Results tagged ‘ Indians ’

Surprisingly Good and Bad Performances from 2016

In baseball — much like in life — surprises can be really good or they can be really bad. A good surprise in baseball might be a player or team having an unpredicted breakout season, while a bad surprise may be defined as a team or player destined for great things having a below average year. The 2016 season has had plenty of both throughout the entire stretch.

With just over a week left until the last games of the season leading up to the playoffs, a lot has taken place that can be deemed as good surprises or bad surprises. Having said that, I wanted to take the time to go over six hitters, six pitchers and six teams who surprised the baseball world in good or bad ways, keeping in mind that it is by no means a record of all the players who fit each category, nor is it the very top options in some cases. It’s simply a broad overview meant to recap the season as a whole.

HITTERS

Surprisingly Good: Brian Dozier, Brad Miller and Adam Duvall

Over the past several seasons, Brian Dozier has been one of the best second basemen in all of baseball. However, this season, he has broken out as arguably the best second baseman in baseball. With a previous career high of 28 home runs coming last year, Dozier has been even better this season, having knocked 42 so far — the most in American League history for a second baseman. Despite the Twins having the worst record in baseball, Dozier has been a huge surprisingly bright spot in Minnesota.miller

On the same theme, Brad Miller has been the biggest standout on the Rays, with the exception of All-Star Evan Longoria. Hitting 30 homers to this point in the year, Miller has blasted more round-trippers this campaign than he had over the past three seasons (343 games) combined. For that reason, Miller has been a great surprise to Tampa Bay. Whether Miller will be this type of player moving forward or is simply having a career-year, there is little argument that he wasn’t expected to be this good when the season began.

The final player on my list is Adam Duvall. After winning a World Series ring with the Giants back in 2014, Duvall has spent the last two years in Cincinnati, where he has turned out to be an extremely productive player. After playing in just 27 games last season, in which Duvall managed to hit just 5 home runs, this season has seen Duvall breaking out to record 31 blasts. It surely was surprising to see Duvall break out in the way he did, but it certainly was of the good surprise variety for the Reds and their fans.

Surprisingly Bad: Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper

Mark Teixeira announced earlier this season that 2016 would be his final year, but he’s not going out with a bang as many of baseball’s greats have before him. Unlike his fellow retiree David Ortiz, who has recorded one of the best years in baseball history for a player 40 or older, Teixeira hasn’t been able to hit even a mere .200 and has notched only 13 homers and 38 RBI’s in 2016. Following 2015, in which Tex managed 31 homers, his year has definitely been a bad surprise for the Yankees. Even so, he is still one of the best players in recent baseball history, having hit over 400 homers in his career.heyward

When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract leading up to this season, he was obviously expected to put up All-Star numbers for Chicago. However, he has somewhat surprisingly been pretty horrible, quite frankly. Only managing to record seven home runs and a .230 average, Heyward has yet to get things going, now nearly six months into the season. Given, Heyward can turn things around with the playoffs looming, but it would take a lot for that to happen where things stand now.

Bryce Harper’s 24 home runs and 82 home runs would be a great season for any number of players around Major League Baseball. But by Harper’s standards — set last season with his MVP-earning 42 homers — Harper is having a surprisingly bad year, seeing his batting average drop nearly an entire 100 points from a year ago. There have been rumors that Harper has been playing through an injury all season long, but that’s being denied by Harper. Whether or not it’s true, Harper — who was expected to be in the running for a second straight MVP — is still having a surprisingly down year by all accounts.

