Results tagged ‘ Future ’

Red Sox Down, But Not For Long

No matter how you look at it, the Boston Red Sox are having a poor season. Despite a great deal of anticipation surrounding the team for 2014 after winning the World Series last year, the Sox currently hold the last place position in the American League East division. With a better win-loss record (13 games under .500) than only the Astros and the Rangers in all of the American League, the Red Sox have lost all their hope for the 2014 season being a memorable one — memorable in a good way, that is.Red Sox

Any remaining hope that the Sox did have was diminished last week just before the trade deadline when they made several trades that sent some of their key players off to other teams. Most significantly, Jon Lester being sent out to Oakland in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, who should provide some pop to a struggling Red Sox outfield, was a big blow to the team.

While Cespedes is a fantastic player, and will undoubtedly help the Sox moving forward, Lester was an ace, and aces are extremely valuable. A team simply isn’t the same after loosing such a valuable asset, and it will certainly show.

But Lester wasn’t the only Red Sox pitcher who changed uniforms. Also getting sent packing were John Lackey and Jake Peavy, who brought back Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, and a couple of minor league prospects, respectively.

Though David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and breakout Brock Holt, have been big parts to the Red Sox team this year, coming through big in games, there have been too many injuries to have the Sox make any sort of run towards making the playoffs. Last season everything seemed to go right every single day of the year, but this season things are just the opposite, with players not being able to get on a roll.

With a mere 51 games left to their season, the Red Sox are beginning to look to the future for signs of better things to come. And, fortunately for them, they have an unbelievable amount of young talent set to contribute to the Sox as soon as the 2015 season, leading many to envision big things for them next year.

Consisting of Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez, all of which are age 24 or younger, the Sox have seven of their top ten prospects currently at Triple-A or in the major leagues, leaving them with numerous options to help improve their ball club shortly down the road.

Two of those multiple options were just recently promoted to Triple-A, in Henry Owens and Blake Swihart, however, they are arguably the most talented of any players in the Red Sox farm system.

052414_6847-MOwens holds a 15-4 record between Double-A and Triple-A this year, with an ERA of 2.47, after an outstanding Triple-A debut on Monday night. Swihart is hitting an even .300, with a career high 12 home runs and 55 RBI’s to this point in the season.

Though it isn’t likely that either one will be a September call up, seeing that the Red Sox are out of things, both could play huge roles in a resurgence for the Red Sox in 2015.

As far as Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini, and the remaining, previously mentioned prospects go, all have seen some major league time at some point this season, and while none of them blew people away by posting amazing stats, they each are expected to have bright big league futures.

Once the Red Sox’ top prospects begin to reach the big league level and stick, combining their talents with the likes of the always consistent David Ortiz, newcomer Yoenis Cespedes, and star second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, the Sox should begin to see things turn around.

With there being rumors that the Red Sox could potentially resign Jon Lester this coming offseason to a deal for 2015 and beyond, despite 2014 being a down year, next year could wind up being the year the Red Sox begin to see that expected major turn around to their overall team. If all goes as predicted (given, that hardly ever happens), 2015 could turn out to be a very special season.

Active MLB Players With Hall of Fame In Their Future

The biggest honor a Major League Baseball player can receive for their hard work and consistent numbers throughout their career is an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux will all be awarded that honor this coming Sunday (along with Tony La Rusa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre for their managerial careers), as they will be officially inducted after earning the necessary 75 percent of the vote back in January.

With the 2014 MLB Hall of Fame induction ceremony coming up this weekend, I wanted to go over the active major leaguers who are either sure things, likely to make it, or well on their way to a HOF career. Keep in mind, the players listed in each category below are by no means all of the players that fit each category, and some players that I feel are Hall worthy may not be in your mind; while players you think have the numbers didn’t make the cut in my mind. It’s just the top three per category, as far as I’m viewing things.

First Ballot Players

With nearly 3,500 hits, over 250 home runs, around 400 stolen bases and an average above .300 for his career, Derek Jeter is no doubt a future albertpujolsfirst ballot HOFer. Set to retire after this season, Jeter is one of the all time great players the game of baseball has ever seen, and the career he put together both on the field and off makes him all the more impressive.

Nearly as close of a lock as Jeter is Albert Pujols, who hit his 500th career home run earlier this season. In addition to the homers, Pujols has 2,000 other hits to go along with them, equaling out to a .300 career average to show for it. Going on a record setting start to his career, with twelve straight seasons of 30+ home runs, Pujols should certainly get in his first time around on the ballot.

Though there are people who argue against David Ortiz because he’s a designated hitter, a career of over 450 homers, nearly 1500 RBI’s, and an upper .200’s batting average makes it in my book. Coming through in the clutch in seemingly every situation for the Red Sox throughout his career, Ortiz is going to make it in, even if it’s not the first time.

Likely to Make It

While the stats don’t count, when combined from his numbers in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki has over 4,000 professional hits. As far as the record books show, here in the States, Ichiro has nearly 3,000 hits, a .300’s 12449263average and almost 500 career stolen bases. Therefore, despite missing the beginning of his pro career due to time spent in Japan, Ichiro will inevitably wind up with the stats to get in the Hall.

Adrian Beltre continues to put together the type of numbers that gets a player elected to the Hall of Fame. With over 2,500 career hits and almost 400 home runs, to go along with an upper .200’s average, Beltre is one of the best third basemen the game has ever seen. Given the fact that he will likely play a few more seasons, Beltre should only continue to improve his case.

