Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

Q and A With Mark Appel

Mark Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. However, due to his commitment to Stanford University, Appel didn’t sign, and instead went to pitch at college.

At Standford, Appel began as a relief pitcher, only receiving three starts his freshman year, where he posted a 5.92 ERA over 38 innings. Once he was made a full time starter again the next season, Appel excelled, lowering his ERA down to 3.02 for the year. In his junior year of college, after he went 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA, Appel was once again drafted, this time by the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. Many felt that Appel would begin his professional baseball career, but he decided to return to college to finish out his baseball career (and degree) at Stanford.

BBM-BeesvQCBandits-Appel-118Despite some flak from people around the baseball world for returning to college, Appel showed just how good of a pitcher he is, improving to have his best season at Stanford; setting the all-time collective strikeout record, in which he went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. After such a successful final year, Appel was drafted yet again, for the third time, by the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Beginning his professional baseball career with Low-A Tri-City, Appel made it up to Single-A Quad Cities in 2013, going a combined 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Due to the 106 innings Appel had already pitched in 2013 at Stanford, he was shut down after just 38 professional innings pitched, bringing his innings up to roughly 144 for the season.

Appel has an average, to slightly above average, fastball, ranging from the lower to mid nineties, but he can crank it up to upper nineties when needed. He also possesses a good slider and a work in progress changeup that many think will come along.

Heading into his first major league Spring Training, it’s been reported that Appel could, potentially, make the big leagues out of camp “if he is one of the best five pitchers out of Spring Training”. However, as many people feel, it will likely be later in 2014, or early 2015, when Houston — his hometown — gets its first glimpse of Appel. But no matter when that is, with all of the other top prospects in the Astros’ farm system, the future would appear to be bright for them as an organization moving forward, with Appel soon to be leading the way.

Mark Appel — top pitching prospect 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 baseball influence growing up?

I first became interested in baseball when I was very young. For as long as I can remember, I have been playing some version of the sport. Growing up, my parents, as well as certain coaches throughout the years, really influenced me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of playing baseball as a way to educate myself in college and professionally.

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

Nolan Ryan was one of the all-time great pitchers and the player I looked up to the most as far as what I wanted to be on the field. He was a fierce competitor who gave his all every single time he got the ball. He competed no matter the score, circumstance, or previous result. Win or lose, you knew he was going to go out and compete again the next time he got the ball.

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

The draft process is very interesting. As someone who has gone through it three different times in three unique situations, I feel like I have seen it all. Someone expected to get drafted goes through “interviews”, both on and off the field. In my situation, I spoke with general managers and scouting directors, as well as the local area scouts. Answering their questions off the field is important for their evaluation process so they can have a good understanding of the type of person you are. But the factor that matters most is the results on the field — how good you are at playing baseball.

The Astros and I had a number of conversations leading up to the draft and on the day of the draft, as well as a few other teams. When the time came for the pick to be made, I felt peace in knowing that I would be exactly where God wanted me to be, whether it was Houston or another team. Bud Selig announced my name and my friends and family who came to visit California (I was preparing for graduation the following week) all celebrated! It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I would be able to have a chance to play in my hometown and the team I grew up rooting for was now the same organization I was a part of. God’s grace is too great.

4.) Before being the number one overall pick in 2013, you were drafted by the Tigers in 2009, and the Pirates, eighth overall, in 2012. What made you decide to attend college instead of going pro out of high school? Why did you decide to return for your senior year at Stanford in 2012 after the Pirates drafted you so high?  

Like I said, I have been drafted three times and each were unique situations.

appelIn high school the Tigers drafted me in the 15th round, even though I told all the area scouts I spoke with that I was planning on attending Stanford. Dreaming about being a pro baseball player, it was fun to entertain the thought of signing as a senior in high school, but I knew that Stanford was where I needed to be for my future, both in baseball and in life. Unsure if I was ready to play minor league baseball, I knew college would allow me to grow up, become a man, and still play baseball at a very high level.

In 2012 the Pirates drafted me with the 8th pick in the draft. The decision to return to school for my senior season was the toughest I have ever had to make. There are a number of factors that go into a decision of that magnitude: baseball development and career, education, regrets (I will explain this one later), desires, and money. Also, as a follower of Jesus, relationships with my coaches, teammates and fans, combined with being a part of what God is doing in this world, is very important to me.

For the baseball development, I did not see an advantage to either signing or returning to school. Development really comes down to how badly you want to get better as a player. I knew that I would be able to improve both at Stanford and in the Pirates’ organization. As far as education went, it was a no-brainer to return to school. Playing my senior year allowed me to finish my degree in Management Science and Engineering. As far as regrets go, when I made my decision, I did not want to have any regrets. I didn’t want to spend my idle time thinking about what it would have been like if I chose the other option. Going back to Stanford meant I would have a chance to play in Omaha (which we didn’t achieve), finish my degree before starting a professional career, and continue to be involved in campus ministries that I had been involved with the past three years.

