Atlanta has invited a handful of top prospects to spring training to let them show their stuff. The first prospect is Jason Heyward. Heyward is a 6’5” hitting machine. He is Atlanta’s top prospect and is ranked #3 in all of minor league baseball.
In 120 games at A Rome last year he hit .323 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. His statistics don’t show but he is rumored to have tremendous power. He is having great success while only being 19 years old. Heyward will most likely start the season at AA Mississippi but it should be fun to watch him hit against major league pitching.
He may not make the major league roster but the experience of spring training will do him good. Hopefully he will show a little more power at AA.
Atlanta’s 2nd ranked prospect is Tommy Hanson. Hanson is the only pitcher to be named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Hanson toyed with fellow top prospects during the AFL and could be fighting for the 5th spot in the starting rotation. Hanson has only pitched at AA but has shown such dominance that he could be major league ready. Hanson is a huge 6’6” power pitcher that struck out 114 batters in only 98 innings at AA Mississippi. His fastball can reach the upper 90’s and he has a knee buckling curve ball. He needs to bring those with him if he will make the major league roster.
Freddie Freeman is 4th on Atlanta’s prospect list and is 38th overall. Freeman is a tall first baseman that had an even better year than Heyward. In 130 games last year at A Rome, Freeman hit .316 with 18 home runs and 95 RBI. Freeman has also shown he can find the gaps as he crushed 33 doubles and 7 triples in his first full season.
Freeman and Heyward could be a home run mashing duo in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup in a few years. Both will start the season at AA Mississippi and could move up the ranks of the minors league together. Both should be about ready for Atlanta in 2010.
Jordan Schafer, Atlanta’s #3 ranked prospect, has been criticized for his suspension for suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. Here is an interesting article that compares the 2007 or “steroid” season with last year’s season. The statistics show he arguably got better after he “got off the roids.” Schafer will be competing for the starting center fielder job as soon as spring training starts. Schafer is just as good if not better defensively than Gregor Blanco and Josh Anderson, but he provides power that both Blanco and Anderson lack. If Schafer wins the job he would most likely be placed at the top of the lineup followed by Yunel Escobar in the #2 spot.
Despite the success in the starting rotation Medlen may have to move back to a middle reliever as Atlanta is stocked with top starting pitchers. He did well in the Arizona Fall League which is traditionally known as a hitter’s league, but it doesn’t look like he will make the team as Atlatna already has a strong bullpen.
It is the eve of the Super Bowl and the clock is winding down before kickoff. The player’s nerves are running wild and emotions are running on high.
On one side you have the ridiculously good Steeler’s defense against Arizona’s high powered air attack. Match ups could be the key to the game. Who will win? Who will be the MVP? Here are the keys to the game.
Play calling and match ups will be the key to winning the game on both sides of the ball. I’ll break them down for you.
The first key match up on defense for the Steelers is Ike Taylor vs. Larry Fitzgerald. Taylor must contain Fitzgerald for the Steelers to win. If Taylor can keep Fitzgerald in front of him then he can be contained. Fitzgerald hurts defenses by going over the top. There is no doubt in my mind that Taylor will have help over the top by Ryan Clark, but Clark is also crucial in run support. If Taylor holds Fitzgerald under 100 yards or out of the end zone the Steelers have a good chance of winning.
The second key match up is Kurt Warner vs. James Farrior. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley get the press but Farrior is still the best linebacker on that team. If Farrior comes out of the game the captain of the defense is gone. All the plays go in through Farrior. Farrior spends a lot of time spying the QB so Warner needs to watch him. Farrior needs to spy and cut off Warner’s short throwing lanes.
Now the match ups for Arizona’s defense. Antrel Rolle vs. Hines Ward. Rolle must prevent the short passes and yards after the catch from Ward. Ward may not be at full health but must be respected. Pittsburgh has proven they have other options outside of Ward but he is still the primary target on third down. Third downs will be very key in this game.
Next is Ben Roethlisberger vs. Adrian Wilson. Wilson is Arizona’s version of Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu. Wilson can be a free runner at times and sack the QB. Roethlisberger needs to recognize where Wilson is in the defensive set to make the correct audible. The same can be said about Warner recognizing Polamalu. Wilson can also make plays in the defense and become a big hitter over the top. Arizona doesn’t have the big names Pittsburgh does on defense but still has very good play makers.
