Red Sox Report: Sox Slowing Down, But It’s Understandable

When the Red Sox began the season 17-2, I knew they would not be able to finish the season going at that pace.  So it is understandable that the Red Sox have gone 8-7 in their last 15 games.  It does not mean the Red Sox are a fluke.  They have still shown signs in the last 14 games that they are capable contenders.  But they cannot win every game, and 8 to 10-game winning streaks interrupted by just a loss or two is not realistic for any team to maintain.

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But Mookie Betts is still on fire, and Hanley Ramirez has still put up much better numbers to start 2018.  J.D. Martinez has also begun to heat up.  Betts has gotten to the point in his hot streak where he’s breaking HR records.  We will look at Betts’ records, the cooling off of the Red Sox, and much more in this edition of the Red Sox Report.

Red Sox Beginning to Cool Off, But It’s Not a Major Concern

As I said above, although the Sox have cooled off, the Red Sox have still shown qualities of an elite playoff contender.  I still think they have the potential to make a deep run this year.  What concerns me a little bit is who they have been losing to.  They lost a series to the Rays to start their most recent homestand.  Tampa barely has a starting rotation.  But even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn.  They also struggled and got no-hit against the Athletics.  The A’s are not terrible, they have a powerful young lineup and an improving rotation.  But after a 17-2 start, I did not expect A’s SP Sean Manaea to no-hit the Red Sox.  It shows that our lineup is very streaky, feast or famine.

Struggles against the mediocre teams is a problem, but the Red Sox have been pretty good against tough opponents like the Angels and Blue Jays.  What the Red Sox need right now is to be competitive against playoff contenders.  If they continue to prove that they are capable of that, I will be much more confident in their World Series chances.  But if they cannot show up against subpar teams, how will they be able to continue to thrive against contenders?

Sox Lineup Has Been Streaky But Has High Ceiling

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The Red Sox lineup has really struggled at times. They have scored 3 or fewer runs in 4 of their 9 losses so far. But when the lineup is on a good streak, it can carry the team. At its best, this lineup could probably carry the Red Sox all the way to the World Series.  But several guys have failed to come through in recent weeks. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez hasn’t looked like the same guy that boosted the Red Sox lineup on the brink of contention.  Everyone in this lineup has struggled at some point this season.

But when on a hot streak, this lineup can take the league by storm.  There were several hot hitters that led us to our amazing start, and a few of our hitters are still on fire.  J.D. Martinez is 21 for his last 47 (.447) and has hit 3 dingers in that span.  Mookie Betts has been on fire all season.  Read more about Betts’ hot streak in the next section.

Mookie Betts Still On Fire, Now He’s Making History

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Betts is batting .352 (5th in the league) with 13 home runs (leading the league) and a 1.257 OPS (leading the league) on the season.  In addition, he’s 12 for his last 23 (.522).   He has hit 11 of the homers in his last 15 games and has had two 3 HR games this season (one soon after Marathon Monday in Anaheim, and another at Fenway this week against the Royals).  It’s only the start of May, and he had these 3 HR games within two weeks of each other.  He also had a pair of 3 HR games back in 2016.  He and Johnny Mize are the only players to ever have a pair of 3 HR games two times in their career.

Betts also passed Ted Williams for the most 3-HR games in team history.  Betts is only 25.  He has plenty of time in his career for more multi-HR games.  Could he become the first person to have two 3-HR games in three different seasons?  Could he eventually break the MLB 3 HR game record?  It is currently held by Mize and Sammy Sosa (6).  Betts is in the Top 10 with 4.  Betts is tied for 2nd with Manny Machado for multi-HR games since 2016 (11).  Betts and Machado are behind just Giancarlo Stanton (14).  Betts is more than just our leadoff hitter.  He is one of baseball’s biggest stars.  But there is an argument for why he should remain our leadoff hitter, and I look at that in my next Baseball Bits.

Injury Report: Thornburg Begins Rehab, Several Activated Over Last Two Weeks

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The Red Sox have continued to be hit by the injury bug.  Brock Holt went on the DL in late April with a hamstring strain.  Mookie Betts was also hurt for a few days in late April with hamstring issues but has since returned and continued to dominate.  He also left today’s game with a wrist injury.  But several of our previously injured players have returned over the last couple of weeks.  Xander Bogaerts was activated last weekend, and he lost his hot streak on the DL, but he went 3-4 in his first game back and has continued to hit well, batting .303 since his return.  Bobby Poyner has also returned from his injury but did not return to the big league roster until May 4th after a stint with the Paw Sox.

Steven Wright has returned from the DL too, but he is currently serving a 15-game domestic violence suspension.  Joe Kelly recently returned from his 6-game suspension after the Sox-Yankees brawl in April.  Eduardo Rodriguez was also out for a few days on a family medical leave but was activated on the 5th to start against the Rangers.  He did not miss a start during his absence.  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia are the players that remain on the DL.  Thornburg has begun his rehab assignment, and Pedroia has been rehabbing at extended spring training.  Pedey is targeting a May 25 big league return.  Brock Holt is expected to return next week.

Sox Have Caught a Break vs. Royals, Rangers, But Round 2 With Flaming Hot Yankees Ahead

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After a tough road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule over the last week and a half.  They have played the Rays, Royals, and Rangers.  Despite having a tough time against the Rays (who have won 11 of their last 14 on a hot streak), the Red Sox have caught a break against the Royals and Rangers, who they won 5 of 7 against.  But after that, the Red Sox could have another difficult stretch ahead, starting with a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15, and this was against playoff contenders.

