Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’
The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.
In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.
Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.
Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.
Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.
There is no specific criteria for the voters to use when choosing the Most Valuable Player, but some suggested attributes include value of a player to his team (strength of offense and defense), number of games played, and a player’s overall character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
The 2015 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:
AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Original Pick: Josh Donaldson
Finalists: Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout
Winner: Josh Donaldson
Thoughts On Josh Donaldson Winning
Anytime a players posts a .297 average with 41 home runs and 123 RBI’s, they have to be considered as a very strong candidate for Most Valuable Player. That’s exactly what Josh Donaldson was able to do this season, and he was the favorite heading into the award announcement on Thursday night.
Josh Donaldson wound up winning by a fairly large margin, amassing a total of 385 points off of 23 out of 30 first place votes, with Mike Trout getting the other 7 first place votes and 304 total points, and Lorenzo Cain placing third with 225 points of his own.
This marks the third time that Trout has finished second in the American League MVP voting, joining him with Mickey Mantle for second most runner up finishes in baseball history. But with the year Donaldson had, you simply had to pick him to take home the honor.
Helping the Blue Jays make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, Donaldson came up time and time again throughout the year for Toronto, and proved his value in some very big spots. He becomes just the second player in Blue Jays team history to win the Most Valuable Player award.
If Donaldson can keep it up and post another incredible season in 2016, it very well may not be his last time in the running for the award.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Original Pick: Bryce Harper
Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto
Winner: Bryce Harper
Thoughts On Bryce Harper Winning
There were three finalists for the National League Most Valuable Player award, but there was truly only one choice. The year Bryce Harper had made him more than deserving of the award in the minds of many people. Inevitably, the Baseball Writers Association of America agreed.
Bryce Harper received all 30 first place votes for a collective 420 points. Paul Goldschmidt received 234 points, and Joey Votto got 175 point from the voters, earning him a third place finish.
At 23 years of age (Harper just turned 23 in October), Harper becomes the youngest player to ever win the MVP by a unanimous vote, and just the seventh all-time. In addition, Harper’s MVP is the first in Washington franchise history.
Batting .330 with 42 home runs, combined with a .460 OBP due to 124 walks, made Harper the easy pick for the award. While the Nationals didn’t make it to the postseason — a factor that has played a large part in the voting in recent years — it didn’t truly matter. His stats were more than worthy of him being the first player since Albert Pujols in 2008 to win MVP from a team that didn’t reach the playoffs.
Finally able to have a fully healthy season after battling injuries over the early part of his career, Harper ultimately was able to break out as a superstar, and all signs point to him being able to keep it up as he matures into his prime.
Both Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper had terrific seasons in which they came up time and time again all season long for their given teams, making them very valuable. Moving forward, they will undoubtedly be in the MVP conversation in future seasons. It should be interesting to see which players emerge to challenge them in 2016.
The 2015 Major League Baseball Players’ Choice Award winners were announced Monday night on MLB Network. Unlike the BBWAA awards, these awards (as the name would suggest) are voted on by players from around baseball each September, when they receive a ballot to make their picks for each category. Seven categories in all, American League players vote for American League players, with National League players voting for National League players; with the exception of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, Always Game award and the Player of the Year award, in which players from both leagues vote for a single player.
The winning player for each category is awarded a grant from the MLB Players Trust, ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 dollars, depending on the award that they win. The money goes to the winner’s choice of charity, with some players deciding to split up the money between multiple causes. This marks the 24th annual Players Choice Awards, which began in 1992. Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:
OUTSTANDING ROOKIE AWARD ($20,000)
AL Nominees – Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Miguel Sano
AL Winner – Carlos Correa
NL Nominees – Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang
NL Winner – Kris Bryant
The players absolutely got it right in my opinion. Both winners are likely to pick up the BBWAA Rookie of the Year awards when they are announced next week, as each had terrific campaigns. After a .279 average with 22 homers and 68 RBI’s, all while playing a great defensive shortstop all at the age of 21, Carlos Correa is sure to be a big part of the Astros for the next decade or two. Likewise, Kris Bryant had an unbelievable season, hitting 26 homers and notching 99 RBI’s, helping to send the Cubs back to the playoffs for the first in what would seem to likely be several years to come.
