Although it won’t officially count in the record books, Ichiro Suzuki is on the verge of surpassing the all-time hit record of 4,256 professional hits, set by Pete Rose over the course of his would-be Hall of Fame career. Sitting on 4,255 combined pro hits between Major League Baseball and Japan’s equivalent level Nippon Baseball League, Ichiro is just two hits shy of having the most hits in professional baseball history.
However, as previously stated, it won’t go down as the official record for hits in Major League Baseball history, as 1,278 of Ichiro’s career hits came over in Japan and therefore don’t count towards his career numbers here in America. But regardless, it’s still an amazing accomplishment.
Ichiro first broke into the majors back in 2001 at age 27. That year with the Mariners, Ichiro recorded one of the best first seasons in MLB history. With 242 hits, a .350 average and 56 stolen bases, Ichiro walked away with the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, along with a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance. Quite the haul for a player in their very first year.
Going on to have nine consecutive superstar level seasons following 2001, including nine more Gold Gloves, nine subsequent seasons of 200+ hits (including the single-season record of 262 back in 2004) and nine more All-Star games, Ichiro hasn’t been on the same level since his last star season in 2010. But that doesn’t matter. He’s still an all-time great and a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer.
His approaching milestone of 3,000 career MLB hits is further evidence of that. Although Ichiro has slacked off a bit in his seasonal numbers since leaving the Mariners in 2012, he is still fun to watch, and can still hit with the best of them. Now just 23 hits away from becoming the 30th player to reach the 3,000 hit mark, the 42-year-old Ichiro is certainly still an MLB-level talent.
Even though he won’t go down in history as the all-time hits king — Pete Rose would seem to be happy about that — Ichiro will definitely go down as the best all-around player to ever come out of Japan, and one of the best in the entire history of Major League Baseball.
Hit-record or not, Ichiro is still in a class all his own.
The 2016 MLB Home Run Derby is exactly one month away, and I’m already excited. Although the official All-Star game is the must-see event in the mind of many baseball fans of what has become a three-day spectacle, for me, the Home Run Derby is the most thrilling of all the events.
With the rules of the derby being changed last year back to just eight players, and with hitters going up against a clock instead of ten outs, many baseball fans had a negative reaction to the change, but I truly liked it. I feel that it made things more fun to watch overall, and should do so again this time around. This year, the derby is taking place at Petco Park in San Diego. Not known as a hitters’ park, it should be interesting to see how the derby goes, but the players I chose each have no trouble hitting a ball out of any ballpark.
I picked my players based on four specific chriteria per league: I chose the current league leader, a rookie, an under-the-radar power hitter, and a personal selection. By choosing guys with a lot of power, but also by selecting a wide range of players, I think the players I went with for the American League and National League would make for a fantastic 2016 Home Run Derby.
Mark Trumbo: After having a somewhat subpar season by his standards in 2015, Trumbo has exploded back onto the scene this season, becoming the first player to reach the 20-homer mark in early June. Having the most home runs in the American League, in addition to his tremendous power and ability to hit numerous blasts, Trumbo was the easiest pick of the American League half of things.
Nomar Mazara: This time last year, the majority of baseball fans had never even heard of Nomar Mazara. However, more and more fans are hearing of him now. Mazara holds unbelievable power, and should have the platform to show it off at the home run derby this year. Being a rookie, it would certainly bring interest into the derby, as fans look to see how the young star-in-the-making fares.
Khris Davis: Baltimore’s Chris Davis has been known for his power for quite some time now, but the Athletics’ own Khris Davis (with a ‘K’) isn’t far behind in that department. Originally a member of the Brewers, Davis has been on a tear ever since switching teams, and has shown off his power on numerous occasions this season. I feel that he needs to be one of the players in the derby this year.
Nelson Cruz: There are a lot of different ways this pick could have gone, and I spent a great amount of time debating it in my mind, but I wound up landing on Cruz. Known simply as the ‘Boomstick’, Cruz carries a ton of power in his bat, and would be some major competition for the National League side to compete with. Playing his home games at Safeco Field, Cruz is used to hitting at pitcher-friendly parks, and would do well at Petco.
Nolan Arenado: There’s no doubt that Arenado has power to burn, tying for the most homers in all of baseball last season with 42, and well on his way to reaching that mark yet again. By playing in Colorado, Arenado doesn’t get the attention that he would if he were to be playing in a larger market, but he’s leading the National League in homers yet again and it would be a disservice to the event if Arenado didn’t participate.
Corey Seager: When Corey Seager came up at the final portion of last season and put on a hitting show, you could immediately tell that all of the hype was warranted, which hasn’t always been the case historically. This season, he’s done nothing but improve upon that hype, in this still his rookie year. Having a three-homer game earlier this season, the power is definitely there for Seager, and I think he’d do well in the derby.
Wil Myers: Injuries have plagued Myers over the course of his career, but without putting a jinx on him, it looks like Myers in on the verge of a major breakout season. Although he was once a consensus top-five prospect, I don’t feel he’s getting the attention he deserves. The derby would allow for that, in addition to his participation giving the hometown fans someone to root for, like Todd Frazier in Cincinnati last year.
Yoenis Cespedes: A home run derby without Cespedes just wouldn’t be the same after seeing what he’s capable of in previous derby spectacles. For that reason, I chose him as my fourth pick to take part in the derby. While Cespedes has struggled at time this season following a red hot start, he has the ability to put on an absolute show for both number of homers and distance in which he hits them, making him worthy of selection.
So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2016 Home Run Derby down at Petco Park on July 11th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. It would make the Home Run Derby very exciting to watch, in my opinion.
Jason Groome, Riley Pint and Kyle Lewis were ranked as the number one, two and three draft prospects going into Thursday’s 2016 first-year player draft, but they went in a completely different order than predicted. In fact, they didn’t go as any of the first three selections at all, instead getting picked in the 12th, 4th and 11th spots, respectively. Even so, they will still undoubtedly have impacts on the clubs that took a chance on them, as will the three that actually went top three overall.
Mickey Moniak went first overall, getting drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Moniak doesn’t do just one thing well; he does a lot of things well, which is the reason he was selected as the first overall pick in this year’s draft. This past season in high school, Moniak hit .476 with 7 home runs in 105 at-bats, and was subsequently named the 2016 California Gatorade player of the year. Moniak was taken by the Phillies in their first number one overall pick since back in 1998, and becomes the first high school outfielder since Delmon Young in 2003 to be drafted first overall, joining the likes of Josh Hamilton and Ken Griffey Jr. As a solid defender, Moniak is expected to remain in center field moving forward as he now makes his way into a loaded Phillies’ farm system that looks to have the Phillies in good shape moving forward over the next few years.
Nick Senzel went second overall, getting drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.
Making the position change to third base just this past season, Senzel performed extremely well at the hot corner for the University of Tennessee. Senzel doesn’t strike out a ton for a guy with a good deal of pop, and recorded a .352 line with 8 homers, 59 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases to boot this past season. As far as University of Tennessee draftees history goes, the third overall pick of Senzel makes him the earliest selection out of that college in its history, beating out Rockies’ great Todd Helton, who was selected eighth overall back in 1995. Much like the Phillies, the Reds haven’t been having too much success in the standings as of late, but they added a nice piece to what they’re looking to do moving forward, with Senzel looking to be the eventual replacement down the road for the loss of Todd Frazier.
Ian Anderson went third overall, getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
Compared to Jacob deGrom by Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz on MLB Network, Anderson has all the things you’re looking for out of a pitcher coming from high school. Anderson was selected as the first pitcher of the 2016 draft, with a fastball consistently in the 94-96 mile-per-hour range as well as a curveball with a big break to it. Despite missing the first half of his senior season due to pneumonia, Anderson showed enough talent to earn the third overall selection in the draft. Possessing a solid ability to throw strikes and get guys out, Anderson is certainly a step in the right direction for a Braves team that’s in the process of rebuilding for 2017 and beyond, when they’ll be playing in their new ballpark. If all goes as planned, the Braves will be in much better shape if guys such as Anderson pan out.
The remainder of the draft saw many surprises. A lot of players went higher than anyone expected, while others stuck around longer than many thought they would. But that usually happens every year with the draft.
The rest of the 1st round of the 2016 draft, following the first three picks, went as follows:
4. Rockies: Riley Pint
5. Brewers: Corey Ray
6. Athletics: A.J. Puk
7. Marlins: Braxton Garrett
8. Padres: Cal Quantrill
9. Tigers: Matt Manning
10. White Sox: Zack Collins
11. Mariners: Kyle Lewis
12. Red Sox: Jason Groome
13. Rays: Joshua Lowe
14. Indians: Will Benson
15. Twins: Alex Kirilloff
16. Angels: Matt Thaiss
17. Astros: Forrest Whitley
18. Yankees: Blake Rutherford
19. Mets: Justin Dunn
20. Dodgers: Gavin Lux
21. Blue Jays: T.J. Zeuch
22. Pirates: Will Craig
23. Cardinals: Delvin Perez
24. Padres: Hudson Sanchez
25. Padres: Eric Lauer
26. White Sox: Zack Burdi
27. Orioles: Cody Sedlock
28. Nationals: Carter Kieboom
29. Nationals: Dane Dunning
30. Rangers: Cole Ragans
31. Mets: Anthony Kay
32. Dodgers: Will Smith
33. Cardinals: Dylan Carlson
34. Cardinals: Dakota Hudson
Lottery Round A
35. Reds: Taylor Trammell
36. Dodgers: Jordan Sheffield
37. Athletics: Daulton Jefferies
38. Rockies: Robert Tyler
39. Diamondbacks: Anfernee Grier
40. Braves: Joey Wentz
41. Pirates: Nick Lodolo
Make sure to follow the list of players above as the majority of them begin their professional careers. Odds are at least a few of those names will become MLB All-Stars, with the possibility that some may become a future Hall of Famer. You never know what can happen when you have so much young talent entering their given MLB organizations, and that’s reason enough to pay close attention to them all.
Over the past several seasons, teams around Major League Baseball have been looking more and more towards their top prospects to make it to the big leagues as quickly as possible and make an immediate impact on their club. The most recent examples of that being Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarer and Carlos Rodon, who all made big league contributions in 2015 after being drafted in 2014 (no players from the 2015 draft have made it to the majors yet). With that in mind, there are several players ranked in the top 100 prospects right now who could be making impacts but have yet to play a single game in the majors for one reason or another.
Keep in mind, none of the players listed below may be ready for the big leagues in your mind. This is all merely my opinion, and is by no means any indication of the prospects who will be up within the next few weeks, or this year for that matter. It’s simply the five prospects who would be the most valuable players, were they to be playing in the bigs right now.
The first guy that pops into my head is Tyler Glasnow. Over his previous four seasons in the minors, Glasnow has never posted an ERA above 2.39 for any one year, and is off to another great start in 2016. Following eight Triple-A starts last year, in which Glasnow recorded a 2.20 ERA and struck out more batters than innings pitched, he’s now thrown 61 innings at Triple-A this season and has a 2.07 ERA. While Glasnow hasn’t even made 100 career professional starts, he’s more than proven himself ready to make an impact at the major league level. He might not be able to help the Pirates chase down the dominant Cubs, but he can certainly make sure they maintain a Wild Card spot.
Another player who I feel is extremely close to being ready to make an impact is Orlando Arcia. When the Brewers traded away Jean Segura early this year, many were lead to speculate that the move was done solely to bring up Arcia on Opening Day to be their starting shortstop. However, Arcia was sent to Triple-A, where he still remains. Regardless, I believe that Arcia is ready to step up and be a key piece to the Brewers, despite their poor record. Arcia isn’t a power hitter by any means, but he hits for average, has good speed and strikes out very few times over the course of any given season. He deserves a shot to make what I feel would be an immediate impact in the majors.
Those are the top two MLB-ready players on my list, but I still have three other players I feel would be impact players now. The first is Hunter Renfroe, who has a great combination of tools. With an ability to hit for average and power, and with a knack to drive in runs, I think he’ll be a big-time player for the Padres. Renfroe’s previous career high for homers is 21 back in 2014, but already having 12 not even half way through the year, he’s likely to surpass that number before all is said and done in 2016. The only downside to Renfroe is the fact that he’s only played in just over 70 games at Triple-A, but he has a great approach at the plate and seems ready.
If not for injuries that resulted in Tommy John surgery, it’s likely that Jameson Taillon would be dominating big league lineups right now. However, due to those setbacks, Taillon is in Triple-A. But he’s making a case for that time to be a short-lived one, as he’s blowing away the competition. Taillon has recorded a 2.04 ERA in his first season back since last having pitched in 2013. However, because of the injuries, Taillon likely won’t make his big league debut until later on in this season, despite the success. Even so, the former first-round draft pick is getting close to joining a Pirates’ rotation that could use a bit of help.
The final player on my list is the least likely to make it to the majors in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not even at all this season. But despite that, I think that Jeff Hoffman has the raw talent to have an impact for the Rockies now, even if he’s only seen time in eleven Triple-A games. But in that short time, Hoffman has posted a 2.67 ERA, and has been really impressive. Colorado undoubtedly could use the pitching help, and they would received a lot of help from Hoffman. Despite being drafted in the first round back in 2014 by the Blue Jays, he will ultimately make his impact as a Rockies starter. Hopefully, that time won’t come too far from now, as I think Hoffman is almost ready.
With so much talent to pick from of all the players on the top 100 major league baseball prospects list, it makes it difficult to choose just five that would appear to be ready to make contributions to their major league club. However, while it’s tough to select the best and most ready, it’s easy to see why they are all so highly thought of, and why they will be looked to for help in the very near future.
With the first two months of the 2016 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you’re rooting for.
But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.
The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING
Most Games Played – Matt Duffy and Edwin Encarnacion (54).
Most At-Bats – Mookie Betts (230)
Most Hits – Daniel Murphy (77)
Highest Average – Daniel Murphy (.397)
Highest OBP – Ben Zobrist (.445)
Highest SLG – David Ortiz (.716)
Most Runs – Mookie Betts (49)
Most Doubles – David Ortiz (23)
Most Triples – Thirteen players tied for most (4).
Most Home Runs – Nolan Arenado and Todd Frazier (16).
Most RBI’s – David Ortiz (47)
Most Base On Balls – Paul Goldschmidt (49)
Most Strikeouts – Trevor Story (76)
Most Stolen Bases – Jonathan Villar (19)
Most Caught Stealing – Norichika Aoki and Mallex Smith (7).
Most Intentional Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (13)
Most Hit By Pitch – Brandon Guyer (14)
Most Sacrifice Flies – Chris Carter and Bryce Harper (5).
Most Total Bases – David Ortiz (126)
Most Extra Base Hits – David Ortiz (38)
Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Albert Pujols (10)
Most Ground Outs – Adam Eaton (90)
Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Mike Trout (1,038)
Most Plate Appearances – Mookie Betts (246)
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING
Most Wins – Jake Arrieta, Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg (9).
Most Losses – Five players tied for most (7).
Best ERA – Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta (1.56).
Most Games Started – Forty-six players tied for most (11).
Most Games Pitched – Zach Duke (28)
Most Saves – Jeurys Familia and Jeanmar Gomez (17).
Most Innings Pitched – Clayton Kershaw (86.2)
Most Hits Allowed – Wily Peralta (85)
Most Runs Allowed – Anibal Sanchez (47)
Most Earned Runs Allowed – Dallas Keuchel (43)
Most Home Runs Allowed – Max Scherzer (15)
Most Strikeouts – Clayton Kershaw (105)
Most Walks – Tom Koehler (35)
Most Complete Games – Four players tied for most (3).
Most Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (3)
Best Opponent Avg. – Jake Arrieta (.161)
Most Games Finished – Jeurys Familia (25)
Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (17)
Most Wild Pitches – Sonny Gray (9)
Most Balks – Matt Andriese and Joakim Soria (3).
Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Noah Syndergaard (15)
Most Pickoffs – Nick Tropeano (4)
Most Batters Faced – Johnny Cueto (318)
Most Pitches Thrown – Justin Verlander (1,191)
The story of Thursday night was Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak ending, but the story of Friday night will likely wind up being the MLB career of Julio Urias beginning.
At 19 years old, Urias is set to become the first starting pitcher since Felix Hernandez in 2005 to make their major league debut as a teenager, with Hernandez going on to post a 2.67 ERA over 12 starts that season. If Urias can post numbers anywhere close to that, I assume the Dodgers would see that as a successful first year.
But there are some people around the baseball world who are anticipating that Urias could actually post numbers better than those of Hernandez in his first year in the bigs. That’s what makes his debut so exciting and so closely watched.
As the number two prospect in all of baseball, Urias has been on the radar of a number of people for quite some time, and is projected to become the game’s next big superstar. Given, there have been a number of players who were coined as can’t-miss prospects only to fall apart in the majors, but Urias appears to be the real deal.
The last time a teenage starter made their debut with the Dodgers was back in 1980, when Fernando Valenzuela made his debut of what would become a fairly successful major league career. Understandably so, Urias is getting a lot of comparisons to Valenzuela, not only for his age, but also with both of them originally being from Mexico and pitching left-handed.
However, I don’t feel it’s fair to look for Urias to bring anything to Los Angeles like “Fernandomania” was. If that happens, great. But I never like to see a ton of pressure put on a guy’s shoulders to develop into something that’s already happened, especially someone as young as Urias. He is a different guy, and should therefore simply be appreciated for the pitcher he is.
Even so, Urias certainly deserves all the hype he’s getting, as he brings a career 2.63 ERA in the minors (along with a mere 1.10 ERA over seven starts in Triple-A this season) into his debut on Friday night against Jacob deGrom and the Mets, under the bright lights of New York.
Whether or not he gets his career started with a bang right out of the gate, or takes a few starts to settle in, Urias is still expected to become the strong number-two-starter behind Clayton Kershaw in the Dodgers’ rotation. If that happens, the Dodgers look to be in good shape moving forward, currently 4.5 games back of the first-place Giants.
After years of anticipation, the Julio Urias era has officially begun.
Whenever a player who has had an amazing career announces plans to retire after any given season, you inevitably find yourself rooting for their team to go all the way and win the World Series so that the player can retire on top for their career with one final Championship. However, that unfortunately almost never happens.
Over the past several seasons, we’ve seen the retirements of some great players and fan-favorites, such as Torii Hunter (Twins finished 12 games back of the Royals), Derek Jeter (Yankees finished second to the Orioles), Mariano Rivera (Yankees finished in fourth place) and Chipper Jones (Braves made playoffs, but no World Series), just to name a few. But none of those players were on teams capable of going all the way to the World Series.
This season, I feel the Red Sox stand a decent chance of changing that fortune.
Announcing his plans to retire after the 2016 season — plans that many are questioning with the superb numbers he is posting — David Ortiz is looking to record one final star season of what is arguably a Hall of Fame career, for a Red Sox team that he has impacted time and time again over the years. It would be fitting if they returned the favor and helped lead Boston to another World Title.
Despite finishing in dead-last in 2015, the Red Sox currently sit tied with the Orioles atop the American League East division standings. Although they’ve been a bit shaky at times, there have been other games that lead you to believe that the Sox could actually pull off the World Series sendoff for Ortiz.
But getting to the World Series is hard, with winning it being even harder. Some great players like Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, etc., never won a World Series title, even though they had great careers with some good teams. However, Ortiz already knows what it’s like to win it all, having won a World Title with the Red Sox in 2004, 2007 and 2013. He assuredly would love that feeling again in 2016.
Ortiz is certainly doing his part to make that happen. Over the course of 40 games this season, Ortiz is hitting .329 with 11 home runs (giving him 514 for his career) and 37 RBI’s — second to Robinson Cano for most in all of baseball. If he were to keep up that pace, he would wind up with around 35-40 homers and well over 100 RBI’s. Given, there are a lot of games still to be played, but what Ortiz is doing is simply remarkable.
But it’s not just Ortiz fueling the Red Sox and their march towards a fantastic season. Several players are breaking out into becoming stars, such as Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr. (as well as Brock Holt, before his injury), with Hanley Ramirez performing the way he was expected to when he was signed before last season.
Xander Bogaerts leads the team in batting average at .346, and is followed closely behind by Jackie Bradley Jr.’s .342 line, who is currently riding a 27-game hitting streak. In addition, Mookie Betts is second on the team in homers with 9, with Travis Shaw stepping up at third without Pablo Sandoval and making a big impact himself; as well as Hanley Ramirez who has shown some pop and is hitting above .300 on the season. With all of these pieces clicking, their lineup looks to be in good shape.
However, if there would be one thing that would keep the Red Sox from going all the way to a World Title, it would be their pitching. Good hitting can carry a team for awhile (the Red Sox are first in baseball in team batting average and RBI’s), despite a struggling rotation (Boston is 19th in team ERA), but eventually it won’t end up being enough, with those types of teams crumbling more times than not.
Steven Wright and Rick Porcello have been the Red Sox’s most reliable starters, being the only two pitchers of their rotation with an ERA below 4.00. David Price, who was acquired in the offseason to be the ace of the staff, has had a few games where he dominated opposing hitters, but overall he’s been a big disappointment, with an ERA of 5.53 over 9 starts. Clay Buchholz has been even worse, holding a 5.92 ERA, and leaving the Red Sox looking for answers in that department.
Their bullpen, on the other hand, has been stellar, for the most part. When the game has gone to closer Craig Kimbrel in a save situation, he has looked like the Kimbrel of old, striking out 31 over 19 innings pitched and saving 12 out of 13 games he’s come in to close. Other guys, such as Junichi Tazawa, Matt Barnes, Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree have also done terrific jobs. But it’s their rotation that has left more to be desired.
Even so, the Red Sox appear to have things figured out enough that they can continue to win on a regular basis, despite their flaws. If their rotation begins to pitch the way it was envisioned to, the Red Sox could absolutely take off and run away with things, keeping in mind that it’s still very early, with over 100 games remaining.
But even if the Red Sox fall apart over the remainder of the season, or make the playoffs and simply can’t go the entire distance, David Ortiz is still on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career . . . at age 40.
If David Ortiz can’t go out on top with a World Title, he’ll certainly still leave with a bang.
It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Tim Lincecum pitch in a Major League Baseball game, but that will soon change. After being rumored to have made Lincecum an offer earlier this week, the Angels finally made a deal with him official on Friday, signing Lincecum to a one-year contract for the 2016 season worth around two million dollars (plus incentives).
As a Lincecum fan, I’m certainly happy to see him on his way back to pitching in the majors (it’s believed that he will need a few starts in the minors to get ready), but I also find myself questioning just which Tim Lincecum the Angels are getting. After all, he’s been extremely inconsistent over the past several years.
Following a stellar start to his career, in which Lincecum recorded back-to-back Cy Young award seasons in 2008 and 2009, the former first-round pick has gone down hill ever since around the 2012 season.
After posting his final sub-three ERA year in 2011, Lincecum proceeded to see that number rocket up to 5.18 over the course of 33 starts made in 2012 (given, the Giants still went on to win the second of Lincecum’s three career World Series rings that season).
Over the past four seasons, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Lincecum has notched a collective 4.68 ERA over 106 games started, all before being shut down mid-season in 2015 due to a degenerative condition in both hips. It took Lincecum all of the offseason as well as Spring Training and the first two months of this season to get healthy, but he appears to be fully recovered from his injury, impressing many with a pitching showcase two weeks ago in Arizona.
The Angels certainly could use a fully healthy starter in their injury-plagued rotation. After the loss of Garrett Richards for the remainder of the 2016 season, who had a 2.34 ERA so far on the year, as well as Andrew Heaney (and C.J. Wilson until June), the Angels needed someone to replace some of those lost innings. They appear to have found their guy in the form of Tim Lincecum.
Sitting 4.5 games back in the American League West, the Angels have a bit of work to do but aren’t completely out of things, with it still being very early in the season. The Mariners are performing better than most people believed they would, and the Astros have been a major disappointment so far, so anything can truly happen in that division.
Although Lincecum’s old team, the Giants, are riding an eight-game winning streak, the Angels are more than capable of going on a big run and getting back into the mix. Signing Tim Lincecum goes a long way in making that a possibility.
With decent production coming from Nick Tropeano and Hector Santiago to this point, Lincecum will likely slide into the middle to back end of the Angels rotation, but that’s a step in the right direction for a guy who was predicted to inevitably have to begin his journey back into being a big leaguer as a bullpen piece. The Angels have given Lincecum a big opportunity to begin as a starter right out of the gate.
