Tagged: Matt Moore

The 2013 Way Too Early MLB Awards

It’s May Day!  Meaning the first month of the MLB season is in the books, also meaning it’s time for the monthly awards rankings.  Last year, I finished by picking four of six awards correctly, missing out on NL Rookie of the Year (I still think Wade Miley should’ve won) and AL MVP (ditto Mike Trout).  Here’s who I think is in line for some hardware after April.

American League Rookie of the Year

Silver Medal: Nick Tepesch, Texas Rangers

Normally, we do a top three with a bronze medal, but the American League rookie crop is so poor right now that you’re only getting two.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Aaron Hicks both had promise coming into the year and underwhelmed.  Wil Myers or Dan Straily should hurry up and get called up and take the award you’re supposed to win.  Tepesch has been solid for the Rangers going 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA and an inpressive 14:3 K:BB ratio.

Gold Medal: Justin Grimm, Texas Rangers

Unfortuately for Tepesch, his teammate has been slightly better for now.  Grimm is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA and a 15:4 K:BB ratio that’s been impressive in place of Matt Harrison.  There’s still plenty of time for someone to step up and become the frontrunner for this award.

In the Running: Stephen Pryor, Seattle Mariners

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers

Unlike the American League, there is a plethora of rookie candidates in the NL that had a great start to the season.  Jim Henderson has wrestled away the closer’s role in Milwaukee from John Axford and isn’t giving it back.  He’s six for six in save chances, with a sparkling 0.75 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Silver Medal: Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves

It’s clear that Gattis has been the best rookie hitter in the Majors leading all MLB rookies with six home runs and 16 RBI.  He’s journey back to baseball has been nothing short of remarkable.  Can he keep it up though is the main question. Especially with Brian McCann returning from injury, there might not be a daily spot in the Braves lineup for El Oso Blanco.

Gold Medal: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

If Tony Cingrani of the Reds had been called up for one more start this month, he might be in the top spot.  For now, I’m giving the edge to Shelby Miller who’s been everything Cardinals fans hoped he would be in place of Chris Carpenter.  Miller is 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 30.2 IP this season.

In the Running: Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, and A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners

My love for Hisashi Iwakuma has been strong from the preseason.  Iwakuma is only 2-1, but has 1.67 ERA and leads MLB in WHIP at 0.69.  He’s also become more in command of his pitches with a fantastic 7.4 K:BB ratio.  The Mariners have a formidable 1-2 punch now with Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez.  All due respect to Yu Darvish, who leads the American League in strikeouts, I have a feeling he’ll crack the top three at some point this season.

Silver Medal: Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

It’s a close call for the top spot and Matt Moore gets the short end of it for now.  He’s given the Rays rotation a great boost as defending Cy Young winner David Price has been a little bit of a disappointment thus far.  Moore leads the American League in wins, ERA, and hits/9 innings, but his inability to work deep into games keeps him in the silver spot.

Gold Medal: Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

It’s really splitting hairs between Buchholz and Moore, but I’m going to give the razor-thin edge to the Red Sox starter.  Both pitchers are 5-0, Buchholz has slightly worse ERA and WHIP, but has gone deeper into games for Boston.  Buchholz also has the advantage over Matt Moore in WAR and is tops in the AL in that stat.

In the Running: Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers, Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers, Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners, and Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw or Verlander?  Who’s the best pitcher in all of MLB?  That’s a debate for another day, but right now based on the stats, Kershaw has been 3rd best in the National League.  The Dodgers ace finished the opening month with a 1.71 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and is tied for 2nd in the National League in strikeouts.

Silver Medal: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

Wainwright looks fully back from Tommy John surgery and better than ever.  His streak of not walking a batter to start the season reached epic proportions and leads the league in K:BB, wins, and innings pitched.  He sports a beautiful 2.03 ERA and 0.99 WHIP and hasn’t given up a home run yet this season.  Let me repeat, HE LEADS THE LEAGUE IN BATTERS FACED AND HASN’T GIVEN UP A HOME RUN TO ANY OF THEM.  Amazing.

Gold Medal: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

Who would’ve thought that when the Mets traded 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, they would have another Cy Young contender this year?  Harvey has been a revelation for the Metropolitans going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and a league-leading 0.81 WHIP.  It’s a shame that he’s not eligible for Rookie of the Year, because he’d be leading that race as well.

In the Running: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, Washington Nationals, Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds, Jake Westbrook, St. Louis Cardinals, and Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

The defending AL MVP picked right up where he left off in 2012.  The Triple Crown winner is hitting .363 and is tied for the lead in runs batted in with a player we’ll get to soon.  Could there be back-to-back Triple Crowns in the works?