OUTSTANDING PITCHER AWARD ($20,000)
AL Nominees – Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel and David Price
AL Winner – Dallas Keuchel
NL Nominees – Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw
NL Winner – Zack Greinke
As with Rookie of the Year, you very well could be looking at the winners of the BBWAA Cy Young award with this category. Dallas Keuchel and Zack Greinke went about their success in different ways, but both had results that made them dominant each and every start. Keuchel had a breakout season, going 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA. All season long, he was lights out for the Astros and was a big part of them making it to the postseason. Greinke was also great each and every start, winding up with unfathomable stats of 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA. That’s certainly worthy of this award.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($20,000)
AL Nominees – Prince Fielder, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rodriguez
AL Winner – Prince Fielder
NL Nominees – Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Harvey and Joey Votto
NL Winner – Matt Harvey
After playing all 162 games in three straight years, Prince Fielder participated in only 42 games in 2014 due to a neck injury. Coming back to play all but four games in 2015, Fielder certainly put up stats worthy of this award. This season, Fielder launched 23 home runs and drove in 98 runs, all while hitting a solid .305. Matt Harvey was in much of the same boat as Fielder in 2014, having missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery. But Harvey came back with a vengeance in 2015. Harvey went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA on the year, and helped the Mets make it all the way to the World Series.
ALWAYS GAME AWARD ($10,000)
Nominees — Jose Altuve, Josh Donaldson and Dee Gordon
Winner — Jose Altuve
This award was brand new for the 2015 season. It was established to honor “the player who — game in and game out — constantly exhibits grit, tenacity, perseverance and hustle; all for the benefit of his teammates and fans”. All of the players nominated for the award were worthy, but Jose Altuve took home the award. Altuve has been a huge part of the Astros over the past few years, and plays the game full on for every single out. He is definitely the player I would have chosen for this award, and I’m glad to see him win.
OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD ($20,000)
AL Nominees – Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout
AL Winner – Josh Donaldson
NL Nominees – Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper
NL Winner – Bryce Harper
There were dozens of outstanding players throughout Major League Baseball from the 2015 season. With that said, there were a handful that stood above the rest. For this category, it was Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper voted on as the outstanding players of the year. Many people — myself included — have Donaldson and Harper picking up the MVP for their respective league when the official award is announced next week. With Harper having hit 42 homers to go along with a superb .330 average, and Donaldson blasting 41 of his own, it is no wonder why they each took home this particular honor.
MARVIN MILLER MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)
Nominees – Dee Gordon, Adam Jones and David Robertson
Winner – Adam Jones
In the minds of many people around the baseball world, this is the most important award given out each season. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award is given each year to the player most recognized for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to his community. Past winners include Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera, among many others. This season, the award was presented to Adam Jones, who certainly does more than his fair share of contributions both to his ball club and to his community each year.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)
Nominees – Josh Donaldson, Zack Greinke and Bryce Harper
Winner – Josh Donaldson
With all three players presenting equally impressive seasons in their own way, you could truly make a strong argument for any of the nominees to win the Player of the Year award. But, in the end, the season Josh Donaldson put together was magnificent. His 40+ home run year truly helped drive the offensive side of the Blue Jays, along with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and the late season pickup of Troy Tulowitzki. Combined, Toronto was able to reach the postseason for the first time since 1993. A lot of that can be credited back to Donaldson, who came up big all season long.
Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American League and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. I was planning to post the awards for each on back to back days, with a day in between, but I decided to publish them on six consecutive days instead.
Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end, I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.
In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap. Although there are a couple of picks that people will likely disagree with, this is just the way I would vote if my vote had any say.
Here are my picks that I made for each category:
American League Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa
National League Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
American League Cy Young: David Price
National League Cy Young: Jake Arrieta
American League MVP: Josh Donaldson
National League MVP: Bryce Harper
Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that when the time arrives.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. Jake Arrieta, Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Nolan Arenado had one of the best all around seasons in baseball this year, but to me it wasn’t the most valuable. But that’s not to take away anything from the year he had. With a .287 average, 42 home runs and major league best 130 runs batted in, Arenado broke out as one of the best third basemen in all of baseball. If he can keep producing the same type of numbers, he’ll eventually take home an MVP. However, that’s not going to happen in 2015.