Argued as the best hitter in baseball today, Miguel Cabrera’s stats are unbelievable at this point in his career. At just 31 years old, Cabrera may not get into the Hall if he quit tomorrow, but it would definitely be close. Holding the highest active average of any player, to go along with over 2,000 hits and around 400 home runs, Cabrera will ultimately find himself in Cooperstown when all is said and done.

Off To Great Starts

With the future unknown, I could’ve put dozens of players in this category, but these three are the ones most off to Hall of Fame careers. Having not played for too terribly long, they don’t currently hold the stats to make it in, but if they can each continue their average season for years to come, they’ll definitely finish out their careers with numbers equaling a Hall of Fame career.

Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher currently in baseball. With two Cy Young awards before the age of 26, Kershaw has posted an ERA Craig+Kimbrel+Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Atlanta+L7qIMlcwQqRlunder 3.00 each of his first six years in the big leagues; the exception of his career being his inaugural season. Kershaw has also put together over 200 strikeouts each of the past four seasons, and, if he can keep the success going, will likely be on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Seen as the best closer since Mariano Rivera, Craig Kimbrel is as dominant of a relief pitcher as you’ll find. Recording over 40 saves each of the past three years, over which his highest season ERA was a whopping 2.10, Kimbrel is nearly a sure bet in the ninth inning. Holding a career strikeouts per nine innings pitched of over 15, Kimbrel is on his way to sharing in Rivera’s fate — making it to Cooperstown.

Though Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter currently in the Majors, Mike Trout is viewed as the best all around player. A true five tool outfielder, Trout has shown the ability to hit for power — 25+ home runs and 80+ RBI’s each of his first two seasons — as well as the ability to hit for average — over .320 in those two seasons. While the future is unpredictable, at just 22, Trout’s future surely holds an induction into the Hall.

As for the players being inducted into the Hall of Fame this Sunday as part of the 2014 class, you can watch the live induction ceremony at 1:30 on MLB Network.

2014 MLB Draft: Aiken, Kolek & Rodon As Top Three

Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon (all pitchers) were ranked as the number one, two and three draft prospects going into Thursday’s 2014 first-year player draft, and that turned out to be dead-on. Each of the three went exactly where they were predicted to go, and going so high in the draft, all of them are expected to be future stars at the major league level.

Brady Aiken went first overall, getting drafted by the Houston Astros.

695ea1fa-7419-e311-99e4-002655e6c126_originalJust the third high school lefty to ever be drafted first overall — the first since 1991 — Brady Aiken didn’t start off the season as the clear cut favorite to be taken as the first pick, but after the year he put together at Cathedral Catholic high school, it became more and more probable. Going 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA, striking out 111 batters in 59.2 innings this season, Aiken could take a little longer to develop than a college player, but he has a ton of upside, and is truly one of the most polished high school pitchers to come along in years. Drawing comparisons to Clayton Kershaw, Aiken becomes the third straight Astros first overall pick, and joins a loaded farm system of talented young players.

Tyler Kolek went second overall, getting drafted by the Miami Marlins.

Tyler_Kolek_3oo81xz0_z6hw0oazOne of the hardest throwing pitchers to ever be drafted out of high school, Tyler Kolek averages 96-98 on his fastball, but reportedly has been clocked as high as 102. Using his fastball to completely blow away the competition this past season at Shepherd high school, Kolek posted a 0.35 ERA over 60.1 innings, striking out a staggering 126 batters. While a pitcher who throws as hard as Kolek is always a concern, especially to an organization that just lost their electric flame thrower Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery, the Marlins are adding yet another dominant pitcher to their organization. Having already shown signs of improvement in 2014, the Marlins seem to be heading in the right direction.

Carlos Rodon went third overall, getting drafted by the Chicago White Sox.

1371431357000-USP-NCAA-Baseball-College-World-Series-North-Caro-004-1306162110_4_3At one point in time Carlos Rodon was viewed as the overwhelming favorite to be the number one overall pick in this year’s draft, but a slight downfall in his stats from the previous two seasons left him on the board until pick number three. Though Rodon’s velocity dropped a few miles per hour this year, it’s his terrific slider that has many people excited to see what he can do at the next level. Using all of his pitches effectively this season, posting a mere 2.01 ERA and striking out an average of just over ten batters per nine innings, Rodon is still what you look for in a front of the rotation starter. Though Chris Sale will remain the White Sox’ ace, Rodon will eventually become a close second.