PITCHERS

Surprisingly Good: Kyle Hendricks, Tanner Roark and Steven Wright

Part of a rotation that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks has surprisingly been the best pitcher of the Cubs’ entire rotation. Over the course of 28 games started for the Cubs, Hendricks has notched a mere 2.06 ERA — the best in all of baseball. By doing so, Hendricks has helped to lead the Cubs to the best record in baseball and what looks to have all the makings of a postseason run. Although it’s yet to be seen whether or not this is actually the year for the Cubs, it has certainly been the year for Kyle Hendricks.roark

Tanner Roark has been an average to above average pitcher for the Nationals over the past few years, but this season Roark has truly broken out. Holding a 2.70 ERA over 200.1 innings pitched, Roark has kept the Nats push towards October strong, despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg for a good chunk of the season, and inevitably the final several weeks. It very well may come down the Roark’s ability to keep his surprisingly good performance going in order to keep the Nationals going deep into the postseason.

I’ve been bringing up the name Steven Wright all season long, and for good reason. Despite being a knuckleballer, Wright has been one of the top surprises in terms of pitchers this season for the Red Sox. Although his historic start to the season has slowly dwindled away as the year progressed, Wright’s 3.30 ERA is still good enough to make this list. Although he is currently working to battle his way back from an injury, Wright has still recorded enough innings to prove himself to all of baseball that he is a true weapon moving forward.

Surprisingly Bad: Chris Archer, Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke

Chris Archer broke out in 2015 to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and was set to be the Rays’ ace moving into this season. But after getting off to a poor start to begin the year, Archer hasn’t been able to get much of anything going with only one more start remaining. The strikeouts are still there, as he has produced over ten strikeouts per nine innings on the year; and with the Rays’ poor collective season, Archer’s 19 losses are somewhat deceiving. But his 4.02 ERA can’t be ignored, especially following his Cy Young eligible season last year.miller

Being traded to the Diamondback’s this past offseason in exchange for Dansby Swanson, who has gone from 2015 first overall draft pick to star in the big leagues, Shelby Miller has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this year. Having never recorded a full-season ERA above 3.74 heading into this year, Miller has posted an ERA of 6.47 over 19 starts. Following Miller’s 3.02 ERA with the Braves last season, many expected Miller to help get the Diamondbacks back into the postseason, but he has been virtually no factor whatsoever.

Joining Shelby Miller as part of the D-back’s rotation, Zack Greinke was expected to help make their rotation one of the greatest in the majors. After all, with Greinke posting a historically-low 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers in 2015, he was all but guaranteed to be the number one starter for the D-backs. But this is baseball, where nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen from one year to the next. As such, Greinke has put up his worst ERA since back in 2005, notching a 4.37 ERA for his efforts in 2016.

TEAMS

Surprisingly Good: Marlins, Mariners and Indians

I didn’t know what to make of the Marlins heading into the 2016 season, but they truly surprised me in a big way. Dealing with the losses of star players such as Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton at various points in the season, for drastically different reasons, many expected the Marlins to fade away early on. But they’ve hung in there all season long, sitting five games back of a wild card spot. Inevitably, there aren’t enough games remaining for the Marlins to wind up in the playoffs, but to still be in the discussion at this point in the year is remarkable.mariners

Things are coming down to the wire for the Mariners, and they may not have enough in them to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, but they had a year that shocked a lot of people. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager all having great seasons at the right times, Seattle was able to beat a lot of teams around baseball that many felt would give them trouble. As such, they easily made my list. They may or may not make the postseason in 2016, but things are looking positive all of a sudden for them to finally get there in 2017.

Many people felt the Indians would be as good as they have been this year, but I wasn’t as convinced. I simply thought the World Series defending Royals and the always good Detroit Tigers would keep Cleveland from being relevant in the month of September. But to my surprise — as well as the surprise of some people who felt the same way I did — the Indians are sitting atop the American League Central. If they can keep things going into the playoffs, they may not be done surprising people as the postseason plays out.

