Archive for the ‘The Lineup’ Category

It has become an annual tradition and one of the hottest events of the Midwest fall: Mizzou Homecoming weekend. It is time again for the fall’s biggest event in the heart of Missouri, and here are the steps to take to stay where the action is.

Here is all the info you need to make sure that if you say “maybe next year” this time. So, as always, whether you’re one year removed or 10, it’s time to get back to where you once belonged with the next chapter in the blowout that is Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend.

****FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9th****

MU Greek Alumni Happy Hour—Carnahan Quad, between law library & Business School (4:00 – 7:00)

For all of our Greeks that are coming back, meet at the heart of campus for a happy hour sponsored by the Department of Greek Life. Come mingle with the NPHC, IFC and PHA family of the past.

Off The Highway Cool Out Happy Hour—Trops on the Southside (5:00)

3805 South Providence, 65203

It’s one of those fixes you can’t quite get anywhere else than when you touchdown back in CoMO, so why wait to scratch it? Meet up with everybody as they come in at Tropical Liquors off South Providence. Silver Bullet, Rum Runner, Cherry Bomb, all of em? Kick it off with the comeback that keeps kickin.

Sure, there’s one in STL now, but nobody does it better than the originators.

NPHC Homecoming ‘Clash Of The Cliques’ Stroll Off—Jesse Auditorium (doors open at 7:30)

Come check out the show put on by today’s Mizzou NPHC chapters. A $2,400 prize is on the line and 9 organizations will be represented on the stage.

Ticket info: $15 at the door, $12 for students
Tickets on sale through the MSA/GPC Box Office

Alumni Night Party—Tonic Nightclub (10:00 – 1:00)

122 S. 9th Street, 65201

Last year got crazy, we might as well do it again. Come over to the heart of downtown CoMO to keep the Friday night moving as it should. With two full bars and plenty of seating arrangements, step upstairs and get into the night.

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****SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10th****

THE ALUMNI TAILGATE V—Kickoff 8:00am, Corner of College & Stadium

Corner of Stadium & College, outside of the Hampton Inn Suites Columbia

1225 Fellows Pl. Columbia, MO 65201

It has become the centerpiece of the Alumni weekend, and we’re getting it started early. Meet at the parking lot on the corner of College & Stadium on the University side (across the street, up the hill and in the lot from where we were last year) for the staple event of the Black Alumni Homecoming experience, the All-Day, All-Out tailgate.

With a late kickoff this year, this is ultimate pre-party. Burgers, brats, pulled turkey and chicken and much more will be on the menu this year. Show up at the right time and never know what may bless your plate. As always, this is a community event, so all offerings are both accepted and encouraged.

Game Time: Missouri Tigers vs. Florida Gators, 6:30 pm

Faurot Field (If you can’t find it, you’re in no shape to be driving)

The Tigers will take to the field to face SEC opponent, the Florida Gators. Tickets are available through the Mizzou box office, Stubhub and other resale sites. The tailgate location is a short walk to the main entrance of Faurot.

The Night Scene Part II: Noir Mizzou 2015, A Suitable Affair

Done are the days of making something of the last night, and a new Alumni-sponsored experience awaits. Dress the part, take the part and discover the experience of Noir Mizzou. Meaning: dress to the 9’s to join a room full of 10’s.

This year’s party will once again be held at a secret venue and will carry the theme of a 1920’s Prohibition-era soiree. Jack Daniels will be hosting the 21+ event, which will be limited to  150 guests whom will be notified of location on the night of the event.

Currently, the event is sold out, but the wait list is open. Follow on Twitter for more information at Noirmizzou.com

****Other Business****

DON’T GIVE UP ON HOTEL ROOMS! Many rooms will be vacated over the next few weeks, and can be acquired by joining Columbia-area hotel wait lists, Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, etc.

