Cuban INF Yulieski Gourriel Available For Hire

According to MLB.com, Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel has been cleared to become a free agent and could sign with a team as early as this season. The 32-year-old has primarily played third base over his career (13 in the CNS and two in the JPL). He has also played at second base and short stop.

Gourriel has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave Cuba with permission of the Cuban government. He and his younger brother Lourdes (22-years-old) left Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following its Caribbean Series back in February of this year in search of MLB contracts (per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com).

Gourriel is regarded as the best baseball player in Cuba and it’s easy to see why when you look at his numbers.

Last year with the Industriales, Gourriel slashed a ridiculous .500/.589/.874 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in just 49 games. Throughout his professional career Gourriel has a slash line of .335/.417/.580 with 1,585 hits, 250 HR, 1,018 RBI, and 611 BB.

Given that Gourriel is considered by many to be Major League-ready right now, I thought I would provide a look at one team from each division who could potentially sign him.

 

National League East: New York Mets

According to ESPN, the Mets may pursue Gourriel aggressively (and understandably so).

With perennial third baseman David Wright likely sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a herniated disk, the Mets could use someone with Gourriel’s experience who’s ready to make an impact.

Gourriel would also have a clubhouse friend in countryman Yoenis Cespedes, so this would seem like a match made in heaven on paper for both sides.

 

National League Central: Pittsburgh Pirates

Sitting at third place in the NL Central and two-and-a-half games back for one of the two NL Wild Card spots, the Bucs could use a potential offensive boost and change of pace in their infield.

Currently Pittsburgh is comfortable at third base with David Freese and Jung Ho Kang. They also seem comfortable at second base with Josh Harrison, but Gourriel could possibly platoon at short stop with Jordy Mercer.

If nothing else, Gourriel would be welcomed infield depth and could add some needed pop into the Pirates’ lineup.

 

National League West: San Francisco Giants

I’ll admit, the Gigantes are a bit of a stretch here when you consider their more than serviceable starting infield comprised of Matt Duffy (3B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Joe Panik (2B), and Brandon Belt (1B).

However, it wouldn’t hurt to have Gourriel behind any of those guys or allowing them to rest come the dog days of August.

With Hunter Pence possibly out of the everyday lineup until after the All-Star break with a torn hamstring, San-Fran could use a batter of Gourriel’s caliber.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

 

 

American League East: Baltimore Orioles

The O’s aren’t exactly in dire need for an infielder either (see Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Jonathon Schoop, and JJ Hardy).

Nevertheless, with JJ Hardy still out and rehabbing a fractured left foot and the flexibility of the DH position, Baltimore could use Gourriel as infield depth in a platoon with Alvarez. The O’s could also put him at the hot corner over current starter Ryan Flaherty (while Machado covers at SS in Hardy’s absence).

As you can see, Baltimore would have options by signing Gourriel. And when you are trying to stay atop the AL East, having options is quite the luxury.

 

American League Central: Cleveland Indians

The Tribe, in my opinion, is the AL team who would benefit most by signing Gourriel now. Cleveland currently has a solid middle-infield with short stop sensation Francisco Lindor and veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis. However, the corners of their infield are getting a bit old (Mike Napoli, 34) and worn out (Juan Uribe, 37).

At 32 with 15 seasons under his belt, Gourriel isn’t young either but would seem more serviceable than Uribe at third. Though the Indians do have another promising young talent in Jose Ramirez (currently starting in left field but a third baseman by trade), the addition of Gourriel would give the Tribe more flexibility.

Cleveland is on top of the AL Central by a thin margin and Gourriel could offer assistance in helping distance that lead (you’re probably sensing an AL pattern by now).

 

American League West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have been red hot lately and have a seven-and-a-half game first place lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners. A large part of that success stems from one of the more crowded infields in the majors (see Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar).

However, they could make room for Gourriel at first base by rotating with Mitch Moreland.

At the very least, Gourriel could share DH responsibilities with Prince Fielder while also acting as infield insurance.

 

Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees

 

Final Thoughts:

While I feel the Mets or Indians will make the most aggressive run at Gourriel, you never know who might throw their hat in the ring.

This development will be one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. It would be surprising not to see Gourriel on a Major League roster by the All-Star break.

