Results tagged ‘ MiLB ’

Top Prospects Who Could Make Impacts Right Now

Over the past several seasons, teams around Major League Baseball have been looking more and more towards their top prospects to make it to the big leagues and make an immediate impact on their club. The most recent examples of that being Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and Carlos Correa, who all made it to the bigs within three years of getting drafted and are all now beginning to make a difference with their team. With that in mind, there are several players ranked in the top 100 prospects right now who could be making impacts but haven’t been called up for one reason or another.

Lindor

Francisco Lindor is the first player on my list, as although he hasn’t been dominating offensively in the minors, he has been heating up as of late. His defense is already big league ready, but it’s his bat that has been developing in the minors. But now that he is batting in the upper .200’s, I feel he is ready. He may not get the call for a few more weeks, but I expect to see him up before the All-Star break, as the last place Indians could use his presence at shortstop.

Henry Owens is another prospect who would really help out his big league team. Currently with an ERA just over 3.50, Owens is the type of player who could spark the Red Sox’ struggling rotation. After making several offseason moves, it appeared that the Sox would be bound for another great season, but things aren’t panning out that way, thanks in large to their underperforming rotation. Owens could play a big role in helping that.

Despite having just three games started above Double-A, Luis Severino is a pitcher who could help the Yankees out a lot. Admittedly, they are doing just fine without him, as they are currently in first place, but they could always use another good armJohnson in their rotation to help get them into October. In reality, it is more realistic to wait until closer to the end of the season to move up Severino, but he would definitely be an impact even now.

The second Red Sox pitching prospect on my list, Brian Johnson could also bolster the Red Sox rotation along with Henry Owens. While there is the issue of where to place them with the rotation the Sox already have, the Sox’ rotation is horrible at the moment. Of their four starters with 12 starts, the lowest ERA is 4.07, with the other three with an ERA above 5.00. That isn’t getting the job done, and I feel that the addition of Johnson would help them out.

Some honorable mentions that didn’t make my list include Byron Buxton, Corey Seager, Jose Peraza and Steven Matz. All of them are having great seasons down in the minors, but I feel they each need a little more time before they get called up to the big leagues and begin to help their teams. In the end, however, they will all likely have impacts at the major league level for many years to come.

Friday to Kick off My 2015 MiLB Baseball Season

While my first official baseball game of 2015 took place just a few days ago, with the Miami Marlins taking on their Single-A affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina, tomorrow is set to kick off my 2015 minor league baseball regular season.

With the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Myrtle Beach to take on the hometown Pelicans, it’s sure to be a good game, as both teams have a decent roster. However, the Pelicans’ overall roster is stronger and full of more prospects — nine of their top 30 prospects — so that’s the team I’m going to be trying hardest for autographs from.

Every year for the past several years, I’ve headed out to a baseball game a dozen or so times a year to get autographs from some of the best up and coming talent in the game. On Friday, I’m looking forward to seeing the likes of Billy McKinney, Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng, among many others. It should be a fun time and lead to a fun game against Wilmington, which possesses Bubba Starling and Dominique Taylor — two of the Royals top prospects.

No matter what happens on Friday, this is just the beginning of what is set to be an exciting 2015 season of baseball game outings. I’m not sure of any specific games I plan on going to past this Friday, but I’m really looking forward to the next five months of baseball ahead . . . .

Cubs Could Be Better Than Many People Think

It’s been quite awhile since people have whole heartedly believed in the Cubs.

CubsBut let’s face it. They haven’t had a reason to believe for the past several years. With the Cubs having failed to even make the postseason since 2008, not having made a World Series appearance since 1945, and currently holding a 107-year World Championship drought, the Cubs’ fan base has been nothing but disappointed for a long time.

The Cubs, however, have finally put together what could prove to be a formidable team that fans could actually get behind. In fact, many Cubs fans are getting so behind this year’s roster that they have visions of a World Series title to round out the coming season. While I like their optimism, and wouldn’t be too stunned if it happened, I don’t think it will necessarily occur in 2015. I think it will be 2016 at the earliest before the World Series becomes a possibility.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Cubs will have an amazing team this year. Although a lot of people are saying that the Cubs are extremely overhyped and stand little chance of doing much of anything this season, I actually believe in the club they have.

First off, their new manager, Joe Maddon, has proven to be one of the best in baseball — not necessarily for his winning records but for his ability to get the most out of each and every one of his players. His addition to the club house will have an immeasurable impact on the Cubs in my mind.

