2016 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 2016 Hall of Fame ballot has 32 players on it, with 15 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 four on my ballot. Here are the four players I feel should make it into the Hall of Fame in 2016 (not necessarily the players I think will get elected) when the official announcement is made on Wednesday:

The first player on my ballot is Mike Piazza.

New York Mets - 2003 Season File Photos

Mike Piazza is facing his fourth time around on the Hall of Fame ballot, but after making the jump up to 69.9 percent of the vote last time around (75 percent is needed for induction), I think Piazza will finally make it in this year. In my mind, Piazza is hands down a Hall of Famer. While he doesn’t have the most impressive statistics (2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI’s and 427 home runs) in baseball history by a long shot, when you compare his numbers against the greatest catchers of all time — many of which are already in Cooperstown — Piazza is right there with the best of them.

Next, I have Tim Raines.

Raines

I’m not sure Tim Raines will ever make it into the Hall of Fame, but I have him on my ballot. There are a number of people who understandably don’t see him as worthy, with him only receiving 55 percent of the voters approval last year, but I think he did enough to make it in. Raines sits fifth all-time on the stolen base list, with the four players ahead of him each holding a spot in Cooperstown. Having blasted just 170 home runs in his career, Raines doesn’t jump off the page as a Hall of Famer, but it’s his 808 stolen bases combined with his 2,605 total hits that make him worthy.

Of the first time appearance players, the first one on my list is Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey Jr.

This is by far the easiest selection of the entire 2016 Hall of Fame class. There is absolutely no way that Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t get into the Hall his first go around. Although there are a number of people who are speculating the notion that Griffey Jr. could possibly become the first player to ever received a unanimous election, I don’t see that happening. There are always a few holdouts who refuse to vote for a player their first time on the ballot for a number of crazy reasons. Even so, Griffey’s 630 career home runs, 1,836 RBI’s and 2,781 hits will inevitably see him making an acceptance speech in July.

The final player on my ballot is Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman

Picking Trevor Hoffman on my ballot is likely the most controversial pick. In my mind, he is a no doubt Hall of Fame player, but there are a number of people who don’t feel that he is worthy — especially his first time on the ballot. But there is one stat that makes him worth the selection: 601 career saves. Hoffman’s 2.87 ERA doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer, given he was a reliever, and he only struck out 1,133 batters over 1,089.1 career innings. But only Mariano Rivera (another future Hall of Fame closer) has more saves than Hoffman. Trevor Hoffman was simply one of the all time best at what he did, and he deserves enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

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, including Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Billy Wagner — 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. Now, I want to hear from you. Of the players on the 2016 ballot, who do you want to see get inducted in July? Cast your vote below for the number of players from the 2016 ballot that you would vote into the Hall of Fame, and feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Blogging Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

As I’ve done for the past several years, I wanted to take the time to go over the main things I’m hoping to accomplish, blogging wise, throughout the coming year. All but one of the goals listed are basically the same as 2015, but I wanted to post them anyway just to give everyone an idea of what to expect in 2016.

The five main resolutions/goals I have for this blog in 2016 are as follows:

1. Blog at least once every 5 days:

This is the exact same goal number one that I set in 2015, but I feel it’s one of the most important ones. If I were to go more than five days in between entries, this blog wouldn’t be nearly as up-to-date as I would like it to be, or as I feel it should be. But any more often than once every five days on average would make things way too stressful for me to even want to attempt to tackle. For that reason, I’m keeping it at a maximum of five days. That number worked well in 2015, and I feel it will work equally as well in 2016.

2. Post 100 blog entries:

I didn’t succeed in reaching this number last year, but I’m going to make it a point to hit 100 somehow in 2016. It just seems like a nice round number. I was able to publish a record 128 blog posts in 2014, but I never feel that I will be able to come close to that again. In 2015, the number I hit was 95. That’s a lot of entries in a year, but I would like to hit 100 this year. Due to me being extremely busy throughout most of the year, I don’t have the time to dedicate to writing nearly as often as I used to, but I still wanted to keep this blog going. (For now, at least.)

3. Get more views than 2015:

My visitor numbers saw a huge drop in 2015 from 2014, so I feel this will be an easy goal to reach. If I can blog as often as I want to, I think my visitor numbers should also increase, but that’s out of my control. All I can do is write the posts and hope people continue to come back to read them. One of the things I would like to do and am planning to try to do is to write about things that aren’t necessarily being talked about by the bigger media markets. A lot of times I simply recycle news on here, but I’d like to have a few more original posts in 2016.

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

In 2015, this was a three-post-blogging-streak. This year, however, I’ve raised it to four. Likely, this will occur around the All-Star break when there is a ton to write about, as it has in the past. However, it could be any time throughout the year. Getting posts up on back-to-back days is somewhat difficult, and doing so on numerous days in a row is obviously even harder. But I always like to post entries on multiple days in a row each year, and I feel confident that I can reach my goal of four days in a row at least once, if not twice, this year.

5. Reply to every comment that is left:

This has been one of my goals since this blog was first developed. Whenever a comment is left — being either a comment or a question — I like to always write the person back. It’s my way of letting the reader know that I’m paying attention and am interested in what they have to say. After all, it’s the readers that make this blog worth producing, and I feel that replying back to every comment is the least that I can do. This is always the easiest goal of the five for me to accomplish, but I feel like making it a goal once again anyway.

So, there you have it. My top five blogging resolutions/goals for 2016.

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 2016 is going to be an exciting year.

Last Blog Post Until 2016

This was originally going to be my last blog post ever. I had decided back in August that I wouldn’t be continuing this blog into another year and would end things with a final, definitive post in December. But things have changed. I have several interviews with some amazingly talented ballplayers already conducted, and I don’t want those to not be published. In addition, the closer the final day got, I found myself not wanting to give up blogging. That day is coming (likely in 2016), but that point hasn’t arrived just yet.

With all of that said — 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 five days in 2015, post 100+ entries, get more views than the year before, go on a christmas3-post-blogging-streak and reply to every comment that was left.

I was successful in blogging at the set pace, posting three blog posts on back-to-back-to-back days and replying to every comment, but I only wound up posting 95 entries this year and didn’t surpass my total views from last year. Even so, I think it was a rather successful year of blogging.

After another long, tedious blogging year, this will be my final post until 2016 rolls around (as the title suggests). 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 2016.

My first post of the new year will be my blogging resolutions/goals for 2016, 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 five 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.

To conclude the year, I just want to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year, and throughout its nearly five 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 2016 the best year yet — even better than 2015 — 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 2016.

Will 2016 Finally be the Year for the White Sox?

The Washington Nationals were hands down the most disappointing team of the 2015 season, but the White Sox weren’t all that far behind. After picking up Jeff Samardzija last offseason, along with David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to go along with their already decent rotation and lineup, the White Sox were given a great shot byLose many people to make it back to the playoffs (at least via a Wild Card spot) for the first time since 2008.

But a number of things happened that kept the White Sox from ultimately reaching the postseason.

Samardzija, who had posted a stellar 2.99 ERA in 2014 and was being counted on to help the White Sox win a lot of games, was simply a bust this past season, plain and simple. Posting an 11-13 record with a 4.96 ERA, Samardzija did little at all to help the Sox. (Even so, the Giants have signed him to a 5-year, 90 million dollar contract.)

Their other big pickups for 2015 didn’t fare all that much better. David Robertson posted a decent 3.41 ERA, but wasn’t the dominant closer he’s been in the past. In addition, Adam LaRoche hit only 12 homers and batted .207, and Melky Cabrera, while he had a decent year, hitting .273 with 12 homers and 77 RBI’s, didn’t do quite as good as many felt he would.

It wasn’t just the newcomers who performed poorly, however. Of all the players on the roster who played in a full season worth of games, only Jose Abreu (Abreu’s 30 homers and 101 RBI’s were the only true stellar stats of any White Sox player in 2015), Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera hit above .270. With such a poor offensive showing, the Sox placed 22nd in all of baseball with a mere .250 team average.

On the flip side, the Sox 3.98 team ERA wasn’t terrible, but it was still only good enough for 14th best. When you have a lineup that’s hitting on all cylinders, you can make up for a lack of dominant pitching. But when you have a lineup perform like the White Sox did in 2015, a near four team ERA on the year simply doesn’t cut it.

But there is a bit of hope for the White Sox heading into next season. Despite losing Jeff Samardzija to the Giants, they still have Jose Quintana who posted a team best 3.36 ERA in 2015, as well as their Ace, Chris Sale, who recorded a 3.41 ERA. Rookie Carlos Rodon should also be a big piece of the puzzle next season, as while he posted a 3.75 ERA in 2015, he has all the talent in the world to become a dominant starting pitcher.

Furthermore, the White Sox have made several key additions already this offseason that will inevitably help improve their offense immediately beginning on Opening Day 2016. The pickup of catcher Alex Avila will be a nice addition to Fraziertheir lineup, as should the trade they made for Brett Lawrie. But there is one key player the White Sox acquired this past week that has many people abuzz around the baseball world.

