Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’
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.
The Washington Nationals are somehow finding a way to win, despite the fact that some of their key players are posting disappointing numbers due to either injuries or a long stretch of struggles. Currently riding a four game winning streak, the Nats amazingly find themselves in first place for the National League East division, six games in front of the second place Braves, who were on top less than a month ago.
Ryan Zimmerman, who has been dealing with injuries all season long, is out until at least September, which is obviously a big blow to the team, seeing how much of an affect he’s had over the course of his career. In addition, Stephen Strasburg, while he’s been healthy, still hasn’t been that over dominant pitcher that he has been hyped to be, currently possessing a mid 3.00 ERA, though he’s been showing signs of a turn around. Those two players alone not playing to the best of their ability would understandably be enough to make the Nationals under perform.
But the one player who is hyped the most of anyone on the team, and arguably is the one player that the Nats need the most in order to be the best their team can be, is their 21 year old, Bryce Harper, who has also been struggling, after coming off the disabled list due to a thumb injury.
Putting up numbers so bad that there were rumors that Harper could be sent down to the minors — rumors that were quickly set straight by Nationals’ manager, Matt Williams –, Harper hadn’t been able to find his overall groove through a couple of weeks since his return.
Having struggled in 2013 after a knee injury, and threatened with bench time, Harper stated that the Nationals should “play [him] or trade [him]”. By pressuring the Nationals to keep him in the lineup, Harper worked that slump out, and he’s beginning to show signs that he’s working out of this one as well.
Following a two RBI night on Thursday, coming off of a home run, Harper went 2-4 with a couple more RBI’s on Friday. Batting .282 with 3 homers and 9 RBI’s in his last ten games, Harper’s stats for the season now stand at 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s with a .259 average. Though that’s not very good, with this set to be the first season in his young career without 20 homers, the two-time All-Star is recently starting to contribute like he’s expected to.
And the Nationals are going need Harper’s bat to continue to stay hot if they hope to make any sort of deep playoff push with the talent level that October baseball brings. After reaching the postseason in 2012 for the first time since 1933, the Nationals were quickly eliminated, and failed to reach the postseason at all in 2013.
Though they’re on track to make it once again this year, whether or not Harper produces in the clutch will likely make a big difference in how they fare down the stretch.
Two years removed from his rookie of the year season, in which everything seemed to go right, Bryce Harper has definitely seen his fair share of trying situations. From injuries to slumps, Harper has been scrutinized in the headlines of nearly every major publication across the country for not playing in a consistent manner.
But despite all of that negativity coming his way, there are signs that the Nationals are once again getting the type of player that was anticipated when they drafted Harper number one overall back in 2010. If Harper can get things clicking, the Nats could be in for a strong final month and a half to the season.
After a four-day break in baseball action due to the All-Star game and its surrounding festivities up at Target Field, baseball returns tonight. With a full, fifteen game slate set to get the second half of the season going, there are a ton of story lines that are sure to make this portion of the season one of the most captivating in years.
With that in mind, I wanted to go over just a few of the topics worth keeping an eye on in the two and a half months before the postseason rolls around, with my prediction/thoughts on what will take place.
– Which players will be traded before the trade deadline on July 31st?
As of right now — though the likes of Chase Utley, Huston Street and Adrian Beltre have been tossed around — the two players in the spotlight the most when it comes to trade discussion are David Price and Matt Kemp. Both Price and Kemp have been apart of trade talks for awhile, but neither has gone anywhere as of yet. But many people are expecting that to change fairly soon. Price hasn’t been having the type of season that he had a couple of years ago, but he’s still one of the top pitchers in the game today, who will likely bring the Rays a good amount in return, should they decide to deal him.
Kemp is in slightly a different situation that Price, as Price has noted that he doesn’t necessarily want to leave, but Kemp is open to a trade, seeing that he’s currently not being used as an everyday player. Though Kemp has been struggling for a good bit of time due to injuries, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the top superstars in all of baseball. With the outfield situation the Dodgers currently hold — five outfielders for three spots — Kemp will likely be heading somewhere soon.
When Jose Abreu came to the White Sox from Cuba, no one knew fully what to expect from him. But after his first month in the big leagues, everyone knew he was going to be a star for years to come. The first year All-Star set a new rookie home run record for a player’s first month in the majors, and is on the verge of breaking an even bigger record — the most home runs in a season by a rookie.
Mark McGwire set the bar high back in 1987 when he slugged 49 home runs for the Athletics, but Abreu is currently on pace to hit 50 in this his rookie campaign. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that amazing milestone, Abreu is nearly a lock to do what McGwire achieved — win the American League Rookie of the Year award.
– Of the players with poor first halves, which will have a breakout second half?
No player carries the hype that the Nationals’ Bryce Harper does. Coming up back in 2012 and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award, Harper hasn’t yet been able to have the monster season that people had predicted him to put together. Thanks to an injury this season, Harper has played in a mere 34 games to this point, but with him finally healthy, Harper is looking to turn things around and have a breakout second half to the season. With the Nationals tied with the Braves for first place in the division, they could really use a surge from Harper, who has clearly made known that he loves the spotlight. This is his chance to shine.
The Red Sox have failed to meet expectations this season after winning the World Series last year, sitting tied for last place in the American League east with the Rays. Part of the reason for the subpar year to this point has been the subpar performances by many of the players who made big impacts last year, including Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts came up for the very last portion of the 2013 season, but he flipped a switch in the postseason, getting important hits in big spots and helping to lead the Red Sox to the championship title. With such a great showing, many people made the prediction that he would make the run for Rookie of the Year this season. Though that’s not going to happen, look for Bogaerts to begin to find his groove in the remainder of the Sox’ games. He’s extremely talented and will surely be able to get things going.
George Springer is having a great season for the Astros, leading the team in RBI’s and tied for the lead in home runs. The only knock to what would be a promising Rookie of the Year campaign is his low .200’s batting average. That’s the one thing that Springer needs to turn around to become the all around star player that people feel he can become.
His power has been evident this year, as has the ability to come through in big spots; and his defense has been impressive as well. With so much talent, having hit .303 with 37 homers last season in the minors, Springer is one of those players that can make the necessary adjustments to get better and better. With the second half of the season beginning, Springer is arguably the players who needs the most watching, as he could have an extremely impressive final few months.
– How many teams can make a solid push at the playoffs?
Probably the most anticipation surrounds the division races, where there are numerous teams that still stand a theoretical shot at one of the ten playoff spots (six division winners, and four wild cards). The Orioles, Tigers, and Athletics currently stand atop their given American League division, with the Nationals and Braves (tied), Brewers and Dodgers holding the first place slot for their National League division. But there are multiple teams that could be in their place once the end of the season rolls around.
The Orioles currently hold a four game lead in the American League East, however, the Blue Jays and Yankees are going to do their part to make the O’s feel pressure in the coming months. While the Blue Jays held the top spot for a long time before falling down a bit, and although the Yankees are struggling to stay in the race, anything can happen, and that’s reason enough to watch the race in the east.
Detroit has a rather big lead over the second place Royals, but after losing the spot to the Royals earlier in the year, they need to keep an eye on Kansas City. It has been “the Royals’ year” for the past several years, with people predicting season after season that they would finally reach their full potential. And therefore, while they won’t likely find themselves beating out the Tigers, they very well could capture one of the wild cards.
One of the most impressive teams for the past few years has been the Athletics. Consisting of players who wouldn’t appear to have much of a shot against the rest of the division on paper, the A’s are once again surprising many. Not far behind them are the Angels, who, led by Mike Trout, have finally been able to see all of their key players make full contributions. Less than two games back of first, the Angels are on the verge of a special season.
The National League East division has the Nationals and the Braves at the top, with both standing a good shot at being there at the end of the season. The only question that remains is which one of the two will finish in second. The Nationals are a better team as a whole, and if Bryce Harper can post superstar caliber numbers, they could run away with things. However, if the Nat’s fail to capitalize, the Braves could once again win the division.
But while the National League East has the closest teams, the NL Central is arguably the most competitive, as three of the four teams chasing the first place Brewers are less than four games back. Those three teams being the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates, any of the three stand a good shot at finishing in first. It will come down to who plays better baseball and finishes out the year on a strong note.
It’s basically a two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers for the first place spot in the National League West. Though it’s not as competitive of a division as most of the others in baseball, it’s going to be exciting to see who goes on a hot streak to take the first place spot. As of right now, the favorites are the Dodgers, who were predicted at the beginning of the year to make the playoffs fairly easily, but the Giants aren’t too far removed from their 2012 World Series title, and could potentially make things interesting.
But the only thing that’s for sure in baseball is that you never know what to expect. Teams that you never thought had a shot can go on a historic streak and shock everyone. And thus, with less than three months to go, the baseball world is in for an action packed finish to the season.
With Clayton Kershaw recently receiving a 7-year, 215 million dollar deal from the Dodgers, I thought I’d go over the top young players Kershaw’s age (26 at the start of the season) or younger without extended contracts, with at least 100 games played or 100 innings pitched, that I feel would be worth a large deal (not necessarily of Kershaw’s magnitude).
Keep in mind, the players on my list might never get contracts of this amount, or they could be offered larger ones — depending on what their respective team can afford. I’m not trying to project what the future holds for each player money wise, I’m just giving my take on what I feel they’re worth, and over what period of time. Also, the players are in order of total dollar amount, not necessarily their talent level, as some positions are simply worth more money than others.
With all that said, here is my top ten list:
1.) Mike Trout — 22 years old: Contract of 10 years, 310 million dollars
There’s no doubt in my mind that Mike Trout is eventually going to receive a massive contract. After winning the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year award and going on to have an even better 2013 season, Trout is worth every dollar. At just 22 years old, Trout is the only player on my list that I’d give a 10 year contract to, with my contract coming out to 31 million a year, which would make him the highest paid player in MLB history. But he’s just going to get better and better.
2.) Giancarlo Stanton — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 130 million dollars
If Giancarlo Stanton had been completely healthy over the last couple of seasons, he’d probably be receiving more money in my contract. But citing the health issues, especially last season, I decided to give him just under 22 million a year. When healthy, he is a 30-40 home run player, and is just as deserving of a huge contract as Mike Trout.
3.) Freddie Freeman — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 100 million dollars
Many had Freddie Freeman in the running for the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player award, but while he didn’t win (Andrew McCutchen ended up taking home the honor) that doesn’t take anything away from the season Freeman had. At just 23 years old, Freeman recorded his first 100 RBI season last year, and should continue to be that type of player moving forward. Therefore, I’d lock him up until age 30, providing him with just under 17 million a season.
4.) Jose Fernandez — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 100 million dollars
If Jose Fernandez can perform all next season the way he did in 2013, he will be worth even more than this. Fernandez blew away the opposition last season, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award — even placing third in Cy Young award voting. At just 21 years old, Fernandez is going to be very good for a very long time, but I played it safe, for now, giving him 20 million a season (yes, I know that’s a ton for a player of his age) for the next five years. After that, sky’s the limit.
5.) Manny Machado — 21 years old: Contract of 6 years, 85 million dollars
Manny Machado could end up being worthy of the second largest contract of the players on my list, as he is capable of turning into a complete, superstar player a few years down the road, but for now he sits at number five. That’s no knock to him, however. He’s just 21 years old, and has already shown flashes of being one of the top two or three players in all of baseball. But if I had to offer him a contract tomorrow, I’d give him roughly 14 million a year until he turns 27.
6.) Stephen Strasburg — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 80 million dollars
Though he’s had a few good seasons (after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010) Stephen Strasburg hasn’t yet broken out as that super dominant pitcher many feel he can be, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 2013. Therefore, I have him at number six on my list, with a contract of 16 million a year until he turns 30. But a few good seasons could easily move him way up.
