Axe Bat leading hitting technology

Axe Bat leading hitting technology into the future

There’s a new bat poised to take Major League Baseball by storm. The Axe Bat, developed by Baden Sports, is proof that what’s old can become new again. If you aren’t familiar, the latest development in hitting technology is the Axe-handled baseball bat.

Axe Bat leading hitting technology

A lineup of Victus’ Axe-handle bats before being shipped to Miami Marlins slugger, Giancarlo Stanton.
(Photo courtesy of: whatproswear.com)

The early results by those that have swung them competitively at the game’s top level are remarkable. Axe Bat’s Director of Communications, Matt Peterson, spoke about this revolutionary new bat design in greater detail.

In 2017, at least 35 different big-leaguers swung the Axe-handled bat. Peterson said that together, those players totaled nearly 4,800 plate appearances and more than 1,100 hits.

All time, at least 57 players have used an Axe-handled bat during an official MLB game. It’s this type of growth that is turning more and more hitters onto this innovative design.

It also doesn’t hurt when you compare the hitting lines of those using it, to those still using traditional round-knobbed bats. Over the past two seasons, players swinging the Axe-handled bat design hit a collective slash line of (.273/.463/.805). In comparison, hitters using the traditional round-knobbed bat design put together a collective (.255/.422/.745).

Rookie Hitters

The early returns on performance seem to be paying huge dividends for players who decide to incorporate this new tool into their game. Take San Diego Padres rookie center fielder Manny Margot for instance. He converted to the Axe-handled bat for the majority of the season’s second half in 2017.

“The week he switched, he won the NL

Axe Bat leading hitting technology

San Diego rookie, Manny Margot, before he started realizing the benefits of the Axe-handled bat. (Photo courtesy of: Sporting News)

Player of the Week award,” Peterson said.

What a week it was for the young rookie with stars in his eyes too. Margot slapped Mets and Pirates pitching around the park all week (July 30), going 12-24 at the dish. But wait, there’s more to it than that.

In the first half of 2017 from Opening Day to July 23, before Margot switched bats, he hit (.258/.373/.677) with five homers and nine doubles in 281 plate appearances. After the switch to an Axe-handled bat, however, the difference is amazing.

From July 24 through the final game of the season, the young Margot posted a much improved (.269/.449/.772) over 248 plate appearances. During the final few months of the season, Margot matched his first half output in doubles with nine and hit eight home runs. If you’re keeping score, that’s three more homers in 33 fewer plate appearances. Margot loves hitting with the Axe-handled design it would appear.

Margot isn’t the only Padres youngster swinging an Axe-handled bat though.

“His teammate, Allen Cordoba, another rookie, also swung the bat most of this season,” Peterson said.

Established Professional Hitters

The rookies, however, aren’t the only players in MLB that have had their head turned by the Axe Bat. Established pro hitters are also getting in on the action as well.

Several of this year’s hitters in MLB’s postseason are among those switching from the classic round-knobbed handle to the Axe-handle. In 2017’s playoff field, George Springer, Jake Lamb, David Peralta, Chris Owings, Lonnie Chisenhall, Greg Allen and Mookie Betts all swung the Axe Bat 100 percent of the time in 2017 Peterson said.

Axe Bat leading hitting technology

Dustin Pedrioa steps into the batter’s box brandishing his Axe-handle bat. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

There were also several other players on the rosters of playoff teams who used the Axe-handled bat in 2017.

“Other players on playoff teams who used it in a significant number of at-bats included Dustin Pedroia, Joc Pederson and Matt Wieters,” Peterson said.

Growth within the game is happening rapidly as more players are encountering the Axe Bat.

“Several others experimented with it for a handful of at-bats this year and might be candidates for Spring Training 2018,” Peterson said.

“We anticipate the growth trend to continue as Axe-handled bats become more available, as more performance benefits of the handle are confirmed,” Peterson said. “And we begin showing players some of the new designs and customization options that will soon be available to them.”

One significant performance benefit of an Axe-handled bat is an increase in bat speed. It has been studied by Baseball Prospectus. They confirmed that Axe Bat’s claim to improve bat speed does, in fact, hold water.

Read Baseball Prospectus’ study on the Axe Bat here.

Licensing Axe-handle technology

There’s a good reason many fans haven’t realized this bat has found its way into several big leaguer’s hands. That reason is licensing.

