MLB best hitters

MLB update: League’s best hitters

When they were children, today’s MLB players dreamed about hitting a home run in a sold-out ballpark. Now, those same children have made their marks as household names, along with snagging Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards along the way. Here is a look at some of the league’s best batters of 2018 so far.

Some of these players have also showcased exceptional fielding prowess. But it is from inside the batter’s box they have shown to be the most dangerous. Both the American and National Leagues host plenty of formidable batters. There is still plenty of baseball in store, but these hitters have become leaders of their respective packs.

American League’s Best Batters

In the AL, a race for the Triple Crown is picking up heat. The amazing part is the three players in the lead play in the same division, and two of them play for the same team. The first player swinging for the title is Boston’s Mookie Betts.

MLB best hitters

Mookie Betts (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For someone to win the Triple Crown, that player needs to lead his league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Betts reigns supreme in two of those categories. He shares the lead for most home runs with 15, along with a .365 batting average.

However, the 25-year-old stands 10th in the AL in RBIs with 32. This does not take anything away from what he has accomplished this season. We will be seeming him break the 100 career home runs mark well before the All-Star Game in July.

His teammate, J.D. Martinez, is the other player Betts shares the home run lead with. Martinez has tallied 15 home runs and 41 RBIs, along with a .343 batting average. In his last seven games, Martinez has gone yard five times and driven home eight on a .346 average. If he continues picking up steam, the 30-year-old could take over the AL MVP debate, as well the Triple Crown.

The third candidate for the coveted hardware is Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. Machado currently stands as the current American League leader in RBIs. His .343 batting average and 14 home runs are nothing to sneeze at either.

Unfortunately, the All-Star shortstop is one of very few bright spots for Baltimore this season. He is almost certain to return to the All-Star Game after missing it last season. Hopefully, the Orioles can turn things around in the upcoming games.

National League’s best batters

There may not a very tight battle for an NL Triple Crown, but some players have commanded more than respect from the batter’s box. Odubel Herrera of the Philadelphia Phillies is one of them.

MLB best hitters

(Photo by Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

Herrera currently leads the National League in batting average this season. He has also cashed in seven home runs and 30 RBIs. As for the rest of Philadelphia, they have won seven of their last 10 games and are fighting for the NL East with Atlanta. If Herrera and company can continue this momentum, we will be seeing them in October.

Speaking of Atlanta, first baseman Freddie Freeman is taking names from the batter’s box in 2018 too. Freeman boasts a .321 batting average, along with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Though Freeman has struggled a bit in recent games, the Braves are still running hot this season. Atlanta holds a slim lead over the rest of the NL East, but if the Braves wish to expand their lead, Freeman and company will have to bring more pain than ever before. Not to mention the Phillies are right on their tail.

Arizona Diamondback, A.J. Pollock, has made noise with his bat as well. Pollock has brewed up a .293 batting average with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. However, he has hit a small slump in recent outings, as well as the rest of the Diamondbacks. But with some well-advised adjustments, Pollock and the gang could get back to dominating the NL West.

moving forward

Of course, these are merely a handful of the league’s best batters. There are plenty of names around the league making impacts this season. Now the question is, can these players continue their strides for the months of baseball still yet to play? Confidently, fans and experts will watch for what these players can do, in addition to whoever begins to appear on the radar.

 

Featured image from Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Boston Red Sox slump

The fall of the Boston Red Sox

A little over a month ago, the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball. They were sitting over four games ahead of the AL East and rolling on both sides of the ball. But since April 20, they are 11-12 and have fallen a game back of the mighty New York Yankees.

The Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 and just cannot seem to beat the Oakland Athletics (1-4 this season). The quality starts and the offense have not slowed down, but the bullpen has had a tough time nailing down close games.

The situation

Prior to April 20, the Boston Red Sox were 17-2, playing some of the best baseball in the league and sitting comfortably atop the AL East. Since then they have free fallen. David Price, Hector Velazquez and Carson Smith have all been in and out of the disabled list, hitters have gone cold and besides Craig Kimbrel, it seems like the back end of the bullpen is more than struggling.

There is not really one true problem to point to with the Red Sox so far. Although it was impossible for them to keep up their early season torrid pace, no one had them going 11-12 following a 17-2 start.

David Price

Boston Red Sox slump

David Price (Photo from Boston Sports Journal).

Well here we are with David Price again. Price has a 4.89 ERA with just two quality starts out of his eight. He is averaging the lowest total amount of pitches thrown per start of any Red Sox starter this season. He is averaging a walk every two strikeouts.

He is on pace to have the highest ERA of his career and is already rapidly approaching his season averages for runs allowed, and he has only pitched 42.1 innings.

Obviously it is early in the season, but Price has yet again struggled for the Boston Red Sox. He is on pace to have his worst statistical season of his career.

