Takeaways from the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings

Aside from the mid-season trade deadline that sees numerous players changing squads with the hopes that they might be the final piece needed to push any given team into the postseason, the Winter Meetings are the busiest time of year for trades and signings to take place around Major League Baseball. mlb

In the past, some of baseball’s biggest deals have taken place during the Winter Meetings (it was the 2007 meetings when the Tigers picked up Miguel Cabrera). But while the 2016 Winter Meetings that took place in National Harbor, Maryland, didn’t have nearly as much action as some of the previous ones, there were still some huge transactions that will vastly affect teams when the 2017 season begins.

Following the signings of big-time free agents Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Beltran over the past couple of weeks, the Winter Meetings began on Sunday evening, with many rumors swirling around as to what would take place over the course of the five day event. But over time, as always, fact was quickly distinguished from rumor.

Things kicked off with the signing of Matt Holliday by the New York Yankees on a one-year, 13 million dollar deal. While the acquisition doesn’t immediately jump off the page as all that great, it’s still an impactful one. The seven-time All-Star can play a variety of positions, and can still hit with the best of them, knocking 20 homers in 2016.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesOn the opposite side of the spectrum is Mark Melancon, who is one of the best at limiting homers, giving up just three total over the course of 71.1 innings last season. For his efforts, Melancon was grabbed by the Giants for the next four years at a price tag of 62 million. After saving 88 games over the last two years, Melancon certainly earned it, and San Francisco appears to have found their closer.

It also appears that Melancon will come in handy for the Giants, as their long-time rivals, the Dodgers, were successful in resigning Rich Hill on a three-year, 48 million dollar deal. After being virtually on his way out of the sport at one point, Hill posted a 2.12 ERA last season, and would likely be the Dodgers’ ace if not for Clayton Kershaw. Still, he sits as one of the best pitchers in the game.

Offensively, it became apparent that the Blue Jays were looking into other options other than Edwin Encarnacion following their signing of Kendrys Morales a few weeks ago, but it became even more so with the addition of Steve Pearce for 12.5 over the next two years. Pearce doesn’t have nearly the power of some players, but his bat is still one that can impact any given game, despite not being a huge move.

However, just as it seemed that the Winter Meeting were going to be a bit slow, with just a few above average deals, the Red Sox decided to take things up a notch. Following a trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers in exchange for Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington, Boston made the biggest splash of the offseason to this point.

Reaching deep into their farm system, the Red Sox sent away highly coveted prospects saleYoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, along with Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz, in return for Chris Sale. If Sale can keep up his dominance that’s made him one of the best pitchers in baseball, the Red Sox could win the division with ease in 2017. But as has been seen in the past, baseball is extremely unpredictable.

Nearly as uncertain is a player’s health from any given season to the next, and Wilson Ramos is a prime example of that. After beginning 2016 on a tear, Ramos suffered a season-ending injury this past season, but hopes to be ready to go sometime around the middle of 2017. Whenever he arrives with the Rays, who signed him to a two-year, 12.5 million (18.5 with incentives) dollar deal, he’s sure to make his presence known.

Wade Davis is also sure to make a big difference for the Cubs, as if they needed any more help. After winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years this season, Chicago picked up lockdown reliever Wade Davis from the Royals in a trade that sent Jorge Soler to the Royals. With Aroldis Chapman winding up with a team away from Chicago as the Winter Meetings progressed, Davis could come up big in 2017.

But while teams such as the Red Sox and Cubs were focused on rebuilding their major league lineup, there were those like the White Sox who made huge improvements to their farm system. After receiving quite the hall from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal, the Sox proceeded to pick up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, losing just Adam Eaton in the swap.

