Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

2014 Top 100 Prospects List Released

I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2014. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training, but have a chance of a call up later in the season.

Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2014. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects 100-91

Pierce Johnson (100), Rosell Herrera (99), Stephen Piscotty (98), Robbie Ray (97),

Trey Ball (96), Edwin Escobar (95), Taylor Guerrieri (94), Roberto Osuna (93),

Joey Gallo (92) and Jorge Bonifacio (91).

There really aren’t any players from the 100-91 spots that I feel have a good shot at making it to the big leagues in 2014. If any of them made it, it would likely be Jorge Bonifacio and/or Robbie Ray, as both have a shot at beginning the year in Triple-A and therefore could potentially be a September call up. It’s more likely, however, that all these players will have to wait until at least 2015.

Prospects 90-81

Jose Berrios (90), Arismendy Alcantara (89), D.J. Peterson (88), Casey Kelly (87),

Matt Barnes (86), Rafael Montero (85), Hak-Ju Lee (84), Jimmy Nelson (83),

Christian Bethancourt (82) and Justin Nicolino (81).

Casey Kelly is the only one of these players that I feel has a chance at starting with the major league club out of Spring Training. Kelly made his MLB debut in 2012, where he was fairly good, but due to Tommy John surgery last season, he missed all of 2013. If healthy, Kelly has the potential to be a major asset to the Padres in their starting rotation, and should be able to show what he’s capable of this season.

While Jimmy Nelson is a player who is on the fence — possibly making the big leagues out of camp in late March — I feel he will likely pitch a month or two in the minors before getting called back up sometime midseason. Matt Barnes, Rafael Montero and Hak-Ju Lee (who spent 2013 injured) should also all see big league time in 2014, and have the potential to become impact players for their respective clubs.

Prospects 80-71

Matt Davidson (80), Braden Shipley (79), Matthew Wisler (78), Chris Owings (77),

Luis Sardinas (76), Mason Williams (75), Josh Bell (74), Trevor Bauer (73),

Michael Choice (72) and David Dahl (71).

Matt Davidson — recently traded to the White Sox from the Diamondback’s — Chris Owings, Trevor Bauer and Michael Choice could all potentially start the year in the majors, but there’s also the chance that they could spend a few games in Triple-A. They all played in the big leagues at some point in 2013 and will each get their chance to shine on the big stage at some point in 2014, possibly right off the bat.

Matthew Wisler isn’t going to begin the season the Padres, however, it is likely that he could see a few games with them as a late season call up. They could always use pitching help, and Wisler, going 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA last year, could certainly go a long way for the Padres in 2014.

Prospects 70-61

Erik Johnson (70), A.J. Cole (69), Eduardo Rodriguez (68), Alen Hanson (67),

Delino De Shields (66), Jake Marisnick (65), Julio Urias (64), Zach Lee (63),

Mookie Betts (62) and Blake Swihart (61).

Jake Marisnick spent a good bit of time (40 games) with the Marlin in 2013, and there’s a good shot at him starting off the year with them. Marisnick didn’t perform particularly well, but he’s still young and would make a good outfielder for them in 2014. Erik Johnson, who also made his MLB debut last season, has the potential to break camp with the White Sox, but it’s going to come down to how he performs in Spring Training. Either way, he’ll see time in the majors this season.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Lee and Alen Hanson all could make it to the bigs in 2014, but for Hanson that may have to wait another season. Rodriguez and Lee should begin the 2014 season with Triple-A, and depending on how they do, they could possibly be September call ups. Hanson also holds that chance, but it will likely be 2015 for him.

Prospects 60-51

Lucas Sims (60), Rougned Odor (59), Kolten Wong (58), Garin Cecchini (57),

Jake Odorizzi (56), Marcus Stroman (55), Mike Foltynewicz (54), Jesse Biddle (53),

Lance McCullers (52) and Colin Moran (51).

Kolten Wong, despite forever holding the distinction of being picked off to end the game during the 2013 World Series, should begin the season where he left off. As a late season call up last year, Wong did decently, and many feel he is going to turn into a very special player. Jake Odorizzi also has the talent to begin 2014 at the big league level, but the big difference between Wong and Odorizzi is team room. The Rays’ rotation is packed, and therefore it’s likely Odorizzi will be back with Triple-A to begin the season.

