Results tagged ‘ Mets ’

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asdrubal Cabrera Proving His Value With the Mets

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steven Wright: The “New” R. A. Dickey

In the history of Major League Baseball, there have been very few pitchers who have actually succeeded in mastering the knuckleball to the point where they were able to absolutely dominate opposing batters on a consistent basis. For the most part, pitchers who throw the knuckleball are ineffective, and have up-and-down, short-lived careers.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle MarinersHowever, as with anything, there are always a few exceptions — Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, etc. — with the latest example of that being Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox. Through four games started this season, Steven Wright has a 1.37 ERA, with a tick under one strikeout per inning pitched. Following an ERA of 4.09 in 2015, Wright appears to have figured things out.

On Wednesday night alone, Wright went seven strong innings against the Braves (given, Atlanta isn’t exactly a powerhouse team this season), striking out eight and giving up just two runs (only one earned run) in Boston’s 9-4 win. 

Due to his great performance to this point in the season, Wright has subsequently taken over the leading role of most dominant MLB knuckleballer, recently held by R.A. Dickey (the only other active knuckleball thrower).

With Toronto this season, Dickey has recorded a subpar 6.75 ERA, and hasn’t been all that terribly great since he took home the Cy Young award in 2012 with the Mets. That season — the only extremely fantastic season of his career — Dickey posted a 2.73 ERA over 33 starts, while striking out 230 batters, but he’s gone 40-40 with a 4.06 ERA since then.

Steven Wright didn’t actually appear in the big leagues until the season after Dickey had his breakout year, but it appears that Wright is on the verge of having a special season as a knuckleball pitcher much like the one of Dickey in 2012.

Boston could certainly continue to use successful outings from him, as their other starters hold ERA’s above 3.51, with David Price possessing a 5.76 and Joe Kelly unbelievably having a 9.35 ERA over three starts. For that reason, Steven Wright is currently being looked at as the surprising Ace of the staff, and has been a welcome surprise for the Red Sox so far this year.

While I’m not necessarily saying that Steven Wright’s 2016 season will end up being as successful as R.A. Dickey’s 2012 campaign, with him winning the Cy Young, it is definitely a positive sign for Wright of great things to come. I imagine not even Wright himself would have envisioned this good of a start to the season when things began back on April 4th, but every given baseball season is much like the knuckleball pitch itself: You never know where it’s going to wind up.

Baseball Returns With a Three-Game Slate

It’s been a little over five months since the last non-exhibition Major League Baseball game was played, but meaningful baseball is finally taking place again today (Opening Day, part one). After a month of Spring Training games, six of baseball’s thirty teams are scheduled to dual it out over the course of this afternoon and evening, with the remaining twenty-four squads playing their opening games on Monday.Opening Day

Game one of the regular season is set to kick off at 1:05, and sees the Cardinals taking on the Pirates in a National League Central battle. Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled starters for the contest, leaving little to doubt that it will be a great game. With the NL Central likely to be a very close race throughout the coming 162 games, it’s never been more important to get off to a good start against a division rival.

The second game on the docket for today is another divisional faceoff, as the Blue Jays are going up against their American League East counterpart Rays. While the Rays aren’t predicted to hold up against Toronto in the long run, anything can happen in the first game of the year. On the mound for Tampa is Chris Archer, with Marcus Stroman toeing the rubber for the Jays. It will likely be a fun one to watch, with this game beginning at 4:05 in the afternoon.

But while the previous two games are sure to be exciting and well worth watching, the one I’m going to be watching the closest and am looking forward to the most is the World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals at 8:37. Game five of the Fall Classic way back on November 1st saw Matt Harvey starting for the Mets, with Edinson Volquez setting the tone for Kansas City, which just so happens to be the pitching matchup for tonight. For that reason, this should wind up being an unbelievable game.

As we all know, the Royals walked away World Series champions over the Mets in 2015, however, that was last season. It’s a new year, and with it comes new opportunities for each and every team around baseball. The road to the World Series starts with game one, and the first week always promises excitement from teams and individual players around baseball, as they all look to get off to hot starts.

Let the season begin.

