It may be a brand new year, but it’s proving to be the same old Athletics.
A team known in recent history for their offseason trades and signings that leave them with a completely different looking ball club from one year to the next, the A’s have once again used the offseason to this point to make a lot of moves (some good, some bad) to change up the overall structure of their team.
The most recent case coming on Saturday with the trading away of John Jaso and a couple of top prospects, in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, to the Rays in exchange for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, who will both help what has the potential to be a good A’s team in 2015.
Despite losing John Jaso, who was a solid player for the Athletics in 2014, as well as Robertson and Powell, the A’s got back a fairly good package in return.
After an extended period of trade rumors surrounding Ben Zobrist, a transaction for him finally occurred, sending Zobrist off to the A’s. Two years removed from back-to-back 20 homer seasons, Zobrist hit a mere 10 bombs in 2014, but is still more than capable of impacting any team he’s on, as he has over the course of his All-Star career with the Rays.
Other moves the A’s have made so far to go along with the Zobrist and Escobar trade that could turn out to have major impacts began with the pickup of Billy Butler on a three-year, thirty million dollar contract. The Athletics then proceeded to swap their All-Star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, for fellow hot corner defender, Brett Lawrie, from the Blue Jays.
While the Butler deal was applauded by many, the Donaldson move was one that left many people scratching their heads. However, they weren’t done there.
Following the initial offseason additions of Butler and Lawrie, the Athletics kicked off the 2014 Winter Meetings, trading slugger Brandon Moss to the Indians, and almost immediately after departed ways with Jeff Samardzija for a few potential valuable but unproven players from the White Sox.
Even though there are some things the Athletics have done that I don’t agree with, for the most part I like where the A’s are headed.
Losing Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox via a trade for Jon Lester, and knowing they wouldn’t likely retain Lester upon the end of the season, the moves the A’s are making should help them in their attempt to make up for those losses.
Even after losing Lester, the Athletics’ rotation will still be decent, with Sonny Gray leading the way, along with Jarrod Parker who is set to return to health, and their lineup always seems to find a way to produce runs. Having finished with a win-loss record above .500 for each of the past three seasons, things are seemingly lining up to make it four.
After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.
Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game.
The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.
Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.
As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.
However, they’re not alone.
The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.
But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.
The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May. The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.
But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.
From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.
More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.
From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.
I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.
In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2014. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training, but have a chance of a call up later in the season.
Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2014. With that said, let the debating begin:
Pierce Johnson (100), Rosell Herrera (99), Stephen Piscotty (98), Robbie Ray (97),
There really aren’t any players from the 100-91 spots that I feel have a good shot at making it to the big leagues in 2014. If any of them made it, it would likely be Jorge Bonifacio and/or Robbie Ray, as both have a shot at beginning the year in Triple-A and therefore could potentially be a September call up. It’s more likely, however, that all these players will have to wait until at least 2015.
Jose Berrios (90), Arismendy Alcantara (89), D.J. Peterson (88), Casey Kelly (87),
Matt Barnes (86), Rafael Montero (85), Hak-Ju Lee (84), Jimmy Nelson (83),
Christian Bethancourt (82) and Justin Nicolino (81).
Casey Kelly is the only one of these players that I feel has a chance at starting with the major league club out of Spring Training. Kelly made his MLB debut in 2012, where he was fairly good, but due to Tommy John surgery last season, he missed all of 2013. If healthy, Kelly has the potential to be a major asset to the Padres in their starting rotation, and should be able to show what he’s capable of this season.
While Jimmy Nelson is a player who is on the fence — possibly making the big leagues out of camp in late March — I feel he will likely pitch a month or two in the minors before getting called back up sometime midseason. Matt Barnes, Rafael Montero and Hak-Ju Lee (who spent 2013 injured) should also all see big league time in 2014, and have the potential to become impact players for their respective clubs.
Matt Davidson (80), Braden Shipley (79), Matthew Wisler (78), Chris Owings (77),
Luis Sardinas (76), Mason Williams (75), Josh Bell (74), Trevor Bauer (73),
Michael Choice (72) and David Dahl (71).
Matt Davidson — recently traded to the White Sox from the Diamondback’s — Chris Owings, Trevor Bauer and Michael Choice could all potentially start the year in the majors, but there’s also the chance that they could spend a few games in Triple-A. They all played in the big leagues at some point in 2013 and will each get their chance to shine on the big stage at some point in 2014, possibly right off the bat.
Matthew Wisler isn’t going to begin the season the Padres, however, it is likely that he could see a few games with them as a late season call up. They could always use pitching help, and Wisler, going 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA last year, could certainly go a long way for the Padres in 2014.
Erik Johnson (70), A.J. Cole (69), Eduardo Rodriguez (68), Alen Hanson (67),
Delino De Shields (66), Jake Marisnick (65), Julio Urias (64), Zach Lee (63),
Mookie Betts (62) and Blake Swihart (61).
Jake Marisnick spent a good bit of time (40 games) with the Marlin in 2013, and there’s a good shot at him starting off the year with them. Marisnick didn’t perform particularly well, but he’s still young and would make a good outfielder for them in 2014. Erik Johnson, who also made his MLB debut last season, has the potential to break camp with the White Sox, but it’s going to come down to how he performs in Spring Training. Either way, he’ll see time in the majors this season.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Lee and Alen Hanson all could make it to the bigs in 2014, but for Hanson that may have to wait another season. Rodriguez and Lee should begin the 2014 season with Triple-A, and depending on how they do, they could possibly be September call ups. Hanson also holds that chance, but it will likely be 2015 for him.
Lucas Sims (60), Rougned Odor (59), Kolten Wong (58), Garin Cecchini (57),
Jake Odorizzi (56), Marcus Stroman (55), Mike Foltynewicz (54), Jesse Biddle (53),
Lance McCullers (52) and Colin Moran (51).
Kolten Wong, despite forever holding the distinction of being picked off to end the game during the 2013 World Series, should begin the season where he left off. As a late season call up last year, Wong did decently, and many feel he is going to turn into a very special player. Jake Odorizzi also has the talent to begin 2014 at the big league level, but the big difference between Wong and Odorizzi is team room. The Rays’ rotation is packed, and therefore it’s likely Odorizzi will be back with Triple-A to begin the season.
Garin Cecchini, Marcus Stroman, Mike Foltynewicz and Jesse Biddle all have the chance to make their MLB debuts this season, as they all should begin in Triple-A. Of them, Stroman has the potential to be called up the quickest, as many people feel he is the most ready, and the Blue Jays really could use some pitching. But all of them should help out their respective clubs at some point this year.
Jonathan Singleton (50), Jorge Soler (49), Clint Frazier (48), Gary Sanchez (47),
Allen Webster (46), Austin Meadows (45), Lucas Giolito (44), Max Fried (43),
C.J. Edwards (42) and Eddie Butler (41).
Allen Webster is the only player of this group that stands any shot at making the majors to start the year, but even so, it’s not a good shot. Despite making the Red Sox rotation in 2013, Webster performed somewhat poorly, and it’s likely that that bad showing could land him back in Triple-A to begin 2014.
Jonathan Singleton, Gary Sanchez and Eddie Butler all could begin 2014 in Triple-A, and all three could make the majors this season. Of them, Singleton is the only player with Triple-A experience, but they each have the talent to make their respective clubs at some point this year. The only thing that would hold Sanchez back would possibly be Brian McCann, whom the Yankees signed to a major contract earlier this offseason, and is blocking Sanchez’s spot as the Bronx Bombers’ catcher.
Kohl Stewart (40), Jorge Alfaro (39), Adalberto Mondesi (38), Billy Hamilton (37),
Billy Hamilton, Yordano Ventura, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Gausman all should begin the season in the majors, as all four of them spent time there last season. Though they all have some things to work on, they each have a ton of natural talent, and could be helping out their big league club from day one of the 2014 season, with Bradley having to compete for his outfield spot against the newly acquired Grady Sizemore.
Joc Pederson was debated over by the Dodgers last season as to whether or not they wanted to call him up or choose another talented outfielder by the name of Yasiel Puig instead. (We all know what happened — with Puig going on a tear with the Dodgers — so I won’t talk a lot about it.) Though he doesn’t have the power that Puig possesses, Pederson is going to be a great player for the Dodgers, and should see a few games in the majors in 2014. The only question being, is there room for him in the already crowded outfield? (A possible trade isn’t out of the question.)
Henry Owens (30), Andrew Heaney (29), Alex Meyer (28), Tyler Glasnow (27),
George Springer and Travis d’Arnaud each have a chance to begin 2014 with their big league team, but d’Arnaud is the more likely of the two. He spent the last month of the 2013 season with the Mets, and should begin with them out of Spring Training. Springer on the other hand — while he hit 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year — will likely spend a month or two in the minors before finally getting a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage possible.
Henry Owens, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer and Maikel Franco will likely be sent to Triple-A out of Spring Training, however, they should all reach the major league level this season. They all have a ton of talent, and will be fun to watch this season. If any of them get called up early enough, they could become an immediate everyday impact player for their club.
Dylan Bundy (20), Robert Stephenson (19), Albert Almora (18), Mark Appel (17),
Jameson Taillon (16), Nick Castellanos (15), Jonathan Gray (14), Gregory Polanco (13),
Addison Russell (12) and Noah Syndergaard (11).
Nick Castellanos finally has a spot available for him on the Tigers and it’s likely that he’ll claim it right out of Spring Training. Castellanos spent the final games of 2013 in the big leagues, but with Miguel Cabrera at third — his normal position — Castellanos was forced to the outfield. Now that Prince Fielder is with the Rangers, Cabrera can return to his original spot at first, and Castellanos can play a full season at third base, where he should do extremely well.
There are a ton of players from the 20-11 spots that will likely see big league time in 2014. Dylan Bundy, Robert Stephenson, Mark Appel, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Addison Russell and Noah Syndergaard all stand a decent shot — some better than others — with Bundy, Taillon and Syndergaard likely being the three with the best shot of a call up earlier than September. We’ll have to see exactly what happens, but this group of players in particular will be a fun one to watch.
Francisco Lindor (10), Kris Bryant (9), Carlos Correa (8), Javier Baez (7),
Taijuan Walker (6), Archie Bradley (5), Miguel Sano (4), Oscar Taveras (3),
Xander Bogaerts (2) and Byron Buxton (1).
Taijuan Walker, Xander Bogaerts and Archie Bradley will all spend a good chunk of time in the big leagues in 2014, but it’s likely that they will begin the year with their major league teams. Admittedly, Bradley is a bit of a stretch — likely starting the year in Triple-A — but if he performs exceptionally well in Spring Training, it’s not completely out of the question. All of these players, if they can remain healthy and subsequently play enough games at the major league level, all have the potential to be Rookie of the Year caliber players.
Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras could each play games in the majors this season, but it’s possible that Bryant will have to wait until 2015, depending on how he performs and how quickly the Cubs want to bring him along. Regardless, all of these players, as with the previously named players in this group, have the potential to be Rookie of the Year finalist in 2015, assuming they don’t exceed the stats in 2014 needed to still qualify as a rookie the next season.
I can honestly say that I agree with the top 100 prospects list for the most part, though there were a few players that I feel should’ve ranked higher/lower than they were. But I didn’t form the list, so I can’t complain. Now that the top prospects going into the 2014 season have been announced, I pose the following question: Which of the top ten prospects (although a couple of them may not even make the major leagues) do you feel will have the biggest impact at the major league level in 2014? Cast your vote below:
Feel free to leave a comment below with your overall thoughts on the top 100 prospects list heading into this season.
I hadn’t been planning on attending this game–under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have–but I was trying to accomplish what I was unable to do the last time I was at the ballpark: Get an autograph from Rays’ number one prospect, Wil Myers. That was my main reason for being there, on what turned out to be a fantastic day for a ballgame: I figured with it being a day game there wouldn’t be as many people at the ballpark, making it easier to get autographs. I was partially right, as while there was a decent amount of people at the game, there were fewer than usual autograph seekers. But in the end, fewer people didn’t do much good, as just like the first Bulls game I had attended, a couple weeks ago, Wil Myers didn’t sign for me. It was very frustrating.
But I didn’t let it bring me down, as the game itself was far more exciting. With there being fewer fans than usual, you could basically sit wherever you wanted, and I ended up sitting in the fourth or fifth row to start the game. The close proximity to the field made the game all that more enjoyable. (Not that I don’t always have a great time at the ballpark.)
Bulls’ starting pitcher for the game, Jake Odorizzi….: ….didn’t do as well as I had expected him to (though he would get the win) giving up a solo-shot to the third batter of the game, Nick Castellanos, who would go 3-3 for the game.
The home run was a very big deal for me because (for those of you who don’t know) Castellanos is the Tigers’ number one prospect, and baseball’s 21st overall prospect. My heart literally skipped a beat when he crushed the ball out onto the center field grass and I was still seated in the infield. I looked on for a few minutes, fully expecting someone to run out there and grab it, but to my surprise, no one did. A few people went over to have a look, but no one grabbed it. I couldn’t stand to just sit there, so I decided to see if I could make it over in time to get the home run ball.
Now, something you have to realize, at the Durham Bulls ballpark, it’s not a mere walk to the outfield. There’s a big flight of stairs you have to climb before you can make the trek over. During that climb, I had my eye off of the center field grass for nearly half a minute, and I was worried that during that short period of time, someone had gone out to get the ball. But thankfully, when I finally made it to the outfield, in what must’ve been record time, I saw a little white speck over in the grass. I patiently waited for three outs to be recorded before I jumped the short fence, and trotted over to grab the ball: This was Nick Castellanos’ second home run of the season, and just the 19th of his career.
After grabbing the ball, I decided to stay seated in the outfield for a few more innings, just in case anyone blasted a home run onto the grass, but looking back, that was a dumb decision. I ended up getting sunburnt, and as I sit here typing this, my arms tingle with every keystroke. (Perhaps not wearing sunscreen was the dumb decision?)
Anyway, when it became apparent that no one was going to hit a home run in my direction, and that my arms were turning red, I gave up my outfield view, for my original seat, where I had begun the game: I know it doesn’t appear to be, but the seat I was in had just fallen into the shade. It felt good to not have my skin roasting anymore.
Since I had been in the outfield for the majority of the game up until this point, I had missed Wil Myers’ first two at-bats. Therefore, I ended up taking roughly 30 pictures of Myers (I won’t share them all, don’t worry) beginning with his third at-bat of the game….: ….and continuing with him above the dugout….: ….in the on-deck circle….: ….and ending with him on first base, after singling in his final at-bat: I went a little Myer’s-crazy. I know. I admit it. But hey, it’s Wil Myers.
The Bulls would go on to win the game, 9-8, despite an attempted comeback from the Mud Hens, who scored four runs in the top of the eight inning. I failed, yet again, in getting Myers to sign for me after the game, but I was able to get Mike Fontenot to autograph a card for me. So it wasn’t a total loss for the day, autograph-wise.
It remains a top priority for me to get an auto from Wil Myers, and although I won’t be able to attend tonight or tomorrow night’s game, if he’s still with the Bulls when they return home from an 8-game road trip, on May 6th, I plan on going back. It’s certainly a challenge to get an autograph from Wil Myers, but I generally enjoy challenges, and refuse to give up.