Results tagged ‘ Giancarlo Stanton ’

2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby

After over a year of anticipation, the day finally arrived. Taking place last night in Durham, North Carolina, and showcasing some of the minor league’s premier power hitters, the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby is something that I’d been looking forward to witnessing for a long time. As always, I made the decision to show up to the ballpark early to try for a few autographs. Thus, despite a gate opening time of 5:30 for the 6:35 derby, I made my way to the All-Star themed Durham Bulls Athletic Park at around 4:50:

DSCN7169Even though I still had a good amount of time until I could go inside, I went ahead and jumped in line. The extremely hot sun was beating down on myself and the fans around me, but I was glad I made the choice to get my place in the line, as it wasn’t long afterwards that it became fairly long. Thankfully, the time in the heat passed fairly quickly, and upon the opening of the gates, I took off for the Pacific Coast League’s dugout.

With the Pacific Coast League being such a loaded team of top prospects and former big leaguers, there were already a lot of people down by the dugout when I got there, making it difficult for me to get down to autographing level. But when Nick Franklin (the first player to emerge from the dugout) popped out . . . . :

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. . . . I was able to (with a little help from fellow auto seekers) get him to sign a couple of cards for me.

Soon afterwards, tons of players began to flood out of the dugout, and items to get autographed were passing by me right and left. The next player I got to sign a few cards for me was Wednesday night’s All-Star game starting pitcher, Elih Villanueva. But autos from Franklin and Villanueva was all I was able to acquire before the game, as the ushers made us all go back to our assigned seats to clear out the aisle.

Before the derby got underway, the well known softball slugging long haul bombers, who have been known to hit softballs up to 500 feet, took to the field to show off their amazing hitting skills:

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There were three total sluggers, each of which were impressive. Though I had seen the long haul bombers last season up in Seattle, they were just as good this time, slamming two total home runs onto the roof of a four story building, some 450+ feet away. But while they were great, the event that everyone came to see was the Triple-A home run derby, which began shortly after.

Despite losing Mike Hessman (the all-time International League home run leader) and Dan Johnson from the derby roster due to an injury to Hessman and a big league callup for Johnson, the lineup was still decent. Consisting of Francisco Pena, Matt Hague, Allan Dykstra, Jesus Aguilar, Mike Jacobs and Mikie Mahtook, there were sure to be a good amount of homers hit, and after the participants posed for a group photo down around home plate . . . . :

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. . . . the derby got underway.

The famous bull sign (“hit bull, win steak”) down the left field line at the DBAP was originally predicted to play a big role in the derby, with the incentive to hit it being that if it was hit 15 times one lucky fan would take home $15,000. But unfortunately, the Bull was hit only once (everyone in attendance received a free steak taco as a result), with the low number of bull-hitting home runs coming thanks in part to a pair of zeros posted in the first round of the derby by Mike Jacobs and Mikie Mahtook — each of which were eliminated.

The second round of the derby saw a cut to four players, as well as a change in my location. For this round, I made my way out to the outfield, with the slight hope of catching a home run ball, but mainly with the reasoning to see a few batters take their turns from a different perspective:

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A few balls were lofted in my general direction, but nothing came too terribly close. While I was in the outfield, Matt Hague and Jesus Aguilar posted rounds that didn’t hold up in the end (though Aguilar did nearly drill me with a foul ball, had it not have been for fans who knocked it down). Meaning, the final round of the derby was going to be between Francisco Pena and Allan Dykstra.

Clay Counsil — the BP pitcher who threw to Josh Hamilton in his historic 28 home run first round of the 2008 derby up at Yankee Stadium – was on hand to throw the final round of the derby to both of the remaining players, and the crowd seemed excited to see him:

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In Francisco Pena’s set of swings to kick off the championship round, he failed to hit a single home run, leaving Allan Dykstra with just one homer needed to take home the title of 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby champion. And he did just that. Slugging a home run to right field, Allan Dykstra wound up winning the derby in front of the sold out crowd:

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After the derby had concluded, there was still a multitude of players hanging around on the field, so I once again took off for the dugout with the hopes of getting some more autographs. I was able to get one more player to sign for me before I left the ballpark, being Andrew Susac, bringing my total number of player autographs to three for the game.