For more info as it develops, any late changes, additions or to get on-site info, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For other info, follow @B_Wash5, @FranchICE06, @IDOKICKS, @GatorBell and @NoirMizzou.

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A decade ago, there was nothing much to Mizzou Homecoming weekend, for “us”. A game, maybe a few more people in town and that’s about it. It lacked buzz or anticipation. And it needed a kick up a few notches.

Well those days are long gone, and the end of October’s best fresh take on an old tradition has come back around. It’s Mizzou Black Homecoming weekend, and as always, not only is something great in store, but it’s still getting better. There have been a lot of great Black Homecoming events the past few years, but this year stands to be the best yet—somehow, yet again.

Homecoming is about getting back to where the memories happened, but making new ones in the process. The Tailgate is bigger, the parties are sharper, the venues are nicer and the experience keeps getting greater.

So, with no further delay, here is all the info you need to make sure that if you say “maybe next year” this time, you were doing so knowing what is going down without you. So don’t be THAT guy or girl….nobody likes them. So, as always, whether you’re one year removed or 10, it’s time to get back to where you once belonged with the next chapter in the blowout that is Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend.

 

****FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24****

Off The Highway Cool Out Happy Hour—Trops On The Southside (5:00)

3805 South Providence, 65203

It’s one of those fixes you can’t quite get anywhere else than when you touchdown back in CoMO, so why wait to scratch it? Meet up with everybody as they come in at Tropical Liquors off South Providence. Silver Bullet, Rum Runner, Cherry Bomb, all of em? Kick it off with the comeback that keeps kickin.

Night Scene, Part 1—NPHC Stepshow, Missouri Theatre (8:00 pm)

203 South 9th Street, 65201

Think Fall Fest, but all grown up. Go back in time while stepping forward in it at the all-new, updated and renovated Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia as the NPHC frats and sororities take to the stage to claim top billing on the yard. Coming complete with special seating opportunities and a full-service bar, this Missouri Theatre has grown up along with us.

Night Scene, Part 2—Alumni Afterhours Party, Tonic Nightclub (10:00-1:00)

122 S. 9th Street, 65201

The last few Friday nights have gotten crazy quicker than expected, so we had to grow with the show. Come over to the heart of downtown Columbia to keep the Friday night moving as it should. With two full bars and plenty of seating arrangements, step upstairs and get into the night.

 

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****SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25th****

THE ALUMNI TAILGATE IV—8:00 and rolling, Corner of College & Stadium

Hospital Parking Lot, across from Hampton Inn & Suites

Once again, we called and A LOT of you answered, so we had to step it up again. Come to the parking lot on the corner of College & Stadium on the University side (across the street, up the hill and in the lot from where we were last year) for the staple event of the Black Alumni Homecoming experience, the All-Day, All-Out tailgate.

Starting off with the Coolers & Eggs Breakfast Brunch and rolling straight through game time and beyond. Burgers, brats, hot dogs, anything you bring out, it can all get run through the grill. Show up at the right time and never know what may bless your plate. All offerings are accepted as the more that shows up, the more there is to go around.

Also, if you want to set up your own area to grow out our area as much as possible, land spots are $25 per and if you meet us up there early, we can take over as much space as we need. Plus, there will be surprises in store for the setup as well.

The Game Is The Game: Missouri Tigers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores, Time TBA.

Faurot Field (If you can’t find it, you’re in no shape to be driving)

Your Top 25 Tigers will take to the field to face SEC opponent Vanderbilt at a to be determined time. Tickets are available through the Mizzou box office, Stubhub and other resale sites. The tailgate location is a short walk to the main entrance of Faurot.

The Night Scene Part II: Noir Mizzou, a new Alumni Experience

Location: RSVP to Discover

Done are the days of making something of the last night, and a new Alumni-sponsored experience awaits. Dress the part, take the part and discover the experience of Noir Mizzou. The event is 21+ and is a Black and White style themed event. Meaning: dress to the 9’s to join a room full of 10’s.

A limited number of 300 tickets will be made available for the event, and no walk up entries will be granted. The location of the event will be revealed on the afternoon of the event during the Tailgate. And a certain number of tickets will be made available via raffle at the Tailgate as well.

For tickets, head to the event website.

 

****Other Business****

DON’T GIVE UP ON HOTEL ROOMS! Many rooms will be vacated over the next few weeks, and can be acquired by joining Columbia-area hotel wait lists, Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, etc.

For more info as it develops, any late changes, additions or to get on-site info, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For other info, follow @DaRealMattOates, @B_Wash5, @FranchICE06, @Twend_Setter, @DChristianII, @IDOKICKS, @GatorBell and @NoirMizzou.

 

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In an attempt to get back to the old ways here at CSP, here’s the return of one of the old Monday regulars in ‘The Lineup’ series, which is a rundown of any category that may come to mind to kick off the week. Let’s see how it goes…

Left-handers have a special place in society as a whole, but especially in baseball. They are seen as both the exception to the rules and a necessary part of the mix of any successful team. They are an exclusive fraternity amongst the upper rungs of the game’s history as well, where there have been dozens of dominant righty, it is a more rare occasion when a “southpaw” takes the lead and command of the game.

Yet when they do, it is truly a special event to watch. In today’s game such an event is occurring, as Clayton Kershaw is the reigning top gun in the game, at the prodigious age of only 25. Joined by the likes of Cliff Lee, Chris Sale, Cole Hamels and David Price among others, there is a steady undercurrent of great and accomplished left-handed hurlers across today’s game.

However, on the occasion of the election of Tom Glavine to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it seems as good of a time as any to take a look at who are at the summit of the mountain of lefties in the game’s history. And considering the path those pitchers paved, that is no easy task to boil down.

And that’s exactly why I’m throwing my hat into that arena here. So with no further delay, the ten greatest left-hander pitchers in Major League Baseball history….

10. CC Sabathia: The current game’s greatest workhorse, the Indians, Brewers and Yankees have enjoyed jumping on CC sizable back and enjoying the ride. He has topped 200 victories in an era where career wins totals are shrinking regularly and has never had a sub-.500 record or failed to reach double digit victories in any season. The 2007 Cy Young winner has topped 200 innings in each of his last seven seasons.

9. Eddie Plank: First great lefty in the game’s history, Plank was the first to win both 200 and 300 games before finishing with 326 total during his career. He won over 20 games eight times, and only once had an ERA over 3.00—and never after the second of his 17 seasons. He had 1.32 ERA lifetime in the World Series and his 66 shutouts are the most by a lefty ever.

8. Whitey Ford: The Ace during the Yankees most successful run in their storied history, Whitey is one the great winners of all-time. A winner of 15 or better games during nine of his 16 seasons and owner of a 236-106 career record, he has the highest winning percentage in MLB history at .690. He won 10 World Series games in his career, the most ever.

7. Carl Hubbell: While his consecutive strikeouts of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in the 1934 All-Star Game is his most known claim to fame, the New York Giants ace accomplished far more than that. Owner of the one of the greatest out pitches of all-time via his screwball, Hubbell was a frustrating matchup for the National League of the 1930’s. From 1933-38, he topped 20 wins each season, and won in double digits for 15 straight years.

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6. Tom Glavine: The smooth consistency of Glavine was the perfect complement to the scientific dominance of Greg Maddux and the overpowering effort of John Smoltz. The two-time Cy Young winner forced his issue with a pinpoint command of the outside part of the plate, as well as a change-up he could use at any point in an at-bat. Five times he topped 20 wins and was the MVP of the Atlanta’s lone World Series victory.

5. Steve Carlton: “Lefty” long-stood as the preeminent power southpaw in the game’s history. After being foolishly cut loose by the Cardinals after an early career contract dispute, Carlton took his near un-hittable slider to Philadelphia where he won 241 of his 329 games, as well as four Cy Young Awards. His 4,136 strikeouts were second best ever at the time of his retirement.

