Friday, May 26, 2017

Baseball MTJAG's 2017 MLB Mock Draft 1.0
With the month of June coming just around the corner, so does the annual MLB Amateur Draft, where hundreds of young men will finally reach their pro ball dreams. As the top college and high school ballplayers prepare for the next chapter of their lives, here at Baseball MTJAG we will mock where these talents are projected to go in the first round.

1- Minnesota Twins: RHP Kyle Wright, Vanderbilt
Brendan McKay and Hunter Greene have grabbed headlines this spring, but Vanderbilt ace Kyle Wright has been steadily rising to the top. After a slow start, Wright has been dominant lately, befuddling hitters in the elite SEC with a mid 90’s fastball and 3 other average-to-plus offerings. McKay is safe but does not have quite the upside Wright does, and while Greene has unlimited upside, no prep righty has ever gone first overall. Wright is the perfect combo: a high-ceiling, polished college arm.

2- Cincinnati Reds: LHP Brendan McKay, Louisville
McKay’s bat has surprised many this spring, but his future is probably still on the mound. At his best, he sits in the low 90’s with a plus curve from the left side. His velo has dipped into the high 80’s lately, but being a two-way player has taken its physical toll. Still, McKay is arguably the safest pick this year, being a college-polished lefty with a long history of success. Cincinnati is locked in on McKay the way they were locked in on Senzel last year. There is almost no chance they pass on him.

3- San Diego Padres: RHP Hunter Greene, Notre Dame HS
No amateur ballplayer has come with this much hype since Bryce Harper, and Greene is a true phenom in every sense of the word. He’s a prodigal figure, with a 102 mph fastball on the mound and being a true humanitarian off it. He’s landed on the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine, and has been dubbed the LeBron James of baseball. However, the baseball draft has bias against high school right handers, the most risky demographic there is. Greene, who has been shut down from the mound in preparation for the draft, is from Southern California. He would be the ideal pick for the Padres assuming Minnesota passes, a generational talent from their own backyard.

4- Tampa Bay Rays: OF Royce Lewis, Junipero Serra Catholic HS
The Rays love taking chances on toolsy prep bats, and Lewis is one of the best around. With 70-grade speed, plus bat speed, raw power, and a chance to be an elite defender in center field, Lewis epitomizes the Rays search for the next franchise talent. He hasn’t had the greatest of springs, but his track record is undeniable and his talent is game-changing.

5- Atlanta Braves: LHP Mackenzie Gore, Whiteville HS
Gore, unlike Lewis, has been electric all spring. He’s risen up from the pool of projectable prep arms to become the cream of the crop. A projectable lefty who has great pitchability for a high schooler, Gore mixes his low-to-mid 90’s fastball with a plus breaking ball that will carve up hitters. Atlanta has been loading up on young arms through the draft, and with Gore still on the board, don’t expect them to change their draft strategy.

6- Oakland A’s: RHP J.B. Bukauskas, North Carolina
Bukauskas has had the best spring of any college pitcher not named McKay, beating hitters with a fastball that reaches 98 and a plus slider to match. He’s cut down on the walks, and while the command will still waver at times, the elite stuff allows him to pitch through it. The only knock on him is that he stands in at just 5’11, hardly the ideal pitcher’s frame. Oakland, however, has been unafraid to take chances on Sonny Gray and Daulton Jefferies, both of whom are under 6 feet tall.

7- Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Alex Faedo, Florida
The University of Florida ace has had an up and down with season, with his stuff backing into the low 90’s rather than his usual 93-97. However, his track record is tough to argue with, and he’s continued to put up good numbers even with diminished stuff. Arizona needs more fast-moving talent in a system filled with raw guys at the low-levels, and Faedo fits the bill.

8- Philadelphia Phillies: OF Austin Beck, North Davidson HS
The position player with the most helium this season, Beck has risen from relative obscurity to a top-10 talent in the draft. A toolsy outfielder with plus speed, plus power, and a plus arm, Beck’s skillset is reminiscent of Clint Frazier. He’s drawn a bit of flak for being overaggressive at times, but that shouldn’t stop him from being nabbed in the top half of the first round. The Phillies took a hit-first outfielder in Moniak last year, and he could soon join the power-first Beck to form a dynamic duo for years to come.