Although not everything went my way on Monday night, it was still a very enjoyable time. It’s likely going to be decades before the Bull City hosts these events again, and it’s one of those things you may only witness once or twice in your lifetime.

For the second half of the events, I’m planning to head out to the All-Star game on Wednesday, where I hope to do better in terms of autographs, but no matter what, I’m going to have a great time, no doubt about it.

MLB Award Frontrunners At the All-Star Break

Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until after the All-Star break, and although the baseball world is looking forward to seeing Giancarlo Stanton put on a show in tonight’s home run derby (he’s the favorite to win), I wanted to focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.

For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.

Most Valuable Player Award

American League: This is finally the year that Mike Trout wins the American League Most Valuable Player award. At least, that’s what many Mike-Troutpeople are hoping. After posting amazing stats each of the past two seasons (25+ HR’s, 30+ SB’s) many felt Trout deserves to have already won an MVP or two in his career (each year the MVP went to Miguel Cabrera).

Even so, while there are a few other players being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and the always consistent Miguel Cabrera in the conversation, the Angels are nearing the top of the division thanks to another great season from Trout, who’s at the top of his game.

National League: Troy Tulowitzki is having an amazing year. Andrew McCutchen is having an even better season than the MVP one he put together last year. But Giancarlo Stanton is doing something extremely special.

No, he doesn’t have the astronomical batting average that Tulo possesses (mid .300′s), but Stanton’s power bat is keeping a counted out Marlins team in the running, despite some rough patches as of late.

Whether or not the Marlins turn things around is yet to be seen, but even if they don’t, Stanton is doing enough for him to pick up the NL MVP, in my mind.

Rookie of the Year Award

American League: It’s very likely that the running for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award is going to come down to two players once all is said Billy+Hamilton+Pittsburgh+Pirates+v+Cincinnati+-mQdzhL5gT4land done — Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. On the offensive side, Abreu’s closest rival is George Springer, who’s been one of the few bright spots for the Astros, but is batting in the low .200′s.

Abreu leads all rookies in hits, homers, slugging percentage and RBI’s, and while Masahiro Tanaka has been the pitching equivalent of Abreu — leading rookies in wins — a recent UCL injury to Tanaka will likely push Abreu over the top.

National League: Despite getting off to a slow start to his rookie campaign, speedster Billy Hamilton has made adjustments that have enabled him to succeed on the major league level.

Although thought of as mainly a speed threat — having stolen 38 bases so far this year — Hamilton has also proven to many that he can handle the bat.

Showing a little power, blasting six home runs, and coming through big, leading all National League rookies in RBI’s, with 38, Hamilton is truly the only current above average NL candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.

Cy Young Award

American League: Scott Kazmir and Masahiro Tanaka (and even Garrett Richards) are arguably in the running for American League Cy Felix HernandezYoung, but as of right now, Felix Hernandez is the front runner. Finally receiving some run support, Hernandez holds an 11-2 record to go along with a dismal 2.12 ERA over twenty games started this year.

Striking out nearly ten batters per nine innings pitched, the Mariners’ ace has proven why he’s been coined “The King” in Seattle. Hernandez could very well be crowned with the Cy Young award when the end of the season arrives.

National League: In my opinion, the NL Cy Young is Adam Wainwright’s to lose at this point. Though the runner up to Wainwright in ERA, Johnny Cueto (Kershaw doesn’t yet qualify due to innings pitched), has a legitimate case for the Cy Young, Wainwright has been unbelievable this season.

