Recapping My 2016 MiLB Season

Last year I did a post at the end of the 16 games I spent out at a baseball park recapping my 2015 MiLB season. With the 2016 MiLB season now over for me, I wanted to once again post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year. In all, I managed to make it to thirteen baseball games this season. It was a great year, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 19th — Salem Red Sox Vs. Carolina Mudcats

Game one of the year turned out to be a rather good one. Before the game, I was able to get Rafael Devers and Joe Oliver to sign a couple of cards, as well as Andrew Benintendi (he amazed everyone and actually signed cards — something he claimed to never do) and Angel Berroa, who both signed a card apiece. The big miss on the day was Yoan Moncada, who ignored everyone. But I had already gotten him last season, so I wasn’t overly disappointed. After the game — which lasted 12 innings, and ran roughly four hours — I was able to get Braves top prospect, Dansby Swanson, to sign a 4×6 photo, in addition to a card:

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April 24th — Indianapolis Indians Vs. Durham Bulls

Following a good night five days earlier at the Mudcats, I was really looking forward to this game. I was able to get Mel Rojas Jr., Trevor Williams and Tyler Glasnow to sign a card before the game, in addition to Cory Luebke signing two cards. After the game, I ventured outside and picked up Jameson Taillon and Cole Figueroa on a couple of cards each, with Josh Bell signing one card after coming back from buying pizza. The biggest misses on the day were Jung-Ho Kang, who was rehabbing but didn’t sign for anyone, as well as Alen Hanson. But overall, it was a good evening for autographs:

DSCN7808May 12th — Buffalo Bisons Vs. Durham Bulls

I wasn’t sure how great this game was going to wind up, originally. The Bisons didn’t have a single one of the Blue Jays’ top 30 prospects heading into this game, yet I headed out to the ballpark anyhow. Things turned out to go amazingly; so good that I have to put it in two separate pictures. Before the game, I received three autographs from former Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley, and two from Pat Venditte, David Aardsma, Fausto Carmona (now named Roberto Hernandez) and Alexi Casilla:

DSCN7809Then, after the game, I was able to do just as good as pregame, getting Matt Dominguez and Tony Sanchez to sign a card, with Domonic Brown, Jesus Montero and Drew Hutchinson all signing a handful:

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May 16th — Lynchburg Hillcats Vs. Carolina Mudcats

There weren’t a ton of top prospects on this team, with the main two players being Bobby Bradley and Justus Sheffield. Due to Sheffield starting the game, I was only able to get Bradley, Dorssys Paulino (on three cards) and Anthony Santander before the game. But after the game, Justus Sheffield was nice enough to sign a card, as well as Yu-Cheng Chang on a 4×6 photo:

DSCN7811May 31st — Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders Vs. Durham Bulls

I didn’t do all that well inside before the game, getting just Aaron Judge and Chris Parmelee (on two cards), but outside allowed me to redeem myself. There were probably around 50 people waiting around for Nick Swisher, who has always been a fan favorite — and Swisher didn’t disappoint. He stuck around for nearly ten minutes, signing autographs for everyone who wanted one, taking pictures, and simply being himself and joking around with the crowd. It was an awesome experience. After getting Swisher on two cards, I also obtained Cesar Puello and Jake Cave on a card, as well as Ben Gamel on a 4×6 photo:

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June 3rd — Gwinnett Braves Vs. Durham Bulls

The original plan for this game was to get the few autographs I needed from the Bulls’ players before the game, and then get the many players I needed from Gwinnett outside after the game. However, things didn’t go as planned. I was able to get autos from the Bulls before the game like I wanted, but a two-hour rain delay in the second inning lead to the game starting back after 9:30. For that reason, I decided not to stick around for the game, which ended up concluding at 12:15 in the morning. Even so, I was able to get J.P. Arencibia and Daniel Robertson on a couple cards, as well as Jaff Decker and Adam Kolarek on a card each; in addition, I got Austin Pruitt on an old program, and Richie Shaffer on a 4×6 photo that I was hoping to get Blake Snell to sign as well, but was never able to due to his callup to the Rays:

