Tagged: Robinson Cano

2014 MLB Bobblehead Battle: AL West

Is there any better ballpark promotion than the bobblehead?  The answer is no. This is part one of a six-part series, giving you the breakdown of what bobbling wonders will be at the stadium this spring and summer.  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.  Let’s start it off with the AL West!

Seattle Mariners (Each giveaway is 20,000 fans)

cano

Saturday, May 31st, Robinson Cano: You knew the Mariners had to give a bobblehead to their new superstar player.  This is (surprisingly) the first bobblehead giveaway for Cano in MLB. ***

Thursday, June 12th, Macklemore: I’m not a huge Macklemore fan, but I love the Mariners creativity for the local musical star.  I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but at least they have Macklemore in a M’s jersey to go off of. **** 1/2

Saturday, July 12th, Hisashi Iwakuma: I’m a sucker for Iwakuma and would rate this higher for my collection.  In the overall scheme, nothing too spectacular.  **

Saturday, August 9th, Lou Pinella Mariners Hall of Fame: Lou Pinella is one of my favorite managers of all-time and I’m glad they’re comboing up a bobblehead with his induction day.  Should be a fun day in Seattle.  I truly hope it involves him kicking his cap. *** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Felix Hernandez: Another year, another Felix Hernandez bobblehead from the Mariners.  Wish they had made a Jesus Montero bobble belly instead. **1/2

Total: 15 1/2 stars

Texas Rangers (Each giveaway is for 15,000 fans)

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Saturday, April 19th, Yu Darvish Strikeout King: Standard fare, the teams best player in a standard pitching bobblehead.  Would’ve been fun if they had the “strikeout king” have a crown with a K on it.  **1/2

Sunday, May 18th, Prince Fielder: Another pretty standard bobblehead, but with the team’s best and newest hitter. **1/2

Saturday, July 12th, Eric Nadel: Now we’re having some fun!  Nadel has been with the Rangers since 1979 as their broadcaster and is the winner of the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award.  And now, his own bobblehead too.  Love it!  ****

Tuesday, August 12th, Pudge Rodriguez Gold Glove: I’ve got nothing against this one honoring one of the best players in Rangers history.  I also like that they’re honoring his defense.  There isn’t a picture of it yet, but it get a bonus 1/2 star if his glove is actually gold.  ***

Thursday, September 4th,  Shin Soo-Choo: Choo is also a new Rangers acquisition, but he’s not quite on Darvish or Fielder’s level.  It’s going to be tough for the Rangers to top the greatest Shin Soo-Choo bobblehead of all-time. **

Total: 14 stars

Houston Astros (10,000 fans each giveaway)

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Saturday, April 26th, Jason Castro All-Star: A nice honor to add on to Jason Castro’s all-star to give him his own bobblehead.  He’s not a major star though, yet.  **

Friday, August 1st, Lance Berkman: A great player in Astros history gets honored, because there aren’t many players on this current roster to give a bobblehead to. ** 1/2

Sunday, August 3rd, Roy Oswalt: See, Lance Berkman.  I do like that they made these the same weekend for fans. ** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Nolan and Reid Ryan: Not many executives get bobbleheads and I would go out on a limb to say that this is the first double executive bobblehead in MLB history.  I want to rate it higher, but only 10,000?  Then again, the Astros attendance isn’t the strongest.  ****

Total: 11 stars

Oakland Athletics (various amounts of fans)

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Saturday, April 19th, Josh Donaldson Diorama: First off, kudos to the Athletics for increasing their giveaways from 10,000 to 20,000 for Donaldson and 15,000 for the Catfish Hunter one.  Donaldson was the breakout star for the A’s in 2013 and the diorama is a nice little bonus.  ***

Saturday, May 31st-Catfish Hunter: Athletics have had a Hunter bobblehead before, but that was in 2002.  Here’s to hoping that they’ll add an Eric Sogard bobblehead giveaway if he wins the #FaceOfMLB contest.  A’s fans love that guy. ** 1/2

Total: 5 1/2 stars

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (amount of giveaway, not available)

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Tuesday, April 1st, Mike Trout: One of the games brightest stars gets his second bobblehead in two years.  This one doesn’t top last year’s edition, though.  Why is he not wearing a cap? *** 1/2

Friday, May 2nd, Josh Hamilton: If I’m an Angels fan and Hamilton’s 2014 starts off like his 2013, am I really going to want this bobblehead? **

Total: 5 1/2 stars

What’s your favorite bobblehead set in the AL West?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Mapes vs. Jeremy Returns: 2013 Home Run Derby Draft

HR Derby 2013We’re back! And what better way to break back on to the scene than with a joyous barrage of 500-foot home runs? In case you missed our first Home Run Derby Draft last year, check out the teams here. We see a couple familiar names in there, including A.L. captain Robinson Cano. But how will the results turn out in 2013?

