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Stolen Bases: Fantasy Baseball Strategies to Increasing Steals

Thursday November 17, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Of the five categories in standard 5X5 roto leagues, it is SB’s that fantasy owners most commonly have the incorrect approach. In this article I will highlight players to target and avoid in the stolen base department, as well as discuss basic fantasy strategy.

There are certainly several one trick ponies, such as Brett Gardner, Michael Bourn, and Coco Crisp, who provide elite production in this department. However, there are a couple of things you must consider. These types of players, who will hopefully hit for average and contribute to runs, will hurt your team’s HR and RBI performance. Therefore, be sure that you have excess value dispersed throughout the rest of your lineup to compensate. Secondly, you are heavily relying one on player for your production in this category, and as a result an injury can leave your team devastated. Thus, it is essential, particularly in the early rounds, that you find players who do everything, including steal bases. Even 5-10 steals that a player contributes above the position average will give you a significant edge.

A player to target next year, Eric Hosmer, quietly stole 11 bases in 2011. The young left-hander batted .313 with 11 HR and 44 RBI’s in the second half last season. While his still progressing power production puts him the second tier of first baseman, his double-digit stolen base potential makes him intriguing and perhaps underrated. Still, this guy finished the season with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s in 128 games played. Since there are a slew of first baseman that finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, they will likely be targeted before Homer. Therefore, I like Hosmer as a guy who might just as well approach these power numbers but also steal 15 bases. For this same reason, I like Joey Votto over any other first baseman not named Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera. While, Adrian and Gonzalez and Prince Fielder might put up higher power numbers and similar batting averages, Joey Votto’s 10 stolen bases will make him significantly more valuable. Albert Pujols is also good for ten stolen bases as well. Only Miguel Cabrera out produces Votto enough in the other four categories to excuse his lack of stolen bases.

Now extend this approach to each position. Dustin Pedroia and his 25-30 stolen bases is more valuable than Robinson Cano and his 5-10 stolen bases, despite the fact Cano finished with 7 more home runs and 25 RBI’s. A player I like at this position if you can afford to take the hit in HR’s and RBI’s is Jemile Weeks, who finished with 22 stolen bases in just 97 games. He will get to play full-time in Oakland, and as long as he is hitting above .290, can be valuable to your roster as a good source of steals. On the decline is Brandon Phillips who has dropped from 25 to 16 to 14 stolen bases the last three seasons. This makes him no longer elite, especially when Ian Kinsler is doing 30/30. An interesting group of players, Kelly Johnson, Danny Espinosa, and Ben Zobrist each his 20 home runs and stole over 15 bases. However, they each struggled with average. Again, take not of your team’s strengths. If you own Votto and a couple of other average anchors, these types of players can be good sources of power and stolen bases at the second base position.

Instead of continuing on and telling you the elite base stealers position by position (you can easily look this up), I will give you my 2012 sleepers and busts.

Stolen Base Sleepers:

Don’t forget that Brett Lawrie’s one-quarter of a season not only put him on pace to hit 36 home runs and 100 RBI’s, but also projected him to finish with 28 stolen bases.

Peter Bourjos made noise at the end of the season and once stole 50 bases in the minor leagues. For the speedy outfielder, it was all about getting on base after a 2010 debut in which he batted .204 in 51 games. However, he greatly improved his contact ability, although still needs to improve walk rate, and batted .271 and stole 21 bases for the Angels. He also hit 12 home runs, and has the potential for a productive .280 15 HR 30 SB stat line in 2012.

After stealing 19 bases in 2011, I expect Shane Victorino to reach the 30 mark once again in 2012. It’s not that he didn’t run when he was on base, but his lower than usual BABIP and high than usual ISO (measures true power) simply meant he was not on first base as often as he normally is. With Rollins likely out of Philadelphia, I expect Victorino to ne at the top of the lineup and as aggressive as ever on the base paths.

Keep you eye Cameron Maybin, who stole 40 bases in 137 games for the Padres. As long as he has the chance to play semi-regularly, he is elite in the stolen base category. Furthermore, he appears to be approaching double-digit home run output as well, although he is only a career .255 hitter.

Monitor where Coco Crisp ends up in 2012. I loved him at Oakland in 2011 because he was one of the better hitters on the team (sadly) and at times batted third, but also batted lead off and in the second spot. In addition to leading the American League in steals, he had decent contributions in other categories (8 HR and 54 RBI) compared to some of the other stolen base leaders.