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June 26th — Lehigh Valley Ironpigs Vs. Durham Bulls

I had been looking forward to this game since last season, when the Phillies had so many top prospects in Double-A that I assumed would make the jump up to Triple-A in 2016. I wound up seeing the Phillies’ top three prospects (all in the top 100) on the team. I obtained three autographs from Jake Thompson, two autographs each from Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Ben Lively, as well as an auto from David Buchanan, James Russell, Darnell Sweeney, Emmanuel Burriss and Darin Ruf. So, all-in-all, everything went very well, despite missing out on a few key players such as Andrew Knapp and Edward Mujica due to a combination of bad luck and mental errors:

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July 6th — Syracuse Chiefs Vs. Durham Bulls

Trea Turner was the obvious standout of this game, sitting as the number nine overall prospect at the time. Before the game, I wasn’t able to get Turner, but instead got A.J. Cole (he surprisingly signed, despite being the starting pitcher), Matt Skole and Michael Taylor (on a couple cards), who had just been sent down. After the game, I was successful in getting Trea Turner to sign a card outside, along with Pedro Severino, and Austin Voth on a 4×6 photo:

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July 25th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

I was most looking forward to seeing Steven Moya at this game, who I saw last year but wasn’t able to get. However, he didn’t sign before the game. Instead, I began the day by snagging former Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Pico on a few cards, and proceeded to get Dean Green on a 4×6 photo, as well as Dixon Machado and Casey McGehee on two a piece, with Jacoby Jones, Argenis Diaz and Jordan Valdespin each signing one for me. Then, outside after the game, I got Bobby Parnell, John Hicks and Steven Moya (finally) on two cards:

DSCN7819August 2nd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

There was really no pressing reason for me to attend this game, other than the fact that I hadn’t been to a Mudcats game in around three months, and I was missing it. (And, of course, I knew it would be my last game there of 2016.) Even so, I made the most of it, getting autographs from 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Collins, as well as Telvin Nash, Jose Bautista (not THAT Jose) on three, Brett Austin on a card, and Jordan Stephens on a photo. After the game, I got Travis Demeritte on a couple cards, Braxton Davidson on a card and Sal Giardina on the program for the night:

DSCN7820August 7th — Gwinnett Braves Vs. Durham Bulls

I had already seen Gwinnett once this season, but I was trying for autographs from the Bulls players at that time. This time around, I was solely going for Gwinnett, as they still had a great team. I ended up doing fantastic, getting Omar Infante, Matt Lipka, Rio Ruiz, Aaron Blair, Rob Wooten, Jason Hursh and John Gant before the game:

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Then, after getting Ryne Stanek following the final out, I ventured outside and obtained a signature or two from Matt Wisler, Michael McKenry, Reid Brignac, Chris Ellis, Matt Duffy (on the blank-auto card), Curt Casali, Eury Perez and another from Rio Ruiz:

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August 19th — Norfolk Tides Vs. Durham Bulls

I don’t really have that much to say about this game. My mind wasn’t completely in it, and it still bugs me. For that reason, I only got five autographs, from Christian Walker, Trey Mancini, Andy Oliver, Pedro Beato and L.J. Hoes. The end.

DSCN7823August 29th — Columbus Clippers Vs. Durham Bulls

I wanted to end the season with a bang (especially after doing so poorly at the last game), and I did just that. Before the game, I was able to get Steve Karsay, Bradley Zimmer, Ronny Rodriguez, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Merritt, Michael Choice and Erik Gonzalez on a varying number of cards. Then, after getting Jake Hager and Casey Gillaspie immediately following the game, I went outside and picked up an autograph from Cody Anderson, Giovanny Urshela and Yandy Diaz, on a 4×6 photo:

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2016 MiLB season:

Games attended: 13

Win-loss record for the home team: 7-6

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 53-40

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 13

Total autographs: 156

Total miles traveled to & from games: 1,240

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Vincent Velasquez Completely Shuts Down the Padres

If you aren’t already familiar with Vincent Velasquez, you inevitably will be very soon.

