My Vote for 2016 N.L. Rookie of the Year Award

As I stated in my American League Rookie of the Year post, watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the National League this season, with players such as Trea Turner, Brandon Drury, Junior Guerra, Aledmys Diaz, Ryan Schimpf, Tommy Joseph, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Seung Hwan Oh allSan Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.

With so many names in theoretical contention for the award this season, it’s simply not practical to discuss them all, and thus I’ll take this time to go ahead and eliminate a few of them from my list right now. Brandon Drury, Ryan Schimpf and Tommy Joseph are the easiest to eliminate, as although they each has something special among their stats, the simply sit at the bottom of the pack when it comes to the running for the award.

Now having that out of the way, the next player I can take out is Aledmys Diaz. While he lead all of baseball in batting average for a good bit of time upon his arrival this season, Diaz fell off as the year went on. Even so, his 17 homers and 65 runs batted in to go along with an even .300 average make him a player worth watching in the future.

Next to be slashed off is Seung Hwan Oh, who is probably not a well known name to the majority of baseball fans. Even so, there is good reason to learn his name. Striking out 103 batters in 76 relief appearances for the Cardinals this season, Oh’s 1.92 ERA is very impressive, but not good enough to make me feel he is deserving of the award.

The other pitcher on my list — of the starting variety — is yet another young star in the making. Junior Guerra’s 2.81 ERA over 20 starts for the Brewers was truly one of the only bright spots of yet another down year for the Brewers. If he can keep that going in the future, Guerra could turn out to be a valuable part of Milwaukee’s rotation.

One of the toughest things for me to do is put Trea Turner finishing third on my Rookie of the Year list, but that’s exactly where I have him falling. His .342 average on the season with 33 stolen bases and 13 home runs make him a well-rounded future All-Star, but not the Rookie of the Year winner.

It came down to a couple of sluggers in my mind, with Trevor Story finishing runner up. Had he not have gotten hurt, things would’ve been much closer, with Story perhaps winning the award, but his 27 home runs and 72 RBI’s have him placing second. Given, this power surge could’ve been a fluke, but it would appear Story has found a home in Denver.

The winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award therefore falls to Corey Seager, who was the heavy favorite heading into the 2016 season. His stats are hard to ignore, as Seager looks to be the Dodgers’ starting shortstop for the next decade or more. Seager’s .308 average combined with 26 home runs and 72 RBI’s make him one of the game’s brightest stars in the coming years.

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Gary Sanchez: The American League’s Trevor Story

When Trevor Story came up with the Rockies on Opening Day and proceeded to set the baseball world on fire by blasting a homer in his first four career games (six total over than span), he accomplished something that had never been done in the history of Major League Baseball. You had to figure it’d be awhile before we saw anything quite like that again.Sanchez

But then Gary Sanchez was called up by the Yankees.

Despite getting two at-bats towards the end of the 2015 season, Sanchez performed poorly in Spring Training and was assigned to Triple-A to begin 2016. However, once he proved himself at Scranton, the Yankees decided to move him back up to the big league squad, and Sanchez has not disappointed.

In 20 games this season, Sanchez has batted a scorching .403 with ten homers — the same number he hit in 71 games this year at Triple-A. To put things in perspective, Sanchez has also recorded seven doubles, leading to 17 of his 31 hits this season being for extra bases and an unheard of .883 slugging percentage. To say Sanchez has been good would be a huge understatement.

Sanchez has in fact been historic, much in the way Trevor Story was performing before his season-ending injury earlier this season. With Sanchez’s first 10 homers coming over just 22 career games (counting the 2 from last season), he sits behind just Trevor Story and George Scott for the fewest number of games to ten career home runs (Story and Scott did it in 21 games). In addition, Sanchez’s 20 RBI’s joins him with the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Hideki Matsui as the only Yankees to ever reach that mark in their first 22 games in the pinstripes.

With Sanchez showing now signs of cooling off anytime soon, the Yankees look to be in a good spot heading forward. Having won their last three games, they now sit 3.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and 5.5 back of the division lead. While they will have to continue to beat good teams to stay in the race, and hold a small chance at the playoffs by all accounts, anything is possible in the game of baseball.

Gary Sanchez has already proven that.

Numerous Players Exceeding Expectations in 2016

There are certain players around Major League Baseball who you assume are going to have amazing seasons each and every year. Clayton Kershaw is perhaps the best example of that, as he holds the league lead in strikeouts yet again and possesses a mere 1.74 ERA through seven starts in 2016. But that’s nothing new. As stated, it happens every year. However, there are several players around baseball who are posting numbers that no one expected from them.

