Results tagged ‘ Mariners ’

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.

How the Major Offseason Pickups Did On Opening Day

Opening Day is the most exciting day of the year as far as baseball fans are concerned. With it comes lofty expectations, of both individual players and teams, as well as predictions for how every team will fare. But the best part of Opening Day is that, being the first game of the year, it gives every team — no matter how good or bad they may turn out to be — the opportunity to have a great deal of optimism for the coming season.

While the hopes and dreams of certain teams and fans alike will dwindle as a given season goes on, game one of the long season provides fans their first look at the key pickups their team made during the offseason, with the hopes that the moves they made will lead them to a World Series title. Whether it be by a trade or a free agent signing, each and every team always does something in the offseason to attempt to improve their team for the following year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go over how the major (non-pitching) offseason additions performed in their first game with their new team, and give my thoughts on each player. While not every name is listed, pretty much all of the major players are:Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu: 2-4, with an RBI single

Yet another predicted future phenom to make his way over from Cuba, Jose Abreu impressed many people throughout Spring Training, and he continued to do so on Opening Day. Going 2-4, with one of his two hits scoring a run, Abreu didn’t show off the power in his first big league game, however, the natural pop he has in his bat was evident. With the White Sox being somewhat of a question mark for the coming season, Abreu, if nothing else, will go a long way in bringing attention to the team.

Marlon Byrd: 2-6, with a solo homer

Part of a long list of player who’ve tested positive for performance enhancing drugs over the years, with his suspension coming in 2012 , Marlon Byrd is coming off a breakout season spent between the Mets and Pirates last year, and is looking to prove that he can continue to be that type of player moving forward. Hitting a career high 24 home runs last season, Byrd is well on his way to reaching the lofty total yet again, going 2-6 with a home run in his first game in a Phillies uniform since 2005.

Jhonny Peralta: 0-4

Moving from the Tigers to the Cardinals this past offseason, Jhonny Peralta can be an impact player on any club. Despite a performance enhancing drug suspension last season, Peralta was signed by the Cards to man the shortstop position for the coming season, and while he went hitless in his first game of the year (he looked solid defensively), many are looking for Peralta to have a great season. With an already fantastic team from top to bottom, Peralta could find himself apart of a very special season.

Nelson Cruz: 1-2, with a solo homer

Yet another player who served a suspension last season due to performance enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz is a major power threat, nonetheless, and was a great pickup by the Orioles. He proved that threat first hand on Opening Day, blasting a solo home run in one of his two official at-bats of the game. With a lineup of several power sources already — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, once he returns — Cruz combines together to make for a very formidable Orioles lineup.

Michael Morse: 1-3, with a strikeout

Though he isn’t the best power hitter in baseball, Michael Morse has the potential to go on hot streaks in which he can rack up a good amount of home runs in no time. Bouncing around between teams over the past few seasons, Morse wound up with the Giants this past offseason, and is sure to be a key part of their lineup moving forward. Going 1-3 on Opening Day, Morse is part of a very good Giants team, and if he can perform to his potential throughout the year, they could do very well.

Grady Sizemore: 2-4, with a solo homer

One of the best stories of the year, Grady Sizemore joined the Red Sox in January, after not having played in a major league game since 2011 due to a multitude of injuries. He was subsequently put up against promising prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. during Spring Training, having to prove himself worthy of the Opening Day center field spot. Sizemore wound up having a fantastic Spring, winning the job, and had a great 4ufdt_St_58return game in Baltimore, going 2-4, including a towering home run to right field.

Prince Fielder: 1-5

Part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler, the Rangers definitely have a much better lineup than they did last season. While Fielder went just 1-5 on Opening Day, on a mere single, he possesses one of the biggest power bats in all of baseball. He should get things going and come close to, if not exceeding, his previous averages of over 30 homers and 100 RBI’s a season. For the Rangers to beat out the Athletics in the division, they need Fielder to get hot.

Shin-Soo Choo: 0-4

Known for getting on base better than pretty much anyone all of last season, putting together a .423 on base percentage, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a major deal this offseason, looking for him to continue to be the same type of player. But he didn’t start his year off all that well, going 0-4 in game one, though he did reach first on a walk. Despite his poor debut with the Rangers, Choo should be fine. He’s not going to hit you a ton of home runs, but if he can get on base, the rest of the lineup will take care of the runs.

Ian Kinsler: 0-4

The piece that the Tigers got in return for sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler can contribute both offensively and defensively. Though the Tigers lost a major run producer in Fielder, and they will undoubtedly miss his presence throughout the long season (with Miguel Cabrera having to carry the Tigers more than ever), Kinsler, although he went hitless in his first game in a Tigers uniform, should make an impact for the Tigers, who are predicted by many to run away with the division.