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 2014 draft, following the first three picks, went as follows:

4. Cubs: Kyle Schwarber

5. Twins: Nick Gordon

6. Mariners: Alex Jackson

7. Phillies: Aaron Nola

8. Rockies: Kyle Freeland

9. Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman

10. Mets: Michael Conforto

11. Blue Jays: Max Pentecost

12. Brewers: Kodi Medeiros

13. Padres: Trea Turner

14. Giants: Tyler Beede

15. Angels: Sean Newcomb

16. Diamondbacks: Touki Toussaint

17. Royals: Brandon Finnegan

18. Nationals: Erick Fedde

19. Reds: Nick Howard

20. Rays: Casey Gillaspie

21. Indians: Bradley Zimmer

22. Dodgers: Grant Holmes

23. Tigers: Derek Hill

24. Pirates: Cole Tucker

25. Athletics: Matt Chapman

26. Red Sox: Michael Chavis

27. Cardinals: Luke Weaver

28. Royals: Foster Griffin

29. Reds: Alex Blandino

30. Rangers: Luis Ortiz

31. Indians: Justus Sheffield

32. Braves: Braxton Davidson

33. Red Sox: Michael Kopech

34. Cardinals: Jack Flaherty

Competitive Balance Round A

35. Rockies: Forrest Wall

36. Marlins: Blake Anderson

37. Astros: Derek Fisher

38. Indians: Mike Papi

39. Pirates: Connor Joe

40. Royals: Chase Vallot

41. Brewers: Jacob Gatewood

Make sure to follow the list of players above 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, and that’s reason enough to pay close attention to them all.

Singleton, Springer A Sign of the Astros’ Bright Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previewing the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft

The 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft is now less than two weeks away.

Set to air live on MLB Network on June 5th, and continuing through June 7th on MLB.com, the draft has become a bigger focus each and every year as time has gone by. With teams now counting on their first few picks to make it to the big leagues within a couple of years and have an immediate impact, choosing the right player for your organization has become a huge deal. 2014-Draft

While none of last year’s first round draft picks have made the major leagues as of yet, currently, four of the 2012 first round picks have made the majors for at least a brief period of time, being Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman, in addition to Mike Zunino and Michael Wacha who have made the biggest impacts.

With this year’s draft being pitcher heavy, a lot of teams are going to be picking up a possible future ace of their rotation as their first pick. Though there are some good position players in the mix as well, overall, pitchers are the dominant presence, making up seven of the top ten ranked draft prospects who will go quickly come draft day.

As I did last year, I’m planning to blog about the results of the draft, along with a few of my thoughts, the day after the first round takes place. With the first five picks going to the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs and Twins, it should be interesting to see how teams play things, depending on their overall biggest needs that they need to fill for the future.

Though I’m not going to give any predictions for the order in which the players are chosen (I’m by no means a draft expert) I do want to talk a bit about the “experts'” picks for who will likely be some of the first off the board.

For the number one overall pick, no one can seem to agree who it will be, however, nearly everyone is predicting that it will be one of two left-handed pitchers: Brady Aiken or Carlos Rodon. Untitled

Aiken is one of four high school players ranked in the top ten draft prospects, and is expected to go in the top two, if not number one overall. Possessing some of the best stuff seen out of a high school pitcher in quite a while — set to be the first high school lefty to go in the top five since 2002 — Aiken is one of the younger players in the draft, currently age 17, but he could possibly be one of the most talented.

With a good fastball, as well as a great curveball and changeup, it will be up to the Astros if they want to take a chance on the young pitcher.

Or they could go with Rodon, who began the year as the clear cut first overall pick, but due to a somewhat down year by his standards — he still managed to post a 2.01 ERA despite poor run support leading to a 6-7 record — his stock has fallen a bit.

But with that said, he still has everything you want and expect to see in the number one pick. With a good, hard fastball, a really good slider, and a work in progress change up, Rodon may not be the highest ranked draft prospect, but he may have the most upside.

On the position player side of things, high school catcher Alex Jackson appears to be the favorite to be the first non-pitcher off the board. While not too many of the game’s top catchers produce big time stats at the big league level, many people feel that Jackson has the ability to do just that.

With a cannon for an arm behind the plate, as well as a real power swing that should yield a good deal of power in addition to hitting for average, Jackson will likely become one of the brightest catching prospects in baseball after June 5th.

And therefore, with so much fantastic talent, from pitchers to position players, the 2014 draft could turn out to be one of the best in years.

Jeff Samardzija Winless In 2014 Despite Sub-Two ERA

The Cubs are a bad team; nearly everyone around the baseball world knows it. Jeff Samardzija, one of the best pitchers in baseball so far in 2014, has seen that first hand more than any other player currently on the Cubs, as regardless of his terrific outings, Samardzija is yet to win a single game.Jeff Samardzija

Sitting 0-4 on the year — part a winless streak that stretches back to August 24th of last season — Samardzija’s overall performance on the year could be missed if you were to look solely at his win-loss record. But possessing an ERA of 1.46 over 10 games pitched, Samardzija has been setting himself up for success all season long, however, the Cubs simply haven’t provided any run support in his starts — the fourth worst for any pitcher in baseball — going 1-9 in Samardzija’s starts this season.

In Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, Samardzija was outstanding yet again, going seven innings and not allowing a single run. But, as has been the case so often this season, it wasn’t enough, with the Yankees coming back to tie things up in the ninth, and going on to win the game, 4-2, in the thirteenth inning. Certainly a blow to Samardzija, who appeared to have his first win of 2014 secured upon his departure.

If Samardzija played for nearly any other team in Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees, there’s a chance that he could be 10-0 on the season. Given, that’s purely speculative, and a few of those games would likely have been losses or no decisions, the basic point being made is that a pitcher can only do so much. It also takes good performances by your teammates to win ballgames.

And therefore, the question many people are asking: What value does a win truly carry?

As far as the answer goes, I’m halfway in between. On one hand, a win can say a lot about a pitcher and how well he’s pitched over the course of his outings. When you pitch extremely well, the majority of the time (unless you play for the Cubs) you’ll pick up the win. But on the other hand, as has been proven with Samardzija, you can’t just look at a win-loss record and declare who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Right now, arguably, that accolade would go to Samardzija, even though he’s yet to pick up a win.