4. Warren Spahn: A 17-time All-Star and winningest lefty of all-time, Spahn was the picture of durability both in regard to longevity and effectiveness. After a three-year military stint, his career in earnest began at age 25 and from that point on he won at least 20 games in 10 seasons, while regularly taking the ball nearly 40 times a year. He is the greatest old age pitcher ever, notching 82 of his 372 victories after his 40th birthday, including one of his two no-hitters post 40.

3. Sandy Koufax: He is the owner of perhaps the greatest stretch in the history of pitching, as from 1961-1966, Koufax was as good as anybody that ever picked up a ball. It was a seven year stretch where his average season was a 22-8 record with a 2.18 ERA and 286 strikeouts. During the run, he had seasons of 25, 26 and 27 wins and struck over 300 batters in three separate seasons. He tossed three no-hitters and a Perfect Game as well during the run, before his career ended at the age of 30 due to a debilitating elbow injury.

2. Randy Johnson: The Big Unit is simply the most intimidating and unique presence in the history of the game. His combination of top shelf heat and a 6’10” frame which ended up delivering it nearly halfway to the plate from his hand to the catcher was a nearly impossible problem to solve. Add in one of the most brutally unfair sliders, as well as his late career two-seam fastball/change-up combo, and there is legit reason to offer that the five-time Cy Young winner, and author of over 4,888 thousand strikeouts is the most difficult hurler to solve in history.

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1. Lefty Grove: The Philadelphia A’s ace broke in 1925, and cross his 17 year career he established himself as one of the finest pitchers of all-time, and definitely the class of all southpaws ever. The first pitcher to ever win MVP, he won 20 plus games seven consecutive seasons, with highs of 31 and 28 in 1931 and ’30, respectively. His career record of 300-141 gives him the eighth highest win percentage all-time, yet no pitcher ahead of him was within 60 victories of his total.

While he only had a one pitch arsenal, his fastball was both hard enough, and smart enough, to see him lead the American League in strikeout in each of his first seven years. He also won eight ERA titles, and on six separate occasions he won 75% of his starts, while taking mound at least 39 times during those campaigns.

Follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. Follow my columns at I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal for more in-depth content.

In the final entry in the CHEAP SEATS best units in baseball series, I’m turning to the biggest highlight of every day of the week; the best everyday lineups in baseball. With the DH in the mix (begrudingly), this would be an area that would most likely cater towards the American League, but there’s a lot of National League squads that have bulked up in the last few years, as well as creatively balanced squads that can win in a variety of ways. But when it comes down to it, it’s about putting up runs, and being able to do so up and down the order to reach this level of the game.

Fielder & Cabrera

Below there are teams that have shown and proved, as well as those that have potential to bust out. However, like all other things, it’s all on potential at this point in the year. And nobody has more of a chance to capitalize on it than these groups. But no more build up, get into it: the best lineups in 2013 baseball, starting with a squad that made the World Series last year….at less than full strength…

  1. Detroit Tigers: Let’s put in context how daunting of a 3-4 punch that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder were last year: 74 homers, 247 RBI, 569 hits and a combined .322 average. What’s most frightening Is that 2012 was neither their best effort either, regardless of what honors and accomplishments they hit. Add in Austin Jackson’s leap forward, the addition of Torii Hunter, the underrated effort of Andy Dirks, a likely bounce back effort from Alex Avila and the return of Victor Martinez at DH, and you’ve got the biggest everyday issue for pitchers in business.
  2. Los Angeles Angels: Folks were ready to toss Mike Scicosia’s boys up here last year, but that was a bit premature. And it was also before Mike Trout made a legit claim to best in the world status and Josh Hamilton came over as well. Anytime Albert Pujols is just a piece of the puzzle, things are looking good. But outside of the big names, Howie Kendrick, Mike Trumbo and Erick Aybar are very solid table setters, and this should prove to be an unrelenting lineup.
  3. Washington Nationals: There are no breaks in this lineup, and it should actually improve this year. Adam LaRoche returns to be the power anchor, while Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond are among the most balanced bats in the NL. Adding Denard Span as a long-sought after legit lead off presence helps, but the continued growth of the prodigious Bryce Harper is the most exciting thing about the team, and the reason why it’s as good as the NL will see.
  4. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals were a ridiculously balanced attack last year, with Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, David Freese and Jon Jay all hitting over .290, and Carlos Beltran adding in 32 homers on top of it all. Overall, five of their nine starters topped 20 homers as well, with rookie Matt Carpenter returning after a .294 average, 22 double rookie campaign as potentially an everyday presence as well.
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers: This is the year where we see if the all of the blockbuster bats can swing together. Having Matt Kemp is a damn good start to any lineup, but the last year as seen Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford be added on make the push. This isn’t a team that’s built play D; it’s about the O. And if health stays on their side, there could be no limits to the numbers it puts up.
  6. Cincinnati Reds: Being way too left-handed has been the knock on them.  Joey Votto may be the best left-handed hitter in the game, and Jay Bruce quietly one of his best power hitters. Adding Shin-Choo Soo makes them better, but doesn’t solve that issue. I mean, Brandon Phillips can’t do it all by himself on the other side of the dish. Good thing is that a full-season of Todd Frazier (19 homers, 67 RBI) and another strong effort from Ryan Ludwick (25 homers, 80 RBI), he won’t have too.
There's a lot more to the Brewers than waiting for Braun to attack; they led the NL in extra base hits last summer.

There’s a lot more to the Brewers than waiting for Braun to attack; they led the NL in extra base hits last summer.

  1. Milwaukee Brewers: Another very complete lineup, that is home to a lot of understated contributors. Norichika Aoki (37 doubles, 30 steals) and Jonathan Lucroy (.320 avg) were quietly very productive. The mid-season move of Corey Hart to first base once again gives the club one of the better offensive infields in the NL, with Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks. And then on top of it all, there’s Ryan Braun, who’s been the most productive player in the NL over the last two years (.326/37 homers/112 RBI/189 hits/32 steals average for 2011-12).
  2. Texas Rangers: True, they lost Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, but there’s strength in numbers, and they have it. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are dynamic at the top of the order, while Adrian Beltre has become one of the best bats in the game. If Nelson Cruz and Lance Berkman can stay healthy, there’s a chance that this team doesn’t regress at all.
  3. Colorado Rockies: It’s not shocking that the Rockies were the most productive home offense in the game last year, but what’s real is they could get even better everywhere this year. Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton are a solid base, while Dexter Fowler (.300 avg), Josh Rutledge (33 extra base hits in 73 games) and Wilin Rosario (28 homers as rookie) rounded out a strong lineup. All of this was done with Troy Tulowikzki only playing 47 games, yet returning at full health finally for ’13.
  4. New York Yankees: A-Rod is out indefinitely, Derek Jeter’s health is in question, and Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were lost to free agency. Despite all of that, the Yankees lineup is still potent. Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeria and Curtis Granderson are power plant in the middle of the lineup, while Ichiro and Brett Gardner could be terror on the base paths in front of them. Add in the potential return of Jeter and a bounce back effort from Kevin Youkilis, and this is still the best offense in the AL East.

Just Missed: Blue Jays, Giants, Red Sox

For more on this, and the stroll up to Spring Training, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Sergio Romo

The CHEAP SEATS breakout of the best units in baseball continues today, with a look at the best bullpens in baseball. This isn’t just the best closer, with a few other guys, but the teams that can make a window of opportunity really small to a get a W. There are some really strong groups of late arms coming into the league, with potentially some of the best units not even finishing among the Top 10 coming in. With Rafael Soriano still looking for a home as well, there’s still a huge piece that could change the fortune of a few of these groups, as well as a few not mention among them yet.

But this is what it is, and the series continues with a spotlight on the pitchers that don’t stand it as often…until the pressure is on highest.

 

1. Atlanta Braves: The only bullpen that can truly turn leads into six inning wins, and it got deeper this offseason. Craig Kimbrel has been the best closer in the game for his first two season in the game, converting 89 of 100 save opportunities, while opposing hitters have a .151 average against him. Eric O’Flaherty has 1.95 ERA over the last two seasons and Jonny Venters has struck out 258 batters in 229 pro innings. Add on Jordan Walden, who saved 32 games as a rookie All-Star in 2011, and you’ve got a devastating group.

2. San Francisco Giants: You’d think they would take a step backwards losing Brian Wilson at the beginning of the year, but not a skip was missed up and down their pen. That’s a testament to the game’s most balanced pen, with Sergio Romo handing in his second consecutive sub-2.00 ERA year, with 18 total saves. Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affelt and George Kontos all handed in ERA’s below 3.00 as well.

3. Baltimore Orioles: The O’s weren’t the best late-inning team in the game just due to a knack for walk off hits. Their pen was the secret strength of the team, led by Jim Johnson, who saved 51 games while walking just 15 batters in over 60 innings. Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala and Troy Patton were the ultimate support group and 18 won total games.

4. Oakland A’s: Whether it was Ryan Cook (14 saves, 21 holds, .166 average against) or Grant Balfour (24 saves, 15 holds, .160 average against) closing games, the entire path through the late innings against the A’s was hell. With their entire pen returning, the American League’s best total pitching staff will be trouble again.

5. St. Louis Cardinals: Once again, the Cardinals’ staff stepped up big late in the season. Jason Motte tied for the NL lead in saves with 42, and Edward Mujica put up a 1.03 ERA after being acquired from the Marlins. Randy Choate (.158 average vs. left-handers) and Trevor Rosenthal (15 strikeouts in 8.5 playoff innings) could both be huge additions over the course of the full season in 2013.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers: Around their big name additions, the Dodgers have done a good job off filling in the details as well, starting with a solid bullpen. Brandon League will resume his role as a full-time closer, after saving 37 games in 2011. 2012’s closer Kenley Jansen, who struck out 13.7 batters per 9 innings, will open as setup man, and with Matt Guerrier, JP Howell and Ronald Belisario in the mix as well, there will be no shortage of situational arms available as well.

7. Boston Red Sox: There may be no team with more “what if” talent on their bullpen mix than the Bo Sox. Joel Hanahran (36 saves, 2.72 ERA in Pittsburgh) was their biggest acquisition of the winter, but if Daniel Bard, Andrew Bailey and Koji Uehara can also find their old forms (and health), this could be the group at the top of the list by next year.

Aroldis Chapman makes the Reds group a top 3 pen collection, but even without him, Cincy still has a ton of strong late inning arms.

Aroldis Chapman makes the Reds group a top 3 pen collection, but even without him, Cincy still has a ton of strong late inning arms.

8. Cincinnati Reds: Another group that has a pretty big “if” attached to it. With Aroldis Chapman, this is a top 3 unit, but since the plan is to move him to rotation currently, it slides some. Even without him available daily, it is still a strong unit led by Jonathan Broxton, Jose Arrendando and one of baseball’s best left-handed setup arms, Sean Marshall.

9. San Diego Padres: A great unit that makes a so-so club a lot better on its own. Despite losing Heath Bell and Mike Adams the last two years, the Padres still have 10 relievers that averaged better than a strikeout an inning. When he gets a chance, Huston Street was lights out, converting 96% of saves chances with a 1.85 ERA.

10. Tampa Bay Rays: Annual guarantee in baseball is the Rays will have a dynamic bullpen. It will be needed more than ever, with a rotation thinned out after trading it’s workhorse, James Shields, and setup man Wade Davis. However, Fernando Rodney (0.60 ERA and 48 saves in 74 innings), along with Jake McGee and Joel Peralta are a strong base for the next wave of certain to follow up and comers that will join the group to build off of.

 

Just Missed: Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oakland A's

Yesterday, I broke down the Top 10 infields in Major League Baseball headed into 2013. Today, we move back a little further to the outfield, where things are not as set as yesterday’s groups are. With a premier free agent still on the board (Michael Bourn) potentially impacting this group, as well as a few moves that could effect the who is playing where, there could be some ground that gets shook up.

But at any rate, here we go again:

1. Los Angeles Angels (Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Josh Hamilton): This is nearly unfair on a few levels. Trout and Bourjos cover so much range that it’s much of an exaggeration to think they could play the entire outfield by themselves. Tack on Hamilton, who’s good for a default 30 homers, Vernon Wells on the bench and the scary idea that Trout is still improving, and this is the best of the bunch.

2. Washington Nationals (Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth): Another highly versatile, do everything group. Span is the long sought after speedy, leadoff centerfield they’ve needed for so long. Werth is ridiculously versatile in both the field and in the lineup, and Harper is entering his 20 year old season already as one of the most well-rounded players in the game.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier): This is a group that COULD be the best of them all at the end of the year IF Crawford can make it back to form. Kemp is the perhaps the most dangerous player in the game, and Ethier is steady contributor as well. Defensively, Kemp is probably better suited for a corner now, but he makes up for it by being a 40-40 threat annually.

4. Oakland A’s (Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Chris Young): Yeah, four guys have to get listed here, because this is the deepest talent pool across the board after the addition of Young. What’s scarier is that Reddick (32 homers/Gold Glove) and Cespedes (23 homers) are just coming off of their first years as starters.

5. Atlanta Braves (Martin Prado, BJ Upton, Jason Heyward): This group is here for now, due to the fact they have acquired a left fielder to move Prado back to third. But even with just Upton and Heyward, it’s one of the best collections of young talent in the game. Heyward is back on track (60 homers, 23 years old) and Prado has hit over .300 three of his four full seasons.

6. Colorado Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer): Quiet consistency. CarGo is a perennial MVP candidate, despite playing on some subpar clubs recently. He hit .300 and topped both 20 homers and stolen bases for the third straight summer. Fowler was rightfully one of the most sought after players of the winter after hitting .300 and topping 10 triples for the fourth straight year.

At the All-Star Break last year, both Holliday & Beltran were viable MVP candidates, and pushed STL to the brink of another World Series.

Holliday & Beltran were MVP candidates in their first year together, and pushed STL to the brink of another World Series.

7. St. Louis Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran): Beltran was a revelation in his first year in St. Louis at the plate, while Jay became one of the better fielders in the league, while hitting .304. Holliday is one of the best hitters in either league, and transitioned well to being the biggest bat in the Cardinal order, hitting over .340 for three consecutive months in 2012.

8. Cincinnati Reds (Ryan Ludwick, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce): Cincy took this group to another level with the addition of Choo, and retaining Ludwick assured balance in their lineup. Bruce is the biggest power threat on the club, as well as perhaps the best fielding right fielder in the game. However, he may have to move to center to accommodate Choo.

9. Baltimore Orioles (Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis): Jones and Markakis are the mainstays of the organization, with Markakis as the constant of the org and Jones currently the franchise player. AJ10 has improved in each of the last 5 seasons, while Markakis was limited by a broken arm. Along with McLouth’s resurgence, this is a group that could still grow more together a year later.

10 Toronto Blue Jays (Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista): Biggest boom or bust group of all on this list, but the upside is undeniable. If Cabrera can break even from his pre and post PED form, Rasmus keeps up his mid-summer form (.291/8/25 in June) and most importantly, Joey Bats has his health in order, and gets his average back up (from .306 to .241 in ’12), while keeping his power (14 June homers), this is a very strong group.

Just Missed: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Brewers

 

For more in-depth talk on this list, the upcoming season and what I had for breakfast, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

There’s been a lot of stories to be had this season, but what’s really ran the course of the season is the youth movement that’s being served. Yet another highlight of it was served when the Chicago Cubs made a long-term deal with Starlin Castro, putting away the 22-year-old until nearly his 30th birthday last week. That follows on the heels of the rise of the Washington Nationals, Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates, all pushed by young pace-setters that have shook up the establishment in both leagues this year.

However, when it’s broken down, who really are the best of the best when it comes to baseball’s precocious youngsters? While previous early bloomers such as Ryan Braun, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Justin Verlander are moving out of the youth movement stage and into perennial standard bearers, the more recently debuted ballplayers are arguably making the biggest impact of any age group across the game. So in my most recent leap of ranking-based faith, here are the 25 best players 25 years or younger in the game today.

Mike Trout has gotten off to as big of a debut as anyone ever, but is it enough to take him even to the top of his peer group yet?

Before we get started, here’s a few guys just claimed by their 26th year but who would’ve definitely found a spot on this list a year ago: Felix Hernandez, Mark Trumbo, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Evan Longoria, Todd Frazier, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

 

25. Brett Anderson (24): There’s a reason he’s still been consistently considered the ace of the A’s despite missing most of the last two years. When he’s out there, he’s as good as it gets, as the one run surrendered in his first 20 innings back healthy shows. He has won all three starts since his return.

24. Mike Moustakas (23): The raw power of the Moose is clear, and he’s still figuring it all out. He’s come back from a light rookie year with 19 homers headed into the last month of the year for Kansas City.

23. Austin Jackson (25): The perfect centerfielder for the enormous outer territory of Comerica Field, Jackson has the highest average on balls hit in play over the last three years (.374) playing for the Detroit Tigers.

22. Alcides Escobar (25): It’s easy to not be noticed at being the best at something when you play in Kansas City, but Escobar has a rightful claim to the title of best glovesman at shortstop in baseball.

21. Wade Miley (25): The Diamondbacks’ surprise rookie lefty hurler has gone from last pitcher to make the rotation to being an All-Star and 20-win candidate in a few months.

20. Manny Machado (20): The second youngest player on this list, it’s eerie how much the Oriole resembles A-Rod at the same age in both frame (6’3, 185) and early impact (extra bases on 8 of first 15 hits).

Machado’s surprise promotion has been a big catalyst in the O’s shocking the world this summer.

19. Jeremy Hellickson (25): Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year doesn’t have a ton of wins, but still has nasty stuff that will let him pitch for a long time, which his 3.18 career ERA for the Rays is a preview of.

18. Eric Hosmer (22): There’s been a lot of worry about how his second year has gone (.240, 12 homers, .310 on-base %), but settle down. Being the by-far best player on an MLB squad at 22 is a tough haul on anybody, and the prophecy of The Hos as the leader of the Royal revival will be fulfilled.

17. Anthony Rizzo (23): He’s been everything he was billed as being as the Red Sox’s, Padres’ and Cubs’ top prospect over the last two years. After being traded for all the right reasons over the past two years, he’s finally settled in one place, where he’ll stay for awhile: third in the Cubs’ lineup.

16. Jason Heyward (23): In year three, his average is up over 50 points, and he’s pushed his homer total up 10 from a year ago. What’s more: The Brave has just as many home runs and doubles as the much more heralded Andrew McCutchen.

 

For the top 15 of the list, including what may seem like a shocker at the top, considering what’s going on this summer, head over to THE CHEAP SEATS at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/youth-movement-baseballs-top-25-25-and-under/

 

And for more on the day-to-day of the game, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan