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):

 

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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.

MLB 2019 Predictions: Who will Follow in Houston and Chicago’s Footsteps Post-Rebuild?

The time has finally come.  If you are reading this, the NFL season is over, both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have signed, and Spring Training has begun.  After a long off-season, baseball is finally back, and it is time for my MLB 2019 Predictions.  I will be predicting each team’s win-loss record, sharing my projected playoff bracket, and sharing some award predictions.  My projected World Series winner is a team that began rebuilding a couple years after the Astros and Cubs rebuilds and has now followed in their footsteps to contention.  Keep reading to find out who that team is and how they will achieve a World Series victory.

Part I: Projected Records

American League

AL East

  1. new-york-yankees New York Yankees (94-68) (2nd Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox (93-69) (4th Seed in AL Playoffs)
  3. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)
  4. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays (75-87)
  5. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles (67-95)

2018 was Boston’s year.  They built up the roster preparing for a World Series, and now the damage is done.  Expect a mild World Series hangover due to the departure of closer Craig Kimbrel and the loss of momentum.  If Kimbrel returns, they may be more equipped to repeat.  But right now, as much as I hate to admit it, the Yankees have the most talent in the division.  Their rotation depth issues are finally fixed, the bullpen could go down in record books, and the lineup is still flooded with big hitters, including the superstar duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Expect New York to win the division this time around, but the Red Sox should still easily score a Wild Card spot.

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Toronto should be moving quickly in their rebuild thanks to a talented group of prospects including the leagues #1 prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  Now, they are an extra starting pitcher away from becoming a sub .500 team close to contention.  Remember, they are just a couple years removed from the start of a rebuild.  But this group of prospects will give them a respectable major league roster by the end of the season.  With Toronto on the rise, the Rays will take a step back.  The Rays never really replaced 1B C.J. Cron, OF Carlos Gomez, or reliever Sergio Romo.  If they want to keep using an opener, they’ll need to beef up the bullpen.  Otherwise, expect significant regression in 2019.  They were right on the verge of contention in 2018.  Had they beefed up the roster a little more, they might have had playoff chances this year.  But instead, they’ll sit towards the bottom of the AL East.  However, the Orioles will remain in the AL East basement after a 47 win season.  The Orioles finally began a full rebuild in 2018, but this may be a long, painful rebuild considering their 2018 final record.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians (89-73) (3rd Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox (82-80)
  3. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins (80-82)
  4. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals (68-94)
  5. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers (66-96)

Despite an underwhelming off-season, the Indians should be able to stay atop the AL Central.  In most other divisions, the Indians would have to fight for a Wild Card spot, but in the AL Central, they should have an easier route to the playoffs, as none of the other teams in their division are ready for contention.  Despite coming up short in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, the White Sox made several improvements this off-season that can assist their young core in the next step towards contention.  If they add a starter or two and another infielder, they could be chasing the Indians for the division by 2020.  The Twins won’t see a significant improvement this year, but hopefully the return of SP Michael Pineda and better years from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will help them move up the standings slightly.

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That leaves the Royals and Tigers, two rebuilding teams, in the basement of the AL Central.  With Billy Hamilton on board and some of their younger players ready to start, the Royals may see slight improvement.  But it will take a couple years for the Tigers to do the same.

AL West

  1. houston-astros Houston Astros (96-66) (1st Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels (86-76) (5th Seed in AL Playoffs)
  3. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics (80-82)
  4. texas-rangers Texas Rangers (73-89)
  5. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners (70-92)

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Though the lineup will be better with the addition of LF Michael Brantley, the Astros’ rotation took a significant hit thanks to the free agent departures of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton and an injury to Lance McCullers Jr.  If the rotation does well without Morton and Keuchel, the Astros could win another World Series.  No matter what, I think they’ll win the division, but if the rotation struggles I wouldn’t expect a deep playoff run.

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The Angels will also sneak into the playoffs in an extremely top-heavy American League. In my eyes, the American League will have three 90+ win teams: the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox.  That leaves the door open for slightly above average teams like the Angels to make the playoffs.  Led by Mike Trout and the rest of the big-hitting lineup, they’ll snag a Wild Card spot.

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The Athletics will take a step back this year after a playoff appearance in 2018.  The rotation will be without Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton for a good portion of the season.  Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada cannot lead this rotation alone.  Plus, the only Jed Lowrie replacement the A’s were able to find was former Rangers utility man Jurickson Profar.  The losses of Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Joyce will also make an impact on the team.

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That leaves the Rangers and Mariners.  The Rangers won’t improve much quite yet despite an experienced rotation and a core led by outfielders Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara.  They’ll need to undergo a full rebuild before significant improvement can occur.  The Mariners are starting that process, though they still boast a respectable MLB roster.  They could’ve probably contended this year if it weren’t for the start of a rebuild.  But instead, they gave up some of their most talented players in exchange for minimal top prospects.  The less talented roster will put the team into a situation similar to that of their division rivals, the Rangers.  Despite a respectable roster with experience, the team won’t be talented enough to produce above average seasons.

National League

NL East

  1. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves (93-69) (2nd Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. philadelphia.phillies  Philadelphia Phillies (92-70) (5th Seed in NL Playoffs)
  3. washington-nats Washington Nationals (84-78)
  4. new-york-mets New York Mets (83-79)
  5. Related image Miami Marlins (61-101)

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This will undoubtedly be the most competitive division in baseball.  I see a young, but emerging Braves team repeating as the division winner, led by a big year from Freddie Freeman, significant contribution from new 3B Josh Donaldson, and a bounce back for SP Julio Teheran.  In 2018, the Phillies were a star or two away from greatness.  This off-season, they added C J.T. Realmuto, OF Andrew McCutchen, SS Jean Segura, and most of all, OF Bryce Harper.  Led by Harper, the lineup will be loaded with talent, leading to a big year.

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The Nats and Mets will also contend.  The Nats made up for Harper’s departure by boosting the rotation with SPs Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.  To add to it, they signed 2B Brian Dozier.  Even without Harper, they should still be in good hands with Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and others.  After adding 2B Robinson Cano among other stars, the Mets should also stay in contention, at least for this year.

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The only team that’ll be out of this hectic NL East race is the Miami Marlins.  The Marlins sold their entire outfield plus Dee Gordon and J.T. Realmuto in trades within the last two off-seasons.  Without Realmuto, they will remain one of the worst teams in the league.

NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs (94-68) (1st Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals (93-69) (4th Seed in NL Playoffs)
  3. Related image Milwaukee Brewers (86-76)
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds (80-82)
  5. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates (69-93)

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I know people are concerned about the Cubs due to uncertainty about Yu Darvish’s health.  But regardless of Darvish’s health, I think the Cubs have one of the best rotations in the league.  Add in an underappreciated bullpen and a respectable lineup, and the roster begins to look underrated.  I do have confidence that Darvish will be alright though.

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The Cardinals should be Chicago’s biggest concern, as I expect the Cards to be knocking on Chicago’s door in the NL Central.  With Paul Goldschmidt on board, they will combine their young, exciting pitching staff with a star-studded lineup and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.  Meanwhile, despite adding C Yasmani Grandal, I expect the Brewers to take a step back.  I don’t trust 1B Jesus Aguilar or Jhoulys Chacin to repeat their strong 2018 seasons.  With the rotation depleted and the lineup looking a little less overpowered, Milwaukee will fall behind as the NL Central competition gets more intense.

Image result for joey votto yasiel puig reds

Meanwhile, the Reds will begin to take steps toward contention, led by new OF star Yasiel Puig and long time Reds 1B Joey Votto.  They added a lot of experience to the rotation as well, so that should help.  That leaves the Pirates in the division’s basement as they begin a rebuild.  Their rotation should look pretty good this year, and when Gregory Polanco gets healthy, the outfield will thrive as well.  However, I don’t fully trust Trevor Williams yet, and in such a tough division, I can’t see this rebuilding team finish very well.

NL West

  1. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies (89-73) (3rd Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers (85-77)
  3. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants (84-78)
  4. san diego-padres San Diego Padres (71-91)
  5. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks (68-94)

Image result for kershaw and buehler

I think this might be the year when the Dodgers are finally dethroned.  Despite a strong rotation led by Clayton Kershaw and the young Walker Buehler, the bullpen lacks depth beyond Kenley Jansen.  In addition, they traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp for next to nothing.  It does open up space in the outfield but the team will take a step back as a result.   The infield already lacked depth with Brian Dozier leaving.  Failing to sign Bryce Harper after the Puig/Kemp trade just made the depth problems worse.

This will allow the Rockies to win the division.  Their rotation isn’t amazing, but they’ll be able to manage thanks to hitter friendly Coors Field and a strong bullpen to back the rotation up.  It’s the star-studded lineup that will lead them to a division victory.  The Giants are also closer to contention than you might think.  They quietly boosted the rotation this off-season.  This will add to their strong bullpen and allow them to achieve a winning record despite a subpar lineup and questionable outfield situation.

Image result for manny machado

Even though they signed Manny Machado, the Padres won’t contend unless they significantly upgrade the rotation.  Plus, they should have better luck contending once Fernando Tatis Jr. is in San Diego for a full season.  They will finish ahead of the D-Backs, who will take a significant step back without Goldschmidt.  That leaves SP Zack Greinke as the best player left, and there were trade rumors surrounding Greinke as well.

Part II: Playoff Bracket

Screenshot 2019-03-02 at 10.14.45 PM

When the Cubs won the World Series back in 2016, they set a precedent in the MLB.  Their 5-year rebuild led to a World Series victory, and this has become a formula for World Series titles.  The Astros, who were already following this formula, won the next year in 2017.  Now, I think the Braves will be the next to do this.  Their rebuild didn’t feel as long, because prospects like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. developed quickly.  But there are still more top prospects on the way, and thanks to this first wave of young talent, the Braves will be able to contend before their rebuild is finished.  I think they may even be World Series ready.

The Bryce Harper-led Phillies, Atlanta’s division rival, will challenge them for the National League.  Led by their HR-hitting duo of Stanton and Judge and upgraded rotation, the Yankees will come close as well.  But I think the Braves are capable of outperforming these teams.

The Cubs and Astros should still be competitive in these playoffs and stay competitive down the stretch.  But I think they will have their playoff runs cut short by a Red Sox team looking to repeat and a Phillies team looking for validation that Bryce Harper was worth the money.

Part III: Awards

Below are my projected finalists for the AL and NL MVPs, Cy Youngs, and Rookies of the Year.

AL MVP

1. Jose Ramirez CLE – Ramirez has emerged as one of the league’s premier power hitters. Expect him to come through at the plate on a more consistent basis and contend for the AL MVP award.

2. J.D. Martinez BOS – At the age of 31, I cannot see Martinez quite repeating what he did in 2018. But he will put up another consistent, 40-homer year despite just falling short of the MVP after playing over half of his games at DH.

3. Jose Altuve HOU – Altuve will return to MVP form after a 2018 that was subpar for his standards. His season will be highlighted by a hint of power mixed in with his speed and ability to get on base frequently.

HM: Giancarlo Stanton NYY

NL MVP

1. Nolan Arenado COL – His 8-year extension will be motivation to live up to expectations in Colorado. Expect an dominant offensive year to go along with his elite defensive skills.

2. Freddie Freeman ATL – Freeman will help lead a young Braves team to the first World Series of what could make for the MLB’s next dynasty. After emerging as the top first baseman in the league last year, he will contend for the MVP as his offensive stats continue to increase.

3. Christian Yelich MIL – After winning NL MVP in 2018, Yelich will run with the momentum and top off the prime of his career with another dominant season.

HM: Starling Marte PIT

AL ROTY

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR – This top prospect has the genetics and he’s been all out dominant in the minors. Expect him to make it up to Toronto early, earn the starting job at third and do the same in the majors, contending for Rookie of the Year.

2. Kyle Tucker HOU – Tucker may not have a starting job – yet. But he showed flashes of potential in 2018 and could get some time in the outfield or at DH in 2019.

3. Eloy Jiménez CWS – Another top prospect who needs just a few weeks in AAA before a major league call up. After that, expect him to earn a time share in the outfield and eventually (after a strong start) a starting job.

HM: Forrest Whitley HOU

NL ROTY

1. Peter Alonso NYM – If Alonso has a strong Spring Training, look for him to compete for the first base job as Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Amed Rosario, and Robinson Cano split time between second, shortstop, and third. Cano could try playing first, but having Alonso there from Opening Day could be beneficial. I see him breaking out in his rookie year and winning NL Rookie of the Year.