Some people go as far as to say that the win statistic is useless and should be taken out of the game all together. Although I agree that the win isn’t as useful as some of the other stats a pitcher can post — ERA, batting average against, strikeouts per nine innings, etc. — I still think it’s a big part of the game. While it might have meant more numerous years ago when a pitcher that was pitching well would stay in the entire length of a game, there’s something special about a pitcher hitting the 20-win plateau, or only loosing a few of their numerous games pitched in a season.

Though you now have relief pitchers racking up wins that, had their team performed better, the starting pitcher would’ve notched, in addition to pitchers with bad outings still receiving the win due to a ton of run support — Chris Tillman gave up 7 runs back on April 23rd and won the game — it’s still a fun statistic to keep an eye on.

But while the win isn’t everything, and Samardzija is very unlikely to go the full length of the season without a single win with the way he’s been pitching, it doesn’t help the Cubs’ cause in terms of influencing Samardzija to stick around for the long haul. When you do your job but still lose due to being apart of a team that is among the worst in baseball, I imagine you can get frustrated very easily. As one person put it in on Twitter, “Samardzija is one of the biggest wastes of talent in the game today”. It’s truly a shame.

In the end, whether or not you agree with the win being an important stat for pitchers, you have to agree that Samardzija is putting together an amazing 2014 season. Even though he’s winless, Samardzija seems to have figured things out over the past couple of seasons, and is one of the only bright spots on the Cubs. However, for the majority of the Cubs, if they can’t figure things out for themselves as a whole fairly quickly, they may face a situation without Samardzija at some point down the road.

Q and A With Cody Asche

Cody Asche was drafted by the Phillies in the 4th round of the 2011 draft. Since the draft, Asche has had a good deal of success, flying through the minor leagues — never spending a full season at any one level — and making his Major League Baseball debut in July of 2013.Untitled

After somewhat of a disappointing professional baseball debut in 2011, where he batted .192 with 2 home runs and 19 RBI’s in 78 games, Asche began climbing through the ranks at the start of the 2012 season.

In 2012, Asche posted a batting average of .324 with 12 homers and 72 RBI’s, between High-A and Double-A, before finishing out the year in Arizona as a member of the annual Arizona Fall League.

Following the great season, Asche recorded 15 home runs and 68 RBI’s the next year, to go along with a .295 batting average, earning him a callup to the majors after the All-Star break. In 50 games with the Phillies, before the end of the 2013 season, Asche blasted 5 homers and drove in 22 runs, proving why he was able to make it there so quickly.

Heading into what’s going to be Asche’s first full season in the major leagues, Asche should continue to get better and better as he gains experience, and will likely be playing the hot corner in Philadelphia for years to come.

Cody Asche — third baseman for the Phillies — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I would say really young, around five to six. I loved playing it in the backyard with my brother and my dad. So they have to be the two who influenced me the most.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Ken Griffey Jr. He was a superstar. He did it all and played the game the right way.

3.) You were drafted by the Phillies in the 4th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was very stressful. Not knowing what lies ahead can be stressful, especially when you are trying to play a college season. I found out in my kitchen. We had the draft audio on and my mom and dad were with me when my name was called. Initially, thoughts were excitement, and happiness that the process was over.

4.) After getting drafted, you were assigned to Single-A and placed at second base. Having played third base up until that point, you didn’t have a very successful (half) season. However, in 2012, you were moved back to third, and did very well. Having excelled ever since, what is it about third base that makes you more comfortable?

I’m not sure it’s only third that made me feel comfortable. I think it was more just learning the ropes and getting comfortable in pro ball. Hitting wise, success is all about comfort. When you struggle it’s because something doesn’t feel right and you aren’t comfortable. So after the first year I worked on some things to help improve that, and I have been able to do well since.

5.) Your great 2012 season was capped off with an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, where you once again posted good numbers, earning you a spot on the Western Division roster of the Rising Stars game. What was that experience like? What did you take away from it?

The Arizona Fall League was awesome. I was fortunate enough to be a guy that got to play four days a week down there, so I could really work on my game. I definitely credit that time period for setting me up for a good 2013 campaign.

6.) Starting the 2013 season at Triple-A, you made your major league debut in July. What kind of emotions did you experience during your debut?

Emotions were crazy. Trying to hold back tears seeing your parents in the stands for the first time was tough, then playing on top of that made it a little crazy to start. But that is all part of it. I think the phone call I got to make to my parents the day I was called up was the most memorable part of making it up last year.

7.) What’s it like playing under Ryne Sandberg (a baseball Hall of Famer)?

He’s a great person. I think that stands out to me the most. It seems like he sincerely cares about the players, and especially myself. I think all managers have a way of showing that to their players.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I think in 2013 I was able to improve a ton. That’s what I really care about, just improving on a daily basis. As far as 2014 is concerned, I would like to be healthy and keep learning and finding my niche on the team so I can contribute to a winner in Philly.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

TV show: Parks and Recreation. Food: Chicken parm.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Don’t sell yourself short. No matter what position or level you are at, keep faith and confidence in yourself and keep improving. Never lose your own self confidence. ——————————————————————————————————————————————

Big thanks to Cody Asche for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @cody_smasche

Q and A With Mark Appel

Mark Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. However, due to his commitment to Stanford University, Appel didn’t sign, and instead went to pitch at college.