One of those is Nick Castellanos, who has been on a tear to begin the season. Through his first 34 games, Castellanos is hitting .348, with 8 home runs and 30 RBI’s. Those are the type of numbers you would look to find from Miguel Cabrera at this point of year, but not Castellanos. Although Castellanos is a former first-round draft pick, no one expected him to get off to such an amazing start. Last season, Castellanos hit just .255 with 15 homers and 73 runs Murphbatted in. If he can continue the pace he’s on, Castellanos is set to blow those numbers to pieces when all is said and done in 2016.

Another player who is putting up career numbers to this point is Daniel Murphy. In the playoffs last season with the Mets, Murphy showed signs of greatness, hitting a home run in six straight games, but when the Nationals picked him up this offseason I’m sure they didn’t foresee the type of production he’s giving them. Despite batting below .300 each of the past four years, Murphy is currently batting .400 on the season and has collected 5 home runs and 23 RBI’s to boot. Whether or not he can keep that up is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly been fun to watch to this point.

Likewise, a pair of rookies in the National League have been posting some over the top numbers in their 2016 campaigns to this point. Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz are both off to hot starts for their respective teams this season, with each far exceeding what was likely expected of them in 2016.

Story would likely still be in Triple-A if Jose Reyes had begun the season with the Rockies. Instead, he got off to a historic start, and has collected 11 homers and 28 RBI’s all while hitting .280. Diaz, however, is performing even better than Story. A career .276 hitter in the minors, Diaz is currently holding a .376 average on the season, with 6 blasts and 20 RBI’s for the Cardinals. Both Diaz and Story should be in the Rookie of the Year running for the National League if they can keep performing as the season goes on.

On the pitching side of things, there are far more players who are having amazing starts to their 2016 season. For that reason, I had to narrow down the list. Since I discussed four hitters, I decided to cut the long list of pitchers down to just four as well — a difficult task to do. For that reason, keep in mind that I left off some of the pitchers who I could’ve included. So if you don’t see a player you feel should be here, that’s probably why.

With all of that said, the number one pitcher who is most exceeding expectations in my mind is Jose Quintana. Although Quintana has been a standout pitcher for the White Sox over the past few seasons, he’s always been the number two behind the Ace Chris Sale. In the minds of many, Sale is still the leader of that staff, but Quintana is actually leading Sale in ERA, with a mere 1.54 compared to Sale’s 1.67. In the end, however, while Sale is still the White HammelSox’s go-to, Quintana is quickly becoming a household name around baseball.

On a Chicago Cubs’ staff that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, it would be expected that a guy such as Jason Hammel wouldn’t receive the same type of attention as his fellow starters. However, he is far exceeding what was expected out of him in 2016. So far, Hammel has a 1.77 ERA over the course of seven games started for the Cubs, who are off to an amazing start as a team. Never having posted a season ERA below 3.43 in any of his previous ten seasons, Hammel is off to a great start to his campaign. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up as the season rolls on.

Steven Wright is another pitcher who I feel is exceeding expectations in 2016. I discussed his unbelievable start to the season a few weeks ago, but despite falling off his torrid pace just a bit since that point in time, Wright is still having an unexpected year. With the pickup of David Price this offseason, he was expected to set the pace for the Red Sox’s rotations, but instead it’s Wright’s 2.36 ERA (following a 4.09 ERA last season) that is the best among their starters. As a knuckleball pitcher, you have no guarantee that he can keep up the start to the year, but so far so good for Wright.

The final player on my list of those who are having the most unexpectedly good seasons is Drew Pomeranz. Despite being the number five overall draft pick in 2010, Pomeranz has never truly been the type of pitcher he was originally envisioned to be. This season, however, he is finally showing signs of that type of pitcher. Pomeranz holds a 1.80 ERA through this point in the year, and has posted an 11.48 strikeout-per-nine rate, which is actually third best in all of baseball. With Pomeranz having career numbers, he simply had to make the list of players exceeding expectations in 2016.