Those are some things that I would have wondered about a lot if I had signed. When it came down to it, money out of the question, I wanted to go back to school, not for the lack of things signing professionally had to offer (which wasn’t much), but for the mlb_a_appel_cr_400opportunities I had during my senior year at Stanford.

But, as everyone knows, money was involved. And it was a lot of money. There are two somewhat conflicting things going on with my situation. On one hand, I was offered a lot of money, and I mean a lot. And on the other hand, I wasn’t offered what I believed my value for my talents was in the draft market under the current rules. So do I stick to principle and go back to school, or do I chase the money and sign? It was a tough question to comprehend.

There are financial benefits to both options, as well as financial risks (well, maybe there were only risks for returning to school). If money was the most important thing to me, I would have signed 100 percent. I knew by returning to school, I would give up 3.8 million dollars. I also knew there were a few things that could go wrong: injury and underperformance were the two main risks. I also knew there were benefits: education, relationships, the opportunity to get better, and a potential financial gain. The thing most people don’t realize is that I had zero regrets. No matter the outcome of my senior season and the draft that followed, I would have been extremely happy with the decision.

As confirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, within the first two weeks of being back at school four members from the Stanford baseball team had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior through the team bible study! It was so cool to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit!

5.) In your senior year of high school, you were a part time relief pitcher and didn’t become a full time starter again until your sophomore year of college. Having been both a starting and relief pitcher, which did you find more challenging?

Both relieving and starting have their challenges. I have much more experience as a starter, and at higher levels of competition, I have only started. Personally, I think the difference is the mentality and routine. A reliever needs to mentally prepare himself to pitch 1-2 innings every single night, in general. A starter must prepare mentally to pitch five or more innings once every five days. The two are difficult to compare. With that being said, I would say that starting has been more challenging for me, probably due to the difference in talent level between high school and college, but also because there is so much to learn as a starter. I feel like I learn something new every single day.

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

Life on the road can be very difficult. There are many things that, as a Christian, I need to prepare for. Wherever you go, you will have decisions to make from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed that will affect both how you play and how your teammates see you — as a man of integrity or a hypocrite. From how I spend my time in the hotel room to where I go and what I do after the games, there will be temptations of various kinds; whether it is alcohol, drugs, etc. For me, reading is something that I enjoy doing, starting with the Bible, but also books for entertainment purposes. Reading engages the mind to learn and grow, especially when playing baseball every day can get repetitive and mundane at times.

Spending time with teammates is a great way to spend your free time. These are the guys that you hope to win a championship with, and in my opinion, the better the team knows and respects each other off the field the more we will play together as a unit. I also believe that building relationships is the first step to discipleship, what Jesus has called us to do as believers. Coming along side people and meeting them where they are, encouraging them and building them up, investing in their lives speaks a lot louder than just telling them about an alternative lifestyle through knowing Jesus that would be better for them. Actions always speak louder than words.

7.) The Astros haven’t been doing well lately, finishing with over 100 losses the past two seasons, but they have great talent down in their farm system. With players such as yourself, Carlos Correa and George Springer, among others, how do you see the teamMark Appel faring over the next few years?

Being a part of the Astros’ organization is an incredible blessing. Not only are they my hometown team, but I believe they are a team that will be good quickly and good for a long time. Buying in to the system now and getting to know all the players right now will build a foundation for the future of the organization at the big league level.

I believe that the Astros will be the most improved team this year, and will continue to improve year after year. As we develop and add new players to the major league team, the chances we win more and more games only increases.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

My 2013 pro season was great. I’m not necessarily pleased with the end of year statistics as a whole, but I do believe I continued to improve and to learn about professional baseball and what to expect for my 2014 season.

This season my goals are simply to work as hard as I can every single day and allow God to take care of the rest. I am not going to worry about which level I start out at or when I make it to Houston this year (if at all). The great thing about being a disciple of Jesus is knowing that wherever I am in life, I have purpose and there is work to be done for the kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to work with all that I have in order to reach the big leagues, but while I’m working, I’m not going to worry, and I’ll have some fun!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show: Currently, ‘Parks and Recreation’. I can really identify with Ron Swanson. Favorite food: Steak.

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 hoping to play pro ball is to work hard in school, first and foremost. Secondly, have fun while you are playing. Don’t let the fun of the game be overshadowed by the worry and fear of not achieving the goals that you have for yourself. Baseball is a fun game, and I have seen too many players in college and pro ball not enjoy it because they want to be the best so badly that their desire for perfection has removed the joy they once had while playing the game. Don’t lose that childlike spirit.

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Big thanks to Mark Appel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @MAppel26

Major League Baseball Ballparks I’ve Been to

After hours of searching the internet (mainly MLB.com) for topics to discuss in a blog post, I couldn’t really come up with anything all that worthwhile. Although there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential things to write about, nothing caught my attention enough to publish something on. (Thank goodness Spring Training games start soon.)

