Best Players Going Into 2014 — By Age

Coming off an exciting 2013 Major League Baseball season and heading into what’s sure to be another fun year of baseball, things are beginning to heat up again. Spring Training camps have seen all their respective pitchers and catchers report, with the remaining players reporting over the course of this week.

With the arrival of baseball comes the annual rankings of teams and subsequent predictions of how they will perform. While my predictions for each team, and numerous players from around the league, won’t be posted until sometime next month, I wanted to take the time to post a “top players” list, of sorts.

But instead of making my own version of a top 10 list as many are doing, I decided, as I did last year, to make a list of the top player for each year of age throughout Major League Baseball. Meaning, of the 20 year olds in Major League Baseball, I’ll list the player I feel is the best of them all; with the same holding true for the players age 21, 22, 23, 24, and so on.

The range of ages this season runs from 20 years old, with Jose Fernandez, among others, all the way up to age 43, with Jason Giambi — excluding age 42, which has no players this season. Just so you know, before I reveal my list, I’m going by the age each player will be to start the season. Therefore, a few players will be listed a year older than they currently are, due to them having a birthday between now and March 22nd.

Also, with there being SO many names, I’m not going to be listing my reasoning behind each pick. I’m just giving a general list of the player (either a hitter or a pitcher) I feel is the best for their age category:

20 years old: Jose Fernandez

21 years old: Manny Machado

22 years old: Mike Trout

23 years old: Yasiel Puig

24 years old: Giancarlo Stanton

25 years old: Craig Kimbrel

26 years old: Clayton Kershaw

27 years old: Andrew McCutchen

28 years old: Evan Longoria

29 years old: Max Scherzer

30 years old: Miguel Cabrera

31 years old: Robinson Cano

32 years old: Brandon Phillips

33 years old: C.C. Sabathia

34 years old: Albert Pujols

35 years old: Cliff Lee

36 years old: Carlos Beltran

37 years old: A.J. Burnett

38 years old: David Ortiz

39 years old: Derek Jeter

40 years old: Ichiro Suzuki

41 years old: LaTroy Hawkins

42 years old: No Players

43 years old: Jason Giambi

So, there you have it. The best players by age, in my opinion, from 20 through 43, going into the 2014 season. Do you agree with my picks? If not, who would you pick to replace the name(s) you disagree with? Let me know in the comments section below.

Derek Jeter to Retire After the 2014 Season

Derek Jeter has said all along that when he became unable to compete at a competitive level he would call it quits. And therefore, after a 2013 season in which Jeter dealt with injury after injury, resulting in a mere 17 games played and a .190 batting average, Jeter is keeping to his word.

untitledJeter announced on Wednesday that he will be retiring after the 2014 Major League Baseball season. While the news is a bit of a shock, it’s not all that surprising.

Jeter is going into his age 40 season, and it’s no secret that as players age they just can’t perform at the same level they once could (although, it wouldn’t shock me to see Jeter record 200 hits in his final year). In addition, three (Jeter being the fourth) of the longtime ‘core four’ — Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera — are no longer with the Yankees.

With so much change, Jeter has decided that it’s his time to go, saying in an online letter, “It’s now time for something new . . . I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”

Jeter went on to say, “I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set. I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets . . . Now it’s time for the next chapter . . . But before that, I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life.”

Joining Chipper Jones, who announced his retirement before the 2012 season, and Mariano Rivera, who announced his retirement before the 2013 season, Jeter will likely receive the same type of treatment that both Jones and Rivera got — getting farewell after farewell throughout the year from fans at different ballparks around the country.

While Jeter isn’t the type of player to necessarily want that type of recognition — always putting the team’s success before his own — as Jeter said, he’s no doubt going to embrace every aspect of the coming season. It’s only fitting for Jeter to accept the fans’ appreciation when he has given them so much over his 20-year career.