Dexter Fowler is a name to remember because he is simply one of the fastest players in baseball. However, he only stole 12 and 13 bases during the last two years, respectively. He was also caught an alarming 25 times. If he can learn to run on the base paths, he can be elite in this category. It is possible for major leaguers to learn the art of stealing bases. Look at Adam Jones, who was 12/16 on the base paths in 2011 after a 7/14 2010. I expect Jones, who is approaching a contract season, to come closer to 20 steals in 2012.

Speedsters to avoid? Juan Pierre. He really contributes in no other categories and is getting slower, getting caught 17 times in 44 chances in 2011. Furthermore, I do not expect any team to give him the 639 at bats that the White Sox foolishly provided him. Sadly, Ichiro Suzuki is clearly on the decline and appears to be a shell of his former elite self. The same is true with Bobby Abreu.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

Please e-mail us at: with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

2011 MLB All-Star Game Recap: National League Defeats the American League for 2nd Year in a Row

Wednesday July 13, 2011



Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  This year’s edition of the Midsummer Classic, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, had a record-setting vote-getter.  Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays received over 7.4 million votes in fan voting.  This game was said to have lost some of its lustre due to the amount of players who elected not to participate.  A total of eight players that were voted in by fans or chosen by coaches dropped out due to injury, timing or just plain wanting to rest.  For the American League, David Price (TB), Derek Jeter (NYY), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and  Jon Lester (BOS) all withdrew due to various ailments and injuries.  Chipper Jones (ATL), Jose Reyes (NYM), and Placido Polanco (PHI) were the players who bowed out in the National League.  One of Major League Baseball’s rules pertaining to eligibility for pitchers is that they must not start on the Sunday prior to the game.  Due to this rule, CC Sabathia (NYY), James Shields (TB), Justin Verlander (DET), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Cole Hamels (PHI), and Matt Cain (SF) were ruled ineligible and unable to participate in the game.

Surely not having Price, Sabathia, Shields, Verlander, Hernandez and Rivera hurt the AL.  Although he has had an impressive start to the season, CJ Wilson (TEX) probably should not have been pitching when he gave up the 3-run home run to Prince Fielder (MIL).  It easily could have been one of those more accomplished aces as mentioned.  However, that is the way it turned out, as the National League took advantage early and defeated the American League by a score of 5-1.  The MVP of the game was Fielder, because of his huge home run that put the NL on top early and as it turned out, for good.

My pick for MVP was Roy Halladay (PHI), as he started for the National League and was dominant as only the Doc can be.  He faced the minimum six batters over two innings, including Curtis Granderson (NYY), Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) and Jose Bautista (TOR); all potential MVP candidates.  Halladay managed to throw only 19 pitches as part of his historical pitching performance.

In the 2nd inning, the defensive play of the game occurred when Brian McCann (ATL) hit a towering flyball in foul territory that Bautista caught as he slid into the wall.  Aside from being one of the top home run hitters in baseall, Bautista is also an accomplished fielder who is capable of winning a gold glove at either third base or right field.

The scoring in the game started in the top of the 4th inning, when Adrian Gonzalez blasted a Cliff Lee (PHI) cutter over the right center field wall for a solo blast.  The AL followed with three straight singles, the last of which was off Tyler Clippard (WAS).  Hunter Pence fielded the ball and threw a laser to the plate to catch Bautista who tried to score from second for the third out.  In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Beltran (NYM) and Matt Kemp (LAD) hit singles to set up Fielder`s massive bomb.

Jordan Walden (LAA), another player who probably didn`t deserve to play as much as the other big name starters, began to light up the radar gun last night, hitting 100 mph on his first four fastballs.  Starlin Castro (CHC) came in to pinch run at first base after Troy Tulowitzki (COL) hit a leadoff single.  Castro proceeded to immediately steal second and third base.  He then set up another play at the plate, where Walden bare handed a weak ground ball by Rickie Weeks (MIL) and threw Castro out.  Weeks stole second and came around to score when Andre Ethier (LAD) hit a single to right field, making the score 4-1.

The scoring continued in the bottom of the seventh inning when Pablo Sandoval (SF) hit a ground rule double over the wall in the left field corner.  This scored Hunter Pence (HOU) after his leadoff single and a passed ball that allowed him to move to second base, and eventually score.

