March 26, 2014

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Bold Predictions for MLB Awards

By: Matt Bowen

On March 31 Major League Baseball will officially put old man winter to bed as Opening Day kicks off summer. This will soon become a National Holiday and for good reason. The baseball season signifies the start of something fresh. For many around the country deprived of baseball and sunshine due to the bitter winter this season is a breath of fresh air.

With that being said let’s have some fun and prognosticate some postseason awards.

Justin Verlander

Will Verlander return to Cy Young form in 2014?

AL Rookie of the Year

Baseball is rich in young talent and the product on the field is proof. There’s a general buzz surrounding the league right now because of tomorrow’s stars.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year award will belong to Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura. This kid may only be 5’11” but his arm packs a punch. He has a blistering fastball that can top triple digits and two quality secondary pitches.

The Royals have so much faith in Ventura they’ve already announced he’s made the Opening Day roster and that he’s third in their rotation. Even better, they think he can pitch between 180-200 innings this year.

Without an innings limit and strike-out stuff Ventura is the favorite for AL ROY.

NL Rookie of the Year

No surprise here, Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds will capture the NL Rookie of the Year.

There’s much debate surrounding Hamilton’s ability to handle the leadoff spot for the Reds this season and beyond. Truthfully, I’m a believer. Hamilton has worked hard this offseason on his batting—especially bunting. He has world class speed and if he gets on base 35 percent of the time he’ll notch 75 stolen bases.

Not to mention he’ll soon be a Gold Glove winner in center field.

He’ll succeed this season and his 2014 NL ROY award will be his prize.

AL Bounce-Back Player of the Year

We won’t call this Comeback Player of the Year, rather Bounce-Back Player of the Year. Both of the players in this category played in 2013, but they didn’t play to their fullest potential.

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers will once again be a Cy Young candidate this season. His 2013 campaign was marred with rocky starts but he pitched well from August onward and salvaged a 13-12 season.

Look for the 2-time Cy Young winner to return to dominance this season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

NL Bounce-Back Player of the Year

Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves deserves a bit of praise. He’s still just 24 years old and has time to become the true star he once was projected to be.

Heyward’s 2013 season was derailed by an early-season appendectomy and a broken jaw suffered when hit by a pitch.

This season will be different and Heyward will prove himself and have a breakout season.

AL Cy Young

This year’s AL Cy Young award will belong to none other than Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. He and his pitch arsenal will pull out all the tricks this year and capture the coveted award.

Darvish is now in his third MLB season and will come into his own. Don’t let the fact that he’s missing Opening Day with a stiff neck thwart your expectations for the season. He’ll top 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career and win 20-plus games.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the status of best pitcher in the NL but he’ll be uprooted by rival San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner this time around.

At just 24 years old Bumgarner will be entering his fourth full MLB season. He’s pitched 200-plus innings in each season and he’ll look to build off his impressive 2013 ERA of just 2.77. The towering lefty will make the Giants competitive and be considered an outright star by season’s end.

For that he’ll be named the 2014 NL Cy Young award winner.


There’s no sense in beating around the bush here—there will be a changing of the guard in Major League Baseball this season.

Youngsters Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will win their respective MVP races. Both players will be no older than 23 years old by the time fall rolls around. These guys are the face of baseball and their performances this season will justify their high praise.

Trout has finished second in the MVP race to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in back-to-back seasons but this year he’ll take the title. Harper is a natural wonder and due to his added muscle this offseason he’ll be all that and a bag of potato chips.

Buckle your seats and enjoy the ride—these kids are about to take us to the moon.

March 14, 2014

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My Perfect MLB Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

We’re about to have the draft in my fantasy baseball league. I already know I’m not going to get all the guys I want and I may even get stuck with a couple jabronies that I don’t want. That’s how these things go. And I probably shouldn’t do this because I’m going to have to worry about some of the guys in my league seeing this and stealing the players I’m after. Oh, who am I kidding? Those guys can barely even read!  Ha ha. Trash talking your league members is one of the best parts of a fantasy league. Anyway, here’s who I would realistically try to take going by the average draft position on the site my league uses.