Therefore, I decided to type up a post on the MLB ballparks I’ve been to in my life — in chronological order — and tell a little about my time spent at each one. While that may not be all that exciting to read about (sorry?), I figured it might appeal to some. Living in North Carolina, I can’t make it to MLB games too often, and thus, I’ve been to nine major league ballparks in my life — some more than once — with them being:

Turner Field — Home of the Atlanta Braves

One of only two ballparks I’ve been to more than once, I first visited Turner Field way back in 2002. It was my first ever baseball game, and I didn’t know who was playing (the Cubs), nor the basic rules of the game. All that I knew was that there was some sort of sport going on. A lot has certainly changed since then — I’m a huge baseball fan now — but this game was the first professional baseball action of my life, and will subsequently always be a special memory.

My second visit to see the Braves play came in 2009, against the Yankees . . . . :

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. . . . followed by another visit the following year for a couple of games against the Mets and the Giants (seen below):

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The Yankees would go on to win the 2009 World Series, with the Giants going on to win the 2010 World Series. So, I guess you could say I bring teams long-term luck at Turner Field — just not the Braves.

Citizens Bank Park — Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In what would turn out to be their final year of existence, my first game in Philadelphia saw the Phillies taking on the Montreal Expos, back in 2004. I don’t have any pictures from the game, but I remember it fairly vividly; except for the fact that the manager of the Expos was Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. That I don’t remember, but it’s neat to look back and say, at least, that I saw him. (Or, I think I did.)

Comerica Park — Home of the Detroit Tigers

Yet another game against the Yankees, this game was took place back in 2005, and included the likes of Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez. Though I remember the game, I still didn’t care about baseball all that much. That is, until Bernie Williams hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning, which is the one moment from the game that sticks out in my mind, and really began my baseball obsession. (I even wrote a blog post on it.)

PNC Park — Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates

PNC Park was the first ballpark I can recall saying “wow” at. Not in reaction to a miraculous play made in the game, but as response to the beauty of the stadium itself. It’s truly one of the most scenic parks I’ve been to, and although this was the only time I’ve ever been (July 2, 2006, against the Tigers), I have no doubt that I’ll be back one day. Especially now, with the Pirates finally having a team worth seeing; making the playoffs for the first time in my life last year.

Fenway Park — Home of the Boston Red Sox

Beautiful in its own way, Fenway Park is my favorite ballpark I’ve ever visited — hands down. The historic aspect to the park is enough to make it number one on my list of stadiums visited, as not too many places can you say that players such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski have played on the same field at one point in time. This particular game was in 2008, against the Diamondbacks, and despite a Red Sox loss, it was an all around amazing time.

Great American Ballpark — Home of the Cincinnati Reds

After a first attempt to visit this ballpark in 2011 resulted in a rainout, 2012 brought my first ever game at Great American Ballpark:

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It turned out to be Reds’ Hall of Fame induction day, and although it wasn’t planned that way, it was an extremely full day of baseball fun. Starting early in the morning, with a meet and greet with former Reds greats — including Eric Davis and the 2012 inductees Dan Driessen and Sean Casey — and ending with a great Reds win, this was one of the more entertaining MLB games I’ve ever been to.

Kauffman Stadium — Home of the Kansas City Royals

I’m counting this as a ballpark I’ve been to, as although I’m yet to see a “game” here, I went inside the park and witnessed an MLB event, in this case, the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium:

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This wouldn’t even be on the list if it wasn’t for State Farm. As you may recall if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, I received an all expense paid trip to the 2012 derby in Kansas City, which I attended with my grandpa. Prince Fielder ended up taking home his second derby title, and I was able to add another ballpark to my list.

Camden Yards — Home of the Baltimore Orioles

One of the most recent ballparks I’ve visited, just last year, Camden Yards could very well be the most amazing MLB park in all of baseball when you combine everything together. (Though, I can’t make a fair conclusion, since I’m still far from having been to them all.) The fans are electric, the park itself is perfectly designed, and it certainly was a fun time:

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With the help of a couple of Chris Davis homers, the Orioles cruised to an easy 11-3 win against the Yankees in this particular game.

Safeco Field — Home of the Seattle Mariners

The last ballpark I’ve visited up to this point in time — I attended the Mariners-Twins game on July 26, 2013 — Safeco Field wasn’t my favorite ballpark I’ve ever been to (don’t get me wrong, it was incredible) but the city views were definitely better than any I’ve witnessed at an MLB stadium:

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Felix Hernandez pitched a gem of a game, but would go on to get a no decision in a tough Mariners’ loss. Nonetheless, this made the ninth ballpark I’ve been to, and I don’t plan on stopping until I’ve been to all thirty. Hopefully that won’t take too terribly long.

While that concludes the ballparks I’ve been inside, I’ve seen five other stadiums in passing which I thought I should include anyway. I won’t spend very long discussing them, since there isn’t really a great story behind the encounter, but I do want to mention them anyway.

