My Vote for 2014 A.L. Rookie of the Year

Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Masahiro Tanaka, Collin McHugh, Dellin Betances and Jose Abreu all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award. Jose-Abreu

Masahiro Tanaka came over from Japan in the offseason, where he had previously dominated the opposition. Picking up right where he left off for the Yankees, Tanaka put himself well in line to become the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star game, and began to be seen as the favorite to win the R.O.Y. award. However, shortly before the All-Star break, things fell apart. Getting hit with injuries, Tanaka wasn’t able to return until the very last portion of the year. And therefore, while he should be one of the top vote getters, with his 2.77 ERA over 20 starts, Tanaka will ultimately not receive the award.

Another pitcher who’s in the mix for Rookie of the Year, having stayed healthy throughout the season unlike Tanaka, is Collin McHugh. Pitching for an Astros team that had very few standout players, McHugh went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA over the course of 25 games started. While he had a few poor outings this season, for the most part McHugh had a dominant string of performances. Any other season McHuch would be a top candidate for the Rookie of the Year, but this season the talent level of American League rookies was simply too great.

Dellin Betances was by far the most impressive rookie of the pitchers on my list. Posting a mere 1.40 ERA over the course of 70 games pitched, in which he held opponents to a mere .149 batting average, Betances was one of the most successful players on the Yankees in 2014. In addition to the low ERA, Betances struck out a staggering 135 batters, setting the new Yankee strikeout record for a relief pitcher, formerly held by Mariano Rivera. While I feel Betances should be seen as the top young relief pitcher in baseball, he unfortunately just misses out for top A.L. rookie of 2014.

For me, there’s no other choice for 2014 American League Rookie of the Year over the White Sox’ Jose Abreu. Getting signed out of Cuba during the offseason, Abreu came to the Sox with high expectations surrounding him. But instead of buckling under the pressure, Abreu thrived on it. Batting .317 on the year, along with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s, Abreu had a season you very rarely see out of a rookie. Although he didn’t reach the all-time home run mark by a rookie of 49, Abreu did more than enough to deserve the American League Rookie of the Year award.

Nationals, Giants Tie Postseason Game Record

After a fantastic outing by their starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals appeared to be on their way to tying up the National League Division Series at a game apiece with the San Francisco Giants when they held a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning on Saturday night. But a Pablo Sandoval RBI double, which extended his postseason hitting streak to thirteen straight games, quickly let the air out of an ecstatic Nationals team. MLB: MAY 01 Giants at Nationals

And things only got worse from there.

With the Nationals failing to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, the game proceeded to remain scoreless for the following eight innings. Upon reaching the 18th inning, the game subsequently tied the record for number of innings in postseason game history, set back in 2005.

Following the extended run drought, the Giants finally changed things in the top of the 18th inning with a solo shot off the bat of Brandon Belt, who was previously 0-6, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.

The Nationals would send Danny Espinosa, Denard Span, Anthony Rendon — whose four hits on the night set a new franchise playoff record — and Jayson Werth to the plate in the bottom half, but they did little of anything against the Giants’ flamethrower, Hunter Strickland.

With the final out recorded, the game officially broke the playoff record for game length of 5 hours and 50 minutes set in 2005, lasting a staggering 6 hours and 23 minutes. The series now heads to San Francisco, with the Giants one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.

Although it’s not decided yet who the Giants will play if they wind up overtaking the Nationals, either the Dodgers or the Cardinals will be in for a battle. I have to admit I didn’t give the Giants, who have now won ten straight postseason games, nearly enough credit with my postseason predictions. They really have impressed me so far.

Having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they’re somewhat jokingly (and somewhat seriously) in line to possibly win the World Series again, in this yet another even calendar year. Although the Fall Classic is another couple of weeks away, and the Giants have several key games to get through first before they have any shot at World Series glory, you have to be happy with how things are looking if you’re a fan of the Giants.

2014 Arizona Fall League TTM Autograph Requests

We’re just a few days into the 2014 MLB postseason, but it’s certainly been exciting so far. A lot of unexpected and equally exciting things are sure to take place over the course of the coming weeks, and it will be something worth watching to see which teams perform as predicted and which teams fail to live up to their full potentials.

afl_logoHowever, regardless of that, I’m not going to discuss anything related to the playoffs in this blog post. Instead, I’m going to focus on the Arizona Fall League. More specifically, the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests that I’m sending out to various participating players.