Just like last season, this is all based on points. Whoever hits the most home runs accumulates the most points for his team, and determines the winner of this Mapes vs. Jeremy challenge. The draftees are Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Prince Fielder, and Chris Davis on the A.L. side. The senior circuit rolls with captain David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Bryce Harper, and Pedro Alvarez (who recently replaced Carlos Gonzalez).

The scoring system is simple. For each home run by a player on our team, we get points. In the first round, it’s one point per home run. In the second round it’s two points, and the third round is three. The bonus for drafting the winning slugger is five points, and could make or break this battle.

So check out our draft, and vote in the polls below. Who is going to win the 2013 Home Run Derby, and which of our teams will be crowned 3U3D champions?

*If anyone pulls out of the competition, their replacement will be added to that team’s roster.*
1st pick: Prince Fielder, Tigers (Team Mapes)
I want revenge for losing to you last year and taking the safest pick on the board, two-time Derby champ Prince Fielder.  Only him and Robinson Cano understand the preparation in between rounds to take home the title.  Prince will be launching them over the Pepsi Porch in right field all night.  He’s the clear favorite to become the 2nd three-time Home Run Derby champion, joining Ken Griffey, Jr.  I’ll be in attendance and I’m really hoping to be able to track down a Fielder home run in my glove.
2nd pick: Bryce Harper, Nationals (Team Jeremy)Harper HR Derby
There are many who think Harper doesn’t deserve a spot on the squad this year. Nonsense. Harper was pinging the top of the scoreboard (yes, the one behind the right-field bleachers) at Tropicana Field in HIGH SCHOOL. He’s young, aggressive, and has a powerful home run swing. He’s also aching to win this thing. I’d be shocked if Harper isn’t at least in the second round.
3rd pick: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates (Team Jeremy)
I got my wish. When I found out Carlos Gonzalez hurt his finger, I crossed mine and hoped that “El Toro” would replace him. It may be true that Alvarez isn’t the best all-around hitter, but this is a home run contest, and there are few who can hit a ball harder or further than the Pirates’ third baseman. I have a feeling he’ll rack up a big number, but if not, he will at least put on a good show.
4th pick: Chris Davis, Orioles (Team Mapes)
Harper is going to be boom or bust, but I would’ve taken him if I have picked 2nd/3rd.  That being said I’ll gladly take the current MLB home run king in Chris Davis, who I thought about taking at #1 overall.  Davis has always been a batting practice show since he was a rookie and the home run derby is pretty much glorified batting practice.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis hits the longest home run of the night.
Chris Davis HR Derby5th pick: Robinson Cano, Yankees (Team Jeremy)
Cano has been there, done that, with his suave attitude and sweet swing. He’ll be hitting in a mostly friendly atmosphere at Citi Field (because Mets fans don’t actually exist, amirite?), and might find himself repeating his 2011 win. Like everything he does, Cano will calmly sail into the second round and will be the overwhelming favorite to go to the finals. I’ve already seen one pundit (okay, so it was just a dude on Twitter) predict a Fielder vs. Cano final. And yes, I know he hit zero last year. Shut up. He’s due.
6th pick: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics (Team Mapes)
Speaking of guys that put on shows in batting practice, Cespedes certainly fits that bill.  I’ve never seen a ball be hit into the 3rd deck of left field at Citi Field, but if someone can do it, it’s Cespedes (or Evan Gattis).  I am a little worried that he’ll just let it rip and wear himself down to where he won’t go deep into the competition.
7th pick: David Wright, Mets (Team Jeremy)
There is a reason we saved the three right-handed batters for last. Since 2003, Miguel Tejada (20o4) and Vlad Guerrero (2007 – at AT&T Park vs. Alex Rios…REALLY?? No lefties in the final with McCovey Cove sitting there, hungry? Sigh.) are the only righties to win the Derby. Wright has been golfing low and away pitches out all year, so he won’t have to be picky, and has a familiarity with this stadium. He’s the best bet of the right-handed hitters in my opinion, and we all know he comes up clutch.
8th pick: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies (Team Mapes)The Oakland Athletics' Yoenis Céspedes hits a two-run homer against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo
Oh come on, you knew from the start Cuddyer was being picked last.  Domonic Brown or Paul Goldschmidt might have been better picks.  But, you have to respect David Wright for sticking to his guns and taking his friend and fellow Virginian in Cuddyer.  Now, we’ll see if Cuddy makes Captain America look smart.
There you have it! Vote in the polls below, and don’t forget to watch the 2013 Home Run Derby on Monday.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for all your 2013 MLB news!