9- Milwaukee Brewers: 1B Pavin Smith, Virginia
The Brewers have shown an affinity for toolsy outfielders, taking Corey Ray, Trent Clark, Monte Harrison, and Demi Orimoloye in recent drafts. They could use a safer bat to go with the high-upside talents, and the Smith is the most polished college bat this season. With more homers than strikeouts (not a typo!!) this season, Milwaukee could fast-track Smith to the big league.

10- Los Angeles Angels: OF Adam Haseley, Virginia
Having taken a bat-first college hitter from Virginia last year in Matt Thaiss, the Angels could double-dip by nabbing Haseley come June. The biggest breakout star in college baseball, Haseley has maintained a near .400 batting average all year. Add in his above-average speed and plus arm (he also pitches), the Angels could look to this high-floor player to replenish their barren farm system.

11- Chicago White Sox: OF Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt
Coming into the season, Kendall was in the conversation for being the #1 overall pick and best overall college bat. He has tremendous tools, with a rare power-speed combination from the left side that makes him a truly dynamic ballplayer. The catch: his sky-high strikeout rate. His tendencies to whiff have dropped him lower and lower on boards, but it's hard to imagine the White Sox passing on him, given their fondness for high-upside outfielders.

12- Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Griffin Canning, UCLA
Given that their ace, Gerrit Cole, is a UCLA alum, the Pirates should be quite familiar with the pitching-rich Bruins. UCLA seems to generate early round pitchers year after year, and Canning is the latest to follow that tradition. With his 90-95 mph fastball and quality offspeed pitches, as well as plus pitchability, Canning checks all the boxes that the Pirates seem to look for in their pitchers.

13- Miami Marlins: OF Jordon Adell, Ballard HS
There is no player in this draft class that can match Adell’s pure athleticism. With 80-grade speed and plus raw power and pure arm strength, Adell has been compared to the baseball version of Bo Jackson in his prime. While that might be a quite lofty expectation, he certainly has the tools to unlock that upside under proper coaching. The Marlins could certainly use a jolt to their system, and Adell could be the guy that jumpstarts a struggling franchise.

14- Kansas City Royals: RHP Shane Baz, Concordia Lutheran HS
The Royals love prep arms, shown by them taking Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson in 2015. Baz is much more accomplished than those two in their respective high school careers, and more polished as well. With 4 pitches that he mixes with regularity, along with a fastball that hovers around 93, the Royals will have a hard time passing him on.

15- Houston Astros: LHP D.L. Hall, Valdosta HS
The analytically-minded Astros have been unafraid to take high schoolers in the draft, and Hall is one of the best high school arms left available. Up to 95 mph with perhaps the best curve in the draft class, Hall also fits the organizational need for left handed pitchers.

16- New York Yankees: 2B Keston Hiura, UC Irvine
While Hiura has been limited to DH duties due to his bad elbow, he has demonstrated this season to be one of the best college hitters in the nation. With a blend of pure hitting ability and in-game power, the only question is if his elbow will be healthy enough to play defense in pro ball. Even if he needs surgery, however, the Yankees are in a good position to take this chance, and if anything, at least come away with a well-rounded offensive threat.

17- Seattle Mariners: 1B Nick Pratto, Huntington Beach HS
A longtime prep standout, Pratto has been a winner all throughout his amateur career, from the Little League World Series to taking home gold with Team USA’s 18U team. He’s got a pretty swing from the left side and is a plus defender at first base. The Mariners like drafting bats, and Pratto will fit nicely in their system.

18- Detroit Tigers: 3B Jake Burger, Missouri State
Something about Jake Burger just screams future Tiger. Maybe it’s his power bat, or his accomplished college career, both things that the Detroit system values. Their farm system is light on impact bats, but Burger could change that if they take him here.