Axe Bat’s patented Axe-handle technology has been licensed to Major League Baseball’s approved wood bat makers. The first of these companies to purchase the right to use the Axe-handled design is Victus Sports.

“That’s why you see Victus’ logo on the barrel of Axe-handled bats.” Peterson said. “Victus Sports was our first licensee. They make a great bat and were instrumental in getting the Axe-handle in players’ hands around the league.”

As more players realize the benefits of this revolutionary bat handle design, more bat makers are sure to be purchasing the rights to make this bat for their customers. Couple this with high profile players like Dustin Pedrioa and Mookie Betts, and swinging an Axe-handled bat and it is sure to find its way into other players’ hands too.

Baseball players are some of the most superstitious people in the universe. One solid hit during a slump and a player can get hooked forever. As more research is done (like the study by Baseball Prospectus) on the Axe Bat, more players are sure to start incorporating it into their game.

Final Thoughts

Since the moment it was created, Axe-handle design has seen significant growth in MLB. The idea for the Axe Bat was conceptualized in 2009 by Bruce Leinert. As a result, by 2017 there were already 35 players who tested it in live competition. Some, like Mookie Betts, have even made it their primary bat. That’s darn impressive growth in the span of eight years.

From a fan’s perspective, is will be interesting to see what impact this bat will have on the game. It’ll be interesting to see the statistical comparison between both Axe and traditional bat designs going forward, especially as more players incorporate the Axe-handle bat into their game.

This should make for some fascinating conversations in the future, no doubts about it!

 

(Feature image: Sports Illustrated)

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avoiding elimination game drama

Avoiding elimination game drama in Game 5

The Houston Astros came from behind in Boston on Monday, becoming the first team to make their way in to a league championship series. They produced some late inning heroics and walked out of Fenway Park 5-4 winners. Avoiding elimination game drama in the division series is one of the most important tasks of any World Series hopeful.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also join the Houston in moving on to the next round of games, sweeping Zack Greinke and Arizona right out of the playoffs. They now await the winner of Chicago versus Washington in the NLCS.

Why it Matters

Elimination games are the proverbial pressure cooker in MLB. There is perhaps nothing that can reduce hardened veterans to looking like a rookie quite like an elimination game. Getting the wins early on in the series is the name of the game.

In all division series that have ever been played, you might think having that deciding game at home would be a big feather in your team’s hat. Surprisingly that’s not the case.

avoiding elimination game drama

Luis Severino celebrates a huge out against the Cleveland Indians in Game 4. (Photo courtesy of: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports)

In the American league, there have been 17 divisional series elimination games since New York defeated Milwaukee in 1981 at Yankee Stadium. Since that inaugural Game 5, the home team has won nine, whilst the visitors have won eight. It’s a true pick ‘em type of proposition. Nothing could be more disastrous to a 102-win Indians team like losing a pivotal Game Five at home.

This is exactly the position Cleveland now find themselves in after last night’s 7-3 Game Four loss. The season, for both clubs, now rides on a fateful Game 5 showdown on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

In the National League, the odds are far worse for the home club. There have been 13 Game 5’s in the history of the NL and, get this, the home team has a paltry four wins to the road crew’s nine collective Game 5 triumphs.

When you roll them all together, that’s a cumulative record of 13-17 for the home team in division series elimination games. The games have been played a litter tighter in the AL than in the NL, but those are odds that I’m not at all interested in tempting if it’s my team gunning for the league title.

The Astros

It would be fair to say this year’s incarnation of the Houston Astros has been brilliant. They pitch, they hit, they hit and they hit. They do a lot of hitting, that would be the main take away here.

Houston has the best team offense in MLB  powered by three-time American League batting champion Jose Altuve. The little spark plug had another momentous year taking home the batting title during the regular season. Altuve however, has saved perhaps his best for last in 2017.

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve goes deep in ALDS action. (Photo courtesy of: Shanna Lockwood, USA TODAY Sports)

The slight statured Altuve stands 5-foot-6, but he might have the sweetest stroke in the game this side of Tony Gwynn. The work he’s doing this postseason is shaping up to be legendary. If Altuve continues to hit at the torrid pace he’s thus far established, his could be one of the best performances of all-time in postseason play.

Like, Lloyd McClendon in 1992 good. For the Pirates that year, McClendon set the record for postseason batting average. He hit .727 in 16 plate appearances over five games. Of course, with the difference in the amount of games the playoffs entail post-1994, McClendon’s record is probably safe for all times.

Red Sox pitching finally solved Altuve in Game Four at Fenway Park. As a result, his average plummeted to a “meager” .533.  However, the sweet-swinging righty did manage to push across the game’s first run. Albeit he did so by grounding into a double play. Altuve won’t get credit in the box score for an RBI, but that run is no less important in the bigger picture.

Houston has come from off the deck not once, but twice. They’ve showed real resolve for a team with World Series aspirations. The Astros are for real.

The Dodgers

What can be said about the Dodgers that hasn’t already been said?

Los Angeles is certainly looking like the team that finished 2017 with the game’s best record. The Dodgers won 104 games during the regular season and has just kept on winning. And they are fresh off the only sweep in division series play this postseason, taking down Arizona 3-1 last night.

avoiding elimination game drama

Cody Bellinger had a huge Game 3, hitting a his first postseason homer and making this spectacular catch. (Photo courtesy of: fanragsports.com)

The best part of L.A. getting the sweep last night, is they get the extra rest for the pitching staff leading in to the NLCS. This could be the biggest advantage the Dodgers have. With the way Yu Darvish was throwing last night, the Dodgers are going to be a tough out this year. He looked strong.

Also, Count on perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw being ready to rock and roll come Game 1 of the NLCS. Take that to the bank. He’s easily been the most dominant pitcher of the last decade. Kershaw just needs some postseason glory to fully cement his status as living legend. Apparently his evil sorcery on the mound isn’t already enough.

Right now it appears the pitching for L.A. is getting stronger. Sure-fire Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger is finding his playoff power stroke. And the rest of the lineup just continues to hit. There really is no question that the Dodgers are starting to play excellent baseball at the right time.

Dodgers fans are hoping for better tidings this year in the NLCS. This will mark the fifth appearance in the league championship series for Los Angeles since 2008. Is this the year L.A. takes it home?

The Rest of the Field

The Cubs lead their division series with Washington, two games to one after taking another closely pitched game 2-1. With 2016 playoffs hero Jake Arrieta taking the hill, Chicago has a chance to slam the door on this series at home. Washington and Chicago square off later today (5:30 EST) at Wrigley Field.

avoiding elimination game drama

Anthony Rizzo is the difference maker as he bloops a vital RBI single for Chicago in the eighth inning of an epic Game 4 showdown. (Photo courtesy of: AP/David Banks)

The division series between Washington and Chicago stands out because of the pitching. While the rest of the league should be considering protective netting around the outfield bleachers, pitchers in this series have been throwing well. The craziest game in the series has been the 6-3 Nationals win in Game 2. Whoa guys, slow down!

Don’t count Washington out yet though! This team has more than enough life in that pitching staff to put the clamps on any offense. The Cubs will be looking to seal the series tonight and stave off a dreaded Game 5. Washington on the other hand, will be looking to force a Game 5 meet-up in Washington D.C. for Thursday.

The Indians meanwhile, are now in a situation where the series comes back to Cleveland for Game 5. The silver lining for Indians fans is that staff ace Corey Kluber is bringing it back on the mound. Kluber will be looking for the win, but it remains to be seen whether that alone will be enough. It’s why they play the games.

There is no discernible trend of good outcomes for hosting an elimination game in the divisional round. In these types of sudden death meetings, home field advantage counts for very little.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

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2017 MLB Playoffs: Could bullpenning change baseball?

After a 162-game marathon, it all comes down to 11 wins (or 12 for wild card participants) for those in the 2017 MLB Playoffs. Baseball’s top eight teams compete to be crowned World Series champions, but only one will prevail. Teams tend to rely on the old adage that defense wins championships.

But offense has been on the rise this postseason. Through 12 postseason games, the average combined score of each game has been over 14 runs per game. That has led some to question the traditional use of starters and relievers to try and stymie this outrageous offensive output.

From starters and relievers to just pitchers

2017 MLB Playoffs

Kenley Jansen posted a 1.32 ERA in the regular season, and could be a huge weapon for the Dodgers (espn.com).

There has been a growing movement among baseball to eliminate starters and relievers and their expected roles. Have the best pitcher start the game, and go from there. And in this postseason, that seems like a sound idea. In the first inning alone, 25 runs have been scored.

Starters like Luis Severino, Ervin Santana, Jon Gray, Taijuan Walker and Doug Fister all gave up three-plus runs in the first inning. That type of performance put their teams at a severe disadvantage, as three of those five lost their teams the game.

These struggling starters eventually gave way to their bullpen counterparts. And in the Twins vs Yankees AL Wild Card game, they came in hot and heavy. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi used four different relievers to bridge the gap between the first and the ninth inning.

But it wasn’t by choice, as starter Luis Severino gave up three runs before handing over the ball in the first inning. Even so, those four relievers (Green, Robertson, Khanle, Chapman) only allowed one run. They also struck out 13 Twins on their way to victory. Even though it wasn’t by design, the Yankees showed how effective bullpenning could be.

Blurring the line between starters and relievers

2017 MLB Playoffs

David Price has found the fountain of youth in the bullpen (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

The difficulty accompanying bullpenning is the use of pitchers not accustomed to pitching a high number of innings. Many of these guys pitch 60-70 innings a year, while starters can easily top 200 innings if they stay healthy.

But the playoffs are a whole different animal. Gone are the dog days of summer and the long home stands. With only a handful of games separating teams from immortality and oblivion, managers should utilize their best weapons in the ideal situations. And as previously proven, that would be at the beginning of the game.

But the idea of bullpenning isn’t limited to utilizing those 60-70 innings pitched guys like Chapman and Kimbrel. A new breed of reliever has started to take form: the super reliever. Pitchers like Chris Devenski and David Price have made the move from starting to the bullpen and have had plenty of success.

And with their experience of starting games, they give their respective managers a valuable weapon. They are capable of pitching multiple innings out of the pen. But what if they just skipped straight into starting the game?

How bullpenning could work

2017 MLB Playoffs

Chris Devenski has been a vital option for the Astros, both starting and relieving (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images).

Bullpenning is a new concept for a lot of traditional baseball fans. Many of us grew up watching dominant starters blow the opposing team away, and those types of performances can still be found. But the argument for bullpenning is not one against starters.

It’s main premise is to utilize the best pitchers at the beginning of the game to maximize their potential. This strategy would not work with a 162-game schedule, but in a condensed postseason (around 20 games or so), it could be a huge equalizer for teams lacking starting pitching.

The ideal situation for bullpenning would be to have the team’s best reliever start the game. That way the offense has the opportunity to score early while having the best chance to limit opposing runs. Said reliever would pitch an inning or two to maximize his potential, followed by another reliever and maybe a starter or long reliever.

By using this strategy, teams can essentially shorten the game and put the pressure on the opposing offense. And with the plethora of relievers able to hit 99+ mph and include effective breaking pitches, offenses could see their run totals plummet.

Relievers often enter the game when the score has already gotten out of hand or is precipitously close to doing so. Their ability to prevent runs is what their teams value the most. But what if, instead of trying to stop the bleeding, it never begins in the first place?

 

Feature image by Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

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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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American League Rookie of the Year: Judge and Benintendi

Nearly a month until October baseball officially starts up, the MLB awards race on. Aside from the MVP and Cy Young awards, the Rookie of the Year award is a major award in the league. Each year, Major League Baseball awards two rookies, one from the American League and one from the National League, based off their talents during their first “full” season in the Major Leagues. For this particular award, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) votes.

Today we take a look at the American League top contenders for the Rookie of the Year. Aaron Judge, of the New York Yankees and Andrew Benintendi, of the Boston Red Sox. Of course, these are the top two rookies who come from the biggest rivalry of Major League Baseball, making this argument between the fans harder than it should be.

Below, shows the hitting lines between the two rookies as of Aug. 22, 2017.

Aaron Judge, new york yankees

.284 AVG, 37 HR, 81 RBI, 167 SO, 121 Hits, 15 Doubles

Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

.278 AVG, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 82 SO, 121 Hits, 18 Doubles

Note that these statistics are year-to-date. Now let’s take a look at the statistics Post ALL-Star Game.

Post All-Star Game

Andrew Benintendi: .280 AVG, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 25 SO, 35 Hits, 4 Doubles

Aaron Judge: .169 AVG, 7 HR, 14 RBI, 58 SO, 21 Hits, 2 Doubles

American League Rookie Year

Benintendi delivers walk-off for Boston (bostonglobe.com)

When the season began in April, it was obvious that Judge was on pace to taking home the Rookie of the Year award, possibly being a MVP candidate as well. Going into the All-Star break, he led the majors with 30 total homers.

A couple days later, Judge took home the Home Run Derby trophy after blasting 500+ foot homers in Miami. After that night finished, Judge peaked for the year.

Since the All-Star Game, Aaron Judge has been a complete bust for the Yankees. He currently holds a 37-game streak with at least one strikeout in each of those games.

On the other side, Benintendi is on a hot streak. In his last 30 games, Benintendi is batting .315 with six homers and 16 runs batted in. In Judge’s last 30 games, he put up a whopping .169 batting average with only seven runs batted in.

Judge performed like no other before the All-Star break. Benintendi was different. Benintendi has been consistent in the Red Sox lineup the entire year. His batting average has sat in the .280 range the whole season, as well as creating hot streaks at various times.

He has moved to Boston’s three hole in the lineup, which has led to great success with batting with runners in scoring position. Benintendi is tied in homers with Mookie Betts, a MVP candidate last season, with 18 total.

Voting vs. fan based

Regardless of the the voting, these two players both deserve the award in their own ways. They both will seek great futures for their organizations.

American League Rookie Year

Judge wins the 2017 Home Run Derby (fox5ny.com)

However, Judge has a better chance of taking home the award. His pre All-Star hitting was unlike anything we have seen in any rookie. To take home the Home Run Derby as a rookie is insane.

That doesn’t mean that this competition isn’t close. It gives you a sense of 2012, when Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both rookies. Of course they both went on to win the Rookie of the Year, due to the fact one was in the AL, and the other in the NL. Anyway, they still get compared today, five years later.

The competition is sparked between the rivalry of New York and Boston.

In a poll from NESN, the fans were asked if they would rather have Andrew Benintendi or Aaron Judge for the next 10 years. Benintendi was selected for 86 percent of the votes. NESN is based in and covers Boston area sports, so the vote was swayed in favor of Bendintendi for sure.

Yeah, Judge will probably take the American League Rookie of the Year award, but that doesn’t mean that Benintendi is a close-second and holds a bright future in the league.

 

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The curious case of David Price and Dennis Eckersley

Just when you thought the Red Sox were set to be in first place until October, something to had to mess it up. As we know, Boston is notorious for their championship caliber teams. However, when Boston is in the media, its hard to get out of it.

For those who aren’t aware, the media has been blowing up this past week regarding David Price and Dennis Eckesley. Now that this situation is completely stirred up, the Red Sox’ front office has found themselves to be in a uncomfortable position.

What Happened?

About a month ago, just like any other ordinary day, The Red Sox boarded a team plane. However, things spun out of control. Earlier that day, Hall-Of-Famer and NESN reporter Dennis Eckersley made a rude remark regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, a pitcher on the Red Sox staff.

Rodriguez’ pitching statistics were brought up on live television, which led to Eckersley saying “yuck” regarding the poor statistics after his rehab start in Pawtucket.

This is where it all began. Price found out, and waited to corner Dennis Eckersley on the team flight. As Eckersley boarded the plane, Price stood up and shouted.

“Here he is-the greatest pitcher who ever lived. The game is too easy for him,” Price said according to Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports.

After Price shouted this, applauds occurred, making this flight longer than expected.

A Month Later…

The unfortunate part about this altercation is the fact that this story was just released to the media over a week ago. What does that mean?

That means that the Red Sox did not act in this situation, inevitably until it found its place in the media. It has made guys like Dave Dombrowski and John Henry look bad, for not taking any action and punishing Price. They are completely embarrassed of this situation.

David Price Dennis Eckersley

Price with the media (CSNNE.com)

So what happens now?

After this story was released, Price was scheduled to start this past Friday, against the Kansas City Royals. Hours before the game’s first pitch, Boston ruled Price on a 10-Day DL due to elbow inflammation.

It’s obvious that Price has been dealing with his elbow since the start of the season, but we all know this was not the reason he was elected to not take the ball on Friday night. He was coming off his best start on the year, against the Yankees, a little over 10 games ago.

We are still yet to know if this was his choice, or the Red Sox choice.

The Media

Like always, the media will be broadcasting each story, simply because that’s their job. You can use the media to your advantage, or they can use it to your disadvantage.

In this case, the media has used it to Boston’s disadvantage.

Not only has the media made Dombrowski and Henry look bad, but it has find its way to the team captain, Dustin Pedroia.

David Price Dennis Eckersley

Photo Courtesy of (youtube.com)

Pedroia was involved in the names of the ones who applauded due to Price’s actions. Although we do not have the honest answer, the media continues to act as in fact this is correct.

The story was reportedly released on July 23 and Pedroia finally made his statement to the media on July 28. The five-day period has made it look worse than what it is for Pedroia. His job is to lead this team, and the media has made him look like he cannot handle this task.

Like Pedroia, Price took his time to take a stand with the media.

Red Sox legend, David Ortiz, who retired after last season and has reportedly had troubles with David Price in the past, has spoken on the issue.

“If he (Price) has to apologize to Eckersley, let’s do it and let’s move on,” Ortiz said according to the Boston Herald.

Price went to the media a week after this story was released. After many claimed Price should apologize, Price proclaimed wanted Eckersley to show his face according to ESPN. Instead of saying a simple sorry, Price had to stir up more click bait for the media.

Price is now claiming that Dennis Eckersley does not show his face enough in the clubhouse.

State of Regret

Since this happened, the Red Sox have lost 14 out of the last 22 games. They have been replaced by the rival New York Yankees in first place.

It’s obvious that Boston is not playing its best baseball right now.

They are distracted. This powerful team is falling apart right now. The players are involved in the media more than they should be, while the front office is being depicted as terrible managers.

David Price Dennis Eckersley

President Dave Dombrowski (Boston Herald)

However, none of this would have blown up if the front office announced this situation immediately, following with punishment for David Price. Instead, they chose to let it go, and for that, the media have ate them up completely.

Of course, the Red Sox’ Dombrowski and Henry wish they have handled this differently.

For David Price, Boston is writing him a check for $31 million a year, due to his record-setting contract. Price handled this position very poorly. Due to respect to the team, he should have talked to Eckersley alone, instead of letting the whole Red Sox team hear.

However, he did what he did, and was given a chance to make this better. Regardless of that, he waits over a week to talk to the media, skips his start against a strong Royal’s lineup and tells them that Eckersley needs to show his face more.

That’s where Boston stands in the news for today. They have lost their first place spot to the Yanks, and need to find themselves again. If not, this team could turn into a complete let-down.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of (si.com)

MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

The MLB season is rolling right along as we are already into the first week of May.

The AL East has dominated headlines of late with the red-hot Yankees and standout rookie Aaron Judge. The Orioles and Red Sox feud has escalated to the point of commissioner involvement and the Blue Jays are the first team to 20 losses.

The Central is a tightly contested race with the Indians only ahead of the next three teams by two wins or less. The West is still the Astros and everyone else, although the angels continue to surprise by holding onto second place.

The divisional standings are starting to take shape, but unfortunately it’s been the negative news that’s been front and center. The recent rash of injuries and nonsense in the AL East has certainly created an interesting news cycle, and provides the focus of the wrap-up today.

An Apple a Day Keeps the DL Away

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

(Photo by Associated Press)

The number of injuries this season has been staggering. Corey Kluber, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Tyler Skaggs are just a few of the recent additions.

The laundry list of critical rotation pieces who have suffered early season stints on the disabled list continues to grow. Position players have certainly had their fair share of injuries, but it appears pitching staffs have felt the greatest impact.

Preseason speculation regarding the disabled list duration rule change predicted an uptick in DL stints, but not this many. The reduction of the 15-day duration was intended to give teams additional roster flexibility. Furthermore, the rule change wouldn’t penalize players and teams as harshly for taking needed rest to prevent injury. The rule change certainly worked.

Soreness, tightness and inflammation have been some of the most commonly cited ailments plaguing the league this season. Questions have begun to arise as to whether or not teams are taking advantage of the new system. This isn’t to say players don’t have legitimate injuries, but the new duration has clearly lowered the barrier.

The impact to the team of losing a key lineup piece hasn’t changed. However, the potential of key rotation members to only miss one start as opposed to multiple may help explain the rash of trips to the DL. It will be interesting the monitor the usage of this system throughout the season and if the league addresses the topic after the season ends.