Fan favorite Brian Wilson (SF) came in the top of the nineth inning with runners on second and third.  A fly out and ground out later, and the game was in the books.  Make the final score 5-1, as the National League wins for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row and secures home field advantage for its league in the up coming World Series in the fall.

This year`s All-Star Festivities were enjoyed by so many fans, and continually impressed me.  I have had a great time covering the 2011 All-Star Game, everything from the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and of course,  the All-Star Game itself.  With Major League Baseball now entering the dog days of summer and the secon half of the season, it is time to speculate on trades and the calling up of prospects.  Pure heaven for this baseball writer! 


***EDITOR’S NOTE:  With Chase Field still buzzing, the trade market has already begun.  The Milwaukee Brewers announced right after the game taht they had acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash considerations from the New York Mets for two players to be named later.  With the Brewers acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, clearly Milwaukee is going for it.  Will be interesting to see if Brewers allow K-Rod’s $17.5 million option to vest for 2012, which is based on number of games finished in 2011.  If K-Rod finishes 55 games, the option will vest.  As he has already finsihed 34 this season, so the option could vest depending on how the Brewers use K-Rod and how close they remain to a playoff berth.  It will be interesting to see what prospects go from Milwaukee to New York.  Long-term this deal could hurt Milwaukee depending on which top prospects they give up.  But in the short-term, this deal will make the Brewers’ fanbase happy and their slugging free agent to be, Prince Fielder, may have more thinking to do before selecting his new team for 2012.  The ground work has been set with respect to the trade market.  Now we will see if the K-Rod deal has indeed open the trading floodgates for the rest of baseball. ***


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
American 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 0
National 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 5 9 2

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson


National All-Stars

R Weeks 2B 3 1 0 0 0 1 12 .000 .000 .000
B Phillips 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
C Beltran DH 2 1 1 0 0 1 7 .500 .500 .500
a-A Ethier PH-DH
1 0 1 1 0 0 8 1.000 1.000 1.000
b-G Sanchez PH-DH
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Kemp CF 2 1 1 0 1 0 15 .500 .667 .500
A McCutchen CF
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
P Fielder 1B 2 1 1 3 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
J Votto 1B
2 0 0 0 0 1 9 .000 .000 .000
B McCann C 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
Y Molina C
1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1.000 1.000 2.000
c-J Bruce PH-RF
1 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
L Berkman RF 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1.000 1.000 1.000
J Upton RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Montero C
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
M Holliday LF 1 0 0 0 0 1 7 .000 .000 .000
H Pence LF
2 1 1 0 0 1 10 .500 .500 .500
T Tulowitzki SS 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
S Castro PR-SS
1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .000 .000
S Rolen 3B 2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
P Sandoval 3B
1 0 1 1 0 0 6 1.000 1.000 2.000
Totals 31 5 9 5 1 9 126      
a-singled to right for C Beltran in the 5th
b-popped out to second for A Ethier in the 7th
c-struck out looking for Y Molina in the 8th
2B: Y Molina (1, C Perez); P Sandoval (1, B League)
HR: P Fielder (1, 4th inning off C Wilson 2 on, 0 Out)
RBI: P Fielder 3 (3), A Ethier (1), P Sandoval (1)
2-out RBI: A Ethier
All-Stars RISP: 3-8 (P Fielder 1-1, J Upton 0-1, S Rolen 0-1, B Phillips 0-1, R Weeks 0-1, A Ethier 1-1, G Sanchez 0-1, P Sandoval 1-1)
Team LOB: 3
SB: S Castro 2 (2, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila, 3rd base off J Walden/A Avila); R Weeks (1, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila)
CS: L Berkman (1, 2nd base by D Robertson/A Avila)
E: S Castro (1, throw); J Bruce (1, throw)
Outfield Assist: H Pence (J Bautista at Home).

