Tagged: Joey Votto

The Why am I Filling Out All-Stars on April 24th? Ballot

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.

First Base

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)

Second Base

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)

Shortstop

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)

Third Base

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)

Catcher

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?!?)

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 1.53.30 PM

Outfield

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)

Designated Hitter

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)

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The 2nd Annual Jeremy vs. Mapes MLB Jersey Draft

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!

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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!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman) & Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Cincinnati to Host the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

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.

National League

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

American League:

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)

Ranking the World Baseball Classic Rosters

World-Baseball-Classic-2013In 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**

Brazil hat wbc

#16: BRAZIL

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.”  

china wbc cap

#15: CHINA

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.

Spain wbc cap

#14: SPAIN

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).

italy wbc cap

#13: ITALY

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.

kingdom of netherlands wbc cap

#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**

south korea wbc cap

#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.

Australia-WBC-hat

#10: AUSTRALIA

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.

canada wbc cap

#9: CANADA

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.

taipei wbc cap

#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**

puerto rico wbc cap

#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.

mexico 2013 wbc cap

#6: MEXICO

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.

cuba wbc cap

#5: CUBA

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.

**The Favorites**

japan wbc hat

#4: JAPAN

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.

dominican republic wbc hat

#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?

USA wbc hat

#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 USAHow they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.

venezuela wbc cap

#1: VENEZUELA

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.

Like what you see? Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for more WBC and MLB news and analysis.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Predicting the Winners: 2012 Gold Gloves

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.

A.L. Catcher:

Finalists – Alex Avila (Tigers), Russell Martin (Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox), Matt Wieters (Orioles)

Winner: Avila

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.

N.L. Catcher:

Finalists – Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)

Winner: Molina

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)

Winner: Teixeira

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)

Winner: LaRoche

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)

Winner: Cano

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)

Winner: Barney

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)

Winner: Beltre

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)

Winner: Headley

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.

A.L. Shortstop:

Finalists – Elvis Andrus (Rangers), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Brendan Ryan (Mariners)

Winner: Hardy

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.

N.L. Shortstop:

Finalists – Zack Cozart (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jose Reyes (Marlins), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)

Winner: Rollins

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)

Winner: Gordon

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)

Winner: Prado

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)

Winner: Trout

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)

Winner: McCutchen

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)

Winner: Francoeur

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)

Winner: Heyward

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.

A.L. Pitcher:

Finalists – Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Jake Peavy (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels)

Winner: Peavy

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.

N.L. Pitcher:

Finalists – Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Mark Buehrle (Marlins), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Winner: Buehrle

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!

Let us know in the comments if you think these picks are correct. Did we goof on any? Don’t forget to follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

The 3U3D Awards: NL MVP Edition

The NL MVP race is possibly the most wide-open of all the awards with three or four players that have a case to be tops in the National League. Here’s how we filled out our ballots at 3U3D:

Final Points

Here are our thoughts on NL MVP:

Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): Numbers four through 10 don’t really matter all that much; this is a three-horse race. Even though the Pirates and Brewers both fell short in their postseason quests, you can’t discount the seasons each team’s star player had. But to out-gallop Posey, who has been the catalyst behind the Giants’ runaway division title, is much too difficult. That being said, I like Posey to take this award, as his team ran away with the NL West, and the rest of the field barely snuck into the playoffs or missed altogether. If the Brewers had made the postseason, Braun would have won. If the Pirates had even managed a slightly better August and September, I’d give it to McCutchen. But as it stands now, there is no more important player to one single team than Posey.

Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Buster Posey had the best 2nd half of any player in the majors and led the Giants to an NL West championship. Buster’s post-all-star numbers (.389/.462/.644) propelled him to an NL batting title (.336). Posey becomes the 2nd catcher in 70 years to win a batting title (Joe Mauer) and the first NL catcher in 100 years to win the on-base percentage stat.

Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Ryan Braun proved this season that he may actually have been telling the truth about his alleged steroid use. His power numbers are better this year: Home Runs 41 to 33, RBI 112 to 111, and he did this without Prince Fielder being in the lineup. Buster Posey has been a stable force behind the plate and at it. He lead his pitching staff to the fifth best ERA in the NL. He played in 147 games hitting .337 with 24 home runs. McCutchen was almost able to lead the Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years. He set career highs in batting average (.327), Home Runs (31), and RBI (96). Was there a bigger surprise this season other than R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer beasted up this season finishing with 20 wins for the New York Mets while having a 2.73 ERA. He set career highs in almost every statistical category. Not bad for a 37 year old.

Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Looking at the NL MVP selection, people may still be hung up on this summer’s PED scandal, but Ryan Braun has been tearing the cover off of the ball. He leads the league in HRs, total bases, slugging, and OPS. He is in the Top 5 in runs, hits, OBP, and average, while being 9th in steals. Only he and Mike Trout have a 30/30 season and has only the 11th 40/30 season in Major League history. It’s no question: Ryan Braun is the NL MVP.

Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Andrew McCutchen was atop my rankings for the previous three months and I thought that if he got the Pirates to the playoffs he was a lock. If the Pirates finished above .500, he was going to have a good chance. Instead, the Pirates fell below the .500 mark again and I seriously debated dropping him to 4th, but his overall offensive numbers (1st in offensive WAR) saved him. This opened the door for Buster Posey and Ryan Braun to have a tight 1-2 battle for me. Braun’s raw numbers are better and is the better power-speed combo, but Posey led the NL in OPS+ which takes into account park factor and opponent that was the difference to me. I was surprised to see Braves Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel only on my ballot as Bourn provided a spark atop the Atlanta lineup and Kimbrel had arguably the most dominant season by a closer striking out more than half the batters he faced. I wish I had room for Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Martin Prado. Prado did anything and everything for the Braves this year. I’m also sad that I had no room for one of my favorites Giancarlo Stanton, if he was healthy the whole season, things might have been different for Miami.

Congrats to Giants Buster Posey on winning the 3U3D NL MVP!

Who’s on your NL MVP ballot? Let us know in the comments or if you want to debate our ballot, hit us up on Twitter!

The “Early” MLB Awards

Another month of of the MLB season in the books!  Means it’s time to knock another adjective off and dub this the “Early MLB Awards”.  I waited til the All-Star break to reveal my awards.  There was some movement compared to last month’s as we’ll have our third different player in three months leading for National League Cy Young.  With the Olympics coming up in a few weeks, going to do this in medal fashion once again.  Let’s get to the awards!

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals

A drop for Lynn in the rankings as he was in the top spot after both April and May.  June was not kind to the Cardinals rookie as he went 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA to bring his ERA up to 3.41 on the season.  Still solid numbers with the eleven wins on the year, but he’s been surpassed by the next two players.

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Another month, another step up the ladder in the N.L. Rookie of the Year rankings for Harper.  Harper was named the youngest position player All-Star in history replacing Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s been as advertised for the Nationals hitting .282, with eight homers and ten stolen bases.  Can he take one more step up the ladder in the 2nd half of the season?

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Who’s holding back Bryce Harper from being Rookie of the Year?  It’s not a clown question, bro.  The answer is Wade Miley.  Miley leads all National League rookies in ERA and is 2nd in wins behind Lance Lynn.  Miley’s numbers are more impressive when you realize he’s pitching in hitter-friendly Chase Field.  Will his season end up like 2011’s Ian Kennedy or Josh Collmenter?  That’s the clown question that decides if he can hold off Harper for the top spot.

Just off the Podium: Andrelton Simmons, Braves, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

This was a tough call for 3rd place, but I’m going to mix it up since last month and give the nod to Scott Diamond over Ryan Cook.  Cook got the All-Star Game so we’ll call this even then.  Diamond is 7-3, with a 2.62 ERA and has been a bright spot for a Twins team that has really struggled this season.  Even more impressive has been Diamond’s control, just 1.4 BB/9 innings so far this season.  He’s been a diamond in the in rough for Minnesota.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Silver Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers

Just like in the National League, the leader for Rookie of the Year the first two months of the season has been knocked off at the midway point in the season.  Darvish is 10-5 on the season with a 3.59 ERA.  Those numbers are higher than his 3.21 ERA after May.  Where Darvish is helped is by his tremendous strikeout numbers, he’s 4th in the American League with 117 and has 21 more punch outs than the next highest rookie in all of MLB.  (Matt Moore)

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

There is no holding Mike Trout back any more.  This is his award to lose and it’s not even close.  Trout didn’t even play the first month of the season and leads the American League in stolen bases.  Could we see him in this blog post again?  Keep reading.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Robbie Ross, Rangers, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes, Atheltics, and Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

There is incredibly deep pitching depth at National League starting pitcher this season that players like Cueto and James McDonald who have delivered for their teams don’t even make the All-Star team.  Hopefully being 3rd in my rankings will make Cueto feel a little bit better.  This easily could have gone to any one that I’ll list on “just off the podium”, but Cueto leads the N.L. in pitcher WAR along with R.A. Dickey.  He’s 4th in ERA while throwing the 2nd most innings so far this year, just .1 IP behind Clayton Kershaw.  Cueto does lead in adjusted ERA, when you factor in he pitches in Great American Ballpark.

Silver Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

The Giants are looking like geniuses after signing Cain to an extension at the start of this season.  Cain is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, while again throwing the same amount of innings (120.1) as Johnny Cueto.  I have no qualms with him getting to start the All-Star Game for the National League as he has been magnificent.  Cain is 2nd in innings, WHIP, complete games, 4th in strikeouts and leads in shutouts and K/BB ratio.  Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the perfect game he pitched on June 14th, the first in Giants history.  How isn’t he #1 in the Cy Young rankings then?

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

R.A. Dickey, that’s how.  What’s more impressive that a perfect game?  Back-to-back one-hitters is.   There have been twenty-two perfect games in MLB history, but only seven occurrences of back-to-back one-hitters, the last by Dave Stieb in 1988.  Dickey leads the senior circuit in wins, WHIP, pitcher WAR, complete games, and shutouts.  He’s also 2nd in strikeouts, while maintaining a nifty 2.40 ERA.  Not bad for a 37 year-old knuckleballer.

