The Active Future Hall of Fame Player on Every MLB Team

With the 2017 Hall of Fame class set to be announced on Wednesday, January 18th, I began to think about the active players around Major League Baseball who are inevitably going to find their way to the Hall of Fame. There are quite a few, with a wide range of teams having strong candidates. However, as I was pondering, I began to wonder: Could I name a player from every single team with a chance at the Hall of Fame? It took me a good amount of time, but I was finally able to do it.

Now, keep in mind, some of these players you will definitely agree with, but some you will question my sanity. Admittedly, some of my picks are extremely unlikely to make their way to Cooperstown, but there are some teams that are so young or sparsely-talented that I had to go with a long-shot pick or extreme projection. But the wild predictions for certain young stars is part of what makes this conversation so much fun.

With all of that said, here is my take of the top Hall of Fame player from each of the thirty MLB teams (active players only; free agents not included):

Marlinssuzuki

The Marlins have quite a few standout players who very well could be headed towards Cooperstown if they can keep up their stardom over the next decade or so, but the one player on their roster that’s already a guaranteed inductee is Ichiro Suzuki. Coming over from Japan in 2001, Suzuki has long been one of the best players in baseball, notching over 3,000 hits in his MLB career to this point and subsequently receiving countless awards. As such, he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Rays

This isn’t as easy of a pick as the one of Ichiro Suzuki, but the one player on the Rays roster with enough of a track record to suggest as being on a Hall of Fame track is assuredly Evan Longoria. Hitting a career high 36 homers in 2016, and recording his most RBI’s since 2011, the next few years will tell the tale. But at only 31 years old, Longoria is the surest H.O.F. bet of all of the players currently on the Rays.

freemanBraves

He has an extremely long way to go, but with the stats he has produced over the course of his career, Freddie Freeman is well on his way to making it into Cooperstown. At just 27 years old, Freeman is theoretically in his prime, as was evident in his posting of 31 home runs last season. If he can post even a few more of those, the Braves’ All-Star first baseman could be on a very promising path towards the Hall of Fame.

Orioles

He may not be well into his 20’s quite yet, but Manny Machado is well into his Hall of Fame career. Sure, it’s a bit early to be typing up Machado’s induction speech, as anything can happen in baseball, but the Orioles’ third baseman has recorded back-to-back 30 homer seasons each of the last two years, and is posting numbers rivaling those of a previous Baltimore third base superstar: Brooks Robinson.

NationalsMLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals

It may seem a bit of old hat to be naming Bryce Harper as the Nationals current best shot at the Hall of Fame, but it’s absolutely true. Despite having a poor season by his standards last year, Harper — who will be 24 years old all of the 2017 season — already possesses 121 homers. If Harper can have a bounce-back season this coming year, the Hall of Fame may be in the cards for him when all is said and done.

Mets

The Mets’ player I feel is the most likely to put together a Hall of Fame career when he decides to hang up his spikes is Noah Syndergaard. (Yes, you read that right.) I’m well aware that Syndergaard only has 55 career starts under his belt, but with David Wright succumbing to injuries that derailed his overall chances, and guys such as Yoenis Cespedes not having enough games remaining to put together a case, Syndergaard is my long-shot pick.

chapYankees

Gary Sanchez — no, I’m just kidding. But the player I do have slotted to be a Hall of Famer down the road isn’t all that much older than Sanchez. With Aroldis Chapman dominating the opposition for so long, it can be easy to forget that Chapman is just heading into his age-29 season. With a career 2.08 ERA thanks to his blazing fastball, as well as his ability to lock things down in the ninth, Chapman is on the fast-track to the Hall if he can continue to blow batters away.

Phillies

With the departure of Ryan Howard, and the Phillies being in a drastic youth movement, it was very hard for me to land on a single player who stands the best chance at the Hall of Fame. But even so, I decided to go with Maikel Franco. He is still extremely young, and is still adjusting to the bigs. But the potential for 30+ homer power is definitely there, and that could lead to a bright future for Franco and the Phillies.

Red SoxSTON2433.JPG

The Red Sox just lost a future Hall of Famer in David Ortiz, but picking the next player to follow in his footsteps wasn’t all that difficult. Keeping with the theme of young players with big futures, I tabbed Mookie Betts as the player on Boston’s active roster with a chance at Cooperstown. I hate to make a selection with such a small track record, but after what Betts showed the baseball world last season, a superstar has been born.

