Sox Treat Me to Behind the Scenes Day at Fenway

On Tuesday July 16th, the Red Sox invited me to job shadow the Red Sox public relations (PR) team before the game for a behind the scenes Fenway experience.  I was able to interact with several members of the PR staff for the Red Sox.  The PR staff is in charge of connecting the media to their sources: players, coaches, general managers, and more.  As an aspiring professional sports reporter, shadowing the PR staff gave me an interesting point of view.  The PR team is involved with nearly everything around the ballpark.

When I arrived at Fenway, I ran into NESN sideline reporter Jahmai Webster:

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Abby Murphy, a member of the PR staff who was key to making my visit possible, met me and my dad at Gate D.  Abby introduced me to Kevin Doyle, who passes out game notes across the park.  Kevin gives them to the media for their broadcasts and articles.  He also delivers them to the coaches and players for game preparation.  He even is responsible for delivering them to the suites of team owners and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

Today he brought me along as he passed these out.  First, we went to the NESN studio outside Fenway, where I met Tom Caron of NESN.  He had walked up to the Fenway gates to save Kevin a trip.

After that, we visited the Red Sox and Blue Jays clubhouses.  Kevin dropped off a few in the locker room and quickly stopped by the managers’ offices to drop one off.  I learned later that the quick drop off is intentional as the PR staff tries to avoid disrupting clubhouse activity.  They also allow players privacy by avoiding photo and video during certain hours.  It was cool to stop by there though, as I had never even seen the clubhouse doors before.

Next stop after a quick elevator ride was Fenway’s baseball operations offices.  Dave Dombrowski’s suite was next to these offices, closest to the field.  Dombrowski was busy but Kevin dropped the game notes off at his door in case he needed them later.  Kevin and I also went inside Sam Kennedy’s suite to drop off game notes for the team owners.  Kennedy wasn’t there but the door was open and a member of the Red Sox staff was preparing food already for Kennedy and his guests.

Kevin and I also stopped by the legends suite where one former Red Sox player is hosted every night.  For this game, it was two time AL pennant winner and former outfielder Fred Lynn that would be hosted.

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The last stop was the press box where game notes were printed and lineups had just been released.  This was only the beginning of my experience though.  After spending some time with Kevin, I headed downstairs and joined Kyle Montemagno for Alex Cora’s pregame press conference.

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Cora discussed Cashner’s debut, Chris Sale’s struggles, and the status of injured players Nathan Eovaldi, Mitch Moreland, and Brian Johnson among other things.  To see the press conference live and sit with all the members of the press was surreal.  Until today, I watched the coverage on NESN but this made me feel like an official press member.

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Once the Cora press conference was over Kyle took me out on the field to watch batting practice.   Though a lot of media members showed up for the press conference, many went back up to the press box to write pregame articles based on Cora’s comments as opposed to going outside for batting practice.  That allowed me to have a great view near home plate to watch the Sox players.

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I spent a little bit of time at the credential pick-up booth during peak pick-up time.  Credentials reserved passes for the game for media members as well as friends of players and staff.  The Blue Jays had just announced that Jacob Waguespack would be called up to start, so at the last minute, several members of the Waguespack family hurried over to the game.  Many people who didn’t have reserved passes came to the credential booth thinking they could pick up tickets there.  They told me this happens many times throughout the day.

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Towards the end of my afternoon, I joined Kyle to take a closer look at the game notes, which he helped create, and then we stopped by the press box to join the rest of the Red Sox media.

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Check out this short video from outside the press box where I had the opportunity to do a live Fenway “stand-up” to recap my experience:

After this incredible afternoon, the Red Sox made sure I was able to enjoy the game with my entire family, including my cousins and grandparents who had just flown up from Florida on game day.

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I’d like to thank Abby Murphy, Chris Cotillo, Kevin Doyle, Felicia Rutigliano, Kevin Hausmann, Kyle Montemagno, and the rest of the Red Sox public relations staff for helping set up this unbelievable experience for me, one I will never forget!

