Results tagged ‘ Neil Walker ’

Gregory Polanco Headed to the Pirates

The wait is finally over for Pirates fans.

Gregory Polanco — the 12th overall ranked prospect in all of baseball, and one of the highest praised young outfielders in years — is set to make his MLB debut later tonight against the Cubs, receiving the call after second baseman, Neil Walker, was placed on the disabled list.8396068

Set to play right field for the Buccos, Polanco is joining an already talented outfield of Starling Marte (left) and Andrew McCutchen (center), taking over for Josh Harrison, who has done a fantastic job this year in right field, hitting near .300 and making numerous spectacular catches. Nonetheless, replacing Harrison with Polanco instantly makes the Pirates outfield one of the best in baseball.

And that’s why, in the minds of many baseball fans, the arrival of Polanco is long overdue. After getting off to such a great start to the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, the idea of a big league call up for Polanco began to gain mention (several rumors were started just in the past week regarding a promotion), but when he continued to stay hot, making it up to seven home runs and 49 RBI’s, to go along with a .347 batting average before his call up, Polanco truly left the Pirates no other choice.

With the Pirates struggling somewhat so far this season, the hope is that the young, talented Polanco will arrive on the scene and help turn things around.

Sitting three games back of .500, and 7.5 games back of first place, it’s still too early to count out the Pirates, especially now that Polanco is going to get some time for the club. Despite lofty predictions being made for this year after the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years last season, at this point in 2013 they were eleven games above .500, which is allowing understandable concern to come into play.

But could Gregory Polanco’s mere presence truly be enough to turn around the Pirates?

Well, though it’s going to take the entire team playing better for the Pirates to go on a run, we’ve seen big time players make big time impacts before. Take Yasiel Puig for example. The Dodgers were doing terribly last season before his call up, and after Puig’s arrival, the Dodgers went on a record-breaking streak that ultimately led them to the playoffs. Sure, the entire team began playing well, but the initial spark undeniably came from Puig.

However, while it’s certainly possible that Polanco will kick start the Pirates, it’s not all that likely. The biggest difference between the Dodgers’ team, and the Pirates’ 2013 team for that matter, is pitching — bother the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Last season, the Pirates had a magical year, where nearly every one of their pitchers from top to bottom was superb. But the loss of A.J. Burnett this offseason, the recent injury to Gerrit Cole, and the terrible performance by 2013 ace Francisco Liriano, has hurt the chances of an already poor team.

And thus, it will certainly be interesting to see just what type of impact Polanco has for the Bucs. Asking him to put the whole team on his back and carry them to the playoffs for the second straight year is an awful lot to expect from Polanco, but with young phenom prospects, you never truly know what they can do.

But one thing’s for sure: Gregory Polanco is just as excited as Pirates’ fans to finally be making his way to the Steel City, regardless of the current struggles; saying in a tweet on Monday night, “Pirates fans, thanks for being patient with me . . . The wait is over. My dream has officially come true.”

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of Untitledthe midsummer classic.

With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.

To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.

Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).

I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:

FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)

With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.

For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.

SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)

Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.

I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.

Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.

THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)

In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.

Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)

With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.

When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three for each league), especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.

First Non-Losing Record for Pirates Since 1992

With a win on Tuesday night, against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pittsburg Pirates secured a non-losing record for the first time since 1992.

Letting that sink in for a minute — their first .500 or above season in 21 years — this is a big deal. Not only for the Pirates and their fans, but for fans of all teams around the baseball world. Anytime a teams goes on such a bad skid for so long, you find yourself rooting for them to succeed. And that’s just what everyone has been doing as of late.

img23466604But now isn’t the time to celebrate, according to many. While the Pirates have accomplished something great, by their recent standards, they still need to keep their focus on winning; which they will assuredly do. Although they will undoubtedly make the playoffs, they still determine their own fate, in terms of whether their playoff appearance will be via a division title, or a Wild Card spot — the title, obviously, being their goal.

Many, however, don’t see the Pirates as having a good enough team to hold off the Cardinals and Reds for first place in the National League Central, but I have to disagree. While the Reds and Cardinals are both excellent teams, the Pirates are a completely different team than they have been in years past. A team that I could see making a deep playoff push.

The Pirates have a decent pitching staff — in veterans A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli (their closer), as well as rookie Gerritt Cole — and while they haven’t been anywhere near dominant for the majority of the year, they’ve found a way to come through in big games–the same holding true for the rest of the team. Andrew McCutchen has had a great season, and newly acquired players, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd, are sure to help out in the final stretch.

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, where anything can happen, it’s game on in the National League Central. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds are likely to exchange places a few times in the standings before all is said and done, but in the end, I feel that the Pirates’ magic they’ve had all season long will continue into the post season.

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

We’re just over a week into the 2013 MLB regular season, and I wanted to post a blog, just like last year, on the fastest and slowest starts to the season for both entire teams and individual players. While it’s a small sample size, the list gives you an idea of what’s been taking place so far this season. Some of the players and teams are performing nearly as well as expected, but others are putting on performances that I never would’ve predicted them to begin the season with.

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

The Braves currently lead all of baseball with a win percentage of .857. Justin Upton has been making a major impact, hitting six home runs in the first seven games, and I fully expected the Braves to have a season long performance like the one they’re currently starting out with. The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Red Sox and Mets are all surprising me, so far, as I expected them to all have poor seasons, and while it’s still very early, at the moment, they’re making things interesting. As far as the Athletics, Rangers and Reds go, it’s not a shock that they’re doing so well. Though I thought the Rangers would have a bit of a struggle this season, without Josh Hamilton, they seem to be doing just fine. It should be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

Adam Jones is the only player on the list of fastest start players that I’m not surprised with. Having recorded a 32 homer, 82 RBI season, in 2012, Jones is in the prime of his career, and is set to have another fantastic season. For Jed Lowrie, Carlos Santana, Michael Cuddyer, Carl Crawford and Jean Segura, they better enjoy the hot start while it lasts, because I don’t see any of them having an all that spectacular year. But as with anything in baseball, there’s always the chance for me to be proven wrong.

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

After beating the Rangers, 8-2, on Opening Night, the Astros have done nothing but go down hill, ever since. With 155 games left to play, and just 94 losses away from 100, it’s likely the Astros’ season will end with yet another year of 100+ losses. The Marlins, Padres and Pirates are all teams that have the potential to win now, but it’s likely to be a year or two before they start to become big time contenders in their divisions. The Brewers and Phillies are the only teams that surprise me, somewhat, on this list, but they just haven’t performed well so far this year. And as for the Cubs, they’re just being themselves; destined to make it 105 seasons without a World Series title.

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

No one on this list surprises me, other than Neil Walker. Walker is arguably the best player on the list, but he hasn’t been able to find his groove so far this season. I look for him to get things going, however, and record another season like he has the past few years–10-15 homers and 65-80 RBI’s, with a high 200’s batting average. For Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Hanigan, Aaron Hicks and Pedro Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if they get their acts together, or if this is a sign of things to come for them this season, as things can certainly only go up.

Keep in mind, while those are the players and teams with the fastest and slowest starts to the season, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and anything can happen. Only time will tell if the current trends will last; that’s why they play 162 games.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2012 MLB Season

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

FASTEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Dodgers: 7-1

2) Nationals: 6-2

3) Rangers: 6-2

4) Diamondbacks: 5-2

5) Mets: 5-2

6) Tigers: 5-2

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

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

Individual players:

1) Paul Konerko: .435 average

2) Ryan Sweeney: .429 average

3) Matt Kemp: .419 average

4) Josh Willingham: .417 average

5) Miguel Cabrera: .414 average

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

SLOWEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Padres: 2-6

2) Red Sox: 2-5

3) Twins: 2-5

4) Angels: 2-5

5) Pirates: 2-5

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

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

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

Individual players:

1) Ike Davis: .043

2) Neil Walker: .048

3) Marlon Byrd: .083

4) J.P. Arencibia: .083

5) Ryan Raburn: .091

*Minimum of 20 at bats.

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

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

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