At Standford, Appel began as a relief pitcher, only receiving three starts his freshman year, where he posted a 5.92 ERA over 38 innings. Once he was made a full time starter again the next season, Appel excelled, lowering his ERA down to 3.02 for the year. In his junior year of college, after he went 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA, Appel was once again drafted, this time by the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. Many felt that Appel would begin his professional baseball career, but he decided to return to college to finish out his baseball career (and degree) at Stanford.

BBM-BeesvQCBandits-Appel-118Despite some flak from people around the baseball world for returning to college, Appel showed just how good of a pitcher he is, improving to have his best season at Stanford; setting the all-time collective strikeout record, in which he went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. After such a successful final year, Appel was drafted yet again, for the third time, by the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Beginning his professional baseball career with Low-A Tri-City, Appel made it up to Single-A Quad Cities in 2013, going a combined 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Due to the 106 innings Appel had already pitched in 2013 at Stanford, he was shut down after just 38 professional innings pitched, bringing his innings up to roughly 144 for the season.

Appel has an average, to slightly above average, fastball, ranging from the lower to mid nineties, but he can crank it up to upper nineties when needed. He also possesses a good slider and a work in progress changeup that many think will come along.

Heading into his first major league Spring Training, it’s been reported that Appel could, potentially, make the big leagues out of camp “if he is one of the best five pitchers out of Spring Training”. However, as many people feel, it will likely be later in 2014, or early 2015, when Houston — his hometown — gets its first glimpse of Appel. But no matter when that is, with all of the other top prospects in the Astros’ farm system, the future would appear to be bright for them as an organization moving forward, with Appel soon to be leading the way.

Mark Appel — top pitching prospect in the Astros’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I first became interested in baseball when I was very young. For as long as I can remember, I have been playing some version of the sport. Growing up, my parents, as well as certain coaches throughout the years, really influenced me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of playing baseball as a way to educate myself in college and professionally.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Nolan Ryan was one of the all-time great pitchers and the player I looked up to the most as far as what I wanted to be on the field. He was a fierce competitor who gave his all every single time he got the ball. He competed no matter the score, circumstance, or previous result. Win or lose, you knew he was going to go out and compete again the next time he got the ball.

3.) You were drafted by the Astros in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is very interesting. As someone who has gone through it three different times in three unique situations, I feel like I have seen it all. Someone expected to get drafted goes through “interviews”, both on and off the field. In my situation, I spoke with general managers and scouting directors, as well as the local area scouts. Answering their questions off the field is important for their evaluation process so they can have a good understanding of the type of person you are. But the factor that matters most is the results on the field — how good you are at playing baseball.

The Astros and I had a number of conversations leading up to the draft and on the day of the draft, as well as a few other teams. When the time came for the pick to be made, I felt peace in knowing that I would be exactly where God wanted me to be, whether it was Houston or another team. Bud Selig announced my name and my friends and family who came to visit California (I was preparing for graduation the following week) all celebrated! It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I would be able to have a chance to play in my hometown and the team I grew up rooting for was now the same organization I was a part of. God’s grace is too great.

4.) Before being the number one overall pick in 2013, you were drafted by the Tigers in 2009, and the Pirates, eighth overall, in 2012. What made you decide to attend college instead of going pro out of high school? Why did you decide to return for your senior year at Stanford in 2012 after the Pirates drafted you so high?  

Like I said, I have been drafted three times and each were unique situations.

appelIn high school the Tigers drafted me in the 15th round, even though I told all the area scouts I spoke with that I was planning on attending Stanford. Dreaming about being a pro baseball player, it was fun to entertain the thought of signing as a senior in high school, but I knew that Stanford was where I needed to be for my future, both in baseball and in life. Unsure if I was ready to play minor league baseball, I knew college would allow me to grow up, become a man, and still play baseball at a very high level.

In 2012 the Pirates drafted me with the 8th pick in the draft. The decision to return to school for my senior season was the toughest I have ever had to make. There are a number of factors that go into a decision of that magnitude: baseball development and career, education, regrets (I will explain this one later), desires, and money. Also, as a follower of Jesus, relationships with my coaches, teammates and fans, combined with being a part of what God is doing in this world, is very important to me.

For the baseball development, I did not see an advantage to either signing or returning to school. Development really comes down to how badly you want to get better as a player. I knew that I would be able to improve both at Stanford and in the Pirates’ organization. As far as education went, it was a no-brainer to return to school. Playing my senior year allowed me to finish my degree in Management Science and Engineering. As far as regrets go, when I made my decision, I did not want to have any regrets. I didn’t want to spend my idle time thinking about what it would have been like if I chose the other option. Going back to Stanford meant I would have a chance to play in Omaha (which we didn’t achieve), finish my degree before starting a professional career, and continue to be involved in campus ministries that I had been involved with the past three years.

Those are some things that I would have wondered about a lot if I had signed. When it came down to it, money out of the question, I wanted to go back to school, not for the lack of things signing professionally had to offer (which wasn’t much), but for the mlb_a_appel_cr_400opportunities I had during my senior year at Stanford.