 

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MLB Midseason Report: Power Rankings, Home Run Derby Picks

The All Star Break is here, and we’re about halfway through baseball season.  Today, the All Star festivities begin with the Home Run Derby, where 8 HR hitters go head to head in a single elimination bracket.  Christian Yelich was pulled out due to an injury, but Matt Chapman will be replacing him.  Check out my picks below:

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I have Peter Alonso winning it all.  The rookie has hit 30 HR and has an OPS over 1.000, putting together a strong campaign for the NL Rookie of the Year.  I think he will face promising AL rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final, who will upset Matt Chapman and Alex Bregman in the Derby.

I’ve also included my mid-season power rankings.  Check them out:

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Biggest Jump: Oakland Athletics (+15)

Biggest Drop: New York Mets (-9)

Stay tuned for more MLB articles soon, and enjoy the All Star Week.

MLB Power Rankings: Where Everyone Stands a Quarter of the way in

Welcome to my quarter-season MLB Power Rankings.  Today, I will be sharing my rankings of all 30 teams and highlight differences from my preseason rankings.  I have provided analysis for each team as well.  Who’s moved up and who’s moved down?  Keep reading to find out.

Note: Rankings are as of May 8, but records are up to date.

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Biggest Jump: Tampa Bay Rays (+10)

Biggest Drop: Washington Nationals (-15)

Stay tuned for more MLB articles soon, as well a special announcement.

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.

Moreland’s Pinch-hit Dinger leads Red Sox past Mariners

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It was the top of the 9th inning, and Mitch Moreland had come in to pinch-hit for the Red Sox with runners on first and second.  After taking 2 balls, Moreland nailed a 95 MPH fastball up the middle into right field for a line drive go-ahead homer!  The Red Sox had taken a 7-6 lead over Seattle!  Matt Barnes finished the job with a 12-pitch, 2-strikeout bottom of the 9th and the Red Sox had won the game.

The Sox came back to defeat the Mariners last night despite trailing 6-1 after four innings.  Even after an impressive run with the Red Sox last season, Nathan Eovaldi struggled mightily in this game, giving up all six runs, three of which were scored on solo homers.  As a team, the Red Sox have given up 7 home runs in just 2 games.  This could become a lingering issue that comes back to haunt them.  Or it could just be a result of pitching against a powerful Mariners lineup.

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Eovaldi gave up solo shots to both Mallex Smith and Domingo Santana in the 1st inning.  Smith and Santana are new additions to a young outfield, and neither has a history of hitting lots of dingers, but both of them knocked one out of T-Mobile Park last night.  He went on to give up another one in the 2nd inning, this time to C Omar Narvaez, who’s never even been that big a contributor at the plate.  If this didn’t wear out Eovaldi enough, the 3rd and 4th innings were even worse.

In the 3rd, Eovaldi did give up a single and walk a batter making it men on first and second.  Luckily, no runs scored here.  But in the 4th, the Mariners put up three runs, two of which came on sacrifice flies.  SS Tim Beckham began the inning with a double into right field, and Narvaez hit a line single to make it first and third with no outs. 3B Ryon Healy drove in the first run with a long double into deep center, and sacrifice flies by 2B Dee Gordon and Smith made it 6-1 Seattle just like that.

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The Red Sox didn’t do much of anything in these first four innings, but their first run was scored by a huge Xander Bogaerts home run into deep left field in the 2nd inning.  In the 5th, the Sox had runners on first and third after an error and a Sam Travis single.  CF Jackie Bradley Jr. was up.  He may have grounded into a double play, but a run still scored.  J.D. Martinez added a third run with his 6th inning solo shot into dead center.

Eovaldi was replaced in the bottom of the 6th by Colten Brewer.  Brewer may have walked some batters, but he didn’t give up any more runs.