The Yanks have swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and took 3 of 4 in Houston.  If the Yankees continue to thrive against Boston, they will be proven as serious contenders.  But Boston had an impressive 17-2 stretch of their own.  Although it may not have been against as difficult opponents, the Sox did take 2 out of 3 when they hosted the Yankees.  However, the Yankees were without C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Hicks in that series.  They have also called up Gleyber Torres, who has done very well since that series.  They have lost Jordan Montgomery and a couple relievers to the DL since the series though.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

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Red Sox Report: Red Sox On A Roll Despite Many Injuries

Can Boston teams sustain any more injuries?  First, the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on Opening Night and later lost Kyrie Irving for the season.  Then the Bruins began sustaining a lot of injuries, and although they are still a strong playoff contender, it seems like another player goes down every time somebody returns.  And now as the Red Sox are off to a hot start, they are far from full strength.

Even though Eduardo Rodriguez has returned and Drew Pomeranz will be back soon, the Red Sox have continued to lose players to injuries.  This past week, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Bobby Poyner, Mookie Betts, and David Price have all missed or left games due to injuries.  Hanley surprisingly only missed a game after taking a fastball on his hand/wrist area.  He hit a mammoth line drive HR in his first game back keeping his hot start going.

The Rivalry is Back: Red Sox Win In Heated First Series vs. Yankees

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The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is back and better than ever.  This year, with the Sox and Yankees likely to compete for the AL East title, expect exciting games between these two teams.  It did not take long for the intensity to get going in the first series.  There were two bench-clearing incidents in the second game.  I expect the tension to carry over into the next Red Sox-Yankees series and likely all of the remaining sixteen games.

Despite numerous injuries sustained by both teams, this was not a series you would want to miss. After a hot 8-1 start, the Red Sox were confident and ready to prove that their strong start was not a fluke.  After the Sox blew out the Yankees 14-1 in game 1, the Yankees came into game 2 with a little more fight.  They won the game and Yankees DH Tyler Austin spiked SS Brock Holt when he slid into second.  Tensions flared and benches cleared.

Another bench-clearing brawl occurred when Joe Kelly retaliated by hitting Tyler Austin later in the game and Austin charged the mound.  This one got both Kelly and Austin ejected and both of them have since been suspended.  Both players appealed to stay in the series and on the active roster until the hearing.  You will not want to miss a Red Sox-Yankees game this year as they are clearly the best 2 teams in the AL East.

By the time this game was over, starters Tanaka and Price were long gone as neither lasted too long.  Price had the worst outing of his career lasting only 1 inning.  He left after giving up 4 runs and was pulled before starting the 2nd due to a tingling sensation in his fingers.  It was a cold night and sports radio talk has speculated Price’s issues were related to the cold, his elbow, or maybe even anxiety.  Regardless, the Sox need Price healthy so whatever it was, the team and fans hope it was an isolated issue and he returns to pitching as well as he did to finish last season and start this one.

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On A Roll: Lineup and Rotation Have Shown Flashes of Excellence

The Red Sox may be missing a lot of players due to injuries but the lineup has been hot of late after a slow start and their rotation has looked like one the best in the MLB all season (except Price’s bad outing).  Hanley Ramirez is on fire despite suffering a wrist contusion this week and J.D. Martinez has heated up after taking a week or so to adjust to his new team.  He now has 3 HR and 13 RBI on the season, including a grand slam in Boston’s comeback attempt in Game 2 against the Yankees.

The Red Sox have now hit 3 grand slams this season while they had none in 2017.  Mookie Betts has also been on fire all season, batting .353, and Bogaerts was just as hot before his ankle injury on Sunday that got him placed on the 10-day DL.  Andrew Benintendi started hitting well at home and is 10 for his last 26.

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The rotation has shown flashes of dominance too, and Red Sox starters have pitched quality starts in 3 of the last 6 games.  Rick Porcello even had a no-hitter through six on Thursday.  The defense has helped the pitching playing nearly flawless all year with only 3 errors on the season.  Jackie Bradley Jr. had an amazing catch this past Saturday that has SportsCenter Top 10 of the year potential.

Red Hot Hanley: Ramirez Riding 10-Game Hitting Streak, Is He Back To His Pre-2015 Form?

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The Red Sox were expecting another power hitter to support Big Papi when they signed Hanley Ramirez back in the 2014-15 off-season.  But a shoulder injury in 2015 limited Ramirez and he fell short of expectations in 2015 and 2016.  Hanley looked better in 2017 but without Big Papi, he only hit .242 with 23 HR and 62 RBI.  This season Hanley has been off to a great start.  He is riding a 10-game hitting streak and he has hit 3 home runs and leads the AL in RBI.  He is also hitting .362/.415/.617.  You could argue that he has returned to the pre-2015 form that led the Sox to sign him to a very big contract.

After going down with a wrist contusion on Thursday, some speculated that he would not keep this up when he returned.  But he was ready to go for Saturday’s game he quieted the doubters and hit a home run in his first at-bat.  If he keeps this up, he will remain an everyday starter on the Sox, something that was not a given to begin the season.  Do you think Hanley Ramirez is back to his pre-2015 form, or will he cool down?

Injury Update: Who’s Out, What To Expect

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The Red Sox sustained lots of injuries this week.  Xander Bogaerts was placed on the DL April 8th after hurting his ankle when chasing a ball into the Rays dugout.  On Wednesday, David Price left the game but it looks like he won’t miss a start.  Bobby Poyner went down with a hamstring injury in the same game as Price and was placed on the DL.