In a three-team, seven-player trade on Wednesday, the White Sox picked up Todd Frazier from the Reds to man the hot corner for them in 2016. In return, the White Sox sent Frankie Montas, Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson to the Dodgers who then sent Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon to the Reds. All in all, I see it as a good trade for everyone, though the loss of three good prospects could wind up hurting the White Sox down the road.

But the White Sox aren’t concerned with “what may have been” a year or two down the road. They’re focused on right here, right now. The pickup of Frazier, in addition to several other smaller pieces, makes the statement that the White Sox are looking to win in 2016. They certainly have the pieces if all of their players can simply live up to expectations.

As we know, however, that hardly ever happens. Teams who seemingly have everything all figured out are usually are the ones who turn out to be the biggest disappointments. Even so, if the White Sox can make a few more moves to better their team in the several months remaining until the start of the 2016 season, I really like their chances of making it a special year when all is said and done.

Then again, I said that about several teams last season . . . .

Q and A With Luke Weaver

Luke Weaver was drafted by the Cardinals in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, after posting a 2.62 ERA over 16 starts his final year at Florida State University.Weaver

Since the draft, Weaver has been even more remarkable, holding a 2.12 ERA over the course of two seasons of pro ball, including a stunning 1.62 ERA in 2015.

For his efforts this past season, Weaver was chosen to participate in the Arizona Fall League where he continued to work towards being the caliber of pitcher that he’s capable of becoming.

Many believe it won’t be all that long before Weaver makes it to the majors. With the stats he’s posted, it would seem that Weaver is certainly poised to be on the fast track. He holds a good fastball and a changeup that many scouts marvel at, as well as a slider that he’s been working on. If Weaver can continue to put it all together, he should be pitching for St. Louis before all is said and done.

Luke Weaver — top prospect in the Cardinals’ 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 want to say around 5 years old. Those memories are a little blurring. My biggest influence was my dad. He was always there no matter what and spent countless hours helping me get better. It didn’t matter what he had going on, he would always make time for me.

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

I can’t say I ever had one die-hard favorite player. I always enjoyed watching a bunch of players. If I had to say one it would be Juan Pierre. I loved watching him use his speed to make things happen. He’s a low key guy, who is a Christ follower and went about his business the right way. He’s very involved in the community, and is a great role model all the way around.

3.) Back in your college days at FSU, you had the opportunity to pitch for the 2013 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. What was the overall experience of that like? What did you take away from playing with some of the best college talent from around the country?

That experience was amazing. It was such an honor, not only getting to play with some of the best collegiate players out there but to wear the country’s colors. I took a lot away from it. Being able to pick their brains about all kinds of things was really insightful. Getting to mesh with the fun personalities was a blast as well.

4.) You were drafted by the Cardinals in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

That process was exciting but also nerve racking. Not knowing what the future had planned was a moment where I had to rely on God and trust in His plan. It meant a lot that I was able to have my family, fiancé, her family and friends join me in that moment. My thoughts were thoughtless. It was such a surreal moment where reality vanishes for a short period a time and I’m thinking, “Did that just happen?”. Just an awesome night!

5.) Although you can still crank it up when needed, your fastball has seen an overall drop from consistent mid-90’s in early college to lower 90’s now in the minors. How (if at all) has that decrease in velocity impacted your approach when going after hitters?

When you get into professional baseball you learn that it doesn’t matter how hard you throw. There are so many guys who have electric arms, so for hitters it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. I went through a time frame where my velocity dropped due to fatigue from a long season. It’s all back now, but it is something I’ve been working on to see where I am comfortable pitching at; where I can be consistently efficient and have full command of all my pitches. It’s all part of the process to be the best pitcher I can be.

6.) You were selected to participate in the 2015 Arizona Fall League. What type of things did you work on out there to improve as a pitcher moving forward?

I worked on a couple of things. First off trying to get these hitters out. They are super advanced and they make hitting seem like it’s the easier thing out of the two. I’m always trying to work on command, but mainly staying at the bottom of the strike zone. I also worked on a slider that is coming along very nicely and will be a huge boost too for me.

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

Definitely try to steer clear, but if there is one stat that I try to stay attentive to it is walks. Nothing drives me more crazy than walking people.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

I think throwing a lot of strikes and keeping the walks down was a huge part of it. Good things tend to happen when you can stay on top of those two things. I’ve spent a lot of time in bullpens and just playing catch to repeat my mechanics. The more comfortable and less I have to think about those things, the more I can concentrate on throwing it over the plate. [Goals for 2016 are] to continue to glorify God and the platform He has given. None of this is possible without Him. Keep growing as a pitcher and to learn some more as I go. Simple as that. Never a time when you can’t learn something and get better.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Big ‘Modern Family’ guy, but more of a variety than a particular one. [For food] I would go anything Asian. They got the good figured out.

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 them is to have as much fun as possible but make sure you’re working hard along the way. Practice doesn’t make you perfect, it makes you better. Believe in yourself and remember to give God the Glory no matter what.

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Big thanks to Luke Weaver for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @DreamWeava7

Diamondbacks Land Another Impact Pitcher

The Arizona Diamondbacks rattled the baseball world over the weekend when it was announced that they had signed free agent pitcher Zack Greinke to a 6-year, 206 million dollar contract, coming out to over 34 million a season — the most for any player in baseball history. Greinke

With Greinke coming off an incredibly historic year with a mere 1.66 ERA, he was one of the best players available this offseason, so it was no true shock that he was so highly coveted and thus highly paid.

But while that move was a big one for the Diamondbacks, and is sure to help them out in 2016 and beyond, it was another move they made on Tuesday evening that got people truly looking at the D-backs as potential contenders in 2016.

It was announced that the Diamondbacks have acquired Shelby Miller from the Braves in exchange for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson. Although they finished third in the division in 2015, the D-backs are ultimately saying they want to break out as frontrunners in 2016.

Miller’s 6-17 win loss record from last season is one of the most deceptive you’ll ever see. Due to a major lack in run support, Miller wasn’t able to pick up a lot of victories, but he was impressive. Posting a 3.02 ERA over 205.1 innings pitched in which he struck out 171 batters, Miller will undoubtedly give the D-backs a nice one-two punch with Greinke.

While picking up Miller means losing Ender Inciarte — a good outfielder –and Aaron Blair — a highly coveted pitching prospect — those players aren’t all that much to lose in the long term. But including Dansby Swanson in the trade is a MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Philliesmove that many people feel they may regret when all is said and done.

Swanson was the number one overall draft pick in the 2015 draft, and is seen by many people as a future All-Star caliber shortstop. While the D-backs are obviously in a win-now mindset — picking up Miller certainly pushes them towards that — it will be interesting to see whether they come to regret the loss of Swanson down the road.

However, the Diamondbacks are set up nicely. But with them having added some key pieces, they need to make sure they capitalize on them all.

With a rotation that includes Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin as the top three, as well as a lineup with a lot of thump lead by All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the D-backs could be in business in 2016.

But they wouldn’t be the first team in history to have all the pieces only to see things not work out. Only time will tell how 2016 will pan out.

2015 Arizona Fall League TTM Requests Update

Around two months ago I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during the Arizona Fall League. At the end of the post I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent, I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up. Of the seven total TTM’s I sent off, I’ve received three of them back, with them being from:

LEWIS BRINSON — TEXAS RANGERS ORGANIZATION

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A former first round draft pick back in 2012, and currently ranked as the number 65 prospect in all of baseball, Lewis Brinson has a very bright future ahead of him in the minds of many people around the baseball world. At just 21 years old, Brinson has zipped through the minors, making it all the way to Triple-A in 2015. This past season, Brinson combined to hit .332 to go along with 20 homers, 69 RBI’s and 18 stolen bases. Brinson truly has a number of tools that will ultimately take him to the big leagues as soon as 2016.

A.J. REED — HOUSTON ASTROS ORGANIZATION

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A.J. Reed had one of the best seasons, if not THE best season, in all of minor league baseball in 2015. As if hitting .340 over the course of 523 at-bats isn’t enough to make you look at Reed as a future big league, he also was able to blast 34 homers while racking up 127 runs batted in. Another future star player in a long line of Astros players that has included George Springer and Carlos Correa in recent history, Reed will likely be making an impact for Houston in the very near future. He will definitely be worth keeping an eye on as the years go on.

AUSTIN MEADOWS — PITTSBURGH PIRATES ORGANIZATION

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As the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Austin Meadows has long been seen as a future major impact player at the big league level. Between two levels in 2015, Meadows hit a cool .310 to go along with seven homers and 55 RBI’s in addition to 21 stolen bases. While injuries have held him back in the past, Meadows can really light things up when fully healthy. While the Pirates’ outfield is currently well stocked, if Meadows becomes the player he’s capable of, he could be forcing their hand in the next few years.

I still have autograph requests out for Josh Hader, Brett Phillips, Dominic Smith and Alex Reyes. When/if I get any of those back I’ll be sure to post another update. Although there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.

What Can We Expect from the Red Sox In 2016?

When the Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, not many people predicted too much from them the next year, but they went on to win the 2013 World Series. Following their championship, there were a lot of expectations out of the Sox in 2014, but they once again finished dead last in their division. With Boston not faring any better this David Pricepast season, there is little guarantee as to where they will wind up when the 2016 season comes to a close.

But the Red Sox made a big splash in the free agent market on Tuesday evening, acquiring David Price for a record breaking contract. Price was signed to a seven year, 217 million dollar contract, locking him up in Boston through the 2022 season, and possibly for the rest of his career, with him being 30 years old.

The mega deal makes Price the highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history, beating out Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal. His annual value of 31 million a season is over four times what Price earned in 2015, so it is undoubtedly a happy day for David Price.

But it’s also a happy day for Boston and their fans. While there are plenty of people who would say the Red Sox vastly overpaid for Price (I could easily see anyone making that case), there is no doubt that Price, who holds a 1.95 career ERA at Fenway Park, will ultimately help the Sox push towards the playoffs after another disappointing season in 2015.

One of the things that held the Red Sox back last season was their lack of good starting pitching. Their collective team ERA of 4.31 was 25th in all of baseball in 2015, with none of their starters having good, consistent years. Price, who spent the first six seasons of his career with Tampa before heading to Detroit in 2014 and the Blue Jays for the second half of 2015, holds a 3.09 ERA and went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA last season alone. He will definitely prove to be a bettsbogaertsvaluable addition.

On the flip side of things, the Sox offense was somewhat under the radar decent. They were able to post a .265 team average on the year, which tied them for fifth best in all of baseball. If their additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval from last offseason can have bounce back seasons, combined with further contributions from their young stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, they could have a special season.

With David Ortiz already announcing that he will be retiring after the 2016 season, it should be interesting to see how the Red Sox perform next year. They have a few more things that need to be addressed to help their club overall for next season, but I like the signing of Price, as well as the pickup of Craig Kimbrel earlier this offseason, and the general direction that those moves take them.

No matter what happens, acquiring David Price for the next seven years is sure to make for some exciting seasons to come up in Boston.

Blogging Plan for the Final Month of 2015

It seems like just yesterday that I posted my first blog post of 2015 way back in January, however, the month of December is truly only a few short days away. But just because the year is winding down doesn’t mean my blogging is.

While the month of December is never an exceedingly busy blogging month, there are some things I’m planning to write about.

The MLB Winter Meetings are quickly approaching, set to take place from December 6th to the 10th in Nashville, Tennessee. With some of the biggest offseason transactions usually taking place during those meetings, there is sure to be a ton to write about as teams begin reshaping their teams into what they hope will be 2016 contenders.

Following that, at some point (the date hasn’t been announced), the GIBBY Awards (Greatness In Baseball Yearly) are due to be announced, though I haven’t seen anything about that yet. That seems rather odd, with there usually being something about it written several weeks in advance. But as far as I know, the awards are still being handed out. If so, I’ll be sure to post something about it.

Most of December, I’ll just be writing about what seems relevant at the particular point in time, but the one thing I know I’ll be doing, other than what I previously mentioned, is interviews. I posted my first 2015 offseason interview last weekend, but there are two more already complete, with there to be more in the works, theoretically. Those two interviews will likely be posted this coming month.

Other than that, everything is up in the air. You’ll just have to check back to see what I decide to write about.

Q and A With Ryan O’Hearn

Ryan O’Hearn was drafted by the Royals in the 8th round of the 2014 draft, after batting .292 with eight home runs and 44 RBI’s in his final season at Sam Houston State College.

RoyalsSince the draft, O’Hearn has seen his power numbers explode in a big way. In O’Hearn’s very first professional game in 2014 with the Idaho Fall Chukars, he went 5-5, including a home run in his very first at-bat on his way to winning MVP honors with the Pioneer League, with a .361 average to go along with 13 homers and 54 RBI’s in 64 games.

In his most recent 2015 season, O’Hearn saw a substantial drop in his batting average, but still managed a decent .263 on the year between two levels. What stands out the most, however, is O’Hearn’s continued power surge, hitting 27 blasts over the course of the year.

Many question whether or not O’Hearn’s amazing power increase can be sustained as he climbs the levels of the Royals’ minor league system, but I see no reason to believe it won’t be able to be replicated in 2016 and beyond. If O’Hearn can keep posting the same type of numbers, it’s only a matter of time before he’s making an impact at Kauffman Stadium for the Royals.

Ryan O’Hearn — top prospect in the Royals’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I have been interested in baseball as long as I can remember — from little league all the way up, it’s been constant. My older brother played, so I remember going to all of his games in high school, and my dad loves baseball, so we were always at a baseball field. My dad was definitely the biggest influence growing up. He gave me every opportunity to play and be around the game.

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

My favorite baseball player growing up was Josh Hamilton. I always loved watching him hit, and wanted to hit like him! Also, his story is pretty amazing. It shows how faith can get you through anything.

3.) You were drafted by the Royals in the 8th round of the 2014 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is unlike anything else; everything you’ve worked for and dreamed about your whole life comes down to one moment. For me, getting drafted was as motivating as it was exciting. For one, the 8th round isn’t where I wanted to be, and just getting drafted isn’t the goal. So when I got picked, I just thanked God and the people who helped me along the way, and I took it as an incredible opportunity. I was at my house with my family. It was definitely an amazing day and moment that I will never forget.

4.) After hitting a combined 11 home runs in your three seasons at college, you’ve topped that number in each of your first two pro seasons, hitting 13 in 2014 and 27 in 2015. What changes (if any) have you made to your game that you attribute to the power increase you’ve seen?

My homerun numbers in college have a lot to do with the ballpark that I played in. Also, I played in the worst time for homeruns in college baseball. Both the new bats and raised seam baseballs didn’t help — at least all that is what I tell myself [laughs]. With that being said, I just really think I matured physically and just kind of figured it out in short season. That was a time that I really gained a lot of confidence in myself as a player and learned a lot about myself. When I was drafted, the Royals director of scouting, Lonnie Goldberg, just told me to be myself and let it fly. They gave me the freedom to really just get after it and develop as a player.

5.) On the topic of power hitting, you won the 2015 South Atlantic League home run derby during their All-Star festivities. Did you approach the derby with any different of a swing than you do in an at-bat during the season? After the derby, did you notice a negative change in your swing that many big league home run derby participants complain about?

The home run derby was a lot of fun. I had never been in one before. During batting practice every day, I usually turn it loose and hit homeruns in my last round, so I didn’t really change my swing at all. I think the trick is to not get too pull happy so you can create backspin. For me, it didn’t have any effect on my swing after at all. It was just a fun event that I was fortunate enough to win.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road is probably the biggest adjustment going from college to professional baseball. It’s not easy getting used to overnight bus rides and living out of a suitcase. There’s no doubt that the minor league baseball season is a grind. It’s not glamorous, and getting through those long road trips will test you. For me, bus rides are a good time to read my bible, listen to music and sleep as much as possible.

7.) You made it to the Mills Cup finals as part of the Carolina League playoffs with the Wilmington Blue Rocks this past season. Although you ultimately didn’t pull out a championship, how would you describe the overall playoff experience?

Playing in the playoffs is an awesome experience, and I think it really helps to develop you as a player. The playoffs aren’t easy to come by; many players and coaches never get to experience that. Also, that helps prepare you to play in the postseason in the big leagues, which is really why you play the game in the first place!

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

I think that there were positives and negatives for me in 2015. Obviously, as a first baseman RBI’s and homeruns are very important. So as far as that goes, I’m pretty happy with that. Now, with that being said, there is always room for improvement! I think that I am just now starting to really figure out my swing and learning how to be a good hitter. Defensively, I want to be an asset on defense, and continue to get better in that area as well. I just hope that in 2016 I can continue to grow as a player and consistently get better.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I don’t watch much T.V. outside of sports, but I did watch the show ‘Workaholics’ on Comedy Central a lot in college. As for food, I love steak. That’s always been 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?

I would just say to them that there is no easy path to accomplish your dreams, not everything is going to go how you plan it. There will be coaches, scouts, and people along the way that don’t believe in you, and you can’t let that discourage you. Also, there will be people along the way that will help you. Rely on them and learn as much as you can from coaches and other people who have been there before. Nobody gets to play this game forever; never take a day on the baseball field for granted. Remember that being able to play baseball is a gift; this game will give you a platform the higher up in it that you go. Use it to give all the glory to God. I think that’s really why we’re here, and we get to enjoy the game of baseball along the way.

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Big thanks to Ryan O’Hearn for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Rohearn11

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