Mark Trumbo: 3-5, with two RBI’s

Coming over to the Diamondbacks from the Angels this offseason, Mark Trumbo can launch a baseball like very few others can. With that power threat comes a major impact player, as Trumbo played a big role in the Angles lineup and will undoubtedly be a big piece of the D-backs’ lineup. Going 3-5, with a pair of RBI’s, in his first game of the season, Trumbo certainly didn’t disappoint in what could turn out to be a big year for him if he can get everything going from here on out.

Curtis Granderson: 0-5, with three strikeouts

Moving across town this past offseason, Curtis Granderson surprised many when he exchanged his Yankees pinstripes for those of the Mets. But although Granderson is supposed to be one of the top power threats in the Mets lineup — hitting over fourty home runs in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons – he disappointed in his Opening Day start. Striking out three times in a hitless five at-bats, Granderson certainly didn’t show much of anything, but he should still get up around the thirty homer range when all is said and done.Untitled

Robinson Cano: 2-4

The top free agent of the offseason, many felt that Robinson Cano would remain a New York Yankee for the entire length of his career. But instead, Cano signed a mega deal with the Mariners keeping him in Seattle for the next ten seasons. In his first game with his new club, Cano went 2-4, including a double late in the game. Though many people are predicting a fall in Cano’s power numbers, with him playing home games at Safeco Field, Cano proved that his consistency will likely remain.

David Freese: 0-4, with two strikeouts

With the loss of David Freese to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals are a slightly weaker team than they were last year. However, Matt Carpenter, previously their second baseman, took over Freese’s spot at the hot corner, and is expected to do a great job. On the Angles end of the trade, they picked up what should be a decent upgrade at third. Freese didn’t do much in his Angels debut, going hitless in four at-bats, but he looked good defensively, and his bat will surely come around to give the Angels a great overall lineup.

Justin Morneau: 1-4, with a strikeout

Having been moved from the Twins to the Pirates in the second half of last season, Justin Morneau found himself joining the Colorado Rockies this offseason, giving them some much needed pop in their lineup. While Morneau can be an impact player, the Rockies simply don’t have a good enough team to put together all that great of a season. Therefore, even though Morneau went a mere 1-4 in his Rockies debut, he should continue to be consistent, with the Rockies’ poor performance as a whole staying consistent as well.

The Injury Bug: Numerous Players To Miss Time

Another day, another injury. It seems that’s been the common theme as of late, with Michael Bourn, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman and Jurickson Profar being the most recent players to fall victim to what’s become somewhat of an injury epidemic around Major League Baseball.

While every year brings injuries throughout both the offseason and the regular season, this year seems to be above average in that department, Kris Medlenand the season hasn’t even begun yet. Including names such as Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, and Jarrod Parker, among many others, the list of players set to miss Opening Day — the entire season for some players — due to injury continues to grow larger. Although some players aren’t that big of a loss overall, some will have a drastic impact on their team’s success.

None more so than the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the Braves. Both are set to miss the entire season due to the second Tommy John surgeries of their careers, and losing these key pieces to the Braves’ starting rotation will likely have a profound impact on how they perform as a whole. I had the Braves winning the National League East division in 2014, as they did last season, however, the subtraction of these players from the roster could cause them to fall down in the rankings a bit.

But the Braves aren’t the only team that could fall down a bit due to an injured player.

Patrick Corbin being out for what could be the entire season will have an effect on the Diamondback’s performance this season. Corbin really broke out last year, and was set to lead their starting rotation throughout the coming season. But without him, while the D-backs should still be a good team, they won’t be able to give the Dodgers a run for the division title like they previously would’ve possibly been able to do.

However, the team that will likely see the second biggest drop, behind the Braves, from their predicted finish will be the Athletics, who will beUntitled without A.J. Griffin for a good bit of time, but more importantly won’t have Jarrod Parker for the entire season. He, like many pitchers I’ve discussed, is undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until 2015. With Parker out, the A’s will have a difficult time overtaking the Rangers in the American League West division as they’ve done the past two seasons.

Not all of these injuries have occurred recently, though. A few players that won’t be ready for Opening Day had their injuries happen much earlier than this offseason or Spring Training.

Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Matt Kemp, and Matt Harvey are all missing a good deal of time due to nagging injuries from 2013, with Matt Harvey (and possibly Jose Iglesias as well) out for the full length of the season. When healthy, all have extreme impacts on their respective teams, so, obviously, not having them being their productive selves is a big loss.