7.) Craig Kimbrel — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 75 million dollars
There is, arguably, no one better at closing out games at the moment (now that Mariano Rivera has retired) than Craig Kimbrel. Posting 40 or more saves each of the past three years, Kimbrel has overpowering stuff, and should continue to dominate as the Braves’ closer for years to come. I don’t normally like relief pitchers getting big contracts, but Kimbrel is the exception, with me giving him a contract worth 15 million a year.
8.) Bryce Harper — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 70 million dollars
This was difficult for me, putting Bryce Harper all the way down at number eight. He’s been hyped since the age of sixteen, and it hasn’t slowed since Harper reached the majors in 2012. But he’s just a bit “out of control” for me to place him any higher; at least for now. If he can get everything together, he has the potential to be a true five-tool player, and earn a mega-contract. From what I’ve seen so far, however, I’d give him five years to figure things out, giving him 14 million a season.
9.) Addison Reed — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 65 million dollars
Addison Reed — recently traded to the Diamondbacks from the White Sox — is one of the most dominant and reliable closers in all of baseball. Though he is somewhat of a question mark in terms of earned runs allowed per outing, Reed has very dominant stuff, and recorded 40 saves last season. He should remain a feared ninth inning man for years to come, earning him 13 million until he turns 30, in my book.
10.) Matt Harvey — 25 years old: Contract T.B.D.
The fact that Matt Harvey missed the last few games of 2013 and will miss the entire 2014 season, due to Tommy John surgery, and yet still makes my top ten speaks volumes for the type of player he is. Getting the start for the 2013 All-Star game, Harvey had a magnificent year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, and really put his name on the map. Once healthy, he should get a hefty contract. (It’s hard to say for sure how much he’s worth, which is why I left that to be determined down the road.)
Do you agree or disagree with my top ten? Leave a comment below.
The players set to participate in the 2013 home run derby were announced on Monday, and for the most part, I’m not shocked with any of them. As a matter of fact, four of the six players I stated that I’d like to see in the derby this year were selected. (Not bad, if you ask me.)
My original list included Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes and Prince Fielder, for the American League, with Evan Gattis, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton for the National League; at the time, Gattis was healthy. Cano ended up selecting Chris Daivs, Prince Field and Yoenis Cespedes, all of which I wanted to see. Wright got Bryce Harper, as well as a couple of players I didn’t pick, in Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez, to participate, and while I would’ve like to have seen Stanton over Cuddyer, it is what it is.
With the field for the home run derby nearly set, I wanted to take a second to give my thoughts on how I feel the derby will go.
I feel like Michael Cuddyer won’t last very long in the derby, probably not making it past the first round. He’s having a great year, but just doesn’t have what it takes to excel, in my opinion. Carlos Gonzalez and David Wright should do a bit better than Cuddyer, however, I see Bryce Harper outdoing them both, for the National League team. I could easily see him making it to the final round. Harper has the power, as well as the endurance needed, to thrive in a home run derby.
I have Robinson Cano doing the worst of the four players for the American League. But it all depends on which Cano shows up. He has the ability to do well, having won the derby in 2011, however, he can also flop under pressure, as he didn’t hit a single homer last year. I feel Yoenis Cespedes will do fairly well, but it will come down to Chris Davis and Prince Fielder, in my mind, with Fielder winning out in the end; though, not by much.
I could easily see a final round of Bryce Harper and Prince Fielder.
If indeed Harper and Fielder make it to the very end, I think Fielder has too much pop for even a young phenom like Harper to compete with. So, for the second straight year, that’s who I have winning–Prince Fielder. It shouldn’t come as a real surprise. Not many people have the home run hitting ability of Fielder.
Prince Fielder is going for home run derby title number three, as well as a win in back-to-back years. Both are feats that only Ken Griffey Jr. has ever been able to accomplish, and if all goes as I see it playing out, Prince Fielder will soon join him.