National All-Stars

R Halladay 2.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 19-14 0.00
C Lee 1.2 3 1 1 0 0 1 25-16 5.40
T Clippard
0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3-3 0.00
C Kershaw
1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 8-6 0.00
J Jurrjens
1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 23-15 0.00
C Kimbrel
0.1 0 0 0 1 0 0 14-8 0.00
J Venters 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 4-4 0.00
H Bell 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5-2 0.00
J Hanrahan 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-9 0.00
B Wilson
0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 7-5 0.00
Totals 9.0 6 1 1 1 5 1 122-82  
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: R Halladay 4/6; C Lee 4/8; T Clippard 1/1; C Kershaw 1/3; J Jurrjens 5/6; C Kimbrel 0/2; J Venters 2/2; H Bell 0/1; J Hanrahan 1/3; B Wilson 2/2
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: R Halladay 4-3-2-5; C Lee 4-1-3-8; T Clippard 1-1-0-1; C Kershaw 1-1-2-2; J Jurrjens 3-5-3-4; C Kimbrel 1-2-4-1; J Venters 1-2-0-1; H Bell 1-0-0-1; J Hanrahan 1-2-4-2; B Wilson 1-1-1-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: R Halladay 3-2; C Lee 4-1; T Clippard 0-0; C Kershaw 2-0; J Jurrjens 2-2; C Kimbrel 1-0; J Venters 1-0; H Bell 0-1; J Hanrahan 0-0; B Wilson 1-1
Game Scores: R Halladay 57

American All-Stars

C Granderson CF 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
J Ellsbury CF
2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
A Cabrera SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
J Peralta SS
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
A Gonzalez 1B 2 1 1 1 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
M Cabrera 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000
M Young 3B
1 0 0 0 0 1 5 .000 .000 .000
J Bautista RF 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
C Quentin RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
J Hamilton LF 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 .500 .500 .500
M Joyce LF
2 0 1 0 0 0 7 .500 .500 .500
A Beltre 3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 10 .500 .500 .500
K Youkilis 3B
1 0 1 0 0 0 4 1.000 1.000 1.000
M Cuddyer 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
D Ortiz DH 2 0 0 0 0 1 10 .000 .000 .000
a-P Konerko PH-DH
1 0 0 0 1 0 13 .000 .500 .000
R Cano 2B 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000
H Kendrick 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
A Avila C 2 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
M Wieters C
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
Totals 33 1 6 1 1 5 122      
a-walked for D Ortiz in the 7th
HR: A Gonzalez (1, 4th inning off C Lee 0 on, 2 Out)
RBI: A Gonzalez (1)
2-out RBI: A Gonzalez
All-Stars RISP: 2-5 (M Joyce 1-1, A Beltre 1-1, H Kendrick 0-1, M Cuddyer 0-1, P Konerko 0-1)
Team LOB: 6
DP: 1 (A Avila-R Cano).
PB: M Wieters.
Outfield Assist: J Bautista (A Ethier at 2nd base).

American All-Stars

J Weaver 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 14-8 0.00
D Robertson 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-7 0.00
M Pineda 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 10-8 0.00
C Wilson
1.0 3 3 3 0 1 1 22-14 27.00
J Walden 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 20-13 9.00
C Perez 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 15-9 0.00
B League 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 19-13 9.00
A Ogando 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 6-5 0.00
G Gonzalez 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 6-3 0.00
Totals 8.0 9 5 5 1 9 1 126-80  
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: J Weaver 4/4; D Robertson 1/3; M Pineda 3/3; C Wilson 3/6; J Walden 2/4; C Perez 2/4; B League 3/5; A Ogando 2/2; G Gonzalez 1/1
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: J Weaver 3-3-0-2; D Robertson 2-1-3-1; M Pineda 3-3-1-1; C Wilson 4-2-4-4; J Walden 2-3-5-3; C Perez 2-2-2-3; B League 1-4-4-4; A Ogando 2-0-1-2; G Gonzalez 2-1-0-0
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: J Weaver 1-1; D Robertson 0-1; M Pineda 0-1; C Wilson 0-2; J Walden 1-0; C Perez 0-2; B League 0-2; A Ogando 2-0; G Gonzalez 0-0
Game Scores: J Weaver 53



***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Game.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***


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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday June 29th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.


Wednesday June 29, 2011

Q:  Money aside, who do you sign Prince or Pujols?  From:  Barry, New York.

MLB reports:    The debate that has been raging from the last off-season continues.  Going into the year, most would have chosen Albert Pujols.  Great track record, monster numbers to the point of being a cut above Prince Fielder.  Now with the Pujols injury and Fielder strong season, many are starting to lean towards Prince.  Regardless of money, if I had a crack at either superstar first baseman, I would go with Pujols.  Despite being older and having to come back from injury, Pujols is still Pujols.  He is this generation’s Babe Ruth in my estimation and at his peak, brings a higher level of play than Fielder.  Both will get their money, no doubt.  Based on historical performances, I expect Pujols to still receive the higher payday unless he cannot return successfully from injuries.  The ironic part is that the Cardinals will most likely retain Pujols, while Fielder will depart Milwaukee as a free agent.  But if I had to choose one, Pujols on my team please. 


