Harper Making Curry-like Ascension to the Top

(Photo via washington.cbslocal.com)

We are only about 15 games into the regular season, but already, we are seeing numerous stars in the MLB come into the league and dominate. With former superstars like David Ortiz, Ichiro, Albert Pujols, etc. that are likely heading to their final at-bats in this league, the MLB is ready to usher in a new age of talent and excitement to the game. And no star shines brighter than Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Harper, 23, was first recognized back in his high school days in Las Vegas, Nevada. Even by age 19, scouts and executives knew that this player was something special. He ended up getting drafted by the lonely Nationals 1st overall in the 2010 draft. Since then, Harper has become the youngest position player to ever make an all-star team, was the 2012 rookie of the year, and became the youngest MVP winner in league history. In his breakout 2015 MVP season, Harper batted .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs. But his greatness doesn’t stop there…

Bryce Harper has started his 2016 season even stronger than last year. In just 13 games, Harper has hit 7 HR, to go along with 20 RBIs, and has led his Nationals to the second-best record in the league (they are only a ½ game behind the Cubs). Clearly, Harper is ascending at an incredibly fast pace. He looks poised for the same kind of performance leap that Stephen Curry saw from last year’s MVP season to this year.

Both Harper and Curry have become the faces of their respective leagues, and both are only going to get better. While Steph has transcended the way the game is played, with more emphasis on dribbling and outside shooting, Harper has also become a trailblazer for how our national pastime is played. He is adding a jolt to this slow-paced game, making it more exciting and enjoyable for both players and fans alike. He has taken the throne atop the rest of the league’s superstars, just like Curry did, bypassing King James in the process.

It might be too early to call, but Harper looks well on his way to another MVP title this year. What remains to be seen is if his Nationals squad has the pieces to contend for a title. They always seem to look good on paper, but tend to fizzle in performance near the end of the year, or just simply underachieve. But what I know for certain is that whatever the Nationals hope to achieve over the next few years, they will have to rely on the 23 year old prodigy to get them there.

– J. Yellin

Assessing Daniel Murphy’s Stock Value

(Photo via foxsports.com)

Unless you were visiting North Korea last October, you know who Daniel Murphy is. He had the greatest post season in recent history. Murph isn’t known to be a great power hitter, however he batted .328 while hitting 7 dingers. In 58 post season at bats, the man had 19 hits and scored 13 runs. Along with the home runs, the other stat that jumps out is his OPS of 1.115.

Murph had a postseason that probably gave Mr. October goosebumps, but the Mets didn’t offer him enough money to keep him in the Big Apple. Big mistake?

No. I think the Mets would make their fans on Wall Street proud. They got what they could from Murph and then dumped the stock at its peak. I don’t believe you can pay a player for what they do in a one month span, no matter how clutch it may be – just ask the Braves.

Murph was my favorite Met because he was just a grinder that played the game right. However, I can’t let my heart get in the way of what is really the right decision. Murphy will be good on the Nationals, don’t get me wrong, but we will likely never again see him play at the level that he did last postseason. He will fit well in that lineup and I hope he continues to find success.

The reason the Mets didn’t need to keep him is because they have young Dilson Herrera coming in.  Herrera played some games with the Mets last season and can fill the second base void perfectly for a much cheaper price than Murph. This is really important! The Mets need to keep costs as low as possible because their staff of aces are going to be coming off rookie contracts over the next 4 years.

Bottom line: The Mets made a tough business decision, but they made the right call.

– R. Ilardi

MLB Pretenders and Contenders 2016 Season

(Photo via arizonasports.com)

With the new season less than two months away, teams and players are getting ready to start camp after a wild MLB offseason. With many big name players switching homes and other core talents deciding to stay put, this offseason has altered the landscape of the league where the balance of power has shifted substantially. After watching the Kansas City Royals take over the 2015 season and win their first title since 1985, many teams knew that the deals they made in the offseason were crucial to their success in chasing down the current champs. Here is an early look at a few teams who are on that bubble of being a contender for the 2016 MLB Postseason:

 

Washington Nationals: This team will surely benefit from another year of Bryce Harper picking apart each pitcher he faces during the season. They were able to add a few valuable pieces to their offense, including former Mets 2B Daniel Murphy and CF Ben Revere who has racked up 365 hits in the last two seasons for the Phillies and Blue Jays.

While their offense looks more talented than last year, Nationals lost SP Jordan Zimmerman to the Detroit Tigers and fell short on the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes, who went back to the rival Mets on a 3 year, $75 million contract. While the Nationals do look like a team who can compete for a playoff spot in October, they still have a giant hill to climb if they want to stop the star-studded Mets rotation in the NL East.

Prediction: Pretender: With questions surrounding their bullpen depth and the strong competition in the National League, Washington will have to exceed current expectations if they want to compete in the postseason.

 

New York Yankees: There is no denying that this Yankees team has some questions surrounding them heading into this year. For one, they are still an aging team with 7 of the 9 batters in the lineup at leastt 30 years old, including Teixeira, Beltran, and A-Rod who are all over 35. Along with asking their older vets to produce the same way as last season, they will also have to overcome the injury concerns surrounding their pitching staff, most notably Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia.

However, I believe this Yankee team is shaping up to be a much different squad than they have been in the past two years. This was the first offseason where the Yankees did not actually sign a free agent, but they were still busy during the offseason making two low-risk, high-reward trades. They were able to trade mediocre pitchers and low level prospects for 2B Starlin Castro, who will instantly fill a need as their future second basemen, as well as flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman who transforms the Yankee bullpen into one of the best in MLB history.

Prediction: Contender: If the Yankees starters can stay healthy and serviceable throughout the entire season, they can rely on their three-headed monster bullpen of Miller, Betances, and Chapman to shut down opposing teams and close out a lot of games this year.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks: For the first time in a while, the D-Backs were big spenders during the offseason. Their biggest and most notable splash was former Royals and Dodgers ace Zach Greinke, who posted a 1.66 ERA with 200 strikeouts last season in LA. To go along with this move was acquiring starting pitcher Shelby Miller, who had put up very good numbers for the Braves early on last season, but overall struggled for victories while playing on such a poor team (6-17 record). However, both of these pitchers should be able to provide a solid 1-2 punch for a team with sub-par starting pitching for years now. We knew that they did not have many problems on the offensive side, anchored by NL stud 1B Paul Goldschmidt. So, this boost in the rotation should pay off big for the D-Backs success in 2016.

Prediction: Contender: Adding two impressive arms in the offseason to bolster a team who only ended last year 4 games below .500, I expect this team to make a huge leap in 2016.

 

Texas Rangers: The Rangers definitely surprised a few people last year, claiming the AL West division title even after a rocky first half of the season. They still have slugger Prince Fielder on the roster, along with role players such as Elvis Andrus, Shin Soo Choo, and Mitch Moreland. However, they did not make any big moves throughout the offseason, and they even lost one of their most consistent starters, Yovani Gallardo, to free agency. While I still expect the offense to produce in 2016, there are numerous questions surrounding the pitching staff.

While being ranked near the bottom of nearly every pitching statistic, this team needed to address these woes head on during the offseason, and they didn’t. And while some point to Yu Darvish’s return as a positive, I would be a little more cautious about his impact due to his injury concerns only being a year removed from Tommy John surgery.

Prediction: Pretender: I think that the Rangers will still have a pretty solid season, however, with the amount of depth in the American League and the lack of impactful acquisitions this offseason, I just can’t see them emerging from the pack like others can.

– J. Yellin

 

World Series or Bust?

(Photo via metsmerizedonline.com)

After losing to the Giants in 7 games in the 2014 World Series, the Kansas City Royals made the 2015 World Series a must win. They lived up to that statement when they beat a young and inexperienced Mets team in 5 games in this past World Series. This was a series in which the Mets had a lead in 4 of the 5 games, showing the resilience of this Kansas City team. The Mets are going into the 2016 season with the same mindset as the 2015 Royals: the World Series is a must win.

The Mets are facing a very similar situation as the Royals. They went into the postseason as the underdogs and took down every opponent in their way. However, both came up short in the World Series. But now it’s the Mets’ turn to do what Kansas City did, and show the league that making it to the World Series was no joke.

The biggest obstacle for New York heading into the season is the division rival Washington Nationals. The Nationals have made some moves this offseason, the biggest being the signing of Mets postseason hero Daniel Murphy. However, the Mets signed one of the biggest names on the market in Yoenis Cespedes, who completely changed the culture and dynamic of this Mets team last year when they acquired him. They also filled Murphy’s hole at second base with Niel Walker, added switch hitting infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to their lineup, and added left handed help in the bullpen. The Mets also have arguably the best starting rotation in the league that’s loaded with the some of best young arms in the game.

It’s going to be a season long battle between the Mets and Nats, but because of their success last season, the Mets look to be heading into 2016 as the favorites in the National League East. According to nypost.com, Mets manager Terry Collins said that with Yoenis Cespedes back in the mix, the Mets can win it all. According to Collins, it’s going to be World Series or bust for the New York Mets in 2016. So hopefully, for us Mets fans, we don’t see another season marked up as a bust.

– T. Ilardi