Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’

2014 Spring Training TTM Autograph Update

Around a month ago, I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during Spring Training. At the end of the post, I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent, I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up. Of the fourteen total TTM requests I sent off, I’ve received four of them back, with them being from:

KYLE ZIMMER — ROYALS’ ORGANIZATION

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Kyle Zimmer is the number 25 overall prospect in all of baseball. Although he didn’t have a fantastic 2013 season, going 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA, Zimmer has a ton of upside moving forward, and has many people excited for Kansas City’s future. With a fantastic fastball, in addition to an arsenal of a curveball, slider and changeup, Zimmer could, potentially, see his first big league time at some point towards the end of this season.

ALBERT ALMORA — CUBS’ ORGANIZATION

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Albert Almora is the number 18 overall prospect in all of baseball. Though he played in just 61 games last season, Almora is one of the Cubs’ highly coveted core prospects — consisting of Kris Bryan, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, etc. — that are making their way to Wrigley Field. Almora is still several years away from the major leagues, but by batting .329 last year, hopes are high that he will develop into the talented outfielder that he has the ability to become.

CLAYTON KERSHAW — LOS ANGELES DODGERS

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This one doesn’t need too much explaining. Clayton Kershaw has become one of the biggest superstars over the course of the past few seasons, winning two Cy Young awards in that time frame. Going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA in 2013, Kershaw should continue to be, arguably, the most dominant pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. He’s set to get his first start of the season on March 22nd, in game one of the Opening Series against the Diamondbacks down in Australia.

EDDIE BUTLER — ROCKIES’ ORGANIZATION

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Eddie Butler is the number 41 overall prospect in all of baseball. Pitching in the 2013 MLB futures game up in New York City, in July, Butler went a combined 9-5 with a 1.80 ERA last season, really putting himself on the map around the league. He held opponents’ batting average to a mere .180 for the entire season, and combined with other top Rockies pitching prospect, Jonathan Gray, the Rockies have a fairly good pair of young arms coming their way in the next couple of years.

I still have autograph requests out for Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, David Robertson, Mark Appel, Cody Asche, Kris Bryant, Kolten Wong, Mike Napoli, Jake Marisnick and James Paxton. When/if I get any of those back, assuming it’s before Opening Day on March 31st, I’ll be sure to post another update. Though, there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.

National League Predicitions for 2014

For the third season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Red Sox to finish last in 2013 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I posted my predictions for the American League a few days ago, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

I predicted that the Braves would win their division last season, but I didn’t see them doing so in such massive fashion. This season, I have them finishing first again, but not by nearly as much. They lost their All-Star catcher, Brian McCann, but top prospect, Christian Bethancourt, should do a good job of filling that role once he arrives at some point this season. Admittedly, they have several players — Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, etc. — who need to bounce back this year, but having finished so high in 2013 even with those players doing poorly, if those players can be healthy, the Braves should be really good; with Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman being better than ever. Their bullpen, topped of by one of the best closers in the game, Craig Kimbrel, is good, as is their starting pitching, with Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Everything put together, they should win the NL east.

The Nationals are the only team in the division that I see as having a legitimate shot at beating out the Braves for the division title, but I just don’t think it will happen. Despite the addition of Doug Fister this past offseason to an already fantastic starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, making their pitching staff one of the best in the division, to go along with a good bullpen, their overall lineup isn’t really that great. The Nationals have a good leadoff hitter in Denard Span, as well as showstoppers Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, who are predicted to have great seasons, but I simply don’t feel they will be consistent enough as a whole to get the job done night after night. If their offense can produce on a regular basis, they could, potentially, win the NL East, but I still have them coming in second.

As far as the Phillies go, they’ll be a much better team than they were last season, but I just can’t envision them beating out the Nationals or the Braves for either the first or second spot. Although they should have Ryan Howard back to his old self, after a couple of injury plagued seasons, as well as their All-Star second baseman, Chase Utley, those players alone won’t get the job done. They lost Roy Halladay to retirement, and that will definitely impact their starting rotation depth, however, the pickup of A.J. Burnett will do a good job of filling that hole in the starting staff. The Phillies are a relatively old team, with a lot of veterans, but they also have some young talent that will help them out this season. If young stars Ben Revere, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche can have good seasons, the Phillies should be competitive again this year, coming up just short of the postseason.

The Marlins are another team that will be better this season than the previous year, however, they aren’t even close to having all the pieces they need to make a run at the top of the NL East division. They have a fantastic pitching ace, Jose Fernandez, a great power hitting slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, as well as an underrated closer, Steve Cishek, but their team doesn’t really extend beyond that. The acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Red Sox will be an improvement for them behind the plate, but the Marlins didn’t do much more than that to improve their team this offseason. Their future lies with all of the young talent they currently have at the big league level — Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, etc. – and the talent they have on the way over the course of the next few seasons from the minor leagues. Until then, the Marlins will have to settle for fourth.

Despite the few good winning streaks that the Mets had last season, I expect them to fall back down a bit in 2014. One of the biggest reasons for their success in 2013 was Matt Harvey, who they’ll be without for the entire season. Although they have a decent starting rotation regardless, in Zach Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, who they picked up from the Athletics this offseason, it still won’t be enough to finish any better than last, in my opinion. By far, their biggest addition of the winter was Curtis Granderson from the Yankees, as he should provide the Mets with some much needed power. Combined with the always consistent David Wright, Chris Young and Eric Young Jr., the Mets could very well go on some runs again this season. But with a lot of their players being question marks for how they’ll perform, last place will be where the Mets wind up.

CENTRAL

1. Cardinals

2. Reds

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

After making it to the World Series in 2013, losing to the Red Sox, I look for the Cardinals to have another fantastic season, winning the NL Central division for the second straight year. They have a great rotation of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller, among others, as well as a power throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals’ lineup is just as excellent, ranging from a great defensive and hitting catcher, Yadier Molina, who’s a great leader of their pitching staff, to an infield of Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, and newly signed Jhonny Peralta. Although they lost their above average third baseman, David Freese, Matt Carpenter should do a great job in his place, as he had a breakout season last year. Keeping with the theme, the Cards also have a great outfield which contributes both with their bats and their gloves. There are truly no weak spot for the entire team.

Competition for the second place spot in the division will be between the Reds and the Pirates, but I think the Reds will have the overall better team and will be able to overtake the Pirates. They have a great lineup of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, among many others, with the speedy Billy Hamilton being their biggest make or break piece this season. With the loss of Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds need Hamilton to produce from the leadoff spot. He can be a major difference maker in a ballgame, but there’s still concern with how often he’ll be able to get on base. As far as their pitching goes, it’s arguably the second best rotation after the Cardinals in the entire division. With Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani, to go along with a strong bullpen and missle throwing closer, Aroldis Chapman, the Reds should have a really good team.

Making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, the Pirates brought a ton of attention to themselves last season. And therefore, I’m sure many people are placing them better than third, but I can’t bring myself to. Both the Reds and Cardinals have a better starting rotation, though the Pirates still have a good one, with Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and Francisco Liriano, who broke out last season. Their bullpen is more of the same, being good but not great, although they did have some good relief appearances in 2013. What it will come down to is how well the Pirates’ offense does, and how consistent each player on the team will be. As always, it’s a given that Andrew McCutchen will be fantastic, as will Pedro Alvarez. But Neil Walker, Russell Martin and Starling Marte will each have to have a breakout year for the Pirates to place any better than where I have them.

The Brewers are an interesting club, as they had a playoff contending team just a few years ago, but now don’t really have all that many star players remaining. Ryan Braun is by far their best player, and coming of a PED suspension to end last season, you have to figure he’ll produce a great season again, having something to prove to many people around the baseball world. Besides Braun, the Brewers have veteran Aramis Ramirez, who can be somewhat of an impact player, as well as Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, who both had breakout seasons in 2013. But the Brewers’ pitching isn’t all that great, with Yovani Gallardo needing to have a good year, as well as Matt Garza and their entire bullpen being average at best. Meaning, despite any record breaking runs or major breakout seasons, the Brewers are destined to finish next to last, at best.