19- San Francisco Giants: SS Logan Warmoth, North Carolina
If Burger screams future Tiger, then there’s nothing more Giant in this draft then UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth. A polished middle infielder whose package is more than the sum of the parts? Sounds familiar. Whether it’s Christian Arroyo, Joe Panik, or Brandon Crawford, the Giants seem to like these types. Warmoth fits that description to a T.

20- New York Mets: LHP David Peterson, Oregon
Yes, their major league rotation is loaded, but the Mets system is now light of high-upside arms. Peterson broke out on the scene in a big way this spring, included his masterful 20-K game against juggernaut Arizona State. He’s polished and can get some whiffs, and will likely move fast through the system.

21- Baltimore Orioles: RHP Clarke Schmidt, South Carolina
Schmidt was in the midst of a breakout season when his elbow required Tommy John. He won’t be ready to pitch until late 2018 at best, but he has shown flashes of mid-rotation potential. He has a 90-95 mph fastball with a good slider, and shouldn’t slip out of the first round even with the injury. Assuming the Orioles aren’t scared off because of Hunter Harvey’s injury problems, they could give Schmidt a shot.

22- Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Sam Carlson, Burnsville HS
Cold weather prep arm out of Minnesota, Carlson was a late riser due to a strong spring. He’s raw and probably won’t be pitching in full season ball until late 2018 or 2019, but with two first round picks relatively close to each other, the Jays can take a shot at Carlson’s lofty ceiling.

23- Dodgers: OF Heliot Ramos, Leadership Christian Academy, PR
The Dodgers have been a tad unorthodox the last couple years when it comes to the early rounds of the draft, and Ramos is a late riser with raw tools coming out of Puerto Rico. Very good athlete with above-average speed and a good arm, he will be a project but one the Dodgers can take on given the depth of their system.

24- Boston Red Sox: RHP Tanner Houck, Missouri
Houck was one of the best performers on Team USA’s collegiate team, and headed into this season with high expectations. While he has underwhelmed a bit, he has heated up as of late and still shows strikeout stuff. With a fastball that reaches 97 and a slider that flashes plus, Houck shouldn’t fall out of the first round. The Red Sox capitalized on Jason Groome falling last year, and could do the same with Houck.

25- Washington Nationals: LHP Brendon Little, State JC of Florida
Little, who transferred to junior college after a year at UNC, may be the best college lefty not named Seth Romero, who has fallen out of the first round due to makeup concerns. His fastball reaches 97, with a 12-6 curve and changeup that both flash above-average at times. Consistency is key for him, but if the Nats take him here his decision to transfer will look wise.

26- Texas Rangers: 1B Evan White, Kentucky
Similar to Pavin Smith of Virginia, White is a hit-over-power first baseman, except White swings from the right side. White is easily a plus defender at first, and has above average speed as well, making outfield a possibility down the line. He’ll hit plenty of doubles and have a high average, but how much over-the-fence power he will have is still a question. With two first rounders, the Rangers could take the safer White to offset a riskier pick later.

27- Chicago Cubs: RHP Alex Lange, LSU
A tall righty with the plus curveball, Lange was supposed to head a dominant LSU squad primed for contention in Omaha. Lange and the rest of the Tigers have not lived up to expectations, but the squad as a whole has heated up as of late and Lange is beginning to pick up steam. His curveball is comfortably plus and pairs well with the low-to-mid 90’s fastball. The Cubs also have two first round picks, and taking Lange could free them up to take a prep player later.

28- Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Brent Rooker, Mississippi State
Having taken the prep arm Carlson at 1-22, the Blue Jays could look to save money by drafting redshirt junior Rooker at this slot. Rooker was projected as a 3rd to 5th round pick preseason, but his breakout campaign merits him first round consideration. Rooker currently leads the SEC in almost every offensive category possible, and has undoubtedly been the top college performer all year. Taking Rooker would give the Blue Jays an impact bat and some flexibility with their bonus pool.