On Tuesday afternoon against the Padres, Velasquez absolutely dominated San Diego’s lineup, allowing just three hits and striking out 16 batters over the course of his complete game shutout, in which Velasquez received 27 swings and misses. This following his first outing of the season, where Velasquez struck out nine over six innings, giving up no runs, it would appear that he’s already in midseason form. Phillies

Velasquez has now struck out twenty-five batters in just fifteen innings of work, and subsequently holds the new record for a Phillies pitcher of most combined K’s in their first two starts of the season, previously set at 20 back in 1964.

Originally a product of the Astros, getting drafted by them in the second round of the 2010 draft, Velasquez came to Philadelphia as part of the Ken Giles trade this past offseason. To this point, it would appear to be a great move on the part of Philadelphia (especially with Giles getting off to a slow start with Houston).

But Velasquez’s career hasn’t been a smooth ride to the top.

Back in 2011, Velasquez underwent Tommy John surgery (an all too common procedure at this point), forcing him to miss the entire 2011 season. In addition to the injuries, once Velasquez finally did make it to the major leagues, he didn’t immediately post the type of numbers he has recently, notching a 4.37 ERA over 19 total games pitched and 7 starts in 2015, leaving many to question him moving forward.

However, Velasquez appears ready to take off.

It certainly can’t come soon enough for Philadelphia, who has been fairly pathetic in recent years. While they dominated their opponents for a number of years in a row not too long ago, they have been in the process of rebuilding over the past few Francoseasons But other than Velasquez, the Phillies’ pitching staff merely consists of standouts Aaron Nola and Jeremy Hellickson — nothing close to resembling their rotation of 2011 that included Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay.

Likewise, the Phillies lack a good, intimidating lineup, currently possessing very little power threats within it. With Ryan Howard no longer the slugger he once was, and seemingly on his last stretch with Philly, Maikel Franco is truly the only major power threat available of what was once an efficient offensive machine.

But there is help on the way, with the Phillies holding seven of the top 100 prospects in baseball throughout their farm systems. Pitching-wise, the Phillies have guys such as Jake Thompson and Mark Appel in Triple-A, both of which are ready to help very soon. Hitting-wise, J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams are coming fast, and should be contributing to the run scoring in Philadelphia before too long.

With the win on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies have now won three straight, and five of their last six, keeping their overall record for the season at .500 (5-5). Inevitably, however, the Phillies will taper out of contention as the year goes on, and as other teams begin to figure things out, ultimately finishing at or near the bottom of the National League East division.

Even so, once every fifth day, Phillies fans will be reminded by Velasquez that their club is well on their way to transforming back into a contender once again, as it was for so many years not so long ago. Rebuilding is a process that takes time, as well as patience on both the part of the team and the fans.

But as Vincent Velasquez proved on Tuesday, the rebuild is getting closer to completion.

Things Heating Up As Trade Deadline Looms

Over the past week or so, trades and rumors of trades have been taking place right and left. Although things are still bound to happen, with the trade deadline not until Friday afternoon, here’s an overall recap (most of the trades, but not every one) of what has happened so far, with my thoughts on each:Kazmir

Back on the 23rd, two of the first impactful moves were made. The Brewers’ Aramis Ramirez was sent to the Pirates in return for minor leaguer, Yhonathan Barrios, and the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the Athletics in exchange for Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham. The following day, the Marlins moved Steve Cishek to the Cardinals for the addition of Kyle Barraclough.

For the most part, I felt all of those trades were productive ones. The Brewers are out of it this season, and sending Ramirez to the Pirates will likely benefit them moving forward as they push towards the hope of a postseason spot. The Marlins sending Cishek to another team makes a lot of sense to me as well, as Cishek used to be dominant for Miami, but has struggled somewhat this year. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him out.