Round 1:  Miguel Cabrera, 1B

I want my first pick to be a sure thing. I’m going to need a top three pick to get Cabrera though. He’s the best hitter in baseball. Do not pass on him. He was just a Chris Davis injury away from winning back-to-back triple crowns. That’s as sure of a thing as there is in fantasy.

Miguel Cabrera

Would you take Miguel Cabrera with the #1 overall pick in your fantasy draft?

Round 2: Clayton Kershaw, SP
Kershaw has led the majors in ERA for the last three years. Don’t be against him doing it again in 2014. With a little luck, you could end up with the best hitter and the best pitcher in baseball.

Round 3: Yasiel Puig, OF
In 2013, Puig hit over .300 with 19 homers without playing close to a full season. He is only going to get better. If he blossoms into a superstar, you’ll be in great shape so take the risk early. Why go with someone a safe pick? We’re playing for 1st place after all.

Round 4: Ian Kinsler, 2B
Kinsler would give you one of the best all-around hitters there is. In Detroit, you know he’s going to get plenty of chances for runs and RBI to go along with the 15-20 home runs and steals he is expected to provide.

Round 5: Elvis Andrus, SS
I had to make sure this pick wasn’t a Tiger or Dodger. And I want steals. Lots of them. The Kinsler-Andrus combo would be the best middle-infield in your league. That’s what I’m hoping for.
Round 6: Jose Fernandez, SP

Can he pick up where he left off in his amazing rookie season? If he does, that would give me two awesome anchors for my starting rotation.

Round 7: Ben Zobrist, UTIL
I always want a player or two like Zobrist that will give me solid production and flexibility with my lineup by playing multiple positions.

Round 8: Carlos Santana, C

Santana is expected to play multiple positions which will get him in the lineup more often that the typical catcher.

Round 9: Alex Gordon, OF

Here’s another young stud. And the Royals might even might even be good enough to play meaningful games all the way to September this year.

Round 10: Pedro Alvarez, 3B
I am not chick, but I do dig the long ball.

Round 11: Josh Hamilton, OF

This guy will be a monster or a bust. It shouldn’t take long to find out which so if he struggles, you will have time to find a replacement.

Round 12: Alex Cobb, SP

A solid pitcher on a solid team. He won’t hurt you.

Round 13: Julio Teheran, SP

Another good pitcher on a good team that won’t hurt you.

Round 14: David Robertson, RP

I want at least one reliever that will pick up a lot of saves. He’s got a good chance to be that guy.

Round 15: Coco Crisp, OF

This guy will give you one of the best names in baseball and a bunch of steals.

From this point on in the draft, grab as many high-upside players as you can. If they don’t pan out, you can always drop them and find someone else.

March 13, 2014

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2014 MLB Fantasy Baseball: 5 Ways to Win Your League

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2014 MLB season on the horizon now is the time to plan for your MLB fantasy draft. While it may not be as hyped as NFL fantasy football it gives players daily gratification throughout the summer. With a team to tend to on a regular basis there’s plenty of homework to do. Keep these strategies in mind while preparing for your 2014 MLB fantasy season.

Pick a Scoring Category to Dominate

Pick a category, any category and draft to win it on a weekly basis. Whatever the category may be, dominate it. If you like the long ball, stack your squad with sluggers. Keep in mind your batting average may suffer from it but your RBI’s will benefit from it.

Remember, this is fantasy but you should craft your team around a managerial style of your choice.

Like pitching? Draft strike-out pitchers early and often. Ask any MLB GM and they’ll tell you that a team can never go wrong by being too deep in the pitching department.

This strategy will tilt the scales in your favor more times than not.

Buster Posey

Could a player like Buster Posey be the answer to a solid fantasy baseball season?

Be Patient When Drafting

So, it’s Round 4 of your draft and you already want to take a favorite player. He may be too young, he may be too old, but unless he’s a first-round talent odds are you can wait.

When you jump the gun and take your most admired you lose out on where the draft is won. The middle-to-late rounds are where you build depth, especially in the pitching and catching department. Just like fantasy football, baseball is a copycat league. Besides the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Buster Posey, hurlers and backstops won’t fly off the board right away. Once the frenzy begins it doesn’t end until the cupboard is bare.