Silver Medal: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

Probably the best player this season you haven’t heard anything about.  Santana leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and offensive WAR.  He’s blossomed into the AL’s Buster Posey so far this season, we’ll see if he can keep it up.  If the Indians can make the playoffs with Santana performing at this level, he’ll be the MVP.

Gold Medal: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

He’s cooled slightly since his blistering start to the season, but “Crush” Davis leads the AL in home runs, runs batted in, total bases, and slugging.  He’s even hitting .348 with a great .448 OBP.  He’s one of the reasons the Orioles are proving 2012 wasn’t just a fluke.  Let’s not forget his clutchness too!

 

In the Running: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees, Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers, Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox, and Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds

I may have made a mistake having Carlos Gonzalez over Choo on my preliminary All-Star Game ballot last week.  Choo has been a fantastic pick-up for the Reds.  He’s hitting .337 with a league-leading .477 OBP, that has paced the Cincinnati lineup.  He’s also 4th in the NL in runs scored, OPS, and total bases.  That was a great trade for the Reds so far.

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

It’s entirely possible that Harper is about to repeat Mike Trout’s twenty year-old season (minus the stolen bases).  He’s 3rd in the NL in offensive WAR and leads the league in OPS and OPS+.  Harper also is hitting .344 and getting on base at a .430 clip, both top five in the league.  It’s going to be beat into the ground that he’s doing this before he can legally drink, so get used to it.

Gold Medal: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s pretty safe to say that Justin Upton enjoys playing with his brother B.J.  The younger Upton has almost carried the Braves lineup leading the National League in home runs, slugging, runs scored, total bases, and offensive WAR, while hitting .298.  If Upton can start to hit better with runners in scoring position, he could have one of the greatest seasons in Atlanta Braves history.

Who would win your awards after April?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The “Almost On Time” MLB Awards

The 1st of September. The day baseball fans realize surprise teams are for real. (Looking at you Athletics, Orioles, and Pirates) There’s only one baseball holiday left to celebrate. (Happy Labor Day everyone!) However, it gives us a great chance to really figure out who could be going home with some hardware at the end of season. Going to stick with the Olympics theme and give a top three and “just off the podium” for each award.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Michael Fiers, Brewers

True story on the podcast, we basically panned Fiers when he got called up. Since then, he’s been probably the best starter in the Brewers rotation. He’s tied for the best ERA among any rookie with 100+ innings pitched at 2.85 (we’ll get to the other player in just a little bit) and has had a great K/9 and K/BB. Fiers will be a solid piece in the Milwaukee rotation in the coming years.

Silver Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Has there been a rookie who’s stock has risen as much this season as Todd Frazier? The once top prospect came into the 2011 season as the 9th ranked prospect, in the Reds system, not even in all of the minor leagues. Frazier though has been fantastic, especially since filling in the lineup in the absence of Joey Votto. He leads National League rookies in OPS, slugging, and RBI. He’s second in home runs to only Wilin Rosario. Frazier is one of the key cogs why Cincinnati was the first team to 80 wins this season.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Frazier has one more month to try and track down Miley, who sits a top my Rookie of the Year rankings once again. Miley has the same ERA as Fiers, but has thrown 57 more innings than his Brewers counterpart. Miley also leads all MLB rookies in wins with 14. Even more impressive is Miley is 6th in the entire N.L. in WHIP and is tied for 3rd in WAR among pitchers. The gap between Miley and Frazier is small enough that September will decide who will be Rookie of the Year.

Just off the Podium: Bryce Harper, Nationals (though he’s heated up again this week), Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, and Yonder Alonso, Padres

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Despite the best efforts of Matt Moore (3-1, 2.19 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August), Diamond has the better overall numbers (10-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) to maintain his 3rd position for the 3rd straight month. Every other A.L. rookie is in a completely different tier from these next two who are both in a tier of their own.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics

In most years, Cespedes would be the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in batting average, OBP, slugging, home runs, runs batted in, hits, and runs. All while helping lead the surprising Athletics into playoff contention on Labor Day weekend. Sadly for Cespedes, he’s second in all those statistics and is getting blown out by this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

See all the stuff I said Cespedes was second in? He trails Trout in all of those categories. It’s not a question of if Trout is the Rookie of the Year anymore, it’s if he’s still the A.L. MVP.

Just off the Podium: Matt Moore, Rays, Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

This is the most wide open awards race in all of Major League Baseball. There are 10+ players who have a good to great case on why they should win the trophy. Here is Cueto’s case. He leads the senior circuit in wins, ERA, and pitcher WAR. Cueto has been the best starter on the team with the best record in the league. He’s still underrated if that’s possible.

Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

It took me all month to decide that with all of these starters with similar numbers, why not give it to a player that has been utterly dominant in a relief role? Then on the last day of the month I got swayed back to one of the starters that we’ll get to next. Chapman’s numbers have been video game-esque. He is 2nd in the N.L. in saves with 33, impressive considering he lost nine saves at the start of the season to Sean Marshall. Even more impressive though is his 1.27 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and an astonishing 113 K in 64 IP, good for an eye-popping 15.9 K/9.

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

I’m back on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon! I’m sorry about that month where he wasn’t great and I dropped him out of the top 3 in my rankings. Let me apologize by putting him back in the top spot. I watched Dickey’s start against the Marlins on 8/31 and it was just awesome. Dickey posted his N.L. leading 3rd shutout of the season, 5th complete game, and tied Cueto with 17 wins. The shutout also lowered his ERA down to 2.63, good enough for a tied for 2nd with Jordan Zimmermann. Dickey is also top 3 in WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, and pitcher WAR. He’s been one of the best stories in MLB this season.

Just off the Podium: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Matt Cain, Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: David Price, Rays

Oh no! The Sale spot is gone! It was fun while it lasted, but Sale and Jered Weaver’s sub-par August’s knock them out of my top 3. Enter David Price who leads the best rotation in the American League this season. Price is second in ERA (2.53), tied for 1st in wins (16), 5th in pitcher WAR (4.9), 6th in strikeouts (170), and 7th in WHIP (1.10).

Silver Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

Verlander has still been his usual great self this season leading the A.L. in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched. He’s provided solid peripherals while keeping the Tigers in the playoff hunt. Verlander having his worst month of the season though in August opened up the door for another pitcher to take his #1 position. Then again, Verlander’s worst month is still a pretty good month for most pitchers.

Gold Medal: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

This is not a “oh Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, he should win the Cy Young” pick. King Felix has the goods to win his 2nd Cy Young award. He leads the American League in ERA (2.43), innings pitched, HR allowed/9 (0.2!) and shutouts (5). Hernandez has more shutouts than any pitcher in the American League, except Verlander, has complete games. Plus, that perfect game was pretty awesome.

Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, Chris Sale, White Sox, Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees, Matt Harrison, Rangers, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Fernando Rodney, Rays

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

If the award was “Most Outstanding Player” Braun’s case would be that much better. He leads the National League in home runs (36), runs batted in (92), slugging, and OPS. Braun is doing all of this without the protection he had from Prince Fielder in his MVP season just a year ago. If Fielder was still around and the Brewers were in the playoff hunt, it might be Braun in the pole position for back-to-back MVP’s. Instead, he’s merely in the hunt.

Silver Medal: Buster Posey, Giants

Posey has been a man on a mission in the 2nd half of season hitting .388 with a 1.131 OPS. Posey is top 6 in batting average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and offensive WAR. He also has handled one of the top pitching staffs in the league at catcher, while leading them to the top of the N.L. West at the start of September. Posey will need to stay hot as San Francisco continues to look for offense with Melky Cabrera suspended for the rest of the season.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen tailed off considerably in the month of August, but his overall numbers and his team’s standing is still enough to warrant the top spot again. He leads the National League in offensive WAR, hits and runs scored, 2nd in batting average, OBP and OPS, 3rd in slugging, plus throws in 24 homers and 15 stolen bases because he’s nice like that. Don’t forget his Gold Glove-caliber fielding as well.

Just off the Podium: Matt Holliday, Cardinals, David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Jason Heyward, Braves, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Aroldis Chapman, Reds

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The “Sale Spot” might now be the “Cano Spot” as the Yankees 2nd baseman finds himself in 3rd place for the 3rd straight month. Cano is top four in offensive WAR, total bases, doubles, and hits. He’s been carrying along with Derek Jeter a Yankees offense that has been without A-Rod and Mark Teixeira lately. Cano is also the favorite at second base for a Gold Glove award.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

The gap between Cabrera and his first MVP award is closing. Cabrera stayed hot in August hitting .340 while the Tigers continue to try and get into the playoffs. Cabrera is top 3 in offensive WAR, batting average, slugging, OPS, total bases, RBI, and extra-base hits. If the Tigers get to the playoffs, while the leader’s team falters. This award could end up a toss-up by the end of the season.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout is doing things never seen before in baseball. He’s the youngest player to have 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He’s on pace to become the first rookie and youngest player to go 30-30. He leads the American League in offensive WAR, batting average, stolen bases, and runs scored. The only mark against Trout, his team is floundering right now among their lofty expectations. If the Angels make the playoffs, Trout is a lock to win MVP.

