Results tagged ‘ Royals ’

Royals Playing Better Than They Have In A Decade

When Max Scherzer allowed a mere three hits over nine shutout innings in his first career complete game last week, I made the statement that, despite a dismal start to the season by the Tigers, the great outing by Scherzer could be the starting point in a turn around for the team.Untitled

But it appears I was wrong.

Lasting just four innings against the Royals on Tuesday, giving up a total of ten runs, and raising his ERA up to 3.84 on the season, Scherzer joins the long list of Tigers players who’ve struggled at some point this year.

More importantly, however, the Royals 11-4 rout of Scherzer after an 11-8 win against Justin Verlander the night before (the first time since 2011 that they’ve posted a double digit score in back-to-back games) helped them swap places with the Tigers, moving them into first place in the American League Central by a half game.

The first time the Royals have been in first place in their division this late into a season (70 games or beyond) since 2003, and the first time the Tigers haven’t held the first place spot in over a year, the great run by the Royals as of late should help to get their fan base excited, at least for the time being.

With a slow start to the year leading many people to once again assume that what was supposed to “finally” be the Royals’ year was yet again another bust, the Royals have gone from seven games back of first a month ago to leading the division. Thanks to a nine game winning streak (the longest winning streak for the Royals since July of last year) and to a struggling Tigers team, the Royals are seemingly in good shape to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985 (the longest drought in all of baseball).

It’s important to remember, however, that the AL Central is a very close division.

As I touched upon in a previous post, the Royals aren’t the only threat to the Tigers. Every single team in the entire division stands a legitimate chance at being at the top when the end of the year rolls around. Though the Tigers should be running away with things, struggles by most of their offense and the majority of their pitching staff has left more to be desired, giving every other team room to make a run.

The Twins are playing decent baseball (with the exception of a slow stretch lately); Jose Abreu and the White Sox are hanging in the mix; and the Indians are looking to pass the Tigers in a matter of days if the Tigers’ struggles continue. And thus, the Tigers need to turn things around fast.

With just under a month remaining until the All-Star break in mid-July — though teams will undoubtedly move up and down in the standings between now and then — things are setting up for an extremely exciting second half of an already eventful season.

Scherzer’s First Complete Game Stops Tigers’ Skid

After winning over 20 games last season and picking up the 2013 American League Cy Young Award, it’s hard to believe that Max Scherzer had never thrown a complete game over the course of his seven-year career heading into Thursday night’s start against the White Sox.

Max ScherzerBut after 178 previous starts without achieving the feat (the longest streak of any active pitcher without their first complete game), Scherzer was finally able to go the distance against the Sox, outpitching the equally dominant Chris Sale, throwing 113 total pitches over his nine innings of three hit, shutout baseball (it was Scherzer’s first career shutout as well) on the mound.

Moving to 8-2 on the year, with an ERA of 3.05, Scherzer’s great start helped to stop the Tigers’ three game loosing streak as well as put a little more room between them and the White Sox in the American League Central standings. When playing a division rival it becomes even more important to pickup the victory, and Scherzer made sure that happened.

One of only two divisions in all of baseball with less than ten games separating the first and last place teams (a mere four games separate the Twins at the bottom from the Tigers at the top), the Tigers are looking to begin turning around a somewhat disappointing year by their standards.

With the team the Tigers possess (Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez on the offensive side; Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on the pitching side) many people agree that they should be running away with the division as they had been predicted to do. But despite their strong team on paper, not a lot has been going well for the Tigers this season.

Justin Verlander — once one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball — and Joe Nathan — once one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball — are both trying to figure things out, along with the majority of the Tigers’ pitching roster. With their lineup being hit or miss on any given night (except for Miguel Cabrera, who’s having a great year despite a slow start, and Victor Martinez, who’s having a career season), it’s still going to take a lot for the Tigers to begin increasing their current lead.

Although the Tigers currently sit atop the division, they hold only a two game lead over the Royals. With the Royals on a four game winning streak, and the White Sox, Indians and Twins all within a few games of first place, the Tigers shouldn’t be panicking quite yet, as there’s still plenty of season remaining. However, they need to pay close attention before things get too far out of hand.

With such a small margin separating the Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Indians and Twins in the division, no matter how you look at it, any team in the American League Central currently has a chance at finishing in first place at the end of the season. While it’s a long shot at best for a couple of the teams, if the Tigers want to be the division winners, they’re obviously going to have to start playing better.

But if Max Scherzer’s dominant outing was any sort of sign of what’s to come, the Tigers could easily begin to pull away from the rest of the pack in the upcoming weeks before the All-Star break.

