Results tagged ‘ Giancarlo Stanton ’

Ten Players Who Need to Have a Good 2016 Season

Each and every season, there are always players with something to prove. Whether they’re looking to show that they can play at a competitive level that they’ve never lived up to; looking to show that they can be the dominant player they once were; or simply are looking for a good year for their team to have a successful year — there are numerous players that you could categorize as having a very important season coming up when things begin in around a month.

With all of that said, not every player that needs a good 2016 season is on the list I put together below. I can think of a couple dozen players that arguably need to post solid numbers in 2016, but I couldn’t include them all, and had to make some difficult exclusions. Just the opposite, there could be a few players on my list that you don’t think need a good season. Either way, this is just a list of ten players — not necessarily the “top ten” — that I feel need a good 2016 season for one reason or another:

1) Giancarlo Stanton

In 2015, Giancarlo Stanton got off to a superstar start. Blasting 27 home runs in his first 74 games, Stanton posted numbers equal to what you would expect out of a player with a 325 million dollar contract. However, things quickly came to a halt for yet another season when Stanton suffered an injury that would see him missing the remainder of the year. While Stanton’s ability to put up historic numbers is absolutely there (Stanton holds 50+ homer potential), he needs to stay on the field in order to produce in historic fashion. With the Marlins standing the slightest of chances to compete with the division favorite rival Nationals and Mets, they need every single player on their roster performing to the best of their ability, and that includes Stanton more than anyone else.

2) Jonathan PapelbonPapelbon

Over the course of the past few seasons, Jonathan Papelbon has very quietly remained one of the top relievers in baseball, and he had a great season in 2015. For that reason, poor stats aren’t the reason Papelbon needs a good year in 2016; it’s his personality that needs to become part of the past. Quite simply, Papelbon can be a distraction to any team he’s on, and has had his share of controversy over his career. The biggest example of that came just last season, when a dugout altercation between Papelbon and Bryce Harper ended up seeing Papelbon’s hands around Harper’s neck. Therefore, although he is a valuable part of the Nationals’ bullpen, with a 2.13 ERA last season, Papelbon needs a good, drama-free upcoming season to put the past in the past for good.

3) Yu Darvish

When Yu Darvish came to the United States for the 2012 season, he had a ton of hype hung over him as to the kind of pitcher he was back in Japan. In his rookie season, Darvish lived up to the high praise, and was even better in 2013. But after another great season in 2014, Darvish was shut down due to an arm injury which resulted in a subsequent Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the Rangers’ rotation all of last season. With that said, Darvish appears to have successfully rehabbed from the surgery and should help out the Rangers a great deal once he returns around May. After amazingly squeaking their way into the postseason last year, if the Rangers can get a fully healthy Darvish that performs the way he did to begin his career, they could be looking at a special season.

4) Ryan Howard

Of all of the players on my list, Ryan Howard is the only player who was on my 2015 version of this blog post. But he may also be the one who needs a good season the most — for his sake alone. Howard is essentially the last remaining player of what was once a Phillies dynasty that included the likes of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, but he is most likely in his final season in Philly. With a vast number of talented youngsters in the minors just a season or two away from cracking the big leagues, this very well could be the last shot for Howard to prove that he can still perform at a high level. Although he hit 23 homers last season, he has failed to hit 30 or more since back in 2011. The Phillies aren’t predicted to do much this coming season, but hopefully Ryan Howard will emerge as the bright spot.

Sandoval5) Pablo Sandoval

In Pablo Sandoval’s six full seasons with the Giants, he was one of the top slugging third basemen in baseball. For that reason, the Red Sox locked him up on a 5-year, 95 million dollar contract beginning last season, but he failed to live up to expectations. In 2015, Sandoval recorded a career low in batting average, RBI’s and home runs, leaving many looking for him to take things up a notch this season. But after reporting to Spring Training in subpar shape, your guess is as good mine for how Sandoval will fare in 2016. Perhaps 2015 was a mere fluke and Sandoval will return to his former All-Star self. Only time will truly tell if he can make the last four years of his contract worth the Red Sox while. But with the Red Sox looking to make another playoff push in 2016, Sandoval needs to be a big part of their team.

6) Yoenis Cespedes

A quick glimpse at Yoenis Cespedes’s stats from 2015 would undoubtedly leave you wondering how I could place him on a list of players who need a good season this coming year. Hitting .291 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI’s last year, there’s absolutely nothing more that could be asked of Cespedes; especially from the Mets, who acquired Cespedes for the second half and proceeded to make a run to the World Series. Even so, he needs a really good year equal to his most recent one for the Mets to hold off the Nationals, who, despite losing some key pieces, will still likely be very competitive this year. Without Cespedes and his superstar numbers, the Mets still hold a good chance at another playoff run. But with him performing well, it’s all but a guarantee in the minds of many.