Christian Vazquez added a solo shot of his own in the top of the 8th, making it a 2 run game.  After the homer, LF Andrew Benintendi and Bogaerts walked and RF Mookie Betts hit a ground single, loading the bases with 1 out.  But 2B Eduardo Nunez grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Though the Red Sox failed to take the lead in the 8th, Brian Johnson came in and struck out the side.  After that, Moreland hit his homer, Barnes finished the job, and the Red Sox had won 7-6.

Tonight’s 9PM game, the third of four against Seattle may answer some of our questions that have arised during the first two games.  Is the rotation a concern?  Is Matt Barnes our everyday closer?  Watch tonight to find out.

 

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Welcome to Article #4 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams who have playoff chances, but aren’t quite top teams in the league.  I will be discussing what they can improve on in order to contend for a World Series. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

12. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels

The Case for the Angels

The Angels disappointed last season despite signing Japanese two way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, as well as new addition Zack Cozart, were hurt. Ohtani will be recovering from Tommy John Surgery and be limited to a DH role, but the Angels signed Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to make up for the loss. They still have a hole at second base after Ian Kinsler’s departure, but the lineup could still be very powerful, led by Mike Trout and Justin Upton. The rotation lacks a clear ace without Ohtani, but I could see Tyler Skaggs stepping it up, and the team has five viable starters. The bullpen lacks the depth a playoff team needs, but the Angels will at least have a chance to contend again in 2019.

Where there’s Room for Improvement

The Angels have put a pretty powerful lineup together.  If they added a free agent at second or third, they would have been golden.  But in order for this team to start knocking on Houston’s door, the bullpen needs to prove itself behind closer Cody Allen, and the rotation needs to find an ace.  Ohtani was supposed to be the ace.  The Angels signed a handful of starters, but nobody to replace him.  Who will rise to the occasion?  This rotation has plenty of depth, now it just needs a top dog.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 2nd in AL West

 

11. washington-nats Washington Nationals

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are hard to read this year. They are still a very talented team on paper. The rotation gets even better with the addition of Patrick Corbin, and the team also added Brian Dozier as a Carter Kieboom bridge at second. The Bryce Harper era in Washington may be over, but the team struggled even with Harper in 2018. Was something else causing these struggles, and will that something else remain a problem this year? Without Harper, the team may regress slightly, but it’s hard to regress from an 84-78 season with this talented a team, even in a tough division. The Nationals should contend, but without Harper, they are no longer going to be playoff regulars.

Where there’s Room for Improvement

There are two major question marks that come to mind when I think about the Nationals.  First off, I wonder if OFs Victor Robles and Juan Soto are legitimate everyday starters in the long term and if this outfield has enough depth to succeed without Harper.  I also wonder if Trevor Rosenthal will contribute meaningfully to the bullpen and if the bullpen has enough depth for success.  If this team was a bit deeper, and spent their off-season on relivers and outfielders rather than more infielders, I’d have them performing better in this tough NL East.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 3rd in NL East

 

10. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

The Case for the Brewers

The Brewers are coming off one of their best season performances of all time thanks to a new superstar in town, Christian Yelich. Yelich was acquired from the Marlins in the 2017-18 off-season, and Lorenzo Cain was signed off the open market during that same week. The Brewers may regress a bit this year after losing Gio Gonzalez to free agency and getting rid of 2B Jonathan Schoop, but they did lock down the starting catching job by signing Yasmani Grandal. The Brewers have a good shot to make the playoffs again, but in a tough division where two other teams could contend, I could see them just barely falling short due to the lack of an ace for their rotation.

Where there’s Room for Improvement

Even in years they make the playoffs, Milwaukee’s rotation has held them back.  They lack a true ace, and numerous starters in the rotation are inconsistent.  If they want to get into the NL Central race, they’ll have to keep renting top-line starters at the Trade Deadline or sign one long term.  Could Dallas Keuchel be a good starter to pursue?

