2018 Oakland Athletics preview

2018 MLB preview: Oakland Athletics

2017: 75-87

Last postseason apppearance: 2014

Last World Series title: 1989

2017 Recap

2014 was the last year in which the A’s finished above .500. They won 88 games with players like Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Jon Lester, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija, but ultimately lost to the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card Game.

2018 Oakland Athletics preview

Matt Olson hit 24 home runs in just 59 games. (Photo from Athletics Nation)

Gray was the only player named above that was on the 2017 team, and he was traded at the deadline. With that said, not much was expected from the low-payroll A’s, who finished 27th in batting average with runners in scoring position and in runs on the road. They were 25th in bullpen ERA, and only three teams had more than Oakland’s 25 blown saves.

 

However, Oakland had the fifth highest OPS in baseball after the All-Star break, so they do have some momentum, and clearly some pop as they head into 2018.

Khris Davis enjoyed his second straight season with at least 40 home runs as he clubbed 43, which was fourth in baseball. He also finished seventh in RBIs.

Jed Lowrie had a career year, as the second basemen led the team in WAR while finishing second in the MLB in doubles, with a career best .360 OBP. Oakland’s 2014 first-round pick, Matt Chapman, was seventh in defensive WAR and hit 14 home runs in just 84 games.

The biggest surprise was first baseman-outfielder Matt Olson. The 47th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft hit 24 home runs, with a .352 OBP in just 59 games. His 13 September home runs was a rookie record, and the 23-year-old also managed to hit a home run in five straight games. The 24 home runs was tied for the third most home runs in a player’s first 65 games.

The other Matt, Matt Joyce, hit a career-high 25 home runs, and crushed righties, posting a .509 SLG. Yonder Alonso, now with Cleveland, made his first All-Star team, and hit 22 home runs with a .369 OBP in 100 games for Oakland.

2018: Around the Diamond

No Alonso and no Ryon Healy means we will be seeing a full season of Matt Olson at first base. Jed Lowrie will remain at second, while Marcus Semien, who played in just 85 games last year because of a wrist injury, will hold down shortstop. In his 85 games, Semien was able to hit 10 home runs and steal 12 bases. Don’t forget, in 2016, he slugged 27 home runs.

2018 Oakland Athletics preview

Khris Davis has hit 85 home runs over the last two seasons. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Matt Chapman will continue to play great defense at the hot corner, but he desperately needs to get his strikeouts down. He struck out 28.2 percent of the time with the major league club in 2017, but an even worse 30.9 percent in his 49 games at Triple-A.

Catcher will be a platoon job between Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley. Khris Davis, who played 116 games in left field last year, will be the primary DH, so look for his numbers to possibly go even higher.

Playing in left, in place of Davis, will be a mix of Matt Joyce, Chad Pinder and Brandon Moss. Moss was acquired from the Royals and hit 22 home runs last year and 28 in 2016. Obviously, Joyce will be the starter, but he is terrible against lefties, hitting just .186 last year, so Pinder (.247 against lefties) and Moss (.271) will see some action.

As of right now, the 23-year-old rookie, Dustin Fowler, is in line to start in centerfield. Fowler, who was traded in the Sonny Gray deal, made his MLB debut for the Yankees on June 29, but it was as rough of a start to a career as you can expect.

While chasing down a fly ball, Fowler ran into the wall and hit his knee on an electrical box. He was carted off the field and diagnosed with an open rupture of the right patellar tendon. He did not even get to step in the batter’s box. To make matters worse, he was due up first in the next inning.

Fowler hit .293 with 13 home runs in 70 Triple-A games and expects to play by the end of February.

Boog Powell, .358 OBP in 52 games, will also get some time in center field.

In right field will be former first-round pick, and California native, Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty was acquired from the Cardinals in a trade in December. Not only is this a great baseball move, but Piscotty is also able to now be closer to his mother, who is battling ALS.

Although he struggled in 107 games last year, Piscotty still posted a .342 OBP. In 2016, he hit 22 home runs with a .343 OBP, so expect a nice 2018 season from him as he is able to ball and be close to his family.

On the Bump

Unfortunately, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson will not be suiting up for Oakland in the year 2018. This is a staff with a lot of question marks, but also has some guys who could surprise people.

This may sound crazy, but Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are really the only locks to be in the rotation. Six guys, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett, Paul Blackburn and Chris Bassitt, will be fighting for the last three spots. Realistically, you have to imagine Mengden will make the rotation after posting a 1.54 ERA in five starts in the second half.

Cotton and Gossett pitched the most innings out of these six, but combined to allow 49 home runs in 220 1/3 innings. Still, Cotton has one of the best changeups in the game, and will make this rotation because of his upside. But don’t sleep on Blackburn, who posted a 3.22 ERA in 10 starts.

Blake Treinen, who was acquired in the Sean Doolittle trade, will be the closer. As a member of the A’s in 2017, Treinen thrived, posting 13 saves, as well as a 2.13 ERA. Oakland still has former Giants closer, Santiago Casilla, as well as Liam Hendriks, who struck out 78 batters in 64 innings in 2017.

The Future

Oakland has four players who cracked MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Headlining the list is the No. 32 prospect, and second-best LHP prospect, A.J Puk. Puk has arguably the best slider among any prospect, and was taken sixth overall by Oakland in the 2016 draft. Puk’s fastball fires between 93-97 mph and he strikes out batters with ease. In 125 innings between A+ and Double-A, Puk struck out 184. He is a giant at 6-foot-7, and is seen as a legitimate No. 2 starter.

2018 Oakland Athletics preview

A.J. Puk is the future for the A’s. (Photo from Mercury News)

Behind Puk is Jesus Luzardo (No. 60), Franklin Barreto (No. 66), and Jorge Mateo (No. 72). Luzardo, a LHP like Puk, has dealt with injuries and Tommy John surgery in 2016. In Rookie ball and Class A short-season, Luzardo posted a 1.66 ERA in 43.1 innings.

Barreto, shortstop-second baseman, played in 25 games for the A’s in 2017, but struggled, hitting just .197. Still, the middle infielder has put up solid numbers in the minors, hitting .290 with 15 home runs in 111 games at Triple-A in 2017. He will ultimately need to cut back on the strikeouts in order to see some consistent time at the MLB level.

Jorge Mateo is widely regarded as the fastest runner among all prospects. The shortstop-outfielder had 82 steals to lead the minors in 2015, and 52 more in 2017. Shortstop is his main position and he is a nice all-around player who scouts believe has a ceiling of about .275 with 15 home runs.

2018 Prediction: 71-91

With the amount of power the lineup possesses, this team could be fun to watch, but the lack of overall talent is concerning. Graveman can never seem to stay healthy, and the rest of the guys are highly suspect.

A full season of Matt Olson will be fun, and Khris Davis is almost a lock for 30 home runs. But in a division with the Astros, Angels and Mariners, the A’s will have a hard time creeping up in the standings.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Top 5 third basemen

Top 5 third basemen in 2018

Pitchers and catchers have reported. This is not a drill. We are so close to baseball.

As we inch closer to actual baseball, we continue our top-five lists, going with third basemen this time. This was the hardest list so far as this position is ripe with talent.

Just missed the cut

Matt Chapman: Ever since the A’s traded perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson for pennies on the dollar, the hot corner has been an infuriating thought for Oakland fans. Not anymore, as Matt Chapman brings some of the best defense in the AL at just 24 years old.

In just 84 games last season, Chapman had a 3.6 WAR, which was second highest on the team for the entire season. Some may question his bat, but last season, Chapman had a .785 OPS and a 110 OPS+, all above average numbers.

He has solid pop with amazing defense. If Chapman can stay consistent, he’ll find his way on this list.

Anthony Rendon: Anthony Rendon had one of the most underrated seasons in 2017. He finished the year sixth in MVP voting with 25 homers, 100 RBIs and an OPS of .937. He wasn’t even selected as an All-Star. Ask Mets’ fans if they think Rendon is an All-Star.

If Rendon is able to keep these stats up, somebody will have to put respect on his name.

Manny Machado: This is a fairly notable omission, but has to be done for two reasons.

First, Machado had a really down year last season, particularly at the plate. He had the worst batting average of his career as well as his second worst OBP. Second, he has been moved to shortstop in the hopes that the O’s will get a better deal once they inevitably trade him.

5. Adrian Beltre

Top 5 third basemen

Two legs? One leg? No legs? Beltre is still gonna hit bombs. (Photo by Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

For what seems like the past 1,000 years, Adrian Beltre has played third base at a very elite level. Last season, while the Rangers struggled, Beltre had one of his best seasons yet, posting his highest OPS since 2012.