Taking place every October/November — this year it’s October 7th through November 15th — the Arizona Fall League (AFL) provides top Minor League players who didn’t get a full season of playing time, for one reason or another, a chance to show their organization what they can do, as well as provide them with a little more baseball experience. With several of this year’s MLB All-Stars being former AFL players, the best of the best certainly travel through the fall league.

I usually only send off autograph requests in March, for Spring Training, and October, for the Arizona Fall League. Some people send requests to players throughout the season, however, I’ve never really wanted to do that — they’re too busy going around from ballpark to ballpark. In Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League players stay in the same relative area for over a month. In my mind, that provides a better chance of success.

There is a ton of great talent in this year’s Fall League, but I’m not sending to all of them. That would take dozens of stamps to complete, and I simply don’t want to put the money and time into addressing all of those envelopes, only to receive back a few. Last year I sent seventeen autograph requests to the AFL and got back six. That’s right — six. Therefore, I’m only sending to a select group of players this time around, beginning with Hunter Renfroe, Jace Peterson, Byron Buxton, Lance Parrish, Daniel Robertson and Trevor Story.

All of those players (with the exception of Parris) have bright futures ahead in the big leagues, and Lance Parrish had a successful major league career already. In addition, they all have a history of signing through the mail for people. While that doesn’t guarantee that they will sign during the fall league, I’m willing to take that chance.

I may or may not send off a few more requests in the next couple of weeks, depending on who is signing for people. But no matter what, I plan to post an update every time I receive back a few autographs, as I did this year during Spring Training; assuming I get any autographs back at all. So be sure to check back over the next few months to see updates of the autographs I successfully receive.

My 2014 Postseason Predictions

For the third straight season I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the third straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins. However, with that said, last year when I did playoff predictions for the very first time I correctly predicted the World Series matchup of the Cardinals taking on the Red Sox. Unfortunately, I picked the Cardinals to come out victorious, which ultimately didn’t happen, but I was still thrilled that I successfully picked the final two teams.

This year, though, I hope to take it one step further and get the World Series winner correct as well. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will play out. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL September 30th & NL October 1st)

American League: Royals Vs. Athletics

Winner: Royals

Both the Royals and Athletics have had their share of ups and downs throughout the 2014 season. Neither one has a group of players that makes them definitively better than the other, and that makes it hard to predict the winner of the one game, win or go home matchup. Even so, I’m picking the Royals to pull out the win over the visiting A’s. While their offense has struggled at times, their bullpen is one of the best in baseball. If the Royals can go into the late innings with a lead, it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get.

National League: Pirates Vs. Giants

Winner: Giants

The Pirates made it to the postseason in 2013 for the fist time since 1992, winning the Wild Card game against the Reds and moving on to the division series only to be beaten out by the Cardinals. This time around, however, I don’t even have them making it that far. The Giants are looking to come into town and pick up the win that will ensure a five game series against the Nationals, and I feel that their pitching, as well as their overall offense, outranks the Pirates’ team in a one game situation.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 2nd)

Angels Vs. Royals

Winner: Angels

Although I have the Royals winning the Wild Card game against the Athletics, I don’t see their first playoff run since 1985 lasting past the division series. Going up against a really good offensive Angels team, the Royals will certainly be in for a challenge if they want to prove me wrong. The only question mark for the Angels that would give the Royals a true chance is their starting pitching. With no true ace that you can count on, you never know how the Angels will fare. But I think they will hit just enough to win the series.

Orioles Vs. Tigers

Winner: Tigers

This is going to be a very good series matchup, and I can’t really say for sure who will win. But I’m going with my gut that the Tigers will find a way to get the job done, despite their flaws. While the Orioles have one of the best hitting clubs in baseball, with major threats up and down the lineup, their pitching isn’t nearly as deep as the Tigers. If they want to make things hard on the Tigers, they’ll have to post some great pitching performances. But although that could happen, I see the Tigers moving on to the championship series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 3rd)

Nationals Vs. Giants

Winner: Nationals

The Nationals taking on the Giants would be a good series, but I don’t think it will be too difficult for the Nationals to move on. Taking nothing away from the Giants, who are certainly a good team of players, I don’t feel they stack up against the Nationals very well at all. The Nationals have very few holes from top to bottom in both their offense and pitching. With five good starters that can go out and win big games when you need them to, it would take nothing short of a disaster for the Nats to get beaten out by the Giants.