7) Shelby Miller

As with Yoenis Cespedes, Shelby Miller had a career year in 2015, but still managed to make his way onto my list. After a few under the radar seasons with the Cardinals, Miller proceeded to breakout as one of the best young starters in all of baseball last season. Posting a 3.02 ERA over 33 starts, Miller found himself as a very valuable asset — so much so that he was traded for 2015 number one overall draft pick Dansby Swanson during the offseason. Joining fellow newcomer, Zack Greinke, in the Diamondbacks’ rotation, there are a lot of expectations out of the D-backs in 2016. Thus, Miller needs to post numbers similar to — if not better than — the ones he recorded last year. If he can do that alongside Greinke, the D-backs could be in for a major turnaround in Phoenix.

8) CC SabathiaMLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles

The past three seasons have been fairly rough for CC Sabathia. Posting the best ERA of those seasons this past year of 4.73 is enough to prove just how bad things have been (not even including his off-the-field battles). However, there is seemingly hope for Sabathia in 2016, with many people even going as far as to envision him becoming the comeback player of the year. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of uncertainty moving forward for Sabathia, though. At 35 years old, and with his best numbers likely in the past, Sabathia is in need of a good season to get his career back on track. The Yankees actually have a fairly good team heading into this season, but it is going to take a team effort, including solid numbers from Sabathia, for them to get any sort of postseason run together.

9) Wil Myers

Going from former first round draft pick and top five prospect in all of baseball to an injury-plagued player who has yet to live up fully to the type of numbers many predicted he would post, Wil Myers needs a fully healthy 2016 to show what he’s truly capable of. Myers showed a glimpse at his potential back when he first came up in 2013 with the Rays, going on to win the Rookie of the Year award, and theoretically has 30+ homer power, if he can only find a way to tap into it. This season with the Padres, Myers is making the switch to first base full time, so hopefully some stability will allow him to get into the zone for the length of the season. Having yet to play even 100 games in a single season over his career, Myers could finally break through if he can simply play the majority of games this coming year.

10) Matt Moore

Possessing all the talent in the world, this is a make-or-break season for Matt Moore in my mind. Although he has shown flashes of greatness over his career, Moore suffered an arm injury that lead to him having to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2014. Following his return this past season, Moore was a bit shaky, posting a 5.43 ERA on the year and spending a good bit of time down in the minor leagues in an attempt to re-establish his dominance. The Rays need him to return to form in order for Tampa to compete in the strong American League East division. Although not everyone sees the Rays doing much of anything in 2016, there are some who are predicting big things. For me, it all comes down to their starting pitching, with Moore being a big key to that success.

Could We See Multiple 50-Homer Players in 2016?

Ever since Babe Ruth burst onto the scene in 1919 with his single-season record breaking year of 29 home runs (more than some entire teams back then) — subsequently leading to his many superstar seasons that included 60 home runs in 1927 — baseball has been in love with the long ball. In fact, ever since 1983 there has been at least one player each and every season to hit 40 or more home runs, showing just how much baseball has come to depend on the big fly.Ruth

With 40 home runs no longer being quite the extraordinary feat that it was back when Ruth was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career — nine total players hit 40+ in 2015 — the new number of astonishment has risen to 50 or more homers in a season, which hasn’t been done in the past two seasons.

The most recent player with 50 or more homers in a season was Chris Davis in 2013, when he hit 53 with the Orioles. But I feel that there is a good chance of at least one player basting 50 homers in 2016, with the slightest of chances that multiple players accomplish the feat.

While more than one player hitting 50+ home runs would seem somewhat unlikely, it’s not as rare as you might think. Sure it’s tough to do, but it was done as recently as 2007 when Alex Rodriguez (54 homers) and Prince Fielder (50 homers) did just that. It was also done in 2006, 2002, 2001, 1999-1996, 1961, 1947 and 1938, with four players hitting 50 or more in both 1998 and 2001.

I don’t see another 1998 or 2001 on our hands, but I do feel that 2016 could become the 12th season in MLB history with two or more players hitting over 50 home runs in a single season.

Of all of the player in baseball, there are three who I feel stand the best shot at 50 this season: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis and Bryce Harper.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured for most of the 2015 season, but as history has shown, he has just as much power as anyone in baseball right now, and is right up there with the all time great power hitters. In the 74 games he did play in 2015, Stanton blasted 27 home runs. If you were simply to double those numbers, Stanton would’ve theoretically hit 54 home runs in 148 games played. While those numbers can’t be taken literally, due to them being mere projections, Stanton undoubtedly has 50+ home run potential, and with the Marlins moving in the fences, I think 2016 will finally be his year if he can stay healthy.

