Tagged: Stephen Strasburg

3U3D Break It Down: The N.L. East

Has the National League evolved into a two-team arms race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves?  It seemed all offseason one would make a move and the other would counter it.  B.J. Upton, Dan Haren, Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, and Jordan Walden all enter the fray and make these two teams on paper the teams to beat.  The Phillies aren’t ready to go down with a fight adding Ben Revere and Michael Young in the offseason.  The Mets and Marlins?  Well they might go down without a fight, let’s break down the National League East.

Projected Order of Finish: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Miami Marlins

Why the Braves could win the N.L. East: It’s pretty hard to believe that Atlanta lost three of the four best hitters from last season in Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn and the lineup is better.  The Upton brothers move into the outfield along with Jason Heyward, giving the Braves two MVP-potential candidates in the corners.  Andrelton Simmons showed in the WBC that he is ready, especially defensively.  Freddie Freeman’s growth continues in an all-star caliber 1st baseman.  The rotation might not be on the Nationals level overall, but Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran is solid.  Teheran could be ready to shine as he was spectacular in spring training.  Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, while Eric O’ Flaherty is among the best setup men.  All the pieces are there for a return to the playoffs.

Why the Braves wouldn’t win the N.L. East: First, the leadership from Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn’s departure throws off the clubhouse and no one behind Tim Hudson steps up.  The lineup is filled with just too many strikeouts that kills putting together rallies.  Brian McCann’s shoulder is completely shot and he’s not the player he once was or even comes back at all leaving the catching duties to Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis.  Jonny Venters injury is more serious than planned (i.e. Tommy John surgery) and Jordan Walden isn’t ready to go and the bullpen suffers and becomes overworked.  Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John surgery mid-season isn’t able to come close to the form he displayed at the start of 2012.

Why the Nationals could win the N.L. East: The rotation is the best in MLB with Stephen Strasburg’s innings cap behind him, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler.  The bullpen is no slouch either with Rafael Soriano (42 saves in 2012) joining Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Ryan Mattheus is a great bullpen.  The lineup is good to great and can be better than great if “The Phenom” Bryce Harper continues to progress into an MVP candidate.

Why the Nationals wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The Braves end up just slightly better top to bottom.  Newly-signed Denard Span reverts back to an injury-plagued season like in 2011.  Ryan Zimmerman’s right shoulder, that caused him to receive cortisone shots throughout last season, acts up and his bat his lost from the middle of the lineup.  It’s really hard not to see the Nationals as a probable playoff team.

Why the Phillies could win the N.L. East: Roy Halladay might not be what he used to be, but Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are both still good enough to carry a rotation.  I highly doubt Lee will only win six games again.  The lineup is improved with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, plus Ben Revere providing speed at lead-off.  Michael Young joins Philadelphia to provide leadership and hitting prowess.  He would need get back to hitting .300 for the Phillies to have a real chance.  Domonic Brown’s spring breakout continues into the season and he finally pays dividends for all of those trades Ruben Amaro Jr. refused to do when Brown was a prospect.  Plus, Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the games.

Why the Phillies wouldn’t win the N.L. East: It’s entirely possible that Roy Halladay never gets back to what he was before 2012.  His velocity has been down after an injury-plagued season.  The lineup is on the wrong side of their prime with Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Young all over 33 years-old.  Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension messes with the pitching staff and they get off on the wrong foot after Ruiz broke out offensively.  Brown does what he’s done his whole career and tease greatness, but not come through.

Why the Mets could win the N.L. East: David Wright’s injury is nothing and the new Mets captain goes on to be his usual self in the middle of the lineup.  Ike Davis evolves into a 35-40 home run hitting first baseman.  The Mets call up Zack Wheeler and pair him with Matt Harvey and create the best young pitching duo in the division.  Travis d’Arnuad can’t be held back anymore in the minors and starts developing into the next Mike Piazza.

Why the Mets wouldn’t win the N.L. East: Johan Santana is probably out for the season taking leadership out of the clubhouse on a daily basis.  The bullpen in atrocious.  The outfield is near-atrocious, unless Jordany Valdespin steps up big.  The Mets are a rebuilding project, but there are some nice pieces coming to Flushing.

Why the Marlins could win the N.L. East: They can’t, but what kind of season would Giancarlo Stanton have to have to put Miami in contention?  60 home runs?  I do like Steve Cishek a lot as a potential closer, but he may end up trade bait at the deadline.  I might just like him because he’s a submariner.

Why the Marlins wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The rotation is the worst in the division, where their “ace” Ricky Nolasco can’t be trusted to not blow up on any given start.  The lineup has some veterans who can hit for average in Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, and Casey Kotchman, but aside from Stanton there isn’t a 2nd run producer.  This might take years for Miami to get into contention.

Awards Watch

N.L. MVP

Jason Heyward and Justin Upton-Braves

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg-Nationals

Cole Hamels-Phillies

David Wright-Mets

Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins

Cy Young

Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen-Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez-Nationals

Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee-Phillies

Rookie of the Year

Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria-Marlins

Julio Teheran-Braves

Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler-Mets

Who do you think wins the N.L. East?  The Nationals?  The Braves?  Can one of the other three teams steal the division away?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part One

MLB Network concluded their yearly series “Top 100 Players Right Now” on Tuesday night.  The full list of 100 players can be found here.  I’m shocked, but respect that they actually put Josh Willingham at #43.  The thing about baseball is that there is never an agreement on anything.  I couldn’t resist making my own “Top 20 Right Now”, starting with 20-16 today and another group of five over the next three days.