2. Fernando Tatis Jr. SD – Tatis Jr. isn’t MLB ready yet, but I think he’ll make an immediate impact if they bring him up when the time is right. I could see a Hosmer-Kinsler-Tatis-Machado infield working out well. Luis Urias will have to wait until 2020 for another starting job.

3. Mitch Keller PIT – The Pirates’ first four starters have their jobs locked down. But if Keller gets off to a strong start in the minors, look for him to challenge Jordan Lyles for the #5 slot in the rotation and contend for NL Rookie of the Year.

HM: Victor Robles WSH

AL Cy Young

1. Corey Kluber CLE – Kluber heads into 2019 with something to prove. He needs to convince the Indians that he’s worth the money to keep around. The Indians don’t have much money to spend, so Kluber will need to put up a Cy Young-caliber year in order to do this.

2. Chris Sale BOS – If Sale can get healthy and stay healthy, he’ll be the best pitcher in this league. But he always ends up collapsing at the end of the year, so I have slightly more confidence in Kluber. However, maybe Alex Cora can figure out a way to allow him to stay healthy all year. If Cora can figure this out, Sale’s definitely worth re-signing.

3. Tyler Skaggs LAA – A healthy Skaggs showed potential last season, especially early on. With no clear ace atop the Angels rotation for 2019 and Shohei Ohtani restricted to just hitting, expect Skaggs to step it up and emerge as LA’s new ace, something they have longed for since Garrett Richards began to decline after LA’s 2014 playoff appearance.

HM: Justin Verlander HOU

NL Cy Young

1. Max Scherzer WSH – Expect Scherzer to emerge as the top pitcher in the league this year when Jacob deGrom takes a slight step back in his age 30 season. Scherzer has not let his age define him, and if anything, he has only gotten better with age. I don’t see a decline happening anytime soon for Mad Max, and he has another Cy Young year or two still ahead of him.

2. Clayton Kershaw LAD – Kershaw has dealt with lingering injuries, but when he’s on the mound and healthy, he has looked like the same Kershaw we’re used to seeing. Despite injuries, he has posted an ERA under 3.00 in each of the last 10 seasons. As usual, I expect Kershaw to contend for the Cy Young, especially if he remains healthy.

3. Julio Teheran ATL – Teheran hasn’t looked like the ace we thought he would be since 2014. But he is still just 28, and as long as it happens in the next year or two, I could definitely see him return to ace form and lead a young Braves rotation.

HM: Stephen Strasburg WSH

That’s all for this year’s MLB predictions.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and baseball coverage soon.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers and Infielders

Welcome to Part 2 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent catchers and infielders, including Wilson Ramos, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Atlanta’s signings of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on November 26.

C

The Nationals signed C Kurt Suzuki this week, and the Mariners dealt off C Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay. That should cause the catcher market to keep moving quickly. The Angels need a catcher upgrade desperately. They will be in the market for top options Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy. The A’s will also look for a catcher after losing Lucroy. I could see them adding Ramos. I have Grandal returning to the Padres, where his career started. He will split time with C Austin Hedges. Wieters will head to Seattle. The Mariners are looking for a cheap option at catcher to support C David Freitas. I have the Marlins signing McCann after trading C J.T. Realmuto (I think he’s going to either Atlanta or Milwaukee). That leaves Devin Mesoraco, who will sign with the Phillies and split time with C Jorge Alfaro. The Mets will miss out in the catcher market and stick with Travis d’Arnaud at catcher.

Corner Infielders (Combined 1B and 3B due to shortage of options)

The Braves’ biggest hole is at third base. They are doing whatever it takes to add a top line third baseman to help their contention efforts. Donaldson is a great fit. I think the Yankees will pass on Manny Machado and use Didi Gregorius in the long term. But they will add 3B Mike Moustakas to give them flexibility in the infield, whether Gregorius is hurt or not.

The Marlins are looking for a cheap replacement for Justin Bour, and Duda is a strong fit. That will cause Matt Adams to return to St. Louis, and the Royals will add Logan Morrison with Duda signed. The Orioles do need free agent help, but they will look for bargains. Valbuena could be a good bargain signing. He can provide support at second and third.

2B

The Twins are in it to win it, and reuniting with Dozier after a deadline deal will help fill one of their biggest holes: middle infield.  They may need a shortstop next to Dozier.  I also have LeMahieu returning to Colorado.  If the Rockies part ways with LeMahieu, they may have a hard time finding a replacement.  They definitely need a second baseman, and LeMahieu is the best fit.  I have Murphy heading to the A’s, who will be able to afford him.  It was a down year for Murphy, and it could make for a bargain signing for a small market team with a hole at second like Oakland.  That leaves Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Logan Forsythe as the top 2B options remaining.  The Angels will sign Cabrera as an upgrade over Ian Kinsler.  Lowrie and Forsythe could be afforded by rebuilding/small market teams like the Tigers and Rays.  The Tigers desperately need middle infield help.  They will look for bargains as they find their free agents.

SS

Whoever signs Machado will need to offer a lot, and the Phillies have enough to sign Machado with money to spare for Mike Trout or another big free agent in a couple years.  The Phillies are ready to make the jump to contention, and Machado plus some cheaper free agents might be enough to do it.  The Twins will add Mercer to support Dozier, and Alcides Escobar will go to the Padres, who will seek veterans as insurance for their younger players.  That leaves guys like Adeiny Hechavarria, Jose Iglesias, and Freddy Galvis for rebuilding teams.  I have the Royals adding Hechavarria as another infield option, the Tigers reuniting with Iglesias, and the Marlins adding Galvis to support the young J.T. Riddle.

That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will predict where the top outfielders and designated hitters sign.  I will also add some ideas for trades.  Unlike others, I do not have many big stars being traded, but I could see some smaller trades occuring.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Red Sox Drop Another To Twins, 3 Errors Costly

           I left today’s game with my first loss attending Fenway, making my record 7-1, but it wasn’t a total loss.  Blake Swihart hit his first career home run. At the end of the 5th inning, I met Boston Herald editor and chief Joe Sciacca.  I also met Managing Editor Gustavo Leon and News Anchor Matt Fitzgerald, both from the Boston Herald.
                                                                                                                                                                                              The Sox loaded the bases in the 1st inning right off the bat, but had RISP troubles again.  Steven Wright also pitched well into the 5th inning.  The Sox scored with bases loaded in the second.  It started with a double by Mookie Betts, followed by Pedroia walking.  1st and 2nd 2 outs.  Ramirez singles to load the bases.  Then Big Papi reaches on an error by the shortstop and Napoli singled.  2-0 Sox just like that.  Swihart homered to break up a 1-2-3 3rd.  Swihart picked up the first major league home run of his career.  3-0 Red Sox.
                                                                                                                                                                                           Wright blew his 1-hitter in the 4th, and gave up a 3 run home run to Torii Hunter in the fifth.  After 6 okay innings and giving up a fourth run by an error sending Eduardo Escobar to second and scoring him on Kurt Suzuki’s 3rd straight hit, Wright was pulled and Junichi Tazawa came in.
                                                                 A couple guys were caught stealing or intentionally walked, but otherwise the game had no significant action until the top of the 9th after the Twins tied it in the 6th.  Brian Dozier led off the 9th with a base hit off Koji.  Torii Hunter then walked.  1st and 2nd.  Then Joe Mauer suprisingly attempted to bunt.   The bunt rolled only a few inches in front of home plate and Swihart threw to Pablo Sandoval on what should have been a force out, or maybe even a double play.  But no.  Sandoval fails to catch it, and Ramirez is left to grab it in the outfield.  They signed Sandoval and Ramirez big contracts, and they’ve struggled utterly along with Big Papi.  Nobody they’re paying a lot is doing much.  Could it be possible that the cheap guys are better than the multi-million makers?  Maybe.  The utter failure continued in the 9th as  Trevor Plouffe scored Hunter on a base hit, and it was 6-4 Twins.  Dozier had scored on the error.  Then Eduardo Escobar singled to make it first and third, then they walked the bases loaded intentionally with Suzuki.  Then Shane Robinson hit a sacrifice fly, and it was 8-4 Twins.  After a 1-2-3 inning for the Sox, the Twins had finished the comeback win.
             The Twins tied the series with the underperforming Red Sox.  With all these supposed big players, the Sox should perform like they have a monster lineup and rotation.  By July, I predict that Joe Kelly will be a reliever.  I think rotation will be: Miley, Porcello, Rodriguez, Wright, Buchholz.  Eddie Rodriguez will continue to perform, maybe even earn the No. 1 spot in the Sox rotation eventually.  It’s time for another new chapter for the Red Sox.