Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM
It's Fourth of July "Eve" - if you will.
And that's an exciting time for folks who love the summertime and who love to celebrate the country's birthday.
When it comes to America's Pastime, there are a slew of exciting players who are very much making their mark on this here-and-now 2013 season.
In today's Jim Sez, we'll rank what we believe to be the Three (3) Most Exciting Everyday Players in Major-League Baseball ... go ahead and see what you think!
#1. YASIEL PUIG, OF, LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Was there really any doubt at all as to who was numero uno?
The Dodgers' rookie has burst upon the big-league scene like a meteor as he plays the game in fast motion - even if that means an occasional lapse on the base paths or not totally knowing the strike zone.
Still, Puig headed into last night's game in Colorado with some out-of-this-world numbers after just 101 at-bats: He's hitting .436 with 7 HR and 16 RBI and note the slugging percentage (.713) and the on-base percentage (.467).
Put it this way: Puig is already the best and most popular player on a Dodgers team that's a handful of games below the .500 mark and even though he won't be heading to the All-Star Game at Citi Field in a couple of weeks (by the way, the correct call by National League manager Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants) he figures on being a part of plenty of Mid-Summer Classics from here on in.
The question we ask you is: What part of Puig's game do you like best ... his bat, his arm or his legs? Tough call!
#2. BRYCE HARPER, OF, WASHINGTON NATIONALS
It didn't take this 20-year-old long to get back into the swing of things following his lengthy stay on the sidelines.
Harper - who missed 31 games with bursitis in his left knee following a collision with the outfield wall in a road game against the Los Angeles Dodgers back in May - treated the Nats' fans to a home run with his first swing this past Monday night in a 10-5 triumph over Yovani Gallardo and the Milwaukee Brewers.
As Nationals' OF Jayson Werth said afterward, "Typical Bryce right there, he's all about the drama."
Harper missed a month's worth of action and still his stats are solid this season with 13 homers and a .286 batting average with a spiffy .387 on-base percentage.
No doubt that Harper goes all out in the outfield, on the bases and at the plate and he's quickly turned into one of those rarer gotta-see-'em MLB players.
Exciting? No question but if the Nats can get heated up after three months of slumbering baseball you might even want to toss Harper's name into the MVP mix too should his numbers rise as expected in July/August/September.
#3. MANNY MACHADO, 3B, BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Talk about the "wow factor"! The Birds' superstar third sacker has been brilliant this year and he's turned more than a few heads too with his American League-leading 38 doubles in the team's first 83 games.
In fact, Machado exited that weekend series sweep against the New York Yankees with 34 multi-hit games this season including 10 multi-hits starts in his last 18 games while batting a robust .342 (that's 27-for-79) during this span.
Machado - who is hitting .321 with 53 runs scored and 42 RBI this year - has been right below MVP frontrunners Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) and Baltimore's own Chris Davis in that awards chase and about the only thing lacking from his game is power (see 6 HRs) ... but otherwise Machado is a must-see baller too.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be banging out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners all summer long and so check with us right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear in early August - can't wait! So, pile up the greenbacks while you're kicking back this summer of 2013!
NFL NEWS & NOTES - TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS
Today we continue with our annual summertime NFL Team-by-Team looks of all 32 clubs. We'll concentrate on two or three teams per Jim Sez column, so there's plenty of football straight ahead. Today we check out the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals: Take note that we list the overall 2012 team records (including post-season play) next to the team names below:
MIAMI (7-9) - Maybe Dolphins' QB Ryan Tannehill has his own opinion as to the team's first-string running back will be this year after the free-agency loss of RB Reggie Bush to Detroit -- he says Lamar Miller who averaged 4.9 yards a carry last year en route to a 51-carry, 250-yard season - but insiders believe there is a real battle for snaps/playing time this year.
Florida RB Mike Gillislee is considered very much in the mix and there's former Kansas State star RB Daniel Thomas who has battled the injury bug for much of the past two years. Thomas might be considered the "odd man out" in some circles but second-year head coach Joe Philbin will give him a shot this summer even though Thomas has fumbled five times in 256 NFL carries and averaged only 3.5 yards a carry through two pro seasons.
It's Gillislee who could ramp up a Fish ground game that last year ranked 17th in the NFL (112.6 yards a game) and the belief right now is that Miami would like to rush it more than the 27.5 carries-per-game average from a year ago.
One major bugaboo last year not just including the aforementioned Thomas: The Fish lost 13 fumbles (yes, four of 'em by QB Tannehill) and that's a figure that must be sliced back if Miami has any intentions of registering its first winning season since 2008.
Spread Notes - The Dolphins finished off an uneven 2012 season with a 7-7-2 ATS (against the spread) mark that included a 4-2-2 ATS mark at home and a 3-5 ATS mark away. Note that Miami registered a 2-2-2 spread log when facing fellow AFC East foes with "pushes" in a 23-20 overtime win against the New York Jets in Week 3 and a 23-16 loss at 7-point fav New England in Week 13 action.
JACKSONVILLE (2-14) - How bad were things last year for the Jaguars en route to a 2-14 SU (straight-up) season? Well, for starters, the Jags were outscored by nearly 12 points per game and wound up losing eight games by 20-or-more points. Yikes!
The team's offensive numbers/rankings were downright dreadful as Jacksonville finished 29th in the NFL in total offense, 30th in rushing (averaged 85.6 ypg) and 29th in passing (averaged 213.7 ypg) and keep in mind WR Justin Blackmon is ineligible to play in the regular season the first four games because he violated the NFL's substance abuse policy while a batch of other wide-outs have various injury woes including: Slot receiver Ace Sanders who seems to be getting over his ab and rib injuries; WR Laurent Robinson (concussion) who is listed as probable for the start of training camp later this month; and WR Cecil Shorts who also has concussion issues and is listed as probable for the start of training camp.
Last year Shorts nabbed 55 receptions while averaging 17.8 yards per catch with 7 TDs while Blackmon totaled 64 receptions worth 13.5 yards a grab with 5 TDs and so someone is gonna have to step up early in the year when Blackmon's serving his suspension time.
Spread Notes - Despite the two SU wins, the Jaguars were not overly dreadful last year with a 7-9 pointspread mark that included a split in games against NFC North foes with covers against Minnesota and Green Bay (both on the road) and spread setbacks at home versus both Chicago and Detroit ... go figure!
ARIZONA (5-11) - The merry-go-round of Cardinals quarterbacks has - hopefully - ended with the acquisition of former Oakland/Cincinnati slinger Carson Palmer but when you consider that last year's super-slide from 4-0 to 5-11 "featured" a defense that allowed 27-or-more points in five of the team's final eight games you get the sense that the major roster purge was necessary for new head coach Bruce Arians.
Hey, if the Palmer-to-WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd combos don't fly than this NFC West squad is doomed this year regardless of the "D" but keep in mind 'Zona brought back LB Karlos Dansby after he spent the past three years in Miami and that was a key signing when you consider LB Daryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games this year (violation of substance abuse policy) and in May he was arrested for a domestic violence situation - no wonder the Cardinals' management recently told an Arizona radio station that these days Washington is "walking a very thin line."
Spread Notes - Last year's Redbirds alternated pointspread wins/losses in the last eight games of the year en route to a 7-8-1 ATS mark. Note that Arizona went just 3-4-1 spreadwise whenever taking a 7-point-or-bigger price tag while the Cards did start out last year with back-to-back-to-back outright upset wins against Seattle, at New England and Philadelphia.
NOTE: More MLB and NFL Notes in the next Jim Sez and next up we check in on the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers ... Happy 4th of July!