Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2016 Season

It’s been said time and time again by myself and other people around baseball, but it’s worth repeating: You can’t always take a team’s or player’s hot or cold start to a season in stone as to how they will perform over the rest of the season.

While it’s easy to overreact and declare that a team predicted to finish last is now World Series bound because they got off to a good start (or the opposite, that your favorite team is doomed because they’re yet to win a game), it’s still very early, with extremely small sample sizes to look at. But despite that, I decided to take a look anyhow at the starts teams and players around baseball have had to kick off 2016:

Fastest Starts

Teams:

1 — Orioles (5-0)

2 — Cubs (5-1)

3 — Reds (5-1)

The Orioles are off to a surprisingly good start (their best since 1970). While their team has the ability to win often, I would never have guessed that they would be the only undefeated team remaining in baseball a week into the season. Chicago, on the other hand, is off to the great start that people around the baseball world predicted, and are well under way to their World Series destiny. Like Baltimore, the Reds are also over performing tremendously. Them kicking off their season 5-1 isn’t how I ever thought things would pan out for them.

Players:

1 — Tyler White (.556, 3 HR, 9 RBI)

2 — Eugenio Suarez (.435, 4 HR, 9 RBI)

3 — Trevor Story (.333, 7 HR, 12 RBI)

None of these three were household names before the season got underway, but they are each posting numbers that would qualify them as such towards the end of the season. Tyler While is absolutely on fire for the Astros, as is Eugenio Suarez for the Reds. Both will look to continue to lead their given teams. However, while they are each off to hot starts, the talk of the baseball world is Trevor Story. Although Story has numerous players ahead of him in the batting average department, I included him on this list because of his historic seven homers over the course of his first six career games.

Slowest Starts

Teams:

1 — Twins (0-6)

2 — Braves (0-5)

3 — Marlins (1-3)

It’s not all that surprising that these three teams are at the very bottom of the pack among the other 27 teams in the baseball standings. Despite an unbelievable season last year, in which the Twins proved many people wrong, they are off to the worst start in their franchises history. The Braves aren’t faring any better, having yet to win a ballgame, with the Marlins having notched one victory, but still not seemingly on the verge of postseason glory when October rolls around.

Players:

1 — Curtis Granderson (.050, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

2 — Logan Morrison (.056, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

3 — Brad Miller (.059, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Having yet to record a home run isn’t all that rare this time of season, nor is it unheard of to have recorded hits that didn’t result in a single run batted in. But to be hitting below .100 at any point in the year is a clear sign that your bat has gone ice cold. That’s certainly the case for Curtis Granderson, who is hitting just .050 on the year to this point. Logan Morrison is not far behind, with a mere .056 average, with teammate Brad Miller hitting just .059. While they will each inevitably raise their averages as the season goes on, it’s certainly not the start they were hoping to get off to.

As you can see, there are tons of teams and players who are off to amazingly great starts, with others having yet to show up. Over the course of the 162-game season, the majority of teams and players will inevitably wind up close to where they were predicted to end up before the season began (given, there are always a few surprises). But even so, it’s always fun to take a look to see what kind of start players and teams get off to when any given season begins. How long it lasts is the part that will be intriguing to watch.

Royals Win 2015 World Series in Five

After losing games one and two of the World Series started by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, respectively, the Mets had reason for concern heading into game three of the World Series on Friday night. But as I stated at the end of my previous post, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the game, and with him having been great all season long, they still had reason to hold out hope of a series comeback. They simply had to score enough runs to beat out the Royals and Yordano Ventura, who was sure to be equally terrific.Syndergaard

But it appeared to be more of the same for the Mets when the game started. An Eric Hosmer RBI-groundout in the very first inning struck a blow to the Mets before they even had a chance to swing the bats. But the Mets wasted no time in answering back. In the bottom half of the same inning, David Wright blasted a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead early on, and provided some needed positivity to the club.

However, the Mets didn’t hold the lead for long. In the top of the second, an RBI-single by Alex Rios and a passed ball by Syndergaard with a man on third gave the Royals a one run lead once again. Even so, Syndergaard helped his own cause by getting a leadoff single in the third inning — the youngest pitcher with a World Series hit since Dwight Gooden in 1986 — which he was well rewarded for. The very next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a line-drive homer that cleared the right field wall by just a few feet, making the score 4-3, Mets.

