Results tagged ‘ Derek Jeter ’

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2014 Season

Spring Training is well underway, and many players are beginning to find their grooves that they hope will carry over into the coming regular season. With just over three weeks until Opening Day, on March 31st, there’s not too much time remaining for players who struggled last season to get things back on track for this year. With that said, some players certainly need to have a good year more than others.

While every player, obviously, wants to have a good, healthy season, there are numerous players who pretty much have to produce a good 2014 for one reason or another — whether it’s personal reasons, statistical reasons, or for team success as a whole. Although there are more players than those in my list below, here are the top ten players (in no particular order) that I feel need to have a really good 2014 season:

1.) Albert Pujols

After recording twelve straight seasons of 30 or more home runs (all but one of which included 100+ RBI’s) Albert Pujols faced the first bit of adversity of his career in 2013. Dealing with a nagging foot injury, Pujols only managed to post 17 home runs and 64 RBI’s, along with a .258 batting average — absolutely terrible by his standards — in 99 games played. With the down year coming as a shock to many people, especially after the acquisition of him led many to predict playoff pushes for the Angels, there will be many eyes on Pujols from his very first at-bat of the season to see if he can bounce back. I personally feel that if Pujols is healthy, the numbers will be there, and he will be a top candidate for American League comeback player of the year, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

2.) Ryan Braun

mlb_u_ryan-braun_mb_400x600In January of 2013, a list was made public by the biogenesis clinic in Miami, Florida, connecting numerous players to performance enhancing drugs, including Ryan Braun. After being connected to PED’s back in 2011, the list raised many red flags, but Braun denied any drug use, yet again. But finally, after a 65-game suspension by Major League Baseball, Braun came clean and admitted to having used PED’s, upsetting many people around the league. Therefore, unlike anyone else on my list, Braun (who had a good season, batting .298 with 9 homers and 38 RBI’s in 61 games) needs to have a good 2014 more for his personal image rather than his talent level image. Everyone knows he’s a great player, but it will take some time for fans to get over Braun’s consistent denial of PED use — and a great season would certainly help with that.

3.) Ryan Howard

Battling injuries over the course of the past two seasons, Ryan Howard needs to have a bounce back year for him to once again be considered the major power threat that he once was. Playing in only 80 games in 2013, Howard batted a mere .266 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI’s. Considering the fact that Howard hit 33 home runs just two years prior, making it the sixth 30+ home run season of his career, the Phillies’ former star first baseman really needs to show signs of his former self this season. If Howard can perform anywhere near his previous level by staying healthy and putting many a ball into the outfield seats, not only could he very well win the 2014 National League comeback player of the year award, but the Phillies could have a real shot at having a memorable year.

4.) Derek Jeter

Announcing that 2014 would be his final season playing Major League Baseball last month, Derek Jeter needs to have a good final season to top off an already incredible career. In 2013, Jeter struggled with injury after injury, managing to play in only 17 games, and posting a .190 batting average, to go along with a single homer and 7 runs batted in. After accumulating over 3,300 hits in the big leagues over the course of his career, Jeter doesn’t need to have a good final season to be remembered as one of the best players of all-time — he’s already on that list for many people — but rather to finish out his career in Jeter fashion, going out on top of his game. I truly hope he can have a great 2014 season, and I feel he will do just that.

1vysec_AuSt_695.) David Price

When David Price won the 2012 American League Cy Young award, recording 20 wins and posting a 2.56 ERA, many (myself included) felt he had a good chance at doing the same again last season. But instead, Price was faced with a midseason injury that caused his numbers to take a tumble. Posting a win-loss record of 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA — not too terrible, but somewhat disappointing for him — Price needs to bounce back in 2014 for both his sake and the sake of the Rays. Price truly can be the key for the Rays, who always seem to be on the brink of playoff baseball every season. With an improved American League East division for the coming year, Price’s season could be the difference maker for if the Rays are able to make the postseason or not.

6.) B.J. Upton

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season, batting .184 with just 9 home runs and 26 RBI’s after a 2012 season of 28 homers and 78 runs driven in, B.J. Upton has to have a good season this year for him not to be considered a trade bust by the Braves. The Braves managed to win their division last season by a rather large margin without much production from Upton, and if they can get Upton back to his former self, the Braves could have an even better year. It will be interesting to see how B.J. Upton does in the coming year with so much negative criticism surrounding him from the 2013 season. If he can have another good season, the down year he experience will be a forgotten aspect of the past.

7.) Stephen Strasburg

There are some players that are tagged with a major amount of hype from their first appearance in the big leagues, and Stephen Strasburg is one of them. While he hasn’t disappointed for the most part, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA last season, Strasburg also hasn’t managed to blow everyone away and completely dominate like many believe he can. It’s been reported that Strasburg has added a new pitch to his arsenal and is throwing better than ever, and that could mean good things for both him and the Nationals. If Strasburg can find a way to tally even ten more wins than he did this past year, the Nat’s could find themselves in the running for the National League East division title, assuming everything else goes right for the rest of the team.

8.) Mike Moustakas628x471

Having the potential to be an All-Star third baseman season after season, Mike Moustakas has yet to post an exceptional season at the major league level. Batting only .233, with 12 homers and 42 RBI’s last season, Moustakas needs to have a good season this year for him to be seen as the above average player he can be moving forward. The Royals still have several holes in their lineup, but Moustakas performing well each year would go a long way in helping them move back into contention. He’s still fairly young, at just 25 years old, and therefore has time left to live out his former hype, but Moustakas could use a strong statistical season to prove to many that he’s one of the top third baseman in the game of baseball today.

9.) Matt Kemp

Although he’s still not fully healthy, Matt Kemp is already on the radar of many people who think he will have a good 2014 season. The only question mark being his health, playing in only 73 games last year. If healthy, as with many players on this list, the numbers will be there, as Kemp is one of the premier talents in the game today, possessing 40 home run, 40 stolen base ability (coming one home run shy of doing just that in 2011, when he placed second in MVP voting). Although there is great depth in the Dodgers’ current outfield, which includes players such as Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, if Kemp can show signs that he’s healthy, he will certainly get plenty of playing time in the coming season. He’s too good of a player to count out.

10.) Tim Lincecum

Once a Cy Young caliber pitcher, having won back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum has really fallen off as of late. Each of the past two seasons, Lincecum has posted an ERA over 4.00, and in addition had losing records. While the win-loss record isn’t the most important thing when evaluating a pitcher’s season, an ERA anywhere above 3.50 usually means they had a disappointing year. But with the talent that Lincecum has shown in the past, I’m not giving up on a turnaround just yet. He just really needs to have a good 2014 season — perhaps more than most of the players on this list — for him to become ‘The Freak’ pitcher he once was considered. I truly hope he can, because when Lincecum is on, he’s one of the most fun pitchers to watch in all of baseball.

JUST MISSES

There are a few players who need to have a good 2014 season who just barely missed my above list because their stats were slightly too good. One of those being Josh Hamilton, who was a major disappointment after signing with the Angles, but when you check the stats, he actually had a decent year, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 79 runs. Another example of that being Yoenis Cespedes, who had a down year average wise, hitting just .240, but posted 26 homers and 80 RBI’s. Not too bad of a season for most players.

Joining those two on the list of just misses are Giancarlo Stanton, who was injured in 2013 but still managed to hit 24 home runs and amass 62 RBI’s, along with Dan Uggla, whose .179 batting included 22 homers and 55 RBI’s, which really isn’t all that terrible. While all the players listed under the just missed category had down seasons by their standards, they managed to have somewhat decent years as far as the major league average goes. Even so, they could each use a good 2014 season to prove what they’re capable of.

Which player needs to have a good 2014 season the most? Leave a comment below.

Baseball Returns With Spring Training Action

Although Spring Training baseball isn’t as meaningful as the regular season, and despite the fact that most of the stars on the team are removed by the fifth inning, this time of year is exciting, nonetheless, for baseball fans all around the country.

The first regular season games of the year aren’t set to take place for another few weeks, with the opening-series being played in Australia on March 22nd, but even so, today marked the first official professional baseball games of the year.Untitled

And therefore, things are finally starting to get going again.

The Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, Yankees, Tigers, Braves, Dodgers, D-backs, Athletics, Giants, Reds and Indians all saw action on Wednesday, with the remaining teams playing their first games of the year against another big league organization over the course of the next two days. While things are still fairly early, several players are already looking promising.

One of the biggest question marks for the 2014 season, after a couple of injured years, is Ryan Howard. Once one of the games biggest power threats, Howard hasn’t been himself as of late. But out of the gate so far this spring, including practice games, Howard looks healthy and like he’s seeing the ball really well.

Jose Bautista is another player who has had injuries hurt his stats each of the past two seasons but is looking good to bounce back this year. In his first at-bat of Wednesday’s game, Bautista crushed a ball completely out of the ballpark off the Phillies’ Roberto Hernandez. If the Blue Jays have Bautista going, he could help lead them higher up in the rankings than they finished last year.

As far as teams go, the Athletics look as though they could pick up where they left off in 2013, once their season begins on March 31st. They did extremely well against the Giants in their first matchup of the year, and with the additions they made in the offseason, they should really make some noise in the talented American League West.

It’s far too early to say for sure whether or not these trends will continue, with there still a being ton of baseball left to be played before things begin to count towards the standings. But, as stated earlier, things are looking promising for an exciting 2014 season.

Best Players Going Into 2014 — By Age

Coming off an exciting 2013 Major League Baseball season and heading into what’s sure to be another fun year of baseball, things are beginning to heat up again. Spring Training camps have seen all their respective pitchers and catchers report, with the remaining players reporting over the course of this week.

With the arrival of baseball comes the annual rankings of teams and subsequent predictions of how they will perform. While my predictions for each team, and numerous players from around the league, won’t be posted until sometime next month, I wanted to take the time to post a “top players” list, of sorts.

But instead of making my own version of a top 10 list as many are doing, I decided, as I did last year, to make a list of the top player for each year of age throughout Major League Baseball. Meaning, of the 20 year olds in Major League Baseball, I’ll list the player I feel is the best of them all; with the same holding true for the players age 21, 22, 23, 24, and so on.

The range of ages this season runs from 20 years old, with Jose Fernandez, among others, all the way up to age 43, with Jason Giambi — excluding age 42, which has no players this season. Just so you know, before I reveal my list, I’m going by the age each player will be to start the season. Therefore, a few players will be listed a year older than they currently are, due to them having a birthday between now and March 22nd.

Also, with there being SO many names, I’m not going to be listing my reasoning behind each pick. I’m just giving a general list of the player (either a hitter or a pitcher) I feel is the best for their age category:

20 years old: Jose Fernandez

21 years old: Manny Machado

22 years old: Mike Trout

23 years old: Yasiel Puig

24 years old: Giancarlo Stanton

25 years old: Craig Kimbrel

26 years old: Clayton Kershaw

27 years old: Andrew McCutchen

28 years old: Evan Longoria

29 years old: Max Scherzer

30 years old: Miguel Cabrera

31 years old: Robinson Cano

32 years old: Brandon Phillips

33 years old: C.C. Sabathia

34 years old: Albert Pujols

35 years old: Cliff Lee

36 years old: Carlos Beltran

37 years old: A.J. Burnett

38 years old: David Ortiz

39 years old: Derek Jeter

40 years old: Ichiro Suzuki

41 years old: LaTroy Hawkins

42 years old: No Players

43 years old: Jason Giambi

So, there you have it. The best players by age, in my opinion, from 20 through 43, going into the 2014 season. Do you agree with my picks? If not, who would you pick to replace the name(s) you disagree with? Let me know in the comments section below.

Derek Jeter to Retire After the 2014 Season

Derek Jeter has said all along that when he became unable to compete at a competitive level he would call it quits. And therefore, after a 2013 season in which Jeter dealt with injury after injury, resulting in a mere 17 games played and a .190 batting average, Jeter is keeping to his word.

untitledJeter announced on Wednesday that he will be retiring after the 2014 Major League Baseball season. While the news is a bit of a shock, it’s not all that surprising.

Jeter is going into his age 40 season, and it’s no secret that as players age they just can’t perform at the same level they once could (although, it wouldn’t shock me to see Jeter record 200 hits in his final year). In addition, three (Jeter being the fourth) of the longtime ‘core four’ — Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera — are no longer with the Yankees.

With so much change, Jeter has decided that it’s his time to go, saying in an online letter, “It’s now time for something new . . . I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”

Jeter went on to say, “I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set. I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets . . . Now it’s time for the next chapter . . . But before that, I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life.”

Joining Chipper Jones, who announced his retirement before the 2012 season, and Mariano Rivera, who announced his retirement before the 2013 season, Jeter will likely receive the same type of treatment that both Jones and Rivera got — getting farewell after farewell throughout the year from fans at different ballparks around the country.

While Jeter isn’t the type of player to necessarily want that type of recognition — always putting the team’s success before his own — as Jeter said, he’s no doubt going to embrace every aspect of the coming season. It’s only fitting for Jeter to accept the fans’ appreciation when he has given them so much over his 20-year career.

Going down as one of the top players in Yankees’ history, as well as baseball history, Jeter’s current career stats of 3,316 hits, 256 home runs and 348 stolen bases, to go along with a .312 batting average, make him a sure bet to become a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2020. But more than his stats, the way Jeter carried himself every second of every day is what a lot of fans will remember. Not too many players achieve a flawless off the field career, but Jeter was one of them. That won’t soon be forgotten.

But Jeter still has an entire (barring injury) season ahead. There’s one more year to enjoy his incredible talent and class.

Enjoy it while you still can.

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.

Mariano Rivera Honored In Final Game At Fenway Park

It’s well known that the Yankees and Red Sox have been big-time rivals for years, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from honoring the great Mariano Rivera before Sunday night’s game versus the Yankees.

Mariano-Rivera-honored-at-Fenway-091513

Commemorating an incredible career, on the night that will likely go down as Rivera’s last game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox joined the list of teams that have given Rivera gifts throughout the season, in this his final year.

Nothing new, but the Red Sox’ ceremony might have been the most impressive of them all.

After a brief video was played, remembering October 17, 2004, when Rivera blew the game to the Red Sox — “less of a toast and more of a roast,” as Dave O’Brien put it — Rivera was given the following: A painting of himself, from David Ortiz; the number 42 sign that had been posted on the ‘green monster’ every time he made an appearance, from Dustin Pedroia, signed by the whole team; a blue 1934 Fenway Park seat with the number 42 on it, from Jon Lester; and the visiting bullpen’s pitching rubber, with an inscribed plaque, from Koji Uehara.mariano-rivera-at-fenway-park

Perhaps none of these gifts were as great as the chair of broken dreams Rivera was given up in Minnesota earlier this season, but the Red Sox did one of the better jobs of paying tribute.

Rivera saw a lot of Fenway Park over the course of his Hall of fame career, pitching there in 60 games — more games than any visiting relief pitcher in the park’s history.

When you’re talking about a ballpark that’s over 100 years old, that alone makes you aware that Rivera is someone special. And therefore, with plans to retire after this season, it’s important to enjoy Rivera’s greatness in the little time that remains. Players of his caliber don’t come around too often.

However, stating that “hopefully it’s not the last time”, in response to playing at Fenway Park, Mariano continues to remain optimistic of the Yankees’ fate for the 2013 season. Though it’s going to take a lot for them to make the postseason, as the Red Sox swept them in their recent series, certainly not helping their cause any. But if there’s a team that can do it, I believe it’s the Yankees.

For Mariano Rivera’s sake, I hope they can.

One of those players that you never want to see retire, Rivera isn’t just the best closer the game has ever seen — the record holder for most saves, with 651 — he’s one of the best people the game has ever seen. Carrying himself with class everywhere he went, Rivera is well respected by baseball fans around the country — even fans of the Red Sox. The last player to wear the number 42, Mariano is truly a remarkable player and person.

Rivera has had his share of ups and downs this season, but overall it’s been another stellar year. Whether or not the Yankees can make the postseason, and eventually return to Fenway, is yet to be seen, but Rivera made sure his gratitude was known, saying, “I definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did. I will never forget that.”

And we will never forget Mariano Rivera — the greatest closer in baseball history.

Buxton Named MiLB Player of 2013; Jeter Back On DL

Major League Baseball’s number one prospect, Byron Buxton, was named the 2013 Minor League Baseball player of the year by Baseball America, on Wednesday, making him the 31st player to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1981 to Mike Marshall. byron-buxton-2013

By winning the award, Buxton joins a very impressive list of past winners. Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Jeremy Hellickson — all currently in the Majors — are the most recent three to receive it, with Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Dwight Gooden being some of the more notable players to have been named MiLB player of the year.

When Derek Jeter won the award, back in 1994, he batted .344 with 5 homers and 68 RBI’s, between Single-A and Triple-A.

Combine that with 50 stolen bases by Jeter, and you have a very similar year to the one Buxton had.

While I’m not saying Buxton will turn out to be the type of player Jeter has been over his MLB career — .312 career average, with 256 HR’s and 1,261 RBI’s — it is a good indication of the type of talent that receives the award each year.

Buxton certainly has his share of talent, as he had an outstanding year in the Twins’ farm system. He posted a .334 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s, to go along with 55 stolen bases, combined between Low-A and High-A.

The second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton also participated in the 2013 Futures Game, up in New York, back in July, and is well on his way to living out his full potential of becoming a future big league super star.

But unlike Byron Buxton, who’s the current Minor League player of the year on his way up, Derek Jeter is a former Minor League player of the year on his way down; as he found himself back on the disabled list on Wednesday with an ankle injury.

This makes the fourth time Jeter has been placed on the DL this season. But this time, he won’t be back in 2013, as the Yankees have officially shut him down for the remainder of the year.

“The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically. I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this”, Jeter said. “If you can’t play the way you’re capable of playing, then you’re not really helping out.”

Many have raised the question of whether Jeter will ever return at all, posing the idea of retirement. But Jeter is adamant he’s not done, saying, “You don’t start thinking about the end just because you have an injury.”

While I fully agree with that statement, and have no doubt Jeter will return in 2014, I find myself, along with most of the baseball world, pondering the thought of whether or not Jeter can return to even a version of his former self.

Though he will never be the same Jeter he once was, there’s always the chance that he can have a good comeback 2014 season, however, there’s no denying that he had a horrible 2013 — posting a mere batting average of .190 with one home run and 7 RBI’s in just image17 games played this season.

Not exactly getting the job done.

But if there’s a bright spot to it all, a full shut down for Jeter will finally give him the chance to recover without the thought of having to take the field to help out the Yankees crossing his mind.

I don’t believe Jeter was ever fully healed over the entire season, and this will give him nearly six months to get everything right. Something that Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, has no doubt Jeter will do.

“It seemed like, when he came back, he was fine, and then he would play a couple of days and something would happen”, said Girardi.

“The first time, I think it was his quad. The next time, it was his calf. Then his ankle started bothering him. The repeated days seemed to get to him a little bit, and that was frustrating for him. It was frustrating for all of us, because we wanted him out there.”