Garin Cecchini, Marcus Stroman, Mike Foltynewicz and Jesse Biddle all have the chance to make their MLB debuts this season, as they all should begin in Triple-A. Of them, Stroman has the potential to be called up the quickest, as many people feel he is the most ready, and the Blue Jays really could use some pitching. But all of them should help out their respective clubs at some point this year.

Prospects 50-41

Jonathan Singleton (50), Jorge Soler (49), Clint Frazier (48), Gary Sanchez (47),

Allen Webster (46), Austin Meadows (45), Lucas Giolito (44), Max Fried (43),

C.J. Edwards (42) and Eddie Butler (41).

Allen Webster is the only player of this group that stands any shot at making the majors to start the year, but even so, it’s not a good shot. Despite making the Red Sox rotation in 2013, Webster performed somewhat poorly, and it’s likely that that bad showing could land him back in Triple-A to begin 2014.

Jonathan Singleton, Gary Sanchez and Eddie Butler all could begin 2014 in Triple-A, and all three could make the majors this season. Of them, Singleton is the only player with Triple-A experience, but they each have the talent to make their respective clubs at some point this year. The only thing that would hold Sanchez back would possibly be Brian McCann, whom the Yankees signed to a major contract earlier this offseason, and is blocking Sanchez’s spot as the Bronx Bombers’ catcher.

Prospects 40-31

Kohl Stewart (40), Jorge Alfaro (39), Adalberto Mondesi (38), Billy Hamilton (37),

Joc Pederson (36), Yordano Ventura (35), Corey Seager (34), Jackie Bradley Jr. (33),

Kyle Crick (32) and Kevin Gausman (31).

Billy Hamilton, Yordano Ventura, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Gausman all should begin the season in the majors, as all four of them spent time there last season. Though they all have some things to work on, they each have a ton of natural talent, and could be helping out their big league club from day one of the 2014 season, with Bradley having to compete for his outfield spot against the newly acquired Grady Sizemore.

Joc Pederson was debated over by the Dodgers last season as to whether or not they wanted to call him up or choose another talented outfielder by the name of Yasiel Puig instead. (We all know what happened — with Puig going on a tear with the Dodgers — so I won’t talk a lot about it.) Though he doesn’t have the power that Puig possesses, Pederson is going to be a great player for the Dodgers, and should see a few games in the majors in 2014. The only question being, is there room for him in the already crowded outfield? (A possible trade isn’t out of the question.)

Prospects 30-21

Henry Owens (30), Andrew Heaney (29), Alex Meyer (28), Tyler Glasnow (27),

Maikel Franco(26), Kyle Zimmer (25), Austin Hedges (24), Aaron Sanchez (23),

Travis d’Arnaud (22) and George Springer.

George Springer and Travis d’Arnaud each have a chance to begin 2014 with their big league team, but d’Arnaud is the more likely of the two. He spent the last month of the 2013 season with the Mets, and should begin with them out of Spring Training. Springer on the other hand — while he hit 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year — will likely spend a month or two in the minors before finally getting a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage possible.

Henry Owens, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer and Maikel Franco will likely be sent to Triple-A out of Spring Training, however, they should all reach the major league level this season. They all have a ton of talent, and will be fun to watch this season. If any of them get called up early enough, they could become an immediate everyday impact player for their club.

Prospects 20-11

Dylan Bundy (20), Robert Stephenson (19), Albert Almora (18), Mark Appel (17),

Jameson Taillon (16), Nick Castellanos (15), Jonathan Gray (14), Gregory Polanco (13),

Addison Russell (12) and Noah Syndergaard (11).

Nick Castellanos finally has a spot available for him on the Tigers and it’s likely that he’ll claim it right out of Spring Training. Castellanos spent the final games of 2013 in the big leagues, but with Miguel Cabrera at third — his normal position — Castellanos was forced to the outfield. Now that Prince Fielder is with the Rangers, Cabrera can return to his original spot at first, and Castellanos can play a full season at third base, where he should do extremely well.

There are a ton of players from the 20-11 spots that will likely see big league time in 2014. Dylan Bundy, Robert Stephenson, Mark Appel, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Addison Russell and Noah Syndergaard all stand a decent shot — some better than others — with Bundy, Taillon and Syndergaard likely being the three with the best shot of a call up earlier than September. We’ll have to see exactly what happens, but this group of players in particular will be a fun one to watch.

Prospects 10-1

Francisco Lindor (10), Kris Bryant (9), Carlos Correa (8), Javier Baez (7),

Taijuan Walker (6), Archie Bradley (5), Miguel Sano (4), Oscar Taveras (3),

Xander Bogaerts (2) and Byron Buxton (1).

Taijuan Walker, Xander Bogaerts and Archie Bradley will all spend a good chunk of time in the big leagues in 2014, but it’s likely that they will begin the year with their major league teams. Admittedly, Bradley is a bit of a stretch — likely starting the year in Triple-A — but if he performs exceptionally well in Spring Training, it’s not completely out of the question. All of these players, if they can remain healthy and subsequently play enough games at the major league level, all have the potential to be Rookie of the Year caliber players.

Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras could each play games in the majors this season, but it’s possible that Bryant will have to wait until 2015, depending on how he performs and how quickly the Cubs want to bring him along. Regardless, all of these players, as with the previously named players in this group, have the potential to be Rookie of the Year finalist in 2015, assuming they don’t exceed the stats in 2014 needed to still qualify as a rookie the next season.

I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were. But I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2014 season have been announced, I pose the following question: Which of the top ten prospects (although a couple of them may not even make the major leagues) do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2014? Cast your vote below:

 

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

MLB Hot Stove Heating Up In First Days of December

Monday was a busy day for Major League Baseball’s Hot Stove. Several players either signed or were traded, making an otherwise slow offseason pickup a bit. I won’t take the time to go over every single deal that has taken place recently, however, I do want to give my thoughts on the main deals that took place on Monday — and one from today. Doug+Fister+Detroit+Tigers+v+Cleveland+Indians+8W2pEFs2ZpUl

The biggest deal, by far, was the Tigers trading Doug Fister to the Nationals, in exchange for Minor League player, Robbie Ray, along with Nat’s second baseman, Steve Lombardozzi, and rookie pitcher from 2013, Ian Krol. This deal helps out the Nationals most, as they have a young prospect, Anthony Rendon, who’s ready to take over at second full time, and Krol and Ray aren’t a lot to lose for a pitcher of Fister’s caliber. (Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 2013.)

On the Tigers’ side of things, while it doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense, they’re going to use the money saved by getting rid of Fister to sign Joe Nathan to fill their closer role. The Tigers are still left with a rotation of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Annibal Sanchez, and the signing of Nathan will help them out tremendously.

Theoretically, this furthers the case for the Tigers hanging onto Scherzer, instead of trading the 2013 Cy Young award winner, but it’s still possible that they will. What the Tigers really needed was a closer, and they’re getting a good one in Joe Nathan, who recorded 43 saves in 2013.

As far as closers go, Jim Johnson is one of the games best at the moment, and he was part of a deal between the Athletics and Orioles that sent him out to Oakland for Jemile Weeks — a low-end player who only spent eight games in the Majors last season, batting .111 — and a player to be named later. Johnson, who posted a 2.94 ERA last season while recording 50 saves, has achieved at least 50 saves for the past two seasons. (His 101 saves over the past two years is the best in baseball.) He should improve the A’s bullpen drastically.

1377582892000-USP-MLB-Texas-Rangers-at-Seattle-MarinersThe Athletics also signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal, who was decent in 2013, having the best season of his career since 2008, and will join a pretty good rotation of players such as Sonny Gray and Jarrod Parker.

This signing likely ends their pursuit of Bartolo Colon, who was great last season, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, but was asking for more money than the A’s were willing to give him. But even if Colon leaves, the signing of Kazmir and Johnson makes them a much better team, at least as far as their pitching goes.

After the great season he had with the Rangers in 2013, batting .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBI’s, the Red Sox signed free agent A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year contract on Monday.

This more than likely means that the Sox’ catcher from this season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will be headed to another team, despite posting decent stats of 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s to go along with a .273 batting average in 2013. As I stated in a previous post, I feel the Rangers would be a good fit for Saltalamacchia, however, it all depends on what the Rangers are looking to do.

With four months remaining until the 2014 season, anything can happen.

Arizona Fall League TTM Requests Update #2

Several weeks ago I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during the Arizona Fall League. At the end of the post I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a couple autographs. Having received two more TTM autograph requests since my last update, I figured I’d post another update:

JORGE BONIFACIO — ROYALS’ ORGANIZATION

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Jorge Bonifacio is the Royals’ number five prospect, and the number eighty-nine overall prospect in all of baseball. Batting .298 with 4 home runs and 57 RBI’s this past season, Bonifacio still has a ways to go before he’s big-league-ready, but at just 20 years old, he has a lot of promise. Bonifacio should become an everyday player for the Royals in the next couple of years.

ANDREW HEANEY — MARLINS’ ORGANIZATION

DSCN6983

Andrew Heaney is the Marlins’ number two prospect, and the number fourty-eight overall prospect in all of baseball. Unfortunately, he smeared his last name of the autograph, but after going 9-3 with a 1.60 ERA this past season, this is an autograph (even though it’s smeared) I’m glad to have. Heaney is going to be a great pitcher for the Marlins fairly soon; joining their other young Ace, Jose Fernandez.

This might end up being the final autograph update post I do until Spring Training. (If I don’t get one back before the end of this year, it will be.) Things are slowing down, and the odds that I’ll get anymore autographs from players in the 2013 Arizona Fall League are getting slimmer. But you never know. I got an autograph from Kris Medlen thirteen months after I sent it during the 2011 Spring Training, so it’s always possible.

I still have autograph requests out for Corey Seager, Austin Hedges, Kyle Crick, Jorge Soler, Delino DeShields, Jorge Alfaro, Taylor Lindsey, Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Parker, James Ramsey, Kris Bryant and Colin Moran. When/if I get any of those back, assuming it’s before the end of the year, I’ll be sure to post another update. Though, there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.

Arizona Fall League TTM Autograph Requests

The 2013 MLB postseason is well underway, and it sure has been exciting so far. A lot of unexpected things are sure to happen in the coming weeks, but for now I’m not going to discuss any of it. For this blog post I’m focusing solely on the Arizona Fall League. More specifically, through the mail (TTM) autograph requests that I’m sending out to various participating players.

Taking place every October/November — this year it’s October 8th through November 16th — the Arizona Fall League (AFL) gives top Minor League players who didn’t get a full season of playing time, for one reason or another, a chance to show their organization what they can do, as well as provide them with a little more baseball experience.mlb_a_bux_cr_400

I usually only send off autograph requests in March, for Spring Training, and October, for the Arizona Fall League. Some people send requests to players throughout the season, however, I’ve never really wanted to do that — they’re too busy going around from ballpark to ballpark. In Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League players stay in the same relative area for over a month; giving, in my mind, a better chance of success.

There is a ton of great talent in this year’s Fall League, but I’m not sending to all of them. If a player has a chance of coming to play the Bulls or Mudcats — my local MiLB teams — I don’t want to send to them. A good example of that being Byron Buxton. He’s participating in the AFL and was the 2013 MiLB Player of the Year, however, in addition to the unlikelihood that he would sign TTM, he could come to Durham with Rochester in the next year or two. So there’s really no point in wasting a card.

Last year I sent out fifteen auto requests and received back nine of them. That’s a fairly decent return as far as TTM’s go. This time around, I’m sending out seventeen, to players such as Addison Russell, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Cron, Delino DeShields and Colin Moran — all of which are on the top 100 prospects list — among multiple others.

The plan is to post an update every time I receive back a few autographs, as I did this year during Spring Training; assuming I get any autographs back at all. So look out for that over the course of the next few months.

Buxton Named MiLB Player of 2013; Jeter Back On DL

Major League Baseball’s number one prospect, Byron Buxton, was named the 2013 Minor League Baseball player of the year by Baseball America, on Wednesday, making him the 31st player to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1981 to Mike Marshall. byron-buxton-2013

By winning the award, Buxton joins a very impressive list of past winners. Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Jeremy Hellickson — all currently in the Majors — are the most recent three to receive it, with Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Dwight Gooden being some of the more notable players to have been named MiLB player of the year.

When Derek Jeter won the award, back in 1994, he batted .344 with 5 homers and 68 RBI’s, between Single-A and Triple-A.

Combine that with 50 stolen bases by Jeter, and you have a very similar year to the one Buxton had.

While I’m not saying Buxton will turn out to be the type of player Jeter has been over his MLB career — .312 career average, with 256 HR’s and 1,261 RBI’s — it is a good indication of the type of talent that receives the award each year.

Buxton certainly has his share of talent, as he had an outstanding year in the Twins’ farm system. He posted a .334 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s, to go along with 55 stolen bases, combined between Low-A and High-A.

The second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton also participated in the 2013 Futures Game, up in New York, back in July, and is well on his way to living out his full potential of becoming a future big league super star.

But unlike Byron Buxton, who’s the current Minor League player of the year on his way up, Derek Jeter is a former Minor League player of the year on his way down; as he found himself back on the disabled list on Wednesday with an ankle injury.

This makes the fourth time Jeter has been placed on the DL this season. But this time, he won’t be back in 2013, as the Yankees have officially shut him down for the remainder of the year.

“The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically. I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this”, Jeter said. “If you can’t play the way you’re capable of playing, then you’re not really helping out.”

Many have raised the question of whether Jeter will ever return at all, posing the idea of retirement. But Jeter is adamant he’s not done, saying, “You don’t start thinking about the end just because you have an injury.”

While I fully agree with that statement, and have no doubt Jeter will return in 2014, I find myself, along with most of the baseball world, pondering the thought of whether or not Jeter can return to even a version of his former self.

Though he will never be the same Jeter he once was, there’s always the chance that he can have a good comeback 2014 season, however, there’s no denying that he had a horrible 2013 — posting a mere batting average of .190 with one home run and 7 RBI’s in just image17 games played this season.

Not exactly getting the job done.

But if there’s a bright spot to it all, a full shut down for Jeter will finally give him the chance to recover without the thought of having to take the field to help out the Yankees crossing his mind.

I don’t believe Jeter was ever fully healed over the entire season, and this will give him nearly six months to get everything right. Something that Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, has no doubt Jeter will do.

“It seemed like, when he came back, he was fine, and then he would play a couple of days and something would happen”, said Girardi.

“The first time, I think it was his quad. The next time, it was his calf. Then his ankle started bothering him. The repeated days seemed to get to him a little bit, and that was frustrating for him. It was frustrating for all of us, because we wanted him out there.”

“He’ll have a full offseason to rehab it, to get stronger. To get to do all of the things that he didn’t necessarily get to do last year, because he was in a boot for so long. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he’s going to do everything he can to get back. I just know that he’s going to do everything in his will power to get back on that field for Spring Training next year. That’s just who he is.”

Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

TTM Autograph Requests Update # 2

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 couple autographs. Having received two more TTM autograph requests since my last update, I’ve now gotten back half of the requests I sent out, so I figured I’d post another update:

CASEY KELLY–PADRES ORGANIZATION

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Casey Kelly is currently ranked as the number 69 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He would probably be higher had it of not been for an elbow injury he endured for most of last season. An injury that limited Kelly to just 14 games pitched; 6 of which came in the majors. In the 6 games pitched at the big league level, Kelly went 2-3, with a 6.21 ERA, but showed signs of his readiness to be a major league pitcher. If Kelly doesn’t begin the season with the Padres, it would be a real shame. He has the ability to be an impact player for an improving Padres team.

JASON MOTTE–ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

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Although the ink from the autograph smudged off a bit in the mail, I’m very happy to add Jason Motte’s autograph to my collection. Topping out at 100, and regularly hitting the upper 90’s, Motte’s overpowering fastball is what makes him one of the best closers in the game. Last season, Motte saved a total of 42 games for the Cardinals, recording 86 strikeouts in 72 innings pitched, on a 2.75 ERA. This season should see Motte posting more of the same type of stats as last year.

I still have autograph requests out for Mariano Rivera, Adam Jones, Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pierzynski and Justin Masterson, so hopefully they’ll come back soon, so I can write about them; though there’s no guarantee they’ll come back at all.

TTM Autograph Requests Update

A few weeks 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 ten total TTM’s I sent off, I’ve received three of them back, with them being from:

STEFEN ROMERO–MARINERS ORGANIZATION

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Stefen Romero’s 2012 season was truly remarkable. Batting .352 with 23 home runs and 101 RBI’s, including 34 doubles, between A+ and AA, Romero showed his ability to produce stats far above what’s generally expected from a 12th round draft pick. If he can keep on producing the same type of numbers in the coming season, it shouldn’t be too long before he’s helping out the big league club, up in Seattle.

DANNY HULTZEN–MARINERS ORGANIZATION

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Danny Hultzen is currently ranked as the number 18 overall prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Though a promotion from AA to AAA, mid-season, resulted in a bit of a struggle for Hultzen, overall, he had a decent 2012 season, posting a 9-7 record, with a 3.05 ERA. If Hultzen can find his groove again this season it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if he receives a call up from the Mariners towards the end of the year.

SONNY GRAY–ATHLETICS ORGANIZATION

DSCN5522Though he had a rocky 2012 season–going 6-9 with a 4.26 ERA–many are still thinking that Sonny Gray will eventually pan out to become the front line starter he’s projected to become. I have to agree, and certainly hope so. Gray ended the 2012 season with AAA, and as with Hultzen, if he can get his pitching consistency back under control, Gray could earn a job pitching for the Oakland A’s at some point this season.

I still have autograph requests out for Mariano Rivera, Adam Jones, Casey Kelly, Tyler Skaggs, Jason Motte, A.J. Pierzynski and Justin Masterson, so hopefully they’ll come back soon, so I can write about them; though there’s no guarantee they’ll come back at all.

Pitchers & Catchers Report; Autograph Requests

Today marks the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers to Spring Training, and therefore, after nearly four months since the Giants won the 2012 World Series, it’s officially time for baseball once again. For die-hard baseball fans, like myself, this long awaited day couldn’t have come sooner.

The Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs and Indians had their pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Sunday, however, the majority of pitchers and catchers are set to report to camp sometime over the course of the next 48 hours: The D-back’s, Braves, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Marlins, Mets, MLB-Spring-Training-2013-logoAthletics and Pirates reporting date is today, with the Orioles, White Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals set to report tomorrow. (The Phillies’ pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday.)

Once all of the pitchers and catchers have reported, on Wednesday, there will be a mere 45 days until the first official game of the 2013 MLB regular season, which begins on March 31st, with the Houston Astros taking on the Texas Rangers.

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season, just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.) Every Spring Training, for the past two or three years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out a dozen, or so, TTM’s, with the best player being Mariano Rivera.

Rivera is known to be one of the better TTM autograph signers (as far as big name players go), if you send to him during Spring Training, IMG_4640however, I’ve failed to get back an auto from Rivera in either of the past two years that I’ve sent to him. This year, I’m hoping to have better luck, as with this (more than likely) being Rivera’s final season, it’s basically my final shot.

While Rivera is the player that I’m most hoping to receive back, he’s not the only well known player that I’m hoping to obtain a signature from. In addition to Rivera, I’m sending out requests to guys like Jason Motte, Adam Jones, Justin Masterson, etc., who, according to what I’ve read, are decent signers through the mail.

I’m also planning to send to a few minor league players, who received an invitation to big league Spring Training, including Danny Hultzen, Casey Kelly and Stefen Romero, who are all supposed to be great about signing.

As stated, my overall TTM autograph history is a short one; I’ve only been doing it for the past few years. In that short time, however, I’ve acquired a few decent players’ autographs. My best ever success, which coincidentally was my first success, came from Mark McGwire, back in March of 2011. Apparently, McGwire doesn’t sign TTM all that often, but for some reason he decided to do so for a few weeks during Spring Training. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to get that one back.

I’m planning to post a blog entry for every autograph I receive back from the players I’m sending TTM requests to during Spring Training. Hopefully, it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back for that, over the course of the next few months….

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