My Busy Upcoming Baseball Game Schedule

Every now and again, I like to post an entry covering my baseball game plans and such for an upcoming week or two, especially when it’s going to involve a rather busy schedule. Although I try to avoid too difficult of a schedule, when several good teams come to town in a short period of time, sometimes it can’t be helped. For the next couple of weeks that’s going to be the case.

Starting on Friday, I’m going to be attending the first of what will be five minor league baseball games in two weeks, to see some of baseball’s 536ac5c2910c8_imagefuture stars in person as well as get an autograph or two from as many of them as I can. While five games in two weeks could sound hectic — and to a certain degree it is — I have it all planned out so that everything will, hopefully, go smoothly.

Friday’s game will be my sixth MiLB game of the season so far, and my first Mudcats game of 2014. (Four of the games I’ve been to have taken place in Durham, with the other game occurring down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.) It will be the Mudcats taking on the Pelicans, who are the High-A affiliate of the Rangers.

Though I’ve seen the Pelicans once this year, and therefore have already gotten many of the players’ autographs, I couldn’t pass up seeing them once again with the level of talent on the team. From Jorge Alfaro (their number one prospect) to Joey Gallo (who led all of the minors in home runs last season, with 40) and numerous players in between, it’s sure to be a fun game.

My next game will take place sometime during the following week (I haven’t decided the exact date yet). It will be another Mudcats game, but this time they’ll be squaring off against the Blue Rocks (Royals’ affiliate).

The Blue Rocks has its fair share of top prospects, despite them having underachieved for the most part in 2014. Including names such as Raul Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Bubba Starling (who has unfortunately seemed lost throughout his past three minor league seasons), it’s well worth the trip out to the ballpark for another game.

Then begins the somewhat crazy week of games.

On Monday, June 2nd, I’m planning on heading over to Durham (for what will be the first time in nearly a month) to see a game against the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, the IronPigs.

While it isn’t an overall fantastic team, with Maikel Franco (their number one prospect) being the main standout, with it being a day game, it’s sure to be an enjoyable time, as is any game. But there’s just something different about a day game (not necessarily better, just different) that’s makes the game special.

UntitledFollowing that game, either on Tuesday or Wednesday (just not Thursday due to the 2014 MLB draft which I plan to watch on MLB Network), I’m heading back out to the Mudcats to see the opposing White Sox affiliate, the Dash.

The Dash’s roster includes names such as Tim Anderson (their first pick in the 2013 draft), Courtney Hawkins (their first pick in the 2012 draft), and future pitching star, Tyler Danish, among a few other standouts. As a team with so much high talent, it should be an entertaining game, in addition to being a good time for autographs.

The last game in the busy two week span will take place on the following Friday, when I’m heading over to Durham once again to see the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox, who have quite the team.

Currently with a roster of five of the Sox top ten prospects, including Allen Webster, Garin Cecchini, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez, as well as some former big leaguers, the Pawtucket team is a very good one — and one that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That game will end the planned five games in two weeks schedule, in which it should be interesting to see how much I can add to my autograph totals for the year. Over the five games I’ve attended thus far, I’ve amassed 20 autographs, with four of those being from top 100 prospects. While I haven’t blogged about any of those games (I’ll probably be blogging about at least one of the games over the next two weeks) I’m still going to do a recap at the very end of the season, like I did last year, covering how my time went out at the ballpark in 2014.

With there still being two and a half months remaining, even after the games I’ve planned out, including the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in July (I’ll definitely be blogging about both of those), there’s going to be a ton of opportunities to add to my overall autograph totals.

Ervin Santana Yet to Disappoint With the Braves

For the second straight year, the Nationals are the favorites to win the National League East division, and for the second straight year, the Braves are looking to surprise many, despite being the overall weaker team on paper, by winning the division. While it’s still early, the Braves are off to a good start.ervin-santana-mlb-new-york-mets-atlanta-braves

But it didn’t appear that it would turn out that way.

When the Braves announced last month the loss of two of their big name starters, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, many people felt that it was a crushing blow to the team, and would keep the Braves from doing much of anything this year.

However, despite a few poor games, the Braves currently stand at the top of the division, having had great pitching and an explosive offense leading the way as of late.

A lot of the great pitching is coming from guys you wouldn’t necessarily expect to dominate. With Medlen and Beachy out for the season, and Mike Minor out for a little while longer, the Braves don’t have any front line starters beyond Julio Teheran. But their offseason additions of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana are proving to be well worth it, as they are pitching like top notch pitchers so far.