Going down as one of the top players in Yankees’ history, as well as baseball history, Jeter’s current career stats of 3,316 hits, 256 home runs and 348 stolen bases, to go along with a .312 batting average, make him a sure bet to become a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2020. But more than his stats, the way Jeter carried himself every second of every day is what a lot of fans will remember. Not too many players achieve a flawless off the field career, but Jeter was one of them. That won’t soon be forgotten.

But Jeter still has an entire (barring injury) season ahead. There’s one more year to enjoy his incredible talent and class.

Enjoy it while you still can.

Yankees Get Tanaka On 7-Year, 155 Million Dollar Deal

Although I felt the Yankees would be better off using their money to sign other free agents to fill their bullpen and positional needs, the Yankees have decided to lock up Masahiro Tanaka for seven years, giving him a contract worth 155 million dollars. As many people around the baseball world are discussing, this is truly a lot of money for a pitcher who’s never played in the Major Leagues. 201311030731270873836-p5

Despite reportedly wanting to remain under the 189 million dollar luxury tax threshold, this deal to Tanaka blows right past that. The Yankees have now spent nearly 500 million dollars this offseason, with the biggest additions being Tanaka (155 million), Jacoby Ellsbury (153 million), Brian McCann (85 million) and Carlos Beltran (45 million). But even with all the money spent, they still have holes in their overall team.

The Yankees need at least one more good bullpen pitcher, preferably a solid closer, and have an average, at best, infield. With it uncertain how Derek Jeter will perform this season — coming of an injury plagued 2013 season — there are still a lot of questions surrounding the deal. (Now that the Yankees have passed the threshold, I suppose spending more money to acquire their needs isn’t that big of a concern.)

It’s been reported that the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks all made runs at Tanaka, with at least one team possibly outbidding the Yankees. But ultimately, Tanaka chose the bigger stage of New York City, where he will likely begin as the second or third man in their starting rotation.

Tanaka becomes the receiver of the fifth largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, just behind Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million over 7 years, Justin Verlander’s 180 million for 7 years, Felix Hernandez’s 7-year, 175 million dollar contract, and C.C. Sabathia’s 160 million for 8 years. That says a lot for the type of pitcher Tanaka is, but it’s somewhat risky, even for a pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year in Japan, since, as stated earlier, he has never pitched a single MLB inning.

If everything works out as the Yankees planned, and are certainly hoping for, then the signing of Masahiro Tanaka could go a long way to helping them return to the playoffs in 2014 (many people are predicting just that). But if there are any bumps in the road, you could be seeing a lot of regret in New York.

As things look now, however, the future looks to be bright.

Mariano Rivera Honored In Final Game At Fenway Park

It’s well known that the Yankees and Red Sox have been big-time rivals for years, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from honoring the great Mariano Rivera before Sunday night’s game versus the Yankees.

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Commemorating an incredible career, on the night that will likely go down as Rivera’s last game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox joined the list of teams that have given Rivera gifts throughout the season, in this his final year.

Nothing new, but the Red Sox’ ceremony might have been the most impressive of them all.

After a brief video was played, remembering October 17, 2004, when Rivera blew the game to the Red Sox — “less of a toast and more of a roast,” as Dave O’Brien put it — Rivera was given the following: A painting of himself, from David Ortiz; the number 42 sign that had been posted on the ‘green monster’ every time he made an appearance, from Dustin Pedroia, signed by the whole team; a blue 1934 Fenway Park seat with the number 42 on it, from Jon Lester; and the visiting bullpen’s pitching rubber, with an inscribed plaque, from Koji Uehara.mariano-rivera-at-fenway-park

Perhaps none of these gifts were as great as the chair of broken dreams Rivera was given up in Minnesota earlier this season, but the Red Sox did one of the better jobs of paying tribute.

Rivera saw a lot of Fenway Park over the course of his Hall of fame career, pitching there in 60 games — more games than any visiting relief pitcher in the park’s history.

When you’re talking about a ballpark that’s over 100 years old, that alone makes you aware that Rivera is someone special. And therefore, with plans to retire after this season, it’s important to enjoy Rivera’s greatness in the little time that remains. Players of his caliber don’t come around too often.

However, stating that “hopefully it’s not the last time”, in response to playing at Fenway Park, Mariano continues to remain optimistic of the Yankees’ fate for the 2013 season. Though it’s going to take a lot for them to make the postseason, as the Red Sox swept them in their recent series, certainly not helping their cause any. But if there’s a team that can do it, I believe it’s the Yankees.

For Mariano Rivera’s sake, I hope they can.

One of those players that you never want to see retire, Rivera isn’t just the best closer the game has ever seen — the record holder for most saves, with 651 — he’s one of the best people the game has ever seen. Carrying himself with class everywhere he went, Rivera is well respected by baseball fans around the country — even fans of the Red Sox. The last player to wear the number 42, Mariano is truly a remarkable player and person.

Rivera has had his share of ups and downs this season, but overall it’s been another stellar year. Whether or not the Yankees can make the postseason, and eventually return to Fenway, is yet to be seen, but Rivera made sure his gratitude was known, saying, “I definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did. I will never forget that.”

And we will never forget Mariano Rivera — the greatest closer in baseball history.

Buxton Named MiLB Player of 2013; Jeter Back On DL

Major League Baseball’s number one prospect, Byron Buxton, was named the 2013 Minor League Baseball player of the year by Baseball America, on Wednesday, making him the 31st player to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1981 to Mike Marshall. byron-buxton-2013

By winning the award, Buxton joins a very impressive list of past winners. Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Jeremy Hellickson — all currently in the Majors — are the most recent three to receive it, with Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Dwight Gooden being some of the more notable players to have been named MiLB player of the year.

When Derek Jeter won the award, back in 1994, he batted .344 with 5 homers and 68 RBI’s, between Single-A and Triple-A.

Combine that with 50 stolen bases by Jeter, and you have a very similar year to the one Buxton had.

While I’m not saying Buxton will turn out to be the type of player Jeter has been over his MLB career — .312 career average, with 256 HR’s and 1,261 RBI’s — it is a good indication of the type of talent that receives the award each year.

Buxton certainly has his share of talent, as he had an outstanding year in the Twins’ farm system. He posted a .334 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s, to go along with 55 stolen bases, combined between Low-A and High-A.

The second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton also participated in the 2013 Futures Game, up in New York, back in July, and is well on his way to living out his full potential of becoming a future big league super star.

But unlike Byron Buxton, who’s the current Minor League player of the year on his way up, Derek Jeter is a former Minor League player of the year on his way down; as he found himself back on the disabled list on Wednesday with an ankle injury.

This makes the fourth time Jeter has been placed on the DL this season. But this time, he won’t be back in 2013, as the Yankees have officially shut him down for the remainder of the year.

“The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically. I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this”, Jeter said. “If you can’t play the way you’re capable of playing, then you’re not really helping out.”

Many have raised the question of whether Jeter will ever return at all, posing the idea of retirement. But Jeter is adamant he’s not done, saying, “You don’t start thinking about the end just because you have an injury.”

While I fully agree with that statement, and have no doubt Jeter will return in 2014, I find myself, along with most of the baseball world, pondering the thought of whether or not Jeter can return to even a version of his former self.

Though he will never be the same Jeter he once was, there’s always the chance that he can have a good comeback 2014 season, however, there’s no denying that he had a horrible 2013 — posting a mere batting average of .190 with one home run and 7 RBI’s in just image17 games played this season.

Not exactly getting the job done.

But if there’s a bright spot to it all, a full shut down for Jeter will finally give him the chance to recover without the thought of having to take the field to help out the Yankees crossing his mind.

I don’t believe Jeter was ever fully healed over the entire season, and this will give him nearly six months to get everything right. Something that Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, has no doubt Jeter will do.

“It seemed like, when he came back, he was fine, and then he would play a couple of days and something would happen”, said Girardi.

“The first time, I think it was his quad. The next time, it was his calf. Then his ankle started bothering him. The repeated days seemed to get to him a little bit, and that was frustrating for him. It was frustrating for all of us, because we wanted him out there.”

“He’ll have a full offseason to rehab it, to get stronger. To get to do all of the things that he didn’t necessarily get to do last year, because he was in a boot for so long. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he’s going to do everything he can to get back. I just know that he’s going to do everything in his will power to get back on that field for Spring Training next year. That’s just who he is.”

Derek Jeter Returns; All-Star Final Vote Announced

After rehabbing a broken ankle for nearly nine months, Derek Jeter received a standing ovation on Thursday, in his first major league plate appearance since October of 2012. Reaching first, in his first at-bat of the game, on an infield single, Jeter showed all of the baseball world what he’s been hoping to show for a long time: His ankle is fully healed. -01f3958563617e32

The Yankees finally have their Captain back.

But it’s going to take a lot more than the return of Jeter, who went 1-4 in his 2013 debut, for the Yankees to turn around what has been a downhill slide as of late. While they won in their first game with Jeter back, he’s not the player he used to be, and they could use even more help.

But help is coming, in the form of Alex Rodriguez, who is currently down in the minors, working his way back from hip surgery. How much help he will provide is yet to be seen, but the Yankees are hopeful that A-Rod can return to even a portion of his former self.

Either way, I’m not counting out the Yankees just yet. I’ve had them making the playoffs since the beginning of the season, despite the majority of baseball fans thinking otherwise. It will be interesting to see how things play out after the All-Star break.

The rosters for the 2013 All-Star game were announced late last week, however, fans around the country have been voting all week long for the player they feel most deserved to receive the final spot for each league.

The candidates for the American League included Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara. The National League had Ian Desmond, Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez, Hunter Pence and Yasiel Puig. I was hoping to see David Robertson and Yasiel Puig make it in, but neither did.

It was announced Thursday afternoon that the winners of the All-Star game final vote were Steve Delabar and Freddie Freeman. While I’m not all that upset with either of them getting voted in, I disagree with Freeman over Puig. There’s no player in the major leagues at the moment with more hype around him than Puig. I don’t understand why he didn’t make it in, other than maybe the fact that he’s been in the big leagues for merely a month, but I’m really looking forward to watching the game, nonetheless.

The All-Star game is set to take place on Tuesday, July 16th, at Citi Field.

How Much Better Can the New York Yankees Get?

When I made the bold prediction a couple months ago that the New York Yankees would have a great season despite all of the injuries to their lineup, going as far as to say they’ll make the playoffs, I didn’t have many people behind me, agreeing with my opinion. And that’s fine, I’m used to it. But now I get the pleasure of early-season bragging rights, as the Yankees have hung in there, sitting atop the American League East.

Though there’s still a lot of the season left, I think things will only go up from here.

chiro Suzuki, Vernon WellsLet me point out that while I predicted a playoff run, I was going more on a wild card spot, rather than a division title, getting them in. I never saw them above second or third place throughout the season. But now, with them sitting in first place, combined with Curtis Granderson expected to return any day, I could see the Yankees extending their lead even further; especially once Mark Teixeira returns next month.

What it’s come down to for the Yankees is the stepping up of every single player in the lineup. Not just the key fixtures, in Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and even Brett Gardner, but the newcomers in Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. Everyone up and down the lineup has been doing a great job of not worrying about who they’re missing and just going out and playing great baseball–going 16-0 when they score first, so far this season.

The Yankees are certainly being helped out by the other teams in the division, which have been playing fairly poorly as of late–the Red Sox are 4-8 this month–but that’s not to take anything away from them. They’ve been surprisingly good for a surprising long period of time.

But just how good can the Yankees become?

If you ask me, the first month of the season is a sign of things to come. Once the Yankees get back their big bats in Granderson and Teixeira, they’ll get even better, which may seem impossible with the way they’re currently playing. If their pitching rotation can keep on the same pace, though it could always be better, I can fully see the Yankees making the playoffs, as I originally predicted.