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Mookie Betts left Saturday’s game after suffering a foot contusion by colliding with Orioles catcher Chance Sisco while sliding into home.  He is now day to day, but he was out of the lineup Sunday.

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The good news is that Drew Pomeranz will be returning this Thursday or Friday after a strong rehab start in Portland, giving up just 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings.  Relievers Steven Wright and Tyler Thornburg are also making progress in their rehab.

I do expect the Red Sox to stay hot but these injuries could eventually hold the team back, especially with a tough road trip including visits to Anaheim and Oakland coming up.  The A’s are led by power hitting out of veteran Khris Davis and breakout star Matt Chapman.  The Angels are led by two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and star hitter Mike Trout.  They have a stacked lineup that has helped them get off to a hot start as they lead AL West.  The Sox will face Ohtani in Game 1 of the series because their game on Sunday was postponed.  Will the Red Sox be able to stay hot against these two teams despite injuries?

Sox Prepare To Face Ohtani In Game 1 Of West Coast Road Trip

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The Red Sox will head out west after their Marathon Monday game against Baltimore was rained out and the first game is against young Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.  He has dominated at the plate and on the mound, and he is the probable starter on Tuesday. Ohtani has become known as the HR-hitting ace.  He has hit 3 HR and is batting .367/.424/.767 in 8 games at the plate.  As a starting pitcher, he is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 2 games on the mound.

Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the fourth year straight, I am creating my own version.  Throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  However, I started a little late this year due to the MLB’s slow off-season.  Today they start with the bottom 6.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming this Sunday or sometime next week.

 

 

30. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-Season Review

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The Marlins underwent a complete overhaul this off-season.  They traded four key pieces from their lineup last year: Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon.  Those guys were leaders for the Marlins.  They could have gone on to contend with that group, but after no success making the playoffs in recent years, they decided to fully rebuild.  Rather than signing a couple pitchers and going for an NL East title, they decided not to sign too many pitchers and to make the series of trades they made.  In these trades, they added members of their future core, such as Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Magneuris Sierra.  They also acquired Starlin Castro to play second and signed a veteran or two including Cameron Maybin to be placeholders in the new look outfield.  These trades further advanced teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, and Brewers as well.

The Case for the Marlins

The Marlins have no intention of contending in 2018.  This year, expect to see veteran placeholders make up the lineup alongside their more seasoned prospects like J.T. Riddle and Lewis Brinson.  In the meantime, the Marlins will be getting their next generation of players ready to play at a big league level.  Starlin Castro was only acquired as a veteran mentor, don’t think he’s a sign that the Marlins aren’t ready to rebuild yet.  They are in full rebuild mode.  But did they rebuild too early?  Could they be contending down the stretch rather than sitting in the basement of the NL East, waiting for their prospects to further develop, and carrying around a bunch of older veterans who are past their prime?

The Bright Spot

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The Marlins may have overhauled most of their lineup, but they still have a couple strong pieces in catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour.  Their lineup will remain their strong point in 2018, especially the very core of it.  Their rotation needs work.  They may have a couple good pitchers, but they need to find guys within their system who can lead the next generation of pitching in Miami.  They have plenty of hitting/fielding prospects already making their way towards the majors.

Best Case Scenario: The veterans Miami has signed are consistent and show signs that they still have what it takes to be as successful as they were earlier in their career, and Miami’s prospects get called up quickly and thrive in the majors, leading the Marlins just over 70 wins in Year 1 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: Miami’s top prospects struggle at the major league level, and their veteran leaders fail to find momentum, as the Marlins lose 100+ games.

Projected Finish: 64-98, 5th in NL East

 

29. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-Season Review

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As they plan to let a strong group of prospects lead the team in 2018, the White Sox were relatively quiet this off-season.  They added Wellington Castillo after several young catchers failed them, and they added a few guys to their bullpen.  They also signed Hector Santiago to top off the rotation.  But for the most part, they are happy with their young roster.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran leader in the outfield or at third, or even added a new ace, but they can manage with the roster they have, especially if their younger players begin to break out.

The Case for the White Sox

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After a rebuild, the White Sox are ready to take steps back towards contention.  They will start off slow, but they will improve over the next few years, slowly but surely.  Guys like 2B Yoan Moncada, SS Tim Anderson, and CF Adam Engel are hoping to have strong seasons and help lead the team.  Meanwhile, guys like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Lucas Giolito are looking to make an impact at the big league level.  This year will be about finding young leaders to help lead the team in the future alongside veteran 1B Jose Abreu.  I could see Giolito and Engel having strong seasons.

The Bright Spot

It’s younger players who are looking to become the new faces of the team.  But in the meantime, the White Sox have some strong veteran leaders.  Expect Jose Abreu to build upon a strong season.  I could also see James Shields bouncing back to lead the pitching staff and become a mentor for young pitchers like Kopech and Giolito.  Also, keep an eye out for younger breakout players.  Who do you think will emerge as a star on the White Sox in 2018?

Best Case Scenario: Chicago’s strong group of prospects are successful in the majors very quickly and lead the White Sox to a decent year in the AL Central alongside their veteran influences, who have very strong seasons.  In this scenario, they would come in 3rd over Kansas City and Detroit.

Worst Case Scenario: Jimenez, Kopech, and others fail to succeed at the major league level, and Abreu and Shields begin to decline quickly as the White Sox crumble.

Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central

 

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-Season Review

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The Tigers started off 2017 expecting to contend.  But injuries and old age caught up with them, and they ended up trading away their older players and heading into rebuild mode.  They still held onto Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Victor Martinez though.  Those four will mentor the younger players taking over, like Jeimer Candelario and Dixon Machado.  They could’ve used another veteran infielder, but instead, Candelario and Machado will start full time, and the only major free agent signings by Detroit were signing OF Leonys Martin and SP Mike Fiers, both of which they got done much earlier in the off-season than most of the free agent signings occurred.  Meanwhile, veterans Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Liriano, and Mike Fiers, as well as younger starters Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, will headline the new look rotation.

The Case for the Tigers

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The Tigers don’t have any blatant holes on their roster, but their roster lacks upside.  They have a lot of average players, but no clear superstar.  Even Miguel Cabrera’s numbers have taken a dip from dominant to average.  The question is, can Miggy rebound and lead this young team in 2018?  The Tigers will need someone to step it up and emerge as a true leader.  They have a good amount of veteran mentors, but nobody who can carry the team.  Who will break out and emerge as a star for them?

The Bright Spot

Like I said, it’s hard to name one leader or bright spot on this mediocre team, and mediocre teams with a lack of a leader and few experienced players are known to struggle.  I see Miggy and Victor Martinez rebounding for strong seasons and emerging as leaders.  Once the Tigers can find themselves a leader, they could be going places, as the younger players follow in their footsteps and help bring the Tigers back to the playoffs a couple years down the road.

Best Case Scenario: Detroit’s young roster gets off to a hot start, the well-balanced rotation thrives and Miguel Cabrera bounces back to lead the team as the Tigers jump right back into third place in Year 2 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation cannot find an identity, Detroit’s younger players struggle and disappoint, Miggy continues to struggle, and nobody else steps up to lead as they end up in the American League basement.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 4th in AL Central

 

27. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Review

In 2016 and 2017, the Pirates found themselves stuck in the middle.  They had a strong, but declining lineup and a rotation that was beginning to collapse.  This off-season, they made a definitive choice to begin a rebuild, and they started by trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, their best hitter and their best pitcher.  After that, their off-season was very quiet, and Spring Training will be focused on getting their young prospects ready to play every day in the MLB.  They got some of those prospects as a return from the Astros (who acquired Cole) and the Giants (who acquired Cutch).  That group includes RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Joe Musgrove, and 3B Colin Moran.

The Case for the Pirates

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The Pirates have made it clear what direction they’re headed in, and they will not contend in 2018.  They have some nice pieces that will help them alongside their top prospects in the coming years, but right now, the veterans are just there to keep the Pirates playing at a major league level (at the very least).  In the meantime, the Pirates will focus on getting their prospects ready.  Expect to see a lot of Austin Meadows, Colin Moran, Jordan Luplow, Josh Bell, Bryce Brentz and Max Moroff in the Pirates lineup.  All those guys are potential leaders for the next generation in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, their biggest need is a successful young pitcher.  They have yet to find one, but as soon as they do, expect to see him up in the majors getting a chance to prove himself.  The Pirates still have a decent lineup, so if they can get a few young hitters ready and fix up their rotation, expect to see them back in the playoffs in a few years.

The Bright Spot

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The Pirates still have a great group of guys in the outfield.  Not only do the Pirates have some good defense out there, but these guys will continue to lead the Pirates lineup.  Despite trading away Cutch, they have brought in Corey Dickerson, another power hitting outfielder to replace him.  They also have plenty of prospects who will see time back there including top prospect Austin Meadows.  Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco will also continue to serve as leaders on this team.  Their rotation may need work, and the infield has yet to find their starting mix, but this Pirates outfield is all set.

Best Case Scenario: Pittsburgh’s prospects crack the majors and make an impact quickly, Polanco and Marte continue to serve as leaders and mentors, and the young rotation looks a little better as the Pirates get right above the 70-win line.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and struggles plague the Pirates rotation, Pittsburgh’s veterans decline, and the prospects are forced to lead the team and fail to handle the pressure as Pittsburgh collapses in Year 1 of their rebuild.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central

 

26. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-Season Review

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Last season I said the Padres were in a horrific rebuild after making a mistake in signing a bunch of veterans past their prime to lead the 2016 team and some of you disagreed, saying that the Padres have talent that will anchor their next generation.  Whoever said that is correct because now that the Padres have gotten their top prospects MLB ready, they are ready to take steps back toward contention mode.  Manuel Margot and Fernando Tatis Jr. are some of the young guns who can help lead this team, and the Padres have added a couple veterans to further boost the roster.

They may have made the biggest signing of the off-season when they added 1B Eric Hosmer.  They also acquired SS Freddy Galvis and 3B Chase Headley (who was here to start his MLB career) after giving up infielder Yangervis Solarte.  Wil Myers will also continue to be a veteran mentor as he returns to the outfield.  He will allow San Diego’s younger outfielders to platoon, and they will not be pressured to perform like everyday starters.

The Case for the Padres

After a brief rebuild, the Padres are headed back in an upward direction.  But legitimate playoff contention will take a year or two.  This year, their young roster will continue to develop as their veterans lead the team in an upward direction.  Once guys like Carlos Asuaje and 19-year old prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. are ready to contend alongside Hosmer, Myers, and co., the Padres will be going places.

