Results tagged ‘ Matt Kemp ’

Stage Set for Exciting Second Half of 2014 Season

After a four-day break in baseball action due to the All-Star game and its surrounding festivities up at Target Field, baseball returns tonight. With a full, fifteen game slate set to get the second half of the season going, there are a ton of story lines that are sure to make this portion of the season one of the most captivating in years.

With that in mind, I wanted to go over just a few of the topics worth keeping an eye on in the two and a half months before the postseason rolls around, with my prediction/thoughts on what will take place.

- Which players will be traded before the trade deadline on July 31st?

As of right now — though the likes of Chase Utley, Huston Street and Adrian Beltre have been tossed around — the two players in the spotlight the most when it comes to trade discussion are David Price and Matt Kemp. Both Price and Kemp have been apart of trade talks for awhile, but neither has gone anywhere as of yet. But many people are expecting that to change fairly soon. Price hasn’t been having the type of season that he had a couple of years ago, but he’s still one of the top pitchers in the game today, who will likely bring the Rays a good amount in return, should they decide to deal him.

Kemp is in slightly a different situation that Price, as Price has noted that he doesn’t necessarily want to leave, but Kemp is open to a trade, seeing that he’s currently not being used as an everyday player. Though Kemp has been struggling for a good bit of time due to injuries, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the top superstars in all of baseball. With the outfield situation the Dodgers currently hold — five outfielders for three spots — Kemp will likely be heading somewhere soon.

- Will Jose Abreu break Mark McGwire’s rookie home run mark?Untitled

When Jose Abreu came to the White Sox from Cuba, no one knew fully what to expect from him. But after his first month in the big leagues, everyone knew he was going to be a star for years to come. The first year All-Star set a new rookie home run record for a player’s first month in the majors, and is on the verge of breaking an even bigger record — the most home runs in a season by a rookie.

Mark McGwire set the bar high back in 1987 when he slugged 49 home runs for the Athletics, but Abreu is currently on pace to hit 50 in this his rookie campaign. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that amazing milestone, Abreu is nearly a lock to do what McGwire achieved — win the American League Rookie of the Year award.

- Of the players with poor first halves, which will have a breakout second half?

No player carries the hype that the Nationals’ Bryce Harper does. Coming up back in 2012 and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award, Harper hasn’t yet been able to have the monster season that people had predicted him to put together. Thanks to an injury this season, Harper has played in a mere 34 games to this point, but with him finally healthy, Harper is looking to turn things around and have a breakout second half to the season. With the Nationals tied with the Braves for first place in the division, they could really use a surge from Harper, who has clearly made known that he loves the spotlight. This is his chance to shine.

The Red Sox have failed to meet expectations this season after winning the World Series last year, sitting tied for last place in the American League east with the Rays. Part of the reason for the subpar year to this point has been the subpar performances by many of the players who made big impacts last year, including Xander Bogaerts.

Bogaerts came up for the very last portion of the 2013 season, but he flipped a switch in the postseason, getting important hits in big spots and helping to lead the Red Sox to the championship title. With such a great showing, many people made the prediction that he would make the run for Rookie of the Year this season. Though that’s not going to happen, look for Bogaerts to begin to find George+Springer+Kansas+City+Royals+v+Houston+tKo8zZGt9m9lhis groove in the remainder of the Sox’ games. He’s extremely talented and will surely be able to get things going.

George Springer is having a great season for the Astros, leading the team in RBI’s and tied for the lead in home runs. The only knock to what would be a promising Rookie of the Year campaign is his low .200’s batting average. That’s the one thing that Springer needs to turn around to become the all around star player that people feel he can become.

His power has been evident this year, as has the ability to come through in big spots; and his defense has been impressive as well. With so much talent, having hit .303 with 37 homers last season in the minors, Springer is one of those players that can make the necessary adjustments to get better and better. With the second half of the season beginning, Springer is arguably the players who needs the most watching, as he could have an extremely impressive final few months.

- How many teams can make a solid push at the playoffs?

Probably the most anticipation surrounds the division races, where there are numerous teams that still stand a theoretical shot at one of the ten playoff spots (six division winners, and four wild cards). The Orioles, Tigers, and Athletics currently stand atop their given American League division, with the Nationals and Braves (tied), Brewers and Dodgers holding the first place slot for their National League division. But there are multiple teams that could be in their place once the end of the season rolls around.

