Results tagged ‘ 2013 ’

2014 Top 100 Prospects List Released

I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2014. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training, but have a chance of a call up later in the season.

Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2014. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects 100-91

Pierce Johnson (100), Rosell Herrera (99), Stephen Piscotty (98), Robbie Ray (97),

Trey Ball (96), Edwin Escobar (95), Taylor Guerrieri (94), Roberto Osuna (93),

Joey Gallo (92) and Jorge Bonifacio (91).

There really aren’t any players from the 100-91 spots that I feel have a good shot at making it to the big leagues in 2014. If any of them made it, it would likely be Jorge Bonifacio and/or Robbie Ray, as both have a shot at beginning the year in Triple-A and therefore could potentially be a September call up. It’s more likely, however, that all these players will have to wait until at least 2015.

Prospects 90-81

Jose Berrios (90), Arismendy Alcantara (89), D.J. Peterson (88), Casey Kelly (87),

Matt Barnes (86), Rafael Montero (85), Hak-Ju Lee (84), Jimmy Nelson (83),

Christian Bethancourt (82) and Justin Nicolino (81).

Casey Kelly is the only one of these players that I feel has a chance at starting with the major league club out of Spring Training. Kelly made his MLB debut in 2012, where he was fairly good, but due to Tommy John surgery last season, he missed all of 2013. If healthy, Kelly has the potential to be a major asset to the Padres in their starting rotation, and should be able to show what he’s capable of this season.

While Jimmy Nelson is a player who is on the fence — possibly making the big leagues out of camp in late March — I feel he will likely pitch a month or two in the minors before getting called back up sometime midseason. Matt Barnes, Rafael Montero and Hak-Ju Lee (who spent 2013 injured) should also all see big league time in 2014, and have the potential to become impact players for their respective clubs.

Prospects 80-71

Matt Davidson (80), Braden Shipley (79), Matthew Wisler (78), Chris Owings (77),

Luis Sardinas (76), Mason Williams (75), Josh Bell (74), Trevor Bauer (73),

Michael Choice (72) and David Dahl (71).

Matt Davidson — recently traded to the White Sox from the Diamondback’s — Chris Owings, Trevor Bauer and Michael Choice could all potentially start the year in the majors, but there’s also the chance that they could spend a few games in Triple-A. They all played in the big leagues at some point in 2013 and will each get their chance to shine on the big stage at some point in 2014, possibly right off the bat.

Matthew Wisler isn’t going to begin the season the Padres, however, it is likely that he could see a few games with them as a late season call up. They could always use pitching help, and Wisler, going 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA last year, could certainly go a long way for the Padres in 2014.

Prospects 70-61

Erik Johnson (70), A.J. Cole (69), Eduardo Rodriguez (68), Alen Hanson (67),

Delino De Shields (66), Jake Marisnick (65), Julio Urias (64), Zach Lee (63),

Mookie Betts (62) and Blake Swihart (61).

Jake Marisnick spent a good bit of time (40 games) with the Marlin in 2013, and there’s a good shot at him starting off the year with them. Marisnick didn’t perform particularly well, but he’s still young and would make a good outfielder for them in 2014. Erik Johnson, who also made his MLB debut last season, has the potential to break camp with the White Sox, but it’s going to come down to how he performs in Spring Training. Either way, he’ll see time in the majors this season.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Lee and Alen Hanson all could make it to the bigs in 2014, but for Hanson that may have to wait another season. Rodriguez and Lee should begin the 2014 season with Triple-A, and depending on how they do, they could possibly be September call ups. Hanson also holds that chance, but it will likely be 2015 for him.

Prospects 60-51

Lucas Sims (60), Rougned Odor (59), Kolten Wong (58), Garin Cecchini (57),

Jake Odorizzi (56), Marcus Stroman (55), Mike Foltynewicz (54), Jesse Biddle (53),

Lance McCullers (52) and Colin Moran (51).

Kolten Wong, despite forever holding the distinction of being picked off to end the game during the 2013 World Series, should begin the season where he left off. As a late season call up last year, Wong did decently, and many feel he is going to turn into a very special player. Jake Odorizzi also has the talent to begin 2014 at the big league level, but the big difference between Wong and Odorizzi is team room. The Rays’ rotation is packed, and therefore it’s likely Odorizzi will be back with Triple-A to begin the season.

Garin Cecchini, Marcus Stroman, Mike Foltynewicz and Jesse Biddle all have the chance to make their MLB debuts this season, as they all should begin in Triple-A. Of them, Stroman has the potential to be called up the quickest, as many people feel he is the most ready, and the Blue Jays really could use some pitching. But all of them should help out their respective clubs at some point this year.

Prospects 50-41

Jonathan Singleton (50), Jorge Soler (49), Clint Frazier (48), Gary Sanchez (47),

Allen Webster (46), Austin Meadows (45), Lucas Giolito (44), Max Fried (43),

C.J. Edwards (42) and Eddie Butler (41).

Allen Webster is the only player of this group that stands any shot at making the majors to start the year, but even so, it’s not a good shot. Despite making the Red Sox rotation in 2013, Webster performed somewhat poorly, and it’s likely that that bad showing could land him back in Triple-A to begin 2014.

Jonathan Singleton, Gary Sanchez and Eddie Butler all could begin 2014 in Triple-A, and all three could make the majors this season. Of them, Singleton is the only player with Triple-A experience, but they each have the talent to make their respective clubs at some point this year. The only thing that would hold Sanchez back would possibly be Brian McCann, whom the Yankees signed to a major contract earlier this offseason, and is blocking Sanchez’s spot as the Bronx Bombers’ catcher.

Prospects 40-31

Kohl Stewart (40), Jorge Alfaro (39), Adalberto Mondesi (38), Billy Hamilton (37),

Joc Pederson (36), Yordano Ventura (35), Corey Seager (34), Jackie Bradley Jr. (33),

Kyle Crick (32) and Kevin Gausman (31).

Billy Hamilton, Yordano Ventura, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Gausman all should begin the season in the majors, as all four of them spent time there last season. Though they all have some things to work on, they each have a ton of natural talent, and could be helping out their big league club from day one of the 2014 season, with Bradley having to compete for his outfield spot against the newly acquired Grady Sizemore.

Joc Pederson was debated over by the Dodgers last season as to whether or not they wanted to call him up or choose another talented outfielder by the name of Yasiel Puig instead. (We all know what happened — with Puig going on a tear with the Dodgers – so I won’t talk a lot about it.) Though he doesn’t have the power that Puig possesses, Pederson is going to be a great player for the Dodgers, and should see a few games in the majors in 2014. The only question being, is there room for him in the already crowded outfield? (A possible trade isn’t out of the question.)

Prospects 30-21

Henry Owens (30), Andrew Heaney (29), Alex Meyer (28), Tyler Glasnow (27),

Maikel Franco(26), Kyle Zimmer (25), Austin Hedges (24), Aaron Sanchez (23),

Travis d’Arnaud (22) and George Springer.

George Springer and Travis d’Arnaud each have a chance to begin 2014 with their big league team, but d’Arnaud is the more likely of the two. He spent the last month of the 2013 season with the Mets, and should begin with them out of Spring Training. Springer on the other hand — while he hit 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year — will likely spend a month or two in the minors before finally getting a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage possible.

Henry Owens, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer and Maikel Franco will likely be sent to Triple-A out of Spring Training, however, they should all reach the major league level this season. They all have a ton of talent, and will be fun to watch this season. If any of them get called up early enough, they could become an immediate everyday impact player for their club.

Prospects 20-11

Dylan Bundy (20), Robert Stephenson (19), Albert Almora (18), Mark Appel (17),

Jameson Taillon (16), Nick Castellanos (15), Jonathan Gray (14), Gregory Polanco (13),

Addison Russell (12) and Noah Syndergaard (11).

Nick Castellanos finally has a spot available for him on the Tigers and it’s likely that he’ll claim it right out of Spring Training. Castellanos spent the final games of 2013 in the big leagues, but with Miguel Cabrera at third — his normal position — Castellanos was forced to the outfield. Now that Prince Fielder is with the Rangers, Cabrera can return to his original spot at first, and Castellanos can play a full season at third base, where he should do extremely well.

There are a ton of players from the 20-11 spots that will likely see big league time in 2014. Dylan Bundy, Robert Stephenson, Mark Appel, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Addison Russell and Noah Syndergaard all stand a decent shot — some better than others — with Bundy, Taillon and Syndergaard likely being the three with the best shot of a call up earlier than September. We’ll have to see exactly what happens, but this group of players in particular will be a fun one to watch.

Prospects 10-1

Francisco Lindor (10), Kris Bryant (9), Carlos Correa (8), Javier Baez (7),

Taijuan Walker (6), Archie Bradley (5), Miguel Sano (4), Oscar Taveras (3),

Xander Bogaerts (2) and Byron Buxton (1).

Taijuan Walker, Xander Bogaerts and Archie Bradley will all spend a good chunk of time in the big leagues in 2014, but it’s likely that they will begin the year with their major league teams. Admittedly, Bradley is a bit of a stretch — likely starting the year in Triple-A — but if he performs exceptionally well in Spring Training, it’s not completely out of the question. All of these players, if they can remain healthy and subsequently play enough games at the major league level, all have the potential to be Rookie of the Year caliber players.

Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras could each play games in the majors this season, but it’s possible that Bryant will have to wait until 2015, depending on how he performs and how quickly the Cubs want to bring him along. Regardless, all of these players, as with the previously named players in this group, have the potential to be Rookie of the Year finalist in 2015, assuming they don’t exceed the stats in 2014 needed to still qualify as a rookie the next season.

I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were. But I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2014 season have been announced, I pose the following question: Which of the top ten prospects (although a couple of them may not even make the major leagues) do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2014? Cast your vote below:

 

Feel free to leave a comment below with your overall thoughts on the top 100 prospects list heading into this season.

Three-Year Anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the day I sat down to begin ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’. Starting this blog was more of a spur of the moment thing than it was me looking to begin a long term blog. At the time, I never could’ve imagined that I would keep at it long enough to be typing up a three-year anniversary post; to his day, I’m still surprised that I kept with it. But I’ve come to love blogging, and interacting with fellow baseball fans; and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

To commemorate the occasion, I’ve decided to take a look back at the past three years, as I did last year on the two-year anniversary, using a timeline, of sorts, to tell the basic story of how my blog came to be where it is now. The first twelve recaps are the exact same ones I covered last year, in case you missed them, with the rest being since last year (click the headers to be taken to each post):

‘Explanation of Me’ – My first blog post

As the header would suggest, this was the first blog entry I ever published. It covered who I am and the fact that I have no favorite team that I root for more than another team. While it does a decent job at getting the general point across, looking back, I’m fairly appalled at how horribly written it is. The post doesn’t flow, the grammar is terrible, and my punctuation is sub par. Given, I’m by no means a professional writer now (I’m sure there are tons of issues with this post) compared to my writing style now, it’s almost as if it was a completely different person who wrote that first post. I suppose, in a way, it was.

‘MLB Logo and Its Designer’ – My first interview post

I didn’t start out with interview intentions. I merely emailed Jerry Dior (the designer of the MLB logo) to ask him questions I had about the design process and the story behind the logo. It wasn’t until a month later that I had the idea of putting the questions into an interview format for a post on my newly established blog. In the days after posting it, I noticed that people seemed to have a good reaction to the interview, so it was at that point that I decided to begin interviewing ballplayers. The interviews took off from there. I’ve now conducted over thirty interviews, and plan on continuing to do them in the future, as long as the players continue to be willing.

July 23, 2011 – Signed Up for Twitter

This has nothing to do with my blog, but it has everything to do with its success. Signing up for Twitter not only allowed for a way for me to get in contact with ballplayers for interviews, but it also served (and still serves) as a way of spreading the link to each new post around to baseball fans everywhere. If it wasn’t for Twitter it’s very possible that I would’ve discontinued my blog, as my reader base wouldn’t have been as fast to grow.

How Bernie Williams Became My Favorite Player Ever

This is more of a personal entry than it is an informative one. In this blog post, I detailed exactly how Bernie Williams came to be my favorite player to ever play the game of baseball. There’s a great story behind it, but I really don’t want to say much more than that. If you’re truly interested, feel free to click the header to be taken to the post I did on the subject.

Bernie Williams’ Reflects On 9/11/01 – Ten-Year Anniversary

Yet another Bernie Williams post, but this one is more somber than the first. With the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I decided to contact Bernie Williams on Twitter to ask if he’d be willing to share his own personal experience and memories from that horrid day. He agreed to it, and after a bit of back and forth conversation, of me detailing exactly what I wanted him to talk about, I received an email from Williams, containing a fairly long response. If you don’t read another blog entry from this anniversary post, I suggest you read this one.

The Blog Post That Put My Blog On The Map

Ozzie Guillen and the Miami Marlins played a large part in making my blog as successful as it is today. The article I wrote on the “new look Marlins” caused my blog to absolutely explode in terms of views. In the months following when I first posted the entry, I received day after day of several hundred view days. In all, that one post racked me up over 11,000 views, all by itself. While things have backed off slightly since then, I still have a fairly large reader base, and it can all be traced back to that one post.

Ranking After the 2011 Year of Blogging

After a year’s worth of blogging, I was fairly anxious to see how I would stack up against all of the great blogs around the MLBlogs community. I was fairly stunned when the results came out, stating that my blog was the 35th most viewed blog of 2011. That alone gave me a reason to continue blogging.

The Blog Post That Got Me the Most Views For A Single Day

While my post on the Marlins netted me the most views for a single blog post, the entry I posted on the Cleveland Indians-Carolina Mudcats exhibition game, for some reason, led to the most views in the history of my blog on a single day. I’m still not all that sure as to why, but people came flocking to my blog on that particular day, netting me a total of 892 views. I haven’t had a day since that’s received more than 615 views.

First MLB Game Recap Entry

Living in North Carolina, I don’t get the chance to attend an MLB game all that often. As a matter of fact, this particular post recapped the first MLB game I attended since starting this blog. Therefore, it was the first MLB recap I’d ever done. I’ve since done numerous MiLB recaps, and will undoubtedly be doing several more this season.

Trip To the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby

The all expense paid trip I received to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby, courtesy of State Farm, is by far the best thing to ever come out of this blog. While I’ve been fortunate enough to experience several blogging related benefits since then – which range from getting free stuff, to meeting ballplayers in person that I’ve interviewed – I feel confident in saying that nothing will ever top this.

Triple-A National Championship Game

As the MiLB equivalent of a World Series game 7, the 2012 Triple-A National Championship game is the most significant minor league baseball game I’ve ever attended, thus it’s the most significant MiLB blog posts I’ve done. Getting to see the Reno Aces win the National Championship, along with meeting 2011 American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery, made this great game even better. (I plan on attending the 2014 Triple-A All-Star game in July, so that will probably top this.)

Ranking After the 2012 Year of Blogging

After coming in 35th at the end of the 2011 blogging year, I had no idea what to expect going into the 2012 results. While I received over five times the number of views this past year as I did in 2011, I was still eager to see where I would rank. When the rankings were posted, I was ecstatic to find my blog at the number 17 spot. I truly appreciate all of those who read my blog.

2013 Durham Bulls Fan Fest

I was really excited to attend this, as I had never been ON a professional baseball field. It was really cool to make my way, with my dad, out onto the field for a bit of catch. I didn’t take batting practice, though I could’ve, but if the Bulls have Fan Fest again anytime soon, I’ll be sure to take my shot at BP.

My Favorite Interview — Q and A With Negro Leagues’ President Bob Kendrick

Though not a baseball player, this was my favorite interview I’ve every conducted to this point in the history of my blog. Bob Kendrick is extremely knowledgeable of the history of the Negro Leagues, and he was very courteous throughout the process. I learned a lot about the Negro Leagues that I had no idea about. Take a look at it. You’ll probably learn something too.

Seeing Mariano Rivera for the Last Time

It wasn’t planned this way, but with Mariano Rivera announcing his retirement after the 2013 season, it happened to be that my dad and I were going to Baltimore for a game against the Yankees, and therefore he would be there. I was hoping to get an autograph, but even though that didn’t happen, seeing Rivera for probably the last time ever was memorable.

My Trip to Safeco Field In Seattle

Having only been west of the Mississippi River once (on my trip to the 2012 Home Run Derby), I was thrilled to visit this ballpark on my 24 day trip around the country. It is one of the best ballparks I’ve ever been to, located in one of the best cities I’ve ever been to. The Mariners lost, but all around it was a great time.

Chipper Jones’ Bulls Number Retirement Ceremony

As with Mariano Rivera, this was likely the last time I’ll ever see Chipper Jones, as he retired after the 2012 season. Coming back to Durham for the first time in twenty years, Jones had his number ten retired by the Bulls and gave a brief speech thanking the fans for everything. It was an incredible night out at the ballpark, and I doubt any night out at a minor league game will ever top this.

Recapping the 2013 Season Out At the Ballpark

This past season was the first full year that I have been into tracking the top major league baseball prospects and heading out to the ballpark to get an autograph from them. I plan on doing more of the same in 2014, and with the Triple-A All-Star game taking place in July, in addition to all of the top ranked talent that’s supposed to come, it’s sure to be an amazing year. (I’ll recap it all again after the season is over, as I did this past year.)

Ranking After the 2013 Year of Blogging

After my first year of blogging, I finished 35th on the top 100 list, in terms of views; after 2012, I finished 17th; and after this past year, I finished 8th. That’s truly amazing, in my mind, that I was able to do so, amassing over 75,000 views in 2013. I really had a fantastic time blogging in 2013, and with all of the great things that I foresee taking place in 2014, I think this is going to be the best blogging year yet.

Blogging Goals for 2014

This post wasn’t published all that long ago, but I wanted to include it nonetheless. Basically, this post covers my goals for the 2014 blogging year. I won’t waste time going over what each of my five goals are, for those of you who remember. (For those of you who’ve forgotten, and are curious, you can always click the header.) I plan on keeping to all of my blogging resolutions, which is better than I can say for my New Year’s Resolutions.

‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ Fast Facts

  • Total number of words written to this point: 193,824
  • Total number of posts: 332
  • Average number of words per post: 584
  • Number of different country views: 124

As stated in previous posts, I hope to make 2014 the best blogging year yet; and that means posting content that you, the reader, enjoy reading about. So, if you have anything you’d like to see me do, or stop doing, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Dodgers Lock Up Clayton Kershaw With Record Deal

We all knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time.

After Felix Hernandez – a former perfect game winner – received a 7-year, 175 million dollar deal from the Mariners, and Justin Verlander – a former Most Valuable Player – received a 7-year, 180 million dollar deal from the Tigers, you had to figure that Clayton Kershaw – a two-time Cy Young award winner – was going to receive a massive deal.Clayton+Kershaw+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+v+San+d0VPZUHHq9Rl

However, I don’t think anyone quite predicted a deal of this magnitude.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a 7-year deal worth 215 million dollars, coming out to 30.7 million dollars a year, and making Kershaw the highest annually paid player in Major League Baseball history.

The deal also sits second all-time in total contract amount, just behind Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, 275 million dollar deal from the Yankees in 2007. (That deal didn’t go too well.)

But all this money poses a question – Is Kershaw worth the money? In my mind, absolutely.

Sure, it’s a ton of money, especially for a guy who only plays every fifth day. But when you’re looking to retain a player of Kershaw’s caliber, keeping him from becoming a free agent at the end of next season, you do what it takes — and it took a lot.

Although I’m normally not a fan of big contracts, by going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA last season in which he won the 2013 National League Cy Young award (his second in three years), Kershaw has done more than enough to prove that he’s worth a contract of this size. He’s still young, at just 25 years old, and in addition to being durable, Kershaw holds a career ERA of 2.60, over nearly 1,200 innings pitched. He’s just the type of player that can go a long way to win a team a championship, as every team needs a true Ace.

A championship for the Dodgers is, obviously, the goal, as it is for every club. By signing Kershaw for the next seven years, it definitely gives them a good shot. But as history has shown, you can’t buy championships, nor can you predict how guys will play. It takes nearly a perfect year, where every player on the team plays to the best of their ability without very much injury, to have a magical season.

The only down side to the deal is that it makes Kershaw the fifth player owed 20 million dollars or more for 2014 season by the Dodgers, joining Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Greinke. But that doesn’t seem to phase the Dodgers, as they are still reportedly in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, who certainly won’t come cheap.

As many have coined, the Dodgers would appear to be the “new Yankees” — with their seemingly endless amount of spending money.

Nonetheless, only time will tell how the Dodgers will perform in 2014. Should things play out the way many are predicting, they could have a really special season, and that also holds true for many seasons to come.

No matter what, when it comes to Clayton Kershaw, signing him was absolutely worth it.

Q and A With Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek was drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Cishek has had a good deal of success, hi-res-149450835_display_imageposting stellar numbers over the past four years, finishing each of his big league seasons with an ERA below three.

Cishek made his major league debut in 2010, and began serving as the on and off closer for the Marlins in 2012, before becoming the full time closer for the 2013 season. Despite a rough start, Cishek finished 2013 with a 2.33 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, striking out 74 while tallying up 34 saves.

With his consistency, Cishek should continue to serve as an effective closer for the Marlins for years to come. Regardless of his unconventional sidearm delivery, he has deceptive stuff that should lead him to more of the same success down the road.

Steve Cishek — closer for the Marlins — 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?

My Dad would always tell me that when I was a kid I always wanted him, or anyone capable of throwing a round object, to pitch to me. That’s all I would say – “Pitch to me.” So I have loved baseball as long as I can remember. I also really enjoyed watching the Red Sox, especially when Mo Vaughn was hitting. And then when Nomar became popular he was my favorite to watch.

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

My favorite player growing up was definitely Nomar Garciaparra. He was the best on the team, and it was like a rivalry with Yankees fans and Jeter. So I had to cheer extra hard when Nomar was playing the Yanks.

3.) You were drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was exciting/nerve wracking. I filled out a lot of player profiles for almost every team; it was like extra homework. But when it came to draft day, I was pretty nervous. When my name popped up on the draft board we all freaked out. We had dial-up internet then, so the draft board was loading sooo slow. I was losing my mind. But my name popped up, and I got a phone call soon after from the Marlins’ scout, and I realized I had a new and unique journey that was about to unfold.

4.) Why did you decide to pitch with a sidearm delivery versus a traditional delivery? When did you first begin using it?

I didn’t realize I threw from my arm slot until I got to college. Even today I feel like I throw over hand. But back in high school and college I was a low 3/4 slot, and I think when I got to pro ball and the big leagues my arm slot got lower because I was throwing a lot more often.

5.) You took part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. What was the overall experience like? What did you take away from it?

The WBC was the best baseball experience I have ever had. It was so humbling to look around the locker room and see the caliber of players in there. I never imagined I would be wearing the same jersey as any of these guys, let alone be wearing a USA jersey. And the games — I hadn’t been that nervous in a game probably ever. There was nothing like playing against another country while representing your country (from a sporting standpoint). I got to pitch in high pressure situations, so I learned a lot about taking a step back and relaxing/calming my nerves. So I felt that it prepared me for high pressure situations during the season.

6.) As the Marlins’ closer, how do you prepare yourself mentally to come into the game in the ninth inning, knowing it’s your job to hold down the lead for the team win?

I prepare to close a game the same way I would prepare for any other situation. I go through my routine and after the 6th inning I like to stand for the rest of the game so I don’t get lazy. I get pretty fired up when my name is called to go in but what makes my job more stress free than the other person is that I am playing for Him, and not to please people. I pull a card that reads Colossians 3:23  ["Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."] out of my back pocket to remember that before every outing. And no matter what, if I do well or poorly, I know God still loves me and I am satisfied with that.

7.) Despite a rough start to the year, you pulled things together to have the best statistical season of your career thus far. What changed that enabled you to have success in the remainder of the season?

Baseball is so mental, and I went through a period where I was playing scared. We were not winning many games and when I went in it was only when we were winning. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the job done and that resulted in me playing scared. My coaches worked with me a lot, but ultimately it took two Christian brothers, Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan, to come confront me and basically tell me I need to let it go and leave it in God’s hands. I asked God for forgiveness for playing to please man and I accepted His will.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I felt like the team showed flashes of being a great team. From late May to early July, we had the 2nd best record in the NL. We have great young talent that is so close to being ready for the big leagues; I can’t wait to see what we are capable of in the future. Our goals are obviously to win a championship, but I feel it is much more important to have smaller goals that lead up to that big goal. My goal is just to get better everyday and to try and be a light as much as possible on and off the field.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My wife and I are really into a lot of TV shows. We enjoy suspenseful shows and ’24′ is on that list. When we have down time, especially after a long day, we may come home and watch an episode, just to relax and enjoy each other. My favorite food is definitely chicken parm. Anytime I go to a new restaurant, I have to try it if they have it on the menu.

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

I would tell them to leave the video games alone until night time and enjoy playing outside. When I was growing up we played every sport and we competed every day in our neighborhood. I am so thankful for the neighborhood we grew up in because we were always playing outside. You name the sport, we played it. So make sure you stay active and play other sports too. You don’t want to get burnt out playing baseball all the time. And when you are old enough to concentrate on one sport: (1) Play for His glory (2) Work as hard as you can at it (Col. 3:23), because someone else is probably working harder than you.

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Big thanks to Steve Cishek for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @srSHREK31

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas – the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter – all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot: If I Had A Vote

The 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is loaded with stars. (There are 36 players in all, with 19 of them being first ballot players.) Whether the player has been on the ballot for numerous years or is a newcomer, there are far too many players for me to give my take on them all. Therefore, I’m only going to be discussing the players I’d vote for if I had a vote, and provide my reasoning for each.

The first player on my ballot would have to be Greg Maddux. 2499811_crop_650x440 Maddux, who will go down in history as one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen, racked up a total of 355 wins over the course of his 23-year career. As if that wasn’t enough to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Maddux also put together a stat line of 3,371 strikeouts, to go along with an ERA of 3.16, and 4 straight Cy Young winning seasons. In addition, Maddux holds the record for most Gold Glove awards with 18, and should be one of the highest vote getters in Hall of Fame voting history.

The second vote on my ballot goes to Frank Thomas. 50825152_crop_650x440 Thomas put together an incredible career, and would be an automatic pick for the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for the steroid era in which he played. But despite that, I feel Thomas will get in as a first ballot player, and rightfully so, seeing that he was never directly connected to PED’s. Blasting 521 home runs in his 19-year career, totaling 1,704 RBI’s, “The Big Hurt” has some of the best stats seen on the ballot in years (with the exception of Barry Bonds). With a .301 batting average to go along with his amazing numbers, and two career MVP’s, Thomas should receive the second most votes from the 2014 ballot, after Greg Maddux.

The next player I have is Tom Glavine. mlb_a_glavine_576 Glavine, as with Greg Maddux, is one of only 24 pitchers to have put together 300 or more career wins (305), done in his 22 seasons in the major leagues. Anytime a pitcher accomplishes this great feat, it’s almost a no brainer that they’re a Hall of Fame player, as a 300 game winner is nearly unheard of nowadays. Glavine also has two Cy Young awards and 2,607 strikeouts to go along with his other impressive numbers, and that, in my mind, should earn him a spot in Cooperstown.

The fourth player on my ballot is Mike Piazza. 345595_crop_650x440 Piazza doesn’t have the most impressive numbers of the players on this year’s ballot, however, the stats that he put together over his career, although not good enough for a first ballot vote, are good enough for the Hall of Fame, in this his second year on the ballot. In my mind, despite barely surpassing the 2,000 hit mark and sitting 90th all time in terms of RBI’s, Piazza put together one of the best ever careers for a catcher. He is fourth on the list of catchers in baseball history for most RBI’s and leads all catchers in home runs. When you combine it all together, it makes Piazza a Hall of Fame player.

The final player I would vote for from this year’s ballot is Craig Biggio. biggio Biggio was the top vote getter of the players on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 68.2 percent of the vote, which saw no players getting the necessary 75 percent to be elected. Biggio should get in this time around — many believe he should’ve been a first ballot Hall of Famer — as his 3,060 career hits put him on a list with just 27 other players who have compiled 3,000 or more hits. Biggio’s 291 career homers and 1,175 RBI’s are low for a Hall of Fame player, however, there is a very good case for making an exception for Biggio making it into the Hall.

Unfortunately, with all of the great players this year, I decided to leave off a few of the really good players from my ballot, including Jack Morris (who is in his last year of eligibility), Tim Raines, Don Mattingly, etc., even though I could’ve easily included them. I just didn’t think they were good enough to make the cut this year. 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.

Though you may disagree with some of the players I feel are Hall of Fame worthy and with some of the players I left off my ballot, it’s just the way I feel and how I see things. Now, I want to hear from you. Of the players on the 2014 ballot, who do you want to see get elected along side of Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa in July? Cast your vote below for the number of players from the 2014 ballot that you would vote into the Hall of Fame, and feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Blogging Resolutions for 2014

Happy New Year, everyone!

As I did last year, I want to go over the main things I’m hoping to accomplish, blogging wise, this year. But unlike last year, this time around I’m making a couple of my goals a little more realistic.

The five main resolutions/goals I have for this blog in 2014 are as follows:

1. Blog at least once every 4 days:

I was able to accomplish this last year — with the exception of July/August when I was on vacation — and I don’t see any reason why I won’t be able to keep up the same pace this year. Although I had periods where I got up a post every 1-3 days, I feel four is a good number. Anything more would be too long to wait between posts, and anything less would make it too difficult for me to keep up. (I still want to have time to do other things, non baseball related. Imagine that.)

2. Publish 100 posts:

I was able to get 121 posts up in 2013, so I feel confident I’ll be able to do so again this year. But despite my optimism, I don’t want to increase my goal number of 100. Though I’ll probably exceed it, 100 is a nice round number (only 99 more to go). I guess a good goal would be to beat the 121 number in 2014, but we’ll see what happens.

3. Get more views than 2013:

Last year, this goal was to get 100,000 views. Considering the fact that I only amassed just under 76,000 views in 2013 (23,000 better than the previous year), I’m not shooting as high this season. Would 100,000+ views be nice? Yes, absolutely. I’m just not counting on it, and therefore my goal is to get more views this year than I did in 2013. That’s what I’m aiming for anyway — to get better and better every year. And more views is a part of that.

4. Go on a 5-post-blogging-streak:

Just like goal number three, I changed this goal for 2014. In 2013, my goal was to get more views in a single day (892) than I ever had. But that’s out of my control, so I don’t feel the need to keep that as a goal for 2014. Therefore, I’m changing that goal to having at least one streak during the year of publishing five or more posts in a row, day after day. I’ve never done that many, so it will be a challenging goal, but I’m going to do my best to tackle it.

5. Reply to every comment that is left:

This, as I stated last year, is the easiest goal of them all. But even so, I wanted to keep this as a goal, as I feel it’s a very important one — maybe the most important of them all. It may not seem that way, but although I don’t receive a tremendous amount of comments, anytime I do I want to reply back. Whether the comment is a question, about something I’m up to or the post itself, or a general comment or statement, I feel the obligation to reply back. Without the readers this blog wouldn’t be what it is. Replying is my way of saying that the reader is appreciated.

So, there you have it. My top five blogging resolutions/goals for 2014.

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. I think 2014 is going to be an exciting year.

Last Blog Post Until 2014

This is my 121st blog post of the year and it will be my last of 2013. I’ve done my best to keep all the goals I originally set back in January, but it’s Christmas time, so I’m going to mess up my goal of blogging at least once every four days and take a break until the new year.

ballsome-treeI’ve really had a great time with this blog in the past year, as I’ve blogged more often than I ever had before. With the exception of my 24-day trip around the country in July/August, I got 2-3 posts up every week. That’s pretty good if you ask me.

As I did last year, I’m going to be setting five resolutions/goals for the 2014 blogging season on January 1st (my next blog post). A few of them are going to be the same, however, I’ve changed a couple around, based on my 2013 blogging year.

After that, I’m going to be posting an entry on my Hall of Fame picks, followed by the players elected into the H.O.F. (on January 8th) and a post marking the three-year anniversary of this blog on January 20th. I also have the 2013 number one overall draft pick, Mark Appel, scheduled for an interview sometime next month. So a Q and A with him will likely come late in the month, or early in early February.

Lastly, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year, and throughout its nearly three 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 2014 the best year yet — even better than 2013 – 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.

See you all in 2014.

Q and A With Addison Russell

Addison Russell was drafted by the Athletics in the first round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, Russell has had a great deal of success, posting above average numbers for two straight seasons. img_0095

After an inaugural professional season of 7 home runs and 45 RBI’s to go along with a .369 batting average, in just 55 games played, Russell had a 2013 season nearly as good. Despite a poor start to the year, Russell turned things around to finish out the season with a batting average of .269, to go along with 17 home runs and 60 RBI’s.

In addition to a great season statistically, Russell was selected to participate in the 2013 Futures Game up in New York City, making the 2013 season one to remember.

If Russell can continue to post the same type of numbers, it’s only a matter of time before he’s having memorable seasons at the Major League level.

Addison Russell — top prospect in the Athletics’ 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?

Around the age of five my father got me into it. He would be my biggest influence.

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

Barry Larkin. It just seemed like he was the ultimate role model. He was a great ball player and knows so much about the game.

3.) You were drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

I was at home in Pensacola, Florida. That day I was having a graduation party, so I had friends and family there to share the experience. Really, I had no idea where I was going to be picked at. But Oakland picked me 11th overall. It was all a blur. I just remember being too excited to actually pursue my dream job.

4.) You worked really hard to get in better physical shape in your last year of high school before getting drafted. How much do you attribute that work in the year before the draft to your extremely successful first (half) season in 2012?

I had to work hard. I just want to be the best I can be. Everyday running, in the weight room everyday — and also working on my skills and craft.

5.) Though you began the 2013 season a bit slow, you turned things around to have another successful year. What enabled you to turn around your season?

Just slow the game down and get my pitch and take advantage of it.

6.) You were selected to play in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City, in July. What was that experience like? What did you take away from the game that you plan to use moving forward?

It was a great experience. I got to play with future big leaguers. What I took from the experience was that there’s a lot great players out there, and I can play with them. My work ethic will be my key. Always improving my craft in all aspects of the game

7.) The Athletics moved you all the way up to Triple-A at the very end of the 2013 season, where you had the opportunity to play in the playoffs. How was the playoff atmosphere different than any other level of baseball you had ever played up until that point?

It’s more hyped up. It’s a big move. I was just blessed to get the experience.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I felt alright. I felt early on I could’ve done things a little better. I finished up the year strong. Looking back, I think I had a good year. My goals for next year is just to make the adjustment early.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My favorite show is ‘Duck Dynasty’, and I absolutely love pizza.

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

Don’t let people tell you what you can’t do. Work hard everyday. Keep goals, keep achieving them, and strive to be the best you that you can be.

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Big thanks to Addison Russell for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Addison_Russell

Q and A With Chris Beck

Chris Beck was drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Originally projected as a first round draft pick, a drop in velocity duringBeck his junior year of college led to a drop to late in the second round. But Beck has been able to prove his ability as a pitcher, posting good stats over his first two seasons of professional baseball.

After a good 2012, Beck had an even better 2013 season, going 13-10 with a 3.07 ERA in 26 starts. Beginning the year strong in High-A, Beck was selected to participate in the Carolina League/California League All-Star game, and was quickly promoted to Double-A afterwards, where he ended the year.

Beck is a player worth keeping a very close eye on. He should continue to post good stats, and could make it to the majors in the next year or two.

Chris Beck — top 10 prospect in the White Sox’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball?

I’d say from the time I was able to walk. I always had my plastic ‘Fisher Price’ bat in my hands walking around the house.

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

Chipper Jones, hands down, because he was a Georgia boy right up the road in Atlanta.

3.) You were drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an amazing experience but stressful at the same time. I had upper first round buzz heading into my junior season, and I fell into the second round. So I had no idea when I was going to go, but [I'm] very lucky the White Sox took me when they did.

4.) Although you signed with the White Sox in 2012, you were originally drafted by the Indians in the 35th round of the 2009 draft. What made you decide to attend college instead of beginning your professional career?

Just my maturity situation. I had gone to a one-hallway high school in a small town, and [had] never really been away from home, ever. I knew I had some growing up to do before I could handle pro ball.

5.) You had a fairly successful first half to the year that earned you a spot in the 2013 Carolina League/California League All-Star game. What did it mean to you to be named to the team along with all the other great players in High-A baseball?

It was awesome just being able to be surrounded by that talent. You look now and most of the guys that played in the game moved to AA right after and continued their success. They could be in the big leagues at any point this next season, and that’ll be something cool to know I played beside them.

6.) After the All-Star game, you were promoted to Double-A. What kind of differences, if any, did you notice from the level of talent you began the first half of the year facing?

It’s just the margin of error is that much smaller. I’m very lucky that the Carolina league was loaded with great players and competition so I believe that helped with the transition. But back to AA, those guys are there for a reason and most are future or former big leaguers.

7.) Winning a World Series Championship is, obviously, every player’s dream, but while you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so, you won the next best thing: The 2013 Southern League Championship, with the Birmingham Barons. What was that experience like, pitching in a Minor League playoff atmosphere? What did you take away from it?

I don’t think there’s one certain word that can describe that. It’s such a rush of emotions and adrenaline even when you’re not on the mound. You’re hanging on the rail during every pitch. And after playing for the love of the game, you play to win, and winning a championship is the ultimate prize.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

2013 I gained loads of experience of it being my first full season. I learned a lot of how to treat your body (laying off Dunkin Donuts everyday) and when to push and when to let off in between starts. Staying healthy was my primary goal, and that happened. So into 2014 it’ll be a lot of the same — staying healthy and continuing to work on putting guys away. I walked a lot of guys in High-A this year and want to take what I did in AA into this coming Spring Training.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I really love ‘Duck Dynasty’ and, as mentioned before, donuts. Lol.

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

Biggest advice I could offer: Have fun! It’s a game, and it’s meant to be fun. When that stops happening something isn’t being done right, no matter what level you’re on.

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Big thanks to Chris Beck for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @WatchurBeck

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