Q:    Will my Orioles ever contend?  You live in Toronto so you know what I mean.  From:  Gary, Baltimore.

MLB reports:  I hear ya Gary.  I hear the moans and groans throughout the Rogers Centre on many nights about the inability of the Toronto Blue Jays to compete with the money of the Yankees and Red Sox.  But often lost in the discussion is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Last I checked, the Rays have been contenders for some time on a minimal budget.  Yes, your Orioles can compete, even in the AL East.  But the team will need to be built around strong homegrown prospects.  With all the young Orioles players coming up and in place, the future is bright.  Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and company will complement Adam Jones and Nick Markakis well.  Plus you have young pitching coming up in every level.  The future is bright in Baltimore and the team is being built the right way.  Give it time, hope is there. 


Q:  When are the All-Star team rosters announced?  I can’t wait!  From Liz, Toronto.

MLB reports:  The All-Star game will be played in Arizona on Tuesday July 12th.  The rosters for the AL and NL squads will be announced on Sunday July 3rd.  Then from July 3-7, fans will be able to vote on-line for the final player for each squad.  Ballots need to be in by tomorrow so make sure to vote for your favorite players soon!  


Q:  Are you a Phillies fans?  You talk about the team ALOT on twitter!  From:  Mary, Florida.

MLB reports:  Hi Mary.  Thanks for the question.  I am a baseball fan in general (thus the “MLB reports” name).  As far as favorite teams, as most of the readers know, I tend to lean towards the Tigers.  I also show the Jays love as well.  I talk about the Phillies quite a bit because they are very good.  Look at their record.  From there, I tend to focus on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  What the two of them could accomplish in the playoffs together is scary.  I have never seen a 1-2 punch at the top of a rotation like this ever.  Halladay may be the best pitcher of our time and Lee is unhittable when he is on.  My heart may not be in Philadelphia, but my respect surely is. 

Q:  How do I join MLB Reports?  I love baseball and writing.  Please help!  From Catherine, Seattle. 

MLB reports:  Thank you for the inquiry Catherine.  We have people contributing to MLB reports in many ways.  We are looking at taking on a couple of Interns.  Click here to learn about the position and to apply.  We also encourage readers to e-mail us about writing guest spots.  As part of the MLB reports mandate, we look to help develop and assist young baseball writers in developing their craft.  You can also “like” us on Facebook and contribute posts/pictures on our wall.   We love our readers to get involved, as the Reports should be for the fans and by the fans.  Let me know and we will get you involved!  If any readers are also interested in applying for the Intern positions or contributing to MLB reports, please see our contact information below.



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The Man Behind the #10 Jersey – Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

MLB reports:  It is not every day that I have the opportunity to correspond with a Gold Glove winning major league all-star, but over the last couple of weeks I got to do just that with Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Getting to know Adam and hearing his thoughts on the game, his career, and team was fascinating to say the least.  The story begins as follows.

Adam, one of the most fan friendly MLB stars on twitter, started to converse with me on my usual favorite topic, baseball.  I was instantly drawn to his easy going personality and zest for life and the game.  After some messages back and forth, I brought up my blog and the interview articles I prepare on MLB reports. Being the cool cat that he is, Adam suggested he would love to help out a young writer and agreed to be interviewed for this profile piece.  After some research, back and forth emails, and analysis, here we are today.

We covered a range of topics on the career of #10, which I am about to jump into further.  Discussing topics ranging from the baseball influences on his career, his greatest accomplishments, goals, and areas of improvement, Adam did not hold back in his answers.  Considering Adam was both an All-Star and Gold Glove recipient in 2009, it was astounding to find that he did not have an ounce of attitude in his answers.  This is a player that is still humble at the age of 25 and works towards improving every facet of his game.  The combination of baseball skills, work ethic and positive outlook, I believe will translate into a limitless future for one of baseball’s young bright stars.