Dodgers Vs. Cardinals

Winner: Dodgers

Pairing two of the best teams in the National League against one another, this is by far the best guaranteed-to-happen matchup of the postseason, in my mind. While the other games are sure to be exciting, this series could easily come down to a game five, with either team taking the division series title. With the Cardinals and Dodgers both having amazing teams, it’s basically a coin flip for which one will move on. But I have to give a slight edge to the Dodgers — however slight an edge it may be.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 10th)

Angels Vs. Tigers

Winner: Angels

As good as the Tigers pitching staff can be, and as bad as the Angels staff can be, it was difficult for me to select the Angels as the winners of the series. But I feel the Angels have a good enough team to beat out the Tigers, should they have any sort of issues scoring runs or pitching well, which I envision them having. Though many people are picking the Tigers to make it to the World Series, with some going as bold with their predictions as to giving them the World Series title, I have that spot reserved for the Angels.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 11th)

Nationals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

Another sure to be great series against two great teams, this is yet again a nearly impossible matchup to predict (as many of them are). If the Nationals end up taking on the Dodgers in the National League Championship series as I’m predicting, the baseball world could be in for some extremely thrilling games. Both teams have good pitching staffs and offenses that can seemingly score at will at times. What it will come down to is which of the teams is hot at the right time. For me, I’m putting my money on the Dodgers.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 21st)

Angels Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Angels

A World Series matchup between the Angels and Dodgers would be incredible for baseball fans everywhere around the country. Not only are the two ballparks a mere thirty miles apart, but this would also be a Fall Classic matchup of two of the best teams in their given divisions. With both the Dodgers and Angels having good lineups, this could be a back and forth series. But regardless of their pitching being an issue, I feel the Angels will find a way to go the distance, coming out on top over the Dodgers.

Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.

2014 MLB Leaders (March 22nd – September 28th)

The 2014 Major League Baseball regular season is in the books. Starting in Australia and ending six months later, this year was one of the most exciting seasons in recent history. But before things begin to heat up with the postseason starting on Tuesday (I’ll be posting my playoff predictions either tomorrow or early Tuesday), I wanted to do one final “latest leaders” post to finalize the season leaders in nearly every hitting and pitching category imaginable. I’ve done one of these on the first day of each month all season long, and therefore wanted to do one final concluding post for 2014.

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

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Four players tied for most (162).

Most At-Bats – Ian Kinsler (684)

Most Hits – Jose Altuve (225)

Highest Average – Jose Altuve (.341)

Highest OBP – Andrew McCutchen (.410)

Highest SLG – Jose Abreu (.581)

Most Runs – Mike Trout (115)

Most Doubles – Jonathan Lucroy (53)

Most Triples – Dee Gordon (12)

Most Home Runs – Nelson Cruz (40)

Most RBI’s – Adrian Gonzalez (116)

Most Base On Balls – Carlos Santana (113)

Most Strikeouts – Ryan Howard (190)

Most Stolen Bases – Dee Gordon (64)

Most Caught Stealing – Billy Hamilton (23)

Most Intentional Base On Balls – Victor Martinez (28)

Most Hit By Pitch – Jon Jay (20)

Most Sacrifice Flies – Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez (11).

Most Total Bases – Mike Trout (338)

Most Extra Base Hits – Mike Trout (84)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Casey McGehee (31)

Most Ground Outs – Ben Revere (284)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (3,136)

Most Plate Appearances – Ian Kinsler (726)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Clayton Kershaw (21)

Most Losses – A.J. Burnett (18)

Best ERA – Clayton Kershaw (1.77)

Most Games Started – Ten players tied for most (34).

Most Games Pitched – Bryan Shaw (80)

Most Saves – Fernando Rodney (48)

Most Innings Pitched – David Price (248.1)

Most Hits Allowed – David Price (230)

Most Runs Allowed – A.J. Burnett (122)

Most Earned Runs Allowed – A.J. Burnett (109)

Most Home Runs Allowed – Marco Estrada (29)

Most Strikeouts – David Price (271)

Most Walks – A.J. Burnett (96)

Most Complete Games – Clayton Kershaw (6)

Most Shutouts – Henderson Alvarez, Rick Porcello and Adam Wainwright (3).

Best Opponent Avg. – Johnny Cueto (.194)

Most Games Finished – Francisco Rodriguez (66)

Most Double Plays Achieved – Dallas Keuchel (36)

Most Wild Pitches – Garrett Richards (22)

Most Balks – Samuel Deduno, Roenis Elias and Franklin Morales (4).