But despite all of the injuries that seem to grow in number everyday, these are the types of things teams just have to play through. You have to compete with what you have. And therefore, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting 2014 season, with there now being just six days until Opening Day.

American League Predictions for 2014

For the third season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Red Sox to finish last in 2013 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Orioles

5. Blue Jays

Originally, I had the Yankees winning the division, but the more I thought about it the more I second-guessed the choice. The Red Sox are far too good of a team to ignore, and should have just enough to beat out every other team in the American League East. What really puts them over the Yankees when it comes to deciding first and second place is their pitching depth. Not just their starting rotation, but their bullpen as well. From Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey, to a top of the line closer in Koji Uehara, there is a ton of talent to keep the opposing teams from scoring runs. As far as their own lineup goes, it’s one of the best in the division, with a good mix of veterans — David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, A.J. Pierzynski — as well as young future stars — Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks. And therefore, they should be able to win the division, yet again.

The Yankees did a lot of things right this past offseason, and I really feel confident in them for the coming year, but I can’t quite see them placing first. They lost their All-Star closer, Mariano Rivera, and didn’t really address that by signing another closer to take his place. On the topic of pitching, their starting pitching improved a bit with the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, but it will take a bounce back year from C.C. Sabathia, and the rest of their rotation, for the Yankees to pitch themselves to a lot of wins. But what they lack in pitching, they more than make up for in their lineup. Newcomers Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will go a long way in helping the offense score runs. Even without their star second baseman, Robinson Cano, to provide a major power threat, the Yankees still have a chance to go far, in this Derek Jeter’s farewell season.

There were a lot of rumors this offseason that the Rays’ 2012 Cy Young winner, David Price, was going to be traded. But that didn’t happen, which is what will help them barely beat out the Orioles, in my opinion. If Price can return to form, combined with Chris Archer, Matt Moore and the remaining players of their entire pitching staff, including newly acquired Grant Balfour to fill their closer role they lost when Fernando Rodney left, the Rays will be good to go. Their lineup is decent, with Evan Longoria and Wil Myers being the standouts, and with James Loney and Ben Zobrist likely being good yet again, their overall lineup should be good enough to compete. Towards the end of the 2013 season, the Rays went on a run, and if they can do that at the right times throughout this year, they could surprise some people.

The Orioles have the ability to beat out the Rays for third, but I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough to get there. I have them finishing next to last, as despite adding Nelson Cruz to go along with Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis as the big impact players in their lineup, they don’t have the best pitching. Signing Ubaldo Jimenez will go a long way in making them a good team if he is able to have a breakout year, but losing their All-Star closer, Jim Johnson, to the Athletics, will hurt them at the end of games, as they have no true replacement for him. If everyone up and down the lineup and all throughout the bullpen can get going, the Orioles could move up the division ranks, and make a push. But I don’t see that happening until their top prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are full time members sometime next season.

Last season after signing so many impact players in the winter months, many had the Blue Jays making the playoffs, with some going as far as to predict a World Series championship for Toronto. I thought those predictions were a little far fetched, and I predicted a fourth place finish for them, despite having some veteran proven pitchers such as R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. After they disappointed many by finishing dead last in the AL East last season, I’m putting the Blue Jays last again. They didn’t do a whole lot this offseason, and if anything they got a little worse by losing some players to free agency. It would take a near perfect and injury free season by their star players Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie, as well as perfect years by all of their starting pitchers, for them to compete in their division. To me, that’s an awful lot to ask out of the Jays.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

There’s no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the American League Central. Although they lost one of the biggest bats in the game, Prince Fielder, trading him away for Ian Kinsler, who will play second, freed up their options. Meaning 2012 Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, will now move back to first, with top prospect, Nick Castellanos, taking over his spot at third base. With Jose Iglesias at shortstop, who could pick up a Gold Glove this season, there really aren’t any holes in their infield, or anywhere in their entire lineup for that matter. And that continues with their pitching staff. The Tigers have a superb starting rotation, with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, and strengthened the back end of their bullpen by signing proven closer, Joe Nathan. Everything combined together, the Tigers could have a magical season.

This is finally the year for the Royals, in my mind. They made a strong push towards the end of last season, with their first baseman, Eric Hosmer, beginning to play like many predicted he was capable of, but they came up just short. This season, however, the Royals have enough to finish second if they can get everything to come together. Their starting rotation won’t dominate, but it will do fairly well, from James Shields to rookie Yordano Ventura. They have one of the best, under the radar, closers, Greg Holland, and he should have a great year again. In addition, their consistent players such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will continue to perform, but it will take production from players like Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas (he has something to prove this season) for the Royals to make any sort of a deep playoff push.

