Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

National League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. I did my American League predictions on Thursday (if you’d like to check them out, CLICK HERE), so today, as the title states, I’m giving my 2013 National League standings predictions, starting with the NL East:

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

With all of the offseason additions, including both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, the Braves have a really good chance to win their division, in the minds of many baseball fans, myself included. Their starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark, being good, but not great, however, I think the lineup they currently possess will be more than enough to get the job done. This will be the first season in more than a decade in which Chipper Jones isn’t in the dugout, but I think it’s going to be an exciting year for Braves fans nonetheless.

The Nationals had a breakout season last year, bringing playoff baseball back to Washington D.C. for the first time since 1933, and all signs point to them having another great season. The only reason I have them finishing behind the Braves is that their lineup isn’t quite as lethal, although their pitching staff can compete with nearly any team in baseball. Stephen Strasburg isn’t going to be on an innings limit, as he was last season, and the loss of that stress should allow for him to thrive. I fully see the Nat’s making the playoffs yet again in 2013.

For the Phillies, I’m still yet to be convinced that they’re going to do much of anything this year. Unlike last year, the Phillies should have a healthy Ryan Howard for the entire season, who will undoubtedly improve their lineup, but with Roy Halladay struggling a bit in spring training–given it’s just spring training–and the remainder of the rotation being merely decent, I can’t see them finishing any higher than third; being that the Braves and Nationals are in the division. But the Phillies certainly have the potential to prove me wrong.

Adding tons of big name players to their roster in the offseason of 2011, everyone thought it would help the Marlins win a few more games than they did the previous year. But things didn’t go as planned for the Marlins, as they finished 2012 with even fewer wins than in 2011, and in a questionable move, decided to redo nearly the entire team during this past offseason. With the loss of so many players, combined with the way the remainder of the team–with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton–played last season, they aren’t predicted to do much in the coming year.

The only team I’m predicting to do worse than the Marlins are the Mets. Although they resigned their superstar third baseman, David Wright, for the next seven years, they traded away their 2012 Cy Young award winner, in R.A. Dickey. While that move alone isn’t going to be the make or break point for the Mets, I don’t see them winning an awful lot of games this year. I do, however, like their chances down the road, as some of their key prospects are knocking on the door. As soon as next season, I can see the Mets making some noise in the NL East.

CENTRAL

1. Reds

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

After an extremely successful 2012 season, in which the Reds finished first in their division on 97 games won, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have an equally impressive, if not slightly better, 2013. They have the same basic roster, which includes one of the best closers in all of baseball, however, the one major difference is a healthy Joey Votto, which is why I see the Reds having an even better season this year. If they acquire the speedy Billy Hamilton, who stole 155 bases in the minors last year, towards the end of the season, I could see them going very deep into the playoffs, as well.

The Cardinals are a team that’s good enough to give the Reds a run for their money, but I’m not predicting for them to win the division. The Card’s have an extremely good pitching staff, when it comes to both starters and the bullpen–though their stellar closer, Jason Motte, is expected to begin the year on the disabled list–,however, their lineup isn’t quite as good as the Reds. It’s certainly going to be fun to watch to see how it all plays out, but regardless, I don’t see them being good enough to earn even the second wild card spot, as I feel the Nat’s and Giants are going to have better seasons.

This is going to finally be the year for the Pirates, in my mind. They started off incredibly last season, with their All-Star, Andrew McCutchen, leading the way with a batting average in the high .300’s, however, when McCutchen began to struggle following the midsummer classic, the rest of the team followed suit. If the entire team can rally together and play to their full potential, for the entire season, while I don’t see them making the playoffs, I could easily see them finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1992.

If it wasn’t for Ryan Braun, the Brewers arguably wouldn’t have won nearly as many games last season, which is why I feel they’re bound to flip spots with the Pirates in the coming year. Their pitching staff isn’t what you would expect out of an above .500 ball club, but it gets the job done, nonetheless. Even so, their lineup is missing a few key components–some of which just aren’t there, and some players that are injured–for the Brewers to have any sort of a chance at a playoff run, as far as I can foresee.

All signs point to the Cubs’ streak of 104 seasons without a World Series title continuing yet another season, with there not being much chance for a successful season in 2013. They have some good, young prospects working their way up the ranks, but until they make it to Wrigley field, a few years down the road, all the Cubs can do is make it through another subpar 162 game season.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

It’s pretty much going to be either the Dodgers or Giants winning the NL West division, and if the Dodgers can play to their fullest potential, I have a good feeling they’re going to win their division. They have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, which includes former Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, along with Zack Greinke and newcomer Hyun-Jin Ryu, from Korea, and that, combined with one of the best lineups in baseball, should be enough to prevail them past the 2012 World Champion Giants, in the NL West division.

With the Dodgers winning the division, I have the Giants coming in a close second. Coming off their second World Series title in three years, the Giants are one of those teams that doesn’t have an incredible team, but make the very most of what they have. Last season, Tim Lincecum really struggled to find his groove, posting a career worse 5.18 ERA, but I see Lincecum having a bounce-back 2013 season. While a healthy Lincecum will help keep the Giants in the running for the division title, I still predict them coming up just short.

The Padres made some noise towards the end of last season, and I look for them to play more of the same type of intensity baseball for the entire 2013 season. They don’t get a lot of recognition, just because of who they are, not having made the playoffs since 2006, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t possibly be the shockers of the 2013 season. While I don’t see them finishing higher than third, with the Dodgers and Giants in the division, I’m predicting they’re going to be a lot better than most people are expecting.

Having finished with a record of 81-81, exactly .500, in 2012, I don’t see the Diamondbacks improving at all in the coming season, especially with the offseason trade of Justin Upton to the Braves, as well as promising young pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer, to the Indians. By losing a couple of players who would’ve likely made a noticeable impact for the D-back’s in the coming season, I see them finishing next to last in the division. Both their pitching staff and lineup are decent, but I just can’t bring myself to place them any higher in the standings for my predictions.

Playing in one of the best hitters ballparks in all of baseball, with the high altitude, doesn’t help out the Rockies when their pitching rotation is one of the weakest in all of baseball. Although they’ll have their star short stop, Troy Tulowitzki, back healthy–Tulowitzki only played in 47 games last year–along with veteran, Todd Helton, the Rockies’ lineup isn’t nearly strong enough to overcome their below average pithing staff. Therefore, I’m predicting a second straight last place season, in the NL West division, for the Rockies.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Justin Upton To Join Brother B.J. Upton In Atlanta

Ever since B.J. Upton signed with the Atlanta Braves, back in November of 2012, the question on everyone’s mind has been whether or not Justin Upton, who has been at the center of trade rumors for quite awhile, could possibly end up joining his brother down in Atlanta, with the Braves.

After months of speculation, the baseball world finally got its answer, as it was announced early Thursday that Justin Upton had been traded, and would in fact be heading down to play for the Atlanta Braves, starting this coming season.

Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+pF-7pXyaqUhl

In return for trading Justin Upton (along with Chris Johnson) to the Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks received Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill.

I, for one, like the trade; for the most part.

I feel the Upton’s will bring out the best in each other, and although a lot of Braves fans seem to be upset with the loss of Martin Prado, at third, the Braves received back what I view as an adequate replacement, in Chris Johnson, who had slightly better stats than Prado in 2012. While Prado had a higher batting average than Johnson (.301 compared to .281), Johnson slugged 5 more homers as well as 17 more RBI’s. Not drastically better, but better nonetheless.

Now, while I feel the trade will benefit both sides somewhat, comparing the Diamondbacks’ side of the trade to the Braves’ portion, I’m not so sure the D-back’s received a fair deal. Sure, trading two players away and acquiring five players in return is always a plus, but the players the D-back’s received, with the exception of Prado and Delgado, are all prospects. And while Randall Delgado isn’t considered a prospect anymore–as 102594869_display_imagehe’s had some MLB experience–I still don’t see him making a big impact for the D-back’s in 2013, as he went 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA with the Braves in 2012.

The way I see it, the Braves received a couple of major league proven players, while the D-back’s received just one, in Martin Prado. That doesn’t seem all that even, to me.

The three prospects the Diamondback’s received back, in return for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson, are Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill; all of which are (at least) a couple of seasons away from being MLB ready. That’s one of the main things I feel weighs down the D-back’s side of the trade.

Ahmed spent all of 2012 with A+ Lynchburg, batting .269 with 6 HR’s and 49 RBI’s. While he’ll still be fairly young (age 23) at the start of the 2013 season, it’ll take at least a few more seasons for Ahmed to even be close to major league ready, and unless he improves in the years to come, considering how much farther he has to go before the major league level, it may never happen at all.

Spruill is also one of those players who I’m not sure will ever make a big impact at the major league level. Spruill, as with Ahmed, is only 23 years old, however, going 9-11, with a 3.67 ERA in 2012, at AA Mississippi, it’ll take a real turn around for him to develop into anything all that valuable, as 2013 will be Spruill’s sixth season in the minors, and he’s yet to have played above the AA level.

The only player I like in the D-back’s receiving portion of the trade, besides Martin Prado, is Brandon Drury. Batting .229, with 6 HR’s and 51 RBI’s in 2012, at A Rome, he’s no superstar, however, he’s the youngest of the group, at age 20, and has plenty of time to develop into the great player he’s capable of becoming.

Overall, I’d say the Braves were on the better end of the Justin Upton trade. I feel the Braves, in addition to getting a great outfielder, may have possibly received the missing piece they’ve been lacking for the past few seasons, to allow them to make a true playoff run.

In addition to making it deep into the playoffs, with Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers in the outfield, combined with an infield of Johnson, Simmons, Uggla, Freeman and McCann, behind the plate, the Braves have a real shot, I feel, of doing what they’ve been unable to do since the 2005 season: Win their division.

MLB Players Alternate Jobs

Before I get started with what will be my final Q and A post until after the playoffs have concluded, let me first start out by saying that yesterday’s AL and NL Wild Card games went completely opposite from what I had expected.