Coming down to Jake Arrieta and Bryce Harper for National League MVP, it’s truly a tough choice. Comparing a pitcher and hitter is never easy, but in this case it has to be done.
With that said, I ended up placing Arrieta as the runner up. While I don’t necessarily think a pitcher should never win the MVP, given they aren’t an everyday impact, I tend to give hitters a slight edge. But Arrieta truly came as close as you can to winning the NL MVP without holding the stats to take home the award. With a second half ERA of 0.75, Arrieta played an immense role in propelling the Cubs into the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but he doesn’t quite get my vote.
Bryce Harper is in fact the player I went with for the National League Most Valuable Player award for 2015. Although the Nationals unbelievably missed out on the postseason, Harper did all he could to get them there. With one of the top seasons in the history of baseball for a player age 22 or younger, Harper will continue to win MVP awards if he can continue to post numbers like he did this season. With 42 homers, a .330 average and a .460 on base percentage (due in large part to his 124 walks), Harper should pick up his first MVP of what will likely become many.
Although we don’t yet know who the captain for the American League and National League home run derby team is going to be, I wanted to go ahead and give my take for which players I’d like to see in the home run derby up in Cincinnati on July 13th. Assuming the rules change from 2014 that saw an additional player being added to each league’s derby team stays the same, I selected the five players from each league that I wanted to see in the derby.
While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2015 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2015 home run derby just over three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:
Nelson Cruz: Of all the players from the American League to choose from, this was the easiest of them all. Nelson Cruz led all of baseball in home runs back in 2014, and is well on his way to finishing near the top again. Although Cruz can hit tape measure shots, I think he would do well in the derby due to his ability to hit numerous home runs as well. He would put on a show.
Josh Donaldson: Donaldson isn’t that widely known as a slugger, but he has been a breakout player over the past few seasons, and is having a great year with the Blue Jays this season. Donaldson can really launch the ball a long way, and I think that he would stand a shot at winning if he can find a groove and stick with it. Having him in the derby would definitely be fun.
Mark Teixeira: This isn’t the most obvious of picks, as Teixeira has been up and down over the past few years, but he is having a good season this year, and he should be in the home run derby. Somewhat surprisingly sitting in the top five of the American League in homers, Teixeira would be a general sleeper pick for the derby, but if he could get things going, he would last awhile, I believe.
Mike Trout: There truly isn’t anything in baseball that Mike Trout isn’t good at, and that includes hitting home runs. Trout is currently one of the most well known and liked players in baseball, and having him take part in the derby would get more people to watch. And I feel that they would be treated to a show, as Trout would likely hit several long homers on his pursuit of the title.
Edwin Encarnacion: Josh Donaldson’s teammate, Edwin Encarnacion, can hit a ball just as far, if not farther, than nearly every other player in the big leagues. It’s that ability to launch balls a great distance that I think would make him great for the derby. He would be able to put on a show, hitting balls deep into the stands, and would stand a good chance at making it deep into the derby.
Paul Goldschmidt: Goldschmidt is well on his way to having a great season yet again, and that includes posting a large number in the home run category. Goldschmidt has the ability to hit numerous home runs in addition to hitting them a great distance, and that makes him perfect for the home run derby. He would represent the National League extremely well in the competition.
Todd Frazier: Frazier would be on my list of derby participant regardless of the fact that his team is hosting the All-Star festivities, as he has great stats that warrant the selection. However, it is an added bonus that Frazier is a Red, and that would inevitably make him a fan favorite among the crowd. Frazier might not win, but he will give the fans an extra something to cheer for.
Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton was the favorite to win the 2014 derby by nearly everyone, but he disappointed to say the least. But although he didn’t win, Stanton hit balls further than nearly all of his competition and was still able to put on a show. With him having another great year, I think Stanton would do better in the derby and deserves another shot at winning the whole thing.