But, as everyone knows, money was involved. And it was a lot of money. There are two somewhat conflicting things going on with my situation. On one hand, I was offered a lot of money, and I mean a lot. And on the other hand, I wasn’t offered what I believed my value for my talents was in the draft market under the current rules. So do I stick to principle and go back to school, or do I chase the money and sign? It was a tough question to comprehend.

There are financial benefits to both options, as well as financial risks (well, maybe there were only risks for returning to school). If money was the most important thing to me, I would have signed 100 percent. I knew by returning to school, I would give up 3.8 million dollars. I also knew there were a few things that could go wrong: injury and underperformance were the two main risks. I also knew there were benefits: education, relationships, the opportunity to get better, and a potential financial gain. The thing most people don’t realize is that I had zero regrets. No matter the outcome of my senior season and the draft that followed, I would have been extremely happy with the decision.

As confirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, within the first two weeks of being back at school four members from the Stanford baseball team had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior through the team bible study! It was so cool to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit!

5.) In your senior year of high school, you were a part time relief pitcher and didn’t become a full time starter again until your sophomore year of college. Having been both a starting and relief pitcher, which did you find more challenging?

Both relieving and starting have their challenges. I have much more experience as a starter, and at higher levels of competition, I have only started. Personally, I think the difference is the mentality and routine. A reliever needs to mentally prepare himself to pitch 1-2 innings every single night, in general. A starter must prepare mentally to pitch five or more innings once every five days. The two are difficult to compare. With that being said, I would say that starting has been more challenging for me, probably due to the difference in talent level between high school and college, but also because there is so much to learn as a starter. I feel like I learn something new every single day.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road can be very difficult. There are many things that, as a Christian, I need to prepare for. Wherever you go, you will have decisions to make from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed that will affect both how you play and how your teammates see you — as a man of integrity or a hypocrite. From how I spend my time in the hotel room to where I go and what I do after the games, there will be temptations of various kinds; whether it is alcohol, drugs, etc. For me, reading is something that I enjoy doing, starting with the Bible, but also books for entertainment purposes. Reading engages the mind to learn and grow, especially when playing baseball every day can get repetitive and mundane at times.

Spending time with teammates is a great way to spend your free time. These are the guys that you hope to win a championship with, and in my opinion, the better the team knows and respects each other off the field the more we will play together as a unit. I also believe that building relationships is the first step to discipleship, what Jesus has called us to do as believers. Coming along side people and meeting them where they are, encouraging them and building them up, investing in their lives speaks a lot louder than just telling them about an alternative lifestyle through knowing Jesus that would be better for them. Actions always speak louder than words.

7.) The Astros haven’t been doing well lately, finishing with over 100 losses the past two seasons, but they have great talent down in their farm system. With players such as yourself, Carlos Correa and George Springer, among others, how do you see the teamMark Appel faring over the next few years?

Being a part of the Astros’ organization is an incredible blessing. Not only are they my hometown team, but I believe they are a team that will be good quickly and good for a long time. Buying in to the system now and getting to know all the players right now will build a foundation for the future of the organization at the big league level.

I believe that the Astros will be the most improved team this year, and will continue to improve year after year. As we develop and add new players to the major league team, the chances we win more and more games only increases.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

My 2013 pro season was great. I’m not necessarily pleased with the end of year statistics as a whole, but I do believe I continued to improve and to learn about professional baseball and what to expect for my 2014 season.

This season my goals are simply to work as hard as I can every single day and allow God to take care of the rest. I am not going to worry about which level I start out at or when I make it to Houston this year (if at all). The great thing about being a disciple of Jesus is knowing that wherever I am in life, I have purpose and there is work to be done for the kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to work with all that I have in order to reach the big leagues, but while I’m working, I’m not going to worry, and I’ll have some fun!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show: Currently, ‘Parks and Recreation’. I can really identify with Ron Swanson. Favorite food: Steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice to kids hoping to play pro ball is to work hard in school, first and foremost. Secondly, have fun while you are playing. Don’t let the fun of the game be overshadowed by the worry and fear of not achieving the goals that you have for yourself. Baseball is a fun game, and I have seen too many players in college and pro ball not enjoy it because they want to be the best so badly that their desire for perfection has removed the joy they once had while playing the game. Don’t lose that childlike spirit.

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Big thanks to Mark Appel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @MAppel26

February Blogging Plans

I don’t really like to do too many of these type of blog posts. They mainly just serve as fillers when I have nothing else to blog about (like right now), but I suppose they’re also good, in a way, as they let you all know what to expect in the coming month.

As I’m sure you’re aware, today is the first day of February — a month that brings baseball, once again, in the form of Spring Training games. While I’m, unfortunately, not going to be heading down to any games in person, I am going to be blogging about it all, and in addition, am going to be giving my predictions for the coming season between now and the start on March 22nd. (Most of the predictions will come in March, however.)

My first planned post for this month (after this one) will cover the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I’m sending out to players at the different MLB camps. I did the same thing last year, and have been sending out autograph requests for the past few seasons, so I always enjoy talking about it. (I’ll also be posting an update periodically whenever I receive two or three autographs back, whenever that may be.)

After that, things should pick up a bit — including the amount of baseball news.

I have an interview with the 2013 number one overall draft pick, Mark Appel, coming up this month, which is probably one of the most interesting interviews I’ve every done. It was apparent that Appel put a lot of effort into the questions, as he had a ton to say with each answer. (I always appreciate it when guys do that.)