The Indians made the playoffs last season via the Wild Card, quickly being eliminated, but I don’t see them getting back this year. I have them finishing third, but a down year by the Royals could see them moving up a spot. Their rotation has the potential to be good, with Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar leading the way, but they lost Scott Kazmir, and need Trevor Bauer to finally come through for them more than ever. As far as their lineup goes, it’s pretty good. Yan Gomes will likely be their catcher, with Carlos Santana transitioning to third, and Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis will contribute both offensively and defensively, along with Jason Giambi providing the Indians some pop. Francisco Lindor, their top prospect, could see major league time towards the end of the season, but it likely won’t be enough to push them over the edge.

While the White Sox probably won’t do much this season, finishing next to last in my book, they will have a slightly better season than the one they had last year. Chris Sale, one of the best players on the team, will be the leader of their starting rotation, which is good but no where near great. Another spot where they have a ton of holes is their lineup, however, Jose Abreu is set to be the next big, power hitter out of Cuba, so it will be interesting to see how he does. If he can perform well, along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who have been known for years for their power, the Sox should have a decent year. One of the biggest things that will hurt them is the loss of their overpowering closer, Addison Reed, who was great at finishing out games for them. With so many question marks and missing pieces, it will take a lot for the White Sox to finish any better than fourth.

I have the Twins finishing last again, but it will likely be the final year for awhile. They have numerous top prospects coming up in the next few years, including Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, and those players will definitely have an incredible impact. But with the players they have for this season, they will likely have a subpar year. With a rotation of Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes, among others, the Twins don’t have a true ace of their pitching staff like a lot of teams do. They also no longer have Justin Morneau at first base, losing him in the second half of last year, and the rest of their infield is a question mark. One of their stronger points is their outfield, with Aaron Hicks and Josh Willingham, as well as newly signed catcher, Kurt Suzuki, but those players alone won’t be enough to win the Twins many games in 2014.

WEST

1. Rangers

2. Athletics

3. Mariners

4. Angels

5. Astros

Trading away Ian Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder will really go a long way in helping the Rangers beat out the Athletics for the number one spot in the AL West. Adding Fielder to an already great infield of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, will give the Rangers their first production from first base since Mark Teixeira left in 2007. The only thing that could hurt the Rangers is their pitching, as Derek Holland will miss the first portion of the season, along with a few other of their key pieces. Yu Darvish will be dominant again, and Tommy Hanson, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross will help a bit, but the loss of their closer, Joe Nathan, will have somewhat of an effect. If newcomer Shin-Soo Choo can produce from the leadoff spot the same as he was able to do in 2013, the Rangers, and several players on their team, could have an amazing year.

As far as the Athletics go, although they’ve won the division the past two seasons and made some fairly good moves this offseason as they seem to always do, they don’t have the lineup threats that the Rangers do. They do, however, have an overall better pitching staff (especially in the bullpen) with young stars Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily leading the rotation. A pickup of Scott Kazmir and closer Jim Johnson will have a great impact on their success throughout the coming season, as will Coco Crisp and Eric Sogard, who really broke out in 2013. But it will take great seasons from Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick for the A’s to make a run at beating out the Rangers. With the seasons they’ve been able to put together without any superstars on the team, however, it wouldn’t be all that difficult for the Athletics to surprise me.

The Mariners, with all of the offseason moves they made, could potentially place better than third place, but I’m projecting them to disappoint a lot of people. The biggest signing they made was undeniably the top free agent of the offseason, Robinson Cano, for the next ten years. He will go a long way in turning the Mariners back around. But other than Cano, and possibly Corey Hart who they signed as well, there’s no major power threat in the lineup. Logan Morrison will add some average hitting, and young players such as Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager and Brad Miller will be decent. The one player that needs to produce is Dustin Ackley, but you never know with him. Their pitching should be excellent, with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, etc., as well as new closer, Fernando Rodney, but if they don’t produce a ton offensively, it won’t do them much good.

After really disappointed a lot of people last season, the Angels could very well could do so again this year, finishing next to last in my opinion, as they didn’t do a lot to get much better this offseason. Their rotation doesn’t extend much past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, though they did pick up promising prospect Tyler Skaggs. While Mike Trout is going to be amazingly good, as he has proven he can be, and I feel Albert Pujols will have a bounce back year, Josh Hamilton isn’t really looking all that promising. Also, although they picked up David Freese this offseason, they lost a huge impact bat in Mark Trumbo, and really don’t have any other major impact players to place in their lineup. While they certainly have the pieces to surprise many people this year if everything goes right, I just don’t see it happening for the Angels.