Surprisingly Bad: Rays, Braves and Twins

A lot of people actually picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East division this season, with their rotation being the key to that happening. However, with Chris Archer having a rough year along with several untimely injuries, the Rays haven’t been able to come close to realizing their predicted potential. With only a week to go, the Rays are in sole possession of last place in the American League East. With the division strong once again, it remains to be seen if the Rays can turn things around in 2017 and beyond.braves

It took the Braves forever to win a single game this season, and once they finally recorded one in the win column, they still weren’t able to get much of anything going. Losing 91 games to this point in the year, the Braves are promising that 2017 will be the year things turn around, with them getting a shiny new ballpark across town. But if the Braves don’t turn things around next year in a big way from this season, their ballpark could easily turn out to be the bright spot in the entire season when all is said and done.

Much like the Braves, the Twins’ season was over before it even got started. When the final game has been recorded, the Twins will have more than likely lost 100+ games after finishing four game over .500 last year. Following that breakout performance for the Twins, many people felt that they would be able to keep it going into this year. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Twins have been one of the worst teams in recent baseball history. Although they could easily turn things around in 2017, all hope is lost for this year.

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

Learn the Name: Francisco Mejia

He’s not in the top 100 prospects. He’s not a well known name around the baseball world. But Francisco Mejia is a name that every baseball fan needs to become familiar with.

Mejia

To this point in the season, as part of the Indians’ farm system, Mejia is hitting .345 with 9 homers and 67 RBI’s combined between two different levels. While those stats are impressive in themselves, it’s his current 40-game hitting streak that is beginning to cause people to pay attention.

Although not as publicized as Major League Baseball’s all-time hit streak record of 56 games, set by Joe DiMaggio back in 1941, the minor league all-time hit streak is even more impressive in terms of the overall number. While the hits usually don’t come against major league level talent, making it not quite the feat of the big league milestone, the record of 69 straight games with a hit notched by Joe Wilhoit back in 1919 is still something very historic as a part of baseball history as a whole.

The last time Mejia didn’t record a hit in a game was over two months ago, back on May 25th. Since then, he’s been on a tear, and is making his name more known around the baseball world, becoming just the 16th player to record a hitting streak of 40 or more in minor league history. The most recent run at the record was in 2009, when James McOwen reached 45 games, but no one has come close to challenging the top mark in a very long time.

At just twenty years old, Mejia is still developing as a player, which is exciting when you think about it. While he may not go on to break the all-time hit streak record in the minors, Francisco Mejia is definitely on his way to become a very special player for the Indians.

Asdrubal Cabrera Proving His Value With the Mets

In each of the past two games, Asdrubal Cabrera has hit a home run, going 2-3 with a homer and a walk on Wednesday afternoon, in addition to producing some amazing defensive plays in the field. Although he isn’t seen as the star player he used to be by the majority of baseball fans, Cabrera is still an extremely valuable part of the Mets.

Back in 2011, Cabrera had the best season of his career, hitting 25 home runs, with 92 RBI’s and recording a .273 average, all while playing a terrific defensive shortstop. In the years since, Cabrera hasn’t had numbers anywhere near those, but he’s been consistently good, nonetheless. Cabrera

The Mets have been the beneficiaries of Cabrera’s contributions this season. After spending time with the Nationals and Rays over the past couple of seasons, Cabrera is manning the shortstop role for the Mets and is proving to be a great pickup for them.

In 70 games, Cabrera is hitting .270 with 8 homers and 24 RBI’s, but his glove work has been the most impressive. Although Cabrera won’t go down in baseball history as an all-time great shortstop, he is somewhat overlooked, in my opinion, as one of the truly best defensive infielders in the game today.

Cabrera makes nearly every play, even when the plays call for him to range a long way in one direction or another. He is one of those players who goes about his job smoothly day in and day out, making him blend in to a degree. But if you take the time to watch Cabrera on a daily basis, you can easily see the little things make him stand out in a big way.

While the Mets have some work to do in order to chase down the Nationals who have so far been the team that was expected from them last year, they still have a good enough team to make a run at the playoffs as the season progresses. Although not the most talented player on the team, Asdrubal Cabrera is helping keep the Mets in contention.