29- Texas Rangers: RHP Blayne Enlow, St. Amant HS
Taking the college bat White at 1-26 gives the Rangers room to shoot for some upside, and Blayne Enlow brings just that. The polished yet projectable right hander sits in the low 90’s with a plus breaking ball, and while the changeup is still developing, his package is one of tremendous upside. He could be quite the steal for Texas this late in the first round.

30- Chicago Cubs: SS Nick Allen, Francis W. Parker HS
Rumor has it that Chicago is enamored with San Diego-based shortstop Nick Allen. While he stands in at just 5’8’’, he has Gold Glove potential given his plus arm, foot speed, and baseball instincts. He doesn’t have much power yet, but he can go gap-to-gap utilizing his speed, and his defense is so good that it almost doesn’t matter.

Want to read more draft coverage by me? Click here to read more.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Prospect Profile: Franklin Barreto

Hi everybody! Pleased to announce that I have received a job writing at The Runner Sports, and will be covering the Oakland Athletics as the team writer there. Baseball MTJAG will continue, but probably at a lesser frequency. Several posts from TRS will also be reposted here. This is my first piece for TRS, enjoy!


Many Oakland A’s fans have watched the Blue Jays perform in the postseason in agony. Led by former A’s fan favorite Josh Donaldson, the Jays have taken off and made the ALCS in the last two years, while Oakland has sat on the outside looking in. No reminder needed, but Donaldson was also the MVP in 2015, while Brett Lawrie and Sean Nolin flopped for the green and gold. No doubt has the trade been a failure so far, as fans have lamented, but it is time to move on. Especially since the top prospect received in that deal is on the rise, climbing the organizational ladder on the road to the show. This trade can still pan out in the long run, and the lofty expectations are resting on the shoulders of young shortstop Franklin Barreto. In his profile here at TRS, we will break down his 5 tools.

Name: Franklin Barreto
Position: SS, 2B, CF
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 190
B/T: Right/Right
ETA: 2017

Hit: Present: 40 | Future: 55 | Max: 65
Barreto has tremendous feel to hit and can spray the ball to all fields. He hasn't struck out a ton in the minors, with a K-rate below 20% in each of the last 3 seasons. According to MLBfarm, he has a propensity of driving the ball to the opposite gap, demonstrating his ability to go with the pitch and not be a dead pull hitter. Barreto has all the tools to become a plus hitter, but the only thing holding back his hit tool is the over-agressive approach. Going forward, pitchers may start exploiting this approach, which could lead to an uptick in strikeouts. 
Heat map courtesy of MLBfarm. Note the evenly balanced outfield spray.

To read the rest of this article, please continue here!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five Guys to Watch For The Rule 5 Draft

With 40-man rosters being set today, any player Rule 5 eligible can be drafted away from their original teams for a minuscule fee on December 8 during the annual Rule 5 Draft, provided that they stay on their new teams 25-man roster the entire year. If not, they will be returned to their original teams. This does not get much attention from those outside from the most diehard fans, as most eligible players are organizational fillers who will never play a major role in the big leagues. However, there are some success as well, including Dan Uggla, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, and in more recent years, Odubel Herrera and Marwin Gonzalez. In this article, we will list the 5 players with performances or tools that will be very enticing for other clubs to take a chance on.

Last year's draft recap and scouting reports can be found here.

OF Barrett Barnes, Pittsburgh Pirates
The 25-year-old Barnes may have the best combination of tools, stats, and pedigree out of anybody eligible this year. The former supplemental first round pick has both speed and power, as well as raw athleticism uncommon for a college draftee like him. Since being drafted in 2012, he has put up a career slash line in the minors of .279/.367/.436, good for an .803 OPS while showing off his tools and even some plate discipline. His only fault? He consistently gets injured. So far in his professional career, he has never had a fully healthy season until 2016, when he produced a solid .306/.377/477 line in Double-A. A team looking for an outfielder for the short side of a platoon with some future potential should look to take a flier on Barnes's athleticism and bet on him staying healthy.

