Next Players to 3,000 Hits After Ichiro?

The 3,000-hit-club is one of the most exclusive groups in all of baseball. Of the over 18,000 players to play in the majors, only 29 players have been able to amass 3,000 or more base knocks for their career. However, that list is destined to add another player within the next handful of games.Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki, who has been one of the most consistent players in baseball history, is currently sitting just four hits shy of the milestone mark.

With the 3,000 hit achievement all but guaranteeing a player a spot in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro), it’s certainly historic to continue to watch Ichiro, who is showing no signs of slowing down; hitting .341 on the season, which is on pace for his best average since the 2009 season — all at 42 years of age.

With all of that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the active players beyond Ichiro within 1,000 hits of 3,000 who stand the best shots at joining him with 3,000 hits for their career when all is said and done.

Assuming that Adrian Beltre can stay healthy, the recent 2-year contract extension he signed with the Rangers all but ensures that he will be the next to 3,000 hits. Currently with 2,860 hits, Beltre has recorded over 140 hits each of the past six seasons, so he should easily reach the mark sometime in the middle of next season. While some people don’t3000 see Beltre as a player worthy of Cooperstown, perhaps reaching the mark will change their minds.

The next player who is likely going to reach the milestone is Albert Pujols. Having notched 2,756 hits in his career to this point, the future Hall of Famer still has five years remaining on his contract, in which he has stated he has every intention of completing. Although he’s had struggles at times this year, Pujols has been consistent enough to reach the 3,000 hit plateau around the 2018 season.

Miguel Cabrera is the final player on my list of those who sit next in line to get to 3,000 hits. He’s still 560 hits shy of getting there, but at just 33 years old, Cabrera stands a great chance at getting to 3,000. He’s only recorded 200 or more hits in one of his thirteen career seasons, back in 2012 when he won the Triple Crown, but Cabrera is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen, and should bump the 3,000 hit club up to 33 members in late 2019 or early 2020.

There are a number of other active players who are well in line to get to 3,000 hits for their career, but with them all sitting over a thousand hits or more back, I chose not include them in this post. Even so, the game of baseball has seemingly never had more talent and superstar players.

The 3,000 hit club should continue to steadily grow in the coming decades.

Danny Espinosa Continuing to Stay Red Hot for Nats

When the Nationals lost their star shortstop, Ian Desmond, this past offseason to the Rangers, the plan in the minds of many was for them to place their star prospect, Trea Turner, right into that role from Opening Day this year to see him perform. However, Turner was instead sent to Triple-A, with Danny Espinosa getting the nod in place of Turner.Nats

That would turn out to pay off big for the Nationals.

Although Espinosa is hitting just .241 on the year, he has already recorded 18 homers — just three shy of his career-high of 21, back in 2011 — with over two months still remaining in the season. But what Espinosa has been doing as of late has been even more impressive.

Over the course of his last four games, Espinosa has notched 5 homers and 15 RBI’s, all while playing good defense, and proving himself more than capable of maintaining the shortstop role for the foreseeable future.

But while that’s good news for Espinosa as well as the Nationals, who have won 7 of their last 10 and are 17 games over .500 with a comfortable lead over the second-place Mets, it’s not so good news for Trea Turner.

Despite hitting .299 with 5 homers and 32 RBI’s, including 22 stolen bases to boot, this season in the minors, Turner has only played in two games at the big league level in 2016, going 3-3 in his time up. But with Espinosa playing so well, Turner’s path is blocked.

To solve this, the idea presented by many around the baseball world has been to move Turner into the outfield, where the Nationals could use some help in center. In recent games, the Nationals have been attempting just that, playing Turner in center field at Triple-A; looking to give him a path to Ben Revere’s spot, where despite going 4-5 in a game recently, Revere is hitting just .215 on the year.

Turner would obviously be an improvement.

In the end, although Trea Turner was projected to be the next big thing at shortstop, you simply can’t replace Espinosa who is tearing the cover off the ball this season. But on the flip side, it’s also not fair to Turner to leave him down in Triple-A, where he is doing his fair share of raking.

The Nationals certainly have a predicament on their hands.

But I’ve never heard a team complain about having too much talent.

My First Games of 2016 Taking Place This Week

If you’ve been following this blog for any extended period of time, or if you’ve simply taken the time to peruse through the hundreds of posts I’ve written, you know that one of the many things I enjoy doing during any given baseball season is going out to the ballpark and getting autographs from some of baseball’s up-and-coming top talent.

This season, I’m planning to be much more selective than I have been in the past with which games I go to (due to a number of factors), but I still plan on making it out to my fair share of games in 2016.

ProspectsTuesday kicks off my baseball season, as I’m heading out to watch the Mudcats take on the Salem Red Sox. The top three prospects of the Red Sox farm system — Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi — are all apart of the current Salem team, so I’m really looking forward to attending this game.

On the other side of things, the Mudcats have their top prospect, Dansby Swanson, as well as 2014 first round draft pick, Braxton Davidson. With so much talent, I’ll either leave the game very elated — having gotten an autograph from most if not all of them — or very disappointed.

But while that game features four of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball, making it one of the best minor league games I’ve ever been to (talent-wise) in my life, the next game on the docket for me isn’t far behind.

On the following Sunday, April 24th, I’m planning on heading out to Durham to see them take on the visiting Indianapolis Indians — the Pirate’s Triple-A affiliate. I’d been looking forward to seeing this team since last season, when I projected so many good players to be apart of their roster. Three of their top four prospects makeup this team, in Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon, in addition to Alen Hanson, their number ten prospect. Thus, it should turn out to be a great game.

All in all, this coming week, I’m planning to see eight of the top 53 prospects in person (including Blake Snell for the Bulls). With this season so uncertain as to how often I’ll be out at the ballpark, it’s nice to get off to such a great start to the year. No matter how the season winds up panning out for me autograph-wise over the next five months, I’m still planning to blog about it all (as I have in the past) after I’ve attended my last game sometime in September.

Albert Pujols Unlocking Youthful Self

In game one of a doubleheader against the Red Sox on Monday afternoon, Albert Pujols blasted a homer to left for his 547th career home run. But as stunning as that is, it would turn out to be the second game on the day that would have people talking.Pujols

Facing Red Sox knuckleballer, Steven Wright, Pujols smacked a hanging knuckler into the left field seats in his first at-bat, tying him with Mike Schmidt on the all-time home run list. Later in the game, Pujols hit yet another dinger, giving him two for the game, three on the day, and moving him into 15th place on the all-time chart.

Pujols hasn’t been playing this way for quite some time. Since signing a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2012, the Angels have been expecting this kind of production from Pujols — the kind he recorded in his days in St. Louis. But Pujols has been just a shell of his former self; until recently, that is.

Since May 28th, Pujols has been on a tear, hitting 21 of his 29 homers on the season. Becoming the first Angels player since 1995 to homer in both games of a doubleheader, it would appear that Pujols is back in full force. But it’s not just Pujols who is putting on a show. Mike Trout also smacked a homer of his own on Monday, giving him 28 on the year in what has become a back and forth home run battle between him and Pujols.

Currently, Pujols is on pace to smack 51 home runs — that would be a career high — with Mike Trout on pace for 49. If that happens, they would become just the sixth pair of teammates to finish with 45+ home runs. If they can both reach 50, they would match a mark set by only one other pair of teammates in baseball history: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.

But while on pace numbers are never a number to be set in stone, Trout and Pujols are well on their way to becoming the first teammates to finish in the top two spots for home runs on the season since Manny Ramirez (43 homers) and David Ortiz (41) did so back in 2004. That would still be an amazing feat.

With the Angels playing great baseball, thanks in large part to the hot bat of Albert Pujols, many people are foreseeing them making an even deeper run into the playoffs than the one they were swept out of in 2014. However, with Pujols just seven homers away from passing Manny Ramirez on the home run list, and just 15 away from jumping over Reggie Jackson, a lot of eyes will also be focused solely on Pujols.

Having stated that he plans to fully play out his contract, which runs through 2021, Pujols has a chance at making things really interesting down the road. 600 home runs is a lock for sure, but 700 isn’t out of the question. Assuming Pujols is sitting around 565-570 homers at the end of the season, with six full seasons left to go on his contract, that comes out to right around 22 home runs per season. Very doable, if you ask me.

It all just depends on how long Albert Pujols can keep the fountain of youth flowing.

Joey Gallo Shines In Big League Debut

Any time a top ten prospect in all of baseball makes his major league debut, fans are likely to take note. But unfortunately, more often than not, an extremely hyped prospect usually fails to live up to the high expectations — at least early on — and underperforms in their debut. Gallo

A recent example of that being Kris Bryant, who after hitting 43 homers in the minors last year was expected by Cubs fans to catch on immediately as the Cubs’ biggest power threat. Instead, he went hitless with three strikeouts in his debut. (Given, he’s found his groove now.)

But underperformance isn’t always the case in a player’s debut.

Rangers’ top prospect, Joey Gallo, received the call up from Double-A for Tuesday’s game to take the place at third base of the injured Adrian Beltre. Following his 42 home run minor league performance in 2014, Gallo had picked up right where he left off in the minors this season (coming after a missed month due to ankle surgery), having hit .314 with 9 homers and 31 RBI’s in the minors so far in 2015.

But unlike some players who fail to have their minor league success translate right away, Gallo’s success immediately carried over to the majors, as in his very first career at-bat on Tuesday against the White Sox, Gallo rocketed a two-run single into left field. Following that, he proceeded to blast a moonshot homer into the second deck in his next at-bat, giving him four RBI’s for the game — the most in Rangers’ franchise history for a player’s debut.

However, Gallo wasn’t finished yet. In his third time at the plate, Gallo hit a long double to center field that hit off the wall, giving him a perfect 3-3 record for the game. While he would later strike out with the bases loaded, and draw a walk in his fifth plate appearance, Gallo’s presence was definitely made known in the Rangers’ 15-2 blowout win over the White Sox.

GalloThough it’s an extremely small sample size, Joey Gallo performing so well in his debut is extremely promising, both for him and the Rangers. Gallo is set to remain in the bigs just until Adrian Beltre returns to take his spot at third. But if Gallo can keep up his hot hitting, it may be tough for the Rangers to send him back down.

Still, Gallo will get his chance to prove himself, as Beltre is expected to be out for roughly two weeks. That’s a lot of games for Gallo to either keep standing out or show that he still needs seasoning down on the farm. But whatever happens in the coming weeks, Gallo certainly didn’t disappoint on Tuesday night.

At just 21 years old, a lot of people made statements regarding the fact that they felt Gallo was being rushed to the majors, and that he wasn’t ready yet. While I agreed with that somewhat, I’ve seen Gallo in person and saw first hand that he is a special talent. And there is now no denying that he can handle the pitching that comes at the major league level.

After blasting 40 homers in 2013 and 42 last season, Gallo looks to be heading for a long career as one of baseball’s most promising future left handed power hitters. Although the Rangers are struggling at the moment for the most part, with a lineup that includes Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton and now Joey Gallo, the Rangers seem to have a lot of power hitting lefties on their hands.

That’s always a good problem to have.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2015 Season

Each and every season, there are always players with something to prove. Whether they’re looking to show that they can play at a competitive level that they’ve never lived up to; looking to show that they can be the dominant player they once were; or simply are looking for a good year for their team to have a good year — there are numerous players that you could categorize as having very important seasons coming up.

With that said, not every player that needs a good season is on the list I put together below. I can think of a few dozen players that arguably need to post solid numbers in 2015, but I couldn’t include them all, and had to make some difficult exclusions. Just the opposite, there could be a few players on my list that you don’t think need a good season. Either way, this is just a list of ten players — not necessarily the “top ten” — that I feel need a good 2015 season for one reason or another:

1.) Justin Verlander

For the majority of his career, Justin Verlander has been an unbelievable pitcher. But for the 2011, 2012 seasons, he was on an entirely different planet. Going 41-13 with a 2.52 ERA over those years, and racking up a Cy Young award and MVP for his efforts in 2011, Verlander was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Lately, however, he hasn’t been the same player. Since 2013, Verlander has posted a combined 3.99 ERA over the course of 66 starts. Given, some of that may have been due to some injuries — injuries that Verlander claims are completely healed now. Now that Max Scherzer is gone, if the Tigers stand any shot at making the World Series like they play for every year, they need a dominant Justin Verlander each and every start throughout the coming regular season.

2.) Ryan Howard

HowardInjuries have not been kind to Ryan Howard over the past three years or so. The once feared slugger, with MVP caliber numbers year after year after year, hasn’t put up very much production for the Phillies in quite awhile. After hitting 58 home runs in 2006, and putting up 45+ home runs and 136+ RBI’s in the three years following that historic season, Howard has failed to hit more than 23 home runs in a season since. Battling aforementioned injuries, Howard played in less than half the Phillies games in 2012 and 2013, but had a decent season last year, with 23 homers and 95 RBI’s over 153 games played. But those numbers aren’t good enough for the Phillies or their historically verbal fans. If he wants to regain both his stardom and the support of the fans, Ryan Howard needs a healthy, productive 2015.

3.) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Unlike the previous two players on my list, Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t make the top ten for me because he has fallen from previously good seasons. Bradley still has something to prove — both to the Red Sox and their fans. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Bradley’s Gold Glove caliber defense has been shown off at the big league level, however, his ability to hit hasn’t yet arrived. It needs to do so in 2015. With so much outfield depth for the Red Sox — including Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo — it may already be too far gone for Bradley to make his all around game appear for the Red Sox. However, if he does in fact get the chance this season, he needs to show the Red Sox that he isn’t just a good outfielder but an all around good baseball player.

4.) Bryce Harper

As with Jackie Bradley Jr., the 2015 season is a crucial one for Bryce Harper. While Harper hasn’t underperformed, he hasn’t lived up the unbelievable hype either. Cranking out just 13 home runs last season, all while battling injuries, Harper needs to have a healthy, breakout year this season. If Harper can stay healthy, and can fully tap into his power, he truly has 40 home run potential. And remember, despite the fact that he’s been in the big leagues for three seasons, Harper is still just 22 years old. There’s still plenty of time for him to develop into the superstar player he was coined when he was drafted first overall in 2010. If the Nationals can perform well as a whole, along with their pitching staff staying healthy, and with Bryce Harper thrown into the mix, the World Series is theirs to lose.

Rodriguez5.) Alex Rodriguez

What can I say? Alex Rodriguez could hit 80 home runs this season and people still wouldn’t like him. But while Rodriguez can’t win back the majority of the fans around baseball, he still needs to have a good season, for his sake at least. Coming back from a 162-game suspension in 2014 for further performance enhancing drug use, A-Rod is heading into the season having not produced for the Yankees since 2010, when his streak of thirteen straight seasons with 30+ homers and 100+ RBI’s ended. No one expects him to return to that form this year, but the Yankees need him — even if they don’t want him. Their team is still a big question mark, with all the talent in the world but no guarantee things will go as planned. Alex Rodriguez needs to perform for the Yankees season to have a shot at a great one.

6.) Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson has never been a superstar player, but he has been a consistent outfielder over the course of his eleven year career. For six straight seasons (2007-2012), Granderson was able to post upwards of 20 home runs a season, with 2011 and 2012 being his best years by far, with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI’s. Since then, however, Granderson hasn’t been the same. While he hit 20 home runs last season for the Mets, he only batted .227. Though he’s never been a guy that hits for a high average — an all or nothing type hitter — Granderson still needs to hone things in a bit in the coming season. The Mets are getting Matt Harvey back, and if Curtis Granderson can produce along with the rest of the team, the Mets could end up shocking some people.

7.) Melvin Upton Jr.

Formerly known as B.J. Upton, Melvin Upton Jr. definitely needs to have a good season. After losing Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Melvin’s brother, Justin Upton, in trades this offseason, the Braves are widely regarded as a much weaker team than they have been recently. While they could still be a playoff team, it will take production from every single player — and that includes Upton Jr. Since leaving the Rays following a 28 homer, 78 RBI 2012 season, Upton Jr. hasn’t been the same, batting a combined .198 over the past two years. He needs to step up his game and bring his totals back to the former standout player he used to be. However, with reports that Melvin Upton Jr. will miss the first month or so with a foot injury, things aren’t starting off too well for his 2015.

8.) Tim LincecumTim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum has picked up two World Series rings over the past three years (he has three rings overall), but he did little in those two seasons to produce for the Giants. After back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, when Lincecum went a combined 33-12 with a 2.55 ERA, Lincecum hasn’t been anywhere close to that level over the past few seasons. Since 2012, Lincecum is a combined 32-38, with a staggering 4.76 ERA. Those are certainly subpar numbers for ‘The Freak’. For a guy who has gone from a dominant starter to a part time reliever, it truly is unfathomable what has gone wrong with Lincecum and his performance. With so much uncertainty, this is a make or break season in my mind for Tim Lincecum. I’ll certainly be rooting for him.

9.) Joc Pederson

The only rookie on my list, and the second youngest player (Bryce Harper is six months younger than Pederson), Joc Pederson is the player that you don’t really know what to expect, but needs to have a good year anyway. It’s a lot of pressure on Pederson, but with the Dodgers trading away Matt Kemp to the Padres this offseason, they’ve now cleared the spot for phenom prospect Pederson to take over moving forward. After having the first 30 homer, 30 stolen base season in the Pacific Coast League since 1934, Pederson made his major league debut in 2014, but didn’t really live up to the hype, batting just .143 and striking out 11 times in 28 at-bats (admittedly, a small sample size). Even so, there are a lot of people who still believe Joc Pederson will be able to fill Matt Kemp’s shoes.

10.) Ichiro Suzuki

This is an interesting case. Ichiro Suzuki could quit right now and have Hall of Fame worthy numbers. But with him stating that he wants to continue playing for several more years, and not getting a lot of offers this past offseason, he needs to play well. Unlike last year with the Yankees, he should see more playing time with the Marlins in 2015, which should allow his always consistent numbers to be there. But with the Marlins only willing to offer him a one-year contract, he needs to prove that he is worth taking a chance on in the future. Sitting just 156 hits shy of 3,000 for his major league baseball career, Ichiro may not get there in 2015. So if he wants to reach the amazing milestone, it’ll take at least one more season, which will likely come from a good season this year.

*Originally, I had Josh Hamilton on this list, but in light of his current off the field battle, I decided to replace him with Curtis Granderson. I certainly wish Josh Hamilton the best.

Cubs Show Signs of the Future In Tuesday’s Game

For the first time in awhile, the Cubs could be relevant in 2015.

A big reason for that is their young, future superstars who showed signs of their potential in the Cubs’ Spring Training game against the Indians on Tuesday afternoon.

Hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs off of the Indians’ Trevor Bauer — a player who really needs to figure out once and for all if he’s ever going to be the star pitcher he was once hyped as –, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant each gave the Cubs reason to look forward to this year.

But there is a really good chance that Bryant (the number 2 prospect in all of baseball) may not begin the season in Chicago. For several reasons — none of which really involve talent level — the Cubs have made known that their likely plan is to send Bryant to Triple-A for the first portion of the season. To me, although I can comprehend the reasoning, that could turn out to be a mistake.

I understand that leaving Bryant in the minors for a few weeks allows them another full year of control over him, and that leaving him in the minors through June would save the Cubs some money. But that’s major production that the Cubs could truly use this year, in my opinion, if they want a true shot at the postseason.

The Cubs owe it to their fans, after so long without a World Series, to put out the best team possible on every given day of the regular season each and every year. In order for that to happen, the Cubs need to have Kris Bryant playing third base on Opening Day.