Holding opponents to a mere 1.83 ERA, Wainwright has played a big part in keeping the Cardinals near the top of the division, sitting just one game back of the first place Brewers. If Wainwright can keep up the amazing pitching, he could receive his first career Cy Young award for his 2014 campaign.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 17 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of win-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for one of the most exciting second halves in years.

Bautista & Tulowitzki Select Their Derby Teammates

The players who are planning to blast long balls in the 2014 home run derby were fully announced on Thursday, and, for the most part, I’m not extremely shocked with any of them. My original picks only included three of the selected players I wanted to see in the derby, but the new format for the home run derby (ten players instead of eight) threw me off when it came to making my selections.

My initial list included eight players, being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes (Jose Bautista hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the American League, with Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Gattis, Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig (Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the National League.

In the end, American League captain, Bautista, selected Brian Dozier, Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, and defending derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes. On the National League side of things, their captain, Tulowitzki, added Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Morneau to the mix.

All in all, a very solid group of players; though I would’ve liked to have seen rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, compete (he expressed that he wasn’t interested in participating).

As stated, the home run derby is set to see a major change in rules for the first time since match play was first introduced back in 2000. Therefore, I wanted to give a brief overview for those of you who may not have heard about the changes. The new rules are as follows:

Round 1: Five players from the American League and five players from National League compete to see who can hit the most home runs, receiving seven outs instead of the previous ten (they receive the same number of outs in every following round). The top slugging player from each individual league receives a bye, jumping automatically ahead to the third round, and subsequently giving them added rest that they’ve never been rewarded with before. The second and third place hitters in the round from each league will then move onto round two, with the bottom two pairs of players being eliminated (four total).

Round 2: With the top home run hitter from the American League and the top player from the National League in the first round skipping round two, this round sees two American League hitters and two National League hitters (the second and third place finishers from round one) squaring off. The two winners will subsequently move on to round three to take on the round one winners.

Round 3: The sole winner from the American League and National League in round two of the derby is set to take on their respective league’s winner from the first round. The player from the AL who hits the most home runs in this round will move on to the final round where they will compete against the round winner from the NL.

Round 4: For the first time ever, there is going to be a round four added to the mix. This round will see the winners from round three (one from the AL and one from the NL) going head-to-head for the title of 2014 MLB Home Run Derby champion. With the number of great power hitters that are always in the mix at this point in every derby, it’s sure to be an entertaining round.

Overall, I like the changes to the derby format. Allowing the winners from the first round to skip the following round finally gives them an advantage and motivation to try and put on a show. In the past, a lot of players have hit their stride in a round (Josh Hamilton slugged a record 28 home runs in the first round back in 2008 only to tire out and lose the derby) that ended up costing them the derby due to fatigue. A break to give them a chance to regain their energy should make things more entertaining for the players and the fans.

With the field for the home run derby set with its full slate of ten players, and with the new format for this year’s derby fully explained, I wanted to take a second to give my thoughts on how I feel the derby will go.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Round one is going to be a very interesting round. Basically being unpredictable, just about any of the players on the American League side of things has the ability to get hot and win the round. With that said, however, I feel that it’s most likely going to be Jose Bautista. Though he doesn’t have the most power of the group, he has a good combination of an ability to hit for power and total homers to do well. Coming in second and third I see it being Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones, meaning Josh Donaldson and Brian Dozier would be eliminated.

With Jose Bautista having won round one in my mind, this round would have Yoenis Cespedes going up against Adam Jones. Though Adam Jones can hit with the best of them, I’m sticking with last year’s winner, Yoenis Cespedes. Next to Giancarlo Stanton in the National League, Cespedes has arguably the best power in the derby, and should be able to make it to round three, with Jones getting knocked out.

