MLB

The Seattle Mariners are not being talked about and they should be

The baseball world has been enamored by the Cubs historic start and what Bryce Harper does every at-bat and the Boston Red Sox offense. Those are storylines that jumped off the page to start the season, but people seem to be forgetting a little team out West the Seattle Mariners. It might be because they’ve underperformed when “experts” thought they should start winning, but in 2016 it seems they’ve taken that all-important step with the new regime and a healthy Robinson Cano. They are currently 28-19 first in the AL West.

A big key to the teams early success is that they are road warriors with an 18-7 record away from Safeco Field. Proving they are capable of winning anywhere. 

Another  key has been the return of Robinson Cano to his old self. He had been dealing with a virus most of the 2015 season that effected his play tremendously, but now he’s 100 percent healthy and it shows. He is hitting .294 with 14 home runs and 43 runs batted in! Fueling this Mariners offense along with his partner in crime Nelson Curz. Two all-stars back to back in a lineup is deadly! 

Lastly, the team made a change in the front office and it has paid of big time.

The “Dipoto” Effect

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The person to thank for the 2016 Seattle Mariners roster is general manager Jerry Dipoto the former general manager of the Los Angeles Angels has taken his talents a little further west and has built a serious contender. He has made many savvy moves in constructing this roster one move that is really paying off early for the Mariners is the acquisition of Leonys Martin he has added speed, defense, and a little pop to the lineup that already had Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz.

Martin is batting a respectable .262 with nine home runs in 20 runs batted in and has .336 on-base percentage helping set up the big boppers in the middle of the lineup. He also can go get them in the outfield helping his pitchers avoid bigger innings. Dipoto also was able to help the pitching staff with the acquisition of Wade Miley. He is 5-2 with 4.50 ERA, which isn’t great, but he has been a reliable innings eater that the Mariners were looking for.

Miley has pitched near or above 200 innings the last four seasons and that’s a rare quality for any pitcher in today’s version of baseball with bullpens being so dominant but it’s a luxury the Mariners are taking advantage of. Additionally, the reliever the team gave up in the trade Carson Smith underwent Tommy John surgery unfortunate for him and the Red Sox, but it makes this deal an even bigger win for the Mariners.

The most surprising part of the Mariners team for many is the consistency and success of their bullpen. They have been the sixth best bullpen in the big leagues, thus far in 2016 they have a 5-4 record with 2.62 ERA. Very impressive considering it’s the American League with the designated hitter and the powerful teams they face in in the American League West.

Dipoto shook things up at the back end of the game as well, signing closer Steve Cishek to a two-year $10 million contract this off-season. Cishek who struggled with the Marlins and Cardinals in 2015 has found his form again and has become one of the top closers in the American League and baseball. Converting 12 out of 15 save opportunities looking to have that confidence and swagger once again out on the mound. Dipoto also got Joaquin Benoit quality set up man that has experience as a closer creating depth with veteran guys that understand what it takes to come out of the bullpen in close games and shut the door.
Dipoto has tweaked every part of this Mariner team, but so far he’s gotten great production out of the moves he has made and seems to have a renewed confidence in himself after a messy departure from the Angels. Players aren’t the only ones that need  a fresh start, but sometimes management needs one as well. Dipoto has thrived with his new team.

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The Seattle Mariners are poised to continue the chase for the division title and a deep postseason run. It might be a few years later than people anticipated, but they’re here and here to stay. Their offense is led by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and don’t forget their staff ace King Felix! Sleep on them if you want, but they are just going to keep winning so baseball I would start to take notice of the team out West.

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Wisler putting it together for the Braves

The Atlanta Braves are wearing the struggles of the 2016 season the team currently has just 12 wins in their first 45  games to begin the season. No that’s not a typo, I wish it was, but it’s not! This is what happens when your farm system is bone dry and your big-league team has too many bad contracts and players are underperforming a teardown happens.

The positive thing about this whole situation is the team has been very active in revamping the organization from every angle doing everything in their power to get this team back to their winning ways. The team has made over 100 transactions since this process began in 2014.

The biggest improvement is the farm system, it was frankly nonexistent over the last few years because we were in a win now mode and we fell woefully short of the ultimate goal. Currently we have a system ranked in the top three in baseball with many top prospects that are knocking on the door of big-league stardom. Some of those prospects are in the big leagues right now and thriving I know that might be hard to believe with 12 wins in 45 games, but it’s true trust me!

Matt Wisler one of the key pieces that came back in the Craig Kimbrel Melvin Upton Jr trade. He has been awesome for this pitching staff and looks to be a centerpiece of the Braves starting rotation for many years to come. In 2016 he has a record of 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA.

