My Initial 2016 MLB All-Star Game Ballot

We aren’t even a month into the baseball season, and the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star game ballot has already been released. I feel it’s a little too early to be casting votes for the Midsummer Classic, as some superstar players have gotten off to rough starts and will likely get back to their former glory by the time the All-Star game arrives on July 12th out in San Diego, while some previously unknown players who have busted out of the gate will likely be merely trickling along by that time.San Diego

But even so, I decided to go ahead and post a blog on the subject, regardless of the earliness of it all.

Voting itself 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 5 times per day, and 35 times total, for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until June 30th.)

Due to the All-Star game still being over two months away, I divided things up a bit this year. I’m going to go ahead and cast 15 votes for the players I feel are All-Star worthy as of now (the players discussed below), with a plan to go back and cast my other 20 available votes in the final week leading up to the actual game. Odds are, at least a few of them will be different, but as for right now, here are the players at each position that I feel are deserving of playing in the 2016 MLB All-Star game:

FIRST BASE:  Joe Mauer (AL),  Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

With guys such as Eric Hosmer, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis to choose from in the American League portion of things, this wasn’t necessarily an easy decision, but I ended up going with Joe Mauer. Leading the pack in batting average, Mauer has really gotten off to a nice start of what looks to be a bounce back season.

For the National League, I chose Adrian Gonzalez. He is second in the National League first basemen group in average, and is off to an equally good start as Joe Mauer. Amazingly, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are all batting down around .200, making this a somewhat easy choice.

SECOND BASE: Ian Kinsler (AL),  Neil Walker (NL)

Picking between Jose Altuve and Ian Kinsler was rather difficult, as both have stats very similar to the other. In the end, however, I chose Kinsler for the all-around game he brings to the table. While Altuve has had a hot bat to begin the season, it’s Kinsler who I feel can continue to hold his streak the longest.

There are multiple options for National League secondbaseman, with Daniel Murphy and Jean Segura’s high averages jumping out as All-Star worthy. But I wound up picking Neil Walker, who has a combination of a good average, along with a high early homer total that make him All-Star game worthy.

SHORTSTOP:  Carlos Correa (AL),  Zack Cozart (NL)

After winning the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award, I currently have Carlos Correa being the AL starting shortstop at the All-Star game as well. Correa plays a great defense and has just as much pop in his bat as anyone around baseball. Therefore, I picked him on my ballot.

The National League shortstop spot goes to Zack Cozart in my mind. While Trevor Story leads the pack in homers and RBI’s, the majority of those came during his extremely hot (and historic) first several games. Recently, Story has cooled off a ton, and the shortstop spot is Cozart’s to lose, in my opinion.

THIRD BASE: Manny Machado (AL),  Nolan Arenado (NL)

There are a ton of worthy candidates in the American League for All-Star game third baseman, but, unfortunately, I could only choose one on my ballot. Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and even Adrian Beltre all have cases. But I went with Manny Machado, who has been incredible to start the season.

Going against Maikel Franco and Kris Bryant was extremely hard to do, especially with them getting off to good starts, but I didn’t go with either of them. Instead, I went with Nolan Arenado. Although his stats aren’t much better than any of the other options, Arenado is one of the best both offensively and defensively at the position.

CATCHER:  Salvador Perez (AL), Wellington Castillo  (NL)

Though his average is a good distance away from the magic .300 mark, Salvador Perez is deserving of the All-Star catcher slot. He is having a great season in Kansas City, once again, and easily earns my vote. Always consistently good, Perez is one of the best catchers in the game, and should be honored as such.

Yadier Molina is always the heavy favorite for National League starting catcher, and he is once again on top in batting average. But I didn’t go with Molina. Instead, I went with breakout catcher, Wellington Castillo. Castillo is having a great year to this point, and he has a very good case for being named the starter in July.

DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz

David Ortiz could be hitting .100 by the time the All-Star game rolls around and he still would be worthy of the vote. Being his final season, and with all he’s done over his career, he deserves it no matter what. But the stats are there, regardless. Ortiz more than deserves to play in his final All-Star game.

OUTFIELD

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:

Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Steven Souza Jr. (AL)

Picking Mark Trumbo and Steven Souza Jr. was a bit tough, but they’re having too good of seasons for me to ignore. Although they likely won’t be the top vote-getters when all is said and done, they earn my vote for now. Mike Trout, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. Despite a slow start, Trout is heating things up, and is still a superstar.

Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun (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 Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun, who are each having uniquely great seasons, and are each very exciting players to watch.

Correa and Bryant Win Rookie of the Year Award

The Rookie of the Year award was first handed out in 1947 to Jackie Robinson, after he broke baseball’s color barrier and went on to have a great first season of what would become a Hall of Fame career. Given out to a single player again in 1948, the award was expanded in 1949 to include a player from each league, and has been that way ever since.

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 Rookie of the Year award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player five points, a second place vote gets three points, with a third place vote receiving one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2015 Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Monday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Carlos Correa

Finalists: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Miguel Sano

Winner: Carlos Correa

Thoughts On Carlos Correa Winning

For a player who made his MLB debut two full months into the season (June 8th), Carlos Correa put up unbelievable stats in 2015. The former number one overall pick in 2012, Correa batted .279 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI’s, all AstrosRoyalswhile stealing 14 bags to boot.

Carlos Correa received 17 of the 30 first-place American League Rookie of the Year votes, for a total of 124 points, to edge out runner up Francisco Lindor, with his 109 points, and Twins’ slugger Miguel Sano, with a mere 20 points. At just 21 years old, Correa was the youngest position player in the big leagues this season, and with him still learning how to go about life in the big leagues, he will only improve as the years go on.

Correa became the 14th shortstop in history to win the award, and is just the second Astros player to earn the honor, joining Jeff Bagwell who won back in 1991.

Although some players have posted great rookie seasons only to go onto have poor MLB careers, it’s safe to say that Carlos Correa is bound for many more historic seasons moving forward.

NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Kris Bryant

Finalists: Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang

Winner: Kris Bryant

Thoughts On Kris Bryant Winning

Kris Bryant’s journey to the major leagues was a short one, going from first round draft pick in 2013 to MLB All-Star this past season (Joc Pederson was the only other rookie in the Midsummer Classic). Furthermore, in the minds of many, it was Bryant’s performance all season long was one of the many key factors that helped carry the Cubs to the postseason. MLB: JUN 25 Dodgers at Cubs

Winning the National League Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote (just the 20th such player in history), Bryant follows in the footsteps of fellow Chicago slugger Jose Abreu, who won the American League Rookie of the Year last season, earning all 30 first-place votes.

Bryant batted .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBI’s this season (breaking both the homers and RBI’s mark for a Cubs’ rookie), and, despite his league-leading 199 strikeouts, was truly the only logical choice for the award. He was consistent for the most part throughout 2015, and came up big each and every time the Cubs needed him to.

Picking up each of the 30 first-place votes, Bryant’s 150 points overall easily carry him past the runner up, Matt Duffy, who picked up 70 points, and Jung Ho Kang, who placed third, with his 28 overall points from the BBWAA.

As with Carlos Correa, the newest Chicago Cubs’ superstar, Kris Bryant, will likely only get better as time goes on. It should be interesting to see how Correa and Bryant, and their respective teams, fare over the next decade or so.

2015 Players’ Choice Awards

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 MLB Choiceeach 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.

Recap of My Votes for the 2015 MLB Major Awards

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 awardsAwards 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.

My Vote for 2015 A.L. Rookie of the Year

Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Miguel Sano, Lance McCullers Jr., and Carson Smith all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.Correa

Carson Smith had a terrific rookie season as a reliever with the Mariners. Posting a 2.31 ERA over the course of 70 innings pitched, all while striking out 92, Smith will likely have many more years to come as a top notch relief pitcher. But although his year was great, it’s no where near good enough for the Rookie of the Year.

Lance McCullers Jr., like Smith, is a pitcher who had a good season, making 22 starts for the Astros and striking out more batters than innings pitched. However, also like Carson Smith, McCullers won’t be taking home any hardware in 2015.

Miguel Sano is a solid candidate for the top rookie honor, but he didn’t quite do enough to receive it in my mind. His 18 homers and 52 RBI’s over just 79 games with the Twins is very impressive, but the numbers just aren’t there for him. Even so, Sano is going to be a force to be reckoned with for the next decade or so.

It came down to Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor for me, but Lindor just misses out. He really exploded onto the scene with the Indians back in June and is cementing himself as a future Gold Glove winner. Lindor’s .356 on base percentage and 12 homers as a shortstop are impressive, but not as impressive as another fellow rookie shortstop.

For me, while it was close between Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa, there’s no other choice for 2015 American League Rookie of the Year over Correa. Hyped ever since he was selected as the number one overall draft pick in 2012, Correa burst into the Astros lineup and never looked back. Blasting 22 home runs (an Astros rookie record) and knocking in 68 runs, Correa is sure to be a future All-Star shortstop for Houston.

Singleton, Springer A Sign of the Astros’ Bright Future

For the past several years, the Houston Astros have been somewhat of a laughingstock among Major League Baseball, with some people going as far as calling them a Triple-A caliber team at best. Losing over 100 games each of the past two seasons, things weren’t looking any more promising for this season, as many people predicted that the Astros could lose another 100 games in 2014. mlb_a_singleton_b1_400x600

However, while the Astros are likely to still finish last in their division, and still might reach 100 losses, they appear to be slowly turning the corner.