Just off the Podium: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, Adam Jones, Orioles, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Josh Reddick, Athletics, Austin Jackson, Tigers, Josh Willingham, Twins, Paul Konerko, White Sox, and Adam Dunn, White Sox

My quick Manager of the Year picks: Bob Melvin just over Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon in the A.L. and Clint Hurdle just over Davey Johnson in the N.L. Who are your picks for the awards right now? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Five Things I Think I Think

We’re two weeks into the MLB season.  Raise your hand if you had the Dodgers at 9-1 and the Angels at 3-6 in Los Angeles.  If you put your hand up, put it down.  I can’t believe you would lie to me like that.  Here’s what I think on this beautiful Patriots Day.

1) I’ll believe in the Dodgers record when they play better teams.  The San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly the strongest teams in Major League Baseball.  Matt Kemp is making his case for the best player in the league.  Kemp currently leads the National League in slugging (1.026), OPS (1.548), home runs (6), total bases (40), runs batted in (16), runs (13) and hits (19).  Hitting .487 apparently isn’t good enough for the league-lead, thanks a lot David Wright.  The Dodgers have the Brewers and Astros on the road, then come home for the Braves and Nationals.  We’ll know a lot more about them after those two weeks, than these first two.

2) Santiago Casilla should get a shot at the Giants closer role once again.  We talked about it on the podcast and I have to re-emphasize it.  Casilla was able to convert 6 of 7 save chances last leason and has been dazzling with a sub 2.00 ERA in each of the past two years.  Casilla would be more suited for the clean slate 9th inning role trying to pick up saves.  He would be better suited to be able to work himself out of trouble as he’s more prone to walking batters than Sergio Romo.  Romo should be saved for the high-pressure situations.  Romo’s 13.1 K/9 in 2011 is better served in jams when the Giants need a strikeout to prevent runs from scoring.

3) Don’t get off the Matt Moore bandwagon just yet.  My controversial pick for AL Cy Young is off to a shaky start with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.  Facing the Tigers and the Red Sox on the road can do that to you.  The Red Sox used their usual game plan of taking a lot of pitches and Moore obliged with four walks in 6.1 innings.  Look for Moore to get on track at home this week against the Twins.

4) No Pujols, no LaRussa, no Duncan, no problem for the St. Louis Cardinals.  David Freese looks like the real deal so far after those expecting a drop off after his postseason heroics.  Carlos Beltran’s under-the-radar signing has paid early dividends.  Lance Lynn has stepped right into the rotation spot left empty by Chris Carpenter’s injury with a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings.  The only setback has Adam Wainwright who still doesn’t seem right coming back from Tommy John surgery.

5) All the teams in the NL East will finish over .500.  The Phillies and Braves were the obvious teams on this list at the start of the season and are off to so-so starts.  The surprises have been the Nationals and Mets who are 7-3 and 6-3 respectively.  The Nationals pitching that I said was the most underrated staff coming into the 2012 season has been spectaular with an ERA under 2.00 through the first 10 games.  The Marlins once they get through their off-the-field problems and can focus on baseball will be there in the end.  How spectacular was the home run structure going off in Marlins Park?  We all owe Omar Infante a debt of gratitude for setting it off.  Here’s the link to it.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20637389&topic_id=&c_id=mlb&tcid=vpp_copy_20637389&v=3

What do you think so far about the season?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes

Five Things I Think I Think

Well the first “Five Things I Think I Think” went so well (we got a comment!) that I’ve decided to make this a recurring thing.  Going to do it Wednesday and Sunday nights.  Here’s what’s gone on in this silly, little brain of mine since we last spoke.

1)      There will be more closer turnover this year than ever.  Here’s the list of closers that have gotten hurt this season Andrew Bailey, Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, Drew Storen, and Ryan Madson.  The closer situations for those teams look pretty fluid right now, especially in Kansas City where current closer Jonathan Broxton became the 1st pitcher in 46 years to end a game with consecutive hit-by-pitches.  Everyone thought it would be Joel Peralta in Tampa Bay, not Fernando Rodney who is now 3 for 3.  Who saw Hector Santiago getting the first two saves for the White Sox?  Don’t lie and say you did.  On the north side of Chicago, Carlos Marmol is being Carlos Marmol and blowing leads in spectacular fashion for the Cubs.  There will be plenty of pitchers getting saves this season, I’ve got a feeling.

 

2)      I want to see Dee Gordon race Peter Bourjos.  Both of these speedsters are burning up the basepaths.  Gordon has an MLB leading five stolen bases (tied with Starlin Castro) and seemingly has a green light any time he’s on base.  Bourjos on the other hand had the first inside-the-park home run in the season against the Twins, circling the bases in a ridiculous 14 seconds.  The link to that is underneath.  Both of these players are in the Los Angeles area.  Can’t we set this up for a LA charity.  Bonus points to Miami Marlins teammates Emilio Bonifacio vs. Jose Reyes in the undercard.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20541799&topic_id=8878746&c_id=ana&tcid=vpp_copy_20541799&v=3

3)      The Tampa Bay Rays won’t go away.  If getting one-hit over eight innings by Justin Verlander doesn’t bury them, then nothing will.  They came back in the 9th against the reigning AL MVP and then continued the onslaught on “Papa Grande” Jose Valverde.  Matt Moore was effective in his first start against a lethal Tigers offense, just another weapon in that rotation.  I’ll continue to say that Joe Maddon is the best manager in the game.

4)      I wish Erik Bedard could stay healthy.  When he is, he’s one of the better starting pitchers in the game.  I’m currently watching him pitch effectively the Dodgers on the road.  If the Pirates get 25 starts out of him, they will be well on their way to .500 for the first time since 1992.  Fantasy owners should have him rostered until he gets hurt.  He was the Mapes Fantasy Special today.  Shameless plug to follow me on Twitter @Mapes4FanCave or just search #MapesFantasySpecial for a starting pitcher to pick up that’s owned in less than 50% of leagues.

5)      Bacon Tuesday is the greatest thing ever.  It’s bacon.  It’s baseball.  Leave it to Oakland fans to come up with something so awesome.  They have great fans.  Just wish more of them would show up at the ballpark.   Jeremy will have more on his Bacon Tuesday experience on the blog soon.

-Bryan Mapes

Which Jersey Should YOU Buy?

Today, Major League Baseball released the list of the 20 best-selling jerseys in 2011.  Derek Jeter to no one’s surprise led MLB in jersey sales (He also was tops in 2010).  His Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera still cracked the list at #18 despite being north of 40 years old.  However, which jerseys are the best investments for the common baseball fan?  One that collects items from all teams, not just their favorite team.

Jeremy Dorn and I are going to do this draft style.  He won the toss and will pick 1st, while I get the 2nd and 3rd and then alternate after that. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness.  Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera would have been high on this list in 1997.  Now lets see if they can crack out top 20 as their careers wind down.

Pick #1: Matt Kemp, Dodgers

You know I have to go with my boy Matt Kemp. He was one home run shy of 40/40 last season, and just signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers. So to meet the criteria, we have the quality, we have the time spent in uniform, and the overall awesomeness speaks for itself. But I’ll elaborate anyway, because I have an unhealthy bromance with Kemp. Undoubtedly the best five-tool player in baseball today, Kemp hits for average (.324 in 2011), power (39 home runs, 126 RBI last year), steals bases (40), plays defense, and guns people from the outfield (NL Gold Glove for center field). He does all these things while being incredibly handsome. That’s all. Go buy a #27 jersey, everyone.

Pick #2: Joey Votto, Reds

A pick I don’t think you saw coming.  After signing a long extension, Votto will be in a Reds uniform potentially through the 2024 season.  That’s what I’m looking for in my picks.  It’s much easier for me to buy a jersey, when I have the security that player won’t be gone any time soon.  Votto is no slouch of a player either.  He is the 2010 NL MVP and his 162 game averages of .313 BA/31 HR/105 RBI will only get better as he continues in his current prime.  He’ll end up on a short list of greatest Reds of all-time especially if he leads the Queen City to their first World Series title since 1990.  What also helps Votto’s case is what other Reds jersey would you buy?  Brandon Phillips?  Johnny Cueto?  Jay Bruce?  Drew Stubbs?  Give me Votto all day.

Pick #3: Albert Pujols, Angels

The player you probably thought I was going with at #2, but the extra length on Votto’s contract gave him the nod over Pujols.  It’s always nice to get in on the ground floor of a new player that has just joined a team.  Especially when he signs a NINE-year contract.  Angels fans won’t go wrong having a Pujols #5 jersey in their closet as he passes milestone after milestone and ends his career in Anaheim.  Pujols’ credentials speak for themself, 3-time MVP, 9-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, and 445 home runs and counting.  You gave me potentially the greatest player in MLB history in my closet, hope you can recover from that.

Pick #4: Matt Cain, Giants

Hah! Gotcha, Mapes. I hate the Giants with all my might, but I can’t deny greatness when I see it. Cain just signed a long extension in San Francisco and should be at the top of the rotation, dominating poor National League hitters for almost another decade. If you want a guy who not only oozes talent and will be in one place for a long time, but is also generally accepted as one of baseball’s good guys, go buy a Matt Cain #18 jersey. Even if it is that ugly orange and black.

Pick #5: Ryan Braun, Brewers

Hah!  Gotcha, Dorn.  That wouldn’t be the Giants jersey I would buy AND I just got the Dodger fan to take a Giants jersey.  I’ll take Ryan Braun last year’s NL MVP.  With Prince Fielder now in Detroit, it doesn’t leave many options for a Brewers jersey in your closet.  Braun is signed in Milwaukee through the 2020 season with a mutual option for 2021, or as I like to call it “longer than Matt Cain.”  I love that I have now locked up the last four years worth of National League MVP’s in my closet while you’re sitting with your favorite player and not even the best pitcher on your hated rival.  Advantage Mapes.  Bonus point for Braun is you get the sweet, baseball mitt style Brewers uniform.

Pick #6: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

First of all, I only took Cain because I’m butt hurt that the Dodgers can’t sign him. It makes sense, just let the logic sink in. I guess we’ll see which Giants jersey you WOULD take here soon *cough, Posey, cough* and that’s nice that you want to represent a player who roids. Well done. I’m taking Miggy for Detroit and his yearly MVP quest. I recently ranked him as the second best player in all of baseball and his numbers back that up. I don’t even care to look how long he will be with the Tigers under his current contract. Why? Because if he moves to a new team, I’ll gladly go out and get the new jersey anyway! That’s how badass this guy is.

Pick #7: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Sure go buy a new Cabrera jersey after 2015, maybe he’ll even go to the Dodgers.  Nah, he’ll probably be another free agent they don’t sign.  I’m taking the best shortstop in the game, Mr. Troy Tulowitzki.  Rockies lock up their players long-term, if you had bought a Todd Helton jersey in 1997, you’d still be wearing it proudly today. (Top 4: Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Helton)  I’ll take nine years of Tulo than 4 years of Cabrera any day.  He hasn’t even hit his peak and has batting titles in his future hitting in Coors Field.  Plus, chicks dig the purple.  It’s science.

Pick #8: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Who doesn’t love a little Cutch? McCutchen is locked up for the next half decade at least with Pittsburgh, and when the Pirates finally climb back above .500 and start to contend again, McCutchen is going to be the face of the new era. He plays a solid center field and can rake with the best of them. He’s still young too…give him another two or three years and you’ll be seeing #22 jerseys everywhere. Not just in Pittsburgh.

Pick #9: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

You finally have a pick I like.  I have to go with my man Giancarlo Stanton before you snap him up on me.  Hell, I’m wearing his jersey t-shirt in my favorite color (orange) right now.  I don’t have to worry about the Marlins changing their uniforms so I know I’m getting full tenure of the jersey when he’s in Miami.  Stanton isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, where I might get worried that he moves on in free agency.  Even then he’ll just be entering his prime and I have no qualms of getting another Stanton jersey, preferably a Braves one.

Pick #10: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Bring on the girlfriend jokes. I know, I know. But is there really a cooler catcher to get a jersey of in baseball right now? Not only is he far and away the best defensive catcher in baseball, but he really brought on his offensive game in 2011. Talk all you want about Pujols and Freese and Carpenter from last year’s World Series run, but Yadi is the heart and soul of that team. There’s a reason he looks so angry all the time – he’s a very intense, focused player. And even though he wouldn’t care, I’d love to rep his jersey. That #4 is going to be the backstop for the Cards through at least 2017.

Pick #11: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

I’ll even let you take Jose and Bengie Molina’s jerseys too.  You could’ve had Molina in the last round if you wanted, but I’m sure you do look good in Cardinal red.  I’m gonna go with the jersey t-shirt I actually bought today.  I had a Jonathan Papelbon jersey t-shirt and we had a good run from 2006-2011, I picked Gonzalez today over Jacoby Ellsbury.  The Red Sox have A-Gon in the lineup through 2018, I’ll take a solid seven years out of this shirt.  There are no worries about the Red Sox changing uniforms.  There’s a guy sitting out there that I thought would go top 5, but I can’t bring myself to take him yet.  Maybe next round.

Pick #12: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

King Felix is still one of the most underappreciated pitchers in baseball. Mostly because he’s been buried on bad teams in Seattle. You’ve to go love this guy. He’s already established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’s still surprisingly young. If you have any baseball fashion sense (says the guy wearing jeans, $25 Nikes and a 10-year-old sweater), you know the Mariners jerseys are sick. And when you throw the “Hernandez” across the shoulders, you’re really stylin’! Felix loves living in the Pacific Northwest and is already signed there for a while longer. But I feel like by the time he’s due a new deal, the M’s will be contending, so I’ll take my chances.

Pick #13: Prince Fielder, Tigers

You really just picked a guy who’s rampant in trade rumors and is more than likely gone after 2014?  You’re gonna go poor with all the jersey you have to buy.  I’ll take the player I thought was going to go in the top 5 picks, the Tiger you should have picked, and a slugger that’s signed in the uniform through 2020, Prince Fielder!  Chicks dig the long ball and Fielder provides that.  Tigers also have a timeless uniform and worst case if he leaves, I can always pretend it’s a Cecil Fielder jersey.

Pick #14: Eric Hosmer, Royals

I have so much bro love for Hosmer that it hurts. He’s still on his rookie deal and will more than likely be the next long-term deal handed out by Royals management. You know I have to get a Hosmer jersey in that powder blue, too. As for the Fielder jersey, it’s a solid choice. He’s going to be a popular choice though, and I am more of a dark horse jersey kind of man. For example, I rep my James Loney Dodger jersey proudly all the time. Now imagine another pretty blue jersey with another first baseman’s name across the back? Hosmer is the best young first baseman in the game, Freddie Freeman be damned.

Pick #15: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

That is the first pick you’ve made that made slam something in anger.  I should’ve gone Hosmer over Prince because you already had a Tigers jersey.  That was a misstep on my part.  I’ll redeem myself with taking the ONLY pitcher jersey I would buy and that is Strasburg.  I fear the big injury with pitchers and they never recover, but I think Strasburg already has that out of the way.  There is no player in MLB that gets the attention he does when he’s on his game.  He’s under contract until 2016 and I look really good in red.

Pick #16: Matt Moore, Rays

Whoa, calm down there buddy! Strasburg is the ONLY pitcher’s jersey you would take? I think the fact that he’s already been injured is reason to NOT take him. What if the same problem crops up again? Once you’re damaged goods, you will literally always have the injury questions following you. So I’ll go with a guy who’s very young, very talented and going to be a breakout star in Tampa in 2012. He’s still on a rookie deal so he should be around for at least four more years, and he will have a chance to contend for a Cy Young by 2013 in my opinion. Moore, Felix and Cain. I dig my pitcher jerseys!

Pick #17: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays

You’re right, I’d probably take a Matt Moore jersey too.  I even picked him to win AL Cy Young this year somewhere on this blog.  You took Hosmer, so I’ve to get a young stud in a blue jersey too and none better than Brett Lawrie.  Toronto just updated their uniforms coming into this season, so hopefully they stick with them for a while.  Lawrie is also a Canadian born and bred, so I have a feeling he can be a lifetime Blue Jay, unless they stick a team in Vancouver in the next 15 years, making this a safer investment.

Pick #18: Carlos Santana, Indians

You can’t take a guy who hasn’t actually proved anything yet…can you? I’m going with a sure bet. I don’t know if Santana will ever bring his average up, but the power game alone is going to keep fans in love with this young catcher. Plus, I’m still a little bitter that the Dodgers traded him away for Casey Blake. Talk about a bad decision. Right now, I’ve got the best young catcher in the AL Central, the best young first baseman, and the best overall player in the division all tied up on my team. I’m not a huge fan of that division, but I’ll gladly wear these guys’ jerseys.

Pick #19: Buster Posey, Giants

I’ll take the guy I knew you wouldn’t pick or be ridiculed for being a Dodgers fan with two Giants jerseys in his closet.  Posey went to my favorite college when I was little (Florida State) and we have the same birthday!  How do I NOT take him?  As previously mentioned, orange is my favorite color too.  Posey is on his way to super stardom and being the best catcher in the game, unless Joe Mauer can get himself back on track.  A steal this late in the jersey draft as Posey’s jersey was in the top 20 sold in 2011 and he was hurt for the 2nd half.

Pick #20: Robinson Cano, Yankees

How can you have an epic jersey collection without a Yankee in there? I know they are the Evil Empire but if you think those classic threads are ugly, you are a sad, sorry person. If I’m going to take a Yank, it’s gotta be Cano. He’s the future of their franchise and has already established himself as a legit MVP candidate. He’ll be there for life more than likely as all great Yankees are. When I put that on, I’ll get evil glares until they see the big #20 on my back.

Clearly, I’ve out-drafted you tonight, Mapes. I’ll give you props for taking Giancarlo, Tulo and Strasburg. They are bold picks and we could be talking about those three for years to come. But Votto, Prince, Pujols and A-Gon? Come on, I know you’re more original than that! Everyone already has those ones, and while they look pretty, you’ll be matching about 5,000 other fans at any given game.

My team is clearly the more solid one, what with a classic Yankee jersey, the best young star in baseball (Kemp), and three awesome pitchers included on the rack. When making these choices, one must consider first how the jersey looks, then how relevant the player is. And anyone who thinks a Yadi Molina Cards jersey won’t just be pure glory is clearly in contact with Ryan Braun’s dealer.

Robinson Cano was going to make my honorable mention list, but they fact that he’s a free agent after next season kept me at bay.  If he got signed to a 7-year extension tomorrow, he catapults to top 3.  I was for players that I know I will get many years of enjoyment out of.   You will be buying jerseys left and right while I’ll still slip on my Votto, Pujols, Fielder, and Gonzalez late into this decade.  Gonzalez isn’t as owned as you think in Boston, I’ve actually been to Fenway Park.  Plus, I have the color wheel completely covered red, purple, navy blue, bright blue, black, and orange.  My quality of player is also far better and I didn’t pick a jersey of my biggest rival with my 2nd pick, what kind of fan are you?

Here are our honorable mentions!

Jeremy: Yonder Alonso (Padres), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), and Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)

Bryan: Starlin Castro (Cubs), Jason Heyward/Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Joe Mauer (Twins)

Final Jersey Rosters:

Jeremy: Kemp (Dodgers), Cain (Giants), Cabrera (Tigers), McCutchen (Pirates), Molina (Cardinals), Hernandez (Mariners), Hosmer (Royals), Moore (Rays), Santana (Indians), and Cano (Yankees)

Bryan: Votto (Reds), Pujols (Angels), Braun (Brewers), Tulowitzki (Rockies), Stanton (Marlins), Gonzalez (Red Sox), Fielder (Tigers), Strasburg (Nationals), Lawrie (Blue Jays), Posey (Giants)

The fact that we got through twenty players and there are still a bunch of players that I would proudly wear on the street, shows what a great place America’s pastime is in.

Who would you want in your collection?  Vote in the poll, eave a comment or yell at us on Twitter @Mapes4FanCave for Bryan or @Jamblinman for Jeremy!

I Wish I Had That Almanac From “Back to the Future”

Opening Night is tonight!  The Cardinals and Marlins open brand new Marlins Park tonight at 7:05.  You can take a peek at the new stadium at http://3u3d.mlblogs.com/2012/04/03/big-fish-in-a-smaller-nicer-pond/ or by scrolling down a couple posts.  However, it mean it’s time for some predictions for the 2012 MLB season!

National League

East

Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Mets

Central

Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs, Astros

West

Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres

American League

East

Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles

Central

Tigers, Royals, Twins, Indians, White Sox

West

Angels, Rangers, Athletics, Mariners

Wild Card Play-In

Phillies over Rockies

Rangers over Rays

Division Series

Giants over Phillies

Braves over Reds

Yankees over Rangers

Angels over Tigers

Championship Series

Giants over Braves

Yankees over Angels

World Series

Yankees over Giants

I really didn’t want the Yankees to win the World Series, but that statistic where there last six times Kentucky men’s basketball won the National Championship, the Yankees went on to win the World Series in the same year just gets me every time.  I remember laughing at it in 1998 and it happened.

Awards

National League

MVP: Matt Kemp

If he statistically does what he wants to do, he’ll win hands down.

Cy Young: Tim Lincecum

I have the Giants doing really well this season and he would be the big part of it.

Rookie of the Year: Drew Pomeranz

I don’t really like the crop of rookies in the National League this season, so I’m gonna go with the guy that has a rotation spot now and can rack up 25+ start and help out Colorado.

American League

MVP: Robinson Cano

Just barely over Miguel Cabrera.  They’re both great players, but I think Cano is going to shoulder the load for New York with Jeter, A-Rod, and Teixeira another year older.

Cy Young: Matt Moore

You know what?  I need something crazy to root for this year.  Why not Matt Moore?  Moore looked poised late last season and in the playoffs last season.

Rookie of the Year: Matt Moore

Well if he’s Cy Young, he’s going to win this too.

Like them?  Hate them?  Leave a comment and let me know!

-Bryan Mapes