Not a fun Monday for Braves fans. First, their teams game gets snowed out in Denver. Then early-Tuesday morning news that star outfielder Jason Heyward had an appendectomy tonight.
OF Jason Heyward underwent successful appendectomy surgery Monday night (April 22). Procedure performed at Rose Medical Center in Denver.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 23, 2013
No word yet if the successful surgery will land Heyward on the disabled list, but Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday had the surgery in 2011 after his Opening Day game on April 1st and was back in the St. Louis lineup on April 10th. Holliday spent no time on the DL. The typical recovery time is in the 2-3 week range. The Braves could save a roster move by giving Heyward a full 15 days off, with first baseman Freddie Freeman returning to the lineup for the doubleheader on Tuesday. A DL stint would keep Heyward out past the Braves next series with division rivals the Nationals and Mets. He would be likely to return for a 10-game road trip at Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Arizona.
UPDATE: Jason Heyward has been put on the 15-day DL and the Braves recalled Tyler Pastornicky.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Has the National League evolved into a two-team arms race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves? It seemed all offseason one would make a move and the other would counter it. B.J. Upton, Dan Haren, Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, and Jordan Walden all enter the fray and make these two teams on paper the teams to beat. The Phillies aren’t ready to go down with a fight adding Ben Revere and Michael Young in the offseason. The Mets and Marlins? Well they might go down without a fight, let’s break down the National League East.
Projected Order of Finish: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Miami Marlins
Why the Braves could win the N.L. East: It’s pretty hard to believe that Atlanta lost three of the four best hitters from last season in Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn and the lineup is better. The Upton brothers move into the outfield along with Jason Heyward, giving the Braves two MVP-potential candidates in the corners. Andrelton Simmons showed in the WBC that he is ready, especially defensively. Freddie Freeman’s growth continues in an all-star caliber 1st baseman. The rotation might not be on the Nationals level overall, but Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran is solid. Teheran could be ready to shine as he was spectacular in spring training. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, while Eric O’ Flaherty is among the best setup men. All the pieces are there for a return to the playoffs.
Why the Braves wouldn’t win the N.L. East: First, the leadership from Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn’s departure throws off the clubhouse and no one behind Tim Hudson steps up. The lineup is filled with just too many strikeouts that kills putting together rallies. Brian McCann’s shoulder is completely shot and he’s not the player he once was or even comes back at all leaving the catching duties to Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis. Jonny Venters injury is more serious than planned (i.e. Tommy John surgery) and Jordan Walden isn’t ready to go and the bullpen suffers and becomes overworked. Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John surgery mid-season isn’t able to come close to the form he displayed at the start of 2012.
Why the Nationals could win the N.L. East: The rotation is the best in MLB with Stephen Strasburg’s innings cap behind him, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler. The bullpen is no slouch either with Rafael Soriano (42 saves in 2012) joining Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Ryan Mattheus is a great bullpen. The lineup is good to great and can be better than great if “The Phenom” Bryce Harper continues to progress into an MVP candidate.
Why the Nationals wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The Braves end up just slightly better top to bottom. Newly-signed Denard Span reverts back to an injury-plagued season like in 2011. Ryan Zimmerman’s right shoulder, that caused him to receive cortisone shots throughout last season, acts up and his bat his lost from the middle of the lineup. It’s really hard not to see the Nationals as a probable playoff team.
Why the Phillies could win the N.L. East: Roy Halladay might not be what he used to be, but Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are both still good enough to carry a rotation. I highly doubt Lee will only win six games again. The lineup is improved with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, plus Ben Revere providing speed at lead-off. Michael Young joins Philadelphia to provide leadership and hitting prowess. He would need get back to hitting .300 for the Phillies to have a real chance. Domonic Brown’s spring breakout continues into the season and he finally pays dividends for all of those trades Ruben Amaro Jr. refused to do when Brown was a prospect. Plus, Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the games.
Why the Phillies wouldn’t win the N.L. East: It’s entirely possible that Roy Halladay never gets back to what he was before 2012. His velocity has been down after an injury-plagued season. The lineup is on the wrong side of their prime with Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Young all over 33 years-old. Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension messes with the pitching staff and they get off on the wrong foot after Ruiz broke out offensively. Brown does what he’s done his whole career and tease greatness, but not come through.
Why the Mets could win the N.L. East: David Wright’s injury is nothing and the new Mets captain goes on to be his usual self in the middle of the lineup. Ike Davis evolves into a 35-40 home run hitting first baseman. The Mets call up Zack Wheeler and pair him with Matt Harvey and create the best young pitching duo in the division. Travis d’Arnuad can’t be held back anymore in the minors and starts developing into the next Mike Piazza.