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Scott Feldman (35)

Most Pickoffs – Drew Smyly (7)

Most Batters Faced – David Price (1,009)

Most Pitches Thrown – David Price (3,730)

Derek Jeter Shines In Final Home Game of Career

The Yankees officially fell out of playoff contention on Wednesday, making it just the first time since the 1992-1993 seasons that they have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. But at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, no one cared. There was a far more important reason that 48,613 fans (the most at any game this season) spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to jam pack the ballpark.

The reason was Derek Jeter.

Playing in his first home game in which the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Jeter went into this game knowing it would be his finalUntitled game in New York of his career.

Even with that on his mind, the .313 career hitter at Yankee stadium was still able to block out his emotions for the most part (something he’s been able to do extremely well over his career) and focus on the one thing he’s been concerned about for years — winning.

But things didn’t start off as planned, as the first two batters of the game went deep to give the Orioles a quick two-run lead. Taking the fans from an electric crowd to a somewhat stunned crowd, you still figured this was far from where things would end. Not in Jeter’s final game in the Bronx.

As has happened from stadium to stadium throughout this season, due to his preseason announcement that 2014 would be his final year, Jeter received a standing ovation when he made his way to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. The fans knew this would be one of their final opportunities to thank Jeter for the memories, and they took full advantage of it. But the memory making wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

After working the count a bit, Jeter drove a 3-1 fastball from Kevin Gausman deep to left center, and although everyone immediately thought it was a home run, the ball hit off the wall, allowing Jeter to coast into second with an RBI double — the 544th double, 3,462nd hit and 1,308th RBI of his career. You got the feeling that this was going to be a magical night.

However, the second and third at-bats of the night weren’t much to write home about for Jeter. A weak ground ball which resulted in a a fielder’s choice and a swinging strikeout, respectively, Jeter appeared to be headed for a memorable but fairly uneventful evening as the game rolled on.

But things would quickly change for The Captain.

Coming up with the bases loaded in a 2-2 ballgame for his fourth time at the plate, Jeter grounded to fellow short stop, J.J. Hardy, who made a wide throw to second base, allowing two runs to score on the throwing error. The score became 4-2, Yankees, with Jeter being responsible for two of the Yankees’ four runs. A sacrifice fly by Brian McCann then took the score up to 5-2, which is where things stood when the game moved into the ninth inning.

Before the game even began, many people speculated as to when Derek Jeter would be removed from the game. Many felt it would be with one or two outs in the top of the ninth, but the chance to replace him never occurred. Yankees’ closer, David Robertson, came on and gave up a two-run home run to Adam Jones, followed by a solo shot by Steve Pearce, and just like that the game was tied.

But no one seemed to panic as they normally would.

One look at the lineup card showed that Jeter was due up third in the bottom half.

After a single by Jose Pirela to lead off the bottom of the ninth (Pirela was promptly replaced by a pinch runner), Brett Gardner bunted the runner to second, bringing up Derek Jeter in a tie ballgame with one out.

Wasting no time, Jeter took the first pitch of the at-bat the opposite way into right field, bringing around the game winning run — the first walk off hit for Jeter since June of 2007. With everything having to go exactly right, there’s absolutely no better way the game could’ve ended for Derek FarewellJeter.

He’s a legend — simple as that.

Going down as one of the best short stops in history — right up there with Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., etc. — Derek Jeter will be remembered forever.

Not only as one of the greatest to ever play his position, not only as one of the greatest Yankees to play the game, but also as one of the greatest human beings to play the sport. Putting together a near spotless career on and off the field, few will argue that you will never see a player quite like Derek Jeter ever again.

And the fans let Jeter know it when he walked back onto the field after getting the game winning hit. Joined by fellow Yankees legends, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, among others, Jeter took the time to thank the fans for their support, tipping his cap before taking off down the dugout steps and through the tunnel for the final time of his career.

Playing his entire twenty year career for the Yankees, the first ballot Hall of Famer didn’t have a whole lot to say after the game. As has been the case over his career, Jeter never says more than he wants to say. But he did let his emotions show through a bit, tearing up a bit at times. When asked what he would miss most, Jeter responded, “Everything. But most importantly, I’m going to miss the fans. They’re what made this special”.

