Results tagged ‘ Twins ’

Q and A With Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer was drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. In his first professional season, Meyer showed off why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA, to go along with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. A year which George Brett,  Alex Meyerincluded pitching in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s fair to say Meyer had about as good of a first season as you can have.

Going from the Nationals to the Twins in November, in exchange for outfielder, Denard Span, Meyer is up for some new challenges that come with a new organization, but he’s looking forward to being part of the Twins. I fully expect Meyer to have an even better season than he did last year, truly showing off his full potential and finally receiving the recognition that’s due to him. (I feel he’s vastly underrated.)

Though consistency with finding the strike zone has been an issue for Meyer in the past, he did a much better job of it last season, and that alone should enable him to excel in the coming year, if he can continue his progression. Meyer possesses an above average fastball, with a decent slider and changeup, and if things continue to go the way they’re going, barring any major setbacks, Meyer could see time in the majors as soon as the second half of the 2014 season.

Alex Meyer–top pitching prospect in the Twins’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I started playing ball at age 4. I have had a passion for the game ever since my first practice. My dad played a very influential part in getting me started.

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

Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play. Watching him do everything he did was always exciting.

3.) You were drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting process throughout the whole thing. I was excited when I saw on TV my name come up. It was something I had dreamed about happening for a long time.

4.) After spending a full season in the Nationals’ organization, you were traded to the Twins, in November of 2012. What are you looking forward to most with your new team?

Just the opportunity to keep playing. I enjoy baseball and the fact that the Twins thought highly of me and traded for me makes me even more excited to get to playing.

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

I don’t really find anything too difficult about it. I enjoy being with my teammates and getting to check out the different cities. I spend a lot of time listening to music or reading.

6.) You pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City. What did you take away from that experience? What was most memorable about it?

The whole experience is something I’ll never forget. Just being able to be on the field with some of the top players in the minor leagues at a major league venue and a setting like that was truly unexplainable. It’s hard to put how incredible something like that was into words. Being able to call George Brett my manager for a day is pretty cool.

7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I try not to read into them. I just worry about every 5th day.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What are your goals for 2013?

I feel in 2012 it was good to be able to go out and throw a full professional season. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again with a new organization in 2013.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I loved the 24 series, but now I am a big fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘The Walking Dead’. Favorite food would probably be a nice steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Work on getting better every single day, and if you do that, good things will come.

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Big thanks to Alex Meyer for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Meyer17A

American League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. As the title states, I’m giving my 2013 American League standings predictions today, starting with the AL East:

EAST

1. Rays

2. Yankees

3. Orioles

4. Blue Jays

5. Red Sox

With the Yankees’ season uncertain, I see this as the year the Rays need to make their move. With the lineup they have, the Rays have the ability to win their division, but it’s going to come down to if their starting pitching begins and ends with David Price, or if their potential superstar pitchers in Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson can get things going. That’s the deciding factor, for me.

Although the Yankees’ season is up in the air, I still have them finishing second in the AL East. Why? Because they’re the Yankees; a team that seems to be able to always find a way to win. But it’s going to come down to Derek Jeter, in my opinion. If he misses a large chunk of the season, at any point, it could send my predictions way off course. Right now, I’m not too worried about him missing the first few games; but that could change.

The Orioles surprised everyone last season with the way they were able to put things together, however, I still think it’ll be 2014 before they stand a good chance of winning the division. Their phenom prospects are still far from ready, with top prospect Dylan Bundy beginning the season in AA Bowie, and I just don’t see everything clicking together in their favor this season.

I’m hesitant to place the Blue Jays all the way down in fourth, with so many people seeing them finishing near the top, but it’s the way I foresee their season panning out. Even with the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, etc., I don’t see the Jays putting together a season much over .500. You just can’t buy chemistry, and with so many new faces, I don’t see them gelling from the start of the season.