3B Nicky Delmonico, Chicago White Sox
Delmonico has had a long ride, to say the least. A former high-upside prospect in the Orioles system, the offensive-minded third baseman broke out in 2013 with a .243/.350/.469 slash line in A-ball before being dealt to Milwaukee for Francisco Rodriguez. There he scuffled for 1 and half seasons, on top of a PED suspension in 2014 and being released by the Brewers after that year. Last year, however, he signed on with the White Sox system and after struggling in 2015, promptly started raking again in 2016, hitting .279/.347/.490 in AA and AAA combined. He is still just 24 years old, and has a clean swing with above average pop. Look for a team who needs a platoon infielder/bench bat to take a shot on Delmonico during the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Wei-Chung Wang, Milawukee Brewers
Wang is a veteran of the Rule 5 process, having been taken by the Brewers before the 2014 season. The lefty was still making the jump from Rookie ball at the time, and understandably struggled in his brief time in the bigs. After being outrighted off the 40-man roster, Wang has put up a solid season in 2016, with a 3.78 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 between AA and AAA combined. He clearly has talent, which the Brewers were willing to take a flier on, with a fastball that touches 96 and above average curve and change. Teams in need of a LOOGY or a bottom-of-the-rotation innings eater could look to stash Wang this coming season.

OF Jon Kemmer, Houston Astros
Coming off the heels of a breakout 2015 that saw him hit .327/.414/.574 with 18 home runs in AA, Kemmer initially struggled in his first exposure in AAA, batting just .258 with 5 homers in the first half. However, as he started to adjust to the pitching, he returned to his old mashing ways, hitting .274 with 13 home runs in the second half of the season. He is not just an offensive threat either; he can play both corner outfield spots proficiently as well as center field in a pinch, with a strong arm to boot. Any team looking for a lefty swinging outfielder as a platoon bat should see Kemmer as a cheap and possibly productive solution.

LHP Jordan Guerrero, Chicago White Sox
Unlike the other players on this list Guerrero did not put up great numbers in 2016, scuffling to a 4.83 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in AA ball. However, he is a lefty with plus arm speed and a 90-94 mph fastball that could play up in a relief role in the majors. His changeup is a plus offering, and a shift to the bullpen could allow him to lessen the usage of his fringy curveball. He has put up much better numbers at lower levels, such as in a breakout 2015 that saw him throw 149 innings with a 8.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. Despite middling command of his pitches and an elevated walk rate this season, the fastball/changeup combo should make him a serviceable LOOGY in a big league pen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Will Dansby Swanson Be A Star?

Dansby Swanson,
After being called up by the Atlanta Braves, the highly-hyped Dansby Swanson will now carry the helm as one of the next franchise cornerstones, their shortstop for both the near and long-term future. Talented both offensively and defensively, the 2015 1st overall pick has definitely deserved the attention, but will he be able to meet the lofty expectations of the fans and front office?

Inevitably sharing the spotlight with the second overall pick, another college shortstop, Alex Bregman, Swanson is more athletic and well-rounded than his Astros counterpart. While Bregman put up outstanding numbers in the minors and beat Swanson to the big leagues, Swanson definitely has the potential to both match and exceed his production over the course of their careers. His offensive numbers haven't been on par with Bregman yet, but with the quick hands and bat speed, as well as power projection, the upside is just as high. Check out this video of his swing:
His swing has a nice bat plane and a toe drag, his hands fly through the zone. Swanson will hit, no doubt, and there should be some power as well because of the plus bat speed. The pop may be limited a bit from reaching full potential because of lack of loft in his swing, but doubles will come for sure.

Defensively, Swanson has good hands, arm, range, and overall instincts. While his pure speed and athleticism can't match some other guys like Alcides Escobar or Andrelton Simmons, he can still make plays of their caliber because of his strong fundamentals and quick first step. The little things are very cleanly executed, and he doesn't have any excessive motions on defense. Expect him to be a defensive cornerstone for Atlanta in the years to come. On August 25, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Swanson made three outstanding plays that many other shortstops might not have made, all in the same game.