The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, fourteen time All-Star, five time World Series champion, and sixth place player on the all-time hit list accomplished nearly everything he ever dreamed of doing on a baseball field. Growing up, all Jeter ever dreamed of was being the short stop for the Yankees, and he was able to do just that. Dreams really do come true.

With that being his ultimate goal, Jeter made it official after the game that he will never again play short stop, saying he’s going to play in the final three games of the year up in Boston out of respect for the fans, but merely as the designated hitter.

As such, Jeter will undoubtedly get a standing ovation each and every time he steps to the plate up at Fenway park until his final at-bat occurs on Sunday. For a New York Yankee to get that type of respect from rival Red Sox fans, you know he had a truly remarkable career. As he always does, Derek Jeter put it best on Thursday night, simply stating, “I’ve lived the dream.”

Several Teams On the Outside Looking In

Inevitably each and every Major League Baseball season a handful of teams fail to live up to expectations placed on them at the start of the year. Whether a team simply doesn’t play to the best of their ability, or if it’s injuries that keeps them from performing well, a few teams always end up short of where they were projected to finish the year.

The Diamondback’s, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays are all examples of that from the 2014 season. People from all over the baseball world selected theRangers majority of those teams to make solid pushes at the postseason, but all of them but the Rays are going to finish dead last in their division (the Rays will finish fourth in the American League east). Truly disappointing endings for what were supposed to be promising teams.

On the flip side, a few teams that no one saw coming always go on a major run in any given year, passing big time teams, and leaving many people scratching their heads as to how they’re doing it.

But while the winning streaks of underdog teams are always exciting, a lot of those type of teams can’t keep up their torrid runs for an extended period of time, subsequently falling back down to their normal levels, and missing the playoffs.

For the Marlins, Brewers and Yankees, they were those type of teams this season. No one saw them doing much of anything with the rosters they had going into the season, but they each went on runs at one point or another this season, proving a bunch of people wrong. None more so than the Brewers, who ended up being one of the biggest rise and fall team in years.

After leading the National League central division for 150 days of the season, the Brewers went into a major, major slump. A slump that caused them to plummet through the standings, currently sitting five games back of the second Wild Card spot. With under a one percent chance of making the postseason according to MLB.com, the Brewers’ year is all but over, despite their great efforts.

The Indians and Mariners are a couple of teams that are still in the race for the second Wild Card but are likely going to miss out, even after great runs this year gave their fans something to get excited about. Given under an eight percent chance of the postseason, it’s going to take an unprecedented string of events for either of them to make it in. But as has been proven time and time again with baseball, anything can happen.

Recapping My 2014 MiLB Baseball Season

Last year I did a post at the end of the 16 games I spent out at a baseball park, recapping my 2013 MiLB and MLB season. Unfortunately, this time around, I wasn’t able to make it to any MLB games, however, with the 2014 MiLB season now over, I wanted to post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year, nonetheless. In all, I managed to make it to 20 baseball games this season. It was a great year, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

This was my first professional baseball game of 2014 (I attended a college baseball game, with Carlos Rodon on the mound, earlier in the year), and the first since the DBAP underwent a multimillion dollar offseason overhaul. For this particular game, I was looking to get autographs from as many of the visiting Gwinnett Braves as I could, with my hopes being highest that I could get one from their top prospect at the time, Christian Bethancourt.

Not only did I succeed in getting an auto from Bethancourt, but I also got one from Jose Constanza, Tommy La Stella and Joey Terdoslavich as well:

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April 9th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This particular game was absolutely terrible in terms of autographs. While there were several players I was hoping to get, I was only successful in getting one auto, coming from the White Sox’ top prospect, Matt Davidson, as the remainder of the players were all “in a hurry” and didn’t sign:

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(If I could only get one, Davidson is the one I wanted the most.)

April 19th — Myrtle Beach Pelicans Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

While the visiting Blue Rocks had several top prospects, the Pelicans had even more at the time I visited Myrtle Beach, and thus, I tried to get autos from their side. I was able to get two autographs from Joey Gallo (he hit 40 home runs last season, and followed that up with an encore of 42 homers this year) and Nick Williams, as well as one auto from Chris Bostick, Hanser Alberto and Cody Buckel:

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I also received a game used bat from Nick Williams, which he shattered in half (the break is on the back) during the game:

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April 27th — Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons

I attended this game with the sole purpose of getting autographs from the Durham Bulls, since Scranton wasn’t that great of a team at the time, except for a few players. I wound up getting seven total autographs, coming from Kevin Kiermaier (the blank auto card), Mikie Mahtook, Jerry Sands, Wilson Betemit, Hak-Ju Lee, Enny Romero and C.J. Riefenhauser:

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May 4th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

It was Star Wars night, but despite the awesome looking jerseys the Bulls were wearing, I couldn’t have cared less (I’m, obviously, not a fan of Star Wars). Unfortunately, autographing wasn’t too successful, as I only managed to get a single autograph, coming from Jerry Sands:

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(An interesting side note: Trevor Bauer — an Indians’ top pitching prospect — was in the stands charting the game, but although I spotted him and was prepared, he didn’t sign for anyone.)

May 23rd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Though I’d already seen Myrtle Beach once this season, I attended this game to get another autograph from Joey Gallo, who had 18 home runs on the season heading into the game. I succeeded in getting Gallo three times, as well as a couple of autos from Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Chris Bostick, Cody Buckel, and one from Zach Cone:

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In addition, I got a 4×6 photo signed by the Rangers’ 2013 number one draft pick, Alex Gonzalez:

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May 28th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

The Royals’ prospects on this given team weren’t the best, but they were good enough to warrant a trip out to the ballpark. I ended up getting two autographs from Hunter Dozier, Raul Mondesi, Bubba Starling and Zane Evans (the blank auto cards), as well as an autographed 4×6 of Sean Manaea and Christian Binford:

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June 2nd — Durham Bulls Vs. Leigh High Valley Ironpigs

I ultimately went to this game because it happened to be a day game, and I love day games, but I also attended it because one of the top prospects in baseball, Maikel Franco, was playing for the visiting Ironpigs. When all was said and done, I succeeded in getting Franco’s autograph, as well as an autographed 4×6 from Durham Bulls’ pitcher Mike Montgomery:

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June 4th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

This was the second game in three days that I had gone to, but with the talented Dash team visiting, it was worth it. I got two autographs from White Sox’ top prospect Courtney Hawkins, as well as a single auto from Keenyn Walker, Tyler Danish, Jacob May, Tim Anderson and Francellis Montas (on a 4×6):

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June 6th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

The third game in a five day time frame — I headed out to this game simply because of the great team the Red Sox had, with six of their top ten prospects as part of the roster, four of which were part of the top 100. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Not too many players signed, and I only got one autograph from Garin Cecchini and Mookie Betts, as well as two from Travis Shaw:

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June 22nd — Tennessee Smokies Vs. Chattanooga Lookouts

The original plan was to visit the Smokies for a game as part of a family vacation, regardless of whether or not Cubs’ uber prospect Kris Bryant was a part of the team or not. However, when I heard the news mere days before that Bryant had been called up to Triple-A, it was still disappointing. Even so, I had a great time, and got an autograph from both Dustin Geiger (on my ticket) and Corey Black:

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July 14th — Triple-A Home Run Derby

For just the second time in my life, and the first time since the MLB home run derby back in 2012, I found myself out at a home run derby. This time the derby saw some of Triple-A baseball’s top sluggers, instead of major leaguers, but it was still an impressive event. I didn’t do too great in terms of autographs, but I hadn’t expected to, really — getting just two autos from Nick Franklin and Andrew Susac, along with three from Elih Villanueva:

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July 15th — Triple-A PCL & IL Autograph Session

There was no game played, being that it was merely an autograph session, so I’m not including it in the number of games played statistic in the numbers section down below; but what an enjoyable time it was. I was able to get an auto from pretty much everyone I wanted on both teams, going home with 31 total autographs.

I received a couple of cards signed by Jonathan Galvez, Ben Paulsen and Josh Phegley, along with a single card signed by Kyle Hendricks, Joc Pederson, Stephen Piscotty, Chris Taylor, Wilson Betemit, Matt Hague, Tommy Layne and Steven Souza Jr:

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I also got a home run derby program signed by Francisco Pena, Allan Dykstra and Mike Jacobs . . . . :

DSCN7392. . . . in addition to individually autographed 4×6’s from Max Stassi and Jesus Aguilar (top two below); along with three All-Star logos collectively signed by Spencer Patton, Paulo Orlando, A.J. Atcher, Phil Gosselin, Andy Oliver, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Ivan De Jesus, Ezequiel Carrera, Jose Pirela, Felix Perez and Jhonatan Solano:

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July 16th — Triple-A All-Star Game

Due to the numerous autographs I had gotten at the previous day’s autograph session, there weren’t a lot of players I cared to get an autograph from at the All-Star game itself. So, I didn’t really try all that hard to get any. The only player I attempted to get an auto from was Joc Pederson, but apparently he remembered me from the autograph session the day before, because he signed for everyone but me, skipping over me twice.