Many see this as a vastly one-sided deal, with the Nationals getting the short end of the stick. But after losing out on Chris Sale and Mark Melancon, the Nationals were undoubtedly looking to add an impact piece and were all in to get Adam Eaton. They may regret it in the short term, but in the long term things may work out in their favor.

desmondOne player who didn’t have things work out quite the way he had been hoping was Ian Desmond, who agreed to a five-year, 70 million dollar contract to play in Denver. After struggling mightily in 2015, following a turndown of a 7-year, 102 million dollar offer from the Nationals in 2014, Demsond really broke out again in 2016 with the Rangers.

The Rockies could use some offense (among other things), and Desmond adds a big piece to their improving lineup, despite not getting the contract he could have received just a few seasons ago.

The final big transaction made on the final day of the Winter Meetings saw Aroldis Chapman going back to the Yankees for five years and 86 million dollars. Coming off his help with the Cubs in their World Series title quest in this season, Chapman has long been known as a devastating pitcher, with his 102+ mile per hour fastball. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees fare in 2017 in what has become a competitive division, but with Chapman locking down the ninth, anything is truly possible.

But while some teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox left the Winter Meetings with their teams very different from when things began, with others doing hardly anything at all to improve their club, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still over 16 weeks left until the 2017 season begins.

The shaking up of teams this offseason could possibly be far from over.

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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.

2016 Top 100 Prospects List

Over the past couple of weeks, MLB.com has been unveiling the top ten prospects list at each position heading into the 2016 season. If you take the time to briefly browse the list, you’ll see that there are tons of talented players who will be making an impact in the big leagues within a year or two. However, it’s the top 100 prospects list officially released on Friday night that gives baseball fans a true glimpse at the players most worth keeping a close eye on heading into this year.Prospect

Of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball for the start of the 2015 season, eight of them made it to the majors and made big impacts for their respective clubs, with Carlos Correa (the number three ranked prospect in 2015) and Kris Bryant (number two) winning the Rookie of the Year awards. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the prospect lists to get an idea of which players are going to make your favorite team better upon arrival in 2016.

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 2016. 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 2016. With that said, let the debating begin:

Prospects 100-91

Matt Olson (100), Roman Quinn (99), Reese McGuire (98), Jorge Polanco (97),

Jorge Alfaro (96), Frankie Montas (95), Alex Jackson (94), Bobby Bradley (93),

Hunter Renfroe (92) and Nick Gordon (91).

Of all the players from 100 through 91, Matt Olson is the one who has the most overall potential in my mind, and is also the one with the biggest chance at a big league impact in 2016. He has a ton of power, and would be an added benefit to the Athletics at any point he were to be called up this season. Likewise, Jorge Polanco, who has already made his MLB debut, will likely get even more time at the big league level in 2016.

Those two are the only ones who I see as having any sort of big league impact in 2016, but I could see Hunter Renfroe being a September call up for the Padres, as could Frankie Montas for the Dodgers, who made his MLB debut in 2015.

Prospects 90-81

Forrest Wall (90), Kolby Allard (89), Billy McKinney (88), Gavin Cecchini (37),

Albert Almora (86), Hunter Harvey (85), Cornelius Randolph (84), Trent Clark (83),

Christian Arroyo (82) and Willy Adames (81).

Gavin Cecchini is the only player of these ten who I see as having any shot at all of a late season major league call up, but I feel it will be 2017 before he makes any sort of impact. For the other nine players, their time will likely arrive in 2017 and beyond. But the wait will be well worth it. Each of these players has the potential to be major stars at the next level for many years to come.

Prospects 80-71

Jack Flaherty (80), Amed Rosario (79), Erick Fedde (78), Duane Underwood (77),

Ian Happ (76), Daz Cameron (75), Kyle Tucker (74), Luis Ortiz (73),

Archie Bradley (72) and Jose Peraza (71).

There is a ton of young talent in this group of prospects, but only a couple of them stand any shot at making an impact at the big league level in 2016. Archie Bradley has reportedly been throwing better than ever this offseason, but last year was somewhat of a disappointment for him. Although he improved upon his disastrous 2014 season, Bradley wasn’t able to breakout as the star many feel he can be. Look for that to change this year. Jose Peraza is the other player who will spend the majority of his season in the big leagues. After being traded twice so far in his young career, Peraza will be looking to make a home in Cincinnati.

Prospects 70-61

Mark Appel (70), Amir Garrett (69), Sean Manaea (68), Braden Shipley (67),

Cody Reed (66), Kyle Zimmer (65), Nick Williams (64), Victor Robles (63),

Grant Holmes (62) and Josh Hader (61).

Former number one overall draft pick Mark Appel has yet to post any sort of above average numbers in his minor league career, but he will likely be given a chance to show if he can break through in 2016. If he gets off to a good start, expect him to spend the majority of the season in Philadelphia with the major league club.

Sean Manaea (a strikeout machine), Braden Shipley, Cody Reed and Kyle Zimmer all could see big league call ups at varying points during the season, and they all will bring a ton of talent to their clubs. In addition, Nick Williams and Josh Hader may also see time at the majors towards the latter part of the year, so this is a pretty loaded group.

Prospects 60-51

Tyler Jay (60), Gary Sanchez (59), Javier Guerra (58), Jorge Lopez (57),

Aaron Blair (56), Jake Thompson (55), Jameson Taillon (54), Michael Fulmer (53),

Jeff Hoffman (52) and Dominic Smith (51).

Gary Sachez has been on my radar for quite awhile, but look for him to make a big time impression on all of the baseball world in 2016. Sanchez is a power hitting catcher who looks like the real deal, if only the Yankees can figure out the situation with him and Brian McCann. Jorge Lopez saw time in the majors in 2015, and Aaron Blair, Jake Thompson, Jameson Taillon and Michael Fulmer all stand a shot at doing the same in 2016.

Prospects 50-41

Willson Contreras (50), Josh Bell (49), Ryan McMahon (48), Tim Anderson (47),

David Dahl (46), Manuel Margot (45), Max Kepler (44), Brent Honeywell (43),

Anthony Alford (42) and Francis Martes (41).

Josh Bell had a good minor league showing in 2015, and likely will have a chance at the big league level in 2016. He is a part of a long list of Pirates prospects who look to finally get the Pirates past the Wild Card game in the postseason in the near future. Other than him, Max Kepler could wind up playing a big role for the Twins in 2016, with Tim Anderson possibly getting a bit of time in the majors towards the end of the season.

Prospects 40-31

A.J. Reed (40), Anderson Espinoza (39), Carson Fulmer (38), Raul Mondesi (37),

Dillon Tate (36), Robert Stephenson (35), Jesse Winker (34), Jon Gray (33),

Brett Phillips (32) and Aaron Judge (31).

A.J. Reed had an unbelievable season in the minors in 2015, hitting .340 with 34 homers. I expect him to join a talented Astros club fairly quickly and give them even more added pop after having a successful year in 2015. Carson Fulmer is another player who could make a big league debut in 2016, with the remaining prospects from Raul Mondesi to Aaron Judge likely to spend a good bit of time in the majors this season as well. They all have the ability to post unbelievable numbers once they arrive for good.

Prospects 30-21

Jorge Mateo (30), Ozhaino Albies (29), Gleyber Torres (28), Clint Frazier (27),

Bradley Zimmer (26), Andrew Benintendi (25), Jose De Leon (24), Franklin Barreto (23),

Alex Bregman (22) and Sean Newcomb (21).

After losing Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks this offseason, the Dodgers are in need of another dominant pitcher to place at the two slot behind Clayton Kershaw. Jose De Leon could wind up being that guy. For that reason, even if he doesn’t begin 2016 with the Dodgers, I expect him to get there fairly quickly. Other than De Leon, I don’t see any player making a major league impact in 2016, with the exception of Sean Newcomb who is a very special pitcher who could help the Braves at some point down the road this year.

Prospects 20-11

Austin Meadows (20), Jose Berrios (19), Nomar Mazara (18), Rafael Devers (17),

Lewis Brinson (16), Steven Matz (15), Blake Snell (14), Alex Reyes (13),

Brendan Rodgers (12) and Trea Turner (11).

Jose Berrios had a terrific 2015 season in the minors, but he should spend enough time in the majors this season to post a full seasons worth of great stats. Likewise, Steven Matz and possibly Trea Turner should spend most of their year at the highest level, with each of them already having made their first impressions in 2015.

Of all of the other players, I could easily see Lewis Brinson and Blake Snell being called up at some point during the length of the season. While they may need a little more seasoning in the minors, they should be up before too long.

Prospects 10-1

Tyler Glasnow (10), Joey Gallo (9), Dansby Swanson (8), Yoan Moncada (7),

Orlando Arcia (6), J.P. Crawford (5), Julio Urias (4), Lucas Giolito (3),

Byron Buxton (2) and Corey Seager (1).

Byron Buxton had been the number one overall ranked prospect heading into the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but his streak finally came to an end with this year’s prospect list. This time around, Corey Seager was named the number one prospect in all of baseball, with Buxton winding up as the second best prospect. Even so, both of them are sure to make huge contributions to their major league clubs in 2016.

While Buxton and Seager are likely to be the only two prospects of these ten who begin the year in the big leagues, I expect every player, with the exception of Dansby Swanson and Yoan Moncada, to make it to the majors this year. How much of an impact they make is yet to be seen, but with players as talented as the top ten are, the future of baseball appears to be in good hands.

Recapping My 2015 MiLB Baseball Season

Last year I did a post at the end of the 20 games I spent out at a baseball park recapping my 2014 MiLB and MLB season. Unfortunately, this time around, I wasn’t able to make it to any MLB games, however, with the 2015 MiLB season now over for me, I wanted to post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year, nonetheless. In all, I managed to make it to 16 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 3rd — Greensboro Grasshoppers Vs. Miami Marlins

I went into this game looking forward to the opportunity to get autographs from the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Ichiro Suzuki, but things didn’t go as I had hoped. Both Ichiro and Stanton signed for a few people, but I wasn’t able to get either one. Even so, I still managed to get Brett Butler and Donovan Solano to sign a couple of cards each, with Steven Cishek and Tom Koehler signing a card for me as well:

DSCN7765April 10th — Myrtle Beach Pelicans Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

Myrtle Beach has one of my favorite ballparks that I’ve ever visited, and the last time I was there they had a roster that included Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams. This time around, their team wasn’t quite as good, but I still managed to get autos from some of their standouts, including Tayler Scott on my ticket, Duane Underwood on a couple of cards, and Billy McKinney and Shawon Dunston Jr. on a card:

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April 24th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox

I was hoping that the Red Sox would have their top prospect, Yoan Moncada, as part of their lineup at this game, but he hadn’t yet been promoted. Instead, I settled for Sam Travis, and a couple of autos from Wendell Rijo. So all in all, it was an okay night:

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May 2nd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

With Hunter Harvey, Chance Sisco and Josh Hart all on the disabled list, this wasn’t the best of teams, but I had already planned on going out to the game and decided to keep my plans. I was able to get a card signed by Adrian Marin, as well as a 4×6 photo signed by Drew Dosch, so it wasn’t a complete loss:

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May 5th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Lynchburg Hillcats

This turned out to be the first good game of the year for me. Lynchburg possessed the Indians’ number one overall draft pick from the 2013 as well as the 2014 draft, and I was looking forward to seeing them both. In the end, I got three autographs from Clint Frazier, two from Bradley Zimmer, two from Nelson Rodriguez and one from Mike Papi:

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May 14th — Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders

The game started off fairly poorly for me, with me only getting Rob Segedin and Jacob Lindgren before the game, but I made up for it by getting Slade Heathcott, Jose Ramirez, Tyler Austin (on three cards) and Bryan Mitchell outside after the game:

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May 31st — Durham Bulls Vs. Syracuse Chiefs

I was looking to get A.J. Cole at this game, but apparently he wasn’t there for whatever reason, and Jose Valverde absolutely refused to sign for anyone. Other than that, I did alright, getting most of who I wanted. I ended up with two autos from Bob Milacki, and one from Ian Stewart, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jason Martinson, Cutter Dykstra and Matt den Dekker:

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June 8th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Potomac Nationals

There was basically only one reason I was attending this game: Luas Giolito. As the number five prospect in baseball at the time, I was really looking forward at trying to get his autograph. Not only did I get Giolito (a total of three times), but I also got Drew Ward, Chris Bostick and Jake Johansen on two cards each, and Reynaldo Lopez on a 4×6 photo:

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As brief side notes, the “Go Nats” inscription from Jake Johansen was done without asking, and Lopez signed the photo sideways. Interesting, to say the least.

June 10th — Durham Bulls Vs. Lehigh Valley Ironpigs 

I’ve always liked day games, and this was the third straight year I had attended one in Durham. I was looking to get autographs from players in Lehigh Valley, but it just wasn’t my day. For the first time in my memory, I didn’t get a single autograph at a minor league baseball game — not one. I could’ve, and really should’ve, but there was a combination of players ignoring me, people blocking my view, or whatever. But it’s all okay. My next game was going to be a big one, and I was determined to redeem myself.

June 20th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

I had been looking forward to seeing Francisco Lindor again for the third time in three years, but he was called up a week before the game. Still, Columbus had a good enough team. I ended up getting autos from Jose Ramirez, Carlos Marmol, Tyler Naquin and James Ramsey on the Columbus side, and Richie Shaffer and J.P. Arencibia on the Bulls side:

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June 24th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

The second day game of the season for me, I was looking forward to this game a lot. Not only did I enjoy day games (as mentioned earlier), but Toledo had a really good team that included Steven Moya. Unfortunately, Moya didn’t sign, and all I walked away with was an auto from Mike Hessman, Leon Durham and Corey Jones:

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June 30th — Hickory Crawdads Vs. Greenville Drive

This was the last Single-A or higher minor league ballpark in North Carolina that I had never visited, and I was excited to finally make the trip. The visiting team happened to have Red Sox uber prospect, Yoan Moncada, as well as several other of their top prospects. I ended up getting autos from Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, Joseph Monge, Bryan Hudson and Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, and Jairo Beras from the Rangers:

DSCN7781August 1st — Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

With Gwinnett not being that great of a team, with the exception of their starting pitcher, Tyrell Jenkins, I went for the Bulls’ side instead. I ended up getting Luke Maile, Corey Brown, Richie Shaffer, Taylor Motter and Blake Snell to sign a card (or two), as well as a rehabbing Desmond Jennings:

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August 9th — Durham Bulls Vs. Louisville Bats

This turned out to be the best game of the entire season for me. I was able to get Ted Power, Delino DeShields, Donn Roach, Brennan Boesch, John Lamb, Robert Stephenson, Kyle Waldrop, Brandon Finnegan, Sam LeCure, Tony Cingrani and Matt Moore to all sign a card or two:

DSCN7790August 20th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox

There was really no point in me attending this game, as I had seen a good Salem team earlier in the year, but I decided to go out anyway. With me not needing much of anyone, I ended up getting just one auto, from Teddy Stankiewicz:

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August 30th – Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This was the last game of the year for me, and I did alright. I ended up getting an autographed card from Rob Brantly, Dayan Viciedo (the rain caused it to smear a bit at the end), Blake Smith, Onelki Garcia, Micah Johnson, Tyler Colvin and Kyle Drabek, as well as an autographed 4×6 photo from Jason Coats:

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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 2015 MiLB season:

Games attended: 16

Win-loss record for the home team: 8-8

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 72-70

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 10

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 9

Total autographs: 102

Total miles traveled to & from games: 2,140