What can I say about the Red Sox? They were once major competitors in the division, but after a couple of horrible seasons, by their standards, I don’t see this year being any better. They didn’t do much to improve their team in the offseason, and it’s going to show once the season starts up. I’m looking down the road, when their key prospects such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts arrive, before I can see them getting things going in the right direction again.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Royals

5. Twins

There’s truly no reason the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the AL Central division. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball, including sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with newcomer Victor Martinez, their lineup should be there. The only question mark is their pitching. Justin Verlander is going to dominate–that’s a given–but the remainder of the rotation is a bit uncertain. But all in all, I think they’ll be just fine.

Coming in second, I have the Indians, as they did a great job of signing guys in the offseason to fill key spots they were missing last year, and I feel it’s bound to pay off in the coming season. The only concern would be their starting pitching. Without a true Ace, you don’t know who to look to for to carry the team throughout the season. It’s definitely something worth watching, however, they should be able to have enough decent pitching to make things very interesting in the division.

It was really a toss up between me placing the Indians or White Sox in third place (with the other in second) but I decided to have the Sox finishing third in the division. The Sox have a future Cy Young winner, in Chris Sale, but with the remainder of the pitching, as well as the lineup, a question mark, I can’t see them winning too many games over .500 in the 2013 season. They still have too many holes to fill.

I’m still questioning the Royals’ decision to trade away their phenom prospect, Wil Myers, along with a few other prospects, to the Rays, in exchange for a couple of middle of the rotation starting pitchers, on most teams, in James Shields and Wade Davis, but it is what it is. I see the move doing more harm than good. The Royals certainly needed starting pitching, but to trade away your top prospect is a poor choice, in my opinion, which is why I have them finishing next to last in the division.

The Twins are a team that have the potential to be very good a year or two down the road, but for right now, I see them having to endure another last place season, in their division. They just don’t have enough top notch guys, both in their pitching rotation and lineup, to make any sort of a run this season, as far as I can see.

WEST

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Astros

For the Angels, the AL West division is theirs to lose. With the addition of Josh Hamilton in the offseason, along with their already potent lineup of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there is no reason the Angels shouldn’t dominate the division. Although they lost Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, their rotation is still really good, and it should all combine to be enough to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Athletics were one of the big surprises of last season, but I don’t feel it was a fluke. They’ve put together a really great team out in Oakland, and with the majority of the other teams in the division (with the exception of the Angels) still trying to figure things out in the coming season, the Athletics stand a good shot of making the playoffs for the second straight year.

With the loss of Josh Hamilton during the offseason, I don’t see the Rangers doing much of anything this year. While they have a few big bats in their lineup that can change the outcome of a game with one swing, I don’t see their rotation as being strong enough to overcome the uphill climb they face. It’ll be interesting to watch unfold, but I don’t like their chances in 2013.

The Mariners are one of the most interesting teams to keep track of. While I don’t see them having all that impressive of an upcoming season, with all of the talent they have knocking on the door of the big leagues, I feel they’ll be major contenders as early as next season. They don’t have all of the necessary pieces, just yet, to put together a playoff run, but starting in 2014, keep a lookout for the Mariners to do big things in the AL West division.

Last season was flat out ugly for the Astros, as they finished in dead last, with a league leading 107 losses. Being that they’re making the transition from the National League to the American League this year, I don’t see things being any better for them; but when you lose over 100 games in a season, it can’t really get all that much worse.

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

Click HERE to be taken to my National League predictions for 2013.

Q and A With Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Since the draft, things haven’t gone as planned for Gibson, as although his stats have been decent, he hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy; having to undergo Tommy John surgery in September of 2011.

As far as Gibson’s stats go, he’s certainly lived up, for the most part, to being a first round draft pick. The 2008 Team USA pitcher went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in his first professional season, in 2010. Good enough to earn him a promotion to AAA Rochester at the end of the year, after beginning the season with A+ Fort Myers.Gibson

Gibson’s stellar inaugural season didn’t translate into 2011, however, as although he was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game, at Chase Field, Gibson went 3-8 on the year, with a 4.18 ERA. To put it in simpler terms: That’s not very good. But Gibson’s poor pitching wasn’t entirely his fault. Gibson had an arm injury, which resulted in him having to have Tommy John surgery during the offseason. A surgery that would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Gibson.

