Results tagged ‘ MiLB ’

Top 100 Prospects List Released

The big story of the day on Tuesday was the release of a new report that linked multiple MLB players to performance enhancing drugs, including Alex Rodriguez, yet again, who admitted to having used them, back in 2009.

While the PED news was the main thing on everyone’s mind on Tuesday, I’m not going to talk about it at all. There’s still so much uncertainty, that I don’t feel comfortable writing about it; it’s not really my place to anyhow. If you’d like to read about it, a quick Google search will lead you to articles covering everything you might want to know about the subject. As far as I’m concerned, the highlight of the day was the release of the Top 100 prospects list. And that’s what I’m going to be discussing in this particular blog post.

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 last year, 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 2013. 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 list 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 2013. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects Number 100-91

Gary Brown (100), Tervor Story (99), Aaron Hicks (98), Adam Eaton (97),

Jose Iglesias (96), Martin Perez (95), Henry Owens (94), Oswaldo Arcia (93),

Bruce Rondon (92) and A.J. Cole (91).

Of the ten players listed above, the only players that have a shot, I feel, of making the big league club out of Spring Training are Adam Eaton and Jose Iglesias. Both Eaton and Iglesias saw time in the major leagues in 2012, and it’s likely they’ll get a chance at a near full season this year. In 2012, Eaton was a late season call up, and batted .259 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI’s, in 22 games. Iglesias didn’t fair as well, batting .118 with a homer and a couple of RBI’s. Iglesias and Eaton should both get a good amount of time in the Majors this season, to redeem themselves. How big of an impact they have is yet to be seen, as they both have fairly small MLB sample sizes.

Bruce Rondon, Gary Brown and Aaron Hicks all stand decent chances at getting a call up sometime during the 2013 season, with Martin Perez standing the best overall chance of making it back to the majors; Perez is the only one of the four who has had big league experience, pitching in 12 games in 2012, and going 1-4, with a 5.45 ERA. The future closer of the Tigers, Bruce Rondon, who has been known to hit triple digits, is another guy who is likely to get a chance at pitching in the majors sometime this season, as he had an ERA of 1.53 in 2012. Brown and Hicks are still question marks, in my mind, for whether or not they’ll make it to the major league level in 2013. They may end up having to wait until the 2014 season.

Prospects Number 90-81

Roberto Osuna (90), Jarred Cosart (89), Jorge Alfaro (88), Cody Buckel (87),

Kyle Crick (86), Joc Pederson (85), Luis Sardinas (84), Michael Wacha (83),

Adeiny Hechavarria (82) and Andrew Heaney (81).

Jarred Cosart stands the best shot, if not the only shot, of making the major league club out of Spring Training, of the ten players above. Cosart possesses a great fastball, along with an above average curveball and change up, but his overall lack of control may be the one thing that keeps Cosart in the minors to start out the season. However, even if he doesn’t break camp with the Astros, you’re sure to see Cosart in the big leagues sometime this season; sooner rather than later.

Adeiny Hechavarria also has a good chance of making it back to the big leagues later this year. Spending 41 games with Blue Jays in 2012, he has major league experience, however, Hechavarria, who has since been traded to the Marlins, didn’t produce nearly as often as I feel he’s capable of, and therefore is likely to begin 2013 with AAA New Orleans. Even with a late start, Hechavarria has the ability to make an big impact for the Marlins this season. With the loss of several key players due to a questionable trade, the Marlins could use a valuable bat to help them out towards the middle to late parts of the coming season, and Hechavarria could be just the guy for the job.

Prospects Number 80-71

Ethan Martin (80), Kolten Wong (79), Zach Lee (78), Matt Davidson (77),

Yasiel Puig (76), Tyler Austin (75), Lucas Giolito (74), Austin Hedges (73),

Justin Nicolino (72) and Allen Webster (71).

I’m not sure there are any players from the group above that have a chance at making the major league club out of Spring Training. Matt Davidson stands the best chance of all of them, however, even he–with his .261 batting average to go along with 23 HR’s and 76 RBI’s–might end up having to wait a month or two. The only other players worth talking about, that could receive a call up during the season, are Kolten Wong, Allen Webster and Tyler Austin. All three have big league caliber talent already, however, it may end up being just Wong and Webster who see time in the majors in 2013, as Austin is yet to have enough minor league experience. But you never know what could happen down the road.

Prospects Number 70-61

Jake Marisnick (70), Casey Kelly (69), Courtney Hawkins (68), Kaleb Cowart (67),

Tony Cingrani (66), Gregory Polanco (65), Wily Peralta (64), Didi Gregorius (63),

Nolan Arenado (62) and James Paxton (61).

If the Padres don’t break camp with Casey Kelly in their rotation, they don’t really know what their doing as a franchise, in my opinion. You could argue that Kelly doesn’t have enough experience, or that when was called up to the majors last year that he didn’t do all that well–going 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA–but as far as I’m concerned, Kelly is the key to the Padres success in 2013, and as such, should start with the team as soon as possible. Unfortunately, however, it’s not up to me.