Why the Mets wouldn’t win the N.L. East: Johan Santana is probably out for the season taking leadership out of the clubhouse on a daily basis. The bullpen in atrocious. The outfield is near-atrocious, unless Jordany Valdespin steps up big. The Mets are a rebuilding project, but there are some nice pieces coming to Flushing.
Why the Marlins could win the N.L. East: They can’t, but what kind of season would Giancarlo Stanton have to have to put Miami in contention? 60 home runs? I do like Steve Cishek a lot as a potential closer, but he may end up trade bait at the deadline. I might just like him because he’s a submariner.
Why the Marlins wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The rotation is the worst in the division, where their “ace” Ricky Nolasco can’t be trusted to not blow up on any given start. The lineup has some veterans who can hit for average in Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, and Casey Kotchman, but aside from Stanton there isn’t a 2nd run producer. This might take years for Miami to get into contention.
Jason Heyward and Justin Upton-Braves
Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg-Nationals
Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen-Braves
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez-Nationals
Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee-Phillies
Rookie of the Year
Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria-Marlins
Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler-Mets
Who do you think wins the N.L. East? The Nationals? The Braves? Can one of the other three teams steal the division away? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Back in November, there was a deal for a Southwest Airlines flight from Hartford to Orlando for $190. There were two real options coming from booking the flight. Either I was going to be lucky enough to be in the MLB Fan Cave top 50 (or 52) or I was going to be lucky enough to spend five days with my grandma. Unfortunately for grandma, she got bumped to just a Valentine’s Day visit, but she couldn’t have been more understanding.
As I sit here in a nearly empty Champion Stadium at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, I can honestly say that this was the most incredible vacation and experience I’ve ever had. I had no idea what to expect when I landed in Florida. Would I be able to get field access? (sadly, no) Would the players even come talk to me? (strangely, yes) How quickly would I have to explain the MLB Fan Cave for them to do something? (I think I have that down to a science) Would they agree to do a video of any kind? (also strangely, yes) Luckily, I had some success keeping it short and simple. Plus, the phrase “Brave in the Cave” is pretty easy to remember.
Every day I came to the ballpark, I was one of the first fans to arrive and always the last one to leave. I think the players might’ve gotten sick of seeing me. The first hour of the first day, I was able to snag video endorsements from Cristian Bethancourt, Evan Gattis, and 3rd base coach Brian Snitker. I was off and running and never looked back. I couldn’t believe how nice everyone in the organization was. The key I believe is just having confidence, the worst they can say is no, there’s no risk with a ton of reward. General Manager Frank Wren was so nice and I thought was he said was hilarious.
Staying late also proved incredibly effective. There were promotional photo shoots going on after the workouts for Jonny Venters and Eric O’ Flaherty that turned out to be fantastic for me. You can tell that these guys joke around a lot.
Wednesday was the big day. The top 30 announcement for the MLB Fan Cave would be coming down after voting ended at 5PM. I knew if I was going to anything to keep momentum up and score some late votes I’d have to hustle.
At 8:30 in the morning I spotted ESPN’s Buster Olney doing a spot on SportsCenter. I knew I had one connection with him. I attended his “Going to Bat for Vermont’s Farmers” charity event last November. Surprisingly, no one was around. I went up to him, explained that I had gone to the event and that I was in the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave. He said that he tries to stay out of those things, but because I had gone to the charity event and was a fellow New Englander, he’d throw his support behind me. I couldn’t even believe it.
While Olney was doing his taping for SportsCenter, I spotted Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez walking alone through the ballpark. I quickly ran down and just started yelling “Fredi!”, he looked over, and I have my now patented quick Fan Cave spiel. He was happy enough to oblige, even though as he said “doing this stuff really isn’t my thing.”
Finally on Wednesday, just two hours before the deadline, Braves star pitcher came out for a promotional photo shoot. I had brought a new Braves hat to Orlando with me in hopes that Meds would break it in. He was nice enough to!
I got the video up with 90 minutes of voting time to spare and put it on Twitter. It was retweeted by the Braves, Jason Heyward, and Paul Maholm.
The Medlen video was the final piece in the puzzle that advanced me into the top 30 for the MLB Fan Cave. I yelled in the middle of an empty Champion Stadium because I was so excited and honored to make it to the next round. Well the stadium was empty except for the grounds crew, who think I’m crazy.
When the top 52 announcement came down, Braves pitcher Paul Maholm was nice enough to retweet the news without me even asking. I contacted him through Twitter and then talked to him Tuesday about pulling off a creative video. He agreed and “Paul Maholm Connects with the Mahomies” was born! It’s my favorite thing I’d done so far during this MLB Fan Cave experience. Maholm could not be a nicer individual.
There were a few players who weren’t comfortable doing a quick video, but were nice enough to sign cards for me to giveaway to fans on Twitter, including Craig Kimbrel and Mike Minor.
I did take one “off day” in Florida. The aforementioned Valentine’s Day with grandma in Daytona Beach. Even then the off day consisted of putting together a “thank you video” for Braves fans support at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. I even learned a thing or two, like Robinson wore #9, not #42 with the Montreal Royals when he played the first integrated spring training game on 3/17/1946.
The last day in Orlando, I wanted to take advantage of Tout, a newer social medium, that allows users to tape 15 seconds videos and send them out with tweets. I used it all week to get Braves fans a firsthand near live look at the goings on of Braves camp, with almost no delay on Twitter. It’s one thing to say what the players were doing, it’s even better to show them. I think Tout would be a great use in the MLB Fan Cave this season, especially to have fans on Twitter ask players questions and send them back personalized 15 second videos answering it. It would be a fantastic way to continue the growth and connection between players and fans in the MLB Fan Cave.
Which bring me back to the MLB Fan Cave. I’m so stoked to be heading to Arizona on Monday for the top 30. I’ve done everything I can for this opportunity and I hope that it shows. It’s been an honor to represent Braves Country so far and I hope to continue on for the whole MLB season in the MLB Fan Cave. Thanks again for all of your support from Braves fans, players, and management! I think they’re ready to kick me out of an empty ballpark again! Back to Connecticut for two day to repack and I’ll see you in Arizona!
-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!
Ever since B.J. Upton signed a 5-year, $75.25 million deal to become the Braves center fielder there was a glance over to left field in Atlanta and who would fill that spot. The obvious choice was Upton’s brother, Justin, who was coming off a down year in 2012, but was still a MVP-candidate caliber player that had not yet entered his prime. The two brothers had been on the record saying that they would love to one day play with each other. After nearly two months of rumors, trade rejections, fans coming up with fake trades (sorry I tried to trade you Julio Teheran), and the refusal to trade Andrelton Simmons, the trade Braves fans hoped for, finally happened. The trade though did not look like a deal that any Braves fan expected. Let’s take a look!
Atlanta Braves receive: OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson
Arizona Diamondbacks receive: 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado and prospects RHP Zeke Spruill, SS Nick Ahmed, and 1B/3B Brandon Drury
Braves Country was worried about Andrelton Simmons being a part of a a deal for Upton for months, but in the end it was fan-favorite Martin Prado that makes his way to the desert. Prado was arguably Atlanta’s MVP in 2012, however they couldn’t come to an agreement for 2013, leaving just one-year left on Prado’s contract. That made him expendable in GM Frank Wren’s eyes as including Prado in the deal saved them from losing their top prospects in Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Sean Gilmartin, and Nick Gattis. Delgado would have been in contention for the 5th spot in the rotation with Teheran and would’ve become a crowded rotation with the impending return of Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery. You can never have enough pitching though.
What does Atlanta get in Justin Upton though? The younger version’s numbers dipped in 2012 after putting up a campaign in 2011 where he finished 4th for MVP and picked up his 1st Silver Slugger. Upton’s OPS dropped from .898 to .785, while his OPS+ went from a career-best 141 to a career-worst 107. A change of scenery was needed and what better place is there than playing along side his brother. There was a slightly contentious relationship between Upton and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson that made have played a part in the numbers drop. The new Braves outfield of Upton, Upton, and Jason Heyward will grow together over the next three years of team control. That’s really what made Justin Upton an attractive trade piece for the Braves, three years of team control vs. one year for Prado. If he returns to his 2011 form, the Braves will win this trade hands down.
Also included in the deal to Atlanta is Chris Johnson. Johnson may be called on to replace Chipper Jones at third base or at least platoon with Juan Francisco. Johnson is coming off a career-high in home runs and RBI’s. Playing for a winning team after spending 3.5 seasons in Houston and half of a season in Arizona might help Johnson continue to grow as he enters his age-28 season.
Arizona was clearly willing to part ways with Upton, but did they get the best deal possible? Prado is an All-Star caliber player and maybe they can come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The team leadership that Prado will bring to the clubhouse made him even an even more attractive piece for the Diamondbacks. The leadership factor is what turned them off of Justin Upton. Twenty two year-old Randall Delgado will battle to make the rotation this year (and probably succeed), but could turn into a front-of-the-line starter down the road. Delgado has a 3.95 ERA in 127.2 MLB innings. Zeke Spruill and Nick Ahmed are mid-level prospects, but were going to get backlogged in the Braves system at the starter and shortstop positions. Brandon Drury had a rough 2012, hitting only .229 in single A after crushing rookie ball. Arizona will hope the Braves have a repeat performance of the Mark Teixeira deal, in which they gave up Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Matt Harrison.
How do you think each team did in this offseason’s biggest blockbuster trade? Let me know what you think
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Commissioner Bud Selig announced today that the MLB All-Star Game would return to Cincinnati for the first time since 1988 when the Reds played at Riverfront Stadium. It will be the first All-Star Game played at Great American Ballpark, which will join Riverfront Stadium and Crosley Field as Queen City ballparks that have hosted the mid-season classic. With Great American Ballpark hosting the 2015 game, it will leave just Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PETCO Park in San Diego, Nationals Park in Washington D.C., Marlins Park in Miami, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, and New Yankee Stadium in The Bronx as the only current stadiums not to have hosted the All-Star Game. The Reds franchise will join the Minnesota Twins (who are hosting the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field) to host the festivities in THREE different ballparks.
Here’s the glorious part about Great American Ballpark having the All-Star Game in its confines. It also gets to host the Home Run Derby! If there ever was a stadium that is perfectly set up for a derby, it’s the stadium that is lovingly called “the Great American Small-Park.” I’m already getting excited to see the games best mashers blasting homers. We could be there all night! Even better, is the Ohio River beyond the right field wall gives lefties a great target to go for. I mean if Juan Francisco could do it in an actual game in 2011, I think the game’s best could do it in a home run derby. I almost want to fast-forward to 2015 now to see it play out. I haven’t been this excited for a home run derby since Ken Griffey Jr. took aim at the warehouse beyond Camden Yards.
I couldn’t resist thinking ahead to 2015 and who could actually be participating in the 2015 Home Run Derby. I’m going to use the 2012 format to project who will be launching mammos in Cincinnati.
Captain Bryce Harper: The obvious player for this. He’ll be 22 and a possible superstar by 2015 if everything goes according to plan. Even better that he hits left-handed so the Ohio River will be in play. If this video from when Harper is any indication of his derby abilities, there will more splashdowns than a water park.
Joey Votto or Jay Bruce: Have to get one of the hometown guys into the competition. I don’t want a Billy Butler situation here. Both are lefties which plays into my Ohio River hopes. I think that Bruce is the more likely of the two to participate as he’ll be in his prime at 28 years old. He also could be a legit 40-homer player by then.
Giancarlo Stanton: This one I’m not sure on. He could be in the American League for all I know. We all missed out on Stanton participating in the 2012 Home Run Derby in Kansas City, but I think he’ll return for the derby in 2013 at Citi Field. That gives him a year to sit out in 2014 (sorry Twins fans) and come back to defend a potential title the way that Prince Fielder did this past year. I can’t have eight left-handed batters though sadly. This also gives me an excuse to show this video again. HE BROKE A SCOREBOARD.
Jason Heyward: Alright a bit of a homer pick. Pun intended. Heyward showed that he has the potential to be a 35-homer player in 2012 when he blasted 27 yicketties. If the power continues to develop, he’ll be 25 for the 2015 All-Star Game and quite possibly could be the best right fielder in the game at that point. Also helps that, you guessed it, he’s left-handed!
Other potential derby participants: Ike Davis, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Anthony Rizzo
Captain Prince Fielder: I went back and forth on who potentially would be the captain for the American League. I settled on Fielder, who I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a couple years off after winning the derby in 2012. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a two-time champion, and he’s left handed. He’s going to want to eventually match Ken Griffey Jr. with three derby titles and I think he might wait til Cincinnati to do it. Plus, he has experience hitting it in the water.
Adam Dunn: Hear me out on this one! A) He’s left handed B) He’s never participated in a Home Run Derby C) It’d be nice for him to have his first one in Cincinnati where he used to play. He’ll still only be 35 at that point. If he was ever going to give it a go, I think the lure of doing it in the Queen City would be enough for him. Especially with the Ohio River calling his name.
Yoenis Céspedes: If Céspedes was left-handed he’d be a dream for this future derby. However, he will still be a great option. He’ll be in the heart of his prime at 29 years old. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a potential All-Star for Oakland. We all know he has some major power too. Especially after seeing this.
Wil Myers: The game isn’t until 2015! I have to have one player that hasn’t even played in the Majors yet to speculate on, right? I’m going to go with Tampa Bay’s future star in Wil Myers. Myers has the best power potential of any prospect right now. I’m deeply saddened though that I’ve now put three righties on the American League side. Maybe Robinson Cano won’t be broken up and come back to try the derby again?
Other potential derby participants: Mark Trumbo, Robinson Cano, Dayan Viciedo, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer
Who would you want to see take aim at the Ohio River in the 2015 Home Run Derby? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
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)