Walker possesses, it’s likely that his home run totals will be the one thing that stands out from season to season as his career progresses. A right handed power hitter, which is currently one of the most prized assets at the big league level, it shouldn’t be too long before Walker sees himself up in Minnesota with the Twins if he can continue to record solid numbers.

Adam Brett Walker II — top 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 been playing baseball since before I can remember. I’ve [played] organized ball since tee ball. My dad loves the game as well, so he let me play baseball along with other sports. My cousin Damion Easley played in the big leagues, and I have always looked up [to him] as someone I know that can make it.

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

My favorite player growing up was always Ken Griffey Jr. I love the way he played the game. It always looked like he was having fun, and I love his swing.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was a very exciting feeling for my family and I. I was sitting at home and some of my family came into town to be with me. It is a pretty crazy feeling to sit there and listen to other names getting picked before me. When the time came and I finally heard my name called by the Twins it was very emotional for me, knowing that I have worked my whole life training to have this opportunity. I dreamed of having this chance for my whole life and it was an amazing feeling.

4.) 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?

Life on the road isn’t the most fun but it helps a lot to have been with such great teammates during my professional career. We spend a lot of time on the bus traveling during the season, that is for sure. You really start to find ways to entertain yourself, from watching movies, listening to music, reading, and playing cards with the guys. It definitely isn’t the most idea way to spend hours of your time every couple days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5.) Known for your power, you won the 2014 Florida State League’s All-Star Game home run derby. Did you approach the derby with any different of a swing than you do in an at-bat during the season? After the derby, did you notice a negative change in your swing that many big league home run derby participants complain about?

I had a blast this year in the Florida State League home run derby. I didn’t try to change too much in my swing, though. When we take BP during the season I usually try to take a few swing and have my own home run derby. I definitely swung a little harder during the home run derby than I do in game, though. Of course, I was trying to pull the ball in the derby, so the main adjustment I tried to make after was making sure I could hit the ball to the opposite field. After the All-Star break, I don’t believe that being in the home run derby hurt me.

6.) You made it to the playoffs this season with the Fort Myers Miracle, winning the Florida State League title for the first time in their franchise history. What was the overall experience of the playoffs like?

This year has been a lot of fun for me, so to be able to end the year with a championships just makes it so much better. We had a great team this year, and we were all pulling together to win the league. I had a great group of teammates to play with throughout the summer, so to win with them was awesome. I love playoff baseball, though. The intensity of the games is unbelievable. We all know that every game is going to come down to executing the last out every game of the series. I just hope to be able to experience playoff baseball a few more times in my baseball career.

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 to stay away from checking out the stats. Every night I just try to go out and do what it takes to win the game. I know if I’m helping the team then my stats will be in a good spot at the end of the year. Winning baseball games makes the season a lot easier to handle as well. Even if you are doing great but your team keeps losing day after day it is still hard to be happy.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

2014 was a pretty good year overall. There were ups and downs throughout the season but I am happy now looking back at it. I believe I did a pretty good job of driving the ball and being able to bring in runs. Run production is a big part of my game, and I take a lot of pride in doing that. I will always keep working on being a better defender and having more plate discipline. That is always a goal of mine going into every season. I have felt I have grown in these aspects of my game, but feel I could still be better. Having plate discipline will help cut down on strikeouts, and I believe help [me] be able to get on base more.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV but I am a big Netflix guy now. I just finished watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’. I loved watching that show, so I’m pretty upset that it is over now. I can’t lie, I am a pretty big fan of watching some HGTV every once in a while. My favorite food is pizza, though, by far. I love it all and I could eat it everyday!

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

My advice to kids that have dreams of playing professional baseball is to always have fun! I think about how when I was little all I wanted to do was go out and play with my friends. I know as I got older I started putting more pressure on myself to perform, which is good because you want to be the best you can be. I have had times when I was doing well and I looked back and I wasn’t having fun. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and had to step back and enjoy the game and take it one day at a time. You will have to work hard but remember you are playing the game you loved for so long. Never forget that.

