Results tagged ‘ MLB ’

2015 Spring Training Autograph Requests

Spring Training has officially begun for the majority of teams around baseball. Over this past week, pitchers and catchers have made their way to either Florida or Arizona to start their training for the long 162-game 2015 season. Meaning, there are a mere ten days until Spring Training exhibition games get under way and just 43 days before Opening Night between the Cardinals and the Cubs on April 5th.Spring 2015

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks on this blog. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.)

Every Spring Training, for the past three or four years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out several TTM’s, with the best player I’m sending to being the Astros’ 2013 number one pick, Mark Appel.

Other top prospects that I’m planning to send to throughout the spring include Sam Tuivailala (an under the radar, underrated flamethrower in the Cardinals’ farm system), Jacob Gatewood (41st overall pick in the 2014, known for his extreme power), Rob Kaminsky (a highly praised pitching prospect with St. Louis), and D.J. Peterson (a breakout slugger in the Mariners’ system who hit 31 homers in 2014).

As far as major leaguers are concerned, I’m sending to just a few of those this year. I got tired over the past few years of taking the time to put together an autograph request and wasting stamps to not receive anything back in return. So this time around, I’m only sending to big league players that I feel confident will return the cards signed, either because they have a good record of signing TTM or because they told me they would on Twitter.

Players who fall into that category include Patrick Corbin, Scooter Gennett, Joe Kelly and Dustin Ackley. They won’t wind up being the only MLB players I send to before Spring Training is over, but right now that’s all I’m sending out. Seattle Mariners v Kansas City RoyalsI’ll keep an eye on who’s signing very well over the coming weeks and if they’re a good enough player, I’ll likely send something out to them like I did with James Paxton last year and Mark McGwire a few years back. (Both were returned signed, just as had been advertised those springs.)

Last year I sent off fourteen total autograph requests to Spring Training and received back six of them, from Eddie Butler, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Almora, Kyle Zimmer, James Paxton and David Robertson. That’s pretty good as far as TTM’s go, but not getting back the other eight really made me think about who I sent to in 2015. So I’m sending off just nine to start off, with there being a good possibility I’ll add a few more to the list of autograph requests before Spring Training ends.

No matter what I decide to do, and no matter how many I successfully receive back signed, I’m planning to post a blog entry every time I receive back 2-3 autographs from the players I’m sending to, just as I did last year. Hopefully it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back over the course of the next couple months to see how well I do this Spring Training.

Alex Rodriguez Apologizes to the Fans

If my memory serves me correctly, it’s been over a year since I last wrote a blog post focused on Alex Rodriguez. I’ve discussed him a bit in portions of posts over the past few months about the Yankees and their surrounding team, but nothing just about him. That was mainly because he was out of the baseball picture for that period of time, serving a 162-game suspension for further use of performance enhancing drugs, but quite simply, I didn’t care to discuss Rodriguez at all anyway. Alex  Rodriguez

That, however, has changed.

With a letter released on Tuesday, A-Rod once again shook up the baseball world. Although it was meant to be a positive thing, not a lot of people are taking it that way. The handwritten letter itself read as follows:

To the Fans,

I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.

I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology, but I decided that next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.

I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.

I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.

This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring Training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.

Sincerely,
Alex

The first thing that jumps out at me from the letter is A-Rod’s acceptance that baseball fans will likely never forgive him. That’s important, in my opinion, because he understands that he doesn’t need to put on a show to win back the fans — there’s no point. In his own words, he just needs to “play some ball”.

However, with that said, I would like to see A-Rod do a little something to give back to the fans; not with the hopes of winning them back, but just because it’s the right thing to do after all Rodriguez has done. Take pictures with the fans; sign autographs for those who still want it. Rodriguez needs to do something to show that he actually cares and that the letter wasn’t just a formality, even knowing it won’t do a lot of good. He owes the fans that much.

But one little apology letter and a lot of fan friendliness won’t matter much if A-Rod isn’t producing for the team at the plate. In the end, now that they’re stuck with him, the Yankees and their fans have to root for Rodriguez to put up good numbers. Not so he can further add to his tainted career stats, but so he can help the Yankees regain a competitive ball club. In my mind, they need some sort of impact from A-Rod for the Yankees to stand a chance at a playoff push.

Without Derek Jeter on the team, like it or not, Rodriguez has become the face of the team. Maybe not the most popular player, but the most well known player on the club. The Yankees are looking to him to help carry a good chunk of the team, even if it does mean that six home runs this season would earn him a 6 million dollar bonus — on top of the huge amount still remaining on his contract — for tying Willie Mays’ career mark of 660 home runs (Rodriguez would also earn $6 million each for tying Babe Ruth (714), tying Hank Aaron (755), tying Barry Bonds (762) and surpassing Bonds down the line).

Even so, I’m not expecting him to do much. Rodriguez is now 39 years old. He hit just .244 in 2013 over the course of 44 games leading up to his season long suspension in 2014, and has been going downhill since 2010 — the last year he hit 30+ home runs and/or 100+ RBI’s. A-Rod hasn’t hit .300 since 2008, and he seemingly won’t do hardly anything in 2015.

Supposedly, though, Alex Rodriguez has been working out and is in the best baseball shape he’s been in for years. Supposedly, he is sorry for his actions (or at least as sorry as he can bring himself to be). But then again, he was supposedly done for good with performance enhancing drugs back when he came clean in 2009.

I’ll leave it at that.

Marlins Awarded the 2017 All-Star Game

After a busy offseason of moves that included trading for speedy Dee Gordon, signing free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, and locking up slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the biggest contract in sports history, the Marlins have officially been named as the hosts of the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star game.

Marlins

Set to come in the 25th year of the Marlins’ existence, this is the first time in their franchises history that they have been awarded the Midsummer Classic — they were supposed to host the game in 2000, but it was given to the Braves instead — making it sure to be a game full of excitement for the fans in the area.

But there is one thing on everyone’s mind that a lot of people are posing issue with.

Generally, the All-Star game has alternated between American League and National League hosts each year, with the host team having home field advantage. With the All-Star game holding a lot of value, in that the winning league receives home field advantage during the World Series, the stakes have become very high. However, with the Cincinnati Reds set to hold the surrounding festivities this year, the Padres in line to do the same in 2016 and now with the Marlins getting named the site for 2017, that makes for three straight years in a National League teams ballpark.

However, there is a solution to the problem that new commissioner, Rob Manfred, has put into place. “We will alternate years, in terms of who bats last,” said Manfred on Friday. “We will be making that change going forward.” Meaning, in 2016, when in San Diego, the American League team will be the “home” team and bat in the bottom half of the order to make things a bit more fair.

As far as the Marlins are concerned, after spending 19 seasons in a football stadium — they shared a venue with the Miami Dolphins, finally receiving a park of their own in 2012 — they are extremely deserving of the All-Star game. Although attendance has been up and down (mainly down) over the course of time since, they will undoubtedly do a great job of hosting the event.

But before Marlins fans get too excited about the looming All-Star game, they need to enjoy focusing on the season at hand. Their team is really, really good, and they stand a shot at doing some big things in the National League this coming season. While getting the All-Star game for 2017 is a big story, the Marlins could be making plenty of headlines throughout the season as 2015 rolls along.

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.

Multiple 100-Game Winners In 2015?

When you think of a magic number for a pitcher in a season the first number that will likely will pop into your head is twenty wins. For a hitter, when you think of a solid season, it likely involves around a .300 average, 20-30 home runs and/or around 100 RBI’s. And when you think of a so called magic number for a team as a whole, the number 100 probably stands as the number that everyone pictures each team shooting for but very few teams hitting.

While a twenty win pitcher occurs seemingly every year, and a player (or several) always reaches the aforementioned magic numbers for a hitter, it is becoming more and more rare for a team to pick up 100 wins in a season. In fact, there hasn’t been a single 100-game winner in all of baseball since the 2011 Phillies. Taking things even deeper, two or more teams haven’t reached the 100-win mark in a single season since 2004, after a streak of multiple 100-game winner from 1998 through 2004 (with the exception of 2000).

It would appear, however, that both droughts could be broken in 2015.

