The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is 83 days away, but never fear you can start voting for your favorite players today here. You get 25 votes that gets bumped up to 35 if you log in with your MLB.com account. Of course there are still paper ballots that can be found at every stadium and the MLB Fan Cave for you to fill out. While I don’t fill out mine until I get a better grasp of who deserves it (like that ends up mattering) here’s what my ballot would look like on April 24th.
American League: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles Davis is off to a hot start for Baltimore. He’s hitting .382 with an AL-leading 7 home runs coming into the games on the 24th. Mike Napoli and Prince Fielder have cases and Napoli would be my pick if he was on the ballot at catcher, not first base. (Runner-up: Prince Fielder, Tigers)
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds The power numbers aren’t there, but Votto-matic is automatic at getting on base leading the league with 26 walks so far and a crazy .485 OBP. The next highest walk total is 16 by David Wright. (Runner-up Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers)
American League: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees I can make a case that Robinson Cano is the MVP of the American League right now. Then you can make the case that it’s April 24th and that’s stupid. (Runner-up Ian Kinsler, Rangers)
National League: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds It must be nice for Phillips to just get to drive in OBP-machines Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo getting on base ahead of him all the time. He leads NL second baseman in RBI and is tied for the lead in home runs. Plus, he’s the best defender at the position in the league. (Runner-up Daniel Murphy, Mets)
American League: Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics Lowrie has been quite a coup for Billy Beane’s boys. Lowrie leads AL shortstops in runs, RBI, and batting average. (Runner-up: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays, I’m not joking either)
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies Why have the Rockies been surprising in 2013? A healthy and hitting Troy Tulowitzki is a big part of it. He leads NL shortstops in home runs, RBI, and runs, while hitting .292. (Runner-up: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers)
American League: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers The defending AL MVP is off to a quiet start, but is still among the league leaders in hits and is best among AL third sackers in batting average. (Runner-up: Evan Longoria, Rays)
National League: David Wright, New York Mets I really wanted to have NL batting leader Chris Johnson here, but Wright has had the overall better start to the season, especially on the basepaths. There’s a lot of depth here right now with Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, and Martin Prado off to solid starts. (Runner-up: Chris Johnson)
American League: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays Napoli not being on the ballot at catcher is Arencibia’s gain for now. He leads the American League in home runs with eight after another one on Wednesday. He’s my least likely from here to be on my actual ballot in a couple months. (Runner-up: Carlos Santana, Indians)
National League: John Buck, New York Mets Let’s just sum up Buck’s start with this meme. (Runner-up: Evan Gattis, Braves, wait he’s not on the ballot?!?)
American League: Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, and Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles These three have been the best all-around outfielders in the American League this season. It’s not my fault that they’re all center fielders. (Runners-up: Austin Jackson, Tigers and Alex Rios, White Sox)
National League: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, and Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals There is a ton of depth at National League outfield right now. You could take the next four on my list and make a case they deserve it on to the squad. Justin Upton has been hands-down the best hitter in the game so far this season, it’s ridiculous that he’s still on pace for 90+ home runs. (Runners-up: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, Dexter Fowler, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, and Andrew McCutchen, Pirates)
American League: Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians Reynolds has been a great find for Cleveland with seven home runs and 18 RBI, both are top ten in MLB right now. (Runner-up: Travis Hafner, New York Yankees)
Who would you have on your All-Star ballot on release day? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much. Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors? Let’s take a look!
Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles
Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation. James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings. The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria. If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape. I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.
Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East: The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready. Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012. Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic. Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step. Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble. The Blue Jays really are that good.
Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team. The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow. It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though. Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season. The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.
Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East: It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds. Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year. The bullpen still has a ton of question marks. Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team? Is Sergio Santos completely healthy? Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old? The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those. Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one. Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?
Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East: First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone. John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse. Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012. The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy. Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention. Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”. Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively. The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch. Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half. Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010. John Lackey is John Lackey. The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.
Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East: They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out. They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs. The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half. The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps). The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division. Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.
Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The injury bug is just too much. The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break. They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.
Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck. The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season. Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year. Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace. Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.
Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games. The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year. Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division. With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.
Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays
Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox
David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays
CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees
Jon Lester-Red Sox
R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays
Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays
Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox
Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
I’m sure some or maybe all of you have heard that Jeremy and I made the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave in 2013. We’ve been blown away by your support so far and we want to start by saying thank you.
Now for the main event! The 2nd annual jersey draft battle! I may have had the worst pick in the draft last year (Adrian Gonzalez, who’s no longer on the Red Sox), but I did score the NL MVP’s jersey (Buster Posey) with the 2nd to last pick. Plus, I got to give grief all season for Jeremy picking Matt Cain 4th overall.
The rules are simple: I will pick 1st because Jeremy had the first choice last year. Jeremy will get 2nd and 3rd picks and then alternate from there. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. You can only have one player, per team on your own draft. Both of us can pick a player from the same team, for example Matt Cain/Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder were all picked last year. It does play into strategy, because it let me wait on Posey, knowing Jeremy couldn’t take another Giants player. Without further adieu!
Team Mapes Pick #1, #1 Overall: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Last year, I picked Albert Pujols at #3 overall based on the long length of his contract ensuring great use from his Angels jersey. This year, Trout is the most exciting player in the game and is under team control through 2017. Trout’s jersey’s the hands down top pick to me. You’re getting five seasons of sweet-jersey wearing time. Bonus points for completing the Trout ensemble with a foam Trout hat. I might have just let Jeremy get a steal of Pujols or Josh Hamilton later in the draft though, time will tell. You’re up Mr. Dorn. I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be repeating your top pick from 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #1, #2 Overall: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles
Two things: First, Mapes is absolutely correct. No way I’m not going to take my first overall pick in last year’s draft, Matt Kemp. Not only is he under contract in Los Angeles through the decade, but when healthy he is the best all-around player in the game. Teammates like him, fans like him, and even opponents like the laid-back, uber-talented center fielder of the Dodgers. He came freakishly close to a Triple Crown and 40/40 season in 2011, and will look to return to that form after injuries derailed him last year. Oh, and secondly — give me crap all you want for the Cain pick, but the dude threw a perfect game last season and I hypothetically had that jersey!
Team Jeremy Pick #2, #3 Overall: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
I snatched this pick off Mapes’ team from last year, and I’m glad I did. Votto has been one of the most consistent, destructive hitters (when healthy) since he entered the league, and will be mashing in Cincy through 2024 under his current contract. Votto should always be a favorite in the National League for the MVP award, given his batting average, on-base percentage, power numbers and defense in a given year. Plus, the jersey just looks GOOD!
Team Mapes Pick #2, #4 Overall: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
There are so many options at this pick it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk (or type) out loud and give you any ideas though! I think that Cutch was going to be your next pick so I’m grabbing him now. He’s under team control through 2018, a great player, and completely entertaining as evidenced by his MLB Fan Cave videos. He’s a player you WANT to root for and a baseball fan that has a Pirates jersey when they finally end their sub-.500 season streak will be looking good. That being said, I really hope you don’t take the player I strongly considered here. McCutchen moves up from the #8 jersey overall selected in 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #3, #5 Overall: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Oh, yes I did just pick the J-Hey kid from your own squad! No way I’m letting you stack your lineup with one of the best and most popular players in the game today. After a dismal sophomore season in 2011, Heyward bounced back to prominence and beyond in 2012, and will be a power-hitting, web gem-making, on-base getting (huh?) beast for at least the next four years in Atlanta. Snag his jersey now, before it’s too late. Mapes, when you’re done crying that I’ve drafted your boy, feel free to make your next pick!
Team Mapes Pick #3, #6 Overall: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU JEREMY?!?! I’ll have to console myself with the TWO Jason Heyward shirseys that I have hanging in my closet. Don’t worry, I have a plan for my Atlanta Braves pick later. There’s only one real way to get back to you and that’s with a picture of the Giants having a champagne celebration. When was the last time the Dodgers did that? Posey is a great jersey pickup, solid name, defending NL MVP, and safety of knowing he’ll be in the orange and black for a long, long time. Plus, Posey and I are birthday buddies on March 27th!
Team Jeremy Pick #4, #7 Overall: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
That is a low blow, my friend. I’ll pretend there is just a bubbly leak from the sprinklers in that clubhouse picture. Jones is quickly climbing the chart of all-around athletes in MLB and fans are really starting to take notice. Not only is Jones a graceful defender, but he’s only just starting to fully develop the offensive side of his game at age 27. He’s signed in Baltimore through the 2018 season and is extremely close to breaking into McCutchen popularity territory in my opinion. This is the only orange and black jersey in my collection this year, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #4, #8 Overall: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Adam Jones is a solid pick, but I’d rather have a new Orioles hat than a jersey, I think. I’m going back to an MVP I took at #5 last year. Braun is basically going to be a Brewer forever, or at least 2020 seems forever away. He’s been consistently good so far in his career and I don’t think there will be much of a drop off later in his career. It’ll always be cool to wear a Braun jersey, especially in the Badger State. Eight picks in and we have six National League player jerseys…interesting.
Team Jeremy Pick #5, #9 Overall: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Given recent news, that pick could become problematic for you. I really hope it doesn’t, and I’ll give you mad props for taking the risk. I’ll continue the run on National Leaguers with the first pitcher of the draft. Of all the exciting young pitchers who I was eligible to select here (remember, I already took Kemp, so Clayton Kershaw was out of the question), I wanted to snag one of the most popular pitchers in all of baseball. Strasburg is a freak of nature on the mound and lights up the radar gun and TV ratings every time he pitches. Not to mention, he’s locked up through at least 2017.
Team Mapes Pick #5, #10 Overall: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Thanks so much for letting me wait and just steal Bryce Harper at the end of the draft. This pick was basically made for me with the news of King Felix’s extension. He’s now the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, that shows to how great he is. He’s a Cy Young award winner, the face of the Mariners franchise, and you’ve gotta love the King’s Court fan base. Seven years in a Seattle uniform and those trade rumors go away? I’m sure there will be a large influx of Hernandez jersey’s flying off shelves. Let’s just hope they don’t change their uniform scheme.
Team Jeremy Pick #6, #11 Overall: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
I have a couple of things to say about that pick: First…SO LUCKY! If only that news had broken after you made your pick. Second, the Mariners should never change those awesome uni’s. Anyway, I’m going old-school with the Jeter pick. One of our criteria is length of contract, which will obviously not last forever for DJ. In fact, in the unlikely event that he declines his option for 2014, this could be his last year in baseball. But some players’ legacies live on forever, and this first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of them. His jersey was still the top-seller in all of baseball in 2012, and will be popular for years to come, and not just in New York.
Team Mapes Pick #6, #12 Overall: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
I can’t hate on the Jeter pick even though his time is almost up. The Yankees #2 will join #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8 as timeless jerseys to wear for Bronx Bombers fans. You know who’s time isn’t almost up? Evan Longoria. The Rays all-star is under team control through 2023. I would type that year in all caps, but the year is numbers. Hmm… he will potentially be a Ray for the next DECADE. There that works. I’ve had a Longoria shirsey for three seasons now, I hope it doesn’t wear out over the next ten.
Team Jeremy Pick #7, #13 Overall: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You know what is a formula for success? Besides signing Albert Pujols and Hamilton in successive years, I mean? It’s taking the guy who had MLB’s second-highest selling jersey in Texas last year, and moving him to Los Angeles for at least five years, where his jersey sales will go flying off the shelves again. You’re going to see a ton of Hamilton jerseys in Anaheim this year, and if this draft weren’t hypothetical, I’d be sporting one myself.
Team Mapes Pick #7, #14 Overall: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
What’s not the formula for success? You taking your Angel when you could’ve waited until the end to grab him. Plus, I think I take the extra years of jersey wearing from an Albert Pujols Angels jersey over Hamilton, but I digress. Can you believe Starlin Castro is only 23 this season? Seems like he’s already been around forever. He’s under team control until 2020, which also gets you through Castro’s prime. You’ll be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the bleachers for a long time rocking the Castro jersey. Bonus that the Cubs will never really alter their jerseys.
Team Jeremy Pick #8, #15 Overall: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Except that the Cubs might still be irrelevant in 2020. Just kidding. Castro is a cool pick, but I’m going with a different shade of blue on this pick. In his return from injury, Joey Bats will enjoy the comforts of a much-improved team in 2013. If the entirety of Canada didn’t already have his jersey, they will after this season when the Jays are sure to be featured on national TV broadcasts as much as possible. He’s signed through at least 2015, and will probably have his option for 2016 picked up by the team.
Team Mapes Pick #8, #16 Overall: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
I really want to take Giancarlo Stanton, but his uncertainty in Miami worries me a ton. My final two picks I already have planned out in my head from teams you’ve already taken. That leaves Tulo, who is so talented, but has the injury problems galore. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-star and a potential superstar. He could be in the purple and black for the rest of this decade, so you’ll get plenty use of this jersey.
Team Jeremy Pick #9, #17 Overall: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
I’ll admit, I was hoping Tulo would slide to me at this pick. But a very nice consolation prize is somehow grabbing the best overall catcher in baseball this late. The Cardinal jerseys are classics, and Molina is the best all-around player wearing one right now. He had one of the top-selling jerseys last year (probably mostly Cardinals fans), and will be wearing the birds on the bat until at least 2017, likely beyond. He may be one of the least appreciated players in baseball, but I’m showing him some love in the jersey draft for the second straight year!
Team Mapes Pick #9, #18 Overall: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Molina was on my short list, but after what the Cardinals have done to me the last two years I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of team jerseys I don’t want to wear, but I’m going to be objective here. Harper is a future star of the game and will be in the nation’s capitol for three years or more. I’d lean towards the or more part. I don’t like him, but I respect the way he plays the game. It’s a solid jersey for a fan to buy. Plus, I got out of picking David Wright at least?
Team Jeremy Pick #10, #19 Overall: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
This. Just. Happened. The reason I let you snag Evan Longoria earlier is because I knew I’d have this available to me for the last pick. Myers, the top prospect in baseball, isn’t a sure thing — no prospect ever is. But he’s going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays, who have him under control for at least six years, and will likely lock him up for longer as soon as he puts in a little service time. Judging by the last 15 position players who won Minor League Player of the Year (Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Mike Trout to name a few), Myers is going to be a very good player in the Majors, and I’ll be the first to have his pretty-lookin’ Rays on my back. Top that, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #10, #20 Overall: The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves
How do I top that? By going with the sweetest custom jersey in Braves history. You get not one, but BOTH Uptons. Special thanks to them for deciding to wear single digits to make this work. I went with the 82 because Justin plays in left, therefore his number goes on the left. This jersey will be good to go for 3-5 years and even if one leaves, just pull off one of the numbers and the S and you’re still set. Truly, saved the best for last!
Honorable Mention Team Mapes: Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, David Wright-Mets, Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder-Tigers, Joe Mauer-Twins, Martin Prado-Diamondbacks, and Eric Hosmer-Royals
Honorable Mention Team Jeremy: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies, Aroldis Chapman-Reds, Mariano Rivera-Yankees, David Price-Rays, Carlos Santana-Indians, Yoenis Cespedes-A’s, and Jose Altuve-Astros
There you have it. The 2nd annual Jeremy vs. Mapes jersey draft is complete. Now it’s up to you, readers! Vote in the poll below to tell us if Mapes will take home his second consecutive jersey draft title, or if Jeremy strengthened his squad enough to earn the victory. Here are the overall teams:
Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Starlin Castro, Troy Tulowtizki, Bryce Harper, Justin/BJ Upton
Team Jeremy: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Wil Myers
Remember, vote for the 10 jerseys YOU would rather have, not which group makes up the best hypothetical team. Let us know in the comments which jersey you want in your closet! Thanks for reading! You can like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or follow @3u3d on Twitter!
The World Baseball Classic returns for the 3rd time starting March 2nd. Fellow blogger Jeremy Dorn gave his rankings of every team in the WBC last week. (I haven’t figured out how he has South Korea 11th either) I wanted to delve more into team USA’s chances and how the roster stacks up.
Who’s In: Joe Mauer-Twins, J.P. Arencibia-Blue Jays, and Jonathan Lucroy-Brewers
Who’s Out: Buster Posey-Giants and Brian McCann-Braves
Interesting that the deepest offensive position with three players is at catcher. They clearly want to rotate these guys so they don’t get too banged up before the MLB season begins. Not being able to score the defending NL MVP in Buster Posey is a tough blow to team USA, but having hitting machine and former AL MVP Joe Mauer lessens the blow. He could even be the designated hitter option, when Arencibia or Lucroy are behind the plate. Arencibia’s inclusion seems to coincide with R.A. Dickey’s appearance on the roster. The two are now teammates in Toronto and have been working together to have knuckleball success. I’m sure the Blue Jays will be pleased with them getting reps together in high pressure situations. Lucroy had his best season at the plate last year, but was hampered by injuries. He’ll be a solid offensive piece down the lineup. Getting Posey on board would’ve made this an easy A, but alas. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Mark Teixeira-Yankees
Who’s Out: Prince Fielder-Tigers, Paul Konerko-White Sox, Adam LaRoche-Nationals, and Freddie Freeman-Braves
I would’ve much preferred the bat of Prince Fielder, but I have no qualms with Teixiera joining team USA for the 2nd time. He’s not the hitter he once was, but does have pop, will provide for some interesting decisions with his switch-hitting ability, and is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. He’s going to get a lot of work in as the only true first baseman on the roster, but could get spelled by Mauer and maybe even Ben Zobrist. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Brandon Phillips-Reds and Ben Zobrist-Rays
Who’s Out: Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox, Ian Kinsler-Rangers, and Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks
Pedroia and Kinsler are probably better hitters than Zobrist, but the Zorilla’s ability to play mulitple positions makes him a suitable choice. I don’t think we’d see any of the other possibilities manning right field or shortstop the way Zobrist does for the Rays. Brandon Phillips will get the majority of time at second base and the three-time Gold Glove winner will flash plenty of leather for the red, white, and blue. The only better second baseman in the tournament is Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Jimmy Rollins-Phllies and Willie Bloomquist-Diamondbacks
Who’s Out: Derek Jeter-Yankees, Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies, and Ian Desmond-Nationals
One would have to believe that Rollins is on the roster over Desmond just based on experience and leadership ability. Jeter’s ankle may not be 100% in time for the WBC and with Tulo’s injury history it was clear he wouldn’t risk it. Rollins is the defending NL Gold Glove winner at the position and played in the last WBC for USA. He’s not the hitter we once was, but can provide speed atop the lineup. Bloomquist is the questionable pick for the roster, but he’s a clear utility player and can play numerous positions in case of injury. When compared to the players team USA could’ve had if healthy, I can’t give out a great grade. Grade: C
Who’s In: David Wright-Mets
Who’s Out: Chase Headley-Padres, Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals, and David Freese-Cardinals
This was the easiest call for team USA. Wright is the best third baseman in America right now. The only problem for the Stars & Stripes is that Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera) and the Dominican Republic (Adrian Beltre) have better options at the position. Grade: A-
Who’s In: Ryan Braun-Brewers, Adam Jones-Orioles, Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, and Shane Victorino-Red Sox
Who’s Out: Mike Trout-Angels, Bryce Harper-Nationals, Andrew McCutchen-Pirates, Josh Hamilton-Angels, and Matt Holliday-Cardinals
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Even without Trout and McCutchen, I love this outfield. Braun is the best left fielder in the game and a perennial MVP candidate. Jones is a budding superstar that helped turned the Orioles around and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Stanton is a straight masher that you can’t pitch around in middle of the lineup. Victorino doesn’t have the name of some of the other players that aren’t playing, but his ability to play all three oufield positions, while filling in as pinch-runner and possibly designated hitter is good enough. I know Mike Trout wanted to have a traditional spring training entering his 2nd full season, but I think that he’s going to come to regret not being around this talented group. Grade: A
Who’s In: R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays, Kris Medlen-Braves, Ryan Vogelsong-Giants, Derek Holland-Rangers
Who’s Out (for now): Justin Verlander-Tigers, David Price-Rays, Jered Weaver-Angels, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee-Phillies, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner-Giants
It’s pretty easy too look at those two lists and get a lump in your throat. There is one spot still open for a starting pitcher that’d presumably would go to Verlander if he wants it. Let’s look at what is definite right now. Team USA sports the defending NL Cy Young winner in Dickey, who’s knuckleball will give batters fits seeing it for the first time this season. Medlen was arguably (and I’d argue was) the best pitcher in the 2nd half last season. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable. Vogelsong is a fantastic story since returning to MLB from Japan and can be useful as he might have some inside knowledge on the Japanese hitters. Holland is a decent southpaw, great in the clubhouse, and let’s be honest we’re all secretly hoping he faces the Netherlands. If Joe Torre has a sense of humor, it’ll happen. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants, Tim Collins-Royals, and Glen Perkins-Twins
Who’s Out: Sean Marshall-Reds, Eric O’ Flaherty and Jonny Venters-Braves, Darren Oliver-Blue Jays, and Sean Burnett-Angels
No offense to Tim Collins, but I’d rather have all five pitchers in the “Who’s out” list than him. Affeldt is a great big-game pitcher as he proved in the 2012 postseason. He’ll have to come through in big spots as the best of this bunch. Perkins has become a solid lefty. He’s climbed his way up the ranks to become the Twins closer. Seeing a lot of quality lefties staying in their spring training homes is a little disheartening though. Grade: C+
Who’s In: Heath Bell-Diamonbacks, Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals, Steve Cishek-Marlins, Luke Gregerson-Padres, Craig Kimbrel-Braves, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano-Indians
Who’s Out: Jim Johnson-Orioles, Jason Motte-Cardinals, Jonathan Papelbon-Phillies, Joel Hanrahan-Red Sox
As long as the words “Heath Bell in a high pressure situation” aren’t used I really like the bullpen that Greg Maddux has to work with. Craig Kimbrel is the best relief pitcher in the world right now and should lock down any game in the 9th inning. Perez and Pestano work well together in Cleveland. Boggs was a revelation in St. Louis this past season. Cishek will be a change of pace reliever with his submarine delivery. Cishek did really well filling in as the Marlins closer when Heath Bell fell apart last season. Gregerson is one of the leagues most underrated relievers because he pitches in San Diego and has never had an ERA over 3.24 in his four seasons. Having Kimbrel on the roster is such a boon for this bullpen. Grade: A-
Final Thoughts: Team USA will have a real shot at knocking Japan off the top of the WBC mountain. The coaching staff with Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, Gerald Perry, Larry Bowa, Willie Randolph, and Marcel Lachemann is top notch. The only real question marks are at shortstop and left-handed pitching to me. I believe that if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen though, USA will be dangerous. I expect at least another run to the semi-finals and a trip to San Francisco. Every team at that level is so talented, it’s going to come down to the little things to decide the champion.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Three (in some cases four) finalists at each position in each league for the Gold Glove awards were announced today. The award, which recognizes the best defensive player at each position in each league, is voted on by managers and up to six coaches on their staffs.
Managers and coaches can not vote for someone on their own team. We’ve seen over the years that some deserving players get recognized (Yadier Molina has won four straight at NL catcher), some get snubbed (Mark Ellis and his career .991 fielding percentage has never won), and some only win because of their name.
Yes, even managers and coaches get caught up in player celebrity for things like this. Anyway, the final results will be announced tomorrow night on ESPN2, but we’re here today to tell you who should win each Gold Glove.
Finalists – Alex Avila (Tigers), Russell Martin (Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox), Matt Wieters (Orioles)
These were the only four A.L. catchers to start at least 100 games. Martin, Pierzynski and Avila all had a .994 fielding percentage, while Wieters sat at .991. While Wieters had the most errors of the group, he also had the best caught stealing percentage. For me, those nearly cancel out – I’m giving the award to Avila, who had the most consistent stats across the board.
Finalists – Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
It’s not even close. Again, Molina has blown away the competition and perfected the art of catching. Ruiz and Montero both had good seasons behind the dish, but one could argue that there were more worthy candidates to lose to Molina. In 133 games started, Molina made 3 errors (.997 fielding percentage) and threw out nearly 50 percent of attempted base stealers (35 out of 73). Need I say more?
A.L. First Base:
Finalists – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox/Dodgers), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
I’m not sure what Hosmer is doing as a finalist, since he had the second lowest fielding percentage for qualifying first basemen in the American League. Gonzalez and Teixeira both have a reputation for being smooth fielders, and proved so again this season. I give the edge to the Yankee first baseman because he made one less error in many more chances. And now we’ve avoided the awkwardness of giving a Dodger an American League Gold Glove.
N.L. First Base:
Finalists – Freddie Freeman (Braves), Adam LaRoche (Nationals), Joey Votto (Reds)
The Nationals most consistent player isn’t just a home run hitter. The guy can play a mean first base, and proved it this year. You’d never guess who the best defensive statistics among first base qualifiers belonged to in 2012 (Spoiler: It’s Carlos Lee…WHAT?), but LaRoche was right there with him. He edges Votto because LaRoche played in more games and had a slightly better fielding percentage.
A.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
I’m not sure why Ackley got the nod over the likes of Gordon Beckham or Jason Kipnis, but none of them would compete with Cano and Pedroia here anyway. They tied for the best fielding percentage in the league at .992, and though Pedroia turned more double plays, Cano has the better range. Both are good for one highlight play a night, but I think the vote will go to the Yankees star.
N.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Darwin Barney (Cubs), Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), Brandon Phillips (Reds)
All three of these guys certainly deserve to be here, but even if Mark Ellis had played a full, healthy season for the Dodgers he would have been snubbed. Sigh. Though Hill and Phillips and their .992 fielding percentages are very impressive, you can’t discount Barney’s ridiculous errorless streak in Chicago. Any other year, Phillips defends his title.
A.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Brandon Inge (Tigers/A’s), Mike Moustakas (Royals)
Brandon Inge didn’t even qualify at third base, technically. While that doesn’t mean he can’t be voted for, it’s a strange selection. How about the third best fielding percentage in the league for Miguel Cabrera? Give him the spot as a finalist. Alas, it wouldn’t matter. Moustakas has a lot of Gold Gloves in his future, but he might have to wait for Beltre and his league-leading 8 errors to retire.
N.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Chase Headley (Padres), Aramis Ramirez (Brewers), David Wright (Mets)
This is the closest race so far, as all three of these guys are grouped tightly way ahead of the rest of the pack at their position. Ramirez had a .977 fielding percentage, Headley had a .976, and Wright had a .974 this year…so how do you choose? Even though Ramirez had the best percentage, Headley had 125 more chances and only made 3 more errors, plus his range factor was the best in the league.
Finalists – Elvis Andrus (Rangers), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Brendan Ryan (Mariners)
Look, all three of these guys are good shortstops, but it’s inexplicable that Jhonny Peralta was left off this. He only made 7 errors all season! Andrus had a worse fielding percentage than Derek Jeter, so he’s out right off the bat. Ryan is one of the most exciting shortstops in baseball and can grow a great mustache. Sorry Seattle fans, that’s not enough – Hardy and his league-leading 6 errors take the cake here.
Finalists – Zack Cozart (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jose Reyes (Marlins), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)
It’s really a three-horse race between Cozart, Reyes and Rollins (the Mets’ Ruben Tejada should have had Desmond’s spot), and I’m giving it to the wily vet in Philadelphia for having the most impressive all-around defensive numbers at the position. Cozart is definitely a future winner though. As for anyone calling for Brandon Crawford? Yes, he had a great postseason defensively, but also had the second-most errors and third-worst fielding percentage in the league.
A.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Alex Gordon (Royals), Desmond Jennings (Rays), David Murphy (Rangers)
Let me explain myself – major props to Jennings (0 errors this year) and Murphy (1 error), but Gordon and his 2 errors are going to win his second consecutive Gold Glove. Yes, you have to be able to catch the ball and all three players do that supremely well. But you need to have an arm too, and Gordon blew away the competition with 17 outfield assists in 2012.
N.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Ryan Braun (Brewers), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Martin Prado (Braves)
This is definitely the most messed up voting by the managers and coaches so far, as these three were the bottom three performers among qualifiers at their position. Surprisingly enough, the two strongest candidates were Jason Kubel and Alfonso Soriano. Prado gets the edge for making half as many errors as Braun and having the most outfield assists of the three.
A.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Austin Jackson (Tigers), Adam Jones (Orioles), Mike Trout (Angels)
It should be Jackson, but will be Trout. Jackson had better numbers across the board defensively, though not by much. Trout only had 2 outfield assists, but made just 2 errors (Jackson had 1) and robbed at least four home runs. Surprisingly, Jones was one of the worst statistical center fielders, even though he’s extremely athletic out there. Again, it should be Jackson’s Gold Glove, but no way Trout won’t add this to his trophy case.
N.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Michael Bourn (Braves), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Drew Stubbs (Reds)
Angel Pagan, Carlos Gomez and Cameron Maybin all have stronger cases for this award than Stubbs, but for some reason managers and coaches LOVE the Reds’ defense (MLB-best 6 finalists). Neither Bourn nor McCutchen had many outfield assists, but both were stellar defensively. Even though the award should probably go to Jon Jay of St. Louis, it’ll be McCutchen edging out Bourn because of one less error.
A.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), Josh Reddick (A’s)
Reddick was a revelation in all facets of the game, making some of the most eye-popping plays of the year for the A’s in 2012, but 5 errors will outweigh his high range factor and 14 assists. It’s especially difficult to compete with Francoeur, who had less errors and a league-leading 19 assists. Choo had a great fielding percentage, but didn’t throw enough guys out to compete. That means the Royals’ corner outfielders threw out 36 guys on the base paths combined this year. Wow.
N.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Jay Bruce (Reds), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Jason Heyward (Braves)
Etheir won his Gold Glove in 2011 because he didn’t make an error all season and had a lot of outfield assists. His numbers declined a bit in 2012, but he was still worthy of a final spot. Bruce on the other hand? That spot should have definitely gone to Justin Upton or Carlos Beltran. Even tho Ethier had less errors and a slightly better fielding percentage than Heyward, you have to give J-Hey the Gold Glove for his 11 outfield assists this year, which was tops in the league.
Finalists – Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Jake Peavy (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels)
Ah, the most random and pointless Gold Glove award. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for pitchers to field their positions cleanly, but if we are talking about numbers, there is about a 37-way tie in each league. Technically, the most impressive line goes to Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees, but his name doesn’t appear. Among the three finalists, Peavy had the least errors and most double plays turned.
Finalists – Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Mark Buehrle (Marlins), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
All three of these guys are widely known for fielding their positions well, and while I’d love to give my boy Kershaw some love, I’ll let him keep his 2011 Cy Young Award and 2012 Roberto Clemente Award to themselves. All 3 guys made 0 errors this year, but Buehrle dominated in range factor and turned the most double plays. And making this play in 2010 earned him free Gold Gloves for the rest of his life. Geez, still the coolest play ever!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
This feels good to say: It’s MAPES’ turn for redemption. It feels good because that means in our two most recent challenges, I have taken commanding victories. After complete and utter embarrassment for Mapes in the Home Run Derby Challenge, and a shellacking revenge story in the Vin Scully vs. Sid Bream Bobblehead Battle II, Mapes needs some cheering up.
So this is another chance for him to re-assert dominance in sports predictionism (it’s a word now, okay?) over me. Just like the Derby Challenge, this one will not be left up to the audience. Instead, we will take one pick at a time guessing which players will win Silver Sluggers for 2012 in each league.
Similar to our Jersey Draft format, I will take the first pick, Mapes will take the second and third, and we will alternate from there. One small wrinkle this time, though: Once a position has been selected, it is gone. That means if I take Miguel Cabrera as the AL third baseman first (spoiler alert – I will!), Mapes can not later take Adrian Beltre because the AL third base position is already gone.
We will each take 9 positions and whoever gets the most right, wins. Simple as that. Here goes nothin’ – may the best man win:
Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (A.L. 3B)
Told you I would take him. Triple Crown, potential MVP, best swing in all of baseball. I really have nothing else to say. This one is a lock.
Pick #2 – Team Mapes: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (A.L. 2B)
I’m already ahead because you picked first. Enjoy figuring out the NL pitcher Silver Slugger, sucker! My first pick I also believe is a lock. Cano led second baseman in every major statistical category and will grab his 3rd straight Silver Slugger.
Pick #3 – Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (N.L. OF)
Ryan Braun put up arguably the best offensive season in the National League, leading in homers (career-high 41), runs, OPS, and total bases. Braun decided to throw in a .319 batting average to boot In my opinion, he’s a lock for his 5th straight Silver Slugger. I’ve already got two in the bank. I’m glad I came up with this challenge.
Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (DH)
I’ll admit that I originally listed Billy Butler here, forgetting that Encarnacion actually played the majority of his games at DH in 2012. Bad research by me. Yes, Adam Dunn always has a case here, but he hit .204, and struck out approximately 598 times. With the breakout season Encarnacion had (.280/42/110), it would be a monumental travesty if he didn’t win the DH Silver Slugger.
Pick #5 – Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (A.L. OF)
Butler is in the discussion at designated hitter, but I agree that Edwin Encarnacion, who started at DH more than any other position, does get the Silver Slugger there. Adam Dunn has a chance too if they just fall in love with his home runs. Too early for that kind of risk, in my opinion, but I respect your guts. I’ll go with another lock on my board with Mike Trout, who hit .325, blasted 30 homers, and led the American League in runs scored. Easy call, I’m 3 for 3 guaranteed.
Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (N.L. C)
I was a little bit unsure about this pick, simply because there were a few other hot-hitting catchers in the league this year. While Posey is the leading MVP candidate in the National League, you can make a pretty good case for Yadier Molina, Wilin Rosario, or even Carlos Ruiz. After Posey’s scorching second half and huge grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS, I have no doubt that he will get the vote for Silver Slugger.
Pick #7 – Team Mapes: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (N.L. OF)
Look at you redeeming yourself. I thought about taking Posey at five, but the Yadier Molina risk with Trout still on the board made me pass. Instead, I’ll go to the 2nd National League outfielder on my list in Andrew McCutchen. Cutch led the NL in offensive WAR and was tops among N.L. outfielders in batting average (take that Melky). The Pirates star also led the senior circuit in hits, which I think make him a lock for his first Silver Slugger. That’s right, I’m calling all FOUR of of my picks so far LOCKS.
Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (N.L. SS)
Look at you thinking all your picks are “locks.” That’s cute. This pick here is a lock – Desmond was by far the best offensive shortstop in the National League this season, helped by the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was injured. Even if Tulo was healthy, it might have been a tight race. Desmond really busted out in 2012, posting career highs across the board (.292/25/73) and the only guy who comes close to matching him is Jimmy Rollins, who hit .250 with less homers and RBI.
Pick #9 – Team Mapes: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (A.L. SS)
Desmond is a lock? We’ll see what Jose Reyes, Rollins, and Starlin Castro have to say about that. This one might not be a lock, but why should I go against a player that led the American League in hits? Who else are they going to give it to? Alcides Escobar? Ben Zobrist? (Not sure he would qualify there) Elvis Andrus? This would be Jeter’s first Silver Slugger since 2009.
Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (N.L. 3B)
All those guys will be saying is “Congratulations, Ian!” I do, however, think Jeter will be congratulating J.J. Hardy at season’s end. My pick here is a tough one, because the third base position in the National League is stacked with pretty good candidates. Headley won the NL RBI title and was huge in the second half. Regardless of the team he plays for, I think coaches and managers will remember the type of season Chase had in 2012 when it comes time to vote.
Pick #11 – Team Mapes: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (A.L. OF)
J.J. Hardy? Hardy finished 18th at shortstop on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater. A.L leader in hits or dude who hit .238? I’ll send you a J.J. Hardy shirsey if he wins. David Wright has a better chance at stealing Headley’s Silver Slugger than Hardy stealing Jeter’s. I’ll continue my run on the outfield awards and I think getting Josh Hamilton here is a steal. He’s clearly one of the top three offensive American League outfielders hitting .283 with 43 homers and knocking in 128 runs. I love this pick, I would date this pick if I could.
Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks (N.L. 2B)
Hamilton definitely was a top three hitter in the A.L. outfield, but will he get the vote with people like Adam Jones, Josh Willingham and Curtis Granderson also in there? We shall see. I feel totally fine calling this pick a lock, considering the usual suspects (Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips, etc.) can’t hold a candle to the numbers Hill (.302/26/85) put up this year. He hit for the cycle twice in one week. That’s EPIC!
Pick #13- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (N.L. C)
True story, I like A.J. Pierzynski’s numbers and that makes me not too confident here. True story, no one likes A.J. Pierzynski which makes me confident in this pick. Mauer was 4th in the A.L. in batting average and led the league in OBP. Good enough for me to give him his 1st Silver Slugger since 2010. Plus, he led me and Lindsay Guentzel to a fantasy baseball title. Love that guy. P.S. loved that Aaron Hill pick.
Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (N.L. 1B)
You know what? Even if I lose this contest, getting props on the Hill pick from you is a victory in itself. See, good sportsmanship people! The National League first base crop definitely got weaker with the defections of Albert Pujols and prince Fielder to the A.L. and the injury to Joey Votto. That being said, I like LaRoche (the only NL first baseman with 100 RBI) to get the vote over guys like Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt. LaRoche hit .271 with 33 homers and 100 RBI.
Pick #15 – Team Mapes: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers, (A.L. 1B)
It took us forever to go to first base, but might as well knock them out back to back. Fielder had the most consistent season at the position hitting behind Miguel Cabrera. Pujols is in the mix, but the voters could still remember his slow start. Fielder finished 6th in batting average ( a career-high .313) and 5th in RBI in the American League, while hitting 30 homers for the 6th straight year. The middle of the Tigers lineup is crazy good, huh?
Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (N.L. OF)
Even though his own teammate, Matt Holliday, had better overall numbers, I think Beltran has earned the votes of managers and coaches across the league. You would be hard pressed to find an opposing team who didn’t get burned by Carlos Beltran heroics at some point in 2012, and I doubt that it will be forgotten when tallying votes for Silver Slugger. Beltran finished with a line of .269/32/97. The middle of that Cardinals lineup is crazy good, huh?
Pick #17 – Team Mapes: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (A.L. OF)
You stuck me with A.L. outfielder? Let’s see if I can nail all three with Trout, Hamilton and now Adam Jones. There are a couple of other options with Alex Rios, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Willingham. However, I think that the story of the Baltimore Orioles will carry Jones to his first Silver Slugger. They already snubbed Willingham for the A.L. All-Star team, why not for Silver Slugger too. At least I gave him a 10th place MVP vote. Good luck picking the right pitcher for a Silver Slugger!
Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds (P)
I figured I’d give you a shot at sweeping the outfield in the American League. You’ve got a lock on Trout, though I think Hamilton might get upset, and you never know about that third spot. As for N.L. pitcher, this was easier than expected. After crunching the numbers, it came down to Leake and Stephen Strasburg. I’m sacrificing a probable winner by taking Leake, because Strasburg has the name recognition (yes, even among coaches and managers) that Leake doesn’t. But I must point out so the world knows: 18 hits, .295 average, 2 home runs for Mike Leake as a pitcher this year. Give him the Silver Slugger!
Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Buster Posey, Ian Desmond, Chase Headley, Aaron Hill, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Beltran, Mike Leake
Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Adam Jones
Who do you think will be taking home some fancy Silver Slugger awards? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)