Time for more bobblehead madness. In case you missed part one on the AL West, check it out here. Again, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness. Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better. Which bobbleheads in the AL Central will be crowned the king? Let’s find out!
Cleveland Indians (amount of giveaway varies)
Saturday, May 3rd, Orel Hershiser: Interesting choice for a throwback bobblehead as Hershiser had a 4.21 ERA in his three seasons with the Tribe. He is a big name though. This giveaway is for 10,000 fans. ** 1/2
Saturday, May 31st, BrOhio: I have no idea where this is going, but it has potential to be the most creative bobblehead in Cleveland’s crop. They also up the giveaway to 12,500 for this one. *** 1/2
Tuesday, June 3rd, Michael Bourn: Pretty standard stuff here. Back down to 10,000 fans on this giveaway **
Tuesday, July 8th, Jason Kipnis: See, Michael Bourn. But a slightly better player and 12,500 fans get this one. ** 1/2
Monday, September 1st, Michael Brantley: Another average to slightly above average player getting his bobble on. Still 12,500 fans for this one, but still a low number compared to other teams. A lot of quantity, but not much quality from the Indians in 2014. **
Total: 12 1/2 stars
Minnesota Twins (10,000 fans)
Friday, June 20th, Harmon Killebrew 1965 All-Star Game: I had a feeling the Twins would go the route the Mets did in 2013 and honor players that appeared in All-Star Games with the team. The Twins are hosting the 2014 All-Star Game. This would be a huge boost if the Twins also featured the three Minneapolis stadiums to host the All-Star Game as well. Killebrew is one of my favorite players of all-time. ****
Friday, July 4th, Lou Gehrig: This giveaway is with the Yankees in town and corresponds with the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s farewell speech. Great tip of the cap to history by the Twins. ****
Saturday, July 5th, Tom Brunansky 1985 All-Star Game: Brunansky picked a great year to be the only Twins All-Star and make his only appearance in the Midsummer Classic. The career .245 hitter does have a sweet mustache, but it’s not enough to probably be the worst bobblehead of 2014. *
Saturday, September 6th, TBD 2014 All-Star Game: Fake Vegas odds on who this bobblehead will be. Joe Mauer -2000, Glen Perkins +500, anyone else +1500. If it’s Mauer…….. ***
Total: 12 stars
Kansas City Royals (10,000 fans)
Saturday, June 28th, James Shields: This is going to be tough to dole out stars with a measly 10,000 fans getting each bobblehead. Shields is a solid pitcher, but not a big star. **
Saturday, July 12th, Salvador Perez: Perez isn’t even on Shields’ level, yuck. * 1/2
Sunday, August 10th, Alex Gordon: Gordon is the “star” of the team. We’ll see if they make it with a Gold Glove variation, that’d be a nice addition. ** 1/2
Saturday, August 30th, Mr. Royal: This one could actually be fun! This throwback mascot will get a bobblehead on retro night. I’m in. *** 1/2
Total: 9 1/2 stars
Detroit Tigers (amount of giveaway varies)
Thursday, June 5th, Max Scherzer 2013 Cy Young Award: No picture yet of the the bobblehead, but I’d suspect it’ll be him holding the Cy Young award. Maybe they’ll throw in the WWE Title belt that Scherzer was given for winning Cy Young. This giveaway is for 15,000 fans. ***
Thursday, August 14th, Justin Verlander Mini-Bobblehead: Mini-bobblehead? Can’t give him a normal sized one? I’ll only accept this if there’s a mini-Kate Upton on it too. This giveaway is for just 10,000 fans. Dislike. * 1/2
Friday, August 15th, Miguel Cabrera 2-Time MVP: Apparently to get a normal-size bobblehead you have to win an award the previous season. I want Cabrera to be wearing his Triple Crown crown while holding two MVP’s in his arms. I’d bet it won’t look like that. This giveaway is also for 10,000 fans. ****
Total: 8.5 stars
Chicago White Sox (20,000 fans)
Saturday, May 24th, Chris Sale: Sale is the current and future ace of the White Sox. The extra 5,000 fans that get to take this home compared to the Yu Darvish bobblehead in part one, gives this an extra 1/2 star. ***
Saturday, August 30th, Tony LaRussa: Many people forget that LaRussa started his managing career on the Southside. In his Hall of Fame induction year, I like that they’re giving him a bobblehead. I hope it’s in this classic throwback uniform. *** 1/2
Total: 6.5 stars
That’ll do it for the AL Central. I’m quite disappointed that there were no pictures of any 2014 bobbleheads in this division. The Indians win on quantity, but the Twins win on quality. Unless, it’s Tom Brunansky of course.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
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 2013 MLB All-Star Game is 83 days away, but never fear you can start voting for your favorite players today here. You get 25 votes that gets bumped up to 35 if you log in with your MLB.com account. Of course there are still paper ballots that can be found at every stadium and the MLB Fan Cave for you to fill out. While I don’t fill out mine until I get a better grasp of who deserves it (like that ends up mattering) here’s what my ballot would look like on April 24th.