With the Braves having won the past 23 times Kris Medlen started the game on the mound, I though it was a sure bet that the Braves would get the win. But as you know, that’s not what happened. The Braves ended up falling to the Cardinals (6-3), thus making it their final game of 2012; and Chipper Jones’ last game of his career.

Furthermore, I fully expected the Rangers to beat the Orioles, and just like the Braves-Cards game, I was completely stunned by the end result. The Orioles pulled out the win, beating the Rangers 5-1, ending the Ranger’s chances of a third straight World Series appearance. Incredible; but that’s baseball for ya. Just because you’re the better team on paper, doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

Now that I’ve given you my two cents on yesterday’s Wild Card games, I’ll now get on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

Have you ever wondered what MLB players would be doing had things not of worked out for them to play baseball? Well I did, which I why I spent last week on twitter asking players just that: “If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?”

Of those who replied, some actually put some thought into it while others replied with a somewhat humorous answer. I’ll let you distinguish between the two:

Chris Gimenez–Tampa Bay Rays

Def a coach. Think it would be fun.

David Huff–Cleveland Indians

Probably either playing golf on the tour or teaching high school history.

David Aardsma–New York Yankees

Prob a model.

Denard Span–Minnesota Twins

I’d be doing something associated with sports.

Daniel McCutchen–Pittsburgh Pirates

Prob be a movie star or maye a rapper. Then again, I could always give politics a shot.

David Hernandez–Arizona Diamondbacks

I’d probably be in my 8th year of college trying to figure out what I wanna do.

Luis Exposito–Baltimore Orioles

I would find an occupation where I can help less fortunate kids and help make the world a better place!

Steve Cishek–Miami Marlins

P.E. teacher and coach.

Ricky Nolasco–Miami Marlins

Police Officer for sure.

Brandon Snyder–Texas Rangers

I always say military but who knows. My wife would say I would be a trainer or something.

Josh Lueke–Tampa Bay Rays

Professional outdoorsman like my buddy @IHuntStrong [and] @BackwoodsLife #outdoors4life

Brian Dozier–Minnesota Twins

Lead guitarist for a rock band.

Paul Maholm–Atlanta Braves

Something in golf.

Daniel Hudson–Arizona Diamondbacks

No idea. Probably coaching somewhere.

Thomas Neal–Cleveland Indians

Coaching somewhere.

Mike Olt–Texas Rangers

I would be a lion.

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My next blog post will come tomorrow evening, and will detail my blogging plans for the next few weeks. So check back for that…

My Thoughts On the Latest MLB News

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you know I sometimes like to take little breaks from blogging. I tell myself I’m going to post an entry every few days, but even when something interesting happens I fail to blog about it. Not every time, but at least once a month I can’t seem to motivate myself to post a new entry.

What I’ll usually do (as I’m doing now) is post an entry after the several day break to recap the things that have happened since the last time I blogged. I’m not going to go over everything that’s happened. I’m just going to talk a little bit about the main things on my mind.

Chipper Jones Returns To the Braves’ Lineup

Chipper Jones made his 2012 regular season debut on Tuesday against the Houston Astros. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as he had just gotten over surgery from an injury he sustained during spring training. I was hoping he’d get at least one hit (which he did) but I never expected him to perform as well as he did. Jones went 2-4 in the game, with one of his hits being a home run. (Number 455 of his career.)

I thought Chipper looked great deffensively as well. During Tuesday’s game Jones made a fantastic bare handed play to throw out the batter at first. He moved fairly swiftly, and didn’t appear as if he was feeling any pain. A great sign for Braves and Chipper fans alike. It didn’t appear to be luck either, as Jones went 2-5 in the very next game. It should be interesting to see how he does in today’s home opener against the Brewers.

Tim Lincecum’s Rough Start To 2012

After a less than stellar 2011, I was fully expecting Tim Lincecum to have a bounce back year, domintating the way he did in past years, but so far that’s not the case. If anything, Lincecum’s going down hill. Now I’m not saying he can’t, and won’t, turn things around. All I’m saying is that he really needs to hurry up and figure it out. (As a fan of Lincecum, I’m hoping he does.)

Tim Lincecum has made a total of two starts so far this season, and looked overmatched in both. In his latest start on Wednesday, Lincecum lasted only 2.1 innings (the shortest outing of his career) giving up 6 runs off of 8 hits, while striking out three.

Lincecum’s next start is scheduled for Monday against the Phillies. Let’s hope he can finally show us at least a glimpse of the old Tim Lincecum.

Johnny Damon Signs With Cleveland Indians

When I first heard that the Cleveland Indians were looking to sign Johnny Damon I didn’t know what to think of it. To tell you the truth, I had lost all track of Damon once the 2012 season got underway. I recalled that Damon hadn’t found a team during the offseason, but once spring training ended I thought nothing more of it.

I for one think it’s an interesting move by the Indians. Damon can be a great player (future hall of famer?) but he’s a guy you need to keep a very close eye on. He could go either way.