Post surgery, Gibson had a sudden boost in velocity, as his fastball rose from upper 80′s to lower 90′s, this past season. In Gibson’s most recent (partial) season, he went 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA; which is misleading due to the few innings in which he was able to pitch. As a result of the shortened season, Gibson traveled out to Arizona to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected to make the start for the Western Division in the 2012 A.F.L. Rising Stars Game–lasting two innings and giving up a couple of runs.

As long as things continue to go smoothly for Gibson, between now and the start of the season, barring any unpredicted setbacks, you can expect to see Gibson in the Major Leagues sometime during the upcoming 2013 season; if not on Opening Day. He certainly has the potential to get the call up out of Spring Training, and as such, is a guy everyone needs to keep a very close eye on in the coming months.

Kyle Gibson–top 10 prospect in the Twins organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I have always been involved and interested in baseball because my dad was. He was a high school baseball coach after he played a little bit of junior college baseball in his prime. He still likes to play in a mens senior league to this day. I believe that is why he would be my biggest influence on my love for the game up to this point.

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

I had a couple when I was growing up. My dad was a huge Nolan Ryan fan, so obviously I thought he was cool, but believe it or not, I used to play a little short stop in my younger/shorter/faster years, and at that time Barry Larkin was a favorite player of mine as well.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was a long and stressful process at times mainly because I found out I had a stress fracture in my right forearm about 4 days before the draft. That made everything a little more stressful than I imagined, but even with that said, it was a fun process and I learned a lot. My parents and I decided to stay home and invite some people over to the house to watch the draft, so I was sitting outside in our driveway under a tent with what ended up being a few more people than the “some” we had planned on inviting. Everyone was getting a little anxious because from everything we had heard there was no definite place I was going to get drafted. So as the picks went by we got a little more anxious, but when my name was called there was a loud cheer, and I still get chills thinking about that moment in my life.

4.) You had Tommy John surgery in September of 2011 and seemed to have an increase in velocity. Has that increase in velocity changed the way you go about pitching or did you keep the same basic approach?

It does not change the way I pitch too much, other than the fact that I now have a much different fastball and slider. I have needed to learn to trust my fastball a little more because it’s now consistently in the low 90′s where before I was more consistently 89. My slider has also gained some velocity and has sharpened up a bit, so I have needed to adjust to that as well.

5.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I would say there are a couple stats that I like to look at, and those are walks and ground ball/fly ball ratio. I hate walking people, so that is why that is so important to me, and I also know that when I am at my best, I need to have the defense involved. The best way for me to do that is to get lots of ground balls and allow our infielders to do the rest.

6.) You made the start for the West division in the 2012 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. What was that experience like, in terms of going up against some of the best hitters that minor league baseball has to offer?

That experience was a lot of fun. Had I not given up a moonshot to the first batter I might have enjoyed it slightly more…..just kidding. It was a great opportunity, even though for only 2 innings, to square off against [Jarred] Cosart, who I have known for many years dating back to when he had committed to Missouri out of high school before the Phillies drafted and signed him. It was a lot of fun for all of us, and good to get that chance to pitch another time against the best the minors has to offer.

7.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to help you prepare for 2013? What are your goals for 2013?

Since my regular season extended into my offseason more than usual, I am now starting to get back into the swing of things and throwing again. Workouts will get more intense as I make sure my arm and body are prepared for another long season. My goals have a lot to do with staying healthy, and hopefully making it up to the big club and having a positive impact on our chances of winning. Everyone wants to become a big leaguer, and I really hope I am able to do that this year.

8.) Favorite TV show?

‘Sports Center’ or ‘Duck Dynasty’.

9.) Favorite food?

Steak or Mozzi’s Pizza from Greenfield, Indiana where I grew up.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Always have fun. Baseball should be something that they enjoy doing. Work as hard as you possibly can. I always look back and know that I could have worked harder because I never really knew what it took to become a professional. So have no regrets and work as hard as you can, but have fun doing it!

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Big thanks to Kyle Gibson for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @kgib44

MLB Players Alternate Jobs

Before I get started with what will be my final Q and A post until after the playoffs have concluded, let me first start out by saying that yesterday’s AL and NL Wild Card games went completely opposite from what I had expected.

With the Braves having won the past 23 times Kris Medlen started the game on the mound, I though it was a sure bet that the Braves would get the win. But as you know, that’s not what happened. The Braves ended up falling to the Cardinals (6-3), thus making it their final game of 2012; and Chipper Jones’ last game of his career.

Furthermore, I fully expected the Rangers to beat the Orioles, and just like the Braves-Cards game, I was completely stunned by the end result. The Orioles pulled out the win, beating the Rangers 5-1, ending the Ranger’s chances of a third straight World Series appearance. Incredible; but that’s baseball for ya. Just because you’re the better team on paper, doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

Now that I’ve given you my two cents on yesterday’s Wild Card games, I’ll now get on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

Have you ever wondered what MLB players would be doing had things not of worked out for them to play baseball? Well I did, which I why I spent last week on twitter asking players just that: “If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?”

Of those who replied, some actually put some thought into it while others replied with a somewhat humorous answer. I’ll let you distinguish between the two:

Chris Gimenez–Tampa Bay Rays

Def a coach. Think it would be fun.

David Huff–Cleveland Indians

Probably either playing golf on the tour or teaching high school history.

David Aardsma–New York Yankees

Prob a model.

Denard Span–Minnesota Twins

I’d be doing something associated with sports.

Daniel McCutchen–Pittsburgh Pirates

Prob be a movie star or maye a rapper. Then again, I could always give politics a shot.

David Hernandez–Arizona Diamondbacks

I’d probably be in my 8th year of college trying to figure out what I wanna do.

Luis Exposito–Baltimore Orioles

I would find an occupation where I can help less fortunate kids and help make the world a better place!

Steve Cishek–Miami Marlins

P.E. teacher and coach.

Ricky Nolasco–Miami Marlins

Police Officer for sure.

Brandon Snyder–Texas Rangers

I always say military but who knows. My wife would say I would be a trainer or something.

Josh Lueke–Tampa Bay Rays

Professional outdoorsman like my buddy @IHuntStrong [and] @BackwoodsLife #outdoors4life

Brian Dozier–Minnesota Twins

Lead guitarist for a rock band.

Paul Maholm–Atlanta Braves

Something in golf.

Daniel Hudson–Arizona Diamondbacks

No idea. Probably coaching somewhere.

Thomas Neal–Cleveland Indians

Coaching somewhere.

Mike Olt–Texas Rangers

I would be a lion.

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My next blog post will come tomorrow evening, and will detail my blogging plans for the next few weeks. So check back for that…

June 23rd Reds vs. Twins Game & HOF Ceremony

My day started out in downtown Cincinnati, at the Red’s Hall Of Fame museum:

The doors opened up at 8:00 am, but I arrived at around 10:30. The reason I was going to the museum in the first place was the meet and greet that was going to run from 11:00-1:00, and it seemed unecessary to show up any earlier.

The first thing I saw after getting my ticket scanned and rounding the corner was a wall of game used jerseys, bats, etc., of former Reds’ greats:

Being a Hall of Fame museum there was a lot of this kind of stuff.

In addition to the Reds’ memorabilia, there was a lot of non-Reds’ items as well, including a game-used Roberto Clemente cap:

Pretty cool stuff.

After making my way through the first floor of the museum it was on to the third floor, where the meet and greet was being held. There was already a fairly large line, so I went ahead and jumped in it. After around 45 minutes of waiting, the line began moving, and the meet and greet got underway.

The players weren’t permitted to sign autographs, but you could go through the line and get your picture taken with them, which is exactly what I did:

I realize the numbers are fairly small, but I numbered the photos (in the bottom left corner) so you could identify each former player, with the above players being:

1. Mario Soto

2. Lee May

3. Gary Nolan

4. Jack Billingham

1.  George Foster

2. David Concepcion

3. Eric Davis

4. A random picture of a group of statues. (Put in to make everything uniform.)

Everyone I’m pictured with above was part of the first half of the meet and greet. The second half featured both Dan Driessen and Sean Casey, who were going to be officially inducted into the Red’s Hall of Fame later in the day:

(Yes, I realize the picture is a bit blurry.)

After the meet and greet was over, I picked up bobblehead number one of the day:

The Dan Driessen bobbles were given out to everyone who paid for admission into the Red’s Hall of Fame museum.

After I was done at the museum, I made a brief visit to the gift shop (home of the 40 dollar t-shirt) before finally heading over to the main entrance of Great American Ballpark:

Signs of the upcoming Hall of Fame induction were everywhere. None bigger than the sign in the above picture hanging from the stadium wall. Here’s a closer look:

While I was standing in front of the ballpark taking it all in, Sean Casey emerged from the HOF museum, and was immediately mobbed by people wanting to take pictures, and get autographs:

Casey was really cool about it, as he must of taken 50 pictures, and signed just as many autographs in a 10 minute span.

While all of this was happening, there was also a block party taking place in the street. It began at around 11:00, but by the time Casey made his way to the stage that was set up for the band that had been playing all morning, it was around 1:15.

Casey didn’t talk long, but it was cool to see the fans react to him the way they did. There were at least a couple thousand people packed into the street, and they were all big fans of the Cincinnati Red’s and Sean Casey:

After Casey finished talking, I made walked back over to the gates behind home plate. The promotion for the game was that the first 25,000 fans would recieve a Sean Casey bobblehead, and I wanted to make sure I was one of them.

To my surprise the lines were already fairly long by the time I got back:

Fortunately I was able to pass the time by watching a human statue, and waiting for him to move:

Except for the occasional patting on the head to unsuspecting kids who stopped to pose with the “statue” for a picture, he never did move. Never.

Due to the large crowds the gates opened up 45 minutes before they normally would have, and I was thrilled. It was pretty hot outside, and standing in the direct sun was almost unbearable.

As I stated earlier it was Sean Casey bobblehead day, and they certainly had a lot of them:

I quickly grabbed my bobblehead and made my way to my seat to check out the view:

Not bad.

As you can tell, batting practice was in full swing (no pun intended), and it stayed that way for another hour or so. BP ended at around 3:00, and with the Hall of Fame ceremony set to start at 3:30 I decided to take a break from the heat and walk around the shaded concourse.

A few minutes into my walk I noticed a crowd beginning to form:

Curiosity got the better of me, and I headed over to check it out. As I got closer, this was my view:

Jim Day (on the left) and….well, I’m not sure who that is on the right (help?) were broadcasting the Red’s pregame show live on Fox Sports Ohio. I’m 99% sure I was on TV, but since I didn’t record the broadcast, or know of anyone who did, or even watched, I can’t say for sure.

I stood and watched for around 5 minutes before heading back to my seat. By the time I got back the groundscrew were hard at work getting everything set up for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony:

It wasn’t long before the seats were filled with 20 or so Red’s Hall of Famers (2 of which are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame):

The start of the ceremony had each player standing up as their name was called. Johnny Bench recieved the biggest applause from the crowd:

After each player’s name had been called the induction speeches began. Driessen and Casey gave their own but the great great great great nephew of the late John Reilly, Kirtley Kinman, gave the speech for him:

Sean Casey gave his speech last and it seemed as if Driessen and Reilly were overshadowed by him. But when your nickname is “The Mayor” I guess that’s to be expected.

Casey and Driessen threw out the first pitches of the game:

Let me just say it was obvious neither were pitchers in their playing days.

The game itself wasn’t anything spectacular, with the Reds winning 6-0. The most interesting part of the game occured in the 4th inning when Scott Rolen hit his 507th career double to move past Babe Ruth on the all-time list:

Anytime you pass Babe Ruth in any category, you know you’ve accomplished something noteworthy.

This year’s game went much better than last year’s, when I didn’t even make it through the gates due to a rain out. Now that I’ve been inside I can say that Great American Ballpark is an extremely nice park, that I hope to visit again sometime in the future.

The next MLB ballpark I’ll be visiting is Kauffman Stadium for the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby on July 9th. More on that a little later in the week…..

My Upcoming Trip To Great American Ballpark

It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, and it’ll be awhile before my next one. I’m very busy at the moment, and will be out of town for the next few weeks–with the exception of the first week in July.

I’m leaving for Cincinnati, Ohio, on Friday, and won’t really have the time to blog about the Reds-Twins game that I’ll be attending, until a few days after my return on June 30th. The plan right now is to post an entry detailing my trip to Cincy, on July 2nd, but that date is subject to change.

I was planning on blogging about last years Reds-Yankees game that I attended but it was rained out, and thus I decided not to. As of this moment, the weather forecast is 86 degrees and partly-cloudy for Saturday; so fingers crossed the forecast holds out.

Game time is set for 4:10, but I’m planning on arriving to the ballpark by 10:30 am. While it might seem extremely crazy (even for me) to arrive 5 1/2 hours before a pitch is even thrown, there’s method to my madness. The Red’s Hall of Fame museum is hosting a meet and greet from 11:00-1:00, and there are some very decent names that are due to be there–Jack Billingham, David Concepcion and Eric Davis to name a few. Soon to be inducted Sean Casey and Dan Driessen are set to be there as well, so this is a really neat event to be attending. (For the full list of players who are set to be there, CLICK HERE.)

None of the former Reds’ players are going to be signing autographs, but the chance to meet former stars face-to-face, and get a quick picture, is good enough for me.

I almost forgot to mention that Saturday is also Sean Casey bobble head night for the first 25,000 fans. Also, shortly before game time, there is going to be an on field ceremony honoring the 2012 Reds’ Hall of Fame inductees, in which Sean Casey and Dan Driessen are due to address the crowd. It should be interesting to hear their induction speeches.

I’m planning on taking tons of pictures, and will do my best to chronicle the events that take place at Great American Ballpark on June 23rd, at a later point in time. So be sure to check back sometime during the first few days of July for that.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2012 MLB Season

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

FASTEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Dodgers: 7-1

2) Nationals: 6-2

3) Rangers: 6-2

4) Diamondbacks: 5-2

5) Mets: 5-2

6) Tigers: 5-2

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

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

Individual players:

1) Paul Konerko: .435 average

2) Ryan Sweeney: .429 average

3) Matt Kemp: .419 average

4) Josh Willingham: .417 average

5) Miguel Cabrera: .414 average

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

SLOWEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Padres: 2-6

2) Red Sox: 2-5

3) Twins: 2-5

4) Angels: 2-5

5) Pirates: 2-5

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

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

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

Individual players:

1) Ike Davis: .043

2) Neil Walker: .048

3) Marlon Byrd: .083

4) J.P. Arencibia: .083

5) Ryan Raburn: .091

*Minimum of 20 at bats.

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

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

My 2012 MLB Predictions

After watching several Spring Training games to try to get a feel for how teams will perform this season, I finally feel I can post my MLB predictions blog entry that I’ve had on hold for the past month. I’ve never attempted to make predictions for an entire year of Major League Baseball, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll probably be way off, but who knows, I might get lucky.

I’m going to start off by giving my predictions for each division, starting with the AL East:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1- New York Yankees

2- Tampa Bay Rays

3- Boston Red Sox

4- Toronto Blue Jays

5- Baltimore Orioles

Reasoning: I have the Yankees just edging out the Rays for the number one spot in the American League East. Both are going to be great teams this year but I think the Yankees have a slightly better team than the Rays. As far as the Red Sox go, I don’t see them having a repeat year from last. They’re bound to do much better this season. I don’t see them doing better than the Rays however, who are really getting their team together. I’ve got the Blue Jays finishing fourth in the AL East. While they have a decent pitching staff and power slugger Jose Bautista, as well as several young stars, I don’t think their team is quite there yet. Give them a few more years, and I think they’ll be a real threat in the division. As far as the Orioles go, I don’t see them doing any better than last year. They didn’t make any drastic changes to their team to warrant a belief that they’ll move up even one spot.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL 

1- Detroit Tigers

2- Cleveland Indians

3- Kansas City Royals

4- Minnesota Twins

5- Chicago White Sox

Reasoning: If you had asked me back when the 2011 season ended if I thought there was a team that could beat out the Detroit Tigers for the number one spot in the AL Central, my answer would’ve been yes. Now that the Tigers have Prince Fielder, and the transition for Miguel Cabrera from first to third base seems to have gone smoothly, I’d say there’s no chance of any team coming close to the Tigers. With their Ace Justin Verlander leading the way, I could easily see the Tigers winning 100 or more games this year. I have the Cleveland Indians finishing second in the division. I feel that they’re a good team, but not good enough for the number one spot. The number three spot goes to the Kansas City Royals. I feel that it’s just a matter of time before this team really starts to leave its mark. They have a great team, as well as several great prospects still in the minors. I think the Royals will be good enough for the number two spot in a couple years. I would’ve placed the Twins higher on the list had it not been for the great ammount of uncertainty. The Twins have a decent team, however their star players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau didn’t have their best stuff last season due to injury. I’m not sure they can beat out the Royals for numbethird in the AL Central. As far as the White Sox go, they’re good engough for dead last on my list.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST 

1- Texas Rangers

2- Los Angeles Angels

3- Seattle Mariners

4- Oakland Athletics

Reasoning: It was very difficult for me to decide between the Rangers and Angels for that number one spot in the AL West. Both have great pitching staffs, as well as great players in their line ups, but in the end I felt that the Rangers and Yu Darvish would just beat out the Angels by one or two games. I have the Mariners taking that number three spot. Although the Athletics signed cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes, as well as Manny Ramirez, I feel the Mariners are a better team when it comes down to it.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST 

1- Philadelphia Phillies

2- Atlanta Braves

3- Miami Marlins

4- Washington Nationals

5- New York Mets

Reasoning: Choosing between the Phillies and Braves for the number one spot was difficult. They both have injured players going into the season, however both have a good team even with the injuries. The only reason I picked the Phillies for first is their pitching rotation. The Braves have a good one as well, but I don’t think it’s as developed as the Phillies, who have their Ace Roy Halladay. The Marlins I have coming in third. While I feel they’ll deffinitely do better than last season–with the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano–I don’t think they can compete with the Braves or Phillies in the very tough NL East division. Another team that I feel is going to do a lot better this season than last is the Washington Nationals. If Bryce Harper performs well once called up, and Stephen Strasburg can stay healthy, I think the Nationals stand a chance of beating out the Marlins for third in the division. For now, however, I’m still sticking with my prediction of fourth for the Nat’s, but give them a year or so and they’ll be a really good team. The Mets are last on my list, as I don’t feel they’ll do any better than last year, even with a healthy Johan Santana.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1- St. Louis Cardinals

2- Milwaukee Brewers

3- Cincinnati Reds

4- Pittsburgh Pirates

5- Chicago Cubs

6- Houston Astros

Reasoning: Depending on how healthy their star players can stay throughout the season, and how well the teams as a whole perform, I could see the Cardinals, Brewers or Reds placing first in the NL Central. They all have decent pitching rotations, as well as decent lineups. Since I couldn’t pick all three to put in the top spot however, I decided to go with the Cardinals after much debate. I’m not only choosing the Cardinals because they were 2011 World Champions, but also because I feel that even with the loss of their superstar Albert Pujols, they’re a good enough team to win the division. The second place team on my list, the Brewers, took a similar hit as the Cardinals, loosing their star player Prince Fielder. Without the loss of Fielder, the Brewers would run away with the  division, but I feel it’s pretty even between the top three teams the way it stands. The Reds are a team that’s good enough for the top spot, but I have them finishing third in the NL Central just for the fact that I don’t think they’ll put everything together to finish any better; but they might just surprise me. The Pirates, who I have finishing fourth, are a team similar to the Nationals. They’re getting better everyday, and have a bunch of star prospects still in the minors, including top prospect pitcher Gerrit Cole, but it’ll be a few more years before they’re good enough for third place or higher. They’re deffinitely a team to keep a close eye on in the future though. I have the Cubs finishing next to last just ahead of the Astros. Nothing stands out to me that makes me think they have a shot at cracking the 103 year World Series drought, none the less finishing any better than fifth. The good news for the Astros is that I think they’ll be no worse than last season. The bad news is they were terrible last season. But that’s nothing new. They’re good enough for last place.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1- San Francisco Giants

2- Arizona Diamondbacks

3- Los Angeles Dodgers

4- San Diego Padres

5- Colorado Rockies

Reasoning: After winning the World Series in 2010 the Giants had a terrible season last year. They were plagued with injuries to many of their stars, including Brian Wilson and Buster Posey, and while not injured, their Ace Tim Lincecum didn’t perform all that well. I look for the Giants to really dominate this coming season. I think Lincecum will have another stellar year, and I look for Buster Posey to have a bounce back year after being injured in 2011. Combine that with Wilson coming in to close things out, and I think you’ve got a team that’s good enough for first place in the division. The Diamondbacks, who won the division last season, are sure to have another fantastic season however I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough for the top spot. Matt Kemp and the Dodgers are sure to make a push at the number two spot. Kemp–who ended one home run shy of a 40/40 last season (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases)–made the bold prediction that he’ll record a 50/50 this year. While that seems a little far fetched, I still look for Kemp to help his team win a ton of games this year, and possibly end up winning the NL MVP, which he should’ve received after his 2011 performance. The Padres are another of my teams that I feel you should keep a close eye on. They’re not quite talented enough yet to finish any better than fourth (a step up from last season) but I feel that they’re really getting their act together. They made several great trades during the offseason, and their pitching staff is going to get better in the next couple of years. The Rockies in my opinion will finish last in the division. While they’re a good team, who also made some good trades during the off season, I feel that the Padres are going to be the slightly better team this year.

That’s my predictions for how the standings will look at the end of the 2012 Regular season. You may agree with me, or you might think I’m insane for some of my picks, but that’s just how I see it ending.

Here’s a quick review of the teams I have winning their divisions:

AL East: New York Yankees

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

AL West: Texas Rangers

NL West: San Francisco Giants

Those are the teams that I have winning their divisions and moving onto the 2012 playoffs. Now moving onto my Wild Card Predictions. These are the teams I have recieving those:

AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels

NL Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

Those are the teams I feel aren’t quite good enough to win their divisions, but will make it to the playoffs via a Wild Card slot. As you know, MLB is adding an extra Wild Card this season. So here are my picks for those:

Extra AL Wild Card Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Extra NL Wild Card Team: Atlanta Braves

If it comes out the way I predict, the Rays and Angels, and the Diamondbacks and Braves will have a one-game play off to see which will move on, and which one’s season will come to a dramatic end. It’s sure to be exciting.

I had originally planned on predicting all the way down to the World Series, but to be honest, there’s too much that can, and will, happen to have any success in doing that. I mean, when the Cardinals were 10 games back of the Braves for the Wild Card last year, who would’ve predicted that they’d go onto win the World Series? I will say this: I like the Tigers and Rangers chances.

So there you go. Those are my predictions for the division winners as well as the Wild Card, and extra Wild Card recipients. Only time will tell if they play out as I foresee.

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