The Bright Spot

In my opinion, Hosmer will emerge as a leader, star, and mentor on his new team.  With the Royals, Hosmer was never a sole leader or the face of the team, but he was on the brink of stardom as he continued to thrive in Kansas City.  In San Diego, he will emerge as one of the league’s premium position players as he leads the team and emerges as a superstar.  He is already an All-Star Game regular, but he hasn’t received the love and respect he deserves.  Now that he’s arguably the best player on his new team, he will completely breakout, and the league will recognize that.

Best Case Scenario: With an upgraded, well-balanced roster, the Padres will get off to a fast start and compete in the NL West.  However, in what’s arguably the toughest division in the league, they will not see the playoffs quite yet.

Worst Case Scenario: San Diego’s prospects disappoint in their first years, and the Padres fail to find leaders and mentors in their veterans, which will further affect the young guns as the Padres end up in dead last after they cannot handle the pressure of their division.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in NL West

 

25. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-Season Review

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Oakland did not do much this off-season, as many of their younger players are finally ready to become everyday players.  But they did make a few moves to enhance the roster.  They added young OF Stephen Piscotty to take some pressure off rookie CF Dustin Fowler.  Now Boog Powell and Jake Smolinski will be able to back Fowler up.  They also signed SP Trevor Cahill when Jharel Cotton lost his 2018 season to Tommy John Surgery.  Now the rotation will look something like this:

  1. Kendall Graveman RHP
  2. Sean Manaea LHP
  3. Andrew Triggs RHP
  4. Trevor Cahill RHP
  5. Paul Blackburn/Daniel Mendgen*

* A.J. Puk could eventually snag this rotation slot

Other than that, Oakland was pretty quiet this off-season, and it will not hurt them.  They didn’t need to do much to keep the roster in good shape.  But they will not contend yet.  That all depends on when guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and A.J. Puk breakout.

The Case for the Athletics

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Like I said, the A’s are on the brink of contention, but they need a breakout star or two first.  They have a lot of great young pieces, and they are headed in an upward direction now.  They have a home run hitter too.  But they need a couple younger players to lead the A’s if they want to get back to the playoffs.  I don’t care who.  It could be Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman, Andrew Triggs, anyone.  I could personally see Manaea or Triggs breaking through, and I also like Olson and Chapman.  A.J. Puk is also a breakout candidate.  Although I do not have the Athletics contending this year, they could be in a great position by Opening Day 2019.

The Bright Spot

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The A’s may not be contending yet, but if they can combine rotation and lineup consistency with the power hitting core they already have, they can make a run at the playoffs.  Khris Davis was one of the Top 5 HR hitters of 2017 (the top three are now all part of the AL East).  Yes, only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez hit more.  I see Davis repeating this over the next couple years, and combining that with Oakland’s flurry of young talent on the brink of a breakout could make for great things.  The future is very bright in Oakland.

Best Case Scenario: Davis continues to keep up with the best in the power-hitting department, many of Oakland’s younger players break through, and the A’s jump right back into contention with a record around .500, putting them in great shape for 2019.

Worst Case Scenario: Davis drops off, the rotation is plagued by injuries, and nobody emerges as a leader/star as the A’s disappoint and bore many in 2018.

Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in AL West*

Note: Although I see a lot of potential here, they need to prove themselves before I can rank them too much higher.

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.  I will also have my preseason Baseball Bits up before the regular season begins next week.  On a side note, I was unable to finish my March Madness previews, but my bracket is busted anyway, and you can click here for my second chance picks.  Also, stay tuned for my update on NFL free agency.

Top 5 MLB Trade Deadline Scenarios

The trade deadline is coming up.  Buyers and sellers have been determined.  Who will make the biggest deals of the weekend?

Well, I made a few trade predictions this week, and here are a few of the most likely trades.  

HM: Yonder Alonso to the Yankees for Chase Headley and a prospect


The A’s and Yankees will both be busy at the deadline.  The A’s will continue to sell while the Yankees try to become the best team in the AL East.  This trade does make sense.  The Yanks get a strong first baseman for veteran infielder Headley and some prospects.  The Yankees won’t need Headley with Frazier at third and Alonso at First.  It would make sense for the Yanks to also get Sonny Gray in this trade, but I can see them going after a different pitcher.  

5. Yu Darvish to the Yankees for 2 pitching prospects


Yup, the Yankees aren’t done after the Frazier and Alonso trades.  Yu Darvish did put ten teams on his no-trade clause, including the Rockies and Red Sox, but the Yankees were not on that list.  The Rangers are done at this point.  Time to sell.  Darvish should give the Yankees rotation a much needed boost.  With Pineda hurt, the rotation needs some more depth.  

4. Sonny Gray to the Rockies for 2 prospects


I would be shocked if Gray is still in Oakland by the end of the day on Monday.  The A’s need to rebuild, and there are other teams that need him more.  The Rockies have a fine young rotation, but a veteran mentor to boost the rotation would be helpful to this contending Rockies club.  The Rockies are likely in contention at this point, I do not see them as pretenders.  The Rockies just acquired reliever Pat Neshek, it’s time to upgrade the rotation next.  

3. Yangervis Solarte to the Cardinals for 3 prospects



The Padres have some young talent that can eventually lead their team.  But first, they have to get rid of the veterans.  It’s good to have veteran mentors, and they should hold on to Wil Myers, but Solarte has value in the market, and they can add to their farm system if they dish him off to teams like St. Louis or Boston.  Sure, the Cardinals are on the buyer/seller line, but they have done well lately and should bolster their team.  

