Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Philadelphia Phillies 2017 Preview and Prediction

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Maikel Franco debuted in 2015 and hopes to push the Phillies forward

The Phillies will pack up their gear following their final Grapefruit League game on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. It will then be time to say goodbye to Clearwater until next February.
Equipment and personnel will then begin heading north for next Tuesday’s 2017 season opener at Cincinnati against the host Reds.
The lineup taking the field next week at Great American Ballpark should look very different from the one that will come to Florida next winter.
The Phillies rebuilding program is largely winding to a close. In the 2015 season, a Rule 5 draft pick named Odubel Herrera became a spring sensation. He would become the first piece of the longterm lineup rebuild.
In 2016, Maikel Franco took part in his first full season in the big leagues. Tommy Joseph was promoted in May, and platooned at first base with the now departed Ryan Howard. He will get his own first full-time shot this year.
Those three are the only players likely to be in the 2017 Opening Day lineup who have any shot at being a part of the next winning Phillies team. Instead, for a fifth consecutive season, fans of the Fightin’ Phils will be watching a ‘placeholder’ lineup. At least to begin the season.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Major League Baseball 2017 Predictions

Opening Day in MLB is always the single most sure sign that spring has fully sprung. Ballparks across America will be filled to capacity in the coming days.
At last, Major League Baseball returns for the 2017 season.
Over the next seven months, excitement and drama that we can’t even imagine today will take place. 
While we cannot foresee the details, we can take a stab at a few predictions.
Some things are fairly certain based on the 2017 MLB season schedule. For instance, we know that the first game is scheduled to begin at 1:10pm EDT on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Yankees take the field against the host Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Since ‘The Trop’ is a domed stadium, chances of weather interruptions are almost non-existent.
Chris Archer of Tampa Bay is scheduled to throw the season’s first official pitch. Digging in at the plate as the Yanks’ leadoff hitter will be left fielder Brett Gardner.
Later that same day, two more games are scheduled to take place. The San Francisco Giants send ace lefty Madison Bumgarner to the hill. He will face the NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks and their ace righty Zack Greinke. That game is scheduled to start at 4:10pm EDT at Chase Field in Phoenix.
The day’s action is scheduled to wrap with an 8:35pm EDT classic. The defending world champion Chicago Cubs visit their arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Phillies Legend Dallas Green Dies

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced the passing of an organizational legend. Dallas Green (82) had been a player, scout, manager, and front office executive with the team.
The Phillies released an official statement announcing the sad news
“We mourn the passing of Dallas Green. The Phillies have lost a great man and wonderful friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
As a young pitcher, Green was 6’4″ and possessed a fastball nearly as big as his height. He was signed for the Phillies prior to the 1955 season out of the University of Delaware by legendary scout Jocko Collins.
Making his big league debut in 1960, Green would pitch in the big leagues for eight seasons. For the first five of those years, Green helped the Phillies go from doormats to near-pennant winners.
Green went 20-22 over 167 games in that stretch, making 44 starts. He compiled a 249/186 K:BB ratio in allowing 602 hits over 528 innings.
Green would appear in parts of three more seasons, one each with the Washington Senators and New York Mets. He then closed out his playing career with the Phillies in 1967.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WBC 2017: Who Are The Netherlands?

When the 2017 World Baseball Classic began, the team representing The Netherlands was certainly not considered to be among the tournament favorites.
After all, we’re talking about The Netherlands. You know, the Dutch?
Isn’t that Holland? When you think of them, wouldn’t you tend to think of windmills, dikes, tulips, and chocolates more than hardball?
On the grander world stage, The Netherlands that most people think about refers to the main constituent nation in Western Europe.
They may be one of the smallest nations in Europe, but The Netherlands are tremendously influential. For instance, it is home to Europe’s largest seaport at Rotterdam.
At The Hague, the nation is a host city to the United Nations, and home of the World Court. The official capitol city of Amsterdam is one of the most populous regions in Europe, and gave us the likes of Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh.
But the nation of The Netherlands is also a “kingdom”, a constitutional monarchy which also encompasses countries of the Caribbean region, including Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten. They are part of an area often referred to as The Netherlands Antilles.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Predicting the Phillies Opening Day Roster

