Takeaways as Spring Training Winds Down

As history has shown us, Spring Training virtually means nothing when it comes to projecting how any given team or player will fare when the regular season actually rolls around. Spring

In season’s past, teams that “won” their leagues in the Spring wound up finishing in last place when the games actually mattered, with the opposite holding true for other teams that had poor Spring Trainings. The same applies to players, some of which vastly underperform or overperform in the Spring but return to their expected selves when April begins. For that reason, looking at the standings and stats is useless.

But that doesn’t stop me from checking them out anyhow. With Spring Training nearly over, and regular season games set to begin on April 3rd, I figured I’d share some of the things I took away from a quick glimpse at the standings and stats of teams and players around the baseball world.

The Mets and Cardinals are expected to do big things in their given divisions in 2016, but you wouldn’t reach that conclusion from peering at their Spring record. Each is well below .500, despite individual players on both teams shining at times. But that will inevitably change when the year actually begins.

On the flip side of things, the Phillies have a great record in the Grapefruit League, with the Rockies and Brewers doing well in the Cactus League side of things. But although they are outplaying other teams to this point, none of them are expected to do much of anything this season, with a last place division finish possible for each of them when all is said and done.

Individually, player’s stats can also be somewhat misleading.

PeraltaDavid Peralta and Christian Yelich — each of which were terrific in 2015 and have the ability to hit for a very high average — are ice cold thus far in Spring Training. However, they should easily turn things around when the true games begin. Likewise, as far as pitchers are concerned, veterans Jake Peavy and Jeff Samardzija haven’t faired much better than Peralta or Yelich, as each is doing horrible this Spring. But fortunately for them, the likelihood that all of these players continue to perform at such a low level is extremely low.

So if your favorite team or player is having a terrible Spring Training, don’t panic — at least not just yet. Theses things always seem to find a way of working out. But all the same, don’t set your hopes too high on a player or team who is putting up stellar numbers but is expected to do poorly this year. It likely won’t be able to last over the long 162-game year.

But then again, that’s why the games are played. Anything is truly possible from one year to the next.

Darwin Barney Shines In Spring Training Kickoff

The first game of the 2016 Major League Baseball Spring Training month of March saw the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon. While these games don’t count in the standings and show no definite signs of how any team will fare in the regular season, you have to figure that the Blue Jays (they won 5-2) are headed for another postseason run,Barney with Philadelhia on the flip side still in the process of rebuilding.

Even so, if it wasn’t for one player in Toronto’s lineup, things may have turned out quite differently on the day. Darwin Barney is currently still batting a thousand in the books, after going 3-3 with five total RBI’s for the game. Although you can’t take such a quick start as a sign of things to come, especially with pitchers not at the top of their game yet, it is certainly nice to see for Barney.

After being a regular player for the Cubs from 2011 through 2013, Barney hasn’t been able to stay consistent in the majors since being traded to the Dodgers in 2014. Spending nearly 100 games in the minors last season before being traded to the Blue Jays, Barney wasn’t with Toronto long enough to be eligable for their postseason push, which was obviously disappointing for him.

But if game one of Spring Training is any inclination, Darwin Barney looks to be on a mission to become an everyday player again in the big leagues, with ultimate hopes of still playing big time games come October.

Impact Players Still Teamless As Spring 2016 Begins

Although games aren’t scheduled to be played until March 1st, for every baseball fan Spring Training officially begins when pitchers and catchers first report. Five clubs saw their pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, with the remaining teams’ hurlers and backstops trickling in over the next few days, leaving every team with their respective pitchers and catchers in camp by Sunday. Print

Therefore, baseball is finally back.

But for a number of free agent players who have yet to find homes so far this offseason, Spring Training is going to have to wait — at least for now. Before they can report to a camp, every free agent needs to come to terms with a team that they’ll wind up calling home for the 2016 season.

Given, there’s still over a month until the regular season, and most if not all of the free agents will sign before too long. But time is slowly running out. With that in mind, I thought I’d go over the free agent players still on the market, position by position, who are more than capable of still helping out a big league club, but have yet to sign for one reason or another.

Beginning with the starting pitching role, the best remaining free agent starter who remains up for grabs is Yovani Gallardo. While Gallardo has been linked to talks with the Orioles, he is still technically in play for all thirty clubs. Although he isn’t going to be the ace of any team’s staff, Gallardo is still a really good pitcher who you can count on for numerous innings (180+ for each of the past seven seasons) and will give his team a chance to win each and every night.

Appropriately following the starting pitcher in this post is the relief pitcher, with there being several quality reliever options remaining. The one that stands out the most to me, however, is Casey Janssen. He didn’t have the best season in 2015, but a three year stretch from 2011-2013 saw him as one of the best relievers in the game. With him holding a career ERA of Morneau3.63, Janssen doesn’t immediately jump off the page, but he can be an asset to a number of teams.

Justin Morneau leads the pack of available free agent first basemen. After a 17-homer season back in 2014, Morneau only played in 49 games last season due to injuries which ultimately held his numbers down. But I look for Morneau to have a bounce back season in 2016, if he can be healthy. Although his days of dominating the first base position are likely over, the days of him being a solid player definitely aren’t.

At second base, the only free agent left is Dan Uggla, making him the only option to discuss. I’m not sure what the future holds for Uggla, who was once one of the best second baseman in baseball. Uggla blasted 30+ homers for five straight seasons early in his career and has been an impactful player, but he hasn’t had a very productive season since 2013. However, with all of that said, Uggla could surprise some people if given a chance.

David Freese manning the hot corner is something any team would want to see, but for some reason he has yet to be signed. Freese is a reliable third baseman who you can count on year in and year out to hit double digit homers and drive in runs in the majority of key situations. After all, Freese was the reason the Cardinals survived game six of the 2011 World Series and ultimately went on to win. He falls under the low risk, high reward type of player, and would be a nice pickup for any team.

The shortstop position is currently one of the weaker spots as far as free agents is concerned, but Ian Desmond is the big player of the group. Following a somewhat mixed departure from the Nationals, where Trea Turner looks ready to take over the shortstop role, Desmond has been linked to a number of teams this offseason but has yet to land anywhere. Even so, Desmond is still a valuable player, coming just one homer shy in 2015 of a fourth straight 20+ home run year.Fowler

As far as the outfield, there are a number of above average free agents still there for the taking. Looking merely at the position as a whole — not individually at right, left and center — the the top three free agent outfielders in my mind are Austin Jackson, Dexter Fowler and Marlon Byrd. They’re each mid-to-upper .200’s career hitters, and each had solid 2015 campaigns. For that reason, while they still remain without a team to call home, chances are they won’t be that way for long and will have some amount of impact this coming season.

Despite every position previously mentioned having players available to sign, if your favorite team is in need of a catcher, they’ll have to look for other options besides free agency. There are no remaining catchers on the market, making it the only position without a single player left. However, there are more than plenty of other positions to snag above average players from that can impact any roster.

As history has shown, the majority of free agents always wind up signing with a team, even if it takes until the very last second to do so. But now that Spring Training is upon us, they no longer have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for the right offer and the right time to arrive. With spring being the time teams find themselves and form chemistry each year, the time for free agents to begin their final pushes towards signing is now.

Blogging Plans As Spring Training Approaches

We still have a few days over a month until pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training on February 18th, but baseball fever is slowly beginning to take hold. While it seems like just yesterday that the Royals shocked the Mets to win the World Series in game five, the fact is that baseball is truly just around the corner.

For that reason, I felt it would be a good time to go over the things that I’ll be blogging about between now and Spring Training.

For starters, on January 20th I’ll be publishing a five-year anniversary post recapping some of the high points of this blog since I began writing it. There will certainly be a lot to go over, as a lot has happened even over just the past year. Then, at some point during the final week of the month, I’m planning to post an interview with Giants’ flame-throwing prospect, Ray Black, as well as a post on the top 100 prospects heading into 2016 when that list is officially produced on MLB.com towards the end of the month.

When February rolls around, there isn’t really anything other than an interview or two and a post on general Spring Training news that I’m planning to blog about. Other than that, everything is up in the air. It’ll all depend on what happens and how significant of baseball news it is.

But while my blogging schedule begins to become uncertain as Spring Training approaches, there’s one thing that’s absolutely certain: Pitchers and Catchers report in just over 30 days. That’s plenty to be excited about.

March Blogging Plans As Spring Training Games Begin

The offseason between the 2014 and 2015 Major League Baseball seasons truly flew by. Four months after the Giants won their third World Series title in five years, official Spring Training games leading up to the 2015 regular season are set to begin on Tuesday, March 3rd. I’m very ready for baseball to get going again.

With the coming Spring Training games comes a guarantee that there will be a lot of blogging topics to choose from, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t already predetermined certain things I plan to write about. That’s what I’ll be briefly covering in this blog post.

Sometime during the first week of the new month, I’ll be posting a blog entry with a poll for each of the six individual divisions around Major League Baseball asking you the reader to make your predictions for which teams you feel are most likely to win each division. Surprisingly, the fans have done a decent job picking the actual division winners in the polls from years past, so it should be interesting to see how they project the 2015 season playing out.

I’ll also be making my own predictions for the American League divisions as well as the National League divisions a week or two afterwards, trying my hand at placing each team exactly where they’ll rank at the end of 2015. Will I be exactly right? No, probably not even close. But that’s what makes it so fun.

After that, I’m going to publish my annual list of players who will likely reach major home run milestones (100,200, 300, etc.) during the 2015 season. This year the list is full of some great players going for some impressive numbers. It really shocked me, and I’m sure it will amaze some of you as well when I publish the list.

Towards the end of March, I’m hoping to publish a blog post recapping the autographs I’ve received back from Spring Training at that point. If you recall my previous blog post, I have sent — and have a few more I plan to send — through the mail autograph requests to various players at their given camp. Hopefully, I’ll have some great successes like I did last year.

Other than that, I’ll just be writing about things as they happen. There’s now just one full month left of blogging until the most exciting part of the baseball blogging year: The 2015 regular season.

2015 Spring Training Autograph Requests

Spring Training has officially begun for the majority of teams around baseball. Over this past week, pitchers and catchers have made their way to either Florida or Arizona to start their training for the long 162-game 2015 season. Meaning, there are a mere ten days until Spring Training exhibition games get under way and just 43 days before Opening Night between the Cardinals and the Cubs on April 5th.Spring 2015

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks on this blog. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.)

Every Spring Training, for the past three or four years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out several TTM’s, with the best player I’m sending to being the Astros’ 2013 number one pick, Mark Appel.

Other top prospects that I’m planning to send to throughout the spring include Sam Tuivailala (an under the radar, underrated flamethrower in the Cardinals’ farm system), Jacob Gatewood (41st overall pick in the 2014, known for his extreme power), Rob Kaminsky (a highly praised pitching prospect with St. Louis), and D.J. Peterson (a breakout slugger in the Mariners’ system who hit 31 homers in 2014).

As far as major leaguers are concerned, I’m sending to just a few of those this year. I got tired over the past few years of taking the time to put together an autograph request and wasting stamps to not receive anything back in return. So this time around, I’m only sending to big league players that I feel confident will return the cards signed, either because they have a good record of signing TTM or because they told me they would on Twitter.

Players who fall into that category include Patrick Corbin, Scooter Gennett, Joe Kelly and Dustin Ackley. They won’t wind up being the only MLB players I send to before Spring Training is over, but right now that’s all I’m sending out. Seattle Mariners v Kansas City RoyalsI’ll keep an eye on who’s signing very well over the coming weeks and if they’re a good enough player, I’ll likely send something out to them like I did with James Paxton last year and Mark McGwire a few years back. (Both were returned signed, just as had been advertised those springs.)

Last year I sent off fourteen total autograph requests to Spring Training and received back six of them, from Eddie Butler, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Almora, Kyle Zimmer, James Paxton and David Robertson. That’s pretty good as far as TTM’s go, but not getting back the other eight really made me think about who I sent to in 2015. So I’m sending off just nine to start off, with there being a good possibility I’ll add a few more to the list of autograph requests before Spring Training ends.

No matter what I decide to do, and no matter how many I successfully receive back signed, I’m planning to post a blog entry every time I receive back 2-3 autographs from the players I’m sending to, just as I did last year. Hopefully it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back over the course of the next couple months to see how well I do this Spring Training.

Spring Training Slowly Inching Closer

The calendar may read January, but for baseball fans it basically stands as a reminder that Spring Training is right around the corner. The annual February event of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp is just over three weeks away, with the first official Spring Training games set to be played in around five weeks.

With roughly four months inSpring Training between the final World Series game and the earliest reporting dates of Spring Training, having the light appear at the end of the offseason tunnel is very exciting.

But, as mentioned, there are still a few weeks to go before the baseball workouts heading into the 2015 regular season begin. And thus, there is still a lot to get through before that happens — and that includes posts on this blog.

Although I’ve had some trouble coming up with things to write about over the past couple of weeks — something that regularly happens each MLB offseason — things should begin picking up fairly soon.

Beginning with my very next post coming this weekend, I’m going to be publishing my annual recap of the top 100 prospects list, which is set to be released on Friday night. With several of those players likely making it all the way to the big leagues in 2015, it should be interesting to see who is a part of the top 100.

Following that, once February arrives, I’ll begin to have more and more to write about, and will do my best to post blog entries more and more often throughout the remainder of the year. With all but a handful of teams holding a legitimate shot at making it to the postseason, there could turn out to be a lot to write about.