Overall keys to the game for the Cardinals is forcing Roethlisberger to make turnovers. Arizona needs to bring pressure and force Roethlisberger to make quick decisions. He is very good out of the pocket but isn’t the fastest guy, he can be caught. Arizona needs to sack the QB and force turnovers. Pittsburgh’s D cannot let Fitzgerald beat them. They will surely double cover him most plays forcing Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston to step up. Pittsburgh also needs to force turnovers. Warner has been prone to turnovers in his career and Pittsburgh needs to make it happen. Pressuring Warner will make him act quickly and throw bad passes. The team with the fewest turnovers will probably win.
Ken Whisenhunt needs to plan again Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzes. Pittsburgh loves to confuse the offense. Kurt Warner needs to switch up long snap counts will quick ones to make Pittsburgh show their sets and running lanes. Arizona’s offensive line also needs to use zone blocking instead of man to man blocking. Trying to block the Steelers in man blocking is like trying to get Scott Boras to give a home town discount, it ain’t a happening.
In the end I think Pittsburgh’s defense will be able to hold Arizona under 24 points. Unfortunately Pittsburgh has played a death row of teams and could put the game away quickly on offense. Pittsburgh scored 35 points on a solid Charger’s defense, they can score on Arizona’s. This game could also come down to whoever has the ball last. In a close game both Roethlisberger and Warner are extremely clutch. The game will either be very tight or put away early.
Steelers 27 Arizona 17
Roethlisberger named MVP
I have pretty much given up all hope for Ben Roethlisberger
winning the NFL MVP. He started out great, then just tailed off after
that Philadelphia game. It isn’t really all his fault as it is pretty
hard to throw from your back. He has been sacked 33 times already this
year. That is unacceptable.
The offensive line as not played
the way they should and they all know it. There is all the talk about
them having to “gel” together but I’m not buying it. It comes down to
the fact that they are getting beat by the D-line every Sunday for most
of the game. The offensive line should be the first need addressed in
the upcoming NFL draft.
Speaking of the NFL draft. Looks
like we may have quite the group of quarterbacks. You have 3 Heisman
candidates in the Big 12 alone. Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell, and Sam Bradford
are all good picks. But who will win? My pick at this point is Sam
Bradford. Check out his stats, they are ridiculous. McCoy does have a
big advantage in the completion percentage but I will address that
goes crazy about McCoy’s amazing completion percentage. It is great and
all but he is only throwing 5-10 yard passes. He dumps the ball off
over the middle and his receivers run. Every once in a while he takes a
shot down field but not often. If Bradford and Harrell took those short
passes they would be just as good if not better.
Harrell is by far the best “passer” of the three. While McCoy is the
best runner and Bradford has the best combination of both. So this year
Bradford is going to walk away with the hardware.
So, has anyone been watching that whole Big 12 Championship debacle? Oklahoma got the bid to go in and smash Missouri in the championship. I am by no means a Texas
fan, but they got screwed. Oklahoma got the bid despite Texas beating
them straight up on a neutral site. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Sure,
Oklahoma smashed Texas Tech
but lost to Texas which is what really counts. I also think it is
hilarious that Mike Leach thinks the bid should go to the school with
the highest graduation rate in the conference (Texas Tech is 1, with
Texas at 11 and Oklahoma at 12). Nice try Mike, but it ain’t happening.
I suppose I could get back to baseball. It is so hard sense not
much has been happening. I know the winter meetings are coming up but
there is just so much excitement around football. I’m still waiting
around for Kevin Towers to come crawling back with Jake Peavy. I still believe that Yunel Escobar, Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, Blaine Boyer, and Jeff Locke is more than enough. It fills every need the Padres have and it is just pure greed on Towers’ part.
Escobar, Morton, and Hernandez were all hand picked by the Padres.
Escobar is a young superstar in the making that has tremendous talent.
Boyer is a major league ready reliever who just had to much on his
plate last year. He is also pretty young. Locke is a young pitcher who
has great potential. The Padres are getting the best of the deal here
so I don’t know why they haven’t done anything. To be honest it is just
plain stupidity on their part.
Will A.J. Burnett sign with the Braves?
If they trade for Peavy then yes. If they don’t then it seems unlikely.
Adding Peavy would give Burnett added motivation to come to Atlanta. He
wouldn’t even have to be the ace if he didn’t want to. A Peavy,
Burnett, Jurrjens, then later Hudson rotation would be dominant. Maybe
the best in baseball.
If the Braves trade Escobar then I see them turning around and instantly signing Rafael Furcal.