The Orioles currently hold a four game lead in the American League East, however, the Blue Jays and Yankees are going to do their part to make the O’s feel pressure in the coming months. While the Blue Jays held the top spot for a long time before falling down a bit, and although the Yankees are struggling to stay in the race, anything can happen, and that’s reason enough to watch the race in the east.

Detroit has a rather big lead over the second place Royals, but after losing the spot to the Royals earlier in the year, they need to keep an eye on Kansas City. It has been “the Royals’ year” for the past several years, with people predicting season after season that they would finally reach their full potential. And therefore, while they won’t likely find themselves beating out the Tigers, they very well could capture one of the wild cards.

One of the most impressive teams for the past few years has been the Athletics. Consisting of players who wouldn’t appear to have much of a troutshot against the rest of the division on paper, the A’s are once again surprising many. Not far behind them are the Angels, who, led by Mike Trout, have finally been able to see all of their key players make full contributions. Less than two games back of first, the Angels are on the verge of a special season.

The National League East division has the Nationals and the Braves at the top, with both standing a good shot at being there at the end of the season. The only question that remains is which one of the two will finish in second. The Nationals are a better team as a whole, and if Bryce Harper can post superstar caliber numbers, they could run away with things. However, if the Nat’s fail to capitalize, the Braves could once again win the division.

But while the National League East has the closest teams, the NL Central is arguably the most competitive, as three of the four teams chasing the first place Brewers are less than four games back. Those three teams being the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates, any of the three stand a good shot at finishing in first. It will come down to who plays better baseball and finishes out the year on a strong note.

It’s basically a two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers for the first place spot in the National League West. Though it’s not as competitive of a division as most of the others in baseball, it’s going to be exciting to see who goes on a hot streak to take the first place spot. As of right now, the favorites are the Dodgers, who were predicted at the beginning of the year to make the playoffs fairly easily, but the Giants aren’t too far removed from their 2012 World Series title, and could potentially make things interesting.

But the only thing that’s for sure in baseball is that you never know what to expect. Teams that you never thought had a shot can go on a historic streak and shock everyone. And thus, with less than three months to go, the baseball world is in for an action packed finish to the season.

Top Prospects Ready to Make MLB Impact

There are numerous top prospects set to make an impact in the major leagues this season, as I wrote about a few months ago, but for this particular post, I’m only focusing on the players who are ready right now to get a callup to the big leagues, but are yet to for one reason or another. Keep in mind as you’re reading, the players (in no particular order) I’ve included are yet to play a single game in the majors:13067210

Archie Bradley is the first player on my list, as he nearly made the Diamondback’s rotation out of Spring Training. Going 14-5, with a 1.84 ERA last season, Bradley is one of those players who is sure to make an immediate impact upon his first callup to the majors. Though it could be awhile longer before Bradley gets his first big league start, he’s ready now, nonetheless, to show off his stuff on the highest level.

Another player who nearly made the majors out of Spring Training, and likely should have, is George Springer. Blasting the second-most home runs of any player in the minors last season, with a total of 37, Springer is sure to be one of the key pieces for the Astros moving forward, whenever his callup takes place. With the Astros’ outfield struggling, besides Dexter Fowler, bringing up Springer would be a smart thing to do.

Gregory Polanco could end up being as big of a difference maker for the Pirates as Andrew McCutchen. Though he’s yet to prove his ability on the major league level, there are a lot of people who feel Polanco is experienced enough to make the jump. Currently in Triple-A, it will likely be a bit of time before Polanco is called up, however, his combination of speed, power, and ability to hit for average should help him stick.

Joc Pederson is more than ready to make his major league debut, but there’s a big problem he faces: he’s an outfielder in the Dodgers’ organization. With a current outfield of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, Pederson simply has nowhere to go. While it could be a good bit of time before the Dodgers’ figure out a solution to the situation they have with Pederson, he should be up before too long.