On top of being a great ballplayer, Swanson is also an incredibly down-to-earth guy. This interview from his time in short-season A-ball is a must-read.
Combining the bat, glove, and makeup, it's not hard to see why Swanson was ranked as one of the top-20 prospects in the game, and retaining his rookie eligibility, will probably rank higher this year. So where do the doubters come from? Some say that Swanson's lack of top-notch pure athleticism and physical tools will limit his potential. He has a strong arm, but it won't ever be an absolute cannon. He has a nice swing and his bat will play in the bigs, but he also doesn't have the raw power to hit 40 homers annually. And while his defense is plenty solid, he might never be able to catch up to the flashier shortstops in the league. You could say he is a 5-tool player, but none of the 5-tools are elite, making him a sort of better-than-a-jack-of-all-trades, but nonetheless master of none.
Still, Swanson is going to be the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise. His charisma, his play, and his name will draw fans to watch them play in their brand new stadium. While he may never lead the league in homers or win a Gold Glove, he could hit .290 with 20 homers and play very good defense, good enough to be an All-Star and be a top-5 shortstop in this league. No, not all white shortstops with good leadership skills will become Derek Jeter, and it may be a lazy comp, but it could also be the most accurate. Jeter, while never winning any MVPs, was a very good shortstop for a long time. He will definitely be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer despite not having the greatest numbers, because his leadership and being the franchise cornerstone of the dynastic Yankees helped his numbers play up. Swanson could very well be the same for the young Braves team on the rise. When the Braves return to contention in the next few years, watch for Swanson to continue his ascension to becoming one of the MLB's brightest young stars.

Bonus video: 
This is from JustBombsProductions, one of my favorite and most well-made YouTube highlight videos of all time, from Swanson's junior year at Vandy. JBP also makes other college baseball/football videos, so subscribe to them if you're into that kind of stuff!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The All-Hype Team: In Memory of Jose Fernandez

There has been a lot of talk recently about creating an award in memory of the late Jose Fernandez, something to reward the player who plays with the most heart, passion, and fun. While that will certainly be discussed among MLB executives, here at Baseball MTJAG we are announcing our All-Hype team, consisting of the players that I consider the 25 most exciting to watch, who play with the most heart and passion.

Leading off: 3B Eduardo Nunez
While Nunez might not be the first person who comes to mind when you think "star third baseman", he is one of the most exciting players to watch with his hustle and recklessness. Nunez is the definition of all-out effort, taking extra bases on routine base hits, as you can see in this 4-hit game with a double and two triples.

Batting second: 1B Adrian Beltre
Don't worry, I didn't forget about Beltre. The now 37 year old is still a solid defender, but Nunez's youth, athleticism, and arm push him across the infield, which is probably better for his knees anyway. Despite his age and experience, Beltre still plays the game like he's 25, both ability-wise and fun-wise, especially with his antics with shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Batting third: RF Bryce Harper
The king of bat flips, Harper's antics were initially received as cocky and arrogant. But as he lived up to his phenom status, the attitude also toned down a bit, but he still plays with so much flair and excitement that it's impossible not to love watching him play.


Batting cleanup: DH Jose Bautista
If Harper is the king of bat flips, then Bautista is the supreme overlord. A veteran like Beltre, Bautista still wears his emotions on his sleeve. He cleared benches and divided baseball fans over his controversial bat flip in the ALDS against the Rangers in 2015.


Batting fifth: LF Hunter Pence
He's just weird.


Batting sixth: SS Javier Baez
Making himself a household name in the playoffs, Baez, as many on Twitter have stated, has taken Fernandez's torch and carried it on. He plays with so much heart and energy, every single at-bat and fielding chance is a must-watch.


Batting seventh: C Francisco Cervelli
Catchers: usually calm, cool, and collected, the ones who hold back the fights and try to prevent hitters from charging the mound. Cervelli is special though. When he first made it to the big leagues, his fist pumps, clapping, and screaming stirred up quite the riot. Now, it's simply part of who he is, and the Yankees and Pirates fans love him for it.


Batting eighth: 2B Brandon Phillips
The flamboyant Reds second baseman, Phillips is nearing the end of his career, but he still plays with the excitement and flair of a rookie. His antics, like his behind the back tosses, glove flips, and intentionally having baserunners slide into his rear end, may be a bit unnecessary and more reminiscent of Domingo Ayala, but it's made fans love Phillips for who he is.


Batting ninth: CF Carlos Gomez
Bat flips. Showboating. Slow trots around the bases. The dabbing. Gomez has his fair share of haters for his "sexy" style of play, especially when he struggles, but he consistently gives the game 100% of his effort and by all accounts, is a tremendous teammate who is a great clubhouse presence.


Backup catcher: C Stephen Vogt
Much more like a traditional calm catcher than Cervelli, Vogt has still drawn a cult-like following with his classic barehand-pine tar batting style, journeyman minor leaguer story, and his clutch hitting. He is one of the biggest personalities in the game with his imitations on MLB Network, as well as the fan favorite subject of the "I Believe in Stephen Vogt" chant in Oakland.


Fourth outfielder: OF Ichiro
No, Ichiro does not scream and dab and fist pump like the other guys on this list. In fact, you can make a case for him being the exact opposite, the way he plays with traditional respect for the game. But off the field he also has another side, with the profanity-laced pre-All Star Game speeches, learning Spanish solely for the purpose of talking trash, and this wonderful interview with Bob Costas. He may be a Japanese icon of discipline, but he is also one of the most fun players to watch of all time.


Backup infielder: 2B/3B Brett Lawrie
The true "bro", the heavily-tatted, "pepp mocha-crushing" Lawrie is one of the most energetic players in the game. Sure, he gets hurt a lot, and the aggressiveness makes him injury-prone and a free-swinger, but the energy and ferocity that he plays with is what makes him a fan favorite


Backup infielder: INF Munenori Kawasaki
While he isn't much of a hitter, Kawasaki is the epitome of spunk. He's a veteran of over a decade of pro baseball, yet he still plays with the same kind of fun as a Little Leaguer, while conducting some of the funniest interviews in the league.


Ace: RHP Bartolo Colon
Ok, so he isn't the best pitcher on this rotation. But as we all know, this list isn't about how talented someone is, it's about playing the game with energy and making baseball fun. Bartolo proves that anyone can succeed, including obese 43-year olds who would look more comfortable on the couch. Baseball Reference says his nickname is the "Big Sexy". I concur.


#2: RHP Chris Archer
Articulate and intelligent, as he demonstrated filling in the ESPN broadcast booth. His pitching knowledge is unreal, and so is the energy and excitement he pitches with. He's fun to watch now and will only get better in years to come.


#3: RHP Marcus Stroman
Opening Day starter? Check. Duke degree? Check. Amateur rapper? Check. Part-time fashion designer? Check. Marcus Stroman is not just a ballplayer, he is a personality. He even has a trademark catchphrase! As he says, height doesn't measure heart, and all 5'8'' of him shows that on the mound every time he pitches. 


#4: RHP Lance McCullers
Big fastball. Big curveball. Big emotions. McCullers pitches amped up every time he takes the mound. It's not uncommon to see him rock the Batman cleats on the hill, fist pumping and screaming as he strikes out the side.

#5: RHP Joe Musgrove
A teammate of McCullers', the rookie Musgrove is a command/control artist. Most of these guys are calm and collected, but Musgrove breaks these stereotypes, pitching with the same kind of energy as the guys above.

Closer: RHP Ken Giles
I promise, no more Astros pitchers after this. But Giles pitches with the most adrenaline out of anybody I've ever seen, with the triple digit heat and the post-lockdown yell.


Set-up man: RHP Derek Law
Even if the Giants took an early exit in the NLDS, none of us will ever forget Law's towel waving. Outside of being a great cheerleader, he's pretty good at pitching too.


Set-up man: LHP Sean Doolittle
Cut from a different cloth than many of the others, Doolittle is on here because of what he brings to the baseball community. He invited Syrian refugees over for Thanksgiving, runs a great Twitter account, and even played imaginary baseball with a little kid. Truly a great ballplayer but an even better human being.


Middle reliever: RHP Chad Qualls


Middle reliever: RHP Fernando Rodney
Rodney has always played with too much swagger, with the sideways ballcap and the shooting arrows. But it's worked for over a decade, and its why fans love him so much.


Middle reliever: RHP Jason Grilli
Old man Grilli has endured a lot over the course of his career, with two major comebacks, once with the Pirates and again with the Braves. But despite the adversity, one thing has never changed and it is his enthusiasm for the game.


Long man: LHP Jamie Moyer
Okay, I just nearly made a complete 25-man roster, with a full bench, rotation, bullpen, everything. I'm out of ideas. What the hell, why not, Moyer is the symbol of grit and determination, and he could probably still get hitters out today. Here he is beating out an infield single at age 49. Give this man some credit.

That concludes the 25-man roster of, in my opinion, the most fun-to-watch players in the game. Agree? Disagree? Leave suggestions in the comments for anyone I might have missed!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs!

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Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years and finally breaking the dreaded Billy Goat Curse. Talented from top to bottom, every player contributed to the Cubs playoff run, a testament to how deep the team really is. From the core of Bryant, Rizzo, and Zobrist, to the three-headed monster at the top of the rotation in Hendricks, Lester, and Arrieta, to emerging stars like Baez, Russell, and Contreras, to the role players who did the little things right like Almora, Montero and Ross, the championship was truly a team effort. And who can forget the heroics of Kyle Schwarber, coming off an ACL injury and missing the entire season to come up big in this seven-game series? Once again, congrats to the Cubbies, and here's to an even more exciting 2017!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pakistani Baseball Coming to Brooklyn
Tomorrow morning at 12 pm Eastern, the Pakistani national baseball team will take the field against Team Brazil in the Brooklyn Qualifier for the World Baseball Classic. For those of you who don't follow international baseball, Brazil has been a solid team for the last couple years and have some major leaguers, like Yan Gomes and Andre Rienzo. Pakistan on the other hand, is almost non-existent on the baseball stage. 

Pakistan is a small Muslim nation to the west of India, with zero baseball history or any players currently playing professionally anywhere in the world, and they are certainly the underdog in the four-team pool consisting of them, Brazil, Israel and the Great Britain. All three other teams have players in affiliated ball, with Israel boasting multiple players with big league experience. WBC rules do not state that one needs to hold a passport or have citizenship in a country to play, only to be eligible for citizenship in that country, making most Jewish players allowed to play for Team Israel. Pakistan, unlike the other teams, have not had any experience on big stages. The highest level of play have been against college players from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan several years ago in the Asian Games, although they have not fared very well against them, usually losing by 10-run margins. However, their most recent games have come against other baseball nations with little presence, such as India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Iran, and Pakistan has absolutely destroyed them. Scores like 20-nothing have not been uncommon.

Despite having little experience and no affiliated players, the Pakistanis are not completely punchless. Outfielder Fazal Ur Rehman hit a homer against Iran, and Ubaid Ullah has been one of their best hitters against weaker teams, although he admittedly has struggled against better competition. One hitter who has kept up solid hitting against the better Asian teams is catcher Umair Imdad Bhatti, as well as Mohammed Sumair Zawar, whom the New York Times described as a "sparkplug", and infielder Jawar Ali won Defensive MVP of the 2015 Asian Games. On the pitching side, rumor has it that Ihsan Ullah can hit 90 mph, and he has held his own against Korea, Japan, and even threw a decent outing against China.

Of course, none of these players compare to the stateside experienced players of the other three teams, all from much well-off nations with more money and resources. Pakistan doesn't even have a true baseball stadium in the country! But if there is anything the Pakistanis have, it's drive, desire, and the will to win. Even though they have not fared well against some of the better Asian teams, they have continued to battle their way into the #23 ranked spot in the world by the International Baseball Federation. They might not have the most talent, they have always battled and never given up. They play with so much heart and wear their emotions on their sleeves, and who knows, they might even surprise some people this coming week.

Go Team Pakistan!