It was still a fun time, which you can read about HERE.

July 26th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

After Mike Hessman broke the all-time International League home run record back in late June, hitting his 259th IL homer, and 404th career minor league home run, I really wanted to get his auto. Thankfully, I was successful in getting Hessman’s autograph on a 4×6, in addition to getting a single auto from Danny Worth and Leon Durham, along with three autographs from former big league slugger Larry Parrish:

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August 10th — Durham Bulls Vs. Buffalo Bisons

With Wil Myers rehabbing in Durham, I was looking to get an autograph from him, and ended up getting him on a card and a 4×6 photo:

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Then, after game one of the double header — which was being played due to rain the night before — I got Daniel Norris on a card (Norris pitched a 10 strikeout game in his Triple-A debut that day), as well as Kevin Pillar (on two cards), Brett Wallace and A.J. Jimenez:

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August 12th — Winston-Salem Dash Vs. Lynchburg Hillcats

I went to this game with one purpose in mind — getting Carlos Rodon’s autograph. After being unsuccessful twice earlier in the year while he was still a member of N.C. State, I wanted to get the 2014 draft’s third overall pick to sign a card for me. Despite a threat of rain, I was able to get Rodon like I had hoped, in addition to a couple of autographs from former big leaguers Luis Salazar and Gary Ward; along with a 4×6 photo signed by Keon Barnum:

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August 13th — Greensboro Grasshoppers Vs. Lakewood Blue Claws

There wasn’t nearly as much talent at this game as there was the night before, but with it being a day game, I headed out to a ballgame (this time in Greensboro) for the second time in around 17 hours. Though I wasn’t really targeting anyone in particular, I was able to get three decent players to sign for me, being Domingo German, J.T. Riddle and Sean Townsley:

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August 17th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This was the second time this season that I had seen the Knights play, but after doing so poorly with them back in April (only getting one autograph) I was looking to redeem myself. Although I didn’t get White Sox’ top prospect Micah Johnson like I wanted, I managed to get seven total autographs, including two from Michael Taylor and one from Andre Rienzo, Richard Dotson, Chris Beck, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien:

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August 20th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

Around a week before this game, I was looking forward to seeing highly ranked pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. However, Bundy unfortunately injured himself shortly before the Frederick Keys came to town, and therefore didn’t make the trip. To make matters worse, most of the few players I wanted an autograph from were not there either, for whatever reason. Thankfully, though, one of the biggest reasons I attended the game was to pick up a previously promised bat from Orioles’ prospect Adrian Marin, which I was able to get after the game had concluded:

DSCN7406(It’s hard to see, since there happens to be a baseball mark in the location, but Marin signed the bat in silver sharpie.)

September 5th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

This was the second time I had seen the Clippers play this season, but after doing so poorly the last time, I wanted to try for a few players again. In addition to trying to get some players that I had missed before, both Francisco Lindor and James Ramsey were newcomers to the team since the last time I saw them, so I was looking to get an autograph from them as well. Unfortunately, Lindor only signed autographs for a few people, myself not included. Even so, I got an autographed card from James Ramsey and Nick Maronde, as well as an autographed 4×6 photo of Giovanny Urshela:

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September 11th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

In what was going to be my final game of the season, I was really looking to make this game a memorable one. With six of the Red Sox’ top ten prospects on the team, and with Cuban phenom Rusney Castillo also a part of the roster, it was sure to be a great chance to grab some great players’ autographs. Mere minutes after entering the stadium I was able to get Castillo to sign a photo for me, and before the game began I got Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero to autograph a card for me as well.

After the game, I did something I’d never done before, and — after it took a tremendous amount of time — will likely never do again: I stuck around outside the ballpark to try for a few more autographs as the players left. Despite the frustration from the extremely long wait, I ended up getting Brian Johnson to sign a couple cards, as well as Bryce Brentz to sign one, before leaving the ballpark for the last time until next season:

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2014 MiLB season:

Games attended: 20

Win-loss record for the home team: 14-6

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 99-77

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 20

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 16

Total autographs: 136

Game used gear: Nick Williams broken bat & Adrian Marin unbroken bat

Total miles traveled to & from games: 3,170

Jacob deGrom Dominates, Adds to His R.O.Y. Case

Although it didn’t result in a victory for the Mets, Jacob deGrom — given a no decision in a 6-5 Mets loss — was as good Monday night as he’s been all season long. Striking out the first eight batters he faced to start the game, deGrom was not only dominant, but he also made some history, setting the Mets’ franchise record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a game.