Projected Finish: 86-76, 3rd in NL Central

 

9. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

The Case for the Indians

The Indians still have a serious hole in their outfield. They did sign Carlos Gonzalez on a minors deal to replace Michael Brantley, but Gonzalez is not the kind of talent they were looking for. They missed out on Adam Jones, even at a cheap price, and they couldn’t nearly afford Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock. However, the rotation is solid, and though DH could be an issue, the infield is looking alright, led by star players Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. 2B Jason Kipnis, one of Cleveland’s older position players, could also add something to the lineup. The Indians should be able to win an easy AL Central. But they’ll receive a wake up call when October comes around.

Where there’s Room for Improvement

The Indians own one of the deepest pitching staffs in the league.  But the infield is injury prone (it will start with three players on the IL) despite plenty of talent on paper and the outfield lacks reliable, everyday starters.  It’s okay to have one platoon in an outfield, but once it gets to be two or three platoons, a problem arises.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 1st in AL Central

 

8. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

The Case for the Rockies

In my eyes, the Rockies will be able to take things a step further this year. I don’t think the Dodgers will be quite as dominant after two consecutive World Series losses. So the Rockies will take advantage of the situation, winning a weakening NL West division. They may have lost Carlos Gonzalez and D.J. LeMahieu during the off-season, but they added Daniel Murphy to support a good group of young infielders who are ready to contribute, including Garrett Hampson, Ryan McMahon, and Brendan Rodgers. Their rotation isn’t great, but it’s respectable considering their hitter-friendly ballpark. The question is, are the Rockies more than a product of Coors Field?

Where there’s Room for Improvement

The Rockies lineup looks to be in pretty good shape, but they never really replaced OFs Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  That will force Ian Desmond to remain in the outfield and force David Dahl into a starting job.  Is Dahl capable of this?  For once, the rotation looks solid here, and when they struggle, the strong bullpen should make up for it.  But at Coors Field, holes in the lineup is never a good thing.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 1st in NL West

 

7. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

The Case for the Phillies

The Phillies got off to a hot start last season, and though they didn’t finish as strong, they did top it off with a historically active off-season. They acquired OF Bryce Harper, C J.T. Realmuto, CL David Robertson, SS Jean Segura, OF Andrew McCutchen, and others. These additions will take an average team and craft them into a powerhouse. In a tough division, they may fall short of a divisional win, but I would be shocked if the Phillies don’t make the playoffs. I have them earning 2nd place in the NL East with 90+ wins, earning them the final Wild Card spot in the National League. The question is: how long can new star Bryce Harper produce at an elite level? That will determine the future in Philadelphia.

Where there’s Room for Improvement

The Phillies may have one of the best lineups in the league. But the rotation is a real concern. Behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, they lack the depth they need for a deep playoff run. Adding another mid-tier veteran starter could definitely help matters here.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 2nd in NL East

 

That’s all for this set of my rankings.  Stay tuned for my final set of power rankings before the season begins tomorrow afternoon.

Ranking the Teams #18-13, My Version: Who Else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Welcome to Article #3 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams in the middle of the pack, and determine whether or not they will contend.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

The Reds began to gear up for contention this off-season by acquiring OF Yasiel Puig and multiple starting pitchers including Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. This team is still headlined by 1B star Joey Votto as well. The NL Central is a really tough division, so that may hold the Reds back this year unless one of last year’s top three in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis takes a step back.  When Cincy last made the playoffs in 2013, there were two other teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, so they may just need a few more pieces and one team to crack in order to contend. However, I can’t see that happening this year.  Expect a sub-.500 season in the meantime.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Reds are definitely closer to contention after making some big moves this off-season.  But I wasn’t so crazy about some of the moves they made.  The Puig trade was a steal, but they could have done a better job fine-tuning the rotation.  Getting rid of Homer Bailey was not smart, as he is a consistent mid-tier starter when healthy.  Sonny Gray, one of the pitchers who replaced Bailey, is far less consistent.  They made some good moves, but it’s not enough for a playoff run.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 4th in NL Central