Back in 2006, on a family vacation to New York City, I was lucky enough to see the exterior of the Old Yankee Stadium, which has since been torn down. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out to the games during our trip, which led to having to settle with a game in Pittsburgh (as described above).

The final four ballparks I’ve “seen” include U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox’ park), Nationals Park, Busch Stadium (Cardinals’ park) and Chase Field (Diamondbacks’ park). My distant views of the parks came from an airplane, for U.S. Cellular Field, and the highway, for Nationals Park, Bush Stadium and Chase Field.

As you’d probably agree, all of the parks listed after Safeco Field don’t officially count.

But I have no doubt I’ll see games in them some day.

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas — the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter — all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

My Thoughts On the Remaining MLB Free Agents

The 2013 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are just now beginning. The biggest trade that has taken place so far is undoubtedly Prince Fielder going to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, however, the Cardinals getting rid of David Freese in a trade for Peter Bourjos is up there on the list as well.

UntitledAs far as free agent signings go — none of the previously named players were free agents — Brian McCann signing to play with the Yankees was a big time deal, with Jhonny Peralta’s agreement to play with the Cardinals (4 years, 53 million dollar) being the deal that has caused the most controversy, due to past his PED use. But I won’t get into that.

Not too many of the 184 free agent players have signed yet — just 27 are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked (in my mind) player available at each position, and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2013 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Team I feel should sign him: Rangers

The Rangers were in the conversation for Brian McCann to take over their catcher role, but after the Yankees locked him up, I think Saltalamacchia would be the next best thing — a good fit for both the Rangers and Saltalamacchia. Having played for the Rangers from 2007 to 2010, Saltalamacchia would be returning to familiar territory. Though he never had much success in Arlington — never playing in more than 84 games in a season — Saltalamacchia proved this past season with the Sox that he can post good numbers, batting .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. I think the Rangers would be a great team for Saltalamacchia, but he’ll likely remain in Boston.

Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Kendrys Morales had a great season for the Mariners in 2013, batting .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Being a switch hitter — a very consistent one at that — I feel the Tigers would be a good fit for Morales. The Tigers have a right-handed-heavy lineup, and a good hitter who can hit from the left side — there are talks they could also be interested in Shin-Soo Choo — when needed would be an important addition. Also, Morales could go a long way in replacing Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup, though admittedly it wouldn’t replace his 30+ home run power. Nonetheless, Morales is a player the Tigers need to target, in my opinion.

First Base: Mike Napoli

Team I feel should sign him: Red Sox

A lot of teams would be interested in Mike Napoli, but I feel the Red Sox should resign him, as he is a great fit where he is. Playing first base, there are really no other fantastic first basemen on the market, and they’re not about to put David Ortiz there full time. Napoli’s 23 home runs and 92 RBI’s this past season is something that’s hard to replace. He was a big reason the Red Sox were so successful this season, helping to lead them to a World Series title. Napoli shouldn’t be going anywhere.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Team I feel should sign him: Anyone but the Yankees

Because Robinson Cano is such a good player — a great fit for multiple teams — it’s hard to pick just one team that he should sign with. The top ranked free agent of the offseason, I feel Cano doesn’t need to be in pinstripes next season for both his sake and the sake of the Yankees. Not signing Cano to a deal worth, more than likely, nearly 200 million dollars, would allow them to use that extra cash to sign some lower-priced free agents and develop an all-around better team. With or without Cano, there’s no guarantee the Yankees will make the playoffs, but I feel they’re better off in the long run without him.

Third Base: Juan Uribe

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Tying into one of the reasons I feel the Yankees shouldn’t resign Cano, Juan Uribe is a player who would come at a relatively affordable price to the Yankees and would be a good fit at third base, where they are very weak. With no guarantees that A-Rod will ever return, signing Uribe would give them a better defensive player at third than what they currently have, and it would add a decent offensive player to their lineup. Uribe’s .278 batting average with 12 homers and 50 RBI’s last season wouldn’t be a team-changing move for the Yankees, but it would certainly improve their situation.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

Team I feel should sign him: Astros

The only thing that is for sure with Stephen Drew is that he has a near 100 percent chance of not being with the Red Sox next season; other than that, not a lot is certain. Drew was an impact player for the Sox this past season, playing a good defense at shortstop and coming up big in big spots, especially in the postseason, but with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base, there just isn’t room for Drew. The Yankees could use him down the road at short, but assuming Derek Jeter is healthy, there won’t be a spot for Drew next season, other than Jeter’s backup. For Drew’s sake, I feel he’d be a good fit with the Astros, who could use an everyday shortstop — one of their many weak spots.

Left Field: Quintin Berry

Team I feel should sign him: Diamondback’s

There really aren’t a lot of great left field free agents available, but of them, Quintin Berry is the best. The Diamondback’s have a left fielder, in Adam Eaton, but I feel the acquisition of Berry would be worth it, as they could move some players around to make room for him. Berry hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity to show off any consistency at the big league level, but his speed — he’s never been caught stealing in 24 major league stolen base attempts — alone is enough for the D-back’s to take a shot on Berry, in my mind.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury & Shin-Soo Choo

Team I feel should sign them: Mariners (Ellsbury) and Reds (Choo)

I couldn’t pick just one player as the best available free agent at this position, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have a high value in their own unique ways. Ellsbury hasn’t been able to stay very healthy so far during his career, but an unhealthy Ellsbury is more valuable than a lot of other players in baseball — he’s that great of an impact when healthy. Though Seattle has a difficult time attracting players, due to their location and recent subpar performances, I feel they are going to become a great team in the next year or two. Ellsbury needs to join before things take off. As far as Choo goes, he is very efficient at getting on base, with a .421 OBP this past season. The Reds need to keep him, in my opinion, as their leadoff man, if they want to be as successful next season as they were in 2013.

Right Field: Carlos Beltran

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

If the Yankees decide not to keep Cano, as I believe they should do, they will likely make a run at Carlos Beltran, who they are reportedly interested in. A left handed hitter, Beltran would thrive at Yankee stadium and would be a big impact for the Yankees in 2014 and beyond. At 36 years old, Beltran isn’t a player you would want to lock up for any extended period of time, however, any time with Beltran on your team is worth it. Batting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s last season, Beltran could have a great season should the Yankees sign him.

Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez

Team I feel should sign him: Twins

A lot of teams need pitching, including the Blue Jays, Rockies, etc., but the Twins are a team I feel could use a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez the most. The Twins are an interesting team, as they don’t have a lot going for them now, but their farm system is one of the best in baseball and they will be a really good team down the road, similar with the Mariners. Should Jimenez sign with them, I could see him developing into the great pitcher he’s capable of being. He’s shown signs of it in the past, and next year could be a break out year for him. Jimenez could really help out the Twins in a big way.

Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

While Joe Nathan and Fernando Rodney would be good fits for the Tigers, I feel Brian Wilson would be the best. Wilson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball — something the Tigers could use. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, many teams shy away from Wilson. But after the performance he had towards the end of last season, I feel Wilson could be the piece the Tigers need to clinch them a World Series title after coming up short recently.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each postion, and which team should sign them. Odds are that things won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel they should, but this is just the way I see it working out best.

Besides Robinson Cano, who do you feel is the best remaining free agent? Cast your vote:

As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Cabrera and McCutchen Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Sixty-three players who have won the Most Valuable Player award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those players are still active, however. The current record for most MVP awards is held by Barry Bonds, with seven, but thirty total players have won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in their career.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2013 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Chris Davis

Finalists: Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Mike Trout

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Thoughts On Miguel Cabrera Winning

Although I was pulling for Mike Trout to win the Most Valuable Player award last season, Miguel Cabrera ended up taking home the honor after having an incredible year in which he won the Triple Crown award. An injury in the last month of this season kept Miguel+Cabrera+Detroit+Tigers+v+Houston+Astros+4ivC8TlX3k4xCabrera from a second straight Triple Crown award, however, it didn’t stop him from winning his second straight MVP — something only eleven other players have been able to accomplish.

Receiving a total of 385 points, 23 of the 30 first-place votes, Cabrera was the overwhelming choice by the voters. The runner-up — with five first-place votes and a total of 282 points — Mike Trout, and the third place recipient, Chris Davis — with a single first-place vote netting 232 total points — weren’t even close. Although I had Chris Davis winning, I have no issues with Cabrera getting the award. He was very deserving; as was Trout.

Batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI’s, Cabrera put together an amazing season, and in addition is the only player of the three finalists to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, that’s a big part of why I feel he won. Davis posted a batting average 62 points lower than Cabrera, but led the majors in both homers and RBI’s, with 53 and 138 respectively. Had the Orioles played better as a whole, making it to the playoffs, Davis would likely be the winner.

Instead, Miguel Cabrera takes home the award for the second straight year.

The BBWAA’s vote had Mike Trout finishing second, with Chris Davis coming in third.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Paul Goldschmidt

Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina

Winner: Andrew McCutchen

Thoughts On Andrew McCutchen Winning

Anytime a player bats .302 with 36 home runs and 125 RBI’s you have to strongly consider them for the Most Valuable Player award. That player, Paul Goldschimdt, was the most deserving of the MVP award in my mind, however, the baseball writers didn’t agree. Andrew McCutchen received the honor instead, getting 28 of the 30 first-place votes (Goldschmidt didn’t get a single one) for a total of 409 points.

Goldschmidt had to settle for second, with 242 points, just ahead of Yadier Molina, who received the other two first-place votes, earning him a total of 219 points. While Molina had a career year, and is a true leader for the Cardinals, he didn’t do enough to win.Andrew+McCutchen+Pittsburgh+Pirates+v+San+faZ7qlymmdXl It came down to a two-man race between Goldschmidt and McCutchen. But after seeing the results of the vote, I suppose it was just a one-man race.

Although McCutchen hit for a .317 batting average with 21 home runs and 84 RBI’s — second in the National League in multi-hit games, with 60 — I don’t feel he was the most valuable.

I won’t spend a lot of time giving my reasons why (if you want to read that, click HERE) but ultimately I feel many people voted for McCutchen for the sole reason that the Pirates made the postseason (for the first time in 21 years) and Goldschmidt’s Diamondback’s didn’t. That’s not fair to base your vote on, in my opinion.

There were several other great reasons for McCutchen winning the award besides making the playoffs, but I just feel it should have gone to Goldschimdt, who had 15 more home runs and 41 more RBI’s than McCutchen this season.

Also, McCutchen didn’t lead the Pirates to the playoffs by himself; it was a team effort. He hit 10 more home runs and drove in 12 more runs last season than he did this year, yet the Buccos finished fourth in 2012, with McCutchen placing third in MVP voting. There’s too much inconsistency with the voting “criteria” for me.

In the end, while I don’t agree with McCutchen winning, I’m not all that upset that he did; though it may seem that way. He was still deserving despite not having the best stats.

Andrew McCutchen becomes the first Pirates’ MVP winner since Barry Bonds in 1992.

The BBWAA’s vote had Paul Goldschmidt finishing second, with Yadier Molina coming in third.

My Vote for National League Most Valuable Player

As I stated in my American League MVP blog post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the better stats, however, Most Valuable Player involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that a MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable, in my opinion.

The way I view things, MVP has to come from a team that had a decent year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their team had to make the playoffs. Contrary to what many believe, I feel the Most Valuable Player award needs to go to a player on a team that helped their ny_g_goldschmidt1x_sq_600team win the most, regardless of a postseason appearance. Remove them from the lineup and the team would be nowhere near the same.

Therefore, after considering the stats and going over a few other of my “requirements”, I narrowed down my top candidates for National League MVP to Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yasiel Puig.

Every single one of those players had a great season, however, I feel McCutchen can quickly be knocked off the list. While he had a good year, McCutchen wasn’t the only reason the Pirates made the postseason for the first time in over twenty years. Other players on the team made a big impact as well. Last season McCutchen batted 10 points higher, blasted 10 more home runs and drove in 12 more runs than he did this year, yet the Pirates finished fourth in their division — further proving my point.

Of the three remaining candidates, in Goldschmidt, Freeman and Puig, as much as I feel Puig made an incredible impact, and initially had him as my vote up until a few days ago, I thought the better of picking him. But that’s not to knock what he did this season. Batting .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBI’s in 104 games, Puig came up in June and helped completely turn around a struggling Dodgers team, taking them from 7.5 games back of first upon his arrival, to winning their division by eleven games. The impact he made is vastly evident, but it wasn’t quite enough, when you take the time to really think about it.

In the end, I went with Paul Goldschmidt for National League Most Valuable Player, despite the fact that the Diamondback’s missed the playoffs.

Goldschmidt had an incredible year, leading all of the National League in home runs (36) and RBI’s (125), to go along with a batting average of .302. The D-back’s didn’t make the postseason, but Goldschmidt came up big in key spots all throughout the entire season to give his team a great chance to win. Therefore, when choosing between Freddie Freeman — even though the Braves made it past the regular season — and Paul Goldschmidt, I had to go with the D-back’s first baseman — the difficult but logical choice.

My 2013 MLB Postseason Predictions

I was originally planning on waiting to type up my postseason predictions until after the Wild Card games had been played, as with them being a mere one game a wrong pick could easily throw off the remainder of the predictions. But it was brought to my attention that doing so wouldn’t make them true playoff predictions, which I suppose is true. I wouldn’t want to do that.

The following are my picks for which teams are going to do well in the postseason and subsequently go onto win the World Series. I doubt you’ll agree with a lot of them, however, it’s just the way I see it. You never know what might happen.

WILD CARD GAMES

American League: Rays Vs. Indians

Winner: Indians

I have the Indians beating out the Rays in Wednesday night’s game. While the Rays have a great team, their pitching staff hasn’t been the best this year, although they do have Alex Cobb on the mound. The Indians’ are just as good as the Rays, however, and combining that with the momentum of winning so many games in a row to finish out the year will be more than enough for the Indians to overtake the Rays.

National League: Pirates Vs. Reds

Winner: Pirates

Both the Reds and Pirates have great teams, however, I feel the Pirates are starting a better pitcher than the Reds, in Francisco Liriano, who’s been great all year. I also see the Pirates as having a more consistent group of players that will come together to get the job done. Therefore, while the Reds have had a great year, I don’t see them making it past this game.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Indians Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

Even though I have the Indians beating out the Rays to move on to the ALDS, I don’t think their momentum alone will be enough to carry them past the incredible Red Sox team. The Red Sox’ pitching staff, and especially their lineup, is too much for the Indians to compete with, in my opinion.

Athletics Vs. Tigers

Winner: Tigers

For the second straight season, the Athletics had a fantastic year, but I don’t think it will continue past the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers have a great pitching staff, as well as numerous threats up and down their lineup that I think will be enough to beat the A’s. No matter what happens, this is sure to be a great series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Cardinals Vs. Pirates

Winner: Cardinals

The Pirates have been a great story all season long, however, I don’t see them as having a good enough overall team to overthrow the Cardinals. The Cards have a great pitching staff, consisting of a lot of young stars, and though it’ll be close, I have the Cardinals moving on to the Championship Series.

Braves Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Braves

With a pitching staff that includes Clayton Kershaw, and a lineup that includes Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez, you’d think the Dodgers would be able to run over any team that gets in their way. But I don’t see them getting past the Braves, who have a great team that has consistently fought back all season long. That unwillingness to give up will be what helps them move past the Dodgers, in my mind.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Tigers Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

Likely to be the best series of the entire postseason, the Red Sox and Tigers are very evenly matched. But having to pick one, I’m going with the Red Sox, as they have amazed everyone all year long and will continue to do amazing things, in my mind. They should have just enough to move on.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Cardinals Vs. Braves

Winner: Cardinals

The Cardinals and Braves both have a nice mix of good pitching and a great lineup, but although it might take the entire seven game series to decide, I feel the Cardinals are the better team and will ultimately come out victorious. They should be able to move onto the World Series in the end.

WORLD SERIES

Red Sox Vs. Cardinals

Winner: Cardinals

I feel this is going to be one of the best World Series in years, should the Cardinals and Red Sox make it there as I’m predicting. Both are incredibly great teams that come up big when their backs are against the wall. I see them both having great World Series performances, with the Cardinals just edging out the Red Sox for the 2013 World Series Championship.

Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.

Final Games of the 2013 MLB Regular Season

Every new season brings new hope among all thirty teams around Major League Baseball. No matter how badly you did the year before, there’s always a chance that any given season could be your year. However, the yearly aspiration of postseason baseball ended for nineteen teams on Sunday afternoon — leaving just the Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Indians, Rays, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Reds with shots at winning it all.

But it’s not going to be an easy road for any of them.

The Rays and Rangers face arguably the most difficult path, as they ended the season tied for the second American League Wild Card spot, and therefore will have to play in a one-game tiebreaker game Monday night in Arlington — game 163 of the season. It’s do or die for both teams, as a win could mean playoff glory, with a loss meaning the end of the season.

It’s sure to be an incredibly great game.

While eleven teams are still battling it out for a shot at becoming World Series Champions, the remainder of the teams are done for the year. But some players on those teams are finished forever, as they announced their retirement earlier in the season.

7Mariano Rivera and Todd Helton are two of the biggest names of the retirees, and both have good cases for the Hall of Fame, once their first year of eligibility rolls around in 2019.

Rivera — the greatest closer in MLB history — is the definition of greatness, both on and off the field. Rivera will go down as one of the best players and people the game has ever seen, and will undoubtedly be missed by everyone around the baseball world.

Another player of equal caliber is Todd Helton, who made a name for himself as arguably the best player in Rockies history, as well as a player who is well respected all around the game.

It will be interesting to see how both the Yankees and Rockies — teams that had subpar years — will do next year without their long-time star players.

In the end, no matter what next year brings, it’s extremely sad to see them go.

But Sunday wasn’t completely full of sadness.

Henderson Alvarez, of the Miami Marlins, threw the fifth no hitter in franchise history, however, it wasn’t done in the most conventional way; part of what makes it so intriguing. Alvarez recorded the twenty-seventh out of the game in the ninth, without having allowed any hits, but it wasn’t officially a no-no just yet. The Marlins gave Alvarez absolutely no run support, and it took a bases loaded, wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure both the Marlins win and, more importantly, Alvarez’s no hitter.

Truly a remarkable way to end the year.

If the 2013 postseason winds up providing anywhere close to the level of excitement the last day of the 2013 regular season brought, it’s sure to be an amazing month of October.

My final latest leaders blog post, which I was planning to post tomorrow, will have to be moved to Tuesday, as game 163 of the year is being played tomorrow night between the Rangers and Rays, with the stats counting towards the regular season stats. After that, my postseason predictions will be posted on Thursday as scheduled. Be sure to check back to see who I have making it to the World Series. (My World Series predictions will come after the two teams have been decided a few weeks down the road.)

Recapping My 2013 MiLB & MLB Baseball Season

Now that the 2013 Minor League Baseball season is over, and with no shot at attending any more MLB games this year, I can finally post a blog entry recapping my season out at the ballpark.

I managed to make it to 16 baseball games this season. Two of those were major league games — one up in Baltimore and one in Seattle — with the remaining fourteen being minor league games. In those minor league games, I saw numerous top prospects, as well as future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, on August 20th, at his number retirement ceremony in Durham. It was a great season, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

I went into this game looking forward to seeing Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, and White Sox’ top prospect, Courtney Hawkins. Both are sure to be future MLB stars, and both are exciting players to keep an eye on. I didn’t get an autograph from Lindor at this particular game, but I did receive the bat that Hawkins cracked during his second at-bat of the game, in which he got a bloop-single:

DSCN5713(The bat is signed, but the auto is around the other side. It was done very hastily.)

April 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

Having one of the best opening day Bulls lineups ever — including Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Hak-Ju Lee — I was excited to attend this game. I didn’t get Myers, but I ended up with an autograph from both Lee and Brandon Guyer….:

DSCN5842

….as well as a game home run ball hit by the Braves’ Ernesto Mejia:

DSCN5554(This was my first ever home run ball.)

April 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

I was hoping to get an autograph from Wil Myers at this game, since I was unsuccessful the last time, but I failed, once again. I did, however, get an auto from Mike Fontenot….:

DSCN5843

….as well as a game homer from Tigers’ number one prospect, Nick Castellanos:

DSCN5602(Castellanos was a September call-up by the Tigers.)

May 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Syracuse Chiefs

Not much to say about this game. Just that I finally got Wil Myers to sign for me; once on a program, and once on a card:

DSCN5845(Myers is a top candidate for 2013 American League Rookie of the Year.)

May 14th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox

I didn’t have the chance to get an autograph from Indians’ top prospects, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, as I was too busy getting autos from all the Red Sox’ top prospects. Salem was loaded with great players when I saw them in May, and I ended up getting an auto from Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart and Brandon Jacobs:

DSCN5846

Then, after the game, I picked up a game used, unbroken bat from Deven Marrero:

DSCN5719(Great guy — actually took the time to sign nicely, unlike Hawkins.)

May 30th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

I was able to get an autograph from Cheslor Cuthbert, however, due to a mistake on my part, I missed out on Royals’ top prospect, Kyle Zimmer. Although, I did manage to finally get an autograph from Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin after the game — both are super-nice guys. I was happy to finally get those:

DSCN5847(Lindor would go on to take part in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City.)

June 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

I was really hoping to get an autograph from Chien-Ming Wang, but I never saw him in the dugout before the game, so I figured he wasn’t there. But after the game, I ended up running into him on my way out of the ballpark. Turns out, Wang had been in the stands, charting the game. So I was thankfully able to get him:

DSCN5848

I also got a game home run ball hit by Ronnier Mustelier:

BL2j594CIAI5CH_(Chasing down home run balls never gets old.)

June 15th – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

With the great year he was having, I was looking to get an autograph from Vince Belnome, since I had finally gotten his card. Not only did I get Belnome, but I also got Jake Odorizzi; as well as Wil Myers, for the third time:

DSCN5849

(Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d ever see Myers with the Bulls, as he was called up the next day.)

June 17th – Durham Bulls Vs. Louisville Bats

I had been planning on attending this game since before the season even started. The record holder for most stolen bases in a single season, with 155, Billy Hamilton, was set to be there, and I was looking to get his autograph. I was able to get it, as well as an auto from Reds’ prospect Henry Rodriguez:

DSCN5850(Two things: Hamilton is now in the majors, and Rodriguez needs to work on his auto.)

June 25th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

I didn’t think I’d be going to this game, but I got an offer from Orioles’ prospect, Nick Delmonico, for free tickets, and I couldn’t pass it up. I was able to thank him in person, as well as get him to sign a card, making it a great time:

DSCN5851(Delmonico is now part of the Brewers’ organization.)

June 29th – Baltimore Orioles Vs. New York Yankees

Didn’t get any autographs, but had a great time.

Check out my recap HERE.

July 26th – Seattle Mariners Vs. Minnesota Twins

As with the Baltimore game, nothing too exciting.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 20th – Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

Third straight game without an auto, but Chipper Jones was there, so it was fun anyway.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Norfolk Tides

This game turned out to be the most successful game of the season; as I got four out of the five guys I wanted an autograph from to sign for me. Those players include Orioles’ top prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, as well as Alex Liddi and Eric Thames. All were extremely nice about it, and I was surprised with the number of autos I got:

DSCN6936(As with Rodriguez, some of these autographs need work.)

September 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

As if this game wasn’t exciting enough, being a playoff game, I was able to get autos from Pirates’ number one and two prospects, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco:

DSCN6938(Both are expected to do big things in the majors as soon as next season.)

September 10th – Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

Didn’t get any autographs or home run balls — bad way to end the season.

But what a season it was.

I can’t wait for next year; when the auto collecting, home run chasing, and prospect scouting can start all over again.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2013 MiLB & MLB season:

Games attended: 16

Win-loss record for the home team: 12-4

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 102-44

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 8

Total autographs: 26

Game used gear: 2 bats (Courtney Hawkins & Deven Marrero — both signed.)

Game homers: 3 (Ernesto Mejia, Nick Castellanos & Ronnier Mustelier)

Total miles traveled to & from games: 7,740 (Including Baltimore & Seattle)

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.

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