Jacob+deGrom+New+York+Yankees+v+New+York+Mets+MZuwVH-4LtHlUnfortunately, deGrom didn’t surpass the MLB modern day record of eight straight batters retired to kick off an outing, set back in 1986, merely tying it. But even so, deGrom showed why he’s regarded by many as one of the top young up-and-coming pitching stars in the game today.

Now with a season ERA of 2.68 over the course of 21 starts — 7 of which were scoreless outings — and 134 strikeouts on the year, the 26-year-old deGrom is quickly becoming a household name.

Once the Mets get their ace, Matt Harvey, back in 2015 — who reportedly topped out at 95 on his fastball with great movement on his curveball in a simulated game at Citi Field on Monday — they should have a very formidable rotation, with deGrom as their strong number two starter behind Harvey.

But before all of that happens, people are focusing their attention on the present, placing Jacob deGrom as a top candidate for 2014 National League Rookie of the Year. However, while deGrom has been good and should be good for years to come, I’m not fully convinced the award will be his by a landslide as some are suggesting.

The stats deGrom has posted this season have been impressive, racking up a 28 inning scoreless streak before allowing three earned runs in the seventh inning on Monday, but an outfielder for the Reds by the name of Billy Hamilton is sure to give deGrom a run (no pun intended) for his money.

hamiltonThough Hamilton is batting in the mid .200’s — not something you want out of your leadoff hitter — he’s really been a big part of an otherwise struggling Reds team.

While Hamilton has cooled off drastically as of late after hitting at a fairly high clip for a portion of the season, his 56 stolen bases and fantastic defense in center are sure to earn him a number of votes for the Rookie of the Year in the National League.

Citing the fact that Hamilton wouldn’t be a candidate if not for his stolen bases, it’s certainly understandable to find yourself thinking deGrom has the edge in the race for the award. Neither side is truly the right or wrong answer, as both Hamilton and deGrom have good arguments both for and against.

In the end, however, the final handful of games of the season will tell the tale. Whichever player has the stronger finish will likely gain the edge when it comes to the voting for who deserves the title of Rookie of the Year.

Yankees Blow Win & Chances of Making the Playoffs

Any shot the New York Yankees had of making the playoffs this season — however small a shot it may have been — was all but officially eliminated on Sunday night at Camden Yards. A blown save by their recently “overused” closer, David Robertson, resulted in a walk off hit by former Yankee, Kelly Johnson, trimming the Orioles’ magic number to win the division down to three, and the Yankees’ elimination number down to a mere two.

usatsi7944843While the Yankees are technically still in the race, with their Wild Card elimination number standing at ten games, it’s going to take an unprecedented run like baseball has never seen before for the Yankees to pull off the near miracle of making the postseason.

Just 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card as recently as August 27th, things have simply gone downhill for them ever since.

Now five games back of the second Wild Card, which the Royals currently hold, the Yankees surely aren’t going to have an easy finish to the season that would allow for a possible push at the Wild Card, especially with the struggling team they possess.

Playing all American League east teams for their remaining fourteen games — Rays for three, Blue Jays for four, Orioles for four, and Red Sox for three — it’s still going to be fun to watch how they finish out 2014.

It certainly would have been nice for Derek Jeter to be able to play in one final playoff run, having won five career World Championships, but it’s unfortunately not the way his career will end. With the Yankees losing three of four games in their recent series against the Orioles, the Bronx Bombers currently hold just over a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MLB.com; further securing the fact that Jeter’s amazing career will come to an end September 28th at Fenway Park, and not sometime in October as was once hoped.

But while the Yankees aren’t seemingly playoff bound, and although they’re somewhat of an overall disaster, and overlooking the subpar numbers that Derek Jeter has been posting this season, make sure you take the time to watch a Yankees game or two before the end of the season rolls around. The Yankees will be back in 2015, likely stronger than ever, with some offseason additions that will once again make them competitive in the division. But the one thing they’re guaranteed not to have is Derek Jeter.

That’s one element of the Yankees that you need to enjoy right now.

There’s not much more time left to do so.

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