As with the Astros of the American League, the Cubs are a team that’s accustomed to bad seasons, not having won a World Series title in 106 years. The Cubs have an average pitching staff, with Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson being the strong points. For their lineup, Anthony Rizzo is their best player, with Starling Castro, Brett Jackson and Michael Olt all having star potential, but they need to prove their abilities in the coming season. With a last place season likely on the way, all the Cubs can do is look down the road, when they have numerous prospects coming that will have a major impact on their team. Kris Bryant, who has absurd power, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards and Jorge Soler will all be arriving to the big leagues over the next few seasons, and once they arrive, the Cubs could begin making some noise in the division.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Diamondbacks

3. Giants

4. Padres

5. Rockies

The Dodgers have a team similar to the one the Tigers have in the American League. If they don’t win their division, then something went horribly wrong. With one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, made up of a 1-2-3 of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers should be a lot better than any other team in their division. Their great pitching continues into the bullpen, where they have some great relief options, including the always entertaining Brian Wilson as their closer. When it comes to the Dodgers’ lineup, it’s also one of the best. With a great defensive infield of Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and Adrian Gonzalez, combined with a great defensive outfield of Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, with Matt Kemp coming along at some point later in the season, the Dodgers have no weak spots on their team.

After making a lot of key moves this offseason, the Diamondbacks look to be a very good team heading into the season; possibly being the only team that could, potentially, put some pressure on the Dodgers. They picked up a veteran starting pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, to add to their already good rotation of Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, etc., with the possibility that Archie Bradley plays some sort of role this season. With a decent bullpen to go along with their rotation, including newly acquired closer, Addison Russell, who will be an impact player, the D-backs have their pitching in pretty good shape. And their lineup isn’t all that bad either. Although they’re not terribly strong at some positions, they have their All-Star first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, who is sure to post stellar numbers, as well as new pickup, Mark Trumbo. The D-backs should have a decent season.

While the Giants likely won’t place any better than third, with teams such as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the division, they should still be a really good team regardless. They have the best starting rotation in the division behind the Dodgers, with players such as Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, newcomer Tommy Hanson, and Tim Lincecum, who needs to turn things around this year after a couple of poor seasons. Their bullpen, however, isn’t all that fantastic, with their closer, Sergio Romo, being the only standout. But they have a fairly good lineup, especially with the pickup of Michael Morse, who will provide them some power. Their catcher, Buster Posey, will be amazing as usual, and with an infield of Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt, among others, the Giants have a shot at taking on the D-backs if they struggle. But I see them having a middle of the pack finish.

The Padres went on a good run last season, and I feel they will have a fairly decent run this year, but it won’t be enough to get them very far in the standings. Though the pickup of Josh Johnson will help out their starting rotation a bit, adding him to an already decent rotation that includes Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy, as well as a good closer in Huston Street, it won’t be quite good enough to overcome the lack of run support the Padres hitters will be providing on a consistent basis. Playing in one of the worst hitters ballparks in all of baseball, the Padres always seem to have a tough time scoring runs, despite the big dimensions aiding their pitchers. The Padres have some decent players, such as Chase Headley, Jed Gyorko and Yonder Alonso, who will certainly contribute their fair share, but it won’t be enough to place any better than fourth.

As with a lot of teams throughout baseball, the Rockies did several great things this offseason to improve their ball club, but they’ll still likely finish in last place, yet again. They have a couple of pitchers, in Rex Brothers and Juan Nicasio, who broke out in 2013, but there’s no guarantee that they can repeat that success, and the remainder of their pitching isn’t too good. That includes the Rockies’ bullpen, where there aren’t a lot of bright spots to speak of. But their lineup isn’t all that terrible. They have a great power hitting catcher in Wilin Rosario, a decent outfield with standout Carlos Gonzalez, as well as an all around great infield of Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau, who are all great both offensively and defensively. All of that will make the Rockies a team worth watching, but with pretty much no pitching, the Rockies will find themselves at the bottom.

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

2014 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching the opening-series of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, down in Australia on March 22nd, and so begins the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun.

I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2014:

Voting ends on March 22nd.

Pitchers & Catchers Report; 2014 Autograph Requests

Due to the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ opening-series that’s set to take place on March 22nd and 23rd in Australia, Spring Training action is beginning a bit earlier than usual this year. The Diamondbacks have their pitchers and catchers reporting today, with the UntitledDodgers’ pitchers and catchers reporting on Saturday. Therefore, for the first time since the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series over three months ago, baseball is finally back.

But while the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are getting started this week, the remainder of the teams won’t begin reporting until next week, anywhere from the 11th to the 17th: The Indians report date is set for Tuesday; the Cardinals and Mariners will begin on Wednesday; the Braves, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Nationals, Angels and Padres report Thursday; the Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Cubs, Reds, Royals and Athletics arrive on Friday; the Red Sox, Astros, Mets, White Sox, Rockies, Brewers and Giants on Saturday; the Marlins, Twins and Rangers report on Sunday; and the Blue Jays begin on Monday. (The rest of the players for all the teams will report anywhere from 3 to 7 days after their respective pitchers and catchers.)

Once all of the pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training on February 17th, there will be a mere 33 days until the 2014 Major League Baseball season gets underway in Australia. I, for one, can’t wait.

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.) Every Spring Training, for the past two or three years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out a dozen, or so, TTM’s, with the best player being Clayton Kershaw.

201303271540564290038-p2While that might seem like a long shot — and it very well may be — Kershaw, surprisingly, has been known to sign through the mail over the past few years; the only downside being that it takes over a year for him to return it to you.

Though his recent record breaking contract, and second Cy Young award, may lead to him getting even more fan mail, causing a subsequent stop of him signing for fans that write to him, Kershaw is good enough for me to take a chance on. Even if I don’t get anything back, at least I tried.

Other MLB players I’m sending to include Taijuan Walker (who made his MLB debut in 2013), David Robertson, Kolten Wong, Cody Asche, Mike Napoli and Jake Marisnick. All of these players have been known to be decent TTM signers, with Walker and Robertson being nearly automatic over the past couple years. Asche told me that he tries to sign everything that gets sent his way, so I’m fairly confident I’ll get that one back at least.

I’m also sending to several Minor League players who were invited to Major League Spring Training this year — some for the first time ever. Those players include Archie Bradley, Kyle Zimmer, Mark Appel, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. All five of these players will be in the majors at some point over the next few years, with Bradley likely making his big league debut this season. Bradley, Zimmer and Appel have all told me that they sign TTM, so I feel like I’ll get those back. Almora has been hit and miss recently, and I doubt Bryant will, but I’m sending to both of them anyway, because you never know.

Last year I sent off eleven autograph requests to Spring Training and received back six of them, from Jason Motte, Danny Hultzen, Stephen Romero, Sonny Gray, Tyler Skaggs and Casey Kelly. That’s pretty good as far as TTM’s go. If I get back five or six of the dozen I’m sending off this year — which is what I expect to receive – I’ll be happy.

I’m planning to post a blog entry every time I receive back a couple autographs from the players I’m sending TTM requests to during Spring Training, just as I did last year. Hopefully it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back for that over the course of the next couple months.

Pay Increase, Stat Decrease for Some In 2014

Money talks. That was proven time and time again this offseason.

As usually happens, nine times out of ten, the team that offers a player the most amount of money will acquire the prized player; no matter if that team won the World Series the previous year or finished dead last. Offer a player more than any other team and you’ll likely have him on your squad for the next year, and even beyond in some cases.

There’s no better example of that from this offseason than the Mariners landing Robinson Cano on a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract, increasing his pay from the 15 million he earned with the Yankees in 2013 all the way up to 24 million for t131212_cano_signs_lghe next 10 seasons. While the Mariners undoubtedly overpaid for Cano, no other team offered him as much, and therefore he will play 81 games (assuming he doesn’t get injured) up in Seattle in 2014.

But that could mean a noticeable statistic drop for Cano this season.

Safeco Field is known for not being a home run friendly park. Cano goes from Yankee Stadium, with a short right field porch great for lefties like himself, where he blasted 25 or more home runs each of the past five seasons (given, not all of those were at Yankee Stadium), to Safeco field, where many are predicting that his numbers will fall. While I’m not saying that Cano is going to be a flop in Seattle — he’s far too good for that — I do believe that 2014 could be a slightly down year by his standards.

Curtis Granderson is another example of a player whose stats could tumble in 2014.

Although he was injured a lot this past season, Granderson launched over 40 home runs the previous two years, and while he usually doesn’t post a high batting average, he can be a big part of any team. But I’m not sure he can amass the same type of numbers at Citi Field, where he will spend the next 4 years in which he’ll take in 60 million dollars, as he did at Yankee Stadium. Like Cano, Granderson is losing the home run hitting paradise for a lefty at Yankee Stadium and is entering a pitcher’s ballpark. Moving across town, Granderson could have a good, but not amazing (like previous seasons), 2014.

Jhonny Peralta could also wind up being a disappointment.

Peralta’s drop in production won’t likely come from a ballpark change, but rather the fact that players coming of a performance enhancing drug suspension, such as the one Peralta served in 2013, don’t historically do all that well; such as Melky Cabrera in 2013. Getting an increased pay of over 9 million dollars for next year, there is a lot of controversy surrounding Peralta this coming season, as many people feel he didn’t deserve that kind of contract after he was found to have used PED’s. Nonetheless, Peralta will spend 2014 with the Cardinals, where it will be interesting to see if he performs as hoped.

But the whole increased pay leading to decreased stats doesn’t hold true for every player.

Some players could actually benefit greatly from a change in venue — Jacoby Ellsbury more than possibly anyone else.

Ellsbury will be part of the Yankees for the next 7 seasons, after signing a 153 million dollar contract this offseason. That comes out to an increase in pay from 9 million in 2013 to 21 million this season, and I believe, although the Yankees overpaid for him, Ellsbury will go a long way in helping the team in 2014 and beyond. I don’t think Ellsbury will have a season such as the one he put together in 2011, with 32 homers and 105 RBI’s, however, I do think he’ll improve from the 9 home runs and 53 RBI’s last season, with the aid of the short porch in right field. If he can merely stay healthy — that being a problem for him over his career – Ellsbury could really amass some great stats and have a big impact on the Yankees’ season.

jacoby-ellsbury-brian-mccannBrian McCann, being a lefty like Ellsbury, could also have a breakout season.

After somewhat of a down year in 2013 — though, he still hit 20 home runs, for the sixth straight season — McCann should be able to put together a great season; and that’s exactly what the Yankees need him to do. Having received a five million dollar pay raise from last season, McCann’s stats should go up a bit in 2014, and therefore he could easily turn out to be one of the top five most valuable Yankees this season. Though you never know how a player will perform, I’d say it’s a safe bet to say that McCann’s presence will be felt all throughout 2014.

Last on my list is Shin-Soo Choo, but he’s definitely not least.

Choo put together a fantastic 2013 season, and he was awarded for his efforts during the offseason, getting a 7-year, 130 million dollar contract, nearly doubling his salary from what he received last season. Choo isn’t a guy that’s going to hit you 30 or more home runs, knock in 100 runs, or steal 40 bases, but he is a natural at getting on base. Walking 112 times last season, Choo posted a .423 on base percentage in 2013, and that makes him extremely valuable to any club. Choo should once again post the same type of numbers, if not better, in 2014.

Which of these players will have to better year? Leave a comment below.

Yankees Get Tanaka On 7-Year, 155 Million Dollar Deal

Although I felt the Yankees would be better off using their money to sign other free agents to fill their bullpen and positional needs, the Yankees have decided to lock up Masahiro Tanaka for seven years, giving him a contract worth 155 million dollars. As many people around the baseball world are discussing, this is truly a lot of money for a pitcher who’s never played in the Major Leagues. 201311030731270873836-p5

Despite reportedly wanting to remain under the 189 million dollar luxury tax threshold, this deal to Tanaka blows right past that. The Yankees have now spent nearly 500 million dollars this offseason, with the biggest additions being Tanaka (155 million), Jacoby Ellsbury (153 million), Brian McCann (85 million) and Carlos Beltran (45 million). But even with all the money spent, they still have holes in their overall team.

The Yankees need at least one more good bullpen pitcher, preferably a solid closer, and have an average, at best, infield. With it uncertain how Derek Jeter will perform this season — coming of an injury plagued 2013 season – there are still a lot of questions surrounding the deal. (Now that the Yankees have passed the threshold, I suppose spending more money to acquire their needs isn’t that big of a concern.)

It’s been reported that the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks all made runs at Tanaka, with at least one team possibly outbidding the Yankees. But ultimately, Tanaka chose the bigger stage of New York City, where he will likely begin as the second or third man in their starting rotation.

Tanaka becomes the receiver of the fifth largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, just behind Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million over 7 years, Justin Verlander’s 180 million for 7 years, Felix Hernandez’s 7-year, 175 million dollar contract, and C.C. Sabathia’s 160 million for 8 years. That says a lot for the type of pitcher Tanaka is, but it’s somewhat risky, even for a pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year in Japan, since, as stated earlier, he has never pitched a single MLB inning.

If everything works out as the Yankees planned, and are certainly hoping for, then the signing of Masahiro Tanaka could go a long way to helping them return to the playoffs in 2014 (many people are predicting just that). But if there are any bumps in the road, you could be seeing a lot of regret in New York.

