MLB In Full Bloom - 10 Predictions For the Second Half of MLB Season - 7/17/2014

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The 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field was always going to be about Derek Jeter. The Yankees' legend went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored to help lead the American League to a 5-3 win over the National League on Tuesday night. Angels star and All-Star Game MVP Mike Trout added an RBI triple in the first inning and a go-ahead double in the fifth, while Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first to pace the offense for the AL, which won home-field advantage in the World Series for the second straight year. Now the All Star Game is over and its time to turn our attention to the second half of the MLB season. Here are my 10 predictions for the second half!

10 PREDICTIONS FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE MLB SEASON

10. Will a Team Lose 100 Games? For the first time since 2007, it looks as if baseball may finish the season without having a team reach triple digits in the loss column. According to FanGraphs, not only is no team in baseball on track to lose 100 games, but only two—the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros—are projected to crack the 90-loss plateau, with the Astros edging out the Cubs by one loss (71-91) for the worst record in baseball.

9. Edwin Encarnacion Will Hit the Most Home Runs in 2014: Encarnacion hit 16 home runs, which tied Mickey Mantle for the most ever by an American League player in that month. On the season, the right-handed hitter has gone yard 24 times. After hitting 36 home runs a season ago, look for Encarnacion to lead all of baseball with 42 home runs in 2014.

8. Gregory Polanco Will Win National League the Rookie of Year Award: Polanco has played just 32 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, during his brief big league career, the right fielder has already produced an 11-game hitting streak. There's also the consideration that he's up against a weak rookie class in the National League. The most noteworthy players that Polanco is competing against are shortstop Chris Owings of the Arizona Diamondbacks and center fielder Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds.

7. Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton Will Both Steal More Than 70 Bases: It's no surprise that Billy Hamilton has been racking up steals for the Cincinnati Reds. What is somewhat unexpected is that the center fielder isn't leading baseball in that category. That honor belongs to Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has 43 steals compared to Hamilton's 38. Both players have the speed to swipe more than 70 bases this season, but Gordon will maintain his early advantage and finish with 76, while Hamilton will end with 71.

6. Kirk Gibson Will Be the First Manager to Get Fired: It's been a rough season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are already buried in the NL West. The central issue for the club is the terrible performance of the rotation, which has the third-worst ERA in baseball. Ultimately, though, the disappointing campaign can't end well for Gibson. It seems inevitable that Tony La Russa, the club's chief baseball officer, will want to clean house. That makes Gibson the overwhelming favorite to become the first manager to lose his job in 2014. Bud Black of the San Diego Padres and Terry Collins of the New York Mets could be next in line after Gibson.

5. The San Diego Padres Will Score Fewer Than 500 Runs: The Padres offense has been unbelievable unproductive in the opening months of the season. Through 95 games, they have scored 279 runs, which is by far the lowest total in baseball. For some context, the Los Angeles Angeles, who lead MLB in that category, check in at 478 runs. Last year, the Miami Marlins produced the fewest runs in MLB with 513. This season, the Padres won't even hit the 500-run mark.

4. Bob Melvin Will Win the AL Manager of the Year Award: Melvin presses all the right buttons for the Oakland Athletics. He utilizes his entire 25-man roster than any other manager in baseball. That ability to use every single player of the squad has helped Melvin guide the club to the top record in MLB. Melvin will win his league's Manager of the Year Award this season, which will mark the third time in his career that he will receive that honor.

3. The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Acquire David Price: The Los Angeles Dodgers clearly don't need another starting pitcher. Then again, the addition of Price would be a game-changing move for the club. A top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Price would provide a playoff rotation that would shred the opposition in October.

2. Johnny Cueto Will Win the NL Cy Young Award: There are quite a few contenders for the National League Cy Young Award in 2014. Adam Wainwright, Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are all in the conversation. However, none of those pitchers can match the season that Johnny Cueto has produced this year.

1. The Houston Astros Will Win More Games Than the Boston Red Sox: Last year, the Boston Red Sox were the World Series champions. However, this year, the Sox have been spending its time near the cellar along with the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Red Sox are trending downward, the Astros are on the rise. The Astros have received an infusion of young talent this year and are clearly on the upswing. Right now, the Red Sox have three more wins than the Astros. However, by the time Game 162 is complete, Houston will be higher in the standings than Boston.

MLB In Full Bloom - Cespedes Repeats As HR Derby Champion - 7/15/2014

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Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes became the first repeat winner of the All-Star game home run derby in 15 years on Monday night in Minneapolis. Cespedes became the first player to win back-to-back trophies in the Derby since Ken Griffey Jr. did it in 1998 and 1999. But unlike last year, when Bryce Harper fell one short of Cespedes' mark in the final round, he cruised past Frazier 9-1 to earn his second title. Cespedes saved his best for last, a 452-foot blast to the third deck above left field that officially measured as the longest of the night. It wasn't all smooth sailing, though. In the first round, Cespedes needed a swing-off against teammate Josh Donaldson to advance to the next round. He then took care of Adam Jones as he got into the swing of things. On the National League side, Frazier took down Troy Tulowitzki after sliding past Tulo's teammate and fan favorite Justin Morneau in the first round.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Adam Wainwright has been named the National League starter for Tuesday night's All-Star Game. There was a strong argument to be made for Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, but National League manager Mike Matheny will go with his own guy. Wainwright owns a sensational 1.83 ERA in 138 innings this season for the Cardinals. Kershaw has also thrown 40 more innings than Kershaw has to this point in the season and that was also a factor in Matheny's decision.
  • Felix Hernandez will start for the American League in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Target Field. American League skipper John Farrell made the announcement Monday with not as much anticipation as there was when National League manager Mike Matheny made his announcement for his starting pitcher. Hernandez earned his 11th victory of the season last Friday against the A's and owns a 2.12 ERA in 144 1/3 total innings this year.
  • Cliff Lee (elbow) surrendered eight runs, just three earned, on eight hits and a walk in just 4 2/3 innings in his final rehab start for High-A Clearwater on Monday. It was an ugly performance for the left-hander and certainly raises concerns moving forward. There's been no word on Lee's velocity or how he felt, but clearly these weren't the results the Phillies were looking for in Lee's final tune-up before rejoining the rotation on July 21.
  • Carlos Beltran (concussion) will likely be activated Friday. Beltran has not experienced any lingering symptoms, and felt fine after physical activity on Sunday. It is still likely he will continue to be the Yankees' DH upon return, but it's obviously an encouraging sign if he can come back immediately following the All-Star break.
  • Alfonso Soriano was officially released by the New York Yankees on Monday. Soriano was designated for assignment a week ago and, not surprisingly, cleared waivers. Soriano has returned to the Dominican Republic, but would be open to playing for another club for the remainder of the season. He was batting just .221 with six homers over 67 games for the Yanks before losing his roster spot. Soriano is relaxing at home collecting on his $18 million salary this season, which is mostly being paid by the Chicago Cubs.
  • According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Red Sox were prepared to offer Jon Lester  approximately $100 million over five years before Lester ceased negotiations. Lester is set to become a free agent after the season, and he will be paid handsomely by the Red Sox or someone else if he's allowed to reach the open market.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Andrew Velazquez set a new minor-league record by reaching base in his 72nd consecutive game on Sunday. The previous record was shared by Kevin Millar (1997) and Kevin Youkilis (2003). Mookie Betts also reached base in 71 straight games spanning 2013-14 when you include the postseason. During the 72-game streak, Velazquez hit .314 with 94 hits, 41 walks and two hit-by-pitches.

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