Tagged: Miami Marlins

Marlins on My Mind

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image:  nydailynews.com

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image: nydailynews.com

I have a special affection for South Florida.  My grandparents moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the early 1970’s and we would visit them, often taking a week or ten days in February.  After my grandfather passed away, we would go sometimes during Christmas and even braved a few days in the Spring or Summer there.  My grandmother has since passed but the condo still remains and is in our family’s name.  This explains why I like keeping tabs on the teams in the area, particularly the Miami Marlins.  It also may explain why that, in the middle of the crucial series between the Yankees and Orioles, I decided to spend a good portion of time watching an almost meaningless Marlins-Braves contest.  I say “almost” because the Fish have two of the most exciting players in all of baseball on their squad:  Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton.

The main reason why I had that game on last week is because it was the final start of the year for the 21-year old Fernandez.  If you didn’t hear about it, there was alot of other fireworks surrounding the game that involved the young right-hander. Nevertheless, Fernandez is someone special to watch. His fastball tops out at 98, which he was throwing in the seventh inning.  There is also this breaking ball that looks as though it breaks five feet in about a tenth of a second.  I know there will be considerable debate on whether he or Yasiel Puig will win Rookie of the Year in the National League.  I won’t have a problem if either wins.  That being said, here are Fernandez’s numbers:  12-6, 2.18 ERA in 28 starts, in 172 1/3 innings.  Here are even more impressive stats:  187 strikeouts, 111 hits allowed and 58 walks.  His 5.8 hits allowed and 9.7 K’s per nine innings is tops in the NL.  Incredible.

It is hard to believe that Stanton is only 25 years old.  Earlier this season, he became the ninth fastest player to reach 100 career home runs.  Although he didn’t play in a game until June, Stanton leads the Marlins in both home runs and RBI’s.  On this team, the fact that he has even had opportunities to get a pitch to hit is amazing.  In 2012, he led the National League in slugging at .608 and was second in home runs with 37.  Unfortunately, because of where he plays, Stanton is forever the subject of trade rumors.    Management insists he is not on the block but given their track record, can you really trust them?

If the Miami Marlins insist that they are committed to South Florida, they should sign Fernandez and Stanton to long-term deals before they are close to hitting free agency.  Stanton is under club control until 2017, Fernandez, 2019.  While the organization was killed when they made trades to dismantle their team, right now, those trades don’t seem to be so bad.  They received some nice pitchers in return which are forming the foundation of a nice rotation.  If the team sells off Fernandez and Stanton with no real attempt at keeping them long-term, then Major League Baseball needs to invoke its best interest of baseball clause and take the team away from Jeffrey Loria.

Jean Segura is the Best Shortstop Playing Right Now

Have you ever heard of Jean Segura?  If you haven’t, you are not alone.  The 22-year old shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers  is fighting to keep his team out of last place in the National League Central.  The Brewers have been beset by both injury (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart who is now done for the season) and ineffectiveness (ace Yovani Gallardo has an ERA hovering near 4.50).   Because of his market, nary a soul outside Milwaukee has been paying attention to this phenom as evidenced by his third place showing in the voting for the All Star Game at his position.  There is one other thing you should realize.

Learn the name Jean Segura.  He is just getting warmed up.  Image:  jsonline.com

Learn the name Jean Segura. He is just getting warmed up. Image: jsonline.com

Jean Segura is the best shortstop in the game right now.

Sure, you may clamor for the now oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki.  You may think it is the wonderous Hanley Ramirez, wonderful for his offense but wonder-awful for his many mental lapses on the field.   Give me Segura who is having an MVP-type season despite all of the issues surrounding his club.  He ranks in the top five in many National League offensive categories including hits (first with 113), batting average (fourth at .323) and triples (second with eight).  He also 12th in runs scored with 50.  When you combine his age and huge upside, there is no other shortstop I would want right now.  Think about the Los Angeles Angels who traded him last season to the Brew Crew for Zack Greinke and have nothing to show for it.  Erick Aybar is a nice player for the Angels but clearly it is Milwaukee who is benefitting tremendously from LA’s generosity.

The Brewers may want to think about locking up Segura long-term.  There is a certain team in New York that will be needing a shortstop in a couple of years.

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The Miami Marlins, the scorn of the offseason and a laughingstock as recently as two months ago, are playing some good baseball.  Since June 1st, the team is 18-15 and have taken a series from the St. Louis Cardinals, arguably the best team in the game as well as a series from the NL East leading Atlanta Braves.  The improvement of the team has coincided with the return of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who I am sure will be the subject of trade talk from now until the year 2015.  But there is also another explanation in the rise of the Fish.