Johnny Damon agreed to a 1-year, 1.25 million dollar contract with the Cleveland Indians. This makes the seventh team of Damon’s career, and the fourth different team for him in the past four years. I truly hope Damon performs well this season. I look forward to seeing him play again.

My Upcoming Week of Baseball

It’s officially that time of year again. The calendar reads April 1st which means the MLB regular season is just days away, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve got a busy week of baseball games coming up, so I thought I’d type up a brief overview of my schedule for the coming week.

Five County Stadium. Home of the Carolina Mudcats.

My first game of the year is Tuesday, April 3rd. It’s an exhibition game between the Cleveland Indians and my local minor league team, the Carolina Mudcats. Game time is set for 2 o’clock, but with gates set to open at 11:30, I’m planning on arriving at 11:15. While it might seem crazy to some of you that I’m showing up nearly 3 hours early, I feel that showing up early is half the fun. If you ask me, being one of the first through the gates is the only way to go. I’ll never understand the people that show up in the third inning and leave in the seventh. Why even come at all?!

Part of the reason I’m showing up as early as I am is to go for autographs. I’m not a big autograph collector, but I don’t plan on passing up the opportunity to get autos from some of today’s up and coming stars like Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc. Living nearly 300 miles from the nearest MLB stadium, this is a MUST attend game for me. It’s not that often that a Major League team “comes to me”.

Game two of the week comes three days later, on Friday April 6th. It’s another Mudcat’s game. (Opening night to be specific.) I wouldn’t be attending this game under normal circumstances, but when I bought my ticket the the Cleveland Indians exhibition game I received a FREE ticket to Opening Night. So I mean, why not? It’s a baseball game after all! Even if it is against a team in the White Sox organization, baseball is baseball. (There is a chance of rain that day however, so hopefully they’ll be able to get it in.)

The game I’m probably looking forward to the most is game three of the week. That game sees the Durham Bulls taking on the visiting Gwinnett Braves. There are tons of future Atlanta Braves stars on the team including newly acquired Joey Terdoslavich, who made the jump from Class A advanced ball to Triple A. Terdoslavich is more than likely going to take over for Chipper Jones at third base once Jones retires, so it’s pretty neat to get to see him play.

That’s pretty much it. Three games, five teams, and two stadiums, all within a five day span. Pretty exciting stuff, in my opinion. I’m pumped!!

My 2012 MLB Predictions

After watching several Spring Training games to try to get a feel for how teams will perform this season, I finally feel I can post my MLB predictions blog entry that I’ve had on hold for the past month. I’ve never attempted to make predictions for an entire year of Major League Baseball, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll probably be way off, but who knows, I might get lucky.

I’m going to start off by giving my predictions for each division, starting with the AL East:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1- New York Yankees

2- Tampa Bay Rays

3- Boston Red Sox

4- Toronto Blue Jays

5- Baltimore Orioles

Reasoning: I have the Yankees just edging out the Rays for the number one spot in the American League East. Both are going to be great teams this year but I think the Yankees have a slightly better team than the Rays. As far as the Red Sox go, I don’t see them having a repeat year from last. They’re bound to do much better this season. I don’t see them doing better than the Rays however, who are really getting their team together. I’ve got the Blue Jays finishing fourth in the AL East. While they have a decent pitching staff and power slugger Jose Bautista, as well as several young stars, I don’t think their team is quite there yet. Give them a few more years, and I think they’ll be a real threat in the division. As far as the Orioles go, I don’t see them doing any better than last year. They didn’t make any drastic changes to their team to warrant a belief that they’ll move up even one spot.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL 

1- Detroit Tigers

2- Cleveland Indians

3- Kansas City Royals

4- Minnesota Twins

5- Chicago White Sox

Reasoning: If you had asked me back when the 2011 season ended if I thought there was a team that could beat out the Detroit Tigers for the number one spot in the AL Central, my answer would’ve been yes. Now that the Tigers have Prince Fielder, and the transition for Miguel Cabrera from first to third base seems to have gone smoothly, I’d say there’s no chance of any team coming close to the Tigers. With their Ace Justin Verlander leading the way, I could easily see the Tigers winning 100 or more games this year. I have the Cleveland Indians finishing second in the division. I feel that they’re a good team, but not good enough for the number one spot. The number three spot goes to the Kansas City Royals. I feel that it’s just a matter of time before this team really starts to leave its mark. They have a great team, as well as several great prospects still in the minors. I think the Royals will be good enough for the number two spot in a couple years. I would’ve placed the Twins higher on the list had it not been for the great ammount of uncertainty. The Twins have a decent team, however their star players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau didn’t have their best stuff last season due to injury. I’m not sure they can beat out the Royals for numbethird in the AL Central. As far as the White Sox go, they’re good engough for dead last on my list.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST 

1- Texas Rangers

2- Los Angeles Angels

3- Seattle Mariners

4- Oakland Athletics

Reasoning: It was very difficult for me to decide between the Rangers and Angels for that number one spot in the AL West. Both have great pitching staffs, as well as great players in their line ups, but in the end I felt that the Rangers and Yu Darvish would just beat out the Angels by one or two games. I have the Mariners taking that number three spot. Although the Athletics signed cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes, as well as Manny Ramirez, I feel the Mariners are a better team when it comes down to it.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST 

1- Philadelphia Phillies

2- Atlanta Braves

3- Miami Marlins

4- Washington Nationals

5- New York Mets

Reasoning: Choosing between the Phillies and Braves for the number one spot was difficult. They both have injured players going into the season, however both have a good team even with the injuries. The only reason I picked the Phillies for first is their pitching rotation. The Braves have a good one as well, but I don’t think it’s as developed as the Phillies, who have their Ace Roy Halladay. The Marlins I have coming in third. While I feel they’ll deffinitely do better than last season–with the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano–I don’t think they can compete with the Braves or Phillies in the very tough NL East division. Another team that I feel is going to do a lot better this season than last is the Washington Nationals. If Bryce Harper performs well once called up, and Stephen Strasburg can stay healthy, I think the Nationals stand a chance of beating out the Marlins for third in the division. For now, however, I’m still sticking with my prediction of fourth for the Nat’s, but give them a year or so and they’ll be a really good team. The Mets are last on my list, as I don’t feel they’ll do any better than last year, even with a healthy Johan Santana.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1- St. Louis Cardinals

2- Milwaukee Brewers

3- Cincinnati Reds

4- Pittsburgh Pirates

5- Chicago Cubs

6- Houston Astros

Reasoning: Depending on how healthy their star players can stay throughout the season, and how well the teams as a whole perform, I could see the Cardinals, Brewers or Reds placing first in the NL Central. They all have decent pitching rotations, as well as decent lineups. Since I couldn’t pick all three to put in the top spot however, I decided to go with the Cardinals after much debate. I’m not only choosing the Cardinals because they were 2011 World Champions, but also because I feel that even with the loss of their superstar Albert Pujols, they’re a good enough team to win the division. The second place team on my list, the Brewers, took a similar hit as the Cardinals, loosing their star player Prince Fielder. Without the loss of Fielder, the Brewers would run away with the  division, but I feel it’s pretty even between the top three teams the way it stands. The Reds are a team that’s good enough for the top spot, but I have them finishing third in the NL Central just for the fact that I don’t think they’ll put everything together to finish any better; but they might just surprise me. The Pirates, who I have finishing fourth, are a team similar to the Nationals. They’re getting better everyday, and have a bunch of star prospects still in the minors, including top prospect pitcher Gerrit Cole, but it’ll be a few more years before they’re good enough for third place or higher. They’re deffinitely a team to keep a close eye on in the future though. I have the Cubs finishing next to last just ahead of the Astros. Nothing stands out to me that makes me think they have a shot at cracking the 103 year World Series drought, none the less finishing any better than fifth. The good news for the Astros is that I think they’ll be no worse than last season. The bad news is they were terrible last season. But that’s nothing new. They’re good enough for last place.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1- San Francisco Giants

2- Arizona Diamondbacks

3- Los Angeles Dodgers

4- San Diego Padres

5- Colorado Rockies

Reasoning: After winning the World Series in 2010 the Giants had a terrible season last year. They were plagued with injuries to many of their stars, including Brian Wilson and Buster Posey, and while not injured, their Ace Tim Lincecum didn’t perform all that well. I look for the Giants to really dominate this coming season. I think Lincecum will have another stellar year, and I look for Buster Posey to have a bounce back year after being injured in 2011. Combine that with Wilson coming in to close things out, and I think you’ve got a team that’s good enough for first place in the division. The Diamondbacks, who won the division last season, are sure to have another fantastic season however I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough for the top spot. Matt Kemp and the Dodgers are sure to make a push at the number two spot. Kemp–who ended one home run shy of a 40/40 last season (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases)–made the bold prediction that he’ll record a 50/50 this year. While that seems a little far fetched, I still look for Kemp to help his team win a ton of games this year, and possibly end up winning the NL MVP, which he should’ve received after his 2011 performance. The Padres are another of my teams that I feel you should keep a close eye on. They’re not quite talented enough yet to finish any better than fourth (a step up from last season) but I feel that they’re really getting their act together. They made several great trades during the offseason, and their pitching staff is going to get better in the next couple of years. The Rockies in my opinion will finish last in the division. While they’re a good team, who also made some good trades during the off season, I feel that the Padres are going to be the slightly better team this year.

That’s my predictions for how the standings will look at the end of the 2012 Regular season. You may agree with me, or you might think I’m insane for some of my picks, but that’s just how I see it ending.

Here’s a quick review of the teams I have winning their divisions:

AL East: New York Yankees

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

AL West: Texas Rangers

NL West: San Francisco Giants

Those are the teams that I have winning their divisions and moving onto the 2012 playoffs. Now moving onto my Wild Card Predictions. These are the teams I have recieving those:

AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels

NL Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

Those are the teams I feel aren’t quite good enough to win their divisions, but will make it to the playoffs via a Wild Card slot. As you know, MLB is adding an extra Wild Card this season. So here are my picks for those:

Extra AL Wild Card Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Extra NL Wild Card Team: Atlanta Braves

If it comes out the way I predict, the Rays and Angels, and the Diamondbacks and Braves will have a one-game play off to see which will move on, and which one’s season will come to a dramatic end. It’s sure to be exciting.

I had originally planned on predicting all the way down to the World Series, but to be honest, there’s too much that can, and will, happen to have any success in doing that. I mean, when the Cardinals were 10 games back of the Braves for the Wild Card last year, who would’ve predicted that they’d go onto win the World Series? I will say this: I like the Tigers and Rangers chances.

So there you go. Those are my predictions for the division winners as well as the Wild Card, and extra Wild Card recipients. Only time will tell if they play out as I foresee.

Q and A With Barrett Kleinknecht

Barrett Kleinknecht was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 12th round of the 2010 MLB draft. Since the initial draft took place Kleinknecht has been working hard, and in return has been able to move his way up through the lower ranks of the minor leagues.

Kleinknecht spent the first 30 games of his 2011 season with Single-A Rome, before finishing out the season with High-A Lynchburg. In that time, Kleinknecht recorded 88 hits in 113 games played. Of those 88 hits, 19 found the gap for doubles and 11 flew over the wall for home runs. Not bad for just his second professional season.

Barrett Kleinknecht–prospect in the Atlanta Braves 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?

Since I can remember I have loved baseball. My dad has been coaching high school baseball for 36 years and I had the privilage of playing for him, so he’s probably my biggest influence.

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

Scott Rolen because he played the game hard but stayed out of the spotlight while winning numerous gold gloves and playing in numerous all star games.

3.) You signed with the Braves after being drafted in the 12th round of 2010. What was the process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

Pretty much a cut and dry process with being drafted. I was actually hitting with a summer league team when I got the call. It didn’t kick in untill I finished hitting and had around 80 missed calls, and close to 70 text messages.

4.) This past season was your second year of professional ball. What do you feel went well? What do you feel you need to work on for 2012?

I play every position on the field besides pitcher, so being able to compete at the pro level at all of those positions takes a bunch of work and dedication. I didn’t have many errors at all, so defensively I was set. Offensively I need to work on being more patient and hit to the situation.

5.) When’s the first time you were asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?

Haha, in college I was on the front of my town’s phonebook, so my sophmore year in college. Probably a cell phone or a flip flop.

6.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Fish or shoot guns.

7.) Favorite food?

My grandmas cooking, or just a good southern meal.

8.) Favorite baseball movie? Why?

The Rookie, because it shows that if you love something you should never give it up.

9.) You’re very active on twitter. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of being a ballplayer on twitter?

Biggest advantage is interaction with fans and friends to show them that pro athletes are real people just like everyone else. We (pro athletes) dont understand why people ask for our autographs, but from a fans standpoint autographs make us feel like we are apart of the game.

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

If you love it, persue it; but dont think it will be an easy road. You lose a lot of friends, but you make new ones and you have to make a ton of sacrifices if you want to be good at it. Don’t let anyone outwork you but when it all comes down to it you have to have fun. After all, baseball is a game.

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Big thanks to Barrett Kleinknecht for answering my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @bkleinknecht

Q and A With Billy Bullock

Billy Bullock was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dogers, however elected not to sign. He went onto have a successful college career with the Florida Gators, and was subsequently drafted his Junior year by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. After a couple of successful years in the Twins organization–in which he moved from Single-A to Double-A in a matter of a year–Bullock was traded to the Atlanta Braves organization. Since the trade Bullock has made quick progress, working his way up through the ranks, as after starting the 2011 season with Double-A Mississippi, he ended the year with Tiple-A Gwinnett.

The 6′ 6″, 225 pound, power throwing righty tops the gun in the upper nineties. The ability to throw the heater past batters as well as his ability to get outs when he needs them, is what I feel will enable Bullock to hit the big leagues fairly quickly. The Braves can always use another elite relief pitcher, and I think Billy Bullock could be exactly that if he can keep up the hard work ethic and determination.

Billy Bullock–relief pitcher in the Atlanta Braves organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I started playing at three, in tee ball, and haven’t stopped since.

2.) Did you always want to be a pitcher?

No, at first I wanted to be a position player but quickly realized I couldn’t hit. So that made that change a no brainer.

3.) What made you go to college over starting your career after high school?

I wanted to go to college from the beginning but it made it easier when I didn’t get drafted where I wanted to out of high school.

4.) What does it feel like to be having such success this early in your career?

It’s a really good feeling knowing that so many people have confidence in my ability to push me and promote me thru the system, although no real success is had until the day I get to the big leagues. Then I can look back on my minor league career and access success. Until then, it is just part of the process.

5.) Do you collect anything? If so, what? And why?

I don’t really collect anything other than sneakers. I’ve been known to be called a sneakerhead before.

6.) If you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be working to overtake day to day operations of my grandfathers farm and nursery operation.

7.) Favorite TV show?