The final round for the American League portion of the derby would then see Yoenis Cespedes hitting off against round one winner Jose Bautista. Though somewhat difficult to predict, between these two, I’d have to move Cespedes to the championship round, just beating out Bautista.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Likely to be the more impressive round one show between the two leagues is the National League. With Giancarlo Stanton in the mix, I truly don’t see anyone as having a chance at beating him out in this round. That leaves Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier and Justin Morneau, and I feel that of those, Tulowitzki and Frazier stand the best shot at advancing, even with the always entertaining Yasiel Puig in the running. That would leave Puig and Morneau as the players to be out hit in the first round.

With there a good chance that Giancarlo Stanton will have destroyed the completion in the initial round, the second round would include NL captain, Troy Tulowitzki, taking on Todd Frazier. Though Frazier has hit his share of tape measure home runs over the course of his career, I don’t think he will have enough to overtake Tulo. And thus, it’s likely that Tulowitzki will move on to face Stanton in the next round.

After skipping the second round, Giancarlo Stanton would be taking on the previous round’s winner, Troy Tulowitzki. While anything can happen in a home run derby, and certainly has in the past numerous years, I don’t think Stanton will stumble in his quest for the championship round.

Final Round

If the final, championship round of this year’s home run derby is in fact Yoenis Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton squaring off, it’s sure to be one of the best final rounds ever. Both Cespedes and Stanton have unbelievable power, and both have the strength and ability to put on long, amazing displays of power. Honestly, the final round could easily go either way, but to stick with my gut, your 2014 Major League Baseball home run derby champion will be Giancarlo Stanton, as many are already predicting.

Who I’d Like to See In the 2014 Home Run Derby

Due to the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star ballots are asking fans to once again vote for who they’d like to see participate in the home run derby (unfortunately, the votes are only a poll, and don’t actually count towards anything), it hasn’t yet been announced who the derby captains will be, as it had been by now each of the past several years. And therefore, not knowing when it will be revealed, I didn’t want to wait until then to give my take on who I’d most like to see in the derby, along with my reasoning for each pick.

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 2014 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 2014 home run derby now around three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:

American League

Nelson Cruz: One of the game’s most underrated power hitters, Nelson Cruz would be a fantastic pick for the home run derby next month. Currently leading all of Major League Baseball in home runs, Cruz would likely make it deep into the derby, possibly even reaching the final round. His ability to hit home runs seemingly at will and the overall power he possesses would make things very interesting in the derby.

Edwin Encarnacion: After breaking out back in 2012, hitting 42 home runs that season, Edwin Encarnacion has been in a groove ever since. Going on an absolute tear in May, Encarnacion has cooled down a bit as of late, but he would definitely thrive in a home run derby atmosphere. Though Target Field isn’t necessarily a hitter’s park, Encarnacion could easily make it one.

Jose Abreu: Although Jose Abreu is a rookie, he’s already done more than enough to prove that he belongs at the big league level. Coming over from Cuba to the White Sox, Abreu set a rookie record for home runs in his first month, and despite a minor setback due to an injury, Abreu hasn’t let up. If Abreu is in the derby, along with his phenom status and incredible power, he will be someone to watch closely.

Yoenis Cespedes: Winning the home run derby last season, Yoenis Cespedes is somewhat overlooked, playing for the Athletics, but he’s truly a major power threat every time he steps to the plate. Although I don’t feel he will win two years in a row, especially if the other players on my list are going up against him, Cespedes could very well surprise me, as he did in 2013.

National League

Giancarlo Stanton: If Giancarlo Stanton is one of the sluggers in the 2014 derby, I truly don’t think any other hitter stands even a slight chance. The guy is simply amazing, with arguably the most power in all of baseball. When Stanton hits a home run — which is often for him – you immediately know it’s gone. Stanton would put on an unbelievable show in the derby in a few weeks.

Evan Gattis: The true definition of a natural power hitter, Evan Gattis has raw power and can absolutely crush a ball when he squares it up. Although he likely wouldn’t make it terribly deep, with the immense talent that’s in the derby each year, he would hit his share of amazing blasts. Gattis isn’t necessarily a top pick for the derby, but I’d love to see him participate, just to see what he can do.