Club management with the Philadelphia Phillies, itself the object of much change, has spent the past couple of years shaping the organizational talent for the future.
Some of that young talent has already reached the big leagues. This is most especially true on the pitching staff.
In the everyday lineup, the very best prospects in the Phillies system are nearly ready for their first full-time shot. The 25-man roster that opens the 2017 regular season in just over two weeks is going to look very different by the end of the season.
But let’s not get that far ahead of ourselves. This will be a look not at the Phillies of July or September, but the club that will travel to Cincinnati for that 2017 Opening Day.
The players who begin the season in a Phillies uniform include a number who are on borrowed time. That is because the club has intentionally signed a few players specifically with the knowledge that they will likely (hopefully?) step aside later in the year as the prospects become fully ready.
One major caveat here is that the players listed remain healthy. A minor injury at the start could delay a player who would normally make it. This would provide an opportunity, even if temporary, to someone else. But injuries aside, this is how I see things breaking with Pete Mackanin‘s club at this point.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Do-or-Die for Team USA in World Baseball Classic

To borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, for Team USA it’s a case of “deja vu all over again” in the 2017 WBC.
The disappointing performance of American teams over the history of the World Baseball Classic is well established. Team USA did not take home a medal from any of the previous incarnations of what has become baseball’s top international competition.
After a tough 5-4 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday night, the American team is once again facing disappointment. They now take on the defending champions from the Dominican Republic on Saturday night in San Diego in a win-or-go-home game.
US skipper Jim Leyland will send Danny Duffy to the mound in this pivotal matchup. The talented lefty from the Kansas City Royals was dominating in his previous start. Duffy struck out seven, walked none, and allowed just two hits in four shutout frames against Team Canada in the opening round last Sunday.
Duffy was a teammate of the late Yordano Ventura with the Royals. The young pitcher was killed in a tragic auto accident this off-season, and he and Duffy were close. Ventura was Dominican, and his jersey will hang in the DR dugout during tonight’s game.

Who Are These Federal Judges?

Judge Derrick Watson of the 9th Circuit Court
Much frustration has been visited in recent weeks upon those who support President Donald Trump in his efforts to better secure our nation.

The source of that frustration has been certain federal judges, who have squashed the President's executive orders to ban immigration to the United States from particular nation's deemed as security risks.

Many are wondering: who are these judges? How did they get their jobs? Can they be replaced? Why do they decide the issue, instead of the Supreme Court?

A quick primer of the U.S. federal judicial system is in order to help fully understand the issue. Congress has established 13 courts of appeals, divided up based on geographical regions of the country. These are often referred to as the "circuit courts" in the media.

It is the job of the circuit courts to hear appeals of civil and criminal issues brought before them. This is what has been happening with the President's executive orders. Attorneys General in state's that disapprove of the orders are appealing their legality to the circuit courts in their geographical area of the country.

For instance, the Attorney General in Hawaii appealed the President's most recent immigration executive order to the Ninth circuit court, which covers the western region of the United States. 

The Ninth is generally known to be one of the most historically liberal circuits as to their rulings. It is also the largest circuit court, covering some 20% of the U.S. population. It is divided, as are each of the other circuits, into smaller geographical "districts", which oversee any actual federal trials.

The 13 circuit courts do not actually hold trials. Instead, they hear arguments in the form of "briefs", the arguments presented by lawyers for both sides of any matter brought as an appeal based on decisions in the lower courts. The circuit court judge hearing the case then makes a ruling.

Those circuit court rulings are not necessarily final. Any party not satisfied can appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) by asking for a "review" of the case.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Indians Shortstop Francisco Lindor Taps Superstar Potential

The box score for Game 7 of the 2016 World Series reveals that Francisco Lindor produced nothing in five plate appearances for the Cleveland Indians.
The collar that was hung around the Tribe’s three-hole hitter in that decisive game of the Fall Classic by the Chicago Cubs pitching staff certainly stings.
Lindor did reach on an error with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the first inning. That would prove his personal offensive highlight of the night.
In the bottom of the third inning, Lindor came to bat with two runners on base and one out. He flew out to left field against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks with Cleveland trailing 3-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lindor was at the plate against Jon Lester when the Cubs lefty uncorked a wild pitch that allowed two runners to score.
That play cut the Indians deficit at that time to a 5-3 margin. But Lindor then struck out on a full count pitch to end the inning.
Trailing by 6-3 in the bottom of the eight inning, the Indians would rally to dramatically tie the game on Rajai Davis‘ two-out, two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman. But Lindor wasn’t involved in the rally. He had accounted for one of the outs, grounding weakly to short to lead things off.
With two out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, the game still knotted at 6-6, Lindor flew out to right against Chapman.
That would be Lindor’s final chance to affect the outcome. The Cubs would score twice in the top of the 10th. The Tribe would respond with one in the bottom, and put the tying run on base, but their rally and title hopes would fall just short.