Currently battling an injury, Addison Russell can’t technically be called up to the major leagues until he fully recovers, which likely means more minor league time, however, he is nearly ready. Russell is coined to be the next great all around shortstop, and many people feel he has the potential to win multiple Gold Glove awards. With the Athletics’ contract to their current shortstop, Jed Lowrie, almost up, Russell will be up fairly soon.

Some honorable mentions, of player who are getting close to being major league ready but aren’t quite, include Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard, Alex Meyer, Eddie Butler, Jonathan Singleton, Garin Cecchini and Stephen Piscotty.

All are showing tons of major league potential, and the majority of those players should see time in the major leagues at some point in the second half of this season. The remaining few will get their first glimpse of the majors in the early part of 2015.

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.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2014 Season

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

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

1.) Albert Pujols

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

2.) Ryan Braun

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

3.) Ryan Howard

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

4.) Derek Jeter

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

1vysec_AuSt_695.) David Price

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

6.) B.J. Upton

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

7.) Stephen Strasburg

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

8.) Mike Moustakas628x471

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

9.) Matt Kemp

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

10.) Tim Lincecum

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

JUST MISSES

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

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

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

Dodgers Lock Up Clayton Kershaw With Record Deal

We all knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time.

After Felix Hernandez — a former perfect game winner — received a 7-year, 175 million dollar deal from the Mariners, and Justin Verlander — a former Most Valuable Player — received a 7-year, 180 million dollar deal from the Tigers, you had to figure that Clayton Kershaw — a two-time Cy Young award winner — was going to receive a massive deal.Clayton+Kershaw+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+v+San+d0VPZUHHq9Rl

However, I don’t think anyone quite predicted a deal of this magnitude.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a 7-year deal worth 215 million dollars, coming out to 30.7 million dollars a year, and making Kershaw the highest annually paid player in Major League Baseball history.

The deal also sits second all-time in total contract amount, just behind Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, 275 million dollar deal from the Yankees in 2007. (That deal didn’t go too well.)

But all this money poses a question — Is Kershaw worth the money? In my mind, absolutely.

Sure, it’s a ton of money, especially for a guy who only plays every fifth day. But when you’re looking to retain a player of Kershaw’s caliber, keeping him from becoming a free agent at the end of next season, you do what it takes — and it took a lot.

Although I’m normally not a fan of big contracts, by going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA last season in which he won the 2013 National League Cy Young award (his second in three years), Kershaw has done more than enough to prove that he’s worth a contract of this size. He’s still young, at just 25 years old, and in addition to being durable, Kershaw holds a career ERA of 2.60, over nearly 1,200 innings pitched. He’s just the type of player that can go a long way to win a team a championship, as every team needs a true Ace.

A championship for the Dodgers is, obviously, the goal, as it is for every club. By signing Kershaw for the next seven years, it definitely gives them a good shot. But as history has shown, you can’t buy championships, nor can you predict how guys will play. It takes nearly a perfect year, where every player on the team plays to the best of their ability without very much injury, to have a magical season.

The only down side to the deal is that it makes Kershaw the fifth player owed 20 million dollars or more for 2014 season by the Dodgers, joining Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Greinke. But that doesn’t seem to phase the Dodgers, as they are still reportedly in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, who certainly won’t come cheap.

As many have coined, the Dodgers would appear to be the “new Yankees” — with their seemingly endless amount of spending money.

Nonetheless, only time will tell how the Dodgers will perform in 2014. Should things play out the way many are predicting, they could have a really special season, and that also holds true for many seasons to come.

No matter what, when it comes to Clayton Kershaw, signing him was absolutely worth it.

Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

Who I’d Like To See In the 2012 Home Run Derby

It was announced a few days ago that last year’s Home Run Derby champion, Robinson Cano, would be participating in this year’s derby as well. Cano was named the captain for the American League, with the same title being given to Matt Kemp, who is set to be the National League captain. Both Kemp and Cano have to choose three players from their respective leagues to participate in the derby; and of course, those players in which they ask, have to say yes.

With the 2012 Home Run Derby right at a month away, I thought I’d post this little entry detailing who I’d like to see Kemp and Cano choose.

Cano’s Picks: American League

According to reports, Josh Hamilton has stated that he will not be participating in this years derby, which I think is a real shame. Hamilton put on a show back in 2008, and would be fun to watch again, but in the end, all Cano can do is ask. It’s Hamilton’s decision to make.