Joc Pederson: The fact that Pederson is merely a rookie and is launching home runs as if he’s been in the majors for a decade is remarkable. And that’s why he deserves to be in the derby. Pederson would likely hit balls farther than anyone with the exception of Stanton, and he would be able to put on a great show. Therefore, having Pederson in the derby is something I’d really like to see happen.
Bryce Harper: Harper surprised some people in the 2013 derby with how well he did, and with him having such a good season this time around, I think he should be in the derby once again. Harper isn’t liked by some around the baseball world, but his talent can’t be denied. If Harper can find a pace he’s comfortable with, I think he stands a really good shot at the derby crown.
So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2015 home run derby up at Great American Ballpark on July 13th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
The ballot for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star game has been out for awhile now, but I’ve been holding off with casting my votes for who I’d like to see in the game up in Cincinnati on July 14th. With it seeming like the ballot is coming out earlier and earlier each year, I wanted to give players enough time to put up quality numbers before I made any decisions. But I finally feel there are enough stats to make a logical decision.
Voting is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 35 times for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until July 2nd.)
I cast my maximum 35 votes a few days ago. Although the All-Star game is still just under two months away, I figured I’d go ahead and go over the players I picked for the Midsummer Classic. A lot of things can change, with my picks subsequently changing as well, but these are the players I went ahead and voted for to make the All-Star game:
FIRST BASE: Miguel Cabrera (AL), Adrian Gonzalez (NL)
It came down to Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira for me in the American League portion of the first base spot. While Teixeira leads in homers and RBI’s, his batting average was too low for me to select him. In addition, Eric Hosmer has fewer homers and RBI’s than Cabrera in more at-bats, and thus, I picked Miguel Cabrera.
In the National League, it was another tough decision. While Paul Goldschmidt is producing another year worth of MVP caliber numbers, and although Anthony Rizzo is getting better and better, I voted for Adrian Gonzalez. Getting off to a hot start to begin the year, Gonzalez holds the second highest batting average in baseball and deserves to make it.
SECOND BASE: Jose Altuve (AL), Dee Gordon (NL)
Jose Altuve leading all of American League second baseman in stolen bases, sitting second in average and third in homers was enough to get him selected by me to make the All-Star game. Although Devon Travis of the Blue Jays has been a highlight reel each night, Altuve is one of the most exciting second basemen in baseball.
The National League race for All-Star second baseman was an easy decision on my part. Dee Gordon is deserving of the spot, no question about it. Gordon doesn’t have any home runs, but that’s not his game. He leads all NL second basemen in stolen bases, and holds a batting average above .400. That’s deserving of All-Star recognition.
SHORTSTOP: Marcus Semien (AL), Brandon Crawford (NL)
I’ll be honest — I had to double check Marcus Semien’s stats when I was casting my vote for American League shortstop. I knew he was having a good year, but I didn’t realize how good. Leading the American League shortstops in homers and stolen bases, Semien is the unlikely frontrunner for the honor.
It was no easy task to choose a shortstop that had the best stats for the All-Star game. There are a ton of them with good numbers in one category or another. But while names such as Zack Cozart, Jhonny Peralta, etc., stood out, I went with Brandon Crawford, who has good numbers as well as the amazing defense to match.
THIRD BASE: Josh Donaldson (AL), Todd Frazier (NL)
You could make cases for Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson and even Evan Longoria for the American League third base spot in the All-Star game. But I went with Donaldson, who is having a fantastic year. Sitting second in homers but first in RBI’s among AL third basemen, Donaldson should be in Cincy in July.
The first and only Red on my list — likely to be a favorite with the Reds hosting the All-Star game — is Todd Frazier, who I selected for NL third base in the midsummer classic. His batting average isn’t the best, but he is at the top in homers and is deserving in my mind of the honor.
CATCHER: Stephen Vogt (AL), Buster Posey (NL)
This is somewhat of a shocking pick, but a very deserving one. Stephen Vogt wasn’t all that well known as recently as a year ago, but his bat is making him more of a common name. Vogt leads AL catchers in average, home runs and RBI’s, and should lead them in voting when all is said and done.