On the MLB Network list, not on my list: #15 Giancarlo Stanton, #16 Evan Longoria, and #20 Cole Hamels

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.03.54 PM#20, Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (MLB Network’s #27)

Call me a homer, especially to have Kimbrel leap over NL East rivals Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Giancarlo Stanton, and David Wright into my top 20.  However, when you look at players at their position that are purely dominant Kimbrel is at the head of the class.  Kimbrel struck out over half the batters he faced in 2012, a first for any pitcher.  He also has finished 23rd and 8th for NL MVP the last two seasons, which is better than anyone in the NL East I jumped him over.  I’m going to give the best closer in the game, the respect he deserves.  I would’ve done the same with Mariano Rivera a decade ago.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.18.03 PM#19, Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB Network’s #24)

Well this will end my homerism quickly, I jump Molina up a full five spots and into the top 20 after his best season in the majors.  You can make a case that he’s the best catcher in the game right now.  I won’t go that far, but Molina’s awesomeness at throwing out potential base stealers is unparalleled and gives the Cardinals a dynamic that other teams don’t have.  Molina’s won five straight Gold Glove’s and has improved at the plate, not just behind it, hitting over .300 each of the past two seasons.  Molina finished a career-best 4th in NL MVP voting in 2012.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.02.15 PM#18, CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (MLB Network’s #18)

Our first agreement!  Sabathia has almost become underrated as the ace and work horse of the Yankees staff.  Even with an injury last year, Sabathia logged his 7th straight 200 innings pitched season.  He’s also not just eating innings, Sabathia is giving quality innings, as he hasn’t had an ERA over 3.38 since 2006.  He’s been so good for so long, that he’s being overlooked by new pitching flames like Stephen Strasburg.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.13.37 PM#17 Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (MLB Network’s #19)

I’m such a sucker for Cliff Lee because he doesn’t walk anybody.  I think growing up watching Greg Maddux not walk anybody made me have an affinity for pitchers with great control.  Lee is the epitome of that now, he’s led the league in BB/9 three times and K/BB ratio twice, including leading the league in both in 2012.  Lee also hasn’t had an ERA over 3.18 since his breakout Cy Young season in 2008.  He’s the shining example that pitcher wins aren’t the correct barometer of pitching quality.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.23.19 PM#16 Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, (MLB Network’s #17)

McCutchen moves up a spot on my list as I have him ahead of Evan Longoria and Giancarlo Stanton, but not ahead of a future player.  The other two might have more talent, but right now I think McCutchen brings the goods better than both of them.  McCutchen broke out in 2012 and finished third in the MVP voting, while taking home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.  The Pirates star has developed into a true 30 HR, 25 SB, .300 BA threat that is hard to find in the game.  He’s the foundation for the Pirates to end their sub-.500 streak and I believe they will this season.

That’s the first part of my “Top 20 Right Now”.  Who would be on your list?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter using the link below with #MapesRightNow!  Tomorrow is 15-11, featuring a player who makes a big leap from the MLB Network list!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The 2nd Annual Jeremy vs. Mapes MLB Jersey Draft

I’m sure some or maybe all of you have heard that Jeremy and I made the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave in 2013. We’ve been blown away by your support so far and we want to start by saying thank you.

Now for the main event! The 2nd annual jersey draft battle! I may have had the worst pick in the draft last year (Adrian Gonzalez, who’s no longer on the Red Sox), but I did score the NL MVP’s jersey (Buster Posey) with the 2nd to last pick. Plus, I got to give grief all season for Jeremy picking Matt Cain 4th overall.

The rules are simple: I will pick 1st because Jeremy had the first choice last year. Jeremy will get 2nd and 3rd picks and then alternate from there. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. You can only have one player, per team on your own draft. Both of us can pick a player from the same team, for example Matt Cain/Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder were all picked last year. It does play into strategy, because it let me wait on Posey, knowing Jeremy couldn’t take another Giants player. Without further adieu!

Team Mapes Pick #1, #1 Overall: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Last year, I picked Albert Pujols at #3 overall based on the long length of his contract ensuring great use from his Angels jersey.  This year, Trout is the most exciting player in the game and is under team control through 2017.  Trout’s jersey’s the hands down top pick to me.  You’re getting five seasons of sweet-jersey wearing time. Bonus points for completing the Trout ensemble with a foam Trout hat. I might have just let Jeremy get a steal of Pujols or Josh Hamilton later in the draft though, time will tell. You’re up Mr. Dorn. I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be repeating your top pick from 2012.

Team Jeremy Pick #1, #2 Overall: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles

Two things: First, Mapes is absolutely correct. No way I’m not going to take my first overall pick in last year’s draft, Matt Kemp. Not only is he under contract in Los Angeles through the decade, but when healthy he is the best all-around player in the game. Teammates like him, fans like him, and even opponents like the laid-back, uber-talented center fielder of the Dodgers. He came freakishly close to a Triple Crown and 40/40 season in 2011, and will look to return to that form after injuries derailed him last year. Oh, and secondly — give me crap all you want for the Cain pick, but the dude threw a perfect game last season and I hypothetically had that jersey!

Team Jeremy Pick #2, #3 Overall: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

I snatched this pick off Mapes’ team from last year, and I’m glad I did. Votto has been one of the most consistent, destructive hitters (when healthy) since he entered the league, and will be mashing in Cincy through 2024 under his current contract. Votto should always be a favorite in the National League for the MVP award, given his batting average, on-base percentage, power numbers and defense in a given year. Plus, the jersey just looks GOOD!

Team Mapes Pick #2, #4 Overall: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

There are so many options at this pick it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk (or type) out loud and give you any ideas though! I think that Cutch was going to be your next pick so I’m grabbing him now. He’s under team control through 2018, a great player, and completely entertaining as evidenced by his MLB Fan Cave videos. He’s a player you WANT to root for and a baseball fan that has a Pirates jersey when they finally end their sub-.500 season streak will be looking good. That being said, I really hope you don’t take the player I strongly considered here. McCutchen moves up from the #8 jersey overall selected in 2012.

Team Jeremy Pick #3, #5 Overall: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

Oh, yes I did just pick the J-Hey kid from your own squad! No way I’m letting you stack your lineup with one of the best and most popular players in the game today. After a dismal sophomore season in 2011, Heyward bounced back to prominence and beyond in 2012, and will be a power-hitting, web gem-making, on-base getting (huh?) beast for at least the next four years in Atlanta. Snag his jersey now, before it’s too late. Mapes, when you’re done crying that I’ve drafted your boy, feel free to make your next pick!