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?!?)

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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)

3U3D Break it Down: The A.L. East

A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much.  Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors?  Let’s take a look!

Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles

Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation.  James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann.  Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings.  The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.  We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria.  If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape.  I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.

Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East:  The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready.  Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012.  Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic.  Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step.  Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble.  The Blue Jays really are that good.

Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team.  The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow.  It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though.  Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season.  The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.

Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds.  Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year.  The bullpen still has a ton of question marks.  Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team?  Is Sergio Santos completely healthy?  Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old?  The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those.  Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one.  Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?

Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East:  First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone.  John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse.  Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012.  The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy.  Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention.  Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.

Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”.  Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively.  The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch.  Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half.  Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010.  John Lackey is John Lackey.  The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.

Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East:  They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out.  They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs.  The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half.  The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps).  The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division.  Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.

Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The injury bug is just too much.  The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break.  They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.

Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck.  The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season.  Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year.  Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace.  Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.

Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games.  The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year.  Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division.  With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.

Awards Watch

AL MVP

Robinson Cano-Yankees

Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays

Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox

Adam Jones-Orioles

Cy Young

David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays

CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees

Jon Lester-Red Sox

R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays

Rookie of the Year

Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays

Dylan Bundy-Orioles

Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox

Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

World Baseball Classic Fantasy: The Finals!

It’s time for the San Francisco treat, the World Baseball Classic finals! We have two teams that everyone expected to be there in Japan and the Dominican Republic, plus two upstarts that have surprised everyone along the way in the Netherlands and Puerto Rico. The latter two knocking out two of the big favorites in the tournament in Cuba and the United States. Mapes is just excited he gets to yell HONKBAL for at least one more game!

It’s time though for the final WBC Fantasy draft on Three Up, Three down between Mapes and Jeremy. Jeremy dominated “Round Two Pool One” 161-121 after Mapes took the USA side “Pool C/D Round One” draft 124-121. Mapes came back to crush Jeremy in “Round Two Pool Two” 115-63 on the strong backs of Gio Gonzalez and Fernando Rodney and the bad back of “Captain America” David Wright for Jeremy. Mapes now leads the overall score 360-345.

For the final with only three games, we’re going to draft the same nine offensive positions, but only one SP and one RP each. Again, we must have at least two from each country and no more than four from any country. Jeremy had first pick last time, so Mapes starts us off for the finals!

 

Maeda

Pick #1 – Team Mapes: Kenta Maeda, SP (Japan)

If I had just picked Maeda in the last draft with the Japanese teams, I’d be coasting to victory. Maeda is rested and ready to go, he gets to face a Puerto Rican team who just had to travel from Miami to San Francisco with no rest day. Maeda’s been the best pitcher in this tournament and is the clear #1 pick to get a win and advance to the finals.

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Pick #2 – Team Jeremy: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)

I’m snagging the guy that killed me last round, and it’s not just for revenge. Out of the four teams left, I think Rodney is the closest thing to a guarantee to get me some save points, as he’s been automatic since…well, since Opening Day of the 2012 season. If the Dominican Republic somehow doesn’t advance, I’ll be shocked. But we’ve seen crazier things happen.

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Pick #3 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)

Not picking the best hitter in the tournament would just be plain silly. Cano is going to rip up the Netherlands’ pitching, and likely have a second game in the tournament to do more damage. I expect to see at least one ball clearing the outfield fence when he’s hitting at AT&T this week. Watch out, McCovey Cove!

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Pick #4 – Team Mapes: Shinnosuke Abe, C (Japan)

You said Abe was the Japanese Buster Posey. The finals are in AT&T Park in San Francisco. I like that symmetry there and I’m not letting him have a multi-homer game on your team again. Yes, I know this lets you take your boy Yadier Molina later and stay in your girlfriend’s good graces.