Carlos Gomez: While some of Carlos Gomez’s on field antics have rubbed people the wrong way, it’s a fact that he’s super-talented. Gomez isn’t a guy who hits an extremely high amount of home runs each year, but put in an environment where the only goal is to hit a homer, I think Gomez would do well. Given the underlying power that he has, Gomez might actually make it deep into the derby.

Yasiel Puig: As with Carlos Gomez, not everyone appreciates the flair that Yasiel Puig shows on a daily basis, but he’s undeniably one of the most exciting young players on the big league level today. Coming up as a rookie from Cuba in 2013, Puig helped to turn around a struggling Dodgers team, and I feel he’d put on a show in the derby (as long as he doesn’t do a bat flip after every home run).

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2014 home run derby, up at Target Field, on July 14th. 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.

The Tommy John Epidemic Not Letting Up

First it was Corey Luebke. Then it was Luke Hochevar. Following soon after was Kris Medlen, along with Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Bruce Rondon, David Hernandez, Peter Moylan, Erik Davis, Cory Gearrin, Bobby Parnell, Matt Moore, Josh Johnson, Ivan Nova, Pedro Figueroa and A.J. Griffin.Jose Fernandez

And now, reportedly, it’s Jose Fernandez.

Though it’s officially being classified as just an elbow strain, Fernandez would become the 18th major league pitcher to be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery (assuming the reports are true, and he has to have the surgery) since February 18th of this year. Meaning, Fernandez’s quest to win the 2014 National League Cy Young award, after placing third in 2013, would come to an end, as would his season.

While you don’t want a season ending injury to occur to any pitcher, you especially feel for Fernandez. Regardless of the fact that he has come across wrong in the past to a few, select players, he has a ton of fun out there on the mound and is an extremely humble guy. You don’t find both qualities all too often nowadays in major league players.

Coming off a career worst start in San Diego on Friday, in which Fernandez went just five innings, giving up five runs and raising his ERA from 1.74 to 2.44, the poor outing was the first indication that there was something wrong with Fernandez. Normally topping out at around 98 miles per hour on his fastball, Fernandez was throwing at around 91 when he was pulled from Friday’s game, and that drew a ton of attention his way as to what might be wrong. Now we know that there indeed was an issue.

If Fernandez has to undergo Tommy John surgery, it would be the first time in around a year that the Marlins have had to experience games without him toeing the rubber every fifth day. Without Fernandez for an extended period of time, it should be interesting to see how the Marlins fare. They’re off to a great start to the season, and if the pitching performances of Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Tom Koehler can continue, as well as the hot bats of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins should be able to hang in there.

But even so, the loss of Fernandez isn’t something you want to brush off too lightly, because, as stated, he’s not the only pitcher who has been lost from their team for the season. In addition to the 18 major league pitchers previously listed who have fallen victim to Tommy John surgery, 16 minor league pitchers have been faced with the crushing news as well — all since February 18th, which averages out to a new pitcher having to have Tommy John once every 2.5 days.

Something is obviously wrong, and something needs to be done.

The most Tommy John surgeries in a single year since it was first performed on Tommy John himself back in 1974 was 46 in 2012. Sitting just 12 away for 2014, with several months left to go in the season, it’s likely that the number 46 could be surpassed, and that should be enough to tommy-johnmake people pay attention.

With there having only been 31 pitchers to have the surgery from it’s debut in 1974 all the way up until 1997, there have been more pitchers so far (33) in 2014 to have the surgery than there were in that 23-year span. That’s a definite problem.

Though the cause for the need of the surgery has been debated, from a pitcher’s mechanics having an impact, to the number of pitches thrown in an outing, or the innings pitched in a season playing a role, more and more people are beginning to look into the stress put on a pitcher’s arm in their youth.