Team Mapes Pick #3, #6 Overall: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU JEREMY?!?! I’ll have to console myself with the TWO Jason Heyward shirseys that I have hanging in my closet. Don’t worry, I have a plan for my Atlanta Braves pick later. There’s only one real way to get back to you and that’s with a picture of the Giants having a champagne celebration. When was the last time the Dodgers did that? Posey is a great jersey pickup, solid name, defending NL MVP, and safety of knowing he’ll be in the orange and black for a long, long time. Plus, Posey and I are birthday buddies on March 27th!

Team Jeremy Pick #4, #7 Overall: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

That is a low blow, my friend. I’ll pretend there is just a bubbly leak from the sprinklers in that clubhouse picture. Jones is quickly climbing the chart of all-around athletes in MLB and fans are really starting to take notice. Not only is Jones a graceful defender, but he’s only just starting to fully develop the offensive side of his game at age 27. He’s signed in Baltimore through the 2018 season and is extremely close to breaking into McCutchen popularity territory in my opinion. This is the only orange and black jersey in my collection this year, Mapes!

Team Mapes Pick #4, #8 Overall: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Adam Jones is a solid pick, but I’d rather have a new Orioles hat than a jersey, I think. I’m going back to an MVP I took at #5 last year. Braun is basically going to be a Brewer forever, or at least 2020 seems forever away. He’s been consistently good so far in his career and I don’t think there will be much of a drop off later in his career. It’ll always be cool to wear a Braun jersey, especially in the Badger State. Eight picks in and we have six National League player jerseys…interesting.

Team Jeremy Pick #5, #9 Overall: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Given recent news, that pick could become problematic for you. I really hope it doesn’t, and I’ll give you mad props for taking the risk. I’ll continue the run on National Leaguers with the first pitcher of the draft. Of all the exciting young pitchers who I was eligible to select here (remember, I already took Kemp, so Clayton Kershaw was out of the question), I wanted to snag one of the most popular pitchers in all of baseball. Strasburg is a freak of nature on the mound and lights up the radar gun and TV ratings every time he pitches. Not to mention, he’s locked up through at least 2017.

Team Mapes Pick #5, #10 Overall: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Thanks so much for letting me wait and just steal Bryce Harper at the end of the draft. This pick was basically made for me with the news of King Felix’s extension. He’s now the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, that shows to how great he is. He’s a Cy Young award winner, the face of the Mariners franchise, and you’ve gotta love the King’s Court fan base. Seven years in a Seattle uniform and those trade rumors go away? I’m sure there will be a large influx of Hernandez jersey’s flying off shelves. Let’s just hope they don’t change their uniform scheme.

Team Jeremy Pick #6, #11 Overall: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

I have a couple of things to say about that pick: First…SO LUCKY! If only that news had broken after you made your pick. Second, the Mariners should never change those awesome uni’s. Anyway, I’m going old-school with the Jeter pick. One of our criteria is length of contract, which will obviously not last forever for DJ. In fact, in the unlikely event that he declines his option for 2014, this could be his last year in baseball. But some players’ legacies live on forever, and this first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of them. His jersey was still the top-seller in all of baseball in 2012, and will be popular for years to come, and not just in New York.

Team Mapes Pick #6, #12 Overall: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

I can’t hate on the Jeter pick even though his time is almost up. The Yankees #2 will join #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8 as timeless jerseys to wear for Bronx Bombers fans. You know who’s time isn’t almost up? Evan Longoria. The Rays all-star is under team control through 2023. I would type that year in all caps, but the year is numbers. Hmm… he will potentially be a Ray for the next DECADE. There that works. I’ve had a Longoria shirsey for three seasons now, I hope it doesn’t wear out over the next ten.

Team Jeremy Pick #7, #13 Overall: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

You know what is a formula for success? Besides signing Albert Pujols and Hamilton in successive years, I mean? It’s taking the guy who had MLB’s second-highest selling jersey in Texas last year, and moving him to Los Angeles for at least five years, where his jersey sales will go flying off the shelves again. You’re going to see a ton of Hamilton jerseys in Anaheim this year, and if this draft weren’t hypothetical, I’d be sporting one myself.

Team Mapes Pick #7, #14 Overall: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs

What’s not the formula for success? You taking your Angel when you could’ve waited until the end to grab him. Plus, I think I take the extra years of jersey wearing from an Albert Pujols Angels jersey over Hamilton, but I digress. Can you believe Starlin Castro is only 23 this season? Seems like he’s already been around forever. He’s under team control until 2020, which also gets you through Castro’s prime. You’ll be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the bleachers for a long time rocking the Castro jersey. Bonus that the Cubs will never really alter their jerseys.

Team Jeremy Pick #8, #15 Overall: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

Except that the Cubs might still be irrelevant in 2020. Just kidding. Castro is a cool pick, but I’m going with a different shade of blue on this pick. In his return from injury, Joey Bats will enjoy the comforts of a much-improved team in 2013. If the entirety of Canada didn’t already have his jersey, they will after this season when the Jays are sure to be featured on national TV broadcasts as much as possible. He’s signed through at least 2015, and will probably have his option for 2016 picked up by the team.

Team Mapes Pick #8, #16 Overall: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

I really want to take Giancarlo Stanton, but his uncertainty in Miami worries me a ton. My final two picks I already have planned out in my head from teams you’ve already taken. That leaves Tulo, who is so talented, but has the injury problems galore. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-star and a potential superstar. He could be in the purple and black for the rest of this decade, so you’ll get plenty use of this jersey.

Team Jeremy Pick #9, #17 Overall: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

I’ll admit, I was hoping Tulo would slide to me at this pick. But a very nice consolation prize is somehow grabbing the best overall catcher in baseball this late. The Cardinal jerseys are classics, and Molina is the best all-around player wearing one right now. He had one of the top-selling jerseys last year (probably mostly Cardinals fans), and will be wearing the birds on the bat until at least 2017, likely beyond. He may be one of the least appreciated players in baseball, but I’m showing him some love in the jersey draft for the second straight year!