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Big thanks to Adam Brett Walker II for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @walkoff28

Monday Sees Two Major Deals & One Big Trade

Monday was certainly a big day in the baseball world.

Not only did one of the game’s biggest stars sign a contract unprecedented in the history of the sport — or any sport anywhere for that matter — but a catcher from the Steel City was locked up by the Blue Jays long term, and the Cardinals and Braves swapped players to help fill each others needs.

It was all very interesting to follow.

Giancarlo Stanton kicked off the news filled day, finally signing the mammoth contract that everyone knew would eventually come. While many Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Philliespeople predicted it would come from a team other than the Marlins, the Marlins were in fact the team that got a deal with Stanton done.

A team that was at the bottom, in terms of team combined payroll, this past season, the Marlins locked up Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal (the largest in the history of North American sports).

In addition to being so large, Stanton’s deal comes with a full no-trade clause — previously unheard of for the Marlins’ franchise — as well as an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. Having just turned 25 year old, the Marlins logic behind this major contract to such an impact player, who has legitimate 40+ home run a season potential, can easily be understood.

Despite a season ending injury in September, Stanton posted career numbers this year, batting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI’s, and finishing second in National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Tied with Dan Uggla for the most home runs in Marlins’ franchise history, with 154, Stanton will undoubtedly pass that mark early on in 2015, having hit over 20 home runs every single year of his five career seasons. A two-time All-Star, Stanton will surely go on to set numerous records while in a Marlins uniform now that this contract is officially in place, and could go down as one of the best sluggers in baseball history once all is said and done.

But Stanton wasn’t the only player that was locked up to a sizeable contract on Monday. Martin

Also getting signed on the day was veteran catcher, Russell Martin, who agreed to an 82 million dollar contract over the course of the next five years from the Blue Jays.

Playing his last two seasons with the Pirates, after time spent between the Yankees and the Dodgers since his debut in 2006, Martin has been an up and down player over the course of his career, but should be an impact player for the Jays.

A three-time All-Star, Martin had a break out season in 2014, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI’s over 111 games played.

Previously a combined .234 hitter over his past five seasons, including a career low .211 in 2012, Martin truly made a name for himself this past year, and should make the Blue Jays glad they snagged him.

While Giancarlo Stanton and Russell Martin both signed contracts with their given teams, there was a big trade between the Cardinals and Braves that everyone was talking about as well.

The Cardinals received Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in exchange for Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins, who got sent back to the Braves. Though none of these players can be categorized as major stars, at least as of yet, they all have the ability to be key pieces of each team moving forward, and the trade truly made sense for both sides.546a2e451ce21_image

With their starting rotation being one of their many issues from the 2014 season, the additions of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (both former first round draft picks) will likely do wonders for the Braves in the coming years.

Miller, who hasn’t yet been the consistent starter many envision him becoming, was decent in 2014, posting a 3.74 ERA on the season. As was Jenkins, who notched an ERA just above three over 13 minor league starts this year. Each of them have the capability to be standout players.

In the same way that the Braves needed starting pitching, the Cardinals found themselves in need of a good everyday right fielder, after the unexpected loss of their future superstar right fielder, Oscar Taveras. Jason Heyward certainly fills that role, though he hasn’t yet lived up to his superstar potential.

While Heyward has won a couple of Gold Gloves in his career with the Braves, making a lone All-Star appearance in his rookie season, he’s only a career .262 hitter. In addition, since a breakout year in 2012 when Heyward blasted 27 home runs and drove in 82 runs, he hasn’t notched more than 14 homers or upwards of 58 RBI’s in any single season.

Even so, Heyward is the type of player that can instantly improve any club he’s on. Gaining him (along with Jordan Walden, who posted a 2.88 ERA in 2014) can only help the Cardinals as they look to make another playoff run in 2015.

Blogging Plans for the Rest of 2014

We’re still around six weeks away from the end of the calendar year, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to begin putting plans into place for the schedule of blog entries I’m going to be posting over the coming weeks. Although a good number of posts will be on topics I don’t discuss, I wanted to go over the main things I’m going to be writing about.