From the second inning on, Syndergaard lived up to his nickname of “Thor”. He was magnificent, retiring ten straight at one point. The Mets also helped him out, scoring another run in the bottom of the fourth, coming via a Michael Conforto ground ball to first base that lead to confusion between the second baseman, Ben Zobrtist, and Eric Hosmer. MondesiUltimately, Conforto chugged his way safely to first, and the run scored without a play.

A little history was made in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Raul Mondesi Jr. made his major league debut against Syndergaard. Although he struck out, Mondesi became the first player in the entire history of Major League Baseball to make his big league debut during the Fall Classic. That’s certainly impressive.

Also impressive was the Mets’ resurgence of a run-scoring machine. While the Royals didn’t score again after the second, the Mets posted another four runs in the sixth inning, coming from contributions from Juan Uribe, David Wright (who had four RBI’s on the game) and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets held a 9-3 lead when the inning concluded, and that’s where things would wind up as the final score.

With game four now being a game in which the Mets were simply looking to tie things up and not worrying about being eliminated, you had to figure they could be a bit more relaxed and therefore able to perform much as they did in game three. It was sure to be a fun game.

Steven Matz — the second rookie on the mound for the Mets in back-to-back games — was on the mound in game four, opposed by the Royals’ Chris Young. Matz and Young are two completely different kind of pitchers, so it was fun to watch how each went about trying to get the other team out.Matz

Early on for the Mets’ side of things, it was a rookie show. Steven Matz lead off with a couple of scoreless innings, and Michael Conforto kicked off the third inning with a homer (the youngest players since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit a World Series homer) off of Chris Young, who had been equally good to that point in the game. Wilmer Flores followed up with a fall-in single, and later advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a terrific sacrifice bunt by Matz. Then, the unbelievable happened.

Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball into right field which was easily caught by Alex Rios. But Rios forgot how many outs there were, and took a step or two towards the infield before realizing it was only the second out of the inning. Although it was going to be a close play anyhow, it took away any shot at nailing Flores at the plate. That simply can’t happen — not in the World Series. But it did, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Royals would answer back in the fifth, scoring a single run via an Alex Gordon RBI-single. But despite that run, Matz was still able to pitch well to get out of the inning. His opposer, Chris Young, was removed after the fourth inning, and replaced by Danny Duffy. But Duffy promptly allowed yet another home run to Conforto, who became the only Mets player other than Gary Carter to hit two homers in a Fall Classic game. Things were looking good for the Mets.

Ben Zobrist lead off the sixth inning with his eighth double of the postseason, getting things started against Matz, who many people were shocked was still in the game. As a result, the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, knocked a ball up the Murphymiddle that scored Zobrist and made it a 3-2 game with no outs. Matz was promptly removed, replaced by Jonathan Niese, and the potential further damage was contained.

That is, until the eighth inning, when the Royals took the lead an never looked back. Daniel Murphy committed an untimely error on an Eric Hosmer ground ball, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez plated two more and put Kansas City up by two runs, 5-3, which is where the game concluded after a failed attempt at a comeback for the Mets.

This isn’t the way many baseball fans envisioned things going at all. The Royals are a good team, but to win games going up against Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is absolutely amazing. Sitting one win away from a World Series title, you knew they were sure to be on their game in Sunday’s game five potential elimination game. But going up against Harvey yet again, you had to figure it was going to be a challenge.

While the story of the game on Sunday was predicted to be Matt Harvey either keeping the Mets alive or not, it began with Curtis Granderson. As the first batter of the game, Granderson hit a homer off of Edinson Volquez to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and an extremely early spark.

Harvey struck out the side in the fourth — the second Mets pitcher (Tom Seaver being the other) to strike out the side in order in a World Series game — and was looking completely locked in, and much more like the All-Star version of HarveyHarvey that baseball fans had come to know, going on to strike out eight through the first five. Even so, despite the flaw in the first, Volquez was just as good to lead things off. With both pitchers totally dialed it, you had to figure that this was going to be one of the best games thus far.

The score remained the same through the sixth inning, when Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Daniel Murphy all lead off the inning with a walk, hit and error, respectively. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, looked to cash in with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he fouled an 0-1 pitch off of his left kneecap, and appeared to be headed for the clubhouse. But he stayed in the ballgame, only to pop out before limping off the field. Following Cespedes was Lucas Duda, who came through with a sac fly that plated Granderson to increase the lead to 2-0.