Team Mapes Pick #9, #18 Overall: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Molina was on my short list, but after what the Cardinals have done to me the last two years I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of team jerseys I don’t want to wear, but I’m going to be objective here. Harper is a future star of the game and will be in the nation’s capitol for three years or more. I’d lean towards the or more part. I don’t like him, but I respect the way he plays the game. It’s a solid jersey for a fan to buy. Plus, I got out of picking David Wright at least?

Team Jeremy Pick #10, #19 Overall: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

This. Just. Happened. The reason I let you snag Evan Longoria earlier is because I knew I’d have this available to me for the last pick. Myers, the top prospect in baseball, isn’t a sure thing — no prospect ever is. But he’s going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays, who have him under control for at least six years, and will likely lock him up for longer as soon as he puts in a little service time. Judging by the last 15 position players who won Minor League Player of the Year (Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Mike Trout to name a few), Myers is going to be a very good player in the Majors, and I’ll be the first to have his pretty-lookin’ Rays on my back. Top that, Mapes!

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 9.02.56 PM

Team Mapes Pick #10, #20 Overall: The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves

How do I top that? By going with the sweetest custom jersey in Braves history. You get not one, but BOTH Uptons. Special thanks to them for deciding to wear single digits to make this work. I went with the 82 because Justin plays in left, therefore his number goes on the left. This jersey will be good to go for 3-5 years and even if one leaves, just pull off one of the numbers and the S and you’re still set. Truly, saved the best for last!

Honorable Mention Team Mapes: Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, David Wright-Mets, Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder-Tigers, Joe Mauer-Twins, Martin Prado-Diamondbacks, and Eric Hosmer-Royals

Honorable Mention Team Jeremy: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies, Aroldis Chapman-Reds, Mariano Rivera-Yankees, David Price-Rays, Carlos Santana-Indians, Yoenis Cespedes-A’s, and Jose Altuve-Astros

There you have it. The 2nd annual Jeremy vs. Mapes jersey draft is complete. Now it’s up to you, readers! Vote in the poll below to tell us if Mapes will take home his second consecutive jersey draft title, or if Jeremy strengthened his squad enough to earn the victory. Here are the overall teams:

Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Starlin Castro, Troy Tulowtizki, Bryce Harper, Justin/BJ Upton

Team Jeremy: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Wil Myers

Remember, vote for the 10 jerseys YOU would rather have, not which group makes up the best hypothetical team. Let us know in the comments which jersey you want in your closet! Thanks for reading! You can like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or follow @3u3d on Twitter!

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

Arizona Fall League: Winners and Losers From the Rising Stars Game

When we told you that Three Up, Three Down really loves baseball, we weren’t kidding. On Saturday, I watched the Oregon vs. USC football game until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, at which point I switched away from one of the best games of the year to focus on MLB Network.

No, I’m not crazy – I just love baseball, and the Arizona Fall League’s (AFL) annual Rising Stars Game was on. For those of you that don’t know, the AFL is basically grad school for each team’s top prospects. All 30 MLB teams assign seven players to the AFL, comprised of six teams.

It’s basically a little extra work for the superstars of tomorrow. Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper played in the Rising Stars Game. Mike Piazza, Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are just a few of the alumni of the AFL. And the game in 2012 was no different, showcasing a plethora of talent we will be sure to see on Major League teams in the very near future, such as Detroit’s Nick Castellanos, who won the Futures Game MVP in July.

I’ve picked five winners and losers from the game yesterday – read on to see if one of your team’s top prospects made an impact!

Full rosters for the Rising Stars Game can be found HERE!

WINNER:

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Hamilton was this game’s biggest draw, and he delivered big time. One of the few players to start and finish the game, Hamilton got to show off the speed that has made him Cincinnati’s top-rated prospect (Minor League record 155 steals in 2012 – that is NOT a typo) right from the get-go. After drawing a walk to lead off the game, Hamilton promptly stole second, stole third, and scored on a double two batters later. Hamilton also laid down a beautiful bunt that forced an errant throw, resulting in him coasting to third base on the play. Though he recently transitioned from shortstop to center field in order to take advantage of those wheels, Hamilton looked right at home, making a diving play later on in the game. This kid is undoubtedly a future star.

LOSER:

Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins

Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law had a very rough time against the elite hitters of the AFL. Tonkin pitched to five batters and didn’t get a single one out – instead, he allowed three hits, five base runners and four earned runs (five runs total) on 17 pitches. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old righty has really strong stuff, but melted in a big spot yesterday. To add to the disappointment for Tonkin, he was charged with a blown save, took the loss, and saw a 4-3 lead turn into an 8-3 deficit under his watch. Tonkin has a good, low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a pretty good slider – his 2.08 ERA and 97 K’s in 69 1/3 innings in Minor League ball this past season don’t lie – but he really fell apart in the Rising Stars Game.

WINNER:

Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres

Holy smokes, can the Padres’ number one prospect swing a bat! There’s a visibly arrogant swagger to Liriano’s game, but he walks the walk on the field, and proved it again last night. In five plate appearances, Liriano went 3-for-4 with two doubles, walked, drove in a run, and scored a run. He had great plate discipline and was being lauded by premiere minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo for his speed as well. The Padres may have a legitimate offensive threat in Liriano, as long as they can keep him grounded when he hits a slump in the big leagues.

LOSER:

Michael Almanzar, Boston Red Sox

It’s been a strange journey for Almanzar, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. When he was originally drafted, the Red Sox thought they were getting a future power hitter. And while he’s shown potential to pop a few out of the yard, he needs to put on some muscle. At 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he has the frame of a guy who should be shooting the gap, yet the eye and the swing of a homer-happy free swinger. The Rising Stars Game proved to be a disaster for Almanzar, as he came up to bat twice, including in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, and struck out both times. To his credit, Almanzar did have a good at-bat in the 9th, before caving to strike three.

