The Wait Is Finally Over: Cubs Win 2016 World Series

After falling down three games to one heading into game five of the World Series, the Cubs battled back to win the pivotal game and send the series back to Cleveland down 3-2. Despite having struggled at times this postseason, Chicago looked World Series Cubs Indians Baseballreally good in their final game at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and would be looking to keep their hot-hitting going into Tuesday.

The starter for the Indians, Josh Tomlin, had been great in his last outing, and he began the night without any struggle, retiring the first two batters without trouble.

However, Kris Bryant ended up taking an 0-2 curveball and promptly depositing it deep into the left field stands. Quickly following was a pair of singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, setting runners up at first and third with still two outs.

Addison Russell then lifted a simple fly ball to the outfield, which looked to be an easy third out to the inning. But due to miscommunication by Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, the ball dropped in, giving the Cubs another pair of runs, making the score 3-0 Cubs in the first inning.

Jake Arrieta was tabbed with the start for Chicago, but he was far more successful in his first inning than Tomlin had been, getting through the inning without a single hit. With a three-run cushion, and citing the way Arrieta had pitched his last time out, you got the feeling that the Indians had their work cut out for them.

Their struggles would continue in the third inning, when a Kyle Schwarber leadoff walk and a series of hits would result in the bases loaded with just one out, leading to the departure of Josh Tomlin after just 2.1 inning pitched. But things would simply go downhill from there, as Dan Otero, who came on in relief, allowed a grand slam to Addison russellRussell — just the 19th World Series grand slam in history, and first since Paul Konerko in 2005 –that pushed the score up to 7-0. (In addition, Russell’s slam put him at six RBI’s on the night, tying the all-time record.)

The Indians would finally get to Arrieta in the fourth, when Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a double, later scoring on an RBI-single from Mike Napoli. But despite recording the second out of the inning, Arrieta would struggle for a bit, allowing the bases to become loaded for Tyler Naquin. However, Naquin couldn’t come through, leaving the Indians still trailing by half a dozen runs.

But their quest for a comeback continued in the next inning, with Jason Kipnis launching an opposite-field solo home run to make the score 7-2. Although still trailing by five runs, the Indians appeared to be heating up just a bit in the middle innings, chasing Arrieta from the game just one out shy of six inning pitched in which he struck out nine.

Following a scoreless sixth and seventh by both squads, the eighth inning saw Aroldis Chapman on in relief, who had come in and successfully gotten the final out in the seventh. His appearance in a 7-2 game was greatly questioned around the baseball world, as overuse or an injury on Tuesday night would limit his participation in the all-important game seven. But nonetheless, he did his job and was as dominant as ever.

A two-run homer from Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth would give the Cubs an even bigger lead heading into the bottom half, ultimately securing them the win to force things to a seventh game, despite the Indians scoring a run in the ninth and making it a final score of 9-3.cubs

Having picked up the win, the Cubs became the first team to force a game seven after trailing 3-1 since the Royals in 1985.

With Chicago’s 3-4-5-6 hitters going a combined 8-9 to begin the game, the Cubs certainly saw their bats heat up in a big way in game six. Only time would reveal if the Cubs would share in the same fate as the ’85 Royals, who went on to win the World Series, but if their bats continued to stay hot, their chances seemed fairly good.

The decisive game seven of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians saw Kyle Hendricks going up against Corey Kluber, who had both had their share of ups and downs throughout the season. However, with this guaranteed to be the final game of the 2016 baseball season, you knew going into it that they were each going to give it all they had, with neither side wanting to give an inch.

But even with that being the case, Kluber didn’t get off to the start he had been hoping for. The very first batter of the game, Dexter Fowler, cranked a home run over the center field wall, making history as the first leadoff homerun in a game seven of the World Series ever. Following that round-tripper, Kluber would settle down to not allow any morefowler damage in the inning, but the tone was already set.

Taking the mound in the bottom half was Hendricks, who navigated through the inning without any runs being scored upon him. That would change, however, in the third inning, when after a Coco Crisp leadoff double, the Indians tied the game on an RBI-single from Carlos Santana, following a sacrifice bunt that had advanced Crisp to third.

The Cubs would score again in the fourth on a shallow sacrifice fly from who else but Addison Russell, allowing Kris Bryant to score on a terrific slide under the glove of catcher Roberto Perez. Willson Contreras would then double off the top of the outfield wall, giving the Cubs another run and a 3-1 lead over the Indians.

A lot of people made the assumption that with Kluber having started two games of the World Series already, it had a huge impact on him and his effectiveness in this game. That theory received more evidence in the fifth inning when Javier Baez hit a solo-homer to lead off the inning and increase the Cubs’ score yet again, causing the departure of Kluber for reliever Andrew Miller. But not even Miller could keep the Cubs quiet, as Chicago once again scored a run on an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double and appeared to be putting the game away.

But the Indians wouldn’t go away quietly. Jon Lester would come on in relief in the fifth inning for the first time in his postseason career since 2007, but quickly give up two runs on a wild pitch. With the score back to just a two-run lead, this was anyone’s game yet again.davis

The sixth inning saw the Cubs adding on another run, with a David Ross homer giving them a 6-3 lead. That homer made Ross the oldest player ever to hit a home run in game seven of the Fall Classic, dating back to its inaugural season in 1903.

After Ross’s home run made it 6-3, Aroldis Chapman would come on in the eighth, but would allow an RBI-double to Brandon Guyer, putting the Indians back just two runs. The lead then completely dissolved, as a Rajai Davis home run tied the game at six apiece. Game seven was certainly living up to the hype.

The ninth inning would quickly get interesting, as a stolen base attempt by Jason Heyward resulted in him winding up at third with just one out following an errant throw down to second. But a questionable decision to bunt by Javier Baez with two strikes that was unsuccessful, and a terrific play by Francisco Lindor, kept the Cubs from doing anything in the inning.

The skies would then open up after regulation play, leading to a rain delay that would last around twenty minutes before the game resumed. Upon the restart, the Cubs wasted no time in retaking the lead, with Ben Zobrist notching an RBI-double, putting runners at second and third with just one out. The next batter would be intentionally walked to get to Miguel Montero, who would come through, allowing another run to score and make the Cubs lead two runs heading into the bottom half.

Carl Edwards Jr. was given the task of closing out the game, but he couldn’t complete the task. Despite getting the first two outs, Edwards would allow an RBI-single to Rajai Davis, making it just a one run game. Mike Montgomery would subsequently come into the game, looking to do what Edwards couldn’t. Montgomery would get the final out, winning the Cubs its first championship in over a century.

cubs-win

The World Series Most Valuable Player award went to Ben Zobrist, who came up big with what would be the game winning hit in the tenth inning. Though this team had their highs and lows, Zobrist was tremendous throughout the World Series, and truly deserved to take home the MVP honors.

This win by the Chicago Cubs means the world to countless people around the baseball world. For Cubs fans who have been hopeful for a century that each season was finally the one, only to have disappointment arise time and time again, they finally have their title. For a fan of any team around baseball, though, this is still a very special and historic moment.

Although the Cleveland Indians now take over as the MLB team with the longest World Series Championship drought, their time will inevitably come, as it finally did for the Cubs. Whether that comes next season or in another 40 years like the Cubs, the only thing that mattered to baseball fans on Wednesday night was this: The Chicago Cubs are officially your World Series Champions of 2016.

Next stop, 2017 . . .

World Series Tied Heading to Chicago

One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great seriesteams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.

Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.

But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.

The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.

Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the kluberother side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.

Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.

Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.

The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.

One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.APTOPIX World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.

With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.

Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.

Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.

rizzoAs it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.

The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.

However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.

Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.

Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.

arrietaThe double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.

Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.

The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.

Can Any Team Stop the Cubs in October?

After making the playoffs last season following a seven-year drought, many felt that the time had finally arrived in which the Cubs would break their historic curse and win the World Series title that has eluded them for over a century.cubs However, despite making it all the way to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2003, the Cubs were promptly swept in four games by the Mets.

This season, the Cubs are setting themselves up nicely once again. They have a great team, which has been evident all season long, allowing them to be the first team to officially clinch a postseason spot, as well as run away with the division title by a whopping 17 games over the Cardinals.

But the big question is, are the Cubs setting themselves up for a magical finish to the year or yet another disappointing conclusion?

One of the key differences from the team the Cubs put on the field last season and the one they have this time around is their overall dominance. From week one of the season, the Cubs put their talent on full display, taking the division title with ease (they wound up in third place last season), having never been out of first place since the first few games of the year.

Their offense is extremely good, despite the collective team stats saying otherwise. The Cubs don’t sit in the top few slots in either home runs or batting average for their team, but with 30+ homer guys such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — who are both considered top MVP-candidates — the Cubs have plenty of thump to get the job done.

But as good as their lineup is, it’s their pitching that puts them in historic territory.

Four of the Cubs’ rotation options from this season hold ERA’s below 3.00, with all of their starters having recorded ERA’s less than 3.60, chapmanall adding up to a collective team ERA (including the bullpen) of just over 3.00 — by far the best in all of baseball.

On top of their fantastic starting pitching, holding an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman to get the job done at the end of the game gives the Cubs a great chance at a win day in and day out.

However, as has been proven in the past, a win isn’t guaranteed by any means in the month of October, no matter how good of a roster any team may possess. All it takes is for an under-the-radar team to get hot at just the right time and come along to kill the dreams of any given team.

But does any team actually have a chance of beating the Cubs when the postseason rolls around in less than three weeks? Obviously, the answer is yes — anything can and usually does happen in October. But although it remains a possibility, I — along with a great number of people around the baseball world — believe that this could actually end up being the year the Cubs win it all (I said that in 2015, too).

No team could stop the Cubs in the regular season.

Only time will tell if the same will hold true in the postseason.

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

The Injury Bug: Numerous Players To Miss Time

Another day, another injury. It seems that’s been the common theme as of late, with Michael Bourn, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman and Jurickson Profar being the most recent players to fall victim to what’s become somewhat of an injury epidemic around Major League Baseball.

While every year brings injuries throughout both the offseason and the regular season, this year seems to be above average in that department, Kris Medlenand the season hasn’t even begun yet. Including names such as Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, and Jarrod Parker, among many others, the list of players set to miss Opening Day — the entire season for some players — due to injury continues to grow larger. Although some players aren’t that big of a loss overall, some will have a drastic impact on their team’s success.

None more so than the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the Braves. Both are set to miss the entire season due to the second Tommy John surgeries of their careers, and losing these key pieces to the Braves’ starting rotation will likely have a profound impact on how they perform as a whole. I had the Braves winning the National League East division in 2014, as they did last season, however, the subtraction of these players from the roster could cause them to fall down in the rankings a bit.

But the Braves aren’t the only team that could fall down a bit due to an injured player.

Patrick Corbin being out for what could be the entire season will have an effect on the Diamondback’s performance this season. Corbin really broke out last year, and was set to lead their starting rotation throughout the coming season. But without him, while the D-backs should still be a good team, they won’t be able to give the Dodgers a run for the division title like they previously would’ve possibly been able to do.

However, the team that will likely see the second biggest drop, behind the Braves, from their predicted finish will be the Athletics, who will beUntitled without A.J. Griffin for a good bit of time, but more importantly won’t have Jarrod Parker for the entire season. He, like many pitchers I’ve discussed, is undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until 2015. With Parker out, the A’s will have a difficult time overtaking the Rangers in the American League West division as they’ve done the past two seasons.

Not all of these injuries have occurred recently, though. A few players that won’t be ready for Opening Day had their injuries happen much earlier than this offseason or Spring Training.

Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Matt Kemp, and Matt Harvey are all missing a good deal of time due to nagging injuries from 2013, with Matt Harvey (and possibly Jose Iglesias as well) out for the full length of the season. When healthy, all have extreme impacts on their respective teams, so, obviously, not having them being their productive selves is a big loss.

But despite all of the injuries that seem to grow in number everyday, these are the types of things teams just have to play through. You have to compete with what you have. And therefore, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting 2014 season, with there now being just six days until Opening Day.

Top Ten Contracts I’d Give to Young Stars

With Clayton Kershaw recently receiving a 7-year, 215 million dollar deal from the Dodgers, I thought I’d go over the top young players Kershaw’s age (26 at the start of the season) or younger without extended contracts, with at least 100 games played or 100 innings pitched, that I feel would be worth a large deal (not necessarily of Kershaw’s magnitude).

Keep in mind, the players on my list might never get contracts of this amount, or they could be offered larger ones — depending on what their respective team can afford. I’m not trying to project what the future holds for each player money wise, I’m just giving my take on what I feel they’re worth, and over what period of time. Also, the players are in order of total dollar amount, not necessarily their talent level, as some positions are simply worth more money than others.

With all that said, here is my top ten list:

1.) Mike Trout — 22 years old: Contract of 10 years, 310 million dollars

There’s no doubt in my mind that Mike Trout is eventually going to receive a massive contract. After winning the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year award and going on to have an even better 2013 season, Trout is worth every dollar. At just 22 years old, Trout is the only player on my list that I’d give a 10 year contract to, with my contract coming out to 31 million a year, which would make him the highest paid player in MLB history. But he’s just going to get better and better.

2.) Giancarlo Stanton — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 130 million dollars

If Giancarlo Stanton had been completely healthy over the last couple of seasons, he’d probably be receiving more money in my contract. But citing the health issues, especially last season, I decided to give him just under 22 million a year. When healthy, he is a 30-40 home run player, and is just as deserving of a huge contract as Mike Trout.

3.) Freddie Freeman — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 100 million dollars

Many had Freddie Freeman in the running for the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player award, but while he didn’t win (Andrew McCutchen ended up taking home the honor) that doesn’t take anything away from the season Freeman had. At just 23 years old, Freeman recorded his first 100 RBI season last year, and should continue to be that type of player moving forward. Therefore, I’d lock him up until age 30, providing him with just under 17 million a season.

4.) Jose Fernandez — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 100 million dollars

If Jose Fernandez can perform all next season the way he did in 2013, he will be worth even more than this. Fernandez blew away the opposition last season, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award — even placing third in Cy Young award voting. At just 21 years old, Fernandez is going to be very good for a very long time, but I played it safe, for now, giving him 20 million a season (yes, I know that’s a ton for a player of his age) for the next five years. After that, sky’s the limit.

5.) Manny Machado — 21 years old: Contract of 6 years, 85 million dollars

Manny Machado could end up being worthy of the second largest contract of the players on my list, as he is capable of turning into a complete, superstar player a few years down the road, but for now he sits at number five. That’s no knock to him, however. He’s just 21 years old, and has already shown flashes of being one of the top two or three players in all of baseball. But if I had to offer him a contract tomorrow, I’d give him roughly 14 million a year until he turns 27.

6.) Stephen Strasburg — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 80 million dollars

Though he’s had a few good seasons (after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010) Stephen Strasburg hasn’t yet broken out as that super dominant pitcher many feel he can be, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 2013. Therefore, I have him at number six on my list, with a contract of 16 million a year until he turns 30. But a few good seasons could easily move him way up.

7.) Craig Kimbrel — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 75 million dollars

There is, arguably, no one better at closing out games at the moment (now that Mariano Rivera has retired) than Craig Kimbrel. Posting 40 or more saves each of the past three years, Kimbrel has overpowering stuff, and should continue to dominate as the Braves’ closer for years to come. I don’t normally like relief pitchers getting big contracts, but Kimbrel is the exception, with me giving him a contract worth 15 million a year.

8.) Bryce Harper — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 70 million dollars

This was difficult for me, putting Bryce Harper all the way down at number eight. He’s been hyped since the age of sixteen, and it hasn’t slowed since Harper reached the majors in 2012. But he’s just a bit “out of control” for me to place him any higher; at least for now. If he can get everything together, he has the potential to be a true five-tool player, and earn a mega-contract. From what I’ve seen so far, however, I’d give him five years to figure things out, giving him 14 million a season.

9.) Addison Reed — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 65 million dollars

Addison Reed — recently traded to the Diamondbacks from the White Sox — is one of the most dominant and reliable closers in all of baseball. Though he is somewhat of a question mark in terms of earned runs allowed per outing, Reed has very dominant stuff, and recorded 40 saves last season. He should remain a feared ninth inning man for years to come, earning him 13 million until he turns 30, in my book.

10.) Matt Harvey — 25 years old: Contract T.B.D.

The fact that Matt Harvey missed the last few games of 2013 and will miss the entire 2014 season, due to Tommy John surgery, and yet still makes my top ten speaks volumes for the type of player he is. Getting the start for the 2013 All-Star game, Harvey had a magnificent year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, and really put his name on the map. Once healthy, he should get a hefty contract. (It’s hard to say for sure how much he’s worth, which is why I left that to be determined down the road.)

Do you agree or disagree with my top ten? Leave a comment below.

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

We’re just over a week into the 2013 MLB regular season, and I wanted to post a blog, just like last year, on the fastest and slowest starts to the season for both entire teams and individual players. While it’s a small sample size, the list gives you an idea of what’s been taking place so far this season. Some of the players and teams are performing nearly as well as expected, but others are putting on performances that I never would’ve predicted them to begin the season with.

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

The Braves currently lead all of baseball with a win percentage of .857. Justin Upton has been making a major impact, hitting six home runs in the first seven games, and I fully expected the Braves to have a season long performance like the one they’re currently starting out with. The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Red Sox and Mets are all surprising me, so far, as I expected them to all have poor seasons, and while it’s still very early, at the moment, they’re making things interesting. As far as the Athletics, Rangers and Reds go, it’s not a shock that they’re doing so well. Though I thought the Rangers would have a bit of a struggle this season, without Josh Hamilton, they seem to be doing just fine. It should be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

Adam Jones is the only player on the list of fastest start players that I’m not surprised with. Having recorded a 32 homer, 82 RBI season, in 2012, Jones is in the prime of his career, and is set to have another fantastic season. For Jed Lowrie, Carlos Santana, Michael Cuddyer, Carl Crawford and Jean Segura, they better enjoy the hot start while it lasts, because I don’t see any of them having an all that spectacular year. But as with anything in baseball, there’s always the chance for me to be proven wrong.

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

After beating the Rangers, 8-2, on Opening Night, the Astros have done nothing but go down hill, ever since. With 155 games left to play, and just 94 losses away from 100, it’s likely the Astros’ season will end with yet another year of 100+ losses. The Marlins, Padres and Pirates are all teams that have the potential to win now, but it’s likely to be a year or two before they start to become big time contenders in their divisions. The Brewers and Phillies are the only teams that surprise me, somewhat, on this list, but they just haven’t performed well so far this year. And as for the Cubs, they’re just being themselves; destined to make it 105 seasons without a World Series title.

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

No one on this list surprises me, other than Neil Walker. Walker is arguably the best player on the list, but he hasn’t been able to find his groove so far this season. I look for him to get things going, however, and record another season like he has the past few years–10-15 homers and 65-80 RBI’s, with a high 200’s batting average. For Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Hanigan, Aaron Hicks and Pedro Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if they get their acts together, or if this is a sign of things to come for them this season, as things can certainly only go up.

Keep in mind, while those are the players and teams with the fastest and slowest starts to the season, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and anything can happen. Only time will tell if the current trends will last; that’s why they play 162 games.