Of the three deals, the Scott Kazmir one will undoubtedly be the one that has the most impact this season. With the Astros in first place, Kazmir could really be crucial in helping them hold on to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

But while those few trades were somewhat beneficial, a major move took place Sunday, with Johnny Cueto being shipped to the Royals in exchange for cash and minor league pitchers Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb. After reaching the World Series last year, only to fall short in game seven, there are a lot of people who feel that Cueto can help them win it all this year. While that remains to be seen, Cueto will assuredly be a big impact for them the remainder of the regular season into October.

As far as what the Royals gave up from their farm system, Finnegan is the type of guy who is immediately ready to make an impact, even though he was sent to Triple-A. Finnegan came up big in the postseason for the Royals last year, and he, along with future impact pitchers Cody Reed and John Lamb, should be able to help the Reds turn things around in the years to come.

Tuesday turned out to be a big day as well in the trade market, as several impact trades took place.

On the lesser impactful side of things, Ben Zobrist was sent to the Royals for Aaron Brooks and future star Sean Manaea, with Jonathan Papelbon finally getting moved, sent to the Nationals for Nick Pivetta. The Zobrist move should help the Royals, as will the Cueto move, leading to another deep playoff run this season. In the same way, the acquisition of Papelbon as the Nat’s closer should help them be able to lock down games at the end, despite already having a good Tulocloser in Drew Storen, who now becomes their setup man.

However, while those were good moves, the one that had everyone talking on Tuesday was the swap of Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in return for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco. Of all of the trades thus far, I feel this is the one that makes the most sense for both sides.

Although the Jays supposedly needed a pitcher at the time, you can never complain when you pick up an impact bat like Tulowitzki and a veteran reliever in Hawkins. Likewise, the Rockies look to be headed in a good direction, as Reyes is a fine replacement for Tulowitzki, and all three prospects, especially the highly hyped Jeff Hoffman, will help them down the road.

But while most trades go through without a hitch, one deal went down on Wednesday that ended up falling through. The Brewers planned to sent Carlos Gomez to the Mets for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, but concern with Gomez’s hip (now reported as a financial issue, too) caused the deal to be called off. Obviously an unfortunate set of circumstances, as both teams would have benefited from the deal.

Nonetheless, trades continued to happen. Thursday saw a blockbuster, three-team swap that involved numerous players. The Dodgers picked up Mat Latos and Michael Morse from the Marlins as well as Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and Jose Peraza from the Braves. In exchange, the Marlins received Jeff Bringham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman from the Dodgers, with the Braves getting Cuban star Hector Olivera, Zack Bird and Paco Rodriguez. The Braves also received a competitive-balance round draft pick from Miami.

To me, the trade doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone but the Dodgers. For them, they made out with a ton of talent. But Miami merely picked up a few decent players, with the Braves receiving the same. Although time is the only thing that can tell whether a trade turns out to be a good or bad one, this trade seems to be one sided.Hamels

Another big deal went down on Thursday as well, with Cole Hamels (along with Jake Diekman) finally getting moved after months and months of trade rumors surrounding him. Hamels was sent to the Rangers in exchange for Matt Harrison and prospects Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff.

In the short term, the Rangers should see an instant boost in their rotation, as Hamels has been one of the top pitchers around baseball for the past numerous years. In the long term, however, the Phillies could see the prospect they picked up helping to turn their current subpar squad into a postseason potential team once again. All five prospect are expected to be big time impact players in the majors, and they should all be able to help within the next few years.

Finally, one of the biggest trades of the day on Thursday saw David Price getting moved once again. This time, Price was sent to the Blue Jays in exchange for prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. With Price being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past several years, he will inevitably help out the Blue Jays, who are currently sitting at .500, seven games back of first place.

With around 24 hours remaining until the trade deadline arrives, things should continue to stay exciting, with a big deal having the chance of taking place at any given time.