In 2018, Beltre will be 39 years old. While he continues to chug the fountain of youth, father time is still undefeated. It’s all a question of when for Beltre, but after last season, it’s hard to say that it will happen soon.

For now, Beltre continues to dominate the AL.

4. Justin Turner

This is where the list gets really hard. Honestly, No. 1-4 are interchangeable.

Justin Turner is unfairly put at No. 4 despite his great offensive numbers and being the MVP of a team that won over 100 games. While Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are flashier, Turner is the most consistent Dodger.

Turner had a great season at the plate, with 21 home runs and an OBP of .415. Turner’s on the field play coupled with his leadership and great beard make him a phenomenal player for LA.

Close your eyes Mets fans. Turner is the one who got away.

3. Nolan Arenado

Making this list is brutal. Nolan Arenado is a legit MVP-level player, and he’s still third on this list.

Arenado’s numbers are loud and flashy. Last season he hit 37 homers and 130 RBIs while slugging for .586. Those are amazing stats.

But what truly sets Arenado from the rest is his fantastic glove. He has won five straight Gold Gloves. His 7.2 WAR shows that he is not only a top player in the NL, but the entire MLB.

2. Josh Donaldson

A’s fans can only hope Franklin Barreto is worth something because Josh Donaldson isn’t going anywhere.

Donaldson had what some would consider a down year. He only played in 113 games, but was still able to hit 33 home runs. If you want to know how good Donaldson is, watch his 2015 MVP season. You will see one of the most transcendent hitters in all of baseball.

While his time with the Jays may be coming to an end, Donaldson will dominate anywhere he goes.

1. Kris Bryant

Ask any Cubs fan if the drought was worth getting a player like Kris Bryant and consistent shots at a World Series victory and they’ll probably tell you no. Bryant is a great consolation prize though.

At just 26 years old, Bryant put up 29 homers and an OBP of .409. He was responsible for a 6.1 WAR in 2017.

There are a thousand ways to say it, but Kris Bryant is amazing. He’s only going to get better.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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2018 MLB sleeper teams

Sleeper teams for the 2018 MLB season

With the offseason wrapping up and Spring Training on the horizon, experts are beginning to make their picks on which teams are contenders and pretenders. Even with the plethora of big name free agents still available, most rosters are set.

Teams like the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees are considered the big favorites right now, and rightfully so. Other teams like the Cubs, Brewers and Red Sox still have their eyes set on October. The thing all these teams have in common is that they are hyped up as playoff teams. Ask any baseball fan who they think is going to win the World Series and those are the teams they’ll list.

Each year, one or two teams blow up on the baseball scene. Last year, it was Minnesota and Arizona. The year before, it was the Texas Rangers.

While I won’t build myself up as a flawless fortune teller, these are two teams baseball fans should keep an eye on.

National League: Philadelphia Phillies

While everyone in Philadelphia is currently focused on winning their first Super Bowl (good luck with that), the Phillies could make a lot of noise in the NL. The Nationals have the East locked up for now baring injury, but Philly could fly in under the radar and possibly sneak into a Wild Card spot.

2018 MLB sleeper teams

Carlos Santana looks to help the Phillies achieve success in his first year with the team. (Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

One thing the Phillies have in their favor is a weak division outside of Washington. Miami has had a fire sale to end all fire sales. Atlanta still has some rebuilding to do with their roster. The Mets can’t stay healthy past April.

 

Washington is head and shoulders the best team in the division. In the West and Central divisions, no team can truly make that claim. The Dodgers have the Diamondbacks, Rockies and the geriatric Giants to worry about. The Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers are going to fight to the death for that divisional crown. With all these teams beating each other, the Phillies could use their easy path to their advantage.

The Phillies have plenty of young talent. Pitcher Aaron Nola saw significant improvement in his wins and ERA and will continue to blossom into the ace they see him as.

If you are looking for future All-Stars, Rhys Hoskins is the real player to watch in Philly. In his first MLB action, Hoskins hit .259 with 18 homers and had a slugging percentage of .618. Those are great numbers for a young player starting out.

These young players coupled with veterans like first baseman Carlos Santana, who hit 23 homers and had a 3.4 WAR, and relief pitcher Pat Neshek, who had a sub-two ERA last season, have potential to make noise this season.

American League: Oakland Athletics  

After being bottom dwellers for the past three seasons, the Oakland Athletics have to be tired of losing.

The A’s are in a similar position as the Phillies, a losing team with young stars and a juggernaut in the lead of their division. One difference is the rest of the division. The Angels have made huge improvements and the Rangers and Mariners continue to be dangerous.

2018 MLB sleeper teams

Matt Olson looks to continue his offensive onslaught from last season. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)

If the A’s are to have any success, it’ll be spearheaded by their two young Matts: Matt Olson and Matt Chapman.

 

In his first season with extended playing time, Chapman looked to be one of, if not the best defensive third baseman in baseball. In 84 games, Chapman put up a 3.6 WAR, just ahead of Manny Machado and behind former A Josh Donaldson. While he wasn’t great at the plate, he had a .785 OPS, which is above league average. For a 24-year-old, thats great.

When looking at Olson, the opposite could be said. While Olson’s glove is good, it’s his offensive firepower that makes him a superstar in the making. In just 189 at-bats, Olson hit 24 homers and had an insane OPS of 1.003, which is considered excellent. For reference, NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton had an 1.007 OPS.

These two players are stars in the making. They will be coupled with Khris Davis, who has had back-to-back 40 homer seasons.

The A’s will also have a much improved bullpen and a rotation full of potential. The A’s are set for the short-term and long-term future.

 

Featured image by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

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Top 10 MLB franchises of all time

Best baseball franchises of all time

Normally, this is the time of year when big-time moves are made. Free agents are signed, general managers are wheelin’ and dealin’ and there is a constant buzz around baseball.

This year? Not so much. The free agent market has been relatively stagnant, and trades are few and far between. So I’ve decided to actually put my history degree to use and list the top 10 baseball franchises of all time. Clubs will be ranked by World Series titles, Hall of Fame players and overall success. We will start at No. 10.

10. Detroit Tigers

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 9,235-8,979 record, nine Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the oldest teams in baseball, the Tigers have to find a way onto the list. They were a charter member of the American League and have been in Detroit since 1901.

But they don’t earn a spot on these rankings from their age alone. They have the 13th most Hall of Fame players in baseball, accumulating nine spots in Cooperstown. They also have four World Series titles to their credit, good for ninth most in baseball. But it’s the stories, myths and legends that help give this team an edge over the others.

As one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ty Cobb was a menace in Detroit for 22 years. Stories of his aggressive demeanor are only overshadowed by his prowess on the field. He lead the American League in hitting nine years in a row and batted over .400 twice within that span. He also holds the all-time highest career batting average at .366. If that wasn’t enough, he was also an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Tigers never won a World Series with Cobb, but broke through in 1935 to give the city its first championship. They did it again in 1945, 1968 and 1984. Their 2012 trip to the World Series has been their most recent appearance.

The Tigers also have some greats to rely on in the 21st century, with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera leading the way. Even in the midst of a rebuild, the Tigers can still lay claim to baseball royalty.

9. Chicago Cubs

Statistics: Three World Series titles, 10,803-10,258 record, 14 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeIf the Tigers are considered an aged franchise, the Cubs are ancient. You can trace their playing history all the way back to 1876, only 11 years after the end of the Civil War. They are a charter member of the National League, and assumed the Cubs name back in 1903.

As one of the best in baseball history, it’s not surprising to find that they hold multiple records. One of those is the modern-era single-season winning percentage of .763 in 1906 when they went 116-36. But the franchise’s history goes much deeper than the team level.

Perhaps one of the more overlooked Hall of Fame players for the Cubs is third baseman Ron Santo. Playing in the 1960s through mid-70s, he teamed with Ernie Banks to return hope to the Cubbie faithful. Even though the duo wasn’t able to bring a title home to Chicago, Santo still played at a high level. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner for the Cubs, providing stability at the hot corner.

One thing Santo couldn’t provide was a regular World Series contender, as the Cubs would have to wait until 2016 to earn their third title. With players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and a multitude of others, another World Series title in the near future is not out of the question.

8. Oakland Athletics

Statistics: Nine World Series titles, 8,834-9,322 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeThe Athletics are another one of the old-guard franchises, joining the Tigers as an inaugural member of the American League in 1901. Unlike the Tigers, the Athletics have had multiple homes. After starting out in Philadelphia, the team moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Oakland in 1968.

They are also one of the few teams on this list with a losing record, posting a .487 win percentage. However, with so many World Series titles (third most in baseball history), they easily find themselves among the top ten teams all time.

One reason for their World Series dominance is Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Before Jackson was shining under the bright lights in New York, he was blasting away at the bay. Jackson played 10 seasons for the Athletics, leading them to back-to-back-to-back titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was also a more balanced player in Oakland, hitting 269 home runs and stealing 145 bases.

Just like many of Oakland’s stars, the Athletics weren’t able to retain him. This developed into a common theme for the A’s.

That is one reason why their win percentage is so low. The Athletics experienced multiple runs of success, winning five World Series titles from 1910-30, three in the 1970s and one in 1989. With the introduction of free agency, the small-market Athletics weren’t able to compete in the bidding wars their stars warranted.

Even so, the A’s have been one of the best franchises of all time, and could be on the verge of another dominant run with a loaded farm system and young major league club.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,394-10,233 record, 13 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAfter joining the National League in 1887, the Pirates took baseball by storm, representing the National League in the inaugural World Series in 1903. It wasn’t until 1909 that the steel city could boast its first World Series title though.

Led by players like Honus Wagner, the Pirates of the early 20th century dominated baseball. With pennants in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1909, the Pirates established themselves as one of the dynasties of baseball.

They continued that legacy well into the 20th century, relying on one of the greatest Pirates of all time to guide the franchise. Roberto Clemente started for the Pirates at the ripe age of 20, but didn’t establish himself until he turned 25. In the following eight seasons, Clemente earned eight All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves and one AL MVP award. He also led the Pirates to two World Series titles, cementing himself as a legend in Pittsburgh.

His legend ended spreading far beyond Pittsburgh or baseball, as he was an avid humanitarian. That, coupled with his skills on the diamond, makes him one of the most beloved Hall of Fame players the Pirates have had. As such, a new generation looks to carry on the legend he left behind. Players like Gregory Polanco, Starlin Marte and a cast of young Pirates will look to right the ship and return to the franchises’ former glory days.

6. Cincinnati Reds

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,457-10,211 record, 10 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the charter members of the American Association in 1881, the Reds have played ball in Cincinnati for 136 seasons. In that time, some of the greatest players and teams have called the queen city home.

Unlike the other ancients of baseball, the Reds did not have much early success. They boast one World Series title in the early 20th century, winning the fall classic in 1919. Even so, their dominance in the 1970s is the stuff of legends, as only one of the greatest teams of all time can be worthy of such a title as “the Red Machine.”

At the heart of the red machine was none other than Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. He helped propel one of the most dominant teams of the modern era, and caught one of the better pitching staffs baseball has seen. He played his full 17-year career in Cincinnati. In that time, the Reds won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. With a rare blend of power and defensive skills, Bench became the standard bearer for elite catching. But a machine isn’t made up of just one member.

Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dave Conception were all vital cogs in the big red machine and were integral parts to their two World Series titles in the 1970s. Now a new machine is being constructed in Cincinnati led by All-Star Joey Votto. With a young core and stacked farm system, the Reds will try to emulate the success of the 1970s.

5. San Francisco Giants

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 11,015-9,513 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeOne of the first things that catches your eye with the San Francisco Giants is their gaudy record. Since their inception in 1883, they have posted a .537 win percentage. That includes stints as the New York Gothams, New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. While fans may have more fond memories of New York than San Francisco (five World Series titles in New York, three in San Francisco), San Francisco does have much more recent memories to draw upon.

One of the most dominant and bizarre runs baseball has seen belongs to the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, 2012 and 2014 the Giants were able to bring San Francisco a World Series title. Led by one of the best pitcher-catcher combos in the game, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were vital to the Giants prolonged success.

In his rookie season, Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Posey was also solid as a rookie in the World Series, batting an even .300. Now both grizzled veterans, they look to bring San Francisco back to its former glory.

With a strong supporting cast, they may make another run yet. Joining Bumgarner and Posey at the core of the Giants roster is Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. All in the prime of their respective careers, the Giants should definitely be feared. But it remains to be seen if they can make a return to their former glory atop the throne of baseball’s elite.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Statistics: Six World Series titles, 10,776-9,691 record, six Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAnother former New York team claims a spot on our rankings, as the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in baseball’s elite. After undergoing nine different name changes since their founding in 1884, the Dodgers moniker finally stuck in 1932. The team went on to win all six of its World Series titles as the Dodgers, bringing one home for Brooklyn in 1955, two years before their cross-country exodus. Even with five titles won in Los Angeles, Brooklyn will always be able to boast one of the greatest players of all time, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson broke onto the major league scene in 1947. As a 28-year-old rookie, Robinson won Rookie of the Year. He also added an MVP to his trophy case, bringing home the award in 1949.

Even as a six-time All-Star, MVP and World Series champion, Robinson’s biggest impact has come after his playing days. As one of the first African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, Robinson opened the door for thousands of African-Americans to follow in his footsteps. That distinction, coupled with his stellar career, made Robinson a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962.

While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, they are not far off from earning another one. With a core of Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers are believed to be perennial World Series contenders. And with future Hall of Fame lefty Clayton Kershaw as the ace, the sky is the limit for these Los Angeles Dodgers. Look for their number of World Series titles and Hall of Fame players to increase in the coming seasons.

3. Boston Red Sox

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 9,410-8,776 record, 12 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeNow we enter some rarefied air. The Boston Red Sox are one of the younger franchises on this list, debuting in 1901. Even so, they have made good use of their time. With a glut of World Series titles and Hall of Fame inductees, the Red Sox have put together a .517 win percentage. While part of that is due to their large market status that lets them spend freely in free agency, it’s also owed to some savvy drafting and player development.

One example of the Red Sox keen eye for talent is one of the best baseball players of all time, Ted Williams. Williams made his Red Sox debut at 20 years old, and led the American League in RBIs with 145. He hit .406 in 1941, while leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Even with a three-year hiatus in the midst of his career to fight in World War II, Williams is easily a Hall of Famer. That was proven by his first-ballot induction in 1966.

With all of Ted Williams’ heroics, he could not bring Boston a World Series title. It took 86 years for Boston to be title town again in 2004. What has followed has been a successful run. With two more World Series titles in 2007 and 2013, it seems the curse had finally been lifted. It will be up to Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers and Chris Sale to continue to prove the curse broken.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Statistics: 11 World Series titles, 10,739-9,918 record, 17 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeVery few teams have been as good as long as the St. Louis Cardinals have. Founded in 1882 and joining the National League in 1892, the Cardinals have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball.

In a span of 20 seasons (1926-46), the Cardinals amassed six World Series titles. Their 11 total World Series titles gives them the second most in baseball history. It hasn’t just been World Series titles that has made them great though, as the Cardinals have a slew of Hall of Famers.

Perhaps the greatest was Stan “The Man” Musial. Musial entered the league in 1941, and by 1943 was a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award three times in his illustrious career and brought St. Louis three World Series titles.

Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was his 24 All-Star selections, garnered over a 22-year career. That career includes 475 home runs and a .331 batting average, making Musial one of the best of all time.

Cardinals greats aren’t limited to just Musial though. Players like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have helped carry on the Cardinal’s legacy. And with players like Matt Carpenter, Marcel Ozuna and Dexter Fowler joining them, the Cardinals are set to continue their run among baseball’s best.

1. New York Yankees

Statistics: 27 World Series titles, 10,175-7,719 record, 24 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeWas their ever any doubt who No. 1 would be? The New York Yankees aren’t just one of the best franchises in all of baseball. They are perhaps the best professional sports franchise in history. With 27 World Series titles, 53 playoff appearances and 40 pennants, it’s hard to argue against it. With such a dominant history, one would believe it would be difficult to sift through all of the greats to don the pinstripes. However, one stands out among the rest.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was the man that built the New York Yankees dynasty. Ruth wouldn’t become a full-time hitter until his move from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1925. Prior to the move, Ruth amassed 94 wins and a 2.24 ERA as a starting pitcher with the Red Sox.

But it was at the plate that Ruth made the biggest impact. He earned seven World Series titles with the Yankees, hitting 714 home runs and batting .341 in his career. When the Yankees moved to Yankee Stadium in 1923, it was nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built.” No other man has had such an impact on baseball history. A fitting distinction for a legendary franchise.

That’s not to say that others haven’t tried. In fact, the Yankees boast two of the best power hitters currently in baseball in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both have 50-homer power, and will be the driving force behind another great Yankees team.

The major league club also has a loaded farm system, something past Yankees teams haven’t had. With so much talent throughout the organization, the Yankees are primed for another dynastic run.

 

Feature image from Cool Old Photos.

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MLB unanimous rookie of the years

A look back at the MLB’s unanimous Rookie of the Year winners

On Nov. 13, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were both unanimously selected as the 2017 American and National League Rookies of the Year respectively, a feat that has only been done on three other occasions. Judge set an MLB record for most home runs in a season by a rookie with 52, while Bellinger set a Los Angeles Dodger record with 39. Both finished in the top 10 in their respective MVP votes, with Judge finishing second and Bellinger ninth.

Baseball fans should consider themselves lucky to witness such incredible seasons by two rookies, as we may not see dual performances like this for another decade. With this in mind, let us take a look at the past pairs of unanimous Rookie of the Year winners.

1997: Scott Rolen (PHI) & Nomar Garciaparra (BOS)

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

Scott Rolen went on to play 17 seasons in the MLB, making seven All-Star teams, winning eight Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and one World Series. (Photo from DickAllen15.com)

A second-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993, Scott Rolen was a young hulking third baseman who possessed power and premier defense. In 81 games in double-A, Rolen batted .343 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Rolen made his MLB debut in 1996, although his first full season didn’t come until 1997 when he batted .283 with 21 home runs, 92 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.

Other National League rookies in his class included Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones and Livan Hernandez, but Rolen still managed to be unanimously selected NL Rookie of the Year. His 1997 campaign was a sign of things to come, as he went on to play 17 seasons in the MLB, making seven All-Star teams, winning eight Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and one World Series.

You could say expectations out of the gate were high for Nomar Garciaparra, as the Boston Red Sox selected him with the twelfth overall pick in 1994. He had a cup of coffee in the MLB in 1996, although his first full season wasn’t until 1997. A then 23-year-old Garciaprra batted .306 with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 122 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He not only was unanimously selected AL Rookie of the Year, but he placed eighth in the AL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger.

Aside from Garciaparra, the American League’s underwhelming 1997 rookie class was headlined by Jose Cruz and Deivi Cruz, Jason Dickson and Mike Cameron. Garciaparra’s career was majorly affected by injuries, although he still managed to bat .313 with 229 home runs and 936 RBIs in his 14-year-career. He most notably won back-to-back AL batting titles, batting .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 respectively.

1993: Mike Piazza (LAD) & Tim Salmon (CAL)

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

Piazza would go down as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, batting a career .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs. (Photo from Pintrest.com)

Mike Piazza, whose Los Angeles Dodgers rookie home run record of 35 was broken by Bellinger this season, was taken by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft. It has been said that Piazza was only selected because of head coach Tommy Lasorda’s personal relationship with Piazza’s father, Vince. Whatever the case may be, Piazza is arguably the biggest draft steal in MLB history.

Piazza’s rookie season in 1993 was incredible, as he batted .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs. The 24-year-old finished ninth in the NL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger to boot.

No rookies from the NL class of 1993 had a season that could compare with Piazza, although his fellow teammate and rookie, Pedro Martinez, also had a Hall of Fame career. Piazza would go down as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, batting a career .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs.

Tim Salmon, a California born kid, was drafted in the third round of the 1989 draft by the then California Angels. Salmon won the American Minor League Player of the Year Award in 1992, which was also the same season he made his major league debut.

In his official rookie year, Salmon batted .283 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs, which was good enough to be selected AL Rookie of the Year. Other rookies from his class include Aaron Sele, Jason Bere and Wayne Kirby, so it’s no surprise why Salmon dominated the AL ROY vote.

He went on to play 14 seasons in the MLB, driving in over 1,000 runs along the way, unfortunately falling just one home run short of 300.

1987: Benito Santiago (SD) & Mark McGwire (OAK)

Benito Santiago was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Diego Padres in 1982. His major league debut came in 1986, but his official rookie season came a year later. In 1997, Santiago batted .300 with 18 home runs and 79 RBIs. Pitchers Mike Dunne and Joe Magrane both had very respectable rookie campaigns, but Santiago was the clear choice for ROY in 1987.

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

McGwire, whose rookie home run record of 49 was broken by Judge, was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft by the Oakland Athletics. (Photo from TheGreedyPinstripes.com)

His rookie season was the beginning of a 20-year MLB career in which he was considered one of the premier catchers in the National League for nearly a decade. He would go on to make five All-Star appearances, win four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and one NLCS MVP.

Mark McGwire, whose rookie home run record of 49 was broken by Judge, was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft by the Oakland Athletics. His rookie season came in 1987, where a then 23-year-old McGwire put on a show for the ages, batting .289 with 49 home runs and 118 RBIs. McGwire finished sixth in the American League MVP vote and was selected an All-Star for the first time.

Fellow rookies Kevin Seitzer and Matt Nokes had solid rookie seasons, but McGwire’s was arguably the greatest rookie campaign of all-time up until that point. He went on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career, mashing 583 home runs and 1,414 RBIs. His admitted steroid use will likely keep him out Cooperstown, although the impact he left on the game will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image by ESPN.com

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Backyard Baseball 2001

Most disrespected pros of Backyard Baseball 2001

Produced by Humongous Entertainment, the Backyard Sports franchise has been a staple of amusement for children since 1997. The Backyard Sports franchise included games such as Backyard Football, Backyard Soccer, Backyard Basketball, Backyard Hockey and yes, even Backyard Skateboarding. The majority of the games featured one or more professional athletes, which added a sense of realism to this imaginary sports realm.

More specifically, Backyard Baseball 2001 starred 31 different major league players from all 30 MLB teams. Out of the 31 players, nine have already been inducted into the Hall-of-Fame (Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Barry Larkin and Tony Gwynn), while Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones promise to propel that number to 12 by 2019.

For myself, Backyard Baseball 2001 was the original catalyst for my obsession with the sport itself. I was able to learn about the players and teams that made the professional game so great. All baseball fans will remember icons like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, who were all featured in Backyard Baseball 2001, although I will forever remember and respect lower-profile players like Marty Cordova and Alex Gonzalez, specifically because of this incredible game.

The final remaining active player from the 2001 class was Carlos Beltran, who just recently retired after winning his first World Series in his 20 years in the MLB. Beltran will make quite the Hall of Fame case, although looking back at his attributes in Backyard Baseball, I don’t recall him being one of the pros that chosen very often, if at all. He tended to be outshined by Kenny Lofton’s speed, Larry Walker’s power or Vladimir Guerrero’s all-around ability, causing him to consistently fall short of making my Humongous Melonheads lineup.

After looking back at each player’s in-game stats and their real-life stats prior to the 2001 season, it’s fair to say some of these major leaguers were significantly snubbed.

Carlos Beltran

Beltran took the league by storm in 1999, batting .293 with 22 home runs, 27 stolen bases, 112 runs scored and 108 RBIs. He was subsequently voted the American League Rookie of the Year, receiving 95 percent of the first place votes. His 2000 season was cut short due to injury, which was the likely cause for his low attributes.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Beltran has a great swing and can steal bases like nobody’s business. He’s also one of the best switch-hitters around. The outfielder’s exceptional coordination and defensive ability make him an asset to any team. (Photo via Cespedes Family BBQ on Twitter)

At 24 years old, Beltran represented the Kansas City Royals in Backyard Baseball 2001, although his stats failed to resemble his real-life ability. His batting attribute was 5/10, which was the same rating given to pros Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, who were the two pitchers featured in the game.

Both Schilling and Johnson’s career batting averages were under .151 at this point in their careers. Why the developers gave Beltran, Schilling and Johnson the same batting attributes is beyond me.

In 2001, Beltran had a 20/30 season while batting over .300. He must have used his poor attributes as motivation, as he would go on to hit over 400 home runs and steal over 300 bases in his illustrious career.

Jason Giambi

To me, Giambi is easily the most disrespected player on this list. As the American League MVP in 2000, Giambi batted .333 with 43 home runs and 137 RBIs. He led the league in walks, on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Great power, excellent fielder with great hands, drives in runs, walks – everything you ask for from a first baseman. Great coordination that rivals Vicki Kawaguchi’s. His all-time favorite baseball player is Mickey Mantle, in case you’re wondering. (Photo from Viva La Vita)

Giambi, who represented the Oakland Athletics in 2001, had a batting attribute that measured 7/10, which may seem respectable at first glance. However, Derek Jeter and Jason Kendall, who also shared a 7/10 batting stat, had less combined home runs and RBIs than Giambi in 2000. Anyone who saw Giambi play in late ’90s knows that he deserved a full 10/10 batting stat, as he was arguably the most dangerous hitter in the game at that time.

In 2001, Giambi batted .342 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs, coming in second in the American League MVP vote behind Rookie of the Year and MVP Ichiro Suzuki. In my opinion, Giambi was snubbed, as his WAR measured a full 1.5 points higher and lost by seven vote points.

Due to his admitted steroid use, Giambi will likely fall short of the Hall of Fame. His career .277 batting average, 440 home runs and 1,441 RBIs make him a Hall of Fame caliber player either way.

Jeromy Burnitz

Backyard Baseball 2001

Jeromy is one of the best left-handed batters in the league. This talented outfielder has a sweet swing and can hit to all fields. His defense is solid and his arm is fantastic. He also likes to play Ping-Pong – but hey, who doesn’t? (Photo via Reddit from r/Baseball)

Coming off of three consecutive seasons with over 30 home runs from 1998-2000, one would expect Jeromy Burnitz to receive one of the higher batting attributes among sluggers in Backyard Baseball 2001. I would consider his 7/10 batting rating to be a bit disrespectful.

Representing the Milwaukee Brewers, one could expect Burnitz to be snubbed in the ratings department, as the team had failed to reach the .500 mark since 1992.

Both Kenny Lofton and Barry Larkin had identical 7/10 batting stats as Burnitz, although Lofton and Larkin combined failed to hit as many home runs through the same three-year period as Burnitz did alone. I believe Lofton and Larkin deserve their 7/10 marks, as they were both great contact hitters in their own right, although I believe Burnitz absolutely deserved a higher rating in the batting category.

Shawn Green

Green had a miraculous 1999 campaign, batting .309 with 42 home runs, 123 RBIs and 20 stolen bases with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2000, he would move out west to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal centered around fellow Backyard Baseball pro Raul Mondesi.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Shawn, a rare blend of power and speed, has a strong arm and is a decent fielder. This outfielder’s mighty swing can send the ball yard and then some. He’s been playing baseball since he was a toddler – and it shows! (Photo via Reddit from r/Baseball)

Green took a step back in 2000, but still managed to score 98 runs and drive in 99 RBIs with 72 extra-base hits.

Due to our shared Jewish heritage, I tended to select Green quite often. His batting stats are not what I am putting into question, rather his fielding. The vision of Green costing me precious runs after taking a fly ball of the head remains to this day.

The Backyard Sports developers decided to give him 5/10 for his fielding attribute, which made him tied for the second worst fielding player of the featured pros despite being only one season removed from winning a Gold Glove award.

Two notable names that have a better fielding attribute than Green include Mo Vaughn (8/10) and Mark McGwire (7/10). McGwire won his sole Gold Glove in 1990, ten years before the game had been released, while Vaughn never did. Interesting to see Green be snubbed so blatantly.

Which sport stars do you think were disrespected in the Backyard Sports series?

 

Featured image by MuseumOfPlay.com

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Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

In a significant turn of events, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced substantial changes in voting on Nov 6. These changes will have a major impact on how the 2018 Hall of Fame class could be comprised. The Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope for several of the game’s elite players, who’ve now been given a second crack at Cooperstown.

The Hall of Fame defines the Modern Era as the span of time from 1970 through 1987. To the layman, this means for a player to be considered in this era, his peak years should mostly fall within that range. This, of course, has serious impact for several players who’ve watched their initial 15-year period of eligibility expire.

Among the names on the newly formed 10-player Modern Era ballot are, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller (executive nominee), Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell.

Among the players on this list with a career WAR of (50+) are pitchers Luis Tiant (66.1) and Tommy John (62). Also joining this list are position players Alan Trammell (70.4) and Ted Simmons (50.1), respectively.

In my estimation, the no-brainer selections are Alan Trammell, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller. Trammell deserves it for being among the best short stops ever, Simmons for being among the best catchers ever and Miller for his work as the first MLBPA union head. Miller has a legacy that every player in today’s game owes a serious debt of gratitude.

How voting works

Alan Trammell had a (52.6) WAR between 1980-1989. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

This newly formed selection committee will consist of 16 members. Membership of the Modern Baseball Committee will be a mixture of HoF members, executives and veteran media members (BBWA). Members will be appointed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.

The appointees to the Modern Baseball Committee will each serve for a renewable term as well. They will meet twice every five years to discuss the merits of elite players that have slipped through the cracks.

According to the Hall of Fame, voting set to begin in 2017. So presumably, we will have our first voting process at the winter meetings this coming December in Orlando, Fla.

Voting can only take place when there is a 75-percent quorum (12 of 16 members). In the event a quorum isn’t reached, there is an allowance for voting via conference call.

Short Stop, Alan Trammell – Detroit Tigers

Alan Trammell is one of the biggest snubs in the history of the game. I know there is fervent debate about Pete Rose, but unfortunately, he’s banned from baseball. So are the PED players, in a round-about way.

Trammell was a career Tiger having played the entirety of his career in Detroit. A career that spanned 20 major league seasons. These were 20, mostly bright, seasons as well. Had Trammell not had the break down at the end of his career, he would most likely be in already. Still, it’s a shame to see arguably the best short stop of the 1980’s, not enshrined in Cooperstown.

Of the three Hall of Fame short stops that would be classified in the Modern Era (Yount/Ripken/Smith), Trammell (52.6) has a higher WAR than all but Yount (55.1) throughout the decade of the 1980’s. It should be noted, however, that Yount switched to center field full-time in 1986.

It’s not just WAR in Trammell’s case though that shows his greatness. We’re talking about a player that not only posted a (70.4) WAR, we’re talking about an all-around elite player. We’re talking about a six-time All-Star. We’re talking about a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Trammell was a fine hitter, though not known for his power he hit a (.285) clip in his 20 professional seasons. That’s not bad, in fact, it’s the same career average as Robin Yount.

The Tiger legend was also great when the moments were biggest. In the 1984 postseason, Trammell went 13-for-31 in his eight playoff starts. In case you are wondering, that’s an average (.419). However, Trammell saved his best for the World Series in ’84. He hit a blistering (.450) with two homers and six RBI on his way to winning World Series MVP.

Put Trammell in already.

Catcher, Ted Simmons – St. Louis Cardinals

Ted Simmons is one of the greatest catchers that has ever played the game. He still ranks in the top five is several offensive categories after retiring almost 30 years ago. I would go much further in depth on this legend, but I recently laid bare the case for Ted Simmons just days ago.

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Robin Yount was the only short stop with a better WAR rating than Alan Trammell in the 1980’s. (Photo courtesy of: baseballhall.org)

What should be mentioned is that Simmons, a (.285) hitter, was the first catcher to hit 400+ career doubles, and still ranks second in RBI all-time among catchers. That’s impressive no matter which way a person looks at it.

With each passing year, Simmons’ career continues to look better and better. Like a fine wine, it’s time to pop the cork on this fine vintage. Ted Simmons deserves the call to Cooperstown.

Read the case for Ted Simmons here!

Marvin Miller – Former MLBPA Union Head

Marvin Miller wasn’t a player, but his impact on the game of baseball was immense. Miller, an economist by trade, became the first head of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966.

In 1968, Miller successfully lead the first negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. As a result, the minimum salary was raised from $7,000 to $10,000 over the seasons of 1968 and 1969.

Perhaps the biggest battle Marvin Miller fought while head of the MLBPA, was the challenge to what was known as the reserve clause. Under the reserve clause, players had no rights to pursue better financial offers from other teams. In effect, the owners of major league franchises held all the power. Under the reserve clause, players were bound to a team as “property” and could be sold, released, or traded on the whim of the owner.

Enter Curt Flood.

During the 1969 season, Curt Flood was locked in a battle with Cardinals owner August Busch over a dispute of a $10,000 raise. As a three-time All-Star, and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Flood was right in thinking he was worth more. However, because of rocking the boat, Flood was traded to Philadelphia at season’s end. Presumably as punishment.

Flood denied the trade, and making a long story short, ended up suing MLB over the legality of the reserve clause. A case he would lose, but would lay the ground work for others in his wake. Flood sacrificed his career for those that came after him. I wonder how many of us would be so principled in that same situation.

Miller’s legacy

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Curt Flood, along with Marvin Miller, reshaped the financial aspect of MLB. (Photo courtesy of: The Atlantic)

In 1974, Miller won a landmark case on behalf of the MLBPA. Due to a missed annuity payment, owed to Catfish Hunter, by A’s owner Charlie Finley an arbitrator ruled that Hunter was fee to sign with any team of his choosing. Thanks to Marvin Miller, free agency in baseball was born when Hunter signed a five-year deal with the Yankees.

For the first time a player had all the negotiating leverage to get the maximum financial return out of his skill set.

Also in 1974, Miller successfully convinced two pitchers to play out their 1975 seasons without signing a contract. It was then that these players challenged MLB by filing grievances with the league. The case was heard by arbitrator Peter Seitz, who ultimately sided with pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.

Though the fallout from this case sparked widespread collusion against many of the pioneers of free agency in the 1970s, Miller perhaps changed the game in more ways than any player ever has on the field. After all, Miller fought for free agency, led the MLBPA through three labor stoppages and oversaw average salaries rise from $19,000 in 1966, to $326,000 by the time he stepped away from the union in 1982.

Miller, who passed away in 2012, always blasted the Hall of Fame for colluding against his inclusion in those hallowed halls. Maybe the Modern Baseball Committee will finally give this man his just desserts. Even if it does have to come posthumously.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Sporting News)

 

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National League West

Predicting the Top Ten teams of 2023: 10-6

With the World Series in full swing, the Houston Astros have become the poster child for successful rebuilds. But going from 100+ losses to 100+ wins is no easy task. It takes skill in both the front office and the scouting department. It also takes the determination to see the rebuild through, no matter how ugly it gets.

These five teams have shown to have that skill through the stockpiling of young, elite talent. They also have the determination to lay their major league roster bare so as to lay the seeds of a successful rebuild. In these seeds are young talent and veteran leadership. Burt which teams have the best chance to emulate the Astros success?

Top Ten of 2023

Sheldon Neuse showed off a polished bat at Oklahoma (Chuck Cox/RoadTripSports).

10. Oakland Athletics

The Athletics did again this season what they seem to do every season; trade away major league talent for minor league promise. Relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson were both shipped to the Nationals, and in return they received pitchers Blake Treinen, Jesus Lozardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse. While Treinen is an established veteran and Lozardo is a mid-level prospect, Neuse is the main prize. He was the sixth ranked prospect in the Nationals system prior to the trade, and is now the fourth best in Oakland’s system.

He is also joined by former Yankees prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprelian. All three were acquired in the Sonny Gray trade. Mateo ranks sixth and Kaprelian seventh in Oakland’s farm system, and Fowler was a Top 100 prospect at the time of the trade. But Oakland has their own home grown prospects to rely on as well. Top prospect Franklin Barreto will have a strangle hold on the shortstop position for years to come. With an even mix of pitching and position players, the Athletics have a shot to compete in the near future. But until ownership shows the determination to bring in veteran talent to supplement their young players, the best they can hope for is to compete on the fringes of baseball’s elite teams.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

Top Ten 2023

The Rays won the Wander Franco sweepstakes with a $3.9 million deal (Sports Gaming Rosters).

As a small market team, the Rays have had to rely on their farm system to keep them relevant throughout their existence. But you won’t find anyone in Tampa complaining, as it has reaped some nice dividends for the Rays. And they seem to be on that same path again, as they have a loaded farm system that ranks sixth in baseball. But the Rays haven’t acquired this talent through big time trades. They’ve done it the good old fashioned way; through savvy drafting and international signings.

Three of the team’s top ten prospects are already knocking on the door to the majors. With that much talent so close to graduating, the Rays are on the edge of rebuild and close to all in contention. But it will take those top three players living up to their potential to vault the Rays into contention. Their depth is not just limited to AAA, as top international free agent Wander Franco also helps bolster the farm system. Along with multiple other players in A ball, the stream of talent should be steady for Tampa long into the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Mackenzie Gore was one of the most impressive starters in rookie ball this season (East Village Times).

8. San Diego Padres

The Padres find themselves in a similar situation with the Rays. A small market team which has to rely on it’s farm system to compete. But San Diego is different from Tampa in one regard. It has already graduated two of it’s top prospects to the majors. And they still have the fourth best farm system in all of baseball. Outfielders Manuel Margo and Hunter Renfroe both had solid rookie seasons for San Diego. While they weren’t Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant esque type seasons, they still showed improved growth. They will need them to continue to grow to support the next wave of young talent.

And by 2023, that talent will have already arrived. While none of the Padres top ten prospects are higher than AA, most of them will have had a taste of the majors by the 2023 season. Their top ten is highlighted by one of their youngest players, left hander Mackenzie Gore. After being chosen as the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Gore blew away the competition in Rookie ball to a tune of 1.27 ERA. Needless to say, Gore is well on his way to being the ace of the Padres rotation. While their farm system is pitcher heavy (seven of the top ten are pitchers), those prospects can always be flipped for position players. But with Margo and Renfroe already a strong core, and impressive young pitching on the way, the Padres will certainly make some noise in the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Carson Kelly will soon take over behind the dish for St. Louis (MLB.com).

7. St. Louis Cardinals

As one of the most historic franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have always relied on their farm system to keep them in contention. An innate ability to blend young talent and established veterans has been key for their success. And with the 11th best farm system in baseball, the Cardinals are primed to make that leap from good to great.

That is in no small part due to their stacked farm system. But the Cardinals have a vastly different system than the previous teams on this list. With five of their top ten prospects already in the majors, the farms system will soon be greatly reduced. But that is just the farm having a bountiful harvest. Pitchers Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara will all be vying for a spot in the rotation in the 2018 season. They will be joined in the majors by backstop Carson Kelly and outfielder Harrison Bader. They will form the core of the next championship run for St. Louis. The farm system of St. Louis is very top-heavy, with nine of the top ten in AAA or the majors already. This will give them ample time to adjust to the major league game, and fully mature.

Top Ten 2023

Alex Verdugo has shown off a sweet swing in his time in the minors (baseballamerica.com).

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

You would think that the Dodgers would be out of contention five years from now. Sure they’re in the World Series, but it is very difficult to keep such a dynamic core together for that long. Include the fact that Clayton Kershaw will be 34 and Justin Turner will be 37 five years from now, and it would be easy to dismiss them from contention. But that would not be us giving them their due. The Dodgers have the willingness to spend like no one else, and a stacked farm system. Those two factors are the main ingredients for success, and the Dodgers are excellent chefs.

The Dodgers have excellent depth in their minor league system, with pitcher Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo claiming the top two spots. They have also reached the major league level, and could be top level contributors in 2023. But they are far from the only pieces Los Angeles can lay claim to. The remaining prospects are all below AAA, but that should bode well for the future years. Given time to grow and develop, players like pitcher Yadier Alvarez and catcher Keibert Ruiz have a chance to be impact players in the next couple of years. Couple that with the Dodgers’ expansive checkbook, and you have a contender for years to come.

Feature image by Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

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three times pitchers went deep

Three times pitchers went deep in the World Series

Pitchers hitting home runs is something we don’t see a great deal of these days. One of the greatest plays that fans could ever hope to witness during a game is dying out. Being that we rarely talk about pitchers hitting the long ball, here are three times pitchers went deep in the World Series.

Home runs by a pitcher in the World Series is a feat that has been accomplished on 15 occasions in MLB history, by 13 players. Here are three such notable instances.

Where have all the homers gone?

Hitting a home run is the epitome of a pitcher helping his own cause. Before 1973 and the advent of the designated hitter, pitchers of both leagues were expected to hit for themselves. It’s no great coincidence that home runs by a pitcher would be more of a common occurrence in those days.

three times pitchers went deep

Warren Spahn, a veteran of 21 MLB seasons, was no stranger to knocking a few out of the park himself. (Photo Courtesy of: Atlanta Braves)

Take Warren Spahn for example. In his 21 seasons of big league ball, he went deep an astounding 35 times, good enough for third place all-time for a pitcher. Spahn, the Braves’ left-handed ace, sits behind leader Wes Ferrell’s 38 and Bob Lemon’s 37. Remarkably though, Spahn does hold the record for number of seasons (17) with a home run as a pitcher.

Pitchers certainly don’t clear the fence in 2017 at the rate they used to in those bygone eras. Admittedly, this downward trend in homers is relative to the sample size, meaning pitchers just don’t hit as often as they used to.

There is still one pitcher who hits his share of taters, and his name is Madison Bumgarner. In his nine seasons taking the hill for San Francisco, he’s also added 17 career homers to back his excellent pitching efforts. Bumgarner might not have had the 2017 season that many envisioned for him, but he became the first pitcher in MLB history to smash a pair of homers on opening day.

Bumgarner is the exception to the rule these days however. There are few pitchers going right now who even look like they have a clue at the dish. What’s more is that a lot of pitchers aren’t getting the at-bats they once did either.

With many rotations now going to the bullpens earlier and with greater frequency than ever before, the home run by a pitcher is only going to become rarer. This begs the question: is the designated hitter coming to the National League soon?

Three times pitchers went deep

Jack Bentley, 1924 World Series

New York Giants vs. Washington Senators (Game 5) off Walter Johnson

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Bentley’s homer in 1924 isn’t merely the fact he went deep. It’s noteworthy anytime a pitcher does a little yard work. To Bentley’s credit though, he’s the only pitcher to ever homer off Walter Johnson in October. This is a monumental feat no matter which way you slice it.

three times pitchers went deep

Dave McNally (left) is photographed with teammate and baseball Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer. (Photo courtesy of: classickicks.com)

In the fifth inning of Game 5 in 1924’s World Series, the Giants and Senators found themselves knotted at one apiece. Heading to the home half of the inning with both pitchers throwing well, nobody in the Polo Grounds that day could have expected what happened next.

Walter Johnson, the hard-throwing 1924 pitching triple crown winner, awaited Jack Bentley’s presence in the batter’s box. He was most likely thinking Bentley would be an easy out. He was dead wrong.

The Giants lefthander did the unthinkable. Bentley banished Johnson’s offering to the right field seats, breaking the one-run deadlock in Game 5 and powering the Giants to a 6-2 win.

This remarkable homer was not a sign of good things to come though. Washington would ultimately prevail in the series four games to three with Johnson picking up the deciding win.

Though Johnson and his Senators teammates had the last laugh, Bentley walked away with a unique bragging right no other pitcher could ever contend with.

Dave McNally, 1970 World Series

Baltimore Orioles vs. Cincinnati Reds (Game 3) off Wayne Granger

Unlike Jack Bentley before him, Dave McNally had the good fortune to both homer and walk away a champion. In 1970, the Orioles were baseball’s best team, finishing the season with a record of 108-54. Dave McNally, was one of their best pitchers.

McNally finished second in Cy Young voting in 1970, posting a league leading 24 wins.

While putting up an impressive showing in 1970, McNally also has the distinction of being one of two pitchers (Bob Gibson) with multiple World Series homers. He accomplished this in both 1969’s ill-fated matchup with the Miracle Mets and 1970’s dismantling of Cincinnati’s not-yet-completed Red Machine.

McNally’s home run in the 1970 World Series is special because it’s the only grand slam by a pitcher in the postseason. Not just the World Series, but in the entirety of MLB’s postseason.

Baltimore’s McNally started Game 3 matched by the Reds’ Tony Cloninger. In fine fashion and like he did all year, McNally pitched all nine frames, scattering nine hits and three runs. In the sixth inning with the bases jacked, McNally sent a deep drive to left field and unjacked the bases. All it took was one mighty swing of that solid ash bat.

Baltimore won Game 3 after McNally kicked the door wide open in the sixth by a score of 9-3. Ending the year on a high note, Baltimore went on to win the World Series against Cincinnati in five games. Their first ever championship.

Joe Blanton, 2008 World Series

Joe Blanton turns on an inside heater from Edwin Jackson for a solo home run. (Photo courtesy of: Boston.com)

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Game 4) off Edwin Jackson

Joe Blanton’s 2008 homer isn’t the flashiest of home runs, nor was it hit by the flashiest of players. It stands out for another reason. It currently stands as the last occurrence of a pitcher going yard on the biggest stage in the sport.

Prior to Blanton, Oakland’s Ken Holtzman was the last player to homer in a World Series. He did so in 1974 and still remains the last American League pitcher to accomplish the feat.

There is nothing that will get the crowd on its feet faster than watching the pitcher go yard. Especially in a World Series game.

The Phillies faithful watched as that day’s starter, Joe Blanton, came to the plate with a 5-2 lead. With nobody on and two out, Edwin Jackson uncorked a fastball over the inner half of the plate. Blanton attacked with authority, launching a deep drive to left-center field for the 6-2 lead.

For the Rays, their fate was all but sealed. Coming in to Game 4, they were already behind the proverbial 8-ball, trailing the series two games to one. After the dust settled and the final outs were recorded in Philadelphia that night, the Rays found themselves 10-2 losers in Game 4.

For any team in the World Series, being down three games to one is like the kiss of death. Amazingly, 35 teams in history have held this lead in the World Series. In only six instances though, did the trailing team come back to win the series. The Rays were not one of those six.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Deadspin.com)

 

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Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League 2017: Youngest Stars

 

The Arizona Fall League is a rite of passage for the very best of the best MLB prospects. Especially for those “kids” down on the farm.

This veritable “proving ground” for major league talent is one of the true gems of the prospect-to-pro pipeline. Every year, each of the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball send a handful of their brightest up and comers to the desert for closer inspection versus a higher standard of opponent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the youngest stars of the Arizona Fall League. You may not know them now, but you soon will!

 

Glendale Desert Dogs

Feeder Clubs: White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Mitch Keller, Age 21

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Finishing Level: Altoona Curve (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Mitch Keller has moved three levels in two seasons in the Pirates organization. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The No. 6 RHP prospect in baseball, Mitch Keller, will be turning out for Glendale this fall in Arizona. He boasts above average control as well as three projectable major league pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Keller spent most his time this season (15 games) taking the hill for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Over 15 starts he struck out over three batters for every one that he walked. His numbers only improved after getting called up to (AA) Altoona for his final six starts. Keller uses a blistering fastball that sits low-to-mid-90s with nasty sinking action, and above average 11-5 curve to make hitters look foolish.

Promoted to (AA) Altoona to finish out the season, this 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Judging by the caliber of his well-advanced arsenal of three plus-pitches, this kid should continue rising through the Pirates system at break neck speed. Thus far, Keller has done all that’s been asked of him at every level and he will be looking to impress again in Arizona. For 2018, Keller should be start the season with (AA) Altoona, but he may not be there long. Should this young man continue to miss an epic number of bats at (AA) level, I would expect Keller to end 2018 in (AAA). He’s getting close Pirates fans!

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Cornelius Randolph, Age 20

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Finishing Level: Clearwater Thrashers (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Randolph, age 20, will be looking to develop his fielding skills even further this fall in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Phillies left fielding prospect Cornelius Randolph is not the biggest of players. What Randolph lacks in size however, he makes up with a good eye at the plate working a (.338) OBP in 122 games at (Advanced A) Clearwater. Randolph is a converted infielder who worked tirelessly in 2017 to improve his fielding ability in left field. Because his focus was on improving as a defender, his batting metrics may have taken a hit, yet he still posted a respectable (.250/.338/.402) for the season.

The key to Randolph making the majors is his bat, without question. Many scouts believe his average defensive ability will be overshadowed by a bat that wants to hit, and hit a ton. Touted as the best pure high school hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft, Randolph has done little to disappoint. His 2016 was largely a throwaway season while he battled injuries that kept him from really capitalizing on an inspiring 2015. However, in his latest campaign he mashed his way to a tie for fifth most homers in the Florida State League.

Considering the tender age of the  Phillies’ No. 12 prospect, it is not likely that he will be rushed up the ladder. He could possibly open the season at (AA) Reading depending on how the Phillies see him defensively. He already has a bat good enough for the level.

 

 

Peoria Javelinas

Feeder Clubs: Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners, Blue Jays

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Andres Munoz, Age 18

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

2017 Finishing Level: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Do not be fooled by the baby-faced Andres Munoz, he wants nothing more than to blow you away with the heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Born in 1999, Munoz is easily the youngest player headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. At just 18 years of age, striking out hitters is not the issue for Munoz. No, hitting the strike zone consistently is. Blessed with electric stuff well beyond what is expect from a teenager, he has had a heck of a time reigning in his pitches and throwing consistent strikes. At 18 though, time is smiling on this young hurler.

With a clean easy motion to the plate, Munoz just needs to find his rhythm and learn to repeat his delivery time after time. Munoz has easy gas, with his fastball exploding out of his hand toward the plate with seemingly little effort. If this kid can iron out the kinks in his game, he could become a dominant pitcher in the majors sooner than later. Munoz is the youngest player on any Arizona Fall League roster in 2017 and after watching him throw you can understand why he’s there. Expect Andres to be toeing the rubber for (Low A) Fort Wayne in the Midwest League come spring 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Ronald Acuna, Age 19

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

2017 Finishing Level: Gwinnett Braves (AAA)

 

Arizona Fall League

If you don’t yet know about Ronald Acuna, you will very soon. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Oh, hot dog! Do I even need to talk about Acuna? I mean, really? Everyone knows this guy by now, right? Look, just the fact he’s on this list should have pitchers everywhere soiling themselves.

Ok, so considering that many of the top ten prospects have mostly graduated to the big leagues (that were ahead of Acuna), this kid should be at the top of the heap come 2018. The No. 5 prospect in all of baseball did everything in his power to make the jump to the majors in 2017. At 19 years of age and with his parent club struggling to win games, the Braves decided to halt his progression at (AAA) Gwinnett. It was a smart move, especially if you regularly attend Gwinnett Braves games. All he did there in 54 games is put up an insane (.344/.393/.548) line, sending baseballs into orbit at a regular pace.

Acuna is just latest Venezuelan to take MLB by storm, well the minors anyway. Acuna’s measurables are out of sight. This is a true 5-tool player by every sense of the word with his blazing speed, howitzer arm, and big bat. Exciting times are afoot in Hot-lanta folks! I mean, this kid did nothing but perform at each level he was at this year. What’s more is that his numbers improved at every stop along the way. Next stop for Acuna in 2018? The Show.

 

 

Scottsdale Scorpions

Feeder Clubs: Reds, Angels, Yankees, Mets, Giants

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Justus Sheffield, Age 21

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Trenton Thunder (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Justus Sheffield is not related to Gary Sheffield. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The first of two LHP on the list of youngest Arizona Fall League stars, Justus Sheffield is also the No. 6 rated prospect down on the farm. Sheffield is another fireballer on this list that can reach back and grab a 96-mph comet, but will usually sit around the 92-93 mph range. Boasting a curbeball and changeup that are projectable big league pitches, the short in stature Sheffield is certainly long on talent. However, he does have work to do in Arizona. This future Yankee needs to learn to consistently get his above average repertoire over the plate for strikes. If he can master his control, the sky’s the limit for Justus.

Sheffield spent the bulk of 2017 in (AA) with the Trenton Thunder except for two rehab starts in (A) ball. In 17 starts for Trenton, the young hurler went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings of ball. His strike out tally is fantastic at 82, and his walks, while still at 3.1 BB/9, have come down dramatically from seasons past. If Sheffield continues to progress, he should arrive in the majors before the turn of the next decade. For now though, he’ll most likely break camp as a member of the (AAA) rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Estevan Florial, Age 19

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Tampa Yankees (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Estevan Florial may strike out a ton, but he’ll happily take you yard in return. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Florial is an intriguing 19-year-old signed from the island nation of Haiti in 2015. This kid could be the center fielder of the future for New York, and it might not be much longer before he stakes his claim to a position once held by Mantle and DiMaggio. Now, this isn’t to say Estevan Florial is in the same mold as those two legendary players, but his talent is undeniable.

At the plate Florial seemingly has all the tools to be an excellent major leaguer. He’s fast, he’s got pop, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. In his first season of Class A baseball, Florial posted a (.298/.372/.479) line across both high and lower levels. While his sample size from (Advanced A) is small at only 19 games, he sported an (.855) OPS over 91 games for (Low A) Charleston. He has some holes in his swing and does whiff a lot, but he also walks a lot (once every 8.4 AB) suggesting that, as he develops, the K’s will come down. At any rate, this young slugging center fielder is poised to start 2018 at (AA) Trenton. Only time will tell if he can grasp the strike zone better as he gets a little older.

 

 

Mesa Solar Sox

Feeder Clubs: Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics, Nationals

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Nolan Blackwood, Age 22

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics

2017 Finishing Level: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Nolan Blackwood shuts the light off when he leaves. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Nolan Blackwood is a stopper. I mean, this kid can slam a door. Unlike most of the other pitchers on this list, Blackwood is one thing, a harbinger of death to your team’s chances to win. The 2016 14th round draft selection out of Memphis has a scary frame at 6-foot-5 with plenty of room left to fill it out. Oakland always seems to have a top-notch pitcher or two working their way through the farm, and Blackwood is no exception.

Blackwood spent all of 2017 in (Advanced A) ball, shutting down games for the Stockton Ports. Sure, he had a 1-5 record. Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA, but it’s what he did with the game on the line that matters most. In 20 chances to turn out the lights on the opposition, he did so successfully 19 times. As he learns more and puts on more lean muscle, his K/9 should reflect that, although his 7.58 K/9 in 2017 are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is his 1.05 WHIP. Blackwood is slated to begin 2018 at (AA) Midland, in the Texas League.

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: 1B/LF Yordan Alvarez, Age 20

Parent Club: Houston Astros

2017 Finishing Level: Buies Creek Astros (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Yordan Alvarez, monstrous young left-handed hitter with jaw dropping pop. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Yordan Alvarez arrived in the Houston farm system via trade with the Dodgers in 2016. Alvarez is a slugger that translates to either left field or first base. While not exceptional with the leather, Alvarez does possess a very good arm in the field. He has been playing in left for much of 2017, but in the Arizona Fall League, he’s penciled in to man first base. At 6-foot-5 225 lbs. the left-handed slugger seems to be destined to play first in the majors.

Alvarez, Houston’s No. 26 ranked prospect has explosive raw power at the plate as shown by his first 32 games at the (Low A) level. Playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits, he mashed (.360/.468/.658) over 111 AB. With nothing left to prove, Houston promoted him to (Advanced A) Buies Creek where his numbers came back to earth with the step up in pitching. Despite only being 20 years old, Alvarez still managed to hack out a (.277/.329/.393) line. Not bad for a player as young as Yordan. Look for Alvarez to be back in the lineup for the Buies Creek Astros at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

 

Salt River Rafters

Feeder Clubs: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Keegan Akin, Age 22

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Frederick Keys (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

“If you blink, you will miss it.” Is what the baseball cornfield gods say about Akin’s heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Keegan Akin is one half of Baltimore’s contribution to the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle is the other, but more on him in just a minute.

Akin is a LHP blessed with a fastball that looks more like a vapor trail than it does a ball. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2016 and is coming off his first full professional season at (Advanced A) Frederick. While his numbers might not jump off the page at you right away, there is still a lot to look at. First and foremost being his beastly 10 K/9 stuff. His electric fastball lit up opposing batters while his slider and changeup are both major league projectable pitches. Known for his ability to get nasty, he peppers the strike zone with ease leaving little doubts that the Orioles see him as a starting pitcher for the future.

Baltimore’s No. 8 ranked prospect is not far off getting the call to the show if he continues to improve his secondary pitches. His inability to fully harness his secondary stuff led to a 4.1 BB/9 rate, but as he learns how to pitch to better hitters his walk totals should begin to come back to earth. Orioles fans should be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this left-handed cannon. What level Akin might start at in 2018 is anyone’s guess, it could depend on how he does in the Arizona Fall League. Frederick or (AA) Bowie are his likely landing spots after camp breaks in March 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 2B Ryan Mountcastle, Age 20

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Bowie Bay Sox (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Baltimore’s 2015 first-round pick, Ryan Mountcastle, has had a meteoric rise through the minors so far. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Mountcastle is currently the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system. At the moment, Baltimore is still holding out hope that this young man can overcome his below average arm strength and stick at short stop. While questions remain about Mountcastle in the field, there are little doubts in the scouting community that he will hit for both power and average at the big-league level. Ryan is a tall prospect with room left on his frame for further growth. And that is scary news for American League pitchers.

In 88 games of (Advanced A) baseball he posted an impressive (.314/.343/.542) line, while smashing 15 round trippers along the way. It was precisely this type of production that ultimately won him promotion to (AA) Bowie, finishing the season against much older competition. Though Mountcastle struggled to come to terms with Double-A pitching in his first 39 games for the Bay Sox (.222/.239/.366), he will almost certainly start 2018 there. This kid is truly one for the future. Get out there to the Arizona Fall League games and take a peek.

 

 

 

Surprise Saguaros

Feeder Clubs: Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Jordan Hicks, Age 21

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Finishing Level: Springfield Cardinals (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League 2017

Hicks has eye popping velocity, and a heavy sinking action on his fastball. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

At just 21, Jordan Hicks already has a fastball that would likely leave an exit hole the size of Pluto if it hit you.On top of a fastball that sits in the lower 90’s (but can ramp up to 98 mph), this young fireballer also has an above average curveball that has a chance to be a plus pitch for him in the bigs. Jordan started 2017 with the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League taking the mound in 14 games and posting a healthy 8-2 record while fanning 63 batters along the way.

He has some control issues to sort out, but upon his promotion to (Advanced A) Palm Beach he saw his BB/9 shrink from (4.5) in Peoria to a respectable (2) in his first 27 innings of Florida State League ball. Though the sample is small, this youngster seems to have found another gear with his step up in competition. The Card’s No. 14 prospect posted 32 strike outs and only 21 hits in eight appearances at the (Advanced A) level. On the back of that performance the Cardinals promoted young Jordan to (AA) Springfield in August, though he didn’t log any innings due to late season injury. Expect Hicks to be a key component to Springfield’s rotation in 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 3B Kevin Padlo, Age 21

Parent Club: Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Finishing Level: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Kevin Padlo is rated as Tampa Bay’s No. 28 prospect. (photo courtesty of: MiLB.com)

Kevin was originally a fifth-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, the organization he played for in his first two minor league seasons. By January 2016 however, he found himself part of the deal that sent LF Corey Dickerson to Tampa in exchange for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Though Padlo struggled some at the plate this year posting (.215/.321/.380) across two levels of minor league ball, there is a lot to like about this young man.

While his batting average might seem low, his (.321) OBP suggests a keen eye, that with more experience should translate to a solid average and 20-homer power. At only 21 years of age, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect already possesses a defensive tool set at the hot corner you would normally expect to find on a player much older. Where he could start 2018 might depend on what he does in Arizona this fall, but as it stands now all signs point to another season in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Colorado Rockies)

 

 

 

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