I’ll probably do another interview — more than likely with Phillies third baseman, Cody Asche — towards the end of the month. That’ll leave just one more month (March) with interviews. I’ll be posting either one or two, depending on a few factors that I won’t discuss now.

Other than the interviews, I’ll just be writing about the baseball news as it happens.

Keep in mind, none of this is set in stone. I may rearrange things, or exclude them altogether. It’s just a basic outline to give an overall idea of what to expect in the coming month.

With so many players switching teams in the offseason, and the newcomers such as Masahiro Tanaka making their first official appearance with their teams, it should be an interesting next few weeks.

Spring Training games are now just over three weeks away . . . .

2014 Top 100 Prospects List Released

I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2014. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training, but have a chance of a call up later in the season.

Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2014. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects 100-91

Pierce Johnson (100), Rosell Herrera (99), Stephen Piscotty (98), Robbie Ray (97),

Trey Ball (96), Edwin Escobar (95), Taylor Guerrieri (94), Roberto Osuna (93),

Joey Gallo (92) and Jorge Bonifacio (91).

There really aren’t any players from the 100-91 spots that I feel have a good shot at making it to the big leagues in 2014. If any of them made it, it would likely be Jorge Bonifacio and/or Robbie Ray, as both have a shot at beginning the year in Triple-A and therefore could potentially be a September call up. It’s more likely, however, that all these players will have to wait until at least 2015.

Prospects 90-81

Jose Berrios (90), Arismendy Alcantara (89), D.J. Peterson (88), Casey Kelly (87),

Matt Barnes (86), Rafael Montero (85), Hak-Ju Lee (84), Jimmy Nelson (83),

Christian Bethancourt (82) and Justin Nicolino (81).

Casey Kelly is the only one of these players that I feel has a chance at starting with the major league club out of Spring Training. Kelly made his MLB debut in 2012, where he was fairly good, but due to Tommy John surgery last season, he missed all of 2013. If healthy, Kelly has the potential to be a major asset to the Padres in their starting rotation, and should be able to show what he’s capable of this season.

While Jimmy Nelson is a player who is on the fence — possibly making the big leagues out of camp in late March — I feel he will likely pitch a month or two in the minors before getting called back up sometime midseason. Matt Barnes, Rafael Montero and Hak-Ju Lee (who spent 2013 injured) should also all see big league time in 2014, and have the potential to become impact players for their respective clubs.

Prospects 80-71

Matt Davidson (80), Braden Shipley (79), Matthew Wisler (78), Chris Owings (77),

Luis Sardinas (76), Mason Williams (75), Josh Bell (74), Trevor Bauer (73),

Michael Choice (72) and David Dahl (71).

Matt Davidson — recently traded to the White Sox from the Diamondback’s — Chris Owings, Trevor Bauer and Michael Choice could all potentially start the year in the majors, but there’s also the chance that they could spend a few games in Triple-A. They all played in the big leagues at some point in 2013 and will each get their chance to shine on the big stage at some point in 2014, possibly right off the bat.

Matthew Wisler isn’t going to begin the season the Padres, however, it is likely that he could see a few games with them as a late season call up. They could always use pitching help, and Wisler, going 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA last year, could certainly go a long way for the Padres in 2014.

Prospects 70-61

Erik Johnson (70), A.J. Cole (69), Eduardo Rodriguez (68), Alen Hanson (67),

Delino De Shields (66), Jake Marisnick (65), Julio Urias (64), Zach Lee (63),

Mookie Betts (62) and Blake Swihart (61).

Jake Marisnick spent a good bit of time (40 games) with the Marlin in 2013, and there’s a good shot at him starting off the year with them. Marisnick didn’t perform particularly well, but he’s still young and would make a good outfielder for them in 2014. Erik Johnson, who also made his MLB debut last season, has the potential to break camp with the White Sox, but it’s going to come down to how he performs in Spring Training. Either way, he’ll see time in the majors this season.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Lee and Alen Hanson all could make it to the bigs in 2014, but for Hanson that may have to wait another season. Rodriguez and Lee should begin the 2014 season with Triple-A, and depending on how they do, they could possibly be September call ups. Hanson also holds that chance, but it will likely be 2015 for him.

Prospects 60-51

Lucas Sims (60), Rougned Odor (59), Kolten Wong (58), Garin Cecchini (57),

Jake Odorizzi (56), Marcus Stroman (55), Mike Foltynewicz (54), Jesse Biddle (53),

Lance McCullers (52) and Colin Moran (51).

Kolten Wong, despite forever holding the distinction of being picked off to end the game during the 2013 World Series, should begin the season where he left off. As a late season call up last year, Wong did decently, and many feel he is going to turn into a very special player. Jake Odorizzi also has the talent to begin 2014 at the big league level, but the big difference between Wong and Odorizzi is team room. The Rays’ rotation is packed, and therefore it’s likely Odorizzi will be back with Triple-A to begin the season.

Garin Cecchini, Marcus Stroman, Mike Foltynewicz and Jesse Biddle all have the chance to make their MLB debuts this season, as they all should begin in Triple-A. Of them, Stroman has the potential to be called up the quickest, as many people feel he is the most ready, and the Blue Jays really could use some pitching. But all of them should help out their respective clubs at some point this year.