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

The Twins didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2018. They were expected to chase the Indians for the AL Central for the 2nd straight year. But they ended up a few games below .500, dragged down by the struggles of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  Those two were expected to lead this team when they first made the majors. This off-season, the Twins did add Nelson Cruz, but at his age, I don’t know how much longer he can produce at an elite level. Michael Pineda’s return will also boost them, but I don’t know how much they can improve with Sano and Buxton both remaining question marks. A Jose Berrios breakout could help, but I still can’t see them being a legitimate 2019 playoff contender.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Twins made some nice moves to add to a roster that was already intriguing.  They added Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and others.  But the lingering questions surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano remain, and the bullpen is also a question mark.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may have lost out in the Manny Machado sweepstakes despite adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to intrigue Machado. But their off-season is not a full failure. They added some nice pieces in Jay, Alonso, and SP Ervin Santana while still allowing their young core to receive playing time. Yoan Moncada (once he breaks out), Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez give me optimism about the future in Chicago. As they start to develop, Chicago will jump into the mix in a weak AL Central. But they may have to add a few more pieces and wait till 2020, or maybe even 2021 for legitimate playoff contention. They could have won the division and done it in 2019 with Machado.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: I don’t expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this year, but this next wave of talent may begin to make the White Sox appear capable of contending.  Moncada, Engel, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and others should significantly boost the roster and allow this team to show flashes of greatness in a weak division.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 2nd in AL Central

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

Brodie Van Wagenen made things very interesting in his first off-season with the Mets. After refusing to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard and instead acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle, he made it clear that the Mets were hoping to contend for one more season. He proceeded by continuing to beef up the roster, adding Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, and others. The Mets will at least be competitive this season, but I can’t see them standing out in the league’s best division, the NL East. They will not be able to keep up with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. Maybe it’s time to rebuild if this season is indeed another failure.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Mets added some nice pieces, such as Cano, Diaz, Ramos, and Lowrie.  But they did not address their direct positional needs.  Sure, they added a catcher, and an outfielder.  But until they get the infield situation figured out, this team will have trouble finding an identity and jump-starting back into contention.  Lowrie and Cano are nice pieces, but where do they fit, and will 1B Peter Alonso be on the roster come Opening Day?

Projected Finish: 83-79, 4th in NL East

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

In Bruce Bochy’s last season, I expect the Giants to exceed expectations. Though injuries have held them back the last couple of years, they still have a very strong roster on paper. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija lead a rotation that now contains more depth. So long as Buster Posey can bounce back at the plate in 2019, the lineup should be set as well. Who knows, maybe Evan Longoria could be a bounce back candidate as well. Behind Posey and Longoria, they have new additions Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra, SS Brandon Crawford, 1B Brandon Belt, and others. The Giants have not done very well in these last two seasons. But assuming they are healthy, 2019 contention isn’t too farfetched.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: The Giants will at least be closer to the playoffs this season than most people expect.  It’s injuries that has held them back over the last couple of years.  Neither MadBum nor Posey had been healthy in 2017 and 2018.  With those two feeling alright, the rotation beginning to come together after Dereck Rodriguez’s emergence, and the lineup looking okay despite outfield depth issues, the Giants could come close to the playoffs if they don’t make it.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 3rd in NL West

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have now lost two World Series’ in a row. Expect a hangover this time around. The loss of Brian Dozier to free agency hurts their infield depth significantly, and it was a rough off-season. They traded Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp to the Reds for Homer Bailey, who they ended up releasing. It did clear up crowding in the outfield, and they signed A.J. Pollock to maintain depth out there, but it’s still a waste of a trade. The rotation has plenty of depth, but Clayton Kershaw’s health and Walker Buehler’s ability to replace him remain question marks. Bullpen depth could also be problematic. Expect the Dodgers to try to contend, but fail to make the playoffs in a weak NL West.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Dodgers should finish with a fairly strong win-loss record as usual.  But I think the team will take a step back after a rough off-season, and despite their strong record, they may have a hard time getting into the mix for the Wild Card.  Even in a weak division, the Dodgers will have trouble relying on repeat performances from two older 2018 breakouts, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

 

That’s all for this portion of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next set later today.