That being said, don’t take your prized prospect or beloved veteran too early or you’ll miss out on a well-rounded team that’s built to last.

Don’t Forget About the Small-Market Clubs

There are 30 MLB teams. There may be only a handful of teams that have stacked lineups, but baseball has at least one guy on every team that has fantasy value.

Scout the small-market clubs. The Houston Astros may have had an ugly 2013 record, but guys like Jose Altuve and Jason Castro have immense talent and put up quality fantasy stats.

Think of it this way—someone has to produce on every MLB team. Every team scores runs, some more than others, but they score. This means there’s a fantasy roster slot that should be filled by guys on even the worst of teams.

Stick With It

Fantasy baseball isn’t for the casual fan. It’s a long, grueling season. Keep in mind that you signed up so participate the entire year. After all, there’s no crying in baseball.

Don’t bail on your team because you have a rough April. Don’t leave your league mates drooling over Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout rotting on your bench.

Stick with it!

Scour the waiver wire, pay attention to the box scores, search for the guys that can make you a winner. Fantasy baseball is a commitment. Stay true.

Draft Your Enemy

Fantasy baseball knows no boundaries. There are no borders, no dividing lines between rivalries.

Are you a New York Yankees fan? Refusing to draft David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox could be futile.

It may be a very tough pill to swallow, but draft your enemy. If he’s the best player available and will anchor your lineup, take him. Numbers are numbers and if you pass on a proven winner your odds of losing become greater.

Insult to injury, the person behind you in the draft will take your sworn enemy and beat you in the playoffs with him. Draft with your head, not with your heart.

Have a great season everyone and good luck.

March 4, 2014

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2014 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

MLB Opening Day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. (I don’t think the Blue Jays would call it that after the 2013 season). So let’s get on with it.

A.L. East

Last season proved that anything can happen in this division. A year ago I wrote “The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over 2012.” So now I say, “I told you so.” Of course they didn’t win 25 more games than 2012. They won 28 more games. Just like I suspected they would. I’d like to see them try to do that again. But I think they will have a tougher road this year. They won’t be the team of destiny anymore. The Yankees will be trying to give Derek Jeter one final postseason and the Blue Jays have to be better right? The Orioles and Rays will be very good, too. I say all five teams finish over .500 and it’s the Rays that claim the division crown.

Boston Red Sox

Can the Red Sox repeat as AL East Champs in 2014?

A.L. Central

It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. But when the same team has won for the last three years, it just seems stupid not to pick them. Am I right? Especially when they haven’t won a title yet. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch. The may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. They won’t run away with it. But Detroit wins the Central again.

A.L. West

Once again, people seem to think the Angels are back. I don’t think so. There’s too much up in the air with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. I don’t see them returning to elite players. So that leaves the Rangers and the A’s to battle it out (with Seattle improving but not there yet). I’ve learned my lesson. I keep picking against Oakland and I keep getting it wrong. No more. Despite the Rangers adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, I’m taking the A’s to work their magic again and defend their title. If you don’t believe me, watch Moneyball and you will.

N.L. East

I’d like a mulligan. (Does it count as a mulligan if you pick the same team as last year?) It seems like Washington is due to have some stuff go its way. Just a couple more wins than last year should be enough to get the job done. Especially when the Nationals are going to be rolling out Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman and Fister to the mound all season. The Braves will give them a run, but its about time something went right in Washington.

N.L. Central

We know it won’t be the Cubs. The Brewers should be better than the 74-win team from last year and make it a four-team race for a while, but in the end it will come down to the three teams (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) that all won at least 90 games last year. One of them won’t get there this year. Sadly, I think it might be the Pirates that drop off the pace. The Reds won the Central in 2010 and 2012 so obviously 2014 is going to be their year as well. I like their rotation the best and if they can get Billy Hamilton on base, their offense will be scary.

N.L. West

Question: How many division titles do you have to buy before you become hated like the Yankees? The Dodgers are determined to find this out. No team has more superstars right now. They ran away with the West last year and should win it easily again. The real question for this team is can it make a deep run in October.

February 27, 2014

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5 Burning Questions Heading into the 2014 MLB Season

By: Matt Bowen

With MLB Spring Training underway, Opening Day can’t come soon enough. Excitement is building as fans ponder a variety of scenarios as the 2014 MLB season approaches. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions that can only be answered by playing 162 glorious games.

No. 5: Can Billy Hamilton Reach Base with Regularity?

There is no debate as to who is the fastest player in baseball. His name is Billy Hamilton and he may be the fastest man in all of sports. The Cincinnati Reds center fielder played in 13 games in 2013—he stole 13 bases in 14 tries. What he does on the base paths is nearly criminal, the only question is can he reach base with regularity?

Hamilton will lead off for the Reds and will get every opportunity to make a name for himself.  Many worry that Hamilton tries to muscle the ball too often. He’s only listed at 160 lbs. which tells the story that he shouldn’t try to smack the long ball.

In order to be considered a success in 2014 Hamilton must have an on-base percentage somewhere around .350. Patience at the plate and taking the ball the other way will make Hamilton an All-Star. If he reaches base early and often he may steal 100 bases and the Reds will be a playoff team. As a friendly reminder, no one has stolen 100-plus bases since Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. That in itself should size up Hamilton’s capabilities.

Bryce Harper

Can Bryce Harper and the Nationals return to their 2012 form?

No. 4: Will the Washington Nationals Rebound from a Disappointing 2013 Campaign

Most franchises would consider 86 wins in 2013 an exceptional season. Not the Washington Nationals who won 98 in 2012 and were penned by many to reach the World Series.

This time around some things are different for the Nationals but the lofty expectations are the same. New manager Matt Williams runs a tight ship but that’s not keeping the Nats from keeping loose. Williams is well-organized and meticulous and knows a little something about the game. The former slugger hit 43 home runs in 112 games in 1994 with the San Francisco Giants before the strike-shortened season cut his run at Roger Maris’ then record 61 home runs in a single season short. Williams is a gamer and every sports enthusiast can appreciate that.

He has a slugger on his new team in Bryce Harper who seems like he might be 35 but is only 21 years old. The baseball prodigy is just now growing into his body and with 1,094 career bats already underneath his belt Harper is ready to feast on the opposition.

The Nationals also have a deep pitching rotation and should win somewhere around 92 games this season. An appearance in the playoffs should be penciled in, this team is for real.

No. 3: Will the Dodgers Live Up to the Hype?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team on paper right now. Stacked from top to bottom, the Dodgers are a World Series-or-bust team this season.

Before we delve too deep it should be mentioned that the new ownership group led by Magic Johnson is doing a spectacular job. They’ve put a quality product on the field and there schedule is laced with in-stadium promotions to attract all sorts of fans. It’s a great time to bleed Dodger blue.

Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu lead the pitching staff while Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig bolster the lineup. The 2014 Dodgers have everything it takes to win the only question is do they have the recipe for success?

No. 2: Can the Seattle Mariners Make the Playoffs?

Man-oh-man is it a great time to be a sports fan in Seattle. First the Seahawks win the Super Bowl now the revamped Mariners lineup takes the field.

The Mariners decided they want to win now and dropped a bombshell on baseball when they signed prized second baseman Robinson Cano this offseason. He alone is enough to fill Safeco Field on a regular basis.

Add star pitcher Felix Hernandez and a throng of young talent to the mix and the Mariners carry positive momentum into the season. The big question is will they make the playoffs? Although it may seem like a foregone conclusion don’t forget the Mariners play in the toughest division in baseball.

There are only five playoff spots available and the AL West has the Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim all contending for the postseason. The Mariners play divisional rivals in 22 of their first 27 games. The first month of the season will be telling for the Mariners. Are the up to the challenge?

No. 1: Will Derek Jeter Stay Healthy?

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter announced he’ll retire after the season bringing a bit of sadness to all. The man has so many accomplishments they could be an entire article in themselves. Here’s a small taste of jaw-dropping Jeter stats—he has 200 career postseason hits. That’s simply marvelous.

The biggest question in baseball this offseason is will he stay healthy this season to play throughout his farewell tour?

He played just 17 games in 2013 but is giving it another go in 2014.

For the sake of baseball in all of its greatness let’s keep our fingers crossed that Jeter can remain healthy and play often this season.