Blue Jays

I’m not sure Josh Donaldson has enough big seasons left in him to put together Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but he stands the best shot of all of the players north of the border. While some youngsters such as Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are off to amazing starts to their career, Donaldson has become an absolute star. With back-to-back 35+ home runs season, Donalson will at the very least become a Toronto all-time great.

cutchPirates

If Andrew McCutchen can turn things around from a year ago to have another superstar season in 2017, he will also be back on track to a Hall of Fame career. The best player on the Pirates’ roster when he’s at the top of his game, McCutchen is a five-tool athlete in every sense of the word. Although the stats of McCutchen aren’t overwhelming upon first glance, when you look closely, a compelling case is certainly being made.

Indians

The newest member of the Indians is also their top Hall of Fame candidate at the moment. Edwin Encarnacion may not have the numbers yet, but he very well could get there before his career is over. Averaging 39 homers a year over the past five seasons, Encarnacion could theoretically join the 500 home run club if he can play until age 40 and blast a tick over 27 home runs per season.

Tigerscab

The Tigers have quite a few great players, despite it not showing up in the standings last season. But the one player that is an absolute Hall of Fame player is Miguel Cabrera. The former Triple Crown winner is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball, and is well underway to making it to Cooperstown. At just 34 years old on April 18th, Cabrera is one of the few must-see players before they retire currently in baseball.

Reds

It’s going to be close, but the current Cincinnati Red who has shown any chance at a shot at the Hall of Fame is Joey Votto. The on-base-machine falls right into the coveted 3-4-5 slash line with a career .313/.425/.536 line, despite his hit numbers and homer stats sitting a bit low when compared to those players already in the Hall of Fame. But the overall play of Votto is definitely worth Hall of Fame consideration.

reyesCardinals

How weak is the Cardinals current active roster? So weak that I went with rookie Alex Reyes as their best shot at the Hall of Fame. In fact, I actually had to skip the Cardinals and come back to them when writing this, frankly because I don’t view any of their active roster with any confidence as to them having even a chance at the Hall of Fame. But having to pick a player, I ended up going with the 22-year-old Reyes, who showed a ton of potential in 2016 and is expected to breakout in 2017.

Cubs

I originally placed Jon Lester (of all people) as the Cubs’ active future Hall of Fame player, as he is somewhat underrated as a starter, especially when you look at his career numbers. But it’s hard to overlook Kris Bryant, who broke out last season to hit 39 home runs. With his 40+ homer potential, if Bryant can put together multiple big seasons in a row, his case for the Hall of Fame will begin to build.

White Soxfraz

The White Sox have made it evident that they are currently in a huge rebuild mode, trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton so far this offseason, with other moves expected before Opening Day. With that in mind, I ended up picking Todd Frazier as their Hall of Fame path player. Although Frazier has a somewhat weak case at the moment, if he can continue to produce numbers much like those he has posted in recent history, Frazier will be very close by the time he retires.

Brewers

I’m not the biggest Ryan Braun fan after what went down a few years ago, but there’s no denying his talent. Following a few down seasons, Braun bounced back again in 2016. If he can continue to keep his track record going, Braun could be a very compelling candidate for the Hall after his playing days are over. As the best player on the Brewers, he also claims the slot as their best chance at the Hall of Fame.

mauerTwins

There are several different ways I could’ve gone with this. If Byron Buxton produces to his full ability the way he has been hyped, he would be the top pick; the same with Miguel Sano. If Brian Dozier hit over 40 homers for a few more seasons, he would line up on that path as well. But I ended up going with the safe choice of Joe Mauer, who is a bit low in some of his career stats, but has enough great seasons to deserve some consideration.

Royals

Catchers get little recognition for just how difficult their jobs behind the plate is, and Salvador Perez has proven to be one of the best. One of the biggest low-risk high-reward examples in recent history, the Royals have a star in Perez, and he could very well be on the patch to Cooperstown as a slugging backstop. With 20 homers a year and a cannon for an arm, Perez has the whole package you’re looking for from a catcher.