As far as the players themselves are concerned, it’s a talented group of characters the Cubs are going to be putting on the field throughout the season.

The one weakness a lot of people foresee, however, is their pitching staff, consisting of guys like Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks. While those players aren’t the worst pitchers in baseball, they aren’t Cy Young candidates either. But the Cubs do in fact have a Cy Young caliber pitcher they snatched up this offseason, set CubsRizzoto lead the staff every fifth day. Jon Lester, who came over to the Cubs on a 155 million dollar contract, is sure to instantly make the Cubs pitching staff relevant (with their bullpen being decent enough).

Beyond that, the Cubs’ lineup is fairly good as well. Admittedly, it consists of a lot of young, unproven talent, but it’s a good group, nonetheless. Having Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and newly added catcher, Miguel Montero, slotted in the Cubs’ lineup is sure to lead to runs being scored. But it’s the youth of the Cubs that could ultimately lead to a lot of wins in 2015.

With Jorge Soler, Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez looking to have breakout seasons — along with uber prospect Kris Bryant, who should be called up shortly into the year — the Cubs’ team is going to be one to reckon with.

However, it’s that very youth and inexperience in a great number of the players that has a lot of people remaining cautious from hopping aboard the Cubs’ bandwagon. After getting their hopes up in the past only to see things come crashing down, many people from around the baseball world refuse to believe that the Cubs stand a chance at making much ground in a division that includes the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates and Brewers.

But it’s not stopping me from predicting the Cubs to have success in 2015.

Maybe the 2015 Cubs aren’t the team that will break the “Curse of the Billy Goat”. Maybe they aren’t even the team that will dominate their division for the better part of the season. But I feel that the Cubs are in fact the team that will surprise the most people this season as they make a run toward the second wild card spot in the National League.

2015 Top 100 Prospects List Released

The annual top 100 prospects list was revealed on Friday night to the baseball world, providing everyone the first glimpse at which minor league players are worth keeping a very close eye on throughout the coming 2015 season.

I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2015. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training but have a chance of a call up later in the season.

Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2015. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects 100-91

Steven Moya (100), Manuel Margot (99),  Touki Toussaint (98), Alex Gonzalez (97),

Rafael Devers (96), Grant Holmes (95), Lucas Sims (94), Christian Bethancourt (93),

Alen Hanson (92) and Francelis Montas (91).

After seeing some time at the major league level in 2014, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Steven Moya make a return once again right out of the gates in 2015. Given, it’s likely he’ll begin the season in Triple-A, but a mid-to-late-season return is a near guarantee. That also stands as the case for Christian Bethancourt, who made his debut with the Braves last season but struggled a bit in his short time there. With his previous competition, Evan Gattis, now traded away to the Astros, I expect Bethancourt to make a quick return to Atlanta, if he isn’t placed there on Opening Day.

For all the other players on the list, it will likely be a year or two before they arrive on the big stage. While anything is possible — with some players making the jump from Single-A to the majors in one season — a big league debut doesn’t seem imminent in 2015 for the other eight players besides Moya and Bethancourt.

Prospects 90-81

Stephen Piscotty (90), Eduardo Rodriguez (89), Orlando Arcia (88), Jeff Hoffman (87),

Vincent Velasquez (86), Franklin Barreto (85), Miguel Almonte (84), Jake Thompson (83),

Michael Conforto (82) and Aaron Blair (81).

Unlike the last ten prospects, none of these prospects have made it all the way to the majors to this point in their careers. But that’s pretty much guaranteed to change for a few of them, namely Stephen Piscotty and Eduardo Rodriguez. For Piscotty, he very well had a case to make it to the majors in 2014, but he wound up remaining at the Triple-A level all year long. For Rodriguez, while he spent most of 2014 in Double-A, pitching just the playoffs in Triple-A, he has quickly become one of the fastest rising young pitchers in the game today and should see a promotion at some point.

Prospects 80-71

Jake Lamb (80), Kyle Crick (79), Mike Foltynewicz (78), Willy Adames (77),

Tim Anderson (76), Brandon Finnegan (75), Nick Kingham (74), Matt Olson (73),

Brandon Nimmo (72) and Domingo Santana (71).