With that in mind, however, I don’t think Lincecum will let them down. In fact, I think he may turn out to be a bit better than anticipated.
Throughout his poor outings over the last several seasons, Lincecum has thrown sporadic quality games, recording a no-hitter in both the 2013 and the 2014 seasons. He’s still a major league caliber pitcher, especially now that he’s reportedly fully healthy and ready to go.
Perhaps Lincecum won’t ever be an All-Star again — as he was in four straight seasons from 2008-2011 — but the Angels don’t need him to be. They’re getting a fan-favorite, and, more importantly, a guy who knows how to win, and has proven his value over and over again throughout his career.
In the end, no matter what happens, the Angels lose nothing (besides a couple million dollars) by signing Tim Lincecum. On one hand, if Lincecum flops, they’re no worse off than if they had passed on signing him in the first place. But on the other hand, if Lincecum returns to even a portion of his former self, the Angels may have just helped their team out in a big way. It’s the definition of a low-risk, high-reward type of deal.
When it comes to a guy like Tim Lincecum, I’d take that deal every time.
There are certain players around Major League Baseball who you assume are going to have amazing seasons each and every year. Clayton Kershaw is perhaps the best example of that, as he holds the league lead in strikeouts yet again and possesses a mere 1.74 ERA through seven starts in 2016. But that’s nothing new. As stated, it happens every year. However, there are several players around baseball who are posting numbers that no one expected from them.
One of those is Nick Castellanos, who has been on a tear to begin the season. Through his first 34 games, Castellanos is hitting .348, with 8 home runs and 30 RBI’s. Those are the type of numbers you would look to find from Miguel Cabrera at this point of year, but not Castellanos. Although Castellanos is a former first-round draft pick, no one expected him to get off to such an amazing start. Last season, Castellanos hit just .255 with 15 homers and 73 runs batted in. If he can continue the pace he’s on, Castellanos is set to blow those numbers to pieces when all is said and done in 2016.
Another player who is putting up career numbers to this point is Daniel Murphy. In the playoffs last season with the Mets, Murphy showed signs of greatness, hitting a home run in six straight games, but when the Nationals picked him up this offseason I’m sure they didn’t foresee the type of production he’s giving them. Despite batting below .300 each of the past four years, Murphy is currently batting .400 on the season and has collected 5 home runs and 23 RBI’s to boot. Whether or not he can keep that up is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly been fun to watch to this point.
Likewise, a pair of rookies in the National League have been posting some over the top numbers in their 2016 campaigns to this point. Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz are both off to hot starts for their respective teams this season, with each far exceeding what was likely expected of them in 2016.
Story would likely still be in Triple-A if Jose Reyes had begun the season with the Rockies. Instead, he got off to a historic start, and has collected 11 homers and 28 RBI’s all while hitting .280. Diaz, however, is performing even better than Story. A career .276 hitter in the minors, Diaz is currently holding a .376 average on the season, with 6 blasts and 20 RBI’s for the Cardinals. Both Diaz and Story should be in the Rookie of the Year running for the National League if they can keep performing as the season goes on.
On the pitching side of things, there are far more players who are having amazing starts to their 2016 season. For that reason, I had to narrow down the list. Since I discussed four hitters, I decided to cut the long list of pitchers down to just four as well — a difficult task to do. For that reason, keep in mind that I left off some of the pitchers who I could’ve included. So if you don’t see a player you feel should be here, that’s probably why.
With all of that said, the number one pitcher who is most exceeding expectations in my mind is Jose Quintana. Although Quintana has been a standout pitcher for the White Sox over the past few seasons, he’s always been the number two behind the Ace Chris Sale. In the minds of many, Sale is still the leader of that staff, but Quintana is actually leading Sale in ERA, with a mere 1.54 compared to Sale’s 1.67. In the end, however, while Sale is still the White Sox’s go-to, Quintana is quickly becoming a household name around baseball.
