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Thrilling Wild Card Race Finishes Setting Up

One of the best things ever done for Major League Baseball in recent history, in my opinion, was the implementation of the second Wild Card back in 2012. Since then, a number of teams have been given at least a shot at postseason glory that would have missed the cut completely in season’s past. This year is looking to be another great example of that.

With just over fifty games still to be played over the course of the 2016 season, there are eleven teams around baseball within five games of a Wild Card spot, giving them hope of a magical season. It’s the prospect that any team can now make he postseason that’s making things all that more exciting.

Two of the most surprising teams vying for a spot in the playoffs this season are the Marlins and the Rockies. The Marlins currently hold a Wild Card spot, with Colorado just four games back of their own. Neither team was really expected to do all that much when the season began, so for them to be in such a place this late in the season is remarkable.

However, there is still a lot of season left where anything can potentially happen. It will all come down to the wire, making for a terrific finish to the regular season over the next couple of months.

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

Latest MLB Leaders (April 3rd – July 31st)

With the first four months of the 2016 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you’re rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Odubel Herrera (106)

Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts

Most Hits – Jose Altuve (145)

Highest Average – Jose Altuve (.356)

Highest OBP – Jose Altuve and Mike Trout (.425)

Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.643)

Most Runs – Josh Donaldson (87)

Most Doubles – David Ortiz (35)

Most Triples – Jake Lamb (8)

Most Home Runs – Mark Trumbo (30)

Most RBI’s – Edwin Encarnacion (89)

Most Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (80)

Most Strikeouts – Chris Davis (144)

Most Stolen Bases – Jonathan Villar (38)

Most Caught Stealing – Jonathan Villar (12)

Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (16)

Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (23)

Most Sacrifice Flies – Francisco Lindor (11)

Most Total Bases – Mookie Betts (235)

Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (61)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Yunel Escobar (19)

Most Ground Outs – Alcides Escobar (169)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (1,984)

Most Plate Appearances – Mookie Betts and George Springer (469)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Five players tied for most (14).

Most Losses – Chris Archer (14)

Best ERA – Clayton Kershaw (1.79)

Most Games Started – Chris Tillman (23)

Most Games Pitched – Travis Wood (54)

Most Saves – Jeurys Familia (37)

Most Innings Pitched – Madison Bumgarner (150.2)

Most Hits Allowed – Mike Pelfrey (152)

Most Runs Allowed – Patrick Corbin (90)

Most Earned Runs Allowed – Dallas Keuchel (75)

Most Home Runs Allowed – R.A. Dickey, Ian Kennedy and Chris Young (26).

Most Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (187)

Most Walks – Francisco Liriano (69)

Most Complete Games – Johnny Cueto (4)

Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)

Best Opponent Avg. – Marco Estrada (.181)

Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia (48)

Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (28)

Most Wild Pitches – Sonny Gray (15)

Most Balks – Matt Andriese (4)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (30)

Most Pickoffs – Five players tied for most (4).

Most Batters Faced – David Price (602)

Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (2,354)

Learn the Name: Francisco Mejia

He’s not in the top 100 prospects. He’s not a well known name around the baseball world. But Francisco Mejia is a name that every baseball fan needs to become familiar with.

Mejia

To this point in the season, as part of the Indians’ farm system, Mejia is hitting .345 with 9 homers and 67 RBI’s combined between two different levels. While those stats are impressive in themselves, it’s his current 40-game hitting streak that is beginning to cause people to pay attention.

Although not as publicized as Major League Baseball’s all-time hit streak record of 56 games, set by Joe DiMaggio back in 1941, the minor league all-time hit streak is even more impressive in terms of the overall number. While the hits usually don’t come against major league level talent, making it not quite the feat of the big league milestone, the record of 69 straight games with a hit notched by Joe Wilhoit back in 1919 is still something very historic as a part of baseball history as a whole.

The last time Mejia didn’t record a hit in a game was over two months ago, back on May 25th. Since then, he’s been on a tear, and is making his name more known around the baseball world, becoming just the 16th player to record a hitting streak of 40 or more in minor league history. The most recent run at the record was in 2009, when James McOwen reached 45 games, but no one has come close to challenging the top mark in a very long time.

At just twenty years old, Mejia is still developing as a player, which is exciting when you think about it. While he may not go on to break the all-time hit streak record in the minors, Francisco Mejia is definitely on his way to become a very special player for the Indians.

Rangers Need Joey Gallo to Remain in Arlington

Over the past couple of weeks, as the August 1st trade deadline continues to get closer and closer, there have been a number of rumors with a number of teams regarding Joey Gallo (along with another prospect or two) getting dealt to another squad in exchange for an ace starting pitcher. However, in my mind, that’s not what would help the Rangers the most in the long run.Gallo

Yes, the Rangers could use an All-Star caliber pitcher added to their staff (which team couldn’t?), but they’re still holding their own (first place in the American League Central) despite being near the bottom in team ERA in all of baseball. They could go out and trade for a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for a much lower price tag, enabling them to keep Gallo and improve their team at the same time.

When Gallo first came up to the big leagues last season, he absolutely tore the cover off the ball, and was a big impact bat in the lineup night after night. Although he cooled off drastically and subsequently began 2016 in the minors, he is now back up with the Rangers, where he needs to remain.

In his first full game of at-bats this season on Tuesday night (he got one at-bat back in May), Gallo went one for four with a homer, in a Rangers’ unfortunate loss. Even so, Gallo showed off his immense power once again, which is exactly what I feel Texas needs. Although Gallo struck out nearly twice a game last season in the bigs, Gallo’s 19 homers in 70 minor league games this year is hard to ignore, especially with him being just 22 year old.

With Prince Fielder being out for the remainder of the season once again, the Rangers could have a power shortage on their hands if they aren’t careful. While they have a good lineup, a player with Gallo’s power doesn’t come along all that often. There is no way they need to get rid of him in my mind. He can single-handedly change the course of any given game he plays in.

The Rangers definitely could benefit by doing something before the trade deadline in order to be able to hold their ground in the American League Central as the postseason comes closer. However, they don’t necessarily need an ace pitcher to do so, and they certainly shouldn’t give up Joey Gallo to get one.

He’s simply too valuable.

Next Players to 3,000 Hits After Ichiro?

The 3,000-hit-club is one of the most exclusive groups in all of baseball. Of the over 18,000 players to play in the majors, only 29 players have been able to amass 3,000 or more base knocks for their career. However, that list is destined to add another player within the next handful of games.Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki, who has been one of the most consistent players in baseball history, is currently sitting just four hits shy of the milestone mark.

With the 3,000 hit achievement all but guaranteeing a player a spot in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro), it’s certainly historic to continue to watch Ichiro, who is showing no signs of slowing down; hitting .341 on the season, which is on pace for his best average since the 2009 season — all at 42 years of age.

With all of that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the active players beyond Ichiro within 1,000 hits of 3,000 who stand the best shots at joining him with 3,000 hits for their career when all is said and done.

Assuming that Adrian Beltre can stay healthy, the recent 2-year contract extension he signed with the Rangers all but ensures that he will be the next to 3,000 hits. Currently with 2,860 hits, Beltre has recorded over 140 hits each of the past six seasons, so he should easily reach the mark sometime in the middle of next season. While some people don’t3000 see Beltre as a player worthy of Cooperstown, perhaps reaching the mark will change their minds.

The next player who is likely going to reach the milestone is Albert Pujols. Having notched 2,756 hits in his career to this point, the future Hall of Famer still has five years remaining on his contract, in which he has stated he has every intention of completing. Although he’s had struggles at times this year, Pujols has been consistent enough to reach the 3,000 hit plateau around the 2018 season.

Miguel Cabrera is the final player on my list of those who sit next in line to get to 3,000 hits. He’s still 560 hits shy of getting there, but at just 33 years old, Cabrera stands a great chance at getting to 3,000. He’s only recorded 200 or more hits in one of his thirteen career seasons, back in 2012 when he won the Triple Crown, but Cabrera is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen, and should bump the 3,000 hit club up to 33 members in late 2019 or early 2020.

There are a number of other active players who are well in line to get to 3,000 hits for their career, but with them all sitting over a thousand hits or more back, I chose not include them in this post. Even so, the game of baseball has seemingly never had more talent and superstar players.

The 3,000 hit club should continue to steadily grow in the coming decades.

Revisiting My 2016 Preseason Predictions

I’ve been making preseason predictions for each of the past five years for how I feel each team will fare at the end of the season, and it never fails that I come up a long way from reality when all is said and done. This year is certainly no different.

In the American League East, I wasn’t too far off, but I still picked the Orioles to finish fourth, who are now currently in first place in the division. Likewise, in the American League Central, the Tigers have underperformed in my mind, but not as much as the Royals, who I picked to finish first, but are in third. The AL West has seen things going close to how I saw them, but I thought the Angels would be much better than they have been. Even so, I once again have been way off.

Things have gone a little better for me in the National League, however.

I haven’t done terribly in the East, where my pick of the Mets to be leading the division has been the only pick to go a little off track. For the Central, things have gone even better, with the top three teams lining up exactly where I saw them. In the West, I bought into the hype of the Diamondbacks, who sit in last place, despite me selecting them to come in first. But the Giants look destined to finish in first, so I would seem to be right with that one at least.

At the end of the day, there’s still a good amount of season left. Anything can and will happen as teams look to make their powerful pushes towards the postseason. Your guess is as good as mine as to where they’ll line up.

Shelby Miller: A Tale of Two Seasons

Nothing is guaranteed in baseball. From one season to the next, you never know which teams will go from last to first or first to last, or which players will have a bounce back year or a season far disastrous from the one they posted just a year prior. Shelby Miller

Shelby Miller is a prime example of that.

Last season with the Braves, Miller made himself known as a true star pitcher in baseball, giving Atlanta 205.1 strong innings, totaling up to a 3.02 ERA on the season. For his efforts, Miller received a ton of recognition — so much so that he was the key piece of a huge trade this past offseason.

Sending their top prospect (and first overall draft pick in 2015) Dansby Swanson, along with two other pieces, to the Braves, the Diamondbacks received back Shelby Miller to join Zack Greinke in what looked to be a strong pitching staff; one predicted to be more than capable of competing for the National League West title.

However, things have gone far from perfect in Arizona.

With Greinke being injured at times this season, Paul Goldschmidt not getting off to a hot start, and with 2015 breakout star, A.J. Pollock, being lost for the year in Spring Training, not a lot has gone right to help the D-backs perform the way they had been expected to.

But while it’s not completely Miller’s fault (it’s never fair to point the finger at any one player as the sole reason for a team’s losing season), he certainly has played a big part in their demise.

Going 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA over 14 starts this season, Miller was sent down to Triple-A on Thursday, with the hopes of getting him back on track in the minors. But even if he gets it going again down in Reno, things are too far gone for the Diamondbacks to regain momentum and make something special out of this season.

Sitting in last place in their division, 19 games back of the first-place Giants, the Diamondbacks haven’t had much to be excited about this season. While Miller was supposed to give the D-backs a great shot at a memorable year, he hasn’t been anywhere close to the pitcher he was last season with the Braves. But you truly never can tell how any given trade will pan out.

Even so, with the trade deadline slowly approaching in two weeks, it will be interesting to see which teams will take a gamble and make a trade for a star player. It may pay off, giving them what they need to make it to the postseason. Or it could turn out to make little to no difference, as the Shelby Miller trade has for Arizona.

2016 Award Frontrunners at the All-Star Break

Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until Friday, and although the baseball world is currently focused on San Diego and the All-Star game that is set to take place tonight, I wanted to quickly focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.

For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.

Most Valuable Player Award

American League: Mark Trumbo

Sitting as the league leader in home runs at the All-Star break, there is no true competition for Mark Trumbo when it Mark Trumbocomes to American League MVP. Trumbo has been absolutely tremendous for the Orioles all season long, batting .288 while driving in 68 runs with 28 homers, and is a huge part in them sitting in first place. Unless things fall apart for Trumbo, he should easily walk away with the award at season’s end.

National League: Kris Bryant

There are far more options to choose from when picking for the National League MVP award, but I’m going with Kris Bryant at the moment. Like the Orioles, the Cubs are in first place large in part due to Bryant’s stellar numbers for yet another season. With 25 home runs, including a three-homer performance earlier in the year, Bryant is truly showing how much of an impact he is in the National League.

Rookie of the Year Award

American League: Nomar Mazara

All season long, Nomar Mazara has wowed fans with his immense power displays that he has been able to put on withMazara each of his eleven home runs. He may not have overwhelming stats, but Mazara has done enough to earn him the American League Rookie of the Year award, in my mind. But even so, there’s a young Tigers’ rookie pitcher by the name of Michael Fulmer who is pressing to overtake Mazara. If Mazara doesn’t keep things going, he may lose out in the end.

National League: Corey Seager

This was one of the most difficult awards to decide upon. From Trevor Story to Kenta Maeda, there are several great options to choose from. But I wound up going with Corey Seager, who was the favorite to win the award even before the season began. With so many top notch NL rookies, this award could truly come down to the wire, but with Seager having blasted 17 homers with 42 RBI’s, all while hitting .297, I’ll go with him for now.

Cy Young Award

American League: Steven Wright

The most recent knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young award came back in 2012 when R.A. Dickey took home theKershaw honor. However, it appears that things may play out that way again this year. Steven Wright has been extremely consistent throughout this season with the Red Sox, breaking out as their true ace of the staff, despite David Price being on the team. Although his strikeout totals aren’t that high, Wright’s AL-best 2.68 ERA really stands out.

National League: Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is currently on the disabled list, but as long as it doesn’t impact the rest of the season, Kershaw looks to be in line for yet another Cy Young award. His closest competition at the moment, Madison Bumgarner, has been just as good as Kershaw, having notched three more starts than Kershaw and holding a 1.94 ERA to Kershaw’s 1.79. When it comes down to it, though, I still see Kershaw pulling out the award win.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 19 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of wins-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for an exciting second half.

Players Set for the 2016 Home Run Derby

On Tuesday, we found out the players who will be participating in the MLB All-Star game. Now, we officially know the sluggers who will be blasting long balls on Monday night at Petco Park. Petco

Mark Trumbo, Robinson Cano, Adam Duvall and Todd Frazier of the American League will be squaring off against Corey Seager, Giancarlo Stanton, Wil Myers and Carlos Gonzalez of the National League.

The bracket-style format of the derby will now see Seager going up against Trumbo, Stanton taking on Cano, Myers facing Duvall and Gonzalez trying his luck versus Frazier. With the players now set, I figured I’d give my take on how I feel the derby will go.

ROUND 1

Although Seager is well on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year award for the National League, I don’t see him taking out Trumbo. Leading the league in homers, Trumbo simply has too much pop. Likewise, I can’t see Cano posting better numbers than Stanton. While Stanton has struggled at times this year, he seems to be locked in as of late and will likely carry that into the derby. The third matchup of Myers vs. Duvall is a very intriguing one, as well as a difficult one to predict. Even so, I’m going with Myers to move on, as he’ll have the backing of the home crowd. Finally, I feel that Frazier will be able to barely hold off Gonzalez to find himself moving on to the next round.

Eliminated: Corey Seager, Robinson Cano, Adam Duvall and Carlos Gonzalez

Moving on: Mark Trumbo, Giancarlo Stanton, Wil Myers and Todd Frazier

ROUND 2

If things go as I see them playing out, this round will see Trumbo going up against Stanton and Frazier taking on Myers. At this point, anything can truly happen, but I feel like Trumbo will find a way to beat out Stanton and move on to the final round. Furthermore, I see Myers surprising the baseball world and knocking off Frazier, with Myers having more power than a lot of people realize. Even so, any of these four players pose an very equal matchup against one another.

Eliminated: Giancarlo Stanton and Todd Frazier

Moving on: Mark Trumbo and Wil Myers

FINAL ROUND

A final round of the 2016 Home Run Derby with Mark Trumbo squaring off against Wil Myers isn’t exactly what many people are likely predicting around baseball, but it’s what I’m going with. Admittedly, these type of predictions rarely pan out, but it’s how I see things going. As such, with Trumbo and Myers going one on one in the last round, I inevitably see Trumbo beating out Myers. Trumbo simply has too much power to be denied the title this year.

Winner: Mark Trumbo

But that’s just how I see things panning out. Who do you think will win the 2016 Home Run Derby? Cast your vote below.