Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Q and A With Daniel Vogelbach

Daniel Vogelbach was drafted by the Cubs in the second round of the 2011 draft, after batting .467 with 19 home runs over the course of 34 games in his senior year of high school.

VogelbachFollowing the draft, Vogelbach continued to hit, ripping 17 homers, driving in 62 runs and posting a stellar .322 average in his first professional season in 2012. A .285 career hitter, Vogelbach has slugged no fewer than 16 homers a season, and has been able to keep his strikeout numbers very low — a rarity in power hitters nowadays.

In 2014 with Daytona, Vogelbach put the ball in play a ton, striking out just 91 times in 482 at-bats — helping him to drive in a total of 76 runs for the second straight year, and further putting himself on the map in a farm system that is extremely strong at the moment.

A member of a top ten prospects list that includes the likes of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Albert Almora, players such as Vogelbach are helping the Cubs look to be finally making the climb back to a contending team.

Daniel Vogelbach — top prospect in the Cubs’ 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 played baseball since tee ball. I always knew that was my first love, but I played all sports growing up. My family has been my biggest influence on me. They are always there for me and would do anything for me.

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

Chipper Jones was my favorite player growing up. I was always a Braves fan, and I always liked the way he played the game.

3.) You were drafted by the Cubs in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

Going into the draft, I had a pretty hard commitment to the University of Florida.  I always wanted to be a gator my whole life, and anything else was a plus for me. So when draft day came, I just left it in God’s hands, and I knew he would lead me down the right path. It was for sure one of the best days of my life, and being able to spend it with my family was even better. I am for sure blessed with the way things turned out.

4.) You’ve stated a desire to continue playing first base as your career progresses, but have been projected in the past by some as merely a future designated hitter. What have you done both offensively and defensively to help put you on the path needed to be a major league first baseman and not just DH?

I don’t get caught up in what people say I can and can’t do. I work hard everyday to pursue my dreams. And I continue to improve my game every day to be the best I can be. I love playing first base and I love being on the field. And that’s what I plan on doing throughout my career.

5.) Always posting great power numbers over your baseball career thus far, you’ve also been very consistent in hitting for average. What kind of adjustments do you make to keep from being the type of power hitter that hits for a very low average, while still maintaining the pop in your bat?

When I go to the plate I have a plan and I always try to stick to that plan. I always try to take what the pitcher gives me and not try to do to much. The home runs will come if I just stay with my approach. I pride myself in not striking out and hitting the ball to all fields.

6.) You had the opportunity to participate in the Arizona Fall League this past season. What was that experience like, playing with and against some of the best talent minor league baseball has to offer? What did you take away from your time there that you plan to use moving forward?

The fall league was for sure an honor to be in. I had such a good time with some guys I will be friends with forever. Being with the best of the best you can always pick up on stuff, and I tried to take little things from everyone every day. It was for sure something I won’t forget.

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

Stats are something I try to stay away from. I just try to have good at bats and hit balls hard.

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

We had a great season as a team in 2014 and just fell short. I’m expecting to win a ring this year.

9.) Favorite food?

Chicken is my favorite food . . . .

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 is chase your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

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Big thanks to Daniel Vogelbach for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @DanielVogelbach

Oakland Athletics Continue Their Offseason Overhaul

It may be a brand new year, but it’s proving to be the same old Athletics.

A team known in recent history for their offseason trades and signings that leave them with a completely different looking ball club from one year to the next, the A’s have once again used the offseason to this point to make a EscobarZobristlot of moves (some good, some bad) to change up the overall structure of their team.

The most recent case coming on Saturday with the trading away of John Jaso and a couple of top prospects, in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, to the Rays in exchange for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, who will both help what has the potential to be a good A’s team in 2015.

Despite losing John Jaso, who was a solid player for the Athletics in 2014, as well as Robertson and Powell, the A’s got back a fairly good package in return.

After an extended period of trade rumors surrounding Ben Zobrist, a transaction for him finally occurred, sending Zobrist off to the A’s. Two years removed from back-to-back 20 homer seasons, Zobrist hit a mere 10 bombs in 2014, but is still more than capable of impacting any team he’s on, as he has over the course of his All-Star career with the Rays.

Other moves the A’s have made so far to go along with the Zobrist and Escobar trade that could turn out to have major impacts began with the pickup of Billy Butler on a three-year, thirty million dollar contract. The Athletics then proceeded to swap their All-Star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, for fellow hot corner defender, Brett Lawrie, from the Brett LawrieBlue Jays.