The biggest reason for that turn has been two of their many top prospects getting the call up to the big leagues.

First it was George Springer, who blasted 10 homers in his first month, and now it’s Jonathan Singleton, who was signed to a controversial five year, ten million dollar deal, worth a potential thirty-five million, before he ever had an at-bat on the major league level.

Hitting .267 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI’s at Triple-A before his call up, Singleton didn’t disappoint in his debut on Tuesday night against the Angels. Going 1-3 for the game, Singleton drew a bases loaded walk and blasted his first career home run — just the fourth Astros player to ever hit a home run in their first game — providing a couple of runs in the Astros’ 7-2 win over the Angels.

Overall, Singleton looked really comfortable at the plate, and along with Springer and the rest of the players currently on the Astros, they’re already becoming a good team. But even with these talented prospects now beginning to produce for the big league team — the only true power hitters for the Astros besides Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez — it’s still going to be awhile before the Astros are making any sort of playoff run. But, thankfully, the Astros have a ton of help on the way that should transform them into a competitive team.

Making their way to Houston include prospects Carlos Correa, the first overall draft pick in 2012, Mark Appel, the first overall pick in 2013, along with Delino De Shields, Lance McCullers and Mike Foltynewicz. Each of them are part of the top 100 prospects list, and with the majority of them being future game changers, it should be interesting to see how good the Astros can become within the next few years.

With the Astros set to add yet another potential star player to their organization on Thursday night, when they receive their third straight first overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, their prospect list continues to grow and grow. And thus, it should all spell success at some point down the road, once their key prospects reach the major leagues and begin to contribute to the recently struggling club.

Better Team In 5 Years: Cubs or Astros?

After starting from a level playing field on Opening Day, there are always certain teams who find themselves falling lower and lower in the standings as a given season goes on. Though it can vary from year to year, with teams having an off season compared to their normal standards, for the last several seasons it has been two main teams: the Cubs and the Astros. Jose Altuve, David DeJesus

Currently sitting dead last in their respective divisions through a fourth of the season played, and with no signs that things will be changing in the near future, even with a good amount of the season left to go, it’s once again not looking too good for either the Cubs or the Astros. However, despite neither having finished with a winning record since 2009, their fortunes could be changing over the coming years. One thing they both have in common is their strong farm systems, which are loaded with top prospects that will be coming up to help out down the road.

For the Cubs, having not reached the postseason since 2008, they currently have prospects such as Javier Baez, who’s off to a rough start to 2014 after dominating last year; Kris Bryant, who’s expected to have 40 home run power in the majors; and Albert Almora, who is a few years away but is likely to have a big impact once he reaches Chicago. Those players, combined with those they have now, should make for a good team beginning around 2016 and continuing for the many years beyond.

To go along with their already decent major league team, the Astros, who haven’t made the postseason since 2005, have a ton of talent coming their way, including Carlos Correa, who is expected to be an all around fantastic player; Mark Appel, who’s likely to get a late season call up if he’s performing well; and Jonathan Singleton, who possesses some above average power. After losing over 100 games and being the worst team in baseball as of late, the Astros could see things turning around very soon.

The only good thing about performing so poorly each season is that you receive a high pick in the following year’s draft, with it looking likely that the Astros will take Carlos Rodon as the number one overall pick in the upcoming 2014 draft (the Cubs have the fourth overall pick.) But even so, your top picks in the draft, which subsequently become your top prospects, don’t always pan out and reach the big league level. And even when they do, for some players, it takes them a bit of time to adjust once they get the call up.

The most recent example of that being George Springer, who has hit a mere .222 with 3 home runs so far this season with the Astros after blasting 37 homers to go along with a .303 batting average as part of their farm system in 2013. Though he’s predicted to still have a great career, sometimes it just takes awhile for players to make the adjustment to big league pitching, no matter how good they are.

And therefore, while I’m not saying either the Astros or the Cubs will be winning the World Series in the coming years, I do feel that with their high level of talent from the minors on its way they will become much more competitive than they currently are, having to settle with last place finishes year after year.

With it being nearly equal in terms of current talent, and taking prospect depth into consideration, it’s somewhat difficult to predict which of the teams will be the best half a decade from now. But if I had to choose, I’d likely go with the Cubs, even though the Astros should be a lot better as well. It’s truly too close to call, and that’s something to look forward to if you’re a fan of either team — or just a baseball fan in general.

Who do you think will be the better team in five years?