So while there are still over 100 games still to be played before the full 2016 season stats are officially locked into the record books, Nick Castellanos, Daniel Murphy, Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz on the hitting side, as well as Jose Quintana, Steven Wright, Jason Hammel and Drew Pomeranz for the pitchers, are all having seasons that no one could have predicted before things got underway on April 3rd. Although anything can happen in the many games to come, those are the players who I feel deserve the closest attention from now until the final regular season game on October 2nd.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2016 Season

It’s been said time and time again by myself and other people around baseball, but it’s worth repeating: You can’t always take a team’s or player’s hot or cold start to a season in stone as to how they will perform over the rest of the season.

While it’s easy to overreact and declare that a team predicted to finish last is now World Series bound because they got off to a good start (or the opposite, that your favorite team is doomed because they’re yet to win a game), it’s still very early, with extremely small sample sizes to look at. But despite that, I decided to take a look anyhow at the starts teams and players around baseball have had to kick off 2016:

Fastest Starts

Teams:

1 — Orioles (5-0)

2 — Cubs (5-1)

3 — Reds (5-1)

The Orioles are off to a surprisingly good start (their best since 1970). While their team has the ability to win often, I would never have guessed that they would be the only undefeated team remaining in baseball a week into the season. Chicago, on the other hand, is off to the great start that people around the baseball world predicted, and are well under way to their World Series destiny. Like Baltimore, the Reds are also over performing tremendously. Them kicking off their season 5-1 isn’t how I ever thought things would pan out for them.

Players:

1 — Tyler White (.556, 3 HR, 9 RBI)

2 — Eugenio Suarez (.435, 4 HR, 9 RBI)

3 — Trevor Story (.333, 7 HR, 12 RBI)

None of these three were household names before the season got underway, but they are each posting numbers that would qualify them as such towards the end of the season. Tyler While is absolutely on fire for the Astros, as is Eugenio Suarez for the Reds. Both will look to continue to lead their given teams. However, while they are each off to hot starts, the talk of the baseball world is Trevor Story. Although Story has numerous players ahead of him in the batting average department, I included him on this list because of his historic seven homers over the course of his first six career games.

Slowest Starts

Teams:

1 — Twins (0-6)

2 — Braves (0-5)

3 — Marlins (1-3)

It’s not all that surprising that these three teams are at the very bottom of the pack among the other 27 teams in the baseball standings. Despite an unbelievable season last year, in which the Twins proved many people wrong, they are off to the worst start in their franchises history. The Braves aren’t faring any better, having yet to win a ballgame, with the Marlins having notched one victory, but still not seemingly on the verge of postseason glory when October rolls around.

Players:

1 — Curtis Granderson (.050, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

2 — Logan Morrison (.056, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

3 — Brad Miller (.059, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Having yet to record a home run isn’t all that rare this time of season, nor is it unheard of to have recorded hits that didn’t result in a single run batted in. But to be hitting below .100 at any point in the year is a clear sign that your bat has gone ice cold. That’s certainly the case for Curtis Granderson, who is hitting just .050 on the year to this point. Logan Morrison is not far behind, with a mere .056 average, with teammate Brad Miller hitting just .059. While they will each inevitably raise their averages as the season goes on, it’s certainly not the start they were hoping to get off to.

As you can see, there are tons of teams and players who are off to amazingly great starts, with others having yet to show up. Over the course of the 162-game season, the majority of teams and players will inevitably wind up close to where they were predicted to end up before the season began (given, there are always a few surprises). But even so, it’s always fun to take a look to see what kind of start players and teams get off to when any given season begins. How long it lasts is the part that will be intriguing to watch.

Trevor Story Wasting No Time Setting Records

Any time a baseball player makes their MLB debut, it’s bound to be a special day for them. When it happens on Opening Day, it makes it all that more thrilling. But Trevor Story has taken things a step further, not only doing both of the aforementioned things this season, but also exploding onto the scene with the Rockies.  Story

In his brief, three-game MLB career, Story has already accomplished something that no other player in baseball history has ever been able to do. Over the course of his first few games in the bigs, Story has proceeded to launch four home runs (one of which was off 2015 NL Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke), hitting at least one in every single game he’s played, and becoming the first player to ever do so in three straight games to lead off their career.

After a strong Spring Training showing, the Rockies felt confident that Story could be brought up to the majors to fill the void left by Jose Reyes during his absence from the team, but no one could have anticipated Story performing the way he has to this point.

Story is now batting .286 on the season (his only four hits have been home runs) with 4 home runs and 7 RBI’s over the course of three games, and has gone from an under the radar prospect in the Rockies farm system to a star overnight. While I’ll be the first to admit that Story inevitably won’t be able to keep up this historic pace, currently hitting a home run every 3.5 at-bats, it’s still amazing to watch while it lasts.