WINNER:

Austin Romine, New York Yankees

Going 1-for-2 with a strikeout doesn’t sound like such a fantastic game, does it? But the Yankees’ farm hand narrowly missed a monster home run in his first at-bat, instead settling for a triple. Romine also was hit by a pitch in the left elbow and came around to score his second run of the game. The reason Romine is a winner here, is because the kid has suffered through injury after injury during his young career, and proved his toughness in front of a TV audience last night. The half inning before getting plunked, Romine took two hard foul tips off the body and walked both of them off. He’s a gamer, and proved it in Arizona – the Yankees will definitely be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training.

LOSER:

Nick Ahmed, Atlanta Braves

Ahmed actually has a good-looking future, as he swatted 36 doubles and swiped 40 bags in 130 games in the Minors this season. I don’t know if his future with the Braves will be at shortstop, but he didn’t give them any reason to think so in this one-game sample size last night. Ahmed made a couple nice plays and redeemed himself later with a walk and a run, but he started the game with a strikeout at the plate and an ugly error in the field. I’m talking, line drive right to him, off the glove, into left field type of error. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky already ahead of him, Ahmed might be looking to learn a new position if he wants to break in with the big club.

WINNER:

Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals

After the West team went up 2-0 in the top of the first, Goodwin sparked the East by hitting a leadoff homer, the only one of the game. The analysis on Goodwin is that he has legitimate five-tool potential. I can see why people might think so; Goodwin’s left-handed swing is extremely quick and he has the abilities to hit for average and power. He has decent speed and plays solid outfield defense, too. The Nationals may need to make room for this guy in their outfield very soon. My guess is he would supplant Harper in center field at some point in the next two seasons. Goodwin, who just turned 22 on Friday, had an OPS of .852 between two Minor League stops in 2012, and showed off his skills in Arizona going 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.

LOSER:

Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros

I was really excited to watch Cosart start this game, because I knew his reputation (a 2.60 ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year; electric fastball, good change-up, above average breaking ball and great command). He was a key piece, along with Rising Stars teammate Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal to Philadelphia in 2011. Cosart has been a top prospect in both organizations he’s played for since day one, but I was truly disappointed with his outing last night. Though the numbers weren’t bad (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), he was missing his spots all day, going 3-0 on multiple batters across those frames. I had no doubt after watching that Cosart has the tools to be a good starter or a great reliever, but he really laid an egg in his start on Saturday.

WINNER:

Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees

Yeah, yeah. I hate putting two Yankees in the winner’s column as much as the next guy. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t very impressed with both prospects I have listed here. Though I probably could have chosen any reliever after the sixth inning on either squad (The 12 total pitchers entering in the 6th inning or later, combined: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K), I went with Montgomery for his dominant performance. The 21-year-old righty blew away the West team in his frame, striking out all three batters on 16 total pitches. His 1.65 minor league ERA and 16.1 K/9 are ridiculous, and I wonder if he has the make-up or velocity (tops out at 95 MPH) to some day fill Mariano Rivera’s shoes as the closer in the Bronx. Either way, I expect to see him getting big league action by 2014 at the very latest.

LOSER:

Anyone who didn’t watch the game!

Seriously. It’s not a cop-out. I’m not saying you should also sacrifice your college football or NFL, or even NBA watching during the MLB off-season, but don’t pass up an opportunity to watch some of the next great generation of baseball stars in action. Follow along with the AFL this winter and see how your team’s top prospects are handling some of the best minor league competition in all of baseball. Better yet, just follow the 3u3d blog and we’ll give you everything you need to know until Opening Day is back upon us. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can find us @3u3d, and you can like us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down. All the glorious baseball news you can stomach, right here, all winter long.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

The 3U3D Awards: Cy Young Edition

Next up in our awards series is the Cy Young.  We’ve been saying all season that NL Cy Young was the most wide open awards race in the league, with 7-10 players having a legitimate case at the award.  Only eight though, received votes from 3U3D, our apologies to Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner.  Let’s take a look at the Cy Young race!

American League

Our AL Cy Young Thoughts:

Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): How do you choose between those top four, honestly? King Felix doesn’t have quite the numbers of the others, but he did pitch an absolutely brilliant perfect game. Then again, Weaver has the numbers and a no-no to go with it. Price has been the quiet stud keeping Tampa Bay in the playoff race, and Verlander is being Verlander in Detroit, dominating all power categories on the stat sheet. I’m going with my gut here and giving Price his first career Cy Young award by a smidgen over the reigning winner in Detroit.

Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Justin Verlander repeats as AL CY Young because he remains the most dominant pitcher in the game. JV is 2nd in ERA (2.64) to Price (2.56), 2nd in WHIP (1.06) to Weaver’s (1.02). First in IP (238.1) by 6.1 innings and 1st in complete games with 6; the next closest pitcher had 4. Verlander also finished 1st in SO with 239. He was 3 wins off the AL lead with 17 but also didn’t have a favorable amount of run support. Not to mention he was within 1 out of his 3rd No Hitter.

Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball last season and once again he proved to be the best this season. He led the AL in strikeouts and although Price’s ERA may have been slightly less Verlander had two more starts and pitched in 27.1 more innings. If Hernandez pitched for a better team he would have a better chance of winning this award this season. How can he not be considered though having more complete game shutouts than any other pitcher had complete games.

Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): You’ll see a theme in my Cy Young picks as I went with the two pitchers that won more games in each league, because winning games is what it’s all about.  For Weaver to lead the league in wins, winning percentage, WHIP, and hits/9.  This to me proves that he was the best pitcher in the American League in 2012.  Verlander we know is great and is a strong #2.  In the battle of great Rays pitchers this season, I’m giving the slight edge to Fernando Rodney, who really solidified Tampa’s bullpen when Kyle Farnsworth went down, while I think the Rays rotation would have been strong even without David Price.

Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): David Price did everything in his power to knock off the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP, but in the end it just wasn’t enough for me to put him at the top.  Would you rather have a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 238.1 innings or a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 211 innings?  I think it’s the first option clearly and that’s why Verlander is my Cy Young winner.  He led the American League in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and adjusted pitcher wins, while being 2nd in ERA and WHIP.  It’s what we’ve come to expect from the best pitcher in the game.  Rodney had one of the best reliever seasons and deserves serious consideration after posting the lowest ERA by a pitcher with 50 innings pitched in league history.  At first glance, Sale over Weaver may look wrong, but to me it’s right.  Sale was better than Weaver in WAR, adjusted ERA+, runs and wins.

National League

Our NL Cy Young Thoughts:

Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): When we look back at the 2012 season, I believe there are going to be four things we truly remember, the World Series champion, Mike Trout’s historical rookie year, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and R.A. Dickey.  The 37-year old knuckleballer became the first Mets pitcher since 1990 to win 20 games, which is even more amazing when you factor in that the Mets only won 74 games total.  Dickey’s 1.05 WHIP is incredible when you factor in he’s throwing a knuckler (Tim Wakefield’s career WHIP is 1.35).  Plus, he led the league in strikeouts.  He’s the best story and the best pitcher in the NL in 2012.  Johnny Cueto gets my silver spot, as he was incredible when you factor in that he was pitching half the time in one of the biggest hitters havens in the Majors in Cincinnati.  Cueto led the NL in adjusted ERA+ and was second in pitcher WAR.  Kershaw’s numbers were great as he fell one strikeout short of winning the pitching Triple Crown.  Kimbrel was the league’s best closer, striking out more than half the batter he faced and had one of the best slugging percentages against in league history.  He’s near unhittable, but gets penalized for not throwing enough innings.  Gonzalez and Medlen I couldn’t decide so I put them both.  Medlen’s conversion to the Braves rotation may have saved them in the 2nd half.  Gonzalez led the league in wins, but you could almost make a case Jordan Zimmermann was the most valuable pitcher on the Nationals this season.

Kurt Peter (@FalconKP):  I gave the edge to Gonzalez again because he led the NL in wins and K/9.  His dominance is what let him stay in games longer and pick up more wins.  Gonzalez was the best pitcher on the best team in the National League and deserves the Cy Young.  Medlen over Dickey is a controversial pick I’m sure, but Medlen put the Braves on his back in the 2nd half and got them to the playoffs.  Dickey got to pitch in a relaxed environment in a pitchers park for a near-last place team.  The knuckleball just seems like a fluky gimmick to me.  I’m surprised that Matt Cain was only on my ballot, not sure why he remains so underrated.  He only threw the 3rd most innings, while posting the 4th best ERA and 2nd best WHIP.  He even threw one of the most dominant games in the history of baseball, what else does he need to do?

Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): R.A. Dickey won 20 games for the Mets. Let that sink in for a minute, 20 games for the Mets. I know Kershaw’s numbers were better but come on the kuckleballer had it working this season and anybody willing to throw something going that slow at a professional athlete deserves to be rewarded in some way. Kershaw had the best season statistically but he won the award last season and who knows if Dickey will ever get a chance to win it again. Johnny Cueto had a fantastic season for the NL Central Champions. Leading that rotation posting a career high in innings pitched and winning 19 games.

Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Kimbrel has had a season for the ages as a closer. He became the first pitcher ever to K HALF of the hitters he faced. He only allowed 26
hits all year, making his opponent’s BA a measly .123. Oh not to mention his stellar WHIP of 0.65. Kershaw showed dominance and so did Gio, winning 21 games.

Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): This is another close race, pitting a lot of very quality starting pitchers against each other for the league’s greatest honor at the position. This award has so much talent in the running that guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse are left off my ballot completely. I’ve got to go with the fantastic story that is Dickey for 2012, as his numbers barely edge the others and he’s a KNUCKLEBALLER for heaven’s sake! How can you not love this guy? When I ran the numbers, I see that Kershaw led the Majors in ERA and WHIP this season, and fell one strikeout shy of the K title in the National League (behind Dickey). But the fact that Dickey has similar numbers, but a better record, on a much worse team and he primarily throws a knuckleball is enough for me to crown him. It’s not an award based on a cute story, it’s based on him being the best pitcher in the league for 2012.

Congrats to R.A. Dickey and Justin Verlander on winning the 3U3D Cy Young Awards!

Who makes your Cy Young ballot?  Let us know in the comments!  Love our personal ballots?  Hate our personal ballots?  Hit us up on Twitter, we want to hear from you! And tell us here who you think should be the Cy Young winner for each league:

Episode 28 – So A Brewer And A Philly Walk Into A Bar…

This week’s episode is quick and to the point. We discuss a bit about instant replay, Stephen Strasburg’s Innings Limit, and give you your Fantasy Baseball playoff push pickups. May you win all of your leagues! We also touch on the surging playoff races as the Brewers and Phillies are closing the gap for the Wild Card quickly.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast!

or use this link to download on iTunes

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=508049520

Twitter: @3U3D
Facebook: Three Up, Three Down

Enjoy!

Episode 27 – You Can’t Spell ‘Playoffs’ Without O’s and A’s

Three Up, Three Down touches ’em all this week as they discuss Strasburg’s Innings Limit, Playoff Chances, Fantasy Pick-Ups, and even have special guest, Lindsay Guentzel, 2012 MLB FanCave Dweller, to discuss the 2014 All-Star Game. Take a listen!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast!

or use this link to download on iTunes

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=508049520

Twitter: @3U3D
Facebook: Three Up, Three Down

Enjoy!

The “Almost On Time” MLB Awards

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

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Michael Fiers, Brewers

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

Silver Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

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

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

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

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

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

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

Silver Medal: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics

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

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

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

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

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

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

Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

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

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

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

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

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: David Price, Rays

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

Silver Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

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

Gold Medal: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

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

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

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

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

Silver Medal: Buster Posey, Giants

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

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

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

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

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

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

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

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

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

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

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

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

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Take your pick

Here’s everyone’s favorite game: you get to be the GM of your favorite team. You get to choose two young players from the same team to start your club with. Your choices are Mike Trout/Mark Trumbo or Bryce Harper/Stephen Strasburg. Your decision will set up your franchise for the next five years. Pick wisely.

In recent years games have been decided more so by the pitchers than the hitters, as pitchers’ numbers have been better. Strasburg is obviously a front of the line pitcher and would be the ace on almost every team. He will get a lot of strikeouts, go deep into games and have a very good ERA. His numbers so far this season: 2.76 ERA, 11-4 record, 151 K’s (117.1 IP), 1.12 WHIP. Those numbers are good enough to make him a top 10 pitcher in the league this season, and he’s only 24!

Bryce Harper coming into this season was the best known player to have never played a game in the majors. Since being called up he has become the every day starter in left field for the Nationals and is having a very solid season. His rookie campaign, like most players, has been a trying season for him. He blazed through the minors in just over a season. He has hit a few roadblocks this season but his potential if fully reached could make him a special player to watch for many years. His numbers so far this season: .249 AVG, 10 HR, 32 RBI, .328 OBP, .408 SLG, .736 OPS. Remember he’s only 19 so he will bounce back better next season. What were you doing when you were 19?

Mike Trout is having one of the best seasons, not only for a rookie but for anyone, in all of baseball. As a Rangers fan having him on the Angels roster for the foreseeable future really worries me for the future of their match-ups. He brings it all: gold glove caliber defense, speed on the bags, patience at the plate, hits for average, can hit for power. He is the leading candidate right now for the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards. His numbers this season are some of the best a rookie has ever had: .344 AVG, 21 HR, 65 RBI, .406 OBP, .599 SLG, 1.005 OPS. He just recently turned 21 and already he is one of the more fun players to watch play.

Mark Trumbo is the least known of these four but he likely will be the biggest power hitter out of them. He is the best young power hitter behind only maybe Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. Having him on the same team as Albert Pujols will allow him to learn from one of the greatest hitters this game has ever seen. Teams have put a premium on power hitters in recent years after the post-steroid drought. He will play and put up his numbers with teams putting less emphasis on defensive abilities. His numbers so far this season: .288 AVG, 29 HR, 73 RBI, .343 OBP, .568 SLG, .911 OPS. The Angels will be a very formidable team offensively for the foreseeable future. His numbers will only get better over the next few seasons as he improves on his plate discipline.

 

Both the Angels and Nationals futures look bright with these young duos. Who would you rather your team have? Let us know in the comments.

-Brian Boynton

The “Slightly Early” MLB Awards

July is in the books with Mike Trout of the Angels and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates taking home player of the month honors. Was it enough though to stay atop my MVP rankings? Let’s find out. Keeping with the Olympics theme as a protest to baseball and softball still not being included. All statistics are through play of August 1st.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Update: Our sources tell us Lance Lynn, though not reaching the minimum innings total in 2011, was on the active roster for more than 45 days and is therefore NOT eligible as a rookie in 2012, awkward because MLB had him on the “Top Rookies Tracker” for a while.

Lucky for Reds fans, that means Todd Frazier gets the nod as the bronze medalist for NL Rookie of the Year. A first time appearance on the medal stand is largely due to his .275 average, 13 homers and 40 RBI this season. Frazier has basically rendered Scott Rolen useless for the Reds, especially in July when Frazier hit over .300 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. Besides, how can we not include a guy who hits home runs by throwing his bat at the ball?

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

I was THIS close to dropping Harper to the bronze for this month. Harper quite frankly looked like a 19 year-old this past month hitting just .222 in July with one home run and seven RBI in 99 at-bats. I’m giving Harper some credit for the intangibles that he brings to Washington and helping keep them in first in the N.L. East. Most pundits will have Harper winning Rookie of the Year, but at this moment I don’t think it’s the case. Harper is closer to dropping down than overtaking my leader. Take a close look at the numbers and you could even say Reds Todd Frazier has been a better rookie hitter than The Chosen One. It’s a great 19 year-old season, just not the best rookie season in the N.L. right now.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Where would the Diamondbacks be without Wade Miley? He’s just been so consistently good. Lance Lynn has had better months, but Miley hasn’t gotten blown up at all like Lynn has. July was just another ho-hum month for Miley going 3-2 with a 3.31 and 1.13 WHIP. Miley is 12-6 on the year and 2nd among NL rookies in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, plus 1st among N.L. rookies in WHIP. Miley is the real deal.

Just off the Podium: Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Michael Fiers, Brewers, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Blind resume time! Player A: 11-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 ratio, and 2.07 K/BB ratio. Player B: 9-5 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, and 3.93 K/BB ratio. You’d rather have player B right now, right? Congrats, you just picked Scott Diamond over Rangers Yu Darvish, welcome to the club. We have a meeting every 5th day when he makes a start.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Céspedes, Athletics

A new addition to the rankings. I had been hesitant to add him due to his injury early in the season and players being ahead of him still. Since returning on June 1st, Céspedes is hitting .347, with 9 homers, a .391 OBP, and a .984 OPS. The Athletics are 29-15 over that span and are the biggest surprise in the American League in playoff contention. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in home runs, slugging, OPS, batting average, and runs scored. The only problem? Céspedes is 2nd in all those statistics to this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

All of those numbers that I said Céspedes is 2nd in among A.L. rookies, Mike Trout is first in and it’s not even close. Tack on leading not just A.L. rookies, but the entire American League in stolen bases as well and we can move on to the next award. We’re going to Trout again in this blog I promise you.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Tyson Ross, Athletics (not really on Ross, but you get the picture), Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Addison Reed, White Sox, Matt Moore, Rays, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

If you thought the A.L. rookies was deep just now, wait until you see the National League pitching pool. For as amazing as R.A. Dickey was in June, he was that bad in July with a 5.13 ERA. That’s the life of a knuckleballer. Dickey goes from 1st to “just off the podium” and we welcome Jordan Zimmermann to the top three. When you think Nationals pitching you think Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but it’s Zimmermann that’s been the best of the three so far. His 8-6 record doesn’t reflect it, but he’s 2nd in the N.L. in ERA (I’m excluding Ryan Dempster), 5th in WHIP, 2nd in WAR and has shown great control in 4th in BB/9 and 9th in K/BB ratio. You’re more than welcome to make the case for Strasburg and it’s a great one, but Zimmermann deserves this spot.

Silver Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

Cueto takes another step up the podium in his pursuit of becoming the first Reds pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Cueto leads the National League in pitcher WAR and is tied for the league lead in wins. He’s great at all times, but he’s a spectacular 9-0 in day games for the Reds. What’s the most impressive statistic on Cueto this season though? He is tops in the National League in home runs allowed per 9 innings at just 0.32. That’s incredible considering he pitches his home games in one of the easiest parks to hit a bomb.

Gold Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

Cueto moved up a spot, so I might as well move Matt Cain up another rung. Cain didn’t have the greatest July, but it was good enough to keep his overall numbers looking spectacular. He leads the league in WHIP at 1.00, 4th in ERA, 2nd in innings pitched, 1st in shutouts, and 7th in strikeouts. Cain becomes the 4th different pitcher in four months to be at the summit of my N.L. Cy Young rankings. With how wide open this race is, we could see a 5th at the start of September.

Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Cole Hamels, Phillies, and A.J. Burnett, Pirates (Yes, that A.J. Burnett)

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Remember on MTV’s “Total Request Live” when the band Korn was always 3rd behind the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC? Alright you probably don’t, but like how #3 was the Korn spot, in these rankings #3 is the Sale spot. He’s there for the 3rd straight month. The young White Sox ace is 2nd in the American League in ERA and pitching WAR, 3rd in wins, WHIP and HR/9 ratio. It’s just not enough to get above the next two pitchers, one who has better numbers in a similar amount of innings and a pitcher with slightly worse numbers, but has tossed an extra 36 innings.


Co-Gold Medals: Jered Weaver, Angels and Justin Verlander, Tigers

Am I copping out this month? You bet I am. Last month, I said that the difference between the two pitchers was razor thin, but I gave the edge to Verlander because of the extra innings he’s thrown. Weaver answered by going 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in July. Verlander was “only” 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP last month. Overall numbers are pretty close too. Weaver leads in wins, ERA, and WHIP. Verlander leads in WAR, innings pitched, and complete games. Verlander also is 2nd in strikeouts by just one to Felix Hernandez and has great peripherals. Give me another month and we’ll discuss again.

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

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Matt Holliday, Cardinals

No player made a bigger jump in the rankings for any award this month than Holliday. He went from not even “just off the podium” to bronze medal position. Holliday hit .363 with 7 home runs, 22 RBI and an eye-popping 1.130 OPS in July. The best hitter in the Cardinals lineup is now 1st in RBI, 3rd in offensive WAR and runs, 4th in OBP and 6th in batting average, slugging, and OPS and 5th in HR. He’s kept St. Louis alive in the wild card race.

Silver Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

Blind resume part two time! Player A hit .332 with a .397 OBP, .597 slugging, .994 OPS, 33 home runs, 109 runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Player B hit .313, with a .398 OBP, .604 slugging, 1.002 OPS, 45 home runs, 112 runs, 114 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. You’d lean towards player B again I think. Player A is Ryan Braun in his MVP season of 2011. Player B is Ryan Braun current projection for this season and is leading the league in runs and home runs. I know the Brewers aren’t in playoff contention like last season, but Braun isn’t the reason why. He’s been remarkable with the distractions of the offseason and no Prince Fielder protection in the lineup. Braun’s numbers are better this season, but he’s denied by one player who’s been even better.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen had grabbed the gold medal in my N.L. MVP rankings last month and was even better in July. McCutchen his .446 with a crazy 1.249 OPS in taking home N.L. Player of the Month honors. McCutchen leads the league in offensive WAR, batting average (.372), slugging, total bases, and runs scored. He’s 3rd in home runs and chips in another 14 stolen bases. He’s the most complete hitter in the National League at this moment. Plus, having the Pirates in contention for the playoffs makes him the N.L. MVP hands down.

Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Joey Votto, Reds, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Buster Posey, Giants, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Remember when Josh Hamilton was “running away” with the A.L. MVP and was a threat for the triple crown. Hamilton’s terrible June and atrocious July have officially knocked him from my top three. Cano has been the best hitter on the best team. He’s tied for 3rd in offensive WAR, tied for 5th in runs scored, 7th in slugging and OPS, and 9th in batting average and home runs. Add in his usual gold glove defense and Cano’s a contender for his 1st MVP.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

I think it’s kind of funny that I have the guy Prince Fielder left and the guy Prince Fielder joined both at runner-up for MVP right now. Moving to 3rd base wasn’t a distraction at the plate as Cabrera has been his usual, fantastic self hitting .323, good for 2nd in the A.L. El Miggy Poco is 1st in RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases, 2nd in offensive WAR, 3rd in OPS, 4th in slugging, tied for 5th in runs, and 8th in OBP and home runs. He won’t win a Gold Glove any time soon, but his offensive firepower makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

When I put Mike Trout in the top spot for A.L. MVP last month I thought it was going to have some backlash. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any. Like McCutchen, Trout took over the top spot and was even better in July also winning Player of the Month honors while hitting .392, with 10 homers and 9 stolen bases. Trout has turned the fortunes around after a 6-14 start, sparking them to a 49-33 record and a wild card playoff spot at this writing. Trout leads the A.L. in batting average, stolen bases, runs scored and offensive WAR. He’s also top 3 in OBP, slugging, and OPS. We’re witnessing the greatest season by a 20 year-old in the history of baseball.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Adam Jones, Orioles, Mark Trumbo, Angels, Jered Weaver, Angels, Justin Verlander, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Reddick, Athletics

Can’t believe we’re already through July of the 2012 season. With the 2nd Wild Card added the playoff races are crazy tight as it seems like more teams than not are still alive for a playoff spot. I don’t think any one will or should completely agree with my rankings, so let me know in the comments what you think!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)