Jonah Arenado

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks deserving of MLB All-Team honors

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AP

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks deserving of MLB All-Team honors

Major League Baseball has initiated the first-ever All-MLB Team. This was put forth for fans to vote on their favorite players from the 2019 season's entirety.

This is a bit like the All-Star selections only that, in this case, it's not in the middle of the season, and with these, there are both first and second teams. Also, this team will not be broken up by leagues and players were previously nominated -- pretty cool, right?

I voted for my 2019 All-MLB Team and here are my results:

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso put on a show at the plate this season and during the Home Run Derby. Sure, we dig the long ball, but we also appreciate a guy who shows his emotions when he does something great on the field, like setting a rookie home-run record with 53 dingers this season.

The middle-infielders as of late have become these gems filled with power, which is a characteristic we didn't see in the earlier eras of the game. 

For second base, Houston Astros star José Altuve proved once again why he is a constant force to be reckoned with. The six-time All-Star finished his 2019 campaign slashing .298/.353/.550 with 31 home runs and 74 RBI in 124 games. 

Marcus Semien was the vote at the shortstop position. While there were plenty that deserved the honors (Jorge Polanco and Xander Bogaerts should not go unmentioned), Semien was such a fascinating player this season.

Sure, there's a slight bias over here, but imagine having someone only get better as the season went on. Semien started in all 162 games this season and showed no signs of tiring, finishing with 33 homers and doubling last season's total. He was also third in AL MVP voting behind Mike Trout and Alex Bregman. 

Semien didn't receive All-Star honors this season, which is a shame. He deserves something after the show he put on.

Speaking of Bregman ... I voted for him at third base, the position that was the toughest to select across the roster.

He, Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado each put up a phenomenal season and reminded you just why it's called the hot corner.

For Bregman, he was sensational across the board in each hitting category, finishing 2019 with a .296 average, 41 homers and a 1.015 OPS. Arenado matched Bregman's long-ball numbers with 41, but ya know -- Coors. 

And that energy is contagious.

Outfielders were easy to vote for.

Trout, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. I really hope you guys won't argue with me on those.

The starting pitchers, for the most part, hosted arms from the final two teams still playing October baseball. Justin Verlander earned his second Cy Young Award, posting a 2.58 ERA with 300 strikeouts in 223 innings and an MLB-leading 0.80 WHIP.

Well-deserved. 

Verlander's former teammate Gerrit Cole was behind him in Cy Young voting, leading the AL with a 2.50 ERA and MLB with 326 strikeouts and 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

I also voted for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and once again, I hope there are no arguments there. If there is, I have plenty of photos of them drenched in champagne celebrating a World Series championship to back me up.

Former A and current Cincinnati Red Sonny Gray didn't reach his 2015 heights, but he dropped his ERA drastically from his 2018 campaign, boasting a 2.87 ERA with the Redlegs. His season deserved to be recognized.

From the bullpen, A's Liam Hendriks got a vote because he not only put up the numbers but switched to closer role responsibilities and did it smoothly and masterfully.

He finished his 2019 All-Star season with a 1.80 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 85 innings with a 0.97 WHIP.

[RELATED: Hendriks shift in energy factors in success with A's]

How'd I do? Let me know.

The winners for first and second-team honors will be announced at this year's Winter Meetings in San Diego. 

Giants prospects Arenado, Heyward looking for own path to big leagues

Giants prospects Arenado, Heyward looking for own path to big leagues

SAN FRANCISCO -- There were a lot of familiar names on the Richmond Flying Squirrels roster, the Giants' Double-A affiliate, at the start of the season. 

Chris Shaw was back in Double-A after two years at higher levels. Brock Stassi, Brandon Beachy and Fernando Abad have all played in the big leagues. Melvin Adon and Logan Webb opened eyes during spring training. 

But when fans scanned the roster, two names likely stood out for other reasons. Jonah Arenado is the younger brother of Nolan, Jacob Heyward is the younger brother of Jason, and the two young hitters have been two of Richmond's best players this season. 

"You feel bad for them because they always get compared to their brothers and they're both their own players and should develop at their own pace," Giants director of player development Kyle Haines said. "They're very good players in their own rights."