Jake Lamb played a total of 37 games with the Diamondbacks last season to round out the year, and that’s where he should begin 2015. Likewise, while they won’t start 2015 with their major league clubs, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon Finnegan and Domingo Santana should spend a great deal of time in the bigs as well, getting the opportunity to show their organizations what they’re capable of. Nick Kingham could potentially make it to the majors as a September callup, but that remains to be seen. It will all depend on how he performs throughout the year.

Prospects 70-61

J.T. Realmuto (70), Matthew Wisler (69), Aaron Judge (68), Sean Newcomb (67),

Steven Matz (66), Daniel Robertson (65), Reese McGuire (64), Kevin Plawecki (63),

Trea Turner (62) and Justin O’Conner (61).

J.T. Realmuto is the only player of the ten that saw major league time last season, and he stands as the only player that could see more big league time to begin the year in 2015. Even so, it’s more likely the case that Realmuto, along with Matthew Wisler and Kevin Plawecki on the list, will begin the season in the minors, with a late season big league call up always being a possibility for each of them.

Prospects 60-51

Kyle Freeland (60), David Dahl (59), Kyle Zimmer (58), Albert Almora (57),

Sean Manaea (56), Maikel Franco (55), Nomar Mazara (54), Clint Frazier (53),

A.J. Cole (52) and Austin Hedges (51).

Following a decent season at the Triple-A level, Maikel Franco was promoted to the Phillies to end out the year, but didn’t perform all that well. Nonetheless, he stands a good shot at seeing a lot of playing time with them this year. Another player who could get a good amount of seasoning with their big league team is A.J. Cole. However, being a pitcher, he’ll likely have to serve at a bullpen capacity with the loaded starting rotation the Nationals now possess.

Prospects 50-41

D.J. Peterson (50), Kyle Schwarber (49), Hunter Renfroe (48), C.J. Edwards (47),

Austin Meadows (46), Jorge Alfaro (45), Aaron Sanchez (44), Dalton Pompey (43),

Michael Taylor (42) and Hunter Harvey (41).

The number 44-42 prospects on this list all saw time in the majors this past season, with Aaron Sanchez being the only one to post above average numbers upon their callup. But while Dalton Pompey and Michael Taylor underperformed for their clubs, they should each see themselves back up in the majors at some point. D.J. Peterson also stands a chance at a September call up spot, after the great season he had in 2014. It should be interesting to see if he makes the jump.

Prospects 40-31

Raul Mondesi (40), Braden Shipley (39), Jose Peraza (38), Aaron Nola (37),

Kohl Stewart (36), Eddie Butler (35), Josh Bell (34), Nick Gordon (33),

Jose Berrios (32) and Jameson Taillon (31).

Eddie Butler is the only one of these prospects to have played a single moment at the majors, but a few others will be added to that list in 2015. Braden Shipley, Jose Peraza, Aaron Nola, Jose Berrios and Jameson Taillon should all make their debuts at various points throughout the coming season. They all bring something different to the table, and are all very talented. They’re the type of players that make big impacts for years and years to come.

Prospects 30-21

Mark Appel (30), Alex Meyer (29), Alex Jackson (28), Tyler Kolek (27),

Jesse Winker (26), Andrew Heaney (25), Robert Stephenson (24), Luis Severino (23),

Jorge Soler (22) and J.P. Crawford (21).

Virtually, all but a couple of players from this portion of the list could make the major leagues in 2015, but the most likely are Mark Appel, Alex Meyer, Andrew Heaney, Robert Stephenson and Jorge Soler. Heaney and Soler both spent time in the major leagues in 2014, with both likely starting the year back where they left off. For Appel, Meyer and Stephenson, their major league careers will likely kick off towards the end of the season.

Prospects 20-11

Dylan Bundy (20), Henry Owens (19), Blake Swihart (18), Daniel Norris (17),

Jon Gray (16), Archie Bradley (15), Carlos Rodon (14), Joc Pederson (13),

Tyler Glasnow (12) and Miguel Sano (11).

Talk about a loaded list. Getting down closer to the number one spot brings better and better talent (obviously), with all of these players standing a shot at big league time this year. Though Jon Gray and Tyler Glasnow are long shots, Dylan Bundy, Henry Owens, Daniel Norris, Archie Bradley, Carlos Rodon, Joc Pederson and Miguel Sano will see the big leagues this year, barring injury, with their arrival time differing from player to player.

 Prospects 10-1

Noah Syndergaard (10), Joey Gallo (9), Julio Urias (8), Corey Seager (7),

Lucas Giolito (6), Addison Russell (5), Francisco Lindor (4), Carlos Correa (3),

Kris Bryant (2) and Byron Buxton (1).

With the exception of Lucas Giolito and Carlos Correa (and likely Byron Buxton), each one of these players could potentially see big league games this year. From Noah Syndergaard to Corey Seager and all the way down to Kris Bryant (who should’ve been number one, in my opinion), the future of baseball looks to be bright, with some amazingly talented prospects on the not so distant horizon.

Spring Training Slowly Inching Closer

The calendar may read January, but for baseball fans it basically stands as a reminder that Spring Training is right around the corner. The annual February event of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp is just over three weeks away, with the first official Spring Training games set to be played in around five weeks.

With roughly four months inSpring Training between the final World Series game and the earliest reporting dates of Spring Training, having the light appear at the end of the offseason tunnel is very exciting.

But, as mentioned, there are still a few weeks to go before the baseball workouts heading into the 2015 regular season begin. And thus, there is still a lot to get through before that happens — and that includes posts on this blog.

Although I’ve had some trouble coming up with things to write about over the past couple of weeks — something that regularly happens each MLB offseason — things should begin picking up fairly soon.

Beginning with my very next post coming this weekend, I’m going to be publishing my annual recap of the top 100 prospects list, which is set to be released on Friday night. With several of those players likely making it all the way to the big leagues in 2015, it should be interesting to see who is a part of the top 100.

Following that, once February arrives, I’ll begin to have more and more to write about, and will do my best to post blog entries more and more often throughout the remainder of the year. With all but a handful of teams holding a legitimate shot at making it to the postseason, there could turn out to be a lot to write about.

Four-Year Anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’

It’s hard to believe, but today marks exactly four years since I first sat down and created ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’. In some ways, it feels as if I’ve been blogging forever, as it has truly become a large part of my life. But in other ways, though, it seems like just yesterday that I began writing what has now developed into hundreds of posts. Time certainly has a way of flying along.

Creating a blog about baseball was something I never envisioned myself doing. When I first started writing this blog, it wasn’t really because I wanted to share my opinions of baseball with the world — I didn’t know a lot about it at the time, so I didn’t have very strong opinions — but mostly because I knew several people who had a blog, and I wanted one too. That was the driving force behind its creation.

But through writing this blog over the years, I feel that I have grown as a writer, a person, and — more than anything — a baseball fan. By blogging about the sport, I have turned into one of the most passionate baseball fans I know, constantly following the latest story lines and various baseball topics. I may not write about every single one, but odds are that if it’s a major baseball story, I’ve heard about it (including the 7-year, 210 million dollar contract Max Scherzer was given by the Nationals on Monday).

Initially, I was sporadically writing about various topics from around baseball, but none of the posts really focused too heavily on actually facts and statistics. They revolved around my favorite players, my favorite moments from the week, etc. Nothing that would really grab people’s attention all that much. But as time passed, I slowly turned this blog into an outlet with two main purposes: to inform the reader about the latest baseball news, and to provide myself with a place to give my opinions to whoever cared to hear them. I feel that is what this blog has become for the most part.

Each of the past two years, I’ve thrown together a list of posts on January 20th (this blog’s anniversary date) with a link and brief description regarding what the post was about and why I felt it was important. This year, however, I didn’t want to do exactly the same thing. So instead of a list, I decided to put together a brief discussion of the past four years, with most of my effort being put into the most recent blogging year (2014).

Kicking off with January 20, 2011, when I published my first post, I wrote about who I was and what this blog was planned to be about. If you take the time to read it you’ll likely notice that my first post was terrible. While I still make writing mistakes to this day (I’m sure there are several in this particular blog post), I like to think that I’ve come a long way from that first post. I sure hope I have. But even with my inexperience with blogging “way” back then, I still managed to come out as the 35th most viewed MLBlog from 2011, which was pretty remarkable to me at the time.

When the 2012 blogging year rolled around, I began an attempt to improve my blog posts as much as I could from the previous year. I was just beginning to become an avid baseball fan, and wanted to put some of my newly found knowledge into each and every post. It must have worked, because not only did I finish out the year ranking 17th overall in terms of blog views for the year, but in July of that year, I received an all expense paid trip to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby in Kansas City. That by far is the greatest perk I’ve ever received from this blog, and nothing will likely ever top it. But, I suppose, you never know.

The following year, in 2013, I made a list of resolutions for the first time that I was going to try to keep throughout the blogging year (I posted the same type of entry a couple weeks ago) and was able to stick to most of them — including one of getting more views than the previous year. By doing so, I was able to make it my most successful blogging year to that point, making a jump in the year end rankings up to 8th overall for views.

But despite the large jump in ranking, I still felt I could do better. After amassing just over 75,000 views, I set out to get more than that in 2014, and I was once again able to reach my goal. Recording a few hundred views over 80,000 for the year — including over 1,200 on a single day back in May, the most ever in a single day for me — 2014 was my best year to this point as far as views go. However, I also feel it was my best year to date in terms of blog content, as I wrote about a lot of interesting things throughout the year.

First of all, back in February, I posted one of my favorite interviews I’ve every conducted. Being on 2013 first overall draft pick, Mark Appel, the interview was the highest drafted player I’ve every interviewed, and it was truly amazing to get such fantastic answers from a player of Appel’s caliber.

But things didn’t stop there in terms of good blog content and a fun year. In July of 2014, I had the privilege of attending Minor League Baseball’s biggest events: the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game. I blogged about both, but the one I did on the All-Star game was the one I enjoyed writing the most, and therefore the one I linked.

As far as other baseball news topics are concerned from my most recent year, one of my favorite posts to put together in 2014 was the entry I wrote about Derek Jeter’s final home game, and the miraculous events that surrounded it. With Jeter being one of my favorite players of all time, seeing him finish out his final game in New York with such amazing fashion was incredible.

Rounding out my blogging year, I posted an entry on the first day of December regarding my then recent trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As I discussed in the post, it was the second time I had ever traveled to Cooperstown, but the first time I ever made it inside the Hall of Fame. To say I was impressed with my time there would be an understatement. It’s truly a place everyone should visit at least once.

In conclusion, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this blog going — my overall schedule is busier this year than it has been in the history of this blog — but I’m going to do my best to make it last as long as possible. It’s something that I don’t want to give up (or plan to give up) until I absolutely have to.

‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ Fast Facts

  • Total number of words written to this point: 294,116
  • Total number of posts: 459
  • Average number of words per post: 641

Q and A With Daniel Vogelbach

Daniel Vogelbach was drafted by the Cubs in the second round of the 2011 draft, after batting .467 with 19 home runs over the course of 34 games in his senior year of high school.

VogelbachFollowing the draft, Vogelbach continued to hit, ripping 17 homers, driving in 62 runs and posting a stellar .322 average in his first professional season in 2012. A .285 career hitter, Vogelbach has slugged no fewer than 16 homers a season, and has been able to keep his strikeout numbers very low — a rarity in power hitters nowadays.

In 2014 with Daytona, Vogelbach put the ball in play a ton, striking out just 91 times in 482 at-bats — helping him to drive in a total of 76 runs for the second straight year, and further putting himself on the map in a farm system that is extremely strong at the moment.

A member of a top ten prospects list that includes the likes of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Albert Almora, players such as Vogelbach are helping the Cubs look to be finally making the climb back to a contending team.

Daniel Vogelbach — top prospect in the Cubs’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I have played baseball since tee ball. I always knew that was my first love, but I played all sports growing up. My family has been my biggest influence on me. They are always there for me and would do anything for me.

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

Chipper Jones was my favorite player growing up. I was always a Braves fan, and I always liked the way he played the game.

3.) You were drafted by the Cubs in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

Going into the draft, I had a pretty hard commitment to the University of Florida.  I always wanted to be a gator my whole life, and anything else was a plus for me. So when draft day came, I just left it in God’s hands, and I knew he would lead me down the right path. It was for sure one of the best days of my life, and being able to spend it with my family was even better. I am for sure blessed with the way things turned out.

4.) You’ve stated a desire to continue playing first base as your career progresses, but have been projected in the past by some as merely a future designated hitter. What have you done both offensively and defensively to help put you on the path needed to be a major league first baseman and not just DH?

I don’t get caught up in what people say I can and can’t do. I work hard everyday to pursue my dreams. And I continue to improve my game every day to be the best I can be. I love playing first base and I love being on the field. And that’s what I plan on doing throughout my career.

5.) Always posting great power numbers over your baseball career thus far, you’ve also been very consistent in hitting for average. What kind of adjustments do you make to keep from being the type of power hitter that hits for a very low average, while still maintaining the pop in your bat?

When I go to the plate I have a plan and I always try to stick to that plan. I always try to take what the pitcher gives me and not try to do to much. The home runs will come if I just stay with my approach. I pride myself in not striking out and hitting the ball to all fields.

6.) You had the opportunity to participate in the Arizona Fall League this past season. What was that experience like, playing with and against some of the best talent minor league baseball has to offer? What did you take away from your time there that you plan to use moving forward?

The fall league was for sure an honor to be in. I had such a good time with some guys I will be friends with forever. Being with the best of the best you can always pick up on stuff, and I tried to take little things from everyone every day. It was for sure something I won’t forget.

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

Stats are something I try to stay away from. I just try to have good at bats and hit balls hard.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

We had a great season as a team in 2014 and just fell short. I’m expecting to win a ring this year.

9.) Favorite food?

Chicken is my favorite food . . . .

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

My advice to kids is chase your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

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Big thanks to Daniel Vogelbach for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @DanielVogelbach

Q and A With Billy McKinney

Billy McKinney was drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, after batting .372 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI’s during his senior year of high school.Billy McKinney

Since the draft, McKinney has posted solid numbers between three different levels of professional baseball, hitting a combined .283, and truly showing why he was so highly thought of by the A’s in the 2013 draft.

However, despite seemingly being a big part of the Athletics’ future, McKinney was traded to the Cubs’ organization in July as part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija (now with the White Sox) to the Athletics.

But the trade turned out to be great for McKinney, who was batting just .241 through 75 games worth of at-bats before the swap.

Following the team change, McKinney hit .301 to finish out the season, bringing his combined average for 2014 up to .264 to go along with 11 home runs and 69 RBI’s. A great turnaround after the slow start McKinney had to begin 2014.

If McKinney can continue to develop into the player he’s expected to become, it won’t be long before he’s a part of the Cubs’ future at the major league level.

Billy McKinney — top prospect in the Cubs’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I started playing tee ball when I was 3 years old. My parents [were my biggest influences], as both of them helped me in different ways. My mother helped me keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation, and my father helped with my development.

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

Josh Hamilton, [for] two reasons. One: I admired his swing and power. Secondly: I respected him for the challenges he overcame to become an MLB player.

3.) You were drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting and enjoyable time, balancing all the scout home visits, hitting sessions for various teams, and playing my final high school season. My family was fortunate to be asked to attend the draft at the MLB Studio. It was an opportunity to be there with eight other players who were expected to be drafted. When Mr. Selig called my name as an Oakland Athletic I was ecstatic, as I had always admired them being a great baseball team. I was pumped being picked by such a strong baseball club that focused on solid fundamentals.

4.) After finishing out 2013 with short-season Vermont, you were moved all the way up to High-A Stockton to begin 2014. Struggling at times with Stockton, what did you find most challenging about making the jump to that level of baseball so quickly?

Most definitely was adjusting to the quality of pitching in High-A. Some very, very good pitching in both the California League and the Florida League.

5.) In July, you were a part of a multi-player trade for Jeff Samardzija that sent you from the Athletics’ organization over to the Cubs’. How did you react when you first heard about the trade? What was it like making the switch in organizations mid-season?

I was shocked at first, although as time passed I quickly realized baseball is a business and the Cubs are a quality organization with great leadership. At first it was different, although my Daytona Cub teammates made it a very easy transition, welcoming me to the team.

6.) Upon your transition to the Cubs’ system, you were able to get a fresh start, recording solid numbers with their High-A club to finish out the year. What was it about your new team that made it easier for you to perform at a higher level than you did the first half of the season?

It was basically making adjustments in my approach to the quality of pitching in High-A and learning from previous experiences.

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

Bus rides and downtime, although being together as a team helps ease the boredom. [We] hang out together and/or watch TV.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

[In 2014, I] learned throughout the year and appreciated the opportunity to play for the Florida State League Championship with the Cubs. [Goals for 2015 are to] help the Cubs in anyway I can and to continue to develop as a player and person by being challenged.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

‘Modern Family’. Steak.

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

Work hard and never give up, regardless of the situation. Also, embrace your teammates, as baseball is a team sport.

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Big thanks to Billy McKinney for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @billy_mckinney

Q and A With Adam Brett Walker II

Adam Brett Walker II was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, after batting .343 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI’s in his Junior season at Jacksonville.

Walker 2Since the draft, Walker has posted some good numbers, with his best season thus far coming back in 2013, when he blasted 27 home runs and drove in 109 runs to go along with a .278 batting average.

This past season, Walker saw his number fall a bit, batting only .246 and driving in 15 fewer runs than the previous year, but he still managed to knock 25 balls over the wall throughout the year.

With power being the number one tool that Walker possesses, it’s likely that his home run totals will be the one thing that stands out from season to season as his career progresses. A right handed power hitter, which is currently one of the most prized assets at the big league level, it shouldn’t be too long before Walker sees himself up in Minnesota with the Twins if he can continue to record solid numbers.

Adam Brett Walker II — top prospect in the Twins’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

I have been playing baseball since before I can remember. I’ve [played] organized ball since tee ball. My dad loves the game as well, so he let me play baseball along with other sports. My cousin Damion Easley played in the big leagues, and I have always looked up [to him] as someone I know that can make it.

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

My favorite player growing up was always Ken Griffey Jr. I love the way he played the game. It always looked like he was having fun, and I love his swing.

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

It was a very exciting feeling for my family and I. I was sitting at home and some of my family came into town to be with me. It is a pretty crazy feeling to sit there and listen to other names getting picked before me. When the time came and I finally heard my name called by the Twins it was very emotional for me, knowing that I have worked my whole life training to have this opportunity. I dreamed of having this chance for my whole life and it was an amazing feeling.

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

Life on the road isn’t the most fun but it helps a lot to have been with such great teammates during my professional career. We spend a lot of time on the bus traveling during the season, that is for sure. You really start to find ways to entertain yourself, from watching movies, listening to music, reading, and playing cards with the guys. It definitely isn’t the most idea way to spend hours of your time every couple days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5.) Known for your power, you won the 2014 Florida State League’s All-Star Game home run derby. Did you approach the derby with any different of a swing than you do in an at-bat during the season? After the derby, did you notice a negative change in your swing that many big league home run derby participants complain about?

I had a blast this year in the Florida State League home run derby. I didn’t try to change too much in my swing, though. When we take BP during the season I usually try to take a few swing and have my own home run derby. I definitely swung a little harder during the home run derby than I do in game, though. Of course, I was trying to pull the ball in the derby, so the main adjustment I tried to make after was making sure I could hit the ball to the opposite field. After the All-Star break, I don’t believe that being in the home run derby hurt me.

6.) You made it to the playoffs this season with the Fort Myers Miracle, winning the Florida State League title for the first time in their franchise history. What was the overall experience of the playoffs like?

This year has been a lot of fun for me, so to be able to end the year with a championships just makes it so much better. We had a great team this year, and we were all pulling together to win the league. I had a great group of teammates to play with throughout the summer, so to win with them was awesome. I love playoff baseball, though. The intensity of the games is unbelievable. We all know that every game is going to come down to executing the last out every game of the series. I just hope to be able to experience playoff baseball a few more times in my baseball career.

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

I try to stay away from checking out the stats. Every night I just try to go out and do what it takes to win the game. I know if I’m helping the team then my stats will be in a good spot at the end of the year. Winning baseball games makes the season a lot easier to handle as well. Even if you are doing great but your team keeps losing day after day it is still hard to be happy.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

2014 was a pretty good year overall. There were ups and downs throughout the season but I am happy now looking back at it. I believe I did a pretty good job of driving the ball and being able to bring in runs. Run production is a big part of my game, and I take a lot of pride in doing that. I will always keep working on being a better defender and having more plate discipline. That is always a goal of mine going into every season. I have felt I have grown in these aspects of my game, but feel I could still be better. Having plate discipline will help cut down on strikeouts, and I believe help [me] be able to get on base more.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV but I am a big Netflix guy now. I just finished watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’. I loved watching that show, so I’m pretty upset that it is over now. I can’t lie, I am a pretty big fan of watching some HGTV every once in a while. My favorite food is pizza, though, by far. I love it all and I could eat it everyday!

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

My advice to kids that have dreams of playing professional baseball is to always have fun! I think about how when I was little all I wanted to do was go out and play with my friends. I know as I got older I started putting more pressure on myself to perform, which is good because you want to be the best you can be. I have had times when I was doing well and I looked back and I wasn’t having fun. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and had to step back and enjoy the game and take it one day at a time. You will have to work hard but remember you are playing the game you loved for so long. Never forget that.

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Big thanks to Adam Brett Walker II for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @walkoff28

Q and A With Tyler Danish

Tyler Danish was drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, after not allowing an earned run over 94 high school innings in Florida during his senior year, in which he struck out 156. Danish

Since the draft, Danish has posted some fantastic numbers between three different levels, proving why he was worthy of a high draft pick. Possessing a good mid 90’s fastball, along with a slider and changeup — a combination that keeps hitters off balance — one of the things that makes Danish so deceptive is his mechanics. Throwing from a 3/4 arm slot, many people see Danish as being perfect for a high-leverage situation major league reliever, but Danish wants to be a starter if at all possible.

Danish certainly made a strong case this past season for being a starting pitcher moving forward, as despite some struggles at times, he went a combined 8-3 with a 2.08 ERA over 25 starts between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, holding opponents to a .237 batting average.

Either way, as a starter or reliever, it’s likely not going to be too much longer until Danish makes it to the big leagues if he can continue to perform at the level he has to this point in his career.

Tyler Danish — top prospect in the White Sox’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

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

Baseball was my passion ever since I could remember. I started playing at three years old. My parents were huge influences in my baseball career. They [were] there through it all with me.

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

The Captain [Derek Jeter]. Just the quiet swagger he had on the field. I just loved it.

3.) You were drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is a very stressful process. It’s an interview with 30 teams to show why you should be picked, but it’s also a fun process to go through. It’s a dream at 18 years old to even be considered as one of the best in the country. When I first found out, I was at home watching the draft when I saw my name come across the board. It was one of the best feelings, knowing all this work and time you put in finally showed up.

4.) You were promoted to High-A Winston-Salem in May after performing so well at Single-A Kannapolis. Upon your promotion, you struggled a bit, finally finding your groove towards the end of the season. What about High-A was initially hard to adjust to? What changes, if any, did you make to become effective once again to finish the year?

Me struggling in High-A was me over-thinking the game of baseball; thinking I had to make perfect pitches, pitches that moved more, and pitches that were unhittable. But that wasn’t the case, as all the game of baseball is the same game from tee-ball all the way to the big leagues. Once I got my mental game back things went smooth. So the one change I made was me going out there and doing what I have done all my life, and that was enjoy playing the game of baseball and having fun.

5.) You were used primarily as a relief pitcher in 2013, but made 25 starts in 2014. Why was it important to you to prove that you could be an effective starter when so many people see you as a future reliever?

This year was huge to show people I could be a starter because so many people doubt me and say I can’t. But with my personality — I love that. I feast on when people say I can’t do something. So that was my thought every time I took the mound this year: “Prove doubters wrong”.

6.) Part of the reason people envision you as a future major league relief pitcher is your unique delivery of throwing out of a three-quarters arm slot. Where and when did you first develop your delivery? How much do you attribute your deceptive delivery to your success on the mound?

That motion came from me playing shortstop since I was little. It was a natural feeling on the mound, but I didn’t start throwing like that until my junior year in high school. I used to be your traditional right hander, straight over the top, but my ball didn’t move, and I was topping out at 86 my sophomore year. One day at practice in a bullpen session I dropped down to the 3/4 arm slot and my ball moved everywhere. So I stuck with it and my velocity went up. I think that there is a little deceptiveness with how I throw just because it’s funky and a new look to hitters.

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

Life on the road has its up and downs. Downs are definitely the bus rides; they can get very long and boring. But other than that you see new places, you play at different stadiums and you’re also playing professional baseball. To pass the time I watch Netflix constantly. That’s what I do all day, every day. Let me just say: Thank God for Netflix.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?

My 2014 year couldn’t have gone any better. I became a better pitcher in all aspects. I finally failed in pro ball, and I show myself that I can bounce back from that. So later on down the road when I struggle again I know it’s not the end of the world. I also had a lot of success, but I handled that very well too. I didn’t get too high, and I continue to work everyday to be better at what I do. Goal for 2015 is to continue to work and get better. My top goal, though, is to pitch in the big leagues next year.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show has to be ‘Law & Order SVU’. Favorite food is Chipotle.

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

For kids just starting the dream to hopefully one day play professional baseball — never give up no matter what happens in life. Don’t give up on your dream. Dreams do come true. But always work hard. Always give everything you have, even if you don’t want to. Respect your parents; they do a lot for you. Even if you don’t see it right now, they do. Make good grades, and stay out of trouble!

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

You can follow him on Twitter: @danish_Tyler7

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