Ignorance in the East

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

(Photo by TIM BRADBURY/GETTY IMAGES)

There hasn’t been much good to come out the most recent matchups between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen fans hurling peanuts and racial slurs followed by players hurling pitches at each other.

The Adam Jones incident has sparked a great deal of discussion around the league and rightfully so. While it’s truly unfortunate anyone has to endure that type of shameful behavior, it has put a renewed focus on how organizations handle this type of behavior.

The conversation on how teams manage fan behavior will continue to evolve. It was encouraging to see the post-incident fan reaction. The standing ovation Jones received after the story came to light was a particularly classy move by Boston fans.

It’s fine to have rules and policies around this type of behavior. However, as fans, we all have an obligation to hold one another accountable and not let a few individuals ruin the reputation of city, a team or a fan base.

An Eye for an Eye

The Jones incident was ugly, but it wasn’t the only absurdity in the series. The headhunting saga should be at its end now that the commissioner is involved. Rob Manfred was forced to get the managers and general managers of both clubs on the phone to discuss the feud.

The duel has been well-documented, and it raises concerns about the unwritten rules of baseball. The game of baseball has always been played with a not-so-secret honor code that all players abide by. Players who showboat or play recklessly often find themselves on the receiving end of a retaliatory fastball.

Whether you enjoy this aspect of the game or not, there is little doubt this behavior is on its way out. We’ve seen an increased focus on player safety in recent years starting with the “Buster Posey” rule that eliminated catcher collisions. Based on that trend, there can be little doubt that firing pitches at players’ heads won’t be tolerated moving forward.

Suspensions and fines have already been applied in this situation. Don’t be surprised when we see these events become rule-book changes as soon as this offseason.

 

(Featured Image by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

 

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Chris Sale Goes From One Sox to the Other

In case you had been living under a rock, Chris Sale has been a major trade target ever since he had his major outburst and cut up a bunch of jerseys. This made him by far and away the most attractive trade or free agent target for teams looking to contend. He is a true ace in a league that no question lacks number ones.

With the Winter Meetings in full swing and trades and signings happening left and right, this is probably the most notable deal. Honestly, this is probably the biggest deal in the last 365 days and probably will be until the next trade deadline.

Most rumors had been that up until this morning the clear front-runner was the Washington Nationals, but today the Red Sox came in and gave the White Sox an offer they could not pass up.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

In return for the illustrious but troubled ace, the White Sox got arguably the best prospect in baseball, 2B/3B Yoan Moncada. With him they also got the Red Sox’ number five prospect, RHP Michael Kopech, the number eight prospect OF Luis Alexander Basabe, and their number 29 prospect in Victor Diaz. All ranking and stats below are courtesy of MLB.com.

This deal works out well for both teams. Let me break it down for you.

For the White Sox, this is probably the best deal that they could have hoped for. Moncada is an absolute stud who can either play 2nd, 3rd, or DH. It will depend on if they feel he is a better fielder than either Todd Frazier or Brett Lawrie. Frazier has always had a solid glove so I doubt they move him. My bet is Moncada either plays 2nd or DH and bats in the 2 or 6 hole in the lineup. Either way they will make sure his bat is in that lineup everyday.

But Moncada is not the only player in this deal. Yes, he is possibly the best prospect, but the White Sox also get Michael Kopech with him. He was drafted in the first round in 2014, has great size at 6’3”, and can hit the upper 90’s with a developing slider. The hope is that he becomes a top of the rotation guy as he gets older. I imagine he will realistically be looking at a 2018-2019 call-up time.

Basabe is also a very interesting piece. He is someone who can hit from both sides and is starting to show some power. If he can keep hitting well as he moves up and gets those strikeout numbers down he could be a middle of the order bat. This is not something that you see very often in young played anymore as they are encouraged at a young age to focus on one side of the plate.

Lastly, the White Sox get Victor Diaz. This kid has a cannon for an arm. His only problem is that it is taking him a little while to learn to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. With time this guy could develop into a top-end closer if he can continue to learn his slider and splitter in tandem with the fastball.

What this signifies is that the White Sox are probably renewing the farm and will soon start to sell off other players. I imagine this will not be the last deal they make this winter.

For the Red Sox, they are getting a bonafied major league ace. The lanky lefty had a league high six complete games, 226.2 innings pitched, and 233 strikeouts. He’s also a perennial All-Star, Cy Young candidate, and someone who even garners MVP votes.

during game one of the American League Divison Series at Progressive Field on October 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

They are adding him to a rotation of this year’s surprising Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, previous Cy Young winner David Price, knuckleballer Steve Wright, and Padres Former ace Drew Pomeranz. This is easily a top 5 pitching rotation next season if everyone stays healthy.

Along with the high powered offense the Red Sox have, this team is easily a top early World Series contender.

While it will hurt the Red Sox farm quite a bit, it is clear with this move, the pick up of Tyler Thornburg, and their current pursuit of Mitch Moreland, that the Red Sox are going for it all.

Overall it seems as though both teams got exactly what they are looking for. With starting pitching at such a high demand, it is no surprise that the Red Sox had to give up this much in order to grab Sale.

One For The Ages

(Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

(Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

The stage has been set. Game 7 of the NBA finals. One game to determine the NBA champion. Will it be the Golden State Warriors who won a record 73 games? Will it be back to back titles vs the same team? Will Steph Curry set the Warriors up for a potential three peat and begin to make a case that he will be one of the greatest players ever?

Or will it be the Cavaliers who’s city, Cleveland, is looking for its first major title since 1964 in a major sport. Will LeBron become a hometown hero and win it all for his city. Will the Cavaliers be the first team to ever come back down from a 3-1 deficit in the finals? There are many questions that will be answered Sunday in a historic game seven.

Before we get into the game and what might or might not happen we need to just pause and realize the great moment in sports history. This game seven will go down in history as one of the greatest sports moments of this generation and maybe even in all of American sports history. A team with 73 wins vs. a team trying to end a city’s 52 year championship drought. It may be a long time before we see a game of this magnitude again.

If you were old enough to remember Super Bowl XXXIV (34), when the Rams beat the Titans and on the final play of the game, Kevin Dyson, of the Titans, reached his out stretched arm as far as he possibly could and fell just one yard short of winning the Super Bowl.

We all remember when the Red Sox famously came back from a 3-0 deficit to their archival Yankess in the 2004 American Legaue Championship Series and eventually ending an 86 year championship drought.

Just last year we witnessed American Pharaoh win the first Triple Crown in 37 years in horse racing.

These three examples are all extremely historic moments in American sports. We can think about exactly where we were, or what we were doing when they happened. As they happened we couldn’t believe our eyes. It all seemed impossible and gave us goosebumps. That is what will happen Sunday in game seven. We will witness a historic moment.

This game is intriguing for many reasons. The Cavs are the first team in 50 years to force a game seven in the finals when trailing 3-1. The Cavs and Warriors enter game with with both scoring 610 points. This is the first time in history that two teams enter game seven of the NBA Finals with scoring the exact same amount of points. This is the type of game that you remember and talk about for decades.

LeBron is coming off of back to back 40 point games. Curry is coming off a 28 point performance before eventually fouling out and being ejected. It is easy to tell both players want this badly. It means a lot to each player’s personal legacy but to win this game seven it isn’t what LeBron or Steph do that will determine the out come. It comes down to the roll players.

LeBron and Kyrie will have their handprints all over this game but they need Tristian Thompson to get a double double. They need J.R. Smith to hit three or four threes. If Smith and Thompson have great games the Cavaliers will win their first ever championship.

Just as we know LeBron and Kyrie will get theirs, so will Steph and Klay. The Warriors also know they can count on Draymond Green to make a big impact as well. Andre Iguodala’s back will be of major concern because if he can’t contribute defensively then nobody will slow LeBron down. The x-factor in this game will be Harrison Barnes. Harrison Barnes has had wide open shots in games five and six but has only shot 2-22 from the field, and 1-12 from beyond the arc. In game six he didn’t make a single shot going 0-8 from the field and 0-5 from three. If he is able to score between 12-15 points in game seven the Warriors will repeat as champions.

This game is a tough one to predict and with taking everything into account I just can’t imagine the Warriors losing three straight games, in which two of those games being at home. The Warriors are a historically great team. A game seven win will cement the legacy of this 73 win team as one of, if not the, greatest team of all time. I think Steph scores at least 35 points and the Warriors win their second consecutive championship 104-99.