One of the first questions that I asked Adam was to name the baseball player he most idolized growing up and patterned his game after.  Born and raised in San Diego, California, to no surprise Adam named Tony Gwynn.  However, the reasons behind his response did perk my curiosity.  Baseball was not a sport that Adam “followed too strongly until approximately the age of 12” and only then, Gwynn was more a player that Jones had heard of than followed.  When asked to expand, Adam explained that “I’ve hit with TG [Gwynn] for a few off-seasons now since I’ve been drafted.  We have a tight group that hits together at San Diego State University.”  As far as the influence Gwynn had on his game, Adam indicated that “what I’ve learned is myself.  I’m not the hitter that he [Gwynn] was and that’s not my mentality.  We’ve just had discussions of thought processes and having the ability to take a step back and let the ball come to you.”  When breaking down the comparisons between Jones and Gwynn as players, his response becomes even clearer.

Tony Gwynn, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, played in 15 All-Star games, was the recipient of 5 Gold Gloves and 7 Silver Slugger Awards.  Gwynn also ended his career with a .338 lifetime average.  Jones, at the age of 25, brings a different game to the table.  Gwynn is a difficult, if not impossible, player to emulate and Jones is realistic in this regard.  The Gold Glove and All-Star appearance are already there with the promise of more to come.  Adam’s batting average has slowly risen every year of his career to a high of .284 in 2010.  With the right approach and discipline, .300 + is well within his reach.  Like Gwynn, Jones does a bit of everything, including hitting for power and stealing the occasional base.  Similar to Gwynn, Jones’ on-base percentage is dependent more on base hits than walks.    The more I compare the players, the standard that Gwynn set for his career is one that I feel that Adam can strive towards.  The bottom line on Gwynn is that the man could just plain hit.  Jones, working his way up the major league ladder, could follow in the Gwynn’s footsteps, even if Adam does not implicitly try to do so.

My follow-up question asked Adam to name the current MLB star that he most admired.  Based on Adam’s statistics and game style, I would have bet the answer was going to be Torii Hunter.  Guess what?  I was right.  But again, the reasons behind his answer threw me.  According to Adam, “there aren’t enough good things to say about him [Hunter].  But my favorite attribute about him has nothing to do with baseball.  That what he does for a living.  It’s his character.  He [Hunter] is a true leader on and off the field and is highly respected.”  My correlation between Adam and Hunter centered on their similar statistics and abilities on the field, in contrast to Adams’ vision of Hunter as a person and leader.  Hunter, a 4-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove winner and a Silver Slugger recipient, as a youngster in many ways mirrored the player that we see in Jones today.  In his breakout year in 2001, Hunter had a batting line of 27 home runs, .261 average, 82 runs, 92 rbis, .306 obp and .479 slg.  Jones, in his 2009 campaign had a line of 19 home runs, .277 average, 83 runs, 70 rbis, .335 obp and .442 slg.  Although not entirely the same, as hitters Jones and Hunter showcased several similarities in those respective years.  The following is Hunter’s average season in the major leagues: .275 batting average, 25 home runs, 89 runs, 95 rbis and 17 stolen bases.  Considering what Adam has accomplished to-date, these numbers are surely attainable and possible for him to exceed.

 Adam indicated that he knew Torii very well and some of his favorite characteristics of Hunter was that “he plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played”, “not a guy that makes any excuses.” Adam mentioned Hunters’ upbeat attitude, and that his’ “favorite thing is that he smiles all the time.  He shows he is happy doing what he loves to do.”  Hunter’s personality has definitely rubbed off on Adam in a positive manner and reflects in his attitude and demeanor on and off the field.  If I had to include a caveat, however, it is the holes that Hunter has in his game that Adam would be well served to avoid in his own play.  Although Hunter is a strong home run hitter and has the ability to score and drive in runs, he has traditionally not hit for a high average or been able to get on-base at a consistent clip.  By working with Tony Gwynn, Jones should focus on raising his own level of base hits and batting average to compensate for a lack of walks.  At this stage of his career, it will be interesting to see if Adam becomes a high average and/or home run hitter as he progresses.

With the above comparisons in mind, I asked Adam what he considered to be his greatest baseball skill(s) and aspects of his game he most wished to improve.  Rather than name a specific on-field capacity, Adam named his “lack of fear” as his greatest trait.  Adam believes that, “others should be a better evaluator of my skills.  I just play.”  This answer fit well within his stated areas of improvement, whereby Adam indicates, “I really want to improve on everything.  I need to steal more bases or be more aggressive.  I need to play better defense.  To get better judgment at the plate.  The best part about baseball is that there is always something to improve on.”  A star player that believes he can improve in every area of the game.  How refreshing.  When I pinpointed particular areas in his game, Adam responds by mentioning that he’s, “never been a high home run guy or walks or stolen bases.  I’ve always played my game and that’s got me to where I’m at now.  Adjustments are needed to be made in order to stay at this level so I am constantly trying to improve on something.”  Whereas Gwynn, known as “Mr. Padre” and “Captain Video” for dedicating enormous amounts of time  to studying video and his approach at the plate, Adam indicates the danger in thinking too much. While he does video, it can often lead into over-thinking and therefore Adam tries to avoid “thinking about hitting when in the batter’s box.” Let the instincts take over. An interesting and old-school mentality as a player, rather than trying to work on specific components, Adam works hard at improving all aspects of his game.

I was curious as to what Jones considers his greatest accomplishment to-date in baseball and what goals he had for the 2011 season.  His 2009 Gold Glove ranks as the top accomplishment, because as Adam says, “it was decided by my peers.”  For the upcoming season, Adam is focusing on, “playing harder than I have.  For me in sports, I feel that if I play every day, the numbers take care of themselves.”  I didn’t get the sense that Adam is the type that checks the box score every day to break down and categorize his own statistics.  This is a player that is driven to play as hard as he can every day and simply focuses on helping his team win.  Plain and simple.

Playing under Buck Showalter should only serve to further Adam’s approach to the game and lead to big things for him and the Orioles as the year approaches.  Showalter, a 2-time MLB Manager of the Year, has a career 916-856 record in 12 seasons.  Dissecting the numbers even further, in his 2nd year as a manager at each of his three stops, Showalter attained 88 wins with the Yankees, 100 wins with the Diamondbacks and 89 wins with the Rangers.  Going into year two with the Orioles, Showalter will work to bring the same strong attitude and success to Baltimore as he has achieved in each of his previous stops.

As far as what Showalter brings as a manager, Adam indicated that, “accountability was number one.  We held ourselves responsible for how we played.  I believe what he (Showalter) wants is for you to give your best effort and play the game.”  By having a similar mentality with his manager, I envision Jones growing into a leader on this young Orioles team.  In his humble response, Adam considers that, “when it comes to the young guys, I’m still a young guy myself.  But I always try and associate myself with my teammates in the clubhouse or the field.  I want them to know that I got their backs.”  That being said, Adam throws in a caution. “I want to be a leader, of course.  But I’m not going to force the issue with that.  You never want to cross the veterans on the teams and I try and show it (my leadership) with my play.  This season we have added veterans that have won and been leaders of their respective squads.  I think we have the possibility to have multiple leaders.”  A very healthy attitude for a budding superstar growing as both a player and leader on his team.  The Orioles bolstered their lineup for the 2011 season with the additions of Vlad Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, in addition to Justin Duchscherer and Kevin Gregg joining the pitching staff.  A veteran team almost overnight, Jones will have many experienced players to learn from in Baltimore as he continues his rise to the top of the MLB ladder.

Reflecting on the 2010 season, Jones felt that the Orioles as a team, “all tried to do everything possible and we couldn’t do it.  We have to play as a team and have the faith in the guy behind you to get the job done.”  With all the additions to the team and a new season ahead, Jones states, “I want to play baseball with them all.  I am excited to get in the locker room and see my (new) team.”  Considering the Orioles teams of the past that Jones has played for, it has been quite the journey for the 37th overall pick in the 2003 draft.  Originally drafted as a shortstop by the Seattle Mariners, Adam was traded on February 8, 2008 to Baltimore as part of a package for then top of the rotation starting pitcher Erik Bedard.  “My first reaction when I found out I was traded to Baltimore was ‘dang,’ I’m going east.”  But then I thought to myself that I was going to have the opportunity to go and show that I can play this game at a high level.”  For a team and player on the rise, the marriage between the Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones couldn’t be a better fit.

With many bright years ahead of him, Adam took the time to reflect on what he would most want to be remembered for when it was time to hang up his spikes.  “When its over and done, I want people to know that I played my behind off and loved the game that has treated myself and so many people well.”  When you think of Adam Jones, do not look for the next “Tony Gwynn” or “Torii Hunter”.  Consider Adam Jones as himself, the player that he his and the player that he is striving to become.  Adam works hard and has a strong understanding of his strengths and areas he needs to improve.  Behind the #10 jersey there is no hype, attitude or ego – just the baseball player we will always know as “Adam Jones”.

 ***A special thank you to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  A thank you as well to Peter Stein, my editor in helping to prepare this piece.***


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