Six current and former professional baseball players pick the World Series, which begins today when the Houston Astros visit the Los Angeles Dodgers:
Todd Cunningham (Dodgers)
The Jacksonville State and Jacksonville High graduate began the 2017 season at Memphis, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. In early July he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Dodgers assigned him to Oklahoma City, their Triple-A team. The outfielder hit a combined .284 for his two Pacific Coast League teams, .270 for Memphis and .339 for OKC, and scored 57 runs.
Why: “My loyalty is with them for obvious reasons.”
MVP: Justin Turner, to cap off a season in which he returned from injury, but Clayton Kershaw if the Series goes seven games.
Chris Hammond (Retired)
A graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, Hammond pitched in 441 games over 14 seasons in the major leagues, making 136 starts, including a magical 2002 year with the Atlanta Braves. That year he was 7-2 in 63 games, all in relief, and struck out 63 batters while recording a 0.95 ERA.
Why: Slightly better pitching and hitting. Choosing between the Astros and the Dodgers was tough for Hammond as they were his preseason picks to win their respective leagues “with everyone contributing.”
MVP: Cody Bellinger
Shed Long (Reds)
Jacksonville graduate Long began the season with Daytona in the Advanced-A Florida State League where he hit .312 over 62 games and was promoted to Double-A Pensacola. An injury slowed the second baseman and he spent almost a month on the disabled list. Long returned to hit .400 over the final seven games of the regular season, then helped Pensacola win a share of the Southern League championship.
Why: With both lineups stacked, the Series will be a great one but Dodgers have deeper pitching than the Astros.
MVP: Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw share MVP award
Zach Lovvorn (Royals)
Lovvorn, who graduated from Oxford High School, pitched for Kansas City’s Double-A team, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, in the Texas League in 2017. Since early October, he’s been pitching in the prestigious Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Saguaros where he has made two starts, each four innings in length, and has not allowed a run or a walk in either outing.
Why: “As much as I would love to see seven games, I think they will get it done in four.”
MVP: Jose Altuve
Jackson Stephens (Reds)
Stephens, an Oxford High School graduate, pitched at Triple-A Louisville for most of the 2017 season. He was called up by Cincinnati for a spot start on July 1 and earned a win over the Chicago Cubs in his major league debut and struck out the first major league hitter he faced. The Reds recalled Stephens in September and he finished the season with a 2-1 record, an ERA of 4.68 and 21 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Why: While both teams have good pitching and solid defense, “Houston’s offense is better top to bottom.” Should it become a battle of bullpens that favors Los Angeles.
MVP: Jose Altuve
Chase Whitley (Rays)
A Ranburne native and graduate of Ranburne High School, Whitley was 2-1 with two saves, a 4.08 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. He pitched 57.1 innings in 41 games and struck out 43 batters.
Why: The strength of the everyday lineup and the pitching ability and durability of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.
MVP: Justin Verlander