Entourage.

8.) Favorite car?

’70 Chevelle SS.

9.) Favorite player growing up? Why?

Ozzie Smith for the passion and the love. He played the game with each and every day.

10.) Favorite moment of your baseball career thus far?

Sending Miami home two straight years in the NCAA tournament. Nothing like in state rivalries.

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Big thanks to Billy Bullock for answering my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @BillyBullock

Q and A With L.V. Ware

After electing not to sign with the Chicago Cubs when drafted in the 20th round of 2005, Leonardo Ware (L.V., as he prefers) went on to sign with the Atlanta Braves, after they drafted him in the 43rd round of 2006. Since being drafted, Ware has played for teams as high as Double-A (Mississippi Braves) in the 4 seasons of his baseball career, but most recently spent the season with Class-A Lynchburg, in the Carolina League. If L.V. can keep up the hard work ethic, and determination, I can see him getting the call up to the big leagues in the near future. L.V. is definitely talented enough, and is a guy to keep a close eye on in the upcoming season, and beyond. L.V. Ware–outfielder in the Atlanta Braves organazation–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Did you always want to be an outfielder?

I honestly can’t say when I became interested in baseball, but my first year playing was back in 1990, at the age of 3. My father played in the military and I was handed down with no decision but to play. It became a regular activity in my household as I grew older. I remember days where my father use to take flour, make lines in our backyard to outline a field, and I use to hit off a tee. Those are my earliest memories of beginning my baseball career. I never played the outfield until high school. My high school coach told me if I wanted to make the varsity team as a freshman I needed to learn how to play right field because that was my only shot of making the team. I took that statement and ran with it. Now here I am chasing my dream as an outfielder. I was a shortstop and second baseman throughout my amateur baseball career, but looking back now, outfield was a great decision for me in the long run.

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

It’s tough ’cause growing up in Atlanta, being an Atlanta Braves fan, Chipper Jones was my earliest favorite baseball player. As I got older I started to watch more baseball teams, then I fell in love watching Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. Those two guys played the game the way it was supposed to be played, treated the game with respect, and there was always positive things about them being said. Being older now looking back, it’s like, if I was to have a son those are two of the players I would want my son to look up to and remember. In their prime there was nothing either one of those guys could not do! Ken Griffey Jr. was part of the reason I became interested in collecting baseball cards as a kid. He was on so many different cards that it was impossible to keep up with him. Haha. Those were good days, and now that I look back on them I wouldn’t have picked any other two guys to model myself after.

3.) You were drafted by the Cubs in the 2005 draft, but didn’t sign. You were later drafted by the Braves in the 2006 draft. What was the draft process like for you? What made you not sign with the Cubs?

My draft process was quite interesting actually. I was from an inner city school in Atlanta, but yet my high school was by far the best in the inner city district. I’m not going to say that it didn’t help my exposure, but at the same time I’m not going to say it did. I was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round of the 2005 draft by Anthony Grissom (Marquis Grissom’s younger brother) and he made an offer to me that I felt like I should attend college. I had a full scholarship to Okaloosa-Walton Community College, where I had enrolled in, and was very excited about going. Back then the draft and follow process still existed so I still had a whole year to sign with the Cubs. I had a good spring that year, and got an offer that I felt I was better worth. I turned down the offer and proceed to go back in the draft. I was then drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 43rd round by Braves former scout Al Geotz. In the beginning there was no negotiations cause they wanted me to go back to school and become better; which I totally agreed on. I end up signing with University of South Carolina that fall, then tore my rotator cuff later in the fall. I was suppose to miss the spring season, but came back early to DH, and play a little bit of left field. I felt great, but little did I know I really wasn’t healthy. Had a subpar season to what I wanted to achieve, but still received a great offer I couldn’t turn down after having a major surgery. My time to become a professional baseball player had finally come. Playing for my hometown team and living a dream couldn’t be any better. I called Al Geotz and told him I wanted to sign right away after the season, and the rest is history in the making now.

4.) What do you feel went well for you this season? What do you feel you need to work on for 2012?

This past season was a great one for me in ways besides just baseball on the field. I had the privilege to play for Luis Salazar, who is a champion at heart in my eyes. To overcome a obstacle of being struck by a foul ball, losing a eye, and still have the determination to coach, say’s nothing more than a winner at heart! I came into this season wanting to help my team in anyway possible, wether it was off the bench or playing everyday. I just wanted to be a leader and win! I had my chance to become a everyday player in the end of April against the Frederick Keys (Baltimore Organization) and I took advantage of my opportunity! It was by far my best series of the year, and a table setter for what I was looking to accomplish on the year. Me being a outfielder that plays all 3 positions also became a valuable asset to having playing time as well. I was the guy to give guys days off while I would maintain my role in the everyday line-up. That’s where I got away from the program I needed to stick by, which is being a pesky out, staying on base causing havoc, and playing small ball. The numbers where there. Then I started picturing bigger things that I needed not to be focused on and that took me out of my element. Baseball is a game of 75% mental skill I strongly believe. Only the mentally strong survive this sport because of the grind we endure for 145 games a year. My defense is by far my strong asset in baseball. If I can stay consistent and keep the ball out of the air and get on base, theres no limitation as to where I could take my game to. It’s just the facts of life, but making it happen is the challenge that I embark on every morning I wake up. For 2012 I really need to work on staying consistent with the bat. That will take care of the defense and the rest cause you’re relaxed and satisfied when your consistent and in a groove. My top hand is going to be my focal point for the year. It’s my bread and butter to make or break my career as a baseball player. I’ve been doing a lot of one handed drill with my mini bat provided by DS Wood bats. Its a special bat they made for me to ensure that I work on the important things I need to become a better baseball player. Allan Donato and Richard Schwartz have become my brothers and family over the past year. They make great quality baseball bats and have even broken in the Major Leagues with guys like Adam Jones, Robinson Cano, Mark Texeria, and Nick Markakis swinging their lumber. I have no doubt that with their bats in my hands I will comfortable with my bat and confident in my swing with a bat fixed to my liking.

5.) What’s the most memorable moment of your baseball career thus far?

My number one memorable moment in my career is representing my country on the Team USA Junior National Team in 2005. By far the greatest moment ever for me. To wear a jersey with the letters USA on my chest was a chilling feeling as a 18 year-old young man. Being selected out of 164 kids to travel to Mexico to participate in the PanAm games was a true blessing. A great experience with some great players, and overall the best baseball I’ve ever played as well. We went 7-0 in pool play to reach the championship game against Team Cuba only to fall 2-1 in the championship game. Overall though there isn’t one thing I would change about the summer of 2005. Winning an Appalachian League Championship is right up there as well, but Team USA can not be outdone in my eyes.

6.) When was the first time someone asked for your autograph?  

Funny you ask that. My uncle asked me for my autograph when I was 6 years old. I wrote it on a piece of tablet paper. If your up near my age you can remember tablet paper was khaki looking with baby blue and red lines. Doesn’t feel like notebook paper these days, but was a softer fabric. But I proceed to sign my name, and that was my first autograph. ‘Til this day he keeps it in the front of his bible and I hear about that story every time we talk. My first encounter for an autograph in professional sports came in Spring Training of 2008 when I was asked to sign my Team USA card that I thought no one would ever purchase. Little did I know how serious card collecting was until I became a professional baseball player. It’s a legit hobby, and takes up a ton of time. Hats off to the people that take time to travel and get autographs of players that they have cards for.

7.) Favorite food?

My favorite food would have to be a nice porterhouse steak. I love to eat steak and potatoes. I know it’s not healthy to always have, but when I need a great meal to turn to, a steak is always my decision. For dessert, it would have to be banana pudding.

8.) Favorite TV show?

This is a tough decision right here because I’m a sucker for old school TV shows. The Cosby Show, Seinfield, Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved By The Bell, just to name a few. My favorite of all though is Martin. By far the best TV sitcom ever, haha. I could sit here and say word for word of every episode, but yet when I watch today I laugh like I’ve never seen it before. If you’ve never seen an episode please watch, haha. You might think it’s not funny but I can assure you that you will get a few laughs in. Probably not like me though, haha.

9.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the baseball season?

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep! When living on a bus traveling in and out of hotels, and coming home from the ballpark from 10pm – 11:30pm–depending on when the game ends and leaving the ballpark–I can assure you that a high percentage of baseball players will tell you all we want to do on off day is rest. Lay in bed watching movies, playing video games, or just browsing on the internet. One thing for sure is that I want to let my body rest from the days of playing consecutively. Normally there is one day off for every 21 games played. Some days are shorter or longer, depending on the schedule, but it’s typical to have 1 day off every 21 games. Your body is in desperate need of rest after playing day in and day out. Being at the field from 2:45 till 10:45, maybe weights at 10:00am, kills your energy. That’s where that day off comes in handy, where you don’t move a thing, and just catch up on rest.

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

Advice I give kids now is a lot, but it all comes back to the basics. Hustle on and off the field, and run every pop fly or ground ball out. There is always someone watching you, whether you know it or not. Someone always has tabs of what you are doing. Go about your business as if it was your job. Even when it is your job, remember to have fun, but it’s a business. You represent you and your organization at all times. No one wants to deal with a hard-headed young man. Someone who isn’t coachable or willing to apply to change. There is always someone out there working hard like you, if not harder. Remember that a million people want the same job you are after, but the question is what are you going to do to separate yourself from the rest? I just want to see kids push themselves and reach their max potential. The generation today is totally different from when I was a kid. I didn’t have people to tell me how to go about my business in baseball, so I try to give as much advice as possible when I see talent with lack of direction. It’s all about giving back to build for my future! It starts from within, and goes as far as you take it. Long as I’m living I will do my best to always help guide someone who shares the same dream as me. Hopefully one day I can get into coaching and share what I’ve learned throughout my career.

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Big thanks to LV Ware for taking the time to answer some questions for my blog.

You can follow LV on twitter: @LV_Ware

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