The theory is that with young pitchers, in Little League and such, throwing too hard, too often, and adding in breaking balls too early in their playing years, their arms can’t handle the stress, and they begin to break down long before they reach the majors and have a season ending injury. With year round leagues becoming more popular, as well as multiple leagues for some pitchers, everything combines together for something bad to happen, and that is appearing to be the case.

One solution being pointed out by a lot of people (other than telling kids to lighten up with their velocity and number of games pitched) is for young pitchers to pitch off a flat mound instead of one that’s the same height as a major league pitcher. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci put it, “[it] makes no sense that 13-year-old kids are pitching off the same size mound as major league pitchers. Little Leaguers should be throwing off flat ground”. I have to agree with Verducci, and if that would help minimize injuries, then I’m all for it.

While Tommy John surgery is now becoming a routine surgery, and one that many pitchers have successfully come back from (a study showed that 97 percent of pitchers make it back to the minors, with 83 percent getting back to the majors, including Tommy John who pitched 14 more years and won 164 more games after his surgery), if it can be avoided altogether, obviously, that’s the more appealing alternative.

Whatever it takes, things need to change.

If you need to lower the mound for Little Leaguers, and perhaps even the major leagues down the road — lower the mound. If you need to issue a plan for young kids with what they’re allowed to do before a certain age – issue a plan. Do something that turns around this increasing Tommy John epidemic. There are far too many of the game’s greatest pitchers having to sit out a season in their prime, and that’s beginning to get very tiresome for the fans, and, I imagine, the players themselves.

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of Untitledthe midsummer classic.

With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.

To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.

Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).

I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:

FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)

With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.

For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.

SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)

Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.

I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.

Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.

THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)

In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.

Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)

With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.

When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three 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, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.

Surprising Starts for Teams A Week Into the Season

It’s been just over a week since Opening Day launched the 2014 Major League Baseball season back on March 31st, and there have already been a lot of ups and downs for teams all around baseball, some of which were anticipated, but some that have come as a shock to many. Though we’re less than ten games into the long 162-game season, and many things can and will happen over the next several months, it’s interesting to take a look at how teams are beginning their season.

The most surprising good starts to the year, in my opinion, have to be the Mariners, Brewers, Marlins, and Rockies, as each have gotten off to an unpredicted great start.

While the Mariners picked up Robinson Cano this offseason, and made a couple of other great additions to their team as well, I’m not sure anyone predicted them to pitch and produce runs the way they’ve been able to do thus far. Everyone up and down their lineup is clickingYovani Gallardo for the most part, and their pitching has been really good. It should be interesting to see if they can keep up their 4-2 start.

The Brewers don’t really have all that much above average talent past Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, who can be hit and miss, but they’ve been able to put together a great start to the season. Going 4-2 so far this year, the Brewers, while still not predicted to do much, have shown that they have the potential to cause some problems with the rest of the teams in the National League Central division.

Down in Miami, it takes a lot to get fans excited about the Marlins, ranking year after year towards the bottom in overall attendance, however, the start to the season the Marlins have produced is more than anyone could’ve asked for. Jose Fernandez has been fantastic in his two starts, and Giancarlo Stanton seems to have found his groove earlier than usual. Looking to build on their 5-2 start, the Marlins are worth watching.

One of the great things about baseball is that you never know what may happen, and that holds true with the Rockies, who have gotten off to a .500 start of 4-4 to begin the season. Though they’re still expected to finish near the bottom of the division, with Carlos Gonzalez clicking as usual and Troy Tulowitzki finally healthy, in addition to a good start for their pitchers, they could surprise a lot of people.

But those are just the surprising good starts to the year.

On the other side of the spectrum, the most surprising bad starts to the year, in my opinion, are the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Reds and Orioles, who haven’t been able to put much together yet.

The worst start to the 2014 season in all of baseball goes to Diamondbacks, who currently stand at 2-7. That comes as a big surprise, as they made several good moves this offseason, including acquiring power bat Mark Trumbo, who is currently one of the only bright spots on the team, MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Redsbesides Paul Goldschmidt, who is always consistent. The D-backs certainly need to turn things around, but they have plenty of time to do so.