First of all, the ballot for the 2015 Hall of Fame class is set to be revealed on Monday, the 24th, and I’ll possibly be writing something about that. Although several of the bigger names are already known, it should be interesting to see who all is on the ballot.

Then, towards the end of the month, I’ll be posting another interview with an up and coming prospect, like the most recent one I did with Tyler Danish, with plans to do two more in December to finish out the year.

On the 28th-30th of this month, I’m heading up to Cooperstown, New York, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I actually visited the Hall of Fame around eight years ago, but it was closed upon arrival due to flooding in the area, so I didn’t get inside to see anything. Therefore, I’m thrilled to be going back.

In preparation, I took the time recently to read a brief biography on every single person currently in the Hall of Fame — yes, 306 biographies in all — so I feel I’m ready for the full experience. (And, obviously, I’ll be blogging about the trip.)

Following that, other than the Greatness In Baseball Yearly awards (GIBBY) that are set to be announced in early December, there isn’t much to write about; at least things that you can plan. Hopefully there will be some trades/deals going down by then — like the mega deal Giancarlo Stanton reportedly just signed with the Marlins, coming to 13 years and 325 million dollars — to discuss, but who knows? The offseason can be unpredictable.

Trout and Kershaw Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Sixty-five players who have won the Most Valuable Player award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most MVP awards is held by Barry Bonds, with seven, but thirty total players have won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in their career.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Mike Trout

Finalists: Mike Trout, Michael Brantley and Victor Martinez

Winner: Mike Trout

Thoughts On Mike Trout Winning

After finishing runner up in the American League Most Valuable Player award voting to Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons, it was finally Mike Trout’s turn to receive the honor. With Cabrera having a down year, by his standards, Trout finally picked up his first career MVP award on Thursday night, joining Mickey Mantle as the second player ever to win their first MVP after having placed second in the previous two MVP votes.

Mike+Trout+85th+MLB+Star+Game+bFwsOZWoltLlTrout also joins the likes of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the list of players to win an MVP at age 23 or younger, with Trout being the youngest ever unanimous winner.

Picking up all 30 first-place votes, Trout received a total of 420 points, beating out Victor Martinez, who finished in second with 229 points, and Michael Brantley, with his 185 points.

Despite batting just .287 on the year — a full 48 points lower than Victor Martinez — and finishing third in strikeouts (184) in all of baseball, Trout did more than enough to take home the MVP. Blasting a career high 36 home runs and 111 RBI’s, while scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout had the “most valuable” season of any other player in the American League.

Although Mike Trout needs to work on putting the ball into play a bit more, which will subsequently bring his average up to around .300, there’s little argument that he’s the best player in baseball at the moment. And at just 23 years old, the remarkable thing is, he’s going to get better and better.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

Clayton Kershaw was hands down the best pitcher in baseball this past season. The only question up for debate was whether or not Kershaw was the most valuable player in the National League. While some people simply don’t believe that a pitcher should win the MVP award, with them playing every fifth day instead of everyday, enough of them wound up voting for Kershaw, earning him the honor.

Clayton KershawThe ninth player to ever win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season, and the first National League pitcher to win the MVP in 46 years, Kershaw definitely had a historical season. Although he missed the first full month of the season, Kershaw still ended up with the most wins (21) in all of baseball, in addition to posting the best overall ERA (1.77) and the highest strikeout per nine innings rate (10.8).

Kershaw’s dominance gained him 18 of the 30 first place votes, totaling 355 points. Giancarlo Stanton, who many felt had a great shot at winning the MVP after blasting 37 home runs this season, finished runner up with 298 points and 8 first-place points, with Andrew McCutchen getting the remaining 4 first-place nods, good for 271 points altogether.

Having pitched just a total of 198.1 innings in 2014, Kershaw breaks the old record for fewest innings tallied by a pitcher to win the MVP award, previously held by the last pitcher to win the MVP award, Justin Verlander, who threw 251 innings in 2011.

Although it’s difficult to predict from season to season which player will win a given award, there’s the chance that Kershaw could eventually become the fourth pitcher to ever win more than one Most Valuable Player award in their career. Given, that’s somewhat unlikely. But if anyone can do it, Clayton Kershaw surely can.