Prospects 50-41

Jonathan Singleton (50), Jorge Soler (49), Clint Frazier (48), Gary Sanchez (47),

Allen Webster (46), Austin Meadows (45), Lucas Giolito (44), Max Fried (43),

C.J. Edwards (42) and Eddie Butler (41).

Allen Webster is the only player of this group that stands any shot at making the majors to start the year, but even so, it’s not a good shot. Despite making the Red Sox rotation in 2013, Webster performed somewhat poorly, and it’s likely that that bad showing could land him back in Triple-A to begin 2014.

Jonathan Singleton, Gary Sanchez and Eddie Butler all could begin 2014 in Triple-A, and all three could make the majors this season. Of them, Singleton is the only player with Triple-A experience, but they each have the talent to make their respective clubs at some point this year. The only thing that would hold Sanchez back would possibly be Brian McCann, whom the Yankees signed to a major contract earlier this offseason, and is blocking Sanchez’s spot as the Bronx Bombers’ catcher.

Prospects 40-31

Kohl Stewart (40), Jorge Alfaro (39), Adalberto Mondesi (38), Billy Hamilton (37),

Joc Pederson (36), Yordano Ventura (35), Corey Seager (34), Jackie Bradley Jr. (33),

Kyle Crick (32) and Kevin Gausman (31).

Billy Hamilton, Yordano Ventura, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Gausman all should begin the season in the majors, as all four of them spent time there last season. Though they all have some things to work on, they each have a ton of natural talent, and could be helping out their big league club from day one of the 2014 season, with Bradley having to compete for his outfield spot against the newly acquired Grady Sizemore.

Joc Pederson was debated over by the Dodgers last season as to whether or not they wanted to call him up or choose another talented outfielder by the name of Yasiel Puig instead. (We all know what happened — with Puig going on a tear with the Dodgers — so I won’t talk a lot about it.) Though he doesn’t have the power that Puig possesses, Pederson is going to be a great player for the Dodgers, and should see a few games in the majors in 2014. The only question being, is there room for him in the already crowded outfield? (A possible trade isn’t out of the question.)

Prospects 30-21

Henry Owens (30), Andrew Heaney (29), Alex Meyer (28), Tyler Glasnow (27),

Maikel Franco(26), Kyle Zimmer (25), Austin Hedges (24), Aaron Sanchez (23),

Travis d’Arnaud (22) and George Springer.

George Springer and Travis d’Arnaud each have a chance to begin 2014 with their big league team, but d’Arnaud is the more likely of the two. He spent the last month of the 2013 season with the Mets, and should begin with them out of Spring Training. Springer on the other hand — while he hit 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year — will likely spend a month or two in the minors before finally getting a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage possible.

Henry Owens, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer and Maikel Franco will likely be sent to Triple-A out of Spring Training, however, they should all reach the major league level this season. They all have a ton of talent, and will be fun to watch this season. If any of them get called up early enough, they could become an immediate everyday impact player for their club.

Prospects 20-11

Dylan Bundy (20), Robert Stephenson (19), Albert Almora (18), Mark Appel (17),

Jameson Taillon (16), Nick Castellanos (15), Jonathan Gray (14), Gregory Polanco (13),

Addison Russell (12) and Noah Syndergaard (11).

Nick Castellanos finally has a spot available for him on the Tigers and it’s likely that he’ll claim it right out of Spring Training. Castellanos spent the final games of 2013 in the big leagues, but with Miguel Cabrera at third — his normal position — Castellanos was forced to the outfield. Now that Prince Fielder is with the Rangers, Cabrera can return to his original spot at first, and Castellanos can play a full season at third base, where he should do extremely well.

There are a ton of players from the 20-11 spots that will likely see big league time in 2014. Dylan Bundy, Robert Stephenson, Mark Appel, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Addison Russell and Noah Syndergaard all stand a decent shot — some better than others — with Bundy, Taillon and Syndergaard likely being the three with the best shot of a call up earlier than September. We’ll have to see exactly what happens, but this group of players in particular will be a fun one to watch.

Prospects 10-1

Francisco Lindor (10), Kris Bryant (9), Carlos Correa (8), Javier Baez (7),

Taijuan Walker (6), Archie Bradley (5), Miguel Sano (4), Oscar Taveras (3),

Xander Bogaerts (2) and Byron Buxton (1).

Taijuan Walker, Xander Bogaerts and Archie Bradley will all spend a good chunk of time in the big leagues in 2014, but it’s likely that they will begin the year with their major league teams. Admittedly, Bradley is a bit of a stretch — likely starting the year in Triple-A — but if he performs exceptionally well in Spring Training, it’s not completely out of the question. All of these players, if they can remain healthy and subsequently play enough games at the major league level, all have the potential to be Rookie of the Year caliber players.

Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras could each play games in the majors this season, but it’s possible that Bryant will have to wait until 2015, depending on how he performs and how quickly the Cubs want to bring him along. Regardless, all of these players, as with the previously named players in this group, have the potential to be Rookie of the Year finalist in 2015, assuming they don’t exceed the stats in 2014 needed to still qualify as a rookie the next season.

I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were. But I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2014 season have been announced, I pose the following question: Which of the top ten prospects (although a couple of them may not even make the major leagues) do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2014? Cast your vote below:

 

Feel free to leave a comment below with your overall thoughts on the top 100 prospects list heading into this season.

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