Takeaways as Spring Training Winds Down

As history has shown us, Spring Training virtually means nothing when it comes to projecting how any given team or player will fare when the regular season actually rolls around. Spring

In season’s past, teams that “won” their leagues in the Spring wound up finishing in last place when the games actually mattered, with the opposite holding true for other teams that had poor Spring Trainings. The same applies to players, some of which vastly underperform or overperform in the Spring but return to their expected selves when April begins. For that reason, looking at the standings and stats is useless.

But that doesn’t stop me from checking them out anyhow. With Spring Training nearly over, and regular season games set to begin on April 3rd, I figured I’d share some of the things I took away from a quick glimpse at the standings and stats of teams and players around the baseball world.

The Mets and Cardinals are expected to do big things in their given divisions in 2016, but you wouldn’t reach that conclusion from peering at their Spring record. Each is well below .500, despite individual players on both teams shining at times. But that will inevitably change when the year actually begins.

On the flip side of things, the Phillies have a great record in the Grapefruit League, with the Rockies and Brewers doing well in the Cactus League side of things. But although they are outplaying other teams to this point, none of them are expected to do much of anything this season, with a last place division finish possible for each of them when all is said and done.

Individually, player’s stats can also be somewhat misleading.

PeraltaDavid Peralta and Christian Yelich — each of which were terrific in 2015 and have the ability to hit for a very high average — are ice cold thus far in Spring Training. However, they should easily turn things around when the true games begin. Likewise, as far as pitchers are concerned, veterans Jake Peavy and Jeff Samardzija haven’t faired much better than Peralta or Yelich, as each is doing horrible this Spring. But fortunately for them, the likelihood that all of these players continue to perform at such a low level is extremely low.

So if your favorite team or player is having a terrible Spring Training, don’t panic — at least not just yet. Theses things always seem to find a way of working out. But all the same, don’t set your hopes too high on a player or team who is putting up stellar numbers but is expected to do poorly this year. It likely won’t be able to last over the long 162-game year.

But then again, that’s why the games are played. Anything is truly possible from one year to the next.

National League Predictions for 2016

For the fifth 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 Mets to finish fourth in 2015 and they made it to the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I posted my predictions for the 2016 American League Season on Monday, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:

EAST

1. Mets

2. Nationals

3. Marlins

4. Braves

5. Phillies

The Mets proved to the baseball world last season that they are a team that is finally ready to win. In the past, there had been a lot of talk surrounding the Mets that each season would finally be their year, but things inevitably fell through for them in the end. In 2015, however, they finally emerged, with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom leading the charge and setting the tone each and every night. I expect them to have even better seasons individually this year, and with it will come more success as a whole. But although their pitching rivals that of any other squad in baseball, it’s their combination of good pitching and good offense that will seal the division title for them. Resigning Yoenis Cespedes was their biggest retention of the offseason, as he, along with veterans Curtis Granderson and David Wright, will assuredly be more than enough to push them past their rival Natinoals.

If the Nationals had signed Yoenis Cespedes as was reportedly attempted this offseason, I would have them in much better shape. Even so, I still feel a second place finish and possible Wild Card spot isn’t out of the question. Although their offense is likely going to be better this season, with a fully healthy Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman looking to slug along side of 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper, I don’t see it as being good enough to hold off a good Mets’ pitching staff for first place. After all, the Nats seemingly had everything in place in 2015, as the signings of big time pitcher Max Scherzer made them immediate favorites. But a lot went wrong for Washington last season, making it hard to predict for sure how they will fare this time around. To me, Stephen Strasburg needs to finally have his superstar breakout season in order for the Nationals to have any shot at overthrowing the division favorite Mets.

A healthy Marlins team has proven in the past that they can compete with any team in baseball. However, I don’t feel confident that they have all the pieces it takes to place any higher than third in a division that has the Mets and Nationals fighting for the first place slot. What makes it so difficult is the fact that beyond Jose Fernandez, who looks ready to return back from missing most of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, the Marlins don’t have any other pitchers who can absolutely dominate an opposing teams lineup. Furthermore, beyond Giancarlo Stanton, who really needs to have a fully healthy season in order to contribute monster numbers to his club, Miami isn’t all that loaded in the offensive side of things. Justin Bour had a nice breakout year for them in 2015, and Dee Gordon has emerged as one of the game’s best hitting second basemen, but I don’t see this Miami club as being capable of any sort of special year.

With sights set on 2017, when they will officially move from Turner Field to a brand new ballpark across town, the Braves are likely headed for another disappointing year. Getting rid of Shelby Miller (even though it brought back number one overall pick Dansby Swanson) was a huge mistake in my opinion, as it drastically weakens what was already a poor rotation. Beyond Julio Teheran at the top, and Matt Wisler, who is poised for a breakout year, the Braves don’t really have all that much to throw at opposing teams. Additionally, their lineup has a few key pieces to it, such as Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn and Nick Markakis, but those guys likely won’t be able to carry the team on their own. In my mind, for a Braves team that hasn’t been the same offensively since losing Justin Upton to the Padres (he’s now with the Tigers), the best thing they can do is hope for better things when they relocate in 2017.

When you look at the talent the Phillies have coming fast in their minor league system, it would appear that this will be the final year of what has turned into a drastic rebuilding process for the Phillies. After winning division title after division title, Philadelphia has been a shell of its former power house club in recent years. Ryan Howard is entering the last year of his contract with the Phillies, but I’m not expect a tremendous amount from him, as he hasn’t been able to perform on the superstar level he once did. Beyond Howard, the only other player in the Phillies lineup who I could see having an above average year is Maikel Franco, who was great last season. Their rotation isn’t much better, as they have a few nice pieces, but nothing overly dominant. Even so, their farm system is loaded with impact players knocking on the door to Philadelphia. Therefore, as I’m viewing it, this could be the last disappointing year for quite awhile.

CENTRAL

1. Cubs

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Reds

5. Brewers

The National League Central division appears to have all the makings of a classic division rivalry between the top three finishers, but I have the Cubs really breaking through in 2016. They were able to make it into the playoffs last season, but were eliminated before they could make any major run towards breaking their World Series drought. But the offseason addition of John Lackey to go along with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in a relatively strong rotation put them as frontrunners. Their lineup was good last season, but I think they’ll break through even further in the coming year. Adding Jason Heyward to their outfield will inevitably improve their club, and rookies from a year ago, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell should build upon their 2015 years to form what looks to be a division title club. If all goes as planned, this could be the year the Cubs make it deep into the postseason, and maybe even the World Series.

While I have the Cubs finishing in first place, the Cardinals are certainly not going to go down without a fight, and will give Chicago a true run for their money. With Yadier Molina returning from a season in which he missed most of due to injury, he should help both their offense and pitching staffs improve. Beyond him, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holiday are looking to post solid numbers once again, with Stephen Piscotty, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter figuring to have large contributions as well. Moreover, the Cardinals pitching staff should be tremendous, if Adam Wainwright can pitch the way he’s capable of, along with Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. Also having a lock down closer in Trevor Rosenthal to come in for the ninth inning, if St. Louis can see their starters having good outings night after night, they could rack up a lot of wins when all is said and done this season.

The Pirates are going to finish in a close third place in my mind. While they have an All-Star closer in Mark Melancon, much as the Carinals do in Rosenthal, Pittsburgh simply doesn’t have the top notch pitching staff I feel they need to find themselves forcing the Carinals and Cubs to sweat. Beyond Gerrit Cole, who is sure to have another star season, the Pirates top options of Jeff Lock and Francisco Liriano are too inconsistent for me to feel they will have that big of an impact. Their lineup is fairly solid, with Jung Ho Kang and Josh Harrison, as well as an outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte, but the rest of their lineup isn’t all that dominant. But athough they likely won’t be able to hold off the powerful Cubs and Cardinals, the Pirates have a ton of talent in the high minors who should be helping very soon. With that in mind, they could see a big jump in wins starting as soon as 2017, if not late this year.

I originally had the Reds coming in last in the National League Central division, but upon closer inspection of their roster, I moved them up to fourth. Even so, it is looking like it will turn out to be another rough season in Cincinnati. Although their lineup isn’t exactly terrible, possessing guys such as Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, it isn’t great, either. The Reds will go on solid runs at time, as virtually every club winds up doing, but I have a hard time picturing them sustaining anything. On the pitching side of their club, the loss of Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees will no doubt hurt their bullpen, where they don’t have too much depth. Surprisingly, however, their strongest suit may turn out to be their rotation. If given a chance, I think Robert Stephenson could be a big impact pitcher for them, along with Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Michael Lorenzen giving a little spark to the Reds coming poor year.

Both the lineup and pitching staff of the Brewers can be summed up in four words: good, but not great. Their entire team is made up of guys who have been good (or even really good) at one point or another, but have also been very inconsistent. Ryan Braun in hands down their best and most impactful player, and with the exception of Scooter Gennett, Chris Carter and Jonathan Lucroy, Braun is really the only above average player on the squad. Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson have each had great outings as part of the Brewers’ rotation, but they all also hold a lot of uncertainty heading into this season as to how they will actually fare. While there may be a few bright spots throughout the year in which certain players go on a hot streak that subsequently help propel Milwaukee forward, I don’t see anyway they make any major postseason push. There doesn’t appear to be much to be excited about for 2016.

WEST

1. Giants

2. Diamondbacks

3. Dodgers

4. Padres

5. Rockies

My predictions for the National League West nearly saw me placing the Diamondbacks in this slot, with the Giants finishing in second place. But I can’t ignore the fact that San Francisco’s lineup is better overall than that in Phoenix. Lead by the offense of Buster Posey, the Giants also have several more very impact bats such as that of Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford. But what really gives the Giants the slightest of edges over the D-backs is their pitching staff, which is truly solid. The pickups of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija should help them to perform well, as they already had star hurler Madinson Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Chris Heston. Though you never can fully predict where a team will fall at the end of any given season, I feel fairly confident that the Giants will be able to hold off the Diamondbacks and come out on top if they can perform the way that they are capable of.

I’m fully on board the Diamondbacks’ bandwagon, but it’s not just because a lot of people around the baseball world are believing in them heading into 2016. Picking up both Zack Greinke, who had a historic season last year, as well as Shelby Miller, will go along way in helping the D-back’s rotation that already included star Patrick Corbin, among others. Their bullpen is good as well, with guys such as Brad Ziegler and newcomer Tyler Clippard set to shut things down in the late innings. Offensively, the D-backs aren’t going to score tons of runs every night, but they still possess quite a bit of pop. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Yasmani Tomas should be able to lead this club to a lot of victories if everything holds up on the pitching side. All things considered, it should wind up being a far more successful year in the desert than what they saw just a year ago.

While the Dodgers still have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Keshaw, who you can more than count on to post Cy Young caliber numbers once again, the remainder of their rotation is somewhat questionable. Losing Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks this past off season will likely turn out to be a big blow to an already subpar Dodgers pitching staff, as Greinke was absolutely amazing in 2015. Los Angeles’s lineup is fairly decent, with sluggers Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Adrian Gonzalez still ready to impact ballgames, as well as Rookie of the Year favorite Corey Seager also set to make his talents more widely known. However, I’m just not fully convinced that the Dodgers will be good enough to fare any better than the middle of the pack in the West. They have too many holes in their overall team for me to think that they have any shot of reaching the postseason in the coming year.

The Padres were the story of the 2014 offseason, as their general manager, A.J. Preller, made some amazing moves that brought a ton of talent to San Diego and made a lot of people believe in the Padres for 2015. But things simply didn’t go as planned. This season, expectations aren’t nearly as high, with a fourth place finish predicted from me. They lost dominant closer, Craig Kimbrel, to the Red Sox this offseason, and that will inevitably hurt in the long run. In their actual rotation, they still have a solid three of James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, but they won’t be enough to maintain a season long winning streak. Other than Matt Kemp and an injury-plagued Wil Myers, the Padres don’t really have a lot of thump in their lineup that will be able to offset their lack of pitching, either. For that reason, the ultimate highlight of the year in San Diego will likely be them hosting the All-Star game in July.

Finishing under .500 every season since 2011, the Rockies aren’t looking to fare much better in the coming year. Although they play 81 games in a ballpark where offense is given a definitive edge, as the ball really flies in the mile high city of Denver, the Rockies truly don’t have a lot of big power bats to tap into the thin air. Beyond Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado, who should both put up monster numbers yet again, Denver merely has some solid players in the form of guys like DJ LeMahieu, Ben Paulsen and Charlie Blackmon. Although they are each good players, I don’t see it doing a whole lot of good, especially without a dominant pitching staff. Other than recently high-ranked prospects Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, who have been hit and miss to this point in their careers, the Rockies don’t have any true power hurlers who they can count on to post big outings each night. Thus, I don’t see Denver going much of anywhere in 2016.

Decision of Yoenis Cespedes Could Decide the NL East

After watching the majority of above average outfield free agents get plucked off the market over the course of this offseason (the most recent case being Justin Upton, who agreed to a six-year, 132.75 million dollar contract with the Tigers), Yoenis Cespedes is currently in the process of determining his fate for the 2016 season and beyond.Cespedes

Reportedly, the two teams most in the running to nab Cespedes are the New York Mets and the division rival Washington Nationals (though the Yankees have been mentioned as well).

As with every team around baseball, either team would be a better version of itself with Cespedes as part of their everyday lineup in 2016, but in this case I think the choice could wind up being more important than usual. With the Mets and Nationals going back and forth in the division last season, all the way until the latter part of the year, I truly believe that the team that gets Cespedes will be the team that holds the advantage to win the National League East division.

Back on July 31st of last year, the National held a two game lead over the Mets and were seemingly on their way to the postseason as had been expected from Opening Day. But a trade for Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets ultimately gave them what they needed to surpass the Nationals and never look back.

In 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes blasted 17 home runs and drove in 44 runs, all while hitting a cool .287. With Cespedes leading the way, New York wound up taking what was supposed to be an easy division win by the Nats and turning it a complete 180 degrees into a cakewalk division win by the Mets — an outcome that truly stunned many around the baseball world.

Sure, the Mets had a lot go right last season, and the Nationals had almost everything go wrong, but you can’t deny the impact that the lone presence of Cespedes brought to the Mets.

With the Phillies still seemingly lost heading into 2016, NLEastthe Braves working on rebuilding their club and the Marlins being much improved but still likely a third place team at best, the division will inevitably go to either the Nationals or the Mets.

On paper, the two teams are quite even. While I would give the edge to the Mets in terms of pitching staff (with guys like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard), I would declare the Nationals the better lineup, with tons of pop including the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper, who hit 42 home runs and batted .330 a year ago. The difference maker, in my mind, for both teams comes down to one free agent: Yoenis Cespedes.

With the National League East division set to be just as competitive as ever between the Mets and the Nationals, whoever can win the Cespedes sweepstakes (given the reports are correct, and he does end up with one of the two) will hold the upper hand heading into 2016 to win the division. As history has shown since the introduction of the second wild card in 2012, winning the division is extremely important in securing a long playoff run in October.

Royals Win 2015 World Series in Five

After losing games one and two of the World Series started by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, respectively, the Mets had reason for concern heading into game three of the World Series on Friday night. But as I stated at the end of my previous post, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the game, and with him having been great all season long, they still had reason to hold out hope of a series comeback. They simply had to score enough runs to beat out the Royals and Yordano Ventura, who was sure to be equally terrific.Syndergaard

But it appeared to be more of the same for the Mets when the game started. An Eric Hosmer RBI-groundout in the very first inning struck a blow to the Mets before they even had a chance to swing the bats. But the Mets wasted no time in answering back. In the bottom half of the same inning, David Wright blasted a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead early on, and provided some needed positivity to the club.

However, the Mets didn’t hold the lead for long. In the top of the second, an RBI-single by Alex Rios and a passed ball by Syndergaard with a man on third gave the Royals a one run lead once again. Even so, Syndergaard helped his own cause by getting a leadoff single in the third inning — the youngest pitcher with a World Series hit since Dwight Gooden in 1986 — which he was well rewarded for. The very next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a line-drive homer that cleared the right field wall by just a few feet, making the score 4-3, Mets.

From the second inning on, Syndergaard lived up to his nickname of “Thor”. He was magnificent, retiring ten straight at one point. The Mets also helped him out, scoring another run in the bottom of the fourth, coming via a Michael Conforto ground ball to first base that lead to confusion between the second baseman, Ben Zobrtist, and Eric Hosmer. MondesiUltimately, Conforto chugged his way safely to first, and the run scored without a play.

A little history was made in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Raul Mondesi Jr. made his major league debut against Syndergaard. Although he struck out, Mondesi became the first player in the entire history of Major League Baseball to make his big league debut during the Fall Classic. That’s certainly impressive.

Also impressive was the Mets’ resurgence of a run-scoring machine. While the Royals didn’t score again after the second, the Mets posted another four runs in the sixth inning, coming from contributions from Juan Uribe, David Wright (who had four RBI’s on the game) and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets held a 9-3 lead when the inning concluded, and that’s where things would wind up as the final score.

With game four now being a game in which the Mets were simply looking to tie things up and not worrying about being eliminated, you had to figure they could be a bit more relaxed and therefore able to perform much as they did in game three. It was sure to be a fun game.

Steven Matz — the second rookie on the mound for the Mets in back-to-back games — was on the mound in game four, opposed by the Royals’ Chris Young. Matz and Young are two completely different kind of pitchers, so it was fun to watch how each went about trying to get the other team out.Matz

Early on for the Mets’ side of things, it was a rookie show. Steven Matz lead off with a couple of scoreless innings, and Michael Conforto kicked off the third inning with a homer (the youngest players since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit a World Series homer) off of Chris Young, who had been equally good to that point in the game. Wilmer Flores followed up with a fall-in single, and later advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a terrific sacrifice bunt by Matz. Then, the unbelievable happened.

Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball into right field which was easily caught by Alex Rios. But Rios forgot how many outs there were, and took a step or two towards the infield before realizing it was only the second out of the inning. Although it was going to be a close play anyhow, it took away any shot at nailing Flores at the plate. That simply can’t happen — not in the World Series. But it did, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Royals would answer back in the fifth, scoring a single run via an Alex Gordon RBI-single. But despite that run, Matz was still able to pitch well to get out of the inning. His opposer, Chris Young, was removed after the fourth inning, and replaced by Danny Duffy. But Duffy promptly allowed yet another home run to Conforto, who became the only Mets player other than Gary Carter to hit two homers in a Fall Classic game. Things were looking good for the Mets.

Ben Zobrist lead off the sixth inning with his eighth double of the postseason, getting things started against Matz, who many people were shocked was still in the game. As a result, the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, knocked a ball up the Murphymiddle that scored Zobrist and made it a 3-2 game with no outs. Matz was promptly removed, replaced by Jonathan Niese, and the potential further damage was contained.

That is, until the eighth inning, when the Royals took the lead an never looked back. Daniel Murphy committed an untimely error on an Eric Hosmer ground ball, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez plated two more and put Kansas City up by two runs, 5-3, which is where the game concluded after a failed attempt at a comeback for the Mets.

This isn’t the way many baseball fans envisioned things going at all. The Royals are a good team, but to win games going up against Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is absolutely amazing. Sitting one win away from a World Series title, you knew they were sure to be on their game in Sunday’s game five potential elimination game. But going up against Harvey yet again, you had to figure it was going to be a challenge.

While the story of the game on Sunday was predicted to be Matt Harvey either keeping the Mets alive or not, it began with Curtis Granderson. As the first batter of the game, Granderson hit a homer off of Edinson Volquez to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and an extremely early spark.

Harvey struck out the side in the fourth — the second Mets pitcher (Tom Seaver being the other) to strike out the side in order in a World Series game — and was looking completely locked in, and much more like the All-Star version of HarveyHarvey that baseball fans had come to know, going on to strike out eight through the first five. Even so, despite the flaw in the first, Volquez was just as good to lead things off. With both pitchers totally dialed it, you had to figure that this was going to be one of the best games thus far.

The score remained the same through the sixth inning, when Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Daniel Murphy all lead off the inning with a walk, hit and error, respectively. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, looked to cash in with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he fouled an 0-1 pitch off of his left kneecap, and appeared to be headed for the clubhouse. But he stayed in the ballgame, only to pop out before limping off the field. Following Cespedes was Lucas Duda, who came through with a sac fly that plated Granderson to increase the lead to 2-0.

That’s where things would stay through the top of the ninth inning, when the Mets were faced with a huge decision: leave Harvey in after 102 pitches, or bring in the closer, Jeurys Familia, who had blown two saves through this point in the World Series, in game one and game four. After all, if Familia had closed out those games, the Mets would have been sitting three outs away from a World Championship. You simply had to leave Harvey in to finish what he started.

And the Mets did just that. After declaring that there was “no way I’m leaving this game” to manager Terry Collins, Harvey took the hill looking to shut things down in the final inning. However, he appeared a bit too amped up to start with, walking the leadoff man, Lorenzo Cain, and overthrowing some of his pitches. Cain proceeded to steal second, and was knocked in by an RBI-double from Eric Hosmer. Harvey was promptly removed, but no matter what, it was the right call under the situation.

HosmerNonetheless, the Royals, who hold the playoff record for six postseason multi-run comebacks, were now just a well placed hit away from tying the game. Familia was brought in to be the potential hero of game five, which would ultimately make up for his previous subpar pitching. But he wouldn’t complete the game. An errant throw by Lucas Duda to home plate after a groundout by Salvador Perez allowed Hosmer to tie the game at 2-2, and made for Familia’s third blown save of the Fall Classic — the most in baseball history.

The score remained tied through the twelfth, when everything completely fell apart for the Mets. What began as a simple RBI-pinch-hit-single from Christian Colon, putting the Royals up a mere run, turned into a blowout. Christian Colon would eventually score, along with three more runs via a Lorenzo Cain double that scored three runs with the bases loaded.

With the Mets down 7-2 heading into the bottom of the twelfth, you had to figure they stood little chance of a comeback, especially facing the hard throwing Wade Davis. Ultimately, Davis would strike out three, putting an exclamation point on the Royals’ season, and making them 2015 World Series Champions.

World Series

My hat certainly goes off to the Royals. I, admittedly, was pulling for the Mets to win, simply because I’m a big Matt Harvey fan and because I wanted to see the season be continued a couple more games out in Kansas City. But you got the feeling back when the Royals rallied to win and advance against the Astros in the ALDS that this was a team that wouldn’t stop until they were declared World Champions as quickly as possible.

This is the Royals’ first World Series crown since back in 1985. After making it to game seven of the Fall Classic in 2014, only to lose to the Giants, this is obvious redemption for that year. Salvador Perez, for his many contributions on multiple levels, was named MVP of the series, which was completely deserved. He was a big part of what made this Royals team so magical.

Heading forward, offseason transactions will ultimately happen. This Royals club that won the World Series will inevitably not be the exact team that takes the field on Opening Day in 2016. But there’s one thing you can guarantee: the Royals will still have a very competitive team with all sights on returning to the World Series next season and beyond.

Royals Up Two Games Heading to New York City

The World Series is always an exciting time of the year for any baseball fan, no matter who you’re rooting for. With both teams having fought all season long, neither wants to give an inch in their quest for the title, and players from both sides usually step up in a big way for their respective teams. With that said, I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted such a game as the one that took place on Tuesday night.Escobar

Matt Harvey received the start for the Mets, going up against the Royals’ Edison Volquez. Although you had to figure Harvey would be on top of his game, things didn’t start off that well for him. On the very first pitch of the game, Alcides Escobar drove a ball deep into the outfield, which Yoenis Cespedes was unsuccessful in tracking down. When all was said and done, Escobar had score with the twelfth inside the park homer in World Series history, and the first since 1929. Just like that, it was 1-0, Royals.

Neither team would score again until the fourth inning, as Volquez was able to match Harvey pitch for pitch to begin the game. But an RBI-single in the fourth by Travis d’Arnaud, followed by a Curtis Granderson homer in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto in the sixth, made it a 3-1 Mets lead. It appeared they were starting to put the game away, especially with Harvey on the hill.

But just as quickly as they took the two-run lead, they lost it in the very next set of swings for the Royals. In the bottom of the sixth, a couple of timely hits tied the game up at three apiece and made it a new ballgame. Even so, the Mets were able to take the late lead in the eighth on a fielding error, putting them up by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth.

GordonHowever, as history has shown, nothing is over until it’s over in the World Series. With one out in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets’ Jeurys Familia, Alex Gordon blasted a solo shot into deep center field to send the game to extra innings.

Due to outstanding relief work by both squads, the game would remain tied all the way until the fourteenth inning, when the Royals ultimately won with an Eric Hosmer sac fly that brought home the go ahead run to put the Royals up 1-0 in the seven game series.

After the longest game one in World Series history, you got the feeling that the entire Fall Classic would turn out to be much of the same.

The five hour and nine minute game one gave fans tons of excitement, as the back and forth lead changing between the two clubs made for a thrilling ballgame. With Jacob deGrom set to go against Johnny Cueto the very next game, things were sure to heat up in game two.

But while the expectation was a pitching duel for the second game of the World Series, it was Johnny Cueto stealing the show. With deGrom not being able to throw the ball past people the way he has in his previous starts, he struggled in this game overall, but Cueto settled in and really impressed a lot of people.deGrom

Although Cueto allowed the game’s first run in the fourth inning, coming from a contribution from Lucas Duda — he had been performing poorly throughout the playoffs until that point — Cueto really pitched well. Cueto wouldn’t allow another run in the game.

Jacob deGrom looked decent to start the game, but the wheels completely fell off in the fifth inning. RBI-singles from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer (two RBI’s) and Mike Moustakas put the Royals up 4-1, and really gave them momentum with Cueto pitching the way he was (a complete game two-hitter). In the end, the Mets couldn’t mount a comeback and fell down two games to none in the series.

With the Royals up two games heading into game three in New York City on Friday, the Mets certainly have their backs against the wall. However, despite their poor odds, with Noah Syndergaard ready to pitch in game three and Steven Matz on the mound the next night, if the Mets can win at least one of those games, everything changes. Forcing at least a game five, the Mets would once again get Matt Harvey, then Jacob deGrom if they can extend it. Anything can happen after that.

This World Series is far from over.

Royals — Mets: World Series Predictions

I love making predictions. I’m absolutely no good at it (I picked the Blue Jays and Dodgers to be in the World Series), but I enjoy the process that goes into it, nonetheless. With that said, it is really difficult to predict a winner between the Mets and Royals for who I feel will win the 2015 World Series. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but in the end it’ll come down to which players can come through most in big spots, and that has proven time and time again to be unpredictable.

World Series

No matter what, with the Mets having not won a World Series since Bill Buckner’s infamous error in 1986, and the Royals experiencing a drought since 1985, history is guaranteed to be made for one of them sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The Mets have announced that their starting rotation is going to be Matt Harvey pitching game one, followed by Jacob deGrom (game two), Noah Syndergaard (game three) and Steven Matz (game four). Obviously, if the series goes beyond a fourth game (something that’s pretty sure to happen) then the rotation would simply begin again, with Harvey, deGrom, etc.

On the other side of the coin, the Royals haven’t yet announced their official starting rotation. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether Yordano Ventura or Edinson Volquez will get the ball in game one, with the other getting it for game two. It is also unknown whether game three would go to Chris Young or Johnny Cueto. With so much uncertainty, it’s difficult to try to predict games by looking at pitcher-pitcher matchups.

Even so, I feel like no matter who is going up against Matt Harvey, game one is likely to go to the Mets. Harvey has been great so far this postseason, and will likely even take things up a notch with it being the World Series. Going into game two, as with Harvey, anyone who matches up against deGrom is likely going to have a tough time. Although the Royals admittedly stand a better chance against deGrom than Harvey, I think the series will head back to New York for game three with the Mets up two games to zero.

Game three is where I see things turning a bit. Syndergaard has been great and is an unbelievable pitcher, but I think the Royals will get to him and win by a run or two. I see the same happening on the next night against Steven Matz. Another rookie, Matz has had a good year, but I feel the Royals will be able to tie things up at two games apiece.

I think the Mets will take the final game before heading back to Kansas City, as Harvey will be on the mound again. If they in fact have lost their first two games at home, I don’t see them allowing themselves to get swept the full three games.

Back at Kauffman Stadium, I predict the Mets will waste no time in taking the championship. Having Jacob deGrom on the mound is always a good thing, and he will inevitably pitch a good enough game to win the New York Mets the 2015 World Series.

But that’s all purely speculation, and just the way I see things unfolding. Whether or not the Mets win the Fall Classic is yet to be seen. But one thing is for sure: neither team will go down without a fight.

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