Kluber and Kershaw Win Cy Young Award

The Cy Young award — named after the Hall of Fame pitcher who died in 1955 — was first handed out in 1956 to Don Newcombe, with the goal of recognizing the “most valuable pitcher” from each season. The first eleven years of the award saw one pitcher per year receiving the honor, but in 1967 the Cy Young began being handed out to a pitcher from each league who was voted on as the best from the season.

Seventeen players who have won the Cy Young award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most Cy Young awards is held by Roger Clemens, with seven, but sixteen total players have won multiple Cy Young’s in their career.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Cy Young award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player seven points, a second place vote gets four points, a third place vote receives three points, a fourth place vote is worth two points, with a fifth place vote earning a single point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Cy Young award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Wednesday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: Felix Hernandez

Finalists: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale

Winner: Corey Kluber

Thoughts On Corey Kluber Winning

I originally had Felix Hernandez winning the 2014 Cy Young award, and after seeing that he was one of the three finalists for the honor, I still held strong with my selection. However, in one of the closest votes in Cy Young award history, Corey Kluber took home the award for his terrific, breakout season.

KluberJust edging out the win by ten points, Kluber received a total of 169 points and 17 first-place votes, with Hernandez getting the other 13 first-place selections totaling 159 points. Third place recipient Chris Sale got 78 points from the voters.

Never receiving a single vote for the Cy Young award before this time around, Kluber becomes the fourth player in Indians’ franchise history to win the Cy Young award.

Going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA on the season, Kluber essentially came out of nowhere and posted some incredible outings on the season. Kluber was one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break, recording back-to-back 14 strikeout games in September and notching the best overall ERA of any starting pitcher over that span.

Heading into next season, it’s hard to know what to expect out of Corey Kluber. Although he was superb in 2014, there have been plenty of cases where a pitcher breaks out for a season and never performs that way again. But despite that, Kluber will in all likelihood be one of the best pitchers in the game, even if he isn’t quite as good as the masterful year he had this past season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

After yet another historic season put together by Clayton Kershaw, there was no real debate over whether or not he most deserved the 2014 National League Cy Young award. Winning his unprecedented fourth straight ERA title, Kershaw’s stats simply blew away the competition, which saw the next closest N.L. ERA nearly half a run higher. Clayton+Kershaw+San+Diego+Padres+v+Los+Angeles+Hc6ylRJ3VZ_l

Kershaw’s unbelievable season netted him a unanimous vote for the Cy Young, with him receiving all 30 first-place votes and 210 points overall. Johnny Cueto, the second place vote getter only tallied 112 points, with Adam Wainwright finishing in third with 97 points. With the unanimous selection, Kershaw becomes the first to do so since Justin Verlander in 2011.

Tying Sandy Koufax for the most Cy Young awards in Dodgers’s franchise history, Kershaw’s back-to-back Cy Young awards make him the youngest in MLB history, and one of only nine players, to win three in their career.

Firing a 15-strikeout no hitter in June, Kershaw’s season was remarkable, as despite missing the first month of the season, Kershaw was able to record 21 wins to go along with a mere 1.77 ERA. With many already naming Kershaw as the predicted front runner for the Cy Young award again in 2015, barring injury, there’s a chance that Kershaw could challenge Roger Clemens’ all-time record of seven career Cy Young awards.

But before Kershaw makes a run towards reaching Clemens, he is looking to become the ninth player in history to win both the Cy Young award and the Most Valuable Player award in the same year. Although some people have Giancarlo Stanton taking the honor, with a few giving it to Andrew McCutchen, there’s still a good chance that Kershaw could win the MVP. In my opinion, he deserves it.

Abreu and deGom Win Rookie of the Year Award

The Rookie of the Year award was first handed out in 1947 to Jackie Robinson, after he broke baseball’s color barrier and went on to have a great first season of what would become a Hall of Fame career. Given out to a single player again 1948, the award was expanded in 1949 to include a player from each league, and has been that way ever since.