He wants to come back to Atlanta so welcome him with open arms. It
would also give them a lead off hitter with speed that the Braves have
lacked since Furcal left. It just makes sense. If the Braves don’t sign
Burnett and trade for Peavy I see them going hard for Jermaine Dye and Javier Vazquez. Dye would provide the power bat in the outfield while Vazquez would be a veteran, middle of the rotation pitcher.
If all else fails I would think Atlanta would turn to signing Jon Garland or Ben Sheets.
Garland would just plain eat innings while Sheets could end up being an
ace type pitcher. Garland doesn’t have great stats but he eats up
innings and keeps his team in the game. Ben Sheets can be lights out or
he can be on the bench with an injury. Sheets can either be a big game
pitcher or a monster bust. I’m afraid to find out.
Over and out,
This week the National and American League Most Valuable Player Awards were released. The voters came through this year.
Albert Pujols won it for the National League while Dustin Pedroia won it for the American League. They both deserve it, hands down.
Albert Pujols is easily the best player in Major League Baseball right now. If you deny it then you are ignorant to his greatness. We are talking about someone who will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. This year he hit .357 while jacking 37 home runs. That is a ridiculous average while still being able to produce so many runs. He drove in 116 runs while scoring 100 on 187 hits. Guess how many strikeouts he had. 54. As opposed to 104 walks. With some simple mental math you can figure out that he walked almost 2 times for every strikeout. Albert Pujols is a pure hitter, not slugger, hitter. He can hit for contact and power at the same time while keeping up a tremendous average. Pujols deserves the MVP award hands down. A few years back I thought Andrew Jones should have won it, but I can’t complain. I would love to be able to say “I came in second in the MVP voting behind Albert Pujols.” Bow down, this guy is a freak.
I think I’ll also address everyone that says Ryan Howard should have won. Wrong, incorrect, negative, no. Ryan Howard is what I like to call a slugger.
Slugger\slug- ger, noun: someone who swings wildly at everything even remotely close to home plate and try’s to hit a home run everytime.
That is what Ryan Howard is. He try’s to hit a home run everytime he goes up and instead looks like a complete moron when someone throws a curve ball. I actually find his at bats quite humerus to be honest. Howard also has some comical defense at times.
Philly Phans can say that he lead them to the postseason and World Series and someone who wins the MVP should be in the postseason. Wrong again. Some of the greatest players ever played on terrible teams, why should that keep them from winning an award for individual excellence? It shouldn’t.
Dustin Pedroia on the other hand, did make it to the postseason. This kid is one heck of a talent. He plays the game with such a passion it is hard to not like him. He is one of the smallest guys in the game yet he makes his presence known to anyone and everyone near him. He is so small yet he hits the ball kinda like that Pujols guy I mentioned earlier. Dustin Pedroia is a damn good player.
Big game players come up big in big situations. Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia are two big game players that come up big in big situations. You have to look long and hard to find another pair of guys you would rather have come to the plate in a big situation. Congrats on the hardware.
The final day of the season sealed Chipper’s quest for his first batting title. Jones beat out Albert Pujols by 7 points. Not bad for someone who was considered by many to be “washed up”. How are you Chipper haters feeling now? That .364 average proves you wrong.
Sure, he may not win the MVP. But Mr. Pujols sure will. But what about Ryan Howard? Well the answer is no. Ryan Howard does not in anyway deserve the MVP award. You may think “but he has 48 home runs and 146 runs batted in.” So what. You left out the fact that he struck out 199 times.
With a little math you can quickly find that Ryan Howard strikes out 33% of the time. Simply put, that sucks. With some more math you can find that he drives in a run in 23% of his at bats and hits a home run in 7% of his at bats. I truly do not believe that he deserves the MVP award.
The most valuable player should not strike out that many times. Let’s go back to Albert Pujols for a second. Pujols struck out 54 times this year. That is not a miss type. 54 times. With some more of the before mentioned math you can figure out that he strikes out only 10% of the time. Sounds pretty darn good to me. Another nice little stat is how he walked 104 times. That is almost 2 walks for every strikeout. Is Ryan Howard still your MVP?
If my memory serves me well, this is the second year in a row that only 2 players walked more times then struck out. Correct me if I’m wrong. The other player happens to be Chipper Jones. Who has struck out 61 times opposed to 90 walks.
The overall point of this to say that it does not matter how many home runs you hit or how many runs you bat in. If you strike out almost 200 times you are hurting your team. The other point is to give Chipper the credit he deserves. Good job Chip, you deserve it.