Miami can boast some of the best young starting pitching in the game.  Start with Jose Fernandez, the 20-year old ace who is heading to the All Star Game and is one of MLB’s top rookies.  His record only stands at 5-5 but his ERA is an excellent 2.83 and has 99 strikeouts in 98/3 innings.  He has impressed so many people around the game, even Hall of Famer Don Sutton who recently spent some time with the Rookie.  Fellow rotation mates Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi have combined for 11 games started and an 2.42 ERA.  those three along with highly touted Henderson Alvarez have progressed so nicely that the team cut some more salary by trading long time Marlin Ricky Nolasco.

Once unthinkable, the Marlins have become respectable in such a short period of time.  There will be more growing pains for sure but I wouldn’t want to be a contender and have to face that staff late.  Stanton needs help on offense and is getting some from outfielder Marcell Ozuna and will be joined soon by super prospect Christian Yelich.  Miami could break .500 as soon as next year and become a Wild Card threat.  Now, all Jeffrey Loria has to do is finally keep a quality team together instead of taking it apart.

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Speaking of under the radar, the Tampa Bay Rays are just humming right along.  Every team in the American League East has gotten significantly more press than Tampa but yet here are the Rays once again having another fine season.  Right now, the team is 51-40, 3 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox and in position to capture the second Wild Card.

It seems as though we go through this every season.  We see the organization in some kind of cost cutting mode and then are forgotten about until you get to say, this point in the year and they are in the thick of the playoff hunt.  The trading of James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for gifted young outfielder Wil Myers has been a boon to the Rays’ offense.  Ace David Price just returned from the disabled list and hurled a complete game gem on Sunday.   After starting slowly, closer Fernando Rodney is back to his bow-and-arrow shooting ways.  Tampa is riding a six game winning streak, winning none of ten overall.

For the record I picked the Rays to win the AL East and go to the World Series this year.  Not too long ago, that seemed like another failed prediction.  Now, I don’t look so bad.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Dealing Astros Stockpiling for the Future

Jose Altuve Image: http://www.mlb.com

Well, we are right in the midst of the craziness that surrounds the July 31st MLB trading deadline.  You have your share of teams making moves to increase their chances of winning (you go Pittsburgh Pirates).  You have teams that are sellers because of an utterly disappointing season (that’s you, Miami Marlins).  There is one team that is wheeling and dealing now in the hopes of contending in two or three years.  I am fascinated by all of the moves being made by the Houston Astros.

Over the last four weeks, the ‘Stros have parted with Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brett MyersBrandon Lyon  and Wandy Rodriguez.  In return, Houston received a total of  15 players, most of them prospects.  Even if only five of them become regular players for the Astros,  2012 will be known as the Summer the team built their foundation for success.  In addition to all of the action on the big league level, Houston drafted Shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick in this year’s draft.  Correa at age 17 already has had 95 at bats in the Gulf Coast League.   First year General Manager Jeff Luhnow has an excellent background having spent nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The organization seems to be in capable hands with Luhnow in charge.  Houston already has budding stars in Jose Altuve and Lucas Harrell.  The drafting of Correra and the stockpiling of prospects indicates that this team is feeling giddy about its short and long-term future. 

In 2013, the Astros move into the rugged American League West.  The well-regarded organization of the Rangers and the young superstars of the A’s and Angels will pose problems for the newcomers.  However, I expect Houston to contend very shortly and give those guys a run for the money at this time next season. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Cameron Maybin Slowly Becoming Noticed

His team plays in San Diego and is 17 games under .500. That is two reasons why Cameron Maybin  has flown under the radar.  Another is  that .221 batting average.   Still only 25 years old, the Padres still think he has tremendous upside and showed it with a 5 year, $25 million dollar contract extension through 2016.

Maybin was originally drafted by the Tigers in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft out of Roberson High School in Asheville, NC.  He (along with Andrew Miller) were the centerpieces of the deal for the Marlins in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit.  Maybin was the starting Center Fielder for Florida in 2009 but was sent down to the Minors only a month into the season.   Surprisingly, the Marlins quickly ran out of patience with Maybin and shipped him to San Diego after the 2010 season. 

In his first season with the Padres, Maybin was selected as the team MVP in a season which he stole 40 bases and was named the San Diego nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, given to the top hitter in each league.  Maybin’s power output of 9 home runs and 40 RBI’s in 2011 was slightly skewed because he plays in spacious Petco Park.  His value is more on defense because he plays Center Field in San Diego, where he is asked to cover an awful lot of ground.  He is on pace to at least match his 2011 offensive  numbers and he continues to produce highlight reel plays every night.  Although Maybin has only four homers in 2012, he hit one almost 500 feet earlier this season in Arizona.  Check out the mammoth blast here

Cameron Maybin has all of the tools to remain one of the building blocks as the Padres continue to rebuild.  Considering he was once the 10th pick in the country, you have to believe he will eventually be a .260 hitter.  That along with his blazing speed and superior defensive skills will make him one of the best Outfielders over the next ten seasons.

Follow me on Twittr @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

MLB Highlights (In Case You Missed Them)

It has been a while since this blog has featured some of the best defensive plays Major League Baseball has to offer.  I say defense because most offensive highlights these days are home runs, guys staring at their home runs or end of game moments that range from a walk to a grand slam and all finish with a sea of home team players streaming onto the field.  Then again, maybe we can get a 450 foot blast in here once in a while, can’t we?

On to the clips.

Josh ReddickReddick was plucked by Oakland in a trade that sent the now injured Andrew Bailey to Boston.   He has been the A’s best offensive player so far which resulted in his being selected to this season’s All Star Game.  However, the one play that stood out for me was this laser he fired during a game in April that reminded me of Ichiro’s throw in 2001 that is still shown today.  Click here and watch this cannon. 

Mike Baxter-MLB Network recently ran the Top 75  Plays in the First Half as voted on by Facebook users.  I watched the last 35 minutes of this program and it is incomprehensible that this catch to preserve Johan Santana’s  no-hitter did not make the top 44.  Baxter literally sacrificed his body on this play as he was taken off the field and hasn’t been seen since then.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch it now. 

Brandon PhillipsDouble plays are fun to watch.  Watching Brandon Phillips play defense is fun.  So why not combine the two?  Phillips is a magician in the field and a pretty fine offensive player as well and is a major reason why the Reds are in first place at the moment.  Here is one of the many plays that make the 2nd baseman a nightly highlight reel.

Cameron Maybin-Like Phillips, Maybin is a bet to make the highlight reel every night.  He is the perfect guy to play in the vast outfield of Petco Park.  His glove and now his bat are showing people why the Marlins wanted him when they traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.  What follows is one of the best catches that will be made in 2012.  Click here and enjoy the play calling of the great Dick Enberg

I hope you enjoyed the videos.  There are countless others out there but these are the ones that stick out for now.  I’ll get some more to you soon.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Interleague Play is Done for 2012. Will Anyone Miss It?

Image: New York Post

We are now officially in late June as Major League Baseball’s annual Clash of the Americans and Nationals  AKA Interleague play is now complete. Outside of the Yankees, who once again tortured the Mets and their fans, will anyone really miss this yearly excercise of mixing up the leagues?  Oh wait, next season there will be an Interleague game every day with the Astros moving to the American League West.   Yay!

Yes, I understand the buzz the game receives when it’s Yankees-Mets, White SoxCubs and DodgersAngels.   But doesn’t it seem all of the other contests are just normal games?  And why do we keep stats for Interleague play as if they are their own categories like regular season and postseason statistics?  Is it something special to be the career leader in home runs for Interleague games?  What I am trying to say is, after 15 years or so of this, the novelty has worn off.  Unless the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs are coming to town, attendance does not spike when say, the Rays come to Miami as opposed to when the Phillies visit the Fish.  Most fans (like me) would just as soon see more games against division foes, games that mean a lot more at the standings than the alleged payoff at the gate.

If MLB wants Interleague games mean something, put a series like Mets-Yankees at the end of September.  Can you imagine a scenario such as David Wright homering off David Robertson  to send the Mets to the playoffs and the Yankees home?  That would put some real meaning into something that has become almost an afterthought.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Don’t Mess with Texas; Rangers Will Find Out Third Time is the Charm

Yes, I know the Yankees just finished  beating up the Rangers 7-4 in Arlington, the first of three games in the Lone Star State between two of the American League favorites.  I don’t care if New York  sweeps this series, it is Texas who is the better team.  They are after all, 13-4 having just defeated the Tigers three out of four in Detroit.  And it is my belief that after two straight World Series defeats, the Rangers will bring home the first Championship in club history.

My favorite moment of this season took place this past Saturday.  My youngest was having nap issues so I decided to rock him a little bit around 1:15 that afternoon.  The 1 PM games had just started; the first game I spotted was Tigers-Rangers.  At that point it was 4-0 Texas, still batting with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning.  Yes, that is how good this Rangers ballclub is.  If they don’t club you to death, it’s their pitchers working quickly and efficiently and before you know it, you lose 6-2.  Before tonight’s game, the pitching staff had surrendered five runs in a game only once.  Meanwhile, the offense has reached double digits four times already. 

The Rangers also seem to be a team that has been slighted despite their accomplishments since the beginning of 2010.  After they lost that season’s World Series, people wondered if they had the toughness to get back.  They proved it the next year coming within one strike of the Championship.  The media then swooned as other clubs made splashier offseason headlines, most notably the Angels, Marlins and Tigers.  Coming out of Spring Training, the question centered around Texas’s ability to bounce back after such a crushing defeat in the World Series.  I think we know how that was answered.  It is about time people stop doubting them and believe that this is one of the best (if not the best) organizations in the game.

Wake up people.  The center of the baseball universe is not in New York and Boston.   While those teams may be good, the track record of the Rangers over the past two seasons and change indicates they are the class of the American League.  Come November, these Resilient Rangers will have one more name to be called:  Champions. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com