While the Butler deal was applauded by many, the Donaldson move was one that left many people scratching their heads. However, they weren’t done there.

Following the initial offseason additions of Butler and Lawrie, the Athletics kicked off the 2014 Winter Meetings, trading slugger Brandon Moss to the Indians, and almost immediately after departed ways with Jeff Samardzija for a few potential valuable but unproven players from the White Sox.

Even though there are some things the Athletics have done that I don’t agree with, for the most part I like where the A’s are headed.

Losing Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox via a trade for Jon Lester, and knowing they wouldn’t likely retain Lester upon the end of the season, the moves the A’s are making should help them in their attempt to make up for those losses.

Even after losing Lester, the Athletics’ rotation will still be decent, with Sonny Gray leading the way, along with Jarrod Parker who is set to return to health, and their lineup always seems to find a way to produce runs. Having finished with a win-loss record above .500 for each of the past three seasons, things are seemingly lining up to make it four.

Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz & Biggio Elected to Hall

It’s been sixty years since the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) last elected four players to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a single year — a class that included Joe DiMaggio as the top vote getter. But on Tuesday it was 1955 all over again, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all received well over the 75 percent of the vote necessary to gain entry into Cooperstown.

2015 Hall of FameReceiving 97.3 percent of the total vote — meaning, 15 out of the 549 voters somehow chose not to vote for him — Randy Johnson didn’t quite beat out Tom Seaver’s all-time Hall of Fame election percentage of 98.84 percent. But regardless, Johnson still finds himself eighth all-time on the percentage list, and becomes the tallest pitcher in MLB history to be elected to the Hall of Fame. With a perfect game under his belt, along with five career Cy Young awards, not to mention his 300+ career wins and close to 5,000 strikeouts, Randy Johnson more than deserved the honor.

The three other players elected on Tuesday were also extremely worthy. Pedro Martinez’s .687 career winning percentage was good enough to earn him 91.1 percent of the vote; John Smoltz’s combination of career wins, strikeouts and saves earned him a modest 82.9 percent; and Craig Biggio finally received his due after recording over 3,000 hits for his career, finding himself on 82.7 percent of the voters ballots.

But not all of the deserving players made it in this time, both in my opinion as well as the opinions of others. More than anyone else, Mike Piazza still not earning a place in Cooperstown is unbelievable. As I’ve stated in the past, Piazza may not be one of the best hitters in history, but he is statistically the best hitting catcher in history. Along with Piazza, Tim Rained not making much ground was also a disappointment to me, sitting twenty percent away from election with just two years of eligibility remaining. While Mike Piazza will in all likelihood get elected in 2016 (receiving around seventy percent in 2015), the time may never come for Tim Raines.

The time for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may never arrive either. A true shame, as they are first ballot Hall of Famers without their performance enhancing drug use, neither Bonds or Clemens made much progress in this their third years on the ballot. Bonds gained just 3.1 percent, taking him up to 36.8, with Clemens amassing a few more votes, bringing him up to 37.5 percent. With both just shy of 40 percent away from election, things aren’t looking too bright for them.

However, with a few great newcomers set to be added to the ballot in 2016, things are looking bright for a great 2016 Hall of Fame class. Though it assuredly won’t rival this historic class of 2015, Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman — both nearly slam dunks for election — are lining up to be a part of the ballot, joining Mike Piazza, who will hopefully finally see himself getting elected with a somewhat weaker ballot than the incredible one from this year.

2015 Hall of Fame Ballot: If I Had A Vote

Each and every year there arises a major debate around the baseball world as to which players are deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. While certain players from any given year are no doubt picks, sparking little argument as to whether their career numbers are worthy of election, others players have rather borderline statistics, making things very controversial. This year was no different.

The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot has 34 players on it, with 17 of them being in their first time on the ballot. After reviewing the ballot numerous times, I gave each and every player careful consideration, but in the end I wound up placing only six on my ballot. Here are the six players I feel should make it into the Hall of Fame in 2015 (not necessarily the players I think will get elected):

The first player on my ballot is Craig Biggio.

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros

Missing the Hall of Fame by a mere two votes last year, Craig Biggio should get in without a problem this time around. One of only four of the twenty-eight total players in MLB history with 3,000 or more hits that isn’t in the Hall of Fame — the other three being Rafael Palmeiro (steroids), Pete Rose (banned) and Derek Jeter (he’ll be elected in 2020) — Biggio will likely have that change in 2015. His career stats of 291 home runs and 1,175 RBI’s are relatively low for a Hall of Fame player, but his career number of hits puts him over the top in my book.

The second player I have on my ballot is Mike Piazza.

Piazza

I felt strongly last year that Mike Piazza should’ve gotten into the Hall, and I feel the same way this year as well. While Piazza received just over 62 percent of the vote in 2014, and therefore may or may not make a 13 percent jump to receive induction this time around, Piazza will eventually make it in, as he should. Piazza’s stats of 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI’s and 427 home runs aren’t the best of anyone in history, but they’re right up near the top for best hitting catcher in baseball history. There is no doubt that Piazza is a Hall of Famer.

Tim Raines also finds his way onto my list of picks.

Raines

The only new player on my ballot that isn’t in his first time up for election, I gave Tim Raines a strong look last year but decided to leave him off my ballot. This year, however, I included Raines. Raines’ overall statistics aren’t over the top, having blasted just 170 home runs in his career, but it’s his 808 stolen bases combined with his 2,605 total hits that make him Hall of Fame worthy. Raines sits fifth all-time on the stolen base list, with the four players ahead of him each holding a spot in Cooperstown. In my opinion, Raines should join them.

Following Raines I have Randy Johnson.

JOHNSON

The easiest choice of all the first time ballot players, Randy Johnson will no doubt get into the Hall of Fame in 2015. Racking up over 300 wins for his career — something that nowadays will likely never happen again — and recording 4,875 strikeouts to go along with a 3.29 ERA, Johnson sits in the top few all-time in a number of categories. Having received the honor of obtaining five Cy Young awards over his career, Johnson has put himself into great position to get the greatest honor of all: induction into the Hall of Fame.

The fifth player on my ballot is Pedro Martinez.

Martinez

Pedro Martinez is by no means a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s very, very close. With a career ERA at 2.93, and the sixth best winning percentage of all-time, at .687, Martinez is definitely worthy of the Hall, just maybe not the first time around. Even so, he’s on my ballot. With all of the great seasons Martinez had, most notably with the Red Sox, where he won 117 of his 219 career games and helped lead Boston to its first World Series title since 1918, he will receive a great number of votes. But Martinez will perhaps come up just shy of induction this time around.

The final player on my ballot is John Smoltz.

Smoltz

As with Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz getting into the Hall in 2015 isn’t a sure bet, but he’s going to get a good amount of support regardless, and will undoubtedly get in eventually. The only player in MLB history to win over 200 games and record over 150 saves, all totalling up to a 3.33 career ERA, it’s Smoltz’s combination of great years as a starter and fantastic three year stretch of relief pitching from 2002-2004 while dealing with arm injuries that makes him deserve it all the more. Racking up all his career saves (154) over that time, Smoltz was an all around great pitcher.

Unfortunately, even with all of the great players on the ballot this year, I had to leave off the remaining 28 players, including a large number of the really good players from the ballot, being Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield and Jeff Bagwell — all of which have good arguments for induction into the Hall.

In addition, I’ve excluded Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rogers Clemens, among others traced to PED’s, not based solely on their PED use, but merely because I don’t feel they should get in this time around. Not yet. Maybe not even at all. I haven’t fully decided how I feel. The Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that PED players are deserving of induction.

Though you may disagree with some of the players I feel are Hall of Fame worthy and with some of the players I left off my ballot, it’s just the way I feel and how I see things. Now, I want to hear from you. Of the players on the 2015 ballot, who do you want to see get inducted in July? Cast your vote below for the number of players from the 2015 ballot that you would vote into the Hall of Fame, and feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Blogging Resolutions for 2015

Happy New Year, everyone!

As I’ve done for the past few years, I wanted to take the time to go over the main things I’m hoping to accomplish, blogging wise, throughout the coming year. Some of them are the same as my 2014 goals, but a few of them have been altered a bit.

The five main resolutions/goals I have for this blog in 2015 are as follows:

1. Blog at least once every 5 days:

Last year my goal was to blog at least once every four days. I was able to accomplish that goal, but not without a great deal of work. There were a few times that there was simply nothing to write about, and I had to basically make things up as I went along due to it being the fourth day and not wanting to break my goal. It was very stressful at times. And therefore, while I’m not saying I won’t be able to get a post up every four days or less in 2015, I’m adding one more day to my maximum gap in entries to give myself a little slack — just in case.

2. Post 100+ blog entries:

Because I’m adding a day to my goal of number of days between entries, naturally the number of blog posts I publish this year will decrease. In 2014, while blogging at a breakneck pace at times, I was able to put together 128 blog posts — the most in a single year in the history of this blog. I’m going to be a lot busier this year for several reasons, and thus I had to keep close to my 2014 goal of blogging 100 times. My only other option was to give up blogging altogether. But I didn’t want to do that; at least not yet.

3. Get more views than 2014:

Every year of this blogs existence, I’ve recorded more views in each year following the previous one. With that said, I’d love to keep that going in 2015. While I’ll be blogging a little less than I did in 2014, I really hope to get more views than I did last year. Even one more total blog visit would make me happy. Having accumulated just over 80,000 views in 2014 — around 3,000 more than 2014 — I would really be astounded if I could get to a nice round number of 100,000 blog views for 2015. But if I could get to even 81,000 visits between now and December 31st, I would consider this blogging year a success.

4. Go on a 3-post-blogging-streak:

In 2014, this goal was a five-post-blogging-streak. But just like some of the previous goals, I’m changing this one a bit to go a little more conservative for 2015. Last year I was able to get up five blog posts on five consecutive days, but it was difficult. It started with my post on the MLB award frontrunners at the All-Star break, on July 14, and continued through the entry I posted on the second half of the MLB season setting up to be exciting, on July 18th. Even though I did that five post run, I’m only shooting for three this year. Easier, but still not extremely easy.

5. Reply to every comment that is left:

This is one of the two goals from 2014 that stayed exactly the same. The reason for that is it’s very easy to accomplish, as it takes less than a minute (usually) to answer a comment. I don’t get too many comments left on my blog, but when I do I want to always make sure I reply to them. Whether the comment is a question, about something I’m up to or the post itself, or a general comment or statement, I feel the obligation to reply back. Without the readers this blog wouldn’t be what it is. Replying is my way of saying that the reader is appreciated.

So, there you have it. My top five blogging resolutions/goals for 2015.

As I stated last year — a recurring theme in this blog post — I hope to make this my best year of blogging yet. If I can accomplish what I want to (and plan to), I feel it truly will be. That’s always the overall goal, to get better and better. I think 2015 is going to be an exciting year.

Last Blog Post Until 2015

Back on January 1st of this year, when I posted my blogging New Year’s Resolutions/Goals, I stated that I was going to attempt to blog at least once every four days in 2014. I tried doing so in 2013, and with the exception of the month long vacation I took, I was able to accomplish that goal. But this year, I took it a step further, and successfully blogged at least once every four days, achieving that goal along with every other blogging goal I set.Christmas

After such a successful year of blogging, this will be my final post until 2015 rolls around. It’s Christmas time, and therefore I don’t want to spend it working multiple hours on putting any blog posts together. I’ll save that for January. Meaning, if any major baseball news stories break, no matter how big they are, I won’t be writing about it. At least not until 2015.

My first post of the new year will be my blogging resolutions/goals for 2015, followed by my Hall of Fame ballot a few days after. Then I’ll take the time to recap the elected members after they’re announced, and write a four year blog anniversary post on the 20th. Along the way I’ll hopefully post an interview or two, in addition to providing my thoughts from time to time on the latest baseball news. After that, heading into February, things are up in the air.

Lastly, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year, and throughout its nearly four year existence. Whether you’re a regular or just check in from time to time, if it weren’t for you all I’d have no reason to blog. So thank you. I’m going to do my best to make 2015 the best year yet — even better than 2014, if that’s possible — and hopefully you will all continue to come back every so often to read what I have to say.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

I’ll be back in 2015.

Padres Going All In for Next Season

When the dust settles a couple months from now, and spring training begins to kick off, the Padres could turn out to be the winners of the entire offseason. While the Red Sox are arguably the most improved team, with their pickups of both offensive presence and starting pitching, it’s the Padres that have done the most to improve their club in a very short amount of time.

Finishing with a record under .500 for the fourth straight season in 2014, not a lot of people likely had the Padres doing much of anything impactful this offseason that would give them any chance against the division dominant Dodgers and Giants moving forward. However, the Padres are seemingly putting together a competitive ball club, and are losing very little in the process, all thanks to their new general manager, A.J. Preller, who was given the daunting task of turning around one of the worst offenses from the previous year.Kemp-Myers

News of the Padres’ team revamp first arose during the Winter Meetings, when a trade for Matt Kemp was first reported. Although it took them over a week to finalize the deal due to a concerning physical of Kemp that showed arthritis in his hips, the Padres landed their man, getting Matt Kemp (along with 32 million dollars) and Tim Federowicz from the Dodgers, in exchange for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

Following that initial announcement of the Kemp deal, the Padres proceeded to further improve their outfield for next season, acquiring Wil Myers as part of a three team, 11-player deal with the Rays and Nationals.

In the large swap, the Padres received Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes from the Rays, and sent Rene Rivera, Joe Ross, Burch Smith, Trea Turner, and Jake Bauers back to Tampa. The Rays then flipped Turner and Ross to the Nationals for Steven Souza and Travis Ott. (Follow all that?) In short, the Padres acquired promising young outfielder Wil Myers without giving up too much in return — just as they did with the Matt Kemp trade.

But the little loss, big return trade pattern didn’t stop there for the Padres. Shortly after announcing the Wil Myers acquisition, the Padres made yet another trade, once again for an impactful outfielder, bringing over Justin Upton and Upton1a low level prospect to be named later from the Braves. In return for Upton, San Diego didn’t have to part with too much, sending away just Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith. Although three of those four players were in the Padres top twenty prospects list, the Padres were still able to maintain their top two prospects in Austin Hedges and Matt Wisler, which is truly remarkable when you think about it.

Not all of the moves the Padres have made have been large, though. Some of the smaller changes the Padres have completed that could turn out to have major impacts have also taken place over the past day or so.

As replacement for the slot lost when they traded away Yasmani Grandal, the Padres traded Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to acquire former All-Star catcher, Derek Norris, along with Seth Streich and an international signing slot from the Athletics. In addition, the Padres made a smart small move on Friday, flipping Ryan Hanigan, who they just acquired in the Wil Myers trade, to the Red Sox in return for Will Middlebrooks, who will now man the hot corner in 2015.

All of these moves for a brand new outfield, as well as an improved infield, will go a long way in improving the Padres next season. Their lineup is undeniably better, and one that will be a force to reckon with for sure. But what about their pitching? As has been proven time and time again, you don’t win games with just hitting, you have to have pitching as well. But surprisingly, despite the Padres’ dismal win-loss record from 2014, they did in fact have a good, under the radar pitching staff made up of solid players.

Due to the bad offensive production, which saw the Padres finish the season last in batting average, last in RBI’s and 28th in home runs, it was overlooked that the Padres had the fourth best team ERA in all of baseball on the season, coming out to a mere 3.27. With their big name pitchers from 2014 — Tyson Ross (2.81 ERA), Andrew Cashner (2.55 ERA), and Ian Kennedy (3.63 ERA) — still on the roster, to go along with newly acquired Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, who is reportedly close to returning, the Padres truly have a solid team for 2015.

But they still aren’t likely done.Winnings

After obtaining Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton via trades, San Diego now has a surplus of outfielders — Seth Smith, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin — whose spots have been filled. That assuredly means that at least one of them will be on the move, and that could end up bringing the Padres yet another piece of the puzzle.

But while the Padres are no doubt headed in the right direction and will show drastic improvement as soon as next season, I don’t think it will be enough to win the National League West division. The Dodgers and Giants are still too good, and will likely make moves of their own to get a little better before April. After finishing 17 games back of the division winning Dodgers last season, that’s too far of a jump for the Padres to make in a single season, in my mind.

However, despite that, I applaud the San Diego Padres. Following a season in which they were at the bottom of the pack in nearly every offensive category, the Padres look to have solved that in a matter of a couple weeks. If the new additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, etc., can play to their full potential, and if the down seasons by former standouts Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso can be turned around, things look to be bright for the Friars.

Even if they don’t make a run at the division title, the Padres are in line to compete for at least the second Wild Card spot in 2015. Having not made the postseason since 2006, fans in San Diego have been waiting for quite awhile to see a team with this talent level be presented on the field, long wishing that some major changes would be made.

It would appear Padres fans have finally received their wish.

Yankees Setting Up for Contention In 2015?

As everyone is aware, the New York Yankees failed to make the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s farewell 2014 season, which was very disappointing to a great number of people. One of the few times in their storied franchise history that the Yankees went consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, things are currently in somewhat of a lull for the Bronx Bombers.

Now that Jeter is officially retired, and with the loss of their 2014 closer, David Robertson, to the White Sox via free agency, many are beginning to wonder just how much of a competitive team the Yankees will be in 2015. After finishing twelve games back of first in the American League East last season, they have a lot of ground to make up, but a division title Tanakaisn’t seemingly as far out of reach as it would appear.

Some of the Yankees offseason pickups last year failed to produce in 2014, due to either injury or a down statistical season. From Masahiro Tanaka to Jacoby Ellsbury to Carlos Beltran to Brian McCann — if those players can get back to their normal selves next season, combined with the already good bullpen of Dellin Betances and recently signed Andrew Miller, things should be better in 2015 for the Yankees.

But that’s without any changes whatsoever.

The Yankees, however, have in fact made a few tweaks to their roster that could have a big impact on their season success throughout the 162 game stretch.

Beginning with a trade that saw promising young shortstop Didi Gregorius coming to New York to take over the vacant spot left by Jeter, the Yankees would appear to have a long term “replacement” for the long time Captain.

Though Gregorius won’t be able fill the enormous legacy of Derek Jeter — no one could ever do that — he will give them a little added thump in their lineup and defense at the position. Another such player being Chase Headley, who the Yankees signed to a 4-year, 52 million dollar contract on Monday.

There’s a slight issue in the signing that everyone is pointing out, however: Headley plays third base. With the Yankees still owing third baseman Alex Rodriguez — who was out all last season due to a PED suspension — over 20 million a season for the next few years, it would be hard to envision them filling A-Rod’s place at the hot corner with a bargain priced third baseman. But it appears that the Yankees are doing just that.

Although the Yankees could move Headley around from time to time as the season progresses, it lines up that A-Rod is headed for merely a designated hitter role in 2015. After hitting 31 home runs to go along with 115 RBI’s back in 2012, chase-headleyHeadley hasn’t been that MPV-type of player since, but really impressed the Yankees after coming over from the Padres last season, hitting .262 in the 58 games with them to finish out the year.

If Headley can be solid at third base, and if Rodriguez can provide any sort of offensive production at the plate, the Yankees should be in good shape next year. But, where exactly would they fall if the season began tomorrow?

For me, I see them being like they were last season — a team that could potentially win a lot of games, but has to have a lot of things go right for them to post those type of collective numbers they’re capable of.

As stated earlier, if the Yankees can get full, healthy seasons out of Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, etc., their overall production will increase naturally.

Another team in the division that should see their production increase due to several key moves is the Blue Jays. Signing veteran catcher Russell Martin, and trading for All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays could be a very competitive team in 2015. Though I feel they still need another year or two to put everything together, you never know for sure how a team will fare.

Even so, I feel the Red Sox are the team that has done more than enough to put themselves in line to win the American League East division. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez a few weeks ago, and adding much needed starting pitching in Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley, Boston has put together a very solid team after their disastrous 2014 season.

Just the opposite, the Orioles have seen their team taken apart. Losing breakout slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, and dominant reliever Andrew Miller (to the Yankees), Baltimore certainly has some work to do before the start of the season in April. (The Rays also fall into that category, in my opinion.)

So, with such a packed division, seeing that every one of the teams in the east could potentially make big runs towards the division title, it should be fun to see how things play out. If I had to predict things right now, though, I feel confident in saying that the Yankees are setting themselves up to break their postseason drought in the coming year.

Recap of the 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings

For the most part, I like to write about big time trades and/or signings within a day of when they occur. I feel that waiting too long to give my thoughts on a particular transaction causes it to become old news and therefore not really relevant to the everyday fast developing topics around baseball.Meetings

However, for the 113th annual baseball Winter Meetings that took place this past week in San Diego, things were happening so fast and at such a high volume that I would’ve been blogging multiple times a day to keep on top of the action. I didn’t have time to do that, nor did I want to do that. And thus, I decided to post this recap upon the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. (Keep in mind, not every single signing or trade is included in this post; just the major ones, in my mind.)

Ending on Thursday, this years meetings saw an unprecedented amount of teams signing or trading players. Practically every ten minutes news broke of a new deal or trade that was sure to shake things up in 2015 and beyond. Seeing more trades go down over the past week than the last three Winter Meetings combined, a lot of exciting things look to be in store for the 2015 season.

The Winter Meetings were kicked off with a trade of Brandon Moss by the Athletics on the very first day. Getting sent to the Indians in return for minor leaguer Joe Wendle, Moss will certainly add a bit of pop to Cleveland’s lineup, having hit 25 or more home runs each of the last two seasons.

But the A’s weren’t done parting with players. Following the departure of Moss, Oakland traded away pitching prospect Michael Ynoa to the White Sox along with breakout pitcher Jeff Samardzija, whom the A’s gave up a few of their extremely promising prospects for in a trade back in July. In return for Samardzija, the White Sox simply had to toss a few prospects to the Athletics, in SamardzijaRobertsonMarcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo.

In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the Athletics didn’t get back quite enough in that deal. All of this coming after the trade of Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, many are really questioning the A’s logic.

No one, however, is questioning the White Sox. After acquiring Samardzija, a lot of people began to talk about the White Sox’ playoff chances in 2015 with their improved pitching staff. But those talks only increased when the Sox announced a four-year, 46 million dollar signing of David Robertson. After the past few seasons Robertson has been able to put together, saving 39 games last year for the Yankees, he was near the top of available free agent relievers. The White Sox adding Robertson to their roster gives their fans hope for a promising upcoming year.

The White Sox aren’t the only Chicago based team that’s setting themselves up for a nice 2015 season, however. Across town, the Cubs are also in line to be much improved. Following the addition of veteran catcher Miguel Montero to their lineup in a trade that sent two minor leaguers, Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley, to the Diamondbacks, the Cubs Lesterobtained one of the biggest free agents heading into the Winter Meetings.

While it took awhile for him to decide on the Cubs, Jon Lester made the choice to head to Chicago for the next six years, signing a contract worth 155 million dollars. Combined with a new manager in Joe Maddon, and a talented young roster of players, it should be fun to watch the Cubs moving forward.

But although there were large deals such as the one Jon Lester signed with the Cubs that went down over the course of the Winter Meetings, there were also multiple smaller deals that could end up having large impacts on the given team(s) involved.

Francisco Liriano resigned with the Pirates on a deal worth 39 million over the next three years; and the Twins picked up Ervin Santana for the next four years, set to pay him a total of 55 million over that span. But the smaller signings I like the most are the ones the Astros made by adding Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to their struggling bullpen, which had the worst ERA (4.80) in all of baseball in 2014. After not getting David Robertson or Andrew Miller, the Astros had to settle with these two relievers, but Neshek and Gregerson will go a long way in helping a bullpen that had 26 blown saves in 2014. Even so, the Astros aren’t likely to make the playoffs just yet.

Just the opposite, the Dodgers have been a playoff team for the past two years and seemingly would be so again in 2015 regardless of if they did anything to change their roster. But that didn’t at all stop them from making moves — big moves.

After making an impactful 4-year, 48 million dollar signing of free agent starting pitcher Bandon McCarthy, who was terrific in the second half of 2014 with the Yankees after an up and down career, the Dodgers proceeded to reshape a good portion of their team.

KempComing after weeks of rumors that the Padres were interested in Matt Kemp, the Dodgers complied with the Friars, sending Kemp and Tim Federowicz to San Diego for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

The fact that this trade went through came as a shock to many, as Kemp is a superstar when healthy, and the Dodgers didn’t get much in return, but it needed to be done with the overcrowded Dodgers outfield.

Although the Dodgers were quoted as saying that their All-Star second baseman, Dee Gordon, was not being considered for a possible trade, the baseball world did in fact see Gordon, along with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, leaving the Dodgers. Unlike the Kemp trade, Gordon and company getting shipped off to the Marlins in a trade for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez made sense, as this swap seemingly would help both sides.

Part of the trade, though, wouldn’t last even an hour. A brief time after obtaining promising pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, the Dodgers flipped him to the Angels in exchange for Howie Kendrick. In addition, the Dodgers also flipped Zach Eflin, whom they received for Matt Kemp, and another prospect to the Phillies, in a swap for Philadelphia’s franchise hits leader, Jimmy Rollins.

Doing so subsequently fills the holes left by the loss of Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon, and now gives the Dodgers a double play combo of Rollins and Kendrick. That’s certainly not bad at all, especially with Kendrick basically coming over for free with the trade of the newly acquired former Marlin Heaney.

But the Andrew Heaney deal with Los Angeles didn’t quiet the Marlins. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal last month, the Marlins made a promise that they would surround Stanton with talent capable of winning a lot of ballgames, and so far they’re keeping good on it.

Following the addition of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, Miami later made a trade for another key piece to place in their starting rotation — Reds’ solid pitcher, Mat Latos. Getting Latos for the price of Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach, the Marlins could very well be setting themselves up to be a playoff contender as soon as 2015.