“He’ll have a full offseason to rehab it, to get stronger. To get to do all of the things that he didn’t necessarily get to do last year, because he was in a boot for so long. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he’s going to do everything he can to get back. I just know that he’s going to do everything in his will power to get back on that field for Spring Training next year. That’s just who he is.”

Derek Jeter Returns; All-Star Final Vote Announced

After rehabbing a broken ankle for nearly nine months, Derek Jeter received a standing ovation on Thursday, in his first major league plate appearance since October of 2012. Reaching first, in his first at-bat of the game, on an infield single, Jeter showed all of the baseball world what he’s been hoping to show for a long time: His ankle is fully healed. -01f3958563617e32

The Yankees finally have their Captain back.

But it’s going to take a lot more than the return of Jeter, who went 1-4 in his 2013 debut, for the Yankees to turn around what has been a downhill slide as of late. While they won in their first game with Jeter back, he’s not the player he used to be, and they could use even more help.

But help is coming, in the form of Alex Rodriguez, who is currently down in the minors, working his way back from hip surgery. How much help he will provide is yet to be seen, but the Yankees are hopeful that A-Rod can return to even a portion of his former self.

Either way, I’m not counting out the Yankees just yet. I’ve had them making the playoffs since the beginning of the season, despite the majority of baseball fans thinking otherwise. It will be interesting to see how things play out after the All-Star break.

The rosters for the 2013 All-Star game were announced late last week, however, fans around the country have been voting all week long for the player they feel most deserved to receive the final spot for each league.

The candidates for the American League included Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara. The National League had Ian Desmond, Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez, Hunter Pence and Yasiel Puig. I was hoping to see David Robertson and Yasiel Puig make it in, but neither did.

It was announced Thursday afternoon that the winners of the All-Star game final vote were Steve Delabar and Freddie Freeman. While I’m not all that upset with either of them getting voted in, I disagree with Freeman over Puig. There’s no player in the major leagues at the moment with more hype around him than Puig. I don’t understand why he didn’t make it in, other than maybe the fact that he’s been in the big leagues for merely a month, but I’m really looking forward to watching the game, nonetheless.

The All-Star game is set to take place on Tuesday, July 16th, at Citi Field.

How Much Better Can the New York Yankees Get?

When I made the bold prediction a couple months ago that the New York Yankees would have a great season despite all of the injuries to their lineup, going as far as to say they’ll make the playoffs, I didn’t have many people behind me, agreeing with my opinion. And that’s fine, I’m used to it. But now I get the pleasure of early-season bragging rights, as the Yankees have hung in there, sitting atop the American League East.

Though there’s still a lot of the season left, I think things will only go up from here.

chiro Suzuki, Vernon WellsLet me point out that while I predicted a playoff run, I was going more on a wild card spot, rather than a division title, getting them in. I never saw them above second or third place throughout the season. But now, with them sitting in first place, combined with Curtis Granderson expected to return any day, I could see the Yankees extending their lead even further; especially once Mark Teixeira returns next month.

What it’s come down to for the Yankees is the stepping up of every single player in the lineup. Not just the key fixtures, in Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and even Brett Gardner, but the newcomers in Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. Everyone up and down the lineup has been doing a great job of not worrying about who they’re missing and just going out and playing great baseball–going 16-0 when they score first, so far this season.

The Yankees are certainly being helped out by the other teams in the division, which have been playing fairly poorly as of late–the Red Sox are 4-8 this month–but that’s not to take anything away from them. They’ve been surprisingly good for a surprising long period of time.

But just how good can the Yankees become?

If you ask me, the first month of the season is a sign of things to come. Once the Yankees get back their big bats in Granderson and Teixeira, they’ll get even better, which may seem impossible with the way they’re currently playing. If their pitching rotation can keep on the same pace, though it could always be better, I can fully see the Yankees making the playoffs, as I originally predicted.

Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

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