50HomersBut even though Stanton has the best shot at 50, I think Chris Davis, who is no stranger to big production numbers, has a good chance as well. In 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs, but had 4-5 additional homers robbed by fantastic plays in the outfield over the season. Even so, Davis actually has a 50-homer season under his belt, as previously stated, hitting 53 in 2013. Returning to the Orioles for the next seven seasons, Davis is likely to hit well over 200 home runs over the course of that contract, and I could easily see him popping 50 of them in 2016 alone.

The last of the players on my top three 50 homer candidates list is Bryce Harper. He’s still extremely young, at just 23 years old, but having hit 42 home runs last season, I could envision 50 from him in 2016. His power is undeniable, and with him taking a fantastic approach at the plate last year — either drawing a walk or waiting for his pitch and crushing it — I think Harper will continue to produce MVP caliber numbers for the next several seasons. Whether or not he surpasses 50 homers in 2016 is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Despite the fact that Spring Training hasn’t even begun, it’s never too early to glance towards the regular season, and I have the feeling that 2016 is going to be an unbelievable year around Major League Baseball. Although there’s the chance that my prediction is way off and no players at all hit 50 or more home runs this coming season, the potential for it to occur is there. That’s more than enough reason to get people around the baseball world excited for the regular season to get underway in less than two months.

Who I’d Like to See In the 2015 Home Run Derby

Although we don’t yet know who the captain for the American League and National League home run derby team is going to be, I wanted to go ahead and give my take for which players I’d like to see in the home run derby up in Cincinnati on July 13th. Assuming the rules change from 2014 that saw an additional player being added to each league’s derby team stays the same, I selected the five players from each league that I wanted to see in the derby.

While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2015 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2015 home run derby just over three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:

American League

Nelson Cruz: Of all the players from the American League to choose from, this was the easiest of them all. Nelson Cruz led all of baseball in home runs back in 2014, and is well on his way to finishing near the top again. Although Cruz can hit tape measure shots, I think he would do well in the derby due to his ability to hit numerous home runs as well. He would put on a show.

Josh Donaldson: Donaldson isn’t that widely known as a slugger, but he has been a breakout player over the past few seasons, and is having a great year with the Blue Jays this season. Donaldson can really launch the ball a long way, and I think that he would stand a shot at winning if he can find a groove and stick with it. Having him in the derby would definitely be fun.

Mark Teixeira: This isn’t the most obvious of picks, as Teixeira has been up and down over the past few years, but he is having a good season this year, and he should be in the home run derby. Somewhat surprisingly sitting in the top five of the American League in homers, Teixeira would be a general sleeper pick for the derby, but if he could get things going, he would last awhile, I believe.

Mike Trout: There truly isn’t anything in baseball that Mike Trout isn’t good at, and that includes hitting home runs. Trout is currently one of the most well known and liked players in baseball, and having him take part in the derby would get more people to watch. And I feel that they would be treated to a show, as Trout would likely hit several long homers on his pursuit of the title.

Edwin Encarnacion: Josh Donaldson’s teammate, Edwin Encarnacion, can hit a ball just as far, if not farther, than nearly every other player in the big leagues. It’s that ability to launch balls a great distance that I think would make him great for the derby. He would be able to put on a show, hitting balls deep into the stands, and would stand a good chance at making it deep into the derby.

National League

Paul Goldschmidt: Goldschmidt is well on his way to having a great season yet again, and that includes posting a large number in the home run category. Goldschmidt has the ability to hit numerous home runs in addition to hitting them a great distance, and that makes him perfect for the home run derby. He would represent the National League extremely well in the competition.

Todd Frazier: Frazier would be on my list of derby participant regardless of the fact that his team is hosting the All-Star festivities, as he has great stats that warrant the selection. However, it is an added bonus that Frazier is a Red, and that would inevitably make him a fan favorite among the crowd. Frazier might not win, but he will give the fans an extra something to cheer for.

Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton was the favorite to win the 2014 derby by nearly everyone, but he disappointed to say the least. But although he didn’t win, Stanton hit balls further than nearly all of his competition and was still able to put on a show. With him having another great year, I think Stanton would do better in the derby and deserves another shot at winning the whole thing.

Joc Pederson: The fact that Pederson is merely a rookie and is launching home runs as if he’s been in the majors for a decade is remarkable. And that’s why he deserves to be in the derby. Pederson would likely hit balls farther than anyone with the exception of Stanton, and he would be able to put on a great show. Therefore, having Pederson in the derby is something I’d really like to see happen.

Bryce Harper: Harper surprised some people in the 2013 derby with how well he did, and with him having such a good season this time around, I think he should be in the derby once again. Harper isn’t liked by some around the baseball world, but his talent can’t be denied. If Harper can find a pace he’s comfortable with, I think he stands a really good shot at the derby crown.