Corey Kluber Dominates for First Time In 2015

John Lackey had a decent start on Wednesday night against the Indians. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Lackey threw shutout ball in the remainder of his 5.1 inning outing, striking out two batters along the way. But Lackey’s adversary, Corey Kluber, struck out quite a few more batters in his own impressive start.Kluber

Lasting a sufficient eight innings of the ballgame — going 6.2 innings before allowing the first and only hit of the game for the Cardinals — Kluber struck out a career high 18 batters, tying the Indians’ all-time strikeout record by a single pitcher set by Bob Feller back in 1938.

After starting the season 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA over 7 starts, this amazing outing by Kluber wasn’t merely important to get him back on track, but a big deal for the rest of the team as well. Picked by many to at the very least contend for a Wild Card spot, the Indians are currently in last place in the division, having won fewer games than every other team in the American League, and needed a boost.

But this sudden turn around isn’t anything new for Kluber. After all, Kluber held a 4.32 career ERA through 2013 before exploding onto the scene in 2014. That year, Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, earning him the Cy Young award, and subsequently a 5-year, 38.5 million dollar contract extension from the Indians.

The Indians are going to need the Corey Kluber they paid for — the one like they saw on Wednesday night — for them to have any shot at meeting the preseason expectations set by many. Their offense has been underperforming, with only four of their players hitting above .300, and three of their starters ERA’s sit above 4.00. There has to be some point that the Indians finally click.

It will be interesting to see if Wednesday’s start by Kluber can get things going.

Several Teams On the Outside Looking In

Inevitably each and every Major League Baseball season a handful of teams fail to live up to expectations placed on them at the start of the year. Whether a team simply doesn’t play to the best of their ability, or if it’s injuries that keeps them from performing well, a few teams always end up short of where they were projected to finish the year.

The Diamondback’s, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays are all examples of that from the 2014 season. People from all over the baseball world selected theRangers majority of those teams to make solid pushes at the postseason, but all of them but the Rays are going to finish dead last in their division (the Rays will finish fourth in the American League east). Truly disappointing endings for what were supposed to be promising teams.

On the flip side, a few teams that no one saw coming always go on a major run in any given year, passing big time teams, and leaving many people scratching their heads as to how they’re doing it.

But while the winning streaks of underdog teams are always exciting, a lot of those type of teams can’t keep up their torrid runs for an extended period of time, subsequently falling back down to their normal levels, and missing the playoffs.

For the Marlins, Brewers and Yankees, they were those type of teams this season. No one saw them doing much of anything with the rosters they had going into the season, but they each went on runs at one point or another this season, proving a bunch of people wrong. None more so than the Brewers, who ended up being one of the biggest rise and fall team in years.

After leading the National League central division for 150 days of the season, the Brewers went into a major, major slump. A slump that caused them to plummet through the standings, currently sitting five games back of the second Wild Card spot. With under a one percent chance of making the postseason according to MLB.com, the Brewers’ year is all but over, despite their great efforts.

The Indians and Mariners are a couple of teams that are still in the race for the second Wild Card but are likely going to miss out, even after great runs this year gave their fans something to get excited about. Given under an eight percent chance of the postseason, it’s going to take an unprecedented string of events for either of them to make it in. But as has been proven time and time again with baseball, anything can happen.

Royals Playing Better Than They Have In A Decade

When Max Scherzer allowed a mere three hits over nine shutout innings in his first career complete game last week, I made the statement that, despite a dismal start to the season by the Tigers, the great outing by Scherzer could be the starting point in a turn around for the team.Untitled

But it appears I was wrong.

Lasting just four innings against the Royals on Tuesday, giving up a total of ten runs, and raising his ERA up to 3.84 on the season, Scherzer joins the long list of Tigers players who’ve struggled at some point this year.

