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Jamie Vaught: With MLB spring training in full swing, excitement is building for upcoming baseball season


With the 2021 Major League Baseball Spring Training now in full swing in Florida and Arizona, it’s certainly a very exciting time to talk about the summer sport and preview upcoming campaigns, especially after brutal winter weather.

If you are a baseball fanatic, especially from the older generation, you definitely will look for a preseason baseball magazine or yearbook online or at a retail store. And I got a copy of colorful 2021 Baseball Yearbook.

The Nashville-based Athlon Sports’ 224-page periodical didn’t disappoint me as it is filled with tons of tidbits, analysis and predictions on 30 teams. The yearbook also has fascinating articles, including “15 Things to Watch in 2021” as well as three separate Top 50 rankings for MLB prospects from the minor leagues, and draft prospects from both college and high school.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of five books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey.” He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Ray Rays is MLB’s No. 1 prospect on that Top 50 list. No. 2 is outfielder Christian Pache of the Atlanta Braves, who also have pitcher Ian Anderson (No. 12). Another name to watch out for is No. 15 Randy Arozarena, an outfielder for Tampa Bay who unbelievably had a record-setting performance in postseason, including 10 home runs, last fall.

Another tidbit that I found it very interesting. Three teams – Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Cincinnati – did not have a single sacrifice bunt during the 60-game campaign last year, becoming the first teams not have any during a season.

According to several media outlets, including Athlon, the Reds, not surprisingly, aren’t expected to contend for the National League Central Division crown. Look for manager David Bell’s Cincinnati club to finish in the middle of the pack in the division.

Gracing the regional cover of Athlon’s yearbook in the Ohio and Kentucky territory is third baseman Eugenio Suarez of the Reds. He shares the cover with Cleveland pitcher Shane Bieber, who recently had a bout with COVID-19.

In college baseball, while Vanderbilt may have the most future MLB draft prospects, including a probable No. 1 pick — pitcher Kumar Rocker, Florida is the preseason No. 1 choice. Vandy, though, will be awfully tough, ranking at preseason No. 3.

That’s not all. I also got a copy of Lindy’s Sports Baseball Yearbook, which is another outstanding publication based in Birmingham. The colorful yearbook has several good articles in addition to its usual team previews and rankings.

Lindy’s Sports has its own Top 60 Phenoms list. Guess who is rated No. 1? It’s Wander Franco from Tampa Bay.

I also enjoyed reading about the Top 3 and Worst 3 organizations in baseball. My favorite team, the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, is on the “bad” list, unfortunately.

The spring training games are set to begin on Sunday, February 28.

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If you want more baseball, you may want to browse some of the following new books:

• “Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life” by Bill Madden (Simon & Schuster, $28) is an authoritative biography about a Hall of Fame pitcher written by a sportswriter who knew him well. A three-time Cy Young award winner and a 12-time All-Star, Seaver is one of the only two pitchers with 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and an ERA under 3.00. Seaver, who was suffering from dementia, died last August.

• “The Captain: A Memoir” by David Wright and Anthony DiComo (Dutton, $27) is another inspiring baseball book written by one of the most admired players in recent MLB history. A seven-time All-Star performer, Wright played his entire 14-year career with the New York Mets.

• “Cobra: A Life of Baseball and Brotherhood” by Dave Parker and Dave Jordan (University of Nebraska Press, $34.95) is a lengthy autobiography that is scheduled for release on April. 1. A seven-time All-Star performer and a two-time batting champion, Parker recounts the triumphant victories and the heart-breaking defeats, both on and off the field. Parker, by the way, played for the Reds during the mid-1980s after his Pirates days were over. The volume should be a fascinating story about a black athlete making his way through the game during a time of major social and cultural transformation.


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