Renamed the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award in 1987, fourteen players who have won the award have gone on to the Hall of Fame, up until this point, of the 130 players to win it — several of those winners are still active players, however.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Rookie of the Year award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player five points, a second place vote gets three points, with a third place vote receiving one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Monday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Jose Abreu

Finalists: Jose Abreu, Dellin Betances and Matt Shoemaker

Winner: Jose Abreu

Thoughts On Jose Abreu Winning

Despite Jose Abreu being two months shy of his 28th birthday, and forgoing the fact that he came to the United States this past season after several years of playing pro ball in Cuba, there is little argument that Jose Abreu most deserves the award for 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. Jose+Abreu+Chicago+White+Sox+v+Kansas+City+v87XhNQz_CWl

Batting .317 on the season, to go along with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s, Abreu showed off his ability to hit for both power and average this past year with the White Sox, and has truly been the award frontrunner since he blasted his way onto the scene in April.

Abreu becomes the first Rookie of the Year award winner in White Sox franchise history since Ozzie Guillen in 1985, as well as the first player since Mike Trout (2012) to receive the award via a unanimous vote; joining the likes of Craig Kimbrel (2011), Evan Longoria (2008) and Albert Pujols (2001), as the most recent.

Picking up 30 out of the 30 first-place votes, Abreu’s 150 points overall easily carry him past the runner up, Matt Shoemaker, who picked up 40 points, and Dellin Betances, who placed third, with his 27 overall points.

Although some players have posted great rookie seasons only to go onto have poor MLB careers, it’s safe to say that Jose Abreu — with his 30-40 home run a year potential — is bound for historic seasons moving forward.

NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Jacob deGrom

Finalists: Jacob deGrom, Billy Hamilton and Kolten Wong

Winner: Jacob deGrom

Thoughts On Jacob deGrom Winning

Heading into the 2014 season, many saw the speedy Billy Hamilton as the likely runaway winner for the National League Rookie of the Year award. And he surely would’ve been, if not for a slow start to the season and a player by the name of Jacob deGrom who made his debut in mid May and took the baseball world by storm.

Although he didn’t post the most impressive stats in MLB history, going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA over the course of 22 games started, deGrom was more1405284576000-USATSI-7987222 than good enough to win the Rookie of the Year award, striking out eight straight batters to begin a game during one of his starts.

The first New York Met to win the Rookie of the Year ward since 1984 when Dwight Gooden took the honor, deGrom was one of the best pitchers in baseball following July 4th, posting the second best ERA (only Clayton Kershaw was better) in all of baseball over his last 15 starts.

deGrom received 26 out of the 30 first-place votes, coming out to 142 points overall, leading him to a sizeable win over Billy Hamilton, who picked up 92 points and the other 4 first-place votes; and future big league star Kolten Wong’s third place finish with a total of 14 points.

When the Mets receive back their ace, Matt Harvey, in 2015, deGrom should be a great number two starter in their rotation. If things go as planned, the Mets could be a drastically better team next season than they were in 2014. However, whether or not that happens, deGrom is going to be really exciting to watch.

Q and A With Tyler Danish

Tyler Danish was drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, after not allowing an earned run over 94 high school innings in Florida during his senior year, in which he struck out 156. Danish

Since the draft, Danish has posted some fantastic numbers between three different levels, proving why he was worthy of a high draft pick. Possessing a good mid 90’s fastball, along with a slider and changeup — a combination that keeps hitters off balance — one of the things that makes Danish so deceptive is his mechanics. Throwing from a 3/4 arm slot, many people see Danish as being perfect for a high-leverage situation major league reliever, but Danish wants to be a starter if at all possible.

Danish certainly made a strong case this past season for being a starting pitcher moving forward, as despite some struggles at times, he went a combined 8-3 with a 2.08 ERA over 25 starts between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, holding opponents to a .237 batting average.

Either way, as a starter or reliever, it’s likely not going to be too much longer until Danish makes it to the big leagues if he can continue to perform at the level he has to this point in his career.

Tyler Danish — top prospect in the White Sox’ 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?

Baseball was my passion ever since I could remember. I started playing at three years old. My parents were huge influences in my baseball career. They [were] there through it all with me.