Those numbers don’t indicate how well he’s pitched this entire year because he is dealing with an offense that couldn’t hit a beach ball right now if they tried. Wisler has pitched into the seventh inning for straight outings and into the eighth inning four times during that span. He has figured out that he belongs in the big leagues and he has that bulldog mentality that a starter needs every time he tows the rubber.

For every young baseball player there is an AW-HA type of moment where something clicks and they never look back. For Wisler I believe it was when he came out of the bullpen against Washington something happened and he just started attacking hitters and just said here it is try and hit it.

He’s taken that mentality ever since then and he is not scared of hitters making contact. Whereas before I believe the pressure of coming to a new organization and living up to the big expectations of being a top prospect caused him to try to hard and nimble around the strike zone because he wasn’t sure of himself and that got him in trouble with big-league hitters.

He is now oozing with confidence and that death stare on the mound showing opponents, he is not backing down at all. He also is willing to learn anything that will help them improve he talked to Braves legend Tom Glavine about his changeup and got some great tips that he’s brought out to the mound adding another weapon to his arsenal. At just 23 years old his willingness to learn and evolve as a pitcher shows commitment and determination to become a perennial All-Star and prove the Padres were wrong to part ways with him.

The team is no doubt wearing the results of the 2016 season in preparation for the future. The fact is, no one is enjoying how the season has played out so far, but slowly but surely we are seeing the pipeline produce great talent that will be in the big leagues for a long time. Watching  Wisler  develop and mature has been amazing to watch and I can’t wait for the other prospects to breakthrough and become mainstays in Atlanta for decades.

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MLB, Top 5 list

Top 5 Under-Rated moves that have paid big dividends early on 2016

The Major League Baseball season is in full swing and there have been quite a few surprising starts that have led to early success for their respective ball clubs. This off-season was filled with many splash free agent signings and big trades that have everybody talking. However, this off-season has also proved you don’t have to break the bank to improve your team. Here are my top five underrated moves that have paid off big time early on in 2016.

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Matt Latos

Matt Latos signed a one-year $3 million contract with the Chicago White Sox this off-season. Latos came in 2016 looking to prove he could still get major-league hitters out on a consistent basis. So far in 2016 he has rekindled the All-Star form he had while pitching in Cincinnati. He has a 5-0 record with 2.62 ERA in six games to start the season.

This hot start by Latos was very unexpected because last season was very forgettable as he bounced around between the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He struggled at every stop posting a very ugly 4-10 record with a 4.95 ERA Making it very easy to understand why teams were reluctant to take a flyer on Latos. The Chicago White Sox were willing to take a chance and now are reaping the benefits of this move.

The resurgence of Latos has lengthened a starting rotation led by Chris Sale combined Sale and Latos are 12-0 spearheading the teams great 22-10 start to the season. Baseball is very unpredictable and that in the best thing for struggling players because if they are able to get another opportunity they can write another chapter in their career and use the tough times as motivation for the future. That is exactly what Latos has done proving that a new situation and a little bit of confidence goes a long way in this game.

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Mark Trumbo

The Baltimore Orioles had been looking for a consistent outfield bat since they lost Nick Markakis before the start of the 2014 season. I think they finally found the answer in Mark Trumbo whom they acquired from the Seattle Mariners for catcher Steve Clevenger. 

Trumbo bounced around last season between the Arizona Diamondbacks where he became the odd man out in the outfield and the Seattle Mariners, which isn’t the ideal ballpark for a power hitter.

Trumbo has found the magic he had at the start of his career with the Angels. In a span of three years (2011-13) when he hit 95 homers and looked to be a staple in Angels lineup for years to come, but the Angels were looking to go a different direction to acquire pitching help at the time.

As I said, his career had tread water in the last couple years not being in the correct situation. This season in Baltimore he’s found a comfort zone with the team that relies on the home run ball to score, which is right up Trumbo’s alley it’s a match made in heaven for both he and the Orioles. He is hitting .325 with nine home runs and 24 runs batted in! He has lengthened a lineup that was already very scary with Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis.

Trumbo has fit in like a glove in this very potent lineup a pitcher’s nightmare. If you are a fantasy owner of Trumbo you’re salivating because you realize he has a lot of games left to play in Camden yards, which the hitters paradise. The Orioles have found the missing piece in the outfield with Trumbo for a very minimal price. These are the type of deals that make front offices smile and get an extra boost of confidence when they are deciding whether to take a flyer on a player that has had a couple of down years.

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Jean Segura

The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the busiest teams this off-season trying to rebuild into a contender quickly. They bolstered their rotation with Zach Grinke and Shelby Miller those moves haven’t necessarily worked out quite as well as Arizona envisioned to start the season, but both look to have gotten back on track. They also addressed the offensive side of the ball acquiring second baseman Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers.

This move was very savvy by the Diamondbacks because I think Segura’s value significantly dropped with two consecutive down years. Segura has dealt with personal tragedy as well, losing his infant son a year ago I believe that played a significant role in his baseball struggles over the last couple of years. He also has dealt with pressure in his baseball career, he was the key prospect the Los Angeles Angels sent to the Milwaukee Brewers when the Angels acquired Zach Grinke for the playoff run in 2012.

In 2016, Segura has seemingly become at peace with everything professionally and personally finding a comfort zone in Arizona. To start the season he has been one of the most consistent hitters across baseball. Hitting .336 with four runs and 16 runs scored. He has been a great table setter for the Diamondbacks lineup, putting pressure on opposing pitchers from the very beginning.

Segura is a sneaky five-tool player that doesn’t get enough notoriety for his defense and base running ability. At just 26 years of age, I believe Segura is hitting his stride and the Diamondbacks have found their second baseman for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if he will be able to keep this torrid offensive start, but he affects a game in multiple ways he will always have value when he is in the game. He is showing the All-Star ability he had in 2013 in Milwaukee and why he was a coveted prospect early in his career.

I love stories like his dealing with a ton of adversity at such a young age persevering through it all and finding great success. He’s a guy that you pull for no matter who your favorite team is. I hope he continues this success helping the Diamondbacks win in the present and future.

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Starlin Castro

For the New York Yankees not much has gone right to start the 2016 campaign. They have an 11-18 record and are currently in the basement of the American League East. The one thing that has worked out for the Yankees is the acquisition of second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs for pitcher Adam Warren.

Castro struggled for the majority of the 2015 season the former shortstop was moved to second base for the better defender in Javier Baez. He bought into Joe Madden vision and picked it up offensively at the end of last season. Castro was made expendable with the signing of Ben Zobrist this off-season. The Yankees needed to make this move to get younger it’s no secret they are handcuffed by injury prone players.

The Yankees acquired a player with a proven track record. At just 26 he is a three-time All-Star and were counting on a rebound type of year from Castro. He has certainly delivered early on in 2016. He’s hitting .296 with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in, which leads the team. He’s been the only constant in the Yankees lineup that has struggled mightily across the board with the exception of Castro. He quickly endeared himself to the Yankees faithful setting a record with seven RBIs in his first two games in pinstripes.

I think this is the best move for Castro’s career because he was expected to be the Savior for a struggling Cubs franchise and at the very beginning, it was all roses as he made three All-Star appearances as I mentioned. However, when the struggles began it became mental big-time at times he wasn’t set defensively and forgetting how many outs there were in an inning.

It was clear in 2015 Castro had lost his confidence and become stagnant until the latter part of the year when he got comfortable with his role. That being said, it was inevitable that the Cubs wanted to go a different direction than Castro, as they were very active in the free-agent market eventually landing Zobrist.

It seems to me, Castro is rejuvenated and excited to play in the Big Apple and be part of the Yankees history. The Yankees had a relatively quiet off-season for their standards, but the acquisition of Castro certainly looks like a home run right now.

Jon Jaso

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a knack for signing the forgotten guy and getting the best baseball they’ve played in years. This season they nabbed Jon Jaso on a two-year $8 million contract. Jaso has bounced around between Tampa Bay, Seattle and Oakland unable to find his footing with an MLB team until 2016 with the Pirates.

Jaso has provided stability at first base, a position that has been hard to find consistent play both in the field and at the plate. They’ve found their man; he is currently hitting .291 with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in out of the lead-off spot in the lineup. His production is making the lineup even scarier with Andrew McCutchen a yearly MVP candidate hitting behind him.

Jaso has also improved their infield defense considerably he is very sure handed over there, something that cannot be said for former pirate Pedro Alvarez, who became a defensive liability and the team couldn’t continue to sacrifice defense for offense. As we all know giving opponents extra outs is a cardinal sin in baseball. It was happening too frequently for the Pirates to stick with Alvarez. Jaso hasn’t made an error in 209.1 innings in 109 chances defense is no longer a problem at first base.

This is another example of the Pirates great ability to get every player to buy into the team’s vision and philosophy. Jaso is one of so many players that have revived their career in Pittsburgh because the coaching staff puts them in the best situation to succeed.

 Conclusion

 In baseball nothing is guaranteed, but these guys prove perseverance pays off!   Every single one of these guys has been through the ringer in baseball and understand what it takes to succeed. All they needed was a fresh start and a new situation. They are  all rekindling their All-Star ability, each playing a pivotal role in their teams solid start to 2016 at a very minimal price.

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