As things look now, however, the future looks to be bright.

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas – the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter – all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

2013 MLB Draft: Appel, Bryant & Gray As Top Three

Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray and Kris Bryant were ranked as the number one, two and three draft picks going into Wednesday’s 2013 first-year player draft, and that turned out to be close to dead-on. While Appel did in fact go number one overall, as predicted by many around the baseball world, Gray and Bryant went in reverse order from expected, however, they all fell within the top three as was originally thought out.

Mark Appel went first overall, getting drafted by the Houston Astros.

Mark Appel

Appel, who chose not to sign with the Pirates after they drafted him eighth overall in the 2012 draft, went 10-4, with a 2.12 ERA, this past season at Stanford University. His college career was a fairly impressive one, as Appel went 28-14 overall, with a combined 2.91 ERA, including setting the record for most career strikeouts as a Stanford pitcher. If Appel can continue to develop–though many argue he’s nearly ready at the moment–he should be pitching on the mound for his hometown Houston Astros sometime in the very near future.

Kris Bryant went second overall, getting drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

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Bryant, who was previously drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft, batted .329, with 31 home runs and 62 RBI’s, in his third season at the University of San Diego. Though Bryant has only been playing college ball for a total of three years, his numbers are intriguing, as his combined stats include a .353 batting average, with 54 homers and 155 RBI’s, between his freshman, sophomore and junior years. It’ll take a little time for Bryant to fully tap into his projected above average power, but once he figures things out, he’s sure to be a big impact player for the Cubs.

Jonathan Gray went third overall, getting drafted by the Rockies.

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Gray, who was previously drafted by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, went 10-2, with a 1.59 ERA, this past season with Oklahoma University, after playing at Eastern Oklahoma State College two years earlier, where he was just as great, going 6-2, with a 2.89 ERA. It shouldn’t take long before Gray finds himself pitching in the mile high city, as he was regarded as one of the top college pitchers and is sure to carry the same tag with him as he moves into the minor leagues. The Rockies would appear to have a can’t miss pitching prospect on their hands.

The remainder of the draft saw many surprises. A lot of players went higher than anyone expected, while others stuck around longer than many thought they would. But that usually happens every year with the draft.

The rest of the 1st round of the 2013 draft, following the first three picks, went as follows:

4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart

5. Cleveland Indians: Clint Frazier

6. Miami Marlins: Colin Moran

7. Boston Red Sox: Trey Ball

8. Kansas City Royals: Hunter Dozier

9. Pittsburgh Pirates: Austin Meadows

10. Toronto Blue Jays: Phillip Bickford

11. New York Mets: Dominic Smith

12. Seattle Mariners: D.J. Peterson

13. San Diego Padres: Hunter Renfroe

14. Pittsburgh Pirates: Reese McGuire

15. Arizona Diamondbacks: Braden Shipley

16. Philadelphia Phillies: J.P. Crawford

17. Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson

18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Anderson

19. St. Louis Cardinals: Marco Gonzales

20. Detroit Tigers: Jonathon Crawford

21. Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Ciuffo

22. Baltimore Orioles: Hunter Harvey

23. Texas Rangers: Alex Gonzalez

24. Oakland Athletics: Billy McKinney

25. San Francisco Giants: Christian Arroyo

26. New York Yankees: Eric Jagielo

27. Cincinnati Reds: Phillip Ervin

28. St. Louis Cardinals: Rob Kaminsky

29. Tampa Bay Rays: Ryne Stanek

30. Texas Rangers: Travis Demeritte

31. Atlanta Braves: Jason Hursh

32. New York Yankees: Aaron Judge

33. New York Yankees: Ian Clarkin

Competitive Balance Round A

34. Kansas City Royals: Sean Manaea

35. Miami Marlins: Matt Krook

36. Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Blair

37. Baltimore Orioles: Josh Hart

38. Cincinnati Reds: Michael Lorenzen

39. Detroit Tigers: Corey Knebel

So there you have it. Take a good look at that list. Make sure to follow them as the majority of them begin their professional careers. Odds are at least a few of those names will become MLB All-Stars, with the possibility that some may become a future Hall of Famer. You never know what can happen when you have so much young talent entering their given MLB organizations.

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

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

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

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

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

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

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

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

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

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

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

National League Predictions for 2013

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

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

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

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

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL

1. Reds

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

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

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

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

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

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

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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