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2015 home run derby up at Great American Ballpark on July 13th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

My Ballot for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

The ballot for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star game has been out for awhile now, but I’ve been holding off with casting my votes for who I’d like to see in the game up in Cincinnati on July 14th. With it seeming like the ballot is coming out earlier and earlier each year, I wanted to give players enough time to put up quality numbers before I made any decisions. But I finally feel there are enough stats to make a logical decision.AllStar

Voting is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 35 times for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until July 2nd.)

I cast my maximum 35 votes a few days ago. Although the All-Star game is still just under two months away, I figured I’d go ahead and go over the players I picked for the Midsummer Classic. A lot of things can change, with my picks subsequently changing as well, but these are the players I went ahead and voted for to make the All-Star game:

FIRST BASE: Miguel Cabrera (AL), Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

It came down to Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira for me in the American League portion of the first base spot. While Teixeira leads in homers and RBI’s, his batting average was too low for me to select him. In addition, Eric Hosmer has fewer homers and RBI’s than Cabrera in more at-bats, and thus, I picked Miguel Cabrera.

In the National League, it was another tough decision. While Paul Goldschmidt is producing another year worth of MVP caliber numbers, and although Anthony Rizzo is getting better and better, I voted for Adrian Gonzalez. Getting off to a hot start to begin the year, Gonzalez holds the second highest batting average in baseball and deserves to make it.

SECOND BASE: Jose Altuve (AL), Dee Gordon (NL)

Jose Altuve leading all of American League second baseman in stolen bases, sitting second in average and third in homers was enough to get him selected by me to make the All-Star game. Although Devon Travis of the Blue Jays has been a highlight reel each night, Altuve is one of the most exciting second basemen in baseball.

The National League race for All-Star second baseman was an easy decision on my part. Dee Gordon is deserving of the spot, no question about it. Gordon doesn’t have any home runs, but that’s not his game. He leads all NL second basemen in stolen bases, and holds a batting average above .400. That’s deserving of All-Star recognition.

SHORTSTOP: Marcus Semien (AL), Brandon Crawford (NL)

I’ll be honest — I had to double check Marcus Semien’s stats when I was casting my vote for American League shortstop. I knew he was having a good year, but I didn’t realize how good. Leading the American League shortstops in homers and stolen bases, Semien is the unlikely frontrunner for the honor.

It was no easy task to choose a shortstop that had the best stats for the All-Star game. There are a ton of them with good numbers in one category or another. But while names such as Zack Cozart, Jhonny Peralta, etc., stood out, I went with Brandon Crawford, who has good numbers as well as the amazing defense to match.

THIRD BASE: Josh Donaldson (AL), Todd Frazier (NL)

You could make cases for Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson and even Evan Longoria for the American League third base spot in the All-Star game. But I went with Donaldson, who is having a fantastic year. Sitting second in homers but first in RBI’s among AL third basemen, Donaldson should be in Cincy in July.

The first and only Red on my list — likely to be a favorite with the Reds hosting the All-Star game — is Todd Frazier, who I selected for NL third base in the midsummer classic. His batting average isn’t the best, but he is at the top in homers and is deserving in my mind of the honor.

CATCHER: Stephen Vogt (AL), Buster Posey (NL)

This is somewhat of a shocking pick, but a very deserving one. Stephen Vogt wasn’t all that well known as recently as a year ago, but his bat is making him more of a common name. Vogt leads AL catchers in average, home runs and RBI’s, and should lead them in voting when all is said and done.

I could’ve easily picked Miguel Montero or Yasmani Grandal to make the start behind the plate for the National League, but I went with the always consistent Buster Posey instead. Posey leads AL catchers in homers, and should be adding another All-Star game to his already impressive resume.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Although the designated hitter role in the All-Star game goes to David Ortiz the majority of the time, there is simply no other choice for DH this year than Nelson Cruz. It’s not even close. Cruz leads all designated hitters in homers, runs batted in and average, and will be in the All-Star game up in Cincinnati.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks for each league, especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Josh Reddick and Adam Jones (AL)

Mike Trout was a nobrainer, as he once again is in the process of posting another fantastic season, but the other two spots were somewhat difficult with all of the great players. In the end, after examining all of the stats, I made the tough choice of Josh Reddick and Adam Jones. I hope to see them in the All-Star game starting lineups.

Bryce Harper, Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton. Upton is having a good year, and despite a subpar average, Stanton is dominating yet again.

4/3/15 Greensboro Grasshoppers Vs. Miami Marlins

Exactly three years to the day after the last time I attended a major league exhibition game against one of their minor league affiliates, I was back out at the ballpark on Friday (along with my grandpa) for the first time in nearly seven months. This time, however, it wasn’t the home of the Mudcats or Bulls — the ballparks I normally attend — but rather the home of the Grasshoppers. With the Miami Marlins in town, I made the long trek out to the stadium with the sole purpose of grabbing some autographs from the numerous good players their roster possesses.

With that in mind, my grandpa and I arrived to the ballpark an hour before the gates opened, which allowed me to be one of the first people inside when people were first allowed in at 1:00 on the dot. But despite being through the gates first, due to the long walk to the tunnel where the Marlins would be coming in and out of, there were numerous people already surrounding the area. And thus, I had settle with a spot behind a couple of people — a spot I had to squeeze my way into.

The Marlins were already on the field taking batting practice when I first arrived . . . :

DSCN7727

. . . so I just stood there with everyone else and waited for the Marlins to return back through the tunnel and into the clubhouse.

But the wait certainly wasn’t a boring one. When Giancarlo Stanton — one of the greatest power sluggers currently in baseball — stepped into the cage, all eyes were placed on him, and he didn’t disappoint. Stanton quite simply put on one the most unbelievable batting practice show I’ve ever seen. I had heard a ton about the displays of power he shows off during BP, but actually seeing it in person was amazing.

A few minutes after Stanton concluded his showing off, the Marlins began to wrap up their on field activities and one by one exited the field. As they did so, a great number of the players stopped to sign autographs — with the exception of Michael Morse, who I didn’t see sign a single autograph all day long — but I had an extremely hard time getting them to sign for me. Everything was going wrong — whether it was people blocking me out, the players signing on the opposite side of the tunnel, or them just skipping over me. It was appearing to be one of those days.

With all that went wrong, I only managed to get an autograph from Brett Butler and Donovan Solano before the game. Giancarlo Stanton signed for a lot of people . . . except me. And even Ichiro signed some autographs . . . on the opposite side of the stadium. (Like I said before — it was one of those days.)

Once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to succeed in getting anyone else’s autograph, I reunited with my grandpa back at our ticketed seats to take in the pregame introductions. For the most part, the Grasshoppers didn’t have any extremely noteworthy players, however, they did have the 2014 number two overall draft pick, Tyler Kolek, as part of their roster (on the right below):

DSCN7733

For the Marlins, Ichiro and Stanton by far received the biggest applause when they were announced, but it was equally exciting to see every player on their team in person. (Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Michael Morse, all pictured below, were the ones I enjoyed seeing the most):

DSCN7741Shortly after all of the players were introduced, the game begun.

Starting the game for the Grasshoppers was the Marlins’ A.J. Ramos, who gave up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton on the very first pitch he saw. Coming back from a gruesome injury to end 2014, Stanton crushing one during an actual game setting against a big league caliber pitcher appeared to prove that he will be unaffected during the season as some suggested he may be.

Off to a quick 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to the Stanton blast, the Marlins put out Tom Koehler as their starter on the mound against the Grasshoppers, and he was terrific on the day. It was nice to see the Marlins — both their pitching and lineup — do so well with all of the high expectations placed on them for the 2015 season.

It was also nice to see Ichiro in person once again:

DSCN7754

Going one for three on the day, this was more than likely the last time I’ll ever see the future Hall of Famer in person, and I did my best to take it in. There are very few players that I would pay just to see them play, but Ichiro is definitely one of them — as is Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout.

Once all was said and done, the Marlins pulled out the win (not surprisingly), 9-6. However, I wasn’t around to see the final few innings of the game. After getting removed from the game in the fourth and fifth innings for replacement players, Giancarlo Stanton, Ichiro, Michael Morse and Christian Yelich, among others, made their way to the clubhouse during the seventh inning stretch. With me not wanting to miss the possible chance at getting an autograph from any of them, I made my way out of the ballpark gates and down the corner to where the players’ exit/entrance is located.

I was one of the first 50 people down there, but before too long, there were around 200 people, I would estimate, trying for autographs from the players as they left. It took around an hour of standing around for the players to begin emerging from the ballpark, but before long they began coming out in bunches.

Michael Morse and Christian Yelich were the first two out, with both briskly walking past everyone without stopping. Next out was Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ichiro, who simply waved before making his way onto the bus.

It began to seem as if every player was going to make a nonstop trek to the bus. However, when Giancarlo Stanton came through the doors, he became the first to decide to stop and sign autographs. But before I had the chance to blink, things went from two deep to a cluster of 50 or so people pushing and bumping into each other all surrounding Stanton and making it virtually impossible for me to get within arms distance of him. So with all hope lost for an autograph, I settled for a picture of him instead, which I had to take by raising my camera high above my head:

DSCN7763After Stanton boarded the bus, things settled down again, and I was finally able to get to the front row. By doing so, I succeeded in getting an autograph from Tom Koehler, as well as Steve Cishek, who I got a better picture of than Stanton due to the quieted crowd:

DSCN7764

In the end, I didn’t walk away with an autograph from Ichiro or Stanton (I truly didn’t expect to when the day began), but I did walk away with yet another memory of a great time out at the ballpark. Every time I go to a ballgame, I always have a different, but special, experience.