Cincinnati is one of those teams that can be good or bad, however, I thought they’d begin the year better than they have. With a 2-5 record, they sit at the bottom of their division, and with several players struggling (mainly Billy Hamilton) or injured, it could be awhile before they begin to rebound. Though, they’re still too good of an overall team to keep doing this poorly as the season goes on, in my mind.

Like the Reds, the Orioles can be good or bad depending on several factors, but what it really comes down to is their pitching. Their offense is one of the best in baseball, with strong points up and down the lineup, but they need their newly added starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to return to form for the Orioles to make a run in the division. Sitting at 2-5, it will be fun to watch the O’s in the difficult American League East.

Picking up Prince Fielder this offseason, many people (myself included) predicted the Rangers to have a great year, possibly winning the division. However, due to a ton of pitching injuries, among other things, they haven’t been able to perform to their potential, currently sitting at the bottom of the division with a 3-4 record. But despite the poor start, the Rangers should be just fine.

As stated, there is still a ton of season remaining where anything could happen. The teams that are off to a fantastic start could end up taking a tumble as the year goes on, while other teams that are struggling at the moment could very well take off on a major run. You never know what will happen throughout a given MLB season, and that’s what makes baseball so much fun.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2014 Season

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

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

1.) Albert Pujols

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

2.) Ryan Braun

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

3.) Ryan Howard

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

4.) Derek Jeter

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

1vysec_AuSt_695.) David Price

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

6.) B.J. Upton

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

7.) Stephen Strasburg

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

8.) Mike Moustakas628x471

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

9.) Matt Kemp

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

10.) Tim Lincecum

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

JUST MISSES

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

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

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

Best Players Going Into 2014 — By Age

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

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

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

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

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

20 years old: Jose Fernandez

21 years old: Manny Machado

22 years old: Mike Trout

23 years old: Yasiel Puig

24 years old: Giancarlo Stanton

25 years old: Craig Kimbrel

26 years old: Clayton Kershaw

27 years old: Andrew McCutchen

28 years old: Evan Longoria

29 years old: Max Scherzer

30 years old: Miguel Cabrera

31 years old: Robinson Cano

32 years old: Brandon Phillips

33 years old: C.C. Sabathia

34 years old: Albert Pujols

35 years old: Cliff Lee

36 years old: Carlos Beltran

37 years old: A.J. Burnett

38 years old: David Ortiz

39 years old: Derek Jeter

40 years old: Ichiro Suzuki

41 years old: LaTroy Hawkins

42 years old: No Players

43 years old: Jason Giambi

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

Top Ten Contracts I’d Give to Young Stars

With Clayton Kershaw recently receiving a 7-year, 215 million dollar deal from the Dodgers, I thought I’d go over the top young players Kershaw’s age (26 at the start of the season) or younger without extended contracts, with at least 100 games played or 100 innings pitched, that I feel would be worth a large deal (not necessarily of Kershaw’s magnitude).

Keep in mind, the players on my list might never get contracts of this amount, or they could be offered larger ones — depending on what their respective team can afford. I’m not trying to project what the future holds for each player money wise, I’m just giving my take on what I feel they’re worth, and over what period of time. Also, the players are in order of total dollar amount, not necessarily their talent level, as some positions are simply worth more money than others.

With all that said, here is my top ten list:

1.) Mike Trout — 22 years old: Contract of 10 years, 310 million dollars

There’s no doubt in my mind that Mike Trout is eventually going to receive a massive contract. After winning the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year award and going on to have an even better 2013 season, Trout is worth every dollar. At just 22 years old, Trout is the only player on my list that I’d give a 10 year contract to, with my contract coming out to 31 million a year, which would make him the highest paid player in MLB history. But he’s just going to get better and better.