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

The Captain [Derek Jeter]. Just the quiet swagger he had on the field. I just loved it.

3.) You were drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is a very stressful process. It’s an interview with 30 teams to show why you should be picked, but it’s also a fun process to go through. It’s a dream at 18 years old to even be considered as one of the best in the country. When I first found out, I was at home watching the draft when I saw my name come across the board. It was one of the best feelings, knowing all this work and time you put in finally showed up.

4.) You were promoted to High-A Winston-Salem in May after performing so well at Single-A Kannapolis. Upon your promotion, you struggled a bit, finally finding your groove towards the end of the season. What about High-A was initially hard to adjust to? What changes, if any, did you make to become effective once again to finish the year?

Me struggling in High-A was me over-thinking the game of baseball; thinking I had to make perfect pitches, pitches that moved more, and pitches that were unhittable. But that wasn’t the case, as all the game of baseball is the same game from tee-ball all the way to the big leagues. Once I got my mental game back things went smooth. So the one change I made was me going out there and doing what I have done all my life, and that was enjoy playing the game of baseball and having fun.

5.) You were used primarily as a relief pitcher in 2013, but made 25 starts in 2014. Why was it important to you to prove that you could be an effective starter when so many people see you as a future reliever?

This year was huge to show people I could be a starter because so many people doubt me and say I can’t. But with my personality — I love that. I feast on when people say I can’t do something. So that was my thought every time I took the mound this year: “Prove doubters wrong”.

6.) Part of the reason people envision you as a future major league relief pitcher is your unique delivery of throwing out of a three-quarters arm slot. Where and when did you first develop your delivery? How much do you attribute your deceptive delivery to your success on the mound?

That motion came from me playing shortstop since I was little. It was a natural feeling on the mound, but I didn’t start throwing like that until my junior year in high school. I used to be your traditional right hander, straight over the top, but my ball didn’t move, and I was topping out at 86 my sophomore year. One day at practice in a bullpen session I dropped down to the 3/4 arm slot and my ball moved everywhere. So I stuck with it and my velocity went up. I think that there is a little deceptiveness with how I throw just because it’s funky and a new look to hitters.

7.) 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?

Life on the road has its up and downs. Downs are definitely the bus rides; they can get very long and boring. But other than that you see new places, you play at different stadiums and you’re also playing professional baseball. To pass the time I watch Netflix constantly. That’s what I do all day, every day. Let me just say: Thank God for Netflix.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

My 2014 year couldn’t have gone any better. I became a better pitcher in all aspects. I finally failed in pro ball, and I show myself that I can bounce back from that. So later on down the road when I struggle again I know it’s not the end of the world. I also had a lot of success, but I handled that very well too. I didn’t get too high, and I continue to work everyday to be better at what I do. Goal for 2015 is to continue to work and get better. My top goal, though, is to pitch in the big leagues next year.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show has to be ‘Law & Order SVU’. Favorite food is Chipotle.

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

For kids just starting the dream to hopefully one day play professional baseball — never give up no matter what happens in life. Don’t give up on your dream. Dreams do come true. But always work hard. Always give everything you have, even if you don’t want to. Respect your parents; they do a lot for you. Even if you don’t see it right now, they do. Make good grades, and stay out of trouble!

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Big thanks to Tyler Danish for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @danish_Tyler7

2014 Silver Slugger Awards

The 2014 Silver Slugger award winners were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. While the Gold Glove awards given out on Tuesday focused on the defensive side of baseball, the Silver Slugger awards are given annually to the best offensive player at each position in both theimages1 American League and the National League.

Marking the 34th annual Silver Slugger awards, which began in 1980, the awards are voted on by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (managers can not vote for their own players), with voters considering several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, in addition to coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.

Barry Bonds’ 12 career Silver Slugger awards stand as the most all-time by a single player at any position, and no one from this season’s winners are even close. Here are the list of winners with my thoughts on each:

OUTFIELD

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Bonds holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as an outfielder, with twelve.