Arenado, 24, has a .290/.347/.400 slash line while playing third base and shortstop. Heyward, a 23-year-old outfielder, is at .251/.383/.433 in his first Double-A season. The two are playing together for the first time but said their shared background does not come up often.

"For me and him, it's more normal than for everyone else," Arenado said. "I think everyone is like, 'Oh man, that's crazy,' which it is crazy, but I feel like it's something where we're both fortunate. People might look at it as you have to deal with the shadow and living in your brother's shadow, and I don't believe that. I think more people would rather be in the position that we're in and have the knowledge of major leaguers to help us out when things get tough, because baseball is so hard."

Heyward said he's "just used to" life as Jason's younger brother. 

"It's just normal to us," he said. "It's our brother out there doing his thing. He's done so much for my family, but parts of it is just normal to me. I talk to him a lot, and I think we've always been close but we've gotten closer (as professionals). We talk whenever we feel uncomfortable or whenever we feel we're getting out of our space on the field."

That can happen often for a young player, and both Arenado and Heyward have dealt with their share of ups and downs. The Giants can also point to stretches in both prospect's careers that are promising. 

Arenado seemed to be breaking through in the second half two years ago in San Jose, hitting five homers and 15 doubles in August with an OPS over 1.000. It was a tantalizing stretch, one that caught even the attention of the big league staff, but he has struggled to come close to that production in the much tougher Eastern League. 

"There have been a lot of adjustments in my swing," Arenado said. "There was a lot of movement last year that we had to clean up."

Haines said coaches have seen improvement there.

"He's shown glimpses of being the guy he's capable of being," he said. "The consistency wasn't there and I think this year he's been able to string together more consistently good at-bats. He's still young. He's been with us a while, but sometimes you forget how young he still is."

Arenado signed out of high school in 2013, but Heyward knew all along that he was going to college. The Braves, Jason's team at the time, took Jacob in the 38th round in 2013 but he went to Miami and joined the Giants as an 18th-round pick three years later. 

A right-handed hitter, unlike his older brother, Heyward broke through in the second half last season, posting a .846 OPS for San Jose with eight homers after the High-A All-Star break. He started wearing glasses last year and said that helped him see the spin on the ball, and he also credits a minor league staff that has seen a lot of turnover in the last couple of years. 

"They're letting me be myself," Heyward said. "I feel like I came into the organization being myself and I think I got to a little point there where it was a struggle between certain people and I wasn't feeling comfortable. The new guys came in this past year and they made me feel comfortable, they let me fail my way and also were able to talk to me at the same time. They let me be myself and play the game that I know."

[RELATED: Beede's growing confidence on display in win vs. Padres]

Haines, who took over for the departed David Bell, has drawn rave reviews at every stop of his minor league career, and the Giants feel they have put strong minor league coaching staffs in place. Their rebuild would be helped quite a bit by a surprise or two, and perhaps they'll eventually strike gold with one of their prospects who possess a strong pedigree and just need to put it all together. 

"When you talk about these two, I think the first thing you talk about with them is they're strong, athletic kids, they're guys that came into us a little raw," Haines said. "But they both are full of a lot of skills."

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

The Giants know Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado all too well. In 76 games, Arenado has a .308 batting average against the Giants with 20 home runs, his most off any team in all of the majors. 

Playing in Advanced Single-A, the Giants have their own Arenado. Brother Jonah Arenado plays first and third base for the San Jose Giants and hit 19 home runs in 2016. 

Before the younger brother went 2-for-4 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night, NBC Sports Bay Area spoke over the phone with Arenado. Below is the full transcript where we talk his hitting approach, frustrations with the Lakers, trash talk with Nolan in ping pong and much more. 

Dalton Johnson: “You guys are now three weeks in, but I want to actually go back to Opening Day real quick. I know you guys ultimately lost, but it was a 16-inning game. Was that the longest game you’ve ever played in?” 

Jonah Arenado: “No, the longest game I ever played in was 17 innings.” 

DJ: “Really?! Wow! When was that?” 

JA: “I played 17 innings in Lakewood. I was playing for Augusta at the time. We were playing in New Jersey. So we went 17 innings, but we didn’t even get to finish the game. The fog got so extreme that we had to just cancel the game.” 

DJ: “The fog? That’s just crazy. So you were out in Augusta for the GreenJackets?” 

JA: “Yeah.”

DJ: “I was actually out in Savannah for college ball. I’m not sure if you guys ever played against the Sand Gnats.”

JA: “Yeah we were there the last year they had that stadium.” 

DJ: “Grayson Stadium. That was a really fun park. But a 16 or 17-inning game, I’m going to guess that the dugout has to get a little weird at some point, right?” 

JA: “Yeah you're just getting like... it gets kind of monotonous you know. It’s kind of like okay, when are we gonna score or when are they gonna score. And obviously you don’t want to lose the game, but you just want something to happen.” 

DJ: “What are you guys bringing out the rally caps or doing anything different?” 

JA: “No, no rally caps, but there’s times where a couple innings go by and someone will come into the dugout and try get jacked up or excite everyone. When it doesn’t work, it’s like alright here we go again.” 

DJ: “Off the field, I think you’re a Southern California guy and this is your second year out in Northern California in San Jose. Obviously you guys are always busy, but do you ever get to go out and check the Bay Area scenery at all?”

JA: “I’ve been to Santa Cruz and the beach over there. I’ve been to San Francisco. I went to San Francisco on an off day last year to watch the Giants-Rockies game. But besides that, no I rarely ever get to go out to San Francisco or anything like that.” 

DJ: “Off day, or you a golf guy or more of a relax guy? What are you trying to do on an off day?” 

JA: “I’m just trying to relax. Maybe hang out by the pool, just relax and hang out. Go to the beach. And if you do get to relax, I’m not trying to do anything that’s like a workout.” 

DJ: “Are there any places in San Jose where if someone’s coming from out town, you say, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go.’ San Jose, where would you go for one day?”

JA: “Oh, San Jose...” 

DJ: “Just go to a game? Tell them to go to a San Jose Giants game?” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah go to a San Jose Giants game and if not, Santa Cruz is 30 minutes down the road. I’d go to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is nice.” 

DJ: “And then on the field, you’re someone who hits for power. You hit 19 bombs last year. With the way different people are starting to look at the swing now, are you someone that’s actually trying to swing for the fences a little bit? Are you trying to hit a home run? What’s your approach?”

JA: “No, I feel like the more I try to hit a home run, the more I don’t. When I go in thinking line drive to the middle or stay through the middle, I feel a lot better. I know last year I didn’t start off well, and I’m not starting off well this year either, but I know if I think like I have to drive this ball or I have to hit a home run then that never happens. Try to stay simple, try to stay short is usually when things start working out.” 

DJ: “Well there’s all these different advanced analytics and you can track everything now. Are you someone that actually looks into something like launch angle or exit velocity? Or is it more see ball, hit ball?” 

JA: “I don’t like thinking about those 40-degree angles. Hitting is hard enough. To think about all that stuff is too much. But I know that a lot of people, that’s the new thing. Launch angle and try to lift the ball, and that’s all great. It’s whatever works for that person. I know Donaldson preaches it and he loves talking about it, but that’s him. That’s what works for him. I know for me, trying to lift the ball doesn’t work. When I try to lift the ball, I usually pop up. So when I’m trying to hit a hard line drive, that’s when I usually can drive that ball.” 

DJ: “Yeah it seems like when you’re practicing, you’re on the tee or getting front toss or whatever, that’s when you can kind of work on those things. But I couldn’t really imagine taking that over to the game. Once it’s game time, it’s get a pitch, be aggressive, hit it hard. Are you just trying to make things, like you said, as simple as possible once it’s go time?” 

JA: “Yeah, when I’m in the game I’m just trying to be as ready as I can for that fastball. Just see it and hit it. There’s nothing more to it, honestly. Obviously, when you’re struggling you start trying to fix things. When I’m going well, it’s never thinking about what this guy is gonna throw or make sure your foot is doing this. No, I never think about that. I think about see the ball and hit it as hard as I can.” 

DJ: “In the minor leagues, are these tracking systems as prominent or is that more available the higher you go?” 

JA: “I think it’s more available for the big leaguers. It’s hard to watch our swings on video because sometimes our games aren’t taped. We watch our home games because they are streamed, but besides that it’s hard to get all that stuff done.” 

DJ: “Can that almost be an advantage at the same time though? When you’re younger I think if you look too far into then you might press or try to do too much. If you’re just figuring things out on your own, that might even be a little better. Am I right or wrong there?” 

JA: “I think you’re both wrong and right. There’s times when you think too much and sometimes you think it’s your swing and it’s really not your swing, it’s your approach. I think that’s when it can hurt you. When you’re looking at it on video, but that was never really the problem, so then you’re changing a swing that was actually working, but your approach was what’s messed up so now you’re changing your swing and your approach. So that can hurt you. But it can also help you because if there is something mechanically wrong, you can fix it. If you can’t watch it, then how are you gonna know? When you’re in the box, you feel completely different. You never feel like that’s your swing. When you’re in the box, everything is different. When you see it on film, you see I’m dropping my hands, but in the box I’m telling myself to stay on top of the ball so you don’t think you’re dropping your hands, but you’re still dropping your hands, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “It’s almost like a best of two evils.” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah.” 

DJ: “Back on the field, clearly you’re obviously from a very athletic family. For you, was it just baseball all the time?” 

JA: “My older brother played soccer, my oldest brother played basketball too and Nolan just played baseball. He played soccer for a little, but then went with just baseball. For me, I played basketball also. Basketball is my favorite sport.” 

DJ: “Oh, really?” 

JA: “Yeah, it was. Basketball is just so much fun. You go out and shoot down the street by your house and technically that’s practicing, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “Oh yeah. Baseball obviously you can go hit off the tee, but basketball, I mean I shot for 20 minutes at the gym today and you feel great.” 

JA: “Yeah, you can work on so many different things. If you’re hitting like crap that day, then it’s really hard to fix it that day. Basketball, if you’re shooting and keep shooting, eventually it’s going to go in.” 

DJ: “So, who’s your team?” 

JA: “Oh, the Lakers. Unfortunately, yeah.” 

DJ: “Are you feeling good about the rebuild or how are you feeling about all that?” 

JA: “I don’t know, man. Magic Johnson’s in there, so I hope he’s the answer. But they need to get a superstar. The Lakers are my team, they have always been my team, but the players on the team are bothering me lately.” 

DJ: “I’m sure you and your brother Nolan and all of your brothers competed against each other all the time growing up. Whether it be shooting hoops or playing video games or anything else, what was the one thing, especially with Nolan, where you knew you could beat him no matter what?” 

JA: “Oh man, that’s tough. It’s really hard to beat him. Him losing to me is like death, but he’ll do anything he can to not lose to me because he knows if I win I’ll talk. I’ll just keep talking about it. It’s hard to say. There’s days in ping pong, I’m not gonna say I’m a better ping pong player, but we’re both pretty competitive. If I beat him in ping pong, I mean, it’s over. He’s distraught and then he’ll just want to rematch me until he can beat me.” 

DJ: “If you beat him, you said you’re a talker. What’s your go-to angle when it comes to trash talk?” 

JA: “I just never let him forget it. If I beat him in ping pong that series or that day, you better believe all day I’m gonna wear it out.” 

DJ: “Were you guys video game guys at all or more outside?” 

JA: “We played video games here and there. Mostly it was outdoors. Wiffle ball was always big with me and my family. We still play to this day. We still play wiffle ball all the time.” 

DJ: “Wiffle ball, you’re in the backyard 1-on-1. Who wins between you and Nolan and if you have one pitch, what are you throwing him?” 

JA: “Throwing him? I’m throwing fastball at his face.”

DJ: “Fastball at his face?!?” 

JA: “I’m just kidding, just kidding.” 

DJ: “That might be the only way the Giants can slow him down.” 

JA: “I’ll throw some chin music and then try to throw a little changeup away.” 

DJ: “I got you there, I got you. One last question. Video game wise, if EA Sports could bring back college baseball or college football, what are you picking?” 

JA: “Baseball.” 

DJ: “That was the go-to right there.” 

JA: “I forgot, but there was a college baseball game. I forgot which one it was that we played all the time, but it was one of the best games we ever played.” 

DJ: “I remember they had Texas on the cover or something like that—”

JA: “Exactly! That’s exactly the one.” 

DJ: “They have to bring it back.” 

JA: “That game is the best.”