Just off the Podium: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, James McDonald, Pirates, Zack Greinke, Brewers, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals and Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Sale stays in the bronze medal position for now.  You can make a case he should be #2 or even #1 as he is 2nd in the American League in ERA (2.19), pitching WAR (4.2), plus 3rd in wins (10) and WHIP (0.96).  It will be a huge 2nd half story line for the White Sox as Sale already has pitched about innings this season (102.1) as he had in 2010 and 2011 combined (104.2).

Silver Medal: Jered Weaver, Angels

Weaver has been an absolute dream for Angels fans in 2012.  He leads the A.L. in ERA (1.96) and WHIP (0.90), while having a 10-1 record for the Halos.  Just mind-boggling numbers in the much better hitting American League.  There’s only one thing holding me back from putting him in the top spot at this juncture.  The three weeks he missed at the end of May/start of June with back spasms.  Luckily for Weaver he has the entire 2nd half to chase down the pitcher in the top spot.  If he stays healthy, I have a feeling he will.

Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

If you want to be the American League Cy Young Award, you have to knock the king from his throne.  Verlander’s peripheral numbers aren’t as good as Weaver’s, with a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.  However, factor in that Verlander has pitched 35 more innings than Weaver, you can’t argue who has been more valuable to their team at this juncture of the season.  Verlander leads the A.L. in strikeouts (128), innings pitched (132.2), complete games (5) and pitcher WAR (4.3).  They should just rename him Justin Bullpensaver.

Just off the Podium: David Price, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Jake Peavy, White Sox, Matt Harrison, Rangers, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Ernesto Frieri, Angels

National League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: David Wright, Mets

The man who should be starting at third base for the National League (thanks again, Giants fans).  Wright leads the N.L. in WAR, while being in the top 5 in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.441), OPS (1.004), and doubles (27).  He’s also 5th in runs batted in with 59.  He’s come through time after time for the surprising Mets.  Here’s just one example.

Silver Medal: Joey Votto, Reds

When I put Joey Votto in the top spot last month I thought I wouldn’t remove him from that top spot for the rest of this season.  Here we are just a short month later and Votto is dropped to number two.  It’s not Votto’s fault, he’s still been fantastic, leading the National League in on-base percentage (.471!), OPS (1.087), doubles (35), and is hitting a robust .348 (only good enough for 5th).  The difference in value between Votto and the player I have in the gold medal position is Votto’s teams is in second place, while this next player sits atop his division’s standings.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Has there been a better player since June 1st than Andrew McCutchen?  The numbers say no.  He’s hit .401, with 30 runs, 35 runs batted in, and 10 home runs in 137 at-bats.  Even more importantly, the Pirates are 23-11 in that span, and have taken over 1st place in the N.L. Central.  McCutchen leads the National League in batting average (.362), offensive WAR (4.9), total bases (193) and slugging (.625).  He is top 3 in OPS, hits, runs, AND RBI.  McCutchen has blossomed and could lead the Buccos to their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Braun, Brewers, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets

American League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The Yankees have the best record in baseball, so there has to be someone from that team in the top 3.  None have been better than Robinson Cano.  He leads the American league in total bases and is top eight in offensive WAR, OPS, batting average, slugging, OPS, runs, hits, doubles, and home runs.  All the while playing a Gold Glove-caliber second base.  He’s evolved into the next great Yankee.

Silver Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Similar to Joey Votto, I thought Hamilton was going to go wire-to-wire in taking home his 2nd A.L. M.V.P. award.  Not so fast.  Since June 1st, Hamilton is hitting just .217 and has struck out 37 times in 117 at-bats and opened the door for someone to pass him.  Hamilton’s season numbers are still great as he leads the A.L. in slugging, OPS, and home runs for a team that is in 1st place.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout was called up April 28th, essentially missing the first month of the season.  The Angels record was 6-14, they were falling quickly behind the surging Texas Rangers.  Since then, the Angels are 42-24, the best record in baseball in that span.  Trout has been the reason why.  He’s been amazing on the basepaths leading the A.L. in stolen bases with 26.  He’s hitting .341.  He’s 6th in the A.L. in runs scored with 57 in 64 games.  He’s top six in OBP, slugging, and OPS.  He leads the American League in offensive WAR at 3.8.  Now imagine those numbers if he had played in the first 20 games of the season!  He’s played a superb center field and has the defensive play of the season.

He’s probably been the best player in the league, but there’s no doubt to me that he’s been the most valuable.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, and Adam Jones, Orioles

There they are.  My midseason picks for the MLB awards.  Quick hit picks on the Managers of the Year.  I would take Clint Hurdle over Davey Johnson and Terry Collins in the N.L. and Buck Showalter over Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, and Joe Girardi in the A.L.  Let me know who you should be in line for some hardware at this point in the MLB season.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)