Bat Flip Crazy

 

In baseball, as with most sports, there are unwritten rules of the game.

 

For instance, you should never talk to a pitcher when he is throwing a no-hitter, or don’t hit-and-run when the count is 0-2. When it comes to sportsmanship, there are debates galore on what is considered to be appropriate or inappropriate. One in particular that seems to have current and former players buzzing is the art, or disgrace for some, of bat flipping.

 

While bat flipping is not new to the sport, it has become more prominent in recent years among some of the sports rising stars à la outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

In case you are not familiar with the action of which I’m referencing, allow me to provide you with a clip of Puig and one of his signature bat flips:

 

 

 

 (video courtesy of TBS Sports/YouTube User “LilCee354”)

As you can see in the video above, fans for the most part seem to enjoy it, as usually a bat flip follows when a batter knows the hit is a home run. But as fun as bat flipping can be, there have been instances where the action has caused quite the opposite effect.

A perfect example of this would be Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista’s “Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World”. I’ll set the stage for you.

It was game five of the American League Divisional Series between the Jays and the Texas Rangers last year. With the score tied in the seventh inning at 3-3, Bautitsta launched a three-run rocket to take the lead, and the rest is, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

(Full clip of Bautista’s bat flip, and the craziness that followed. Video Courtesy of Fox Sports/YouTube User “Captain Canada”)

Flipping Out

Since then, there has been somewhat of a line in the sand drawn between players.

Speaking out against Bautista’s bat flip, Hall of Fame and former New York Yankees relief pitcher “Goose” Gossage was quoted by ESPN’s Andrew Marchand as saying:

Bautista is a —-ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes , same thing.

Bautista took the higher road in response to Gossage’ criticism:

He’s a great ambassador for the game,” Bautista told ESPN after being informed of Gossage’s comments. “I don’t agree with him. I’m disappointed that he made those comments, but I’m not going to get into it with him. I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me. I have too much good stuff to worry about his comments. Today is my first game [of the spring], getting ready for a new season; hopefully, we will whoop some more a**.

Gossage was later quoted as stating

Everything is good,” Gossage told reporters. “I lost my mind for a minute.

Goose isn’t the only Hall of Famer who has an issue with this “new fangled” celebration. Per Mike Axisa of MLB.com, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench spoke out earlier this spring in regards to Bryce Harper flipping his bat, as well as Harper’s comments on how baseball has become a “tired sport”.

Below is a transcript courtesy of Randy Miller (NJ.com) and the Rich Eisen Show where Bench made the following statements:

You can flip your bat. We had guys do that … and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that’s fine.

“Bring back the excitement? OK, we’ll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That’s all part of the excitement.”

“I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation),” Bench said. “If you want to do that, fine. Flip the bat, run around any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better watching how much you dig into that batter’s box.

 

It is not just players from the past who are commenting, though, as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was recently qouted saying “you will never catch him flipping his bat”.

 

This of course, is not to assume that Trout agrees with either Gossage or Bench, though the Halo’s outfielder is probably the poster boy for baseball purists.

 

On the other side of that previously mentioned line in the sand are veteran sluggers like Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Oritz. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe’s own Alex Speier, Papi had this to say on the matter:

 

People want to talk about old school. I am old school,” said Ortiz. “How many [expletives] are in the game right now who played in 1997 in the big leagues?

“This game is competition. This ain’t no baby-sitting. There ain’t no crying. When somebody strikes me out, I’m not up there crying, like, ‘Boo-hoo . . . this guy’ . . . No, no, no. There’s none of that. There’s no babysitting in baseball. There’s no babysitting. If you’re going to take it like a baby, I’m going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the h— you want. This is competition.”

“Respect? Respect my [expletive]. I don’t have to respect nobody when I’m between those two lines. I’m trying to beat everybody when I’m between those two lines. This ain’t no crying. There’s no, ‘Let me be concerned about taking you deep.’ No.

 

As you can see, there are two schools of thought when it comes to bat flipping. This is certainly something worth keeping track of in 2016, as it will be intriguing to see who does or does not flip their bat.

 

Final Thoughts:

I personally have no issues with athletes celebrating such things as home runs, slam dunks, slap shots, or touch downs. Of course, practicing humility every once and a while is good too.

That being said, I could not resist closing this post with a walk-off bat flip clip…Korean style:

 

(Video courtesy of YouTube User “mybonet”/www.mykbo.net)

 

 

 

 

http://SportsRants.com

Predicting The 2015 World Series

Prior to playing the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, July 29, the Toronto Blue Jays had a mediocre record of 50-51. People questioned whether Toronto would go for it this season, or try and build their farm system up for the next few seasons.

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos rolled the dice and traded for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and the gamble paid off immediately. On July 29 Troy Tulowitzki played his first game for the Blue Jays and hit a home run. Since then Toronto has not looked back and the club is a ridiculous 23-5 with Tulo on the team.

In 27 games with Toronto, Tulo has hit an underwhelming .227 with four home runs and 11 RBIs, but having the shortstop at the top of the lineup to go along with his solid defense has sparked the Blue Jays. The Canadian ball club now has Tulowitzki leading off followed by AL MVP Candidate Josh Donaldson batting second, Jose Bautista batting third and Edwin Encarnacion batting fourth.

That is an insane combination of hitters that can kill you in almost any way and Encarnacion has been red hot for the Blue Jays of late. Yesterday Encarnacion hit three home runs and knocked in 9 runs and now has 29 home runs on the season to go along with 90 runs batted in.

The Blue Jays have no doubt the best offense in baseball and with their starting pitching heating up, led by staff ace David Price, this team is primed for a postseason run. In five starts with Toronto David Price is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched.

The ball club has gotten decent starting pitching as of late and with their incredible offense, that could be all the team needs. The Blue Jays are 3-1 against the Kansas City Royals in the second half and are now a game and a half up on the division in the AL East.

Toronto will enter the playoffs having won over 90 games and will dispatch of the Houston Astros in four games in the ALDS. The Blue Jays will then play the Royals in the ALCS and though it will be a great series, Toronto will win in six games thanks to their great offense and their pitching led by David Price.

The X-factor for the Blue Jays in the playoffs will be Marcus Stroman, who will likely come out of the bullpen for the Jays and will catalyze the pitching staff.

On the National League side the World Series favorite is the St. Louis Cardinals, but once October comes around they will not be the team in the World Series. The National League will be represented by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have arguably the two best pitchers in baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.

Greinke leads the league in ERA on the season at 1.61 and Clayton Kershaw has been lights out in the second half. In 8 starts since the all-star break Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.o2 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. To go along with the two aces are Brett Anderson, who has a 3.36 ERA on the year, Mat Latos and Alex Wood.

The Dodgers have also gotten help from their closer Kenley Jansen, who has been great this year posting 27 saves in 29 opportunities to go along with a 2.39 ERA on the season. The Dodger lineup, led by Adrian Gonzalez who has 24 home runs and 75 RBIs, is full of veterans that have played in the spotlight before.

Gonzalez is joined by Howie Kendrick, who is hitting .296 on the season, along with Andre Ethier and ultra utility man Justin Turner who has been phenomenal this year. Turner on the season is hitting .295 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs and has been a big part of the team’s success.

To go along with those players the Dodgers have all-star catcher Yasmani Grandal, and veteran leaders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley who have played many big games in their careers. The time is now for the Los Angeles Dodgers and with a 72-56 record on the year they will likely end up playing the New York Mets in what will be a great NLDS matchup.

The Mets young pitching will give the Dodgers hitters fits, but with Kershaw and Greinke leading the way the Dodgers will dispose of the New York ball club in five games. In the NLCS the Dodgers will have to find a way to get past the St. Louis Cardinals.

This series will be tough for the Dodgers, but Kershaw will come in fired up as he has struggled against the Cardinals in the past. Kershaw will lead the Dodgers to a NLCS victory in six games and the Dodgers will meet the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 World Series.

The X-factor in the playoffs for the Dodgers will be Yasiel Puig. The young player is immensely talented, but has not had a very good year for the Los Angeles ball club. Puig is going to figure it out down the stretch and in October will help carry the team to the World Series.

In one of the best World Series match ups in years Clayton Kershaw will face David Price in game one of the World Series. Kershaw will dominate the Blue Jays free swingers and will win game one for the Dodgers. The Blue Jays will make it a good series, but ultimately the Dodgers will win the World Series in seven games with Clayton Kershaw winning the World Series MVP.

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The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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Dodgers Are NL West Champs!

The Los Angeles Dodgers are NL West Champs.. Again!! They beat the Giants Wednesday at Dodger Stadium with a score of 9-1.

Clayton Kershaw picked up his 21st win, making his record now 21-3. He pitched 8 innings, struck out 11 and gave up 1 run. I wrote previously about how fitting it would be to clinch Wednesday with Kershaw on the mound; it truly does make his season just that much sweeter.

Brian Wilson pitched the 9th inning, which makes sense as he is a former Giants pitcher and how sweet it is to close out such an important game against your former team.

Kershaw hit his first career triple which drove in the first run of the game. He also made a great defensive backhanded behind-the-back play on the mound.

Yasiel Puig homered to break the tie. He also threw out a runner on third with an amazing throw that only he can make. I’m not sure why runners continue to run on his arm but as long as they do, we get to enjoy watching Puig make those great throws!

Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe and AJ Ellis also drove in runs.

Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News

Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News

A few different times throughout the game, “MVP” chants could be heard very loud in Dodger Stadium. Those chants were directed at Clayton Kershaw who most definitely deserves NL MVP. Not only is he an amazing pitcher, he also drives in runs and makes great plays. Kershaw for Cy Young and NL MVP!!

The Dodgers will end their regular season at home against the Rockies on September 28th.

 

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Dodgers in a pitching pickle…..

It is a tough situation when you are stilling 3 games in first place in the National League West. You have a team, that for the most part, is now healthy, you have reserves on the bench, even costly ones (consider the crowded outfield with Andre Ethier on the bench at $18 million a year), and your starting pitching rotation with 2-time, and current Cy Young dominant pitcher Clayton Kershaw as #1, former Cy Young, Zah Greinke, and Japanese sensation Hun-Jin Ryu as your top 3 starters. But that is only 3 pitchers. Most teams have 4-5 starters. Our #4 guy, the veteran, former Red Sox World Series winning Josh Beckett, has been great (and I mean that in the past tense). He came off the All Star break only to find out he has 2 bone spurs, and a torn ligament requiring surgery that there is no time for, that he is playing through, and not well. He can’t get past the 4th inning in the last 2 starts. There is Dan Haren, who has lost his fast ball to under 90mph, and even though he has had some decent outings when the players give him run support of at least 5, he has been nothing but batting practice to opposing teams in his last few starts.

So last night, was a mess from the start. Haren, giving up his 23rd home run this season in the 2nd inning, just had everything over the plate, and hittable to a Chicago Cubs team that is under .500 as usual. The Dodgers are coming off a 6-game, 2 series win vs, The SF Giants, and the Atlanta Braves, only to lose their minds in the game last night. Our catching staff of Ellis (dropped balls at home plate) and Butera (pass balls) both have sub .200 BA. Justin Turner, our off the bench IF, giving Juan Uribe a night off, made a mental and physical error in the game costing a run or 2. Yasiel Puig, who everyone wants to enshrine as a God before he even has 2 full seasons in the league, was trying to be a one-man OF, almost colliding with Carl Crawford in left on a ball that was clearly Crawford’s (luckily he made the catch without collision), but Puig pulled his hamstring on the play and was taken out for Ethier in the 7th. Adrian Gonzalez, was sent home on a short single from first base, and if you know anything about his lack of speed, that 3rd base coach made a bad decision, and Gonzales awkwardly slid into home, contused his knee and was called out. Then Paul Maholm, in on relief, ran to 1B to make a play from Scott Van Slyke filling in for Agon who was pulled out, and he looked as though he hyper-extended his knee getting to first, but today the Dodgers confirmed he has a torn ACL. That is a tough break.

So now that the trade deadline has passed, and Nick Colletti was interviewed saying he didn’t want to just make any pick up, better look to see who he could convert as a starter from our bull pen (Jamey Wright perhaps?) or go get a pitcher. Yes, we will be dealing with waivers, and more money now, but a move needs to be made, and fast or the first place Dodgers will be out of that spot within 2 weeks.