A few other players who stand a great chance of making it back to the big leagues are Wily Peralta, Tony Cingrani and Didi Gregorius. All three have short stints of big league experience under their belt, and all three also possess the ability to impact their respective teams this season; none more so than Didi Gregorius. Having been compared to Derek Jeter, Gregorius possesses the kind of athleticism that you don’t see every day from a short stop. His ability to make plays on balls that would normally drop for a hit gives him added value, in addition to his ability to hit the baseball in a fairly consistent manner. Peralta and Cingrani should also get recalled back to the big leagues in 2013, but won’t have nearly the impact of Gregorius, as far as I can see right now.

Prospects Number 60-51

Jesse Biddle (60), Yordano Ventura (59), David Dahl (58), George Springer (57),

Hak-Ju Lee (56), Rymer Liriano (55), Alen Hanson (54), Max Fried (53),

Brian Goodwin (52) and Robert Stephenson (51).

Hak-Ju Lee and Rymer Liriano are the only players from the group above that I feel have a chance of seeing time in the big leagues this season. If their time comes at all, it would come towards the end of the season, as both Lee and Liriano need some more minor league innings before they can be considered big league ready; not a ton more, however. Whether it’s this season or next before Liriano and Lee are ready, both will eventually be impact players for their respective teams, as both have the ability to hit for average; though, Liriano possesses a good deal more power than Lee. They both are great at fielding their respective positions, however, and should be receiving the call up to the big leagues fairly shortly.

Prospects Number 50-41

Jedd Gyorko (50), Kyle Gibson (49), Addison Russell (48), Nick Franklin (47),

Chris Archer (46), Jake Odorizzi (45), Taylor Guerrieri (44), Trevor Rosenthal (43),

Jorge Soler (42) and Mason Williams (41).

Both Jedd Gyorko and Kyle Gibson stand really good chances of making the major leagues out of Spring Training. Gyorko had a great 2012, batting .311 with 30 homers and 100 RBI’s, and should make the big leagues without a problem if he can continue to produce the same kind of numbers throughout Spring Training. Gibson, unlike Gyorko, didn’t have all that stellar of a 2012 season, but he’s one of the front-runners to make the Twins’ rotation on Opening Day, just for the fact that if it wasn’t for his health, he’d be there already. Gibson is at the point where I feel the Twins need to give him a shot, and see how he does. I feel he has the stuff to be a near front of the rotation big league starter for many years to come.

Trevor Rosenthal, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi all stand great chances of making it back to the majors in 2013. All three are pitchers, and all three saw time at the big league level in 2012. Rosenthal was the most impressive, pitching in 19 games resulting in a 2.78 ERA, however, Archer and Odorizzi weren’t far behind, as although both ended with a season ERA above 4.00, they showed off their ability to get batters out at the big league level. Nick Franklin is another guy who stands a chance at seeing big league time in 2013, however, unlike Rosenthal, Archer and Odorizzi, Franklin’s time is likely to come towards the very end of the season.

Prospects Number 40-31

Alex Meyer (40), Albert Almora (39), Matt Barnes (38), Kevin Gausman (37),

Gary Sanchez (36), Aaron Sanchez (35), Kyle Zimmer (34), Carlos Martinez (33),

Jackie Bradley (32) and Julio Teheran (31).

Julio Teheran stands the best chance of playing in the majors in 2013, of all the players listed above, but I wouldn’t rule out a call up of Jackie Bradley Jr. and/or Carlos Martinez, towards the end of the year. Teheran had a rough 2012 with AAA, going 7-9, with a 5.08 ERA, and didn’t fair much better when he received a mid season call up to the big leagues that resulted in a 5.68 ERA. While there’s not much room for error with Teheran moving forward, he still has a couple more season to figure things out, before being considered a bust, however, as far as I’m concerned, he needs to show what he’s capable of this year. Both Bradley and Martinez have the ability to receive late season call ups, but it all depends on how well they do during first half of the coming season. While a call up for Bradley isn’t out of the question, I feel the Red Sox should wait until 2014 to bring him up. He’s going to be a great player, and I feel calling him up too early would do more harm than good.

Prospects Number 30-21

Carlos Correa (30), Noah Syndergaard (29), Anthony Rendon (28), J. Singleton (27),

Bubba Starling (26), Shelby Miller (25), Archie Bradley (24), Mike Zunino (23),

Mike Olt (22) and Nick Castellanos (21).

Mike Olt and Shelby Miller saw big league time last season, and both have good chances of seeing it out of the gate in 2013. Receiving late season callups last season, Olt and Miller showed their ability to impact their teams, however, it’s fair to say that Miller impacted his team a good bit more than Olt. Posting an ERA of 1.32 in six games with the Cardinals, in 2012, Miller has the ability to be an incredible pitching talent, once he makes a few minor adjustments.

Mike Zunino and Nick Castellano both could see time in the major leagues in 2013, but I’d say Zunino stands a better chance than Castellanos. While Castellanos hit .320 in 2012, there’s not an open spot for him in the Tigers’ lineup, just yet, so I’d say if anything, it’ll be towards the very last portion of the year when Castellanos gets called up; if he sees MLB playing time at all in 2013. Zunino, on the other hand, could very well see time in the majors just a few months into the season. With the catching position uncertain, up in Seattle, combined with hitting .360 with 13 HR’s and 43 RBI’s, in 44 games, in 2012, I’d say it’s a fairly safe bet to say that Zunino will be playing with the Mariners sometime in 2013.

Prospects Number 20-11

Xander Bogaerts (20), Byron Buxton (19), Danny Hultzen (18), Trevor Bauer (17),

Javier Baez (16), Jameson Taillon (15), Francisco Lindor (14), Christian Yelich (13),

Miguel Sano (12) and Billy Hamilton (11).

While there may be some of you out there who disagree with my opinion, I feel the Indians need to place Trevor Bauer in their starting rotation right out of Spring Training. While he didn’t fair all that well when called up to the majors last year, with the D-back’s, Bauer is the future Ace of the Indians’ rotation, and going 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in the minor leagues, in 2012, I feel he’s ready. Only time will tell, however, if the Indians’ plan on playing it safe, or decide to give Bauer a shot to start off the season.

For those of you who felt that Billy Hamilton should’ve been a September call up to the Reds last season, you’ll get your chance to see Hamilton in action at the big league level this season; much sooner than September, more than likely. Hamilton already possesses the speed of a major league player, however, he needs to become a little more consistent at the plate before the Reds will consider bringing him up. Once there, there’s no doubt in my mind that Hamilton will be a big league fixture for many years to come, as guys with speed compared to that of Rickey Henderson don’t come around all that often.

Another guy who has a chance of making the big leagues in 2013 is Danny Hultzen. Hultzen had a fairly decent season in 2012–going 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA–however, his control was somewhat of an issue. If he can figure things out, he should be helping out the Mariners, along with Mike Zunino, towards the end of 2013.

Prospects Number 10-1

Tyler Skaggs (10), Gerrit Cole (9), Zack Wheeler (8), Jose Fernandez (7),

Travis d’Arnaud (6), Taijuan Walker (5), Wil Myers (4), Oscar Taveras (3),

Dylan Bundy (2) and Jurickson Profar (1).

The number one prospect in all of baseball, Jurickson Profar, should make the big leagues right out of Spring Training without a problem; the only dilemma being, where the Rangers will place him. Profar received 17 MLB at-bats last season with the Rangers, and although batting a mere .176, it’s only a matter of time before he begins to hit at a consistent level. Profar is one of the main players you need to keep a close eye on going into the 2013 season, and beyond.

You can pretty much bet on the fact that you’ll see Dylan Bundy, Wil Myers, Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Skaggs in the major leagues sometime during the coming season. All of them are special talents, however, I don’t think any of them will break camp with the big league club. Skaggs and Bundy are the only two that have seen big league innings, but Myers and d’Arnaud aren’t far from being ready; many felt Myers was ready last season. The biggest everyday impact player, of the four, I feel, is going to be Wil Myers, who batted .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBI’s in 2012. It’s likely that he could’ve held his own in the majors towards the end of last season, but he didn’t receive the chance to prove it. I look for Myers and Bundy to take the baseball world by storm in 2013, with d’Arnaud and Skaggs making a splash as well.

Oscar Taveras, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole could also see time in the majors in 2013, however, I don’t see them getting the call up until the end of the season. All three have the ability to become future MLB All-Star caliber players.

I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list, for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were; but I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2013 season have been announced, I ask you this: Which player do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2013? Cast your vote below:

Feel free to leave a comment below, with your overall thoughts on the top 100 prospects list, heading into this year.

Q and A With Jason Adam

This is the second time I’ve conducted an interview with Jason Adam. If you’d like to check out the first one, click HERE.

In the full season in between the first interview I did with Jason Adam and this one, Adam did a great job of honing his skills as a pitcher. 305515_291402037615357_100204916735071_654857_2025297113_nLowering his ERA from 4.23 the previous year, to 3.53 for 2012, Adam showed off his ability to locate all three of his pitches consistently.

In addition to a lower ERA, Adam was also able to increase his average number of innings per game, from 5 innings in 2011, up to 6 innings; further evidence of how much Adam matured as a pitcher in 2012.

Adam spent all of 2012 with A+ Wilmington, and although he failed to end the season with a win-loss record at, or above, .500 (as was the case in 2011), as stated, he improved statistically in nearly every category that he, himself, could control. (I feel the win-loss record is overrated anyway.)

It’s likely that Adam will begin the 2013 season at AA Northwest Arkansas, however, that won’t be determined until late March. No matter where Adam begins 2013, if he can continue to develop into the pitcher he’s capable of becoming, it shouldn’t be all that terribly long before he’s on the mound up in Kansas City, pitching for his hometown Royals.

Jason Adam–top 10 prospect in the Kansas City Royals organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At the beginning of last season you stated that you were looking to do a better job in 2012 of controlling the running game, along with consistently locating your three pitches. For the most part, you seemed to do just that this past season. What do you feel allowed you to accomplish those goals?

I think all that it really took was a little bit of effort. Controlling the run game is something that you can do regardless of talent level. And as far as consistently locating all 3 pitches, part of the improvement was due to another year of pitching under my belt. I also had a much higher focus level in all my bullpens and playing catch every day.

2.) Being ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in the Royals’ organization, does it have any affect on you, in terms of living up to the expectations?

I try not to pay too much attention to the prospect rankings at all. My goal is not to be a top prospect, it is to be a top MLB pitcher. If I focus on the goals I set for myself, and what the Royals organization wants me to do, then all the rest will take care of itself.

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

I generally try to ignore my stats until the season is over. I don’t want thoughts of lowering my ERA clogging my head when I’m not throwing well, and I especially don’t want to get a big ego when things are going well for me. Pride comes right before the fall. I do like to look at minor stats such as first pitch strike percentage and off speed pitch percentage, because those are things I feel I can make improvements on between starts.

4.) You seemed to have a close team this past season. Do you feel your relationship with your teammates off the field transfers onto the field, in terms of playing together as a team?

I absolutely believe that a close team off the field leads to winning on the field. If you look at all the championship teams and talk to all the players, they almost always talk about how close their clubhouse was. It just makes the game more fun and when you can play the game thinking about what you can do to best serve your team instead of best serving yourself, then the results will always be better.

5.) 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? And although you’re playing the game you love, does it ever get old?

I don’t mind life on the road too bad. I can sleep on the bus pretty well, so most the trips don’t seem too terribly long. If I’m not sleeping I’ll just listen to music and stare out the window. It keeps me entertained enough. The only part I really don’t like is the constant packing and unpacking and basically living out of a suitcase. None of it has gotten old to me yet. And I don’t see it getting old, because hopefully before I have time to get sick of it I will be in the big leagues where travel is pretty luxurious to say the least. I’m very blessed to get paid to play the game that I love, so remembering how lucky I am helps me keep from getting sick of the travel.

6.) Obviously the ultimate goal, as it is for every MiLB player, is to make it to the big leagues. What would it mean to you to make it to the majors? (Especially with the added aspect of playing for your hometown team.)

Thinking about making it to the big leagues, with my hometown team the Royals, gives me the chills every time. It’s the place and team I grew up dreaming about playing for ever since I can remember. But I don’t just want to make it, I want to make it and be a big part of the Royals turning themselves back into a consistent World Series contender, and bring that World Series trophy back to KC.

7.) What was the most memorable moment from the 2012 season?

I would have to say when we clinched a spot in the postseason. We had just won our game, and now all we needed was the other team to lose. We were all huddled in Vance’s office around the computer, listening to the game, and when they recorded the last out we went nuts.

8.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to prepare yourself for the 2013 season?

I’m living in Arizona all offseason and training at the Royals’ facility in Surprise. My goal is to put on some more good weight and refine my mechanical flaws to bring back the velocity and command that I think I should have. I’ll work as hard as I can, and let God take care of the rest.

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Big thanks to Jason Adam for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Jason_Adam9

Q and A With Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Since the draft, things haven’t gone as planned for Gibson, as although his stats have been decent, he hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy; having to undergo Tommy John surgery in September of 2011.

As far as Gibson’s stats go, he’s certainly lived up, for the most part, to being a first round draft pick. The 2008 Team USA pitcher went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in his first professional season, in 2010. Good enough to earn him a promotion to AAA Rochester at the end of the year, after beginning the season with A+ Fort Myers.Gibson

Gibson’s stellar inaugural season didn’t translate into 2011, however, as although he was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game, at Chase Field, Gibson went 3-8 on the year, with a 4.18 ERA. To put it in simpler terms: That’s not very good. But Gibson’s poor pitching wasn’t entirely his fault. Gibson had an arm injury, which resulted in him having to have Tommy John surgery during the offseason. A surgery that would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Gibson.

Post surgery, Gibson had a sudden boost in velocity, as his fastball rose from upper 80′s to lower 90′s, this past season. In Gibson’s most recent (partial) season, he went 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA; which is misleading due to the few innings in which he was able to pitch. As a result of the shortened season, Gibson traveled out to Arizona to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected to make the start for the Western Division in the 2012 A.F.L. Rising Stars Game–lasting two innings and giving up a couple of runs.

As long as things continue to go smoothly for Gibson, between now and the start of the season, barring any unpredicted setbacks, you can expect to see Gibson in the Major Leagues sometime during the upcoming 2013 season; if not on Opening Day. He certainly has the potential to get the call up out of Spring Training, and as such, is a guy everyone needs to keep a very close eye on in the coming months.

Kyle Gibson–top 10 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 always been involved and interested in baseball because my dad was. He was a high school baseball coach after he played a little bit of junior college baseball in his prime. He still likes to play in a mens senior league to this day. I believe that is why he would be my biggest influence on my love for the game up to this point.

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

I had a couple when I was growing up. My dad was a huge Nolan Ryan fan, so obviously I thought he was cool, but believe it or not, I used to play a little short stop in my younger/shorter/faster years, and at that time Barry Larkin was a favorite player of mine as well.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was a long and stressful process at times mainly because I found out I had a stress fracture in my right forearm about 4 days before the draft. That made everything a little more stressful than I imagined, but even with that said, it was a fun process and I learned a lot. My parents and I decided to stay home and invite some people over to the house to watch the draft, so I was sitting outside in our driveway under a tent with what ended up being a few more people than the “some” we had planned on inviting. Everyone was getting a little anxious because from everything we had heard there was no definite place I was going to get drafted. So as the picks went by we got a little more anxious, but when my name was called there was a loud cheer, and I still get chills thinking about that moment in my life.

4.) You had Tommy John surgery in September of 2011 and seemed to have an increase in velocity. Has that increase in velocity changed the way you go about pitching or did you keep the same basic approach?

It does not change the way I pitch too much, other than the fact that I now have a much different fastball and slider. I have needed to learn to trust my fastball a little more because it’s now consistently in the low 90′s where before I was more consistently 89. My slider has also gained some velocity and has sharpened up a bit, so I have needed to adjust to that as well.

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

I would say there are a couple stats that I like to look at, and those are walks and ground ball/fly ball ratio. I hate walking people, so that is why that is so important to me, and I also know that when I am at my best, I need to have the defense involved. The best way for me to do that is to get lots of ground balls and allow our infielders to do the rest.

6.) You made the start for the West division in the 2012 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. What was that experience like, in terms of going up against some of the best hitters that minor league baseball has to offer?

That experience was a lot of fun. Had I not given up a moonshot to the first batter I might have enjoyed it slightly more…..just kidding. It was a great opportunity, even though for only 2 innings, to square off against [Jarred] Cosart, who I have known for many years dating back to when he had committed to Missouri out of high school before the Phillies drafted and signed him. It was a lot of fun for all of us, and good to get that chance to pitch another time against the best the minors has to offer.

7.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to help you prepare for 2013? What are your goals for 2013?

Since my regular season extended into my offseason more than usual, I am now starting to get back into the swing of things and throwing again. Workouts will get more intense as I make sure my arm and body are prepared for another long season. My goals have a lot to do with staying healthy, and hopefully making it up to the big club and having a positive impact on our chances of winning. Everyone wants to become a big leaguer, and I really hope I am able to do that this year.

8.) Favorite TV show?

‘Sports Center’ or ‘Duck Dynasty’.

9.) Favorite food?

Steak or Mozzi’s Pizza from Greenfield, Indiana where I grew up.

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

Always have fun. Baseball should be something that they enjoy doing. Work as hard as you possibly can. I always look back and know that I could have worked harder because I never really knew what it took to become a professional. So have no regrets and work as hard as you can, but have fun doing it!

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Big thanks to Kyle Gibson for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @kgib44

Q and A With Brady Rodgers

Brady Rodgers was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, Rodgers has pitched in a total of only 12 games, but in those few games was able to live up to being a third round pick; posting some fairly impressive numbers, in his first (partial) season. 628x471

Going 7-2, with a 2.89 ERA in 62.1 innings pitched this past season, Rodgers certainly showed the type of potential he has to become a big league starter. If he can keep on pitching the way he did in 2012, I feel it’s truly only a matter of time before he’s on the mound down in Houston.

But posting great numbers isn’t something that’s new to Rodgers; he’s been doing it for years. In three years at Arizona State University, Rodgers went a combined 23-10 with a 2.39 ERA–the second best career ERA in ASU team history.

Rodgers’ first full season in 2013 will be the real test to see if he can keep up the stellar pitching throughout the long season, but if he pitches the way he’s capable of doing, sky’s the limit.

Brady Rodgers–pitcher in the Astros 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 influence growing up?

My biggest influence had to be my dad. He was the one who got me interested at a really young age; probably around 2 years old, he got me my first baseball glove and I fell in love with the game right away. He took time out of his day to make sure I was learning the game the right way and that I could be good at it.

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

When I was growing up I had 2 favorite players: Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux. Nolan was a bull on the mound and wasn’t afraid of any hitter, and Maddux was pin point and could put the ball where ever he wanted. So the way I pitch is kind of like both pitchers combined. A guy who isn’t afraid and can throw the ball wherever he wants.

3.) You were drafted by the Astros 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?

The process was definitely a long one, but also a good one, and I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to even get drafted. The Astros are my hometown team–the one I grew up watching and loving–so that’s what also made it even better. During the draft I was at my house with friends and family and I found out as soon as my name was called. My initial thoughts were “this has to be a dream”, because ever since I was little I have always dreamt of playing for the Astros, and now I’m one step closer to my dream.

4.) You played for team USA in 2011. What was that experience like?

The experience was one I’ll never forget because it was real fun and I was surrounded by some of the best college players in the nation, and that’s what made it different. We got to wear the nation’s colors and wear USA across our chest which really means a lot. Also, the team was just fun to be around and we have built friendships that will last a life time.

5.) Going into 2012 (your first pro season) what were you hoping to accomplish?

My main goal was to stay healthy, but my other main focus was to get use to a five-man rotation and getting used to throwing every 5th day, rather than once a week like in college. Also to keep my arm fresh so that it could withstand a 200 inning season and I feel like I reached all of my goals.

6.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What do you feel you need to work on for 2013?

The whole year of 2012 went perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing. For 2013, I feel like I need to keep learning how to pitch and examining hitters swings, as well as their approach to the plate, and to get on a good throwing program that can help me stay healthy through a long season.

7.) Is there any player you model your game after?

I model my pitching after Greg Maddux because I want to be able to use all of pitches at any time and put them where I want, but the way I play is my own style.

8.) Favorite TV show?

I have two favorite TV shows: ‘Family Guy’ and ‘The League’. I always love comedies because laughter is the best medicine.

9.) Favorite food?

If I had to pick one plate of food I could eat every day, a nice steak (medium rare) with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans.

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

Just to continue to love the game and have fun playing it. There will be some days that the game doesn’t treat you right but if you continue to work hard and love it you will have success. Also, never take your eyes off the prize, because once you do there are other players out there that will pass you up.

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Big thanks to Brady Rodgers for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Rodgers20

Q and A With Courtney Hawkins

Courtney Hawkins was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. Initially catching the attention of baseball fans everywhere after performing his “signature” backflip on draft night, Hawkins was able to make a name for himself this past season.

In Hawkins’ first (partial) season as a pro ballplayer, he put up some impressive numbers. Combined between three different teams/levels (Rk, A and A+), Hawkins posted a batting average of .284 to go along with 8 home runs and 33 RBI’s, over the course of 59 games; Certainly living up to the expectations that come with being a first round draft pick.

If Courtney Hawkins can continue to post the same type of numbers, it shouldn’t be too terribly long before he’s big league ready–he’s truly that good. Hawkins’ showed signs of his above average power this past season, and will be well worth watching in 2013 and beyond.

Courtney Hawkins–number 2 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?

Age 4, but my dad wouldn’t let me play until I learned the basics of baseball. So I started at the age of 5.

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

Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds [and] Frank Thomas, because I felt these guys had it all; the ability to hit and play defense. And definitely Griffey, because I try to play like him. Just balls to the walls, full tilt the whole game!

3.) You’re known for the backflip you did after being drafted by the White Sox on draft night, but that wasn’t the first time you’d ever done one. When did you first master the skill, and where did the inspiration come from?

Haha. I was asked to do a high school pep rally skit and I was at practice one day, playing around doing front flips, and the instructor came over and said try this; and 30 minutes later I was doing flips, and didn’t stop until after draft night.

4.) This was your first (partial) season of professional baseball. What did you take from it, in terms of how it differs from any level of ball you’d ever played in before?

Basically just playing every single day and throwing every single day–it’s a grind. It was fun when I first started; then I got tired; then I was good again. I found my routine, and it was good.

5.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What do you feel you need to work on for 2013?

I feel everything went well, but [I] could always be better. I feel I have to work on every thing because I’m not in the bigs yet, and even then I will still have to work on stuff.

6.) What does your average day consist of at the moment?

Just working out twice a day and traveling. That’s it.

7.) Is there any one player that you model your game after?

Like I said, I try to play like Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. Just balls to the wall everyday. Grinding, battling and trying to produce in the field, at the plate and on the bases.

8.) Favorite food?

Any seafood or southern Cajun–country food.

9.) Favorite TV show?

MLB Network [and] ‘Walking Dead’.

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

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something; or you won’t; or that you’re not good enough. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.

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Big thanks to Courtney Hawkins for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @CHawkins10

Offseason Interviews To Begin This Week

The title says it all, so there’s not that much more I can say in this particular entry.

Basically, later on this week–I’m not sure of the exact day yet–I’m going to be posting my first offseason interview of the 2012-13 offseason. It’ll be with a current Minor League Baseball player, with similar type posts coming once every one to two weeks; depending on how busy a week it was in Major League Baseball.

I’ll try to get a MLB player every now and then, but for the most part, it’ll just be Minor League. (They seem to be the most willing to answer some questions.)

So that’s really all I have to say. Just cast your vote in the poll below for which player you would like the first interview posted to be on.

 

Finally Back Up and Running

Question: What do you get when you combine a shattered computer screen with an internet connection problem?

Answer: A two week gap in blog posts–which is the case here.

Unfortunately, since I wasn’t able to hop on my laptop and type up a blog entry over the past couple of weeks, I missed out on writing about the World Series like I had been planning to. In addition, I was unable to post entries on the Gold Glove awards, as well as the Player’s Choice awards, but although I missed out on those, I’m still planning to post something on the Silver Slugger awards, which are set to be announced Thursday night.

After that will come posts on the 2012 Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP award winners. They will be published the day after each is announced and will include a recap of the winner along with a look at how well I did with my predictions (probably not all that well).

Following the award winners blog posts–which will run through the end of next week–I’m just planning to post my thoughts on the latest MLB news as it happens. That’ll be the case for most of the offseason, but I might change it up here and there; I haven’t decided yet. One thing I am going to attempt to do is post an offseason Q and A with a MiLB or MLB player once every two weeks starting after next weeks’ awards posts. I should be able to pull it off, but it really comes down to player cooperation.

So, as of right now, that’s the plan for the offseason. Keep in mind, however, that a lot can happen between now and the beginning of the 2013 MLB season, so make sure to check back often. I’ll be sure to let you know if my plans change….

2012 Triple-A National Championship Game

The forecast for this game was rain; and rain it did–up until around 5:00, when I left for Durham, NC. Luckily, when I arrived to the ballpark at around 5:45, the dry spell continued, and I was able to grab a spot near the front of the line without having to get soaked.

Gate 1 already had tons of people lined up behind it when I arrived, so I headed over to Gate 2. Behind Gates 1 and 2 there were two lines (normally four) in which you could enter the ballpark, and just my luck, I picked the wrong one. The lady that was scanning tickets had no idea what she was doing. Heck, she couldn’t even figure out how to get the gate open, as she had to wave down an orange shirt employee to come help her out. (As you can kind of see in the left portion of this photo posted by the Durham Bulls):

I was able to cut my way into the other line, but it really didn’t help. I was stuck outside Gate 2, as people filed in through Gate 1.

All I could do was watch as dozens of people entered the ballpark–many of which I assumed were headed down to the dugouts (just like I was planning to do) to get autographs. Finally–after what seemed like an eternity of waiting–I made my way into the ballpark and down to the extremely crowded Pawtucket Red Sox dugout.

Going into this game I had made the decision that I wanted to go for autos from Pawtucket Red Sox’ players such as Danny Valencia, Bryce Brentz, etc., instead of Reno Aces standouts like Trevor Bauer, A.J. Pollock, etc. Unfortunately for me Danny Valencia didn’t sign, and Bryce Brentz signed for everyone BUT me. Meanwhile, I watched as the entire Reno Aces team (or so it seemed) signed for everyone who wanted an autograph.

It was one of those days.

After it became evident that I had failed in getting autos from the players I wanted, I made my first logical decision of the day. I knew American Idol Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery was going to be throwing out the first pitch, so I made my way over to the Reno Aces dugout where I predicted he would come out from. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, Scotty emerged from the clubhouse:

He signed autographs for ten or so people that wanted it. Thankfully, I was one of the ten.

McCreery then proceeded to make his way out to the mound to throw out the first pitch:

After firing a strike, Scotty posed for a picture with the Bulls’ mascot, Wool E. Bull:

But enough about Scotty. Let me get back to the game….

The starting pitchers for both teams–Trevor Bauer, for the Aces, and Nelson Figueroa, for the Red Sox–had both been great so far in the post season…:

…but in the end only one could be crowned Triple-A National Champions. It was going to come down to which lineup performed better on this particular day, as you had to figure the pitching was going to be stellar.

My view at the start of the game (from my ticketed seat) was this:

Not bad for a game that’s the MiLB equivalent of a World Series game 7.

Did you notice how empty the outfield seats were in the picture above? Well, the desire to snag a home run ball got the better of me, as this soon became my view:

Check out the view to my left (1) , right (2) , and behind me (3):

Had a ball of been hit anywhere near me I would’ve been all over it. But to keep with the luck of the day, nothing came close.

I sat out there for a few innings, but around the 6th inning it began to rain so I headed back to my original seat (which happened to sheltered). On my way back I was surprised at how many people were making their way towards the exits. I mean, come on. I realize the Red Sox were getting killed—the rain didn’t make it any better–but this was the Triple-A National Championship. How could you leave early?! I don’t get it.

By the time the ninth inning rolled around there weren’t that many people left:

Soon after taking that picture I decided to move down a little closer to the field. My view of the final out (and the victory celebration by the Reno Aces) came from the first base side of the ballpark…:

…but my view of the trophy presentation came from the third base side:

I don’t know if you can tell, but it was raining fairly heavily. I stuck it out long enough to see A.J. Pollock received his trophy for M.V.P:

Shortly thereafter, however, I made my way out of the ballpark.

I want to take a second to say congrats to the Reno Aces. They were extremely impressive in their 10-3 victory. I had a feeling that they would come out on top–as they had top prospect Trevor Bauer on the mound, backed by an impressive lineup–but anytime you go up against a team that had gone 6-1 in the playoffs up to that point, you never really know what the outcome may be.

As stated in my last blog entry, this was my final baseball game of the year. This is not, however, my last blog entry of the year by any means. There’s still a couple weeks left in MLB’s regualr season, followed by the play offs, and the World Series, so I’ll have plenty to blog about in the weeks/months to come….

My Last Baseball Game of the Year

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile you’re aware that although this is a Major League Baseball blog for the most part, I tend to throw in entries on the Minor Leagues every now and then. Well, get ready for the biggest MiLB blog entry I’ve ever put together, as I’m set to attend tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship game in Durham, NC.

The Championship game will see the Pawtucket Red Sox (International League) and the Reno Aces (Pacific Coast League) squaring off in a winner-take-all game in front of a sellout crowd. Trevor Bauer, of the Aces, and Nelson Figueroa, of the Red Sox, are due to take the mound for their respective teams. If you can’t make it to the game you can still watch it all unfold on NBC Sports Network at 7:05 EST. It’s sure to be a great game.

And….that’s pretty much it. Not much else can be said about it. Check back on Wednesday* for a recap of my time spent at the ballpark, and the game itself. With the kind of storms we’re supposed to have around here tomorrow, who knows; I might have a story of what it feels like to be struck by lightning. (Fingers crossed that I don’t.)

*The game is set to be played on Tuesday, however, there is a good chance of rain so it may not be played until Wednesday. If that occurs, my blog entry on the game obviously won’t be able to be posted until Thursday, as the game wouldn’t have taken place yet by Wednesday afternoon.  

Q and A With Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 12th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Vogt has been able to steadily work his way up through the ranks of the Rays’ system, all the way up to AAA Durham; where he currently resides. (This year with Durham, Vogt has posted a .269 batting average, with 9 home runs and 43 RBI’s.)

Earlier this season Vogt received a taste of what it’s like to play in the big leagues, as he spent 10 games with the Rays. Things didn’t go as planned for Vogt, however, as he went hitless in all 17 of his at-bats; though he did put the ball in play in all but 2 of them.

Although his short stint in the Majors didn’t go all that well, Vogt still has a good shot of making it back to the big leagues in the near future, if he can continue to post decent numbers. (Something he’s been able to do fairly consistently throughout his baseball career.) He certainly has the work ethic, and determination to make it happen.

Stephen Vogt–utility man in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 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 was always interested in playing baseball from a very early age.  I loved playing anytime, all the time.  My father and brother helped me the most at a young age.

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

Barry Bonds was my favorite player because I was a huge Giants fan and [he] is one of the greatest hitters of all time.  Every time I went to watch him play it was the most exciting moment, whenever he stepped in the box.

3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was a senior in college and was hoping to just get a chance to play.  I was at my parents house with some friends and my wife just waiting to see my name pop up on the computer and fortunately it did.

4.) You made your MLB debut on April 6th of this year. How did you receive the news that you’d been called up? What do you remember from that game? 

I was told by our hitting coach in AAA, Dave Myers, that I was going up and I immediately began to shake and just have an overwhelming excitement come over me.  I remember getting my name announced with all the great players of the Rays and Yankees and thinking how honored I was to be there. My journey through baseball had so many twists and turns that I was just humbled and honored to be there.

5.) After spending 10 games with the Rays you were sent back down to AAA Durham. What aspect of your game are you currently working on most to hopefully help speed up your journey back to the big leagues?

I am working mostly on my quality of at bats.  I learned a lot about hitting in my short stint in the big leagues to know how much more detailed everything has to be.  At bats are much different than AAA.

6.) Playing at the Triple-A level, do you feel any more pressure to perform well in every game then you did in the lower ranks of the Rays’ organization, when you weren’t just a phone call away from ‘The Show’? 

The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself.  I have to just relax and play the way I know how.

7.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Nothing! Honestly the pool and a nice BBQ’d steak for dinner are what make me happy on off days.

8.) Favorite food?

Steak and potatoes.

9.) Favorite TV show?

White Collar and Saved by the Bell.

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

You have to love the game and be dedicated to working everyday to be the best you can be.  In a professional season you will get worn out and tired and the love of the game and hard work will get you through any tough times you may have.  Also, family will keep you focused on the goal.  Without my wife Alyssa’s support I would never be where I am today.

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Big thanks to Stephen Vogt for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @SVogt1229

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