On a Chicago Cubs’ staff that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, it would be expected that a guy such as Jason Hammel wouldn’t receive the same type of attention as his fellow starters. However, he is far exceeding what was expected out of him in 2016. So far, Hammel has a 1.77 ERA over the course of seven games started for the Cubs, who are off to an amazing start as a team. Never having posted a season ERA below 3.43 in any of his previous ten seasons, Hammel is off to a great start to his campaign. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up as the season rolls on.
Steven Wright is another pitcher who I feel is exceeding expectations in 2016. I discussed his unbelievable start to the season a few weeks ago, but despite falling off his torrid pace just a bit since that point in time, Wright is still having an unexpected year. With the pickup of David Price this offseason, he was expected to set the pace for the Red Sox’s rotations, but instead it’s Wright’s 2.36 ERA (following a 4.09 ERA last season) that is the best among their starters. As a knuckleball pitcher, you have no guarantee that he can keep up the start to the year, but so far so good for Wright.
The final player on my list of those who are having the most unexpectedly good seasons is Drew Pomeranz. Despite being the number five overall draft pick in 2010, Pomeranz has never truly been the type of pitcher he was originally envisioned to be. This season, however, he is finally showing signs of that type of pitcher. Pomeranz holds a 1.80 ERA through this point in the year, and has posted an 11.48 strikeout-per-nine rate, which is actually third best in all of baseball. With Pomeranz having career numbers, he simply had to make the list of players exceeding expectations in 2016.
So while there are still over 100 games still to be played before the full 2016 season stats are officially locked into the record books, Nick Castellanos, Daniel Murphy, Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz on the hitting side, as well as Jose Quintana, Steven Wright, Jason Hammel and Drew Pomeranz for the pitchers, are all having seasons that no one could have predicted before things got underway on April 3rd. Although anything can happen in the many games to come, those are the players who I feel deserve the closest attention from now until the final regular season game on October 2nd.
If I asked you to name the best player in Major League Baseball age 25 or younger, your mind would likely immediately turn to Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Manny Machado, who have all become superstars. And you wouldn’t receive any argument whatsoever from me as to any of those players being the best in the game. It’s all opinion-based, with no one truly being right or wrong. But there is one player who I feel isn’t getting the full recognition he deserves, and that’s Nolan Arenado.
Arenado is in the highlight reels virtually every single night, and he’s won his share of recognition through awards (three straight Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger last season), but he’s still not being held in the regard that I feel he should be. Arenado is simply one of the best — if not the best — players in the majors today, yet he doesn’t receive the coverage to the same extent of Harper, Trout and Machado.
Mike Trout got off to a somewhat slow start in 2016, but has been turning things around as of late. Following an eight game start to the season where Trout recorded just one homer and batted .185, Trout has now notched seven dingers and is hitting above .300 for the season. He is undoubtedly headed for another MVP-type season, as every one of his years have been to this point. But Nolan Arenado has better numbers.
Bryce Harper, just the opposite of Trout’s season, began things on a blazing pace, but has slowed down recently. Over his last 15 games, Harper is hitting just .167, but has recorded 22 walks, leading to the best on base percentage of the players listed in this blog post. With his average greatly down this season, it makes you wonder if Harper can get back on track. Even so, Harper is the type of player who can get red hot overnight. But Nolan Arenado has been more consistent.
Manny Machado has been fairly consistent, and in some ways even more consistent than Arenado, all season long, and is having another great year. He has more hits than the other three, subsequently leading the other three in batting average, and is playing great defense at third base — the American League version of Nolan Arenado. But Nolan Arenado has more career Gold Gloves.
Drowned out a bit by the historically hot start of Trevor Story in 2016, and with Arenado playing in Colorado, his accomplishments can be a bit overshadowed at times. Nolan Arenado has just as much power as any player in baseball, plays an unbelievable defensive third base, and is the best overall combination of the talents of Harper, Trout and Machado. He’s going to hit .300 every season, drive in well over 100 runs and hit 40+ home runs. Not many players can post those type of numbers year in and year out.
In the end, it’s hard to compare the four of Harper, Trout, Machado and Arenado, with them all playing different types of games, but I still feel that Arenado is the best of them all, even if it’s not acknowledged quite as often or on the same level as the other three. Arenado has the ability to win the Triple-Crown any given season, and will inevitably be one of the top players in baseball for years to come.
The most overlooked all-around player in baseball, if you ask me.