I could’ve easily picked Miguel Montero or Yasmani Grandal to make the start behind the plate for the National League, but I went with the always consistent Buster Posey instead. Posey leads AL catchers in homers, and should be adding another All-Star game to his already impressive resume.
DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz
Although the designated hitter role in the All-Star game goes to David Ortiz the majority of the time, there is simply no other choice for DH this year than Nelson Cruz. It’s not even close. Cruz leads all designated hitters in homers, runs batted in and average, and will be in the All-Star game up in Cincinnati.
It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks for each league, especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:
Mike Trout, Josh Reddick and Adam Jones (AL)
Mike Trout was a nobrainer, as he once again is in the process of posting another fantastic season, but the other two spots were somewhat difficult with all of the great players. In the end, after examining all of the stats, I made the tough choice of Josh Reddick and Adam Jones. I hope to see them in the All-Star game starting lineups.
Bryce Harper, Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton (NL)
As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton. Upton is having a good year, and despite a subpar average, Stanton is dominating yet again.
Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, Bryce Harper was batting around .250 with just five home runs and 15 RBI’s on the season. Coming off a somewhat disappointing 2014 due to injuries, it wasn’t looking like Harper was going to do all that much to prove that 2015 was finally going to be the year he broke out as a full on superstar player.
In Harper’s first at-bat of the game, he took Tom Koehler deep for his sixth home run of the season. But Harper was far from done. In his very next set of swings, Harper again drove a ball in to the stands. Still, Harper had more to show off on the day. In his next plate appearance, Harper slugged yet another ball out of the ballpark, giving him three straight at-bats with a home run, on a day in which he collected five runs batted in. A truly spectacular game. But it was just one game. Nothing gave any indication that Harper would continue the power surge any further beyond that.
But then Friday happened.
This time against the Braves, Harper looked to continue on the three-home run, five RBI game he put together just 48 hours before, and he didn’t miss a beat. Going three for four on the game, Harper only managed two homers this time around, but still was able to rack up five RBI’s on the day. Combined with the previous game, that gave Harper five home runs with ten RBI’s over the course of two games, making him the youngest to ever hit five home runs combined between back-to-back games. If that doesn’t make a player a superstar, I don’t know what does.
Even after seemingly hitting a performance peak that would be impossible to top, baseball fans from all over likely found themselves looking at Harper to crank out multiple home runs again on Saturday. Admittedly being an unfair expectation, that’s simply what comes with the territory of being such a big name star at such a young age.
Nonetheless, Harper has always come off as the type to love the expectations and spotlight, and therefore was inevitably looking to show off again on Saturday. But Harper didn’t kick off the game with a homer, instead hitting a fly ball deep into center which was caught on the warning track.
His following at-bats resulted in a walk, a single and a strikeout. With the Nationals up 6-4 going into the eighth inning, it seemed that Harper wouldn’t be able to have a third straight game with a home run.
But a two-run double from Christian Bethancourt that tied up the game quickly got everyone thinking about Harper getting another shot to continue the streak, and subsequently be the hero.
It would come down to Harper in the bottom of the ninth with Jayson Werth on first and the game tied.
Amazingly, but not all that surprisingly, Bryce Harper came through, demolishing a decent pitch (down in the zone) from Braves’ reliever, Cody Martin, deep into the center field seats for a walk off home run.
Three games, six home runs, twelve RBI’s. Absolutely incredible.
Harper is now batting .292 for the season, with 11 home runs, 27 RBI’s and an on base percentage of over .400. Holding a season high home run total of 22 home runs from 2012, Harper already having half of that number just over a month into the season leads many to believe that he could be on a pace that everyone has been waiting for him to set.
The former Rookie of the Year has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past, but it’s hard not to root for such a talented young star in the making. Bryce Harper may not be the best player in baseball, but he is hands down the most exciting to watch.
Come July, Harper is likely looking at his third All-Star game of his short career; when October rolls around, he could be leading the Nationals deep into the playoffs; and once the calendar flips to November, Harper quite possibly could be receiving the award that takes every player from star to superstar: The Most Valuable Player award.
Red Sox phenom, Mookie Betts, can do it all. He’s a great outfielder, a fast runner, and can even tap into some power every now and then.
Things got kicked off for Betts in the very first inning of the game. Bryce Harper cranked a ball deep toward the outfield bullpens, which looked to be gone off the bat. But Betts did a great job getting a jump on the ball, making the leap at the wall and robbing Harper of a home run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Betts continued his great day. After a walk, Betts slid in safely to second on an attempted steal attempt. Wisely noticing that no one was covering third base, due to the shift on the current batter, David Ortiz, Betts took off for third and successfully swiped that bag as well. Two stolen bases on one attempt.
But not to go without showing off all of his tools, Mookie stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second and cranked a three-run homer over the green monster in left field to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.
All in a day’s work for Betts.
With all of the contributions from Betts — who went 2-4 on the day, with 4 total RBI’s — the Red Sox cruised to a 9-4 win over the Nationals. If things can continue to go the way they did on Monday for both Mookie Betts and the Red Sox, 2015 could end up being special years for both of them.
Each and every season, there are always players with something to prove. Whether they’re looking to show that they can play at a competitive level that they’ve never lived up to; looking to show that they can be the dominant player they once were; or simply are looking for a good year for their team to have a good year — there are numerous players that you could categorize as having very important seasons coming up.
With that said, not every player that needs a good season is on the list I put together below. I can think of a few dozen players that arguably need to post solid numbers in 2015, but I couldn’t include them all, and had to make some difficult exclusions. Just the opposite, there could be a few players on my list that you don’t think need a good season. Either way, this is just a list of ten players — not necessarily the “top ten” — that I feel need a good 2015 season for one reason or another:
1.) Justin Verlander
For the majority of his career, Justin Verlander has been an unbelievable pitcher. But for the 2011, 2012 seasons, he was on an entirely different planet. Going 41-13 with a 2.52 ERA over those years, and racking up a Cy Young award and MVP for his efforts in 2011, Verlander was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Lately, however, he hasn’t been the same player. Since 2013, Verlander has posted a combined 3.99 ERA over the course of 66 starts. Given, some of that may have been due to some injuries — injuries that Verlander claims are completely healed now. Now that Max Scherzer is gone, if the Tigers stand any shot at making the World Series like they play for every year, they need a dominant Justin Verlander each and every start throughout the coming regular season.
2.) Ryan Howard
Injuries have not been kind to Ryan Howard over the past three years or so. The once feared slugger, with MVP caliber numbers year after year after year, hasn’t put up very much production for the Phillies in quite awhile. After hitting 58 home runs in 2006, and putting up 45+ home runs and 136+ RBI’s in the three years following that historic season, Howard has failed to hit more than 23 home runs in a season since. Battling aforementioned injuries, Howard played in less than half the Phillies games in 2012 and 2013, but had a decent season last year, with 23 homers and 95 RBI’s over 153 games played. But those numbers aren’t good enough for the Phillies or their historically verbal fans. If he wants to regain both his stardom and the support of the fans, Ryan Howard needs a healthy, productive 2015.
3.) Jackie Bradley Jr.
Unlike the previous two players on my list, Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t make the top ten for me because he has fallen from previously good seasons. Bradley still has something to prove — both to the Red Sox and their fans. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Bradley’s Gold Glove caliber defense has been shown off at the big league level, however, his ability to hit hasn’t yet arrived. It needs to do so in 2015. With so much outfield depth for the Red Sox — including Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo — it may already be too far gone for Bradley to make his all around game appear for the Red Sox. However, if he does in fact get the chance this season, he needs to show the Red Sox that he isn’t just a good outfielder but an all around good baseball player.
4.) Bryce Harper
As with Jackie Bradley Jr., the 2015 season is a crucial one for Bryce Harper. While Harper hasn’t underperformed, he hasn’t lived up the unbelievable hype either. Cranking out just 13 home runs last season, all while battling injuries, Harper needs to have a healthy, breakout year this season. If Harper can stay healthy, and can fully tap into his power, he truly has 40 home run potential. And remember, despite the fact that he’s been in the big leagues for three seasons, Harper is still just 22 years old. There’s still plenty of time for him to develop into the superstar player he was coined when he was drafted first overall in 2010. If the Nationals can perform well as a whole, along with their pitching staff staying healthy, and with Bryce Harper thrown into the mix, the World Series is theirs to lose.
What can I say? Alex Rodriguez could hit 80 home runs this season and people still wouldn’t like him. But while Rodriguez can’t win back the majority of the fans around baseball, he still needs to have a good season, for his sake at least. Coming back from a 162-game suspension in 2014 for further performance enhancing drug use, A-Rod is heading into the season having not produced for the Yankees since 2010, when his streak of thirteen straight seasons with 30+ homers and 100+ RBI’s ended. No one expects him to return to that form this year, but the Yankees need him — even if they don’t want him. Their team is still a big question mark, with all the talent in the world but no guarantee things will go as planned. Alex Rodriguez needs to perform for the Yankees season to have a shot at a great one.
6.) Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson has never been a superstar player, but he has been a consistent outfielder over the course of his eleven year career. For six straight seasons (2007-2012), Granderson was able to post upwards of 20 home runs a season, with 2011 and 2012 being his best years by far, with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI’s. Since then, however, Granderson hasn’t been the same. While he hit 20 home runs last season for the Mets, he only batted .227. Though he’s never been a guy that hits for a high average — an all or nothing type hitter — Granderson still needs to hone things in a bit in the coming season. The Mets are getting Matt Harvey back, and if Curtis Granderson can produce along with the rest of the team, the Mets could end up shocking some people.
7.) Melvin Upton Jr.
Formerly known as B.J. Upton, Melvin Upton Jr. definitely needs to have a good season. After losing Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Melvin’s brother, Justin Upton, in trades this offseason, the Braves are widely regarded as a much weaker team than they have been recently. While they could still be a playoff team, it will take production from every single player — and that includes Upton Jr. Since leaving the Rays following a 28 homer, 78 RBI 2012 season, Upton Jr. hasn’t been the same, batting a combined .198 over the past two years. He needs to step up his game and bring his totals back to the former standout player he used to be. However, with reports that Melvin Upton Jr. will miss the first month or so with a foot injury, things aren’t starting off too well for his 2015.
Tim Lincecum has picked up two World Series rings over the past three years (he has three rings overall), but he did little in those two seasons to produce for the Giants. After back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, when Lincecum went a combined 33-12 with a 2.55 ERA, Lincecum hasn’t been anywhere close to that level over the past few seasons. Since 2012, Lincecum is a combined 32-38, with a staggering 4.76 ERA. Those are certainly subpar numbers for ‘The Freak’. For a guy who has gone from a dominant starter to a part time reliever, it truly is unfathomable what has gone wrong with Lincecum and his performance. With so much uncertainty, this is a make or break season in my mind for Tim Lincecum. I’ll certainly be rooting for him.
9.) Joc Pederson
The only rookie on my list, and the second youngest player (Bryce Harper is six months younger than Pederson), Joc Pederson is the player that you don’t really know what to expect, but needs to have a good year anyway. It’s a lot of pressure on Pederson, but with the Dodgers trading away Matt Kemp to the Padres this offseason, they’ve now cleared the spot for phenom prospect Pederson to take over moving forward. After having the first 30 homer, 30 stolen base season in the Pacific Coast League since 1934, Pederson made his major league debut in 2014, but didn’t really live up to the hype, batting just .143 and striking out 11 times in 28 at-bats (admittedly, a small sample size). Even so, there are a lot of people who still believe Joc Pederson will be able to fill Matt Kemp’s shoes.
10.) Ichiro Suzuki
This is an interesting case. Ichiro Suzuki could quit right now and have Hall of Fame worthy numbers. But with him stating that he wants to continue playing for several more years, and not getting a lot of offers this past offseason, he needs to play well. Unlike last year with the Yankees, he should see more playing time with the Marlins in 2015, which should allow his always consistent numbers to be there. But with the Marlins only willing to offer him a one-year contract, he needs to prove that he is worth taking a chance on in the future. Sitting just 156 hits shy of 3,000 for his major league baseball career, Ichiro may not get there in 2015. So if he wants to reach the amazing milestone, it’ll take at least one more season, which will likely come from a good season this year.