2. Edinson Volquez to the Brewers for Jonathan Villar and a prospect


Once again, the Marlins came in with a nice team and ended up failing to push their record over .500 leading up to the deadline.  Time to sell, again.  The last few years, this team has sold at the deadline, but been active in the off-season to improve their roster.  They still haven’t had their breakthrough year.  The Brewers are looking to chase the Cubs in the NL Central. Without a trade, they could fall out of it.  The Marlins will trade at least one pitcher before the deadline, and I think Volquez will fit in in Milwaukee.  

1. Khris Davis to the Nationals for 2 prospects 


The A’s still have more good trade nuggets after these three trades.  The Athletics need to rebuild.  They are out of it.  Gray, Alonso and Davis have a lot of value in the market and should all be traded.  Lowrie may even be dished away.  The Nats need an outfielder with Eaton and Werth on the 60 day DL and Eaton done for the year.  They have some nice young outfielder, but a veteran who can hit for power is needed in Washington.  I actually thought Davis might be a nice trade target for the Red Sox back when JBJ was struggling, but the Nats need an outfielder much more.  
So, the trade deadline is tomorrow.  Which of these deals will be done?  Will there be more than this?  Find out tomorrow.  I will also be updating the Red Sox’s situation at the deadline tomorrow on sportalk.com, where I will start interning tomorrow.  If you are looking for a good experience to start your career in sports, apply to SPORTalk now.  

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the third year straight, I am creating my own version.  I am out of school this week, so throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  Today they start with the bottom 6.  

30. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-season Review

Image result for jason castro twins

In the process of a rebuild, the Twins let older players Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe sign elsewhere in free agency.  However, they also lost young pitcher Tommy Milone.  They signed veterans Jason Castro, J.B. Shuck and Ryan Vogelsong.  These guys are nice veteran boosters and mentors, but are unnecessary signings.  The young Minnesota Twins just need a little time to develop before coming back to contention.  

The Case for the Twins

The Twins will not contend in any way this year.  They are in the midst of a rebuild, and actually have a bright future ahead.  The Tigers and Royals will get old and decline which will leave room open for the Twins in coming years.  For now, they need to focus on establishing their young players, and wins and losses will not matter for them this year.  But in coming years, look for the Twins to finally get better.   

The Bright Spot

Image result for miguel sano byron buxton

Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier are getting older, and I’m liking the young talent on the Twins.  The younger players they have will do well this year, and eventually bring the team up with them. Third year player Miguel Sano is one guy who could make an impact.  He will take a full time job at third base in 2017, and will be a bigger contributor to the lineup.  He could be a team leader in the future.  Byron Buxton is another player to keep an eye on.  Despite a disappointing 2016 for both of them, 2017 should be a good year for Buxton and Sano.  

Best Case Scenario: The Twins surprise many, as their young guns bounce back and lead the Twins to a second place finish in the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano continue to regress and the Twins finish with the worst record in baseball.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in AL Central

29. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-season Review

The Padres didn’t do much in the off-season.  After losing veterans they shouldn’t have spent their money on, the Padres are at a desperate state.  They will not compete this season, so it’s time for a rebuild.  They did sign veteran Erick Aybar to a minor league deal, but he’s no more than a veteran mentor, and will not lead the Padres to contend.  The Padres will focus on building upon their young roster, and if they did that a couple of years back, they might of had a legitimate chance this year.

The Case for the Padres

The Padres may be at their worst ever.  While building a young roster, they will not compete this season.  None of their starting pitchers are very established yet, and the lineup has some bright spots, but needs work.  This rebuild could take a long time, but it’s worth it.  If the Padres tried to go for it this season, the end result would be the biggest MLB failure in a long time.

The Bright Spot

Image result for wil myers padres

One investment from a couple of years ago that was worth it was the signing of Wil Myers.  Myers has done well for the Padres, and him, Yangervis Solarte and Erick Aybar make up a nice infield of veterans to teach the younger players.  Myers will actually put up some impressive stats in 2017.  In 2016, he was a Home Run Derby participant and All Star.  Myers will continue to put up good numbers in 2017, and he will make the Padres look just a tiny bit better.

Best Case Scenario: Wil Myers boosts the lineup, and the young rotation breaks through as the Padres finish just under .500.

Worst Case Scenario: The Padres have their worst season in history, the young players struggle at the major league level, and the Padres barely endure a dismal season.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in NL West

28. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-season Review

Image result for rajai davis a's

The Athletics weren’t quite as active as they usually are this off-season, but they did fine-tune their team.  They aren’t anywhere near contending, but adding some depth with experienced players will at least prevent disaster in 2017.  Rajai Davis recently came back to Oakland.  Alejandro De Aza, Ross Detwiler and Jaff Decker were invited to spring training among other veterans.  They also signed young third baseman Trevor Plouffe.  They filled most of their major off-season needs, and that will help them despite other problems.

The Case for the Athletics

The A’s have a nice mix of veterans and younger players.  Once their prospects develop, this will benefit them and they will thrive.  But that might not happen for a while, and right now, they’re just going to be considered an old team that won’t contend.  If they rebuild a little, maybe they’ll season their young players more and see more success soon.  But whether they rebuild or stay put, the Athletics aren’t going to have a winning season.