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Pick #5 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)

I know this is the third straight time I’ve taken Beltran, and he hasn’t exactly produced. But the guy has given me no reason to doubt him over a clutch postseason career, and he’s still one of the most productive hitters in the history of the World Baseball Classic. Plus, he kind of likes hitting in AT&T Park (.328 there over the last three years).

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Pick #6 – Team Mapes: Andrelton Simmons, SS (Netherlands)

You’d think you’d learn by now that I’m not going to take Beltran, ever. My crush on Andrelton Simmons is tremendous right now. It’s to the point that I’ve made a custom Netherlands shirsey for him, but not sure to pull the trigger on ordering it. If the honkballers win the title, I will for sure.

Itoi

Pick #7 – Team Jeremy: Yoshio Itoi, OF (Japan)

This guy has been absolutely crushing the ball lately, driving in 7 runs in his 6 games. If he’s good for a couple hits, a run and an RBI in Japan’s first game, I’m happy. That being said, Japan should get two games. Double the pleasure, double the fun for me!

Ibaza

Pick #8 – Team Mapes: Hirokazu Ibata, Util (Japan)

He’s been DHing a lot for Japan, but I have no qualms with just putting him in my utility spot. He’s 8 for 14 for the Japanese and hits in the middle of that lineup. I’ll pair him with Abe and hope for the best. I think you can tell by now, I believe Japan make the finals for the 3rd straight time.

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Pick #9 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, Util (Dominican Republic)

I thought about waiting a little longer to snag my boy here, but didn’t want to risk you finding a way to sneak him on as a third baseman or something. It hasn’t just been the WBC — Ramirez has been hitting the ball hard all spring. He’s going to get me some points hitting in that lineup, especially in two games, hopefully.

Cruz WBC

Pick #10 – Team Mapes: Nelson Cruz, OF (Dominican Republic)

We’ve strangely never drafted the “Lord of the Boomstick”, but he’s been one of the Dominican’s top hitters and way better than Hanley’s pitiful .176 average in the WBC.

Aviles PR

Pick #11 – Team Jeremy: Mike Aviles, SS (Puerto Rico)

We don’t get points for batting average. So you can keep your Cruz, I’ll take my Hanley, who has the same amount of runs scored and homers in this tournament, even with the big gap in average! That being said, Aviles is hitting around .300 in the tournament and has been the only RBI threat on the team thus far. His 8 RBI are five more than the next closest in that lineup.

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Pick #12 – Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (Dominican Republic)

Might as well load up on the middle of the Dominican lineup after you’ve made the terrible mistake of not taking Jose Reyes at shortstop with your utility already filled. I’m ready for Encarnacion to put out a bomb like he did 42 times in 2012.

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Pick #13 – Team Jeremy: Curt Smith, 1B (Netherlands)

Oh, you mean the Reyes who has 2 RBI and 0 stolen bases in this tournament? That Reyes? No thanks. I’ll stick with Aviles, who has been far more productive. I love Smith, too, and I’m not sure why. But he seems to be the most consistent threat in that Honkbal lineup behind Simmons, and I don’t want to miss this chance.

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Pick #14 – Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)

I’ll finally cave and take a Puerto Rican, not that I’m bitter for them knocking out the United States. We should make them the 51st state just so these shenanigans don’t happen again. Pagan leads Puerto Rico in total bases and picks up an occasional steal. If they’re going to have a chance against Japan, Pagan needs to play like he did at AT&T Park last season.

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Pick #15 – Team Jeremy: Andruw Jones, OF (Netherlands)

Now why do you have to bring up Pagan at AT&T Park last season? That’s a low blow! But I’ll snag your boy Andruw here, who is Team Honkbal’s third most consistently dangerous hitter. You can have Simmons, I’ll take the talents of their other two offensive stars to South Beach (seriously, there’s an area in San Francisco called South Beach…don’t laugh at this, I don’t deserve it).

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Pick #16 – Team Mapes: Alex Rios, OF (Puerto Rico)

Please just stop being terrible for one game Rios. It’s all I ask.

Matsuda

Pick #17 – Team Jeremy: Nobuhiro Matsuda, 3B (Japan)

I can’t believe I’m only going to take two Japanese players in this draft, but it’s equally shocking that I get Matsuda this close to the end of the draft. All he’s done at the hot corner for Team Japan thus far is hit .389 with a homer, 5 RBI and 5 runs scored.

