Hello all, in this article similarly to last time the "Knuckle Ball" was published, I will choose three topics in the world of baseball and lend my thoughts. In volume two, I will touch on the future of the New York Mets and how a future with unarguably three of the brightest young pitchers in todays game at the helm for the foreseeable outlook could impact a squandering National League East. Secondly, I will pen my thoughts on the conundrum the Pittsburgh Pirates face in dealing with the all of a sudden under achieving Pedro Alvarez who came into the Pirates organization amongst great hype. Lastly, with the 2015 playoff picture becoming clearer, who's the team to look out for in 2016 that fell on hard times this past season?
When I sit back and ponder who the young New York Mets pitching rotation reminds me of, I can't help but think back to the early 2000's Oakland Athletics when they possessed Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson. Mulder and Zito specifically were considered location pitchers, where Hudson was a young fireballer who's still doing his thing fourteen years later. Those Athletic teams had moderate success with the "big three" leading the way, but a lack of sustainable offence was the undoing from that tenure being considered a dynasty. A modern day version of the big three now exists in New York with Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jacon DeGrom taking charge and have almost single handedly allowed Mets fan to forget about the less then memorable Jerry Manuel led Met messes. Similar to the Athletics, the Mets clearly have enough young durability with out of the big three Matt Harvey is the oldest at twenty six but the lack of bats in the lineup raised rightful concerns UNTIL the Mets played their cards aggressively and landed former Detroit Tiger/Oakland Athletic/Boston Red Sox slugger Yoenis Cespedes. With Cespedes on board, and Lucas Duda who in a matter of seconds went from somebody who in all honesty I would've been more comfortable seeing current St.Louis Cardinal Pete Kozma at the dish to now becoming the second coming of Brady Anderson. Why is it so important that this young nucleus of pitching stay together? Well, let's look at the division they reside in. The Washington Nationals remain the strongest competition for them as we close in on the 2015 pennant race but other than the Nats, this division has more holes than Tiger Woods golf game. The Atlanta Braves were the penchant for replication for a long time in this division but the Bobby Cox era is now wishful memories for Braves supporters and under new manager Fredi Gonzales the team has regressed essentially every year as what's ultimately taken place in Georgia is the complete opposite to what's going down in New York City where some of the younger arms in the organization haven't panned out, I single out Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen as pitchers for the Braves organization who had elite promise, but the Braves showed a lack of patience with these two and elected to close that book and begin a new chapter. The Miami Marlins.....well are an embarrassment to the game of baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies are a rebuilding work in progress and the anticipation is that they're years away from being serious contenders. This is the Mets division to lose now and I fully expect for myself to have a similar sentiment for at least the next few years. DeGrom is a Cy Young candidate now and will only continue to improve and then Matt Harvey who was strongly considered for the aforementioned award in 2013 hasn't fallen off any and then you have Syndergaard who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in a ridiculous trade then and an even more ridiculous trade now. Noah Syndergaard would have been the ace, number two guy in a worst case scenario, which argumentatively would have ceased the need for the Blue Jays to frantically throw away prospects to find that ace, which eventually became David Price not withstanding the acquisition of Travis D'Arnaud for the knuckle baller R.A Dickey. Bad trade that is to the Mets benefit. The intriguing part of all of this is whether the New York Mets will be served a better fate then the Oakland Athletics were in their hay day.
Denarius Moore circa NFL 2014, Mattias Tedenby hockey prospect out of Sweden back in 2010, Portland Trail Blazer and Illinois alumni Meyers Leonard. What do these three athletes have in common you ask? If you've been a constant reader of this enterprise, you'll understand that I have no issue throwing out the boldest of bold prognostications and for these three specifically I have stated that I expected innovative and massive things out of, but yet all three failed to deliver. So when discussing Pedro Alvarez, a player I've been very high on for many years now came into the league with hall of fame promise(OK, that may be a stretch but what can you do) and although it looked like he was onto something special with extraordinary 2012 and 2013 seasons has faded off now and is just an obscure piece on an otherwise solid Pittsburgh Pirates club. I thought 2014 was an aberration but apparently 2014 was just a visible Segway to how 2015 was going to play out. I was so adamant of this that I foolishly made a claim that Alvarez would have a better slugging year than that of Gioncarlo Stanton and Stanton would have annihilated Alvarez like nobody's business if it wasn't for an extensive long term injury. So what caused the demise of the individual that was selected second overall in 2008? My theory is that it stems from a lack of confidence shown from manager Clint Hurdle. Hurdle has the reputation of being a players manager as he seemingly doesn't demand a lot but from a Pittsburgh Pirates fan forum that I read before penning this piece, the common belief is that Alvarez' lack of effort, particularly when running the bases has caused a rift between the teammates and himself and by extension I suppose Hurdle. Alvarez was the perennial clean-up hitter for the Pirates but now has found himself batting seventh and eighth at times. Work ethic may be part of the story, but in fairness to Pedro, an increased depth on a very good ball club may also be contributing to a lack of quality role. Andrew McCutchen is the Sidney Crosby of baseball in Pittsburgh and it's quite possible that his accolades may lead to a second National League M.V.P this go around. Not just Alvarez, Kang has proven to be quite the find for General Manager Neal Huntingdon as he's nearly batting .300 and of course we'd be remiss when lauding Pirates if we didn't include Starling Marte. Marte is just one more piece of the pie for why Alvarez' importance has diminished, but just imagine the road the Pirates may take this post-season if Pedro heats up.
Some may disagree, but the team in Major League Baseball that has surprised me the most positively is the Houston Astros. And fyi, when I say some may disagree I'm being completely facetious as no one could of seen the Astros work their way from last to one of the premier teams in Major League Baseball. This was a 70-92 last season for gosh sakes and now they have their sights on the World Series evidenced by the acquisition of Carlos Gomez and Scott Kazmir. Who will be the Astros of 2016? The answer ladies and gentlemen, is the Milwaukee Brewers. This Brewers club features three pieces that I'm excited about that are going to be the basis for celebratory adulation pushing forward to next year. The first features the 2016 Cy Young winner is a pitcher who burned me in MLB.com's "Beat the Streak", but I later wised up when I realized this individual's real potential and that is Taylor Jungmann. This twenty-five year old from Temple,Texas is a lanky 6'6 with a near consistent 100 mph fastball has all the makings to be the next break-out pitcher in the bigs and who's had a beautiful first two months posting a 6-3 record on struggling organization while sporting a 2.26 ERA. Jungmann, to me projects to be a twenty game winner with top of the rotation mechanics. Oswaldo Arcia, who I could've included in the previous paragraph as players who I thought were due for consistent productivity but I may have missed the boat on that one. I'm going attempt another kick at the can with his brother Orlando. Orlando will enter the Brewers roster next season as a 2b/ss, probably I would imagine he'll be utilized as a second baseman to coddle the arm strength will the inevitable plan to transist him to the full time shortstop. The power, which has not been seen by brother Oswaldo is one of Orlando's calling cards as he has been a R.B.I Machine working his way through the farm. Khris Davis is one of those players that will benefit from the departure of Carlos Gomez. When analyzing and forecasting his statistics, what impressed me most is his maturity at the plate, always battling through the quintessential "professional at bat" as with two outs, he's batting .300, which if I were managing that's exactly the type of player I'd want because I know he's trusted with the bat in hand. Davis, Arcia, and Jungmann are just three of a plethora of reasons why I foresee the Brewers creeping up in the National League Central and will battle for a playoff spot in 2016.