Hector Velazquez

One of the best pitchers on the staff might not be one that casual baseball fans have heard of. Hector Velazquez is quietly going about his work and has a 2.10 ERA through 25.2 innings.

He has started two games and appeared in eight others. He has given Boston’s offense a chance to shine. He is 5-0 this season, has kept the ball in the ballpark and also has not handed out free passes. He has quietly been one of the best pitchers on staff, and the Red Sox cannot get him back fast enough.

The top of the lineup: The good

1. Mookie Betts, 2. Andrew Benintendi, 3. Hanley Ramirez, 4. J.D. Martinez, 5. Xander Bogaerts.

The top five of the Red Sox order has been the most consistent thing there is.

Andrew Benintendi is on an eight-game hitting streak where he is hitting over .360. Mookie Betts has hit three leadoff home runs this season and is sitting squarely in the MVP conversation. Hanley Ramirez, outside of his recent woes, has been hitting around .300 and is seemingly knocking a runner in every single night. J.D. Martinez is hitting well over .300 and is proving that he is not just a power hitter, but one of the best overall hitters in all of baseball. Finally, Xander Bogaerts has been the most consistent hitter this season. The five of them account for 130 of the Red Sox 213 RBIs thus far.

The pen

There has been some good in the Red Sox bullpen. However, as the Sox are rotating pitchers in and out, the pitchers have hiccuped. Carson Smith was just recently placed on the 10-day disabled list. He was having a solid first half to the season before hurting his throwing shoulder.

The long relief pitching has struggled for the Red Sox. In 19 1/3 innings, Heath Hembree has given up 11 runs. Brian Johnson, who has been in and out of the bullpen, has given up 14 runs in 21 innings. Steven Wright, who has finally returned from injury, has given up two runs in two 1/3 innings. In other words, when the Red Sox are down in a game, they struggle to get back in it. The long relief pitchers have struggled to pick up the starters when they have struggled.

The Boston Red Sox are not a good come-from-behind team this season. In games that Rick Porcello and Chris Sale start, they have seemingly dominated this season. Due to the fact that the two starters can almost always be counted on, the Red Sox always jump out to an early lead. Just to speak the obvious, everyone is more relaxed when a lead is acquired early in a game.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Richard Rodriguez

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Five superstars off to tremendous starts in 2018

(All stats as of 4/24 10AM)

Early on in the 2018 MLB season, we have witnessed some historic performances, from some not so historic figures. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the hottest offense in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. San Diego’s Christian Villanueva homered three times in an April victory over the Colorado Rockies, and is currently leading the league in SLG and OPS.

Ryan Flaherty, utility man for the Atlanta Braves, is slashing .339/.446/.468. Keep in mind, Flaherty is a lifetime .223 hitter. Nobody in baseball has more hits than Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. In four starts, Astros RHP Charlie Morton is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.

Still, a lot of the top superstars in today’s game are on pace for monster years. The sections below are comprised of five megastars who have started the season exactly how we expected, if not better. All five of these players have yet to turn 27, and, by the numbers, are all on pace for historic careers.

Mike Trout

Over the last seven days, Mike Trout is hitting .417 (10-for-24), with three steals, four runs, and five extra-base hits. Three of his five XBH are home runs, as Trout homered in three consecutive games, during the series with the San Francisco Giants. This brought his home run tally up to nine, which means he is on pace for 63 this season.

Currently, Trout leads the league in WAR, and home runs. The 26-year-old ranks fifth in XBH, seventh in SLG, steals, runs, and hits, and ninth in OPS. Obviously, Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but if he retired today, he would have a legitimate case at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Just take a look at these facts.

Trout is on pace for 63 HRs. (SportingNews)

During his rookie season, Trout would go on to, statistically, have the highest WAR season by any rookie in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0. He joined Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, and Ted Williams, as the only rookies to hit 30 or more home runs with a batting average better than .325.

The kid from Millville, NJ has five seasons of at least 7.9 WAR. That is tied with Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Mike Schmidt.  His six seasons of OWAR greater than 7 has him tied with Honus Wagner, and ahead of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, and Mel Ott to name a few.

# OF SEASONS REQUIRING BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
AROD + NINE OTHERS 1

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts is the ringleader behind Boston’s incredible 17-4 start. Betts, who finished second behind Trout in the 2016 AL MVP voting, is making a strong case early on as the best player in the AL. The highlight of his season so far came against Trout’s Angels, as the 25-year-old Betts went 3-for-3 with three home runs, three runs scored, and a pair of walks. He already has eight multi-hit games, and has three leading-off the inning home runs.

Betts leads the league in batting average (.366), runs scored (23), doubles (8), and OPS (1.191). He also ranks fourth in SLG, fifth in OBP, and eighth in total bases. While his career is not as decorated as Trout’s, the Boston outfielder has a chance to go down as one of the greats.

# OF SEASONS WITH 18HR, 20SB, 402B, 160H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

 

Bryce Harper

Baseball’s “Chosen One”, Bryce Harper has lived up to the expectations that were set for him as a teenager. Harper, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season, is in line to get the biggest contract in MLB history, if he stays healthy and has a big year. So far, Harper has an NL-leading 8 home runs, with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and a .462 OBP. When the game is tied, Harper is hitting .412 (7-for-17), including four home runs.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WHO HAVE HIT 150 HR, 500 RUNS, 1400 TOTAL BASES, 780 HITS

(In no particular order)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
MEL OTT
JIMMIE FOXX
MICKEY MANTLE
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT
FRANK ROBINSON
ALBERT PUJOLS
BRYCE HARPER

 

While his career has been affected by injuries, Harper is still on a Hall of Fame pace. Before he turned 25, he already had five seasons with 20HR, 20 doubles, and a .340 OBP. The only other players with five seasons mirroring that stat line, before turning 25-years-old, were Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott.

Harper leads the NL with 8 home runs. (New York Post)

In 2015, at age 22, he became the youngest player in MLB history to post a season with 40 HR, .330 BA, .450 OBP, and .640 SLG. Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx, who held this record before, all accomplished this at the age of 24.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado

Like Harper, Machado is 25-years-old and is also an impending free agent after this season. Over the past week, Machado hit .500 (12-for-24) with five home runs, seven runs scored, and eight RBIs. He, along with Manaea, were named AL Co-Players of the Week.

Overall, Machado is slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. He leads the league in OPS+ (218), and total bases. Now a full-time shortstop, Machado is very similar to a young Alex Rodriguez, without the steroids.  He and ARod are the only two players in MLB history who posted a season with at least 50 doubles before turning 21. In 2015, he joined Rodriguez as the youngest players in MLB history (both 22 at the time) to post a season with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals, and a batting average north of .285.

Heading into the 2018 season, Machado had three seasons, before turning 25, with 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 160 hits, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hal Trosky for second all-time. Albert Pujols had four such seasons before he turned 25.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WITH H>=860, HR>=130, 2B>=170 AND TB>=1470
ALEX RODIGUEZ
MANNY MACHADO
MEL OTT
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT

 

Aaron Judge

After hitting .179 during his first taste of the bigs in 2016, Judge went on to have, historically, one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. He set the rookie record in home runs with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s previous record of 49. His 8.1 WAR was the fourth best all-time for a rookie, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Dick Allen.

He became one of five players, joining Barry Bonds, McGwire, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, to post a season with 50 home runs, 120 runs scored, 120 walks, and 340 total bases. This year, Judge has picked up right where he left off, batting .325 with 20 runs scored and six home runs. He currently leads the league in walks (20) and OBP (.469). While it is too early on in his MLB career to compare him to some of the greats, Judge could very well go down as one of the top power hitters in the history of the sport.

Featured image by Newsday

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fantasy baseball spotlight

MLB 2018 fantasy spotlight

Almost a full month of the new MLB season has passed. Like other professional sports, people are taking part in fantasy leagues once again. Everyone has eyed the big names in the fantasy spotlight, like Mike Trout and Jose Altuve. But when those big names everyone wanted got off the boards, participants needed to adjust at the draft. Now the draft is long gone, and the season is now rolling.

In this fantasy spotlight, several names have risen to the top of the boards as predicted. But some players are firing hot and grabbed attention from fantasy experts and participants alike. Whether from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, here are some players catching fire this season.

fantasy spotlight: Ascending aces

This pitcher has been somewhat of a journeyman in his big league career. But last year, he was part of the World Series champion Houston Astros. Who is Charlie Morton?

fantasy baseball spotlight

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images & justfantasybaseball)

Don’t let his age fool you. At 34 years old, Morton has brought blistering heat in his second year with Houston. He stands with a 3-0 record and an ERA of 0.72. Not to mention, teams have a measly .176 batting average against him.

With pitchers like Morton on board, fantasy participants, along with the Astros, should look to No. 50 to stay ahead of the competition.

Off to an equally hot start is Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 28-year-old lefty has recorded a 1.89 ERA and a 4-0 record. Also, batters have only scrapped up a .140 average when facing No. 46. Fantasy players might want to look into Corbin before someone else snags him.

Staying in the NL West, Chad Bettis of the Colorado Rockies is another name to look out for. No. 35 has racked up a 3-0 record and yielded a 1.44 ERA. The Rockies will still have more work to do. Their pitching staff has an ERA of 4.83, which is just 13th in the National League. But for those fantasy participants, Bettis could be the one to give their pitching staff a boost.

fantasy spotlight: bruising batters

Stop me if you have heard this before: The Boston Red Sox are off to the hottest start in baseball this season. One of the more noteworthy components, if not the most, is Mookie Betts.

fantasy baseball spotlight

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Betts, as of right now, leads the entire MLB in batting average at .366. Plus, he has belted four home runs in his last seven games. No small part due to Betts, Boston leads the AL in team batting average and RBIs. Fantasy contestants better add the 25-year-old right fielder to their rosters the second they see he is available, because by the time you blink, it is already too late.

Staying in the AL, we have another right fielder fantasy participants should keep on their radars. Meet No. 17 of the Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger. In 2018, Haniger has cashed in seven home runs and 22 RBIs. Not to mention his batting average has shot up in the last seven games. If anyone in the fantasy league is in need of a big bat for their lineup, Haniger is a wise choice.

Over the NL West, there is a third baseman making splashes at the batter’s box. From the San Diego Padres, it is Christian Villanueva. The 26-year-old is boasting a .355 batting average, along with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Three of those home runs and eight of those RBIs came from his last seven games.

For the Padres, No. 22 is a bright spot in an otherwise shaky start to 2018. But for the fantasy league, Villanueva can be a valuable asset to a roster’s offensive production.

conclusion

By no means are these all the players on a hot streak this season. The season is still very young, and anyone can start going on a tear at any time. But the difficult part is staying hot for the weeks to come. On top of that, fantasy league participants need to stay on alert for injuries and occurring slumps. Once more players start tearing it up, the league will take notice. Once that happens, participants will need to be to quick on the draw to bring these names on board.

 

Featured image by Charles Krupa / Associated Press

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Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox historic start

In Shohei Ohtani’s first home start, Los Angeles fans sold out Angel Stadium in anticipation of seeing more dominance from the Japanese right-hander. This was the first sellout in four years, the last one being Mike Trout bobblehead day. Against the red-hot Boston lineup, Ohtani lasted just two innings, exiting early due to a blister on a finger on his pitching hand.

While throwing 66 pitches in his two innings of work, Ohtani allowed three runs, on four hits and two walks. Ohtani appeared extremely vulnerable as the Sox swung and missed only three times. This is what happens when you don’t get to face the Oakland Athletics every time you pitch.

Mookie Betts hot start

Ohtani watching as Betts’ lead-off HR clears the fence (San Bernardino Sun)

To lead off the game, Red Sox star Mookie Betts crushed a home run to left field. He wound up finishing the game with three home runs, three runs scored and a pair of walks. This was Betts’ third three-homer game, which ties him with Ted Williams for the most three-homer games in Red Sox history. This was the second time this season that a player in the MLB went 3-for-3 with a trio of home runs, as San Diego’s Christian Villanueva did this two weeks ago against the Colorado Rockies.

Betts is now first in the league in runs (19), doubles (7), batting average (.389), OPS (1.289) and OPS+ (246). In 2016, Betts finished runner-up to Mike Trout in AL MVP voting and became the youngest player in MLB history with a season of 40 doubles, 30 home runs, 25 steals and 350 total bases. The Sox slugger was just 23 years old at the time, passing Alfonso Soriano, who was 26, and previously the youngest player to accomplish this feat.

Last season, Betts’ finished third in doubles, fourth in defensive WAR and ninth in overall WAR for position players. Coming off back-to-back All-Star Game appearances, Betts has solidified himself as one of the top players in the game, offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 54 home runs and 75 doubles.

Was Betts always this good? If yes, did he always have a tremendous amount of power despite being listed at just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds?

YA BETTS BELIEVE

Coming out of high school, scouts, according to Baseball America, claimed Markus “Mookie” Betts “could be a difference-maker for his hitting ability, speed and solid athleticism.” He committed to the University of Tennessee, but decided to sign with the Red Sox after they selected him in the fifth round in the 2011 MLB Draft. His signing bonus was a lofty $750,000.

Betts played in just one Rookie Level Gulf Coast League game in 2011, and boy was it memorable. While he did hit a pair of singles, Betts committed three errors. In 2012, Betts got his first real taste of pro ball, playing in 71 games for the Lowell Spinners in Short-Season A Ball. In 251 at-bats, Betts hit a whopping zero home runs, and just nine extra-base hits. He was drawing plenty of walks and still getting on base, but it was not until mid-April of 2013 in which Betts cleared the fence for his first professional home run.

Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts as a member of the Greenville Drive. (Photo from VAVEL.com)

During that 2013 season, now a member of the Single A Greenville team, Betts started the year ice-cold. In early-May, Betts had a batting average of .145. However, Carlos Febles, then coach of Greenville, saw serious potential in Betts, noting that Betts was hitting the ball extremely hard, and just getting really unlucky.

“At one point, he was hitting the ball at least three times hard during the game and not getting hits. I remember giving him an extra day off just to give him a mental break,” Febles said according to the Boston Globe.

Greenville’s hitting coach, U.L. Washington, saw a star in Betts, even though the numbers said otherwise. Former Red Sox hitting coordinator, Tim Hyers, was quoted saying “U.L. thought he (Betts) would drive the ball one day because his hands are so quick and he’s got such great body control…It was, like, ‘It’s just a matter of time. This guy is going to figure it out.’” Washington believed Betts was a bit too passive, trying to draw walks instead of being aggressive.

The talks with coaches and the time out of the lineup led to a difference in Betts’ approach. He finished that 2013 season slashing .314/.417/.506 with 15 home runs in 127 games. The following year, Betts, between Double and Triple-A, hit 11 home runs in 99 games and was called-up to the show.

Now, in 2018, the 25-year-old has had quite the start to his MLB career. Below is a table which exemplifies his numbers, based off players younger than 25.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH 18 HR, 20 SB, 40 2B, 160 H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

Red Sox hot start

For the first time in franchise history, Boston has won 14 of their first 16 games. Previously, they had won 13 of 15 to start the season in 1946, and began the year 12-4 on seven separate occasions. They lead the AL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS and doubles. They rank second in the MLB in ERA and have allowed the fewest home runs in the AL.

Mookie Betts hot start

Does this look like the face of a coach who can lead his team to a title in his first year? YES. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

Clearly clicking on all cylinders, you have to wonder if the coaching change was exactly what the Red Sox needed. In 1912, Jake Stahl, first-year manager of Boston, coached the team to a 105-47-2 record and capped off the season by winning the 1912 World Series. In 1918, Ed Barrow’s first year as manager of the Sox, Boston again, won the World Series. After Grady Little’s inability to pull Pedro Martinez from Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boston brought in Terry Francona for the 2004 season, the same year that Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought.

After a miserable 2012 season, Boston fired then coach Bobby Valentine and welcomed in John Farrell. In Ferrell’s first year, Boston won the 2013 World Series. Do you see a trend here? In 2018, Alex Cora’s first year as manager of the Red Sox, Boston is one of the best teams in the league. Are they destined for a World Series title because of the “first year as manager with the Red Sox” success in the past?

 

Featured image by NESN.com

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highlights of the week: Lindor

This week’s MLB highlights

As kids growing up as sports fans, we have at one point dreamed of playing in the big leagues. We have also imagined ourselves creating big performances that would attract the attention of the masses. We watched highlights of our favorite teams on TV or online. Our eyes remained glued as players came in clutch to lead their teams to victory. Baseball is no stranger to this scenario.

In the words of Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) from the 2011 film MoneyBall, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Every week of baseball yields opportunity for players to step up and create waves throughout the league. No matter the team, no matter the player, no matter the circumstancesm anyone can create highlights by doing their part.

American League highlights

Arguably, the American League highlight of the week comes to us from the Cleveland Indians.

MLB highlights

(Photo by Getty Images)

On April 17, The Indians kicked off a two-game series with AL Central rivals, the Minnesota Twins, in the island of Puerto Rico. For Cleveland shortstop, Francisco Lindor, it was a homecoming game to remember. Born in the city of Caguas, it was there the two-time All-Star began his baseball journey. Lindor also played for the Puerto Rican National Team in last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Returning to his home turf, Lindor lit up the ballpark with a two-run homer. These were also the first two runs scored in the game. Other Indians pitched in, giving the Tribe a 6-1 victory. Cleveland now sits on top of the division.

Elsewhere, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox is creating highlights of his own. The 25-year-old right fielder has been incredible in the month of April. Facing the Los Angeles Angels, Betts belted three home runs in Boston’s 10-1 victory over Los Angeles. According to NESN, Betts’ performance has put him in the record books. Betts has tied Red Sox legend, Ted Williams, for the most three-homer games in franchise history. Not to mention, the two-time All-Star is only 25 years old.

Currently, the Red Sox have a three-game lead over the rest of the AL East.

National League Highlights

The Miami Marlins are bulling through their rebuilding process, and have had it rough in 2018. Sitting at the bottom of the NL East, Miami visited the Bronx for a two-game series with the Yankees. In addition, this was the first time the Marlins would have to play against Giancarlo Stanton. The Pinstripes blazed the Marlins 12-1 in the first game.

MLB highlights

Photo from fishstripes.com

But the Marlins fought back in the final game of the series. Starting on the mound for the fish was left-hander Jarlin Garcia. Through five innings, Garcia blanked the Pinstripes. In addition, run support did more than well for Gracia, with help from Derek Dietrich, Starlin Castro and company. In his 2018 season debut, J.T. Realmuto also joined in with a three-run homer.

Through it all, Garcia cashed his first win of the 2018 campaign. The highlights here are the efforts of the Marlins pitching staff. They finished what Garcia started and suppressed an intimidating batting order. Furthermore, the Marlins split the series with New York after winning 9-1.

The Marlins will once again take on a former Marlin as they travel to Milwaukee to take on Christian Yelich and the Brewers.

Over the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are continuing their strides. On April 17, left-handed pitcher, Patrick Corbin, remained undaunted, as well as undefeated against the San Francisco Giants. the 28-year-old ace pitched a complete game and cashed his third win for 2018 via a shutout. The Diamondbacks only dished out one run in the game, but it proved to be enough. Furthermore, Arizona remains comfortably at the top of the division. They will also have to keep momentum building as they continue the three-game series with the Giants.

Looking ahead

As the season continues, the league will be watching as more players look for chances at stardom. The season is still young, and there will be enough chances for other stars to make highlights. Each team has its own mountain to climb, but a breakthrough performance can help build morale and set the tone for games to come.

 

Featured image from Cleveland.com

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Boston Red Sox: The difference

The 2018 baseball season is just 15 games young, but the Boston Red Sox have the best record in the Major leagues. They have won 13 out of their last 14 and have won their last four in a row. The Red Sox have never jumped out to 10-games above .500 faster than they have this season (14 games). In 15 games they have given up 47 runs which translates to just over three runs a game (3.07 which is fourth in all of baseball).

Their offense is in the top four of baseball in runs (86), batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349) and slugging percentage (.445). Their pitching has been equally as impressive. The Red Sox have 11 quality starts in fifteen total games which is the best number in all of baseball. They are also fifth in the league in WHIP at 1.16 and eighth in the league in batting average against at .225. The Boston Red Sox have been the most balanced team in baseball.

The Offense:

It seems as though it’s a different bat every night for the Boston Red Sox. They have 14 players on their roster with at least one run batted in and have seven players so far with at least one home run. Every member of their opening day starting lineup has at least nine hits and no one has more than 18 in Mookie Betts. J.D. Martinez and Hanley Ramirez both have three home runs and over 12 RBIs through 15 games this season. Despite the Red Sox slightly increasing their Homerun total comparatively to last season, they are striking out less and turning in better quality starts on the mound.

The Missing Pieces:

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz, (AP Photo/Steve Nesius).

It’s so easy to forget that the Boston Red Sox are missing some of their most important pieces. Hector Valazquez and Brian Johnson, although extremely talented, are just filling in for Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz to come back from injury. Drew Pomeranz is the biggest missing piece. He is a lefty that all of last season pitched like an ace. He finished the season at 17-7 and have a 3.34 ERA which was good for third among the starting pitchers last season. It was one of his best seasons and he is waiting to join the team again.

The other important missing piece is Dustin Pedroia. Many people forget about the former MVP because he hasn’t played in seemingly ever. Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox everyday second baseman. What will happen when he gets back is a logjam of everyday infielders and one will be on the outside looking in. It might even be Dustin Pedroia who goes from everyday starter and MVP to backup if the lineup stays this hot.

Xander Bogaerts:

There was no one hotter at the beginning of the season than Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop was hitting .368 with two home runs and nine runs batted in in just nine games and 38 at-bats. Half of his 14 hits were doubles and he didn’t make an error in those nine games. Now he has been pushed to the 10-day disabled list and has been seen in a walking boot to protect his injured ankle. Since his injury, however, the Red Sox are 4-1 and Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin have been fantastic since he has left. One thing is for sure, the Red Sox don’t have a bunch of depth in the middle infield on their 40-man roster.

What they can do:

The Boston Red Sox have tons of balance and depth. The pitching staff essentially has four aces on it when healthy and their starting lineup doesn’t have a single easy out in it. Barring a bullpen collapse they would be 14-1. The Boston Red Sox will only go as far as their hitting takes them. The pitching has been there and that has been proven for the last three seasons with the same rotation. J.D. Martinez has been added to an already potent lineup and after scoring 29 more runs than opponents this season, the Boston Red Sox seem to be firing on all cylinders. Despite everyone talking about this new look New York Yankee lineup, the Boston Red Sox have a 3.5 game lead on the AL East, and the Yankees aren’t even the team in second place.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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Boston Red Sox: Aces are dealing

The Boston Red Sox are coming off a rather disappointing ending of their season last year. Although they won the division in 2017, they finished last in the American League in home runs hit. Even though the offense put themselves in good scoring situations it seemed as though they could never get the big hit. Fast forward to the 2018 offseason and the Red Sox add J.D. Martinez to center a very balanced lineup, seemingly solving some of their power struggles.

Now the season is underway, and like the 2017 season, the Red Sox are off to a solid start. At the same time, it looks eerily similar to the Red Sox we saw last season.

The Ace’s:

The Boston Red Sox have had four starting pitchers throw so far this season: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Hector Velazquez (arguably not an ace).

Those four have combined to throw 24 innings, walking just five, giving up just two runs and striking out 23. The total ends up being a 0.75 earned run average. They also combined for a 3-0 record to start and just five total walks and barring an Opening Day meltdown the starters would be 4-0. Although it is against the Tampa Bay Rays, it is the first time in the team’s history that the starting pitchers in the first four games have allowed a run or less in each outing.

The starters have done exactly what the did a vast majority of last season only they have done it more effectively so far. They are giving the offense a chance to hit without putting them in a hole and then having the bullpen close the door.

The Heart Attack Bullpen:

The Boston Red Sox

Joe Kelly, (Fox Sports).

It’s never easy when the ball is handed to the Red Sox bullpen. Although effective, they normally make it much more stressful than it needs to be. Opening Night was a perfect example.

Joe Kelly, coming off a career season, kicked off a nightmare of an eighth by getting just one out and giving up four earned runs. Carson Smith assisted that Eighth by getting two outs and giving up two runs himself, which would end up being the difference in the game in the end.

On Easter Sunday, Joe Kelly had a different outcome but still made Red Sox fans oh so nervous. He came into the ninth up 2-1 in the game and looking for his first save of the season. After getting two quick outs, he gave up back to back singles before finally striking out Dennard Span to end the game.

Waiting on some struggling pieces:

Two of the Red Sox “Killer B’s” have combined for just one hit in 21 plate appearances. Both Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are important pieces in a very strong offense.

The two hit .271 and .245 respectively last season and Benintendi came in second in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting. Although Bradley is known more for his tremendous glove, he is still a streaky hitter and can more than hold his own at the plate. If it’s anything like Mookie Betts’ struggles, they will be just fine. Mookie went 0-17 to start spring training. Despite a struggling bat then, he is hitting .286 now and has been hitting the ball hard in his outs.

Another piece that is somewhat struggling is the newest addition. J.D. Martinez is hitting just .200 to start the year. He five strikeouts compared to just three hits in 15 plate appearances to start the season. He was held hitless until the third game of the season and didn’t look comfortable yet in his new location.

Improvements:

I think that the pressure on J.D. is that he is supposed to be the homerun guy on the Red Sox. It’s not that he’s playing badly, it’s that fans expect him to have the power numbers they thought they paid for this winter.

The Red Sox have two home runs this season so far. One was an inside the park home run on a defensive mistake and the other was by a guy who finished last season with 10 total home runs. The Red Sox offense will need to pick up the pace as the season moves forward because there will be days in the near future where the aces have off nights.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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young players best shot at cooperstown

Hitters 25 and under with the best shot at Cooperstown

Francisco Lindor

young players best shot at cooperstown

Lindor has been a leader in the resurgence of the Indians. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Cleveland Indians shortstop has broken out as one of the best young players in baseball. 2017 was a pivotal year for him as he stuck with the trend in baseball and cranked out way more home runs than anyone expected. While his average took a bit of a dip, he was able to show his potential.

What we may see from him in the future is the home runs coming back down to reality after the 33 last year. Some guys may have been sacrificing their batting average for the long ball, and Lindor may have been one of those guys.

While his defensive prowess may have been great last year, it does not mean he won’t be able to turn it back around. He is a solid defender with high offensive potential at this point. He did not come into the league with big expectations at the plate, but seeing that Lindor is only 24, the potential looks great.

Carlos Correa

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft had high expectations the moment he came into the league. Correa has been a big part of the Astros’ road to success. While there are many players and executives who had a whole lot of influence on their championship, Correa got the ball rolling.

Correa has as much raw power as any shortstop in baseball. If it was not for his thumb injury last year, he may have hit 40 home runs.

Where his game shines on the diamond is his rocket arm. While you may not see him make the spectacular plays, his arm certainly can make up for any missteps that may occur in the field.

Correa has serious Cooperstown potential because of his great odds to consistently hit for a .300 average with 35 home runs. There are a lot of big things to look for with this 23-year-old as he has only reached the tip of the iceberg with his potential.

Bryce Harper

young players best shot at cooperstown

Harper has already cemented himself as one of the best in baseball. (Photo from ESPN)

Out of everyone on this list, Bryce Harper is the most obvious and best bet for Cooperstown when he decides to hang his cleats up down the road. He has already cemented himself as one of the new young faces of the league. It may not seem like he is too young anymore because he has enough experience to be a seasoned vet, but he still has at least another decade to go of solid baseball.

Harper was all over the internet before he was drafted for his monstrous power that he has already showcased at the major league level. He has not shown off those skills in the Home Run Derby, but that shows just how serious and dedicated he is to his game.

Harper is also in the last year of his contract with the Washington Nationals. He will be the hottest free agent on the market since Alex Rodriguez. With all the years he has ahead, he could possibly draw a $400 million contract. No matter where he goes, he certainly is on the fast track to the hall.

Mookie Betts

Out of the four players on this list, Betts may be the biggest long shot to make it in the end. He has been in the MVP discussions the past couple of years, but does not have the overwhelming power or averages you might expect to see in a superstar.

Betts is an all-around player that can fit into any lineup. He is an excellent athlete and a natural ballplayer. He is an above average defender who also can steal a few bases. Betts will not light up any particular stat category on the list, but he will put up solid numbers in every one of them.

The 5-foot-9 outfielder does not let his height slow him down at all. Players like Betts and Jose Altuve have proved that you may not need those physical tangibles some scouts think are needed.

What to bank on with Betts is a consistent player who will do what needs to be done. We will see if he puts up the stats needed to make it to Cooperstown, but he certainly has the potential to succeed at the highest level.

 

Featured image from Bleacher Report

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AL East

Who is chasing who in the AL East?

The Red Sox finalized a deal on Monday to bring in perhaps the best hitter on the free agent market, J.D Martinez. Martinez provides a much needed punch to a Boston lineup that finished sixth in total runs scored in 2017. It isn’t like the Red Sox struggled to score in 2017, but it will definitely help keep up with an impressive New York Yankees squad.

The Yankees made the biggest splash this offseason by taking on the vast majority of Giancarlo Stanton’s massive contract, and only really giving up second baseman Starlin Castro. The Judge-Stanton-Sanchez trio will be one of the toughest middle of the order bats to get through in the league.

The question here is, who is chasing who? The Yankees may have made it to the ALCS in 2017, but if you ask them, they have some unfinished business with the Red Sox. Despite making it further than them, Brian Cashman and the Yankees feel they have something to prove to Boston. The Red Sox won the AL East in 2017 and the Yankees just made it though the Wild Card.

What do all these moves mean for 2018 though? Is there a clear favorite between the two?

Coaching

This is interesting as both teams are being taken over by new managers. Despite the fact that both teams had relative success in 2017, the front offices felt that it was time for a change. It wasn’t a bad idea either as they both have solid teams, but they just weren’t getting to where they wanted to be.

It is way to early to tell who has the edge here. Aaron Boone is coming off of a job at ESPN to coach the Yankees, while Alex Cora was the bench coach for the team that won the World Series in 2017. Despite that fact, there is not to much to go off of here.

Verdict: Push

Defense

AL East

Betts is among the best right fielders in baseball (ESPN)

Mookie Betts has turned into one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball. Not only that but one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. He finished with a 2.6 WAR on defense which was fourth best in all of baseball.

Neither team finished great defensively in 2017 though. New York finished eighth in total fielding while Boston was at 12th. New York finished with the edge but Gary Sanchez behind the plate is a real liability for the Yankees. His bat is second to none but his inability to block pitches can really hurt them in tight situations. Giancarlo Stanton is another guy with a cannon for an arm, and Brett Gardner has a solid glove.

As mentioned, Betts has become one of the better defenders in baseball. However, the rest of the team leaves some work to be done. Boston’s defense does not look much different than last year with Martinez likely taking up the designated hitter role, so expect more of the same from them.

Verdict: Yankees

Pitching

AL East

Chris Sale had a tremendous 2017 regular season for Boston. (NESN.com)

Boston and New York finished fourth and fifth in team ERA in 2017. Boston is headed up by Chris Sale, who is a favorite to win the Cy Young every year. However, the Yankees have a rising ace of their own in Luis Severino. Severino was not able to keep it together in the Wild Card game, but that should not take away from his breakout year with a 14-6 record and sub 3.00 ERA.

Severino is backed up by Mashiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray who both have had success in New York. Both of them finished with an ERA in the mid threes. The real punch of their pitching comes from the back of their bullpen though, and that is where it can get real challenging for opposing teams. Aroldis Chapman still may have the strongest arm baseball has ever seen, and Dellin Betances could be a closer all on his own.

Top to bottom Boston may have the edge in the rotation though. With two Cy Young winners along with David Price and Drew Pomeranz coming into his own, Boston has an impressive rotation. Outside of Craig Kimbrel though, the bullpen could be better. That is where the Yankees have them beat.

Although the two teams are extremely comparable on the pitching front, Boston has the slightest edge.

Verdict: Red Sox

Hitting

AL East

Expect a lot of big flies in the Bronx (MLB.com)

The addition of J.D Martinez makes the Red Sox a scary one top to bottom. However, it is very difficult to argue against Stanton and Judge taking up the middle of the lineup. They both finished with the most home runs in baseball, and Gary Sanchez has the ability to bash 35 homers on top of that.

Didi Gregorious has also turned into one of the better shortstops in the games at the plate, along with Greg Bird who has a chance to showcase his power for a full season. The Yankees have a couple more holes with Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro out of New York though, but Stanton certainly makes up for that.

Boston is expecting Benintendi and Devers to come into their own as young stars in the majors. Until then though, the Yankees have more certainty on the offensive front and should be able to overpower anything Boston throws their way.

Verdict: Yankees

How will the season play out?

The Yankees have the best chance to run away with the AL East title in 2018. The Blue Jays should also not be ignored as guys who can disrupt any sort of run, but the real race is between Boston and New York.

It will be a close one but the Stanton trade makes the Yankees offense too scary. Barring any injuries, the Red Sox will have a tough time defending their AL East title.

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