It’s becoming routine for the Astros to finish dead last, and they will likely do so again this season, but on a brighter note, they could possibly finish with fewer than 100 losses, which they haven’t been able to do since 2010. The Astros don’t have any impact players to speak of for their rotation or lineup, but one of their top prospects, George Springer, if called up soon enough, could play a big role in the outfield. Jarred Cosart will likely be their best starting pitcher, with players such as Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez making some noise with their bats. However, it won’t be enough to do any better than fifth. But it shouldn’t be long until the Astros are moving up in their division, as they have several fantastic prospects coming up in the next year or two. From Mark Appel to Carlos Correa, the Astros could have a very formidable team in the very near future.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

2014 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching the opening-series of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, down in Australia on March 22nd, and so begins the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun.

I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2014:

Voting ends on March 22nd.

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.

Major League Baseball Ballparks I’ve Been to

After hours of searching the internet (mainly MLB.com) for topics to discuss in a blog post, I couldn’t really come up with anything all that worthwhile. Although there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential things to write about, nothing caught my attention enough to publish something on. (Thank goodness Spring Training games start soon.)

Therefore, I decided to type up a post on the MLB ballparks I’ve been to in my life — in chronological order – and tell a little about my time spent at each one. While that may not be all that exciting to read about (sorry?), I figured it might appeal to some. Living in North Carolina, I can’t make it to MLB games too often, and thus, I’ve been to nine major league ballparks in my life — some more than once — with them being:

Turner Field — Home of the Atlanta Braves

One of only two ballparks I’ve been to more than once, I first visited Turner Field way back in 2002. It was my first ever baseball game, and I didn’t know who was playing (the Cubs), nor the basic rules of the game. All that I knew was that there was some sort of sport going on. A lot has certainly changed since then — I’m a huge baseball fan now — but this game was the first professional baseball action of my life, and will subsequently always be a special memory.

My second visit to see the Braves play came in 2009, against the Yankees . . . . :

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. . . . followed by another visit the following year for a couple of games against the Mets and the Giants (seen below):

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The Yankees would go on to win the 2009 World Series, with the Giants going on to win the 2010 World Series. So, I guess you could say I bring teams long-term luck at Turner Field — just not the Braves.

Citizens Bank Park — Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In what would turn out to be their final year of existence, my first game in Philadelphia saw the Phillies taking on the Montreal Expos, back in 2004. I don’t have any pictures from the game, but I remember it fairly vividly; except for the fact that the manager of the Expos was Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. That I don’t remember, but it’s neat to look back and say, at least, that I saw him. (Or, I think I did.)

Comerica Park — Home of the Detroit Tigers

Yet another game against the Yankees, this game was took place back in 2005, and included the likes of Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez. Though I remember the game, I still didn’t care about baseball all that much. That is, until Bernie Williams hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning, which is the one moment from the game that sticks out in my mind, and really began my baseball obsession. (I even wrote a blog post on it.)

PNC Park — Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates

PNC Park was the first ballpark I can recall saying “wow” at. Not in reaction to a miraculous play made in the game, but as response to the beauty of the stadium itself. It’s truly one of the most scenic parks I’ve been to, and although this was the only time I’ve ever been (July 2, 2006, against the Tigers), I have no doubt that I’ll be back one day. Especially now, with the Pirates finally having a team worth seeing; making the playoffs for the first time in my life last year.

Fenway Park — Home of the Boston Red Sox

Beautiful in its own way, Fenway Park is my favorite ballpark I’ve ever visited — hands down. The historic aspect to the park is enough to make it number one on my list of stadiums visited, as not too many places can you say that players such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski have played on the same field at one point in time. This particular game was in 2008, against the Diamondbacks, and despite a Red Sox loss, it was an all around amazing time.

Great American Ballpark — Home of the Cincinnati Reds

After a first attempt to visit this ballpark in 2011 resulted in a rainout, 2012 brought my first ever game at Great American Ballpark:

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It turned out to be Reds’ Hall of Fame induction day, and although it wasn’t planned that way, it was an extremely full day of baseball fun. Starting early in the morning, with a meet and greet with former Reds greats — including Eric Davis and the 2012 inductees Dan Driessen and Sean Casey — and ending with a great Reds win, this was one of the more entertaining MLB games I’ve ever been to.