That’s where things would stay through the top of the ninth inning, when the Mets were faced with a huge decision: leave Harvey in after 102 pitches, or bring in the closer, Jeurys Familia, who had blown two saves through this point in the World Series, in game one and game four. After all, if Familia had closed out those games, the Mets would have been sitting three outs away from a World Championship. You simply had to leave Harvey in to finish what he started.

And the Mets did just that. After declaring that there was “no way I’m leaving this game” to manager Terry Collins, Harvey took the hill looking to shut things down in the final inning. However, he appeared a bit too amped up to start with, walking the leadoff man, Lorenzo Cain, and overthrowing some of his pitches. Cain proceeded to steal second, and was knocked in by an RBI-double from Eric Hosmer. Harvey was promptly removed, but no matter what, it was the right call under the situation.

HosmerNonetheless, the Royals, who hold the playoff record for six postseason multi-run comebacks, were now just a well placed hit away from tying the game. Familia was brought in to be the potential hero of game five, which would ultimately make up for his previous subpar pitching. But he wouldn’t complete the game. An errant throw by Lucas Duda to home plate after a groundout by Salvador Perez allowed Hosmer to tie the game at 2-2, and made for Familia’s third blown save of the Fall Classic — the most in baseball history.

The score remained tied through the twelfth, when everything completely fell apart for the Mets. What began as a simple RBI-pinch-hit-single from Christian Colon, putting the Royals up a mere run, turned into a blowout. Christian Colon would eventually score, along with three more runs via a Lorenzo Cain double that scored three runs with the bases loaded.

With the Mets down 7-2 heading into the bottom of the twelfth, you had to figure they stood little chance of a comeback, especially facing the hard throwing Wade Davis. Ultimately, Davis would strike out three, putting an exclamation point on the Royals’ season, and making them 2015 World Series Champions.

World Series

My hat certainly goes off to the Royals. I, admittedly, was pulling for the Mets to win, simply because I’m a big Matt Harvey fan and because I wanted to see the season be continued a couple more games out in Kansas City. But you got the feeling back when the Royals rallied to win and advance against the Astros in the ALDS that this was a team that wouldn’t stop until they were declared World Champions as quickly as possible.

This is the Royals’ first World Series crown since back in 1985. After making it to game seven of the Fall Classic in 2014, only to lose to the Giants, this is obvious redemption for that year. Salvador Perez, for his many contributions on multiple levels, was named MVP of the series, which was completely deserved. He was a big part of what made this Royals team so magical.

Heading forward, offseason transactions will ultimately happen. This Royals club that won the World Series will inevitably not be the exact team that takes the field on Opening Day in 2016. But there’s one thing you can guarantee: the Royals will still have a very competitive team with all sights on returning to the World Series next season and beyond.

Royals Up Two Games Heading to New York City

The World Series is always an exciting time of the year for any baseball fan, no matter who you’re rooting for. With both teams having fought all season long, neither wants to give an inch in their quest for the title, and players from both sides usually step up in a big way for their respective teams. With that said, I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted such a game as the one that took place on Tuesday night.Escobar

Matt Harvey received the start for the Mets, going up against the Royals’ Edison Volquez. Although you had to figure Harvey would be on top of his game, things didn’t start off that well for him. On the very first pitch of the game, Alcides Escobar drove a ball deep into the outfield, which Yoenis Cespedes was unsuccessful in tracking down. When all was said and done, Escobar had score with the twelfth inside the park homer in World Series history, and the first since 1929. Just like that, it was 1-0, Royals.

Neither team would score again until the fourth inning, as Volquez was able to match Harvey pitch for pitch to begin the game. But an RBI-single in the fourth by Travis d’Arnaud, followed by a Curtis Granderson homer in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto in the sixth, made it a 3-1 Mets lead. It appeared they were starting to put the game away, especially with Harvey on the hill.

But just as quickly as they took the two-run lead, they lost it in the very next set of swings for the Royals. In the bottom of the sixth, a couple of timely hits tied the game up at three apiece and made it a new ballgame. Even so, the Mets were able to take the late lead in the eighth on a fielding error, putting them up by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth.

GordonHowever, as history has shown, nothing is over until it’s over in the World Series. With one out in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets’ Jeurys Familia, Alex Gordon blasted a solo shot into deep center field to send the game to extra innings.

Due to outstanding relief work by both squads, the game would remain tied all the way until the fourteenth inning, when the Royals ultimately won with an Eric Hosmer sac fly that brought home the go ahead run to put the Royals up 1-0 in the seven game series.

After the longest game one in World Series history, you got the feeling that the entire Fall Classic would turn out to be much of the same.

The five hour and nine minute game one gave fans tons of excitement, as the back and forth lead changing between the two clubs made for a thrilling ballgame. With Jacob deGrom set to go against Johnny Cueto the very next game, things were sure to heat up in game two.

But while the expectation was a pitching duel for the second game of the World Series, it was Johnny Cueto stealing the show. With deGrom not being able to throw the ball past people the way he has in his previous starts, he struggled in this game overall, but Cueto settled in and really impressed a lot of people.deGrom

Although Cueto allowed the game’s first run in the fourth inning, coming from a contribution from Lucas Duda — he had been performing poorly throughout the playoffs until that point — Cueto really pitched well. Cueto wouldn’t allow another run in the game.

Jacob deGrom looked decent to start the game, but the wheels completely fell off in the fifth inning. RBI-singles from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer (two RBI’s) and Mike Moustakas put the Royals up 4-1, and really gave them momentum with Cueto pitching the way he was (a complete game two-hitter). In the end, the Mets couldn’t mount a comeback and fell down two games to none in the series.

With the Royals up two games heading into game three in New York City on Friday, the Mets certainly have their backs against the wall. However, despite their poor odds, with Noah Syndergaard ready to pitch in game three and Steven Matz on the mound the next night, if the Mets can win at least one of those games, everything changes. Forcing at least a game five, the Mets would once again get Matt Harvey, then Jacob deGrom if they can extend it. Anything can happen after that.

This World Series is far from over.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2015 Season

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

HowardInjuries 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.

Rodriguez5.) Alex Rodriguez

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.

8.) Tim LincecumTim Lincecum

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.

How the Major Offseason Pickups Did On Opening Day

Opening Day is the most exciting day of the year as far as baseball fans are concerned. With it comes lofty expectations, of both individual players and teams, as well as predictions for how every team will fare. But the best part of Opening Day is that, being the first game of the year, it gives every team — no matter how good or bad they may turn out to be — the opportunity to have a great deal of optimism for the coming season.

While the hopes and dreams of certain teams and fans alike will dwindle as a given season goes on, game one of the long season provides fans their first look at the key pickups their team made during the offseason, with the hopes that the moves they made will lead them to a World Series title. Whether it be by a trade or a free agent signing, each and every team always does something in the offseason to attempt to improve their team for the following year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go over how the major (non-pitching) offseason additions performed in their first game with their new team, and give my thoughts on each player. While not every name is listed, pretty much all of the major players are:Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu: 2-4, with an RBI single

Yet another predicted future phenom to make his way over from Cuba, Jose Abreu impressed many people throughout Spring Training, and he continued to do so on Opening Day. Going 2-4, with one of his two hits scoring a run, Abreu didn’t show off the power in his first big league game, however, the natural pop he has in his bat was evident. With the White Sox being somewhat of a question mark for the coming season, Abreu, if nothing else, will go a long way in bringing attention to the team.

Marlon Byrd: 2-6, with a solo homer

Part of a long list of player who’ve tested positive for performance enhancing drugs over the years, with his suspension coming in 2012 , Marlon Byrd is coming off a breakout season spent between the Mets and Pirates last year, and is looking to prove that he can continue to be that type of player moving forward. Hitting a career high 24 home runs last season, Byrd is well on his way to reaching the lofty total yet again, going 2-6 with a home run in his first game in a Phillies uniform since 2005.

Jhonny Peralta: 0-4

Moving from the Tigers to the Cardinals this past offseason, Jhonny Peralta can be an impact player on any club. Despite a performance enhancing drug suspension last season, Peralta was signed by the Cards to man the shortstop position for the coming season, and while he went hitless in his first game of the year (he looked solid defensively), many are looking for Peralta to have a great season. With an already fantastic team from top to bottom, Peralta could find himself apart of a very special season.

Nelson Cruz: 1-2, with a solo homer

Yet another player who served a suspension last season due to performance enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz is a major power threat, nonetheless, and was a great pickup by the Orioles. He proved that threat first hand on Opening Day, blasting a solo home run in one of his two official at-bats of the game. With a lineup of several power sources already — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, once he returns — Cruz combines together to make for a very formidable Orioles lineup.

Michael Morse: 1-3, with a strikeout

Though he isn’t the best power hitter in baseball, Michael Morse has the potential to go on hot streaks in which he can rack up a good amount of home runs in no time. Bouncing around between teams over the past few seasons, Morse wound up with the Giants this past offseason, and is sure to be a key part of their lineup moving forward. Going 1-3 on Opening Day, Morse is part of a very good Giants team, and if he can perform to his potential throughout the year, they could do very well.

Grady Sizemore: 2-4, with a solo homer

One of the best stories of the year, Grady Sizemore joined the Red Sox in January, after not having played in a major league game since 2011 due to a multitude of injuries. He was subsequently put up against promising prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. during Spring Training, having to prove himself worthy of the Opening Day center field spot. Sizemore wound up having a fantastic Spring, winning the job, and had a great 4ufdt_St_58return game in Baltimore, going 2-4, including a towering home run to right field.

Prince Fielder: 1-5

Part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler, the Rangers definitely have a much better lineup than they did last season. While Fielder went just 1-5 on Opening Day, on a mere single, he possesses one of the biggest power bats in all of baseball. He should get things going and come close to, if not exceeding, his previous averages of over 30 homers and 100 RBI’s a season. For the Rangers to beat out the Athletics in the division, they need Fielder to get hot.

Shin-Soo Choo: 0-4

Known for getting on base better than pretty much anyone all of last season, putting together a .423 on base percentage, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a major deal this offseason, looking for him to continue to be the same type of player. But he didn’t start his year off all that well, going 0-4 in game one, though he did reach first on a walk. Despite his poor debut with the Rangers, Choo should be fine. He’s not going to hit you a ton of home runs, but if he can get on base, the rest of the lineup will take care of the runs.

Ian Kinsler: 0-4

The piece that the Tigers got in return for sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler can contribute both offensively and defensively. Though the Tigers lost a major run producer in Fielder, and they will undoubtedly miss his presence throughout the long season (with Miguel Cabrera having to carry the Tigers more than ever), Kinsler, although he went hitless in his first game in a Tigers uniform, should make an impact for the Tigers, who are predicted by many to run away with the division.

Mark Trumbo: 3-5, with two RBI’s

Coming over to the Diamondbacks from the Angels this offseason, Mark Trumbo can launch a baseball like very few others can. With that power threat comes a major impact player, as Trumbo played a big role in the Angles lineup and will undoubtedly be a big piece of the D-backs’ lineup. Going 3-5, with a pair of RBI’s, in his first game of the season, Trumbo certainly didn’t disappoint in what could turn out to be a big year for him if he can get everything going from here on out.

Curtis Granderson: 0-5, with three strikeouts

Moving across town this past offseason, Curtis Granderson surprised many when he exchanged his Yankees pinstripes for those of the Mets. But although Granderson is supposed to be one of the top power threats in the Mets lineup — hitting over fourty home runs in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons — he disappointed in his Opening Day start. Striking out three times in a hitless five at-bats, Granderson certainly didn’t show much of anything, but he should still get up around the thirty homer range when all is said and done.Untitled

Robinson Cano: 2-4

The top free agent of the offseason, many felt that Robinson Cano would remain a New York Yankee for the entire length of his career. But instead, Cano signed a mega deal with the Mariners keeping him in Seattle for the next ten seasons. In his first game with his new club, Cano went 2-4, including a double late in the game. Though many people are predicting a fall in Cano’s power numbers, with him playing home games at Safeco Field, Cano proved that his consistency will likely remain.

David Freese: 0-4, with two strikeouts

With the loss of David Freese to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals are a slightly weaker team than they were last year. However, Matt Carpenter, previously their second baseman, took over Freese’s spot at the hot corner, and is expected to do a great job. On the Angles end of the trade, they picked up what should be a decent upgrade at third. Freese didn’t do much in his Angels debut, going hitless in four at-bats, but he looked good defensively, and his bat will surely come around to give the Angels a great overall lineup.

Justin Morneau: 1-4, with a strikeout

Having been moved from the Twins to the Pirates in the second half of last season, Justin Morneau found himself joining the Colorado Rockies this offseason, giving them some much needed pop in their lineup. While Morneau can be an impact player, the Rockies simply don’t have a good enough team to put together all that great of a season. Therefore, even though Morneau went a mere 1-4 in his Rockies debut, he should continue to be consistent, with the Rockies’ poor performance as a whole staying consistent as well.

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.

Robinson Cano Agrees to Mega-Deal With Mariners

Ten years, 240 million dollars.

That’s what it took to get Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest.

After a long period of guessing as to whether Cano going to Seattle was purely speculation, the baseball world found out on Friday that it was in fact a reality. The five time All-Star will certainly make an immediate impact for the Mariners, but how big of an overall impact is yet to be seen.robinson-cano

Even with the signing of Cano, who batted .317 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI’s in 2013, the Mariners are still a ways from becoming a competitive team in the talented American League West division, in the minds of many.

With the Rangers and Athletics turning their already good teams into even better teams this offseason (the Rangers trading for Prince Fielder and the A’s signing Jim Johnson, among others) it’s going to be interesting to see how the Mariners fare this coming season.

But locking up a player of Cano’s caliber for the next ten years is definitely a step in the right direction.

Cano has been a consistent player over the course of his career, hitting at least 25 home runs over the past five seasons, and racking up a minimum of 85 RBI’s over that same span. He’s also been able to stay healthy, playing in at least 159 games for the past seven seasons. Both combined make for a good signing, in my mind. The Mariners needed a player like Cano.

As far as the deal goes, I don’t really feel ten years is appropriate. Cano is 31 years old, meaning by the time all is said and done with his contract he’ll be 41. Who knows what type of player he’ll be by then? But if ten years and 240 million — the third largest contract in MLB history, and the largest ever for a second baseman — is what it took to get this deal done, then I guess the Mariners had to do what they had to do. We’ll see if it pays off.

But Cano isn’t the only 2013 Yankee who found a new home on Friday.

Curtis Granderson agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Mets worth a reported 60 million dollars.

curtis-granderson-ap2I feel this is a great signing by the Mets, who have really struggled in recent history offensively. Granderson will provide some power to their lineup, in addition to being a great outfielder with great range. Though he was injured most of 2013, Granderson put together a couple of 40+ home run seasons the previous two years. It’s certainly possible that Granderson could do that for the Mets this coming season, but I see him as more of a 30 homer guy in that ballpark.

With or without the 40 bombs, Granderson will still be able serve as protection for David Wright in the lineup, who I could see having a career year in 2014. The Mets will be without Matt Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October, but they should still have a decent season, possibly finishing in third place, yet again, behind the Braves and Nationals.

As stated, while I still don’t think the Mets will have enough to beat out the Braves or the Nationals in their division, this move no doubt makes them an all around better team. A team that could surprise some people down the road, once they get all their pitching back together.

The good news of the day, if you’re a Yankees fan, is that Hiroki Kuroda agreed to a one-year, 16 million dollar contract to remain in New York for 2014.

Although this is little excitement after the loss of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees need pitching, and were smart to let both of them, and the money that would’ve come along with them, go.

The Yankees just signed a good replacement for Granderson, in Jacoby Ellsbury, and while I think they overspent on Ellsbury, as I stated with the Mariners’ signing of Cano, I guess the Yankees “had to do what they had to do” to lock him up. As far as losing Cano goes, they can use that money for what they really need — pitching. (And now, a second baseman).

With it uncertain whether or not Japenese phenom, Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season, will be available, the best starting pitcher still on the market, in my mind, is Ubaldo Jimenez.

Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and down over the course of his career, he had a decent season last year, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, finishing out the season strong. Jimenez is ready for a breakout season, and would be a good fit for the Yankees, now that my original pick for Jimenez, the Twins, have signed former Yankee, Phil Hughes.

If you were a fan of the 2013 Yankees, this has been a bad week for you, as many of them have departed.

But as a baseball fan, this has been one of the most exciting weeks in Major League Baseball offseason history.