NL Winners – Andrew McCutchen (3rd career), Giancarlo Stanton (1st career) and Justin Upton (2nd career)

AL Winners – Mike Trout (3rd career), Jose Bautista (3rd career) and Michael Brantley (1st career)

All six winners of the Silver Slugger award for the outfield position between the American League and National League were very deserving. Michael Brantley picks up his first award after the great season he put together, as does Giancarlo Stanton, who surprisingly has never won one before. Justin Upton and Jose Bautista take home their second and third career Silver Slugger awards, respectively, for their good offensive numbers posted this year, and could win several more between them in the years to come. Both Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout each picked up their third career and third consecutive Silver Slugger, with Trout having won one each of his full seasons in the majors.

FIRST BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Todd Helton is tied with Albert Pujols for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a first baseman, with four.

NL Winner – Adrian Gonzalez (2nd career)

AL Winner – Jose Abreu (1st career)

Shockingly, this is just Adrian Gonzalez’s second career Silver Slugger award, despite having some great seasons over the course of his time in the majors. However, Jose Abreu winning the award in his rookie season came as no shock. He was absolutely terrific for the White Sox this year, and should also add the Rookie of the Year award to his list of accomplishments.

SECOND BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Ryne Sandberg holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a second baseman, with seven.

NL Winner - Neil Walker (1st career)

AL Winner - Jose Altuve (1st career)

Both winners of the Silver Slugger award for second base received the honor for the first time in their careers. Neil Walker had a breakout offensive year, as did Jose Altuve, who led all of baseball in hits and set a new franchise record for hits in a season for the Astros. Anytime you do something like that, a Silver Slugger award is almost a sure thing.

THIRD BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Wade Boggs holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman, with eight.

NL Winner - Anthony Rendon (1st career)

AL Winner – Adrian Beltre (4th career)

Anthony Rendon showed signs this season of just how good of a player he can become, and was rewarded with a Silver Slugger for his efforts. One of the best players on the Nationals all year long, Rendon will be a big part of their team for seasons to come. The Rangers’ Adrian Beltre takes home his fourth career award, putting together a solid offensive year of his own at third base.

SHORTSTOP

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Larkin holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a shortstop, with nine.

NL Winner - Ian Desmond (3rd career)

AL Winner – Alexei Ramirez (2nd career)

For the most part, shortstops aren’t known for terrific offensive productivity. However, there always seem to be a few each season that put together great numbers. This season, those two players were Ian Desmond and Alexei Ramirez. Picking up his third straight Silver Slugger award, Desmond has quietly become one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball. As has Alexei Ramirez, who picks up his second career award.

CATCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Piazza holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a catcher, with ten.

NL Winner - Buster Posey (2nd career)

AL Winner - Yan Gomes (1st career)

Buster Posey won the third World Series Championship of his short career this season when the Giants beat the Royals in the Fall Classic, being a big reason the Giants made it there. One of the best hitting catchers in baseball, Posey adds a second Silver Slugger to his extensive list of career awards. Yan Gomes picks up his first Silver Slugger, slowly showing all of baseball that he has the potential to become a star catcher.

PITCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Hampton holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a pitcher, with five.

Winner - Madison Bumgarner (1st career)

Pitchers are terrible hitters; everyone knows that, right? Well, surprisingly, some of them aren’t. In fact, a few pitchers around Major League Baseball can hit fairly well. But no other pitcher was as good at the plate in 2014 as Madison Bumgarner, who hit two grand slams during the season, and therefore picks up the first Silver Slugger award of his career.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: David Ortiz holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a Designated Hitter, with six.

Winner – Victor Martinez (2nd career)

Breaking out to have one of the best offensive years of anyone in all of baseball this past season, Victor Martinez surprised many with his great production as the Tigers’ designated hitter. For his efforts, Martinez was awarded his second career Silver Slugger award, truly having a marvelous offensive season that put him back on everyone’s radar.

2014 SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS FAST FACTS

  • There were eight first time Silver Slugger award winners.
  • There were three Silver Slugger award winners that also won last year.
  • Five different teams had two players receive Silver Slugger awards.
  • Adrian Gonzalez was the only Silver Slugger winner that won a 2014 Gold Glove.
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