It’s also been rumored that Cano plans to ask Yankees’ teamate Curtis Granderson to participate in the derby. Although Granderson has the ability to lauch a ball over 400 feet, I don’t think he has the ability to put on the type of “show” you associate with a home run derby. But if chosen, he may just prove me wrong.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Robinson Cano.

There are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the American League, I’d have to go with the following:

Adam Jones- Jones has his good games, and his bad games, just like every other player in baseball, but lately it seems the good games are becoming more numerous. Jones is a guy I’d really love to see take part in this year’s derby. He’s seemed to be really locked in at the plate lately, coming up big in some pressure situations. I feel the lack of pressure presented with a home run derby would give Jones the ability to have some fun, and if he could get into a rhythm, might even have a shot at winning the entire thing.

Mark Trumbo- If there’s anyone in the American League who could really lauch some jaw dropping home runs, it’s Mark Trumbo. This guy has MASSIVE power, and I feel his ability to lauch a ball far over the center field wall of any ballpark would give him an advantage in the derby. Unlike most players in baseball who are pure pull hitters–or exactly the opposite; those who like to go the other way–Trumbo loves going out to dead center field. The advantage for Trumbo would come after the first round when the participants are beginning to tire. If Trumbo switches his approach to pulling the ball, even slightly, in the later rounds, it would really help him out, in my mind.

Jose Bautista- If you’ll remember last year, Bautsita was really a disappointment in the home run derby. Coming off of a league leading 54 home run season the year before, Bautista couldn’t get things going, which unfortunately resulted in a mere 4 home runs. After such a horrible performance by Bautista, I nearly made the decision not to include him, but decided to give him another chance. This would be his second time participating, and I feel the fact that he’s been through it before would enable him to really put on a show.  

I know what you’re thinking. Where’s Pujols, Fielder, etc.?! Well, after some debate, I made the decision not to include them for the fact that I feel that a little change would be good for the derby. People know that Pujols and Fielder can absolutely crush a baseball (Pujols not as much, as of late),however, I for one would like to see some new faces put on a show. Give them their chance to shine, and amaze the fans with jaw dropping blasts.

Kemp’s Picks: National League

Like Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp participated in last year’s Home Run Derby, however didn’t fare nearly as well. Hitting a mere three home runs, Kemp didn’t even make it past the first round. I look for him to do much better in this year’s derby, as he doesn’t seem quite as concerned about pulling the ball this season. Letting the ball travel, before depositing it the other way will go a long way in helping him in the derby, in my opinion.

Kemp started out this season as the hottest hitter in Major League Baseball, however injuries have haulted his rampage. I’m not prepared to venture a guess as to how many homers Kemp will blast in this year’s derby, but I can pretty much guarantee you it’ll be more than three.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Matt Kemp.

Just like the American League, there are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the National League, I’d go with the following:

Giancarlo Stanton- This is a no-brainer for me. There is no one in the National League who can make you say WOW more than Giancarlo Stanton. The ball seems to jump off his bat, and the fact that he can hit balls 50-75 feet over the left field wall would enable him to make it into the second, and possibly third, and final, round of the derby, when the ball doesn’t go as far, due to tiring. Another advantage I feel Stanton has against the other potential participants, is the fact that he hits line drive home runs, instead of the towering homers hit by other players that seem to just clear the wall.

Bryce Harper- The fact that Bryce Harper is a rookie makes the decision to pick him for the derby even more favorable. There aren’t many rookies in baseball who can crush a ball as hard as Harper can–very few non-rookies, for that matter. Harper has been in the spotlight since he first made an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, at age 16. Now 19, Harper has the ability to pull in viewers to the live broadcast of the derby on ESPN. His last name is enough to do that, but the fact that he would stand a good shot at giving the other (older) participants a run for their money is reason enough to watch for many who would normally have their TV’s turned to an alternate channel.

Ryan Braun- This would be a good pick by Matt Kemp on more than one level. Braun certainly has earned the right to be picked for the derby, as he hit an impressive 34 home runs last season, and shows no sign of slowing down; having hit nearly half that many thus far in 2012. While Braun has the ability to put on a show, and hold his own in the derby, I feel it would be a good pick by Kemp for another reason. Many Dodger fans still hold a grudge against Ryan Braun, who was presented with the 2011 N.L. M.V.P award, even though Kemp had arguably better stats. Picking Braun for the derby, and lasting longer than him, would give Dodger fans a little bit of belated satisfaction.

While Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp may not pick any of my above suggestions, I honestly hope they pick at least a few of them. I feel my picks would make for an exciting 2012 Home Run Derby.

Feel free to leave a comment below as to whether or not you agree with my picks. I’d love to hear who you’d love to see Cano and Kemp pick.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2012 MLB Season

I realize that we’re JUST over a week into the 2012 MLB season, but I just thought I’d post an entry with the teams and players that are off to the best and worst starts in all of baseball. Some of the names on the lists are no surpise, however there a few that really stand out to me. I never expected the year to begin the way it has for certain players, and certain teams.

FASTEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Dodgers: 7-1

2) Nationals: 6-2

3) Rangers: 6-2

4) Diamondbacks: 5-2

5) Mets: 5-2

6) Tigers: 5-2

The Dodgers are a team that is better than advertised. They have a great lineup, including guys like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and speedy Dee Gordon, as well as an underated starting rotation. While it’s well known that Clayton Kershaw is the Dodger’s Ace, other guys are beginning to step it up, none more than Aaron Harang, who struck out 9 in a row (a new Dodgers record) in last night’s game against the Padres.

The only other teams on the list that are a surprise to me are the Nationals and the Mets. While the National’s are a team that I feel is going to be extremely good in a couple of years, I never saw them having this kind of start to the season. As far as the Mets go, they continue to amaze me.

Individual players:

1) Paul Konerko: .435 average

2) Ryan Sweeney: .429 average

3) Matt Kemp: .419 average

4) Josh Willingham: .417 average

5) Miguel Cabrera: .414 average

Paul Konerko is off to an unbelievable start. He’s really swinging the bat well, and while it’s still early, I think he can keep it up. Now I’m not saying he’s going to end the year with a batting average exceeding .400, but I am saying that I think he’ll continue to rack up hits. Ryan Sweeney is another guy who’s really impressed me so far this season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up, or if it’s a little bit of early luck. Matt Kemp, Josh Willingham and Miguel Cabrera are all guys that I fully expected to do well this season. So there’s no real shock for the number 3 through 5 guys on the list.

SLOWEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Padres: 2-6

2) Red Sox: 2-5

3) Twins: 2-5

4) Angels: 2-5

5) Pirates: 2-5

The San Diego Padres are a team that I was hoping/thinking would have a decent season this year, but so far, they’re proving to be the same team from last year. The thing that gets me with the Padres is that they have a fantastic starting lineup, including guys like Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson and newcomer Yonder Alonso, as well as a decent pitching rotation, but it seems like they can only get one or the other to perform well on any given night. If they can figure out a way to have both their pitching and hitting come through at the same time they can be a really good team.

The Red Sox are another team that I thought would have a better year than they’re having. After starting out 0-6 last year, I thought they’d have a bounce back year, but their current record of 2-5 isn’t living up to expectations, and I don’t see things getting any better for them. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured in yesterday’s game while sliding into second base. He is expected to miss a minimum of 6 weeks. Not good news for Red Sox fans.

Of the remaining teams on the list, the Angels are the only team that surprises me. With the addition of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels were predicted by many to dominate their division. So far the only dominant aspect of their games has been the other team. I look for things to turn around for them, however, once King Albert starts getting hot.

Individual players:

1) Ike Davis: .043

2) Neil Walker: .048

3) Marlon Byrd: .083

4) J.P. Arencibia: .083

5) Ryan Raburn: .091

*Minimum of 20 at bats.

There’s really no one on this list that stands out in my mind. All of them are players that perform differently from year to year. While I don’t see them getting hot and working their average up to the .300 mark any time soon, I also don’t see their streak of bad luck continuing. They’ll all bounce back.

Like I said several times, I realize that it’s still VERY early in the season. Over 150 games still remain, and things will no doubt look a lot different for both the teams and players on the above lists. Teams and players that are off to fast starts now could hit a wall and end up having a terrible year, and just the opposite for those off to a slow start. That’s why they play 162 games.

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