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ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Chapman, Hamilton, WBC, Billy Corgan and Neiko Johnson

Sunday September 16th, 2012



Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets! We love to hear from you- so keep the questions coming every week!

Jonathan Hacohen: I hate being sick. In writing terms, I have been placed on the 5-10 day DL with a chest infection. It actually feels worse than it sounds. I have the cough of George Burns and probably his energy level as well. But the show must go on! ATR appears every weekend and dammit, I’m not letting a little thing like illness get in my way. Write through pain, that’s my philosophy. 

Before I get to your questions, I just want to take a quick look at the MLB standings as of this morning:

  • The Yankees are hanging onto the AL East by the skin of their teeth, with a 1 game lead over the Orioles. But for all the talk of those two teams, don’t forget about the Rays. They are only 4 GB. The Rays have pulled it off before and if I am placing my wager, I give it to Tampa Bay. Just too much pitching in my estimation.
  • As we continue to scan through the standings, I notice that the AL races are far more interesting than the NL ones. I’m not sure if that says much, but perhaps the AL teams will continue to battle each other to a pulp, and become easy pickings for the NL (who enjoys home field advantage in the World Series).  Just a thought.
  • The White Sox hold a 1 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Yes, I bleed Tigers Blue and Orange. But I will admit that my crystal ball sees this season as the year of the White Sox. Sorry Tigers supporters, its nothing personal. Just business. Adam Dunn is back and as long as Chicago can continue their season long magic for a couple of more weeks, they will be playoff-bound.
  • The most interesting division has become the AL West. The Rangers, the 2-time AL champions now hold a slim 2 game lead over the Athletics (after losing to the Mariners and the A’s beating up on the O’s in a key weekend matchup). Chuck Booth and I have called what the A’s are doing as “Moneyball 2”. Let’s consider that when Moneyball the Movie came out last fall, critics were quick to mock Billy Beane and the A’s as being outdated and the movie being a historical piece, with no relevance to the current team. Guess who’s having the last laugh people? That’s right. Billy Beane. The A’s might actually have the guts to pull this thing off and take the division. It would be an incredible shot in the arm for Oakland and a tragedy in Texas. Keep an eye on this race people: if we have learned nothing else this season, the A’s are not going away.
  • The AL Wild Card spots are currently held down by the A’s and Orioles, with the Angels (2.5 gb), Rays (3 GB) and Tigers (3.5 GB) all in shooting distance. If we assume that the Rays, White Sox and Rangers end up taking their respective divisions, we are left with the A’s, Yankees, Orioles, Tigers and Angels as the contenders for the Wild Card spots. I see from there the Yankees and A’s taking the wild cards, with Oakland advancing to the ALDS. It is not an exact science, but playoff predictions are sure fun to create.
  • In the NL, we start with the Nationals, who enjoy a 6.5 game lead on the Braves. Not out of reach, but the Nats are still likely to take the AL East. They have been one of the best stories in baseball this year. Let’s see how far they go sans their ace.
  • In the Central, the Reds have a stranglehold on their division, with a 11.5 game lead over the Cardinals. Dusty Baker and company have a magic number of 6. ‘Nuff said.
  • Over in the NL West, the Giants are pulling away with a 7.5 game lead over the Dodgers. Now Clayton Kershaw may need surgery and be out for the season. It looks like the Dodgers’ big ticket items will not pay off until 2013 at the earliest.
  • The NL wild card race is messier than an algebra exam. The Braves hold a fairly good lead on the 1st spot, almost assuring Chipper Jones of at least one game of playoff action in his final season. The final spot is held in a tie, between the Cardinals and Dodgers. While there are several teams still in contention for that final spot (Pirates 2 GB, Brewers 2.5 GB, Phillies 3 GB, Diamondbacks 4.5 GB and even the Padres 6 GB). Predicting this spot is like taking a shot in the dark. Many are going with the Phillies, given their strong pitching staff (the three aces). I am not counting out any teams at this point, but I will say keep an eye on the Dbacks. It would not surprise me if they somehow face the Braves in the one-game sudden-death playoff series.

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week: Read the rest of this entry

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Interview with Neiko Johnson: Houston Astros Prospect and Future Leadoff Man

Thursday December 22, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Today on MLB reports we are proud to feature Houston Astros Prospect:  Neiko Johnson.  Joining the Astros organization as a free agent this past year, Neiko started his career in the New York-Penn League, playing for the Tri-City ValleyCats.  Neiko played all over the field in his first season, including outfield, shortstop, second base and third base.  A speedster, Neiko successfully stole 21 bases in 25 attempts, playing in 57 games.  Even more impressively, Neiko had a .397 OBP.  With the ability to get on base and swipe bags in bunches, Neiko has a bright future as a MLB leadoff man.  By taking 41 walks and striking out 37 times, Neiko showed a good eye at the plate.  At the age of 23, we see a bright future for Neiko Johnson as the Astros answer to Tim Raines, Vince Coleman or even Rickey Henderson.  The tools are clearly there for Neiko- now he just needs the time to sharpen his skills and work towards landing in Houston.  Plus having Brandon Phillips as a close friend never hurts.  Phillips plays the game “the right way” and clearly has had a positive influence on Neiko.  The stars are aligned for this young man and we see big things ahead in his future!

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Nieko Johnson, Houston Astros Prospect:

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MLB reports:  You played five seasons for the University of Kentucky.  Tell us about that experience and why you chose Kentucky for your education?

Neiko Johnson:  College was a great experience and I recommend it to all athletes.  I believe college helps a young athlete grow into an adult, learn about themselves and many other parts of life.  I learned how to manage my time and be more efficient in life, as well as becoming mentally stronger.  I chose Kentucky because I wanted to play college for a big D-1 school and the SEC is the best conference in the nation.  So it was an easy choice.

 

MLB reports:  Did you have a favorite player growing up?

Neiko Johnson:  Derek Jeter.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Neiko Johnson:  Brandon Phillips because I am real close friends with him and he has helped lead me down the right path in baseball.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Neiko Johnson:  To become a better player every day and give 110% percent.

 

MLB reports:  You were signed as a free agent by the Astros in June 2011.  Tell us about that process.

Neiko Johnson:  I worked out for the Houston Astros in my hometown Atlanta, GA.  That same day they called back wanting to sign me which was a blessing and I’m very thankful for.

 

MLB reports:  As soon as you signed you were off to Troy to play for the Tri-City ValleyCats.  What the heck is a ValleyCat?

Neiko Johnson:  HAHA honestly I have no idea what a ValleyCat is!  But the fans were awesome and I really enjoyed the environment we played in.

 

MLB reports:  How did you feel going from school to professional baseball?  What was the transition like?

Neiko Johnson:  I felt good going into pro ball.  I was ready because I was mature and knew how to handle myself.  The transition was a bit different because in college most things are taken care of for you such as food, housing, workouts, etc.  In pro ball, you are basically on your own and you have to become a man in the real world.  You have to figure things out as you go along because most things are not taken care of for you like they were in college.

 

MLB reports:  You played all over the field this past season:  including shortstop, third base, second base and outfield.  What position do you see yourself at long-term?

Neiko Johnson:  Whatever position the Astros want me to play is the position I can see myself playing long-term.  I am willing to play anywhere as long as I am in the lineup.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Neiko Johnson:  My speed and awareness of the game.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Neiko Johnson:  I wish to improve every facet of my game because I can improve in all areas all the time.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

Neiko Johnson:  You have to love this game and work hard at it because nothing is given you. You have to earn it!

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Neiko Johnson:  I just need to continue to work hard and stay dedicated to the process.  When the time is right I will eventually make it to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  Favorite baseball movie of all-time?

Neiko Johnson:  Major League.

 

MLB reports:  Have you been to Houston yet?  Do you own a cowboy hat and boots?

Neiko Johnson:  HAHA… nope, not a big cowboy guy. But yes, I have been to Houston.  Only once though.  In college we played at Minute Maid Park in a tournament during my senior season.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

Neiko Johnson:  Thank you for the opportunity to answer some questions about my life and career.  I will continue to work hard and always keep a good image.

 

Thank you again to Neiko Johnson for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Neiko.  You can also  find Neiko Johnson on Twitter (@ThisIsNJJ)

***The pictures used in today’s feature  were provided by Neiko Johnson from his personal collection***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

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