American League: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles Davis is off to a hot start for Baltimore. He’s hitting .382 with an AL-leading 7 home runs coming into the games on the 24th. Mike Napoli and Prince Fielder have cases and Napoli would be my pick if he was on the ballot at catcher, not first base. (Runner-up: Prince Fielder, Tigers)
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds The power numbers aren’t there, but Votto-matic is automatic at getting on base leading the league with 26 walks so far and a crazy .485 OBP. The next highest walk total is 16 by David Wright. (Runner-up Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers)
American League: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees I can make a case that Robinson Cano is the MVP of the American League right now. Then you can make the case that it’s April 24th and that’s stupid. (Runner-up Ian Kinsler, Rangers)
National League: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds It must be nice for Phillips to just get to drive in OBP-machines Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo getting on base ahead of him all the time. He leads NL second baseman in RBI and is tied for the lead in home runs. Plus, he’s the best defender at the position in the league. (Runner-up Daniel Murphy, Mets)
American League: Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics Lowrie has been quite a coup for Billy Beane’s boys. Lowrie leads AL shortstops in runs, RBI, and batting average. (Runner-up: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays, I’m not joking either)
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies Why have the Rockies been surprising in 2013? A healthy and hitting Troy Tulowitzki is a big part of it. He leads NL shortstops in home runs, RBI, and runs, while hitting .292. (Runner-up: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers)
American League: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers The defending AL MVP is off to a quiet start, but is still among the league leaders in hits and is best among AL third sackers in batting average. (Runner-up: Evan Longoria, Rays)
National League: David Wright, New York Mets I really wanted to have NL batting leader Chris Johnson here, but Wright has had the overall better start to the season, especially on the basepaths. There’s a lot of depth here right now with Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, and Martin Prado off to solid starts. (Runner-up: Chris Johnson)
American League: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays Napoli not being on the ballot at catcher is Arencibia’s gain for now. He leads the American League in home runs with eight after another one on Wednesday. He’s my least likely from here to be on my actual ballot in a couple months. (Runner-up: Carlos Santana, Indians)
National League: John Buck, New York Mets Let’s just sum up Buck’s start with this meme. (Runner-up: Evan Gattis, Braves, wait he’s not on the ballot?!?)
American League: Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, and Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles These three have been the best all-around outfielders in the American League this season. It’s not my fault that they’re all center fielders. (Runners-up: Austin Jackson, Tigers and Alex Rios, White Sox)
National League: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, and Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals There is a ton of depth at National League outfield right now. You could take the next four on my list and make a case they deserve it on to the squad. Justin Upton has been hands-down the best hitter in the game so far this season, it’s ridiculous that he’s still on pace for 90+ home runs. (Runners-up: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, Dexter Fowler, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, and Andrew McCutchen, Pirates)
American League: Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians Reynolds has been a great find for Cleveland with seven home runs and 18 RBI, both are top ten in MLB right now. (Runner-up: Travis Hafner, New York Yankees)
Who would you have on your All-Star ballot on release day? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Last season, the AL Central was not only the weakest top to bottom in the American League, but you could also argue it was the weakest in all of baseball. While no team last surpassed 88 wins, the AL representative in the World Series came from the Central. Will Detroit win the division for a 3rd straight year? Or will the White Sox be able to fend off a Tigers push? Will Cleveland’s new manager Terry Francona bring back playoff baseball for the Indians? Are the Royals finally ‘there’?
Chicago White Sox: Chicago looks to be primed to make a run at an AL Central title this year and it starts with their rotation. The 1-2 punch of Chris Sale and Jake Peavy will provide solid outings all year but the injury to John Danks might prove to be too costly. It’ll be up to Dylan Axelrod to step up in Danks’ absence. The two biggest question marks for the lineup are will Adam Dunn mash all season long again and can Paul Konerko stay healthy and lead the way in what may be his last season?
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have a lot to be excited about heading into this season and it starts with accomplished manager, Terry Francona. The sheer experience Francona brings to the clubhouse will propel Cleveland past last season’s 68 wins. New additions Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Reynolds provide the ability to score runs with Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. The real concern with the Indians will be the starting rotation. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers are going to have to carry the load if this team is going to be successful in 2013.
Detroit Tigers: The defending AL Champs have everyone back from last year with a key addition in Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez. This team is built to win now and should run away with the division. But there is one giant hole; the role of closer. The Tigers will start the season with a closer by committee strategy that will rotate Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, and Octavio Dotel. The rotation is the best in the league with a perennial Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez., and Rick Porcello. Expect to see this team deep in October.
Kansas City Royals: Every year for the past 5 years, the talk about the Royals has been “they are 1 or 2 years away”. This organization has plenty of young talent but its put up or shut up time. James Shields and Ervin Santana join 2012 mid-season acquisition Jeremy Guthrie to form the 2nd best pitching staff in the Central. If Butler, Moustakas, and co. can stay healthy, the KC Royals will be playing meaningful games through September and might see some post-season action.
Minnesota Twins: When you’re Opening Day starter is Vance Worley, you have seen better days. To make this season a success, the Twins need to break up the M&M boys. It makes more sense for Morneau to be dealt purely based on contract size, unless the Twinkies want to absorb some of Joe Mauer’s $23M/year deal. Josh Willingham provided much of the offense last year while having a career year. The only way I can see this team avoiding a 100-loss season is if Willingham duplicates his 2012 stats AND they do not trade Mauer or Morneau. It might be more beneficial to bite the bullet this year and start stocking up for 2014.
Adam Dunn – Chicago White Sox
Michael Bourn – Cleveland Indians
Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals
Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham – Minnesota Twins
Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Max Scherzer – Detroit Tigers
James Shields – Kansas City Royals
Rookie of the Year
Aaron Hicks – Minnesota Twins
Will the Tigers run away with this division? Is this the last time you can see the M&M boys in Twins uniforms? Comment below!
– Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R)
We’ve finally reached the pinnacle. You’ve climbed the mountain and finally get to see who I think is the best player in baseball right now! Or if this is the first one you’ve read, in that case check out 20-16, 15-11, and 10-6 that got us here. If you’d like to see the entire MLB Network “Top 100 Right Now” list, click here. Time for the top five, with a player who I think is underrated by MLB Network’s list.
I ended the last blog with a Dodger and starting this blog with a Dodger. Matt Kemp has the potential to be the best player in the game. We saw it in 2011 when he put together a near 40-40, Triple Crown season, while leading the NL in runs and RBI. That wasn’t enough to get him an MVP award, which is why I have the next player ahead of him. Hopefully, Kemp’s hamstring woes are behind him and he becomes the dominant, durable player he was before 2012. Ridiculous random list that this player is on! Players since 1980 to lead their league in runs scored, runs batted in, and home runs in the same season: Mike Schmidt (1981), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997), Alex Rodriguez (2007), Albert Pujols (2010), and Matt Kemp (2011).
What more does Ryan Braun need to do to get respect? He wins the NL MVP in 2011. Braun then loses his protector in the lineup in Prince Fielder to free agency, but has his first 40-homer season. The Hebrew Hammer also adds in 30+ plus stolen bases for good measure. Five-straight all-star appearances, five-straight Silver Sluggers, and he’s led the National League in OPS each of the past two seasons. The defense might not be spectacular, but you can make the argument that the other tools make Braun the best hitter in baseball. Ridiculous random list that this player is on! Players in the history of Major League Baseball to have a 30 home run, 30 stolen base season, while leading the league in OPS: Hank Aaron (1963), Dale Murphy (1983), Barry Bonds (1990, 1992, and 1995), Larry Walker (1997), and Ryan Braun (2011-2012). Braun is the ONLY player to achieve the feat in back-to-back seasons.
I have no qualms with Verlander being MLB Network’s runner-up, but I’m lowering him down to #3 only because I devalue pitching. I almost even dropped him behind Braun. Enough negative stuff though, Verlander is the clear best pitcher in the game today. There is no pitcher (Kershaw could get there) where you’re watching every start, because there’s a real chance a no-hitter will be thrown. That’s what Verlander brings to the ballpark every fifth day. Verlander also does so much for the Tigers bullpen by leading the league in innings pitched the past two years. He even went 63 straight starts pitching at least six innings. Verlander in 2011 was the first starting pitcher since 1986 to win an MVP award and does more to help his team than any pitcher in the game today. Ridiculous random list this player is on! Pitchers since 1946 to lead their league in innings pitched AND earned run average: Sandy Koufax (1965-66), Greg Maddux (1993-95), Randy Johnson (1999 & 2002), Johan Santana (2008), Felix Hernandez (2010), & Justin Verlander (2011).
What batter would you want to have up with your World Series on the line? Too soon, Tigers fans? Cabrera is the best slugger in the game and proved his with his monstrous 2012 season in which he became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown. He doesn’t run much and the defense is still so-so adjusting to third base, but man can he hit. He’s not just a slugger with eight 30-homer seasons in his first nine full years, but also hits for average! Cabrera has never hit below .292 in a full season and has back-to-back batting titles on his mantle. He’s still in his prime too! I can’t imagine if he actually IMPROVES on his Triple Crown season. No random list, but here’s a fun stat: Every MLB Triple Crown winner, also led their league in OPS, maybe it should actually be the Quadruple Crown?
#1, Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB Network’s #1)
It’s pretty anticlimactic that I actually agree with MLB Network’s best player in the league right now. The term “five-tool player” gets thrown around a lot, but in one season Trout has proved he’s the best all-around player in the game. Whether it’s home run-robbing catches, speed on the base paths, hitting for average, or blasting 30 home runs despite not being called up in the first three weeks of the season, there is nothing Mike Trout can’t do. Even if he regresses in his sophomore season, his numbers will still be eye-popping. If I told you last year that a kid that wasn’t even going to start the season in the Majors would be #1 on this year’s list you’d have thought I was crazy, but that’s where we are. One last time! Ridiculous random list this player is on! Players in American League history with 30+ home runs and 47+ stolen bases in the same season: Mike Trout (2012), that is all.
The list is complete! Who would top your list of the best players in MLB right now? Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link below with #MapesRightNow!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Three (in some cases four) finalists at each position in each league for the Gold Glove awards were announced today. The award, which recognizes the best defensive player at each position in each league, is voted on by managers and up to six coaches on their staffs.
Managers and coaches can not vote for someone on their own team. We’ve seen over the years that some deserving players get recognized (Yadier Molina has won four straight at NL catcher), some get snubbed (Mark Ellis and his career .991 fielding percentage has never won), and some only win because of their name.
Yes, even managers and coaches get caught up in player celebrity for things like this. Anyway, the final results will be announced tomorrow night on ESPN2, but we’re here today to tell you who should win each Gold Glove.
Finalists – Alex Avila (Tigers), Russell Martin (Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox), Matt Wieters (Orioles)
These were the only four A.L. catchers to start at least 100 games. Martin, Pierzynski and Avila all had a .994 fielding percentage, while Wieters sat at .991. While Wieters had the most errors of the group, he also had the best caught stealing percentage. For me, those nearly cancel out – I’m giving the award to Avila, who had the most consistent stats across the board.
Finalists – Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
It’s not even close. Again, Molina has blown away the competition and perfected the art of catching. Ruiz and Montero both had good seasons behind the dish, but one could argue that there were more worthy candidates to lose to Molina. In 133 games started, Molina made 3 errors (.997 fielding percentage) and threw out nearly 50 percent of attempted base stealers (35 out of 73). Need I say more?
A.L. First Base:
Finalists – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox/Dodgers), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
I’m not sure what Hosmer is doing as a finalist, since he had the second lowest fielding percentage for qualifying first basemen in the American League. Gonzalez and Teixeira both have a reputation for being smooth fielders, and proved so again this season. I give the edge to the Yankee first baseman because he made one less error in many more chances. And now we’ve avoided the awkwardness of giving a Dodger an American League Gold Glove.
N.L. First Base:
Finalists – Freddie Freeman (Braves), Adam LaRoche (Nationals), Joey Votto (Reds)
The Nationals most consistent player isn’t just a home run hitter. The guy can play a mean first base, and proved it this year. You’d never guess who the best defensive statistics among first base qualifiers belonged to in 2012 (Spoiler: It’s Carlos Lee…WHAT?), but LaRoche was right there with him. He edges Votto because LaRoche played in more games and had a slightly better fielding percentage.
A.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
I’m not sure why Ackley got the nod over the likes of Gordon Beckham or Jason Kipnis, but none of them would compete with Cano and Pedroia here anyway. They tied for the best fielding percentage in the league at .992, and though Pedroia turned more double plays, Cano has the better range. Both are good for one highlight play a night, but I think the vote will go to the Yankees star.
N.L. Second Base:
Finalists – Darwin Barney (Cubs), Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), Brandon Phillips (Reds)
All three of these guys certainly deserve to be here, but even if Mark Ellis had played a full, healthy season for the Dodgers he would have been snubbed. Sigh. Though Hill and Phillips and their .992 fielding percentages are very impressive, you can’t discount Barney’s ridiculous errorless streak in Chicago. Any other year, Phillips defends his title.
A.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Brandon Inge (Tigers/A’s), Mike Moustakas (Royals)
Brandon Inge didn’t even qualify at third base, technically. While that doesn’t mean he can’t be voted for, it’s a strange selection. How about the third best fielding percentage in the league for Miguel Cabrera? Give him the spot as a finalist. Alas, it wouldn’t matter. Moustakas has a lot of Gold Gloves in his future, but he might have to wait for Beltre and his league-leading 8 errors to retire.
N.L. Third Base:
Finalists – Chase Headley (Padres), Aramis Ramirez (Brewers), David Wright (Mets)
This is the closest race so far, as all three of these guys are grouped tightly way ahead of the rest of the pack at their position. Ramirez had a .977 fielding percentage, Headley had a .976, and Wright had a .974 this year…so how do you choose? Even though Ramirez had the best percentage, Headley had 125 more chances and only made 3 more errors, plus his range factor was the best in the league.
Finalists – Elvis Andrus (Rangers), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Brendan Ryan (Mariners)
Look, all three of these guys are good shortstops, but it’s inexplicable that Jhonny Peralta was left off this. He only made 7 errors all season! Andrus had a worse fielding percentage than Derek Jeter, so he’s out right off the bat. Ryan is one of the most exciting shortstops in baseball and can grow a great mustache. Sorry Seattle fans, that’s not enough – Hardy and his league-leading 6 errors take the cake here.
Finalists – Zack Cozart (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jose Reyes (Marlins), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)
It’s really a three-horse race between Cozart, Reyes and Rollins (the Mets’ Ruben Tejada should have had Desmond’s spot), and I’m giving it to the wily vet in Philadelphia for having the most impressive all-around defensive numbers at the position. Cozart is definitely a future winner though. As for anyone calling for Brandon Crawford? Yes, he had a great postseason defensively, but also had the second-most errors and third-worst fielding percentage in the league.
A.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Alex Gordon (Royals), Desmond Jennings (Rays), David Murphy (Rangers)
Let me explain myself – major props to Jennings (0 errors this year) and Murphy (1 error), but Gordon and his 2 errors are going to win his second consecutive Gold Glove. Yes, you have to be able to catch the ball and all three players do that supremely well. But you need to have an arm too, and Gordon blew away the competition with 17 outfield assists in 2012.
N.L. Left Field:
Finalists – Ryan Braun (Brewers), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Martin Prado (Braves)
This is definitely the most messed up voting by the managers and coaches so far, as these three were the bottom three performers among qualifiers at their position. Surprisingly enough, the two strongest candidates were Jason Kubel and Alfonso Soriano. Prado gets the edge for making half as many errors as Braun and having the most outfield assists of the three.
A.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Austin Jackson (Tigers), Adam Jones (Orioles), Mike Trout (Angels)
It should be Jackson, but will be Trout. Jackson had better numbers across the board defensively, though not by much. Trout only had 2 outfield assists, but made just 2 errors (Jackson had 1) and robbed at least four home runs. Surprisingly, Jones was one of the worst statistical center fielders, even though he’s extremely athletic out there. Again, it should be Jackson’s Gold Glove, but no way Trout won’t add this to his trophy case.
N.L. Center Field:
Finalists – Michael Bourn (Braves), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Drew Stubbs (Reds)
Angel Pagan, Carlos Gomez and Cameron Maybin all have stronger cases for this award than Stubbs, but for some reason managers and coaches LOVE the Reds’ defense (MLB-best 6 finalists). Neither Bourn nor McCutchen had many outfield assists, but both were stellar defensively. Even though the award should probably go to Jon Jay of St. Louis, it’ll be McCutchen edging out Bourn because of one less error.
A.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), Josh Reddick (A’s)
Reddick was a revelation in all facets of the game, making some of the most eye-popping plays of the year for the A’s in 2012, but 5 errors will outweigh his high range factor and 14 assists. It’s especially difficult to compete with Francoeur, who had less errors and a league-leading 19 assists. Choo had a great fielding percentage, but didn’t throw enough guys out to compete. That means the Royals’ corner outfielders threw out 36 guys on the base paths combined this year. Wow.
N.L. Right Field:
Finalists – Jay Bruce (Reds), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Jason Heyward (Braves)
Etheir won his Gold Glove in 2011 because he didn’t make an error all season and had a lot of outfield assists. His numbers declined a bit in 2012, but he was still worthy of a final spot. Bruce on the other hand? That spot should have definitely gone to Justin Upton or Carlos Beltran. Even tho Ethier had less errors and a slightly better fielding percentage than Heyward, you have to give J-Hey the Gold Glove for his 11 outfield assists this year, which was tops in the league.
Finalists – Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Jake Peavy (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels)
Ah, the most random and pointless Gold Glove award. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for pitchers to field their positions cleanly, but if we are talking about numbers, there is about a 37-way tie in each league. Technically, the most impressive line goes to Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees, but his name doesn’t appear. Among the three finalists, Peavy had the least errors and most double plays turned.
Finalists – Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Mark Buehrle (Marlins), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
All three of these guys are widely known for fielding their positions well, and while I’d love to give my boy Kershaw some love, I’ll let him keep his 2011 Cy Young Award and 2012 Roberto Clemente Award to themselves. All 3 guys made 0 errors this year, but Buehrle dominated in range factor and turned the most double plays. And making this play in 2010 earned him free Gold Gloves for the rest of his life. Geez, still the coolest play ever!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)