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the division winners from 2014 — the teams with the best shot at making a strong run in 2015 — and attempt to project how many, if any, of the teams could potentially obtain 100 wins in 2015:

2014 American League Division Winners

East – Orioles (96-66): The Baltimore Orioles completely blew away all of the competition in the American League EastOrioles last season, winning by a total of twelve games over the second place Yankees. But while they were a terrific ball club last season, things are likely going to take a bit of a downfall in the coming season.

The biggest reason for the fall being that they O’s lost a good chunk of their offense via trades and free agency throughout the past few months. No longer possessing slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis or reliever Andrew Miller, things are sort of up in the air for how the Orioles will perform in 2015.

Therefore, even if they surprise some people, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off the stunning feat of winning 100+ games.

Central – Tigers (90-72): For the Detroit Tigers, they are a particularly intruiging team. For the past couple of years, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have been able to pull off a 100-win season, playing in somewhat of a weaker division, however, the Tigers have disappointed to a degree.

Having a great lineup and pitching staff, the Tigers have recently been in the preseason World Series predictions by a number of people throughout the baseball world. But things just haven’t panned out.

Having lost Max Scherzer — their undeniable ace of the pitching staff — to the Nationals, and with certain players not performing up to their potential, I’d say it’s going to be tough for the Tigers to even hold off the Royals from taking the division crown. A 100-win season was doable over the past few seasons, but the opportunity for them has come and gone.

West – Angels (98-64): The Angels fall into a category much like the Tigers. The slightly more successful version of Detroit, many people saw the Angels winning it all in 2012 after the acquisition of Albert Pujols, but injuries and underperformance in general have caused the Angels to come up short.

AngelsBut falling just two wins shy of the coveted 100-win plateau in 2014, things look promising that the Angels could become the first team in four years to hit triple digits.

Their lineup is there — with the exception of Josh Hamilton, who is a huge question mark — and their pitching is good as well.

The only thing standing in their way are the other teams in the West. The Athletics — despite an offseason deconstruction — always seem to be in the mix, and the Mariners are very good as well. It will be exciting to see what happens.

2014 National League Division Winners

East – Nationals (96-66): Without question, the number one team to watch throughout the 2015 season is the Washington Nationals. After Natsputting together a 96-win season last year — winning the National League East division by a major league best 17 games over the Braves — the Nationals could likely make a run at 100 wins if they put out the exact same roster from 2014. But their roster is better than last season — much better.

Picking up Max Scherzer who has gone 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA over the past two seasons, their pitching staff is the top one or two in all of baseball. If Scherzer can continue to pitch as he has over the recent history of his career, and if supposed phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg can finally put up super star caliber numbers, the sky is truly the limit for what appears to be an extremely dominant Nationals team.

Central – Cardinals (90-72): I am a strong believer that the National League Central Cubs will make a run at the postseason as soon as 2015, but they by no means will win 100 games. The Cardinals, though, stand a chance, however slight it may be. Given, it would have to be a ten win jump from their record in 2014, the Cardinals are one of those teams that could surprise some people.

With a decent rotation that includes the always reliable Adam Wainwright, and a lineup that possesses All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who can make any pitcher look like a former Cy Young winner, the Red Birds will win a lot of games moving forward. The division isn’t extremely strong, and their track record has proven that the Cardinals can go on a run with the best of them. Still, it won’t likely add up to a 100-win year for them.

West – Dodgers (94-68): A pitching rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw is always sure to be a terrific one. But Dodgersthe Dodgers’ staff doesn’t begin and end with Kershaw. He’s their best pitcher, no doubt, but the addition of Brandon McCarthy to go along with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will go a long way in a 2015 quest for 100+ wins.

But the Dodgers will be without on and off superstar Matt Kemp in the outfield — the hope is that Joc Pederson will fill the role there — and the loss of Dee Gordon and Dan Haren will certainly have an impact. The lack of those players could be enough to keep them from winning the division like they were able to do in 2014.

Nonetheless, despite all of the losses, the pickup of veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins in addition to promising backstop Yasmani Grandal should lead to a decent enough lineup. If I had to guess, though, the Giants will be riding them too closely for the Dodgers to break 100 wins.

In conclusion, while every season is unpredictable, this year could see a 100-game winner (or two) for the first time in four seasons. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are teams such as the Cubs, White Sox and Padres who will make legitimate playoff runs after failing to do so in quite some time. That alone is enough to cause any baseball fan to continue counting down the days until Opening Day.

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.

Nationals Lock Up Scherzer; World Series to Follow?

Patience is a virtue — especially in baseball.

Max Scherzer proved that on Wednesday afternoon by officially inking a seven-year, 210 million dollar contract with the Nationals that’s set to keep him in D.C. through the 2021 season. Coming after Scherzer took the gamble of turning down a six-year, 144 million dollar offer from the Tigers last year, waiting things out until free agency, and betting on his abilities, paid off extremely well for him, with Scherzer netting a total of 66 million extra dollars.Scherzer

But the money is well deserved, as Scherzer has quickly become one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. While Scherzer didn’t start off his career with fantastic pitching performances — posting a 4.43 ERA over 33 starts with the Tigers in 2011 — over the past two seasons he’s been one of the best. Going a combined 39-8 with a 3.04 ERA between 2013 and 2014, it’s no mystery why the Nationals wanted Scherzer so badly.

Heading to D.C. after five years in Detroit, Scherzer’s mega contract sits second all-time in amount given out to a pitcher, behind only Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal with the Dodgers. (Kershaw, however, is in a class all his own.)

Choosing to receive his contract over the next 14 years, coming out to 15 million a year, the structure of Scherzer’s contract allows the Nats to use the money saved per season to lock up other talented players around him, making this an even better deal in the end.

With Scherzer joining a rotation that already consisted of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, the Nationals now have one of the best — if not THE best — rotations in baseball. (The Nationals also have a couple promising pitching prospects in A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito in the minors who will be making major impacts over the coming years, so they will have additional pitching options for years to come.)

Although their bullpen could use some work after the loss of closer Rafael Soriano — there’s still plenty of time to improve that aspect of the team — the Nationals’ lineup is equally as talented as their pitching staff. From Ian HarperRendonDesmond and Anthony Rendon to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, along with a hopefully healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals are going to score a lot of runs.

With the Nats likely setting themselves up to produce runs night after night, and a rotation filled with pitchers capable of giving up a few mere runs a game, the Nationals have a nice combination that should lead them to a ton of wins in 2015.

After going 96-66 last year — good enough to earn Nats’ skipper, Matt Williams, the National League Manager of the Year award — there is truly no reason they couldn’t post a 100-win season this year. If that happens, it will make them the first team since the Phillies in 2011 to win 100+ games in a season.

And therefore, after winning the National League East division by a staggering 17 games a year ago, the Nationals could be looking at the same type of dominance in the foreseeable future. The Braves, who finished in second place for 2014, are in the process of rebuilding and currently seem to be out of the postseason picture for 2015, as do the Phillies who are theoretically trying to find their new identity. That leaves just the Marlins and the Mets to challenge the Nationals for the divisional title — though both teams, especially the Marlins, could make a big push towards the playoffs this year.

Even so, the Nationals are nearly a lock to make the postseason for the third time in four seasons, with an aforementioned 100-win season not completely out of the question. They have all the talent in the world, with great pitching and a good mix of young and veteran star players. But in the end, making the playoffs is only part of the goal. The one question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Nationals have enough with the addition of Max Scherzer to lead them to the World Series and a subsequent World Title? Winning

The unfortunate truth is, only time will tell. All too often does a team expected to dominate fall into a slump and not do much of anything for the season, while a team that was predicted to go nowhere exceeds expectations and makes a playoff push. That’s baseball. That’s what makes things fun each and every season.

But regardless, I have to agree with the majority of people that the Nationals are going to be terrific, and therefore anything short of a World Series appearance for them would be a disappointment with all the promise they have of putting out an effective winning machine this season.

After all, it’s that very expectation of winning (I’m sure the money was a factor as well) that ultimately led Scherzer to sign a deal with the Nationals, saying, “I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot. When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of . . . . I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”

With Max Scherzer now on board, it looks to be an exciting season in D.C.

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

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