*Originally, I had Josh Hamilton on this list, but in light of his current off the field battle, I decided to replace him with Curtis Granderson. I certainly wish Josh Hamilton the best.
Patience is a virtue — especially in baseball.
Max Scherzer proved that on Wednesday afternoon by officially inking a seven-year, 210 million dollar contract with the Nationals that’s set to keep him in D.C. through the 2021 season. Coming after Scherzer took the gamble of turning down a six-year, 144 million dollar offer from the Tigers last year, waiting things out until free agency, and betting on his abilities, paid off extremely well for him, with Scherzer netting a total of 66 million extra dollars.
But the money is well deserved, as Scherzer has quickly become one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. While Scherzer didn’t start off his career with fantastic pitching performances — posting a 4.43 ERA over 33 starts with the Tigers in 2011 — over the past two seasons he’s been one of the best. Going a combined 39-8 with a 3.04 ERA between 2013 and 2014, it’s no mystery why the Nationals wanted Scherzer so badly.
Heading to D.C. after five years in Detroit, Scherzer’s mega contract sits second all-time in amount given out to a pitcher, behind only Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal with the Dodgers. (Kershaw, however, is in a class all his own.)
Choosing to receive his contract over the next 14 years, coming out to 15 million a year, the structure of Scherzer’s contract allows the Nats to use the money saved per season to lock up other talented players around him, making this an even better deal in the end.
With Scherzer joining a rotation that already consisted of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, the Nationals now have one of the best — if not THE best — rotations in baseball. (The Nationals also have a couple promising pitching prospects in A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito in the minors who will be making major impacts over the coming years, so they will have additional pitching options for years to come.)
Although their bullpen could use some work after the loss of closer Rafael Soriano — there’s still plenty of time to improve that aspect of the team — the Nationals’ lineup is equally as talented as their pitching staff. From Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, along with a hopefully healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals are going to score a lot of runs.
With the Nats likely setting themselves up to produce runs night after night, and a rotation filled with pitchers capable of giving up a few mere runs a game, the Nationals have a nice combination that should lead them to a ton of wins in 2015.
After going 96-66 last year — good enough to earn Nats’ skipper, Matt Williams, the National League Manager of the Year award — there is truly no reason they couldn’t post a 100-win season this year. If that happens, it will make them the first team since the Phillies in 2011 to win 100+ games in a season.
And therefore, after winning the National League East division by a staggering 17 games a year ago, the Nationals could be looking at the same type of dominance in the foreseeable future. The Braves, who finished in second place for 2014, are in the process of rebuilding and currently seem to be out of the postseason picture for 2015, as do the Phillies who are theoretically trying to find their new identity. That leaves just the Marlins and the Mets to challenge the Nationals for the divisional title — though both teams, especially the Marlins, could make a big push towards the playoffs this year.
Even so, the Nationals are nearly a lock to make the postseason for the third time in four seasons, with an aforementioned 100-win season not completely out of the question. They have all the talent in the world, with great pitching and a good mix of young and veteran star players. But in the end, making the playoffs is only part of the goal. The one question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Nationals have enough with the addition of Max Scherzer to lead them to the World Series and a subsequent World Title?
The unfortunate truth is, only time will tell. All too often does a team expected to dominate fall into a slump and not do much of anything for the season, while a team that was predicted to go nowhere exceeds expectations and makes a playoff push. That’s baseball. That’s what makes things fun each and every season.
But regardless, I have to agree with the majority of people that the Nationals are going to be terrific, and therefore anything short of a World Series appearance for them would be a disappointment with all the promise they have of putting out an effective winning machine this season.
After all, it’s that very expectation of winning (I’m sure the money was a factor as well) that ultimately led Scherzer to sign a deal with the Nationals, saying, “I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot. When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of . . . . I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”
With Max Scherzer now on board, it looks to be an exciting season in D.C.