My sights are now set on the 2015 minor league season, which begins on Thursday.

Monday Sees Two Major Deals & One Big Trade

Monday was certainly a big day in the baseball world.

Not only did one of the game’s biggest stars sign a contract unprecedented in the history of the sport — or any sport anywhere for that matter — but a catcher from the Steel City was locked up by the Blue Jays long term, and the Cardinals and Braves swapped players to help fill each others needs.

It was all very interesting to follow.

Giancarlo Stanton kicked off the news filled day, finally signing the mammoth contract that everyone knew would eventually come. While many Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Philliespeople predicted it would come from a team other than the Marlins, the Marlins were in fact the team that got a deal with Stanton done.

A team that was at the bottom, in terms of team combined payroll, this past season, the Marlins locked up Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal (the largest in the history of North American sports).

In addition to being so large, Stanton’s deal comes with a full no-trade clause — previously unheard of for the Marlins’ franchise — as well as an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. Having just turned 25 year old, the Marlins logic behind this major contract to such an impact player, who has legitimate 40+ home run a season potential, can easily be understood.

Despite a season ending injury in September, Stanton posted career numbers this year, batting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI’s, and finishing second in National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Tied with Dan Uggla for the most home runs in Marlins’ franchise history, with 154, Stanton will undoubtedly pass that mark early on in 2015, having hit over 20 home runs every single year of his five career seasons. A two-time All-Star, Stanton will surely go on to set numerous records while in a Marlins uniform now that this contract is officially in place, and could go down as one of the best sluggers in baseball history once all is said and done.

But Stanton wasn’t the only player that was locked up to a sizeable contract on Monday. Martin

Also getting signed on the day was veteran catcher, Russell Martin, who agreed to an 82 million dollar contract over the course of the next five years from the Blue Jays.

Playing his last two seasons with the Pirates, after time spent between the Yankees and the Dodgers since his debut in 2006, Martin has been an up and down player over the course of his career, but should be an impact player for the Jays.

A three-time All-Star, Martin had a break out season in 2014, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI’s over 111 games played.

Previously a combined .234 hitter over his past five seasons, including a career low .211 in 2012, Martin truly made a name for himself this past year, and should make the Blue Jays glad they snagged him.

While Giancarlo Stanton and Russell Martin both signed contracts with their given teams, there was a big trade between the Cardinals and Braves that everyone was talking about as well.

The Cardinals received Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in exchange for Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins, who got sent back to the Braves. Though none of these players can be categorized as major stars, at least as of yet, they all have the ability to be key pieces of each team moving forward, and the trade truly made sense for both sides.546a2e451ce21_image

With their starting rotation being one of their many issues from the 2014 season, the additions of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (both former first round draft picks) will likely do wonders for the Braves in the coming years.

Miller, who hasn’t yet been the consistent starter many envision him becoming, was decent in 2014, posting a 3.74 ERA on the season. As was Jenkins, who notched an ERA just above three over 13 minor league starts this year. Each of them have the capability to be standout players.

In the same way that the Braves needed starting pitching, the Cardinals found themselves in need of a good everyday right fielder, after the unexpected loss of their future superstar right fielder, Oscar Taveras. Jason Heyward certainly fills that role, though he hasn’t yet lived up to his superstar potential.

While Heyward has won a couple of Gold Gloves in his career with the Braves, making a lone All-Star appearance in his rookie season, he’s only a career .262 hitter. In addition, since a breakout year in 2012 when Heyward blasted 27 home runs and drove in 82 runs, he hasn’t notched more than 14 homers or upwards of 58 RBI’s in any single season.

Even so, Heyward is the type of player that can instantly improve any club he’s on. Gaining him (along with Jordan Walden, who posted a 2.88 ERA in 2014) can only help the Cardinals as they look to make another playoff run in 2015.

Blogging Plans for the Rest of 2014

We’re still around six weeks away from the end of the calendar year, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to begin putting plans into place for the schedule of blog entries I’m going to be posting over the coming weeks. Although a good number of posts will be on topics I don’t discuss, I wanted to go over the main things I’m going to be writing about.

First of all, the ballot for the 2015 Hall of Fame class is set to be revealed on Monday, the 24th, and I’ll possibly be writing something about that. Although several of the bigger names are already known, it should be interesting to see who all is on the ballot.

Then, towards the end of the month, I’ll be posting another interview with an up and coming prospect, like the most recent one I did with Tyler Danish, with plans to do two more in December to finish out the year.

On the 28th-30th of this month, I’m heading up to Cooperstown, New York, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I actually visited the Hall of Fame around eight years ago, but it was closed upon arrival due to flooding in the area, so I didn’t get inside to see anything. Therefore, I’m thrilled to be going back.

In preparation, I took the time recently to read a brief biography on every single person currently in the Hall of Fame — yes, 306 biographies in all — so I feel I’m ready for the full experience. (And, obviously, I’ll be blogging about the trip.)

Following that, other than the Greatness In Baseball Yearly awards (GIBBY) that are set to be announced in early December, there isn’t much to write about; at least things that you can plan. Hopefully there will be some trades/deals going down by then — like the mega deal Giancarlo Stanton reportedly just signed with the Marlins, coming to 13 years and 325 million dollars — to discuss, but who knows? The offseason can be unpredictable.

Trout and Kershaw Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Sixty-five players who have won the Most Valuable Player award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most MVP awards is held by Barry Bonds, with seven, but thirty total players have won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in their career.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Mike Trout

Finalists: Mike Trout, Michael Brantley and Victor Martinez

Winner: Mike Trout

Thoughts On Mike Trout Winning

After finishing runner up in the American League Most Valuable Player award voting to Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons, it was finally Mike Trout’s turn to receive the honor. With Cabrera having a down year, by his standards, Trout finally picked up his first career MVP award on Thursday night, joining Mickey Mantle as the second player ever to win their first MVP after having placed second in the previous two MVP votes.

Mike+Trout+85th+MLB+Star+Game+bFwsOZWoltLlTrout also joins the likes of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the list of players to win an MVP at age 23 or younger, with Trout being the youngest ever unanimous winner.

Picking up all 30 first-place votes, Trout received a total of 420 points, beating out Victor Martinez, who finished in second with 229 points, and Michael Brantley, with his 185 points.

Despite batting just .287 on the year — a full 48 points lower than Victor Martinez — and finishing third in strikeouts (184) in all of baseball, Trout did more than enough to take home the MVP. Blasting a career high 36 home runs and 111 RBI’s, while scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout had the “most valuable” season of any other player in the American League.

Although Mike Trout needs to work on putting the ball into play a bit more, which will subsequently bring his average up to around .300, there’s little argument that he’s the best player in baseball at the moment. And at just 23 years old, the remarkable thing is, he’s going to get better and better.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

Clayton Kershaw was hands down the best pitcher in baseball this past season. The only question up for debate was whether or not Kershaw was the most valuable player in the National League. While some people simply don’t believe that a pitcher should win the MVP award, with them playing every fifth day instead of everyday, enough of them wound up voting for Kershaw, earning him the honor.

Clayton KershawThe ninth player to ever win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season, and the first National League pitcher to win the MVP in 46 years, Kershaw definitely had a historical season. Although he missed the first full month of the season, Kershaw still ended up with the most wins (21) in all of baseball, in addition to posting the best overall ERA (1.77) and the highest strikeout per nine innings rate (10.8).

Kershaw’s dominance gained him 18 of the 30 first place votes, totaling 355 points. Giancarlo Stanton, who many felt had a great shot at winning the MVP after blasting 37 home runs this season, finished runner up with 298 points and 8 first-place points, with Andrew McCutchen getting the remaining 4 first-place nods, good for 271 points altogether.

Having pitched just a total of 198.1 innings in 2014, Kershaw breaks the old record for fewest innings tallied by a pitcher to win the MVP award, previously held by the last pitcher to win the MVP award, Justin Verlander, who threw 251 innings in 2011.

Although it’s difficult to predict from season to season which player will win a given award, there’s the chance that Kershaw could eventually become the fourth pitcher to ever win more than one Most Valuable Player award in their career. Given, that’s somewhat unlikely. But if anyone can do it, Clayton Kershaw surely can.

2014 Players’ Choice Awards

The 2014 Major League Baseball Players’ Choice Award winners were announced last night on MLB Network. Unlike the BBWAA awards, these awards, as the name would suggest, are voted on by players from around baseball each September, when they receive a ballot to make their picks for each category. Six categories in all, American League players vote for American League players with National League players voting for National League players, with the exception of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award and the Player of the Year award, in which players from both leagues vote for a single player.

The winning player for each category is awarded a grant from the MLB Players Trust, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 dollars, depending on the award that they win. The money goes to the winner’s choice of charity, with some players deciding to split up the money between multiple causes. This marks the 22nd annual Players Choice Awards, which began in 1992. Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:

OUTSTANDING ROOKIE AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees – Jose Abreu, Matt Shoemaker and Danny Santana

AL Winner – Jose Abreu

NL Nominees – Billy Hamilton, Jacob deGrom and David Peralta

NL Winner – Jacob deGrom

Although I feel that Dellin Betances should’ve been one of the American League nominees for Outstanding Rookie after the great season he had, I can’t argue at all with the winner. Jose Abreu had an unbelievable inaugural season, hitting 36 homers with the White Sox, and will likely be a big part of their future in the many years to come. On the National League side of the award, it came down to Billy Hamilton and Jacob deGrom for me. But although it was a close call, Hamilton hitting around .250 earns deGrom the award.