More importantly, however, the Royals 11-4 rout of Scherzer after an 11-8 win against Justin Verlander the night before (the first time since 2011 that they’ve posted a double digit score in back-to-back games) helped them swap places with the Tigers, moving them into first place in the American League Central by a half game.

The first time the Royals have been in first place in their division this late into a season (70 games or beyond) since 2003, and the first time the Tigers haven’t held the first place spot in over a year, the great run by the Royals as of late should help to get their fan base excited, at least for the time being.

With a slow start to the year leading many people to once again assume that what was supposed to “finally” be the Royals’ year was yet again another bust, the Royals have gone from seven games back of first a month ago to leading the division. Thanks to a nine game winning streak (the longest winning streak for the Royals since July of last year) and to a struggling Tigers team, the Royals are seemingly in good shape to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985 (the longest drought in all of baseball).

It’s important to remember, however, that the AL Central is a very close division.

As I touched upon in a previous post, the Royals aren’t the only threat to the Tigers. Every single team in the entire division stands a legitimate chance at being at the top when the end of the year rolls around. Though the Tigers should be running away with things, struggles by most of their offense and the majority of their pitching staff has left more to be desired, giving every other team room to make a run.

The Twins are playing decent baseball (with the exception of a slow stretch lately); Jose Abreu and the White Sox are hanging in the mix; and the Indians are looking to pass the Tigers in a matter of days if the Tigers’ struggles continue. And thus, the Tigers need to turn things around fast.

With just under a month remaining until the All-Star break in mid-July — though teams will undoubtedly move up and down in the standings between now and then — things are setting up for an extremely exciting second half of an already eventful season.

Scherzer’s First Complete Game Stops Tigers’ Skid

After winning over 20 games last season and picking up the 2013 American League Cy Young Award, it’s hard to believe that Max Scherzer had never thrown a complete game over the course of his seven-year career heading into Thursday night’s start against the White Sox.

Max ScherzerBut after 178 previous starts without achieving the feat (the longest streak of any active pitcher without their first complete game), Scherzer was finally able to go the distance against the Sox, outpitching the equally dominant Chris Sale, throwing 113 total pitches over his nine innings of three hit, shutout baseball (it was Scherzer’s first career shutout as well) on the mound.

Moving to 8-2 on the year, with an ERA of 3.05, Scherzer’s great start helped to stop the Tigers’ three game loosing streak as well as put a little more room between them and the White Sox in the American League Central standings. When playing a division rival it becomes even more important to pickup the victory, and Scherzer made sure that happened.

One of only two divisions in all of baseball with less than ten games separating the first and last place teams (a mere four games separate the Twins at the bottom from the Tigers at the top), the Tigers are looking to begin turning around a somewhat disappointing year by their standards.

With the team the Tigers possess (Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez on the offensive side; Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on the pitching side) many people agree that they should be running away with the division as they had been predicted to do. But despite their strong team on paper, not a lot has been going well for the Tigers this season.

Justin Verlander — once one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball — and Joe Nathan — once one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball — are both trying to figure things out, along with the majority of the Tigers’ pitching roster. With their lineup being hit or miss on any given night (except for Miguel Cabrera, who’s having a great year despite a slow start, and Victor Martinez, who’s having a career season), it’s still going to take a lot for the Tigers to begin increasing their current lead.

Although the Tigers currently sit atop the division, they hold only a two game lead over the Royals. With the Royals on a four game winning streak, and the White Sox, Indians and Twins all within a few games of first place, the Tigers shouldn’t be panicking quite yet, as there’s still plenty of season remaining. However, they need to pay close attention before things get too far out of hand.

With such a small margin separating the Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Indians and Twins in the division, no matter how you look at it, any team in the American League Central currently has a chance at finishing in first place at the end of the season. While it’s a long shot at best for a couple of the teams, if the Tigers want to be the division winners, they’re obviously going to have to start playing better.

But if Max Scherzer’s dominant outing was any sort of sign of what’s to come, the Tigers could easily begin to pull away from the rest of the pack in the upcoming weeks before the All-Star break.

My Busy Upcoming Baseball Game Schedule

Every now and again, I like to post an entry covering my baseball game plans and such for an upcoming week or two, especially when it’s going to involve a rather busy schedule. Although I try to avoid too difficult of a schedule, when several good teams come to town in a short period of time, sometimes it can’t be helped. For the next couple of weeks that’s going to be the case.

Starting on Friday, I’m going to be attending the first of what will be five minor league baseball games in two weeks, to see some of baseball’s 536ac5c2910c8_imagefuture stars in person as well as get an autograph or two from as many of them as I can. While five games in two weeks could sound hectic — and to a certain degree it is — I have it all planned out so that everything will, hopefully, go smoothly.

Friday’s game will be my sixth MiLB game of the season so far, and my first Mudcats game of 2014. (Four of the games I’ve been to have taken place in Durham, with the other game occurring down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.) It will be the Mudcats taking on the Pelicans, who are the High-A affiliate of the Rangers.

Though I’ve seen the Pelicans once this year, and therefore have already gotten many of the players’ autographs, I couldn’t pass up seeing them once again with the level of talent on the team. From Jorge Alfaro (their number one prospect) to Joey Gallo (who led all of the minors in home runs last season, with 40) and numerous players in between, it’s sure to be a fun game.

My next game will take place sometime during the following week (I haven’t decided the exact date yet). It will be another Mudcats game, but this time they’ll be squaring off against the Blue Rocks (Royals’ affiliate).

The Blue Rocks has its fair share of top prospects, despite them having underachieved for the most part in 2014. Including names such as Raul Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Bubba Starling (who has unfortunately seemed lost throughout his past three minor league seasons), it’s well worth the trip out to the ballpark for another game.

Then begins the somewhat crazy week of games.

On Monday, June 2nd, I’m planning on heading over to Durham (for what will be the first time in nearly a month) to see a game against the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, the IronPigs.

While it isn’t an overall fantastic team, with Maikel Franco (their number one prospect) being the main standout, with it being a day game, it’s sure to be an enjoyable time, as is any game. But there’s just something different about a day game (not necessarily better, just different) that’s makes the game special.

UntitledFollowing that game, either on Tuesday or Wednesday (just not Thursday due to the 2014 MLB draft which I plan to watch on MLB Network), I’m heading back out to the Mudcats to see the opposing White Sox affiliate, the Dash.

The Dash’s roster includes names such as Tim Anderson (their first pick in the 2013 draft), Courtney Hawkins (their first pick in the 2012 draft), and future pitching star, Tyler Danish, among a few other standouts. As a team with so much high talent, it should be an entertaining game, in addition to being a good time for autographs.

The last game in the busy two week span will take place on the following Friday, when I’m heading over to Durham once again to see the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox, who have quite the team.

Currently with a roster of five of the Sox top ten prospects, including Allen Webster, Garin Cecchini, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez, as well as some former big leaguers, the Pawtucket team is a very good one — and one that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That game will end the planned five games in two weeks schedule, in which it should be interesting to see how much I can add to my autograph totals for the year. Over the five games I’ve attended thus far, I’ve amassed 20 autographs, with four of those being from top 100 prospects. While I haven’t blogged about any of those games (I’ll probably be blogging about at least one of the games over the next two weeks) I’m still going to do a recap at the very end of the season, like I did last year, covering how my time went out at the ballpark in 2014.

With there still being two and a half months remaining, even after the games I’ve planned out, including the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in July (I’ll definitely be blogging about both of those), there’s going to be a ton of opportunities to add to my overall autograph totals.

My First Game of 2014; Big Autograph Expectations

After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.

Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game. Untitled

The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.

As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.

However, they’re not alone.

The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.

But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.

The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May.  The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite All-Star-Game-Final-2014for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.

But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.

From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.

More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.

From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.