That’s what the Red Sox are attempting to do. Going from last to best to last over the past number of years, logic would tell you that the pattern indicates that 2015 would be another up year. Unfortunately, things don’t always follow CespedesPorcellopatterns. And thus, things have to be done to actually improve the Red Sox’ team and not leave them merely hoping for a miracle season.

The main need for Boston heading into the Winter Meetings was pitching. Signing Justin Masterson to a 9.5 million dollar contract for 2015; trading away Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and another prospect for Wade Miley; and acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers by trading off Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier; the Red Sox quickly added three solid pitchers to their poor rotation in a matter of days. Those three should drastically help them next season, as they already own a great lineup following the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.

So there you have it — a recap of the majority of the deals and trades that took place at the 2014 baseball Winter Meetings, and the possible impacts each move will have for each given team. As many have pointed out numerous times, this was one of the most active Winter Meetings in their long history. But nonetheless, there are still a number of valuable free agents that remain on the market.

From James Shield and Max Scherzer to Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley, there are multiple impact players that are available to any team that does what it takes to get them. With every free agent having to find a home somewhere, the exact ball club they wind up with could have a big effect on the outcome for teams in 2015.

Q and A With Billy McKinney

Billy McKinney was drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, after batting .372 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI’s during his senior year of high school.Billy McKinney

Since the draft, McKinney has posted solid numbers between three different levels of professional baseball, hitting a combined .283, and truly showing why he was so highly thought of by the A’s in the 2013 draft.

However, despite seemingly being a big part of the Athletics’ future, McKinney was traded to the Cubs’ organization in July as part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija (now with the White Sox) to the Athletics.

But the trade turned out to be great for McKinney, who was batting just .241 through 75 games worth of at-bats before the swap.

Following the team change, McKinney hit .301 to finish out the season, bringing his combined average for 2014 up to .264 to go along with 11 home runs and 69 RBI’s. A great turnaround after the slow start McKinney had to begin 2014.

If McKinney can continue to develop into the player he’s expected to become, it won’t be long before he’s a part of the Cubs’ future at the major league level.

Billy McKinney — top prospect in the Cubs’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I started playing tee ball when I was 3 years old. My parents [were my biggest influences], as both of them helped me in different ways. My mother helped me keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation, and my father helped with my development.

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

Josh Hamilton, [for] two reasons. One: I admired his swing and power. Secondly: I respected him for the challenges he overcame to become an MLB player.

3.) You were drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting and enjoyable time, balancing all the scout home visits, hitting sessions for various teams, and playing my final high school season. My family was fortunate to be asked to attend the draft at the MLB Studio. It was an opportunity to be there with eight other players who were expected to be drafted. When Mr. Selig called my name as an Oakland Athletic I was ecstatic, as I had always admired them being a great baseball team. I was pumped being picked by such a strong baseball club that focused on solid fundamentals.

4.) After finishing out 2013 with short-season Vermont, you were moved all the way up to High-A Stockton to begin 2014. Struggling at times with Stockton, what did you find most challenging about making the jump to that level of baseball so quickly?

Most definitely was adjusting to the quality of pitching in High-A. Some very, very good pitching in both the California League and the Florida League.

5.) In July, you were a part of a multi-player trade for Jeff Samardzija that sent you from the Athletics’ organization over to the Cubs’. How did you react when you first heard about the trade? What was it like making the switch in organizations mid-season?

I was shocked at first, although as time passed I quickly realized baseball is a business and the Cubs are a quality organization with great leadership. At first it was different, although my Daytona Cub teammates made it a very easy transition, welcoming me to the team.

6.) Upon your transition to the Cubs’ system, you were able to get a fresh start, recording solid numbers with their High-A club to finish out the year. What was it about your new team that made it easier for you to perform at a higher level than you did the first half of the season?

It was basically making adjustments in my approach to the quality of pitching in High-A and learning from previous experiences.

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?

Bus rides and downtime, although being together as a team helps ease the boredom. [We] hang out together and/or watch TV.

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

[In 2014, I] learned throughout the year and appreciated the opportunity to play for the Florida State League Championship with the Cubs. [Goals for 2015 are to] help the Cubs in anyway I can and to continue to develop as a player and person by being challenged.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

‘Modern Family’. Steak.

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

Work hard and never give up, regardless of the situation. Also, embrace your teammates, as baseball is a team sport.

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Big thanks to Billy McKinney for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @billy_mckinney

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