But while Story will ultimately not reach his on-pace number of 200+ home runs for the season, all signs point to him continuing to produce quality number for the Rockies, likely for years to come. While Corey Seager was the heavy favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award after his terrific stint with the Dodgers towards the end of last season, it appears that Story is going to give Seager a run for his money.

Although this is baseball, where guys can go from being red hot to ice cold in the matter of a single game, Story is well on his way to breaking his career high of 20 home runs set last season in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A. After all, Story is yet to play a single game at home in Coors Field, where the ball is known to fly out of the park.

It’s crazy to think, but Trevor Story might be just getting started.

2014 Arizona Fall League TTM Requests Update

Around a month ago I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during the Arizona Fall League. At the end of the post I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent, I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up. Of the seven total TTM’s I sent off, I’ve received three of them back, with them being from:

DANIEL ROBERTSON — ATHLETICS’ ORGANIZATION

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Daniel Robertson is the number one prospect in the Athletics’ organization, and the number eighty-five prospect in all of baseball. At just 20 years old, Robertson still has plenty of time to develop into the future big league star that many feel he’s destined to become, but he made great strides towards that in 2014. Batting .310 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI’s on the year, Robertson will be a big part of the A’s future.

JACE PETERSON — PADRES’ ORGANIZATION

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Jace Peterson (who, unfortunately, signed this card in ink pen) is no longer a top prospect for the Padres, however, he is expected to be a big part of their team moving forward. Going back and forth between the majors and Triple-A this season, Peterson’s bat didn’t stick in the big leagues, batting just .113 in 53 at-bats, but his glove and speed should allow him to stick with the Padres starting in 2015 while his bat catches up.

LANCE PARRISH — FORMER MLB ALL-STAR

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No longer playing, Lance Parrish is currently the manager for the Glendale Desert Dogs. The former first round draft pick and eight-time MLB All-Star, Parrish blasted 324 home runs and recorded a couple hundred hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Winning six career silver slugger awards, and picking up two gold gloves, Parrish may not be an all time great, but he was a solid player in his day.

I still have autograph requests out for Hunter Renfroe, Byron Buxton, Trevor Story and Brandon Nimmo. When/if I get any of those back I’ll be sure to post another update. Although there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.

2014 Arizona Fall League TTM Autograph Requests

We’re just a few days into the 2014 MLB postseason, but it’s certainly been exciting so far. A lot of unexpected and equally exciting things are sure to take place over the course of the coming weeks, and it will be something worth watching to see which teams perform as predicted and which teams fail to live up to their full potentials.

afl_logoHowever, regardless of that, I’m not going to discuss anything related to the playoffs in this blog post. Instead, I’m going to focus on the Arizona Fall League. More specifically, the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests that I’m sending out to various participating players.

Taking place every October/November — this year it’s October 7th through November 15th — the Arizona Fall League (AFL) provides top Minor League players who didn’t get a full season of playing time, for one reason or another, a chance to show their organization what they can do, as well as provide them with a little more baseball experience. With several of this year’s MLB All-Stars being former AFL players, the best of the best certainly travel through the fall league.

I usually only send off autograph requests in March, for Spring Training, and October, for the Arizona Fall League. Some people send requests to players throughout the season, however, I’ve never really wanted to do that — they’re too busy going around from ballpark to ballpark. In Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League players stay in the same relative area for over a month. In my mind, that provides a better chance of success.

There is a ton of great talent in this year’s Fall League, but I’m not sending to all of them. That would take dozens of stamps to complete, and I simply don’t want to put the money and time into addressing all of those envelopes, only to receive back a few. Last year I sent seventeen autograph requests to the AFL and got back six. That’s right — six. Therefore, I’m only sending to a select group of players this time around, beginning with Hunter Renfroe, Jace Peterson, Byron Buxton, Lance Parrish, Daniel Robertson and Trevor Story.

All of those players (with the exception of Parris) have bright futures ahead in the big leagues, and Lance Parrish had a successful major league career already. In addition, they all have a history of signing through the mail for people. While that doesn’t guarantee that they will sign during the fall league, I’m willing to take that chance.

I may or may not send off a few more requests in the next couple of weeks, depending on who is signing for people. But no matter what, I plan to post an update every time I receive back a few autographs, as I did this year during Spring Training; assuming I get any autographs back at all. So be sure to check back over the next few months to see updates of the autographs I successfully receive.