The Bright Spot

Image result for khris davis a's

Khris Davis was acquired from Milwaukee in the 2015-16 off-season, and since joining the Athletics, he has been their best hitter, and has been a bright spot on the Athletics by putting up impressive stats.  Davis was a home run hitter in 2016, with 42 dingers.  He drove in 102 runs and got a career best 137 hits.  The 42 dingers, also his career best, were enough to tie Edwin Encarnacion and Brian Dozier for 3rd in the MLB.  Encarnacion and Dozier are team leading stars, and Davis may be developing to be just that.  Davis had more home runs than the Rockies’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado!  I also think starting pitcher Sonny Gray could look good in a bounce back year, but Davis is the safest bet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation bounces back, the lineup finally finds a way to do strongly and the A’s attempt to return to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The injury bug hits Oakland at its hardest, and the Athletics finish terribly, with one of the worst records.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in AL West

27. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-season in Review

Image result for howie kendrick welcome to phillies

The Phillies have finally established a young roster, but it will take a couple years to return to stardom.  The rotation still needs work but they added some veteran mentors/big hitters to help their case.  They acquired starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, and added Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to the lineup.  Now, with veteran mentors to help a young, talented roster, the Phillies could be back to contention a couple of years from now.

The Case for the Phillies

Image result for jimmy rollins phillies

The era of washed up, old Phillies is over.  Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown are all gone. Now, it’s time for the young guns to take over this team.  This puts this year’s team pretty low in the rankings.  However, don’t be surprised if the Phillies are the next surprise wild card in 2018.  These young players are very talented, and once they’re developed, which will happen over the next year or two, the Phillies will be good once again.

The Bright Spot

Image result for maikel franco

Putting the older guys aside, there are a few talented young guns that have already broke out.  Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco are already doing strongly.  Franco is the Phillies’ bright spot.  He is keeping this lineup alive.  In a couple of years, Franco could be a superstar.  The new environment in Philly leaves him with an important role in the lineup, and I think he will come through in that role.

Best Case Scenario: The Phillies return to contention with an impressive season by a lot of young players.

Worst Case Scenario: The Phillies fail again, and the young guns go full bust.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in NL East

26. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-season Review

Image result for bartolo colon braves

The Braves are in the midst of a rebuild.  The starting rotation is getting old after they added Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, but the older players are still good.  The lineup also includes veteran mentor Matt Kemp.  The rest of it consists of young stars and players ready to breakout.  Dansby Swanson is the favorite for the NL Rookie of The Year, Freddie Freeman continues to shine, Nick Markakis has done alright in Atlanta, and new acquisitions Brandon Phillips and Kurt Suzuki will help this team improve.

The Case for the Braves

Image result for freddie freeman

The Braves won’t compete this season, but they’ve put together a nice mix of old and young that could do well in the future.  The pitching staff still needs to develop and be fine-tuned, but the lineup is looking better, and could be a lot more powerful this year and in future years.  The Braves currently lack depth, but once more prospects break the majors, the Braves could have some of the best hitting in the MLB, with a strong lineup led by Freddie Freeman.

The Bright Spot

Image result for dansby swanson

Some of the older players provide power to the lineup, but younger players Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson make the Braves a little more fun to watch.  Freeman really broke out last year, with a stellar performance especially in the 2nd half.  Freeman had already established himself as a franchise player, but he really went all out in 2o16.  Swanson has a potentially great rookie season ahead of him.  The Braves have opened up a spot at shortstop for him, and Swanson will take advantage of that.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation finally gathers itself, the lineup is dominant, and the Braves compete for a wild card in the NL East.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, the lineup doesn’t perform like it should, and the Braves finish last in the NL East.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in NL East

 

25. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-season Review

rasmus-rays.jpg

The Rays didn’t have a huge off-season.  They lost some crucial guys, and they traded away Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly.  However, they added to their pitching depth in that trade by acquiring Jose De Leon.  Despite losing Desmond Jennings, they resigned Logan Morrison and signed Colby Rasmus to help fill out the starting lineup.  Wilson Ramos and Nathan Eovaldi were also signed but are recovering from injuries.  They made a lot of small moves, but nothing major enough to impact the Rays.

The Case for the Rays

The Rays play in the toughest division in the MLB.  They have a talented team, but just don’t stack up to the rest of the AL East.  They would be a mediocre team in a weaker division.  But this is just how it is.  The Rays don’t stack up with everybody else.  A rebuild is not needed, now is just a big wait.  A big wait for the Rays to able to do well again.  They have a good roster, but some of these guys are getting old, or just aren’t as good as the other stars of the league.

The Bright Spot

Image result for chris archer

The lineup is just mediocre.  The true bright spots in Tampa are Chris Archer and Alex Cobb.  Archer struggled in 2016, but is still the ace of the Rays.  Cobb has been injured the last two years, but will perform well when healthy.  Both of these guys should make a big impact for the Rays in 2017.

Best Case Scenario: The strong rotation leads the Rays to compete towards the top of the AL East, in hopes of a playoff spot.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries hit hard again, and the Rays look worse than ever, finishing not just last in the AL East, but the whole American League.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in AL East

 

Baseball season is almost here.  This is just the start of my rankings series.  Comment your thoughts and predictions, and check back tomorrow for my 24-19 rankings.  Who will be next on the list?  Check tomorrow to find out!

Ranking The Teams 24-19: My Version: Let’s Get Real

Alright, we are getting to the point where it’s a little tougher to rank.  But come on, let’s get real.  There are still some pretty bad teams out there that I haven’t mentioned.

Alright, let’s go.

 

24.  image Baltimore Orioles 74-88

The Orioles didn’t really help their team with the trades made this off season.  After Chris Davis (resigned), Wei-Yin Chen and David Lough hit free agency, the Orioles weren’t looking great.  They still have holes in their rotation, they are short two pitchers.  They also have issues in the outfield.