Astrosbeltran

Jose Altuve is undoubtedly the biggest superstar on the Astros, with Carlos Correa and George Springer quickly joining him. But while newly acquired slugger Carlos Beltran would be all too easy to overlook, it’s important to view Beltran for the player he is. With 2,617 hits and 421 homers, one more solid season from Beltran very well could sway those who are on the fence about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

Rangers

While others don’t seem to agree, I feel that Adrian Beltre is a no-doubt Hall of Famer no matter how you slice it. Assuming he can stay healthy, Beltre will become the 31st player to reach the 3,000 hit mark in 2017, and that is all but a guarantee for enshrinement in my mind. One of the all-time best third baseman in the history of baseball, Beltre is an easy Hall of Fame pick.

nolanRockies

Nolan Arenado is as close to a complete player as you’ll find in the game today. Winning a Gold Glove each of his first four seasons, his future Hall of Fame case will extend far beyond his defense, as he belted over 40 homers and recorded over 130 RBI’s each of the past two seasons. Despite playing in Colorado — seen as a negative by many — Arenado would be a superstar in any ballpark. For that reason, he should still be seen as the future Hall of Fame player he likely is.

Diamondbacks

Over the course of Paul Goldschmidt‘s career to this point, he has shown a pattern of having one great season followed by a merely average season. However, if he can find a way to produce some of the superstar level seasons he has previously, Goldschmidt will have a legitimate Hall case. Given, Goldy may not be able to produce on the level needed for the Hall of Fame, but he currently stands the best shot in Arizona.

Padresmyers

Will the real Wil Myers please stand up . . . That’s the sentiment of many around the baseball world. Following a Rookie of the Year season in 2013, Myers hadn’t produced on the same level through last season. But in 2016, Myers absolutely broke out, earning his first All-Star selection and hitting 28 blasts. With the power he possesses, he has the ability to carry the Padres on his back, and if he indeed does that, could be walking towards Cooperstown.

Dodgers

Adrian Gonzalez has been great for a long time, and Corey Seager is on a rapid ascent into stardom. But let’s face it — Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. Year in and year out, Kershaw is among the finalists for Cy Young and has consistently been the Dodgers’ best pitcher since his poor rookie season in 2008. As such, Kershaw is undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers.

pujolsAngels

Mike Trout receives an extremely high honorable mention, as baring any unforeseen issues Trout is on a clear path to Cooperstown. But credit has to be given where it’s due, and therefore Albert Pujols falls as my pick for the Angles’ Hall of Fame active player. With him sitting just nine homers back of 600, Pujols is already an all-time great player, and should be fully appreciated as such while he’s still playing the game.

Giants

Buster Posey is a fantastic player and will likely continue to be for the Giants for years to come. But the player I chose as the most on a Hall of Fame path is Madison Bumgarner, who has proven time and time again the caliber of pitcher that he is. With a career ERA of 2.99, Bumgarner has been a big part in the Giants three World Series titles over the last seven seasons. As such, he is on a very special career path.

Athleticsgray

The Athletics aren’t the best team in baseball, and therefore don’t have the best selection of above-average players. But even so, Sonny Gray stands out as their best chance at fielding a Hall of Famer player down the road from their current roster. His 2016 stats of a 5.69 ERA over the course of 22 starts hurt what was beginning as a special career, but if he can rebound in 2017, Gray can get back on that track.

Mariners

With a perfect game, it is already evident that Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher. But when you take the time to dive into his career numbers, you get an idea of just how special he is. Already nearing Hall of Fame stats, Hernandez will be just 31 for all of the 2017 season. He still has numerous more seasons to add to his 2,264 career strikeouts and improve upon his 3.16 ERA. But no matter what, Cooperstown likely awaits him.

Takeaways from the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings

Aside from the mid-season trade deadline that sees numerous players changing squads with the hopes that they might be the final piece needed to push any given team into the postseason, the Winter Meetings are the busiest time of year for trades and signings to take place around Major League Baseball. mlb

In the past, some of baseball’s biggest deals have taken place during the Winter Meetings (it was the 2007 meetings when the Tigers picked up Miguel Cabrera). But while the 2016 Winter Meetings that took place in National Harbor, Maryland, didn’t have nearly as much action as some of the previous ones, there were still some huge transactions that will vastly affect teams when the 2017 season begins.

Following the signings of big-time free agents Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Beltran over the past couple of weeks, the Winter Meetings began on Sunday evening, with many rumors swirling around as to what would take place over the course of the five day event. But over time, as always, fact was quickly distinguished from rumor.

Things kicked off with the signing of Matt Holliday by the New York Yankees on a one-year, 13 million dollar deal. While the acquisition doesn’t immediately jump off the page as all that great, it’s still an impactful one. The seven-time All-Star can play a variety of positions, and can still hit with the best of them, knocking 20 homers in 2016.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesOn the opposite side of the spectrum is Mark Melancon, who is one of the best at limiting homers, giving up just three total over the course of 71.1 innings last season. For his efforts, Melancon was grabbed by the Giants for the next four years at a price tag of 62 million. After saving 88 games over the last two years, Melancon certainly earned it, and San Francisco appears to have found their closer.

It also appears that Melancon will come in handy for the Giants, as their long-time rivals, the Dodgers, were successful in resigning Rich Hill on a three-year, 48 million dollar deal. After being virtually on his way out of the sport at one point, Hill posted a 2.12 ERA last season, and would likely be the Dodgers’ ace if not for Clayton Kershaw. Still, he sits as one of the best pitchers in the game.

Offensively, it became apparent that the Blue Jays were looking into other options other than Edwin Encarnacion following their signing of Kendrys Morales a few weeks ago, but it became even more so with the addition of Steve Pearce for 12.5 over the next two years. Pearce doesn’t have nearly the power of some players, but his bat is still one that can impact any given game, despite not being a huge move.

However, just as it seemed that the Winter Meeting were going to be a bit slow, with just a few above average deals, the Red Sox decided to take things up a notch. Following a trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers in exchange for Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington, Boston made the biggest splash of the offseason to this point.

Reaching deep into their farm system, the Red Sox sent away highly coveted prospects saleYoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, along with Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz, in return for Chris Sale. If Sale can keep up his dominance that’s made him one of the best pitchers in baseball, the Red Sox could win the division with ease in 2017. But as has been seen in the past, baseball is extremely unpredictable.

Nearly as uncertain is a player’s health from any given season to the next, and Wilson Ramos is a prime example of that. After beginning 2016 on a tear, Ramos suffered a season-ending injury this past season, but hopes to be ready to go sometime around the middle of 2017. Whenever he arrives with the Rays, who signed him to a two-year, 12.5 million (18.5 with incentives) dollar deal, he’s sure to make his presence known.

Wade Davis is also sure to make a big difference for the Cubs, as if they needed any more help. After winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years this season, Chicago picked up lockdown reliever Wade Davis from the Royals in a trade that sent Jorge Soler to the Royals. With Aroldis Chapman winding up with a team away from Chicago as the Winter Meetings progressed, Davis could come up big in 2017.

But while teams such as the Red Sox and Cubs were focused on rebuilding their major league lineup, there were those like the White Sox who made huge improvements to their farm system. After receiving quite the hall from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal, the Sox proceeded to pick up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, losing just Adam Eaton in the swap.

Many see this as a vastly one-sided deal, with the Nationals getting the short end of the stick. But after losing out on Chris Sale and Mark Melancon, the Nationals were undoubtedly looking to add an impact piece and were all in to get Adam Eaton. They may regret it in the short term, but in the long term things may work out in their favor.

desmondOne player who didn’t have things work out quite the way he had been hoping was Ian Desmond, who agreed to a five-year, 70 million dollar contract to play in Denver. After struggling mightily in 2015, following a turndown of a 7-year, 102 million dollar offer from the Nationals in 2014, Demsond really broke out again in 2016 with the Rangers.

The Rockies could use some offense (among other things), and Desmond adds a big piece to their improving lineup, despite not getting the contract he could have received just a few seasons ago.

The final big transaction made on the final day of the Winter Meetings saw Aroldis Chapman going back to the Yankees for five years and 86 million dollars. Coming off his help with the Cubs in their World Series title quest in this season, Chapman has long been known as a devastating pitcher, with his 102+ mile per hour fastball. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees fare in 2017 in what has become a competitive division, but with Chapman locking down the ninth, anything is truly possible.

But while some teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox left the Winter Meetings with their teams very different from when things began, with others doing hardly anything at all to improve their club, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still over 16 weeks left until the 2017 season begins.

The shaking up of teams this offseason could possibly be far from over.

The Wait Is Finally Over: Cubs Win 2016 World Series

After falling down three games to one heading into game five of the World Series, the Cubs battled back to win the pivotal game and send the series back to Cleveland down 3-2. Despite having struggled at times this postseason, Chicago looked World Series Cubs Indians Baseballreally good in their final game at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and would be looking to keep their hot-hitting going into Tuesday.

The starter for the Indians, Josh Tomlin, had been great in his last outing, and he began the night without any struggle, retiring the first two batters without trouble.

However, Kris Bryant ended up taking an 0-2 curveball and promptly depositing it deep into the left field stands. Quickly following was a pair of singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, setting runners up at first and third with still two outs.

Addison Russell then lifted a simple fly ball to the outfield, which looked to be an easy third out to the inning. But due to miscommunication by Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, the ball dropped in, giving the Cubs another pair of runs, making the score 3-0 Cubs in the first inning.

Jake Arrieta was tabbed with the start for Chicago, but he was far more successful in his first inning than Tomlin had been, getting through the inning without a single hit. With a three-run cushion, and citing the way Arrieta had pitched his last time out, you got the feeling that the Indians had their work cut out for them.

Their struggles would continue in the third inning, when a Kyle Schwarber leadoff walk and a series of hits would result in the bases loaded with just one out, leading to the departure of Josh Tomlin after just 2.1 inning pitched. But things would simply go downhill from there, as Dan Otero, who came on in relief, allowed a grand slam to Addison russellRussell — just the 19th World Series grand slam in history, and first since Paul Konerko in 2005 –that pushed the score up to 7-0. (In addition, Russell’s slam put him at six RBI’s on the night, tying the all-time record.)

The Indians would finally get to Arrieta in the fourth, when Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a double, later scoring on an RBI-single from Mike Napoli. But despite recording the second out of the inning, Arrieta would struggle for a bit, allowing the bases to become loaded for Tyler Naquin. However, Naquin couldn’t come through, leaving the Indians still trailing by half a dozen runs.

But their quest for a comeback continued in the next inning, with Jason Kipnis launching an opposite-field solo home run to make the score 7-2. Although still trailing by five runs, the Indians appeared to be heating up just a bit in the middle innings, chasing Arrieta from the game just one out shy of six inning pitched in which he struck out nine.

Following a scoreless sixth and seventh by both squads, the eighth inning saw Aroldis Chapman on in relief, who had come in and successfully gotten the final out in the seventh. His appearance in a 7-2 game was greatly questioned around the baseball world, as overuse or an injury on Tuesday night would limit his participation in the all-important game seven. But nonetheless, he did his job and was as dominant as ever.

A two-run homer from Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth would give the Cubs an even bigger lead heading into the bottom half, ultimately securing them the win to force things to a seventh game, despite the Indians scoring a run in the ninth and making it a final score of 9-3.cubs

Having picked up the win, the Cubs became the first team to force a game seven after trailing 3-1 since the Royals in 1985.

With Chicago’s 3-4-5-6 hitters going a combined 8-9 to begin the game, the Cubs certainly saw their bats heat up in a big way in game six. Only time would reveal if the Cubs would share in the same fate as the ’85 Royals, who went on to win the World Series, but if their bats continued to stay hot, their chances seemed fairly good.

The decisive game seven of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians saw Kyle Hendricks going up against Corey Kluber, who had both had their share of ups and downs throughout the season. However, with this guaranteed to be the final game of the 2016 baseball season, you knew going into it that they were each going to give it all they had, with neither side wanting to give an inch.

But even with that being the case, Kluber didn’t get off to the start he had been hoping for. The very first batter of the game, Dexter Fowler, cranked a home run over the center field wall, making history as the first leadoff homerun in a game seven of the World Series ever. Following that round-tripper, Kluber would settle down to not allow any morefowler damage in the inning, but the tone was already set.

Taking the mound in the bottom half was Hendricks, who navigated through the inning without any runs being scored upon him. That would change, however, in the third inning, when after a Coco Crisp leadoff double, the Indians tied the game on an RBI-single from Carlos Santana, following a sacrifice bunt that had advanced Crisp to third.

The Cubs would score again in the fourth on a shallow sacrifice fly from who else but Addison Russell, allowing Kris Bryant to score on a terrific slide under the glove of catcher Roberto Perez. Willson Contreras would then double off the top of the outfield wall, giving the Cubs another run and a 3-1 lead over the Indians.

A lot of people made the assumption that with Kluber having started two games of the World Series already, it had a huge impact on him and his effectiveness in this game. That theory received more evidence in the fifth inning when Javier Baez hit a solo-homer to lead off the inning and increase the Cubs’ score yet again, causing the departure of Kluber for reliever Andrew Miller. But not even Miller could keep the Cubs quiet, as Chicago once again scored a run on an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double and appeared to be putting the game away.

But the Indians wouldn’t go away quietly. Jon Lester would come on in relief in the fifth inning for the first time in his postseason career since 2007, but quickly give up two runs on a wild pitch. With the score back to just a two-run lead, this was anyone’s game yet again.davis

The sixth inning saw the Cubs adding on another run, with a David Ross homer giving them a 6-3 lead. That homer made Ross the oldest player ever to hit a home run in game seven of the Fall Classic, dating back to its inaugural season in 1903.

After Ross’s home run made it 6-3, Aroldis Chapman would come on in the eighth, but would allow an RBI-double to Brandon Guyer, putting the Indians back just two runs. The lead then completely dissolved, as a Rajai Davis home run tied the game at six apiece. Game seven was certainly living up to the hype.

The ninth inning would quickly get interesting, as a stolen base attempt by Jason Heyward resulted in him winding up at third with just one out following an errant throw down to second. But a questionable decision to bunt by Javier Baez with two strikes that was unsuccessful, and a terrific play by Francisco Lindor, kept the Cubs from doing anything in the inning.

The skies would then open up after regulation play, leading to a rain delay that would last around twenty minutes before the game resumed. Upon the restart, the Cubs wasted no time in retaking the lead, with Ben Zobrist notching an RBI-double, putting runners at second and third with just one out. The next batter would be intentionally walked to get to Miguel Montero, who would come through, allowing another run to score and make the Cubs lead two runs heading into the bottom half.

Carl Edwards Jr. was given the task of closing out the game, but he couldn’t complete the task. Despite getting the first two outs, Edwards would allow an RBI-single to Rajai Davis, making it just a one run game. Mike Montgomery would subsequently come into the game, looking to do what Edwards couldn’t. Montgomery would get the final out, winning the Cubs its first championship in over a century.

cubs-win

The World Series Most Valuable Player award went to Ben Zobrist, who came up big with what would be the game winning hit in the tenth inning. Though this team had their highs and lows, Zobrist was tremendous throughout the World Series, and truly deserved to take home the MVP honors.

This win by the Chicago Cubs means the world to countless people around the baseball world. For Cubs fans who have been hopeful for a century that each season was finally the one, only to have disappointment arise time and time again, they finally have their title. For a fan of any team around baseball, though, this is still a very special and historic moment.

Although the Cleveland Indians now take over as the MLB team with the longest World Series Championship drought, their time will inevitably come, as it finally did for the Cubs. Whether that comes next season or in another 40 years like the Cubs, the only thing that mattered to baseball fans on Wednesday night was this: The Chicago Cubs are officially your World Series Champions of 2016.

Next stop, 2017 . . .

World Series Tied Heading to Chicago

One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great seriesteams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.

Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.

But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.

The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.

Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the kluberother side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.

Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.

Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.

The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.

One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.APTOPIX World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.

With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.

Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.

Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.

rizzoAs it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.

The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.

However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.

Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.

Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.

arrietaThe double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.

Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.

The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.

Can Any Team Stop the Cubs in October?

After making the playoffs last season following a seven-year drought, many felt that the time had finally arrived in which the Cubs would break their historic curse and win the World Series title that has eluded them for over a century.cubs However, despite making it all the way to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2003, the Cubs were promptly swept in four games by the Mets.

This season, the Cubs are setting themselves up nicely once again. They have a great team, which has been evident all season long, allowing them to be the first team to officially clinch a postseason spot, as well as run away with the division title by a whopping 17 games over the Cardinals.

But the big question is, are the Cubs setting themselves up for a magical finish to the year or yet another disappointing conclusion?

One of the key differences from the team the Cubs put on the field last season and the one they have this time around is their overall dominance. From week one of the season, the Cubs put their talent on full display, taking the division title with ease (they wound up in third place last season), having never been out of first place since the first few games of the year.

Their offense is extremely good, despite the collective team stats saying otherwise. The Cubs don’t sit in the top few slots in either home runs or batting average for their team, but with 30+ homer guys such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — who are both considered top MVP-candidates — the Cubs have plenty of thump to get the job done.

But as good as their lineup is, it’s their pitching that puts them in historic territory.

Four of the Cubs’ rotation options from this season hold ERA’s below 3.00, with all of their starters having recorded ERA’s less than 3.60, chapmanall adding up to a collective team ERA (including the bullpen) of just over 3.00 — by far the best in all of baseball.

On top of their fantastic starting pitching, holding an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman to get the job done at the end of the game gives the Cubs a great chance at a win day in and day out.

However, as has been proven in the past, a win isn’t guaranteed by any means in the month of October, no matter how good of a roster any team may possess. All it takes is for an under-the-radar team to get hot at just the right time and come along to kill the dreams of any given team.

But does any team actually have a chance of beating the Cubs when the postseason rolls around in less than three weeks? Obviously, the answer is yes — anything can and usually does happen in October. But although it remains a possibility, I — along with a great number of people around the baseball world — believe that this could actually end up being the year the Cubs win it all (I said that in 2015, too).

No team could stop the Cubs in the regular season.

Only time will tell if the same will hold true in the postseason.

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

The Injury Bug: Numerous Players To Miss Time

Another day, another injury. It seems that’s been the common theme as of late, with Michael Bourn, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman and Jurickson Profar being the most recent players to fall victim to what’s become somewhat of an injury epidemic around Major League Baseball.

While every year brings injuries throughout both the offseason and the regular season, this year seems to be above average in that department, Kris Medlenand the season hasn’t even begun yet. Including names such as Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, and Jarrod Parker, among many others, the list of players set to miss Opening Day — the entire season for some players — due to injury continues to grow larger. Although some players aren’t that big of a loss overall, some will have a drastic impact on their team’s success.

None more so than the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the Braves. Both are set to miss the entire season due to the second Tommy John surgeries of their careers, and losing these key pieces to the Braves’ starting rotation will likely have a profound impact on how they perform as a whole. I had the Braves winning the National League East division in 2014, as they did last season, however, the subtraction of these players from the roster could cause them to fall down in the rankings a bit.

But the Braves aren’t the only team that could fall down a bit due to an injured player.

Patrick Corbin being out for what could be the entire season will have an effect on the Diamondback’s performance this season. Corbin really broke out last year, and was set to lead their starting rotation throughout the coming season. But without him, while the D-backs should still be a good team, they won’t be able to give the Dodgers a run for the division title like they previously would’ve possibly been able to do.

However, the team that will likely see the second biggest drop, behind the Braves, from their predicted finish will be the Athletics, who will beUntitled without A.J. Griffin for a good bit of time, but more importantly won’t have Jarrod Parker for the entire season. He, like many pitchers I’ve discussed, is undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until 2015. With Parker out, the A’s will have a difficult time overtaking the Rangers in the American League West division as they’ve done the past two seasons.

Not all of these injuries have occurred recently, though. A few players that won’t be ready for Opening Day had their injuries happen much earlier than this offseason or Spring Training.

Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Matt Kemp, and Matt Harvey are all missing a good deal of time due to nagging injuries from 2013, with Matt Harvey (and possibly Jose Iglesias as well) out for the full length of the season. When healthy, all have extreme impacts on their respective teams, so, obviously, not having them being their productive selves is a big loss.

But despite all of the injuries that seem to grow in number everyday, these are the types of things teams just have to play through. You have to compete with what you have. And therefore, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting 2014 season, with there now being just six days until Opening Day.