OUTSTANDING PITCHER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees – Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale

AL Winner – Felix Hernandez

NL Nominees – Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright

NL Winner – Clayton Kershaw

All three American League nominees had incredible seasons worthy of recognition, but Felix Hernandez had the best statistical season of them all. Posting a career high 15 wins and a career low 2.14 ERA, Hernandez was the obvious choice. As was Clayton Kershaw. Taking home the Outstanding Pitcher award for the National League, Kershaw had a historic season with a miniscule 1.77 ERA, and there was no way that he wasn’t going to win this award.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees – J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Chris Young

AL Winner – Chris Young

NL Nominees – Tim Hudson, Casey McGehee and Edinson Volquez

NL Winner – Casey McGehee

Obviously the one award that a player least wants to receive, meaning that they bounced back from years of injuries or poor performance. (But the important aspect, I suppose, is that the player did in fact bounce back.) Winning the Comeback Player of the Year award for the American League was Chris Young (the pitcher, not the outfielder) along with Casey McGehee for the National League. Both players had tremendous 2014 campaigns, coming off recent struggles on both their parts.

OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees – Mike Trout, Jose Altuve and Victor Martinez

AL Winner – Mike Trout

NL Nominees – Josh Harrison, Clayton Kershaw and Giancarlo Stanton

NL Winner – Giancarlo Stanton

Seemingly getting better and better each year, with plans to get even better in 2015, Mike Trout was the players’ choice for Outstanding American League player of the year. Scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, and breaking the 30 homer mark for the first time in his young career, Trout could be taking this award home for many years. For the National League, Giancarlo Stanton received the honor. Despite an injury which cut his season short, players agreed that Stanton, with his incredible display of power, is the rightful winner.

MARVIN MILLER MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees – Clayton Kershaw, Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rizzo

Winner – Clayton Kershaw

The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award is given each year to the player most recognized for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to his community. Past winners include Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera, among many others. This year, the award went to Clayton Kershaw, whose ‘Kershaw’s Challenge’ looks “to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need”. Combine Kershaw’s community contributions with his 2014 stats, and he definitely is the top choice for the prestigious award.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees – Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout

Winner – Clayton Kershaw

Taking home his third award of the night, and bringing the total amount of money donated by the MLB Players Trust to $120,000, Clayton Kershaw takes dominance of award winning to a new level. Going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA over the course of the season, Kershaw likely is just getting started. With the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) awards being given out next week, it’s almost certain that Kershaw will take home the National League Cy Young award — with many putting him in line to win the NL MVP as well.

My Vote for N.L. Most Valuable Player

As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.1401776486000-2014-06-02-Clayton-Kershaw

Adrian Gonzalez is one of two Dodgers on my list, but he stands the least chance of the two to win the MVP award, and the least overall shot of all the players on my list. Although he led all of Major League Baseball in RBI’s on the season, with 116, while batting .276 and blasting 17 home runs, Gonzalez still doesn’t quite have the overall numbers to win the Most Valuable Player award. Even so, playing in all but three of the Dodgers’ 162 games, Gonzalez definitely had a great season worthy of recognition.

The current reigning N.L. Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen, posted very similar numbers to the ones he posted in 2013. But although they are extremely close in likeness, McCutchen doesn’t deserved the MVP award this year anymore than I felt he deserved it last year when he won. Batting .314 on the season, with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s, McCutchen surely had a great season. But missing a good portion of the year, and getting outperformed by two other players in the National League, McCutchen will likely have to try again in 2015.

Giancarlo Stanton comes in runner up for the National League MVP award, in my mind. It was a difficult decision to not give him the honor, but finishing out the year on the disabled list, along with another player completely dominating everyone else in the N.L., caused him to just miss out. Still, Stanton posted the best numbers of his career thus far in 2014. Blasting 37 home runs and tallying 105 runs batted in, Stanton was by far one of the top valuable players in the National League, but not quite the most valuable.

For me, the correct choice, although it’s a difficult one — especially given the fact that he’s a pitcher — for the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player award is Clayton Kershaw, who I also have picking up the Cy Young award. Coming back from an injury to begin the year, which caused him to miss the first month of the season, and still winding up leading baseball in wins and ERA is simply remarkable. Notching 21 wins, along with a career best 1.77 ERA, which was nearly half a run better than the next closest ERA in the National League, Kershaw should pick up his first career Most Valuable Player award for his amazing performances all season long.

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