Schoop

Pick #18- Team Mapes: Jonathan Schoop, 2B (Netherlands)

I need a second baseman AND another Honkballer so I’m going with the Orioles prospect that I know has some pop.

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Pick #19 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)

You said earlier that this was to stay in Kelsey’s good graces. Is it any coincidence that I’ll be telling her about this draft later today? Yes, believe it or not. I actually had my eye on Carlos Santana of the Dominican Republic, just because they should have two games, as opposed to Molina’s one. But I won’t complain about getting Yadi again. He’s been good for me so far.

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Pick #20 – Team Mapes: Xander Bogaerts, 3B (Netherlands)

HONK IF YOU LOVE HONKBAL!!!

Volquez WBC

Pick #21 – Team Jeremy: Edinson Volquez, SP (Dominican Republic)

Your first overall pick of Maeda did end up putting me in a bind. We don’t even know who is going to start for the Netherlands, and Puerto Rico’s pitcher will get rocked. Volquez is a guy I rarely trust, but with that lineup behind him, he could have a mediocre start and still pick up 10 points for me. I’m just glad he’s not facing his own team.

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Pick #22 – Team Mapes: Kazuhisa Makita, RP (Japan)

Still can’t resist a submarine-throwing closer. Just can’t do it.

Can Jeremy mount a comeback in the finals? Or is the 15 point lead going to hold up for Mapes? Should Jeremy have take Jose Reyes? Let us know in the comments or tweet usand thank for enjoying WBC Fantasy, we’ve had a lot of fun doing it!

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

World Baseball Classic Fantasy: Round Two, Pool Two

After a big scare, USA advanced to the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic!  Joining the Americans will be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy.  Yes, Italy.  Forza Italia!  Jeremy and Mapes are back with their picks for “Round Two Pool Two” for World Baseball Classic Fantasy.  Mapes took the Pool C/D 1st round draft 124-121 over Jeremy (despite Brett Lawrie’s injury), but Jeremy has a sizable lead in “Round Two Pool One”, with just Netherlands vs. Japan left. Remember, for this draft we must have at least two players from each team and no more than four from any country.  Mapes picked first last time, so Jeremy will have the 1st pick in this round of drafting!

Quick reminder:
Countries to pick from: USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP

Hitter scoring: Single: 1, Double: 2, Triple: 3, Home run: 4, Run scored: 1, RBI: 1, Stolen base: 1

Pitcher scoring: Out recorded: 1, Hit or walk allowed: -1, Run allowed: -2, Strikeout: 1, Win: 10, Loss: -5, Save: 5

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Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)

I learned my lesson in round one. NEVER BET AGAINST ROBBIE CANO! That being said, I knew I had to take the Dominican slugger (and arguably the MVP of the entire tournament so far) first overall. Sorry, Mapes!

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Pick #2- Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)

NOOOOOOO!!!! Cano was going to be my top pick.  I’m going to go back to the well with Ryan Braun and hope that he can snap out of his little funk he had in round one.  He typically doesn’t hit well at Chase Field, so I hope that’s all it was.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 4.44.12 PMPick #3- Team Mapes: Gio Gonzalez, SP (USA)

My starting pitcher plan was to grab who is facing Italy, but I don’t know who actually is.  I’m going to go with Gio, who is rested and ready to go.  He’s pitching in his hometown of Miami and has more pitches to work with.  I think he can get a win against Puerto Rico.

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Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)

Redemption! It’s so, so sweet. After suffering through round one with Carlos Santana (just kidding, he wasn’t that bad), I knew I had to take my boy Yadi with this pick. His bat’s starting to heat up, and that’s bad news for opposing pitchers.

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Pick #5- Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)

You took one half of the Dominican dominance up the middle, so I can’t let you have the other.  Reyes was great in game one, but fell off a little in the other two games.  However, he’s the clear top shortstop in this pool and I’m happy to have him.

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Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: David Wright, 3B (USA)

I should have known to take Wright last time, given his history in the WBC. There has been no player more clutch than Wright in the Classic over the years, and I’m betting on him coming up big again in round two.

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Pick #7- Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)

Keeping with my theme from the last draft involving Italy, I want to make sure I get the best player on that team.  That is clearly Anthony Rizzo hitting in the middle of the lineup and the crop of 1st baseman isn’t very strong in this pool.

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Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Samuel Deduno, SP (Dominican Republic)

I’m taking a big risk this high, but Deduno was masterful in his first start. I’d prefer that he end up pitching against Team Italy, but I’m pretty comfortable with this guy’s electric stuff on the mound at any point in round two.

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Pick #9-  Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)

I needed to grab someone from Puerto Rico and I have a hard time rooting for Carlos Beltran for some strange reason. *cough Mets* *cough Cardinals*  I’ll take Pagan who hit a team-best .455 in round one from the lead-off spot.

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Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Craig Kimbrel, RP (USA)

I’m just glad Kimbrel’s around this late. You love your Braves, but I have to nab the guy right here and make sure I have the most dominant closer in the world right now on my squad. If the USA plays a close game (it will), guess who’s getting me at least five points?

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Pick #11- Team Mapes: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)

You had to go and take my Braves guy, I see how it is.  I can’t let the other closers fall now, so I’m going to get Fernando Rodney who pitched in all three games for the Dominicans.  I think they’re going to win a couple games, so there will be save chances for the man with the crooked hat.

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Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Xavier Cedeno, RP (Puerto Rico)

Good move grabbing Rodney. He’ll score you some points. I can only hope that Cedeno does the same for me with Team Puerto Rico. He was the best reliever on the team in round one, but it’s still unclear to me if he’s the actual “closer.”

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Pick #13- Team Mapes: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)

I really thought about taking Cedeno because I needed another player from Puerto Rico, good pick Jeremy.  I have no clue who Dickey will face, but I hope with some more time under his belt the knuckler will be dancing against whomever he pitches against in round two.

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Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)

You passed on Beltran, but I refuse to make the same mistake. Not only is Beltran dominant in the MLB postseason, but he has solid numbers across his WBC career. Puerto Rico’s captain clutch should rack up some points for me this round.

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Pick #15- Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/Util (Dominican Republic)

Good!  You can have Beltran!  I wanted to grab the best player on the board for my utility spot and I believe that is the man they call “E5” he hits in the middle of a strong Dominican lineup and I think he’ll put one out of the park this round.

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Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Chris Denorfia, OF (Italy)

One of the reasons I wasn’t worried about you snagging Rizzo early was that I knew you wouldn’t go after Denorfia. Even though his hot start fizzled a little at the end, he’s hitting in front of Rizzo and has good contact and base running abilities. Give me some sneaky points, Chris!

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Pick #17- Team Mapes: Alex Liddi, 3B (Italy)

Time to grab another Italian!  You wouldn’t let me pick him off the waiver wire when Brett Lawrie went down with a rib injury, so I’m making sure I get him now!

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Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Alejandro De Aza, OF (Dominican Republic)

One of the players I was most impressed with in round one was De Aza, who looks more and more like a sleeper pick in normal fantasy leagues this year. He’s getting on base, scoring runs and swiping bags. Expect more of the same this round.

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Pick #19- Team Mapes: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)

Well, since you took my planned second baseman in Cano, I’ll settle for Nick Punto who was a spark on the top of the Italian lineup.  Then hope that it’s Rizzo and Liddi who are knocking him in!

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Pick #20 – Team Jeremy: Eric Hosmer, 1B (USA)

Yes, please! Not only do I think Hosmer is a bounce-back candidate in the regular season, but his first two at-bats proved that he’s swinging it on the money right now. The bases-clearing double in the ninth to seal the game was all I needed to confirm this choice.

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Pick #21- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, C (USA)

I need a catcher.  Joe Mauer is a catcher.  He hits in the middle of the USA lineup.  Perfect.

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Pick #22 – Team Jeremy: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)

I hate having a Giant on my team, but it paid off last round with Pablo Sandoval and Pagan. I think Vogelsong will get the start against Italy (though if it’s Dominica I may be screwed), and I think he will dominate them.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.34.30 PMPick #23 – Team Mapes: Alex Rios, OF (Puerto Rico)

I probably should’ve taken my boy Giancarlo Stanton returning to Marlins Park, but man his zero points in round one scared me off.  I’m going with Alex Rios who has some speed, some power, and I’ll hopefully get three games out of him.

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Pick #24 – Team Jeremy: Anthony Granato, SS (Italy)

I just realized that neither of us has Stanton. In his home ballpark. Due for a couple dingers. DANG IT! I’ll move on and collect Granato, the Italian shortstop who put up very good numbers in round one.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.37.21 PMPick #25 – Team Mapes: Ross Detwiler, RP (USA)

Well I’m in a little bit of a pickle for my second reliever.  I don’t think Italy wins a game, so that rules out Grilli getting a save.  I’m going to the surprise from Team USA in round one in Ross Detwiler.  If he comes out as the long reliever, I just hope he’ll rack up some outs and points that way.

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Pick #26 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, 3B/Util (Dominican Republic)

Smart man, Mapes. Detwiler seems like more of a point-getter to me than Grilli will be. Nice rhyme, huh? Even though Ramirez had one hit in the first round (a monster HR), he’s swinging a hot bat and I think he drops at least one more bomb in round two.

Pool two, round two WBC fantasy draft is in the books!  Did we make a mistake not taking Giancarlo Stanton in his home park?  Should we have really picked all three American starters?  Who would you want on your WBC fantasy squad this round?  Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet using #WBCFantasy with the links below!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@jamblinman)

The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part Three

We’re halfway there!  It’s time to see who cracks the top 10 on my best MLB players right now list!  If you’d like to go back and see who else made the list so far here’s 20-16 and 15-11!  Onward to the top ten!

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.24.48 PM#10, David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (MLB Network’s #12)

No better place to start my top ten than with the defending AL Cy Young award winner.  Price led the junior circuit in both wins and ERA last season while keeping the Rays in the playoff race.  I personally had a different pitcher (who we’ll eventually get to on this list) as my Cy Young winner, but Price still deserves his due.  Price has a great fastball and an impressive slider that keeps hitters off balance and is even more valuable as a southpaw.  I can’t wait to see him improve as he enters his prime.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.38.03 PM#9, Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (MLB Network’s #7)

I have no qualms with the ranking that King Felix received from MLB Network, but I have him a smidgen lower because I prefer the upcoming hitters.  Hernandez is the workhorse you want anchoring your pitching staff as he’s racked up 232+ innings in each of the past four seasons with great numbers.  None of those seasons is more impressive than in 2010 where he led the American League in batters faced AND earned run average.  The King has almost done it all, a perfect game, a Cy Young award, but we’d all love to see him take the bump in a playoff series and put himself against the best of the best.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.48.16 PM#8, Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (MLB Network’s #9)

Canada’s favorite baseball son has led the National League in on-base percentage each of the last three seasons.  Here’s the list of players that have led their league in OBP three straight years since 1946: Ted Williams, Joe Morgan, Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, and Barry Bonds.  That’s a pretty nice list to be on.  Votto has an MVP under his belt and also is a plus defender at first base.  Votto missed 51 games last season and still led the NL in walks, that’s how good of an eye he has.  The Reds were smart to lock him up into the next decade.

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#7, Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (MLB Network’s #8)

Cano is the best second baseman in the game today.  He’s durable (hasn’t missed more than three games since 2007), consistent (25+ HR, 40+ doubles, and .300 batting average each of the past four seasons), and a great defender (Gold Gloves in two of the past three seasons).  If it wasn’t for his double play cohort Derek Jeter, Cano would be the face of most popular team in the Majors.  If the Yankees are smart, they’d make sure they lock Cano up to an extension sooner, rather than later.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.15.13 PM#6, Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB Network’s #5)

This is where we’re REALLY starting to split hairs.  There’s a case to be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game right now.  I still can’t believe that at this moment he’s still only 24 years-old and already has a Cy Young award, a Cy Young runner-up, two ERA titles, a strikeout crown, and a Gold Glove under his belt.  Let’s play a ridiculous list that a current player is on!  Here’s the list of pitchers who led their league in ERA and WHIP in back-to-back seasons since 1941: Pedro Martinez (2002-03), Greg Maddux (1993-95) , Sandy Koufax (1962-65), and Clayton Kershaw (2011-2012).  That’s just insane.  Did I mention he’s only 24?

I’m going to need time to recuperate from that Kershaw statistic and I’m already regretting not having him higher.  Who could I possibly have ahead of Kershaw?  Check in tomorrow to find out!  Have some predictions?  Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link below with #MapesRightNow!

-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**

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#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.”  

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#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.

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#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).

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#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.

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#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**

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#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.

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#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.

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#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**

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#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)