2.) Giancarlo Stanton — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 130 million dollars

If Giancarlo Stanton had been completely healthy over the last couple of seasons, he’d probably be receiving more money in my contract. But citing the health issues, especially last season, I decided to give him just under 22 million a year. When healthy, he is a 30-40 home run player, and is just as deserving of a huge contract as Mike Trout.

3.) Freddie Freeman — 24 years old: Contract of 6 years, 100 million dollars

Many had Freddie Freeman in the running for the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player award, but while he didn’t win (Andrew McCutchen ended up taking home the honor) that doesn’t take anything away from the season Freeman had. At just 23 years old, Freeman recorded his first 100 RBI season last year, and should continue to be that type of player moving forward. Therefore, I’d lock him up until age 30, providing him with just under 17 million a season.

4.) Jose Fernandez — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 100 million dollars

If Jose Fernandez can perform all next season the way he did in 2013, he will be worth even more than this. Fernandez blew away the opposition last season, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award — even placing third in Cy Young award voting. At just 21 years old, Fernandez is going to be very good for a very long time, but I played it safe, for now, giving him 20 million a season (yes, I know that’s a ton for a player of his age) for the next five years. After that, sky’s the limit.

5.) Manny Machado — 21 years old: Contract of 6 years, 85 million dollars

Manny Machado could end up being worthy of the second largest contract of the players on my list, as he is capable of turning into a complete, superstar player a few years down the road, but for now he sits at number five. That’s no knock to him, however. He’s just 21 years old, and has already shown flashes of being one of the top two or three players in all of baseball. But if I had to offer him a contract tomorrow, I’d give him roughly 14 million a year until he turns 27.

6.) Stephen Strasburg — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 80 million dollars

Though he’s had a few good seasons (after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010) Stephen Strasburg hasn’t yet broken out as that super dominant pitcher many feel he can be, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 2013. Therefore, I have him at number six on my list, with a contract of 16 million a year until he turns 30. But a few good seasons could easily move him way up.

7.) Craig Kimbrel — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 75 million dollars

There is, arguably, no one better at closing out games at the moment (now that Mariano Rivera has retired) than Craig Kimbrel. Posting 40 or more saves each of the past three years, Kimbrel has overpowering stuff, and should continue to dominate as the Braves’ closer for years to come. I don’t normally like relief pitchers getting big contracts, but Kimbrel is the exception, with me giving him a contract worth 15 million a year.

8.) Bryce Harper — 21 years old: Contract of 5 years, 70 million dollars

This was difficult for me, putting Bryce Harper all the way down at number eight. He’s been hyped since the age of sixteen, and it hasn’t slowed since Harper reached the majors in 2012. But he’s just a bit “out of control” for me to place him any higher; at least for now. If he can get everything together, he has the potential to be a true five-tool player, and earn a mega-contract. From what I’ve seen so far, however, I’d give him five years to figure things out, giving him 14 million a season.

9.) Addison Reed — 25 years old: Contract of 5 years, 65 million dollars

Addison Reed — recently traded to the Diamondbacks from the White Sox — is one of the most dominant and reliable closers in all of baseball. Though he is somewhat of a question mark in terms of earned runs allowed per outing, Reed has very dominant stuff, and recorded 40 saves last season. He should remain a feared ninth inning man for years to come, earning him 13 million until he turns 30, in my book.

10.) Matt Harvey — 25 years old: Contract T.B.D.

The fact that Matt Harvey missed the last few games of 2013 and will miss the entire 2014 season, due to Tommy John surgery, and yet still makes my top ten speaks volumes for the type of player he is. Getting the start for the 2013 All-Star game, Harvey had a magnificent year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, and really put his name on the map. Once healthy, he should get a hefty contract. (It’s hard to say for sure how much he’s worth, which is why I left that to be determined down the road.)

Do you agree or disagree with my top ten? Leave a comment below.

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