For Santana, though it took all offseason for him to find a team, it’s looking like the one-year, 14.1 million dollar deal he agreed to could be a bargain for the Braves. Having so few pitching options heading into the season, the Braves picked up Santana merely because they were weak in starting pitching and needed a boost. Coming off a decent season of a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA for the Royals in 2013, Santana certainly had the ability to provide the upgrade.

However, I’m not sure anyone predicted Santana to be so good so soon. In his first start of the season against the Mets, Santana threw eight scoreless innings, earning the win as well as the respect of a lot of people around the baseball world. Going into his second start on Monday night, all eyes were on Santana again, and he was even better, overall. Striking out eleven batters in six one-run innings, Santana dominated, yet again, but had to settle for a no decision, due to poor relief pitching by the Braves’ bullpen.

While there are still a lot of critics who feel that the Braves will fall down behind the Nationals in the division standings as the season goes on, if their pitching can continue to be consistent along with their offense, they could surprise people, with Ervin Santana being a big reason for their success.

How the Major Offseason Pickups Did On Opening Day

Opening Day is the most exciting day of the year as far as baseball fans are concerned. With it comes lofty expectations, of both individual players and teams, as well as predictions for how every team will fare. But the best part of Opening Day is that, being the first game of the year, it gives every team — no matter how good or bad they may turn out to be — the opportunity to have a great deal of optimism for the coming season.

While the hopes and dreams of certain teams and fans alike will dwindle as a given season goes on, game one of the long season provides fans their first look at the key pickups their team made during the offseason, with the hopes that the moves they made will lead them to a World Series title. Whether it be by a trade or a free agent signing, each and every team always does something in the offseason to attempt to improve their team for the following year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go over how the major (non-pitching) offseason additions performed in their first game with their new team, and give my thoughts on each player. While not every name is listed, pretty much all of the major players are:Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu: 2-4, with an RBI single

Yet another predicted future phenom to make his way over from Cuba, Jose Abreu impressed many people throughout Spring Training, and he continued to do so on Opening Day. Going 2-4, with one of his two hits scoring a run, Abreu didn’t show off the power in his first big league game, however, the natural pop he has in his bat was evident. With the White Sox being somewhat of a question mark for the coming season, Abreu, if nothing else, will go a long way in bringing attention to the team.

Marlon Byrd: 2-6, with a solo homer

Part of a long list of player who’ve tested positive for performance enhancing drugs over the years, with his suspension coming in 2012 , Marlon Byrd is coming off a breakout season spent between the Mets and Pirates last year, and is looking to prove that he can continue to be that type of player moving forward. Hitting a career high 24 home runs last season, Byrd is well on his way to reaching the lofty total yet again, going 2-6 with a home run in his first game in a Phillies uniform since 2005.

Jhonny Peralta: 0-4

Moving from the Tigers to the Cardinals this past offseason, Jhonny Peralta can be an impact player on any club. Despite a performance enhancing drug suspension last season, Peralta was signed by the Cards to man the shortstop position for the coming season, and while he went hitless in his first game of the year (he looked solid defensively), many are looking for Peralta to have a great season. With an already fantastic team from top to bottom, Peralta could find himself apart of a very special season.

Nelson Cruz: 1-2, with a solo homer

Yet another player who served a suspension last season due to performance enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz is a major power threat, nonetheless, and was a great pickup by the Orioles. He proved that threat first hand on Opening Day, blasting a solo home run in one of his two official at-bats of the game. With a lineup of several power sources already — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, once he returns — Cruz combines together to make for a very formidable Orioles lineup.

Michael Morse: 1-3, with a strikeout

Though he isn’t the best power hitter in baseball, Michael Morse has the potential to go on hot streaks in which he can rack up a good amount of home runs in no time. Bouncing around between teams over the past few seasons, Morse wound up with the Giants this past offseason, and is sure to be a key part of their lineup moving forward. Going 1-3 on Opening Day, Morse is part of a very good Giants team, and if he can perform to his potential throughout the year, they could do very well.

Grady Sizemore: 2-4, with a solo homer

One of the best stories of the year, Grady Sizemore joined the Red Sox in January, after not having played in a major league game since 2011 due to a multitude of injuries. He was subsequently put up against promising prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. during Spring Training, having to prove himself worthy of the Opening Day center field spot. Sizemore wound up having a fantastic Spring, winning the job, and had a great 4ufdt_St_58return game in Baltimore, going 2-4, including a towering home run to right field.

Prince Fielder: 1-5

Part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler, the Rangers definitely have a much better lineup than they did last season. While Fielder went just 1-5 on Opening Day, on a mere single, he possesses one of the biggest power bats in all of baseball. He should get things going and come close to, if not exceeding, his previous averages of over 30 homers and 100 RBI’s a season. For the Rangers to beat out the Athletics in the division, they need Fielder to get hot.