Champion Cubs May Have Next Young Star in Albert Almora

The Chicago Cubs ended the more than 70-year old “Curse of the Billy Goat” by powering their way to a 2016 World Series championship.
A group of talented and youthful position players were keys in making that title possible. 
There were a pair of 26-year old players serving as virtual senior citizens in first baseman Anthony Rizzo and right fielder Jason Heyward.
In left field, 24-year old Jorge Soler and 26-year old Matt Szczur saw a lot of playing time. 23-year old Javier Baez was a super-utility guy, playing all over the diamond. The shortstop was 22-year old Addison Russell.
23-year old Willson Contreras largely took over the catching duties by the second half. Another 23-year old, Kyle Schwarber, missed the entire regular season due to injuries. But he returned in time to influence the postseason.
The featured player was 24-year old third baseman Kris Bryant. All he did was take home the NL Most Valuable Player award after winning NL Rookie of the Year the previous season.
On June 7, a rookie outfielder made his debut. Albert Almora would stay with the team through mid-July, then return in September. He made enough of a positive impression that he was kept on the postseason roster by manager Joe Maddon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Brock Stassi Making a Spring Bid for Phillies Roster Spot

The Philadelphia Phillies have been giving young prospects an opportunity to play over the last couple of seasons as their rebuilding program got underway.
Those opportunities have continued this spring as some of the club’s top prospects begin to make a real push for regular big league roles. This includes highly rated shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielders Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, and catcher Jorge Alfaro.
But it has been a far less heralded prospect who has emerged to steal the spotlight during the 2017 Grapefruit League season down in Florida.
Brock Stassi is a 27-year old first baseman. He was the club’s 33rd round selection in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Nevada-Reno.
Stassi has spent the ensuing six seasons battling his way incrementally up through the Phillies farm system.
In those six minor league seasons, Stassi has hit for a cumulative .263/.347/.390 slash line. He has produced just 42 home runs in more than 2,200 minor league plate appearances.
The left-handed hitter is limited to first base, so his only path to a regular big league role is with his bat. To this point, he simply has not hit enough to be considered a true prospect. As a result, MLB does not rank him among the Phillies current Top 30 Prospects.

Oakland A's Organization is in Desperate Shape

As recently as the 2014 season, the Oakland Athletics were legitimate contenders in the American League. The A’s finished 88-74 that season, good for second place in the AL West standings.
The club had taken the division crown the two previous seasons. In 2014 they were again in the postseason after capturing an AL Wildcard berth.
In that 2014 American League Wildcard Game against the Kansas City Royals, the A’s took a seemingly comfortable 7-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning.
The Royals rallied for three in the 8th and a run in the 9th to send the contest into extra innings. In the top of the 12th, Oakland scored to regain the lead. But Kansas City fought back once again, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame for a dramatic walkoff victory.
The loss would prove deflating for the entire Oakland organization, which has not recovered. The following year, the A’s sank to the bottom of the American League standings. Then a year ago, the A’s again finished at the bottom of the West Division.
Just three weeks ago, Baseball America released their annual MLB Organizational Talent Rankings. Oakland finished just 17th in all of baseball, which is actually their highest finish in at least the last seven years.
Unfortunately for the team and their fans in the Bay area, the Oakland A’s have fallen, and they can’t get up. At least not any time soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lewis Brinson Knocking on the Door in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Brewers finished 16 games below the .500 mark in the 2016 season. That record left them a distant 30.5 games behind the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs.
Even the National League Wildcard spots were nowhere in sight. The Brewers were 14 games behind the playoff slots. It was a third losing campaign in the last four seasons for the Brew Crew.
While the Brewers have not been contenders for a while and don’t figure to contend in the coming 2017 season, there is hope for the future.
The Milwaukee farm system was ranked 6th by Keith Law in his most recent MLB organizational rankings back in January. The organization came in 8th at Baseball America in their rankings released three weeks ago.
In his evaluation, Law highlighted two primary reasons for the Brewers high organizational ranking: strong recent drafts and good returns in trades.
“The Brewers’ rebuild has been overshadowed by the presence of three contenders in the division, but they’ve done a good job restocking the system in the last 18 months with two strong draft classes and huge returns on trades of veterans.” ~ Keith Law