Kauffman Stadium — Home of the Kansas City Royals

I’m counting this as a ballpark I’ve been to, as although I’m yet to see a “game” here, I went inside the park and witnessed an MLB event, in this case, the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium:

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This wouldn’t even be on the list if it wasn’t for State Farm. As you may recall if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, I received an all expense paid trip to the 2012 derby in Kansas City, which I attended with my grandpa. Prince Fielder ended up taking home his second derby title, and I was able to add another ballpark to my list.

Camden Yards — Home of the Baltimore Orioles

One of the most recent ballparks I’ve visited, just last year, Camden Yards could very well be the most amazing MLB park in all of baseball when you combine everything together. (Though, I can’t make a fair conclusion, since I’m still far from having been to them all.) The fans are electric, the park itself is perfectly designed, and it certainly was a fun time:

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With the help of a couple of Chris Davis homers, the Orioles cruised to an easy 11-3 win against the Yankees in this particular game.

Safeco Field — Home of the Seattle Mariners

The last ballpark I’ve visited up to this point in time — I attended the Mariners-Twins game on July 26, 2013 – Safeco Field wasn’t my favorite ballpark I’ve ever been to (don’t get me wrong, it was incredible) but the city views were definitely better than any I’ve witnessed at an MLB stadium:

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Felix Hernandez pitched a gem of a game, but would go on to get a no decision in a tough Mariners’ loss. Nonetheless, this made the ninth ballpark I’ve been to, and I don’t plan on stopping until I’ve been to all thirty. Hopefully that won’t take too terribly long.

While that concludes the ballparks I’ve been inside, I’ve seen five other stadiums in passing which I thought I should include anyway. I won’t spend very long discussing them, since there isn’t really a great story behind the encounter, but I do want to mention them anyway.

Back in 2006, on a family vacation to New York City, I was lucky enough to see the exterior of the Old Yankee Stadium, which has since been torn down. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out to the games during our trip, which led to having to settle with a game in Pittsburgh (as described above).

The final four ballparks I’ve “seen” include U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox’ park), Nationals Park, Busch Stadium (Cardinals’ park) and Chase Field (Diamondbacks’ park). My distant views of the parks came from an airplane, for U.S. Cellular Field, and the highway, for Nationals Park, Bush Stadium and Chase Field.

As you’d probably agree, all of the parks listed after Safeco Field don’t officially count.

But I have no doubt I’ll see games in them some day.

Pitchers & Catchers Report; 2014 Autograph Requests

Due to the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ opening-series that’s set to take place on March 22nd and 23rd in Australia, Spring Training action is beginning a bit earlier than usual this year. The Diamondbacks have their pitchers and catchers reporting today, with the UntitledDodgers’ pitchers and catchers reporting on Saturday. Therefore, for the first time since the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series over three months ago, baseball is finally back.

But while the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are getting started this week, the remainder of the teams won’t begin reporting until next week, anywhere from the 11th to the 17th: The Indians report date is set for Tuesday; the Cardinals and Mariners will begin on Wednesday; the Braves, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Nationals, Angels and Padres report Thursday; the Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Cubs, Reds, Royals and Athletics arrive on Friday; the Red Sox, Astros, Mets, White Sox, Rockies, Brewers and Giants on Saturday; the Marlins, Twins and Rangers report on Sunday; and the Blue Jays begin on Monday. (The rest of the players for all the teams will report anywhere from 3 to 7 days after their respective pitchers and catchers.)

Once all of the pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training on February 17th, there will be a mere 33 days until the 2014 Major League Baseball season gets underway in Australia. I, for one, can’t wait.

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.) Every Spring Training, for the past two or three years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out a dozen, or so, TTM’s, with the best player being Clayton Kershaw.

201303271540564290038-p2While that might seem like a long shot — and it very well may be — Kershaw, surprisingly, has been known to sign through the mail over the past few years; the only downside being that it takes over a year for him to return it to you.

Though his recent record breaking contract, and second Cy Young award, may lead to him getting even more fan mail, causing a subsequent stop of him signing for fans that write to him, Kershaw is good enough for me to take a chance on. Even if I don’t get anything back, at least I tried.

Other MLB players I’m sending to include Taijuan Walker (who made his MLB debut in 2013), David Robertson, Kolten Wong, Cody Asche, Mike Napoli and Jake Marisnick. All of these players have been known to be decent TTM signers, with Walker and Robertson being nearly automatic over the past couple years. Asche told me that he tries to sign everything that gets sent his way, so I’m fairly confident I’ll get that one back at least.

I’m also sending to several Minor League players who were invited to Major League Spring Training this year — some for the first time ever. Those players include Archie Bradley, Kyle Zimmer, Mark Appel, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. All five of these players will be in the majors at some point over the next few years, with Bradley likely making his big league debut this season. Bradley, Zimmer and Appel have all told me that they sign TTM, so I feel like I’ll get those back. Almora has been hit and miss recently, and I doubt Bryant will, but I’m sending to both of them anyway, because you never know.

Last year I sent off eleven autograph requests to Spring Training and received back six of them, from Jason Motte, Danny Hultzen, Stephen Romero, Sonny Gray, Tyler Skaggs and Casey Kelly. That’s pretty good as far as TTM’s go. If I get back five or six of the dozen I’m sending off this year — which is what I expect to receive – I’ll be happy.

I’m planning to post a blog entry every time I receive back a couple autographs from the players I’m sending TTM requests to during Spring Training, just as I did last year. Hopefully it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back for that over the course of the next couple months.

Pay Increase, Stat Decrease for Some In 2014

Money talks. That was proven time and time again this offseason.

As usually happens, nine times out of ten, the team that offers a player the most amount of money will acquire the prized player; no matter if that team won the World Series the previous year or finished dead last. Offer a player more than any other team and you’ll likely have him on your squad for the next year, and even beyond in some cases.

There’s no better example of that from this offseason than the Mariners landing Robinson Cano on a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract, increasing his pay from the 15 million he earned with the Yankees in 2013 all the way up to 24 million for t131212_cano_signs_lghe next 10 seasons. While the Mariners undoubtedly overpaid for Cano, no other team offered him as much, and therefore he will play 81 games (assuming he doesn’t get injured) up in Seattle in 2014.

But that could mean a noticeable statistic drop for Cano this season.

Safeco Field is known for not being a home run friendly park. Cano goes from Yankee Stadium, with a short right field porch great for lefties like himself, where he blasted 25 or more home runs each of the past five seasons (given, not all of those were at Yankee Stadium), to Safeco field, where many are predicting that his numbers will fall. While I’m not saying that Cano is going to be a flop in Seattle — he’s far too good for that — I do believe that 2014 could be a slightly down year by his standards.

Curtis Granderson is another example of a player whose stats could tumble in 2014.

Although he was injured a lot this past season, Granderson launched over 40 home runs the previous two years, and while he usually doesn’t post a high batting average, he can be a big part of any team. But I’m not sure he can amass the same type of numbers at Citi Field, where he will spend the next 4 years in which he’ll take in 60 million dollars, as he did at Yankee Stadium. Like Cano, Granderson is losing the home run hitting paradise for a lefty at Yankee Stadium and is entering a pitcher’s ballpark. Moving across town, Granderson could have a good, but not amazing (like previous seasons), 2014.

Jhonny Peralta could also wind up being a disappointment.

Peralta’s drop in production won’t likely come from a ballpark change, but rather the fact that players coming of a performance enhancing drug suspension, such as the one Peralta served in 2013, don’t historically do all that well; such as Melky Cabrera in 2013. Getting an increased pay of over 9 million dollars for next year, there is a lot of controversy surrounding Peralta this coming season, as many people feel he didn’t deserve that kind of contract after he was found to have used PED’s. Nonetheless, Peralta will spend 2014 with the Cardinals, where it will be interesting to see if he performs as hoped.

But the whole increased pay leading to decreased stats doesn’t hold true for every player.

Some players could actually benefit greatly from a change in venue — Jacoby Ellsbury more than possibly anyone else.

Ellsbury will be part of the Yankees for the next 7 seasons, after signing a 153 million dollar contract this offseason. That comes out to an increase in pay from 9 million in 2013 to 21 million this season, and I believe, although the Yankees overpaid for him, Ellsbury will go a long way in helping the team in 2014 and beyond. I don’t think Ellsbury will have a season such as the one he put together in 2011, with 32 homers and 105 RBI’s, however, I do think he’ll improve from the 9 home runs and 53 RBI’s last season, with the aid of the short porch in right field. If he can merely stay healthy — that being a problem for him over his career – Ellsbury could really amass some great stats and have a big impact on the Yankees’ season.

jacoby-ellsbury-brian-mccannBrian McCann, being a lefty like Ellsbury, could also have a breakout season.

After somewhat of a down year in 2013 — though, he still hit 20 home runs, for the sixth straight season — McCann should be able to put together a great season; and that’s exactly what the Yankees need him to do. Having received a five million dollar pay raise from last season, McCann’s stats should go up a bit in 2014, and therefore he could easily turn out to be one of the top five most valuable Yankees this season. Though you never know how a player will perform, I’d say it’s a safe bet to say that McCann’s presence will be felt all throughout 2014.

Last on my list is Shin-Soo Choo, but he’s definitely not least.

Choo put together a fantastic 2013 season, and he was awarded for his efforts during the offseason, getting a 7-year, 130 million dollar contract, nearly doubling his salary from what he received last season. Choo isn’t a guy that’s going to hit you 30 or more home runs, knock in 100 runs, or steal 40 bases, but he is a natural at getting on base. Walking 112 times last season, Choo posted a .423 on base percentage in 2013, and that makes him extremely valuable to any club. Choo should once again post the same type of numbers, if not better, in 2014.

Which of these players will have to better year? Leave a comment below.

Q and A With Tyler Pike

Tyler Pike was drafted by the Mariners in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, after forgoing a scholarship from Florida State University by signing out of high school, Pike has put together a couple of good years, going a combined 9-5 with a 2.18 ERA g258000000000000000592177d2aa97fa2f9d62b665955b2b58f948e88csince making his professional debut.

In 2013, Pike went 7-4 with a 2.37 ERA over the course of 22 games started, holding the opposition’s batting average to a mere .194, and earning him a spot on the Midwest League All-Star Game Western Division roster.

Despite an average arsenal of pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup – Pike is able to use all three effectively, leading many to believe that Pike could be on a fairly quick path to the majors, should things continue to go smoothly for him.

At just 20 years old, Pike is still young and has plenty of time to develop into the major league quality starting pitcher many feel he can become. Even so, it’s likely that Pike will be making his debut up in Seattle sometime in the next year or two, if all goes well.

Tyler Pike — top 10 prospect in the Mariners’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

Ever since I could walk my dad put a ball in my hand, and baseball has never left me since then. My dad was definitely my biggest influence growing up. He pretty much taught me the game and how to play it, and he also played pro ball for a little. So he’s always been my idol.

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

Even though I’m a pitcher now, I never had a favorite pitcher, but my favorite player was Ken Griffey Jr. I just was in awe of his athleticism and how hard he played the game. Without his injuries, he was the best player to ever play, in my opinion.

3.) You were drafted by the Mariners in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was a long process, stretching back to almost a year before I was drafted; playing in front of scouts in tournaments and showcases. I was at my house during the draft, with a couple of my friends, and the Mariners initially told me they were going to draft me in the 6th round. So in the 3rd round I was watching to see who they were going to draft, and my name popped up. I was very surprised, along with my friends. My parent weren’t even home. It was truly a great feeling, and a moment I’ll never forget. Then, later that night, I graduated high school. Great day in my book.

4.) You had originally planned on attending Florida State University before deciding to sign with the Mariners instead. What ultimately made you choose to go ahead and begin your baseball career?

It came down to wanting to start my career and dream job early, not having to wait, and with the money they offered me, I just couldn’t turn it down. I love FSU and all the baseball coaches, and still talk to them every once in awhile. It was definitely a difficult decision.

5.) It would seem that going from high school straight to professional baseball would be fairly challenging, but you have had a good deal of success so far. What has enabled you to make the easy transition? What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between professional baseball and the level of baseball you had played up until that point?

It was definitely hard at first, just being away from home and not being comfortable and things. But once you’re on the field none of that crosses my mind. You can’t let outside things bother you while you play. Just block it out and focus on the task at hand. The biggest difference was knowing that everyone can play at the pro level. They got drafted for a reason. You can’t take anyone lightly. Have to play hard every pitch.

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

Life on the road isn’t all that bad. The long bus rides aren’t that fun, but you’re pretty much at the field all day, so it’s just baseball, baseball, baseball. We usually just watch TV or talk about baseball to pass the time. On off days we would sometimes go fishing or just hangout and cookout as a team.

7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I pretty much didn’t look at my stats at all. Stats are just a number, they don’t tell you a lot. You have to watch someone pitch to tell if they’re really good or not.

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

A lot went well in 2013. I worked hard on and off the field, pitched pretty well, and had a great time. 2014 brings another year and a lot of new challenges. I’ll be ready for whatever comes my way.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My favorite TV show is ‘The Walking Dead’, and my favorite food is a good plate of spaghetti.

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

Never give up, and trust that The Lord has a plan for you, whatever it may be.  Just work your hardest and everything will take care of itself. (“Jesus said to them, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” – Mark 9:23)

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Big thanks to Tyler Pike for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @tpike10

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