They got Mark Trumbo and Hyun-Soo Kim, but Trumbo is also a DH candidate, and there is one more spot not filled by Kim or Adam Jones.  Right now Jimmy Paredes or Nolan Reimold would be in RF, but they need a better person there.  Some of their infielders aren’t hitting, and the rotation is just down to so few pitchers.  The O’s already weren’t the greatest in ’15, and they’ve gotten even worse in 2016.

Record Projection: 74-88

 

23. minnesota-twins.png Minnesota Twins

The Twins may have one of the best farm systems in the MLB, between Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Oswaldo Arcia but besides signing Korean DH/1B Byung-Ho Park, they didn’t do much to improve their big league relevance.  Sure, Buxton and crew could put on some good rookie seasons, but this team needs some veterans too.  The Twins were mediocre last year, they weren’t in full rebuild, and they had Torii Hunter but they had a good farm system.

They don’t have many veterans to mentor the young guys anymore.  Sure, they still have Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe but nobody who’s really all star material anymore.  Eduardo Escobar is still developing.  So are Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano.  That’s a large portion of the roster.

Their rotation on the other hand, is old and washed up.  Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes don’t have much left in their careers, I would give the spotlight to Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and other young pitchers, but they have not done that.  The bullpen has also left no room for prospects to develop.  Between Kevin Jepsen, Ryan O’ Rourke and Glen Perkins, this is a good bullpen, but just doesn’t have that younger flash to it.  Let’s just say this team still needs work.

Projected Record: 73-89

 

22. oakland-a's.png Oakland Athletics

This team is in need of a big move.  All they’ve done the past few off-seasons is give out contracts to a bunch of minor contributors.  This team is still lacking superstars.  A team full of mediocre, older players who just aren’t the same anymore isn’t going to bring this team anywhere.  Despite the slight splash

 

Red Sox Comeback To Sweep Athletics

The Red Sox pulled off their first sweep of the season today vs the A’s after coming back from 4-0 in the 8th. The Red Sox struggled early, giving up three runs in the second inning.  The Sox were stranded with 2nd and 3rd in the 1st, then they gave up the runs int he second as the A’s rallied.

It was first and second as Billy Butler and Josh Reddick singled.  Lawrie then grounded out, but everyone advanced one base, and it was 2nd and 3rd with only one out.  Mark Canha doubled to score Butler and send Reddick to third and yet again to runners were in scoring position.  Then Buchholz threw a wild pitch and Reddick scored while Canha ran to third.  1 out, man on third, 2-0 Athletics.  Josh Phegley walked to make that 1st and 3rd, 1 out.  Then Eric Sogard got a base hit to score in Canha, and all of he sudden, just like that, it was 3 to zip A’s.

The Sox caught caught with 2nd and 3rd again in the 2nd, as RISP trouble really began to creep up on them.  If you stopped reading here, you would think I lied and they lost.  But after one more run given up, they struck.  RISP caught them in what seemed like every inning from there.  And in the 4th, the A’s scored again on a double by Canha and another by Phegley to score him.  Steven Wright had to come in in the 5th and he began to help on defense, settling the A’s offense down, opening the door for the Red Sox to sweep.  Wright got the Sox out of 1st and 3rd when he came in in the 5th inning with 2 outs.  Buchholz pitched 4.2 innings.

Until the Red Sox’ big 8th inning, both pitchers gave up few hits, about one per team every two innings.  In the 8th, the Red Sox put up a huge rally to comeback.

Castillo was pitched what lookd like strike three, but was a ball.  But on the next pitch, WHAM!  He crushed a homer over the monster seats.  4-1.  Scribner came in on relief for Graveman.  Two pitchers now for the A’s, it would eventually be way more.  Pedroia then reached on an infield single, and Brock Holt followed with another single, 1st and 2nd, no outs.  Then Ramirez got another base hit, sending Holt to third base as Pedroia crossed the plate.  4-2.

Drew Pomeranz, a lefty came in to pitch to Ortiz.  3 A’s pitchers.  As he finally begins to do his job again coming out o a slump, e hit a sac fly as Holt came home.  The A’s closer, the 4th pitcher, Tyler Clippard, came in.  He got Napoli for out No. 2, but lost control after that as the Sox scored 4 more runs.  Next, Sandoval singled and Ramirez went to third.  Mookie Betts ran for Sandoval, who doesn’t steal.  But Betts does, and he stole second.  Then Bogaerts hit a double off the scoreboard that almost wet over the monster to drive in Betts and Ramirez as the Red Sox took a 5-4 lead.

Alejandro De Aza then hit for Sandy Leon.  De Aza has proven that he could switch off with another outfielder by doing well since joining his new team.  He got a base hit to right, and Bogaerts scored.  6-4 Sox.  De Aza went to second on a throw.  Then Castillo singled again to left, and De Aza came around to score, making it 7-4 Red Sox.  The switch handed pitcher, Pat Venditte came in to secure the final out and make sure no more runs scored.  It was a miracle.  One inning.  Seven runs.  On comeback for a sweep.  That inning was the game.

Tommy Layne closed it out for the Red Sox, earning the save after the Sox changed the defense big time for the final inning.  The Sox came back with a fierce lineup in the 8th to sweep the A’s, getting their first sweep of the season.  In the near future, I don’t see pitching improving from where it is now, but I can see the lineup going through a big hot streak, being like the Texas Rangers for a little while, and having as good of a lineup as they were supposed to have.