Monday, March 13, 2017

Giancarlo Stanton Enters His Prime

For the Miami Marlins, the 2016 season was one that was full of promise for the future. The Fish finished at 79-82, good for third place in the National League East Division standings.
After an 11-1 pounding of the Philadelphia Phillies on July 27 in the middle of a long homestand, the Marlins sat at 55-46. That win left them in control of one of the two NL Wild Card spots and just four games out in the division race.
The club would stumble home to a 24-36 finish, but there was much to provide hope for better days ahead. A trio of mid-20s outfielders are a big piece of that hope for a bright future.
24-year-old left fielder Christian Yelich took home his first career Silver Slugger Award. 25-year-old center fielder Marcell Ozuna made the National League All-Star team for the first time.
However, the most dynamic of this group is 26-year-old right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. The former “Mike” didn’t win any awards or make the All-Star squad (though he did capture the Home Run Derby crown) in 2016.
But ask any opposition pitcher, and they will tell you that Stanton is the bat they fear in the Miami lineup. His prodigious home runs are already the stuff of modern baseball legend.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

WBC 2017: Team USA May Have Their Best Chance Yet

The WBC is now underway for the fourth time. What has become the premier international baseball competition has already included drama in opening pool play games of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Team USA won their opening game on Friday night in dramatic fashion. The Americans downed Colombia by a 3-2 score on Adam Jones‘ walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning.
That victory and a 1-0 start in the standings was vital. In addition to Colombia, the Americans opening pool play includes the always tough Canadians, as well as the defending WBC champions from the Dominican Republic.
The United States will now meet the Dominicans in a battle of behemoths on Saturday evening at 6:30pm. The game will be televised on the MLB Network.
The USA will then wrap pool play with a Sunday 7pm game against Canada, also available on MLB Network. If the US wins both games, they advance to the second round. If they win just one, they likely still advance. Lose both, and they will likely find themselves in a tie-breaker game on Monday evening.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Phillies Should Retire '08 Heroes Numbers

The Philadelphia Phillies franchise has been playing baseball for 134 seasons now. The team first began using uniform jersey numbers in the 1932 season.
Over the 85 seasons in which the Phillies have issued uniform numbers, just five men who played for the team have received the honor of having their uniform jersey number retired.
Those five legendary Phillies players and their retired numbers are, in numerical order: Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), and Robin Roberts (36).
Along with the rest of Major League Baseball, the Phils have also retired uniform #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
At some point in recent decades the club developed a formal policy on retiring numbers. The Phillies would only retire the uniform numbers of players who were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Nine men spent at least five seasons with the Phillies, subsequently reached the Hall of Fame, but do not have a uniform number retired.
These nine all appeared with the club prior to the introduction of uniform numbers:Harry WrightSam ThompsonEd DelahantyBilly HamiltonNap LajoieElmer Flick, Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander, Dave Bancroft, andEppa Rixey.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Phillies Five Key Developing Youngsters

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Aaron Nola could become a future ace for Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies have spent the last two to three years rebuilding the farm system, and introducing youngsters into both the lineup and pitching staff.
This upcoming season should prove to be one of major transition for the club. Five of the eight players in the everyday lineup may not be around, at least not as starters, the next time the team is a contender.
The 2017 starting pitching rotation will feature at least two arms who similarly are not expected to be around when the Phillies again challenge for an NL East crown.
There are a number of young, developing players and near-ready prospects who have a chance to impact the club for years to come.
Five players in particular seem to be keys to any chance that the club might have to legitimately challenge for a .500 season as soon as this year.

One of those players is out on the mound, a former number one draft pick. Two of the players roam the outfield, trying to break through from highly-regarded prospect status. And two young left-side infielders have as much developing talent as anyone in the organization.

Click below to move through each set of players: