One of the best things about sports is if you have talent, you will be found. This has been the case early on in the Major League Baseball season unknown prospects taking the major leagues by storm helping their teams get off to solid starts. Many of these guys are journeyman and are easy to root for because of their tenacious attitudes not giving up on their dreams. Three guys that have stood out on this young season are Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, Houston Astros first baseman Tyler White and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.
The Colorado Rockies had a bit of a tumultuous off-season involving shortstop José Reyes, who was arrested on domestic violence charges and was placed on administrative leave until the issue is resolved. Thus opening up an opportunity for Trevor story. Story was selected 45th overall in the 2011 draft out of high school.
Troy Tulowitzki blocked his path to the show, but when the Rockies decided to start a semi-rebuild they dealt Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline last season. Couple that with Reyes’s legal troubles opportunity came knocking for Story. Story took the opportunity by the horns with an historic beginning to his career.
He is the first major leaguer in history to hit seven home runs in his first week creating the best first impression possible. Many Rockies fans are saying Tulo-who and at just 23 years of age, it looks like shortstop is taking care of for the Rockies for the foreseeable future.
Story has come back down to earth a little bit since the scorching hot beginning as expected as the scouting report begins to form on a hitter. That being said, he is still hitting .292 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs in his first 11 games in the show. He has turned a potential concern into a strength early on in 2016.
He has lengthened a pretty formidable lineup already and they play in a hitter friendly ballpark at altitude in Denver. If they are able to pitch any they could be knocking on the door of a playoff spot this year. That’s the great thing about baseball bringing up one young guy can rejuvenate a franchise and give a renewed sense of hope that they can make some noise in late September!
The Houston Astros have been looking for an answer at first base for a while now since Lance Berkman. I think they found it in the unlikeliest of players first baseman Tyler White a 33rd round selection in the 2013 draft out of Western Carolina where he walked on. He was kind of swept under the rug because the Astros have so many top-flight prospects that have quickly become household names in Major League Baseball. White was given the opportunity in spring training to win the job and he has done that and more. In his first 11 big league games he’s hitting a robust .412 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
This is a bad sign for the rest of major league baseball because if the Astros are able to get this type of production out of a 33rd round pick in addition to their superstars the Astros will be a perennial contender year and year out. The Astros fan base was very patient through several difficult years and now they’re seeing what can happen with great scouting and development and great positions in the draft.
Tyler White is the prime example of what can happen if you just give a guy an opportunity to showcase his skills. It also shows it doesn’t matter if you’re the first pick in the draft or the last if you perform you will get a chance to prove yourself at the highest level of competition.
White is proving all the doubters wrong and making the colleges and major league teams that passed on him say what if and at age 25 he has plenty left in the tank and in the American League he can DH from time to time to preserve his body. An amazing story that continues to get better and better for him, his family and the Astros.
The big concern for the St. Louis Cardinals coming into spring training was how they were going to replace outfielder Jason Heyward, who opted to sign with the Chicago Cubs this off-season. The answer has come from an unexpected place in 28-year-old rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker a guy who spent seven seasons in the minor leagues over 1000 games just waiting for that chance to prove himself. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2009 and eventually found his way to the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
He made the club as a spring training primarily as a bench player initially, but in the first two weeks he has forced his way into the everyday lineup for the Cardinals. He has showcased all of his tools hitting .419 with three home runs and seven RBIs he also has blazing speed and an above average arm in the outfield. His emergence has made the Cardinals forget about Jason Heyward a little quicker than anticipated.
He is the classic journeyman that comes out of nowhere and quickly becomes a pain for opposing teams to face. He’s like a Swiss Army knife pesky and annoying on the base paths in the batter’s box and has a pretty good arm that opponents have to prepare for. The St. Louis Cardinals had a knack for finding cast-offs from other organizations and turning them into solid major-league players for a long time Hazelbaker looks to be another example of that.
He’s been really exciting to watch I don’t think he will slump very much because of his foot speed, making them a threat for a long time to come. He just shows if you have the right attitude and believe in yourself your dream can come true.
Major league baseball’s first few weeks have had so many storylines these three guys have been at the top of the list. These are my favorite feel-good stories to start the year because it wasn’t just handed to them. They’ve had to go through the grind and uncertainty of life of a baseball player and just shown tenacity and hard work can pay off! Three guys we all can learn from when faced with adversity in all walks of life not just sports. I hope they all continue to have success because they are fun to watch!
The Major League Baseball postseason has been absolutely insane, thus far with monstrous homers, epic comebacks, shaky defense, and just for good measure some controversy. This postseason shows the growth and parity of America’s National Pastime three of the four teams advancing to the championship series didn’t make the postseason last year.
The Cubs, Mets and Blue Jays have flexed their muscles and proved they belong this year and beyond, but let’s not forget about the Kansas City Royals proving that last year’s Cinderella run was no fluke! Here are my top takeaways from an unbelievable opening round.
1 Starved fan bases have come out in droves to cheer on their teams
As I said earlier, three of the four remaining teams didn’t make the postseason last year and two of the teams have waited years for their next crack at October baseball. Although their teams have not experienced postseason in a while the fans are definitely not rusty and it’s been amazing to watch the excitement it gives me Goosebumps even though my team isn’t in the fight.
The Cubs were able to celebrate at historic Wrigley Field for the first time in their history absolutely amazing and breathtaking. The Blue Jays also got to celebrate for the first time since the Joe Carter game in 1993. The New York Mets also have waited a while this was their first postseason appearance since 2006; I guess we could say at least someone’s happy in New York. It’s really exciting to see new faces in the playoffs just making baseball even more fun to watch! Little shout out to the Houston Astros as well a magical run that came to a devastating end; however your fans were amazing and have a very bright future!
2 Pitching and defense win championships
One of the oldest sports sayings in the book came to the forefront in every matchup in the opening round. I’ll start with the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals in game two with the Cardinals already had a 1-0 series lead Kolten Wong a normally shorthanded second baseman booted a ground ball opening the floodgates for the Chicago Cubs to a five-run inning gaining all the momentum which propelled them to a series victory.
Also, it felt like every time the Cardinals grabbed any type of momentum it was taken away by the Cubs getting a timely hit off a relief core that was ranked at times number one in the league and consistently in the top five all year. Those miscues and the lack of bodies were too much for the Cardinals to overcome.
If you’re an Astros fan skip part, they had a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning of the potential clinching game for them. Then it just started to unravel with dink and dunk hits and a potential double play ball going off of Carlos Correa’s glove that would’ve stifled the rally. The Astros had no one they could rely on coming out of the bullpen and the relative inexperience that is what doomed them and I’m sure in the off-season they will address the back end of the game the way the series played out it will haunt them for a little while. With the Royals having a dominant bullpen turning it into a six-inning game that was the difference in a series. This will continue to be for the Royals, who look to continue to feed off the momentum they’ve created from last year and this.
We thought the Astros had the most devastating series loss nope, it was the other Texas team. First of all blowing a 2-0 series lead and a seven inning to forget it will be in the player’s nightmares forever three routine plays turned into errors leading to what might’ve been the biggest bat flip I’ve ever seen after a moonshot to give them the lead they never relinquished. The series also had a few brawls and unnecessary things from the fans, it had everything.
The last series was the New York Mets versus the Los Angeles Dodgers this one didn’t have the defense miscues, but the pitching was a big factor because the New York Mets were much deeper easily having four starters that you are very confident can go shut down opposing offenses. Whereas the Dodgers just had Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, who are the best in the business, but were exposed in game three when the Mets scored 13 runs. Thus, putting all the pressure on two guys just became too much even though they pitched very well and good enough to win. The Dodger offense wasn’t able to crack the code of the Mets young stars on the mound ultimately deciding the series.
3 The Cubs are here to stay
The Cubs were able to defeat their arch rival the St. Louis Cardinals in impressive fashion. Taking advantage of the conditions in the friendly confines absolutely tearing the cover off the baseball and coming up with timely hitting not allowing the Cardinals to gain any momentum after game one when Lackey shut them down.
Some other big takeaways I had from this series is the maturity of Jorge Soler going four for seven with a home run and the more eye-popping stats for him is he has walked six times his plate discipline has markedly improved since debuting because when he first came up, he would just wave at the breaking ball having noncompetitive at-bats and now he is a force and could be a big X-factor as continued to play. all the young sluggers to go with Soler; this offense looks like a force to be reckoned with. Another key I’ve seen is the unsung heroes coming out of the bullpen Trevor Cahill getting key outs in the postseason continues to build his confidence this was a guy that had a 7.73 ERA and now is getting meaningful outs in October very happy for him. Lastly, with Joe Maddon leading the squad anything can happen he’s been a wizard with this team.
4. Looking Ahead
The reality is this is just the beginning of the postseason and both of the upcoming series are going to come down to the smallest of margins. The Mets and Cubs battled seven times this season and the Cubs are 7-0; this may give the Cubs a little momentum, but its postseason and anything can happen. This series is strength verseses strength with the Mets young pitching and the Cubs young sluggers that flex their muscles against one of the better pitching staffs in the league clubbing home run after home run. I’m pulling for the Cubs because I’m a diehard Braves fan and can’t bring myself to cheer for the Big Apple but I’m hoping for a closely contested series that comes down to the wire.
In the American League it’s once again strength on strength as the Blue Jays have an offense that can bludgeon opponents, but the Royals have the best bullpen left and can turn it into a six inning game quickly. They also have the experience and momentum they’ve created both this year and last. I don’t really care who wins the series, but I think I’m leaning towards the Royals due to their dominant bullpen. I hope for a closely contested series and it’s very exciting, I must say hope it doesn’t come down to any more controversy, we’ve had enough to last us until next season.
This has been an amazing start to the postseason obviously I would rather the Atlanta Braves be in it, but it might be a blessing in disguise that they’re not this year because I might’ve already had a heart attack the way these series have unfolded.