Shin-Soo Choo: 0-4

Known for getting on base better than pretty much anyone all of last season, putting together a .423 on base percentage, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a major deal this offseason, looking for him to continue to be the same type of player. But he didn’t start his year off all that well, going 0-4 in game one, though he did reach first on a walk. Despite his poor debut with the Rangers, Choo should be fine. He’s not going to hit you a ton of home runs, but if he can get on base, the rest of the lineup will take care of the runs.

Ian Kinsler: 0-4

The piece that the Tigers got in return for sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler can contribute both offensively and defensively. Though the Tigers lost a major run producer in Fielder, and they will undoubtedly miss his presence throughout the long season (with Miguel Cabrera having to carry the Tigers more than ever), Kinsler, although he went hitless in his first game in a Tigers uniform, should make an impact for the Tigers, who are predicted by many to run away with the division.

Mark Trumbo: 3-5, with two RBI’s

Coming over to the Diamondbacks from the Angels this offseason, Mark Trumbo can launch a baseball like very few others can. With that power threat comes a major impact player, as Trumbo played a big role in the Angles lineup and will undoubtedly be a big piece of the D-backs’ lineup. Going 3-5, with a pair of RBI’s, in his first game of the season, Trumbo certainly didn’t disappoint in what could turn out to be a big year for him if he can get everything going from here on out.

Curtis Granderson: 0-5, with three strikeouts

Moving across town this past offseason, Curtis Granderson surprised many when he exchanged his Yankees pinstripes for those of the Mets. But although Granderson is supposed to be one of the top power threats in the Mets lineup — hitting over fourty home runs in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons — he disappointed in his Opening Day start. Striking out three times in a hitless five at-bats, Granderson certainly didn’t show much of anything, but he should still get up around the thirty homer range when all is said and done.Untitled

Robinson Cano: 2-4

The top free agent of the offseason, many felt that Robinson Cano would remain a New York Yankee for the entire length of his career. But instead, Cano signed a mega deal with the Mariners keeping him in Seattle for the next ten seasons. In his first game with his new club, Cano went 2-4, including a double late in the game. Though many people are predicting a fall in Cano’s power numbers, with him playing home games at Safeco Field, Cano proved that his consistency will likely remain.

David Freese: 0-4, with two strikeouts

With the loss of David Freese to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals are a slightly weaker team than they were last year. However, Matt Carpenter, previously their second baseman, took over Freese’s spot at the hot corner, and is expected to do a great job. On the Angles end of the trade, they picked up what should be a decent upgrade at third. Freese didn’t do much in his Angels debut, going hitless in four at-bats, but he looked good defensively, and his bat will surely come around to give the Angels a great overall lineup.

Justin Morneau: 1-4, with a strikeout

Having been moved from the Twins to the Pirates in the second half of last season, Justin Morneau found himself joining the Colorado Rockies this offseason, giving them some much needed pop in their lineup. While Morneau can be an impact player, the Rockies simply don’t have a good enough team to put together all that great of a season. Therefore, even though Morneau went a mere 1-4 in his Rockies debut, he should continue to be consistent, with the Rockies’ poor performance as a whole staying consistent as well.

2014 Spring Training TTM Autograph Update

Around a month ago, I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during Spring Training. At the end of the post, I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent, I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up. Of the fourteen total TTM requests I sent off, I’ve received four of them back, with them being from:

KYLE ZIMMER — ROYALS’ ORGANIZATION

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Kyle Zimmer is the number 25 overall prospect in all of baseball. Although he didn’t have a fantastic 2013 season, going 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA, Zimmer has a ton of upside moving forward, and has many people excited for Kansas City’s future. With a fantastic fastball, in addition to an arsenal of a curveball, slider and changeup, Zimmer could, potentially, see his first big league time at some point towards the end of this season.

ALBERT ALMORA — CUBS’ ORGANIZATION

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Albert Almora is the number 18 overall prospect in all of baseball. Though he played in just 61 games last season, Almora is one of the Cubs’ highly coveted core prospects — consisting of Kris Bryan, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, etc. — that are making their way to Wrigley Field. Almora is still several years away from the major leagues, but by batting .329 last year, hopes are high that he will develop into the talented outfielder that he has the ability to become.

CLAYTON KERSHAW — LOS ANGELES DODGERS

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This one doesn’t need too much explaining. Clayton Kershaw has become one of the biggest superstars over the course of the past few seasons, winning two Cy Young awards in that time frame. Going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA in 2013, Kershaw should continue to be, arguably, the most dominant pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. He’s set to get his first start of the season on March 22nd, in game one of the Opening Series against the Diamondbacks down in Australia.

EDDIE BUTLER — ROCKIES’ ORGANIZATION

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Eddie Butler is the number 41 overall prospect in all of baseball. Pitching in the 2013 MLB futures game up in New York City, in July, Butler went a combined 9-5 with a 1.80 ERA last season, really putting himself on the map around the league. He held opponents’ batting average to a mere .180 for the entire season, and combined with other top Rockies pitching prospect, Jonathan Gray, the Rockies have a fairly good pair of young arms coming their way in the next couple of years.

I still have autograph requests out for Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, David Robertson, Mark Appel, Cody Asche, Kris Bryant, Kolten Wong, Mike Napoli, Jake Marisnick and James Paxton. When/if I get any of those back, assuming it’s before Opening Day on March 31st, I’ll be sure to post another update. Though, there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.

American League Predictions for 2014

For the third season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Red Sox to finish last in 2013 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Orioles

5. Blue Jays

Originally, I had the Yankees winning the division, but the more I thought about it the more I second-guessed the choice. The Red Sox are far too good of a team to ignore, and should have just enough to beat out every other team in the American League East. What really puts them over the Yankees when it comes to deciding first and second place is their pitching depth. Not just their starting rotation, but their bullpen as well. From Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey, to a top of the line closer in Koji Uehara, there is a ton of talent to keep the opposing teams from scoring runs. As far as their own lineup goes, it’s one of the best in the division, with a good mix of veterans — David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, A.J. Pierzynski — as well as young future stars — Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks. And therefore, they should be able to win the division, yet again.

The Yankees did a lot of things right this past offseason, and I really feel confident in them for the coming year, but I can’t quite see them placing first. They lost their All-Star closer, Mariano Rivera, and didn’t really address that by signing another closer to take his place. On the topic of pitching, their starting pitching improved a bit with the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, but it will take a bounce back year from C.C. Sabathia, and the rest of their rotation, for the Yankees to pitch themselves to a lot of wins. But what they lack in pitching, they more than make up for in their lineup. Newcomers Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will go a long way in helping the offense score runs. Even without their star second baseman, Robinson Cano, to provide a major power threat, the Yankees still have a chance to go far, in this Derek Jeter’s farewell season.

There were a lot of rumors this offseason that the Rays’ 2012 Cy Young winner, David Price, was going to be traded. But that didn’t happen, which is what will help them barely beat out the Orioles, in my opinion. If Price can return to form, combined with Chris Archer, Matt Moore and the remaining players of their entire pitching staff, including newly acquired Grant Balfour to fill their closer role they lost when Fernando Rodney left, the Rays will be good to go. Their lineup is decent, with Evan Longoria and Wil Myers being the standouts, and with James Loney and Ben Zobrist likely being good yet again, their overall lineup should be good enough to compete. Towards the end of the 2013 season, the Rays went on a run, and if they can do that at the right times throughout this year, they could surprise some people.

The Orioles have the ability to beat out the Rays for third, but I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough to get there. I have them finishing next to last, as despite adding Nelson Cruz to go along with Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis as the big impact players in their lineup, they don’t have the best pitching. Signing Ubaldo Jimenez will go a long way in making them a good team if he is able to have a breakout year, but losing their All-Star closer, Jim Johnson, to the Athletics, will hurt them at the end of games, as they have no true replacement for him. If everyone up and down the lineup and all throughout the bullpen can get going, the Orioles could move up the division ranks, and make a push. But I don’t see that happening until their top prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are full time members sometime next season.

Last season after signing so many impact players in the winter months, many had the Blue Jays making the playoffs, with some going as far as to predict a World Series championship for Toronto. I thought those predictions were a little far fetched, and I predicted a fourth place finish for them, despite having some veteran proven pitchers such as R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. After they disappointed many by finishing dead last in the AL East last season, I’m putting the Blue Jays last again. They didn’t do a whole lot this offseason, and if anything they got a little worse by losing some players to free agency. It would take a near perfect and injury free season by their star players Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie, as well as perfect years by all of their starting pitchers, for them to compete in their division. To me, that’s an awful lot to ask out of the Jays.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

There’s no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the American League Central. Although they lost one of the biggest bats in the game, Prince Fielder, trading him away for Ian Kinsler, who will play second, freed up their options. Meaning 2012 Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, will now move back to first, with top prospect, Nick Castellanos, taking over his spot at third base. With Jose Iglesias at shortstop, who could pick up a Gold Glove this season, there really aren’t any holes in their infield, or anywhere in their entire lineup for that matter. And that continues with their pitching staff. The Tigers have a superb starting rotation, with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, and strengthened the back end of their bullpen by signing proven closer, Joe Nathan. Everything combined together, the Tigers could have a magical season.

This is finally the year for the Royals, in my mind. They made a strong push towards the end of last season, with their first baseman, Eric Hosmer, beginning to play like many predicted he was capable of, but they came up just short. This season, however, the Royals have enough to finish second if they can get everything to come together. Their starting rotation won’t dominate, but it will do fairly well, from James Shields to rookie Yordano Ventura. They have one of the best, under the radar, closers, Greg Holland, and he should have a great year again. In addition, their consistent players such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will continue to perform, but it will take production from players like Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas (he has something to prove this season) for the Royals to make any sort of a deep playoff push.

The Indians made the playoffs last season via the Wild Card, quickly being eliminated, but I don’t see them getting back this year. I have them finishing third, but a down year by the Royals could see them moving up a spot. Their rotation has the potential to be good, with Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar leading the way, but they lost Scott Kazmir, and need Trevor Bauer to finally come through for them more than ever. As far as their lineup goes, it’s pretty good. Yan Gomes will likely be their catcher, with Carlos Santana transitioning to third, and Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis will contribute both offensively and defensively, along with Jason Giambi providing the Indians some pop. Francisco Lindor, their top prospect, could see major league time towards the end of the season, but it likely won’t be enough to push them over the edge.

While the White Sox probably won’t do much this season, finishing next to last in my book, they will have a slightly better season than the one they had last year. Chris Sale, one of the best players on the team, will be the leader of their starting rotation, which is good but no where near great. Another spot where they have a ton of holes is their lineup, however, Jose Abreu is set to be the next big, power hitter out of Cuba, so it will be interesting to see how he does. If he can perform well, along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who have been known for years for their power, the Sox should have a decent year. One of the biggest things that will hurt them is the loss of their overpowering closer, Addison Reed, who was great at finishing out games for them. With so many question marks and missing pieces, it will take a lot for the White Sox to finish any better than fourth.

I have the Twins finishing last again, but it will likely be the final year for awhile. They have numerous top prospects coming up in the next few years, including Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, and those players will definitely have an incredible impact. But with the players they have for this season, they will likely have a subpar year. With a rotation of Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes, among others, the Twins don’t have a true ace of their pitching staff like a lot of teams do. They also no longer have Justin Morneau at first base, losing him in the second half of last year, and the rest of their infield is a question mark. One of their stronger points is their outfield, with Aaron Hicks and Josh Willingham, as well as newly signed catcher, Kurt Suzuki, but those players alone won’t be enough to win the Twins many games in 2014.

WEST

1. Rangers

2. Athletics

3. Mariners

4. Angels

5. Astros

Trading away Ian Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder will really go a long way in helping the Rangers beat out the Athletics for the number one spot in the AL West. Adding Fielder to an already great infield of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, will give the Rangers their first production from first base since Mark Teixeira left in 2007. The only thing that could hurt the Rangers is their pitching, as Derek Holland will miss the first portion of the season, along with a few other of their key pieces. Yu Darvish will be dominant again, and Tommy Hanson, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross will help a bit, but the loss of their closer, Joe Nathan, will have somewhat of an effect. If newcomer Shin-Soo Choo can produce from the leadoff spot the same as he was able to do in 2013, the Rangers, and several players on their team, could have an amazing year.

As far as the Athletics go, although they’ve won the division the past two seasons and made some fairly good moves this offseason as they seem to always do, they don’t have the lineup threats that the Rangers do. They do, however, have an overall better pitching staff (especially in the bullpen) with young stars Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily leading the rotation. A pickup of Scott Kazmir and closer Jim Johnson will have a great impact on their success throughout the coming season, as will Coco Crisp and Eric Sogard, who really broke out in 2013. But it will take great seasons from Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick for the A’s to make a run at beating out the Rangers. With the seasons they’ve been able to put together without any superstars on the team, however, it wouldn’t be all that difficult for the Athletics to surprise me.

The Mariners, with all of the offseason moves they made, could potentially place better than third place, but I’m projecting them to disappoint a lot of people. The biggest signing they made was undeniably the top free agent of the offseason, Robinson Cano, for the next ten years. He will go a long way in turning the Mariners back around. But other than Cano, and possibly Corey Hart who they signed as well, there’s no major power threat in the lineup. Logan Morrison will add some average hitting, and young players such as Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager and Brad Miller will be decent. The one player that needs to produce is Dustin Ackley, but you never know with him. Their pitching should be excellent, with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, etc., as well as new closer, Fernando Rodney, but if they don’t produce a ton offensively, it won’t do them much good.

After really disappointed a lot of people last season, the Angels could very well could do so again this year, finishing next to last in my opinion, as they didn’t do a lot to get much better this offseason. Their rotation doesn’t extend much past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, though they did pick up promising prospect Tyler Skaggs. While Mike Trout is going to be amazingly good, as he has proven he can be, and I feel Albert Pujols will have a bounce back year, Josh Hamilton isn’t really looking all that promising. Also, although they picked up David Freese this offseason, they lost a huge impact bat in Mark Trumbo, and really don’t have any other major impact players to place in their lineup. While they certainly have the pieces to surprise many people this year if everything goes right, I just don’t see it happening for the Angels.

It’s becoming routine for the Astros to finish dead last, and they will likely do so again this season, but on a brighter note, they could possibly finish with fewer than 100 losses, which they haven’t been able to do since 2010. The Astros don’t have any impact players to speak of for their rotation or lineup, but one of their top prospects, George Springer, if called up soon enough, could play a big role in the outfield. Jarred Cosart will likely be their best starting pitcher, with players such as Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez making some noise with their bats. However, it won’t be enough to do any better than fifth. But it shouldn’t be long until the Astros are moving up in their division, as they have several fantastic prospects coming up in the next year or two. From Mark Appel to Carlos Correa, the Astros could have a very formidable team in the very near future.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2014 Season

Spring Training is well underway, and many players are beginning to find their grooves that they hope will carry over into the coming regular season. With just over three weeks until Opening Day, on March 31st, there’s not too much time remaining for players who struggled last season to get things back on track for this year. With that said, some players certainly need to have a good year more than others.

While every player, obviously, wants to have a good, healthy season, there are numerous players who pretty much have to produce a good 2014 for one reason or another — whether it’s personal reasons, statistical reasons, or for team success as a whole. Although there are more players than those in my list below, here are the top ten players (in no particular order) that I feel need to have a really good 2014 season:

1.) Albert Pujols

After recording twelve straight seasons of 30 or more home runs (all but one of which included 100+ RBI’s) Albert Pujols faced the first bit of adversity of his career in 2013. Dealing with a nagging foot injury, Pujols only managed to post 17 home runs and 64 RBI’s, along with a .258 batting average — absolutely terrible by his standards — in 99 games played. With the down year coming as a shock to many people, especially after the acquisition of him led many to predict playoff pushes for the Angels, there will be many eyes on Pujols from his very first at-bat of the season to see if he can bounce back. I personally feel that if Pujols is healthy, the numbers will be there, and he will be a top candidate for American League comeback player of the year, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

2.) Ryan Braun

mlb_u_ryan-braun_mb_400x600In January of 2013, a list was made public by the biogenesis clinic in Miami, Florida, connecting numerous players to performance enhancing drugs, including Ryan Braun. After being connected to PED’s back in 2011, the list raised many red flags, but Braun denied any drug use, yet again. But finally, after a 65-game suspension by Major League Baseball, Braun came clean and admitted to having used PED’s, upsetting many people around the league. Therefore, unlike anyone else on my list, Braun (who had a good season, batting .298 with 9 homers and 38 RBI’s in 61 games) needs to have a good 2014 more for his personal image rather than his talent level image. Everyone knows he’s a great player, but it will take some time for fans to get over Braun’s consistent denial of PED use — and a great season would certainly help with that.

3.) Ryan Howard

Battling injuries over the course of the past two seasons, Ryan Howard needs to have a bounce back year for him to once again be considered the major power threat that he once was. Playing in only 80 games in 2013, Howard batted a mere .266 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI’s. Considering the fact that Howard hit 33 home runs just two years prior, making it the sixth 30+ home run season of his career, the Phillies’ former star first baseman really needs to show signs of his former self this season. If Howard can perform anywhere near his previous level by staying healthy and putting many a ball into the outfield seats, not only could he very well win the 2014 National League comeback player of the year award, but the Phillies could have a real shot at having a memorable year.

4.) Derek Jeter

Announcing that 2014 would be his final season playing Major League Baseball last month, Derek Jeter needs to have a good final season to top off an already incredible career. In 2013, Jeter struggled with injury after injury, managing to play in only 17 games, and posting a .190 batting average, to go along with a single homer and 7 runs batted in. After accumulating over 3,300 hits in the big leagues over the course of his career, Jeter doesn’t need to have a good final season to be remembered as one of the best players of all-time — he’s already on that list for many people — but rather to finish out his career in Jeter fashion, going out on top of his game. I truly hope he can have a great 2014 season, and I feel he will do just that.

1vysec_AuSt_695.) David Price

When David Price won the 2012 American League Cy Young award, recording 20 wins and posting a 2.56 ERA, many (myself included) felt he had a good chance at doing the same again last season. But instead, Price was faced with a midseason injury that caused his numbers to take a tumble. Posting a win-loss record of 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA — not too terrible, but somewhat disappointing for him — Price needs to bounce back in 2014 for both his sake and the sake of the Rays. Price truly can be the key for the Rays, who always seem to be on the brink of playoff baseball every season. With an improved American League East division for the coming year, Price’s season could be the difference maker for if the Rays are able to make the postseason or not.

6.) B.J. Upton

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season, batting .184 with just 9 home runs and 26 RBI’s after a 2012 season of 28 homers and 78 runs driven in, B.J. Upton has to have a good season this year for him not to be considered a trade bust by the Braves. The Braves managed to win their division last season by a rather large margin without much production from Upton, and if they can get Upton back to his former self, the Braves could have an even better year. It will be interesting to see how B.J. Upton does in the coming year with so much negative criticism surrounding him from the 2013 season. If he can have another good season, the down year he experience will be a forgotten aspect of the past.

7.) Stephen Strasburg

There are some players that are tagged with a major amount of hype from their first appearance in the big leagues, and Stephen Strasburg is one of them. While he hasn’t disappointed for the most part, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA last season, Strasburg also hasn’t managed to blow everyone away and completely dominate like many believe he can. It’s been reported that Strasburg has added a new pitch to his arsenal and is throwing better than ever, and that could mean good things for both him and the Nationals. If Strasburg can find a way to tally even ten more wins than he did this past year, the Nat’s could find themselves in the running for the National League East division title, assuming everything else goes right for the rest of the team.

8.) Mike Moustakas628x471

Having the potential to be an All-Star third baseman season after season, Mike Moustakas has yet to post an exceptional season at the major league level. Batting only .233, with 12 homers and 42 RBI’s last season, Moustakas needs to have a good season this year for him to be seen as the above average player he can be moving forward. The Royals still have several holes in their lineup, but Moustakas performing well each year would go a long way in helping them move back into contention. He’s still fairly young, at just 25 years old, and therefore has time left to live out his former hype, but Moustakas could use a strong statistical season to prove to many that he’s one of the top third baseman in the game of baseball today.

9.) Matt Kemp

Although he’s still not fully healthy, Matt Kemp is already on the radar of many people who think he will have a good 2014 season. The only question mark being his health, playing in only 73 games last year. If healthy, as with many players on this list, the numbers will be there, as Kemp is one of the premier talents in the game today, possessing 40 home run, 40 stolen base ability (coming one home run shy of doing just that in 2011, when he placed second in MVP voting). Although there is great depth in the Dodgers’ current outfield, which includes players such as Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, if Kemp can show signs that he’s healthy, he will certainly get plenty of playing time in the coming season. He’s too good of a player to count out.

10.) Tim Lincecum

Once a Cy Young caliber pitcher, having won back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum has really fallen off as of late. Each of the past two seasons, Lincecum has posted an ERA over 4.00, and in addition had losing records. While the win-loss record isn’t the most important thing when evaluating a pitcher’s season, an ERA anywhere above 3.50 usually means they had a disappointing year. But with the talent that Lincecum has shown in the past, I’m not giving up on a turnaround just yet. He just really needs to have a good 2014 season — perhaps more than most of the players on this list — for him to become ‘The Freak’ pitcher he once was considered. I truly hope he can, because when Lincecum is on, he’s one of the most fun pitchers to watch in all of baseball.

JUST MISSES

There are a few players who need to have a good 2014 season who just barely missed my above list because their stats were slightly too good. One of those being Josh Hamilton, who was a major disappointment after signing with the Angles, but when you check the stats, he actually had a decent year, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 79 runs. Another example of that being Yoenis Cespedes, who had a down year average wise, hitting just .240, but posted 26 homers and 80 RBI’s. Not too bad of a season for most players.

Joining those two on the list of just misses are Giancarlo Stanton, who was injured in 2013 but still managed to hit 24 home runs and amass 62 RBI’s, along with Dan Uggla, whose .179 batting included 22 homers and 55 RBI’s, which really isn’t all that terrible. While all the players listed under the just missed category had down seasons by their standards, they managed to have somewhat decent years as far as the major league average goes. Even so, they could each use a good 2014 season to prove what they’re capable of.

Which player needs to have a good 2014 season the most? Leave a comment below.

2014 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching the opening-series of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, down in Australia on March 22nd, and so begins the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun.

I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2014:

Voting ends on March 22nd.

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:

DSCN6271

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.

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